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Statistically-based pairings for the U.S. Ryder Cup team

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The U.S. Ryder Cup team appears to be — based on popular opinion — the heavy underdog against the Europeans. The U.S. team lost some key members due to Dustin Johnson’s leave of absence and Jason Dufner’s injuries that kept him from qualifying. Also, while Tiger Woods has not been a historically great Ryder Cup player, he is one of the best players in the world and a golfer the U.S. counts on for stability and leadership. His well-documented injuries and poor play, however, leave him sidelined for this year’s Ryder Cup.

On the opposing squad, the Europeans have had quite a strong year despite regressions in the play of two superstar players — Luke Donald (who did not make the team) and Lee Westwood.

Despite the opinion that the Europeans will win, I believe that if the U.S. team pairs players that are more statistically favorable instead of the “these two players are good friends, so we will pair them together” strategy, they have a realistic chance at winning the Ryder Cup. While I do not recall Davis Love III using a statistically-based pairing system, his pairings in 2012 mostly fit in line with what the numbers showed, and the U.S. team had a 10-6 lead going into Sunday. So his pairings were not the reason why the U.S. did not win at Medinah. Rather, the players simply failed to close out the Europeans on Sunday’s single matches.

For reference, here is a table of rankings for each member of the U.S. team in the key metrics for Ryder Cup play. The rankings are based out of 177 players:

RyderCupPairings

General principles for pairing players in each format

Four-Ball Format: This is the ‘best score’ format. Therefore, this is more about scoring ability than ball-striking, short game and putting ability. The par-4 play is most important because there are more par-4’s than there are par-5’s and par-3’s. If the golfer is a poor performer on the par-5’s or par-3’s, then they should be paired with a player that performs well on those particular holes. Also, a high birdie-rate is preferable since the majority of time the team will be able to make at least a par.

Foursomes Format: This is the alternate shot format. Therefore, this is more about meshing together the players’ ball-striking, short game and putting ability. Short Game shots from 10-20 yards and the ability to save par is at a premium here. The foursomes format also tends to favor players that hit a lot of fairways, but that is not always needed if the rest of the players’ games jive well together. For example, a player that may miss a lot of fairways may work perfectly with another player that hits it well on shots from out of the rough.

Below is a brief analysis of each member on the U.S. team.

Keegan Bradley

KeeganRyderCup

Strengths: Par-4 play, Par-3 Play, All-Around Game
Weaknesses: Par-5 play, Iron play from 75-175 yards
Suitable Four-ball Partners: Fowler, Kuchar, Simpson, Spieth, Watson and Walker
Suitable Foursome Partners: Mickelson, Spieth and Watson

While Bradley did not win this season, he has the makeup of an excellent Ryder Cup player. What is interesting is that he struggled a bit on the par-5’s this year despite usually being an excellent par-5 player. With that, I would try and put Keegan with high birdie-rate players that play the par-5’s well in the four-ball format. Keegan should be a quality Foursome partner because he drives it very well and has a good short game. If he is a little off with his driving, it’s because he is missing fairways and I would pair him with good players from the rough that don’t make many bogeys.

Rickie Fowler

Strengths: Par-4 play, Par-5 play, Bogey-rate, Birdie Rate, Driving and shots from 10-20 yds
Weaknesses: Hit Fwy %, Shots from the Rough
Suitable Four-ball Partners: Bradley, Kuchar, Mickelson, Simpson, Watson, Walker
Suitable Foursome Partners: Furyk and Mahan

Fowler struggled massively with the putter early on and has made a huge turnaround on the greens since Riviera, so he is riding a hot putter coming into the Ryder Cup and played superbly in the majors this year. The only weaknesses are his play from the rough, and he does not hit a ton of fairways.

He is better in the four-ball format given his scoring metrics so you can pair him with just about anybody there. In the Foursome format, I would lean towards a good player from the rough that finds a lot of fairways so he does not have to hit many shots from the long grass.

Jim Furyk

JimFurykRyderCup

Strengths: Par-4, Par-5 and Par-3 play. Bogey rate, Hit Fwy %, Iron Play, Short game
Weaknesses: Age and historically a poor Four-ball format player.
Suitable Four-ball Partners: N/A
Suitable Foursome Partners: Kuchar, Zach Johnson, and Simpson.

While Furyk plays the par-4’s, par-5’s and par-3’s superbly, he has historically struggled in the four-ball format because he is not a birdie-maker. Therefore, I would not even consider him in the four-ball format. He is better suited in the foursomes format because he finds fairways, hits greens and makes saves. I think he would be best with a player that also finds a lot of fairways, hits approach shots well from the fairway and is a good putter.

Zach Johnson

Strengths: Par-5 play, 175-225 yard play, Driving, fairway play, Hit Fwy %, Shots from 10-20 yards
Weaknesses: Age, Driving Distance, Shots from Rough
Suitable Four-ball Partners: Kuchar, Mickelson, Simpson, Spieth, Watson and Walker
Suitable Foursome Partners: Furyk, Kuchar, Mahan and Simpson

Johnson is much like Furyk except he is a more suitable player in the four-ball format because he makes more birdies. He is a player that Watson could possibly ride since he fits both formats pretty well. However, his putting has not been as good as people think (79th in Strokes Gained: Putting). So, in the foursomes format I would want to stick him with some good putters that keep the ball in the fairways.

Matt Kuchar

MattKucharRyderCup

Strengths: Par-4 play, Bogey and Birdie Rates, Driving, Hit Fwy %, Shots from 175-225 yards, Short Game and Putting
Weaknesses: Driving Distance and shots from the rough
Suitable Four-ball Partners: Bradley, Fowler, Zach Johnson, Mahan, Reed, Simpson, Spieth, Watson and Walker
Suitable Foursome Partners: Furyk, Zach Johnson, Mahan and Simpson

Kuchar is more like Zach Johnson in that he fits in nicely in both formats and Tom Watson may want to ride him a bit. He suits almost anybody in the four-ball format. Given his troubles form the rough (130th), I would try and give him partners that find the fairway, strike it well from the fairway and can putt.

Hunter Mahan

Strengths: Par-4 play and Driving
Weaknesses: Par-3 play, Bogey Rate, Birdie Rate, Shots from 175-225 yds, Shots from the Fairway and Shots from 10-20 yards
Suitable Four-ball Partners: Kuchar, Watson and Walker
Suitable Foursome Partners: Fowler, Zach Johnson, Simpson and Spieth

The metrics show why I am not a fan of the Mahan pick. However, he has a decent track record in the Ryder Cup and played fairly well at the Open Championship. Mahan’s game has been highlighted by excellent driving and hamstrung by his inability to hit his irons well. This year he did not play well from 10-20 yards so this makes me a little more averse to putting him in the foursomes format.

I would like to see him with Bubba Watson in the four-ball format and re-create a similar team that Paul Azinger created with Boo Weekley and JB Holmes. Weekley, one of the best drivers in the world that hits the ball long and straight, would tee off first and consistently hit good drives past his opponents. If Weekley was in good position, that allowed Holmes a free rip to hit a drive 380 yards. I could see the same working with Mahan and Bubba.

Phil Mickelson

PhilRyderCup

Strengths: Par-4 play, Bogey and Birdie Rate, Shots from the Rough and shots from 10-20 yards
Weaknesses: Hit Fwy % and Shots from the Fairway
Suitable Four-ball Partners: Fowler, Spieth, Simpson, Watson and Walker
Suitable Foursome Partners: Bradley, Spieth, Watson and Walker

While Mickelson had one of his worst seasons in recent memory, his game is better suited for the Ryder Cup this year than in year’s past. He is still a player best suited for the four-ball format because he plays all of the holes well and makes a lot of birdies. I know there will be the temptation to place him and Bradley together in the four-ball format. It is not a bad idea, but the numbers indicate that other players like Fowler and Watson would be better suited in the four-ball format.

In the foursomes format, Mickelson’s driving has improved enough that he is not a burden to his partner off the tee. However, that partner will still need to be able to hit it well from the rough as Phil does not find many fairways. I would pair him with good overall drivers of the ball that hit the irons well, particularly from the rough.

Patrick Reed

Strengths: Streaky fantastic play, great past record in match play.
Weaknesses: Streaky poor play, Driving, Hit Fwy %, Shots from the rough and shots from 10-20 yds
Suitable Four-ball Partners: Kuchar, Spieth and Walker
Suitable Foursome Partners: n/a

Reed is an extremely streaky player. His metrics are not very impressive, but what I have recorded is that when he is on, he is as good as he thinks he is. And when he is off, he shuts down and calls it a week.

I would steer clear of putting him in the foursomes format because he is not very accurate off the tee and he is not very good with the Short Game. I think the streaky player likely works best in the four-ball format where they can kind of do their own thing.

Webb Simpson

WebbSimpsonRyderCup

Strengths: Par-4 play, Birdie Rate, Shots from the Fairway, Shots from 10-20 yards, putting
Weaknesses: Shots from 175-225 yards, Shots from the rough
Suitable Four-ball Partners: Bradley, Fowler, Johnson, Kuchar, Mahan, Mickelson, Spieth, Watson and Walker
Suitable Foursome Partners: Furyk, Kuchar and Johnson.

Simpson was a bit of a controversial pick and I can understand why. He is best suited for the four-ball format, but has struggled to avoid Bogeys. He has some good metrics for the foursomes format, but has massively struggled on shots from 175-225 yards and shots from the rough. I think the obvious choice in the four-ball format is to stick him with Bubba Watson, which worked well in 2010. I would recommend using Simpson in the foursomes format in a pinch, but find a player that hits a lot of fairways and can get up-and-down for when Simpson misses the green.

Jordan Spieth

Strengths: Par-3, Par-4 and Par-5 play. Birdie Rate and Putting
Weaknesses: Hit Fairway %
Suitable Four-ball Partners: Bradley, Kuchar, Johnson, Mickelson, Reed, Simpson, Watson and Walker
Suitable Foursome Partners: Bradley, Mahan, Mickelson, Watson and Walker

Jordan should be a player that is suitable in both formats. He is better off in the four-ball format, but in the foursomes format they should try and protect against his occasional driving woes and find a player that strikes it well off the tee and can hit it well from the rough if Jordan misses the fairway.

Bubba Watson

BubbaRyderCup

Strengths: Par-4’s, Par-5’s, Birdie and Bogey Rates, Driving, Distance, Shots from the fwy, Shots from the rough,
Weaknesses: Hit Fairway %, Shots from 10-20 yards, Putting
Suitable Four-ball Partners: Bradley, Furyk, Johnson, Kuchar, Mickelson, Spieth and Walker
Suitable Foursome Partners: Bradley, Mickelson, Spieth and Walker

Watson is better suited in the four-ball format where he pretty much fits well with just about every player on the team. The only question mark is that historically Watson has been a poor player on the par-3’s. He has done a good job on the par-3’s this year (57th), but I would still be guarded against that and seek out the players that are strong on those holes.

In the foursomes format, the main emphasis should be on putting and short game play along with shots from the rough. He is actually more accurate off the tee than most people give credit for, but when he misses he tends to miss big and you need a player that can recover from those shots.

Jimmy Walker

Strengths: Par-3, Par-4, Par-5 play, Birdie and Bogey Rates, Shots from 175-225 yards, Shots from the Rough and Putting
Weaknesses: Driving and Hit Fairway %
Suitable Four-ball Partners: All players
Suitable Foursome Partners: Mickelson, Spieth and Watson

Walker looks to be a great fit in the four-ball format. He is like a poor man’s Mickelson — an ineffective driver of the ball due to his inaccuracy off the tee, but he hits it a long way and is a great iron player with a good short game and putts very well. In the foursomes format I would pair him with players that are good from the rough, but he is much better suited for the four-ball format.

The U.S. teams have traditionally been very well-suited in the four-ball format. This team is no different as most of the members of the team appear to be quite strong in that format. However, the foursomes format has given them issues and this is a team that is very suspect in this format. Therefore, I feel that Captain Tom Watson should likely focus most of his efforts on the alternate shot format and if the U.S. team can break even in that format, they stand a good chance of winning.

My recommendations for the Friday pairings for Team USA

Foursomes Format

Bradley/Mickelson
Furyk/Spieth
Walker/Watson
Johnson/Kuchar

Four-Ball Format

Mahan/Bubba
Reed/Walker
Fowler/Bradley
Spieth/Kuchar

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Richie Hunt is a statistician whose clients include PGA Tour players, their caddies and instructors in order to more accurately assess their games. He is also the author of the recently published e-book, 2018 Pro Golf Synopsis; the Moneyball Approach to the Game of Golf. He can be reached at ProGolfSynopsis@yahoo.com or on Twitter @Richie3Jack. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: March 2014 Purchase 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis E-book for $10

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Pingback: ¿Cómo se confeccionan las parejas de la Ryder Cup? - Golf76.com

  2. Greg Palmer

    Sep 24, 2014 at 8:27 am

    I think metrics have become an important component to every sport, golf included, but by design, what they don’t take into account are the emotional nuances which are also critical elements – especially at events like this. The “statistical” approach alone has never produced a championship of any kind that I can remember. Clearly, champions produce mostly great statistics –

    If I were managing the pairings, I would be looking for a combination of statistics, guts for the moment, past records and experience to a point, and the ability to deliver on the big day. Obviously, being hot right now is a good thing too!

    Currently, the hottest players on the fall playoff list – a list in which Americans have 8 of the top 10 players – feature 6 American Ryder Cuppers. The top 2, Horschel and Kirk are out. That leaves in order 4-9: Furyk, Watson, Mahan, Walker, Kuchar, and Fowler. Spieth was not far behind, Simpson and Zach Johnson also were right there.

    Patrick Reed is the wildcard. He’s cocky and very streaky which might play out well in this format.

    Mickelson and Bradley are known commodities, 3-0-1 in 4somes and 2-1 in 4ball, and should be used together as long as they are competitive in these matches. If healthy and feeling good, they are a must play in every team match (3 of 4 for sure).

    Furyk scares me because his Ryder Cup record is awful! He is a gritty and tough grinder and I would be looking to pair him with another hot golfer out of the gate in foursomes – maybe even a rookie to bring some energy/spark to his play. He is 1-8-1 in fourball at the Ryder Cup, and therefore, he would not play one fourball match for me all weekend.

    In terms of matchups, I want Mickelson or Fowler going up against Rory at every possible team match. I might even throw Bubba in there for length at times, but Mickelson and Fowler played on the big stage this summer with Rory and if not for a couple of errors, either could have won a major – and Fowler multiple. To me, Fowler is the horse for the Americans in these matches – a must-play in all 5 games.

    For Friday, if I’m trying to win and combine what I know about metrics and guts, I’m going with:

    Foursomes

    Bradley/Mickelson
    Fowler/Spieth or Mahan
    Walker/Furyk
    Watson/Kuchar

    Four-Ball Format on Friday afternoon – I want Fowler, Mickelson and Watson anchoring a team each. All can make birdies like crazy and that is what I want in this format. I would be making my afternoon pairings based on morning performance. Rotating out the guys who are average and keep in the guys who are hot. Hardly a rocket science idea.

    Possible Pairings:

    Fowler/Reed
    Watson/Mahan or Spieth depending on how the morning went
    Mickelson/Bradley or Simpson
    Walker/Johnson

    One of the real wildcards in these matches will be Tom Watson. He has become even more stubborn with age and I am not confident in his ability to make adjustments on the fly. We’ll see how it plays out, but I sort of like the idea of being underdog – could play out well.

    • Greg Palmer

      Sep 29, 2014 at 9:59 am

      Just looking back, the US Team faced a huge uphill battle to win these matches, but the Captain did not do them any favors. Past Captains felt that Mickelson’s comments were out of line, but he is probably mostly right about what he said.

      Watson did not make sound adjustments either day during the afternoon matches. The hottest team on the entire golf course dispatched their European opponents in 14 holes in the morning on Friday, and at ages 21 and 25, sat the afternoon. This was a very strong indicator that Watson was completely out of touch.

      And then to sit Mickelson for the entire day on Saturday made no sense after he played twice and went 1-1 on Friday.

      The coach never put these guys into position to win. Not that they could have anyway, but he did not nothing to help the cause.

      Finally, Bubba Watson showed once again why he can’t be relied on in these matches.

  3. Todd Barnes

    Sep 24, 2014 at 2:19 am

    Or a Zach Johnson/ Kuchar pairing instead of Fowler from a statistical view but Rickys swing changes seem to have taken hold and his numbers the last couple of months off the tee are much better than at the start of the season. Thanks Rich.

    • Richie Hunt

      Sep 24, 2014 at 11:11 am

      Fowler hasn’t had many issues off the tee this year to begin with. What was plaguing him was his putting was atrocious early on (worst on Tour in Strokes Gained – Putting). He then turned it around.

      I don’t think he is a bad player for the 4-some format. But, he doesn’t hit a lot of fairways, he’s only decent from 175-225 yards and is below average on shots from the rough. So, you will need to pair him with a partner that hits a lot of fairways, hits it well from the rough and has a really good short game in case Fowler misses from 175-225 yards.

      If you look at the history of the event, you’re better off trying to get as many golfers out playing on Friday as possible. My pairings have all but 1 player playing the first day (Webb Simpson). That way you’re not burning out players, the players are not coming off the bench cold and Tom Watson can get a better feel for who is playing well and who is not and then plan accordingly for Saturday.

      • Todd Barnes

        Sep 24, 2014 at 12:55 pm

        That makes sense Rich, I’m just terrified of which Phil will show up for a foursomes match day 1. Hopefully Bradley/Mickelson will pick up where they left off from Medinah. What if you did a Bradley/ Mahan foursome and a Mickelson/ Watson fourball for day 1 and left the rest of your pairings alone?

  4. truth

    Sep 23, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    fowler needs to play in every match everyday for usa to have a chance. None of the people you have playing twice on friday should be unless you want usa to be in a big hole after the first day

    • Richie Hunt

      Sep 24, 2014 at 11:07 am

      Difficult to not have several golfers playing in both matches on Friday because of how the Ryder Cup is set up. And if you look at the history of the Ryder Cup, usually the team that stockpiles their players on Friday, falter on Saturday and Sunday. It burns out those players that played and the apparently the players that have to play end up ‘coming off the bench’ cold.

      Not sure why Fowler has to play every match. It’s very arguable that he is even the best player on the team. And he has had a less than stellar Ryder Cup record.

  5. Philip

    Sep 23, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    Very interesting, I like how you lined up the stats. Of course, the final deciding factor would be whether they gel with each other, but the stats are definitely a good start.

    What was the thing about age as a weakness for only Zach and Jim?

  6. ally smith

    Sep 23, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    Great read, Hope the boys do well and put a good show. Either way i know i’ll enjoy this week end. Great writing Rich, always appreciate your work.

    Cheers !!!

  7. TR1PTIK

    Sep 23, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    Interesting that you list “age” as a weakness for Jim Furyk and Zach Johnson, but not Phil Mickleson. Nor do you list age as a strength for any of the younger players – not sure what age has to do with anything anyway. I stopped reading as soon as I got to that point. Maybe you can find something else to write about like knitting or something.

    • Richie Hunt

      Sep 23, 2014 at 7:43 pm

      Mickelson and age was a simple oversight when I looked at weaknesses. But, I fully believe that is an issue since he dropped out of 4-some match on Saturday at Medinah and has had some injury issues this season.

      As far as it being a ‘strength’ for younger players, I just don’t think that youth can actually be a strength. It’s a nice benefit if the player starts out on fire because you can use them for the rest of the event. But, if they are playing lousy…youth is not going to change that.

      • TR1PTIK

        Sep 24, 2014 at 6:19 am

        I get what you’re saying, but still don’t see what age has to do with anything. Mickleson has a well-known arthritic condition, and Matt Kuchar has had issues with his back this season. Furyk and Johnson? Nothing that I’ve heard of this season. I guess you could argue that they could fatigue faster or something, but then again, the world no. 1 Rory McIlroy used fatigue to brush off his poor play in the playoffs. Bottom line, age isn’t a good reason to discredit someone when you’re talking golf. All of this coming from a 27 year old by the way…

  8. Mark Davis

    Sep 23, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    Thanks so much for this excellent breakdown going into the Cup. No doubt many will argue but it’s great to read an analysis from which we can start our own pondering… especially if, like me, you’re weak on stats and ares going with much more informal evaluations of the players.

    It’s Ryder Cup. Anybody can rise, anybody can fall, anything can happen.

  9. John

    Sep 23, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    C’mon… We wanna win this damn thing. Here we go:

    Foursomes

    Bradley/Mickelson
    Speith/Fowler
    Mahan/Furyk
    Watson/Simpson

    Fourball

    Bradley/Mickelson
    Watson/Mahan
    Fowler/Johnson
    Speith/Simpson

    Now I’ll accept a rebuttal…

    • Richie Hunt

      Sep 23, 2014 at 5:37 pm

      One of the issues is that you only have 10 different players on day 1. We have to be leery of burning out our players and having them get ‘cold’ by having to wait until Saturday to play. Reed is a good example because he is not suited for the 4-some format. So if he doesn’t play on Friday, he’ll have to wait until Saturday afternoon to finally play. I only left out 1 player (Simpson), but he was a captain’s pick and has the experience to wait a little. And I can use him in the 4-some format if necessary.

      Mickelson and Bradley in the 4-ball format I’m a bit averse to because Keegan hasn’t played the par-5’s well this year and Mickelson has been decent. I would rather go with what I feel are stronger pairings and also give Phil some rest for the 4-some format with Keegan for Saturday if possible.

      I don’t think your pairings are bad by any means and if Watson were to go that route I think it’s not a bad job of pairing players, but I do think there are some better teams out there statistically that go beyond the ‘big names.’ I am also curious on how well Reed performs because I could see him getting out on Friday and dominating and then we can ride him on Saturday.

      • Todd Barnes

        Sep 24, 2014 at 1:24 am

        Hey Rich, love your moneyball approach as I believe that the USA won’t win until they start getting the RIGHT players, not the best players. 1980 USA hockey should be a lesson but the USA hasn’t seemed to learn it yet. Anyways, my question is why did you put Mickelsons/ Bradley in fours some? Mickelson and Bradley are both so streaky off the tee but can make tons of birdies in the four ball matches which you didn’t put them in so I am wondering why. Also I would put Kuchar/Fowler in foursomes because they both drive and putt really well, and move Mickelson/ Bradley to fourbball to light up Europe. Now I would like to know why my idea is bad. Thanks again love your articles.

        • Todd Barnes

          Sep 24, 2014 at 2:25 am

          Or a Zach Johnson/ Kuchar pairing for foursomes instead of Fowler/Kuchar but from a statistical view but Rickys swing changes seem to have taken hold and his numbers the last couple of months off the tee are much better than at the start of the season. Thanks Rich.

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Opinion & Analysis

How Tiger Woods lost the 2009 PGA Championship

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11 years ago, the PGA Championship produced one of the greatest upsets in sporting history.

The all-conquering Tiger Woods arrived at the 2009 PGA Championship as the prohibitive favorite, having won three of his last four events. Woods then backed up that favoritism over the opening two days, picking apart Hazeltine National with extreme precision to build a four-stroke advantage by the halfway point.

It felt like such a formality that here in Ireland, our biggest bookmaker, PaddyPower declared Tiger as the winner and decided to pay out all outright bets on the World Number One after just 36 holes.

It proved to be a big mistake.

Next week will be the 11th anniversary of the monumental upset, and here I’ll take a look at the factors behind Woods’ unthinkable loss that week to Y.E. Yang.

Tiger’s Ultra-Conservative Saturday

On a scoring Saturday, Woods was too content to play it safe. Why not? After all, the ultimate closer had won so many majors by forging a lead, aiming for the middle of the green, two-putting for par and watching his opponents slowly falter one by one.

Only this time was different, and even Tiger with a two-shot lead going into Sunday’s final round as much as admitted he was too conservative during round three, saying after his round:

“They gave us a lot of room on a lot of these pins, six and seven even from the side, so you can be fairly aggressive. I just felt that with my lead, I erred on the side of caution most of the time.

“If I did have a good look at it, a good number at it, I took aim right at it. Otherwise I was just dumping the ball on the green and 2-putting.”

The incessant safety first, lag putting strategy of Saturday even transformed into a tentativeness at the beginning of Sunday’s final round.

On the par-five seventh hole, with Yang in trouble, Woods had 245 yards to the pin for his second with a huge opportunity to make a statement eagle or textbook birdie. He inexplicably layed up, hit a poor wedge and once again lagged for par.

Horrific Sunday Putting

To say Tiger’s trusty Scotty Cameron betrayed him during Sunday’s final round would be underselling it. Putt after putt just refused to drop when he needed it most.

In the end, Woods’ seven-foot birdie effort on the 14th hole is the only putt of any note he managed to make on the day.

Tiger played Sunday’s final round in 75 strokes. Thirty-three of them were putts.

Yang Stood Up To Tiger

Critics of Woods have long claimed that in his prime, Tiger would crowd his opponents as an intimidation tactic, or rush off the green to the next tee leaving his competitors to putt out while the crowd dispersed.

Regardless, nothing was going to faze Yang that Sunday.

In fact, during the early stretch of the final round, Tiger’s indecision and tentativeness led to the pairing being behind the pace of play. It forced on-course officials to remind the two that they needed to speed it up—and of course, they only stressed that Yang needed to do so.

How did the Korean respond? By pointing at Tiger and saying “Not me. Him.”

The Pivotal Two-Shot Swing

Many look back on Yang’s chip-in eagle to take the lead at the 14th hole on Sunday as the significant turning point of the Championship. However, Yang was always likely to make birdie on the short par-four hole, and the previous hole may well have been the tipping point for the upset.

On the par-three 13th hole, Yang found the bunker, while Woods hit a beauty to eight feet. The two-shot swing in Tiger’s favor looked even more likely when Yang failed to get his bunker shot inside Woods’ ball.

But when Yang buried his par effort, and Woods let yet another putt slip by, the two remained all square.

Woods’ reaction following his putt was telling; his frustration poured out despite him still being in a share of the lead. It was a show of exasperation that may have given the Korean all the encouragement he needed to turn Tiger’s 54 hole major lead record of 14-0 into 14-1.

Asked following his round when he felt his control on the tournament beginning to loosen, Woods said:

“But as far as the tournament switching, 13, I stuffed it in there. He made a mistake, hit it in the left bunker. He blasted out. I missed my putt. He made his. And then he chipped in on the next hole.

“So that two-hole stretch turned — if I make my putt, he doesn’t chip in, you know, he doesn’t make his putt on 13.”

The 2009 PGA Championship preceded a ten-year barren spell for Tiger at the majors before he claimed his fifth green jacket at the 2019 Masters. He is still yet to appear in the final twosome on a Sunday at a major since the 2009 PGA.

As for Y.E Yang, the 48-year-old now spends most of his time competing in Japan and his native Korea. He has played in all 10 PGA Championships since his remarkable victory. He has missed the cut seven times.

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The Gear Dive

The Gear Dive: Brandel Chamblee is back!

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In this episode of TGD brought to you by Titleist, Johnny goes in on the distance debate with a friend of the podcast, Brandel Chamblee. Also picks for the WGC, filling a hole in the bag and why the LPGA is the best place to learn how to play.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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How to warm up like a PGA Tour pro

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@skysportsgolf

One of the keys to playing a great round of golf stems from how you prepare for your round. When you go to the range, you’ll often see amateur golfers hitting shots quickly and sporadically without much rhyme or reason. On the other hand, when you take a look at players on the PGA Tour, each of them has a well structured and methodical approach to how they warm-up.

From watching the pros, there are a few key takeaways that you can implement in your game to improve the quality of your warm-ups.

Arrive Early

Give yourself enough time to warm up before your round. Showing up 10 minutes before you’re due to tee off is a recipe for disaster and a double bogey waiting to happen on the first hole. Allowing yourself 30 minutes to an hour should be plenty of time to get through an awesome warm-up, leaving you confident when you step onto the first tee box.

Spend More Time Putting

Whether you watch Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas or any other pro, one thing is consistent: they all spend a lot of their warm-up practicing putting, accounting for well over half their practice strokes. And why wouldn’t they? If you 2 putt every hole, you’ll be hitting 36 shots, literally half of all your strokes during the course of your round.

Practicing both long and short putts will give you more confidence standing over your first birdie putt of the day.

Loosen Up

A little bit of stretching before you start hitting shots on the range can go a long way. Stretching before you start will activate your muscles for the day ahead. Spend some time doing bending toe touches, shoulder stretches, lateral twists, and a standing forward bend stretch to maximize your range session.

Work Your Way Up The Bag

When you watch a pro like Jason Day warm-up, you’ll notice when he gets to the range that he’ll start out by hitting shots with a wedge, working up the bag. This is how most pros structure their warm-up for the most part, and they do so to establish rhythm and tempo as they move into their longer irons and woods.

Try this out yourself by hitting some wedges, and then move up your bag using all even or all odd irons. Place emphasis on your short game as you move through your bag; the shots you hit inside 100 yards will lead you to the most scoring opportunities.

Hit Fewer Drives on the Range

It’s fun to hit the driver, but it’s one of the most taxing swings you can make. Plenty of amateur golfers spend way too much time hitting their driver on the range, and wearing themselves out before they get to the first tee. By doing so, not only do you tire yourself out, but you risk throwing off the swing tempo that you’ve worked so hard on during your warm-up.

Definitely still practice hitting drives, but make them count. Try only hitting 5-10 drives, but treating them as if they were on the course.

Hit Practice Shots With Purpose

It’s really easy to get onto the range and start hitting shot after shot in quick succession, trying to get the right swing out as quickly as possible. Not only does this use up a lot of your energy, but it’s not too realistic compared to how you’ll approach your shots on the course.

Instead, take the methodical approach and try to make each shot count. Take the time to set up correctly, paying attention to alignment and ball positioning. Hitting more shots with real intention on the range sets you up for success when you hit the course.

Wrap Up

Implementing some of this structure into your pre-round routine will put you into a position to score. Practicing more putts and placing emphasis on your short game will help you save strokes where they count. These tips will help you take a better approach to golf.

 

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