Tiger Woods was one of many victims claimed by the tricky 4th at Sawgrass, one of the most underrated short par-4s on the PGA Tour
This is an article from the May 23, 2011 issue
The most underrated short par-4 on the PGA Tour isn't glamorous, sexy or even very pretty. But every golfer at the Players knows all about the 384-yard 4th hole at TPC Sawgrass. The 4th is a dangerous hole with a split personality. It yields birdies galore—and even eagles, including a spin-back wedge shot by Ryan Moore in the third round last week—but also numerous double bogeys and dreaded others.
It sounds strange, but the 4th is a legit birdie hole as well as the scariest hole on the front nine of the Stadium course. Tiger Woods can tell you. The 4th hole owns him. During his six-over 42 on the front side last Thursday, after which he WD'd, it was the fickle 4th that dealt the body blow. Woods pulled his tee shot into the left rough, then hit an off-center iron shot. "No, no, no, no!" Woods yelled as his ball plopped into the narrow pond that guards the green. Tiger took a drop but then flubbed his pitch, caroming it off the bulkhead and back into the drink. Woods pitched again, to 18 feet, and made the putt to salvage a triple-bogey 7.
Since 2003, Woods has played the 4th worse than any other hole. Counting the 7, which won't go into the books because Woods did not complete his round, he is 12 over par in 24 tries at number 4.
The hole has a narrow, winding fairway with a serpentine bunker down the right side that flanks a water hazard and large mounds in the left rough. Finally, a pond cuts diagonally in front of the green. The mounds and grabby bermuda grass bring the greenside water into play for approach shots from the left rough, which is arguably more difficult than playing from the right fairway bunker. "If you don't hit that fairway," says Tour veteran Arjun Atwal, "it's one of the hardest holes out here."
The putting surface slopes dramatically to a lower-left tier. That leads to occasional eagles when the pin is located on the left side because approach shots funnel toward the hole. Hal Sutton holed out from the fairway for a pair of 2s in 2001, declaring after the second deuce, "I love that pin!"
Kevin Stadler made back-to-back eagles on the weekend in '08, making the first one to a middle pin, as Moore did on Saturday. "I got lucky," Stadler says. "It's an exciting hole if you like big numbers and watching people get punished."
Another potential hazard are the overhanging tree limbs that block the right side of the fairway several yards in front of the tee, forcing golfers to play off the left side of the box. "It's actually very easy to hit those trees," says Ian Poulter, who was one over at the 4th last week.
Only two holes at Sawgrass (the 17th and 18th) yielded more double bogeys or worse than number 4 (22) last week, but only the four par-5 holes and the short 12th gave up more birdies than the 4th (102). Lucas Glover made a week-high 8 at the hole in the final round, putting two balls in the water. Phil Hancock holds the record for the highest score at 4, a 12 in 1985.
The hole's signature moment came in 2004, when Poulter marked his ball and absentmindedly flipped it to his caddie, who had moved. The ball sailed into the water. Poulter's trainer, who was in the gallery, stripped to his skivvies and waded in to retrieve the ball so Poulter would not incur a two-stroke penalty for not holing out with the same ball played from the tee. Poulter then made his eight-footer for par.
"Golf Channel puts it on the air every so often as one of their 10 worst plays," Poulter says. "The 4th is a good, short par-4, though. It's a clever hole."