US Open Adds NCAA Champion, Slight Tweaks To Exemptions

The U.S. Open has added the NCAA champion and Latin America Amateur champions to the list of exempt players, along with making slight tweaks to categories for players who don’t have to qualify.

Some of the changes were due to golf coming fully out of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing for qualifying to be held in England and Japan for international players.

The U.S. Open is June 15-18 at Los Angeles Country Club.

Players who have signed on with Saudi-funded LIV Golf are still exempt from qualifying, which was expected. The Masters announced in December it was sticking to its criteria as an invitation tournament. The U.S. Open and British Open have made it clear in recent months the very nature of its name keeps it from being a closed shop.

There was one asterisk in the exemption category for everyone who made it to the Tour Championship at East Lake. The category now reads, “players who were qualified and eligible,” with a footnote that such players must be considered eligible under PGA Tour regulations.

Talor Gooch had enough points to finish 29th and be eligible for the Tour Championship, but he was suspended for playing in the LIV Golf league. That means he will not be exempt, unless he wins the Masters or stays in the top 60 in the world by May 22.

The asterisk also applies to some of the new categories. The U.S. Open has created spots for the leading five players in the current FedEx Cup standings (provided they aren’t already qualified) through May 22, which is the end of the PGA Championship.

It also will exempt from qualifying the leading two players from last year’s European tour’s points list, and the top European points earner from this year through May 22.

Because of travel restrictions during the pandemic, the London 36-hole qualifier has not been held the last three years. In its place was a special points list based on five European tour events for 10 players.

The U.S. Open again will hold the qualifier in England. It will keep the special points list and offer spots to the leading two players. Now that qualifying has resumed, the U.S. Open no longer is giving spots to the money leader from tours in Asia, Australia and South Africa.

The Masters did not create a category for the NCAA champion, rather it offered reigning champion Gordon Sargent a special invitation. It’s an official category for the U.S. Open. The NCAA champion will be crowned two weeks before the Open.

The U.S Open has strived over the years to make sure roughly half of the 156-man field has to go through qualifying.