Oak Tree National’s 13th hole is not for the superstitious or the fainthearted.
The 207-yard par 3 is daunting from the moment you step on the elevated tee box. Large red rocks border the banks of the pond along the left, and trees hang into view from the right.
With water and sand to the left, and the south wind blowing across to the right, players are forced to make a choice: tempt fate and risk the hazards to the left, or play it safe to the right — which offers its own dangers.
The narrow green leaves little room for error, even to the right, with hills and thick rough to contend with if the player chooses to bail out.
It’s a place where on Sunday a birdie could catapult a player into contention, and a double-bogey — or worse — could end someone’s championship hopes. The 13th resulted in twice as many doubles as any hole Saturday.
Mark Brooks and Esteban Toledo both learned the dangers of 13 on Saturday. Each came to the par 3 at 1 under par and left with double-bogey. Neither player found his way back under par the rest of the day.
Colin Montgomerie was 5 under with a chance to take the tournament lead when he got to 13, but a tee shot in the bunker led to a bogey and derailed his round.
Statistically, the third hole has a slightly higher stroke average for the week, but the 13th has led to far more big numbers. Players have almost as many double-bogeys (48) as bogeys (64) and 12 players have scored triple-bogey or worse.
In fact, surviving the 13th has been one of the keys to staying under par this week. The seven players in red numbers entering Sunday’s final round have played the hole in a combined 1 under, with four birdies, one bogey and one double.
So if you’re looking for a potential turning point down the stretch Sunday, keep an eye on the unlucky 13th.
Hole No. 7 has gotten easier with each day of the tournament. On Saturday, only two eagles were recorded — one by Oak Tree’s Bob Tway — but the scoring average for the field was nearly half a shot below par at 4.636.
There were 28 birdies and 29 pars, with only six bogeys and one double-bogey. The hole plays more difficult when the pin is on the back left side of the two-tiered green, and easier when it’s in the front, so hole location will dictate scoring opportunities on Sunday.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Gene Sauers hit a 5-iron from 186 yards on No. 16 to within a foot of the cup for a tap-in birdie, which put him on top of the leaderboard at 6 under par. He hit another close iron shot on No. 18 to stretch his lead to three shots heading to Sunday.
VOLUNTEER OF THE DAY
Riley Funk, who will be a freshman at Maur Hill-Mount Academy, a Catholic boarding school in the Kansaas City suburb of Atchison, Kan., on Saturday was the standard bearer who followed around Vijay Singh and Wes Short, Jr.
Funk, 14, has served as a standard bearer six times the past week. During a practice round, Funk was the standard bearer for Corey Pavin and Joey Sindelar.
“They’ve been a lot more serious the past two days but in the practice rounds Corey Pavin and some of the others joked around a little with me,” Funk said. “I hadn’t heard of some of these guys but I knew Vijay Singh and Corey Pavin. Some of these guys are legends.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It was tough late (Friday) because the booze in the (corporate) tents started taking over back (by holes 16 and 17). There was a little hooting and hollering going on. I don’t know if I was more jealous or distracted.” — Stillwater resident Bill Glasson.
Langer will be trying to find a way to monitor one score in particular — but not one at the golf course.
The German will be trying to keep up with his home country’s soccer team in the World Cup final, which will begin around the time Langer starts his back nine Sunday.
And Langer will be trying to emulate the performance of another German, Martin Kaymer, who won The Players Championship and the U.S. Open earlier this year. Langer won the Senior Players.
“I'm trying to win the Senior U.S. Open and hopefully Germany will win the World Cup. Overall, we've been doing OK,” Langer said with a laugh.
For Oklahoma’s casual golf fans watching this week’s action and wondering why the ball isn’t spinning backward on the green, the way it does when PGA Tour golfers play, the reason isn’t because the older players can’t do it.
The course conditions, combined with the hot temperatures, have made it difficult for players to stop the ball where it lands on the hard, fast greens. Two days removed from Thursday morning’s rain showers, the course has gotten much firmer.
“The greens were really hard,” Langer said. “Sometimes it's hard to get the pitch fork into the ground. And the ball released, it didn't stop like it had the first couple days.”
GROUP TO FOLLOW
If you’re looking to avoid the big crowds of the final groupings, but still want to see some good golf and a little entertainment, the 11:50 a.m. pairing of Rocco Mediate and Russ Cochran is the pick.
Mediate, perhaps most famous for his duel with Tiger Woods in the 2008 U.S. Open, is a gallery favorite for his playful interaction with the fans throughout the round. Cochran has won the Senior British Open among his five senior victories.
SUNDAY’S WEATHER FORECAST
The final round of could be the hottest of the week other than the first practice round last Monday. Temperatures could get near triple-digits when the top players are trying to get hot to win the Francis Ouimet trophy, named after the 1913 U.S. Open champion.