For the first time in 2014, over 10,000 people have signed up to try to qualify for the U.S. Open.
The USGA's puts the official number of entrants at 10,127, surpassing last year's record number of 9,860. That marks consecutive years in which the record was surpassed, with the '13 bunch passing the 2009 record of 9.086 entrants hoping for a spot to play at Bethpage Black on Long Island.
So, is a U.S. Open bubble forming here? How long can the number of entrants expect to creep up before the USGA is forced to either cut off the number of entries or the golfing populace realizes it's a futile effort and a waste of money? (Take it from a guy who tried and failed...miserably.)'
Perhaps an apt comparison is the World Series of Poker, which saw a huge populist push in entries thanks to the 2003 Main Event victory by former accountant, now poker legend Chris Moneymaker. Moneymaker's televised journey to millions -- that all began with a $37 sit-and-go online tournament -- set forth a poker boom that led everyone and their grandmother to learn Texas Hold 'Em. It also led thousands to pony up $10,000 to compete in the Main Event with the slim hopes of becoming the next Moneymaker, or money maker.
Eventually, the number of entries capped out in 2010, the year Jonathan Duhamel defeated John Racener to win the $8.9 million prize. The following year, the federal crackdown on online poker, dubbed Black Friday, cut off the online pathway to getting into the Main Event. However, only 454 less people played in the event. Last year's field was almost 1,000 less than the 2010 high, part of a corrective trend also influenced by the at-the-time stagnant economy and the cultural move toward other obsessions and hobbies.
Could the same be true for the U.S. Open? Or, in fact, is an uptrend taking shape here that flies in the face of the game's dwindling participation numbers?
It seems that, despite fewer people playing recreationally, there is a boost in the number of scratch to near-scratch players -- and they want to take their stab at the U.S. Open. With the proliferation of professional playing opportunities, the expansion of top-tier junior golf circuits and the international expansion of the game, there are more conceivably capable players than ever to qualify for the Open.
At what point, though, do the masses realize just how tough it is to break through the Open door?