Phil Mickelson finds himself in a very awkward position.
The 44-time PGA Tour winner has long said that the U.S. Open, where he’s finished second a record six times, is the one major championship he wanted to win more than any other. However, at 49 years of age, the three-time Masters champ knows full well that he’s running out of chances to complete the career Grand Slam. To make matters worse, Lefty wasn’t even qualified for this year’s event at Winged Foot (where he has plenty of history). However, the decision made on Monday to cancel qualifying for the U.S. Open might just change that.
The USGA has canceled qualifying for the U.S. Open
The USGA made a number of major announcements on Monday, one of which was the cancellation of qualifiers for the U.S. Open, which means that for the first time in a long time, America’s national championship will be played with an all-exempt field, which goes against the “open” nature of the championship.
In a normal year, which this most certainly hasn’t been, qualifiers would take place all over the world to determine who would join those already exempt to comprise the field at the U.S. Open. However, the decision to cancel these qualifiers drastically changes things. It’s a heartbreaking situation for many but as it turns out, this actually may end up helping Phil Mickelson.
Phil Mickelson would not be eligible for this year’s U.S. Open under normal circumstances
If the U.S. Open was being contested on its original dates, June 18-21, Phil Mickelson would be on the outside looking in. There are 17 exemption categories in which a player can fall under to gain entry into the U.S. Open. Let’s look at the ones that actually apply to the five-time major champion.
The last 10 U.S. Open winners automatically qualify. Phil has never won one. Every major championship winner in the last five years gets in. Mickelson’s last major win came at The Open Championship in 2013. The 30 players who qualified for the 2019 Tour Championship receive an exemption to Winged Foot. Lefty finished 47th in the FedEx Cup standings and didn’t play in Atlanta. Any player who has won multiple events on the PGA Tour in the last year are in. Mickelson hasn’t won since early 2019. Any player ranked in the top 60 of the Official World Golf Ranking as of May 18, 2020, or June 15, 2020, earns a spot. Phil Mickelson currently sits at No. 61 and the rankings are currently frozen.
Normally, Mickelson could play a couple of tournaments to get himself back into the top 60 by the June 15 cutoff. However, the PGA Tour doesn’t return until June 11, which leaves just one tournament for Phil to improve his ranking, assuming he plays that week or even makes the cut if he did (he missed the weekend in his last two outings before the shutdown).
But Phil should be in good shape now.
The USGA’s decision changes everything
Today’s decision by the USGA changes things quite a bit. Mickelson has gone on record in the past that he would not take an honorary exemption if offered one, which is commendable. But with the cancellation of all U.S. Open qualifiers, the USGA is now going to look into past U.S. Open tournaments to decide how to make up this year’s now-all-exempt field. Given Mickelson’s history at this tournament and the fact that he’s only a single spot out of the top 60, he should easily be in the field when the 2020 edition begins at Winged Foot on September 17.
The USGA is expected to announce the expanded exemption categories in the coming weeks.