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USGA Announces Changes to Exemption Categories for U.S. Open, U.S. Women's Open & Amateur Championships


The United States Golf Association has announced a variety of changes to exemption categories for its national championships that will be implemented over the next two years. The changes, which were voted and agreed upon by the Association's Championship Committee, will affect exemptions for both local and sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open and sectional qualifying for the U.S. Women's Open. The Committee also approved changes in exemptions for players in amateur championships.

"Our mission is to always provide the most competitive fields for our national championships," said Thomas J. O'Toole, Jr., USGA vice president and chairman of the Championship Committee. "We regularly review our exemption categories and believe the changes we will implement in 2011 and 2012 will lead to stronger fields and more exciting championships."

One full exemption category has been added for the 2011 U.S. Open. The top 50 point leaders from the current Official World Golf Ranking as of June 13, 2011, will be fully exempt. This is in addition to the top 50 point leaders as of May 23, 2011, effectively giving players a second chance to earn a spot in the field.

"This change was in direct response to the unfortunate situation that has occurred in the past where a few of the top 50 players missed playing in the Open due to the timing cutoff required for sectional qualifying," said O'Toole. "For instance, last year both Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler were victims of this scenario.

One exemption category for the 2011 U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open has been revised. Previously, the lowest 15 scorers and ties from the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open received a full exemption into the following year's championship. Starting with the 2011 U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open, that number has been reduced to 10 and ties at both championships. "Players at both the 2010 U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open were notified in their memo to contestants that the change would be made to top 10 and ties for 2011 and beyond, so they were aware of that when they played in the championships," said O'Toole.

Among the changes that will go into effect for the 2012 U.S. Open is the elimination of full exemptions based on money lists from the PGA Tour, PGA European Tour and various other professional tours around the world. "Trying to evaluate the strength of one tour against another has become increasingly difficult for the USGA as the game has grown globally," said Mike Davis, senior director of Rules and Competitions for the USGA. "Utilizing the Official World Golf Ranking will eliminate this subjective task that the USGA annually faced."

While the USGA will move toward using the Official World Golf Ranking for exemptions into the U.S. Open field, it will continue to use money lists to determine exemptions into the U.S. Women's Open. However, in 2011 the number of players from the LPGA Tour money list who are fully exempt has been increased from 50 to 70.

"Like we will be doing for the men, it is our intent in the future to move away from exemptions based on various money lists and use the world rankings for the Women's Open," said Davis. "We are not quite ready to do so at this time and believe that the ranking system, which is currently going through some evaluation and improvement, will be a very solid indicator of the best women players in the world in the next year or two. The men's world rankings existed for some 10 years before the USGA adopted them for the U.S. Open, so a delay for us to get totally comfortable with the system is not unprecedented."

While the addition of 20 more exempt players will mean fewer spots for sectional qualifiers in the Women's Open field, Davis believes the strength of the field will be improved by this change.

"We still reserve an ample number of spots for qualifiers," said Davis. "Generally we have about 80 spots for sectional qualifiers available at the U.S. Open, and that is from a pool of more than 9,000 entries. For the Women's Open, we expect to have around 60 spots for sectional qualifiers. Given that we receive about 1,000 entries for that championship, that number of qualifiers seems appropriate. We are absolutely committed to preserving our long-standing approach to open qualifying for all USGA championships. The USGA desires the best players from around the world in its championships, but that desire must allow for a fair system to players who wish to go through sectional qualifying."

Changes have also been made regarding exemptions into the USGA's 10 amateur championships, including the addition of several international amateur champions in the fields. Also, the top 50 from the World Amateur Golf Ranking will be exempt into all men's amateur championships. The USGA recently announced its partnership with The R&A to produce and manage jointly the World Amateur Golf Ranking, as well as the newly created Women's World Amateur Golf Ranking. "It is our intention to eventually provide the same exemptions for women into USGA championships based on the newly created women's rankings," said Davis. "We just want to give them the necessary time to develop and to allow for peer review."

Below is a full list of the changes for the U.S. Open, U.S. Women's Open and amateur championships, along with an explanation of the changes and the dates each change will take effect.

Changes to Exemption Categories for USGA Championships

The following changes will be implemented for the 2011 U.S. Open

Exempt from Local and Sectional Qualifying

Exemption Category #S-6, which was previously amended and currently reads, "Winners of the Players Championship for the last three years" will continue to include the two past champions and the current year's champion.

Exemption Category #S-8 which currently reads, "From the 2010 U.S. Open Championship, the 15 lowest scorers and anyone tying for 15th place" will be amended to read "From the 2010 U.S. Open Championship, the 10 lowest scorers and anyone tying for 10th place."

New - Exemption Category #S-18 will read "From the current Official World Golf Ranking, the top 50 point leaders as of June 13, 2011."

Exempt from Local Qualifying

Exemption Category #L-15 which currently reads, "Winners of PGA co-sponsored events, whose victories are considered official, in the last three calendar years (2008, 2009 & 2010) and during the current year through April 27 (must have filed an entry by April 27)." Will be expanded to include winners of PGA European Tour Volvo Order of Merit/Race to Dubai Tournaments during the same time period.

Delete - Exemption Category #L-16 which currently reads, "Winners of PGA European Tour Volvo Order of Merit Tournaments whose victories are considered official in the last two calendar years (2009 & 2010) and during the current year through April 27." (Expanded and incorporated into Exemption category #L-15 above)

Delete - Exemption Category #L-20 which currently reads, "From the 2011 PGA European Tour exemption categories, those players listed in categories 1, 2, 3 and 8 (not including medical extension subcategories)." (Expanded and incorporated into Exemption Category #'s L-15 and L-23).

Exemption Category #L-23 - which currently reads, "From the 2010 final official PGA Tour money list, the top 150 money leaders; and from the final official PGA Tour money list, the top 10 money leaders in each of the three preceding calendar years (2007, 2008 & 2009); and, any player who had multiple finishes in the top 150 money leaders in the last five calendar years." (Expanded to include the players from the European PGA Tour in comparable positions on the European Tour money lists during the same time periods).

Exemption Category #L-24 - which currently reads, "From the 2011 official PGA Tour money list, the top 100 money leaders through April 27, 2011 (must have filed an entry by April 27)." (Expanded to include the players from the European PGA Tour in comparable positions on the European Tour money list).

Exemption Category #L-27 - which currently reads, "From the 2010 final official Nationwide Tour money list, the top 25 money leaders." (Expanded to include the top 50 money leaders from the Nationwide Tour and the top 50 from the 2010 Japan Tour money list).

Exemption Category #L-31 - which currently reads, "From the 2010 final official Asia, Australasian, and Japan money lists, the top 25 money leaders." (Expanded to include the top 25 money leaders from the 2010 One Asia Tour money list and will delete the top 25 money leaders from the 2010 Japan money list which is covered in change to Exemption category #L-27 above).

New Exemption category will read, "Low 8 finishers and ties from the 2010 World Amateur Team Championship (one year)."

New Exemption category will read, "Top 50 from the World Amateur Golf Ranking at the close of entries."

New Exemption category will read, "Winners of the most current Asian Amateur, Mexican Amateur and Canadian Amateur Championships."

The following changes will be implemented for the 2012 U.S. Open:

Exempt from Local and Sectional Qualifying (Exemption category numbers are based on the 2010 entry form , thus will change to accommodate revisions)

Delete - Exemption Category #S-9 which would have read, "From the 2011 final official PGA Tour money list, the top 30 money leaders." (Replaced by revised Categories S-17 and S-18).

Delete - Exemption Category #S-11 which would have read, "From the 2011 final official PGA European Tour money list, the top 15 money leaders." (Replaced by revised Categories S-17 and S-18).

Delete - Exemption category #S-12 which would have read, "From the 2012 official PGA Tour money list, the top 10 money leaders through May 21." (Replaced by revised Categories S-17 and S-18).

Delete - Exemption Category #S-13 which would have read, "Any multiple winner of PGA co-sponsored events whose victories are considered official from June 20, 2011 through June 11, 2012." (replaced by revised Categories S-17 and S-18).

Delete - Exemption Category #S-14 which would have read, "From the 2012 official PGA European Tour money list, the top 5 money leaders through May 21." (Replaced by revised Categories S-17 and S-18).

Delete - Exemption Category #S-15 which would have read, "From the 2011 final official Japan Golf Tour money list, the top 2 money leaders provided they are within the top 75 point leaders of the Official World Golf Ranking at the end of the year." (Replaced by revised Categories S-17 and S-18).

Delete - Exemption Category #S-16 which would have read, "From the 2011 final official PGA Tour of Australia money list, the top 2 money leaders provided they are within the top 75 point leaders of the Official World Golf Ranking at the end of the year." (Replaced by revised Category S-17 and S-18).

Revised Exemption Category #S-17 which will read, "From the current Official World Golf Ranking, the top 50 point leaders as of May 21, 2012." (Increased to include the top 60 point leaders as of the same date).

Revised Exemption Category #S-18 which will read, "From the current Official World Golf Ranking, the top 50 point leaders as of June 11, 2012." (Increased to include the top 60 point leaders as of the same date).

New Exemption category will read, "Winner of the 2012 BMW PGA Championship." (NOTE: Blank entries will be filed by the USGA for player who becomes exempt after the close of entries.)

The following changes will be implemented for the 2011 U.S. Women's Open:

Exemption Category # S-6 which currently reads, "From the 2010 U.S. Women's Open Championship, the 15 lowest scorers and anyone tying for 15th place" will be amended to read "From the 2010 U.S. Women's Open Championship, the 10 lowest scorers and anyone tying for 10th place."

Exemption Category #S-7 - which currently reads, "From the 2010 final official LPGA Tour money list, the top 50 money leaders." (Expanded to include the top 70 money leaders from the LPGA Tour).

The following changes will be implemented for the USGA amateur championships beginning in 2011:

U.S. Amateur, U.S. Amateur Public Links, U.S. Junior Amateur, U.S. Mid-Amateur & USGA Senior Amateur Championships

New Exemption category will read, "Top 50 from the World Amateur Golf Ranking at the close of entries."

Revised Exemption category will read,"Low 8 finishers and ties from the 2010 World Amateur Team Championship to cover all men's amateur championships (one year)." (Previously covered U.S. Amateur only.)

New Exemption category will read, "Winners of the most current Asian Amateur, Mexican Amateur and Canadian Amateur Championships."

U.S. Women's Amateur, U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links, U.S. Girls' Junior, U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur and USGA Senior Women's Amateur Championships

Revised Exemption category will read, "Low 8 finishers and ties from the 2010 World Amateur Team Championship to cover all women's amateur championships (one year)." (Previously covered U.S. Women's Amateur only.)

New Exemption category will read,"Winners of the most current Women's Mexican Amateur and Royale Cup Canadian Women's Amateur Championships."

For more information about the USGA, visit www.usga.org.