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Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Problem with Wet Rough

Today's post is short but it's a subject that doesn't get talked about very much, even though it trips up even the best golfers. It affected several players at the Evian on Saturday but it was most noticeable with Minjee Lee and Morgan Pressel.

That problem is how unpredictable wet rough can be. Both Minjee and Morgan drove their balls in the rough on 18, then inexplicably tried to go for the green despite seeing a huge pond fronting it. As a result, both posted double-bogey 6s.

As Judy Rankin said during GC's broadcast, those are shots the girls could probably have made without a problem if the rough was dry. But a lot of rain got dumped on the course very quickly, much of it while they were playing, and those normally routine shots became dangerous risks.

What exactly happened? Even though both players are pretty strong -- and Morgan has a fairly upright swing plane that lets her dig the ball out of the rough better than most -- the extra water in that thick rough made it almost impossible to make good contact with the ball.

When rough is wet, the ball doesn't behave as you might normally expect:
  • In thick rough that's dry, you worry that the grass will wrap around the hosel of the club and flip it over. When that happens, the ball can duck-hook pretty quickly and will often travel farther than the player expected.
  • But in thick rough that's wet, the hosel may slide right through the grass (because wet grass clumps together) and leave the clubface open. Combine that with thick wet grass that gets between the ball and grooves and prevents the ball from spinning, and you end up with a knuckle ball -- a low-flying shot that shoots out like a push and drifts even farther away from you.
That's what happened to both women. The ball squirted out farther to the right than either expected, flying low without enough spin to keep the ball aloft in the damp air, and then plunged into the pond I mentioned.

And unlike Minjee, who was aiming at the pin and thought she could carry the water, Morgan was aiming AWAY from the pond. Her plan was to leave it short and to the left of the pond, opening up the green for an easier pitch shot. But the ball squirted out low and right anyway, curving into the water and leaving her a difficult pitch across the pond to a pin set close to the water.

The safest play when your ball is laying in thick wet rough is to pitch it out safely into the fairway, on the short grass where you can get a clean clubface on the ball... and that's true whether you're a weekend player or a Tour pro. Don't try to be a superhero and expect to play the shot as if the grass was dry. It just ain't gonna happen, no matter who you are.

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