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The great tennis boom and what it could mean for golf (Part 1)

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Once upon a time, there was the great tennis boom.

The game was immensely popular and growing, and equipment manufacturers were researching ways to make the game more applicable. Some ideas like the spaghetti string racket design produced unusual overspin and were made illegal as they were deemed not to be good for the game. Other ideas like the big-headed racquet were utilized and both professional and average players made them the standard.

Courts sprung up everywhere and many were built with public funds so the game could be accessible to everyone and cost wouldn’t be a prohibitive factor. Tennis televised well so it got great exposure, and academies strictly for teaching the game were developed. All in all, it was a good thing.

Related: Barney Adams introduces himself as a GolfWRX Contributor. 

Young people could also play tennis, and along with learning the game they were exposed to life skills that would help them as they matured. Seniors could play with their age group and adult residences featured courts. Tennis was a winner and it was going to become a central part of society’s fabric. There was nothing wrong it: nothing to impede growth.

And then something strange happened. The game dropped in popularity and the huge force of negative momentum took its toll. Participation dwindled well below that of the most modest forecasts.

Before I enrage the tennis-playing readers, I’ll backtrack a bit. In the 70’s, ‘Tennis Anyone?” was the norm. There were more than 30 million players in the U.S alone and counting. Forecasts predicted 50 million participants. Today, however, U.S. tennis participation is about 15-to-25 million.

Twenty-five million is a pretty good number until you factor in that U.S. population has increased from 210 million in 1972 to approximately 315 million today. Back in the 70’s, nobody thought tennis participation would drop with a 50-percent increase in total population. I’m not quibbling over the numbers. What I am pointing out is that a great sport that had everything going for it saw its participation drop and then flatten despite a huge population increase.

It’s been argued that such is life; things go in cycles and ultimately reach a sustainable level. In subsequent articles, I will outline the loss in golf participation and present one suggestion for a solution. I’m using the tennis analogy because there is some relevance, not the least of which is inertia. All this worry about golf participation might be a reaction to the game’s inertia trying to find its natural level. During the boom years, too many courses were built and now many are closing. Even though I’m on the side of being proactive, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask if we are reacting to a natural evolution.

I will carefully track participation numbers going back to 1985. The numbers are not good and the demographics, which see the average age of golfers increasing, are not good, either. The question becomes do we (we being the powers that be and all of us golfers) want to try and arrest the decline or do we accept it as a natural order of things?

In subsequent articles, I’ll discuss the situation in detail. What I won’t do is make arguments based on opinion. If I look at a five-year decline and say it isn’t good, I don’t consider that as rendering an opinion. If I say golf is in conflict with today’s cultural influences, that’s an opinion, and I’ll leave that side of the discussion to those who are more capable.

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Barney Adams is the founder of Adams Golf and the inventor of the iconic "Tight Lies" fairway wood. He served as Chairman of the Board for Adams until 2012, when the company was purchased by TaylorMade-Adidas. Adams is one of golf's most distinguished entrepreneurs, receiving honors such as Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 1999 and the 2010 Ernie Sabayrac Award for lifetime contribution to the golf industry by the PGA of America. His journey in the golf industry started as as a club fitter, however, and has the epoxy filled shirts as a testimony to his days as an assembler. Have an equipment question? Adams holds seven patents on club design and has conducted research on every club in the bag. He welcomes your equipment questions through email at [email protected] Adams is now retired from the golf equipment industry, but his passion for the game endures through his writing. He is the author of "The WOW Factor," a book published in 2008 that offers an insider's view of the golf industry and business advice to entrepreneurs, and he continues to contribute articles to outlets like GolfWRX that offer his solutions to grow the game of golf.

75 Comments

75 Comments

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    Aug 16, 2014 at 8:01 pm

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  2. TA

    Jul 2, 2014 at 9:38 am

    I think the popularity of tennis is linked to professional success. I think the American greats like Mcnroe, Connors, Agassi, and Sampras drew a significant number of people to the game. I don’t think there are enough big names in American tennis to draw in, and keep people interested in the game. Without the interest in the professional game there is only the recreational side of the game to keep people interested and hence it has found a natural level.

  3. John

    Jun 24, 2014 at 12:56 am

    I think there is also an urban vs. rural issue here as well. I currently live in Los Angeles where golf is either, expensive, or crowded with long 5 plus hour rounds, or both. Too many people chasing too few resources. My home town, on the other hand is a completely different situation. It’s a small town in the Midwest with a lovely, well maintained muni that has been around since the 30’s and sort of a town treasure. Cheap to play, get on anytime, 4 hour rounds or less are the norm. When I visit every summer it’s like going back in time 30 years. I don’t think these places are too worried about golf’s popularity or lack thereof.

    • M

      Jun 25, 2014 at 11:06 am

      But you can only play your Ohio golf course may be 8 months of the year? LA is all year round.

  4. Square

    Jun 23, 2014 at 5:15 am

    In my opinion there are several factors influencing the decline in play. I won’t repeat some of the valid points which have been expressed earlier with the exception of one – TIME. Men are the players who probably make up this decline in play. In my humble opinion, father’s are more involved in their kids lives then 20 years ago. Do you know how many times I’ve been at the course and asked a guy where he’s been only to have him respond, “we’re in baseball season right now” which is followed by a ridiculous schedule of 3-4 hour car rides to the next game. I shake my head privately and I’m an involved parent of 2 boys. These parents do this stuff for a hope that Jimmy will be in the MLB or secure a scholarship. When most of us grew up we could play high school ball or the local organized teams and half the time we probably walked or rode a bike to a game. Sometimes our parents were there, sometimes they were not. My point is there is only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week and I would argue that many parents are hyper involved in their kids every movement to the point there is no time left for a parent to have substantial recreational interests. Maybe this is ultimately good for the kids but the point is it is likely not good for the game of golf. I tell my friends I wish there was 8 days in a week so I could fit in one round a week.

    • marty

      Jun 23, 2014 at 7:55 am

      Nailed it.

    • Mark M

      Jun 23, 2014 at 2:21 pm

      Also, the overly structured involvement in sports most times has the opposite effect: kids get sick of it and quit at the first opportunity. This is a root cause of the decline in participation of a lot of sports. You turn something that is supposed to be fun into work and a chore and kids don’t develop a passion for it that carries forward to adulthood.

      • steve

        Jun 23, 2014 at 4:26 pm

        I think the root of the decline in sports is the internet and cable tv. When I was a kid there was no internet or cable. The only thing to do was go outside. Now with the internet and cable tv in their rooms, they don’t go outside. It is the reason why there is a serious child obesity problem in the U.S.. Also everything is organized sports, what happened to going to the park and playing ball.

    • abd1

      Jun 25, 2014 at 12:37 pm

      helicopter parents…. not good for the parent or the child.

    • TA

      Jul 2, 2014 at 9:45 am

      Some good points about hyper involvement. I have two friends (male, 35-40) who no longer play golf more than once or twice a year because they are involved in their kids sports/activities 6 days a week. Everyday after work and every Saturday is consumed with kids sports/activities.

  5. 8thehardway

    Jun 22, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Some fuzziness around ‘grow the game’ – who ya gonna grow?

    The NGF considers my non-golfing sons to be golfers because they played with me on Fathers Day. Trust me, they are not golfers. The NGF should find a better term for the ‘once-and-done’ experience for those of us who take statements like ‘the U.S. has 29 million golfers’ at face value.

    In any case, you can’t target a segment for growth if they’ve played once or twice and haven’t returned; 1st tee notwithstanding, you can’t target golfers under 17 who are dependent on parents for golf-related transportation and expenses and anyone over 65 won’t provide enough return on investment.

    That leaves a target audience of adults who have never tried golf or those currently playing and of the two I imaging getting current players to increase their rounds is the more attainable objective.

  6. Dan

    Jun 22, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    When I caddied in the late 80’s early 90’s the rounds were 3:45-4:15 and the course was packed. For some reason in the mid to late 90’s 5 hr rounds of golf became acceptable. I believe courses should enforce 4 hr limits on rounds. If your round is at 4hrs and you’re on the 16th green, you don’t play 17&18. Next time play faster and you’ll finish.

    No one wants to only get in 16 holes, this would force people to speed up.

    • steve

      Jun 22, 2014 at 1:36 pm

      You can only play as fast as what is in front of you. What slows it down is players thinking they are better then what they are. They hit the driver 230 and wait for the green to clear from 270 on a par 5. Or they sit in the cart waiting, then when the green clears they start to figure yardage and club selection. And the course doesnt care how slow it is. You don’t have to be a good golfer to play at a reasonable pace. You have to be alittle aware and be ready to play.

      • Dan

        Jun 23, 2014 at 9:08 pm

        The same rules would apply to the group in front of you.

    • 8&9

      Jun 22, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      Courses were also almost 800 to 1000 yards shorter in the 80’s than it is now, and there was no T Woods back then that brought the hacker crowds to the courses.

      But then again, the 90’s changed everything.

      • Mark M

        Jun 22, 2014 at 6:22 pm

        I don’t think the tiger woods effect or whatever you want to call it was solely responsible. That is certainly what increased tv viewership and increased pga tour sponsorship. The economic boom of the 90s and early 2000s created a lot of disposable income and that’s what created a lot of the bubble of players in golf.

        The biggest problem is that courses are set up too long and too hard for the average player. All tees except whites and reds should be blocked for non-competitive players. Period.

        • Double Mocha Man

          Jun 22, 2014 at 10:38 pm

          At Pebble Beach you have to prove, via a GHIN handicap card, that your handicap is under 5 to play from the back tees.

          • Mark M

            Jun 23, 2014 at 2:13 pm

            I would argue that most courses should take it a step further and actually physically not have black or blue tees, unless it’s a course specifically for better players like bethpage black or whatever. To then play the championship level course you should produce a handicap card.

        • John

          Jun 24, 2014 at 12:34 am

          Standard practice on many courses in the UK where the competition tees are closed for regular play. Everyone plays from the whites, scratch and high cappers alike. No one complains and they play much faster than us.

    • marty

      Jun 23, 2014 at 7:58 am

      Preach on brotha!

  7. cmatthews77

    Jun 22, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    I too worry about all of this changing the game to save it. While I do think there should be ‘reasonable’ public access to courses and youth availability– I sort of get irritated with all the “while we’re young and tee it forward and Jack Nicklaus’ comment about shortening the average round to 12 holes.

    I’m a 6 handicap and while I don’t play the championship level tees often I’m also not going up to the front. I want to line up my puts and read the greens– it’s part of the game that I love. It’s a great feeling when you’re rolling it well and making 6 footers to save par and lower your score. Posting 73 is a big accomplishment over shooting 78.. for me.

  8. steve

    Jun 22, 2014 at 8:19 am

    Golf is too long, too slow, too expensive, too frustrating to play for most. EX: I used to play Bethpage, 3 of the 5 courses when I lived in NY.
    Bethpage want’s check in a hour before your tee time. Then you get to the starter he tells you there is a 45 minute delay. Add over 5 hours to play and the 45 minute ride there and home. It is over a 8 hour day.

    • Joesph

      Jun 22, 2014 at 11:42 am

      Bethpage is an exception to the rule. Huge demand to play there. There are plenty of courses you can play for less than 50 bucks a round. If the courses are doing the right thing and promoting playing at a good pace and playing from the right tees relative to your handicap, the game would be more enjoyable.

  9. Joesph

    Jun 21, 2014 at 9:34 am

    The game will be fine. There is no way to slow down the equipment manufacturers. If you want to play, you can spend a couple hundred bucks on used clubs and find a course that fits your budgetary needs. If there is one thing that I think the USGA and other governing bodies can do is to continue promoting quicker play and start another campaign for the many average golfers who play as though their tour professionals. Lining up 2 footers, plum bobing, 3-4 practice swings etc etc. if you play 18 holes in over 4.5 hours, you doing something wrong.

  10. Mark M

    Jun 21, 2014 at 1:28 am

    We should all care about the decline of participation in golf. I think all of you are assuming that getting rid of the so called “hacks” will result in a magical situation where the courses would be empty for you whenever you want and green fees would drop, etc. won’t happen. The exact opposite will. Econ 101: there will always be demand for golf courses and golf equipment. But the supply of tee times will go down as courses close. Therefore expect to pay more. Or come to terms with playing on horribly maintained courses. If the golf equipment business goes from mainstream (as it is now) to niche, all but the biggest suppliers will survive. So for all of you hoping taylormade will go away or whatever, in all likelihood it would be one of the few to survive besides maybe titleist.
    All this presumes that golf is in decline around the world (the USA is just one country) but all signs point to another boom of golf in Asia. So these arguments are probably moot to some degree, especially in regards to equipment companies.

  11. MHendon

    Jun 20, 2014 at 11:57 pm

    I believe the two main factors keeping people from the game of golf is one Price and two difficulty. Lets say the average person needs to hit 4 buckets of balls a week at an average of 8 dollars a bucket and play two rounds a week at an average of 40 dollars a round say 45 weeks a year to get to where they can break 90 that’s $5040.00 a year just in playing fee’s. Throw in clubs, bag, balls, tee’s, shoe’s, clothes and that’s a damn big investment just to become a boggy golfer which is the best most people can hope to become.

    • randy

      Jun 21, 2014 at 7:33 am

      you pay for tees?!

      • MHendon

        Jun 21, 2014 at 1:05 pm

        Somebody has to or there wouldn’t be any left behind on the course to pick up.

    • paul

      Jun 21, 2014 at 5:53 pm

      I play for under $1000 a year and shot 38 on 9 holes the other day. And never practice and have only played golf for 2 years. Easier course…

      • MHendon

        Jun 21, 2014 at 10:43 pm

        Well Paul that’s the only reason I still play and developed a passion for the game, because like yourself we are the exception not the rule. I got to almost scratch in 3 years playing once a week but for most people that’s just simply not achievable. Like I said most people have to put in a substantial amount of time and investment just to get to bogey golf. A former golf partner of mine is a prime example. He had been playing years before me regularly, and being a man of substantial financial means he had even gone to Vegas and got personal lessons from Butch Harmon and still rarely broke 90. I can honestly say if I hadn’t had a gift for the game there’s no way I would have kept playing.

        • David

          Jul 22, 2014 at 2:39 pm

          I think you forgot the humble part of your humblebrag…

  12. Bob Smith

    Jun 20, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    I look forward to this mans information as well. His experience on, off and behind the scenes business wise and golf wise will bring a nice perspective on this topic.

    My 2 cents on this subject is that 5+ hour golf rounds, the price of entry into the game itself, green fees, attire, and being one can’t play when there is snow on the ground or lighting in the sky make this a less than desirable activity. Especially when taxes and a lot of other things continue to increse not to mention the time commitment invlolved.

  13. Chuck

    Jun 20, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    A theory advanced most prominently by Geoff Shackelford, although Geoff would probably not claim ownership:

    One of the main drivers of the golf boom that really began pre-Tiger Woods, and which dates back to the 1970’s and 80’s, was the wealth of caddy programs at private clubs. Private clubs that to a large extent were built during America’s first golf boom, in the 1920’s.

    Thousands of suburban clubs, each with hundreds of caddies. Those caddies learned golf from proper, though hardly elite, golfers. They learned the rules; they learned golf etiquette; they learned golf socializing, and gambling, and fun. Those caddies played on Mondays, they got competitive. A few of them got Evans scholarships. One caddy from the 1920’s turned into Byron Nelson. Another turned into Ben Hogan. And after that, there were thousands more, albeit less illustrious ones.

    The modern spread of golf carts, like a virus, has largely killed that pathway for young people entering the game.

    • Mike sweigart

      Jun 21, 2014 at 10:49 am

      Wow. That was well said. As an avid walker… I would much rather pay a kid 20-30 bucks to carry my clubs than pay for a cart. Hmmmmmm. Pay it forward?

    • Professor

      Jun 21, 2014 at 10:23 pm

      yeah, i couldn’t agree with you more about the loss of the caddy programs. Aside from the evans scholars, i’m not aware of any caddy programs in the traditional sense. i suppose you couldn’t get today’s yutes to loop a couple of bags two or three times a day during the summer. then again, every generation is softer than the previous generation. i recall ken venturi, a pretty tough guy, talking about how tough his old man was. also, if i recall correctly, hogan’s father committed suicide right in front of young ben. all of this to say, while i do see the industry focusing on the development of golf through youth programs, the advent of the golf cart was the beginning of the end. golf is a walking sport.

      • Straightdriver235

        Jul 5, 2014 at 11:48 am

        It’s the golf cart. That was short sighted on behalf of the courses that pushed them, bought fleets, paved the courses (what business does a fairly well hit shot ever have smacking a cart path and bouncing who knows where, or having to figure where to take relief because you are up against a cart path, or you get a bad lie near the path where the carts have worn it down, much less around the greens? but all of it happens pretty frequently). I have slowly and steadily brought my daughter into golf, and now she begs to go and hit a few. She also wants to caddy for $15 a round, and is almost old enough to do it. If the courses stopped caddies, players should have cultivated their own. Playing in a golf cart, however and unless you are Casey Martin, is not even golf. My argument is we ceased playing golf a number of years ago. Why do we continue to pretend it is? Yet many good courses don’t even permit players to walk. The cart is often free, or you pay for it even if you walk. Part of playing golf is fitness in a fitness minded society, and the population sees the prototype golfer as pudgy. We don’t have to and shouldn’t be fitness freaks like Dustin Johnson or Tiger Woods, but a modicum of good health would go a long way. If you use a cart you are playing another game, but it is not golf. If you are too old and in too bad of shape to walk, then your playing days should be over and you should accept this. There is no exercise walking from the cart to the tee, from the green to the cart, etc. unless you count standing or ambling out in hot weather. Industry short sighted with the golf cart, with club tech, with ball tech, with using golf courses as hubs of residential living… on and on. The master’s greed has harmed so many of us who do not respond to what Galbraith called “managed demand.” We buy great clubs two or three years old, use great balls that are seconds or bought off ebay at a fraction of retail, etc. we play in the evenings on public courses that we can find uncrowded. Core golfers can and will survive, but they are tired of every obstacle being thrown at them from elite money managers.

  14. yo!

    Jun 20, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Golf is booming where I live which is near a metropolitan area. Courses always booked and hard to get a tee time much less any discounts on the weekend.

  15. 3 putts

    Jun 20, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    I want to make another point that seems to go unmentioned a lot. What is the PGA, USGA and their media partners doing to grow the game. It’s constantly forced down the consumers throat as if its our responsibility to grow the game. Teeing it foward and while were young only applie to current golfers not encouraging thr youth to come out and try it out. The Pga ignores covering anybody that’s not playing lights out and if tiger is playing then forget about the rest of the field, that kills golf. Cause if tigers not in contention then turn the channel and watch something else. Espn dosent talk about golf unless tiger is doing something or not doing something. The culture that tiger is person who matters gets people into golf as long as he’s playing. How about Rickie Fowler. Guy got terrible coverage last year, woulda thought he took a hiatus. Hey PGA if you don’t want the game to die then start looking inward instead of outward! You help the game! Kinda feels like a propaganda add to sell more clubs and get people to spend more to money on the game….

  16. Harry

    Jun 20, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    I agree, I could care less that golf is losing the participation of the twice a month golfer. For what it’s worth, I have never bought into the proposition that golf was for the masses. It is a vocation that requires a lifetime of dedication and commitment. The howls that began in the mid-nineties for the “growth of the game” all came from people who wanted it to grow so their wallets would grow, not because they wished to share this great game with those less fortunate for whom, as they told us, it was previously unavailable. I enjoyed Mr. Adams article and thought he made some valid points, although I would like to point out, Mr Adams was one of the voices hoping for the “growth of the game.”

    • KNUCK

      Jul 15, 2014 at 11:25 am

      OK fair enough – but he was also the originator of the idea that it was about time golfers checked their egos in the parking lot and stopped playing from delusional yardages that were not suited to their abilities. Adams initiated the Tee-It-Forward movement to bring faster play and more enjoyment into the game.

  17. 3 putts

    Jun 20, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    Lets not forget how expensive everything is now. Inflation in commodity products has stretched the middle class thin on available funds to get their kids into golf. It cost money to even practice golf. Much easier to buy a skateboard or video game one time and not have to shell out cash for range tokens or a membership to a range or county club(even then you may have to pay for range balls) every time you want to get better. Similar to snowboarding(which is also in the decline phase) in its expensive to even try, hard to do, and not accessible to a lot of people. Golf will decline but it won’t die.

  18. Footie

    Jun 20, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Football (soccer).

    • 3 putts

      Jun 20, 2014 at 5:05 pm

      Not in the US anytime soon. It’s even more boring to watch then golf and baseball.

      • US Soccer

        Jun 21, 2014 at 3:49 am

        It’s already here. Duh. Look at the MLS – a new team springs up practically every other year. College soccer is huge, the minor leagues (NASL) is becoming bigger and bigger. If we’re talking about a boom in Tennis, then there is definitely a boom in soccer in the US in the past decade or so, which is also stealing crowds (kids) away from golf, because the International soccer league opportunities are absolutely huge, where you could literally play in so many countries in so many leagues. The soccer moms and dads are making a big wave. Especially when they see that it’s a much better sport than the NFL/NHL type head-bashing helmet-clangning sport that requires so much more equipment, and the danger of the kids becoming severely injured or overweight due to not enough running. American audiences are also realizing that the depth of the inter-league play from country to country is so much more interesting than the limited league play of the MLB, NHL, NFL or the NBA, where they don’t play anybody else but themselves in competition.

  19. AC930

    Jun 20, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    When I was 12 years old in 1992, I remember how great the atmosphere was at my local golf course because everyone in town played at the same place, tournaments were high in participation, and the course was successful which benefited everyone. Once more courses were built, golfers spread out and it hasn’t been as much fun with less of the avid golfers in the same spot. Combine that with the economy and we have the evolution of hard times that Barney is talking about. Until we let some golf courses fail and go away, it will be a struggle. There are only so many people in a given area that are interested in playing golf no matter how hard you try to recruit them.

  20. KK

    Jun 20, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Saying that a 5 year decline isn’t good is in fact an opinion if the current golf participation is unsustainable. An industry correction could indeed be a good thing if it leads to sustainability and increased enjoyment for the remainder. On the other hand, saying golf is in conflict with today’s cultural influence can be an objective and factually accurate statement and not at all an opinion.

  21. marty

    Jun 20, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    I think golf leagues also hurt golf. Hitting nine holes after work during the week is almost impossible. Leagues are every where. I also play in a league, 3 hour nines are very common. Way more than half the guys are over 60. Playing to far back with stiff shaft clubs going 90 yards. Tennis might not be a bad idea.

    • Bill

      Jun 20, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      Seriously? I know a lot of ’60’s’ that are in better shape than guys half their age and they still pull handicaps under 15…many under 10. Those same old guys who should be ‘thinking about tennis’ are also the ones with disposable income, play regularly and keep lots of clubs open because the do.

      • marty

        Jun 22, 2014 at 8:10 am

        You must be from a warm weather climate. I am not. This Crap weather puts a hurt on the old guys up here. I have not seen the guys you speak of.

  22. John

    Jun 20, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    When I was 10 I found an old set of clubs in my grandfathers garage and became interested. No one in my family played except an uncle who took me to a local driving range a couple of times. Fortunately for me we had a 9 hole city course within walking distance of my house. The cost to play for a 10-17 year old for the months of July and August, Monday-Friday was $3 – for the entire season!!! An adult season pass was $40. That was 42 years ago. I got hooked as well as about 29 others and we played everyday wearing out those 9 holes over 3,000 yards.

    Looking back… we didn’t need a country club , great equipment and didn’t really follow the PGA much. But we had what we needed – an affordable place to play. Make those places available again and “some” young people will discover the game while others play other sports.

    I believe golf is a sport that you will either like and stick with or not. It can’t be forced upon anyone – they have to show an interest.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jun 20, 2014 at 2:42 pm

      Affordability is a relative thing. My favorite course costs me $45. If they cut that back to 20 bucks I could expect to see it a lot more crowded, maintenance cut back and the bathrooms uncleaned. And the bar wouldn’t stock my favorite gin.

      It’s a trade off. Don’t expect the same amenities for a lower greens fee.

    • Oldplayer

      Jun 21, 2014 at 6:02 am

      Great comment!! Totally agree.

  23. Markb

    Jun 20, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    I wondered if anyone would get around to examining the tennis analogy and I’m glad Barney has. I look forward to his analysis of WHY Tennis dropped in importance in the mainstream US sporting consciousness. If we can gain insights into the WHY, maybe we can apply it to Golf.

    I agree, there’s no arguing the facts of the decline. Tennis (along with Bowling I might add) formerly enjoyed a much greater niche in the public media, and a much greater participation among the youth. I remember actually caring about the next big match between Borg and Lendl etc., now I could not tell you who won any of the Tennis majors, except for Nadal who always wins the interminable French Open.

    So what went wrong? Did we simply get sick of watching 4 hr matches between petulant, grunting foreigners, thus losing our ability to identify with them? Maybe. Do American girls care less about the LPGA when every third participant is named Kim? Maybe. But as interest among US girls drops, I’m sure interest among Korean girls has gone up, much like interest in tennis seemed to shift to eastern Europe even as our interest declined.

    Americans also used to care more about horse racing, boxing, track and field, the America’s cup, alpine skiing and (dare I say it) baseball. Now they care, watch, and participate less in all these sports.

    Heck, maybe we simply care less about ALL sports. Our youth seem to be morphing into a generation of soccer-mom-shepherded dilettantes who shuttle from one brief baby-sitting activity to another, never fixating on anything for very long or very deeply. Mom drops them at golf camp every day for a week, then they’re on to the next camp and never pick up the sticks again till next summer. When they get home, they rush to the Xbox, they don’t chip around the backyard or bang fuzzy balls against the garage door.

    • marty

      Jun 20, 2014 at 1:46 pm

      Hahahah true.

    • Craig Smith

      Jun 20, 2014 at 4:53 pm

      You’re getting closer…

      The main problem is the price of youth athletics. You want to play baseball in the summer? It’s not Little League once a week anymore. It’s private clubs, traveling every weekend, playing 70 games. To belong to a REASONABLE club will set you back 4-5K for the summer, counting travel and hotels and food. You have a girl, too? Expect the same for volleyball and/or softball. The dads in their 30’s/40’s with disposable income are paying for youth sports, and dropping golf.

      • Mike

        Jun 21, 2014 at 10:58 am

        Sound like where i live. North Fulton county in Atlanta. Kids are becoming ‘specialists’ at the age of 10 or 11. 8 year olds go to howie McCann (yep brian McCann’s dad) for hitting lessons and Leo Mazzone for pitching lessons.

        Dads living vicariously through their kids…. Ugh.

    • paul

      Jun 22, 2014 at 10:52 am

      My son hits balls at a net and is wrecking my lawn beside the garage. 2 years old. Loves golf. We also putt on the practice green at a course down the road.

  24. EF

    Jun 20, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    Barney,

    You may recall my response to your earlier article. I was concerned that we were headed down a 5-part series on teeing it forward. It sounds like you are actually going to look at this thing for real, and I think that’s a great thing.

    Looking forward to reading the rest.

    • marty

      Jun 20, 2014 at 1:45 pm

      I tee it forward. I have no shame. Golf is way more fun with more g.i.r.

      • James

        Jun 22, 2014 at 9:44 pm

        I absolutely agree with this comment. Why would you not want to hit more short irons, resulting in more greens hit and lower scores? What is not fun is having to use a 3rd shot to get the ball on the green on par 4’s because you’re hitting into the green with a long iron constantly. It’s an exhilarating feeling to have a putt for birdie and having to settle for par, rather than having to try and save par on every hole.

        Every now and then, I play with one of the pros from the range I work at, I have no shame hitting from the whites while he hits from the tips. I could play from the tips too if I wanted to spend 4 hours of my time feeling miserable, but it’s just not worth it.

    • george

      Jun 20, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      They should charge more for longer tees. I’ve seen too many instances where people are obviously not capable of playing from that far! One friend says you get more value out of it no matter how bad you play… Let’s just charge them more for that “value” and I don’t have to deal with convincing my friend to tee more forward EVERY SINGLE TIME we play golf!

      • kloyd0306

        Jun 21, 2014 at 10:09 pm

        I suspect that you really mean “paying more for PLAYING from the BACK tees”……..

        That simply won’t work – golfers who like to be beaten up by playing from tees that they are not capable of playing from, will still play from those tees, plus, what’s to stop them from paying for golf from the white tee markers but marching to the back tees anyway!

  25. Philip

    Jun 20, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Question – could you tie the rise and decline of tennis to tennis icon(s)? I think when people are interested in a superstar (or a few over a period) the interest in emulating the stars drives interest. As such, “Tiger” anyone? I believe when Mr. Palmer was hot in golf that the numbers of golfers actually doubled. How about the explosion of golf courses for the more average person when Mr. Ouimet won the U.S. Open?

    • marty

      Jun 20, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      Tennis died in America when Andre agassi retired.

  26. DB

    Jun 20, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Look forward to this discussion, thanks Mr. Adams.

  27. tmk

    Jun 20, 2014 at 11:10 am

    I have seen many articles recently, quite a few on this site, about the great concerns with the lessening popularity of golf. As an equipment manufacturer, I understood that your livelihood could be impacted, and, as such, fewer golfers is a seriously bad thing. As a golfer with no skin in the game, I’m not sure it really matters to me if there are fewer players or tv ratings are lower. What am I missing? Why should I care? The courses I play are well established. There is no risk they will be going out of business.

    • Joel

      Jun 20, 2014 at 12:30 pm

      I think what should concern us golfers with no skin in the game is just how “well established” and safe our courses really are. It is immensely expensive to operate a golf course that looks like crap and even more expensive still to operate a “nice” course. Golf is still a business and if even a well established course starts hemorrhaging money from decline in paying players and increased cost due to water and regulations than I tend to think that no course is guaranteed to be there five or ten years from now. Just my two cents…

    • ca1879

      Jun 20, 2014 at 1:33 pm

      I must admit that the “grow the game” sentiment doesn’t have much traction with me either and I’m also not all that concerned that courses that were built on shaky business plans are closing. The economic and demographic landscape of our country has changed since the 70’s, and marketing the traditional form of our game into that new mix, especially in an era of increased entertainment options, will always be a tough haul.

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Opinion & Analysis

2023 Ras Al Khaimah Championship: Betting Tips & Selections

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The conclusion to last week’s Dubai Desert Classic was almost perfection.

The scant amount of viewers on a Monday morning would have been treated to a surely scripted play-off between world number one Rory McIlroy and his LIV nemesis Patrick Reed, bar that damned 13-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole. It was, of course, a fitting start to the year for the world number one, and an ending that the week deserved after ‘Tee Gate to Tree Gate,’.

With our main man, Lucas Herbert, playing some sublime golf in behind and finishing strongly in third despite the absence of luck on the Saturday greens, it showed the DP World Tour in a cracking light.

It’s a shame this week doesn’t.

We move from the quality of Dubai to a standard DPWT field and, while favourite Adrian Meronk is improving fast and now up to 52nd in the rankings, the long,wide, forgiving nature of Al Hamra makes this nothing more than a bosh-it, find it, hit it, putt it, competition. Links-like it may be, but with no wind forecast, this won’t hit anywhere near the heights of the previous two weeks.

Previous DPWT winners here – Ryan Fox and Nicolai Hojgaard – suggest length is the one factor that separates the medalists from the also-rans and is the key factor behind high-level tee-to-green numbers, certainly rather than accuracy.

There isn’t really any option but to look at the handful of true links players at the top and it’s only narrowly that Victor Perez gets the vote.

Splitting last year’s winners (for there were two Al Hamra events in 2022) Ryan Fox and Nicolai Hojgaard is tough but I’ve always felt the Frenchman is capable of a higher level of play and he is the selection in front of favourite Meronk, even if they both have similar course and recent form.

I rarely get him right – backing him twice over the last six months – even if he has won two titles in the space of seven months.

Still, this is another day for the Frenchman (and me) and for a winner of the Dunhill Links, the Dutch Open and three weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, he may actually be overpriced at 16/1.

It’s tough to find any better ‘standard level’ links form lines than beating the likes of Matt Southgate, Joakim Lagergren, Tommy Fleetwood, Tom Lewis and pals in Scotland, and beating Fox in a play-off at Bernadus Golf. However, he was at it again at Yas Links, leaving behind the names Min Woo Lee, Francesco Molinari, Alex Noren and Tyrrell Hatton – all synonymous with the test he faces this week, on the same paspalum greens and with opposition of higher class than three-quarters of this week’s field.

Perez looks to have produced evidence that a golfer is at their peak at 30-years of age producing an outstanding bunker shot to win his latest trophy, with a sound coming off the club reminiscent of his play at Wentworth in 2020, when splitting Hatton and Patrick Reed.

Watch Perez trophy-winning shot here!

Although this is his first outing here on the DPWT, he has a seventh and second place from two outings on the Challenge Tour and he is in the right form to take those figures one better.

Third for total driving over the last six months, Perez ranks in the top-10 for ball-striking over the same period (11th over three months) and arrives here in confident mood, telling reporters:

“I’m looking forward to playing at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship for the first time. I got the season off to a great start at the Hero Cup followed by my first Rolex Series win in Abu Dhabi, so this is a great chance to keep the momentum going and secure more Race to Dubai and Ryder Cup points,” before adding:

“I’m playing great golf at the moment, and I’m hoping it continues in Ras Al Khaimah.”

Perez is a confident selection, but back him up with another proven rip-it merchant in Callum Shinkwin, who has come in a few points since the market opened but justifies the move after an excellent top five in Dubai.

First thing we know about the three-time winner is he hits it a mile, ranking in the top-10 for off-the-tee ten times since the start of the 2022 season, including being in the top three in the two events 12 months ago. That itself is worth noting, as are his best efforts away from the victories- at Fairmont, the Dunhill Links and last week in Dubai, all with pointers to this week’s test.

There was nothing wrong with mid-20 finishes here last year, the first just a couple of days after destroying the course in a fun Texas Scramble pairs, and he will surely take comfort in lying up there with Rory McIlroy last Monday, matching those final two birdies.

Another around that ‘magic’ age, this is a course that will give Shinks every opportunity to play shorter irons into the targets and, with last week’s top-10 ranking for putting, this may be the time to go with the Moor Park magician.

I can’t see a shock result here this week – the top lot have perfect conditions in which to show their class – but I’ll be looking at the top-10/20 markets for the following:

Tapio Pulkkanen – Trilby-wearing Finn that hits the ball a country mile. Trouble is, half the time he does not know in which direction it’s travelling. Here, with accuracy not a factor, he can take inspiration from last season’s seventh place in the first of the back-to-back events, when a three-over back-nine cost him a place in the medals.

20th just seven days later shows he can play the track, whilst best efforts over the last 12 months include a third place at the Czech Masters, 10th at the Dunhill Links and third in Portugal, again all events with a leaning to the type he’ll take part in this week. Given his tied-second in Prague a year earlier, we can surmise he repeats form at tracks that suit.

It isn’t impossible he suddenly finds his form on tour, and with an inkling he’ll ‘do a JB Hansen’ and go crackers for a spell. This would seem the perfect place to start.

Julien Guerrier – Third at Hillside and Celtic Manor last season show the former winner of The Amateur Championship (at Royal St. George’s) still has what it takes to compete at this slightly lower level. Add top-15 finishes at Denmark, Spain, Germany and Mauritius – all with front-rank putting stats – and it’s easy to see the two-time Challenge Tour winner having some effect in the top-20 market.

A sixth and eighth-placed finish at the Rocco Forte in Sicily behind Lagergren and Alvaro Quiros (both who turn up when they sniff links from a mile away) reads well, and his repeat performances at his home country, Portugal, Spain and Prague show he performs where he has good memories.

With four outings here, split between the Challenge Tour and the DPWT, the Frenchman can continue an improving course record of 19/13/9.

Jack Senior – I’m convinced that 34-year-old Senior is a better player than his current ranking outside of the top-500 in the world, and although it has been a while since his win at Galgorm Castle in 2019, he has racked up top-10 finishes at Gran Canaria, the Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club (behind Min Woo Lee, Thomas Detry and Matt Fitzpatrick), Mallorca and on the Spanish mainland.

Back at Galgorm, he was tied-13th last year, a repeat result that sits nicely with his 23rd in Mallorca, and top-20s in Prague and Denmark, courses already highlighted as associates to Al Hamra.

I’m happy to ignore last week’s missed cut as it was his first outing since October, and he’s of enough interest back on a course on which he has a sixth, 11th and 19th place finish in three tries at the lower level.

I’m expecting one of the top eight or 10 to prove too good, but these events often throw up names on a surprise leaderboard, and it will take just one hotter-than-normal week with the putter for that to happen.

Recommended Bets:

Victor Perez – WIN

Callum Shinkwin – WIN/TOP-5

Julien Guerrier – TOP-10 TOP-20

Tapio Pulkkanen – TOP-10 TOP-20

Jack Senior – TOP-10 TOP-20

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Opinion & Analysis

2023 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Betting Tips & Selections

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Here we go again.

After the multi-course American Express and the two-track Farmers, the PGA Tour arrives at the legendary Pebble Beach for this week’s AT&T.

Shorter than the average tour event, the coastline course/s deliver a reasonably simple test for the high-level celebrities and their professional playing partners, but this changes dramatically should any of the famed coastal weather arrive.

Bad enough for those paid to hit a dimpled ball, it can turn an amateur’s enjoyable (and expensive) round into something horrendous like this.

Three players clearly stand head-and-shoulders above the rest, both in terms of quality and world ranking, and they do have figures that justify that – in spades.

Favourite Jordan Spieth is the King of Pebble. His record here is unsurpassed, and he relishes the challenges of this seaside terrain.

However, with no serious turn in conditions, I’m not sure his current game is much to go on. The 29-year-old has missed the cut in two of his last six starts, the best results coming in limited field events at two of the FedEx play-off events and the Tournament of Champions.Not as if Spieth needs to be in form – he won the RBC Heritage last year after a run of mc/35/35/mc, but even a win, runner-up, third , fourth, seventh and ninth, it always feels as if you take your life in your own hands when backing him at 10/1 and less.

Matt Fitzpatrick and Viktor Hovland make up the elite trio, all residing in the top-16 of the world rankings.

Both justify being alongside the Texan at the top of the market, although until last season’s closing sixth place finish, only Fitz’s 12th at the 2019 U.S Open was worth noting from an event formline of missed-cut and 60th.

Interestingly, the Norwegian matched that finish three years ago, becoming low amateur for the second major in a row, and both are hard to argue against.

With combined wins in Mayakoba, Puerto Rico and Dubai, as well as top finishes at various Open championships, conditions suit both equally well. Choosing between them is tough enough, but with home players winning 27 of the last 30 events held here (17 of the last 18) and with doubts about the motivation for playing this week, they can all be left alone at combined odds of around 9/4.

The draw is probably as crucial here as any other event, with Pebble Beach having some of the smallest greens on tour and Spyglass Hill being affected occasionally by similar winds. Make the score at Monterey Peninsula, if at all possible.

Despite the quality up front, the section that includes defending champion Tom Hoge, Maverick McNealey, Andrew Putnam and Seamus Power has equally strong credentials for the title.

Hoge aims to become only the second player to defend this title since 2000 and, whilst playing as well as ever, is no Dustin Johnson, whilst it’s hard to put McNealey in front of the Irishman given the latter’s 2-0 lead in PGA Tour wins, and 3-zip if you count the KFT.

Power ranks in the top echelons of players with form at short courses and is easy to make a case for in an event at which he opened up a five shot lead at one point last year, before finishing in ninth.

The 35-year-old has never been better, now ranked inside the top-30 after a season that included that top-10 here and again at Southern Hills, a top-12 behind Fitz at Brookline, third at Mayakoba and fifth at the RSM. The highlight, of course, was the victory in Bermuda, sitting nicely with his first victory at the Barbasol, that Kentucky event showing links to proven coastal/short course player Kelly Kraft (runner-up here to Spieth in 2019) and Aaron Baddeley and Kevin Streelman, with six top-10 finishes between them at the AT&T.

Rather like the player he beat in that Barbasol play-off (J.T Poston) Power is fairly easy to read, and although the very nature of pro-ams doesn’t suit everyone, the course make-up suits perfectly.

Usually consistent and in the top echelons for tee-to-green, greens-in regulation, and for up-and-down, Power comes here looking to recover from an unusually poor performance on the large Abu Dhabi putting floors. Certainly the figures look awry compared with his 10 strokes gained for tee-to-green and 12th for around-the-green, and it’s easy to see improvement in California, where in 2022 he lay in fourth place into Sunday at the pro-am at La Quinta, as well as a previous ninth place finish at the Barracuda (fifth into Sunday).

He’s the best of the week but I’m also including:

Alex Smalley – We were on 26-year-old Smalley for the American Express a few weeks ago and he was going well until the PGA West (Nicklaus) caught him out, causing a drop into 62nd from 21st place, and close to two of the other three selections this week, as well as Garrick Higgo, who just missed out due to lack of experience here.

The recovery into a place just outside the top-20 was impressive, though, with a final round 63 comprising 10 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation, as well as making all his putts under 10 feet.

Those sorts of figures have been expected from the outstanding Duke graduate, who made his PGA Tour debut as an amateur at the 2017 U.S Open. Since then, it hasn’t been plain sailing, indeed he has yet to win an event despite an excellent return to this level in 2022.

Starting with a best-of-Sunday 65 to finish tied runner-up at Corales, he then finished 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 seven of nine 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 and significant given the test this week..

He couldn’t get it going at Waialae for the Sony but followed up the La Quinta effort with a top-40 at Torrey Pines, when his tee-to-green game was again perfectly respectably ranked in 33rd given the strength of the field.

Runner-up in the Dominican Republic, fourth and 15th in Houston, and with form at Colonial and Bermuda, this looks the prefect test for a player that at least had a look last year, and that the bookmakers simply cannot make their mind up about.

Robby Shelton – Makes his event debut here this week in his second time at the top level, but the former Walker Cup player has enough relevant form to make him of interest, particularly after a sixth place at the multi-course American Express a few weeks ago, his best finish in California so far.

Shelton included Scottie Scheffler and Ben Griffin as play-off victims when winning two of a total of four KFT events in 2019 and 2022, coming here after making eight out of ten cats (yeah, I know) since arriving back on tour in September.

Best efforts are 15th at the Shriners and a top-10 at the RSM, but let’s also throw in a sixth at Mayakoba, 11th at the Honda and a top-20 in Texas.

This is a drop in class, and significantly in distance, from Torrey Pines and I’d expect to see more advantage taken here.

Harrison Endycott – One of the Player To Follow for this season, it’s hard to work out exactly what the 26-year-old Aussie wants in terms of course set-up, but given his heritage and junior career, it’s fairly certain he can play well in the wind.

Having made his way through the grades including a win, two top-10s and two top-20s on the KFT, he wasted little time making his mark at the highest level, finishing tied-12th at the Fortinet in California, a joint best-of-the-day 65 launching him up the board on day three.A month later, Endycott started the Bermuda Championship with a pair of double-bogeys before signing for an opening nine-under 62, the catalyst for another career top-10, and in November he overcame a poor opening round at his home PGA Championship (111th) before flying through the field as the event progressed, finishing a never-nearer 18th behind Cam Smith.

Even the missed-cut at the Australian Open was not devoid of promise, an opening 68 seeing him start the second round in 7th place.

With a pedigree in Australia and a residence in Scottsdale, I’ll take the chance he will find something back in California, scene of the best of three events in 2023 – 22nd at the American Express – when his game showed the all-round prowess it did in Scottsdale – top-11 in approach and top-15 tee-to-green.

Recommended Bets:

  • Seamus Power – WIN
  • Alex Smalley – WIN/TOP-5
  • Robby Shelton – WIN-TOP-10
  • Harrison Endycott – WIN/TOP-20
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Opinion & Analysis

2023 Farmers Insurance Open: Betting Tips & Selections

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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 
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