By Alex Podlogar

Shot tracer could’ve told the ending as the story was still unfolding.

The Ballad of Scheffler, Schauffele and Rors might’ve been summed up and narrated by the thin black line that draws the slightest of parabolas against the Carolina blue sky.

If you knew, you knew. The impending horror was felt in the dread that local knowledge immediately summoned. Those balls started fine. They drifted left. This was the second shot (third for Xander) on the 596-yard, par-5 5th hole.


Legendary Pinehurst caddie Willie McRae, who started looping on his 10th birthday in 1943 and caddied at Pinehurst for nearly 70 years, had at least two memorable lines he was well known for.

“To me, everybody’s a celebrity. Everybody’s somebody.”


“Left on 5? That’s Dead City, baby.”


In this slasher movie, only one player got out unscathed, one managed to survive a bitter wound, and one…well, one had no place to hide, and only a few holes left to run. If there was to be a trunk slam, it wasn’t because the car wouldn’t start as the killer was closing in. The worst had already happened, and the engine worked to precision where the golf had not.

Scottie-Xander-Rory. Nos. 1-2-3 in the world. They played the par-5 that had played as the easiest hole on the course in round 1 on Thursday to the tune of 4 over on Friday. McIlroy, though, had managed a par after seeing the carnage ahead of him and adjusting accordingly. That meant that Scheffler and Schaufelle accounted for the rest – a double bogey each – one that positioned the nail into Scottie’s proverbial coffin and the other derailing what was shaping up as the premier round by the PGA Champion on a day conjured by a ferocious algorithm of heat, turtlebacks, sand and wiregrass.

The thing is, 5 was still the third-easiest hole of the second round. It still played a touch under par – 4.990 on Friday – but even that was a tad misleading. The hole was nearly half a shot easier a day ago, at 4.580. On Thursday, though, there were no double bogeys. On Friday, Scheffler and Schauffele accounted for only two of the eight.

Xander Schauffele
Xander Schauffele

The hole location had something to do with it. Pinehurst Caddie Hall-of-Famer and No. 2 soothsayer Thomas Trinchitella remarked early in the morning that the 5th could be a bear with the tucked back-left pin.

“That back-left hole location on 5 is pretty treacherous,” McIlroy said. “If you miss it left there at all, obviously you saw what Xander and Scottie did.”

We’re getting to it, Rory.

Back to the approach shots. After a 322-yard drive, Scheffler had 267 yards to the hole. Riding the then-cut line at 3 over, his second shot might’ve looked good in the air to some. The ball landed on the front-left part of the green, just beyond the fringe. It had traveled 262 yards.

It was not enough.

Dead City.

The ball rolled off the left side of the green, down the slick surround and into the ominously named “left native area.” At least that’s how ShotCast put it.

It was piercing foreshadowing.

McIlroy was next. After a 338-yard drive split the middle, he had 245 left. He hit it 239 and a little right of where Scheffler’s had landed. Still not enough. It too rolled down the left bank, coming to rest against a wiregrass bush some 10 feet in front of Scheffler.

Dead City.

“It’s tough,” McIlroy said. “You’re hitting off a lie with the ball above your feet. It’s hard for that. And the wind’s a touch off the right as well. It’s hard to not let that ball go left on you with your second shot.”

Schauffele had hooked his drive left, into the trees and onto the pinestraw just 184 yards off the tee, forcing him to lay up. (Actually, it was essentially a 202-yard punch-out. Elite.) But that left him 194 yards for his third. His approach landed between where Rory’s and Scottie’s had.

You’ve seen this movie before. Dead City.

Schauffele’s ball skipped over Rory’s wiregrass bush and came to rest just four feet behind it.

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

What came next was rated NC-17 by the Motion Picture Administration.

Scheffler went first. He chopped his wedge at his ball, which took one bounce on the bank, didn’t crest the hill, and rolled back to his feet. His fourth shot, he took a longer swing and sailed the ball over the green.

Schauffele’s sequel was more terrifying.

He played his shot from the native area more like a bunker shot, lofting the ball up and onto the green. Just not far enough. After a few rolls toward the pin, the ball, though it never fully stopped, began its descent back to Schauffele’s feet.

“I hit it to the top of the crest, rolled back down,” Schauffele said. “That pissed me off.”

Rossed 2, The Reckoning.

He played his fifth similarly, but better, and still the ball drifted 9 feet by the pin. Two putts, and it was a 7.

Rory didn’t mess around. A wiregrass bush in his way, he essentially bladed a chip over the green. It was on purpose. It was played quickly. It was the right play. He two-putted from there, jarring a 9-footer for par.


“After seeing their two attempts, I was pretty happy with mine just to get it over the other side of the green and get it up-and-down for 5,” McIlroy said.

“I think that’s part of the mystery of the kind of sandy areas,” Scheffler said. “You get down there and it’s kind of luck of the draw whether or not you have a shot. Preferably I would have loved to have hit like a little runner out of there, but I had a bush in my way to where I couldn’t play the runner that I would have hoped to. Really all you’re trying to do from there is get it up on to the green somewhere, and I felt like I took the best route I could think of at first, and just because it’s so unpredictable.

“So yeah, just a pretty challenging spot for your ball to end up in.”

Scheffler and company finished their second round right as the afternoon wave was beginning. It would be a long wait to see if the World No. 1 would remain in Pinehurst for the weekend.

“I don’t think 5 over is going to get me into the weekend,” he said following his round.

Rory gave him hope, hope that would be realized nearly six hours later.

“I’d say there’s going to be a lot of guys down in that left sandy area today,” McIlory said.

All these years, Willie tried to tell them.

Dead City, baby.