JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Officials moved the tee up on the long, par-4 18th hole for the first round of the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club on Thursday. Instead of playing its stated 507 yards, it played just 491, but it was still the hardest hole on the course with a 4.71 stroke average.
“You still have to hit it to the same area because of the way the water has cut in,” said Phil Mickelson, who bogeyed the hole and shot 71, “and the fairway that turns left banks [right] into the bunkers.”
So what does he think of the hole?
“It’s a great par 5,” Mickelson said. “And it’s just, you know, it’s a great par 5.”
He laughed. He’s not a fan.
Ryan Palmer salvaged par on the vicious dogleg left. He snap-hooked a 5-wood off the tee and yet reached the green in two with a rescue club, and two-putted. Still, he was fuming afterward.
“Driver goes through the fairway and into the bunker,” said Palmer, who shot 71. “And so does 3-wood. There’s a tee box back there to make it a perfect par 5 of like 530 or so yards, great risk-reward, all carry if you want to go for it in two. I don’t get it. Why not just make the course a par 71?”
Tiger Woods was among the casualties of the hole, making double-bogey 6 on the way to a 77. Ryo Ishikawa also made 6 on the way to an 85. But doubles on 18 hardly stood out.
Fredrik Anderson Hed had a decent round going at 1 over through his first eight holes, but he triple-bogeyed 18. He shot 74. Charley Hoffman (75), Bryce Molder (74) and Nick Watney (70) also tripled the hole, as did Dan Olsen (78). Tom Gillis (76) made an 8.
Justin Rose, who chipped in to birdie the par-3 17th, made one of the field’s nine birdies on 18. He hit 3-wood off the tee and watched his ball nearly trickle into the bunkers, then cut a 5-wood into the green that found the putting surface and rolled to within five feet of the pin. He made the putt.
“The tee shot is a bit quirky,” said Rose, who shot 71. “They put the tee up 25 today, but that doesn’t really help anybody. If you choose to hit driver you’ve got to cut it over the lake, and with a 3-wood you run out and into the bunkers at 270 yards.”
Harrison Frazar (72) watched his approach splash into the water right of the green, then had to get up and down from about 80 yards to salvage a bogey.
“I don’t like 18,” Frazar said, “how the lake off the tee juts out a little bit too tight for guys on the tee. The angle is awkward. In a way it’s forcing everybody to play from the same spot.”