124th U.S. Open: 3 Things to Know, Round 2

By Ron Driscoll, USGA

| Jun 13, 2024 | Village of Pinehurst, N.C.

124th U.S. Open: 3 Things to Know, Round 2

Course No. 2 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club gives players options, specifically around the greens, where they are presented with choices on whether to chip, pitch, bump and run, putt or hit a flop shot when attempting to recover around the famed Donald Ross putting surfaces.

As Tiger Woods once said of Course No. 2, “You see a lot of pros mess up easy shots because they have so many options.” Options can lead to questions and even doubt in a player’s head on whether they are making the right play, although plenty of people might quibble with Woods’ description of any conundrum that they face as “easy.”

In Round 1 of the 124th U.S. Open Championship on Thursday, players hit the green in regulation only about 53 percent of the time. As the championship plays out, those who erase any doubt and play the inevitable recovery shots with conviction are bound to rise to the top.

Here are 3 Things to Know for Round 2:   

Watching the Cutline

Three-time champion Tiger Woods started his 23rd U.S. Open off with a birdie on Thursday, but a run of five bogeys in seven holes around the turn led to a 4-over-par 74, which puts him in a tie for 88th place after Round 1. Woods will likely need to improve on that score in Round 2 to be among the top 60 and ties who will play the weekend. Woods begins Round 2 on Friday at 1:14 p.m. EDT.

Among those in similar straits are a trio of past champions at 3-over 73: defending champion Wyndham Clark, 2013 champion Justin Rose and 2022 champion Matt Fitzpatrick (who is paired with Woods in Rounds 1 and 2); and, at 4 over, 2009 champion Lucas Glover, 2016 champion Dustin Johnson and 2019 British Open champion Shane Lowry. One stroke further back and in need of a jump start are 2012 champion Webb Simpson and 2022 co-runner-up Will Zalatoris, who also is grouped with Woods.

Fits and Starts

The rollercoaster nature of a round on Course No. 2 is perhaps best exemplified by a three-hole stretch on the opening nine, Nos. 4 through 6. The fourth hole, a 528-yard par 4, played as the second-toughest hole in relation to par in Round 1 (4.45 stroke average), while No. 6, a 230-yard par 3, played as the toughest hole (3.47). Sandwiched between those brutes is the easiest hole on the course, the 582-yard, par-5 fifth, which yielded nine of the 10 eagles on the day, as well as by far the most birdies (60), for a 4.58 stroke average.

The 508-yard, par-4 second hole (4.40) and the 486-yard, par-4 eighth hole (4.42) played as the fourth- and third-hardest holes in Round 1, respectively, meaning that the four hardest holes on Course No. 2 occur within a seven-hole run.

Overall, Course No. 2 played to a 73.25 stroke average in Round 1, which is just a bit higher than the average from Round 1 of the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, when it was 73.23. That field scoring average is 3.25 strokes over the championship par of 70. The last time Round 1 of the U.S. Open had a scoring average of at least three strokes over par was in 2018 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, when it was 76.474 (+6.474).

Fast Starters

Over the first three U.S. Opens held at Pinehurst, there were 468 total competitors, but only four players managed to shoot under par for 72 holes, and just one of them managed to post lower than 1-under-par 279 for 72 holes. That was Martin Kaymer, who rolled to an eight-stroke victory in 2014. Kaymer’s romp was fueled by a 65-65 start, which is still tied for the lowest 36-hole total in U.S. Open history (Rickie Fowler matched Kaymer with rounds of 62-68 last year at The Los Angeles Country Club).

Patrick Cantlay and Rory McIlroy both shot 5-under 65s on Thursday to match Kaymer’s start from 2014. Is there another 65 out there in Round 2 for one of the leaders? In recent years, fast starts at Winged Foot Golf Club in 2020 and at The Los Angeles Country Club in 2023 slowed dramatically as the championship progressed. The Round 1 lead of 8 under in 2023 at LACC by Fowler and Xander Schauffele translated to a winning total of 10 under by Wyndham Clark on Sunday, and a lead of 5 under after Round 1 by Justin Thomas at Winged Foot in 2020 led to a final winning total of 6 under on Sunday for Bryson DeChambeau.

It will be interesting to see whether the pace of the leaders slows in similar fashion in 2024 at Pinehurst.

Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.