One of the early occurrences that took place on the Mines Resort and Country Club course in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, happened on the par-3 7th hole. Yesterday’s phenom from South Africa, Jbe’ Kruger flared his tee shot from the elevated tee out to the right.
Normally, that wouldn’t be such a big deal. At 190 yards, the hole played significantly downhill into a narrow green situated in a bowl. The architect protected the left side of the green with a bunker. On the right side he protected it by planting ground cover on the hill just above the bowl. The ground cover was like ivy, but a lighter color green due to the succulence of the tropical plants.
So Kruger hits it into the plants not four feet in from the safety of the bowl. He hit a provisional for a possible lost ball and they walked down to search for it. But even though they had a good line on it from television, they never found it; double bogey.
I was about to rant and rave about idiosyncratic courses designed by local architects or even the owners of the course — I saw that at least three times when I was Monday qualifying on the satellite courses. So I looked up the architect and it turned out to be the eminent Robert Trent Jones, Jr. It must have been one of those, “did what he could with the land he had.” Normally the architect wouldn’t put a feature like that so close to a green.
My point is that we envision these great courses that the PGA Tour plays on and that’s pretty much the rule, but every now and then a player has to contend with a funky course overseas or a domestic course that just doesn’t fit his eye.
I came across one of those once. It was the second of two tournaments. I didn’t get into the first one, so I drove straight to the second to scout the course and make up my yardage book. In the middle of day on Tuesday, there was no one there and I was free to walk the course at my leisure, getting all of my laser yardages and charting the green complexes.
But by the time I walked off the 18th green, I was so dismayed at what I found, I called the tournament office from the parking lot, withdrew, and flew home the next day. Later, I told that story to a fellow qualifier and he was surprised, “I love that course!” Go figure.
CIMB Classic defending champion, Bo Van Pelt, didn’t have any complaints about the course this year either. He came down the 18th with a chance to shoot 59 if he could make birdie. But he fumbled his way to a double bogey. But that 62 was a course record and returned him to the top of the leaderboard with a one-shot lead over Chris Kirk.
Tiger Woods was on fire on the front nine with five birdies. But he could only manage two on the back nine around three bogeys and a double bogey. His 2-under dropped him from T5 to T9…proving once again that you really have to golf your ball on the PGA Tour.
Overnight leader, Robert Garrigus, started backing up on the first hole with a bogey…and another on the second. He got back to even by the 8th hole, but traded bogeys and birdies through the 14th and then snapped off three closing birdies to wind up T1 with Van Pelt.
Kruger managed to salvage his round after that double from the ground cover, by shooting a 2-under, 69 and ending up T4. Very credible after a 64 on Friday.
So they’ve set us up for a great day on Sunday. There are a lot of guys to cheer for and given the very low scores the course is giving up, a lot of guys who could win.