Get ready for the most exciting shot in golf -- the drivable par 4 -- Sunday in the final round of the U.S. Open. Torrey Pines' par-4 14th hole, which has played at 435 yards so far this tournament, will be shortened to 267 yards, making it reachable for most of the guys on the leaderboard.
"The hole location is front right, meaning a bail-out right will short-side the player," USGA officials said in a written statement. "A lay-up off the tee will still challenge the approach shots since the angle will still call for shots over or hugging the right bunker. Predicted northwest winds (slightly left to right) might help players some, taking the back canyon more out of play."
The USGA didn't make the announcement until this morning, but moving up the tee box was pretty safe bet. As the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov once said, "If in
the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it
should be fired.”
“It will be a great risk/reward hole, but it will still
be a very difficult hole,” says Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Dave Phillips, who
teaches at the nearby Titleist High Performance Lab in Oceanside. “Guys who try to go after it with
a 3-wood will have trouble holding the green -- it would be impossible to hold with a driver -- and behind the green is a hazard," Phillips said. "The drop areas aren’t easy to get up and down from either.”
Phillips has never played from that tee box at 14 -- it didn’t exist prior to
this Open -- but he walked the course with Padraig Harrington on Tuesday.
Harrington hit a cut 3-wood that landed just short of the green.
“That shot could have held the green, but that was Tuesday and conditions
were more damp,” Phillips said. “I’ll be surprised if guys could hold it on Sunday.”
The perfect shot to hold the green would be a really high 3-wood that
travels 275-280 yards, Phillips said, and it would have to be perfect to stop. You can’t run it up, he said, because anything landing in front of
the green will stop dead.
If Phillips was caddying for one of the leaders, he’d recommend driving it in the front bunker for an easier up-and-down, or playing it safe with an iron and a wedge. But he knows some players
“Some guys will feel pressure to go for it,” Phillips said. “It’s
fun to see guys go for it, and it’s always great for the game.”
Earlier in the week Woods said he was surprised the USGA was considering
moving up the 14th tee but that he would obviously welcome it.
“We’ve played 14 back every year [at the Buick Invitational],” Woods said.
“I’ve always thought that you play to the corner and then onto the green.
“I never thought the USGA would actually give us a break, give us a chance of
making birdie like that,” Woods said.
The surprise was how far the USGA considered moving up the tee box, but drivable par 4s are part of U.S. Open history. At the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, the par-4 sixth was reachable for long hitters (321 yards), and the
313-yard, par-4 17th hole at Oakmont created drama last year.
And no one can forget the
most famous one of all: Arnold Palmer driving the 313-yard first hole in the
final round of the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills, starting the seven-stroke
Arnie’s Charge that will be talked about as long as people play this game.