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Merion U.S. Open attracts highest ever entry total

U.S. golfer Tiger Woods hits his second shot off the 17th fairway during final round play at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego, Califo
U.S. golfer Tiger Woods hits his second shot off the 17th fairway during final round play at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego, Califo

(Reuters) - This year's U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania has attracted a record total of 9,860 entries, the United States Golf Association (USGA) said on Thursday.

The number of applicants for the June 13-16 tournament eclipsed the previous best of 9,086 for the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, New York.

"The fact that we have a record number of entries, from across the world, is a testament to both the great appeal of the U.S. Open and the historic nature and grandeur of Merion Golf Club," USGA Executive Director Mike Davis said in a statement.

The U.S. Open, the second of the year's four majors, will be held for a fifth time on the classic East Course at Merion. The most recent U.S. Open staged at Merion was in 1981, won by Australian David Graham.

American Webb Simpson will defend the title he clinched by one shot at Olympic Club outside San Francisco last year, after overhauling overnight leaders Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell.

Ten other former champions are fully exempt for this year's edition: Angel Cabrera (2007), Michael Campbell (2005), Ernie Els (1994, 1997), Furyk (2003), Lucas Glover (2009), Retief Goosen (2001, 2004), McDowell (2010), Rory McIlroy (2011), Geoff Ogilvy (2006) and Tiger Woods (2000, 2002, 2008).

Local qualifying for the U.S. Open will be held at 111 venues from May 3-16 after which 36 holes of sectional qualifying will take place at 13 locations from May 27-June 3.

For the ninth year in a row, two of the sectional qualifiers are international. One will be held in Japan and the other in England, both on May 27.

To be eligible to enter the U.S. Open, a player must be a professional or have a handicap of 1.4 or better.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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