The 18th took the pole position for hole of the week on Thursday thanks to its ability to produce a wide range of scores. The reachable par 5 yielded eagles and routine birdies but also doled out penalties to players trying to get their rounds in the house. In quick succession we saw (or didn’t, depending on whether or not you were subject to USA Network) Jordan Spieth find a pot bunker and make a bogey, Adam Scott make double after hitting it OB on his first tee shot, and Rickie Fowler stumble to a +1 finish after sending two out of bounds on his approach shot and making triple bogey.
The 18th features in-course out of bounds all the way up the right side of the fairway. That feature drives all the strategy of the hole. The closer you get to the out of bounds, the shorter the hole plays, the more open your approach to the green is, and the less out of bounds factors into your next shot.
The issue is that out of bounds presents the stiffest penalty in golf: stroke and distance. Wisely, players are terrified of this outcome and have a propensity to bail out left where thick rough and pot bunkers lie. Finding the rough takes all control out of your second shot which still has out of bounds in play and pot bunkers require a wedge to get out of, leaving a long third. The 18th is fascinating because a great tee shot creates a far greater shot value than usual. So many shots in golf end up in the “acceptable” range of outcomes, but the 18th tee shot presents a clear binary: it’s good or bad. This hole should be fascinating when we get to the weekend and the intensity of the championship continues to ramp up.
This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.