When is too much too much? Scoring isn’t everything. Is it? In the US, Soccer is put down because scoring can be non-existent thus boring, baseball is too slow and instant replay isn’t instant enough in football. Golf on the other hand “must” have birdies or else it isn’t exciting and fans won’t show up at tournaments. Enough!
This past Sunday at The Greenbrier Classic in White Sulfur Springs, W. Va., Stewart Appleby was 11 under par on the par 70 “The Old White” course shooting the 5th ever 59 on the PGA Tour in it’s history. This week a 17 year old high school student, Bobby Wyatt had an amazing 57 in the Alabama Golf Association State Boys Championship on the Country Club of Mobile, Alabama a par 71 course, playing 6,643 yards. That’s 14 under par! Enough! Something must be done! The ball is going to far and courses are running out of room and money to expand.
Back to The Greenbrier Classic. On Sunday 77 golfers played the 4th and final round of the tournament. Eight were over par, six were even par and fifty one were under par. The par 5, 12th measuring 568 yards gave up only two bogeys and one other. The hole played to 4.286, hardly a difficult par 4 if it were in one of the major tournaments. The most difficult hole was the par 3 15th. It played 3.091 to par with 12 bogeys and one other. Just not that difficult.
Scoring is down, no doubt about that. The better the player the more club and ball technology means to the golfer in distance and accuracy. Also there’s much better player fitness and better course conditions no wonder scoring is substantially down. But the most critical issue in keeping the scoring low and the patrons watching from the galleries and television is money. Golf is a multi-billion dollar industry and the PGA is unwilling to change it’s position, keeping it’s eye on the bank account. Forcing manufactures to limit the distance the ball flies takes money out of their bank accounts and the implied advertising advantage over their competitors.
Changes to the ball have been suggested, but that means all balls are the same. No competition. Same is true of shafts and clubs. I’m inclined to believe that reducing the sweet spot on the club face in relationship to the year-end final average score and/or the distance each club can achieve, might be a better answer. The USGA and R&A would have to determine what the optimum distance each club could attain, determine the sweet spot dimensions to limit distance by shrinking the area of maximum distance. Doing so allows the manufacturers to continue with their advancements in design, keeping scores reasonable and courses financially secure and out of bankruptcy.
Men’s US Senior Open Golf Championship – Seattle
Fred Couples almost pulled off a special win this past week in the Seattle area, his home town. Tied with Bernard Langer going into the final round, Freddie triple bogeyed the 2nd hole while Bernard birdied puting the tournament out of reach for Fred. Technology was once again apparent to those of us who watch and listen closely to the telecasts. Fred didn’t use a driver once during the week. Now Sahallee Country Club has extremely tight fairways with one par 4 only 16 yards wide but the course isn’t that short, 6,866 yards, for the seniors. Freddie was able to hit his utility club, irons and 3 wood off of most tees, often in the 300 yard range.
Listening to an interview on a local sports talk show Couples admitted that he should have played the 2nd hole much differently. He went so far to say that 99 out of 100 times he would not lay up on that par 5. He “chunked” his third shot, a difficult lob over a pond, landing in the pond taking a triple bogey on the hole giving Langer a four stroke lead. Bernard didn’t back off winning by 3 strokes after Couples reduced the lead to 2 after birdieing the 16th. It would have been a huge bonus for the 30,000 plus fans in the gallery if Freddie had pulled this one out.