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The data behind Keegan Bradley’s coaching change

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Keegan Bradley has reportedly left long-time swing coach Jim McLean for Chuck Cook, who teaches Bradley’s good friend Jason Dufner and Luke Donald. That gives Cook one of the most formidable list of clients in the golf world, as Bradley is ranked No. 20 in the Official World Golf Rankings, Dufner is ranked No. 15 and Donald is ranked No. 17.

I wanted to take a look at the numbers behind Bradley’s game and to see why he may have decided to change instructors. According to Bradley, the change was prompted by his familiarily with the instructor.

“I’ve been around Chuck Cook for a few years now, playing practice rounds with Dufner,” Bradley told Back9Network’s Ahmad Rashad. “I’m excited to get working with Chuck and get another opinion of how he thinks I can improve my golf game. He’s been around for a long time and I know he has several ways he can help me win.”

Bradley did not record a victory last season, but still finished No. 11 on the money list. When I look at a golfer’s game, I like to first analyze his or her scoring data. This helps me formulate some sort of idea of as to what went on with the golfer and provide a profile of the player’s game as far as his or her strengths and weaknesses go.

Table 01

Bradley ranked No. 10 in Total Adjusted Scoring Average. Taking that into account and his rankings in the metrics in the table above, he still had a great season despite not coming away with a victory. I feel with these metrics that Bradley should be striving toward being the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world. He does not have a glaring weakness, and is instead trying to take his great game to the next level.

If Bradley is going to contend for the No. 1 spot, he will need to get inside the top 10 in Adjusted Par-4 Scoring Average. Par-4 play has the strongest correlation to Tour success of the metrics listed above. This is partially due to the number of par-4’s played per round (the Tour average is roughly 11 played per round), and the par-4’s require a more complete game to play them well. Bradley did a fine job in 2013 on the par-4’s. However, in order to contend for the No. 1 ranking in the world that will have to step up.

The biggest “weakness” we see with Bradley’s game is his play on the par-3’s. While par-3 play is important, it has the lowest correlation to success on Tour of the metrics listed. With that said, par-3 play is one part iron play, one part short game and one part long putting (putts longer than 15 feet). While Bradley was still an above-average player on the par-3’s, given that it was his weakest metric, I can start to develop an idea of what some of his issues in 2013 were.

Lastly, he had a fantastic year at avoiding bogies. Avoiding bogies has a stronger correlation to success on Tour than making birdies. He also made a high percentage of birdies. But, for him to contend for the No. 1 ranking in the world, he needs to get into the top 10 in both Birdie and Bogey rates. Furthermore, I find it a bit peculiar that the No. 1-ranked player on par-5’s ranked 24th in Birdie Rate. In all, I can start to envision a profile for Bradley’s game.

DRIVING DATA

I utilize an algorithm based on historical driving data on Tour dating back to 2007 to determine a golfer’s effectiveness off the tee. This is called Driving Effectiveness which utilizes the following metrics:

  • Distance
  • Fairway Percentage
  • Average Distance to Edge of Fairway (on drives that miss the fairway)
  • Fairway Bunker Percent
  • Missed Fairway – Other Percent (shots that end up in a hazard, O.B. rescue shots, etc)

Here is Bradley’s data for 2013

Table 02

As we can see, driving was rarely a problem for Bradley in 2013, as he was the second most effective driver of the ball (only Henrik Stenson was more effective). Bradley hits the ball a long way and hits a lot of fairways. And when he missed the fairway, he did not miss by much and did a fine job at avoiding fairway bunkers and other trouble. He has been one of the premier drivers on Tour since he earned his card.

PUTTING AND SHORT GAME DATA

Often times, putting and short game play can be over-valued by golfers. However, nothing can prevent a golfer from winning a tournament like poor putting. In fact, nearly 70 percent of the winners on Tour this year finished in the top 10 in Putts Gained (also called Strokes Gained-Putting) for that tournament.

Table 03

Bradley putted very well in 2013 from most distances. As I have mentioned in the past, the putts from 3-to-15 feet are the most important putts to make when it comes to affecting a player’s performance versus the field. Outside of 15 feet, the make percentage for Tour players becomes very volatile. What I mean is that golfers on Tour, regardless of overall putting skill, tend to be very inconsistent when it comes to make percentage outside of 15 feet. One year they can make a lot of putts from outside 15 feet, and the next year they struggle to make those same putts.

This would explain some of the issues that Bradley had on the par-3’s. Tour players are not likely to have a lot of close birdie putts on the par-3’s, and that is why par-3 performance is dependent on the golfer’s ability to make putts outside of 15 feet. However, Bradley’s make percentage on putts outside of 15 feet is likely to progress toward the mean. Therefore, his performance on the par-3’s is likely to progress in 2014.

Sometimes the problem with good overall putters on Tour is that they were inconsistent with their putting. When they were off, they were well off. And when they were on, they were making a lot of putts. And if they putt poorly in too many tournaments, they reduce their odds of winning those events. Here’s a chart looking at Bradley’s putts gained by event.

Table 04

Out of the 20 events that recorded putts gained, Bradley was only losing strokes to the field on six of those events.

Here is a look at Bradley’s short game play:

Table 05

Bradley was an average short game player in 2013. But he did perform well from the most important part of the short game, longer pitch shots from 10-to-20 yards. This could also explain why he was better at avoiding bogies than making birdies. The 10-to-20 yard shots are usually more reserved for when the player needs to save par. The 1-to-10 yard shots are more makeable chip shots.

After looking at the data I see no reason why Bradley cannot contend for the No.1 spot in the world ranking based off his driving, putting and short game data. This only leaves approach shots.

APPROACH SHOT DATA

Here is Bradley’s approach shot data for 2013:

Table 06

The good news is that the area that correlates strongest to success on Tour, the Danger Zone, is where Bradley was his strongest. Shorter shots, particular wedge play, are vastly overrated by the golfing community. This is why Bradley still had a fantastic year. His long game, both driving and Danger Zone play, was superb. This is where a golfer can gain the most strokes against the field over time.

Here’s a look at Bradley’s rankings from the various zones since he made the Tour:

Table 07

We can see that Bradley has had issues with his iron play since he has made the Tour. His play from the Danger Zone has improved dramatically, and that has helped propel him into superstar status. But the play from the Birdie and Safe zones is what is holding him back. We also have to remember that his Safe Zone play is even worse than the ranking indicates because he was such an exceptional driver of the ball, which means he should have been in great position to hit a lot of Safe Zone shots closer to the hole.

His struggles from 75 to 175 yards would be part of the reason why he lagged a little behind on the par-3’s. It would also explain why his Birdie Rate was not better, as most birdies on the par-4’s come from Safe Zone and Birdie Zone approach shots.

All of these “issues” are nice issues for a player to have. I would expect that most of Bradley’s work with Cook will focus on improving his iron play from inside 175 yards. The key for him to take his game to the next level will be keeping his effectiveness off the tee and his skill on and around the greens while improving his iron play.

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Richie Hunt is a statistician whose clients include PGA Tour players, their caddies and instructors in order to more accurately assess their games. He is also the author of the recently published e-book, 2018 Pro Golf Synopsis; the Moneyball Approach to the Game of Golf. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Richie3Jack. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: March 2014 Purchase 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis E-book for $10

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. LY

    Jan 1, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    Rich:
    What a great article! Do you do stat work with the LPGA tour and if so how do their numbers compare to the PGA tour?

  2. LiveWire

    Dec 30, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Great Data, I hope KB does better in 2014. I think he does a great job on the course. He has staying power for years to come. Hopefully he’ll win again before the Bo Sox do……

  3. bsoudi

    Dec 30, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Interesting analysis. Though it triggers 2 thoughts with me:

    1) How important is the “standard deviation” of these stats? I guess I picture that as his consistency.

    2) Could insight be gleaned from a comparison of all these attributes – say, could you see that on a great day driving, a player’s putting could be crap, etc.? That way players can get insights to get “all the pieces in place” more often?

  4. Jadon

    Dec 30, 2013 at 10:43 am

    Wow, very interesting read. I’d like to see the same stats on Zach Johnson, a guy who is on the opposite end of the spectrum; doesn’t hit it a mile but relies on his wedges and short irons to “score” and get the job done. Goes to show you that you don’t have to be a bomber to succeed, what an odd and fun game we play.

    • Richie Hunt

      Dec 30, 2013 at 11:11 am

      Jadon, you would be shocked at how Zach got it done this year. He doesn’t hit it long, but his long approach shots (Danger Zone) is where he hit it the best from.

  5. Mark Wells

    Dec 30, 2013 at 1:57 am

    Wonder why he feels he can’t work on the birdie and safe zone improvement with McClean? Solid and showing improvement otherwise. Time will tell

  6. naflack

    Dec 29, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    i can see that little move off the ball that keegan does with his head being an issue on those short iron shots. im guessing chuck will want to address that…

  7. Troy Vayanos

    Dec 29, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Great post Rich,

    Just shows how tough the tour is these days when a guy like Keegan can produce such impressive stats and still not come away with a victory.

    Cheers

    • Richie Hunt

      Dec 30, 2013 at 11:12 am

      The bigger one is to look at Bo Van Pelt’s metrics from 2012. Outstanding ballstriker and was 11th in Putts Gained. Didn’t record 1 win. I almost found that impossible, but any given week somebody can sneak in and take it away from him.

  8. Juan

    Dec 29, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Rich, I really appreciate the great work you do with statistics!! It helps me understand the players you analyze AND a way of thinking about analyzing and improving my own game. BTW, I really like your website. THANKS again for the great work!!

  9. Mike

    Dec 29, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Rich, great work. I love seeing data like this and a good thorough analysis. I look forward to reading more of your work.

  10. Martin

    Dec 29, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Cool analysis, I also wonder what will happen when he switches putters.

    I played with the same putter Keegan uses and gave it up because it wasn’t good enough on long putts to make up for the bit better it was on short ones. The stats seem to make the same case for Keegan.

  11. Rob

    Dec 29, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Rich, interesting article, well done. I’m curious if anyone has studied “feel players” that use statistics heavily to engineer changes and what the results have been.

    • Rich

      Dec 30, 2013 at 3:53 am

      Could you really classify them as a true feel player if they looked at stats?

  12. Rich

    Dec 29, 2013 at 7:34 am

    Yes I’m sure Keegan Bradley took all this into consideration when he decided to switch coaches. Actually, perhaps he’s not aware. You should drop him a line to let him know……..

  13. Pingback: Desde el tee: semana 52/2013 | colombiaDeportes.co

  14. Kenny Thomson

    Dec 29, 2013 at 5:28 am

    Another good article. How does an amateur collect such data without slowing up play? Enjoyed the book.

  15. Kenny Thomson

    Dec 29, 2013 at 5:26 am

    Good article, but how does an amateur ( reasonably low handicap) capture similar data without slowing up play?
    Enjoyed your book

  16. Id

    Dec 29, 2013 at 2:55 am

    No glaring weakness??? What’s he going to do when he has to quit the belly putter?

    • Trey Hayden

      Dec 29, 2013 at 5:02 am

      It’s impossible to predict the future, but Bradley did win most of his college tournaments with a short putter. He switched for the same reason most guys in his generation switched: If they’re gonna let us cheat, we shall cheat.

    • Rob

      Dec 29, 2013 at 8:05 am

      You should understand the rules before making stupid comments, He doesn’t have to “quit the belly putter”

      • Id

        Dec 29, 2013 at 10:35 am

        He has to quit anchoring into the belly, therefore he has to quit that stroke. He can keep the same length putter, for sure, and use it un-anchored, therefore not calling it a non-belly putter but a putter at 43 inches or whatever – but he has to quit the belly putter. You should understand the comments before trying to sound intelligent.

        • Richie Hunt

          Dec 30, 2013 at 11:14 am

          I think I didn’t clarify what I meant by ‘glaring weakness’ anyway. What I meant is when you look at his *scoring* data (par-3’s, par-4’s, par-5’s, bogey rate and birdie rate) there was no glaring weakness there. Obviously he has a glaring weakness in his game…shots from inside 175 yards. As far as the putter goes, we will wait and see how that pans outs.

  17. Sean

    Dec 28, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Nice analysis. That right there should tell KB what he needs to work on.

  18. Tom Stickney

    Dec 28, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Great analysis Rich. Big fan of your work!

  19. A

    Dec 28, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    I knew he was an idiot the moment I saw him

  20. Homer Simpson

    Dec 28, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable.”
    ? Mark Twain

  21. Roger

    Dec 28, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    Rich, thanks for another Great Article.
    I see Luke Donald also moved to Chuck Cook due to his wish to
    hit more par 4’s . Did a search of online videos of Chuck Cook
    so thanks for the Xmas Present! I’m still young enough to Listen!
    From 185 to the Pin is my problem area!
    Have a great 2013 Rich.

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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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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 PGA Championship betting preview: Rising star ready to join the immortals at Valhalla

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The second major of the 2024 season is upon us as the world’s best players will tee it up this week at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky to compete for the Wanamaker Trophy.

The last time we saw Valhalla host a major championship, Rory McIlroy fended off Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler and the creeping darkness that was descending upon the golf course. The Northern Irishman had the golf world in the palm of his hand, joining only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as players who’d won four major championships by the time they were 25 years old. 

Valhalla is named after the great hall described in Norse mythology where the souls of Vikings feasted and celebrated with the Gods. The course is a Jack Nicklaus-design that has ranked among Golf Digest’s “America’s 100 Greatest Courses” for three decades. 

Valhalla Golf Club is a par-71 measuring 7,542 yards with Zoysia fairways and Bentgrass greens. The course has rolling hills and dangerous streams scattered throughout and the signature 13th hole is picturesque with limestone and unique bunkering protecting the green. The 2024 PGA Championship will mark the fourth time Valhalla has hosted the event. 

The field this week will consist of 156 players, including 16 PGA Champions and 33 Major Champions. 

Past Winners of the PGA Championship

  • 2023: Brooks Koepka (-9) Oak Hill
  • 2022: Justin Thomas (-5) Southern Hills
  • 2021: Phil Mickelson (-6) Kiawah Island
  • 2020: Collin Morikawa (-13) TPC Harding Park
  • 2019: Brooks Koepka (-8) Bethpage Black
  • 2018: Brooks Koepka (-16) Bellerive
  • 2017: Justin Thomas (-8) Quail Hollow
  • 2016: Jimmy Walker (-14) Baltusrol
  • 2015: Jason Day (-20) Whistling Straits
  • 2014: Rory McIlroy (-16) Valhalla

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 Valhalla

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for Oak Hill to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their past 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Valhalla will play as a true all-around test of golf for the world’s best. Of course, it will take strong approach play to win a major championship.

Strokes Gained: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Shane Lowry (+1.25)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.09)
  3. Jordan Smith (+1.05)
  4. Tom Hoge (+.96)
  5. Corey Conners (+.94)

2. Strokes Gained: Off the Tee

Valhalla will play long and the rough will be penal. Players who are incredibly short off the tee and/or have a hard time hitting fairways will be all but eliminated from contention this week at the PGA Championship. 

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Bryson DeChambeau (+1.47)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.11)
  3. Keith Mitchell (+.90)
  4. Alejandro Tosti (+.89)
  5. Ludvig Aberg (+.82)

Strokes Gained: Total on Nickalus Designs

Valhalla is a classic Nicklaus Design. Players who play well at Nicklaus designs should have an advantage coming into this major championship. 

Strokes Gained: Total on Nicklaus Designs over past 36 rounds:

  1. Jon Rahm (+2.56)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+2.48)
  3. Patrick Cantlay (+2.35)
  4. Collin Morikawa (+1.79)
  5. Shane Lowry (+1.57)

Strokes Gained: Tee to Green on Very Long Courses

Valhalla is going to play extremely long this week. Players who have had success playing very long golf courses should be better equipped to handle the conditions of this major championship.

Strokes Gained: Total on Very Long Courses Over Past 24 Rounds: 

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.44)
  2. Rory McIlroy (+2.24)
  3. Will Zalatoris (+1.78)
  4. Viktor Hovland (+1.69)
  5. Xander Schauffele (+1.60)

Strokes Gained: Total in Major Championships

One factor that tends to play a large role in deciding major championships is which players have played well in previous majors leading up to the event. 

Strokes Gained: Total in Major Championships over past 20 rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+3.14)
  2. Will Zalatoris (+2.64)
  3. Rory McIlroy (+2.49)
  4. Xander Schauffele (+2.48)
  5. Tommy Fleetwood (2.09)

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass Greens

Valhalla features pure Bentgrass putting surfaces. Players who are comfortable putting on this surface will have an advantage on the greens. 

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass Greens over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Ludvig Aberg (+1.12)
  2. Denny McCarthy (+1.08)
  3. Matt Fitzpatrick (+0.99)
  4. Justin Rose (+0.93)
  5. J.T. Poston (0.87)

Strokes Gained: Total on Zoysia Fairways

Valhalla features Zoysia fairways. Players who are comfortable playing on this surface will have an advantage on the field.

Strokes Gained: Total on Zoysia Fairways over past 36 rounds: 

  1. Justin Thomas (+1.53)
  2. Will Zalatoris (+1.47)
  3. Xander Schauffele (+1.40)
  4. Brooks Koepka (+1.35)
  5. Rory McIlroy (+1.23)

2024 PGA Championship Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (25%), SG: Off the Tee (22%), SG: T2G on Very Long Courses (12%), SG: Putting on Bentgrass (+12%), SG: Total on Nicklaus Designs (12%). SG: Total on Zoysia Fairways (8%), and SG: Total in Major Championships (8%). 

  1. Brooks Koepka
  2. Xander Schauffele
  3. Rory McIlroy
  4. Scottie Scheffler
  5. Bryson DeChambeau
  6. Shane Lowry
  7. Alex Noren
  8. Will Zalatoris
  9. Cameron Young
  10. Keith Mitchell
  11. Hideki Matsuyama
  12. Billy Horschel
  13. Patrick Cantlay
  14. Viktor Hovland
  15. Adam Schenk
  16. Chris Kirk
  17. Sahith Theegala
  18. Min Woo Lee
  19. Joaquin Niemann
  20. Justin Thomas

2024 PGA Championship Picks

Ludvig Aberg +1800 (BetMGM)

At The Masters, Ludvig Aberg announced to the golf world that he’s no longer an “up and coming” player. He’s one of the best players in the game of golf, regardless of experience.

Augusta National gave Aberg some necessary scar tissue and showed him what being in contention at a major championship felt like down the stretch. Unsurprisingly, he made a costly mistake, hitting it in the water left of the 11th hole, but showed his resilience by immediately bouncing back. He went on to birdie two of his next three holes and finished in solo second by three shots. With the type of demeanor that remains cool in pressure situations, I believe Ludvig has the right mental game to win a major at this point in his career.

Aberg has not finished outside of the top-25 in his past eight starts, which includes two runner-up finishes at both a “Signature Event” and a major championship. The 24-year-old is absolutely dominant with his driver, which will give him a major advantage this week. In the field he ranks, in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, and has gained strokes in the category in each of his past ten starts. Aberg is already one of the best drivers of the golf ball on the planet.

In Norse mythology, Valhalla is the great hall where the souls of Vikings feasted and celebrated with the Gods. The Swedes, who are of Old Norse origin, were the last of the three Scandinavian Kingdoms to abandon the Old Norse Gods. A Swede played a major role in the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla, and I believe another, Ludvig Aberg, will be the one to conquer Valhalla in 2024. 

Bryson DeChambeau +2800 (BetMGM)

Bryson DeChambeau is one of the few players in the world that I believe has the game to go blow-for-blow with Scottie Scheffler. Although he isn’t as consistent as Scheffler, when he’s at his best, Bryson has the talent to beat him.

At The Masters, DeChambeau put forth a valiant effort at a golf course that simply does not suit his game. Valhalla, on the other hand, is a course that should be perfect for the 30-year-old. His ability to overpower a golf course with his driver will be a serious weapon this week.

Bryson has had some success at Jack Nicklaus designs throughout his career as he won the Memorial at Muirfield Village back in 2018. He’s also had incredible results on Bentgrass greens for the entirety of his professional career. Of his 10 wins, nine of them have come on Bentgrass greens, with the only exception being the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. He also has second place finishes at Medinah and TPC Summerlin, which feature Bentgrass greens.

Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to argue that Bryson isn’t one of the most exciting and important players in the game of golf. He’s also one of the best players in the world. A second major is coming soon for DeChambeau, and I believe he should be amongst the favorites to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy this week.

Patrick Cantlay +4000 (FanDuel)

There’s no way of getting around it: Patrick Cantlay has been dissapointing in major championships throughout his professional career. He’s been one of the top players on Tour for a handful of years and has yet to truly contend at a major championship, with the arguable exception of the 2019 Masters.

Despite not winning majors, Cantlay has won some big events. The 32-year-old has won two BMW Championships, two Memorial Tournaments as well as a Tour Championship. His victories at Memorial indicate how much Cantlay loves Nicklaus designs, where he ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Total over his past 36 rounds behind only Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm.

Cantlay also loves Bentgrass greens. Six of Cantlay’s seven individual wins on the PGA Tour have come on Bentgrass greens and he also was one of the best putters at the 2023 Ryder cup at Marco Simone (also Bentgrass). At Caves Valley (2021 BMW Championship), he gained over 12 strokes putting to outduel another Bentgrass specialist, Bryson DeChambeau.

Cantlay finished 22nd in The Masters, which was a solid result considering how many elite players struggled that week. He also has two top-ten finishes in his past five PGA Championships. He’s undeniably one of the best players in the field, therefore, it comes down to believing Cantlay has the mental fortitude to win a major, which I do.

Joaquin Niemann +4000 (BetMGM)

I believe Joaquin Niemann is one of the best players in the world. He has three worldwide wins since December and has continued to improve over the course of his impressive career thus far. Still only 25, the Chilean has all the tools to be a serious contender in major championships for years to come.

Niemann has been the best player on LIV this season. Plenty will argue with the format or source of the money on LIV, but no one can argue that beating players such as Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Cameron Smith is an unremarkable achievement. Niemann is an elite driver of the golf ball who hits it farther than just about anyone in the field not named Bryson DeChambeau or (arguably) Rory McIlroy.

Niemann is another player who has been fantastic throughout his career on Bentgrass greens. Prior to leaving the PGA Tour, Bentgrass was the only green surface in which Joaco was a positive putter. It’s clearly a surface that he is very comfortable putting on and should fare around and on the greens this week.

Niemann is a perfect fit for Valhalla. His low and penetrating ball flight will get him plenty of runout this week on the fairways and he should have shorter shots into the green complexes than his competitors. To this point in his career, the former top ranked amateur in the world (2018) has been underwhelming in major championships, but I don’t believe that will last much longer. Joaquin Niemann is a major championship caliber player and has a real chance to contend this week at Valhalla.

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