Garcia leads Barclays as players grouse about greens
- By Jason Sobel
- Aug 25, 2012 8:13 PM ET
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Welcome to the Concrete Jungle.
No offense to neighboring New York City, but those thick slabs of worn pavement may be more malleable than the crusty, dried-out greens that materialized here at Bethpage Baked – er, Bethpage Black.
As Saturday afternoon progressed, two by two competitors at The Barclays emerged from the course withered and beaten, shaking their heads and muttering swear words under their breath.
It was all because of the greens. Players declared them inconsistent, too fast and the most damning accusation of all: unplayable.
The field average for the day was more than 30 putts per round. Tiger Woods was so confounded by the greens that he three-putted a career-high four times.
In their own inimitable styles, players confronted the situation in their own way.
Brandt Snedeker shot a 3-under 68, but afterward walked past a few reporters on the back patio of the clubhouse and simply said, “They lost ‘em.”
Ian Poulter was more demonstrative by comparison. After a 5-over 76, he tweeted: “The worst course setup I have ever played in 13 years on tour. They have ruined what is a great course, greens like concrete stupid pins.”
When approached in the Bethpage parking lot minutes later, he produced a rant of epic proportions.
“I’ve got to tell you, they ----ed up today,” he said. “Royally ----ed up. Look at how many guys have had a bad day, and there’s a lot of guys that had a bad day. You know, eight, especially, is the worst I’ve ever seen on Tour. Eight was worse than Shinnecock. How about that? How about that for a statement? They have lost it.
“There’s supposed to be cloud cover, there wasn’t cloud cover. I don’t want to use that as an excuse. Fact is, the greens have barely got double-digit moisture in them. That is borderline unplayable on a golf course that simply plays as the longest course on Tour, pretty much. Right? Par 71. It’s the longest 71 we play. So therefore you’re going in with even more club than any other course we play. Elevated greens. Rock hard. That is an absolute recipe for disaster. You can quote me on all that stuff.”
Judging from comments like those, you’d expect a bloodbath on the scoreboard. Instead, Sergio Garcia shot a 2-under 69 and leads at 10 under for the tournament. Of the top 21 players on the 54-hole leaderboard, all but four shot even-par or better.
Kevin Stadler posted a sublime 65. Phil Mickelson, Tim Clark, William McGirt and David Hearn were all just two strokes further back. Each of those players finished earlier in the day, though, before the putting surfaces turned extra crispy.
Anytime there’s whining, there’s always this counter from behind the ropes: “Hey, you’ve all got to play the same course!” Well, sort of. Sometime around high noon, the difficulty level went from moderate to brutal. Of the final nine twosomes on the course, only one player posted a score in the 60s.
All of which leads to one burning question: Did the greens get out of hand at Bethpage or is it the players’ complaints which are unfair?
Slugger White is a PGA Tour vice president of rules and competition, and responsible for the course setup at this week’s venue. He was surprised by the player laments.
“The golf course is not unplayable by any stretch,” he opined. “If the golf course was unplayable, we wouldn’t have any scores at all in the 60s. We had a couple of greens that got a little crusty. We thought we were going to have a little bit more cloud cover than we did.
“We haven’t done anything differently from Wednesday evening. We’ve hand-watered them every night and every morning. The second hole and the eighth hole, they got a little crusty today. I went out there after the play went through there, rolled some balls around and I saw no issues.”
Keep him going and White sounds almost incredulous at the accusations.
“The players always want firm and fast,” he explained. “It seems like when we give them firm and fast, they don’t want firm and fast. I mean, you hear Tiger talking about how it was too soft on Thursday and then I hear some player walk off a tee yesterday and he said, ‘Have you guys run out of water?’ Where do you go? We’re doing the best we can. We’ve got Mother Nature out there. We thought we were going to have cloud cover all day, but it got a little hot and dry.”
So, who’s right and who’s wrong? In these situations, it’s always best to consult the leader. The player who most benefited and was least affected by the rub of the green.
In this case, that player is Garcia – never one to hide from voicing a complaint, and currently looking for his second PGA Tour victory in two weeks after a four year drought from the winner's circle.
“This will tell you how fast it was: Usually when you are putting on fast greens, you have an idea where the ball is going to stop. And today, you didn't,” he said with an exhausted laugh. “Was it unfair? I wouldn't say it was unfair. It was borderline. It was very close. I mean, it felt like the greens were very close to Shinnecock Hills at the U.S. Open awhile back.”
That should help firm up any suspicions in the Concrete Jungle.
As he trudged toward his courtesy car following an 8-over 79, Justin Rose saw a few reporters. “Have fun writing about this one, boys,” he said through gritted teeth.
It was clear that he didn’t have much fun playing it, nor did many of his fellow competitors.
Sergio Garcia survived the fast, slippery greens of Bethpage Black for a 2-under 69 and a two-shot lead in The Barclays. Read More
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