Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches

PGA National (Champion Course)

The Loop

Even when the stakes are low, the 18th is a knee-knocker

August 14, 2011

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. - Five, six hours before the leaders came to the diabolical 18th hole of this PGA Championship, Sean O'Hair faced a decision there that tests a player's intelligence, skill, and experience. Also, his guts.


(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

From an awkward stance in the right rough, downhill some, the ball half-settled in Bermuda rough, 180 yards to the green, over water, into a palpable breeze -- go or no go?

Nothing much was at stake for O'Hair, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour, a way-back also-ran this week. Still, he had attacked the hole -- playing 471 yards Sunday -- with a driver off the tee that left his ball on that slope between right-side bunkers.

Clearly, he wanted to hit the thing. He hadn't used driver to create a lay-up situation. His playing partner, Shaun Micheel, did that with a 5-wood off the tee. So O'Hair conferred with caddie Brian Smith. "What we got?" O'Hair said.

"One-eighty," Smith said.

With a 7-iron in hand, O'Hair made three practice swings, testing his balance.

"Can you get it up from there?" Smith said.


"You sure?" Smith said.

"Yeah," O'Hair said.

He moved to the ball and set the 7-iron into the Bermuda. No sooner did he do that, though, than he backed off. He smiled sheepishly and traded the stick for a lob wedge. With a good third to eight feet, O'Hair made his par the hard way.

But what, say, if he had been the tournament leader and needed a three to win?

Would he have gone with the awkward-lie, out-of-rough 7-iron into the wind over


Without hesitation, O'Hair said, "Of course."

Five, six hours later, people with a lot at stake would be asked the same gut-check question.

--* Dave Kindred