Here’s news that’s bound to give some people a coronary. The USGA, known to be merciless with granting special exemptions to the US Open, has given Vijay Singh, who was scheduled to play in next Monday’s sectional qualifier, a pass to play at Pebble Beach.
Battling injuries, Singh fell out of the top 50 in the world rankings — which are exempt from qualifying. His best finish this year was a T4 at the Honda Classic and in thirteen starts he’s had five MCs and a WD. The world’s former number-one hasn’t won since hoisting the magical FedEx Cup in 2008.
And here’s the press release:
Vijay Singh, who has recorded three victories in golf’s Major Championships, has accepted a special exemption from qualifying for the 2010 U.S. Open Championship, which will be played June 17-20 at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links.
“I’m finally back to good health and really looking forward to competing at Pebble Beach,” said Singh. “It’s a fantastic event at a legendary venue. I appreciate the invitation from the USGA and can’t wait to tee it up.”
“There were many compelling reasons for us to invite Vijay Singh into the field of this year’s U.S. Open, particularly his three wins in Majors in the last 12 years,” said Thomas J. O’Toole Jr., chairman of the USGA’s championship committee. “He has played through injuries, which caused him to drop, quite quickly this year, in the World Rankings. He’s always been competitive at the U.S. Open and he is healthy and playing well again.”
Compelling reasons? Hmm. Okay, he’s a damn good player — no disrespect, but I mean, granting Tom Watson an exemption, who has major history at Pebble, seemed like it was some huge ordeal. In other words, the USGA doesn’t supply exemptions like candy on Halloween.
So why would the USGA give Vijay one? It’s not like he has a commanding US Open record. Let’s listen to the USGA justify their decision:
Singh, a native of Fiji who won the 1998 and 2004 PGA Championships as well as the 2000 Masters Tournament, has competed in 16 U.S. Open Championships, including the last 15 consecutively. His best finish was a tie for third in 1999 and he has finished in the top 10 on seven occasions. In 2003 at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club, he tied a pair of U.S. Open scoring records with a second-round 63 that included a 29 on the second nine. He has won 34 PGA Tour events in his career and has played on eight Presidents Cup teams.
In his last start in the U.S. Open in 2009, he tied for 27th. His first start at the U.S. Open came in 1993 at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., and that was the only time he failed to make the cut in his U.S. Open appearances.
Whatever, give Vijay a special exemption. He sure practices hard enough for it or something — if that’s a justifiable reason. Well, to put some perspective on what some feel is a major abomination, the USGA doled out an exemption to Aaron Baddeley in 2000.