For the first time since the early days of the championship, the 120th U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club, in Mamaroneck, N.Y., on Sept. 17-20 will be conducted without qualifying. Due to continued health concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic, the USGA announced the decision on May 19 to fill the field entirely through exemptions. In early April, the USGA postponed the championship from its original June dates to September.
“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. But this structure provides the best path forward for us to conduct the U.S. Open in 2020.”
In partnership with Allied Golf Associations (AGAs), the USGA had scheduled 108 local qualifiers – each over 18 holes – in 45 states, with one planned in Canada. Those were to be followed by 12 final qualifiers – over 36 holes – in late May and early June. Nine of those final qualifiers were to be conducted by AGAs in the United States, with three additional final qualifiers in England, Japan and Canada.
Since 2012, the USGA has annually surpassed the 9,000 mark in entries, with a record 10,127 entries accepted for the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, in the Village of Pinehurst, N.C.
Qualifying was introduced for the U.S. Open in 1924, necessitated by a surge in entries and interest following World War I. In 1959, the USGA instituted the two-stage qualifying process. Ken Venturi (1964) and Orville Moody (1969) are the only two golfers to advance through both stages of qualifying and win the U.S. Open.
At the time of the postponement, 50 players had earned exemptions for the championship. In the coming weeks, the USGA will provide further information on expanded exemption categories.