FORT WAYNE – Some of the world’s best golfers will tee off today at Sycamore Hills Golf Club, with the goal of winning part of the $1 million purse at the Hotel Fitness Championship and, for some of them, getting closer to winning one of the 25 PGA Tour cards that will be up for grabs over the next month.
Because these players, a mix of PGA Tour veterans and its minor-league circuit, the Web.com Tour, can hit the ball so solidly, they will have to make some tough decisions.
For instance, on the creatively designed par-5 15th hole, which is traversed by the Aboite River four times, they will have to decide if they will lay up or go for the green.
“As the week goes on, there are some holes on the golf course that are fun to watch. There are a lot of risk/reward holes,” said Tim Frazier, the head professional at Jack Nicklaus-designed Sycamore Hills, which has played host to five national championships for the United States Golf Association and the PGA of America since 2009.
The Hotel Fitness Championship, which is in its inaugural year, is the first of four legs in the new Web.com Tour Finals. Players competing are from the top 75 on the Web.com Tour or Nos. 126 to 200 in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings.
The winner of the Hotel Fitness Championship will win $180,000.
While most of the players had never seen Sycamore Hills before this week’s practice rounds and pro-ams, they have already noticed the risk/reward quality of the course.
“There are a lot of doglegs, especially on the back nine, where you have to find out how much you want to bite off from the tee and then that will determine your shot into the green,” said Mark Anderson, one of the top players on the Web.com Tour this season.
“It’s going to be a good test. It rewards straight driving. And the greens are pretty small, so it’ll be imperative to have your irons going.”
The course, which is 7,275 yards and par 72, opened in 1989.
“A couple of the par 5s, even a couple of the par 4s, you can choose a really aggressive line off the tee,” said Darron Stiles, a regular of the PGA Tour. “For players like me, there probably won’t be a whole lot of that – I don’t have the length to take advantage of that sort of aggression – but there are plenty of options out there to do that. If you don’t pull it off, somebody like me who’s playing it safer might come up and get you.”
The field includes a Masters champion in Trevor Immelman, a U.S. Open runner-up in Ricky Barnes and familiar names such as Ryo Ishikawa, Heath Slocum and Chris DiMarco.
So where’s the best place to watch these players take on Sycamore Hills?
“If you don’t want to be more mobile, and you just want to find some places to hang out and watch, I’d recommend No. 9,” Frazier said. “It’s a great hole with a great green complex, and it’s a good spot to watch the players come in.
“And over by the 10th tee, you can watch players tee off and also see players come into the 16th green. There’s a great vantage point on the hillside there to watch shots.”
As for that risk/reward aspect of the course, if you’re willing to walk a bit, you will get a treat.
“If you really want to see some action, go out to No. 12, a risk-reward par 5,” Frazier said.
“And on No. 15, there’s a bleacher complex behind the green from which you can see whether the players go for the green in two (shots), depending on where the flag is. It’s a very, very good risk/reward hole.”