ALBANY, The Bahamas — I watched with my own eyes Tony Finau, greenside in one on the short par-4 seventh hole, make double bogey. Shortsided to an elevated pin, he hit it through the green into a bunker, then over the green, then to a few feet and missed the putt. A few holes later, Tiger Woods chipped his ball into the water on the par-3 12th hole.
Chipping at this week’s Hero World Challenge might be the hardest of any non-major event on the schedule. It’s Albany Golf Club’s sternest defense. Why, you ask? Let’s break it down.
1. Fast Greens
The first, and most obvious reason, is that the greens are rolling very fast this week at Albany Golf Club. Tiger likes them that way — it’s one of the reasons why he comes down here for his pre-Masters prep. They’re not overly hard, but they’re slippery. You need to put spin on your ball, and if you don’t put enough (or even if you do) things can run away from you pretty quickly.
“With the way these greens are rolling, if you’re not careful, you can leave yourself some really tricky putts to get up and down,” Henrik Stenson said after his four-under opening round.
2. Big Drop-Offs
The golf course is quite similar to the kind you see in the desert. The fairways and greens are big, but if you miss them, you’ll be punished — severely. There’s not much rough on the course, but what you’ll find instead are greens that are hugely elevated. There is no straightforward chip, and it takes putting out of the equation. You need to get the ball up in the air fast to carry it onto the green, but also ensure it has enough spin on it for it to stop on a dime.
“It’s kind of tough also to leave your golf ball in the right spot off the green because the areas are really small and there’s a lot of collection areas,” Patrick Cantlay said. “And when they go down and you have to chip up to the green out of that grainy bermuda, it’s tough.”
3. Bermuda Grass
Cantlay alluded to it above, but the third and final factor that makes chipping so difficult here is the Bermuda grass that carpets the course. To explain it simply: Bermuda grass is a more sturdy grass than bent grass, which commonly grows in the northeast, has a stronger grain, and grows horizontally rather than vertically. The result is lots of strange bounces that have the added effect of taking a lot of speed off the golf ball. It means that players can’t really putt the ball when they miss a green, and bouncing it into the slope and hoping it will release is also a no-go — it’s simply too unpredictable. It’s a fate that plagued Tiger at the 12th hole.
“It was grainy. I had a little patch right behind the golf ball and I tried to toe it in there in trying to make sure I actually hit it long. I was trying to play for like a 10-, 12-footer coming back and it just didn’t come out and it blew back in the hazard,” he explained after his round.