For now, the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot remains a go for its rescheduled date in September, but a significant part of its qualifying process will be altered.
For the first time since the early days of the championship, the 120th U.S. Open, scheduled for Sept. 17-20, will be conducted without its annual qualifying tournaments. Because of the continued health concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic, the USGA announced on Monday that all of its qualifying tournaments have been canceled.
The field, about half of which is usually made up with players who’ve gone through local and sectional qualifying, will consist of only exemptions. A USGA official said on Monday that it’s in the process of working out the exemption process, which will likely be broken down into categories. Those exemptions are currently being finalized and will be revealed at a later date, according to the USGA.
“As you can imagine, this was an incredibly difficult decision, as qualifying is a cornerstone of USGA championships,” John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of championships for the USGA, said in a statement. “We take great pride in the fact that many thousands typically enter to pursue their dream of qualifying for the U.S. Open 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 the U.S. Open in 2020.”
The USGA had scheduled 108 local qualifiers in 45 states with one planned in Canada. Those were to be followed by 12 sectional qualifiers over 36 holes in late May and early June. Nine of those events were to be played in the United States and three in England, Japan and Canada.
In early April, the USGA postponed the U.S. Open from its original June dates to September with hopes that the COVID-19 crisis will have abated by then. Still, it appears very likely the tournament will be played without spectators allowed on the grounds, though a USGA official would not confirm that on Monday.
“We’re not at the point where we’re saying there will be no fans,’’ USGA chief brand officer Craig Annis told The Post. “We’re scenario-planning where we are trying to determine the absolute smallest number of people needed in order to conduct the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. As of now, that’s around 2,000 people. After that, we’re hoping to build up to fans, but that remains to be seen.
“We know this is not going to be the typical U.S. Open with 30,000 to 40,000 people on site. It will be significantly scaled down.’’
One advantage the USGA has is being able to watch how the PGA Tour conducts its tournament for the next few months. The PGA Tour is set to re-start on June 11 with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas.
Annis, who said USGA officials have been working with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, said the USGA can “learn’’ from what the PGA Tour does.
Aside from the U.S. Open, the U.S. Women’s Open will still be played, as will the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur. That makes only four of the 14 championships the USGA conducts that will take place in 2020.