After two years of having nearly a dozen players with North Carolina ties in the U.S. Open, seven players from the Tar Heel state will tee it up next week at Merion Country Club.
Webb Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion and Raleigh native, is scheduled to return to defend his title.
In all four returning players who have ties to the Tar Heel state are among those seven golfers: Simpson, Bill Haas, Carl Pettersson and Kevin Streelman.
Other players from North Carolina playing at Merion this week are Grayson Murray, Ryan Sullivan and Mackenzie Hughes.
In the past two years, the U.S. Open field has included 11 players with N.C. ties.
Murray, Sullivan and Hughes all played their way into the field in U.S. Open qualifiers.
The tournament begins Thursday.
- Simpson, 27, of Charlotte, was born in Raleigh and played golf at Wake Forest. With three Top 10 finishes this year, he’s 13th in the FedEx Cup standings and No. 18 in the World Golf Rankings. His best finish this year was second in a playoff loss to Graeme McDowell in April at the RBC Heritage.This is his third straight U.S. Open, and he tees off at 1:36 p.m. Thursday with Ernie Els and Steven Fox.
- Pettersson, 35, of Raleigh, played golf at N.C. State. He has one Top 10 finish this year. He is ranked 80th in the FedEx Cup standings, and this is his seventh U.S. Open. He tees off at 1:40 p.m. with K.J. Choi and Francesco Molinari.
- Haas, 31, of Greer, S.C., played golf at Wake Forest, and he was born in Charlotte. He turned pro in 2004, and he won the FedEx Cup in 2011. He has six Top 10 finishes on the PGA Tour this year, and he’s 21st in the FedEx Cup standings this year. This is his fifth U.S. Open, and he tees off at 7:18 a.m. Thursday with Lucas Glover and Paul Casey.
- Streelman, 34, of Scottsdale, Ariz., played golf at Duke. He won the Tampa Bay Championship in March, and he has four other Top 10 finishes this year. He’s 4th in FedEx Cup standings. This is his fourth U.S. Open, and he tees off at 2:02 p.m. Thursday with D.A. Points and Bo Van Pelt.
- Murray, 19, is from Raleigh and has played golf at Wake Forest, East Carolina University and UNC-Greensboro. At 16, he became the second-youngest player to make a cut at a Nationwide Tour, now Web.com Tour, event. He needed a birdie on his final hole in a qualifying tournament to make it into this year’s U.S. Open field. He tees off at 2:42 p.m. with Jesse Smith and Brandon Brown.
- Sullivan, 24, is a Winston-Salem native who played college golf at UNC-Wilmington. He’s played on the eGolf Tour for the past two years and qualified for his first U.S. Open in a sectional tournament. He tees off at 2:57 p.m. with Zack Fischer and Brandon Crick.
- Hughes, 22, is from Canada and now lives in Charlotte. He won the Canadian Amatuer Championship in 2011 and 2012 and turned pro this year, playing on the PGA Tour’s Canadian curcuit. He qualified for his first U.S. Open in a sectional event, and he tees off at 9:12 a.m. with Cheng-Tsung Pan and Geoffrey Sisk.
J. Eric Eckard writes about all things golf on his second golfer blog. You also can follow him on Twitter.