The USGA is leaning a little more on the world rankings and a lot more on tournament results over the next two months to fill the 144-man field for a US Open which will have no open qualifying for the first time in nearly a century.
And that is good news for Scotland’s Bob MacIntyre who will be in the field at Winged Foot from 17-20 September.
The top 70 from the world rankings on 15 March 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 MacIntyre and Eddie Pepperell, who are not able to play European Tour events until 9 July – a month after the PGA Tour resumed with strong fields and big ranking points.
Left-hander MacIntyre, from Oban, was ranked 67th on the key March date.
It will be his first-ever US Open and just his second major. He excelled in last summer’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush, finishing tied for sixth.
That was one of many highlights for the Scot on his debut season on the European Tour, which ended with him being crowned Rookie of the Year.
The exemption categories announced yesterday also included a place for Phil Mickelson.
A runner-up six times in the only major he hasn’t won, the most devastating occasion was in 2006 at Winged Foot, just north of New York City, where he will return in September.
The Covid-19 pandemic that forced the US 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 US 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.
Mickelson was No 61 when the rankings were frozen, and now is at No 66. Mickelson, outspoken about the USGA and how it sets up US Open courses, said in February that he would not ask for a special exemption if he was not otherwise eligible. With his five majors and Hall of Fame career – not to mention his legacy of silver medals in the US Open – Mickelson likely would have received at least one exemption.
Now he won’t have to worry about that. In 2006, Mickelson had a one-shot lead playing the 18th hole when he drove wildly to the left and tried to hit 3-iron over a tree. He hit the tree, hit into a plugged lie in the bunker and made double bogey to finish one shot behind Geoff Ogilvy.
Mickelson finished joint runner-up with Colin Montgomerie and Jim Furyk. All failed to par the 72nd hole