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Opinion & Analysis

Not ‘POY’ material, but three Tour players who were great in 2012

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Tomorrow, the PGA Tour will announce the winner of the Jack Nicklaus Award, which is given to the Tour Player of the Year and determined by the PGA Tour Player Directors and the Players Advisory Council. And if you paid any attention to the Tour in 2012, the list is of players who were considered was familiar and not unusual.

  • Rory McIlroy had a brilliant season with four PGA Tour wins that included another major championship.
  • Tiger Woods rebounded from a lackluster 2011 season to win three times thanks in part to a swing renovation that seems closer to its intended goal.
  • Brandt Snedeker used his consistent fast-paced play to earn two Tour wins that culminated with his name on the FedExCup.
  • Jason Dufner impressed a lot of analysts with his steady play from tee to green that allowed him to also capture two Tour wins and a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
  • Finally, Bubba Watson captured three top three finishes using a dazzling array of shot making that only Watson can do. Watson was able to silence critics of his unique game by winning the Masters, arguably the biggest and most important tournament on the schedule.

Looking at the list of nominees for 2012, there appears to be a direct correlation between the nominees and the top five of the Tour money list:

PGA Tour Money Leaders 2012 

  1. Rory McIlroy – $8,047,952
  2. Tiger Woods – $6,133,158
  3. Brandt Snedeker – $4,989,739
  4. Jason Dufner – $4,869,303
  5. Bubba Watson – $4,644,996

I’m not convinced that this should be the main criterion in considering the nominees for the Player of the Year. I’m sure other factors were part of the evaluation, but it is eyebrow raising to see the parallel of these two lists. Here, we look at three of the best players on the 2012 PGA Tour who didn’t make the nominees list but easily could have.

Justin Rose

In 2012, Rose nestled himself into seventh place overall on the money list, but looking at his per event earnings ($225,838) and he jumps into fifth place, ahead of Jason Dufner ($221,331) and barely behind Tour Champion Brandt Snedeker ($226,806).  I would argue that this is a better benchmark if we were to use money as a key criterion to success on the Tour in a given season. Rose also finished with eight top 10 finishes in 2012, two less than McIlroy and one less than Tiger Woods. Clearly, Rose had a great season and should be recognized as one of the top players for this year.

Keegan Bradley

If we were to take the value of money away from the argument, we are left with statistics and overall, no one did it better than Keegan Bradley.  The 2011 PGA Championship winner followed up his freshman season with another solid showing which saw him in the top 10 five times and also earn a coveted spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. The more compelling statistic is that Bradley ranked first on the PGA Tour All Around Ranking list, which takes an overall score for each pro based on his ranking on key categories — scoring, putting, birdies, eagles, sand saves, greens in regulation, driving distance and driving accuracy.  It’s a telling statistic in that it measures the overall game of the individual and is not dependent the size of the purse of the given tournament or who is or isn’t in the field. Bradley’s success in his sophomore season proves that he isn’t a one hit wonder and is perhaps one of the other key figures to keep an eye on in the post-Tiger era of the PGA Tour.

Bo Van Pelt

I’m sure this one would catch many readers off guard, but in looking at some of the various ranking lists for 2012, Bo Van Pelt is a name that shows up high amongst and sometimes ahead of the superstars of the Tour. Consider this: Rory McIlroy shared the No. 1 spot of top 10 finishes this year with 10.  Who did he share it with? You guessed it — Bo Van Pelt. Though he is ranked 23rd in the world, Bo Van Pelt has quietly put together a season that was statistically better than Snedeker, Watson and Woods. This is based on the All Around Ranking List mentioned above, where Van Pelt hold the fourth spot behind Bradley, McIlroy and Dufner.  Van Pelt is a model of consistency and will certainly be a sleeper pick to win one of next year’s major tournaments.

There is no argument that this year’s class of nominees aren’t worthy — each player had significant success on the Tour this past season and each are very deserving of the nomination. These three players merely represent a handful of their colleagues that also deserve special recognition of a noteworthy season and shouldn’t be overlooked when looking back at the PGA Tour in 2012. With four victories this season including one major, it’s inevitable that Rory McIlroy will win the Jack Nickalus Award as this year’s standout, but there is no harm in giving credit to the supporting cast that made McIlroy the poster child of professional golf in 2012.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

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Dennis lives in Calgary, Canada where golf is available (at best) six months of the year. The other six months are spent understanding the nuances of the game that make it so addicting and wonderfully frustrating. In a perfect world, Dennis would take his set of G10s and his D300S to travel the world playing and photographing the beautiful, unique landcapes of the golf world. For now, he sits at a desk and is developing an eight-layer golf ball simply called "The Tour Ocho."

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Podcasts

Gear Dive: USC head golf coach Chris Zambri on the challenges that will come with the new NCAA rules

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In this Special Edition of The Gear Dive, USC Men’s Head Golf Coach Chris Zambri discusses his thoughts on the new NCAA mandates, how to get recruited, and the pros and cons of recruiting can’t-miss superstars.

  • 9:55 — Zambri discusses thoughts on new rule
  • 17:35 — The rule he feels is the toughest navigate
  • 26:05 — Zambri discusses the disadvantages of recruiting a “can’t miss” PGA star
  • 32:50 — Advice to future recruits
  • 44:45 — The disadvantages of being tied to an OEM as a college golf team

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

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Opinion & Analysis

A new NCAA transfer rule gets passed… and college coaches are NOT happy

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New rules just keep on coming from the NCAA; college coaches are not happy about this one.

In a summer of block buster coaching changes, the NCAA has done its best to stay atop the news cycle by making some significant changes, which will impact the recruitment process. In an article two months ago entitled “The effect the NCAA’s new recruiting rules will have on college golf,” I spoke to college coaches about a new rule, which will not allow unofficial or official visits until September 1 of the players Junior Year. To go along with this rule, the NCAA has also put in place a new recruiting calendar which will limit the sum of the days of off campus recruiting between a head and assistant coach to 45 days starting August 1, 2018.

The 45-day rule will have several potential impacts for both recruits and assistant coaches. For recruits, it is likely that after a couple (2-3) evaluations, coaches will make offers and ask for speed responses to ensure they are not missing out on other options. I also think you will see far less assistant coaches recruiting, which ultimately hurts their opportunities to learn the art of recruitment.

The new transfer rule

In the past, players were subject to asking their present institution for either permission to contact other schools regarding transfer, or a full release.

Now, starting October 15, players can simply inform their institution of their intensions to leave and then start contacting other schools to find an opportunity. This is a drastic shift in policy, so I decided to poll college coaches to get their reactions.

The poll was conducted anonymously via Survey Monkey. Participation was optional and included 6 questions:

  1. New NCAA Legislation will allow players to transfer without a release starting October 2018. Do you support this rule change?
  2. Do you believe that this rule will have APR implications?
  3. Who do you think will benefit most from this rule?
  4. What are the benefits of allowing students to transfer without a release? What are the potential harms?
  5. New NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?
  6. What implications do you see for this rule?

In all, 62 Division I golf coaches responded, or about 10 percent of all Division I coaches in Men’s and Women’s Golf. The results show that 81.25 percent of DI coaches said that they do NOT support the rule change for transfers.

Also, 90 percent of coaches polled believe that the rule will have APR implications. APR is Academic Progress Rate which holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.

The APR is calculated as follows:

  • Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible.
  • A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate.
  • In addition to a team’s current-year APR, its rolling four-year APR is also used to determine accountability.

Teams must earn a four-year average APR of 930 to compete in championships.

While the APR is intended as an incentive-based approach, it does come with a progression of penalties for teams that under-perform academically over time.

The first penalty level limits teams to 16 hours of practice per week over five days (as opposed to 20 over six days), with the lost four hours to be replaced with academic activities.

A second level adds additional practice and competition reductions, either in the traditional or non-championship season, to the first-level penalties. The third level, where teams could remain until their rate improves, includes a menu of possible penalties, including coaching suspensions, financial aid reductions and restricted NCAA membership.

Clearly coaches are not happy about the move and feel that the rule unfairly benefits both the student athletes and major conference schools, who may have a swell of calls around middle of October as Student athletes play great fall golf and look to transfer. Although coaches are unhappy about the new rule, it is very difficult to predict what direct impact the rule will have on teams; coaches are extremely smart and understand recruiting and development within the frame work of college better than anyone can imagine. As a result, I think coaches will react in many ways which are impossible to predict.

The survey also asked, “new NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?” For this, coaches were more divided with 45 percent in favor of the rule, and 55 percent not.

Although coaches supported the legislation, many (41/62) suggested that it would potentially hurt international recruiting at tournaments like Doral and the Orange Bowl and they had, in the past, used December as a time to recruit.

As we move forward with these changes, here are some potential things that recruits, and their families should consider, including consequences of the rules:

  1. With a limit of 45 days and these transfer rules, it is likely that coaches will be doing significantly more investigation into a player’s personalities and family situation to make sure they know what they are getting.
  2. Coaches may also start skipping over better players in favor of kids they think will be a good fit and are likely to stay
  3. Rosters may get bigger, as coaches are trying to have larger numbers to potentially offset transfers

Unfortunately, we enter a new era of rules at the worst time; we have never had a more competent and deep group of college coaches, the clear majority of whom are tremendous stewards of the game. Hopefully this rule will have insignificant effect on the continued growth of college golf but only time will tell.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is golf actually a team sport?

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Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at edmyersgolf.com.

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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