Pro ‘incredibly disappointed’ he wasn’t asked to defend title. Here’s why

Zack Fischer at the 2023 Sanderson Farms Championship.

Zack Fischer at the 2023 Sanderson Farms Championship.

Raj Mehta/Getty Images

As the Korn Ferry Tour heads to Argentina this week for the 117 Visa Argentina Open, it will do so without the event’s defending champion.

But not because Zack Fischer earned his PGA Tour card for this year.

Fischer took to social media Friday to announce he would not be in the field because he didn’t get an exemption, despite pleading for a sponsor’s invite. One of those invites went to former Masters winner Angel Cabera as he returns following a prison sentence.

“I am incredibly disappointed to say that I will not be able to defend my title at the Argentina Open on the @KornFerryTour next week,” Fischer wrote on X. “I have pleaded my case but they have other plans for the exemptions. That being said 2024 will still be my best year ever!”

But wait, aren’t reigning champions of PGA Tour-sanctioned events event invited back to defend their title? Yes, they are. But in the case of this year’s Argentina Open, things get a bit more complicated .

A PGA Tour spokesperson confirmed to GOLF that the Korn Ferry Tour, like the PGA Tour, has an exemption category for “Past Champion of Current Week’s Event” for every event except the four Korn Ferry Tour Finals events. Trouble was, when Fischer won the Argentina Open, it was not a Korn Ferry Tour event.

The event was last played in December 2022 as part of the 2023 PGA Tour Latinoamerica season. Fischer shot a final-round 68 to win by one over Linus Lilliedahl.

Last July, the PGA Tour announced the tournament would move dates to March and be added to the Korn Ferry schedule. According to the PGA Tour spokesperson, that means the Argentina Open technically doesn’t have a defending champion.

“Since the Visa Argentina Open is in its first season as a Korn Ferry Tour event, and is technically a new event for the Korn Ferry Tour, there are no players in the ‘Past Champion of Current Week’s Event’ category,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

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Making matters harder for Fischer, after having Korn Ferry status in 2022 and ’23, he lost it for the 2024 season. After a 36th-place finish on the Tour points list in 2022, he made just eight cuts in 2023 and finished 111th.

The highlight of Fischer’s ’23 came at the Open Championship when he made his first career cut in a major and finished 76th. He was in the field by virtue of his Argentina Open win. (Since 2016, the R&A has given an Open exemption to the Argentina Open champ.)

As events get promoted and demoted among the PGA Tour, Korn Ferry Tour and other developmental tours, not having an exemption for an event’s defending champion isn’t all that rare.

In 2018, the Corales Puntacana Championship, formerly a Korn Ferry event, made its debut as a PGA Tour event. But Nate Lashley, the last player to win the tournament when it was on the Korn Ferry ( Tour, was not exempt into the field in that category. (Because Lashley had earned his PGA Tour card by that point, he still played in the event and finished T28 in his title defense.)

Fischer said in a follow-up tweet that he’d be playing on the PGA Tour Americas this season, the newly created development tour resulting from the merger of the PGA Tour Latinoamerica and PGA Tour Canada.

“I know God has big plans for me and my family,” Fischer wrote in another Tweet. “I have never received a sponsor exemption in my 13 years of pro golf but that won’t stop me from doing what God has called me to do.”

Jack Hirsh Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at