Notebook: Many Players Benefit from Tempting Third
By Stuart Hall
VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – On the par-4 third hole, which played at an inviting 315 yards for Friday’s second round, Justin Leonard not only took the two greenside bunkers out of play, he purposely left his tee shot short of the natural sandy area that pokes into the fairway at 230 yards from the teeing ground.
It was just one of many strategies used by players to navigate the tempting dogleg-right. Donald Ross, whose longtime home borders the hole on the left, would have been proud.
Bubba Watson hit an iron to about 20 yards left of the green and pitched on. Martin Kaymer drove the green and left himself a 40-foot putt from behind the hole for eagle.
“I thought three was great,” said Brendon de Jonge, who birdied the hole, which measured 307 yards on a straight line from tee markers to the flagstick. “It gave you an opportunity and gave you all kinds of options.”
In Thursday’s opening round, the hole played at 391 yards and the scoring average was 4.16, yielding a scant 11 birdies. On Friday, the hole played more than a half-stoke easier easier (3.60) as creativity – and good fortune – was at a premium.
Minutes after Adam Scott’s drive funneled through a small gap between two bunkers and onto the green, Darren Clarke’s tee shot followed a similar path. The difference was Clarke’s ball was slightly to the left and tracked off the green’s left edge and into the bunker. Both players made birdie.
“I thought it was a good little setup,” said Brooks Koepka, who birdied the hole en route to a 68 and a 2-under 138 score for the championship. “I actually missed it in a horrible spot. I hit an unbelievable bunker shot and still was 8 feet.”
Miguel Angel Jimenez didn’t need to worry about putting after his shot from the front-left bunker. It curled into the hole for the day’s lone eagle on No. 3. He was joined by 75 competitors who made birdie, meaning nearly half of the 156 players walked away better than they started.
While Koepka and Jimenez were two of the success stories, Louis Oosthuizen was not.
Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, drove short and left, leaving himself a 20-yard second shot. He hit his pitch thin, through the green and into the right bunker, chipped on and two-putted from about 10 feet for bogey.
“I thought it was done really well today,” said Watson, the reigning Masters champion who missed the cut. “It was short enough where people could drive it, but the pin was in a location where you could hit some good bunker shots and chip shots and make birdie. I didn’t make birdie, but I hit a good shot in there and missed the putt.”
Snedeker Relishes the Chase
If Martin Kaymer hears any footsteps this weekend, they could very well belong to Brandt Snedeker.
The 2012 FedExCup champion on the PGA Tour, Snedeker may be the player within striking distance who most relishes the challenge of chasing down a front-runner. Of his six career wins, Snedeker three times has come from behind on the final day, overcoming deficits of five, six and seven strokes.
At 3-under 137, he trails Kaymer by seven. And he has 36 holes to catch up, not just 18. So it’s certainly doable. And Snedeker, who has finished in the top 25 in five of his seven U.S. Open starts, is feeling a surging confidence in his game.
Oh, and he enjoys the chase.
“I’m excited about this weekend, and I can draw on those experiences from the past,” Snedeker said. “I know the pressure’s going to be there, I know it’s going to be tough, and I know this golf course is not going to be the same as it was the last two days. Even if we get rain, I got a feeling it’s still going to be firmer tomorrow, the pins are going to be tougher than they have been, it’s going to be a tough test and that’s what you want. So it’s going to be a lot of fun.
“Sunday, back nine, we’ll find out where everything lays.”
Now That’s A 3!
Ken Duke’s tee shot at the par-3 ninth nestled above a bunker next to a clump of native wiregrass, leaving him with no chance to reach the green. So the 45-year-old from Hope, Ark., got a little creative. He used the toe of his putter to knock the ball – left-handed – back into the bunker and then improbably holed out for an unlikely par.
“I’m a pretty good bunker player,” said Duke, who recorded his first PGA Tour win last year at the Travelers Championship. “We were just trying to make four. And when it came out, I thought it had a chance to go in and it did. Sometimes you do the right thing and it pays off and it works out, which is good.”
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites. David Shefter of the USGA and Dave Shedloski also contributed to this report.