U.S. Open super-group implodes on Pinehurst’s easiest hole

5th hole pinehurst no. 2

The sandy waste area where Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler and Xander Schauffele were forced to play from during the second round.

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PINEHURST, N.C. — U.S. Open rounds are moving slowly around Pinehurst No. 2, but not this slow. Not 45 minutes to play a par-5. But something extra crazy happened Friday morning. It happened on the easiest hole on the course and it happened to the super-group of Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele and Scottie Scheffler. 

All cameras were fixated on this group to begin the tournament. The reigning two major champions of 2024 and the guy who needs a major the most. The best player in the world, the second-best player in the world, and the third-best. When McIlroy shot the round of the day Thursday, even more cameras were locked on them Friday morning. They would set the pace for the rest of the second round. And through 13 holes, that was the case. 

McIlroy had slipped to four under, but Schauffele was cooking up the early round of the day, beginning with two bogeys but then carding five birdies to reach three under. Scheffler was not exactly dialed to his typically world-beating form, but was plodding along, comfortably inside the cut line. The group began on the 10th, and were cruising along when they reached the par-5 5th. There they unfortunately found the group ahead of them. 

Jason Day, Harris English and Tom Kim were waiting on the group ahead of them, who was waiting in the fairway on the group ahead of them. That can happen on par-5s. And this being the easiest hole on the property, players were keen to leave with a 4, and a 5 at the worst. But that hole earned its score-able reputation on Thursday. And at a U.S. Open, holes change from day to day. Friday’s hole had been cut extremely close to a ridge the runs up the center of the green.

The 5th plays around 590 yards, with a fairway that slants from right to left and, importantly, a green that slants from right to left. Being in the bunkers on the right, or just long and to the right, is not a bad leave. Many pros are actually aiming for the edge of those bunkers with their long approaches, knowing they’re bound to draw the ball off that hook-lie. Keep this in mind as you read (and watch the rest of the week!). 

After waiting a full 20 minutes on the tee, Schauffele began by toe-hooking his tee ball into the tall pines, advancing it just 184 yards and making the par-5 feel even longer. He’d punch his second shot up into the fairway, catching up with McIlroy and Scheffler, who had each found the short grass. From there, the hole simply plays as a tricky, short par-4. 

Scheffler grabbed lumber, a 3-wood, and swung away from 267 out. From his angle, any ball that landed on the line of the hole or left of it, was destined to find a sandy grave. The green falls off abruptly and sends shots down a hill to the native area, filled with tufts of long, wiry grass. Down there, it’s anyone’s guess how the lie will be. “Down there” is where Scheffler’s ball finished up, just 55 feet from the hole, but not close enough to comfortable. He had landed on the left side the green, but that’s no good on this punishing hole. 

McIlroy was next, up an extra 22 yards ahead in the fairway. This is the go-zone for him, who birdied the 5th during the first round. He grabbed a long iron, aimed plenty far to the right, and swung away, turning over the ball with a draw that drew too much. His ball landed a pace or two short of Scheffler’s mark and to the right. Better, but not good enough. He, too, wound up rolling down into a sandy grave. 

Schauffele played third, a full 40 yards ahead of McIlroy’s approach, in the fairway. He needed to settle in and make a good par from 202 yards out. Easier said than done, of course, but given the two results ahead of him, you’d think Schauffele would never consider pulling his approach near the fall line of this extra slope-y green. If you thought that, you’d be wrong. Schauffele tugged his mid-iron to land in almost the same spot as McIlroy, a shot so similar that his ball nearly crashed into McIlroy’s in the native area. And there you had it, the golf balls of the three best players in the world, all within a 12-foot hoop.

5th hole pinehurst no. 2
The golf balls of the three best players in the world all found themselves in the native area short left of the 5th hole. NBC

Part of the trickiness of Pinehurst rests in these areas. They can be as penal as a water hazard, or as generous as the typical, soft rough that players play aggressively from week-in and week-out. From 200 yards away, you’ll never know exactly what kind of lie you’re going to find. That’s the roulette game every player in the field is playing at Pinehurst. But from down the in gulley short of the green, they’d be playing shots from loose sand up the hill into the grain of the green. There was no getting close, and both Schauffele and Scheffler proved it, as you can see in the video below. 

Scheffler played first, shorting his wedge enough that the ball barely reached the green before running back down the hill. His next shot thin-skidded through the green to another collection area on the other side. Then it was Schauffele’s turn, and he shorted his wedge enough that the ball paused on the green for just a second before rolling back to his feet. His second try spun to nine feet, where he two-putted for double bogey and a stare off into the distance. 

Benefitting from a nice view of the chaos, McIlroy played a skidding pitch out to the right, avoiding the peak of the hill but still riding through the green. Scheffler pitched on and two-putted for his own double bogey. McIlroy pitched on and looked like a golfing genius when he holed a nine-footer for par and a massive exhale. 

All in, it was 20 minutes waiting on the tee and 25 other minutes splayed throughout the 5th, which will end the week as the easiest hole to par on the course, despite this trio’s best efforts. The super group brought to its knees, with its best player now on the outside of the cut projection, its recent major champ taking a punch in the gut, and its best performer this week gracious for an escaping par.

U.S. Opens can turn in just a moment’s time. 

Sean Zak

Golf.com Editor

Sean Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just published his first book, which follows his travels in Scotland during the most pivotal summer in the game’s history.

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