The final hole typically plays as one of the easiest, but it can be wildly unpredictable. (Cohen/Getty Images)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM contributor
Statistically, the 18th hole at Trump International-Puerto Rico plays as one of the easiest during the Puerto Rico Open. When it plays downwind, it’s a chance for a dramatic final flourish with two well-struck shots setting up an eagle opportunity.
The unpredictability of March breezes, though, leaves a downwind approach as no given. Factor in the green’s subtle contours, and it’s a hole that can bite anyone who isn’t giving it his full attention.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of stuff that can happen there,” said George McNeill, whose closing birdie last year capped a three-birdie finishing charge that overtook Ryo Ishikawa for the crown. “They can make it as hard or easy as they want.”
Officially listed at 630 yards, No. 18 is exceeded only by Kapalua’s 18th as the PGA TOUR’s longest finishing hole. Multiple tee options, though, combine with the Caribbean breezes to keep players thinking.
Two fairway bunkers guard the corner of the slight dogleg, with a larger one on the left where the fairway begins to turn. Whether going for the green in two or laying up, anything behind the green will exact a price.
Last year, Ishikawa was the only man among the leaderboard’s top 50 to post two bogeys at No. 18. In the end, he finished two strokes behind McNeill.
Michael Bradley has been on both sides of the ledger in his two victories on the island. In 2009, his 11-foot closing birdie broke a deadlock with Jason Day and Brett Quigley. Two years later, a missed 3-foot par attempt at No.18 sent him into a playoff with Troy Matteson – which Bradley won after Matteson short par miss on the second trip through.
“I can’t put a finger on it, but I’m not going to question it,” Bradley said after the playoff victory.