A record 29 European Tour Members will take part in the US Open Championship, which is being played for the first time at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course, Farmingdale, New York, this week.
As well as 22 automatically exempt, seven other Members successfully negotiated the Sectional Qualifying stage, taking the total to 29 and beating the 2001 record of 26 players at Southern Hills CC.
The Tulsa venue was the scene of Retief Goosen’s Major Championship breakthrough, when he edged out American Mark Brooks after an 18 hole play-off. The South African defends his title over a public course which includes the two longest par fours in US Open Championship history, the 492 yard tenth and the 499 yard 12th.
Victory last June proved to be the catalyst which propelled Goosen towards his first Volvo Order of Merit title, and that first Major Championship has provided him with a quiet sense of achievement. He said: “It’s definitely been a great feeling, realising that you have won the Championship and you are announced as Champion on the first tee.
"It has been a great year and a great experience and you never know what can happen this time around. I see myself having more of a chance of winning it than I did last year. I am looking forward to it.”
Woods, who claimed his second Green Jacket at Augusta National in April, begins his quest to complete 50 per cent of the ‘Grand Slam” by adding a second US Open Championship to his list of conquests.
The World Number One believes the Black Course will prove a stern examination and, following a practice round one week before the event, observed: “I have to say it is the hardest par 70 course I’ve ever seen. Anyone who thinks the winning score will be in double figures I crazy. It’s going to be a really tough test.”
The European Tour entry also brings in Nick Faldo, who received a special exemption to play in the 2002 Championship and so extend his unbroken sequence in Majors to 60. Faldo, who lost a play-off to American Ryder Cup Captain, Curtis Strange, in 1988, is joined in the starting line up by 21 other exempt players.
That list is: Thomas Björn, Angel Cabrera, Michael Campbell, Darren Clarke, José Coceres, John Daly, Ernie Els, Niclas Fasth, Sergio Garcia, Goosen, Padraig Harrington, David Howell, Robert Karlsson, Bernhard Langer, Paul Lawrie, Paul McGinley, Colin Montgomerie, José Maria Olazábal, Peter O’Malley, Adam Scott and Vijay Singh.
The seven who came through the Sectional Qualifying are Tom Gillis, Per-Ulrik Johansson, Thomas Levet, Peter Lonard, Greg Norman, Jeev Milkha Singh and Jean Van de Velde, while other Europeans in the field are Luke Donald of England and Sweden's Jesper Parnevik.