JOHNS CREEK, GA. (AP) - Tiger Woods posed over his approach into the 18th green Wednesday morning as the ball descended toward the flag and the crowd began to murmur with anticipation.
This was only his final practice round for the PGA Championship. Imagine facing this shot with a one-shot lead Sunday afternoon, not having Woods‘ power, and it starts to make sense why David Toms laid up with a wedge 10 years ago.
Only it’s not just the closing hole at Atlanta Athletic Club.
In what ranks as most of the more difficult closing stretches in championship golf, the last four holes feature a pair of par 3s over water, including one that measures 260 yards on the scorecard. The shorter par 4 is only 476 yards, but is entirely uphill. The closing hole is 507 yards that bends to the left and has a lake in front of the green
“I don’t think there’s another stretch that I can remember that’s this difficult coming in,” Woods said. “You have two long par 4s going uphill, you’ve got a par 3 in which more guys will be hitting lumber, and obviously 18 being as tight as it for as long as it is, it’s a hell of a test coming in.
“If you play those four holes per day, those 16 holes even par, you’ll be picking up a ton of shots on the guys.”
It was difficult enough in 2001, and now they are a combined 85 yards longer.
They played a key part of the PGA Championship the last time it came to Atlanta Athletic Club. The 15th hole is where Toms made an ace with his 5-wood in the third round to take the lead. Of course, the hole was only 227 yards back then.
“First of all, 5-wood is not going to be enough club for me,” Toms said.
The 16th hole is where Phil Mickelson heard a fan shout out Sunday afternoon that his long birdie putt was slower than it looked. Mickelson ran it by some 8 feet and three-putted for bogey, a lost stroke that he never got back and finished second.
On the 18th hole, Toms had a 5-wood from the light rough to clear the water. Instead, he laid up with a wedge, hit another to 12 feet and make the putt to win his only major.
Ten years later, not much has changed as far as the test that awaits when the final major gets under way Thursday.
That’s where most majors are decided, anyway.