AKRON — The toughest hole of the day Saturday was the 494-yard, par-4 ninth, which yielded an average score of 4.549.
Only Aaron Baddeley made birdie on the hole, while the rest of the field put up 43 pars, 33 bogeys, three double bogeys, two triple bogeys and a quadruple-bogey 8 by Zach Johnson, which sent him from 5 under to 1 under.
“I tried to play safe every shot,” Johnson said. “I tried to play the percentages on every single shot I hit, and I made a four-footer for an 8 — a good 8.”
Johnson tried to recreate the nightmare during his post-round news conference.
“My second shot, I could see my entire ball,” he said. “It wasn’t like it was nestled down. I have 200 yards to the green, so I hit a wedge. It still grabbed my club and went dead left.”
“I hit a fade out of the rough on the next shot, so I don’t have any idea. I tried to be conservative, I tried to take the smart approach, which is how I play.”
Other golfers who had better scores on the hole weren’t as pleasant as Johnson.
“The ninth hole is rubbish,” said Justin Rose, who made par on the hole but finished 1 over for the round. “I don’t like that new tee, personally, unless you can carry it 310 (yards). You’ve got only 5 yards to land the ball in to keep it in the fairway. If you miss the fairway, you can’t reach the green.
“I think it’s a pretty bad hole.”
Hunter Mahan, the first-round leader who also parred No. 9, doesn’t understand why they moved the tee for this year’s tournament.
“It’s a little extreme for a hole that was already hard before,” he said. “Now I think it’s really, really hard. They didn’t need to make every hole hard out there. We still need to make a couple birdies.”
Vandals breached Firestone security sometime during the night between the second and third rounds and spray-painted … um … a depiction of a rather well-endowed pair of breasts on the No. 4 green.
“What about it?” Tiger Woods deadpanned when asked what he thought about the fourth green. “You go ahead, I’m just going to sit back.”
Apparently, the comments were a little more forthcoming, and a little less censored, on the course, and several golfers even used the “figure” to help find a line to the hole.
“Use your best judgment,” said tournament leader Rory Sabbatini when asked what line he took on the hole. “I’m not even going in that direction.”
When pressed further, Sabbatini said: “C’mon, go watch the replay on TV. You’ll get a perfectly good view.”
Quotes of the day
Sabbatini had a couple of good lines when discussing the difficulty of Firestone’s South Course.
“Zach and I were actually saying today if they ever had something go wrong with a U.S. Open course and needed an emergency substitute, they could bring us here in a heartbeat — that’s how tough this course is right now,” he said.
The South African then tried to rationalize the adjustments made to the course by comparing golf to another of America’s favorite sports.
“They’re trying to keep up with technology, but ultimately you’ve got to let guys play golf and be able to hit quality shots,” he said. “Nobody wants to go to a NASCAR race just to watch guys wreck, they want to see someone win. Let the guys show their ability out there.”
Mark Wilson had the day’s only bogey-free round, finishing with a 2-under 68. The impressive round allowed Wilson — who began the day just four spots from last place — to move up 31 spots for a 10-way tie for 47th place at 9-over. Wilson had two birdies — on Nos. 4 and 16 — and 16 pars.
• The easiest hole of the day was the always-friendly second, a 526-yard par-5 that yielded an average score of 4.683. Both Adam Scott and Thongchai Jaidee had eagles on the hole, while 33 others made birdie, 38 made par and eight put up a bogey. While nobody scored a double bogey on the hole, local favorite Ben Curtis continued his abysmal performance this weekend with a triple bogey.
• Longest drive of the day went to Troy Matteson, who hit the ball 397 yards on the 667-yard, par-5 16th hole. The great tee shot did nothing for the golfer, as he finished with a bogey on the hole, and is 8 over for the tournament.
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.