LEMONT, Ill. -- So much for subtlety and nuance.
Go ahead, bring the heat. As it relates to the Cog Hill venue, where the course redesign completed three years ago has been met with the theatrical equivalent of flying, rotten tomatoes, using polite euphemisms wasn't necessary.
The topic was broached with veteran Jim Furyk -- the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year and a winner at Cog Hill in 2005 -- with some semblance of delicacy on Wednesday.
"You don't have to beat around the bush," Furyk said.
Indeed. His peers are again beating up the greens, fairways and nearly every green-grass construct as the BMW Championship is set to begin Thursday for perhaps the final time at Chicago's most famous public-access venue.
A year ago, with the greens in shoddy shape because of a hot summer, players lined up en masse to take shots at the Rees Jones re-do, which had been completed before the 2009 event. Even after arriving this year to find the course in terrific shape, the carping and criticism has continued unabated.
|Jim Furyk, who won at Cog Hill in 2005, doesn't have positive things to say about the course makeover. (Getty Images)|
The venting has been unanimous and borderline acrimonious. Even mild-mannered Steve Stricker, who attended college at Illinois and won at Cog Hill in 1996, lobbed stinging remarks at the venue, which given the outpouring of sentiment could rightly be dubbed Flog Hill.
"It's too bad," Stricker said Wednesday. "They need to get their money back, I guess."
All sales final. You can't un-ring a bell or un-plow a field.
Phil Mickelson, who always has plenty to offer when it comes to critiquing Jones' courses, took the lead again Wednesday after completing his pro-am round, holding court for several minutes about how the Jemsek family, which has owned the facility for decades, hired the wrong man. The panning of the course, which grew to a roar last year, is hardly unwarranted, Mickelson said.
"Oh, no, not at all," Mickelson said evenly. "I know we all wish that it had turned out differently. But there was a lot of other guys to choose from that probably could do the job, and maybe if they just start over, it could turn into something really special."
No earthmover mulligans are likely. According to reports, the family maxed out its proverbial credit card to complete the restoration with Jones, so a three-do is not likely in the offing anytime soon. Mickelson, who dabbles in course design, noted several areas that were specifically disappointing, including each par-4 hole being of similar length. But he had a litany of grievances, really.
"When I ask a player like yourself or anybody, 'What's your favorite golf course and on that course what's your favorite hole,' most of the time it's a par 3 under 150 yards, a lot of times it's a drivable par 4 and occasionally it'll be a reachable par 5," Mickelson said. "And this really doesn't have any of those.
"There's really no shotmaking here that's required. It doesn't really test our ability to maneuver the ball because the fronts of the greens are blocked, and the only shot is to hit a high flop shot that stops. But being able to maneuver it doesn't really matter. That's basic stuff. Chipping areas, shot value around the greens, penalties for certain misses, all that stuff wasn't really well thought-out."
As opposed to his thoughts, at least. Just as he did last month at the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, where Jones also handled a course makeover, Mickelson was quick to list several designers who in his view would have done a better job.
Then he threw in a roundhouse aside that most folks missed.
"Guys that really know what they're doing," he said.
Ouch, that's going to leave a mark. Jones is convinced Mickelson is upset at how the architect's redesign of Torrey Pines in 2002 turned out -- Mickelson had three victories at his hometown venue and hasn't won there since. But that's a feud to examine another day.
Whatever the case, the end result at Cog Hill is pitiable across the board, especially for a city that some have characterized over the years as being American's greatest golf locale. Next year, the BMW event moves to Crooked Stick in Indianapolis, and in 2014, it will be staged at former U.S. Open venue Cherry Hills in suburban Denver. In between, in 2013, it's set to be staged at a locale in Chicago that, in the parlance of the schedule-makers, is yet to be determined. Several venues, including former U.S. Open site Olympia Fields, are under consideration, a BMW tournament official said.
It won't be at Cog Hill. Bet the ranch on that. Perhaps the most telling condemnation of all came last year when several players said that if there weren't $35 million in FedEx Cup bonus money in the offing, they would likely have stayed home.
World No. 1 Luke Donald, who maintains a home in the Chicago area and is hardly prone to lobbing verbal Molotov cocktails, said the course looks better visually, but that doesn't mean it's exactly ideal. Stricker said during his pro-am, there were amateur bodies piling up in the bunkers, which are borderline unplayable in spots.
"From an architectural standpoint, I'm not a huge fan of Rees Jones, either," Donald said. "I'm not a big fan of the deep bunkers and the ridges in the greens. There's a few holes where there isn't a great deal of strategy.
"I guess the Jemseks have done a great deal to try to improve the course in an effort to try to get a U.S. Open here, and I feel bad that it's come under quite a lot of criticism."
No Open, no tour event, no nuthin.' This year marks the 20th time in 21 years that Cog Hill has hosted the event. Unlike in blackjack, hitting 21 this time meant going flat bust.