The long and the short of the 18th hole

Sunday Times - - Sport Golf/soccer - By LIAM DEL CARME at Sun City

● As the third long­est course in Euro­pean Tour his­tory, the de­mand­ing 7,833-yard (7.16km) Gary Player Coun­try Club (GPC) de­mands a test of skill, as it does stamina.

Rather than be­ing driven by the need to flirt with peril fur­ther down the fi­nal fair­way, play­ers un­der­stand­ably slip into sur­vival mode when they ar­rive on the 18th tee.

Very rarely has the 18th de­ter­mined the win­ner on the 72nd hole here, though Tiger Woods’s chip to earn a spot in a play-off be­fore los­ing to Nick Price in 1998 was met with thun­der­ous ap­proval.

Go­ing the ex­tra length

Play­ers tend to play the 18th con­ser­va­tively and by adding an ad­di­tional 25m for this year’s Ned­bank Golf Chal­lenge (NGC) they are now com­pelled to drive, al­beit with cau­tion. The hole now mea­sures 475m on the in­sis­tence of orig­i­nal de­signer and golf­ing high priest Gary Player.

Some lead­ing South Africans how­ever think the idea was ill-con­ceived. “I don’t think it is very clever,” said Charl Schwartzel bluntly not long af­ter he birdied the 18th in his open­ing round in the NGC.

“I would have left it where it was. I would have taken out the bunker rather, the one on the fair­way. Make the guys play more ag­gres­sive and bring the wa­ter into play. If the guy is will­ing enough to hit it far up there give him a nine-iron in.”

That’s ex­actly what he hit en route to birdie on that hole on the open­ing day af­ter he hit a three-wood off the tee.

“He was quick to re­mind, how­ever, that that move was down­wind.

A chance to birdie

“I hit it up the left side and had a nine iron in. If you left the tee where it was and you take the bunker out you get guys hit­ting three wood from the short tee a lot fur­ther up there. That’s what peo­ple want to see on a Sun­day. There is a dan­ger to it be­cause you can still make bo­gey if you want to be ag­gres­sive. If you pull it off you have a good chance of a birdie.

“Give him a chance to make a birdie for a more ex­cit­ing fin­ish. It is the big­gest grand­stand on the golf course and you make the hole long. Ba­si­cally ev­ery­one is just play­ing for par,” said the for­mer Masters cham­pion.

For­mer Open win­ner Louis Oosthuizen

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.