Sports

Tiger Woods off early for US Open practice that includes Adam Scott and his major streak

PINEHURST, N.C. — (AP) — Tiger Woods was among those on Pinehurst No. 2 for the first full day of U.S. Open practice before the sun could break through the clouds and climb over the trees.

It's his first time playing a U.S. Open on this Donald Ross gem in 19 years, and so much of it is new to him because of a restoration project from a decade ago that replaced rough with native sandy areas and wiregrass bushes.

As for Adam Scott, there is nothing new about playing in the majors — this is 92nd in a row, the longest active streak — only about the way he got into the 156-man field.

A week ago, he walked off the 36-hole qualifier in Springfield, Ohio, as the first alternate after losing in a playoff to Cam Davis for the final spot from that site.

“Leaving from Springfield, there was a lot of uncertainty, I would say,” Scott said. "By Friday, and fully understanding how this field works, I was feeling a lot better about myself. It's funny, not having been in that position there is a lot to finding out how a field gets filled. And it's complicated.

“I'm grateful I haven't been in this position too much.”

The USGA set aside six spots for anyone who moved into the top 60 in the Official World Golf Ranking published Monday, and the rest go to alternates.

Scott was No. 60 last week, almost certain to fall out. But there also was the delicate issue of Grayson Murray, who took his life on May 25, still listed among the top 60. The USGA wanted to honor Murray's position in the world ranking — it will stay there for another week — though it said it would remove his name as it related to its top 60 category.

Scott fell to No. 61 — Billy Horschel, already in the U.S. Open, was one shot away from bumping Scott to No. 62 — but still extends a streak in the majors that dates to the 2001 British Open.

It looks close only on paper. In fact, Scott learned his qualifier would be the fourth site selected for alternates. Of the six spots held back, only one would be taken by Canadian Open winner Robert MacIntyre. That left five spots.

“I can do that math,” Scott said with a smile.

He also had to go through U.S. Open qualifying five years ago, what he said then is no different now. Getting into the major is great. But the goal is to win.

What awaits is a Pinehurst No. 2 course among the most challenging. In three previous U.S. Opens, only four players have finished under par — Payne Stewart (1 under) in 1999, Martin Kaymer (8 under), Erik Compton (1 under) and Rickie Fowler (1 under) in 2014.

“This is pretty typical U.S. Open in the sense that par is a great friend to you all week,” said Webb Simpson, a former U.S. Open champion who had to qualify this year for the first time since 2011. "It’s a brutally hard golf course.

“You have to be incredibly disciplined. You have to accept 30-footers all day.”

Woods has a full week beyond the golf. He had scheduled a mid-morning news conference, only to postpone that until later in the week. He also is being given the Bob Jones Award on Tuesday night, the USGA's highest honor.

Still to be determined is whether — when? — he will accept the Ryder Cup captaincy for the 2025 matches. And he was in New York on Friday for a PGA Tour Enterprises board meeting with the Saudi financiers of LIV Golf.

He played with Fowler, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, with son Charley walking along with him now that he's out of school for the summer.

Scottie Scheffler wasn't on the course after winning the Memorial by one shot on a Muirfield Village course that was tough enough to feel like a U.S. Open.

Among those playing in the afternoon was David Puig of Spain, a 22-year-old who plays on the LIV Golf circuit and is a reminder of what else is at stake this week. The world ranking published Monday will be used to determine who plays at the Paris Olympics.

For Puig, it's simple — and daunting. If he makes the cut, he will get the second spot that goes to Spain. If he misses, it goes to Jorge Campillo.

Also in the field was Maxwell Moldovan, who just graduated from Ohio State, turned pro and was second alternate in Ohio a week ago. It took a sequence of events for him to get to Pinehurst, and it worked out perfectly for him.

No one at the Memorial was able to bump Scott out of the top 61. Because Scott was the first alternate at Springfield, that spot went to Moldovan. He didn't find out until Neal Shipley — the low amateur at the Masters and his Buckeyes teammate — messaged him at 5:20 a.m. Monday.

Moldovan had to win a playoff over Troy Merritt just to be second alternate. The final round of the Memorial had a huge bearing on his immediate future.

“I did a lot of leaderboard watching and OWGR searching, and a lot of my friends were trying to crunch numbers and see what I needed,” he said. “I'm thankful how it all worked out.”

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

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