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Opinion & Analysis

What went wrong for Tiger Woods at the Masters?

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Tiger Woods entered the 2018 Masters Tournament among a handful of favorites. He left the vaunted piece of golf real estate having never challenged for the lead, 16 strokes off Patrick Reed’s winning pace, and tied for 32nd.

So, what went wrong for Tiger?

The 42-year-old’s performance at the 18th hole, Sunday was a microcosm of his play all week. Woods piped his tee shot down the fairway, carved a seven-iron toward the hole that flew just a tad long. It rolled out 50 feet to the back of the green, and he three-putted for bogey.

Woods spoke about the 18th after his round

“I had so many opportunities to hit the ball close and I didn’t do it..I hit such a beautiful, high powering 7-iron, a foot away from being back down the hill, instead I got this putt that you’ve got to hit sideways.”

A little off. Out of position. Having to putt defensively. None of the aforementioned are the ingredients for strong play at Augusta National, and the four-time tournament winner suffered accordingly, en route to the second worst Masters finish of his career.

While the Masters has the most sophisticated shot-tracking technology in the business, only a poverty of stats are available for public consumption, and none are of the strokes gained variety. Nevertheless, here’s how Woods fared statistically in two key areas from the limited statistical spread.

Greens in regulation: 48/72: 66.67 percent. Bubba Watson led the field at 77.78 percent. Winner Patrick Reed also hit 66.67 percent. Woods exceeded the field average of 61 percent. The obvious conclusion here is something Woods himself observed: He didn’t hit it close enough and he didn’t make enough putts.

Driving accuracy: 30/56: 54 percent. Field leader Bernhard Langer hit 85.71 percent. Patrick Reed hit 73.21 percent. Rickie Fowler hit 71.43 percent. Even Rory McIlroy, who struggled with the big stick at times, hit 62 percent of fairways. Plainly, Woods didn’t drive the ball well enough. However, he’ll take encouragement from finding 11 of 14 fairways Sunday.

Asked for his perspective on his Masters performance, Woods said

“I felt I hit it well enough off the tee to do some things, but I hit my irons awful for the week.”

Based on the data above, this is accurate. He’d likely have hoped for a bit better play off the tee, but the lackluster approach game has to be disappointing.

Sir Nick Faldo offered a similar assessment of Woods’ play

“He came off some really good play in Florida but, unfortunately, there are still too many things wrong with his game. He is struggling with his irons. This has been a wake-up call with what the leaders have done this week. He is still a long way off.”

Ultimately, though, perspective is key in all things, and Woods realizes this

“But to be able to just be out here competing again, if you had said that last year at this particular time I would have said you’re crazy. I had a hard time just sitting or walking. So now to be able to play and compete and hit the ball the way I did, that’s quite a big change from last year.”

So, while it makes sense to evaluate Woods relative to leaders and tournament winners, it’s worth keeping in mind where he was during last year’s Masters: Pain-wracked, contemplating whether he’d ever play professional golf again. For all but his most ardent detractors, a pain-free Woods competing in major championships is a major win.

Woods was characteristically non-committal about his upcoming schedule. However, he traditionally tees it up at the Wells Fargo Championship the week before the players. The tournament begins May 3.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. ChipNRun

    Apr 23, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    Let’s see. Winner Patrick Reed finished at -15… Tiger finished at +1…
    Tiger hit 16 too many shots?

    Seriously, the errant tee shots put him in a big bind.

  2. A. Commoner

    Apr 13, 2018 at 9:33 pm

    Why the insistence to make something of nothing? Woods was never a threat to win or place during all four days. Except for those living vicariously, the world goes on.

  3. joe

    Apr 11, 2018 at 7:28 am

    Additionally, it is only April 11th and Tiger has a few top 10’s, a 2nd place, and a top 30 in a Major! Not too shabby!

  4. joe

    Apr 11, 2018 at 7:27 am

    But hey, Tiger QUALIFIED for the Masters, he made the cut and finished top 30. Any PGA touring professional would take that in all four majors this year in a heartbeat!

  5. ogo

    Apr 9, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    Nothing went wrong… he’s just playing a normal level for a 42 y.o. man with an overly aged golf body. What do you expect when you are forced to swing a golf club at age 2? …. he’s simply worn out his body with 40 years of punishment.

  6. Way

    Apr 9, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    Everything went swimmingly I thought, glad he’s just never going to win again

  7. dennis Clark

    Apr 9, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    Tiger is just fine; his game has always been power, putting and GREAT distance control from the deck. Except for Sunday when his putting faltered, he had the first two but he still doesn’t have feel from the fairway. It will come and he’ll win again. a lot depends on how much time he can out in during events.

  8. Ben Armato

    Apr 9, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    He exceeded my expectations by making the cut. Tiger was done years ago. I don’t see any more majors and maybe he wins the Hero World Challenge but noting important. It’s great to see him smiling.

    • Johnnylongballz

      Apr 9, 2018 at 9:24 pm

      You know he finished 2nd in a PGA tour event already this year right? At this point how can you say he is done? Dude will definitely win again.

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Opinion & Analysis

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

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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, ShotByShot.com.

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.


Putting

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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Podcasts

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

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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

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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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