Brendan Steele, who hooked his second shot on the 72nd hole from the fairway a year ago on his way to falling into a playoff he would lose to Cameron Smith, was happy to see the move.
He was particularly happy the stakes run out some 50 yards from the green meaning they’re really only in play off the tee and his wild shot from a year ago would not have been as severely punished.
“The only thing was a little troublesome about it was we didn’t know where they were going to be,” Steele said after shooting an impressive 5-under 65 of his own as he looks for redemption.
“I was hoping that they would do the right thing and only put them where guys would try to go in between the trees down 10 fairway and not where if you over-hook one trying to get it going left that it would actually go out of play… they did a good job.
“I wouldn’t have been out-of-bounds (last year). But if you know it’s out-of-bounds, you probably don’t hit it over there, either.”
Defending champion Smith – after an opening 67 – couldn’t resist a little tongue in cheek humor having remembered Steele’s shot last year that ended up getting significant free relief because of the grandstands.
“I think it’s a great idea. Too many guys hitting it down there, anyway,” he smirked in fun. “It would be a significant advantage to hit it down 10. I hit the best possible drive today and I had 9-iron in. If I had hit it down 10, I would have had gap wedge in, like 20- or 30-yards’ difference.”
The new penalty area stung at least one player in the opening round with Rory Sabbatini hooking his tee ball left into the death zone before having to re-tee and battle his way to a bogey.