It's a long shot, and that's meant in several ways. But when a player comes to the tee at the par-4 17th hole at Emirates G.C. this weekend, that long shot, if successful, could be worth a lot of money.
Organizers of the Dubai Desert Classic are offering $2.5 million to any player that can make an ace at the 356-yard hole during the third and final rounds on the weekend.
The entire purse for the 72-hole golf tournament is $2.5 million. The winner's check for the week is about $420,000. Winning a tournament with the kind of field the Dubai Desert Classic boasts is hard enough, but the chances of acing a par 4, much less in competition, are infinitesimally small. In the history of the PGA Tour, only one player has ever made a 1 on a par 4: Andrew Magee did it on the par-4 17th in the 2001 Waste Management Phoenix Open, curiously the PGA Tour event this week.
It's one thing to offer a big prize for a par-3 ace. They're commonplace and really have little impact on how most pros approach par-3 tee shots. The idea is to hit it close on a par 3, so trying for an ace isn't an outlandish idea. But on a par 4? Are you kidding? A player could spray their drive into the woods, or duck hook it, or do something else resulting in a disaster, all because they wanted to do something never done in European Tour history, once on the PGA Tour and once in "Happy Gilmore."
Despite the potential impact on his tournament finish, Rory McIlroy said Wednesday he's going to give the challenge a try.
"There are not many chances you have to win $2.5 million in one shot, so I'll give it a go," said McIlroy, who is also being paid in upwards of a seven-figure fee just to compete.
The shot is not as simple as hitting it straight down the pipe and hoping for a few lucky bounces. The hole is a dogleg right, meaning a player is likely to need to hit their tee shot blind over trees to have any chance at the ace. McIlroy doesn't see that as a deterrent.
"If you're confident enough with your driver, why not?" McIlroy said. "It might not even be a driver. If they move the tee up, it's only going to play 295 or 300 yards. It's a 3-wood. Why not?"