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Opinion & Analysis

Is Rory too jacked for his own good? A definitive answer

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Most men would kill — but not hit the gym — to have Rory McIlroy’s physique. Since he burst onto the golf scene nearly a decade ago with a mediocre build, the Northern Irishman has transformed his body into one worthy of a Men’s Health Magazine cover.

One thing Rory didn’t shed, however, were his critics.

Several members of the golf media have recently voiced their pointed opinions about Rory’s beefed up body. Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee went public with his worries early in 2016, saying “it does give me a little concern when I see the extensive weightlifting that Rory is doing in the gym.”

McIlroy famously shrugged off Chamblee with this unforgettable response:

NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller joined the attack during the 2016 British Open. While explaining why Rory hasn’t won more majors (he’s stuck at a lowly four, double Miller’s career total if anybody’s counting).

“I think he overdid the weight room,” Miller said. “I don’t think that helped him at all. Same thing with Tiger Woods. You just get carried away with wearing the tight shirts and showing off their muscles.” 

Golf Magazine columnist Alan Shipnuck also has an opinion on the matter, recently firing off this tweet regarding the muscle madness on Tour:

If you didn’t already know who Rory McIlroy is before reading this, based on these criticisms, you might assume he’s a washed-up meathead who can’t put a coordinated swing on a golf ball. And like Chamblee, Miller, and Shipnuck, you’d be dead wrong.

Despite the fact that his major championship “slump” sits at nine events without a win heading into the 2017 U.S. Open, and a nagging rib injury that has kept him on the sidelines for much of the year, Rory holds the No. 2 spot in the Official World Golf Rankings. How can this be, you ask, given Rory’s dedication to the gym? Golf fitness expert Carolina Romero, the woman behind the social media persona the Fit Golfer Girl, uses a simple formula to explain.

“When we think about the ability to hit the ball and generate swing speed, force equals mass times acceleration,” she says. “When Rory was tiny … he didn’t really have a lot of mass, he had to accelerate his little body a lot,” Romero told my At The Turn podcast, referring to McIlroy’s physique when he was noticeably less muscular toward the beginning of his professional career.

“This was actually hurting his lower back,” she said. “This was not exactly good for longevity. If he’s going to continue to play for many, many years … he needs to make sure that he continues to generate these speeds without putting so much pressure on his body. If he just increases his muscle mass a little bit, he’s going to be able to reach that same amount of force — meaning his same distances and his same speeds — with a lot less acceleration, which is going to put less stress on his body.”

To refute the critics even more, Romero goes on to explain that the added muscle Rory has built might actually do more to preserve his career than damage it.

“Even if his mass is a little bit higher, this is actually going to protect his back and his body and give him longevity in the sport,” she said.

Rory’s longevity remains to be seen, but his results speak for themselves. With four majors and a No. 2 world ranking, there’s no need for McIlroy to defend himself on Twitter… but it’s quite entertaining when he does.

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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

51 Comments

51 Comments

  1. Someone

    Jun 17, 2017 at 12:28 am

    The article is poorly written because he just restates what he quoted.

    On another note everything is relative. In the world of golfers, Rory could be considered jacked because of his muscle mass. Compared to long driver champs, no way. Compared to body builders and powerlifters, nah. But again, putting it into perspective, compared to most golfers he’s pretty jacked. Ripped on the other hand is another story. Ripped is definition and lean. Villegas is absolutely the most ripped player on tour. Is he jacked? Not really, considering his muscular toning, he’s more ripped than he is jacked. Yes that is possible.

    Those making the comparison of a golfer to a jacked football player, are comparing bananas to pineapples…they’re not even remotely related when it comes to golf and being “jacked.”

    Write something new next time. Don’t just re-summarize past events and then quote them to be redundant. If you’re gonna write an article, do it the way Johnny miller thinks golf anchors should commentate. Don’t be afraid to make your own speculations about things and possibly be wrong. It’s not interesting if you wait until AFTER the shot and just comment on what happened. There’s no need for a sportscaster if all you do is repeat what we just saw. Be intersting. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t think he’ll make this putt.” When they do, just say “oh, well I guess I was wrong.”

  2. EddieEdwards

    Jun 15, 2017 at 9:33 am

    Nobody on the pro tour is jacked. Jason Zuback is, and he doesn’t seem to have any flexibility issues.

  3. cgasucks

    Jun 14, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    I bet 10 years from now Rory will be pulled over by cops in Northern Ireland in the middle of the night for driving under the influence of all the painkillers he took to deal with his injuries from weightlifting from years past…

    • Quinn

      Jun 15, 2017 at 11:57 am

      Funny how Gary Player has been a fitness advocate his whole life, known for “weightlifting” and he is still very fit and strong at the age of 80 years old. He still trains 4 to 5 times a week and iss much better off than Jack Nicklaus physically at an old age. But you don’t seem to include him in this discussion. Who’s to say that Tiger wouldn’t have had these problems regardless if he weight lifted or not? More than likely its genetic and he would have had those problems regardless due to the strain he puts on his lower back with his swing. Without weight lifting he would have been worse off.

  4. Quinn

    Jun 14, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    One thing nobody ever talks about and is the fact that working out and building up your physique actually helps you mentally in the sense that you become more confident which directly translates to the golf course. The idea that working out and building muscle hurts your game is ridiculous, no you do not become less flexible, quite the opposite actually it can allow you to become more flexible as long as you stretch. If your muscles grow too big to properly swing the golf club then yes it could have an impact but nobody on tour has this problem and certainly not Rory. Building up muscle will help prevent injury and you will deal with less joint issues, muscle and strength training helps with this. I’ve had knee problems since I was a teenager due to damaging my meniscus and my knee would pop out of socket frequently. But ever since I’ve built up the muscle in my legs with squats and leg workouts I’ve never felt better. Working out will help you no matter what anybody says, its ridiculous to think otherwise. I would say one thing you have to be aware of is not to be too tight from a workout and be aware when to workout so as not to affect the day you play. But a lot of times even in Tiger’s case he said when he was younger he was too loose and I can agree with that because I’ve personally felt/seen that.

  5. Jacked_Loft

    Jun 14, 2017 at 10:45 am

    14 months ago I weighed 125 lbs at 5 foot 4, now I weigh 150 lbs and have put on 25 lbs of muscle with only the help of free weights and body weight exercises.

    14 months ago I had to swing out of my shoes to get a 100 mph driver headspeed, now I just have to effortlessly turn and release to reach 102 mph.

    As I don’t have the leverage of someone 6 ft tall, I have to produce head speed by createing more torque through larger muscle mass. It took me a while to stop forcing but now it’s easy-peasy just to let go.

    I look good, feel good and haven’t had an injury all season. At 58 I’m quite happy with the change.

    If the guys want to workout and play it’s ok with me.

  6. Matt

    Jun 14, 2017 at 3:56 am

    Good on Rory for taking care of himself (it doesn’t take much to look ripped next to all the overweight PGA players). Ripped gym junky he ain’t.

  7. Z

    Jun 14, 2017 at 2:52 am

    He ain’t ripped, whatch’all talking about? He’s a shrimp! Make him wear some baggy shirts and not them skintight swimsuit shirts, you’ll see how he’s really not ripped at all.

  8. JThunder

    Jun 13, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    It’s awesome how people here know more about training and physical fitness than the top golfers in the world, their coaches, and all the trainers in professional sports and the PGA Tour. Congratulations! Seems like you should ply your advanced knowledge to put some of these people out of work and turn Rory, Tiger, etc, into the perfectly fitted athletes that you know you can sculpt. Or are you all wealthy and busy enough already?

    Your superior skills and knowledge are wasted in comments sections of blogs. The real world is just like the internet, only taller.

  9. Brian

    Jun 13, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    Sure…force = mass X acceleration…however, the mass in this equation is in the golf club, not the human that is producing the acceleration.

    • H

      Jun 13, 2017 at 8:26 pm

      But the body has to be able to support those mass and acceleration, otherwise you won’t get solid contact with proper momentum (mass X velocity), therefore if you’re weak like you are, you can’t get distance fnar fnar

  10. toyzrx

    Jun 13, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    Golf is a game, not really a sport. You don’t have to be powerful, fast, or even fit to play the game well. Golf has become all of a sudden cool in the media world since mid 90s. Today, the game is not what it used it be – for kids and older people who cannot play other real sports. So I guess the top guys need to look like real athletes. It’s the image thing I guess. They need to be good models for the apparel their sponsors are trying to sell.

    • Brandon

      Jun 14, 2017 at 9:46 am

      sport

      /spôrt/

      noun

      noun: sport; plural noun: sports

      1. an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

      Navigating undulating and changing terrain, spinning and placing the ball for positioning for the next shot, etc. Are you sure it’s not a sport? 300+ yard drives, hitting high 185 yard 5 and 6 irons from 2-5 inch rough is pretty physical, and the skill set necessary to compete at the highest level. It’s funny when people say golf isn’t a sport just because we don’t run or they believe that the physical exertion isn’t as high as other sports yet the same top tier athletes that are so great at their sports can’t beat the majority of amateurs that play this GAME.

      • ComeyforPresident

        Jun 14, 2017 at 9:50 am

        Agreed. Anyone who has seen a pro hit balls in real life will realize the difference between the individuals “game” and the pros “sport”.

    • Brandon

      Jun 14, 2017 at 9:54 am

      oh and about being fit or fast, so what exactly is Curling or Table Tennis or competitive shooting or archery, are they not sports? I guess the big 5 are the only real sports, American Football, Basketball, Hockey, Soccer, and Baseball maybe even Cricket? Well Basketball and Baseball are debatable, if you are 6’9 – 7’2 with no coordination, you can get into the NBA nowadays as long as you can get 4 rebounds, 3 points and 1 block a game even though you can’t jump higher than a frog and everybody else outrun’s you down the floor and I guess baseball isn’t either when the most recent Triple Crown winner looks like all he did was sat around and ate donuts all the time.

  11. NolanMBA

    Jun 13, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    Well say what you want but theres like 19ish majors between TW, Rory and Day so… Hard to ignore that.

  12. ooffa

    Jun 13, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    Yes he is. It will be a short while before he starts breaking down just like Tiger.
    The steroids will take their toll.

    • H

      Jun 13, 2017 at 8:25 pm

      You would know from shooting up every day making your johnson really tiny, eh, you need a tweezer?

      • ooffa

        Jun 14, 2017 at 6:33 am

        Your lady seemed pretty happy with it last night.

  13. brian

    Jun 13, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    good grief what has the golf world come to…we consider a guy who is 5 foot 9 and weight 165 to be jacked. No wonder other athletes make fun of us! Not even in the realm of muscular, let alone jacked. Rory and Day just keep wearing shmedium size clothes, not getting jacked

    • chinchbugs

      Jun 13, 2017 at 4:12 pm

      +1

    • Dr Troy

      Jun 13, 2017 at 9:07 pm

      Brian- finally someone with a little common sense in regards to this topic. “Jacked” @ 165-170lbs is downright laughable. You wanna see jacked? Watch the NFL or open a muscle and fitness mag.

    • Large chris

      Jun 13, 2017 at 10:03 pm

      I’ve stood next to him a couple of times and I think even 5’9 is pushing it…. 5’7 is more likely. He’s tiny.

  14. li0scc0

    Jun 13, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    The problem is these golfers are injuring themselves with improper lifting techniques. They are utilizing ballistic movements such as Crossfit, plyometrics, and Olympic Weightlifting which have far higher rates of injury. If you notice, the golfers who lift are those who are the most injured (Dustin Johnson, Rory, Tiger, Jason Day, etc.).
    As an athletic trainer, I always had athletes implement Powerlifting techniques with a focus on strength, not size. Such techniques have low injury rates and shield the body from sports related injury.

  15. Dave

    Jun 13, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    I love all of these people who think they can diagnose Rory’s golf “problems” (as the world number 2, it’s debatable that he even has any golf problems). How would anyone be able to tell for sure that his weightlifting has negatively affected his golf game? Jordan Spieth’s performance has dropped off considerably since 2015, and he hasn’t been bulking up in the gym. What do the “experts” have to say about his “struggles on the golf course”?

    The simple truth is that golf is just an incredibly difficult game to play consistently at the highest level. Tiger made it look easy by dominating the game for nearly 10 years, and people who know absolutely nothing about golf expect other players to be able to do the same with ease. Well, it doesn’t work like that, and there really is no issue here to be discussed.

  16. Judge Smells

    Jun 13, 2017 at 11:29 am

    Justin Thomas is on the pop tarts and xbox routine doing just fine

  17. Shambles

    Jun 13, 2017 at 11:18 am

    Actually, he’s not that ripped. If you can find a recent photo of him with his shirt off while on vacation, you can see that he is not ripped like some of the long-drive guys at all. It only appears that way because of the shirts he wears and the designs that make it seem like he has massive pecks and thick arms. But he’s actually quite svelte, he’s only 5’9″ at 165, and his arms are about as normal for a fit guy at his height and weight. When he plays, he’s quite limber and knows how to stretch every muscle to get the speed he generates.

  18. Dj

    Jun 13, 2017 at 11:13 am

    Do people honestly think he’s jacked??? He’s posted pics with his shirt off.. certainly not jacked. He put on a little muscle and tone, that’s all.

  19. Notbuyingit

    Jun 13, 2017 at 10:45 am

    I think someone forgot to tell Olympic gymnasts that you can’t be muscular and flexible…

    • TR1PTIK

      Jun 13, 2017 at 11:11 am

      My point exactly (if it will ever post). Rory is no bigger than any male gymnast I’ve ever seen. It’s all about HOW you train in the gym. The idea that adding mass = less flexibility is a generalization that needs to be stopped. Sitting on your @$$ in a desk chair behind a computer keyboard all day = less flexibility!

    • Brian

      Jun 13, 2017 at 7:57 pm

      Gymnasts don’t do much weight lifting. Their bodies are built almost entirely from body weight exercises.

  20. Teaj

    Jun 13, 2017 at 10:35 am

    This is just my uneducated opinion here so be gentle. Is it the swing before and at impact that is where damage is inflicted on the body or is it the follow through and the body having to stop the rotation of the swing? If the latter and Player A does not work out and swings at 110mph and player B does work out and has the same 110mph swing I would assume player B’s muscular frame will be better equipped to handle the forces generated by the golf swing, that is true unless Player B has worked out to the point that the muscles are fatigued then this could have the adverse effect and more impact and force would now be put on the skeletal structure in turn causing more injuries to joints.

    Now take into consideration if player A and B have the same weight club player B would most likely be able to swing the club at a faster speed (I know there are other aspects to the swing that can effect speed) but for the sake of argument player B should be able to swing faster in turn the forces to stop the swing need to be larger which run the risk of (possibly) being transferred to the skeletal structure.

    I am not sure I understand the effect of a golfer having more mass being able to hit the ball farther, I am sure some of this added weight is transferred into the swing but at a very small percentage would be transferred to the head of the club. Now if the club head has more mass I can see how this would compress a ball more given the same swing speed which could effect ball speed as long as this has not increased backspin.

  21. Benny Frank the 3rd

    Jun 13, 2017 at 9:41 am

    Citing “social media persona Fit Golfer Girl” as an expert – wow!
    This is not an article this is a quick google search of what some people have said on this subject. No own research on the subject, no direct statements from the people involved and no laid out arguments for any thesis, antithesis – not speaking of synthesis. This is a clickbaiting waste of time. Shame on you!

  22. Daym

    Jun 13, 2017 at 9:34 am

    The lack of understanding of exercise physiology and how it relates directly to the golf swing, from your expert, is laughable. There are undoubtedly workouts and exercises that will increase a golfers ability to work his/her swing.

    That said however, immobility from mass is a common issue among professional athletes. Take Dwight Howard for instance…the guy is massive and naturally so, but, his mass has limited him on the court for years. Every team he’s played on has had that concern, and still do. Now, if he were in the NFL, the story would be different. The point remains though, that mass doesn’t necessarily create power. Speed creates power, at least as it relates to golf. Adding large amounts of mass restricts mobility – look at your nearest beefcake in the gym tomorrow – and it actually can limit speed.

    Rory working out is NOT the issue. It’s how he’s working out that is the issue. Factually speaking, the muscles of the lower back are small muscle groups, and even combined together, they’re still a small group. When those muscles are stressed from having to carry the added mass (muscle weighs more than fat) from the upper back muscles, that’s when problems start to develop. And we’ve seen that time and again…

    Think back to the last world number 1 before Tiger’s reign, David Duvall. Somewhat chubby, but loose and limber. Now, think back to when he went on the fitness/working out train. It destroyed his back and body, and he’s admitted that himself. His career essentially ended because of injuries.

    We’ve seen it with El Tigre, as well. Make no mistake, Tiger’s back issues are almost directly a result of the violence of his swing and the added mass he has to carry. That creates uneven “push & pull” duties to all the muscles and that’s when tears and rips start happening.

    The real question is, did Jack look like that? What about Gary Player? Tom Watson? Arnold Palmer? Seve? Trevino? Any of the historical greats of the game? There’s a reason they didn’t, and it’s not because there wasn’t weights to do it. Arnold Schwartzenegger and Reg Park were in their primes in those guys’ hay days. The methodology was there, however, those guys understood that being limber is better, especially in golf.

    I have been saying for years that what golfers should be doing is stuff like Yoga, Pilates, Tabata, or other techniques that work around keeping the weight down, the tone in the middle (not too ripped) and flexibility high. Guys that are doing deadlifts and working with heavy weights, are eventually going to limit themselves. This is obvious to most exercise physiologists…..myself included.

    • Greg V

      Jun 13, 2017 at 10:13 am

      This is an excellently written reply.

      Johnny Miller was another guy who bulked up and ruined his golf game. Chopping wood, or something like that if I remember.

      Nicklaus was pretty darn smart. He played (and continues to play) tennis to stay in shape.

    • dapadre

      Jun 13, 2017 at 10:23 am

      I cannot refute anything you are saying but would like to add that I think the main issue is how theier swing needs to ADJUST to their new body which is the issue. When you put on muscle, you usually loose flexibility and that is the trade-off.

    • mike

      Jun 13, 2017 at 10:33 am

      In the golf swing speed will always be king, and some obtain that through strength, if we look at the longest hitters in the world on the long drive circuit they are massive guys, but if you are not 6’6 and have the body able to support that mass I have always loved jamie sadlowski’s swing/physique for its ability to produce incredible amounts of speed in a body that doesnt need to be 300 lbs. He is great shape but in ways that help his golf swing like flexibility and balance to control that fast motion vs mass that would slow his body down. Could be incredibly wrong but that’s my 2 cents.

    • TR1PTIK

      Jun 13, 2017 at 11:06 am

      I’m not an expert, but I’ve done extensive reading on the subject of bodybuilding and athletic training to know that your generalization of what added mass does to an athlete is absolutely false. Added mass can restrict a golfer’s ability to swing freely, but only if he/she does not incorporate mobility, flexibility, and myofascial release exercises into the program. From what I can tell, Rory is no bigger than a high school or budding collegiate gymnast. He’s no bodybuilder. What everyone always seem to ignore is the fact that Rory is working with a personal trainer and his programming focuses primarily on making him a more complete and balanced athlete. The issues Rory had with his back are well noted and if you did a quick search you would also learn that he originally had stability issues in his legs (primarily his non-dominant side). The goal of his training (as it should be for any athlete) has always been to improve the areas in which he has the most issues. There may be some things he has done solely for the purpose of physical appearance, but none I can see which are cause for any concern. His training (and that of almost any other pro-golfer) is a world away from what Tiger was doing.

    • Tal

      Jun 13, 2017 at 11:19 am

      Perfect response!

    • Jonathan

      Jun 15, 2017 at 11:29 am

      Agreed on the Pilates, Yoga.

      There’s an element of machismo in how golfer’s work out. Dead lifts, Squats, Bench presses are macho. Stretching, flexibility regimes like Yoga are not macho.

      It’s the same as Driving versus Short game. Bombing the driver 300+ yards is macho. 3 foot putts and chipping are not. But they all count the same on the scorecard.

      Ask any Pro if they would rather a mediocre long game with a tour best short game or a tour best driving distance with a mediocre short game, they would always stump for the superior short game.

      Any intelligent golfer recognizes that. As they also recognize that routines that focus primarily on increasing flexibility, limberness etc are far more important are more appropriate for their longevity than heavy compound lifting and their risk of getting career stifling injuries.

  23. stevie

    Jun 13, 2017 at 9:20 am

    key Q: does it effect his putting touch?, which needs improvement apparently.

  24. Patricknorm

    Jun 13, 2017 at 9:19 am

    I’m okay with Rory getting stronger to a point. Everyone has a particular build (meso, ecto, endo) based on their genetics. There is a point of diminishing return and it happened to Tiger where his joints could handle the torque from his swing. Something has to give whether it’s your knees, back or ankles.
    Golfers do strength training to prevent injuries and if they get a little stronger then it’s a bonus. I always believe the focus on strength training should always be core related. It’s not important to squat or bench or dead lift massive amounts unless your a power lifter. Golf is a pretty violent rotational movement and when core muscles are stressed, something has to give.
    Finally it’s easy to get addicted to the gym. Especially when those muscles get bigger. Like I mentioned earlier, there is a point of diminishing return.

  25. mr b

    Jun 13, 2017 at 9:08 am

    People that criticize professional golfer’s weight lifting routines are simply misinformed. end of story.

    • gvogelsang

      Jun 13, 2017 at 7:12 pm

      Weight lifting is the “easy” way to try to get in better shape, but not the best. Playing a different sport, like tennis, or squash, would improve fitness and not put on unnecessary muscle bulk. And then we have Camilo Villegas who takes long bike rides for fitness. I would endorse that.

      Rory, statistically, was a little longer before the gym routine. I can see some moderate weight work to protect his back, but the bulk in the shoulders and biceps is totally unnecessary for a golfer. For a golfer, all you need is the strength in the upper body to maintain width. The force comes from the core and legs. One can keep that in shape through cross training – tennis, squash, bicycling, stand up paddling. Heavy weights are unproductive. But, they are addictive.

      Rory was a better, more natural golfer before the weight room.

      • Steve

        Jun 14, 2017 at 12:22 am

        Maybe, just maybe, he has realized there’s more to life than just golfing… Maybe he likes lifting weights and likes the way it makes him look/feel…

        • Steve

          Jun 14, 2017 at 12:24 am

          Also, he used to do the “other sport” route as well… and then he seriously messed up his ankle playing soccer… Seems like lifting is the safer option for him.

        • gvogelsang

          Jun 15, 2017 at 9:00 pm

          He was a better golfer when he was pudgy.

          So was Bobby Jones, and Jack Nicklaus. When you are a golfer who can hit the crap out of the ball, and score better than everyone else, you shouldn’t mess with what Mother Nature gave you.

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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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