After a month away from golf competition, Bobby Clampett is set to swing the clubs again. He will make his ninth Champions Tour start of the season Friday at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine when he tees it up in the 3M Championship.
His return from the short layoff was not a given.
Clampett earned more than $1 million during his 15-year PGA Tour career, playing in the 1980s and ’90s when purses were a fraction of what they are now. Yet that total does not put him high enough to be fully exempt on the Champions Tour.
Because so many of his higher-earning peers elect to play each week, Clampett is often an alternate. He has to hope enough players withdraw, or must earn his way in via the weekly event qualifier.
Olin Browne, who tied for third last year, was one of three players to pull out of the 3M on Monday, meaning Clampett could relax a little on the driving range. Michael Allen and Tommy Armour III also withdrew; Allen is sixth in the Schwab Cup standings.
“It was really good news because this is always going to be a top field,” Clampett said. “I feel fresh and I’m really looking forward to playing.”
It’s a nice change of luck for Clampett, who started the year traveling to four events where he wound up without a paycheck as the first alternate at the start of the tournament.
“A crushing way to start the season,” he said. “But I knew eventually my number would open up.”
For others, Tuesday is a big day. The 3M Championship qualifier at nearby Victory Links has more than 30 entrants. Ten players have at least one PGA Tour victory. Chip Beck has four, and six times he has finished a major championship in the top 10.
David Peoples, who set a 3M second-round record with a 10-under 62 last year and finished second, is also entered in Tuesday’s qualifier as is 2008 Senior British Open winner Bruce Vaughan.
They will have to finish in the top four to guarantee a spot on the weekend.
They are among the more than 100 players tournament director Hollis Cavner had to deny a sponsor’s exemption.
“It’s an amazing group when you look down the list,” Cavner said of Tuesday’s qualifier. “It shows the strengths of the Tour and how many [exempt] major champions are in it. We’re very blessed to have this kind of group come and play out here.
“But it makes those [sponsor’s] exemptions tough. It’s hard to turn down a guy who’s maybe won multiple times and people know from TV.”
Three golfers with Minnesota connections — John Harris, David Podas and Jim Sorenson — received exemptions from Cavner and will play together in Friday’s first round.