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January 8 2013

10:00 AM

Key hole: Waialae's 17th

The par-3 17th played as th fourth-toughest hole at Waialae CC in 2012. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)

By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

Architect Seth Raynor enjoyed sprinkling his designs with elements of renowned golf holes elsewhere, challenging Waialae Country Club golfers with a taste of St. Andrews’ famed “Road” hole and the funky “Biarritz” putting surface during their rounds.

For the Sony Open in Hawaii, though, the spotlight typically falls on the par-3 17th that hugs the Pacific Ocean and its sloping “redan” green that presents the final hurdle in weekend play before an eagle opportunity at No.18.

Last year, the hole named “Alae” -- after the firebird of Hawaiian lore -- played as the Sony Open’s fourth-toughest with a 3.144 scoring average. Just 38 birdies were recorded, the lowest total at No. 17 in at least a decade. Sunday featured only three birdies, with the traditional front-left pin near the bottom of the slope.

Two years ago, Mark Wilson made a key up-and-down at No. 17 to keep from dropping into a tie with the already-finished Tim Clark. Most pros would be satisfied to get through the week with four pars.

The hole, which Waialae members see as No. 8 (the nines are reversed for the tournament), draws its inspiration from the original redan hole at Scotland’s North Berwick Golf Links. The kidney-shaped green slopes diagonally from back-right to front-left.

A large bunker guards the green’s front left to catch shots rolling down the slope. Four deep bunkers, unseen from the tee, stand to the right of the green. A collection area sits at the bottom of the slope.

While the green’s front half is fairly receptive, tee shots to the back half bring all of bunkers into play. Then you have Hawaii’s ocean breezes, which provide plenty of added challenge.

The prevailing breeze blows downwind and right-to-left, requiring perhaps an easy 9-iron to traverse the hole’s 189 yards. At the Sony, though, the winds seem just as liable to come from the opposite direction.

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