PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Think this won't generate some commentary next week?
The greens at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, one of the biggest events in the regular PGA Tour season, have been completely replanted at the 11th hour because of damage from an unknown organic source.
The root structure of the greens was so meager and the surface grass was so sparse, club officials three weeks ago elected to remove the sod in the affected sections, replace the sand base, then re-seed the greens with winter rye grass, a PGA Tour official said Tuesday.
The root of the crisis, if you will, remains unclear. The tournament begins March 13.
"It stumped a lot of people," said tour rules official Jon Brendle, who took a first-hand look at the ailing Bay Hill Club & Lodge greens on Monday. "They brought in a lot of people to look at the problem and they didn’t have a clue."
Emergency surgery or not, Brendle said the greens have grown in nicely and should present better surfaces than those seen at some of the West Coast stops, like ever-bumpy Pebble Beach, he said.
"I can tell you they have come a long way in 2 1/2 weeks," he said. "I mean, it's fixed for the tournament."
But since there's no summer Bermuda grass underneath, it won’t be such a hot place to play for the members after the tour leaves town, to be sure. Rye grass is a winter strain that dies in the heat and is replaced by the native summer Bermuda, which at Bay Hill, typically stars growing back in ... right about this time of year.
Daniel Chopra, a Bay Hill member and resident, was asked to describe the shape of the greens and quipped, "Like fairways."
If there's any rain, the greens could be extremely soft. The putting surfaces have been a major issue at Bay Hill in the recent past. Six years ago, owner and namesake Arnold Palmer resodded the greens and they were so firm, a handful of top players began skipping the event.
The buzz among tour players at this week's PODS Championship is that the Bay Hill greens were so damaged that the tour considered moving the tournament to an alternate site, though Brendle said that possibility had not been discussed with him.There’s a formal PGA Tour notice hanging this week in the Innisbrook locker room about Bay Hill, explaining the massive mouth-to-mouth they have given the greens. The second paragraph reads as such: “On a more positive note, the overseeding of the tees, fairways and rough has excellent density and uniformity, and is holding up quite well to the high volume of winter play.” So the greens are in such sketchy shape that a formal tour advisory was issued to players, but the course is still open to resort and membership play? Yikes.