Why is this a record breaking period for the PGA TOUR? Experts have their say

Adam Hadwin, who could be played by Jordan Spieth’s caddie, rolled in a putt for the ninth sub-60 round in PGA Tour history at the CareerBuilder Challenge, only two weeks after Justin Thomas’ 59 at the Sony Open.

Six of the nine sub-60 rounds in PGA Tour history have come since 2010. In light of that fact, and the work of Hadwin and Thomas, everyone seems to be asking, “What’s with these low scores?” Alternatively, the USGA and PGA Tour are asking, “How do we stop these low scores?”

Because golf is the only sport where we (apparently) don’t want to see unbelievable play and tighten fairways, tuck our pins, grow up our rough, and speed up our greens, the interest is reaching a fevered pitch.

Here’s what golf writer Geoff Shackelford as a lead-in to his usual drumbeat of “roll back the ball” offered as explanation.

  • Instruction, Trackman: Players swings are better and more repeatable
  • Course conditioning: Putting surfaces, in particular, are pristine
  • Equipment: Never better, precisely fitted to each player
  • More generous course setups in recent years
  • Rangefinders and course books: Have allowed players to more precisely plot their way around courses

Writing for Golf Digest, Joel Beall talked with Columbia University professor Mark Broadie (the godfather of the “strokes gained” metric), who took an opposing position.

“I don’t see any tendency for there to be more great rounds in recent years,” Broadie said bluntly, pointing out that not only has the Tour’s scoring average not improved in recent years, it’s gone up in the last two.

And of course, there’s also this thought from Michigan-based instructor Jason Guss.

“One of things I find interesting is the more something happens, the easier it becomes…Remember when Roger Bannister broke the milestone for the first time in 1954, then after he did it it happened something like 20 times that year. Mindset is a beautiful thing. When someone sees a guy like Jim Furyk break 60 twice with a 108 [mile-per-hour] swing speed, it looks highly possible. Take today’s players with amazing ability and see guys achieve a goal with, in their perception, less of a game, the bar looks achievable.”

Now, if someone signs for a 59 at Torrey Pines this week, traditionally the toughest non-major venue on Tour, there will be real cause for hysteria.

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