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Top 10: The Greatest Golfers Ever

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Mickelson’s final-round charge that led to his win at The Open Championship, as well as another runner-up finish at the U.S. Open in June and his win at the Scottish Open in early July have a lot of folks talking about Lefty’s place in golf history.

Just a decade ago, Mickelson was viewed as an underachiever whose potential for major championship dominance never materialized for one of two reasons:

  1. Tiger Woods’ domination of major championships from 1997 to 2008.
  2. Mickelson’s aggressive style of play.

Five major championship victories later, no less of an authority than Jack Nicklaus has said that Mickelson will go down as one of the greatest players ever. With over 40 PGA Tour wins, and victories at the Masters (three times), PGA Championship and Open Championship, it is not too soon to discuss where Phil stands in the pantheon of great players — especially considering his six second-place finishes at the U.S. Open, which would be a great career in itself for many long-time Tour players.

When we compile any list of the “best ever,” era comparisons invariably rear their head. It is difficult if not impossible to compare Old Tom Morris and Tiger Woods, so perhaps some criteria are in order. To be fair, we needs an apples-to-apples basis for our list and I think we have to consider some of the following:

Dominance: Was the golfer the dominant player of his/her era? Did he/she beat the others often enough to be the best player of that time? This is tricky, because in golf we’ve had “waves” of great players who often stood in the way of one another.

  1. The “Great Triumvirate” of Harry Vardon, Ted Ray and J.H. Taylor, to the early American supremacy of Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen.
  2. The war years of Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson.
  3. The modern era of Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus.
  4. The “Tiger” era.

In the first three eras, there always seem to be three players that stood out among the rest. So if a player didn’t win every time (in golf, they don’t), the greats were often in contention. For example, there’s no doubt that Palmer and Player took potential titles away from Nicklaus, but even when Nicklaus lost he was often in close pursuit.

Only Tiger Woods has stood head and shoulders above the rest in his era. The late 1990s to 2008-2009 is really the only time we’ve had one player completely dominate an era, with the possible exception of Bobby Jones from 1923 to 1930.

Some may argue that Tiger dominated the golf world because their was no other “great” player at the time. Tom Watson was past his prime, and Nick Faldo was slowly exiting the scene as well. Mickelson was still learning to win the big ones, and not the player he is now. Others like to argue that Tiger dominated because he was playing the best golf the world had ever seen, which I’ll touch on more later in the story.

Major championships: While it difficult to say where the cut off line would be, I will arbitrarily select five (5) as the number of majors a player had to win to be considered on our greatest-of-all-time category. Here, too, we are on a slippery slope, because majors have changed.

The U.S. Amateur is a great example: In Bobby Jones’ era, surely it was a major. In Jack’s era, it may have been marginally a major, and today is clearly is not. The Masters, a modern day major, was not played until 1934, and the PGA Championship not until 1916. So we have to be careful when comparing on this basis alone. But majors are how we define good from great in our game, and, in some form, we have to consider their records in them.

Longevity: Again, using this as one of our criteria can get confusing, as golf is a game where most players do NOT stay at their peak for very long. Nicklaus, Snead and Player are notable exceptions, but many of the game’s greats have had short reigns at the top.

Jones was at his best from 1923 to 1930, while Nelson was in his prime from 1937 to 1945. Even in the modern era, all of Palmer’s majors came in an 8-to-9-year period. And often the flame burns brightest before it burns out: Nelson, 18 wins in 1945, gone two years later; Jones won the grand slam in 1930, retired the next year. A player named Ralph Guldahl, one of the premiere players in the 1930s, won back to back U.S. Opens and nothing after really — so did Curtis Strange.

On the other hand, Snead won events over a 30-year period as did Gary Player, and Jack over 25 years. So we still have to give longevity a place on the list.

Total Wins: There’s no denying that great golfers are able amass their share of total tournaments won around the world, not just the PGA Tour. Gary Player, for example, won only 24 events on the PGA Tour, but over 150 worldwide. Tiger is rapidly approaching Sam Snead’s all-time record of 83 PGA Tour wins, but of course he also has 14 majors victories. Considering all that, here is my vote for the top 10 players ever:

No. 1: Jack Nicklaus

With 18 professional majors, 2 U.S. Amateur titles and 73 PGA Tour wins over 25 years, Jack’s record speaks for itself. Tiger has won three more times on the PGA Tour than Nicklaus, but until him or someone else tops his record 18 major championships, there is no question that “The Golden Bear” is the greatest golfer of all time.

The best golf that has even been played was from Woods from 2000 to 2008, but he still has work to do to catch Jack in longevity (Nicklaus won his last major at the age of 46) and majors.

No. 2: Tiger Woods

In his prime, Tiger was the best golfer the world has ever seen. Winning the U.S. Open Championship by 15 shots, the British Open by 11, the Masters by 12 and the “Tiger Slam” are just a few of the things that separate him from the others.

Consider this statistic: Tiger has won 25 percent of the professional tournaments he has played. The next best on that list is Phil at 8 percent! And I, for one, believe his comeback is almost complete and inevitable. But until then he remains firmly in second place, four majors away from the No. 1 spot.

No. 3: Ben Hogan

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Hogan was the consummate ball striker, winning three consecutive majors in 1953 — The Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open (he didn’t play in the PGA Championship).

The “Wee Ice man,” as the Scots affectionately named him, was one of the best ever. His nine major championships in a five year stretch is the stuff of legends, and it seems that his legend is improving as the years go by.

Remember this: Hogan basically only played the majors after his near-fatal car accident.

No. 4: Walter Hagen

Hagen

With the possible exception of Gary Player, Hagen was the best match play player ever, and maybe as good a putter who has ever lived as well.

Hagen taught golfers that confidence is a MUST in championship golf, personifying his self belief with his lavish dress and habits. He won four consecutive PGA Championships (1924-1927), five British Opens and 2 U.S. Opens.

Once, needing to hole out from the fairway from 155 yards to force a playoff, Hagen had his caddie remove the flagstick! That’s confidence.

No. 5: Bobby Jones

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The best amateur golfer of all time, and his No. 5 ranking here could easily be higher — Jones quit tournament golf at the unthinkable age of 28! In 1930, his grand slam year, he only played in two other events.

Remember this: Jones averaged one round a week during his playing days, and he put the clubs away most of the winter! He was an amazing talent that may never be duplicated. In his last 12 national championships (U.S. and British), he was first or second a staggering 11 times.

No. 6: Gary Player

With nine majors and over 100 victories worldwide, Gary Player brought physical and mental fitness to the world of professional golf. He was also the first to play the game internationally at the highest level.

Player is one of only five players to win the modern grand slam, and he also won the World Match Play Championship an unprecedented five times! But because he played in the same era as Nicklaus, Player’s place in history is sometimes greatly underrated.

No. 7: Sam Snead

Sam Snead is still the winningest player ever on the PGA Tour, with one of the sweetest swings anyone has ever seen. He amassed 81 wins on the PGA Tour, all while while playing in the era of Hogan and Nelson.

He won the West Virginia Open 17 times, often playing in bare feet in the early days. A natural athlete who took great care of his body, Snead could kick the top of a door frame with his other foot on the ground!

No. 8: Arnold Palmer

Every young player who collects a big, fat paycheck today should quietly thank Arnold palmer. “The King” popularized the game and brought it to the masses like no player before him.

Loved and adored by fans for his go-for-broke style, Palmer saved a moribund game and Tour after the Hogan era. Consider this: from 1960 to 1966, Palmer won the U.S. Open once (Cherry Hills, 1960), and played off for the title in 1962, 1963 and and 1966. Although he lost all those playoffs, that is first or tied for first for four out of six years!

No. 9: Byron Nelson

His 18 wins (19 if you count the New Jersey Open) in 1945 puts him automatically on my top-10 list. A quiet man, who eschewed the spotlight, his ball striking has become the stuff of legends.

Byron was alleged to hit a golf ball straighter than anyone before or since him. But he disliked tournament golf, often to the point of nausea before big matches.

Once Ben Hogan, who saw Nelson with his head in the toilet before the 1942 playoff for the Masters, actually offered to delay the start of the match! They didn’t and Nelson won. After his record-breaking 1945 season, he retired two years later.

No. 10: Harry Vardon and Tom Watson

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I’m copping out a bit here because although the two played some 75 years apart, the single dominance of the British Open alone (six wins for Vardon and five for Watson) make it very difficult to choose.

Vardon actually invented the more modern golf swing, and left us with the famous “Vardon Grip,” the overlapping grip as we know it, and dominated golf just as it was coming to America.

Watson won 39 PGA Tour events, eight of them majors, and of course came within a whisker of winning the British Open at the age of 59 in 2009. He may be best known for his memorable battles (and victories) with Jack Nicklaus when Jack was in his prime.

I would love to hear from anyone who would adjust my list. Please remember, this my the list as it stands today. My list does not include Mickelson yet, but he is surely a bullet!

How can my list NOT include Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Billy Casper et al? Well, again it is my list, and I was asked to write the piece. Again, era comparisons are difficult at best, but it makes for great 19th hole conversation.

Fianlly, I think Phil is a long way from through, and at some he will be on that list. His talent is that good.

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .

51 Comments

51 Comments

  1. Graham

    Mar 8, 2018 at 6:50 am

    Your article would have some credibility if you included a player who won 89 tornaments around the world including five Open Championships. I’ll leave it to you to work out who this player is.

  2. Mark Stephens

    Apr 27, 2017 at 10:42 am

    Have to place Tiger in the No. 1 spot based on something Jack Nicklaus said when asked about Tiger’s ability and record: Jack replied, when I played competitively, each tournament I played against (the same) 5 or 6 players. Tiger plays against the entire field in each tournament
    That’s about 124 golfers who enter each tourney.

  3. Pingback: Top 10 Golfers Of All-Time – Golf in the Year 2000

  4. Ben Barclay

    Jun 7, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Nice list, but your mistake is trying to rank these players within the top 10.
    Best pure golfer: Jones
    Player who dominated his era best: Woods
    Most impressive career: Nicklaus
    Most competitive Golfer: Snead
    etc

    This is similar in every sport. In hockey, you can’t rank Richard, Howe, Gretzky, and Lemieux.

    One thing you can say, is 5 Bobby Orrs would have beat 5 anybody elses, in their prime. Not sure if golf has an analogy.

    What if you took them all in their prime, with magically equal equipment, and it came down to 18 holes.

    Who would win?

  5. Dlygrisse

    Feb 6, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Good list. Tough to compare eras, but I have to go with the best player of each era to start the list because they dominated everyone they played against.
    I personally would rank Bobby Jones and Harry Vardon higher on the list, they were both the dominant players of their era and were not only great players but moved the needle in terms of popularizing the sport.

    Gary Player was great, but like Phil was never considered the best player in the world at any point in time, he always seemed to be playing 2nd fiddle to Jack or Arnie.

  6. Dlygrisse

    Sep 17, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    Good list. I would look at it slightly different though, I view the GOAT as the players who dominated their era, the ones who where without a doubt the GOAT when they retired, or quit playing at a high level.

    Vardon
    Jones
    Hogan/Nelson/Sneed
    Nicklaus
    Tiger.

    Being that Hogan/Nelson/Sneed are 3 players, born the same year and all dominated for short periods during the same era and can’t rate any of them higher than 5.

    So I would go:
    1. Jack-Most majors, played at a high level for 20 years.
    2. Tiger-blah blah blah, we know what he has done, but unless he kicks it in gear for a 2nd run at greatness Jack wins.
    3. Jones-dominated the sport as much as anyone ever, if he could have sustained it past the age of 28 he could be higher.
    4. Vardon-The first truly great international player. Greatest of all time without question before Jones came along.
    5. Hogan-maybe the best ball striker ever, just doesn’t have enough career wins or majors to be any higher, although if it werent for the Grayhound bus……
    Sneed-dominated his era for 20 plus years, but played 2nd fiddle to Hogan and Nelson for 5 year stretches.
    Nelson-Played the best golf of all time for about 2 years.

    After this I would take any listed by the author, however you could add names like Locke, Seve, Thompson, Casper, Trevino, Floyd, Norman, Faldo, Young Tom Morris, or even Ray.

    • atiboy

      Dec 6, 2014 at 7:25 pm

      Sorry, but Jones is #1, Jack #2
      Jones won 13 Majors between 1923-1930 in a seven year consecutive period. That is almost two majors per those consecutive years. Jack did not even come close to this in Jack’s first seven years on tour. Jack won his last major (18) at 46 yrs old at the Masters. Jones won the ONLY grand slam in Golf in 1930. Jones played only part-time and always as an amateur. Being an amateur, he was disqualified from the PGA tournament and since he had not yet created the Masters Tournament, he only played that once he had retired.

  7. Danny415

    Aug 8, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    This is a wonderful compilation of the all-time best. This is also a great start for those who like to debate.

  8. RB

    Jul 21, 2014 at 5:58 am

    Tom Watson is grossly underrated. 8 majors in really 2 different eras that featured Jack, Lee, Player, Faldo, Norman and even in his old age is still competing in majors, most notably the playoff at the Open in 2009. Should be top 5 imo.

    As for Tiger v Jack, no player has ever dominated like Tiger nor had a bigger impact on the games popularity, fitness, and earnings as he. Tiger also plays far fewer events each yr than most tour pros and has had several swing overhauls due to injury.

  9. Daniel gormally

    Jul 12, 2014 at 8:02 am

    This is a very American biased top ten list. I would agree historically the US has produced the better golfers, but certainly you would have to recognise the achievements of Ballesteros, who elevated the status of European golf and levelled the playing field in the Ryder cup, which up to then was essentially dominated by the US team.

  10. Barry Shanley

    May 11, 2014 at 1:32 am

    Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer of all time, and it’s not even that close. Palmer is the most important player of all time for bringing the game to the masses with his dramatic flair at the dawn of the golf on television era. I do think Gene Sarazen should have finished higher because he won all 4 majors, hit the most famous shot in golf history, and at the same time was instrumental in the development of the sand wedge. And yes, I do think women should be included. The golf world should know of Patti Shook Boice of Michigan. She never turned pro because she didn’t play for money and certainly not for fame. She won the National Collegiate Championship in 1964 though her college, Valparaiso, didn’t even have a team, and won her state’s women’s open a record number of times and was named the Michigan Female Golfer of the Century. If you ever met her you’d never know…genuinely humble, sweet and polite…she’s the female version of Bobby Jones.

  11. Mr Tour

    Apr 22, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Your article should be the top ten greatest MALE golfers. There are some LPGA players that have better numbers… and figures!

  12. Paul

    Apr 13, 2014 at 3:11 am

    Isn’t about time you update this article? Tiger has won 79 official PGA Tour events. The field Jack player against was never as deep as todays field! They players come all over the world not just Europe. I strongly suggest you read this article ( http://golf.about.com/cs/historyofgolf/a/top5men.htm )on why Tiger is the best even if he never breaks Jacks record! At age 37 if he plays to only age 48 he’ll have 44 chances to best Jack. That in its-self says he is far better at this age than Jack. Miguel Jimenez is only down by 2 strokes in this latest Majors. Far too much importance given to Majors. All one needs to do is stay on the fairway & two putt. A few birdies on the par 5’s and you’ve got a win! This new 20 year old is showing as Tiger did any golfer having a good weekend can win a Major. Where are all the recent Pat Major winners? Oh, you say they got cut? What does that say about them??? No Tiger to inspire them, they might as well have stayed home, they are certainly past their prime!

  13. James Murray

    Mar 8, 2014 at 2:21 am

    I think Jones should be ahead of Hagen for sure. Plus I would replace the 10 pick with Sarazen.

  14. jim king

    Oct 7, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Hogan is number one. All these guys since him, study his game more than all other golfers combined. Even Jack changed
    his swing to be more Hoganlike

  15. Dennis Clark

    Aug 6, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    To all the readers of this article…the idea of it was to stimulate discussion. There are no right or wrong lists, and a “best ever” selection is very subjective. But it does refresh some peoples interest in golf history, an area I feel has been lost in modern golf. The lore of this great game has always been a part of its many charms, and I, for one, like to keep it alive. Thx, DC

  16. Mark

    Aug 5, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    If ‘Majors Won’ is part of the criteria – then you have to include those events which were regarded as the majors in their day. So for example – The North & South or The Western would count and Hagen’s total, for one, would be much higher.

    Also consider that outside the USA, The Masters is not considered a major – it’s an Invitational on a very much ‘made for TV’ course – not a championship.

    Tiger Woods’ ten year dominance has certainly saved the PGA Tour and televised golf but it has come at a price. Huge weekly pay cheques with scores near to twenty under isn’t fooling anyone and wasn’t that proved this year at Merion & MuIrfield, when you had to play ‘proper golf’ on real golf courses?

    Tiger will be admired but never loved the way Jack & Arnie were and are. The Tour and the young fellows appearing now, inspired by his exploits, will be forever thankful to him for helping grow The Tour to where it is today. But they want his scalp before he’s past his best. They are not intimidated by him the way the competition was at his peak – so it’s going to be very hard for Tiger to win any more majors.

    Another criteria you might want to consider – although somewhat subjective – is how did the players of the various eras rate their fellow competitors. In this way you would be including Trevino and Faldo.

    Thought provoking article though – but there can never be a best of all time only the best in their time.

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 6, 2013 at 11:58 am

      Mark,

      Good points. I don’t thing the Western or North South ever held the “majors” tag even though they were HUGE tour events. They may be like the WGCs of their day. I disagree about the Masters, as just about every non-American who has won it, said they had dreamed of winning it all their lives. It is clearly a major. To your point about being the best of their time, I totally agree. Sports change so much that a “best ever” is all but impossible to determine. In their times, players like Young Tom Morris and Willie Anderson (3 consecutive US Opens) would be on any list. But thx for the good comments and interest

    • PhillipW

      Nov 1, 2013 at 2:10 pm

      Yes , Tiger will never be loved as those white players, because he’s not white, and golf is a white sport, although the Chinese invented it.

  17. Dennis Clark

    Aug 5, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    In 1925, the two greats of the game played a 36 hole exhibition match; Hagen won 12 and 11. The consummate amateur and the consummate pro…Hagen was a genius at simply getting the ball in the hole. But I see your point, it could easily have gone the other way. Just my opinion.

    • Stephen

      Aug 11, 2013 at 10:29 pm

      Jones was not prepared for the match. He was being pressured to turn pro and the loss helped him realize that staying amateur was the best thing for him and his family.

      Jones was 5-0 in majors with Hagen in the field.

      None of Hagen’s major titles had Jones in the field.

  18. Dave

    Aug 5, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Why is Hagen above Jones??! No way.

  19. Alex Jackson

    Aug 5, 2013 at 12:35 am

    It’s a shame for many reasons the car accident that nearly killed Ben Hogan, but I honestly can’t imagine how many majors he would have won if that never happened. He won with legs he had no business walking a golf course on and a left eye that couldn’t focus on the golf ball when putting. It’s hypothetical, but I feel pretty certain he’d have won 15 or more. Similar thing with Byron Nelson. He’s a man who dominated the game and then retired in his 20’s at his peak because he was more interested in buying and running a ranch than playing golf.

    I’d consider putting Sam Snead higher than 7, and dropping Walter Hagen. I’d put Bobby Jones at 4, Snead at 5 and Hagen at 6. If the ratings were on potential of what they could have done, I’d put Tiger at 1 and Hogan at 2.

    Lastly, I don’t think Tiger passing Jack in majors, if it happens, makes it a done deal that Tiger is the best. Jack finished 2nd in majors 19 times. I don’t know how many times Tiger has finished 2nd, but its nowhere close to Jack. Tiger may be a better closer with a lead, but Jack competed nearly every time he stepped foot on the course, even more than Tiger, which seems impossible.

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 5, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      No question Nelson retired in his prime but he was 35. Jones was 28. But as you point out Nelson wanted a ranch and Jones was a lawyer. With purses as they were then, it was very difficult to make a living at playing golf.

    • JB

      Sep 4, 2013 at 5:33 am

      True, we will never know whether Hogan would have won more majors without the accident and I would put him slightly in front of Player just because of this.
      But we can be even more sure that Hagen would have improved on his count of 11 majors if he could have contested in 4 of them every year instead of in only 3- as the Masters did not exist during his time yet!
      Due to this fact, and due to Jeff’s above mentioned lack of THE major component in a true golfer’s game with Tiger, I would not only not drop Hagen but rank him at No2 above Tiger, followed by Hogan and Player- and treat Jones as a special case within those six greatest.

  20. Me nunya

    Aug 3, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Yeah, the only thing that argues Tiger for #1 over Jack is he held all 4 major trophies AND the scoring record relative to par in all of them simultaneously. Good luck topping that, anybody ever.

    I gotta go Byron Nelson #4 or even #3 IF you put Mr. Hogan in the top 5 (which you have to obviously) because Hogan never beat Byron head-up. Not once.

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 4, 2013 at 8:50 am

      But…Nelson was gone before Hogan really broke through. Post accident Hogan was a superior player. Starting in 1948 he won 4 out of the next 5 US Opens, Nelson was incredible no question, but 5 majors keeps him down on my list; that’s his only “weak stat”. And because of his hemophilia, he played a LOT of golf in the war years. Great man, too one of the real gentlemen of the game!

  21. Dick

    Aug 3, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Bill Russel has 11 nba championships, but certainly is no Jordan even with 6 rings. Jack may have 18 majors, but he’s certainly no Tiger. I think it’s an insult to even compare him to Tiger (GOAT). In the end, what does it matter?

    • jeff

      Aug 3, 2013 at 8:22 pm

      The only way you could say that is you didnt see both play.

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 4, 2013 at 11:34 am

      well not to change the topic, but I might think of Russell as above Jordan to be honest…In addition to the 11 rings, 55 straight and two national championships at San Francisco; he was the best defensive player who ever lived and defense wins championships. Overlooked because his paucity of scoring, which gets all the glory…

      • Alex Jackson

        Aug 5, 2013 at 12:57 am

        Russell played in a league with less teams and a game that had less young people pursuing the game, not to mention his obvious height and athleticism advantage. He also had a supporting cast of players that was far superior to any other teams. With confidence, I can say Russell would not average 30 rebounds per game in today’s game and obviously would not have the same height advantage (he’d actually be undersized as a centre).

        Jordan played against the best and dominated the best. His teams competed against some of the greatest players of all time. If he didn’t needlessly retire all those times, its possible the Bulls would have won 8 championships in a row or more. He took two years to play baseball in between their 3-peats and retired after the 98 season while still playing great basketball and eventually came back anyways in 2001 to play with the worlds worst basketball team, the Washington Wizards, and still almost took that team to the playoffs at 40 years of age. I also believe Jordan to be a much smarter defender than Russell.

        The best can’t simply be evaluated based on championships. One must take into account eras and competition. Basketball can’t be fairly compared, but golf can. Look at who Jack competed against (Palmer, Player, Watson, etc). Tiger? Els, Mickelson, Harrington.. This is also just my opinion, but golf will always remain a finesse game that relies on shot-making and making putts, whereas basketball is a game that will see players get better and better as players keep getting bigger and faster (LeBron James). You take a guy with athleticism and make him shoot 1,000 jump shots a day and he’ll likely figure out how to shoot. Last I checked, Jamie Sadlowski and Jason Zuback aren’t making headlines on the PGA Tour even though I’m sure they’ve put in hours on the putting green (having hit balls next to Zuback on the range a couple times, I can assure you that he does spend time practicing with clubs other than drivers, even though he did have at least a dozen drivers in his bag).

    • Alex Jackson

      Aug 5, 2013 at 12:42 am

      This is a very flawed comment. First of all, basketball is much different in comparing generations. 50, 60, and 70 year old basketball players don’t come back to the NBA to play with the young guys every now and then. Their basis for comparison among generations is very hypothetical. Older golfers do get the chance to play against the young guys. A few years ago, we even had a 59 year old golfer by the name of Tom Watson nearly win the Open championship. Tom has played a lot with Tiger and Jack, and he consistently says that Jack is the best. Bill Russell played against shorter opponents than he would see in today’s game. Tom Watson consistently beats the players of todays game and he’s in his 60’s.

  22. Dennis Clark

    Aug 3, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    That is correct; my error. Thanks for pointing that out.

  23. Rich

    Aug 3, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    How can anyone take this seriously when the writer thinks Ted Ray was part of the Great Triumvirate of early British golf? The Great Triumvirate was Vardon, Taylor and Braid, who won 6, 5, and 5, British Opens, respectively, while Ted Ray won only one.

    The starting point of an opinion piece should be to at least get the FACTS right.

  24. jeff

    Aug 3, 2013 at 10:34 am

    We will always debate these greats,but there is one thing separates Jack from Tiger. Jack like Phil of this generation understood what it means to respect the game and handle yourself with grace in defeat. If you use that as part of how you determine who was the best,we might not have Tiger in the top 5. Also when looking at their records Jacks top 5s in majors is just too much to overcome.

  25. Mike

    Aug 3, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Hi Dennis,

    I’m curious to hear by what rationale you put Jack ahead of Tiger and then Byron Nelson ahead of Tom Watson. Watson won 8 majors to Nelson’s 5 and quite clearly has the longevity thing by almost winning the Open at 59, while Nelson retired at 34 I think. Sure Nelson won 11 in a row and 18 in a season, but that was in 1945 and the fields had been severely weakened by WWII. Either way, apparently non-major achievements are sufficient to bring someone above someone else who has more majors. So to that end, what about these:

    Total dominance for an extended period. A 15 shot win in the US Open, a 12 shot win in the Masters. An 8 shot win in the PGA. Winning four majors in a row. 142 consecutive cuts. A 7 tournament win streak, a 6 tournament win streak, a 5 tournament win streak and 2 further instances of a 3 tournament win streak vs one streak of 3. 78 tournament wins vs 73. Youngest player to win the career slam, youngest player to win a second career slam, youngest player to win a third career slam. All of that is insufficient to bring Tiger up above Jack? How do you get there?

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 3, 2013 at 10:37 am

      Mike,

      Good points and as I said anyone has their list just as I have mine. But since you’ve asked: The Nelson vs. weak fields is mostly a myth. Both Snead and Hogan won several events and played a full or very part time schedule in 1945. 1945 cannot be diminished in any way. Tiger called it “one of the greatest feats in SPORTS”, not just golf. He also won 51 PGA Tour events in a very short time, playing against two of the best ever. As for Tiger vs jack, you are preaching to the choir. I mentioned in the article that I think 2000-2008 was the greatest golf ever played, but I cannot put those 8-9 dominant years ahead of 18 majors and 47 1st, 2nds, or 3rds in majors, just can’t do it right now. If we have this discussion in 5 years, and I have no doubt, TW will be on top of that list. Thx for your input, enjoyed your comments

  26. Martin

    Aug 3, 2013 at 6:26 am

    I generally agree with the list, I think the extra 4 majors and the 15 or so seconds in Majors define Jack as #1. Tiger’s record when he didn’t win isn’t even close and as the list says, Jack played against Trevino, Player, Casper Palmer and Miller.

    Most of those guys I never followed and the only guy I would be tempted to bump to #10 would be Seve. In Tournament golf he was a terribly flawed savant with the greatest imagination and fire maybe the game has ever seen. His revolutionalization of the Ryder Cup was transformational to modern golf and doesn’t get the recognition in North America it deserves. To many euro’s it’s THE competition.

  27. yo!

    Aug 2, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    i think people will nitpick and weigh certain criteria differently, but this is a well thought out and written article

  28. t120

    Aug 2, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    I don’t really want to argue with Dennis, because he has awesome posts….but…but…Tiger plays in a juiced up modern era (did I say that?) and the only thing separating people is mental. Can you imagine that? You take the best golfer the world has ever seen, and a mind of a person going for 1st and then a ball is introduced that changes the landscape, R&D depts at major mfg’s go crazy in pursuit of distance, and all of a sudden a guy that had a clear advantage making a mockery of par 5’s and courses (Augusta, anyone?) in general has the playing field leveled.

    Just think about it. I’m not a guy that’s going to be like “Tiger, tiger, tiger!!!”, because Jack does have 4 more trophy’s and thats the goal post, here. However, you have to understand that Tiger beat everyone’s a$$ on average without all the crazy equipment and juiced up balls, or UFC regimen workouts. He calculated everything, great course management, and had the raw natural power (like Daly did) to boom drives and stay a step ahead when he wanted to find 7th gear.

    He needs more credit for that, whether he stays in #2 or not.

    • Brian

      Oct 25, 2013 at 8:12 pm

      Here’s two points about equipment.

      When square grooves were legal I only remember Tiger and Phil employing a full swing flop shot when just off the green. If those grooves benefitted the field more than the best, there would have been more than just two golfers using that shot. When they made square grooves illegal, both Woods and Mickelson stopped using that shot. So who did square grooves benefit most?

      The ball flies further and straighter now than prior to Tiger’s career. He benefits from the straighter ball more than an accurate driver like Vijay or Jack who was a very straight driver.

      • Dennis Clark

        Nov 15, 2013 at 5:12 pm

        Good points; I also believe that the 60 degree wedge changed the short game forever. Short siding is no longer a problem, fire at any pin, no worries. # 10 Augusta is a classic example. Left there with left pin was DEATH, now they go at it with less fear.

  29. Santiago Golf

    Aug 2, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    wheres moe norman. He is the only player in the world that could hit the ball straight. If only he could putt 🙁

  30. Bman

    Aug 2, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    I can’t blame someone if they want to pick Jack as #1 over Tiger, but to do so with the simplistic reason being that 18>14, well that’s kind of silly to me. You have to look at all factors: Majors, regular tourney wins, domination factor, longevity, strength of field, and a few others. With ALL of those factored in, I have Tiger at #1 (and yes, I’m old enough to have watched Jack in his prime, but not Hogan).

    Tiger at #4??? I just don’t see any way to put him at 4 unless you’re related to Elin.

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 2, 2013 at 8:26 pm

      Remember Jack was 1st, 2nd or 3rd in a major championship 47 TIMES!!! He once went 16 straight years in the British with his lowest finish 6! And he won majors 24 years apart. Tiger will catch Jack IMO, and break every record out there, just not yet.

  31. william jackson

    Aug 2, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    No argument from me on Nicklaus at number 1 . But Jones down at 5 ? As you said he retired at 28 and there was no PGA major available to him. Also in an era where transatlantic travel was by ocean liner completing the old ” grand slam ” was a phenominal achievement . He was essentially a lawyer who played quite a bit of golf so his record must take into account these factors . Number 2 for Bobby , Hogan 3 , Woods 4 and Palmer ( just because he is Arnie ) at 5.

    Oh and I might rate Peter Thomson and Bobby Locke above Player

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 2, 2013 at 8:22 pm

      Locke’s majors plus Thompson’s equal Players. Jones is somewhere on everyone’s list but the 7 great years (1923-1930)were preceded by 7 “lean years”. Not to diminish his brilliance, he may have been the best natural golfer ever! Good points, thx

    • Dave

      Aug 4, 2013 at 10:20 pm

      Woods at #5?!?!?!? All cred just went out window. Think jones should be 3 tho.

      • Dave

        Aug 4, 2013 at 10:21 pm

        Whoops… #4… Still think that’s crazy.

      • Jtriscott

        Aug 5, 2013 at 10:04 am

        All cred went out when he stated “just because hes Arnie”….

  32. WP

    Aug 2, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    I am okay with your list. Jack and Tiger are clearly well removed from the rest of the field. I also tend to go with Jack based not only on the factors you listed but also the number of seconds and thirds at the big events. I have no problem with those that place Tiger at the top for the utter dominance of his prime alone and he is still young enough to remove all doubt over the coming years. I’m not sure I’d place Mickelson above Faldo or Ballesteros yet and he has a long way to go to surpass Watson.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 RBC Canadian Open betting preview: Breakthrough PGA Tour winner likely in Canada

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The PGA Tour is heading north of the border to play the 2024 RBC Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf and Country Club. 

This will be the seventh time that Hamilton Golf and Country Club will be hosting the Canadian Open. The previous six winners were Rory McIlroy (2019), Scott Piercy (2012), Jim Furyk (2006), Bob Tway (2003), Tommy Armour (1930) and James Douglas Edgar (1919). 

Hamilton Golf and Country Club is a par-70 measuring 7,084 yards and features greens that are a Bentgrass and Poa Annua blend. The course has been open since 1915 and is one of the oldest golf clubs in Canada. 

Since we’ve seen it last, the course underwent a $8.5-million restoration guided by Martin Ebert.

The RBC Canadian Open will play host to 156 golfers this week.  Notable players include Rory McIlroy, Sam Burns, Cameron Young, Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood, Sahith Theegala and Alex Noren.

Past Winners at RBC Canadian Open

  • 2023: Nick Taylor (-17, Oakdale)
  • 2022: Rory McIlroy (-19, St. George’s)
  • 2019: Rory McIlroy (-22, Hamilton)
  • 2018: Dustin Johnson (-23, Glen Abbey)
  • 2017: Jhonattan Vegas (-21, Glen Abbey)
  • 2016: Jhonattan Vegas (-12, Glen Abbey)

In this article and going forward, I’ll be using the Rabbit Hole by Betsperts Golf data engine to develop my custom model. If you want to build your own model or check out all of the detailed stats, you can sign up using promo code: MATTVIN for 25% off any subscription package (yearly is best value).

Key Stats for Hamilton Golf and Country Club

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for Hamilton Golf and Country Club to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

The best metric to start with is Strokes Gained: Approach. Proficient iron play is a requirement anywhere, and this statistic will help target the hottest golfers. With the winning score likely being very low, players will need to be dialed with their approach shots. 

Strokes Gained: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Corey Conners (+1.14)
  2. Kelly Kraft (+1.06)
  3. Rory McIlroy (+0.88)
  4. Patton Kizzire (+0.87)
  5. Alex Noren (+0.76)

2. Good Drive %

Hamilton is a short golf course, so keeping the ball in the fairway, or just off, will be more important than bombing the ball this week. 

Good Drive % Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Kelly Kraft (+89.3%)
  2. Daniel Berger (+87.9%)
  3. Nate Lashley (+87.6%)
  4. Chan Kim (+86.6%)
  5. Aaron Rai (+86.1%)

3. Bogey Avoidance %

I expect golfers to go low this week, in order to compete, limiting bogeys will be crucial. 

Bogey Avoidance % Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Alex Noren (+10.6%)
  2. Brice Garnett (+10.6%)
  3. Aaron Rai (+11.3%)
  4. Kevin Tway (+11.4%)
  5. Henrik Norlander (+11.4%)

4. Strokes Gained: Total in Canada

This stat will boost the players who’ve done well in Canada over the past 36 rounds. 

Strokes Gained: Total in Canada Over Past 36 Rounds

  1. Rory McIlroy (+4.28)
  2. Tommy Fleetwood (+3.07)
  3. Aaron Rai (+2.91)
  4. C.T. Pan (+2.80)
  5. Gary Woodland (+2.21)

5. Strokes Gained: Putting

Shorter courses with a lot of birdies being made tend to turn into putting contests. I believe a good putter will win the RBC Canadian Open.

Strokes Gained: Putting Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Mackenzie Hughes (+1.04)
  2. S.H. Kim (+0.84)
  3. Matt Kuchar (+0.74)
  4. Ben Griffin (+0.72)
  5. Sahith Theegala (+0.66)

The RBC Canadian Open Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (30%), Good Drive % (25%), Strokes Gained: Canada (15%), Bogey Avoidance % (15%), SG: Putting (15%).

  1. Aaron Rai
  2. Rory McIlroy
  3. Sahith Theegala
  4. Patton Kizzire
  5. Justin Lower
  6. Shane Lowry
  7. Tommy Fleetwood
  8. Alex Noren
  9. Kelly Kraft
  10. Jhonnatan Vegas

2024 RBC Canadian Open Picks

Tommy Fleetwood +1800 (FanDuel)

Tommy Fleetwood was incredibly close to winning last year’s RBC Canadian Open. The Englishman took Canadian Nick Taylor to four playoff holes before losing on Taylor’s miraculous eagle putt from 72 feet.

Despite being at a different course this year, Fleetwood is still a great fit for this event. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 23rd in the field in good drive percentage and seventh in bogey avoidance. The course is a shorter, plotters track, which will suit Fleetwood’s ability to hit it accurately from tee to green.

Tommy has gained strokes off the tee in six consecutive events. Those events include some big events such as The Masters, the PGA Championship and the Wells Fargo Championship. In those six starts, he has three top-15 finishes.

It’s been well documented that Fleetwood is yet to win on American soil and has looked like a different player when in contention outside of the United States. While it’s most definitely a mental hurdle that the 33-year-old will need to overcome, it doesn’t hurt that this event will be north of the border.

Martin Ebert, who redesigned Royal Liverpool and Royal Portrush, redesigned Hamilton as well. Fleetwood finished 2nd at Royal Portrush in 2019 and T10 at Royal Liverpool in 2023.

Backing Tommy has been frustrating at times, but I’m still of the mindset that betting on talent will eventually pay dividends.

Alex Noren +2500 (BetMGM)

Alex Noren is in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career. The Swede has an incredible eight straight top-25’s on Tour, with two of those being top-ten finishes. Noren has gained strokes on approach and around the green in all eight starts and has gained strokes off the tee in seven of eight.

Despite the strong results, the concern with Noren has been his inability to truly get into contention. However, this golf course feels like the right one for him to change that. He’s not incredibly long off the tee, so the shorter layout should help him. In his last 24 rounds, Noren ranks 6th in Strokes Gained: Approach, 8th in Good Drive Percentage and 3rd in Bogey Avoidance.

Noren’s ability to keep the ball in the ideal spots and limit mistakes should serve him well at Hamilton this week. In an event where accurate drivers should shine; he will have an advantage on the field. He hasn’t won on the PGA Tour, but the 41-year-old has ten wins on the European Tour. Being outside of the U.S. certainly won’t hurt Noren’s case.

Sam Burns +2800 (FanDuel)

Sam Burns had an excellent showing in Canada a few years ago, finishing in a tie for fourth place at the 2022 RBC Canadian Open a week after winning the Charles Schwab Challenge.

After a hot start to the season, Burns has struggled over the past few months, but has seemed to find some form with his irons in recent weeks. He finished T13 at the Wells Fargo Championship and gained 2.0 strokes on approach for the week. His irons were even better in the two rounds at the PGA Championship (+1.51 strokes per round), but a balky putter cost him the weekend, as he lost 5.1 strokes on the greens.

Burns is a player who can win an event with a hot putter and has done so in the past. He can make birdies in bunches and is one of the few players in the field that can win in both a difficult event and a shootout.

Robert MacIntyre +8000 (FanDuel)

Robert MacIntyre showed some life at the PGA Championship, finishing in a tie for 12th. For the week, MacIntyre ranked 16th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 18th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

The 27-year-old is a high upside player who has shown he can compete in big events. He’s also been putting great recently which I believe is one of the most important factors this week. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 6th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting.

We’ve seen MacIntyre play well at Open Championships and Martin Ebert, who redesigned Royal Liverpool and Royal Portrush, redesigned Hamilton as well. MacIntyre finished T6 at Royal Portrush in 2019.

Bobby Mac has gone toe-to-toe with some of the world’s best players at the Ryder Cup, and I believe has the right mentality to beat anyone if he finds himself in contention down the stretch.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Early season wedge game tune-up

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Depending on the part of the country you call home, you might just be getting into the 2024 golf season, or you might be several months into it. Either way, your scoring success this season – like every season – will likely drill down to how good your game is from 100 yards and in.

The best way to sharpen your wedge play is, surprise, spend some time refining and practicing your technique. Whether it’s winter rust or mid-season sloppiness, your wedge game can be a serious cause of frustration if and when it goes sour on you.

If you want to be sharp when it really counts, give it some time and attention. Start with a detailed look at your fundamentals – posture, alignment, ball position, grip, and grip pressure – and then advance to an examination of the actual chipping and pitching motion of the swing.

No matter what your skill level might be, I am convinced that time spent on the following drills will yield giant rewards in your scores and enjoyment of the game. There is nothing quite so demoralizing and maddening than to hit a good drive and better-than-average approach shot, then chunk or skull a simple chip or pitch, turning a par or bogie-at-worst into a double or even more.

Core activation

The key to a solid short game is to synchronize your arm swing with the rotation of your body core. They simply have to move together, back and through impact into the follow-through. When I’m about to start a short game session, I like to begin with the club extended in front of my body, with my upper arms close to my chest, then rotate my upper torso back and through, to give me the sensation that I am moving the club only with my core rotation, with the hands only having the job of holding on to it. In this drill, you want to ensure that the clubhead is exactly in front of your sternum as you rotate back and through. When you lower the club into the playing position, this puts the upper end of the grip pointing roughly at your belt buckle and it stays in that “attitude” through the backswing and follow through.

S-L-O-W motion

I believe one of the most misunderstood and destructive pieces of advice in the short game is to “accelerate through the ball”. What I see much too often is that the golfer fails to take a long enough backswing and then quickly jabs at the ball . . . all in the pursuit of “accelerating through the ball.” In reality, that is pretty hard NOT to do if you have any kind of follow through at all. Relying on that core activation move, I like to make very slow swings – back and through impact – experimenting with just how slow I can make the swing and still see some ball flight. You’ll be amazed at how slow a body rotation can be made and still make the ball fly in a nice trajectory.

Windows

I’m borrowing this term from Tiger Woods, who often spoke of hitting his iron shots through certain “windows,” i.e. first floor, second floor, etc. For your short game, I simplify this into hitting short pitch shots on three different flight trajectories – low, medium, and high. I have found the simplest way to do this is to use the same swing for each shot and determine the trajectory by where you place the ball in your set-up. Start by finding the ball position that gives you what you consider to be a “normal” trajectory with your sand wedge. Then, hit some shots with the ball just one inch back and forward of that spot and see what trajectory you get. You can then take that to another level by repeating the process with your other wedges, from your highest lofted to your lowest.

Ladder drill

For this exercise, I like to have some room on the range or practice area that lets me hit balls any distance I want, from ten feet out to about 25 yards, or even more if you can. I start by hitting a basic chip shot to fly precisely to a divot or piece of turf I’ve targeted about ten feet in front of me. The next shot I try to land where that ball stopped. I repeat that process until I have a line of balls from ten feet to 25 or so yards from me. With each shot, I repeat it until I can land my shot within a foot or less of my “target ball.”

The idea of this kind of practice with your short game is to hit so many shots that you feel like you can do anything with the ball, and you can take that confidence and execution skill to the course. You can literally work through a few hundred shots in an hour or so with these drills, and there’s nothing like repetition to build a skill set you can trust “under fire.”

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Charles Schwab Challenge betting preview: Tony Finau ready to get back inside winner’s circle

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After an action-packed week at the PGA Championship, the PGA Tour heads back to Texas to play the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth.

Colonial Country Club is a 7,209-yard par-70 and features Bentgrass greens. The difficulty of the event this week will be influenced by course setup and/or wind. The last four seasons have all produced winners with scores between -8 and -14, with the two most recent playing extremely difficult. Last year, Emiliano Grillo won in a playoff against Adam Schenk at -8, and in 2022, Sam Burns edged out Scottie Scheffler in a playoff at -9.

After last season’s event, the course was renovated by Gil Hanse. I expect the course to stay true to what the original design intended, but will improve in some areas that needed updating. Jordan Spieth, who is one of the most consistent players at Colonial, told Golfweek his thoughts on the changes.

“I always thought courses like this, Hilton Head, these classic courses that stand the test of time, it’s like what are you going to do to these places? I think that’s kind of everyone’s first response,” Spieth said. “Then I saw them, and I was like, wow, this looks really, really cool. It looks like it maintains the character of what Colonial is while creating some excitement on some holes that maybe could use a little bit of adjusting.”

The Charles Schwab Challenge will play host to 136 golfers this week, and the field is relatively strong despite it being the week after a major championship.

Some notable golfers in the field include Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa, Tony Finau, Sungjae Im, Collin Morikawa, Min Woo Lee, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth and Akshay Bhatia. 

Past Winners at Charles Schwab Challenge

  • 2023: Emiliano Grillo (-8)
  • 2022: Sam Burns (-9)
  • 2021: Jason Kokrak (-14)
  • 2020: Daniel Berger (-15)
  • 2019: Kevin Na (-13)
  • 2018: Justin Rose (-20)
  • 2017: Kevin Kisner (-10)
  • 2016: Jordan Spieth (-17)

Key Stats For Colonial Country Club

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for Colonial Country Club to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Approach will be a major factor this week. It grades out as the most important statistic historically in events played at Colonial Country Club, and that should be the case once again this week.

Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.09)
  2. Ryan Moore (1.00)
  3. Tom Hoge (+0.96)
  4. Akshay Bhatia (+0.85)
  5. Greyson Sigg (+0.83)

2. Strokes Gained: Off The Tee

Both distance and accuracy will be important this week. Historically, shorter hitters who find the fairway have thrived at Colonial, but over the last few years we’ve seen a lot of the players in the field use big drives to eliminate the challenge of doglegs and fairway bunkers.

The rough can be thick and penal, so finding the fairway will remain important.

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.11)
  2. Keith Mitchell (+0.90)
  3. Kevin Yu (+0.87)
  4. Alejandro Tosti (+0.81)
  5. Min Woo Lee (+0.80)

3. Strokes Gained: Total in Texas

Players who play well in the state of Texas tend to play well in multiple events during the Texas swing. 

Strokes Gained: Total in Texas over past 36 rounds

  1. Jordan Spieth (+2.16)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.97)
  3. Tony Finau (+1.91)
  4. Akshay Bhatia (+1.68)
  5. Justin Rose (+1.62)

4. Course History

Course history seems to be much more important at Colonial Country Club than most other courses. The same players tend to pop up on leaderboards here year after year.

Course History per round Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Jordan Spieth (+2.31)
  2. Justin Rose (+1.70)
  3. Harris English (+1.66)
  4. Webb Simpson (+1.54)
  5. Collin Morikawa (+1.47)

5. Strokes Gained: Putting (Bentgrass)

The Bentgrass greens at Colonial are in immaculate condition, and putters who roll it pure are at an advantage. Historically, great putters have thrived at Colonial.

Strokes Gained: Putting (Bentgrass) Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Denny McCarthy (+1.08)
  2. Justin Rose (+0.93)
  3. J.T. Poston (+0.87)
  4. Maverick McNealy (+0.85)
  5. Andrew Putnam (+0.74)

Charles Schwab Challenge Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (27%), SG: OTT (25%), Strokes Gained: Total in Texas (14%), Course History (17%) and SG: Putting Bentgrass (17%).

  1. Scottie Scheffler
  2. Chris Kirk
  3. Tony Finau
  4. Billy Horschel
  5. Daniel Berger
  6. Maverick McNealy
  7. Adam Schenk
  8. Collin Morikawa
  9. Austin Eckroat
  10. Sepp Straka

2024 Charles Schwab Challenge Picks

Tony Finau +3300 (FanDuel)

Tony Finau hit the ball incredibly well at last week’s PGA Championship. He led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, gaining 9.3 strokes in the category, which was his second-best performance on approach this season (Farmers T6). Finau’s tie for 18th at Valhalla is ideal considering the fact that he played very well but didn’t have the mental and emotional strain of hitting shots deep into contention in a major championship. He should be sharp and ready to go for this week’s event.

Finau has been phenomenal in the state of Texas. He ranks third in Strokes Gained: Total in the Lone Star state in his past 36 rounds and just recently put up a T2 finish at the Texas Children’s Houston Open last month. He also has success at Colonial. He finished 2nd at the course in 2019 and T4 at the course in 2022. He missed the cut last year, however, that seems to be an aberration as he hasn’t finished worse than 34th in his seven other trips to Fort Worth.

Finau has gained strokes off the tee in 10 of his 13 starts this season, and his ability to hit the ball long and straight should give him an advantage this week at Colonial. He’s also gained strokes on approach in 11 of his 13 starts this year. His tee to green excellence should work wonders this week, as Colonial is a challenging test. The concern, as usual, for Tony, is the putter. He’s in the midst of the worst putting season of his career, but with a target score in the -8 to -13 range this week, he should be able to get away with a few mistakes on the greens.

Finau is one of the most talented players in the field and I believe he can put it all together this week in Texas to get his first win since last year’s Mexico Open.

Sungjae Im +5000 (BetRivers)

Sungjae Im is really starting to play some good golf of late, despite his missed cut at last week’s PGA Chmapionship. Im missed the cut on the number, which may be a blessing in disguise that allows him to rest and also keeps the price reasonable on him this week. The missed cut was due to some woeful putting, which is atypical for Sungjae. He gained strokes slightly both off the tee and on approach, therefore I’m not concerned with the performance.

Prior to his trip to Valhalla, Sungjae was beginning to show why he has been such a good player over the course of his career. He finished T12 at Heritage and then won an event in Korea. He followed that up with a T4 at Quail Hollow in a “Signature Event”, which was his best performance on the PGA Tour this season. At the Wells Fargo, the South Korean was 20th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and showed his skill around and on the greens.

Sungjae has had some success at Colonial. He’s finished T10 and T15 with two missed cuts scattered in between over the past four seasons. When he is in form, which I believe he now is, the course suits him well.

Im hasn’t won since 2021, which is an underachievement given how talented I believe he is. That can change this week with a win at Colonial.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout +5000 (FanDuel)

I absolutely love this spot for Christiaan Bezuidenhout. The South African is having a fantastic season and this is a course that should suit his strengths.

Prior the PGA Championship, Bez hadn’t finished worse than 28th in six consecutive starts. He’s not the type of player who can get to -20 in a “birdie fest” but can grind in a tougher event. He is a terrific player in the wind and putts extremely well on Bentgrass greens. Bezuidenhout has also had success both in Texas and at Colonial. He ranks 16th in Strokes Gained: Total at the course and 10th in Strokes Gained: Total in Texas over his past 36 rounds.

Part of what has made Bezuidenhout play so well this year is his increase in ball speed, which has been the recipe for success for plenty of players, including the winner of last week’s PGA Championship, Xander Schauffele. Bezuidenhout’s coach shared his ball speed gains on Instagram a few weeks back.

https://www.instagram.com/p/C6FCvK3S97A/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Now at close to 170mph ball speed, that isn’t enough to compete at the monstrous major championship courses in my opinion, however it’s plenty to contend at Colonial.

Bezuidenhout has been one of the most consistent performers on the PGA Tour this season and a win would put an exclamation point on what’s been his best year on Tour to date.

Brendon Todd +12500 (BetRivers)

Brendon Todd is the type of player that’s hit or miss, but usually shows up on the courses he has a strong history on and plays well. Todd finished T8 at Colonial in 2021 and 3rd in 2022. He’s also flashed some Texas form this year as he finished T5 at the Valero Texas Open in April.

Todd doesn’t contend all that often, but when he does, he’s shown in the past that he has the capability to win a golf tournament. He has three PGA Tour wins including a win in Texas back in 2014 (TPC Four Seasons).

Todd is a player who can rise to the top if some of the elite players aren’t in contention after a grueling PGA Championship.

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