The Real Reason Scores Are Low

By George WhiteMarch 16, 2001, 5:00 pm
Mark Calcavecchia sets a record for lowest 72-hole score at the Phoenix Open. Joe Durant sets a record for lowest 90-hole score at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. What in the name of Bobby Jones is happening with these absurdly low numbers that the lads have been shooting this year?
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.
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Tour still focused on security after death of suspected Austin bomber

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 4:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Although the suspect in the wave of Austin-area bombings was killed early Wednesday, the PGA Tour plans to continue heightened security measures at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

According to various news outlets, Mark Anthony Conditt has been identified as the bombings suspect, and he was killed by an explosion inside his car in Round Rock, Texas, which is 19 miles north of Austin Country Club.

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“We do not comment on the specifics of our security measures, but we are continuing to work in close collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Austin to ensure the safety of our players and fans at this week’s tournament,” the Tour said in a statement. “Regardless of the recent developments, our heightened security procedures will remain in place through the remainder of the week.”

Authorities believe Conditt is responsible for the five explosions that killed two people and injured five others in Austin or south-central Texas since March 2.

Play began Wednesday at the Match Play.

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Monahan addresses alcohol, fan behavior at events

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 3:53 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Fan behavior has become a hot-button topic on the PGA Tour in recent weeks, with Rory McIlroy suggesting on Saturday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the circuit should “limit alcohol sales on the course.”

The Tour’s policy is to stop selling alcohol an hour before the end of play, which is normally around 5 p.m., and on Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play commissioner Jay Monahan said it’s something the Tour is monitoring.

“When you have people who aren’t behaving properly and they’ve had too much alcohol, then I agree [with McIlroy],” Monahan said. “In those incidences those people who are making it uncomfortable for a player alcohol sales should be cut off.”

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Fan behavior became an issue with some players when Tiger Woods returned to competition at last month’s Genesis Open. During the final round of the Honda Classic Justin Thomas had a fan removed when he yelled for Thomas’ tee shot at the par-4 16th hole to “get in the bunker.”

Monahan declined to address Thomas’ situation at PGA National specifically, but he did seem to suggest that as interest grows and the Tour continues to attract more mainstream sports crowds, vocal fans will continue to be the norm.

“I believe that there was more that went into it that preceded and in a situation like that we’re hopeful our players will reach out to our security staff and they can handle that,” Monahan said. “[But] yelling, ‘get in the bunker,’ that’s part of what our players have to accept. In any sport, you go to an away game, in any other sport, and people aren’t rooting for you. Sometimes out here you’re going to have fans that aren’t rooting for you, but they can’t interfere with what you’re trying to do competitively.”

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Senden playing first event since son's brain tumor

By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 3:03 pm

John Senden is back inside the ropes for the first time in nearly a year at this week's Chitimacha Louisiana Open on the Tour.

Senden took a leave of absence from professional golf in April, when his teenage son, Jacob, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He didn't touch a club for nearly four months as Jacob endured six rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, a gauntlet that stretched from April until mid-November.

But Senden told that his son's tumor has shrunk from the size of a thumbnail to the size of a pinky nail, and after a promising MRI in January he decided to plan his comeback.

"I haven't really played in 12 months, but in that time Jacob has really, really hung tough," Senden said. "His whole body was getting slammed with all these treatments, and he was so strong in his whole attitude and his whole body. Just really getting through the whole thing. He was tough."

Senden was granted a family crisis exemption by the Tour, and he'll have 13 starts to earn 310 FedExCup points to retain his playing privileges for the 2018-19 season. He is allowed five "rehabilitation" starts as part of the exemption, but will reportedly only make one this week before returning to the PGA Tour at the RBC Heritage, followed by starts in San Antonio, Charlotte and Dallas.

Senden, 46, has won twice on Tour, most recently the 2014 Valspar Championship.

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Added videos shed light on Reed rules controversy

By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 2:39 pm

Additional fan videos shed some light on a rules controversy involving Patrick Reed during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, when Reed suggested that Jordan Spieth would have gotten free relief after he was denied a favorable ruling.

Reed had sailed the green with his approach on the 11th hole Sunday at Bay Hill, coming to rest under a palm tree. As the below thread of videos from fan Tyler Soughers illustrates, Reed wanted a free drop because he believed a nearby television tower was in the way of the shot he planned to play.

The initial rules official didn't "see" the shot Reed planned to attempt given the tight confines, and his decision to deny Reed a free drop was upheld by a second rules official. Reed eventually tried to play the ball, moving it a few feet, before being granted relief from the tower from the ball's new position. He ultimately made double bogey on the hole and tied for seventh.

After finally taking his free drop away from the tower, Reed was heard muttering to nearby fans, "What a crock of s---."

Reed and Spieth will have plenty of time to discuss their favorite rulings Friday, when the two players face off on the final day of round-robin play in Group 4 during the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin.