Spain’s David Puig rallies after first round to make US Open cut, secure spot at the Paris Olympics

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PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — David Puig was fully aware that he needed to make the cut at the U.S. Open to make the Spanish team for the Paris Olympics, and he had a whole lot of work to do after opening with a 76 at Pinehurst No. 2.

But the 22-year-old Puig answered the call Friday with four birdies on the front nine, and he balanced a bogey that again put him on the ropes with another birdie on the back side. The result was a second-round 68 that left him at 4 over for the championship and inside the cut line, which moved to plus-5 late in the day when Brooks Koepka stumbled on his final hole.

“There was not a mindset at all. I hit terrible yesterday and just, you know, worked on the range. The mindset was just try to hit it good,” said Puig, who left Arizona State to turn pro and join the LIV tour. “I think I did a good job today.”

Puig wasn’t the only one who exhaled in relief at the end of a tough day at brutally hot Pinehurst.

Scottie Scheffler, the world’s top-ranked player by a wide margin, followed a first-round 71 with a 74 to make the cut on the number. Cameron Young, Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowry — and Koepka — also were 5 over heading to the weekend.

Sahith Theegala had perhaps the most impressive rally, following his opening 77 with a round of 68 on Friday.

There were plenty of big names headed home, too.

Viktor Hovland shot 68 on Friday but still missed the cut by one. So did Max Homa and former champ Justin Rose. Tiger Woods was in the group another shot back, and said afterward he doesn’t know what the future holds for him at the U.S. Open.

“In order to win a golf tournament, you have to make the cut. I can’t win the tournament from where I’m at, so it certainly is frustrating,” Woods said after his 13th consecutive round without breaking par in a major. “It just didn’t work out. As far as my last Open Championship or U.S. Open Championship, I don’t know what that is. It may or may not be.”

Justin Thomas, who got some advice on the range from Woods after his opening 77, fared little better with a 74 that left him 11 over for the championship. The two-time PGA champion has missed the cut in five of his last seven majors.

There were three amateurs among the 74 players who made the cut. Gunnar Broin, who plays collegiately at Kansas, was at 3 over after a second-round 68. Neal Shipley also was at 3 over and Luke Clanton at 5 over.

Ludvig Aberg held the lead heading into the weekend. He was at 5 under, one shot clear of Bryson DeChambeau, Thomas Detry and Patrick Cantlay.

As for Puig, the decision to turn pro and join LIV came with some ramifications.

Olympic teams are decided by the world ranking, but points are not rewarded for results on the Saudi-backed tour. And players on LIV are ineligible to play in PGA Tour events, the most straightforward way to rack them up.

Puig had a plan, though. He could still play the Asian Tour on weekends off from LIV. So, he began a globe-trekking march in which he played just about everywhere from Malaysia and Oman to Hong Kong and Macau. Along with a string good results, his wins at the International Series event in Singapore and the Malaysian Open vaulted him up the world ranking.

With two-time major winner Jon Rahm already assured of one of Spain’s spots at Le Golf National, Puig had to make the cut to jump Jorge Campillo, who began this week one spot ahead in the world ranking but did not qualify for the U.S. Open.

“You know, at some points I was thinking about it,” Puig said of his round Friday. “Those little thoughts kind of come and go, and at the end of the day, you know, if you’re thinking about it, it’s good, because it means you’re doing the right thing.”

Puig did just enough right at Pinehurst on Friday. And now, he can call himself an Olympian.

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

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