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Mon Apr 21 14:10:05 SAST 2014

Monster hole irks US Open players

Sapa-AFP | 14 June, 2012 08:470 Comments
Britain's Lee Westwood reacts to his tee shot on the 16th hole during a practice round for the 2012 U.S. Open golf tournament on the Lake Course at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, California June 13, 2012
Image by: Jeff Haynes / REUTERS

US golf officials on Wednesday defended their decision to setup the longest hole in US Open history for the 112th edition of the tournament this week.

The par-five 16th at San Francisco’s Olympic Club has been stretched by 61 yards to a monster 670 yards, the difficulty of the length compounded by a sharp dogleg left and a fairway that begins to narrow past 300 yards.

  The change is one of several that have been made to the course since the US Open was last held here in 1998 and several players have been critical, notably five-times US Open runner-up Phil Mickelson.

  Asked to elaborate on criticism of the 16th made during his regular pre-tournament news conference on Tuesday Mickelson said: “It’s for sure the hardest hole on the course — and maybe the worst.” 

“I think great holes provide different strategy and different options,” Mickelson continued. “With the tee back on 16, it eliminates any options.

  “I would never say it's unfair. I just wouldn't say it's a good hole.” 

Asked to react to Mickelson’s comments, US Golf Association Executive Director Mike Davis said he had to “respectfully disagree with that position.” 

“I think what we were trying to do, and I think we have succeeded, is that we really wanted to make a true three-shot par five,” he said.

  “And I know that par fives are supposed to be when an expert player hits three shots and then the third is on the green and they two-putt and I know that there’s a mentality that every par five ought to be reachable in two.

  “But we wanted for two days to make it a true three-shotter, where if you miss one shot you might not be able to catch up on it.” 

Elaborating, Davis said that the plan was to play off the back tees, at the hole’s maximum length of 670 yards, on either Thursday or Friday and then either on Saturday or Sunday.

  Another player unhappy with the extra length was Bubba Watson, one of the longest hitters on the tour, regularly driving it past 350 yards and one who would normally be expected to welcome such a change.

  The newly-crowned Masters champion, however, sees it otherwise.

  “You can’t reach that hole in two. You can’t reach that hole in two from the forward tee,” he said.

  “I don’t know why it needs to be 670 with the deepest rough of the golf course.

  “The golf hole is a dog leg with the highest rough. I hit driver, driver today (Monday practice) and still had, I think, 60 yards to the front.

  “And I hit two perfect shots from the back tee. I hit driver, driver and I had 60 yards from the middle of the fairway.” 

Ken Venturi, the US Open champion in 1964, who grew up in San Francisco and knows the Olympic Club inside out, was even more critical.

  Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle he said if he had his way he would do away with the tee at 670 yards.

  “This is going to be the highest-scoring par-five in history,” he said.

  The USGA’s Davis again disagreed saying that from the shortened tee it would be “fun watching the players literally having to hard hook their ball around the corner and try to go for it in two.

  “I think that is one of the neat things when you can substantially change a hole up just by the teeing ground you use on a daily basis.” 

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