Oak Hill Country Club’s Jeff Corcoran scored a victory for golf course superintendents everywhere when he stuck up for himself, his staff and the club’s East Course after Tiger Woods had the audacity to criticize it after playing a practice round on it two weeks before the PGA Championship last month.
As the media messenger who relayed Corcoran’s message to put Tiger in his place, I realize I should remain unbiased and unaligned to Corcoran’s response. But I have to tell you that I was delighted when Corcoran basically told Tiger to go jump in the pond that borders Oak Hill’s 15th green.
I wasn’t the only one who was happy that Corcoran wasn’t afraid to take Tiger by the tail. After I posted a story on our Facebook page about Corcoran responding to Tiger’s comments about Oak Hill’s greens being too slow, the story – which received more than 13,000 reads – received numerous comments, most all criticizing Woods.
The world’s No. 1-ranked player floundered on Oak Hill’s East Course, where he was 4-over par for the PGA Championship and lost the event by 14 strokes to Jason Dufner. Woods went home without a major title in 2013. He made more news before the PGA Championship than after it when he said this about the East Course’s greens:
“The greens are spotty, and it’ll be interesting to see what they do because they were running under 9 on the Stimp,” Woods told ESPN. “They don’t have much thatch to them, so it’ll be interesting to see what they do for the tournament and how much they’re able to speed them up with kind of a lack of grass.”
Whether he realizes it or not, Woods was calling out the Oak Hill maintenance team, led by Corcoran, and questioning their ability to maintain turf. If anything, Woods unnecessarily embarrassed Corcoran and his staff with his statements.
When Woods played his practice round, Corcoran, the club’s director of golf courses and grounds, was giving the greens “a rest” in preparation for the tournament. The weather had been steamy hot, humid and wet – a recipe for disaster on bentgrass/Poa annuagreens – and Corcoran didn’t want to stress the turf and take the chance of any disease setting in with the tournament around the corner. He was also being conscious of the Oak Hill membership and wanted to be sure to give them back their course in decent condition after the tournament.
So Corcoran called off the dogs and stopped triple-cutting and double-rolling the greens. In fact, on some days the crew didn’t even mow the greens. On others they mowed them and raised the height of cut. Corcoran did this knowing that players were coming in for practice rounds. He never figured anybody would complain about the green speed. But leave it to Woods to beef about the conditions of a course two weeks before a tournament occurs.
After the PGA Championship, Tiger remarked that the greens were faster and he spoke highly of Oak Hill. But it was too late. He had already dissed Oak Hill and offended the maintenance staff with his stupid comments.
Woods, of course, knows nothing about agronomy when compared to a superintendent of Corcoran’s stature. What in the name of turfgrass research did he mean when he said there was “kind of a lack of grass” on the greens? Corcoran has forgotten more about agronomy than Woods will ever know.
I’ve seen this bad movie before – in it, PGA players throw superintendents under the bus for lousy course conditions, specifically the greens. In each case, the players knew little, if anything, about what caused the turf to deteriorate and spoke out of turn.
That’s why I was happy that Corcoran got in the last word regarding the matter – and deservedly so – with a polite statement, yet one that oozes with sarcasm. I credit him for not backing down from one of the world’s most popular athletes.
“The last time I checked, Stanford University [where Woods went to college but didn’t graduate] didn’t have a turf program,” Corcoran said. “If Tiger lets me hit his second shot into 18 on Sunday [during a major championship], then I’ll let him manage the greens two weeks prior to the championship.”