Let ‘em Play

Inverness 2011 Senior Open-6952

The buzz among the golf punditry here is all about the low scores. Quips like “Inverness is defenseless”; “the USGA has gotten soft” and “Is this a national championship or a club championship?” are heard among the media, and sent out in wire reports. The cognescenti are worried about all the records that are falling.

Records be damned. They’re meaningless. Each year, the USGA Championships are played on different courses in different conditions (and with constantly evolving player equipment and course maintence techniques). There is no statistically meaningful way to compare how players do at Inverness with, say, how they did at Crooked Stick. The only statistic that might have meaning is the margin of victory.

Although the scores are lower than we’re used to seeing, I disagree with those who have declared the US Senior Open at Inverness a failure. I actually like the trend that seems to be developing at the USGA: they’re letting the players play. There’s no need to embarass the players. All that’s necessary is to identify the week’s best—whether he goes one under or fifteen. On Sunday evening, we’ll know that Player X was Y shots better than Player Z. That’s enough.

At this moment, all the players are working under the same conditions, on the same course. Olin Browne is fifteen under, but everyone else had an equal opportunity to put up similar numbers (unlike, say an Open Championship where it sometimes makes a huge difference when you tee off).

Most of the whinging seems to come from bored and jaded sports writers who would like nothing more than to see the world’s best golfers struggle like a weekend hacker. It’s the same media mind set that likes to see politicians and other celebrities taken down a notch.

I don’t think, however, that’ the attitude of most of the fans. The crowds around the greens are clapping for well played irons that dance around the hole. They cheer for putts drained for birdie. There’s no disappointment in a lack of player penance and suffering.

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