ST. LOUIS — Three of the toughest holes at the 100th PGA Championship are neighbors on the front nine at Bellerive Country Club. The 4th, 5th and 6th holes rank among the most difficult holes early in the second round and one is playing at a pace that would make it one of the most difficult holes on the PGA Tour this season.
Using PGA Tour Shot Tracker data, we found the seven toughest holes at Bellerive and camped out at the course's toughest hole to find out what makes it so difficult.
Here are the most difficult holes at the PGA Championship.
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Note: The data used in this story was cumulative for the PGA Championship through 2 p.m. Saturday.
Scorecard yardage: 213 yards
Scoring average: 3.393
Analysis: If you think this hole is difficult for playing nearly half a stroke over par, on average, imagine competing in the 1965 U.S. Open at Bellerive, where it had a 4.03 stroke average. We camped out in the bleachers directly behind the green on the 213-yard, par-3 6th hole for an hour and a half Friday morning and observed the first eight groups that started their round on the front nine to figure out what makes the hole so challenging.
The 24 golfers we watched were collectively 8-over par with an average score of 3.333. They combined for one birdie, 15 pars, seven bogeys and one double bogey. In the words of the PGA Championship's hole-by-hole description, "plan on seeing a few train wrecks here."
Sure, this hole has some nightmare potential with a greenside pond that's roughly twice the size of the green and a pesky bunker on the opposite side, but it's also the fact that birdies are so hard to come by that leads to such a high stroke average for a par-3.
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Of the 24 tee shots hit by the eight groups, only 12 landed on the green.
Saturday's hole location is front right, more gettable than it has been. Friday's was back left, putting the hole in what we'll refer to as the "sweet spot," or the middle third, vertically, of the green. Thursday, it was on the back-right shelf, bringing the pond into play for tee shots.
The layout of the 6th green features two big breaks, which can be seen above, and Friday's pin location is in between the two breaks. If a player hits his tee shot in this area, he'll have a relatively clean lie and an easier read for his birdie putt without any significant uphill or downhill movement.
If a player's tee shot lands below the first break in what is roughly the bottom third of the green, he has to putt the ball uphill, while reading the ensuing downhill break. If your tee shot goes above the second break (in the upper third of the green), you have to putt the ball downhill.
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Only five (roughly 21 percent) of the 24 tee shots we observed landed in the middle third of the green, compared to six that ended up in the left greenside bunker. Two balls splashed into the pond.
Three shots landed to the back left corner of the hole on the fringe and one shot sailed into the gallery on the right side of the hole, near the tree line.
Scorecard yardage: 521 yards
Scoring average: 4.361
Scorecard yardage: 508 yards
Scoring average: 4.264
Scorecard yardage: 495 yards
Scoring average: 4.201
Scorecard yardage: 237 yards
Scoring average: 3.190
Scorecard yardage: 457 yards
Scoring average: 4.183
Hole: 5th hole
Scorecard yardage: 471 yards
Actual yardage: 475 yards
Scoring average: 4.205
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