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What’s on the line at the final event of the PGA Tour regular season

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Today marks the last day of the PGA Tour Regular Season, and for some players, it’s make or break time, for others, fate has already been sealed.

The top 125 point-getters will be headed to the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and those not already exempt will also get their cards locked up for the 2019-2020 season. But not everyone can be so lucky: let’s break down who could be the big winners and point out some players not quite as fortunate.

WINNERS

Viktor Hovland –  Being part of the 2019 rookie class has made Viktor a hot commodity, especially since he is the last of the “Big 3” (ever hear that one before?) who hasn’t gotten a win yet. Let’s be frank, winning on the PGA Tour is VERY HARD, and getting everything to go right for 72 holes is not easy. Since he is not currently a member he needs to rack up some big points or a win to be able to actually gain full status for next year. Only three shots off the lead means he has a serious chance going into the final round.

Harris English – I realize the name might not jump off the page but Harris has been a consistent performer on tour for years. Although unlikely to get full status right now, today is a big deal because the next cutoff after the 125 is 150 which still would get Harris conditional status. Right now leading into the final round he’s holding onto the 150 spot and came into the week at 151. That one spot is going to mean a LOT.

Shawn Stefani – The current bubble boy. Thanks to a good week so far, Shawn has moved from 134 to 125 and with a solid final round, get himself into both the playoffs, and lock up the oh so precious PGA Tour card. Remember that EVERY player that makes The Playoffs also gets some nice bonus cash as part of the pool regardless. Hopefully, that’s not in the back of his mind while headed down the last few holes.

Not so Lucky

Pat Perez – So this is actually a long shot, but it’s important to point out why wins are so important. Pat went from 122 to 127 after missing the cut this week BUT thanks to a big win last year he will still have full playing privileges. This is impressive – for a guy who wasn’t sure he was ever going to play again after coming back from shoulder surgery last season. Being in the top 125 would have meant some bonus cash and helped with some additional starts, but with over 25 million dollars in career earnings, I don’t think Perez is that worried.

Beau Hossler – From Walker Cupper in 2015, to teenage U.S. Open leader, Beau is a household name for those that follow golf on the regular. He had a great rookie year in 2018 after gaining status thanks to money list on the Web Tour, but 2019 has not been so kind. Best finish all year was a T15 at the Genesis Open, and with a stat line like that it’s unlikely to have you sticking around. As a young player Hossler has a BUNCH of upside, so look for him to do well again next year on the Korn Ferry Tour.

Martin Kaymer – One of golf’s biggest enigmas, Kaymer’s career is like a roller coaster with only HUGE ups and downs. The quiet German with two majors under his belt can still go grocery shopping at Whole Foods without being recognized, all the while vaporizing a U.S. Open field at Pinehurst. He has alway shied away from the spotlight, even when he was into top 10 in the world. He was Brooks before Brooks—a big game hunter with his three victories being a PGA Championship, Players, and U.S. Open. As a non-qualifying member, he’s going to have to rely on sponsors exemptions to play in events, but if his career path has proven anything, he’s going to make those starts count.

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

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Opinion & Analysis

Watch for players lofting up at altitude at the WGC-Mexico Championship

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This week, at the PGA Tour’s WGC-Mexico Championship, we are going to watch some of the best and longest players on the planet play what will effectively be one of the shortest courses on tour.

Now, 7,341 yards is by no means a cakewalk, and there are shorter courses from a pure yardage perspective played on tour—Harbour Town, as an example, only plays at 7,099 yards from the very back. The difference is Harbour Town is played at sea level while Club de Golf Chapultepec is at over 7,500 feet of elevation, and when you factor in the altitude difference between the two courses, they play very differently—more on the math in a moment.

The altitude will also factor in how some players will be setting up their equipment and we could see some adjustments. The most obvious is lofting up the driver or fairways woods to increase carry, which is something Tiger Woods specifically mentioned last year.

The biggest misconception when talking about playing golf at altitude is that the ball doesn’t spin the same in thinner air and players “loft up” to maintain spin. Let’s get into the physics to bust this “spinning less” myth and simplify the science behind playing at altitude,

The golf ball is an inanimate object, and it has no idea it’s at altitude; the air will not have an impact on how much the ball will actually spin. Yes, increasing loft should, by almost every imaginable measure, increase spin but the air it travels through will not change the spin rate.

However, playing at altitude has an effect, Let’s break down what happens

  • Thinner air exerts less drag force (resistance/friction) on the ball. The ball moves more easily through this less dense air and won’t decelerate as quickly as it flies. But note that the faster an object moves the more drag force will occur
  • Less resistance also means that it is harder to shape shots. So you when you see Shot Tracer, the pros are going to be hitting it even straighter (this makes Tiger’s fairway bunker shot last year even more unbelievable)
  • Less force = less lift, the ball will fly lower and on a flatter trajectory

Time for some math from Steve Aoyama, a Principal Scientist at Titleist Golf Ball R&D (full piece here: The Effect of Altitude on Golf Ball Performance)

“You can calculate the distance gain you will experience (compared to sea level) by multiplying the elevation (in feet) by .00116. For example, if you’re playing in Reno, at 1 mile elevation (5,280 ft.) the increase is about 6% (5,280 x .00116 = 6.1248). If you normally drive the ball 250 yards at sea level, you will likely drive it 265 yards in Reno.”

Not every player will be making changes to their bag, and some will instead focus on the types of shots they are hitting instead. When speaking to Adam Scott earlier this week, I was able to ask if he planned on making any changes heading into Mexico the week after his win at the Genesis Invitational.

“It’s very rare for me to make club changes week-to-week beyond playing in the Open Championship and adding a longer iron. The one thing I focus on when playing at altitude is avoiding partial shots where I’m trying to reduce the spin because as spin goes down the ball doesn’t want to stay in the air. I’ve experienced partial shots with longer clubs that end up 25 yards short, and because of that I want to hit as many full shots as possible”

With Club de Golf Chapultepec sitting just over 7,800 feet above sea level, we’re looking at 9.048 or an increase of just over 9 percent. That makes this 7,341-yard course play 6,677 yards (+/- where the tees are placed).

 

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Urban Golf Performance owner Mac Todd

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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Fujikura, Johnny chats again with his old pal Mac Todd Owner and Operator of Urban Golf Performance in Los Angeles. They cover the growth of the business, what the new Club member experience may look like and much much more.

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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Podcasts

The Gear Dive WITB Edition: Adam Scott

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In this WITB edition of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with JJ VanWezenbeeck and Aaron Dill of Titleist Golf on the ins and outs of Genesis Invitational Champion Adam Scott’s setup.

Adam Scott WITB details below

Driver: Titleist TS4 (10.5 degrees, A1 SureFit setting, 2-gram weight)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 80 X

  • Scott put the Kuro Kage in play this week. Per Titleist’s J.J. VanWezenbeeck, “Adam Scott switched to the TS4 driver at the ZoZo Championship due to head size, shape, and improved launch to spin ratios. This week, after discussions with Adam, he went to a shaft he had previously played for increased stability. He felt the shaft went a little far and he lost head feel. We went on course with lead tape to get the feels to match up then weighted the head to preferred swing weight after testing.”

3-wood: Titleist TS2 (16.5 degrees, A1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Fujikura Rombax P95 X

Irons: Titleist 716 T-MB (3-iron), Titleist 680 (4-9 irons)
Shafts: KBS Tour 130 X

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (48.08F, 52.08F, 56.10S), Vokey Design SM8 WedgeWorks (60.06K)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold AMT Tour Issue X100

Putter: Scotty Cameron Xperimental Prototype Rev X11 (long)

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Scott marks his ball with dots in the pattern of the Southern Cross, which is featured on the Australian flag.

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet

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