PITTSFORD, N.Y. Placing an indelible mark on a major championship for the first time ever, more than 92,000 votes were cast on PGA.com, Facebook and Twitter over the past 19 days in the "PGA Championship Pick the Hole Location Challenge Hosted by Jack Nicklaus." The fans selected "Hole Location C" from among the four options for the official location of the 15th hole at Oak Hill Country Club during Sunday's final round of the Season's Final Major.
As a result, Sunday's hole location on No. 15 will be placed 25 yards from the front of the green— and just 4 yards from both the right side of the green and the lake that borders the right edge of the green. The selection by the fans means that the water hazard will almost certainly come into play, setting up a dramatic, risk-reward decision for the world's best players on the final par 3 of the 95th PGA Championship. During Sunday's final-round coverage on TNT and CBS, fans will be able to see the winning hole position live.
A collaborative learning experience between The PGA of America and record-tying, five-time PGA Champion Jack Nicklaus, the "PGA Championship Pick the Hole Location Challenge" is designed to educate fans on how course setup impacts a golfer's strategy in playing a hole; attract more people to the game through interactive fan engagement; and help explain what hole location information players are provided each day.
"The PGA of America is excited by the extremely positive response we have received for the PGA Championship Pick the Hole Challenge Hosted by Jack Nicklaus," said PGA President Ted Bishop. "Our goal was to ensure that golf fans worldwide were more engaged with the 95th PGA Championship than ever before, and we are delighted with the results. Just as important, the players have been very complimentary about the interactive nature of the initiative and the innovative opportunity for fan participation."
The recently redesigned 15th hole at Oak Hill is a difficult downhill 181-yard par 3 that requires a mid-iron to a narrow green. The picturesque lake along the right side of the green is the big concern for players, especially when the prevailing wind is blowing toward the hazard. A steep drop-off also lurks on the backside of the green and three bunkers accentuate the left side.
Sharing his insight into playing the hole, Nicklaus was excited by the fans' selection, pointing out that players competing in the PGA Championship will be especially mindful of course management with this hole location. He expects players will use an "extra club or club-and-a-half" to compensate for the traditional wind direction, as a high shot that stays short of the flag and in the middle of the green is required to avoid the danger that defines and surrounds the hole. With the hole location so close to the water's edge, Nicklaus would opt to play it safe—the caveat being where a player stands on the leaderboard with just four holes to play in the Championship.
"The chance for golf fans to interact with the PGA Championship and play a role in shaping the outcome of the final round fascinates me," said Nicklaus, who also personally voted for Hole Location C on PGA.com. "It's like being able to call the shots during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl.
"Now, if I was in the field, I would look at a hole location like Option C and think, 'No, no, no.' I would likely stay away from going at that. Because Option C is the closest to the water, it's probably the most dangerous of the hole locations, especially if a player is trying to get it close. But that hole also gives a player an option if he wants to play conservatively, because there is plenty of room short left."
Nicklaus, whose final PGA Championship victory occurred at Oak Hill in 1980, collaborated with PGA Chief Championships Officer Kerry Haigh to select the scenic 15th hole, due to the impact it will likely have on the PGA Championship's outcome. As a result, Haigh identified and selected four distinct Championship hole locations for fans to vote.
PGA.com, the Official Website of The PGA of America and managed by Turner Sports, also offered video vignettes from Nicklaus that educated golfers on how course setup impacts a golfer's strategy in playing a hole. Fans were also encouraged to follow the conversation via #pgachamp #YouPick.
Haigh, who has set up PGA Championship, Ryder Cup, Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid, and PGA Grand Slam of Golf courses since 1989, is excited about the possibilities of the Challenge.
"To me, it has been fascinating to listen to the insight of Jack Nicklaus, the best player in history, when he is looking at the yardage book, and what comes into his mind when playing to each of the four different hole locations," added Haigh. "The reason we chose hole No. 15 is that with the redesign, there's a lot of wonderful hole locations throughout the entire green. There's water down one side and a steep drop-off behind the green. Any hole location on this green is challenging, difficult and interesting. So, in terms of setting it up, from my standpoint, it was great."
The PGA Championship perennially features the strongest field in golf and is one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world. This week, 99 of the top-100 ranked players in the world are competing at Oak Hill. Since 1916, golf's best professionals have been competing for the PGA Championship's coveted Wanamaker Trophy, with a list of champions that includes: Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Gene Sarazen, Walter Hagen and Nicklaus.