This year's delayed US Open will not feature its traditional catalogue of qualifying tournaments and will likely take place without fans, as golf continues to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic.
Less than a day on from the conclusion of the Taylor Made Driving Relief event won by Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson at an empty Seminole, reports suggested the the United States Golf Association (USGA) would also close the gates ahead of its major championship.
There had been hopes that with four months to tee-off, spectators might be allowed access, with president Donald Trump speculating along those lines on Sunday. However, it has since emerged that plans are in place for an event without spectators, and with volunteers down from something in the thousands to around 200.
It was later confirmed officially that sectional qualifying will certainly not take place, with local qualifying already abandoned. Open qualifiers are a feature of both the US Open and the Open Championship, with Lucas Glover (2009) the last player to come through one such event and win the US Open itself. Michael Campbell did the same in 2005.
This year's US Open is scheduled to take place from September 17-20 at Winged Foot, New York, the state hit hardest by coronavirus. USGA headquarters are in neighbouring New Jersey, another hotspot, and a fact that reportedly played a part in its decision.
With no qualifying events, the USGA has promised to work on a 'nuanced' exemption plan which could see several international players invited according to their current ranking.
Typically, around 40 per cent of the field is filled by the Official World Golf Rankings, but the USGA has promised not to simply increase that figure as it seeks instead to maintain a level of diversity which is provided by sectional qualifying tournaments in England, as well as in Japan, plus regional qualifiers across the US and Canada.
“As you can imagine, this was an incredibly difficult decision, as qualifying is a cornerstone of USGA championships,” said John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of championships for the USGA.
“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.”
Additional information regarding the expanded exemption categories for each championship will be made available in the coming weeks, according to a statement released by the USGA.