Ogilvie Was Best Guest of 2011

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer at Sports Illustrated (and director of course rating for the Top 50), writes that “while the PGA Tour is abuzz with talk about proposed changes to the qualifying tournament (Q-school), another route to the tour has been overlooked.”

That would be sponsor’s exemptions. Each event gets a handful of exemptions — a free invite into the tournament — to do with as tournament officials please. Non-tour members can accept up to seven free passes in a season, but for tour members there is no limit. And there is no watchdog.  In this oh-so-political game, it’s often not what you’ve done, but who you know.

Gary Van Sickle

Gary Van Sickle, Top 50's chief course rater, at Coyote Springs Golf Club in Mesquite, Nev. (John Garrity)

Van Sickle, who is no relation to the Gary Van Sickle who presides over the California Tree Fruit Growers Association, goes on to analyze the past year’s sponsor’s exemptions:

In 2011, 270 playing spots were awarded via sponsor’s exemptions in 31 tournaments. That’s an average of nearly nine spots per tournament — a pretty big number considering how tough it is to win a card through Q-school or the Nationwide Tour. Of those 270 free passes, recipients made the cut (and a check) 109 time. That’s 42 percent, not bad. Fourteen SE’s finished among the top ten (that’s five percent), and the best finish by a player competing on an exemption was third place. In all, 26 SE’s (9.6 percent) finished among the top 20.

“Another overlooked route to the tour,” Van Sickle continues, “is the Monday qualifier, a one-day, 18-hole event in which a field of players competes for three or four available spots.”

Not every tournament has Monday qualifying, and in 2011 the successful Monday qualifiers didn’t fare very well. Only 20 of 91 Monday qualifiers made cuts (22 percent). John Merrick, who was ninth at the Travelers Championship, earned the only top-ten finish by a Monday qualifier. Merrick, Lee Janzen and Michael Letzig were the only players to be successful twice in Monday qualifying this year.

Who is the king of sponsor’s exemptions?

“In 2011,” Van Sickle reports, “it was Joe Ogilvie.”

While Ogilvie, Scott McCarron and Brad Faxon each received 11 sponsor’s exemptions, Ogilvie was the only one to cash in on his opportunities. The 2007 U.S. Bank/Milwaukee champion made six cuts in 11 events, and his third-place finish at the Byron Nelson Championship, worth $377,000, was the biggest payday scored by any player receiving an exemption. Ogilvie won $541,650 in six events, and that, combined with 13 other appearances, enabled Ogilvie to finish 116th on the money list and regain exempt status.

Faxon called in a career’s worth of favors for his 11 spots as he waited to turn 50 in late summer and start competing on the Champions Tour. Faxon missed 11 cuts in 11 tries, but the work apparently paid off. He won a senior event late in the year.

McCarron made six cuts, like Ogilvie, but had only one finish better than 38th, a tie for sixth at the McGladrey Classic that earned him $125,200, more than one-fourth of his winnings for the year. McCarron finished 145th on the money list and is only conditionally exempt for 2012.

“I’ve worked up a report on other notable sponsor’s exemptions,”Van Sickle concludes, “like John Daly, Gary Woodland and — would you believe it? — Rory McIlroy. I’ll file them as soon as I complete my rating of the Jack Nicklaus layout at Coyote Springs Golf Club in Mesquite, Nev. Until then, Happy New Year!”


 Sponsor’s Exemptions, 2011

(Cuts made in parentheses)

11 Brad Faxon (0)

11 Scott McCarron (6)

11 Joe Ogilvie (6)

7 John Daly (3)

7 Rod Pampling (4)

7 Sam Saunders (2)

5 Will MacKenzie (1)

4 Notah Begay (1)

4 Patrick Cantlay (4)

4 Bud Cauley (3)

4 Erik Compton (3)

4 Morgan Hoffman (2)

4 Kevin Tway (0)

4 Charles Warren (1)

3 Billy Andrade (0)

3 Jay Williamson (1)

3 Joseph Bramlett (0)

3 Todd Hamilton (1)

3 Lee Janzen (2)

3 Colt Knost (1)

3 Scott Piercy (3)

3 Brett Quigley (1)

3 Jeff Quinney (2)

3 Lee Westwood (3)

3 Brett Wetterich (1)


Money Won by Players Playing on Exemptions

$541,650 Joe Ogilvie

$500,804 Bud Cauley

$374,000 Scott Stallings

$369,153 Rod Pampling

$359,112 Adam Hadwin

$251,600 John Cook

$222,650 Gary Woodland

$205,704 Lee Westwood

$204,354 Scott McCarron

$177,375 Shigeki Maruyama

$164,286 John Daly

$155,440 Brett Wetterich

$135,525 Sam Saunders

$112,840 Ben Curtis

$  88,000 Peter Hanson

$  82,650 Justin Hicks (Honda)

$  69,031 Morgan Hoffman

$  67,786 Josh Teater

$  61,590 Scott Piercy

$  55,481 Martin Kaymer


Money Won by Monday Qualifiers

$190,925 John Merrick

$  54,987 Frank Lickliter

$  51,837 Erik Compton

$  42,000 Mathias Gronberg

$  29,000 Michael Letzig

$  17,356 Josh Broadaway

$  16,336 Robert Gamez

$  16,087 Erick Justesen

$  14,430 Andre Stolz

$  13,542 Troy Kelly

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