2013 U.S. Open field: Tiger Woods headlines 77 golfers already among Merion qualifiers

Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Monday is commonly referred to as "golf's longest day" with over 800 players going for 56 U.S. Open spots, but the best of the best, and the likely eventual champion, has already earned his way into the field.

By midnight ET on Monday, the 2013 U.S. Open field will nearly double with 56 spots filled at 11 different sectional qualifying locations across the country. The eventual winner at Merion, however, is likely already in the field and not playing on Monday, as 77 of the best players in the world earned exemptions through one of 15 ways prior to "golf's longest day."

Many of the 77 players are among the top 50 in the world, and have qualified via multiple exemptions. There are 36 golfers who have qualified in more than one way, and some, such as Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, can check four of the 15 boxes that allow entry to America's national championship.

The U.S. Open field is one of the largest in golf and a true "open" championship. But even with the size, it's a fairly restrictive qualifying process for the regular touring pros, which leads many to often refer to either The Players Championship or PGA Championship as having the best and deepest field of the season. Many of the pros who play, make cuts, and earn money on weekly basis often miss out on the second major of the year. With that said, here are the 77 golfers set for Merion in two weeks, broken down by their first, or only, method of exemption.

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Unlike the Masters, winning the U.S. Open does not earn you a lifetime invite (the green jackets at Augusta are off in their own unique corner with that rule). The USGA, however, does hand out a 10-year exemption once you do win it. Former winners who have receded or fallen off completely, such as Michael Campbell, Lucas Glover, and Geoff Ogilvy are relying on that past victory this year. Retief Goosen, the 2004 winner, has already taken his name out of the field due to a back injury.

Last 10 U.S. Open Winners
Angel Cabrera
Michael Campbell
Jim Furyk
Lucas Glover
Graeme McDowell
Rory McIlroy
Geoff Ogilvy
Webb Simpson
Tiger Woods

The USGA also doesn't hand out as many amateur invites as Augusta. Of course, any amateur or weekend hack can earn their way into the field through local and sectional qualifying, but the amateur exemptions are generally reserved for those elite soon-to-be pros. Alan Dunbar, the reigning British Amateur champion, forfeited his exemption when he turned pro after this year's Masters.

2012 U.S. Am Winner/Runner-up
Steven Fox
Michael Weaver
Top Ranked World Am
Chris Williams

The USGA also weights the other majors and marquee events, with the last five winners in the other three major championships getting an invite. They also follow the Augusta National rule of inviting the last three Players Champions, but also add the most recent BMW PGA Championship winner -- a Euro Tour event that's considered their major like the PGA Tour's spectacle at Sawgrass. Much like the former U.S. Open winners from above, some of these players, such as Y.E. Yang, Stewart Cink, Darren Clarke, and K.J. Choi, have fallen off considerably and have earned their way in based on past success and not current form.

Last 5 Masters Winners
Phil Mickelson
Charl Schwartzel
Adam Scott
Bubba Watson
Last 5 British Open Winners
Stewart Cink
Darren Clarke
Ernie Els
Padraig Harrington
Louis Oosthuizen
Last 5 PGA Championship Winners
Keegan Bradley
Martin Kaymer
Y.E. Yang
Last 3 Players Championship Winners
K.J. Choi
Matt Kuchar
Euro BMW PGA Championship Winner
Matteo Manassero

Along with the past 10 U.S. Open winners and the finalists at the U.S. Amateur, the USGA also hands out invites to several others who showed well at their championships last year. The reigning U.S. Senior Open winner gets a berth -- this year it's little known Roger Chapman, who came out of nowhere to win at Indianwood in 2012. Along with Chapman, the top 10 (and ties) from last year's Open at Olympic also get a return invite. The LSU duo of John Peterson and David Toms relied on their work last June for their only exemption this June.

2012 U.S. Senior Open Winner
Roger Chapman
T10 From 2012 U.S. Open
Kevin Chappell
Jason Dufner
John Peterson
John Senden
Michael Thompson
David Toms
Lee Westwood
Casey Wittenberg

The USGA employs a fairly restrictive set of standards for the regular touring pros, but they do establish a couple parameters to ensure the best players in the world are in attendance. Any golfer who earns their way into the season finale Tour Championship in Atlanta automatically gets into the next year's Open. The FedExCup finale has an extremely limited field of 30 and here are some of those big names who made it through the playoffs last season to get to Merion:

2012 FedExCup Tour Championship Qualifiers
Luke Donald
Rickie Fowler
Sergio Garcia
Robert Garrigus
John Huh
Dustin Johnson
Zach Johnson
Hunter Mahan
Ryan Moore
Carl Pettersson
Scott Piercy
Justin Rose
Brandt Snedeker
Steve Stricker
Bo Van Pelt
Nick Watney

Finally, the top 60 in the world at two different points preceding the tournament get automatic invites. The rankings that are locked in as of May 27 and June 10 determine those 60 exemptions, with many players overlapping with some of the above listed exemptions. Here are those players who were inside the top 60 last week:

Top 60 in World Rankings (as of May 27)
Tim Clark
George Coetzee
Nicolas Colsaerts
Jason Day
Jamie Donaldson
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano
Branden Grace
Bill Haas
Peter Hanson
Russell Henley
Billy Horschel
Freddie Jacobson
Thongchai Jaidee
Martin Laird
Paul Lawrie
Marc Leishman
Francesco Molinari
Thorbjorn Olesen
D.A. Points
Ian Poulter
Marcel Siem
Henrik Stenson
Richard Sterne
Kevin Streelman
Boo Weekley

In addition to this list of top 60, the USGA will also include any new names as of next Monday, June 10 after the Tour's stop in Memphis. There will be a few bubble boys who play their way onto this list, such as Kyle Stanley who moved inside the top 60 with his third-place finish this weekend at Memorial. Stanley is currently 59th in the world but he's still playing Monday's qualifier in case there's a shuffle after the Memphis stop and he's bumped out of the top 60 come next week.

After 36 holes of sectional qualifying today, the field will balloon from 77 to 133. Some of those qualifiers may be familiar pros, but other will be random amateurs who have got hot at the right time and weave their way through the 10,000plus local qualifying field to the 824 sectional qualifying field and into one of 56 open spots for the national championship. But the longshot odds likely end there, with this group of 77 sure to populate the first page of the leaderboard in two weeks.

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