Local Knowledge Row Breaks Out At Royal Melbourne

Mark Hayes quotes Mike Clayton explaining the reward for local knowledge at Royal Melbourne, Greg Norman's influence with the groundstaff and something Captain Fred Couples doesn't quite agree with.

International captain Greg Norman has been in constant contact this year with Royal's groundstaff and while he played down his influence over the course set-up at the weekend, it's understood he wants the greens rock hard.

Clayton said that would be another factor playing against the Americans.

"Greg wants them like concrete. When Royal's greens are like concrete, they are the hardest greens in the world," he said. "Geoff (Ogilvy) knows. He caddied (here) when he was 10 years old and knows what the ball does when it lands in certain spots."

Couples appeared bemused when told of the comments while his charges went about their reconnaissance mission.

"I played at Augusta 100 times, but first-year guys come, get in on Monday, play the course Tuesday and Wednesday and play fine," he said.

"People just don't go camp out a week before and play the courses. Royal Melbourne is one of my favourite courses. I came down here and lost to Rodger Davis (in the 1988 Bicentennial Classic), almost won and I'd never seen it."

Speaking of the vaunted greens, Bob Verdi walks with Greg Norman while the Captain was surveying the course and they aren't quite the desired pace...yet.

Norman's attention returns to the 14th green. The putting surfaces, he notes, aren't quite up to anticipated speed just yet. But it is only Monday, the matches commence Thursday, and brisk winds figure to be followed by more heat as summer advances declares itself.
"You can shoot a number here if conditions are benign," he says. "But you don't want to be above the hole at Royal Melbourne. You'd rather have a 30-footer uphill than a four-footer downhill. Balls aren't rolling out as they normally will just yet. Last three feet out here, that's so crucial."