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Did the USGA pull a fast one on the field by shortening the par-5 16th hole?

Jonathan Wall
Devil Ball Golf

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Jim Furyk reacts to a poor drive on the par-5 16th hole. (Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO — The USGA wanted to give players the opportunity to produce some final-round fireworks at Olympic Club. So in an effort to make things interesting, USGA executive director Mike Davis decided to throw players a curveball on Sunday, moving the tees up on the 670-yard par-5 16th to 569 yards.

Ranked as the fourth most difficult hole on the course after three days, Davis figured moving the tees up would give players options -- like potentially being able to go for, and reach, the green in two.

Before the start of the round, he told the Golf Channel that the was "exciting." If anything, it gave some of the longer hitters in the field the chance to go for the back-to-back par-5s in two and potentially pick up a couple shots on the field at a critical spot on the course.

The decision seemed to make sense ... at least to those who knew the tee was moving up 101 yards. Surprisingly, that group didn't include some players, who commented after the round about the USGA's decision to completely change things up.

"Casey [Wittenberg] and I were talking about [the tees being moved up on the 16th] today,"  Tiger Woods said. "We never heard all week from the USGA that they were going to move the tee up there.

"They said it was going to be 602 and 675 and we come out there today and it's 575.  And I thought I swiped it off the tee and end up in the fairway and Casey hit his shot and he was a little angry at himself that he hit it in the left rough and it was right down the middle of the fairway.  So it's an interesting setup there."

With the tournament still in the balance, Jim Furyk hit his worst drive of the day on the 16th, a snap-hook that found the rough and forced him to lay up short of the green before settling for a bogey that took him out of a share of the lead.

After the round, he discussed the hole's setup and the decision to shorten it, at one point calling Davis' decision "awkward."

"I know the USGA gives us a memo saying that they play from multiple tees, but there's no way to prepare for a hundred yards," Furyk said. "So there's no way that you're, I thought that they put the tee up like they did, maybe 65 yards up on Friday, but to get to a tee where the tee box is a hundred yards up and the fairway makes a complete L turn, I was unprepared and didn't know exactly where to hit the ball off the tee.  And I took a little bit more of an aggressive route with that 3‑wood."

Even though he did own up to the shot, it's quite interesting that two of the most high-profile players in the field would mention the exact same course tweak after the tournament was over.

In the media center at Olympic Club, the USGA hands out a sheet each day detailing where each pin is located, while also giving notes on each hole. It's easy to understand Woods' frustration with not being informed early in the week regarding the potential change, but the USGA is under no obligation to tell each player how each hole is going to exactly play.

The hole ultimately ended up playing a role in Furyk losing the tournament, but it's difficult to point the finger at Mike Davis for this change. If anything, it made the tournament that much more intriguing with a couple groups left on the course.

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