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The hidden reason why Monday of US Open week is so much fun

Tiger Woods and his son, Charlie, walked around Pinehurst No. 2 a.m. Monday with Jordan Spieth.

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RALEIGH-DURHAM INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, NC — One of my favorite things about the big leagues is the Monday morning flights, the ones we take to get out of town after the week is over. One big shared exhale. But I like flights in the big weeks’ the rest On Mondays, again: the one we take, wherever we’re from, to bring the world of golf together for the week.

Anyone heading to Pinehurst for the US Open has their flight plans lined up for weeks, if not months. Raleigh-Durham was expecting more arrivals via Columbus – the closest stop to last week’s Memorial. Martin Kaymer and Adrian Meronk, the winning members of Cleeks GC, arrived on United 6148 from Houston. The movers and shakers in the media mainly come through JFK International in New York City, everyone from the Golf Channel to Barstool Sports. PGA Tour officials, you’d expect, would be from Jacksonville, right? That’s why I was surprised to find Jason Gore, Starbucks he is great in hand, at Gate E8 on Monday morning at O’Hare International in Chicago.

This is Gore’s strangest home game this week, as he spent three years working for the USGA as its first-ever director of player relations — trying to make sure the US Open resonated with players’ sensibilities — and had a terrible time. weekend at the 2005 US Open at Pinehurst. He bogeyed 36 holes that year before shooting an 84 in the final round from the penalty shootout, dropping to T49.

I boarded my plane two spots ahead of Gore and got into a seat seven rows behind him, only to click on Geoff Shackelford’s newsletter from Pinehurst, which linked to the diary of extraordinary events Gore had written for the USGA about that week, which was next to him. write to superstardom.

“I just remember thinking, I couldn’t wait for Sunday to be over,” Gore wrote. But I also couldn’t wait to do all this again.

Gore is a senior vice president on the PGA Tour now, but he will always speak as a player, and he will always know what it’s like to try to win the US Open at Pinehurst. Reading his inner thoughts on my phone while being able to look up and see the back of his head was trippy, and only possible on a Monday morning of a big tournament week.

We may read similar thoughts from Rickie Fowler one day. He was the closest finisher to Martin Kaymer the last time Pinehurst hosted the US Open. Count him among the few who arrived earlier than expected due to missing pieces at the Memorial. Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay and defending champion Wyndham Clark, too. NetJets is probably targeting the Moore County Airport.

This may be the third major of the season and the 27th event on the PGA Tour calendar but it’s the first event that everyone here has completely earned. Fowler hasn’t had a top-10 finish since winning in Detroit last summer, but he still got his time this week, with a fifth-place finish last year. Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott stepped in at the last minute. Scotty, released as the top 60 in the world, and Garcia as the first. It’s Scott’s 92nd in a row and Sergio’s career-high No. 99. The US Open would have been fine without them, but I’m glad they’re both here. They still have a great game.

Tiger Woods arrived unlike most players – in his plane, from Jupiter – down at Pinehurst early. Woods has made it a habit in recent years, to arrive at the main site the weekend before and knock on Sunday afternoon. Then another one on Monday morning. Sometimes it’s wedges and a putter, sometimes a full bag. Woods traveled with the latter this weekend, joined by his caddy, his manager, and his son, Charlie. This area should look different than Tiger. He last competed at Pinehurst in 2005.

There are no handouts for this tournament, which fills its field with a rigorous qualifying program throughout the game of golf. In this case, there are no obstacles. If you want to play, you can earn your entry. That’s the only important point about HE OPENS. It’s open. Louis Oosthuizen shut himself out of qualifying. Talor Gooch didn’t try. Patrick Reed withdrew from his qualifying match before he played and will miss his first major tournament in more than a decade. David Puig, another LIV’er, has flown thousands of miles around the world in pursuit of major titles, and the Spaniard’s game has gone well with him. That meant he would play in Macau in the winter and Saudi Arabia in the spring, and last week in California, where he earned a medal in the final qualifier, then he stayed in form at LIV Houston (T3). If he does well, Puig will enter the Paris Olympics.

While the Masters Monday is all awaited – the first major of the year, anything is possible! – this major feels full of anxiety, in a very difficult subject that everyone should study or re-study. The gulf between Scottie Scheffler and the rest of the field seems to be growing, somehow, every week, accentuated by photos taken of Spieth on Sunday afternoon, practicing at Pinehurst before Scheffler starts his final round at Muirfield.

We’re only four weeks away from how Xander Schauffele and Rory McIlroy got to the PGA Championship. McIlroy won the Wells Fargo Championship and took an express flight Monday from Charlotte, when he filed divorce papers. Schauffele had to lick his wounds, not sure when everything would hit him. I caught up with his coach, Chris Como, in the locker room earlier that week and asked how Schauffele handled all the close calls.

“There’s nothing you can do but keep doing what you’re doing,” Como said in the morning, shrugging his shoulders. Five days later, I found Como after the 18th green, tears in his eyes, Schauffele’s triumphant hands stretched to the sky. Rest assured that Schauffele will approach this great feeling differently than anyone else. Collin Morikawa, who finished second on Sunday, still has a chance to play Xander. Keep doing what you’re doing. Scottie Scheffler may not deliver.

In the end, that’s one thing that all of us who flew into Raleigh or Charlotte and rented cars on our way to Pinehurst have in common. We’re all thinking about what could happen between now and when we get those cars back. We are all curious about Scheffler. And Morikawa. And that puzzling 77-75 weekend from Viktor Hovland. And 85 on Sunday from Shane Lowry. We all want to know about Brooks Koepka, Mr. US Open, practice on Monday with someone who won’t smell the lesson on Thursday. We’re all looking at the same field of exemptions and qualms and favorites and, as Gore rightly put it in his writing, Cinderella stories like his.

“I hope they can do what I couldn’t,” he wrote. “Win.”

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