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Golf: The longest yard

April 12, 2001

Richard Dunn

In finalizing the seventh annual Toshiba Senior Classic, we provide

our customary glimpse of the toughest holes and how the golf course

played for the Senior PGA Tour event at Newport Beach Country Club.

Earlier this month, tournament officials announced another record sum

donated to charity ($1.035 million) as the event maintained its position

as the No. 1 philanthropic stop on the Senior Tour.

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But, upon further review of the firing range in the three-day golf

tournament last month, hole No. 5 at Newport Beach crept back into the

limelight as the Toshiba Classic's toughest hole for 2001.

As expected, the front-nine stretch from No. 5 through No. 9 was the

most different for the seniors, with four of the five hardest holes.

Only the course's signature hole No. 17, a long par-3 over water and

onto a well-undulated, two-tiered green, was the only hole on the golf

course ranked in the top five this year that was not in the unfriendly

confines of the front nine's last five holes. No. 17 ranked third.

Swirling winds from the threat of a storm, along with prevailing winds

off the ocean, helped elevate hole No. 5 back to the top in '01. It

yielded only nine birdies, the fewest on any single hole in tournament

history covering 54 holes.

In 1996 and '97, No. 5 stood alone as the most difficult to play for

the seniors. In 1998, it fell to fourth, when the hole was shortened 25

yards. In 1999 and 2000, it ranked as the second-toughest hole, behind

No. 17 and No. 6, respectively.

But, this year, the 430-yard par-4 played as the hardest. It plays

uphill and upwind and requires a well-placed mid- to long-iron shot to an

uncharitable green bordered by two bunkers.

In addition to the hole's stunning number of birdies allowed (an

average of only three per round), No. 5 induced 80 bogeys, by far the

most in the tournament. Hole No. 9 is second on the list of bogeys caused

with 61.

The collective field's scoring average on No. 5 (.322 over par) is the

largest of the 18 holes.

It always amazes me when I think back five years ago, the first year

the event was played at Newport Beach, and see Jim Colbert lapping the

field with birdies in all three rounds on No. 5 to win the 1996 Toshiba

Classic.

Hole No. 6, which ranked as the second-most difficult on the course

this year, was dropped from its one-year reign atop the Toshiba

leaderboard.

While No. 6 has always played tough, you could make an argument that

its No. 1 ranking in 2000 was a fluke, because it was a rain-shortened,

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