Answers to the Atlanta Problem

By Brian HewittSeptember 12, 2007, 4:00 pm
The more time GreensGate spends under the public microscope, the harder it is to keep a sense of perspective on the agronomical/meteorological nightmare that, earlier this week, brought the putting surfaces at East Lake to within blades of their playable lives.
 
Most people want to blame someone and not understand the weather facts and conditions, says Ken Mangum. Bentgrass is a cool season plant that thrives in areas and times that have a temperature optimum of 60-75 degrees. That is not summer in Atlanta.
 
Mangums title is Director of Golf Courses & Grounds at the Atlanta Athletic Club. The Atlanta Athletic Club will host the 2011 PGA Championship in August. Its putting surfaces are Bentgrass.
 
East Lake, also in Atlanta, is the stage for this weeks TOUR Championship and the conclusion of the FedExCup Playoffs. Its putting surfaces also are Bentgrass. And because of an extended summer heat wave, East Lakes greens are on life support.
 
Mangum visited East Lake Tuesday and came away shaking his head. When I asked him how it came to pass that East Lakes Bentgrass greens were so stressed and other Bentgrass clubs in the area had relatively healthy grasses on their putting surfaces, Mangum said that was not necessarily unusual.
 
Growing conditions, he said, can vary widely from course to course even when the courses being compared are just a few miles apart. East Lake is even hotter because they are in town, Mangum said. They also do not have as much air and circulation because of the trees around the perimeter.
 
Mangum said he combated the heat at his club this summer by having two fans on every green. It is his experience, he said, that greens must remain cool to keep the soil temperatures as low as possible to promote healthy growing conditions. He said he hasnt been at East Lake on a daily basis and doesnt know to what extent they employed fans during the worst of the heat. But, he said, nobody should blame the weather on (East Lake superintendent) Ralph Kepple.
 
The average daily high temperature at the nearest weather station to the Atlanta Athletic Club between Aug. 1 and Aug 29 of this year was 96.25. The average daily high for that same period a year ago was 90.98.
 
The Atlanta Athletic already has begun experimenting with Bermudagrass green surfaces. And it could, Mangum said, convert to Bermuda by the time the PGA gets there in 2011. The PGA TOUR already has announced that East Lake has agreed to convert to Bermuda for next years TOUR Championship.
 
Bermuda putting surfaces are much more resistant to heat. But the flip side is Bermuda is more difficult to keep flourishing during the winter months. The good news, Mangum said, is that a conversion to Bermuda, under normal circumstances can take place, with full playability achieved, in less than three months.
 
As Atlanta golf official put it, There were four options here: Close the course; change the date; change the weather; or keep the greens cooler with more fans.
 
But the bottom line, the official said, is that Bentgrass is the wrong grass at this time of the year in Atlanta.
 
OPEN POSSIBILITIES:
The FedExCup got a huge boost in credibility not long ago when The Masters announced it would invite the top 30 on the final FedExCup point standings to its tournament next year. This will be in addition to the invitations that go to the top 30 players on the final PGA TOUR money list.
 
The other three major championships'The U.S. Open, the Open Championship and the PGA Championship'havent exactly fallen all over themselves extending similar street cred to the FedExCup.
 
But the USGA could be moving in that direction. Executive director David Fay informed GOLF CHANNEL the USGAs Executive Committee will be analyzing the number of names on the FedExCup points list and the TOURs money list prior to its scheduled meetings in late October.
 
As a rule, we wish to have the majority of the Open field come from the qualifiers, Fay said. The openness of the Open, if you will. . . . We like having no fewer than about 80 of the 156 spots set aside for qualifiers versus fully exempt players.
 
Fay said he has advised PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem that the USGA will likely make a decision on this matter at its October meetings or at the 2008 annual meeting sessions at the latest.
 
SOLHEIM TRIVIA:
The Solheim Cup matches will be played later this week in Sweden. The Cup itself weighs more than 20 pounds, stands 19 inches tall and is made of Waterford Crystal.
 
Meanwhile, Paula Creamer has played in every Solheim Cup event for which she has been eligible. That includes appearances in the Junior Solheim Cup in 2002 and 2003 and the grown-up Solheim Cup two years ago.
 
Morgan Pressel, playing in her first Solheim Cup, never lost a Junior Solheim Cup match, finishing with a 4-0-2 overall record.
 
Related Links:
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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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    Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

    “Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.


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    “We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

    In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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    Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

    “That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

    So was Woods.

    DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

    “His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

    Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

    “He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.


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    “The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

    Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

    “Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

    “Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

    Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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    With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

    SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

    The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

    It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

    “It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

    Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

    According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

    “I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”


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    Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

    And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

    As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

    He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

    “I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

    Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

    “I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

    Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

    Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

    “If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

    Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.