The rainy season has subsided well in time for this year's Puerto Rico Open. (Cohen/Getty Images)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM contributor
About an inch of rain fell Monday on the Championship course at Trump International Golf Club-Puerto Rico. It’s the only precipitation the home of the Puerto Rico Open has received in nearly a month.
And for that, Jason Matos smiles.
The superintendent at Trump International certainly knows rain, enduring a rainy season that can last into early January. Recent weather, though, have provided a fairly smooth ride to get the course ready for the PGA TOUR’s sixth visit to the island.
"Right now it’s pretty good,” Matos said. “[The rain] slowed things down a little bit, but not much. It’s firming up, the greens are rolling a lot firmer. We’re headed in the right direction.”
Trump International sits amid the foothills of the El Yunque rainforest, which typically receives more than 110 inches of rain a year. At the height of the rainy season, usually around November and December, Matos and his crew can be idled for days by soggy conditions.
“We just sit there until it dries out,” Matos said. “There may be a week when we can’t mow or spray or do some other things, but all we can do is ride it out.”
Three years ago, rain and soggy conditions forced the tournament to go to a Monday finish before Derek Lamely prevailed. The past two years, though, have been dry and seasonable.
“We’re on a tropical island, so the weather’s really hard to predict,” Matos said. “Sometimes the radar shows we’re going to have so much rain and we don’t get it. Or maybe we get all of it the next day.”
Trump International remains unchanged from a year ago, when George McNeill chased down Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa with birdies on his final three holes. Previous years had seen the strategic addition of several trees adjacent to landing areas, particularly on the front side.
“We just tried to make those landing areas a little more narrow,” Matos said.
Forecasts call for continued sun, with the possible exception of a Saturday shower.
“I hope we don’t get it,” Matos quipped. “But the weather should be perfect for the next few days, and they say Sunday should be our best day.”
The final hole typically plays as one of the easiest, but it can be wildly unpredictable. (Cohen/Getty Images)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM contributor
Statistically, the 18th hole at Trump International-Puerto Rico plays as one of the easiest during the Puerto Rico Open. When it plays downwind, it’s a chance for a dramatic final flourish with two well-struck shots setting up an eagle opportunity.
The unpredictability of March breezes, though, leaves a downwind approach as no given. Factor in the green’s subtle contours, and it’s a hole that can bite anyone who isn’t giving it his full attention.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of stuff that can happen there,” said George McNeill, whose closing birdie last year capped a three-birdie finishing charge that overtook Ryo Ishikawa for the crown. “They can make it as hard or easy as they want.”
Officially listed at 630 yards, No. 18 is exceeded only by Kapalua’s 18th as the PGA TOUR’s longest finishing hole. Multiple tee options, though, combine with the Caribbean breezes to keep players thinking.
Two fairway bunkers guard the corner of the slight dogleg, with a larger one on the left where the fairway begins to turn. Whether going for the green in two or laying up, anything behind the green will exact a price.
Last year, Ishikawa was the only man among the leaderboard’s top 50 to post two bogeys at No. 18. In the end, he finished two strokes behind McNeill.
Michael Bradley has been on both sides of the ledger in his two victories on the island. In 2009, his 11-foot closing birdie broke a deadlock with Jason Day and Brett Quigley. Two years later, a missed 3-foot par attempt at No.18 sent him into a playoff with Troy Matteson – which Bradley won after Matteson short par miss on the second trip through.
“I can’t put a finger on it, but I’m not going to question it,” Bradley said after the playoff victory.