The 14th at Pebble Beach has ranked as the toughest par-5 on TOUR three of the last five years.
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM contributor
Rare is the par 5 that ranks among the week’s toughest at any PGA TOUR stop. The 14th at Pebble Beach Golf Links, though, has wrecked enough scorecards over the years to set off a yellow light inside even the game’s best.
“You can make a big number,” said Dustin Johnson, a two-time AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am winner who has experienced both sides of the coin. “It's a tough par 5. You'll make a lot of birdies on it, but you can make a lot of big numbers on it, too.”
In three of the past five years, the 14th has ranked as the TOUR’s toughest par 5. In 2010, it stood as No.1 and No.2.
That anomaly came courtesy of the U.S. Open, when No.14 gave up just 50 birdies and 196 bogeys or worse to rank sixth among all holes that year. In its regular February slot, the hole played nearly a third of a shot easier -- and still ranked No.2 among par 5s.
That was the year four pros walked off the 14th green with a “9” on Sunday of the pro-am. One of them was Paul Goydos, who until then had been dueling Johnson for the crown.
Goydos held a one-stroke lead before watching his low-drawing 7-iron touch down short of its target and roll down the green’s front slope. When his ball finally found the cup, he was three strokes behind Johnson.
At 581 yards and with a small, tilted putting surface, pros rarely attempt to reach the green in two. A well-placed bunker threatens to catch drives cutting too much of the right-bending dogleg. The fairway then climbs toward the green, protected by a deep bunker on the front left.
The green rises to an upper tier where pins are most often located, with balls short and right trickling back down the slope. Another slope awaits shots long or left of the green. David Duval once called that upper tier “possibly the smallest target in golf.”
Said Goydos: “You're trying to stop a pitching wedge on a moving school bus.”
It’s not impossible, though, as D.A. Points showed two years ago. His gap wedge just cleared the bunker, checked its speed and slithered into the hole for an eagle that proved a springboard to his first PGA TOUR victory.
Even then, Points was preaching caution.
“You're trying to hit it on such a small little tabletop,” he said. “It's just a treacherous shot.”