Par Just a Number in the Game
One of the most famous exchanges with Palmer happened in the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills, when he was seven shots behind going into the final round. Speaking with Pittsburgh sports writer Bob Drum, Palmer wondered what would happen if he drove the green on the first hole and went on to shoot 65.
'It would give me 280,' Palmer told him. 'Doesn't 280 always win the Open?'
What Palmer would have said today is, 'It would give me even par. Doesn't even par always win the Open?'
Par has been a fixation in this country for more than 50 years, dating to 1951 when two par 5s were converted to par 4s at Oakland Hills and the U.S. Open played as a par 70. Ben Hogan won and later said he was glad he brought 'this monster' to its knees.
Would he have said the same if he had finished at 1-under 287 instead of 7-over 287?
It's all about perception.
'We can get caught up too much in numbers,' Ben Crenshaw said Monday. 'You still add up your score at the end of the round. And they're still going to give the trophy away to the guy with the lowest score.'
That's worth noting because twice in the last three weeks on the Florida swing, the courses have played as a par 70. Mark Wilson won the four-man playoff at the Honda Classic after finishing at 5-under 275 at PGA National, which sounds like a more grueling week than if they had finished at 13-under 275.
Now, Palmer has converted Nos. 4 and 16 at Bay Hill into par 4s, and it will play as a par 70 for the first time.
'I did it just to make the golf course a little more competitive to par,' Palmer said.
What he really meant was that he was tired of seeing the world's best players reach the green in two with a 5-iron in their hands, and this was the most cost-effective way of restoring the challenge.
Or at least making it feel like a challenge.
Take two weeks ago at the Honda Classic. The four players had to return Monday morning to resume the playoff on the 10th hole, which had been converted to a par 4 at more than 500 yards, a slight breeze working against them. Wilson isn't a big hitter and had a fairway metal left for his second shot. Camilo Villegas is a power player and hit 4-iron.
If it had been slightly longer as a par 5, Wilson would have laid up and Villegas could have reached in two.
Power always has been an advantage in golf.
More than anything, changing par matters more in the head than on the card.
'You're more bummed making a 5 on a par 5 than a par 4,' Mark Calcavecchia said. 'If they change it into a par 4 and you make 5, you figure you're not the only guy making bogey. It's a head game.'
Todd Hamilton might have the best solution. The former British Open champion would like to see only one number on the signs at every tee, and that would be to identify what hole you're playing.
'Get rid of the par. Get rid of the yardage,' he said. 'Go play the course.'
In some respects, Palmer is going back to the old days. Bay Hill used to be a par 71, with Nos. 4 and 16 as par 4s and the opening hole as a par 5. Over time, No. 1 went to a 4, while the other two were lengthened and became par 5s.
Joey Sindelar has played Bay Hill every year since 1984, and he can recall when the 16th was a par 4. He has seen that hole play as one of the toughest and one of the easiest, even though all that matters is the number he writes down.
'We do it to ourselves,' Sindelar said. 'We could play No. 16 as a par 5 and think, 'I might eagle this.' But if it's a par 4 and a little closer, we wouldn't go in there thinking birdie. There's just something about what the course scorecard says that changes your attitude and your expectations.'
One mentality that will change at Bay Hill is the finish -- but again, that relates only to par.
If a player was trailing by one shot coming down the stretch, the last reasonable place to make up ground was the 16th. Find the fairway and you would have a shot at reaching in two and make birdie at worst.
'I thought 16 was a great swing hole,' Trevor Immelman said. 'You have to hit the fairway, and then you might have a mid-iron to the green. And if you miss the fairway and lay up, you could spin the ball off the green and then you could make bogey. I felt like it was such a great hole coming to the end of the tournament.'
Augusta National is partly responsible for keeping score with par. Former chairman Clifford Roberts came up with that idea for the 1960 Masters, so that scores could be shown on a cumulative basis.
The USGA gets most of the credit (or blame) for the value of par, for no other organization changes more courses to par 70s, and it was a badge of honor that no one had won in double digits under par until Tiger Woods (12 under) at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, which played as a par 71 for the first time.
'I do think there's a school of thought out there that the USGA is fixated on par,' Fay said Tuesday. 'We're not fixated on par, but we like the idea that par is a good score.'
The argument has been that some greens -- whether it was the 16th at Bay Hill or the 17th at Olympic Club -- were not designed to hold an approach shot with a long iron or worse.
Tom Meeks, who set up U.S. Open courses for 10 years, once told of a confrontation he had with the late Payne Stewart over changing the 16th hole at Pinehurst No. 2 into a par 4. Stewart argued that the green was not designed for a long iron.
'Tell you what, Payne,' Meeks told him. 'We'll move the tee back and make it 530 yards if you promise you and everyone else won't go for the green in two.'
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
'The Golf Club 2019' adds Elvy to commentary team
“The Golf Club 2019” is adding a new name to its commentary team.
Broadcaster Luke Elvy will join returning announcer and HB Studios developer John McCarthy for the title's third installment.
Golf fans will recognize Elvy from his recent work with CBS in addition to his time with Sky Sports, FOX Sports, TNT, PGA Tour Live and PGA Tour Radio.
A 25-year media veteran from Australia, he now works in the United States and lives with his family in Canada.
"Ian Baker-Finch was my right-hand man on Australian televison," Elvy told GolfChannel.com in an interview at the Quicken Loans National. "And Finchy said to me, 'What are you doing here? You should be with me in the States.’ He introduced me to a few people over here and that's how the transition has happened over the last five or six years."
Elvy didn't have any prior relationship with HB Studios, who reached out to him via his management at CAA. As for why he got the job, he pseudo-jokes: "They heard the accent, and said, 'We like that. That works for us. Let's go.' That's literally how it happened."
He participated in two separate recording sessions over three days, first at his home back in February and then at the HB Studios shortly after The Players Championship. He teased his involvement when the game was announced in May.
Although he doesn't describe himself as a "gamer," Elvy lauded the game's immediate playability, even for a novice.
“It’s exactly how you’d want golf to be,” he said.
"The Golf Club 2019" will be the first in the HB series to feature PGA Tour branding. The Tour had previously licensed its video game rights to EA Sports.
In addition to a career mode that will take players from the Web.com Tour all the way through the FedExCup Playoffs, "The Golf Club 2019" will also feature at launch replicas of six TPC courses played annually on Tour – TPC Summerlin (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course (Waste Management Phoenix Open), TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course (The Players Championship), TPC Southwind (FedEx St. Jude Classic/WGC-FedEx St. Jude Championship), TPC Deere Run (John Deere Classic), and TPC Boston (Dell Technologies Championship).
“I played nine holes at Scottsdale,” Elvy added. “It’s a very close comparison. Visually, it’s very realistic."
The Golf Club 2019 is due out this August on PlayStation 4, XBOX One, and PC.
Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.
Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.
Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.
“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”
The problem was an expired visa.
Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.
No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.
Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.
His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.
One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.
His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.
“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”
He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.
“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”
'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.
Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.
“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”
Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.
The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.
“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”
Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.
“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”
Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.
“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”