An early Saturday afternoon walk was made to the ninth green to see if the pros were exacting at least some measure of revenge on a brutally tough hole that had punished them like no other piece of Blaine real estate through the first two days of the 3M Open at the TPC Twin Cities.
A viewing spot was found at 1:58 p.m. At 2:01 p.m., Dylan Frittelli swung his 7-iron from 195 yards into the least daunting of this week’s three pin placements — back left on a flat spot and out of harm’s way from water on the right (Round 2) and a dastardly middle-left sidehill slope (Round 1).
“In my mind, it’s the hardest hole on the course, definitely,” said Frittelli, who shot 66 to reach 13 under and trail the leaders by three heading into Sunday’s final round. “It’s the only real strong par-4 out here, distance-wise, trouble around the green and undulation on the green.”
Frittelli’s 312-yard drive into the fairway on the 505-yard hole made him grab his 176-yard club with intent to land the ball on the green’s upslope, left of the flag, and have it stop below the hole.
“But I mishit it,” Frittelli said.
It caught the downslope 2 yards short of the green and started rolling up the slope. And rolling. And …
“It ran up the hill and I couldn’t see it,” Frittelli said. “My eyes aren’t great.”
But the 29-year-old from Johannesburg, South Africa, has good hearing.
“I heard the roar,” he said. “And I figured, ‘Yeah, that’s probably loud enough for it to be in.’ ”
It was. The first eagle on a hole that had the most bogeys (82) and double bogeys (23) through two rounds.
With Thursday’s middle-left pin, the average scoring was 4.374 with 49 bogeys and a course-low 12 birdies.
“The pin that first day was in a spot with a lot of slope around the cup,” said Tom Lehman, the man who co-designed and redesigned the course. “Difficult to putt to and if you missed it left you probably couldn’t get it close.”
Or, as Frittelli put it, “that first-day pin was crazy. My 10-footer from behind the hole for birdie broke about 4 feet. Almost impossible.”
He made par. A day later, his second round ended with a three-putt bogey down the hill to a pin tucked back right with water short and right.
“I had 6-iron, 201 to the flag and felt confident of the yardage,” Frittelli said. “But that water short and right is such a concern. I pulled it left and was lucky to stay on the green.”
Frittelli wasn’t alone in his struggles on Friday. The average score on the hole was 4.359.
The top 10 players heading into Saturday’s third round shot a combined 49 under on Friday. But their combined score on No. 9 was 2 over with two bogeys and eight pars.
And, oh yeah, the hole on Friday also featured a triple bogey by Cameron Davis that moved the cut line a stroke to 3 under and spared an early exit for world No. 1-ranked Brooks Koepka.
Saturday, the scoring average on the hole ranked tied for fifth at 4.035. But the cumulative average of 4.295 still ranks No. 9 as the toughest of the week.
The top 14 players heading into Sunday’s final round shot a combined 64 under overall. They were 5 under on the ninth hole.
Overall, on Saturday, there were no double bogeys, 16 bogeys, 57 pars, 11 birdies and that one very crowd-pleasing eagle by a relative no-name who’s playing this week only because he finished top 50 in the Web.com Tour finals last year.
“I’ve had an awful lot of putts the last few months,” Frittelli said. “The more times I can just walk up and pull it out of the hole the better.”
It’s also nice knowing that one skinny, mishit 7-iron gained him 2.035 shots on the field.
“That was nice,” he said. “I played the hole so poorly [Friday], so today was a little bit of retribution.”
Mark Craig is a reporter for the Star Tribune. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org