Monday, June 21, 2010

Pebble Beach #14- Unfair??

With the completion of the 2010 U.S.Open, the talk was about the big numbers being taken on hole #14. The pictures below of the 14th green and of the Lone Cypress along 17 mile drive made me think of which would be easier to do, hold your approach shot on #14 during The Open or land it at the base of the Lone Cypress? The effective landing area behind the bunker on 14 isn't much larger than the wall around the cypress. Under Open conditions you odds are about the same.

The day I played Pebble in July of 2006, the course and greens were very soft. I hit my drive in the fairway off the tee and then hooked my fairway wood left near the cart path for my second shot. The hole has a left slant to the fairway and is somewhat uphill making it play even longer than 573 yards. From where I was, I still had a mid iron to the pin. I mistakenly thought that I could go for the green and hold it. Dumb luck had me hitting short into the front bunker. I now had a nice bunker shot that I could land soft and have a good chance of holding the small green, which I did. I was left with a 10-15 foot putt which I dropped for my par. In hind sight this was really the only way I could have made par from where my second shot had taken me. Possibly, I could have also hit it long directly behind the green and chipped up and made my 5.

The problem the golfers were confronted with at the Open was the greens were hard and very fast. It would impossible for anyone to ever hold a second shot or long iron to the shelf the pin is located on. The best choice would be to put your long approach shot in the front bunker and try and get up and down for a birdie. For those who don't have the distance to get the bunker in two or three, lay up to your shortest distance you can put maximum spin on the ball. Hope you hit it just over the bunker and in the middle of the smallish green. The big problem here is being short right or left of the green and trying to hold your chip on the slick Open greens. As you saw, you are screwed trying to hit from the front right. A most precise shot is needed to accomplish staying on the green. Left is a bit easier of a shot but still no picnic.

So is it an unfair hole? Yes, under U.S. Open conditions it would be for almost all golfers. But those guys are the best in the world and this is the #1 handicap hole on the toughest course set up they will face all year. I kind of like seeing the pros struggle sometime.

There are some holes that a par feels like a birdie, and in 2006 I walked off the green with a big smile on my face knowing that the golf god's had given me one back.

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