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US PGA Championship: Three key holes at Valhalla that bring risk and reward

A number of holes at the Kentucky course give a nod to the state’s rich horse racing tradition

7th – ‘Genuine Risk’ 597 yards Par 5

Given the horsey connections in the bluegrass state, this hole is named after the 1980 Kentucky Derby winner to go with the risk-reward nature of the hole which has a split fairway. Decision time off the tee: the left side (akin to an island fairway) gives the player the shorter route home and a chance to reach the green in two but it has a narrow landing area of 26 yards. Opting for the right side is the safer bet, but it then leaves a longer, more difficult approach for those trying to find the green in two. It was here that Tiger Woods chipped in from in front of the green en route to his win in 2000.

13th – ‘The Limestone Hole’ 351 yards Par 4

The signature hole of the Jack Nicklaus-designed layout, this is technically a drivable Par 4 with some of the longer hitters perhaps tempted to take out the big stick. Most, though, will likely play iron or hybrid off the tee. This is one of the most unusual holes on any championship rota with the upturned green constructed on a bed of limestone rocks surrounded by a hazard. For those playing for safety off the tee, there remain challenges with a number of fairway bunkers strategically positioned.

18th – ‘Photo Finish’ 570 yards Par 5

Another well-named hole with horse racing connotations, the finish to the 2014 PGA – when Rory McIlroy finished in near-darkness and diced with a tee shot down the right that only barely avoided the hazard – showcased the risk off the tee. This hole played as the easiest of all in the 2014 championship (averaging 4.49) but that chance for birdie or even eagle adds to its potential for drama. The boomerang-shaped green also has a number of different levels. A boom or bust sort of finishing hole.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times