September 17 2013
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM contributor
The sight of a few clouds rolling in can be a welcome relief on a summer day in Atlanta. In certain cases, though, there also can be too much of a good thing.
Too much cloud cover this summer put the Bermudagrass greens at historic East Lake Golf Club into slow-grow mode, never really taking off until sunlight regained the upper hand about three weeks ago.
“Bermudagrass in summer usually grows a lot, and it just never really seemed to take off this year,” said Ralph Kepple, East Lake’s superintendent for the past two decades.
“It’s just kind of a domino effect, I guess. Without sunlight, plants don’t do well. Bermudagrass in particular doesn’t, and it was the cloudiest summer I can remember here.”
Complicating matters, too, was the discovery that some greens had gotten low on nutrients, requiring an infusion of extra potassium and phosphorus in recent weeks.
“Once we got that straightened out,” Kepple said, “it seemed to really jump-start it again. That and just seeing some sunlight.”
The entire South, it seems, spent the bulk of its summer under cloud cover, with most states reporting below-normal temperatures in both July and August. The Wyndham Championship faced similar worries a month ago, with Sedgefield Country Club nursing its still-maturing greens to be ready for the the last event before the Playoffs.
It isn’t nearly as much concern at East Lake, where the month of FedExCup Playoffs bought time for patterns to change and sunny weather to finally break through.
“It’s starting to come back around,” said Kepple, whose main priority now is getting the greens to firm up. “As long as we have firm greens, it’ll play pretty difficult.”
The 30-man field also may notice more open fairways at East Lake, which undertook a widening project earlier this year to return fairways closer to bunkers as in the original Donald Ross plans.
Kepple said nine fairways were widened, adding up to four yards of extra landing area but bringing more potential trouble into play.
“If anything, it might help a ball roll into a bunker,” he said.
Forecasts call for more sunshine throughout the week, with no more than a 30 percent chance of rain. To Kepple’s chagrin, though, breezes also are expected to be moderate.
“[Wind] seems to be the one thing that all TOUR pros struggle with,” he said, “with the exception of apparently Jim Furyk.”
Blustery conditions at Conway Farms didn’t seem to faze Furyk during last week’s momentous 59 in the second round of the BMW Championship.