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Ways to Win: Persistence – Michael Thompson wins with patience and putting

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Even in a week when most of the game’s top players were resting before the upcoming WGC event, it is still very difficult to win on the PGA Tour. Tony Finau knows how difficult it is to win. A top-10 machine, Finau simply hasn’t been able to close the deal in the final round, and this weekend was no exception.

On the PGA Tour, the difference between winning and losing, most weeks, is a single putt dropping or lipping out over the course of 72 holes. Michael Thompson knows that as well as anyone with his well-chronicled hiatus between victories would. He has largely been a journeyman on the PGA Tour, fighting most years to keep his card and remain amongst the most-elite players on the planet. Thompson broke through this week with patience and a hot putter. Sticking to his game plan over the four-day tournament, Thompson remained patient and was rewarded.

While we typically focus on advanced stats with V1 Game, greens hit is one traditional metric that does correlate with scoring. In this case, Thompson fired a bogey-free opening round 64 in which he hit all 18 greens and made almost 100 ft of putts. You want to score? Get the ball on the green.

TPC Twin Cities plays as a par 72 for us mere mortals, therefore Thompon’s eight-birdie round was actually a seven-birdie masterpiece. Just how did Thompson get it done? Simple. He avoided mistakes and took advantage of opportunities.


Using V1 Game’s Analysis function, Thompson’s strengths are iron play and putting. In fact, Thompson gained almost eight strokes on the field with the flatstick throughout the week and another seven strokes with his irons. He only made three bogeys on the week, tied for the best in the field.

Thompson didn’t really have a weakness. He lost less than a third of a stroke, on average, with the driver. He also didn’t push himself out of his comfort zone, sticking to a conservative game plan and playing to his strengths. In fact, it’s difficult to find any flaws with the way Thompson played throughout the entire week.

V1 Game recently previewed Virtual Coach using artificial intelligence to analyze golf performance and make pointed recommendations on 1) where to spend practice time and 2) how to achieve golfing potential. Virtual Coach analyzed Thompson’s performance over the weekend and really highlighted just how well he was able to maximize his potential.

He did so by minimizing mistakes. He only had a single three-putt and a single penalty over the four days. Scoring-wise, he averaged 66.3 over the four days. Had he eliminated even more mistakes, he could have averaged 65.

This implies that Thompson really left just a single stroke on the golf course each day, whereas most amateurs are on their second set of fingers to count up the ones that got away.

Virtual Coach also guides practice. If there was one area to work on for Thompspn, it would be driving, where he lost almost a third of a stroke each day and missed predominantly to the left.

 

Play to your strengths

To really boost his driving performance, Thompson is likely going to have to hit the ball farther and take on more risk. However, he generally opted to play back and let his irons work. When you can strike it like Thompson can, this is a great decision.

In the GIF below, we see Thompson’s shot distributions from V1 Game. A couple of items immediately jump out: 1) Just how often he hits the green from all yardages 2) his proximity to the hole is fantastic 3) his misses are well distributed, but tend to favor long. It’s difficult to go long if you are not flushing the golf ball.


Thompson separated from the field this week with persistence and patience. Those are virtues we could all learn on the golf course. Too many times, amateurs get frustrated with a poorly-timed double bogey and start pressing or getting out of their element, which compounds mistakes and leads to big numbers. However, golf is a game of mistakes and misses.

If you can understand your strengths and minimize your misses, you can start playing to your potential. V1 Game can help you with each of these items, particularly with the upcoming Virtual Coach to help guide your practice. Then maybe you can keep a card as clean as Michael Thompson.

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Elk is in the house!

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In this episode of TGD brought to you by Titleist, Johnny chats with the one, the only, the legend Steve Elkington.

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 differences between good and bad club fitters—and they’re not what you think

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Club fitting is still a highly debated topic, with many golfers continuing to believe they’re just not good enough to be fit. That couldn’t be further from the truth, but it’s a topic for another day.

Once you have decided to invest in your game and equipment, however, the next step is figuring out where to get fit, and working with a fitter.  You see, unlike professionals in other industries, club fitting “certification” is still a little like the wild west. While there are certification courses and lesson modules from OEMs on how to fit their specific equipment, from company to company, there is still some slight variance in philosophy.

Then there are agnostic fitting facilities that work with a curated equipment matrix from a number of manufacturers. Some have multiple locations all over the country and others might only have a few smaller centralized locations in a particular city. In some cases, you might even be able to find single-person operations.

So how do you separate the good from the bad? This is the million-dollar question for golfers looking to get fit. Unless you have experience going through a fitting before or have a base knowledge about fitting, it can feel like an intimidating process. This guide is built to help you ask the right questions and pay attention to the right things to make sure you are getting the most out of your fitting.

The signs of a great fitter

  • Launch monitor experience: Having some type of launch monitor certification isn’t a requirement but being able to properly understand the interpret parameters is! A good fitter should be able to explain the parameters they are using to help get the right clubs and understand how to tweak specs to help you get optimized. The exact labeling may vary depending on the type of launch monitor but they all mostly provide the same information….Here is an example of what a fitter should be looking for in an iron fitting: “The most important parameter in an iron fitting” 
  • Communication skills: Being able to explain why and how changes are being made is a telltale sign your fitter is knowledgeable—it should feel like you are learning something along the way. Remember, communication is a two-way street so also being a good listener is another sign your working with a good fitter.
  • Transparency: This involves things like talking about price, budgets, any brand preferences from the start. This prevents getting handed something out of your price range and wasting swings during your fit.
  • A focus on better: Whether it be hitting it further and straighter with your driver or hitting more greens, the fitting should be goal-orientated. This means looking at all kinds of variables to make sure what you are getting is actually better than your current clubs. Having a driver you hit 10 yards farther isn’t helpful if you don’t know where it’s going….A great fitter that knows their stuff should quickly be able to narrow down potential options to 4-5 and then work towards optimizing from there.
  • Honesty and respect: These are so obvious, I shouldn’t even have to put it on the list. I want to see these traits from anybody in a sales position when working with customers that are looking to them for knowledge and information…If you as the golfer is only seeing marginal gains from a new product or an upgrade option, you should be told that and given the proper information to make an informed decision. The great fitters, and I’ve worked with a lot of them, will be quick to tell a golfer, “I don’t think we’re going to beat (X) club today, maybe we should look at another part of your bag where you struggle.” This kind of interaction builds trust and in the end results in happy golfers and respected fitters.

The signs of a bad fitter

  • Pushing an agenda: This can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Whether it be a particular affinity towards certain brands of clubs or even shafts. If you talk to players that have all been to the same fitter and their swings and skill levels vary yet the clubs or brands of shafts they end up with (from a brand agnostic facility) seem to be eerily similar it might be time to ask questions.
  • Poor communications: As you are going through the fitting process and warming up you should feel like you’re being interviewed as a way to collect data and help solve problems in your game. This process helps create a baseline of information for your fitter. If you are not experiencing that, or your fitter isn’t explaining or answering your questions directly, then there is a serious communication problem, or it could show lack of knowledge depth when it comes to their ability.
  • Lack of transparency: If you feel like you’re not getting answers to straightforward questions or a fitter tells you “not to worry about it” then that is a big no-no from me.
    Side note: It is my opinion that golfers should pay for fittings, and in a way consider it a knowledge-gathering session. Of course, the end goal for the golfer is to find newer better fitting clubs, and for the fitter to sell you them (let’s be real here), but you should never feel the information is not being shared openly.
  • Pressure sales tactics: It exists in every industry, I get it, but if you pay for your fitting you are paying for information, use it to your advantage. You shouldn’t feel pressured to buy, and it’s always OK to seek out a knowledgeable second opinion (knowledgeable being a very key word in that sentence!).  If you are getting the hard sell or any combination of the traits above, there is a good chance you’re not working with the right fitter for you.

Final thoughts

Great fitters with great reputations and proper knowledge have long lists, even waiting lists, of golfers waiting to see them. The biggest sign of a great fitter is a long list of repeat customers.

Golf is a game that can be played for an entire lifetime, and just like with teachers and swing coaches, the good ones are in it for the long haul to help you play better and build a rapport—not just sell you the latest and greatest (although we all like new toys—myself included) because they can make a few bucks.

Trust your gut, and ask questions!

 

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Podcasts

TG2: TaylorMade P7MB & P7MC Review | Oban CT-115 & CT-125 Steel Shafts

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Took the new TaylorMade P-7MB and P-7MC irons out on the course and the range. The new P-7MB and P-7MC are really solid forged irons for the skilled iron players. Great soft feel on both, MB flies really low, and the MC is more mid/low launch. Oban’s CT 115 & 125 steel shafts are some of the most consistent out there. Stout but smooth feel with no harsh vibration at impact.

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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