PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA – The newly renovated par-4 12th hole on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass means well.
The distance – 282 yards for the first two rounds – is short enough to allow virtually every Players Championship competitor to go for the green from the tee. There is the classic Pete Dye feel of visual intimidation, a daunting water hazard and accompanying shaved bank lining the left side near the green.
But rather than what it intends to be, the 12th feels equal parts mundane and contrived. The vast majority of players have realized that going for the green off the tee is only a desirable option for the desperate; as of early Friday afternoon, nobody who had driven the green was under par for the tournament and most who have were in line to miss the cut.
A boatload of players are following their plan for the week. They are laying up no matter the conditions.
“It’s too penal up the left,” Chez Reavie said Friday after putting himself in contention at 4-under 140. “If you’re in the middle of the green, it’s going to kick down into the lake, and so it’s just too much risk for me. I’m going to lay it up every day and try and wedge it close.”
Therein lies the issue. The green pitches to the left and asks for a fade, which means a right-handed player is best served to start the ball over the hazard if he wants to drive the green. Missing right into mounds or pot bunkers is no bargain, either.
“It’s just not a go-for-it hole right now the way it’s designed,” said J.B. Holmes, also in contention at midday Friday. “There’s too much risk for not enough reward, so I think you’ll see most of the guys laying up on that this week.”
There’s nothing exciting about watching a player hit a mid-iron into the fairway and then wedge it onto the green. A fan behind the 12th tee felt as much.
“This is boring,” he said to several friends.
“Well, nobody is going for it,” another responded.
Actually, there have been some attempts. D.A. Points arrived on the tee at 5 over and ripped a 3-wood right at the flag, his ball drifting away to 40 feet. Luke List made an eagle, the first and only one of the tournament at the time. Both arrived with nothing to lose.
Even typically aggressive players agreed that the risk-reward scale isn’t balanced enough to justify taking a rip at it. As of 1:30 p.m. Friday, players hitting irons off the tee had played the 12th hole in 25-under.
Those going for it were just as likely to make a bogey as they were to make a birdie.
“It’s kind of a dicey play because the way they got it cut off on the left side there,” Boo Weekley said. “If you hit it on the green and it rolls, it could roll in the water pretty easy. I did it in the practice round, so it’s kind of crazy to go for it.”
The great short par-4s on the PGA Tour – such as No. 15 at TPC River Highlands, No. 17 at TPC Scottsdale and No. 10 at Riviera – serve their purpose by offering an appropriate reward.
This hole doesn’t seem to accomplish what it wanted to.