May21 Final week before US, British opens exempt top 50


Little did he know that his victory also sewed up a spot in the U.S. Open and the British Open.

This is a big week for a dozen or so players who are not already exempt from qualifying for golf's two oldest championships. The U.S. Open and British Open will take the top 50 in the world ranking after this week, and some exemptions are available through money lists.

Imada is at No. 49, but he'll get his free pass to both Opens through the money list.

The top 10 on the PGA Tour money list through Colonial are exempt to the U.S. Open, and Imada is a lock at No. 4. The British Open takes the top three players not already exempt among the top 20 on the money list through Colonial. Imada is mathematically assured of that spot, too, because most of the players around him on the money list will easily make it off the world ranking.

Two guys with the most to gain at Colonial are Jeff Quinney and Bart Bryant.

Quinney is at No. 52 in the world and No. 14 in the money list, so good play will take care of either one. He'll need to finish in the top 10 to have any chance of being exempt for the U.S. Open.

Bryant is No. 51 in the world and No. 19 on the money list, and his better chance is to crack the top 50 in the world ranking. He likely will need to finish in the top 15. Others on the bubble through the world ranking include Nick O'Hern (No. 55), John Senden (No. 57) and Chad Campbell (No. 58).

The U.S. Open also takes the top 10 from the Order of Merit on the European Tour, and that could turn out to be an interesting battle. Damien McGrane is holding down the 10th spot by $1,669 over Oliver Wilson.

As for the British Open, the top three players on the U.S. money list not already exempt are Imada, Quinney and Bryant, with Sean O'Hair about $25,000 behind Bryant. All of them are at Colonial this week.


JACK'S LESSON: Muirfield Village has been host of the Memorial near the end of May every year since 1976. After the tournament was over, it once became somewhat of a laboratory where four-time champion Jack Nicklaus prepared for the U.S. Open.

Nicklaus recalled how he would practice out of thick rough and on firm greens to get ready for conditions that players saw only once a year. He also talked about how he worked on his driving.

``I used to go back to Muirfield and stand on the 14th tee, the ladies tee, and try to drive the ball on the green,'' Nicklaus said. ``It's about a 14- or 15-yard fairway coming into the green with water on the right. And I practiced that all the time. It's a little left-to-right tee shot. It prepared me for the U.S. Open.''

A few players now try to drive the 14th green from the championship tees, such as Bubba Watson, but Nicklaus said he had no intention of moving the tees forward for the Memorial.

``They'll drive it, anyway,'' he said. ``Oddly enough, I've made three 2s in competition - a pro-am with Gerald Ford and two other events.''

By driving the green?

``No, I holed out from the fairway,'' Nicklaus said.


OLYMPIC MOVEMENT: PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem headed for London this week, stopping along the way to pick up USGA executive director David Fay and LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens.

They were to join R&A chief executive Peter Dawson and European Tour chief George O'Grady at a meeting with the International Olympic Committee, the first step toward bringing golf back to the Olympics.

It was not a formal meeting, but no less important to show the IOC a unified front in golf's desire to be part of the games.

``This will be a protracted process,'' Fay said. ``But this is an important first step.''

A decision is not expected until next fall.


RANKING RAMIFICATIONS: Ben Crane had to withdraw from the AT&T Classic before it began, an insignificant development except that it could affect the travel plans and bank account of Ryuji Imada later this summer.

Crane was at No. 99 in the world ranking last week, meaning his presence was worth two points toward the strength of field. When he did not start the tournament, that dropped the AT&T Classic to 113 points. That number is meaningful because tournaments must have a field strength of at least 115 points for its winner to be eligible for the $8 million Bridgestone Invitational.

The World Golf Championship also takes the top 50 in the world ranking, and Imada moved up to No. 49 with his victory on the TPC Sugarloaf. He can qualify for his first trip to Firestone if he stays in the top 50 through July.

Meantime, Richard Finch won the Irish Open by two shots over Felipe Aguilar of Chile and earned a spot at Firestone, as the European Tour event had a stronger field, according to the world ranking. Finch moved up 84 places to No. 134 in the world.


COSTLY BREAK: Lorena Ochoa earned $300,000 for her sixth victory of the year at the Sybase Classic, which should help her pay a $25,000 fine for skipping the Corning Classic this week.

The LPGA Tour has a ``1-in-4'' rule, meaning players must compete in every full-field event on the schedule at least once every four years. Ochoa has not played Corning since 2004, when she tied for 19th.

The Mexican star felt she had no choice. She is defending champion at eight tournaments this year, the LPGA Tour added another tournament in Mexico and Corning is right before a buildup into the majors.


MASTERS CHARITY: Augusta National is giving $3.4 million to charities this year, and the club's employees had a small role deciding where some of the donations were directed.

Under a new program, each employee was allowed to designate $1,000 to the charity of their choice as part of the $1.25 million Augusta National donated to The Community Foundation for the CSRA.

``Our employees are an integral part of this organization and they are committed to this community,'' Masters chairman Billy Payne said. ``This new initiative recognizes their hard work and dedication, and I'm certain the money will be donated wisely.''


STAT OF THE WEEK: Lorena Ochoa, Annika Sorenstam and Paula Creamer have combined to win 11 of 12 tournaments on the LPGA Tour this year. The exception was Louise Friberg, who won the MasterCard Classic in Mexico.


FINAL WORD: ``I have lived the life I always wanted to, working for a newspaper I always wanted to, going to lovely places around the world, populated in the main by people I would have chosen to be with. Surely, no journalist could ask for more.'' - Dai Davies, former golf correspondent of The Guardian, who died Monday.