After a brutal week of golfing at the British Open at Royal St. Georges Golf Club; where the players battled fierce winds, driving rain and hip-high heather, some of the professional golfers of the world still managed to make it to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, for the Canadian Open. Some of the notable players included the world’s number one, Luke Donald, past champion, Jim Furyk and past U.S. champion, Lucas Glover and of course, Sean O’Hair.
The 2011 version of the Canadian Open got underway on July twenty-first at the Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club. Situated along the banks of the mighty Fraser River, just short of the Pacific Ocean and with the blessings of the Musqueam First Nation, the Shaughnessy golf course is carved out of the stands of towering Douglas fir trees. The golf course played to 7,010 yards for the professionals, and to par 70. The signature hole is the 472-yard finishing hole, the eighteenth that grinds gently uphill from tee to green.
This Canadian Open was all about the golf course. Having come off the desolate landscape of the British Open, the players all ooh’d and ah’d about the scenic beauty and the course condition of the Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club. The lush green golf course is built with poa annua (poa) grass on the fairways and with bent grass on the greens. For this tournament, the width of the fairway was set at about twenty-seven yards. It was so soft and well manicured that you probably could have used a stimpmeter to measure the speed of the grounds. The first cut was about two yards wide, with the length of the grass being not much more than that of a shag rug.
The whole story of this golf tournament centered around the length of the grass after the first cut. Apparently, it was cut at about four inches; but I hasten to remind you that these four inches is not like that in Arizona or on any other dry golf courses.
It appeared that even amongst the pros, opinion varied. Some said that this was a superb test of golf and the winner will have shown that he played the best golf. Some complained bitterly that the rough was too tough. But then again, we often hear that it was not fair for the bombers hitting the ball all over the park and yet managing to get the ball on the green.
Very few shots landed on the green if the player was hitting his second shot from the rough. I have seen many players even hitting from the trampled area but misjudging how hard to chip his shot onto the fairway but landing short and having the grass just grab the ball. Of course this would invariably lead to a bogey or worse.
I will recount just two incidences where the rough made a significant difference in the final outcome. First was Paul Goydos on Saturday. His tee shot on eighteen landed well left of the fairway into the trees. In fact he was so far into the woods that I could not see him hitting his chip shot. It landed well short of the fairway. His next shot from the rough was only half way to the green and he ended up with a double-bogey. We did not hear about him on Sunday. On Saturday, Andreas Romero hit his drive on the eighteenth hole about three hundred and twenty yards on the fairway for an easy par. On Sunday, however, his drive on the same hole was only about two hundred and eighty yards in the right hand rough. His next shot landed in the greenside bunker and he proceeded to bogey the hole and miss the playoff with Sean O’Hair and Kris Blanks.
Perhaps even the second last shot of Kris Blanks, trying to win or tie O’Hair, might have been influenced by the rough. He put more muscle into the chip shot than he needed to and the ball went by the hole by about twenty feet; then ultimately missed the putt. Sean, who gets his inspiration from the Bible, said that he really did not want Kris to miss that last putt. Who knows, perhaps a gentle kami kaze breeze may have wafted Kris’s putt slightly left of the hole…