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.
 
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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.