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Opinion & Analysis

Opinion: Give McIlroy a break



By Ryan David, GolfWRX Contributor

Rory McIlroy isn’t making it easy to be a fan lately. A missed cut in Dubai and a Round-1 loss at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship stirred many observers into voicing concern for his game. His withdraw from the Honda Classic midway through the second round after a miserable start made will make things even worse.

It’s obvious that McIlroy’s has become cluttered in 2013. Swirling in his head is the pressure to perform, keep his No. 1 ranking, play nice with the media and do right by his new equipment sponsor, Nike, who will dump generational wealth into his bank account in the coming years. It should come as no surprise that his game, the physical manfiestation of his mental state, has suffered.

As much as his new clubs are talked about, they’re not the culprit of his struggles. Yes, his entire bag changed, and it may have not been in McIlroy’s best interests to make an equipment change if he hoped to carry over all the momentum he built for himself in 2012. But McIlroy’s real problems are his swing mechanics.

He’s admitted that he’s “under plane” and has said that he’s been working on his swing during rounds — not a place golfers want to be mentally when fractions of an inch can mean the difference between making the cut and packing their bags. The bottom line is that Rory left Nike’s R&D facility, The Oven, with clubs very similar to his Titleists, but with a swing that was flawed.

The Nike deal itself was enough to layer unreasonable pressure to perform. It instantly made the 23-year-old one of the highest paid athletes in professional sports. Along with the money, the timing of the deal dictated that Rory spend his normal vacation time getting acquainted with his new sponsor and their product.

Rory has also had to deal with a new level of celebrity in his personal life. With a high-profile significant other, Rory has been subject to the same kind of media coverage akin to TMZ.  I personally remember my Twitter feed full of marriage speculation that Rory actually responded to. Actual journalists were kicking the question about whether or not he was ready to marry back and forth. A slow news day, perhaps, but also an indicator of the scrutiny placed on an athlete suddenly thrust into the mainstream limelight.

Nike is also a much different animal in terms of media responsibilities and requirements. Before the season even kicked off, he had already starred in a feature spot TV spot. In his understanding that he is under a new, more powerful media microscope, Rory seems to be struggling with the pressure. He appears physically and mentally exhausted on the course and in the interview room.

Now, think back to his play last year. For the most part, you remember the absolute ease in which he won the PGA Championship and his top-notch play in August and September. For a minute, though, think about May and June. He missed the cut at the The Players, The Memorial and the U.S. Open. He finally clicked when he found his swing and reportedly “stopped thinking about it.” Are we seeing shades of May 2012 Rory? Perhaps. A reboot of his mental state will undoubtedly reboot his swing and most certainly lead to the McIlroy that holds trophies on Sundays.

Obviously, something was bothering him mentally and physically when he withdrew on Friday. He certainly could have handled it better, but a deeper look into his recent activity reveals some of the burnout associated with being a high-paid, high-pressure athlete at the top of the game. It’s easy to judge him harshly and not to sympathize, and many analysts have. Me? I’m not jumping on that train, nor am I counting him (or his clubs) out just yet.

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  1. Bill

    Mar 29, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Everyone has their take on Rory. He allowed himself to be overwhelmed. His handlers and Nike get to share some of the responsibility. He’s distracted and still needs some guidance off the course. Part of the problem is that he met a girl he really likes and never has to work another day in his life and can live like royalty.
    Getting used to a club change can make some difference also but I think he’s wiped out and wanting to relax a bit. Most of us in our 20’s wouldn’t have been much different. There’s been a few guys on tour who have won and ended up partying in Vegas and we haven’t seen them atop a leaderboard since.
    There’s no comparison to Tiger. Tiger was driven and had a father that helped keep his focus and on the path..It took him years and REALLY screwing up to lose HIS focus. He’s gotten it back it appears. I hope Rory does also. Nice kid. Great talent. But with that swing, he needs to be a machine on the range. Time will tell

  2. HJD

    Mar 4, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    I gotta say that I’m disappointed in Rory. Quitting and then trying to sell us with the lame excuse of his wisdom tooth….c’mon. At 23 we’ve all made mistakes but it’s not like he didn’t know what was going to result from his abrupt exit.. He’s been playing golf for how long? He had to know how that would be perceived. Now add the big contract, the celebrity GF, all the perks of fame n fortune…he’s gotta know he’s gonna catch major scrutiny from quitting. Rory, just stay humble, learn from this, know your every move is under a microscope, and adjust your actions accordingly.

  3. Andy

    Mar 4, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Quitting is quitting whether it a PGA Tour event or an 8 year playing junior golf. It’s simply unacceptable. I was a huge Rory fan up until Friday and I simply can back a person who, like it or not, is a role model to my two sons. When they see Rory quit during a bad round, they won’t be far to follow suit. Sorry Rory, but actions have consequences and hopefully I am not one father trying to teach this my children.

  4. dan

    Mar 3, 2013 at 2:34 am

    Yeah, have to call bs here in a big way. If the athlete in question was a certain Mr woods, the media would be telling him to take a seat next to nick faldo in the commentary box. Rory wants the cash and the notoriety, he should learn to wear the heat that comes with it. Maybe the pressure that came with the money from nike is the issue and not the clubs.

  5. Gary McCormick

    Mar 2, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    It’s not about celebrity, or the pressure that comes with it — it’s about sticking with the thing that has brought you fame and wealth. Rory has been jetsetting around with his new tennis-star girlfriend and ignoring his game, and both have fallen from the pinnacle of their respective sports.

    The switch to Nike came at a bad time – because of the current lack of attention to his game, he is in a worse-than-usual position to be changing equipment.

    The kid needs to keep his head in the game, work on getting used to the new gear — and give the jetsetting around with the Wozniacki chick a rest…

  6. Gus

    Mar 2, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Simple – if rory wants to be given a break, then stick with Titleist and turn down Nike and might even have gained some respect. Once you accept the big sponsorships the scrutiny comes with the territory.

    He wasn’t forced to switch to Nike – his old sponsors would have loves to keep him.

    His lack of practice and preparation is due to his own fault. Why dshould he be given a break?

    I’m a senior manager at my company, if I or my team makes a mistake you think my clients going to cut me some slack?

    Rory might be a nice kid but he is I’ll advised and poorly managed, letting

    • Paul

      Mar 2, 2013 at 6:20 pm

      If you have to be perfect for your clients then you don’t have much of a relationship with them. No person, company or sport’s figure is perfect. It’s easy to judge from the peanut gallery.

  7. Captain Obvious

    Mar 2, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Did anyone give Tiger a break?

    • Per

      Mar 2, 2013 at 6:02 pm

      I think mr Woods took quite a long break when Elingate was revealed! Blaiming injuries in almoust every piece of his body!

  8. Dpavs

    Mar 2, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Sorry but I cannot agree. If you are that mentally screwed up… plain and simple don’t enter or withdraw before play starts. Once you start ou have to tough it out. Most of us should be so lucky to be able to experience how mentally tough it is to have a freaking silver spoon in our mouths and have to suffer the pressure or fame and fortune. If you are looking for folks who deserver a break.. there are plenty of places more deserving to look, perhaps if Rory did so it would fix his perspective on life and golf.

  9. Imperfect

    Mar 2, 2013 at 7:17 am

    So he was having a bad day at work and decided to play hooky, so what. Everyone gets a mulligan now and then, even a kid who got lots of money. I suppose the perfect people who post here can’t understand that. Get well Rory, can’t wait ’til your back in top form.
    I made wayyyy bigger mistakes when I was 23 and was condemned by certain heartless superior beings. All of them have eaten crow.

    • dan

      Mar 3, 2013 at 5:41 am

      Dude are you serious? The difference between you and I playing hookey and mcilroy is one, he’s on 20 mill a year not to and two, as a marquee signing to the Nike name he represents the brand. That is a lot of pressure but if you can’t hack it, don’t make the deal. All the talent in the world can’t help if your ticker isn’t in it and if he’s walking off mid round he’s not in the right place mentally. And if that’s the case, perhaps the pressure (sponsors and self imposed) is too much.

  10. Troy Vayanos

    Mar 2, 2013 at 3:48 am

    I’m not jumping on the Rory haters just yet either Ryan. However, as the world number one there is a certain level of responsibility and expectation that comes with the job.

    If his wisdom teeth weren’t right before the event he shouldn’t have played and risked walking off half way through. I guess he felt obligated but in hindsight was probably the wrong decision.

    I would have have liked to see Rory tough out the round, sign his scorecard and see how he felt in the next day.

  11. Trevor

    Mar 2, 2013 at 1:12 am

    A break? Are you kidding? This is supposed to be a professional. A world ranked #1. A well endorsed player. He had his break at the Dubai and another the Accenture match play. There is no excuse for this one. A wisdom tooth? lol come on now.

  12. Matt M

    Mar 1, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    G’s comments are what is wrong with the world we live in. A discussion on taking the cash over what works is a topic that can be fairly discussed. But, attacking a young 20 something is wrong. Rory walking off was the wrong thing to do but man I’m glad I’m not judged by the choices I made when I was his age. I don’t think it’s fair to attack him just because he is successful. The world we live in would be a far better place if we looked on others the way we would like to be looked at. We all make mistakes we should all remember that. I do think the pressure of the moment is getting to Rory. He’ll be back he just needs to grow up some.

  13. Randall

    Mar 1, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Nice fluff piece. Follow him on Twitter. He isn’t stressed, he is enjoying his life. Trips with gf, famous friends. He is playing badly, will it last, hopefully not, but withdrawing bc a bad round is laughable. If he doesn’t want/deserve extra criticism, give back the tens of millions of dollars he accepted.

  14. J

    Mar 1, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Blah. You don’t make the decision to pursue that life and lifestyle without the understanding of what it comes with. It doesn’t mean it’s ok for people to admonish or dig into his life…it’s not ok,..mind your own business…however, as I said…he chose it. Just like every famous athlete, movie star, politician… You wanted it…you got it. Deal with it or disappear, take your pick. Toothache? Good one. I’m going to call in “fired” with a toothache tomorrow… Seeya on the course!

  15. Michael

    Mar 1, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    the guy gets over 20 million a year!!!! he gets NO breaks.

  16. Lloyd

    Mar 1, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    Rory still very young and never been in this situation before trying to please every one including the stupid press and other people who will never understand the true meaning of pressure. His clubs are fine they been made to his spec same grips and shafts as he had in the titleist gear and the same weight added to his putter. Every golfer struggles Rory just needs to sort his head out and get back on planet earth

  17. Chris

    Mar 1, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    We look forward to and expect more from our World #1.

    What more can be said?

  18. Kyle

    Mar 1, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    You should know better than to argue something like this. Don’t you know that once a person (a) make a certain amount of money, (b) become a public figure, or (c) date a public figure, he ceases to be a human being worthy of anyone’s consideration, kindness, decency, or respect?

    As G said, he IS a celebrity. A public figure. A supposed role-model. With trophies. And millions. And a super-star tennis girlfriend. Indeed, not only is he “open for scrutiny”, it is imperative that we as a society give him nothing but scrutiny. It’s only fair, after all.

    Oh well, there’s a positive here. People like G and others give me the opportunity for teaching moments with my son…about the kind of person he doesn’t want to be.

    • G

      Mar 1, 2013 at 9:09 pm

      Even the professional pundits are all over it, so why shouldn’t I be? I’m a nobody. Making minimum wage. I’m just as curious as anybody out there.

  19. G

    Mar 1, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Wha? Ffffffff. No way. We don’t have to give him a break. He IS a celebrity. A public figure. A supposed role-model. With trophies. And millions. And a super-star tennis girlfriend. Open for scrutiny.

    This is the modern world. A Twitter world. We can all have our say.

    • Paul

      Mar 2, 2013 at 6:21 pm

      We can also be green with envy.

    • Colin Gillbanks

      Mar 5, 2013 at 9:59 am


      You forgot to include ‘human being’ in your list.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Fort Worth Invitational



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?



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?



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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19th Hole