My holiday weekend grew by an extra day when I received a last minute invitation from my friend to join a foursome at Hazeltine National yesterday. After a “Hazelburger” and fries for lunch, we teed off on the back side first. I learned right away that U.S. Open length rough is nothing to mess around with. My tee shot on ten cleared the bunkers at the dogleg and was only three feet from the fairway, but was buried in grass about 7 inches long. I don’t know how the pros do it, but I could barely advance the ball at all–let alone in the right direction. Double bogey to open.
The par 5 eleventh hole started out better: decent tee shot to the left side of the fairway. My 5-iron layup shot was well struck, but rolled a few feet into the second cut. After another feeble attempt to advance the ball to the green, I decided it was best to just get back on the fairway–even if it meant going sideways. Another double bogey.
Double bogey was a popular score for me as the day went on. My sub-100 round streak runs back about two years and I was afraid it was in jeopardy: tee shot on 12 went wide into the right rough; tee shot on the par 3 thirteenth was awful and in the trees right; tee shot on the short par 4 fourteenth caught a tree branch and went in the junk. Five holes, five double bogies. Still smiling though–this is Hazeltine on a beautiful day and I’m just happy to be here.
There are a number of changes to the course since I last played there (October 2002). Several new tees have been added to lengthen the course even more for the upcoming U.S. Amateur. Back tees were added to 13, 15 and 18, along with numerous changes to bunkering (added new bunkers, moved some bunkers further down holes and deepened others). We were playing the gold tees at 6600 yards with a rating of 73.7 and a slope of 146. I can’t wait to see what the young guns do at the Am from the new tips.
On fifteen, my drive missed the fairway on the left, but I finally got a lie in the rough that was sitting up a little. Bogey instead of double! I hit driver on the lakeside sixteenth and got a lucky bounce off a tree to the middle of the fairway. My approach was wide left and I ended up with another bogey. Two holes left on the first nine–the par 3 seventeeth and the long, uphill par 4 eighteenth. I hit a line-drive iron into the back bunker on seventeen and tried to get cute with the sand shot to keep the ball on the right tier. It hung up in the fringe, then I proceeded to chip it to the wrong tier anyway–double bogey was back.
It took nine holes, but on eighteen I had two good shots in a row and hit the green in regulation. First par of the day! This did not carry over to the long par 4 first hole, however, as I hooked my drive into the recently fire-burned left rough. Penalty shot, drop and an almost perfect approach led to another double. I hit a good drive on the second hole and had a good miss on the second shot that left a straight uphill chip shot. My friend said the greens were a little slow right now, as the club is following a grow and cut procedure dictacted by the USGA to prepare for the Am. They were still plenty fast and I had many chip shots roll through the green.
The par 5 third hole always seems like the longest hole I’ve ever played. It’s not really that long from the gold tees, but it takes three good shots for me to make it to the elevated, well-guarded green. Unfortunately, I didn’t have three good shots in me and I took my only 7-X of the day. I made up for it on the next hole–the tree-lined par 3 fourth. The flag was in the back and was playing to around 175 yards. My tee shot stopped about 10 feet to the right of the flag and I made my second par of the day.
Holes five and six are dogleg par 4s in opposite directions–five to the right and six to the left. I hit a good tee shot on five and missed the green short and left on my approach. My tee shot on six went wide right behind a row of trees and I punched out back to the fairway. I think both of those holes turned into doubles somehow.
The par 5 seventh is said to be the easiest par 5 on the course. Not so from the trees on the right, I found out. I punched out, then hit a decent 7-iron to just over 105 yards out. My wedge went to around ten feet and I made bogey. My tee shot on the par 3 eighth landed just beyond the bunkers on the left and I hit a poor tee shot on the par 4 ninth as well. The round sputtered to an end, but I made it through with my sub-100 streak intact: an equitable stroke-adjusted 98. It’s frightening to think what I could score if I turned even half of those doubles into bogeys.
After the round, I stopped in the pro shop to pick up some presents for the kids and a U.S. Amateur hat for me. One final drink in the grill and some popcorn to snack on and my day at the number one modern course in Minnesota was over. Thanks again to my friend for his kind hospitality…DKOriginally published by DK on May 31, 2006 at 2:42 pm