Following a one-year absence, TPC Boston will mark its return to the PGA Tour this week as host of The Northern Trust, the opening leg of the FedExCup Playoffs.
The Arnold Palmer-designed (Gil Hanse-redesigned) championship track is one of the Tour’s most underrated host venues on the current circuit.
Measuring 7,308 yards for the pros this week, the par-71 layout delivers a unique and interesting flow, where two par 5s and a pair of short par 4s highlight a scoreable first ten; followed by a brutal four-hole stretch (Nos. 11-14) of survival; then a closing set of gettable holes, headlined by a signature par-5 finale.
That difficult stretch here is colloquially referred to as the ‘Wicked Hard Mile’ – a nod to Boston slang, describing the playability of this four-hole brute which measures one mile when strung together – give or take a yard or two, depending on the tees.
TPC Boston’s ‘wicked’ stretch literally consists of the four hardest holes on the course, with a monster 231-yard par 3 batting lead off.
The Wicked Hard Mile
Hole (par) yards (score avg-rank)
11th (3) 231 yards (3.164, 2)
12th (4) 510 yards (4.254, 1)
13th (4) 427 yards (4.027, 4)
14th (4) 500 yards (4.242, 3)
During a series of virtual interviews, some of the tournament headliners were asked to talk about their strategy playing TPC Boston’s Wicked Hard Mile.
“No Way Around It”
“Well, I think in the past, I could be completely wrong, but the feeling I have is that I haven’t been able to play 11, 12, 13, 14, as good as I could have, and even 13 and 14, if you can put the ball in the fairway on those two holes, it’s not the hardest iron shot into the green, especially 13, it’s a wedge shot, right.
“So I think if you can manage 11 and 12, it would be good. I know I’ve struggled on 12 in the past. It’s a difficult hole now. It’s a very long par 4. Could easily be a par 5 with a couple yards added to that tee box.
“Honestly, my strategy hopefully is to play a little better. There’s no way around it. 11 you need to hit a good iron shot on the green to hopefully have a chance. 12 you need to hit a good tee shot and a good iron shot. I would say 13, 14, comes more with the tee shot than the iron shot, right.
“Hopefully I can get it done this year, but whoever is a stats guy out here who can probably figure out, I would say I’m not too far off. I haven’t played those holes very well in the past. So yeah, maybe come back to me on Sunday and I’ll tell you if I’ve done anything better on that. Maybe I need to put a little bit more thought into those four holes or emphasize the importance of those four a little bit more.”
Rahm’s Wicked Hard Mile Results
2017: (T4, -12) +3 (1 Birdie, 11 Pars, 4 Bogeys)
2018: (T43, -4) +3 (13 Pars, 3 Bogeys)
“I didn’t know that. I knew those were some tough holes, but just kind of coincidentally that they were like that. Yeah, there’s not like any crazy strategy.
“I mean, any time I have a 4- or 5-iron in my hand, I’m just trying to make par, hit it on the green and try to get it down in two from there. You just so happen that you have a couple holes in a four-hole stretch where that is the case.
“12 has played very different over the years. I don’t know if there’s any changes done to it or not from last year, but you know, it’s played many different ways. I’ve played it many different ways, and 13 is in front of you, but 14 is another very difficult hole with a pretty small green for a 6- or 7-iron, depending on the wind that you get.
“Yeah, you kind of need to man up and just play well when you get on those holes.”
Thomas’ Wicked Hard Mile Results
2017: (1, -17) -2 (3 Birdies, 12 Pars, 1 Bogey)
2018: (T24, -7) +1 (1 Birdie, 13 Pars, 2 Bogeys)
“Pick Your Poison”
“I was lucky enough to play the back nine today and they are playing long. I mean, they had a decent amount of rain on Sunday here, and then last night it rained pretty hard.
“So that being said, I mean, they played like 10, so 11, 12 and 14 played into the wind today, hit hybrid, 4-iron, hybrid, into those holes.
“That being said, you know that’s kind of the hard stretch.
“So you just have to basically play smart. You can still be aggressive but you have to play smart on those holes. That’s a stretch that if you go and play that stretch even par for the week, you’re going to earn probably one, maybe two shots on the field, easily, especially over guys that are top of the leaderboard.
“So that being said, those are ones that you don’t need to go out and try to be really aggressive or overconfident on those holes and try to really attack because they can really bite you. And I think that’s the biggest thing is a golf course like this, you have to pick your poison, where to attack, where not to attack, and on those holes, pars on those four holes consistently will actually gain shots on the field.
“So you don’t have to go out and be a hero and make a bunch of birdies on that stretch. If anything, you need to make sure you play from the fairway and try to minimize the mistakes on that little stretch.”
Reed’s Wicked Hard Mile Results
2017: (T6, -11) +1 (1 Birdie, 13 Pars, 2 Bogeys)
2018: (T35, -5) +1 (1 Birdie, 13 Pars, 2 Bogeys)
“Just Got To Survive”
“You’ve just got to survive, really. That is a brutal stretch of holes. You know, you are really hoping to get off to a good start here and get your round going, and if you’ve done that, then you are looking to just get through there at even par. That would be a result.
“I wouldn’t even be disappointed if I was 1-over par on that stretch. You’ve got a chance then to close out strong, as well.
“So it’s an interesting flow to a round because you can kind of really run the tables the first ten and then you’ve got to hang on, and if you can hang on, you finish strong.
“If you don’t hang on, it can really get away from you on those holes because there’s a lot of trouble. Certainly 12, 13, 14, you can find yourself in all kinds of trouble.”
Scott’s Wicked Hard Mile Results
2017: (MC, +3) +1 (1 Birdie, 5 Pars, 2 Bogeys)
2018: (T49, -3) +10 (7 Pars, 7 Bogeys, 2 Double Bogeys)
“Keep Momentum Going”
“Well, I haven’t played with my new game this year yet. Tim, my caddie, was out there scouting the course yesterday, and said that these holes are going to play a lot different for me this week.
“We were even talking about I think on 12, hitting it down the slope potentially past that drop-off. So there’s just going to be some interesting things on those difficult holes personally for me to try and accomplish.
“I think if I can figure those holes out and get to that easy stretch, I’ll do what I did a couple years ago. I felt like I played really well on the back nine, especially the difficult holes, I was able to accomplish a couple birdies and keep my momentum going that week.”
DeChambeau’s Wicked Hard Mile Results
2017: (T30, -3) +2 (2 Birdies, 10 Pars, 4 Bogeys)
2018: (1, -16) E (2 Birdies, 12 Pars, 2 Bogeys)