The Real Reason Scores Are Low
Well, youve read all the stories. Yes, the players are getting bigger. Yes, the players are becoming more fit. Yes, clubs are getting better. And yes, so are the balls.
But something else deserves as much mention for this carnage on the golf courses as any of these. Put simply, its this: the courses themselves are so much better. They are playing grass palaces, for goodness sakes ' 200 acres of beauty, all lush green with a finely mown surface, cut down to a precise measurement that is so much more definitive than the old courses were.
The course owners are very proud of their acreage, manicured to perfection. But theyve got to understand that these museums they are playing on are going to serve some very low scores. Nary a weed anywhere, the turf looks like an enormous blanket to the players. Lovely to look at, but when they start shredding it with all those birdies and eagles, the powers-that-be had better be understanding. The host got what he wanted ' golf played on top of a perfect cake ' but he had better be ready to accept the record-breaking consequences.
Arnold D. Palmer was one of those gentlemen this week. He is the proprietor, of course, of Bay Hill, site of the Bay Hill Invitational Presented by Cooper Tires. He also knows quite a bit about golf courses, since he was playing the Tour back in the 50s. He looks out at his golf course and he sees the velvet that passes for greens and fairways now. And he saw the ruts and weeds he had to play on 40-50 years ago. There is no comparison now, not even one.
Thank you! Palmer said to a questioner when asked about agronomys effect on todays low scoring. And I mean that sincerely.
You know, we talk about equipment and talk about all the other things that are making scoring better, said Arnie, now 71 years old. I can tell you that you walk out on the golf course ' and any golf course that we play today. The conditions are absolutely perfect. You couldnt ask for any better playing conditions.
Palmer remembered a little example. The 72-hole record before Calcavecchia destroyed a pretty good Phoenix course was set Mike Souchak at the Texas Open 46 years ago. Palmer was there for that tournament. The conditions, he said, were deplorable.
I started walking in that tournament and I was 5-10 and inches, he said. But when I finished, I was over six feet tall. My feet swelled up so I was taller than when I started. So conditions in those days were nowhere near what they are today.
In other words, courses that you call dog tracks today were the norm for a tournament course 50 years ago. Dog tracks, goat pastures - all the words that you use today to describe a dog-eared, chewed-up track ' those courses were in fairly good condition for the times. But they all pass for decent rough nowadays.
Look at the advantages Palmers Bay Hill greenskeeping staff have given him today. There is absolutely no need to scoot the ball around in the fairway. There are no thin spots. The ball sits up atop the grass blades perfectly. The golfer feels like he can hit a perfect shot every time ' and he does. It a short iron is called for and he wants to spin it, he can.
You could spin it in the old days ' occasionally. The ball would sit up on some shots and settle down on some shots. On the greens today, there never is a putt that must roll over a thin area. The player strokes it and the only thing that will move is it the natural contours of the land.
The players know the condition of the course isnt going to be a negative factor. Palmer has the mowers set at 3/8 of an inch for the fairways ' thats less than half an inch. They are mown perfectly. The greens mowers are set on the bottom of the reels ' thats as low as you can get them. The tri-plex mower, a fairly recent invention, has the grass carpet as low as it can go.
The fact is, everyone can reach pins, regardless of the location, if the wind doesnt blow. No course exists that can hide the hole from an aggressive player. The precision instrument that passes for a golf club, if wielded by a good player, and get the ball in the nearby vicinity of the hole ' IF the turf has the ball sitting up when the golfer strikes it.
Course agronomy today has every bit as much effect on scores as clubs and balls. You want high scores? Let your course go to weeds. You want low scores? Manicure it perfectly. And I do mean perfectly.
Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.
Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.
''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''
Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.
Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.
Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.
''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.
Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.
''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''
Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.
''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''
Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.
Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.
Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.
''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''
In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.
Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.
''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.
McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.
Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.
''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''
Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.
''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''
Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.
McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.
''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''
McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.
''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''
McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.
McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.
Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.
''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.
Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.
''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''
Wise, Simpson both miss cut at Colonial
The two most recent winners on the PGA Tour, Aaron Wise and Webb Simpson, missed the cut at the Fort Worth Invitational on Friday.
Wise and Simpson both came up short of the 2-over total by a shot following rounds of 70-73.
Wise was safely inside the number before playing his last four holes in 4 over par with two bogeys and a closing double following a trip into the water at the par-4 ninth.
Simpson, making his first start following his Players triumph, similarly struggled coming home, bogeying three of his final six holes.
Other notables who won't be around for the weekend at Colonial include Xander Schauffele (+4), Jason Dufner (+5), Patrick Cantlay (+6), Smylie Kaufman (+13), and Sam Burns (+13).
This is Kaufman's 11th consecutive MC and his 15th in his last 16 starts.
Sr. PGA caddie learns of nephew's heroism in school shooting
Tracy Hubly caddied for her husband, club pro Chris Starkjohann, on Friday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA and learned after their round that her nephew was credited with helping stop the school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana.
Jason Seaman, a 29-year-old science instructor and seventh grade football coach at the school, took three bullets but survived as what his aunt called a hero.
“You hear the stories about these shootings and I think about Parkland and the officer that was trained but didn’t go into the school,” Hubly said. “It’s really shocking to think it comes close to your family, but it does."
It’s not unusual for Hubly to caddie for her husband, a teacher at Carlsbad Golf Center and coach of a PGA Junior League program in Southern California. Hubly, who works in the pro shop at Emerald Island Golf Course in Oceanside, Calif., was on the bag when he was low golf professional at the 2009 Senior PGA Championship held at Canterbury GC.
Starkjohann, 61, missed the cut at Harbor Shores with rounds of 76-79—155 and was heading to the Colorado State Open.
“I didn’t hear about it until after my round was done,” Starkjohann said. “Everything happened after I got in.”