USGA Had No Choice In Wiping Out U.S. Open Qualifiers
The United States Golf Association found itself in between a rock and hard place on this one.
The USGA made the call this week — it cancelled the local and sectional qualifiers for the 120th U.S. Open at Winged Foot.
Before you get all up in a huff about it, consider the logistics and the possible liabilities.
The PGA Tour, with its deep, deep pockets, will have a tough enough time with testing protocols, social distancing and the myriad of problems that will face when it returns to action on June 11th at Colonial Country Club.
First consider that the USGA typically gets north of 10,000 players trying to qualify for the U.S. Open, typically starting out at more than 100 sites for the locals.
That in and of itself is a staggering task in normal times. Throw in these “abnormal” times and you’re back is up against a wall with no place to go.
You’d basically have to test everyone and what’s the liability if they didn’t test a player who is a carrier and that player showed up and infected a bunch of other players and on-site support people?
An attempt to pull it off would be a nightmare at best.
Naturally, the U.S. Open has been the rock of golf democracy — players with a two-handicap or less can apply to enter local qualifiers. Every year some bozo 18-handicappers sneak in and shoot in the 100s. Sadly.
The qualifying process has also been romanticized, notably on the movie screens with Kevin Costner’s Tin Cup.
Over the years you’ve had all sorts of working stiffs earn their way into these U.S. Open fields but these days it’s a lot of hot-shot college golfers, biding their time until they head for the Korn-Ferry Tour, or in some cases, right to the PGA Tour (see Matt Wolff and Colin Morikawa).
The USGA insists, and it is speaking honestly, that this is a “one-of” a basic aberration if you will, and that the qualifying process will return for 2021.
We’ve seen some complain that the USGA coming up with a special “selection process” for Winged Foot will make this like a PGA Tour event. We beg to differ. The typical U.S. Open setup negates any and all comparisons to a PGA Tour event. Winged Foot will play hard. There’s probably a lot of you out there who aren’t old enough to remember the 1974 “Massacre At Winged Foot” when Hale Irwin won his third U.S. Open title with a score of 287 — SEVEN OVER PAR!
Which brings us back to the cancelled qualifiers.
The top 60 players in the world are in the field. Typically your U.S. Open champion will come from that list.
This elimination of qualifiers probably means that Phil Mickelson will be in the field. He’s 61st right now and said earlier this year he wouldn’t accept a “special exemption.” Well it look like there will be a bunch of players invited without “special exemptions” and Mickelson will be one of them.
The USGA will be sure that there are amateurs in the field — count on that. They can go to the amateur world rankings and select players from that list.
There will be foreign entries, for sure.
So stop all the blubbering about no qualifiers. In fact, instead of 156 players, the USGA should trim the field a bit.
Maybe that will prevent those gosh-darn 5 1/2-hour rounds.