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US Open faces busy 2 weeks at Pinehurst; Tiger's reign at No. 1 coming to an end

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The primary merchandise tent for the U.S. Women's Open will be about triple the size of any merchandise pavilion in the 68-year history of the event. It also will be 28 per cent smaller than the pavilion a week earlier for the men's U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

This is part of the challenge — and the thrill — for Mary Lopuszynski.

"In 20 years ... this is the most exciting Open I've worked on," said Lopuszynski, the USGA's senior director of licensing and U.S. Open merchandising.

The USGA is about six weeks away from its grand experiment of hosting the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open on the same course in consecutive weeks. Several structures already will be in place, such as the media centre, grandstands, television towers and concession areas.

And so will be the merchandise pavilion, which will be a record 39,000 square feet.

Lopuszynski said the host club typically handles merchandise for the U.S. Women's Open, and the tent is about 8,000 to 10,000 square feet. For Pinehurst, she said the pavilion will be shrunk to about 28,000 square feet.

"We're going to move a wall to reduce the size of the square footage of the sales floor," she said. "We won't have as much product. My goal is for the merchandise to look great and to have no empty spaces. We want it to look fantastic for the Women's Open."

This 18-day sales extravaganza at Pinehurst No. 2 will feature three logos. The men's logo is the "Golf Lad" character hugging the U.S. Open trophy. The women's logo features a cardinal on the branch of a pine. And a third logo figures to be the most popular because it has both trophies — the hat of Golf Lad on the men's trophy, and the cardinal on the women's trophy with "U.S. Open Championships" across the top.

"The main logo is the joint logo. That's what is special about this year," Lopuszynski said. "We're treating it as two championships and one event, and we're also doing that with our merchandise. We're trying to celebrate the joint logo."

Count her staff among those who might not want to see a Monday playoff for the men. That's the day set aside to give the pavilion a makeover from the structure to the shelves to the merchandise. The plan is to work through the night on Sunday and all of Monday, when the grounds are to be closed to spectators.

As for the goods?

There are shirts and hats and towels and accessories with each of the three logos, though Lopuszynski said the majority of items have the joint logo. As an example, she said approximately 70 per cent of the headwear will feature the joint logo. The merchandise can be replenished on demand.

She said the most successful merchandise sales in U.S. Open history was in 2008 at Torrey Pines (which had a Monday playoff), followed by Merion last year.

"We're hoping for our best merchandise sales ever for a U.S. Open," she said. "I think we're going to do great."

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TIGER'S REIGN: Adam Scott has had three chances to go to No. 1 in the world, squandering the best opportunity at Bay Hill when he closed with a 76. Henrik Stenson had his best chance last week until he tied for fifth in the Volvo China Open after starting the week with an ailing stomach.

One of them is certain to reach No. 1 before long, perhaps by default.

Tiger Woods is No. 1 for at least the next two weeks, but his most recent reign is about to end. Even if no players make a move, Woods will keep losing points (and Scott plays such a limited schedule) that is likely to have been displaced by the end of May, if not sooner.

The short-term forecast indicates five players — Scott, Stenson, Masters champion Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar and Jason Day — could move to No. 1 at The Players Championship in two weeks. Day, who has played only one time the last two months because of a thumb injury, and Kuchar would have to win at TPC Sawgrass. Watson would have to be runner-up, while Stenson would need to finish in the top six and Scott in the top 16.

Currently, only Lee Westwood and Luke Donald have been No. 1 without ever having won a major. Day, Kuchar and Stenson have not majors. It's also worth noting that since Woods first went to No. 1 in 1997, only one American has occupied the top of the world ranking. That was David Duval in 1999.

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BIG BONUS: The typical purse on the LPGA's Symetra Tour is $100,000. Cindy LaCrosse holds the minor circuit's record for season earnings in 2010 at $94,578. The Symetra Tour's total prize fund for the entire season is $2.25 million.

That should help put the value of a new bonus into context.

Charlotte-based Park Sterling Bank is putting up $1 million to the player who wins all three tournaments on the Symetra Tour's swing through the Carolinas. The tournaments are the Self Regional HealthCare Foundation Women's Health Charity Classic on May 8-11 in Greenwood, S.C.; Friends of Mission Charity Classic on May 16-18 in Asheville; and the Symetra Classic on May 22-24 in Charlotte.

The Park Sterling Cup would not count toward the official money list.

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FRENCH REVOLUTION: Not long ago, a pair of French sports journalists proclaimed a historic day at Augusta National. "For the first time in history, there are more journalists than players at the Masters," one of them said. How many journalists? "Two." How many players? "None."

Don't look now, but with the Ryder Cup headed to Paris in 2018, French golf is on the rise.

Victor Dubuisson won the Turkish Open last year, earned his first trip to the Masters and leads the Ryder Cup standings. Alexander Levy won the Volvo China Open last week, shooting 62 in the second round and never giving anyone a serious chance.

They are among five French-born players to have won in the last year. The others are Julien Quesne (Italian Open), Gregory Bourdy (Wales Open) and Raphael Jacquelin (Spanish Open).

Allez!

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DIVOTS: Royal Cinque Ports received so much damage from winter floods in Kent that it has been replaced as a British Open qualifying site this year. Instead, the 36-hole final qualifier will be held July 1 on the New Course at Sunningdale. The other three qualifiers in Britain are at Gailes Links (Scotland), Hillside and Woburn. ... Bill Bachran, a longtime golf publicist and historian who ran the Sony Open press centre for more than 40 years, died Sunday morning at his home in Honolulu. He was 87. ... The last person to officially enter the U.S. Open was 14-year-old Travis Wells from Land O'Lakes, Fla. He submitted his online entry 26 seconds before the 5 p.m. EDT deadline on April 23.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: Rory McIlroy fell to No. 11 this week, his first time out of the top 10 in the world ranking in more than three years.

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FINAL WORD: "I hate missing cuts more than I like winning." — Billy Horschel, who missed the cut in New Orleans as the defending champion.

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