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Nothing sweet about brutal 17 at Baltusrol

August 9, 2005

By Steve Keating

SPRINGFIELD, New Jersey (Reuters) – Measuring an
intimidating 650 yards, it is the longest hole in major
championship history and big enough for a pilot to land a small
plane.

Big-hitting John Daly warmed up for the par-five 17th at
Baltusrol Golf Club’s Lower Course by trying to hit balls over
Niagara Falls — without success.

When the 87th U.S. PGA Championship starts Thursday, Daly
will not have to concern himself with the world’s biggest water
hazard but has about as much chance of reaching the 17th green
in two as he did at clearing the Niagara Gorge.

“Seventeen is going to be a three-shot hole (to reach the
green) unless it turns big time downhill and the fairways dry
out,” said world number one Tiger Woods, who is hunting his
third major of the year this week.

“Otherwise you can’t get it there in two. It’s a three-shot
hole, get it down there with a wedge, attack the flag and you
can make birdie.”

The 17th is the signature hole on a classic American course
renowned for its length. A monster of a par five, it has been
slain only once before when Daly reached the green in two at
the 2003 U.S. Open. However, the hole is now 20 yards longer
than it was then.

Even with today’s modern equipment, space-age drivers and
high-tech golf balls, the 17th is expected to remain out of
reach this week of the game’s big hitters, who include Daly,
Woods and defending champion Vijay Singh.

“I think somebody could (reach the green in two),” said Lee
Janzen, who won the 1993 U.S. Open at Baltusrol.

“We’d have to have dry conditions the rest of the week and
a favorable wind, but I don’t expect anybody that hits it in my
range to reach it. It would have to be one of the longer guys.

“Still, you have to be able to hit it 360 yards off the tee
to have 270 to the front. That’s a long way.

REALLY FAST

“We can hit it 360 yards when the fairway is really fast
and the wind is behind you. But that would take a lot right
now.

“The fairways are very lush, very soft and the balls are
not rolling. A lot would have to change.”

Widely regarded as one of the great par-fives in the United
States, the 17th demands accuracy and length for both the drive
and second shot if bunkers 400 yards out are to be cleared.

A short-iron is then required to reach a well-bunkered
green.

Several players in this week’s field concede they have
never had to contend with anything similar before but Britain’s
Darren Clarke believes such holes may become more common in the
future as course designers try to keep pace with modern
equipment.

“I think 500-yard par fours and 650-yard par fives are
going to be the norm in the future,” said Northern Irishman
Clarke. “I think that’s definitely the way they’re going to go.

“This is just a three-shot par five. If you play it
properly, you’re going to have a sand wedge in your hand for
your third shot, so you should see lots of birdies.

“It’s one way of trying to combat how far the ball goes
these days.”

Baltusrol’s par-70 Lower Course, at 7,392 yards, is the
fifth longest layout in major championship history.




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