The Waste Management Phoenix Open at the TPC Scottsdale always provides for an exciting finish. This is not just because of the unprecedented enthusiasm from the crowds, but mainly due to the design of the three closing holes.
Providing much drama, each one offers numerous options for play through risk and reward. Forcing players to decide how to play a hole, rather than allowing them only one option, gives a greater variety of players a chance to succeed in the tournament.
Of obvious intrigue is the 16th hole, made so exciting by its 162 yards in length. It is sufficiently short enough for all players and the 40,000 enthusiastic fans surrounding the hole to expect a great shot. The flagstick on Sunday is normally tucked close to the left bunkers protecting the green. That alone is no reason to shy away. Who would not want the excitement of acing this hole and hearing the screaming fans chanting their name? At the same time, the mocking jeers from the patrons for a poor shot can cut deeper than the bunkers themselves. If the hole were 230 yards it would not generate this excitement. At that length, only a handful of players could actually hit the shot needed, and only a few of those would even choose to attempt it.
The 17th hole is a drivable par four. The flagstick is often placed in the narrow back "thumb" of the green tucked between the lake on the left and bunker on the right. From the tee, a player must choose to lay up or attack the green. Either way, the correct angle to the flagstick must be obtained. If achieved, an eagle is possible and a birdie is likely. If not, a bogey is very possible. The potential for a three-shot swing on this penultimate hole builds on the excitement from the 16th.
The 18th hole is not long by today's standards but the usual Sunday flagstick location in the back right makes it challenging and exciting. From the tee, players face two options. The first is to be aggressive with a driver to the narrow part of the fairway between the lake and large right bunker. This will set up a short approach and the ability to attack the flag. The second is to play safe with a fairway metal to the wide part of the fairway. This will leave a longer and much more difficult approach. Oftentimes, a contender's tee shot on this final hole has cost them the entire tournament ... either an aggressive play was lost to the right into the large right bunker or a safe play left a difficult approach that the player was unable to place into birdie range.
When the tournament is on the line, golf holes that are mentally demanding are far more exciting and intriguing than those that are purely physically demanding. We should expect another entertaining finish at this year's Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Jerry Pate has been designing golf courses for over 30 years. His portfolio of work includes Old Waverly Golf Club in Mississippi, site of the 1999 United States Women's Open; Trump National Colt's Neck (formerly known as Shadow Isle) in New Jersey; Kiva Dunes on the Alabama Gulf Coast; and Rancho La Quinta Country Club in California. See more of his work at www.jerrypategolfdesign.com.)
- Waste Management Phoenix Open
- TPC Scottsdale