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Ireland's Lowry leads 14 qualifiers for U.S. Open

(Reuters) - A day after finishing second in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, Ireland's Shane Lowry booked his place in next month's U.S. Open by heading the international sectional qualifier held in England on Monday.

Despite consistently heavy rain, Lowry carded rounds of three-under-par 69 on the New Course in the morning and five-under 67 on the Old in the afternoon to lead 14 successful qualifiers from a starting field of 105 at Walton Heath, Surrey.

"It was really tough out there," Lowry, a double winner on the European Tour, told reporters. "I played okay and putted really, really well.

"I holed a lot of six to eight footers for par and carried a lot of momentum in from yesterday to get the job done.

"It was tough last week (at Wentworth) and then 36 holes in this weather was very tiring. I'm looking forward to my bed tonight."

The 27-year-old Irishman, who finished one stroke behind winner Rory McIlroy at Wentworth, is eagerly anticipating his second U.S. Open appearance, having missed the cut on his championship debut at Congressional in 2011.

"I can't wait to get to Pinehurst," said Lowry, referring to the Pinehurst No. 2 course in Pinehurst, North Carolina which will stage the year's second major from June 12-15.

"Majors are where I want to be playing. Last week I was comfortable competing down the stretch with the likes of Thomas Bjorn, Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald, so I've got a lot of confidence and I'll take that with me to Pinehurst."

Also qualifying for Pinehurst on Monday were Swede Niclas Fasth, Englishmen Simon Griffiths and Graeme Storm, Germany's Marcel Siem and Max Kieffer, Scotsman Chris Doak, South African Garth Mulroy, India's Shiv Kapur and American Brooks Koepka.

Six golfers had to play off for the final four spots on offer for the U.S. Open and those places were secured by England's Oliver Fisher and Tom Lewis, Italy's Andrea Pavan and Dane Lucas Bjerregaard.

A further 10 sectional qualifiers will take place in the United States on June 2 for the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, where England's Justin Rose will defend the title he clinched by two shots at Merion last year.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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