PGA Event Bars Masters Runner-Up Over Sponsor

Sky Sports reports this week that the 2010 Masters runner-up and golf’s current world’s #4, Lee Westwood, was not offered a spot in the PGA Tour’s St. Jude Classic (June 10-13) field in Memphis despite John Daly being invited to play in the tournament.

Lee Westwood Barred From PGA Tour Event Because Of UPS Sponsorship

Westwood will compete against Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson this weekend at the Quail Hollow Championship in North Carolina, but had “hoped to warm up for the season’s second major (U.S. Open) at Pebble Beach by competing at the St Jude Classic.

In the last five years, Daly’s best finish in Memphis is a tie for 59th in 2009. He missed the cut in ‘08, finished 79th in ‘07, withdrew in ‘06 and tied for 72nd in ‘05.

Westwood has finished second (in the Masters), and tied for third twice in golf’s last three major championships. He’s made the cut in 13 of 13 events since the beginning of ‘09.

So why was Westwood not invited? He said today that one of his sponsorship deals was the reason.

The lead golf reporter for the ASSOCIATED PRESS, Doug Ferguson, Tweeted from his account today:

Westwood says couldn’t get an exemption to Memphis tournament. Asked why, tugged on his shirt to show UPS logo.

Westwood made the remark at his press conference in Charlotte before the Quail Hollow Championship. The St. Jude Classic is in Memphis, the home to FedEx, which has sponsored the tournament in the past.

Rachel Tobin Ramos of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION reports that officials with the tournament are now backpedaling:

Phil Cannon, St. Jude’ s tournament director, briefly spoke with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, saying the “whole thing is getting blown out of proportion.” He said he believes everything will get worked out.

“I think we’ll find a way for this to work for everybody involved,” said Cannon. “There are a lot of issues at play with sponsors and other players involved.”

UPS spokesman Norman Black said Westwood is one of three golfers on the European tour that UPS sponsors. He was peeved about Westwood’s potential absence from the St. Jude Classic.

“The idea of misusing a corporate sponsorship to the detriment of one of the greatest golfers in the world is just beyond understanding,” said Black. He said he hoped that the PGA Tour would intervene.

From the tone of tournament director Cannon, it sounds as if Westwood will soon be extended an invite. If he isn’t, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem and his $4.7M annual salary needs to step in and allow Westwood into the field.

UPDATE: The MEMPHIS COMMERCIAL APPEAL reports that the St. Jude Classic has indeed backed down and will offer Westwood a spot in the field.

“He’s happy and we’re happy,” St. Jude Classic tournament director Phil Cannon said. “He’s very grateful. Our friends at FedEx want to make it clear they have no say in the matter and they would welcome Lee in the field. So we’ll call an end to this little hiccup and go on.”

So if everyone is “happy”, why was Westwood snubbed in the first place and why did the golfer feel so strongly about it that he mentioned it to the press earlier today?