The USGA released a list of 100 players who are already exempt into the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open and two American players, both former World No. 1s, are noticeably absent: Cristie Kerr and Stacy Lewis.
Kerr, of course, won the U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles in 2007. The 42-year-old has competed in every USWO since 1998 and has won 20 LPGA titles.
Lewis has yet to win a U.S. Women’s Open, but she is a two-time major winner and two-time LPGA Rolex Player of the Year who happens to live in Houston, where the 75th Women’s Open will be contested at Champions Golf Club in December. Lewis’s track record in helping her community, particularly in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, has been well-documented. She gave birth to daughter Chesnee in the fall of 2018.
Although qualifying has been eliminated this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, there are several ways both players can still play their way in, as outlined by the USGA’s new exemption categories.
They can also be granted special exemptions by the USGA, provided they first apply.
Both Albane Valenzuela and Andrea Lee would’ve been in this year’s USWO field had they stayed amateur. Valenzuela earned an exemption as runner-up at last year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur (her second silver medal). Lee earned one as the 2019 McCormack Medal winner for being the top player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
Because the two Stanford seniors opted to turn professional for the 2020 season, both lost their spots in the field. With so many limited opportunities thus far on the LPGA (13 events already have been canceled), it will prove increasingly difficult for rookies to play their way in, though it’s certainly possible through top finishes in four domestic events the USGA has designated as play-in tournaments.
The top two players, not otherwise exempt, in the top 10 and ties at the 2020 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, Cambria Portland Classic, ShopRite Classic, and the top three players, not otherwise exempt, in the top 10 and ties of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will earn their way into the 156-player field.
They could also get in off the LPGA money list and Rolex Rankings as of Nov. 11, though that might be particularly hard given how far they have to climb as new pros (Lee No. 677 and Valenzuela No. 394).
Last year’s USWO field had eight LPGA rookies, including the winner, Jeongeun Lee6. So far three LPGA rookies are exempt into this year’s field: Esther Henseleit, Nuria Iturrioz and Yui Kawamoto.
It’s also worth noting that the top five players on the Symetra Tour money list through the end of the season will be in the field.
Notable players who must play their way into the field:
Jodi Ewart Shadoff (77)
Jenny Shin (80)
Anne Van Dam (85)
Yealimi Noh (98)
Mel Reid (99)
Stacy Lewis (101)
Cristie Kerr (103)
Alena Sharp (104)
Ryann O’Toole (109)
Katherine Kirk (113)
Mo Martin (135)
Patty Tavatanakit (154)
Sandra Gal (187)
Christina Kim (195)
Leona Maguire (199)
Emma Talley (218)
Mariah Stackhouse (222)
Maria Fassi (240)
Cheyenne Woods (386)
Albane Valenzuela (394)
Andrea Lee (677)