A recent article in the San Jose Mercury News says what I’ve been saying for some time: that the way to make courses is not to make them longer, but to make them tougher.
In reviewing last week’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Erik Pinkela notes that:
The big hitters weren’t rewarded at the Pro-Am, even though the tournament was played on some of the shortest courses on the tour. Pebble Beach (6,737 yards) is the only course under 7,000 yards to host a final round so far this year.
Oberholser won the tournament despite a driving average of 259.3 yards—64th among the field. Mike Weir, who finished second, was 63rd. For the season, Oberholser ranks 131st (281.6 yards) and Weir is 155th (276.2).
Atop the rankings are two guys—Bubba Watson (320.5 yards) and Camilo Villegas (305.6)—who failed to make the cut at Pebble Beach.
Why couldn’t the big hitters overpower the short courses? Simple. All three courses (especially Spyglass Hill) demand accuracy, solid iron play, a great short game and patience with the bumpy greens. By Sunday, the warm weather had made the greens fast and firm, meaning that players had trouble attacking the pins and scoring.
That’s the secret. Narrow the fairways and grow the rough. Make the players make tactical decisions. Reward good play with all the clubs, not just the driver and pitching wedge.
Making the courses longer only plays into Tiger’s hands. If the PGA really wants to see some competition, they’ve got to level the playing field.
Of course, Tiger will win under those conditions, too.