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Practice at Pinehurst Swings into Motion

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PINEHURST — Monday was the first official day of practice for theU.S. Open. A nice crowd turned out to watch some of the world's best players tourPinehurst No. 2.

After six years of planning, the Open has finally come to the historic golfing community. Beginning Monday morning, and especially during the afternoon when the Jude Classic finished in Memphis, the contestants began to arrive.

The best players in the world were there, and they began to learn about the pain at Pinehurst. Large galleries turned out to see a different type of Payne on the course. Payne Stewart that is, who says he loves to play at Pinehurst.

"This is a gem, this is beautiful," he said. "You could come out here and play without any rough."

Most of the players seemed to enjoy their time hitting long booming drives against the North Carolina skies, and enjoying applause from appreciative fans.

And for every pro that found themselves in over their head in a bunker, there was another one that said, "I love these greens."

Those who love the U.S. Open, especially those who have won it in the past, like to see America's Championship in the splendid Pinehurst setting.

"It's awesome. This golf course is so good," said Tom Kite, a former U.S. Open champion. "They have just done a great job of getting it in great shape again."

"I just love it," said Curtis Strange, another former U.S. Open champion. "I love the golf course, and I think it is going to be different and unique."

Money-leader David Duval simply putted Monday after burning his hand last week. Tiger Woods also putted for a few minutes, and then took off for the first tee. Woods headed off to the second hole, and took seemingly half of Pinehurst with him.

With rain in the forecast for the next two days, the pros who did not practice Monday could be hurting when it comes time to tee off Thursday.

An estimated 40,000 people a day will head to Pinehurst to watch the world's top golfers.

Rhona Sherrill is one of the lucky fans. "We have tickets to the U.S. Open and we also have a place to stay in Pinehurst," she said.

Sherrill will get to see all of the action thanks to her friend Martha Server, who as a Pinehurst club member even had to compete just to get tickets.

"Even as a member of Pinehurst there was a lottery," Server said. "Only the first few that mailed in for tickets really received them."

Mark Conrad and his family were not so lucky. They drove two hours from Monroe, N.C., hoping to get tickets that would get them inside the fences to see their favorite player, Tiger Woods.

"The doors are closed," he said. "I guess we'll watch on TV or not at all."

There were a couple of tickets at one local sports store in Raleigh on Glenwood Avenue. They are hoping to sell the tickets for $200 a piece. There were also tickets for sale in the classified sections of WRAL OnLine and in theNews & Observer.