The head of the Royal & Ancient governing body for the British Open said Wednesday the organization likely will not penalize the seven players who did not show up for their tee times at Congressional last month and were disqualified at the first American qualifying tournament for this event.
Peter Dawson, secretary of the R&A, said a number of American players had come up to him this week to tell him how embarrassed they were by the no-shows, as well as the players who called to say they were withdrawing. The field was supposed to have been 120, but only 61 finished all 36 holes.
"We're not going to be vindictive," Dawson said when asked if the seven -- including veteran Paul Stankowski and heralded Tour rookie Kevin Na -- would be barred from trying to qualify next year. "We do have to find out why so many players didn't tee it up. We're going to meet with the PGA Tour and sort it all out . . . I've been hearing some players were too tired, players were sick or injured, players were having babies. It sounded as if the whole American tour was breeding that day."
Dawson also indicated that the R&A will almost certainly tweak the international qualifying system adapted for the first time this year, but by no means abandon it. Qualifying events were held at four sites around the world for the first time this year to make qualifying more convenient to non-exempt players who did not want to travel to England to attempt to qualify. The U.S. qualifier at Congressional was played the Monday after the finish of the Booz Allen Classic.
Thirty-four players notified R&A officials they were withdrawing on the weekend before the Congressional qualifier. Twelve others had dropped out earlier. Seven more were disqualified for not showing up on that Monday, and six players withdrew during the competition when it became obvious they had no chance to earn one of 15 available spots.
Steve Elkington, a former PGA champion, traveled from his home in Houston to qualify because he did not play in the Booz Allen event and earned one of the spots, only to withdraw earlier this week because of a pulled groin. He was highly critical of players who did not show up at Congressional.
"It's a disgrace," he told Golfweek Magazine last week. "It's a micro snapshot of what's wrong with young players. If you're not willing to try it, how can you be recognized as a good player? It's all about money. Some young players have so much money, it's gotten to the point where going to the British Open is an inconvenience."
Fred Funk, the former University of Maryland golf coach, was fully exempt for this year's British Open because of his top 50 status in the world rankings, but has been criticized in some quarters because he chose to play at the B.C. Open on the U.S. tour this week.
Funk, 48, has only played in four British Opens, and has missed the cut three times, including the 2003 event at Royal St. Georges in England when he shot 75-80. He very publicly said he does not like links style golf and, as one of the tour's shortest hitters, he'd be at a major disadvantage this year on Troon's long par 4s, six of them played dead into the prevailing wind.
Funk is tied for ninth in the Ryder Cup standings and he will earn points to help solidify that position with a top 10 finish at the B.C. Open. Funk has never played on a Ryder Cup team, and said making Hal Sutton's team would represent the crowning achievement of his career.
Adam Scott, who won the Booz Allen Classic last month at the TPC at Avenel, hasn't played since. Still, he fancies his chances to contend this week, especially with veteran Tony Navarro, formerly Greg Norman's caddy, on his bag.
"I think he said his first trip to an Open was in 1982," Scott said on Wednesday. "So he's been coming here 22 years, and the experiences with Greg, he won with Tony at St. Georges and was in contention a lot of other times. I think he probably has a pretty good feel for the shots that need to be played. We've been talking about that this week, and what kind of shots do you like to see so you don't put yourself in position where you make big numbers."
Scott also employs Butch Harmon, Tiger Woods's former swing coach, as his longtime instructor, and has no plans to change.
"As long as he still wants to teach me, I think I'll be with him until that point," Scott said. "He took me from a pretty average player to The Players champion. He's done a hell of a job, and I think the values he puts on the game have rubbed off on me a little bit. He works hard, makes me work hard, and wants to get the results he believes I can get."