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Memorial Park's par-4 17th will play drivable in final round of Texas Children’s Houston Open

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Memorial Park’s 17th hole is reconfigured for 2024, green pushed back 30 yards from water’s edge

    Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin

    HOUSTON – Memorial Park Golf Course's short par-4 17th hole has traditionally played a two-shot hole for most of the Texas Children’s Houston Open field, even when the tee was moved up to create a drivable opportunity. With the previous green complex situated just beyond the water’s edge, the risk-reward wasn’t there.

    That is set to change Sunday, with the tee box moved up to play 329 yards and players attacking a new green complex that will entice bold plays.

    The 17th green complex has been reconfigured for this year’s Texas Children’s Houston Open, with 30 yards of fairway now separating the green and the water’s edge. The green was previously situated just 5 yards from the water’s edge, limiting players’ incentive to drive the green even from a forward tee that made carrying the water no problem – it was just too hard to stop the ball on the green, players and officials said this week.

    A scenic view of the 17th hole green at Memorial Park Golf Course in 2020. (Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR)

    A scenic view of the 17th hole green at Memorial Park Golf Course in 2020. (Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR)

    The hole’s scorecard length has been extended from 382 yards to 405 yards, which has increased the hole’s difficulty from the tips – the hole has played to a 4.173 average through three rounds in 2024, using the back tee in all rounds, after playing to 4.005 a season ago. Water down the hole’s right side has required players to be cautious off the tee, while playing more club off the tee if a wedge approach is desired (or laying back off the tee, then taking more club into the green). It ranked as Memorial Park’s fifth toughest hole through three rounds in 2024, after ranking No. 13 in difficulty last season.

    But the tee has been moved up for Sunday's final round, the hole playing to 329 yards. The carry distance, roughly 280 yards, will be no trouble for the field, but will players be willing to accept the risk of bunkers left and water right? We’ll soon find out.

    “I think it's a good change,” said world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, who was among five players tied for the lead after the conclusion of Round 3. “I think they had tried to move the tee box up a couple times in the last few years to make it drivable and with the way the green was, it just wasn't a hole that you would really try to drive.

    "But now the way the green is shaped, you have an area where you can run it up. I think they'll have the tee box moved up on the weekend and it should be a pretty exciting way to finish off the tournament. I think the changes are really good."

    Tom Doak, who resigned the course in 2019, believed that the event’s penultimate hole should feature a high level of risk-reward, whereas this event’s previous three iterations at Memorial Park saw a conventional strategy employed at No. 17. Hence the changes around the green for 2024.

    “We looked at the history of the past three tournaments that we’ve played here, and obviously getting player feedback as well, and we’ve had some great discussions and this is what Tom came up with,” said TOUR Senior Tournament Referee Robby Ware earlier this week. “He’s done a really nice job, and excited to see how it plays out this week.”

    The teeing area, fairway contouring and fairway width have remained unchanged, said Ware this week, but the area around the green has changed substantially. Two bunkers have been added left of the green, making a left bailout shot more difficult (water hugs the hole’s entire right side, from the fairway through the green.) The green now slopes left-to-right as well, meaning a pitch from left of the green will require players to keep the water in mind.

    It's a bold change that will force players to decide down the stretch at Memorial Park: go for an eagle putt, or play a safer tee shot for a wedge approach?

    “From the back tee it doesn't change the hole tremendously, but with the tee up it's very much a cool drivable hole now,” added last week’s Valspar Championship winner Peter Malnati, who made the cut on the number at Memorial Park. “I think it will be fun to watch guys have a go at it because … obviously if you go for it, likely miss would be left of the green. The green slopes toward the water from left of the green, so you have to see some guys do some great short game in.

    “Maybe they'll make it drivable on Sunday and you'll see someone step up and make a really bold play and hit one right on the green and have an eagle putt on Sunday. I think that would be really cool.”

    Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. 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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