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USGA receives nearly 7,900 entries for U.S. Open at Pinehurst

A record 7,889 entries have been filed for the 156 spots in the 99th U.S. Open in June at Pinehurst No. 2, the United States Golf Association has announced.

A USGA spokesman said Thursday the increase of more than 10 percent compared to last year's event at the Olympic Club in San Francisco may be attributed partly to the popularity of Pinehurst, which is hosting an Open for the first time.

"Everybody loves Pinehurst, I guess," said Craig Smith, a USGA spokesman.

About 2,500 applications were received in the last three days before Wednesday's deadline. Professionals and amateur players with a certified handicap of 1.4 or lower are eligible for the event.

In all, 8,293 entries were actually received. However, 404 were rejected because the entrant had played poorly in past qualifying rounds or had a USGA Handicap Index higher than 1.4.

Highlighting the entries are 10 past champions and 64 players already fully exempt from qualifying for the Open to be held June 17-20. The number of fully exempt players possibly could increase with the inclusion of the top 10 money leaders on the PGA Tour and the top two money leaders on the European PGA Tour at the end of May. Currently, Steve Pate and David Howell would gain exemption from the PGA Tour and European PGA Tour, respectively. The other money leaders from both tours are already exempt.

The rest of the players in the Open field will make it by placing among the lowest scores in local and sectional qualifying events. Eighteen-hole local qualifying events are set to begin at more than 90 sites nationwide starting May 12. Thirteen sites then will have 36-hole sectional qualifying June 7-8.

Exempt past winners include defending champion Lee Janzen (who also won in1993), Ernie Els (1997,1994), Steve Jones (1996), Corey Pavin (1995), Tom Kite (1992), Payne Stewart (1991), Hale Irwin (1990, 1979,1974), Curtis Strange (1989,1988), Tom Watson (1982), and Jack Nicklaus (1980,1972, 1967,1962). An Open champion receives a full exemption into the field for 10 years. Watson is exempt for placing among the PGA Tour's top 30 money-winners for 1998, while Nicklaus received a special exemption for three years beginning in 1998.

Nicklaus, who is recovering from hip-replacement surgery, hasn't announced yet if he'll play at Pinehurst, but Smith said the 59-year-old has filed the requisite entry form.

What follows is the list of the 64 golfers who are fully exempt into the U.S. Open as of April 28. The numbers on the right indicate the category under which a player earned his exemption. The key for categories follows the list.

Stuart Appleby (8)
Paul Azinger (8)
Peter Baker (10)
Thomas Bjorn (10)
Mark Brooks (5)
Mark Calcavecchia (9)
Stewart Cink (8)
Darren Clarke (10,16)
Andrew Coltart (10)
John Cook (9)
Fred Couples (9,16)
Ben Crenshaw (3)
John Daly (4)
Glen Day (9)
David Duval (8,9,16)
Steve Elkington (5,16)
Ernie Els (1,10,16)
Bob Estes (9)
Nick Faldo (3)
Fred Funk (9)
Jim Furyk (8,9,16)
Mathias Gronberg (10)
Scott Hoch (9,16)
John Huston (9)
Hale Irwin (1,7)
Lee Janzen (1,8,9)
Miguel Angel Jimenez (10)
Steve Jones (1)
Tom Kite (1)
Matt Kuchar (8)
Hank Kuehne (2)
Stephen Leaney (10)
Tom Lehman (4,8,9)
Justin Leonard (4,9,16)
Davis Love III (5,9,16)
Andrew Magee (9)
Jeff Maggert (8,9)
Billy Mayfair (9)
Phil Mickelson (8,9,16)
Colin Montgomerie (10,16)
Jack Nicklaus (14)
Greg Norman (16)
Jose Maria Olazabal (3,10)
Mark O'Meara (3,4,9,16)
Masashi "Jumbo" Ozaki16
Jesper Parnevik (8,9,16)
Corey Pavin (1)
Nick Price (4,5,8,9,16)
Phillip Price (10)
Vijay Singh (5,9,16)
Patrik Sjoland (10)
Jeff Sluman (8,9)
Payne Stewart (1,8,9)
Curtis Strange (1)
Steve Stricker (8,9)
Sven Struver (10)
Hal Sutton (9)
Sam Torrance (10)
Bob Tway (8,9)
Scott Verplank (9)
Tom Watson (9,16)
Brian Watts (16)
Lee Westwood (8,10,16)
Tiger Woods (3,9,16)
Key to Player Exemptions

1) Winners of the U.S. Open Championship for the last 10 years.
2) Winner of the 1998 U.S. Amateur Championship.
3) Winners of the Masters Tournament the last five years.
4) Winners of the British Open Championship the last five years.
5) Winners of the PGA of America Championship the last five years.
6) Winner of the 1999 Players Championship.
7) Winner of the 1998 U.S. Senior Open Championship.
8) From the 1998 U.S. Open Championship, the 15 lowest scorers and anyone tying for 15th place.
9) From the 1998 final official PGA Tour money list, the top 30 leaders.
10) From the 1998 final official PGA European Tour money list, the top 15 leaders.
11) From the 1999 official PGA Tour money list, the top 10 money leaders through May 30.
12) Any multiple winner of PGA Tour co-sponsored events whose victories are considered official from April 22, 1998, through the close of entries on April 28, 1999.
13) International players not otherwise exempt as selected by the USGA Executive Committee.
14) Special exemptions selected by the USGA Executive Committee.
15) From the 1999 PGA European Tour, the top two money leaders through May 31.
16) From the 1998 final World Rankings list, the top 20 players.