Meet Oakland Hills Fearsome Fivesome

By Chris LewisAugust 4, 2008, 4:00 pm

The South Course at Oakland Hills Country Club will once again be the focus of the golf world for this weeks 90th edition of the PGA Championship. The course has not hosted the PGA Championship since 1979, when David Graham defeated Ben Crenshaw in a playoff. Once dubbed the Monster by Ben Hogan after he won the 1951 U.S. Open, the club has hosted the 2004 Ryder Cup, six U.S. Opens and two other PGA Championships since its founding in 1916. The club is mostly recognized, however, for the South Courses notorious final five holes, the Fearsome Fivesome. These holes have been a deciding factor in each of the major championships the club has hosted.
 

Oakland Hills 14
No. 14 - Par 4, 501 yards
 
Hole Description/Difficulty: The first hole of the Fearsome Fivesome is a long par 4 that does not have a fairway bunker. At 25 yards, the fairway is very narrow and is protected entirely by trees, providing golfers with very little room for error off the tee. Bunkers have been placed in front of the left and right portions of the green, which is known for offering players little forgiveness for their approach shots.
 
Major Moment: During the Saturday foursomes of the 2004 Ryder Cup, the pairing of Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald birdied the 14th hole to eventually defeat Americans Jim Furyk and Fred Funk 1-up. The match would provide Europe with a large lead that would not be relinquished, as it defeated Team USA in record fashion, 18 to 9 .
 
What Members Say: According to Pat Croswell, PGA professional and the director of golf at Oakland Hills Country Club for 20 years, The hole features an unbelievable fall-away green with a large swale running from front right to back left. The front right hole location is the most difficult on the golf course.
 
Did You Know?: Course architect Rees Jones has added 28 yards to this already treacherous hole since the 2004 Ryder Cup, the last time a prestigious event was held here. Rees is the son of Robert Trent Jones Sr., who redesigned the course for the 1951 U.S. Open.
 

Oakland Hills 15th
No. 15 - Par 4, 401 yards
 
Hole Description/Difficulty: The par 4 15th is famous for its design for two reasons: First, it is a relentless dogleg from right to left that is protected by trees on the entire left side. Secondly, two bunkers have been purposefully placed in the center of the fairway to present an even greater challenge to golfers. One fairway bunker is 240 yards from the tee, the other is 280, providing shorter hitters with a decision to make - hit driver and try to hit over the bunkers or lay up, leaving a longer second shot into a small, contoured green that is already difficult to hold, even with shorter irons.
 
Major Moment: In his 2004 Ryder Cup singles match against Colin Montgomerie, David Toms bogeyed the 15th hole while Montgomerie double-bogeyed in order to halve the match. However, Montgomerie would win the next hole and, eventually the match, with a birdie on the 16th, for a 1-up victory. He even would have the pleasure of making the putt that secured Europes dominating triumph.
 
What Members Say: According to Croswell, The smart play would be to lay up short of the first bunker leaving a seven or eight iron to the green. The inverted saucer-shaped green has crowns and contours, and is flanked by five bunkers, three on the left and two on the right.
 
Did You Know?: Unlike the 14th hole, the length of the 15th has not changed since the 2004 Ryder Cup was staged. The 15th is one of six dogleg holes on the course.
 

Oakland Hills 16th
No. 16 - Par 4, 406 yards
 
Hole Description/Difficulty: This par 4 is Oakland Hills signature hole. Accuracy off the tee is a must for this dogleg right hole as water is in play on the right side, while trees guard the left. The green is wide and shallow with a ridge that runs from the front of the green to the back. Much like the 17th at Valderrama Golf Club in Spain, the 16th has a shaved area near the green that will feed short approaches into the water next to the green.
 
Major Moment: In the 1972 PGA Championship, Gary Player found himself trailing Jim Jamieson as he walked to the 16th tee, after bogeying the 14th and 15th holes. Player sliced his tee shot. However, just when it appeared that he had destroyed his chances of winning his sixth major championship, Player made the seemingly impossible look easy. After standing on a gallery members chair to have a look at the green and line up his shot, he hit a nine iron that cleared the trees and water and landed within four feet of the hole. After birdieing 16, Player won the championship by two shots over Jamieson and 1973 Masters Champion Tommy Aaron. Golf writer Herbert Warren Wind called Players shot one of the most spectacular recovery shots in championship history.
 
What Members Say: Pat Croswell said the following about the 16th: The second shot is one of the most intimidating shots at Oakland Hills. Some players may be tempted to use one extra club and take the water out of play. They run the risk of catching one of the three rear bunkers and leaving a difficult sand shot.
 
Did You Know?: The 16th green is the only green that is guarded by water. The water, along with the shaved area near the right side of the green, will force players to hit a decisive approach in order to avoid water and high scores.
 

Oakland Hills 17th
No. 17 - Par 3, 238 yards
 
Hole Description/Difficulty: The toughest par 3 on the back nine, the 17th is well respected as one of the most difficult holes on the course. Players will need to hit a long iron or a hybrid into a green that requires precise shot making skills and imagination. The green is 30 feet above the tee box and is protected by bunkers on all sides. The green is also severely sloped, with a ridge that starts at the front right and moves to the back center.
 
Major Moment: In the 1985 U.S. Open, two-time TOUR winner Andy North was hoping to regain major glory. The 1978 U.S. Open champion hit his tee shot on the 17th hole into a greenside bunker. He followed this mistake with one of the greatest pressure packed recovery shots in U.S. Open history, as his bunker shot settled inches from the hole. North would go on to win by one shot over Denis Watson, Dave Barr and Tze-Cung Chen. It would be the last victory of Norths PGA TOUR career.
 
What Members Say: Robert Trent Jones Sr. considered this one of the country's great par 3 holes, Croswell said. A hole location on the back right makes for one of the most challenging tee shots in championship golf.
 
Did You Know?: Since the 2004 Ryder Cup, the 17th hole has been lengthened by 38 yards. Golfers will be required to play the hole with an entirely different plan of attack than in previous years. The green will be just as unforgiving as in past major championships however. The lengthened 17th could provide much drama during the end of the final round of this years PGA Championship.
 

Oakland Hills 18th
No. 18 - Par 4, 498 yards
 
Hole Description/Difficulty: Arguably the toughest hole on the course, and, without a doubt, one of the greatest finishing holes in all of golf, the 18th hole has shattered dreams and created legends. The dogleg right par 4 has a fairway that slopes right to left, providing a challenge to even the most accurate drivers. Players will have to hit a long iron to the shallowest green on the course. The green also has a large mound in its center, which provides two landing areas for the players. Accurate shot making is a must in order to have a chance at par.
 
Major Moment: In the 1996 U.S. Open, Davis Love III had his greatest shot at major championship glory at the time. Instead, after hitting two superb shots to the green, he three putted. What will be remembered most is the three-footer he missed for par, after backing off the putt to swat away flies that were in his putting line. Shortly afterwards, Tom Lehman arrived to the 18th tee tied with Steve Jones at two-under par. Lehman hit his drive into a bunker and bogeyed the hole like Love III. Jones, however, made par and defeated Love III and Lehman by just one shot.
 
What Members Say: This has been the most difficult hole in the history of Championship golf at Oakland Hills, Croswell said. Rees Jones has (also) added two additional bunkers, making a total of seven bunkers protecting this dogleg right par 4. (The green) is protected by four bunkers.
 
Did You Know?: The 18th is actually played as a par 5 for Oakland Hills members. To add to the challenge of the course, the hole is played as a par 4 for the professionals. This has provided players with added pressure to score well on a hole that is already known as one of the worlds most challenging finishing holes. Over the years, championships have been won and lost on this picturesque hole. The leader(s) of the PGA Championship will be faced with a daunting task of finishing the race well.
 
Oakland Hills has been and will remain one of the most challenging tests in golf. The course has gained respect from professional golfers since it first held a major competition, the 1922 Western Open. Upon winning the 1951 U.S. Open with a final round of 67, one of only two sub par rounds for the entire week, Ben Hogan said, I am glad I brought this course, this monster, to its knees. (This is) the greatest test of golf I have ever played and the toughest course. After his 1972 PGA Championship victory, Gary Player said, This is the best and toughest American course I've ever played - it is certainly quite humbling. The course will continue to humble players this week and well into the future.
 

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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

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    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.