Tiger Woods to compete at U.S. Open after USGA grants special exemption

tiger woods waves at the masters tournament in red shirt

Tiger Woods was awarded a special exemption into the U.S. Open at Pinehurst on Thursday.

Darren Riehl

Guess who’s back?

On Thursday afternoon, the USGA announced that it awarded a special exemption to Tiger Woods, the 15-time major champion and three-time U.S. Open winner, to compete in this year’s field at host course Pinehurst No. 2. Woods has accepted the invitation and plans to compete in the U.S. Open, which would mark his fourth start of 2024 should he also tee it up at the PGA Championship in May.

The news comes after Woods’ exemption into the national championship lapsed in 2023, the end of a five-year exemption for major championship winners from Tiger’s triumph at the 2019 Masters. Without an exemption into the event, Woods would have been expected to earn his way into the field through U.S. Open qualifying, a feat that might have proven impossible given the playing limitations on his body.

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Eventually, the USGA’s “special exemption committee” deemed that path unnecessary — granting Woods an exemption into the event. Woods’ exemption marks just the second time such efforts have been used to grant a player entrance into the event in the last five years and the first since Phil Mickelson at Torrey Pines in 2021.

According to the USGA’s own guidelines, special exemptions are awarded “purely based on a player’s extraordinary performances over the years, especially in USGA championships, additional major championships, time spent as World No. 1, Tour wins, as well as recent performances/ranking.”

“The U.S. Open, our national championship, is a truly special event for our game and one that has helped define my career,” Woods said in a press release announcing the exemption. “I’m honored to receive this exemption and could not be more excited for the opportunity to compete in this year’s U.S. Open, especially at Pinehurst, a venue that means so much to the game.”

The USGA’s decision to add Woods to the field comes on the same day that LIV Golf’s Talor Gooch announced he would not be attempting to qualify for the U.S. Open. Gooch, 32, has won three times in LIV dating back to early 2023, but his lack of major championship exemptions or Official World Golf Ranking points left him needing to participate in U.S. Open qualifying to earn a spot in the national championship field. He’s played in 11 career majors, where his best career finish is a T14 at the 2022 Masters.

Woods, on the other hand, is the winner of nine USGA titles, including the ’00, ’02 and ’08 U.S. Opens, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest golfers ever to compete at the professional level.

“The story of the U.S. Open could not be written without Tiger Woods,” John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s chief championships officer, said in a release. “From his 15-stroke victory at Pebble Beach in 2000 to his inspiring win on a broken leg at Torrey Pines in 2008, this championship is simply better when Tiger is in the field, and his accomplishments in the game undoubtedly made this an easy decision for our special exemption committee.”

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.

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