Narrator: With seemingly no end to the rain in sight, the Chicago-based Fried Egg writers turned to the newsletter for a sense of release. Their editor, a resident of the beautiful state of Oregon, laughed at his colleagues’ misery from across the country. [Ed. note: it’s raining here, too, wusses.] The readers smiled wryly at the introduction and pressed on. Would the gloomy weather affect the tone of the newsletter? Spoiler: it would. A little bit.

News and updates

  • On Monday, the USGA announced various updates to its 2020 schedule. Four events—the men’s and women’s mid-amateurs and the men’s and women’s senior amateurs—have been canceled. The U.S. Open, the U.S. Women’s Open, the U.S. Amateur, and the U.S. Women’s Amateur are still on the docket, but all four championships will be conducted without qualifying. More on this news below.
  • Texas governor Greg Abbott gave professional sports the go-ahead to restart without spectators on May 31. This is big news for the PGA Tour, which plans to resume competition at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 11. Full Story from Golf Channel

The Storylines

A different kind of limited field

Last year, the USGA put on 14 national events. In 2020, it will hold four. After Monday’s announcement, just the men’s and women’s U.S. Opens and men’s and women’s U.S. Amateurs remain on the schedule. But they won’t be the same: these historically egalitarian events will be invitation-only. In its statement, the USGA explained that staging hundreds of local and sectional qualifiers across the country during a pandemic “was not seen as a viable option.”

Such are the difficult calls that sports organizations must make in the COVID-19 era. The U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur have a history of qualifiers that dates back to 1895, but this is a time of necessities—and in this case, tradition is not a necessity. The USGA went on to assert that it has a “keen interest in doing what is best for all involved.” We don’t doubt that.

But questions linger after this news. In the absence of qualifying, the USGA will presumably create new criteria for admitting players to its championships. Qualifiers typically determine half of the Open fields and nearly all of the Amateur fields. For the U.S. Open, perhaps the USGA will start by exempting, say, the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking instead of just the top 60. Also, according to the USGA’s John Bodenhamer, a handful of amateurs will be invited as well. It remains to be seen how the invitees will be selected.

Things get really interesting when it comes to the amateur championship fields, as those vary so drastically year to year. The USGA may need to rely on the World Amateur Golf Ranking for both men and women, meaning there won’t be as many underdog stories. If 2020 was the year you were planning on taking your shot at glory, we recommend focusing on your club championship instead.

Let’s be honest. This is a bummer all around. The USGA qualifying system is one of the coolest institutions in golf. Every year, hopefuls ranging from Tour pros to aging mid-ams to club pros in Alaska to online golf content makers try their luck at the local and sectional qualifiers. It’s an annual celebration of what makes our game great. That said, the USGA is in a tough spot and seems to have done the right thing. Plus, there’s a silver lining: we have four of the biggest and most entertaining events in golf to look forward to. So let’s enjoy those and hope for a full slate in 2021.

U.S. Women’s Amateur – Woodmont Country Club – Rockville, MD (Aug. 3-9)

U.S. Amateur – Bandon Dunes Golf Resort – Bandon, OR (Aug. 10-16)

U.S. Open – Winged Foot Golf Club – Mamaroneck, NY (Sept. 17-20)

U.S. Women’s Open – Champions Golf Club – Houston, TX (Dec. 10-13)

The Latest from The Fried Egg

Puffs and Tilts: Old Town Club – In our latest video, golf architect Bill Coore and Yale golf coach Colin Sheehan discuss the brilliance of Old Town Club, keying in on Perry Maxwell’s routing, use of the rolling topography, and green contouring.

An Image of Return – The TaylorMade Driving Relief match was more than a fundraiser. Brendan Porath details how a photo from the first fairway at Seminole Golf Club got him thinking about golf’s return.

The Fried Egg Podcast, Episode 180: Nathaniel Crosby

2019 and ’21 Walker Cup captain Nathaniel Crosby joins the podcast to talk about last week’s match at Seminole, his days on the European Tour, and next year’s Walker Cup. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

Shotgun Start: SGS Spotlight on Ernie Els, Part 1

This Wednesday episode begins with a quick reaction to news that the U.S. Open will have no open qualifying this year. Then Brendan and Andy start to take on the monster that is the Spotlight of Ernie Els’ life and career. Part 1 starts with the 10,000-foot view, offering up some numbers that frame just how much of a talent he was and the success of his career. It transitions to his earliest days in South Africa and his decision to go full-time into golf, some of his immediate amateur success, and his mandated military service. Then the first decade of his pro career is explored in depth. They touch on the two U.S. Open wins, featuring the controversial drop at Oakmont and the “rowdiest crowd ever” at Congressional. His dominance on the world stage is praised with tales from across the globe in his 20s. The competing narratives of Ernie as a closing killer and choker are discussed after his first major win. The amusing tale of his engagement is relayed. And finally, the last few years before Tiger dominated the game are discussed in context of what was then presumed a future rivalry, with some amazing freezing cold takes in the Ernie v. Tiger debate before the year 2000. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

Wednesday caffeine fix

You may not have a 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier this year, but you do have at least 36 conference calls coming up, and you’ll definitely need coffee to get through them. Stock up on the Shotgun Start Blend from Bixby Coffee today!