Strategic challenges for players at Big Cedar Lodge
Legends of Golf event, which features par-3 course, will present interesting approaches
June 04, 2014
By Brian Wright, PGATOUR.COM
- The Top of the Rock par-3 course will add an intriguing element to this week's event. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
Ridgedale, MO - Gary Player is quick on his feet, and also with good perspective on the game of golf. However, when asked how the strategy might change for this week’s Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf presented by Bass Pro Shops event -- the first ever official PGA TOUR event contested on a par-3 layout -- Player was momentarily speechless.
“Well, I’m not sure,” Player chuckled after reflecting briefly. “I haven’t really thought too much about it. This is a totally different format than we usually play.”
The event will feature play on two courses, the 18-hole Buffalo Ridge layout designed by Tom Fazio, and the par-3 Top of the Rock course designed by Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus will partner with Player in the Legends of Golf event this week.
“Jack and I don’t play a lot of golf together anymore, but when we are playing in the best-ball format on the par-3 course, irrespective of where the flag is, you shoot at it, because one of us should be able to get it close. When we move to the alternate shot, I will be more conservative. I want to put Jack on the green and give him a putt. At our age, the less finesse shots the better. So the alternate shot will be a different strategy entirely.”
Gil Morgan, winner of the 1999 Legends of Golf event with partner Hubert Green, agrees with Player on the passive-aggressive strategy based on format.
“In the alternate shot you’re probably going to play a little more conservative, even though it’s a par-3 course. Some of these par-3 holes are fairly long and you don’t want to put your partner in a bunker or out of position to make birdie,” Morgan said. “The shorter holes, those in the 125 to 175 yard range, you might be a little more aggressive but most of the time it’s about position.”
Current USA Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson, who has had great success in this event and throughout his career in team events, is pretty specific about his strategy. For him, it all boils down to who you tee it up with.
“It all depends on who your partner is,” said Watson. “With Andy (North) and I, I’ve always liked to hit second. We feel comfortable with Andy hitting the shot he feels is the right shot to hit and then I work off of that. It works for us. ”
Indeed it does. Watson and North have won the Legends of Golf event four times, three in the Raphael Division and one in the Legends Division.
“This is unique in that it’s a par-3 course, and it’s also only nine holes,” Watson added. “When you only play nine holes, it really doesn’t matter who tees off first in the alternate shot format because when you play the holes the second time through your partner will tee off on the holes you played first on.”
The logistics of playing the nine-hole layout twice to complete an 18-hole round will require the grounds crew to cut two holes for each day.
“They will cut both holes, and then switch the pin location for our second nine holes,” Watson said.
This has never been done, but a plan is in place. The extra pin location will be filled with a foam insert, and then as the first group makes the turn to play the holes again, the pin and foam insert will be switched out.
An added benefit of playing the par-3 course will be the chance of a hole-in-one on every hole at Top of the Rock.
“I imagine there will be a hole-in-one or two and hopefully that will get on film,” said Mark Calcavecchia. "You’re going to see a lot of birdies and a lot of near holes-in-one. These guys are still really good iron players, guys like Jack and Gary and even some of the older guys.”
The final round of the Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf will be played entirely on the par-3, nine-hole Top of the Rock, a spectacular layout set against a backdrop of the Ozark Mountains overlooking Table Rock Lake.