Sawgrass greens much improved from last year

By Rex HoggardApril 1, 2015, 8:44 pm

Five weeks before play begins at The Players, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is, at least agronomically, tournament ready and in vastly better shape then it was last year at this time.

PGA Tour officials scrambled last year in the run-up to the circuit’s marquee event following a combination of factors that made some of the Stadium Course’s greens less than ideal.

But thanks to a host of adjustments this year the layout is in ideal condition. toured the Stadium Course on Wednesday and found the greens that were most impacted last year – Nos. 4, 9, 11, 12 and 14 – didn’t have any of the bare spots or plugs that dotted the putting surfaces at this point in 2014.

According to Tour officials, the improved conditions are a combination of factors, including a scientifically driven tree removal program, improved traffic patterns for everyday play, reduced play during the winter months and ideal weather the last few weeks in north Florida.

Nor did officials have any issues with the chemical treatment of the greens like they did last year. According to a memo posted on a Tour-player only website last year the putting surfaces at Nos. 4, 9, 11, 12 and 14 were “negatively impacted by [a] misapplication of a product to help manage density and root development during the colder, winter period.”

The Tour discovered via a “shade study” last year that some of those greens were not getting enough daylight, which led the circuit to remove numerous trees over the last 12 months, including many that were out of play but causing shade problems.

Officials also initiated a detailed traffic plan for each green, which included teaching caddies where groups should enter and exit putting surfaces and marking those areas with posts painted yellow and black.

The most intensive traffic plan occurred at the famous 17th hole, where officials constructed a temporary deck along the back of the green that eliminated traffic in the back left portion of the putting surface. The rerouted traffic allowed for healthier turf conditions and will make pin positions available during The Players that haven’t been used much in recent years.

The deck, which was constructed last October, will be removed before The Players, March 7-10.

Last year, commissioner Tim Finchem said the Tour was “90 percent” committed to re-grassing the putting surfaces with a heartier variety of Bermuda grass, likely after the 2016 Players, and that the Tour is considering expanding some greens.



12th green, 2014 (Rex Hoggard)


12th green, 2015 (Rex Hoggard)

Getty Images

Fleetwood, with his fancy umbrella, fires 65 on Day 2

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 12:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood looked like an Open rookie when he set out on Friday under gray skies and a cold, steady rain.

Because the Englishman doesn’t have an equipment sponsor he made a quick turn through the merchandise tent for an umbrella – but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.

“We stole it,” he laughed when asked about his Open-brand umbrella. “We got one given for free, actually. We didn't steal it. We don't always carry an umbrella. So it just so happens this week that we've got a nice Open Championship [umbrella]. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

It was Fleetwood’s only rookie move on Day 2 at Carnoustie, posting a flawless 65 to move into an early tie for second place at 5 under par.

Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, a 9-under 63 he shot last fall during the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, but given Friday’s conditions and the difficulty of this course during The Open, his 65 on Friday might have been better.

“It's not a course record, but it's pretty good,” said Fleetwood, who was stroke behind leader Zach Johnson. “If you went out, you wouldn't really fancy being 6 under out there. So I think that's a good indication of how good it was.”

It was a dramatic turnaround for Fleetwood on Friday. He said he struggled with his ball-striking, specifically his tee shots, on Day 1, but he was able to turn things around with an hour-long session on the range following his opening round.

Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

Getty Images

McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

Getty Images

How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.