Right from the start, and also at the finish, there are notable differences between how Riviera Country Club lays out for this week’s U.S. Amateur Championship versus the way PGA Tour stretches it out for its annual $7 million payday event each February.
Ben Kimball, the USGA official in charge of the U.S. Amateur, has already determined that Riviera will be shortened to a par-70 test over 7,272 yards – the first time Riviera will go that low in any major championship that it has hosted — versus the par 71 that the PGA uses over a general 7,322-yard distance.
The par-70 bar has also been set for the 6,757-yard course at nearby Bel-Air Country Club. All 312 who start out in stroke play will have to play 18 holes at both Riviera or Bel-Air, either Monday or Tuesday, and finish in the top 64 in order to get to match play Wednesday through Sunday at Riviera.
“It’s unlikely we will play at full yardages,” Kimball said about Riviera. “We are fortunate Riviera has a variety of teeing grounds. This set up will be the ultimate test of golf, not necessarily the hardest test of golf. It’s all about playing ability and mental stability. The players will have to contemplate what happens to their ball when it hits the ground.”
The classic first hole at Riviera where PGA Tour players often get as a birdie-friendly par-5, 503-yard launch will be reduced to a par 4, even though the yardage can’t really fluctuate much because of the limited space at the elevated tee area.
By the time the players come around to No. 18, Kimball said he could move the tee box up and over to the left for the blind tee shot that doglegs to the right. It could make the par 4, 416-yard classic become more a putting contest than a strategic chip-and-putt climax on the amphitheater-surrounded green. A change there could be made early in the week to see how players react.
Otherwise, Kimball says the second hole could vary from 476 to 507 yards, the par 3 sixth hole with the bunker in…