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Under the new exempt rules, Briny Baird, who finished 27th in the FedEx Cup, will be making his first trip to golf's oldest championship at Turnberry. (Photo: Getty Images)

Top 30 from FedEx Cup, European money list now exempt

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Under new criteria announced by the Royal & Ancient, the Open Championship will now exempt the top 30 players from the FedEx Cup standings and the top 30 from the European tour money list, which next year will be the "Race to Dubai."

ATLANTA (AP) -- Getting to the U.S. Tour Championship turned out to be worth more than a trip to the Masters.

Under new criteria soon to be announced by the Royal & Ancient, the Open Championship will exempt the top 30 players from the FedEx Cup standings and the top 30 from the European tour money list, which next year will be the "Race to Dubai."

Previously, only the top 20 from both tour's money lists were exempt from qualifying for the Open Championship.

That means Briny Baird, who finished 27th in the FedEx Cup, will be making his first trip to golf's oldest championship at Turnberry. Joining him will be Ken Duke, who has not played in the Open since 1997 at Royal Troon.

"I think we're recognizing that in America, the way the tour is set up now, and with the Race to Dubai coming on in Europe, it's desirable to have all those players in the Open field," R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. "It was recognizing new measures of performance."

Dawson was quick to point out that most of the players at the Tour Championship in Atlanta last week would have qualified through other means, such as the world ranking or past performances in the Open Championship. Even so, it added another incentive during the U.S. PGA Tour playoffs to get into the Tour Championship. The top 30 now are exempt for all the majors except for the U.S. PGA Championship.

To account for the extra exemptions, Dawson said the International Final Qualifying sites in the United States and Europe will offer fewer exemptions. There were 14 spots available in the U.S. this year, and 18 spots in Europe.

The number available next year will depend on how many players already are exempt for the Open Championship, and how many players sign up for those qualifying sites.

"We're taking our pro players slightly more from their tour performance," he said.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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