Thursday, June 6, 2013

Quickie Locust Hill Hitchhikers Guide Update

In retrospect, spending 2/3 of my limited time on Tuesday walking the course at Locust Hill might not have been the best allocation of my efforts, given that Weather Channel is now predicting a 90% chance rain in Pittsford today, with "possibly over one inch" and "locally heavier rainfall possible," which basically means they're pretty sure some rain will fall but have no idea how bad it will be.  Assuming it won't be tournament-delaying or round-postponingly bad, my observations from Tuesday may not hold much water, so to speak.  But here they are, along with some speculation on what golfers in the morning wave might face.

First off, the 2nd cut of rough is the toughest I've ever seen it in my 5 years of attending this event.  Maybe it's because the tournament is early June rather than late June, or maybe it's because the combination of sometimes hot, sometimes wet, often sunny conditions this spring in Western NY have been perfect for growing grass, but the rough is filled with these 3-to-5-inch long seed-bearing shoots that I don't recall ever seeing before.  Not just in clumps, but fairly continuously in the roped-off areas on most holes.  True, crowds will be trampling a good deal of this stuff, but even trampled, it'll be nasty, and of course it extends well into the players' side of the ropes, as well, where it will be pure evil.  So only the strongest of the non-precision players will have a good chance to win this week.

Second, the course was soft on Tuesday, and even after two full days of drying out, it won't be able to take much water before it becomes mucky.  So if it starts raining soon, or rains hard for a few hours, Locust Hill will go from being receptive--it's a much tougher course when it's hard and fast, because it's that much harder to hit and not run through the narrow fairways on most every par 4 and par 5 and because the undulations on the greens start pinballing approach shots, pitches, and chips around--to playing very long and  presenting players with even thicker, heavier rough, tougher lies in the fairways, and varying speeds on greens as they drain at different paces.  This'll be hard on everyone, but particularly hard on players who don't carry the ball very far.

So it would seem that a straight shooter like Cristie Kerr or Shanshan Feng would have a huge advantage this week, and indeed, I believe that type of golfer has a much better chance than a bomber like Ya Ni Tseng or a precision player like Ji-Yai Shin (I'm choosing recent champions at Locust Hill, in case you haven't noticed). But of course it all depends on who adjusts best to the changing conditions over the next four (or more) days.

Besides that, I don't have too much to add to my 2010 scouting report or my 2011 focus on the back 9 or my 2012 take on Ai Miyazato's take on Locust Hill.  I did get closer looks at the 5th green, which is much more complex than a mere "3-tiered green," as I described it then, and the 6th green, which does not just feature a "big mound in the back" of the green, but one that will shoot your shot to the right or left depending on which slope you find.  And I noticed that #1 and #10 look very different from the greens looking uphill than the tees looking downhill.  #1 is much more of a dogleg than I imagined, while #10 has a lot more rough jutting into the fairway around its fairway bunkers than I previously noticed.  But otherwise Locust Hill is just the same as it's always been:  a tree-lined, narrow-fairwayed, mostly-small-greened course that ought to give most of the field fits and select out a winner worthy of the major champion title she's earned!

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