Grouchy Golf Blog

Monday, August 08, 2005 at 12:01 AM

Pavin Proofing Golf Courses

Obviously, Tiger Woods is a once-in-a-lifetime golf talent. His unprecedented combination of Daly length, Mickelson short game, Crenshaw putting, and Jack everything else ushered in a new era in golf. Tiger broke records in record speed. Many felt that if something wasn't done, Mr. Woods would dominate every course in sight and threaten the very game itself. As a result, course architects were ordered to defend their courses by lengthening holes, narrowing fairways, adding bunkers, and making other changes designed to declaw the Tiger.

The practice became so commonplace that it became known as "Tiger-proofing" a golf course. Unfortunately, anyone competing against Tiger plays on the same course that he plays. Therefore, "Tiger-proofing" also becomes "Mickelson, Singh, Els, and everone else proofing."

In some ways, "Tiger-proofing" gives Tiger an even greater advantage. Course lengthening elevates the importance of the driver, giving long hitters a tremendous edge. Guys that I can out drive, such as Corey Pavin, are virtually shut-out of these marathon-long courses. Even with all the latest distance enhancing golf technology, Pavin still only drives the ball about as far as he did 20 years ago. In fact, he is shorter now. Back in the days of balatas and persimmon of 1985, Pavin's average driving distance was 262.4 yds. So far this year, Pavin is only averaging 255.5 yds.! With courses being lengthened 300+ yards, it's like Corey has to play another Par 4 every round compared to Tiger.

The effects of "Tiger-proofing" will be evident at this week's PGA Championship at Baltusrol. The course has been lengthened to a monster 7,392-yards, the longest par 70 course in the tournament's history. Tiger played a practice round at Baltusrol last week and described it as "brutal", not a good sign for the shorter hitters. Therefore, look for a big boy to win the PGA. While Tiger is the favorite, I think that it'll be Vijay's turn for a major. No one changes putters more frequently than Vijay and, when he does, he often captures lightning in a bottle. He changed putters at the Buick Open this year, and subsequently putted his way to victory over Tiger. He did virtually the same thing last year, and it led to a win at the 2004 PGA. Déjà vu?

In the end, it's clear that "Tiger-proofing" doesn't work. All it does is make it harder for everyone else. If you want to truly "Tiger-proof" a course, you need to shorten the course. In fact, if they held the next PGA Championship at my local Golf N' Stuff miniature golf course, I think that even I would have a decent shot at beating Tiger. I'd like to see him try to putt his Nike One Platinum through a mini windmill with spinning windmill blades or try to read the break inside the mouth of a one-eyed alien.

Blogger pebbleby15 said...

Baltusrol. Two pars 4s over 500yds (#3 and #7) and two monster par 5s on #17 and #18 (650 yds and 554 yds - both uphill). Long. Brutal. Only the "big guys" can compete, right? Wrong.

Remember last year - Whistling Straits = 7,514 yds. Longer than Baltusrol. Super long. And, guess what - you had two relatively shorter hitters with chances at the end - Justin Leonard (283.8 yd avg drive) and Chris DiMarco (280.3 yd avg drive). Both of these guys are ranked over #100 in driving distance.

So, be damned "Tiger-proofing." Golf is still golf, you still have to have a short game and you still have to be able to roll it.

Will Fred Funk win? Corey Pavin? Probably not. But don't assume it's just the bombers who have a chance.  


Blogger CB said...

I think the above mentioned, "lightning in a bottle" sums up what Pavin or Funk would need to win this week.

I don't think Grouch is writing them off completely but to play the averages you can't seriously think that the longer hitters aren't favored on a longer course. No one is saying Kuehne is going to win this thing because he is long. The sentiment is that the longer players, 'with game' are the prohibitive favorites. Tiger, Mickelson, and Vijay have spectacular short games to go with 350 yard bombs from the tee box.

You can't birdie a hole with a great tee shot but you can certainly bogey it.  


Blogger Eric said...

I don't like the whole trend of lengthening courses. As stated, all it really does is take the shorter hitters out of it.

Rather than lengthen a course, what the designers need to do is make driving the ball into the fairway top priority. If they would line the fairways with very thick rough, deep fairway bunkers, and lots of trees, the big hitters might think twice about reaching for that driver.

I am of the opinion that good shots should be rewarded and bad shots punished. If they can pound the driver 350 right in the fairway, then they deserve to have a great shot at birdie. If they hit it 350 into the rough though, they should have to struggle to get a par.

By making reaching for the driver a gamble and accuracy a top priority, then the long hitters will be kept in check AND the shorter hitters will still have a chance.  


Blogger CB said...

Why should everyone have a chance? Why should I be able to compete with my club pro? He is way longer than I am and way better than I am. I don't need a tricked up course to compete, I need to be better. If that means I take three to get to the green on a 500 yard par four then I better be able to putt lights out. Even then, if someone reaches in two and can also putt, it only shows that I'm not as good.

Tiger is better than anyone else. I think you are right, they shouldn't make the courses longer. They shouldn't do very much of anything. Golf is as fair as it has ever been as long as they play the same courses. I might be even further in the extreme and say that a fairway doesn't need to be fair.

Sometimes good shots end up crappy and sometimes your ball bounces from the trees onto the green. That is golf. The rules don't even mention a fairway, why should every shot have some type of value and target golf be the ideal?

Better golfers overcome bad bounces and capitalize on good breaks. Better golfers have short game, imagination, and as much as some dislike it, they are typically longer.

If Corey Pavin physically can't hit it 300 then he can be a CPA or learn how to type. He cannot, however, have any gripe about not being able to compete 'fairly' as a professional golfer.

I can shoot free-throws about as well as the upper ten percent of the players in the NBA, it is just too bad for me that I cannot dribble, rebound, defend, or pass as well.

Maybe they should adjust the rules for me?  


Blogger Miranda said...

I agree partly with Eric. I think the course folks could do more about the rough and hazards and such to make a course more challenging - that would do more to Tiger-Proof the course since he isn't all that straight with his drives. But I also think that lengthing the course is probably a trend that will continue because of advancements in equipment design. I don't see it as an attack, per se, against players like Pavin, I just think Pavin is competing during an emergence of a new era of the sport. And considering how well he's done this year, I don't think he's ready to be passed by yet.  


Anonymous Wedgehead said...

I like what Miranda said about "new era".

In all major sports, the players have gotten bigger, faster, stronger, etc, and the games have been adjusted with rule changes.

Take instant replay for example: 25 years ago, the players weren't as advanced as they are now, with all the high performance specialized training, things like supplements and even DVRs that let you watch yourself over and over in the span of a few seconds so you can react faster next time. The game got too fast, and the officials just couldn't keep up.

The NBA probably changes their rules the most. With the zone defense and all of that. It won't be long before the rim moves to 10.5 feet!

In golf, you can't really change the rules, but you can change the field of play. These "new era" golfers are long and getting longer. Case and point: Michelle Wie. She is a 15 yr old girl for Christ's sake! And she's no fluke either, there will be more like her.  


Anonymous mediaguru at hookedongolfblog.com said...

Nice post Grouch. Tiger-proofing doesn't do what it says. It just gives Tiger a bigger advantage.

Courses need to be setup to reward all kinds of "shots" and not just long drives. Pavin used to carve his way around a course but you don't really see that any more.

I love bombers, but I'd like to see more shot making and more working of the ball. Shorter and tighter courses are probably the answer.

Seems like there's a panic and everyone thinks they need to lengthen courses. Wrong, lenghten the rough.  


Blogger Eric said...

I'm not saying that the golf course has to be "fair" for everyone. I'm just saying that a golfer shouldn't be able to easily shoot birdie on a hole where his tee shot landed in the deep rough just because he hit it so far that he was only 60 yards to the pin.

I love to see bombed drives as much as the next guy but I also love to see great shot making. A bomb and a pitch is fine with me if the shot was good, but I don't think that the long hitters should be able to just haphazzardly pull driver knowing that they can escape from any trouble they get into simply because they are so close.

Others must feel this way which is the reason they are lengthening courses.... the golfers approach is so close to the pin it isn't as much a challenge (or so they think). I say they should just make the punishment for hitting an errant ball more severe. If the golfer can still put the ball 350 in the fairway, then they deserve that easy little pitch shot from 60 yards. If they put it to the left or right, they should have to contend with deep rough, deeper fairway bunkers, or trees.

CB, you stated that the best golfer SHOULD be on top and that the game shouldn't be watered down for the rest. That is exactly what I am saying. The best golfer SHOULD win, and that will be the golfer who hits it 350 and STRAIGHT. The guys that can get by simply on driving distance alone (and not much else) will lose ground to those who can get the ball to do anything they want BUT go 350.

Basically, all I'm saying is that I'd rather the emphasis be placed on accuracy and shot making rather than on distance alone.... which is what I feel the lengthening of the courses is doing. The long bombers with great putting chipping and bunker skills will still be on top, but the shorter hitters who can also do the other things won't suffer.

I think the stance on this topic all depends on what people want to see. If a golf viewer is more interested in seeing long tee shots than anything else, the lengthening of courses probably won't matter to them. If a golf viewer likes to see people choosing different clubs on the tee and playing different kinds of shots, they would probably prefer to see tighter fairways and more hazzards. I am a member of the latter group.  


Blogger CB said...

I think we do agree that golfers get rewarded and that score reflect skill. We also agree that lengthening courses is not the ideal solution to increased distance and ability on tour.

My point, one that gets lost in my inability to command the language, is that shot making hasn't gone the way of the Dodo as some here and elsewhere would suggest.

I don't think Tiger, Phil, or VJ would pull the big stick out if they thought they couldn't get up and down from the ball washer.

Did you see the par five last week at the Buick that Tiger birdied from the water? I happen to think it was a hole that both proves and disproves your theory about a 'bombers' advantage at the same time. Tiger hit it a mile but yanked it left. Stuck in the trees, from an awful lie, he tried to hook it 65 yards and carry the thing 200. He only turned it about 63 yards though and ended up in the water. After a drop, lying three he putted about 60-70 feet through the fringe for birdie and just laughed.

If I had the option of a slightly or even wildly errant 350 yard drive in my bag, I would still have to have the option of a 200-210 yard controlled hook to rescue myself... oh yeah and an ability to get a putt to drop from 70 feet. That IS shot making. That is Seve from the Azaleas.

Vijay won the tournament by making a few sand saves that blew my mind.

Golfers are getting better, so is the equipment. I just think that people equate shot making to long irons and forget the rest.

If you want more long irons on tour then outlaw hybrids or seven woods, or whatever a guy plays when he can't hit a 1 or a 2. In fact, the only guy I see hit a 2 iron regularly and do anything with it in terms of 'shot making' ranks second in driving distance this year and can play as many shots as anyone who has ever picked up the sticks.

I love Chris DiMarco but just because he is shorter than Tiger does that make him a shot maker? Is his game more interesting to watch because he pulls a four when other guys pull a six? Really? I happen to think he is a helluva golfer, accurate and full of balls, but I never thought of him as a shot maker. I think the same for Pavin. The guy is soooo accurate with middle irons it defies belief. I think he is first or second on par three scoring and 9000th on par fives. My question is how has a tee’d up iron to a par three become a brand of ‘shot making’ and/or dramatic golf? It is impressive and worthy of praise, in fact it has kept the man employed. I just don’t think I’ll ever think of Pavin as some kind of Hogan or Seve in the way he carves up a course.

I want to thank the Grouchy Golf Blog for getting me fired this morning for spending a half and hour replying to strangers. Peace.  


Blogger pebbleby15 said...

New topic.

Did anyone see Sergio's press conference last night? This guy is so annoyed with Tiger questions that he is copping an attitude in the press room. What a punk....

Interviewer: Do you think Tiger is back to where he was in 2000 and is his dominance good for golf?

Sergio: What?? (Clearly annoyed)

Interviewer: (Repeats question)

Sergio: (Sarcastically) In 2000 he was in Valhalla. Now, we are in NJ. So, no, he is not where he was in 2000.

Interviewer: I was talking about his level of play.

Sergio: (Really annoyed at this point). (Long pause). He's not back at where he was in 2000, for sure. He's playing well. I don't know. He's got his problems, and I've got my problems, and we'll try to work those out.

What is up with this guy Sergio and why will he refuse to give any credit to Tiger? In the 2002 US Open, Sergio made a remark after having to play an afternoon rain-soaked second round that if Tiger were out there (he played in the morning) the USGA would have stopped play.

After hearing it from the media over his whiney behavior, Sergio left a note of apology in Tiger's locker before the final round on Sunday. Tiger simply smiled when he got the note.

Sergio is a head case.  


Blogger Eric said...

I don't think that these guys should be acting like jerks when they get such questions, but I can understand why they would get annoyed. They want to answer questions about the course, and their game in a press conference, and not that of someone else. They should still act like professionals though.  


Anonymous mediaguru @ Hooked On Golf Blog said...

Most definitely Eric. When they react like that it shows a definite lack of maturity.  


Blogger Golf Grouch said...

It kinda reminds me of Morgan "Pouting" Pressel's comments about Michelle Wie. But it's more acceptable coming from teenage girls!  


Blogger OMFG!! said...

Nice golf bag you have!!  


Blogger The Writer said...

Obviously he is going on the logic that the more people in "contention" will make it more difficult for Tiger to win. This makes logical sense. Consider the fact that to win on a "long course," Tiger needs to better Phil, Vijay, Ernie, Goose, and maybe Sergio. Shortening courses puts everybody in contention thus placing more people in between Tiger and the trophy.  


Blogger Eric said...

I know most of the people on here don't like him, but since I'm a fan, I just wanted to say congratulations to Phil Mickelson for winning the PGA Championship.  


Blogger CB said...

Mating with Jim Nantz...

That one is burned into my brain deep, thanks.

I don't mind people liking Phil. I liked him a little bit more before he made the move to the shovels he plays with now.

I do find it curious that Vijay will get tossed under the bus by the media though. I remember when there was all the controversy over a two year ranking system. Everyone wanted to switch it to a one year period so Vijay would be number one sooner when it seemed like he was the second coming of Snead. Well golf is a constant teacher. Vijay got a deserved stint at the top, Tiger took it back in deserving fashion as well, and now the press will clamor about Phil's place in the hierarchy while the game (and the admittedly flawed ranking system) keeps the talking heads in check.

I am peering into my crystal ball and seeing posts about the standards we hold different golfers to and the fairness of it all. Phil plays the final 18 over par and is viewed as fighting adversity for a major win. Tiger plays exquisite golf (12 under at Augusta) and bogies two holes to get into a playoff and his birdie in sudden death is second fold to his bogies.

People who pick one of these guys to root for are always going to have fodder for the fight. I think the only thing people agree about in golf is that Jason Gore is the man.  


Blogger Eric said...

The only "negative" I ever had to say about Tiger is that I thought he should have gone back to Buch Harmon. I guess I was wrong.

Besides that, just think of Tiger's last round at Augusta like a football team that goes 15-1. People are going to talk about that one loss a lot more than they will about the 15 wins. If a team goes 12-4, people are going to talk about the wins. Logical? No, but people just aren't logical.  


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