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Opinion & Analysis

Why Adam Scott looks ready to mount a serious challenge at next week’s Masters

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It was six years ago when Adam Scott held his arms aloft in the rain after defeating Angel Cabrera in a gripping playoff on a rainy evening in Georgia, finally completing his lifelong dream of claiming a major championship.

Since then, Scott’s star has been on the wane, and he’s seen a new breed of youngsters come along and shake the game up, leaving the Australian to lurk in their shadows.

Scott currently sits 29th in the Official World Golf Ranking, a far cry from his position of third following his moment of glory at Augusta, and then his subsequent rise to the summit of the game in 2014.

However, his current position of 29th is up 12 places from where he found himself at the end of 2018, and a rise of 31 spots from where he stood this time 12 months ago. Scott’s stock is on the rise once again.

Speaking to the Augusta Chronicle last month, Scott spoke both confidently and optimistically about where his game is right now ahead of the year’s opening major, saying

“I feel I’m on top of my game, just at that point for me to go out and execute it. I’ve done the work, and I will do work before I get there, I’ll be ready. I’ve got a good plan. I’m very confident that I’ll be ready to play there.”

The 38-year-old heads to Augusta National under the radar, with talk of Rory McIlroy’s Grand Slam destiny, Tiger Woods’ quest for number 15, and Rickie Fowler’s fresh assault at major glory all dominating the narrative ahead of next week. But Scott’s confidence concerning his chances of becoming a multiple Masters champion is anything but bravado.

Scott has featured in the final group twice in his last five events he has played this year on Tour, and all departments of his game look sharp. In fact, over the previous 12 rounds of every player in next week’s field, Scott is just one of two men who rank inside the top-25 in every significant strokes gained category. Rory McIlroy is the other.

Even putting, you ask? Yes, even putting, which has been a nemesis for the Australian throughout his career.

The improvement in Scott’s putting has been drastic, and one of the primary reasons for this improvement is due to the option players now have of leaving the flagstick in the hole while on the putting surface this year. Scott has previously stated how the new regulation has changed the entire dynamic and art of putting and speaking in the same interview with the Augusta Chronicle; the 2013 Masters Champion had this to say on the current strength of his putting.

“I feel like on shorter putts when the pin is in I have a nice reference point of the exact middle of the hole and something to aim against. I’m not trying to hit putts harder and smash it into the pin, and it’s just more of a reference of aim, but I have putted better, and I think if I were to hit one too hard, I doubt I would hit one so hard that it bounces out from short range.”

So just how much improvement has Scott made on the greens since the USGA’s rule 13.2a(2) change? Well, the Australian has gained strokes over the field on the greens in every event he has played in so far this year. It’s a run of six successive positive weeks with the flat-stick for Scott, a feat he has never before achieved in his career.

The 38-year-old stands T17 for strokes gained: putting this season. To put that improvement into perspective, Scott has failed to finish a year inside the top-100 in this area since 2014, and last year, the 13-time winner on the PGA Tour finished T165 for strokes gained putting.

Scott’s current confidence with the flat-stick in hand has even led him to possess three different options on the greens, all of which he appears hugely comfortable with, as he explained just a couple of weeks ago

“What I feel like is I have three incredibly good ways to putt with three incredibly good putters. I can either kind of float the broomstick or I can arm lock or I can do some kind of claw short putter with a very stable putter head.”

The Australian won the 2013 Masters while anchoring the putter, a component of the game which at the time had not yet been outlawed, and it appears as if the new flagstick regulation has benefited Scott more so than any other player in next week’s field.

The man who is often described as having one of the best swings in golf has unsurprisingly finished inside the top-20 for strokes gained tee to green in eight of the last nine years on the PGA Tour. What’s more, Scott has recently proved to himself that he still has it in him to compete for the biggest prizes in the game, going toe to toe with Brooks Koepka on Sunday at the 2018 PGA Championship.

There are arguably, just a dozen players who will honestly believe they can slip on the green jacket on Sunday, April 14, with experience, skill level and knowledge of the course having more of an impact at Augusta National than any other course players will compete at all year.

Crucially, Scott has done it all before, and with a new regulation stirring life into a man who looked destined to end his major career tally on one, Adam Scott is once again within that select group of players who know that they possess the ability to triumph on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National.

 

 

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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

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Scott Grafton

    Apr 3, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    old quotes about the putters. This article is just compiled quotes over time, no real journalism. He has been using the directed force short putter for many weeks now…

  2. J

    Apr 3, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    Augusta National should incorporate a local rule that the pin has to be pulled for putts on the green.
    Just looks silly to see the pin in at the Masters

    • Matt

      Apr 3, 2019 at 5:41 pm

      Whatever you do DO NOT watch any video or look at any pictures of Jack’s first 3 wins or any of Arnie’s wins at the Masters, as you might see some silliness and we wouldn’t want that.

    • J

      Apr 3, 2019 at 7:46 pm

      I was just trying to wind Adam up as he’s just a gentle flower

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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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