Connect with us
Advertisement

Opinion & Analysis

The blind spot of PGA Tour players: Long-iron play

Published

on

With the PGA Tour’s season winding down to the final tournament of the year, there will be a faction of golfers fighting to make the top 125 on the Money List in order to keep their Tour Card for 2013.  I have personally worked with a few PGA Tour players, their caddies and instructors on understanding the game from a statistical standpoint.

When I started the 2012 season working with these clients there were a couple of parts of our initial interaction that surprised me:

1)     Each player had made it their goal to be ‘one of the best wedge players on Tour.’

2)     Each client initially did not buy into me telling them that in the grand scheme of things, full shot wedge play is not overly important. Particularly on the PGA Tour.

With the PGA Tour’s ShotLink data, the numbers are on display for statisticians like me to decipher the level of importance of each part of the game of golf.  It’s very similar to the movie Moneyball and the approach Oakland A’s General Manager, Billy Beane, utilized to build his team based on the cold, hard numbers instead of traditional baseball axioms. But even better, there are far less “moving parts” in the game of golf, making the numbers more distinct and easier to see the correlation to success on Tour.

Despite that, there is still plenty of resistance to approaching the game of golf from a metrics standpoint and every year there are about 75 full time PGA Tour golfers wondering where their entire season went wrong.

***

My development into metrics and the game of golf actually started back when I was only five years old.  I immediately took to the game of baseball and each week my dad would go to the local store and grab a few packs of baseball cards and give them to me where I would collect them.  Eventually I would spend my entire time reading and studying each card.  One of the fascinating parts of baseball is the amount of record keeping of statistics the sport has, dating back to the 19th century.

One of my favorite all-time baseball managers was Billy Martin as he would keep some data on how well certain batters performed against certain pitchers.  In fact, in the 1977 American League Championship Series, Martin benched superstar Reggie Jackson because Kansas City’s starting pitcher was Paul Splittorff, who had owned Jackson each time they faced each other.  Almost every baseball expert thought Martin was insane, but in the end the Yankees won the game 5-3 and went on to beat the Dodgers to win the World Series.

For better or for worse, statistics lends way to contrarian type of thinking.  But if analyzed diligently and with an open mind, it can uncover truths that have eluded even the greatest experts for centuries.

In my own personal journey of golf, I had never understood what the golf term “scoring” exactly meant.  Often times, hearing the words “I scored well’ left me with more questions than answers.  Generally I would hear it referred to putting and chipping well, but I had plenty of rounds where I shot a low score and did not putt or chip all that well. In fact, one of my lowest rounds ever (64) came with a 4-putt.

With that, I decided to look into the ShotLink data and use my background in statistics to see if I could figure out the level of importance that certain parts of the game have on the success of PGA Tour golfers.  In the process, I wound up uncovering a truth that has been long ignored by countless Tour players.

***

Before I go on, the wedge game does matter in the game of golf.  In fact, every part of the game matters in the game of golf.  If a golfer improves his fairway bunker play, that will lower their scores over a period of time.  However, if a golfer improves their putting, that will have a bigger impact on lowering their scores than if they were to just improve their fairway bunker player.  Thus, a metrics based approach to golf is about determining the level of importance that certain parts of the game have and then focusing on improving the parts of the game that have the highest level of importance in order to improve a golfer’s scores.

One of my first observations was that Tour players typically do not hit the ball well from every location with every type of club in the bag.  The golfers considered to be top tier ballstrikers are usually good off the tee and then excel with certain irons like the mid-irons or the long irons or with their wedges.  But to find a golfer who can hit it well off the tee and hit it well with each iron is quite rare.

I ended up splitting the game in different categories like Driving Effectiveness, Putts Gained and Short Game Play.  But for the approach shots, I split them into the following categories:

  • Birdie Zone Play (shots from 75-125 yards)
  • Safe Zone Play (shots from 125-175 yards)
  • Danger Zone Play (shots from 175-225 yards)

What I uncovered was that Danger Zone Play has the strongest correlation to success on Tour than ANY other part of the game, including putting and driving effectiveness.  And it has a far stronger correlation to success on Tour than Safe Zone Play and Birdie Zone Play.  Despite that, these clients of mine on the PGA Tour would tell me how important it was for them to be one of the best wedge players on Tour.

While I was a little frustrated with their desires to be the best at a part of the game that was relatively unimportant to their success, I did understand where they were coming from.   I had to remember that before I did this statistical research, I had the same ideas of good Tour players would almost always get up-and-in on any shot from inside 100 yards.  And if a Tour player was unable to execute from that distance, they would not find themselves on Tour for very long.  This led me to wondering where this faulty thinking came from.

***

Currently, the leader in Birdie Zone play is Steve Stricker, who has hit his Birdie Zone shots an average of 15.74 feet to the cup.  The average Tour player from the Birdie Zone has hit his shots 20.35 feet to the cup.

The general misconception for golfers, including actual PGA Tour golfers, is that once a good Tour player gets a wedge in their hands they will hit it close and have a tap in putt.  But as the data shows, that is far from the reality.  The best player from 75-125 yards is averaging almost 16 feet left to the cup on shots from this range.  The average Tour player is leaving it over 20 feet to the cup.

Furthermore, the Tour average putts made percentage from 15-20 feet is only 18.3 percent.  From 20-25 feet the average make percentage on Tour is 11.7 percent.  Therefore, Tour players are not having a lot of tap-ins when they get a full swing wedge in their hand, but also their odds of getting up-and-in with a full swing wedge in their hands are slim at best.

Still, we need to see what the correlation between Birdie Zone Play and success on Tour actually.  To give a better idea, take a look at the top-10 Birdie Zone players in 2012 and their ranking on the Money List:

Here’s a list of the players in the bottom-10 of Birdie Zone Play and their Money Ranking:

Out of the players in both lists, the bottom-10 in the Birdie Zone actually have 6 players in the top-100 on the Money List versus the top-10 Birdie Zone players which only has 5 players in the top-100 on the Money List.

Let’s compare that to the best and the worst of the Danger Zone golfers.  Here is the top-10 Danger Zone golfers and their rankings on the Money List:

Here’s the bottom-10 in Danger Zone play:

Every single player in the top-10 in the Danger Zone will be in the top-125 on the Money List in 2012, regardless of what happens at Disney.  But even better, those who have finished in the top-10 in the Danger Zone have had resounding success on Tour this year.  Whereas four of the top-10 Birdie Zone golfers (Mulroy, Taylor, Thatcher and O’Hern) will likely have to win at Disney in order to finish in the top-125 on the Money List.

This is the blind spot for many PGA Tour players.  They keep working doggedly on their wedge game whereas if they used their efforts towards the longer irons and hybrids, they would almost assuredly keep their card and get closer to nirvana, winning a PGA Tour event.

I think the cause of the ‘blind spot’ is television.  Television producers are far more interested in shots that wind up close to the pin than the shots that actually have a greater impact of a golfer separating themselves from the rest of the field.  That is why we see so much putting on televised rounds, those are the shots that golfers are most likely to make.  When it comes to full swing shots, golfers are more likely to hit a wedge shot closer to the pin.  And to make it even more visually appealing, wedge shots are more likely to get backspin as well.

Thus, the perception is that Tour players stick every wedge shot and get up-and-in with ease.  That is what we usually see every week on TV.  The reality is far different and that the more spectacular shot happens when a golfer hits a 190 yard shot to 15-feet with no back spin.  But television ratings always take precedent over mundane facts.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

Your Reaction?
  • 10
  • LEGIT1
  • WOW3
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Richie Hunt is a statistician whose clients include PGA Tour players, their caddies and instructors in order to more accurately assess their games. He is also the author of the recently published e-book, 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis; the Moneyball Approach to the Game of Golf. He can be reached at ProGolfSynopsis@yahoo.com or on Twitter @Richie3Jack. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: March 2014 Purchase 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis E-book for $10

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Louis

    Aug 10, 2014 at 5:25 am

    You say a player who averages 15 feet from 100 yards has a slim chance of making birdie because tour pros only make 20% of their 15 footers. How about all the shots that land inside 15 feet though?

    If you hit 30 shots and average 15 feet from 100 yards it means you will have 4 putts inside of 4 feet (let’s say you make 4), 6 from 5-10 (let’s say you make 3), 5 from 11-15 (let’s say you make 2), and 15 from 15-30 (let’s assume you make 2). That gives you a better than 33% chance of making birdie.

    Winning tournaments comes from making birdies and not screwing up badly. Going from a 7% margin of error to 5% margin of error with long irons isn’t gonna make you score any better.

    Not spraying your long irons will help immensely. Because that’s a really easy place to lose strokes.

    Lesson: keep the ball in play (hit greens) with your long irons. That’s it. Don’t worry about being better than able to hit it within 50 feet of where you aim consistently (still hard to do). Going from 50 feet to 40 feet won’t help.

    Eliminate inconsistencies that produce big misses.

    Once you have that down, to score well, hitting the wedges closer is the easiest way.

  2. Sam

    Jun 18, 2013 at 5:33 am

    Interesting stuff, here’s my 2cents worth…
    PGA Tour players are just like other golfers, they follow trends. In the 90’s everyone on Tour jumped on the 52, 56, 60 bandwagon with Tom Kite, when he took distance control to a new level. Then along came Tiger with 48, 54, 58 and they all dumped a wedge. Lately, club lofts have changed the make up of sets, making 3 iron redundant in many cases (as shown above). The reason the DZ looks more important to scoring than the BZ is that relative to the other parts of their game the average PGA Tour Pro is poor in the BZ. The reason for this is simple: not enough tools to do the job. Modern PW clubs have become much stronger, instead of keeping the loft/distance gaps even, everyone followed Tiger and minimized the short end of their set. No doubt, more options and more full shot yardages will result in closer to the hole with wedges, it would be interesting to look at the correlation between number of scoring clubs and proximity to the hole, pretty sure you will find that guys with 3-4 wedges get it closer more often than the two club guys. Now that’s a blind spot!

    • JD

      Nov 13, 2013 at 5:15 am

      Interesting comment. But what I think you have failed to recognise is the fact PGA tour courses have become much longer and therefore require more clubs down the long end of the set make up. As a professional caddie and also a pro myself I have seen this first hand. There are also more courses with par 3 holes that are between 200-225 yards, couple that with longer par 4 holes that require longer, higher and softer shots players are forced into a hybrid as well as 3 irons. This is one reason I feel players are dumping the extra edge.

  3. Mike

    Feb 21, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    The article is interesting but I am not sure that using Money List as a correlation to Birdie/Danger Zone is a statistically sound method. The Money List is a total of earnings but that is subject to a variable you have not accounted for which is the number of starts a player has on the Tour. Even an average PGA Tour player will have more money when they have more starts. A better comparison of earnings to player performance statistics would at least use “earnings per start” to eliminate the variable related to the number of starts.

    Also, isn’t there some relationship between BZ, SZ and DZ that you have not accounted for? For example, Steve Stricker rates Top 10 in BZ and DZ efficiency and Adam Scott is 189th in BZ and obviously not Top 10 in DZ. One would think, based on the analysis, that Adam Scott would finish far below Steve Stricker yet the opposite is true. Scott (16 starts) actually finished with slightly higher earnings per start ($181,000) than did Stricker (19 starts and $180,000 per start).

  4. Alex

    Feb 14, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    First of all great article…
    Last year i actually kept record of 30 rounds and analyzed them through out. I took lowest 10 rounds and see what i did best during those rounds. This is what i found. 7 out of 10 rounds i hit 12 fairways each of those rounds, however also note i took more 3 woods and hybrids off the tee that left me a lot of 150-185 yard approaches. In those rounds i hit about 14 greens on avg. What this concluded for me is that i am a lot better hitting 7,6,5 and hybrids off the fairway than wedges from the rough. I am pretty decent putter and will not really 3 putt very often, however i will also not drain too many 20 footers for birdies. If Tour avg from the BZ is about 20 ft then i will be definitely over that, so as an amateur if i want to score better but more importantly consistently better i should be hitting 3/5 woods off the tees and hitting 7 irons into greens taking my 2 putts and going to the next hole. This is where this article is dead on, for me to get better either i need to drive better and be on the short grass with my driver leaving wedges in or improve my approaches from 150-185. Now what is easier to improve….

  5. Jeff

    Feb 14, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Great article, really can relate to this.

  6. Dane

    Feb 13, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Great article Mark. Being a golf professional this has put into writing what plenty of golf pros think. I will definitely look more into your work!

  7. Philip

    Feb 8, 2013 at 11:30 am

    Wow! I think I need to become a statistician to analyze my golf game! Call me weird, but these are fun articles!

  8. mark burk

    Nov 5, 2012 at 9:28 am

    All of the players you metion are good danger zone players are longer hitters and bad dangerzone players are short hitters. 175 to 225 for the good ones mention are mostly mid irons that can hold the firm pga tour greens, they also will be able to hit par 5’s in two more often which is where these guys make there birdies with shorter clubs and since most the par 3’s on tour are over 200 yards plays to the advantage of the longer hitters. So it would be better most of the world class player have good long game because of distance. If you want to talk about where weekend warrior can save shots it is with the shortgame. If a player can eliminate 3 putts and get up and down more often it will save them more strokes than being a good iron player from 175 to 225. Keeping the ball in play, eliminating 3 putts and decent short game will keep the score down for the average weekend golfer. Every time I go to range at my club the chipping and putting green are empty and the range is full. What will lower a score faster going from 38 putts a round to 30 or hitting good long iron or hybrid shots which will maybe be hit 4 times a round. This is for the weekend player

    • Richie Hunt

      Nov 7, 2012 at 9:54 am

      Mark,

      I only showed the top-10 and bottom-10, but there is no substantative statistical correlation between distance off the tee or clubhead speed or a combination of the two and DZ play. And I have ran these numbers since 2003 for Distance and DZ play and thru 2007 for clubhead speed and DZ play.

      There are plenty of examples of shorter hitting, low clubhead speed players that play great from the DZ each year. McDowell is ranked 8th in the DZ and not very long. Same with Stricker. Furyk is ranked 12th and routinely does great in the DZ. Same for other shorter hitters like David Toms (who was ranked #1 in 2011), Heath Slocum, and Zach Johnson.

      Meanwhile there are longer hitters that struggle from the DZ. Like Chopra, Driscoll, Lamely, and Mark Anderson (currently ranked 174th) and Jhonattan Vegas (currently ranked 175th).

      Distance helps…slightly. But it’s not enough help for Tour players to overcome a lack of skill in the Danger Zone.

  9. Brett Adamkiewicz

    Nov 1, 2012 at 11:03 am

    What a well rounded article, and explained better than I have ever heard it. I have always taken a different thought process compared to the average joe. Not to exaggerate but we have all heard the phrase “drive for show and putt for dough” a million times. Fact of the matter is you will never win any “dough” if your superb putting skills are saving bogey and double bogeys all the time. On a side topic I am curious as too the percentage of penalty strokes taken in a round are due to tee shots and the “danger zone” shots. I know the phrase doesn’t exactly fit with the danger zone but it is all relative. 175 and out is what I call my scoring zone. I can have a bad putting and chipping day and still be sub 80. If I can’t get off the tee and can’t get around the green, the limit on my score…. I am taking a trip with 7 of my buddies to Kiawah Island this weekend and I am going to put this to the test! Most of them are all mid to low handicappers and can play well! I am going to have a little fun with this and track their scoring relative to your “Danger Zone” and off the tee. Thank you for this article and I hope more people will read this and pay attention.

    • Brett Adamkiewicz

      Nov 1, 2012 at 11:05 am

      The sky is the limit on my score. Left out that part.

  10. Dan

    Oct 31, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Fantastic article, very insightful. It will be great to stop focusing on the “Glamorous” parts of the game and focus more on the shots that lower my score.

  11. DaleH

    Oct 31, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Exactly.. most amatures do struggle with the short game but really struggle with longer irons like myself. I’m usually on hitting into greens with say an 8 iron or less, 7-4 not as good, the longer the iron the the less my chances. Time to practice more on the long irons. Thanks for the facts.

  12. Pingback: GolfWRX.com – The blind spot of PGA Tour players: Long-iron play | Golf Products Reviews

Leave a Reply

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

Podcasts

Gear Dive: Mizuno’s Chris Voshall speaks on Brooks Koepka’s U.S. Open-winning irons

Published

on

Mizuno’s Chief Engineer Chris Voshall speaks on how Brooks Koepka was the one that almost got away, and why Mizuno irons are still secretly the most popular on Tour. Also, a couple of Tiger/Rory nuggets that may surprise a few people. It’s an hour geek-out with one of the true gems in the club biz. Enjoy!

Related: Brooks Koepka’s Winning WITB from the 2018 U.S. Open

Listen to the full podcast below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

Your Reaction?
  • 14
  • LEGIT6
  • WOW9
  • LOL2
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Continue Reading

Opinion & Analysis

Hear It, Feel It, Believe It: A Better Bunker Method

Published

on

The following is an excerpt from Mike Dowd‘s upcoming novel, “Coming Home.” 

After picking the last of the balls on the driving range, Tyler cornered Mack as he hit a few shots from the old practice bunker to wind down at the end of the day. Mack was hitting one after another, alternating between the three flags on the practice green and tossing them up about as softly as if he was actually lobbing them each up there underhanded.

Tyler just stood there, mesmerized at first by the mindless ease with which Mack executed the shot. Bunker shots, Tyler silently lamented, were likely the biggest hole in his game, and so after Mack had holed his third ball in a couple of dozen, Tyler finally decided he had to ask him a question.

“What are you thinking about on that shot, Mack?” Tyler interrupted him suddenly.

Mack hit one more that just lipped out of the closest hole, paused a few seconds, and then looked up at his protégé in what Tyler could only interpret as a look of confusion.

“What am I thinking about?” he finally replied. “I don’t know, Tyler… I’d hate to think how I’d be hittin’ ‘em if I actually started thinking.”

Tyler gave Mack a slightly exasperated look and put his hands on his hips as he shook his head. “You know what I mean. Your technique. I guess I should have said what exactly are you doing there from a mechanics standpoint? How do you get it to just land so softly and roll out without checking?”

Mack seemed to be genuinely considering Tyler’s more elaborately articulated question, and after a moment began, more slowly this time, as if he was simplifying his response for the benefit of a slightly thick-headed young student who wasn’t getting his point.

“You can’t think about technique, Tyler… at least not while you’re playing,” Mack replied. “There’s no quicker path back to your father’s garage than to start thinking while you’re swinging, especially thinking about technique. That’s my job.”

“Mack,” Tyler insisted, “How am I supposed to learn to hit that shot without understanding the technique? I’ve got to do something different than what I’m doing now. I’m putting too much spin on my shots, and I can’t always tell when it’s going to check and when it’s going to release a little. How do I fix that?”

“Well, not by thinking, certainly,” Mack fired right back as if it was the most ridiculous line of inquiry he’d ever heard. “A good bunker shot can be heard, Tyler, and felt, but you can’t do either of those if you’re focused on your technique. You feel it inside of you before you even think about actually hitting it. Watch, and listen.”

With that Mack swung down at the sand and made a thump sound as his club went through the soft upper layer of sand and bounced on the firmer sand below.

“You hear that?” Mack asked. “That’s what a good bunker shot sounds like. If you can hear it, then you can feel it. If you can feel it, then you can make it, but you can’t make that sound until you hear it first. Your body takes care o’ the rest. You don’t have to actually tell it what to do.”

Tyler still looked puzzled, but, knowing Mack as he did, this was the kind of explanation he knew he should have expected. Coach Pohl would have gone into an eight-part dissertation on grip, stance, club path, release points, weight transfer, and so forth, and Tyler suddenly realized how much he’d come to adopt his college coach’s way of thinking in the past four years. Mack though? He just said you’ve got to hear it.

“Get in here,” Mack said suddenly, gesturing to the bunker and offering the wedge to Tyler. “Now close your eyes.”

“What?!” Tyler almost protested.

“Just do it, will ya’?” Mack insisted.

“Okay, okay,” Tyler replied, humoring his coach.

“Can you hear it?” Mack asked.

“Hear what?” Tyler answered. “All I hear is you.”

“Hear that sound, that thump.” It was Mack’s turn to be exasperated now. “It was only moments ago when I made it for you. Can’t you still hear it?”

“Oh, remember it you mean,” Tyler said. “Okay, I know what you mean now. I remember it.”

“No, you obviously don’t know what I mean,” Mack replied. “I wanted to know if you can hear it, in your mind, hear the actual sound. Not remember that I’d made it. There’s a big difference.”

Tyler suddenly did feel kind of dumb. He wasn’t picking up what Mack was getting at, at least not exactly how he wanted him to get it, and so he sat there with his eyes closed and gripped the club like he was going to hit a shot, waggled it a bit as if he was getting ready, and then opened his eyes again.

“Okay,” he said suddenly. “I think I can hear it now.”

“Don’t open your eyes,” Mack almost hissed. “Now make it, make that sound. Make that thump.”

Tyler swung down sharply and buried the head of the wedge into the sand where it almost stopped before exiting.

“That’s not a thump,” Mack said shaking his head. “That’s a thud. You can’t even get the ball out with that pitiful effort. Give me that!”

He took the wedge back from Tyler and said, “Now watch and listen.”

Mack made a handful of swings at the sand, each one resulting in a soft thump as the club bottomed out and then deposited a handful of sand out of the bunker. Tyler watched each time as the head of the club came up sharply, went down again, hit the sand, and came back up abruptly in a slightly abbreviated elliptical arc. Each time Tyler listened to the sound, embedding it as he studied how the club entered and exited the sand. Mack stopped suddenly and handed the club back to Tyler.

“Now you make that sound,” he said, “and as you do remember how it feels in your hands, your forearms, your chest, and most importantly in your head.”

“What?” Tyler asked, looking back up at Mack, confused at his last comment.

“Just do it,” Mack said. “Hear it, feel it, then do it, but don’t do it before you can hear it and feel it. Now close your eyes.”

Tyler did as he was told, closing his eyes and then settling his feet in as he tried to picture in his mind what Mack had been doing. At first, he just stood there waggling the club until he could see the image in his mind of Mack hitting the sand repeatedly, and then he could hear the soft thump as the club hit the sand. He started to swing but was interrupted by Mack’s voice.

“Can you feel it?” Mack said. “Don’t go until you can feel it.”

“Well, at first I could see the image in my mind of you hitting that shot over and over again,” Tyler said, opening his eyes and looking at Mack, “and then I could hear it. It sort of followed right in behind it.”

“Ah, the image is a good starting point, but you can’t just see it and hear it, you need to feel it,” Mack replied, pointing to his head. “Feel it in here, and then you can feel it here,” he continued, putting his hands together like he was gripping a club. “Now close your eyes again.”

“Okay,” Tyler said, not sure he was getting it, but finally bought in. He settled in again and began waggling the club until he could see Mack swinging and hear the subtle thump of the sand. He let it just loop in his mind, over and over again, until suddenly he could feel it like he was the one doing it, and then he swung.

Thump came the sound as the flange of his wedge hit the sand. It was his swing, but it was different, maybe not to the naked eye, but in the speed, the level of tension, and the release. He opened his eyes again, almost tentatively, and looked at Mack with a combination of curiosity and amazement.

“I felt it that time,” Tyler said in a voice that seemed to resonate within from somewhere in the past. It almost sounded like Jackie’s in its exuberance.

“Yes… good,” Mack replied patiently. “Now close your eyes and do it again, but make sure you can feel it before you pull the trigger.”

Tyler settled in again, waited until, like the last time, he could see it, hear it, and then finally feel it… Thump… Something was slightly different this time, though, and Tyler opened his eyes to notice Mack kneeling down next to him. He had quietly deposited a ball into the place where Tyler had swung. Tyler looked up in the direction of the green and the target flag he had been aiming toward just in time to see a ball slow to a gentle stop about four inches from the flag.

“How’d you do that?” Tyler said, almost in wonder now.

“I didn’t,” Mack replied. “You did. You just had to stop thinking. See it, hear it, and feel it. Once you feel it, you can believe it. Anything more is more than we need. Any questions?”

As Mack turned to walk up out of the bunker, Tyler just stood there shaking his head a moment, looking at the spot in the sand, and then back up at the green as if to confirm the ball he’d seen roll to stop was still there. “I guess I’ve still got a lot to learn.”

“Well… yes and no,” Mack said cryptically as he turned back to look at him. “You pretty much know how to hit all the shots, Tyler. You’ve hit every one of them at one time or another. You’ve just got to learn how to empty your head of all those instructions so you can focus on finding the shot you need when you need it. It’s in there somewhere.”

“It’s hard to explain,” Tyler said, “but a lot of times I walk up and think I somehow just instinctively know what shot to hit without even thinking about it. I just kind of see it and feel it. It’s when I start to analyze things a bit more closely, factoring in all the things I know are important to consider like the wind, keeping away from the short side, where I want to putt from, and the best trajectory or shot shape for the situation, that I often start to second guess that feeling.”

“Ever heard the saying paralysis from analysis?” Mack asked. “It pretty much describes those moments.”

“Yeah, I get it,” Tyler replied, “but all that information is important. You have to consider everything and not just make a rash decision.”

“Sure, information is important, but you can’t get lost in it,” Mack countered. “Whether it’s golf, or just about anything else in life, Tyler, you need to learn to trust your gut. You’ve hit hundreds of thousands of shots in your life, Tyler. All those shots leave a mark. They leave an indelible little mark that gets filed away in your brain subconsciously, getting stacked one on top of the other. And after years of playing the game, those stacks and stacks of shots create an instinctive reaction to each situation. It’s like gravity. It pulls you in a certain direction so much that most of the time you almost know what club you should hit before you even know the yardage. Trust that, Tyler. Go with it, and know that first instinct comes from experience. There’s more wisdom in those gut reactions than just about anything else.”

“Thank you,” Tyler said after considering it a moment. “I think that’ll really help.”

“You’re welcome,” Mack replied. “Now rake that bunker for me and clean the balls off the green. I want to get things closed up before dark.”

Your Reaction?
  • 6
  • LEGIT3
  • WOW1
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK3

Continue Reading

Opinion & Analysis

5 things we learned on Saturday at the 2018 U.S. Open

Published

on

Whoops, we did it again. While not as dramatic as the 7th hole concern of 2004, the Saturday of 2018 seemed eerily familiar. The commentators were divided on the question of whether the USGA was pleased with the playing conditions. The suggestion was, the grass in the rough was higher than necessary, and the cuts of the fairway and greens were just a bit too close of a shave. No matter, everyone finished and the band played on. The hashtag #KeepShinnyWeird didn’t trend, but Saturday the 16th was certainly not ordinary. Five weird things we learned, on the way.

5) Phil’s breaking point

It wasn’t violent. No outburst or hysteria. We’d seen Phil leap in triumph at Augusta. Now we’ve seen the Mickelson jog, albeit under most different circumstances. Near as we can determine, for a moment Phil forgot that he was playing a U.S. Open. After belting a downhill, sliding bogey putt well past the mark, the left-handed one discerned that the orb would not come to rest for quite some time: a lower tier beckoned. As if dancing a Tarantella, Phil sprang toward the ball and gave it a spank while still it moved. Just like that, his quadruple-bogey 8 become a 10, thanks to the 2 strokes for striking a moving ball penalty. In true warrior fashion, Mickelson accepted the penalty without questions, intimating that it saved him another stroke or two in the end. Yeesh. Phil, we feel you.

4) DJ’s front-nine free fall

Just as unlikely as Phil’s whack-and-walk was Dustin Johnson’s front nine of 41. The cool gunslinger of Thursday-Friday faced the same turmoil as the other 66 golfers remaining, and the outward nine did not go according to his plan. DJ got past the opening hole with par, after making bogey there on Friday. Number two was another story. Double bogey on the long par three was followed by 4 bogeys in 5 holes, beginning with the 4th. The irony once again was, Johnson struggled on holes that the field did not necessarily find difficult. Hole No. 2 was the 10th-ranked hole for difficulty on day 3, while 4 and 7 were 13th and 11th-ranked, respectively. Hole No. 6 and 8 did fall in the more difficult half, but not by much. At day’s end, however, the tall drink of water remained in contention for his second U.S. Open title.

3) The firm of Berger and Finau

Each likely anticipated no more than a top-15 placing after 3 days, despite posting the two low rounds of the day, 4-under 66. Those efforts brought them from +7 to +3 for the tournament, but Johnson and the other leaders had yet to tee off. Every indication was lower and deeper; then the winds picked up, blustery like the 100 acre wood of Winnie The Pooh. Both golfers posted 6 birdies against 2 bogeys, to play themselves into the cauldron of contention. Berger has one top-10 finish in major events, while Finau has 2. None of those three came in a U.S. Open, so a win tomorrow by either golfer would qualify as an absolute shock.

2) Recent winners fared well

In addition to Johnson, the 2016 champion, Justin Rose (2013) and Brooks Koepka (2017) found themselves near or in the lead for most of the afternoon. Since Shinnecock Hills offers much of what characterizes links golf, it should come as no surprise that 2016 British Open champion Henrik Stenson is also within a handful of strokes of the top spot. Rose played the best tee-to-green golf of the leaders on Saturday, but was unable to coax legitimate birdie efforts from his putter. Koepka was the most impressive putter of the day, making up to 60-feet bombs and consistently holing the clutch par saves. On another note, given his victories at Chambers Bay (2015 U.S. Open) and Royal Birkdale (2017 British Open), the missed cut by Jordan Spieth was the week’s biggest surprise.

1) The wind

The most unpredictable of nature’s weapons, the winds of Shinnecock Hills exposed flaws in the course preparation. Areas that would have held off-line putts, were dried out enough to escort those efforts off the shortest grass, into the runoff compartments. The zephyrs pushed tee balls and approach shots just far enough astray to bring all the danger zones into the recipe. Prediction for tomorrow is, any golfer within 5 shots of the lead has a chance at the title. A Miller-esque round of 63 would bring anyone into contention, if the wind continues to blow. No event appreciates drama more than the U.S. Open, and Sunday at Shinnecock promises plenty of it.

Your Reaction?
  • 23
  • LEGIT4
  • WOW0
  • LOL1
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP1
  • OB0
  • SHANK5

Continue Reading

19th Hole

Facebook

Trending