This week presents two tournaments, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club in Texas and the Puerto Rico Open at Coco Beach Golf and Country Club, making it a split-field week on the PGA Tour.
With 64 of the top 69 in the Official World Golf Ranking in the WGC event, the Puerto Rico Open leaves a bunch of guys thinking they can get a win without the heaviest hitters in the field. And these two courses couldn’t be more different from one another. One is a vintage challenging Pete Dye design, and the other is mostly flat resort-style course designed by Tom Kite.
Austin Country Club
This 180-acre golf course is actually the third home for the Austin Country Club since its founding in 1899. This particular course designed by Pete Dye in 1984 at the height of beguiling powers. With its deep pot bunkers and undulating turf, the course has a slight Scottish feel (if you’ve never actually played golf in Scotland) even with extensive use of site-quarried limestone slabs to build revetments for tees, greens and fairways.
For the WGC-Match Play, the nines have been flipped (the first hole is normally the members’ 10th) probably because two of the most picturesque holes ordinarily are holes 4 and 4. Instead, for match play they’re holes 12 and 13, which makes for more drama on these holes every match.
Holes to Watch
Hole 12: A massive downhill elevation change played toward the iron arch of the bridge across Lake Austin, this 535-yard par 5 sees its share of massive drives during the week. A strong second aligned anywhere outside of the span of the arch will likely find the water all down the left-hand side of the fairway and green.
Hole 13: The shortest par 4 on the course at only 305 yards, this hole invites players to try and hit a green astride a cape jutting into a small lake. In 2016, the first year here, players with the length to carry the lake realized they could use the grandstands and TV tower as a backstop thus getting a free drop for any shot over the green against the temporary immovable obstruction. Thankfully, this loophole has since been corrected and put the real risk-reward back in play.
Coco Beach Golf and Country Club
Formerly known as Trump International Puerto Rico, Coco Beach was never owned by Donald Trump. The former owners (prior to filing bankruptcy) elected to lease the Trump’s name in hopes of bringing recognition to this 36-hole facility.
From its inception in 2008, the course and tournament has been a bastion for low scores. The average winning score has been 15 under, so it’s reasonable to think this week will see a lot of birdies and maybe a course record. The terrain is extremely flat which, while very walkable, and the curious routing produces awkward and sometimes lengthy transitions from green to tee. The fairways (wide enough to land planes on) are framed by palm trees with a handful of water hazards to contend with along some fairways with greens of a generous size. All of these things spell bombs away for Tour players.