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Bunkers the talk of Muirfield again

The furrows are back in the bunkers at Muirfield Village, although Jack Nicklaus doesn't expect quite as many furrowed brows from the players.

The bunkers were all the rage -- outrage in some cases -- when Nicklaus had an extra tine removed from the Amish-made rakes to create deep ridges in the sand last year at the Memorial. His intent was to restore the penalty of hitting into a bunker, although some players said the size of the furrows took skill out of the sand shot.

"This year, we're consistent with the size, and we really don't think the players are going to find it to be a big hazard," Nicklaus said. "It puts a little ripple in the sand. Can you get a bad lie? Yeah. You'll be pretty hard-pressed, though."

Nicklaus gave them a test over the weekend, hitting six bunker shots.

"One was a long bunker shot, and other five I hit within a foot," he said. "I said, 'Well, if I can do that, I think it's going to be pretty easy for those guys.' I don't think that will be an issue this year, frankly."

The buzz word for the bunkers is called "rough raking," perhaps to get the word "furrow" out of the vocabulary this week. But if the penalty won't be severe, why use any special rake at all?

"I just want them to say, 'I'm really not sure I want to be in there,"' Nicklaus said.

He used the 18th hole as an example, a 444-yard hole with a water hazard down the left side and bunkers to the right. Most players want to avoid the water, so they will hug the right side of the fairway, and if it finds the sand, they can knock it onto the green.

"If they put the ball in the bunker this week on the right side, they could get a decent lie," Nicklaus said. "Or they might not get a good lie. So they're going to say, 'I'm not sure I want to be in there. Maybe I ought to play this hole the way it's designed. Maybe I ought to take a 3-wood or a 5-wood or a 2-iron and put it down there in play."

Nicklaus rattled off some sand statistics from last year, but one really got his attention. Carl Pettersson, the winner, hit into only one bunker all week.


May 30, 2007

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