The USGA has canceled qualifying for all of its remaining championships this year, including the U.S. Open.
The organization had previously announced that six tournaments will not be held this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has subsequently added four more cancellations, with the U.S. Mid-Amateur, Women's Mid-Amateur, Senior Amateur and Senior Women's Amateur all nixed on Monday.
That means only four USGA championships remain on the 2020 calendar. Chief among them is the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, which, like the U.S. Women's Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women's Amateur, will now feature an entirely exempt field as ongoing health and safety concerns mean holding hundreds of nationwide qualifiers is "not seen as a viable option."
"As you can imagine, this was an incredibly difficult decision, as qualifying is a cornerstone of USGA championships," said USGA senior managing director of championships John Bodenhamer. "We take great pride in the fact that many thousands typically enter to pursue their dream of qualifying for a USGA championship 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 these championships in 2020."
The U.S. Open had previously been postponed from June to Sept. 17-20, while the U.S. Women's Open had been postponed until Dec. 10-13. Both the U.S. Amateur (Aug. 10-16) and U.S. Women's Amateur (Aug. 3-9) are still on schedule, and the USGA expects to make an announcement regarding exemption categories for all four events "in the coming weeks."
The U.S. Open typically approaches 10,000 entrants among pros and amateurs with a handicap index of 1.4 or lower. Local qualifying, expected to include 18-hole events at 108 courses across the U.S. and Canada, was canceled in March because of coronavirus concerns. USGA officials at the time expressed hope for creating a customized qualifying solution, but instead they have opted to wipe out the 12 final qualifying sites scheduled across the U.S., Canada, England and Japan, which likely would have produced nearly half of the tournament's final field.
Recent tournament champions to advance out of final qualifying include Steve Jones (1996), Michael Campbell (2005) and Lucas Glover (2009).
"We have not taken these decisions lightly and wish we had more options," Bodenhamer said. "But with a continued, keen interest in doing what is best for all involved, although we are extremely disappointed, this is the right decision."
The USGA subsequently released an additional statement regarding fans at this year's U.S. Open, noting that "we have not made a final determination" about whether spectators will be allowed at Winged Foot in a regular or limited capacity: