__STILLWATER, Okla.—__As the NCAA Championship unfolds, what's interesting to me is how the players are "adapting" to Karstan Creek GC. Even with the winds being far less severe than during Monday's practice round, many of the players I talked to after the first round spoke of a need to play the course in a very strategic fashion.
"I think the smart player is going to win this thing, not necessarily the best player," said Kent State senior All-American John Hahn, who opened with a two-over 74.
Hitting the fairways is so critical at this course because of the gnarly rough that many players are adjusting how they play off the tee.
"This course requires you dial it back more so than most courses because it's so penal," said California's Michael Weaver, who shot a one-under 71 during the first round. "The fairways are wide, but once you get off them, nothing good is going to happen."
To wit: Weaver said that on the 425-yard par-413th hole, the way the rough pinches the fairway, it makes sense to keep your driver in the bag rather than risk missing the fairway. "I hit a hybrid [off the tee]," Weaver said. "I had 170 yards left to the green, but I'd rather be 170 yards in the fairway than 120 in the rough. I can at least control the ball and do what I want."
While a conservative approach seems to be the play on most holes, there is a down side to being to cautious, says Hahn.
"All I heard coming into this week was how the 17th hole [a 471-yard par 4] was the hardest hole on the golf course, the hardest hole in the world," Hahn said. "I hit a 8-iron to 25 feet and just missed a birdie. I think guys need to be careful of psyching themselves out. When you come out here and play Karsten Creek, certainly it's hard. But when you play a good round you will be rewarded."