Hell Hole With its sheer length and impossible-to-hold green, the 5th at Pinehurst No. 2 proved to be the most difficult hole on perhaps the toughest layout the U.S. Open has ever seen

June 27, 1999

A mammoth man lumbered toward the Pinehurst clubhouse entrance
last Saturday. Lumbered was the only applicable verb because
Konishiki, a retired sumo wrestling champion and beloved figure
in Japan, weighs 590 pounds. U.S. Open contestant Tom Scherrer,
having barely survived the third round at Pinehurst's ferocious
No. 2 course, shook hands and chatted with the behemoth, who was
working for a Japanese TV network. "I might rather wrestle you
than go play this course again," Scherrer said, making Konishiki
shake with laughter. "The outcome would be the same," Scherrer
added, "but at least it would be over a lot quicker."

The death of par was slow, inevitable and usually ugly when the
Open finally made its long-awaited debut at Pinehurst. The
result is that its famed No. 2 course now ranks No. 1 in fear,
intimidation and difficulty in the hearts of Tour players.
Everyone knew No. 2 would be difficult. Nick Price had predicted
weeks in advance that "no one on earth" could break par there
and, with apologies to Bob Barker, Price was right.

The players' pique peaked on the dreaded 5th, an unpleasant hole
that even designer Donald Ross admitted has the toughest second
shot on the world's toughest second-shot course. Double bogeys
and worse outnumbered birdies there by more than a two-to-one
ratio in the Open. "I'd hate to play 18 holes like that one,"
said veteran Jay Haas, who was three over at the 5th for the
tournament. "I don't think anybody could break 80."

For the Open, the 5th was long at 482 yards, but it wasn't the
longest par-4. Number 8, at 485 yards, and number 16, at 489,
played longer, but both are converted par-5s. All three holes
ranked among the five longest par-4s in U.S. Open history and
forced players to pull out long irons and fairway woods for
their approach shots. But length wasn't what made the 5th so
devilish. Its fairway snakes left and up to a stretched but
narrow green that has as many flat spots as a crumpled candy
wrapper. The right-to-left-sloping fairway proved hard to
hit--fewer than half the drives found the short grass during the
breezy third round, and after the tee shot the going really got
tough. When championship play had concluded, only 27.1% of all
approach shots had stopped on the green. Number 5 ended up as
the toughest scoring hole (chart, following page). Players were
.549 over par there (number 16 was second hardest at +.504, and
number 8 was next at +.500), and on Saturday only one birdie was
made on the hole all day. "The 5th is tough because the putting
surface is very close to impossible," said Phil Mickelson, who
solved the problem by chipping in last Thursday for one of the
15 birdies made at 5 all week. "If you hit a great drive, you
still have a five-iron in. You're dealing with a 30-foot circle
[target area]."

Anything short of that circle rolls back off the steep left
front of the green. Anything long goes over, and anything to the
right slides off a ridge. It ranks among golf's scariest greens.
"It's a par-6 green," said Tim Herron, who went double bogey,
bogey, par in the first three rounds before making one of those
rare birdies on Sunday. "When I was playing a practice round, I
thought the only place they could put the pin is in the center
of that green. Well, they didn't even sniff that."

Stewart Cink, playing early on Saturday morning in the seventh
twosome, hit a seven-iron shot that stopped 50 feet from the pin
on the 5th green. The crowd roared as if he had stiffed it,
surprising Cink. "Someone in the gallery told us he was the
first one that day to get a ball on the green," said Haas, his
playing partner.

Paul Azinger brought the fans to their feet later, playing a
shot that stopped on the back right portion of the green,
pin-high but perilously close to the fall-off. "Hurry up and
mark it, Paul," one fan shouted. When Azinger heard the crowd's
warning, he cartoonishly began pumping his arms as if running to
the green. The day before, when the pin was in a killer position
hard against the ridge that defines the green's right edge,
Azinger's approach shot looked perfect. It took one big bounce
in front of the green, rolled toward the pin, then slowly
drifted left until it ran off the green and down the hill. "My
six-iron rolled up to 10 feet, my mom told me, then rolled off
the green," Azinger said. "That was the worst pin placement I've
ever seen."

Azinger made a super save, chipping up to six feet and holing
the putt for his par. His playing partners weren't as lucky.
Billy Mayfair found a greenside bunker and had to make a
ticklish three-footer for bogey. Sweden's Mathias Gronberg
missed the green, needed three tries before he could keep a chip
shot on the putting surface and took a triple bogey.

Open qualifier Ryan Welborn, 27, a mini-tour player from
California, also tripled the hole when his three-foot bogey putt
lipped out and became a seven-footer for double. "There's no
good place to miss it," said Welborn, who missed the cut.

Amateur Tom McKnight found a way to keep his ball on the green.
He hit the pin with his two-iron approach in the second round. It
still added up to only a par. "I almost three-putted from 15
feet," he admitted.

The 5th was the hardest hole on what may be the Open's hardest
course. The talk around Pinehurst is that the Open will return
to No. 2, and soon. "I think that would be a good thing," said
Price, a former PGA and British Open champion who felt unfairly
beaten up by the course, "but I won't be here."

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY BOB MARTIN Long shot Billy Mayfair was able to get his 4 on Saturday, but to fans on the 5th tee the odds of making par didn't look great. COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY BOB MARTIN Cat's meow Even with his long drives, Tiger Woods could do no better than two bogeys and two pars on the 5th last week.

Where the Going Got Toughest

U.S. Golf Association officials, no doubt cackling in delight as
Pinehurst No. 2 brought the world's best players to their knees,
probably can't schedule another Open there fast enough. "That
golf course was the hardest I've ever played," said Paul
Azinger. A hole-by-hole look at the cumulative stats for the
championship shows how the unforgiving 5th earned honors as the
most brutal hole on a brutal layout.

HOLE PAR YARDS EAGLES BIRDIES PARS BOGEYS D.BOGEYS OTHER RANK AVG.

1 4 404 0 40 264 127 12 3 7 4.269
2 4 447 0 31 245 152 17 1 6 4.354
3 4 335 2 62 303 72 7 0 17 4.045
4 5 566 0 103 281 55 6 1 18 4.926
5 4 482 0 15 209 191 24 7 1 4.549
6 3 222 0 17 252 162 14 1 4 3.395
7 4 398 0 45 283 107 10 1 12 4.191
8 4 485 0 21 239 147 26 13 3 4.500
9 3 179 0 35 281 110 19 1 8 3.260

OUT 35 3,518 2 369 2,357 1,123 135 28 -- 37.489

10 5 610 0 52 307 81 6 0 16 5.092
11 4 453 0 53 275 108 6 4 13 4.179
12 4 447 0 21 250 156 17 2 4 4.395
13 4 383 1 64 287 75 18 1 15 4.108
14 4 436 0 52 277 99 13 5 10 4.204
15 3 202 0 32 276 132 6 0 9 3.251
16 4 489 0 11 219 196 20 0 2 4.504
17 3 191 0 46 299 97 4 0 14 3.132
18 4 446 0 28 314 94 10 0 11 4.193

IN 35 3,657 1 359 2,504 1,038 100 12 -- 37.058

TOTAL 70 7,175 3 728 4,861 2,161 235 40 -- 74.547

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)