In years past, Rich Beem might have considered starting his 2012 PGA TOUR campaign in Honolulu at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
The 2002 PGA champ isn't fully exempt on TOUR this year for the season straight season, though. That's why Beem decided to take advantage of the final year of the 10-year exemption on the European Tour he received for that win over Tiger Woods at Hazeltine National.
So while his peers are playing at Waialae Country Club, Beem is several continents away competing in the Joburg Open. He's currently 2 over through 15 holes in the first round of the tournament that is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Sunshine Tour.
“On a professional level, I think it’s going to make me a better player,” Beem told Mike Green of the Sunshine Tour.” I think if you’re able to take your game overseas and play well overseas, and then come back to an environment you already know, then you’re going to have so much more confidence.
"So I’m looking at it from that angle – the more that I’m able to play around the world on courses I haven’t played and have success, the more I can take that success back to the PGA TOUR.”
The 41-year-old Beem has status on TOUR as a past champion. He says the biggest challenge so far as been the travel -- "trying to figure out where it is; how I can get to certain tournaments,” Beem explained -- but he's embraced the opportunity. Among the highlights so far is a private tour of the Apartheid Museum and Soweto.
“What an incredible experience," Beem said.
Beem, who plans to fulfill the 13-tournament obligation to retain his European Tour card while also competing on the PGA TOUR, isn't looking at 2012 as a last-chance season for his pro career.
“I haven’t thought about the season that negatively yet,” he said. “I keep thinking that I’m going to play well and secure cards on both tours and then figure that one out. I would suppose that in some ways it’s make-or-break, but I haven’t quite figured out what I would do if I end up broke. I haven’t made any other plans yet.”