October 26, 2021
First, it was Brendon Todd, the 2019 Butterfield Bermuda Champion, who announced his retirement from this year’s event. Todd was out and Heath Slocum was in.
Next up was Cameron Young, a rising star and a recent Korn Ferry graduate. Derek Ernst fell. Lucas Glover fell. Lanto Griffin. Adam Schenk. Robert Allenby.
The Port Royal Golf Club is a dream destination for every golf traveler, a golf course by the sea with breathtaking views and an unforgettable Robert Trent Jones route. But when it came to retaining skilled workers, it turned out to be difficult.
The names they replaced were hardly the who’s who of modern professional golf. Daniel Chopra. Carlos Franco. Michael Bradley. Ted Purdy.
Takumi Kanaya finished in the top 10 at the Zozo Championship last week, earning his place in the field. But then he declined his invitation – a sign of the future. Soon the alternates who had originally accepted seats in the Port Royal event began to withdraw their admissions.
Bradley was in, then out. Then there were Jonathan Kaye and Frank Lickliter II. Then they went out. Tommy Armor III got in, as did Will MacKenzie. One by one, everyone fell too. There’s room in here for a Bermuda Triangle joke about mysterious disappearances, but folks, we’ll avoid this one and sail into safer waters.
Rob Bolton, professional tracker of all important things on the tour, documented the action:
Field ▲ → @Bermuda_Champ
Brendon the Younger (alternative)
NOTE: All substitutes are exhausted. So if there are more early WDs they will not be replaced and the tournament will be played for less than the 132 cap. https://t.co/1mMnrt2tnL
– Rob Bolton (@RobBoltonGolf) October 25, 2021
Others declined before their number was even called. Jason Gore of USGA fame. Smylie Kaufman from Spring Break. Omar Uresti from PGA Professional. The field of 132 players is already smaller than at tour events in summer due to the daylight at this time of the year, but the number of eligible players quickly dwindled.
If an event with another field struggles to fill its tournament field, it can jump into the reserves and invite people with lower PGA Tour status by joining numbers 151-200 on last year’s FedEx Cup list. That included people like Rafael Campos (# 151) and Tom Lewis (# 156). But the Bermuda Championship has been upgraded (by dark irony) to a “full field” event every time in the past two years due to the cancellation of the WGC HSBC champions, so this provision does not apply.
The PGA Tour informed GOLF.com that there is no plan to fill places after WDs.
One fill-in was left: Brendon de Jonge. He got his place when Paul Barjon got out. The field was full, 132 players for 132 seats.
But then they started to go away. Michel was outside. Stankowski? The end. Cody Gribble decided he was ready too. In other words, the players who were waiting on the phone weren’t actually waiting on the phone. They didn’t come. The PGA Tour is the highest level of professional golf on the planet; Thousands of golfers would give anything for a single appearance at the highest level of the game. Suddenly the 132-player field of the tour only had 127 players left – and fell. What was the deal with the WDs?
Why go to Bermuda?
We’ll get to the reasons NOT to go in a moment, but first: Wow. Where should I start? Bermuda is an island paradise with beautiful sandy beaches, charming little towns and a variety of fun golf courses. In addition, there is a low crime rate, reliably warm weather and the possibility of driving scooters on the left side of the street (visitors are generally not allowed to rent cars).
But if you’re a professional golfer, the attraction is a lot simpler: scoring. Money. Exceptions.
When the WGC-HSBC Champions were canceled due to Covid-19, the Bermuda Championship was upgraded to a full field event. That means 500 FedEx Cup points for the winner, just like Rory McIlroy earned two weeks ago in a high-profile field in Las Vegas. It also means that in addition to a two-year exemption from the PGA Tour, the winner will receive an invitation to the Masters.
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Betting favorite Matthew Fitzpatrick admitted that getting full points was a factor in his decision to play.
“Definitely,” he said on Tuesday. “I think I’ve never been a favorite for a tournament before. It’s always nice, but it was also a big draw for me to have the standard 500 points for a win. It obviously gives me a great chance to get my season going and have a great start to try and make the Tour championship next year. “
The relative weakness of the rest of the field should also make a Bermuda start more attractive for fellow players. The number 24 in the world, Patrick Reed, is the top ranked player in the field. Brian Gay and Brendon Todd have helped recharge their careers with wins at Port Royal over the past two seasons. There’s a good chance we’ll see another off-the-radar player win this week – because most of the competitors aren’t on the radar.
Oh, and there’s the $ 6.5 million budget that was upgraded from $ 4 million a year ago. That means the winner will receive nearly $ 1.2 million. Not bad for a week of work in paradise.
So why not go?
For one thing, Bermuda isn’t the easiest place to get to. The island (technically 181 islands, but the main island gets the most attention) is about 600 miles off the coast of North Carolina, the closest mainland. Sure, there are plenty of flight options – but if you’re a tour professional who needs proper coordination to prepare for the tournament, getting to the island in time and exploring Port Royal to be prepared can be difficult feel. Traveling from Japan, which hosted last week’s Zozo championship, is particularly challenging. The two islands are not exactly in the immediate vicinity. And there are additional complexities flying to Bermuda in particular, like this: Gay, the defending champions, was part of a group of players who were left behind on Monday as his plane was considered “too heavy” to take off with everyone on board.
Bermuda’s Covid-19 policy is proving to be a major deterrent for some golfers too. In order to participate in the event this week, players were required to provide proof of vaccination or to have been quarantined for 14 days. The PGA Tour does not require their players to be vaccinated and reported that just over 70 percent were vaccinated in early August. They haven’t released an update since then, but the requirement makes it extremely unlikely for unvaccinated players to make the journey.
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Last-minute expansions in the field faced further challenges, as Bermuda people also have to present a negative Covid-19 test before arriving on the island. Players will then be retested when they arrive in Bermuda. But a pro who may have decided to add the event at the last minute could have been put off by the schedule of getting a negative test and still arriving before the tournament.
While most professionals have not spoken publicly on the matter, Charlie Beljan took to Twitter a few weeks before the event to protest the island’s demands, calling the pandemic a “joke” and adding, “F – Bermuda and all of you Nazis pushing this agenda. ”The tweets were later deleted.
Bermuda Health Minister Michael Dunkley, himself an avid golfer, told the Royal Gazette he was disappointed with Beljian’s comments and their reflection on the island and its event.
“The PGA Tour was up there with its players a long time ago,” said Dunkley. “If you wanted to come to Bermuda, you had to be vaccinated or in quarantine for 14 days. At the last minute the Lord said he was withdrawing because of this, he had ample time to make a decision and to discuss it in good time. “
For many tour professionals, this is clearly the off-season. After a series of seven majors in 14 months, this is the time of year they have set aside for family, rest and relaxation. If they knew the field was this ripe for inclusion, they might reconsider it, but a complex last-minute trip to Bermuda is simply more than many wanted to plan.
The betting markets will tell you that Fitzpatrick is the favorite at around 11-1 while Christiaan Bezuidenhout (16-1) is the next, followed by Reed (20-1) and the trendy pick Mito Pereira (20-1).
There are also many names from days gone by, including John Senden, Ricky Barnes, Ted Purdy, and Arjun Atwal.
But the best contribution of all is local pro Brian Morris. The 53-year-old Bermuda professional has stage 4 end-stage brain cancer that he has battled for years. this week he will realize his dream.
Brian Morris has had chemotherapy every three weeks for nearly two years.
He has terminal cancer. @Bermuda_Champ granted the 53-year-old Bermudian a sponsorship exemption.
He will fulfill his lifelong dream this week. pic.twitter.com/VyDUxWTMkb
– PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 25, 2021
Reason enough to watch.
Dylan Dethier is Senior Writer for GOLF Magazine / GOLF.com. A native of Williamstown, Mass. joined GOLF in 2017 after fiddling around on the mini tours for two years. A graduate of Williams College in 2014 where he majored in English, Dethier is the author of 18 in America describing the year he lived off his car when he was 18 and in each state played a round of golf.