Unlike the first two rounds at The Players, where several threatened to break the course record and a couple guys matched it, TPC Sawgrass showed its teeth on Saturday afternoon when the greens went from being soft and receptive to lightning-fast. I mean, I’d never seen tour players miss so many two-footers. We saw Sergio Garcia six-putt (if you count his first from the fringe) and even 54-hole leader Jason Day four-putted. A number of players also putted *off* the greens. There were a total of 149 three-putts, the most in the history of this event.
Officials appear to have pushed the greens to the limit, creating pure carnage with regard to the scoring conditions. Since the Tour is blowing up the course for renovations after the tournament ends, there is no incentive to protect the greens, aka keep them alive. Many joked that the U.S. Open had broken out.
The scoring average in the third round was 75.6, the highest in tournament history since the final round in 2005. In the first two rounds, the field was a combined 272-under-par — a stark contrast from 273-over par in the third round.
Somehow, Ken Duke fired an impressive seven-under 65 to get to 10-under for the tournament and surged up the leaderboard to a tie for second, but he still trails Day by four shots. His fellow competitors reacted with awe and praise, and several called it the round of the year (along with Brandt Snedeker’s final round at Torrey Pines in January).
Aside from Duke and likely Matsuyama, who posted a five-under 67, most players weren’t so thrilled with the ridiculous pace of the greens and many voiced their concerns. Let’s take a look at some of their reactions!
We’ll start with the leader, who is ahead by four despite shooting one-over…
JASON DAY: Where should I start? Yeah, it was — I feel like I played pretty good today. I think I hit a lot of greens. I don’t know how many greens I hit, but I feel like I gave myself a decent amount of opportunities on the greens. But it was just, the green speeds kind of took me by surprise. It was just such a drastic change from Thursday to Friday to now, this afternoon.
I mean, the front nine was a bit borderline in my honest opinion, but I think a lot of the players probably think that, as well. I think it was, what, I think they said it was 71, the scoring average yesterday, and 76 today or something like that, which is just unbelievable.
But to have two doubles on the front side and then play some nice golf on the back side to really kind of keep that distance between me and the rest of the guys was nice. But really hoping they slow the greens down tomorrow.
Wow. Wow. Yeah, 6 caught me off guard. I hit it to 20 feet and ended up four-putting. I heard the crowd, they said, yeah, it’s fast. I was walking over and they said, it’s fast, it’s fast, it’s fast, they’re yelling at me. Usually when you hear it you don’t listen to them. I hit the putt, and it was fast, and I ended up making a mess. Make birdie on 7 and make a mess on 8 and then make a great birdie on 9.
It was a little frustrating on how quick the greens got. I said it earlier that I’ve never played golf where I’m trying to lag 10-foot putts just to get around the hole. Usually I’m trying to — my mentality is trying to hole all the putts; if I can get on the green, I’m holing everything. But a 10-foot putt felt like it was 60 feet away just to try and get it that close. It was difficult.
Crazy (re: the greens). Yeah. I could say something worse, but, no, everyone had to go through it. Everyone had to go through it, and it was just — it’s just unfortunate that it kind of got them that quick. There’s obviously no excuses in this game, because you got to go out and earn wins, but it was just a little tough on us today, but it is what it is. We got to — everyone’s got to face it the same way. Happy to have a four-shot lead going into tomorrow.
I want to say this was the toughest day I’ve ever had to play in my life, I think. After the birdie on 9, that kind of gave me a little bit of a boost going into the back side, but obviously I wasn’t looking forward to the back side because if the front side was quick, the back side was just going to be just as quick.
Golly, I hope (the conditions aren’t the same tomorrow). I really don’t. I hope not, because that would just ruin everything. That won’t make it fun for — we were out there for nearly six hours today trying to play 18 holes. That was just, it was — talk about slow play, they made the course pretty much nearly unplayable. If they do make it like that, then I’m just going to have to grind my hardest to win the tournament, and I’m okay with that. I won’t stop until it’s done, and I can rest after that.
Next, Kevin Chappell, who shot an impressive 31 on the front nine before faltering a bit on the back nine to card a two-under 70 (which is still really good all things considered).
Dead. Balding. I don’t know. They were just fast, and you can’t really sole your putter. It’s constantly sliding, and it’s really hard to find square. Everyone is playing them. They actually are fairly receptive for how quick they are, so it’s kind of a strange combination.
And we can always count on Billy Horschel to give his take:
Man, felt like I was putting on dance floors out there. We all did. Some of the putts I saw between Kevin and I and Bill, I’ve never seen putts that quick before. Augusta is probably the quickest greens we play all year, and I’m sorry, Sawgrass made those greens look like 8s on the stimpmeter.
First putt I hit was on No. 5, I saw Chappy hit a 40-footer and he ran it by about 20 feet. I saw Bill from behind the green, and I knew it was a quick putt, run it by about 10 feet, and I’ve got this 12-footer for birdie, really good, realistic chance, and I’m like, just touch it, and I touched it, and I thought it had a chance to make it, and about halfway to the hole, it picked up speed and it hit about mach 9, and it ended up by Bill’s marker. It looked foolish. It looked like I wasn’t paying attention, but I’m telling you, I really just touched this putt. So I made a good come-backer there.
There was a couple pin placements that were a little iffy I would say, and I think 6 is one of them. I’d be shocked to see how many people three-putted that green. I hit a really good shot in there about 20 feet just left, just past pin high left, and I just saw Bill hit his putt past the hole, and I’m literally trying to leave this putt two, three feet short, and I hit a good a putt and I thought I may have made it, but at worst it would be a foot by, and I could see the label on it, and it just slowly rolled over and it looked like it was going to be a foot by at worst, and it wound up eight, nine feet by, and I’m just like, you can’t do anything about it because, I mean, it just is what it is. Is it the greens? Is it the pin placement there? Maybe a little bit of both. But like I said, I mean, we’ve been asking for the greens to get quicker, and the greens to get firmer, and they got to that point. I don’t expect anything different tomorrow. I think maybe a little bit firmer and just as fast.
And you know what, there’s a difference between putting on these and the bent greens, fast bent greens. The grain is out of them. There’s no more grain in the greens, and once you get a downgrain putt, the greens speeds are 13, 14. The downgrain putts are going to be 16, 17. I mean, I hit a putt at 17 that I just touched, and I knew there was no chance of stopping by the hole, went nine feet by.
Let me say, these greens are never like this when I play it throughout the year, which is very rare that I ever play it throughout the year. But these are, in my — what’s this, the fourth year here, I’ve never seen them this quick, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any green on the PGA TOUR this quick. They just don’t have any grass on them, or they have grass but there’s just no friction to stop the ball. There’s several putts I hit, I hit a putt at 16 from 25 feet for eagle, maybe 30 feet, and I thought about right after I hit it, I was like, oh, I left it four feet short, and it went five feet by. The ball just keeps going.
I had a four-footer for birdie on No. 15 and Bill had a little issue there, and I’m like, man, I just want to touch this, and I touched it, and the ball hit the back of the cup. I mean, I didn’t even hit it that hard, and it just glided across the greens into the hole. Let me say, they’re really, really quick greens. It’s testing everybody.
Everyone played on it, but I think that’s why you see the scores — the scores are high today because of the greens, not because of the wind, not because of anything else in my opinion. I think it’s the sole fact of how fast the greens are. They’re not overly firm but just for the sole fact of how fast they are. I’d be interested to see what the stats are on how many three- and four-putts we had today. And I’m going to say — I’m going out on the limb here, but we could break a record for all-time number of three-putts on a weekend.
He turned out to be right!
Rory McIlroy, who shot 75, weighed in, as well.
It’s like a U.S. Open out there. I can’t really describe it any other way. I mean, it got to the point where when you’re grounding your putter, you can’t square it up because the surfaces are so shiny and so slippy. It was difficult. It was really difficult. And then to have — obviously we played in the morning yesterday, and to have such a drastic speed change in the greens from when we played yesterday to today, I just found I had a really difficult time to adjust to them. I stood up here yesterday and I said it’s amazing how differently the course plays from morning to afternoon, but I didn’t expect it to be like that out there this afternoon.
That was borderline unfair on a few holes. A few pin positions were on crowns, and you dribble a putt by, all of a sudden it’s six feet by. For the way they — I’m not sure if they expected to get the greens this firm or — there was a few pins out there that I felt were just a little too much on the edge. It was obviously difficult, and I felt like I was holding it together okay, but I think I hit 16 out of 18 greens out there. I mean, I played well. Tee to green I played well. I think I had five three-putts.
Even your uphill putts you’re being defensive because you feel like you want to leave yourself below the hole, but then where some of those holes were cut, you just it going by and it catches another slope and it’s off again. I felt like I got really tentative over some putts, and it’s hard. Usually you’re over a four- or five-footer, like okay, just knock this in the back of the hole, and you couldn’t do it out there.
It’s just hard because that’s how I was used to putting yesterday, and for all of a sudden it to go from there to the complete polar opposite today, it just was very hard to adjust.
I think they’ve went so far, it’s going to be very hard for them to get it back now. I know these greens are getting torn up Monday, so they wanted to stress them as much as they could, and obviously they don’t care if they die. It is what it is. I mean, they can water them all they want tonight, but by the time it gets to that first tee time and the sun is beating down on them for four or five hours before the leaders go out, they’ll be the exact same tomorrow afternoon, if not worse.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the players’ tweets.
Oof that course was hard… They were expecting hi humidity an low wind an got the opposite… Lost the greens a bit
— Will Wilcox (@willwilcoxgolf) May 14, 2016
Some interesting conversations this evening with players and the tour…. I would expect a statement coming out soon from what I gathered.
— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) May 15, 2016
They were as fast as Shinnecock hills 2004 but shinnecock more severe slopes, so I think they were quickest I’ve ever seen. — Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) May 15, 2016
Fastest greens I’ve EVER putted on today … Not lying when I say they were 16-17 on the stimp WOW
— Morgan Hoffmann (@Morgan_Hoffmann) May 14, 2016
Today at @THEPLAYERSChamp those were without a doubt the quickest browns, I mean greens