Six-time DP World Tour winner Thomas Pieters caused quite a stir on Twitter as he questioned why he wasn’t in the field for the Genesis Invitational on the PGA Tour.
Pieters was disappointed at missing what he called his ‘favourite tournament of the year’ at Riviera Country Club despite being ranked 34th in the world.
The Belgian hasn’t competed on the PGA Tour since the Players Championship in 2022, but since that week at TPC Sawgrass, he has recorded six top-10 finishes on the DP World Tour.
His current world ranking is an impressive one. He and Ryan Fox (29) are the two highest-ranked players who exclusively play on the circuit formerly known as the European Tour.
The Genesis Invitational is the third designated event of 2023 as part of the revamped PGA Tour schedule with 23 of the top 25 players in the world competing, as well as Tiger Woods making a longed return in Los Angeles.
There are players ranked outside of the top 300 in the world competing for the lion’s share of the $20 million purse, even the top 400. So why doesn’t Pieters have this same opportunity? Let us explain this to you.
How do you qualify for the Genesis Invitational?
The PGA Tour has a standardised system to determine fields that are based on the current season’s priority ranking. This also includes extra exemptions and qualifying categories to fill out the remaining spots.
Full Tour members are guaranteed places in all full-field events and this includes conditional categories which are based on FedEx Cup points earned throughout the season.
These are the categories that allow qualification for the Genesis Invitational:
Former winners of the event, winner of the Players Championship (five-year exemption), winner of US Open (five-year exemption), winner of PGA Championship (five-year exemption), winner of the Masters (five-year exemption), winner of the Open Championship (five-year exemption), FedExCup champion (five-year exemption), winner of a WGC event (three-year exemption), winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Memorial and the Genesis Invitational (three-year exemption), PGA Tour tournament winner (two-year exemption), member of most recent US Ryder Cup team, member of most recent European Ryder Cup team, member of most recent US team at Presidents Cup, member of most recent International team at Presidents Cup, top 125 on prior season’s FedExCup, major medical extension, top 10 on current season’s FedExCup, sponsor exemption (Korn Ferry Tour Finals), sponsor exemption (members not otherwise exempt), sponsor exemption (unrestricted).
Unfortunately for Pieters, he doesn’t fall into any of these categories as none of them offer exemptions that concern the world rankings.
His last win on the DP World Tour came at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in 2022, six years after making his debut for Europe at the Ryder Cup.
Securing a spot in Luke Donald’s European side for the 2023 Ryder Cup would earn him a return to Riviera in 2024.
Pieters played 12 events on the PGA Tour in the 2016/2017 season, the most he has played on the American circuit in a single season.
With a tied 5th finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship, he built enough points to gain a special temporary membership which allowed him unlimited sponsor invitations for the remainder of that season.
This was also the same season when he came second at the Genesis Invitational with a sponsor exemption, finishing five shots behind a dominant Dustin Johnson.
Pieters has never been a full member of the PGA Tour and this is a key category that explains why players ranked much worse than him in the world are teeing it up this week.
Nate Lashley (302), Tyler Duncan (388) and Nick Watney (446) are just some players with significantly high rankings who finished in the top 125 FedEx Cup spots in 2022 and kept their membership playing rights.
Perhaps Pieters could soon follow his fellow countryman Thomas Detry in taking the plunge via the Korn Ferry Tour route for a first PGA Tour card in the near future.
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