Final Round All About Greens

By Phillip Howley
July 28, 2008

Colorado Springs, Colo. - There were lots of smiles on late Saturday afternoon at The Broadmoor. There were 13 cards turned in under par, three more at par. There was peace and harmony.

Contrast that with one day earlier, when there were lots of frowns, groans and moans. There were only five cards in the red, and a handful that broke even. There were unhappy campers everywhere you looked.

So what will be the mood on Sunday; D-Day at the 29th U.S. Senior Open? Well, at the Donald Ross-designed East Course of The Broadmoor, you might say the severity of the moping is directly related to the severity of sloping.

In other words, when it comes to scoring there are three things to remember - hole location, hole location and hole location.

"Where you put the pins can really impact the score here," said Scott Hoch, who followed his well-earned 70 on Friday with a 3-under 67 on Saturday to climb the leaderboard. "I think the greens were too favorable to the players today."

You'll get no gripes from Scott Simpson, who shaved nine strokes off his score from the day before and jumped into a tie for ninth for the championship with a third-round 64. "I think it was set up better today," Simpson said. "I think the pins were better. There were some goofy ones yesterday."

Fact is, there may be some "goofy ones" for the final round on Sunday. Truth be told, it might be difficult not to have some marginal hole locations on a golf course where the putting surfaces descend from west to east, where gravity plays tricks on the brain, where dramatic contours can be utterly confounding.

"The greens are very complex here," said Champions Tour veteran Mike Reid. "Throw into the equation some pretty complex places to put the pins and you exponentially make a course pretty hard."

Perhaps as much as any course in the land - the perennially-perplexing greens of Augusta National and Oakland Hills included - where you put the flags at The Broadmoor can dictate where you put the numbers on the scoreboard - up or down.

"I think so," said R.W. Eaks, a Colorado Springs native and former caddie at The Broadmoor. "If they put it on the corners here and it's a tough, tough golf course. You get the greens hard and put it on the corners here and it plays as hard as any golf course in the country."

The perfect storm, the happy medium between fair and foul, can be elusive for those preparing a facility like The Broadmoor as it is for those attempting to solve it.

"The putting greens here at The Broadmoor are quite challenging as it relates to selecting hole locations," said Jeff Hall, managing director of rules and competition for the USGA. "There is a great deal of 'movement' in the greens and one pace in any direction can take a satisfactory hole location and make it questionable."

On Friday, when some flags were knocking on the corners and greens were firm, the average score on the course was 75.79. On Saturday, after the greens were watered overnight and several flags were slightly more centered, the average score was more than three strokes lower.

But as Hoch pointed out, if hole location is critical, it's not that simple. Other ingredients work their way into the coagulation. For instance, the wind kicked up in the afternoon on Friday, further drying out greens, making scoring more difficult. What's more, with the excessive heat engulfing the area in recent days and the grass teetering on the edge of burnout. Greenskeepers watered the greens on Friday night.

The severity of the hole locations becomes more relevant when softer greens are receptive to flag-seeking shots. "The way we figure the play is a lot of rounds are going to have six easy ones, six medium and six hard," Hoch said. "But if the wind blows from a different direction during the day, that might not be the case. Any day, you could have a number of tough pin placements develop.

"Whenever you have the greens as severe as these, in terms of undulating, then the pin placements make much more of an impact on the score. But more so than the pins, if the greens are soft and not as fast, than the greens have just as much impact favorably as the tough pins do."

Reid, who had a 76 on Thursday and a 66 on Saturday, offers another aspect to consider. In a USGA national championship, duress and adversity also are part of the recipe. To a certain extent, madness may be part of the method.

"I think you sort of have to expect there are going to be (tough pin placements)," Reid said. "What the USGA does such a great job of doing is not only testing a fellow's game and his course management, but it also tests your patience.

"I don't know how they manage to do that at a U.S. Open, or even a Senior Open, but they manage to do it."

So, how maddening will it get on Sunday? How close to the corners will the holes be nestled? Will the faces be happy or sad? Hall insists there is no diabolical blueprint, no attempt at give and take. He said the USGA's approach to the final round will be the same it has taken into every round of the championship.

"We endeavor to present the course in a consistent fashion each of the four days," Hall said. "No one round is more important to the end result than any other round. Weather conditions can often times play an integral role in adding difficulty to the setup. However, we do review the weather forecast prior to settling on various set-up related matters including hole locations.

"We hope the players will find our setup for Sunday to be both fair and challenging!"

That may sound like a company line, but it rings true for 1987 U.S. Open champion Simpson. "I do think they try to be pretty consistent every day," said Simpson. "I think they try to be pretty good about that."

Now, if you could just get those nasty greens at The Broadmoor to play nice ...

Phillip Howley is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on

Follow the USGA
Become a Facebook Fan of the USGAFollow us on Twitter @usopengolf
World Amateur Golf Ranking
WAGR Counting Event
Partner Links
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image

The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.

Chevron image

Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.

Rolex image

IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website,, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit

AmEx image

Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit

AmEx image
American Express

Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

For more information on American Express visit

AmEx image