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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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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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Podcasts

TG2: New podcaster Larry D on his show “Bogey Golf”

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GolfWRX Radio welcomes a new podcast, Bogey Golf with Larry D and we talk to Larry. He lets us in on his show, who he is, why he loves the game, and even what’s in his bag! Rob missed his member-guest and Knudson got a new driver.

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

Getting to know Payne Stewart

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Ever since that final putt fell in Pinehurst in 1999, Payne Stewart’s memory has enjoyed mythical qualities. A man of complex charm, but many of us who grew up without him recognize only his Knickerbocker pants, his flat cap, and his W.W.J.D. covered wrist wrapped around that United States Open trophy.

I had a wonderful opportunity to play a round of golf with two men that know a lot about Payne. One through friendship and the other through journalistic research.

Lamar Haynes was Payne Stewart’s close friend and teammate on the SMU golf team. He’s full of stories about Payne from the good old days. Kevin Robbins is an author who just finished a new book on Stewart’s final year of life, set to release to the public for purchase this October. He works as a professor of journalism at the University of Texas but has also enjoyed an impressive career as a reporter and golf writer for over 20 years.

We met at Mira Vista Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, to talk about Payne. Robbins is a solid golfer who spends time working on his game, which tells me a lot about his personality. He is one of us.  As for Haynes, the guy hasn’t lost much since those SMU golf team days. He can still swing it. Fantastic iron player. And both men are wonderful conversationalists. They offered a unique perspective on Stewart—the golfer I grew up idolizing but never really knew. There’s a good chance you don’t really know him, either. At least not the whole story.

“Most golf fans now know the story of his ’99 U.S. Open win,” Robbins said.  “What they don’t know is where he came from.”

Robbins’ book, The Last Stand of Payne Stewart: The Year Golf Changed Foreverchronicles Payne’s last year on earth with dramatic detail, covering his triumph at Pinehurst and the Ryder Cup at Brookline. And, of course, it tells the story of that tragic plane crash that took our champion from us. What the book doesn’t do is hide any of the blemishes about Payne’s life that have either been forgotten or pushed aside by brighter moments and memories.

“I thought that the other Payne Stewart books, while they have a place, they didn’t tell the whole story,” Robbins said.

The whole story, from what I read, was Payne being brash. A poor winner and sometimes a poor sport when he lost. He often said things he shouldn’t have said and then made those mistakes again and again.

“He had no filter,” remembered Haynes.  “Several close friends on tour had a hard time with him when he won his first Open. He didn’t take into account any of the consequences his words could create. He had a huge heart. Huge heart. But at times there was just no filter. But he grew a great deal over the last 2 or three years.”

It’s most certainly is a book about a change. A change in a man that was better late than never. But also a change in golf that began at the turn of the century and hasn’t really slowed down since.

“The 20 years since his death, to see the way golf has moved, what the tour looks like now,” Robins said.  “There was an evolution that was taking place in 1999 and we didn’t know how it would manifest itself. But now we do. So when you see Brooks Koepka hit a 3-wood in the US Open 370 yards, well that all really had its beginnings in 1998 and 1999. The Pro-V1 ball was being tested in 1999 and being rolled out in 2000. Fitness and equipment, sports psychology, nutrition. All of those things that a guy like Payne Stewart really didn’t have to pay attention to.”

But that change that occurred in Payne, culminating in his final year of life, is something worth learning. It’s a lesson for all of us. A guy on top of the world with still so much to fix. And he was fixing it, little by little.

“He was authentic,” Haynes said. “And he learned a lot later in life from his children. With their Bible studies. You saw a change in him. Very much. He had a peace with himself but he still would revert to his DNA. The fun-loving Payne. Raising children and being a father helped him tremendously.”

Payne was passionate about so many things in life but his children became a primary focus. According to Haynes, he would be so loud at his daughter’s volleyball games…yelling intensely at the referees…that they gave him an option: Either he wouldn’t be allowed to watch the games anymore or he needed to become a line judge and help out with the games. So, Payne Stewart became a volleyball line judge.

Lamar brought the head of an old Ram 7-iron along with him to show me. Damaged and bent from the crash, the club was with Payne on his final flight. He had it with him to show his guys at Mizuno as a model for a new set of irons. That Ram 7-iron belonged to Haynes and Payne had always adored the way it looked at address.

“Payne also used my old Mizunos the last year of his life,” Haynes said.  I had received the MS-4s 10 years earlier from Payne in 1989. They were like playing with a shaft on a knife. The sweet spot was so tiny on the MS-4. They made the MP29 and 14s look like game improvement irons. Payne used those. Then Harry Taylor at Mizuno designed him an iron, which later became the MP33. The 29 and 14s were very sharp and flat-soled. Well, Payne loved this old Ram iron set that I had.. He asked for my Ram 7-iron for Harry Taylor to model his new set. He liked the way it went through the turf. He had it with him on the plane. This is the club that started the MP33.”

It was Lamar Haynes, the man who seems to know just about everyone in the golf community, that set Robbins on this writing journey. Robbins had written one book previously: The story of the life of legendary golf coach Harvey Penick. But this book came a bit easier for Robbins, partly due to his experience, partly due to the subject matter, and partly because of Lamar.

“There’s a story here,” Robbins said. “With any book, you hope to encounter surprises along the way, big and little. And I did. I got great cooperation a long the way. Anybody I wanted to talk to, talked to me thanks to this guy Lamar Haynes.”

“Lamar said the first guy you need to talk to is Peter Jacobsen,” Robins said. “And I said ‘great can you put me in touch with him’ which became a common question to Lamar throughout the process.” Robbins chuckled.  “Literally 2 minutes later my phone rings. ‘Kevin, this is Peter Jacobsen here.'”

“Peter told me the story about the ’89 PGA championship in our first conversation. So literally in the first 10 minutes of my reporting effort, I had the first set piece of the book. I had something. Lamar made a lot happen.”

Lamar Haynes and Kevin Robbins

The book is not a biography, though it certainly has biographical elements to it. It is simply the story of Payne’s final year, with a look back at Payne’s not so simple career mixed in. The author’s real talent lives in the research and honesty. The story reads like you’re back in 1999 again, with quotes pulled from media articles or press conferences. Anecdotes are sprinkled here and there from all of Payne’s contemporaries. The storytelling is seamless and captivating.

“I was pleasantly surprised how much Colin Montgomerie remembered about the concession at the 1999 Ryder Cup,” Robbins said. “Colin can be a tough interview. He is generally mistrustful of the media. His agent gave me 15 minutes during the Pro-Am in Houston. This was in the spring of 2018. I met Colin on the 17th hole and he had started his round on 10. Just organically the conversation carried us to the fifth green. Just because he kept remembering things. He kept talking, you know. It was incredible. Tom Lehman was the same way. He said “I’ll give you 20 minutes” and it ended up being an hour and a half at Starbucks.”

The research took Robbins to Massachusetts, Florida, and Missouri—and of course, to Pinehurst. He met with Mike Hicks, Payne’s former caddie, there to discuss that final round. The two ended up out on Pinehurst No. 2, walking the last three holes and reliving the victory. It gives life to the story and fills it with detail.

“Part of what I hoped for this book is that it would be more than just a sports story,” Robbins said.  “More than just a golf story. The more I started thinking about where Payne began and where he ended, it seemed to me…and I’m not going to call it a redemption story although I bet some people do. People when they are younger, they have regrets and they make mistakes. They do things they wish they could take back but they can’t. So, what can they do? Well, they can improve. They can get better. That’s what Payne was doing with his life. He was improving himself. It was too late to change what he had done already. So what could he do with the future? He could be different.”

“It was accurate,” Haynes said.  “I had a tear when I finished it. I texted Kevin right afterward. I told him I couldn’t call him because I’m choked up so I texted him.”

So here’s two men who knew Payne Stewart, albeit in very different ways. They knew he was flawed in life but he got better. Was Payne Stewart that hero at Pinehurst, grabbing Phil Mickelson’s face and telling him the important thing is he’s going to be a father? Yes. But he was so much more than that. He was so much more than I knew before I read this book. Most importantly, Payne Stewart was always improving. A lesson for all of us, indeed.

If you want to hear more about my experience, tweet at me here @FWTXGolfer or message me on Instagram here! I look forward to hearing from you!

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