Keeping Score

From the Morning Read inbox

Nothing wrong with the game

I am tired of the argument that golf pros are hitting the ball too far for golf courses, so equipment needs to be changed (“Golf’s distance debate falls short on logic,” Feb. 27).

Why? Are the scores getting too low? Is it unfair that some players out-distance other players too much? Why is that a concern?

In every generation of golfers, there always have been lower scorers and longer hitters. Why do I care that Dustin Johnson puts his drive 40 yards from the green? That’s exciting. Is it worse that Phil Mickelson misses the fairway more than 50 percent of the time and yet can get the ball from the rough to the green and close to the flag? Or, that he can take a wedge from off the green and put the ball within a few inches of the hole (if not in) with regularity? That too is exciting. Does the ball’s spin need to be regulated to restrict its flight or control? Each pro has different skills that excite and awe us.

If low scores are a problem, change par, not the equipment or the ball. There isn’t a need to change the distances of the holes either or worry that golf courses are getting too long. Not for me. Every tournament has at least one or two par 4s that are drivable. You can always make them par 3s. But what is par but a measure of ability. It’s the total score that counts, not the number of birdies, pars or bogeys. Reduce ball distance or restrict the equipment, but the lowest score still will be the winner. Leave it alone.

Every time the USGA goes about mucking with equipment, it mucks things up. After about 30 years, the USGA decided that the long putter wasn’t fair to the game, so it banned the anchored stroke. Why? Because some of the pros began winning with long putters? They still had to be used properly. For a lot of people, notably amateurs, long putters were used because of their backs.

And while I’m on it, what would be wrong with calling divots in the fairway “ground under repair”? Is there a difference between that bad spot and other bad spots in the fairway marked as GURs? 

Richard Walker
Greenville, S.C.


Keep focus on attracting golfers

It seems that everyone has an opinion on the golf ball; that’s good. It shows interest, which is the key component to growing the game that most of us love. It seems to me that it might be a good time to at least stop the golf ball where it is and not put more courses in jeopardy of becoming obsolete.

I have heard the USGA’s Mike Davis speak twice in the past week or so, and he sounds like a man on a mission to rein in the golf ball (talking of cost of real estate, upkeep of the courses, etc.), but he has done nothing, as far as I can tell, in doing so.

A lot of Morning Read’s respondents have talked of losing distance if the ball is slowed down, but if their swing speeds are not in the 110-mph range, they are not getting the benefit of the design of the ball anyway, so only the upper swing-speed players are affected. I can’t tell you offhand what percentage of players are in that area of clubhead speed, but it seems for those few the ball goes far enough anyway.

I disagree that it will hurt the game to stop the acceleration of the ball, and you can see that there are many PGA Tour professionals who are hitting less than driver on a lot of holes now that would have required a driver in the past.

There are a few benefits, as well. Not only would it cut expenses required to purchase, maintain and generally take care of a course, but it might help in halting the increasing time that it takes to play. As has been stated many times, the pace of play “back in the day” was much faster. What was not mentioned is that the course was 5,000 yards long, with the next tee 15 yards from the previous green.

Anything that keeps people from playing is generally not good for the game, and at some point the distances that golf balls travel will have that effect.

As an aside, and on a topic that was much less important than reining in the golf ball, I know several people who have quit playing because of the ban on the anchored stroke, and it is very disappointing. On the list of things that are important to growing the game, anchoring isn’t in sight.

Mike Nixon
Nashville, Tenn.

(Nixon is the director of operations for the Tennessee Golf Trail.)


Rivalry? Not Spieth-Thomas bromance

It’s a reach to conclude that a rivalry exits between Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, as proposed by Mike Purkey (“Spieth vs. Thomas: Tour’s rivalry for future,” March 1).

First, a rivalry is defined as two parties who genuinely don't like each other: for instance, Bjorn Borg vs. John McEnroe; Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier; Nick Faldo vs. Curtis Strange. After Strange beat Faldo in a playoff at the 1988 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., Strange was asked how much conversation the two had. He replied, "More than one word, less than three."

Spieth and Thomas have impressive golf accomplishments that are likely to expand, but I never would classify what's gone on so far as a rivalry. Do rivals go on highly-publicized spring breaks? Do rivals jet around the world together, staying, playing and dining at the most luxurious destinations on the planet? 

In fact, I've never seen rivals hug each other after competition, such as what runner-up Spieth did with winner Thomas after the Dell Technologies Championship on Labor Day. During a post-round interview with the media adjacent to the 18th green at TPC Boston, Spieth virtually jumped off the small media stage to give Thomas a full-body embrace, walking some 30 feet away. Was this done for the cameras or was it genuine? And, whatever happened to the old-fashioned congratulatory handshake? 

At least for this golf season, there are no golf rivalries, despite the thirst from fans to see one develop. Besides, Spieth and Thomas do not dominate the game. And, based on attendance at tournaments and TV ratings, this year more than ever, a rivalry gets second-billing. The headlines always will include Tiger Woods, no matter who wins on the PGA Tour. That's a good thing for the game.

Tom Gorman
Dedham, Mass.


Spieth beats Thomas in at least one area

The talent levels may be comparable, but that's where this comparison ends. Jordan Spieth would never criticize fans as Justin Thomas did at Riviera, and Spieth would never have a fan escorted off the premises as Thomas did last weekend. (Incidentally, the fan's two heckles came as Thomas was approaching the tee box and after he hit his shot; the fan never disturbed Thomas during his shot.)

And Spieth would never celebrate holing a winning putt with an F-bomb exclamation.

If Thomas doesn't stop exhibiting spoiled-brat traits, he'll be more compared to Bubba Watson.

Charlie Jurgonis
Fairfax, Va.


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