Every PGA Tour event has a handful or so of spots in the field to dole out to golfers who didn’t otherwise qualify.
Those spots may go to a past champion. They often are awarded to a rising star in the game. The strategy there is that perhaps the up-and-comer will remember the courtesy later in his pro career and will become a regular at that particular Tour stop.
Sometimes a sponsor exemption gets doled out to someone noteworthy as a means to drive interest in a tournament, such as former NFL quarterback Tony Romo, who got into the Charles Schwab Challenge, or LPGA star Lexi Thompson, who wowed the Las Vegas crowd last October before just missing the weekend cut at the Shriners Children’s Open.
According to the PGA Tour, since 1990 there have been just 11 golfers to win a tournament after getting a sponsor exemption. There’s been over 1,000 PGA Tour events in that time, proving the long odds a sponsor invite faces.
Here’s the list of those who won on the PGA Tour after receiving a sponsor exemption since 1990.
Martin Laird, Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (2020)
After failing to end matters on the 72nd hole and then again on the first playoff hole, Martin Laird knocked in a 23-foot putt for birdie on the second extra hole to win the 2020 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Sunday’s fading light at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas over Austin Cook and Matthew Wolff.
Matthew Wolff, 3M Open (2019)
Wolff, who turned professional just a month earlier, earned his first PGA Tour victory at the 2019 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minnesota. Wolff, 20, shot a 6-under 65 in the final round to edge out fellow Tour newcomer Collin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau by one stroke at 21-under.
Billy Hurley III, Quicken Loans National (2016)
In a year of fairytale first-time winners on the PGA Tour, Billy Hurley III, a Navy grad and military man, winning the 2016 Quicken Loans National on a…