As tough as Muirfield Golf Links played the past few days, no PGA Tour tournament should ever be played on a course or under conditions that are much easier.
The money the world’s best golfers compete for every week is too good to be won less strenuously.
More difficult is more entertaining, isn’t it?
In fact, the PGA Tour should adopt a policy and name it for Phil Mickelson: Any time a tournament’s winning score is double figures below par the event must move to a more challenging layout the next year.
While winning the British Open on Sunday, Mickelson demonstrated why this proposal makes sense.
If Mickelson were playing in the Quad Cities instead of Scotland, his final-round 66 would have been ho-hum. If his 281 winning score won the Greater Topeka Auto Wax Classic, the victory would have been ho-hummer.
But Mickelson’s final 18 holes were remarkable because they came at Muirfield.
The world’s best golfers should be required to be remarkable to win any tournament, whether at Muirfield or Miami or St. Andrews or St. Paul.
How hard would you be willing to work and how much sweat would you be willing to spill for the chance to win more than $1 million in a single week?
Mickelson called his triumphant round probably the best he ever played and one of his most memorable. It’s doubtful he would have said that even if he shot 59 at Hartford.
I never have been a Mickelson fan because to me he’s still an underachiever despite five major championships. I’m done fighting that fight, however, because he earned considerable respect by beating back Muirfield.
So today let’s discuss another great sports debate: Is it more fun to watch pro golfers struggle to break par on a tough course or cruise toward birdies on an easy course?
The U.S. Open and British Open employ a last-man-standing philosophy and set up courses to protect par. Meanwhile, too often the PGA Tour sets up courses to humiliate par in the belief everyone should stand out as if this were tee ball with trophies for all.
Mickelson’s championship-clinching round wasn’t memorable because of the great players it conquered.
It was memorable because of the golf course it conquered.
Mickelson won The Open Championship, as it’s pompously known over there, by being the only player in the field to finish under par for the 72 holes.
Over four days Muirfield was too tough for Tiger Woods, too tough for Lee Westwood, too tough for other worldwide contenders such as Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera.
Yet Mickelson shot 5 under par in the final round and 3 under par for four rounds. He did so by converting remarkable shots under the most pressurized conditions.
Those same shots can be seen on a weekly basis at routine PGA Tour stops, but they’re coming on courses set up like Carlos Marmol instead of Mariano Rivera.
Tournament organizers pretty much can dictate an event’s winning score by the height of the rough, firmness of the greens and length of the holes.
So when the BMW Championship returns to the Chicago area in September — a FedEx Cup playoff event, by the way — why not make sure the winner shoots better than last year’s 20 under?
Same thing elsewhere on the PGA Tour: Make the best golfers in the world earn every single dollar of the millions they play for by scheduling near-major quality venues every week.
You know, the way Phil Mickelson earned The Open Championship title Sunday.
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