January 29, 2014
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- TPC Scottsdale director of golf course operations Jeff Plotts is cautiously optimistic about the forecast. (Martin/Getty Images)
Jeff Plotts certainly knows better than to let his guard down. There’s a cautious optimism, though, as the TPC Scottsdale’s director of golf course operations examines the weather forecast.
A Waste Management Phoenix Open free of frost delays? It’s in the realm of possibilities this week.
With a drier-than-normal January winding down, forecasts call for temperatures in the low to mid-70s on Thursday and Friday – and nighttime lows all week dropping no further than the low 40s.
“I don’t know that I’ve had a year where we didn’t have frost. I don’t recall that,” said Plotts, now in his ninth year overseeing the turf in Scottsdale’s northern foothills.
“People tell me, ‘It looks like it’s going to be great weather,’ and I’ll say we just have to wait and see. I don’t want to get too confident and have our team just kind of relax on the situation.”
Last year, he noted, was just the second time since he arrived in 2005 that the WMPO made its 36-hole cut as scheduled on Friday. And even then it came with a brief frost delay on the Stadium course before the opening round.
Before that, Kyle Stanley’s 2012 victory saw three days affected by frost and 2011 was plagued all four days on the way to a Monday finish captured by Mark Wilson.
“The averages are kind of stacked against us here,” Plotts quipped.
Under frost-free conditions, Plotts’ crews will cut the fairways and approaches both after rounds and again at daybreak. Frost delays, though, will eliminate the morning mowing in order to get players on course faster.
Even if the cold front that’s slated to move through on the weekend brings a little frost, Plotts won’t be too concerned. Thursday and Friday are the key days, with limited daylight to make sure all 132 players complete their rounds.
“Once we make the cut,” he said, “we’ll have no problems completing the rounds.”
This week also marks the final WMPO under the Stadium course’s current configuration. A major upgrade is slated to begin in April, which includes relocating three greens and several bunkers and shifting a few fairways to create a more challenging course.
“We’re just trying to bring it back to standards as the host site of these (PGA TOUR) events,” Plotts said. “It’s 29 years old and hasn’t had a major renovation.
“We did change some years ago from bentgrass to bermudagrass, but the bermuda is now 20 years old. The bunkers have never been redone, the tees have never been redone and the irrigation’s never been redone. It’s long past its expiration date.”