Winds Turn Royal Melbourne into a Monster


None of the players on Day 2 of the Presidents Cup had an answer for Royal Melbourne Golf Club, as Mother Nature turned the classic links into an unanswerable test. The greens, already measuring 14 on the Stimpmeter, became linoleum as high winds dried out the course and sent shots bouncing into unintended places.

In the six four-ball matches, a best-ball format that usually results in a spate of birdies, 13 holes were won with pars. To illustrate how hard the putting surfaces were, International captain Greg Norman poured water on the 18th green. The water slid down a slope, none of it sinking into the impenetrable turf.

"There's probably nowhere else in the world where that would happen," said Norman, whose team faces a 7-5 deficit to the Americans heading into the final three rounds.

"A key on a golf course like today is pars," said Bubba Watson, who with partner Webb Simpson won their four-ball match 3 and 2 for the U.S. over Ernie Els of South Africa and Ryo Ishikawa of Japan.

"You have to make pars. The pins were in tough spots. Just make pars. You're going to throw in a birdie here and there but just try to make pars and that's what we tried to do."

Els, now 0-2 in his first two matches, said the conditions on the Sandbelt course were great for match play but would have brutalized players if they were counting all their strokes. "I think it's great for match play. It's a match-play event," said the three-time major champion.

"If it was stroke play, it would have been really difficult. I mean, on 4, Bubba hit a good putt I thought and trickled off the green. That tells you the speed of these things, the wind and the conditions out there. I've played the course many, many times and this is probably the fastest (it's been)."

Aussie Adam Scott, who's played Royal Melbourne as much as anyone in the Presidents Cup, was blunt about the conditions. "Well, it's carnage on a golf course like this today. Thank goodness it's match play and we weren't actually counting our strokes. It's a great golf course when it can play fairly in conditions like this.

"That's a true testament to how good of a golf course it is," added Scott, who with South Korean partner I.K. Kim lost 2 and 1 to Americans Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson. "It's just very, very difficult. You have to really control your golf ball on every shot."

Though striking the ball fairly well, Tiger Woods didn't reap any benefits with his partner Dustin Johnson on Friday, losing to Aussies Aaron Baddeley and Jason Day 1-up. "Wedges weren't holding, balls were oscillating on the greens, you've got to play the wind on putts. It was a tough day," said Woods, now 0-2 in his matches.

Retief Goosen, a winner of two U.S. Opens and 44 tournaments worldwide, expressed amazement at the Royal Melbourne's changeability. "You're learning a little bit about the course every day," said the 42-year-old. "You know, you're hitting so many different shots out there in these conditions. There's not just one golf swing out here. Every shot has to be a certain shape."

Goosen and partner, fellow South African Charl Schwartzel, were able to accomplish that, edging David Toms and Hunter Mahan 2 and 1 to give the Internationals a much-needed point in Friday's final match.

The players will be facing an altogether different Royal Melbourne on Saturday for Rounds 3 and 4, with foursomes in the morning and four-balls in the afternoon. Though the winds will abate, scattered showers are predicted throughout the day in the Melbourne area.

On Sunday for the 12 singles matches, the rains are expected to go away but the wind, once again, will pick up.

On Friday evening, Jason Day of the International team was already getting prepared - physically and mentally - for what figures to be a long and tough Day 3 of the four-day event.

"Tomorrow's round is going to be super-tough," said the 24-year-old. "The weather is going to be different. The golf course is going to be a lot different compared to today. So right now, my mindset is just to get some rest and move onto tomorrow's round.

"I think that's what most of the guys are doing. It was good, solid play from the team today, and I think the guys are going to try to get some rest tonight, because it has been a long week already."


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