I was fortunate to attend the Players Championship for the final round. When I entered the grounds, I walked into the bowl of the famous 17th green. They were still finishing up the third round because of a weather delay. The hole was playing 137 yards and the pin was situated on the front left. It was my first on site view of the hole and the green is in reality pretty large. That is not apparent on TV, but where they place the pin makes it a tiny target. Anyway, Mark O’Meara was up and he hit a shot that landed about 12 feet past the pin and then started rolling back toward the hole, went right on past and off the green into the water. He walked up to the drop area, hit a nice pitch again, just past the hole and same thing. So then I go up to 18 and follow Graeme McDowell who was 14 under and leading. From the right rough he hit a nice looking shot. The ball landed on the green, right of the flag, rolled up the slope past the pin and started back down and then right off the green and into the water. Ridiculous, and not right. I believe it cost him the tournament.
It is one thing to hit a bad shot and get punished but when a good shot results in a penalty, I think it is bad design and boring. It would have been much more interesting if the ball had been held up in a little collar of rough requiring a delicate chip to save par. Contrast that with Phil Mickelson who I followed for 9 holes. On the par five number 2, he hit his drive in the woods, found it and played up the first fairway. He tried to hit his third shot over some pines about a hundred feet high. Failed, but found his ball and hit his fourth off a palm tree and into the bank short of the green. Standing awkwardly he chipped past the hole about 30 feet on to the fringe. He then made his putt for one of the greatest sixes I have ever seen. That was fun and exciting. How often have we golfers just hoped to be able to swing after an errant shot into the trees? So my message to the golf course architect is simple – punish a really bad shot but if I am a little wayward, just give me a swing.