The issue of David Duval and a sponsor’s exemption

Suppose I told you that a player who had made the cut in just 31 percent of his PGA Tour starts in the last eight years was asking for a sponsor’s exemption into your PGA Tour event. Chances are you wouldn’t give the guy’s resume a second look.
Now suppose I told you that the player was David Duval, a 13-time winner on the tour, and that the tournament he was hoping to get in was the Humana Challenge, a tournament he won 14 years ago. Would that change your mind?

David Duval will not be in the Humana Challenge this month, he tweeted Monday (AP photo)

Monday night, Duval tweeted to the world that it was official, he would not be getting an exemption into the Humana, then questioned why the man who crafted the most famous single moment in tournament history wouldn’t get an exemption into that tournament. This morning Duval has seemed a little more understanding, telling people to support the important and historic tournament even if he is not in it.

Duval, who famously won the 1999 Bob Hope Classic with a final-round 59, is not exempt for the tournament this year. His 10-year exemption for winning the tournament ran out a few years ago, and he is not fully exempt on the tour these days because, frankly, he hasn’t played very well. There have been some circumstances, including a foot injury just this last fall that prevented him from playing in the tour’s qualifying finals. Still, it has been 10 years since his last tour win. And in the last eight years, Duval has struggled and made just 53 cuts in 169 starts since the start of the 2005 season.
On the other hand, this is David Duval, a major championship winner, a 13-time winner on the tour and the man who played the most famous round of golf in the history of the Humana/Hope with his breathtaking 59 on the Palmer Course at PGA West to overcome a seven-shot deficit to win in 1999. Heck, there is even a plaque in the middle of the fairway honoring Duval’s final-hole eagle that capped the 59.
These are the kinds of decisions a PGA Tour event has to make with their limited sponsors exemptions, some of which are qualified for tour members or Q-school grads. Dozens of letters are received by tournament each year from pros looking for a chance to play. Some are from players who have never made a name for themselves on the tour. Others are from pros who made a name for themselves once but haven’t done a lot lately, like Duval.
Tournament officials must balance the desire to help pros who have helped and supported the tournament with a desire to bring the best players to the tournament and with a desire to bring players to the event that might boost the crowd interest.
If you believe Duval’s tweet, and there is no reason not to believe he has heard the news from the tournament, the Humana Challenge officials decided that there were other ways to go with their exemptions than Duval. Duval has tweeted in the last few weeks (since joining Twitter) that his goals for the year are to stay healthy and regain his full status on tour. He was hoping for a start at the Humana and in San Diego. He knows for sure he is playing at Pebble Beach.
Some will say this is Duval’s own doing by playing so poorly he lost his exemptions. Other will say the tournament owes Duval, a past champion and an icon for his 59 round, a little more respect than turning down an exemption request.
So what would you do: reward the winner from 14 years ago, or concentrate on the guy who missed the cut in nearly 70 percent of his starts in the last eight years? Clearly there is no easy answer.