Rules to Qualify for the US Open

By Joe Miegoc
The 17th green at Merion Golf Club, where Bobby Jones won the U.S. Open in 1929.
The 17th green at Merion Golf Club, where Bobby Jones won the U.S. Open in 1929.

The first U.S. Open was contested Oct. 4, 1895, at nine-hole Newport (R.I.) Golf and Country Club. Englishman Horace Rawlins, a 21-year-old assistant pro at Newport, won the first Open, earning the $150 first prize out of a total purse of $335. Rawlins shot 173 for 36 holes. Four men have won the U.S. Open four times: Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Willie Anderson and Bobby Jones.

How Professionals Qualify

Any certified professional golfer may attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open. There are two rounds of qualifying: local qualifying 18 holes, which in 2011 allowed 550 players to advance to the sectional round. Next is the 36-hole sectional level, which determines the remainder of players who in 2011 joined exempt players to comprise the 156-player field. The United States Golf Association also conducts international qualifying for players who don't regularly compete in the United States.

How Amateurs Qualify

The USGA mandates that amateurs golfers must have a handicap index of no greater than 1.4 to enter U.S. Open qualifying. If a player returns a score in excess of his expected range of his authenticated handicap, he must explain the circumstances for the discrepancy to the USGA's championships department or possibly forfeit a future right to attempt to qualify.

Local and Sectional Qualifying

Qualifying for non-exempt players begins in early May with local qualifying, an 18-hole test at sites in the United States for amateurs and professionals. Those who advance face another 36 holes in sectional qualifying, with the survivors reaching the Open along with international qualifiers from 36-hole qualifying events held outside the United States. The number of spots available at each site vary; the larger the field, the more spots are usually available.

Hogan's Open Saga

Ben Hogan won four U.S. Opens and laid claim to a fifth title, which wasn't recognized by the USGA. Hogan won the 1942 Hale America Open, held while the Open was canceled during World War II. Hogan's medal for winning the event resembled the medal he received for his Open championships, but the USGA declined to recognize it. Jack Nicklaus won the title in 1962, 1967, 1972 and 1980; Hogan in 1948, 1950, 1951 and 1953; Willie Anderson in 1901, 1903, 1904 and 1905; and amateur Bobby Jones in 1923, 1926, 1929 and 1930.

About the Author

Joe Miegoc is an experienced professional writer with a background in sports, political writing and public relations. He has worked in media for newspapers and in public relations with the United States Golf Association. His writing experience includes books, newspapers, national magazines and online publications. Miegoc holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from East Stroudsburg University.

Photo Credits

  • David Cannon/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
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