Hole 1 – Puget Sound
Setup 1 – Par 5 (~560 yards) – Front left pin
This is one of two holes (along with 18) that will alternate between a par 4 and par 5 throughout the tournament, essentially making 1 and 18 a combined par 9 each day. While 1 is traditionally a par 4, I look to see it as a somewhat reachable par 5 on Thursday. The reason? To showcase the huge slope running off the left side of the green that will carry balls some 20-30 yards away from the green. Let’s start this tournament off with a bang!
There is a massive fairway awaiting the player off of the tee, so finding it shouldn’t be too difficult, but placement plays a factor here. A is a good position to be in off of the tee, but the resulting 2nd shot will be at least partially, if not fully blind. Players that bail out to the C area on the right will have a guaranteed blind shot over the dune. The fairway bunker D may be in play for only the longest hitters, but those who try to clear the plateau at B will be rewarded with a good view of the green and reachable 2nd shot, in theory.
The only place to avoid at all costs off of the tee is X. The rough here is thick and nasty, and a punch out will be the next shot for most players. If they can find the left side of the fairway while avoiding the rough, however, it provides the best view and angle on the 2nd shot.
The difficulty in the 2nd shot, a layup for most players, is finding the correct location while likely playing a blind shot. A is the ideal location, and a shot ending up here should be positioned nicely for a birdie attempt. Shots to the right may find the B bunker, leaving a tricky 3rd shot. The slope at the front right of the green kicks everything long and left, and the huge slope running away from the green to the left lurks behind from this angle.
Any shots remotely favoring the left side will take off down the slope, leaving a long uphill 3rd shot back to the green, and with a pin at the very front edge. On the plus side, the kickboard along the right side of the green makes for a nice backstop from way down on the left.
If a player has found this location after 2 shots, most of the work is done here and a birdie opportunity is at hand. There is a valley behind the pin that will draw everything towards it, and a back tier that is the highest part of the green. With most of the green tilting from right to left, it is easy to see why a long approach here is so difficult. Everything feeds towards the valley, and balls that kick off of the right slope could run off of the green to the left, or back to the top tier, leaving a difficult 2-putt back.
Setup 2 – Par 4 (~470 yards) – Back right pin
As a par 4, the first hole will play considerably tougher, as this green is very difficult to hold with a long club. Off the tee, the left side of the fairway around B remains the best angle, while the left rough remains the worst miss. At this tee, which is not the longest that it would likely play as a par 4, should allow most players to reach the top of the plateau at A. Regardless of location in the fairway, reaching the back right pin from a fairway that slopes from right to left will not likely be an option.
Everything about this pin suggests that the player should be happy to simply find, and stay on, the back tier of the green. This should leave at least an uphill attempt at birdie. A miss to the left here brings the slope into play, while a miss in the right bunker is disastrous. Keeping the ball on the green from out of that bunker may not be possible.
Setup 3 – Par 5 (~600 yards) – Front/mid right pin
At its maxed out distance, the first should play as a 600 yard 3-shotter.The goal off of the tee is simply find the massive fairway, as the resulting 2nd shot should be blind from anywhere. Finding the left side of the fairway leaves a better angle for the layup, however.
Navigating the approach bunkers, A and B, will be the main challenge again here as a par 5. With a pin on the right side, ending up down in the area around C is not the worst outcome here, as there is plenty of slope behind the pin here to stop an approach shot in.
While most approaches here will likely end up below the hole, this could be a tricky location for putting due to the severe right to left slope. Getting on in 3 is no birdie guarantee at this pin.
Setup 4 – Par 4 (~490) – Back left pin
This should be the toughest setup for the first hole, and could potentially be saved for Sunday. With a farther back tee shot, finding the plateau off of the tee is not a certainty, and facing this long approach blind is a nightmare.
Any approach that finds the back tier of the green should have a relatively simple putt to this hole location, but finding the back tier will be the issue. The slope on the left side is waiting to carry balls away, and landing too far on to the green can also result in the approach running through the green, where the ball also runs away to the left. Can you imagine on Sunday, the 54-hole leader looks to get off to a strong start and immediately faces this up and down for par?