SAN FRANCISCO -- The Olympic Club's homestretch just became a little more interesting.
Less than two months from the U.S. Open, a new bunker suddenly sprouted at No. 17 on the Lake Course. It adds another slice of intrigue to what is shaping up as a fascinating three-hole finish.
U.S. Golfing Association executive director Mike Davis requested the new bunker, mostly because he wants players to try to reach the No. 17 green in two shots. The hole, a par-4 in past Opens at Olympic, will play as a par-5 this year -- 522 yards along a tilted fairway, leading to the course's most severely sloped green.
A crew began building the bunker April 19 and completed it two days later. It's about 750 square feet, sits approximately 55 yards short of the middle of the green and is 20 to 25 yards ahead of the next-closest bunker on the right side.
The idea, as course superintendent Pat Finlen put it, is to complicate the "lay-up" shot and encourage players to go for the green in two. That could lead to some spectacular shots -- and not-quite-spectacular shots skidding down the shaved slope and stopping beneath the trees on the right (not a desirable destination).
"It'll be exciting," said Lee Janzen, who won the 1998 Open at Olympic. "Someone could eagle 17, but you're going to have to hit two pinpoint shots."
The bunker -- which the USGA paid to install and will pay to remove after the Open -- highlights the striking variety in the final three holes. Davis previously tinkered with No. 16, building a new back tee to allow him to stretch the par-5 to 670 yards.
That seems excessive, but it also makes No. 16 the longest hole in Open history -- probably too long for even this year's Masters champ Bubba Watson to reach in two shots.
So the homestretch will include an incredibly long par-5, a reachable but treacherous par-5 and then the short-but-devilish par-4 at No. 18. This compelling mix could magnify the final-round drama come Father's Day.
"You could see someone birdie the last three holes to come from behind and win the tournament," Janzen said. "But there's just enough trouble that things could change (at the top). It's also not a lock the leader can par those last three to win."