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Brian Gay and the search for power

brian gay rich hunt humana challenge distance swing speed

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#1 zakkozuchowski

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 12:28 PM


By Rich Hunt

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Last year, Brian Gay changed swing instructors. At the time, I imagined that he likely had some concerns about his shrinking distance off the tee and his clubhead speed getting slower. This drew some question marks from some people close to Brian since he had such a successful period from 2008-2010 with an instructor he started working with in 2007. In fact Gay’s caddy, Kip Henley, tweeted how he had some doubts about the switch this past fall until Gay had a successful Fall Series.


While roughly 1 to 2 mph of clubhead speed may not seem like much, it is a big deal on Tour. The historical data of players losing and gaining clubhead speed shows this. My guess is that part of it is an indicator of swing mechanics and the other part is that it will require the golfer to hit more club on their approach shots.


Let's look at Gay’s clubhead speed over the past few years:


Posted Image


The shorter a golfer hits the ball on Tour, particularly if it’s mostly due to a lack of clubhead speed, the better they will have putt in order to be successful. I believe that this is mostly due to the fact that shorter hitters, particularly with lower clubhead speed, cannot go for par 5’s in two shots nearly as often as longer hitters. Thus, they are likely to have longer birdie putts on the par-5’s and in order to make more birdies, so they will have to do a better job putting to compete. That’s why all of the great players that were short off the tee were usually good putters. That does not take away from their pure ball striking, but the lack of distance in players like Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson or Brian Gay requires that they make up for it with the flat stick.


Where I believe Gay had good reason to be concerned about his lower clubhead speed is the lack of success on Tour of players whose clubhead speed was under 104 mph over the past few years. Here is a list of all of the players that finished under 104 mph of clubhead speed from 2007 to 2012 and their ranking on the Money List:


Posted Image


Obviously, Pavin played in select events. But, other than Gay, no player with under 104 mph of clubhead speed fared well on Tour.


For Gay, the lack of clubhead speed was taking a toll on the two most important ballstriking metrics on Tour, what I call Driving Effectiveness and Danger Zone play (shots from 175-225 yards). Here’s a look at those metrics for Gay over the years.


Posted Image


So, Gay ended up looking for new instruction with a focus on improving clubhead speed and distance off the tee. But, the learning curve hurt his ball striking.


Posted Image


As I wrote in my e-book 2012 Pro Golf Synopsis, Gay was able to accomplish his main goals of improving distance and clubhead speed. While it hurt his ballstriking in 2012, he was able to survive that season by finishing 103rd on the Money List.


It is something that so many amateur golfers face. Working on their swing and dealing with the short term negative effects for the potentially bigger reward down the road. Gay was able to stick it out despite the naysayers thinking he made a big mistake. And now, with his win at the Humana Challenge, he is the one getting the last laugh.


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#2 dutxdeanster

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 01:15 PM

Love it!  I know from early lessons and practice I really didn't see positive results till about 6 months later when it all clicked in.  Fairways and greens!  Great information thank you!

#3 Sean2

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 01:24 PM

The difference for amateurs though is they can move up a tee box if they don't hit the ball very far (and most amateurs should move up a tee box or two, i.e., Tee it Forward). For the professionals they have no such options.

#4 RichieHunt

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 01:49 PM

View PostSean2, on 21 January 2013 - 01:24 PM, said:

The difference for amateurs though is they can move up a tee box if they don't hit the ball very far (and most amateurs should move up a tee box or two, i.e., Tee it Forward). For the professionals they have no such options.

That and a lot less pressure.  :)






RH

#5 duffer888

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 02:01 PM

This is exactly why I hate it when people say distance doesn't matter.

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#6 RichieHunt

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 02:12 PM

View Postduffer888, on 21 January 2013 - 02:01 PM, said:

This is exactly why I hate it when people say distance doesn't matter.

Statistically, it is very helpful.

When I started researching this, I asked the question 'is this really a bomb-n-gouge game?'

It's really not.  All of the numbers indicate that.

If you can't keep it on the grid, distance doesn't help much.  But where guys like Bubba and Garrigus excel is that they hit quite a bit of fairways for a golfer with their length.  Watson and Garrigus have been hitting 55-58% of their fairways, which is tremendous given their length off the tee and clubhead speed.  Fairways tend to bottle neck, so they tend to get smaller as the ball travels along.  So hitting 55-58% of the fairways like Bubba and Garrigus takes a tremendous amount of consistency in striking it well.  it's not great accuracy, but quite precise for their length off the tee.

But with people like Gay, yes, they have to hit more fairways.  But as they get shorter they start to have to putt better.  The numbers shows this with every good, but short player.  My guess is like I mentioned, they'll likely have longer birdie putts on the par-5's.

I think for any golfer, it's not so much of being determined to hit it long or to hit it short, accurate and precisely...it's more about understanding what their clubhead speed is and what it will take to become successful.




RH

#7 Stretch

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 02:14 PM

How much further is he actually hitting it now, Rich?

#8 RichieHunt

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 02:29 PM

View PostStretch, on 21 January 2013 - 02:14 PM, said:

How much further is he actually hitting it now, Rich?

Stretch --

Driving Distance on Tour is a unique metric.

If you are looking ONLY at Driving Distance, it's best to look at the *ranking*.  Golfer A may only average 5 yards more in average driving distance than Golfer B.  That doesn't seem like much, but that could be worth 40 different spots in the ranking.  40 spots would give an accurate description that Golfer A is noticeably longer than Golfer B.

However, my driving effectiveness formula is based on the actual driving distance number.  However, I am able to formulate it enough to get a better depiction of a golfer's driving distance on Tour.

Anyway...

In 2011, before the change.  Gay ranked 186th out 186th on Tour in Driving Distance.  Hitting it 269.8 yards on average.

Last year, with the swing change, Gay ranked 177th out of 191 golfers.  He average 277.7 yards per drive.

So from a distance perspective it was about 8 yards.  But, the bigger kicker was the ranking improvement.

Right now he's average 286 yards per drive, but I wouldn't take too much stock into that as the sample size is too small and he was playing at two courses (Sony Open and Humana) that the ball travels further.  But, he was clocked at 107.94 mph clubhead speed.  Tremendous improvement so far.






RH

#9 Stretch

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 02:32 PM

Thanks as always!

Is the extra yardage showing up in his go-for-its yet? Presumably that's the payoff.

#10 kevcarter

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 02:38 PM

As a fan of Brian Gay and Kip Henley, I was concerned last year, not that it matters what I think. :-). In fact, I remember asking Richie about it on his site, and Richie told me he would be back.

I'm very happy for Brian and Kip. They play with guts, heart, and determination. I hope they have their best year ever.

As always, thank you for sharing your hard work Richie!

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#11 Marks23

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 02:51 PM

RH, do you think focusing on TGM with Yoda (Lynn Blake) contributed to his loss of swingspeed and distance?  He did have some significant tour wins during his TGM instruction.  Also, as between hitting and swinging which pattern tends to result in greater distance off the tee?  Look forward to your thoughts.

#12 RichieHunt

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 03:02 PM

View PostMarks23, on 21 January 2013 - 02:51 PM, said:

RH, do you think focusing on TGM with Yoda (Lynn Blake) contributed to his loss of swingspeed and distance?  He did have some significant tour wins during his TGM instruction.  Also, as between hitting and swinging which pattern tends to result in greater distance off the tee?  Look forward to your thoughts.

Thanks, Marks23.

It's a bit difficult to argue with Brian Gay's results focusing on TGM back in the 2007-2011 period.  His best year on Tour was 2009 where he won twice.  While he's a great putter, he did finish 67th from the Danger Zone.  That was his best year on Tour from the Danger Zone.

However, it does have to creep up in his mind as to how long can he continue to hit it well from the Danger Zone as his clubhead speed shrinks.  It was a real gutsy decision to make the switch and to then stick with it.

There are essentially 2 ways to increase distance:

1) Increase clubhead speed.
2) Produce more of an upward attack angle with the driver

The problem is that #2 is difficult because in many instances, guys lose accuracy and precision when they alter their attack angle.

From what I've been told, Grant Waite has worked on both with Brian.

My feelings is that Brian's work with TGM really didn't cost him club speed (or that much).  He wasn't exactly Jamie Sadlowski before Lynn Blake.  I just think that Waite's instruction has been proven at improving clubhead speed on Tour.

Look at some of Waite's students on Tour in 2012 like Gay, Daniel Summerhays and Charles Howell III (who later left Waite)...all improved their clubhead speed in 2012.





RH

#13 Stretch

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 03:04 PM

View Postkevcarter, on 21 January 2013 - 02:38 PM, said:

I'm very happy for Brian and Kip. They play with guts, heart, and determination. I hope they have their best year ever.

Admit it Kev, you like Brian because he has the flattest left wrist in golf! ;)



#14 tommy89

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 03:05 PM

not relevant at all,

Who's his clothing sponsor? I was liking the sunday blue and orange outfit. I'm guessing puma?

Sorry for the fashion thread jack ;)
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#15 RichieHunt

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 03:07 PM

View PostStretch, on 21 January 2013 - 02:32 PM, said:

Thanks as always!

Is the extra yardage showing up in his go-for-its yet? Presumably that's the payoff.

A little.

In 2011 his par-5 Go For It % was 25.7.  In 2012 it was 28.6%

On Tour, a 5% difference is a fairly moderate amount.  So a 2.9% difference for Gay was a slight improvement.

My projections show that he really needed to go for it at least 40% of the time in 2012.  But, I think with him making the adjustments to his swing he probably didn't quite feel comfortable enough in going for it so often.






RH


#16 moonshine

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 03:11 PM

Is it not still Sligo?  One thing for sure, he is magic with a putter in his hands.  Imagine if just 10% of the bottom 125 every year on money list could putt like Gay....

#17 kevcarter

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 03:12 PM

View PostStretch, on 21 January 2013 - 03:04 PM, said:

View Postkevcarter, on 21 January 2013 - 02:38 PM, said:

I'm very happy for Brian and Kip. They play with guts, heart, and determination. I hope they have their best year ever.

Admit it Kev, you like Brian because he has the flattest left wrist in golf! ;)



LOL. I always thought it was Manzella that said he had the flattest left wrist in golf. :-)

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#18 Joey76

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 03:21 PM

Great read thanks for posting.

I have been recently looking at some stats on PGA tour and its refreshing to know that some guys who have had great events and years are not long ballers.

#19 RichieHunt

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 03:21 PM

View Postmoonshine, on 21 January 2013 - 03:11 PM, said:

Is it not still Sligo?  One thing for sure, he is magic with a putter in his hands.  Imagine if just 10% of the bottom 125 every year on money list could putt like Gay....

Some guys can putt as well as Brian and be towards the end of the Money List.  You have to strike it pretty well to do well on Tour.  Or at least strike it well from certain areas.

Many people have this misconception, but traditionally the players who have done well at the Humana are the better iron players, particularly mid-to-long approaches.  Or at least they strike it very well on mid-to-long approaches when they do well at the Humana.

Certainly, Gay can putt.  But, his ballstriking was good at the Humana.  It has to be given the TifDwarf greens are a little slow and you have to make so many birdies.

I looked at Brian's putting in 2012 and it was amazing how well he putted from just about everywhere.  No real weaknesses in his putting.  This year I plan on accumulating data for all Tour players on each green and then get a better idea of how each player putts on the different types of grass on Tour.  Maybe I'll find that Brian doesn't putt well on Poa Annua on days of the month divisible by 7 :)


RH

#20 Sparty

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 04:06 PM

Brian rocks Sligo apparel and Puma shoes.


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#21 CryMeARiver

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 04:56 PM

What was his clubhead speed at the Humana?

#22 mr smith

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 05:02 PM

Is Gay still on Mizuno staff?

#23 mr smith

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 05:05 PM

View PostSparty, on 21 January 2013 - 04:06 PM, said:

Brian rocks Sligo apparel and Puma shoes.
Sligo is very cool, modern but still slightly retro. My current fave shirt is a sligo, but if you are planning on wearing sligo you need plenty of game or you will look like a poser hack.

#24 10of14

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 05:45 PM

It was also stated on the GC telecast yesterday that he had a new rigorous workout/fitness program this last year that he says attributed to some of his gains in distance......Note to self!!!

#25 L-Dubfiregolfer

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 06:12 PM

View Postmr smith, on 21 January 2013 - 05:02 PM, said:

Is Gay still on Mizuno staff?

TM driver and bag.......mp-60 irons and Bettanardi (sp?) putter


#26 glcoach

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 09:04 PM

Brian hit 118 club head speed and 173 ball speed for at least one drive in the Humana.

#27 Tmiller72

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 09:16 PM

View Postglcoach, on 21 January 2013 - 09:04 PM, said:

Brian hit 118 club head speed

That's a drastic increase!

#28 poizster

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 10:51 PM

View PostTmiller72, on 21 January 2013 - 09:16 PM, said:

View Postglcoach, on 21 January 2013 - 09:04 PM, said:

Brian hit 118 club head speed

That's a drastic increase!
What did he average throughout the tournament? If it was around 106-107 that 118 number is unreal.

#29 tommy89

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 02:01 AM

View PostSparty, on 21 January 2013 - 04:06 PM, said:

Brian rocks Sligo apparel and Puma shoes.

thanks :)
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#30 RichieHunt

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 08:48 AM

View Postpoizster, on 21 January 2013 - 10:51 PM, said:

View PostTmiller72, on 21 January 2013 - 09:16 PM, said:

View Postglcoach, on 21 January 2013 - 09:04 PM, said:

Brian hit 118 club head speed

That's a drastic increase!
What did he average throughout the tournament? If it was around 106-107 that 118 number is unreal.

I wouldn't pay attention to the 118 mph.  From time to time the Trackman will put up a goofy reading.  IIRC, last year it had Daniel Summerhyas with a 132 mph reading.




RH


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