Tiger Woods committed to play in the U.S. Open on Thursday, making it back-to-back majors for the 14-time champion for the first time since the 2015 season.
Woods made the announcement on Thursday releasing a video in conjunction with the U.S. Golf Association. He has filed an entry into the tournament, on a champion’s exemption, and will play at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island.
But could this be his last U.S. Open?
It’s possible, even if it isn’t probable for the one-time top golfer in the world.
Woods is entering the U.S. Open on the last year of a 10-year exemption for being champion. He won the 2008 title in an 18-hole playoff over Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines. If he wants to qualify for the 2019 U.S. Open, scheduled to be played at Pebble Beach, he has a lot of work to do to gain an exemption or rely on a handout from the USGA.
The U.S. Open is a democratic tournament and allows almost any golfer in the United States to qualify through local and sectional events. There are exemptions to the tournament, which the top golfers use to enter.
Here are the exemptions, per the USGA, for professional golfers:
- Winners of the U.S. Open last 10 years
- Winner of The Masters, British Open, PGA Championship the last five years
- Winner of The Players Championship last three years
- Winner of European Tour BMW PGA Championship
- Winner of U.S. Senior Open
- From 2017 U.S. Open, 10 lowest scores and ties
- The 30 golfers who qualified for the season-ending Tour championship
- Top 60 Point Leaders in OWGR (May 21, 2018)
Woods, if he doesn’t come back full throttle this season or early next, will not qualify for any of those exemptions in the future. Currently, he is ranked 108 in the world after his finishes early this season. Now, there is a backdoor into the tournament for Woods, and he would surely merit consideration for a “special exemption” into the field. This year’s special exemptions are Ernie Els and Jim Furyk. But, that’s a backdoor into the tournament that is not based on current merit but past performance.
If Woods were not to garner any of those exemptions, his only way to qualify is through various local and sectional tournaments.
That’s a long way off, however. Woods returned to The Masters with plenty of hype last week but was never in contention shooting a 1-over for the tournament. He did save his best for last with a 69 on the final day of competition.
Woods last played in the U.S. Open in 2015, when he failed to make the cut at Chambers Bay. Woods made his career debut at the U.S. Open as U.S. Amateur champion at Shinnecock Hills in 1995. He tied for 17th there in 2004, the last time the U.S. Open was played at the site.
Woods is in the last year of his 10-year exemption to the U.S. Open, having won at Torrey Pines in 2008. The 2008 championship was the last major for Woods in his career, winning an 18-hole playoff against Rocco Mediate
Woods’ summer schedule remains in flux. Outside of The National in the Washington D.C. area, there are no other events he is confirmed to play in outside of the U.S. Open. He indicated after his play at Augusta National that he needed some time off the heal the body after a grueling Florida swing to set-up the Masters.
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