PGA Tour rookie uses putter from bunker, which of course ended tragically

lee hodges

Lee Hodges probably wants a do-over from this decision late on Sunday.


The fight for survival — or simply just to keep your ball dry — in PGA National’s ‘Bear Trap’ will make you do some crazy things. Just ask Lee Hodges. 

Don’t know Lee Hodges? Well, he’s the 188th-ranked player in the world, and a PGA Tour rookie. This was his first week playing PGA National’s Champion Course as a Tour pro, and he fared quite well, finishing T9 for his second top 10 this season. But that doesn’t mean he was mistake-free. 

Hodges was that guy who the NBC broadcast panned to, out of nowhere, because he had gotten himself into some trouble. He was not in contention to win, but when he stood above his ball in the greenside bunker on the 15th hole, something was off. He didn’t have a wedge in his hands. He held his mallet putter.

Hodges was pin-high, but on the other side of the pin — a dastardly Sunday sucker pin — was the hazard that claims dozens of shots every year during the Honda Classic. There was a ton of green to hit toward, if he wanted to play away from the hole, but he clearly didn’t want to. 

The 26-year-old was 60 feet away, but the majority of that was all carry out of the wide bunker. So instead of splashing a wedge that might catch the slope without enough spin, he decided to slap his putter on the ball in the sand. The result, as you can see below, was less than he had hoped for. 

Hodges’ ball went skidding through the sand as he intended, but it took the lip of the bunker as more of a launch pad than an exit ramp, bounding up out of the trap and onto the green. It had way too much pace by the time it left the bunker that it rolled out, flew by the hole and eventually trickled down the bank and into the edge of the hazard. Everyone watching at home surely did a double-take. 

What Hodges was trying to pull off wasn’t complete lunacy, even if it did look a bit odd. He figured the furry lip would grab enough of the ball as it skidded toward the hole that he would at the least remain hole-high and at the worst be stuck in the rough short of the hole. His pace was just too great.

The only good thing here is that Hodges found his ball only half-submerged in the hazard, so he was able to chop it out for a comfy double bogey, the only blemish on his final-round scorecard. 

Sunday’s theatrics for Hodges in the Bear Trap was only the cap on a rollercoaster week for him at the Honda Classic’s treacherous finish. During round 1, he pulled off the rare feat of birdieing both par-3s, the 15th and 17th. He offset a bogey on 17 with a birdie on 16 during the second round and must have not thought too much of this famous stretch of holes that have crushed even the best players in the world. 

But then the weekend took over. Hodges’ impressive record on the Bear Trap took a major hit on Saturday when he made triple bogey on the 16th hole, leaving his approach short and in the water and then three-putting when he reached the green. He bogeyed the ensuing 17th for good measure, because, apparently that’s what you do in the Bear Trap. Go around that ride enough times and it’ll get you once. Maybe twice. Maybe more. 

Sean Zak Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine, currently working on a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews. You can read about those travels here and catch his latest thoughts on the Drop Zone Podcast:

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