How tournaments like the WM Phoenix Open select their sponsor’s exemptions

Count GOLF’s Subpar co-hosts Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz among the many who want one of the five coveted sponsor’s exemptions to this year’s WM Phoenix Open.

“I’ve been thinking about this. I’d be a good guy to play in the $20 million event,” Stoltz said on this week’s episode. “By the way, every person that’s not [already in the field] in the world that’s held a golf club is applying for a sponsor’s exemption.”

This week’s guest on the podcast knows a thing or two about how to get one. Chance Cozby joined the duo this week to talk about his budding social media superstardom as a chef and also his role as the executive director of The Thunderbirds, the group that hosts the longtime PGA Tour stop.

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Cozby said the tournament had received 52 requests for sponsor’s invitations as of the recording. The Phoenix Open is the second of the PGA Tour’s designated events in 2023, featuring a $20 million purse with $3.6 million going to the winner.

“Most of them are PGA Tour players,” Cozby said. “A lot of guys on the Korn Ferry Tour. And then and we have a handful of guys in college this year, and then there’s just a few that write an amazing letter that don’t have status anywhere and tell us why they’d be a great pick for the WM Phoenix Open.”

He explained that the selection is made by the tournament chairman, Pat Williams. Cozby has played the role before and admitted how difficult it can be to choose from so many worthy applicants.

He even recalled a situation involving Knost several years ago.

“I felt awful. In 2015, we came down to our last spot, and it was between Tony Finau and yourself,” Cozby said.

“Terrible choice!” Knost joked.

“You are obviously a great player,” Cozby responded. “We’re all very close friends. And in 2015, the spot ended up going to Tony Finau and I was driving you out to the Monday Pro-Am, which you were playing in and you didn’t love it. And that’s the hard part because we, you know, you want to say yes to everybody and there’s a lot of great players, but you’ve only got five spots.”

“In the long term, you all made the right decision,” Knost responded again with a laugh.

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Sahith Theegala made the most of a sponsor’s exemption at the 2022 Phoenix Open, as he led the tournament going into the final round before hitting his tee shot in the water and making bogey on the drivable par-4 17th to finish one shot out of a playoff. Theegala capitalized on the career week as he ended up being just one of two rookies to make the field at the 2022 Tour Championship.

“That’s what we want,” Cozby said. “We want to impact somebody’s career and life, but we want to see them play good. And that was a magical— I would say it was a magical thing.”

For more from Cozby, including his tips to watch the WM Phoenix Open, his TikTok chef superstardom and the story behind the Thunderbirds, listen to the full episode below.

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