<
>

Are furrowed bunkers the way to go?

When Jack Nicklaus called for furrowed bunkers at his Memorial Tournament a year ago, it was met with a collective groan by players in the field. The furrows are back this year, but tempered a bit, from 2 1/2 inches last year to just 1 3/4 this time around.

"It puts a little ripple in the sand," Nicklaus said Tuesday. "Can you get a bad lie? Yeah, you'd be pretty hard pressed, though."

Of course, the Golden Bear also has said he's in favor of furrowed bunkers for the U.S. Open, but USGA officials are against the idea for fear that luck of the lie will affect scoring too much.

So, who's right? Jack? The USGA? Both of 'em? Our experts weigh in on the issue of furrowed bunkers in this week's edition of Fact or Fiction.

More PGA Tour events should employ furrowed bunkers on their courses.

Bob Harig, contributor, ESPN.com: FACT. Jack Nicklaus has it right. Bunkers are to be avoided, but the conditions are so good on tour -- and players so good -- that finding oneself in a bunker is often a good thing. The unpredictability of furrowed bunkers will force players to try and avoid them.

Jason Sobel, golf editor, ESPN.com: FICTION. Cool idea for Jack's tournament every year? Absolutely. But would it become too much of a gimmick if used more frequently? Probably. Let's see how it goes this week -- with the furrowing less pronounced than last year's -- then we can talk about expanding it to other events.

Ron Sirak, executive editor, Golf World: FICTION. It is a contrivance that over-penalizes an errant shot. Isn't being in the bunker enough? Why not put some poisonous lizards in there to make it really difficult?

John Antonini, senior editor, Golf World: FICTION. The great thing about the Accenture Match Play or the old International, which used a Stableford scoring system, is that they were unique events, held just once a year. Playing more tournaments using these scoring systems would take away from the enjoyment of these events. The same holds true for furrowed bunkers (and island greens and courses with no rough and holes with dual fairways). The more you see of these "tricks" on tour, the less they stand out and the less interested in them we'd all become.

The USGA should use furrowed bunkers for the U.S. Open at Oakmont.

Harig: FACT. The same thing applies at Oakmont. A player should want to avoid a bunker nearly as much as he wants to stay out of a water hazard.

Sobel: FICTION. What, 5 over par isn't a high enough winning score? Look, I'm all for setting up a U.S. Open venue to play as tough as possible, but there has to be some kind of limit. The primary cut of rough is penal enough. With fast, firm fairways that often don't hold tee shots, the addition of furrowed bunkers wouldn't leave many safe places to hit the ball.

Sirak: FICTION. With putting surfaces that are going to run at the speed of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the players might rather have furrowed greens -- anything to slow the ball down.

Antonini: FACT. At the risk of reversing what I said in the first question, the USGA should do whatever it can to make sure the courses it uses for its tournaments don't lose any of the charm that makes them championship venues. That means if Oakmont uses furrowed bunkers when members play, they should be used in the U.S. Open. Now, I'm not advocating the USGA play the Open with the same length Oakmont normally has, but within reason, the course should be played the way it is all year long.

Subscribe to:

Golf Digest