Fortune shines on Micheel, Uresti in Houston

Shaun Micheel

Shaun Micheel

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HUMBLE, Texas – Shaun Micheel and Omar Uresti are in the field of 144 this week at the Shell Houston Open. Neither has his PGA Tour card this year, and their status is far down the list.

Micheel’s victory in the 2003 PGA Championship provides the 19-year veteran with past-champion status, slightly better than Uresti’s veteran-member status after having made cuts in 150 career PGA Tour events.

The road to the PGA Tour can be limited for both: a four-spot Monday qualifier or sponsor exemption.

For Micheel, his exemption came after he finished 28th in the Nationwide Tour's Chitimacha Louisiana Open in Broussard, 60 miles west of Baton Rouge off of Interstate 10.

Because he finished so late in the day and wouldn’t make a flight back home to Memphis, Tenn., Micheel decided to make the 450-mile drive.

Just outside of Baton Rouge, Micheel received a call from Steve Timms, the tournament director of the Shell Houston Open.

Micheel had played 13 times in Houston, including the past seven. This year, he had played in only three Tour events – two of them opposite-field tournaments – so the Houston offer was a welcome surprise.

“He asked if I wanted to play this week,” Micheel said of his chat with Timms. “So I pulled off the interstate, called Avis rental car and asked them if I could change my drop-off from Memphis to Houston and they said no problem, so I turned right back around and came over here.”

Scott McCarron had withdrawn Saturday, so because he had received a sponsor exemption, Timms could extend an invitation to another player.

Why pick Micheel over other worthy candidates?

In 2009, Micheel was the only player on the range at 5:30 p.m. and a player had dropped out of a dinner for some Shell executives. Micheel was approached and asked whether he could participate, so he hurried back to the hotel and dressed for the dinner.

“The next year, I wrote – it’s the only time this has happened besides Memphis – but I wrote for an exemption in 2010, and I’m telling you within a couple days I got the exemption,” Micheel said. “Most of the time, you don’t get them that fast.”

Micheel believes – and Timms confirms – that the '09 dinner led to the exemption 2010, when he finished fifth, and again this year when a spot came open.

Timms explained his philosophy on Micheel: “When push comes to shove, and you've got a choice to make and you’re kind of choosing clean, and somebody’s helped you out like that, that didn’t have to, it wasn’t playing on an exemption that year, just kind of pushed it another one in his favor.”

For Uresti, the exemption was pure happenstance. After finishing 10th at the Nationwide event in Louisiana, the 17-year pro came to the tournament on Monday morning to get some golf balls for a charity outing that he is hosting later this year.

While in the parking lot, he happened upon Timms. After some chitchat, Timms asked Uresti why he was here. Uresti said he was on his way to the four-spot and then half-heartedly said, “Unless you've got a spot for me.”

Timms didn’t at the time, but 15 minutes later one of the international players for whom he was holding a spot declined. Uresti got the call while talking to Willie Wood, another hopeful qualifier.

“I guess my name was fresh on his mind, so I was the one that ended up getting it,” Uresti said on the Redstone Golf Club driving range. “It was kind of a fortuitous event and just right place at the right time.”

Micheel will be part of the Shell dinner again this week, and Uresti said he will do what is necessary to support the event.

They understand that, with their status, each week is a struggle to get into a field for the opportunity to regain a Tour card.

“There’s a lot of guys out here that have Tour cards like me that aren’t fully exempt, and most people don’t really understand how that all works,” Micheel said. “They think, Oh, if you are in the NBA, you play. But if you’re on the PGA Tour, it doesn’t mean you get to play all the time. Knowing people and doing the right things, that’s certainly what I would advocate to all these young kids out here today. Do some of these extra things because you’re not very far removed from having a shoulder surgery and maybe having a career taken away from you. And there’s no golden parachute out here.”

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