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Golf’s oldest tournament is, in theory, ‘open to all’.

The Open Championship was founded in 1860 and brings together a mix of the world’s best professional and amateur players.

All vying for the prestigious Claret Jug and title of ‘Champion Golfer of the Year’, players take on some of the finest links golf courses on the planet.

But certain golfers have found it a struggle to get into the championship in recent years, so what is the open exemption criteria?

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• R&A makes significant change to Open exemptions

The Open exemption rules

Well, the Open exemption criteria changes slightly each year, and the R&A announced a crop of new changes ahead of the 152nd edition at Royal Troon.

Formerly, past champions were eligible to compete until the age of 60. However, from 2024, winners of the tournament will be eligible until the age of 55.

Meanwhile, players competing on the Asian Tour, the Japan Golf Tour, the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Sunshine Tour can now qualify through the International Federation Ranking list.

The leading five golfers as of the closing date of entries will be awarded places in The Open.

And an exemption for the Africa Amateur Champion has also been added. Medical exemptions can be granted, too, in exceptional circumstances. Michael Hendry will compete in South Ayrshire after missing the 151st Open due to serious illness.

A total of 27 exemption categories helps golfers break into the final major of the year, while other routes are available through the Open Qualifying Series and Final Qualifying.

The Open Qualifying Series was introduced in 2023, giving players from around the world the chance to tee it up in the Open.

For 2024, it provides leading players at 16 tournaments across 11 countries the chance to earn a spot. LIV Golf’s Joaquin Niemann, David Puig and Dean Burmester took advantage for 2024.

Last but not least, Final Qualifying takes place each year at four different locations in the UK. It guarantees to offer at least 16 places in the field.

Here’s all the Open exemption categories and qualifying criteria…

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Open exemption criteria in full

1. The Open Champions aged 60 or under on 21 July 2024 (for all Champions up to 2024)

2. The Open Champions aged 55 or under on 21 July 2024 (for all Champions from 2024)

3. The Open Champions for 2013-2023

4. First 10 anyone tying for 10th place in the 151st Open at Royal Liverpool in 2023

5. The first 50 players on the OWGR for Week 21, 2024

6. First 30 in the Final Race to Dubai Rankings for 2023

7. The BMW PGA Championship winners for 2021-2023

8. First 5 DP World Tour members and any Race to Dubai members tying for 5th place, not otherwise exempt, in the top 20 of the Race to Dubai Rankings on completion of the 2024 BMW International

9. The US Open Champions for 2019-2024

10. The Masters Tournament Champions for 2019-2024

11. The PGA Champions for 2018-2024

12. The PLAYERS Champions for 2022-2024

13. Top 30 players for the Final 2023 FedEx Cup

14. First 5 PGA TOUR members and any PGA TOUR members tying for 5th place, not exempt in the top 20 of the PGA TOUR FedEx Cup for 2024 on completion of the 2024 Travelers Championship

15. The 117th VISA Open de Argentina 2024 Champion

16. The first 5 players on the 2024 Federations Ranking List as of closing date

17. The Japan Open Champion for 2023

18. The Senior Open Champion for 2023

19. The Amateur Champion for 2024

20. The US Amateur Champion for 2023

21. The European Amateur Champion for 2024

22. The Mark H McCormack Medal (Men’s WORLD AMATEUR GOLF RANKING) winner for 2023

23. The Asia-Pacific Amateur Champion 2023

24. The Latin America Amateur Champion 2024

25. The Open Amateur Series winner 2024

26. The Africa Amateur Champion 2024

27. Medical Exemption

Exemptions 19-26 can only be taken up by players retaining their amateur status.

Open Qualifying Series 2024 in full

Joburg Open

ISPS Handa Australian Open

Arnold Palmer invitational

IRS Prima Malaysian Open

Mizuno Open

RBC Canadian Open

The Memorial Tournament presented by Workday

KOLON Korea Open

KLM Open

Italian Open

John Deere Classic

Genesis Scottish Open

Open Final Qualifying 2024 in full

Burnham & Berrow

Dundonald Links

Royal Cinque Ports

West Lancashire

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