The PGA’s Greater Greensboro Open tees off today with a four-day forecast calling for near perfect golfing weather, leaving tour members confused at the switch from the event’s usual conditions.
Golfers who are used to battling wind, rain and cold at the 6,982-yard Forest Oaks Country Club course don’t what to think of the predictions of clear and calm skies with temperatures in the 70s.
“We’ve never seen this before,” said Craig Stadler, one of those playing for the $90,000 first-place prize. “It’s going to take a couple of days to figure out how to play this course with the sun shining.”
Stadler and others agree that if the forecast holds--a big if--the tournament record of 13-under-par 275 would be in jeopardy.
“There’s no doubt about it,” said Andy Bean, who won here in 1984. “If it’s warm and dry, 15-, 17-under, anything is possible. It’s a lot easier to play if you’re not wearing three sweaters.”
The 275 score is the record for nine years of competition at Forest Oaks. The Open was moved to this course in 1977.
Stadler set the record in 1980. Lanny Wadkins matched it in 1983 when he beat Stadler by three shots.
Poor weather has dogged golfers at the Greater Greensboro. In the 37 days of GGO tournament play since 1977, high winds or rain interfered with rounds 17 times. Two pro-amateur events were canceled during those years, and twice tournament rounds were postponed because of poor weather.
Joey Sindelar received a big boost from the weather when he won his first tour event here last year. Sindelar, playing more than an hour in front of the leaders, shot a final round 69 in moderately bad weather. When it turned really foul later in the afternoon--cold, gusting winds and rain--the leaders faded and Sindelar’s four-day total of 285 was good enough to win.
Sindelar, who won twice last season, returns to defend his title in the $500,000 tournament. His stiffest competition in the watered-down field could come from Wadkins, Stadler, Bean and Fuzzy Zoeller.
As usual, many of the tour leaders skipped this event, either to prepare for next week’s Masters Tournament or to recover from last week’s Tournament Player’s Championship.
Bean, fourth on the PGA money list this year, is the highest ranked player entered. Only two others in the top 10 are in the field--No. 8 Corey Pavin and No. 10 Dan Forsman.
Other players entered include George Archer, Isao Aoki, John Cook, Nick Faldo, Mark O’Meara, Payne Stewart and Jim Thorpe. South African Denis Watson withdrew Wednesday because of illness.
The field of 140 professionals begins play today. The field will be cut to the lowest 70 scorers, plus ties, after Friday’s second round.