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Ryder Cup Holes 6-8 poised to be Hazeltine's crucial stretch

The Ryder Cup is often won or lost on one crucial stretch. This year, at Hazeltine, it appears holes 6-8 will provide plenty of drama.

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The Ryder Cup is often won or lost on one crucial stretch and this year, at Hazeltine National, it appears holes six through eight will provide plenty of drama.

The sixth hole is a massive, yet stunning, 642-yard par five that will be a three-shot hole for everyone in the field. 

During Wednesday's practice rounds, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker all bombed their drives in the middle of the fairway, but were still left with 340 yards-plus for their second shots.

To make matters worse, the hole plays into the wind coming off the lake. Par fives are often key turning points in match-play rounds and anyone walking away with a birdie could pick up a hole here.

After finishing the brutal sixth hole, players have to walk down a steep slope down to the lake to play the par-four seventh, which is normally the 16th for members, but the Ryder Cup committee wanted to make sure every match played this spectacular hole. 

Players are forced to drive the ball over the lake, with trees guarding the right rough and a creek running down the left-hand side, truly making this the most difficult driving hole on the course. If a player does find the fairway, they have an open look at the green, but the green is guarded on three sides by the lake.

NBC analyst Johnny Miller described the seventh as "probably the hardest par four I have ever played". Many players might feel the same way after this week.

The final hole in the pivotal three-hole stretch is the par-three eighth. The green, which slopes from right to left, is perched perilously on a slope guarded by bunkers and water. Though it spans a manageable 186 yards, it will take a precise iron shot to award a birdie opportunity, for the green is slick and tricky.

With players playing their final practice rounds Thursday, cramming in as much information as they can, it will be interesting to see how they take on these three holes, which could make the difference in a crucial match.

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