Paul Mahoney reports on Lee Westwood's scathing post round criticism of the Oakland Hills course setup. On site sources say the rough had been trimmed but it also seems the raking we spotted last week was taken to a new extreme. At least according to Westwood.
"The course is 7,500 yards long, the greens are firm, and the pins are tucked away," Westwood said of Oakland Hills (official yardage: 7,395). "They are sucking the fun out of the major championships when you set it up like that. The fairways are narrow, and unfortunately if you miss the semi [rough] by a foot you are worse off than if you miss by 20 yards. I asked my partners [Geoff Ogilvy and Zach Johnson] if I was out of order, and they said 'No, if you are slightly off-line, you are crucified.' It is too thick around the greens as well. It takes the skill away from chipping."
Comparing Thursday's conditions to the practice rounds, Westwood wondered if the PGA had dispatched an army of workers overnight to "brush back" the rough, changing its direction so that the blades point toward the tees, instead of toward the greens.
"I can't think of a reason why they would do it other than to irritate the players," said Westwood, whose round included five bogeys, one double-bogey, and no birdies. "[The rough] is five inches long. Why brush it back at us? It makes no sense. People want to see birdies, and they have not seen me make any. I can't see anything wrong with being 9- or 10-under-par for the week."Part of me wonders if the setup is really that extreme, or perhaps the players have become so enamored with Mike Davis's layered rough cuts that the old style setup looks that much more ridiculous? Maybe...
Westwood said that the PGA should have followed the USGA's lead at Torrey Pines, which was not the punishing setup often seen in the U.S. Open. "You have to reward the accurate players like they did at the U.S. Open," he said. "[That] was set up perfectly. It rewards accuracy and penalizes you if you are off-line. I didn't see that today."
In John Hopkins' report, he implies the rough ploy was a mowing in only the direction toward the tee, as Augusta National does with its fairways so that its members who also happen to be on the Executive Committee don't have to do anything about distance!.
While mowing fairways back towards the tees to bring balls to a halt sooner has been fashionable since it first appeared at Augusta a few years ago, the practice of doing the same to the rough is surely unnecessary.