Spongy Sawgrass greens have players shaking heads
AP Sports Writer
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) – Jerry Kelly knows the TPC Sawgrass endured a relatively harsh winter, one of the coldest on record for northeast Florida.
But he believes freezing temperatures “are no excuse” for the greens being as soft and supple as they have been through two rounds in The Players Championship.
“They’re spongy, they don’t roll true in the afternoon, they can’t keep them short enough,” Kelly said Friday. “I’m disappointed in the way that this thing is set up. I know it’s a tough winter, but I was hoping they could stress these greens a little more. It just looks like they can’t stress them. I don’t know what’s going on. I’d start again.”
And get this: Kelly shot a bogey-free 66 in the second round, leaving him little reason to complain. He may have been the most outspoken, but he was hardly alone.
Several others said they were surprised to see the Stadium Course greens playing relatively easy during the event.
“Very surprised,” Tiger Woods said. “We’re holding 5-irons, and shots on (No.) 8 with 3-irons are holding. You would think that they’d be a little bit more springy than that.”
With two days of rain early in the week, high humidity and very little wind, the Bermuda greens have been receptive through two rounds. Throw in a shorter-than-usual rough because of the severe winter weather and the scoreboard has been filled with pars, birdies and eagles.
More than half the field was under par through 36 holes, and nearly two dozen players were at least 6 under.
“Any time you give PGA Tour players no rough, soft greens, somebody is going to find a way to shoot low scores,” said Ryuji Imada, who shot 66 in the second round and was one shot behind leader Lee Westwood (12-under 132).
The Stadium Course underwent a major renovation in 2006, getting a state-of-the-art drainage system, sand in place of topsoil under fairways and new grass everywhere.
Kelly figures four years later, the green should be perfect – with no bumps.
“It’s a shame right now,” he said. “I’m sure the weekend will be fine. I’m sure they’ll stress them out even more. I wished they would have stressed them right away. I’d rather play on mud and dirt like we used to sometimes than play on a first cut.”
PGA Tour tournament director Mark Russell said he wasn’t worried about low scores, adding that things could change over the next two days.
“We’d like to have the greens firmer, but how do you do that when it rains like that?” Russell said. “High humidity kind of puffed up a little bit. We can’t control Mother Nature. … We certainly hope that they do firm up. We can’t go out there and tell them to firm up. We’re at the mercy of weather.”
HAAS HICCUP: A double bogey on the par-4 18th kept Jay Haas from making Players history Friday.
Haas, trying to become the oldest player to make the cut at the tournament, pulled his tee shot on the final hole into the water left. He reached the green two shots later, but two-putted from 30 feet for a 6.
Making matters worse, the 56-year-old Haas bogeyed Nos. 14 and 15. So he walked off the Stadium Course having given back four strokes over the final five holes.
“I’m real disappointed right now,” he said. “You know, I guess I had some dreams of making the cut, doing some good things, but just couldn’t finish.”
Haas shot 73 in the second round, moved to even-par 144 and missed the cut by two strokes.
Julius Boros remains the oldest to play all four rounds at The Players. He made the cut at age 55 in 1975.
The weekend wasn’t a complete loss for Haas. His son, Bill, was 7 under after two rounds. The father-son combination was the first to compete at The Players in the same year.
“Yeah, I’m excited for Bill,” Jay Haas said. “He’s been playing really well. Hopefully he can keep that up. I’m anxious to come out and watch him and see what he can do.”
HEADED HOME: Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington and defending champion Henrik Stenson were among the notables who missed Friday’s cut.
Stenson, Singh, Angel Cabrera, Stewart Cink, Paul Casey, Camilo Villegas and nine others got knocked out by a single shot – John Merrick’s 15-foot birdie putt to end his round.
“I had no idea,” Merrick said. “That’s the way it works sometimes. Oh well.”
Merrick sai he’s been on the other side plenty of times, “so it happens to everybody.”
Had Merrick made par on No. 18, those 15 would have stuck around for at least another day. Instead, he hit a solid drive, an even better 8-iron from 175 yards out and then sank the putt from below the hole.
“To have to finish on that hole and have to make birdie or par, that’s the last hole you want to play,” said Merrick, who was at 2-under 142. “I feel like I was playing solid the last two days and nothing was going in. That putt on 18 was the first putt outside of 3 feet I made all day.”
It was just the eighth birdie of the day on the difficult closing hole. It also sent a bunch of guys home early.
“Aww, that’s too bad,” Merrick said. “I could say a lot of things, but I’m not going to say anything.”
DECISION PAYS OFF: Francesco Molinari could have stayed home and played the Italian Open this week – much like his brother, Edoardo, did. Instead, Francesco decided to travel overseas for The Players Championship.
His decision looks like a wise choice.
Molinari shot a seven-under 65 in the second round and moved to 11 under for the tournament, one shot behind leader Lee Westwood.
“That, for me, was a really tough decision,” he said. “Because not playing there for the first time – I’ve always played decently – and I won four years ago, so I was looking forward to playing the Italian Open, especially because it’s in my hometown.
“But then when I saw it was clashing with The Players. This is one of the tournaments you dream of playing as a kid and you watch on TV. I think it’s easy to say now that I’m 11 under. But even if you miss the cut, it’s one of those tournaments that takes you to a different level, and it’s really good for your experience.”
HIGH SCORE: Mathew Goggin carded the highest, single-hole score of anyone Friday, a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 fourth. He also finished with the craziest scorecard of the tournament – posting six birdies, five pars, three bogeys and four “others.” His card had just about every number between 2 and 9, missing only an 8.
The worst one came after he reached a greenside bunker with his second shot. Goggin flew the green with his third shot and found water.
He dropped on the other side and chunked his chip into the drink. He finally found the green after another drop, then two-putted for 9. He teed off on No. 4 at 2 under, but walked away 3 over. It seemingly affected him the rest of the day, too.