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Opinion & Analysis

The 5 players dropping out of the year-end OWGR top 10, and the reasons behind their falls

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According to Official World Golf Ranking Twitter guru Nosferatu, the year-end top-10 has been finalized, with five new faces joining the list compared to the end of 2017.

Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy and Francesco Molinari will all end the year sitting inside the top-10 in the world, and Justin Rose will have one last opportunity to end 2018 as the world number one when he tees it up at the Indonesian Masters.

But what about the five players to drop out of the year-end top-10 rankings? Well, here we take a look at the players to make way, and just what department of their game was responsible for their fall down the rankings.

Jordan Spieth

Spieth began 2018 as the world number two, but after a barren year where he failed to find his best form, the 25-year-old now sits 16th in the world golf rankings. While, the common conception is that the result of this was entirely to do with his putter turning cold in 2018, and that was a significant factor, it’s a little more complicated than that.

Spieth dropped from 37th to T123 in strokes gained putting over the past year, which proves that his play with the flat-stick has been a significant issue in 2018. However, since the beginning of June, in the eight events that record strokes gained statistics, Spieth gained strokes with the putter in seven of them. The American wasn’t just doing the bare minimum on the greens either, gaining an average of over two strokes per event with the flat-stick in the second half of the season.

So, in the final stages of the 2018 where did Spieth’s issues lie? Off the tee. Over that same period, Spieth dropped strokes to the field in six of those eight tournaments off the tee. The three-time major champion dropped on average 1.25 strokes to the field off the tee per event in this period, showing that while Spieth may have solved his issues on the greens, there is another department of his game now causing him a headache.

Henrik Stenson

Stenson’s drop in form on the greens has been more dramatic than Spieth’s. The Swede ended last year ranked ninth in the world golf rankings, but a dreadful year with the flat-stick has seen him drop to 26th in the world.

Stenson finished 157th in strokes gained putting in 2018, and over his final five events of the 2017/18 PGA Tour season, the Swede lost an average of 3.5 strokes to the field per event with the flat-stick.

A closer inspection shows that the big Swede’s issues on the greens come from the 5-10′ range. During the 2017/18 season, Stenson sat 192nd in total one-putts from 5-10 feet. Only one man, Andrew Yun, performed worse than Stenson from this range.

Sergio Garcia

It’s been an odd period for Garcia on the PGA Tour. The Spaniard ended 2017 ranked 10th in the world, a year where he won the Masters and only claimed one other top-10 finish on the PGA Tour. Well, this year Garcia didn’t win the Masters, and only managed two top-10 finishes on Tour.

Known for being a brilliant ball-striker, the only noticeable difference between Garcia’s play in 2018 compared with that of 2017 appears to be off the tee. The Spaniard gained an average of 0.8 strokes off the tee per event in 2017, but this year that number dropped to 0.16. As he continues to struggle on the greens, small margins like this can make all the difference.

However, Garcia ended his season in style on the European Tour. The Spaniard recorded five straight top-10 finishes on the European Tour to close out his year, one of which was a victory at the Andalucia Masters. The current world number 23 may not have enjoyed the best of years, but the signs look good for 2019.

Hideki Matsuyama

Injuries stifled Matsuyama in 2018. The Japanese star suffered from a niggling left wrist injury all season, and that has been the primary cause of his fall from fifth in the world at the end of 2017, to his current ranking of 25.

The 25-year-old gained an average of 0.48 strokes off the tee for 2017, while this year that number dropped to 0.15, and its the only area of Matsuyama’s game that appears to have shown a drop-off. Although, when you factor in his injury issues, in all likelihood Matsuyama only needs a clean run of health to re-join the game’s elite.

Rickie Fowler

Fowler’s drop down the rankings has been less pronounced than anyone else on this list. Fowler is due to end the year ranked 11th in the world, in a year that can only be seen as a disappointment regarding lack of victories.

Digging into the numbers, the slight fall down the rankings is due to his putting not being quite as sharp in 2018. The previous year, Fowler ranked first in strokes gained putting, while he ended the 17/18 season sitting 43rd in the standings. He’s hardly had a poor year on the greens, and the only difference between seasons seems to be that he just hasn’t holed his fair share from range in 2018.

Fowler was number one for putts made outside of 10 percent on the Tour in 2017, making almost 20 percent of his looks from that range. In 2018, the Californian only made 16.5 percent of his putts from outside the 10-foot range.

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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 @giannimosquito

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Stephen Baker

    Dec 5, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    You failed to mention Jason Day who has also dropped out of the Top 10 during the year.

  2. gunmetal

    Dec 5, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    A bit lazy not to mention that Sergio went from a full Taylormade bag plus ball to the same with Callaway. Dude was full Taylormade for the better part of a decade so it’s no small thing to make that drastic of a change. I get but wanting to offend companies who advertise on this site but omitting such info threatens your credibility.

  3. greendevil

    Dec 5, 2018 at 11:59 am

    Stenson was also injured throughout the year. Also, speaking of ball striking: as the first player in 30+ years, Stenson finished top in both fairway accuracy and GIR.

  4. shakespeare

    Dec 4, 2018 at 8:47 pm

    Last paragraph makes no sense.

  5. Travis

    Dec 4, 2018 at 3:36 pm

    Spieth’s tee game is suffering specifically because his putting is so terrible. Think about momentum in golf. Spieth is constantly coming off greens having just putt terrible, whether it’s missing a 2ft tap-in, or 3-putting an easy green. Then he goes to the next tee upset, down on himself, etc., and hits a terrible drive. It’s not his swing that’s the problem, it’s his putting, his confidence, and his mental game.

  6. Peter

    Dec 4, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    The unspoken reason why Spieth has struggled is that he got engaged and then married this year and he has lost his killer instinct. I think he’ll find it, but his mind is not on the course right now.

    • ogo

      Dec 4, 2018 at 2:43 pm

      His loss of vital fluids has weakened his body and resolve on the golf course. Women weaken athletic men… like Delilah did to Samson …. soooo obvious

    • Tim

      Dec 5, 2018 at 3:57 pm

      Bingo, they get comfortable. They make so much money they aren’t hungry. look at Rickie, sooo much money.

  7. Benny

    Dec 4, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    Awesome article Gianni. Thanks man!

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Opinion & Analysis

Top 5 wedges of all time

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Wedges. They are the “trusted old friends” in our golf bags. They inspire confidence inside of 100 yards and help us get back on track when we hit a wayward approach.

There was a time not too long ago when a bunker was considered a true hazard, but over the last 80 years, as agronomy has evolved on the same trajectory as club an ball technology, wedges have changed a great deal along the way—from the first modern prototype wedge built by Gene Sarazen to clubs featuring various plating and coatings to increase spin and performance. There are a lot of wedge designs that have stood the test of time; their sole grinds, profiles from address, and performance bring back memories of great hole outs and recovery shots.

With so many variations of wedges in the history of golf (and so much parity), this is my top five list (in no particular order) of the most iconic wedges in golf history.

Original Gene Sarazen Wedge

An early Gene Sarazen wedge. (Photo: USGA)

Gene is famous for a lot of things: the career grand slam, the longest endorsement deal in professional sports history (75 years as a Wilson ambassador), the “shot heard around the world”, and as mentioned earlier—the creation of the modern sand wedge. Although not credited with the invention of the original  “sand wedge” he 100 percent created the modern wedge with a steel shaft and higher bounce. A creation that developed from soldering mass to the sole and flange of what would be our modern-day pitching wedge. Born from the idea of a plane wing, thanks to a trip taken with Howard Hughes, we can all thank Mr. Sarazen for the help with the short shots around the green.

Wilson R90

The next evolution of the original Sarazen Design, the Wilson R90 was the very first mass-marketed sand wedge. Its design characteristics can still be seen in the profile of some modern wedges. Although many might not be as familiar with the R90, you would almost certainly recognize the shape, since it was very often copied by other manufacturers, in their wedge lines.

The R90 features a very rounded profile, high amount of offset, and a great deal of bounce in the middle of the sole, with very little camber. Although not as versatile as modern wedges because of the reduced curve from heel to toe, the R90 is still a force to be reckoned with in the sand.

Cleveland 588

You know a name and design are classic when a company chooses to use the original notation more than 30 years after its initial release. The 588 was introduced as Cleveland’s fifth wedge design and came to market in 1988—which is how it got its name. Wedges were never the same after.

The brainchild of Roger Cleveland, the 588 was made from 8620 carbon steel—which patinad over time. Not unlike the Wilson before it, the 588 had a very traditional rounded shape with a higher toe and round leading edge. The other part of the design that created such versatility was the V-Sole (No, not the same as the Current Srixon), that offers a lot more heel relief to lower the leading edge as the face was opened up—this was the birth of the modern wedge grind.

Titleist Vokey Spin Milled

The wedge that launched the Vokey brand into the stratosphere. Spin-milled faces changed the way golfers look at face technology in their scoring clubs. From a humble club builder to a wedge guru, Bob Vokey has been around golf and the short game for a long time. The crazy thing about the Bob Vokey story is that it all started with one question: “who wants to lead the wedge team?” That was all it took to get him from shaping Titleist woods to working with the world’s best players to create high-performance short game tools.

Honorable mentions for design goes to the first 200 and 400 series wedge, which caught golfers’ eyes with their teardrop shape—much like the Cleveland 588 before it.

Ping Eye 2 Plus

What can you say? The unique wedge design that other OEMs continue to draw inspiration from it 30 years after its original conception. The Eye 2+ wedge was spawned from what is undoubtedly the most popular iron design of all time, which went through many iterations during its 10 years on the market—a lifecycle that is completely unheard of in today’s world of modern equipment.

A pre-worn sole, huge amount of heel and toe radius, and a face that screams “you can’t miss,” the true beauty comes from the way the hosel transitions into the head, which makes the club one of the most versatile of all time.

Check out my video below for more on why this wedge was so great.

Honorable mention: The Alien wedge

To this day, the Alien wedge is the number-one-selling single golf club of all time! Although I’m sure there aren’t a lot of people willing to admit to owning one, it did help a lot of golfer by simplifying the short game, especially bunker shots.

Its huge profile looked unorthodox, but by golly did it ever work! Designed to be played straight face and essentially slammed into the sand to help elevate the ball, the club did what it set out to do: get you out of the sand on the first try. You could say that it was inspired by the original Hogan “Sure-Out,” but along the way it has also inspired others to take up the baton in helping the regular high-handicap golfer get out of the sand—I’m looking at you XE1.

That’s my list, WRXers. What would you add? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole: Meet the world’s most expensive putter and the man behind it

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Host Michael Williams talks with Steve Sacks of Sacks Parente Golf about the idea and implementation of their revolutionary Series 39 blade putter. Also features PGA Professional Brian Sleeman of Santa Lucia Preserve (CA).

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

A day at the CP Women’s Open

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It’s another beautiful summer day in August. Just like any other pro-am at a professional tour event, amateurs are nervously warming up on the driving range and on the putting green next to their pros. As they make their way to the opening tees, they pose for their pictures, hear their names called, and watch their marque player stripe one down the fairway. But instead of walking up 50 yards to the “am tees,” they get to tee it up from where the pros play—because this is different: this is the LPGA Tour!

I’m just going to get right to it, if you haven’t been to an LPGA Tour event you NEED to GO! I’ve been to a lot of golf events as both a spectator and as media member, and I can say an LPGA Tour event is probably the most fun you can have watching professional golf.

The CP Women’s Open is one of the biggest non-majors in women’s golf. 96 of the top 100 players in the world are in the field, and attendance numbers for this stop on the schedule are some of the highest on tour. The 2019 edition it is being held at exclusive Magna Golf Club in Aurora, Ontario, which is about an hour north of downtown Toronto and designed by noted Canadian architect Doug Carrick. The defending Champion is none other than 21-year-old Canadian phenom Brooke Henderson, who won in emotional fashion last year.

From a fan’s perspective, there are some notable differences at an LPGA Tour event, and as a true “golf fan,” not just men’s golf fan, there are some big parts of the experience that I believe everyone can enjoy:

  • Access: It is certainly a refreshing and laidback vibe around the golf course. It’s easy to find great vantage points around the range and practice facility to watch the players go through their routines—a popular watching spot. Smaller infrastructure doesn’t mean a smaller footprint, and there is still a lot to see, plus with few large multi-story grandstands around some of the finishing holes, getting up close to watch shots is easier for everyone.
  • Relatability: This is a big one, and something I think most golfers don’t consider when they choose to watch professional golf. Just like with the men’s game there are obviously outliers when it comes to distance on the LPGA Tour but average distances are more in line with better club players than club players are to PGA Tour Pros. The game is less about power and more about placement. Watching players hit hybrids as accurately as wedges is amazing to watch. Every player from a scratch to a higher handicap can learn a great deal from watching the throwback style of actually hitting fairways and greens vs. modern bomb and gouge.
  • Crowds: (I don’t believe this is just a “Canadian Thing”) It was refreshing to spend an entire day on the course and never hear a “mashed potatoes” or “get in the hole” yelled on the tee of a par 5. The LPGA Tour offers an extremely family-friendly atmosphere, with a lot more young kids, especially young girls out to watch their idols play. This for me is a huge takeaway. So much of professional sports is focused on the men, and with that you often see crowds reflect that. As a father to a young daughter, if she decides to play golf, I love the fact that she can watch people like her play the game at a high level.

There is a lot of talk about the difference between men’s and women’s professional sports, but as far as “the product” goes, I believe that LPGA Tour offers one of the best in professional sports, including value. With a great forecast, a great course, and essentially every top player in the field, this week’s CP Women’s Open is destined to be another great event. If you get the chance to attend this or any LPGA Tour event, I can’t encourage you enough to go!

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