Drought affects Royal Melbourne

MELBOURNE: Greg Norman and Ernie Els, as always, are impressed by Royal Melbourne. But two days away from the start of the Heineken Classic, it’s the club’s general manager who is not entirely pleased with the state of the course. 

Blame a drought – the worst in Australia’s history – for the composite course being generally dry, with rough not growing and greens faster than usual, says Bill Richardson. 

“We’ve had half our normal rainfall in the last four months and last year it was down 30 percent,’’ Richardson said yesterday as headliners Norman, Els and Nick Faldo played practice rounds for tomorrow’s first round of the joint European and Australasian tours event. 

“The effects of the drought are evident in the rough, but the areas which are in play – the tees and greens and fairways – are in extremely good condition.’’ 

Royal Melbourne’s traditionally fast greens were running close to 11 on the speed-measuring stimpmeter on Monday, but Richardson said the putting surfaces would be prepared with common sense. 

He’s anxious the avoid the fiasco at neighbouring sand-belt course Victoria, where ultra-fast greens last November forced the first round of the Australian Open to be cancelled. 

“We haven’t prepared the course at any sort of ridiculous pace in recent years,’’ said Richardson. – AP

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