I've been reading and listening as the critics argue about the low scoring from the first round of the British Open at Royal Troon in Scotland. Over two dozen players broke par in Thurday's first round.
Is that good or bad? I think it's good. I'd rather see birdies than lots of bogeys. I gain no pleasure from watching Phil Mickelson three-putt from 6 feet because he can't stop his first putt, or see Tiger Woods lose his ball in knee deep rough because he it his tee shot just slightly off line.
The United States Golf Association would cringe, but I'm not so concerned when the winning scores dip to 15-under par, or lower, in a major championship. I don't want to see great players shoot an 83.
If red (under par) scores dominate in a U.S. Open, the USGA is quick to react. It thinks the course wasn't set up hard enough and the water is shut off for the rest of the week and the rough is sprayed with fertilizer to make it grow faster.
I can remember a few years ago when Tiger Woods ripped Augusta National apart with an explosion of accurate power and hot putting. The members at Augusta National added length and rough to "Tiger Proof" their course. That was a mistake in my mind. There was nothing wrong with Augusta National.
It wasn't so much that the course was too easy as it was that Tiger was too hot. Tiger has cooled now and it hasn't been that he's played tougher courses.
I don't think difficulty is the most important thing in setting up a golf course. To me, that's not what golf should be about. I don't want to be punished. I want it to be fair and fun. If it's a bit of a test, too, then fine. Just don't make it brutal.
I want to have fun. I want some excitement. I want birdies. I like what happens at the British Open. There will be plenty of birdies (and some eagles) this week at Royal Troon.
That's not to say I don't appreciate a defensive struggle in football, or a 1-0 soccer game. That's a competition that includes defense.
Whether or not Houston Nutt decides to add more passing to his offenses doesn't bother me one way or another. Whether or not Stan Heath wants to become more uptempo as he's promised matters little too me. Those are team sports and defense is as much apart of the excitement to me as scoring plays.
But I understand the sentiment of fans who ache for more offense from their football teams. I can remember listening to the critics of Ken Hatfield's offensive schemes that featured more fullback handoffs than passes. You can still hear some of that today from Nutt's critics.
In the personal view, that's not the same. Win any way you can. Do it your way.
Golf is different. I just hate it when the folks that setup the golf course decide to be a part of the championship. I just hate it when they take a wonderful golf course and try to change it to exact some revenge on the golfers.
Golf should be fun. It is a gameand there are times it should be a test of skill, too. But it was invented to be something for recreation and sport, not to be something to torment the player.
I've played those courses that were built for revenge. Pete Dye became famous (or infamous) for those type of layouts. His greens were impossible to putt. And, the trouble around the green made them almost impossible to hit with even the shortest of shots.
I covered the 1988 PGA Championship held at Oak Tree Golf Club in Edmond, one of Dye's infamous layouts. I remember that Jeff Sluman won there. The PGA of America actually widened the Oak Tree fairways and softened the greens to make it more playable, something that I applauded, but some golf purists (those stiff-shirted men from the USGA) gagged on.
Those purists argued that someone like Sluman (whose only victory over his first 17 years as a pro was the PGA) wouldn't have won had Oak Tree remained a terror with its usual setup.
I'm glad they made birdie a possibility with their changes. It made it more fun. I can remember the early days of Oak Tree when members went to the driving range for their warmups and then took a bucket of practice balls with them to the course so they wouldn't lose their own new balls. That's no fun.
I'll enjoy this British Open. Let the birdies fly. Let the best players in the world score like they are the best in the world. I want to be dazzled with great shots not high scores.
I don't buy into the theory that difficulty is needed to identify a great champion. I just want to be entertained. When I turn on the British Open early Sunday morning to watch the final holes, I hope there are a handful of players going really low. I'll be excited.
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