Tiger Woods’ opening-round 66 at Firestone was notable, to be sure. The world No. 1 made it around the South Course’s front nine (his back nine) in an impressive 4-under after a ho-hum opening nine.
However, for 14-time major winner, who has won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational seven times, a quality opening round is routine. Ripping the greens of the course that’s slated to host the next major, less so. Thus, Tiger Woods’ remarks Wednesday about the course he played Tuesday — Oak Hill, site of the coming PGA Championship — continued to dominate Woods-related headlines Thursday, as it were.
As Woods said Wednesday about the greens at Oak HIll,
“They don’t have much thatch to them, so it’ll be interesting to see what they do for the tournament and how much they’re able to speed them up with kind of a lack of grass.”
Further, the golfer indicated that the greens were rolling near a nine on the Stimpmeter during his practice round, which is unsatisfactorily slow for a major championship, obviously.
Predictably, intrepid reporters clamored to get the New York course’s superintendent, Jeff Corcoran, on the horn Thursday.
Eventually, Corcoran provided both explanations and puzzling soundbytes Thursday, such as the following:
“You don’t tell a marathon runner to go out and run a marathon just before you run a marathon.”
Further, Oak Hill’s super said:
“In regards to Tiger’s…comments, he hit it right on the head. We were trying to give the greens a rest before we head into a very stressful week. …When he was here [Tuesday], we were playing defense. We didn’t mow that day, didn’t roll [the greens] that day. We’ve had an extremely tough summer. We’ll have the green speeds up; they’ll roll fine.”
Well enough. If the superintendent says the course will be ready, we have to take him at his word. What do we make of Tiger’s comments, though?
Did Woods offer a casual, honest assessment, which leant itself to “Tiger Calls Oak Hill Crap” type of incendiary headlines? When asked how the course played during his practice round, should he have said, “It was great, next question!”
Under the “everybody plays the same course” school of thought, there’s not a great deal of sympathy when players are critical of course conditions, generally speaking. Was Woods really being critical, though? He certainly didn’t seem to be dishing out praise, at the very least.
Regardless of what we consider Woods’ intent to be in making his blunt assessment, it’s almost certain the saga will continue: We’ll hear much more about Oak Hill’s greens, and Woods will be hit with continued questions in the coming week.
Woods, at least, was impressed by something: his playing partner Thursday, Hideki Matsuyama.
“He has a boatload of talent,” Woods said about the 21-year-old Japanese standout. “He knows what he’s doing out there. And the more time he is out here, the older he gets, he will develop more shots. The talent is there.”