U.S. Open - Preview Day Two
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The PGA Tour this week created a special exemption category for Tiger Woods to play in its signature events citing the 15-time major champion's "exceptional lifetime achievement" in the game of golf. Woods, a winner of 82 PGA Tour events, has long held a lifetime membership to the Tour by clearing the organization's 20-victory bar, but signature events require other qualifications.

The eight limited-field -- and in some cases, no-cut -- tournaments, which offer $20 million purses and $4 million winner's shares, can only be played by the most successful golfers on Tour. To qualify for signature events, golfers must either be among the top 50 players in the previous season's FedEx Cup points list, the top 30 players in the current Official World Golf Rankings, current-year tournament winners and/or those considered to be playing the best golf in a given season.

Woods, the biggest draw in golf (and perhaps in all of sports), neither meets those criteria nor currently plays enough golf to give himself the chance to be. He had previously been awarded sponsor exemptions into any signature events he was interested in playing, but there has been broad criticism of sponsor exemptions in general throughout golf with some suggesting they should go away entirely.

Tiger most recently received a special exemption from the USGA to play in the 2024 U.S. Open.

The PGA Tour's decision is a nod to both Woods' past greatness and the reality that the big-money signature events and popularity of modern golf largely came on the back of Woods ushering the sport into a new and richer era. 

Despite the exemption category, Woods is unlikely to many of these signature events. He has only started four tournament so far this year, one of which was a signature event, the Genesis Invitational in February. Woods is the host of the Genesis, and this year, he withdrew in the second round amid an illness.

After missing the cut at the U.S. Open last week, Woods was noncommittal about his future on the PGA Tour.

"I've only got one more tournament this season," he said. "... I don't think, even if I win the British Open, I don't think I'll be in the [FedEx Cpu] playoffs. Just one more event and then I'll come back whenever I come back."

Woods is not expected to frequently utilize the new exemption category, and technically, it is not exclusive to Tiger. The category includes a threshold of 80+ wins, according to ESPN, which makes Woods the only PGA Tour member who will qualify for the foreseeable future. Rory McIlroy has the next-most PGA Tour wins for an active member behind Woods with 26, ranking him 22nd all-time on the organization's wins list.