The Fortinet Threat Score holes again played a significant role in determining who came out on top at an exciting Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Overall, the fourth, sixth and 15th holes played to a combined average score of more than four-tenths of a stroke over par, with players combining to make 32 double-bogeys or worse at the first Rolex Series event of the season.
One of those came in the opening round from tournament winner Victor Perez, who carded a triple-bogey seven at the sixth hole in the opening round. Perez would bounce back, though: he played the three Fortinet Threat Score holes in even par for the tournament, gaining more than a stroke-and-a-half on the field with his performance. That included birdies at the sixth in each of the last two rounds.
Let’s take a closer look at the three most difficult holes this week at Yas Links and how they helped shape the narrative at an exciting 2023 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Difficulty Rank: 1
The seven Perez made was one of 15 double-bogeys or worse seen at the sixth, the toughest hole on the course this week. Hitting the fairway here was crucial, as players who missed were penalised more than half-a-stroke (+0.51), the highest such number anywhere at Yas Links all week. Not only was accuracy off the tee paramount here, but power was highly valuable too. Players who hit their tee shot 25 yards further than the field average gained one-quarter of a stroke, the highest rate anywhere on the course.
It did not get much easier for this elite field after the drive, either. The sixth was the second-toughest green to hit in regulation for the week, at just under 66 per cent. This green also yielded the highest average putts per green in regulation, at a balky average of 1.95. The top nine finishers this week on the leaderboard played this hole to a combined score of even par.
Difficulty Rank: 2
The toughest hole on the back nine for the week was the 15th, playing about one-tenth of a stroke over par. At 63%, this was the only hole on the course that yielded a lower green in regulation rate than the sixth did. Finding the green in regulation here gained players more than one-quarter of a stroke over the field. Even the most precise iron players had a tough time getting approaches close here: the average proximity to the hole at the 15th was 39 feet for the week, the highest average anywhere at Yas Links.
Difficulty Rank: 3
The 4th hole was incrementally easier than the 15th, also averaging right around one-tenth of a stroke over par. This stout par three featured an average approach into the green of 212 yards, making it the longest of any hole on the golf course. For the week, there were 72 bogeys or worse carded here with a mere 43 birdies.
Getting this approach close was obviously a challenge, but players who did were rewarded handsomely. The fourth had the second-highest value on close approach shots for the championship. This hole also yielded 1.94 putts per green in regulation, making it second toughest on the course in that statistic.
A trio of players tied for the best cumulative performance of the week on the Fortinet Threat Score holes. Guido Migliozzi, Masahiro Kawamura and Oliver Hundebøll each played them in three under for the week, gaining 4.61 strokes on the competition for their efforts. The two men who finished tied runner-up – Sebastian Söderberg and Min Woo Lee – were each one-under for the week, good for 2.61 strokes gained total.