There was wonder why Rickie Fowler was not in this week’s Valspar Championship, as it seemingly jeopardised his spot in the 2021 PGA Championship field. Turns out it was a spot Fowler had already secured.
A PGA of America spokesperson told Golf Digest overnight that Fowler and John Catlin have received special exemptions for this year’s tournament at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.
Fowler, whose struggles have been one of the sport’s chief wonders this season, has fallen to 111th in the Official World Golf Ranking. Ostensibly that was problematic to Fowler’s Kiawah prospects, as an exemption from playing on the 2018 Ryder Cup was contingent on members ranking inside the OWGR top 100 as of May 9. With Fowler passing on this week’s PGA Tour event at Innisbrook, a number of fans on social media were curious why the 32-year-old would skip on an opportunity to improve his standing with the clock ticking.
However, the PGA of America said that Fowler and Catlin were already granted invites “based on their performances, playing records and OWGR position”. The exemptions are not aberrations; usually the PGA will award somewhere in the range of 30 to 40 spots to fill out its field.
Though Fowler has not posted a top 10 this season, he has a handful of strong performances at the PGA Championship, highlighted by a T-3 at Valhalla in 2014. Before missing out on this year’s Masters, Fowler had a Major appearance streak dating to the 2010 Open Championship.
As for Catlin, the 30-year-old American makes his bones on the European Tour, and has been making lots of them as of late, winning three times on the Old World circuit in his past 14 starts. Catlin enters the week ranked 82nd in the world.
The 2021 PGA Championship begins on May 20. Collin Morikawa is the defending champion.