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The PGA Tour welcomed back an old friend and a familiar face this week. It also ushered in a new venue to its rank as the top 64 players in the world convened outside of Tucson, AZ for the annual match play event. This year the location is just down the street from last year’s course, The
. Later this year the Ritz-Carleton will open
its doors and welcome those of you who
have been drooling by your televisions as
old man winter awaits outside your front
While the 250 room facility is not quite ready
for guests, its most noteworthy amenity is.
Yesterday, the Ritz-Carleton Golf Club, Dove
Mountain came alive for all of the world to
see and its already claimed a few casualties.
By virtue of the event, half of the field was
sent packing. Masters Champ, Trevor
Immelman and Padraig Harrington, who claimed the Claret Jug and PGA Championship last year were both victims in their opening round matches.
The early chatter from the participants appears to be focused on the putting greens. “The greens are going to test everyone,” said Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 winner of the event. Rory McIlroy who won for the first time as a professional this year in Dubai wasn’t quite sure what to make of the green
complexes. “ I don't think I've ever seen
greens like this, to be honest,” the Irishman
confessed. The 2007 WGC Match Play
Champion, Henrik Stenson added, “The
biggest change is the greens and the
undulations. It will be a harder course to
score and not as many birdies. It is a tricky
course and you have to be in the right spot.
You have to be very careful on some of the
greens. You can get it to a couple of feet
away and then all of a sudden you are 30
feet away so you have to be careful. If the
shot doesn't quite come off the course can bite you back.” Stenson unfortunately, wasn’t able to convert enough times on the putting surfaces and was eliminated by Davis Love III.
The only major championship winner from 2008 still standing after the first round was none other than Tiger Woods, who has played a grand total of one competitive round in 2009. With respect to the greens, Woods had this to say. “ We couldn't play these things if they were quick. If they had them to
normal Tour speed, they would be unplayable.
If you have any kind of wind on them you
really couldn't play. And the only way you
can play this is to have the greens slow. And
they are. They're running slower than I think
I've ever played a PGA Tour event on,” said
Woods who sported a record of 31-6 prior to
his opening match at the Ritz-Carleton Golf
Club, Dove Mountain. Woods added the
trickiest part isn’t reading the line but rather
coping with the speed. “You just kind of hit it.
And there are more putts that you had to hit
hard than you normally would at any other tournament,” he explained. “It's just different. I've never played a Tour event where the greens were this slow, but then again, I've never played a Tour event where there's this much undulation, as well. But the areas that we have to putt to aren't really that big.”
While Woods looked solid in his 2009 debut on the Jack Nicklaus designed course, one round doesn’t make for an event. “You never truly know a golf course until you've played three or four tournaments around it,” said Olgilvy. “You learn so much more in a competitive round on a golf course than you do in a preparation round.” Time will tell who can hang around long enough to gain an advantage on the dance floor and walk away with the $1.4 million first place check. While the world watches in eager anticipation of Tiger Woods and what he will accomplish at the WGC event, the host venue and its putting greens are available for public play. It eventually will be accessible only by resident members and resort guests of The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain. But for a limited time in 2009 open play is available.