OWINGS MILLS, Md. — In nearly each sport, when the playoffs start, gamers know the depth goes to rise. In soccer, defenses hit tougher. Coaches deal with turnovers by their very own workforce like a tragedy. In basketball, you need to battle for each rebound. Postseason baseball at-bats typically play out like a battle of wills.
In skilled golf, one thing completely different unfolds.
The sport seems to get simpler.
Bogeys develop into uncommon. Doubles are virtually extraordinary. Players aren’t examined on whether or not they can make birdies, they’re examined on how many they will make. And they’d higher make a ton of them, or they are going to get dusted by the leaders.
The BMW Championship at Caves Valley this week, the second occasion in the FedEx Cup playoffs, has been the excellent instance. Through three rounds, the 70-man subject has made 948 whole birdies and 20 eagles. The subject is 527 underneath par, for a 69.4 scoring common.
Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau, tied for the lead at 21 underneath, have an incredible likelihood to shoot the lowest rating (in relation to par) on tour this yr. Harris English shot 25 underneath at the Tournament of Champions in January (albeit on a par-73 course with 5 par-5s), and Okay.H. Lee shot 25 underneath at TPC Craig Ranch en path to profitable the Byron Nelson in May. Only three gamers in tour historical past have ever shot 30 underneath in a four-round match, however a kind of instances got here throughout the 2020 FedEx Cup playoffs, when Dustin Johnson received the Northern Trust by 11 pictures.
What to make of it? That relies on your perspective. The FedEx Cup is not a serious, and no fan would confuse it for one, regardless of the PGA Tour’s huge funding in advertising these playoffs. But should not the postseason have just a little extra tooth than this? Asked what he considered his third-round 66, Cantlay was pretty candid.
“It was another day on a soft, easy golf course,” he mentioned.
The actuality is, this would possibly be precisely what the PGA Tour, and its sponsors, need the postseason to appear like. After all, what’s extra prone to pull viewers away from the first weekend of faculty soccer: The greatest gamers in the world racking up birdies and eagles? Or the identical gamers grinding for pars?
“I certainly think the FedEx Cup playoffs are different than the majors,” mentioned Rory McIlroy, who sits in a tie for fourth at 17 underneath. “The tour is a — this is going to sound a little bad but — I think it’s more of an entertainment product rather than the majors. The majors are set up a little bit differently and it’s supposed to be the toughest test that we face all year. It’s a little bit different.”
There are loads of causes as to why it is completely different, and a few of them the PGA Tour could not management even when it wished to. Temperatures in the Northeast are scorching at this time of yr, and humid days in this area are sometimes adopted by nightly thunderstorms. Trying to maintain a course like Caves Valley agency — when firmness might be its solely protection in opposition to professionals — has been an unattainable ask for the upkeep crew.
“Look, it’s an area of the country here where it does get hot and humid, and bentgrass, it’s not going to have the characteristics that you want to have a really challenging golf course,” McIlroy mentioned. “I don’t really know where you could go this time of the year where that’s not going to happen without it being like over on the West Coast or Northwest or whatever.”
McIlroy and Cantlay weren’t alone of their candor. When gamers know the ball will not bounce very far after it lands, it does not matter how lengthy the course is. Everyone can, and can, go low.
“A guy like Bryson is hard to beat on a golf course like this because it’s soft. The closer you get up there, the better,” mentioned Sam Burns, who’s tied with McIlroy and Sergio Garcia at 17 underneath.
“It’s fun if you’re playing well,” mentioned Garcia, who shot 67 in the third spherical. “It’s not my favorite kind of golf. I like it when it’s a bit more challenging and it’s not just putting. Which obviously don’t misinterpret me, you still have to hit the shots. … [But] the course is playing fairly simple.”
Jon Rahm was tied for the lead after firing a first-round 64. He then adopted it up with a 66 and a 68, and he misplaced floor every day, falling all the approach to eighth. Only 4 gamers in the 70-man subject — Carlos Ortiz, Russell Henley, Max Homa and Collin Morikawa — are presently over par. Their mixed rating: 5 over.
“If it’s soft, you just have to have narrow fairways and high rough [to challenge tour players],” mentioned Jordan Spieth, who’s 5 underneath and tied for forty ninth. “But the fairways are pretty wide here and the greens are pretty big. You have to really kind of screw up to make a bogey. … It’s hard to kind of be totally out of position unless you do something really wrong.”
Caves Valley, which is internet hosting a PGA Tour occasion for the first time, will not be a course with slender fairways. In reality, it has a few of the widest fairways of any course the gamers play exterior of the Plantation Course in Kapalua. It additionally has three par-4s which can be lower than 400 yards. With fashionable know-how, that may be a inexperienced gentle for lots of gamers.
“I think there’s a lot of courses we play nowadays where a lot of fairways pinch in at 300 and 310 [yards],” McIlroy mentioned. “It doesn’t allow the long hitters to hit driver a lot, last week being a pretty good example of that. Whenever you get a big golf course like this that allows the big hitters to hit driver, that’s usually a big advantage. It’s just nice to get driver in your hand and be able to feel like you can let it fly a bit.”
That wasn’t the case ultimately yr’s BMW Championship, the place agency situations at Olympia Fields produced considered one of the hardest exams all yr. Only 5 gamers completed underneath par, and Rahm’s profitable rating (4 underneath) was truly nearer to par than DeChambeau’s profitable rating at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. It is feasible to have a stern check in the playoffs, however not less than this yr, it will not come till the prime 30 get to East Lake in Atlanta subsequent week for the Tour Championship.
“I do like the harder tests, but I don’t want a really hard test every single week,” McIlroy mentioned. “East Lake will be a good example — 12 under wins. I think 12 under is a really good winning score for — 8 to 12 under par is a good winning score on most golf courses. I think it tests guys the right amount but also lets you make some birdies and gives you chances. I think there’s a balance there to be struck. It depends what we’re all trying to get out of the FedEx Cup playoffs. I think one part of it is entertainment. It’s certainly been entertaining this week. I don’t think it’ll be quite as — it won’t be the birdie-fest next week [in the Tour Championship] as it is this week. And I think that’s a good thing, especially when you come to the final one and the top 30. I think the challenge is an important part of it, too.”