Tricky No. 14 at Muirfield prime for birdies

DUBLIN, OHIO (AP) - The signature 14th at Muirfield Village can be a birdie hole for Tiger Woods _ and maybe even a once-a-month hacker.

It’s all about the approach, and that will lead to a lot of strategy at this week’s Presidents Cup.

Off the tee, it’s a relatively easy long-to-middle iron to a generous fairway, the ball coming up just short of a pleasant brook that bisects the hole and then snakes along the right side of the green.

From there, it’s a lofted iron to the kidney-shaped green, bounded by three menacing sand traps on the left, with an abrupt slope to the creek on the right.

To add yet another element of suspense to this week’s Presidents Cup, the PGA Tour, which sets up the course for the biennial team competition, toyed with the idea of shortening the par-4, 325-yard 14th so that long hitters could bomb away.

From the looks of it, few will take the bait.

Phil Mickelson _ known for never shying away from a risky shot _ probably won’t even pull out driver. (Then again, with Mickelson, you never know for sure.)

“No. 14 will be up to each player,” he said Wednesday on the eve of the start of the four-day event. “As a player who likes to go for it, even I have a hard time understanding the advantage of going for it. Very simply put, there’s water right, bunkers left with a green that’s so severely pitched you can’t stop it on the green.”

He’s certainly not alone.

U.S. captain Fred Couples sounded as if he would discourage any of his players from going for it.

“On the 14th I watched Hunter (Mahan), Webb (Simpson), (Bill) Haas and (Brandt) Snedeker play the hole,” Couples said. “They all tried to drive the green. Three of them could actually reach the front part _ it depends on where the pin is, but it’s (still) a very difficult shot. Most players can probably get it up and down in front of the green but there isn’t much room.”

The International team will decided as matches progress.

“It depends on the day,” assistant captain Tony Johnstone said. “I think some of the guys will go. Some of the guys feel that it’s never the right option, that they would rather just knock it short and chip it on and they’ll make more 3s from there. It’s going to depend on the day, how the matches are going, how the guys are feeling, where the wind’s blowing. But these guys are all world-class players, so it’s whatever they desire to do.”

Keegan Bradley, who will be paired with Mickelson in the better-ball matches on Thursday, said the distance makes it particularly debatable to go for it off the tee.

“It’s very difficult on that hole if you go for it and don’t hit the green,” he said. “You’re going to see a lot of guys still laying up because it’s so brutal. But it’s definitely right there.”

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