The USGAs Fascination with Par

By Associated PressJune 10, 2008, 4:00 pm
2008 U.S. OpenSAN DIEGO -- Nick Faldo thought he would uncover the secret to winning the U.S. Open when he arranged for a meeting at Shady Oaks one year with four-time champion Ben Hogan.
 
Faldo, ever the analyst, asked Hogan what it would take for him to win.
 
Shoot the lowest score, Hogan replied.
 
If that conversation had taken place 20 years later, Hogans answer might have been slightly different.
 
Just shoot par.
 
Even par would have been good enough to win the past three U.S. Opens' Michael Campbell at Pinehurst No. 2 (even par), Geoff Ogilvy at wicked Winged Foot (5 over) and Angel Cabrera at Oakmont (5 over).
 
Whether thats what it takes this week at Torrey Pines remains to be seen. So far, everyone is raving about a golf course that is stern but fair, from the generous fairways to the graduated height of rough. But opinions tend to change when scores are put down on the card.
 
Perhaps no other major has a fascination with par as the U.S. Open.
 
Torrey Pines has been around for a half-century as a par 72. But with the U.S. Open in town this week, it will play as a par 71. The sixth hole will play 515 yards and be the longest par 4 in tournament history.
 
It actually will play shorter than usual, but almighty par will be protected.
 
Thats not all bad.
 
Mike Davis is the senior director of rules and competition for the USGA and the person responsible for setting up the golf course. Since taking over two years ago from Tom Meeks, his work has been universally praised, even with such high scores winning the U.S. Open.
 
Davis made perfect sense in explaining why No. 6 should be converted to a par 4.
 
Does it meet the definition of a par 5? he said.
 
A good tee shot that stays out of the rough or the bunkers on the left side can leave as little as a 4-iron into the green that is open in the front. Theres not a ton of trouble going for the green. In his view, it played more as a strong par 4.
 
He references No. 9 at Oakmont, which played as a par 5 when Ernie Els won in 1994, and a par 4 last year. The ninth hole features an uphill tee shot to a green so large that the back end of it serves as the putting green. During the U.S. Amateur in 2003, Davis noticed players hitting anything from a 5-iron to a pitching wedge for their second shot.
 
That didnt meet my definition of a par 5, he said.
 
Fair enough. But either way, what matters is the number on the card, not the number to par.
 
Remember when Arnold Palmer came from seven shots behind to win the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills. He said to sports writer Bob Drum before teeing off that he could shoot 65 and win because that would put him at 280.
 
Doesnt 280 always win the Open? Palmer said.
 
These days, he might have said, Doesnt even par always win the Open?
 
The USGAs philosophy of converting par 5s into par 4s began in 1951 at Oakland Hills. That U.S. Open was famous for the winner (Hogan) and how he described the course.
 
Im glad I brought this course, this monster, to its knees, Hogan said.
 
He finished at 7-over 287. But if the USGA had left Nos. 8 and 18 as par 5s that week, and Oakland Hills had been a par 72, Hogan still would have won with a score of 1-under 287.
 
Would he still have called it a monster?
 
Thats why it sounded so disingenuous when Jim Hyler of the USGA executive committee said with a straight face, Contrary to what a lot of people think, there is no target winning score. We are not trying to protect par.
 
Jim Furyk, who tied the U.S. Open scoring record at Olympia Fields in 2003, was asked if he believed that.
 
No, he replied.
 
He wasnt entirely serious, but he made it clear the USGA is not interested in 15 under winning its premier championship. Protecting par has helped give the U.S. Open definition it never needed.
 
The Masters, before it was overhauled to add a half-mile of beautifully manicured grass, routinely produced winning scores around 276. It has never been wrapped up in par, and even now, the changes were to put the same clubs in the hands of players that Bobby Jones envisioned when he built Augusta National.
 
Strangely enough, it was Clifford Roberts and former CBS Sports producers Frank Chirkinian who were responsible for keeping score with par, a great invention for television that now is standard in golf.
 
The PGA Championship has some of the lowest scores, due mainly to it being held in August when the greens require more water to keep them alive in the summer heat. The British Open is the least bothered by scoring. If the wind blows, the scores are high. If its calm, the scores are low. Congratulations, see you next year.
 
It could have been worse at Torrey Pines.
 
Rees Jones Jr., who buffed up the course to attract the U.S. Open, was among those who wanted the par-5 18th hole to play as a par 4. With a pond in front of the green, there would have been more gore than glory on the final hole. Davis deserves credit for persuading the blue coats to make it a par 5, which could be the most exciting closing hole at a U.S. Open.
 
Imagine an eagle on the last hole to win.
 
As far as protecting par, I firmly believe the USGA wants to make the golf course as difficult and as testing a golf course as they can without going overboard, Furyk said. For the best players in the world, thats going to be shooting somewhere around even par. But if its 5 under or 5 over, I dont think it really matters.
 
Par always has been irrelevant, and it still is.
 
What Hogan once told Faldo is still true today. Lowest score wins.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Open
  • Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

    By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

    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

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

    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.

    Getty Images

    Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

    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.

    Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

    JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

    Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

    Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.