Connect with us

Opinion & Analysis

How Spieth gave away The Masters, and how Willet won

Published

on

Let’s start with what happened at Augusta’s famed par-three 12th, Golden Bell. Jordan Spieth stepped onto the tee on the heels of two consecutive bogeys. And to hear him tell it, he was already in the midst of a lapse in concentration over the ball.

“And I knew par was good enough [on the back nine] and maybe that was what hurt me,” Spieth said after the round. “Just wasn’t quite aggressive at the ball with my 3 wood, 6 iron on 10. And then the drive on 11. Just a lapse of concentration on 12 and it cost me.

“I knew the lead was five with nine holes to play. And I knew that those two bogeys weren’t going to hurt me. But I didn’t take that extra deep breath and really focus on my line on 12. Instead I went up and I just put a quick swing on it.”

Jordan-Spieth-12th-Augusta-

What was he trying to do with his tee shot to pin, which was tucked just four paces from the right edge of the shallow green? What would he liked to have done differently? Same club, similar line, different shot shape, more relaxation, conviction, it seems.

“No. 12 is a 150-yard shot and I feel I can bleed it next to the hole, and it’s a stock 9 iron for me,” Spieth said. “But that hole, for whatever reason, just has people’s number. Stay committed behind the bunker … It was really one swing. Nos. 10 and 11, you can take bogeys there. I was still 2-under for the tournament with a couple of par-5s left. My goal for the day was 4-under. So we were still right on pace. It just didn’t take that extra deep breath. And Michael said, hit it right here, hit it right here. And I remember getting over the ball thinking, ‘I’m going to go ahead and hit a little cut to the hole and that’s what I did in 2014 and it cost me the tournament then, too.’

“That was the right club, just the wrong shot. I was more comfortable hitting a draw with my iron. I knew every time I played a fade this week, that shot kind of came out. And I just… At the time, you’re going to throw all bad swings away and you’re just going to focus on how confident you can step into that shot and that’s what I did. But the swing just wasn’t quite there to produce the right ball flight. So ultimately, I should have just played a draw on that hole. At the same time, there’s so much adrenaline and it’s enough club that if it’s downwind a draw can fly over the bunkers. It was a tough number for me to commit to, but I had the right club.”

As Spieth indicates, the blunder is staggering, considering it’s a mirror image of what happened in 2014, when he found the water at No. 12, stymieing his pursuit of Bubba Watson. And regarding the fatted drop with 68 yards to the pin, Spieth offered this explanation.

“It went in so far to the right that if I could go behind the drop zone, I could have gotten to a number that I liked, similar to 2014, where I ended up saving bogey,” Spieth said. “Instead, I didn’t want to drop it at 65 yards off the downslope into that green. That’s just a number where you can’t get the full spin. I wanted to get it to a number where I could have it end up where it landed. It would take a skip and come back. So I wanted 80 yards. So I tried to get 80 yards. I’m not really sure what happened on the next shot. I just hit it fat.”

It’s worth noting that, as you can see from the flag in the video (see the full horror here on Masters.com), the wind was down and Spieth, with his customary pace of play, was likely looking to hurry along, given that his group was out of position. And of course, a 9-iron approach shot is usually a routine affair, with a slim margin of error. Instead, Spieth, as he indicated, didn’t strike the ball with conviction, quitting on it, producing a lame duck that sailed short and right.

Another point, the area where Spieth dropped from has to be among the soggiest on the course. The shaded, low-lying area used to flood and has been filled (if I’m correctly remembering my Augusta National history). Good luck nipping a half-to-three-quarter wedge from there after the emotional and sensory affront of rinsing your tee shot. Moving beyond the 12th hole: Nowhere was the mantra of making hay on Augusta National’s par-5s and hanging around on at the rest of the holes more than with Spieth’s performance. For the week, Spieth was 11-under on the five-shotters. It was the three double bogeys and the quad at the 12th that cost him.

For his part, winner Danny Willett made eight bogeys (two fewer than Spieth), but more notably: No doubles or worse. Interestingly, Willett was even par on the par-5s for the week: a rare feat for a Masters champion.

Starting his final round three shots behind Jordan Spieth, and with the assumption that he would at least have to get to 4- or 5-under, Willett’s ability to tally five birdies, including three in his final six holes, was impressive to say the least.

And of course, there are endless instances where you could do tournament counterfactuals — heck, Dustin Johnson would have won handily if he’d putted at an average level — but it’s worth noting this in light of Willett’s semi-serious “fate” comment. His approach at the 18th, which kicked left off the slope fronting the front-right bunker to settle 14 feet from the hole, could easy have taken a different kick, perhaps even into the bunker. Instead, Willett’s ball rested in a position where he could cozy a little right-to-lefter up short of the hole and make par. Regarding the closing stretch, 2-under in five holes with the lead, Willett offered this perspective.

“This golf course can jump up and bite you whenever,” Willett said. “Even today, it was relatively flat calm compared to the last few days, but there was just enough there to flicker around to cause a few problems.

“You never feel comfortable on this golf course until you finish and sign the card and post a number. So yeah, we knew we still had a job to do. At the time we were still only 4-under par and he had only dropped back to [1-under], so there’s still plenty of holes for him to catch up and keep chasing.

“So it was really timely birdie on 16, and then again to make contact up 17 and 18 with what goes on and to hit such a nice chip that I did on 17. Yeah, it’s just them things. You practice, that’s what you do, endless hours chipping, putting, hitting shots, imagining hitting shots at certain golf courses at certain times. And fortunately enough today, I’ve been able to relive some of them dreams and some of them practice sessions.”

Dreams, indeed.

While there is surely a bevy of data from the laser-driven Track feature, Augusta National doesn’t make any advanced statistics available derived from that data.

However, a look at Willett’s basic numbers reveals he hit 48 of 72 greens in regulation: 67 percent, against the field average of 59 percent. In his final round, Willett hit 13 of 18 (72 percent). His driving accuracy was on par with the field average of 67 percent at 68 percent for the four rounds: He hit nine of 14 for Round 4. Driving distance data was only collected on two holes, Nos. 5 and 15, and Willett averaged 305 yards. And in Round 4, Willett’s efforts on those two holes were 14 yards longer than the field average.

Willett didn’t take many trips to the beach, finding the sand only twice in four rounds. Although he didn’t save par either time he was bunkered, his lack of having to try to salvage sandy pars is notable. Looking at other top finishers, Spieth found seven bunkers, as did Westwood. Dustin Johnson found the sand nine times (saving par only three).

Willett putted beautifully, with just one three-putt for the week. He averaged 1.58 strokes per hole. Anirban Lahiri led the field at 1.53 strokes, but he also had four three-putts, as did Jordan Spieth.

As mentioned, Willett didn’t play the par-5s with any particular brilliance. As you would expect, then, he was second in par-3 birdies (5) and fourth in par-4 birdies (6). Spieth led the field in par-5 birdies (11) and was second in par-4 birdies (8).

The 12th hole, listed at 156 yards, played as the seventh most difficult hole at Augusta National this year, surrendering just 28 birdies with a field scoring average of 3.22. More notably, however, the 12th saw the second-most “double bogeys or worse” of any hole at ANGC this year, at 20, just four behind the course’s most difficult hole, the 505-yard par-four 11th.

So, you know, tough sledding through Amen Corner (the 10th averaged 4.28), with best possibility for big numbers anywhere on the course, as Jordan Spieth painfully illustrated.

Which brings us back to the 12th… 

Jenkins-tweet

Your Reaction?
  • 71
  • LEGIT9
  • WOW3
  • LOL1
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP4
  • OB1
  • SHANK4

44 Comments

44 Comments

  1. James G

    Apr 13, 2016 at 8:57 am

    To the Spieth detractors, you make exactly how much playing golf?

  2. Michael Grilledcheese

    Apr 13, 2016 at 1:05 am

    The amount of times Spieth backs off and the running commentary he has after every swing is hard to watch.

    I miss Tiger

  3. Gautama

    Apr 12, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    The truth is Spieth went wire to wire with some exceptional play, particularly scrambling, while everyone else was blowing up here and there. The result was that robust lead coming down the ninth. But then the course caught up to him as it had everyone else. If he’d had dunked those balls on Friday the result might well still have been the exact same outcome, but we’d be applauding him for grinding to a 2nd place finish.

    No one ever wants to consider everything that happens leading up to the final score in sports. It’s like baseball – someone has to have the last at bat with a chance to tie the game, but if they strike out they didn’t “lose the game” or choke any more than than the guy who struck out in the bottom of the first.

    • Sad Smizzle

      Apr 12, 2016 at 2:16 pm

      Yeah, without giving any credit to the pitcher. Yeah that makes sense. Not!
      Golf is nothing like baseball. Terrible comparison

      • Gautama

        Apr 12, 2016 at 5:03 pm

        Lol, either stupid and completely missed the point, or a lonely troll. Sad critter aren’t ya.

        • Sad Smizzle

          Apr 12, 2016 at 7:55 pm

          Not as sad as you who doesn’t understand the difference when somebody throws a fast ball past you to BEAT you with a pitch and losing the entire match for the team, instead of making errors by one’s self in golf to lose all by one’s lonesome and not being beating by somebody or some team

          • Eric

            Apr 13, 2016 at 12:32 pm

            “Baseball match?” lol, where are you from? Anyway, I know your just a kid trolling, but you’re bordering on funny so I’ll bite.

            You just made my point for me, which has nothing to do with team vs individual sports, but the totality of the game room start to finish. The last out most certainly does not “lose the game for the team.” There were 27 other outs and at least 9 innings of action that led up to that point.

            In golf, there are 72 holes and 280 odd shots that get tallied Sunday afternoon. On the way everyone has ups, downs, bad decisions, and lucky breaks. The fact that Spieth’s luck with some shaky ball stroking finally caught up to him on the 12th doesn’t mean he choked any more than if it had happened on Thursday. In the end, Willett got through 72 hokes in fewer shots and won.

            Norman choked. Spieth just payed his inevitable dues for some shaky ball striking late Sunday.

  4. cmyktaylor

    Apr 12, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    Context: While Jack won 6 times at the Masters, he came in second 4 times. Yet Jack didn’t start that record until the sixth time he entered the Masters. Jordan began his string of 1sts and 2nds on his very first tournament. This should be fun to watch over the years.

    Also, although it does seem tragic to me that Jordan has chosen an unseasoned caddie, I respect his choice of picking a man and sticking with him. I’m having a hard time with Adam Scott dropping his regular caddie for the majors. How is the guy ever going to become seasoned if he doesn’t put him on the bag in the hardest tournaments? A bit shortsighted if you ask me.

  5. Steffen Mysager

    Apr 12, 2016 at 10:53 am

    Spieth should have been warned for his unbelievable slow play. Coming close to disrespect for the game. SMys.

  6. Kna

    Apr 12, 2016 at 3:33 am

    You’re just a silly punk, aintcha, Smizzle? You really know nothing, huh? I feel sorry for you

  7. Chunt

    Apr 11, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    He already won 2 different Majors, and the FedEx Cup.
    So this one stung a little but he’ll get over it quickly. Really not a big deal.
    We’ve all already moved on. Back to the hunt

  8. Tom Duckworth

    Apr 11, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    He had to put that jacket on him in the cabin, outside on the practice greens and then more for a number of photo shoots, that had to be unbearable. He showed a lot of class. I hope he doesn’t get too beat up about this from the golfing community. He is a great golfer and it will be great fun to watch the big 3 or 4 or whatever for the next ten years or more.

  9. Bert

    Apr 11, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    Jordan is awesome. Yes he stumbled but shake it off and get back into the hunt. We know it hurts, we just haven’t ever been there to feel the pain. The guy is amazing! My mind would have been shot after number 12, but he regrouped and tried to finish under par for the remaining holes and perhaps tie. For a moment I thought he would pull it off.

  10. Jim Losito

    Apr 11, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    I agree with Richard, Jordan’s speed of play has really slowed down compared to when he first started winnig.He repositions way to much. Just hit the ball already.

    • Scott

      Apr 11, 2016 at 5:35 pm

      I agree 100%. His pace of play is not good for the game.

      • Kna

        Apr 12, 2016 at 3:31 am

        Jack was even slower throughout his entire career. But nobody ever mentions that now. Oh how many waggles he used to take! And how long he would stand over the putts! It’s all edited in highlight videos, but watching it live was quite excruciating.

  11. Troy

    Apr 11, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    It didn’t surprise me what happened to Jordan. I watched him a number of times during the coverage and he dodged several bullets with a great short game after pushing a drive or iron.

    I said to my wife on the Saturday, if he continues to do that come Sunday afternoon it could well catch up with him and he’ll find himself in trouble. Jordan almost went out of the bounds on the long par-3 fourth hole and got out of jail.

    Eventually, unfortunately for him it caught up with him. He put up a great defense but full credit to Willett who played amazing golf on the final day.

    A Masters to remember!

  12. Matty

    Apr 11, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    This is somewhat unrelated, but is it just me, or is it that the broadcasting (featured groups and full coverage) at the Masters on TV was kinda bad this year compared to other years (things like wrong facts, wrong score, etc)?

    • Bert

      Apr 11, 2016 at 5:26 pm

      The coverage stunk it up! I wanted to yell, Yes Sir, Shut Up! I muted the coverage many times and am thankful for the fast forward feature. Too much embedded small talk and other distractions.

    • jeff monik

      Apr 11, 2016 at 9:00 pm

      Dottie Pepper uuuugghhhh Vern was good and Kostis good Jim Nance hasnt improved in all these years Nick Faldo avg. I was done after 14 with Spaeth the coverage sucked and was nothing to hang out for just agitation to come from today’s highlight golf coverage.
      It is amazing how playing partners disappear when they fade on leaderboard this isnt golf its reality t.v.

  13. Chris

    Apr 11, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    Where was the drop zone on 12?

  14. Perry

    Apr 11, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    Just before he hit the first one, he asked if the chosen club/shot would go over the green. Caddy said no. My guess is he took a little off the shot, maybe even subconsciously. In the first drop zone shot he was obviously out of control, swinging over and over again at a super fast pace. Almost scary to watch. Trouble is the caddy wasn’t even looking at Spieth when he pulled the trigger. An experienced caddy would have said, “Stop! Step back and take some deep breaths.”

    • Kna

      Apr 12, 2016 at 3:28 am

      Hindsight analysis from not standing next to the caddie makes you a guessing idiot

  15. Hartley Burt

    Apr 11, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    Probably a stupid question, but why couldn’t he drop on the other side of the hazard. His ball landed above the hazard line and came back in the water. Normally he would be able to drop on the other side no closer to the hole.

    • Gerorge

      Apr 11, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      No, if it’s not a lateral hazard, you cannot drop greenside. Rae’s creek is a frontal hazard, you have to drop behind the hazard.

    • Mark Walgren

      Apr 11, 2016 at 2:08 pm

      He could have. He opt’d to take it back 80 yards to where he can get some spin on it. He said he regretted that decision now and should have went to the dropzone instead.

      • larrybud

        Apr 11, 2016 at 3:24 pm

        No he couldn’t Mark. It’s a water hazard, yellow line, not a lateral hazard, which is red line. When it’s a yellow line, you have to keep that point where it crossed the line between you and the hole, which means when you go into a hazard with a yellow line, your drop will ALWAYS have the same hazard between you and the hole on your next shot.

        Consider this: If Spieth had hit his bunker shot into the water, his drop would HAVE to be back on the other side of the water even though the shot originated from behind the green! (or the other option would be to rehit from the bunker).

  16. cmyktaylor

    Apr 11, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    I keep thinking: What if (or rather, If only) he had a seasoned caddie on his bag(?).

    • td

      Apr 11, 2016 at 1:15 pm

      Same goes for DJ…DJ would be a major winner if he had a better caddie.

      • Scott

        Apr 11, 2016 at 5:36 pm

        DJ needs a lot more than a better caddie. He can’t putt and that is mental.

    • Al Czervik

      Apr 11, 2016 at 1:46 pm

      This is exactly what I was thinking. There’s a world of difference between a seasoned caddie and someone carrying your clubs. Look at Tiger’s caddie selections… Fluff and Steve Williams- both arguably the best out there at the time.

      • Steve

        Apr 11, 2016 at 10:29 pm

        “Both arguably the best out there at the time.”

        I think it can EASILY be argued that they didn’t make much of a difference (if any) for Tiger. They were the “best” because Tiger was the one hitting the golf shots… Bottom line – Spieth choked. The blame falls 100% on him, like it should. We don’t need to look for somebody else to blame.

    • alexdub

      Apr 11, 2016 at 3:14 pm

      Couldn’t have said it better. First thought I had when Jordan was on 12. Call me crazy, but I honestly believe that Jordan would have won if his caddie had done better at re-centering him and keeping him in the moment. As a caddie, you can’t just let things happen—you gotta keep you player in the moment. As a side, the exchange between Jordan and his caddie on Friday (where Jordan snapped at him) is telling. I wonder if there is a crack that will turn into a cleavage.

  17. Richard

    Apr 11, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    Seems to me Speith’s pace of play is a problem for those that have to play with him.
    Watching him on TV drives me crazy and I am only seeing samples not truly in real time.
    Would love to see him paired with Sabatini 🙂
    Greg Norman should no longer be the poster boy for Sunday meltdowns at Augusta.

    • Scott

      Apr 11, 2016 at 5:37 pm

      He should have been penalized for his slow play.

  18. alexdub

    Apr 11, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Did everyone see Jordan during the jacket presentation in Butler Cabin? He looked like he was going to cry. Felt bad for him. Tough to see such a train wreck.

    • Ben Alberstadt

      Apr 11, 2016 at 11:26 am

      Indeed. And he almost fell over when standing up to put the green jacket on Willett. Would have been an awful figurative version of what happened literally at the 12th. Tough, tough stuff.

    • Imanoff

      Apr 11, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      He is Jordan and he has some sort of mental ability and resilience above average. I am sure he will recover and learn from his mistakes. Nevertheless, within his 3 times participation in the Masters, 2 runner ups and 1 champion, that is impressive!

      • MarkB A

        Apr 11, 2016 at 7:43 pm

        Yes. My only criticism is speed of play. I love the bashers. Jordan by age 21 did more in his life than all of us will ever achieve. Yeah it is just a game and fortunately, he seems like a very well grounded young man.

    • steve

      Apr 11, 2016 at 3:24 pm

      Yeah atleast it wasn’t like Rickie crying like a school because he lost the WM in front of grandpa,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Opinion & Analysis

Inside the ropes with the fittest on Tour

Published

on

Before the world hit pause, I had the awesome opportunity to go out to Torrey Pines and the 2020 Farmers Insurance Open and spend the week with former champ Scott Stallings.

The link was fitness, and this was my opportunity to go and learn from the best about all aspects of performance.

That’s how I got to know Scott a couple of years ago—a similar path to improved health and fitness directly, and indirectly, linked to golf performance.

So, what does a week on tour really look like from the player’s perspective?

Pretty busy.

I flew in late Monday evening, and Tuesday at 8 AM, it was time to meet up with Scott—in the gym of course. Scott, Adam his trainer, and a couple of players were already fired up and ready to go.

A one-hour session of dumbbells, med balls, kettlebells, and sleds finished with a “vanity pump” session that was more than enough to get a serious sweat going in the California hills.

After freshening up with a solid post-workout breakfast, it’s time to hit the course. As a past winner, Scott knew all about Torrey As a newbie from England, I can tell you that place is as good as you think it is!

Scott joined workout partners Trey Mullinax and Scott Brown, as well as Sepp Straka, to go play the North Course. At this point, it was clear the players were feeling out their games as much as they are the course—a couple of challenges here and a few extra chip shots there, the mood is pretty laid back as the players do their thing.

Off the course, and it’s time to refuel again. This kind of schedule is asking a lot of the body. Then you guessed it, it’s back to the gym. This time it’s a lighter focus to let the body wind down and only around 40 minutes long. Then its time to loosen up, get a massage, and the day is largely done.

In the current age of performance tracking and performance data, sleep and recovery are almost as important as anything else going on here. Scott is at the forefront here as well, being one of the first to use the extremely popular Whoop Bands to track a whole bunch of physical data. Keeping yourself in the green can be a pretty big deal if you want to feel and perform your best!

Wednesday is pro-am day, and with 36 holes at Torrey, everyone is in. An early tee time means no specific gym work in the morning, rather a quick functional mobility session before heading to the range—increasing the heart rate, moving the body and basically waking up all of the movements patterns needed for the body to hit the range to start getting dialed in.

After the “steadily paced” round, Scott fuels up ready to hit the gym with a different workout partner. A certain curly-haired Irishman got in touch with Scott to set up an early season workout to gauge performance, maybe learn a few things, and for sure do some work!

Fitness on tour is a continuing revolution, with almost all players now understanding the huge benefits of increased physical performance for their games but also for their health. The benefits of increased speed, fitness, and overall performance, when you’re playing at the highest level seems fairly straightforward. But players also have to consider their schedules, travel, work demands and a bunch more stressors that affect mental, physical, and hormonal function.

Having earned his reputation through an accelerated journey from poor health to fitness junkie, Scott is more than happy to spend time with other pros talking all things, health, fitness, and performance.

This is how the game will continue to move forwards and also how it will feed down into all levels of golf. There is a clear spectrum emerging within this for the golf world: using golf as a motivating factor to get in better shape and overall health all the way up to using specific fitness work to further golf performance.

Basically you gotta be doing something!

Anyway, fresh from an all out sweat session, it’s head down and prep for a Thursday morning tee time—same deal, physical therapy, good nutrition, and as much rest as possible.

With a 9:10 AM tee time Thursday morning, the preparations are much like that for the pro-am and the body is ready and warm headed to the tee.

Then, it’s go time. Stepping onto the first tee in competition and everything changes. This was one of the most noticeable and impressive things watching Scott and all the other players in this incredible field.

There is a visible, almost palpable, change in demeanor, and it’s all-out competition mode.

This is a part of the mental toughness and preparation learned through years of hard work and the desire to do what is needed. This, in my opinion, is where all golfers can take so much from the best in the game—just compete and grind to get the best score possible whatever the circumstance. Don’t over-think technique, don’t overreact, just play each shot as best as you possibly can and count them up at the end.

Scott is also playing the first round on the brutal, but incredible, South Course in tough conditions and posts up a 1-under 71 to sit nicely on the leaderboard after day one. This was a mentally and physically challenging day with high temperatures, a tough course and an incredible field. On course nutrition, and even more so, hydration, are on point and the hours of work in the gym all stack up for optimal performance.

After a good day’s work, more food, and just enough rest, we hit the gym for my last workout at Torrey: 30 minutes of hard effort including rowing, stepper, med balls, and squats—there really is no holding back.

Training is always individual and even more so at this level. Training hard after a five-plus hour round of golf is no easy workload, but it depends on the body. If you are consistently putting in the work, it feels best to keep the body operating at that level. If you’re not doing all that much and decide to do this mid-tournament, it is not likely to end well!

And that’s what it is all about: finding how you can be your best in all areas! For a Tour pro, it’s probably not as easy as you might think. Balancing performance with all the factors listed above, the grueling (normal) season schedule and the time taken to be at this level requires huge commitment and consistency on so many levels. Scott has shown this better than anyone with his newfound commitment to health, fitness, and all things performance.

I took off back to the UK Friday, and Scott went on to play the weekend finishing in the top 50. Each of the four competitive days required the same level of physical commitment, and every day Scott was in there getting the work done.

Gaining this direct insight into the week of a PGA Tour pro gave me a new appreciation for the time and work required as well as an even greater foundation to help to continue and develop the relationship between health, fitness, and golf at all levels.

It comes down to attitude and effort. Rent is due on both.

Your Reaction?
  • 6
  • LEGIT1
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB2
  • SHANK3

Continue Reading

Opinion & Analysis

So you wanna work in golf media…

Published

on

I get this question all the time: “So, how does someone get a job in golf media?”

Hmm…I could give you a bunch of tips, ideas, resume suggestions, etc. I’m not going to. All I know is how I got here. It’s a story of passion, initiative, blind luck, God, and desperation.

I feel like in the telling of how I got here you will see a path but not the only path.

My story—condensed into the point golf gear took over my life.

It’s 1993, and I’m a sophomore in high school at John F. Kennedy Memorial in Burien, Washington. I was a baseball player my whole life, and for whatever reason that summer, I decided it wasn’t for me anymore, and I wanted to go scrub clubs, pick balls and have the occasional lung dart with my buddies at the local country club. At that time, golf was something to me just shy of an afterthought. I had played the occasional short 9 as a kid, went to a camp or two, but in all honesty, it was just another game.

Fast forward to my first week working at Rainier G&CC—the second assistant was a guy named Mike Montegomery (DOG at Glendale CC now), and he took me to the range to help pick balls and hit some into the net. After about 30 mins of pounding balls, I was hooked. Hook, line, and sinker.

I’m an obsessive person by nature, so when I get into something, it becomes a bit scary—I want to know everything. That’s when the equipment junkie revealed himself, and it all started with a trip to the dentist and an issue of Golf Digest.

This one…

Golf Digest, February issue, 1993

This magazine started the whole thing. No, it wasn’t the fact that Phil Mickelson graced the cover, it was the advertisements. The color codes of Ping, the black and gold of Cobra, Titleist Tour Balata, Founders Club, and on and on. Everything looked just so damn awesome. I wanted to try, see, touch and feel everything I could. And I did. From that point, until even today, golf and golf gear dominate a good chunk of my thoughts every day.

Lesson #1: To do this job well….you have to obsessed.

Now we are in 2005. I’m working in Irvine, California, for LendingTree slanging equity loans to the A paper client,s and in the search engine, I type David Duval golf clubs…

Before I go further it must be acknowledged that my good friend Nico Bollini and I used to spend HOURS on Getty images and at the local Wajamaya scouring pictures of players bags in Golf Classic magazine and any close-ups Getty would catch. Instead of going to parties and chasing girls as normal people do, we were trying to see what shaft Ray Floyd had in his Bridgestone J’s driver.

Back to DD. I type in “David Duval golf clubs,” and I land on this weird forum thing called BombSquad Golf. It was a site that not only talked gear in-depth like Nico and I did, but they had some dude taking pics at tour events. It was golf porn. I was in. Eventually, BSG became nothing, and Richard Audi and GolfWRX.com took over. That story is very well told, so I won’t go into it.

That fueled my golf junkie for a long time. It wasn’t until 2012 and the urging from my then-girlfriend that I began writing for WRX. Since I was on the site so much and had so many opinions, she jokingly said, “You should write for them,” to which I replied, “I should.”

This is where luck comes in. I found the contact info at the bottom of the site and ended emailing Zak, the editor at the time.

“Hi Zak,

My name is John Wunder and I am extremely excited and interested in writing for Golfwrx! I have been a member of this site for over 6 years now and I have always admired the professionalism and in-depth coverage that your site provides. I am what they would call in the golfing streets a “Junky”. Tour news, college news, equipment trends, companies, in the bag info, history, etc. You name it, I know it. I’m a lifer and the only thing I have left to do to get my fix is either learn how to putt and play the mini-tours or start writing. Unfortunately, even the belly putter was of no use to me so writing it is! As writing goes my experience is limited with the exception of the occasional Facebook comment but my knowledge of the game and its culture is undeniable.  I’m dying to be apart of this thing and if I had not been scrolling to the bottom of the page I would not have noticed the link to you. Maybe it’s a sign from the Golfing Gods, you never know. Any information you can give would be much appreciated.  I Look forward to hearing from you.”

Lesson #2: You won’t know what’s possible until you ask.

Eventually, Zak gave me a shot and from 2012 to 2018 I wrote roughly 30-40 articles for WRX. For fun, for free, for the love of the game. I wrote opinion pieces, did some video articles, reviews, tournament recaps, etc. Every time they asked, I said HELL YES. Why not? Golf content is what I think about all day anyway. It requires no real study or extra work to execute. It’s something I can just sit down and do, sometimes quickly.

Now we find ourselves in 2018. It’s late January. My son Seve had just been born and my main source of income at the time (film/tv) was slow and unpredictable. I had two months of savings left, no consistent income coming in to speak of, and with two kids and my girl that I am supporting. Things got scary. Desperate is a better word. In that desperation, a decision was made. I wanted to finally do the thing I’ve always wanted to do. Work in the golf business.

I sat down and mapped out my plan…

Lesson #3: Don’t be afraid of desperation. God can be found there.

But how? What can I bring to the table?

Remember obsession? Remember the power of asking?

I knew my knowledge of the tour and golf equipment was abnormal, to say the least. It still is. I knew that I had a Rolodex to choke a horse, and I had the email of someone at WRX that I could plead my case to. The editor at the time, Andrew Tursky. My email to him was very similar to my email to Zak. I plainly told what I wanted to do, why they needed me, and left it at that.

The term the squeaky wheel gets the grease is so true in my case—every job I have ever chased, there were two things I made sure were in place…

  1. I knew my passion equaled my knowledge
  2. I was willing to hear NO multiple times until the right YES came along.

Lesson #4: Know where you want to go (and tell people).

That email turned into a face-to-face with the GolfWRX brass, to a “yes we will hire you,” to getting a job doing what I love.

The job I was hired for has mutated into something way different. Every person at GolfWRX.com does multiple jobs—there is really no definitive titles or boxes we fit in. It’s a passionate, nimble crew and to a person, everyone is a golf junkie degenerate, including the owner, Rich. That was the deciding factor of going down this path. Yes, I wanted the job, but after meeting Richard Audi and discovering he was just as crazy as I am, I knew I had to work for that man.

The moral of the story is this: Golf media is not a box anymore. You don’t need a degree in journalism or your doctorate in Bill Shakespeare.  It’s the time of the hustler. So, if you have something to say, say it, something to show, show it, and most importantly if you want to get in, ASK. ASK. ASK. Someone will say yes eventually and when they do, what you do with that YES is up to you.

Hope this gives you a hint that like anything else, there is not one door, there are multiple. Knock, scream, kick, and do it with some fire.

Lesson #5: ANYTHING is possible if you want it bad enough

 

 

Your Reaction?
  • 15
  • LEGIT3
  • WOW0
  • LOL1
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK1

Continue Reading

Instruction

Confessions of a hacker: Chipping yips and equipment fixes

Published

on

There’s a saying in golf that, paraphrasing here, it’s the person holding the weapon, not the weapon. Basically, if you hit a bad shot, it’s almost certain that it was your fault, not the fault of the golf club. It has a better design than your swing. And while that truism is often correct, it ain’t necessarily so.

For example, if I were to try to hit one of those long drive drivers, I’d probably mis-hit it so badly that the ball might not be findable. That stick is way too long, stiff, and heavy for me. Similarly, if I were to use one of those senior flex drivers, I’d probably hit it badly, because it would be too floppy for my swing. It’s clear that there are arrows that this Indian can’t shoot well. Maybe a pro could adapt to whatever club you put in his hand, but there’s no reason he would accept less than a perfect fit. And there’s little reason why any amateur ought to accept less than a good fit.

I was never a competitive athlete, although I’m a competitive person. My path led a different direction, and as my medical career reached its mature years, I was introduced to our wonderful and frustrating game.

Being one who hates playing poorly, I immediately sought instruction. After fifteen years, multiple instructors, a wallet full of videos, and a wall full of clubs, I am finally learning how to do one particularly vexing part of the game reasonable well. I can chip! But as you may have guessed, the largest part of this journey has to do with the arrow, not the Indian.

We may immediately dismiss the golf shaft as a significant issue since chipping generally involves a low-speed movement. And as long as the grip is a reasonable fit for the hands, it’s not a big deal either. The rubber meets the road at the clubhead.

Manufacturers have worked hard to get the best ball spin out of the grooves. Their shape is precisely milled, and then smaller grooves and roughness are added to the exact maximum allowed under the rules. Various weighting schemes have been tried, with some success in tailoring wedges to players. And some manufacturers market the “newest” designs to make it impossible to screw up wedge shots. And yet, nothing seemed to solve my yips.

So I went on a mission. I studied all sorts of chipping techniques. Some advocate placing the ball far back to strike a descending blow. Others place it near the center of the stance. The swing must have no wrist hinge. The swing must have a hinge that is held. It should be a short swing. It should be a long swing. The face should be square. The face should be open. There should be a “pop.” There should be no power added.

If you are confused, join my club. So I went on a different mission. I started looking at sole construction. Ever since Gene Sarazen popularized a sole with bounce for use in the sand, manufacturers have been creating massive numbers of “different” sand wedges. They have one thing in common. They are generally all built to 55 or 56-degrees of loft.

The basic design feature of the sand wedge is that the sole extends down and aft from the leading edge at some angle. This generally ranges from 6 to 18-degrees. Its purpose is to allow the wedge to dig into the sand, but not too far. As the club goes down into the sand, the “bounce” pushes it back up.

 

One problem with having a lot of bounce on the wedge is that it can’t be opened up to allow certain specialty shots or have a higher effective loft. When the player does that, the leading edge lifts, resulting in thin shots. So manufacturers do various things to make the wedge more versatile, typically by removing bounce in the heel area.

At my last count, I have eight 56-degree wedges in my collection. Each one was thought to be a solution to my yips. Yet, until I listened to an interview with Dave Edel, I had almost no real understanding of why I was laying sod over a lot of my chips. Since gardening did not reduce my scores, I had to find another solution.

My first step was to look at the effective loft of a wedge in various ball positions. (Pictures were shot with the butt of the club at the left hip, in a recommended forward lean position. Since the protractor is not exactly lined up with the face, the angles are approximate.)

I had no idea that there was so much forward lean with a simple chip. If I were to use the most extreme rearward position, I would have to have 21-degrees of bounce just to keep the leading edge from digging in at impact. If there were the slightest error in my swing, I would be auditioning for greenskeeper.

My appreciation for the pros who can chip from this position suddenly became immense. For an amateur like me, the complete lack of forgiveness in this technique suddenly removed it from my alleged repertoire.

My next step was to look at bounce. As I commented before, bounce on sand wedges ranges between 6 and 18-degrees. As the drawing above shows, that’s a simple angle measurement. If I were to chip from the forward position, a 6-degree bounce sand wedge would have an effective bounce of 1-degree. That’s only fractionally better than the impossible chip behind my right foot. So I went to my local PGA Superstore to look at wedges with my Maltby Triangle Gauge in hand.

As you can see from the photos, there is a wide variation in wedges. What’s most curious, however, is that this variation is between two designs that are within one degree of the same nominal bounce. Could it be that “bounce is not bounce is not bounce?” Or should I say that “12-degrees is not 12-degrees is not 12-degrees?” If one looks below the name on the gauge, a curious bit of text appears. “Measuring effective bounce on wedges.” Hmmm… What is “effective bounce?”

The Maltby Triangle Gauge allows you to measure three things: leading-edge height, sole tangent point, and leading-edge sharpness. The last is the most obvious. If I’m chipping at the hairy edge of an adequate bounce, a sharp leading edge will dig in more easily than a blunt one. So if I’m using that far back ball position, I’ll need the 1OutPlus for safety, since its leading edge is the bluntest of the blunt. Even in that position, its 11-degree bounce keeps the leading edge an eighth of an inch up.

Wait a minute! How can that be? In the back position, the wedge is at 35-degrees effective loft, and 11-degrees of bounce ought to be 10-degrees less than we need. The difference here is found in combining all three parameters measured by the gauge, and not just the angle of the bounce.

The 1OutPlus is a very wide sole wedge. Its tangent point is a massive 1.7″ back. The leading edge rises .36″ off the ground and is very blunt. In other words, it has every possible design feature to create safety in case the chip from back in the stance isn’t as perfect as it might be. Since a golf ball is 1.68″ in diameter, that’s still less than halfway up to the center of the ball. But if you play the ball forward, this may not be the wedge for you.

Here are the measurements for the eight sand wedges that happen to be in my garage. All are either 56-degrees from the factory or bent to 56-degrees.

A couple of things jump out from this table. The Callaway PM Grind at 13-degrees has a lower leading edge (.26 inches) than the 11-degree Bazooka 1OutPlus (.36 inches). How can a lower bounce have a higher leading edge? Simple geometry suggests that if you want a higher leading edge, you will need a higher bounce angle. But it gets worse. The Wishon WS (wide sole) at 6-degrees (55-degree wedge bent to 56-degrees) has a leading-edge height of .28 inches, higher than the Callaway which has over twice the nominal bounce angle!

One thing is missing from this simple discussion of angles.

If I place one line at 34-degrees above the horizontal (loft is measured from the vertical), and then extend another at some angle below horizontal, the height above ground where the two join depends on how long the lower line is. This means that an 18-degree bounce with a narrow “C” grind will raise the leading edge a little bit. A 6-degree bounce on a wide sole may raise it more because the end of the bounce on the first wedge is so close to the leading edge.

 

Let’s look at this in the picture. If the red line of the bounce is very short, it doesn’t get far below the black ground line. But if it goes further, it gets lower. This is the difference between narrow and wide soles.

This diagram describes the mathematical description of these relationships.

Our first task is to realize that the angle 0 in this diagram is the complement of the 56-degree loft of the wedge, or 90 – 56 = 34-degrees since loft is measured from vertical, not horizontal. But the angle 0 in the bounce equation is just that, the bounce value. These two angles will now allow us to calculate the theoretical values of various parts of the wedge, and then compare them to our real-world examples.

My PM Grind Callaway wedge has its 3rd groove, the supposed “perfect” impact point, 0.54 inches above the leading edge. This should put it 0.8 inches back from the leading edge, roughly matching the measured 0.82 inches. So far, so good. (I’m using the gauge correctly!)

The 13-degree bounce at 1.14″ calculates out to 0.284″ of leading-edge rise. I measured 0.26″, so Callaway seems to be doing the numbers properly, until I realize that the leading edge is already .45″ back, given a real tangent of .69″. Something is out of whack. Re-doing the math suggests that the real bounce is 20-degrees, 40 min. Hmmm…

Maybe that bounce angle measurement isn’t such a good number to look at. Without digging through all the different wedges (which would make you cross-eyed), we should go back to basics. What is it that we really need?

Most instructors will suggest that striking the ball on about the third groove will give the best results. It will put the ball close to the center of mass (sweet spot) of the wedge and give the best spin action. If my wedge is at an effective 45-degree angle (about my right big toe), it will strike the ball about half-way up to its equator. It will also be close to the third groove. But to make that strike with minimal risk of gardening, I have to enough protection to keep the edge out of the turf if I mis-hit the ball by a little bit. That can be determined by the leading edge height! The higher the edge, the more forgiveness there is on a mis-hit.

Now this is an incomplete answer. If the bounce is short, with a sharp back side, it will tend to dig into the turf a bit. It may not do it a lot, but it will have more resistance than a wider, smoother bounce. In the extreme case, the 1OutPlus will simply glide over the ground on anything less than a ridiculous angle.

The amount of leading-edge height you need will depend on your style. If you play the ball forward, you may not need much. But as you move the ball back, you’ll need to increase it. And if you are still inconsistent, a wider sole with a smooth contour will help you avoid episodes of extreme gardening. A blunt leading edge will also help. It may slow your club in the sand, but it will protect your chips.

There is no substitute for practice, but if you’re practicing chips from behind your right foot using a wedge with a sharp, low leading edge, you’re asking for frustration. If you’re chipping from a forward position with a blunt, wide sole wedge, you’ll be blading a lot of balls. So look at your chipping style and find a leading-edge height and profile that match your technique. Forget about the “high bounce” and “low bounce” wedges. That language doesn’t answer the right question.

Get a wedge that presents the club to the ball with the leading edge far enough off the ground to provide you with some forgiveness. Then knock ’em stiff!

Your Reaction?
  • 10
  • LEGIT8
  • WOW2
  • LOL4
  • IDHT2
  • FLOP3
  • OB1
  • SHANK9

Continue Reading

WITB

Facebook

Trending