Punch Shot: Are all these low scores good for golf?


We've seen a bevy of very low scores recently on the PGA Tour. Justin Thomas shot 59 last week at the Sony Open while two other players threatened golf's magic number. Jim Furyk took a step further at last year's Travelers Championship with a 58. So it got the Golf Channel writers thinking, are all these low scores good for golf?


Are they good for the game? Well, it certainly doesn’t hurt.

Like anything in life, moderation is important, but would you rather watch a birdie-fest or a blood bath? These are the best players in the world – let ’em show why.

Better equipment, fitness and course conditioning have led to more red numbers than ever before, but it’s not as though today’s players are completely rewriting the record books. The recent performances of Jason Day (2015 PGA) and Henrik Stenson (2016 Open) were historic, yes, but there still have been only eight sub-60 rounds in Tour history.

Now, if some of golf’s most venerated courses begin to serve up these low scores – if players threaten to break 60 at Torrey or Riviera or Pebble or Augusta – then it’ll become a problem. Until then, enjoy the show.


Yes and no.

Yes, if we’re seeing these record scoring runs on the fast tracks we’re accustomed to seeing them, like Waialae at the Sony Open and on those desert courses at the CareerBuilder Challenge this week. It’s like going to see a Major League Baseball game at Coors Field, or at Wrigley when the wind’s blowing out. We know those venues can be delightful exceptions to the rule.

No, it’s not good for the game if we start seeing 59 watches on the Torrey Pines’ South Course at the Farmers Insurance Open, on PGA National’s Champion Course at the Honda Classic or on Innisbrook at the Valspar Championship. If we start seeing record scoring runs on those venues, technology’s officially made a joke of the game. As long as golf courses have been stretched, there’s something wrong with the game if par’s almost never a good score anywhere but a major.


Because Justin Thomas was swinging a modern driver and hitting a state-of-the-art golf ball, his first-round 59 last week at the Sony Open was cheapened for some, just as Kevin Kisner’s 60 on Saturday at Waialae Country Club was somehow less impressive or Chez Reavie’s 61 on Sunday.

Athletes are better today than there were just a decade ago and they will continue to get stronger, faster and more able as science refines every sporting act – from throwing a football to hitting a golf ball.

Modern equipment is a reality in every sport, not just golf, yet every time a golfer does something historic, like Thomas last week, there is a collective wince from those who pine for the days of persimmon-headed drivers and balata golf balls.

“It was fun all the way, from start to finish,” Kisner beamed after his 10-under card on Day 3 in Hawaii.

Golf, at least PGA Tour golf, is entertainment. There will be plenty of time for grinding pars and “good bogeys” as the game inches toward 2017’s major championship season.


Let's not allow the recent evisceration of Waialae Country Club to cloud our overall judgment.

Yes, things got a little out of hand on Oahu. And yes, the once-elusive magic number of 59 has lost a bit of luster in recent months, notably when Jim Furyk lowered the bar last summer. But this is not an every week occurrence, and watching professionals perform at the peak of their ability will always be good for the game.

There will be a few more low scores this week, not to mention venues like TPC Deere Run and Sedgefield. But there will also be plenty of venues that continue to challenge - if not humble - the world's best. Both categories are known quantities with little overlap.

So while there have been a few more low ones in recent months, they do not pose a threat to those courses where par remains a coveted score. The game will soldier on, and there's still plenty of compelling action whether you prefer your winning totals at 2 under or 22 under.