Kodak Challenge became Lunde's personal missionOctober 19, 2011
Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
LAKE BUENA VISITA, Fla. -- Bill Lunde was so mad he practically kicked his putter into the water beside the 16th hole at TPC Summerlin that Thursday.
The rare display of emotion occurred late last month after he had just watched his 50-footer for eagle at the picturesque par 5 catch the low side of the cup and lip out, stubbornly refusing to cooperate after looking so accomodating at the start. "I was just heartbroken," Lunde recalled.
His playing partner, Rocco Mediate, was a bit surprised at the reaction. After all, it was just the first round of the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, and Lunde tapped in for a 4 anyway.
"We're walking off the green and Rocco goes, Dude, man you just made birdie. That was a hell of a putt. What are you so mad about?" Lunde said. "I'm like, Dude, Rocco, there is kind of a side thing going on here. I didn't really want to say it."
Suddenly the light dawned for Mediate. The 16th was the Kodak Challenge hole that week, and Lunde had been leading the lucrative bonus competition for 24 weeks.
"He was like, Oh, my god. That was like a million dollar putt," Lunde said. "I'm like, Yeah, that's why I almost actually kicked my putter in the water. He was like, Don't worry about it. You'll make eagle tomorrow."
Turns out Mediate was right. And with that eagle, Lunde moved to 19 under -- he has 17 other birdies on his card -- and three strokes ahead of his nearest competitor. He now owns a two-stroke lead entering this week's finale at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.
"(I knew) that would be a tough number to catch," Lunde said. "And then to actually make it ... and plus, I did it in front of family and friends that were all watching that week, so it was fun. It was just a great moment, and I think that's the shot I'll remember the most if this all works out and I win the Kodak Challenge."
The Kodak Challenge consists of a players' 18 best scores on the 30 holes selected for the unique, year-long competition designed to celebrate beautiful holes and memorable moments on the PGA TOUR. This week's hole is the 17th on the Magnolia Course, which is a 485-yard par 4 that requires a tee shot over water and a long- to mid-iron approach to a narrow green.
Only one player -- Cameron Tringale -- stands between Lunde and the $1 million, winner-take-all bonus. And Tringale must hole a shot from the fairway for eagle at the par 4 to force a playoff at the same hole on Sunday. (For the scoring scenarios for the week, click here.)
It's not impossible. Five players have eagled the 17th hole since 1983, the most recent coming from Charles Warren in 2009, but it's certainly a challenge. And since the CMN Hospitals Classic is played on two courses, Tringale will have three chances instead of four with the first opportunity coming on Friday.
Lunde says the competition has been fun -- and not just because he's got a great opportunity to walk away with $1 million. That sum is more than he has pocketed in 27 starts this season and just $75,000 less than his earnings in 2010 when Lunde won the Turning Stone Resort Championship.
But Lunde often has found himself focusing on the Kodak Challenge hole each week more than the other 17. Once he took sole possession of the lead at the Valero Texas Open what started out as "kind of a friendly rivalry between myself and a couple players that were doing well" became much, much more.
"At the beginning I kind of unknowingly was making birdies and kind of joking with my caddie, saying Hey, Kodak Challenge hole this week," Lunde said. "We'd make birdie and I would go, Oh, that's going to be nice. And then as the year progressed it became more of a focus because here I am leading. ...
"In the last two months, I could probably name 'em ... every (Kodak) hole that I've played. Definitely grinding away. Every time I would have like a birdie putt, it meant a lot. I was grinding -- not like I'm not on every putt out here -- but I was very aware of it and trying very hard."
Take the AT&T National, for example. Lunde was playing behind his good buddy Charley Hoffman and saw him birdie the Kodak Challenge hole -- which put the two in a tie. Lunde proceeded to make a water-logged bogey but he came back in the third round and rammed a 50-footer for birdie into the hole.
"The thing probably would've gone off the green it was going so hard," Lunde recalled. "But I was so focused on this whole Kodak thing that I didn't really care what was going on in the tournament. I was just trying to play that hole as best I could each day.
"So I had that kind of feeling when that long putt went in on a good par 3, it was a big deal. Kind of had a feeling that I had a good chance coming down the line to be in this."
Should Lunde go on to win the bonus as many expect, though, don't look for a Ferrari in his garage. He and his wife have been looking at houses for about six months now -- their yellow lab needs a bigger yard, after all -- so the $1 million could make life a lot easier.
"My wife and I are happy with the situation we're in," Lunde said. "I think we're very modest people, kind of scared to do the wrong things verses what can I do with all this money."
But it's still fun to think about it.