Sports

US Open now a ‘closed’ affair; dreamers out as Qualifiers are cancelled

V Krishnaswamy New Delhi | Updated on May 19, 2020

The Major, which is considered the the ‘People’s Major’ will not be the same this year. And we don’t know of the future, as well.

The US Open, which attracts as many as 10,000 participants from across the world in qualifiers made up of Local qualifiers, Sectionals and the Final qualifiers, including three outside the US, will all be scrapped this year. Instead, those spots will be given as ‘exemptions’. So, in essence, it becomes a kind of an ‘Invitational Major’ – but these are strange times.

So, the US Open will not be ‘open’ to dreamers this year. The US Open had earlier been postponed from June to September 17-20. As to whether spectators will be allowed or not, the USGA has not made final decisions.

The USGA also released an additional statement at this year’s US Open, noting “we have not made a final determination” about whether spectators will be allowed at Winged Foot in a regular or limited capacity.

Ken Venturi (1964) and Orville Moody (1969) are the only US Open winners, who came through both stages of the qualifiers – locals and sectionals.

Steve Jones (1996), Michael Campbell (2005) and Lucas Glover (2009) have been among players who emerged as champions after coming through the Final 36-hole qualifying.

In a ‘unique’ aspect of the US Open, the United States Golf Association (USGA) had planned 108 local qualifiers – in 45 different states in the US and one in Canada. Of the 12 sectional qualifiers, nine were to be in US and one each in Canada, England and Japan.

“As you can imagine, this was an incredibly difficult decision, as qualifying is a cornerstone of USGA championships,” said John Bodenhamer, USGA’s senior Managing Director of championships. “We take great pride in the fact that many thousands typically enter to pursue their dream of qualifying for a USGA championship 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 these championships in 2020.”

“We have not taken these decisions lightly and wish we had more options,” Bodenhamer said. “But with a continued, keen interest in doing what is best for all involved, although we are extremely disappointed, this is the right decision.”

When the USGA first announced cancellation of the qualifiers for players with a handicap of 1.4 or lower, in March, it has hoped to create another ‘system of qualifiers’. However, that has all been cancelled and it will only be exemptions.

More events cancelled

The USGA, which had already cancelled six tournaments this year because of Covid-19, added four more, the US Mid-Amateur, Women’s Mid-Amateur, Senior Amateur and Senior Women’s Amateur to the list of ‘cancelled’ list.

The only USGA championships staying on, as of now, are the US Open at Winged Foot, the US Women’s Open, US Amateur and US Women’s Amateur. They will all have fields that will have exempt players and those who have been granted exemptions.

The 2020 US Women’s Amateur and US Amateur will retain their August dates. The four remaining 2020 USGA amateur championships will be cancelled. No qualifying to be conducted for any 2020 championships.

The US Women’s Open had been postponed until December 10-13. Both the US Amateur (August 10-16) and US Women’s Amateur (August 3-9) are still on schedule.

Indians who have made US Open through qualifiers

All six Indians who have played the US Open have come through the Qualifiers at least once.

Jeev Milkha Singh, first Indian at the US Open, came through qualifiers in 2002, 2006 and 2016, but was exempt in 2007 and 2009, as he was in Top-50 in the world.

Shiv Kapur played the US Open in 2014 and 2015, both times coming through qualifiers held in Surrey, England. In 2006, Jyoti Randhawa also qualified for US Open through qualifiers with Jeev.

In 2010, Arjun Atwal did the same and in 2018 it was Shubhankar Sharma using the Qualifiers to get into the Major, and in 2019, it was Anirban Lahiri, who did the same. However, in 2015 and 2016, Lahiri played US Open after being exempt because he was in Top-50 of world rankings.

‘US Open is a dream’

Jeev said, “For me, the toughest Major is the US Open, though the Masters was always a dream, like it is for any golfer. The qualifiers for the US Open are tougher than most events and it takes a lot out of you. I am proud of the three times I came through that route and twice by exemption,” said Jeev on the cancellation of the US Open qualifiers.

“The massive scale of the qualifiers, often with over 10,000 starters is what make the US Open so unique and it is called the People’s Major. Alas, Covid-19 has stopped that from happening this year. But I am sure it (the qualifiers) will be back next year and I hope I will be there at the starting line.”

Shiv Kapur, who had five Major appearances (three British Opens and two US Opens), said, “What a pity, there will be no qualifiers this time. The Open is cancelled and the US Open has cancelled the qualifiers. But I suppose there was no choice. For me, the qualifiers have meant a lot. I made the Majors four times in five years through qualifiers between 2013 and 2017,” said Kapur, who logged his Major result – T-23 at the 2014 US Open.

Published on May 19, 2020

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