ORLANDO - There has been a lot of talk about wicked greens this week, not only at vaunted Royal Melbourne, site of the Presidents Cup, but Grand Cypress, home of the CME Group Titleholders.
No one would put Grand Cypress' putting surfaces in the all-artful league that Royal Melbourne occupies, but they are slick and sloping. The women will get their shot at Royal Melbourne soon enough, when the 2012 LPGA season kicks off there with the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open.
Aussie Karrie Webb watched some of the Presidents Cup broadcast Wednesday night. "I'm already a little scared about our tournament there at the start of the year," Webb said. "I'm hoping we don't have green speeds of 14. [But] Melbourne has a whole summer of hot, dry heat just to make those greens even firmer than what they already are."
Grand Cypress' greens aren't quite so frightful, but they will figure prominently in Sunday's final round, which will begin with Sandra Gal and Hee Young Park at seven-under 209 holding a one-stroke lead over Suzann Pettersen with Paula Creamer two back and Yani Tseng and Na Yeon Choi trailing by three.
"This week, just no idea on a lot of these greens," Park said, noting her usual practice-round routine hadn't been of much value this week. "It's more about trusting my feel. If it feels left to right, just trust my feel."
The greens are one reason the world's best women have risen to the top of the leader board after 54 holes. "I think it does bring out the best players," said Pettersen. "When the greens are this tricky and the course this firm, you'll see the best ball-strikers getting close on some of the surfaces. If you take on some of the pins, you can be rewarded, but you can make some bogeys as well."
Creamer erred on the side of caution in shooting a one-under 71 Saturday in pursuit of her first victory of 2011. "You can't be super aggressive with some of these holes," she said. "You're just going to have to make some 20- and 25-footers because of pin placements. I saw some of the 'dots' for tomorrow, and there's a lot of sucker pins. You're just going to have to make some putts early on and not let the leaders get too far away from you."
"It's interesting. I like it," Pettersen said of the firmness of the greens, noting that even wedge approaches were releasing during the third round. "It's hard to get [approaches] close, and you can't be too picky or you're on the wrong side of the hole and you might have a five-footer that you can barely touch. You can hit a great shot and have a six-footer that breaks more than a foot. It brings the feel into it, which I like."
Pettersen has kept the challenge in perspective thanks to some night-time television of her own.
"Having watched the President Cup," she said, "I feel pretty good about these greens."
-- Bill Fields