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?
  • 65
  • LEGIT21
  • WOW9
  • LOL9
  • IDHT8
  • FLOP11
  • OB14
  • SHANK16

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.

19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Memorial Tournament betting preview: Collin Morikawa to reign supreme at Jack’s place

Published

on

The PGA Tour heads to Jack’s place to play the 2024 edition of the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday. The Memorial is regarded as one of the most prestigious non-majors of the PGA Tour season, and for the second consecutive year the tournament will be a “Signature Event”.

Muirfield Village Golf Club is a 7,571-yard par-72 located in Dublin, Ohio that features Bentgrass greens. A Jack Nicklaus design, the course was built in 1974 and redesigned by Nicklaus in 2020. The course can play extremely difficult due to its long rough and lightning-fast greens.

The Memorial Tournament will play host to 80 golfers this week, which is down from 120 last year. The top 50 and ties will make the cut. Being a designated event, the field is predictably stacked and will feature most of the biggest stars on Tour. All eligible players have committed to the event in addition to sponsor’s exemptions Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and Billy Horschel. 

Past Winners at the Memorial Tournament

  • 2023: Viktor Hovland (-7)
  • 2022: Billy Horschel (-13)
  • 2021: Patrick Cantlay (-13)
  • 2020: Jon Rahm (-9)
  • 2019: Patrick Cantlay (-19)
  • 2018: Bryson DeChambeau (-15)
  • 2017: Jason Dufner (-13)
  • 2016: William McGirt (-15)

Key Stats for Muirfield Village

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

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Jack Nicklaus designs all have one thing in common: They reward the best iron players on Tour. When designing Muirfield Village, Jack created a second-shot golf course that strongly benefited golfers who could really dial in their approach shots. With that in mind, does it surprise anyone that Tiger Woods won this event five times?

Strokes Gained: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.37)
  2. Corey Conners (+1.14)
  3. Xander Schauffele (+1.14)
  4. Sepp Straka (+0.88)
  5. Rory McIlroy (+0.88)

2. Strokes Gained: Ball Striking

Strokes Gained: Ball Striking does include approach, but if there is any week to overemphasize Strokes Gained: Approach, this is the week. The statistic also incorporates Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, which will be important considering the rough at Muirfield Village can be exceedingly penal.

Strokes Gained: Ball Striking Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.48)
  2. Xander Schauffele (+1.88)
  3. Rory McIlroy (+1.60)
  4. Ludvig Aberg (+1.56)
  5. Corey Conners (+1.42)

3. Good Drive %

Driving the ball well will be an important factor. Bombing it off the tee is not a requirement at Muirfield Village, but distance always helps. The rough can get very long, and golfers who can’t put the ball in the fairway will fall out of contention quickly. Balanced and consistent drivers of the golf ball should be the targets this week.

Good Drive % Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Collin Morikawa (+88.1%)
  2. Tom Hoge (86.1%)
  3. Sepp Straka (+85.9%)
  4. Scottie Scheffler (+85.8%)
  5. Alex Noren (+85.8%)

4. Strokes Gained: Putting (Bentgrass – Fast)

The Bentgrass greens at Muirfield are lightning quick. Whoever can master these difficult putting surfaces has a major advantage at Jack’s place.

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

  1. Justin Rose (+1.43)
  2. Thomas Detry (+0.88)
  3. Sahith Theegala (+0.77)
  4. Harris English (+0.74)
  5. Denny McCarthy (+0.73)

5. Strokes Gained: Nicklaus Designs

We often see similar leaderboards when events are hosted by Jack Nicklaus designed courses. The model this week will look to incorporate those golfers.

Strokes Gained: Nicklaus Designs (per round, min. 4 rounds) Over Past 36 Rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.49)
  2. Patrick Cantlay (+2.32)
  3. Collin Morikawa (+1.99)
  4. Shane Lowry (+1.74)
  5. Austin Eckroat (+1.67)

6. Course History

We often see similar leaderboards when events are hosted by Jack Nicklaus designed courses. The model this week will look to incorporate those golfers.

Course History (Strokes Gained: Total (per round, min. 4 rounds) Over Past 36 Rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.75)
  2. Patrick Cantlay (+2.54)
  3. Justin Rose (+2.17)
  4. Collin Morikawa (+1.77)
  5. Jordan Spieth (+1.66)

The Memorial Tournament Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (27%), SG: BS (18%), Good Drive % (16%), SG: Putting Bentgrass – Fast (13%), Course History (13%) and SG: Total Nicklaus Designs (13%).

  1. Scottie Scheffler
  2. Xander Schauffele
  3. Shane Lowry
  4. Alex Noren
  5. Sahith Theegala
  6. Collin Morikawa
  7. Rory McIlroy
  8. Tony Finau
  9. Keegan Bradley
  10. Sepp Straka
  11. Corey Conners
  12. Viktor Hovland
  13. Russell Henley
  14. Si Woo Kim
  15. Justin Thomas

2024 Memorial Tournament Picks

Collin Morikawa +1800 (Fanatics)

Collin Morikawa has consistently shown up in the biggest events over the past few months. He finished in a tie for 3rd at The Masters, 9th at the RBC Heritage, a tie for 16th at the Wells Fargo Championship and a tie for 4th at the PGA Championship. He also finished 4th in his most recent start at the Charles Schwab Challenge.

Iron play is always a strong indication of where Morikawa’s game is trending, and his Strokes Gained: Approach numbers have seen a recent uptick. The two-time major champion has gained an average of 4.0 strokes on approach over his last two starts, which despite not being as good as his peak approach numbers, are a major improvement over the past year or so.

Morikawa has played some great golf at Muirfield Village throughout his career. He won the Workday Charity Open in 2020 and lost in a playoff at The Memorial Tournament in 2021. His two most recent starts at the course have ended in a withdraw and a missed cut, but his current form is much better than it was over the past few seasons coming into the event.

In addition to the strong iron play, the ability to keep the ball in the fairway will be a major advantage for a Memorial Tournament that I anticipate will play relatively difficult. Morikawa has gained strokes off the tee in eight consecutive starts, including 3.8 strokes at the PGA Championship and 4.0 strokes at the Charles Schwab Challenge.

The American has been fantastic at Nicklaus Courses since he burst onto the scene on the PGA Tour, and that was once again on full display at Valhalla last month. In his last 36 rounds, Collin ranks 3rd in Strokes Gained: Total on Nicklaus designs. He also ranked 1st in the field in Good Drive %, which will be a key this week.

It’s been a while since the 27-year-old has won a big event on Tour, but that could very well change this week at Jack’s place.

Justin Thomas +2500 (BetMGM)

Justin Thomas is winless in last 43 professional starts, dating back to the 2022 PGA Championship. For a player with 17 professional wins and in the prime of his career, that’s a long time.

Other than being “due”, Thomas has shown signs that is just about all the way back from his two-year slump. He has four top-ten finishes this season, with three of those being at a “signature” event or a major. Most recently, he’s finished in a tie for 5th at the RBC Heritage, a tie for 21st at the Wells Fargo Championship and a tie for 8th at the PGA Championship.

JT has loved Nicklaus designs throughout his career. He finished 2nd at the 2020 Workday at Muirfield Village, losing in a playoff to Collin Morikawa. In his last 30 rounds at the course, he ranks 6th in Strokes Gained: Total.

In addition to the obvious course fit, Thomas’ ball striking numbers have come to life of late. He gained 4.1 strokes on approach at the PGA Championship to go along with 4.6 strokes off the tee. Valhalla another Jack Nicklaus design so it’s encouraging to see that’s where he had arguably his best ball striking week of the season. The key for Thomas will be keeping the ball on the fairways this week and he’s improved his SG: OTT performance in four consecutive starts.

Thomas is finally in form and ready to get back in the winner’s circle at Muirfield Village.

Byeong Hun An +5000 (DraftKings)

Byeong Hun An is playing the best golf of his career. This season, the 32-year-old has finished T16 at the Genesis Invitational, T16 at The Masters, T8 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and 3rd at the Wells Fargo Championship.

The South Korean’s ball striking has been fantastic this year. He’s gained strokes both off the tee and on approach in six consecutive events. An will now head back to a course where he’s had plenty of success. Back in 2018, he lost in a playoff to a surging superstar named Bryson DeChambeau. Ben has five top-25 finishes in eight starts at the course. The few times he missed the cut were in 2020 and 2021 when he was really struggling with his game.

An has had some close calls of late and I believe we need to stick with him for one more week.

Corey Conners +6000 (DraftKings)

Corey Conners is absolutely striping the ball right now. In his past 24 rounds, the Canadian ranks 2nd in Strokes Gained: Approach, 5th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and 22nd in Good Drive %.

At last week’s Canadian Open, Conners ranked 4th for the week in approach and finished in 6th place. In his previous two starts, Conners ranked 2nd in Strokes Gained: Approach at the Wells Fargo Championship and 4th at the PGA Championship. There are very few players on the planet that are currently hotter with their irons than Corey Conners.

Conners has a solid history at Muirfield Village with mixed results. His best finish came in 2022, when he finished T13 and also finished T22 back in 2020. While putting is typically Conners’ greatest weakness, he’s gained strokes on the greens in three of his six starts at the course and ranks 30th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting on fast Bentgrass, so there’s hope that the 32-year-old can putt to field average this week.

Conners’ ability to hit fairways and dial in his mid-irons can propel him to the top of the leaderboard this week at a course that favors ball strikers.

Will Zalatoris +8000 (DraftKings)

I’m not entirely sure if Will Zalatoris is fully healthy based on his recent struggles, but there are enough positive signs for a player of his talent at this number.

Zalatoris made a Friday charge in his most recent start at the PGA Championship, which enabled him to sneak through the cut line. For the week, he gained 3.56 strokes on approach and has gained on approach in nine of his past ten starts.

Although he’s struggled at times, Zalatoris still has some strong finishes in big events this year. He finished in a tie for 9th at the Masters, a tie for 4th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a tie foe 2nd at the Genesis Invitational.

If Zalatoris is feeling fit, Muirfield Village is a perfect course to showcase his strengths. He’s one of the best iron players in the world and already has a 5th place finish in his most recent start at the course (2022).

This is a buy low opportunity on a world class player that has win equity.

Your Reaction?
  • 15
  • LEGIT6
  • WOW1
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP1
  • OB0
  • SHANK1

Continue Reading

Opinion & Analysis

Saso says so! Yuka Saso survives for second U.S. Open title

Published

on

One of my favorite golf writers was the late Ron Balicki, and not just for the shared first name. Balicki was called, and enjoyed, the nickname “Wrong Ron,” because whoever he chose to win, was guaranteed to do not that. I might have inherited the moniker, sadly, and if you read yesterday’s update, this week goes miles to secure that designation. Four amateurs made the cut, and three of them tied for low amateur at 12-over par. I picked the one that did not make that number. Hilarious, no? As for the tournament proper, the new “Wrong Ron” guessed the correct country, but the wrong golfer. I went with Hinako Shibuno, and it was the other pride of Japan, Yuka Saso, who stole the show. Alas!

For a healthy portion of the day, odds were in the favor of a player earning a second Open title. Important note:  her name was not Yuka Saso. As golfers around her crumbled, Minjee Lee held steady at +1 on the day, and -4 on the week. Arpichya Yubol from Thailand had made the big move of the day. She reached -3 on the day an -1 for the week, before two late bogies dropped her to solo fifth position, a remarkable achievement. The round of the day came from Ally Ewing, who posted four birdies against zero bogeys for 66 and a tie for third spot.

As for Minjee, the round’s thread began to unravel at the 9th. A missed fairway led to bogey, and she followed with a three-putt for another at the tenth hole. Double bogeys at 12 and 14 took her out of the running for the title, and opened the chase to a new segment of the field. Hinako Shibuno would ultimately finish in solo second, one of two golfers to finish under par on the week. Shibuno was never a threat for the title, but when others lost their momentum, she found herself positioned for a runner-up finish.

It was Yuka Saso who turned in the day’s memorable performance. Saso turned in even par on the day, preserving her position at one-under par. Andrea Lee (+5) and Wichanee Meechai (+7) fell away from their place atop the third-round chart, as did Minjee Lee. Suddenly, Saso had posted four birdies in five holes on the inward half. She finished at two under on the day, four under on the week, and earned a three-shot win over Shibuno.

In her post-0round comments, Saso revealed that she had doubts that she would win again, especially a major title. She discussed the addition of a new putter to her bag, and her extraordinary confidence in her driver. Finally, Saso revealed how important the first cut of rough was to the resolution of the tournament. That wee bit of playable grass made all the difference in her mind.

With the refreshing transparency that all writers desire, Yuka Saso won for a second time on Sunday. We’ll forgive her if she values the US Open silver a bit more.

Your Reaction?
  • 9
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Continue Reading

19th Hole

5 examples of how Lexi Thompson has been treated harsher than any of her peers

Published

on

*Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on GolfWRX in September 2023*

Following Lexi Thompson’s Solheim Cup post-round presser on Friday evening, the 28-year-old has been the topic of much discussion.

Golf pundits and fans alike have been weighing in with their takes after this exchange with a reporter surrounding an untimely shank on Friday afternoon went viral:

After the incident, LPGA Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez said that Lexi has “been picked on and drug through negative comments. She is tired of it”

So has the criticism of Lexi Thompson been justified, or is this yet another example of her being unfairly treated?

Well, here are five times, in my opinion, that Lexi has been scrutinized far differently over the years than her peers.

2022 KPMG PGA Championship

At the 2022 KPMG PGA Championship, Lexi Thompson held a two-stroke lead with three holes to play. She couldn’t close the deal and lost the tournament.

Afterwards, she was fined $2k (as were the rest of the group) for slow play.

Lexi declined to speak to the media and got hammered on social media for doing so…

Almost every golfer at some point has skipped a media session following disappointment on the course, and nobody has really batted an eyelid.

Tiger skipped back-to-back post-round media briefings at the 2019 WGC Mexico after being frustrated with his putting. Remember the backlash over that? Nah, me neither.

Donald Trump

@TheWhiteHouse

Every (or nearly every) big-name golfer under the sun has played golf with Donald Trump. Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy etc. Nobody really cared.

For whatever reason, when Lexi Thompson did, it was a story, and she took herself off social media soon after the photo was posted.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi)

2021 U.S. Women’s Open

In the final round of the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open, Lexi Thompson had a 6-foot eagle on her opening hole. She missed and made birdie to lead by five.

She then lost the tournament.

Following the round, Brandel Chamblee said on ‘Live From’:

“She’s got 6 feet away. Now professional golfers don’t miss the center of the face by a pinhead. Look where she hits this putt on the very 1st hole. Look where this putt comes off the face. She would have missed the center of the putter there by a half an inch. I have never — I have never — seen a professional golfer miss the center of the putter by a wider margin than that. That was at the 1st hole. “

Honest? Absolutely. Correct? Brandel usually is. Has any other LPGA golfer been handed the full-on Chamblee treatment? Not to my knowledge.

2023 Solheim Cup

Lexi Thompson spoke the words, “I don’t need to comment on that” when a reporter asked her about a failed shot, and the golf community collectively lost their minds.

Lost on many people is the fact that she literally answered the question instantly after.

Jessica Korda described the reporting of the awkward exchange with the media member as yet another example of the golf media shredding Lexi, but in reality, it was really just golf media covering the furore created by golf fans reacting to the viral clip.

Lexi then won her next two matches, collecting 3 points from 4 for the U.S. team. But nobody seems to care about that.

Instagram

‘yOu ShoUlD PrAcTIce puTTinG’

There’s very few golfers that have been plagued with such inane posts on their Instagram page as Lexi Thompson has.

I’ve tracked golfer’s social media accounts over the past few years (job requirement, sort of?). I can categorically say that Lexi gets some of the angriest and most aggressive responses to her posts of any golfer. Male or female. (She also gets some very nice ones too).

Despite countless posts of Thompson relentlessly practising her putting, the number of comments from dummies accusing her of neglecting that area of her game is both bizarre and alarming. Notice how the comments have been disabled on the post below? Probably not a coincidence.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi)

Go on any other golfer’s social account, and it will be hard to find the same dynamic.

Throw in the scandalous rules decision at the 2017 ANA Inspiration that cost her a second major title and spawned the “Lexi rule,” and it’s hard not to think Lexi has had a bit of a raw deal at times.

Your Reaction?
  • 40
  • LEGIT22
  • WOW6
  • LOL3
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP3
  • OB2
  • SHANK19

Continue Reading

WITB

Facebook

Trending