Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre will make his US Open debut in the re-scheduled championship set for September after organisers the USGA altered their exemption list.
The 23-year-old from Oban was one of ten players ranked from 60 to 70 in the Official Golf World Rankings on March 15 who are now included in the field for the championship, at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York state at the rescheduled dates of September 17-20. The championship was originally scheduled to be played last weekend.
The USGA drew a line at the moment golf was locked down worldwide for the coronavirus pandemic – the Wednesday before the Players Championship – and have altered their exemption list as their exhaustive three-tier qualification competition for the championship has been entirely wiped out by the Covid-19 crisis.
The new list includes ten more players from the world rankings from the original 60, and that means places in the field for both MacIntyre and for Phil Mickelson – still seeking the US Open title that will complete his career Grand Slam.
For MacIntyre, it will be a second major appearance after his top ten finish in last year’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush, part of a brilliant first season as a professional that saw him crowned the European Tour’s Rookie of the Year.
The new exemption list also includes ten spots in the championship from a mini Order of Merit during the UK Swing, the European Tour’s planned return to competition in July and August. This replaces the now customary US Open qualification competition for European Tour players held every May.
John Bodenhamer, USGA senior managing director, Championships, said: “The U.S. Open qualifier in England has historically featured a very strong field, and we felt it was important to provide an opportunity for players throughout Europe to earn a place in this year’s championship.
“We are grateful to the European Tour for the wonderful collaboration that allowed us to create this exemption category for the 2020 U.S. Open.”
Bodenhamer added that it has felt fairest to the USGA to make their “cut” at a time when all the world’s golf tours were on equal footing.
The first five events of the UK Swing – starting at the British Masters through to the penultimate event at Celtic Manor – will all be qualifiers for the US Open.
Keith Waters, European Tour Chief Operating Officer, said: “Throughout our discussions with the USGA, it was clear that they shared our desire to offer European Tour players an opportunity to earn places in this year’s U.S. Open. We thank them for working with us to create this new exemption category encompassing the first five events in the UK Swing.
“The UK Swing mini order of merit already offers an additional incentive through the Golf for Good initiative, and we are pleased that players now have more to play for, with places available in the second Major Championship of the season.”
Mickelson also benefits and it solves a tricky problem for the USGA as the five-time major winner was in real danger of not being at Winged Foot, the scene of perhaps his most famous failure of many in the US Open in 2006.
Then, he led by a shot playing the final hole but took a double-bogey six to lose out to Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy.
The USGA does have an option to extend a special invitation to play to deserving players, but Mickelson had already said he would not accept any place at Winged Foot unless he earned it on merit. With the abandonment of the qualifying competition, he can take his place in the championship.