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Opinion & Analysis

5 reasons why The Masters is the most difficult tournament to win



Everyone’s favorite time of year is here: The Masters! Truth be told, it’s the only tournament I watch every single shot possible. It’s such great theater and it’s the mecca for golfers all over the world. Having been there and played the course, I can tell you it’s a different set of conditions than most have ever seen. Therefore, I would like to give you my five reasons why Augusta is the most difficult tournament to win in the world… and putting is not one of them!

1) History

The Masters is the one tournament where everyone knows the history and the course. Even casual sports fans who have never touched a club know what Amen Corner is, and what the Green jacket means.

It’s also the tournament you grow up pretending to win. “Ok, this one is for The Masters,” you’ll say to yourself while night putting as a junior. The Masters just means a little something more to the fans and participants because of it’s history.

Playing Amen Corner on Thursday is one thing, but playing Amen Corner on Sunday with the Green Jacket hanging in the balance is quite another. And it takes a special golfer to get the job done on Sunday with a place in that history on the line.

2) The Pressure of Forever

The Masters invite is highly coveted, even among players who have already played in the event. You see the guys on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram showing off their Masters invite like it’s a trophy.

As we all know, winning the tournament gives you the Masters invite for life. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this special even for perpetuity? You can’t tell me that having that special perk on your resume wouldn’t make your entire career, not to mention being the highlight of your year, every year until even after your career is over. If you don’t think I’m right, look at how many of the old timers come back just for the Par-3 Contest and/or just to enjoy the week as Augusta’s special guests?

This too may weigh heavily on the minds of the leaders the night before Masters Sunday.

3) Shot Shaping

Everyone knows Augusta is a right-to-left biased course off the tee, and all the players know that this is a requirement. So everyone works on their right-to-left game with their driver; I don’t think many players hit a soft fade off the tee on 13 towards the trees on the right… they try and hammer it around the corner to give them a shorter shot into the green.

Additionally, you will find that the different pin placements and green slopes will also force you to move the ball both directions with your irons if you truly want to have an easier shot at birdies. I don’t know about you, but if I had to go at that Sunday pin on hole No. 12, a soft fade off the center of the green would be a much easier shot to hit than starting it over the water with a draw if I had to go at that pin… it gives you a bit of leeway if you get a touch froggy.

Anyone can move it both directions on Tour, but can you rely on your non-typical shot shape with the tile on the line if the shot calls for it?

4) Trajectory Control combined with Distance Control

The biggest issue for players at Augusta is that you cannot hit the ball into the greens with your normal trajectory for 72 holes… you must alter your trajectory to control your landing angles so the ball stops quicker, or you can get the ball on the proper shelf. Think hole No. 15; you simply cannot hit a low draw into that green with a long iron, or you will quickly cascade over the back of the green leaving yourself with an impossible pitch to an elevated green running downhill toward the water. No thanks.

But here is the issue… do you know your distances when hitting the ball with different trajectories? And can you trust those numbers down the stretch, or when the adrenaline gets pumping on the back nine on Sunday?

Getting to know the shots you need to hit into the different pins at Augusta National takes time to learn, and is possibly a more complicated process than at any other golf course in the world. My advice for new Masters participants would be to work on TrackMan to understand how your different swing feels effect launch angle, and then figure out exactly how far those different feels hit the golf ball. Sometimes, you’ll need to hit a flighted draw into a certain pin location, and a yard-or-two off your distance could lead to a double bogey and cost you a made cut or a Green Jacket. Dial in those distances on shots with different trajectories!


5) Pitching Control

First timers who have never played on the perfectly-manicured, yet extremely firm conditions at Augusta National are at a distinct disadvantage compared to the veterans. There’s simply no course in the world that can perfectly mimic the conditions around the green.

I know the Houston event tries to accommodate some of these Augusta-like conditions, but it’s not really the same because you are hitting off of Bermuda grass. And players know the golf ball won’t react like it does off Rye. So you come into Augusta on Monday-Wednesday trying to practice as much as you can to get used to the different grass and different ball reactions. For some, this will mean changing lofts and grinds of their wedges. For others, a shift in technique or mindset may be necessary.

Your short game must be a strength at Augusta, but have you really simulated it enough for it to work when you get there?

By now, you should have a better understand of what players face when trying to win The Masters. And, in my opinion, it’s the most difficult tournament to win in golf. Who do you think will jump the 5 hurdles above and win come Sunday?

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico ( He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email:



  1. Steve Wozeniak

    Apr 4, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    Typical for this site……it’s actually the exact opposite of what the “pro” thinks……

    Steve Wozeniak PGA

  2. Tom54

    Apr 4, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    I agree the field is smaller but I would hardly call it weaker. I think the history and how it has remained true to its origins is why it is so special. Multiple winners I believe is because of course familiarity. More you play more you become comfortable with it. That’s why very few first time winners. I believe it’s the most prestigious of the majors because of all the attention given to past champions. Other majors are important and hard to win too. There is something a little different about being a Masters Champion

  3. Tony Lee

    Apr 4, 2018 at 11:33 am


  4. Markallister

    Apr 4, 2018 at 1:55 am

    it is the easiest major, because the field is weakest. everybody knows that. in fact, it should not be a major, but rather a silly-season invitational which would better fit with the strength of the field.

    • ND Hickman

      Apr 4, 2018 at 5:09 am

      Won many green jackets then, have you?

    • Zach Bartness

      Apr 4, 2018 at 7:23 am

      On flip side, hardest to win because the field is so limited. If you aren’t in you can’t win it. Goes both ways….

  5. Man

    Apr 3, 2018 at 9:14 pm

    It’s the easiest to win. That’s why so many Spaniards win it, and why there are so many multiple winners

    • aman

      Apr 3, 2018 at 10:45 pm

      Tiger is a mix of African and European on his father’s side and Thai, Chinese and Dutch on his mother’s side. He was raised as a Buddhist. He has no Spanish ancestry.

    • Javier

      Apr 4, 2018 at 8:17 am

      Quite the contrary.
      Multiple winners: Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods…
      Spaniards: (i) Seve, one of the best players of the golf History, (ii) Ollie, included in the golf Hall of Fame, and (iii) Sergio, one of the best players of the last 20 years.
      Therefore, just the best ones (some exceptions as in the other majors) are able to win the Masters.
      Man, just think a little before say/write anything.

  6. fuzz

    Apr 3, 2018 at 6:42 pm

    How about the bikini-waxed greens… 😮

  7. juststeve

    Apr 3, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    On the other hand it has the weakest field of any major, weaker than most regular tournaments.

    • Sean Foster-Nolan

      Apr 3, 2018 at 6:12 pm

      I agree with this. While the field is strong, it is limited. I would think of all the majors it would be the “easiest” to win.

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Opinion & Analysis

What makes Bryson DeChambeau so good? A deep dive into the numbers



I can relate, in a way, to this mad scientist of golf. When I had the idea to create a better method of analyzing golf by comparing each shot to a computer model of “scratch” performance 29 years ago, I was considered quite strange. My idea is now what is known as strokes gained analysis and has become the accepted standard for golf analysis. If you are interested in my journey, read The History of Strokes Gained on my website,

Given Bryson’s recent success, will we all soon be switching to 7-iron length irons and practicing Bryson’s one-plane swing? I doubt it, but it is clear that Bryson is here to stay, so I decided to see exactly how his recent winning performance compares to that of other winners on the PGA Tour. Accordingly, I ran my analysis of Bryson’s ShotLink data for his three wins (The Memorial, The Northern Trust and the most recent Dell Technologies Championship). I compared this analysis to a similar analysis of all of the PGA Tour winners in 2017. For added perspective, I ran the same analysis for the entire 2017 Tour and for all the players that missed cuts in 2017.

As Bryson’s data sample is only 12 rounds on three courses, one might question how the numbers might be skewed by the differences in relative course difficulty as well as the relative strength of the fields. I believe we can agree that Bryson has won on relatively difficult courses and against very strong fields. Accordingly, I will overlook these factors.

Tee Game: Driving

Bryson’s driver is normal length. It is his irons that are all 37.5 inches long, or about the length of a standard 7 iron – why do the TV commentators always say “6 iron”? Anyway, Bryson’s unique one-plane swing produces long, straight drives. He averaged over 300 yards, 15 yards longer than the field, and hit more fairways than the 2017 winners.  Further, Bryson (Blue arrows below) had 35% fewer driving errors than those made by the 2017 winners. So LONG and STRAIGHT! Perhaps we all should be working on our 1-plane swings?

Approach shots 

I put Bryson’s approach game as not quite as good as the 2017 winners. His strokes gained relative to the field’s is not as strong (perhaps this can be attributed to stronger fields?). Bryson did hit more greens-in-regulation (blue arrows below). BUT remember he hit more fairways and made fewer errors. Finally, Bryson’s proximity when he hits the greens* is closer to the 2017 Tour average than it is to the 2017 winners.

*I look at “Proximity” much differently than the PGA Tour. The Tour’s proximity to hole includes approach shots that miss the green within 30 yards of the green’s edge.  I believe a miss is a miss and should not be counted at all.  For more on why, read my 2/26/18 GolfWRX article:Is Tiger’s “No.1 Proximity to the Hole” a meaningless stat?

Short Game (shots from within 50 yards of the hole)

Again, Bryson’s wedges are 7-iron length, about two to three inches longer than a standard sand wedge. His short game data would indicate that the extra length does not present an issue from the sand. I chalk this up to the fact that for the most part greenside sand shots tend to be full swings. It is the shape of the swing that controls distance not the length.

Chipping and pitching, on the other hand, require a myriad of different swings and touch shots. The longer shafts seem to have a negative impact here which has been mentioned many times in the TV coverage. Below (Blue arrows) show that Bryson’s strokes gained around-the-green are about half the margin from the field’s as the 2017 winners. His chipping and pitching results are nowhere near the 2017 Winners. Perhaps Bryson should consider at least one normal length wedge for use around the greens? To support this, Bryson was ranked No. 118 in strokes gained around the green, with a negative .034 strokes gained thru the Well Fargo Championship (more than half way thru the season). He has improved since to No. 63 and a +.15 strokes gained in this category.


Bryson’s putter is 39 inches long, about three inches longer than standard, and he rests the grip against his left forearm. Personally, I believe his stance and stroke look very stiff and mechanical, which may account for what I discovered in his putting stats. Bottom line, he is outstanding from fairly close range (inside 20 feet), but very average from 30-plus feet. Bryson has almost TWICE as many three-putts as the 2017 winners from 30-plus feet (.5/round vs. .29/round for the 2017 winners). This makes sense to me as stiff and mechanical do not seem compatible with “feel” and optimal distance control.

That said, his success from close range might more than offset his apparent long-range weakness. Note below that Bryson’s one-putt success is noticeably better than the 2017 winners from every distance up to 20 feet. Incidentally, these ranges represent 68 percent of Bryson’s first putt opportunities. Very impressive! I may look more closely into Bryson’s short putting technique.

In conclusion, while Bryson DeChambeau is a maverick, he has found a unique method that works for him and has now made the entire golf world take notice. Will he change golf? Possibly. If he continues to have success, and I believe he will, I can see the aspiring, young players trying to adopt his methods just as many started to learn to putt while anchoring. As an aside, I firmly believe that the ultimate ban on anchoring had little to do with those of us that were struggling with the skill but everything to do with the fast-growing number of juniors that were having success using OUR crutch.

That is not to say that anything that Bryson is currently doing could be construed to be illegal. But he is clearly being watched. His side-saddle putting was thwarted by the USGA, and more recently, his use of a compass to help read his putts. Who knows what he will come up with next? I will be watching too!

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The Gear Dive: Accra Shafts — Finau’s proto, “What is the function of the shaft in a club head?”



Accra Shafts’ Ken Thompson and Gawain Robertson chat with Johnny Wunder on the challenges of the shaft industry, what makes their shafts the best in the business, and Tony Finau’s custom set up.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

3:45 — What makes Accra so special
5:30 — The origin of Accra
8:45 — The importance of TOUR Validation
15:10 — What is the function of the shaft in a club
17:30 — The TOUR ZRPG
23:40 — Mock Fitting for a specific player profile
31:00 — Accra Iron shafts
36:55 — Ryan Palmer
39:45 — Tony Finau
43:10 — Matt Kuchar
53:20 — S3 BluePrint Technology

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Opinion & Analysis

7 tips for senior golfers to play better and enjoy the game longer



Have you ever played a golf course and remembered where you used to hit the ball on certain holes? Have you ever gotten to a 360-yard par-4 and recalled when you used to lick your chops because you knew a little flip wedge for your second was ahead? Ever made shooting your age your next big goal? If you have, welcome to golf’s back nine, the time when you keep seeking improvement knowing full well it will never be what it once was.

Aging is another vivid example of the paradoxical beast that lies at the heart of our game. If we’re totally honest, we admit we can’t do anything as well as we did 25-30 years ago. Yet a little voice never far from our golf ears keeps whispering, “If you just move the ball in your stance and adjust your grip, you will hit it solid again.” That’s when we need to be honest and ask, “What does solid mean at 65-70-75 years old?” It certainly isn’t solid like it was at 35 years old, but it may be more solid than the last shot, or yesterday. And as we’ll see, it just might be solid enough for the home stretch. So we keep playing and practicing in a search for golf’s version of a fountain of youth.

If you are, like this author, closer to the 18th green than the first tee, here are 7 golden nuggets for the golden years:

1. Forget how you used to play

Stay present and take what the game gives you now, here, today. If that’s 210 off the tee, get your fairway woods and hybrids out and do the best you can with your inevitably longer approach.

2. Work on your scoring game

If aging has robbed you of flexibility and strength, it does not have to affect your game from 100 yards in. Seniors need to chip and putt more than any other age group.

3. Yoga and Pilates

If you think we’re old, we are a babe in the woods compared to these ancient disciplines. The mind/body connection is vital for seniors. And… the results speak for themselves! Staying as flexible and as strong as you can for as long as you can is vital for senior golf. Oh, and walk and carry whenever possible!

4. Get properly fitted

Not only do we play senior golf dreaming of yesteryear, male seniors often let testosterone affect their game. I get sooo many seniors coming to see me who are ill-fitted for their equipment, or more accurately, using equipment that once fit their game85-90 mph clubhead speed does not likely require a stiff shaft, 9 degrees of loft or 75 grams of weight to achieve proper launch and landing conditions. Good senior golf demands brutal honesty with yourself.

5. Consider swing “adjustments,” not “new swings”

I don’t want to be a bearer of bad tidings here, but as a teacher of many years, I know this much: The swing you’ve had for oh so many years is not going to change. At least not very much. The does not mean it can’t be made more effective. I “tweak” seniors, not break them down.

6. Play forward tees

I’m a club professional, and I was a fairly decent player once. At 70 years young, I am proud to say that I play white tees measuring no more than 6300 yards. And in a few years, I’ll likely move up again. It’s just a fact of life and denying it is futile.

7. Check your fundamentals

Just because a certain grip, posture or ball position was effective once, as we age, all these may need adjustments from time to time. Swings get shorter, slower, narrow, etc. And as they do, we have to allow for these things and find new ways to complement the “senior swing.”

The alternative to all of the above is a garage sale. And as long I can swing a golf club, I will be doing so. If I want to enjoy the game, I’ll do so with lighter clubs, from shorter tees, chipping and putting my way into the hole. We’d all like to turn back the clock, but the last time that happened was, uh, never.

Enjoy the back nine. I know I am.

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19th Hole