Back in the 1980s and before, it was common to see a scoring summary from the US Open that included plenty of names that were unfamiliar to most golf fans. Today, virtually every name you see, except for a mere handful, is a recognizable tour player.   What happened between then and now?  Simple.  The USGA is catering more and more to the elite tour player at the expense of the “hometown hero” that used to qualify for the national championship.  In 1960, just 22 players were fully-exempt into the field of 156 golfers.  The other 134 had to qualify.  Today, roughly only half of the 156 spots are reserved for qualifiers, and even then, so many spots in final qualifying are reserved for tour players that the hometown hero has little chance to get in.   The USGA has listened to the demands of the tours and tour players and makes it easier and easier for them to either outright get into the field, or skip the first stage of qualifying.  Their justification is the proliferation of good golfers, but in our opinion it is a poor justification.  If such golfers are truly better, which they are for the most part, then they should not have any qualms about going through the qualifying procedure.  Now, we’re not saying that there should be no exemptions at all, just that their numbers should be greatly reduced.   Why is the “hometown hero” good for the US Open?  Because it drives local interest.  It gives other good non-tour players inspiration that they, too, can play in the US Open.  Having a more open qualifying process is also simply more equitable.  Unfortunately, the USGA has recently decided to reward elite players with even more exemptions into the field.  In our opinion this is detrimental to not only the championship, but to the game of golf itself.  The USGA should instead reverse itself and make more players go through the qualifying procecure.  Now THAT would be for the good of the game.
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