By Aidan Elder | Chief sports writer
It’s a venue renowned for providing drama. In 1995, it played host to a thrilling Ryder Cup with Europe just managed to edge and in 2003, Shaun Micheel landed the prize that was in the melting pot right until the end. With lots of in form players heading to Oak Hill in New York State, things should be no different this time around. Here’s a look at what’s facing the silly-pants wearers this year.
Hole 1 – 460 Yards – Par 4
It’s an easy enough start to the day for most golfers – unless you’ve been up discussing the joys of Rioja with Miguel Angel Jimenez until the early hours of the morning – in which case it’s probably considerably harder. The Oak Hill opener is a pretty straightforward three wood and 8-iron-ish approach to a green. The fairway is narrow-ish, but very hitable. Bunkers right, left and behind the green will punish mishits or miscalculations, but all in all, it’s a fairly sedate start to the round.
Hole 2 – 401 Yards – Par 4
The narrow-ish fairway is the only thing that should mildly alarm the players off the tee. Providing they don’t push it into the longer grass, they should be left with a handy approach shot. After that however, life gets a little harder. The green is protected by bunkers on three sides and rough behind the green. The possibility of being left with a long putt across an undulating green looms large.
Hole 3 – 214 Yards – Par 3
It’s the first par three of the day, but arguably the hardest. Five bunkers are ready and waiting to punish any tee shots that don’t find the green. Even if you do find the green, there’s no guarantee that you’ll stay there as the false front which will amusingly and agonisingly send many a ball back down onto the fairway.
Hole 4 – 570 Yards – Par 5
It’s not far off 600 yards, but modern golf technology laughs in the face of almost 600 yards. Ha, ha puny grass and sand and stuff! Even guys who don’t hit a huge ball will be able to cut the corner off this dogleg right, leaving a fairly straightforward iron to reach the green in two. It’s a good chance to get moving up that leaderboard.
Hole 5 – 428 Yards – Par 4
Water is a constant throughout the hole. A creek down runs down the right of the fairway and will snaffle plenty of overpriced golf balls off the tee. Even if you do find the fairway with the minimum of fuss, the creek swings left and comes into play for shots finishing short or left of the large-ish green.
Hole 6 – 175 Yards – Par 3
We’re likely to see a lot more water on the sixth and not just from Sergio Garcia’s tears after what happened on the last hole. It’s a straightforward shot downhill to a big enough dancefloor, but the presence of a large bunker to the front right and that pesky creek running around the green will complicate matters for anyone who doesn’t get it spot on – which could be a lot of people.
Hole 7 – 461 Yards – Par 4
If you’ve already seen a couple of balls drop into the wet stuff, then you’re probably not going to like this one either. The creek runs down the right of the fairway landing area, cutting across the fairway and waiting to gobble up anything sliced right or hit too hard. Even if you end up nicely placed on the fairway, the green is on the teeny-tiny side of things guarded by two bunkers to the front and rough behind.
Hole 8 – 428 Yards – Par 4
The water pisses off for a bit, leaving players with a simple enough task. Once again, they’ve to navigate a fairly narrow fairway, but it’s straight and should leave most players with a short iron to the green. That dancefloor has four bunkers surrounding it and another hanging back a bit like it’s shy, but it’s big enough for most players to find with little difficulty.
Hole 9 – 452 Yards – Par 4
Another dogleg right, but this time one that the players aren’t likely to take on. The penalty for missing right is being stuck in a thick forest, which should mean most tee shots are on the conservative side of things. The green is small and kind of equilateral triangle shaped, if you remember your geometry. That guarantees unless the pin is placed smack bang in the middle of the green, it’ll be a pain in the arse in one shape or form. Tricky little hole to end the front nine.
Hole 10 – 429 Yards – Par 4
The water returns on 10, but it cuts across the fairway at a point where it’s unlikely to come into play. A good straight drive will leave you in good shape to reach a decent-sized, but sloping green protected by bunkers left, right and at the back. The approach shot will be the difference between picking up a shot or breaking your club over your knee on this potentially frustrating hole.
Hole 11 – 226 Yards – Par 3
It’s another tricky par three, this time because of the combination of distance, the bunkers and the undulating putting surface. The dancefloor is big enough, but with four bunkers and a bit of the creek surrounding it, anything wayward will get punished.
Hole 12 – 372 Yards – Par 4
A good scoring opportunity for the modern pro as they should be able to clear the trees to the right of the fairway and leave a fairly simple approach shot. The green should be easy to find, but with its contours, it could prove to be much harder to navigate.
Hole 13 – 598 Yards – Par 5
The longest hole of the course, but still one that the players will attempt to reach in two. The creek dissects the fairway at about 300 yards which will tempt a lot of players to take it on. That would leave a long but achievable second into the green, but be warned that it’s a dancefloor surrounded by six bunkers and a little on the small side.
Hole 14 – 323 Yards – Par 4
Another chance to move up the leaderboard on a short par four. Driving the green is an option and if it goes wrong, the chances are you won’t be left in too bad a situation. There are bunkers at the front, but if you’re there in one, you can still turn it into a birdie.
Hole 15 – 181 Yards – Par 3
Oak Hill’s par threes are tougher than most and the last one of the round continues the trend. A long, but narrow green is bordered by a lake to the right and bunkers to the left are the main threats to anything that goes awry off the tee.
Hole 16 – 439 Yards – Par 4
This is pretty simples for the modern golfer. A decent drive will leave a short-ish approach shot to a smallish green that looks not dissimilar to a comedy drawing of a willy. Unless you’re a player likely to laugh at lot at a comedy drawing of a willy, this hole shouldn’t present too many problems.
Hole 17 – 509 Yards – Par 4
Two long par fours close out the round and 17 is the longer, tougher of the two. It’s uphill, doglegs right and if that wasn’t enough of a pain in the arse, the green is three-tiered and peppered with bunkers left and mainly right. A dropped shot here will be the reality for a lot of players.
Hole 18 – 497 Yards – Par 4
18 isn’t quite as nasty as 17, but it’s going to require a lot a fair bit of taming. Bunkers on the right of the narrow landing area on the fairway will flirt with anything off target. One that’s navigated, it’s a little easier, but by no means over. The green is large-ish, but uphill and liable to be misjudged.