Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Euro Tour's Oddball Exemptions

I had not seen anything about this and thought it was very curious. The Irish Independent reports on the medical exemption given to Notah Begay III for the 2008 European Tour season. He bouted with sciatica (intense back pain) this past season. But, he improved with enough time to play here in the States in several events:

Wallowing in the lower orders of Europe's Order of Merit after making the cut in just five of the 10 tournament he entered, Begay went home to New Mexico to recuperate.

Yet when he was able to resume playing, he did not return to Europe, instead accepting a series of invitations to play in the Travelers Championship (June 18-24) in Connecticut.

Then, in quick succession, he teed it up at Tiger's AT&T International at Congressional (July 2-8), The John Deere Classic in Illinois (July 9-15) and The US Bank Championship in Wisconsin, where reporters quoted Begay as saying "the health of my back is very stable".

It certainly seemed that way as he opened the Reno-Taho Open (July 30 to August 12) with a splendid round of 68. Begay also played in the New Mexico Open and the Turning Stone Resort Championship in September, followed by the Frys.Com Open and a charity event at Sanford University in October.

Begay was one of 14 players to withdraw from the Nationwide Tour's Miccosukee Open on the morning of its first round in storm-lashed Miami ... less than a week before European Tour officials sat down in Valderrama to consider his application for a Medical Exemption.

Throughout this period, Begay did not appear to have any difficulty with flying.

Over a five day period in mid-August, for example, he flew to New York for a two day corporate engagement at the Turning Stone resort; then boarded a trans-continental flight to San Diego for a friend's wedding; followed by the 'red-eye' north to Minneapolis for a two-day golf classic and finally the return trip to his new home in Texas.

It is a measure of Begay's current condition that he came through the 72-hole second stage of US Q-School early last month before completing Final Qualifying, a gruelling six-round ordeal, in 6-under par last Monday.

Realistically, Begay did not need or deserve an exemption for 2008 on the Euro side. Hell, he wasn't even interested in playing on the Euro Tour for anything other than status in an attempt to get back to the PGA Tour. But, according to David Garland of the European Tour, they had no idea that Begay had been playing in the US all that time.

On top form, Begay will indeed bring much to the European game but David Garland, the European Tour's Director of Operations admitted if they had known how many events he'd play in the US "Notah would not have got the medical exemption he has been given, if at all."

Garland further explained that the Tour has been advised by its lawyers in the past that once an exemption has been granted, it should not be withdrawn as the player involved could quite rightly claim in court that his circumstances, plans and performance had been affected by the initial decision.

WHAT? They could have dropped me an email and I would have gladly sent them this link. Begay made 2 cuts in his 7 exempted starts and made around $18 grand. That warrants a medical exemption?!

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