The 17th Hole: a Fascinating Train Wreck
By Stephanie Wei under General

If you wanted to catch the equivalent of a car crash on the interstate, then look no further than the 17th hole. When I sat down in the grandstands near the green, I was only planning for a quick drive-by — perhaps watch a group or two, but I couldn’t peel myself away to see what would happen next. It was so awful that it was intriguing.

Let’s take a look at 17 by the numbers: 3.57 average, the hardest hole of the day, 12 birdies, 56 pars, 71 bogeys, 10 double bogeys and one other.

The first group I watched was Trevor Immelman, Robert Karlsson and David Toms. None of them hit the green. Immelman chipped up from the rough on the left side and almost knocked it in. He saved for par. Karlsson had hit what appeared to be a solid shot. His ball landed on the green, but rolled up behind the pin into the thick collar, where he had a quick putt coming back.

Playing at 220 yards, it’s nearly impossible to stop the ball in the teensy landing area with a 3-iron. I watched almost 10 groups stagger by and not one player ended up on the green below the hole. One player reluctantly described it as “almost unfair,” but added “it’s the US Open, it’s tough.” Oh, and how was the wind? It was breezy, but nothing absurd.

Arjun Atwal knocked his shot on the left collar. He rolled in a solid 30-footer for birdie — only the fourth one of the day at that point. In the same group, Jason Gore, who managed to pull off white pants quite well for a man of his proportions, hit a fantastic bunker shot from the front trap and made his four-footer to save par.

Meanwhile, the third in the group, Jim Herman missed right of the green, just over the front tier of the green and short of the back bunker (the one right of the pin). He couldn’t convert because it’s practically impossible to stop the ball from there with that ridge (see the picture above). The guys sitting behind me had seen every group go through and said the only player to get up-and-down from that spot was Retief Goosen.

The fifth birdie of the day came from amateur Alex Martin, who hit it past the pin and drained the ten-foot putt.

Someone named Rich Barcelo made the best up-and-down I saw. He must have chunked his tee shot because he was about 50 yards short on the left side. He hit an excellent pitch shot and landed it just in the first cut of the rough over the bunker so the ball actually stopped to about four feet shy of the cup.

But the most interesting play of the day came from Ryan Moore. His bogey deserves its own post…

If you happen to be at Pebble Beach, I recommend camping out by the 17th green for at least a few groups. I found it fascinating as a spectator (and golf geek) to see the guys attempt to convert for par or just take their bogey and get the hell out of there.