Golf

US Open no longer 'open,' eliminates qualifying for major

The COVID-19 pandemic, which already has postponed the U.S. Open from June to September, has forced the USGA to do away with qualifying for the first time since 1924.

COVID-19 pandemic forces USGA to cancel qualifying for 1st time since 1924

The senior managing director of championships for the USGA says that eliminating qualifying provides 'the best path forward' to holding the U.S. Open in 2020. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/The Associated Press)

The U.S. Open might feel more like a closed shop this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which already has postponed the U.S. Open at Winged Foot from June to September, has forced the USGA to do away with qualifying for the first time since 1924.

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 announce 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 hasn't won.

WATCH | McIlroy, Johnson win Driving Relief skins match:

McIlroy, Johnson claim Driving Relief win in playoff

Sports

12 months ago
2:20
World No. 1 Rory McIlroy's closest to the pin shot secures a victory with partner Dustin Johnson over Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in the Driving Relief skins match to go towards COVID-19 relief efforts. 2:20

Mickelson said in February he would not ask the USGA for an exemption, and that if he didn't qualify or become exempt, he wouldn't play. Winged Foot is where Mickelson made double bogey on the final hole in 2006 to lose by one.

The field presumably will be smaller because of the later date, though the USGA did not mention the field size in its April 6 announcement that the U.S. Open was moving to Sept. 17-20 at Winged Foot, in Mamaroneck, New York.

"As you can imagine, this was an incredibly difficult decision, as qualifying is a cornerstone of USGA championships," said John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of championships for the USGA. "We take great pride in the fact that many thousands typically enter to pursue their dream of qualifying for the U.S. Open and we deeply regret that they will not have that opportunity this year."

Bodenhamer said no qualifying provides "the best path forward" to holding the U.S. Open.

No qualifying for other 2020 championships

The USGA said there would not be qualifying for three other championships it will hold this year — the U.S. Women's Open (moved to December in Houston) and the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women's Amateur, both still scheduled for August.

The U.S. Open, which dates to 1895, had so many players wanting to compete in the years after World War I that it introduced qualifying in 1924. Then, it went to two stages of qualifying in 1959 — 18-hole local qualifying and 36-hole sectional qualifying.

Ken Venturi in 1964 and Orville Moody in 1969 are the only U.S. Open champions who got through both stages. Lucas Glover in 2009 was the last U.S. Open champion to go through 36-hole qualifying.

The USGA had 108 local qualifiers planned in 45 states and one in Canada, followed by 12 sectional qualifiers — nine in the U.S., one each in Canada, England and Japan.

When the U.S. Open was postponed, 50 players were exempt through various categories, such as past champions the last 10 years or top 10 from last year's U.S. Open, major champions from the last five years and the top 30 players who reached the Tour Championship last year.

The pandemic shut down golf on March 13, two months before the top 60 in the world ranking would have been exempt for the U.S. Open. The world ranking has been frozen since the shutdown. It was unclear when it would resume because while the PGA Tour is to resume on June 11, circuits in Europe, Japan and Asia have not said when they would return.

The USGA, meanwhile, has lost 10 championships to the coronavirus. It said Monday that four more were cancelled — the U.S. Mid-Amateur and Women's Mid-Amateur, and the U.S. Senior Amateur and U.S. Senior Women's Amateur.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now