PGA: Atlanta's par 3s short on variety

Adam Scott, of Australia, hits a shot on the fourth during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011, at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga.

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Davis Love III is a participant in this week’s PGA Championship, fully committed to his quest to win a second major title. He’s not wearing his architect’s hat, but since you asked . . .

“When we design a golf course, we always try to do two short (par 3s) and two long (par 3s). I just think you need variety,” Love said.

Only minutes earlier, Love had concluded a practice round at the 93rd PGA Championship, a trek that had brought him to the 260-yard, par-3 15th and the 207-yard, par-3 17th.

On top of the 219-yard, par-3 fourth and the 184-yard, par-3 seventh, Atlanta Athletic Club certainly doesn’t appear to meet Love’s criterium of having variety, though it’s a bit too late to do anything about that. The season’s final major championship is upon us, and as true as graphite and titanium will be on the first tee come 7:30 a.m. Thursday, the boys will need some hefty ammunition to play the par 3s.

How much?

David Toms smiled. In 2001, he used a 5-wood to ace the 15th in Round 3, but it was only 243 back then. This week, “5-wood is not going to be enough club for me.”

With another 17 yards tacked on, Toms figures he will need driver, if it was into the wind. But if he can get away with a 3-wood, there’s little doubt that PGA of America officials are continuing a trend that some players find confounding. That is, they absolutely love their monster par 3s.

“I don’t know; maybe it’s a macho thing,” Matt Kuchar said. “I guess a 140-yard par 3 isn’t macho.”

No, it probably isn’t, but here’s the darndest thing: Take a poll of PGA Tour players and ask them which are their favorite par 3s, and there’s a good chance you’d see these holes prominently placed:

• Augusta National’s 12th, 155 yards.

• Pebble Beach’s seventh, which is roughly 95-105 yards.

• Riviera’s sixth, about 170 yards.

• Royal Troon’s postage-stamp eighth, 125 yards.

The common denominator, of course, is a hole small in stature, but enormous in character, and the fact that this major championship – more than the Masters, U.S. Open, and British Open – eschews the trim and tidy tests in favor of the monstrous one-shotters.

Don’t think so? Well, consider what we have this year (870 yards of short holes, average: 217.5) and what we’ve had in each of the past five Augusts. The lineup of par 3s in PGA Championships:

• 2010 Whistling Straits: 181, 221, 143, 223 (768 total, 192 average).

• 2009 Hazeltine: 210, 176, 248, 182 (816, 204)

• 2008 Oakland Hills: 198, 257, 191, 238 (884, 221).

• 2007 Southern Hills: 200, 245, 173, 223 (841, 210).

• 2006 Medinah: 191, 204, 244, 197 (836, 209).

Now compare those numbers to arguably the golf fan’s favorite championship course, Augusta National: 745 delectable yards at four par 3s, an average of 186.

What you lose with the beefier par 3s, Kuchar believes, is the shot-making prowess. Instead of trying to slide a 7- or 8-iron into a back-right hole location or chasing a 9-iron to a top shelf, players stand on the tee at long par 3s and typically face a massive green and thus is the thought process simply to get it somewhere on the putting surface, two-putt, and walk off to a lot of people yawning.

“With short par 3s that have a lot of character, they offer you the chance at birdie, but you have the possibility of bogey, if you miss the green,” Kuchar said. “They’re a lot more fun. Not an awful lot of people have fun playing long par 3s.”

Luke Donald perhaps spoke for the majority of his colleagues when he criticized these hefty holes. He used a rescue club off the tee at the 15th, a thought that seems to give him shivers.

“Just seems like you take a little bit of the skill out of it when it’s that long a hole,” Donald said. “There’s not too many really long par 3s that are very memorable. I think par 3s should be a little bit more shorter and more interesting.”

All this being said, Donald isn’t No. 1 in the world for his lack of perspective. It doesn’t much matter at all what he thinks of the par 3s at Atlanta Athletic Club, because they aren’t letting him set up the course.

“It is the same for everyone,” Donald said. “I’m going to have to learn to try and love it for this week.”

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