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Are shorter golfers better putters?

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Does your height affect putting?

Brian Gay, who is 5-feet 10-inches tall, is known as one of the best putters on the PGA Tour.

It is generally accepted that taller golfers have an advantage when it comes to driving distance on the PGA Tour. All else being equal, the thought is that taller golfers will have the edge in comparison to their shorter counterparts. There are exceptions, but PGA Tour data from 2013 proves this to be true.

That being said, shorter players are still able to contend on the PGA Tour. Even as these shorter players are constantly out driven by their taller counterparts, they are able to compete by winning the battle on the greens.

Looking at the PGA Tour data from 2013, the averages hold true. Of 180 players on Tour in 2013, the 10 tallest players averaged a finish of 111th on the money list. Funny enough, the 10 shortest players also averaged 111th at the end of the season. There was no difference in the overall success of these players, but the stats can tell a story.

10 Tallest and Shortest Players on Tour in 2013, with scoring average rank:

Scoring Average Comparison of the Tour's Tallest and Shortest Players

Scoring Average Comparison of the Tour’s Tallest and Shortest Players.

So the scoring average rankings are identical, but these classes of players get the job done in markedly different ways. Looking first at the tallest players, they averaged 49th in terms of driving distance, but were all the way down at 124th in terms of strokes gained putting.

The 10 Tallest Players on Tour in 2013

The 10 Tallest Players on Tour in 2013.

On the other end of the spectrum, the shorter players were able to recover from a far inferior driving distance ranking. Looking first at the shortest players, they averaged 129th in terms of driving distance, and were 95th in terms of strokes gained putting.

The 10 Shortest Players on Tour in 2013

The 10 Shortest Players on Tour in 2013.

The stats show that these groups of players had very similar results despite markedly different statistics. This isn’t just true of driving distance and strokes gained putting – top players don’t have one single formula for success, and are able to succeed in very different ways.

The results show the following averages:

Summary Average Rankings per Category, Tall and Short

Summary Average Rankings per Category, Tall and Short

Further to this point, we can sort the data in terms of the Top-10 and Bottom-10 putters on Tour in 2013. Looking at the data in this way and then comparing heights, we see that tall players fared far worse in 2013. As seen below, Phil Mickelson was the only player (1/10) in the Top 10 in strokes gained putting in 2013 to stand taller than 6-feet 2-inches. On the other hand, 6/10 bottom 10 players on Tour were at least 6-feet 2-inches.

Top 10 and Bottom 10 Putters

Top 10 and Bottom 10 Putters

Although the sample size of one season is relatively small, there is a definite trend in terms of driving distance and putting results. Longer players tend to hit it further, yet shorter players can still succeed. In this case, there is a noticeable difference in putting averages.

Both driving distance and strokes gained putting are positively correlated with scoring average. Those consistently winning are able to combine success across a wide variety of statistical categories.

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Will works in Toronto, and as a hobby pursues sports analytics, specifically in the world of golf. He writes articles that use statistics (correlation, rather than causation) to bring (sometimes farfetched) insights and raise discussion about international golf. Will played college golf and competed internationally for Canada as a junior. These days, he’s a weekend player with a fondness for violent duck hooks.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. GolferX

    Dec 24, 2013 at 4:17 am

    If I read the article correctly, the statistical advantage is negligible. Tall and short players end up around the same rank in terms of money won, so where’s the advantage? Historically speaking, four of the all time greats were 5’9″ or shorter, i.e.: Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, and Arnie; lack of distance was no hindrance to their success. But we all know what ended Hogan’s competitive golfing career. It could have to do with posture, compare Jack’s putting stance with the stance unveiled by Michelle Wie at the Solheim Cup. Now that’s food for thought…

  2. Harvey

    Dec 21, 2013 at 4:49 am

    Great article, some idiotic comments from obvious armchair golfers. Well done will, great studdy

  3. Mick

    Dec 21, 2013 at 4:28 am

    Definitely room for further analysis eg GIR, distance to hole on approaches, and putts made from various distances.

  4. Harry Flower Golf

    Dec 20, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Im 6 ft 3 and have the yips, shorter people have an easier time 😉

  5. JM

    Dec 19, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Shorter players hit it shorter therefore to even be on the pga tour they invariably need to excel in another part of the game to make up for it. The most effective/efficient way to make up strokes is putting. Therefore good tour players who are short are typically good putters bc they have to be or they would not be on tour

    Tall players hit it further so being a great putter (by tour standards) us not a necessity to stay on tour.

    At least that is my take on it

    • david

      Dec 19, 2013 at 8:16 pm

      +1

    • Rich

      Dec 22, 2013 at 6:16 pm

      +2

    • TAGPGA

      Dec 28, 2013 at 1:37 pm

      +3!

      So many of these articles seem to ignore how consistent their sample (the PGA Tour) is. In 2012, there were 154 PGA Tour Players that scored less than one stroke different than the average of the field they played against (http://www.pgatour.com/stats/stat.02417.html#2012). That’s better than 80%. With that consistency, it’s obvious that any shortcoming in one area of one’s game is overcome by a strength in another part of their game.

  6. Ryan

    Dec 18, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Interesting analysis, tall players hit it incrementally further, while short players roll the ball incrementally better. Players that do both are in the top 10, players that do neither lose their tour card and are removed from the analysis the following year.

  7. Westphi

    Dec 18, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Please, Mickelson is not 6’3′. Anyways, there are only 2 guys in the top 10 shorter than 6ft. You can’t be saying people 6’1″-6’3″ are considered “short”???

  8. Russ

    Dec 18, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    So are you saying the taller the player the “worse” they putt.

    • Christopher

      Dec 18, 2013 at 2:48 pm

      More curious would be that Phil Mickelson at 6’3” is getting taller and Vijay (6’2”) is getting shorter …

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Zurich Classic of New Orleans betting preview

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The PGA TOUR heads to New Orleans to play the 2023 Zurich Classic of New Orleans. In a welcome change from the usual stroke play, the Zurich Classic is a team event. On Thursday and Saturday, the teams play best ball, and on Friday and Sunday the teams play alternate shot.

TPC Louisiana is a par 72 that measures 7,425 yards. The course features some short par 4s and plenty of water and bunkers, which makes for a lot of exciting risk/reward scenarios for competitors. Pete Dye designed the course in 2004 specifically for the Zurich Classic, although the event didn’t make its debut until 2007 because of Hurricane Katrina.

Coming off of the Masters and a signature event in consecutive weeks, the field this week is a step down, and understandably so. Many of the world’s top players will be using this time to rest after a busy stretch.

However, there are some interesting teams this season with some stars making surprise appearances in the team event. Some notable teams include Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry, Collin Morikawa and Kurt Kitayama, Will Zalatoris and Sahith Theegala as well as a few Canadian teams, Nick Taylor and Adam Hadwin and Taylor Pendrith and Corey Conners.

Past Winners at TPC Louisiana

  • 2023: Riley/Hardy (-30)
  • 2022: Cantlay/Schauffele (-29)
  • 2021: Leishman/Smith (-20)
  • 2019: Palmer/Rahm (-26)
  • 2018: Horschel/Piercy (-22)
  • 2017: Blixt/Smith (-27)

2024 Zurich Classic of New Orleans Picks

Tom Hoge/Maverick McNealy +2500 (DraftKings)

Tom Hoge is coming off of a solid T18 finish at the RBC Heritage and finished T13 at last year’s Zurich Classic alongside Harris English.

This season, Hoge is having one of his best years on Tour in terms of Strokes Gained: Approach. In his last 24 rounds, the only player to top him on the category is Scottie Scheffler. Hoge has been solid on Pete Dye designs, ranking 28th in the field over his past 36 rounds.

McNealy is also having a solid season. He’s finished T6 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and T9 at the PLAYERS Championship. He recently started working with world renowned swing coach, Butch Harmon, and its seemingly paid dividends in 2024.

Keith Mitchell/Joel Dahmen +4000 (DraftKings)

Keith Mitchell is having a fantastic season, finishing in the top-20 of five of his past seven starts on Tour. Most recently, Mitchell finished T14 at the Valero Texas Open and gained a whopping 6.0 strokes off the tee. He finished 6th at last year’s Zurich Classic.

Joel Dahmen is having a resurgent year and has been dialed in with his irons. He also has a T11 finish at the PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass which is another Pete Dye track. With Mitchell’s length and Dahmen’s ability to put it close with his short irons, the Mitchell/Dahmen combination will be dangerous this week.

Taylor Moore/Matt NeSmith +6500 (DraftKings)

Taylor Moore has quickly developed into one of the more consistent players on Tour. He’s finished in the top-20 in three of his past four starts, including a very impressive showing at The Masters, finishing T20. He’s also finished T4 at this event in consecutive seasons alongside Matt NeSmith.

NeSmith isn’t having a great 2024, but has seemed to elevate his game in this format. He finished T26 at Pete Dye’s TPC Sawgrass, which gives the 30-year-old something to build off of. NeSmith is also a great putter on Bermudagrass, which could help elevate Moore’s ball striking prowess.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 LIV Adelaide betting preview: Cam Smith ready for big week down under

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After having four of the top twelve players on the leaderboard at The Masters, LIV Golf is set for their fifth event of the season: LIV Adelaide. 

For both LIV fans and golf fans in Australia, LIV Adelaide is one of the most anticipated events of the year. With 35,000 people expected to attend each day of the tournament, the Grange Golf Club will be crawling with fans who are passionate about the sport of golf. The 12th hole, better known as “the watering hole”, is sure to have the rowdiest of the fans cheering after a long day of drinking some Leishman Lager.  

The Grange Golf Club is a par-72 that measures 6,946 yards. The course features minimal resistance, as golfers went extremely low last season. In 2023, Talor Gooch shot consecutive rounds of 62 on Thursday and Friday, giving himself a gigantic cushion heading into championship Sunday. Things got tight for a while, but in the end, the Oklahoma State product was able to hold off The Crushers’ Anirban Lahiri for a three-shot victory. 

The Four Aces won the team competition with the Range Goats finishing second. 

*All Images Courtesy of LIV Golf*

Past Winners at LIV Adelaide

  • 2023: Talor Gooch (-19)

Stat Leaders Through LIV Miami

Green in Regulation

  1. Richard Bland
  2. Jon Rahm
  3. Paul Casey

Fairways Hit

  1. Abraham Ancer
  2. Graeme McDowell
  3. Henrik Stenson

Driving Distance

  1. Bryson DeChambeau
  2. Joaquin Niemann
  3. Dean Burmester

Putting

  1. Cameron Smith
  2. Louis Oosthuizen
  3. Matt Jones

2024 LIV Adelaide Picks

Cameron Smith +1400 (DraftKings)

When I pulled up the odds for LIV Adelaide, I was more than a little surprised to see multiple golfers listed ahead of Cameron Smith on the betting board. A few starts ago, Cam finished runner-up at LIV Hong Kong, which is a golf course that absolutely suits his eye. Augusta National in another course that Smith could roll out of bed and finish in the top-ten at, and he did so two weeks ago at The Masters, finishing T6.

At Augusta, he gained strokes on the field on approach, off the tee (slightly), and of course, around the green and putting. Smith able to get in the mix at a major championship despite coming into the week feeling under the weather tells me that his game is once again rounding into form.

The Grange Golf Club is another course that undoubtedly suits the Australian. Smith is obviously incredibly comfortable playing in front of the Aussie faithful and has won three Australian PGA Championship’s. The course is very short and will allow Smith to play conservative off the tee, mitigating his most glaring weakness. With birdies available all over the golf course, there’s a chance the event turns into a putting contest, and there’s no one on the planet I’d rather have in one of those than Cam Smith.

Louis Oosthuizen +2200 (DraftKings)

Louis Oosthuizen has simply been one of the best players on LIV in the 2024 seas0n. The South African has finished in the top-10 on the LIV leaderboard in three of his five starts, with his best coming in Jeddah, where he finished T2. Perhaps more impressively, Oosthuizen finished T7 at LIV Miami, which took place at Doral’s “Blue Monster”, an absolutely massive golf course. Given that Louis is on the shorter side in terms of distance off the tee, his ability to play well in Miami shows how dialed he is with the irons this season.

In addition to the LIV finishes, Oosthuizen won back-to-back starts on the DP World Tour in December at the Alfred Dunhill Championship and the Mauritus Open. He also finished runner-up at the end of February in the International Series Oman. The 41-year-old has been one of the most consistent performers of 2024, regardless of tour.

For the season, Louis ranks 4th on LIV in birdies made, T9 in fairways hit and first in putting. He ranks 32nd in driving distance, but that won’t be an issue at this short course. Last season, he finished T11 at the event, but was in decent position going into the final round but fell back after shooting 70 while the rest of the field went low. This season, Oosthuizen comes into the event in peak form, and the course should be a perfect fit for his smooth swing and hot putter this week.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What really makes a wedge work? Part 1

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Of all the clubs in our bags, wedges are almost always the simplest in construction and, therefore, the easiest to analyze what might make one work differently from another if you know what to look for.

Wedges are a lot less mysterious than drivers, of course, as the major brands are working with a lot of “pixie dust” inside these modern marvels. That’s carrying over more to irons now, with so many new models featuring internal multi-material technologies, and almost all of them having a “badge” or insert in the back to allow more complex graphics while hiding the actual distribution of mass.

But when it comes to wedges, most on the market today are still single pieces of molded steel, either cast or forged into that shape. So, if you look closely at where the mass is distributed, it’s pretty clear how that wedge is going to perform.

To start, because of their wider soles, the majority of the mass of almost any wedge is along the bottom third of the clubhead. So, the best wedge shots are always those hit between the 2nd and 5th grooves so that more mass is directly behind that impact. Elite tour professionals practice incessantly to learn to do that consistently, wearing out a spot about the size of a penny right there. If impact moves higher than that, the face is dramatically thinner, so smash factor is compromised significantly, which reduces the overall distance the ball will fly.

Every one of us, tour players included, knows that maddening shot that we feel a bit high on the face and it doesn’t go anywhere, it’s not your fault.

If your wedges show a wear pattern the size of a silver dollar, and centered above the 3rd or 4th groove, you are not getting anywhere near the same performance from shot to shot. Robot testing proves impact even two to three grooves higher in the face can cause distance loss of up to 35 to 55 feet with modern ‘tour design’ wedges.

In addition, as impact moves above the center of mass, the golf club principle of gear effect causes the ball to fly higher with less spin. Think of modern drivers for a minute. The “holy grail” of driving is high launch and low spin, and the driver engineers are pulling out all stops to get the mass as low in the clubhead as possible to optimize this combination.

Where is all the mass in your wedges? Low. So, disregarding the higher lofts, wedges “want” to launch the ball high with low spin – exactly the opposite of what good wedge play requires penetrating ball flight with high spin.

While almost all major brand wedges have begun putting a tiny bit more thickness in the top portion of the clubhead, conventional and modern ‘tour design’ wedges perform pretty much like they always have. Elite players learn to hit those crisp, spinny penetrating wedge shots by spending lots of practice time learning to consistently make contact low in the face.

So, what about grooves and face texture?

Grooves on any club can only do so much, and no one has any material advantage here. The USGA tightly defines what we manufacturers can do with grooves and face texture, and modern manufacturing techniques allow all of us to push those limits ever closer. And we all do. End of story.

Then there’s the topic of bounce and grinds, the most complex and confusing part of the wedge formula. Many top brands offer a complex array of sole configurations, all of them admittedly specialized to a particular kind of lie or turf conditions, and/or a particular divot pattern.

But if you don’t play the same turf all the time, and make the same size divot on every swing, how would you ever figure this out?

The only way is to take any wedge you are considering and play it a few rounds, hitting all the shots you face and observing the results. There’s simply no other way.

So, hopefully this will inspire a lively conversation in our comments section, and I’ll chime in to answer any questions you might have.

And next week, I’ll dive into the rest of the wedge formula. Yes, shafts, grips and specifications are essential, too.

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