by G. Rennie
For most amateur golfers at Bethpage Black the par four 15th hole poses the biggest challenge of the round. Watching the pro’s take it on from a green side seat to the left of the green I heard a few fan’s say ” this is the toughest hole in golf”.
However formidable it appears that wasn’t the case, at least not this week. The 15th wasn’t even the hardest hole on the course this week at the Barclay’s. That ‘ honor’ goes to the par three 3rd hole that played .287 strokes over par for the tournament, and it was the toughest hole in both the second and fourth rounds.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the 15th proved to be an average hole in terms of difficulty for the week as it ranked as the ninth easiest hole. Surprisingly it played under par for two of the four rounds . A back right pin location gave up eight birdies against ten bogeys in the final round. During the second round there was a birdie fest as thirty two players took advantage of a front pin placement that proved to be a good risk-reward play. Although the front shelf was a small target it sat in a bowl that funneled balls back to the hole. Taking on the front pin was the only option for the players but it wasn’t without peril as twenty seven golfers made bogey or worse that day.
For the week 50 birdies were made at the 15th against 98 bogeys or worse and the average score was 4.122 .
So the question remains as to why public perception of the relative difficulty of the vaunted 15 is so far from reality? The answer is that our perception is frozen in time, derived from the personal experience of playing that uphill monster or from memories of how it played at U.S. Open set ups. Back in 2009 at the second People’s Open the 15th played to an average of 4.4699, the toughest hole of the tourney. I’d guess that the player’s at the Barclay’s were happy to have an easier set up this week compared to the past Open’s . But I’d also guess that he 15th will be back to its most ferocious self when public play resumes.