No Birdies, however One Double Bogey, on the Shortest-Ever U.S. Open Gap

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At 81 yards, the par-3 fifteenth gap at Los Angeles Nation Membership on Saturday was the shortest gap within the historical past of the U.S. Open.

Solely a golfer can absolutely grasp the psychological torment that such a bite-size problem poses, however right here is one solution to perceive the state of affairs: Nobody likes a gap the place it’s simpler to throw the ball onto the inexperienced than it’s to hit it there with a golf membership.

Add to the third-round setting a severely sloped fifteenth inexperienced; three large, menacing bunkers surrounding the goal space; and knotty, knee-high grass throughout. And — oh, sure — the strategy shot is uphill, and there’s a gusty wind on the gamers’ backs.

Step proper up, who desires to go first? How about you, Brooks Koepka, five-time main champion?

Didn’t Koepka counsel earlier this week that L.A. Nation Membership could be too straightforward? He mentioned he frightened a few “birdiefest.” Possibly he had a gap lower than 100 yards in thoughts. (The previous report for shortest U.S. Open gap was 92 yards, on the 2010 occasion.)

Koepka was three below par for his Saturday spherical and firmly within the high 10 when he stepped to the fifteenth. However his tee shot had not one of the contact required and soared to the again of the inexperienced. His first putt was approach brief. His subsequent putt was approach lengthy. The third putt simply plain missed the outlet. Koepka tapped in for a double bogey and is now extraordinarily unlikely to win a sixth main at this yr’s Open.

Who’s subsequent? Don’t be shy.

Subsequent got here Tom Kim, the most popular golfer within the early wave of gamers on Saturday, to the fifteenth tee. Kim made seven birdies as he tamed 5,637 yards of L.A.C.C. terrain in his first 14 holes. He had simply made par on the fearsome 627-yard, par-5 14th gap.

So, actually, how arduous might an 81-yard gap be?

Attempting to play with finesse, Kim deftly flipped a tidy little wedge. One downside: It was about two yards in need of the inexperienced and trundled backward in a yawning bunker. His blast from the sand bounded to the again of the inexperienced, 22 ft from the outlet. Two putts and one bogey later, Kim walked away shaking his head as he glared over his shoulder on the fifteenth inexperienced.

After his spherical, Kim summed up the diabolical, tiny check introduced on Saturday by the historic fifteenth gap.

“In the event you’re lengthy, you’re lifeless,” he mentioned. “In the event you’re brief, you’re lifeless. You don’t wish to bail out left as a result of then you will have a 40-footer down the hill. A bogey from 80 yards isn’t nice stats-wise, however, you realize, a double bogey is unquestionably in play there.”

Kim completed the day at three below par for the match and remains to be in rivalry.

Bryson DeChambeau, golf’s mad scientist, seemed very decided throughout his time on the fifteenth tee. He didn’t even flinch when he was nearly beaned by an errant shot from the 14th fairway by a fellow competitor, Keith Mitchell. DeChambeau pitched a wedge to 10 ft and made par.

“I’m the happiest man alive that I hit that inexperienced,” he mentioned. “Tremendous completely happy.”

DeChambeau mentioned he selected a 60-degree wedge and teed his golf ball further excessive to create extra spin and loft.

“Very troublesome, demanding shot,” he added. “Par is a superb rating.”

Even when it’s solely 81 yards?

“I’d somewhat or not it’s longer tomorrow,” mentioned DeChambeau, who completed at three below par.

The fifteenth gap didn’t play as some of the troublesome holes on the golf course on Saturday. Nevertheless it appears a shock that the scoring common on the outlet was 2.92 with 11 birdies, 4 bogeys and one conspicuous double bogey within the area of 65.

Forty-nine of the very best golfers on this planet made par, and no higher, on an 81-yard gap. Then once more, as is usually mentioned, golf is a sport of opposites. For instance, it’s essential to hit down on the ball to make it go up. So in that approach, the fifteenth gap within the third spherical of the 2023 nationwide golf championship was, maybe, excellent.

Shane Lowry, the 2019 British Open champion, might have mentioned it finest.

“It was completely different, and that’s fascinating,” he mentioned with a smile. “Completely different is OK. However I had a plan. The plan was par.”

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