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Opinion & Analysis

Duval snubbed by the Humana Challenge

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This week, the sponsors of the upcoming PGA Tour event, the Humana Challenge  in La Quinta, Calif., notified past champion David Duval to cancel any travel plans he had made for a trip out to the Southern California desert.

In 1999, Duval made golf history when he shot a 59 to win the event. Prior to that year, all past champions were offered lifetime exemptions. But in 1999, the sponsors of the tournament changed the policy to offer just a 10-year exemption for winners. Duval assumed that the sponsor’s exemption for past champions would still be honored — that he had a essentially earned a lifetime exemption into the event. But he was wrong.

Duval (@David59Duval) tweeted:

“So it’s official. I will not get a spot at the Humana. I guess having the defining moment in the history (of) the event doesn’t matter.”

Yes, the casual viewer of the PGA tour knows that Duval has fallen on hard times after series of injuries. He has essentially lost his mojo after being the No. 1 golfer in the world, making just 53 cuts out of 169 starts since 2005.

But Duval is still a professional, and would never do anything to either embarrass himself or the PGA Tour, so there is no doubt he would only enter if he believed he could compete. And he proved that he still can, as recently as the 2009 U.S. Open, where he was part of a group that finished tied for second behind Lucas Glover.

Duval wasn’t wrong to expect that a sponsor’s exemption for a past champion should be offered to him. This should be especially true for an event where he had made history (there is even a plaque on the 18th hole of the PGA Nicklaus course honoring Duval’s famous eagle that broke 60 for just the third time in a PGA event). Duval is a current, professional golfer who still relies on the sport for his livelihood and is trying to earn his full-time status back. Heck, if exemptions for past champions are good enough for the Masters, it should be good enough for the Humana!

It’s interesting to note that the Humana Challenge is a tournament that is struggling with this very issue. This isn’t the first time there has been a dust-up regarding the sponsor’s exemption for this tournament. Two years ago, John Daly was lobbying for an exemption to play in the event. When he learned that they decided to pass on him, he said that he would never again play in the Bob Hope Classic (or the Phoenix Open who also passed on him). The Humana Challenge has struggled to attract top tier talent over the past decade and continues to struggle to attract many of the world-class PGA tour pros. It took urgings from President Clinton himself last year to convince Phil Mickelson to come back to the event after Mickelson famously pulled the event off of his calendar, as he considered it unplayable following a wind-blown 78 he shot at the Classic Club in 2007, which is located in the windiest part of the California desert.

The event subsequently moved to the calmer area of La Quinta in order to be sheltered from the winds, only to see the tournament blown out again last year when the scoreboard was thrown into a lake by violent winds. Some spectators were trapped and injured in port-a-potties and tournament tents that were blown flat to the ground.

Mr. Duval has a valid complaint that the tournament did not offer him an exemption in the manner they did, especially to a past champion that shot a historic score at their event just 14 years ago. At the very least, they could have, and should have, offered him one of the sponsor’s exemptions as the classy and appropriate move to acknowledge his past success in the event, while also building some goodwill public relations with other pros who are leery about adding the event to the calendars. This incident will do nothing to broaden their appeal.

The Humana had better watch out: with actions such as this, they run the real risk of alienating more and more pros who could turn this into a real fiasco if they all decided that the week of the Humana Challenge is a good time for them to rest.

Click here to read Featured Writer Jeff Singer’s story, who says Humana Challenge officials did the right thing not inviting Duval.

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Chris Hibler is an avid golfer, writer and golf gear junkie. If he's not practicing his game with his kids, he's scouring the GolfWRX classifieds looking for a score.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Anasurimbor

    Dec 26, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Just shows the tournament’s desperation that Daly was invited and their lack of class that Duval wasn’t. Also shows Daly’s lack of principles accepting the invitation after stating that he’d never play it again. Of course, no one ever said that Daly had any class or principles to begin with.

  2. Ben Alberstadt

    Jan 13, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    @ fsubaseball21: All joking aside, this is probably true: “They both should book a course nearby and hold a one on one match that includes fan interaction. That should snag about 10-20 thousand fans away from that Joke that is the Humana Challenge.”

    Mind-boggling decision by the Humana, if for no other reason than the potential damage created by Duval (who they should have realized is newly-addicted to Twitter, and could tweet about the subject) speaking out about the snub.

    Nice piece, Chris.

  3. fsubaseball21

    Jan 12, 2013 at 10:43 am

    Lets see, A struggling almost second tier tour event cant find a place for David Duval or John Daly who both still command large galleries which equal ticket sales not to mention the food+beverage consumption that they bring. They both should book a course nearby and hold a one on one match that includes fan interaction. That should snag about 10-20 thousand fans away from that Joke that is the Humana Challenge

  4. JEFF

    Jan 11, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Bummer!

  5. CHAD

    Jan 10, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    The Duval plaque is on the Palmer course, not the Nick

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Opinion & Analysis

The History of Course Design is Yours to Play at Oglebay

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There is a much-talked about “New Golden Age” of golf course design underway that is driven by demand for ever-more spectacular courses at the top end of the resort golf market. Destinations such as Streamsong, Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links, Sand Valley and others provide the traveling golfer a spectacular golf experience; unfortunately, it comes at a price tag that is equally spectacular. When a week playing golf in Florida can cost as much as a week in Scotland, where do you go for a golf getaway that doesn’t require a second mortgage?

Oglebay Golf Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia, doesn’t just provide an affordable golf vacation option; with its three golf courses, it provides players the chance to experience a condensed history of American golf course design through its three courses. The resort sits on land that was once owned by a wealthy industrialist and is now a part of the city park system. Located about an hour from Pittsburgh, Oglebay draws the majority of its golfers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. It’s kind of cool that when you drive to Oglebay from the Washington, D.C., you hit all of those states except Ohio, which is just a few minutes away from Wheeling. The area is especially picturesque in the autumn months when the changing colors of the leaves are at their peak.

The property has a rich history in the business and sporting history of West Virginia, but the three golf courses, Crispin, are a special prize that taken together form a primer on the history of golf design in the past 90 years. The 5,670-yard Crispin course is a one-off design by local golf enthusiast Robert Biery that was completed in 1930 and is a fascinating study of design techniques of that era. The slopes and elevation are severe and extreme by today’s standards. A clue was the raised eyebrow of the assistant pro when I said that I would walk the course. Uneven lies are the order of the day, the product of a time when there was neither the money nor equipment readily available to create gentle slopes and even surfaces; the course is true to the original contours of the West Virginia hillside.  There is little relief on the greens, which run a little slower than typical greens but make up for it in size and slope. It is by far the shortest of the three courses but the par-4 8th hole and par-5 9th holes are a thousand yards of joy and pain.

Hole No. 6 at the Klieves course

The Klieves Course is a 6,800-yard, par-71 Arnold Palmer design that was completed in 2000. The design features broad fairways, mildly undulating greens and opportunities for heroics on short par-4’s, all the prototypical characteristics of modern resort golf courses. While some architects choose to torture and torment, Palmer courses put a premium on fun and this one is no exception. The par-5, 515 yard 6th is a great example of the risk/reward available without that challenges the resort golfer without the need to humiliate. The course is very well maintained tee to green, and you’ll want to keep a fully charged battery to take photos of the vistas from the elevated tee boxes.

Hole No. 13 at the Jones course

In my humble opinion, the true gem is the Robert Trent Jones course. The 7,004-yard, par-72 Course carries a healthy 75.1 rating/141 slope from the back tees. It utilizes a gorgeous piece of land that meanders across the West Virginia hills to give a mesmerizing collection of holes that are equal parts scenery and challenge. Both nines start from elevated tee boxes hitting down into valleys that offer classic risk/reward propositions. Usually I have no problem identifying a favorite hole or two, but on this course it’s difficult. Having said that, the stretch of No. 4 (par 3, 193 yards), No. 5 (par-5, 511 yards) and No. 6 (par-4, 420 yards) are among the best I have played anywhere as a show of nature’s beauty and the at of laying out a golf hole. And the four par 3’s are not the place to pic up an easy birdie. The only one less that 190 yards from the tips is the 158-yard 15th, which is protected by a small, undulating green. All in all, it’s a perfect representation of the genius of Robert Trent Jones.

The golf is good at Oglebay and the prices are better. You can get in 18 at the Oglebay courses for as little as $32…on the weekend. And when you’re not playing golf, you can take advantage of the myriad of outdoor sports activities, tour the Oglebay mansion, hit the spa or visit the Glass Museum on the property (I promise it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds). There’s a lot of great new golf resorts out there and that’s a good thing for the golf industry, but destinations like Oglebay prove that there’s a lot of life left in the old classics as well.

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