“It’s like having a 3 o’clock appointment for a root canal,” longtime PGA Tour player Mark Calcavecchia said years ago. “You’re thinking about it all morning and you feel bad all day. You kind of know, sooner or later, you’ve got to get to it.”
And there’s no telling what the result might be. Louis Oosthuizen, who has a British Open title to his credit and lost in a playoff at this year’s Masters, came to 17 Thursday and immediately fell into a trap. “I was between clubs,” he said. A nice, easy 9 iron? Or perhaps step on a wedge? That speck of doubt crept in, his 9 iron came out, the water loomed all around. The ball hit the front edge of the bank and bounded back in.
“It proves,” Oosthuizen said afterward, “that a par 3 doesn’t have to be 200 yards to be a great par 3, a really tough hole.”
The hole is tough enough that some players, Woods included, would prefer it to be elsewhere on the course. “I think it’s a perfect eighth hole or something like that,” Woods said. The idea is that a player who, say, double bogeys there with one bad swing would have more time to recover.
But it is the signature hole at the PGA Tour’s signature event, and it isn’t going anywhere. Thursday, Woods and his playing partners, Rickie Fowler and Hunter Mahan, came to 17, walked off the yardage and checked the wind. Each took a solid swing, Fowler to 12 feet, Woods then to 13, Mahan to just four.
“Some kind of strange things can happen on it,” Mahan said. The strangest yet? Three dry golf balls, and three birdies.