Bill Nichols

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

TPC's hail-ravaged greens spur local divot-repair rule, lift-clean-place

IRVING _ Crews scrambled to repair damage from a severe storm that hit the TPC Four Seasons at Las Colinas Tuesday night. Considering the scope of work required, they got up and down.

Golfball-sized hail left a hailstorm of divots on the manicured bent grass greens for this week’s HP Byron Nelson Championship.

``It looks like 18 perfect greens with about 4,000 divots,’’ Four Seasons director of golf Paul Earnest said early Wednesday as he leveled marks on No. 18 by hand.

John Cunningham, director of golf course operations, assembled two 15-member teams _ one on each nine _ to painstakingly repair divots on each green, canvassing the surfaces in unison. Two 15-member teams were in charge of clearing bunkers. The greens were then rolled, and tree limbs and other debris were cleared.

The layout was ready for play about 8 a.m., causing only a one-hour delay for the Gold Pro-Am. Damage was so severe they considered playing the pro-am across the street at Cottonwood Valley.

Crews returned in the early evening, re-fixing the scars, and then mowing and rolling the greens. Because each green is coated with repaired marks, a local rule will be in effect allowing players to repair any divot considered ``significant hail damage,’’ Earnest said. He also said that lift-clean-and-place will be allowed the first two rounds.

``The greens have marks everywhere,’’ Cunningham said. ``They are going to roll really good tomorrow (Thursday). People will just think they are ball marks. Some were so big the centers of them had to be cut out.’’

The greens looked relatively smooth, considering the trauma they received. Sharp chunks of ice carved ragged gashes, some measuring five inches in diameter. Those scars will be noticeable.

``The farther you get away from the clubhouse, they’re actually better, not as much hail,’’ Gary Woodland said. ``But the holes around the clubhouse, the damage is significant. It’s like a bunch of ball marks. For the most part, the greens were perfect, and maybe they’ll change a couple of pins based on the areas of the green.’’

Most players were surprised at how well the greens responded.

``It looks like 5,000 guys hit 5,000 balls into the greens, but the greens are rolling pretty good after rain and hail,’’ defending champion Jason Day said. ``We’re going to have some high temperatures over the next few days, so that could dry out the course and get it rolling and bouncing pretty hard over the next few days.’’

Sugger White, the Tour’s vice president of rules and competitions, said that wind will help the greens heal.

Sunny skies are expected every day. Winds of 12 mph are expected on Thursday, and those will increase over the weekend. Friday’s forecast calls for winds up to 25 mph.

``I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like it,’’ said Slugger White, PGA Tour vice president of rules and competitions. ``Tom Brown, who is our agronomist, was raised in West Texas and he feels confident we will be OK. I put all my eggs in his basket.’’

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