The USGA announced on Monday their decision that, starting with this year’s tournaments, the reigning U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur champions will be able to utilize their exemptions in the following year’s U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open even if they decide to turn pro, according to ESPN’s Mark Schlabach.
Prior to the new rule, the amateur champions received exemptions in the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open only if they maintained their amateur status.
“We believe this change gives our champions an important option as they choose whether and when to embark on their professional careers,” said John Bodenhamer, USGA managing director, Champions. “Given the significant purses awarded at the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open, we realize how important it is for players to make the most appropriate decision for his or her career, and the positive impact it could have at the outset of their professional careers.”
“Given the opportunities afforded the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur champions, we want to make sure they are able to take advantage of as many as possible,” Bodenhamer said. “We feel strongly that our reigning champions have earned their places in the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open, regardless of their amateur status.”
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Phil Mickelson to play the Saudi International tournament on the European Tour
Phil Mickelson has decided to play the Saudi International tournament on the European Tour, according to ESPN’s Bob Harig.
Mickelson will play the event the same week as the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the PGA event that Mickelson has won three times during his career.
The European Tour added the Saudi International, which is supported by the government of Saudi Arabia, to it’s schedule last year, amidst a ton of criticism.
“I am really looking forward to playing in Saudi Arabia in January,” Mickelson said in a statement. “I watched Dustin [Johnson] win the title last year and thought the course looked like an interesting challenge. Having so many talented players on show also made it look like a much more established tournament than one in its inaugural year. I have enjoyed my previous visits to the Middle East and am looking forward to playing in a new country and doing my bit to grow the game in the Kingdom.”
Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia and Tony Finau also have committed to play the event which takes place from January 30th through February 3rd.
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Tiger Woods Delays Surgery to Play, Says Recovery Ahead of Schedule
Tiger Woods put off surgery on his left knee to repair minor cartilage last fall and opted instead to have it this past August so that he could continue to play, but admitted the knee had been bothering him most of the 2019 year.
“It just kind of deteriorated over the year,” Woods said on Monday, according to ESPN’s Bob Harig. “It’s one of the reasons we were planning on doing it last year. But I screwed up by winning the Tour Championship [in September 2018], and I thought I could keep it rolling.
“It affected the way my back was feeling and my practice schedule. I’ve been down this road. That was my fifth [knee] operation. It’s been nice to have it moving again and not have it catch and lock up. A lot of wear and tear over the year. It’s been stressed out for a very long time, and it was nice having it cleaned up.”
Woods added that he is ahead of schedule in his recovery, saying that he had planned to have the procedure in the days following the Tour Championship, which he did not qualify for; “Instead I had it the week of the Tour Championship,” Woods commented. “The whole idea was to be ready for this event, the Hero World Challenge and possibly Australia.”
“The way I was feeling toward the middle part of the year, it was going to be a tall order to do it all. I was struggling waking, it affected my back, reading putts. I’m excited about having this end-of-the-year run. Feeling much more fit. I don’t have the achiness I had the last couple of years.”
“I want to be fit and ready for the end of the year,” Woods said. “Been battling through this year. Nice to get over the hump and start feeling good again and go at it full speed.”
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Rory McIlroy Agrees with Brooks Koepka in Regards to Rivalry
Rory McIlroy agrees with Brooks Koepka that the two were not true rivals despite some commentary to the contrary.
McIlroy, 30, was asked about Koepka’s comments Monday afternoon during the broadcast of The Challenge: Japan Skins, saying that Koepka had a point in his comments.
“What Brooks said wasn’t wrong,” McIlroy said, according to ESPN’s Bob Harig.
“He’s been the best player in the world for the last couple of years. Four majors. Don’t think he had to remind me that I haven’t won one in a while. I love Brooks. He’s a great guy. He’s super competitive like we all are. I see where he’s coming from.”
Ahead of last week’s CJ Cup in South Korea , Koepka was asked about the rivalry by the Agency French Press, and had some noteworthy comments.
“I’ve been out here for — what? — five years,” Koepka said in response. “Rory hasn’t won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour. So I just don’t view it as a rivalry. I’m No. 1 in the world. I’ve got an open road ahead of me. I’m not looking in the rear-view mirror, so I’m not seeing it as a rivalry.”
“I said a couple of things after the Tour Championship as I approached the final round as a little bit of a rivalry because he got one over on me in Memphis,” McIlroy said. “And I sort of wanted to get him back. I think it’s good for the game. I think if you take what Brooks said out of context, it can become this big thing that it’s become.
“But Brooks and I are good friends. I’ve been really happy for him to see how he’s played over the last couple of years.”
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