The U.S. Golf Association announced a series of changes Saturday to its U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open exemption categories in bids to strengthen the fields.
World rankings will get a higher priority with money-list exemptions eliminated for the men.
Highlights of changes to the U.S. Open:
• A new category has been added that will exempt the top 50 from the Official World Golf Ranking on June 13, 2011. This is in addition to the top-50 exemption category in effect on May 23, 2011. The change will give hot players climbing in the rankings a second chance to get into the championship and avoid the problems that affected Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler at the Memorial last year. Rose won the Memorial the weekend before U.S. Open sectional qualifying. Though he climbed into the top 50 in the world rankings with the victory, he failed to advance to the U.S. Open. Fowler, who dueled with Rose at Memorial, also didn’t qualify for the U.S. Open after jumping into the top 50 with his performance.
• Money list categories are being eliminated beginning in 2012 with a stronger emphasis on world rankings. PGA Tour, European Tour, Japan Golf Tour and PGA Tour of Australia money list exemptions used in the past will no longer be in effect.
• The top 15 and ties at the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open will no longer be exempt the following year, with the standard changed so only the top 10 and ties are exempt. The USGA informed players last year that only the top 10 and ties would advance into this year's championships.
• Beginning in 2012, winners of multiple PGA Tour events in the previous year will no longer be automatically exempt.
• Beginning in 2012, the winner of the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship will be exempt. The event’s typically played three weeks before the U.S. Open.
Highlights of changes to the U.S. Women’s Open:
• Exemptions from the final LPGA money list will be expanded beginning this year from the top 50 to the top 70.
• With the expansion of money list exemptions, the number of qualifiers who can play their way into the championship will be reduced from the 84 who advanced to Oakmont last year to about 60 this year.
“Generally we have about 80 spots for sectional qualifiers available at the U.S. Open, and that is from a pool of more than 9,000 entries,” said Mike Davis, the USGA’s senior director of rules and competition. “For the Women’s Open, we expect to have around 60 spots for sectional qualifiers. Given that we receive about 1,000 entries for that championship, that number of qualifiers seems appropriate. We are absolutely committed to preserving our long-standing approach to open qualifying for all USGA championships. The USGA desires the best players from around the world in its championships, but that desire must allow for a fair system to players who wish to go through sectional qualifying.”