January 2 2014
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
Think of the 14th hole at Kapalua’s Plantation Course as something of an antithesis to the rest of the majestic Maui layout.
On a course best known for cranking out booming, downhill 400-yard drives – no PGA TOUR venue produces more in any given year – the 305-yard 14th is one of shortest par-4s on the entire circuit. It also features Kapalua’s smallest green, which sits on a small plateau.
A well-placed drive over the dogleg, though, might be worth an eagle – which is what Dustin Johnson used to seal last year’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions victory over Steve Stricker.
“The drive set it all up,” Johnson told reporters after his hole-out led to a three-shot victory. “I hit a great drive right at the flag which came up just short, and I had a really easy pitch. I was fortunate to hit a great pitch and went right in the middle.”
Nicknamed “Plateau,” No. 14 typically ranks among the easiest six or seven holes on the Kapalua card. But sandwiched between the tough uphill 13th (which Johnson had double-bogeyed minutes before the eagle) and the par-5 15th, it’s a change-of-pace offering that can bite anyone who approaches it too casually.
Bunkers flank the green on three sides, including a front bunker that snakes back toward the tee when taking the direct route. The front of the green is reachable, though many balls trickle back down the front slope.
The putting surface measures just 3,500 square feet, compared to Kapalua’s average green size of 10,000 feet. In benign conditions, it’s an easy chip and putt for a birdie. In stiff winds, though, the small green will look even smaller.
Johnson played No. 14 to near perfection last year, preceding his eagle with birdies in each of his first two rounds once the winds became manageable after three days of lost play. Combined with three birdies at the 15th, his 7-under par aggregate over that two-hole stretch was too much for anyone to overcome.
Stricker, by contrast, only managed to play those holes in 3 under. No one else in last year’s field was better than 4 under.