By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
The 18th hole at PGA West’s Palmer Private course is named “Temptation,” enticing players with a chance at eagle with a second shot that must fly the final 180 yards or so over water to a deep green.
At the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, its positioning makes it almost always green-light territory. But the distance also can leave that shot in lump-in-stomach territory -- especially on a Sunday afternoon.
“You can be rewarded with a short eagle putt,” said defending champion Mark Wilson. “But if you wimp out on it, you’ll be hard-pressed to make birdie.”
The 543-yard, par-5 hole typically ranks among the easiest at Palmer Private. Last year’s scoring average was 4.65, with just one double bogey and one triple bogey.
That double bogey, though, belonged to Johnson Wagner -- a first-round error that loomed large when he finished two strokes behind Wilson, perhaps costing himself a chance at victories in back-to-back weeks.
One year earlier, rookie Jhonattan Vegas had a bogey-free final round going as he stepped to the 18th tee. But after his drive came to rest in a fairway bunker, he lost his chance at going for the green in two.
Needing a two-putt par, Vegas gunned his first attempt 7 1/2 feet past the hole and wound up dropping into a playoff with Bill Haas and Gary Woodland.
“Decided to make a bogey and keep the agony going,” said Vegas, whose happy ending was merely delayed when he captured the trophy two holes later.
The recommended play is a drive down the left, hoping to take advantage of a downslope on the left side of the fairway.
“If you can get a little draw down the middle,” Wilson said, “you can catch that slot and make it a little shorter. You’re going to see some longish drives down the left side of the fairway. If you hit it down the right side, it’s going to make the hole a little bit longer.”
With about 250 yards to the pin, Wilson usually has to decide between a 2- or 3-hybrid for his second shot. Long hitters such as Woodland and Robert Garrigus can opt for a middle iron.
“You don’t see too many of us laying up, unless the wind’s in our face,” Wilson said.