Rough Call

Garry Smits writes about the apparently monumental decision facing the PGA Tour:

Dozens of players interviewed since the decision was made to move to the tournament to May agree that the course should not be over-seeded for that date, given the warmer temperatures that will now be as much a part of the tournament as cold March winds had been for 40 years. When played in March, the course was over-seeded with grass that would better stand up to the winter months. But with the tournament in May, and new irrigation and drainage systems being installed, superintendant Fred Klauk can simply let the natural Bermuda grass take over.

As a result, the rough would be cut to 2 1/2 inches. Because of the nature of Bermuda rough, and the small, undulating greens of the Stadium Course, anything deeper would be unplayable, since balls tend to sink all the way to the bottom of that grass. Even the United States Golf Association, never shy about torturing players for the U.S. Open, capped the Bermuda rough at 3 inches for the last two Opens held at Pinehurst.

Past Players champions such as Tiger Woods, PGA Tour Policy Board member Davis Love III, Fred Funk, Mark McCumber and Craig Perks, as well as Joe Durant (another Policy Board member), and Jim Furyk, David Toms, Len Mattiace, Frank Lickliter and Zach Johnson are among the players who have come out in favor of not over-seeding, either in news conferences or in interviews with The Times-Union.
Mark Russell, the rules official who set up the Stadium Course for last week's Players Championship, said a final decision hasn't been made. But he also said having shallow Bermuda rough with firm fairways and greens would be closer to what architect Pete Dye intended when he designed the course in the late 1970s.

A Stadium Course set-up such as that would offer two strategies that don't exist now: a lot of drives previously caught by heavy rough (and giving players only one alternative, hacking out with a wedge) will run into the trees on holes such as Nos.1, 2, 6, 9, 10, 11 and 16, forcing the pros to play recovery shots. Since the days of Arnold Palmer, golf fans have enjoyed watching professionals try to hit shots over and through trees.

"We like that challenge also," said Love. "That would give us the chance to try a lot of exciting golf shots."

And there was this from Jim Furyk:
"They're trying to get the input of guys who have won this tournament, and guys who play at this course a lot, in all kinds of weather and conditions," said Furyk, a Ponte Vedra Beach resident. "I'm encouraged by what I'm hearing. Not over-seeding, cutting the rough down to around 2 inches and getting this course really firm and fast would tremendous for this tournament."