LEMONT, Ill. – The biggest news to come out of Cog Hill Golf & Country Club on Wednesday was that Phil Mickelson once again voiced his displeasure with a Rees Jones-redesigned golf course.
Which is to say … there really wasn't any big news.
Lefty chomping Rees to pieces has become a tradition unlike any other, laying into layouts such as those at Torrey Pines and Atlanta Athletic Club.
So what, exactly, is Mickelson’s problem with this 2008 redesign, which will host its third edition of the BMW Championship this week?
“There's really no shot making here that's required. It doesn't really test our ability to maneuver the ball because the fronts of the greens are blocked and the only shot is to hit a high flop shot that stops,” he explained. “That's basic stuff. Chipping areas, shot value around the greens, penalties for certain misses – all that stuff wasn't really well thought out.”
And just in case you still weren’t sure which side of the fence Phil was on …
“I'd love to see like a Gil Hanse or a Crenshaw/Coore or Kyle Phillips or David Kidd or guys that really know what they're doing come in and create something special here, because I think that's what the [Jemsek] family and this facility deserve.”
Perhaps the biggest news in advance of this week’s event is that Mickelson’s fellow competitors have seen as much fault with Jones’ work as him, even those who don’t have a reputation as pot-stirrers.
“They need to get their money back, I guess,” Steve Stricker said. “It's too bad what happened here.”
“I'm not a huge fan of Rees Jones, either,” contended Luke Donald. “I'm not a big fan of the deep bunkers and the ridges in the greens. There's a few holes where there isn't a great deal of strategy.”
Meanwhile, Geoff Ogilvy snuck into this week’s field, then punctuated the achievement by proudly claiming, “I'm glad I'm here, I guess.”
These comments underscore a few of the bigger picture items that currently surround this tournament.
First and foremost, it ain’t comin’ back here. That’s hardly official, but with the event headed to Crooked Stick next year and Cherry Hills in 2014, there’s an excellent chance that even if it returns to the greater Chicago area, it won’t be at Cog Hill anymore.
How much can verbal assaults from Mickelson and others impact that type of decision? There’s no tangible scale for weighing the effect, but you can be certain of this much: It hurts a lot more than it helps.
Maybe it's just me, but one man complaining about how another man tells yet another man to move some dirt always seems a tad petty. I get it, though. Try explaining that dynamic to someone who doesn’t understand the game and they’ll accuse you of architectural insanity.
And therein lies the double-edged 1-iron. Complaints about courses from professionals date to the days of mashies and niblicks, as much a fiber of the game at the most elite level as oversized checks and missed cuts.
Now, though, with $10 million at stake for the FedEx Cup champion – and plenty left over for his brethren – while so many people struggle during the economic downturn, whining about anything can result in a backlash from those who aren’t fortunate enough to own Tour-ready swings and buttery smooth putting strokes. Then again, failure to offer an opinion brands a player as vanilla and vapid, unable to make a commitment while straddling both sides of the fence.
“If you don’t ever say, ‘This is wrong,’ or, ‘This is right,’ then nothing can ever be fixed,” D.A. Points said. “You’ll just continually have people think it must be OK, because nobody ever says anything negative about it.
“This is our job and this is what we do. It would be like if all of a sudden, the NBA had to play outside. If it was crappy weather, they’d probably all complain about it. If you changed their surface and made it worse, they’d go, ‘This stinks.’”
Of course, negativity can permeate the interview room and affect a player’s performance, too, which means we should keep a close eye on those who have been critical of Cog Hill already this week.
“If you give your opinion about it and it's a negative one, it's probably going to be taken as complaining,” Stricker intimated. “You can dislike something, but we all still have to play it, so you'd better not go out there with an attitude.”
The reality is, there’s a fine line between an opinion and a complaint. The latter often comes entrenched with an agenda and that may very well be the case in players offering up their analysis of this week’s host venue.
That doesn’t mean players take their spoils for granted and don’t understand the fortuity of their situations.
“There are obviously going to be courses that you like and don’t like,” Brendan Steele said. “I just filled out the PGA Tour survey. They wanted to know how you rate the tournaments and other stuff. I was like, ‘It’s the best tour in the world, we’re playing for a ton of money, I have nothing that I can possibly complain about.’ It’s way too good to say anything negative.”