FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Lacey Croom didn’t join her future husband’s gallery until his second hole Thursday morning at Bethpage. That meant she missed one of the highlights of Max Homa’s opening round at the PGA Championship.
Homa, who two weeks ago grabbed his first PGA Tour title at the Wells Fargo Championship, started off the 10th tee at 7:07 a.m. He had already warned Croom about what he was facing right from the start: a 502-yard par 4 that played the most difficult hole in both previous majors championships the Black Course had hosted. In the first round of the 2002 U.S. Open, several players struggled just to reach the fairway off the tee.
Despite the crisp morning air, Homa not only found the fairway with his drive, but hit a 4-iron approach from 194 yards to just outside five feet. When he holed the putt, he was the first of only seven players to birdie the hole.
“She came up when we were on 11 tee and she looked at the scoreboard and laughed, she was shaking her head,” Homa said. “It was kind of backwards of what I told her was going to happen. … Anytime you can get on that green in two is awesome, but to add a birdie, great way to start.”
That wasn’t hyperbole. It was an actual statistical fact. By day’s end, just 46 of the 156 players in the PGA field hit the green in regulation, a 29.49 percent GIR that ranked the highest among any of the treacherous holes at Bethpage for most of the day.
Playing in the threesome ahead of Homa’s off No. 10 in the morning wave, Thomas Pieters experienced the hole’s treachery when he made a triple-bogey 7. It set a bad tone as he would make bogey and double bogey on his next two holes. Give Pieters credit he held on to shoot a four-over 74.
Teeing off more than an hour after Homa, Tiger Woods made a double bogey on No. 10 to begin his round, en route to a two-over 72. (When Homa heard about how Tiger did, he sarcastically responded “I guess that means I’m better than him.”)
Other notables who shot double bogey or worse: Rickie Fowler, Steve Stricker, Branden Grace, Cameron Champ and Jordan Spieth.
Just how important is it to hit the fairway on the hole? Consider the follow breakdown of all those who didn’t:
GIR from left rough: 2/24 (8.33 percent)
GIR from right rough: 0/19 (0.00 percent)
GIR from fairway bunker: 1/18 (5.88 percent)
Players who found the rough off the tee mostly conceded the chance to reach the green with the approach, electing to instead lay up short of the green in hopes of saving a par. Take a look at this scatter plot of all the approach shots into the 10th green:
And if you hit the fairway, well, that didn’t guarantee success either. Of the 86 players who found the short grass off the tee, only 43 (50 percent) also recorded a green in regulation.
Interestingly, despite its 4.506 average, the hole did not play the toughest of all 18 at Bethpage on the day. That “honor” went to the par-4 15th, where the final stroke average was 4.621 and only three birdies were made.
And players’ attitudes toward the hole differ somewhat depending on at what time in their round they step up on the tee.
“Any time you have a 500-yard par 4, they’re not ones you look forward to, especially when it’s your first hole of the day,” said Fowler, who began his round on No. 10. “It is a lot easier as the 10th hole. You know where your game stands. You know where your misses are at and how you’re driving the ball.”
Either way, there’s nothing easy about No. 10. Take your par and gladly walk to the 11th tee.