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Opinion & Analysis

Hot & Cold: Where strokes were won and lost at the WGC-Mexico

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In “Hot & Cold,” we’ll be focusing each week on what specific areas of the game players excelled and disappointed in throughout the previous tournament. Last week, we went south of the border for the WGC-Mexico, and this is where some of the top players in the game gained and lost strokes to the field for the four days of action.

Hot

Dustin Johnson dominated at the WGC-Mexico, and it was his red hot TaylorMade Spider Tour Black putter that separated himself primarily from his closest challenger, Rory McIlroy. Johnson led the field in strokes gained putting in Mexico, gaining a whopping 8.5 strokes over the field for the four days of action with his flat-stick. The second highest strokes gained putting total of his career.

Tiger Woods’ ultra-conservative strategy off the tee looked to hinder the 14-time major champion’s challenge at Club de Golf Chapultepec. Woods’ decision to continually lay back off the tee cost him 4.6 strokes to the field off the tee, so why is he in this category you ask? His iron play. Woods led the field for strokes gained approaching the green at the WGC-Mexico, gaining an impressive 8.3 strokes for his approach play with his TaylorMade P7TW Prototypes. Only three times since 2013 has Woods gained more strokes with his irons than he did last week in Mexico.

Rory McIlroy showed plenty of encouraging signs on his way to a runner-up finish in Mexico, and while the Ulsterman gained strokes in all of the significant strokes gained categories, it’s his numbers off the tee which stand out. McIlroy showed his dominance with his TaylorMade M5 driver, gaining 6.4 strokes over the field off the tee. The 29-year-old has only trumped that number once for his play off the tee since 2017.

Cold

Jordan Spieth’s long game is causing the three-time major champ all sorts of trouble right now. On his way to a disappointing T54 finish at the WGC-Mexico, Spieth lost 3.6 strokes off the tee to land himself in the bottom ten in this category for the week. What’s most concerning is that Spieth has performed worse than he did last week off the tee twice already this season, and the Texan has now lost strokes to the field for his play tee to green in six out of his last seven events.

Making just his second start on the PGA Tour this year, Brooks Koepka struggled mightily on the greens of Club de Golf Chapultepec. With his normally reliable Titleist Scotty Cameron Tour Only T10 Select Newport in hand, the multiple-major champ dropped 5.7 strokes to the field on the greens. It’s the joint most amount of strokes that Koepka has lost with the flat-stick for over a year on the PGA Tour, and perhaps more worryingly is that the American has now dropped strokes to the field on the greens in five of his last six events.

Rounding up the “Cold” list is Bryson DeChambeau. The 25-year-old made the headlines for the wrong reasons in Mexico, after losing his cool and damaging the practice green in frustration. The source of that frustration looked to stem from his short game, which failed to fire all week at the WGC-Mexico. DeChambeau lost a combined 8.2 strokes to the field for the four days for his play around and on the greens. It was DeChambeau’s worst performance thus far in his career around the greens, dropping 3.3 strokes to the field, while on the greens it was his third worst showing, losing almost five strokes for the four days of play.

 

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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giannimosquito

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. freowho

    Feb 26, 2019 at 2:05 am

    More of this please. I would also like to see some articles on how a course suits a certain style of play. The fact Tiger kept laying up cost him suggests it was a course for the good drivers of the ball.

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On Spec

On Spec Special Edition: Houston Open winner Lanto Griffin talks equipment

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In this special edition of On Spec, Ryan has the chance to interview recent PGA Tour winner Lanto Griffin. Lanto talks about what it’s like to stand over an event winning putt, finding the right wedges, and how testing gear sometimes happens right out of another player’s bag.

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

The “70% Rule” is still the winning formula on the PGA Tour

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In June of 2010, a year before the Tour launched Strokes Gained Putting analysis, I published an article on my blog (www.NiblicksOfTruth.blogspot.com): “PGA Tour Winner’s – 70% Rule.”

I had been studying the winners of each tour event for years and realized that they all had specific success in three simple stats–and that the three stats must add up to 70 percent

  1. Greens in Regulation – 70%
  2. Scrambling – 70%
  3. 1-Putts from 5 to 10 feet – 70%

Not every one of the three had to equal 70 percent, but the simple addition of the three needed to equal or exceed 70 percent.  For example, if GIR’s were 68 percent, then scrambling or putting needed to be 72 percent or higher to offset the GIR deficiency—simple and it worked!

I added an important caveat. The player could have no more than three ERRORS in a four-round event. These errors being

  1. Long game: A drive hit out of play requiring an advancement to return to normal play, or a drive or approach penalty.
  2. Short game: A short game shot that a.) missed the putting surface, and b.) took 4 or more total strokes to hole out.
  3. Putting: A 3-putt or worse from 40 feet or closer.

In his recent win in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Kevin Na broke the rule… by a bit.  He was all good on the 70 percent part of the rule

  1. GIR’s: 75 percent
  2. Scrambling: 72 percent
  3. 1-Putts 5-10 ft.: 73 percent

But not so good on the three-error limit

  1. Long game: Two driving errors and one approach penalty (three errors).
  2. Short game: A chip/pitch shot that missed the green and took FIVE strokes to hole out (one error).

No wonder it took a playoff to secure his win! But there was another stat that made the difference…

The stat that piqued my interest in Kevin’s win was connected to my 70 percent Rule.  It was his strokes gained: putting stat: +3.54, or ranked first.  He gained 3.5 strokes on the field in each of his four rounds or 14 strokes. I have never seen that, and it caused me to look closer. For perspective, I ran the putting performance of all of the event winners in the 2019 Tour season. Their average putting strokes gained was +1.17.

Below, I charted the one-putt percentages by distance range separately for Kevin Na, the 2019 winners, and the tour 2019 average. I have long believed that the 6–10 foot range separates the good putters on Tour from the rest as it is the most frequently faced of the “short putt” ranges and the Tour averages 50 percent makes. At the same time, the 11-20 foot ranges separate the winners each week as these tend to represent birdie putts on Tour. Look at what Kevin did there.

All I can say again, I HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS. Well done Kevin!

For the rest of us, in the chart below I have plotted Kevin’s performance against the “average” golfer (15-19 handicap). To see exactly how your game stacks up, visit my website.

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Instruction

The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between better recreational golfers and those not so good—and also between the tour professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—is the consistency of their pre-shot routines. It is really easy to dismiss something that happens before the ball is even struck as irrelevant, but I strongly urge you to reconsider if you think this way.

To have a set routine to follow religiously before every shot gives you the best chance to execute the shot the way you intend. To do otherwise just leaves too much to chance. Indulge me here and I’ll offer you some proof.

It’s been a while back now, but I still remember an interesting account on this subject that used the final round of the 1996 Masters—when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Norman—as his statistical proof. This particular analyst reviewed the entire telecast of that final round and timed the routine of both players for every shot. What he discovered was that Norman got quicker and less consistent in his pre-shot routine throughout his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

A lot of time has passed since then, but all competitive tour professionals pay very close attention to their pre-shot routines these days. I urge you to watch them as they go through the motions before each shot. And notice that most of them “start over” if they get distracted during that process.

While I do not think it is practical for recreational golfers to go into such laborious detail for every shot, let me offer some suggestions as to how a repeatable pre-shot routine should work.

The first thing is to get a good feel for the shot, and by that, I mean a very clear picture in your mind of how it will fly, land and roll; I also think it’s realistic to have a different routine for full shots, chips and pitches and putts. They are all very different challenges, of course, and as you get closer to the hole, your focus needs to be more on the feel of the shot than the mechanics of the swing, in my opinion.

To begin, I think the best starting point is from behind the ball, setting up in your “mind’s eye” the film-clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight and path it will take. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and “feel” the swing that will produce that shot path for you. Your exact routine can start when you see that shot clearly, and begin your approach the ball to execute the shot. From that “trigger point”, you should do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

For me (if I’m “on”), I’ll step from that behind-the-shot position, and set the club behind the ball to get my alignment. Then I step into my stance and ball position, not looking at the target, but being precise not to change the alignment of the clubhead–I’m setting my body up to that established reference. Once set, I take a look at the target to ensure that I feel aligned properly, and take my grip on the club. Then I do a mental check of grip pressure, hover the club off the ground a bit to ensure it stays light, and then start my backswing, with my only swing thought being to feel the end of the backswing.

That’s when I’m “on,” of course. But as a recreational player, I know that the vast majority of my worst shots and rounds happen when I depart from that routine.

This is something that you can and should work on at the range. Don’t just practice your swing, but how you approach each shot. Heck, you can even do that at home in your backyard. So, guys and ladies, there’s my $0.02 on the pre-shot routine. What do you have to add?

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