Past U.S. Open champions Jim Furyk of Ponte Vedra Beach and Ernie Els have received special exemptions into the 2018 Open at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, N.Y., June 14-17.

Furyk won the 2003 Open at Olympic Fields near Chicago and Els won the event twice, in 1994 at Oakmont and 1997 at Congressional.

Els will compete in his 26th consecutive U.S. Open and Furyk in his 24th overall, and his 23rd in a row.

“As a past U.S. Open champion, I am grateful to the USGA to accept a special exemption into the U.S. Open Championship, where the quality of the course and how it’s set up pushes me to step up my physical and mental game,” Furyk said in a statement. “Getting to play in another U.S. Open at a historic course like Shinnecock Hills really gets my competitive spirit flowing. I’ve had great success in my many trips to the U.S. Open and winning one is a highlight of my career.”

Els and Furyk are the first players to receive special exemptions into the U.S. Open since Retief Goosen in 2016. Prior to Goosen, Tom Watson and Vijay Singh were awarded exemptions in 2010 at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links.

Aptly-named baby

Azalea Adele Garcia came into the world at 1:54 a.m. on Wednesday -- obviously named with a nod to the most famous flower at the Augusta National Golf Club, by her father and the most recent Masters champion, Sergio Garcia.

Garcia, who conducted a teleconference with the media on Tuesday from an Austin, Texas, hospital, 90 minutes after his wife Angela went into labor, had to wait nearly 17 more hours before their daughter was born. Her first name may be especially fitting since Azalea is the name Augusta National gives to the par-5 13th hole, and Garcia's par there in the final round last year after he hit into a hazard saved his round.

"So proud and impressed with my wife ... and the way she handled the pregnancy and delivery," Garcia posted on Twitter, with a photo of the new baby.

Garcia, Kim donate clubs

Two golf clubs were donated to venues of significant championships this week, both of which were used by the winners to craft what may be the signature shots of their careers so far.

And they came from opposite ends of the bag.

Si Woo Kim donated his M1 Taylor Made driver to the TPC Sawgrass and Garcia handed over his P750 Tour Proto Taylor Made 8-iron to the Augusta National Golf Club. Both ask the winners each year to donate a club they used in their tournaments.

Kim used his driver off the deck, from 270 yards out and in the rough on top of the bank on the right of the par-4 14th hole of the Players Stadium Course to set up a two-putt par during the third round of The Players Championship. Garcia belted his 8-iron from 192 yards out at the par-5 15th hole at Augusta during the final round to set up a 15-foot putt for eagle.

Smith on the bubble

Cameron Smith of Ponte Vedra Beach is No. 50 on the world golf rankings -- and needs to stay there through next week's Dell Technologies Match Play to get into the field for the Masters.

Smith is playing this week at Bay Hill and in the Match Play. The top-50 in the world after next week qualify for a Masters invitation. Smith and Jonas Blixt of Ponte Vedra won the Zurich Classic last year but the Augusta National Golf Club doesn't offer invitations for team events so Smith needs to stay among the top-50 to get into his second Masters. He tied for 55th in 2016.

Speaking of the Zurich Classic, Smith and Blixt are returning to defend their title in New Orleans next month -- if Blixt's back problems improve. He had to withdraw from last week's Valspar Championship.

Another team that has committed had the distinction of pulling off two of the most impressive shots in Players Championship history last year. Garcia will play with fellow Spaniard Rafael Cabrera Bello. Garcia made a hole-in-one at the par-3 17th hole in the first round and Cabrera-Bello became the first player in tournament history to make a double-eagle at the par-5 16th hole, during the fourth round.

Abitger Zurich teams will be Matt Kuchar of St. Simons Island, Ga., with Bubba Watson.

Digital companies form partnership

Secret Golf and Golf Talk America, two digital media companies, have formed a podcast distribution partnership that will include a weekly show with two-time Players champion Steve Elkington and Scottish radio/television personality Diane Knox, the sister of two-time PGA Tour winner and Jacksonville University graduate Russell Knox.

"Secret Golf with Elk and Knoxy," which originates on Secret Golf, will be one of the shows shared with Golf Talk America. Knox also has a podcast, "Secrets and Lies with Knoxy," that focuses on lifestyle, fitness and golf instruction for women.

Secret Golf, launched by Elkington, is the first digital media company owned by Tour professionals. It provides online video instruction from Tour pro and is distributed on social media, smart TV, the Internet and mobile applications.

Other Secret Golf contributors include World Golf Hall of Fame member Jackie Burke, PGA Tour winners Jason Dufner, Brian Harman, Ryan Palmer and Patton Kizzire, and two-time LPGA player of the year Stacy Lewis.

Tour, SiriusXM renew

The PGA Tour and SiriusXM have extended their broadcasting rights deal for another four years, through 2021.

SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio broadcasts live coverage of every round in most Tour events, including The Players, FedEx Cup Playoffs and the Presidents Cup. The agreement has been in place since 2005.

 

 

 

 

 

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PGA Tour

Event: Arnold Palmer Invitational, Thursday-Sunday, Bay Hill Club and Lodge, Orlando.

At stake: $8.9 million purse ($1,602,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points to the winner).

Defending champion: Marc Leishman.

TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 2-6 p.m.; Saturday, 12:30-2:30 p.m.; Sunday, 12:30-2 p.m.). NBC (Saturday, 2:30-6 p.m.; Sunday, 2-6:30 p.m.).

Area players entered: Bud Cauley, Harris English, Matt Every, Brian Harman, Billy Horschal, Zach Johnson, Patton Kizzire, Russell Knox, David Lingmerth, Davis Love III, Sam Saunders, Vijay Singh, Cameron Smith, Hudson Swafford.

Notable: Eight-time winner Tiger Woods leads the field, with Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Adam Scott and Bubba Watson also playing. ... Woods is grouped with Day and Hideki Matsuyama in the first two rounds. ... Leishman shot 69 in the final round and beat Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman by one shot for his second PGA Tour title.

LPGA Tour

Event: Bank of Hope Founders Cup, Thursday-Sunday, Wildfire Golf Club, Phoenix.

At stake: $1.5 million purse ($270,000 to the winner).

Defending champion: Anna Nordqvist.

TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-Sunday, 6-9 p.m.).

Area players entered: Marina Alex, Katie Burnett, Chella Choi, Amelia Lewis.

Notable: Nordqvist shot 61 in the third round and went on to beat Stacy Lewis, In Gee Chun and Ariya Jutanugarn by one shot.