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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 @giancarlomag

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

When the data says line is more important than speed in putting

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In my recent article, Line vs. speed: What’s really more important in putting?, I pointed out that in my 30-plus years of studying putting performance, I’ve learned that there are two important skills to putting:

  1. Direction (line)
  2. Distance control (speed)

There’s no question that golfers need to possess both these skills, but contrary to popular belief, they are not equally important on all putts. Sometimes, speed should be the primary concern. In other situations, golfers should be focused almost entirely on line. To make this determination, we have to consider the distance range of a putt and a golfer’s putting skill.

In the above referenced article, I showed how important speed is in putting, as well as the distances from which golfers of each handicap level should become more focused on speed. As promised, I’m going to provide some tips on direction (LINE) for golfers of different handicap levels based on the data I’ve gathered over the years through my Strokes Gained analysis software, Shot by Shot.

When PGA Tour players focus on line 

On the PGA Tour, line is more critical than speed from distances inside 20 feet. Obviously, the closer a golfer is to the hole, the more important line becomes and the less need there is to focus on speed. Further, I have found that the six-to-10-foot range is a key distance for Tour players. Here are three reasons why:

  1. Six to 10 feet is one of the most frequently faced putt distances on the PGA Tour. It is the first putt distance on approximately one in every five greens.
  2. Smack in the middle of this range is eight feet, which is the distance from which the average PGA Tour player makes 50 percent of his putts.
  3. In my research, I have consistently found that one-putt success in the six-to-10-foot range separates good putters from the rest on the PGA Tour

What we should do

How does this analysis help the rest of us?  To answer that question, we must first know our one-putt distance.  Just as I showed the two-putt distance by handicap level here, I will now show the 50 percent make distance by handicap level. This is the distance from the hole where players at each handicap level make 50 percent of their putts.

My recommendation is for each of us to recognize exactly what our 50 percent distance is. Maybe you’re a 16 or 17 handicap and putting is one of your strengths. Your 50 percent make distance is six feet. Excellent!  From that distance and closer, you should focus on line and always give the ball a chance to go in the hole.  From distances of seven-plus feet, you should consider the circumstances (up or downhill, amount of break, etc.) and factor in the speed as appropriate. The goal is to make as many of these putts as possible, but more importantly, avoid those heart-breaking and costly three-putts.

For added perspective, I am including the percentage of one putts by distance for the PGA Tour and our average amateur 15-19 handicap. I’m able to offer this data from ShotbyShot.com because it provides golfers with their “relative handicap” in the five critical parts of the game: (1) Driving, (2) Approach Shots, (3) Chip/Pitch Shots, (4) Sand Shots, and (5) Putting.

Line control practice: The star drill 

Looking for a way to practice choosing better lines on the putting green?  Here’s a great exercise known as the “star drill.” Start by selecting a part of your practice green with a slight slope.  Place five tees in the shape of a star on the slope with the top of the star on the top side of the slope.  This will provide an equal share of right to left and left to right breaks.

I recommend starting with a distance of three feet – usually about the length of a standard putter.  See how many you can make out of 10 putts, which is two trips around the star.  Here are a few more helpful tips.

  • Place a ball next to each of the five tees.
  • Use your full pre-shot routine for each attempt.
  • Stay at the three-foot distance until you can make nine of 10. Then, move to four feet, five feet, and six feet as you’re able to make eight from four feet, seven from five feet, and six from six feet.

This drill will give you confidence over these very important short putts. I do not recommend using it for any distance beyond six feet. It’s harder than you think to get there!

 

Exclusive for GolfWRX members: For a free, one-round trial of Shot by Shot, visit www.ShotByShot.com.

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Podcasts

TG2: Snell Golf founder Dean Snell talks golf balls and his life in the golf industry

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Snell Golf’s founder, Dean Snell, talks all about golf balls and his adventure through the industry. Dean fills us in on his transition from hockey player, to engineer, to golfer, and now business owner. He even tells you why he probably isn’t welcome back at a country club ever again.

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

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Opinion & Analysis

Could Dollar Driver Club change the way we think about owning equipment?

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There’s something about golfers that draws the attention of, for lack of a better word, snake-oil salesmen. Whether it’s an as-seen-on-TV ad for a driver that promises pure distance and also fixes your power slice, or the subscription boxes that supposedly send hundreds of dollars worth of apparel for a fraction of the price, there always seems to be something out there that looks too good to be true.

Discerning golfers, who I would argue are more cynical than anything, understand that you get what you pay for. To get the newest driver that also works for your game, it may take a $150 club fitting, then a $400 head, and a shaft that can run anywhere from $100 up to $300-$400. After the fitting and buying process, you’ve made close to a thousand dollar investment in one golf club, and unless you’re playing money games with friends who have some deep pockets, it’s tough to say what the return on that investment actually is. When it’s all said and done, you have less than a year before that driver is considered old news by the standard of most manufacturers’ release schedules.

What makes a driver ‘good’ to most amateur golfers who take their game seriously is a cross section of performance, price, and hubris. As for that last metric, I think most people would be lying if they say it doesn’t feel good having the latest and greatest club in the bag. Being the envy of your group is fun, even if it only lasts until you snap hook your first drive out of bounds.

As prices of general release equipment have increased to nearly double what it was retailing at only 10 years ago, the ability to play the newest equipment is starting to become out of the question for many amateur golfers.

Enter Tyler Mycoskie, an avid, single digit handicap golfer (and the brother of Tom’s shoes founder, Blake Mycoskie). Tyler’s experience with purchasing golf equipment and his understanding of uniquely successful business models collided, which led him to start the Dollar Driver Club. With a name and logo that is a tongue in cheek allusion to the company that has shaken up the men’s skincare industry, the company seeks to offer a new way of thinking about purchasing golf equipment without completely reinventing the wheel of the model that has seen success in industries such as car leasing and purchasing razors.

The company does exactly what its name says. They offer the newest, top of the line driver and shaft combinations for lease at a cost of about a dollar per day.

The economics of the model seem too good to be true. When you purchase a driver, you are charged $30 plus $11 for shipping and it’s $30 per month from then on. You can upgrade your driver at no extra cost each year and your driver is eligible for upgrade or swap after 90 days of being a member. After a year, the total cost comes to $371 with shipping, which sounds a lot nicer than the $500 that it would cost to purchase, as an example, a Titleist TS3 with a Project X Evenflow T1100 today.

The major complaint most people would have is that you still don’t own the driver after that year, but as someone with a closet full of old golf clubs that diminish in value every day, which I have no realistic plans to sell, that doesn’t sound like a problem to me or my wife, who asks me almost weekly when I plan on thinning out my collection.

The model sounds like an obvious win for customers to me, and quite frankly, if you’re skeptical, then it’s probably just simply not for you. I contacted the team at the Dollar Driver Club to get some questions answered. Primarily, I want to know, what’s the catch?

I spoke with a Kevin Kirakossian, a Division I golfer who graduated from the University of Texas-Pan American in 2013 and has spent virtually his entire young career working on the business side of golf, most recently with Nike Golf’s marketing team prior to joining Tyler at Dollar Driver Club. Here’s what he had to say about his company.

At risk to the detriment of our conversation, I have to find out first and foremost, what’s the catch?

K: There’s no catch. We’re all golfers and we want to offer a service that benefits all of our members. We got tired of the upfront cost of drivers. We’re trying to grow the game. Prior to us, there was no way to buy new golf clubs without paying full price. We take a lot of pride that players of all skill level, not just tour pros or people with the extra budget to drop that kind of money every year, can have access to the latest equipment.

With that question out of the way, I delved into the specifics of the brand and model, but I maintained a skeptical edge, keeping an ear out for anything that I could find that would seem too good to be true.

How closely do you keep an eye on manufacturers and their pricing? It would seem that your service is more enticing as prices increase in equipment.

K: The manufacturers are free to create their own pricing. We work closely with manufacturers and have a great relationship with them. As prices increase, it helps us, even if they decrease, I still think it’s a no-brainer to use our service, purely for the fact that new equipment comes out every year. You don’t have a high upfront cost. You’re not stuck with the same driver for a year. It gives you flexibility and freedom to play the newest driver. If a manufacturer wants to get into the same business, we have the advantage of offering all brands. We’re a premium subscription brand, so we’re willing to offer services that other retailers aren’t. We’ll do shaft swaps, we’ll send heads only, we have fast shipping and delivery times. We’re really a one-stop shop for all brands.

What measures do you take to offer the most up to date equipment?

K: We will always have the newest products on the actual launch date. We take pride in offering the equipment right away. A lot of times, our members will receive their clubs on release day. We order direct from the manufacturers and keep inventory. There’s no drop shipping. We prefer shipping ourselves and being able to add a personal package.

The service is uniquely personal. Their drivers come with a ball marker stamped with your initials as well as a stylish valuables pouch. They also provide a hand signed welcome letter and some stickers.

Who makes up the team at Dollar Driver Club?

K: We’re a small team. We started accepting members to our service in 2018 and it has grown exponentially. We have four or five guys here and it’s all hands on deck. We handle customer inquiries and sending drivers out. It’s a small business nature that we want to grow a lot bigger.

When discussing the company, you have to concede that the model doesn’t appeal to everyone, especially traditionalists. There are golfers who have absolutely no problem spending whatever retailers are charging for their newest wares. There are also golfers who have no problem playing equipment with grips that haven’t been changed in years, much less worrying about buying new equipment. I wanted to know exactly who they’re targeting.

Who is your target demographic?

K: We want all golfers. We want any golfer with any income, any skill level, to be able to play the newest equipment. We want to reshape the way people think about obtaining golf equipment. We’re starting with drivers, but we’re looking into expanding into putters, wedges, and other woods. We’ve heard manufacturers keep an eye on us. There are going to be people who just want to pay that upfront cost so they can own it, but those people may be looking at it on the surface and they don’t see the other benefits. We’re also a service that offers shaft swaps and easily send in your driver after 3 months if you don’t like it.

At this point, it didn’t seem like my quest to find any drawbacks to the service was going well. However, any good business identifies threats to their model and I was really only able to think of one. They do require a photo ID to start your account, but there’s no credit check required like you may see from other ‘buy now, pay later’ programs. That sounds ripe for schemers that we see all the time on websites like eBay and Craigslist.

When you’re sending out a $500 piece of equipment and only taking $41 up front, you’re assuming some risk. How much do you rely on the integrity of golfers who use your service to keep everything running smoothly?

K: We do rely on the integrity of the golf community. When we send out a driver, we believe it’s going into the hands of a golfer. By collecting the ID, we have measures on our end that we can use in the event that the driver goes missing or an account goes delinquent, but we’re always going to side with our members.

The conversation I had with Kevin really opened my eyes to the fact that Dollar Driver Club is exactly what the company says it is. They want to grow and become a staple means of obtaining golf equipment in the current and future market. Kevin was very transparent that the idea is simple, they’re just the ones actually executing it. He acknowledged the importance of social media and how they will harness the power of applications like Instagram to reach new audiences.

Kevin was also adamant that even if you prefer owning your own driver and don’t mind the upfront cost, the flexibility to customize your driver cheaply with a plethora of high-quality shafts is what really makes it worth trying out their service. If for whatever reason, you don’t like their service, you can cancel the subscription and return the driver after 90 days, which means that you can play the newest driver for three months at a cost of $90.

In my personal opinion, I think there’s a huge growth opportunity for a service like this. The idea of playing the newest equipment and being able to tinker with it pretty much at-will really speaks to me. If you’re willing to spend $15 a month on Netflix to re-watch The Office for the 12th time in a row or $35 a month for a Barkbox subscription for your dog, it may be worth doing something nice for your golf bag.

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