PGA Tour Players Going Lower Than Ever
Ernie Els became the latest poster boy for low scoring when his winning score at the Mercedes Championships -- 31-under par -- shattered the TOUR record and left him so stunned that he sounded more like Yogi Berra than the Big Easy.
'I've had some good weeks in my career, but to shoot 31-under par, I obviously haven't done that,' he said.
Then the light came on.
'Nobody's done it,' he added with a laugh.
Winning the first tournament of the year means more, especially considering that records don't last very long on the PGA Tour.
'It will be nice to tell Samantha and Ben one day,' he said, referring to his young children. Then he paused and knocked on the wooden table holding his trophy.
'If it holds up,' he said to more laughter. 'At least I held the record for a while.'
How long is anyone's guess.
The Sony Open in Hawaii begins Thursday, and all bets are off if the conditions are so calm that the skinny palm trees at Waialae Country Club don't even budge.
The new motto on the PGA TOUR: Go low or go home.
'Par doesn't mean anything anymore,' Vijay Singh said. 'Shooting 6 under and losing ground is no fun.'
This is no time to panic.
Wind is the best defense on any golf course, and there was hardly any for four days on the Plantation Course at Kapalua. The results were predictable:
-- Eleven players finished at 20 under or better. David Duval (26 under in 1999) was the only player in the previous four years to do that (stats powered by ShotLink).
-- The average score was 69.14. The average score for the final round was 68.33.
-- Rocco Mediate finished at 23 under. It was his best score in relation to par since he was 20 under at the 2001 Phoenix Open. Both times, he finished eight strokes behind.
'What happened to par? Where did it go?' Mediate said.
It went to the majors and The Players Championship.
Eliminate those five tournaments, and it has been nearly two years since a regular PGA Tour event was won at single-digit under par -- the '01 Nissan Open (9 under) and the '01 BellSouth Classic (8 under). Both events had a combination of wind, rain and cold.
Low scoring is not all bad.
'You don't want 40 U.S. Opens,' Jeff Sluman said. 'Guys would be in a rubber room by the end of the year.'
Of course, 40 weeks of low scoring also can send players into therapy.
David Toms was 47-under par in consecutive PGA Tour events last year. All that got him was a tie for sixth (21 under at the Disney Golf Classic) and a runner-up finish (26 under at Callaway Gardens).
The solution lies with how the golf course is set up. If these guys are good -- and no one doubts that -- then maybe it's time for them to prove it.
'These are the best players in the world. This should be the toughest tour we play,' Singh said. 'I've played in Europe. Which is the tougher tour? I don't know.'
What the PGA Tour needs is a balanced diet of tough conditions that put a premium on par, and shootouts that require birdies just to keep up.
It's not just about length. Several players suggested firm, fast greens; tucked pins accessible only by well-struck irons; narrow fairways; and 'flyer' rough that makes it difficult to control distance.
'If we're not going to play tougher courses, we should make the courses we play a little bit tougher,' Justin Leonard said.
Only the most challenging courses separate great players, which is why the major championships rarely get fluke winners. That might help explain why there were a record 18 first-time winners on tour last year.
'I think there is something to that,' Charles Howell III said. 'It's a shootout every week. I won Kingsmill at 14 under, and that was probably one of the higher scores.'
Throw out the majors, The Players Championship and The Tour Championship presented by Coca-Cola, and 28 of the 41 tournaments were won at 15 under or better last year.
Kapalua was an anomaly. The wind typically blows hard off the coast of Maui, and even Els remarked after the first calm round, 'It can't stay like this. It's impossible.'
It did, and there wasn't much the PGA Tour could have done.
'You put us on the hardest golf course in the history of the world -- with no wind -- and we'll destroy it,' Mediate said. 'That's what happened here.'
Had they made the greens roll like linoleum and had wind suddenly kicked up, the Mercedes Championships might have looked more like the Australian Open, where the first round was canceled because balls wouldn't stay on the green.
Nobody wants that, either.
Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage
Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.
Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.
Swipe to see what’s up in my world. It’s long-winded.... short version, we lost the baby. Had to share this since we had shared the news already. I know you’re all so supportive and kind. I just couldn’t face it before. Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming. #ihavealotoffeelings #andphotostocatchupon
“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”
The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.
“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia
This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.
The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.
Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.
The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.
A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.
And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18
Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf
Well, this is a one new one.
According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:
“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”
Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.
“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.
The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.
“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”
The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.
Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.
Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.