BRADENTON, Fla. – Three weeks ago, former Ryder Cup captain and major winner Paul Azinger turned into a 10-eyed monster.
The NBC analyst, who is an honorary member at The Concession, home to this week’s World Golf Championships-Workday Championship, was with producer Tommy Roy and co-producer Thomas Randolph as they surveyed the course to decide where to put cameras for the broadcast. Now, Azinger has played The Concession for more than a decade but on this occasion, he looked at the layout through the eyes of Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, and Bryson DeChambeau, a foursome of bashers who can overpower most any golf track.
“I saw what they are going to see and I turned into a 10-eyed creature and I saw a different golf course,” Azinger said. “I saw water that wasn’t in play where it was in play for everyone else. If you have great carry distance, you can make a mockery of it. If you don’t have great carry distance, it’s tough.
“You have to get past the first five holes if you want to post a good score, but with their length, it’s very possible.”
Still, Azinger doesn’t think the course will be a pushover, especially if the wind blows.
“When the wind blows, it’s a two-man game out there,” Azinger said. “You better have a good caddie.”
That’s because of the many hazards and treacherous greens. The course, ranked No. 9 on Golfweek’s Best Private Courses list in Florida, was inspired by Jack Nicklaus’ concession of a three-foot putt to Tony Jacklin in the 1969 Ryder Cup, the gesture meaning the matches ended in a tie and the U.S. retained the Cup.
With Jacklin’s consultation Nicklaus designed the course, which can play out to 7,564 yards with a par of 72. Some said he made the greens too difficult, leading to a nickname for the course – The Concussion. The greens have softened over the years but remain challenging.
“They greens are broken into segments and they are severe. Some are tilted, some are very specifically shelved. There are specific areas that are small greens onto themselves,” Azinger said. “There are a lot of raised flats. It will be a tricky course. They will have to control their spins into the greens if they are soft. If the greens are firm and the wind is blowing at all, it’s a where-not-to-miss-it course.
“It’s not a super treacherous driving course, except for the water holes, and there are several of them, especially 5, 10, 13, 15 and 16. But I think the players will hit six sand wedges into greens every day.
“It’s going to be a great test, especially if the wind blows.”
The players agree.
“It’s a good track. It’s all right in front of you,” world No. 3 Justin Thomas said. “I think there’s the opportunity to challenge some holes off the tee and you can play a little bit more aggressively. A lot of water, very typical Florida course in that aspect. It definitely seems like an amateur golfer’s nightmare. It’s very difficult and grainy around the greens and a lot of elevated greens.
“It’s a lot of holes that we’ve had a hard time finding four pin placements because the greens are so severe. The greens are very elevated, it’s very grainy, the grass is tight. You can hit it in a lot of spots around the greens where you’re just kind of chipping it back and forth and having a hard time.
“If the greens were firm, it would be challenging I think is an understatement, but I think it’s going to still be a good test considering how the course will evolve over the course of the week. They’re very tough. I mean, like I said, I think this is an amateur golfer’s nightmare.”
Defending champion Patrick Reed felt after his practice round that putting the greens was OK. Chipping on to them, well, that’s another story.
“The problem is when you miss the green,” Reed said. “It’s really grainy, it’s really tight and the banks are really steep where some of those chips that you think you can bump and run the ball just don’t bounce and they come back to your feet. At the same time, if I hit a foot too far, it goes over the green and down another hill.
“It’s definitely going to take some patience and creativity around the greens this week, but hopefully you’re able to hit the ball well enough where you’re not having to focus too much on having to chip around this place.”
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/02/24/wind-wgc-workday-championship-concession-concussions/