TROON, Scotland -- Never up, never in. Hit it Alice. You have to make a turn.
These clichés, in reference to leaving putts short of the hole, might be getting worn out this week in the 145th Open Championship. Don’t blame the pressure of the Open Championship. It’s the friction on the greens. There’s more of it.
They. Are. Slow.
Perhaps partly in reaction to the quickness of the putting surfaces that wreaked havoc when high winds hit the Open Championship last year at St. Andrews – forcing a suspension of play on Saturday – the greens at Royal Troon have been running under 10 on the Stimpmeter. By contrast, the famously fast greens at Oakmont Country Club exceeded 14. Most PGA Tour stops are in the vicinity of 12.
Because of winds expected to gust in excess of 30 miles per hour, the R&A decided to forego rolling or cutting the greens for the third round at Royal Troon. That left an extra day’s growth.
Oh, well. Shaving has become overrated in professional golf these days anyway.
“Actually, [they were] 9.5. We were given that. Everybody got texts,” two-time Open champion Padraig Harrington said on Saturday after a 2-over 73 that required 29 putts. “They were 9.11 yesterday and 9.5 today. So not ridiculous.”
But they could make a player feel ridiculous.
“You feel kind of silly standing over a downhill putt and leaving it 2 feet short,” said Webb Simpson following a 71. “You’re used to a certain pace, and it’s just very hard to adjust. Putts uphill or into the wind are actually easier, because there’s less guesswork. You know you have to give a whack.”
“It’s an uncomfortable hit at times,” Steve Stricker said after his three-under 68, tied with fellow American putting impresario Brandt Snedeker and South African Haydn Porteous for low round of the day. “Because we’re so used to playing a similar speed week in and week out at home. So now we’ve got a 15-footer that you feel like you should hit with a certain stroke, and you’ve just got to hit it harder. It’s hard to get your mind to really hit it.”
That’s not all of the mental challenge, though, said Harrington, who argued that the greens were just a bit too slow.
“If they were 10, you wouldn’t have to think about it [the pace]. You would be surprised,” he said. “You would just be thinking about hitting a good putt. But once you get down to that sort of 9.5, even over an 8-footer you have to say to yourself, ‘Don’t forget to hit it.’ That’s not a good thought to have if you’re trying to hole a putt.”
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