US Open exemptions at stake this week

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLA. (AP) - Tournaments on three continents this week could go a long way toward deciding who gets in the U.S. Open. The top 50 in the world ranking published Monday are exempt from qualifying.

David Toms, who lost in a playoff at The Players Championship, went from No. 75 to No. 46 this week. He is not on the bubble, but likely safe unless a few other players behind him all have a good week at Colonial. Toms has not missed the U.S. Open since 1998.

Ryo Ishikawa, meanwhile, tied for 12th last week on the Japan Golf Tour and fell three spots to No. 53. He is playing this week in the Totoumi Hamamatsu Open, and because Japan gets far fewer world ranking points, he likely will need a top finish to avoid qualifying.

Further down the list are two names of greater significance.

Vijay Singh has the longest active streak with 67 straight appearances in the majors. He missed the cut last week in The Players and fell to No. 59 in the world. He received a special exemption from the USGA last year.

Sergio Garcia is at No. 73 and in danger of missing a major for the first time since the 1999 U.S. Open that the late Payne Stewart won at Pinehurst No. 2. It also would be the first time he had to qualify for the U.S. Open, although those are no longer his intentions.

“If I don’t qualify, then I don’t deserve to play,” Garcia said last week.

Aaron Baddeley is at No. 50, although he appears to be safe. The U.S. Open also takes the top 10 on the PGA Tour money list after next week, and Baddeley is No. 7 on the strength of his win at Riviera. If not, he’s in the right place this week _ Spain.

The World Match Play Championship on the European Tour schedule is stacked with top players _ five of the top six players in the world (missing only Phil Mickelson at No. 4). With only 24 players in the field, he is assured of getting some points.

Peter Hanson of Sweden tied for 19th, which moved him up four spots to No. 48, although he is not playing this week. Gary Woodland is at No. 49 and not playing at Colonial _ this would be his fifth straight event _ and will need to stay put to assure his spot. J.B. Holmes, who closed with a 69 at the TPC Sawgrass to tie for sixth, moved up to No. 52 and is playing Colonial.

The U.S. Open, to be played June 16-19, also will take the top 50 in the world the week before the championship begins, leaving hope for those who don’t make it.

The cutoff for top 50 to be exempt for the British Open is May 30, although it has other avenues to get in. Among them is having the highest finish at the AT&T National and John Deere Classic among those not already eligible. It also offers spots to the top two players from a special money list that starts with The Players Championship and includes five straight tournaments through the AT&T National.

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YOUTHFUL MOMENT: Matteo Manassero already has won twice on the European Tour, cracked the top 50 in the world and is playing a full schedule in the major championships this year. By now, it’s understood that he’s only 18 and still doesn’t have a driver’s license.

A different perspective came Saturday during the rain delay at The Players Championship.

David Toms was on the porch of the clubhouse with his 13-year-old son Carter when Manassero came outside to look at the weather. Before long, he was caught up in conversation with Toms‘ son about languages. Manassero explained it was mandatory to take English and one other language at his school, so he picked Spanish over German.

Toms watched as the guy he tries to beat on the golf course had an easier time chatting with his son than with him.

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PLAYOFF FEVER: First it was Brandt Snedeker at Hilton Head, then Bubba Watson in New Orleans and Lucas Glover at Quail Hollow. Just when it seemed every PGA Tour event went to a sudden-death playoff, the streak continued Sunday at The Players Championship when K.J. Choi won with a par on the 17th hole.

Officially, it’s the first time since the end of the 2009 season that four straight PGA Tour events on the schedule went to extra holes. But that took place over a six-week stretch. This is the first time since the PGA Tour began keeping complete records in 1969 that tournaments were decided by a playoff in four successive weeks.

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SUNSHINE CEO: The Sunshine Tour in South Africa is getting a new commissioner.

Just one month after Gareth Tindall announced plans for a new World Golf Championship in South Africa as early as next year _ an announcement that caught the PGA Tour by surprise because there is still not a firm date or title sponsor _ the Sunshine Tour announced he will be leaving at the end of June to take a job in the business world.

“Every so often in life, an opportunity comes along that one just cannot refuse,” Tindall said.

He will be replaced by Selwyn Nathan, the deputy chairman of the tour.

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DIVOTS: Excluding the majors, Ian Poulter has gone 24 consecutive PGA Tour events without finishing in the top 10 against a full field. His most recent was a tie for ninth at The Barclays in 2009. … The PGA Tour picked up two more title sponsor extensions over the past few days, with Northern Trust (Riviera) renewing its deal through 2016 and FedEx agreeing to be title sponsor of the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., through 2014. … Six major champions will take part in “Ole Seve,” a pro-am of 22 teams on the West Course at Wentworth on May 23. All the proceeds will go toward the Seve Ballesteros Foundation in partnership with Cancer Research UK. Jose Maria Olazabal will serve as the host of the pro-am. … Juli Inkster and Morgan Pressel will take part in the CVS Charity Classic, the two-day exhibition after the U.S. Open hosted by Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: In the five years since The Players Championship moved to May, no one leading after the third round has gone on to win the tournament.

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FINAL WORD: “My issues with putting really aren’t the length of the putter, it’s the length between my ears.” _ Paul Goydos, on why he doesn’t use a long putter.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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