So Doral’s Blue Monster Played Tough — Get Over It!
After Friday’s second round, Tiger Woods was asked to describe Trump National Doral’s Blue Monster in one word. “Tough,” was his response. A handful of players had harsher assessments. A few of the television broadcasters were tossing out the “u” word — “unfair.” Credit goes to the game’s best competitors, however. Publicly, they were in accord with Tiger, who added that for the most part, it was fair. Personally, I’ll side with Brandt Snedeker, who remarked that the greens were probably a little too firm and fast given the conditions. Still, he wasn’t griping, he was observing. The course was hard, really hard, but fair. The way NBC/Golf Channel’s talking heads were groaning, however, made it appear that these kind of conditions had never been seen outside of majors. Poppycock.
I’m a history guy, so let’s pick a year at random. Let’s go back to 1979, 35 years ago, in the wooden wood days. Here’s a glimpse at what happened that year.
Andy Williams San Diego Open at Torrey Pines. Fuzzy Zoeller wins — by FIVE — with a six-under-par 282. Only five players broke par for 72 holes. The next week at the Bing Crosby Pro-Am, Lon Hinkle shot 77 in the final round at Pebble Beach — and won in a playoff, at four-under-par 284. Only seven golfers broke par for 72 holes. At Riviera for the Los Angeles Open, Lanny Wadkins wins at eight under. One week later, the Florida swing started at Bay Hill. Six under makes the playoff. Only five players finished better than one under for four rounds.
Have I made my point? OK, here’s more. Lanny captured the Players Championship, at five under, 283, at Sawgrass Country Club — FIVE shots clear of Tom Watson. They were the only two golfers at par or better. In a Masters tune-up, Raymond Floyd triumphed at the Greater Greensboro Open, with a six-under-par 282 total. Only five players finished in red figures. Then came the infamous Memorial event, that was admittedly plagued by rough weather. On Day 2, Tom Watson shot his legendary 69, two better than anyone else, and nine shots ahead of the day’s scoring average. Of the 105 golfers in the field, 42 failed to break 80. Watson won the event with 285, three under par, three clear of the runner-up, Miller Barber, who himself was three clear of third-place Bob Gilder. Best players in the world, two guys broke 291.
Had enough? Not yet. Lee Trevino grabbed the Canadian Open trophy, with a three-under-par 281. No one else broke par for 72 holes. Two weeks later, Larry Nelson edged Ben Crenshaw for the Western Open title in a playoff, after both had tied at 286, two-under-par. Only four golfers total beat par; a fifth golfer, Bruce Lietzke, matched par. I counted eight other regular (non-major) Tour events in 1979 where the winner failed to reach double-digit under-par totals.
Donald Trump had to be a happy man on Friday. He likes hard golf, and his Blue Monster, aided by Mother Nature, bared its fangs and chomped down. However, as brutally difficult as it was, it was hardly unfair — and as 1979 shows, it was hardly unprecedented.