Much like the majority of the finest short holes in the world great things also come in small packages when it comes to a par 4. Take the 10th at Riviera, host of the Genesis Invitational. On the card it measures just 315 yards – not even a driver for some of these players but it will split opinion on how best to tackle it.
In Tom Doak’s ‘The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses’ the designer writes: “Over the past 30 years George Thomas’ 10th has become an icon of golf course design. The temptation of such a short par 4 – it’s only 285 yards to the front edge of the green – is too big for young and strong players to resist.
“It is the narrowness of the green – just eight paces wide in the back half – combined with its aggressive tilt from right to left that make the hole so difficult for the pros. Even from the right greenside bunker it’s tough to stay on the green and if you are wide of the bunker it’s pretty much impossible.
“However the compounding difficulty is how inviting the hole looks from the tee. The huge bunker to the right lures our eye to the wide expanse of fairway on that side and the bunker is so easily carried that our brains can’t help but tell us to go that way.”
The stats say go for it; the field are 726-under-par when going for the green since 2003 and 99-over when laying up. But the birdies will barely come from taking two putts as, of the 343 attempts to drive the green in 2019, only 13 balls actually found it. Which explains the solitary eagle.
There were 147 birdies to just 33 bogeys but there were also five double-bogeys and one dreaded ‘other’. That belonged to Jordan Spieth, who took seven of his eight shots from within 27 yards of the hole. JB Holmes, who would go on to win, went left all four times but made birdie on three occasions.
Rory McIlroy has calculated that the artillery is the best way forward when tackling Riviera’s third easiest hole.
“This is possibly the best drivable par 4 in the world. It’s just as easy to make a six as it is to make a three, but all the statistics suggest that if you do go for the green, you’re going to play the hole 0.3 of a shot lower than if you lay up.”
As for the player ranked three players below him on the world rankings, Justin Thomas, he will be tackling it in a different fashion.
“Personally I’ve always laid up on that hole. I’ll go for it to that front pin, but I’ve laid up ever since I’ve been on tour. I try to make par and if I happen to make one birdie, then I beat the field for the week. It’s a shot shape or the green shape is good for my wedge, my spin that I have on it with the left-right spin.
“It’s not a very hard wedge shot as long as you can just get your number right. I’ve never looked at the numbers because my miss with a 3-wood or sometimes driver is right and right’s no good up there. I’m just trying to make 4 and maybe sprinkle a birdie or two.”
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