Dave Shedloski on PGATour.com:
If it seems like TOUR members aren’t concerned with a little thing like hitting fairways, you’re right. Since 2000 the number of players who have hit at least 70 percent of their fairways has been on the decline. There were 75 guys hitting 7 of 10, on average, in 2000, but the number fell to 67 in ’01, then 61, 40, 24, 19, and, so far in this young season, there are only 16 players finding 70 percent (up from seven the previous week – thank goodness for generous fairways on the Monterrey Peninsula).
The last three years the driving accuracy leader has been below 78 percent. Since stats were first monitored in 1980, only five other times has the leader in that category been below 80 percent – and only one other time has the leader been below 78 percent (Calvin Peete, 77.5 percent, in 1984).
Want more? On the other end of the scale, there are 105 players hitting fewer than 60 percent of their fairways thus far in ’06. That’s up more than 100 percent from the 52 such wayward whackers last year. As recently as 2001 only five players failed to hit at least 6 of 10 fairways for the entire season. It doesn’t mean players aren’t as good today; in many ways they’re better. But no doubt they play with different priorities.
It’s likely the winner will not get away with such untidy play on the narrow avenues of Riviera (but because the fairways are narrow, hitting them is always chore).
The question is, how much is this decline a result of flogging, and how much of it has to do with the excessive narrowing of fairways?