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Shane Bacon

Did the 17th at St. Andrews play too tough?

Shane Bacon
Devil Ball Golf

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There isn't an argument for which hole in this world is most famous. We in the States might spit off the 12th at Augusta National or the 18th at Pebble Beach, but none compare to how well known the Road Hole is to everyone that loves the game globally.

Before Open week kicked off, the big talk was the addition of a new tee on the 17th at St. Andrews, making the hole nearly 500 yards.

How did the golfers do at the toughest hole at St. Andrews through the week?

Well, it was once again ranked as the hardest at the British, giving up just 16 birdies all week compared to 173 bogeys, 54 double-bogeys and 14 others.

The hole is a par-4, but it basically plays as a par-4.5, and it seemed to be the one road block (no pun intended) for any good round.

Confused?

Look at Thursday, when John Daly was going about the Old Course in 1995-ish fashion. He was 7-under before he got to the 17th, and a bogey there derailed his cause of putting up a super-low score. That same day, Rory McIlroy was making history on the Old Course, hitting his second shot into the 17th with an uber-aggressive line. The iron shot landed 4 feet from the hole, but he couldn't convert, making a disappointing par that was the one number that stopped him from breaking the scoring record at a major championship with a 62 (he shot 63, with a birdie on 18).

Of the players in the top 10, only Nick Watney was able to navigate the Road Hole at even par, making all fours on the 17th. Louis Oosthuizen was 2-over on 17. Same with Tiger Woods, who has never birdied the Road Hole is his career at this event. Phil Mickelson made par on 17 in his first round, but carded consecutive bogeys the last three days to be another victim of the nasty Road Hole.

The interesting thing after watching four days of action on the Road Hole is the shots that these pros hit to avoid the trouble. You'd see iron shots from the fairway that looked like something you and I would be disappointed in. With the Road Hole Bunker looking dead at the players, and a road and rock wall that came into play numerous times throughout the week, it seemed that the tendency was to be overly cautious, which caused a lot of squares on the scorecard.

So, did the Road Hole play too tough? Interestingly, it didn't. It's a great hole that forces the player to hit four really great shots to make par, and is the only hole at the Old Course that you can always count on to test the player, even in benign conditions.

The new tee forced most of the golfers to hit driver all week, as it was intended to do, but as we've seen over the years, it's the second shot that is the toughest, and that will always be the case, even if the hole plays 600 yards.

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