The Jordan Spieth-Dustin Johnson duel at The Northern Trust was very exciting. No doubt about it. The conclusion was a bit unfortunate, however, owing to the choice of playoff hole.

You can see the lines Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth took off the tee in this tweet from Ian Poulter.

Poulter calls the choice of hole a “shame,” and he’s right. Johnson learned his lesson from missing the fairway right in regulation and having to lay up. He wasn’t going to make that mistake again, and instead he unleashed a howitzer, cutting the corner on a line more aggressive than Poulter with the block button on Twitter.

DJ piped his drive 341 yards. Spieth hit an excellent, 300-yard-plus drive, but was unable to take the same line.

Look, there’s an element of “you should never put the game in the ref’s hands” here. Spieth didn’t play as well as Johnson Sunday, as evidenced by, you know, their scores. Spieth shot 69. DJ shot 66.

That said, the 18th hole does offer the biggest bombers a massive advantage if they can clear the water. And it’s not really “risk-reward,” because as long as DJ makes decent contact, he carries the water. Maybe he’s in the rough, but he’s still garnered said massive advantage for his second shot. You shouldn’t hit a drive 315 yards and find yourself facing a 180-plus yard approach while your opponent is looking at a baby wedge.

Proceeding from the standpoint that a poor golf course advantages only one type of player, you can certainly make the case (as pros did) that the 18th was a poor choice of playoff hole.

And yes, Johnson still had to hit the wedge. Heck, he had to hit the booming drive under pressure. But the idea of playoff hole selection is generally to pick a fairly benign hole that affords a birdie opportunity. Right?

Looking at the course map, the teebox at No. 10 (a mid-level difficulty, 445-yard par 4) would have been an even shorter commute than the 18th tee. Of course, the fans were already in place at No. 18, so you’d assume that was the tournament organizers’ guiding factor in the decision.

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40 COMMENTS

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  1. I am a little late, but… A par on 6 and 9 in the final round would have put JS at -16 on the 72nd tee. DJ would not even have been in the picture. DJ may have hit that drive on the 72nd hole to see if he could rattle JS into making a mistake, but I doubt that would have ended in JS carding a triple bogey. Letting DJ back in it was the problem, not the choice of playoff hole, nor his driving distance. JS knows this. So does Poulter, he just hasn’t been in that position in recent memory so he may have forgotten.

  2. The issue with the design of 18 is that by hitting over the water, a 26 yard difference in shit distance becomes almost 100 yards with the big turn of the fairway. Kudos to DJ for playing it so well, but on most any hole with a modest turn the 26 yard difference wouldn’t amount to that much.

  3. I love Eriks comment , ” all he had to do was hit it in the middle of the club more or less”. Play many tournaments my friend. Ever gone to a play off with you whole team watching. Just get the ball in the centre more or less, no sweat. Do not underestimate the skill these guy have

  4. Nobody complained back in the day when Tiger’s length won him tournaments…

    And this was NOT DJ’s best line this year. It was right before the Masters. He took on a big line and missed the stairs altogether. Party on DJ!

  5. Waa, waa, waa. There are a number of Pros who could hit that tee shot, but DJ had the nutz to take it on. The whiners are pathetic. The majority of Tourney playoff holes always go back to 18. BECAUSE THAT’S WHERE THE FANS ARE! Ffs.

  6. I was at the 18th green for the last 2 hours on Sunday. Over those 2 hours…there were 2 birdies on that green, all from below the hole (see Jon Rahm). Anyone juicing it over the green, especially into the fringe, had no chance, most blowing it by the hole, until DJ laid up and put that wedge above the hole. THAT PUTT on 18 was impossible, super slick, breaking hard R to L, with JS sitting at 3 feet for a tap in win. That putt won the tourney, not the playoff drive. I could have headed to the car early after that putt. Seems like everyone is forgetting it.

  7. It’s JOE LOUIS against MAX SCHMELING a gain Who had the better punch ?
    JORDAN SPIETH is a good looking young and promising player but he’s nô match for DJ.
    Only is super putting abilities keep him going !
    His long game is just so so !
    His footwork is flawed : look at his left foot flipping over at the end of the throughswing .

  8. They should have let Spieth play from the forward tees, right guys? What a joke. DJ outplayed him all day and made that bomb on 18 in regulation. He went out and did it.

  9. Jordan is an athletic 24 year old male standing like 6’2″ 200 lbs and competing in a sporting contest. Why does this article even exist? I highly doubt Spieth is even thinking about this.

  10. Like the tournament committee knew there was going to be a playoff before the tourney started and that it would be Speith and DJ in it. These things are decided BEFORE the toruney starts!

  11. So says Ian Poulter……Will this guy ever shut up…….How did he get involved in this in the first place…He really needs to work on his game and leave the key board alone if he wants to be relevant in the outcome of PGA tour events whether there is a playoff involved or not.

  12. It’s a bad hole. DJ pointed out in interview that the wind shifted so he was able to carry water.
    He bypassed the hole, the risk/reward idea with hole was no longer there. His landing area was actually bigger then JS. All he had to hit was the middle of the club more or less.

  13. Were they supposed to pick a hole with a completely flat green so that DJ would have a equal odds on the green?

    Golf evens itself out. DJ can hit it further, and took the chance to get a huge advantage on the 18th, but in general, Jordan’s putting brings him back to even with DJ’s length. If the two were both on the green, and Jordan was 10′ further out than DJ, I’d still pick Jordan to make the putt.

  14. Any fan of the game would almost pay to see a DJ/Spieth playoff at any tournament on any hole. That’s about as good as it gets these days and it was exciting to watch regardless of the outcome. I see all the points here and won’t really try to argue one side or the other but, it’s always been my understanding that a playoff scenario is determined well in advance. To think that they should have planned to make sure, as Poulter put it, the five guys in the field wouldn’t have an advantage would just be silly to begin with. You’re always going to get more attention on something involving the game’s biggest name but, let’s be honest here, if DJ beat someone like Branden Grace or Adam Hadwin in the same fashion, no one would care.

  15. I don’t know what I am missing here. This is golf, players play holes holes differently throughout the round based on their skill set. Correct me if I’m wrong, but general playoff protocol is to go back to 18 for the first hole of sudden death, why should this be different? If 18 was a par 5, would that be unfair because DJ can get home easier than Jordan? Or if it’s a par 3 is it unfair because DJ is hitting one less club than Jordan? Johnson took advantage of his length, that’s golf, oh well. Jordan had plenty of opportunities to not let this go to a playoff. The fact PGA tour players would complain about this blows my mind.

  16. If Johnson mis-hits the slightest bit, he’s in the water. He said in post round conf, that the wind changed direction which helped. Let’s blame the wind and not the hole. No matter what hole you use, Johnson has the length advantage. That was one of the best playoffs there has been. That was the two players we wanted to see at Chambers Bay on a Monday 18 hole playoff.

  17. All of you trolls have clearly no understand of golf course architecture. This hole was abysmal. There is no risk/reward a long hitter. All he had to do was make contact. Would be totally fine with the hole if there was more water or a tighter fairway. However when a hole gets wider the farther it goes, it is counter-intuitive. All fairways should look like a funnel. Punishing longer hitters that hit it off-line and rewarding those that hit it straighter, regardless of distance.

    • All he had to do was make contact and hit it 315 yards in the air? That’s it? Well, I guess I will need to change my game so that is all I need to do. Jordan missed enough putts and had enough chances to win. Too bad for him.

    • So if it is SOOOOO easy for the long hitter to just hit that fairway then how was it DJ had to lay up on the 18th in regulation. No risk/reward… If he catches that ball thin … water… High on the face… water… huge cut… having to lay up again. Sounds like a bunch of people jealous of DJ being able to hit the long ball.

  18. Spieth blew it early with the double bogey. The putt on the 72nd hole for DJ won the tournament because he was going to end this quickly with his distance – fair? Sudden death in the NFL is not fair. Neither was the choice of this hole if we’re talking fairness. But we’re not talking fairness. It’s golf.

  19. This is the dumbest thing I’ve read. Every golf tournament plays 18 twice, then goes to 10 or something like that. It’s just the way it’s done. NOBODY complained about the 18th hole all week, and nobody complained about it the first time Spieth and DJ played it…

    This argument is the same as saying the PGA Tour should NEVER play holes that favor someone who can hit it a long way. It’s the name of the game, stop complaining. Jim Furyk is one of the shorter hitters in the game, and he’s shot 59 and 58 on Tour.

    It’s hilarious how these angry tweets are coming from two guys (Poulter and Bryan) who average 280y and 282y off the tee (per PGA Tour statistics). I don’t see anyone in the Top-10 or Top-20 in driving distance complaining about it?

    Everyone loves to watch DJ bomb drivers. Yet, when it comes to him using his length as an advantage to win a golf tournament, now people are upset?! Give me a break…

    • Not every playoff starts on the 18th, stop spouting ignorance. The Players tournament for example has 17th as the first playoff hole, there are PLENTY OF OTHER tournaments that don’t start on 18th on a playoff. If you’re going to criticize something at least know wtf you’re talking about.

    • LOL

      Okay, sorry that I was mistaken by saying “every tournament”, clearly that was an exaggeration that everyone used to say I have “no clue” or I’m “ignorant”, yet nobody addressed any of my other points.

      Players play every single hole differently to their strengths and weaknesses, and over 72 holes both DJ and Spieth had equal opportunity to win the tournament as they sat even at -13 under. Spieth had a 5 shot lead at one point, so he clearly blew the tournament all on his own.

      Saying the playoff is unfair is saying golf in general is unfair. What’s do you want tournament committees to do? Evaluate every player that makes the playoff and collectively decide the “most fair hole” for the bunch to go play? This stuff is decided well ahead of the tournament, and if the playoff players were different we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. If DJ did what he did the first time they played 18, everyone would be talking about how he used his length as an advantage to close it out on the 72nd hole and dominate Spieth, but because it was in a playoff now it’s a bad thing?!?!

  20. Not risk/reward? DJ took a normal line in all 4 rounds and only decided to hit that in the playoffs. If it was a no brainer, he would have cut the water every time. You can’t treat golf as a sport then cry when someone has a physical advantage over you.

  21. Yeah no. Spieth can’t keep up with the longest hitter and it showed. If you can hit it a mile and manage a good approach, putting doesn’t even matter. Welcome to new golf. Haters gonna hate.

  22. Slow news day? This is stupid. Maybe they should’ve picked the hole with the hardest green so Jordan would 1-putt and dj would 3 putt? Virtually every golf tournament in the world picks the 18th as the playoff hole. The fact that it suits one guy’s game is simply chance. Run of the green. Great tournament for both guys.

  23. so what are they supposed to do , pick a hole to fit spieth because he is the golden child! DJ out drives jordan on every hole! this is so funny they are whining about the hole choice

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