USGA’s revised exemptions for U.S. Open give Mickelson another chance at elusive national championship, his missing piece for golf immortality, and perhaps erase bad memories at Winged Foot
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the USGA canceled qualifying for the Open, which was rescheduled for Sept. 17-20 at Winged Foot Golf Club’s West Course in Mamaroneck, N.Y. Thus, the entire field will be filled by exempt players.
In addition to the customary U.S. Open exemptions, the 2020 field will include the top 70 point leaders and ties from the Official World Golf Ranking as of March 15, instead of the usual top 60. That expansion will give Mickelson, who was No. 61 when the PGA Tour suspended play, a spot in the Open and another shot at Winged Foot, the scene of his final-hole collapse in 2006.
Mickelson, speaking Thursday after his first-round 6-under 64 at the Travelers Championship, said the USGA’s decision “worked out great, to be able to know that I have a chance to go back to Winged Foot and give it another shot.”
"You can't win if you don't play, so you've got to be in the tournament to have a chance to win,” he said. “I'm also realistic. A U.S. Open is going to be more difficult for me now than it probably was because I drive it the way I drive it. That week in 2006, my short game was the best it's been in my career, and I got up and down from everywhere. I know that I'll have to do the same, and hopefully drive it better."
Mickelson famously blew a one-stroke lead on the final hole in the 2006 Open at Winged Foot when he pushed his tee shot far left and made a double bogey on the par-4 18th, losing to Geoff Ogilvy by one stroke. Mickelson, 50, a World Golf Hall of Fame member whose 44 PGA Tour victories include five major championships, lacks only the U.S. Open title for the career Grand Slam.
Players who are not already exempt can earn Open starts by winning one of the upcoming events on the PGA Tour: Memorial, 3M Open, WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, Barracuda Championship, Wyndham Championship and PGA Championship.
“The exemption categories for this year’s championship at Winged Foot Golf Club were carefully developed to mirror a representative U.S. Open field, and we are excited that players will still have an opportunity to earn a place in the field through a variety of categories,” said John Bodenhamer, the USGA's senior managing director of championships.
This year, exemption categories will include the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup final points list (top 5), the Korn Ferry Tour’s regular-season points and finals (top 5 in each), the European Tour’s U.K. Swing (top 10 in aggregate points for first five events) and the PGA Professional Championship (top 3). Final 2019 Order of Merit categories for the Japan Golf Tour, Sunshine Tour, Asian Tour and Australasia Tour will help to round out the 144-player field. The top seven in the World Amateur Golf Ranking as of Aug. 19 who are not otherwise exempt also will earn spots.
Sign up to receive the Morning Read newsletter, along with Where To Golf Next and The Equipment Insider.