Notes: Crenshaw’s course gets high marks

Ben Crenshaw opened the Senior PGA Championship with an even-par 72. (file photo)

Ben Crenshaw opened the Senior PGA Championship with an even-par 72. (file photo)

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Greater Gwinnett Championship

Duluth, GA - TPC Sugarloaf

11:55:06 AM ET. 04/17/2014




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PARKER, Colo. – Ben Crenshaw played an impeccable round of golf and yet he couldn’t help finding a few flaws.

Not in his game, but on his course.

That was simply the fastidious architect in him coming out.

Crenshaw shot even-par 72 Thursday in the first round of the Senior PGA Championship at the Colorado Golf Club, a course he co-designed with Bill Coore.

The two-time Masters champion thought the greens were fair and the conditions, though blustery, were conducive for scoring, which is why leaders Robin Freeman and Bernhard Langer were each able to shoot 6-under 66s.

Crenshaw wished, however, that the fairways weren’t so soft due to watering and the rough, at least in spots, not so deep.

Of course, that’s not his decision. Those kind of things are left up to the PGA of America.

“We didn’t build the course that way,” explained Crenshaw, who had two birdies and two bogeys. “This should be a running, bouncing course. That’s why we built it the way we did.”

If he had a mulligan from a design standpoint, though, Crenshaw would use it on the size of the green at No. 8, a drivable 309-yard par-4. He wishes it was a little wider, especially up top.

That’s something he would like to change, if the private club is willing.

“It was in our minds and it was a tough green to build,” Crenshaw said. “There’s just not quite enough room up there.”

So far, the feedback on the course from his peers has been favorable, which means the world to Crenshaw.

“I just hope they enjoy playing it,” Crenshaw said. “I hope it’s interesting.”

Langer definitely thought so. Then again, after the round he turned in, he wasn’t about to nitpick.

“Neat design. Every hole is different, it’s not boring,” Langer said. “Some of the greens are pretty severe, especially when the wind blows.”

That’s out of Crenshaw’s control. But those gusting winds have been quite the topic, whipping around all week.

“The wind’s hard,” said Fred Couples, who played in the same group as Langer and finished three shots behind him. “But the course played nice.”

Crenshaw couldn’t agree more. His baby came through, even in breezy conditions.

“It’s been fun playing and practicing this week and seeing what (the course) will do under really harsh conditions,” Crenshaw said. “I sure enjoyed building it.”

• • •

TITLE DEFENSE: After finishing up his round, Michael Allen said he was heading over to the practice area to squeeze in some extra chipping and putting.

Never hurts, especially with a title to defend. Allen kept himself in solid contention by shooting 1-under in the morning round.

“It wasn’t easy,” Allen said. “But it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be.”

• • •

BALKY BACK: Had this tournament been anywhere else, Denver resident Mark Wiebe would’ve been a spectator instead of a participant.

His bad back was acting up in the morning, sending shooting pains into his right calf. If that wasn’t enough, Wiebe also pulled a rib out of place hitting balls on the range just before he was scheduled to tee off.

He quickly sauntered over to the medical trailer, got the rib back into alignment and went on to a 77.

All things considered, Wiebe wasn’t displeased with his play on a course he knows quite well, having logged numerous rounds on it.

“I played nice,” Wiebe said.

Wiebe was toying with the idea of withdrawing from the field, given his ailing back was so bad he had two injections to ease the pain leading up to the tournament.

“I love playing at home,” Wiebe said. “As much as I was hurting, I had fun.”

• • •

GOTTA BE THE GRIP: Freeman has never felt so comfortable over the ball on the green.

For that, the co-leader credits a new putter with an oversized grip. This was the first time he’s used it in competition.

After making a couple of long putts, the putter is definitely sticking around.

“Probably the best putting round I had in maybe ever,” Freeman said, smiling. “The stroke felt good, even in the high winds. I was a little concerned about it because it’s much lighter than I normally use. ... But I’m not concerned about it anymore.”

• • •

CHIP SHOTS: Paul Azinger’s inaugural Senior PGA was over before it even began as he withdrew from the tournament with the flu. Hal Sutton (hip) and Peter Jacobsen (illness) also won’t play. Taking Sutton’s place in the field was club pro Doug Perry of Fort Collins, Colo., who made the 90-mile trek just in time to tee off in a group that featured Tom Lehman and Nick Price. ... The group of Langer, Couples and Fred Funk (even par) made 14 birdies and two eagles between them. ... Bull snakes have been commonly spotted slithering through the course.

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