On a course that hands out birdies and eagles at a faster clip than any other PGA TOUR venue, the 10th hole at PGA West’s Palmer Private layout is not the place to get greedy.
The par-4 hole dubbed “Monster” has produced the fewest birdies on the back nine of the Humana Challenge’s host course in four of the past five years. And on two of those occasions, No. 10 also has played the deciding role in a playoff.
In 2011, Jhonattan Vegas drove into the water that guards the hole’s entire left side, yet still triumphed when Gary Woodland squandered the advantage with two poor chip shots. Last year was more conventional, as Brian Gay’s perfectly positioned tee shot forced Charles Howell III to roll the dice after driving into the rough.
Howell’s second shot wound up in a back bunker, and Gay’s 9-iron approach came to rest 5 1/2 feet from the flagstick.
“He was in a perfect spot,” Howell said afterward. “I thought it was worth me playing aggressively on that shot.”
It’s a risk, though. Though an expansive fairway awaits tee shots after a forced carry over water, the ideal play is down the left side for the best angle into a deep, narrow green. However, that brings the rest of the water into play.
The approach puts a premium on distance control to the elongated putting surface, with huge bunkers flanking the green to the front-right and back-left.
Since Palmer Private became the tournament’s Sunday course in 2009, No. 10 has ranked as the toughest or second-toughest in every edition except 2012. It topped the list in 2009 and again in 2011, when it surrendered just 15 birdies all week.
The hole ranked second last year, with just 26 birdies recorded. Gay did it twice on the final day – first as part of a blistering run of nine birdies in his first 13 holes for a 63 that got him to extra holes, then again on the playoff return.
On the whole, Humana Challenge entrants made birdie or eagle 29.6 percent of the time on Palmer Private last year. When they came to No. 10, that ratio dropped to just 10.5 percent.