The US Open is one of the four Majors in Golf, arguably the toughest to win due to the USGA's mantra for having the course play as difficult as possible.
In 2005, New Zealand's Michael Campbell was able to tame Pinehurst #2 and take home the prestigious title. For his work, Campbell will appear in the Mercedes Championship in Hawaii to kick off the PGA season next month. Take away the majors, World Golf Championships and The Players Championship, and that leaves him only one other PGA Tour event he can play.
Due to a muddled process from the PGA and some poor planning by Campbell, Campbell had to forfeit his PGA membership in 2004. Campbell was required to play 15 PGA tourneys in 2003 and was going through some of the worst golf of his career, making only 5 of the 14 cuts. Due to his poor play, Campbell cut his season short and returned home to his native New Zealand, without having played in event number 15.
So now, Campbell is the US Open Champion, but the only way we get to see him outside of the Majors and the other big deal golf events is at the Bay Hill later this year. Campbell sought a compromise with the PGA, asking if he could play up to 13 events in 2006, but because he could not commit to 15 tournaments, his request was denied.
This is a double edged sword. The PGA is in a situation now where they are asking players to commit to 15 events in Campbell's situation of being a foreign player under a 'foreign circuit' rule. I have no problem with the PGA adhering to this rule, but when the affected player is the defending US OPEN CHAMPION, you may want to open your marketing eyes and offer an exception or some kind of compromise.
This is a bigger problem than just Campbell though. For years, the PGA has struggled to generate a competitive 'A' list field for a great many of the PGA tour stops that are not as prestigious as the Bay Hill or the Memorial. These other tourneys are what make up the balance of the PGA schedule.
Note to the PGA:
Michael Campbell should be allowed to play wherever he wants, whenever he wants for the next three years. As a current major winner, he should be marketed and catered to so that when he decides to play a tourney, he is there in fighting shape. In fact, any Major winner in the past three years should have that caveat.
Anybody who is not a major winner in the past three years should be compelled to play a minimum of 15-20 events per season. But here's the rub. Over a three year period, you must have played in every tour stop that is on the current tour for which you are eligible. That means that while you know you want to play in the Memorial, or the Byron Nelson, or the Buick, you will also have to schedule the Booz Allen, the John Deere Classic and the 84 Lumber Classic somewhere in your schedule over the next three years. Hey, if you win a major in that time period, you're not obligated. But if you never win a major but are a great player (insert Sergio Garcia), pack your bags, your playing in the Barclay's Classic in Rye, NY.
International players will need to play at minimum 15 events. These players will have to make a choice. Choose the PGA where the field is tougher but the money is bigger, or the Asian Tour where they will make the cut every week and carve out a decent living.
Oh, one more thing. Would the rocket scientist who denied Campbell the ability to play in 13 events on the Tour in 2006 give their head a shake. Campbell should be the poster child for perseverence and he is being treated like a leper.