Amateur champs can turn pro, play U.S. Open

Starting with this year's tournaments, the reigning U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women's Amateur champions will be able to utilize their exemptions in the following year's U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open even if they decide to turn pro.

In the past, the reigning winners of the amateur championships received exemptions in the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open only if they maintained their amateur status.

The USGA announced the decision Monday, one day after PGA Tour rookie Viktor Hovland fell just 67 points shy of qualifying for the FedEx Cup playoffs and earning his tour card for next season.

Hovland, 21, was the low amateur at both the Masters and U.S. Open this season. But he didn't earn any FedEx Cup points -- or prize money -- because he was still an amateur. He won the 2018 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach.

Hovland will attempt to earn full-time tour status for 2019-20 by competing in the Korn Ferry Tour finals.

"We believe this change gives our champions an important option as they choose whether and when to embark on their professional careers," said John Bodenhamer, USGA managing director, Champions. "Given the significant purses awarded at the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open, we realize how important it is for players to make the most appropriate decision for his or her career, and the positive impact it could have at the outset of their professional careers."

The changes take effect starting with the U.S. Women's Amateur this week at West Point, Mississippi, and next week's U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst, North Carolina.

"Given the opportunities afforded the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women's Amateur champions, we want to make sure they are able to take advantage of as many as possible," Bodenhamer said. "We feel strongly that our reigning champions have earned their places in the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open, regardless of their amateur status."

Over the past decade, four of the 10 U.S. Amateur and three of the 10 U.S. Women's Open winners passed up exemptions to the following year's Open Championships and instead turned pro.