The U.S. Open will not have qualifying for the first time since 1924.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which already has postponed the event at Winged Foot from June to September, has forced the U.S. Golf Association (USGA) into the decision.
“As you can imagine, this was an incredible difficult decision, as qualifying is a cornerstone of USGA championships,” stated John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of Championships for the USGA.
Open qualifying is the hallmark of golf’s second-oldest championship. The USGA often points out that typically half of the 156-man field has to go through either 36-hole qualifying or 18-hole and 36-hole qualifying.
It even invested in a marketing campaign that was rolled out in February, titled “From Many, One,” to illustrate that more than 9,000 people apply to play in the U.S. Open, eventually yielding to one winner.
The USGA did not reveal on Monday how other players would become exempt.
Among those who have yet to qualify is Phil Mickelson, a runner-up six times in the only major he has not won.
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Mickelson said in February he would not ask the USGA for an exemption, and that if he failed to qualify or become exempt, he would not play. Winged Foot is where Mickelson made double bogey on the final hole in 2006 to lose by one.
The field apparently will be smaller because of the late major date, though the USGA did not mention the field size in its April 6 announcement that the U.S. Open was moving to September 17-20 at Winged Foot, in Mamaroneck, New York.
The cancellation of Open qualifying will be keenly felt among golf fans. It’s from those final qualifying tournaments that Cinderella stories appear. In the last quarter-century, three eventual Open champions first made their way into the field via qualifying: Steve Jones in 1996, Michael Campbell in 2005 and Lucas Glover in 2009. Last year 9,125 competitors entered qualifying for the Open, with more than 35,000 entering all USGA individual competitions.
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