Scores are Higher Test is Tougher

By Associated PressApril 8, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Augusta National has always been known as the cathedral of golf, but now its for reasons beyond the august atmosphere and beauty so majestic that every hole is named after a flower.
 
More than anything, it has become as quiet as church.
 
Someone hit the mute button at the Masters last year when Zach Johnson won at 1-over 289, tying the tournament record for the highest score by a champion. Good thing he overpowered the par 5s, playing them in 11 under, even though he laid up on every one of them.
 
Maybe its time to get used to it.
 
For years, we were led to believe that the toughest test in golf took place every June, where players would grind away with pars until the last man standing was crowned U.S. Open champion.
 
Now, that might not be the case.
 
Toughest test? Steve Stricker said. Im starting to believe that this is more like a U.S. Open course every year. You saw 1-over par win this tournament last year, and I think thats been my misconception coming in here, because theres always been some decent scores here. Gradually, the course is becoming very difficult.
 
There used to be clear separation among the four majors.
 
The U.S. Open has a reputation for shrinking fairways, growing rough and shutting down the irrigation, making the course firm, fast and sometimes out of control. The British Open relies mainly on wind as its best defense and cares more about who wins than what he shot.
 
The PGA Championship was defined by its lack of definition, although now it has the reputation as being the fairest test. Considering how much players whine these days, fair can be translated to mean easy.
 
And the Masters?
 
It used to be known for Jack Nicklaus shooting 30 on the back nine to win at age 46. For Tiger Woods shooting 40 on his first nine and still winning by a record 12 shots. Former U.S. Open champion and CBS analyst Ken Venturi takes credit for coining the phrase, The Masters doesnt start until the back nine on Sunday. And he wasnt talking about closing with pars.
 
You play the back nine, and it was fun, Venturi said. Those holes with the length now, the Masters is completely different.
 
Over the last five years, the Masters has the highest average winning score of the majors at 281.2.
 
Thats still nearly 7 shots under par, but par is relative. The U.S. Open has been turning par 72 into par 70s for a half-century because of its fascination with protecting par, enhancing its image as golfs toughest test. They still award trophies based on the lowest score, not relation to par.
 
And maybe the U.S. Open still is the toughest test, depending on the definition of tough.
 
This is the most complete test of golf because it tests all areas of your game, Phil Mickelson said Tuesday. Its important to drive the ball well because if you dont, youre in the trees and you dont have a chance. Its important to be creative and hit shots when youre in the rough. You have to have perfect distance control to get the ball to fly to the right sections of the green. And your short game has to be impeccable because these are the most demanding greens that well ever face.
 
The U.S. Open is just brutal. Its not as complete a game. It doesnt test all areas of your game. But its a very penalizing test.
 
Some of the difference is the weather at the Masters.
 
Woods made seven straight birdies over two days during a rain delay in 2005, when he and Chris DiMarco finished at 276 and Woods beat him with a birdie on the first playoff hole. Woods also won at 276 in 2002 when the Masters was more about muck than Magnolias.
 
Last year was firm, fast, next to impossible.
 
I dont want to compare it to a U.S. Open, but it kind of had that feel and that mental (feeling), Johnson said.
 
This change from dynamic to dull is mainly due to the length'520 more yards compared with 10 years ago when Mark OMeara birdied the last two holes for a one-shot victory.
 
That also was the year David Toms made six straight birdies and shot 29 on the back.
 
That will never happen again, Toms said. I hit wedge into 11, wedge into 17. And on Nos. 13 and 15, I hit the green in two. I cant remember the last time I even tried to hit 13 and 15 in two in the same round. The U.S. Open at Oakmont was a lot like here in that once you got on the green, it wasnt over. And here, its always an issue around the green.
 
Scott Verplank is the only player to make birdie on the par-3 12th all four rounds at the Masters, and thats one of the holes that hasnt changed in more than 40 years.
 
Its everything else that has become so difficult.
 
Even par is a pretty good score most times, Verplank said. It used to be even par got you lapped. Guys arent going to shoot 30 on the back nine. You cant reach all the greens in 30. Youd have to chip in four times.
 
Power still helps at the Masters. That hasnt changed. But when the course gets dry, and the scores go up, the volume goes down.
 
Geoff Ogilvy is among those who grew up watching the Masters and all its fireworks, especially on the back nine. When he first arrived at Augusta National, it was like he played a different course than the one he saw on television in Australia.
 
Any regrets?
 
Ogilvy is a practical thinker. He could only imagine what Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus would have done with todays technology.
 
It would have been nice to have competed in 1985 with a persimmon wood and a balata ball and see how you go on that golf course, Ogilvy said. But Augusta is Augusta. Its a special place no matter when you play the tournament.
 
And no matter what the score, the winner still gets a green jacket. That hasnt changed.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Masters
  • Getty Images

    Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

    By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 15, 2018, 9:14 pm

    After nearly 30 years in the broadcast booth, Johnny Miller is ready to hang up his microphone.

    Following a Hall of Fame playing career that included a pair of major titles, Miller has become one of the most outspoken voices in the game as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports. But at age 71 he has decided to retire from broadcasting following the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

    “The call of being there for my grandkids, to teach them how to fish. I felt it was a higher calling,” Miller told GolfChannel.com. “The parents are trying to make a living, and grandparents can be there like my father was with my four boys. He was there every day for them. I'm a big believer that there is a time and a season for everything.”

    Miller was named lead analyst for NBC in 1990, making his broadcast debut at what was then known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic. He still remained competitive, notably winning the 1994 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at age 46, but made an indelible mark on the next generation of Tour pros with his frank and candid assessment of the action from some of golf’s biggest events.

    Miller’s broadcasting career has included 20 U.S. Opens, 14 Ryder Cups, nine Presidents Cups, three Open Championships and the 2016 Olympics. While he has teamed in the booth with Dan Hicks for the past 20 years, Miller’s previous on-air partners included Bryant Gumbel, Charlie Jones, Jim Lampley and Dick Enberg.

    His farewell event will be in Phoenix Jan. 31-Feb. 3, at a tournament he won in back-to-back years in 1974-75.

    “When it comes to serving golf fans with sharp insight on what is happening inside the ropes, Johnny Miller is the gold standard,” said NBC lead golf producer Tommy Roy. “It has been an honor working with him, and while it might not be Johnny’s personal style, it will be fun to send him off at one of the PGA Tour’s best parties at TPC Scottsdale.”

    Miller was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1998 after a playing career that included wins at the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont and The Open in 1976 at Royal Birkdale. Before turning pro, he won the 1964 U.S. Junior Amateur and was low amateur at the 1966 U.S. Open at Olympic, where he tied for eighth at age 19.

    Born and raised in San Francisco, Miller now lives in Utah with his wife, Linda, and annually serves as tournament host of the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.

    Getty Images

    Randall's Rant: Tiger vs. Phil feels like a ripoff

    By Randall MellOctober 15, 2018, 7:45 pm

    Usually, you have to buy something before you feel like you were ripped off.

    The wonder in the marketing of Tiger vs. Phil and “The Match” is how it is making so many people feel as if they are getting ripped off before they’ve shelled out a single penny for the product.

    Phil Mickelson gets credit for this miscue.

    Apparently, the smartest guy in the room isn’t the smartest marketing guy.

    He was a little bit like that telemarketer who teases you into thinking you’ve won a free weekend getaway, only to lead you into the discovery that there’s a shady catch, with fine print and a price tag.

    There was something as slippery as snake oil in the original pitch.

    In Mickelson’s eagerness to create some excitement, he hinted back during The Players in May about the possibility of a big-money, head-to-head match with Woods. A couple months later, he leaked more details, before it was ready to be fully announced.

    So while there was an initial buzz over news of the Thanksgiving weekend matchup, the original pitch set up a real buzzkill when it was later announced that you were only going to get to see it live on pay-per-view.

    The news landed with a thud but no price tag. We’re still waiting to see what it’s going to cost when these two meet at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, but anything that feels even slightly inflated now is going to further dampen the original enthusiasm Mickelson created.

    Without Woods or Mickelson putting up their own money, this $9 million winner-take-all event was always going to feel more like a money grab than real competition.

    When we were expecting to see it on network or cable TV, we didn’t care so much. Tiger's and Phil’s hands would have felt as if they were reaching into corporate America’s pockets. Now, it feels as if they’re digging into ours.

    Last week, there was more disappointing news, with the Las Vegas Review-Journal reporting that tickets won’t be sold to the public, that the match at Shadow Creek will only be open to select sponsors and VIPs.



    Now there’s a larger insult to the common fan, who can’t help but feel he isn’t worthy or important enough to gain admittance.

    Sorry, but that’s how news of a closed gate landed on the heels of the pay-per-view news.

    “The Match” was never going to be meaningful golf in any historical sense.

    This matchup was never going to rekindle the magic Tiger vs. Phil brought in their epic Duel at Doral in ’05.

    The $9 million was never going to buy the legitimacy a major championship or PGA Tour Sunday clash could bring.

    It was never going to be more than an exhibition, with no lingering historical significance, but that was OK as quasi silly-season fare on TV on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 23), the traditional weekend of the old Skins Game.

    “The Match” still has a chance to be meaningful, but first and foremost as entertainment, not real competition. That’s what this was always going to be about, but now the bar is raised.

    Pay per view does that.

    “You get what you pay for” is an adage that doesn’t apply to free (or already-paid for) TV. It does to pay per view. Expectations go way up when you aren’t just channel surfing to a telecast. So the higher the price tag they end up putting on this showdown, the more entertaining this has to be.

    If Phil brings his “A-Game” to his trash talking, and if Tiger can bring some clever repartee, this can still be fun. If the prerecorded segments wedged between shots are insightful, even meaningful in their ability to make us understand these players in ways we didn’t before, this will be worthwhile.

    Ultimately, “The Match” is a success if it leaves folks who paid to see it feeling as if they weren’t as ripped off as the people who refused to pay for it. That’s the handicap a history of free golf on TV brings. Welcome to pay-per-view, Tiger and Phil.

    Celia Barquin Arozamena Iowa State University athletics

    Trial date set for drifter charged with killing Barquin Arozamena

    By Associated PressOctober 15, 2018, 7:28 pm

    AMES, Iowa – A judge has scheduled a January trial for a 22-year-old Iowa drifter charged with killing a top amateur golfer from Spain.

    District Judge Bethany Currie ruled Monday that Collin Richards will stand trial Jan. 15 for first-degree murder in the death of Iowa State University student Celia Barquin Arozamena.

    Richards entered a written not guilty plea Monday morning and waived his right to a speedy trial. The filing canceled an in-person arraignment hearing that had been scheduled for later Monday.

    Investigators say Richards attacked Barquin on Sept. 17 while she was playing a round at a public course in Ames, near the university campus. Her body was found in a pond on the course riddled with stab wounds.

    Richards faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

    LeBron's son tries golf, and he might be good at everything

    By Grill Room TeamOctober 15, 2018, 5:36 pm

    LeBron James' son seems well on his way to a successful basketball career of his own. To wit:

    View this post on Instagram

    Finally got it down lol

    A post shared by Bronny James (@bronnyjames.jr) on

    But with just a little work, he could pass on trying to surpass his father and try to take on Tiger and Jack, instead.

    Bronny posted this video to Instagram of him in sandals whacking balls off a mat atop a deck into a large body of water, which is the golfer's definition of living your best life.

    View this post on Instagram

    How far, maybe 400 #happygilmore

    A post shared by Bronny James (@bronnyjames.jr) on

    If you listen closely, at the end of the clip, you can just barely hear someone scream out for a marine biologist.