OPELIKA, Ala. – Robby Shelton is happy to be back at the Barbasol Championship while the world's top players are off in Scotland at the British Open.
Third last year while still in college at the University of Alabama, Shelton is making his second PGA Tour start as a professional. He missed the cut in the FedEx St. Jude Classic in his pro debut.
"It was an exciting week," Shelton said Wednesday. "I played really well. I just came with a lot of expectations, I guess, I just wanted to play well. But being an am is kind of different than being a pro.
"I knew I played really well. It's not always that easy. But it gave me a lot of confidence going into college golf for the year and it definitely gave me some confidence to rattle some wins and make the decision a lot easier to turn pro after my junior year."
Play begins Thursday on Grand National's Lake Course. The winner will get a two-year exemption and a spot in the PGA Championship, but will not be exempt for the Masters.
"It's just a little different in the sense of travel and doing a lot of stuff on my own," Shelton said about professional life. "But besides that, I mean, just wait to hear from each tournament because I'm on sponsor exemptions, so it's just kind of a last-minute thing, which is difficult. It keeps you on your toes, you're always practicing, just hoping for the word. Besides that, it's really not much different."
Shelton is one of many players with Alabama ties, joining Jason Bohn (Alabama), Bud Cauley (Alabama), Dicky Pride (Alabama), Michael Thompson (Alabama), Bobby Wyatt (Alabama), Matt Gilchrest (Auburn), Blayne Barber (Auburn), Michael Johnson (Auburn), Will Wilcox (UAB) and Heath Slocum (South Alabama).
"I'm excited to be here," Barber said. "It's always nice to sleep in your own bed and play a tournament."
Johnson is making his pro debut.
"This is a great opportunity for me," Johnson said. "I'm very happy that I got a sponsor exemption, very happy, pleased, all of the above."
Gilchrest, a rising senior for Tigers, is playing in his first pro event.
"For me, it's like a dream come true for me to get to play my first PGA Tour event, and even better here where we have a college tournament, play here every so often," Gilchrest said. "It's just down the road from my apartment. I've got a lot of family from Dallas and it'll be a really special week."
Wilcox was second last year behind Scott Piercy.
"It's familiar surroundings and I'd love to get the magic again like I had last year," Wilcox said. "It's going to be cool to have all my family down again. I've played good in Alabama. So yeah, I mean, I'll just see if we can get it going again and maybe have another exciting weekend."
Piercy is skipping his title defense to play at Royal Troon.
Kyle Reifers, at No. 42, is the highest player in the FedEx Cup standings in the field. Bohn, at No. 97, has the highest world ranking.
Hunter Mahan is playing for the first time since the birth of his third child, Hazel.