2017 Presidents Cup
Four holes to watch at Liberty National Golf Club
by M. James Ward
When this 12th Presidents Cup matches commence Thursday at Liberty National Golf Club there will be a missing individual who played a major role in the creation of the facility that will test a team of American and International players -- architect Bob Cupp. Sadly, Cupp passed away in August of '16 at age 76 from pancreatic cancer. Cupp had been a major contributor in courses being designed for a number of years -- particularly through his working relationship with Jack Nicklaus and later on his own. It was Cupp who teamed with World Golf Hall of Famer Tom Kite in the creation of the course located just across the skyline of lower Manhattan and within easy eyeball views of the Statue of Liberty.
Liberty National was not especially embraced when the world's best players competed on the layout during the '09 Barclays event but improvements were made with Cupp and Kite providing consultation on the various 70+ changes made.
The working relationship between Cupp and Kite allowed the former PGA TOUR superstar to branch out beyond his competitive playing career. Kite won one major championship in 1992 with the US Open at Pebble Beach but along with 19 TOUR wins he was a constant presence among any leaderboard with no less than 27 top ten finishes in major championships. Often times people will quickly remember the epic triumph of Jack Nicklaus during the '86 Masters and the inability of Greg Norman to par the final hole to get into a playoff with the Golden Bear. But it was Kite who also was in the thick of things with a birdie effort at the 72nd hole which barely kept him outside of a possible playoff.
Kite has seen the facility from it beginnings -- a superfund toxic former landfill. Now, the 160 acres is filled with a golf course that literally has been created in every aspect. The 67-year-old Texan weighs in on what he sees as the key holes for this week's event.
1st hole / 427 yards / Par-4 (normally plays as the 5th hole)
With mounds and trees framing the right side and a large lake left, this is one of the most demanding tee shots at Liberty National Being played as the first hole in the revised routing and with opening tee shot jitters at the Presidents Cup it will even be more demanding. Getting the tee shot in the fairway will put pressure on any opponent. The multi-level green is well protected with a gaping bunker right and meandering creek hugging the left side. I anticipate very few ties on this opening hole in the Presidents Cup.
10th Hole / 150 Yards / Par-3 (normally plays as the 14th hole)
Set on a point with spectacular views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, the short par 3 #10 will be one of the best locations for the spectators to hang. The hole is only 150 yards, when maxed out, but the smallish green will require a precise short iron to have any success. And making the shot even more difficult is the fact that #10 is the most exposed hole to the winds coming off the Hudson River. Great possibility for momentum swings here.
12th Hole / 325 Yards / Par-4 (normally plays as the 16th hole)
Designed as a driveable par 4, the 12th will provide lots of excitement. As a player, I love golf holes that give multiple options of how to play, and the 12th certainly does that. Playing any where from 290 - 325 yards this hole will allow the players to access how they stand in the match and adjust strategy accordingly. The undulating green is amply sized but well guarded with a creek running up the entire right side and a bunker and closely mown areas left. Opportunities for birdies and eagles are available, but with rewards also come risks. And, watching the strategies change depending on what their opponent does will be captivating.
14th Hole / 490 Yards / Par-4 (normally plays as the 18th hole)
Bob Cupp believed the finishing hole should be a demanding one, and I agreed. Normally the 18th, but the 14th in the President Cup, this could indeed still be the finishing hole in some of the matches. Headed straight towards the iconic Liberty National clubhouse, and playing nearly 500 yards the slightly uphill dogleg right will test the best. A long straight drive that avoids numerous bunkers is needed to even reach the green in two shots. And, the second shot is no less difficult, requiring anywhere from a mid iron to possibly a hybrid or even fairway metal depending on the wind direction, tee placement and hole location. Few birdies will take place here, and pars could win on this stout hole.
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