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Windy conditions force contenders to get creative at Bermuda Championship

4 Min Read


Windy conditions force contenders to get creative at Bermuda Championship

    Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin

    Kramer Hickok’s impressive second leads to birdie at Bermuda

    SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda – Saturday afternoon, Kramer Hickok did something for the first time in his six-year professional career.

    He used a compass to check the wind -- on the greens.

    Bermuda Championship host venue Port Royal GC is situated adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, with several holes fully exposed to the wind. The third round featured sustained gusts of 15-20 mph, up to 25 mph.

    Hickok knew the conditions would influence the break of putts, and he wanted maximum information.

    “I’m asking (caddie) Billy to get the compass out and see what the wind’s doing on this putt, because you have to factor that in so much, just because the wind’s blowing so hard,” said Hickok, who stands tied for second at 9-under into the final round of the Bermuda Championship, one back of leader Doc Redman.

    “Literally you’ve got a putt that’s half a cup out left, and the wind’s off the right, it will blow it left. It’s different, it’s fun, and you’ve got to embrace it.”

    Those who embrace this week’s conditions at par-71 Port Royal GC are best positioned to thrive on the seaside venue, which measures just 6,828 yards but has played to a cumulative over-par total this week (71.374).

    Between the second and third rounds, the wind direction flipped nearly 180 degrees, causing the most exposed holes to play in drastically different fashion.

    The 443-yard, par-4 11th played downwind on Friday, and Hickok nearly drove the green, his ball settling 35 yards shy of the hole – with a back hole location.

    Saturday, that was not the case.

    “I was five yards, 10 yards off the front edge yesterday, and today I bombed the drive and had 8-iron and left it 20 yards short,” Hickok said. “So my 8-iron today ended up in the same spot that my driver was yesterday. It was wild.

    “(Today), it was 135 yards, and I thought I hit a 165-yard shot with an 8-iron, and it came up 20 yards short, and that’s just because of elevation. It’s already playing 12 (yards) downwind, so the wind’s just going to hit it that much more. It’s just hard to give yourself a 6-iron or 7-iron from 135 yards.”

    “Yesterday to that back pin, I probably had 75 yards,” added Redman, who arrived in Bermuda on the strength of two third-place finishes in his past five starts. “And then today, I had maybe 135 (yards), and I hit 7-iron. Quite a bit different.”

    Windy conditions are to be expected in Bermuda. Players know upon arrival that they’ll need to execute a variety of shots in order to keep pace, and that the nature of the challenge could differ by the day, or even the hour.

    “We’re not playing in a dome,” said Ryan Armour, one back into Sunday in chase of his second PGA TOUR title. “We’re on an island in the Atlantic. This isn’t Palm Springs. You’ve got to hit some golf shots. It’s fun.”

    With blind tee shots, narrow fairways and sharp doglegs, Port Royal facilitates players hitting from similar positions in the fairways, generally neutralizing distance off the tee. Consequently, a variety of playing styles are represented on the leaderboard through 54 holes.

    “Especially with this wind, being in the fairway is really nice,” noted Redman, 22, who ranked No. 95 on TOUR in driving distance last season. “You can control your ball flight better, and your distance. On some holes, (distance) definitely helps, but for me, I just want to be in the fairway.”

    “You can’t really overpower this place,” added Armour, 44, who ranked No. 182 in driving distance last season. “It’s kind of nice knowing that everybody’s going to be hitting from the same spot.”

    It makes for an eclectic leaderboard – of the top-seven into the final round, four players are in their 20s (Redman, Hickok, Wyndham Clark, Ollie Schniederjans), and three are in their 40s (Armour, Brian Gay and Matt Jones).

    Similar conditions are expected Sunday, and creativity should remain at a premium on the Atlantic.

    With 500 FedExCup Points awarded to the winner – along with a two-year TOUR exemption, and entry into a cornucopia of top-tier events – the contenders plan to embrace the challenge.

    “It’s such a feel game right now, the way the course is playing, which is a lot of fun,” Hickok said. “You don’t get that a lot on this TOUR. You’ve got to open up the imagination and just hit different shots. It’s fun.”

    Kevin Prise is an associate editor for PGATOUR.COM. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.

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