Thursday, June 13, 2013


No issue of The Nation this week, so no new puzzle to blog on.

I've never played Merion Golf Club (I have played Merion Cricket Club, but that's another story), but I got to walk the course and watch some excellent players there during the U.S. Amateur in 2005 and the Walker Cup in 2009.  It's a cryptic-lover's golf course.  I won't walk you through the whole thing, but the 10th hole is a good example of what I mean.  

It's a pretty short par four (just 300 yards or so), and there was some speculation that a few of the big boppers would try and drive the green: it's about a 270-yard carry.  But assuming you play it the conventional way, the hole offers a tremendous mental challenge.  It's a dogleg left, but curving steadily rather than being angular like most golf holes.  So if you shape your tee shot right to left (a draw if you're right-handed), there's more fairway to work with.  Otherwise, you need to have pretty good distance control so you don't hit through the fairway and into the rough.  

Once you figure out the shape of your tee shot, you have to decide how far to hit it.  The farther you go, the less room you have for error.  And you also want to leave yourself a second shot of a comfortable distance.  If you have a hard time controlling a 50-yard shot, then you'd better take a couple of clubs less of the tee so you can hit from 80.  

Then you have a tradeoff in the shape and layout of the green.  If you take it easy on the tee shot to make sure you're in the fairway, you have to take your approach over a big intimidating bunker.  To avoid the bunker, you have to gamble more off the tee.   And the green is longer than it is round, so some shots have a lot of green to work with and some have less.  

So the smart way to approach this hole is to know your own game, and be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.  Stay within yourself, figure out your own best approach and then hit your tee shot to that spot.  If you bring a puffed up attitude to the tee, this hole will take you down a notch or three.  Pretty good for a dinky little par four.

By the way, my pick to win it is Charl Schwartzel from South Africa.  He hits his irons well, which means he can bring the ball in to the tricky greens from all locations, and his putting has been tested in the pressure of a major (2011 Masters).

His Tigerness is not going to win.  The rain and the disruption is going to work against his approach to the game.  He's best at courses where's he's had plenty of time to prepare: he wants to be able to visualize the shot and execute it.  He's not much of an improviser or shotmaker any more.  Furthermore, the way the rough has grown (it wasn't much of a year for snow peas in Philadelphia, but you can hear the grass growing), there are going to be lots of awful lies and bad luck for players, and Tiger doesn't deal with that kind of adversity very well any more.  Meanwhile, the soft conditions will let a lot more players into the mix.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you're responding to a hint request, please remember not to give more information than necessary. More direct hints are allowed after Monday.