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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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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: Golf Hall of Fame resumes—what does it take?

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We are back from last week, and Knudson is finally a father! Steve asks what it takes to get into the Golf Hall of Fame, how much do majors count? Knudson talks about his last round and how much fun he had. Finally, we talk about the Rory and Keopka beef that is starting to play out.

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

The Wedge Guy: Getting more out of your wedges

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When I started SCOR Golf in 2011 and completely re-engineered the short end of the set, I took on “the establishment” and referred to our line of clubs not as “wedges” but as “scoring clubs”—I felt like the term “wedge” had become over-applied to clubs that really weren’t. While I’ve tempered my “respectful irreverence” a bit since then, I still think we are shackled by the terms applied to those high-loft clubs at the short end of our sets.

Think about this for a moment.

It all started with the invention of the sand wedge back in the late 1930s. This invention is generally credited to Gene Sarazen, who famously had metal welded onto the bottom of a niblick to give it bounce, and introduced the basic “explosion” sand shot. Over the next few decades, the sand wedge “matured” to a loft of 55-56 degrees and was a go-to staple in any serious golfer’s bag. In his 1949 book, “Power Golf”, Ben Hogan described the sand wedge as a very versatile tool “for certain shots” around the greens, and listed his maximum distance with a sand wedge as 55 yards.

Even into the 1970s, the pitching wedge was considered the ‘go-to’ club for short recovery shots around the greens. And because the typical pitching wedge was 50-52 degrees in loft, it was very versatile for that purpose. I remember that even as a scratch player in the 60s and early 70s, I would go days or weeks without pulling the “sand wedge” out of my bag—we didn’t have bunkers on that little 9-hole course so I didn’t feel like I needed one very often.

Fast forward into the 1980s and 1990s, people were hitting sand wedges from everywhere and the wedge makers began to add “lob wedges” in the 60-degree range and then “gap wedges” of 48 degrees or so to fill in for the evolutional strengthening of iron lofts to a point where the set match pitching wedge (or P-club as I call it) was 44-45 degrees typically. Along the way, the designation “G”, “S”, “L” and “P” were dropped and almost all wedges carried the actual loft number of the club. I think this was a positive development, but it seems we cannot get away from the pigeon-holing our wedges into “pitching”, “gap”, “sand” and “lob” nomenclature.

So that history lesson was a set-up for suggesting that you look at all your wedges as just “wedges” with no further limitations as to their use. I think that will free you up to use your creativity with each club to increase your repertoire of shots you have in your bag…more arrows in your quiver, so to speak.

For example, long bunker shots are much easier if you open the face of your 50- 54-degree wedge so you don’t have to swing as hard to get the ball to fly further. You’ll still get plenty of spin, but your results will become much more consistent. Likewise, that super-short delicate bunker shot can be hit more easily with your higher lofted wedge of 58-60 degrees.

When you get out further, and are facing mid-range shots of 40-75 yards, don’t automatically reach for your “sand wedge” out of habit, but think about the trajectory and spin needs for that shot. Very often a softened swing with your “gap” wedge will deliver much more consistent results. You’ll reduce the likelihood of making contact high on the face and coming up short, and you can even open the face a bit to impart additional spin if you need it.

Around the greens, your lower-lofted wedges will allow you to achieve more balance between carry and roll, as almost all instructors encourage you to get the ball on the ground more quickly to improve greenside scoring. For the vast majority of recreational/weekend golfers, simply changing clubs is a lot easier than trying to manipulate technique to hit low shots with clubs designed to hit the ball high.

Finally, on any shots into the wind, you are almost always better off “lofting down” and swinging easier to help make more solid contact and reduce spin that will cause the ball to up-shoot and come up short. Too often I watch my friends try to hit hard full wedge shots into our all-too-common 12-20 mph winds and continually come up short. My preference is to loft down even as much as two clubs, grip down a bit and swing much more easily, which ensures a lower trajectory with less spin…and much more consistent outcomes. It is not uncommon for me to choose a 45-degree wedge for a shot as short as 75-80 yards into a breeze, when my stock distance for that club is about 115. I get consistently positive results doing that.

So, if you can wean yourself from referring to your wedges by their names and zero in on what each can do because of their numbers, you will expand your arsenal of shots you can call on when you are in prime scoring range and hit it close to the flag much more often. And that’s really the goal, isn’t it?

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Opinion & Analysis

Autumn golf is the best golf

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For many, golf euphoria occurs the second weekend of April when the flowers start to bloom, courses begin to open, and the biggest tournament of the year is on television. But I believe the absolute best season for golf is the fall.

Let me explain.

SPRING

Spring is the season of hope and rebirth, and for most golfers, it’s the first opportunity to break out new clubs or take the game you’ve been working on all winter to the course for the first time in many months. Depending on where you are in North America or around the world, golf courses are just opening up and the ground is drying out from a winter filled with snow and ice.

Yes, spring is fantastic, you can shrug off the occasional mud ball since it’s probably your first round in four months and you’re willing to cut “the super” some slack for the slow greens, because you’re just happy to be out on terra firma chasing around a little white ball. Your game is rusty. Courses aren’t quite there yet, but it’s golf outside, and you couldn’t be happier.

SUMMER

The dog days. This time of year is when golf courses are the most busy thanks to the beautiful weather. But high temperatures and humidity can be a real deal-breaker, especially for walkers—throw in the weekly possibility for afternoon “out of the blue” thunderstorms, and now you’re sweating and drenched.

Unless you are a diehard and prefer the dew-sweeping pre-7 a.m. tee time when the sun breaks on the horizon, rounds tend to get longer in the summer as courses get busier. And you’ll often find more corporate outings and casual fairweather golfers out for an afternoon of fun—not a bad thing for the game, but not great for pace of play. Summer makes for fantastic course conditions, and with the sun not setting until after 9 p.m. for almost two months, the after-dinner 9 holes are a treat and you take them while you can.

FALL

As much I love nine holes after dinner with eight clubs in a Sunday bag and a few adult beverages in June, nothing compares to the perfect fall day for golf.

The sun’s orbit, paired with Mother Nature, allows you to stay in your warm bed just that little extra, since you can’t play golf when it’s still dark at 6:30 a.m. The warm, but not too warm, temperatures allow you to pull out your favorite classic cotton golf shirts without fear of the uncomfortable sweaty pits. We can’t forget that it’s also the season for every golfer’s favorite piece of apparel: the quarter zip  (#1/4zipSZN).

Courses in the fall are often in the best shape (or at least they should be), since player traffic and corporate tournaments are done for the season. As long as warm afternoons are still the norm, firm and fast conditions can be expected.

Last but not least, the colors—reds, oranges, and yellows—frame the green fairways and dark sand to make them pop in the landscape. Fall is the final chance to get in those last few rounds and create happy thoughts and mental images before the clubs go away for the inevitably cold, dark days of winter.

Fall is meant for golf! So take pictures, smell the smells, and make great swings, because golf season is quickly coming to a close, and now is the time to savor each moment on the course.

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