Latest Green Reading Book Silliness: NCAA Championship Official Book Deemed Non-Conforming On Event Eve

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Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols details the latest fiasco with non-banned-but-should-be green reading materials”: official yardage books from the NCAA Division I women’s championships are non-conforming. By 1/16th of an inch. On ten of the holes.

“We’re just going to go to Office Depot and get some sticker labels and cover up all 18 of them,” said Purdue coach Devon Brouse.

Officials didn’t specify which of the 10 holes were in violation.

The new interpretation for Rule 4.3a, which went into effect Jan. 1, stipulates that players may use a putting-green map during play, but it must be “limited to a scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards (1:480).”

The original green reading book ban discussions would have been more restrictive, but the USGA and R&A watered things down a bit, and now we have the same information, only smaller. Most of the time.

Just ban them and get it over with!

Tiger On Hitting His Numbers, Five Hours As A Grow The Game Killer

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Tiger Woods was in good spirits to kick off his return to Bethpage Black and the 2019 PGA Championship, touching on an array of topics from Olympic golf (nice if it happens) to the state of his game and the Black Course. Steve DiMeglio with the full round-up here for Golfweek.

Two quotes stood out in his comments.

Q. You haven't gone major to major without playing all that often in your career, but as you look ahead now, is it something you might consider doing more often? And just sort of how do you weigh the need for reps versus the need for rest at this point?

TIGER WOODS: You know, that's a great question because the only other time where I've taken four weeks off prior to major championships is going from the British Open to the PGA. Usually that was my summer break, and take those four weeks off and then get ready for the PGA, Firestone and the fall. So I'm always looking for breaks. Generally it's after the Masters I used to take four weeks off there. Now, with the condensed schedule, it's trying to find breaks.

You know, I wanted to play at Quail Hollow, but to be honest with you, I wasn't ready yet to start the grind of practicing and preparing and logging all those hours again. I was lifting -- my numbers were good. I was feeling good in the gym, but I wasn't mentally prepared to log in the hours.

Ok first we had players wanting to his certain Trackman numbers. Now gym numbers?

Coming here is a different story. I was able to log in the hours, put in the time and feel rested and ready. That's going to be the interesting part going forward; how much do I play and how much do I rest. I think I've done a lot of the legwork and the hard work already, trying to find my game over the past year and a half. Now I think it's just maintaining it. I know that I feel better when I'm fresh. The body doesn't respond like it used to, doesn't bounce back quite as well, so I've got to be aware of that.

And this seemed to be a nice statement for those leading the game who insist there is nothing wrong with five hour rounds, or slow play in general.

Q. Tiger, more minorities and young women are taking up the sport than before because of all of the initiatives in place, but that isn't reflected in the college participation numbers. Asians are the only minorities that are showing an increase. What do you think is happening? Why aren't the kids who are taking up the game sticking with it?

TIGER WOODS: You know, that's the question for all of us that's been a difficult one to figure out, to put our finger on. The First Tee has done an amazing job of creating facilities and creating atmospheres for kids to be introduced to the game, but also have some type of sustainability within the game.

But it's difficult. There are so many different things that are pulling at kids to go different directions. Golf is just merely one of the vehicles.

Now, with today's -- as I said, there's so many different things that kids can get into and go towards that honestly playing five hours, five and a half hours of a sport just doesn't sound too appealing. That's one of the things that we've tried to increase is the pace of play and try and make sure that's faster, because most of us in this room, if you've gone probably five minutes without checking your phone, you're jonesing. Kids are the same way; five hours on a golf course seems pretty boring.

Return To Bethpage Begins The Wind-Down On Muni's As Major Hosts

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The state of New York’s glorious Bethpage State Park hosts this week’s 2019 PGA Championship and the 2024 Ryder Cup, while Harding Park is site of next year’s PGA. Throw in one US Open at a true public venue—2021 at Torrey Pines—and that’s about it in the way of muni’s hosting majors. The foreseeable future has been lined up for both the PGA and U.S. Open, with clubs or upscale resort courses the focus.

As I write for Golfweek, it’s been a mixed-bag in terms of success rate and benefits for the facilities. But it’s also clear that the cost to host and list of potential venues has shrunken due to the bench press and gluten free diets of today’s better athletes.

But do not despair, as I make the case that these majors at muni’s spawned interest in restoring classic public courses, with a tip of the cap to the new National Links Trust and efforts around the country.

Q&A With Ben Crenshaw On The State Of Putting

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For Golfweek’s May putting issue, I couldn’t help but ask Ben Crenshaw all sorts of grumpy old man questions like why can’t these kids put like you used to, what’s with these silly green reading books and what happened to all the blade putters?

I enjoyed this answer to a question about how to get kids developing their putting:

Crenshaw: Putting contests, I always thought, were great. Harvey encouraged that. Having to putt against someone and go around the clock. There’s no better practice, because you’re putting something on the line, you’re competing. When you’re putting at different holes, that’s what golf is. When I was a kid, I found about eight balls out on the golf course. I went up to the putting green by myself, and I hit this one putt about an hour. Same putt, over and over. Harvey said, “Ben, I see what you’re doing. Your stroke looks pretty good, but you’ll never have that putt again the rest of your life. Putt to different holes.” You see young people do that in practice. They get the chalk out with straight lines and all that stuff.

State Of The Game 93: A.W. Tillinghast's PGA "Tour" With The PGA of America's Bob Denney, Plus Other Vital Stuff

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As we approach the PGA Championship there will be the inevitable discussion about A.W. Tillinghast’s role in the course’s final outcome. While that’s certainly a fun debate to have, the PGA of America’s first trip to Bethpage-Black offers a chance to revisit Tillinghast’s later-in-life work for the organization.

The PGA “Tour” started as a nice consulting job for the organization he was a longtime friend of, but became a major odyssey that sent the famed architect to around 500 courses to a wide variety of suggestions and assessments. You can read Tillinghast.net’s excellent description here with a list of courses.

I have worked with Golf Channel on a feature about this and Tillinghast’s fairly anonymous last years that will air a few times in the coming days, first on the CBS presentation of the “Road to the PGA.” That show re-airs Monday night on Golf Channel.

In the mean time, Rod Morri, Mike Clayton and I were joined by the PGA of America’s Bob Denney, who has preserved the bound volumes of Tillinghast correspondences and notes made by headquarters. These historic letters have moved around a lot and the golf world owes a debt of gratitude to Bob and the PGA for saving them (digital versions of most can be seen here thanks to the Tillinghast team of Wolfe, Wolfe, and Trebus!).

Here’s the pod! As always you can get it wherever fine pods are streamed, or here at the iTunes store.

Jason Day's Ball Speed Drops 13 MPH Using The Original Taylor Made Metal Wood

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Nice bit of data posted here by Golf.com’s Luke Kerr-Dineen of Jason Day on the Quail Hollow range after the Aussie hit the original Taylor Made driver.

Day’s current 2019 PGA Tour ball speed average is 177.2. His clubhead speed average is 118 mph, but in a follow up Tweet posted a screen shot showing a 111 clubhead speed with the much smaller head (275cc?).

No word on how Athleticism and Agronomy are feeling right now after a simple change in driver head size ate into the huge advantages they’ve given today’s players.

Introducing The National Links Trust: "To promote and protect Affordability, Accessibility and engaging golf course Architecture at municipal golf courses"

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Good on Outpost Club co-founder Will Smith and Michael McCartin for building on the many great efforts nationally to restore run-down munis by starting the National Links Trust. Give them a follow on social and check out their excellent website along with the embedded podcast discussion with Andy Johnson.

For the legions who have long wondered how to get a movement going to rejuvenate the muni’s with great bones but little else, they’re looking to build on the Winter Park’s and Save Muni efforts of our golf world. They’re starting with a focus on D.C. area gems but hope to spread the gospel of restoration and architecture “growing the game".

Our first project will focus on the incredible opportunity to improve the facilities of our nation’s capital’s three municipal golf courses, East Potomac, Langston and Rock Creek. Each one of these sites has a rich and storied history, but none of them are currently living up to their potential. The National Park Service will soon be issuing a Request For Proposal (RFP) on a long term lease to operate these facilities. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity and the NLT’s goal is to ensure that the proper course of action is taken to improve and ultimately protect these national treasures. 

Here’s the iTunes link or find the Fried Egg podcast wherever fine pods are streamed.

There Is Life After 30 In Golf: Even With C.T. Pan's Win, 2019 PGA Tour Winner Average Age Holds Steady At 33

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C.T. Pan’s win at the RBC Heritage yesterday capped off a slow-developing career considering he came from the vaunted Class of 2011, won eight times at Washington and has been lumped with a group of golfers who have performed incredibly well at a young age.

But 2019 continues to serve as a reminder that this class might be an anomaly. Pan actually developed into a winner at a more traditional age—27.

Nonetheless, we see college golfers increasingly encouraged to leave school early because they have multiple entities looking to cash in on some fleeting signing bonuses. Many talented but not fully developed players are convinced they are good enough to earn money in seven starts, gain a PGA Tour card and be on their merry way.

Other forces convince younger players they are better prepared to win and cope with the difficult career of playing golf than any generation before them. You know the narratives, they’ve never been smarter, more athletic or surrounded by more knowledgable people. That may be the case. But often that messaging is rooted in a desire by executives to cut into the older viewership averages or is fueled by golf’s overall sense of desperation that without people under 35, the whole thing may crater at any minute.

Careers are derailed or extreme pressures are inflicted simply to push players who might attract a more favorable advertising demographic. Yet the names are piling up of talented players given bad advice, while the average age for PGA Tour winners this year reminds us that golf—at least the winning variety for males—is often best produced in your thirties, not your twenties.

Following Pan’s win, the 2018-19 PGA Tour average age of winners is 33.08.

If you take the schedule since Kapalua, when the field quality and course difficulty ratcheted up several notches, the average age of winners is 34.1.

State Of The Game 91: Post Masters Wrap

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Rod Morri, Mike Clayton and I gathered to chat about the Masters and other golf stuff, but ended up just still talking mostly about the Masters, Tiger’s win, the course and for those drinking at home, distance matters. “

Here’s the show’s iTunes page for Apple fans, though the show is available on all pod platforms.

Here is an embed option as well:

Tiger Effect: And Now The Inevitable Golf-Can't-Attract-Millennials-Stories Begin To Roll In

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We didn’t even get a week of enjoyment out of Tiger Woods’ uplifting Masters win before writers and analysts had to remind us how the the only people who matter prefer E Sports and soccer. Newsflash!

Conclusion: golf is doomed and might as well just fold up the tent.

It feels like we’ve done these stories for over a decade now. Sadly, the golf world listens and we’ve had to watch various businesses flush years of credibility, service and solid profits in a quest to reach this precious audience while neglecting others in the name of pursuing the previous M’s. Certainly there are issues for the sport, but you’d hope by now that the focus would shift from all that the sport is not able to achieve for the M’s and accept that golf is not the cause of issues preventing millennials from having the time or income to spend on a leisure activity. Or even pay their taxes.

So on the cusp of somewhat positive industry news released this week and signs that Topgolf has at least made the sport an aspiration for the M’s, we have the dreaded analysts telling us otherwise.

Lauren Silva Laughlin in the Wall Street Journal notes the lack of “contact and action that lures viewers” and the average age of golf’s television demo (65). She notes the usual stuff about course closures and M’s not taking up the sport. And even says Tiger just doesn’t have what it takes.

Sports’ star power is changing, too. The latest sports hero is a 27-year-old, blue-haired electronic gamer named Ninja, a player of the popular videogame “Fortnite.” He recently received his own figurine line and was named in Time’s 2019 list of 100 most influential people.

Even compared with athletes that move their heart rate beyond a resting state, golfers are old, relatively. The average player of baseball, another sport known as a less spry bunch, is 14 years Mr. Woods’s junior.

Looked at another way, the last millennial was born a year before Mr. Woods won his first Masters tournament in 1997, if Pew Research’s age benchmarks are used. When his extramarital scandal hit tabloids, they were rounding out junior high. Mr. Woods could be golf’s savior. More likely, though, in the eyes of a millennial, he’s just another aging putter.

Sheena Butler-Young was on top of the M’s narrative on Monday after the Masters and talks to various analysts who see no hope for the sport that dates to Mary Queen of Scots.

“There’s nobody in golf that’s totally capturing everybody’s imagination right now,” Poser said, adding that Puma athlete and PGA golfer Rickie Fowler has perhaps the biggest potential to draw in younger players. “The majority of the [sports’] fans aren’t the young fans. If you think about it, a lot of millennials don’t have the time and money to do it.”

Yes, we’ve known that a while but it doesn’t stop grown adults from making terrible decisions based on what their kids tell them at the dinner table.

Similarly, Powell counted a laundry list of reasons why millennials and Gen Z won’t take the baton from their parents and grandparents and carry golf into the future.

“The values of the game of golf just aren’t [akin] to the way millennials do sport: The rules are complicated. It takes a long time to play. It’s not inclusive. It’s not diverse. Representation of minorities is low. Golf courses smell like a chemical factory to keep them green. I could go [on],” he said, noting millennials and Gen Z aren’t likely to ditch their core values as they age and adopt the sport later.

Of course he’s not totally wrong on the values front, but we do know the industry has made huge changes in recent years on multiple fronts. Not to time it takes and probably not diversity, but golf courses are definitely not smelling like a “chemical factory” either.

The bigger question, how many more years do we have to endure these articles before we just focus on how Generation Z won’t take up or play golf? I don’t know about you, but I’m ready!

The Death Of Hazard, All Square, Dormie And Halve Not Sitting Well

Last week’s match play and next week’s Masters prompted a couple of pieces worth your time on the changing language in the game. While everyone was for simplifying the rules, increasingly folks are not warming up to the idea of simplifying the language of golf. Particularly since so many golf terms are part of the every day lexicon.

For example, to be living under par suggests you aren’t feeling well. But I digress.

David Normoyle in a special to Golfweek expresses his dismay at the death of the hazard and the timeless word now replaced with penalty area.

Personally, I’m not looking forward this April to the first time a player takes on the corner of the 13th hole at Augusta National, with its famous tributary lying in wait to capture the carelessly played shot, only to have the television commentator suggest the fate of the Masters may hinge on whether the ball finds the meandering “penalty area” to the left of the fairway or not.

What would Herbert Warren Wind say about his beloved Amen Corner being defined each year not by the players who fell victim to the confounding hazard that is Rae’s Creek but rather those who cautiously negotiated the yellow penalty areas on their way to victory?

Golfweek’s Alistair Tait points out that during the Sky broadcast of the Dell Match Play, the announce team did not acknowledge the preferred new match play terminology. As Tait writes, “he language of golf is part of its allure” and with a history of some words dating back to Mary Queen of Scots’ day—caddie for instance, some are not ready to say goodbye to several terms.

Sadly, there is no mention of all-square in the new rule book. It’s been quietly deleted in the supposed attempt to make the game more accessible to new players. Maybe the governing bodies think the game’s going to become populated by morons incapable of understanding simple terms like all-square and halved.

I wouldn’t be surprised if that wonderful, unique to golf term “dormie” is edited out of the next edition of the rule book even though it’s been in existence since Mary Queen of Scots pondered the benefits of an overlapping grip over a ten-finger one.

USGA Looks At The Threat Against Lions Muni

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Longtime readers know my feelings on Lions Muni and the greed-driven University of Texas’ desire to plow the place for development, so it’s wonderful to see the Save Muni movement here is strong. And emboldened by many high profile supporters, including the USGA. The course was granted another one-year reprieve as supporters look for a solution.

Mike Trostel writes the backstory of the course and its incredible history.

Lions is the course of police officers, bartenders and school teachers, but on any given day you might see former University of Texas football coach Mack Brown playing nine with his buddies or actor Matthew McConaughey on the driving range with his son. It has also hosted some of the biggest names in the game, including Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sandra Haynie, Betsy Rawls and Tom Kite.

Lions has long been one of the city’s most popular courses, logging about 60,000 rounds per year. It also hosts Texas' oldest amateur tournament, the Firecracker Open, played annually over the Fourth of July weekend. But the course’s significance goes far beyond the golfers it currently serves.

And of course, it’s still about the money, as always…

The core issue is money. Currently, the city of Austin pays approximately $500,000 per year for the use of the land. UT, however, values use of the land at roughly $6 million annually. The question is whether a compromise can be reached.

Defining what constitutes “advancing and promoting University education” is also a significant uncertainty. On one hand, the land could be viewed as a much-needed solution to UT’s student housing problem or allow the school to expand its academic resource centers and laboratories.

But the cost of developing the land where Lions sits isn’t solely measured in dollars.

The piece is accompanied by this short feature:

Tiger: "Look at these heads, 460 cc's, you hit the ball anywhere on the face and have it go 300 yards."

Just my read from his comments yesterday, which were similar to remarks made at The Players. But it sounds like he’s inching closer to thinking a de-skilling has occurred at the top level with 460 cc drivers.

From hjs pre-WGC Dell Match Play press session outside the Austin CC clubhouse:

Q. How would you describe the level of competition now in 2019?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that equipment has made it smaller. The margin is much smaller than it used to be. Now look at these heads, 460 cc's, you hit the ball anywhere on the face and have it go 300 yards. Before it put a premium on good ball-strikers to hit the ball in the middle of the face each and every time. And there was a distinction between the guys who could do that and the guys who couldn't. And that's no longer the case.

It promotes people swinging harder. Teeing the ball higher, swinging harder and hitting the ball further. And the old shot of hitting just a squeezier, low, heelie cut in play, that's no longer the case. Guys are trying to maximize distance off the tee, to try and carry that number 300, 320, 330 in the air. And it's become a game that's played more up in the air than it ever used to be.

Any day now we’re going to have teh 360 cc Driver Open…

The Real Reason Nothing Is Done About Slow Play: Players, Executives Don't Ever Pay To Watch Pro Golf

Eamon Lynch explored the lack of movement on the slow play front even Rory McIlroy called it an epidemic last week. Furthermore, the 2019 Players was not able to get the field around Thursday and the broadcast ran 20 minutes long Friday to show the conclusion of a star group.

He writes:

Like a persistent rash, pace of play was again an irritant at the Players Championship. When the first round was called for darkness — despite daylight saving time — Anirban Lahiri still faced a short putt on the final hole. He had to return Friday morning to finish up. The Tour’s invariable stance is to insist there’s nothing to see and that everyone should just move along (at their own pace, of course).

“They don’t do anything about it. It’s become somewhat of an epidemic on Tour,” Rory McIlroy said after his second round, which took more than five hours to complete. “Look, it’s our livelihoods and people are going to take their time, and as the course dries up and gets firmer and gets tougher, guys are going to take their time. But the fact that someone didn’t finish yesterday … I mean, that’s unacceptable.”

“Honestly, I think they should just be a little tougher and start penalizing shots earlier, and that would be an easy way to fix it,” he added.

Even easier? Make executives and players pay to watch golf in person. They’d learn the art of standing around watching others stand around and other tedious acts like not-ready golf.

The conclusions they would reach are summed up in this Tweet from Steve Flesch, who attended last week’s Players:


Furyk Laughs Off Flagstick Putt Rejection, New Rule Appears Safer Than Ever

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The first big flagstick rejection of a putt has taken place, and as I write for Golfweek, Jim Furyk’s reaction suggests that players won’t be backing down off the dramatic change in how they do their (putting) business.

PGA Tour Is Not Going Into The Rulemaking Business Anytime Soon

While we had another bizarre rules moment Thursday at The Players, Harold Varner’s troubles had little to do with the new rules, just a complex and freakish run-in with an old rule related to club adjustability.

But it’s worth noting that even after a bizarre violation we are not seeing the usual outpouring of grief over the change. That’s a direct result of PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan reiterating and expanding on a recent memo making clear the PGA Tour has no desire to make golf rules.

My Golfweek story on that, and the key kumbaya quote after a two hour five familes meeting.

“We have two fantastic professional governing bodies of the game,” he said Wednesday. “We have always played by their rules and we will continue to play by their rules. And we are not going to be playing by our own rules. We think that the game is best served with everybody playing by the same rules and the same standards. We think it’s a source of inspiration for the game.”

Tiger On Technology, Training, Distance

Before we go deep on the 2019 Players, I just wanted to highlight these comments from Tiger Woods earlier this week.

Nice to see him explaining for those not necessarily able to understand how much the weight of clubs and size of clubheads changes how people swing. Not that we would go back to heavier clubs, but the driver head size?

Q. And everyone was sort of talking about the longevity you can get that now that modern technology, training, etcetera. But do you have concerns for guys like Jason Day and others that have had injuries sort of popping up a bit more because of this force you talked of?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I would think that the younger kids now that are involved in the game that are coming into the game are -- put it this way, that are coming on to the TOUR now, by far hit it harder than what we did when we came on TOUR. And that's due to technology and that's also due to the training and also due to the fact that I -- in my opinion, the drivers have gotten so much bigger and you have so much more surface area to miss it and hit the ball well. When I beat Davis in that playoff in '96, he had a persimmon driver. You laugh, but that was -- they were still around. So you had to hit the ball absolutely dead flush, and the guys didn't really hit it that hard. But now you can.

These kids have been training. They're stronger, they're more physical. You look what the college programs are doing, how many times they're lifting, five, six times a week. They're so much stronger now and they're able to handle the force, but also they're generating a lot of force, so there's going to be a give and take.

It will be interesting to see. These kids are hitting it so much further now and it's cool to see. We thought that Dustin was long and Bubba was long, and then we have Cameron Champ out here. It just keeps propping up. I thought I was pretty long, and then John Daly would hit it by me.

Q. So I guess we'll know when they're 40, right, how that works over time?

TIGER WOODS: It's going to -- we're going to see how it goes over the next 15, 20 years, see how the sport evolves. When you're swinging clubs that are 15 ounces and things, what we used to, to where now it's like as light as a feather. I remember, I mean, geez, my driver shaft was 121, 122 grams. Now they're 60 and 50, 60, 70 grams. So, yeah, they're lighter, and hence you're hitting it further.

But these kids are swinging so much harder, but they're so much stronger, and we'll see how that evolves. There's no reason why you can't play longer with the way the training is. You also have to be lucky, too, not to have injuries. Some bodies just get more dinged up than others.

State Of The Game 90: Old Course Rough And The New Rules Mess

Rod Morri, Mike Clayton and I convene for State of the Game 90 to discuss news out of St. Andrews—using rough to enhance strategy—and the various rules related fiascos of recent weeks.

Here is the John Huggan Golf World story referenced regarding new rough to enhance Old Course strategy.

And the Road hole during the 1984 Open referenced by Mike Clayton.

Instant Poll: Higher Priority For Tournament Golf: Pace Of Play Or Protecting The Field?

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The recent backstopping incident in Thailand was arguably the worst case yet in terms of optics and in helping a player save a stroke. I wrote about it here for Golfweek.

My colleague Beth Ann Nichols defended the players because of their pure-hearted nature.

Brandel Chamblee and Mark Rolfing were pretty tough on the players involved and you can see the latest incident here if you haven’t already.

Randall Mell agreed this was ultimately an effort to speed up play (on the 18th green?) even as he’s written about the perils of backstopping.

The LPGA issued this statement absolving the players of any wrongdoing.

So I ask, even though Ariya Jutanugarn could have tip-toed to the ball in 20 seconds, walked in 10, and marked, is that time saved more important than the shot lost to the field in the name of faster play?

Higher priority for tournament golf: pace of play or protecting the field?
 
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Just One Player Laid Up At Riviera's 10th Hole Sunday, Zero Yesterday

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Longtime readers know I’ve tracked the gradual shift of the ShotLink scatter chart at Riviera’s 10th toward the greensite.

The great risk-reward short par-4 is now officially a one-shot hole given that only one player appeared to intentionally lay up Sunday and only 40 over four days of Genesis Open play at Riviera. The rest—400 attempts—”went for the green”.

That, my friends, is a par-4 in name only.

The round 4 scatter chart:

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When the hole played shorter Saturday, no one laid up.

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And over four days, almost no one is even bothering to try to use the lay-up options once so revered before, you know, kale, high-fiber diets and agronomy conspired to shorten the hole.

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