Monday, March 31, 2008

More on TPC Louisiana

Earlier today, I made a post wondering why the Zurich Classic seems to keep producing first time winners. I came to the conclusion that because the field stinks each year, it would seem logical that the odds of a first timer winning the event are much much higher than average events. Basically, it is the same theory behind the alternate field events. Those fields are weak and usually have very few prior winners in them. It makes sense, then, that a first time winner will take the trophy.

This Times-Picayune piece that salivates some of Johnny Miller did not really catch my eye except for his thoughts on TPC Louisiana - a course I don't especially like. I miss English Turn. But, Miller's explanation may lend a hand to why the tournament is always left wanting for a better field.

"I'm not saying it's a bad course; it's a good course," said Miller, who owns a golf design company and golf academy and designed the Thanksgiving Point Golf Course in Lehi, Utah, host of the Champions Challenge. "It's a good test. I can't say it's not a good test. There's nothing unfair about it. But there's something about Pete Dye courses, they are just unpredictable. You could play well, and you could miss the cut, and you could be playing great the week before. That's Pete Dye."

In fact, Miller said area golf fans shouldn't be surprised if more elite players choose to skip the event in the future, including a pair of top-10 players -- Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk -- who competed this year and failed to make the cut.

"Pete Dye courses have a tendency to be funky and basically ruin the leaderboard," Miller said. "Whenever you see a Pete Dye course you see a lot of the top players, including Tiger Woods, really struggle. The best players in the tournament all missed the cut here. That's a Pete Dye-ism. Pete Dye courses are very awkward. There's something about them.

"Furyk misses the cut, and Stricker misses the cut. Now they would never miss the cut in a million years at the San Diego Open or even a Pebble Beach, (courses) that are sort of straight-forward courses."

Because of that, Miller said he preferred the tournament when it was held at English Turn, which played host to the event from 1989 to 2004 and in 2006.

"I just like the finish," Miller said. "I thought the 15th hole was sensational, over the island green. That could have ended the tournament right there. And No. 17 was a good birdie hole, where you could make a birdie. And No. 18 was a brutal par-4, so a lot of great things could happen at the finish of that course. I just thought it had a lot of nice balance."

That's the thing about Pete Dye. He is lauded as a very good course designer in many circles because he takes a unique approach to course design. TPC Sawgrass is seen as innovative and an amazing test of the game. TPC Louisiana is just kind of annoying. But, the Players does have a penchant for producing several first time and/or fluke champions - especially high for an event that years to be in the company of major championships.

Then you have a course like Bulle Rock - the host site for the LPGA Championship. And that doesn't even seem like a Pete Dye design at all. For the design majors out there that study Dye more extensively than I have, do you think there are stages of design in a career - like those of artists?

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