March 6 2013
The 18th green is a sliver of a target, well-protected by water. (Franklin/Getty Images)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM contributor
It’s the hole by which an entire course got its name.
It was 1962 when golf’s top professionals first encountered Doral’s 18th hole, where water along the entire left side threatens both the tee shot and the approach to the green. Properly spooked, the field combined to go 104-over par for the week there.
“This is a monster,” remarked Frank Strafaci, then Doral's golf director. “A blue monster.”
And so a legend came to be.
Nor has No. 18 become any less intimidating. At last year’s WGC-Cadillac Championship, the lineup of 74 entrants played the hole in a combined 55-over – just on Thursday. Thirteen men came away with double bogey or worse.
By the end, No. 18’s scoring average of 4.539 made it one of just two holes in 2012 to play more than a half-shot above its par. The only hole that played tougher was No.6 at Olympic Club, which staged the U.S. Open.
“It's really a par 4 ½,” Steve Stricker said last year. “To get a putt at par sometimes is all you're trying to do.”
It speaks volumes, too, that new owner Donald Trump and architect Gil Hanse agreed to leave No. 18 virtually untouched when crews arrive next month to give the rest of the TPC Blue Monster a facelift.
“I think it’s a good thing,” defending champion Justin Rose said, “because you still want to be able to come to Doral and recognize it as Doral.”
The anxiety begins with the tee shot, which depending on a player’s appetite for risk must fly perhaps 280 yards over water. If he bails too quickly, there’s gnarly rough and trees on the right.
“You've got to hit a really good one, and you've got to hit it hard,” Tiger Woods said. “I mean, you've got to hammer it.”
Even from the fairway, though, you have to skirt the water again to put the ball on the green. A series of bunkers awaits shots straying too far to the right.
“Even if you hit a good tee shot, you've still got another shot coming up that's just as tough,” Jason Dufner said. “And if you hit a bad shot, you can make a 6, 7 or 8 pretty quick.”
It certainly holds the potential for drama. Last year, Bubba Watson found an opening through those right-side trees to set up a 9-foot birdie try that would have tied Rose, but missed the putt.
In 2005, Phil Mickelson nearly sent his “Duel at Doral” against Tiger Woods to a playoff when his chip from just behind the green caught the lip – then curled away to leave him one stroke shy.