There is no question that the star of the week is the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. The Ocean Course was introduced to the world in the 1991 RyderCup. Since then, it has matured from being a young monster into being a mature, major championship venue. It has taken some time and some work. The greens were entirely rebuilt to implant a new, tour-quality grass. The 18th green was also moved its final resting place along the coastline and finally, a proper clubhouse was built and now can host the world's best golfers and media in a worthy setting.
We know the Ocean Course is long. David Feherty said back in 1991 that Kiawah was so long that when deciding club selection one needed to "take into consideration the curvature of the earth." It was comments like that that helped him finally make a career out of golf!
Today it is going to be long in more than one sense of the term. With the leaders having to play 27 or more holes, it is truly going to be a long day.
Having played the Ocean Course many times, here are what I think will be the key holes on this final day. Look at the winner's score and I can almost guarantee that he played the following holes better than anyone else in the field.
The third hole is important because building momentum early in a round is crucial in major championship golf and this hole is designed to break that momentum. Without it being the longest hole on the course, it is one of the most difficult greens to hit. The green is literally a small table top sitting 15 feet above the surrounding area. If you don't stay on the green, your par is virtually lost. The marsh can also come into play, making a double bogey a possibility.
A par or birdie here will set the tone for the day.
The first par 5 on the back nine, hole 11 is the first real chance of getting a birdie before making a final loop along the ocean back toward the clubhouse. Birdies are going to be rare on the back nine. Players will have to take advantage of this hole to get one on the card.
We have already seen this week how difficult this hole can play. The driving area is about as narrow as any in championship golf. With additional penalty strokes awaiting in the canal on the right, this hole is simply a bear.
Playing this hole once in any given day is no fun. Players who usually have a night to forget this hole will have memories from the morning to contend with as they come around the second time. This hole may influence the championship more than any other today.
The first hole going back in toward the clubhouse, the players will need to start working with the opposite wind. Having played eight holes in one direction, they will need to start playing with different shots in mind. At roughly 220 yards, this par 3 is made very difficult by another table-top green. No one ever wants to start the home stretch off with a bogey, especially not in a major. Getting a par here will be crucial to proving that you deserve to win the Wannamaker Trophy.
Drama. This hole is all about the drama. This is where most of the spectactors will be awaiting as the players stand up to hit with just two holes remaining. Whether a player will have to make birdie or simply need to get a par on the card, the 17th will be one of the deciding holes of this championship. Sure, the pros are used to playing in front of people but having all those people around the green watching and waiting to see how you handle the pressure is a feeling that never really goes away.
This tee shot today will be one of the most memorable shots any player on the leaderboard will hit in their entire careers.
Of course the length will be an issue on this hole. At 500 yards, this is no leisurely walk to get back to the clubhouse. With the ocean in view, contenders to the title will be have the opportunity to meditate on success or failure in one of the most beautiful settings in all of golf. The previous five holes already listed will probably already have decided who will have the opportunity to win the final major of 2012, but a scene similar to that of Langer's putt in the Ryder Cup is very likely to occur again today.
Stephen Moskal is currently the Director of Instruction for Golf Swing Exchange, an innovative on-line coaching platform whose goal is to revolutionize the ability for people to learn golf. A former professional golfer in Europe, Moskal turned pro in 1993 as a member of the French National Circuit and also spent time on the United Kingdom Mastercard Tour and the European Challenge Tour. Following a seven-year professional career, Moskal turned to teaching full-time in 1999. A 1990 graduate of Furman University with a degree in philosophy, Moskal was a four year letter winner with the Paladins and was a member of the academic honor roll. Most recently, Stephen studied under Top 100 instructor Mitchell Spearman, best known for working with major champions Nick Faldo and Ian Baker Finch. Stephen is also the Head Golf Coach at Marymount University in Arlington, VA.
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