Rules to Qualify for the U.S. Golf Open

By Steve Silverman

The U.S. Open is the most important and most difficult tournament of the year on the PGA tour. The Masters may be the most traditional, but the U.S. Open is the most significant major to most North American players. The open format means it is open to all professionals and amateurs who can qualify for the tournament. In theory, a top amateur player could qualify for a spot in the 156-player field and beat the top pros. However, the U.S. Open courses are designed to be very difficult and most amateurs have no chance.


Amateur players are eligible to compete for a spot in the U.S. Open if they have a handicap index of 1.4 or better. An amateur who meets that requirement is eligible to compete with other amateurs and certain pros in qualifying tournaments.

Automatic Qualifications

Not every player who plays on the PGA tour can just show up at the U.S. Open and play. In order to qualify, a professional needs to meet one of the following requirements:
- Winning the U.S. Open in the previous 10 years;
- Winning the Masters, British Open or PGA tournament in the previous 5 years;
- Finishing in the top 30 on PGA money list in the previous year;
- Finishing in the top 15 on the European Tour in the previous year;
- Or, ranking in the top 50 of the official world golf rankings two weeks prior to the tournament.

Earning a Spot

Professionals who do not qualify automatically and amateurs may compete for a spot by participating in an 18-hole local qualifying tournament and then a 36-hole sectional qualifying tournament. Those tournaments are played at various sites around the United States and there is also one qualifying tournament in Europe and another in Japan.

About The Author

Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.

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