PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The 14th green is a pimple on the nose of the most beautiful woman in the world.
Sure, this is Pebble Beach Golf Links, perhaps the most desirable golf course on earth. Regardless, the 14th green should be plowed up and rebuilt.
In fact, that’s my prediction: By the time the U.S. Open returns here in 2019, the 14th green will be replaced by a challenging, but fair, putting surface.
The current green is unfair. It is the only major flaw in this magnificent golf course.
The 14th green is too small for U.S. Open conditions. It slopes dramatically upward in front, and golf balls routinely travel up this slope and then reverse course down the hill. It has a steep drop-off in back, with the turf shaved so tightly that balls don’t even think of stopping on the collar.
In other words, short is wretched and long is death. The area for hitting an acceptable approach shot is tiny.
The green is difficult enough when the ground is soft and the greens are moist. The rock-firm U.S. Open philosophy can turn this par-5 hole into an exercise in goofy golf.
Ian Poulter, who made a 6 on Thursday and an 8 on Friday, Tweeted about his second-round adventure, which began on the 10th hole: “That start today was a kick in the teeth, never missed a shot and was 5-over through 5. 14th green is a little on the harsh side. Joke …
His triple bogey included two shots that went both forwards and backwards, rolling away from the green. To his credit, Poulter was 3-under par for his final 13 holes and found himself just four strokes off the lead after 36 holes.
Poulter’s dilemma: Four shots behind, 4-over par for two trips down the 14th hole.
He wasn’t the only casualty. Former Masters champion Zach Johnson posted a 6 and a 9 in his two visits to 14. In the first round, 17 players made double bogey or worse at 14. In the second round, 18 players had double or higher.
On Friday, the 14th was the most difficult hole on the course, with an average score of 5.468 (it was the fourth hardest on Thursday at 5.436).
There are two ways to look at this situation. One, big-time tournament golf is entertainment, and 14 is a great hole for spectators. Two, this absurdity is a violation of the principle that golfers should be rewarded for good shots and punished for poor shots.
I choose the second perspective. It’s high time for a redo at 14.
The way it is, the hole often punishes golfers for no good reason. Balls bounce and roll crazily on the green, and players are left with no viable escape options from just off the putting surface.
For a major championship, that’s crazy.