PINEHURST, N.C. — When the U.S. Open was held at Pinehurst No. 2 in 1999 and 2005, the fifth hole played as a daunting par 4, one with an absolutely cruel green that sits up in the air but falls off to the left, with no welcoming ways to get a long iron shot to hold.
“[No.] 5, in 2005, was an impossible fairway to hit followed by an impossible green to hit,” said Graeme McDowell, who is tied for second at 2-under-par after the first round. “5 is a par-5 green. Let’s be honest. It’s so severe.”
So the U.S. Golf Association decided when the Open returned this year that it would restore the fifth hole to a par 5, adding a new tee that stretches it to 576 yards. The fourth hole, in turn, was relabeled as a par 4 (playing this week at 529 yards), a flip-flop that seems to be embraced by the field — though USGA executive director Mike Davis pointed out that the two of them together likely make up a “par 9,” however you slice it.
McDowell got his round going with a 12-foot eagle putt on the fifth. But that doesn’t mean it’s suddenly a hole that the field will pulverize.
“If you guys want to see some disasters, you should get a hot dog, Snickers and Coke and head down to the fifth green, because that’s as hard as it can ever get,” said Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, ranked second in the world. “. . . The margins are so slim on that green. I hit a lovely 3-iron in. I think at one point it was about 15 feet away for eagle.”
The ball, though, couldn’t hold. “Then I got an extremely difficult bunker shot next, from about 25 yards up the hill,” Stenson said.
Still, with the tees pushed forward, the fifth was the only hole to play under par for the day: the easiest on the course, at an average of 4.789 strokes.
The New York Times reported Thursday that federal officials have found no evidence that Phil Mickelson traded shares of Clorox in an insider-trading scheme that has focused on billionaire investor Carl Icahn and professional gambler Billy Walters. Last week, the Times said the FBI and SEC were investigating Mickelson, but said Thursday its original sources “have since acknowledged making a mistake.”
Mickelson reiterated Thursday that, “I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong,” his refrain when the story broke. However, he provided no details.
“I’ve got a lot to say,” he said after his opening 70. “I just can’t say it right now.”
Tiger Woods, out of his second straight major following back surgery, still hasn’t provided details on when he might return. Whether that could come at the Quicken Loans National June 26-29 at Congressional Country Club — the event that is run by and benefits his foundation — is a decision that will be made “last-minute,” Mark Steinberg, Woods’s agent, said Thursday.
“We’ve got to give him as much time as possible,” Steinberg said. . . .
Annapolis resident Billy Hurley III, a Navy grad who grew up in Leesburg, shot a 1-over 71 in his first U.S. Open round, making three bogeys and two birdies around No. 2. Hurley, 32, qualified last week at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville.