Connect with us

Opinion & Analysis

Are titanium drivers really that much better than wood drivers?

Published

on

Let’s forget about center of gravity, moment of inertia, weight adjustability and turbulators for a moment. I know it’s difficult, but bear with me.

The golf industry has made significant (and I mean significant) improvements in driver technology in recent decades. I started playing golf with a wood driver and quickly found my way into the metal wood family, which was replaced by titanium shortly afterward. I hardly stopped to think about buying the newest technology, but it always seemed to help.

It made me wonder, how much better are titanium drivers of today than the wood drivers we played 30 and 40 years ago? If it’s starting to sound like I’m introducing results to an experiment, that’s because I am.

For my experiment, I dug out an old “wood” from the garage, along with my current driver and then tested them on a Trackman. To test the two against each other, I hit 10-to-15 shots with each driver, doing my best to create the same swing and launch conditions for both clubs, and let the numbers tell the story. I was a little afraid of hitting hard range balls with the wood driver, so for this test I dug into the shag bag and pulled out some old tournament golf balls.

unnamed (3)

There were a couple of major differences in the two clubs that affected performance. The wood driver was 43 inches long and built with a steel shaft. The shaft felt soft and whippy, and in my estimation, it was probably something close to a True Temper Dynamic Gold R300, maybe even softer.

unnamed (4)

My modern driver, a TaylorMade R9 SuperTri, which was built with a Fujikura Motore F1 75-gram S-Flex shaft, measured 44.5 inches.

unnamed (1)
The two competitors meet at center-ring before the battle begins. 

Below are my results to the experiment.

New School Driver

Illustrated in the images below, you can see both the dispersion and the averages for the group of drives I hit. My thought was to try to swing with the same speed on each shot, with the same golf balls, to identify the difference between the clubs.

unnamed

New Driver Data: Avg. Launch Numbers, 10 Drives

newvsold1

Dispersion

oldvsnew6

Old School Driver

unnamed (2)

Old Driver Data: Avg. Launch Numbers, 10 Drives

newvsold2

Dispersion

oldvsnew5

Observations

The wood driver had a strong left bias which could have been the result of:

  • The weak steel shaft, making the timing of the strike more difficult.
  • More likely, it was the lack of bulge and roll on the face of the wood driver, making a center strike even more valuable.

You can see from the Trackman numbers of the wood driver that the face was pointed 0.2 degrees to the right of the target on average, with a swing path that was 4 degrees right. This path and face relationship should create a nice little draw, not a snap hook.

The modern driver’s average path and face numbers were only slightly different — path 2.5-degrees right and face 0.7-degrees right — yet the ball flights were markedly different. Modern drivers are built with a lot of bulge and roll to help the player in the case of an off-center hit. The point of impact on the driver face more important than any other factor, and it was even more important in the days of wood drivers!

I wasn’t overly concerned about the static loft of each driver because Trackman gives you dynamic loft, or the loft of the club at impact, which you can see was only slightly different between the two. The average dynamic loft for the wooden driver was 13.9 degrees at impact while the modern driver was 14.1 degrees.  Their respective launch angles varied only slightly as well (0.5 degrees). I wanted these numbers to be as close as possible to show the difference in performance between the two clubs under similar circumstances.

Shot for Shot

I was able to get two swings with the exact same club head speed.

Old Driver

oldvsnew7

New Driver

oldvsnew8

Observations

There’s only a few differences in the individual shots, but they clearly have a tremendous impact on the flight of the golf ball. The angle of attack with the modern driver is about 3 degrees more “up” than the wooden driver and both dynamic loft and launch angle were higher for the wooden driver, even though I was hitting up less. The most likely explanation comes from center of gravity location, gear effect and the point of impact.

With path and face angle numbers being similar, you’d expect the curve of the ball to be similar. The tilt of the axis of the golf ball should be similar with a center strike on both clubs, but Trackman tells us this likely didn’t happen for either shot. Spin Axis is the amount of tilt in the axis of the golf ball at impact: a negative number means the left side of the golf ball tilts lower by degrees causing a right-to-left ball flight, while a positive number means the right side of the golf ball tilts lower by degrees causing left-to-right flight.

You can see the glaring difference in the spin axis number between the two shots; negative 8.0 and positive 1.5. That’s almost a 10-degrees difference. With the wood driver, the strike was more than likely to the toe side of the face and without a lot of bulge and roll, the result was a severe hook. With the modern driver, the strike was more than likely lower on the face and towards the heel, causing the ball to launch a little lower (gear effect), and the technology of the face (more gear effect) caused the ball to actually fade.

Conclusion and Thoughts

The wood driver, if you can find one, could be used as a great practice tool. The importance of the center strike is really valuable and using a smaller head with a higher degree of feedback (slices and hooks) can help you improve. However, by producing 20 yards more distance with a tighter dispersion, the new driver is difficult to argue against.

It’s eye-opening how driver design technology influences not only distance but the curve of golf shots. Bulge and roll, which aids in gear effect, works to hit the ball undeniably straighter and farther. So how much better is titanium than wood? Short answer – a lot.

The guys at sports science conducted a similar experiment with Rory McIlroy as their test dummy (he’s decent at golf). Watch the video here.

Your Reaction?
  • 59
  • LEGIT20
  • WOW9
  • LOL8
  • IDHT7
  • FLOP10
  • OB12
  • SHANK15

Rob earned a business degree from the University of Washington. He turned professional in June of 1999 and played most mini tours, as well as the Australian Tour, Canadian Tour, Asian Tour, European Tour and the PGA Tour. He writes for GolfWRX to share what he's learned and continues to learn about a game that's given him so much. www.robrashell.com Google Plus Director of Instruction at TOURAcademy TPC Scottsdale www.touracademy.com

45 Comments

45 Comments

  1. Mike

    Mar 10, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    I grew up playing in the late 80’s and used OLD technology. I shot in the mid 70’s in high school in the early 80’s with an old persimmon 3 wood and tiny little Wilson blades, and one JP copper 55* sand wedge, such a raw, simple setup. I am an athlete and picked up golf fast, and again, in state tournaments in my Sophopmore and Junior years, I shot 77 and 76.
    Fast forward to today w/ all the best equipment, I struggle to break 80. I can bomb a modern driver out past 280 yards, but do I know where it’s going? Nope. I scored better slapping a persimmon 3 wood out there at about 240 in high school, BUT IN PLAY, then hit great iron shots and got up and down all day long…
    So I went back to a persimmon driver last summer for a try, I’ll be darned. Macgregor S300 shaft, goes straighter than modern drivers, goes lower, DOES NOT go as far, but I am just better off the tee w/ it. It may stay in my bag this season, I’ll check back.

  2. Adam

    Apr 29, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    I’ve been hitting with a Persimmon Auld classic that looked brand new when I bought it, not a mark on it and still glossy. Tested it against Callaway x2hot and XR16. All extra stiff shafts, 10.5° and I see almost no difference in distance, but the wood goes straighter. Longest drive was with the wood BTW. Wood sounds better and I hardly feel the impact. Plus using the wood I felt was more impressive to onlookers “is that a wooden driver” “wow nice hit” I heard people say. Takes better dexterity, but this club won’t crack or go flat.

  3. Eric Cavanagh

    Aug 17, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Remember the object of driving is to land the ball before the tee,never after it,so a 310 Yd shot blasted down the fairway that hangs up in the air for a great while isn’t wining or proper. It’s much easier to aim the ball with a wood. Metal drivers are lighter and so must drive farther than wood always,but when a ball hangs up in the air for 30 sec. longer than it does with the wood,you need to compensate to keep it landing in front of the pin. I would say,play with wood and I wish companies would make real wood drivers with graphite shafts so you get a fast sweep like you do with your titanium Hogan but the solid accuracy and slightly less loft that you do with those very,very pretty woods. a $1 wood,with a beat-up face will never be entirely consistent,though,that’s why the manufacturers need to begin making them with a graphite shaft. I talked to some folks to bring back some extinct trees and the one I think would be the best to use to make these new-generation woods is Shittem wood mentioned in the Bible in Exodus and maybe in other books of the Bible.

    esc

  4. Brendan

    Aug 2, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    Hi Rob
    I have an old persimmon (I’m old enough to know the difference from laminate!) at mum & dad’s that I use when back in town and love it. I love the feel of a well hit drive, I love the fact that there are actual screws to hit it off and if only I was wearing metal spikes while striding across concrete, it’d *sound* like golf when I was a kid….
    I think what you are missing from the trackman data is what trackman always lacks – how does it make you score? Forget trying to get comparable swing speeds and launch angles – go out with two new balls and play head to head to score. Does the 20m difference make an actual distance to scoring? Does the ability to manipulate the ball more easily with a wood have some advantages? In some circumstances, does the lower trajectory actually become a benefit (eg wind)? Do you swing more smoothly with the little head and the shorter shaft? Do you try to take on hero carries, or aim for the middle of the fairway? I find that I often hit more fairways with my wood than I do with my regular driver. And remember, off a good lie, a wooden driver can also be used as a fairway wood.
    I’m a big fan and not convinced that I necessarily *score* all that much differently. I’m not sure I’d play persimmon in a head to head match for money, but if you want to spot me a couple of shots because I’m playing with grandpa’s driver – you’re on!
    Cheers,
    BT

    • DaveMikulec

      Feb 27, 2016 at 12:48 pm

      I recently decided to get back into the game and scouted a local thrift shop that had several (real) woods stuck in a barrel, priced at $8 for all of them. All are persimmon and were crafted at Louisville Golf, and they still look new. I can’t wait to try them out.

  5. Don

    Jul 17, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Hi Son nice to see that you’ve got the golfers attention. some real food for thought. A similar comparison, who’s a better player Tiger or Jack, different times and different technology. Dad

  6. Morgan

    Jul 16, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    I love these fun tests done just for the heck of it and usually on the spur of the moment. I had one such moment when I played in an electricians golf day. One of the guys had a really old set with one of those cast aluminium (so it looked like)small headed 1 wood’s. He obviously wasn’t a golfer and was out for a good day. Anyway after 6 holes we were giving him hell about his gear, but I got this bug in my head to want to hit it, so tee it up I did. The metal shaft was rusty and the head very small and dull and even had paint splatter on it. I’ld already hit mine down the fairway and with assurance I would give him a newish driver after the game I gave his the perfect strike. Off it went perfect trajectory down the fairway, the boys go that’s sweet and hang crap on clubs owner as he is defiantly the cause of all his bad drives, got up there both center of the fairway laser-ed his 245m, laser-ed mine 262m. Totally stunned. I could find his club at a second hand shop and buy it for $10, mine was a SLDR @7* with a GD DI6 X FLEX AND COST A HELL OF A LOT MORE. My walk away comment to the clubs owner was “get lessons, nothing wrong with the club” which bought him more heckling from the group and left a very satisfied smile on my face, but bewilderment at why only that much gain over what must be 30+ yrs of golf club and shaft advancement and millions spent in research. Note; I do realize most of the advancement would be seen in dispersion and contact consistency if I had of hit a heap of balls but still with all the new clubs that have come out and people on this site and Golf companies claiming gains of 5 – 20m with their new wonder driver and $1000.00 shafts ( 30yrs x 10 new drivers x 10 more meters ) the newer club should be at least 100m ahead and 150m ahead at least with a persimmon or laminated head. Any way sorry for the long story but it was one of my all time golf feel good moments, smiling now.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 17, 2014 at 10:52 am

      Morgan,

      Great story!My guess would be we’ve reached a bit of a plateau with technology, tough to squeeze much more out of club heads, shafts, balls, etc. I remember playing a practice round my year on tour with a PGA Tour veteran and major champion, he was playing with irons that were 20 years old. He knew how far they went, down to the yard, and didn’t care about anything else. Technology and optimizing are a different endeavor than playing and scoring, as it should be.

      All the best!

      Rob

    • James

      Jul 29, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      you dont think 20 yards difference is a big deal???

  7. t

    Jul 15, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    My point is…in the 80s, a good long golf course was 6800. and a good tee shot was 250 yards. today, s good long golf course is 7300+ with a good tee shot being 290+. excluding inflation, we are making ourselves pay more money to play a very simple game. dumb dumb dumb. i don’t need to pay $500 for a driver to play a 7300 yard course when i could pay less than $200 for a driver and play a 6800 yard course. and the greens fees are jacked up to pay for the extra distance. doesnt make sense to me.

  8. James

    Jul 15, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    I would add, I wouldn’t expect the wood driver to perform as well as the modern one in terms of distance because the modern one has more COR. Did the choice of ball make a difference too? I wouldn’t use a range ball but a Pro V1 is softer than the old 90 compression wound balls hit with wood. That, to me, would be more meaningful of a test using the modern ball, same exact shaft, same exact loft of club.

    • Justin

      Aug 18, 2014 at 12:19 am

      The COR, when mixed with your higher clubhead speed, also factors in. You need a higher (>95mph) swing to really activate the COR.

      I like the attempt, but they probably should be closer to one another, spec-wise, to get any real data out of it. An analogy (to me) would be: testing a well-fit Brand X club to a not-so-well-fit Brand Y club. Of course, Brand X will have better results, but that doesn’t make Brand Y a bad choice, either…

      Sorry, but came to this party late and felt the need to add my $.02. I expect change back lol!

  9. James

    Jul 15, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    I too think this is a bad test because the shafts are not equivalent and that makes a big difference. What would the same shaft that is in your modern driver in terms of smash factor and ball speed? Are the lofts of the two clubs identical? The dynamic loft doesn’t mean much and here is why. I can take a 9 degree driver and tee it up high, play it forward and get a higher launch than I would normally. By the same token you can take a higher lofted driver and play it back to launch it lower. Unless the lofts and shafts are exactly the same the test is sort of useless. The shaft transmits the power from the body to the club and those two shafts are no where near functionally equivalent.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 15, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      James,

      Thanks for the thoughts. My idea originally was to get a shot with each driver that had the same club head speed, same dynamic loft, and same launch angle to see how the heads performed. With the individual shots I got pretty close.

      I agree lots of factors to take into account.

      Rob

    • MHendon

      Jul 16, 2014 at 1:56 am

      It’s not a bad test. It’s a comparison between old equipment and new. If they’d had 45 inch light weight graphite shafts in the day of persimmon woods I’m sure they would have used them. That’s the whole point of this test, you’re not comparing apples to apples here.

      • James

        Jul 16, 2014 at 8:14 am

        Yeah but then the courses weren’t playing 500 yard plus par 4s in majors either. The courses were laid out to play for the equipment at hand. If you really wanted to know how wood compares to now then you do need to have everything the same except for the clubhead. In that case, metal would still win out because the COR is .83 and wood is like .78

        • MHendon

          Jul 17, 2014 at 4:25 pm

          Yeah I still don’t understand your argument. Yes everyone knows courses have been lengthened because of modern equipment. Again this was simply a comparison between old an new, what was available 30 years ago and now.

  10. Brian S

    Jul 15, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Seemed to have glossed over the difference in shaft length. My guess is that 1.5″ could be a 10-20 yard difference. And, depending on how you measured, given the size of head on the modern driver, you distance from the end of the shaft to the sweet spot on each club will vary.

    As someone mentioned earlier, maybe a better comparison would be a modern 3w, given they would be more similar on overall club length.

    I have actually had different results than yours. I don’t have access to Trackman. But, from watching ball flight, I have far more spin with the modern driver versus my old wooden driver. My rollout on the old wooden drivers gives me roughly the same distance when doing my own comparison.

    Good article though, nice to see what technology has really given us (or maybe not given us) over the past couple of decades.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 15, 2014 at 11:47 am

      Brian,

      I think a rough guess with length of club would be 1 inch of shaft length equals roughly two mph, each mph of club speed equals just short of 3 yards. So 1.5″ x 2 equals 3 mph, 3 mph x 3 yards = roughly nine yards difference. This would be my best guess.

      The difficulty with a three wood would be the difference in dynamic loft or, loft of the club at impact, between 3 wood and wooden driver.

      Super fun to use Trackman to turn back the clocks a bit, thanks for the comment!

      Rob

  11. Chris Wycoff

    Jul 15, 2014 at 10:43 am

    We’ve got a couple persimmons with screws sitting around the shop and we’ve done this experiment a few times for fun. Our results have been very close to what Rob found.

    On a perfectly hit shot, the our old wood drivers can get pretty close to the distance of today’s modern drivers – maybe 5-10 yards. It’s in the average distances and dispersion where we’ve seen a big difference – probably 20-30 yards shorter on average because the less than perfect shots with persimmon really hurt the averages.

    Fun article!

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 15, 2014 at 10:58 am

      Chris,

      How great is the feel of those old drivers though? So soft!

      Rob

    • John

      Jul 15, 2014 at 11:48 am

      Agree with you Chris. It’s the misses that get you with persimmon. I play my old late 80’s persimmon from time to time, and when I nail one, especially in the summer with dry conditions the distance can be amazingly competitive with titanium. On the other hand, when I catch one squirrelly, well, it certainly does adversely effect one’s distance. You cam move the ball around with persimmon in a way that’s fun, and much harder to do with a big headed driver, and overall with the shorter steel shaft finding fairways is easier than a 46″modern driver. However, if one is fitted and sensible about the desire to hit the ball long AND straight, as opposed to just long, (say a 44″ modern driver) then the advantages are obvious.
      All due respect to Rob, his test would a bit more legit using a well designed Macgregor or Penna or a Joe Powell instead of the K Mart special he was using.

  12. Ed Ranfelt

    Jul 15, 2014 at 10:29 am

    With apologies….
    Another error, persimmon and laminated maple drivers have bulge and roll. It’s not as apparent visually, because of the smaller clubhead size, but it IS present.

    Bulge works with the gear effect on lateral mishits, producing shots that start left or right, and curve to the center.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 15, 2014 at 10:56 am

      Ed,

      Thanks for the comment, do you know how to tell the difference between persimmon and laminated maple? Just curious. Also curious if modern club makers have ever thought about reducing bulge and roll on modern drivers to help better players curve the ball more? Some times the curve is good.

      Thanks

      Rob

      • Ed Ranfelt

        Jul 16, 2014 at 10:43 pm

        With apologies if this was answered by someone else (I’ve not read all comments)

        As it happens, I do know how to tell the difference. Or at least what is perceived as the classic tell.

        In the picture of the laminate driver clubface you have accompanying the article, you’ll see alternating “stripes” across the face. That’s the sign of a laminate; they’re made by literally taking strips of maple wood and gluing them together, before they’re cut to shape.

        Persimmons are made from solid blocks of wood, and lack these “stripes.”

        As for bulge, some have suggested that *some* modern drivers might need MORE bulge. We’ve all seen the classic toe hook or heel fade; all too frequently, these start out online and scream one direction or the other. In the case of a persimmon or laminate driver, they tend to start out more to the left or right, before coming back to the fairway.

        Current roll is fine, though some like Tom Wishon have done away with roll below the center of the face. Above the center of the face, the roll assists with the vertical gear effect, helping to provide lower spin, to go with the slightly higher launch you get from hitting above center of the face.

        Sorry for the length of this. 🙂

  13. pingmatt

    Jul 15, 2014 at 9:43 am

    What type of ball was used in testing? Advances in the modern golf ball were made with modern drivers in mind, not old school woods. How would the results be different if you used a balata with each club?

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 15, 2014 at 9:47 am

      Ping,

      I used pro v1’s, would love to get my hands on a couple dozen maxfli ddh or titleist balata golf balls, would be fun. Check out the video at the end of the post, good insight into the golf balls as well.

      Rob

  14. Chris

    Jul 15, 2014 at 9:23 am

    Nice experiment! My question would be: How far do you hit your modern 43″ fairway wood? How would that stack up against the old driver?

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 15, 2014 at 9:50 am

      Chris,

      Good question, my guess the 3 wood would probably go a bit farther. Better shaft, better head, the feel of those wooden drivers sure is great though.

      Rob

  15. Nice

    Jul 15, 2014 at 3:13 am

    Did you tee the ball up at the same height????? Because that would also affect how it takes off, obviously…… thus, with the old driver, being lower on the tee, means you hit down on it more, and conversely, with the giant-headed driver of the modern day, to tee it that low would not make it as efficient.

    Also, in this instance, the wood driver illustrated here does not have any screws in the face, and far too many deep grooves. I would like to see this experiment done with a persimmon driver with screws in the face with a smooth surface.

    But thank you for the experiment! Very nicely done.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 15, 2014 at 9:58 am

      Nice,

      Would love to get my hands on a persimmon driver with screws, if I do, I’ll put together part two of this experiment. Tough to find those things.

      Rob

  16. Pingback: Are titanium drivers really that much better than wood drivers? | Spacetimeandi.com

  17. Grant

    Jul 14, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    Quite literally used to have to hit on the screws. The inserts were just a bit larger than the balatas of the day. Lot of penna and MacGregor drivers in the basement. Still have to hit the center for predictable results. Roll and bulge were easily altered back then. Would not go back if I could.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 15, 2014 at 10:02 am

      Grant,

      If you’re in the Phoenix area let me know, would be fun to test the old drivers and fairway woods. Also love the feel of hitting them.

      Rob

      • LaMont

        Jul 15, 2014 at 6:49 pm

        Rob,
        I am in the Phoenix area and mill custom putters out of the Hot Stix Scottsdale location. Contact me via email if you would be interested in using some of the best persimmon woods to go head to head against that TM. I have a driver that was the Rolls Royce of persimmons, shafted with what was the top of the line graphite at the time it was crafted. It was made right here in Tempe and was about fifteen years too late to be an amazing piece of golf equipment.
        I think that part of the issue with this test is that you had two clubs that were incredibly far apart in quality, even when they were new. The Ajay driver was junk, at best. TM makes nice drivers that are engineered for distance and they do a good job of it.
        I would love to see this same test played out, using the best from back then, against the best of today. I don’t believe that persimmon will win in distance, but as mentioned, there is nothing better than the feeling of catching one right on the screws and watching that piercing ball flight.
        Contact me, this sounds like fun.
        LaMont

  18. DBD

    Jul 14, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    the picture shows a laminated driver – typically maple, not a persimmon driver

    • Greg

      Jul 14, 2014 at 9:10 pm

      DBD is totally correct but to be fair, there wasn’t any real distance difference between persimmon and laminated maple.

      • Zak Kozuchowski

        Jul 14, 2014 at 9:19 pm

        This is what happens when young people are allowed to write and edit stories about old golf clubs. We’ve made the corrections.

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jul 14, 2014 at 11:06 pm

        Put that to Trackman… persimmon vs. laminated maple.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 15, 2014 at 10:00 am

      DBD,

      Thanks for the feedback, had no idea the driver was not persimmon, but maple. How can you tell? Specific things you look for? Thanks for the information!

      Rob

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jul 15, 2014 at 1:48 pm

        Laminated maple looks like a small version of plywood. Persimmon is solid with tiny, almost imperceptible, little specs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Opinion & Analysis

2023 Farmers Insurance Open: Betting Tips & Selections

Published

on

Get your bets on earlier than usual this week as the Farmers Insurance Open runs Wednesday to Saturday, the advancement of a day avoiding a clash with the NFL Conference Championship games.

We raise the bar a notch as the tour reaches Torrey Pines, a course used for this (and related) events since 1968, although the current set-up on the South Course now measures almost 1000 yards than the one seen 55 years ago.

Now utilising the easier North Course for one round, players will still need to have their grinding game as the weekend progresses over a course re-configured for the 2021 U.S Open – won by this week’s hot favourite Jon Rahm – and one that has seen the last three winners score no better than 15-under.

As my learned GolfWRX colleague says:

While last year’s winner Luke List was a shock, beaten play-off rival Will Zalatoris certainly fits the bill in becoming the last of a long line of contenders at Torrey that have challenged at the majors.

Patrick Reed, Marc Leishman, Justin Rose and, of course, seven times Torrey winner Tiger Woods, would all be seen as elite in their time, and you can confidently add the likes of runners-up Tony Finau, Adam Scott and Xander Schauffele to those.

Greens change to Poa Anna this week, and with the home course possessing suitably tough greens, players need solid tee-to-green games to remain with a chance down the back-stretch on Saturday afternoon. Forget the pitch and putt of La Quinta and friends, this week is far from a repeat.

You would be forgiven for thinking this is the Woods era, a solid 4/1 shot heading the market.

Tiger he is not, but having won four of his last five events and winning the Farmers here in 2017 and the U.S Open four years later, Jon Rahm carries almost unbeatable status into this week. However, much depends on getting the right draw over the first two days – at the price he can be left alone.

With the trophy likely to go to one of the better fancied players, here’s a chance to select two or three from the next half-dozen and still look at a better return than backing the favourite – and, for me, Tony Finau and Jason Day fit the bill.

Unlike someone like J.T Poston, I can’t seem to call Tony Finau right, but if he is ever going to repay the faith, it is here.

Having raised his game to another level in winning back-to-back at Minnesota and Detroit, the 33-year-old was fancied to go well in Mayakoba. Naturally, he missed his first cut since the US Open in June, subsequently gagging up in Houston, making it three wins in seven starts – not Rahm (or Scheffler of early ’22) but not far behind.

Fancied to do another back-to-back special, Finau then withdrew from the RSM Classic before probably needing the run-out when 7th at the Hero World Challenge. – extremely frustrating but, on face value, continuing a career-best run.

2023 has seen encouragement in both starts, with eight rounds in the 60s leading to a seventh place at Kapalua and a most recent 16th at last week’s pro-am jolly, where he came from outside the top 60 on Thursday and from 34th at the cut mark.

Finau’s tee-to-green game remains of the highest class, ranking ninth in ball-striking over three months and third over six, but it’s now matched by a putting prowess that takes advantage of his constant green finding.

Events may be limited, but over the last 14 rounds or so, Big Tone leads the tour in putting average, beating even the likes of flying Jon Rahm. Sure, you can regard that as a skewed stat, so take it over another 12 weeks and he is in third – remarkable for someone that just a year ago was known for missing the vital ones.

Take the 2021 U.S Open away and Finau has four top-six finishes and a pair of top-20s here, and ignore last year’s missed weekend too – he was in the top-10 after the first round and was simply not at the races on day two.

Finau’s record on poa greens reads well enough – he won the Rocket Mortgage, and has top-10s at Riviera, Winged Foot and Olympia Fields, the latter pair giving credence to the Torrey/majors connection, whilst connecting Memorial form sees him record two top-10s and two top-15 finishes.

Being unconvinced that either Zalatoris’ or Justin Thomas’ games are pitch perfect, TF looks the best challenge to the favourite.

The favourite’s record in California is almost too good to be true, with four wins, seven top-5s and three top-10s but if anyone can challenge that, it’s surely Jason Day, who looks as if he is now fully recovered from injury and personal tragedy.

Winner here in 2015 and 2018, the Aussie also boasts a runner-up, third and fifth place around tough Torrey and an average position of 15th from 14 Pebble Beach outings. He loves California.

Having dropped from world number one to outside of the top-100 in five seasons, the 35-year-old has fought back from adversity to make his way back up the rankings, helped by a pair of top-10 finishes at, no surprise, Pebble and Torrey.

In order to protect what has been a fragile back, the 16-time major top-10 star reached out to swing coach Chris Como, formally an aide of Tiger Woods.

“Going into this year I did some swing changes with my coach, and I feel like those are slowly cementing themselves in there,” Day said on Golf Channel.

“I’m shallowing it out,” Day continued. “The swing has changed dramatically. It took me about a year and half to get the body correct, and the body movement correct until I could actually get into shallowing it out correctly.”

Judged on the latest figures, it seems to be coming together nicely.

Day ended 2022 with four cuts from five, including 8th at Shriners, 11th at the CJ Cup, 21st at Mayakoba and 16t in Houston, and last weekend finished in the top 20 at La Quinta having been third after two rounds.

16th for ball-striking over the last three months, slightly better over six, his top-30 for driving accuracy has led to a similar ranking for greens found. Take that, and any improvement, into an event he enjoys more than most, and we have a winning formula.

Away from the top, it’s hard to get excited about the chances of many.

Having nabbed a big-priced second last week with one of the 12 Players-to-Watch 2023, it is tempting to go back in again on Davis Thompson on a course that may suit even better. However, hitting 14 out of 18 greens at the Stadium Course is a far cry from a debut at Torrey Pines and he may just need the sighter.

Taylor Montgomery calls himself after his fourth top-five in just nine full-time starts on the PGA, particularly after a debut 11th as a sponsor’s invite last year. Prices in the 20s don’t appeal at all against proven and regular winners though, so take a chance on another top finish from the defending champion Luke List.

For someone that believes List is Dye-positive, his first win on the poa greens of Torrey Pines was a bit of a shocker.

I put the 38-year-old up as a lively top-10 bet last week, when the thought process was that this long driver should only need to drive and flip to the greens, but sadly his game was all over the place. However, I’ll take another chance in conditions that clearly suit last year’s play-off victor, a win that came off four straight cuts here that included a 10th and 12th placed finish.

Since the start of the 2022 season, List has 11 top-25 rankings for driving, five for approaches and seven for tee-to-green, whilst it was only a couple of starts ago that he matched the best at Kapalua.

As for the fabled short stick, it’s a case of being with him when he just works better than field average – 6th at Bethpage Black, in two of his four completions at Riviera and in three of five outings at Silverado, all of a  similar grass type.

Players constantly repeat form here at Torrey, so whilst he may not do a 1-2 or, indeed, a 2-1 on the lines of Mickelson, Day, Snedeker and Leishman to name a few, List is very capable of pulling out a finish on the first two pages of the board.

Recommended Bets:

  • Tony Finau Win 
  • Jason Day Win-Top-5 
  • Luke List Top-10 
  • Luke List Top-20 
Your Reaction?
  • 2
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Continue Reading

Opinion & Analysis

2023 American Express: Betting Tips & Selections

Published

on

Last week’s Sony Open saw the unusual occurrence of a top-10 devoid of a name that had played the Tournament of Champions, and yet eventual champion Si Woo Kim won his fourth PGA event, all on Bermuda greens.

Sometimes, like picking the week that a poor putter knocks in 30-footers, it’s just picking the right stat on the right day.

The tour makes the annual return to southern California for the charity pro-am event, where in its 63 history many courses have played host to the great and the good of the entertainment world. And Bill Murray.

For us, concerned with only who might win and at what price, we return to a three course rotation on which one one player in the last 16 years has won in under 20-under and an in an event that has seen four of the last 10 winners start at triple figures, with Adam Long going off at 500-1+.

Put simply, the set-up is too easy to enjoy it too much, players won’t miss many greens, and, as Adam Long said, “you can make a lot of putts because these greens on all three courses are just perfect. So you can make them from all over.”

The front of the market is classier than normally found here, but with the combined price of the top eight, we are asked to take around 4-6 that any of those win. Sure, that’s highly likely, but many of that octet have thrown away winning chances over the last few months, and the obvious man to beat, Jon Rahm, threw his hands in the air last year, calling this a less than satisfactory set-up.

In an event that is worth looking at after the cut – the average halfway position of winners over the last five years is 8th – the suggestion is to play a touch lighter than usual, with just two selections in the pre-event market.

Short tracks that reward consistent tee-to-green and putting efforts see me look for ‘The Real JT’ at every opportunity, and at 60/1 I can’t resist putting James Tyree Poston up as the best of the week.

Winner of the 2019 Wyndham Championship in 22-under, from course specialist Webb Simpson, JT confirmed then his love for Bermuda greens, something he had shown when seventh here and sixth at Harbour Town a few months earlier. The Wyndham, incidentally, home to a trio of wins by Davis Love III, a confirmed Pete Dye specialist.

Fast forward to 2022 and, after a solid all-round performance at sub-7000 yard River Highlands, the 29-year-old comfortably won the John Deere Classic, where he again proved too good for some charging rivals, from tee-to-green and on the dancefloor.

Poston’s best form outside of his two wins is at the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town, another specialist Dye/DL3 track, where he has a record of 3/mc/8/6 and where he has ranked in fifth and seventh place for tee-to-green.

After a solid top-10 at the top-class Tour Championship at the end of last season, Poston comes here after a solid run of 21st at the RSM, the same at Kapalua and 20th at last week’s Sony, ranking 6th and 13th for tee-to-green in both of the more suitable, shorter tracks, all of which have Bermuda greens.

Now teetering on the edge of the world’s top 50, Poston probably can not compete on the longer, elite courses. He’ll need to take advantage of ‘his’ tracks, and, with a 7th and 25th already in his locker around here, this event is most definitely one of those.

I’d like to have been with Andrew Putnam, playing excellent golf, making his last 13 cuts, and holding an enviable course record, but at the same price as last week he’s just left out given the tougher opposition. Top that with a tendency to throw away a weekend lead (Barracuda, AT&T and the RSM just a couple of months ago) and I’d rather be with Alex Smalley who has gone the opposite direction, now trading at more than double his price for the Sony just seven days ago.

The 26-year-old Duke graduate played in both the 2019 Arnold Palmer and Walker Cup sides, finishing with a record of three wins from four at each, before gaining his PGA Tour card when recording three top-five finishes and two top-15s on the KFT, eventually finishing 12th on the 2021 KFT finals lists.

Included in his 2021 season was a 14th at Corales, and he showed that to be no fluke when finishing in the top 15 at both Bermuda and Houston, both with similar greens as he will find this week.

2022 was a big year for Smalley, starting with a best-of-Sunday 65 to finish tied runner-up at Corales, finishing in the top six behind Jon Rahm and co in Mexico, 10th at the Scottish Open and 13th at Sedgefield.

Since October, Smalley has made five of seven cuts, highlights being 11th at Bermuda and a pair of top-five finishes at the RSM and Houston, all contributors to the tee-to-green stats that see him rank 1/2/6/11/13 for his ball-striking.

The second-season player was always on the back foot at Waialae last week, finishing the first round way down the pack after the first round. Cross that out and I’m struggling to see why he’s been dismissed by the oddsmakers for his second attempt at a course that found him ranked top-10 off the tee just 12 months ago.

There is a lingering fantasy around Luke List, whose 11th at the long Kapalua course might indicate a solid run this week. Given his first two wins came at Pete Dye related tracks (South Georgia designed by Davis Love, five time champion at Harbour Town) and Sawgrass Valley (the very name giving away its Dye/Bermuda links) he is clearly one to watch, even if he is simply one of the worst putters on tour.

He may be left behind by a few around this putter-heavy track, but he has a best of a 6th place finish in 2016 and a pair of top-22 finishes over the last two seasons. List should only have to flip wedges to many of these greens, and should he simply finish field average in putting as he did when finding over 11 strokes on the field at Torrey Pines (yes, 11 strokes. Plus 11 strokes) he will land a top-20 wager.

Reccomended Bets:

  • J.T Poston WIN/TOP-5
  • Alex Smalley WIN/TOP-10
  • Luke List TOP-20
Your Reaction?
  • 1
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Continue Reading

Opinion & Analysis

2023 Abu Dhabi Championship: Betting Tips & Selections

Published

on

Just days after the inaugural running of the Hero Cup, we get the chance to see the first full-field event of the 2023 DP World schedule.

For the second year, the Yas Links provide the venue for the well-established Abu Dhabi Championship, but last year’s leaderboard showed not much has changed, with a board of ‘linsky’ players and also those with firm form-lines in this part of the world.

Last year’s champion, Thomas Pieters, is one of 18 players that took part at ADGC last week, and he heads a defending leaderboard that included the likes of Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Victor Dubuisson, Ian Poulter, Tyrrell Hatton and more than a handful of others that appear regularly in the Middle East, Portugal, Holland and Denmark – just some venues that offer clues to regular top-10ers.

Continental Europe won last week’s renewal of what was in effect the old ‘Seve Trophy’ but that shouldn’t stop a strong showing from many of the beaten side. Opting between the likes of Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowry is as tough as it gets, all having top class links form and a promising ending to the 2022. Still, combine them with Alex Noren, playing well but winless since July 2018, and the coupled odds offer somewhere around 85-40. Despite their obvious claims, that doesn’t appeal.

It is the next group that appeals mostly this week and, whilst Thomas Pieters holds very solid claims for going back-to-back here, the pair of Robert Macintyre and Adrian Meronk are the first to go into the plan.

I’ll admit a weakness for the Scot, whose talent has still not reached anything like a ceiling, but Ryder Cup year may see him raise his levels, particularly having told The Telegraph that:

“Playing for Europe has been one of my life goals since I started to believe I was half decent at this game. I’ve played Walker Cup and now I want to appear in the best event in the world and a lot of the older guys––the likes of Sam (Torrance) and Stevie (Gallacher) who we’ve spoken to here this week have told me it would be the best thing to do in my life. And I’ve got a great opportunity to do that.” 

Bob’s claims to a place in the European locker room will be far stronger with a place inside the world’s top 50, which gives him access to all the majors and top events around the world.

He’s been there before, after his first win on tour, a strange lockdown-influenced event in Cyprus, but the victory was no surprise given his three runner-up finishes and a 6th at The Open in his inaugural year (2019) after which he received the Rookie of the Year award.

Available for all the four majors in 2021, he finished tied-12th at Augusta and eighth at Royal St. George’s, an event that may be significant this week.

Down the stretch on Sunday, Bob looked set to finish inside the top five before a pulled tee shot on the final par-5 (14th), a move that cost him a bogey. If I was to take just one of the recent Opens as a guide, the 2021 running may be the one.

Whilst the wind was only a zephyr, and disappointing for such a contest, conditions may well mirror the type we see this week. If not, the leaderboard certainly gives some idea with Jon Rahm in third place (three wins and a place in Dubai), Lowry and Viktor Hovland sharing 12th, Paul Casey in 15th and Sergio Garcia also just inside the top-20.

All those named have terrific form not only in the UAE but also in the immediate vicinity, and it seems the same with those beaten in last season’s Italian Open.

Held at the Marco Simone Club – this year’s Ryder Cup venue – Bob shot a final round, and best-of-the-day 64 – to reach a play-off against Matt Fitzpatrick. Winner with a birdie at the first extra hole, he also left behind the likes of Victor Perez, Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton and Jorge Campillo, all fine exponents of links golf, whilst he also joined Nicolai Hojgaard in a tiny Marco Simone winner’s club, the latter beating Tommy Fleetwood and Meronk for his maiden victory.

Macintyre followed his second victory with a top-10 at classic Le Golf National, top-20 at the Alfred Dunhill Links (11th into payday), top-10 at Valderrama and a closing 18th in Portugal at least two of those being a form guide to Yas this week.

The 26-year-old has admitted he often tries ‘too’ hard and that he plays his best golf when happy and relaxed. Having left the course yesterday with a 4&3 victory alongside Seamus Power and a heavy singles victory over Noren, he should be spot on.

In contrast to the first selection, Adrian Meronk was on the winning side over the weekend, and comes here as another improving 20-something.

Although the Pole was ranked around 200th at the end of the 2020 season, he caught the eye when running-up to Christiaan Bezuidenhout at Leopard Creek in November of that year, seemingly a tad naïve when challenging.

That immaturity is now a distant memory, replaced by a player that had three top three finishes in 2021, and topped by a closing top-10 finish in Dubai.

Having gone on many ‘to follow’ lists for 2022, the 29-year-old withdrew midway through this event before compensating his fans with four top six finishes in seven starts, three in this part of the world.

Belgium and the Netherlands saw Meronk finish in a closing sixth and third, the latter finish at Bernardus Golf (significantly designed by Kyle Phillips) before his (almost telegraphed) victory at Mount Juliet saw him follow in the footsteps of Lucas Herbert, another wind and links specialist.

11th in France and 22nd at the multi-course Dunhill Links works for me, as does his finish to 2022 – seventh at the DP finale, in fifth at halfway in Brisbane, and his impressive second victory at this level, by five shots at the Australian Open.

That win, by a handful from proven links and top-class players such as Adam Scott and Min Woo Lee raises the Pole to yet another level, and now just inside the world’s top 50, a huge effort that sees him receive the ultimate invite:

With confidence at a high, expect the Polish hero to enjoy the expanses of Yas Links, as he did when sitting inside the top-20 for the three rounds he did complete last year.

Nicolai Hojgaard has already been referenced as the winner of the 2021 Italian Open, and that win alone might be enough to stir interest, but take into account many of his best performances and he appeals greatly at anything around 50/1.

The more flamboyant of the twins is much more of a bully on the course than his brother, Rasmus, for whom he deputised for at the Hero Cup. That decision was justified after an unbeaten 3.5 points saw him produce one of the more surprising performances of the weekend and that encourages me to take the hint soon after a 10th place finish Australian Open, where he was never off the front page at any point.

Second place at both the Portugal Masters and KLM and, of course, a win at Ras Al Kaihmah read nicely for this week’s test, whilst he can add a fourth place to his UAE record having finished strongly on his debut at the DP World Tour Championship.

Ignore the missed cut last season as the 21-year-old was lying in 17th place after the first round before experiencing very tough conditions – eventual winner Thomas Pieters was also one that was over par for Friday.

With this track sure to suit his distance off the tee – Pieters and Hovland ranked top 10 in that regard – and with his confidence up after holing the winning putt for Continental Europe, this should be time to be with him.

It’s hard to believe that a player would win two events in his rookie year and also come within a whisker of his third title, yet be triple digits for this week.

In Ewen Ferguson there is a player that not only showed class in difficult conditions in Qatar (Meronk in third) but also only got done by a superstar putting performance when going for the three-timer in Denmark.

At all three victories, the Scot ranked highly in all tee-to-green aspects, something he found again towards the end of 2022, at Mallorca and the Gary Player GC. Whilst his excellent short game was lacking towards the end of the year, I’m prepared to err on the side that says it had been a long, if successful, first foray at the highest level, one that could have seen him win Rookie of the Year, although ultimately beaten to that by Thriston Lawrence.

Having been one of the success stories of the 2022 Players To Follow column, the 26-year-old more than paid his way, and it’s worth taking a chance that comes out and performs in similar conditions.

I’m watching former star Joost Luiten like a hawk, as his back-form hints to a great week now he and his health are back to something like their best, but the final selection goes to Marcus Helligkilde, another highlighted in last year’s column, and once again in 2023.

Whilst his overall profile is sketchy, we should remember that the Dane missed the middle few months of 2022 with a persistent shoulder injury, before doing enough to retain his DPWT card, something that looked unlikely as the tour approached the autumn months.

Having seen the likes of Jordan Smith and Brooks Koepka graduate from the Challenge Tour with success, much was expected of Helligkilde as he made his way through his rookie year on tour, particularly after three wins led him to a comfortable championship.

The season started in pleasing enough fashion, opening his first look at Yas Links with a 69 to lie inside the top 20, before a mid-event 66/67 saw him lie in ninth going into Payday at Ras. Back in the Middle East, the Dane came from outside the top-50 to finish 12th in Qatar and the sharks were buzzing for a coup in the near future.

However, after a couple of months, Helligkilde revealed he had been suffering with a shoulder injury for a while and would require surgery, something that meant taking at least six weeks off tour.

He admitted he was nowhere near 100 percent when re-appearing at the Irish Open, but a mid-point 22nd was encouraging, as was the trip to the KFT where he performed with credit at both the co-sanctioned events.

Among a large amount of DPWT players at the Barbasol, Helligkilde recorded 16 out of 18 greens-in-regulation on his way to a bogey-free third round of 66 before following up with the same figure on payday, resulting in a move from 64th at halfway to 8th when the cheques were being handed out.

The following week, the Dane was never outside the top-22 in finishing 13th at the Barracuda, both weeks suggesting he was close to being back to his best.

By finishing 4th in Ireland and 8th in his home event, the ‘Made In Himmerland’, Helligkilde showed he can perform when necessary, his top-30 at the Spanish Open enough to secure a place inside the top-100 on the Race To Dubai.

The Dane is far better than that number and, now injury free, is hopefully in a position to show his best, in conditions that will suit a player for whom the middle of the green is always a target.

Recommended Bets:

  • Robert Macintyre WIN
  • Adrian Meronk WIN/TOP-5
  • Nicolai Hojgaard WIN/TOP-5
  • Ewen Ferguson WIN/TOP-5
  • Marcus Helligkilde WIN-TOP-10
Your Reaction?
  • 0
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Continue Reading

WITB

Facebook

Trending