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 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 some 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.
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, just north of New York City.
“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.