Double eagle: The golf term that makes no sense

By Doug FergusonApril 9, 2013, 3:40 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Gene Sarazen hit ''the shot heard 'round the world,'' holing out with a 4-wood from 235 yards in the 15th fairway at Augusta National in 1935. He put a 2 on his card, made up a three-shot deficit with one swing, and then beat Craig Wood in a playoff the next day.

It was the shot that put the Masters on the map.

And it led to a golf term that was made in America, used only in America, and doesn't make a lick of sense.

Double eagle?

The golf writers deserved a double bogey for that one.

''It's an albatross,'' Padraig Harrington said, incredulous that anyone would dare call it anything else. ''There's no such thing in life as a double eagle. Is there? Two eagles side by side are two eagles, not a double eagle. You don't refer to animals ... 'Oh, I just saw a double elephant over there.' There's no doubting what it is. It's an albatross.''


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On every other continent where golf is played, a score of 3 under par on a hole is known as an albatross.

Where the term ''double eagle'' came from is one of golf's mysteries, and it simply doesn't add up. A birdie is universally known as a score of 1 under par on a hole. An eagle is 2 under par. Double that –  a double eagle – and it would be 4 under par.

''That's American mathematics for you,'' Hunter Mahan said. ''That's why we're 40th in the world or whatever. I think albatross sounds cool.''

By whatever name, it's one of the rarest shots in golf. And it returned to the conversation last year at the Masters when Louis Oosthuizen made an albatross on the second hole of the final round. He hit 4-iron from 253 yards, the first 2 on that hole in Masters history.

There has been one albatross on each of the par 5s at Augusta National – Bruce Devlin on No. 8 in 1967, Jeff Maggert on No. 13 in 1994 and Sarazen on the 15th in 1935. Sarazen's was the most famous. It was the first of its kind, and it led to him winning the tournament.

Masters officials dug up a few newspaper articles from its archives on this great moment in time. Grantland Rice, the foremost sports writer in America of his era and a member at Augusta National, wrote this for the Atlanta Constitution:

''And then as he swung, the double miracle happened. The ball left the face of his spoon like a rifle shot. It never wavered from a direct line to the pin. As it struck the green, a loud shout went up. Then suddenly (it) turned into a deafening, reverberating roar as the ball spun along its way and finally disappeared into the cup for a double eagle 2 – a 2 on a 485-yard hole when even an eagle 3 wouldn't have helped.''

''I didn't know what a double eagle was until I came to the United States,'' Geoff Ogilvy said. ''I might have read the term. That's weird. I guess they can't think of a word for something better than eagle so they call it a double eagle. But it's not really a double eagle. It's an eagle-and-a-half. I always liked albatross. It's a good bird, isn't it? They fly across oceans. It's grand, which is what describes the shot.''

Alan Gould, the sports editor for The Associated Press, also used the erroneous term in quote marks.

''This astonishing 'double eagle,' as rare as a hole-in-one, electrified a gallery of 2,000,'' he wrote.

What did Sarazen make on the 15th hole?

''That was a double eagle,'' John Senden of Australia said with a big smile.

Senden knows better. He used the American term in this interview ''because I'm talking to you.'' He made an albatross on the par-5 second hole at TPC Boston in the Deutsche Bank Championship a few years ago and his caddie – Grant Berry, who is English – was appalled when he saw the reference to ''double eagle'' the next day.

''Growing up it was always an albatross,'' Senden said. ''I never knew it was anything different until I was maybe 15. I was watching an American telecast. You know what it was? I was watching the Masters and they were talking about Gene Sarazen and the double eagle.''

The Masters is such a powerful force in golf that ''double eagle'' sadly has become ingrained in the golf vernacular in America. It reached a point that even Oosthuizen, who hails from South Africa, said after the final round last year that it was ''my first double eagle ever.'' But then, that's how the question was posed to him.

Golf went to the birds long ago.

The phrase ''birdie'' comes from a conversation with Abe Smith, who was playing golf at the end of the 19th century with his brother and George Crump, who later built Pine Valley. They were playing the par-4 second hole at The Country Club in Atlantic City when Smith's second shot landed inches from the hole. He is reported to have said, ''That was a bird of a shot,'' and thus referred to it as a birdie when he holed the putt for a 3.

The U.S. Golf Association says on its website that ''eagle'' became an extension of a score better than a birdie.

Double eagle?

By pure definition, a double eagle would be making a hole-in-one on a par 5 for a score of 4 under par. Such a score has been recorded four times, the most unusual by Shaun Lynch, a 33-year-old Irishman. He hit a 3-iron over hedges 20 feet high on the horseshoe-shaped par-5 17th hole at Teign Valley Golf Club in England in 1995. It ran down a slope and into the hole for a 1.

The shot was commemorated by a plaque.

''From this tee Shaun Lynch smote a golf ball into the hole. It was witnessed by two members and certified by Guinness Book of Records.''

No one would have called that a double albatross. There's no such thing in life. Is there?

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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.


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This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”

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Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”


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Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

“More punishment,” he said.

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DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.


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Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery

 


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• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.