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Fake News and Golf Instruction: Caution in the Age of Click Bait

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Lose 20 pounds in two weeks. Hit it like Rory.

Cure your insomnia once and for all. Work it like DJ.

Learn to speak Spanish in one week. Never slice, hook, shank, top, hit fat, pull, or push again. 

As one who makes his living teaching a game that is very difficult (and borders on impossible at times), it never ceases to amaze me that I continue to see articles titled the likes of above. Does anyone really think that reading an article is really going to help them hit their driver like Rory… or get up and down every time… or work the ball like a tour pro… or stop a slice or hook forever? Really?

I can assure you these things are not likely to happen… at least not to the degree they are billed. Over the last 35 years on the lesson tee, I’ve seen golfers of all stripes struggle mightily to make small swing changes. Rarely does anyone make significant improvements overnight, let alone after reading one article. Golf swings change glacially. In a two-year span, I helped a student go from an 18-handicap to an 8. There was even one who went from 14 to a scratch over a period of time, but he was also a former professional athlete. What’s important to remember is that these progressions happened over years. They’re also rare.

Readers must consider that the author of any given article probably never saw you swing. So to adopt a “this-is-for-everybody” approach is misleading in my view of learning golf. It seems there is almost nothing that every great golfer does except hit it solid. The idea that there is a magic move that will change it all is anathema to my experience.

Once you know WHAT to do in the golf swing,  you have to learn HOW to do it. I suggest you find someone to guide you through that process, but that is an individual choice. Remember all that your mentor/coach/teacher can do is tell you what… not how. The how part is in the dirt, and it comes out of the dirt s-l-o-w-l-y.

“So if articles don’t help golfers improve, then why do you write them,” you might be thinking. I try to steer clear of titles that are designed to get more readers; I certainly don’t need more students. (The only good thing about getting a little older is one wants less, not more.) Many of you have told me that my shared insights have helped your games in some small ways. That has been the aim all along.

My teaching style is what I call “”if THIS, then THAT.” I try to relate what I’ve seen work for a variety of swing problems. If it helps, great! If something someone else suggested helps, great! Remember that improvement is not all-or-nothing. Every little change helps a lot. If you’re steep and you get less steep, great! If you’re outside-in, and you get less so, great! Sure, maybe you’re not inside yet, but you are on your way. You know what to work on. A lot of students seem to think that if they are not doing something totally right, they’re not improving. That’s a huge misconception.

Golfers will only get better by admitting they have a swing issue and seeking some ways to improve it. While I’m certain some fortunate few have made great strides quickly, the masses plod progressively and hopefully along. I have never claimed to work magic or reveal some secret method that is going to make golfers think about giving up the day job. Golf is a hard game, and we have to improve at it by grinding it out a little at a time.

It’s the journey, not the destination that offers the most joy… and how pleasant the journey can be when you don’t expect to get flat abs overnight… or add 30 yards to your drives.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. RBImGuy

    Feb 11, 2018 at 7:24 pm

    Took me 6 hours to change and build a new golf swing after 30 years.
    student built new in 3 weeks, hit longer than he ever did.
    He tried usual modern swing lessons for 5 years! and become depressed how badly he hit it.
    He is happy now

    Some people can do magic, I am one of them

    • RBimGuy

      Feb 11, 2018 at 7:59 pm

      Of course my new WIMB game improvement clubs helped a lot too:
      Cobra F7+ Driver 10.5 Aldila Rogue 125 Silver TS 44.5″
      F6 Baffler 4w stock Matrix Stiff
      Cobra Fly Z 3 hyb. 20* Aldila Rogue 85H R flex
      Cobra Forged TEC 4i Aldila Rogue 85H R Flex
      Cobra Forged TEC 5-PW CTL R flex
      MD2 Tour 52* and 58* CTL R flex
      PM Grind MD3 64* black CTL R flex
      Scotty Studio Stainless Newport 2

  2. Gorden

    Feb 10, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    It is simple, take a sand wedge and a ball, now bounce the ball as many times in a row in the air off the wedge…if you can do it 20 or more times without missing…take golf lessons you have the hand eye coordination to make use of a “Real” golf swing. If like 95% of us and getting the ball to bounce even 4 times without missing you will play better with a “Bandage” swing that will get you on or close to the green and give you a chance to get even better scores. I know several guys in our 60’s that could never get below a 16 no matter how many lessons we took…about 5 years ago one of our group garbed a CD course that taught a single plane swing (Moe Norman type) almost all of us messed around with some of these ideas and we all somehow found a way to keep the ball off the tee in front of us and at least hit other shots towards if not on greens..so we all have a fighting chance to shoot 79…

    • Bruno

      Feb 11, 2018 at 8:17 pm

      So what you are saying is that an up-down clubhead motion makes for a great circular golf swing? Whoda thunk …. 😮

  3. George

    Feb 10, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Isnt this article click bait?

  4. Bruno

    Feb 10, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    Dennis, you forgot this click bait golf fake news/lies:
    “Buy a new set of golf clubs and hit the ball even further and straighter!”
    What is amazing is that desperate incompetent men actually want to believe such misleading nonsense.

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 11, 2018 at 8:11 am

      Well its not unlike technology period…Everything seems obsolete in 6 months, huh? The problem seems to stem from the consumer mentality on which we are all reared. In golf, the OMs used to re-tool every 5 years, now it seems every five months. Just be discerning, some of it real, just not ALL of it. Thx

      • Bruno

        Feb 11, 2018 at 1:04 pm

        It’s not true “technology”; much of it is a redux of previous club designs.
        As for the “adjustable” drivers with the promise of dialing out your slice and converting it to a draw, well that’s an outright scam. It may work for tour pros who jam all the weights closer to the face to reduce spin, but it does nothing for the mass of golfers who can’t hit on the sweet spot and must depend on dubious back-weighted gear effect. It’s an expensive delusional toy, nothing more.
        The new craze for hollow irons filled with elastomer gunk and flex faces is suspect. Don’t you wonder how so many OMs simultaneously revealed this stupid expensive design? Hmmmm…. 😉

      • Bruno

        Feb 11, 2018 at 8:10 pm

        Much of the “technology” is a redux of old club designs.
        The “adjustable” drivers with the promise of dialing out your slice and converting it to a draw is an outright scam. It works for tour pros who jam all the weights closer to the face to reduce spin. Golfers who can’t hit on the sweet spot must depend on back-weighted gear effect.
        The new craze for elastomer filled hollow irons and flex faces is suspect. Don’t you wonder how so many OMs suddenly revealed this expensive design?
        P-790s are fake forged and fake news too.

  5. Acemandrake

    Feb 9, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    Excellent, blunt, plainly spoken article about a subject most golfers would rather ignore.

    “Golf swings change glacially.” Some more glacially than others ?

    I’ve been playing for over 50 years and really began to enjoy the game when I decided to stop chasing tips. It only leads to frustration and confusion.

    “It’s the journey, not the destination that offers the most joy”…YES

    Enjoy the journey, have fun, and keep hope alive.

    “Knowing why you play” would be good advice for those striving for enlightenment ?

    • steve

      Feb 9, 2018 at 11:08 pm

      Some only “play” so they can buy the newest golf clubs and discuss why they “love” their brand new toys. Their game is irrelevant. They are known as “gearheads” and they inhabit this website to load up on the latest golf club gossip.

  6. Dennis

    Feb 9, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    The reader has to be discerning. Does the suggestion apply to YOUR swing issue. That is the KEY. A one size fits all approach to swing corrections is misleading in most cases.

    • OB

      Feb 9, 2018 at 4:00 pm

      But Dennis, 99% (my guess) of all golfers never take a golf lesson from a qualified instructor like you. They just blunder into the game with a trial and error and error and error approach while depending on something they read or saw on a youtube video. Also they depend on golf store sales people providing them with game improvement clubs. The masses of golfers are not “discerning”; they are “desperate”.
      Have you ever told a student they bought the wrong flex golf shafts for their slow swing speed? Have you ever told a golfer to lose 50 pounds of belly fat before attempting a golf swing? Have you ever told somebody they shouldn’t attempt a golf swing for their safety?
      Great article permitted by the fine folks at WRX!

    • steve

      Feb 9, 2018 at 11:03 pm

      He who represents himself in court has a fool for a client.
      He who teaches himself a golf swing is a clown on the golf course.
      You can’t teach yourself a golf swing because you can’t feel what is happening in real time. It’s trial by error and error and error until the errors create a bad swing that is embedded in the brain and neuro-muscular system.
      Trying to consciously think yourself out of your swing problems with a golf tip is impossible. Anybody who claims instant success is lying… either to you or himself. Gullible golfers mislead THEMSELVES !!

      • Ian B

        Feb 12, 2018 at 2:19 pm

        With so much slow motion video technology available you certainly can analyse your swing. You can even send it off to be analysed and corrections sought.
        I’ve had numerous lessons with different instructors and still do the same things as that’s what my muscle memory has ingrained. I’ve had to change swing through injury but it takes time, and application and that’s what people won’t put in. As soon as I don’t focus old habits (and pains) return.

        • steve

          Feb 12, 2018 at 3:00 pm

          Trying to change your swing from the swinging club back into your body and mind is futile because that’s not how ingrained body patterns are changed.
          If you suffer pain when attempting to swing you either need significant swing compensation or complete physical reconditioning. If it’s an arthritic hip joint or chronic knee injury pain you should seek medical advice and even consider hanging up your golf shoes. Chronic pain will only get worse with time and aggravation.
          When professional athletes want to make a fundamental change to their sport movements they first recondition their body with basic conditioning not related to their sport. They hit the gym and rebuild their body. Then they start sport-specific training before they attempt to introduce the changes. You know what that means; no quickie band-aid solutions. Leadbetter and Faldo took 2 years to rebuild his golf swing and then Faldo started winning big time. Now, scientifically, the rebuild would only take 1 year… except for Tiger who is still messing around with swing tips and types from ignorant instructors. Heed Dennis’ advice.

  7. OB

    Feb 9, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    Congratulation, Dennis, for telling it like it is.
    Everybody wants to know but few are willing to pay the price of doing.
    Golf is being sold as a “fun” game, but in truth it is a near impossible challenge.
    Most everybody assumes that if they “know” they can “do”. They believe they can “think” their way through a golf swing because they are successful people.
    They come off the course and complain they can’t “think” about all the golf tips.
    Most playing golf are non-athletic types who have a sedentary job in an office, and they believe/hope that the golfing exercise will help them lose weight or strengthen their back muscles. They are deluding themselves.
    Most golfers want to believe there is “power” built into their golf clubs since they are hitting their new clubs farther without trying harder. They live in a purple golf haze.
    Most avoid lessons because they fear being exposed as non-athletic non-golfers.
    Who seeks lessons for their incompetence? Women and athletes in other sports. They know.
    Most seek lessons to be exposed to knowledge straight from their famous teacher and somehow they can band-aid their incompetence without extensive training and much practice. A great social experience too.
    Golf is an over-hyped, over-promoted, over-built, over-sold, over-promised, over-easy, over-populated, over-run, over-aged, over-crowded, over-the-top/counter/hill game for gullible men.
    I play/perform golf occasionally. 😮

  8. Dennis

    Feb 9, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    Authors note: this is not an article 2 cast aspersions at any site or teacher, it is a word of caution to be careful what you try to incorporate into your own pattern and be realistic about Expectations.

    • OB

      Feb 9, 2018 at 2:16 pm

      Aaah, Expectations! For most, golf is a game of delusional fun and social participation. Full of yuks.
      According to PGA statistics 95% of the 50 million golfers worldwide cannot break 100, honestly. Only 5% or 2.5 million can play in the 90s and less. Let’s reasonably assume that 80% of the 2.5 million cannot break 90. That means only 200,000 golfers play in the 80s and less! This is a reasonable assessment of golfers worldwide.
      The mass of incompetent golfers are desperate and their only recourse is to buy the newest set of game-improvement clubs. They just don’t have the “time” to train and practice; they need an instant fix to their inconsistent golfswing. That’s how they live their entire lives… it’s normal humanity.

  9. shing

    Feb 9, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    MeandMygolf is the worst.

    • OB

      Feb 9, 2018 at 3:13 pm

      Perhaps you mean “Golf My Way” books… by Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Toski, and a slew of others.
      Hey… golf was exploding in the 1970s and novice golfers were hitting the wall and needed help desperately. It’s still a mystery requiring highly scientific instrumentation to customize your swing, clubs, ball, shoes, shorts, cap, glove, tee, rangefiner, … 😮

  10. the dude

    Feb 9, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    nice article DC!….I akin the infomercials products (like the ones that line Hank “the bank” Haneys pockets)….to the diet/exercise craze for the last 200 years (or so). It amazes me how gullible people are…… where commitment takes a back seat to ….”AND IF YOU ACT NOW…..”

    whats the ol’ phrase?? there’s a sucker born every minute……(that phrase was made when the world population was < 1 billion people). I wonder what it is now with TV and social media 🙂

    • OB

      Feb 9, 2018 at 3:07 pm

      “Golfers are gullible.” — Harvey Penick – Little Red Book, page 72.

  11. George

    Feb 9, 2018 at 11:24 am

    99% of golf instruction is garbage clickbait.

    • OB

      Feb 9, 2018 at 2:19 pm

      No, it’s not “garbage”… but it’s mostly not applicable to those on these WRX fora. Gearhead eye-candy rules here.

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Courses

Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf

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We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.

Launceston Airport, Tasmania. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.

The locals at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Wallabies, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.

“Tom’s Little Devil.” Hole No.7 at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.

After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.

The walk between the 4th and 5th holes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.

After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 4th hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!

As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.

To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.

The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.

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Geoff Shackelford and Louis Oosthuizen join our 19th Hole podcast

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Louis Oosthuizen and Geoff Shackelford join our 19th Hole this week. Oosthuizen talks about his prospects for the 2018 season, and Shackelford discusses Tiger’s setback at the 2018 Genesis Open. Also, host Michael Williams talks about the PGA Tour’s charitable efforts in the wake of tragic events in Parkland, Florida.

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

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Honda Classic

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It’s off to Florida this week for the Honda Classic, as the lead up to the year’s first major continues. PGA National has been the permanent home of this event since 2007, and it has proved to be one of the most demanding courses on Tour since then. The golf course measures just under 7,200 yards, but it is the often blustery conditions combined with the copious amount of water hazards that make this event a challenge. There is also the added factor of “The Bear Trap,” a daunting stretch of holes (Nos. 15-17) that are arguably the most difficult run of holes we will see all year on the PGA Tour.

Ball strikers have excelled here in the past, with Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy all boasting fine records at PGA National. The par-70 golf course contains six long Par 4’s that measure over 450 yards, and players will be hoping that the wind isn’t too strong — when it does blow here, the course can turn into a brute. Last year, Rickie Fowler posted 12-under par to win the event by four strokes over Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland. It was the first time in the last five years that the winning score reached double digits.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Rickie Fowler 8/1
  • Rory McIlroy 10/1
  • Justin Thomas 11/1
  • Sergio Garcia 18/1
  • Tyrrell Hatton 28/1
  • Tommy Fleetwood 30/1
  • Gary Woodland 30/1

Previous champions Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy are sure to be popular picks this week, but it’s Justin Thomas (11/1, DK Price $11,300) who I feel offers slightly more value out of the front runners. Thomas has begun the year well, finishing in the top-25 in all four events he has played. The numbers show that his game is getting better all the time. His iron play has steadily improved, picking up more Strokes for Approaching the Green week by week. Last week he gained six strokes approaching the green at the Genesis Open, which was fourth in the field.

At the ball strikers’ paradise, Thomas fans will be glad to know that he ranks fourth in the field for Ball Striking over his last 12 rounds. He is also ranked fourth for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green and second in Strokes Gained Total. Comparatively, neither Fowler nor McIlroy rank inside the top-50 for ball striking and the top-40 for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green over the same period.

Thomas’ accuracy on his approaches has been sensational lately. He leads the field in Proximity to the Hole for his past 12 rounds, and on a golf course that contains many long par 4’s it should play into Justin’s hands, as he’s been on fire recently with his long irons. He is third in the field for Proximity on Approaches Between 175-200 yards, and second in the field for Approaches Over 200 yards in his last 12 rounds. Thomas has a mixed record at PGA National, with a T3 finish wedged in between two missed cuts, but I like the way his game has been steadily improving as the season has progressed. It feels like it’s time for the current PGA Champion to notch his first win of the year.

On a golf course where ball striking is so important, Chesson Hadley (55/1, DK Price $7,700) caught my eye immediately. The North Carolina native has been in inspired form so far in this wraparound season with four finishes already in the top-5. The way he is currently striking the ball, it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see him get his fifth this week. Hadley is No. 1 in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and Ball Striking, while he is No. 2 for Strokes Gained Total over his last 24 rounds.

Having taken last week off, Hadley returns to a golf course where he has finished in the Top-25 twice in his three visits. Yet there is a sense that this year he’ll be aiming even higher than that. Chesson is fifth in this field for Proximity to the Hole from 175-200 yards and fourth overall over the past 24 rounds. With that level of accuracy on such a tricky golf course, Hadley will be confident of putting himself in position to claim win No. 2.

My next pick was a slow sell, but with the number so high I couldn’t leave him out. Adam Scott (55/1, DK Price $7,700) has been struggling for some time now. He has slipped out of the World’s Top-50, changed his putter from the short putter to the long putter and back again over the winter break, and he doesn’t have a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since the FedEx St. Jude Classic last summer. Despite all of this, I don’t feel Scott should be as high as 66/1 with some bookmakers on a golf course where he has excelled. To put it in perspective, Scott is the same price to win this week in a modest field as he is to win The Masters in April.

There are also signs that Scott blew off some of the rust last week in LA. The Australian was 12th in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, which indicates that things might slowly be coming around for a man who is known for his prodigious ball striking. Scott’s achilles heel is the flat stick, and I wouldn’t expect that to change this week. He’s been very poor on the greens for some time now, which must be incredibly frustrating for a man who gives himself so many looks at birdie. But average putters have performed well at PGA National in the past, where it seems that excellent ball striking is the key for having a good week. Scott won here in 2016, and on his two other visits to PGA National in the past five years he twice finished in the top-15. If he can continue to improve his iron play the way he has been, I feel he could forge his way into contention.

My long shot this week is Sean O’Hair (200/1, DK Price $6,800). The Texan hasn’t done much so far this year, but he is making cuts and he arrives at a course that seems to bring out the best in him. O’Hair has five top-25 finishes in his last seven appearances at PGA National, which includes a T11 at last year’s edition. At 200/1 and with a DK Price of as little as $6,800, there is little harm in taking a chance on him finding that form once more this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Justin Thomas 11/1, DK Price $11,300
  • Chesson Hadley 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Adam Scott 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Sean O’Hair 200/1, DK Price $6,800
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19th Hole

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