Is Tiger happy that the pros shredded his El Cardonal layout?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

The World Wide Technology Championship that concluded on Sunday featured the debut of El Cardonal, a Tiger Woods design with very generous fairways and intricate green complexes. Tour stats showed that players hit 90% of their fairways compared to a Tour average of 75% and one player, Adam Long, hit every fairway all four days, the first to do that in over 30 years. The winning score was 27-under, and 67 players were at least 10-under par. What did you think of the course, and do you think Tiger was happy that the players shredded his layout?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Unfortunately, my weekend was spent traveling, so I didn’t get to see any of the WWT Championship. Then again, my interest in televised golf wanes at this time of year anyway.  And I’m generally not overly interested in watching birdie fests, partly because it reinforces how divorced my own golf game is from touring professionals.  But to answer your second question, I can’t imagine Tiger would be thrilled with scores you would expect pros to shoot on a flat, wet muni.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: One time a friend of mine (who I married) took me to see Itzhak Pearlman. I had no clue who he was. On another occasion, a friend took me to see Mikhail Baryshnikov. I divorced her but not because of the performance although I’d never heard of him either. Pearlman played a solo that brought tears to my eyes; Baryshnikov is the finest athlete I have ever seen. Tour players are amazingly good. They can be slowed down to a canter by weather or severe conditions but when you provide quality surfaces and a straightforward playing field, they will do what people with talent do…….perform.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I think the course showed ok, no better.  I know some pros weren’t crazy about it (hello Kelly Kraft), but it did look like a fun layout that provided some interesting shots around the greens.  I did see some shots carom off some banks and roll well off of greens, which may have been a bit much, but overall, it looked like a course that I’d find fun to play.  As for a PGA Tour course, I don’t have a problem with guys shooting 27 under to win the odd week, as long as that’s not the norm.  But it sure provided an exciting finish, with many birdies and eagles to be had down the stretch.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The members at that super high-end residential complex must love those fairways that are wider than their massive properties are deep. The adjacent Davis Love Dunes layout is reportedly more interesting. But for a retirement diversion for the top percenters, it’s perfect (which is the clientele paying for it every other week of the year). For a so-called PGA Tour event, not so much. The conclusion was storybook, the lead up was pulp fiction.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): El Cardonal was designed as a resort course, and it doesn’t seem like anyone thought to toughen it up for the pros. Tiger indicated it was a “second shot course” which is fine, but the first shot shouldn’t be a gimme. I doubt Tiger would ever say anything – does he ever? – but can’t imagine he’s thrilled with the scores or the set-up. Expect tougher conditions if they come back in 2024.

South African Erik van Rooyen won in Mexico with a brilliant birdie-birdie-eagle finish to soar past Matt Kuchar who looked to have the tournament well in hand with just three holes to play. Can you think of a better finishing kick in recent memory?

Deeks: Nope.  But my memory isn’t all that sharp anymore.  Sorry, what was the question again?

Schurman: I don’t want to diminish my feelings for his reaction to winning by comparing it to others. Who says, “Real cowboys don’t cry”? What surprises me about Van Rooyen is why he doesn’t win more. Maybe it’s the pants?

Rule: That was an unbelievable finish, and an emotional one for van Rooyen, which made it even more special.  It depends how you describe “recent memory”, but my memory is short so I’ll say Rory at this year’s Scottish Open at Renaissance Club where, after Bob MacIntyre made an incredible birdie at the last, many would not have given Rory much chance to win, but he finished with two birdies on two incredibly tough finishing holes to win by one.

Quinn: Well, may be stretching the definition of ‘recent’ but I can still see the 21-inch RCA on top of the chest of drawers in the bedroom, our one-year-old daughter sleeping on the bed beside me squirming with each of my ‘OMG’s and almost waking to Verne Lundquist’s “Yesss Sirrrr.” With such pressing parental duties back in ’86 didn’t know that with the Lundquist-called birdie on 17 Jack needed just a par on 18 for a 30 on the back at Augusta National. Still amazing, at 46 years old, his sixth Green Jacket and a one stroke win over Kite and Norman. That was a finishing kick for the ages.

Mumford: Jack’s back-nine 30 on Sunday to win the 86 Masters is the gold standard as far as I’m concerned but Jordan Spieth’s birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie stretch from 14 through 17 at Royal Birkdale in 2017 to win the Open Championship is a close second. Spieth started with the lead on Sunday and then collapsed before rallying himself for his amazing finish. Coincidentally, Matt Kuchar was on the losing end of that feat too.

We’re still a couple of months away from the launch of TGL, Tiger Woods’ and Rory McIlroy’s tech infused simulator league but news about the format, new investors and teams continues to be released. On the weekend, Jon Rahm became the first player to back out of the League citing scheduling pressure. According to various reports, players will play alternate shot format for nine holes and then six holes of head-to-head match play. There could be overtime too. As more news trickles out, has there been anything you find compelling enough to want to watch?

Deeks: Not a thing.  I might tune in out of simple interest, but I doubt the TGL will make it to my Must Watch list. I wish them luck with it, though.  I’m a fan of simulators although I’m not sure that they’ve solved the putting element yet.

Schurman: I’m curious enough to give the entire thing a chance mostly because it’s a modern-day attempt to infringe on the product of top-level golf. Normally, I have no interest but in a bizarre attempt at maintaining my youthful, athletic, free-spirited outlook on life, I’ll hang for a while. Ha-ha.

Rule: I haven’t found anything to get me excited about TGL other than the fact that Tiger will be involved.  I guess I’ll just have to give it a chance and see if it changes my mind.  Maybe if they had Phil and Greg Norman lead a “ManningCast” style broadcast it will add some entertainment!

Quinn: This is going to be the ultimate in next-gen technology — it has to be — and whether or not it can be replicated compellingly on the average household devices will decide its success or failure. The format and faux competition will be just minor irritants, like the current ‘Playing Through’ brain stroke. If there is a lot of ‘Wows’ from the gamers and some ‘Gee Wizzikers’ from golfers, it may get some eyeballs — as the network wonks used to say. Hard to imagine it having legs, though. Pro Pickleball has a channel. There’s an option.

Mumford: I’m not sure what they’re trying to do with this TGL. They trickle out info like they’re making it up as they go along, and I still have no idea who their intended market is. It’s certainly not me. This kind of show will require plenty of witty repartee amongst the players, and we know that’s not their strong suit. I love watching almost all golf on a real course but the idea of watching anybody on a simulator smacks of desperation. I’m still a no.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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