Jason Day, a 20-year-old phenom out of Australia, got the fifth and final sponsor’s exemption into the FBR Open on Wednesday, tournament chairman Tim Louis of the Thunderbirds announced.
Well, maybe it’s the last exemption.
That could change based on the situation involving Paul Azinger, who earlier got a sponsor’s exemption along with Ted Purdy, Todd Demsey and Chez Reavie. But Azinger, who won the first time the tournament was held at TPC Scottsdale in 1987, is still in the 132-man field and if he doesn’t get bounced when the final commitment list is announced late Friday afternoon, he’ll be able to return that exemption to the Thunderbirds, who then could use it to invite another player.
Also on Wednesday, Louis announced that PGA Tour veterans Robert Allenby, Chad Campbell and Fred Couples had signed on for the tournament, which starts next week.
Couples was a big surprise, as he played in only three tournaments last season due to a bad back. The 48-year-old Couples is making his PGA Tour debut this week at the Buick Invitational in San Diego.
Day, the No. 5 player among Nationwide Tour graduates last season, was actually bumped out of the FBR field earlier in the day. But Louis promptly reinserted him in the lineup.
“Jason is one of the great young talents in the game who has a chance to make an immediate impact on the PGA Tour,’’ Louis said. “I think the fans will really enjoy watching him.’’
Day certainly has outstanding credentials. He began his professional career two years ago at the age of 18, and managed to qualify for seven tournaments, making the cut in five of them.
He backed that up last year by earning his Nationwide Tour card and then posting seven top 10s, including his first win as a pro.
“A lot of the guys on the (PGA Tour) have been telling me how great (the FBR Open) is, so I can’t wait to come out and play and see for myself,’’ Day said. “I’m excited to see the course, the 16th hole and the huge crowds.’’
Fans will also get a chance to view what most observers believe is one of the next great stars from Down Under in Day’s countryman Nick Flanagan, who still is in the FBR Open field after finishing No. 3 on the Nationwide Tour.
Despite all of Day’s near-misses last season, he certainly left some outstanding indicators of his potential as a pro. Most telling perhaps was that Day finished No. 1 in the all-around game category, was No. 4 in birdies per round (4.21), and No. 9 in both scoring average (70.03 per round) and putting (1.73 per hole). And those achievements could have been even more impressive had Day not been sidelined for three months with a wrist injury.
The addition of Allenby, Campbell and Couples, as well as commitments from Bob Estes, Paul Goydos and Fredrik Jacobsen, brought to 101 the number of players who have committed to the FBR Open from last year’s top 125 money winners.