Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Are Tough Courses Interesting?

That's the question posed by Doug Ferguson of the AP in his weekly analysis piece. With winning scores on the decline in relationship to par, golfers and writers have been more vocal about their displeasure in facing/covering layouts that do not produce winning scores in the range of -15 to -20.

Davis Love III has noticed the winning score getting worse in recent years. "Scores should be going down, not up," Love said. "That's a pretty good indication that it's getting harder. Nobody ever shoots 20 under anymore. And players are a heck of a lot better. The fields are deeper."

Love said the course setup was a major topic at the players' meeting last month in North Carolina. Why are courses so hard? What kind of show can they put on for the fans and a television audience when they're scrambling for par?
Great question. The cliche line from a reporter would be, "Hey! I thought they saved this crap for the US Open!" Har har. But, it is true. Scoring has been lousy this season from an anecdotal perspective. Statistically, though, is that the case?
Are course setups getting worse?

In 22 stroke-play events this year, 10 winning scores were higher, 10 were lower and two were the same.

This follows a year in which average birdies were way down from previous years, along with TV ratings, and players began asking if fans might lose interest watching the best in the world hack it around every week.
Personally, I have found watching the PGA Tour this year to be especially trying since events seem to be continually trying to outdo the others in terms of difficulty. I distinctly remember a Peter Kostis piece that nailed it right on the head. (Don't have a link, sorry.)

Here's my perspective in summary: The PGA Tour should have diversity. It should have diversity in the types of courses that it plays and in the setups. That means that the Tour should play country clubs, public courses, and semi-private courses. There should be an even mix of courses between 6900 and 7100 yards, 7101-7300, and 7300-infinity. Some setups should be wide open, some tighter. The rough should sometimes be punishing, and others almost nonexistent. Pin placements should vary among rounds and sometimes the whole week should be a birdie fest. Fans appreciate not knowing what they will get week to week. The PGA Tour cannot become the same every week.

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