Every day on the PGA Tour you'll see dozens of ways to play the shorter holes, but only the Daly style works on par-5s: Kill 'em. Today's pros can surmount other woes—think of Tiger Woods's occasional nuked wedge shot or Fred Couples's tendency to go splash—but they find it virtually impossible to do well without getting deep into the red on par-5s.
Players who murder the long holes have little to fear from those who don't. Through the Byron Nelson Classic, this year's 18 tournament champions averaged eight strokes under on par-5s in the weeks they won, making 10 eagles, 130 birdies, 119 pars and only eight bogeys. What's more, David Duval, Couples and Woods, the season's top three money winners, are also the leaders in scoring on par-5s. Woods averages a Tour-best 1.92 under par per round on the fives, Duval 1.85 and Couples 1.80.
As the chart below shows, pros were already pummeling par-5s when the Tour began keeping track in 1983. In recent years, however, the trend has become an all-out assault. Whether the cause is titanium drivers or iron-pumping in the gym, the average driving distance has risen 12.5 yards to 269.3 since 1980, allowing even run-of-the-mill players to reach holes of more than 500 yards in two. The result: Through the Nelson, all 165 men in the Tour's statistical rankings were under par on the fives, from the vivid crimson of John Huston (above) at minus 80 to the pale red of Guy Boros at minus 6. "On most courses we play, there are at least two par-5s where you can't be happy to walk off with a five," says Kevin Sutherland, who is minus 56 on par-5s this year.
Each year, the U.S. Open shows what golf would be like in a world where par is a good score on a par-5. With its fierce rough and anorexic fairways, the Open demands accuracy, not assassination. Last year, for instance, Ernie Els won his second Open though he was only two under on the par-5s. By way of comparison, no Tour winner this year has been worse than three under on the holes formerly known as three-shotters.
Pros who don't go low on the fives risk going the way of persimmon drivers. Ask Nick Faldo and Corey Pavin, whose declines can be traced to their play on par-5s. Faldo is 22 under on fives this year, 147th on the Tour. Pavin, who was 14th on the fives when he led the money list in '91, has tumbled to 154th this year at minus 17. Numbers like those won't get you any high fives.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]