Around the greens the pros are still learning to deal with what Cink calls "the trickle." At the season-opening SBS Championship, Perez went on and on about what he thought was a perfectly played chip that rolled 20 feet past the flag. At the following week's Sony Open, he harrumphed to the AP, "I can't chip. I've tried them all—a bump, a flop. I haven't figured it out yet."
This is music to the ears of some crotchety old-timers. "I've been waiting for this change for a long time," says 22-year Tour veteran Bob Estes. "Now some of these guys who don't have the short game they should have are learning that maybe they aren't quite as good as they thought they were."
Adds Mark Brooks, 48, "The old grooves let you be a little sloppy. The contact didn't have to be clean, but the grooves would still grab the ball. Guys got used to playing that low clunker, what I call the controlled chunk. That shot needed to go away. And it has."
In its place a wider variety of shots have emerged from the Tour's talented wedge players. "The old grooves threw the ball off the face so fast, you basically had to play a low, hard shot with a lot of spin that stopped immediately," says Henry. "The new grooves have brought back the high, soft shot, the bump-and-run, and everything in between. It's like we're rediscovering our creativity."
So has the groove change made golf harder or easier for the Tour's savants? Depends which player you ask. It is certainly different. A quarter century of technological innovations conspired to produce a brawnier, less precise style of play. Now a different skill set is being prized. "Before, the game was kind of mindless—hit it as far as you can off the tee and throw the ball at the flag and let it stop dead," says Begay. "Thanks to this little rule change, golf has become more of a thinking man's game: recognizing lies, having the knowledge of what shot to play and when to play it. Now you need more shots because of all the subtle differences. Basically, if you want to shoot good scores, you need more imagination. And more skill."
Isn't that the way it's supposed to be?
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