Rule change gives top Europeans one more chance to play in United States

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A rule change by the PGA Tour will spare No. 1-ranked Lee Westwood from havig to make some hard decisions about where to play next season.
By
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

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Published: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 | 12:03 a.m.

Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy are among five international players who can play one additional PGA Tour event next year if they are eligible for The Players Championship.

The policy board adopted the change at its quarterly meeting last week. It allows a player like Westwood, who ordinarily could have played no more than three regular PGA Tour events, from having to choose between The Players Championship and another tournament.

Westwood said the tour informed him of the change last week.

Players who resign their membership or fail to play the minimum 15 events face a five-year period of playing only 10 PGA Tour events. Westwood gave up his U.S. membership in 2008 when he played only 10 times, while McIlroy decided this year to resign his membership.

Westwood prefers to play the Honda Classic (situated between two World Golf Championships), the Shell Houston Open (the week before the Masters), and the St. Jude Classic, where he is the defending champion. Throw in The Players Championship, which offers the highest purse in golf, and he would have to decide.

“That adds up to 11,” Westwood said Tuesday in Dubai, according to the London-based Guardian newspaper. “I would then have to pick between the Players and Memphis, and I don’t think anyone would have wanted that -- not the PGA Tour or the sponsors.”

PGA Champion Martin Kaymer said Tuesday he would not take up PGA Tour membership, but since he has never been a member, he can play 12 tournaments and the new policy would not affect him.

Along with Westwood and McIlroy, the policy could also help David Howell, Darren Clarke and Patrick Sheehan of Australia. That would depend if they are in the top 50 in the world and eligible for the four majors, three WGCs and Players Championship.

McIlroy is the defending champion at Quail Hollow. The new policy will enable him to also play in the Honda Classic and the Memorial, along with The Players Championship.