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U.S. OPEN: Ernie Els was on the USGA’s radar screen when it comes to special exemptions for the U.S. Open. That won’t be necessary now. Even though he lost in a playoff at New Orleans, it was enough to move the two-time U.S. Open champion to No. 40 in the world.

In a change this year, the U.S. Open will take the top 60 in the world on May 21 (after the Colonial), which makes Els a lock for The Olympic Club. Vijay Singh at Pebble Beach in 2010 was the last player to receive a special exemption, and with Els safe, there doesn’t appear to be any candidates this year.

That decision will come later.

USGA executive director Mike Davis said any special exemption would be offered before sectional qualifying fields are established.

“We’ve always been very stingy on these special exemptions,” he said. “In general, we don’t want to give up any special exemptions unless there’s a compelling reason.”


NOT A BIG MISS: Hank Haney’s book, “The Big Miss,” has been anything but that for Crown Publishing.

The book on his six years as the swing coach for Tiger Woods reached No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list on April 15 for combined print and ebooks. It reached as high as No. 2 for two weeks under hardcover nonfiction, and has only fallen to No. 5 this week.

While Crown does not disclose sales figures, it says the book has gone back to press seven times and there are 228,000 copies in print.


DIVOTS: Charles Howell III made a hole-in-one in the final round at New Orleans, his second ace on the PGA Tour this year. He also had a hole-in-one on the seventh hole of the final round at the Honda Classic. … Se Ri Pak has a slight tear in her left labrum from slipping on stairs last week. She will be out indefinitely, though she said the next two months would be important for her recovery. … No one has made 50 consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since Tiger Woods’ record streak ended at 142 in 2005. Steve Stricker has made 49 consecutive cuts going into The Players Championship next week. … Greg Norman is making a rare appearance on the Champions Tour when he plays the Senior Players Championship at Fox Chapel outside Pittsburgh at the end of June.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods has won or finished second 100 times in his PGA Tour career _ or 38 percent of the time as a pro.


FINAL WORD: “If I’m being compared to him, I’m doing something right.” _ Rory McIlroy, on comparisons with Tiger Woods.