Del Paso: From No Rough to Lots of It
June 24, 2015
One of the concepts Kyle Phillips introduced when he completed a $10 million renovation of Del Paso CC in 2006 was the removal of rough.
But this week’s U.S. Senior Open in Sacramento won’t look anything like what we just saw at Chambers Bay. The fairways will snake between 22 and 38 yards wide through thick rye grass rough.
“That required sitting down with the leadership of the club and talking about it in a very frank and open way,” said Jeff Hall, the USGA managing director of Rules and Competition. “Del Paso was very enthusiastic about introducing the amount of rough that was necessary. We looked at no rough really hard, but we weren’t sure that style would challenge the best players in the world.
“And they other thing was, if it’s all closely mown around the greens, how close can you get the spectators? Because you need to be able to let the ball to run and move down the slopes. With greens that are a little up in the air, I’m not sure it would have worked very well with the rope lines and the spectators so far away.”
The addition of rough is music to the ears of defending U.S. Senior Open champion Colin Montgomerie, who also made the cut last week at Chambers Bay.
“I think it’s as good a USGA setup as I’ve seen, and I’ve played in 26 of them,” Montgomerie said. “It gives you an opportunity to score, but you’ve got to play your best. This is a proper man’s golf course.”
Fox analyst and Sacramento native Natalie Gulbis thinks the finishing six holes will be brutal. Fox will air 20 hours of live coverage this week.
“This is a course where you can make some birdies early and then just hang on and try not to give,” Gulbis said. “It’s really set up more like a traditional U.S. Open is, where you get to that Nos. 13 through 18, and it’s just the hang on and try not to give too many back.”
One hole that particularly stands out is No. 15, a par 5 that can play as long as 636 yards, which would be a U.S. Senior Open record by 28 yards.
That start won’t be especially easy, with No. 3 tipping out as a 490-yard par 4 (the fifth longest par 4 ever), and No. 5 measuring 228 yards (the fourth longest par 3).
Michael Allen qualified for the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach through Del Paso, but says the course is much more challenging now.
“With the rough like it is now, it’s a completely different golf course,” Allen said. “It’s just in spectacular shape.”
Sacramento native Kevin Sutherland will have his brother and fellow tour pro David on the bag for what will be a special week.
“To play a course I’ve played just about every day when I’m at home, it’s been a great experience,” Sutherland said. “It’s something that not all LPGA or PGA players get a chance to do. It’s a special treat.”
Does that make Sutherland the favorite?
“The rough around the greens is so severe that it just makes it really tough to kind of scrape it around this golf course right now,” Sutherland said. “So you’re going to have to play really good golf. As far as course knowledge goes, there’s a little bit out here, but for the most part, it’s pretty much right in front of you.”
But as Paul Goydos pointed out on Media Day last month, the real advantage goes to the player who can overcome the mental obstacle course the USGA sets up.
“The USGA has a wonderful way of finding that inner soul to determine a major golf champion,” Goydos said. “They’re not just testing your golf skills; they’re testing you. That’s what they do best – they challenge you the person, not just you the player.”
May the best man win.