Course Strategy

U.S. Open 2024: This Pinehurst hole location was particularly spicy Friday. What were players saying?


Gregory Shamus

PINEHURST, N.C. — The USGA is known for selecting tough pin placements for its major championships, but Friday’s hole location on the par-3 15th during the second round of the 2024 U.S. Open seemed especially diabolical.


Located atop a steep plateau 10 paces off the front of the green and just four paces from the right edge, this hole location tested players' irons in a big way.

Shots that landed even a foot short or a hair left of the slope rolled back down the false front and left players with a daunting uphill, into-the-grain chip.

After his round, Rory McIlroy, who is currently sixth at three under for the week, elaborated a bit on the precision required to score on 15 today.

“It's funny, I feel like Xander [Schauffele] and my shots, we both sort of landed it probably the exact same distance. But his was a little more aggressive and a little more right towards the pin so it stayed on the ledge. Mine was a little further left where the slope is a little steeper,” McIlroy said, “Mine came back down. He's got a birdie putt from 10 feet, and I'm trying to do well to save par.”

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Jeff Haynes

As McIlroy explained, his first shot landed about 12 feet left of Schauffele's ball, which was sitting on the shelf 10 feet from the pin. But because McIlroy's ball was slightly left of the shelf, it tumbled down the false front and left him with a 53-foot chip to make an up-and-down for par. He left that shot 10 feet from the hole, then two-putted for bogey. Meanwhile, Schauffele's birdie try just missed.

“As I said, you just have to be so precise. If you're going left of the hole there, you have to land it at least pin-high, if not a little bit past it. But that's the great thing about this golf course. If you take a shot on and you pull it off, it rewards you. Xander got that reward on that 15th hole today, and I didn't."

Tom Kim, who shot a two-under 68 today and is one under overall, had a more conservative strategy on 15 and it paid off for him as he made a two-putt par. Kim left his approach shot past the pin on the left side of the green, which seems to be the best play when taking on this green even if it left a longer birdie attempt.

“Yeah, it was a really tricky one. Obviously they moved the tee up, which is really generous, but they put a pin where it can go both ways. It feels like you don't really want to miss it right," Kim said. "But then if you hit it on the left side, like I did, I had a 35-, 40-footer. It's so fast. Jason hit a chip over the green. It’s really tough.".

As Kim mentioned the hole was playing 34 yards shorter off the tee on Friday at 172 yards, the counter-balance to the trickier hole location. Kim explained that it’s by no means a guaranteed par for players today.

“As short as the club we're hitting, it's still not a gimme par or even sometimes bogey,” Kim said. “Kind of interested in seeing how the afternoon plays it.”

Mid-way through the afternoon, the hole was playing to a 3.340 stroke average, making it the third toughest hole for the day. And that number seemed likely to increase as temperatures rise Friday afternoon and the course becomes firmer. The potential for some big numbers from players in the afternoon wave is real for those who can't find the green.