By Dan Ross
NOTE: This article might be more helpful if you have a little bit of experience in music, but is written to my best ability to be accessible to a range of readers.
Believe it or not, music and golf have much more in common than you might think.
Maybe that is why you see so many well-known musicians play golf in the celebrity events: Alice Cooper, Kenny G, Justin Timberlake, and Adrian Young (of No Doubt) to name a few. What’s more, the gentlemen I named are pretty good! Cooper is a 5-handicap, Kenny G is a +0.6, Timberlake is a 6, and Young is a 1. Pretty good stuff in the celebrity category!
On the opposite side, many great golfers are drawn to music, including Trevor Immelman and John Daly. You could also add Nick Watney’s interest in rap music to the mix as well as Bubba Watson, Ricky Fowler, Ben Crane, and Hunter Mahan’s performances as the “Golf Boys” to the discussion as well. Hey, they might not all be playing instruments in the traditional manner, but music can be defined a lot of different ways these days. It just goes to show that there is a lot of overlapping content between music and golf, and I think it is be worthwhile to look at some of the things golfers might take from music to become better… at golf! So here are a few, in no particular order.
1. You have to PRACTICE how to practice!
Show me a great musician, and I will show you an expert in the art of “practice.” Show me a great golfer, and I am less confident I will see someone who has learned the ins and outs of practice. I think there is something about golf that lets people get by on an ability to assimilate actions and concepts quickly that doesn’t happen quite to the same extent in music. While “natural ability” can take you quite far in golf, it only goes so far in music. Of course, there are always exceptions and overlap, but this is my opinion based on more than 20 years of playing music and golf. Your opinion may differ.
I ask you: have you ever had a great first golf lesson with a pro where everything seems to be working better, but the lesson just ends with… “now, go practice?” The problem is, you get to the range, hit some shots and everything falls apart. You toil away for an hour or so before giving up, thinking, “Well, I will just keep going with it tomorrow…,” and the same thing happens again when you return.
The likely reason for this is that you don’t know how to structure your practice sessions and haven’t been given enough checkpoints/failsafe measures to get back on track when the meltdown shows up. In other words, you likely don’t know how to self-correct. For musicians it is easy – if you hear the wrong note, you used the wrong fingering or rhythm. It is harder for aspiring golfers because there are ways to “cheat” ball flights and getting access to high-speed cameras is a little harder.
With this in mind, every instructor owes it to his/her students to include instruction in how to structure their time alone at the range. Instructors in both golf and music often make the assumption that students know exactly what to do on their own. That is why we now have research that suggests that “homework” is almost totally ineffective with younger learners; they are the least prepared to work independently. If we move that thought to golf instruction, many of us don’t have the contextual information needed to self-correct.
The key to successful practice sessions is the ability to recognize mistakes in the process that create roadblocks to progress and correct them independently. It is the difference between solving a swing issue on the spot, or practicing a swing fault for a week or more until your next lesson. Which would you want?
A good instructor can mitigate the effects of this “crash and burn” phenomenon by detailing the structure of an effective practice session, and giving the student the necessary knowledge to self-assess and redirect. While this writing is not intended to be prescriptive in terms of lesson curriculum design (every lesson should be differentiated according to the needs of the student, so one single approach would never suffice), a component of any good lesson should include a breakdown of steps during individual practice from start to finish, as well as a short list of corrective measures to be used by the student when they are on their own practicing.
2. Take “note” of the signature elements of your playing style.
Okay…what does this mean? Every good musician has a noticeable playing style (which includes sound, touch, phrasing, articulation, etc.). So does every good golfer. For example, if Jimi Hendrix (were he still alive) picked up any old guitar (vs his trademark Fender Stratocaster), you would be able to tell that it was Jimi Hendrix playing it, even if you couldn’t see him. It makes the point that the music Hendrix produced came from within him, and was a natural extension of his personality and soul. I submit that the same thing can be viewed in golf.
If you happened to see only a blacked out silhouette of Ben Hogan’s swing, would you be able to recognize it as being his, without first being told? I think I could; the various motions and rhythm are distinctive. I could do the same with Phil Mickelson, or David Duval, or any of the great players I have studied over time. We can go even further; those of you who are instructors might even be able to recognize your (more advanced) students just from seeing the ball flight. One might hit it higher or lower, have a more piercing trajectory, a flat apex or hit “risers.” Some of us who have studied tour player swings up close might be able to tell them apart standing at a range solely by ball flight even if we aren’t watching the player. It might be more difficult perhaps, but it certainly is not impossible. These qualities are “signature” elements displayed by any one particular player that are expressions of that person’s personality.
Here is why identifying the personal qualities of your swing is important: The best players don’t fight their tendencies: they work with them. These idiosyncrasies are the means to a consistent swing – BECAUSE they are the natural extensions of their personality. This is why major swing changes take so much time: any substantial adjustment involves not only changing the swing, but also changing the mental approach. A whole new paradigm must be formed, and the mind must then grow to accept the change as “normal.”
For example, let’s take the example of David Duval. Mr. Duval is a major champion and former No. 1 player in the world. His swing is far from what many might consider “perfect,” however. Duval has a very strong grip, and appears to take the club away shut, kept the club shut at the top, and also looks away from the ball through impact. It is likely that Duval found these “signature” elements of his swing comfortable and repeatable and learned to work with them rather than replace them. To keep from hitting a big pull or hook, Duval has a lot of body rotation to mitigate some of the effects of the club being shut through most of the swing, for example.
If I were to ask you to imagine what a low cut looks like in your mind’s eye, can you describe the shape? Can you describe the backdrop of the hole you are playing the shot on? Can you imagine what impact feels like on such a shot? Can you imagine what the ball feels like at impact? All of the great players (music AND golf) can visualize all the individual idiosyncrasies of their playing styles, because they have learned to accept them. The best instructors recognize these elements in their students and work as much as possible to keep them and build swings around them. They are the signature elements that are genuine expressions of our core selves in golf, and are the potential building blocks to an effective (not necessarily picture-perfect) swing.
3. Tempo…(with a twist!)
Many of us can recall reading that Sam Snead preferred to swing along to an imagined “waltz” that he heard in his head when his swing didn’t feel right. This segment follows from the same concept, but takes it a step further; something of an intermediate approach to tempo for golfers. In order to grasp it, you are going to have to use some visualization; lucky thing you are all golfers!
If you want to move further in your interpretation of rhythm/tempo in golf, you have to learn to subdivide. Think of fractions: A whole can be divided into two halves (2/2), three thirds (3/3) or four fourths (4/4), right? Well, depending on your natural rhythm, each of these divisions should line up with a point in your swing, the swing representing the “whole.” Are you with me so far?
In addition to Snead, there is a nice video out there on YouTube with Nick Faldo describing this basic idea using the syllables of Ernie Els’s name. If you watch it, you can see the basic breakdown:
“Er” – takeaway
“nie” – top of swing
“Els” – impact
Musicians would count this rhythm as simply, “ONE…AND…TWO.” Or,
To feel it, try swinging a club while saying, “ER-NIE-ELS,” matching your swing positions to those listed above, and then swing a few more times replacing “ER-NIE-ELS,” with, “ONE-AND-TWO.” Just make sure you are now swinging with the same natural flow as you would if you said “Ernie Els” in casual conversation; just at a speed that accommodates your golf swing.
So, is music class in grade school is coming back to you now? This is an example of subdividing a beat, or breaking it into simple fractions to make it easier to align with positions in your swing. Learning how to subdivide your swing (or, more accurately, subdivide the natural rhythm of your swing), helps you stay more consistent in your execution, and firmly establishes a base-line “norm” in how you swing the club.
But wait! You can divide things down further and/or more explicitly. Remember the Sam Snead example? That was a case of breaking things into triplet meter, which is the characteristic of a waltz. You know, like “Some Day My Prince Will Come?” If you know this song, you will know the flowing feel is attributed to this meter.
On paper, the way that rhythm breaks down is:
If you want to hear what this sounds like, we need to associate it with a spoken phrase. Try saying, “Three…hun…dred…YARDS.” Those of you with little or no musical training might likely start to sense the difference between the “Ernie Els” example and the “three-hun-dred-yards” example. Just to be clear, the breakdown for this example would be:
Just as before, start by saying the phrase while you swing.
The added syllable can be used by those golfers who tend to have a longer “windup” in the backswing and an aggressive transition down to impact, to better align the positions of their swing in tempo. When I think of a player who might conceptually represent this type of triplet rhythm, Fred Couples comes to mind, in addition to Sam Snead.
In the case of Couples, the breakdown might look like:
ONE – takeaway
E – halfway back
AND – the Freddie “pause-at-the-top”
TWO – impact
Anecdotally speaking, I find many of the “sweet” swingers of the golf club fall into the “triplet swing” category. Something about the spacing of their swings tends to line up with the triplet meter, even if they don’t always consistently arrive at specific points.
You might be getting bored a little right now, but hang in there for the last example, as it addresses Ben Hogan, and his meter. The last rhythmical breakdown I want to share is the 16th note rhythm. On paper, it reads like this:
“ONE(1)…E(e)…AND(+)…A(a)…TWO(2)” or simply, “1e+a 2.”
It can be expressed verbally by saying “Hit it in the CUP.”
ONE – Hit
E – it
AND – in
A – the
TWO – cup!
When I watch Ben Hogan’s swing, the 16th note rhythm comes to mind, and the corresponding positions line up extremely well. I might say this doesn’t surprise me one bit, as Mr. Hogan was very deliberate in his approach to the golf swing with the different parts clearly defined. The breakdown of his swing might look like:
ONE – takeaway/7:30 position
E – halfway/9:00 position
AND – top/10:30 position
A – top/lower body transition down
TWO – impact
If you substitute the spoken phrase for the numerical count, you would get:
HIT – takeaway/7:30 position
IT – halfway/9:00 position
IN – top/10:30 position
THE – top/lower body transition down
CUP – impact
(The point of reference would be 1950’s/60’s era Hogan, for all you Hoganites.)
To recap, I know this might be a little cerebral for some of you, but the process can go even further; outlining almost any point in any swing in an expressible rhythm (albeit more complex) that may be somewhat unique to a single player. For you mathematicians, you will also recognize that this concept can allow the swing rhythm to be expressed numerically as well.
What the average player can take from this is that by subdividing your inner rhythm/tempo, you can add a layer of consistency to your swing, and groove a better feel in the process. How do you decide which of these rhythmical structures is best for you? You have probably already done it. Simply ask: “Who is my favorite golfer?” What many don’t realize is that we naturally gravitate towards swings that align with our personal “inner pace.” Your favorite players might likely represent the tempo you want to achieve in your own swing. Without getting technical, simply analyze that player in terms of the subdivisions I have outlined here (halves, triplets, and sixteenths), and apply the concept in reverse to your own swing. Chances are excellent it will line up. Creepy, huh?
In music, improvisation usually refers to the process of creating something from nothing, or at least creating a new work from existing/related material. It is the basis for nearly all styles of modern music – blues, jazz, rock, rap, etc. The concept of improvisation also appears in Bloom’s Taxonomy, and addresses topics like adaptation, and extrapolation. Improvisation is a higher-functioning quality in almost every endeavor; because being an effective “improviser” means that you have reached a high level of competence/performance in that content area. For our purposes, the content area is golf.
Who are the great improvisers in golf? Tiger Woods, Seve Ballesteros, Phil Mickelson … all of these players come to my mind. In fact, it might be said that the shots they had to improvise were also the shots that we use to define them as players (ie. legend-building). When we tell golf stories, we don’t talk about the time when “Player X” hit the ball in the fairway, hit the green, and made a 12-footer for birdie. Birdie is nice, but not as cool as making eagle from behind a tree on route to a Master’s win, holing a toed putter off the boards, the 200-yard six iron out of sand over water, the lily pad shot, etc. The funny thing also, is that you rarely see any great improviser (in music or golf) ever have a frown on their face before or during the shot. They see improvisation for what it is: a fun opportunity to do something great.
A great solo improvisation in music and a cool golf shot have a lot in common: the fun factor goes up depending on who is watching and the difficulty of the shot. That means you have to have BOTH confidence and skill/creativity to be a good improviser. No guts, no glory, right? We have all heard that one before. Well, what about those of us who don’t have the skill of a Mickelson or Ballesteros? What do WE do? Not everybody has mastery of their craft or confidence needed to pull off the hard shots.
Well, improvisation (despite what you may have heard) is not a skill that some people “just have” and others don’t. It definitely is a teachable skill. Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker learned how to improvise a jazz solo, and YOU can learn to incorporate improvisation into your golf game at whatever level you feel comfortable with in effective ways. Improvisation in golf is not defined solely by the ability to hit sweeping hooks out of the trees with a wedge in order to win the Masters.
Some basic strategies in golf improvisation (improv 101) might include the following:
1) Use the WHOLE tee box
Do you ever stand outside the box while addressing the ball inside the box? Have you ever moved your tee ball back in the box four or five feet to get at a particular yardage or do you always tee it up at the line? If you have a significant shot shape (slice or hook) do you use the proper side of the tee box to accommodate it? Being creative on the tee box improves your chance of success on the hole by helping keep your shots in play or getting them in a better position.
2) Think “outside the green” on approaches.
Do you always try to land shots on the green? Are you locked into that one approach? Some golfers see “the green” and think the only option is to hit the ball onto that surface. Sometimes it is a good idea to run shots up through the neck of the green or leave a shot in the sand on a par 5. I once played with a gentleman who always hit left of a par 5 green because the approach from that position mitigated the effects of the drastic slope of the landing area. He always had a better look at birdie than I did trying to reach in two.
3) Sometimes, you have to hit your “best” bad shot.
I played in a 4-man scramble just recently (no jokes please) where the best shot unexpectedly came to rest behind a tree, despite looking very good from the tee. Of course everyone else picked up assuming this shot was in play, only to get to the ball, sitting roughly four feet behind a very large pine tree. We were 140 out, and the A, B, and C players were all talking about pitching out. Our “D” player (before we were done discussing anything) walks up to the ball and hits a huge slice around the tree that rolls onto the green to about 15 feet. I don’t know if I was more surprised by the fact that the ball got onto the green or by how TERRIBLE the swing looked. It was textbook “don’t do this in golf,” which he had been doing on and off through the day, but it was just ugly. The thing was, none of the rest of us thought we could do better – so we just picked up the mark and walked to the green.
Another such type of shot is the “chunk and run.” This is a shot deliberately hit fat in order to try to stun the forward progress of the ball. So, there is the precedent if you didn’t believe the merits of my suggestion. Even the pros will hit a “bad” shot, given no other option. It is ugly, but it works.
4) Use the right information
I could sit here and list all the different ways to improvise recovery shots or vary trajectory off the tee, but most of you already know this information. Besides, there are much more knowledgeable people out there to hear it from than yours truly. Instead, let’s boil things down to simplest terms, with something all such shots have in common.
So, here it is: Trackman has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the clubface primarily governs initial direction on all shots. Knowing this one piece of information drastically improves our chances of hitting effective recovery shots if we find ourselves in less than ideal spots. Just like a good jazz musician never solos without knowing the chord changes to a song, YOU need to “phrase” your shots according to the right information.
Musicians create solo improvisations (solos) from a set of chords that go along with the music. These chords contain groups of notes that tell musicians what they can play at any given time and have it sound “right.” A joke that bands play on musicians they don’t like is to give someone the wrong set of chord changes – when that person solos, they sound terrible because they are using the wrong set of chords/notes. Their solo might be brilliant – in the context of the chord changes they were actually using, but in the context of the band, it made them sound like a rank amateur.
The equivalent scenario in golf would be this: A golfer hits a shot into the left trees and needs to hook one out right to left to reach the green. That person sets up with a closed face, looking to hit from the inside out and finish low for a hooky runner. He/she takes a few waggles and then swings, even managing to have that Tiger Woods-like finish – standing on one foot, looking intent, sawed-off swing, etc. Ball flight is exactly the desired result. Everything about the swing screams “pro” until you hear the clonk of the ball on the tree because, after all else, that golfer didn’t know how to aim the shot despite knowing how to play it. Like the above example, everything seemed fine in the context of the player, but the end result was undesirable.
If you are going to improvise shots in golf (easy or hard), you have to figure out what is the lowest common denominator before you attempt to get creative. In our case, it is the ball flight laws.
This last segment is a compare and contrast perspective on the mentality surrounding the development of high-level players in golf and in music. The root observation is purely anecdotal, and is intended as food-for-thought. I will start with a little background.
As you may or may not have guessed, my “normal day job” is being a professional musician and also an educator. I have played drums in various bands you have never heard of, but also with a few you definitely have heard of. My professional performing career is now approaching the twenty-year milestone. In all that time, however, I have never heard a single great musician ever tell me (or anyone else) that playing at the highest levels of musical accomplishment and exposure is impossible, and that it can only be achieved by a rare (special) few. That said, there was never a single one who ever said it was easy either, OR that one could get all the breaks necessarily to reach that high level, but the overall spirit is one of optimism.
While there are always exceptions, most musicians react to performances from other master-level musicians as open invitations to get improve and to seek out others in a similar situation for mutual benefit. It is like seeing and hearing the goal you are working towards and use it as inspiration to continue improving. If you display good musicianship, it is rare to hear a master tell you, “You don’t have a chance… you shouldn’t even try… or, be happy where you are at.” (This latter statement refers to relocation to New York or Nashville to pursue a professional career in music). So, why then is the most prevalent comment in golf, “You don’t have a chance?”
Ask many players who carry low handicaps who haven’t reached a professional tour and you will likely hear at some point, “Those guys are just too good.” Further, you often hear “Those players have something special the rest of us don’t have.” While my intent here is not to spark a nature vs. nurture conversation; why is this? Why is there a spirit of defeatism in golf that doesn’t appear nearly to the same extent in music? Why might many instructors write off their student’s chances of performing at the highest level and then teach from that perspective?
If you read background information about professional golfers, you can make many observations: the have all practiced diligently, played extensive competitive golf, have financial support, etc., etc. These are all things that have been noted before ad nauseam. However, it seems to me, one thing that must have been overlooked is that there certainly could not be a single PGA Tour professional that has ever believed he could not make it to the Tour. Further, it is likely that any such person was never surrounded by folks preaching the impossible. Certainly, more sobering perspectives must have been shared at some point, but obviously not enough to dissuade that player from trying.
So, I ask: If professional golfers share a similar perspective to musicians that is framed in optimistic achievement…WHY DON’T YOU?
“I Love You, Tiger!” At Big Cedar lodge, an outpouring of affection for Tiger Woods
What a difference a year makes.
About one year ago, Tiger Woods was in Branson, Missouri at Big Cedar Lodge to announce that he was designing a golf course there; Payne’s Valley, his first public course. That day was attended by hundreds of national and local media, the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops owner and the visionary behind the amazing golf complex that has been established at Big Cedar Lodge.
That day, Woods had not played competitive golf for awhile, and he was recovering from multiple surgeries. Woods took a couple of ceremonial swings, the last of which clearly left him in physical distress. Days later, he was in surgery again and his playing career looked to be all but over. The situation became worse when Woods was arrested for driving under the influence, found with multiple substances in his system. It seemed as though the sad mug shots from that arrest might be as prominent in his legacy as the smiles and fist-pumps that accompanied his 79 wins and 14 major championships.
Fast forward to yesterday, where Woods was back in Missouri to do a Junior Clinic at Big Cedar. An estimated crowd of over 7,000 kids and parents showed up on a school day to catch a glimpse of Woods. The atmosphere was carnival-like, with sky divers, stunt planes making flyovers and rock music blaring from giant speakers. When Woods finally arrived, the reaction was electric. Mothers and their kids were chanting. “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” at the top of their lungs. Photographers battled soccer moms for position to get a picture of his swing. Some of the kids were as young as 6-years-old, which means that they had probably not seen Woods hit a meaningful shot in their life. At one point, when Woods was hitting shots and explaining how to execute them, a woman shouted, “I love you, Tiger!” Not to be out done, a woman on the other side of the crowd, who was their with her husband and kids, shouted “I love you more, Tiger!” Maybe the only people with more affection for Woods would be the people in the golf business. A senior marketing official in the golf industry leaned over at one point in the event and said, “God, we could use just one more from him.”
Woods swing looks completely rehabilitated. He was hitting shots of every shape and trajectory on-demand, and the driver was sending balls well past the end of the makeshift driving range set up for the event. But even more remarkable was the evidence of the recovery of his reputation. Surely there are still women out there that revile Woods for the revelations of infidelity, and no doubt there are those that still reject Woods for his legal and personal struggles. But none of them were in Missouri yesterday. Mothers and children shrieking his name confirmed what we already knew: Tiger Woods is the single most compelling person in American sports, and he belongs to golf.
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) April 17, 2018
Unlike a year ago, Woods is swinging well, and seems as healthy and happy as he as ever been as a pro. Add to that the unprecedented outpouring of love from crowds that once produced a combination of awe and respect, but never love. Fowler, McIlroy, Spieth and the rest may get their share of wins and Tweets, but if the game is to really grow it will be on the broad, fragile back of Tiger Woods. It’s amazing to think what can happen in one short year.
12 reasons serious golfers don’t realize their potential
What stops serious golfers from realizing their potential? If you are an amateur who wants to get better, a young player trying to achieve more, or a young professional with big dreams, this article is for you.
I’ve made a career out of helping athletes maximize their abilities, golfers in particular. And the things I see young playing professionals doing prior to our work together is often what is holding them back. The reality is that most young players, no matter what their level, have three key problems:
- They’re distracted by what’s not important
- They have no detailed structure and plan to reach the targets they determine are important to them
- They have no formal process to develop mindset and attitude
In the list below, I share what I see working with these young players and some common blind spots.
1. No real plan and steps to achieve targets
Most players do not know how to create a long-term and short-term plan that outlines all steps needed to reach targets. Players should have yearly plans with targets, steps and actions and weekly plans to organize/schedule their time and prioritize key needs.
2. Not focused enough on the object of the game
This goes hand in hand with No. 1. Surprisingly, players seem to forget that the object of the game is get the ball in the hole in the least amount of strokes. Trophies and checks are not issued for the best swing, the best putting stroke or most balls hit.
3. Not enough pressure in practice
Most young players have loose practice. The intensity of feelings between the practice tee and the course are too different. Focus and intensity must be a part of all practice. Add competition and outcomes to sessions so some urgency is created.
4. Too much practice time on full swing
The data is clear — most shots in golf happen from 100 yards and in from the green. If the majority of practice time is not spent on these shorter shots, practice time is wasted.
5. An obsession with the look of the swing
Players are not generally prepared to own their own swings and embrace the differences that make them unique. Obsessing over swing mechanics is a major distraction for many players. Many players convince themselves that if it doesn’t look “good” on their iPhone, their swing won’t get results.
6. No structure with the driver
Since scoring is the main goal, a consistent, reliable shape to each shot is important. My experience has been that if players are trying to go both ways with the driver, that is a sure-fire way to elevate numbers on the card. Pick a shape and eliminate one side of the course. Predictability from the tee increases a player’s confidence to put the ball in the fairway more often, creating more opportunities to score.
7. Expectation that they will hit the ball well everyday
Many players have the unreasonable expectation that they will hit lots of fairways and greens every time they play. This expectation leads to constant disappointment in their game. Knowing that the leading professionals in the game average about 60.6 percent driving accuracy and 11.8 greens in regulation per round should be a good benchmark for the expectations of all players.
8. Trying to be too robotic and precise in putting
Some players get so caught up in the mechanics of putting that their approach becomes too robotic. They become obsessed with precision and being perfect. Feel, flow and instinct have to be a central part of putting. This can get lost in an overly robotic mindset trying to be too precise and perfect.
9. No process for assessment and reflection
Players do not have a formal process for assessing practice or rounds and reflecting on the experience. The right lessons are not consistently taken away to ensure step-by-step improvement. Knowing how to assess practice, play and ask the right questions is key to development.
10. Getting in their own way
The voice inside of most young players’ heads is not helpful for their performance. It’s often a negative, demanding voice that insists on perfection. This voice leads to hesitation, frustration and anger. The voice must be shaped (with practice) into the right “emotional caddie” to support efforts and promote excellence over perfection.
11. A focus on the negative before the positive
A default to the mistakes/flaws in the round before looking at the highlights and what worked. When asked about their round, most players highlight three-putts, penalty shots and any errors before anything else. Emphasis should always be on what went well first. Refection on what needs improvement is second.
12. The blame game
Young players love excuses. Course conditions, weather, coaching and equipment are a few of the areas that are often targets, deflecting responsibility away from the player. Many players do not take full responsibility for their own game and/or careers.
I hope this provides some insights on roadblocks that could get in your way on the path to reaching your targets in the game. Whether it’s lowering your handicap, winning a junior tournament, working toward the PGA Tour — or just general improvement — considering these observations might help you shorten the road to get there.
Fantasy Preview: 2018 Valero Texas Open
With one of the weakest fields of the year, TPC San Antonio hosts the Valero Texas Open this week. Only one player from the top-20 in the Official World Golf Rankings will tee it up here. That man is Sergio Garcia, who co-designed this course with Greg Norman.
Just like last week at the RBC Heritage, the wind can wreak havoc at TPC San Antonio. The course features an exposed layout, making the level of wind is often unpredictable. Expect it to be a factor yet again this year. Unlike last week, the longer hitters do have an advantage on this course, which measuring more than 7,400 yards with little rough off the tee.
Last year, Kevin Chappell held off a charging Brooks Koepka to post 12-under par and win his first title on the PGA Tour.
Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)
- Sergio Garcia 14/1
- Matt Kuchar 18/1
- Charley Hoffman 18/1
- Luke List 25/1
- Ryan Moore 28/1
- Kevin Chappell 28/1
- Adam Scott 30/1
From the top of the market, it’s hard not to love Luke List (25/1, DK Price $10,000) this week. The big-hitting American is still looking for his first win on the PGA Tour, but he is knocking on the door relentlessly. In his last eight events, List has finished no worse than T-26.
He was so close once again last week, and he should take plenty of confidence from that performance onto a course that theoretically should suit him much better. On this long track, List will have a significant advantage as one of the longest hitters on Tour. Over his last 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 1st in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green. List is also flushing his irons. He was second in the field last week for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, and over his previous 24 rounds he sits 3rd in the same category.
It’s not only his long game that is highly proficient right now, either. List’s short game has been stellar over this impressive stretch, too. He ranks 8th for Strokes Gained-Around the Green and 28th for Strokes Gained-Short Game over his last 24 rounds.
The one department holding the big man back is his putting, where he ranks 145th for the season. The rest of his game is so sharp at the moment that he’s in the enviable position of not needing that hot a week with the flat-stick to win. He only needs an average week on the greens to finally break through and claim his first PGA Tour event. There’s nothing to suggest List isn’t going to play well once more this week, and at 25/1 he seems undervalued.
Returning to a track that he adores, Brendan Steele (33/1, DK Price $8,900) is always a danger at this event. As well as winning the title here in 2011, Steele has finished in the top-20 three times since then. Whatever it is about TPC San Antonio, it’s a course that brings out the best in Steele’s game.
It’s been an excellent season for the West Coast native, too. He won his opening event of the season at the Safeway Open and has since finished in the top-30 six times. One of the main reasons for his strong run of form has been his work with the driver. Steele is ranked 1st in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee over his last 24 rounds, and he has only failed to post a positive Strokes Gained statistic in this category once since this event last year.
Recently, Steele’s game is showing trends that he may once more be close to hitting the form that saw him win at the back end of last year. In his previous 24 rounds, the Californian is ranked 10th in Ball Striking and 7th in Strokes Gained-Total. Always a threat at this event, Steele is coming into this week with all parts of his game in sync. He should be a live threat once more in San Antonio.
Another man who has played well all year is Xander Schauffele (35/1, DK Price $8,800). The Californian has made seven of eight cuts this year, and he has finished in the top-25 in four of those occasions. Excellent off the tee, TPC San Antonio should suit the 24-year-old this week, too. Schaufelle ranks 7th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 17th in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds.
With wind likely to play a factor this week, pure ball striking will be necessary. That shouldn’t be an issue for Xander, who sits 7th in Strokes Gained-Ball Striking over his last 24 rounds. There is nothing off about Schauffele’s game right now. He ranks 21st in Strokes Gained-Putting over his previous 12 rounds and 5th in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green over the same period. It’s only a matter of time before the two-time PGA Tour winner puts himself in the thick of contention again, and there’s no reason why it can’t be this week.
- Luke List 25/1, DK Price $10,000
- Brendan Steele 33/1, DK Price $8,900
- Xander Schauffele 35/1, DK Price $8,800
Fitters Choice: What’s the best driver of 2018?
Patrick Reed’s Winning WITB: The 2018 Masters
How much does it cost to chase the dream of playing pro golf?
Sounds like non-competing marker Jeff Knox dominated Augusta National again
Paul Casey’s Winning WITB: 2018 Valspar Championship
Rory McIlroy’s Winning WITB: 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational
Rory McIlroy’s putter builder speaks on his winning TaylorMade Soto proto
Non-competing marker Jeff Knox’s WITB: The 2018 Masters
GolfWRX Gear Trials: What’s the best driver of 2018?
Bob Parsons explains why PXG Gen2 irons cost $400, but are “probably worth $1000”
GolfWRX members weigh in on the best swings on the PGA Tour
Who has the best swing on the PGA Tour? On the one hand, the answer is Dustin Johnson, as he’s...
Study: Amateur golfers are actually hitting it shorter than they were 3 years ago
While the USGA’s distance report found a “concerning” increase in driving distances at the professional level, a new report from...
Meet Faaaabel the goat: unofficial mascot of the Valero Texas Open
The Valero Texas Open this week has a new unofficial mascot. And really, let’s just make this official. Two ½-month-old...
There’s a book about the making of Caddyshack coming out, so we’ve got that going for us
Chris Nashawaty has delivered the book golf fans have been clamoring for for years. No, not Tim Finchem’s memoirs, but...
Equipment3 weeks ago
Fitters Choice: What’s the best driver of 2018?
Whats in the Bag2 weeks ago
Patrick Reed’s Winning WITB: The 2018 Masters
19th Hole2 weeks ago
Sounds like non-competing marker Jeff Knox dominated Augusta National again
Whats in the Bag1 week ago
Non-competing marker Jeff Knox’s WITB: The 2018 Masters
Equipment3 weeks ago
GolfWRX Gear Trials: What’s the best driver of 2018?
19th Hole1 week ago
Tiger Woods’ backup Scotty Cameron putter just sold for $44 grand
Opinion & Analysis6 days ago
20 signs you’re a victim of style-based golf instruction
Opinion & Analysis2 weeks ago
The 24 players who can win The 2018 Masters