New-look Dubsdread gets big thumbs-up

10 September 2009 Respond to this article

New-look Dubsdread gets big thumbs-up

10th September 2009

Rees Jones $5.2m makeover and SubAir system puts Cog Hill on track

Only two holes on Cog Hill's Dubsdread course look much different than they did before architect Rees Jones' $5.2 million renovation, but the PGA Tour players who tested it Tuesday believe Jones' facelift created a new course at the Lemont venue.

SubAir, invented by former Augusta National Golf Club superintendent Marsh Benson, is the Rolls Royce of green conditioning systems. It can suck moisture out of a wet green, or add moisture during a heat wave. It can keep a fragile bentgrass green cool during that heat wave, or keep it warm during a cold snap.

Aside from Augusta National, where Benson perfected it, the system is in place at Pebble Beach, TPC Sawgrass, Congressional Country Club and several other high-end courses.

Not every player of the 70 who will compete in the BMW Championship beginning Thursday took advantage of the lone practice day. Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker will do the bulk of their pretourney preparations during the Chick Evans Memorial Pro-Am today. But Luke Donald, the former Northwestern star who played the course a week ago, believes the consensus verdict from his PGA Tour colleagues will be favorable.

"Overall, it's a lot better," Donald said. "It's been tidied up nicely. The new bunkering really shows the holes off very well. Obviously, he made the course longer, and it's going to be tougher. New greens are usually firmer, and firm greens are always the best way to make a course tougher."

Veteran superintendent Ken Lapp has the putting surfaces at 10.8 on the stimpmeter, which is what the PGA Tour wants for the start of a tournament week.

"Now they can fine-tune them to whatever they want," said Lapp, who had the greens sped up to 12-plus for one outing earlier this summer.

Hunter Mahan, who was celebrating Tuesday after being named as a captain's pick for the U.S. President's Cup team, believed that Cog Hill would be the best course yet for this year's FedEx Cup playoffs. They started with The Barclays at new Liberty National in New York, where Heath Slocum was the winner; and the second of the four playoff events - the Deutsche Bank Championship - concluded at TPC Boston on Monday with Steve Stricker the champion.

"We didn't really know what to expect (in New York), and it wasn't very difficult," Mahan said. "Last week, we could make some birdies because the course was in perfect shape. This week, it looks more 'major-ish.' It's longer. There's probably going to be some thick rough, so it'll be a little more difficult."

Slocum missed the 36-hole cut at Boston on Saturday and headed straight for Cog Hill. He played nine holes Monday and nine Tuesday in preparation for a pairing with

Stricker and Woods in the first two rounds. Stricker leads Woods in the overall standings, with Slocum third.

Stricker was on the premises by midday Tuesday.

"No one is really familiar with (the new Cog Hill), but I did win there back in 1996 (the Western Open)," Stricker said. "I'm close to home (Madison, Wis.), and I'll have a big following because I went to the University of Illinois and I'll be double-dipping from both states."

"It's kind of a new golf course, but if you've got good memories, you can still use those good memories," Slocum said. "Obviously, the holes go in the same route, but there's a lot of new things. They've added some length and lots of bunkers and redid the greens. We're going to have access to a lot more pin placements."

Donald believes the four par-3s are "obnoxiously long," with all playing more than 200 yards. But he likes Nos. 7 and 8 - the two par-4s that drew the most changes in Jones' renovation. No. 7, which now has a pond defining a dogleg right, will be tougher.

"It was an easy tee shot, but now only the longer players can carry the pond," Donald said. "It'll make people think more. It's brought more finesse back into the hole."

No. 8 has fewer willow trees and more fairway bunkers.

"Visually, it looks better and less intimidating," Donald said.

By: Len Ziehm - Sun Times

“It’s a lot longer,” Tiger Woods said of the new Dubsdread, given a makeover by architect Rees Jones that the owners hope will get them a U.S. Open. “It plays long. There’s a lot of really long shots. The par 3s are long. In the past, you were hitting 9-iron, maybe 8-iron into No. 14. Today, I hit 3-iron. Same thing on No. 2. It used to be an 8-iron, maybe 7 and today I hit a 3-iron.

“It plays a lot different. The greens are much more difficult. The bunkers are a lot deeper. It’s going to be a great test. If they play it all the way back, it’ll be tough.”

Certainly tougher than 2007, when Woods posted 22-under to win the inaugural BMW Championship. That shellacking prompted the Jemsek family to contract Jones, who has a reputation for renovating venues for major tournaments.

The improvements included Sub-Air systems for the greens, which are able to extract moisture and control the speed and firmness of the putting surfaces. With rain in the forecast every day, that should come in handy this week. The course is longer (7,616 yards), the bunkers deeper, the new greens higher, firmer and more undulating. Noticeable changes were made to every hole, and so far, player reaction has been positive.

By Greg Stewart - PJStar