Jackson Suber hits from the native area on the 14th...

Jackson Suber hits from the native area on the 14th hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Pinehurst, N.C. Credit: AP/Matt York

PINEHURST, N.C. — Jackson Suber felt the nerves building as he stepped up for his opening tee shot in his first U.S. Open.

The 24-year-old alternate who got a call-up due to Jon Rahm’s withdrawal didn’t show much worry after that, even on this unexpectedly big stage.

Suber finished 1-under 69 in Thursday’s first round at Pinehurst No. 2, sitting just four shots back of co-leaders Patrick Cantlay and Rory McIlroy. He finished with five birdies on the afternoon, quite a debut for a player who went from being lined up to play in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Wichita Open to the last entrant in a major.

“I’m sure I’m pretty tired right now,” Suber said. “I don’t know if I feel it. The first hole when I got up there, I was really nervous. And after the bogey on two, I kind of settled in a little bit. … And then it started to feel like a normal golf tournament.”

Suber arrived at Pinehurst on Sunday for practice rounds, though he had a flight booked to Wichita for Wednesday morning and remained uncertain whether he would depart. But Rahm withdrew Tuesday because of a foot injury, opening the door for Suber — ranked 239th in the world and 44th on the Korn Ferry Tour.

Suber had earned nearly $372,000 during his career, but has failed to make the cut in both PGA Tour events he has played.

He sat at 2-under after 13 holes before back-to-back bogeys, including a missed short putt on 15, to fall back to even. Yet he followed with a birdie on 16 to regroup, then tapped in for par on 18 to close the afternoon.

Scottie Scheffler chips to the green on the 10th hole...

Scottie Scheffler chips to the green on the 10th hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Pinehurst, N.C. Credit: AP/Matt York

“I always believed I could do this,” Suber said. “You never know if you’re actually going to do it. But I feel like I always knew that was in me.”

Shipley’s patience

Neal Shipley finished his college career at Ohio State and is ready to take the next step. Just not right now.

He was exempt to the U.S. Open as the runner-up in the U.S. Amateur last summer. But unlike the winner, Nick Dunlap, Shipley had to remain an amateur to play in the U.S. Open. And he wasn’t willing to give that up.

Neal Shipley hits from the native area on the fifth...

Neal Shipley hits from the native area on the fifth hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Pinehurst, N.C. Credit: AP/George Walker IV

“We talked about it, but the experience, that’s really what we’re after right now,” Shipley said after opening with an even-par 70. “It would be great to get a check this week, make a cut. At the end of the day, I want to guarantee that I get that experience out here.”

Shipley already has a major experience. He played the final round with Tiger Woods at the Masters and was low amateur.

His next start is expected to be on the PGA Tour Americas in Canada. The purse is $225,000.

British Amateur champion Christo Lamprecht also was exempt for the U.S. Open. He chose to turn pro, went through qualifying and missed out.

“It’s a marathon really. It’s not a sprint,” Shipley said. “So what happens here this week and the next nine months, it’s not going to define my professional career. I know there’s a lot of good golf ahead of me. I don’t feel the need to press my luck qualifying.”

What's in the cup?

World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler seemed a little startled when he went to pull his golf ball out of the cup after making a putt on No. 8.

As Scheffler bent over and started to lift the ball out, but he quickly let go of it. He went to grab the ball twice more, but seemed unwilling to put his hand all the way in the cup. At that point caddie Ted Scott walked over with the flagstick in one hand, bent over and quickly pulled the ball out with the other.

The two shared a laugh as they walked on to the ninth tee.

It’s unclear what was in the hole as Scheffler did not address it after the round.

It was day full of odd sights.

There was also Xander Schauffele firing a wayward shot on No. 12, dropping his club and watching the ball sail left toward the fans behind the ropes -- straight into a plastic bag holding tournament merchandise and sitting on the ground in the sandy, pine-needled rough.

The Mad Hatton

Tyrrell Hatton shot 68 on Thursday, including a birdie on the 17th hole for the temperamental Englishman. He dropped the club when he made contact on his approach shot, tried to kick the club when it was on the ground, looked up to see it on the green. He then made the putt.

It was a rare break on a day of grinding, but part of that is what Hatton enjoys.

“With it being harder, a lot of guys sort of losing their head, it sort of brings them to my level because I just lose my head every week,” Hatton said. “It’s a challenge. I’ve done really well today. It’s only going to get harder from here I think. Imagine they won’t be overly pleased there’s a couple of guys at 5 under.”

‘Willie Won’t Go Home'

Willie Mack III figures he has played on 30 mini-tours during his professional career, or about four times as many as he has PGA Tour starts, and he even spent one year living in his car because money was so tight as he chased his dreams.

So imagine what went through his mind Thursday, when Mack had three birdies during an opening 1-over 71 that left him in the mix at the U.S. Open — and ahead of names such as Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas.

“I played in some big tournaments before," Mack said. "Not as big as this. I feel like if your preparation is good and you stick to your game plan, all you got to do is execute. I think I did pretty good with that today.”

The 35-year-old from Flint, Michigan, played college golf at Bethune-Cookman before turning pro. He played last year on the Korn Ferry Tour, where he made $45,872 — total — by making the cut in nine of 20 starts. To put that in perspective, the player that makes the cut but finishes last at Pinehurst No. 2 will make $42,000 this week. The winner gets a record $4.3 million.

Getting dicey

Sam Bennett was among those who noticed how much firmer the greens had become at Pinehurst No. 2 as the week has progressed.

“Yeah, they got some bounce on them for sure, but I don’t think they can get them much more firm with how fast they are," said Bennett, who shot 69. "But if it does, it’s going to get dicey.”

McIlroy said players got lucky because there was humidity early in the day and some cloud cover. He and playing partners Scheffler and Xander Schauffele might catch a break by going off early on Friday.

“Selfishly for me, getting back out there in the morning, it’s going to be nice,” McIlroy said. “Hopefully the clouds clear away and it’s a nice clear day for the guys in the afternoon. But it definitely wasn’t quite as fiery as I expected it to be this afternoon, which has yielded some decent scores."

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AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson and AP Sports Writer David Skretta contributed to this report.

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