Thousands of golfers around the world will try to qualify for the U.S. Open. Sectionals open Monday with a grueling 36 holes at venues across the country and behind.
The cut off to make the top 60 and gain an exemption into the event has come and gone, as that list has been set.
One notable omission from that group: Tiger Woods, who has slipped to 535th in the world. Actually, that's only kinda-sorta notable, given Woods hasn't been in the top 60 since February 2015. Also, he still has an open invite to our national championship thanks to the 10-year exemption he earned for his epic, broken-legged win at Torrey Pines.
But that was eight long years ago, which means two things: (1) Time flies, and (2) Woods's U.S. Open exemption could expire in as little as two years. If Tiger doesn't find some semblance of his former self over the next couple of seasons, he could be on the outside looking in when the Open returns to Pebble Beach in 2019. If that were the case, the USGA would likely extend Woods a special exemption for Pebble, where he obliterated the field back in 2000.
After that, though, who knows?
If Woods remains outside the top 60 in the world (and is still hunting major titles) in 2020 and beyond, he'd be relegated to -- brace yourself, folks -- Open qualifying. Can you imagine Woods pegging it at a qualifying site like Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Fla., with calligraphers manning the leaderboards? Nah, we can't either.
Here's a look at Tiger's exemption status in the other three majors and in some other big-time events:
Masters: As a past winner, Woods can play the Masters for as long as he likes.
British Open: As a past champ, he's welcome until he's 60.
PGA Championship: Same as the Masters -- he's good for life.
The Players: As the 2013 winner, he's exempt for five years, through 2018.
WGC-Cadillac: Tiger's out. To make the invite list, he'd need to be among the world top 50, or top 10 in FedEx Cup points before the event.
WGC-Match Play: Out. He'd need to be inside the top 64 in the world.
WGC-Bridgestone: Out. Bridgestone takes the top 50 in the world, plus winners of a PGA Tour event in the previous year
WGC-HSBC: Yep, out again. This one's for the top 50.
PGA Tour membership: No worries here, TW! Anyone with 20 or more wins is granted lifetime membership.