The USGA is leaning a little more on the world ranking and a lot more on tournament results over the next two months to fill the 144-man field for a U.S. Open that will be without open qualifying for the first time in nearly a century.
The exemption categories announced Thursday include a spot for Phil Mickelson.
A runner-up six times in the only major Lefty hasn’t won, the most devastating was in 2006 at Winged Foot, just north of New York City, where the U.S. Open is set to return Sept. 17-20.
The COVID-19 pandemic that forced the U.S. Open to move from June also cost the championship its identity of being open to all. Open qualifying wasn’t possible for two stages at nearly 120 courses across the country and into Canada, England and Japan.
The idea was to create a field that reflected a typical U.S. Open — the elite and the aspiring, from every continent in golf, pros and amateurs. And while it won’t be 36 holes of qualifying, it still comes down to playing well.
“We are excited that players will still have an opportunity to earn a place in the field,” said John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of USGA championships.
The top 70 from the world ranking on March 15 are exempt. Along with increasing that category by 10 spots, the USGA chose to use the last ranking before it was frozen during the shutdown in golf worldwide. That helps European Tour players, such as Eddie Pepperell and Robert MacIntyre, who are not able to play until July 9 — a month after the PGA Tour resumed with strong fields and big ranking points.
That also momentarily leaves out Daniel Berger, who went from outside the top 100 to No. 31 with his victory against a stacked field at Colonial. But the USGA will use the Aug. 23 ranking — after the first FedEx Cup playoff event — as its reserve list, and about seven spots are expected to come from there.