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NORTON — Gil Hanse isn’t oblivious to the chatter surrounding the changes he’s made to the 18th green at TPC Boston. A number of players don’t like it, even though low scores at the par 5 are still being made.
Hanse, who has worked with Brad Faxon and Jim Wagner on a number of tweaks to the Arnold Palmer-designed course over the years, wanted to see firsthand how the reworked 18th would play (they also made some changes to the green at No. 2), so he’s been here observing since Saturday. The putting surface at the 18th has been reduced by one-third, with steep runoffs now long and left. A small bunker just left of the green also has been added.
Despite the low scoring average (4.656 so far this year, compared with 4.500 last year), Hanse is aware that the hole has been the target of player criticism. He’s OK with that.
“I know that when we make a change to a hole that they can pretty much count on as a birdie hole, that’s not going to be the most popular change with tour players, and that’s completely understandable,” Hanse said Sunday. “Going into this, it was never our intent to make the hole harder or easier, it was just to create a different set of problems that we thought would be more interesting for them to try to solve. Some of the players have been able to solve them quite creatively, and others have struggled with certain recovery options that are there.
“Architecturally, that’s kind of what you’re looking for. If everybody could figure it out and get up and down easily, then I don’t think we’ve done our job, and if nobody could figure it out, couldn’t hit the green or hold it, then we obviously made a mistake somewhere. The expectation is that it was going to be somewhat controversial, and that’s been the case.”
Perhaps there’s been no stronger critic than Luke Donald. Not vocally, necessarily, but through social media. Donald made a bogey on No. 18 Saturday, then posted a message to his Twitter account that said, “Nothing quite like hitting my best shot of the day into the last and walking off with a bogie [sic], what a terribly re-designed green. #sourtaste”
A few hours later, Donald posted another message that used a derogatory word to describe Hanse. The message was quickly deleted. Donald on Sunday said it was intended to be a private message, and not for public viewing.
“I made an error. I sent a message out on Twitter that was not meant to go out on Twitter, and I take full responsibility,” Donald said after shooting a third-round 70. “I realized it immediately, tried to delete it, tried to move on. I didn’t mean to put it out there, and I apologize to anyone I offended, especially Gil Hanse.”
Donald has made two pars and a bogey on the 18th this week.
“I’m still not that keen on it,” he said. “I think the tour has done a great job in terms of making this course a lot better, I just think some of the design in that hole was a little severe.”
That wasn’t the only Twitter problem Donald encountered Saturday night. Moments before the derogatory Hanse post, Donald inadvertently tweeted his cellphone number to his nearly 300,000 followers.
How many calls did he receive? Plenty.
“I shut my phone off, actually, it kept ringing pretty hard. Probably a new number is in store for me. It’s what I deserve,” Donald said. “[Twitter is] certainly a powerful tool and you have to be aware of it. Probably wise if I took a little bit of a hiatus.”
Things are looking up
Bryce Molder stands to make the biggest move on the FedEx Cup points list, projected to jump 56 spots and easily into the top 70, which is the number needed to advance to the BMW Championship. Molder came here No. 93, and is tied for fifth at 11 under after shooting a third-round 68.
“I’m excited,” said Molder, who has qualified for the BMW twice, but never the season-ending Tour Championship, reserved for the final 30. “I felt like I left a few out there, but you always feel like that, so I feel good.”
With one round left, nine players are projected to move from outside the top 70 to inside the number. Expect a volatile Monday.
Putt for D’oh
Charl Schwartzel capped his 79 by four-putting No. 18 from 4 feet. His putt for birdie horseshoed back toward him, his par attempt caught the lip and ran 3 feet by, then he tried to knock in the bogey putt lefthanded and missed that, too . . . Charley Hoffman, the 2010 Deutsche Bank champion, is quietly putting together a solid tournament. Rounds of 67-67-69 have him tied for seventh at 10 under . . . Remember Sean O’Hair drilling a 4-iron to 3 feet for eagle at No. 18 on Saturday just to make the cut and give him a chance to play his way into the top 70? He followed with a 69 and is projected to be 74th — right where he began the week — with 18 holes to play . . . In case you needed another example of how accommodating Padraig Harrington is, he stopped by the on-site radio tent near the 18th green and chatted with 98.5 The Sports Hub on-air for more than 10 minutes. This was minutes after he shot 75, which left him tied with Graeme McDowell for last place among those who made the cut. Class personified.