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Opinion & Analysis

Scott has an opportunity to shed Norman comparisons

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Now that Tiger Woods has officially withdrawn from the Masters, Adam Scott has an even better chance to reach the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Rankings, and quite soon.

After Scott’s Players Championship victory in 2004, it didn’t seem like it would take 10 more years for the young studly Aussie to make it to the No. 1 spot, even though his emergence did come at the heart of the Tiger Woods Era. The golfing world probably expected Scott to have the immense success that we are currently seeing from the 33 year old about five or so years earlier.

After his breakthrough victory at the 2013 Masters — the second major that Scott participated in after his debacle at the 2012 British Open Championship — Greg Norman, Australian golfing celebrity and former No. 1 player in the world, was a name that was mentioned often throughout Scott’s post-Green Jacket analysis. Scott, as well as many others in the game, referenced The Shark, patriarch to Australian golfing, as “a mentor” to Australia before winning Australia’s first green jacket.

But is that a good thing?

If I were given the option of writing this article (which I am sincerely having a lot of fun doing by the way) or pursuing a golfing career half as good as Norman’s, I would definitely love the opportunity to take the latter. However, when people think of Greg Norman, their first impressions are of a guy who didn’t leave it all out there. I know that criticizing the career of a former No. 1 player in the world, a man who won two majors and has 89 worldwide wins to his name is a little “nit-picky,” but that’s his legacy.

I draw parallels between Scott and Norman at this specific time for one particular reason, which has everything to do with Tiger’s hiatus from the game. But first, it’s also interesting to note how similar the careers and personalities of the mentor and protégé relationship of Norman and Scott are. Both are iconic national celebrities from their homeland of Australia. And if Scott finds success in his next few events, that is if Rory, Phil, or Jason Day don’t go on some sort of tear, Scott and Norman will have both reached the No. 1 spot in the OWGR. Both are tall, handsome, physically fit and extremely charismatic individuals who have built immense financial success off the golf course due to such characteristics.

The comparison between Scott, with regards to the above point, and Norman is that there wasn’t a polarizing and dominant figure like Tiger present in the game during Norman’s career. One could argue that Nick Faldo’s six major championships in the 80s and 90s was some stiff competition, but it’s not the same.

In a handful of majors, Norman was on the wrong end of some unfortunate scenarios, which, had they gone the other way, might have us talking about Norman in the same light as a Lee Trevino, or maybe even Tom Watson. In 1996, Norman shot a final-round 78 at the Masters where he began the day with a six-shot lead. Ten years earlier, he had the lead going into Sunday in all four Majors and only came out with one win. In 1983, after holing a putt to force an 18-hole Monday playoff at the U.S. Open, Norman shot a final-round 75 to lose to eventual champ Fuzzy Zoeller.

Most famously at the 1987 Masters, Norman’s playoff opponent, Larry Mize, pulled off one of the most famous shots in Masters history, holing his third shot on No. 11 from 45 yards to grab the green jacket.

While two major championship victories and becoming the first player in golf to earn $10 million is nothing to criticize, it is hard to look past what could have been for Australia’s most decorated golfer (at least for now). In an article in Golf World Magazine about how, outside of Woods, Norman is the golfer who has performed at the highest level during the past 34 years, Jamie Diaz discussed the very well document disappointments in Norman’s career.

“Between his failures down the stretch in majors and the backlash from his highly marketed Great White Shark image, it has been common in recent years to hear Norman characterized as overrated.” Diaz also went on to say that “The Shark’s cross to bear will always be his inefficiency at closing out majors.”

With the state of Tiger Woods 3.0 being up in the air, there is an opportunity here for Scott to fully break away from some demon’s in his career, ones that have haunted his fellow countryman and mentor.

It will be nearly two years this July when Adam Scott bogeyed his final four holes at the Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St. Annes. It was truly painful to watch par putt after par putt just miss the cup in what many anticipated to be Scott’s major breakthrough campaign. Although Scott did back that heartbreaking Open Championship loss with his best season yet as a pro in 2013, which was highlighted by two incredible putts to win the Green Jacket, we did see a glimpse of 2012 just a few weeks back at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Scott entered the weekend at Arnie’s event with a seven-shot lead, where he ended up losing by two shots to Matt Every after firing a 76 on Sunday. Had a just a few more putts dropped for Scott, he would have reached the No. 1 spot in the OWGR with a win.

So, now that Tiger hasn’t won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open, and considering that he will be missing the Masters and quite possibly more majors in 2014, a door has been opened. Not to become the next Tiger Woods, because that realistically might never happen, but for a player to take his career to the next level in Woods’ absence. While Rory McIlroy has been labeled as the next big thing after two majors victories at an earlier age than Tiger did, the steps backward he took in 2013 have left his status up in the air.

At this point in time, the person who should break through is Adam Scott. While he has showed some signs of “choke” in him, he can easily separate himself from the pact of the McIlroys, Jason Days and Justin Roses of golf, while eliminating the “negative” comparison’s he shares with his mentor.

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Oliver Berg is a golf fanatic whose roots in the game were formed in the rugged and rocky golf links of Southern Ontario, Canada. By putting the pen to paper, or more appropriately, his fingers to the keyboard, Oliver turned his passion for ‘talking golf’ online by starting The High Fade Golf Blog. Oliver works in the digital marketing space in the fashion industry in Toronto and has applied what he’s learned from social media marketing to his own Instagram golf account - @thehighfade. Having grown up in a family of golfers, Oliver was given a special gift at young age from his grandmother -- a pillow that reads “Life’s a game, but Golf is serious” is something that he sleeps beside every night, and he pretty much lives by that!

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. pk20152

    Apr 9, 2014 at 7:18 am

    shed comparison? Didn’t he crumble at the British Open 2 years ago ala’ Norman style? Oh, and the Arnold Palmer Invitational?

  2. Add

    Apr 8, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    Scott has already passed Norman by winning Masters with a broomstick.

  3. steve

    Apr 7, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    It seems that era, Norman being the oldest. There was a bunch of underachievers. Norman, Love, Couples all should of had better careers. They were in a nice time to win. Jack was ending and there was no Tiger. Is Norman known for winning or choking?

  4. trapp120

    Apr 7, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    …a lot of people have been close to winning Majors timble. Let’s take Adam Scott for instance!

    I think this article is funny.

    1.) Australians are tall and handsome

    2.) Australians can’t hold on to major leads

    3.) Australians can only rise to the #1 spot when there is no perceived competition.

    I’m not saying I disagree with the facts that were stated. Norman and Scott clearly blew their very comfortable leads, but I think to infer the “window is closing” for Scott to hit #1 isn’t right.

    Let’s look at it this way. Scott has had his chance, an opportunity was right there to grab it. He didn’t. So what if he does in a week? Who cares? It’s clear he’d be barely holding on to it and if past is a good indication of the future, quickly lose it like the rest of the brief #1’s in the last decade.

    • timbleking

      Apr 9, 2014 at 6:38 am

      Sorry trapp, but Norman and Scott actually WON Major tournaments. They haven’t been only close to!
      Then, when I read your sum up, perhaps there is a kind of “war” between Americans and Aussies into which I can’t put myself. At least we french guys can argue that we have never been in contention to win a Major (ok, Van De Velde and Levet have been once), so we cannot be considered as competitors to our fellow American colleagues, so we are somehow better accepted (as: “Ok, no danger, he’s French…”). :o)))

  5. timbleking

    Apr 7, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Wow! That’s harsh…

    True that Norman had issues to finish the job in Majors, but he has been a great champion for years and close to win back an Open Championship not that a long time ago. He deserves respect, imo.

    • Ponjo

      Apr 8, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      Was there a better sight in golf than when the Great White was attacking. The guy oozed confidence and class. Maybe he should have won more but hey, would rather watch him than the robots being rolled out today

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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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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Amazing Session with Performance Coach Savannah Meyer-Clement

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In this week’s episode, we spent some time with performance coach Savannah Meyer-Clement who provides many useful insights that you’ll be able to implement on the golf course.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 RBC Heritage betting preview: Patrick Cantlay ready to get back inside winner’s circle

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Just a two-hour drive from Augusta National, the PGA TOUR heads to Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C. Hilton Head Island is a golfer’s paradise and Harbour Town is one of the most beautiful and scenic courses on the PGA TOUR.

Harbour Town Golf Links is a par-71 that measures 7,121 yards and features Bermuda grass greens. A Pete Dye design, the course is heavily tree lined and features small greens and many dog legs, protecting it from “bomb-and-gauge” type golfers.

The field is loaded this week with 69 golfers with no cut. Last year was quite possibly the best field in RBC Heritage history and the event this week is yet another designated event, meaning there is a $20 million prize pool.

Most of the big names on the PGA Tour will be in attendance this week with the exceptions of Hideki Matsuyama and Viktor Hovland. Additionally, Webb Simpson, Shane Lowry, Gary Woodland and Kevin Kisner have been granted sponsors exemptions. 

Past Winners at Harbour Town

  • 2023: Matt Fitzpatrick (-17)
  • 2022: Jordan Spieth (-13)
  • 2021: Stewart Cink (-19)
  • 2020: Webb Simpson (-22)
  • 2019: CT Pan (-12)
  • 2018: Sotoshi Kodaira (-12)
  • 2017: Wesley Bryan (-13)
  • 2016: Branden Grace (-9)
  • 2015: Jim Furyk (-18)

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 Harbour Town

Let’s take a look at key metrics for Harbour Town Golf Links to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their past 24 rounds.

Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes Gained: Approach is exceedingly important this week. The greens at Harbour Town are about half the size of PGA TOUR average and feature the second-smallest greens on the tour. Typical of a Pete Dye design, golfers will pay the price for missed greens.

Total SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.27)
  2. Tom Hoge (+1.27)
  3. Corey Conners (+1.16)
  4. Austin Eckroat (+0.95)
  5. Cameron Young (+0.93)

Good Drive %

The fairways at Harbour Town are tree lined and feature many dog legs. Bombers tend to struggle at the course because it forces layups and doesn’t allow long drivers to overpower it. Accuracy is far more important than power.

Good Drive % Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Brice Garnett (88.8%)
  2. Shane Lowry (+87.2%)
  3. Akshay Bhatia (+86.0%)
  4. Si Woo Kim (+85.8%)
  5. Sepp Straka (+85.1%)

Strokes Gained: Total at Pete Dye Designs

Pete Dye specialists tend to play very well at Harbour Town. Si Woo Kim, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk and Webb Simpson are all Pete Dye specialists who have had great success here. It is likely we see some more specialists near the top of the leaderboard this week.

SG: TOT Pete Dye per round over past 36 rounds:

  1. Xander Schauffele (+2.27)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+2.24)
  3. Ludvig Aberg (+2.11)
  4. Brian Harman (+1.89)
  5. Sungjae Im (+1.58)

4. Strokes Gained: Short Game (Bermuda)

Strokes Gained: Short Game factors in both around the green and putting. With many green-side bunkers and tricky green complexes, both statistics will be important. Past winners — such as Jim Furyk, Wes Bryan and Webb Simpson — highlight how crucial the short game skill set is around Harbour Town.

SG: SG Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Jordan Spieth (+1.11)
  2. Taylor Moore (+1.02)
  3. Wyndham Clark (+0.98)
  4. Mackenzie Hughes (+0.86)
  5. Andrew Putnam (+0.83)

5. Greens in Regulation %

The recipe for success at Harbour Town Golf Links is hitting fairways and greens. Missing either will prove to be consequential — golfers must be in total control of the ball to win.

Greens in Regulation % over past 24 rounds:

  1. Brice Garnett (+75.0%)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+69.9%)
  3. Corey Conners (+69.0%)
  4. Shane Lowry (+68.3%)
  5. Patrick Rodgers (+67.6%)

6. Course History

Harbour Town is a course where players who have strong past results at the course always tend to pop up. 

Course History over past 24 rounds:

  1. Patrick Cantlay (+2.34)
  2. Cam Davis (+2.05)
  3. J.T. Poston (+1.69)
  4. Justin Rose (+1.68)
  5. Tommy Fleetwood (+1.59)

The RBC Heritage Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (24%), Good Drives (20%), SG: SG (14%), SG: Pete Dye (14%), GIR (14%), and Course History (14%)

  1. Shane Lowry
  2. Russell Henley
  3. Scottie Scheffler
  4. Xander Schauffele
  5. Corey Conners 
  6. Wyndham Clark
  7. Christiaan Bezuidenhout
  8. Matt Fitzpatrick
  9. Cameron Young
  10. Ludvig Aberg 

2024 RBC Heritage Picks

Patrick Cantlay +2000 (FanDuel)

With the exception of Scottie Scheffler, the PGA Tour has yet to have any of their star players show peak form during the 2024 season. Last week, Patrick Cantlay, who I believe is a top-5 players on the PGA Tour, took one step closer to regaining the form that’s helped him win eight events on Tour since 2017.

Cantlay limped into the Masters in poor form, but figured it out at Augusta National, finishing in a tie for 20th and ranking 17th for the week in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking. The former FedEx Cup champion will now head to one of his favorite golf courses in Harbour Town, where he’s had immaculate results over the years. In his six trips to the course, he’s only finished worse than 7th one time. The other finishes include three third places (2017, 2019, 2023) and one runner-up finish (2022). In his past 36 rounds at Harbour Town, Cantlay ranks 1st in Strokes Gained: Total per round at the course by a wide margin (+2.36).

Cantlay is winless since the 2022 BMW Championship, which is far too long for a player of his caliber. With signs pointing to the 32-year-old returning to form, a “signature event” at Harbour Town is just what he needs to get back on the winning track.

Tommy Fleetwood +3000 (FanDuel)

I truly believe Tommy Fleetwood will figure out a way to win on American soil in 2024. It’s certainly been a bugaboo for him throughout his career, but he is simply too talented to go another season without winning a PGA Tour event.

At last week’s Masters Tournament, Fleetwood made a Sunday charge and ended up finishing T3 in the event, which was his best ever finish at The Masters. For the week, the Englishman ranked 8th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, 10th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and 16th in Strokes Gained: Putting.

Harbour Town is a perfect layout for Fleetwood, and he’s had relative success at this Pete Dye design in the past.  In his four trips to the course, he’s finished inside of the top 25 three times, with his best finish, T10, coming in 2022. The course is pretty short and can’t be overpowered, which gives an advantage to more accurate players such as Fleetwood. Tommy ranks 8th in the field in Good Drive % and should be able to plot his way along this golf course.

The win is coming for Tommy lad. I believe there’s a chance this treasure of a golf course may be the perfect one for him to finally break through on Tour.

Cameron Young +3300 (FanDuel)

Cameron Young had a solid Masters Tournament last week, which is exactly what I’m looking for in players who I anticipate playing well this week at the RBC Heritage. He finished in a tie for 9th, but never felt the pressure of contending in the event. For the week, Young ranked 6th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 6th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Despite being one of the longest players off the tee on the PGA Tour, Young has actually played some really good golf on shorter tracks. He finished T3 at Harbour Town in 2023 and ranks 20th in the field in Good Drive% and 16th in Greens in Regulation in his past 24 rounds. He also has strong finishes at other shorter courses that can take driver out of a players hand such as Copperhead and PGA National.

Young is simply one of the best players on the PGA Tour in 2024, and I strongly believe has what it takes to win a PGA Tour event in the very near future.

Corey Conners +5500 (FanDuel)

Corey Conners has had a disappointing year thus far on the PGA Tour, but absolutely loves Harbour Town.

At last week’s Masters Tournament, the Canadian finished T30 but ranked 20th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach. In his past 24 rounds, Conners ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, 3rd in Greens in Regulation % and 24th in Good Drive %.

In Conners’ last four trips to Harbour Town, his worst finish was T31, last season. He finished T4 in 2021, T12 in 2022 and ranks 8th in Strokes Gained: Total at the course over his past 36 rounds.

Conners hasn’t been contending, but his recent finishes have been encouraging as he has finished in the top-25 in each of his past three starts prior to The Masters, including an impressive T13 at The PLAYERS. His recent improvement in ball striking as well as his suitability for Harbour Town makes Conners a high upside bet this week.

Shane Lowry (+7500) (FanDuel)

When these odds were posted after Lowry was announced in the field, I have to admit I was pretty stunned. Despite not offering much win equity on the PGA Tour over the last handful of years, Shane Lowry is still a top caliber player who has the ability to rise to the top of a signature event.

Lowry struggled to score at The Masters last week, but he actually hit the ball really well. The Irishman ranked 1st for Strokes Gained: Approach on the week and 7th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking. As usual, it was the putter that let him down, as he ranked 60th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting.

Harbour Town is most definitely one of Lowry’s favorite courses on the PGA Tour. In his six starts there, he’s finished in the top 10 three times, including third twice. Lowry is sensational at Pete Dye designs and ranks 7th in Strokes Gained: Total in his past 36 rounds on Dye tracks. 

Lowry is perfect for Harbour Town. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained: Approach, 2nd in Good Drive% and 5th in Green in Regulation %. If he figures it out on the greens, Shane could have his first win in America since 2015.

Lucas Glover +12000 (FanDuel)

This is one of my weekly “bet the number” plays as I strongly believe the odds are just too long for a player of Glover’s caliber. The odds have been too long on Glover for a few weeks now, but this is the first event that I can get behind the veteran being able to actually contend at. 

Glover is quietly playing good golf and returning to the form he had after the understandable regression after his two massive victories at the end of 2023. He finished T20 at The Masters, which was his best ever finish at Augusta National. For the week, Lucas ranked 18th for Strokes Gained: Approach and 20th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Over his past 24 rounds, Glover ranks 9th in Strokes Gained: Approach and 13th in Good Drive %. Harbour Town is a short course that the 44-year-old will be able to keep up with the top players on Tour off the tee. He’s played the course more than 20 times, with mixed results. His best finishes at Harbour Town include a T7 in 2008, but recently has a finish of T21 in 2020.

Glover has proven he can contend with the stars of the Tour on any given week, and this number is flat out disrespectful.

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