ST. LOUIS — Welcome to Bellerive, where Gary Player won the U.S. Open in 1965 and Nick Price won the PGA Championship in 1992. Beyond that, Camilo Villegas won the BMW Championship in 2008. Historic track? Not exactly, but it’s where the PGA Championship is taking place this week.
The course underwent a significant renovation in 2006 and was already playing soft entering Tuesday. Then it saw more than an inch of rainfall, further softening the course. How that impacts play this week remains to be seen, but many pros anticipate little to no run-out from tee shots, making the 7,316-yard track seem even longer. All that being known, these are the six holes that should provide the most compelling drama throughout the weekend.
No. 4 — Par 4, 521 yards
The 4th at Bellerive plays as a par 5 for members, but it’s a long par 4 this week. At 521 yards, it might be the most important fairway to hit at BCC, since missing it means a brutally long shot from the rough to a green with bunkers short left and right. As the third-toughest hole at the 2008 BMW Championship, the 4th officially marks the ending of Bellerive’s tame start.
No. 6 — Par 3, 213 yards
Playing over 200 yards, shots carry over a small pond to a thin green that runs front-left to back-right. Pins tucked back and right will test the risk-takers as the bank gets 12-at-Augusta-National steep and will send short shots back into the drink. That being said, the greens should be receptive to all approach shots. You shouldn’t see many incoming balls bounding off the green and running away from the hole.
No. 11 — Par 4, 355 yards
This is one of nine holes where Smith Creek plays a factor in decision making. The creek runs up the right side of a par 4 that is certainly drivable…but is it worth the risk? Probably not, especially with the shots refusing to run out far. But the prevailing wind should be at the players’ back. Ask that question again on Sunday and you might hear a different response.
No. 17 — Par 5, 597 yards
Any great major venue holds the potential for fireworks down the stretch. This is your hole at Bellerive. Players who find the fairway off the tee should be able to reach the green in two. Only the 8th hole played easier in 2008, but surprisingly no eagles were made. Do the soft conditions make holding the green more plausible with a 3-wood? Probably.
No. 18 — Par 4, 457 yards
Finally, the finisher at Bellerive. No hole played more difficult than the 18th during the 2008 BMW Championship. Only 20 birdies were made all week. The PGA field will offer twice as many results, but it will play tough regardless. Expect more of the both-hands-on-the-wheel feeling as you watch players finish.