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A statistical analysis of what makes Jordan Spieth great

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This story was selected as one of the 15 best GolfWRX stories of 2015!

With Jordan Spieth winning the first two majors of the year, I am often asked, “What makes him so good?” Spieth’s game seems to puzzle most people as I have had several Tour clients, some of whom have played with Spieth, ask me that question as well. And the typical commentary from announcers and analysts is to the effect of “He’s not great at anything, but he’s not weak at any part of the game either.”

I wanted to give a thorough analysis of Spieth’s 2014-15 season and see what exactly makes the potential Grand Slam winner so good.

For starters, let’s take a look at his scoring metrics (rankings based out of 202 golfers).

01

The most important statistic with regards to Tour success is Adjusted Scoring Average. Spieth has the lowest Adjusted Scoring Average on Tour. As far as Adjusted Scoring Average goes, Adjusted Par-4 Scoring Average has the strongest correlation of any of the other scoring metrics. In essence, we can see that Spieth’s success is not smoke and mirrors. His weakest scoring metrics is the Adjusted Par-5 Scoring Average where he still ranks 11th. And he does not rank higher most likely due to him not being a bomber off the tee. But, he is still an exceptional player on the par-5’s. Spieth simply makes a ton of birdies and pars and very few bogeys.

02

Remember when critics said last year that Spieth was “choking” on the weekends? That’s certainly not the case anymore. But the real key to these scoring metrics is his performance in the first two rounds. When it comes to a correlation to total Adjusted Scoring Average, Rounds 1 and 2 have the strongest correlation to Total Adjusted Scoring Average. Rounds 3 and 4 have a significant drop-off in their correlation to a Tour player’s success. As I’ve mentioned many times before, the real “moving day” on Tour occurs on Thursday and Friday and not on Saturday. But, what Spieth does so well is he continues to score better than the field average on the weekend and progresses up the leaderboard or extends his lead.

Driving Metrics

03

Driving Effectiveness is based on distance (all drives), hit fairway percentage, average distance to the edge of the fairway, hit fairway bunker percentage and missed fairway – other percentage. It is also based on the level of difficulty of the courses the golfer has played. For instance, if two golfers each average hitting 290 yards off the tee, but Player A is playing courses where the average distance is 275 yards off the tee and Player B is playing courses where the average distance is 295 yards off the tee, Player A is actually much longer off the tee than Player B as the average is the baseline to serve the comparison.

Last season, Spieth ranked 88th in Driving Effectiveness. He had issues with his driver head cracking and not being satisfied with the replacement. We can see that by his Hit Fairway Bunker Percentage and Missed Fairway – Other Percentage that he still has some occasional issues off the tee. Last year he was fourth in Tee Shot Aggressiveness which measures how often a player is laying up off the tee. This year he is still quite aggressive, but not nearly as he was last season and perhaps last season’s regression off the tee had something to do with it.

We are in the infancy stages of understanding performance on straightaway versus dogleg par-4s, but it appears that driving ability and curvature of ball flight has something to do with it. Spieth’s performance on dogleg lefts indicate that he prefers to hit a little draw. And his small dip in performance on straight away par-4s indicates that some occasionally errant tee shots pop up from time to time. But overall, he’s still an elite driver of the ball.

04

The radar metrics above indicate an upward strike. Based on previous data acquired, I would say that Spieth’s attack angle when he is playing in an event is probably in the +1.5 degree to +2.5 degree range.

Related: Understanding dynamic loft, angle of attack and launch angle.

This is critical to understand because if his attack angle was flat (0 degrees) he would likely have the same ranking in driving distance (using traditional driving distance measurement of two drives per round) that he has in club head speed (97th). Instead, he ranks 72nd in the traditional driving distance measurement which more accurately reflects how far he hits the ball when he has the driver in his hands. But, since he is aggressive off the tee and does not leave the driver in the bag very often, he is effectively the 42nd-longest player on Tour despite ranking 97th in club head speed.

There are two other key radar metrics that need to be mentioned. For starters, he hits the ball high. All other things being equal, the numbers have shown over the years that the player that hits it higher on Tour will tend to be more successful. The other is that he generates an adequate spin rate with the driver. Typically the leaders in Driving Effectiveness each year generate roughly 2,400 to 2,800 rpm Spin Rate. While everybody wants high launch and low spin, on Tour there is a negative effect from not generating enough spin with the driver. Lastly, Spieth’s miss bias is 54.7 percent to the right. The most effective drivers of the ball tend to have their miss bias within a 55/45 range.

Approach Shot Metrics

05

I break the approach shot distances into zones. Here are the zones ranked in order of strongest to weakest correlation to Tour success:

  • Red Zone (175-225 yards)
  • Yellow Zone (125-175 yards)
  • Green Zone (75-125 yards)
  • 225-275 Yards Zone

For Tour players, the typical Tour event will usually place emphasis on approach shots from 150-200 yards or 175-225 yards. When we start to get into the majors is when we see more of an emphasis on shots from 175-250 yards. As we can see, Spieth is quite strong from every Approach Shot Zone. It is unique that he performs better from the Red Zone and Green Zone than he does from the Yellow Zone. When that happens, that is usually an indicator that golfer’s driver can go awry on occasion and he is having to hit those Yellow Zone shots from more difficult positions and from more difficult lies.

06

The metrics above show that Jordan’s approach shot game is not smoke and mirrors. He’s exception from the fairway and the best on Tour from the rough. He has gone for par-5s in two shots 57.53 percent of the time. My calculations based on past 10 seasons of PGA Tour data show that a player of his distance off the tee should be going for par-5s roughly 57 percent of the time. So, Spieth is right on the money with his level of aggressiveness on the par-5s.

Short Game Metrics

07

The Short Game is where Spieth has improved the most since becoming a professional. He had a good short game in his previous two seasons on Tour, but now it is arguably the best on Tour. Combine that with his iron play which I think is the best part of his game, he’s going to make it very hard for him to make any bogeys. He’s simply hitting too many greens, leaving himself with a lot of makeable birdie putts and when he does miss on the approach, he has the short game to hit it close and almost guarantee the par save.

Putting Metrics

08

Here is where I find Spieth’s game very interesting. Overall, he’s a decent putter from 5-15 feet, but he’s elite from 15-plus feet. Normally, Tour players do not sustain their ranking in make percentage on putts outside 15 feet for very long. Regardless of their skill level with the putter, most Tour players tend to make a lot of putts outside 15-feet one season, then regress towards the mean the next season. Conversely, they may struggle to make putts from outside 15-feet one season and then progress towards the mean the following season.

The other interesting facet is that usually the putts from outside 15+ feet are birdie putts. But, when we break down Spieth’s putts from 5 to 15 feet between birdie and par+ putts, he is a mediocre birdie putter from that range and one of the very best par putters from that range.

The trend is that good birdie putters tend to have a very aggressive speed and the good par putters tend to be more conservative with their speed. So these numbers indicate that Spieth is aggressive with his speed on putts outside 15+ feet, but more conservative from the 5-15 range. The only other plausible explanation is that Spieth is incredibly clutch with the putter, nailing the bombs for the much needed birdie and drilling those crucial par saves.

Final Synopsis

What makes Jordan Spieth great?

Everything.

He’s a great driver, great iron player, has a great short game and is a great putter. He is far more than being “average” at every part of the game. He’s in the top-90th percentile on Tour in EVERY part of the game that is critical to a Tour player’s success.

There’s no reason why he can’t win the Grand Slam. In fact, I think one of his greatest assets is that he has a game fit for almost any golf course that the Tour players. He can play a bomber course like Augusta and win a precision course like Colonial or Harbour Town where the bombers tend to avoid like the plague because they have to lay up off the tee more often. He has gotten by Augusta and Chambers Bay which clearly favored the long hitter, so St. Andrews and Whistling Straits are there for the taking.

If there is a concern about Spieth it would be his putting from 3 to 15 feet. His putting from 3-5 feet has been poor and he has struggled to make birdie putts from 5-15 feet. If he doesn’t quite have it with the par putts from 5-15 feet, I could see him losing a major because he can’t quite get the putter going. But other than that, he has as legitimate of a chance of winning the Grand Slam.

Related: Jordan Spieth WITB 2015

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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, 2017 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

34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Andy

    Jul 23, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    Hi Rich,

    Awesome insight from some very interesting analysis. Wondering, where do you get the data for your analysis?

    Thanks!

  2. golfiend

    Jul 2, 2015 at 11:52 am

    I think it can be a fun endeavor, but we tend to over-analyze golf. I’ve even seen amateurs do this which sometimes seems to take the fun out of playing golf (but I think they get some fun out of pretending they are a pro). But this statement says it all, “Spieth simply makes a ton of birdies and pars and very few bogeys.”

  3. Paul Burke

    Jul 2, 2015 at 9:36 am

    Jordan is playing extremely well at this time. He deserves to be #1 because of his consistency of play. Love your analysis.

  4. Jerome Marquez

    Jul 2, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Hi Rich, this is Jerome from jeromemarquez.com. Great analysis!

    Clearly Jordan’s confidence is extremely high and this contributes significantly towards the achievement of the stats depicted above. In my view, his consistency of play is to be commended and kudos must be given to his caddie and instructing team (coach, family etc.). Far too often we tend to forget how critical a good caddie and support team is towards the success of their ‘bag’.

    I remember when Stephen Ames won the 2006 Player’s Championship and, while be broadcast on TV, you heard his caddie (his brother Robert Ames) say in the background “Now just go out and have fun with the shot”. This was his approach shot to the 18th green on the final day. Now who would not feel good about and with themselves when you have a caddie that is just amazing. (BTW, I am not a caddie. 🙂 )

  5. KK

    Jul 1, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    I like Jordan’s old man game. Seems like it will stand the test of time. What will be his major/win total by the time he’s done with the PGA? i think it could be 12/40.

  6. Matt

    Jul 1, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    To have said Spieth is not great at anything but has no real weakness was not to say every aspect of his game is average. There is a lot of room between average and great.

    When people ask what has made Spieth so successful, the best (short) answer borne out by your analysis is “He has a great short game, and is very good with his irons” No need to devote three paragraphs to “He scores lower than most”. “He is the very best out of the rough” is a little more interesting, but still not very satisfying.

    The question here is how you define “great”. Is a “great” driver or “great” putter one who ranks in the top 20 or so players during a given season, or might that be more aptly described as “strong” or “very good”? If you did a similar analysis on Tiger when he was most dominant would we be surprised to learn he ranked no better than about third to 20th in driving, putting, or approach shots, or that he was at the top in only one little-known stat? I’d find that very interesting.

    • Richie Hunt

      Jul 1, 2015 at 11:26 pm

      I did an analysis of Tiger’s game throughout the years which can be found here: http://www.golfwrx.com/240225/hunt-advanced-break-down-of-tigers-stats-under-harmon-haney-and-foley/

      During the Harmon years (with the data we have), he was the best driver on Tour. During the Haney years, his iron play was unparalleled and his putting stepped up tremendously, but his driving started to suffer. With somebody like Rory, he a decent putter at best and typically decent in the Short Game and struggles from the Green Zone. So, it’s rare to see somebody this good at everything.

  7. Matt

    Jul 1, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    When people ask what aspects of his game make Spieth so great, I’d say the best (short) answer borne out by your analysis is that he has a GREAT short game. I don’t think devoting three paragraphs to “He scores lower than most” is really necessary. “He’s the very best out of the rough” is a more unexpected conclusion, but still not very satisfying.

    To say he’s not great at anything but has no real weaknesses does not imply “every part of his game is average”. There’s lots of room between average and great.

    As I see it, the problem is how does one define ”great”. Is a “great” driver or “great” putter, etc, one who ranks in the top 20 or so players in a particular season, or might that be more typically classified as “very good”? If we did the same sort of analysis of Tiger’s game when he was most dominant, would we learn that he also ranked no better than about 3rd to 20th in driving, putting, or approach shots? I’d find that very interesting

  8. BTooth

    Jul 1, 2015 at 10:03 am

    Awesome article. I’m wondering how his averages compare with his major win stats? As Rory once said, he’d rather win 3 tournaments and miss 3 cuts than make 6 cuts and get 6 top 10s.

    • Rich Hunt

      Jul 1, 2015 at 1:45 pm

      Unfortunately, ShotLink is not available at the Masters, US Open and British Open. They did make it available for the PGA Championship last year.

  9. Martin

    Jul 1, 2015 at 1:06 am

    Great article, Rich! Numbers always eliminate speculation and I am a big fan of sports metrics. It would be interesting to see the same numbers for Rory McIlroy just to get a feel of who’s better at what. Any chance you do so a side-by-side comparison? Thanks!

    • Rich Hunt

      Jul 1, 2015 at 9:10 am

      I’ve been getting requests for this, so I will probably do this in my next article.

  10. Jp

    Jul 1, 2015 at 12:36 am

    Great spadework, Richie!

    In your estimation, who on Tour comes in a distant second to YJS in all-round game according to many of the similar metrics from the article above?

    • Rich Hunt

      Jul 1, 2015 at 9:09 am

      Right now, McIlroy. McIlroy is a slightly better driver. Spieth is a better putter and is significantly better from the Green Zone (although that won’t game him many strokes since it is a small part of the game).

  11. NYKnuckleballer

    Jun 30, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    I think golf has a huge ball park factor similar to Colorado Rockies players back in the day. Did you compare / sorta / crunch Spieth’s numbers versus the playing field for the tourneys he played? As you said, driving distances go down at Harbor Town and go way up at Kapalua.

    • Rich Hunt

      Jul 1, 2015 at 9:08 am

      All of my data, from Driving Effectiveness, to Zone play to Short Game and of course, Strokes Gained – Putting accounts for the fields and events they have played in.

  12. JP Leahy

    Jun 30, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    Are there similar stats for Rory available?

    • Richie Hunt

      Jun 30, 2015 at 8:17 pm

      I have Rory’s stats as well. Maybe in a later date I will write an article on him.

      • Pat M

        Jun 30, 2015 at 10:55 pm

        Rory and Jordan are a great contrast and we are lucky to have both of them at young ages for years of entertainment. Rory is an amazing bomber and when he is on – he is arguably the best player in the world by far.

        Jordan is so consistent it is frightening. Week in and week out. In 2014 at 20 years old, he was second place at the Masters and could have won it. The next year he dominates the Masters.

  13. DaveD

    Jun 30, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    This is tangential, but an important aspect of his game that helps with his success is one you can’t measure- attitude. Doesn’t swear after a bad shot, throws his clubs, tweets his issues with the tournament, or complain about the course. Just goes out and plays his game, works the problems after a bad shot, and shows his respect for the audience and the game. An excellent role model for the kids that golf is trying to attract.

    • Rich Hunt

      Jun 30, 2015 at 4:13 pm

      I agree. It’s funny because here’s a 21-year old kid that has won the first 2 majors of the season (1 in convincing fashion) and has a great shot at winning the Grand Slam and you don’t hear much about it. If it were Tiger at 30 years old or Rory, the hype surrounding it would be far more intense. Instead, he just seems to go about his business and keep the hysteria to a minimum. He doesn’t seem to let things fluster him.

      • Pat M

        Jun 30, 2015 at 4:37 pm

        Jordan also finished second at the Masters last year and could have won it.

        My friend was a big Tiger fan. During Chambers Bay, he finally wrote off Tiger. He made switch to Jordan after the win at Chambers Bay. He put all of his TW gear on ebay and bought all Jordan Under Armour clothes. Apparently, a lot of Tiger fans are moving to Jordan.

        • Adam

          Jun 30, 2015 at 9:11 pm

          I’m almost there. Tiger’s golf game isn’t there right now. I don’t doubt he’ll make a small resurgence but he is past his prime so for the long term, I think Jordan is the new favorite.

        • prime21

          Jul 1, 2015 at 7:01 am

          Obviously, your friend was NOT a BIG Tiger fan. His actions sound more like an obsessive stalker than they do fan. Does he have the orange Rickie Fowler outfit too? Or was that just a crush?

          • Pat M

            Jul 3, 2015 at 11:03 am

            No. He is just one of those fan boy types who likes winners. He said that Tiger is now probably ranked 215th in the world now. He said that makes him a loser and he does not wear loser clothes. Yeah he is a jacked up but fan boys are like that.

  14. Tony P

    Jun 30, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    We really don’t need to see these stats to know that the kids is a flat out winner! Nuff said

  15. jedidiah's grandmother

    Jun 30, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    oh richie, plop your sweet cheeks on my face

  16. Dave S

    Jun 30, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    I really wonder if his technique of looking at the hole on short putts has anything to do with his poor performance for that metric. You don’t really see any other tour pros doing that, and considering that he’s worse from 3-5 ft than 88% of pros, maybe he should re-think that strategy. Of course it’s very easy to armchair quarterback. In all likliehood I have no idea what I’m talking about 🙂

    Great article btw, I love statistics and your commentary and analysis added a lot of value.

    • BTooth

      Jul 1, 2015 at 10:00 am

      It is weird, but if you’ve ever suffered from the affliction known as the yips, you’d know that he’d putt with his eyes closed before he’d putt from 3-5 feet under pressure looking at the ball and his putter head. He could possibly fight through it, but my guess is that this statistic would probably get worse if he didn’t use this technique.

  17. astrang0327

    Jun 30, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Great article Richie. His 155th ranking in “make % on birdie putts from 5-15 feet” indicates that he’s actually leaving a ton of birdies out on the course doesn’t it?

    • Rich Hunt

      Jun 30, 2015 at 2:20 pm

      Sorta.

      If he was at the Tour average from those distances, he would have made 7 more birdies for the entire year so far. So on one hand, that’s not much more. But, 7 strokes over the course of the season typically equates to more money being made than most people think. However, he’s already made so much money I’m not sure how much it would help him. Lots of factors involved to determine the real value of his ‘struggles’ on birdie putts from 5-15 feet.

  18. Tom

    Jun 30, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    He is 42nd in total driving not driving distance.

  19. marionmg

    Jun 30, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    So basically be 2nd on tour in birdies and don’t make bogies. Now I see why he’s winning everything!

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Opinion & Analysis

“I Love You, Tiger!” At Big Cedar lodge, an outpouring of affection for Tiger Woods

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What a difference a year makes.

About one year ago, Tiger Woods was in Branson, Missouri at Big Cedar Lodge to announce that he was designing a golf course there; Payne’s Valley, his first public course. That day was attended by hundreds of national and local media, the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops owner and the visionary behind the amazing golf complex that has been established at Big Cedar Lodge.

That day, Woods had not played competitive golf for awhile, and he was recovering from multiple surgeries. Woods took a couple of ceremonial swings, the last of which clearly left him in physical distress. Days later, he was in surgery again and his playing career looked to be all but over. The situation became worse when Woods was arrested for driving under the influence, found with multiple substances in his system. It seemed as though the sad mug shots from that arrest might be as prominent in his legacy as the smiles and fist-pumps that accompanied his 79 wins and 14 major championships.

Fast forward to yesterday, where Woods was back in Missouri to do a Junior Clinic at Big Cedar. An estimated crowd of over 7,000 kids and parents showed up on a school day to catch a glimpse of Woods. The atmosphere was carnival-like, with sky divers, stunt planes making flyovers and rock music blaring from giant speakers. When Woods finally arrived, the reaction was electric. Mothers and their kids were chanting. “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” at the top of their lungs. Photographers battled soccer moms for position to get a picture of his swing. Some of the kids were as young as 6-years-old, which means that they had probably not seen Woods hit a meaningful shot in their life. At one point, when Woods was hitting shots and explaining how to execute them, a woman shouted, “I love you, Tiger!” Not to be out done, a woman on the other side of the crowd, who was their with her husband and kids, shouted “I love you more, Tiger!” Maybe the only people with more affection for Woods would be the people in the golf business. A senior marketing official in the golf industry leaned over at one point in the event and said, “God, we could use just one more from him.”

Woods swing looks completely rehabilitated. He was hitting shots of every shape and trajectory on-demand, and the driver was sending balls well past the end of the makeshift driving range set up for the event. But even more remarkable was the evidence of the recovery of his reputation. Surely there are still women out there that revile Woods for the revelations of infidelity, and no doubt there are those that still reject Woods for his legal and personal struggles. But none of them were in Missouri yesterday. Mothers and children shrieking his name confirmed what we already knew: Tiger Woods is the single most compelling person in American sports, and he belongs to golf.

Unlike a year ago, Woods is swinging well, and seems as healthy and happy as he as ever been as a pro. Add to that the unprecedented outpouring of love from crowds that once produced a combination of awe and respect, but never love. Fowler, McIlroy, Spieth and the rest may get their share of wins and Tweets, but if the game is to really grow it will be on the broad, fragile back of Tiger Woods. It’s amazing to think what can happen in one short year.

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12 reasons serious golfers don’t realize their potential

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What stops serious golfers from realizing their potential? If you are an amateur who wants to get better, a young player trying to achieve more, or a young professional with big dreams, this article is for you.

I’ve made a career out of helping athletes maximize their abilities, golfers in particular. And the things I see young playing professionals doing prior to our work together is often what is holding them back. The reality is that most young players, no matter what their level, have three key problems:

  1. They’re distracted by what’s not important
  2. They have no detailed structure and plan to reach the targets they determine are important to them
  3. They have no formal process to develop mindset and attitude

In the list below, I share what I see working with these young players and some common blind spots.

1. No real plan and steps to achieve targets

Most players do not know how to create a long-term and short-term plan that outlines all steps needed to reach targets. Players should have yearly plans with targets, steps and actions and weekly plans to organize/schedule their time and prioritize key needs.

2. Not focused enough on the object of the game

This goes hand in hand with No. 1. Surprisingly, players seem to forget that the object of the game is get the ball in the hole in the least amount of strokes. Trophies and checks are not issued for the best swing, the best putting stroke or most balls hit.

3. Not enough pressure in practice

Most young players have loose practice. The intensity of feelings between the practice tee and the course are too different. Focus and intensity must be a part of all practice. Add competition and outcomes to sessions so some urgency is created.

4. Too much practice time on full swing

The data is clear — most shots in golf happen from 100 yards and in from the green. If the majority of practice time is not spent on these shorter shots, practice time is wasted.

5. An obsession with the look of the swing

Players are not generally prepared to own their own swings and embrace the differences that make them unique. Obsessing over swing mechanics is a major distraction for many players. Many players convince themselves that if it doesn’t look “good” on their iPhone, their swing won’t get results.

6. No structure with the driver

Since scoring is the main goal, a consistent, reliable shape to each shot is important. My experience has been that if players are trying to go both ways with the driver, that is a sure-fire way to elevate numbers on the card. Pick a shape and eliminate one side of the course. Predictability from the tee increases a player’s confidence to put the ball in the fairway more often, creating more opportunities to score.

7. Expectation that they will hit the ball well everyday

Many players have the unreasonable expectation that they will hit lots of fairways and greens every time they play. This expectation leads to constant disappointment in their game. Knowing that the leading professionals in the game average about 60.6 percent driving accuracy and 11.8 greens in regulation per round should be a good benchmark for the expectations of all players.

8. Trying to be too robotic and precise in putting

Some players get so caught up in the mechanics of putting that their approach becomes too robotic. They become obsessed with precision and being perfect. Feel, flow and instinct have to be a central part of putting. This can get lost in an overly robotic mindset trying to be too precise and perfect.

9. No process for assessment and reflection

Players do not have a formal process for assessing practice or rounds and reflecting on the experience. The right lessons are not consistently taken away to ensure step-by-step improvement. Knowing how to assess practice, play and ask the right questions is key to development.

10. Getting in their own way

The voice inside of most young players’ heads is not helpful for their performance. It’s often a negative, demanding voice that insists on perfection. This voice leads to hesitation, frustration and anger. The voice must be shaped (with practice) into the right “emotional caddie” to support efforts and promote excellence over perfection.

11. A focus on the negative before the positive

A default to the mistakes/flaws in the round before looking at the highlights and what worked. When asked about their round, most players highlight three-putts, penalty shots and any errors before anything else. Emphasis should always be on what went well first. Refection on what needs improvement is second.

12. The blame game

Young players love excuses. Course conditions, weather, coaching and equipment are a few of the areas that are often targets, deflecting responsibility away from the player. Many players do not take full responsibility for their own game and/or careers.

I hope this provides some insights on roadblocks that could get in your way on the path to reaching your targets in the game. Whether it’s lowering your handicap, winning a junior tournament, working toward the PGA Tour — or just general improvement — considering these observations might help you shorten the road to get there.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Valero Texas Open

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With one of the weakest fields of the year, TPC San Antonio hosts the Valero Texas Open this week. Only one player from the top-20 in the Official World Golf Rankings will tee it up here. That man is Sergio Garcia, who co-designed this course with Greg Norman.

Just like last week at the RBC Heritage, the wind can wreak havoc at TPC San Antonio. The course features an exposed layout, making the level of wind is often unpredictable. Expect it to be a factor yet again this year. Unlike last week, the longer hitters do have an advantage on this course, which measuring more than 7,400 yards with little rough off the tee.

Last year, Kevin Chappell held off a charging Brooks Koepka to post 12-under par and win his first title on the PGA Tour.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Sergio Garcia 14/1
  • Matt Kuchar 18/1
  • Charley Hoffman 18/1
  • Luke List 25/1
  • Ryan Moore 28/1
  • Kevin Chappell 28/1
  • Adam Scott 30/1

From the top of the market, it’s hard not to love Luke List (25/1, DK Price $10,000) this week. The big-hitting American is still looking for his first win on the PGA Tour, but he is knocking on the door relentlessly. In his last eight events, List has finished no worse than T-26.

He was so close once again last week, and he should take plenty of confidence from that performance onto a course that theoretically should suit him much better. On this long track, List will have a significant advantage as one of the longest hitters on Tour. Over his last 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 1st in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green. List is also flushing his irons. He was second in the field last week for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, and over his previous 24 rounds he sits 3rd in the same category.

It’s not only his long game that is highly proficient right now, either. List’s short game has been stellar over this impressive stretch, too. He ranks 8th for Strokes Gained-Around the Green and 28th for Strokes Gained-Short Game over his last 24 rounds.

The one department holding the big man back is his putting, where he ranks 145th for the season. The rest of his game is so sharp at the moment that he’s in the enviable position of not needing that hot a week with the flat-stick to win. He only needs an average week on the greens to finally break through and claim his first PGA Tour event. There’s nothing to suggest List isn’t going to play well once more this week, and at 25/1 he seems undervalued.

Returning to a track that he adores, Brendan Steele (33/1, DK Price $8,900) is always a danger at this event. As well as winning the title here in 2011, Steele has finished in the top-20 three times since then. Whatever it is about TPC San Antonio, it’s a course that brings out the best in Steele’s game.

It’s been an excellent season for the West Coast native, too. He won his opening event of the season at the Safeway Open and has since finished in the top-30 six times. One of the main reasons for his strong run of form has been his work with the driver. Steele is ranked 1st in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee over his last 24 rounds, and he has only failed to post a positive Strokes Gained statistic in this category once since this event last year.

Recently, Steele’s game is showing trends that he may once more be close to hitting the form that saw him win at the back end of last year. In his previous 24 rounds, the Californian is ranked 10th in Ball Striking and 7th in Strokes Gained-Total. Always a threat at this event, Steele is coming into this week with all parts of his game in sync. He should be a live threat once more in San Antonio.

Another man who has played well all year is Xander Schauffele (35/1, DK Price $8,800). The Californian has made seven of eight cuts this year, and he has finished in the top-25 in four of those occasions. Excellent off the tee, TPC San Antonio should suit the 24-year-old this week, too. Schaufelle ranks 7th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 17th in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds.

With wind likely to play a factor this week, pure ball striking will be necessary. That shouldn’t be an issue for Xander, who sits 7th in Strokes Gained-Ball Striking over his last 24 rounds. There is nothing off about Schauffele’s game right now. He ranks 21st in Strokes Gained-Putting over his previous 12 rounds and 5th in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green over the same period. It’s only a matter of time before the two-time PGA Tour winner puts himself in the thick of contention again, and there’s no reason why it can’t be this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Luke List 25/1, DK Price $10,000
  • Brendan Steele 33/1, DK Price $8,900
  • Xander Schauffele 35/1, DK Price $8,800
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