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Woods misses the cut, extends majors run of over-par rounds in US Open at Pinehurst No. 2

PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — Tiger Woods was unable to find the right mix of quality shots and timely breaks at Pinehurst No. 2 to extend his first U.S. Open appearance in four years into the weekend.

He's heading home. And he's uncertain if he'll be back.

The three-time U.S. Open champion missed the cut at 7 over on the Donald Ross course, struggling to deal with tricky domed greens and sandy native areas featuring plants instead of traditional rough. Woods shot a 3-over 73 on Friday after opening with a 74, marking his 13th consecutive round without breaking par in a major.

“It's one of those things where in order to win a golf tournament, you have to make the cut,” Woods said. “I can't win the tournament from where I'm at, so it certainly is frustrating.

“I thought I played well enough to be up there in contention. It just didn't work out.”

The 48-year-old Woods hadn't played a U.S. Open round since Winged Foot in 2020 because of injuries. He has had multiple back and knee surgeries, as well as the procedure to repair serious injuries to his right leg and ankle from a 2021 car crash.

He began his U.S. Open return Thursday with a promising birdie, only to see things come apart with a mid-round stretch of five bogeys in seven holes on the way to the 74 with an early tee time. But with almost 24 hours to recover for his afternoon tee time Friday, he got off to a solid start with two par saves and a birdie at the fourth.

Yet that was as good as the scorecard would look on a hot day at Pinehurst. Woods posted for bogeys while suffering through multiple close calls on birdie putts that could've helped him gain some traction.

“It was probably the highest score I could have possibly shot today,” Woods said. “I hit a lot of good shots that just didn’t quite go my way. Or I hit good putts, and then I put myself in a couple bad spots with some bad lag putts.”

None stung worse than at the 15th hole, when Woods was 6 over and fighting to get inside the cut line.

He put his tee shot on the right edge of the green to set up a 15-foot putt for birdie, then tapped the ball for what looked like a perfect roll to the hole. Woods started to step confidently with his left foot, expecting the ball to drop, only to watch it catch the right edge of the cup, ride the lip about a quarter of the way around to the backside and then trickled away.

Woods froze, then leaned forward with his hands on his knees before finishing the tap-in for par.

“Yeah, 15 hurt,” he said. “If I make that putt, it flips the momentum, and I’m looking pretty good on the last three holes.”

It was one of multiple missed chances on a day that began with him getting up-and-down to save par on the first two holes. He followed with his first highlight on the fourth, rolling in a 20-foot downhill putt for birdie — a moment he marked with a subtle pump of his right fist and a big smile.

Yet the course never got easier amid 90-degree temps, and Woods couldn't sustain that momentum to make even a modest climb.

He gave a shot right back on the fifth, starting with an errant tee shot that had him muttering to himself and watching in disappointment as the ball sailed left into the native area and straight into a clumpy plant. It ended with Woods rolling an 8-foot par putt a few inches left of the cup before taking a tap-in for bogey.

He ran into more trouble on the ninth, where his tee shot bounced on the left side of the green, then ran all the way across to roll off the back right side before stopping near a section of metal stairs for the stands. Worse, his attempt to chip onto the green ended up catching the front edge and begin rolling backward, leaving Woods only to watch with his hands on his hips before it came to rest a few feet in front of him.

He salvaged a bogey on that one, at least, thanks to a chip that set up a 5-foot finishing putt.

Woods won the U.S. Open in 2000, 2002 and 2008 on the way to becoming a 15-time major champion. He accepted a special exemption to play this week at Pinehurst No. 2, where he finished third in the U.S. Open in 1999 and second in 2005 but didn't compete in the 2014 edition due to one of his back surgeries.

Asked whether this could be his last U.S. Open, Woods was noncommittal.

“As far as my last ... U.S. Open championship, I don't know what that is,” he said. “It may or may not be.”

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