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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Fort Worth Invitational

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Under a new name, but a very familiar setting, the Fort Worth Championship gets underway this week. Colonial Country Club will host, and it’s an event that has attracted some big names to compete in the final stop of the Texas swing. The top two ranked Europeans, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose are in the field, as are Americans Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.

Colonial is a tricky course with narrow tree-lined fairways that are imperative to hit. Distance off the tee holds no real advantage this week with approach play being pivotal. Approach shots will be made more difficult this week than usual by the greens at Colonial, which are some of the smallest on the PGA Tour. Last year, Kevin Kisner held off Spieth, Rahm, and O’Hair to post 10-under par and take the title by a one-stroke margin.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1
  • Jon Rahm 14/1
  • Justin Rose 18/1
  • Webb Simpson 18/1
  • Rickie Fowler 20/1
  • Jimmy Walker 28/1
  • Adam Scott 28/1

Last week, Jordan Spieth (9/1, DK Price $11,700) went off at the Byron Nelson as the prohibitive 5/1 favorite. Every man and his dog seemed to be on him, and after Spieth spoke to the media about how he felt he had a distinct advantage at a course where he is a member, it was really no surprise. Comments like this from Spieth at the Byron Nelson are not new. When the event was held at TPC Four Seasons, Spieth often made similar comments. The result? He flopped, just as he did last week at Trinity Forest. Spieth’s best finish at the Byron Nelson in his career is T-16. The reason for this, I believe, is the expectations he has put on himself at this event for years.

Switch to Colonial, and the difference is considerable. Spieth’s worst finish here is T-14. In his last three visits, he has finished second, first and second. While Spieth may believe that he should win the Byron Nelson whenever he tees it up there, the evidence suggests that his love affair is with Colonial. The statistic that truly emphasizes his prowess at Colonial, though, is his Strokes Gained-Total at the course. Since 2013, Spieth has a ridiculous Strokes Gained-Total of more than +55 on the course, almost double that of Kisner in second place.

Spieth’s long game all year has been consistently good. Over his previous 24 rounds, he ranks first in this field for Strokes Gained-Tee to Green, second for Ball Striking, and first for Strokes Gained-Total. On the other hand, his putting is awful at the moment. He had yet another dreadful performance on the greens at Trinity Forest, but he was also putting nowhere near his best coming into Colonial last year. In 2017, he had dropped strokes on the greens in his previous two events, missing the cut on both occasions, yet he finished seventh in Strokes Gained-Putting at Colonial on his way to a runner-up finish. His record is too good at this course for Spieth to be 9/1, and he can ignite his 2018 season in his home state this week.

Emiliano Grillo’s (50/1, DK Price $8,600) only missed cut in 2018 came at the team event in New Orleans, and he arrives this week at a course ideally suited to the Argentine’s game. Grillo performed well here in 2017, recording a top-25 finish. His form in 2018 leads me to believe he can improve on that this year.

As a second-shot golf course, Colonial sets up beautifully for the strengths of Grillo’s game. Over his previous 12 rounds, Grillo ranks first in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, second in Ball Striking, third in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and eighth in Strokes Gained-Total. The Argentine also plays short golf courses excellently. Over his last 50 rounds, Grillo is ranked ninth for Strokes Gained-Total on courses measuring 7,200 yards or less. Colonial is right on that number, and Grillo looks undervalued to continue his consistent season on a course that suits him very well.

Another man enjoying a consistent 2018 is Adam Hadwin (66/1, DK Price $7,600), who has yet to miss a cut this season. The Canadian is enjoying an excellent run of form with five top-25 finishes from his last six stroke-play events. Hadwin is another man whose game is tailor made for Colonial. His accurate iron play and solid putting is a recipe for success here, and he has proven that by making the cut in all three of his starts at Colonial, finishing in the top-25 twice.

Hadwin is coming off his worst performance of 2018 at The Players Championship, but it was an anomaly you can chalk up to a rare poor week around the greens (he was seventh-to-last in Strokes Gained-Around the Green for the week). In his previous seven starts, Hadwin had a positive strokes gained total in this category each time. Over his last 24 rounds, Hadwin ranks seventh in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 15th in Ball Striking, and ninth in Strokes Gained-Putting. He looks to have an excellent opportunity to improve on his solid record at Colonial this week.

Finally, as far as outsiders go, I like the look of Sean O’Hair (175/1, DK Price $7,100) at what is a juicy price. One of last year’s runners-up, his number is far too big this week. He has had some excellent performances so far in 2018. In fact, in his previous six starts, O’Hair has made five cuts and has notched three top-15 finishes, including his runner-up finish at the Valero Texas Open. The Texan has made three of his last four cuts at Colonial, and he looks to be an excellent pick on DraftKings at a low price.

Recommended Plays

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1, DK Price $11,700
  • Emiliano Grillo 50/1, DK Price $8.600
  • Adam Hadwin 66/1, DK Price $7,600
  • Sean O’Hair 175/1, DK Price  $7,100
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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 gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag

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Opinion & Analysis

The 21 best golf podcasts you should be listening to in 2018

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What’s the best golf podcast? Debating that may be as fruitless as the Jack vs. Tiger debate, because there are a bunch of darn good ones out there right now. You don’t have to be an astute observer of the media space to know podcasting has exploded in popularity in recent years. Indeed, it seems like everyone has a podcast these days, including your grandmother’s Scrabble enthusiast pod.

Returning to the original question: this is a subjective list that isn’t meant to be exhaustive. If there’s a podcast you enjoy that finds itself outside the ropes, feel free to mention it in the comments.

So grab your earbuds, Beats by Dre, or wireless headphones if you’re really cool, and take a look at some notable podcasts by category.

GolfWRX Radio

Obviously, I’m strongly biased towards the GolfWRX’s podular offerings, and since this is, you know, GolfWRX, we’ll start with our pods.

19th Hole: Michael Williams talks to luminaries of the game and interesting folks alike in his pod. Heck, Michael’s first guest was Bob Vokey! Williams is well-wired and well-traveled, and oh, he has by far the best radio voice of anyone on this list, so he’s got that going for him. Other guests include Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Greg Norman, Scott Van Pelt, Rees Jones and many other legends.

Gear Dive: I’ll avoid any play on his last name, but Johnny Wunder’s Gear Dive is an inquisitive look into, well, golf gear. Wunder has spoken with everyone from Charles Howell III, to Fred Couples, to the boys at Artisan Golf. If you love golf equipment, or consider yourself a gearhead, this is the podcast is a must.

Two Guys Talking Golf: Editor Andrew Tursky and resident equipment expert Brian Knudson are the golf buddies you wish you had. The pair discuss equipment, club building, happenings on the PGA Tour, and an abundance of random golf-related and tangentially golf-related topics. Most recently, TG2 answered 30+ AMA-style questions from the @tg2wrx Instagram page, and they’ve had guests on such as Billy Horschel, Ping’s Marty Jertson, Scotty Cameron, Bob Vokey, Aaron Dill, GolfWRX Forum members and many others.

Unlocking Your Golfing Potential: This instructional podcast series hosted by coach Will Robins teaches golfers how to improve their games without improving their technique. If you want to lower your scores, and change your outlook on the game of golf in general, I highly recommend this podcast.

Listen to all the GolfWRX podcasts on SoundCloud or iTunes.

DFS golf podcasts

Golf is one of the fastest growing and most popular DFS sports. Accordingly, every DFS site in the world and most major outlets have a fantasy-related podcast. These three are among the longest running and finest in the space, although Matthew Wiley of Golflandia deserves a special nod for his spectacular rambling ridiculousness and high entertainment value.

Pat Mayo: Mayo is an OG of the fantasy sports podcasting game in general and fantasy golf pods in particular. And honesty, he must have cloned himself sometime in the past because his output absolutely mind-boggling. Plus, he’s one of the few podcasts on this list that records video, so if you’re looking for a pod with a visual component, Mayo is your man. Listen here.

Fantasy Golf Degenerates: Brad and Kenny go together like, well, Brad and Kenny. These two have been grinding out a weekly fantasy golf podcast since PGA DFS was in diapers a few years back. Brad is the ownership god and Kenny’s course previews are second to none. Well worth a pre-tournament listen every week. Best enjoyed with Crown Royal. Listen here.

Tour Junkies: PGA DFS podcasting’s other dynamic duo, David and Pat, have similarly been ‘casting since the early days of the…hobby? Come for the weekly entertainment, but stay for their inside knowledge of Augusta National (where David was a caddie). The pair have branched out into interviews–Kevin Kisner, Bob Parsons, John Peterson–which are well worth checking out too. Listen here.

Now, let’s take a look at some of what the the PGA Tours and Golf Channels of the world have under their umbrellas, as well as the rest of the colorful bouquet of golf golf-related podcasts that focus on everything from the intersection of golf and science to the intersection of Barstool Sports and golf.

From longstanding outlets

Talk of the Tour: While Mark Immelman’s “On the Mark” is good, on “Talk of the Tour” John Swantek “visits with a variety of players, writers, broadcasters, industry leaders and insiders from throughout the world of golf,” as the official description indicates. Given the Tour’s access and reach, the results don’t disappoint. Listen here.

Golf Channel Podcast: Is the title creative? No it is not. Is the podcast good? Yes it is. Not only does the whole range of on-air GC talent appear on occasion–Brandel Chamblee’s recent appearance was excellent, as was Tiger Tracker’s. Listen here.

Golf Digest Podcast: The folks at GD get top-notch (to quote Judge Smails) guests and turn out quality takes from a strong team of writers. Listen here.

European Tour’s Race to Dubai: Yes, turning the season-long points race into the title of a podcast is odd, but Robert Lee’s (not the Civil War general) podcast “features exclusive interviews with star names, incisive analysis of the latest action, all the key news and a light-hearted look at life on tour,” per the description. Listen here.

Matty & The Caddie: ESPN’s Matt Barrie and former comedian/current ESPN golf analyst Michael Collins join forces to interview both athletes and celebrities, inside and outside the ropes. Lately, the list of big name guests includes Golden Tate, Nick Faldo, Chris Webber, Joe Theismann, Alfonso Ribiero, Brian Urlacher, Joe Carter, George Lopez, Jack Nicklaus and more. Listen here.

Other ‘casts

No Laying Up: From Twitterers with day jobs to an upstart media outlet, NLU’s podcast was the tool that led to the merch, the features, and Soly, Tron and company’s other efforts. If you’re unfamiliar, start with the most recent episode (Justin Thomas) and work your way backward. You won’t regret it.

The Fried Egg Golf: Andy Johnson has become a force and a voice in the world of golf media in a very short period of time. While he and his guests do good work in discussing the pro game, Andy’s forte is golf course architecture, and he cooks up architecture discussions better than anyone in the podcast universe right now. Listen here.

Fore Play: Honestly, the iTunes description for Barstool’s golf pod is pretty good: “Trent, Riggs and their wide variety of guests talk about everything golf like normal folks sitting at a bar watching coverage, venting about the game’s difficulties, and weighing in on pro gossip. Your classic golf addicts, the “Fore Play” crew brings a young, unique voice to the rapidly-evolving game, discussing freely and openly everything golf.” Pretty much sums it up. Listen here (warning: explicit).

The Clubhouse with Shane Bacon: Mr. Salt-Cured Pork has had something of a come up, hasn’t he? The Fox hosting duties and more are well earned, as Bacon is a strong voice, and his network affiliation ensures a quality roster of guests. Listen here.

ShackHouse: Geoff Shackelford joins forces with “podcast personality” per the iTunes description, Joe House to “break down the biggest golf stories, interview some of the biggest personalities in the game.” Really, this show is all about Shack’s singular perspective. Listen here.

Feherty: I mean, what can you say? If you like David Feherty and his show, you’ll love his podcast (I do), because it is essentially his show. And if you don’t, you won’t. Listen here.

The Erik Lang Show: Ah, the singular Mr. Lang, who, doing things his own way, wrote his show description in the first person: “Hi! I’m Erik Anders Lang. I’ve worn a bunch of hats in this life from waiting tables, photography, doc filmmaking, hosting Adventures In Golf (PGA TOUR / Skratch TV) and now – a PODCAST! The Erik Lang Show is me pontificating on life, golf and travel.” Listen here.

Callaway ShipShow: Far from a content marketing gimmick, Callaway’s content marketing is, well, really good content. Harry Arnett’s “ShipShow” is kind of like the younger, goofier brother of “Callaway Live.” Billed as discussion about “compelling people, culture, narratives, and current events in golf,” the ShipShow is always a swashbuckling good time. Listen here.

Golf Science Lab: Cordie Walker pulls back the curtain and cuts through the hooey of the “mythology” of golf instruction and the game in general. He says he’s “making a difference in the way golf is taught, learned, and practiced,” and honestly, he’s not wrong. If you’re an instruction and improvement enthusiast, this is your ‘cast. Listen here.

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Opinion & Analysis

Do you know how to drop in 2019? Are you sure?

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Starting January 1, 2019, golfers will have to get used to the new Rules of Golf. Many changes were made to create the new rules, but one of the most important changes without any doubt are the dropping rules. You might say: “Come on, it’s easy! We just have to drop from knee height, right?” Well, it’s not that simple. There are quite a few other things you need to know, which I will clarify below.

Q1. What is “knee height” exactly?

“Knee height” means the height from the ground to your knee when in a standing position. 

Q2. So I cannot just kneel and thereby place the ball instead of dropping?

Good thinking… but no 🙂

Q3. What part of the knee do I have to drop from?

It’s not (at the moment) clarified which part of the knee is “the knee,” but there cannot be any doubt that you can drop from the whole knee.

—-o0o—-

FACTS: “CORRECT WAY TO DROP”

The 2019 Rules of Golf state that you are dropping the ball correctly if all these requirements are fulfilled:

  1. The player himself must drop the ball
  2. It must be dropped from knee height
  3. The player must not give it any spin, etc.
  4. Before the ball hits the ground, it must not touch any part of the player or the player’s equipment (e.g. his bag)
  5. It must be dropped in the relief area (the relief area is defined in the rule you are taking relief under), i.e. it must first touch the ground inside the relief area when dropped.

If just one of these requirements is not fulfilled, you are not considered to have dropped in a correct way. You must re-drop until you have dropped in a correct way (without any limit as to the number of re-drops).

If you play a ball not dropped in a correct way, you incur a one-stroke penalty — unless you played from outside the relief area, in which case you incur a two-stroke penalty in stroke play or lost hole in match play (see FACTS 2).

—-o0o—-

Q4. What is the penalty for not dropping from knee height?

You can and should correct your error before playing the ball. If you re-drop in a correct way, correcting your error, there is no penalty. If you don’t and make a stroke at the ball, you incur a one-stroke penalty (since you did not drop in a correct way). See “FACTS 1”.

Q5. What if I drop almost from knee height.

Well, as a starting point you have to drop from knee height. If you dont’t, you will have to correct your error by re-dropping correctly (see “FACTS 1″). 

There is a “I-did-my-best-so-please-don’t-penalize-me-rule” saying that when finding a “location,” you are not penalized for finding a wrong location if you made a reasonable judgment. It is for now not certain if this rule also encompasses a situation in which you don’t drop exactly from knee height simply because you cannot see that spot with certainty when looking down.

On one hand, you could argue that this interpretation would be in accordance with the spirit of this rule (don’t penalize a player doing his best). On the other hand, it seems that the knee cannot be that hard to find (!) and that a “location” probably must be interpreted as “a location on the golf course.” My conclusion would be that there is no excuse for not to being able to drop exactly from knee height, and thus this rule did not apply in this situation.

There is also a “naked-eye rule” saying that if the fact (here: the ball was not dropped from knee height) could not reasonable have been seen with the naked eye, the player is not penalized even though video evidence shows something different (i.e. that it in fact was not dropped exactly from knee height). In my opinion, this naked-eye rules is not applicable here, since a player will be said to be able to find the knee with a reasonable effort. 

So… in my opinion there is no excuse not to drop from knee height!

—-o0o—-

FACTS 2: RELIEF AREA.

A relief area is the area in which you have to drop (see “FACTS 1”) and in which your ball must end after a drop. 

Example: If you deem your ball in the rough unplayable, you can for example choose with a one-stroke penalty to drop a ball within two club lengths from — and not nearer the hole than — the spot where the ball lay. This area is called the “relief area.”

If your ball ends outside the relief area in your drop, your required action depends on whether or not you dropped in a correct way (see “FACTS 1”). 

  1. If you did not drop in a correct way: You must re-drop again (without penalty) without any limitations as to the number of re-drops until you have dropped in a correct way. 
  2. If you did drop in a correct way: The player must re-drop (in a correct way!) a ball one time (without penalty). If the ball still ends outside the relief area, the player must then (without penalty) place a ball on the spot where the dropped ball first touched the ground in the re-drop. If he player does that, no penalty is incurred. If he does not but plays a ball from outside the relief area, he plays from a wrong place thereby incurring a two-stroke penalty in stroke play or a loss of hole in match play.

—-o0o—-

Q7. Who should drop the ball?

Only the player can drop the ball. Not the caddie, not other players, not anyone else! See “FACTS 1”.

Q8. What is the penalty if your ball strikes your bag or yourself in the drop?

The answer depends on when it happens (i.e. when it strikes you or your equipment):

  1. If it happens before the ball strikes the ground: There is no penalty presupposing that you re-drop before you play the ball. You have to re-drop no matter how many drops it takes for you not to strike your bag or yourself. If you don’t re-drop and play the ball, you incur a one-stroke penalty.
  2. If it happens after the ball has struck the ground: There is no penalty, and you shall not re-drop.

Q9. Where must I drop?

You must drop in the “relief area,” which is defined in the rule you are dropping under. If you declare your ball unplayable, for example, then one of the options is to drop within two club length – not nearer the hole – than where the ball lay. This area is the “relief area” in which:

  1. Your ball must land in the drop (see “FACTS 1”) and
  2. Must end (See “FACTS 2”)

Q10. What if I drop from shoulder height?

That probably will happen quite a few times in the beginning of 2019. In this case, you are not dropping in a correct way, and you must re-drop without penalty before you make the stroke. See “FACTS 1.”

Q11. When do I have to re-drop?

The re-dropping rules are simplified. Under the current rules, there are a lot of situations where you are required to re-drop, e.g. when the ball rolls closer to the hole than the nearest point of relief, when the ball rolls into a bunker (and stays there), when the ball rolls more than two club lengths from where it first struck the course, etc. These rules are quite difficult.

In 2019, it gets easier. You have to drop in a “relief area,” and the balls needs to end it that area. If you drop outside this area or if the ball rolls and stays outside this area, you are required to re-drop. See “FACTS 1” and “FACTS 2.”

Q12. Do I have to re-drop (as it is today) if the ball rolls more than two club lengths away from the spot that the ball first struck the course in the drop?

First of all, in 2019 there is not such a “two-club-length rule.” The re-dropping rules are explained in “FACTS 1” and in “FACTS 2” above. 

  • If you take relief (e.g. from a path) and must drop within one club length (of the nearest point of point of complete relief), you will always have to re-drop if it rolls more than 2 club lengths (since the relief area is exactly two club-lengths long measured from the two points farthest from each other). 
  • If you drop after a rule requiring you to drop within two club lengths, sometimes you must re-drop if the ball rolls more than two club lenths and sometimes not. The only thing that matters is that the ball must be dropped in the relief area (see “FACTS 1”) and must end in the relief area (see “FACTS 2”). Otherwise, it must be re-dropped.

Q13. I have a bad back and therefore I cannot take my arm down far enough to be able to drop from knee height. What do I do?

I don’t know. My guess would be this: A player who cannot drop from knee-height due to back-problems most likely cannot play golf at all. In other words, a player able to play golf will almost always be able to drop the ball from knee height.

In the extremely rare situations where a player cannot drop from knee height but can play a round of golf, there is a “do-what-is-fair-rule” stating that in situations not covered by the Rules of Golf, you should do what is fair. Maybe that would lead to the conclusion that it was OK for a player to drop from a place higher than knee height (e.g. just from the position the arm is when it is stretched and relaxed alongside the leg).

Q14. Is a taller player going to drop the ball from a higher place than a lower player?

Yes!

Q15. Isn’t that unreasonable?!

Well, that’s for you to decide 🙂 Who said that the 2019-Rules of Golf where easy to understand?

Rules Mentioned in Article

  • 14-3: Dropping the ball
  • 20-2c: “Naked-eye-rule”
  • 1.3b(2): “Reasonable-judgment-rule”
  • 20.3: “Do-what-is-fair-rule (when the situation is not covered by the rules).
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Opinion & Analysis

How to qualify for the U.S. Amateur (in-depth statistical analysis and tutorial)

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This is a follow-up of sorts to an article that I published on GolfWRX in May 2017: A Modern Blueprint to Breaking 80.  

With the U.S. Amateur concluding at iconic Pebble Beach last weekend, I thought of the many amateurs out there who would love to one day qualify for this prestigious event. Personally, I made it to the State Amateur level, but work and life got in the way and I never made it to the next step. For those who aspire or wonder, here’s an outline of what your game should look like if you want to qualify for the U.S. Amateur.

Scoring

To start with, your USGA Index needs to be 2.4 or lower to even attempt to qualify. If your course is rated 71.5/130*, the best 10 of your most recent 20 scores should average 74.3. This score will adjust slightly up if your course is rated more difficult, and slightly down if it’s rated less difficult. For the purposes of this article, I’m assuming the average course and slope rating above.

*Note: 71.5/130 is the average rating of courses played by single digit handicap golfers in the ShotByShot.com database of 340,000 rounds.

Your average scores by par type will be:

  • Par 3:  3.21
  • Par 4:  4.20
  • Par 5:  4.86

The Fastest and Easiest Way to Lower Your Scores

Every round is a mix of good shots, average shots and bad shots/errors. The challenge is to determine which piece of your game’s unique puzzle is your greatest weakness in order to target your improvement efforts on the highest impact area. If you track the simple good and bad outcomes listed below for a few rounds, your strengths and weaknesses will become apparent.

Tee Game or Driving 

Goals: Hit EIGHT fairways and limit your driving errors to ONE, with the majority being the less costly “No Shot errors” (more on this later).

Distance: I will ignore this and assume you’re maximizing distance as best you can without sacrificing accuracy.

Fairways: Hitting fairways is crucial, as we are all statistically significantly more accurate from the short grass.

Errors: Far more important than Fairways Hit, however, is the FREQUENCY and SEVERITY of misses. To help golfers understand the weaknesses in their game, my golf analysis program allows users to record and categorize the THREE types of Driving Errors: 

  1. No Shot: You have missed in a place from which you do not have a normal next shot and require some sort of advancement to get the ball back to normal play.
  2. Penalty: A 1-stroke penalty due to hazard or unplayable lie.
  3. Lost/OB: Stroke and distance penalty. 

Approach Shots 

Goals:  ELEVEN GIRs and ONE penalty/2nd             

Penalty/2nd:  This means either a penalty or a shot hit so poorly that you are left with yet another full approach shot from greater than 50 yards of the hole.

The chart below displays the typical array of Approach Shot opportunities from the fairway (75 percent fall in the 100 to 200-yard range). The 150 to 175-yard range tends to be the most frequent distance for golfers playing the appropriate distance golf course for their game.

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

Chip/Pitch: If you miss 7 greens, you will have 6 green-side save opportunities. Your goals should be:

  • Percentage of shots to within 5 feet: 40 percent
  • Percentage of Saves: 47 percent (3)
  • Percentage of Errors (shots that miss the green):  6 percent, or approximately 1 in 17 attempts.

Sand: You should have 1 of these green-side save opportunities. Your goals: 

  • Percentage of shots to within 8 feet: 35 percent
  • Percentage Saves: 32 percent
  • Percentage of Errors (shots that miss the green): 13 percent, or approximately 1 in 8 attempts.

Putting: You need just over 31 putts.  Aim for:

  • 1-Putts: 6
  • 3-Putts: 1

The chart below displays the percentage of 1-Putts you will need to make by distance, as well as the typical array of first-putt opportunities by distance. Note that 62 percent of your first-putt opportunities will fall in the 4 to 20-foot range. Adjust your practice efforts accordingly!

Good luck, and please let me know if and when you are successful.

For a complete Strokes Gained Analysis of your game, log on to ShotByShot.com and sign up for a 1-round free trial.

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