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Opinion & Analysis

The USGA-Approved Alternative To Golf’s Walk of Shame

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You just hit a tee shot to a blind landing zone. You smashed it, right on the screws. As the ball disappeared behind the hill, it was right on your target line. Great shot, you. You make your way over the hill but your ball is nowhere to be found. You march up and down the fairway, zig-zagging between the left and right rough. After five minutes, the infuriating reality is no longer deniable. It’s lost.

It could have been a bad kick, picked up by a group on an adjacent hole, plugged, or maybe you were lying to yourself about how great your shot was in the first place.

Now what?

If you’re a rule-follower, you march back to the tee-box, add one, and re-load. Hopefully your partner will watch from the fairway, where you’ll be hitting your fourth shot assuming you find it this time. Don’t worry about the group shooting daggers at you from the tee box as you start the hole over. The “While We’re Young” campaign encouraging golfers to pick up the pace? Don’t worry about that, either.

In theory, the stroke-and-distance penalty for a lost or out-of-bounds ball is sensible. In practice, however, it’s ludicrous. During a casual round, most players aren’t willing to make the aforementioned march back to the tee. If you fall into that category, Andrew Elaimy, assistant pro at TPC Boston, offers his suggestion for an appropriate alternative to the stroke and distance dilemma.

“During everyday play, or when playing with members, I suggest playing it as a hazard with your best guess on where you think it entered,” he says. “At the clubs I’ve worked at it, if someone walked back to the tee and set the whole day back, it would be a big issue and they would definitely hear about it from someone in the professional staff.”

The proposed new rules of golf don’t provide a solution for golf’s “walk of shame.” The USGA did, however, acknowledge its shortcoming in this area, echoing Elaimy’s suggestion by offering an “Appropriate Penalty Under Any Alternate Procedure.” This, you know, ensures everybody can break the rules equally. After all, it’s a gentlemen’s game.

The entire explanation for not introducing a solution is worth a read, but the nuts and bolts of the suggested alternative are: use your best judgement on where to drop, then take your fourth shot from there. The section of the USGA’s explanation regarding an agreeable alternative states:

It was recognized that, when groups of golfers agree among themselves to use an alternative to stroke and distance, the player usually drops a ball somewhere around where the player or the group thinks the ball was lost or went out of bounds and takes a penalty of one stroke.

In reviewing the various alternatives to stroke and distance, we discussed whether there should be a penalty of one stroke or two strokes (noting that, at one point in history, the Rules applied a three-stroke penalty in stroke play, and at other times the penalty was distance-only with no added penalty stroke). While no definitive conclusions were reached, it was generally felt that any option that removed the need to return to where the previous stroke was made should carry a penalty of two strokes. This was based on the view that any alternative should seek to replicate the likely outcome of the stroke-and-distance procedure; in effect, the second penalty stroke would substitute for not requiring the player to return to make another stroke from where the previous stroke was made.

By way of example, a player who loses his or her tee shot and plays another ball from the tee into the fairway will be playing the fourth stroke from the fairway. In view of this, any alternative relief option that allows the player to proceed without returning to the tee should have the player playing the fourth stroke, which means a two-stroke penalty needs to be imposed.

Commendably, the USGA uses sound logic in both assuming that most players won’t follow this ridiculous rule, and in how to best break the rule without cheating its spirit. Nicely done.

This explanation should suffice as permission to replace the trek back to the tee box with a reasonable drop and two-stroke penalty the next time you hit that perfect tee shot that somehow vanishes off the golf course. Whether you like the rule as it is, agree with this solution, or have an alternative of your own, the USGA would like to hear your feedback and creative thoughts.

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Nick Heidelberger writes about all things related to golf, from the world's best players to the weekend warriors, although he can only relate to the latter. When he's not writing or golfing, Nick co-hosts the @AtTheTurnPod, hikes with his dogs and roots for his wife's soccer team. Twitter: @njheidelberger

44 Comments

44 Comments

  1. Dill Pickelson

    May 9, 2017 at 1:06 am

    In Japan, even in many non-pro tournaments, this is a rule. They put two more tee markers out in the fairway and you drop it there, playing your fourth.

  2. Onintwo

    May 8, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    Matt well said

  3. Onintwo

    May 8, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    Well said and too funny. Thought they were for aesthetics, never considered them to being another “on course revenue stream”. Great comment.

  4. Dave R

    May 8, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    That would be like summer rules . Some are some aren’t . Golf has rules just like every other sport follow them.

  5. Ron

    May 8, 2017 at 11:08 am

    I see so many issues with this proposed alternative. But the current rule is still too penalizing. So a shot (that is otherwise dry and playable) but rolls into someone’s backyard marked with white stakes incurs stroke and distance. But if you jack a shot into the bottom of a pond, you get to drop from point of entry?

    Best solution would be for courses to line every hole with stakes. No out of bounds. If a ball is lost you get two club lengths from the point of entry. And if it’s someone’s backyard or somewhere the course doesn’t want you attempting to hit from, mark it as a mandatory drop area.

  6. Jam

    May 8, 2017 at 10:26 am

    I’ve never been a huge fan of lost ball or OB for that matter. You can smash a tee shot 3 bills just slightly off your intended line and either lose it or have it kick out of bounds, and somehow that is deemed a worse shot than if you swung and missed your tee shot all together.

  7. Glenk69

    May 8, 2017 at 9:47 am

    How about courses putting in drop areas on each hole, near the back of the holes expected landing area. If someone loses a ball on that hole just go to the landing area.

  8. BallBuster

    May 8, 2017 at 9:24 am

    Our league course has 9 OB holes all very much in play. 2 left and 7 right. A slicer’s nightmare. And the ground is hard enough that a kick could easily roll OB when one thought it should nestle. It got ridiculous when one plays a provisional and that definitely went OB. Now a 3rd needs to be hit. And how many people carry 3 different balls or markings in their pocket? More trips to the bag to rearm themselves. The 3rd shot is a guaranteed duff 90 degrees in the opposite direction of 1 and 2. So screw the USGA. Almost 20 years ago we enacted a hazard rule of 2 club lengths/1 stroke rule from where it crossed the line and play on. Often the lie isn’t great in terms of access forward, so it still was penal, but play sped up significantly, and people were happier (I think that’s a goal of playing as rule anal people often lose sight of). These scores are not for USGA handicapping purposes so wft does it really matter?!!

  9. Lob Wedge

    May 7, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    It’s nice that the USGA has caught up with what the general golfing public has done for the past 40 years. I can’t recall the last time I saw anyone walk back to the tee during casual play. Do these guys play golf in the real world with real people or is it all 0HCP country clubbers? It’s like hearing the president being amazed at the cost of milk when he goes to the grocery store for the first time in 10 years.

    Here’s a thought for the USGA. Let’s be progressive and think ahead instead of agreeing that what’s already done is OK. You guys are without a forward thinking clue. Ugh..

  10. Iutodd

    May 7, 2017 at 8:54 am

    My friend and I had a ‘Tiger Woods Rule’: the idea being that Tiger Woods basically never ever loses a ball when he is playing because 900 people are watching and finding his ball for him.

    So when he and I are playing a course and I hit one into a blind area or just an area with a few trees that is mostly open and we can’t find it…the idea that I’m supposed to follow the same “rules” as Tiger is just ridiculous to me. If there is no hazard, no OB and it’s just an area of rough with a few trees (in the midwest every course I’ve ever played on has any number of playable areas like this) then I should be able to find a ball that I hit into that area. Tiger would have found it – actually basically ANY professional would have found it – but we chose Tiger cause he was fairly wild off the tee.

    But sometimes amateurs just can’t find their ball in an area where there isn’t any reason for them not to find it. The ball takes a weird hop off a tree, it went shorter or farther than I thought, some sort of hole in the ground swallowed it up – or it’s the first time I’ve played this course and I don’t know the distances/angles just yet. I’m supposed to take two penalty strokes in that situation and/or walk back to the tee? Just because I’m NOT Tiger Woods and don’t have all kinds of people and marshals watching? That’s ridiculous to me. What’s probably happened is that it’s under a tree or a rock and I would probably take an unplayable – which is just one stroke and drop within two club lengths.

    The bottom line is that a professional golfer hits something like 6 out of 10 fairways. But some days they only hit 3. An amateur might be having a good day if they hit 3 and an all-time kind of day if they hit 6. There is a lot of searching for your golf ball is the point. I watch a LOT of golf and I honestly can’t recall a pro not being able to find his ball no matter where they hit it. Didn’t Sergio literally find his ball halfway up a tree? C’mon.

    I understand it’s a fairly fine line between saying: “It should be here and I’m not taking a penalty” and using a Judge Smails foot wedge – but the line exists and there is a difference. I can act in good faith. If I’m not playing a tourney or keeping track of my handicap…

    • Mat

      May 8, 2017 at 7:30 am

      Amen. Damn leaves. The penalty is the $4.

      • PCR

        May 8, 2017 at 9:41 am

        It’s only $1.25 if you are playing a K-Sig. 😉

      • Onintwo

        May 8, 2017 at 8:23 pm

        Too true. Playing in a blind draw alternating shot tournament, I saw the blood drain from my partners face as I shillelaghed his shiny $5 Pro V into the netherworld.

    • Grizz01

      May 8, 2017 at 10:45 am

      Not only do the have people watching their ball. The have crowds that act as natural backstops. (we don’t have) The ball doesn’t roll further into trouble. And you know there are people in a big crowd that will ‘give’ them a good lie.

  11. CGC

    May 7, 2017 at 8:25 am

    It’s not the rules that need to be fixed. Rules are not slowing down the our play on the weekends. It’s “the stupid”. We need a cure for stupid. It’s 2 people in a cart standing over 1 ball, taking 5 practice swings. Then getting in the cart and driving 40 feet across the fairway to the other ball, only to take 5 practice swings.

    It’s bringing 1 wedge to the green, deciding its the wrong club, going for your other wedge, hitting the shot, then going back to the cart for your putter.

    I’d rather play behind somebody shooting 90 with a 110 IQ, than somebody shooting 80 with an 90 IQ.

    NONE of the foursome slowing you down are following the rules. They don’t even know the rules, and they will never ever know that they have been changed.
    When you bring people out to learn golf. Don’t waste your breath teaching them the rules. Teach them to PLAY FAST. Teach them to be ready. Keep a 2nd ball in your pocket, continue your putts. STOP MARKING YOUR BALL when your lag put leaves you 1.5 feet left. Your lowering your chances of making it anyway.

    Fix the stupid.

    • Steve S

      May 8, 2017 at 12:14 pm

      Ignorance can be cured(fixed). Stupid is forever.

      • Fredo

        May 17, 2017 at 11:38 pm

        Wow, I nominate you for our local swami, well done!

  12. Mark hawkinson

    May 7, 2017 at 7:31 am

    Why is hitting a ball OB worse than hitting a ball in a pond? OB should be treated as a hazard with the stipulation that the player may not attempt to play out of it (someone’s back yard) A two stroke penalty is too severe. If the player had re-teed the ball it would be likely the second shot would be in a better position than two club lengths from OB.

    • Mat

      May 8, 2017 at 7:28 am

      Totally agree.

      Some will say they want to make it worse, etc.

      Sometimes, I think it would be better if we all played double-bogey pickup (Original Stableford) and if you have a penalty ball, well, double-bogey it is.

  13. James

    May 7, 2017 at 4:59 am

    It doesn’t happen to professionals because they have spotters everywhere. Us amateurs are considerably worse (and not getting better according to the stats) and punished unfairly so why not treat it like a hazard and do away with the stroke and distance penalty in these circumstances? No more provisionals, a single simple rule for all circumstances and much faster play???

  14. coolhandbirdman

    May 7, 2017 at 2:07 am

    you’ve never played where creeks and streams are common in the area have you. no reason to dam up mother nature to give you break. be a man and jump in after your round and fetch your lost balls.

  15. Luke

    May 7, 2017 at 12:41 am

    If you are at the estimated spot. Then you should find your ball. If it’s not there then you have no idea where you hit it. Take a walk back and reload or dq. If your handing in a card and you took the liberty of thinking this is where it should have been then your a cheat!! Those who complain about the time should play nothing but stableford then you can just wipe a hole and move on and pick up after double.

    • coolhandbirdman

      May 7, 2017 at 2:03 am

      who are you handing your card into on a casual round of golf that is semi-competitive between the people you are playing with other than the garbage can after the winner of the 5 bucks? you’ve never hit a ball that you knew was in some overseeded thick rough, and couldn’t find it? take a chill pill luke and be more coolhand….ayyy.

    • Scott

      May 8, 2017 at 9:18 am

      Handing in a card? HAHAHAHAHA.
      OB rule is just as stupid as the “You can not post a round if you played by yourself” rule. 99% of the people that I play with have no idea what score I posted for handicap purposes.
      The proposed rule changes are a step in the right direction but they still have a ways to go. There is a big difference between cheating and basically playing by the intended rules.

    • Steve S

      May 8, 2017 at 12:19 pm

      I play at a LOT of different courses with people from all walks of life. Out of 100 people MAYBE 2 of them have an official USGA handicap and record their scores. Even some of the private courses I’ve played only 1 in 4 record their scores. Most of us don’t take the game that seriously but love to play….

  16. Mat

    May 7, 2017 at 12:30 am

    I believe the worst part of the rule is that:
    a) We know are rules are stupid
    b) We suggest this rule for casual play
    c) We don’t observe casual play as official
    d) Casual play is not bifurcation; it’s just sanctioned cheating

    These new rules are a start, but they do not go far enough… I’m against any bifurcation in equipment rules, but good gravy, either clean up the rules to match the initiatives for fast, fair play, or split tournament rules officially. This rule change is half-pregnant.

  17. Mat

    May 7, 2017 at 12:22 am

    Frankly, I find even this rule stupid. If my ball is in the fairway under one of 10,000 leaves, another ball goes down in the closest estimated landing position. No penalty.

    If everyone agrees it *should* be in the fairway, toss one over your shoulder where it should be. Two minutes looking maximum. If you’re near a hazard, you’re in the hazard.

    This is the reverse of the “call-in” rule. If you lose a ball because no one is watching, how is it your fault? The loss of a golf ball within the “field of play” is a terrible penalty. When people say that the rules are to help a golfer, that’s nonsense.

  18. Philip

    May 6, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    Just think … in a few decades they can just stay home and watch the tube while their robot goes out onto the course and plays on their behalf … in fact, why ever leave their homes .. then again why even exist in the first place …

  19. Philip

    May 6, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    I have applied the drop + 2, hitting 4 off the tee whenever I turn out to be incorrect on where I thought my ball was (of course actually watching my ball land and taking note of a nearby tree or other object works wonders too). In a way I am hurting myself more than going back to the tee as I have assumed my second off the tee went to the same crappy place as my first. Then again – highly likely if my swing has sailed away for the day. Of course, I do not think the rule is ridiculous as one just has to hit a provisional which myself and most I play with do. Fact is, people do not want to be punished for a crappy shot … or having to hit off of hardpan … or having to make a 3-5 foot putt … or having to play a shot from the sand … or on a hilly lie …

  20. alan

    May 6, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    yet we still have to play out of a divot in the fairway. get it together usga.

    • Mat

      May 7, 2017 at 12:24 am

      Exactly. 6″ / 150mm lift and place in non-green non-hazard is long, long overdue.

    • Jam

      May 8, 2017 at 10:28 am

      Somehow a ripped tee shot that kicks out of bounds is worse than a whiff.

  21. George

    May 6, 2017 at 3:51 pm

    There’s a rule for the example that is mentioned. R27-2. If you can’t see your Ball from the tee, HIT A F$%#ING PROVISIONAL!!!

    • Jimmy D

      May 6, 2017 at 8:25 pm

      Kind of an ignorant comment…obviously you have never played a course where the tee shot is to a landing area that No One can see from the tee. I have played courses in CA, MA, NC, and NH where your suggestion would require all golfers that hit a reasonable tee shot to hit a provisional (hell, some courses have red/green lights because you cannot even tell if the group ahead of you is in your way – in the fairway!) Better players can also cut the corner on doglegs which makes it impossible to see if the ball landed in the fairway (or was short…or long)…If everyone hits a provisional, now the group is looking for 8 balls – Great Idea!

    • Mat

      May 7, 2017 at 12:15 am

      This is stupid. The example was blind landing. That means that every blind landing needs a provisional. If that’s the case, you’re now asking everyone to load up twice.

      • George

        May 7, 2017 at 6:08 am

        Where’s the difference between a ball disappearing behind a mound aka blind landing spot and disappearing behind a bush in the rough? Answer: the confidence of the player.
        Have you ever heard of “rub of the green”? Have you ever sliced one in the woods just to see that same ball come back and ending up middle of the fairway after ricocheting from a tree? Well, sometimes you ball bounces in the water or the rough and it’s lost. Boo-hoo.
        If you can’t see your ball, hit a provisional. Easy as that. How many blind landing spots are there on any given course?

        • Iutodd

          May 7, 2017 at 7:46 am

          A course near me has four tee shots that have blind landing areas I can think of off the top of my head.

          Another one near me – depending upon your tee box and how far you hit it/the line you choose to take – has as many as five.

        • Jimmy D

          May 7, 2017 at 7:54 pm

          My bad, George…If you are playing Par 3 courses, executive courses, or flat resort courses then you are 100% correct. OTOH, if you are playing real golf courses with dog legs, rolling terrain, or actual elevation changes then you will have some blind tee shots. I have played in tournaments where better players try to drive the green on dogleg par 4’s and their ball ends up in green-side rough; my son routinely has to wait for the group ahead to clear the green on shorter par 4’s (which is a pain without a cart, esp since we can NOT see the green from the tee); and even I have accidentally cut the corner on doglegs and ended up with a flip wedge (although the ball can be tough to find if it isn’t in the fairway). Based on the quality of the tee shot and initial trajectory, NOT ONE person in the group has ever considered a provisional remotely justified… And yes, other than these blind landing area examples, we always hit a provisional when there is a chance the ball we hit may be lost or OOB (and we also make sure to announce that it is a provisional…)

    • BallBuster

      May 8, 2017 at 9:33 am

      If every time you can’t see your tee shot and “HIT A F$%#ING PROVISIONAL”, play would slow down to a more than it painful crawl than it often is now and you’d be b!tching more. Then factor in that people don’t often carry a second distinguish-ably different ball (or third) and then it’s trips to get another one, go through their routine, and more. Fact is over 95% of rounds of golf played are for non-USGA handicapping purposes so wtf cares if they go and drop where it disappeared. I’m thankful when they do. Saves me time and aggravation.

  22. Jalan

    May 6, 2017 at 11:43 am

    To me, this is akin to the new rule in baseball, which allows a team to walk an opposing batter without having to pitch out. It speeds up the game, without, generally, changing the outcome.

    I have always accepted dropping 3 and hitting 4 at the same spot. It does eliminate the possibility of the the player hitting another one out of bounds, leaving him on the tee box lying 5, which everyone hates. Of course, people should hit a provisional if they even suspect a problem.

  23. Matt

    May 6, 2017 at 11:27 am

    This isn’t nearly as complicated as they’re making it. Playing it as a hazard and taking the drop is already a good solution for casual rounds. Golf is about more than perfect rules. I’d prefer to keep the pace of play up than be such a stickler for old rules.

    • madeinguam81

      May 6, 2017 at 9:16 pm

      The USGA is recommending essentially the same thing but instead of one penalty stroke, you take two, which is closer to the the penalty of stroke and distance.

      • TR1PTIK

        May 8, 2017 at 12:19 pm

        I’ve always played OB this way, and take a one-stroke penalty for a lost ball (at least if I’m certain it was not OB or in a hazard). I don’t agree with a two-stroke penalty for a lost ball. That just seems cruel to the recreational player that has to deal with the potential of another golfer claiming his or her ball. I also don’t think it’s fair since the recreational player doesn’t get a team of ball spotters and spectators to help them locate their golf ball.

  24. PineStreetGolf

    May 6, 2017 at 10:09 am

    Ugh. This is an example of the USGA at its worst.

    They want to solve the problem of a really stupid rule. That is great. Nobody follows stroke and distance during casual rounds, especially when its busy. Good for the USGA.

    Then they decide the best way to solve it is instead of coming up with the best solution from scratch their going to come up with the closest approximation to the stupid rule that existed before.

    If you think the rule is stupid enough that it needs to be changed why make the solution have anything to do with the previous rule? Just make the best rule possible.

    USGA: “This is a really stupid rule. We’re going to change it.”
    US: “Awesome! What’s the new rule?”
    USGA: “Well, here’s the closest we could come up with to the old, stupid rule….”

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Fort Worth Invitational

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Under a new name, but a very familiar setting, the Fort Worth Championship gets underway this week. Colonial Country Club will host, and it’s an event that has attracted some big names to compete in the final stop of the Texas swing. The top two ranked Europeans, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose are in the field, as are Americans Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.

Colonial is a tricky course with narrow tree-lined fairways that are imperative to hit. Distance off the tee holds no real advantage this week with approach play being pivotal. Approach shots will be made more difficult this week than usual by the greens at Colonial, which are some of the smallest on the PGA Tour. Last year, Kevin Kisner held off Spieth, Rahm, and O’Hair to post 10-under par and take the title by a one-stroke margin.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1
  • Jon Rahm 14/1
  • Justin Rose 18/1
  • Webb Simpson 18/1
  • Rickie Fowler 20/1
  • Jimmy Walker 28/1
  • Adam Scott 28/1

Last week, Jordan Spieth (9/1, DK Price $11,700) went off at the Byron Nelson as the prohibitive 5/1 favorite. Every man and his dog seemed to be on him, and after Spieth spoke to the media about how he felt he had a distinct advantage at a course where he is a member, it was really no surprise. Comments like this from Spieth at the Byron Nelson are not new. When the event was held at TPC Four Seasons, Spieth often made similar comments. The result? He flopped, just as he did last week at Trinity Forest. Spieth’s best finish at the Byron Nelson in his career is T-16. The reason for this, I believe, is the expectations he has put on himself at this event for years.

Switch to Colonial, and the difference is considerable. Spieth’s worst finish here is T-14. In his last three visits, he has finished second, first and second. While Spieth may believe that he should win the Byron Nelson whenever he tees it up there, the evidence suggests that his love affair is with Colonial. The statistic that truly emphasizes his prowess at Colonial, though, is his Strokes Gained-Total at the course. Since 2013, Spieth has a ridiculous Strokes Gained-Total of more than +55 on the course, almost double that of Kisner in second place.

Spieth’s long game all year has been consistently good. Over his previous 24 rounds, he ranks first in this field for Strokes Gained-Tee to Green, second for Ball Striking, and first for Strokes Gained-Total. On the other hand, his putting is awful at the moment. He had yet another dreadful performance on the greens at Trinity Forest, but he was also putting nowhere near his best coming into Colonial last year. In 2017, he had dropped strokes on the greens in his previous two events, missing the cut on both occasions, yet he finished seventh in Strokes Gained-Putting at Colonial on his way to a runner-up finish. His record is too good at this course for Spieth to be 9/1, and he can ignite his 2018 season in his home state this week.

Emiliano Grillo’s (50/1, DK Price $8,600) only missed cut in 2018 came at the team event in New Orleans, and he arrives this week at a course ideally suited to the Argentine’s game. Grillo performed well here in 2017, recording a top-25 finish. His form in 2018 leads me to believe he can improve on that this year.

As a second-shot golf course, Colonial sets up beautifully for the strengths of Grillo’s game. Over his previous 12 rounds, Grillo ranks first in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, second in Ball Striking, third in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and eighth in Strokes Gained-Total. The Argentine also plays short golf courses excellently. Over his last 50 rounds, Grillo is ranked ninth for Strokes Gained-Total on courses measuring 7,200 yards or less. Colonial is right on that number, and Grillo looks undervalued to continue his consistent season on a course that suits him very well.

Another man enjoying a consistent 2018 is Adam Hadwin (66/1, DK Price $7,600), who has yet to miss a cut this season. The Canadian is enjoying an excellent run of form with five top-25 finishes from his last six stroke-play events. Hadwin is another man whose game is tailor made for Colonial. His accurate iron play and solid putting is a recipe for success here, and he has proven that by making the cut in all three of his starts at Colonial, finishing in the top-25 twice.

Hadwin is coming off his worst performance of 2018 at The Players Championship, but it was an anomaly you can chalk up to a rare poor week around the greens (he was seventh-to-last in Strokes Gained-Around the Green for the week). In his previous seven starts, Hadwin had a positive strokes gained total in this category each time. Over his last 24 rounds, Hadwin ranks seventh in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 15th in Ball Striking, and ninth in Strokes Gained-Putting. He looks to have an excellent opportunity to improve on his solid record at Colonial this week.

Finally, as far as outsiders go, I like the look of Sean O’Hair (175/1, DK Price $7,100) at what is a juicy price. One of last year’s runners-up, his number is far too big this week. He has had some excellent performances so far in 2018. In fact, in his previous six starts, O’Hair has made five cuts and has notched three top-15 finishes, including his runner-up finish at the Valero Texas Open. The Texan has made three of his last four cuts at Colonial, and he looks to be an excellent pick on DraftKings at a low price.

Recommended Plays

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1, DK Price $11,700
  • Emiliano Grillo 50/1, DK Price $8.600
  • Adam Hadwin 66/1, DK Price $7,600
  • Sean O’Hair 175/1, DK Price  $7,100
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Opinion & Analysis

Pick three golfers to build the ultimate scramble team. Who you got?

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It’s officially scramble season. Whether it’s a corporate outing or charity event, surely you’ve either been invited to play in or have already played in a scramble this year.

If you don’t know the rules of the scramble format, here’s how it works: All four golfers hit their drives, then the group elects the best shot. From there, all four golfers hit the shot, and the best of the bunch is chosen once again. The hole continues in this fashion until the golf ball is holed.

The best scramble players are those who hit the ball really far and/or stick it close with the irons and/or hole a lot of putts. The point is to make as many birdies and eagles as possible.

With this in mind, inside GolfWRX Headquarters, we got to discussing who would be on the ultimate scramble team. Obviously, Tiger-Jack-Daly was brought up immediately, so there needed to be a caveat to make it more challenging.

Thus, the following hypothetical was born. We assigned each golfer below a dollar value, and said that we had to build a three player scramble team (plus yourself) for $8 or less.

Here are the answers from the content team here at GolfWRX:

Ben Alberstadt

Tiger Woods ($5): This is obvious. From a scramble standpoint, Tiger gives you everything you want: Long, accurate, and strategic off the tee (in his prime). Woods, sets the team up for optimal approach shots (he was pretty good at those too)…and of course, arguably the greatest pressure putter of all time.

David Duval ($2): I’m thinking of Double D’s machine-like approach play in his prime. Tour-leader in GIR in 1999, and 26th in driving accuracy that year, Duval ought to stick second shots when TW doesn’t and is an asset off the tee.

Corey Pavin ($1): A superb putter and dogged competitor, Pavin’s a great value at $1. Ryder Cup moxy. Plus, he’ll always give you a ball in the fairway off the tee (albeit a short one), much needed in scramble play.

Brian Knudson

Rory McIlroy ($4): I am willing to bet their are only a handful of par 5’s in the world that he can’t hit in in two shots. You need a guy who can flat out overpower a course and put you in short iron situations on every hole. His iron play is a thing of beauty, with a high trajectory that makes going after any sucker pin a possibility.

Jordan Spieth ($3): Was there a guy who putted from mid-range better than him just a couple years ago? If there was, he isn’t on this list. Scrambles need a guy who can drain everything on the green and after watching 3 putts to get the read, he won’t miss. His solid wedge game will also help us get up and down from those short yardages on the Par 4’s.

Corey Pavin ($1): Fear the STACHE!! The former Ryder Cup captain will keep the whole team playing their best and motivated to make birdies and eagles. If we have 228 yards to the flag we know he is pulling that 4 wood out and giving us a short putt for birdie. He will of course be our safety net, hitting the “safe shot,” allowing the rest of us to get aggressive!

Ronald Montesano

Dustin Johnson ($4) – Bombmeister!!!

Lee Trevino ($2) — Funny as hell (and I speak Mexican).

Sergio Garcia ($1) – The greatest iron player (I speak Spanish, too).

Tom Stickney

Dustin Johnson ($4)
Seve Ballesteros ($2)
Lee Trevino ($2)

DJ is longer than I-10, Seve can dig it out of the woods, and Trevino can shape it into any pin.

Andrew Tursky

Dustin Johnson ($4)
Jordan Spieth ($2)
Anthony Kim ($1)

Are all the old timers gonna be mad at me for taking young guys? Doesn’t matter. DJ has to be the best driver ever, as long as he’s hitting that butter cut. With Jordan, it’s hard to tell whether he’s better with his irons or with his putter — remember, we’re talking Jordan in his prime, not the guy who misses putts from 8 inches. Then, Anthony Kim has to be on the team in case the alcohol gets going since, you know, it’s a scramble; remember when he was out all night (allegedly) before the Presidents Cup and still won his match? I need that kind of ability on my squad. Plus AK will get us in the fairway when me, DJ and Spieth each inevitably hit it sideways.

Michael Williams

Tiger Woods ($5)
Seve Ballesteros ($2)
Corey Pavin ($1)

Tiger is a no-brainer. Seve is maybe the most creative player ever and would enjoy playing HORSE with Tiger. Pavin is the only $1 player who wouldn’t be scared stiff to be paired with the first two.

Johnny Wunder

Tiger Woods ($5): His Mind/Overall Game

Seve Ballesteros ($2): His creativity/fire in a team format/inside 100

Anthony Kim ($1): Team swagger/he’s streaky/will hit fairways under the gun.

A scramble requires 3 things: Power, Putting and Momentum. These 3 guys as a team complete the whole package. Tiger is a one man scramble team but will get himself in trouble, which is where Seve comes in. In the case where the momentum is going forward like a freight train, nobody rattles a cage into the zone better than AK. It’s the perfect team and the team I’d want out there if my life was on the line. I’d trust my kids with this team.

Who would you pick on your team, and why? See what GolfWRX Members are saying in the forums.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is equipment really to blame for the distance problem in golf?

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It’s 2018, we’re more than a quarter of the way through Major Season, and there are 58 players on the PGA Tour averaging over 300 yards off the tee. Trey Mullinax is leading the PGA Tour through the Wells Fargo Championship with an average driving distance of 320 yards. Much discussion has been had about the difficulty such averages are placing on the golf courses across the country. Sewn into the fabric of the distance discussion are suggestions by current and past giants of the game to roll back the golf ball.

In a single segment on an episode of Live From The Masters, Brandel Chamblee said, “There’s a correlation from when the ProV1 was introduced and driving distance spiked,” followed a few minutes later by this: “The equipment isn’t the source of the distance, it’s the athletes.”

So which is it? Does it have to be one or the other? Is there a problem at all?

Several things of interest happened on the PGA Tour in the early 2000s, most of which were entirely driven by the single most dominant athlete of the last 30. First, we saw Tiger Woods win four consecutive majors, the first and only person to do that in the modern era of what are now considered the majors. Second, that same athlete drew enough eyeballs so that Tim Finchem could exponentially increase the prize money golfers were playing for each week. Third, but often the most overlooked, Tiger Woods ushered in fitness to the mainstream of golf. Tiger took what Gary Player and Greg Norman had preached their whole careers and amped it up like he did everything else.

In 1980, Dan Pohl was the longest player on the PGA Tour. He averaged 274 yards off the tee with a 5-foot, 11-inch and 175-pound frame. By 2000, the average distance for all players on the PGA Tour was 274 yards. The leader of the pack that year was John Daly, who was the only man to average over 300 yards. Tiger Woods came in right behind him at 298 yards.

Analysis of the driving distance stats on the PGA Tour since 1980 show a few important statistics: Over the last 38 seasons, the average driving distance for all players on the PGA Tour has increased an average of 1.1 yards per year. When depicted on a graph, it looks like this:

The disparity between the shortest and the longest hitter on the PGA Tour has increased 0.53 yards per year, which means the longest hitters are increasing the gap between themselves and the shortest hitters. The disparity chart fluctuates considerably more than the average distance chart, but the increase from 1980 to 2018 is staggering.

In 1980, there was 35.6 yards between Dan Pohl (longest) and Michael Brannan (shortest – driving distance 238.7 yards). In 2018, the difference between Trey Mullinax and Ken Duke is 55.9 yards. Another point to consider is that in 1980, Michael Brannan was 25. Ken Duke is currently 49 years of age.

The question has not been, “Is there a distance problem?” It’s been, “How do we solve the distance problem?” The data is clear that distance has increased — not so much at an exponential rate, but at a consistent clip over the last four decades — and also that equipment is only a fraction of the equation.

Jack Nicklaus was over-the-hill in 1986 when he won the Masters. It came completely out of nowhere. Players in past decades didn’t hit their prime until they were in their early thirties, and then it was gone by their early forties. Today, it’s routine for players to continue playing until they are over 50 on the PGA Tour. In 2017, Steve Stricker joined the PGA Tour Champions. In 2016, he averaged 278 yards off the tee on the PGA Tour. With that number, he’d have topped the charts in 1980 by nearly four yards.

If equipment was the only reason distance had increased, then the disparity between the longest and shortest hitters would have decreased. If it was all equipment, then Ken Duke should be averaging something more like 280 yards instead of 266.

There are several things at play. First and foremost, golfers are simply better athletes these days. That’s not to say that the players of yesteryear weren’t good athletes, but the best athletes on the planet forty years ago didn’t play golf; they played football and basketball and baseball. Equipment definitely helped those super athletes hit the ball straighter, but the power is organic.

The other thing to consider is that the total tournament purse for the 1980 Tour Championship was $440,000 ($1,370,833 in today’s dollars). The winner’s share for an opposite-field event, such as the one played in Puerto Rico this year, is over $1 million. Along with the fitness era, Tiger Woods ushered in the era of huge paydays for golfers. This year, the U.S. Open prize purse will be $12 milion with $2.1 million of that going to the winner. If you’re a super athlete with the skills to be a golfer, it makes good business sense to go into golf these days. That wasn’t the case four decades ago.

Sure, equipment has something to do with the distance boom, but the core of the increase is about the athletes themselves. Let’s start giving credit where credit is due.

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