Relief for organisers with improved greens at East Lake

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ATLANTA, Sep 12 (Reuters) The improved condition of East Lake Golf Club's damaged greens gave Tour Championship organisers something to smile about.

Although today's pro-am has been cancelled in an effort to save greens baked by record August heat and a severe drought in Atlanta, players were permitted to practise on 15 of the 18 holes on the par-70 layout.

On Sunday, the situation had been bleak enough for organisers to ban the players from practising on any of the greens during the tournament's build-up.

''It's a shame we had to cancel the pro-am, but a lot of wear and tear on the greens would have really been tough on them,'' tournament director Mark Russell told reporters.

''I hate we had to do that but it's the only thing we could do. Then once we saw some improvement in the greens, we figured we could get 30 guys go out and play them, but we still closed some greens.'' Three greens were off-limits to the players during practice rounds on Tuesday -- the par-three second, the par-four 13th and par-five 15th.

''Considering that record heat and this incredible drought here in the south-east, I think the greens are much better than can be expected,'' Russell added.

AGGRESSIVE NATURE ''It's a cold-weather grass but they've improved due to the aggressive nature of being treated. They've fertilised them every three days.

''They (green-keeping staff) were treating it as a new golf course you'd grow in, and they put some sod out there.'' Asked how fast the greens would run when the tournament began on Thursday, Russell replied: ''I think the greens will be rolling about 9 to 9.5, and we're not going to press them too much on the speed.'' Russell was referring to the number on the Stimpmeter, a device that gauges green speed.

''We're just going to play it by ear day by day but I don't think they're going to get much faster than that. Last year we probably had them run 11 to 12, something like that.'' The 7 million dollars Tour Championship, the fourth and final event in the inaugural FedExCup playoff series, features a limited field of 30 players with Australia's Adam Scott defending the title he won by three shots last year.

Also on offer is a 10 million dollars bonus in deferred compensation for the overall FedExCup points champion.

REUTERS BJR BST1026

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