We've reached the midway point of the PGA Tour season and I've had a chance to talk with a lot of golf fans around the country. I've also been asked a lot of questions, so I thought it was time for me to answer some of the most popular.
1. Last season you were critical of the course setups at many PGA Tour events. Have you noticed any changes or improvements this season?
We've just concluded the Memorial Championship, and ironically I think the course setup at Muirfield Village was probably the straw that broke the camel's back last year. It really was the most over-the-top setup I saw and the rough was just ridiculous. A lot of players mumbled that they would not return as long as the course was set up that way.
Thankfully, I can report that the PGA Tour is doing a much better job of setting up the golf courses this season. More often than not, the rough has been more playable, and that has allowed players to attempt recovery shots more often. While the hole locations have remained challenging, tournament committees and course superintendents have done an excellent job of mixing up the teeing grounds and making players think. The best way to challenge today's players is to make them think more and plant seeds of doubt in their minds.
All of these factors create more excitement, so I hope the trend continues.
2. Can Tiger Woods win the U.S. Open missing fairways? Is his shortgame good enough to make up for poor driving at Bethpage?
Right now, Tiger Woods' shortgame and putting are unbelievable. But I think at Bethpage the penalty for missing the fairway is going to be extremely severe. I'm not sure even Tiger would be able to overcome it.
However it's clear that between the conclusion of The Players and the start of the Memorial, Tiger worked hard on his driving. He's now playing with a 10° driver and his performance off the tee at Muirfield Village was phenomenal. He doesn't have to hit 87% of the fairways like he did at Muirfield Village to win at Bethpage, but if he drives the ball well he's going to be tough to beat.
3. What was your reaction to the Memorial Skins Game?
I was on a plane flying to Columbus, Ohio while the Memorial Skins Game was being played, so I did not have a chance to see it in person. However, I did see the highlights and it looked like a fun event. I wish the weather had been a little bit more cooperative.
Events like the Memorial Skins Game, the Shark Shootout and various skills challenges are only as appealing as their participants. Any event that includes Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods playing side-by-side is going to be hit. So considering the level of interest, I would not be the least bit surprised to see the Memorial Skins Game become an annual event. Tiger says no a lot, but he is not going to say no to Jack.
4. One of the players you coach, Paul Casey, has risen to No. 3 in the World Ranking. What have you two been working on that has allowed him to start playing so well?
Sorry, but that's super-secret Tour information I cannot divulge in a public forum!
5. From watching golf on TV, it's tough to tell whether or not slow play is as much of a problem this year. From what you've seen, are the players just as slow this year, and what can realistically be done to speed up the pace of play?
Be certain of one thing: The pace of play on the PGA Tour is still brutally slow. That said, I think the improved course setups are allowing players to play a little more quickly.
Here is something I would love to try: Hold a tournament in which half of the total purse was guaranteed to be distributed to the players, but the distribution of the second half would be pro-rated based on the field's average time to complete the round. Set some "time pars" so that if everyone plays quickly, the players will be awarded the full purse on Sunday night. I think this would really encourage professional golfers to be more outspoken on the issueand willing to call out slow playersbecause there would be economic ramifications.
And just because slow play is tolerated on the PGA Tour, that does not make it OK for you to play slowly at home. In my home club in Arizona, Whisper Rock, all runs are completed within four hours because that's what's expected. There are very few reasons your round should take any longer.
6. The European Tour just completed the Celtic Manor Wales Open on the course where the 2010 Ryder Cup will be played. Will it be an advantage for the European players to have competed on that course a few times before the Ryder Cup is contested?
That said, I do think it was a wise move for Corey Pavin to compete at this year's event and get a feel for the course and for which playing styles will work best there. That should help Pavin make better use of his four captain's picks. I know he was trying to encourage more American players to compete in the Celtic Manor Wales Open, but this year, it was more important for him to be there.
If you have a question for Peter Kostis, write a comment at the bottom of this page.