My Five: Favorite Finishing Holes
March 08, 2011
1.) Trump National Doral, 476 yards, par 4 (WGC-Cadillac Championship)
Weighing the factors of history, demand on the player and the amount of fear induced, the best of the best. A lot of amazing stuff has happened on the Blue Monster's final test, from Craig Parry's sudden death eagle in 2004 to victory-robbing double bogeys by Greg Norman on down. When the hole plays into the prevailing wind, the drive might be the most difficult on the tour, because the wider landing area on the left is nearly unreachable. If a player can't summon a straight bullet, the bailout to the right leaves an awkward second from where many a ball has been rinsed. Statistically, it has been ranked the most difficult hole more than any other over the years.
2.) TPC Stadium Course, 467 yards, par 4 (The Players)
Still shaky from the gag reflex induced by the island green 17th, players looking down the sharp edge of the railroad-tied, water-everywhere left side of 18th can often feel like it's all too much. The most common reaction -- especially in a left to right wind -- is a bail hard to the right, followed by another bail and a weak bogey. It's no accident the tournament often comes down to who can make a 15-foot par putt. Satisfaction is high when the winner finishes strongly, like Steve Elkington did by flushing a 3-iron from a shallow divot to within 10 feet in 1993. Or when Hal Sutton, holding a one-stroke lead over playing partner Tiger Woods in 2000, pured a 6-iron and called out, "Be the right club TODAY!"
3.) Torrey Pines, South Course, 551 yards, par 5 (Farmers Insurance Open)
When not stretched to its full length of 572 yards, a dramatic risk-reward in the tradition of the back nine par 5s at Augusta. To hold the green with the second shot, it is essential to hit the narrow fairway. From there, it is imperative to clear the pond that fronts the green's left half. Eagle is a real possibility, but so is six or worse. Bunkering around the green and steeply sloped putting forces some extreme sand shots, the most memorable of which remains John Daly's explosion from the back bunker to a front pin to within a winning tap-in. Also the site of the most dramatic 72nd hole birdie in golf history, Woods' bunker to rough to supercharged lob wedge to tying 12-foot putt at the 2008 U.S. Open.
4.) Quail Hollow Club, 478 yards, par 4 (Wells Fargo Championship)
From a design perspective, the hardest of the five. For such a long hole, the fairway is brutally narrow and unforgiving. The creek on the left winds all the way to the green, while the fairway bunkers on the right are too deep to allow most players who find them a chance to get home in two. On top of everything, the slopes on the putting surface border on the extreme. In 2003, David Toms came to the hole with a five-shot lead, got shaky and took an 8 to win by one. In contrast, Rory McIlroy's finest moment remains his 50-foot birdie to close out a 62 and his only PGA Tour win. No final hole says "Man Up!" like this one.
5.) Plantation Course, Kapalua Resort, 663 yards, par 5 (Hyundai Tournament of Champions)
A truly fun hole. Golf's equivalent of the giant slalom, it allows players to bash "sling hooks" more than 400 yards down the right-to-left canted fairway. Still, the second shot -- and even a short third shot -- can be tricky, as the bounce and run must be well judged to get the ball close with the ball running downhill and down grain. The hole has often elicited the spectacular, and never more so than in 2000 when Tiger Woods and Ernie Els each eagled the hole in regulation to get into sudden death (won by Woods). This year, the audience was treated to Bubba Watson taking a driver for his second shot and carving a low, controlled 50-yard slice into the wind that rolled to within eight feet.