The last hole is leav­ing last­ing im­pres­sion

Los Angeles Times - - 57 - By Teddy Green­stein tgreen­stein@tribpub.com

UNIVER­SITY PLACE, Wash. — The 72nd hole at the U. S. Open will be hailed by some for its in­trigu­ing de­sign. And shred­ded by oth­ers for its gross un­fair­ness.

If you’re look­ing for mid­dle ground, try another hole. Or another course.

The 18th at Cham­bers Bay was de­signed to be a par- f ive, giv­ing com­peti­tors a le­git­i­mate chance to win the U. S. Open with a birdie. But USGA Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Mike Davis got an idea — f lip the f irst and 18th from round to round, al­ter­nat­ing be­tween par- four and parfive.

“Think of these two as a par- nine,” Davis said dur­ing Fox’s cov­er­age.

So on Sun­day, as on Fri­day, the open­ing hole will play as a par- f ive. And its neigh­bor to the south will drive some play­ers bonkers as a par- four.

Lee West­wood made a triple- bo­gey there Fri­day and called it a “stupid par- four” on Twit­ter. Jor­dan Spi­eth called it “the dumb­est hole I’ve ever seen in my life” en route to mak­ing his only six through three rounds.

Spi­eth said his beef is there’s only a “f ive- or six­yard area” to land a drive ex­cept for the “10 to 12 guys that can f ly it 310 yards” over the bunker left of the fair­way. Spi­eth could not carry the bunker Fri­day and then hit the lip on his sec­ond shot.

The hole played down­wind Fri­day, bring­ing the cross- bunker on the right into play. Dustin John­son and Adam Scott hit drives into the bunker, and their balls were so close, John­son had to mark his in the sand. Scott saved par; John­son did not.

“So you de­cide: Do you take it up the left side [ with driver] or hit three- wood off the tee and lay it up?” Tiger Woods said. “But it’s 324 to the right bunker, and that’s noth­ing when it’s down­wind.”

The Golf Chan­nel’s Frank No­bilo put it this way: “You’ve got a 525- yard par­four where you won’t let the play­ers drive it down the right any fur­ther than 325 yards. ... It’s a head- scratcher.”

But that opin­ion is not unan­i­mous. Michael Put­nam, the Ta­coma na­tive who played the f irst of­fi­cial round at Cham­bers Bay in 2007, made par on No. 18 and said, “It was great. Pretty gen­er­ous fair­way. Hit driver, nine- iron to the edge of the green. It was an easy hole.”

And Put­nam is hardly a Cham­bers Bay homer, hav­ing called the greens “crusty and hard to putt.”

Stand by the 18th green for an hour and you get an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for both per­spec­tives.

First per­spec­tive: The green, which has waves like the ocean and ridges like a potato chip, was de­signed to re­ceive the short- iron ap­proaches of a par- five.

“The green was de­signed to be the de­fense,” said Jay Blasi, the pro­ject ar­chi­tect on the Robert Trent Jones Jr. de­sign. “The green is the haz­ard.”

Sec­ond per­spec­tive: Play­ing to a mid­dle- left pin Fri­day, the play­ers at­tempted all types of ap­proach shots. That made for great theater and cre­ated pre­cisely what USGA of­fi­cials de­sire: Give play­ers op­tions and make them think.

Some landed their ap­proaches in the fes­cue to the left of the green, set­ting up an up­hill birdie try. Sev­eral used a ridge in the back left of the green as a back­stop. Rickie Fowler did that, and his ball kissed the edge of the cup, al­most an ea­gle. Fowler made one of only 17 birdies as the hole yielded a scor­ing av­er­age of 4.33, mak­ing it the fifth- tough­est on the course.

On Satur­day, as a 577yard par- f ive, it gave up 22 birdies to only 11 bo­geys or worse. Jason Day made a birdie four, while the other co- lead­ers — Spi­eth, John­son and Branden Grace — made five.

Jimmy Walker bombed a drive 337 yards over the left bunker Fri­day and had a short enough ap­proach shot ( 176 yards) to spin it hole­high. Ryan Moore’s ap­proach stayed on the top ridge, giv­ing him a triple­break­ing 21- foot putt that had the speed of a bullet train. He man­aged to twop­utt and save par.

Luke Don­ald made bo­gey Fri­day af­ter driv­ing it into the right rough and said: “The USGA is al­ways try­ing to push the bound­ary and make things a lit­tle quirky. But it doesn’t bother me.”

Don­ald, the for­mer world No. 1, said play­ers have de­bated in the locker room whether to pur­posely hit a drive well left, onto the f irst fair­way, to avoid the bunkers on 18.

“It’s not a bad an­gle from there, but it is kind of blind,” Don­ald said.

Spi­eth, eyes wide open, said he plans to hit a “punch­slice” off the tee Sun­day.

Blasi and the de­sign team re­al­ize the hole will ap­peal to some play­ers but not all. “Jor­dan is a smart player and un­der­stands the game well,” Blasi said. “I think he will fig­ure it out.”

That much is no cer­tainty. But this is:

“It will make for an in­ter­est­ing fin­ish,” Don­ald said.

Char­lie Riedel As­so­ci­ated Press

PA­TRICK REED LEAVES No. 18 on Thurs­day, when it was a par- f ive. It will be a par- four to­day.

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