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Pinehurst U.S. Open attracts record entry total

(Reuters) - This year's U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in Pinehurst, Northern Carolina has attracted a record total of 10,127 entries, the United States Golf Association (USGA) said on Thursday.

The number of applicants for the June 12-15 tournament eclipsed the previous best of 9,860 for last year's U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.

"The number of entries, from across the world, affirms both the great appeal of playing in our national championship and the history surrounding Pinehurst No. 2," USGA vice president Daniel Burton said in a statement.

The U.S. Open, the second of the year's four majors, will be held for a third time on the classic No. 2 Course at Pinehurst with its notorious upturned-saucer greens.

The most recent U.S. Open staged there was in 2005, won by New Zealand's Michael Campbell.

England's Justin Rose will defend the title he clinched by two shots at Merion last year, after overhauling 54-hole leader Phil Mickelson in the final round.

Eleven other former champions are fully exempt for this year's edition: Angel Cabrera (2007), Campbell (2005), Ernie Els (1994, 1997), Jim Furyk (2003), Lucas Glover (2009), Retief Goosen (2001, 2004), Graeme McDowell (2010), Rory McIlroy (2011), Geoff Ogilvy (2006), Webb Simpson (2012) and Tiger Woods (2000, 2002, 2008).

Local qualifying for the U.S. Open will be held at 111 venues from May 2-19 after which 36 holes of sectional qualifying will take place at 12 locations from May 26-June 2.

For the 10th 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 26.

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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