Greens Better Still a Concern to Some

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Bay Hill is a bombers course. Its reflected in its recent champions: Tiger Woods (2000-2002), Tim Herron (1999) Ernie Els (1998) and Phil Mickelson (1997).
 
So when a shorter hitter feels handicapped on the greens, its time to spend the week with the family.
 
While Woods and Els headline a superb field in this weeks Bay Hill Invitational, a handful of notable players are absent.
 
Two-time champion Loren Roberts is skipping the event for the first time since 1987; three-time runner-up Davis Love III is resting; world No. 13 Chris DiMarco isnt here, and neither are 1999 runner-up Tom Lehman, leading money earner Mike Weir, 1997 champion Phil Mickelson, last weeks winner Justin Leonard, or major winners David Toms, Nick Price or Retief Goosen.
 
Mickelsons and Goosens absences are excused by their wives impending childbirths. But for some ' not all ' the decision not to be here this week is the result of what transpired a year ago.
 
Last year the greens were brand-new, and they werent mature ' they were very, very hard, and it was difficult to stop the ball on the green, said course superintendent John Anderson. This year they matured more and theyre much more receptive. I think theyll be very happy with them.
 
So agrees tournament host Arnold Palmer.
 
I said this last year and Ill say it again this year, the golf course is in excellent condition, Palmer said.
 
But the memories of a year ago still linger in many-a-mind.
 
In late 2001, the greens were re-sodded, altering the feel and firmness of the surface, and creating more undulation. Short-iron approach shots werent sticking, and balls off a flatter-faced club were skipping like a stone on a pond.
 
Last year was pretty much over the top. It bordered on unfair and I think some of the people were disappointed in it, and I think some of the people are missing it this year because of the way it was set up last year, said Orlando resident Scott Hoch, who has played this event 19 times.
 
In addition to maturity, some precipitation earlier in the week has taken a bit of the bite out of the landing surface ' perhaps too much.
 
Its so soft, the greens are on the slow side; youre going to see these guys tear it apart again, said Woods. The course is playing a lot different than it was last year.
 
I doubt that the greens will be as fast as I had hoped they might be. But they will be fast and they will be good putting surfaces, assured Palmer.
 
Woods has won each of the last three years with increasingly higher scores. Last years total of 13-under-par 275 was the highest winning score since 1996.
 
I think they might have overreacted, but also they have had a lot of rain, too, in the last few days that probably contributed to the problem.
 
Woods played in Tuesdays pro-am and said after seeing the course for the first time this year that it is more fair than in 2002.
 
I think the guys who hit the ball a bit on the flat side are going to definitely have a better chance this year than last year, he predicted.
 
Related Links
  • Full coverage of the Bay Hill Invitational