Double eagle: The golf term that makes no sense

By Doug FergusonApril 9, 2013, 3:40 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Gene Sarazen hit ''the shot heard 'round the world,'' holing out with a 4-wood from 235 yards in the 15th fairway at Augusta National in 1935. He put a 2 on his card, made up a three-shot deficit with one swing, and then beat Craig Wood in a playoff the next day.

It was the shot that put the Masters on the map.

And it led to a golf term that was made in America, used only in America, and doesn't make a lick of sense.

Double eagle?

The golf writers deserved a double bogey for that one.

''It's an albatross,'' Padraig Harrington said, incredulous that anyone would dare call it anything else. ''There's no such thing in life as a double eagle. Is there? Two eagles side by side are two eagles, not a double eagle. You don't refer to animals ... 'Oh, I just saw a double elephant over there.' There's no doubting what it is. It's an albatross.''


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On every other continent where golf is played, a score of 3 under par on a hole is known as an albatross.

Where the term ''double eagle'' came from is one of golf's mysteries, and it simply doesn't add up. A birdie is universally known as a score of 1 under par on a hole. An eagle is 2 under par. Double that –  a double eagle – and it would be 4 under par.

''That's American mathematics for you,'' Hunter Mahan said. ''That's why we're 40th in the world or whatever. I think albatross sounds cool.''

By whatever name, it's one of the rarest shots in golf. And it returned to the conversation last year at the Masters when Louis Oosthuizen made an albatross on the second hole of the final round. He hit 4-iron from 253 yards, the first 2 on that hole in Masters history.

There has been one albatross on each of the par 5s at Augusta National – Bruce Devlin on No. 8 in 1967, Jeff Maggert on No. 13 in 1994 and Sarazen on the 15th in 1935. Sarazen's was the most famous. It was the first of its kind, and it led to him winning the tournament.

Masters officials dug up a few newspaper articles from its archives on this great moment in time. Grantland Rice, the foremost sports writer in America of his era and a member at Augusta National, wrote this for the Atlanta Constitution:

''And then as he swung, the double miracle happened. The ball left the face of his spoon like a rifle shot. It never wavered from a direct line to the pin. As it struck the green, a loud shout went up. Then suddenly (it) turned into a deafening, reverberating roar as the ball spun along its way and finally disappeared into the cup for a double eagle 2 – a 2 on a 485-yard hole when even an eagle 3 wouldn't have helped.''

''I didn't know what a double eagle was until I came to the United States,'' Geoff Ogilvy said. ''I might have read the term. That's weird. I guess they can't think of a word for something better than eagle so they call it a double eagle. But it's not really a double eagle. It's an eagle-and-a-half. I always liked albatross. It's a good bird, isn't it? They fly across oceans. It's grand, which is what describes the shot.''

Alan Gould, the sports editor for The Associated Press, also used the erroneous term in quote marks.

''This astonishing 'double eagle,' as rare as a hole-in-one, electrified a gallery of 2,000,'' he wrote.

What did Sarazen make on the 15th hole?

''That was a double eagle,'' John Senden of Australia said with a big smile.

Senden knows better. He used the American term in this interview ''because I'm talking to you.'' He made an albatross on the par-5 second hole at TPC Boston in the Deutsche Bank Championship a few years ago and his caddie – Grant Berry, who is English – was appalled when he saw the reference to ''double eagle'' the next day.

''Growing up it was always an albatross,'' Senden said. ''I never knew it was anything different until I was maybe 15. I was watching an American telecast. You know what it was? I was watching the Masters and they were talking about Gene Sarazen and the double eagle.''

The Masters is such a powerful force in golf that ''double eagle'' sadly has become ingrained in the golf vernacular in America. It reached a point that even Oosthuizen, who hails from South Africa, said after the final round last year that it was ''my first double eagle ever.'' But then, that's how the question was posed to him.

Golf went to the birds long ago.

The phrase ''birdie'' comes from a conversation with Abe Smith, who was playing golf at the end of the 19th century with his brother and George Crump, who later built Pine Valley. They were playing the par-4 second hole at The Country Club in Atlantic City when Smith's second shot landed inches from the hole. He is reported to have said, ''That was a bird of a shot,'' and thus referred to it as a birdie when he holed the putt for a 3.

The U.S. Golf Association says on its website that ''eagle'' became an extension of a score better than a birdie.

Double eagle?

By pure definition, a double eagle would be making a hole-in-one on a par 5 for a score of 4 under par. Such a score has been recorded four times, the most unusual by Shaun Lynch, a 33-year-old Irishman. He hit a 3-iron over hedges 20 feet high on the horseshoe-shaped par-5 17th hole at Teign Valley Golf Club in England in 1995. It ran down a slope and into the hole for a 1.

The shot was commemorated by a plaque.

''From this tee Shaun Lynch smote a golf ball into the hole. It was witnessed by two members and certified by Guinness Book of Records.''

No one would have called that a double albatross. There's no such thing in life. Is there?

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x