Eighteen holes later, he looked beaten down by an unforgiving course.
Gore ran out of magic in the final round, stumbling to a 14-over 84 that dropped him from second place to tied for 49th on the leaderboard. He finished at 14-over 294, ending with a double-bogey tap-in for the final stroke of this year's Open and earning $20,275 - just $6,604 less than he's made in seven tournaments on the Nationwide Tour this year.
It was a disappointing end for the husky guy with everyman looks and a happy-go-lucky manner who quickly became the fan favorite.
'I fought all the way and just couldn't stop the bleeding,' Gore said.
Gore - the 818th-ranked player in the world who finished tied for second in a regional qualifier to get here - got plenty of attention all weekend with solid golf and quick wit.
He told stories about thieves breaking into his car during the drive here to steal his stereo and his underwear. He called himself a 'cheeseball' for excitedly pointing at a putt as it dropped in for a birdie on No. 18 Saturday.
He even had a story of briefly leading the U.S. Open in his only other appearance, holing a wedge for birdie on the first hole in 1998. He went on to miss the cut.
This time, Gore stayed near the top of the leaderboard a lot longer. But a bad start on Sunday kept getting worse, sending him crashing back to reality.
Starting with a bogey on the par-4 second hole, he finished the round with six bogeys, three double-bogeys, a triple-bogey and just one birdie. He had just five bogeys and two double-bogeys in the first three rounds combined.
Playing with third-round leader Retief Goosen - who suffered his own meltdown with a round of 81 - Gore hit just four of 14 fairways, eight of 18 greens and had 33 putts.
'(Goosen) asked me if I knew the game cricket, because when you score runs they're called overs, and that was the only thing we were resembling,' Gore said.
Tiger Woods, who played junior golf with Gore, said the experience - though frustrating - will only help.
'These conditions, look what they did to some of the best players in the world today,' said Woods, who finished second with a 2-over 282. 'These are some of the most difficult conditions you'll ever see in the U.S. Open, and he's never been there and it adds to it.
'But now he's been there. He's learned from it, and I'm sure he'll be a lot better for it.'
Gore's challenge now is to get back to the U.S. Open next year and build on his time in the spotlight.
'It was a heck of a week,' Gore said. 'I had a wonderful time. I feel very strongly I'll be back. Stuff like this happens in the U.S. Open and I'll be a better player because of it.'
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