John Hawkins' latest blog entry is a bit head scratcher. He says the 17th at TPC Sawgrass isn't hard enough because it's a "stock pitching wedge" and that: "it’s probably too easy at least one round each year, sometimes two. Changing the hole without a compromise of its character would raise blood pressures even more, which is precisely what the hole was meant to do."
Help me here. I can't think of another sport where people want to see it made tougher, even at the expense of entertainment. Football? Hockey? Baseball?
When those sports have been perceived as off-kilter, less interesting or compromised by changes in equipment, they went in search of ways to make the sport better and more interesting.
Hawkins brings up good points in the story about altering the angles of attack to add interest, but I'm not sure if they are for the reasons that say, Bobby Jones would like to have seen variety on a day-to-day basis (to better test the player). They seem to be ideas designed to raise scoring averages.
Since equipment has made it easier for the top players, many expect courses to keep up or inflict torture because the players have it easier. I guess I just will never understand the admiration for trainwreck golf that has overtaken the game. Especially when it would be a lot easier to change the ball.
A few respected players say #17 is hard enough. From Ron Whitten's excellent story last year on the evolution of the TPC:
"It's a great finish," says [Brad] Faxon. "As a player, there aren't many times when you get more nervous than hitting that second shot into 16, hitting to that island green on 17 and hitting that tee shot on 18."
And, Steve Elkington:
"At Augusta, once you get past 15 and 16, you feel it's over. Not at TPC at Sawgrass. I once stood on the 17th tee with a six-shot lead and I was still worried about getting it across the water. I know if I put one in the drink, I might put 10 in. It's one of those feelings."