This Ryder Cup will be decided on the home stretch. Golf fans will be delighted to hear that Medinah’s closing stretch of holes are some of the finest in golf. From the 12th hole onwards this is one of the toughest tests of golf anywhere.
The twelfth is unique at Medinah. It is the only hole on the course that doesn’t have a bunker. Everything slopes towards the water, from left to right. At 476 yards this par 4 is a daunting proposition. It has ruined many a score. The amateurs that play the course regularly aim for the big oak tree left of the green for their approach shot. But if you miss out left the tough rough will leave a dangerous pitch back across a green sloping away towards the water. No doubt green-keepers will have that fall off area right of the green mowed tight leading to a few balls ending up in the water. At times a par will be good enough to win this hole. And walking off players will certainly know that they are starting down the treacherous run in.
The 13th is known as the signature hole in Medinah. It is one of three par threes over the course’s main feature: Lake Kadijah. Off the back sticks this hole is a monstrous 245 yards. The green is heavily guarded by bunkers. Hitting the putting surface from the tee will bring a sigh of relief from the players. And doing it first will heap pressure on your opponents.
The 14th is a long par 5. But for the big hitters it will be reachable in two if they can knock a drive up to the top of the hill. From there they’ll have a view into the green. If players have to lay up they will find it difficult to get their approach shot close. That is because they’ll be hitting to an elevated green that slopes severely. So don’t be surprised if they have a go at this one in two.
The 15th was modified with the Ryder Cup in mind. If the tees are forward this hole is driveable. In the fourball players will undoubtedly have a crack at the green. Since the drama of the 10th hole in the Belfrey in 2002 these short par 4’s have been custom-made for this format. There is water all down the right. But balls are more likely to end up in the little collection area over the green or in the bunker. From here it’s a tricky up and down. This hole will be the crunch for many of the matches. Oftentimes matchplay doesn’t get past 15. Here there is guaranteed to be some drama.
The 16th has become the unofficial signature hole on the golf course. That is thanks to a young Spaniard nicknamed El Nino. In the 1999 PGA championship his ball came to rest right of the fairway in a crevice at the root of a tree. He put a contortionist’s swing onto the back of the ball closing his eyes at impact. When he opened them he saw his ball fading in towards the green. He tracked its flight as he ran up the hill and gave a little jump at the top to see that it had come to rest on the green. A master-stroke ala Seve Ballesteros. (view the shot on youtube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPcddytnbFw) Sergio Garcia is no longer the fresh-faced youngster from that clip but he has earned his place back in the European Team for this week having only been a member of the back-room staff at Celtic Manor. And much like his compatriot Seve, the Spaniard thrives in the charged atmosphere of this biennial matchplay event . 16 is a dog-leg left with an elevated green. Players will be taking a long iron into this green. Anything short will roll right back down the slope into a collection area.
The 17th is a downhill par three under two hundred yards – it plays the shortest hole on the course. The green is relatively flat. The water comes right up to the fringe of the green and the carry gets longer as the green moves to the right. Expect the pin to be in that back right pocket at times and this will leave players with a nervy tee shot.
The 18th is a solid closing hole. At just shy of 450 yards a good tee shot will leave players with a short iron into this elevated green. The green is turned on its side and it slopes from back to front. Trouble on this hole comes in the form a wayward tee shot. There are new bunkers added down the right side of the fairway. The target for the final approach into the 18th is a massive flagpole that bears the stars and stripes. As the Americans come up the final hole this will serve as a reminder of what they’re playing for, as if they’ll need it. Of the last 5 Ryder Cups America have only won once and that was on home soil in Valhalla in 2008. On Sunday the European Team will wear a navy and white uniform to honour Seve. But the players will know that only one thing will truly honour the great. Europe are looking to storm the ‘Windy City’.