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USGA changes U.S. Open policy for U.S. Amateur winners

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The USGA announced Monday morning that reigning U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women's Amateur champions will no longer need to stay amateur to retain their exemptions into the following year's U.S. Open and U.S.  Women's Open.

“We believe this change gives our champions an important option as they choose whether and when to embark on their professional careers,” the USGA's John Bodenhamer said in a statement. “Given the significant purses awarded at the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open, we realize how important it is for players to make the most appropriate decision for his or her career, and the positive impact it could have at the outset of their professional careers.”

The announcement comes one day after 2018 U.S. Amateur champion Viktor Hovland missed out on securing his 2019-20 PGA Tour card. Hovland fell only 67 FedExCup points shy of earning his card for next season in just five starts as a professional. He finished T-54 at the Travelers, T-13 at the Rocket Mortgage, T-13 at the 3M, T-16 at the John Deere and solo fourth on Sunday at the Wyndham.

The problem for Hovland is that the PGA Tour does not count non-member points earned by amateurs. So Hovland received zero points for his T-40 at the Arnold Palmer, T-32 at the Masters and T-12 at the U.S. Open.

Although this new rule doesn't change the Tour's counting policy, it would have allowed Hovland to collect the 66 FedExCup points — and, of course, the money — from his finish at Pebble Beach. He would still be just short of securing his card, but he'd also be more than $200,000 richer.

Hovland is now headed to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals in the hopes of securing his full-time PGA Tour status for next season.

“Given the opportunities afforded the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur champions, we want to make sure they are able to take advantage of as many as possible,” Bodenhamer said. “We feel strongly that our reigning champions have earned their places in the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open, regardless of their amateur status.” 

That said, the announcement did not address the status of U.S. Amateur runners-up, who are also exempt into the field. The USGA confirmed to on Monday that runners-up still "need to maintain their amateur status to keep their exemption."