Just how easy do you want a golf course to be when you’re watching the world’s best play on TV? Do you love the relentless stream of eagles and birdies, the applause, the grins of the players as another comfortable round in the low 60s beckons… or do you prefer the grind that makes those Professionals work hard for every stroke, every putt, every par, while hiding their disgust as the course beats them to a pulp?
Today’s media coverage of golf is never-ending and the professional golf season is long. At any given time you can turn on your screen and find a tournament somewhere in the world. You can admire the swings – of men and women alike – but shooting the lowest scores is all that matters to these professionals… regardless of grin or grind.
In January 2022, the Sentry Tournament of Champions produced a winner in Australian, Cameron Smith, who recorded a score of -34. The tournament takes place in Hawaii on a course (the par 73 Plantation Course, at Kapalua) that without wind is clearly not fit for purpose… certainly not for the best golfers in the world. Smith’s four round aggregate of -34 is almost comical: his rounds of 65, 64, 64, 65 included 31 birdies and three eagles. He had just three bogeys. Three players shot the course record of 61, and three players – Smith, Rahm (-33) and Jones (-32) – entered the record books as they produced the three lowest scores in PGA Tour history.
Did you love it? Or did you find it boring?
Incidentally, the previous record had been held by Ernie Els, who produced a score of -31 in 2003… in the same tournament.
Compare these performances to the traditionally tough US Open set-ups that routinely beat up the best golfers. At Oakmont in 2007, the course was so tough that the entire field broke par only eight times during the tournament. That works out at just two players per day. Only one player broke par twice and that was the winner, Angel Cabrera, who finished on five over par (285). The cut was at 10 over par and after four rounds, only six players were below that mark.
Seemingly, in any US Open, there are sprained wrists, strained backs, quadruple bogeys, withdrawals and the world’s best golfers complaining about the length of the rough, the width of the fairways and the speed of the greens. The Pro’s regularly take to social media to show a ball being dropped into rough so thick and deep the ball disappears, or they putt on a green so fast that the ball is unstoppable… remember Mickelson striking the ball at Shinnecock Hills, in 2018, while it was still moving.
So which of these would you prefer to watch? Do you want to watch golfers making a course look impossibly easy, where they are seemingly not challenged and their golfing prowess is far beyond our capabilities?
Or is it more satisfying when they’re made to look human – or at least fallible – reflecting emotions that we all experience on the course, as they battle from one hole to the next?