The Loop

Try Growing Grass In Atlanta During September

September 07, 2007

LEMONT, Ill.  --  This is a hard time of year to grow grass -- at least grass suitable for a FedEx Cup event. You may remember how the greens at Westchester CC were an issue for The Barclays. Well they don't call it "Hot-Lanta" for nothing and the combination of 100-degree days and no rainfall has created a problem at East Lake GC, site of next week's Tour Championship.

A "green sheet" was sent out to the players this week at Cog Hill, warning them not to expect pristine putting surfaces when they get to Georgia. Mark Russell, the PGA Tour's tournament director was in Atlanta this week assessing the damages and trying to figure out pin positions -- but can you imagine: Somebody has a putt for the $10 million FedEx Cup payoff and it's on a substandard bent-grass green?

Tim Finchem already has, and has dispatched the reinforcements. But when it comes to killing grass, this was the unavoidable perfect storm all greens superintendents in the Southeast dread. "Severe drought, record heat, bent-grass greens," Russell told me Friday afternoon. "We're doing everything we can to get them ready, but they've suffered."

Fans are circulating air on every green. Bermuda sod has been tamped down to save some of the collars. The mowers are barely cutting the grass, so it would be impossible to give a Stimpmeter reading close to what it will be like for competition. But there was a break in the weather on Friday, with afternoon temperatures reaching only 91 degrees. The course has also been closed since Aug. 31.

"They're like the greens at Greensboro," Russell said. "They just shut down. They just stopped growing. But we're backing off barely mowing them and watering them by hand. At this point, they're not as bad as I thought they were going to be, to tell you the truth."

The greens at East Lake were never an issue when the tournament was played in the last week of October, spilling into early November. The Bermuda grass fairways were usually dormant from an early frost. Last year's event was played with temperatures in the mid-fifties on what were described as perfect greens.

-- Tim Rosaforte