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Why do Tour players prefer fades over draws from the tee box?

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There is a growing trend on the PGA Tour and other professional golf tours where some of the game’s best players favor a fade from the tee box. Amateur golfers often struggle with golf shots that slice away from their target. These shots can lead them out of play and have them eagerly chasing a more neutral or drawing shot shapes. Additionally, a large fraction of low handicap and professional golfers play a golf shot that draws repeatedly onto their target. These thoughts can leave you wondering why anyone would choose to play a fade rather than a draw with their driver.

The debate over whether players should fade or draw their golf shots has been intensely lobbied on either side. While this is highly player specific, each particular shot shape comes with a set of advantages and disadvantages. In order to discuss why elite golfers are choosing to play a fade and why you might as well, we must first explore how each shot shape is created and the unintended effects within each delivery combination. This article explores the ideas that lead some of the most outstanding players in the world to choose a fade as their go-to shot shape for their driver.

Before examining what makes each shot unique, golfers should be familiar with some common club fitting and golf swing terminology. Club path, clubface angle, impact location, spin-axis or axis tilt, and spin loft are all detailed below.

The curvature of a golf ball through the air is dependent on the backspin and sidespin of each shot. These spin rates are directly linked with each players golf swing and delivery characteristics. During every shot, each golfer will deliver the golf club back to the golf ball in a specific orientation. The relationship between the golf club face and the path of that club will determine much of how the golf ball will travel. A golf clubface that is closed to a club path will result in golf shots that either draw or hook. A clubface more open to the club’s path with create a shot that fades or slices. It is important that face angle measurements are taken in reference to the club path as terms like “out-to-in” or “in-to-out” can results in either of these two curvatures depending on face angle and impact location measurements.

Impact location should not be overlooked during this exchange and is a vital component of creating predictable golf shots that find the fairway and reach their maximum distances. As strikes move across the clubface of a driver gear effect begins to influence how the golf ball travels. In its simplest form, gear effect will help turn the golf ball back to the center of the golf club head. Impact locations in the heel will curve towards the middle and lead to golf shots with a more pronounced fading shape. Toe strikes lead to the opposite reaction and produce more draw or hook spin. Striking a golf ball from the upper half of the driver clubface produce higher launches and less spin, while strikes from the bottom create lower launches with higher backspin rates.

Spin-axis tilt or simply axis tilt is a result of the amalgamation of face angle, club path and strike locations. A golf shot will curve in the direction that its axis tilts during flight. Golfers familiar with launch monitors like Trackman and GCQuad, can reference axis tilt and spin-axis tilt measures for this measurement. Shots that curve to the left will have a leftward tilted axis, and shots to the right a rightward axis tilt. Golf shots tilting to the left and to the right are given names depending on which hand is dominant for that golfer. A draw or hook is a golf shot that curves in the air away from the golfers dominate hand. Right-handed players will see a golf ball hit with a draw spin from right to left in the air. Left-handed golfers see their draw shots spin from left to right. Fades and slices have the opposite shapes.

Spin loft is another critical component of creating and maintaining the flight of a golf ball. In concert with the spin-axis tilt of the golf ball, the spin loft influences the amount of backspin a golf ball possesses and will determine much of how stable that golf ball’s flight becomes. Golf shots hit with more backspin curve less violently than golf shots hit with too little spin especially in the wind. Spin loft is exemplified as golfers find themselves much more accurate with their wedges than their driver. More spin equals more stability, and this leads us to why professional players opt for their fade.

Modern drivers can be built to maximize the performance of each golfer on their best swings, but what about their misses? Golfers often lose confidence standing over their golf shots if they see the ball overdrawing or hooking too often. Overdraws and hooks create golf ball flight conditions that are unpredictable and lead to directional and distance detriments that can cause dropped shots and penalties. Because of this, elite right-handed players do not often like to see the golf ball going left from the tee box. By reducing their chances of hitting hooking tee shots, golfers often feel more freedom to swing the golf club freely and make smooth, powerful motions. This is never more evident than when watching Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson hit their drivers. While both players hit the golf ball both ways, their go-to shot from the tee is a left-to-right curving fade.

But wait, doesn’t a draw go further than a fade? While it is not inevitable that a draw will fly further or roll out more than a fade, the clubface and club path conditions needed at impact to produce each shape often lead to differences in spin rates and launch angles that affect distance. Less dynamic loft created by a closed clubface can lead to lower launch, less spin, and more distance. The drawback of these conditions is the reduced spin loft and decreased stability. So how much distance is worth losing to find more fairways? As we continue to see some of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour win tournaments and major championships distance is the premium.

Luckily, modern drivers and club fitting techniques have given players a perfect blend of distance and accuracy. By manipulating the center of gravity of each driver, golfers can create longer shots from their best strikes without giving up protection from their mishits. Pushing the weights more near the clubface of drivers has given players the ability to present more loft at impact without increasing backspin. The ability to swing freely and know that if you miss your intended strike pattern your shot will lose distance but not end up in the most dangerous hazards have given players better, more repeatable results.

While it can be advantageous for casual golfers and weekend players to chase as many yards as possible, players that routinely hit the golf ball beyond 300 yards can afford their misses to fall back if they will remain in play and give them a chance to find the green in two shots. More stability when things do not go as planned thanks to increased spin lofts and less violent curvature has allowed elite level golfers to perform consistently even under the most demanding situations and it is why we continue to see a growing number of players favor a fade from their tee shots.

 

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Paul Liberatore was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. He has been an avid and passionate golfer for over 30 years, and loves learning and increasing his knowledge on the game. While still in college, Paul co-founded the AccuHit Company with his father and helped it to become one of the most recognized golf training aids in the world. A lawyer by day, his true passion is his website Golfers Authority which delivers the very latest in golf equipment reviews, buyer guides, tips, and advice that helps players take their golf game to the next level.

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Tim

    Aug 1, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    The simple answer is the players just aren’t good enough to play draws all the time. its become too strong of a shot for them. Only a select few can control it anymore.

    • Funkaholic

      Aug 14, 2019 at 1:45 pm

      I think shot shaping is not as easy with modern equipment and modern balls that favor straight flight and distance, it has nothing to do with skill.

  2. Eric Sidewater

    Jul 29, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    It has nothing to do with ball flight and everything to do with the aforementioned players having a closed face throughout almost all of their swings, so they lock in a slightly closed face and can use the ground to create massive leverage for their pivot, so the club path can rip hard to the left and you’ll get 10 yard fades with over 175 MPH of ball speed and your SG: Driving soars.

  3. Dan W

    Jul 28, 2019 at 3:15 am

    I’ll sum up the article for everyone. Fades have more backspin than draws. Fades don’t roll out as much, making the fairway wider than if a draw was played. It’s also wrong that a high spin shot is more stable in the wind. I almost laughed out loud st that one. Why do players flight down shots sometimes with more club in the wind? It spins less. Wind adds spin unless it’s down wind. Plus it’s hard to fade a low shot. So low flighted draws are always hit in high side or hurting wind. It’s pretty much common knowledge.

  4. Frank

    Jul 26, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    “Distance is the premium” yet after measuring over 40 PGA Tour events of tee shots from winners that led to birdies/eagles on par 4’s and 5’s, the average distance is only 295 and 305 yards, respectively. So that’s only 5 yards further than the average PGA Tour driving distance on par 4’s and 15 yards further on par 5’s. That’s not even 2 clubs difference.

    Also, the author doesn’t differentiate draws as push draws and fades as pull fades as push draws actually launches higher instead of lower than pull fades, because of the face angle being open to the target line and thus adding dynamic loft. Not to mention the angle of attack is less steep with an in-out path, making the ball launch higher as well.

  5. geo

    Jul 22, 2019 at 9:29 pm

    During every shot, each golfer will deliver the golf club back to the golf ball in a specific orientation

    With exception of those who sweep the inside quadrant of the ball.
    The back of the ball brings in the two way miss.
    Whether our go to shot is draw or fade; our misses should be restricted to one way. Ben Hogan learned to hit a fade, but his go to shot was a draw.

  6. Aztec

    Jul 16, 2019 at 11:21 pm

    I always thought that, for whatever reason, a controlled fade is less likely to turn into a slice than a controlled draw into a hook.

  7. Born

    Jul 15, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    Short version- balls spin less, drivers spin less, draw typically spins less, tour fairways are hard and 2100-2400 spin is ideal to hold fairways,. Also fade miss (over fading) is *typically* a more manageable miss vs over drawing especially it you’re at bottom end of spin threshold (ie 1800-200 rpm at tour level ball speed.

  8. Ralph Ebbutt

    Jul 14, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    In summary: a fade offers more control under pressure, and tour pros prefer predictability/control over distance

  9. Bob Saget

    Jul 14, 2019 at 6:59 am

    This is over-analysis to the max. Pros hit whatever shape the shot calls for. On straighter holes, it’s preference or whatever they’re more comfortable with

  10. Geoffrey Holland

    Jul 13, 2019 at 7:28 pm

    “growing trend”?
    Better players have been playing fades for decades this is not something new. I suggest you do a little bit of research before posting such drivel.

    • Tom

      Jul 14, 2019 at 1:38 am

      Lighten up mate not everyone is an expert like you? X being an unknown number & ‘spurt’ being a dip under pressure?

      • Geoffrey Holland

        Jul 14, 2019 at 11:21 am

        WTF are you actually talking about?

    • Bob Saget

      Jul 15, 2019 at 5:19 am

      I guess Rory McIlroy and Jason Day aren’t “better players” lol

  11. ChipNRun

    Jul 13, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    When I first started as a self-taught golfer, I had a lot of trouble with slices. After I eventually took lessons and straightened things out, I decided to play a draw to get rid of slices.

    If I’m hitting a slight draw, I’m squaring up at impact and moving through the ball smoothly.

    Another point: Gary Player reported years ago that he had gone to a draw because it was less strain on his back than a fade.

    I’ve found a similar thing: I’m right-handed, and I have an arthritic right hip that gets tight during golf. On the torso rotation machine at the gym, I can only rotate about 80 degrees to the right (backswing motion) but 90 degrees to the right (downswing motion).

    By setting up for a draw, I aim at the right half of the fairway. If all goes well, my ball lands in the fairway and rolls out toward the middle. My miss is a slight push, which puts me on the edge of the fairway or in the first cut of right rough, which is entirely manageable.

    This would support Prime21’s remark… “you can’t just say “they’re missing right” and that in and of itself proves that tour professionals are all hitting fades.” My miss right is the push that FAILED TO FADE.

    That said, I can fade a tee shot with a driver or a hybrid or a short iron. I mean, the ball is up on a tee on a flat surface, and with a slightly open stance can get the ball to go “the other way.”

    That’s my one trick shot. For most others I go with a draw.

    • ChipNRun

      Jul 13, 2019 at 4:16 pm

      CORRECTION:

      , I can only rotate about 80 degrees to the right (backswing motion) but 90 degrees to the {/r/i/g/h/t} LEFT (downswing motion).

    • Andrew McArthur

      Jul 13, 2019 at 5:00 pm

      Wow

    • Aztec

      Jul 16, 2019 at 11:17 pm

      Your miss right is a push that failed to DRAW. If you succeeded at the fade, your miss right would miss right even more.

  12. JP

    Jul 13, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    I always thought they preferred fades over draws because the rollout was more predictable.

  13. John

    Jul 13, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    Matt Kuchar is a donkey

  14. Lars Philipson

    Jul 13, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    As Lee Trevino said: “You can talk to a fade but a hook won’t listen.”

    • Joe

      Jul 14, 2019 at 11:23 am

      And it’s the most overused false statement that slicers cling to in order to make themselves feel better. A fade and hook are not exact opposites. That would be a slice and a hook. 99% of golfers who day they fade the ball are actually slicing it which is just as out of control as an equally hit hook.

  15. gery katona

    Jul 13, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    I volunteered at Torrey Pines this year and was positioned in the landing area on a par 4 hole and can confirm that the vast majority of fairway misses are to the right side.

    • Yippers

      Jul 13, 2019 at 12:55 pm

      Well there is an OCEAN on the left slide of #4. And it falls off pretty hard over there from fairway to rough to cliff to ocean. The green also opens up more from the right side. As long as you miss the fairway bunker right, there’s literally no reason to ever flirt with the left side on that tee shot.

      • MushPotatoes

        Jul 13, 2019 at 1:26 pm

        He said “a par 4 hole”, not hole #4 on the South Course.

        • Prime21

          Jul 13, 2019 at 3:09 pm

          The point was that you can’t just say “they’re missing right” and that in and of itself proves that tour professionals are all hitting fades. Many factors could go in to that, as Hole #4 proves, but to make a blanket statement as he did certainly offers little proof. A draw doesn’t always miss left and a fade doesn’t always miss right.

    • Pelling

      Jul 13, 2019 at 10:21 pm

      Except for Phil. He always misses left, badly.

      • gpfan

        Jul 14, 2019 at 7:32 am

        Any that would be hitting a fade. So the article must be true! I couldn’t bring myself to trying to finish reading it.

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Opinion & Analysis

A day at the CP Women’s Open

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It’s another beautiful summer day in August. Just like any other pro-am at a professional tour event, amateurs are nervously warming up on the driving range and on the putting green next to their pros. As they make their way to the opening tees, they pose for their pictures, hear their names called, and watch their marque player stripe one down the fairway. But instead of walking up 50 yards to the “am tees,” they get to tee it up from where the pros play—because this is different: this is the LPGA Tour!

I’m just going to get right to it, if you haven’t been to an LPGA Tour event you NEED to GO! I’ve been to a lot of golf events as both a spectator and as media member, and I can say an LPGA Tour event is probably the most fun you can have watching professional golf.

The CP Women’s Open is one of the biggest non-majors in women’s golf. 96 of the top 100 players in the world are in the field, and attendance numbers for this stop on the schedule are some of the highest on tour. The 2019 edition it is being held at exclusive Magna Golf Club in Aurora, Ontario, which is about an hour north of downtown Toronto and designed by noted Canadian architect Doug Carrick. The defending Champion is none other than 21-year-old Canadian phenom Brooke Henderson, who won in emotional fashion last year.

From a fan’s perspective, there are some notable differences at an LPGA Tour event, and as a true “golf fan,” not just men’s golf fan, there are some big parts of the experience that I believe everyone can enjoy:

  • Access: It is certainly a refreshing and laidback vibe around the golf course. It’s easy to find great vantage points around the range and practice facility to watch the players go through their routines—a popular watching spot. Smaller infrastructure doesn’t mean a smaller footprint, and there is still a lot to see, plus with few large multi-story grandstands around some of the finishing holes, getting up close to watch shots is easier for everyone.
  • Relatability: This is a big one, and something I think most golfers don’t consider when they choose to watch professional golf. Just like with the men’s game there are obviously outliers when it comes to distance on the LPGA Tour but average distances are more in line with better club players than club players are to PGA Tour Pros. The game is less about power and more about placement. Watching players hit hybrids as accurately as wedges is amazing to watch. Every player from a scratch to a higher handicap can learn a great deal from watching the throwback style of actually hitting fairways and greens vs. modern bomb and gouge.
  • Crowds: (I don’t believe this is just a “Canadian Thing”) It was refreshing to spend an entire day on the course and never hear a “mashed potatoes” or “get in the hole” yelled on the tee of a par 5. The LPGA Tour offers an extremely family-friendly atmosphere, with a lot more young kids, especially young girls out to watch their idols play. This for me is a huge takeaway. So much of professional sports is focused on the men, and with that you often see crowds reflect that. As a father to a young daughter, if she decides to play golf, I love the fact that she can watch people like her play the game at a high level.

There is a lot of talk about the difference between men’s and women’s professional sports, but as far as “the product” goes, I believe that LPGA Tour offers one of the best in professional sports, including value. With a great forecast, a great course, and essentially every top player in the field, this week’s CP Women’s Open is destined to be another great event. If you get the chance to attend this or any LPGA Tour event, I can’t encourage you enough to go!

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TG2: New podcaster Larry D on his show “Bogey Golf”

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GolfWRX Radio welcomes a new podcast, Bogey Golf with Larry D and we talk to Larry. He lets us in on his show, who he is, why he loves the game, and even what’s in his bag! Rob missed his member-guest and Knudson got a new driver.

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

Getting to know Payne Stewart

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Ever since that final putt fell in Pinehurst in 1999, Payne Stewart’s memory has enjoyed mythical qualities. A man of complex charm, but many of us who grew up without him recognize only his Knickerbocker pants, his flat cap, and his W.W.J.D. covered wrist wrapped around that United States Open trophy.

I had a wonderful opportunity to play a round of golf with two men that know a lot about Payne. One through friendship and the other through journalistic research.

Lamar Haynes was Payne Stewart’s close friend and teammate on the SMU golf team. He’s full of stories about Payne from the good old days. Kevin Robbins is an author who just finished a new book on Stewart’s final year of life, set to release to the public for purchase this October. He works as a professor of journalism at the University of Texas but has also enjoyed an impressive career as a reporter and golf writer for over 20 years.

We met at Mira Vista Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, to talk about Payne. Robbins is a solid golfer who spends time working on his game, which tells me a lot about his personality. He is one of us.  As for Haynes, the guy hasn’t lost much since those SMU golf team days. He can still swing it. Fantastic iron player. And both men are wonderful conversationalists. They offered a unique perspective on Stewart—the golfer I grew up idolizing but never really knew. There’s a good chance you don’t really know him, either. At least not the whole story.

“Most golf fans now know the story of his ’99 U.S. Open win,” Robbins said.  “What they don’t know is where he came from.”

Robbins’ book, The Last Stand of Payne Stewart: The Year Golf Changed Foreverchronicles Payne’s last year on earth with dramatic detail, covering his triumph at Pinehurst and the Ryder Cup at Brookline. And, of course, it tells the story of that tragic plane crash that took our champion from us. What the book doesn’t do is hide any of the blemishes about Payne’s life that have either been forgotten or pushed aside by brighter moments and memories.

“I thought that the other Payne Stewart books, while they have a place, they didn’t tell the whole story,” Robbins said.

The whole story, from what I read, was Payne being brash. A poor winner and sometimes a poor sport when he lost. He often said things he shouldn’t have said and then made those mistakes again and again.

“He had no filter,” remembered Haynes.  “Several close friends on tour had a hard time with him when he won his first Open. He didn’t take into account any of the consequences his words could create. He had a huge heart. Huge heart. But at times there was just no filter. But he grew a great deal over the last 2 or three years.”

It’s most certainly is a book about a change. A change in a man that was better late than never. But also a change in golf that began at the turn of the century and hasn’t really slowed down since.

“The 20 years since his death, to see the way golf has moved, what the tour looks like now,” Robins said.  “There was an evolution that was taking place in 1999 and we didn’t know how it would manifest itself. But now we do. So when you see Brooks Koepka hit a 3-wood in the US Open 370 yards, well that all really had its beginnings in 1998 and 1999. The Pro-V1 ball was being tested in 1999 and being rolled out in 2000. Fitness and equipment, sports psychology, nutrition. All of those things that a guy like Payne Stewart really didn’t have to pay attention to.”

But that change that occurred in Payne, culminating in his final year of life, is something worth learning. It’s a lesson for all of us. A guy on top of the world with still so much to fix. And he was fixing it, little by little.

“He was authentic,” Haynes said. “And he learned a lot later in life from his children. With their Bible studies. You saw a change in him. Very much. He had a peace with himself but he still would revert to his DNA. The fun-loving Payne. Raising children and being a father helped him tremendously.”

Payne was passionate about so many things in life but his children became a primary focus. According to Haynes, he would be so loud at his daughter’s volleyball games…yelling intensely at the referees…that they gave him an option: Either he wouldn’t be allowed to watch the games anymore or he needed to become a line judge and help out with the games. So, Payne Stewart became a volleyball line judge.

Lamar brought the head of an old Ram 7-iron along with him to show me. Damaged and bent from the crash, the club was with Payne on his final flight. He had it with him to show his guys at Mizuno as a model for a new set of irons. That Ram 7-iron belonged to Haynes and Payne had always adored the way it looked at address.

“Payne also used my old Mizunos the last year of his life,” Haynes said.  I had received the MS-4s 10 years earlier from Payne in 1989. They were like playing with a shaft on a knife. The sweet spot was so tiny on the MS-4. They made the MP29 and 14s look like game improvement irons. Payne used those. Then Harry Taylor at Mizuno designed him an iron, which later became the MP33. The 29 and 14s were very sharp and flat-soled. Well, Payne loved this old Ram iron set that I had.. He asked for my Ram 7-iron for Harry Taylor to model his new set. He liked the way it went through the turf. He had it with him on the plane. This is the club that started the MP33.”

It was Lamar Haynes, the man who seems to know just about everyone in the golf community, that set Robbins on this writing journey. Robbins had written one book previously: The story of the life of legendary golf coach Harvey Penick. But this book came a bit easier for Robbins, partly due to his experience, partly due to the subject matter, and partly because of Lamar.

“There’s a story here,” Robbins said. “With any book, you hope to encounter surprises along the way, big and little. And I did. I got great cooperation a long the way. Anybody I wanted to talk to, talked to me thanks to this guy Lamar Haynes.”

“Lamar said the first guy you need to talk to is Peter Jacobsen,” Robins said. “And I said ‘great can you put me in touch with him’ which became a common question to Lamar throughout the process.” Robbins chuckled.  “Literally 2 minutes later my phone rings. ‘Kevin, this is Peter Jacobsen here.'”

“Peter told me the story about the ’89 PGA championship in our first conversation. So literally in the first 10 minutes of my reporting effort, I had the first set piece of the book. I had something. Lamar made a lot happen.”

Lamar Haynes and Kevin Robbins

The book is not a biography, though it certainly has biographical elements to it. It is simply the story of Payne’s final year, with a look back at Payne’s not so simple career mixed in. The author’s real talent lives in the research and honesty. The story reads like you’re back in 1999 again, with quotes pulled from media articles or press conferences. Anecdotes are sprinkled here and there from all of Payne’s contemporaries. The storytelling is seamless and captivating.

“I was pleasantly surprised how much Colin Montgomerie remembered about the concession at the 1999 Ryder Cup,” Robbins said. “Colin can be a tough interview. He is generally mistrustful of the media. His agent gave me 15 minutes during the Pro-Am in Houston. This was in the spring of 2018. I met Colin on the 17th hole and he had started his round on 10. Just organically the conversation carried us to the fifth green. Just because he kept remembering things. He kept talking, you know. It was incredible. Tom Lehman was the same way. He said “I’ll give you 20 minutes” and it ended up being an hour and a half at Starbucks.”

The research took Robbins to Massachusetts, Florida, and Missouri—and of course, to Pinehurst. He met with Mike Hicks, Payne’s former caddie, there to discuss that final round. The two ended up out on Pinehurst No. 2, walking the last three holes and reliving the victory. It gives life to the story and fills it with detail.

“Part of what I hoped for this book is that it would be more than just a sports story,” Robbins said.  “More than just a golf story. The more I started thinking about where Payne began and where he ended, it seemed to me…and I’m not going to call it a redemption story although I bet some people do. People when they are younger, they have regrets and they make mistakes. They do things they wish they could take back but they can’t. So, what can they do? Well, they can improve. They can get better. That’s what Payne was doing with his life. He was improving himself. It was too late to change what he had done already. So what could he do with the future? He could be different.”

“It was accurate,” Haynes said.  “I had a tear when I finished it. I texted Kevin right afterward. I told him I couldn’t call him because I’m choked up so I texted him.”

So here’s two men who knew Payne Stewart, albeit in very different ways. They knew he was flawed in life but he got better. Was Payne Stewart that hero at Pinehurst, grabbing Phil Mickelson’s face and telling him the important thing is he’s going to be a father? Yes. But he was so much more than that. He was so much more than I knew before I read this book. Most importantly, Payne Stewart was always improving. A lesson for all of us, indeed.

If you want to hear more about my experience, tweet at me here @FWTXGolfer or message me on Instagram here! I look forward to hearing from you!

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