JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. Open will rely more on the world ranking than money list in America and Europe to determine which players will be exempt from qualifying.
In sweeping changes to the criteria, the U.S. Golf Association said Saturday that players now will have two chances to crack the top 50 and get into the U.S. Open — on May 23 and June 13, the final ranking before the championship.
Thomas O'Toole, the USGA's chairman of competition, said the change was a "direct response" to last year, when Memorial winner Justin Rose and runner-up Rickie Fowler moved into the top 50 two weeks after the cutoff.
"Our mission is to always provide the most competitive fields for our national championships," O'Toole said.
Two other changes to the criteria are effective for this year's U.S. Open, to be played June 16-19 at Congressional.
— Instead of the top 15 and ties from the 2010 U.S. Open being exempt, it will be the top 10 and ties. O'Toole said players were made aware last year that this would be changed. Among those hurt by the change are Justin Leonard and Ben Curtis.
— The Players Championship winner now will get a three-year exemption instead of a one-year exemption.
The bigger changes involving the world ranking start next year.
For the last decade, players who finished in the top 30 on the PGA Tour money list and the top 15 on the European Tour money list in the previous year were exempt from qualifying for the U.S. Open. Also exempt were the top two on the money list in Australasia and Japan, provided they were in the top 75 in the world. Those exemptions will be eliminated, along with any other reference to a money list.
Instead, the 2012 U.S. Open will take the top 60 — instead of the top 50 — from the world ranking published three weeks before the U.S. Open and the ranking the week of the championship.
Also to be eliminated in 2012 is an exemption for anyone winning multiple PGA Tour events in a 12-month period between U.S. Open. Over the last 10 years, only four players were exempt through multiple wins, and never more than one player per year. Usually, anyone winning twice in a year will qualify some other way.
The U.S. Open prides itself in being the most democratic of all majors because typically about half the field has to go through qualifying. One reason the cutoff for the world ranking being the third week of May was so the USGA would know how many spots would be available in the final stage of 36-hole qualifying.
Now it can assign alternates that would be added to the field depending on how many players cracked the top 50 in the final week.
Meanwhile, the PGA Tour still doesn't lose very much for its members. It managed to keep the FedEx Cup criteria — the 30 players who reach the FedEx Cup finale at the Tour Championship remain exempt for the U.S. Open — and recent years have shown a majority of PGA Tour members in the Nos. 51-60 spots in the world ranking.
The U.S. Women's Open will continue to rely on the LPGA Tour money list, even expanded it for this year from the top 50 to the top 70. This means fewer spots in the 36-hole qualifying, although the Women's Open gets only about 1,000 entries, compared with 9,000 entries for the men's championship.