Afternoon wind gave Conway Farms a different feel late ThursdayLAKE FOREST, IL - SEPTEMBER 12: A general view of the 18th green during the First Round of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club on September 12, 2013 in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)September 12, 2013
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The best, and perhaps only, defense that Conway Farms can offer against the 70 PGA TOUR pros attacking it at this week's BMW Championship is wind.
Given that the course is on the outskirts of the Windy City of Chicago, that's not a bad defense to have.
But while windy conditions did kick up at times in Thursday's first round, the players threw the biggest punches in their first competitive round on this course, which is making its TOUR debut this week.
"The guys really took advantage of it today," said Tiger Woods, who shot a 5-under 66 despite missing three putts inside 5 feet. "The greens weren't as fast as they were yesterday (during the pro-am), and you certainly could be a lot more aggressive.
"It was a golf course in which you could be really, really aggressive."
Adam Scott, who was part of the top FedExCup group that included Woods and No. 1 Henrik Stenson, said the wind made an impact starting at around their fifth or sixth hole.
"It really got your attention," Scott said. "... You're teeing off in amongst the trees and then hitting out to these open areas that are really getting affected, so you've got to keep your wits about you."
Brandt Snedeker, the first-round leader after shooting a 63 that included seven consecutive birdies, had played Conway Farms as a junior player and also during his college days.
He said the wind was difficult in his final nine holes -- Snedeker did most of his damage on the first nine -- with gusts creating some indecision with shots.
The wind kicked up on his approach shot into his final hole, the par-4 ninth, and sent it over the green. But he managed to get up and down for par to stay one shot ahead of Zach Johnson.
"The golf course, I thought, played very fair today," Snedeker said. "The ball is running out a lot in the fairway, so it's playing relatively short.
"With the wind changing the way it did, it's going to dry it out. The greens are going to get really firm and it's going to be playing a lot different over the weekend than it did today."
Steve Stricker, who's tied for third, two strokes behind Snedeker, also noted that club selection was difficult because of the wind.
"Everybody says that the defense for this course is the wind, and we're going to see that, I think, a little bit tomorrow, and with cooler temperatures too," Stricker said. "I'm sure it'll play a little bit more difficult."
Of the 70 players in the field, 28 were below par, with another 10 at even par. The pros expected the course to yield low scores, and they were not disappointed.
But as Stricker and others noted, they probably shouldn't get used to it.
"I think the numbers are going to be completely indicative as to what the weather does," Zach Johnson said. "The temperatures are going to drop, so the ball is not going to go as far. That's the obvious facts."But if the wind stays this potent and potentially out of this direction, it's not going to be that easy."