Now it’s time to spread the word about Trinity Forest
May 21, 2018
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Preparing For Success
Playing the unknown at AT&T Byron Nelson
DALLAS – Jordan Spieth had just stepped outside the locker room early Sunday evening when he ran into Geoff Ogilvy. The two immediately started chatting about Trinity Forest, the course completing its first week as a PGA TOUR venue. They were practically giddy.
That’s no surprise. Spieth is a charter member at Trinity Forest; Ogilvy had sought the job as course designer. Although neither player was close to challenging rookie Aaron Wise for the title Sunday, they are unabashed proponents of the links-style layout designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore.
Now the question becomes: Can they get everybody else on board?
According to Spieth, many of the players in last week’s 156-man field already have been convinced.
“I was talking to all the players. I asked a lot of guys,” he said. “I didn’t hear one bad thing said.
“A lot of guys said, ‘It's grown on me day to day, I really enjoyed it as a change of pace, I had a lot of fun playing this golf course.’ Those were lines guys were using this week and shouldn't be reported any differently. It was an overwhelmingly positive outlook from the players that played.”
Spieth evidently didn’t run into veteran Matt Kuchar, who entered the week having made 30 consecutive cuts but saw that streak snapped when he shot 1 under to miss the cut by three shots. Afterward, he told the Golf Channel that “I’m mostly disappointed with myself that I probably let my dislike of the golf course affect my performance.”
Crenshaw was unperturbed when asked about Kuchar’s comments.
“That’s his opinion. He’s definitely entitled to it,” he said. “I think the world of Matt. He’s a great player.
“When you play professional golf on so many golf courses, you’re always going to have your likes and dislikes. That’s fine. This is a different course. I’ve always said this is sort of a distant cousin to links golf. That’s what it set out to be. But no, he’s very well entitled to his opinion. I don’t think any less of Matt.”
Whether Kuchar returns to Trinity Forest next year remains to be seen. Even if he doesn’t, the goal will be enticing some of the TOUR’s other top players to add the tournament to their playing schedule.
Word-of-mouth will be key in that regard. Ogilvy certainly will do his part.
“I’m sure not everybody’s as excited as I am about this,” Ogilvy said. “But most guys are pretty positive, I think. Most guys are going to leave here and, I’d say worst case, 90 percent of guys are going to say at least you’ve got to go try it because it’s pretty cool.
“Some guys are going to be like, aah. But you’re going to get that anywhere, right? If you don’t piss a few off, you probably haven’t done a very good job. If everybody’s happy, then it’s a bit vanilla and there’s nothing to it.
“I think [Trinity Forest] is great. I don’t know how it goes from a marketing perspective, that side of things. But from a golf-playing perspective, it’s the most I’ve enjoyed a golf tournament in a really long time.”
Jordan Spieth on player reactions to Trinity Forest before AT&T Byron Nelson
It was word-of-mouth that probably caused a few players to stay away from this year’s event. A caddie tournament held a year ago at Trinity Forest provided an early look at the course. Perhaps too early.
“It wasn’t playing the way it’s intended to play,” Spieth noted. “It was too new, wasn’t ready yet and got some really bad reviews.”
But in the year since that event was held, Trinity Forest made some big strides. Another year of maturation should, theoretically, only improve it for 2019.
Crenshaw, however, said he doesn’t think it will play that much different than this year. “If anything, it’ll be a little keener, meaning slightly faster,” he said. “It’s all predicated by the breeze. The breeze and wind is sort of an unseen hazard on the golf course.”
It was that lack of wind – for three of the four days at least -- that turned Trinity Forest into a birdie-fest. Wise won at 23 under, eclipsing the tournament record of 20 under by Sam Snead in 1957 at Glen Lakes Country Club. Marc Leishman opened with a 10-under 61; Branden Grace closed with a 9-under 62.
On Saturday with the wind blowing in dry conditions, the stroke average on the par-71 layout was 70.733. On Sunday, after a four-hour rain delay and no wind, the stroke average was 2-1/2 strokes lower at 68.253. Cumulatively, the average for the week was 69.414.
“It got off to a quiet start this week,” Crenshaw said. “The wind didn’t blow so much this week. We built this golf course with the wind in mind.”
Added Spieth: “Springtime in Texas, this is very rare to have three days with no wind. This course typically plays like [Saturday] and whatever the average score was, that's what you're looking at normally three out of four days here.
So, I think these will be record scores for a number of years here and it will be somewhere around 12- to 16-under if we get typical Texas spring in the future -- which I think makes you think more around this golf course. It brings in more trouble. You can't fire at flag sticks. Got to play wind and different ball flights. That's the one thing is when there's no wind because there's no trees, you can't make the golf course that difficult or else it's unplayable with wind.
“So, it will get better and better I think for sure.”
How different the field will be next year may very well be predicated on the revamped TOUR schedule. The tournament is set for May 6-12 in 2019, which puts it the week before the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.
Players who traditionally enter a major by playing the week before will likely be in Dallas. Those who don’t will not. The course – and whatever perception a player holds of it -- may be less of a factor.
But for those on the fence …
“I really enjoyed it,” said Keith Mitchell after his career-low 63 left him tied for third. “There's a lot of different types or different styles of players that are at the top of the leaderboard. That shows a lot about the golf course. It doesn't favor any one person. I think it's a great test. It's a great strategy for us.”
Added Grace, who celebrated his 30th birthday Sunday: “It feels like a breath of fresh air coming to something different. Really is nice. I really enjoyed the golf course. I enjoyed how it played.”
Given that Grace is South African, his comments did not surprise Crenshaw.
“I knew the Europeans and Australians and South Africans would love it because they’ve seen this type of golf course,” Crenshaw said. “They had great comments for us, which we love.
“It played beautifully. It played like we envisioned it. Very excited. Anytime the pros play a venue for the first time, they’re trying to learn everything about it. There’s a lot to learn here because there’s a lot of different bounces. In other words, they were taking a cram session the whole week.
“We hope the players who play this week will tell the other players, hey, you need to check this place out.”