Lay up or go for it at the par-4 sixth at LACC: Here’s what the numbers say

Lay up or go for it at the par-4 sixth at LACC: Here’s what the numbers say
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LOS ANGELES – Jon Rahm said laying up every day would produce the best scoring average. Collin Morikawa agreed with him, but after one practice shot was convinced going for it might be the better strategy. Patrick Cantlay thought the hole’s location should decide the strategy.

Competitors at this year’s U.S. Open and golf-course aficionados around the world all had different opinions about the drivable, par-4 sixth hole at Los Angeles Country Club. A downhiller that sits at 320 yards is one of the property’s signature holes, presenting a variety of ways to make birdie or bogey. It feels similar to No. 10 at Riviera, which has turned into an auto-drive for most players on the PGA Tour, but there was no available data to support that play heading into Thursday.

Full-field scores from U.S. Open

What do the numbers say after two days?

Players were torn for a reason.

By the thinnest of margins, laying up has produced better results. Players who have opted for the left side of the fairway with hopes of hitting a wedge close to the narrowest green on the property are averaging 3.64 strokes at the sixth. Going for the green or bailing out slightly right with hopes of an easy chip, is yielding a 3.76 scoring average.

Additionally, laying up has produced a 47.5 birdie percentage, compared to 35.9 percent when going for it.

Is there a wrong answer to the question of No. 6? Coming into Friday, both options presented an identical 3.73 average score. It’s been the easiest hole through two rounds at a U.S. Open that’s receiving criticism for its low scores.

Laying up has also been the more popular strategy, but again, not by much. The hole has been played 312 times, with 58 percent of the field trying to put a wedge in their hands for the second shot. Players are typically sticking with the same strategy. Only 27 players opted for a change from round-to-round

The decision-making process could become even more difficult this weekend. The USGA still hasn’t utilized the far right pin that would seemingly be most favorable to a layup, as longtime caddie John Wood pointed out in pre-tournament coverage. But, more difficult conditions are on the horizon.

“I think when the greens get really firm, you’re going to start seeing guys go for it more because it could get really difficult to hold the green, even with a wedge, on the second shot,” U.S. Open leader Rickie Fowler said after his Wednesday practice round.

Maybe Fowler is right, or maybe players will see the slight advantage laying up is presenting. Morikawa has already changed his mind, laying up in both rounds after claiming he would hit driver in his Tuesday press conference. He’s made one birdie and one par.

The decision could be the difference between winning the U.S. Open and going home empty-handed. Or, maybe the strategy pales in importance to execution.

We will find out this weekend.

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