One short hole changed the course of the Kemper Open yesterday. The 182-yard, par-3 ninth cost players money, tried their tempers and drew all manner of harsh invective.
A 182-yard hole with an elevated tee and a bizarrely narrow, elongated green, the ninth was the site of telling disasters for a number of players. Tom Kite's par there was an important and rare one as he went on to final round 69 and a 14-under-par 270 for a seven-stroke victory, while a spate of bogeys, double bogeys and even a triple bogey drove many of his challengers out of contention.
"They should blow it up," Greg Norman said.
"It stinks," Scott Hoch said.
"I personally don't like it," Howard Twitty said.
The reasons for such vitriol were as follows. Norman double-bogeyed it twice in two days, and his 5-iron into the creek yesterday took him out of contention as he dropped from 9 under to 7 under. He eventually shot 73 to finish at 6-under 278.
Dave Barr triple-bogeyed it, finding a sand trap and then a creek, to go from 7 under to 4 under. He shot 76 to finish at 2-under.
Hoch double-bogeyed it to go from 7 under to 5 under. He shot 75 to finish at 4-under 280. Howard Twitty got off with just a bogey to drop from 9 under to 8 under, and his 71 put him at 7-under 277.
Even Kite, who played it 2 under par for the week, said he was not partial to the hole. But he couldn't criticize it after he stood on the tee and watched the threatening threesome ahead of him, Norman, Hoch and Barr, play the hole in 16 strokes. When he parred it, he had picked up seven strokes total.
"I can't complain about the hole because I played it in 2-under," he said. "But most of the field I think played it over par. Look, it's a scary hole."
The exact figures were 270 pars, 52 birdies, 105 bogeys, 19 double bogeys and five "others."
Several characteristics of the hole drew complaints from pros. They charged that the height of the tee makes it almost impossible to judge winds that swirl in the gully. A large hump in the middle of the green is too severe, and causes too many three-putts. To the right of the hole is a crevice filled with rocks and water. To the left are bunkers.
Norman's play on the hole was perhaps the most spectacularly hurtful. He double-bogeyed it Saturday when his 5-iron went into the creek, and he attempted to play it out. He got the ball to the green, but three-putted. Yesterday, he hit his 5-iron in exactly the same spot.
This time, he took a drop on the other side of the creek. But his pitch flew a good 20 feet past the flag, which was tucked in a corner. He missed that putt, and made a difficult two-footer for the double bogey.
"I think it's a little unfair," Norman said. "If you're on the green, you par it; if you're off, you double bogey."
Hoch's experience on the hole was equally nightmarish. His ball went to the left bunker. His pitch came out too fast, and the ball slid across the narrow width of the green and threatened to fall into the crevice. It perched on the ridge, and his pitch left him with a two-footer. He missed it and also took double bogey.
Hoch had hit a 5-iron. He thought the wind was going from right to left, but, as the ball hung in the air, it was caught by a left-to-right breeze that drove it into the bunker.
"It ate my lunch," Hoch said. "I hit decent shots, and it still ate my lunch. Norman hit decent shots, and it ate his lunch."
Barr had by far the worst time on the hole. His iron went into the bunker, and came to rest against a rock that a spectator had thrown into the trap. A tour official removed it for him, but his lie was deep and dreadful. He blasted it out, and all the way across the green and into the gully. It took him three strokes to get it out, the third pitch finally coming to rest a foot away, and he sank it gratefully for 6.
"I was just trying to get lucky," he said.
Twitty's bogey was perhaps the most inexplicable, because it began well. His 7-iron made it safely on the green, but the large roll in the center caused it to halt about 50 feet from the pin. That still should have been good enough for a two-putt par, but again the hump caused him problems, and he three-putted.
"Just too many strange things happen on that hole," Twitty said. "It's goofy golf."
Tournament Chairman Ben Brundred said no changes are contemplated on the hole, which officials are hoping will become the trademark of the golf course.
"I don't think they will make a change," Brundred said. "I personally think the hump through the green is severe. I'd hate to see it change. That's going to become the signature hole on the course."