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No exemption for Wilson at Colonial this year

Dean Wilson was terrific in a supporting role last year at the Colonial.

Given a late exemption -- provided he played in a Monday pro-am -- Wilson was thrust into the spotlight when he and Aaron Barber were paired with Annika Sorenstam as she became the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour.

The media frenzy following Sorenstam made it tough to play, but Wilson embraced the occasion. He was supportive of Sorenstam, even buying a ``Go Annika'' button to wear during the first two rounds. Wilson, a 34-year-old Hawaiian, shot 71-67 in that cauldron to make the cut, and he finished tied for 21st.

His graciousness apparently went unnoticed.

Wilson wrote a letter asking for an exemption from Colonial, and was disappointed to learn he had been passed over.

``I was counting on that,'' Wilson said. ``It was sad not getting that.''

Choosing who gets the exemptions is difficult every week. Some players have a local connection, others are past champions, or former PGA Tour winners no longer exempt. Colonial chairman Dee Finley said about 60 players asked for exemptions this year.

``I'm looking at the list ... and 18 on the current money list are higher than Dean,'' Finley said Monday. ``We gave him very serious consideration because of the wonderful experience last year. It's a tough choice.''

Still, Wilson deserved better.

Some players say it's tough to play with Tiger Woods in a circus atmosphere, with photographers scrambling for the best angle and fans leaving after he putts out. It was a three-ring circus with Sorenstam, yet Wilson made the most of it. Having not won yet on the PGA Tour, he is best known as the guy who played with Annika.

Sorenstam won't be at Colonial. Sadly, it appears Wilson won't be, either.

Finley said it was possible another exemption could become available if someone qualifies for the Colonial, and the best he could say was that Wilson is on the short list.

Wilson has never had much luck with sponsor exemptions. He has had most of his success on the Japanese tour, winning six times over three seasons. But Wilson didn't get his first exemption until the Scottish Open in 2002. He even had to Monday qualify for the Sony Open, a hometown tournament.

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