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Strange,Watson, Norman & Baddeley invited to US Open

Strange,Watson, Norman & Baddeley invited to US Open

Past U.S. Open champions Curtis Strange and Tom Watson, two-time British Open champion Greg Norman, and amateur Aaron Baddeley have been offered special exemptions into the 2000 Championship by the Executive Committee of the United States Golf Association. The Committee also awarded the 2005 U.S. Open to Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort and Country Club (No. 2 course).

The action was taken at the Association's Annual Meeting today in San Francisco, Calif.

The upcoming 2000 Open, set for June 15-18 at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links, will be the 100th overall and the fourth held at Pebble Beach.

Strange, 44, won the Open in 1988 and 1989, becoming only the sixth player to win in back-to-back years. He has played in 21 Opens, 20 of them consecutively since 1980. His 10-year exemption from winning the championship in 1989 ended last year. Overall, he has finished in the top-10 five times.

Watson, 50, won the 1982 Open at Pebble Beach in dramatic fashion, chipping in for birdie on the 71st hole to edge Jack Nicklaus by two strokes. Overall, he has participated in 28 consecutive Opens, with 11 top-10 finishes. Watson has received two special exemptions in the past -- in 1993 and 1996.

Norman, 44, has narrowly missed winning an Open championship twice. He lost in a playoff to Fuzzy Zoeller in 1984 and was edged by Corey Pavin's brilliant par at the final hole of regulation in 1995. Overall, Norman has played in 17 Opens and all but one since 1983.

Baddeley, 18, of Victoria, Australia, became the youngest winner ever of the Australian Open in 1999, when he outplayed an elite professional field that included Colin Montgomerie. He was the first amateur to win the event in the last 39 years. Recently, he was invited to play in the upcoming Masters Tournament. At the 1998 U.S. Junior Amateur, he set a stroke-play scoring mark and was runner-up.

Jack Nicklaus, 60, also will play, having accepted a three-year special exemption in 1998. This will mark the 44th consecutive Open start for Nicklaus, a four-time champion who won at Pebble Beach in 1972. He also won the 1959 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach.

The Committee also voted to take the Open back to Pinehurst Resort and Country Club (No. 2 course), just six years after its successful debut there in 1999. Not since 1946 has the USGA opted to return so quickly to a previous site. In 1946, the Open returned to Canterbury (Ohio) Golf Club after a successful Championship there in 1940.

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