Each week, our panel of writers will be asked a question about the game of golf. Topics will range from their predictions for the Tour season to what they would order from the concession stand at Augusta National Golf Club. No subject is off limits for this esteemed group.
We’re back! The 2020 season is in full swing with two playoffs already in the calendar year’s first three events. Can Tiger defend his Masters crown? Can Brooks keep his run going? Can Spieth bounce back? Who will emerge from a talented crop of young players? Our writers will dish out their take on all of this and more in the coming weeks.
Last weekend, Andrew Landry won his second PGA Tour event with a score of -26. Every year we see a variety of winning scores across the Tour, as every tournament and course present a unique challenge for the field. With that in mind…
This week’s question: Do you prefer a tournament with a very low winning score or a winning closer to par?
Close to Par
Sean Carney: I prefer a tournament where scores are closer to par. At the end of the day, you can put most of these players on any course and they can make the hardest tracks look easy. It’s refreshing to see guys winning around the -5 mark. I think for one, it gives the “Average Joe” watching at home some peace of mind the best players in the world can 3 jack from 5 feet on a tough green, or post a snowman on a par 4. More than anything, I think it allows for the fan to really appreciate how awesome it is when these guys can go post a -25. To see the best struggle one week and then fire off a 63 is pretty special.
Jack Corrigan: I personally prefer a score closer to par. There is nothing to be that is more frustrating than a course with large fairways and no rough. In clutch moments and closing stretches, you should be rewarded or penalized for a great or bad shot. If you miss a fairway, it should be tough to advance the ball 170 yards. What is the point of having rough if you can still have almost as good of a shot as you do in the fairway? Sure if we go onto that Stadium course in La Quinta we won’t be shooting 75’s, but our shanks and hacks won’t put us behind trees as they should. Tiger Woods at the US Open in 2000 played maybe the best golf ever and we noticed it because everyone besides him was over par. He blew the field away as if he was a robot. That is what you get when you have a tough course. Jordan Spieth shot -30 at Kapalua in 2016 and nobody remembers. A tough par course is so much better to me than an easy one and every course should end with a long challenging par 4.
Mike McNamara: I prefer a winning score closer to par. Just personal preference, but I absolutely love it when guys have to grind their tails off to make pars. When birdies are hard to find and bogeys and doubles come left and right I just find the sport that much more entertaining. Winning scores closer to par also allow for more drama at the conclusion of a tournament because no lead is ever safe. Don’t get me wrong, it is awesome to see the world’s best tear up golf courses and fire darts at pins, but when courses play tougher, I find the golf extra special to watch.
Kevin Walsh: I am fully on the side of closer to par when it comes to winning score. It’s fine and dandy to watch PGA pros bomb driver to a fairway with minimal trouble and then stick approach shots with wedges, but it can get a little old. The only time those type of tournaments (such as the American Express) interest me a lot are when the drama builds. And even though it did, it still didn’t require the kind of shots you see at the tougher events, which is what I love to watch the most. When the pros are pushed to the brink, you see how good they really are. The more that can happen, the better. There are some rare occurrences when courses are maybe over the line (Shinnecock comes to mind as the most recent), or conditions are so bad it’s hard to score, but for the most part I think most people would agree a strong test that rewards good shots is the ultimate goal.
It isn’t all about numbers, though. If a player is dialed in and shoots -16 or better on a tough course I’m happy to watch that as well, as you’d most likely see them run away from the field and the performance becomes that much more impressive.
Frank Laterza: I love watching tournaments that are closer to par. Seeing professionals have to really mentally think out the game of golf is something you don’t necessarily see in these -26 tournaments. It makes me feel better about my subpar golf game, and it also keeps it extremely interesting with HUGE swings in scores at a moments’ notice. I also think it brings out the best in golfers. It’s easy for them to go out and just hit shots, but can you work the ball both directions? Can you scramble? Can you mentally rebound from bogey-bogey? You don’t get those questions answered normally in tournaments with a very low score. Give me a grind tournament every time, and I’ll sit back, grab some popcorn, and enjoy.
Jake Mulholland: First and foremost, I want to start my response off with a couple brief statements:
1) When Landry started to choke on the back 9 at the Stadium Course last week, you better believe I was grinning ear to ear. Imagine the Grinch circa 2000. My OAD Abe Ancer was cruising through the front and looked to be gathering steam heading into the back. Would Rouge snatch his 5th win on tour riding the coattails of the Mexican sensation? I would soon realize that today was not the day.
2) The guilt hit me fast when I began to comprehend that I was rooting against a guy who has literally won once on tour. Am I a bad person for rooting against the underdog story? Maybe… but I find it hard to pull for a guy who wears blades faster than Jeff Gordon in the 90s, stands a mere 5’8 inches, and eliminates his two-way miss with an absurdly closed face through his backswing (although he does flatten out nicely at the top of his swing).
Getting back to the matter at hand, or rather finally addressing the matter at hand, I would say that I strongly prefer a champion who scores closer to par than someone who pummels a course and signs at 20 under or lower. One reason being, every shot is magnified tenfold in such tournaments. A mere par is a win, a birdie is dessert and an Eagle is unheard of. The emphasis on each shot allows the pressure to mount throughout the field and the true champions will shine through. For context, I’m also someone who prefers a snow game in the AFC Championship compared to one where more than 60 points are scored. My appetite for golf viewership more closely aligns with treacherous conditions, low scoring, and a tight field as opposed to the random dude that happened to get hot over a stretch of holes on the weekend.
Tony Kasper: I’m always going to be impressed by someone shooting 20 below par, but I prefer to watch tournaments that aren’t birdie-fests. When the winning score is closer to par, it reflects the challenge that the golf course was able to present to the field. Weather does greatly impact the difficulty of some of these golf courses, as wind and rain completely change the dynamic the players have to deal with. I’m not someone who roots for the course to be overly-challenging per say, but I do think missed shots should be penalized and great ones rewarded.
Bear: Great question. So great that I’m going to answer both sides. For non-majors, give me the low scores. Give me guys chasing 59 after ripping off 9 birdies in a row. Seeing golfers dominate a course with spectacular shots is unlike anything else in sports.
However, for majors, when the best are going against the best, I want to see players grind. I want par to be a good score hole in, hole out. Who can survive? I don’t want US Opens in the -20s. Save that for fall swing.
Some great answers this week from the boys per usual. I will be continuing to spearhead this article in the future and would love for any readers to reach out with suggestions for future QOTW through Twitter, Instagram, etc.
All the best,