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Why do we care about amateur golf? (Part 2)

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In the first part of this series, we traced the rise and fall of tennis and postulated the conclusion that it was a natural condition seeking its reasonable level. There are those who say all the hand wringing about golf’s decline in popularity is nothing more than a reaction to a normal occurrence. In other words, let it find its level and move on.

Furthermore, golf is a game; something people do for enjoyment. Despite the sanctimonious tones of some TV broadcasters, it’s still a game. The job of broadcasters is to create an environment where people watch, get emotionally involved, tell their friends and increase viewership. This positively effects ratings, which is used to extract more money from advertisers. Nothing wrong with that; it’s the business side of things.

An abandoned golf course, however, does not equate to an abandoned tennis court. Besides the pure acreage difference, an accompanying issue is that a golf course is an employer. Jobs range from managers with advanced degrees to on-course maintenance employees, which can mean dozens of jobs per course, and I count people losing jobs as part of the overall issue.

I’ll give a brief nod to the values learned on the course. It’s been written about extensively, and I’ll suffice that the values are real and recognized. It’s better for me to leave that detailed analysis to the experts.

I will say that I’ve had conversations with many professional athletes from other sports over the years and if young potential golfers could listen in they would come to the game in droves. These are elite athletes who have tested themselves against the very best in their sport and love golf because it pits them against their toughest opponent: themselves.

Most sports are about reacting in a competitive environment. Golf gives you all of that challenge and, to make things even more intense, time to think about it. The great NBA point guard of yesteryear Earl “The Pearl” Monroe once said, “I don’t know how anyone can guard me. I don’t know where I’m going to go.” In golf, you have time to ponder a variety of choices and must have the mental will to execute your choice to the best of your effort.

Years ago, I was at a charity golf event watching Julius Erving, the 4-time NBA MVP known as “Dr. J,” play the last hole with his team one shot ahead. He chipped a shot over a water hazard close to the flag and made the short putt. Afterwards, I asked him why he didn’t chip wide of the water to take it out of play. “Gotta come in through the front door,” he answered, revealing the inner workings of the mind of a champion athlete. He didn’t want to be in his comfort zone; he wanted to test himself.

Then there is “THE” reason why golf should flourish, or more accurately, 3.9 BILLION reasons. You see, through a variety of efforts, golf raises $3.9 billion annually for charity, more than all other sports combined!

I got this number from a PGA Tour official and my first thought was that the number had to be overstated. WAY overstated. I contacted Golf Digest and was told that their staff reacted just as I did, but upon deeper investigation ascertained that it was a realistic number. I guess you must consider that a vast majority of U.S. towns — cities of every size — have one or more charity golf events; everything from sending the band to state to funding cancer research. Add in the professional tours, the USGA and you can see how it gets to be such a huge number.

My response to Golf Digest was subtle, at least for me.

“Why in hell isn’t this performance an annual issue with $3.9 billion the entire cover.”

I was told that there just wasn’t enough interest. I’m sorry, but I don’t agree. This should be tracked and reported annually. Every person who plays (or contributes) should take immense pride in the accomplishment.

We are not going to let the drop in participation be registered as normal ebb and flow. Starting in part three of this series, we will define the drop in specific numbers and begin the process of goal setting.

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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.

37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. Joe S

    Jul 1, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Mr Adams,

    I’m hoping you might give some suggestions or lead the charge for affordable lessons. Tennis lessons are often half or more off for an hour vs golf instruction. I thought the golf pros of yesteryear were known as teachers at each club…now they are clothing salesmen and tee time checker-inners instead. Is it the fault of the employer or the pro? I’m not sure(?), but go to any club USA’s monthly newsletter and you always find all kinds of affordable clinics for all ages for tennis but golf has next to nothing…except $100 per hour lessons. People will play when they learn the game with quality instruction…this in my opinion could and should be where the ‘boom’ may come. Clubs can’t compete with the jumbo net retailers on price or selection but they could teach people in droves and more easily grow their bottom line.

    • Barney adama

      Jul 1, 2014 at 10:59 pm

      As for the check-er -iners and shirt salesmen unfortunately that is an employer issue. Here’s what I know and it would take some searching. Most assistants are capable teachers and earn very little. I’d think there is a cost-effective opportunity there. Many ranges have lower priced instructors for new players. There are PGA sponsored programs to get folks started and they are very cost effective. It’s also a value proposition. You can take a mediocre lesson a month for a year for $50 ea or 4 great lessons at $100 and be further ahead for less money. Just don’t listen to your 18 hcp buddy there’s a reason ( or 10) he’s an 18.

  2. Bruce

    Jul 1, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    The USGA sure fails at its task of promoting golf. They focus on regulations for the Tour Pros and then slap them back on those of us that pay the bills. Issues like club driver construction, ball changes, long putters, and wedge spin may impact the pros but only penalize the rank and file digging in the dirt. No wonder the game is in decline: let people play and have fun. If you want to play for a million dollars, then abide by the rules of the USGA.

    • W Mass

      Jul 2, 2014 at 7:04 am

      Also may I add to your comment the cost of equipment which the professional ranks because of their sponsor deals hikes the price of equipment.Also the cost to play certain courses around the globe e.g St Andrews or any other course on the Open circuit with their rip off fees for a round keeping these clubs as elitist.Any wonder why everyday Joe doesnt want to play the game.

  3. Daniel V

    Jul 1, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    Will you be discussing ” Golfing Mentality” later on in your series? I see that you touched on in it a bit by differentiating between Recreational and Pro (College/Web.com/PGA). Golf is challenging. When you start playing it, you are very very bad. It has a huge learning curve for most individuals, and while you don’t need to have great height, speed, or strength, to be a scratch golfer requires some solid coordination an physical abilities. I see a tie-in with equipment manufacturers promising extra distance, and accuracy as a panacea, rather than having a player invest hours on the range, and money through lessons. I just wonder how many people try golf for a few weeks, and then quit, because they aren’t as good as the players on T.V.?

    I know that this series is just beginning, and I am anxious to read the rest of it. I am hoping that you touch on this topic in the future.

    • barney adams

      Jul 1, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      Forget as good as TV how about airborne. I have more coming on that subject; good point

  4. Super Tuna

    Jun 27, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Mr Adams:
    I’m presuming you’ve seen the Outside the Lines investigation and the results? It could be suspected that along with lack of interest no one really wants to dig into how that number actually breaks out.

    But that is a story for another day.

    • barney adams

      Jun 27, 2014 at 1:02 pm

      please show me where to look just in case, you can email me.

    • barney adams

      Jun 27, 2014 at 1:08 pm

      DUH,me. I had read it and forgot ! yes, now that I did again i am quite familiar and while i didn’t get into numbers my point was golf raises money for under the radar charity ; the wheel chairs for the Senior Citizens home, sending the band to state etc…. of that 3.9 B figure this is the vast majority and is a great tribute to the game.

  5. DC

    Jun 27, 2014 at 7:28 am

    I hope at some point this discussion focuses on – or we can have an honest to god debate with the big OEMs about – the *cost* of the game of golf. Everyone wants to talk about everything else – except cost.

    I dont see the cost of those $500 drivers or $300 fairway woods going down – do you?

    I have discussed this with other OEM folks who look at me like I have 4 heads. When is a manufacturer going to take a real hard look at creating a beginner set of clubs that is actually AFFORDABLE and not a complete piece of junk? Price it barely over cost if you have to. But the beginner sets you see are normally way overpriced or complete junk – or both.

    I hope that one of your goals in drawing more beginners into the game is finding a way to make it more AFFORDABLE. I have no issue with the rest of the OEM’s lines being priced the way they are. But why not put *something* affordable out there?

    • barney adams

      Jun 27, 2014 at 11:34 am

      a subject worth discussing in detail, which i’ll do at a later date. you may be surprised about the facts.

      • Jerry

        Jun 27, 2014 at 1:05 pm

        I agree that the cost of golf along with the time commitment has become an issue. I also agree that the networks have created problems with the way they do their broadcasts. Players playing from the wrong tees, playing like they are pros (waiting from greens to clear and can’t get the ball there)all because of what they see and hear from watch TV.

    • Steve P

      Jul 1, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT THE COST OF GOLF
      Quality golf equipment has NEVER been more affordable that it is right now. You can buy a complete set of Adams Speedline Irons and Woods with a bag, a putter, and headcovers for 400 bucks. Real titanium driver, stainless heads on all the other clubs.
      & You can buy a brand new RBZ driver now for under 100 bucks anywhere.
      If that’s out of your price range, go the used route.
      I’ve been on the equipment side of golf since the mid ’90’s.

      Golf is MORE AFFORDABLE, both in equipment and greens/cart fees than ever before. And if you’re one of those that still can’t afford it… maybe you should be spending more time working anyway.

  6. Bryan

    Jun 27, 2014 at 1:05 am

    I think a change is already coming in golf that will attract more people. Its concussions. More and more parents will start steering their kids away from more traditional sports like football and hockey just based on the long term effects of head injuries.

    The Tiger Woods effect has already ballooned tournament purses to where a good player can make a great living playing golf. The other thing Woods has done is bring the more traditional athlete persona to golf and made it so that people look at golfers differently than in the past. Obviously cost is a factor when you talk about any sport, but I see my friends dumping thousands of dollars on their kids to play baseball and other sports. In the winter, they are taking them to the indoor hitting centers, buying them $400 bats and expensive gloves and paying to travel all over. Many of the schools around my area are also “pay to play” meaning that parents have to cough up money for their kid to play any sport. Golf is expensive for us because we want to travel to nice courses and hit fancy new drivers; but for a young kid its not that bad. Many courses have junior rates and make the kids walk and its the same price as a trip to the batting cages. They have junior lesson programs and clinics at many places.
    While golf is not as viable an option for kids in more depressed urban areas as say basketball or football, it still has a place if somebody really wanted to do it.

    Where golf is different from other sports is that it can be enjoyed into a much later age than other more physical sports and it can be played in a group or individually. I played hockey for many years but quit a few years ago because it was too inaccessible. There is one ice rink in our area and ice time was at a premium and very limited. However, there are 7 golf courses that are the same distance from my house as the ice rink. I think the programs by the USGA completely miss the mark for trying to attract new golfers or entice old ones back. Those 15″ cups and teeing it forward are all gimmicks that dumb the game down…kinda in the same category as everybody gets a trophy now, not just the winners. I think they would get further ahead by helping people get better at golf and finding more creative ways to get people to want to go out and play.

  7. Paul

    Jun 26, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    I personally don’t believe any kid would reconsider trying out golf with the knowledge that it donates nearly 4b every year to charity.

    It’s a wonderful thing, but it is a non-issue when it comes to the growth of the game

  8. roger

    Jun 26, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    Great article, sends great pride in Golf as a message.
    Thanks for the figures!

  9. LJW

    Jun 26, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    My high school raised money for the band with bake sales, car washes, fish frys & softball games. We didn’t have a golf course and no one played golf. Point being that if golf went away the local band would find another way to raise the money. But it is nice that golf involves itself in charity. I understand the PGA tour raises large sums for very deserving charities. I also read that as a percentage of total revenue it was a not really a great story. Maybe that will increase over time.

  10. Pingback: Barney Adams: Why do we care about amateur golf? | Spacetimeandi.com

  11. Chuck

    Jun 26, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    The terms I like to use in serious debates about golf policy:

    Recreational golf – the term for average players, be they daily fee golfers or even club golfers. If you are a 36 hdcp. or a 3 hdcp.; you are a recreational golfer.

    Elite golf – the term for championship players who play on professional tours, for NCAA institutions, or in the highest level amateur competitions.

    Between “recreational” and “elite” we can draw a pretty clear line as to which golfers are now (technology-assisted) obsoleting classic courses, and which golfers are not. It isn’t simply a “pro” and “am” distinction. I’ve seen NCAA kids demolish a U.S. Open course. So it isn’t a matter of “the Tour” or not.

    There may be other subgroupings worth distinguishing; daily fee players; club players; top level amateurs, Tour professionals, etc.

    But the USGA knows, and they are on it. Technologically speaking, the USGA knows very well that they have a serious problem with all (pro and am) elite golfers, and absolutely no problem with recreational golfers.

  12. MHendon

    Jun 26, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Mr. Adams
    Golf has a great and detailed history of teaching both honesty and integrity through self officiating along with charitable giving. I don’t think anyone doubts the values that golf teaches, however with all that is good about the game you, I, and everyone else who is a member of this site loves it also has a long standing history as an elitist sport. Elitist not because others are intentionally being shunned but elitist because the cost is so prohibitive for most people. The golf powers that be with all there efforts to bring more people to the game through the extensive marketing of Tiger Woods has failed to address that one critical issue. Stepping on a baseball diamond, football field, basketball court, or tennis court is free for most kids and adults. How can golf ever compete with that?

    • Jerry

      Jun 27, 2014 at 1:14 pm

      Our PGA section along with the local Pros have started a team golf program that has attracted a lot of young new players. Parents are finding out its cheaper than playing select baseball or softball. All the travel and associated cost for those programs run the parents well over %500 a year playing 50+ games a year mostly on the road. Where the team golf is the cost of the shirt and maybe a cap and playing local courses setup for young players to make it fun. From all reports I have heard those who are playing are really enjoy it. This concept should grow as parents start looking at cost and travel with the other sports of summer. I also agree with another comment about the head injury issue. I have a lot of parents thinking twice about football and there sons involvement. I know with all my football injurys know causing problems in my old age, I wish I had spent more time in my youth learning the game of golf.
      We also need to make sure lessons for the middle and lower class income people don’t run them out of the game either.

      • MHendon

        Jun 28, 2014 at 12:37 am

        50+ games a year? Wow youth baseball is much different where you live than here. However you say that’s costing parents well over 500, what would 50+ rounds for these kids cost? Don’t get me wrong sounds like a nice initiative but it still doesn’t address the issue of how expensive the game is for everyone else. Where I live I can step on a tennis court for free, same with a basketball court, or baseball field. Of course the one advantage golf has over those other sports is you don’t need anyone else to play.

        • Alfredo Smith

          Jul 1, 2014 at 1:06 pm

          50 rounds of golf for kids in my town (SF Bay Area) would cost $50… It’s $1 for our new 9 hole and $1 after 12pm on two 18 hole courses. We have a great junior program at Chuck Corica GC

  13. 4pillars

    Jun 26, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    This seems to be a very weak cause and effect argument, if amateur golf declines then charity contribution also declines.
    What evidence have you for this, as others have pointed out the charity giving may continue through another route.
    I must say that I am not clear about the direction you are taking with this series, I thought it was how to reverse the decline, but it seems more what will be the add on effects of the decline.
    There is an argument that disused golf courses are more ecological.

    • RG

      Jun 26, 2014 at 4:25 pm

      Individuals become elderly and eventually expire. It is the elderly and middle aged adults who make the vast majority of charitable contribution. If you don’t add to the pool by bringing in young amateurs, eventually it will diminish.
      Mr. Adams argument and logic are sound, the only weakness here is your feeble retort.

  14. paul

    Jun 26, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    I would still spend lots of money on golf and give money to charity with or without the PGA. I may skip an annual charity tournament I attend and just donate the money to the same charity directly this year.

    • Barney Adams

      Jun 26, 2014 at 2:36 pm

      As I re read what I wrote it appears that I’m giving credit to the Tours. Bad job, me. Their office supplied data which I confirmed elsewhere but the vast majority of charity giving comes from local events

      • Hunterdog

        Jun 27, 2014 at 10:59 pm

        Mr. Adams – I will agree that recreational golf is a terrific platform for charitable fundraising. While I complain about the 6th Captain & Crew of the year, I’m there every year with check book out; sure beats the wine and cheese circuit! Where I live, during these events, I see a lot of younger players. Often their games are built on trying to hit that damn little ball as hard they can; but I often see a few start to learn how to “play” the game. Maybe the Tour is not in the golfing future but some single handicaps have come about. And we all know once hooked…..

  15. EF

    Jun 26, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Barney,

    Nice job keeping it going, and I’m curious to see where you head next. A couple thoughts:

    1) I’m not sure that there is a way to fix “public interest” in a game. And I sincerely wonder whether the modern suggestions – Tee It Forward, 15″ holes, playing by something other than THE rules as a matter of course – helps, or actually undermines this interest. Would Dr. J have cared so much about that shot if he knew he’d just get to pick up and move to a more convenient location if he failed? Remember when they tried to make Bushwood into an amusement park in Caddyshack II? Didn’t work out so hot for them. I assume you’ll get to that in the next 3 parts.

    2) Golf is not responsible for $3.9B in charitable contributions. Rather it is just a vehicle through which $3.9B in charitable contributions get made. If we look at it in the manner you suggest, the thing on the planet most single-handedly responsible for all charity would be ALCOHOL. It’s served at every charitable event, and it actually has a physiological effect on people’s inhibitions, thereby increasing the likelihood/amount of giving substantially. But I don’t think you’d ever see an article about how we need to bolster alcohol sales in any dips in the market because of its charitable effects.

    Thanks.

    • Barney Adams

      Jun 26, 2014 at 2:33 pm

      Dr J had a bunch of people watching and was way out of his comfort zone ( I would have been and at the time was a much lower handicap) I just admired his thinking.
      Alcohol. That’s a bit like saying the NFL is so successful because more is bet on games than all other sports. It is what it is. I take pride in what golf does at the lowest community level. Not the Tours the local fundraisers

      • Bluefan75

        Jun 30, 2014 at 11:43 am

        Mr. Adams, you bring an intersting perspective, and I am enjoying your pieces. But I must say that in regards to your comment about the NFL and gambling, that is exactly why the NFL is so successful. The number of people who claim to be football fans but couldn’t describe a slant pattern to save their lives, nor can you get them to watch a college game(harder to bet and find useful information), is staggering.

        I agree with the earlier post about charities finding another way to raise money if golf wasn’t an option. But I do like your point about why a golf course being abandoned is much, much worse than a tennis court being abandoned. That certainly makes a lot of sense.

  16. HBL

    Jun 26, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Mr. Adams – It appears to me that you, like many in the “industry”, equate the health of the game to the health of professional golf. I would agree that televised golf is probably a driver, of an extent, of golf (a game played by amateurs of varying handicaps, however, I think that golf would survive without such a huge push of the PGAT. I think if you looked at the $3.9 B you would see that the vast majority is raised by the local tournament committees; it is not clear but for a Tour event would that the money or some portion, would not be raised in some other manner.

    • Barney Adams

      Jun 26, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      I must have written poorly my emphasis is that most of the funding comes from amateur golf. As for equating with professional golf; stay tuned !

  17. ca1879

    Jun 26, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Even if you accept that $3.9B number charitable giving number, and I’m pretty sure it represents the most optimistic estimate possible, it still represents about one percent of the charitable giving annually in the US. Hardly a critical source of funds. And since it’s only the incremental gain or loss to charity that would come with growth or decline in golf that’s at issue, the actual effect, unless there is a total collapse of the game, would be negligible.

    It’s a sport and a pastime Barney, not a social crusade. It will grow or shrink due to reasons having to do with the game and it’s marketing, not it’s fringe effects.

    • Barney Adams

      Jun 26, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      Not positioning as a social crusade. However golf reaches things like the band raising money to go to state, local needs which fly well under the national figure you mention. I’d say over 90% of the requests we got were for needs that used golf because there was no other vehicle. Crusade , no Pride yes.

      • ca1879

        Jun 27, 2014 at 9:57 am

        No one is arguing that it’s not admirable or useful, just the actual effect of growth on the giving, which is a marginal effect. Charitable giving is something we should do because it’s the right thing to do, and I’ll put in my hours next year at the LPGA event we host to help maximize the dollars we generate, but not because it will grow the game. People do not take up a difficult and expensive sport in order to have donation opportunities. Again, we need to focus on the core problems, not the fringe effects.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s LIV Golf Jeddah betting preview: Course specialist ready to steal the show in Saudi

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LIV Golf makes its third stop at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City this week to play LIV Golf Jeddah. 

Royal Greens Golf & Country Club is a par-72 that measures 7,010 yards. There is plenty of water on the course and it features large greens and numerous sand traps. The fairways are Zoysia grass and the greens are Paspalum. The course has hosted several prestigious events in the past including the Saudi International, LIV Golf Jeddah, the Aramco Team Series and the Aramco Saudi Ladies International. The course is undoubtedly one of the best tracks that the Middle East has to offer. 

LIV Jeddah will be absolutely loaded with storylines this week. Perhaps the most exciting of them all is the return of Anthony Kim to professional golf.

Last seen at Quail Hollow in the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship, the golf world often wondered aloud what ever happened to the charismatic party boy who once played a major role in the United States 2008 Ryder Cup win at Valhalla, thrashing Ryder Cup legend Sergio Garcia 5&4 in a singles match.

Six months later, “AK” made eleven birdies in a single round at Augusta National, shooting a -7 (65). The following year, Kim would finish 3rd at The Masters.

Kim was a “can’t miss” star who was poised to be near the top of the world rankings for the next decade. Until he wasn’t.

Starting in around 2010, injuries started to derail AK, causing him to have surgery on his Achilles tendon in June of 2012.

Reportedly, the then 26-year-old cashed in on an insurance policy that paid him somewhere between $10 and $20 million, which would force him into retirement.

Twelve years later, Kim will be playing at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club beginning on Friday this week.

There is still a great deal of mystery regarding what’s occurred in the past twelve years, but reports indicate that Kim is receiving somewhere between $5 and $10 million to sign with LIV Golf.

Details aside, Kim’s return to golf should be absolutely captivating.

Past Winners at LIV Jeddah

  • 2023: Brooks Koepka (-14)
  • 2022: Brooks Koepka (-12)

Past Winners at the Saudi International

    • 2023: Abraham Ancer (-19)
    • 2022:Harold Varner III (-13)
    • 2021: Dustin Johnson (-15)
    • 2020: Graeme McDowell (-12)
    • 2019: Dustin Johnson (-19)

The top of the odds board will be tough to beat this week. Jon Rahm has played well to start the year but still hasn’t gotten in the winner’s circle. He ought to be hungry to get it done this week. Brooks Koepka has won the event two straight years and is a force to be reckoned with. Dustin Johnson has a staggering record at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. In six trips to the course, he’s finished in the top-8 each time including two wins and a runner-up. 

Stats From LIV Las Vegas

2024 LIV Jeddah Picks

Sergio Garcia (+2500 FanDuel)

Sergio Garcia began his 2024 LIV Golf season with a bang, losing in a four-hole playoff to the Chilean superstar Joaquin Niemann at LIV Golf Mayakoba. Despite the runner-up finish, it was an encouraging start to the season for the former Masters Champion.

Garcia’s strong week didn’t directly follow him to LIV Las Vegas, where he finished 26th, but the unfamiliar course didn’t necessarily fit his skill set. Royal Greens Golf & Country Club is a relatively short course that can get extremely windy. Garcia still has the iron game to compete with the elite players in this field, and is a great wind player and shot maker. 

In Sergio’s seven trips to the course, he’s finished in the top-6 three times, and finished 3rd in both of LIV’s trips to Jeddah. 

The 44-year-old can still stripe it and my gut tells me he will be a part of the story late on Sunday. 

Paul Casey (+3500 DraftKings)

I’ve been extremely high on Casey to kick off 2024 and thus far things have gone extremely well for the Englishman. In his two starts this season, Casey has finished in a tie for 11th and a tie for 5th, and was the first-round leader at LIV Las Vegas. 

Casey has had success at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club and has finished 5th in two of his past three trips to the golf course. The 46-year-old is a superb ball striker and wind player when he’s healthy, and all signs point to him finally being back to full strength. 

In Vegas, Casey led the field in birdies made (tied with a few at the top), and finished in the top ten in both fairways hit and greens in regulation. 

Veterans have done well on LIV to date, and Casey may be next in line of players on the back nine of their careers who show they still have the game to compete with some of the world’s best. 

Matt Wolff (+4100 FanDuel)

The mercurial Matt Wolff has seemingly found a comfortable home with the RangeGoats and has been playing his best golf to date on LIV in his two starts this season. Wolff finished 4th at LIV Las Vegas and followed that up with a tie for 7th place finish at the Asian Tour’s International Series Oman. 

In his past four trips to the course, the 23-year-old (Wow! He’s still only 23?) has finished in the top-10 three times. 

The Oklahoma State product was once tabbed as a future superstar, and it’s still far too early to give up on such a talented player. A win is coming soon. 

Bubba Watson (+8000 FanDuel)

It’s been a long road back for Bubba Watson since he had surgery to repair his meniscus a few years ago, but the two-time Masters champion is beginning to show some signs that he may once again be healthy enough to complete.

In his two starts this season, Bubba has finished T21 (Mayakoba) and T15 (Vegas). Watson has always been a player who plays “his” tracks well, with multiple wins at Augusta, Riviera and TPC River Highlands. With a few more cracks at it, Royal Greens Golf & Country Club could certainly be one of those courses. He’s only played the course three times, but has a 2nd place finish in 2022 when he lost to Harold Varner III in a playoff.

In Vegas, Watson was 7th in the field in Greens in Regulation. When he’s on his game, there are few players more fun to watch than Bubba. 

 

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches betting preview: Grinders fancied to survive tough PGA National test

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After finishing the West Coast swing and making a pit stop in Mexico, the PGA TOUR heads to PGA National to begin its Florida swing and play the Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches. The event was previously called the “Honda Classic”.

The tournament will be a significant challenge for golfers, as PGA National is one of the most difficult courses on the PGA TOUR.

PGA National is a 7,054-yard par 71 and features Bermudagrass greens.  Originally a Tom Fazio design, it was redesigned by Jack Nicklaus. The course features the infamous “Bear Trap” on holes 15-17, three of the toughest holes on TOUR. Wind tends to play a factor, which makes the scoring even more challenging.

The field is solid and much stronger than we saw last year with the event being directly after two signature events. Some notable players in the field include Rory McIlroy, Matt Fitzpatrick, Shane Lowry, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Min Woo Lee, Russell Henley and Gary Woodland. 

Past Winners at PGA National

  • 2023: Chris Kirk (-14)
  • 2022: Sepp Straka (-10)
  • 2021: Matt Jones (-12)
  • 2020: Sungjae Im (-6)
  • 2019: Keith Mitchell (-9)
  • 2018: Justin Thomas (-8)
  • 2017: Rickie Fowler (-12)
  • 2016: Adam Scott (-9)
  • 2015: Padraig Harrington (-6)

In this article and going forward, I’ll be using the Rabbit Hole by Betsperts Golf data engine to develop my custom model. If you want to build your own model or check out all of the detailed stats, you can sign up using promo code: MATTVIN for 25% off any subscription package (yearly is best value). 

5 Key Stats for PGA National

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

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes Gained: Approach has been far and away the biggest indicator of the winner at PGA National. Hitting the target is especially important with all of the water at the course.

Total SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Tom Hoge (+1.08) 
  2. Mathieu Pavon (+1.07)
  3. Chesson Hadley (+.68)
  4. Michael Kim (+.67) 
  5. Adam Svensson (+.66)

2. Strokes Gained: Putting Bermuda (Florida)

As we enter the Florida swing, players will have to adjust to the Florida Bermudagrass greens, which favors some golfers who are more accustomed to playing the surface over others.

Strokes Gained: Putting Bermuda (Florida) over past 24 Rounds:

  1. Beau Hossler (+1.05)
  2. Matt Fitzpatrick (+.87)
  3. Sungjae Im (+.81)
  4. Ben Martin (+.75)
  5. Denny McCarthy (+.71)

3. Strokes Gained Total: Florida

This stat will bring in players who’ve played their best golf in the state of Florida.

Strokes Gained Total: Florida Over Past 36 Rounds:

  1. Rory McIlroy (+1.72)
  2. Matt Fitzpatrick (+1.62)
  3. Shane Lowry (+1.44)
  4. Sungjae Im (+1.32) 
  5. Chris Kirk (+1.30)

4. Strokes Gained: Ball Striking

Historically, Strokes Gained: Ball Striking has been much more indicative of success at PGA National than Strokes Gained: Short Game. The difficult track rewards a solid tee-to-green game, which is the key to avoiding trouble.

The winning score will likely stay close to single digits, so an extremely hot putter isn’t all that predictive. 

SG: BS Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Corey Conners (+21.1)
  2. Jhonnatan Vegas (+19.5)
  3. Adam Svensson (+19.3)
  4. Mathieu Pavon (+18.6) 
  5. Tom Hoge (+18.3) 

5. Strokes Gained: Difficult or Very Difficult Courses

PGA National is one of the most difficult courses on the PGA TOUR. Including this stat will highlight some players who thrive when scoring is difficult.

Strokes Gained: Difficult Courses Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Rory McIlroy (+2.62)
  2. Matt Fitzpatrick (+1.59) 
  3. Tom Kim (+1.59) 
  4. Jake Knapp (+1.55)
  5. Shane Lowry (+1.34)

Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (27%), SG: Putting Florida Bermuda (15.3%), SG: Florida 15.3%), SG: Ball Striking (27%) and SG: Difficult Scoring(15.3%).

  1. Chris Kirk
  2. Daniel Berger
  3. Jhonnatan Vegas
  4. Corey Conners
  5. Adam Svensson
  6. Rory McIlroy
  7. Tom Hoge
  8. Shane Lowry
  9. Sepp Straka
  10. Kevin Streelman

2024 Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches Picks

(All odds are the best available at the time of writing)

Cameron Young +2200 (BetMGM)

Cameron Young has yet to break out with a PGA Tour win, but PGA National is a good course for the former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year to showcase his elite driving ability. In his past 24 rounds, Young ranks 1st in Total Driving.

PGA National isn’t the longest course, but with water lurking everywhere, it helps to hit approach shots with higher lofted clubs. Bombers such as Rory McIlroy, Keith Mitchell, and Brooks Koepka have thrived at the course in the recent years, and Young could look to replicate their play style here.

Young has had a strong start to his 2024 season, finishing in a tie for 8th at TPC Scottsdale and a tie for 16th at Riviera. In those two starts, he gained significant strokes on the field both off the tee and on approach. He also finished 16th in his debut at the Honda Classic in 2022. With two additional top-13 finishes at Bay Hill, the 26-year-old has shown he likes playing in Florida.

With the fields in 2024 weaker than in recent seasons, Young is one of the best players teeing it up this week and has the talent to come out on top.

Shane Lowry +3500 (DraftKings)

Shane Lowry has been very quiet this season, but he’ll now kick off the Florida swing, which is the part of the PGA Tour schedule that he’s had most success at over the course of his PGA Tour career.

In his past eight starts in the state of Florida, the Irishman has finished in the top-13 five times, including a runner-up at PGA National in 2022 and a tie for 5th here last year. The former Open champion is a resident of Jupiter, Florida and is extremely comfortable playing on these Bermudagrass greens.

Lowry is typically amongst the favorites at PGA National, but this year is being offered at a bit of a discount due to his underwhelming start to the season. If the course plays difficult, which it typically does, there are few players I’d rather have than Shane Lowry on my betting card.

Byeong Hun An +4000 (DraftKings)

I’ve bet Byeong Hun An a few times this year and it almost paid off when the South Korean lost in agonizing fashion in a playoff to Grayson Murray at the Sony Open. Given his current form and excellent course fit, I feel compelled to give the affable An one more shot at PGA National this week.

An is a great driver of the ball and ranks 17th in the field in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 4th in Carry Distance. With danger lurking on almost every hole, longer hitters will have the advantage coming in with shorter irons. While not typically the most reliable putter, Benny ranks 18th in the field in his past eight rounds on Bermudagrass.

In addition to his strong start to the season, An has also had plenty of success at PGA National. He finished in a tie for 4th at the course in 2020 and tied for 5th in 2018. If he can avoid the water, we may finally get to celebrate a Benny An victory this week.

Corey Conners +5000 (FanDuel)

On a difficult course that produces relatively high scores such as PGA National, players who are accurate both off the tee and on approach will have the advantage. In his past 24 rounds, the Canadian ranks 4th in Total Driving and 2nd in Strokes Gained: Off the tee.

Conners is another player who has thrived in Florida. In his past seven starts in the state, he’s finished in the top 21 five times. The course history at PGA National hasn’t been great, but I am willing to overlook that in favor of his overall form in the state and his apparent course fit.

A few weeks ago, at Riviera, Conners’ signature iron play came back to life as he gained 5.04 strokes on the field on approach. If he can make some putts on Bermudagrass, which has been his favorite surface to date, there’s no reason why he can’t contend at PGA National this week.

Alex Noren +5000 (FanDuel)

Despite never having won on the PGA Tour, Alex Noren has racked up 11 total wins professionally, and has come close many times in the United States. The Swede has played on a winning European Ryder Cup team (2018) and has won big events in Europe such as the BMW PGA Championship and British Masters.

Noren is a tremendous wind player who has enjoyed plenty of success at PGA National throughout his career. He finished in a tie for 5th at this event in 2022 and finished 3rd back in 2018. Noren ranks 15th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting on Florida Bermudagrass and 20th in three putt avoidance on the surface.

If the course plays as difficult as expected, the 41-year-old is the type of grinder who can contend on one of his favorite tracks.

Matt Wallace +10000 (FanDuel)

Matt Wallace demonstrated his ability to play well on a tough Florida track at last year’s Valspar Championship, where he finished in a tie for 7th. The Englishman has also played reasonably well at PGA National, finishing 29th last year and tied for 20th in 2019.

Wallace played well last week in Mexico and was more involved than his T33 finish would indicate. He struggled in round 4, shooting 74, but indicated that he was “playing for the win” which brought a lot more trouble into play. Wallace is one of the better wind players in the field and has shown winning upside in the past.

The 33-year-old is a grinder with winning upside.

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Vincenzi: 2024 Mexico Open First Round Leader picks

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The Mexico Open begins on Thursday at beautiful Vidanta Vallarta. The tournament will have a full field this week with most of the big names on the PGA Tour taking the week off.

In the past two editions of the tournament, there have been seven first-round leaders or co-leaders. Of the seven, six have come from the morning wave. At first glance, there certainly looks to be an advantage to having an early tee time this week in Mexico but with such a small sample size I won’t put too much stock in that and take a balanced approach.

As of Tuesday, the wind doesn’t look as if it will play a factor at all during round one. It will be about hot and sunny for most of the day with wind gusts never exceeding 7 MPH.

This week, I used the Betsperts Rabbit Hole to see each players floor/ceiling. You can sign up using promo code: MATTVIN for 25% off any subscription package (yearly is best value).

Mexico Open First-Round-Leader Selections

Jhonnatan Vegas +6000 (DraftKings)

First-Round Tee Time: 12:15 p.m. Local Time

After a long injury layoff, it certainly seems as if Jhonnatan Vegas is “back”. In his most recent start at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the Venezuelan gained 7.2 strokes ball striking, which was his best performance in the category since June of 2022.

Vegas loves playing on Paspalum, and while he struggles with the putter often, he’s been consistent putting on these slow and spongey surfaces. I expect the big man to have a great week in Mexico.

Harry Hall +9000 (BetMGM)

First-Round Tee Time: 8:14 a.m. Local Time

While you wouldn’t expect an Englishman in a flat cap to play his best golf in tropical paradises, that’s certainly been the case for the 24-year-old throughout his career thus far. The 6’4″ UNLV product with a soft touch around the greens has shined in places such as Puerto Rico and Puntacana as well as at Vidanta Vallarta last year.

Hall is a fantastic putter, which never will hurt you in the first-round leader market.

Adrien Dumont de Chassart 100-1 (FanDuel)

First-Round Tee Time: 1:54 p.m. Local Time

Those who have been following me this season know that I’m high on this 23-year-old bomber from Belgium. With off the tee prowess being a major point of emphasis at Vidanta Vallarta, it makes sense to give him another crack at the first-round lead once again this week.

In his most recent start at TPC Scottsdale, ADDC gained 4.0 strokes off the tee.

Fred Biondi 130-1 (DraftKings)

First-Round Tee Time: 8:47 a.m. Local Time

Fred Biondi recently won a National Championship as a Florida Gator and has loved playing on coastal courses throughout the early part of his career. In the fall, the Brazilian finished 13th at the Butterfield Bermuda and 23rd at the RSM Classic, with both events having fields either stronger or comparable to this one.

Biondi is a good iron player and putter and should be comfortable playing in Mexico.

Scott Piercy 150-1 (BetMGM)

First-Round Tee Time: 8:25 a.m. Local Time

Scott Piercy got in the field this week after Will Zalatoris withdrew following a strong performance at the Genesis Invitational. Piercy may be well past his prime, but this is the type of event where the 47-year-old has thrived over the years.

Piercy has been prone to fast starts and has finished in the top-5 after the first round 32 times in his career and has been within two of the lead in the first round 45 times. He’s also been great on Paspalum, boasting finishes of 6th at the 2018 OHL, 7th at the 2015 CIMB Classic and 4th at the 2016 OHL.

Sebastian Vazquez 300-1 (DraftKings)

First-Round Tee Time: 1:21 p.m. Local Time

Sebastian Vasquez is a name that many golf fans won’t be familiar with but has played some good golf in South America over the course of his career. At last year’s Mexico Open, Vazquez shot an opening round 67. At last year’s World Wide Technology Championship at El Cardonal at Diamante in Cabo San Lucas, Vazquez closed his tournament with a Sunday 64, which was just two shots off the round of the day.

The Mexican has been playing this season on the Gira de Golf Profesional Mexicana and doing so relatively well. He also finished 38th at El Cardonal in a pretty strong PGA Tour field. Vazquez could come out and fire a low one while feeling extremely at ease playing in his home country.

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