Golfs magic number doesnt seem so magical

By Doug FergusonAugust 4, 2010, 12:26 am
AKRON, Ohio – The PGA Tour used to be so hard that it was boring to play, much less watch.

It was only three years ago at Firestone – Tiger Woods was the only player to break par that week – that Steve Stricker spoke for dozens of players when he said just about every tournament felt like a major.

It sure hasn’t seemed like that lately.

“This is a little different,” Stricker said with a smile Tuesday when reminded of his comments.

Now, every tournament feels like the Bob Hope Classic.
Paul Goydos
Paul Goydos shot 59 at the John Deere Classic. (Getty Images)
Consider the flurry of low scores over the last four weeks on the PGA Tour:

  • Paul Goydos became the first player in 11 years to shoot golf’s magic number when he opened with a 59 at the John Deere Classic. Even more amazing was it only gave him a one-shot lead over Stricker, who shot 60 and went on to win the tournament.
  • Rory McIlroy didn’t flirt with a 59, but he had a great chance to set a major championship record at the British Open until he missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the 17th at St. Andrews. He was mildly disappointed with a 63.
  • Carl Pettersson had to settle for a 60 in the third round of the Canadian Open when his 30-foot birdie putt from just off the front of the 18th green caught part of the lip.
  • D.A. Point had a chance to shoot 59 at the Greenbrier until he three-putted for bogey on the par-5 17th and shot 61. It wasn’t even the low score of the third round – J.B. Holmes shot a 60 that day. Both scores were trumped in the final round Sunday when Stuart Appleby birdied his last three holes for a 59, rallying from a seven-shot deficit to win.

What exactly is golf’s magic number these days?

Ryo Ishikawa might argue that it’s 58, for that’s what he shot in the final round to win on the Japan Golf Tour in May. If you allow Bobby Wyatt to join the conversation, the teenager could lobby for his 57 last week at the Alabama Boys State Junior Championship.

All of which leads to another question.

Has golf become too easy?

“You still have to make the score,” David Duval said. “You still have to hit the shots.”

Duval shot his 59 in the final round of the Bob Hope Classic in 1999, becoming only the third player in PGA Tour history to shoot 59. That was 11 years ago. Two players matched that in a span of four weeks.

“I guess it’s the law of averages. We were due to have a couple of good ones,” Goydos said Monday. “Maybe the bigger story is not why there was an 11-year drought, but why we went more than two weeks without one? Or you could always make the argument that everyone figured that if Goydos could do it, anyone could do it.”

Ernie Els recalls the one time he had a shot at 59.

“At Royal Melbourne of all places,” Els said. “Those Aussies were (beside) themselves. Nobody could shoot 60 at Royal Melbourne. And they were trying to talk on my backswing the last three holes. … I had two chances coming in. Didn’t quite do it. I think I felt embarrassed for them.”

Now, however, Els is searching for reasons just like everyone else.

“I don’t know if the tour is trying to get some people to watch television again because they’re seeing a lot of birdies,” he said with a half-smile that made you wonder if he really was serious. “But I’m not sure what my take is. There’s even two 60s, 61s. It’s starting to look like the Nationwide Tour.”

Theories abound, only because everyone wants answers in a sport that rarely provides them.

Yes, these guys are good. They are better than ever, and there are more of them than ever before. They play with less fear and attack every pin. The equipment is better than ever.

What can’t be overlooked is golf’s greatest defense against low scores – firm greens and wind.

Both have been on holiday of late.

“John Deere was like playing in a vacuum,” said Goydos, who could lift, clean and place his ball when he shot 59. “It was like dome golf.”

Appleby has been playing golf every week since May, so he’s an expert on conditions. He was in the same group when Stricker shot his 60 at the John Deere, and he played with Points during his round of 61.

“There’s a common theme,” Appleby said. “The golfers aren’t any better. We’re getting better each year, but course preparation and weather is everything. … You have to make everything, and you can only do that on basically receptive greens. None of these rounds are shot on firm greens, I can assure you of that.”

Record scoring is not the worst thing to happen to golf in a year when Tiger Woods isn’t driving much interest inside the ropes. And it beats the complaints from 2007, when rough was so thick the only option was hacking out to the fairway.

Tyler Dennis, vice president of competition for the PGA Tour, noted that two of the tournaments over the last month were played on new courses – St. George’s for the Canadian Open, the Old White for the Greenbrier Classic.

He recalls his first trip to the Greenbrier when the staff talked about making Old White an exciting, dramatic course that was fun to play and kept the element of a classic design.

“The score didn’t cross anyone’s mind,” Dennis said. “But that’s been the philosophy when the rules staff sets up a course. We want it to be a great venue and we want variety throughout the year. And we want to provide a competitive and fair test. The words ‘score’ and ‘easy’ and ‘hard’ … don’t play into it at all.”

What to expect this week at Firestone, a 7,400-yard course that plays to a par 70?

“We get to a beast like this … I would hate to see a 59 this week,” Els said. “Because then I’ll know I’m playing a different game.”
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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

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.

“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

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

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.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


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.


Masters victory


Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


Man of the people


Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


Departure from TaylorMade


Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


Victory at Valderrama


Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm