SAN DIEGO — Cliché alert! The AP, in its Monday dispatch about Tiger Woods practicing at Torrey Pines, paraphrased Bubba Watson to the effect that “the greens could get firmer and faster as the week goes on.”
Indeed, they could –- if this were 2004 and the U.S. Open was at Shinnecock. But this is 2008, and the USGA no longer starts Open week with a “soft” golf course only to let it dry out so that the greens are as hard and crunchy as melba toast by Sunday.
Since the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, the USGA’s philosophy has been “consistency.” The golf course is set up for the practice rounds exactly the way it will play during the tournament rounds.
You ask, is that even possible? Yes it is. They use a device called a Turf Tester to measure a green’s “bounciness.” This device, which resembles a bicycle pump, is tethered to a hand-held computer. A rod dropped from the top of the cylinder hits the ground with a thump and sends a degree-of-penetration measurement to the computer. When the ground gets too firm, the greenkeeper comes to the rescue with a garden hose.
The players, for some reason, haven’t gotten the message. Last year, at Oakmont, player after player warned that the greens could be “out of control” or “scary fast” by the final round.
They were fast all, right. Same as they were during the practice rounds.
Anyway, I’m betting that one of the first-round leaders at Torrey winds up his press conference by saying, “If the greens are this fast now, you can imagine how fast they’ll be on Sunday!”
To which I’ll answer: Yeah, I can.