R&A makes surprising changes to Open Championship exemptions for 2024

Phil Mickelson and his caddie pictured at 2023 Open Championship

Phil Mickelson, 53, will be exempt form the changes to the Open's Champions' exemption category.

PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Big changes are coming to the Open Championship exemption categories beginning in 2024 that will have a lasting impact far beyond this year’s Open at Royal Troon, both for older pros and those who ply their trade on LIV Golf.

On Wednesday morning, the R&A announced three updates to its qualification criteria for the final major of the year.

First, and most notable, is a change to the Champions’ exemption category. Previously, any player who won the Open was exempt into all future Opens until the age of 60. Not anymore. Beginning this year, new winners will only be exempt until the age of 55.

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The change will not effect players who have already won the Open, which is important for several players. Among them is Phil Mickelson, the 2013 Open champion, who is already 53 years old.

It’s worth noting that had the Champions’ exemption age been 55 all along, it would have prevented 59-year-old Tom Watson from competing in the 2009 Open Championship, which he nearly won, eventually losing in a playoff to Stewart Cink.

But that’s not the only change the R&A has in store.

Additionally, a new exemption category will be created for the top-5 finishers in the International Federation Ranking list, which is operated by the Official World Golf Ranking.

The R&A wrote in its press release that this new exemption “will offer players competing on the Asian Tour, the Japan Golf Tour, the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Sunshine Tour the opportunity to qualify” for the Open.

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That’s important because it gives players on LIV Golf, which does not award OWGR points, another avenue into the Open. Some LIV players were already competing in events on those International tours in an effort to earn world ranking points and get into the majors.

American pro and LIV player Andy Ogletree is currently second in the International Federation Ranking list. If he maintains that position, he’ll earn a spot in the Open field in July. Another LIV player, David Puig, is ranked seventh.

Finally, the R&A also announced a new exemption for the Africa Amateur champion. Altin van der Merwe, who won the inaugural Africa Amateur this year, is the first to earn that exemption.

The 2024 Open Championship begins July 18 at Royal Troon in Scotland.

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