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Marla Ridenour on Sports

Firestone CC ranked No. 12 in GolfWorld player poll

By Marla Published: January 17, 2012

U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy may have deemed Firestone Country Club's South Course among his three favorites, but Akron's legendary layout ranked 12th in a GolfWorld survey of PGA Tour players.
In its Jan. 16 issue, the magazine asked players to rate 52 venues hosting events in the last three years on a 1 to 10 scale (with 10 being the highest), in regards only to architecture. Most of the 81 who responded did not fill out the 10-page ballot, but were interviewed at a course, a process that took between 15 and 50 minutes.
While Firestone ranked relatively high, the magazine reported a "tidal wave of negativity" in regards to the layout one player called "very setup dependent."
Firestone will host the $8.5 million World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational Aug. 2-5.
One player told GolfWorld, "Every change they've made has made it worse," while another called Firestone "the most overrated course in the history of golf" that "needs to lose trees and do an Oakmont."
Oakmont removed about 5,000 trees before hosting the 2007 U.S. Open. While the Pennsylvania club has hosted more combined USGA and PGA championships than any other course in the nation, it was not eligible for the GolfWorld survey because the '07 Open was its last PGA Tour event.
One Firestone detractor complained about sidehill lies and said, "You need one leg shorter than the other," while another straight-hitter said, "There are three fairways I just can't hit. Setup problem, not architecture."
GolfWorld said most favored the 7,360-yard South course when it was wet and the fairways were soft. One player called it a "solid test," but "one I'm not sure I'd want to play every day."
Don Padgett III, executive director of the Bridgestone Invitational, had not seen the GolfWorld issue, but said Tuesday that most of the changes to the South Course came in 2003, when it was lengthened.
"We haven't done anything in the last five years," Padgett said.
He said the feedback he receives from players has been very positive.
"Over the years everyone seems to like the golf course," said Padgett, whose took over five years ago. "Each player has his own take and you have to respect that. We like all the top players to come here. They're not going to come here if they don't like the golf course."
Last year 49 of the top 50 players in the world participated in the Bridgestone Invitational and the only one missing, Tim Clark, was sidelined by injury. Australian Adam Scott captured the title.
"Tournament directors always talk about their fields," Padgett said. "With the field we've got, it can't be all that bad."
Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, home of the Memorial Tournament hosted and founded by Jack Nicklaus, ranked No. 6 in the magazine's survey. One player said of Muirfield, "When you are playing well (there is) no more fun course to play. ... I think that's the ultimate compliment." Another said the course has been "at the forefront of encouraging more courses to get better in all respects."
But Muirfield also drew some negative remarks, mainly about Nicklaus' tweaking of the course, like deepening the bunkers.
One player told GolfWorld, "(Jack) needs to calm down," and another said, "Too much ego. See changes to 17 and 18."
Augusta National, site of the Masters, ranked No. 1, followed by Harbour Town Golf Links, Riviera Country Club, Pebble Beach Golf Club, Colonial Country Club, Muirfield Village, Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club (Vancouver), Aronimink Golf Club, Innisbrook Resort-Copperhead and Congressional Country Club.
All three of McIlroy's favorites were relatively high on the magazine's list. Along with Firestone and Muirfield, McIlroy picked Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, which ranked No. 14.



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