Has Par Become Birdie

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Dumbfounded. That was the only word Paul Stankowski could muster when I asked him about the week. How do you shoot 8-under on the last day, 32-under for the tournament, and still finish four shots back of the winner?
 
As shocked as Paul was, he was quick to point out that this is how PGA Tour action should be every week. There should be an outright champion. When a guy is playing his best, no one should be stunned when he wins by a handful of strokes. When the course is in immaculate condition, no one should be surprised when the scores go as low as they did at last week's Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
 
In my off-camera chats with many of the players in Palm Springs, there was a consensus among them. Everyone agrees that the technological advances in equipment and perfectly manicured golf courses are the primary reasons for the PGA Tour becoming the birdie barrage that it has.
 
Anytime you put a man or woman that plays this game for a living on plush greens in ideal weather, they're going to post a number. In Joe Durant's case, he did it an amazing five times in a row. Five minutes after he set the PGA Tour's all-time 72-hole scoring record, Joe told me he's getting fifteen extra yards off the tee with the new Titleist Pro VI ball.
 
Mark Calcavecchia shared a similar story with me on Sunday after he finished at 30-under. He also credited his new Bimatrix shafts for his scoring record in Phoenix earlier this year. Mind you, the pros get their extra distance and control for free. As a matter of fact, some even get paid for it. If you want it, you're going to have to shell out $54 a dozen for it. Keep in mind, many of you will most likely be looking for your golf ball fifteen yards deeper into the woods on the right. Sorry, bad humor.
 
All kidding aside, it wouldn't be right to give technology and agronomy complete credit for the mind-boggling numbers we've witnessed as of late. Don't forget that the previous PGA Tour 90-hole scoring record set by Tom Kite was intact for eight years before Durant broke it. And he only broke it by one shot!
 
The players have always been capable and they continue to deliver quality entertainment. Bob Tway told me on Saturday at the Hope that Tiger has raised the bar for everyone. He's forcing guys to compete at a higher level.
 
Okay, I buy it a little. He did blow away the competition at the majors last summer. But I don't buy it all the way. Does that mean they didn't try their hardest before? I would be extremely disappointed.
 
In my last two weeks on the road with the PGA Tour, I was impressed to say the least. In cold weather, the scores were quite low in San Diego. nineteen-under in four days is not too shabby when the average temperature is 58 degrees. As for Palm Springs, need I comment on those performances? They speak for themselves. These guys are good.
 
It's easy to bring the scores back to a realistic level. Grow out the rough, shave down the greens, tighten the fairways. But who wants to play the U.S. Open every week? That's what makes it special. Let's just sit back and enjoy the record-setting displays of talent we're being treated to these days. After all, they're getting paid a lot of money for our entertainment.
 
Oh, one last side note for you. I think I'm a good luck charm for Mark Calcavecchia. In three of the last four PGA Tour events that I've worked AND he's played, he's had three top-3 finishes (2000 Greater Hartford Open, 2000 Air Canada Championship, 2001 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.) The other one was a top-10 (2000 Honda Classic.) I can't believe I missed Phoenix!
 
What do you think of all the low scoring on the PGA Tour?
Share your thoughts!