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USGA canceling U.S. Open qualifying, four of its championships

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The USGA is canceling local and sectional qualifying for the 2020 U.S. Open.

The governing body confirmed the decision to Golf Digest on Monday, and in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic it also canceled four championship events. Golfweek initially reported the news, but took its story down following publication.

Open qualifying is part of the bedrock of USGA events. Roughly 70 players earned entry into last year's U.S. Open at Pebble Beach through this route. The organization even built its new marketing campaign around the slogan "From Many, One." The original schedule called for 108 local qualifying and 12 sectional qualifying tournaments. Some of the past U.S. Open champs who began in qualifiers include Steve Jones in 1996, Michael Campbell in 2005 and Lucas Glover in 2009.

“Throughout this process, our primary focus has been the safety and well-being of everyone involved, including our players, volunteers, host club representatives and staff,” said John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of championships for the USGA. “We have not taken these decisions lightly and wish we had more options. But with a continued, keen interest in doing what is best for all involved, although we are extremely disappointed, this is the right decision.”

In lieu of the traditional spots conferred in sectional qualifying, the USGA instead will create exemption categories. Among these categories will be an amateur section. These exemptions are currently being finalized, per the USGA.

The U.S. Open will also significantly minimize the amount of people on site at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y. How many fans, if any, that will be allowed to attend is still to be determined.

Additionally, the USGA canceled the U.S. Mid-Amateur and U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur and both its senior amateur championships.

Along with the ongoing threats COVID-19 presents, the USGA's decisions were affected by its headquarters location in New Jersey. As one of the hardest hit states of the pandemic, the organization felt it could not manage all of its tournament lineup to a championship standard.

Aside from the U.S. Open, the U.S. Women's Open will still be played in December. The U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women's Amateur are keeping their original August dates and sites—Oregon's Bandon Dunes Resort and Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., respectively. Both of these events will also now have all-exempt fields rather than use a qualifying process, which filled more than 75 percent of participants in most years.

The 2020 U.S. Open is scheduled to begin on Sept. 17. Gary Woodland is the defending champion.

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