September 22, 2010–The management of the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Las Vegas' PGA Tour event, has announced the first of four sponsor exemptions for the 2010 rendition of the tournament which began in 1983. John Daly has received one of the four coveted spots, and according to Tournament Director Adam Sperling, Daly will play a lot prior to teeing it up here October 21-24. "We spoke to him this morning and he says he will have a busy fall," says Sperling. "He is scheduled to play in the Viking Classic, the Dunhill Cup, the FRYS.com Open, and then he will play here in Las Vegas. We hope he plays well and the fans come out to see him." –By Brian Hurlburt.
Sperling also says that the remaining three exemptions will be announced in the near future, and most likely will have a local flavor. Last year, Las Vegas resident Craig Barlow received an exemption along with new Las Vegas resident Rickie Fowler. The other exemptions went to former PGA Champ Rich Beem and amateur sensation Kyle Stanley, who had recently turned professional. Fowler had moved to the Las Vegas area just prior to the tournament last October, but is now a mainstay at Las Vegas' TPC golf courses, the private TPC Summerlin and the resort TPC Las Vegas. Fowler ended up in a tie for 7th in his Las Vegas PGA Tour debut. You can click now to view more articles about Las Vegas pro golfers.
There are more than 30 pros who play the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Champions Tour, and Nationwide Tour who have strong ties to Las Vegas golf courses. Many of them play and practice at TPC Las Vegas, the PGA Tour-owned Las Vegas golf courses which is open to all Las Vegas golfers. You can click now to view the official website to TPC Las Vegas and reserve your online Las Vegas golf tee times or Las Vegas golf packages. Daly tweeted the following shortly after the official announcement: "EXCITED to play the Viking, Dunhill Cup, Frys.com & Justin Timberlake Vegas-hoping for a great Fall Season! C'mon Fans need u all out there!" Daly is a controversial player, but still moves the meter with fans and television viewers. His list is well known of run ins with the law, divorces, PGA Tour fines, etc., but he is also a two-time major champion. To this point in the season, Daly had made 12 of 17 cuts on the PGA Tour but managed just one top 25 finish and had earned just more than $140,000. Daly played in Las Vegas in 2008 but missed the cut. He finished T44 here in 2007. His best Las Vegas finish was a T7 in 2001.
Currently, Sperling says that several Las Vegas golfers have committed to play in the JT Shriners Open including Deutshe Bank Championship winner and current FedEx Cup #3 Charley Hoffman, and Turning Stone Resort Championship winner Bill Lunde. Hoffman and Lunde are former UNLV Rebel golfers and currently live in the same Las Vegas neighborhood, just minutes from the two Las Vegas TPC golf courses. Others committed include Tommy Armour III, Kevin Na, Nick Watney, and Chris Riley, among others. Fowler has yet to commit but it is believed that Las Vegas will be on his fall schedule, a few weeks following his first appearance for the United States Ryder Cup team. Defending champ Martin Laird, who qualified for the Tour Championship, is also scheduled to return to Las Vegas.
Picking a sponsor exemption is very difficult for the committee because the group receives 40-50 requests annually from pros looking to play. Each has a unique and compelling story, but the tournament committee tries to pick a deserving player who can also drive attendance and/or commit to helping out the tournament during the week. The most notable sponsor exemption in the tournament's history is Tiger Woods, who played in the 1996 Las Vegas Invitational on a special invite from the Las Vegas Founders Club, the group that operated the tournament at the time. Woods went on the defeat Davis Love III on the first playoff hole to claim his first career PGA Tour win.
There are a ton of special events going on surrounding the tournament including a soon-to-be-announced event in the new "Rebel Ranch" skybox on Wednesday, October 20. Most of the former Rebels playing in the 2010 event will be appearing and reminiscing about their playing days at UNLV under Hall of Fame Coach Dwaine Knight. Hoffman and Lunde were members of the 1998 team that won the NCAA championship. Riley was the first 4-time All-American in the history of UNLV athletics. Click now to view the calendar of events for the JT Shriners Open.