PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Russell Henley hit the chip and watched it trickle toward the hole.
Henley doesn’t remember what he did next.
Everyone else packed around the 14th green at Pebble Beach Golf Links on Friday saw Henley wait as his chip from behind the green fell into the cup for an improbable birdie on one of the toughest par 5s in the world. There were fist pumps, a high-five and arms being raised. Then he jumped up to chest-bump brother and caddie Adam Henley.
“That was embarrassing,” Adam Henley said. “That was not planned. We were both so excited.”
Never miss a local story.
Said Russell Henley, “That was probably the most excited I’ve probably ever been.”
With that, a worldwide television audience got its introduction to the Macon native in the second round of the U.S. Open.
The 21-year-old will get two more days to create some highlights after a two-round total of 5 over was good enough to make the cut at his first major championship. Henley joined Illinois’ Scott Langley, the recent NCAA individual champion, as the only two amateurs of the 10 in the field to make the cut.
Henley, who is competing in just his second professional event and first on the PGA Tour, shot a 3-over-par 74 on Friday in cold and windy conditions in the second round that followed a first-round 73 to make the cut comfortably. He’s eight shots behind Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell.
Henley’s chip-in birdie on No. 14 was the highlight of a steady round. He recovered from bogeys on his first two holes but couldn’t get the birdie putts to fall throughout the round.
Henley missed short birdie chances at Nos. 8 and 18 that were certainly makeable. He had others that he just missed.
“I’m just not playing my best golf right now,” Henley said. “I definitely feel like I can play better.”
That was the case on No. 14, when Henley stared down a difficult chip up to a hole that humbled two former major champions and a top-10 player Friday. He was in the back of a large, mowed-down collection area behind the green aiming at the pin in the front of the top tier of the green, which has a steep right front that sends balls back to the fairway. The landing area where the flag will be all week is about 10 yards wide and 14 yards long.
Standing about 20 yards away from the pin, Henley picked the exact spot he wanted to land his shot and then hit that exact spot with a low shot from his sand wedge, watching it slowly trickle into the cup.
Both Henleys agreed his chances of holing that shot were about 50 to 1.
“It was a pretty awesome shot,” Henley said. “It’s just nice to have all my friends there to see it.”
The jubilation following that chip was reversed with a round-opening bogey for the second straight day.
Henley started off with a solid shot into No. 1, landing closest to the pin of the three players in the group. But he thought the greens were slower than they were, and he three-putted for the first time this week.
“The greens surprised me and got me tentative a little bit,” Henley said.
After a second bogey, Henley settled down and had seven holes of par or better. He made a short birdie putt on No. 6 to get to 1 over on the round.
He gave that back with a bogey on No. 10, his second in as many days. Then he followed the chip-in on No. 14 with bogeys on Nos. 15 and 16. He made a long bogey putt on No. 15 to avoid disaster.
But Henley regrouped with a par on No. 17 and then the tap-in par on 18.