By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
Of the various drivable par 4s scattered around the PGA TOUR these days, few entice players to take on the challenge more than No. 17 at CordeValle Golf Club.
Nor does any reward the daring so handsomely.
According to ShotLink data, CordeValle’s 17th led the PGA TOUR last year for par-4 drives that stopped on the putting surface – one-third of all who made the attempt during last year’s Frys.com Open.
The result was eight eagles, which amounted to a greater total than two of CordeValle’s three par 5s. Even for those who missed the green, 65 percent still walked away with birdies – another TOUR-leading number.
“Seventeen is a good risk-reward hole for certain people,” said Rocco Mediate, who won the 2010 Frys.com Open in its first appearance at CordeValle.
With an official measurement of 358 yards, No. 17 is guarded by water on the right from tee to green. The green is flanked by two bunkers on the left and a large one on the right, with a small bunker in front.
A mound, though, rises behind the putting surface to create a backboard for those who try to drive the green.
During the tournament’s first two days, a back tee is utilized to keep play moving.
“I don't know how long it is from the back tee,” Mediate said, “but I don't know of anybody that could drive on that green (from there). I'm sure there’s some.”
The fireworks come on the weekend when the tee moves forward. As the next-to-last hole on Sunday, it’s the last chance for someone from off the back to take a chunk out of the lead.
Or one could try to emulate Mediate’s approach during the final round in 2010.
He laid up off the tee, then holed out a wedge that propelled him to a one-shot triumph over Alex Prugh and Bo Van Pelt.
“That was a cool tee box because it changed the entire situation,” Mediate recalled. “If you’re one or two back – unless you lay up in the fairway and (hole out) like I did – then you can make a change.”
Prugh, by the way, holds the mark for best performance over four days at No. 17. The Washington native birdied the first two rounds and eagled the last two for a 6-under aggregate. That same year, Chris DiMarco played the hole in 5 under.
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
Tom Gray freely acknowledges he prefers a course on the slightly damper side of the ledger. And with CordeValle Golf Club staging the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur just weeks before the Frys.com Open, it would be risky to take any other approach.
As it turned out, Gray was spot on.
Despite a drought that has dropped less than 2 inches of rain on CordeValle since the end of 2012, the layout at the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains held up well for the senior women and now welcomes the PGA TOUR’s new season opener.
“We kept things just a little bit wet during the course of the year, just to make sure we had turf for both events,” said Gray, in his seventh year at CordeValle.
“I knew we’d need to keep championship conditions for almost a month, so we tried to anticipate that through the course of the year.”
It’s been a delicate balance in one of Northern California’s driest years in recent memory. Just 1.94 inches of rain has been recorded in the San Martin area since Jan. 1.
“And we haven’t had any rain since the middle of March – zero,” Gray added.
It’s a big contrast with the PGA TOUR’s previous visits to CordeValle, when storms played a role at some point during the week. Last year, hail during the pro-am damaged one green to the point that Gray’s entire 40-man staff spent more than two hours fanned out to repair indentations.
“It was awesome to see how the crew banded together to fix everything,” Gray recalled.
Not that the lack of rain hasn’t presented challenges. In addition to general conservation concerns, salt has a higher concentration in the water as it nears the bottom of the region’s aquifers.
To keep the salt from damaging greens, a periodic “flushing” has been required.
“We’d water them for three hours to try and get some of those salts out and growth back,” Gray said. Weekly topdressing also has helped.
CordeValle’s fairways are solid clay, so flushing has a limited effect. Regardless, Gray has turned off the sprinklers now to get a firmer run for the PGA TOUR’s top guns.
“We’re going to be a little different color [in the fairways] because of the lack of rain,” he said. “But I think the course will show well on television. I think the players will enjoy it, too.”
Forecasts call for sun throughout the week, with perhaps a 15 percent chance of rain during Wednesday’s pro-am. Highs will stay in the 70s all week.
“This is probably our most fun [tournament] week, just because of the way the weather looks,” Gray said. “There’s not a cloud in the sky today. It’s awesome out here.”