Ben Hogan believed a player can birdie every hole to shoot 18 under on a par 72.
Annika Sorenstam has a philosophical thought before every round called “Vision 54”. She said “If I hit every fairway and every green then one putt every hole, it totals 54 and I will know I am a complete golfer.”
How low can someone shoot?
Everyone is well aware of the Roger Bannister story and his breaking the four-minute mile. As soon as he broke through, the flood gates opened and several others achieved the standard. Today, the world record is almost 17 seconds faster.
Humans face many barriers both in life and in sport. Once an original pathfinder knocks down a barrier, others follow.
Prior to the big breakthrough, a score of 60 has been posted in official PGA Tour tournament play 34 times, by 32 different golfers, the first time occurring in 1951.
How many times did a player putt on the last green for 59? How many birdied or eagled the last hole for 60? Did anyone make a bogey for 60?
The first time a PGA Tour player shot 59 came in 1977 during the second round of the Memphis Classic when Al Geiberger reeled off 11 birdies and an eagle to post 13 under par.
Strangely, he won the tournament without shooting in the 60s (72-72-59-70). It took another 14 years to repeat the accomplishment when Chip Beck also shot a 13 under 59. Beck’s came during the third round of the Las Vegas Invitational and he finished third.
Since then, six more scores of 59 have been recorded in PGA Tour events, the latest being a 13-under 59 by Canadian Adam Hadwin at this year’s CareerBuilder Challenge. On the women’s side, Sorenstam had a 59 at the 2001 Standard Register Ping in Phoenix, while Canadian James Love had a 59 in the first round of Web .com Tour qualifying school late last year.
However, the threshold of 58 has also been broken, the most recent on the PGA Tour coming from Jim Furyk, who also has a 59 but went one better at the 2016 Travelers Championship. Canadian Danny King recorded a 58 at the Gosling’s Invitational in Bermuda in November.
The lowest score, according to Guiness, is 55 and that was achieved by Rhein Gibson at the River Oaks Golf Club in Edmond, Oklahoma, on May 12, 2012. The course measures 6,700 yards with a par of 71. His round included two eagles and 12 birdies.
The subject of low scores comes up due to their frequency these days. Why is this happening?
The obvious reason would be the changes in equipment. Clubs are lighter, longer and faster, producing more club head speed leading to more distance. The ball goes further and straighter. Courses are manicured better, but unless the players came off the assembly line in a new and improved model, none of that would matter.
Once again quoting Ben Hogan, who was asked if the group of players following his era was better, he responded, “If not, we wouldn’t have done much to discover how to play and pass it on to them.”
Every generation should learn from their predecessors. Aren’t we trying to learn new ways and new methods? Yes, we respect the past and honour tradition, but don’t we want to be the one who makes a game-improving discovery?
Lower scores are inevitable. The British Open was first played in1860. Players competed over three rounds of Prestwick’s twelve-hole course in a single day. The winning score was 174 or an average of 87 for 18 holes. These were the best players in the world at the time.
The most dramatic change that affects scoring is the development of the players. Until recently, tournament golfers walked while playing which led to a very high general fitness standard but many smoked.
Frank Stranahan was the first to introduce weight lifting as an ingredient to lower scores. Gary Player furthered the requirement to a more necessary ingredient and Tiger Woods made it fashionable.
Through personal tragedy and his own natural shyness, Ben Hogan earned the nickname, the “Wee Ice Man”.
During competition he focused so intently he frequently failed to recognize his wife in the gallery. He also spent time analyzing tournament courses in an effort to prepare for championships and then devoted his practice sessions to polishing the necessary skills to overcome the challenges of the design.
Jack Nicklaus followed Hogan’s path and became a very absorbed competitor who believed in exacting preparation. Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus gave way to Nick Faldo who delivered six major championships and the No. 1 world ranking using similar methods. Of course, in modern times, these tactics became popular when adopted by Woods.
Based on the monster purses and huge international fame heaped on our champions, parents in every walk of life see golf as an acceptable pastime for their children.
Given the wonderful low impact nature of the game, polite atmosphere, opportunity to develop well-regarded social skills as well as individual skills, parents regard golf as a conduit to a fine way of life for their kids.
Due to the hundreds of lesson programs, competitions and overall training for juniors, it is inevitable that sooner or later many would rise to be champions. Also, don’t forget technology, with Trackman added to the mix in recent years.
There are approximately 2000 to 2500 professionals playing various tours around the world and there are the same number of swings, but Trackman allows you to swing as an individual, but provides evidence of the players’ efficiency.
Following the example set down by each influential party it takes time for the wine to ferment. Tiger teed off in 1996 as a young professional golfer.
He had the finest custom fitted equipment money could buy. His mind had been programmed and groomed by his father and mother. His golf acumen came from Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan.
He began a physical development regimen known only in other sports that he continued from the lead of Gary Player. He learned from every conceivable tournament experience because of a lengthy life of competition.
Tiger Woods was a perfect storm of all the ingredients required to become a great champion golfer.
So you ask “Why are the players shooting such low scores?”
They are doing so because of: Roger Bannister, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Frank Stranahan, Gary Player, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods, hundreds of men and women who organize golf events for kids, PGA professionals who teach kids, custom club manufacturers/club fitters, course superintendents, parents who encourage their kids and drive them to and from the courses.
In a nutshell, the players are shooting lower scores because of the atmosphere found in the world of golf, people trying new things, learning from each other and helping hands of those who came before!
Someone will shoot 54 in the near future.