Stadium Course's return brings stern test to CareerBuilder Challenge rotation
January 20, 2016
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- The steep bunker beside the 16th green at PGA WEST's TPC Stadium Course is called "San Andreas." (Sean Martin/PGA TOUR)
LA QUINTA, Calif. – PGA WEST's TPC Stadium Course returns to the PGA TOUR this week after a hiatus that lasted nearly three decades. The return of Pete Dye’s devilish design in the California desert means players will be tested by the architect’s usual schemes. Railroad ties and vertical bunker faces provide a dramatic delineation between success and failure, adding anxiety to even standard shots. There’s even another island green for players to face, a smaller target than the original that resides in northeast Florida.
PGA West’s TPC Stadium first was used in the 1987 Bob Hope Classic, but players deemed it too difficult, and so it was retired until this year. The field averaged 73.97 shots in the final round of that tournament. Corey Pavin won by one shot over Bernhard Langer after a final-round 67 that was punctuated by a birdie at 18.
The TPC Stadium Course isn’t as intimidating as it once was, though. Players with today’s technology are better equipped to handle the challenge. The course played to a 71.1 scoring average at the 2012 Q-School, and that was in colder, windier December conditions. D.H. Lee won that tournament at 24-under, playing three rounds apiece at PGA West's TPC Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament courses. The Stadium and Nicklaus hosted Q-School six times between 2002 and 2012.
Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-70s this week, and a 5 mph breeze may qualify as a bluster. And players don’t have to deal with Q-School’s anxiety.
The TPC Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament courses are in use this week along with La Quinta Country Club. The first two replace PGA West’s Nicklaus Private and Palmer Private courses, which are a mile up the road; the Palmer Private was site of David Duval’s 59. The final round of the CareerBuilder Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation will be played on the TPC Stadium, allowing for dramatic viewing as players navigate Dye’s water-lined closing holes.
The finishing stretch -- a risky par-5, an island-green par-3 and a long par-4 that curls left around water --- will remind viewers of the final holes of Dye’s original Stadium Course.
"You just got to execute golf shots," said two-time CareerBuilder champion Bill Haas.
Patrick Reed reflects on 2012 Q-School at PGA WEST
The 16th hole measures 560 yards. The deep bunkers that run down the left side, including a 20-foot pit near the green, have given the hole the nickname “San Andreas,” after the earthquake-inducing fault that runs beneath the state. Players can aim right and be left with an easy up-and-down for birdie; going for the green makes eagle possible, but birdies are all but impossible for those who miss left. The next hole is longer than its sister hole at TPC Sawgrass, measuring 165 yards. PGA TOUR staff measured the green at 3,765 square feet; the 17th at TPC Sawgrass’ PLAYERS Stadium course measures 3,912 square feet. The tee is elevated, and players hit to a circular green surrounded by only a small sliver of fringe.
“I hit two in the water today,” said Patrick Reed. “I haven’t hit it in the water yet at 17 at Sawgrass.”
Reed set records on the Nicklaus Private and Palmer Private courses, shooting three consecutive 63s to win the 2014 CareerBuilder Challenge. He welcomed the move to PGA West’s other tracks, though. He has good memories at these courses, rallying at that 2012 Q-School to earn his first PGA TOUR card without a shot to spare. He was a TOUR winner less than a year later.
He wouldn’t have guessed that after Q-School’s first two rounds, though. Scores of 70-75 left him in 127th place. He played the final 72 holes in 18 under to jump 105 spots on the leaderboard, earning his card on the number.
“I thought for sure we were done,” said Reed, who returns to the desert after finishing in the top 10 in his first three starts of the season, including a runner-up finish to Jordan Spieth at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He’s No. 13 in the FedExCup.
“It’s awesome to be back,” he said. “Driving in … brought back a lot of memories.”
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