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The 22 players who can win the Masters

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Each year for the Masters, I create a filtering process to help determine the players that are most likely to win the green kacket based on criteria that has strongly predicted outcomes at Augusta. I usually get the list down to roughly 23 players. Last year, I had Patrick Reed as one of my 20 players that could win the Master and he won the green jacket despite being a long shot at 40/1 odds.

Before I discuss my picks for this year’s Masters, I want to go over what I call the “critical holes” for Augusta National. The critical holes in any tournament are the ones where the top finishers typically gain the most strokes on the field, as well as where the greatest deviation in scores exist. One of the interesting aspects about critical holes is that they often change over time due to changes in the course conditions, course design or a change in player strategy, which can create a smaller deviation in scores. This year, the projected Critical Holes are #6, #8, #13, #14 and #15.

Typically, the critical holes have been projected to be only one of the par-5s. But, the trend over the past five years now has a projection of three par-5s (#8, #13 and #15) being ‘Critical Holes’ which indicates that some added distance gains by the players may be impacting how the event is determined.

Moving on to the tournament, I filtered out the amateurs and all first-time professional attendees. The Masters has only been won once by a first-time attendee: Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

Alvaro Ortiz (a)
Devon Bling (a)
Jovan Rebula (a)
Kevin O’Connell (a)
Takumi Kanaya (a)
Victor Hovland (a)
Aaron Wise
Adam Long
Andrew Landry
Corey Conners
Eddie Pepperrell
Justin Harding
Keith Mitchell
Kevin Tway
Lucas Bjeeregaard
Matt Wallace
Michael Kim
Shugo Imahira

I also filtered out 10 past champions that I do not believe can contend at Augusta National anymore:

Angel Cabrera
Bernhard Langer
Fred Couples
Ian Woosnam
Jose Maria Olazabal
Larry Mize
Mike Weir
Sandy Lyle
Trevor Immelman
Vijay Singh

THE ZACH JOHNSON DEBATE

Every year I do my Masters picks, it’s always get pointed out that I do not pick former Masters Champion Zach Johnson due to his lack of length off the tee. Augusta National greatly favors long-ball hitters. They can play the par-5s more like par-4s, and typically the longer hitters can also hit the ball higher so they can get their long approach shots to hold the green more easily.

When Johnson won the Masters in 2007, the event featured record-low temperatures in the mid-40s and wind gusts of 33 mph. This made it very hard for any player to reach the par-5s in two shots and allowed Johnson to get into a wedge contest on the par-5s, his strength.

This year, the forecast calls for temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s. There is some rain in the forecast, but softening the course tends to favor the longer hitters. However, the winds are expected to pick up a little which can help the shorter hitters, particularly those that are adept around the greens. However, I do not see the forecasted wind being enough to favor shorter hitters in this event. Thus, the following golfers have been filtered out due to not being long enough off the tee:

Brandt Snedeker
Danny Willett
Kevin Kisner
Kyle Stanley
Matt Kuchar
Matthew Fitzpatrick
Satoshi Kodaira
Webb Simpson
Zach Johnson

A part of the game that is just as critical as distance is the trajectory height a player can create. Last year, I filtered out four players for hitting the ball too low. Out of those four players, the best finish was Russell Henley at T15th. I use a combination of Max Height, Carry Distance and Launch Angle to determine if the following players hit the ball too low to win at Augusta.

Charl Schwartzel
Charles Howell III
Jimmy Walker
Martin Kaymer
Paul Casey
Rafa Cabrera Bello
Si-Woo Kim

Since the inauguration of the event, there have only been two winners of the Masters that have previously never made the cut: Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 and Gene Sarazen in 1936. Let’s filter them out as well.

Alex Noren
Patton Kizzire

I will also filter out the player that missed the cut at San Antonio. Historically, players that miss the cut the week prior have a substantially lower likelihood of winning the following week compared to the players that made the cut in the previous week or did not play at all.

Billy Horschel

Lastly, I have filtered out the weak performers from the “Red Zone,” approach shots from 175-225 yards. While Augusta is known for its greens, the winners are determined mostly by the quality of their approach shots throughout the event. In fact, nine of the last 10 champions have hit at least 49 Greens in Regulation during the week.

The key shots where the most strokes are gained/lost at Augusta National are from the Red Zone. Last year, I had 12 players filtered out for poor Red Zone play. Outside of Dustin Johnson (T-10th), almost all of those players performed poorly.

Adam Scott
Branden Grace
Cameron Smith
Emiliano Grillo
Ian Poulter
J.B. Holmes
Jason Day
Jordan Spieth
Justin Thomas
Kevin Na
Kiradech Aphibarnrat
Louis Oosthuizen
Patrick Cantlay
Patrick Reed
Phil Mickelson
Stewart Cink
Thorbjorn Olesen
Tony Finau

I think the big surprise here is Justin Thomas. His Red Zone play has not been awful (108th) this season, but it not good enough in order for me to avoid filtering him out.

Now we are down to 22 golfers that can win The Masters. Their Vegas odds, which are subject to change, are listed in parentheses:

Brooks Koepka (25/1)
Bryson DeChambeau (33/1)
Bubba Watson (33/1)
Charley Hoffmann (80/1)
Dustin Johnson (10/1)
Francesco Molinari (22/1)
Gary Woodland (80/1)
Haotong Li (125/1)
Henrik Stenson (60/1)
Hideki Matsuyama (33/1)
Jon Rahm (16/1)
Justin Rose (14/1)
Keegan Bradley (125/1)
Marc Leishman (50/1)
Rickie Fowler (18/1)
Rory McIlroy (7/1)
Sergio Garcia (50/1)
Shane Lowry (150/1)
Tiger Woods (14/1)
Tommy Fleetwood (25/1)
Tyrrell Hatton (125/1)
Xander Schauffele (40/1)

Here are my personal top-10 picks:

Rory McIlroy (7/1)
Dustin Johnson (10/1)
Justin Rose (14/1)
Jon Rahm (16/1)
Francesco Molinari (22/1)
Brooks Koepka (25/1)
Tommy Fleetwood (25/1)
Bryson DeChambeau (33/1)
Marc Leishman (50/1)
Sergio Garcia (50/1)

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Richie Hunt is a statistician whose clients include PGA Tour players, their caddies and instructors in order to more accurately assess their games. He is also the author of the recently published e-book, 2018 Pro Golf Synopsis; the Moneyball Approach to the Game of Golf. He can be reached at ProGolfSynopsis@yahoo.com or on Twitter @Richie3Jack. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: March 2014 Purchase 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis E-book for $10

85 Comments

85 Comments

  1. Moses

    Apr 24, 2019 at 9:15 am

    Why is this story still up?

  2. DrRob1963

    Apr 15, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    The method in the article is too complicated and subjective, and picked only 5 of the top 8.
    Why not just pick the top 20 on the OWGR??? Too easy!!!
    This year, that would have selected all of the top 4, and 7 of the top 8!

    • Robert Mueller

      Apr 18, 2019 at 2:40 pm

      Luckily for Rich the article was “The 22 players that can win the Masters” and not “The 22 players who can top 8 in the Masters”.

  3. Adam Foxman

    Apr 15, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    Wow… Very interesting to read the day after

  4. Jurdun

    Apr 11, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    SPIETH redemption. He’s coming with a vengeance to shut up everyone calling him a choke artist.

    • Patrick Reed

      Apr 12, 2019 at 12:45 am

      75 baby…that’s some serious heat…

  5. Jamho3

    Apr 11, 2019 at 9:12 am

    Every year I look forwad to this. The best most predictive article of the year comes early in the season! Thanks so much!

  6. Paul

    Apr 11, 2019 at 4:08 am

    Corey Conners played in 2015 – he aint no first timer!

    • BD

      Apr 18, 2019 at 5:14 pm

      Obviously you cannot read. He played as an amateur before in 2015. The article says he filtered out the amateurs and all first-time professional attendees. Conners played in it for the first time professionally.

  7. Harrison

    Apr 10, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    Hey Rich, Thanks for doing this. Could you expand on the stats for Molinari? I like him quite a bit as well but am seeing rumblings that he is going to struggle with the length of the course (particularly attacking the par 5’s) in the wet/wind conditions as his wins have come on dry, fast courses.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 10, 2019 at 5:24 pm

      He’s 11th in Apex Height and 75th in Carry Distance. His overall distance is slightly subpar, but his Apex and Carry Distance is good enough for him to make it thru the filters.

  8. nosedive32

    Apr 10, 2019 at 11:57 am

    Counting out Casey and Schwartzel based on trajectory? I think this may be the flaw in this system.

    Paul Casey is a Top 10 machine at Augusta and Charl has a win and a 3rd. Unless their trajectory this season is just way lower than the past I see this being the fail in the system.

    Casey wins Sunday

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 10, 2019 at 5:26 pm

      The numbers and historical data suggest that low ball flights do not do well at Augusta. Anything can happen. But, I have to go by the numbers. In the past, when Casey has made it thru the filter…he’s had his best finishes at Augusta.

    • Swirley

      Apr 11, 2019 at 6:40 pm

      How’s Casey doing genius boy?

  9. Robert

    Apr 10, 2019 at 11:29 am

    My not so scientific method is as follows.
    Must have played in Masters at least 2 times prior.
    Putting must be conventional – no claw, left hand low, locked to arm, or no long putter.
    That leaves McIlroy, D Johnson, Rahm, Molinari, Koepka, or Leishman from the above finalists.

  10. Cons

    Apr 10, 2019 at 11:20 am

    NEVER ever count out El Pato

  11. pfp

    Apr 10, 2019 at 9:03 am

    I show Cantlay at 13th in red zone scoring on the PGA website – am I missing something?
    https://www.pgatour.com/stats/stat.337.html

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 10, 2019 at 9:12 am

      That’s just shots from the fairway from 175-200 yards. Red Zone play is all shots from 175-225 yards. It also does not factor in his ‘strength of schedule’ from the Red Zone. For instance, if two players, A and B, both hit shots from 175-225 yards to 38 feet…but one player played courses where the avg. proximity is to 36 feet and player B played courses where the average proximity is to 40-feet…player B would actually be much better from the Red Zone than Player A.

      Currently, I have Cantlay ranked 116th in Red Zone play.

    • Dan l

      Apr 10, 2019 at 11:22 am

      225-175 add in 200<

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 10, 2019 at 5:29 pm

      Red Zone consists of shots from 175-225 yards…not 175-200 yards. Also, the statistic quoted does not factor in strength of schedule. For instance…two players (A and B) both hit the ball to 35 feet on average. But player A played courses where the field average prox to cup is 40 feet while player B played courses where the field average was 34 feet. In reality, Player A was a far superior performer.

      I have Cantlay ranked 116th from the Red Zone. And that filtered him out.

  12. JP

    Apr 9, 2019 at 6:21 pm

    Ive been thinking that Stenson would be a great pick. He is great from the red zone and long enough from the tee and really good with his mid and short irons. I question his putting at times, but it seems like he might be in a good form. Played good during the matchplay event.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 10, 2019 at 9:14 am

      Stenson should have done better in the Masters than he has in his career. Like you say, he checks off most of the boxes…particularly with Red Zone play. The problem for him is that he relied too much on his 3-wood at augusta. Last year, he made a point to not hit so many 3-woods off the tee and he had his best finish ever at ANGC. However, he has not driven it all that great thus far this year and his age (43) works against him.

  13. Ashley Parish

    Apr 9, 2019 at 3:47 pm

    Glad to see my picks (Rose, Molinari, DJ and Hoffman) are all on the list. I picked Hoffman as the outsider pick. I didnt have the benefit of your statistics, just on prior and current form.

  14. Chad M

    Apr 9, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    Good read. Great picks.

  15. Pmoney

    Apr 9, 2019 at 11:21 am

    I have been following this guy article the last 3 years. He’s helped me win now 2 years in a row. Say what you want but y’all better pick a player from his top 10. He’s straight cash.

  16. TVGolfer

    Apr 9, 2019 at 11:05 am

    Thanks for the info. I found this article last year and rode Patrick Reed to winning the Masters pool at my club. A little over $400. I’ll be riding your info again.

  17. HC

    Apr 9, 2019 at 8:01 am

    I don’t care what anyone says. Look back over his past articles and you will see he has the top 10 nailed. I wait every year for this article since I found it a couple of years ago. Keep up the good work.

  18. Simz

    Apr 9, 2019 at 3:36 am

    Thanks again for this. I know there is no perfect science to predicting a winner, but this is close! I look forward to this every year.

    I will be back Rory again. But also like DJ, Phil and Rose.

  19. Ljk

    Apr 8, 2019 at 9:16 pm

    Adam Scott is currently 1st in red zone and 14th stroke gained putting. Hes also a previous champ. How can you leave him out? Unreal.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:26 am

      Scott is not 1st from the Red Zone (175-225 yards). Currently, he’s 139th.

  20. Geoffrey Holland

    Apr 8, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    Basically with all your statistical mumbo-jumbo you ended up with the top 10 that almost anybody would agree are very likely to win The Masters without having to do any statistical analysis. If you really want to go out on a limb what you do is you name three players you think will win not just oh my guy won he was one of the 22 I chose well in a tournament where the field is about 80 that’s not difficult to do.

    • Steve

      Apr 9, 2019 at 12:59 pm

      Why don’t you go out on a limb, then jump off!

  21. Geoffrey Holland

    Apr 8, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    Fuzzy Zoeller was not the only first-time winner.
    It’s a green jacket, not a kacket. (surely as someone like you is so into stats you could figure out some way with some magical tool to proofread or spell check what you’re writing. especially as you’re someone who is trying to sell your services which would imply that you have a good attention to detail. Making stupid mistakes that you don’t catch because you don’t proofread or edit doesn’t bode well for anyone paying money for your services)

    • drkbstr

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:28 am

      spice

    • Corey Trevor

      Apr 9, 2019 at 1:00 pm

      Why are you so salty, dude?

    • Sebas

      Apr 9, 2019 at 1:05 pm

      What a troll comment.

      Who are the other first-timers that won?

      And the guy is into math so he should be a perfect linguist, a perfect writer, and if he is not that means his math is not creditable?

      By the way your grammar, punctuation, and syntax is 5th-grade level. Trash.

    • Mark

      Apr 9, 2019 at 1:07 pm

      Hey Jeff…. your name is misspelled

    • Dave

      Apr 10, 2019 at 2:27 pm

      I love when guys bash someone for lack of spell check usage and proofreading and then go right into the next sentence and start it with a lower case letter. especially Geoffrey…right?

      I’ll make my predictions of the top 10 based off current Vegas odds. I’ll be sure and spell check before I post for you.

  22. O

    Apr 8, 2019 at 7:07 pm

    What about recent results, say, over the past month?
    Kisner won
    Casey won
    Mitchell absolutely bombs it
    Spieth shot 64 in the final round last year as bad as he was playing back then!

  23. Ray

    Apr 8, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    Yep. Smith shot 30 on the back nine on Sunday, missing a four footer on the 72nd. Useless article.

    • BF

      Apr 9, 2019 at 7:40 am

      Have you read his past articles? He’s usually spot on, with most of his top 20 picks making it to the top 10, and winning as well.

      http://www.golfwrx.com/author/richhunt/

      • Fang66

        Apr 9, 2019 at 8:57 am

        It is literally impossible for most of 20 to be in the top 10, at most half could be, and he is never anywhere that close.

  24. Tim

    Apr 8, 2019 at 6:52 pm

    Paul’s had a low drilling driver pretty much forever. Plays RtL but that too reduces apex. Combo of high draws off tee and high fades in is a tough one to find. Trevino first said he couldn’t win there cause hitting low he couldn’t carry the hills back in the 70s. ANGC trying keep up with longer but seems fewer are impacted by not “getting to the landing area” than used to be

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:30 am

      One comment. I don’t base the low height solely off the Apex Height. It’s also based on carry distance, launch, etc. Some years the combination of those metrics has not eliminated Paul. Some years it has. This year his ball flight is lower and that’s why he was eliminated. But next year, his ball flight may rise and that may not eliminate him.

  25. Jason

    Apr 8, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    I really look forward to this article each year so thanks Rich. My money is on someone from the UK this year and I specifically like Fleetwood to earn the jacket. He obviously has the game (many do) but it will all come down to wits on Sunday. Rose has the wits, not sure about McIlroy on Sunday. Fleetwood has been doing well in the majors past year.
    Funny thing about hitting the ball high- I can still remember Ken Venturi commenting during Masters telecast about Paul Azinger and that he wouldn’t win the Masters because he couldn’t hit the ball “high”. I guess that was some point in the 90’s? Not sure what year that was but have never forgot the statement. I haven’t been to Augusta but apparently hitting the ball high is a limiting reagent for success.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:32 am

      Based on the numbers, it had McIlroy and Rose as the top-2 projected performers at Augusta. Fleetwood got off to a slow start, but really came on his last couple of tournaments. He’s got the game for Augusta, he just needs more opportunities.

  26. marc blanchard

    Apr 8, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    Easy enough read for most golfers, but most “staticians” would argue with the method…
    1)Using different filters one after the other will most often lead to local optima only and miss the sweet spot.
    2)Ball height looks very flawed. Who cares about driving height? And there is no stat available for irons height (Casey and Champ very low of the tee… but Casey hits his irons better than most and no need to mention Champ’s distance, which only leaves wedges even to most par 5)
    3)Clearly some filters are very correlated, like driving distance, ball height, red zone efficiency. These three are more or less filtering down the same thing, bringing very little to the table.

    On the other hand a simple PCA including driving distance, GIR, strokes gained putting and major top 10 would probably yield a better list. Of course that would not make for a good read…

    Your top ten is much better than your top 22, as you clearly bring back some common sense into it, but I would personally forget about Rose, Garcia, Leishman and Rahm and take instead Fowler, Thomas, Schauffele and Hoffman. And Phil as an extra pick.

    • juliette91

      Apr 8, 2019 at 5:46 pm

      Well done! I don’t have the background – or brainpower- for the targeted analysis you shared. What you’ve said makes much sense. Thanks for weighing in here.

    • Josh

      Apr 8, 2019 at 7:54 pm

      Champ ain’t playing. Great analysis tho, bud.

      • H

        Apr 9, 2019 at 1:21 am

        LOL!!! right on, dude, right on

      • marc blanchard

        Apr 9, 2019 at 9:03 pm

        Oh my! I assumed Cam Champ was already OWGR top 50, my bad… Will be a good year with a lot of top dogs on form and warm weather. If only Tiger could have started his season earlier, would be so much fun to have him in contention on Sunday.
        Some good value bets on Rory, Casey, Hoffman and Kisner to perform early… Hedge them on Saturday evening.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:39 am

      The ball height filter is not solely based on Apex Height. It’s based on Apex Height, Carry Distance, launch angle and spin. For example, there have been years where I do not filter out Paul Casey despite his low Apex Height because his carry distance and launch are high enough.

      So, if Champ were playing at ANGC, he would not be eliminated due to his carry distance overriding his lower trajectory.

      As far as Justin Thomas goes, he’s 110th from the Red Zone. Phil is 146th from the Red Zone. Schauffele is 87th…good enough to not be eliminated from the final 22, but I didn’t want to put in my top-10.

  27. Porker

    Apr 8, 2019 at 5:08 pm

    Nice read, I think it’s going to boil down to 1 or 2 exceptional shots on day 4, maybe a hole-out or pitch in with a steady score on the rest of the holes to stay 1 shot ahead of the pack… playoff probably

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:42 am

      The past 5 years the event has really come down to 2 players on Sunday. Then another player shoots a low round on Sunday and either grabs 2nd or 3rd place, but is not a big threat to actually win. I think the question is whether that trend continues or if it stops and more players get into contention in the final round.

    • Mario B

      Apr 10, 2019 at 8:21 am

      Last year was all about this long range putt from Reed on 17th… If it didn’t catch a bit of the hole it would have gone 5 yards past. Good break there, Ricky would have torn him to bits in a playoff.
      What a day from Spieth before his nasty 18th drive, and what an amazing display of professionalism from Ricky Fowler! He is relentless; if Rory had that feature he would be unbeatable.

  28. johnnyb

    Apr 8, 2019 at 4:43 pm

    I am surprised the Schwartzl and Casey got cut for height. Has their trajectory lowered over the years? If so do you know why that is?

    • Cam

      Apr 8, 2019 at 4:50 pm

      What about kuch the douche?

      • GT Man

        Apr 8, 2019 at 4:56 pm

        Wipe that stupid smile off your dumb face, and I hope you get the shanks. You’re an embarrassment to GT.

  29. Barry

    Apr 8, 2019 at 4:38 pm

    I think Paul Casey has a great chance this year- weird as I always thought he hit the ball very high when I watched him live but you ruled him out for trajectory-Bryson WILL win, Casey top 10 at least!

  30. golfraven

    Apr 8, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    I may as well give my prediction. DJ sucked it up last year and jR two years ago so it will be one of those. Tiger could have a shot put he is not ready yet to pull off the show. I say Justin Rose. I ain‘t staying up till 2pm to watch it anyway.

  31. golfraven

    Apr 8, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    Did I mention it already that Masters is rigged. So you may just bin this. Cheers

  32. Josh

    Apr 8, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    I know Rich is a stats guy but come on, I had to laugh to myself the first sentence. Kacket???

  33. ZQ

    Apr 8, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    Absolutely useless piece. Your red zone eliminations consist of several major winners including masters winners lol. But guys like hatton and li get the nod? Senseless.

  34. B_of_H

    Apr 8, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    I think Tiger wins it.

  35. Nathan

    Apr 8, 2019 at 3:43 pm

    I only put you as a shank because I don’t see how you can leave Tiger out of your top 10 given how he’s played coming into this event and his experience here.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:49 am

      The algorithm I created had Tiger ranked 7th in the field. The algorithm looks weights certain areas of the game more based on the golf course at hand. However, this does not factor in age which works against Tiger at Augusta.

      Also, Tiger wasn’t in the top-10 by a wide margin. The numbers for players ranked #5-#13 are very close.

      If Tiger’s data was clearly inside the top-10, then I can’t go against the data. Since it was close and given his age along with my instincts…I didn’t have Tiger in my personal top-10. But, his data shows that he can clearly win this week.

  36. Paul Peters

    Apr 8, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    how many 175-225 shots do they actually hit? Wedge 2-3-7-8-9 8 iron 10-14-17. Also Cam Smith finished T5

  37. Bones

    Apr 8, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    Small correction needed: Conners competed as an am so he shouldn’t be filtered out in the first round.

  38. Stew

    Apr 8, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    Where’s B. An?

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 8, 2019 at 3:10 pm

      I don’t believe he was invited. IIRC, he was set to be invited and then got beat out in OWGR at the last second to lose his invitation. I have looked at 3 different invitee lists and he’s not on there.

  39. Tom

    Apr 8, 2019 at 2:20 pm

    Jordan Spieth dominates this course (T2, 1, T2, T11, 3) but he’s not considered one of your favorites?

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 8, 2019 at 3:19 pm

      In making projections for performance, recency trumps historical performance. With Spieth’s struggles on long approach shots, putting and driving…his odds do not look good. Having said that, he had a pretty strong performance at Valero and that may turn into a strong performance at Augusta.

  40. Tom54

    Apr 8, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    I can sort of relate to your elimination process but how in the world can you filter out a 3 time champion Phil Mickelson as good as his short game is?

  41. C

    Apr 8, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    Take out Rahm, DJ and Koepka due to their tendency to hit fades off tees.

    • Kenny Lee

      Apr 8, 2019 at 2:45 pm

      And Nicklaus too. You can take him out.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 8, 2019 at 4:05 pm

      Curvature of the ball has had very little impact on performance as Jack, Arnie, etc. have won there. In recent years, guys like Cabrera, Tiger, Sergio, etc…all fade players have had success there.

      Now that ANGC has some form of ShotLink data, it shows the problem with the draw being advantageous theory. For starters, there are some key holes (#7, #11 and #18) that favor a fade. But the bigger issue is that on holes like #13 and #15 which favor the draw…they have so much curvature in their design that it’s a bigger draw than even Tour players that draw the ball are comfortable with.

      What we see as a bigger issue is the ability to hit the ball high. And if a player hits a low-cut…fuhgetabouit. Low cut players like Trevino, Monty and Azinger all had major issues at ANGC. Rahm, Koepka and DJ have no problem hitting the ball high (and long) and I wouldn’t take them out of the picture.

  42. MuniMulli

    Apr 8, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    Where can I get a Green Kacket?

  43. JP

    Apr 8, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    Patrick Cantlay will win by 2 strokes. Book it at 75/1
    .
    Buy a new house for a $5,000 bet

    • William Davis

      Apr 9, 2019 at 12:12 pm

      When? On Tuesday evening, maybe. Everyone else will have gone home.

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Whether you play competitively or not, “pressure” is a big part of this game. Even if we are out for an evening practice nine, when we get over any shot, from drive to putt, we are putting “pressure” on ourselves to perform to our best capability.

So just what is pressure? My dad used to tell us the story about a guy who wanted to learn how to walk the tightrope. He strung a rope across his yard about a foot off the ground and started practicing—first just balancing, then walking, skipping—he got where he “owned” that tightrope. So, he decided he was ready for the big top, to join the circus. The circus manager says, “Well, climb up there and show me what you’ve got.” When he got to the top and looked down about thirty feet, he couldn’t even get off the platform.

Pressure!

Pressure affects all of differently, but it does affect all of us. How can we totally jack a two-foot putt sometimes? How can we chunk a chip shot? We don’t do that on the practice tee! But then, how can tour pros hit some of the gosh-awful shots we see them hit coming down the stretch? No one is immune.

So, I want to share my three keys to handling pressure. I’d like for all of you to chime in with your own personal keys that you use with success.

Here are mine:

  1. Recall success! The first thing that happens in pressure situations is that fear sets in. You may find yourself thinking of that last short putt you missed, or that chip you chunked, or bunker shot you skulled. In Dr. David Cook’s book/movie “Seven Days In Utopia”, the mentor tells his student, “See it. Feel it. Trust it.” See the shot you have and recall the dozens or hundreds of ways you’ve successfully executed it before. Take a few practice swings and feel the swing that will produce that vision. Then trust your skill that you KNOW you have and just execute.
  2. Get S-L-O-W. It’s a natural tendency to get quick when we are under pressure. As you begin to approach the shot, slow down a bit. If you are riding in a cart and approaching the green, pause for a count before you jump out of the cart. Take a breath before you pull the clubs from the bag. Walk a little more slowly over to your ball, which gives you time to think those successful thoughts we just talked about. Make your practice swings or strokes a little slower, more deliberately. And feel the end of your backswing. The quickness killer is not finishing the swing, whether it’s a full iron shot, a short chip or pitch, or even a putt. FEEL the end of the backswing to neutralize quickness.
  3. Lighten up! A nice relaxed grip is essential to a good golf shot of any kind, but pressure affects that first, most of the time. When you are feeling a little “amped up”, focus on your grip pressure and R-E-L-A-X. Your body will not let you hold a club too softly, but pressure sure can make you put the death grip on the club. And it is hard to swing too quickly when you have a nice soft grip on the club.

So, those are my “three keys” to handling pressure. Try them the next time you find yourself a little nervous, whether it’s for the club championship, or just beating your buddies out of a few bucks.

And let us know your keys to handling pressure, too!

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Coming out of the haze: What to expect from the OEMs in the second half of 2020

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As we slowly come out of the lockdown haze, it’s going to be interesting to see which OEMs are primed to come out swinging. From where I sit, there are a few companies that either kept the foot on the pedal or found new ways to interact with the masses. I have been tracking the major companies for different reasons, and I am optimistic on most fronts. Now, it needs to be said that everyone has been keeping the respective momentum going in their own ways—this has been a challenge for everyone, so this analysis is simply a commentary on what may come in the second half of the year.

Many good folks were either furloughed or laid off during this lockdown—that’s where we all lost. It needs to be acknowledged that we are talking about golf here, but the underlying reality of this is still devastating. I so look forward to getting into the trenches with these folks again either back where they were or at new companies.

TaylorMade became educators…and kicked off live golf again

Big giant club company or big giant marketing machine…it doesn’t matter what you label them as. TaylorMade Golf, in my opinion, turned the heartbreak of stalling one of the biggest first quarters in company history into an opportunity to start talking…and teaching. With the help of the tour team and TM athletes, TaylorMade focused hard on talking to us all during the lockdown. With multiple initiatives through social media, the Driving Relief event, and the tour staff engaging way more than usual. I believe TM created a runway to start moving quickly once stores and pro shops open up again.

Let’s face it, with the social media presence, the most robust tour staff maybe ever, and the driver everyone seems to have reserved for the top big stick of 2020, what’s not to be confident about? On the flip side, a company that big could have really taken it on the chin hard, but how they handled the lockdown—from my chair—was fun to watch and will ultimately ensure a quick restart. There is something to be said about having guys like Trottie, Adrian, and Hause in the fold informing and keeping things fun.

Rumor has it new irons are dropping in the fall/winter, which could spell two awesome bookends to a bittersweet 2020.

PXG leaned in

Why online sales for all OEMs spiked is no mystery. Boredom, desire, and a credit card are keys to any great online buying experience, but PXG made certain that if you were not a buyer previously, you may be now.

The price tag has always been a key topic with Bob Parsons’ Scottsdale-based company. It’s no secret that the clubs aren’t cheap, but during this lockdown, they did multiple strategic initiatives to not only crank up direct-to-consumer buying but also expand the PXG conversation into different areas, namely fashion.

Price cuts across the board started early and, rumor has it, enabled PXG to achieve sales numbers unlike any other period in the company’s short history. Yes, cutting prices helps unit sales, but in the case of PXG, it brought in the club customer that ordinarily shied away from PXG for financial reasons and ultimately made them buyers. That’s where PXG seems to shine, once they finally get you in, they are very effective at keeping you in the family. Mercedes-Benz AMG is like that: once you have had a taste of the Kool-Aid, it’s hard to go back to Hawaiian Punch.

In addition to the aggressive price-cutting, PXG fashion, spearheaded by President Renee Parsons, launched a new collection that is designed and manufactured by PXG. Fashion in times like these is always a risk from a financial standpoint, but this launch has been on the calendar since the BOY and the current lockdown did not disrupt that. It speaks to the confidence that Bob and Renee have in what they are doing. Now, is it a guarantee that PXG garments will fly off the shelves? No. but that’s not the point, it’s the fact that this current climate didn’t scare them into pivoting or holding off.

Point to this pick is PXG looks healthy coming out of this and it was possible to believe that perhaps this would have taken a toll on the custom fit brand. There is even a commercial produced during lockdown to attract even more club builders to the fold. Not normal behavior in times like these, but is anything that PXG does normal? No, and that’s what makes them fun to talk about.

The company also released its Essential Facemask with 50 percent of proceeds going to Team Rubicon.

Ping was quiet…but don’t be fooled

Yes, they did some rare social media engagements with Kenton Oates and the tour staff, which were fantastic. But the real magic here was the quiet way in which Ping slipped into 2020 and the mystery they have in hand and what’s to come next.

There hasn’t been really any new Ping product in a good while, and I anticipate a big winter for the Solheim crew. Sometimes, silence is golden and from what I can gather, what Ping has coming in irons and woods will be yet again a launch that gets people talking.

Ping from a business standpoint is a company that gets one percent better every year. Never any dramatic shifts in strategy or product. It’s always good, it’s always high-performance, and it’s always in the “best of” category across the board.

Watch out for them over the next six to nine months…a storm is brewing. A good one.

Cobra introduced the “Rickie iron”

Cobra Rev 33 Irons

Compared to 2019 and the runaway success that was the F9 driver, Cobra Golf seemed to cruise along in the first quarter of 2020. The SpeedZone metal wood line was an improvement tech-wise from the F9 but seemed to get lost in the driver launch shuffle with an earlier release—and frankly everyone in the industry took a back seat to TaylorMade’s SIM.

It’s not placing one stick over the other actually, I have been very vocal about my affections for both, it’s just some years, the story around a club can generate excitement, and if the club is exceptional, boom. Cobra was that cool kid in 2019.

What Cobra decided to do in the downtime is slowly tease and taunt with a “Rickie Fowler” iron. Players blades aren’t typically the driving element of any business model, but what Cobra did was introduce to a beautiful yet completely authentic forging that will not only get the gear heads going nuts but also entice the better players to start looking at Cobra as a serious better players iron company. No small feat.

Point is, Cobra has generated buzz. It helped that Rickie’s performance at Seminole was just short of a precision clinic. Beyond the Rev 33, its rumored Cobra has a new players CB coming and some MIM wedges.

It should be an exciting last half for the Cobra crew.

The Titleist train chugged on

I mean, what else is there to say about Titleist? They are as American as apple pie, have a stranglehold on multiple tour and retail categories, and one of the best front offices in golf. The company is a well-oiled machine.

So what do I expect from them in the last half? Well pretty much what I would expect on any other year, solid player-driven equipment. A metal wood launch is coming, the SM8 was a huge hit in stores and on tour, and the ball portion is the biggest 800-pound gorilla in golf.

It was also nice to see a little more social media interaction beyond the traditional. Aaron Dill has been very active on the social media front and a good portion of the tour staff, namely Poulter, JT, and Homa were proactive in engagement. Might seem trivial to some, but specifically, Titleist and Ping are not super active in the organic interaction game, so it was nice to see both companies dive into the fold.

Cleveland/Srixon should have a lot to look forward to

Let’s be honest here, 2019 was a quiet year overall for Srixon. Shane Lowry won The Open, but in the golf mainstream it was a leap year for them in regards to any launches. The anticipation from me personally of what is to come is quite strong. I adore the irons. I have yet to meet one I didn’t love, and fitters across the country will speak to that in sales. The Srixon iron line has become a popular yet-sort-of-cult-classic among fitters and gearheads and rightly so. They are phenomenal.

The recently teased picture of the new driver on the USGA site more or less teased us of what is to come for the overall line. New Cleveland wedges are coming shortly and the golf ball has always been a solid component to the Huntington Beach company.

As much as anyone in the market, I believe Srixon could finish the year with some serious momentum going into 2021. The irons and ball have always been firestarters. My only wish for them, selfishly, is a more aggressive tour strategy in regards to landing one of the perennial top 10. It seems like a dumb thought, but I have always felt Cleveland/Srixon was always a serious hitter that at times seems to get lost in the conversation. Having a big gun on staff or a couple of them will remedy that quickly.

Callaway has an eye on big things for the golf ball

Callaway, a company that seems to do it all well, was actually a bit quiet since the lockdown started. After a solid release of the Mavrik line and some momentum in the golf ball area, I’m sure this lockdown probably felt like a kick to the shin.

However, this company is shifting in a good way. The idea that they were a golf club company that happened to make golf balls is slowly turning into a company with multiple major components that stand alone. TaylorMade is on a similar shift, and honestly it’s very interesting to watch. Do I think that anyone will ever catch Titleist in the ball category? No, I don’t. All of these mentioned golf balls are ridiculously good, but 75 years of trust and loyalty are hard to compete with. But that’s not the point, Callaway is a monster company that takes the golf ball conversation very seriously, and I believe this will serve them very well coming out of this craziness and help the momentum going into 2021.

 

 

 

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