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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: The Masters 2018



Yes! At long last! Masters week is finally here in all its glory! Four days of pure heaven await golf fans, and it looks to be the most wide-open Masters in years. More than a dozen players legitimately believe that this will be their year. The smallest field in 20 years, only 87 players will tee it up this week.

Measuring more than 7,400 yards, Augusta National is a big boy golf course. There is essentially no rough on the course, but those very wild off the tee will be punished by either finding themselves in one of the many fairway bunkers… or worse, the trees. Vast and wildly undulating greens make Augusta National a severe test with the flat stick, which is why experience is so important. It can take years for players to get fully comfortable with the breaks on these wild greens. Last year, Sergio Garcia won in dramatic fashion, winning a playoff against Justin Rose to cap a fantastic four days of action.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Jordan Spieth 10/1
  • Rory McIlroy 10/1
  • Justin Thomas 11/1
  • Dustin Johnson 11/1
  • Tiger Woods 12/1
  • Justin Rose 14/1
  • Bubba Watson 16/1

It’s the most difficult Masters to pick a winner that I can remember. That’s reflected in the odds, with not one player in single digits. I could make an argument for the top dozen in the betting this week. My strategy is to take two from the top and one further down in the betting.

My first pick (and most confident pick) is four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods (16/1, DK Price $10,000). His comeback has been the story of 2018 without a doubt. All that’s missing is a W, and what better week to do it?

Contrary to what many experts are saying, Tiger’s destiny at the Masters doesn’t hinge on his driver. The reason he hasn’t won the Masters since 2005 is that he just hasn’t made enough putts. This year, he comes into the event looking as good as ever with the putter. He even putted great at the Valspar Championship, where many thought his unfamiliarity with the greens would hinder him. Tiger has gained strokes on the green in all five of his starts this season, and he sits first in the field for Strokes Gained Short Game over his last 12 rounds.

Of course, Tiger will have to drive it better. Although Augusta is a golf course where players can get away with some errant drives, Woods will know where his misses can and can’t be. He ranks 201st in driving accuracy this year, which is obviously poor. When he last won at Augusta in 2005, he ranked 191st for the season.

Woods’ iron play is back to its ruthless best. Over his last 12 rounds, he’s fifth for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green. Accuracy with the irons is always crucial at Augusta. Simply hitting the green is not good enough; you need to be dialed in. He’s a best price 16/1 and virtually a lock to be in contention. Should he continue to make the putts that he has all season, he’s going to have a great opportunity to claim his fifth Green Jacket.

Another man who is putting the ball superbly is Jason Day (18/1, DK Price $9,800). The Australian is back to his best with the flat-stick and ranks No. 1 in the field for Strokes Gained-Putting. It’s not only his short game that has been stellar so far this year, either. Day is first for Total Driving, too. He has a win, a second-place and a top-25 finish to his name so far this year. I don’t take too much stock into his group stage exit at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. So many of the world’s top players failed at the volatile event. Garcia bombed last year at the Match Play, and he went on to win the Masters.

Not all parts of Day’s game are firing. His iron play has let him down so far this season. He’s taken the bold move to change irons this week, and should his iron play improve even slightly then it’s hard to envision him not near the top of the leaderboard. Day adores Augusta, and he has come so close to winning here in the past. Maybe he’s wanted it too much, but he’s a more mature player now and a major winner.

Augusta National couldn’t suit Day any better. There’s plenty of room off the tee, and he launches his irons so high. That’s a recipe for success at Augusta. Odds of 18/1 are too big, and Day can sneak under the radar and put himself in contention at yet another Masters.

My final pick is the man who donned the Green Jacket in the rain in 2013. Adam Scott (60/1, DK Price $8,000) has failed to kick on since that famous win five years ago, and that is represented in his price this week. Just as it is for Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples and Phil Mickelson, however, Augusta National is a course that always seems to get the best from Scott.

Last season was one of Scott’s worst years on Tour, yet he still played well at Augusta. He finished with a T9 that could have been so much better had he just made a couple of putts. His putting is obviously his major weakness, but he does seem a little more confident on the bentgrass greens of Augusta where he knows all the little nooks and crannies.

Scott is seventh in the field for Strokes Gained Tee to Green over his last 12 rounds, and he believes that his game is good enough that an average week on the greens will see him back in the winner’s circle. At 60/1, he seems undervalued. While he faces an uphill task to beat the top players in the field, he’s the best bet available for players at 50/1 and above.

Recommended Plays

  • Tiger Woods 16/1, DK Price $10,000
  • Jason Day 18/1, DK Price $9,800
  • Adam Scott 60/1, DK Price $8,000
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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag

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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