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Opinion & Analysis

Hot & Cold: Where strokes were won and lost at the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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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 saw Francesco Molinari emerge out of the pack and claim the title at Bay Hill, and here’s a look at where some of the most notable players gained and lost strokes over the four days of action.

Hot

What a week it was for Francesco Molinari who was making his debut as a Callaway staffer. The Italian’s long game has never been an issue, and at the API Molinari excelled in this department, leading the field along with Rory McIlroy, for strokes gained off the tee with his Callaway Epic Flash Sub Zero driver.

Throughout his career, Molinari’s nemesis has been the flat-stick, but equipped with his Odyssey Toulon Madison Stroke Lab, the 36-year-old shined. Molinari gained strokes over the field on the greens each day at Bay Hill, gaining almost seven strokes in total with his Odyssey putter – the most strokes he has gained on the greens in his career.

It’s been a lean stretch for Henrik Stenson, but after struggling in round one at the API, the Swede clicked into gear, particularly with his irons. Stenson gained 6.7 strokes over the field for strokes gained approaching the green last week, and the 42-year-old has only once bettered that number since 2016. Check out Stenson’s 2019 WITB here on our forums.

Bubba Watson produced a poor display with his irons at the WGC-Mexico, losing over four strokes to the field for his approach play, but it was an entirely different story at last week’s API. Watson gained 6.4 strokes over the field for his approaches at Bay Hill with his Ping Blueprints. That number represents Watson’s best performance with his irons at an event in over three years.

Cold

Hideki Matsuyama’s putting is what has arguably kept the Japanese star from claiming a major title so far in his career, and at last week’s API, Matsuyama suffered a miserable four days on the greens which could leave some mental scarring as we head towards major season. Matsuyama was the worst performer on the greens last week, dropping a frightening 8.3 strokes to the field with his flat-stick. Only on one other occasion has Matsuyama putt worse in his career. It’s a testament to his ball striking that the 27-year-old fashioned a T33 finish.

Bryson DeChambeau had a very quiet week at Arnie’s event, and on closer inspection, the 25-year-old failed to fire with his approach play. For just the second time in his last 11 tournaments, DeChambeau lost strokes in this department, and most worrying for the American is how much ground he gave way with his irons. DeChambeau lost 4.3 strokes to the field for his approach play at Bay Hill, which is his second-worst total in this area in his young career.

Justin Rose stumbled severely over the weekend at Bay Hill, shooting rounds of 77 and 75 to slide down the leaderboard. The Englishman lost strokes tee to green at the tournament for just the second time in over a year on Tour, but it’s his dismal display with his long game over the weekend that is most surprising. Despite being one of the best ball strikers in the game, Rose lost almost six strokes to the field tee to green on Saturday and Sunday at the API.

 

 

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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 @giancarlomag

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. M

    Mar 11, 2019 at 3:39 pm

    Nobody will buy Honma now

    • Geoffrey Holland

      Mar 12, 2019 at 5:01 am

      Honma still better than hitting a Callaway Epic Splash.

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Opinion & Analysis

College golf recruiting: The system works

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Yesterday, one of the parents I consult with on college placement asked me what the lessons are from the recent college admissions scandal for her and her son. What are the takeaways?

Michael Young, who coined the phrase in 1956, writes, a meritocracy is “the society in which the gifted, the smart, the energetic, the ambitious and the ruthless are carefully sifted out and helped towards their destined positions of dominance.” For decades higher education has embraced the meritocracy, creating an effective system which it funnels students with amazing precision to school that matches their academic ability, courtesy of indicators like GPA, SAT and class rank. So why would people work to circumvent this system? Ignorance and entitlement; the members of this scandal were driven by having the right brand name to tell their friends at dinner parties, not the welfare of their children.

In my own experience, I have seen families put their kids into months of hardcore standardized prep, while signing up for six to eight sittings of the SAT under the guise of trying to get to a better school, all while balancing practice and tournament golf. The problem is that this does not make you a good parent, it makes you an asshole.

In my own examination of data in the college signing process over the past three years, I have found only three outliers in Division One Men’s Golf at major conference schools. Each of these outliers had a NJGS ranking outside of the top 1000 in their class with scoring differentials above 3.5. They also each had a direct and obvious connection with the school. They leveraged the relationship and had their children admitted and put on the roster. Success! Unfortunately, none of the players appeared on the roster their sophomore year. Why? By the numbers, these players are 6 shots worst than their peers. That’s 24 shots over a four-round qualifier.

Obviously, it needs to be said again; the best junior players (boys and girls) are excellent. Three years of data suggest that players who attend major conference schools have negative scoring differentials close to 2. This means that they average about 2 shots better than the course rating, or in lay terms; have a plus handicap in tournaments. This is outstanding golf and a result of a well thought out and funded plan, executed over several years.

There is no doubt that the best players have passed through top tier programs in recent years, however, they have entered these programs with accolades including negative scoring differentials and successful tournament careers, including a pattern of winning. In order to compete at the professional level, players must meticulously try and mirror these successes in college. The best way to do it? Attend a school where the prospective student-athlete can gain valuable experience playing and building their resume. For a lot of junior golfers, this might not be the most obvious choice. Instead, the process takes some thought and looking at different options. As someone who has visited over 800 campuses and seen the golf facilities, I can say that you will be surprised and impressed with just how good the options are! Happy searching.

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: World Long Drive Champ Maurice Allen

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In this episode of the Gear Dive brought to you by Fujikura Golf, Johnny chats with Remax World Long Drive Champion Maurice Allen on where he started, his crazy equipment specs and why he relies on his eyes over the numbers.

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

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Opinion & Analysis

This could be Rickie Fowler’s year to get the major monkey off his back

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When Rickie Fowler first emerged on Tour, he was supposed to take the game by storm. The golf media raved about his talent and ramped up the potential of a “big two” that included him and Rory McIlroy. Fowler and McIlroy were supposed to compete as the sole forces in golf, like the Tiger and Phil of a new generation.

However, golf never goes according to a script, and it particularly hasn’t for Rickie Fowler. At age 30, and without a major, momentum has slowed behind Fowler despite him having five PGA Tour and two European Tour victories on his resume. Commentators, who were once sure that Fowler would be a golfing great, now doubt his winning abilities. However, I have a feeling that 2019 may be Rickie’s year; and by the years’ end, we will all be speaking of him in a whole new way.

After finishing in the top five in every major in 2015, a major win looked very close to the grasp of Rickie Fowler. But, it hasn’t been that smooth sailing for the 2010 Rookie of the Year. Majors have evaded Fowler’s grip thus far despite his best efforts, and some good tries. He finished one shot short of eventual winner Patrick Reed in last year’s Masters, despite shooting twelve under par on the weekend; a great example of many near misses for Rickie.

With every miss, the tag of being “the greatest golfer without a major” is packed more and more into the identity of Fowler. But, that tag shouldn’t necessarily by an insult. Players like Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson have all received the same designation in the past. Each man has had his record questioned, and his ability to win examined, but every man has since won a major and will no doubt make their way to the hall of fame. Fowler will do too, and 2019 will go some way to helping his cause.

Fowler’s game looks to be in great shape, and vastly improved from previous years. Statistically, Fowler’s most significant improvement this season has been in his putting. He is eighth in the strokes gained-putting category, a marked growth from 43rd in that section last year. With great putting being the games most sought after skill, and a much-needed attribute for a consistent winner; it is interesting to see just how good Fowler is in that area. He is also third in scoring average, 33rd in driving distance and sixth in the birdie average category. It seems that Fowler is acing the test in all of the most crucial statistical areas. His game is in excellent shape, and everything seems to be pointing in his direction.

Rickie won the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February in spite of a rag-tag final round. Most impressively, Rickie rescued his final round in Phoenix by birdieing two of the last four holes. Fowler’s ability to shoot a final round 3-over-par 74 at TPC Scottsdale demonstrated immense courage. Perhaps that newfound courage stems from his many near-misses. Some see the fact he is without a major at 30 as a curse, but it may be a blessing. We saw in Phoenix how Rickie now has the skill to keep his ailing rounds alive and to resurrect them when they look dead. It is now becoming clear that Fowler’s near misses have made him stronger and a better all-around golfer. He may not have the wins to date that most expected, but he is better off for it.

Rickie’s career bears comparisons to Justin Rose, a player who had struggled and often limped through his career when many thought he would be flying. Like Fowler, Rose learned from his mistakes and has achieved his best results in his 30s. Among many victories, Rose has a U.S. Open Trophy, an Olympic gold medal, and a FedEx Cup in his 30s. Fowler should take heed of the World Number Two’s achievements and be encouraged that he can emulate or even surpass them.

With the Masters on the horizon, don’t be surprised to see Rickie at the top of leaderboards and winning serious golf tournaments. Fowler is a better player than he has ever been, and after a great start to the year, he will surely rise to the occasion this season.

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