MAMARONECK, N.Y. (AP) - In the golf magazines, it looks like just another pleasant par 3. Seen by the naked eye from the 10th tee of Winged Foot's West Course, it's a different story.
The hole is known by Winged Foot members as "the pulpit," and the moniker is easy enough to understand as one looks across a valley at the small, pear-shaped green perched atop a hill. Perhaps the name also hearkens to the stern punishment the 10th metes out to those who stray from the straight and narrow.
"The hole is a very severe green to miss and a very severe green to putt," said Jack Nicklaus, summing up the problem posed by No. 10.
Dubbed by some golf connoisseurs the best waterless par 3 in golf, Winged Foot's 190-yard 10th hole will pose a daunting start to the back nine at this week's PGA Championship.
Cavernous bunkers guard the narrow entrance to the steeply sloping green. Just beyond the back fringe, white out-of-bounds stakes mark the end of playable territory. A modest colonial house is in plain view from the tee, a sight that caused the late Ben Hogan to remark that the hole was a "3-iron into somebody's bedroom."
The famed golf course architect Albert Warren Tillinghast, designer of Winged Foot, called the 10th hole his masterpiece, a hole in which "trouble is all around."
In Tillie's day, golfers hit a 2-iron or 3-wood into the green. Today's professionals will hit more like a 5- or 6-iron. But the trouble is still there, including a deep bunker guarding the right side of the green.
Players standing on the putting surface won't be able to see their playing partners in that trap, other than perhaps the top of their cap and the flip of their sand wedge.
Golf analyst and former PGA champion Dave Marr was fond of saying, "See that deep bunker on the right? When I was an assistant pro at Winged Foot, that's where they delivered my mail."
Among the many things that distinguish the 10th is its east-west orientation. All the other holes on the West Course run along a north-south axis. Thus, as players get to the turn, they will face a completely new wind direction.
Before the 1974 U.S. Open, the usually tough-minded U.S. Golf Association actually softened Winged Foot's 10th, raising the front edge of the green to ease the severity of the slope. It didn't prevent the field from playing the hole nearly half a stroke over par.
Hale Irwin made a birdie, a par and two bogeys on No. 10 - and gained ground relative to the rest of the field. Irwin went on to win that Open, the first of his three national championships.
"I think it's deceptively long," Irwin said Wednesday. "What your eye sees is not necessarily what you get."
Hitting the green, Irwin added, "is only half the problem. Shall we say treacherous is an understatement?"
A decade later, golf pro Jim Albus played the 10th in 7-over for the tournament, including a triple-bogey 6 in the second round. He finished 11-over for that year's Open, tied for 30th. Had he played No. 10 in par, he would have finished sixth.
Someone forgot to tell Colin Montgomerie about the famous 10th. On Wednesday, he registered surprise when informed it is Winged Foot's signature hole.
"You've floored me there," the Scotsman said. "There's better holes at Winged Foot than that one, and tougher as well. It's a 6-iron to a par 3. There's nothing really much to it. Just hit the green with a 6-iron. We can do that."
Aside from imperiling his chances of being invited to join Winged Foot, Montgomerie may have a point. The 10th is not Winged Foot's toughest hole by any stretch, nor even its toughest par 3. The 216-yard third hole gets that honor.
Longtime Winged Foot club professional Tom Nieporte says the 10th hole's fame is about aesthetics as well as difficulty.
"To me it's like a painted picture, every time you play it," Nieporte said.
That makes good sense - since the pros say putting a downhiller on No. 10 is about like putting on a museum floor.
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