The Place to Be
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla., May 11 All the attention is on the 17th, which for the second round was an into-the-wind 8-iron, from 144 yards. Thousands of people hanging around, betting and drinking and sunning. And drinking. This year, beer sales shut down at the early hour of 5 pm and start only at High Noon. (In year's past, beer was sold all day long.) Still, there's lots of hooting and hollering on 17. On the other 8-iron par-3 on the back nine, the 13th, there was hardly a soul around, and hardly a sound.
What a hole, the 13th. For Round 2, it played 174 yards, straight downwind, water all down the left, a yawning trap on the right, a pot bunker smack-dab in front. Over's no good, what with the rough and the downhill chip. Just a tough, fair, demanding hole. Or maybe not so fair: you can hit it on the green and still have it go in the water, if your draw is a little too hot. Two guys who have won this year, Mark Calcavecchia and Paul Goydos, knocked it in the water on 13 on Friday. They weren't the only ones.
The 13th tee is an excellent spot for spectators. On Friday, the players were trying four or five different approaches to the hole, which was in the middle left of the green, too close to the water for comfort. There were guys hitting in long and safe (but not too long). There were guys hitting hard, high 9-irons, just over the pot bunker (but fat it a little bit and it was in the bunker). There were guys hitting draw shots hole high and trying to feed it down, off a slope and to the hole. (Davis Love did this beautifully, right after watching his playing partner Justin Leonard do the same.) There were guys hitting cut shots, which was the class shot, except if you hit the dreaded straight ball. Then you were wet.
Pete Dye should be proud of himself. Only a really well designed hole can give elite players so many different choices. On 17, all the players are doing, mostly, is hitting high straight shots into the middle of the green. There's not much more you can do. You play it well by not thinking too much.
Thirteen is also fun because play gets backed up there and the players hang on the tee for a few minutes. As there are often literally no spectators around, the players talk to each other, or their caddies, or not at all. You can read their scorecards in their exchanges.
Calc and Goydos will tell you: 13 was a brute on Friday, while 17 was just a pitch-and-putt hole. After splashing on 13, Goydos hit it to four feet on 17, and Calcavecchia to 14. Both made their birdie putts. What's all the fuss about there?