Bigger Not Always Better

By Rex HoggardFebruary 17, 2011, 3:01 am

Northern Trust OpenFor some a perch and an adult punch adjacent TPC Scottsdale’s infamous 16th hole is manicured heaven, while others may consider that stretch of magical surf and turf at Pebble Beach Golf Links' 18th hole the ultimate arena. But for pure architectural artistry, to say nothing of timeless relevancy, count Riviera Country Club’s 10th among the Tour’s best reasons to call in sick to work.

Short, drivable par 4s are professional golf’s version of black pants: smart, stylish and, thanks in no small part to the efforts of U.S. Open set-up man Mike Davis, back in vogue. And few, if any, on Tour are as good as No. 10 at Riviera.

Consider the math: of the 557 par 4s played on Tour last year, only four were shorter than Riviera’s 10th hole, and yet at a mere 315 yards the L.A. gem played to a virtual par push with a 3.932 stroke average, two eagles, 109 birdies, 56 bogeys and 14 others. All total for last year’s Northern Trust Open 153 attempts were made to drive the green. Only seven succeeded.

The 10th wasn’t the toughest par-4 on Tour last year –  it ranked the 419th hardest, in fact – but it made every Tour type think, and that is largely a lost art in the bomb-and-birdie era.

“Easily one of the best par 4s we play all year, long or short,” Steve Flesch said. “Length is totally overrated anymore.”

To Flesch’s point, 21 par 4s measured over 500 yards last year, whereas a decade earlier just two of 597 par 4s came in at over 500 yards. In short, the Tour landscape has been on an HGH drip for a decade in response to advances in modern equipment and improved fitness, or vice versa depending on one’s point of view.

There are now 11 TPCs in play on Tour which would explain much of the yardage explosion. And unless the powers in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. have plans to co-opt Harbour Town or Colonial into the TPC fold, longer may not be better, but it is what we’ve got so deal with it.

The Tour is not alone in the art of ever-expanding tee boxes. In what has become a major championship trend the last decade, the line between par and performance has been blurred. For last year’s U.S. Open, Pebble Beach had a par 5 (the 523-yard sixth) that was just a hair longer than a par 4 (the 505-yard ninth). But, at least for the USGA, that tide seems to have ebbed somewhat.

The par-4 fourth hole at Pebble Beach last year played to a tantalizingly short 331 yards, just 43 yards longer than the par-3 fifth at Oakmont played for the 2007 U.S. Open. For this year’s national championship at Congressional, Davis plans to actually increase par (from 70 to 71) by converting the nondescript par-4 sixth hole into a par 5.

“I looked at it and thought this is just not a good par 4. It would be an overly hard, somewhat boring par 4,” said Davis, who plans to play the sixth between 530 and 570 yards. “We’re going to keep forcing the issue until a large portion of the field can go for it. It’s kind of like 18 at Torrey Pines (for the 2008 U.S. Open).”

It is curious that Davis and the USGA, the same organization that stretched Torrey’s South Course to 7,643 yards in ’08 and Bethpage the next year to 7,426 yards, have embraced balance over pure brawn while the Tour is content to combat every increasing swing speeds with more real-estate.

Yet bigger is not always better, particularly when compared to the erstwhile likes of Riviera’s 10th. The hole is something of a museum piece on the bomber’s Tour – short and subtle. A chess match in what has largely become a bar brawl.

“Every course needs a reachable risk/reward (par) 5, drivable (par) 4 and a tough 150 yard or less (par) 3,” was Arron Oberholser’s take when asked this week about the 10th at Riviera.

It’s why Baskin Robbins has 31 flavors.

If one size fit all there would be no need for 14 clubs, yet just 26 par 4s on Tour last year measured south of 350 yards.

Tour brass will say distance gains have rendered anything less than a pitch-and-putt not worthy of the world’s best, but the real culprit here seems to be modern architecture. How else would one explain a 3.932 scoring average on the fifth shortest par 4 on Tour last year?

Bubba Watson and his ilk weren’t flying the ball 330 yards when George C. Thomas cut Riviera’s 10th hole into a hill in 1926, bunkers littered about the lot guarding a heavily pitched putting surface, yet somehow No. 10 remains relevant.

Maybe that’s the ultimate compliment for any architect, or maybe it’s an indictment of the modern game that gems like Riviera’s 10th have gone the way of the Dodo. Either way, this week’s Northern Trust Open will once again prove that bigger is not always better.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.

The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.

There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. 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.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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