Watching records fall
No course in Hawaii may be safe after what Roberts did at Hualalai
THERE ARE ONLY a handful of people who witnessed John Huston's 28-under performance at Waialae, Ernie Els' 31-under masterpiece at the Plantation and Loren Roberts' 25-under overnighter at Hualalai.
And it's likely all of them were in the Champions Tour media room this past Sunday evening.
"Do you realize what we have seen in only eight years? Three of the greatest tournaments in the history of golf."
Well, maybe that's overstating it a bit, but if you were the only ones to see and report Dutch Warmerdam's 15-foot pole vault, Roger Bannister's sub 4-minute mile and Bob Hayes' 9.1 hundred, you'd feel fairly fortunate.
I thought we were lucky to see and report three of golf's best scoring tournaments, and said as much to my journalistic brethren gathered with me. Their lack of enthusiasm was palpable.
STAR-BULLETIN / 1998
John Huston brought the Waialae Country Club to its knees in 1998 by winning the Hawaiian Open with an amazing four-round total of 28 under par.
It's true that the common denominators for Huston in 1998, Els in 2003 and Roberts last Sunday were no trades at accessible courses, but the performances are noteworthy just the same. Nobody says the only reason Babe Ruth hit 714 homers was because right field was only 295 feet away. He was helped by "the short porch," originally known as "Ruthville," but most of his blasts would still clear fences today.
After what Huston did at Waialae, they took a pair of par 5s and called them par 4s, shifted a few tee boxes here and there, and told the good folks at Sony nobody would ever thrash the course that way again and get away with it.
It worked fairly well. Last year, Waialae was rated the 15th-most-difficult course on the PGA Tour, right behind Cog Hill Golf and Country Club where they play the Western Open and just in front of TPC at Sawgrass where they host the "fifth major," better known as The Players Championship.
Even so, David Toms did a little number on Waialae after the trades decided to take the weekend off. Toms closed 61-65 for a 19-under victory that matched Paul Azinger's lopsided finish in 2000 and fell one shot shy of the record-setting 20 under Brad Faxon fashioned in 2001.
The way Toms was dialed in, had the first two days been as calm, you might be looking at a 28-under 252. But it didn't take place because not all the holes were in the proper alignment. It happened for Huston, Els and Roberts, and so far, that's it.
One of the folks in the room suggested it was time to toughen up Hualalai, maybe take the easiest of the par 5s and do a Waialae on them. Watson almost said as much on The Golf Channel following his round on Sunday.
He pointed out that all the par 5s were reachable in two. Basically, that's a par 68, and too easy, even for those with senior moments. When a scoring average for a par 5 is closer to a par 4, then it may be time for an adjustment. But perhaps that should come from a group of folks gathered in a Four Seasons cabana, not from us good folks who don't play golf for a living.
ANYWAY, SOME OF US like a little offense in our golf game, while others prefer what happened at windswept Plantation three weeks ago, when only two rounds landed in the 60s. But 20 years from now, they won't be talking about Stuart Appleby's win over Vijay Singh the same way they describe Els' 31 under that's still No. 1 in the record book in relation to par and likely will be there until the next time the trades are on the down low.
The same can be said for Roberts' Champions Tour record of 25-under 191. Had this event been 72 holes, would he have gone even lower than Els? For those sitting out at the Kailua-Kona Airport on Monday, they know the answer to that one. No way. Because the winds came up hard and fast as a front blew through, with thunderstorms in tow.
AS IT WAS, ROBERTS needed a chip-in eagle at the 10th and a ramrod birdie from 30 at the 18th to break the 22-under mark set by Ed Dougherty in 2001 and equaled by Tom Kite that same year. The conditions have to be right; that's a given. But you still have to stand over a 30-foot putt with the tournament on the line and knock it steady and true. If you think it's easy, go over to Hualalai sometime and give it a roll from where Roberts stood and see how you do.
For some of us, it was fun to see a little history. Huston's 28-under mark was broken by Joe Durant at the Bob Hope in 2001, but on four different courses, and equaled by Tim Herron two years later at the same event. But Huston's 28 under is still tied for fourth behind Els, Durant and Herron. And Roberts' 25 under will be in the books a year from now, and will likely be there for many more to come.
With any luck, when the records do fall, we'll all be there in the room.
Sports Editor Paul Arnett
has been covering sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1990. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org