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The 20 Players Who Can Win The Masters

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Each year for the Masters, I create a filtering process to help determine the players that are most likely to win the Green Jacket based on criteria that has strongly predicted outcomes at Augusta. I usually get the list down to roughly 23 players. Last year, I filtered out Jordan Spieth due to poor iron play during that season. Spieth proved me wrong, but he also proved me right as he didn’t win due to the infamous iron shots he had on the 12th hole. On the other hand, Danny Willett was in my list of players that could win the Masters and he became the new champion.

Before I discuss my picks for this year’s Masters, I want to go over what I call the “critical holes” for Augusta National. The critical holes in any tournament are the ones where the top finishers typically gain the most strokes on the field, as well as where the greatest deviation in scores exist. One of the interesting aspects about critical holes is that they often change over time due to changes in the course conditions, course design or a change in player strategy, which can create a smaller deviation in scores.

Just like last year, the critical holes at Augusta are still projected to be Nos. 7, 12, 14, 15 and 18. One of the beauties of Augusta is its finishing hole is the most critical hole in the event statistically, while you have all these other holes that are much more picturesque and memorable.

Moving on to the tournament, I filtered out all first-time attendees. The Masters was only won once by a first-time attendee, Fuzzy Zoeller, in 1979. These 17 players include:

  • Brad Dalke
  • Toto Gana
  • Scott Gregory
  • Stewart Hagestad
  • Curtis Luck
  • Adam Hadwin
  • Tyrrell Hatton
  • Si Woo-Kim
  • William McGirt
  • Alex Noren
  • Thomas Pieters
  • Jon Rahm
  • Brian Stuard
  • Daniel Summerhays
  • Hudson Swafford
  • Mackenzie Hughes
  • Billy Hurley III

I think this is a good list of first-time players, particularly Rahm, Pieters and Noren. But it’s pretty clear that if a golfer has never played in the Masters, he is at a sizable disadvantage.

I also filtered out past champions that I do not believe can compete anymore. These 10 players include:

  • Angel Cabrera
  • Fred Couples
  • Trevor Immelman
  • Bernhard Langer
  • Sandy Lyle
  • Larry Mize
  • Mark O’Meara
  • Jose Maria Olazabal
  • Mike Weir
  • Ian Woosnam

The Zach Johnson Debate

Every year I do my Masters picks, it’s always get pointed out that I do not pick former Masters Champion Zach Johnson due to his lack of length off the tee. Augusta National greatly favors long-ball hitters. They can play the par-5s more like par-4s, and typically the longer hitters can also hit the ball higher so they can get their long approach shots to hold the green more easily.

When Johnson won the Masters in 2007, the event featured record-low temperatures in the mid-40s and wind gusts of 33 mph. This made it very hard for any player to reach the par-5s in two shots and allowed Johnson to get into a wedge contest on the par-5’s, his strength. The temperatures are predicted to be in the high-60s and mid-70s this year and unless that changes by 30+ degrees and the wind gusts double I don’t see him having a very good chance to win the event. Along with Johnson, I would also eliminate these short hitters:

  • Rafael Cabrera Bello
  • Soren Kjeldsen
  • Brandt Snedeker
  • Jim Furyk
  • Steve Stricker
  • Roberto Castro
  • Matt Kuchar

Even more damning is the players who hit the ball too low, a stat that can be tracked with the PGA Tour’s Apex Height measurement (it’s determined with Trackman). Last year, I eliminated five players who I thought had a trajectory that was too low to win at Augusta. Only one of the five players made the cut, Kevin Na (T55). This year, I’m ruling out these nine players: 

  • Rod Pampling
  • Russell Knox
  • Daniel Berger
  • Ryan Moore
  • Kevin Na
  • Paul Casey
  • Branden Grace
  • Jason Dufner
  • Webb Simpson

Furthermore, since the inauguration of the event, there have only been two winners of the Masters who had previously never made the cut: Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 and Gene Sarazen in 1936. Let’s rule them out as well. They are:

  • Andy Sullivan
  • Byeong Hun-An
  • Jhonattan Vegas
  • Brendan Steele

I will also filter out the players that missed the cut at Houston. Missing the cut the week prior to an event greatly reduces the odds of winning, as well as finishing in the top-10, the top-25 and even making the cut regardless of the event.

  • Adam Scott
  • J.B. Holmes
  • Henrik Stenson
  • Lee Westwood
  • Jordan Spieth

Spieth is a hard one to filter out… again. He’s been downright incredible at Augusta National, and his missed cut at Houston seemed more like a fluke than a trend of poor play. I cannot just randomly ignore the fact that he did miss the cut and how traditionally that has greatly reduced the odds of performing well the next week, however, regardless of the golfer.

I also need to filter out players that have performed poorly from the Red Zone (175-225 yards) this year. Simply put, Augusta National is an approach-shot course. For all of the attention the greens and putting gets at Augusta, the winner is usually one of the best approach-shot performers at the event. So, I will eliminate these players:

  • Danny Willett
  • Ernie Els
  • Jason Day
  • Vijay Singh
  • James Hahn
  • Pat Perez
  • Kevin Kisner
  • Phil Mickelson
  • Patrick Reed
  • Brooks Koepka
  • Scott Piercy
  • Kevin Chappell
  • Bill Haas
  • Chris Wood
  • Francesco Molinari
  • Marc Leishman
  • Yuta Ikeda

There are a lot of names that are difficult to filter out, including Mickelson, Adam Scott and Jason Day, but they have to be filtered out as possible winners given their poor performance this year in the area of the game that really defines winning at Augusta. 

That leaves us with 20 players that can win The Masters.  I’ve also put their betting odds for winning next to their name:

  • Matthew Fitzpatrick (+6,600)
  • Rickie Fowler (+2,000)
  • Sergio Garcia (+4,000)
  • Emiliano Grillo (+12,500)
  • Russell Henley (+10,000)
  • Charley Hoffman (+12,500)
  • Dustin Johnson (+550)
  • Martin Kaymer (+12,500)
  • Shane Lowry (+12.500)
  • Hideki Matsuyama (+1,800)
  • Rory McIlroy (+800)
  • Sean O’Hair (+30,000)
  • Louis Oosthuizen (+5,500)
  • Justin Rose (+2,500)
  • Charl Schwartzel (+6,600)
  • Justin Thomas (+2,500)
  • Jimmy Walker (+10,000)
  • Bubba Watson (+4,000)
  • Bernd Wiesberger (+15,000)
  • Gary Woodland (+10,000)

My Top-10 Picks

  • Rickie Fowler (+2,000)
  • Russell Henley (+10,000)
  • Dustin Johnson (+550)
  • Hideki Matsuyama (+1,800)
  • Rory McIlroy (+800)
  • Louis Oosthuizen (+5,500)
  • Justin Rose (+2,500)
  • Charl Schwartzel (+6,600)
  • Justin Thomas (+2,500)
  • Bernd Wiesberger (+15,000)

Related: The Full List of 2017 Masters Odds

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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, 2015 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 2015 Pro Golf Synopsis E-book for $10

51 Comments

51 Comments

  1. Scott

    Apr 10, 2017 at 9:56 am

    Your list worked out pretty well.

  2. JNZ

    Apr 8, 2017 at 2:44 am

    Apart from DJ for obvious reasons, all your top 10 picks made the cut. Pretty impressive!

  3. Miramar

    Apr 5, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    Jon Rahm, Thomas Pieters, Henryk Stenson, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Kevin Kisner, Vijay Singh, Paul Casey

  4. Kurtis

    Apr 5, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    Has there been a noticeable drop in Paul Casey’s ball flight or is this only based on rounds measured? Asking because I saw he was in last years 20 but not this years.

  5. andrew

    Apr 5, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Hey Richie,

    Do any/which of the guys making their debuts fit the mold of someone who would statistically play well at Augusta? I can’t help but think Hudson Swafford has a nice game for Augusta.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 7, 2017 at 2:07 pm

      Rahm, McGirt (very underrated iron player), Pieters and Swafford. Not a ton of data on Noren to really tell for sure.

  6. Progolfer

    Apr 5, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    I normally disagree with Rich’s work (sorry Rich!), but I strongly AGREE with this assessment. Spieth isn’t playing well and has scar tissue from last year, Day’s game isn’t in shape, and let’s face it– Dustin Johnson is going to win.

  7. andrew

    Apr 5, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    I don’t see tommy fleetwood in here

  8. Miramar

    Apr 5, 2017 at 7:36 am

    “Numbers are essentially lying.” — Kierkegaard

  9. That Guy

    Apr 5, 2017 at 5:56 am

    Rich – Rafa averages 296 off the tee in 2017, with previous season averages being 290+. Short hitter? Were you using PGA stats and not Euro Tour stats?

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 5, 2017 at 10:30 am

      He’s currently 156th in driving distance on the PGA Tour and his current club speed in competition has been measured at 110.81 mph.

  10. Crash Test Dummy

    Apr 5, 2017 at 4:08 am

    Personally, I wouldn’t rule out Spieth, Scott, and Stenson. All those guys are very familiar with the course and have played well there in the past.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 5, 2017 at 10:32 am

      I don’t take pleasure in ruling out any of those guys as I’m a fan of each. I feel more comfortable ruling out Stenson and Scott (both are struggling). Spieth I feel less comfortable with, but I can’t ignore the vast history of missing the cut the week before has on the following week’s success. You could argue that Spieth missed the cut because of the flukey weather at Houston…but, it’s the same weather we are likely to get at ANGC on Thursday and Friday.

  11. Steven

    Apr 4, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    The fact that you left Jordan Spieth out of the possible winners invalidates your entire article.

  12. Brad T

    Apr 4, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    sergio cant putt and kaymer cant chip. dont see how augusta suits that.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 5, 2017 at 10:35 am

      ANGC is an approach shot course. If you can’t hit it close, you’re way behind the 8-ball no matter how good of a putter you are. Bubba, Cabrera and even Phil have won the Masters when they had terrible years putting. The same goes with chipping.

      Typically, you need to hit at least 50 GIR to win at ANGC. With the wind, that may change this week. But make no mistake, this is an approach shot course.

  13. Jonnythec

    Apr 4, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    Can’t rule out Paul Casey. Guy is a serious dark horse and is playing great this year. He has a great chance and I’m the only one who sees it.

  14. GC

    Apr 4, 2017 at 9:56 am

    Hey Rich, thanks for the great article.

    From what I’m reading the weather suggests winds of over 20 mph on Thursday and over 15 mph on Friday. Both days in the high 40s through low 60s. Neither day with any chance of rain so I don’t imagine there will be delays. So it looks to me as if wind will be a factor for the first two days before it mellows out.

    I know you said above in a different comment that you are not in the habit of predicting weather, which I understand, but if hypothetically the weather DOES play out like that…what changes in terms of players you like and stats you look at? Are you hoping these 20 guys ride the tougher conditions and then charge in more stat-fitting weekend conditions? Do you instead look for complete players? I kind of feel this favors guys like Rickie who can do both? Maybe even some of the Aussies/strong Texas course players?

    Don’t have to go through and re-write the article but if you could reply with what players you like and new statistics you’re looking at with the above hypothetical weather scenario playing out, I’d appreciate it. Thanks again for the article.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 5, 2017 at 10:39 am

      You forget about with the wind and ANGC slick greens, they may have to delay rounds because the ball won’t stay on the green when you’re putting.

      Windy weather at ANGC typically shifts the advantage more towards good wedge players and short game (around the green) artists. Those guys are usually shorter off the tee. That’s how Zach won…record low temps and high wind gusts. So many of the bombers couldn’t reach the par-5’s in two and now Zach was at an advantage. And the GIR goes down with the high winds, so now you have to get up-and-down more.

      The difference is that Zach’s win the weather was awful all 4 days. This week it’s supposed to be poor on Thursday and Friday and then nice on the weekend.

  15. Tony P

    Apr 4, 2017 at 1:51 am

    I remember hearing one of the commentators say the Masters favors draw hitters. Think Baba (he fades the ball, but he is a lefty) and Jordan. So i would lower Matsuyama and DJ’s chance a little bit if that is true.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 5, 2017 at 10:42 am

      Given Nicklaus won there more than anybody, I don’t think it favors the draw. The draw is nice to have on #10, #13 and #15. But #18 is a more ‘critical’ hole and that clearly favors a fade. And even with 13 and 15, if you hit it high enough and long enough, you can play those holes brilliantly

  16. mixxedbag

    Apr 3, 2017 at 11:43 pm

    Where’s Tanihara?

  17. Sean

    Apr 3, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    Which is why I have always thought that the Masters is the “easiest” of all majors to win. The field is extremely limited.

  18. Andy B

    Apr 3, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Hi Richie,
    Apologies if I missed him on your list, but…
    Ross Fisher?
    Cheers,
    AB (pommie pro in OZ)

  19. Bigputt18

    Apr 3, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    Great article! I’ll bet you were a very good math student.

  20. Ray Bennett

    Apr 3, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    Rich, where does putting stats factor into your predictions?

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 4, 2017 at 1:31 am

      When it comes to predicting a winner of a tournament, putting is almost always worthless. It’s too difficult to predict how well somebody will putt from event to event and historical performance by a player means far less than recent performance. So if a player has putted well at a certain course, it has some value,but not as much as playing poorly the week before (i.e. Spieth). Plus, the vast amount of tournaments are won primarily by ballstriking. ANGC is a great example…if you don’t get your approach shots close, you’re cooked.

  21. Lucky

    Apr 3, 2017 at 4:25 pm

    Richie, hope you didn’t bet on your predictions.

  22. golfraven

    Apr 3, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    I am putting the beer on ice but hanging on to my pennies. I beliebe it will be a tight call between Rory and Justin Thomas. I would not rule out the Iceman (Stenson) but that is because I like his chances and he is sharp with his irons.

  23. K dawg

    Apr 3, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    Rich I was pretty sure last year Danny Willet was just outside your 20? Thought I remember you tweeting as such?

  24. CM

    Apr 3, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    Rich, do the strong westerly winds forecast for Thursday and Friday change your predictions in anyway?

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 3, 2017 at 4:27 pm

      I won’t change my predictions because I can’t predict weather. I will say that when the winds pick up, it does change ANGC. This means shorter hitters have more of a chance, especially if they have good short games around the greens. Think of Zach when he won…record cold temps and very windy. However, this weekend is supposed to be perfect weather with no real wind. Rounds 1 and 2 are usually more important in any event, so I would still say that the shorter hitters have better chances if it’s windy on Thursday and Saturday.

      The problem is you don’t know what the weather could do. It could be so bad on Thursday or Friday that they have to suspend play until the weekend when it’s nice out. So when you think the weather starts to give shorter hitters more of a chance, a delay could throw that out the window.

  25. Geoffrey

    Apr 3, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    Rich, how to you come up with your rating for red zone performance? Is it a mixture of proximity from the fairway and greens in regulation from those distances? Is proximity from the rough included at all? I see Scott Piercy as 61st in proximity from the fairway from 175-200, and 81st in proximity from the fairway from 200-225. That should have him as average to slightly above average.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 3, 2017 at 2:49 pm

      RZ performance also considers the rough and the level of difficulty of the courses the golfer has played in. For instance, you may have 2 golfers that are hitting RZ shots to 40-feet. But golfer A may be playing in fields where the avg. proximity to the cup is 30 feet. And golfer B may be playing in fields where the proximity to the cup is 45 feet. So while they have the total year end equal prox 2 cup, golfer B is clearly the better performer from the RZ.

      • Geoffrey

        Apr 3, 2017 at 3:23 pm

        Where do you get that kind of data for the each tourney, or is it something you track yourself with shotlink? I can’t find tournament data on pgatour.com

        • Richie Hunt

          Apr 3, 2017 at 4:22 pm

          I use ShotLink, but I get the data on a weekly basis, myself.

  26. Post Malone

    Apr 3, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    um… Sergio and Rickie hit the ball super low….

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 3, 2017 at 2:51 pm

      Fowler is 54th out of 209 golfers in Max Height. Sergio is 49th.

      • Post Malone

        Apr 3, 2017 at 3:56 pm

        surprising, but thanks for info. Watched that wgc at mexico and they kept talking about disadvantage they had not be able to go over trees that justin thomas was easily getting over. Maybe just hit lower drivers?

        • Richie Hunt

          Apr 3, 2017 at 4:23 pm

          Years ago I was surprised because I thought Sergio hit it low as well. But, you have to account for how long a golfer hits it and how much club speed. If they hit it long, odds are they are hitting it very high. And some guys really fool you because they may launch it low, but it ends up flying high when you measure the apex height.

  27. robert

    Apr 3, 2017 at 11:20 am

    as the last 15 years or so, we are beting also on this tournament with a group of friends. Jordan was also a rookie when he was T2 in his first start. As we bet on 5 Players with the highest Prizemoney i think Pieters has a good chance of not only making the cut and i expect bim in the Top20.
    Also Casey is always good at the Masters.
    The rest of your prognose is very good and i agree.

    • Robert

      Apr 6, 2017 at 12:43 pm

      A couple of holes to go…
      I like my pick Pieters ????

  28. H

    Apr 3, 2017 at 10:56 am

    RCB a short hitter!?

    • H

      Apr 3, 2017 at 10:57 am

      Fitzpatrick is pretty short as well

      • mario

        Apr 3, 2017 at 11:08 am

        Exactly… 7 yards shorter than Rafa who at 296y should not blush too much. Great value bet.
        Interesting to see that Martin Kaymer passes all the filters but has a game that really doesn’t suit Augusta. Still a good value bet as well

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 3, 2017 at 2:52 pm

      RCB is 153rd in driving distance this year and has been measured at 110.81 mph in club speed this year. That’s not very long.

      • jd57

        Apr 4, 2017 at 9:39 am

        Not very long.*

        *Relative to PGA Tour long hitters.

  29. Holden Wisener

    Apr 3, 2017 at 9:45 am

    Blasphemy, Jordan will win

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Opinion & Analysis

The Book That Almost Wasn’t a Book: Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons”

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Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” written by Ben Hogan and Herbert Warren Wind, continues to be the largest selling golf instructional book in history. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the book, which was first published in 1957.

Sports Illustrated

The story of how the book was published revolves around Sports Illustrated, which was owned by Time Magazine. The weekly magazine launched in 1954 as an experiment to see if an all-sport publication could survive. In 1956, the publication was on the brink of disaster, having yet to find its audience.

This is the backdrop against which Sydney James, the magazine’s managing editor, received a call from Ben Hogan. Hogan had an idea for an article. Would Sports Illustrated be interested?

James promised to get back to him shortly with an answer. And he did, telling him that the magazine would be very interested in collaborating with him, and that he would begin making the necessary arrangements to get the project off the ground.

Texas Three-Step

James explained his plan to Hogan, which was to arrange for the magazine’s most talented writer, Herbert Warren Wind, and top-rated freelance illustrator, Anthony Ravielle, to visit Hogan in Fort Worth to further discuss his idea.

“Would that be agreeable” he asked?

“Yes,” Hogan replied. He would make himself available as needed.

Writer and Illustrator

Herbert Warren Wind, a graduate of Yale University, was not just a writer, but a literary craftsman. He was without question the finest writer of his time, contributing regularly as a columnist for The New Yorker magazine from 1941-47.

For his part, Ravielle was quickly earning a reputation as one of the most talented illustrators in the country. His expertise was drawing the musculature of the human body in life-like detail. And then having the unique ability to convey a sense of motion with the human form.

A Single Idea

A few weeks later, the two met with Hogan at his office in Fort Worth, Texas. They then made their way to Colonial Country Club. And once there, they walked out to a part of the course where they would not be disturbed. And then Hogan began to explain to the two men what he had in mind.

As they listened to his ideas for the article, they suggested that he consider a five-part series. What they proposed was a sequential pattern of lessons beginning with the grip, the setup, the backswing, and the downswing. The fifth chapter would be a summary and review of what had been presented in the first four chapters.

Hogan liked the idea and agreed immediately.

As Hogan began to explain his thoughts on the swing, Wind began to scribble in his notebook, not wanting to miss a single word. (In later years, when interviewing a subject, modern-day reporters would use a tape recorder, but at that time it had not yet been invented.)

Wind would at times stop Hogan to ask a question or to clarify an important point. And when he reached the point at which he couldn’t possibly absorb another thought, Wind gave way to Ravielle, who armed with a still camera, snapped one photograph after another, capturing the various positions that would ultimately mirror Hogan’s thoughts.

During the next few days, Hogan continued to elaborate on his theories about the golf swing and the logic behind them. As they finished, the three men agreed that they would meet again, either at the end of 1956 or after the first of the year.

Scratch Board

After returning to New York, Wind began writing a rough draft of the five-part series. At the same time, Ravielle started working from the photographs that he had taken earlier. He began by drawing pencil sketches that he would later show to Hogan for his approval before moving on to the final version.

The three gathered together again for a week-long session in January 1957. Hogan was extremely impressed with Ravielle’s sketches, believing that he had managed to capture the very essence of what he was attempting to covey to his would-be readers.

The pencil sketches would be transformed a final time using a “scratch-board” technique that Ravielle had mastered. The scratch-board technique created a uniquely vivid picture, which invited the reader to reach out and touch the seemingly life-like image on the page.

Wind’s spirits were buoyed after meeting with Hogan a second time as he wrote, “Hogan had gone into a much more detailed description of the workings of the golf swing then we had anticipated. Moreover, he had patently enjoyed the challenge and had given it everything he had.”

On returning to New York, Wind and Reveille begin working together, side by side, laying out the text, the illustrations, and captions in page form for each of the five chapters.

Seminole Review

As Wind recounted, “When an installment was completed and had gone through the production department, we airmailed photostats of the pages to Hogan, who was in Palm Beach getting ready for the Masters. I would telephone Ben at his apartment at an appointed time each week, and we would go over each paragraph line by line. A session usually took between 45 minutes to an hour.”

During these sessions, as they reviewed the copy, Hogan was insistent that each word and phrase precisely communicate exactly what he intended to say. Wind recalls one example, when he had written “that at a certain stage of the swing the golfer’s weight had shifted to his left side.” Hogan corrected, “Let’s not say left side,” Adding “That isn’t accurate. In golf, there’s no such thing as a player’s left side. At this point in the swing most of the golfer’s weight is on his left foot and left leg.”

Wind found these discussions exhausting as Hogan worked his way through the copy with a “fine-tooth comb.” As wind wrote, “After these protracted checking sessions with Hogan, I did some deep-breathing exercises to relax myself, but I also had the bracing feeling that even Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t be able to detect a smudged adjective or a mysterious verb in the text.”

As they were nearing completion of their work, Hogan asked Wind if he had any suggestions for the series name. As Wind recalls, “I thought for a long moment and then tossed up ‘The Fundamentals of Modern Golf?’”

Hogan mulled it over for a moment and then asked, “How about ‘The Modern Fundamentals of Golf?’” Wind agreed that the reversal in wording was a definite improvement. The series now, for the first time, had both a name and an identity.

The Magazine and the Book

The series was very successful, of course, boosting not only the sales of the magazine but also its circulation. The content of what would eventually become the book appeared in five installments beginning with the March 11, 1957 issue, which in Wind’s exact words, “sold like hotcakes.“

The book was released some five months later in September as a joint venture between Hogan and the magazine.

A Triple Play

Why has the book endured?

The first reason is because of the public’s fascinated with Hogan, not only as player, but as a man. He was a great ball-striker, maybe the best of all time, but there was more to the man than his ability to play golf. He is one of the more complex sports figures in the pantheon of great players. He was a man of secrets who preferred the shadows to the light.

The second reason is the wonderful prose of Herbert Warren Wind, which flows with ease from one paragraph to another, giving the reader at times the feeling of floating on air from one sentence to another.

The third reason is the illustrations of Anthony Ravielle, which describe in dramatic fashion the essence of what Hogan wanted to convey to the reader.

“Five Lessons” was then the collaboration of three men, each one of them the very best in their fields. They were, through luck and circumstance, thrown together in space and time. And maybe once joined together, they sensed the opportunity to create something very special with one purpose in mind — to write one of the best golf instruction books ever. And they succeed.

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Opinion & Analysis

Bag Chatter: An Interview with Uther Supply

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Bag Chatter is a series of interviews that spotlights brands around the golf industry and the people behind them. We’re looking to make this a regular thing, so please comment and share through your medium of choice. If you have a brand and are interested in participating in these interviews, you can email mailbag@golfwrx.com for consideration. This interview is with Daniel Erdman of Uther Supply.

Tell us about Uther. How do you pronounce that? What are you all about? How did you start?

It’s actually pronounced “other.” We’ve gotten that question a lot and, to be honest, we’re kind of OK with it. We wanted to brand ourselves as unique, so we think it fits well. We want to create products that no one else creates. That could be towels in unique prints or some other golf goods outside of that. We’re targeting the customer that wants to be different as well…people who want to demonstrate their unique personalities.

Forgive me for being a little direct, but golf towels may not strike a lot of people as being something a lot of people would start a business with. Were you seeing a lack of something in the marketplace somehow? What prompted you to start this company selling golf towels?

It may not be conventional and I definitely recognize that. Some of my friends have laughed at me for starting a golf towel business. I guess it hit me when I was working at private clubs (I have worked at The Thornhill Club and Ladies’ Golf Club of Toronto). When you work in the back shop and storage facility, you handle a lot of golf bags. I just noticed rows and rows of bags that all look the same and I thought it made a lot of sense to inject some personality into it. You know, people go crazy for how all the pros personalize their wedges and their bags. They buy towels and bag tags from courses like TPC Sawgrass and Pebble Beach to personalize their stuff, but in the end it all kind of blends together. Billy Horschel’s octopus-print pants at the 2013 US Open was something that always stuck out in my mind and in that moment when I was staring at all those bags, it all kind of came together in a way. I thought we could really add something to the marketplace.

What do you think differentiates your products from others in the marketplace? Why do you think people would buy your products?

We’ve already addressed the fact that we offer different and bold prints, but that’s obviously the first thing that most customers will notice. Beyond that, though, we put a lot of attention to detail into our products. We went through 40 different suppliers to get things right. My grandparents had a really successful flooring mat company when I was growing up. Watching them run the family business gave me the bug at a very young age to start my own business. It also taught me how much quality matters and getting the right suppliers and materials. It was so much more difficult back then without the internet, but now, a quick google search just does so much of the legwork for you.

Uther Supply’s golf towel lineup

Something that I think is very interesting here is you’re very young at only 22 years old. A lot of the people I’ve talked to recently have been in their twenties as well. Tell me a little bit about what it took to start this company. Did you have to secure an investment? A lot of people shy away from starting a company for fear of the hill being too steep to climb, if you will. Since you’re in the process of climbing it, what’s that actually like?

It definitely was difficult. The only outside funding I got were some grants and loans from business accelerator programs. Those helped tremendously. I remember having to place a very large order at my supplier at the same time my one of my funding opportunities was being processed. That particular one only had like a 20 percent acceptance rate, and if I didn’t get it, I honestly wasn’t sure how I was going to fund the order. The way everything happened to be timed, I had to I place my order before I heard back from my funding application to meet a deadline. It turned out I was accepted, so that was a relief, but it was definitely pretty stressful. You know, in the beginning, you’re working for months before you generate any income. You’re doing everything for the first time like sending stuff through customs, dealing with suppliers, collecting transactions, you name it. You’re bound to make mistakes along the way and when you have zero money coming in, the mistakes you make hurt so much more. You have no processes or systems in place. It’s something you need to accept for what it is and grind through it. Social media helped accelerate things quite a bit (including meeting my sales partner Luke through Instagram). Selling on Amazon and going to the PGA show last year gave us a boost as well. It’s hard to say what the hardest part is specifically. It’s just the grind in the beginning trying to get momentum behind it. Once you get over the hump, it’s really exciting and fun, but getting up to that point is definitely not easy.

It should also be mentioned that you’re based out of Canada. A lot of people would assume being in the Great White North would make the game of golf a challenging proposition. How long/short is your golf season in Ontario? How do you stay sharp over the Canadian winters? And what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to play golf when it’s far too cold for most of us? To what lengths will you go?

It can get interesting for sure. I first started golfing because of my hockey friends. Yes, a lot of us do play hockey up here. It was a natural transition for a lot of us to play hockey in the winter and golf in the summer. However, if you do happen to get a golf itch in the winter, you will have to get creative. It’s pretty easy to go to just an indoor simulator to practice. Sometimes I would go to Golf Town (our version of Golf Galaxy) to pretend to demo clubs in order to practice my swing. That can get you by for a while, but it’s not the same as hitting an actual golf ball and watching it fly through the air, you know? So when you get to that point, there’s a nice indoor/outdoor range near me with covered, heated hitting bays. Our golf season is from like April through October, so that leaves a lot of time in between. Golf vacations become necessary sometimes.

Before starting Uther, you alluded to your experience working at golf courses. First off, you must have some good stories. No need to mention any names, but what’s your favorite story from that stage of life? Also, what was it like to go from working at a club to having to court those golf clubs to become your customer, stock your products, etc? Was that really easy or really difficult?

Well, I have a bunch of stories involving golf carts. Just in case the old golf directors read this, I won’t give too many details. Working at a course is great. You can’t get a better “office” than going to the course every day. There’s nothing like watching the sunrise on a dew-covered golf course, especially when you’re being paid. Some of my best memories were after tournaments where three of us guys would clean like 80 golf carts. We would all have fun and get to know each other. It didn’t really feel like work.

In both instances (working for a course and now selling to them), it doesn’t really feel so much like work. It does take a lot of work, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t feel like drudgery, that’s for sure. The difference is that there’s a lot more behind the scenes work that I’m doing now. We recently did a towel for the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance in collaboration with State Apparel. It took us a lot of back and forth to get that product right, but once we did, we came up with a custom, one-off product that our customers really loved. And watching them react to it was incredible. Stuff like that really keeps you going.

Bo Links, Co-Founder of the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, holding custom towel developed with Uther Supply

This question is unabashedly inspired by (ahem…lifted from) one of Rick Shiels’ recent posts. (Giving credit where it’s due here). If you had to “Tin Cup” it (i.e. play a round of golf with only one club), what club would it be and how many extra strokes do you think it would take? So, if you were to play your home course, your normal score is what? And what would your “Tin Cup” score be, you think?

If I had to choose one club for a Tin Cup round, I think it would be a five iron. My home course (and the public golf course I worked for) is Richmond Hill Golf Club. It’s only like 6,000 yards, so I feel like I could totally get by with a five iron and get on any green in 3. I typically shoot like an 80-85. I don’t think I would be that far off the number honestly. I trust the five iron, but also, I know my course pretty well and I think that club would suit it nicely. Now that you ask, though, I feel like I’m dying to try it!

What tour pro would you most like to have a beer with? Not necessarily the guy you’d want to play golf with or pick his brain about the game. Who do you think is the most likeable guy on tour? Who would you most like to befriend, if you will?

I would definitely have to go with Rickie Fowler. He’s got a bold style for sure, but he owns it and I really dig that. I love that he congratulates the other guys on tour and is supportive of them when they win tournaments. He seems so humble. He’s also really adventurous. He’s into motocross. I’m not into motocross, but I love the adventurous spirit. He just seems like a really cool guy from what I can tell.

It’s almost hard to believe, but the PGA Merchandise Show is fast approaching (January 23-26, 2018 in Orlando, FL for those who don’t know). Will you be exhibiting? What are you most looking forward to? That question is, of course, about what steps you think Uther will take, but also, are you looking forward to anything specific from other manufacturers? What companies’ booths are you planning on going to?

We will definitely be at the show and we’re really looking forward to it. Come see us at booth 3988! I walked the show last year but wasn’t exhibiting, so I would go up to potential customers and pitch my products to them. That was a lot of work and it was quite stressful being out on a limb like that. We’ve been working on this year’s show since August and I think it’s going to be a ton of fun. We’ve got some really cool stuff planned. You also get to meet so many people there, which is just a blast. As far as other stuff I’m looking forward to, Greyson Clothiers is definitely at the top of the list. Charlie’s story is so interesting and I just love their products.

Uther Supply plaid towel on the course

Lastly, what do you guys have in the works? Are there any product releases forthcoming? Tell people how to find you on website, social media, etc.

So, the big news is that we will be expanding beyond golf towels. We will be launching some gloves and hats that I’m really excited about. We have six different golf gloves as well as bucket and baseball hats we’ll be rolling out in some very fun prints and colors (because that’s what we do). Definitely a good idea to check out our website, which is www.uthersupply.com. The website has a link to sign up for our email list which will send out some discount codes from time to time. There will also be some exclusive and limited-edition products on the website at times too. @Uthersupply is our handle on all social media platforms. Business customers can reach us at contact@uthersupply.com to collaborate with us on custom products. We’d love to have people come see what we’re about!

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Opinion & Analysis

Tara Iti: A Golfer’s Paradise

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This trip couldn’t have started better. Tara Iti Golf Club is magic! No disrespect to the home of golf, but this course might be as special as it gets when it comes to playing links golf.

Catch Up: The Start of My Golf Adventure

Tara Iti is a masterpiece that opened late in 2015. It’s designed by the famous golf architect Tom Doak, and it’s located on a large piece of land on the North Island of New Zealand around 1.5 hours from Auckland. It’s well hidden from houses and traffic, so you can just focus on your game and the stunning property.

The course brings swift fairways and plenty of risk-reward opportunities, offering a bevy of challenging shots that you need to plan carefully in order to get close to the flag. I loved especially the shapes presented by the fairways and waste areas, which make it feel as though the entire course is seamlessly woven together. I also like the idea they’ve got here of playing the ball as it lies. No bunkers, just waste areas.

On a personal note, my match against Johan was halved. He played very well on the first nine while I did well on the back nine.

What’s key to success to Tara Iti is a polished short game in combination with the ability to hit the fairways. I found my favorite hole at No. 17, a strikingly beautiful short par-3 that pops up between the wild sand dunes. There are three iconic trees to the left with the sea and a beautiful island as a backdrop.

Up Next: Kauri Cliffs on the northern peak of New Zealand. It is said to be one of the most scenic courses in the world.

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