Golf has its drawbacks. It is possible, by too much of it, to destroy the mind. WALTER SIMPSON
Interesting comments today at the Chevron World Challenge from Jim Furyk on the impact of grooves in 2010, particularly his view on the stats.
Q. We've had a full season now to see the new grooves in effect. What's your take on how it impacted play this year?
JIM FURYK: I think a lot of the stats have been misleading like the scoring average and the different things. I think the golf courses were set up -- because I think the golf courses were set up much differently this year. As a whole I think we saw a lot less rough in our setups, and I think we saw a lot less of that four- and five-inch rough and a lot more of the two- and three-.
So scoring averages probably stayed very similar, but I think it's misleading. I think what they were trying to do was provide lies so that you could get to the ball and advance it but because of the groove issue you'd have a hard time controlling the golf ball. I thought the TOUR did a pretty good job overall. There's events you can pick and choose where you wish the rough were higher, lower, but in the whole course of the season, the setups were changed.
But I think the groove issue made a pretty significant change. I would say -- I actually like the new groove probably more from about 160 yards out because I can move the ball so much farther now with a flier than I could before. I had lost my ability to hit the ball 190 or 200 yards because with the square groove the ball just wouldn't come out jumping and I couldn't get say a 5-iron on the ball anymore, and I can't hit a 6- or 7-iron that far. Now I get out from 200 yards with a 6- or 7-iron and make it jump, play it a little bit back, hit a shot I know will jump. It might not fly there, but I can run the ball up on greens.
I probably -- I think there's been a couple players that have done it, played kind of V-grooves from like a 6-iron up and square grooves from a 7-iron down. They were a little smarter than I was. But I probably like that groove from longer distances. But geez, from pitching wedge distance and in, 9-iron distance and in, it's a big, big difference, and you're nervous about catching that flier and knocking it over greens.
If you think about it, most of the trouble on golf courses, if you hit the ball five yards short of the green, you can usually play. Green is tilted towards you, you usually have an opportunity to get the ball up-and-down, but you start knocking the ball five and ten yards over the greens, it gets very difficult to get the ball up-and-down, and it's what we're all afraid of.
But it made a significant difference in my mind. But I don't think stats prove that. But I think the players would tell you.
E. Michael Johnson concludes that the groove rule change had little impact on PGA Tour play even though some players insist it made a difference.
The numbers show there may be a reason for that. Or at least a reason not to abhor them. Although the tour's scoring average did rise to 71.15 (from 71.04 in 2009), driving distance was nearly the same (287.3 yards compared to 287.9 last year) and birdies per round was a virtual dead-heat (3.43 to 3.42 in 2009). Greens in regulation rose, from 64.7 percent last year to 66.26 percent this year. Driving accuracy rose from 62.91 percent to 63.51 percent. To put that jump of slightly more than a one-half percentage point into perspective: PGA Tour pros, on average, were hitting one additional fairway every 13.5 rounds. When you consider that the primary rationale for the rule was to restore accuracy to the game, that's not a lot. In short, whether the numbers moved up or down, not a single stat that can be related to grooves showed a significant move in either direction.
So is it fair to judge the impact of the groove rule change after one year?
John Strege encapsulates the weekend chatter about grooves:
The new grooves the USGA ordered were supposed to help restore the integrity of par. But on the soft greens at the Greenbrier Resort, the new grooves were an advantage, as CBS' Nick Faldo pointed out on Saturday. They allowed the ball generally to stop in its tracks, in contrast to how the ball might have reacted with the old grooves, perhaps spinning back off the front of the greens.
Joe Ogilvie concurred. "Maybe I owe USGA an apology, groove rule has made golf easier, controlling wedge spin a breeze, I hope it is easier for ams too?!?!?" he wrote on Twitter. "USGA repeat after me, more spin is harder, less spin is easier."
The theory makes some sense on softer greens. How many times did we see good players strike a shot around the green with too much loft and too solid of a strike, only to have the ball check up?