• Alistair Tait

Get ready for the half-baked U.S. Open


How many of us grew up with the words “if you’re not going to do a job properly, then don’t do it at all”? I certainly did, which is why the USGA’s decision to eliminate qualifying for four championships, including the U.S. Open, doesn’t sit right.

The U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women's Amateur will feature all-exempt fields as a result of the chaos caused by the coronavirus. Surely the USGA isn’t that desperate to hold those events this year that it can sweep away tradition with the stroke of a pen?

The governing body still doesn’t know if spectators will be allowed at these events. How can you possibly stage the U.S. Open or U.S. Women’s Open without fans? That would be like holding a fan-less Ryder Cup, and that would never happen, would it? Oh wait, actually…….

Honestly! Talk about possibly taking the pulse out of the greatest team match in golf.

Surely it would be better for the USGA just to cancel these four events, as the R&A has wisely done with the Open Championship, rather than stage watered-down tournaments?

In making the announcement, USGA senior managing director of championships John Bodenhamer said:

"As you can imagine, this was an incredibly difficult decision, as qualifying is a cornerstone of USGA 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."

Obviously not that much pride or the USGA would continue with formats that have stood the test of time.

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

Part of what makes tournaments like the four above great is the fact they’re truly open. Anyone with a decent handicap or a world ranking has a chance to carry off the greatest prizes in American golf.

Take the U.S. Open, which is scheduled for Winged Foot September 17-20. Michael Campbell’s 2005 victory is one of the great stories in U.S. Open history.

The New Zealander (pictured above) had to be talked into qualifying at Sunningdale. He’s glad he did because his subsequent win at Pinehurst proved to be the pinnacle of his career. He beat Tiger Woods by two shots to take the title. Campbell remains one of three Kiwis along with Bob Charles and Lydia Ko to join the major club.

Luca Glover used the qualifying route to win the 2009 U.S Open at Bethpage Black. Ditto for Steve Jones, who defeated Tom Lehman down the stretch at Oakland Hills in 1996. I still remember sitting on the 18th tee in the final round as Lehman hit his tee shot into the left-hand fairway bunker. Lehman, who won the Open Championship the following month, bogeyed the hole to miss out on a playoff.

I understand why the USGA wants to conduct these championships. I know the R&A considered many options for a staging the Open later this year. The R&A could have taken a punt and scheduled a later date in the hope of staging this year’s championship. However, it may have had to comprise the tournament as a result – reduced field, no qualifiers, two-tee start, spectator limits, etc. That was a compromise the governing body was unwilling to make.

I just wish the USGA had done likewise. Not only is there a feel of desperation to the USGA's decision, but the sense it’s staging half-baked tournaments just for the sake of it.

Why do a job if you’re not going to do it properly?

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