FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Rory McIlroy sat down for his news conference on Tuesday at the PGA Championship and studied a scorecard that had been placed in front of him.
“I actually wasn’t sure whether we were playing it as a par 70 or 71, so par 70,” McIlroy observed. “The seventh hole can obviously go from a par 5 to a par 4, and the two times we played the PGA Tour event here it was a par 5, and then the U.S. Open it was a par 4.”
Like many in this week’s field, McIlroy was curious if the PGA of America intended to set up Bethpage Black like it was played for the two U.S. Opens that were played on the Black Course, or set it up like it was played for the two Tour events.
A snapshot of how the course played on those four occasions paints two vastly different pictures.
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For both U.S. Opens, first in 2002 and then ’09, the par-4 15th hole was the most difficult, followed by the par-4 12th hole. Although the order changed for each championship, Nos. 5, 7 and 10 rounded out the top 5 of the most difficult holes for both weeks.
During the two Northern Trust events in 2012 and ’16, however, the 15th hole didn’t even rank among the top 5 toughest despite playing longer (478 yards) for the playoff events than it did for the two U.S. Opens (459 yards).
In fact, in 2012 it was the par-3 third hole that played the most difficult along with Nos. 8 and 17, which are also par 3s.
As McIlroy pointed out, the seventh hole is playing as a par 4 for this week’s championship, but what’s noteworthy is that during the Tour events at Bethpage, it ranked as the week’s easiest hole as a par 5 with scoring averages (4.363 and 4.426, respectively) lower than it played to during the ’02 U.S. Open (4.478).