USGA adds four exemptions for U.S. Open, LIV golfers eligible to qualify
The USGA announced four new exemption categories have been added for entry into the 2023 U.S. Open. Just as noteworthy was what the governing body didn't mention.
Invitations to this year’s championship at Los Angeles Country Club will, for the first time, go to the reigning Latin America Amateur champion and the NCAA men’s individual champion (assuming both players remain amateurs), the 2022 Korn Ferry Tour season points leader and the top five players in the FedEx Cup standings as of May 22 who are otherwise not exempt. Both the LAAC and KFT exemptions had previously been announced, with Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira and Justin Suh winning those respective invites.
The U.S. Women’s Open also will extend a spot to the reigning NCAA women’s individual champion for this year’s contest at Pebble Beach.
"The USGA is pleased to offer these exemptions for both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open,” said USGA chief championships officer John Bodenhamer in a release detailing the entire qualifying criteria for its premier men's and women's championships. “These categories provide another avenue for ensuring the presence of those players who are playing their best leading into both national championships.”
It should be noted that LIV Golf was not mentioned in the release, indicating the likelihood that there would be no ban of golfers from the upstart Saudi-backed circuit who otherwise qualify for exemptions under the 2023 criteria, or for any who wish play their way into the championship via Local and Final Qualifying. On the USGA's website for the current field for the 2023 U.S. Open, seven LIV golfers are currently listed as exempt: Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Martin Kaymer (as U.S. Open winners in the last 10 years), Phil Mickelson (off his 2021 PGA Championship victory), Cameron Smith (2022 Open Championship) and Joaquin Niemann (qualifying for the 2022 Tour Championship).
Last year LIV Golf launched the week before the U.S. Open, and the USGA allowed defectors into the competition at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. “We pride ourselves in being the most open championship in the world and the players who have earned the right to compete in this year’s championship, both via exemption and qualifying, will have the opportunity to do so,” read a statement. “Our field criteria were set prior to entries opening earlier this year and it’s not appropriate, nor fair to competitors, to change criteria once established.”
During the week of the championship USGA CEO Mike Whan explained his organization’s viewpoint toward a potential LIV Golf ban. “We definitely feel responsibility to this game, and we feel a responsibility to the competitors that play it. We did sit down and have a long conversation about a week before the U.S. Open, did where somebody else play and what promoter they played it with, disqualify them for this event?” Whan said. “We decided no on that, with all the awareness that not everyone would agree with that decision.
“I'm sure there are players that both came through our qualifying and maybe teeing it up that are sponsored by those different—so we asked ourselves the question of one, one week before if you play somewhere where you're not approved to play, would you be disqualified for the 2022 U.S. Open? And we said no. And we also had to ask the question, if you're going to put that kind of clause in, who gets in, we've got to go back to 9,300 people and played last week but who played ever, where, sponsored by. It becomes a pretty slippery slope to try to apply that across 9,300 people.”
However, Whan later added that the USGA’s decision this year would not be its ruling in perpetuity. “Could you envision a day where it would be harder for some folks doing different things to get into a U.S. Open? I could,” Whan said. “Will that be true? I don’t know, but I can definitely foresee that day.”
It appears, for now, that day will not be in 2023.
This year’s U.S. Open begins June 15. Matt Fitzpatrick is the reigning champ.
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List of 2023 U.S. Open exemption categories from local and final qualifying
F-1. Winners of the U.S. Open Championship the last 10 years (2013-22)
F-2. From the 2022 U.S. Open Championship, the 10 lowest scorers and anyone tying for 10th place
F-3. Winner of the 2022 U.S. Senior Open Championship
F-4. Winner of the 2022 U.S. Amateur Championship
F-5. Winners of the 2022 U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur Championships, and the 2022 U.S. Amateur runner-up (must be an amateur)
F-6. Winners of the Masters Tournament (2019-2023)
F-7. Winners of the PGA Championship (2018-2023)
F-8. Winners of The Open Championship, conducted by The R&A (2018-2022)
F-9. Winners of The Players Championship (2021-2023)
F-10. Winner of the 2022 European Tour BMW PGA Championship
*F-11. Those players who qualified and were eligible for the season-ending 2022 Tour Championship
F-12. Multiple winners of PGA Tour events that award a full-point allocation for the FedExCup, from the conclusion of the 2022 U.S. Open (June 16-19) to the initiation of the 2023 U.S. Open
*F-13. The top five players in the 2022-23 FedExCup standings as of May 22, 2023, who are not otherwise exempt
*F-14. The points leader from the 2022 Korn Ferry Tour season using combined points earned on the Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season Points List and points earned in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals
**F-15. The top two players from the final 2022 DP World Tour Rankings who are not otherwise exempt as of May 22, 2023
**F-16. The top player on the 2023 Race to Dubai Rankings as of May 22, 2023, who is not otherwise exempt
**F-17. The top two finishers from the 2023 DP World Tour U.S. Open Qualifying Series, who are not otherwise exempt
F-18. Winner of the 2022 Amateur Championship, conducted by The R&A (must be an amateur)
F-19. Winner of the 2022 Mark H. McCormack Medal (Men’s World Amateur Golf Ranking) (must be an amateur)
F-20. Winner of the 2023 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship (must be an amateur)
F-21. Winner of the 2023 Latin America Amateur Championship (must be an amateur)
F-22. From the current Official World Golf Ranking, the top 60 point leaders and ties as of May 22, 2023
F-23. From the current Official World Golf Ranking, the top 60 point leaders and ties as of June 12, 2023 (if not previously exempt)
F-24. Special exemptions selected by the USGA
*Note 1: For Exemptions F-11, F-13 and F-14, players must be considered eligible per PGA Tour regulations at the time the exemption is determined to qualify for the exemption.
**Note 2: For Exemptions F-15, F-16 and F-17, players must be in DP World Tour Membership at the time the exemption is determined to qualify for the exemption.