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Opinion & Analysis

No consolation? Breaking down Poulter’s rant

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If you aren’t one of Ian Poulter’s more than 1.4 million followers on Twitter, you might have missed the flamboyant Englishman’s comments about the consolation match at WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Poulter fired off a series of tweets which displayed little faith in the venerable old institution of the consolation match the morning after his 1 up loss to Jason Day in the Match Play’s losers’ loop.

Like so many of our favorite athletes and celebrities, the plaid enthusiast has a history of colorful Twitter rants.

If you’re not familiar, Google “Ian Poulter + Twitter rant” for a bit of light reading.

The following are the match play ace’s comments:

Ian Poulter's Match Play Tweets

Is this all just sour grapes, or does Poulter have a point?

Primarily, Poulter was correct in his assumption that Jason Day would withdraw from the Honda Classic. The PGA Tour announced the golfer’s WD last night and his replacement in the field by Luke List.

But there is a significant cash difference between the third and fourth place finisher (in addition to OWGR rankings points, FedEx Cup points, etc). For his third place finish in the tournament Jason Day collected a $615,000 check. Ian Poulter’s fourth place check amounted to $400,000. Perhaps both would have been willing to say “good, good” on the match and pocket identical checks for $507,500, but I’m not sure.

Regardless, Poulter’s contention that playing the second match on Sunday/ the sixth match of the week is a significant hardship, which compromises the participants play in the next week’s tournament (the Honda Classic) merits examination.

Here’s a list of the participants on the WGC-Accenture Match Play consolation match between 2005 and last year and how they fared in the next week’s tournament (if they played).

Accenture Match Player Consolation match

Certainly some (perhaps Poulter) will argue that the peculiar circumstances this year were the real marrow of his complaint. The majority of those who played on Sunday had to play most of their matches over four days, rather than five. Also, weather delays plus colder-than-average temperatures may have enhanced the fatigue the last four standing were feeling.

However, as we can’t suppose that all the players who didn’t play in the next week’s event did so because of the particular fatigue brought on by having to tee it up for another 18 holes after knowing they weren’t going to win the match play, it’s difficult to draw any firm conclusion from the “DNPs.” And obviously, such players would have had to have committed to the succeeding tournament well before their consolation matches.

It may be significant to note, however, that none of the players in the consolation match from 2005 to 2012 withdrew and that fatigue didn’t seem to be a serious issue for said players. All who played in the week following their consolation match made the cut in the succeeding tournament, with two—Lee Westwood in 2012 and Camilo Villegas in 2010—finishing in the top 10.

With his withdrawal this year, Jason Day was the first to break with that tradition.

Given this, there are many ways to spin Poulter’s comments. One way is that this is another example of a PGA Tour professional whining about problems 99 percent of the world (and 99 percent of professional golfers, really) would love to have.

Another possible reading is that Poulter, fiery and honest fellow that he is, is again airing his grievances with the powers that be, such as he did last year after a final-round 76 at the Barclays.

Your assessment of the situation might have much to do with your feelings in general toward the polarizing, passionate and pink-loving fellow. The reality, though, is that those who play in the consolation match and go on to compete in the next calendar event often play quite well.

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40 Comments

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  1. Pingback: Poulter Stumbles Finishing 2nd Round At U S OpenNgetrend.info | Ngetrend.info

  2. blopar

    Mar 1, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Gosh Ian–doesn’t collecting $400 K so your fans can watch you duel it out in match play and placate the TV advertising sponsors who pump up your tournament purses interest you at all??? It is sports entertainment as well as competition in the long run!!!

  3. William

    Mar 1, 2013 at 8:13 am

    I agree with everything Poulter says. But, had he won, we would not be having this conversation. If he doesn’t like the way the 3rd and 4th spots are decided, he doesn’t have to play in the event. Problem solved.

  4. Golflaw

    Feb 28, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Poulter is right. Playing for 3rd is a big nothing to a competitor. It’s to fill time for the sponsors. I’m old enough to remember when they also played a consolation game before the NCAA basketball games. The games were so lackluster and played with no emotion even TV gave up and it ended.

  5. Pingback: The Links: Rickie Fowler’s need for speed helps on golf course – CBSSports.com (blog) - Golfing Tips & More!

  6. Pingback: The Links: Rickie Fowler’s need for speed helps on golf course – CBSSports.com (blog)

  7. Mike Leether

    Feb 28, 2013 at 10:21 am

    I care what Poulter has to say for about one week every two years. That is all….

  8. Mark Burke

    Feb 28, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Just play golf.

  9. Jim

    Feb 28, 2013 at 4:30 am

    If Tiger and Rory were playing for third place and Poultrr and Day were in final which match would you watch .

  10. Simon

    Feb 28, 2013 at 2:30 am

    Poor Poults, he knew the rules when he entered the event. If he feels hard done by I will pick him up early one morning and take him to a factory to work 60 hrs a week for about $500 that should stop his whingeing

  11. Steve

    Feb 27, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    I also agree with Poulter on this (of course, I pretty much always agree with him – he’s honest to a fault). I for one would LOVE to ba able to pick Ian’s brain for an hour regarding match play strategies and tactics.

  12. luke keefner

    Feb 27, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    The consolation match is just there to fill up air time on tv. It would be pretty boring watching 2 guys walking to their shots for most of the telecast. The bright side would be choking on the same Michelob Light commercials over and over(sarcasm)

    • RJD

      Mar 1, 2013 at 1:31 pm

      ding, ding, ding!!! this is exactly what it is about. That entire day is nothing but commercials as it is but if you had one less match to air, it would be ridiculous.

  13. jerrrrry

    Feb 27, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    TW 67 so true…….forgot all about that, glad you brought that to attention of those that don’t no how deep his integrity goes……

  14. Jeremiah

    Feb 27, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    It’s his job. Sorry if playing golf and getting paid is so rough. He knew the stipulations of the event going into it. If you dont win, you play consultation round. If you don’t like it stay home. People would kill to be in his ugly shoes….

  15. Blanco

    Feb 27, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Yes Ian Poulter can say what he wants… but so can the pubic. He will continue to loose the respect of fans and the media with his combination of ignorant frat-boy perspectives and this “emo” super wealthy selfishness.

    I must says this: anyone who thinks IJP design or its founder makes good looking clothing or makes clothing look good, has an extremely foul sense of esthetics and taste in general. If he wore it like John Daly wears Loudmouth, I’d have no problems with it… but this guy is SERIOUS about the gothic-argyle-spandex-leather thing. I started biting my nails again after watching his interview on Feherty Live– I have not stopped since.

    • Devon

      Feb 27, 2013 at 6:02 pm

      Agreed, my wife and I were watching the match play last weekend, she doesn’t know much about golf and giggled and mentioned he needs a new stylist. I told her that those were actually his designs and he owns a clothling line, the look on her face was priceless. Poulter’s ignorance and this “me me me” attitude is growing tiresome to watch these days.

  16. Trevor

    Feb 27, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Ian Poulter; LOL. I can’t stand his bratty-baby ways and tantrums. He cries when he wins, he cries when he loses, he cries about playing Golf for a living and cries when he has to spend time with his kids and play golf at the same time!

    Just Ridiculous.

  17. TWShoot67

    Feb 27, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    You know if he doesn’t like the format just don’t enter, it’s not like they changed the format and all of a sudden 3 and 4th play a consolation match …. it’s been happening for years. This is not soccer / football this is individual play. Why even bring up another sport. this is how golf has been played for ever in match play. You can always opt out if it’s too tough of a schedule. They are independent contractors, you don’t like it DON’T ENTER.

  18. TWShoot67

    Feb 27, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    I have no sympathy for Ian Poulter who puts his foot in mouth at times, I ractually like who his is most of the time a fierce competitor, but sometimes he’s dead wrong. So he has no problem playing the extra 18 holes if it’s for 1 or 2 but not 3 or 4. Funny the day before this Tweet I read something like better coming in 3rd then 4th, now he says it’s first or nothing, that’s Tiger’s line? Of course every player wants to win, but it’s a small % that do. Guess that was a joke I didn’t catch, or that tweet was tongue and cheek. Seriously I know all about where Ian Poulter’s came from. Also part of his story is that he actually lied/cheated filling out card about his handicap to become a Club pro first before getting good enough to become a tour pro. So don’t feel too sad about a guy who lied in game where its all supposed to be about integrity. So not’s not give him all the props some may want to give the guy. I’ll give him props for making it. But you have to have talent not just a want or will yourself to be a touring pro, there’s too many parts of the game you have to be really really good at to become a pro. I personally sat and beat balls for 2 years every single day and never became a pro. i became scratch but not a pro. Just didn’t get the god given talent that some receive.

  19. footwedge

    Feb 27, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Ridiculous.
    When he entered the tourney he knew there was a chance he might be subjected to the shame and horror of having to play a consolation round, where he would only recieve as little as $400,000 (to play a round of golf).

    Get real

    • Dolph Lundgrenade

      Feb 28, 2013 at 11:47 pm

      He already earned the $400k before he tee’d off in the consolation match. For these players the $100k difference isn’t the deal. The win was the deal and that is over.

      Tied for 3rd is better. Another format for the consolation would be even better. Maybe the 3-6 or 3-8 play some sort of skins match.

  20. footwedge

    Feb 27, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    Total whiner, has no idea what a day of hard work really is. He’s complaining about playing a round of golf, of all things, and getting more money than 99.9% of people earn in an entire year.
    Completely distorted sense of reality, sniffling baby.

    • setter02

      Feb 27, 2013 at 3:41 pm

      Do you know anything about Poults? He’s far from silver spoon fed/country club culture like so many other kids grew up into… Give the guy some props who at 17 and a 5 capper decided he was going to become what he is now… Do some research before expressing your opinion… He’s earned the right…

    • Boydeeo

      Feb 27, 2013 at 3:42 pm

      I understand your point that its hard to accept a complaint about this from a guy that makes more money both of us combined without getting out of bed

      Do remember that he did start his career in a local pro shop and you have to beleive he worked is a$$ off to get there.

      Just my 2 cents

  21. Dane

    Feb 27, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    I agree with him…Put the 2 best Junior amateurs on for a second match if they need more golf on tv. That would be more fun to watch than 2 guys that don’t want to be out there.

  22. Kevin

    Feb 27, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    This is the key. The reason he has amassed great wealth without winning wiith great regularity is a result of the large purses from the sponsors and tv deals/exposure. I’m on the fence regarding “Poults”. I admire his visible tenacity in high pressure team and match play situations. I think his attitude should change some when he analyzes his situation and realizes his empire is intertwined with the hand that feeds.

  23. Jerry

    Feb 27, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Nobody wants to play for 3-4, and no one wants to watch it either.

  24. PoloFox

    Feb 27, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    I am sorry but I disagree with him. Sure no one will remember who finished 3rd or 4th but there is a reason why PGA TOUR players get paid what they do. Publicity/Ratings!!! I mean seriously the amount of money he gets paid/wins… He can’t go out and play another 18 holes??? Come on!! I mean he does have FANS that want to watch him right?? Why not do it for them? If he did not want to play he should have dropped out!! End of story and don’t go on social media crying. Not a Poulter fan and this is another good reason why.

  25. Gary Ward

    Feb 27, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    He’s right, the losing semi finalists don’t play off in tennis or in FA cup or champions league or in NFL and no-one complains we don’t know who comes third. Split the money and fed-ex points etc the Tv only uses it to fill between shots on the game everyones wants to see anyway.

  26. larrybud

    Feb 27, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    He may be right, but it’s all about TV. It’s already slow going on TV when there’s only 2 matches going on. Make it 1 match and it’d be a snoozefest.

  27. tom

    Feb 27, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Ian is correct who cares tie for 3rd split cash..

  28. Callaway X Hot

    Feb 27, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Poulter is entitled to his opinion but to me he comes off as a spoiled brat that is upset because he did not win. Come one you’re making millions by playing golf and there may be some hard working folks who paid money to watch you play in the consolation match.

    Suck it up and play.

    • Rob

      Feb 27, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      I agree, Poulter comes off as a baby. If he really had a good argument he could have stated it more maturely. The article does well to point out the importance of the difference between 3rd and 4th, not only for the cash they receive but for season-long points and rankings.

    • Rufiolegacy

      Feb 27, 2013 at 5:44 pm

      A lot of people feel the same way about Poulter, and maybe he is a bit of a brat. However, under the circumstances to get that close through the field and end up not in the finals match. I can understand his frustration.

    • Shark

      Feb 27, 2013 at 9:51 pm

      I disagree. I think he is to be admired as he plays to win. So many get cushy only concerned with cuts and monet (although he does get a knock for winning so rarely… Not sure why?)
      But In a tourney until the last swing you feel you could win… In consolation match you hit first ball knowing you can only do third at best.

  29. SCOTT MILLER

    Feb 27, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Why is it so bad when someone states what they believe?? Let him make his point and let him feel the way he wants. It is none of my business.

    • Joey5Picks

      Feb 27, 2013 at 3:58 pm

      Everyone is entitled to their opinion and to make their point. It doesn’t mean others don’t have the right to question it. Bottom line; you have the right to say what you think, but you don’t have the right to do it without repurcussions or blowback.

  30. E-gree

    Feb 27, 2013 at 11:43 am

    I agree with him completely!!!

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Fort Worth Invitational

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Under a new name, but a very familiar setting, the Fort Worth Championship gets underway this week. Colonial Country Club will host, and it’s an event that has attracted some big names to compete in the final stop of the Texas swing. The top two ranked Europeans, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose are in the field, as are Americans Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.

Colonial is a tricky course with narrow tree-lined fairways that are imperative to hit. Distance off the tee holds no real advantage this week with approach play being pivotal. Approach shots will be made more difficult this week than usual by the greens at Colonial, which are some of the smallest on the PGA Tour. Last year, Kevin Kisner held off Spieth, Rahm, and O’Hair to post 10-under par and take the title by a one-stroke margin.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1
  • Jon Rahm 14/1
  • Justin Rose 18/1
  • Webb Simpson 18/1
  • Rickie Fowler 20/1
  • Jimmy Walker 28/1
  • Adam Scott 28/1

Last week, Jordan Spieth (9/1, DK Price $11,700) went off at the Byron Nelson as the prohibitive 5/1 favorite. Every man and his dog seemed to be on him, and after Spieth spoke to the media about how he felt he had a distinct advantage at a course where he is a member, it was really no surprise. Comments like this from Spieth at the Byron Nelson are not new. When the event was held at TPC Four Seasons, Spieth often made similar comments. The result? He flopped, just as he did last week at Trinity Forest. Spieth’s best finish at the Byron Nelson in his career is T-16. The reason for this, I believe, is the expectations he has put on himself at this event for years.

Switch to Colonial, and the difference is considerable. Spieth’s worst finish here is T-14. In his last three visits, he has finished second, first and second. While Spieth may believe that he should win the Byron Nelson whenever he tees it up there, the evidence suggests that his love affair is with Colonial. The statistic that truly emphasizes his prowess at Colonial, though, is his Strokes Gained-Total at the course. Since 2013, Spieth has a ridiculous Strokes Gained-Total of more than +55 on the course, almost double that of Kisner in second place.

Spieth’s long game all year has been consistently good. Over his previous 24 rounds, he ranks first in this field for Strokes Gained-Tee to Green, second for Ball Striking, and first for Strokes Gained-Total. On the other hand, his putting is awful at the moment. He had yet another dreadful performance on the greens at Trinity Forest, but he was also putting nowhere near his best coming into Colonial last year. In 2017, he had dropped strokes on the greens in his previous two events, missing the cut on both occasions, yet he finished seventh in Strokes Gained-Putting at Colonial on his way to a runner-up finish. His record is too good at this course for Spieth to be 9/1, and he can ignite his 2018 season in his home state this week.

Emiliano Grillo’s (50/1, DK Price $8,600) only missed cut in 2018 came at the team event in New Orleans, and he arrives this week at a course ideally suited to the Argentine’s game. Grillo performed well here in 2017, recording a top-25 finish. His form in 2018 leads me to believe he can improve on that this year.

As a second-shot golf course, Colonial sets up beautifully for the strengths of Grillo’s game. Over his previous 12 rounds, Grillo ranks first in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, second in Ball Striking, third in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and eighth in Strokes Gained-Total. The Argentine also plays short golf courses excellently. Over his last 50 rounds, Grillo is ranked ninth for Strokes Gained-Total on courses measuring 7,200 yards or less. Colonial is right on that number, and Grillo looks undervalued to continue his consistent season on a course that suits him very well.

Another man enjoying a consistent 2018 is Adam Hadwin (66/1, DK Price $7,600), who has yet to miss a cut this season. The Canadian is enjoying an excellent run of form with five top-25 finishes from his last six stroke-play events. Hadwin is another man whose game is tailor made for Colonial. His accurate iron play and solid putting is a recipe for success here, and he has proven that by making the cut in all three of his starts at Colonial, finishing in the top-25 twice.

Hadwin is coming off his worst performance of 2018 at The Players Championship, but it was an anomaly you can chalk up to a rare poor week around the greens (he was seventh-to-last in Strokes Gained-Around the Green for the week). In his previous seven starts, Hadwin had a positive strokes gained total in this category each time. Over his last 24 rounds, Hadwin ranks seventh in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 15th in Ball Striking, and ninth in Strokes Gained-Putting. He looks to have an excellent opportunity to improve on his solid record at Colonial this week.

Finally, as far as outsiders go, I like the look of Sean O’Hair (175/1, DK Price $7,100) at what is a juicy price. One of last year’s runners-up, his number is far too big this week. He has had some excellent performances so far in 2018. In fact, in his previous six starts, O’Hair has made five cuts and has notched three top-15 finishes, including his runner-up finish at the Valero Texas Open. The Texan has made three of his last four cuts at Colonial, and he looks to be an excellent pick on DraftKings at a low price.

Recommended Plays

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1, DK Price $11,700
  • Emiliano Grillo 50/1, DK Price $8.600
  • Adam Hadwin 66/1, DK Price $7,600
  • Sean O’Hair 175/1, DK Price  $7,100
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Opinion & Analysis

Pick three golfers to build the ultimate scramble team. Who you got?

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It’s officially scramble season. Whether it’s a corporate outing or charity event, surely you’ve either been invited to play in or have already played in a scramble this year.

If you don’t know the rules of the scramble format, here’s how it works: All four golfers hit their drives, then the group elects the best shot. From there, all four golfers hit the shot, and the best of the bunch is chosen once again. The hole continues in this fashion until the golf ball is holed.

The best scramble players are those who hit the ball really far and/or stick it close with the irons and/or hole a lot of putts. The point is to make as many birdies and eagles as possible.

With this in mind, inside GolfWRX Headquarters, we got to discussing who would be on the ultimate scramble team. Obviously, Tiger-Jack-Daly was brought up immediately, so there needed to be a caveat to make it more challenging.

Thus, the following hypothetical was born. We assigned each golfer below a dollar value, and said that we had to build a three player scramble team (plus yourself) for $8 or less.

Here are the answers from the content team here at GolfWRX:

Ben Alberstadt

Tiger Woods ($5): This is obvious. From a scramble standpoint, Tiger gives you everything you want: Long, accurate, and strategic off the tee (in his prime). Woods, sets the team up for optimal approach shots (he was pretty good at those too)…and of course, arguably the greatest pressure putter of all time.

David Duval ($2): I’m thinking of Double D’s machine-like approach play in his prime. Tour-leader in GIR in 1999, and 26th in driving accuracy that year, Duval ought to stick second shots when TW doesn’t and is an asset off the tee.

Corey Pavin ($1): A superb putter and dogged competitor, Pavin’s a great value at $1. Ryder Cup moxy. Plus, he’ll always give you a ball in the fairway off the tee (albeit a short one), much needed in scramble play.

Brian Knudson

Rory McIlroy ($4): I am willing to bet their are only a handful of par 5’s in the world that he can’t hit in in two shots. You need a guy who can flat out overpower a course and put you in short iron situations on every hole. His iron play is a thing of beauty, with a high trajectory that makes going after any sucker pin a possibility.

Jordan Spieth ($3): Was there a guy who putted from mid-range better than him just a couple years ago? If there was, he isn’t on this list. Scrambles need a guy who can drain everything on the green and after watching 3 putts to get the read, he won’t miss. His solid wedge game will also help us get up and down from those short yardages on the Par 4’s.

Corey Pavin ($1): Fear the STACHE!! The former Ryder Cup captain will keep the whole team playing their best and motivated to make birdies and eagles. If we have 228 yards to the flag we know he is pulling that 4 wood out and giving us a short putt for birdie. He will of course be our safety net, hitting the “safe shot,” allowing the rest of us to get aggressive!

Ronald Montesano

Dustin Johnson ($4) – Bombmeister!!!

Lee Trevino ($2) — Funny as hell (and I speak Mexican).

Sergio Garcia ($1) – The greatest iron player (I speak Spanish, too).

Tom Stickney

Dustin Johnson ($4)
Seve Ballesteros ($2)
Lee Trevino ($2)

DJ is longer than I-10, Seve can dig it out of the woods, and Trevino can shape it into any pin.

Andrew Tursky

Dustin Johnson ($4)
Jordan Spieth ($2)
Anthony Kim ($1)

Are all the old timers gonna be mad at me for taking young guys? Doesn’t matter. DJ has to be the best driver ever, as long as he’s hitting that butter cut. With Jordan, it’s hard to tell whether he’s better with his irons or with his putter — remember, we’re talking Jordan in his prime, not the guy who misses putts from 8 inches. Then, Anthony Kim has to be on the team in case the alcohol gets going since, you know, it’s a scramble; remember when he was out all night (allegedly) before the Presidents Cup and still won his match? I need that kind of ability on my squad. Plus AK will get us in the fairway when me, DJ and Spieth each inevitably hit it sideways.

Michael Williams

Tiger Woods ($5)
Seve Ballesteros ($2)
Corey Pavin ($1)

Tiger is a no-brainer. Seve is maybe the most creative player ever and would enjoy playing HORSE with Tiger. Pavin is the only $1 player who wouldn’t be scared stiff to be paired with the first two.

Johnny Wunder

Tiger Woods ($5): His Mind/Overall Game

Seve Ballesteros ($2): His creativity/fire in a team format/inside 100

Anthony Kim ($1): Team swagger/he’s streaky/will hit fairways under the gun.

A scramble requires 3 things: Power, Putting and Momentum. These 3 guys as a team complete the whole package. Tiger is a one man scramble team but will get himself in trouble, which is where Seve comes in. In the case where the momentum is going forward like a freight train, nobody rattles a cage into the zone better than AK. It’s the perfect team and the team I’d want out there if my life was on the line. I’d trust my kids with this team.

Who would you pick on your team, and why? See what GolfWRX Members are saying in the forums.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is equipment really to blame for the distance problem in golf?

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It’s 2018, we’re more than a quarter of the way through Major Season, and there are 58 players on the PGA Tour averaging over 300 yards off the tee. Trey Mullinax is leading the PGA Tour through the Wells Fargo Championship with an average driving distance of 320 yards. Much discussion has been had about the difficulty such averages are placing on the golf courses across the country. Sewn into the fabric of the distance discussion are suggestions by current and past giants of the game to roll back the golf ball.

In a single segment on an episode of Live From The Masters, Brandel Chamblee said, “There’s a correlation from when the ProV1 was introduced and driving distance spiked,” followed a few minutes later by this: “The equipment isn’t the source of the distance, it’s the athletes.”

So which is it? Does it have to be one or the other? Is there a problem at all?

Several things of interest happened on the PGA Tour in the early 2000s, most of which were entirely driven by the single most dominant athlete of the last 30. First, we saw Tiger Woods win four consecutive majors, the first and only person to do that in the modern era of what are now considered the majors. Second, that same athlete drew enough eyeballs so that Tim Finchem could exponentially increase the prize money golfers were playing for each week. Third, but often the most overlooked, Tiger Woods ushered in fitness to the mainstream of golf. Tiger took what Gary Player and Greg Norman had preached their whole careers and amped it up like he did everything else.

In 1980, Dan Pohl was the longest player on the PGA Tour. He averaged 274 yards off the tee with a 5-foot, 11-inch and 175-pound frame. By 2000, the average distance for all players on the PGA Tour was 274 yards. The leader of the pack that year was John Daly, who was the only man to average over 300 yards. Tiger Woods came in right behind him at 298 yards.

Analysis of the driving distance stats on the PGA Tour since 1980 show a few important statistics: Over the last 38 seasons, the average driving distance for all players on the PGA Tour has increased an average of 1.1 yards per year. When depicted on a graph, it looks like this:

The disparity between the shortest and the longest hitter on the PGA Tour has increased 0.53 yards per year, which means the longest hitters are increasing the gap between themselves and the shortest hitters. The disparity chart fluctuates considerably more than the average distance chart, but the increase from 1980 to 2018 is staggering.

In 1980, there was 35.6 yards between Dan Pohl (longest) and Michael Brannan (shortest – driving distance 238.7 yards). In 2018, the difference between Trey Mullinax and Ken Duke is 55.9 yards. Another point to consider is that in 1980, Michael Brannan was 25. Ken Duke is currently 49 years of age.

The question has not been, “Is there a distance problem?” It’s been, “How do we solve the distance problem?” The data is clear that distance has increased — not so much at an exponential rate, but at a consistent clip over the last four decades — and also that equipment is only a fraction of the equation.

Jack Nicklaus was over-the-hill in 1986 when he won the Masters. It came completely out of nowhere. Players in past decades didn’t hit their prime until they were in their early thirties, and then it was gone by their early forties. Today, it’s routine for players to continue playing until they are over 50 on the PGA Tour. In 2017, Steve Stricker joined the PGA Tour Champions. In 2016, he averaged 278 yards off the tee on the PGA Tour. With that number, he’d have topped the charts in 1980 by nearly four yards.

If equipment was the only reason distance had increased, then the disparity between the longest and shortest hitters would have decreased. If it was all equipment, then Ken Duke should be averaging something more like 280 yards instead of 266.

There are several things at play. First and foremost, golfers are simply better athletes these days. That’s not to say that the players of yesteryear weren’t good athletes, but the best athletes on the planet forty years ago didn’t play golf; they played football and basketball and baseball. Equipment definitely helped those super athletes hit the ball straighter, but the power is organic.

The other thing to consider is that the total tournament purse for the 1980 Tour Championship was $440,000 ($1,370,833 in today’s dollars). The winner’s share for an opposite-field event, such as the one played in Puerto Rico this year, is over $1 million. Along with the fitness era, Tiger Woods ushered in the era of huge paydays for golfers. This year, the U.S. Open prize purse will be $12 milion with $2.1 million of that going to the winner. If you’re a super athlete with the skills to be a golfer, it makes good business sense to go into golf these days. That wasn’t the case four decades ago.

Sure, equipment has something to do with the distance boom, but the core of the increase is about the athletes themselves. Let’s start giving credit where credit is due.

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