I've been mulling the new 12th at TPC Sawgrass in the aftermath of this year's Players and in thinking back to the golf I watched out there, my admiration for its intricacies has grown.
Did it achieve perfection on the first attempt? No. But few of the great short par-4s were perfect from the get-go. Shoot, Riviera's 10th only ascended to its current place atop most lists when technology (and all of that core work) allowed more players to go for the green.
Did the new 12th achieve the goal of adding intrigue to the early back nine holes and some much needed nuance at what was previously not a good hole?
Did it take one of the most one-dimensional, unimaginative and strange short par-4s on a great course and improve it?
The Dyes, apparently, do not agree. Tom Weiskopf also chimed in from afar with some astute and bizarre remarks. I believe had they watched some of the golf in person and witnessed the strategy sessions at the tee box, or have seen some of the player shotmaking that the hole elicited, they might judge the new 12th less harshly.
Matt Ginella writing for GolfAdvisor.com quotes Alice, who watched much of the coverage and came away unimpressed.
"It’s an awkward hole," says Alice Dye. "It doesn’t fit the course. He OK’d it, but it’s not a Pete Dye design."
But many would counter that as much as we love a good Pete Dye design, interesting short par-4s are not of interest to him. Even Alice confirmed this.
"Pete has never believed in drivable par 4s," says Alice. "If a player is supposed to reach the green from the tee and you’re always allowed two putts, well, that’s a par 3."
Alice, who watched the tournament with Pete all week, on a course that is one of the most iconic of the Dye’s 100-course portfolio, was not impressed with the new 12th.
"Even for the players who laid up, they were left with an awkward shot to a target that was angled across their body, the pins were hidden and weren’t accessible and the green sloped away from them, towards the water. The players who laid up weren’t able to be on the offensive. Either TV didn’t do a good job of presenting it or the hole didn’t create the excitement or the drama they were hoping for."
Actually, the visibility issues were for those who played back in the fairway. Those who sneaked their lay-ups closer to the green got better views, a great nuance to the hole that developed as players got to know the features better.
As for any issues, I think there are two small tweaks that would encourage more aggressiveness without turning it into the automatic-driving situation that Alice laments: keep the lake bank at a higher cut and flip the tee over to the left so that the angle better fits the right-hander's draw-show eye. Currently the players are hitting across themselves a bit. The angle probably accentuates the narrowness of the hole opening and the lefthand lake bank that was declared too severe by many.
A move of the tee so that the hole to set it up more like a long Redan could mean more enticement to attack.
But to suggest the hole was a failure is to look past the intrigue, interest, variety and skill sets the new 12th hole introduced.