Second things second -- I almost forgot to institute our traditional pick 'em contest for the tournament we're blogging from. So let 'em rip for the PGA Championship by clicking on the "comments" link below and making your picks. We need four golfers and the eventual winning score, either in a four-round total or in relation to par (for tie-breaking purposes, of course). The winner will pick up a few goodies from my week here at Southern Hills. So far, those goodies consist of a blue travel coffee mug with the Southern Hills logo on it, but I imagine the pot will grow larger as the week goes on. I'll post my picks Wednesday night before the start of the first-round, and be forewarned -- I won this year's U.S. Open pick 'em contest and I'm not afraid to do it again this week.
Monday afternoon, I spent some time hanging out with the maintenance team and then about 45 minutes cruising the course with Russ Myers, CGCS (photo above). Here's some of what I learned.
- I had a very educational conversation with Myers about temperatures and turfgrass. Specifically, I asked him whether there was really all that much difference between temperatures in the low 90s and temperatures in the upper 90s, as far as the grass (most notably Southern Hills' A1/A4 bentgrass greens) was concerned. "Not really," he replied. "But bentgrass stops growing at about 86 or 87 degrees. So these prolonged stretches of temperatures above that really limit the time the grass can grow. And since most of the times below that threshold are at night, there's no photosynthesis going on. It's just really rough."
- After getting that explanation, it was interesting to hear Myers tell his team they would be "banging" the greens Monday night. A double cut on every green, except for Nos. 9 and 18. It was clear he was a little anxious about this decision, but he later told me he had been counseled by a number of folks that double cutting wouldn't put the greens under any more stress than they were already under from the extreme heat.
- Rough heights will remain at a consistent 3 inches across the board, but don't be surprised if they dial that back a half inch prior to the first round. Of the handful of players who played practice rounds on Monday, a large number reported lost balls in Southern Hills' gnarly U3 bermuda rough, and the PGA took note of this.
- During Monday afternoon's meeting, Myers cautioned those filling fairway divots to go easy. "Just fill 'em three-quarters of the way then smooth them out," he said. "If the mix is too high, the fairway units will kick it up and we'll have a mess." The PGA's preference, he said, was not to fill fairway divots at all, but Myers figured what else were they going to do with all that divot mix out behind the maintenance facility?
- Finally, equipment technicians had noticed some minor damage to reels following morning rounds. It was slightly more than an isolated incident, so there was some concern. Eventually, however, they determined that some of the sprinkler heads were catching the very edges of the reels when they passed over them. It wasn't damaging the sprinkler heads, but it was nicking the reel. Operators were told to make sure that passes over sprinkler heads were done at the center of the reel and not the edge to prevent this from happening again.
Day two in the books, baby. Tomorrow, I'm joined by another set of usual GCSAA suspects -- Director of Communications Jeff Bollig and Manager of Media/Public Relations Bill Newton -- and I make a plea to Myers to let me syringe a green.