As he was driving to his household in Glendale, Ariz., from TPC Scottsdale immediately after his second spherical in the 2015 WM Phoenix Open up was suspended by darkness, Michael Hopper saw that his cellphone was blowing up with phone calls and text messages. Friends have been telling him that he had appeared on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” and he believed they ended up seeking to pull a coordinated prank.
The head qualified at Lookout Mountain Golfing Club, Hopper was just about at the bottom of the leaderboard. He had opened with a 10-above 81 in his initial job PGA Tour start off, and there was very little specific about his next round, even though he was taking part in considerably improved, sitting two about par through 16 holes. At 12 above for the tournament, Hopper was 13 shots off the cutline and beating just 1 player. Why would ESPN be fascinated in his overall performance?
Very well, mainly because the identify of that a person player built all the big difference. Having difficulties with the chipping yips, Tiger Woods had posted 73-82 and stood at 13-in excess of 155.
“ESPN put my image up on the display and the announcers were saying something like, ‘Tiger Woods is getting conquer by this dude … a club pro,’” Hopper recalled with a slight chuckle. “We have lodging on property at Lookout Mountain, and our workers likes to notify our friends that I when defeat Tiger Woods. I have to right them and say, ‘Nope, I only tied him.’ It’s pleasurable to say, but the reality is neither one particular of us was particularly playing his greatest match.”
Hopper returned the following early morning, bogeyed the 17th hole from the fairway, designed par at the previous and turned in a 74 to tie the 82-time PGA Tour winner for previous location.
Woods has not been back to TPC Scottsdale considering that, but in a number of months, Hopper will make his 3rd look in the WM Phoenix Open up, which commences Feb. 9, possessing gained an exemption in the very same fashion as his preceding two starts in 2015 and ’19.
In September, Hopper won the 65th edition of the Southwest Segment PGA Championship at Sewailo Golfing Club in Tucson, beating Derek Shelburne of Desert Highlands by 7 strokes. The victory was a single of a few area titles for Hopper, 38, who was named the 2022 participant of the 12 months with 19 major-25s in 20 begins. His reward for that regularity was $14,325.25.
“It was a huge offer. It is usually a massive deal to get to perform in a PGA Tour event,” explained Hopper, who also competent via the part for the 2019 Shriners Children’s Open up in Las Vegas. “As club professionals, we experienced that aspiration of actively playing the tour, so it indicates something any time you get that likelihood and you reside out the aspiration, even if it’s for a 7 days.”
What tends to make this year’s WM Phoenix Open much more important (beyond the fact that it ends the identical working day that Tremendous Bowl LVII is staged in nearby Glendale) is its standing as one particular of the PGA Tour’s 13 new “designated” situations. As these, the prize revenue payout has more than doubled, increasing from $8.2 million to $20 million, and virtually all of the game’s best tour associates will contend as component of their obligation to remain qualified for the tour’s $100 million reward from the Participant Influence Plan.
When the tour declared on Oct. 19 that the WM Open and 3 other tournaments—the Wells Fargo Championship, the RBC Heritage and the Vacationers Championship—were rounding out the situations getting elite-level position, Hopper fearful his exemption may well be rescinded.
“I did not know what it intended when I noticed the announcement, and then I noticed a tale, it might have been from a Fb connection, a little something titled to the effect of ‘How do you get in a person of these elevated occasions?’ So, I began to concern in which I stood,” Hopper said. “I suggest, it just wasn’t tremendous clear.”
Hopper contacted Bill Ibrahim, Main Functioning Officer of the Southwest PGA section, who ran it up the flagpole to Kerry Haigh, the Main Championships Officer of the PGA of The us. Sooner or later, the tour came back with the information that nothing at all experienced adjusted concerning any part exemptions in its situations in 2023. What happens in 2024 and past has nevertheless to be determined, however, according to a PGA Tour spokesperson
“It was just one of these specifics that they hadn’t really worked out not significant on their radar,” Ibrahim mentioned. “We were being happy to hear there was not heading to be a improve this calendar year. We were happy for Michael. He’s a definitely good participant. You would not be amazed if he produced the cut. Think how interesting that would be for him.”
Not to mention how profitable. Final-place revenue for people enjoying the weekend is envisioned to be close to $43,000. A 30th-place end is probably to be $137,000. And the winner’s check out ought to be all over $3.6 million.
When his eligibility to engage in was cleared up, the up coming question was regardless of whether Hopper qualified for the vacation stipend system the tour initiated this season. Just about every non-exempt member in the 126-150 group and underneath receives $5,000 for just about every missed minimize. At first, Hopper considered he may well have landed a $5,000 bonus only to be educated by fellow PGA professional, and subsequently confirmed by the tour, that the plan didn’t use in his case.
“Yeah, if I skipped the reduce, that 5K would have been pretty cool, actually,” he reported. “But even just before that I’ve been thinking about what I could make if I do make the slash. I am a competitor, you know, and I want to carry out nicely.
“I checked the scores from final year, and the minimize was two below, practically nothing mad,” added Hopper, who didn’t make the cut in his a few previous tour commences. “I assume I have that perfectly in just me. I can enjoy fairly very good golf. So, like, why are unable to it be that week? You know? Definitely, I have to go out and participate in seriously properly, but there’s a large amount of incentive there.”
That explained, there is no more additional incentive than there was just before. No matter if the purse is $8 million or $20 million, a club professional relishes these uncommon chances. Only a location in the PGA Championship, in which 20 club execs qualify, would be much more coveted. Hopper has not fulfilled that intention still. He’ll get another probability in early Could at the PGA Specialist Championship in New Mexico.
For now, this is his major. He’s been performing tricky on his recreation to prepare, juggling observe classes with the enhanced demands of his position this time of calendar year when winter residents and golfing holidaymakers descend on Arizona. He hopes to sneak in a spherical or two at TPC Scottsdale right before match week.
“The purse does not make a variance. It is a whole lot of funds what ever it is, while I’d be lying to say it can be not enjoyment to believe about the prospects,” he stated. “The stage of competitors is what gets your awareness. We’ve generally experienced good fields below, but now just about just about every major player in the globe is coming, and which is what tends to make it intriguing. What ever takes place, it is likely to be a cool encounter.”