USGA changes U.S. Open rule for amateur champs

The U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur champions will now receive exemptions into their respective U.S. Open tournaments, even if they turn pro.

The USGA announced the change Monday, scrapping the rule that the exemption could be used only if the winners retained their amateur status. The change is effective immediately as the U.S. Women’s Amateur begins this week in West Point, Miss., followed by the U.S. Amateur next week in Pinehurst, N.C.

“We believe this change gives our champions an important option as they choose whether and when to embark on their professional careers,” said John Bodenhamer, the USGA senior managing director of championships.

“Given the significant purses awarded at the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open, we realize how important it is for players to make the most appropriate decision for his or her career, and the positive impact it could have at the outset of their professional careers.”

Four of the past 10 U.S. Amateur winners have turned pro rather than use the exemption, while three of the past 10 have done so on the women’s side.

The new champs won’t have to choose, as Viktor Hovland of Norway had to do after winning last year’s U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach. He was the low amateur at the 2019 Masters (T32) and U.S. Open (T12), which also was held at Pebble Beach. He turned pro after the U.S. Open and posted top 20s in his past four events, including a fourth-place finish at last week’s Wyndham Championship.

By playing in only five events as a pro, he potentially missed out on making the 125-man field for the FedEx Cup playoffs and earning his PGA Tour card. He will try to earn that card via the Korn Ferry Finals, a three-event series.

“I already knew that it wasn’t going to count. So I mean, it is what it is,” Hovland said, per about his amateur status not counting toward tour eligibility. “I just should have played a little bit better and it wouldn’t have been a problem. No, I don’t have any complaints.”

--Field Level Media