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2020 Northern Trust: TPC Boston course preview

Arnie wouldn’t recognize it, but TPC Boston will challenge players off the tee in spots while offering enough birdie chances to produce fireworks in the PGA Tour’s playoff opener

TPC Boston, located about 25 miles south of Boston, welcomes the return of the PGA Tour after a one-year absence. TPC Boston, the site of the former Dell Technologies Championship in 2003-18, gets a FedEx Cup playoff event in even-numbered years starting with this year’s Northern Trust. The event will move to Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey in odd-numbered years.

TPC Boston, originally designed by Arnold Palmer and opened in 2002, received a facelift only five years later from Gil Hanse, with input from New Englander Brad Faxon. Golf Digest saluted that work as the “Best Private Remodel” in 2007.

Since then, Hanse and design partner Jim Wagner have continued to nip, tuck and tweak the layout. They are well-known to infuse Golden Age strategy to make the players think for a moment before blasting driver all over the property. However, you might recall that the 12th hole was completely redesigned going into the 2017 Dell event. It was transformed from a ho-hum, straightaway 456-yard par 4 into a strategic 500-plus-yards par 4. The new 12th featured centerline principal’s-nose bunkers waiting for errant tee shots at 300 yards. That’s not something that Tour players confront on a regular basis.

That year, Justin Thomas won the event en route to the FedEx Cup title, but his strategy for the hole was to play up the adjacent 13th fairway in all four rounds. He thumbed his nose at the architects. “I personally don’t think that it was a very good job redesigning it,” he said. With enough player consternation, the bunkers were removed. The hole still is more interesting than it had been, but it’s a far cry from the original design intent.

With a championship course rating of 77.2 and slope of 154, TPC Boston offers a modern New England feel, with bentgrass greens and 64 bunkers to test the world’s best players. It will play 7,308 yards and to a par 71.

Some key holes to watch:

No. 7, par 5, 600 yards: The longest and hardest hole on the course requires a long and accurate tee shot. Once in proper position, players must carry TPC Boston’s version of “Hell’s Half Acre.” This massive bunker complex spans the width of the fairway and makes a player choose going for the green in two (another Herculean shot) or laying up short for a blind third shot.

No. 13, par 4, 447 yards: The toughest hole on the back nine requires another precise tee shot, with hitting the fairway a must. The drive must carry a rocky ledge (it’s sooo New England), which leaves a mid-iron approach into a green guarded with bunkers on both sides.

No. 18, par 5, 530 yards: Making a birdie or eagle on the final hole to secure a spot in next week’s BMW Championship? We’re all in for that drama. Ever since this green was renovated in 2012 to be smaller and elevated, it has provided plenty of thrills and low numbers. With scattered fairway bunkers, the hole requires a player to avoid the sand if he has any hope of getting home in two shots. The longest hitters will try to carry the right-hand fairway bunker at around 320 yards, setting up a long- to mid-iron approach and a shot at eagle.

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