Doral's 16th still driveable, but is reward worth the risk?
Doral's old 16th hole was one of those rare holes that got better the longer players hit the ball. A pretty simple drive and short-iron two-shotter eventually became drivable by Phil Mickelson and a few others, even with trees in the way and nothing too rewarding for having a go. The tour rules staff went with the flow, however, and for the final years of the old 16th's existence, drivability became its identity in shaping conclusions to the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
At the revamped Doral, Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner have taken out trees to the left of the fairway, expanded a lake, elevated the fairway and redesigned the green. At 340 yards, with plenty of tee space to go forward, the 16th should be driveable again, though the reward for having a go is debatable.
Playing into the prevailing wind, there are two lay-up options, but most players will use a long iron or hybrid to set up a full wedge shot. The newly elevated landing area is beautifully shaped to add character and also to drain infinitely better than the old one. Mudballs were a big part of playing the 16th.
The expanded lake sneaks in close to the front left of the green but will probably only catch a few miss-hit drives all week. The real issue is whether players want a full-length wedge approach to a tightly bunkered green, or a bunker second shot, as the odds are slim of landing and keeping a ball on the green. In the bomb-and-gouge mentality of most players, many will attempt to drive the green and take their chances. But in the hands of a wise old pro like Zach Johnson, four days of laying up will likely lead to at least two birdies because the wedge shot, while tough, is very reasonable.
There is no shortage of risk in driving the green, but how much reward awaits is yet to be determined. Then again, there wasn't a whole lot of reward in driving the old 16th and the players went for it anyway.