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Opinion & Analysis

The Real Top 10: PGA Tour Power Rankings

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PGA Tour player performance is something that fans and media alike are always measuring and sharing their opinions about. When these matters are discussed between friends, enemies, co-workers, spouses, in-laws – there is always some disagreement. Some people like to measure the entire season’s performance when evaluating a golfer, and some employ the “What have you done for me lately?” school of thought. I always thought there was something to be said for both sides.

I wanted to find a way that I can measure a Tour player’s performance over the course of a season, but also keep in mind how hot (or cold) a player is to help me predict what they may (or may not) do in the future. The FedExCup standings does a good  job of tracking a player’s season, but let’s look at it this way: if you only played in two PGA Tour tournaments and won them, you would have 1,000 FedEx Cup points (assuming one of them wasn’t a major). With those numbers at playoff time, you could play in every other tournament, not make a cut, and be in the top 30 in the FedEx cup standings! What I’m telling you is that you can’t judge a golfer by those standings alone.

So I invented a system that takes those FedExCup standings, puts them through a series of number crunches and put together my own Power Ranking to give you a mix of how good these players actually are, meshing together their season performance and recent performance in an effort to quell the arguments between you and your loved (or not so loved) ones.

Let’s take a look at who owns the top ten spots going into the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

1. Brandt Snedeker

Brandt Snedeker

It’s no surprise that the guy who has three top-3s to start the 2013 season is No. 1 on this list. Starting off his year with a third place finish at The Hyundai Tournament of Champions and putting together back-to-back second place finishes these last two weeks, Sneds is showing us that he wants to be the first person ever to defend their FedEx Cup title.

2. Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson

With a dominating performance at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, highlighted by his first round performance where he had a chance of shooting a 59 on TOUR, this west coast swing is where Phil does damage. You have to believe after the week he’s had, and going up to Pebble Beach this week to a tournament that he won last year, he will be the favorite to win.

3. Brian Gay

Brian Gay

With a win at the Humana Challenge and a respectable T24 finish at the Phoenix Open, Gay is putting together a great start to his season. The 41-year-old tends to have good early season form shown, which is confusing because he has not put himself in the field this week at Pebble, a tournament he finished T20 at last year.

4. Russell Henley

Russel Henly

You’ve got to be impressed with a 23 year-old that wins the first full-field tournament of the year, which was also his first start as a PGA Tour rookie. He has made the cut in all three of his starts this season, where he has only shot one round over par. There is a host of young talent on tour right now, and Henly is poised to show us that he can compete with the best.

5. Charles Howell III

Charles Howell III

Howell already has three top-10 finishes in 2013, including a playoff loss to Brian Gay at the Humana Challenge. He’s taking a week off this week after playing four consecutive weeks, but look for him on the front page of leader boards in the tournaments to come.

6. Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson

DJ came out with guns blazing in 2013, taking home a trophy in the winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions. We know what Johnson can do off of the tee, but the improvement in his short game has been scary good over the past years, increasing his rank in Strokes Gained-Putting from 171st in 2011, to 51st last year. With this much of a short game improvement, look for him at the top of the leader board this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which he won in 2009 and 2010.

7. Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson

Bubba put together a good start to his season, finishing T4 the Tournament of Champions and solo 15th at the Phoenix Open. He recent years, the 2012 Masters champ has really turned himself into an all-around player, instead of just being known for his long ball. He hasn’t shot a round over par yet this season, and finished off the Phoenix Open with a bogey free round of 7-under 64.

8. Ryan Palmer

Ryan Palmer

Ryan Palmer put together a hot start to his 2013 campaign, his best start since 2010, picking up two top-10s in his first three events. Most recently, he notched a solo 5th place finish this past week in Phoenix. He has been hitting the ball beautifully, and he will be looking to keep this hot start going this week at Pebble Beach, a tournament where he finished T29 last year.

9. Robert Garrigus

Robert Garrigus

Garrigus has had an absolutely sensational start to his year by finishing T16, T6, and T11 in his three starts so far. Robert has been long off the tee, averaging over 306 yards, and has hit almost 78 percent of greens in regulation. That is going to be a killer combination this week if he can keep up this stellar ball striking trend, going to a tournament where he finished T20 last year.

10. Nick Watney

Nick Watney

The Nike newcomer rounds out the top 10 this week by way of a T13 finish in Kapalua, along with a T4 at the Farmers Insurance Open. It seems that Nick has taken a liking to his new equipment, because he has been striking the ball wonderfully to start off the year. Watney will be in the field for the Pro-Am as he has been his entire career, where he hasn’t missed a cut since 2004. Over that span, he has also managed to pick up two top-10s. Expect more of the same this year.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

 

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Nick is a true New Englander with a love for Boston sports, and carries a deep passion for golf and hockey. He played hockey collegiately, but has since focused mainly on golf. When Nick isn't working on his swing, you can find him sharing his sports opinions, or earning a living as chemist.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Marc Kilgore

    Feb 7, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    What the heck is this list? It makes no sense. These are not all guys playing at Pebble Beach. Tiger is not on the list. It’s not April 1st.
    Confused?

  2. Bobby Jones

    Feb 6, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Wish I could have my 60 seconds back from reading this “Real Top 10” list.

  3. Anthony Kelley

    Feb 6, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Guys….Chill out. I’m sure this list is based on who is in the “top ten spots going into the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am”. Quoting that from the statement above, assuming that it is based on active players on the field. Obviously if Tiger was playing, he would be part of this list but he’s not playing.

  4. Alex Lackner

    Feb 6, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Bad morals or not, tiger should be on this list

  5. J

    Feb 5, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    I don’t even like Tiger Woods, he’s a rotten example to anyone with morals or manners… But you make a top 10 guys of the year so far and he’s left off… And he won? Garrigus? Not even a top 5… Really? Wow man…rethink your writing skills…that’s seriously biased.

    • Blanco

      Feb 6, 2013 at 10:57 pm

      Are people genuinely convinced they know “the real Tiger Woods,” based on 20 years of IMG branding followed by three years of relentless scandal gossip?

      “Tiger” is a world-class athlete and competitor to his fans, and the embodiment of cold immorality to his critics. I doubt anyone on Golfwrx knows a thing about Eldrick Woods the human being and father.

      All I know is that he’s an amazing golfer, most worthy of this list, and an inherently flawed individual, just like you and I.

      • J

        Feb 7, 2013 at 11:55 pm

        Convinced they know the real Tiger Woods? Nope… And mistakes are mistakes… A habit is not a mistake. He should have been on this list. Sill the top golfer in the world.

  6. Mateo

    Feb 5, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    ummmmmmmmmm Tiger Woods???
    This list is a joke.

  7. mlamb

    Feb 5, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Umm … Tiger? He has a win.

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Podcasts

Gear Dive: USC head golf coach Chris Zambri on the challenges that will come with the new NCAA rules

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In this Special Edition of The Gear Dive, USC Men’s Head Golf Coach Chris Zambri discusses his thoughts on the new NCAA mandates, how to get recruited, and the pros and cons of recruiting can’t-miss superstars.

  • 9:55 — Zambri discusses thoughts on new rule
  • 17:35 — The rule he feels is the toughest navigate
  • 26:05 — Zambri discusses the disadvantages of recruiting a “can’t miss” PGA star
  • 32:50 — Advice to future recruits
  • 44:45 — The disadvantages of being tied to an OEM as a college golf team

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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A new NCAA transfer rule gets passed… and college coaches are NOT happy

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New rules just keep on coming from the NCAA; college coaches are not happy about this one.

In a summer of block buster coaching changes, the NCAA has done its best to stay atop the news cycle by making some significant changes, which will impact the recruitment process. In an article two months ago entitled “The effect the NCAA’s new recruiting rules will have on college golf,” I spoke to college coaches about a new rule, which will not allow unofficial or official visits until September 1 of the players Junior Year. To go along with this rule, the NCAA has also put in place a new recruiting calendar which will limit the sum of the days of off campus recruiting between a head and assistant coach to 45 days starting August 1, 2018.

The 45-day rule will have several potential impacts for both recruits and assistant coaches. For recruits, it is likely that after a couple (2-3) evaluations, coaches will make offers and ask for speed responses to ensure they are not missing out on other options. I also think you will see far less assistant coaches recruiting, which ultimately hurts their opportunities to learn the art of recruitment.

The new transfer rule

In the past, players were subject to asking their present institution for either permission to contact other schools regarding transfer, or a full release.

Now, starting October 15, players can simply inform their institution of their intensions to leave and then start contacting other schools to find an opportunity. This is a drastic shift in policy, so I decided to poll college coaches to get their reactions.

The poll was conducted anonymously via Survey Monkey. Participation was optional and included 6 questions:

  1. New NCAA Legislation will allow players to transfer without a release starting October 2018. Do you support this rule change?
  2. Do you believe that this rule will have APR implications?
  3. Who do you think will benefit most from this rule?
  4. What are the benefits of allowing students to transfer without a release? What are the potential harms?
  5. New NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?
  6. What implications do you see for this rule?

In all, 62 Division I golf coaches responded, or about 10 percent of all Division I coaches in Men’s and Women’s Golf. The results show that 81.25 percent of DI coaches said that they do NOT support the rule change for transfers.

Also, 90 percent of coaches polled believe that the rule will have APR implications. APR is Academic Progress Rate which holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.

The APR is calculated as follows:

  • Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible.
  • A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate.
  • In addition to a team’s current-year APR, its rolling four-year APR is also used to determine accountability.

Teams must earn a four-year average APR of 930 to compete in championships.

While the APR is intended as an incentive-based approach, it does come with a progression of penalties for teams that under-perform academically over time.

The first penalty level limits teams to 16 hours of practice per week over five days (as opposed to 20 over six days), with the lost four hours to be replaced with academic activities.

A second level adds additional practice and competition reductions, either in the traditional or non-championship season, to the first-level penalties. The third level, where teams could remain until their rate improves, includes a menu of possible penalties, including coaching suspensions, financial aid reductions and restricted NCAA membership.

Clearly coaches are not happy about the move and feel that the rule unfairly benefits both the student athletes and major conference schools, who may have a swell of calls around middle of October as Student athletes play great fall golf and look to transfer. Although coaches are unhappy about the new rule, it is very difficult to predict what direct impact the rule will have on teams; coaches are extremely smart and understand recruiting and development within the frame work of college better than anyone can imagine. As a result, I think coaches will react in many ways which are impossible to predict.

The survey also asked, “new NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?” For this, coaches were more divided with 45 percent in favor of the rule, and 55 percent not.

Although coaches supported the legislation, many (41/62) suggested that it would potentially hurt international recruiting at tournaments like Doral and the Orange Bowl and they had, in the past, used December as a time to recruit.

As we move forward with these changes, here are some potential things that recruits, and their families should consider, including consequences of the rules:

  1. With a limit of 45 days and these transfer rules, it is likely that coaches will be doing significantly more investigation into a player’s personalities and family situation to make sure they know what they are getting.
  2. Coaches may also start skipping over better players in favor of kids they think will be a good fit and are likely to stay
  3. Rosters may get bigger, as coaches are trying to have larger numbers to potentially offset transfers

Unfortunately, we enter a new era of rules at the worst time; we have never had a more competent and deep group of college coaches, the clear majority of whom are tremendous stewards of the game. Hopefully this rule will have insignificant effect on the continued growth of college golf but only time will tell.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is golf actually a team sport?

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Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at edmyersgolf.com.

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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