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January 30 2013

9:45 AM

Featured hole: WM Phoenix Open

By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

The sound and fury of TPC Scottsdale’s famed “Coliseum” at No.16 rightly gets most of the attention at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. But for those pros who let their focus wander too far ahead, the par-5 15th can prove no less disquieting.

The hole, featuring an island green reachable in two, typically ranks among the four easiest at the Stadium course. However, the risk/reward factor also carries a double-bogey count that rivals the toughest.

A year ago, No. 15 produced 17 double bogeys and three triples -- both matching the week’s high mark. At the 2010 edition, a total of 18 doubles-and-higher exceeded any other hole on the course.

“You have to make a birdie to not give up ground against the field,” said Phil Mickelson, noting the same goes for the short par-4 17th. “And so they're a lot harder holes than it is to make a par on 16." 

Measuring 552 yards, a generous landing area is pinched in at about 315 yards by water that runs along the entire left side. Big hitters can get extra yardage by going down the right, but risk an adventure in the cactus.

That’s what happened to Spencer Levin in last year’s final round, as No.15 proved the final unraveling of what had been a six-shot cushion to start the day.

Levin still was tied for the lead when his drive took a huge bounce and wound up amid the cholla cactus, requiring Levin’s belly putter to smack the ball back to the grass -- and a few minutes with caddie Mike Hicks pulling needles from his backside.

With birdie still in play, Levin watched as his 5-iron splashed down short of dry land.

“I thought 4‑iron would go over the green, and 5‑iron didn't carry,” said Levin, whose double bogey gave Kyle Stanley the lead to himself. “I just came out of it a little bit, I guess. But when that ball went in the water, it was a complete shock to me.”

No.15 also had tripped up Levin a day earlier, when he carded what was then just his second bogey of the week.

On the flip side, both Ben Crane and Bubba Watson played No.15 in 5-under par for the week, matching Friday eagles to go with three birdies.

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