By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
It has been known the “Devil’s Bathtub” as long as anyone can remember. Not only does that give Bay Hill’s 18th hole one of the more creative nicknames on the PGA TOUR, it rarely ceases to live up to the billing.
Year after year, the wide, rock-lined pond presents one of the most difficult second shots a pro will face during the season. The Bathtub welcomes everyone to its demonic depths, sinking more than a few hopes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard.
“It’s got all the drama you want,” said Charles Howell III, an annual Bay Hill visitor. “You really have to decide how much of it you want to bite off. If you decide to go at that flag, you’ve really got to hit a perfect shot.”
The 441-yard 18th annually ranks as Bay Hill’s toughest hole. Last year’s stroke average of 4.345 left it in a tie for No. 19 among all holes on the TOUR schedule.
Only 12 yards of green are available as the putting surface wraps around the back of the pond. The Sunday pin sits in the front right near the water, and March almost always means gusty, swirling winds.
“You’ve really got to be committed to your number,” said Brandt Snedeker, the reigning FedExCup champion. “It’s over that water for so long, it’s a fine margin of error.”
A back bunker is available for those who want to bail out long – but a not-so-gentle downhill slope awaits those trying to blast out. “It’s not great,” Snedeker said, “but it’s a lot better than being in the water.”
Rare is the pro who hasn’t been victimized by the Bathtub at one time or another – even Tiger Woods, the seven-time champion who rinsed one on Sunday two years ago. Vijay Singh lost a cliff-hanger to Kenny Perry in 2005.
On the flip side, Robert Gamez defied convention with his hole-out from 176 yards away in 1990, snatching the title from Greg Norman.