On Saturday afternoon the door to the scoring trailer at Bay Hill swung open and an irked Stephen Ames, sitting next to a wide-eyed Henrik Stenson, barked, “Justin, are you wearing metals?”
Rose, who was in mid-sentence during an interview, played in front of Ames and Stenson in the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He looked up and said, shaking his head, “No, I’m not.” Ames tried again, “Was JJ (Henry)?”
Rose, who was paired with Henry that day, thought for a moment and said, “No, I don’t think so.”
Ames, who shot 76 in the third round with 33 putts, slammed the door shut.
By the time I finished speaking with Rose, Ames had stomped away (softly, of course) already, but Stenson was still around.
“Somebody had the long spikes on the shoes and you could see exactly where that person had walked on every green, more or less, which is not too nice,” said the Swede. “The greens aren’t very good this week. It wasn’t pretty out there. It’s not nice if they’re picking up as much as they did.”
You see, the metal spikes aren’t the sole culprit — as it’s been explained to me, certain greens, like the firm, dry ones at Bay Hill, are more susceptible to mutilation caused by metal spikes.
“The greens are just not mature enough to handle the weather,” said the caddie of an elite player, who wishes to remain unnamed. “Apart from breakage, when they get crusty and start to dry out, it’s just a recipe for spike marks to pop.
“These greens don’t have much grass on them. There’s tons of green painted dirt around the edges.”
Added Justin Rose on Sunday after posting a sizzling 68: “The greens are overseeded so you can see the rye is laying down, so as soon as someone comes against the grain, the grass stands right up.”
Tiger Woods still wears metals, and pointed out that first- and second-round playing partners Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland “got behind a couple Mt. Everests out there, and unfortunately, they couldn’t do anything about it.”
After last Thursday’s round, Ian Poulter triggered some controversy when he took his gripes to Twitter, saying he would ban steel spikes because of the damage they cause on firm putting surfaces.
He hasn’t stopped his crusade, either, tweeting pictures like the one below on Monday morning, accompanied with a message to Rory McIlroy, who wears metals [sic], “Ive just found @mcilroyrory other secret stash of golf shoes he left them outside. now they would make a mess.”
Said Stenson, “I was putting beautifully (on Saturday), but (the spike marks) were just looking bad. I think people should try avoiding (metal) spikes if they can. It depends on what type of greens they are, how firm they are, type of grass and so on. Soft spikes make horrible marks on really soft greens.”
D.J. Trahan, who finished T12 at Bay Hill, noted the psychological impact of having to putt through a cleat mark.
“That affects you, mentally,” said Trahan after shooting one-under 71 on Sunday. “You can be standing there and thinking, ‘I can make the best stroke in the world and I might not have a chance of making this putt.’ That just sucks. Especially if you’re playing well and hitting good shots, then you get up there and you got 10 feet but there’s a mess around the hole.”
Trahan doesn’t mind if guys choose to wear steel cleats — he’s more annoyed when they don’t bother to fix them.
“What upsets a lot of players isn’t that guys wear metal spikes, it’s that guys don’t pick their feet up and don’t pat their spikes down when they make them,” he said. “I think guys need to be a little more courteous about fixing their spike marks when they make them. I don’t care if they wear metal spikes, just be courteous to the guys coming behind you.”
However, Rose thinks it’s part of the game and doesn’t believe in being able to tap down spike marks because “we’ll be out there forever and the game is slow enough as it is.” With the individualistic nature of golf, he also poses an interesting question.
“If you have a six-footer and there’s a spike mark in your way, and you miss the putt, do you really want to tap it down?” said Rose. “We’re out here all for ourselves. So I don’t know what the etiquette should be.”
Meanwhile, Stenson offers an alternative — and perhaps the best — solution for curbing damage made by extra long spikes.
“I might just get a file and soften them up a little,” he said dryly.