Greens are dying, and it's killing Players scoring

By Rex HoggardMay 15, 2016, 12:11 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Blame it on increased winds. Blame it on increasingly crispy greens. You could even blame it on incensed officials after two days of record scoring.

But the real culprit on Day 3 at The Players could best be described as assisted agronomic suicide.

On Tuesday after the crowds have dispersed and the champion has deposited his winner’s check, officials will begin a renovation of TPC Sawgrass. With the end nigh for the Stadium Course’s putting surfaces there’s no reason to nurse them along, and the result – at least in practical terms for the remaining Players field – is a golf course that was transformed overnight from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.

The browner the better, with no tomorrow for the doomed blades that seemed to fade from a lush green on Thursday and Friday to varying shades of awful for Day 3.

Statistically the golf course turnaround was jarring.

For two days the Stadium Course played to a 71.06 scoring average led by Day’s record 36-hole total of 15 under par. On Saturday, under a sweltering sun and gusting winds, that average ballooned to 75.59.

Will Wilcox made a triple-bogey-7 at No. 6, Sergio Garcia made a quadruple-bogey-8 at No. 5 – that included a five-putt – and Martin Kaymer completed the hand with a quintuple-bogey-9 at the 14th hole.

But none of the mathematical madness could compare to Day’s card on Black Saturday.

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After going 38 holes without a bogey he played his next six with a bogey and two double bogeys. The world No. 1 three-putted the third from 47 feet - he’d recorded only 13 three-putts this season - and four-putted the sixth. 

It was a sign of how steep the uphill climb had become that despite a third-round 73, Day’s lead remained the same, four strokes.

“That was the hardest round of golf I’ve ever played,” said Day, who leads Hideki Matsuyama, Ken Duke and Alex Cejka at 14 under.

Others described TPC Crispy in much less flattering terms.

“Nightmare,” Vijay Singh sighed with a shake of his head after a 73.

“Crazy tough,” figured Matsuyama after a stunning 67.

“Dead. Balding,” figured Kevin Chappell after a 2-under 70 that was marred by a closing double-bogey-6 at the 18th hole.

“Borderline unfair,” was Rory McIlroy’s take after his rally was undercut by a second-nine 40 that left him nine shots off the pace.

You can’t blame Pete Dye for this. The old master had nothing to do with Saturday’s carnage. This wasn’t a design flaw as much as it was by design.

Although Tour officials dismissed the notion they dialed TPC Sawgrass back after two days of record scoring, the players and the leaderboard told a different story.

“We have done the same thing all week. We have been double cutting these greens and double rolling them and trying to get them firmed up,” said Mark Russell, the Tour’s vice president of rules and competition. “What happened today was just kind of a perfect storm with the weather. We weren't expecting a 20 mph wind all day, and the humidity 30 percent, not a cloud in the sky. And they just, you know, sped up on us.”

But then that doesn’t explain a three-putt percentage of historic proportions?

The Tour average for three-putts in a round is 2.93 percent, and on Thursday and Friday the field hovered around the norm with a 2.08 and 2.67 percent average, respectively. On Saturday that number skyrocketed to 11 percent.

“A different golf course showed up today,” Adam Scott said following a 75 that included 29 putts.

The Tour’s assessment that Saturday’s conditions remained consistent doesn’t add up when one considers there were 149 three-putts in Round 3 and more rounds in the 80s (seven) than there were in the 60s (three).

“It's funny how green these greens were on Thursday when we played and how brown they look now,” Billy Horschel said. “I'm guessing they stopped watering them a little bit.”

Whatever the reason behind the dramatic change, there seems little chance players will be given much of a break for the final turn. Again, this goes to the general poor condition of the Stadium Course’s greens and the impending makeover.

More user-friendly hole locations and less wind could help on Sunday, but that won’t bring the grass back. That agronomic ship sailed when officials decided to put some teeth back in TPC Sawgrass.

“We've been asking for the greens to get quicker, and the greens to get firmer, and they got to that point,” Horschel said. “I don't expect anything different tomorrow. I think maybe a little bit firmer and just as fast.”

With that reality looming, Graeme McDowell was asked after his round if he planned to go practice his putting. He paused, glanced down at the cart path he was standing on and mimicked a putting stroke. “Yeah, right here,” he smiled.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.