The 15th hole at Oak Hill will present a challenge to the entire field. (Stewart/Getty Images)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
Albeit a little longish for its day, Oak Hill’s 15th hole was pretty much a benign par-3 when Donald Ross first laid out the East course nearly nine decades ago.
Since then, it seems the club has spent plenty of effort trying to toughen it up.
Over time a green was relocated, a pond added, bunkers brought in to fortify. Renovations two years ago shifted the green again, leaving one to wonder if Ross would recognize the old hole these days.
Competitors at this week’s PGA Championship may find it tough to forget.
The green is narrower, just 15 yards wide at its slimmest spot, and hard up against the aforementioned pond. Two bunkers pinch the left side. A slight crown will gladly run shots toward either hazard.
Oh, and now fans get the opportunity to vote on Sunday’s hole location.
“An extremely demanding par-3 with a very small green,” Masters champion Adam Scott said, “that’s going to look really small if you're in with a chance.”
Said Golf Channel analyst Frank Nobilo: “From a relatively benign par-3, this has turned into a scorecard-wrecker.”
Measuring 177 yards, the tee shot will be a 7-iron or less for most players in the field. The challenge will be picking the right line to any number of possible pin locations.
“You want to take on that pin, but you've got to be careful of the water,” British Open champion Phil Mickelson said. “But what's also challenging about that hole is that if you miss it left, the green is difficult because it's pitched into you at first and then works away.”
Craig Harmon, Oak Hill’s head pro for four decades, suggests long and left might be the worst place to wind up.
“You'll be chipping back toward the water [and] I'm not sure you can keep it on the green,” he said. “And people won't know that. They will try it. The rough there is maybe the thickest rough I've ever seen in my life.”
Mickelson suggested players might as well take on the pin and “try to make it a birdie hole, because there's no bailout on the hole regardless where the pin is.”
The big question is where the pin will be Sunday. The PGA of America is running an online contest that will allow fans to select from among four possible spots. Voting ends at 5 p.m. ET Saturday, so there won’t be any way of knowing the winner until Sunday’s setup.
Tiger Woods applauded the idea – to the point he suggested all four days be subject to a vote.
“I think it would have been a little bit more exciting for everyone if that was the case,” he said. “But one day is still good, and it's going to be on Sunday.”