Ongoing drought exacerbates clever, cruel 10th hole at Riviera

James Hahn
USA Today Sports Images
James Hahn handled the 10th hole at Riviera this year, but many other players struggled with it during the Northern Trust Open.
By
Doug Ferguson
The Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 | 7:45 p.m.
 
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) – No one summed up the 10th hole at Riviera as well as Ryo Ishikawa of Japan.
 
''Fun hole to watch. Tough to play,'' he said during the opening round of the Northern Trust Open.
 
What many consider to be the best little par 4 in America – and among the best in the world – received even more attention last week at Riviera when it went from being clever to at times cruel.
 
Vaughn Taylor, in contention and headed toward another top 10 that would have gotten him in the Honda Classic, found the front bunker on Sunday. He went over the green into the back bunker, hit a poor shot that stuck in the sand on the slope, knocked that one back down toward his feet and holed at 15-footer from the fringe for a triple bogey.
 
Defending champion Bubba Watson, who earlier in the week professed to be ''scared to death of the hole,'' was two shots out of the lead and made double bogey.
 
Was it over the top?
 
More than one player trudged off the 10th believing the joy had been sucked out of the 315-yard hole. There was ample evidence, especially on Thursday and Sunday with a far right pin, of shots that had plenty of spin taking a hard hop and catching enough of the slope to roll off the green, either in the collection area of in a bunker.
 
The response from Riviera superintendent Matt Morton? Welcome to our world.
 
With all the chatter about so much sand from so many bunker shots building up the green, Morton said the real culprit was a long drought creating firm conditions.
 
''The main difference is three firm years in a row,'' he said. ''During the Northern Trust Open, it's usually wet and you deal with rain. We're in a drought. You're seeing three years of dry, firm conditions. We've been able to showcase the hole the way members play in the summer.''
 
It began to rain heavily on the back nine Sunday, and when Dustin Johnson and James Hahn reached the 10th hole in the playoff (the second extra hole), it helped slightly to be able to get their flop shots on the green. That said, they were flop shots of the highest quality.
 
And that remains the secret to the 10th hole. Great shots are rewarded, but they better be great. Vijay Singh showed that with his bunker shot in regulation to 9 feet for birdie. Taylor did not with his bunker play.
 
It all goes back to Ishikawa.
 
A couple of caddies walked off the back of the green toward the 11th tee and whispered, ''Greatest hole in golf.'' Players would be a few steps behind and could be heard to mutter, ''Worst hole in golf.'' 
 
Fun to watch. Tough to play. 
 
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This article was written by Doug Ferguson from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.