The Subtle Yet Scary Island Green

By George WhiteMarch 22, 2002, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Its a short hole, only 140 yards long, with a flagstick that looks so inviting in the practice rounds. But the 17th at the TPC at Sawgrass during The Players Championship can be ' and often is ' terrifying.
The problem is that there is water all the way from the tee box to the green. There is water left of the green, to the right of the green, behind the green. The green is an island, and there is no fairway.
Its in the back of your head all day long, because you know youve got to play them (along with 18) sooner or later, said Mark Calcavecchia. Its like having a three oclock appointment for a root canal; youre thinking about it all morning and you feel like (spit) all day. You know sooner or later, youve got to get to it.
There is no bail-out ' none. Its just a little 9-iron, perhaps a very easy 8, but its position on the course is crucial ' the next-to-last hole, one which could very easily botch up an otherwise-impressive round. And there simply is no room for error ' miss the shot and youre wet. And the drop zone may be a more difficult shot, 70 yards from which it is difficult to spin the ball back.
Youve just got to step up and hit the golf shot, said Jeff Sluman. And until you play it under conditions when youre livelihood is at stake, its not that intimidating.
But Thursday through Sunday, your belly is jumping a little bit. You understand youre name is on your bag (meaning you are a pro), and there is a reason there is, and youve just got to step up and hit the shot. And sometimes youre going to hit balls in the water.
The little hole measured only 137 yards in length for Round 1, yet there were 26 balls that plunked into the water in the capricious winds. The hole was the second toughest on the course, playing to an average of almost a half-stroke over par. And yet, Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez aced it ' with an 8-iron, which he would normally use for a 150-yard shot.
Stuart Appleby was one of the unfortunate ones, his tee shot going way to the left, almost hitting the bank on dry land to mar what was an otherwise nifty round. He went into 17 with a 4-under-par score and left at 2-under.
I didnt hit a very good shot, said a disconsolate Appleby. I tried to hit a knockdown 8-iron. The wind was probably blowing about 11 oclock, probably a club (difference) into the breeze.
The hole makes you ' if youre not indecisive, it can really just throw things at you and theres a lot going on on that hole. Its an obvious awareness theres no grass to chip from.
Calcavecchia knows it is important to pick a club ' and a swing ' that you believe in.
You just walk around there and you look at it and you tell yourself, Commit to a club, pick a shot and hit it. You know, most of the time, you hit it the way you want it.
Of course, some of the time, you dont. This is what plays on the mind of the players. And if you dont, you might as well start walking to the drop zone. There is no chipping from the rough on hole 17.
You are fairly sure you can just get it to the middle of the green, said Calc. Sunday the pin is over there on the right, and the weather is nice, theres not a whole lot of gusty wind. You just aim for the ridge.
Its a 9-iron, you know. If it was a 5-iron or something, it would be a different story. You ought to be able to suck it up and concentrate hard enough.
You ought to, yes you should. But thats the point. Is there a more evil hole than that?
Probably not, confessed Calcavecchia. Thats a good word for it, on account of you can make an excellent swing and make double (bogey) or worse.
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'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

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Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”

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Ball headed O.B., Stone (68) gets huge break

By Mercer BaggsJuly 19, 2018, 2:14 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brandon Stone knew it when he hit it.

“I knew I hit it out of bounds,” the South African said following his opening round in the 147th Open Championship.

Stone’s second shot on the par-4 18th, from the left fescue, was pulled into the grandstands, which are marked as O.B. But instead of settling in with the crowd, the ball ricocheted back towards the green and nearly onto the putting surface.

Stone made his par and walked away with a 3-under 68, two shots off the early lead.

“I really didn’t put a good swing on it, bad contact and it just came out way left,” Stone said. “I feel so sorry for the person I managed to catch on the forehead there, but got a lucky break.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“When you get breaks like that you know you’re going to have good weeks.”

It’s been more than just good luck recently for Stone. He shot 60 in the final round – missing a 9-foot birdie putt for the first 59 in European Tour history – to win last week’s Scottish Open. It was his third career win on the circuit and first since 2016. It was also just his first top-10 of the season.

“A testament to a different mental approach and probably the change in putter,” said Stone, who added that he switched to a new Ping Anser blade model last week.

“I’ve been putting, probably, the best I have in my entire life.”

This marks Stone’s sixth start in a major championship, with his best finish a tie for 35th in last year’s U.S. Open. He has a missed cut and a T-70 in two prior Open Championships.