HOUSTON — The courses that comprise the PGA Tour schedule are chock-full of 200-plus-yard par 3s. It’s understandable. With the precision that tournament pros bring to the world’s best courses, it’s typical for designers to simply push the tees back in a last-gasp preservation effort, a sort of distance moat.
When renowned architect Tom Doak took on the renovation project at Memorial Park, he asked four-time major champ Brooks Koepka for his input. While Koepka insists he didn’t get too technical while lending advice, he did plead with Doak to make sure variety on shorter holes was a priority.
Case in point — the short, but scary 15th hole. At under 160 yards (for tournament play), it’s easy picking for the strong field on hand this week, at least in terms of distance.
But No. 15 is no pushover. In fact, with a creek running along the entire left side and some massive slopes on either side, this short hole could very well be the decisive one during Sunday’s final round of the Vivint Houston Open.
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“Yeah, 15 is a really dangerous hole. That’s one of the ones. Brooks said when we started we’d be heroes if we just make par 3s short and don’t make them all 210 yards, because that’s what they usually do for Tour courses these days,” Doak said. “Especially that one, it’s the shortest one and it’s the nastiest one.”
The stats bear that out. In each of the first two rounds, 15 gave up its share of birdies. On Thursday, for example, the hole was playing at just 110 yards, and with a front-right pin placement, the hole surrendered 35 birdies. But those who missed the green found it difficult to get up and down for par. A total of 15 players made bogey on the hole and 11 more made double.
Grayson Murray doesn’t need to be convinced. The 2017 Barbasol Championship winner had a nightmarish experience on No. 15 in the first round. Off the tee, Murray pushed his shot just a little right, enough to come to rest in the rough on the right side of the green. He then proceeded to chip back and forth over the green four times en route to an ugly 8.
“I told Tom I really just wanted a short par 3 that was very brutal, where if you miss the green you could make double, definitely making bogey,” Koepka said. “Who knows, maybe even triple if you miss it in the wrong spot.”
Or quintuple-bogey, in some cases.
With pin placements in the back for rounds 2 and 3 par there were fewer doubles and triples. But expect the pin to be tucked back up front for Sunday’s final round, possibly in the front-left where the creek comes more into play.
“I hope the most famous hole of the week is for something somebody does that’s great,” Doak said.