PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Tiger Woods was wrong to criticize the Pebble Beach greens as “awful,” USGA executive director David Fay said Saturday at the U.S. Open.
Woods, who won the previous U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by a record 15 shots by making just about every putt inside 8 feet, failed to make a single birdie in his first round of 74. He said in a television interview, and later to reporters, that the greens were “just awful.”
Woods didn’t back down from that statement following his third-round 66 that left him at 1 under for the championship.
“Well, a lot of players thought the same, they just didn’t say it,” Woods said Saturday evening.
Fay couldn’t resist making a comparison between Woods and Phil Mickelson, who shot 75 in the first round.
“I think two players used the word awful on Thursday,” Fay said. “Phil said he putted awful. Tiger said the greens were awful.”
It was veiled, but blunt criticism of a three-time U.S. Open champion who had not been to Pebble Beach in eight years. One reason Woods stopped playing the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was the greens. They are far more bumpy in February when conditions are soggy and the hole location is in the same spot for three days to accommodate 360 players, half of them amateurs.
“As far as the greens are concerned, he’s wrong,” Fay said. “That old statement that you’re entitled to your opinion? He is entitled to his opinion, but he’s off on his facts. These putting surfaces have never been better.”
Fay said if there should be criticism of the greens, it’s more of a cosmetic issue than an agronomic one. Poa annua greens have brown splotches, but he says an “A-team” of superintendents from around the country have made these surfaces better than ever.
“They are much truer than we had in 2000, ’92 and ’82,” he said of past U.S. Opens at Pebble Beach. “They wanted them fast, firm and smooth. And I think they have accomplished that.”
Woods followed his first-day 74 with a 72 and was seven shots out of the lead going into the third round.
On Saturday, Woods got back in it with a solid short game. He made eight birdies after two early bogeys that had him at 6 over after just three holes. Woods shot 5-under 31 on the back nine with birides on Nos. 11, 13, 16, 17 and 18.