HONOLULU – Matt Kuchar is not up to speed on the PGA Tour's guideline for granting releases to play in a conflicting events, mainly because it has never been an issue for him.
Not that he doesn't love to travel. Kuchar played the Scottish Open and Dutch Open during his first full year on tour 20 years ago. Since then, he has played in Singapore and Fiji, Abu Dhabi and France. Only four years ago, he played three regular European tour events.
The PGA Tour guideline states players “ordinarily” get three releases for every 15 times they play on the PGA Tour. Kuchar has never needed more than that.
He isn't among more two dozens players who have sought releases to play the Saudi International — Kuchar will be playing Pebble Beach that week — though he still has questions about the definition of an independent contractor.
“I've always felt the release thing is awkward,” he said. “I can see both sides. As a player, I'd like to believe that if we meet our obligation of playing 15 tournaments, I think you should be able to play anywhere you want. From the tour's standpoint, you want to protect your events.”
What's different about the Saudi releases is the tour is requiring any member who goes will have to play the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am one or two times through 2025, depending on how often they have played Pebble in the last five years.
If that specific to releases for Saudi Arabia? That's to be determined.
“What's unique about this situation is the total number (of requests),” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said last week. “We had 22 to 23 last year, and to have 29 to 30, it's an unprecedented number. To try to project a number going forward ... when we get to the future, we'll talk about we how handle them.”
The tour has never been big on hypotheticals.
By the book — a guideline more than policy — anyone wanting a fourth release would need to add five PGA Tour events, and then five more events (for a total of 25) for a fifth release. There have been exceptions over the years, particularly for players who have set a standard of global golf like Ernie Els.
Billy Horschel played four times on the European tour last year in 2021, winning the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
This year, he is contemplating one or both tournaments in Germany (Porsche European Open, BMW International Open), the Dunhill Links Championship and defending his title at Wentworth, along with the season-ender in Dubai depending his ranking.
“I want to play five over there, and 21 over here,” Horschel said.
A year ago, the Dunhill Links was opposite Mississippi, and the DP World Tour Championship was the same week as Sea Island. Horschel doesn't recall any strings attached for those releases. Then again, neither attracted a long list of American-born PGA Tour players.
“I haven't had anything put in front of me when I have played,” Horschel said of his European stops. “It all comes down to how the tour sees different things. And with the alignment with the DP World Tour, maybe it will be a little less where there won't be as many strings attached.”
He said he wasn't surprised by Monahan's decision to require players going to Saudi to add Pebble Beach to their schedules for the next three years.
“Even if you got a quarter of those guys to play Pebble, it would be a nice field for them,” Horschel said. “So on the back end, they get the benefit of knowing these 29 guys will be playing Pebble over the next three years.”
Golf has its label of best to have never won a major, and most career earnings without ever having won a tournament. Perhaps the next one will be most PGA Tour wins without having played in either a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.
Kevin Na and Billy Horschel would be on that list, each with five individual PGA Tour titles.
The next opportunity for them would be the Presidents Cup this year at Quail Hollow Club in North Carolina, with Davis Love III as the captain.
Na was asked what it would take to finally make a team.
“Well, I won twice in 2019 (Colonial, Las Vegas) and I didn't qualify, so I guess the answer was three,” he said. “I've been right there for a few chances for a captain’s pick and I haven’t got it. The answer is just pay better. If you’re automatically qualified, you don’t have to depend on a captain’s pick, then there’s no issue. So I just need to play a little better.”
It's been quite a week for PGA Tour players who went to Georgia. It started with the PGA Tour arranging a special room at the main hotel at Waialae for them to watch the championship game against Alabama, which the Bulldogs won for their first national title in 41 years.
Then, all former Bulldogs in the field at the Sony Open made the cut. Going into the final round, two of them — 54-hole leader Russell Henley and Kevin Kisner — were among the top 10.
“We call it the UGA Tour,” Kisner said. “Ten guys out here, 10 guys making the cut, one guy leading right now. Heck of a program to produce that much talent and continue to do it.”
Eight of the 10 were watching the game together (Chris Kirk and Brendon Todd were staying too far away from the course). And that room got awfully loud when Georgia put the game away late.
“I think everybody in the hotel heard it,” Kisner said. “It was quite an epic video taken with people jumping around trying to see the TV. We only had one TV with about 15, 20 people. It was pretty fun.”
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