The FBR Open is approximately two months away, but already tournament chairman Tim Louis is facing his first crisis, better known as the “Sun Devil dilemma.”
That happens when five former Arizona State standouts — Matt Jones, Chez Reavie, Jin Park, Todd Demsey and Alejandro Canizares — all earn their PGA Tour cards at the same time. Jones and Reavie got theirs via the Nationwide Tour while Park, Demsey and Canizares did it the hard way — PGA Tour qualifying school.
To compound the situation, another former ASU All-American, Paul Casey, has decided to rejoin the PGA Tour. But at the moment, Casey, ranked No. 2 in the world and a proven winner on the European PGA Tour, has low-level status in “open’’ events.
So how does this affect Louis? He’s got five sponsors exemptions, and all six of these guys are going to want one if they can’t get in by another route.
“I’ve heard from Alejandro, and even though I haven’t heard from the rest of them, I expect I will,’’ Louis said. “We always get a pretty big bunch of requests, and the goal is to try and balance them out.’’
Here is how it works: One exemption must go to a past champion on the PGA Tour who would not get into the field otherwise. The second exemption goes to a graduate of either the Nationwide Tour or Q-school. The other three exemptions go to whomever Louis and his fellow Thunderbirds decide are worthy.
“From my perspective as tournament chairman, it’s one of the many exciting things about this job, and it’s also one of the toughest,’’ he said. “Lots of guys deserve it, but we have only a few exemptions.’’
There’s nothing easy about being in charge of the world’s most well-attended golf tournament. Do your job right, it’s expected. Do it wrong, everybody calls you out.
“There are so many ways to weigh (who gets an exemption), that’s what makes it tough,’’ Louis said. “I’m a bit of a decision-by-committee guy, so I’ll bring in some of the past tournament chairmen to help me out with those decisions.’’
Being a speculative type of person, I started throwing names at Louis. I’ll say this: For being the “new guy’’ on the job, he was fairly direct.
“I love the Todd Demsey story. He’s come back from a lot of adversity,’’ Louis said of the former NCAA champion who lives in Scottsdale and recently finished eighth at Q-school. “He’s gone through so much (back problems, brain tumor), you have to feel for him.’’
I can relate. Demsey, who played one year on the PGA Tour (1997) has been a poster boy of perseverance. Now 35, he’s got one of the exemptions.
Park recently surprised everyone by finishing fourth at Q-school. Even though he’s been relatively quiet since leaving ASU in 2001, I would give him an exemption as he is the top rookie among this group from a numbers standpoint.
Actually, Louis might get a break on Park, as he stands a good chance of getting in on his own merit. But chances are Canizares, who ended up tied for 23rd at Q-school, is going to need some help. He might get it from last year’s tournament chairman, Pat McGinley, who looked like a genius when he gave the Spaniard an exemption and he ended up tied for 10th.
Jones and Reavie did well on the Nationwide Tour, finishing seventh and 18th, respectively. But the guess here is that won’t be good enough, although Jones also might get in on his own accord.
Casey? He’ll get one if the world ranking doesn’t measure up. Why? Because Casey is one of Louis’ former pro-am partners, and because Louis said this about the guy who has been dodging the “stupid Americans’’ controversy for the past two years: “There’s enough ASU guys in the stands at the 16th hole that I think they’ll go easy on Paul.’’
Chances are four of the above six players will get an exemption. The fifth will probably go to John Daly, who set a PGA Tour record last year for exemptions.
“It’s not automatic. He’s in the pool with everyone else,’’ Louis said to my surprise.
Maybe, but I’ll bet Daly gets one along with Casey and Demsey. Everybody else is up in the air.
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