Stephan Jaeger? He went tee to green in a single shot, rolled in the 22-footer and walked away with an eagle two.
Kevin Tway? He hit a driver out to the left of the green, then chipped into the water to the right of it, marked himself down for a bogey five and afterward side-armed his new ball into the drink, too.
Matthew Wolff? One hole after hitting a driver 324 yards, he hit a pitching wedge off the tee and landed it short of trouble, only to get into it after hitting another wedge short. He finished with a double-bogey six.
All this for a 301-yard, par-4? Believe it. During Saturday’s third round at the Houston Open, the tees were up some 75 yards from previous days on the 17th at Memorial Park, and the fun rose with it.
“That’s why we like it, when they move it up and make them short, drivable par-4s, because a lot happens, not always good,” analyst Curt Byrum said on the Golf Channel broadcast.
“You look at the way it’s played — 3.8 [average strokes],” analyst Trevor Immelman said. “Enticing these players to take it on. It’s a great hole.”
At no point was it maybe more so than when Wolff and Tway reached it.
In front of each was a dogleg that wrapped itself around water to the right, and a few players, such as Jaeger, took it straight over the hazard. Tway, in the lead at the time, was among those who drove it left of the green, and it left him with a delicate 45-yard shot to get on.
Tway chipped it, his ball ran past the hole, and it dribbled into the water. He bogeyed the hole and the closing one, and he’ll start Sunday a stroke out of the lead.
“Oh boy, oh boy,” Immelman said on the broadcast as the ball rolled farther from the hole and closer to the water.
“There you go,” he said when it dove in.
Three groups in front of Tway, and also in the lead at the time, Wolff pulled a pitching wedge from his bag and dropped his tee shot ahead of the dogleg. While prudent, it was also at least a little disappointing. On a risk-reward tee shot, who doesn’t want to see one of golf’s longest hitters give it a go?
“Wind dying down, driver might be a good club for Wolff,” Byrum said before Wolff decided. “It’s down wind, 296 to the front, 301 to the hole. That hole location is in the front, just over the lake that fronts this green. So it’s going to be really interesting to see what Matt Wolff does. Got to be so tempting for him to just try to send a driver straight up in the air.”
“Yeah, must be,” Immelman said. “Particularly with as high as what he can hit it. He’s one of the few players that can land it on and keep it on. And for insurance, if he decides to go for it, because of the build-out over the back of the green there, he’ll be able to know that he can stop the ball if it comes out hot too.”
Wolff then hit his wedge 170 yards. Impressive, but it wasn’t the club that could send it twice that distance.
“Man, I wanted to see him hit driver,” Byrum said on the broadcast.
“Me, too,” Immelman said.
“He’s got all that momentum, and he drives it really good,” Byrum said. “He’s long, he’s accurate, but the decision has been made.”
“I always think back to a lesson Jack Nicklaus gave me,” Immelman said. “He said he always felt like strategy-wise that he needed to know in his mind that he would pull a shot off eight out of 10 times if he was going to go for it. If he didn’t feel like he had that kind of confidence, he would play back to something he knew he could pull off.”
On his second shot, from 132 yards out, Wolff hit wedge again — wedge-wedge on a par-4! — but it dropped about 20 yards short and into the water. Visibly stunned, Wolff even looked at the bottom of his club to confirm that he had hit the right one.
From there, he dropped, pitched on and two-putted for a double-bogey six. He’ll start Sunday a stroke out of the lead.
“Bet he wishes he hit driver now,” Byrum cracked after Wolff finished up the hole.
“I just didn’t really see the point in going for it, to be honest,” Wolff said. Marc [Leishman, Wolff’s playing partner] hit after me, but with where that pin was and that back slope, if you were anywhere past pin high, it was going to be a really hard chip. As you saw Marc, he felt like he hit a pretty good chip, and it went 20, 25 feet behind the hole.
“On top of that, you bring in the water if you’re trying to stay short of it, so I just didn’t really see a point of going for it, and on top of that, I hit pitching wedge off the tee, which I almost felt a little — I almost feel like I wouldn’t let myself hit pitching wedge on a par-4, and I knew it was the right club, and I hit sand wedge in. I knew I was going to be able to hit the fairway with a wedge, and I would have another wedge in. Not many times I thought I would be making double with two wedges, but it is what it is and I have to live with whatever happened, but I just didn’t really see a point in going for it.”
What happened on the second shot?
“I knew it was the right club,” Wolff said. “That’s why I’m just so dumbfounded really about how that came up that short. I really didn’t — maybe — I definitely hit the second one a little harder because it came up short, but it was 125 to carry the front or onto the green and 131 to the hole and it was downwind. All week I’ve been hitting my sand wedge — I hit my sand wedge 130, 135 just normal, just cruising it. Gap wedge on the last hole I had 132 and it was a little into the wind and I hit gap wedge and I flew it 140. I definitely knew it wasn’t a gap wedge, and it wasn’t a lob wedge. As you can see, the second shot was good. I just can’t really give you an answer on how that came up that short.”
Will 17 play up during Sunday’s final round? It’s unlikely. But Saturday will give officials at least something to think about.
Much like how 67 players just had to.