At the US Open at Chambers Bay, there’s a good chance that par on the first and last hole will not be the same each round. The total of the two—the standard par 4 1st hole and the usual par 5 18th hole—is 9 and that will stay the same, but by lengthening the 1st hole and shortening the final hole, the pars can be switched and the risk reward factors on those holes will change. It’s an interesting twist to a golf tournament that’s more gut-wrenching than any other golf championship.
Come Sunday night, changing the par on those holes may not make any difference. Par for the four days will remain at 70 each 18 holes, 280 for the golf tournament, and the USGA usually looks for the winner to finish right around that number. Some years, the final 72-hole total is under par by a few strokes and some years the winner is a few strokes over par. Rory McIlroy’s 16-under par at Congressional Country Club in 2011 and Tiger Woods’ 12-under at Pebble Beach in 2000 are the only double digit under-par US Open winners.
Par is a relative term meaning an average or normal amount. In golf, it’s the number of strokes set as a standard for a specific hole or a complete course. It’s an easy way for golfers to determine how well they are playing against the golf course. Noting a player is under or over par, showing a leader board at golf tournaments or on television is specifically for the fans and helps the players easily keep up with the competition as the event progresses. Showing in on TV broadcasts was an idea hatched by CBS golf producer/director Frank Chirkinian. He wanted to keep the viewers informed about the status of the players against par, making it easier for those who play golf and those who don’t to understand who is winning and how far back a favorite player may be.
As far as changing par on a hole, we believe it’s never been done during a tournament until now. Holes have been made shorter and longer, but par for the holes has remained the same. Courses have been changed between tournaments with par for holes varying year to year. At Pinehurst No. 2, site for the 1999, 2005 and 2014 US Open tournaments, the 4th hole was designed as a par 5 and the 5th hole was designed as a par 4. Actually, the architect Donald Ross claimed the 5th hole as his favorite par 4.
In 1999 and 2005, those holes—4 and 5—played as designed. In 2014, last year, the holes were changed—the 5th made a little shorter and turned into a par 4; the 4th lengthened a great deal and played as a par 5. The result was lower scores on the average in 2014 than in the other two years.
- In 1999, the 4th stroke average was 4.926, slightly under par, and the 5th averaged 4.529, nearly half a shot over par.
- In 2005, the average score on the 4th was 4.756, more under par than in 1999, and the average at the 5th was 4.395, still over par but better than in 1999.
- When par for those holes changed for 2014, the 4th, now a par 4, averaged 4.262, much better than the previous US Opens there but now over par. The average score on the now par 5 5th hole went to 4.8, under par but a higher average score than the other two US Opens at Pinehurst No. 2.
- The average scores for the 4th and 5th combined for those years were: 1999—9.475; 2005—9.151; and, 2014—9.062. No doubt, in relation to par, those are two tough back-to-back holes.