By all accounts, Ridgewood Country Club, a classic 27-hole A.W. Tillinghast design complex in Paramus, N. J., is golf in its purest form. There is an East nine, a West nine and a Center nine. The tournament course will be a composite of seven holes from the East, five holes from the Center and six holes from the West. That configuration will play 7,304 yards to a par of 71.
It will flow very well, said David Reasoner, Ridgewoods head pro. And that particular composite course will allow us to handle the infrastructure concerns.
One high-ranking USGA official told GOLF CHANNEL that room for corporate tents and other on-site support trailers and equipment could be a problem at Ridgewood. But that same official said it wouldnt matter what 18 holes the TOUR selected for The Barclays. Theyre all great, the official said.
The USGAs headquarters are also in New Jersey. So are other Tillinghast designs at Baltusrol and Somerset Hills. Tillinghast also designed Winged Foot across the state line in Westchester County.
The sixth hole for the Barclays (normally the third hole on the Center nine) is a drivable 294-yard, par-4 and Ridgewoods signature hole. In the old days the members called it the five and dime because most played it 5-iron off the tee and a 10-iron (now a wedge) into the green. Woods, who recently began designing courses himself, is on record as saying golf courses should have a drivable par-4.
Woods tied for fourth at the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol and missed the cut by three strokes, not long after the death of his father, in 2006 at Winged Foot. But Woods has often spoken fondly of his rounds at the San Francisco Golf Club when he was a member of the Stanford Golf team in the mid-90s. San Francisco Golf is also a Tillinghast design.
I believe Tiger would love Ridgewood, Reasoner said. Its an old, traditional, tree-lined course and you have to be able to work the ball both ways.
It was no secret that Woods didnt like the layout at Westchester Country Club which preceded Ridgewood as The Barclays venue. And to be sure, if he decides to skip The Barclays this year it might be purely a matter of scheduling and have nothing to do with Ridgewoods relative merits.
But if he stays away, most course critics will tell you, he will be missing something special. Ridgewood is not overly tight, Reasoner says. But it has incredible green complexes.
THE COACH AND THE PRO:
It will be months before Woods commits himself, one way or the other, on Ridgewood and this years Barclays. Meanwhile Reasoner will be excused if he takes Sunday off to watch the Super Bowl.
Hes a Giants fan. And he gives the occasional golf lesson to New Yorks coach, Tom Coughlin. As you might imagine, Coughlin doesnt find the time to play a lot of golf. But every once in a while, Reasoner says, Ill get a call from him and hell say something like, Ive got to play in this outing coming up. Can you help me get the ball airborne?
The problem for Reasoner Sunday is the opponent. I come from New England, he says. And most of my family will be rooting for the Patriots.
BRADY, ROMO AND BELICHICK:
On another football/golf front, officials of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am will have their cell phones set on the loudest ring tone Sunday night.
They are still waiting to hear from New England quarterback Tom Brady and his coach, Bill Belichick. Both have been invited to play in their event which begins with practice rounds the day after the Patriots-Giants game.
We can wait until Sunday night if we have to, said tournament official Steve Worthy. Obviously wed like to know before then.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, Worthy said, has already committed to play in the Pro Bowl, which is the same Sunday (February 10) as the final round at Pebble Beach. Brady, if he gets league clearance due to injury, could skip the Pro Bowl and play in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Brady indicated at Tuesdays Super Bowl media day that he probably will not make it to the Monterey Peninsula next week.
If Brady and Belichick dont make it, the tournament will go to the top of a very long waiting list and pick two local amateurs as invited guests. The tournament doesnt release the going rate. But the downstroke for an amateur to play in the event is believed to be somewhere between 10 and 15 thousand dollars.
One of the last calls Tiger Woods made after destroying the field at Torrey Pines and before getting on the plane to Dubai was to instructor Hank Haney, who had left California a day earlier.
All he wanted to talk about, Haney informed me, was what he could improve on for next week.
Meanwhile, Haney remains sensitive to criticism of Tigers accuracy off the tee. And it speaks, among other things, to how fiercely loyal he is to Woods.
Tiger finished 59th in driving accuracy at the Buick Invitational but he tied for second in greens in regulation. Haney repeated that when Woods hits a drive, say, three degrees off line its more likely to end up on the first cut of the rough than a player who carries the ball 30 yards less off the tee and stays in the fairway.
Geometry, Haney said emphatically.
Tiger has been working hard on his short game, Haney added. And he had two chip-ins at Torrey and a great bunker shot on the last hole on Friday. It is always nice to see hard work pay off.
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