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Stableford scoring turns 20 at The International

Change never comes easily on the PGA Tour.

For those who think the FedEx Cup competition that starts next year is a mathematical nightmare, consider the reaction 20 years ago when it was announced that a new PGA Tour event in Colorado was going to use a modified Stableford scoring system.

Safe to say, it took time for players to embrace it.

"I don't understand it," Andy Bean said in 1986, arms flailing in frustration. "I don't know what to think about it. It isn't stroke play and it isn't match play. It's not golf. It's just ... playing games."

Twenty years later, the International has created its own niche with the strange scoring system and a world-class stable of winners, from Phil Mickelson to Ernie Els, from Vijay Singh to Greg Norman.

Brad Faxon won in 1992 but is skipping this year because he is eligible for the World Golf Championship at Firestone, giving him four straight tournaments. Even so, he loves the modified Stableford and wonders why more recreational players don't use some form of it.

"When the great courses were built in America at the turn of the century, a lot of them were built to be match play or a Stableford system," Faxon said. "You played it as a game, not to shoot the lowest score. It was a match."

The modified Stableford at the International awards two points for a birdie, five for an eagle and eight for a double eagle. One point is subtracted for a bogey, three points for a double bogey or worse.

The real Stableford system is much more friendly to average players.

It was developed by Frank Stableford, a member of Wallasey Golf Club in England who was frustrated at his inability to reach the green on the second hole. It now measures 458 yards from the members' tee, a dogleg to the right with a pot bunker at 260 yards into strong gusts from the Irish Sea.

"I was practicing on the second fairway at Wallasey Golf Club one day in the latter part of 1931 when the thought ran through my mind that many players in competitions got very little fun since they tore up their cards after playing on a few holes," Stableford once said. "And I wondered if anything could be done about it."

The first Stableford competition was held at Wallasey on May 16, 1932.

It awards one point for a bogey, two for a par, three for a birdie, four for an eagle and five for a double eagle, with no points deducted no matter what the score. John Daly, no doubt, would thrive under the pure Stableford format.

Players of all skill level get strokes depending on the handicap and the hole, and it keeps the game competitive.

It leads to fireworks at the International. And for those amateurs playing on the weekend, it's more fun than match play.

August 10, 2006


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