Friday, May 30, 2008

Going too far to protect par

Last weekend, Jay Haas won the Senior PGA Championship by shooting 7-over par at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y.

This week, the NCAA men’s golf championship is being played at the Kampen Course at Purdue University where the scores have tended to look like something from a couples-event at the local muni.

And, two weeks from now, we’ll see the best players in the world chopping their way around the cliffs at Torrey Pines in the U.S. Open, no doubt begging for mercy from a course set up to punish the occasionally off-line shot.

All in the name of protecting par, I suppose.

What’s wrong with seeing good players making birdies?

There’s a reason people have been talking about Phil Mickelson’s spectacular 18th hole birdie to win at Colonial on Sunday. It was bold, creative and dramatic. And it was a birdie.

That’s the way golf tournaments should be won.

For years, the Masters was beloved because of how dramatic it was. The weekend was filled with birdies and eagles and heroes. Recently, though, there’s been consternation about the lack of drama and hints that maybe the set-up will be softened slightly.

The U.S. Open has made its reputation on being difficult and it tends to produce quality champions. You know what you’re getting at the Open. A four-day grind that’s as hard mentally as it is physically.

It would be more entertaining if the winner shot, say, 5-under par rather than 5-over par, and the integrity of the event wouldn’t be compromised. It would probably be enhanced.

On the flip side, seeing someone shoot 27-under to win a tournament goes too far the other way.

Finding the balance between difficult and severe is the trick.

What’s the fun in watching everyone make bogeys?

We see enough of that when we play.

Some people say they like to see the pros suffer like the rest of us.


It’s OK if the U.S. Open is unforgiving. That’s one week a year.

That’s enough.