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Can Back9Network Compete with The Golf Channel?

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Instead of focusing on birdies and bogeys like The Golf Channel does, Back9Network celebrates golf’s characters, cars, clothes and charisma. Until Back9Network — the significantly capitalized Hartford-based television network — launched on Direct TV this September, the golf community didn’t know what to make of what was essentially a digital golf content site for the past three years. Certain folks scoffed at the thought of competing with the Golf Channel, while others — including the non-institutional celebrity investors backing the company — literally bought into the concept.

The Back9Network is a new breed of golf TV and entertainment, but can it work?

How Back9Network Got Started

The original founder and CEO, Jamie Bosworth — formerly National Sales Manager for Odyssey Golf — got the company off the ground in 2010 by raising $30M in capital from celebrities such as Ray Allen and Clint Eastwood among others.

For its first three years, Back9Network produced digital content for the company’s website as it pulled together investors, negotiated TV contracts and recruited talent for shows. Approximately 60 percent of the dollars funding Back9Network hail from Connecticut-based investors including $5M from the Connecticut State Department of Economic and Community Development. The company faced negative headlines when former Connecticut Fox News anchor Jennifer Bosworth posted scandalous photos on the company’s website, which raised eyebrows among state officials. In May of 2014, Back9Network acquired Swing by Swing — a Golf GPS App with the company tagline Golf Is Fun — along with their more than two million email subscribers.

While one can fairly question some of Back9Network’s prior mishaps, the company has jumped from 50 to 90 employees (job growth being the prime motive for the state’s investment) in the past few months and recently added key members to the Advisory Board such as Jim Remy, former PGA of America President, and Seth Waugh, former Deutsche Bank America CEO.

“Back9Network represents a real opportunity to fill a gap by entertaining and engaging those of us who love the game and the lifestyle surrounding it,” Waugh said. “I look forward to being actively involved on the Advisory Board towards realizing that goal.”

With some company history under our belts, let’s take a look at what the golf lifestyle network has live on Direct TV channel 262.

Ahmad Rashad Interviews Michael Jordan

Landing the Emmy-Award Winning former NBA TV celebrity Ahmad Rashad is a big win for Back9Network, as was Rashad’s interview with Michael Jordan that aired on October 28th.

I loved hearing Jordan talk about his dream foursome then call out Obama for being a sh*** golfer! I view Ahmad Rashad as the counter to the Golf Channel’s Feherty Show, which has landed countless premier interviews. If Ahmad can keep finding guys like Jordan to tee it up with, I think that this show will be a hit.

The Turn

Headlined by Shane Bacon — former Yahoo golf writer and Saint Andrews caddie  — alongside co-hosts Erica Bachelor and Lou Holder, Back9Network describes The Turn as their “flagship hour of golf, pop culture, debate and entertainment.”  Bacon brings both comedy, genuine golf knowledge and culture to the conversation. Bacon, Bachelor and Holder’s ability to extend the show beyond purely just golf will factor into The Turn’s success.

The Clubhouse

Headlined by John Maginnes — former PGA Tour Player and current host of the nightly radio show “Katrek & Maginnes on Tap”– and 19-year Golfweek veteran Jeff Rude, give us “real golf talk” on a show called The Clubhouse, which airs at 10 p.m. on Monday-Friday. Add in the lovely extreme sports woman Will Christein as a co-host and The Clubhouse has a chance to be a nightly staple to the golf community.

Direct TV to Cable?

Until the September Direct TV launch, Back9Network was just a website. Now, 20 million American Direct TV subscribers can turn on channel 262 and check out Back9Network any time. While making it to Direct TV is no small feat (less so having raised $30 million), Back9Network’s most obvious next hurdle is to get on cable where The Golf Channel is available to approximately 82 million pay television households. How the NBC Universal’s (owned by Comcast) ownership of the Golf Channel plays into this dynamic, however, remains to be seen.

On one hand, The Golf Channel might worry about a new player entering a space where it’s had zero competition. On the other, the Golf Channel has a lot to learn understanding why or why not Back9Network succeeds. If Back9Network brings new folks into the game through entertaining golf content, perhaps Golf Channel may offer more golf lifestyle oriented shows. Regardless of what happens, what remains clear is that Back9Network will struggle to formidably compete with the Golf Channel until they make it to cable.

Will Back9Network Succeed?

This remains to be seen. The ethos of the Back9Network’s content concerns the golf lifestyle and fun of the game. With respect to growing the game, celebrating quality golf content will be a crucial factor in retaining and attracting new golfers over the next decade, particularly within the millennial cohort. Millennials spend 18 hours a day consuming and interacting with digital content. Back9Network’s ability to leverage multiple platforms (television, web, mobile) in producing and crowd-sourcing authentic content such as golf trick shots will determine its success.

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Mike Belkin is a Co-Founder of Nextgengolf & Director of College Golfer Happiness. Mike played varsity golf at Amherst College, currently resides in Boston, and is passionate about growing the game for millennials. Contact Mike on Twitter @MikeBelkin11 or [email protected]

42 Comments

42 Comments

  1. John

    Nov 17, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    I frankly don’t think there is enough interest for one golf channel, much less two. I think perhaps half of golf channel might be about right. I want to PLAY golf not watch it, and I have barely the time to do that. I watch the Golf Channel most of the time when I am traveling, and there is nothing else to watch. Take the Golf channel, tournaments I have no real interest in and instructional shows that I don’t need or want. Perhaps on Masters week or US Open week I watch to get detail but that’s about it.
    If they wanted to counter program, what might be of interest is classic stuff. Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf, old major tournament coverage of Nicklaus, Palmer, etc. The ’73 Open and Miller’s final round 63. Sort of a Golf History channel. That might work.
    Back9 is swimming upstream covering a sport that is shrinking, not growing.

  2. joe

    Nov 17, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    A most interesting article. Ihope they get on the web. Don’t forget “oldsters” love golf too!

  3. James

    Nov 17, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Maybe if they improve the instruction shows, show the old classic golf shows and then relate them to today as well, and get rid of the fluff, they will do great. Golf Channel has pretty much jumped the shark in my view.

  4. milt turley

    Nov 16, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    There has to be a good alternative to the drivel of the golf channel! I find it unwatchable except for the tournaments which I mostly record for delayed viewing. If watching live, I mute the sound.

  5. Mike Belkin

    Nov 16, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Why would they try to just copy the Golf Channel? If they did that I don’t know how they could possibly succeed. They must be different I have to think.

  6. Joker

    Nov 16, 2014 at 3:06 am

    What the Back9 Network should have done or should do more of in the future is purchase rights of all the historical footage and rare footage still unseen to this day and show them all from the beginning of time. I guarantee you that the purists would switch over from TGC if they knew some good golf from the 60’s is on, for example. We all know there’s still a ton of footage out there that hasn’t been seen in years

    • Mike Belkin

      Nov 16, 2014 at 12:41 pm

      Totally agree. Their ability to tell golf stories is crucial. Golf has so much history I think there is a lot of potential around this.

      • RD

        Nov 16, 2014 at 6:19 pm

        If the channel can survive that long. May be they have to pull the plug soon lol

  7. don davis

    Nov 16, 2014 at 1:39 am

    good luck. I find myself watching less and less of the golf channel. I watch the tournaments with the sound off. The rest of the programming is usually pretty boring and hard to watch for long. They could all go belly up and I would still be out there every day trying to beat father par! It’s all fluff.

  8. Tip o'kneel

    Nov 15, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    I’d like to see these guys make it to cable. Frankly, I’m getting sick of the bozos on golf channel (except for DiMarco he’s a stud). How many times does Damon hack need to ask for a swing tip from a pro? The best tip they could give him is to relax and quit asking for advice.

    And Gary Williams….this guy is the typical country club type that every 18 to 30 year old can’t stand. GC needs some competition for viewership. I’d like to see back9 give them a run!

  9. Nick

    Nov 15, 2014 at 6:36 am

    Ahmad is the worst golf anchor in the history of golf anchors… Sinking ship with Ahmad as the anchor

    • gary m

      Nov 15, 2014 at 1:44 pm

      i totally agree….. he is a tiger woods homer !! i stopped watching the golf channel while he was on it. I can say i would never watch the back 9 network while he is on it.
      On another note i love John Maginnes on satellite radio and would consider watching him on this network….
      But Rashad ruins any network he is on…..terrible

  10. Oscar

    Nov 15, 2014 at 3:52 am

    The channel is a failure. Who the heck wants to watch famous, rich people get interviewed NOT playing golf? We’ve heard from them all, enough, with their scripted interviews of only the selected bits that they want us to see. A total waste of time.

    • gary m

      Nov 15, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      i agree with you as well…. there are way too many “crossover” athletes that think they can play high level golf and have to tell us all about it. That’s what happened on the morning drive for a while. True passionate golfers want the facts not all the b.s. and fluff. i dont care or need to know how many Ferrari’s Poulter has or about Phil selling his 6 million dollar house…. jealousy, maybe…whatever… it still isnt important to the purist.
      Therefore i dont think there is room for multiple golf programming. At some point you run out of “golf related” stories to go around. We already get the morning drive replayed 2 to 4 times a day during the week.

      • Mike Belkin

        Nov 16, 2014 at 12:44 pm

        To each is own. You guys are definitely not the type of golfer they are pursuing. Nothing wrong with that, just a different target audience.

  11. Bill

    Nov 15, 2014 at 2:53 am

    While some of the stuff on the network is a bit campy, but I like the show Golf Treasures where they show off all the cool golf memorabilia. Very cool to see stuff like this that the Golf Channel never had. The main problem with the network is that 75% of the time I turn it on it’s a repeat of something that’s already been on. I must have tuned into Rashad interviewing Bill Murray 100 times. It gets old REAL quick. Too many infomercials during regular viewing times as well. I think they need more content.

    • Mike Belkin

      Nov 15, 2014 at 4:15 pm

      They launched at a tough time as the golf season was coming to a close….I actually think they did that strategically to “soft launch” to get things out there and test the waters before the real golf season kicks in in April with Augusta. The question is how can they get people intrigued without a lot of golf “stuff” going on?

  12. Robeli

    Nov 14, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    Flipped over to ch262 to gave a peek. Ehhh… why are the people so fat? O, not HD. Ehhh.. isn’t that SNL? I’m sure that looked like a skit from SNL. Switch back to ch218. Thanks, but no thanks.

  13. Jeff

    Nov 14, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    It’s gonna be expensive to cover golf tournaments so they should focus on instruction, to grow their audience. Or to build a loyal one.

    • Mike Belkin

      Nov 15, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      I highly doubt Back9 will ever focus on instruction…it’s not in their DNA. They are all about the lifestyle. If you want golf instruction, watch the Golf Channel. Do you no think Golf Channel does a good job offering golf learning-based content?

  14. Pat Robertson

    Nov 14, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    I want to like it because I want it to succeed. I want more golf programming options. The problem is I prefer golf to almost anything, preferably tournament golf. I’d rather watch the 10 year old junior state toureamer than almost any non golf show I’ve ever seen. What I’ve seen of the back9 network so far, apart from the Ahmad Rashad show, it’s pretty terrible. But if it could possibly lead to tournament coverage, or even “Live From” style major coverage, I’ll continue to be a supporter.

    • Mike Belkin

      Nov 15, 2014 at 4:18 pm

      I don’t think there is much demand out there for the type of niche tournament coverage you desire. Not that it’s not “interesting”, it’s just that I can’t see Back9 getting an “ROI” on sending a crew out to coverage niche championships. They are all about the lifestyle…for better or worse…

  15. Mark

    Nov 14, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    How do you launch a TV Network in 2014 that is not in HD? The article does not even address this fairly important issue; would like to watch, can’t get passed the SD feed.

    • Mike Belkin

      Nov 15, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      I don’t have DirectTV….thanks for sharing this important point which I should have addressed.

  16. Brad B

    Nov 14, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    Sounds like they’re aiming at the same audience Golf Digest is aiming at with its retooling ….

    wonder whether Golf Digest will bring in more readers than it turns off.

    • Mike Belkin

      Nov 14, 2014 at 8:44 pm

      “Think young play hard” – is Digests’ slogan….definitely a similar audience but Golf Digest is more focused on “golf”

  17. CT

    Nov 14, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    Ahmad is good friends with Tiger. Maybe he can work that for some exclusives. Give him a show, a series of interviews, or playing lessons, and the network will compete with Golf Channel.

  18. Dick

    Nov 14, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    I refuse to support anything with Shane Bacon. He makes the writers of GolfWrx look like New York Times best selling authors. His articles were simply dreadful

    • Mike Belkin

      Nov 15, 2014 at 4:27 pm

      Haven’t read much of his stuff, all I can say is that he seems like a great guy in person and seems to have his stuff together on air.

  19. Tom D

    Nov 14, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    I was in golf publishing for about 20 years and witnessed the launch of many magazines and websites that focused primarily on lifestyle and/or tried to be edgy or cool. They pretty much all failed and the further away from the game they got (i.e., the more focused on lifestyle/being hip), the quicker and more precipitous the fall.

    This is a totally different media and a different time, but I don’t give it much of a chance.

  20. JT

    Nov 14, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Never come close–they are plain lousy!!

  21. Pat

    Nov 14, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    This is going to fail miserably. Golf is a niche market and this network is concentrating on an even smaller more specific market. The only people that care about golf fashion are the upper to upper middle class which is a very small percentage of tv viewers. Also, most people could care less about Ahmad Rashad and his horrible interviews including myself. FAIL.

    • Mike Belkin

      Nov 14, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      While I”m not saying I believe that Back9Network will necessarily be around for the long haul, there are millions of “latent demand” golfers who want to play but are on the fence. Quality golf content leveraged on digital platforms (social, web, mobile) is the key.

      The opportunity is large, bottom line.

  22. Mike Honcho

    Nov 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Strike 1: Not in HD. Strike 2: Some of the shows are trying to be too uber Fox Sports via staged, lame comedy, hipness and with some just downright bad writing. I’ve yet to find a show on there I will watch regularly. There’s absolutely no way I would ever watch The Turn with Shane Bacon on it. He was HORRIBLE when he wrote for Yahoo Golf and is one of the biggest Tiger apologist on the planet. Strike 3: ???? TBD, but at some point Ray Allen, Clint Eastwood, State of CT et al will be wanting some return on their investment.

    • Mike Belkin

      Nov 14, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      It’s a pure venture investment that will be a hit or not. I hope they succeed, it will take some time…..

  23. Josh

    Nov 14, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    Ferrity?

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Early season wedge game tune-up

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Depending on the part of the country you call home, you might just be getting into the 2024 golf season, or you might be several months into it. Either way, your scoring success this season – like every season – will likely drill down to how good your game is from 100 yards and in.

The best way to sharpen your wedge play is, surprise, spend some time refining and practicing your technique. Whether it’s winter rust or mid-season sloppiness, your wedge game can be a serious cause of frustration if and when it goes sour on you.

If you want to be sharp when it really counts, give it some time and attention. Start with a detailed look at your fundamentals – posture, alignment, ball position, grip, and grip pressure – and then advance to an examination of the actual chipping and pitching motion of the swing.

No matter what your skill level might be, I am convinced that time spent on the following drills will yield giant rewards in your scores and enjoyment of the game. There is nothing quite so demoralizing and maddening than to hit a good drive and better-than-average approach shot, then chunk or skull a simple chip or pitch, turning a par or bogie-at-worst into a double or even more.

Core activation

The key to a solid short game is to synchronize your arm swing with the rotation of your body core. They simply have to move together, back and through impact into the follow-through. When I’m about to start a short game session, I like to begin with the club extended in front of my body, with my upper arms close to my chest, then rotate my upper torso back and through, to give me the sensation that I am moving the club only with my core rotation, with the hands only having the job of holding on to it. In this drill, you want to ensure that the clubhead is exactly in front of your sternum as you rotate back and through. When you lower the club into the playing position, this puts the upper end of the grip pointing roughly at your belt buckle and it stays in that “attitude” through the backswing and follow through.

S-L-O-W motion

I believe one of the most misunderstood and destructive pieces of advice in the short game is to “accelerate through the ball”. What I see much too often is that the golfer fails to take a long enough backswing and then quickly jabs at the ball . . . all in the pursuit of “accelerating through the ball.” In reality, that is pretty hard NOT to do if you have any kind of follow through at all. Relying on that core activation move, I like to make very slow swings – back and through impact – experimenting with just how slow I can make the swing and still see some ball flight. You’ll be amazed at how slow a body rotation can be made and still make the ball fly in a nice trajectory.

Windows

I’m borrowing this term from Tiger Woods, who often spoke of hitting his iron shots through certain “windows,” i.e. first floor, second floor, etc. For your short game, I simplify this into hitting short pitch shots on three different flight trajectories – low, medium, and high. I have found the simplest way to do this is to use the same swing for each shot and determine the trajectory by where you place the ball in your set-up. Start by finding the ball position that gives you what you consider to be a “normal” trajectory with your sand wedge. Then, hit some shots with the ball just one inch back and forward of that spot and see what trajectory you get. You can then take that to another level by repeating the process with your other wedges, from your highest lofted to your lowest.

Ladder drill

For this exercise, I like to have some room on the range or practice area that lets me hit balls any distance I want, from ten feet out to about 25 yards, or even more if you can. I start by hitting a basic chip shot to fly precisely to a divot or piece of turf I’ve targeted about ten feet in front of me. The next shot I try to land where that ball stopped. I repeat that process until I have a line of balls from ten feet to 25 or so yards from me. With each shot, I repeat it until I can land my shot within a foot or less of my “target ball.”

The idea of this kind of practice with your short game is to hit so many shots that you feel like you can do anything with the ball, and you can take that confidence and execution skill to the course. You can literally work through a few hundred shots in an hour or so with these drills, and there’s nothing like repetition to build a skill set you can trust “under fire.”

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Charles Schwab Challenge betting preview: Tony Finau ready to get back inside winner’s circle

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After an action-packed week at the PGA Championship, the PGA Tour heads back to Texas to play the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth.

Colonial Country Club is a 7,209-yard par-70 and features Bentgrass greens. The difficulty of the event this week will be influenced by course setup and/or wind. The last four seasons have all produced winners with scores between -8 and -14, with the two most recent playing extremely difficult. Last year, Emiliano Grillo won in a playoff against Adam Schenk at -8, and in 2022, Sam Burns edged out Scottie Scheffler in a playoff at -9.

After last season’s event, the course was renovated by Gil Hanse. I expect the course to stay true to what the original design intended, but will improve in some areas that needed updating. Jordan Spieth, who is one of the most consistent players at Colonial, told Golfweek his thoughts on the changes.

“I always thought courses like this, Hilton Head, these classic courses that stand the test of time, it’s like what are you going to do to these places? I think that’s kind of everyone’s first response,” Spieth said. “Then I saw them, and I was like, wow, this looks really, really cool. It looks like it maintains the character of what Colonial is while creating some excitement on some holes that maybe could use a little bit of adjusting.”

The Charles Schwab Challenge will play host to 136 golfers this week, and the field is relatively strong despite it being the week after a major championship.

Some notable golfers in the field include Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa, Tony Finau, Sungjae Im, Collin Morikawa, Min Woo Lee, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth and Akshay Bhatia. 

Past Winners at Charles Schwab Challenge

  • 2023: Emiliano Grillo (-8)
  • 2022: Sam Burns (-9)
  • 2021: Jason Kokrak (-14)
  • 2020: Daniel Berger (-15)
  • 2019: Kevin Na (-13)
  • 2018: Justin Rose (-20)
  • 2017: Kevin Kisner (-10)
  • 2016: Jordan Spieth (-17)

Key Stats For Colonial Country Club

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

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Approach will be a major factor this week. It grades out as the most important statistic historically in events played at Colonial Country Club, and that should be the case once again this week.

Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.09)
  2. Ryan Moore (1.00)
  3. Tom Hoge (+0.96)
  4. Akshay Bhatia (+0.85)
  5. Greyson Sigg (+0.83)

2. Strokes Gained: Off The Tee

Both distance and accuracy will be important this week. Historically, shorter hitters who find the fairway have thrived at Colonial, but over the last few years we’ve seen a lot of the players in the field use big drives to eliminate the challenge of doglegs and fairway bunkers.

The rough can be thick and penal, so finding the fairway will remain important.

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.11)
  2. Keith Mitchell (+0.90)
  3. Kevin Yu (+0.87)
  4. Alejandro Tosti (+0.81)
  5. Min Woo Lee (+0.80)

3. Strokes Gained: Total in Texas

Players who play well in the state of Texas tend to play well in multiple events during the Texas swing. 

Strokes Gained: Total in Texas over past 36 rounds

  1. Jordan Spieth (+2.16)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.97)
  3. Tony Finau (+1.91)
  4. Akshay Bhatia (+1.68)
  5. Justin Rose (+1.62)

4. Course History

Course history seems to be much more important at Colonial Country Club than most other courses. The same players tend to pop up on leaderboards here year after year.

Course History per round Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Jordan Spieth (+2.31)
  2. Justin Rose (+1.70)
  3. Harris English (+1.66)
  4. Webb Simpson (+1.54)
  5. Collin Morikawa (+1.47)

5. Strokes Gained: Putting (Bentgrass)

The Bentgrass greens at Colonial are in immaculate condition, and putters who roll it pure are at an advantage. Historically, great putters have thrived at Colonial.

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

  1. Denny McCarthy (+1.08)
  2. Justin Rose (+0.93)
  3. J.T. Poston (+0.87)
  4. Maverick McNealy (+0.85)
  5. Andrew Putnam (+0.74)

Charles Schwab Challenge Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (27%), SG: OTT (25%), Strokes Gained: Total in Texas (14%), Course History (17%) and SG: Putting Bentgrass (17%).

  1. Scottie Scheffler
  2. Chris Kirk
  3. Tony Finau
  4. Billy Horschel
  5. Daniel Berger
  6. Maverick McNealy
  7. Adam Schenk
  8. Collin Morikawa
  9. Austin Eckroat
  10. Sepp Straka

2024 Charles Schwab Challenge Picks

Tony Finau +3300 (FanDuel)

Tony Finau hit the ball incredibly well at last week’s PGA Championship. He led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, gaining 9.3 strokes in the category, which was his second-best performance on approach this season (Farmers T6). Finau’s tie for 18th at Valhalla is ideal considering the fact that he played very well but didn’t have the mental and emotional strain of hitting shots deep into contention in a major championship. He should be sharp and ready to go for this week’s event.

Finau has been phenomenal in the state of Texas. He ranks third in Strokes Gained: Total in the Lone Star state in his past 36 rounds and just recently put up a T2 finish at the Texas Children’s Houston Open last month. He also has success at Colonial. He finished 2nd at the course in 2019 and T4 at the course in 2022. He missed the cut last year, however, that seems to be an aberration as he hasn’t finished worse than 34th in his seven other trips to Fort Worth.

Finau has gained strokes off the tee in 10 of his 13 starts this season, and his ability to hit the ball long and straight should give him an advantage this week at Colonial. He’s also gained strokes on approach in 11 of his 13 starts this year. His tee to green excellence should work wonders this week, as Colonial is a challenging test. The concern, as usual, for Tony, is the putter. He’s in the midst of the worst putting season of his career, but with a target score in the -8 to -13 range this week, he should be able to get away with a few mistakes on the greens.

Finau is one of the most talented players in the field and I believe he can put it all together this week in Texas to get his first win since last year’s Mexico Open.

Sungjae Im +5000 (BetRivers)

Sungjae Im is really starting to play some good golf of late, despite his missed cut at last week’s PGA Chmapionship. Im missed the cut on the number, which may be a blessing in disguise that allows him to rest and also keeps the price reasonable on him this week. The missed cut was due to some woeful putting, which is atypical for Sungjae. He gained strokes slightly both off the tee and on approach, therefore I’m not concerned with the performance.

Prior to his trip to Valhalla, Sungjae was beginning to show why he has been such a good player over the course of his career. He finished T12 at Heritage and then won an event in Korea. He followed that up with a T4 at Quail Hollow in a “Signature Event”, which was his best performance on the PGA Tour this season. At the Wells Fargo, the South Korean was 20th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and showed his skill around and on the greens.

Sungjae has had some success at Colonial. He’s finished T10 and T15 with two missed cuts scattered in between over the past four seasons. When he is in form, which I believe he now is, the course suits him well.

Im hasn’t won since 2021, which is an underachievement given how talented I believe he is. That can change this week with a win at Colonial.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout +5000 (FanDuel)

I absolutely love this spot for Christiaan Bezuidenhout. The South African is having a fantastic season and this is a course that should suit his strengths.

Prior the PGA Championship, Bez hadn’t finished worse than 28th in six consecutive starts. He’s not the type of player who can get to -20 in a “birdie fest” but can grind in a tougher event. He is a terrific player in the wind and putts extremely well on Bentgrass greens. Bezuidenhout has also had success both in Texas and at Colonial. He ranks 16th in Strokes Gained: Total at the course and 10th in Strokes Gained: Total in Texas over his past 36 rounds.

Part of what has made Bezuidenhout play so well this year is his increase in ball speed, which has been the recipe for success for plenty of players, including the winner of last week’s PGA Championship, Xander Schauffele. Bezuidenhout’s coach shared his ball speed gains on Instagram a few weeks back.

https://www.instagram.com/p/C6FCvK3S97A/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Now at close to 170mph ball speed, that isn’t enough to compete at the monstrous major championship courses in my opinion, however it’s plenty to contend at Colonial.

Bezuidenhout has been one of the most consistent performers on the PGA Tour this season and a win would put an exclamation point on what’s been his best year on Tour to date.

Brendon Todd +12500 (BetRivers)

Brendon Todd is the type of player that’s hit or miss, but usually shows up on the courses he has a strong history on and plays well. Todd finished T8 at Colonial in 2021 and 3rd in 2022. He’s also flashed some Texas form this year as he finished T5 at the Valero Texas Open in April.

Todd doesn’t contend all that often, but when he does, he’s shown in the past that he has the capability to win a golf tournament. He has three PGA Tour wins including a win in Texas back in 2014 (TPC Four Seasons).

Todd is a player who can rise to the top if some of the elite players aren’t in contention after a grueling PGA Championship.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 PGA Championship betting preview: Rising star ready to join the immortals at Valhalla

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The second major of the 2024 season is upon us as the world’s best players will tee it up this week at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky to compete for the Wanamaker Trophy.

The last time we saw Valhalla host a major championship, Rory McIlroy fended off Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler and the creeping darkness that was descending upon the golf course. The Northern Irishman had the golf world in the palm of his hand, joining only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as players who’d won four major championships by the time they were 25 years old. 

Valhalla is named after the great hall described in Norse mythology where the souls of Vikings feasted and celebrated with the Gods. The course is a Jack Nicklaus-design that has ranked among Golf Digest’s “America’s 100 Greatest Courses” for three decades. 

Valhalla Golf Club is a par-71 measuring 7,542 yards with Zoysia fairways and Bentgrass greens. The course has rolling hills and dangerous streams scattered throughout and the signature 13th hole is picturesque with limestone and unique bunkering protecting the green. The 2024 PGA Championship will mark the fourth time Valhalla has hosted the event. 

The field this week will consist of 156 players, including 16 PGA Champions and 33 Major Champions. 

Past Winners of the PGA Championship

  • 2023: Brooks Koepka (-9) Oak Hill
  • 2022: Justin Thomas (-5) Southern Hills
  • 2021: Phil Mickelson (-6) Kiawah Island
  • 2020: Collin Morikawa (-13) TPC Harding Park
  • 2019: Brooks Koepka (-8) Bethpage Black
  • 2018: Brooks Koepka (-16) Bellerive
  • 2017: Justin Thomas (-8) Quail Hollow
  • 2016: Jimmy Walker (-14) Baltusrol
  • 2015: Jason Day (-20) Whistling Straits
  • 2014: Rory McIlroy (-16) Valhalla

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

Key Stats For Valhalla

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

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Valhalla will play as a true all-around test of golf for the world’s best. Of course, it will take strong approach play to win a major championship.

Strokes Gained: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Shane Lowry (+1.25)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.09)
  3. Jordan Smith (+1.05)
  4. Tom Hoge (+.96)
  5. Corey Conners (+.94)

2. Strokes Gained: Off the Tee

Valhalla will play long and the rough will be penal. Players who are incredibly short off the tee and/or have a hard time hitting fairways will be all but eliminated from contention this week at the PGA Championship. 

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Bryson DeChambeau (+1.47)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.11)
  3. Keith Mitchell (+.90)
  4. Alejandro Tosti (+.89)
  5. Ludvig Aberg (+.82)

Strokes Gained: Total on Nickalus Designs

Valhalla is a classic Nicklaus Design. Players who play well at Nicklaus designs should have an advantage coming into this major championship. 

Strokes Gained: Total on Nicklaus Designs over past 36 rounds:

  1. Jon Rahm (+2.56)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+2.48)
  3. Patrick Cantlay (+2.35)
  4. Collin Morikawa (+1.79)
  5. Shane Lowry (+1.57)

Strokes Gained: Tee to Green on Very Long Courses

Valhalla is going to play extremely long this week. Players who have had success playing very long golf courses should be better equipped to handle the conditions of this major championship.

Strokes Gained: Total on Very Long Courses Over Past 24 Rounds: 

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.44)
  2. Rory McIlroy (+2.24)
  3. Will Zalatoris (+1.78)
  4. Viktor Hovland (+1.69)
  5. Xander Schauffele (+1.60)

Strokes Gained: Total in Major Championships

One factor that tends to play a large role in deciding major championships is which players have played well in previous majors leading up to the event. 

Strokes Gained: Total in Major Championships over past 20 rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+3.14)
  2. Will Zalatoris (+2.64)
  3. Rory McIlroy (+2.49)
  4. Xander Schauffele (+2.48)
  5. Tommy Fleetwood (2.09)

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass Greens

Valhalla features pure Bentgrass putting surfaces. Players who are comfortable putting on this surface will have an advantage on the greens. 

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass Greens over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Ludvig Aberg (+1.12)
  2. Denny McCarthy (+1.08)
  3. Matt Fitzpatrick (+0.99)
  4. Justin Rose (+0.93)
  5. J.T. Poston (0.87)

Strokes Gained: Total on Zoysia Fairways

Valhalla features Zoysia fairways. Players who are comfortable playing on this surface will have an advantage on the field.

Strokes Gained: Total on Zoysia Fairways over past 36 rounds: 

  1. Justin Thomas (+1.53)
  2. Will Zalatoris (+1.47)
  3. Xander Schauffele (+1.40)
  4. Brooks Koepka (+1.35)
  5. Rory McIlroy (+1.23)

2024 PGA Championship Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (25%), SG: Off the Tee (22%), SG: T2G on Very Long Courses (12%), SG: Putting on Bentgrass (+12%), SG: Total on Nicklaus Designs (12%). SG: Total on Zoysia Fairways (8%), and SG: Total in Major Championships (8%). 

  1. Brooks Koepka
  2. Xander Schauffele
  3. Rory McIlroy
  4. Scottie Scheffler
  5. Bryson DeChambeau
  6. Shane Lowry
  7. Alex Noren
  8. Will Zalatoris
  9. Cameron Young
  10. Keith Mitchell
  11. Hideki Matsuyama
  12. Billy Horschel
  13. Patrick Cantlay
  14. Viktor Hovland
  15. Adam Schenk
  16. Chris Kirk
  17. Sahith Theegala
  18. Min Woo Lee
  19. Joaquin Niemann
  20. Justin Thomas

2024 PGA Championship Picks

Ludvig Aberg +1800 (BetMGM)

At The Masters, Ludvig Aberg announced to the golf world that he’s no longer an “up and coming” player. He’s one of the best players in the game of golf, regardless of experience.

Augusta National gave Aberg some necessary scar tissue and showed him what being in contention at a major championship felt like down the stretch. Unsurprisingly, he made a costly mistake, hitting it in the water left of the 11th hole, but showed his resilience by immediately bouncing back. He went on to birdie two of his next three holes and finished in solo second by three shots. With the type of demeanor that remains cool in pressure situations, I believe Ludvig has the right mental game to win a major at this point in his career.

Aberg has not finished outside of the top-25 in his past eight starts, which includes two runner-up finishes at both a “Signature Event” and a major championship. The 24-year-old is absolutely dominant with his driver, which will give him a major advantage this week. In the field he ranks, in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, and has gained strokes in the category in each of his past ten starts. Aberg is already one of the best drivers of the golf ball on the planet.

In Norse mythology, Valhalla is the great hall where the souls of Vikings feasted and celebrated with the Gods. The Swedes, who are of Old Norse origin, were the last of the three Scandinavian Kingdoms to abandon the Old Norse Gods. A Swede played a major role in the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla, and I believe another, Ludvig Aberg, will be the one to conquer Valhalla in 2024. 

Bryson DeChambeau +2800 (BetMGM)

Bryson DeChambeau is one of the few players in the world that I believe has the game to go blow-for-blow with Scottie Scheffler. Although he isn’t as consistent as Scheffler, when he’s at his best, Bryson has the talent to beat him.

At The Masters, DeChambeau put forth a valiant effort at a golf course that simply does not suit his game. Valhalla, on the other hand, is a course that should be perfect for the 30-year-old. His ability to overpower a golf course with his driver will be a serious weapon this week.

Bryson has had some success at Jack Nicklaus designs throughout his career as he won the Memorial at Muirfield Village back in 2018. He’s also had incredible results on Bentgrass greens for the entirety of his professional career. Of his 10 wins, nine of them have come on Bentgrass greens, with the only exception being the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. He also has second place finishes at Medinah and TPC Summerlin, which feature Bentgrass greens.

Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to argue that Bryson isn’t one of the most exciting and important players in the game of golf. He’s also one of the best players in the world. A second major is coming soon for DeChambeau, and I believe he should be amongst the favorites to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy this week.

Patrick Cantlay +4000 (FanDuel)

There’s no way of getting around it: Patrick Cantlay has been dissapointing in major championships throughout his professional career. He’s been one of the top players on Tour for a handful of years and has yet to truly contend at a major championship, with the arguable exception of the 2019 Masters.

Despite not winning majors, Cantlay has won some big events. The 32-year-old has won two BMW Championships, two Memorial Tournaments as well as a Tour Championship. His victories at Memorial indicate how much Cantlay loves Nicklaus designs, where he ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Total over his past 36 rounds behind only Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm.

Cantlay also loves Bentgrass greens. Six of Cantlay’s seven individual wins on the PGA Tour have come on Bentgrass greens and he also was one of the best putters at the 2023 Ryder cup at Marco Simone (also Bentgrass). At Caves Valley (2021 BMW Championship), he gained over 12 strokes putting to outduel another Bentgrass specialist, Bryson DeChambeau.

Cantlay finished 22nd in The Masters, which was a solid result considering how many elite players struggled that week. He also has two top-ten finishes in his past five PGA Championships. He’s undeniably one of the best players in the field, therefore, it comes down to believing Cantlay has the mental fortitude to win a major, which I do.

Joaquin Niemann +4000 (BetMGM)

I believe Joaquin Niemann is one of the best players in the world. He has three worldwide wins since December and has continued to improve over the course of his impressive career thus far. Still only 25, the Chilean has all the tools to be a serious contender in major championships for years to come.

Niemann has been the best player on LIV this season. Plenty will argue with the format or source of the money on LIV, but no one can argue that beating players such as Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Cameron Smith is an unremarkable achievement. Niemann is an elite driver of the golf ball who hits it farther than just about anyone in the field not named Bryson DeChambeau or (arguably) Rory McIlroy.

Niemann is another player who has been fantastic throughout his career on Bentgrass greens. Prior to leaving the PGA Tour, Bentgrass was the only green surface in which Joaco was a positive putter. It’s clearly a surface that he is very comfortable putting on and should fare around and on the greens this week.

Niemann is a perfect fit for Valhalla. His low and penetrating ball flight will get him plenty of runout this week on the fairways and he should have shorter shots into the green complexes than his competitors. To this point in his career, the former top ranked amateur in the world (2018) has been underwhelming in major championships, but I don’t believe that will last much longer. Joaquin Niemann is a major championship caliber player and has a real chance to contend this week at Valhalla.

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