Friday, August 8, 2008

Tom Meeks, Is That You?

The conditions at Oakland Hills for day one of the PGA Championship reminded me a whole lot of the Tom Meeks era of US Open setups - boring, way too long, way too penal, and not encouraging many roars (then again, there weren't a lot of people there).

Lee Westwood went off on the setup after a 77 that ruined my fantasy team...

...and his chances to win a major this year.

"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."
That sounds about right from the scoring and what I saw on television. Westwood also observed something that may not have been expressly noted to the field.

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."

They actually did do that! And I think that's just plain ridiculous. John Hopkins puts this into perspective:
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.
Augusta's rough is like an inch and a half. You can rake that however you want and basically the effect is the same. But on 3.5", deep, thick rough, that's bad news bears.

Here's a final thought from the piece.

Major golf has officially gone mad. The PGA is the new U.S. Open, the U.S. Open is the old PGA, and the new Masters (where 8-under can again win) is the old Masters.

At least the British is still the British.

I've been saying most of this for two years now. Nice to see that people are noticing it now. But that Masters comment is misguided. Augusta National is ruined.

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