Par Just a Number in the Game
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.
Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge
ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.
The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.
They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.
Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.
Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.
Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.
''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''
The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.
In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''
Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.
Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia
Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.
Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.
Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.
It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.
The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.
Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son
ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.
Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.
''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''
They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.
''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''
Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.
''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''
Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.
Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.
Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.
Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.
Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.