With the 2014 PGA Tour season starting, I wanted to give the readers a look at a few players on Tour that I feel will be on the rise and falling for the season. The data below is the player’s 2013 metrics.
Players on the Rise
Colsaerts was the hot prospect headed for the Tour in 2013 coming off splendid play at the 2012 Ryder Cup. He generates a ton of club head speed and is one of the longer hitters on Tour. He was also eighth in approach shots from the rough and fourth in approach shots from the fairway. Thus, he’s an excellent iron player if he keeps the ball in play. He actually drove the ball quite well for most of the season, but he regressed toward the end of the year.
The reason why I like Colsaerts is that he hits it so long and hits it so well with his irons that the only part of the game that held him back was on and around the greens. And where he excelled with his irons was in the ever-important Danger Zone. He also was first in shots from 225-to-250 yards.
Colsaerts was saddled with the strongest strength of schedule on Tour last year, while only ranking 100th in Purse Size per Event. I believe that he can get used to the greens along with working on his putting in the offseason that he will have much more success in 2014. As I have mentioned in Pro Golf Synopsis, the biggest statistical advantage that distance provides is it allows the golfer to putt overcome poor putting. This is due to the par-5’s on Tour playing more like par-4’s for long hitters such as Colsaerts. Therefore, he can still be a mediocre putter on Tour and have a big year. He just needs to stop putting like one of the worst putters on Tour.
CHARLES HOWELL III
Howell has been one of the most overrated ballstrikers in recent years and subsequently one of the most underrated in terms of short game and putting. What has happened is that he has steepened his angle of attack with the driver over time. I have written about this in Pro Golf Synopsis, where the most common trait of a golfer who “loses their driving” on Tour is the one who starts to struggle with his accuracy off the tee and to counter that he tries to fly the ball lower by hitting more and more downward on the ball. This may provide some initial relief for the golfer, but eventually he not only starts losing distance off the tee, but he becomes more inaccurate and imprecise off the tee as well.
Here is a look at Howell’s radar metrics during the past three years:
Frustrated, Howell started to work with Grant Waite for much of the second half of 2013 in order to improve shallow out his attack angle. Here is a look of his radar metrics in the fall 2013-2014 season:
This created a noticeable improvement in his ballstriking in the 2013-2014 fall season. Here is a look at his rankings in the key ballstriking metrics in those tournaments he played in:
Granted, his rankings in these events is out of roughly 120 players versus his cumulative rankings in 2013 being out of 190 players. But, he is currently in the top-10th percentile in driving and entirely better from each of the zones. With his club head speed, putting and short game he can take this much improved ballstriking and set target for having a spectacular 2014.
Jones’ metrics may not impress many golfers. Last year I wrote about how PGA Tour players only need to be average or better in four areas of the game.
- Driving Effectiveness
- Danger Zone (175 to 225 yards) Play
- Putts Gained
- Short Game Shots from 10 to 20 yards
There is a very strong correlation between Tour players that finish in the top-half in these categories and their success on Tour. Not only do golfers that achieve “The Power of Being Average” usually keep their cards, but they tend to have wildly successful seasons. Jones finished a very respectable 49th on the money list. But even more impressive was his ranking of 29th in Adjusted Scoring Average. His Purse Size per Event is likely to improve and if he has the talent to achieve each of the “Big Four” areas of the game, he has a good chance to carrying it over to 2014 and having a terrific season.
While Senden’s metrics were not impressive, 2013 was a down year for him. Senden is well known for his ballstriking and is usually one of the premier ballstrikers on Tour from off the tee and on shots longer than 175 yards.
Since Senden did not lose any club head speed, I believe that he will regain his ballstriking in 2014. Furthermore, he was hampered by his inability to make putts from longer than 15 feet. He ranked 153rd in make percentage from long distance and historically that metric means he should progress toward the mean.
Teater just missed finishing in the top half of “The Big Four” (Driving Effectiveness, Danger Zone, Short Game Shots and Putts Gained) as he ranked 96th in Putts Gained.
If there are worries about his game, he tends to miss a high percentage of the time to the right (60.5 percent) and that his ranking in Adjusted Scoring Average (82nd) should have been much better given his key performance metrics. This indicates that Teater may have some issues with his strategy.
In the end, it is difficult to take away from a player that almost executed “The Big Four” and did it against top-tier competition. Furthermore, parts of his issues with the putter were from long distance as he ranked 138th in make percentage from beyond 15 feet. This should progress toward the mean in 2014.
PLAYERS ON THE DECLINE
Typically, Merrick has been a very good driver of the ball and has had some issues with his iron play. In the past two seasons, he has made strides to improve his iron play, but his driving has regressed. Last year he started off the season as one of the premier Danger Zone players on Tour, while driving the ball very effectively and putting well to win his first-ever PGA Tour event, the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club.
Since then, Merrick has only made an average of $35,566 per event played, which would have ranked 105th on Tour. Merrick benefited from playing a fairly soft schedule that had a fairly high purse size per event. Those two rankings should be more similar in 2014, which means that his strength of schedule should become tougher while his average Purse Size per Event should drop slightly and that would make it more difficult for him to have success.
Ernst benefited from his surprise victory at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow after making it through the Monday qualifier. He was a good driver of the ball in 2013, but did not do much well beside that. He performed poorly in each of the zones and was the second worst on Tour on short game shots from 10-to-20 yards. He was also a mediocre putter.
That does not make for good prospects in 2014, and he finished out the 2013 missing nine of his past 13 cuts with a best finish of T-44th. One of the big things Ernst has going for him is his world-class club head speed. If he can use that speed to his advantage and start bombing shots off the tee, all he needs is one good week of golf and he can get into contention for another victory. But since he does not hit it as far as his club head speed indicates, I have my doubts that will happen.
Mahan’s game has always been his impeccable driving of the ball. He generates about average club head speed and is above average in distance off the tee. But, he has an uncanny ability to hit a ton of fairways (66.6 percent) given his distance off the tee. The problem for Mahan has been his Danger Zone play and his Short Game from 10-to-20 yards. Mahan is an underrated putter, but was also saved by ranking 39th in Putts Made Percentage from 15 to 25 feet. That should regress toward the mean in 2014 and that means that his performance should dip as well if he everything remains the same. I still see him as ranking in the top 100 on the Money List, if not the top 50. But, I feel he will have a down year when I look at the data.
Stroud had that incredible chip-in on the 72nd hole of the Travelers to force a playoff, and had a fine year overall as he finished 55th on the PGA Tour money list.
We can see some of the reasons why I do not favor his prospects in 2014. He drove it poorly (164th) and he is a short hitter off the tee. He also performed poorly from the Danger Zone. Where he made it up was from the Safe Zone and with his putting and short-game play. So he did a good job of getting the ball up near the green in regulation and could often putt and chip his way to par and birdie.
Most of his driving issues were consistency related. He hit a decent amount of fairways (62.4 percent), but ranked 137th in Fairway Bunker Percentage and 147th in Missed Fairway — Other Percentage (shots that find the water, trees, O.B, result in rescue shots, etc). Short and crooked is a hard way to make it on Tour.
Stroud also ranked 50th in make percentage on putts from longer than 15 feet. That should regress toward the mean and will cost him strokes in 2014.
If you look at Blixt’s 2013 season, we see a golfer that only played well in four tournaments. He had a T-26th finish at the British Open, a T-11th finish at Colonial, a fourth-place finish at Oak Hill and a victory at The Greenbrier. Outside of those tournaments, he usually missed the cut or finished poorly.
Blixt did this through good, but streaky putting and a good short game. The chart below shows Blixt’s streaky putting throughout the year:
Anything below -0.5 is quite poor and above +0.5 is quite good. Blixt ran through some extreme highs and lows throughout the season, which created a trend line that was very streaky. He was on fire with the putter after Sawgrass and it is very unlikely he will be able to keep up that pace in 2014.
Mondays Off: How is the new PGA schedule looking? Gross golf bag cleaning story!
The new PGA schedule is out and how will so much major golf look in the fall. What golf gear would you buy with your stimulus check if you could blow it all on golf? Knudson has a gross story about cleaning out a golf bag.
Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below.
Tiger at the Masters: The 3 that got away
This time last year, Tiger Woods earned his fifth green jacket at the 2019 Masters, breaking a 14-year drought at Augusta National and completing a storybook career comeback (see Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters WITB here).
Between his 2005 and 2019 victories, Woods gave himself several chances to reclaim the green jacket, but for one reason or another, the championship continuously eluded the 15-time major winner.
Looking back on that drought, three years in particular stick out in my mind where Woods (being the ruthless closer that he is) could, and maybe should, have capitalized on massive opportunities.
A unique tournament broke out at the 2007 Masters with chilly and windy conditions meaning we would see an over-par score winning the event for the first time in a generation.
Unusually however was the fact that Tiger Woods had got himself into a fantastic position heading into the final day’s play—one stroke back of the lead and in the final group.
By the first hole on Sunday, Woods had a share of the lead. A couple of holes later, and he was the sole leader. But instead of the game’s greatest ever closer doing what he does best, we saw the first small chink in Tiger’s major armor.
Unable to keep up with the improved scoring on Sunday, Woods finished the championship two strokes behind Zach Johnson. It was the first time Woods lost a major in which he held the lead at some point in the final round.
Summing up after the round why things hadn’t turned out the way the entire golf world expected, Woods said
“Looking back over the week I basically blew this tournament with two rounds where I had bogey, bogey finishes. That’s 4-over in two holes. The last two holes, you just can’t afford to do that and win major championships.”
In one of the most exciting final rounds in Masters history, an electric front-nine charge from Woods coupled with a Rory McIlroy collapse saw the then 35-year-old tied for the lead heading into the back nine.
After back-to-back pars on the challenging 10th and 11th holes, Woods found the green on the 12th before it all slipped away. A disastrous three-putt was followed by a deflating five on the par-5 13th and an agonizing near-miss for birdie on 14.
In typical defiant fashion, Woods then flushed a long iron on the par-5 15th to give him five feet for eagle and what would have been the outright lead. But he couldn’t find the cup.
Directly following his round, a visibly miffed Woods said
“I should have shot an easy 3- or 4-under on the back nine and I only posted even. But I’m right there in the thick of it and a bunch of guys have a chance. We’ll see what happens.”
What happened was eventual champion Charl Schwartzel did what Woods said he should have done—shooting 4 under on the back to win his first major.
Luck, or lack of, is a contentious topic when it comes to sports fans, but at the 2013 Masters, Woods’ shocking fate played out as if those on Mount Olympus were orchestrating the tournament.
Woods entered the 2013 Masters as the World Number One, brimming with confidence having won three out of his first five tournaments to start the year.
By Friday afternoon, Woods had cruised into a share of the lead, before crisply striking a wedge on the par-5 15th as he hunted for another birdie.
In a cruel twist of fate, Woods’ ball struck the pin and ricocheted back into the water. “Royally cheated!” shouted on-course announcer David Feherty. Nobody could argue otherwise.
A subsequent “bad drop” turned a probable birdie into a triple-bogey placing Woods behind the proverbial 8-ball for the rest of the tournament. The game’s ultimate closer should have been in the lead with two rounds to play on a front-runner’s paradise of a course; instead, he was in chase-mode. (From 1991-2012, 19 of the 22 winners came from the final group).
Woods tried to rally over the weekend, but if he didn’t think the 2013 Masters was ill-fated for himself by Friday evening, then he would have been excused to do so on the eighth hole on Saturday.
Had Woods’ golf ball missed the pin at 15 on that hot and humid Spring afternoon in 2013, then he not only wins, but he likely wins going away.
The Wedge Guy: Power Leak No. 1: Your grip
One of the things I like the best is when a friend or stranger asks me to take a look at their swing to see if I can help them. I never get into the “lesson” business, because that is the domain of our golf staff at the club. But I have spent a lifetime in this game, and have studied the golf swing pretty relentlessly. I also have been blessed with a pretty good eye.
So, the other day, I was out hitting some balls in the afternoon, and a good friend from the club asked if I’d take a look at where he is losing power. Darrell is a big guy and a good player, but not nearly as long as you would think he’d be. He plays with the “big dog” money game, which has a few really big hitters that can be quite intimidating.
I’ve played with Darrell enough to know exactly where his power leaks were, so when he came out to the range, I watched him hit a few and dropped the first one on him.
“It’s your grip!”
He, like so many amateur golfers, was holding the club too far out on the end, and much too high in his palms — not low in the fingers like you should. I’ve always been of the opinion that the grip is the most important fundamental in the entire golf swing. Without a solid and fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, the rest of the swing cannot function at its best. Hogan thought it was so important, he dedicated a whole chapter of “Five Lessons” to the subject.
You’ll see the occasional pretty good scorer at the club with a funky grip, but you never see a bad grip on tour. The golfer who has mastered a great grip is the most teachable there is.
In my opinion, the grip is only ‘personal’ to a small degree. Whether you like to overlap, interlock or use the full finger grip (not baseball)…whether you like to rotate your hands a little stronger or weaker . . . the fundamentals are the same, and they aren’t negotiable.
The club has to be in your fingers to allow the “lag” that builds power, and to allow or even force the optimum release of the club through impact. The last three fingers of the left hand have to control the club so that it can be pulled through the impact zone. The right hand hold is limited to the curling of the two middle fingers around the grip, and neither set of forefingers and thumbs should be engaged much at all. One of the best drills for any golfer is to hit balls with the right forefinger and thumb totally disengaged from the grip. Google “Hogan grip photos” and study them!!!!!!
So, with the changes in the grip I had Darrell make, he immediately began ripping drivers 15-20 yards further downrange than he had. The ball flight and even sound of the ball off the driver was more impressive. So we went out to play a few holes to see what happened.
Historically, Darrell is only 5-10 yards longer than me at best, and sometimes I outdrive him. But not anymore!! On those five holes we played late that afternoon, he consistently flew it out there 20-25 yards past my best drives.
And that made us both really happy!
Next Tuesday, I’ll talk about the second in this series on Power Leaks.
Paige Spiranac blasts golf culture: “A big boys club” that is “elitist, stuffy and exclusive”
Looking back on a golf genius: Anthony Kim (with final full bag specs)
Patrick Reed’s winning WITB: 2020 WGC-Mexico Championship
Phil Mickelson WITB 2020
Viktor Hovland’s winning WITB 2020 Puerto Rico Open
Bubba Watson WITB 2020
Sungjae Im’s winning WITB: The Honda Classic
Rickie Fowler WITB 2020
Phase 1 vs. P7TW: An inside look at Tiger Woods’ TaylorMade irons
Brooks Koepka hits out at the “stuffiness” and “country club atmosphere” attached to golf
Tigers Woods WITB for each Masters win
At its core, Tiger Woods’ equipment hasn’t changed by much over the better part of the last two decades. However,...
Jimmy Walker WITB 2020
Equipment accurate as of the Farmers Insurance Open Driver: Titleist TS3 (8.5 degrees @ 7.75, C1 SureFit setting) Shaft: Fujikura...
WITB Time Machine: Phil Mickelson WITB, 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open
Equipment is accurate as of the Waste Management Phoenix Open (2016). Driver: Callaway XR 16 Sub Zero (8.5 degrees) Shaft:...
Byeong Hun An WITB 2020
Equipment accurate as of the Farmers Insurance Open Driver: Titleist TS3 (8.5 degrees, B2 SureFit setting) Shaft: Accra TZ5 M5...
News3 weeks ago
Looking back on a golf genius: Anthony Kim (with final full bag specs)
Equipment1 week ago
Phase 1 vs. P7TW: An inside look at Tiger Woods’ TaylorMade irons
Opinion & Analysis2 weeks ago
Behind the numbers: A road map for an 18 handicap to get down to a 9
Equipment3 weeks ago
Today from the Forums: “3-hybrid or 7-wood?”
Equipment2 weeks ago
Building the perfect half set
Whats in the Bag2 weeks ago
Steve Stricker WITB 2020
Equipment2 weeks ago
Today from the Forums: “Finally! I found my anti-left hybrid!”
Equipment6 days ago
Greatest Adams hybrids of all time