LPGA caught in slow motion

Saturday April 26th, 2008

AVENTURA, FLA. -- I have been asked by viewers of the Stanford Invitational Pro-Am to explain why it is taking the ladies and their amateur partners six hours or more to get around the two courses at the Turnberry Isle Resort.

The answer is simple: The courses are too hard.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, the Fairmont hotel chain gave Hall of Fame golfer Raymond Floyd $30 million to completely rebuild the resort’s two Robert Trent Jones Sr. courses. Floyd spent most of the money well -- the new Soffer and Miller courses are challenging, visually appealing and beautifully groomed –- and he spent some of it foolishly. (A 64-foot waterfall in Florida?) But in plowing up Jones’s wide fairways and big greens, Floyd might as well have drawn a line through the word “resort.” The new holes have enough water on them to keep Venice in gondolas for a decade, and the greens are Donald Ross specials –- tiny, humpbacked, and ball-a-phobic.

Throw in the gusty winds of the last two days –- Wind! In Florida! –- and you have conditions that only a handful of pros can cope with, much less the amateurs. Balls land on the rock-hard greens and roll off into shaved chipping areas, leaving the yippy ams to negotiate their least-favorite shot.

The pros, I might add, are more to blame than the amateurs for the snail-like pace. But who can blame them? Annika & Company are playing for a $2 million purse. So, yeah, they’re going to fuss over every downhill chip and two-foot putt like a mother cat with a litter of kittens.

Next year they might want to play the first two rounds at Melreese, the daily-fee course out by Miami International Airport. Melreese isn’t as pretty as Turnberry Isle, but you can usually complete a round in five hours or less.

I’d say more, but I’ve got to go. There’s a rumor that Stephanie Louden just gave birth on the 13th tee.   

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