Par Just a Number in the Game

By Associated PressMarch 13, 2007, 4:00 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Arnold Palmer can change the par at his golf course. He can't change what he said 47 years ago.
One of the most famous exchanges with Palmer happened in the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills, when he was seven shots behind going into the final round. Speaking with Pittsburgh sports writer Bob Drum, Palmer wondered what would happen if he drove the green on the first hole and went on to shoot 65.
'It would give me 280,' Palmer told him. 'Doesn't 280 always win the Open?'
What Palmer would have said today is, 'It would give me even par. Doesn't even par always win the Open?'
Par has been a fixation in this country for more than 50 years, dating to 1951 when two par 5s were converted to par 4s at Oakland Hills and the U.S. Open played as a par 70. Ben Hogan won and later said he was glad he brought 'this monster' to its knees.
Would he have said the same if he had finished at 1-under 287 instead of 7-over 287?
It's all about perception.
'We can get caught up too much in numbers,' Ben Crenshaw said Monday. 'You still add up your score at the end of the round. And they're still going to give the trophy away to the guy with the lowest score.'
That's worth noting because twice in the last three weeks on the Florida swing, the courses have played as a par 70. Mark Wilson won the four-man playoff at the Honda Classic after finishing at 5-under 275 at PGA National, which sounds like a more grueling week than if they had finished at 13-under 275.
Now, Palmer has converted Nos. 4 and 16 at Bay Hill into par 4s, and it will play as a par 70 for the first time.
'I did it just to make the golf course a little more competitive to par,' Palmer said.
What he really meant was that he was tired of seeing the world's best players reach the green in two with a 5-iron in their hands, and this was the most cost-effective way of restoring the challenge.
Or at least making it feel like a challenge.
Take two weeks ago at the Honda Classic. The four players had to return Monday morning to resume the playoff on the 10th hole, which had been converted to a par 4 at more than 500 yards, a slight breeze working against them. Wilson isn't a big hitter and had a fairway metal left for his second shot. Camilo Villegas is a power player and hit 4-iron.
If it had been slightly longer as a par 5, Wilson would have laid up and Villegas could have reached in two.
Power always has been an advantage in golf.
More than anything, changing par matters more in the head than on the card.
'You're more bummed making a 5 on a par 5 than a par 4,' Mark Calcavecchia said. 'If they change it into a par 4 and you make 5, you figure you're not the only guy making bogey. It's a head game.'
Todd Hamilton might have the best solution. The former British Open champion would like to see only one number on the signs at every tee, and that would be to identify what hole you're playing.
'Get rid of the par. Get rid of the yardage,' he said. 'Go play the course.'
In some respects, Palmer is going back to the old days. Bay Hill used to be a par 71, with Nos. 4 and 16 as par 4s and the opening hole as a par 5. Over time, No. 1 went to a 4, while the other two were lengthened and became par 5s.
Joey Sindelar has played Bay Hill every year since 1984, and he can recall when the 16th was a par 4. He has seen that hole play as one of the toughest and one of the easiest, even though all that matters is the number he writes down.
'We do it to ourselves,' Sindelar said. 'We could play No. 16 as a par 5 and think, 'I might eagle this.' But if it's a par 4 and a little closer, we wouldn't go in there thinking birdie. There's just something about what the course scorecard says that changes your attitude and your expectations.'
One mentality that will change at Bay Hill is the finish -- but again, that relates only to par.
If a player was trailing by one shot coming down the stretch, the last reasonable place to make up ground was the 16th. Find the fairway and you would have a shot at reaching in two and make birdie at worst.
'I thought 16 was a great swing hole,' Trevor Immelman said. 'You have to hit the fairway, and then you might have a mid-iron to the green. And if you miss the fairway and lay up, you could spin the ball off the green and then you could make bogey. I felt like it was such a great hole coming to the end of the tournament.'
Augusta National is partly responsible for keeping score with par. Former chairman Clifford Roberts came up with that idea for the 1960 Masters, so that scores could be shown on a cumulative basis.
The USGA gets most of the credit (or blame) for the value of par, for no other organization changes more courses to par 70s, and it was a badge of honor that no one had won in double digits under par until Tiger Woods (12 under) at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, which played as a par 71 for the first time.
'I do think there's a school of thought out there that the USGA is fixated on par,' Fay said Tuesday. 'We're not fixated on par, but we like the idea that par is a good score.'
The argument has been that some greens -- whether it was the 16th at Bay Hill or the 17th at Olympic Club -- were not designed to hold an approach shot with a long iron or worse.
Tom Meeks, who set up U.S. Open courses for 10 years, once told of a confrontation he had with the late Payne Stewart over changing the 16th hole at Pinehurst No. 2 into a par 4. Stewart argued that the green was not designed for a long iron.
'Tell you what, Payne,' Meeks told him. 'We'll move the tee back and make it 530 yards if you promise you and everyone else won't go for the green in two.'
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.