Muirfield's 14th hole offers options at the Presidents Cup

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DUBLIN, Ohio — The signature 14th at Muirfield Village can be a birdie hole for Tiger Woods – and maybe even a once-a-month hacker.

Phil Mickelson, of the U.S. team, practices on the green of Muirfield's 14th hole, a par-4 that some players might try to drive.  JAY LAPRETE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
JAY LAPRETE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Phil Mickelson, of the U.S. team, practices on the green of Muirfield's 14th hole, a par-4 that some players might try to drive.

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.

The PGA Tour, which sets up the course, 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.

“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.”

SPIETH’S ACE: The memorable year of Jordan Spieth added yet another chapter on Wednesday.

The 20-year-oldaced the signature 12th hole at Muirfield Village during a practice round.

“I got good video of him getting the ball out of the hole if you want to see it,” U.S. assistant captain Davis Love III said.

Spieth hit a 7-iron from 176 yards for his third ace – and second this year after making one in Puerto Rico.

“It was really cool,” he said.

THAT’S MR. COUPLES: Fred Couples, the U.S. captain, said he was approached by a younger man during a practice round on Tuesday.

“I met (Spieth’s) father, who is probably eight years younger than I am, which is really weird,” Couples said to loud laughter. “I wasn’t expecting that, but he came up and said, ‘I’m Jordan’s father.’ I looked and thought he was 30 years old.”

Asked if Mr. Spieth addressed him as Mr. Couples, he cracked, “No, he didn’t, actually, but I told him to from now on.”

SCHEDULE CHANGE: Inter­national captain Nick Price believes that the way teams are chosen and other factors favor the United States. Maybe that’s why the Americans are 7-1-1 in Presidents Cup play.

One area where Price was able to get the rules changed was the schedule. Play on Thursday will get under way with four-ball, or as it is commonly known, better-ball competition.

Traditionally, the first day was devoted to foursomes or alternate-shot play.

In four-ball, the low score for each pairing counts within the group. For example, if Ernie Els has a birdie at the fifth hole while paired with Brendon de Jonge in their match with Stricker and Spieth, and the Americans each par it, the Internationals win the hole.

“When Ernie and I went to see (PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem) last year, just to talk about it, that was one of the concessions that he made,” Price said. “Both Ernie and I felt it was very important just to change it from the hardest format (foursomes) to the better-ball. That was a positive move for us.”

The International side has seven first-time participants in the Presidents Cup. Since foursomes is a format that none of those rookies has played before in international competition, Price believed it was advantageous to push that new experience back a day.

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OTHER KEY HOLES: While many might be watching to see if someone goes for the green at the par-4 14th off the tee, there are several other decisions that will need to be made by players.

Snedeker takes us on a quick tour of the course and the choices made during the better-ball competition.

“Obviously, I think the par-5 fifth will be an important one on aggressive, you want to be there. If you’re both in the fairway, who’s going to go and who’s going to lay up?” he said. “(The par-5) No. 11 will be a decision off the tee. If you want to be aggressive and hit driver and try to get down there and knock it on in two or lay back and play it as a three-shot hole. It depends on what your partner does, how you play that hole. And then 14 will be the only other one I could see being an issue.”

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