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Holes to watch at the Ryder Cup
Posted 9/27/2012 4:44 PM ET

MEDINAH, Ill. -- Every hole at Medinah Country Club matters at the Ryder Cup, of course. But some could figure more heavily into the outcome of the matches than others. Here are a few to watch:

No. 1, 433 yards, par 4

Why? Pressure. As former and current Ryder Cuppers say, there's nothing like the pressure of playing for team and country. And it starts with the opening tee shot and runs through the last shot in singles.

How it plays: A narrow opening hole that could be a 3-wood off the tee to find a level landing area for the short iron approach to the green. The right side is preferred because of the bunker down the left side of the fairway. Two bunkers guard the front of the green, and a collection area awaits any approach that goes too long. Wind coming off the lake behind the green should play a role.

No. 4, 463 yards, par 4

Why? The hole features among the fastest putts on the course, and three-putts are a distinct possibility. Though opening-hole jitters should fade by the second tee, they could return after a three-putt.

How it plays: A severe elevation change from fairway to green encourages an extra club for the approach shot. Players will favor the right side of the pitch fairway, for tee shots down the left side will likely end up in the rough. And players must keep the ball below the hole.

No. 15, 391 yards, par 4

Why? It provides a quick way to change momentum -- or lose a match. The hole gives plenty of options -- do you put the hammer down when with a lead and go for the green with a tee shot, or do you guard a lead and play it safe?

How it plays: The biggest change on the course, this hole could be the most exciting. Water now adjoins the landing area and the green, and the PGA of America is likely to move the tees forward to give players the option of driving the green. The green is guarded by bunkers in the front and mounds in the back. A ridge coming in from the right forms a small plateau in the right rear of the green, with a collection area back and right.

No. 17, 193 yards, par 3

Why? The Ryder Cup does funny things to players -- as do water hazards. The two together will create some tense moments as players look to close out matches or cut late deficits as they look down from an elevated tee and see a tiny, thin green, two massive bunkers and a lake guarding the front of the green.

How it plays: Lake Kadijah plays a key role here as players will have to judge the wind. Going long is no bargain, although it's better than coming up short and left. The green is slick, further complicating matters.

No. 18, 449 yards, par 4

Why? It's the last chance to win a match outright or gain a critical half-point.

How it plays: A relatively dull hole for the conclusion of the Ryder Cup, compared with Wales, Valhalla and The K Club. The tee shot should be toward the left to avoid a series of bunkers down the right side. The approach is to an elevated green protected by bunkers, with a collection area back and to the right.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Posted 9/27/2012 4:44 PM ET
Water guarding the 17th green no doubt will be a factor this week.
Andrew Redington, Getty Images
Water guarding the 17th green no doubt will be a factor this week.