Reading through the golf.com discussion this week you would think that one week of long rough ruined the game of golf forever. I’ll be honest I have a little sympathy for a pro golfer because the winning score is -3 instead of -16.
But, the main theme of the argument seems to be that it makes the game boring. I’m not so sure. I watched for about 30 minutes on Sunday and saw Sean O’Hair absolutely bomb a drive on one of the back-nine Par 4s have 120ish left and hit it to two feet for a birdie. On the same hole a couple of groups later, Bo Van Pelt drove it into the trees and hacked it around for a double bogey 6. When guys can make birdies if they play well, but make really high numbers when they don’t that seems pretty interesting to me.
The other argument seems to be that it negates skill:
Van Sickle: “Beyond that, too much rough negates ability and is an equalizer.”
Bamberger: “The great obstacles are wind, green speed, uneven lies, bunker depth. Length here and there. If you need rough to make your course hard, you’re doing something wrong and bad for golf.”
Shipnuck: “What’s wrong is that you can’t play shots out of those weeds. It negates skill, on approach shots and around the green.”
Read the full thing here.
Does rough really negate skill? It doesn’t seem like it. I compared last week’s Canadian Open to last year’s Greenbriar Classic. Obviously, the rough in Vancouver was unplayable, while Greenbriar was one of the easiest PGA Tour courses I can remember. Then I looked at “skill” – a player’s two year average score – compared to performance for the week.
The correlation between skill and performance was virtually identical at around .42 (r-squared ~ .175). That’s only two tournaments, but for all intents and purposes, the conditions didn’t really matter.
I just think the actual penalty of the rough is vastly overstated because it applies pretty equally to all players. As for not being able to “play shots,” I’m not really sure how much value this has anymore. Seems like most guys nowadays just line up and swing as hard as they can, especially off the tee, and more importantly it seems like the game of golf rewards that approach.