February 13 2013
There's a risk-reward factor at Rivier's drivable par-4 10th hole. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
Plenty of PGA TOUR venues these days feature a par 4 configured to tempt players to take aim at the green with driver. One of the originals, though, remains perhaps the most confounding.
Riviera Country Club’s 10th hole has stood the test of time since its 1927 opening. It's not unusual to see nearly as many bogeys and worse at the Northern Trust Open as birdies and the occasional eagle.
“I love option holes,” Jack Nicklaus once said of No.10, “and this one has more than any short par-4 I know.”
Listed at 315 yards, it’s well within the range of at least half the field. But the green, angled from left to right, creates a landing area both narrow and shallow. Bunkers guard the putting surface on three sides.
“It’s drivable, but I would say out of 100 balls you’d maybe get it on the green one time,” Bill Haas said after last year’s victory. “The left front is the only place you can knock it on that green and have it stay, and you have to get a good bounce in the rough.”
The question is whether the reward is worth the risk. Plays from the bunker have trouble holding the tilted putting surface. Almost any miss to the right leaves the player trying to fend off bogey.
Nor is laying up a sure answer. A fairway metal down the left provides the best angle of approach, but players will have to deal with a large fairway bunker.
“It’s a defensive hole,” said Phil Mickelson, whose try for a third Riviera crown last year fell short in a playoff with Haas and Keegan Bradley. “You're just trying to make 4, believe it or not. It’s only 280 yards, but you’re trying to make par.”
Mickelson has fallen twice in playoffs at Riviera, and both times No.10 played a key role.
In 2007, he seemed on the brink of victory when Charles Howell III’s drive came to rest on a cart path 100 feet left of the hole, and his wedge off the concrete clipped a tree. Howell’s well-paced pitch stopped 3 feet from the hole, though, and both walked off with pars. Howell prevailed one hole later.
Last year, Haas played away from the pin with his chip shot after missing the green -- but was rewarded when his 45-foot birdie try steamed into the cup.
“It's just a hole that you have to hit really good shots,” Bradley said afterward. “You've got to get a little lucky, too.”