Tagged in: USGA

U.S Open scraps qualifying; now all-exempt field

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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Winged Foot closure leaves U.S. Open in limbo

The closure of Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York, due to coronavirus concerns has at least temporarily halted preparations there for the 2020 US Open.

The US Golf Association said in a statement to GolfChannel.com that it continues “to hold the dates for the US Open at Winged Foot in June” while it also monitors guidance and regulations from the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and state and local authorities.

In the meantime, work that had started on tournament infrastructure such as corporate hospitality tents and grandstands has been halted.

The USGA acknowledged that the championship, programmed for June 18-21, might have to be postponed, but said it was too soon to make that call.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation and making relevant contingency plans,” USGA chief brand officer Craig Annis told the Journal News newspaper that serves Westchester County.

“We expect to make a decision sometime in the middle of April.”

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The first two major championships, the Masters and PGA Championship, have already been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Open Championship at Royal St. George’s in England is still programmed for July 16-19.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo warned Tuesday of “troubling and astronomical numbers” in the rate of coronavirus infections in the state, saying they were doubling every three days.

The Masters and PGA Championship have already been postponed, and the PGA Tour has canceled eight events. There is talk of the PGA Championship taking over the date vacated by the postponed Olympic Games in late July, with the Masters potentially moving to October.

The last time the U.S. Open was not played was in 1945 due to World War II.

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