Commentary

East Lake greens so bad, pro-am will likely be cancelled

Updated: September 8, 2007, 7:21 PM ET
By Tim Rosaforte | Golf World

The FedEx Cup can't seem to catch a break.

Marred by controversy over big-name players skipping events, criticism over the points system and the $10 million deferred payday, now comes the news about Tour Championship venue East Lake and its troubled greens.

Theyıre so bad, Golf World has learned, players in the 30-man field will not be allowed to practice on them or hit shots into them prior to Thursdayıs opening round of the Tour Championship. The PGA Tour is expected to announce the cancellation of the pro-am. A long-term plan by course founder Tom Cousins is expected to close the course for a year to change the greens from bent grass to a new strain of Bermuda that is more tolerable to Atlantaıs searing heat.

Henry Hughes, Executive Vice President of the PGA Tour, would not confirm the information, saying it was speculation and that a release would be issued Sunday. But debate about what the tour would do regarding the poor greens during next week's tournament has been a big topic of conversation among players all week in Chicago, where this week's FedEx Cup event, the BMW Championship, is being played at Cog Hill.

A "green sheet" was sent out to the players at Cog Hill warning them not to expect pristine putting surfaces when they get to Georgia, which has been plagued by record temperatures and near-drought conditions. Mark Russell, the PGA Tour's tournament director, was in Atlanta this week assessing the damages. But speaking to Golf World on Friday, Russell sounded resigned to the situation. "Severe drought, record heat, bent-grass greens," Russell said. "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-50s on what were described as perfect greens.