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A simple scoring system to record statistics

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I frequently get asked the question, “What statistics can I use to measure my entire game?”

The issue is that while there are many advanced methods of statistics to use, they are often very cumbersome and golfers tend to forget to record their score, take too long to record the metrics, or end up inaccurately recording their metrics. That leads to a skewed analysis of their game.

I’ve done countless hours of research on the game, and usually have a pretty good idea on how I performed in each area after a round, but I still use certain metrics to assist with that analysis so I can schedule my practice accordingly.

One of the main scores I like to keep is a metric I created in the 2013 Pro Golf Synopsis called the 15/5 Score. The scoring system goes like this:

  • Give yourself +1 point if your par save is within 5 feet of the hole.
  • Give yourself +2 points if you have a birdie opportunity inside 15 feet of the hole.
  • Give yourself +3 points if you have an eagle opportunity inside 15 feet of the hole.
  • Take away -3 points if your par save is not within 5 feet of the hole.

For bogey shooters, you can alter this score by giving yourself +1 point if your bogey putt is within 5 feet of the hole and use that as the baseline.

I also only give one set of points for each hole. If I have a 12-foot birdie putt and hit the putt 6-feet past the cup, I only give myself +2 points for the birdie putt inside 15 feet.  This is important to note because we can better decipher our putting skill using this methodology. I will go into that later in this article.

Another thing I like to keep track of is what I call “impedes.” These are any of the following:

  • Ball goes O.B.
  • Ball goes into the water
  • Ball goes into a fairway bunker
  • Ball goes into the tall rough
  • Ball goes into the trees
  • Anytime I have to hit above, below or around a tree
  • Ball ends up in a divot
  • Ball is plugged in a greenside bunker
  • Ball goes into the greenside bunker on a par-3

I call them impedes because these are all shots where advancing the ball is impeded.  Even if I’m behind a tree and can fairly easily clear the tree and put the ball on the green, I consider that an impede because that tree is still obstructing my advancement of the ball to the hole. 

As far as the ball going into a divot, it is about things that impede your advancement to the hole, not about what is fair. You will find that when you can limit your impedes, you will often shoot a much better score than you typically would performing the same way from tee to green.

The other metrics I keep are:

  • Fairway Hit
  • Green In Regulation Hit
  • Scramble
  • Putts on the Hole

I am NOT a big fan of those metrics because they are woefully incomplete and misleading. But, combined with your total score, impedes and the 15/5 Score, we can better deduct how well we performed in certain parts of the game. These aren’t time consuming or cumbersome, but they can be very helpful metrics to record.  

Here is an analysis of the points system of a recent round I completed. I will give my analysis of each round as well:

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 5.09.08 PM

Click the table to enlarge.

With the 15/5 Score, typically +10 will equate to around even par. This in part makes the analytics fairly easy; if the 15/5 score is at +10 and I shot above par, then we know that it was likely due to short game and putting miscues. Conversely, if I shoot even par and have a 15/5 score of less than +10, then we know that I was likely getting hot with the putter. 

If I were to make a 25-foot putt for birdie, my 15/5 score would only be +1, but I still made the birdie. On the flip side, if I hit a chip shot to 3 feet and miss the putt and make bogey, my 15/5 score is still +1 and hence it helps dictate how well we are striking the ball versus how well we are putting.

In the scenario above, it is a little less clear since I shot 73 (2-over par), but had a 15/5 score of +6. This would indicate that my ball striking and short game/putting were in balance. Given that I shot a score of 2-over, my 15/5 score should have been around +6. 

My total score was 2-over, so in order to improve upon that it usually means that the ball striking has to improve. When looking at the driving, I hit 9 out of 14 fairways which is not bad. More importantly, I only had two impeded shots. Upon further inspection, I played those holes where I had an impeded shot at -1-under. Therefore, the impeded shots were not overly damaging and I think it is safe to say that my driving was fine for this round, or at least not the reason why I did not break par.

We can then get a better idea of the iron play by looking at the Greens In Regulation (GIR). Since I was hitting the driver fairly well, I should have a good amount of GIR — and I did end up hitting 11 out of 18 Greens. But just as important, we need to look at the corresponding 15/5 scores per hole because hitting it close is more important than finding the green. 

I hit a nice streak of hitting shots close on Nos. 8, 9 and 10 as I hit each shot inside 15 feet and converted the birdie try. Also, notice on the front nine that I had only 13 putts, which would be considered very good, but I had 19 putts on the back nine. That’s considered poor. However, I also hit 7 greens in regulation on the back nine. Furthermore, after the 10th hole, 5 out of the 6 GIR resulted in scores of +1 according to the 15/5 score, which means that I was hitting greens, but not hitting shots very close.

This gives an indication that my putting can stand room for improvement, but I had bigger issues with my performance with the irons. It was a bit windy that day, which makes it difficult to get approach shots close to the hole. But based on this round, I would say that iron play and putting should be given more focus.

Here’s a round from European Tour player Jamie Donaldson at the South Course at Torrey Pines:

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 5.16.34 PM

Click the table to enlarge.

We can see that Donaldson’s 15/5 Score was -1, while he shot even par for the round.  Again, since his 15/5 score was low for his score, that indicates that his short game shots around the green and/or his putting was likely very good. And we can see that was clearly the case as Donaldson only hit 5/14 fairways, 10/18 Greens in Regulation and had two impeded shots. 

On the flip side, he only had 27 putts and was 7 of 8 in scramble opportunities. We also see that Donaldson did not strike it well on the front nine, as his 15/5 Score was -10.  On the back nine, however, he was far better as his 15/5 score was +9. 

While I think there is the potential to have more accurate ways to analyze your entire game, I find the method I use to be very simple and practical. For bogey shooters, they can use the same type of 15/5 score, but they may want to alter the scoring system by 1 stroke (i.e. +2 points for a par putt inside 15 feet, +1 point for bogey putt inside 5 feet, etc). This still allows for the bogey golfer to accurately analyze their game, but also stresses the main point of the 15/5 Score — getting the ball closer to the hole.

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Richie Hunt is a statistician whose clients include PGA Tour players, their caddies and instructors in order to more accurately assess their games. He is also the author of the recently published e-book, 2018 Pro Golf Synopsis; the Moneyball Approach to the Game of Golf. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Richie3Jack. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: March 2014 Purchase 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis E-book for $10

33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Gus

    Mar 25, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    Stats keeping should be at a minimum during a round. All I keep is Score / GIR or Score / Putts then after the round I can interpret the results.

    If my score is 5 on a par 5 with 3 putts then I know I reached the green in 2 and 3-putter for par. The good – I can teach a par 5 in 2 with 2 good shots. The bad – 3 putt. It doesn’t matter if I 3-putter within 15 feet or 25 feet – putting is putting and we should always 2-putt to finish.

    If my score was 1 putt on any given hole, then it’s a positive stat regardless if I was putting for a birdie or putting to save triple bogey.

    If I wanted to assign a scoring system for these results, it should be applied after the round, not during!

  2. Drew

    Mar 24, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    Good stuff. Not too complicated (despite what others are saying), and gives some good analysis. People could modify this to fit their game as well. Thanks Rich!

  3. Murph

    Mar 23, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    I am not entirely sold on how these statistics help an average golfer. I am not hitting it within 15 feet 90% of the time and I am happy to just be on the green or around the green close enough for a chip. I don’t need involved stats to tell me I need to drive the ball in the fairway or avoid penalty strokes. While I appreciate the benefit of stats for a more accomplished player, I just don’t get what they do for a bogey golfer or even a 10 handicap.

    • Jeremy

      Mar 23, 2015 at 8:25 pm

      With all due respect, not every article or tip is for every golfer. Golf goes to great lengths to quantify (to several decimal places) how good you are at hitting a little white ball around a park, and for some people it’s really fun to look at the statistics from a new angle. If you’re not that interested, perhaps you’ll never be all that good, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Most of us probably fall into that category. It’s all about enjoying yourself, in the end.

      That’s why lot of this has to do with being less hard on yourself as well. It enables you to say “shoot, if only that one aspect of my game hadn’t been off I’d have shot my best round ever.” Makes it easier to swallow that three putt on 18 when you feel like, overall, you’re pretty good at hitting that ball. Maybe then instead of going to the range and pounding balls one night next week you’ll just hit some putts instead, and next weekend it’ll all come together.

  4. Jafar

    Mar 23, 2015 at 11:22 am

    This isn’t bad. A good starting point for others to build off of.

    Thanks for sharing this. I will attempt to make my own scoring system to help analyze and tune parts of my game.

  5. dapadre

    Mar 23, 2015 at 6:00 am

    This to me is analysis paralysis. This may be of great help to that borderline pro or aspiring pro, but the golf enthusiast I doubt. To be honest i have found GIR, Fairways hit, No. putts of greater importance and assistance. Also I used a new device from a friend that charted my shots and after a while I could see which shots were impeding my score of which I needed to work on.

    Also its says simple, Im sorry but I didnt find it simple.

  6. Sean

    Mar 22, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    I used to keep statistics, but found it really didn’t make a difference one way or the other. Now, I only keep my score. It also takes the pressure off if I miss a fairway, green or whatever. I don’t get caught up in my statistics and just play golf.

    • Connor

      Mar 23, 2015 at 1:13 am

      Word.

    • Murph

      Mar 23, 2015 at 3:24 pm

      I agree with you. I think keeping involved stats like this force your mind to focus on the negative things that can happen related to the shot you are about to hit. I do believe in FIR and GIR to a certain extent only because the higher those two numbers…..especially GIR…..the lower my score is.

  7. OG

    Mar 21, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    Good information, but it’s not too hard too figure out if I shoot 80 and hit 12 greens that my putter was off or didn’t get up and down well that round.

  8. JT

    Mar 21, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    Here is my simple system: score goes in the box for the hole, and then, in this same single box, I mark the following
    – check (hit), x (missed), or “OB” in top left for fairway
    – check, x, or OB in top right for green
    – number of putts in bottom right

    This gives new the most relevant stats, and it’s really fast so it keeps me focused on play – not stats or mechanics in round.

  9. ShakeNBake

    Mar 21, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    My last round, I shot even with a 15/5 score of -15 and 7 impediments. Does this mean I am secretly terrible?

  10. Jake Anderson

    Mar 21, 2015 at 10:15 am

    i am sorry, but this system is too complicated.
    i think it would suffice to keep, GIR, and O.B. (which type of shot went O.B.).

  11. RG

    Mar 21, 2015 at 5:16 am

    Check mark=fairway hit
    X= GIR
    U= Up and down
    F= Putt from fringe if holed
    B= Bunker shot holed
    Number of putts and distance
    Score on hole
    It will all fit in the boxes below your score

  12. Tom D

    Mar 21, 2015 at 12:21 am

    I don’t find counting putts very helpful. If I’m chipping onto the green and chipping well, I’ll get the ball close enough to make a 1-putt likely. However, if I’m getting on a lot of greens in regulation, I’m probably landing pretty far from the hole. This means that a 1-putt is very unlikely. In either case, the number of putts says more about my ball-striking than about my putting.

    To give me some real feedback on how I’m putting, I use a variation of “strokes gained – putting”. If my first putt is within 6ft of the hole, a 1-putt is zero strokes gained, a 2-putt is one stroke lost and a 3-putt is two strokes lost. If my first putt is over 6ft from the hole, a 1-putt is one stroke gained, a 2-putt is zero strokes gained and a 3-putt is one stroke lost. Add up all strokes gained and subtract all strokes lost. The total is how well I putted. A positive number is good, a negative number, not so good.

    As you get better, change the dividing line from 6ft to 10ft!

  13. chris franklin

    Mar 20, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    I wish my club had “cartboys”
    I’m tired of seeing those floozies

  14. Brutus

    Mar 20, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    I keep 2 stats the work for me. When they’re used in combo with the score I card for a hole, it tells me enough that when I look back a year later I can pretty much know exactly how I did. And it’s all estimating as I don’t want to get too anal for exact distances. First is how long the shot that found the green was. The second is the length of my first 2 putts and underline a putt that goes in.

    Say if the distance is 150, I can easily figure out if it was a GIR or had major problems just getting to 150 to hit the green. If it’s 5 yards from off the green I know if my approach(es) sucked. (Used with the putting numbers, I can tell how I’m chipping too.) I can tell all I need by the length of my first 2 putts and if I made one of them. If I 3 putt, I don’t really give a flip about how I “nailed that 3rd stroke from 2-1/2 feet”… since the first 2 tell where the problems of the 3 putt sin lies.

    I don’t see the need to “record” if my drives or approaches go right, left, or worse. Odds are most players know their general tendencies and to work to get accurate stats on that is a waste of time merely to confirm it. And if I don’t see many approaches written down from say outside 120 yards, then I know about where I’m beginning struggling with my irons.

    It shouldn’t hold up the game as it takes me less time to enter up to 3 numbers than for just 1 person in my group to tee off on the next tee… and I can still spot their drive.

    • Rich Hunt

      Mar 20, 2015 at 3:38 pm

      I don’t think it is too hard to figure out the distances of 15 feet and 5 feet. If you’re at 5-feet 4-inches and record it as 5-feet, I don’t see it as a travesty of inaccuracy. I think it is easy to record on the course and easy to remember if you’re recording it after the round.

  15. John

    Mar 20, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    I personally think stats tracking isn’t a reason for slow play. Most GPS apps can keep stats and inserting them takes about a minute, or about the time it takes to cart over from the previous green to the next tee. Slow play is because most people (and I’m guilty of this at times as well) think they’re better than they actually might be, and so each shot matters a bit more than it should. Tourney/professional play, I understand. But there’s absolutely no reason, unless you’re playing for your life, that you should take more than 30 seconds to read a simple putt. Especially when you’re just gonna blow it by 5 feet anyways.

  16. birdeez

    Mar 20, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    i really don’t see whats not simple about this.

    the explanation is long and involved, but the actual scoring of 15/5 system is as simple as it gets…..unless you were brought up on Common Core math, then you might have some trouble.

    i’ll be giving this a shot

  17. Mat

    Mar 20, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    Get GameGolf or Arccos and move on from 20th century stats.

    • Rich Hunt

      Mar 20, 2015 at 12:36 pm

      I don’t think the 15/5 Score is a ’20th century stat.’ Neither do I think impedes are ’20th century stats.’ I’m not a fan of GIR or even fairways hit. And I feel that with the 15/5 score and your actual score you can get a pretty good idea whether your ballstriking or putting/short game is the issue. But, if you are looking for more detail, then you can use impedes, fwys and GIR to get a better idea of how you performed in driving vs. iron play vs. short game shots around the green vs. putting.

  18. AGF

    Mar 20, 2015 at 11:47 am

    This is why it takes 4.5 hours+ to play golf: guys keeping ‘stats’ on the course. Please. If you have to do this, do it at home; it’s not hard to remember later and the other members of your foursome won’t think you’re a nut…

    • me

      Mar 20, 2015 at 12:25 pm

      No I think the guys that keep stats are the more serious golfers who are very self aware of their pace of play. The reason you get rounds that take 4.5+ hours is due to the people who don’t understand “ready golf” and stand there at the tee waiting for the guy who parred the last hole, but he’s too busy checking his cell phone. Or the guys who stop the cart girl and take 5 min to get beers. Or the ones who absolutely won’t hit until someone who is 1 yard further hits (even if on the opposite side of the fairway). Or the guys who take 10 minutes at the turn. Or the guy who shanks the ball, and then takes 3 or 4 “post shank” practice swings to diagnose what happened, and then spends all day looking for the ball he shanked.

      I see this stuff every weekend when I’m out with my friends and I find myself constantly saying, just go ahead and hit man. It’s super annoying. And then their excuse is that the people in front of them are slow so they can’t go anywhere.

      • Rich Hunt

        Mar 20, 2015 at 12:33 pm

        I agree with ‘me.’ Recently I had to play a 5-hour 45-minute round and we waited every shot. The guys I were paired up with only played golf about once a year. They certainly weren’t keeping their stats and we were waiting every shot anyway.

        I think the issue is people don’t understand the pace of play and how important it is to let faster players play thru. I think that is the very basic, rudimentary problem to the entire issue. The other big issues I see is that golf balls are expensive and courses are more designed to lose golf balls and people end up searching for them which takes time.

      • Mark Reischer

        Mar 20, 2015 at 5:23 pm

        There is a very good book written about pace of play. There are many factors that contribute to slow play and only 1 of them is the actual golfer. (I think it’s called the Pace of Play Bible, but I don’t remember 100%)

        Other factors include: tee time spacing, location of bathrooms/water stations, cart path routes, is there a beverage cart?, does the beverage cart drive around?, etc, etc

        Usually yes, people play slow but if all other issues were fixed at every single course, even the slow players wouldn’t be holding anybody up

    • rymail00

      Mar 21, 2015 at 6:05 pm

      Though I can’t see myself doing this every round, I can’t see how this would add extra time to around. Your marking 6-7 numbers on a scorecard along with your score. If your on the green putting you know if your 5 feet from the hole or outside of it. You don’t have to actually measure or anything that would add extra time. Your either inside the 5 or 15 or not.

      Its to bad. It just seems every article written brings WAAAAAAY more negative posts then then 90% of the threads on WRX. I wonder if it’s because people can use names different from their screen name. This is just a general statement and a response to the post I’m replying to.

  19. Roody

    Mar 20, 2015 at 11:38 am

    I think it’s simpler to, and prefer only tracking fairways (hit, left, right, miss), and number of putts. Any more than that and I feel it would take too long, and be more information than most of us would need anyways.

  20. Philip

    Mar 20, 2015 at 11:15 am

    I have no issue with stats as long as it takes no thought process to log and works against me staying in the zone. I’ll first add impedes and once I have incorporated that stat, I’ll work on adding the 15/5 or a my own take on it.

    Simple to see how you have down after a round.
    Like it, thanks

  21. Ryan O.

    Mar 20, 2015 at 11:05 am

    May be to complicated for most. I use the strokes gained system. Easy with this website http://www.strokesgainedgolf.com/?logged_in=Yes

    • Rich Hunt

      Mar 20, 2015 at 12:44 pm

      There is a multitude of issues with the ‘strokes gained’ formula as the shot gets further from the hole. I had this verified from a PhD in Economics, a PhD in Mathematics and an Ivy League statistics graduate. All of them liked the strokes gained metric for putting, but as the shot is further from the hole, there are too many unaccounted variables that can greatly offset the accuracy of the measurement. For instance, a shot from 100 yards from the rough on 1 hole may be greatly different in terms of difficulty than a shot from 100 yards on another hole. Or that roughly 25% of the par-4’s on Tour have no real benefit to hitting the ball further off the tee because of penalties (hazards, trees, bunkers, etc) that are easier to hit as the ball is hit further off the tee. Also, the conditions of the courses play a large factor as studies done by David Orr show, faster greens generally yield higher make percentages on the green which would greatly alter ‘strokes gained – putting’ from the average amateur that usually plays slower greens. I would imagine the same goes for other conditions as a round recorded by Steve Marino at a local muni course showed where Marino ‘only’ shot 68 (-4) and said (paraphrasing) ‘I would likely never go real low at a muni course because the conditions make the course too unpredictable.’

  22. Ryan S.

    Mar 20, 2015 at 10:33 am

    This is simple!?

    • me

      Mar 20, 2015 at 12:12 pm

      The scoring itself is pretty simple and shouldn’t hinder your round while playing. The analysis takes some brain power. But seems worth it if you really want to understand what’s going on with your game. I may give it a try for a few rounds

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What really makes a wedge work?

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Having been in the wedge business for over thirty years now, and having focused my entire life’s work on how to make wedges work better, one of my biggest frustrations is how under-informed most golfers are about wedges in general, and how misinformed most are about the elements of a wedge that really affect performance.

That under-informed and misinformed “double whammy” helps make the wedge category to be the least dynamic of the entire golf equipment industry. Consider this if you will. Golfers carry only one driver and only one putter, but an average of three wedges. BUT – and it’s a big “but” – every year, unit sales of both drivers and putters are more than double the unit sales of wedges.
So why is that?

Over those thirty-plus years, I have conducted numerous surveys of golfers to ask that very question, and I’ve complemented that statistical insight with hundreds of one-on-one interviews with golfers of all skill levels. My key takeaways are:

  • Most golfers have not had a track record of improved performance with new wedges that mirror their positive experience with a new driver or putter.
  • A large percentage of golfers consider their wedge play to be one of the weaker parts of their games.
  • And most golfers do not really understand that wedge play is the most challenging aspect of golf.
  • On that last point, I wrote a post almost two years ago addressing this very subject, “Why Wedge Mastery Is So Elusive” (read it here).

So now let’s dive into what really makes a wedge work. In essence, wedges are not that much different from all the other clubs in our bags. The three key elements that make any club do what it does are:

  • The distribution of mass around the clubhead
  • The shaft characteristics
  • The specifications for weight, shaft length and lie angle

Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up.

For any golf club to perform to its optimum for a given golfer, these three key measurements must be correct. Shaft length and lie angle work together to help that golfer deliver the clubhead to the ball as accurately as possible time and again. If either spec is off even a little bit, quality contact will be sacrificed. The overall weight of the club is much more critical than the mystical “swing weight”, and I’ve always believed that in wedges, that overall weight should be slightly heavier than the set-match 9-iron, but not dramatically so.

We encounter so many golfers who have migrated to light steel or graphite shafts in their irons, but are still trying to play off-the-rack wedges with their heavy stiff steel shafts that complete prohibit the making of a consistent swing evolution from their short irons to their wedges.

That leads to the consistent observation that so many golfers completely ignore the shaft specifics in their wedges, even after undergoing a custom fitting of their irons to try to get the right shaft to optimize performance through the set. The fact is, to optimize performance your wedges need to be pretty consistent with your irons in shaft weight, material and flex.

Now it’s time to dive into the design of a wedge head, expanding on what I wrote in that post of two years ago (please go back to that link and read it again!)

The wedge “wizards” would have you believe that the only things that matter in wedge design are “grooves and grinds.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Grooves can only do so much, and their primary purpose is the same as the tread on your tires – to channel away moisture and matter to allow more of the clubface to contact the ball. In our robotic testing of Edison Forged wedges – on a dry ball – the complete absence of grooves only reduced spin by 15 percent! But, when you add moisture and/or matter, that changes dramatically.

Understand the USGA hasn’t changed the Rules of Golf that govern groove geometry in over 12 years, and every company serious about their wedge product pushes those rules to the limit. There is no story here!
For years, I have consistently taken umbrage to the constant drivel about “grinds.” The fact is that you will encounter every kind of lie and turf imaginable during the life of your wedges, and unless you are an elite tour-caliber player, it is unlikely you can discern the difference from one specialized grind to another.

Almost all wedge sole designs are pretty darn good, once you learn how to use the bounce to your advantage, but that’s a post for another time.

Now, the clubhead.

Very simply, what makes any golf club work – and wedges are no different – is the way mass is distributed around the clubhead. Period.

All modern drivers are about the same, with subtle nuanced differences from brand to brand. Likewise, there are only about four distinctly different kinds of irons: Single piece tour blades, modern distance blades with internal technologies, game improvement designs with accented perimeter weighting and whatever a “super game improvement iron” is. Fairways, hybrids, even putters are sold primarily by touting the design parameters of the clubhead.

So, why not wedges?]

This has gotten long, so next week I’ll dive into “The anatomy of a wedge head.”

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: 2023 PGA Merchandise Show recap

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All the new interesting things we enjoyed and appreciated.

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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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