The pros gobble up East Lake's greens

The pros gobble up East Lake’s greens

ATLANTA — Before the start of the Tour Championship, some feared that the greens at East Lake were in such bad shape that they would spoil the final event in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

But liberal watering early in the week and sanding of damaged areas, not to mention the rain that fell for hours on Thursday, have made them relatively inviting, and the game’s best players are having a field day.

Here are some stats from the first round, which started Thursday and ended Friday morning:
• Only two players missed a putt from within four feet of the hole.

• Three players — Jonathan Byrd, Tim Clark and Hunter Mahan — made every putt they attempted from within 10 feet.

• Eleven players missed only one putt from within 10 feet during their first round.
• Only seven of the 30 players three-putted a green in the first round, including Jim Furyk, who three-putted twice en route to a 71.

Some pros never stop experimenting

Mark Calcavecchia has competed with two putters in some PGA Tour events this season, one traditional-length model and one belly putter. Calcavecchia, who won the PODS Championship in Tampa this season, felt the shorter putter was better from long range, but the belly putter was better for short and mid-range putts.

This week, Calcavecchia has chosen to use only the belly putter. “I’ve mastered the belly putter on long putts,” he said. “What I do is just pull it out of my gut, stand a little further away from the ball and use my regular claw on longer ones. It’s basically a short belly putter because I’ve got shorter legs and a big belly.”

So far Calcavecchia’s system is working well. In the first round he needed only 25 putts en route to shooting 65.

Jim Furyk had three putters in his bag Wednesday during his practice round. One was an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball, which his father took to the equipment van for regripping after four holes. On several holes, Furyk used a prototype Scotty Cameron by Titleist that looked similar to the Scotty Cameron Newport Detour 2. He also had a Ben Hogan Baby Ben in his bag, which is the model he used to win the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields.

“I don’t tinker around with clubs very much,” he said. “Except for putters. But I haven’t changed putters in about two and a half years.”

So does that mean the third-ranked player in the world is due for a change? “Maybe,” he said.

On Thursday morning, the Odyssey was the only putter left in his bag.