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A tournament’s right to choose: The David Duval saga
In a bit of breaking news, this week David Duval took to Twitter to voice his displeasure at not being included in the Humana Challenge on a sponsors exemption. The tournament, slated to take place the week of January 14th to 20th, had apparently notified him of this recently as the following was posted to Twitter on January 7th:
“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.”
Fellow pros and fans have jumped to his defense, including John Cook and Steve Flesch, the latter going as far as to accuse the tournament of political BS. The outpouring of support led Mr. Duval to respond by posting another comment asking people to stop hating on the tournament as it still holds a special place in his heart.
Watching David Duval’s comeback attempts over the years have stirred a whirlwind of emotions for his fans, hoping that he will break through and show the form of the man who shot 59 to win the Bob Hope Chrysler tournament in 1999. This author is no exception, once taking a day off from work to watch the 2009 final round at Bethpage Black and finding myself rooting for Duval even more then my fellow lefty and favorite player, Phil Mickelson. It is certainly OK to like David Duval or even be totally fine with the Humana granting him the exemption he sought. Unrestricted sponsors exemptions are exactly that, unrestricted. But before we jump on the tournament, ask yourself: What, really, would David Duval in 2013 have added to it?
The Humana Challenge is not the most star studded field of the year — a quick look at the participants this year and you will notice some top ranked players like Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, and FedexCup winners Brant Snedeker and Bill Haas. These guys are mixed in with a mostly emerging field of youngsters and up and comers. A WGC event this is not, and I guess pro ams and multiple courses will do that. But is that a reason to give an invite to Duval?
An argument could be made that Duval would help ratings as he’s a recognizable face. But that is really only going to benefit a tournament if he plays the weekend. In 12 sponsors exemptions in 2012, David Duval only made two cuts and did not finish higher then 60th. In fact, in all of 2012 he only broke 70 three times in official rounds. He was not near the top of the leader boards in a real position to help the tournaments attract viewers, and there wasn’t much evidence to say he would be this time. You might also think that tournaments have a bunch of these things to give away, but that isn’t really the case either.
There were some rule changes in 2013 that reduced the amount of unrestricted invitations sponsors could give. Historically, there have usually been four players that could be chosen this way, along with two spots that had to be given to Web.com or Q-School participants. This year those numbers have flipped, and four spots must be given to the Web.com or Q-School participants. That leaves only two positions left to decide on Mr. Duval, someone who has not had a lot of success lately.
Would the tournament be better off taking a chance on someone else, like tournaments did in 2012 choosing Patrick Cantlay (5 of 7 cuts made on exemptions), Boo Weekley (5 of 10), Joe Durant or Erik Compton (3-5 and 3-4), or even Ryo Ishikawa, who turned a sponsors exemption into a 2nd place finish in Puerto Rico? Duval had a very tough year in 2012 and in 2011 missed 15 of 24 cuts, finishing 171st in the Fedex standings. I’m not trying to slam Duval. He seems like a really likeable guy, but 1999 was a long time ago.
In 1999, Tiger had one major, was coached by Butch Harmon and was single (well, I guess some things are the same). The tournament wasn’t called the Humana, and Twitter wasn’t even invented yet. Heck, Facebook wasn’t even invented yet. Not to mention the Humana is already getting a bump publicity wise with the return of the popular Phil Mickelson (in 2012 they said attendance went up and the tournament was watched in more households then 2011).
It’s been a while and I can understand the tournament wanting to give someone else a chance, maybe a young guy as oppose to a veteran with far more missed cuts then made ones in the past five years. That isn’t necessarily political BS, just the feelings of a tournament and itss sponsors who have the right to feel however they want about two people a year. David Duval’s miracle 59 to win the tournament will live on — this doesn’t take that away from him. I hope we will see him back there soon, as a qualifier.