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No quick picks or controversy in Palm Harbor

BOB HARIG
Published May 22, 2003

FORTH WORTH, Texas - Long before she acknowledged her desire to play in a PGA Tour event, Annika Sorenstam placed a call to Gerald Goodman, tournament director of the Chrysler Championship. She wasn't seeking a spot in the event at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, just some advice.

Sorenstam became friends with Goodman when he was the tournament director of the JCPenney Classic, and he has played golf with her and husband David Esch at Lake Nona in Orlando. They even attended a Yankees spring training game, where she threw out the first pitch.

Goodman, who used to work for the PGA Tour, encouraged her to pursue playing in a PGA Tour event. But don't expect him tooffer her a sponsor's exemption to the tournament later this year.

In light of Sorenstam's invitation to the Colonial, sponsor exemptions have become a hot topic on the PGA Tour. It prompted players to complain she is taking a spot from a more deserving man.

Goodman understands.

When the Chrysler Championship rolls around, he will have four sponsor exemptions, two that must go to PGA Tour members. And with a 132-player field and it being the last full-field official event, Goodman likely could collect a tidy sum from players desperate for a final chance to keep their PGA Tour card.

"We are writing a letter immediately when we get requests and telling them that we are holding our (exemptions) until late," Goodman said. "We're going to wait to make sure to try to give some opportunities if someone is really close. And the closer we get to this, you know we can't take care of everybody. There will be some people who are very close to keeping their card and won't be able to play for it."

Last year, when the event was the Tampa Bay Classic, Goodman said he received more than 150 requests for his eight sponsor exemptions. This year, he has received more than 50 inquiries.

Chances are Goodman will make the decision easy for his tournament, offering the spots to the next available players on the priority list.

And that will avoid controversy.

U.S. OPEN DEADLINE: This weekend's Colonial is the last chance for players to earn exemptions to next month's U.S. Open without having to endure qualifying. And Clearwater's John Huston sits on the bubble. The top 50 in the world ranking as of Monday are exempt into the 103rd U.S. Open at Olympia Fields outside of Chicago, June 12-15. Huston is in 50th and is skipping the Colonial to rest a nagging elbow injury.

Those outside the top 50 are Bob Tway (51), Tom Lehman (52), Scott McCarron (53) and Stewart Cink (54). Players typically move up and down each week, even if they don't play.

The other way to get in is to be among the top 10 PGA Tour money winners after Sunday. Chad Campbell is 10th, but he is just $38,000 ahead of Steve Flesch and $75,000 ahead of Nick Price, who already is exempt.

AROUND GOLF: Sorenstam is skipping this week's Corning Classic on the LPGA Tour to play at Colonial, but expects to be there next year. An LPGA rule states players must compete in every event at least once in four years. Too bad the PGA Tour doesn't have a similar rule. ... Phil Mickelson dropped to No. 6, having started the year at No. 2, and has gone 18 tournaments without a victory. It is his longest dry spell since going 31 between the end of 1998 and the start of 2000.

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