Fakers Need Not Apply


There is, Adam Scott was saying Tuesday afternoon in the pressroom, going to be no faking your way up to the top of this leaderboard.
Never heard it quite put like that.
I mean this is THE PLAYERS Championship which The TOUR would prefer that we call just THE PLAYERS. It starts Thursday. And it is traditionally the deepest and strongest field in golf. It is played on a Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass that has been renovated and re-engineered with a new, sophisticated drainage system that makes it virtually waterproof.
But no faking your way to the top sounded more like a line that might have been edited out of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.
So, one writer asked Scott, What tournaments CAN you fake your way to the top?
Anytime its soft you can play bad and score pretty good, said Scott, who won here in 2004 at the delicate age of 23. The ball wont run out of the fairway. If its screaming down the right side or something it just plugs in the fairway and then you can plug it on the green. The ball never runs into trouble.
Like last Saturday at Quail Hollow, one of the toughest golf courses on TOUR. Rain softened conditions there for the third round of the Wachovia Championship and the players ripped it to shreds. Three contenders holed out for eagle on par 4s. One of them was Rory Sabbatini, the 54-hole leader. He also tied the competitive course record of 64.
Just look at what happened there, said Colin Byrne, Retief Goosens caddie, speaking of Saturday at Wachovia.
Byrne was standing on the putting green at PLAYERS Tuesday talking about firmness of greens. It (firmness) is really the only way they can combat the players from going low.
How firm, he was asked, are the greens right now at THE PLAYERS? Try and stick a tee in them, he said, and it might break off.
Earlier in the day course superintendent Fred Klauk had gone on PGA TOUR radio and reported the greens were already running 11.5 on the Stimpmeter. And, he said, thats where he intends to keep them.
Byrne said it isnt so much the speed of the putts that makes scoring difficult. Its the firmness of the surfaces that gives the players fits trying to stop their golf balls on those greens.
Throw into the equation the new Bermudagrass rough that has replaced rye. The former is only two and a half inches compared to rye that used to be four inches for this event. But theres really no comparison at all.
Bermudagrass just needs about two inches and you lose all control, said Tiger Woods.
It produces flyer lies which are hard to judge and difficult for players to control the distance of their approaches. You just lose all control of the golf ball out of Bermuda rough, Scott said, echoing Woods.
So, the theory goes, the more demanding the test, the more unlikely a lesser player can fake his way to the title after 72 holes.
Phil Mickelson played a practice round Tuesday and hit six 8-irons on the infamous 137-yard island green at No. 17. Only one of those six stopped on the putting surface.
The same club was coming up short and going long, Mickelson said. When it comes to golf Mickelson is no fake. He is a future Hall of Famer and has finished third in each of his last two starts.
Woods said it wasnt so much the 17th hole that he didnt like as much as it was its position on the course. Maybe the eighth hole would be a better place for an island green, he opined.
Right now the eighth hole is listed at 237 yards. It plays longer from the back tees. Scott, one of the longest hitters in golf, needed a 3-iron to get to the front edge, into the wind, Monday. If the pin is back, he said, were reaching for lumber.
Finally, the wind was blowing a gale at Sawgrass Monday and Tuesday. If that keeps up, the fakers (and most of them know who they are) might as well pack up right now and go home. The genuine contenders, meanwhile, will be holding on for dear life.

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