It’s not the Lon Hinkle tree, but the PGA Tour did the next best thing to prevent players at the Sony Open in Hawaii from taking a shortcut to the 18th green.
PGA Tour rules officials didn’t bother to plant a tree overnight the way the USGA once did at the 1979 U.S. Open at Inverness Country Club. Instead, they instituted in-course out-of-bounds stakes that run adjacent from the 10th green up to approximately 25 yards from the 18th green. Any shot coming to rest left of the white stakes on 18 will be determined to be out of bounds. The decision was made to prevent players from taking a short cut that could cut 60-70 yards off the par-5 18th hole at Waialae Country Club and cause delays and potentially dangerous situations.
The possibility of blasting tee shots into the adjacent 10th fairway to set up a short iron to the green with an unobstructed view existed this year due to the lack of a grandstand surrounding the 18th green.
Players received a text from the Tour at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday night informing them of the local rule.
“Seemed a little late,” said Brendan Steele, who lost in a playoff at this tournament a year ago. “I was hoping that they would do the right thing and only put them where guys would try to go in between the trees down 10 fairway or whatever and not where like if you over-hook one trying to get it going left that it would actually go out of play and it doesn’t. So, I think they did a good job if that’s what they were trying to do.”
Billy Horschel agreed that the Tour made the right call. He was playing in the Pro-Am on Wednesday when Golf Channel analyst Justin Leonard mentioned to him that many players were talking about how that was the aggressive play this week. Horschel said in years passed, when the grandstand had been in play, it had never crossed his mind.
“He said, ‘Well a lot of guys are. They are having like flip wedges into the green.’ I was like, ‘Well, maybe I’ll have to look at it when I get on the tee,’ ” Horschel said. “We got a text saying that there was an internal OB now on No. 18, which is smart. I think the hole should be played the way it was designed and not cheat – not saying cheat, but not take advantage of whatever you want to take advantage of.”
A year ago, Steele benefited from a free drop from the grandstand when he tugged his second shot at the 72nd hole. Steele said his ball still would have been in bounds based on where the white stakes have been place, adding, “but if you know it’s out of bounds, you probably don’t hit over there, either.”
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/01/14/in-course-ob-waialae-sony-open-hawaii/