Kapalua, Hawaii – The scoreboard was filled with under par red numbers after the first round, all of them hitting double digits, the highest score at 59.

Sweet and sweet kapalua?

No, it was the PNC championship. The low scores were the product of a two-player scrum.

But it raised a question that sounded only futuristic. How long before that is what it looks like after a round of stroke play on the PGA Tour?

Absurd?

Nor was the World No.1 player tying a PGA Tour record with 32 birdies, finishing 33 under par and explaining how he finished second.

“A bittersweet moment,” Jon Rahm said.

By now, even casual golfers should recognize that when the turf is soft and the wind is on vacation, nothing prevents the best players in the world – and there are more of them than ever nowadays – d ‘get seemingly higher scores. suitable for a video game.

It was no less surreal to see the scores in the final hour of the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Only three players in PGA Tour history had completed a 72-hole tournament at 30 under par or less. There were three players under 30 or better in Kapalua, and they weren’t even finished.

Kevin Kisner and Stewart Cink had just signed their cards on Sunday when they watched TV outside the score room. Kisner had set a personal best 24 under par. His previous record was under 22 in 2015 when he won at Sea Island by six strokes. He was tied for eighth at Kapalua, 10 strokes behind.

Have they ever imagined seeing a score like this?

“No wind, no defense,” Kisner said. “I just hope they don’t make golf courses longer because that doesn’t work.”

Cink looked at another aspect of the latest evolution of the royal and ancient game, and he found the right words from the player standing next to him.

“To quote a famous golf philosopher,” he said, glancing at Kisner, “’It’s not a hobby.’ “

Yes, the equipment is better, both the golf clubs and balls in the hands of the players and the machines that keep the golf courses as pristine as the weather permits. Technology improves every year, from launch monitors to instant video instructions on cell phones.

We must not neglect the money, which attracts better athletes. And that’s what lies behind the lower and lower score as much as anything.

It had to happen, and a lot of it goes back to Tiger Woods.

“You’ve probably got a lot of game purists who are probably going, ‘Oh, you got to roll the ball back, shorter pilots, do this, do that,'” Rahm said after finishing a shot behind Cameron Smith in Kapalua.

“The simple fact is that ever since Tiger started playing golf you get people who take the game a lot more seriously,” he said. “Everyone thinks of it more like athletes. The level of play is therefore much higher than before.

Players are careful with their words when discussing the difficulty of winning in today’s game so nothing is taken away of what Woods achieved in his prime, some of which will likely never be repeated (142 cuts consecutive, holding all four majors simultaneously, 52 consecutive laps at par or better on the PGA Tour).

But the competition is stronger. That he would still have won 82 times is not the question. Woods asked David Duval, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh to challenge him. Now, there’s no one as good as Woods, but a dozen like those who once challenged him, and the list just keeps growing.

“He was better than we’ve ever been,” said Rahm. “But overall I think the average player is a better golfer.”

Cink arrived on the PGA Tour around the same time as Woods, and he saw how the game changed. It’s not just a game to play. It is a sport which consumes the best.

“Your ability has given you a lot more than it does now,” Cink said. “Now your ability opens a door for you. It’s a different story when you get out of here. The level of play continues to increase. The trajectory is accelerating sharply.

Rory McIlroy once said that golf is such a nostalgic game that the first memories will always be the most beautiful, whether it’s Ben Hogan with a 1 iron in Merion or Seve Ballesteros with any club of any lie. or Woods winning majors by double-digit margins.

David Hunter is a special piece of golf history. He was the first player to break 70 in a major (68) at the 1909 US Open. Branden Grace now holds the record at 62 at the 2017 British Open. That will fall, perhaps this summer, especially if St. Andrews doesn’t have his best defense – the wind.

Arnold Palmer said in 1960, “Don’t 280 always win the US Open? Just before pushing his way from seven shots behind with a 65 to win the Open at Cherry Hills.

He finished at 280, a score that would not have won seven of the last 10 times at the US Open.

The game evolves and has always evolved. As long as the lower score wins, golf will be fine. It might not be exactly the sport as you remember it. Few sports are.