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Pinehurst missing key character from 2005 U.S. Open

The U.S. Open figures to be a little less interesting this week without Jason Gore around.

Gore went from an unknown to a central figure when the U.S. Open was at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2005. He was a stocky every-man, a guy struggling in golf’s minor leagues who happened to catch a little magic on one of his sport’s grandest stages.

Qualifying for the U.S. Open through a sectional tournament, Gore shared the second-round lead and played his way into the final pairing with Retief Goosen.

“I went to fill up the car with gas Saturday and I probably signed 50 autographs,” Gore said.

Then he shot an 84 and finished tied for 49th.

This year, Gore failed to make it out of a sectional qualifier in California. Playing in a pressure-packed qualifier is an illustration of where he has been since leaving Pinehurst nine years ago.

Gore returned to the lower-level Web.com Tour, where weeks later he became the first player on that circuit’s history to win three consecutive starts. One of those tournaments included a round of 59. He won the PGA Tour’s 84 Lumber Classic a few weeks later, only the second time a player had won on the Web.com and PGA tours during the same year.

After that, Gore’s career floundered, although he won once more on the Web.com Tour in 2010.

“I don’t know what it was, I wish I could tell you,” Gore said. “It wasn’t that I lost my love for the game.”

He contemplated retiring. He applied for the coaching job at his alma mater Pepperdine in 2012 but was passed over. After losing 40 pounds and having shoulder surgery, he decided to keep playing. He has three top-10 finishes this season on the Web.com Tour and tied for fourth at the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open in early March.

“I’m doing better,” Gore said. “I kind of woke up and said I’m not going to make any more excuses. I’m going to work my tail off and look for the good things instead of the bad things.”