Foreign Players & Commissioner’s Exemptions

How would a foreign player enter a PGA TOUR event?

As I often do let’s review the PGA TOUR’s Priority Ranking.  A link is below for your convenience.

Notice that many foreign players do not fall into any category on the priority list.  This is because Priority Ranking is gained through play in PGA TOUR events, majors and world golf events.  European Tour events or events on the other world tours do not earn you any status on the PGA TOUR Priority Ranking.  In order to gain a favorable position on the ranking they need to play very, very well if they only play in a few PGA TOUR events in a season.

 A foreign player like last week’s Runner Up, Victor Dubuisson, is currently ranked # 23 in the World Golf Ranking.  Mr. Dubuisson does not have status on the PGA TOUR.  Let’s use Victor as a case study.

 Victor primarily plays the European PGA TOUR and currently stands at # 3 on the Race to Dubai, their Money List.  Additionally Victor is ranked # 23 in the World Golf Rankings.  However, the Priority Ranking goes off of performance last year unless you win this year.  His Runner Up finish last week will help him for next season’s Priority Ranking but it would only have helped him this year if he had won.  In 2013 Victor played in 21 official events.  None of them were PGA TOUR events, none were majors and none were world golf events.  He had no chance of earning any status on the Priority Ranking for this season.   In 2014, he has already played in four events on the PGA TOUR.  So the obvious question is, how did he get into these fields?

There are only two ways Victor can play in an open event on the PGA TOUR.  He can get a sponsor exemption (Category 11) from the host organization.  However, as a foreign player, he can also get one of the two exemptions granted by the Commissioner of the PGA TOUR (Category 12).  These are often called Foreign Exemptions or Commissioner’s Exemptions.  The field is still 156 players so, effectively, the guys at the end of the Priority Ranking have two players slip in ahead of them in priority.  The PGA TOUR is aware that their players’ ability to get into an open event is hindered somewhat when they grant this exemption so they are very, very selective in who they grant these exemptions to and how often they grant them.  The thinking is that if the event really, really wanted this guy in the field they could always use one of their sponsor exemptions and put him in their field.  The Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles did just that.  They gave Victor one of their sponsor exemptions this year.

Remember that the rules I spell out above apply to open events.  This is not necessarily the case with invitational events, majors or world golf events.  They set their fields based on their own criteria and a foreign player could very well get into the field at those events based on his World Ranking.


Tim Gamso
Salesmanship Club of Dallas