While waiting for winner Carl Pettersson to show up for his post-round interview on Sunday, I spent some time digging through the Shotlink system the tour supplies to the media. Aside from remarkable number in regards to shot dispersal (someone hit a 360-yard drive on 11!), I found it interesting to look at the hardest — and easiest holes.
Let’s start with the obvious quesetion — why were the scores so low when early predictions had them much higher? It had a lot to do with the 11th hole, a downhill par-5 that played just slightly over 500 yards.
Scoring average: 4.45
28 eagles, 232 birdie, 21 bogeys
It is almost hard to fathom a hole that had more eagles than bogeys, but that is an indication of just how easy the 11th hole played. Even a missed drive could lead to a birdie. If you didn’t go low on this hole — and the other par-5, No. 9 — you dropped almost a full shot to the field. Note Pettersson birdied or eagled the hole three out of four days.
So what were the hardest holes?
Scoring average: 4.28
Not surprisingly, given this hole played 467-yards uphill and into the wind, many players were left with more than 200-yards into the green. Pettersson was left with 186-yards on his final approach, while Canadian Cam Burke (who missed the cut) had the long drive on the hole at 324 yards. With the pin tucked to the right on Sunday, this was a fine finishing hole that required two excellent shots.
Scoring average: 4.24
This one shouldn’t have come as a big surprise. A converted par-5, the tee shot was tricky and the approach wasn’t much easier.
Scoring average 4.17
This is interesting because stepping onto the tee one wouldn’t think it would be much of a challenge. It only played 400 yards, but the green, plus the fact many players weren’t sure what to hit off the tee, made it a much more difficult than it appeared. Proof that a hole doesn’t need to be tricked up to be challenging, though the steep green does make this a difficult putting surface.
And let’s take a careful look at the 3rd hole, the par-3 that I raised concerns about heading into the event. Why was this hole, with a green that makes your driveway look slow, so easy for the pros? I’d say it came down to pin placement. The tour was obviously concerned about the right side of the green, where balls can easily roll from the back to the front. In order to remove that from the equation the pin was placed in the middle of the green, just over the bunker, for three of four days. On day three it was to the left, but the right side was ignored. The center of the green has less slope compared to the remainder of the putting surface, and the soft conditions and slow greens meant balls would stop.
Overall, the golf course was handed tons of accolades and rightfully so. However, as one former St. George’s insider pointed out in an e-mail to me, the PGA Tour, which ran the course set-up, played the green slower than a typical member-guest. The great irony of the situation is that many people — members and guests — playing the course on a typical day would face green speeds faster than what the PGA Tour’s best had to deal with. Since players continually mentioned speeds were slow, I’m surprised that wasn’t changed.