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Hot & Cold: Where strokes were won and lost at the AT&T Byron Nelson

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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. On Sunday, Sung Kang triumphed to claim his maiden title on the PGA Tour, and here’s a look at where some of the most notable players gained and lost strokes over the four days of action.

Hot

Sung Kang was on fire all week at the AT&T Byron Nelson with his work on the greens proving to be the main factor in his victory. Kang gained over ten strokes on the greens with his flat-stick, which unsurprisingly is the 31-year-old’s best-putting performance of his career. Check out the clubs Kang used to dominate last week in our WITB piece here.

While Jordan Spieth lost strokes both off the tee and for his approach play, the Texan continues to impress with the flat-stick in hand. Last week, Spieth gained 6.2 strokes over the field on the greens, meaning he has now gained strokes with the putter in his last four consecutive events.

Brooks Koepka is in excellent form as he heads to Bethpage Black, with his play off the tee looking very impressive. Koepka gained over four strokes over the field off the tee last week, which is his best total in this area since February.

Cold

Tony Romo produced a respectable showing at the AT&T Byron Nelson, but his poor driving cost him massively over the opening two days of the event. Romo lost over eight strokes for his play off the tee for his two rounds last week. To put that number in perspective, the former Dallas Cowboy’s quarterback only lost half a stroke to the field for his approach play, and 1.2 strokes on the greens.

It was an indifferent week for Patrick Reed, who continues to struggle for form. The Texan’s downfall at the AT&T Byron Nelson was his flat-stick, with Reed losing almost 3.5 strokes on the greens last week. Reed has now lost strokes on the greens in his last five consecutive tournaments.

It was a missed cut last week for Jimmy Walker, and it was the 40-year-old’s poor putting that did the damage. Walker dropped over four strokes to the field with the flat-stick – his worst performance in this area since February.

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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

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Podcasts

Gear Dive: Fixing my broken body with Michael Dennington of GolfWOD

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In this Coaches Edition Episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist Golf, Johnny discusses his physical decline and chats with Michael Dennington of UK based GolfWOD on how to go from broken to a golf warrior.

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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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: Golf Hall of Fame resumes—what does it take?

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We are back from last week, and Knudson is finally a father! Steve asks what it takes to get into the Golf Hall of Fame, how much do majors count? Knudson talks about his last round and how much fun he had. Finally, we talk about the Rory and Keopka beef that is starting to play out.

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 Wedge Guy: Getting more out of your wedges

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When I started SCOR Golf in 2011 and completely re-engineered the short end of the set, I took on “the establishment” and referred to our line of clubs not as “wedges” but as “scoring clubs”—I felt like the term “wedge” had become over-applied to clubs that really weren’t. While I’ve tempered my “respectful irreverence” a bit since then, I still think we are shackled by the terms applied to those high-loft clubs at the short end of our sets.

Think about this for a moment.

It all started with the invention of the sand wedge back in the late 1930s. This invention is generally credited to Gene Sarazen, who famously had metal welded onto the bottom of a niblick to give it bounce, and introduced the basic “explosion” sand shot. Over the next few decades, the sand wedge “matured” to a loft of 55-56 degrees and was a go-to staple in any serious golfer’s bag. In his 1949 book, “Power Golf”, Ben Hogan described the sand wedge as a very versatile tool “for certain shots” around the greens, and listed his maximum distance with a sand wedge as 55 yards.

Even into the 1970s, the pitching wedge was considered the ‘go-to’ club for short recovery shots around the greens. And because the typical pitching wedge was 50-52 degrees in loft, it was very versatile for that purpose. I remember that even as a scratch player in the 60s and early 70s, I would go days or weeks without pulling the “sand wedge” out of my bag—we didn’t have bunkers on that little 9-hole course so I didn’t feel like I needed one very often.

Fast forward into the 1980s and 1990s, people were hitting sand wedges from everywhere and the wedge makers began to add “lob wedges” in the 60-degree range and then “gap wedges” of 48 degrees or so to fill in for the evolutional strengthening of iron lofts to a point where the set match pitching wedge (or P-club as I call it) was 44-45 degrees typically. Along the way, the designation “G”, “S”, “L” and “P” were dropped and almost all wedges carried the actual loft number of the club. I think this was a positive development, but it seems we cannot get away from the pigeon-holing our wedges into “pitching”, “gap”, “sand” and “lob” nomenclature.

So that history lesson was a set-up for suggesting that you look at all your wedges as just “wedges” with no further limitations as to their use. I think that will free you up to use your creativity with each club to increase your repertoire of shots you have in your bag…more arrows in your quiver, so to speak.

For example, long bunker shots are much easier if you open the face of your 50- 54-degree wedge so you don’t have to swing as hard to get the ball to fly further. You’ll still get plenty of spin, but your results will become much more consistent. Likewise, that super-short delicate bunker shot can be hit more easily with your higher lofted wedge of 58-60 degrees.

When you get out further, and are facing mid-range shots of 40-75 yards, don’t automatically reach for your “sand wedge” out of habit, but think about the trajectory and spin needs for that shot. Very often a softened swing with your “gap” wedge will deliver much more consistent results. You’ll reduce the likelihood of making contact high on the face and coming up short, and you can even open the face a bit to impart additional spin if you need it.

Around the greens, your lower-lofted wedges will allow you to achieve more balance between carry and roll, as almost all instructors encourage you to get the ball on the ground more quickly to improve greenside scoring. For the vast majority of recreational/weekend golfers, simply changing clubs is a lot easier than trying to manipulate technique to hit low shots with clubs designed to hit the ball high.

Finally, on any shots into the wind, you are almost always better off “lofting down” and swinging easier to help make more solid contact and reduce spin that will cause the ball to up-shoot and come up short. Too often I watch my friends try to hit hard full wedge shots into our all-too-common 12-20 mph winds and continually come up short. My preference is to loft down even as much as two clubs, grip down a bit and swing much more easily, which ensures a lower trajectory with less spin…and much more consistent outcomes. It is not uncommon for me to choose a 45-degree wedge for a shot as short as 75-80 yards into a breeze, when my stock distance for that club is about 115. I get consistently positive results doing that.

So, if you can wean yourself from referring to your wedges by their names and zero in on what each can do because of their numbers, you will expand your arsenal of shots you can call on when you are in prime scoring range and hit it close to the flag much more often. And that’s really the goal, isn’t it?

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