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Five Questions About Jimmy Walker



Jimmy Walker came out of nowhere. We can all agree on that, right?

A player who needed a majority of the 2000s to make it up to the big leagues and combined for four total top-10s between his first three years on the PGA Tour from 2008-2010 has now won FIVE TIMES in two seasons and vaulted into the world’s top 10.

Walker has indeed been a fast riser, but on every other subject about his play there seems to be more ambivalence, from his place in American golf to his chances at the big events to his future.

I look at the big questions about Walker with my own takes on each subject.

Is Walker the most promising American player?

No chance.

Walker is 36 years old and just a couple of seasons away from an age where professional golfers generally face a steep decline. Of course, that chart is an average rather than a sentence, but even if Walker continues peak performance past the age-38ish drop-off, he could maybe do so for a half-decade at most. The greatest late bloomer of this generation, Vijay Singh, only made it to 45 before his steep decline, and another age-less wonder, Phil Mickelson, jumped off his performance cliff at age 43.

Contrast that with guys like Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler who could have decades before they decline and still haven’t reached the average peak golf years for a pro. Dustin Johnson also has nearly a decade of prime years left.

Magically decrease Walker’s age by 10 years and maybe we could talk.

Fine, can we now call Walker the best American?

If the definition is the American with the most ability in the present (based off a recent but large sample of results), it’s fair to put Walker’s name in the hat but nothing more than that.

Walker’s five PGA Tour wins since the beginning of the 2013-2014 season are two more than any other American, but not all wins are created equal. Walker’s five victories have all originated against weak or average fields, which speaks to an inflated total that would significantly decrease when given a competition adjustment.

We also tend to overrate wins and treat them as the only barometer to measuring a player’s greatness. Victories only represent a player’s best few weeks, why wouldn’t we look at their full list of performances when evaluating them?

With this greater scope, we can look to top-10s (which generally represent contention) and made cuts for help. Walker does come out pretty well here with 15 top-10s in 37 events and an 89 percent made cut rate since 2013-2014.

But let’s compare to the Americans placed higher than Walker in the World Golf Rankings. Johnson has 11 top-10s in 23 events and a 78 percent cut rate, Watson marks off 12 top-10s in 26 events with an 88 percent cut rate, Spieth is 13 for 35 with an 89 percent mark and Jim Furyk is 12 for 26 with zero missed cuts.

Looking at this non-win set of performances, Walker maybe comes in third and that’s without adjusting his schedule, which has been quite a bit easier because of his appearance in former fall series events along with his avoidance of Arnold’s and Jack’s Invitationals.

If his five wins came against mostly solid fields, his bigger slate of quality victories might allow him to jump everyone here. As that is not the case, I can’t justify calling him the best American.

Is Walker an elite golfer?

Elite is a pretty arbitrary word, and I like it to mean something truly special, so when you ask me about “elite” golfers in the world, I’m thinking creme of the crop where only about the top-5 are considered.

Walker doesn’t fit under that definition, but if we use a more lenient one, maybe a top-15 or top-20 player, the American qualifies.

After all, he is currently No. 10 in the World Golf Rankings and as noted above, his record in non-victory weeks has been pretty solid and speak about a player who does well besides his wins.

Some people believe he needs to win a major to be considered “elite,” but if we are going by that stipulation, Luke Donald wasn’t “elite” when he had the best season of any player in 2011.

For the first time, I will answer in the affirmative. Jimmy Walker, under this lenient common definition, is elite.

Will he win a major?

It’s too bad Walker has so little experience in the majors (just 10 starts), because the 2015 courses are very well set up for him.

Augusta, with its favoritism toward long hitters and great putters, is a great fit for Walker, who is near the top in both categories. He doesn’t hit it as high as you would think, but Walker can still loft it up there pretty well.

As I noted before, Chambers Bay, St. Andrews and Whistling Straits all appear inviting to big hitters and great approach players. Walker is certainly the first and, as much as his putting gets the hype, his transformation from a mediocre approach player to an excellent one is the main reason behind his sudden arrival.

Walker has absolutely no control on where the ball will go off the tee, though, (he straddles 175th position in Driving Accuracy and Distance from Edge of Fairway), which could be a little detrimental at Whistling Straits.

I’d say he has a good chance this year, but golf tends to delay deserving major championship winners. If Walker’s decline starts around age 38, I don’t think he wins a major.

But if he can get about a half-dozen more cracks at Augusta in or near his prime, he will snag a Green Jacket.

Can Walker continue winning at this clip in future years?

I don’t see a massive decline in Walker’s fortunes. It’ll be difficult to keep up a victory every seven events, though.

First off, Walker’s schedule will likely toughen up a bit going forward. I’m not a psychic, but once you get to Walker’s level you tend to focus on the majors more and build your schedule with better fields to peak for those four events. You also eschew lower tier tournaments that you don’t need to play anymore (i.e. the former Fall Series events), because you can get enough starts in the bigger events.

Secondly, Walker’s one win per every three top-10s is a pretty unsustainable rate. Mickelson, despite his reputation, is one of the greater closers in the history of golf and his career rate is 1 win per every 4.13 top-10s. Woods’ is 1 per every 2.34, but that is for the greatest closer of all time.

Walker has done a great job on Sundays, but unless we expect him to become one of the greatest closers of all time, this ratio will plummet fast.

In the next couple of years, Walker will add to his win total at a slower rate. After that, aging might get the better of him, but we’ll see.

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Kevin's fascination with the game goes back as long as he can remember. He has written about the sport on the junior, college and professional levels and hopes to cover its proceedings in some capacity for as long as possible. His main area of expertise is the PGA Tour, which is his primary focus for GolfWRX. Kevin is currently a student at Northwestern University, but he will be out into the workforce soon enough. You can find his golf tidbits and other sports-related babble on Twitter @KevinCasey19. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: September 2014



  1. Seemingly Mundane

    Apr 7, 2015 at 12:54 am

    So yes the article feels a bit like a hit piece. I would suggest you have a peer proof read your work first before posting since you say that it was not intended as such.

    So Walker is 36, right now, this season (since 2004 doesn’t matter to the author by his own admission) Walker is still playing lights out and leading the FedEx Cup and that is all that matters. Since when is ball trajectory a marker of a great player?? Very strange. The first player that comes to mind for me with a lower ball flight is Sergio. Stats must mean next to nothing obviously as Walker continues to buck the stat trend…..

    What grates on me more is how many times he uses “like” in his replies here, holy cow,


    Apr 6, 2015 at 12:25 am

    jimmy who? Oh yes, I’ve had some of the best naps of my life when walker is playing because he’s so boring!


    Apr 6, 2015 at 12:21 am

    Useless dribble!

  4. Nick

    Apr 5, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    I’ll just leave this here for anyone interested.

  5. NoThanksKev

    Apr 5, 2015 at 11:27 am

    My favorite part of this article is how the author analyses “the quality” of Walker’s victories in depth, but fails to provide his readers the same detailed information when discussing the Top 10 finishes and made cuts statistics of Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, and Jim Furyk. What did the field quality look like where these #’s were pulled from? While Jim Furyk consistently posts great #’s in these two categories, why do we ignore the fact that he did so while blowing multiple 54 hole leads and failing to close? I highly doubt that Furyk left these events feeling satisfied posting a Top 10 or even Top 5 finish. Having said that, I would also say that Jim Furyk has had an amazing career & he deserbes nothing but respect from his fans & critics alike. Has anyone ever asked a Tournament sponsor to remove their name from the trophy because they weren’t satisfied with the overall quality of the Tournament Field? I didn’t think so.
    We then receive another gem concerning Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler who are apparently dominating the Tour and have more than a decade to continue to do so. In reality, Spieth, Koepka, and Fowler combine for 4 Official Tour victories. With 4 victories to his credit, Patrick Reed certainly has proven his Elite status amongst his peers, but is still 1 victory short of Jimmy Walkers tally. While I would say all of these players are great and display even greater signs of promise, until they post more W’s than Jimmy, I cannot put them on his level. If golf were measured by potential alone, Tiger would have passed Jack by now, and we all know that this is not the case.
    I don’t know why this article was written, nor have I yet been able to find an overall theme, but I do know that Jimmy Walker deserves credit for his amazing run, an attempt to criticize his victories is fruitless, and that there is no statistical category that will ever remove his name from the 5 trophies that his name is etched upon.

  6. Aaron

    Apr 3, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Jimmy Walker’s career reminds me of Tom Lehman’s.

  7. Dan

    Apr 3, 2015 at 8:35 am

    First off, ease up on this kid. He’s a kid.

    Second, I commend any college kid who takes the initiative and puts his passion to use in the real world.

    I think the title is misleading because the article really isn’t about Jimmy Walker, it’s about the statistical possibility of a 36 year old late bloomer.

  8. Chris S

    Apr 3, 2015 at 5:11 am


  9. Big Tom

    Apr 2, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    Who is Kevin Casey and why would anyone care what he has to say? I find the premise of this article quite offensive because it was written by a nobody whose opinion, when combined with a quarter, is worth exactly $0.25.

  10. Prime21

    Apr 2, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    Statistics give us the ability to organize, analyze, and interpret large amounts of numerical data. Armed with this information, we can compare/contrast players’ abilities as it relates to their peers. We may even use these numbers to compare modern day players to those who may no longer play the game competitively. While this comparison may provide a player insight as to their strengths and weaknesses, the numbers alone cannot provide us with enough information to make accurate predictions of future success and/or failure. Because key attributes such as heart, desire, & work ethic, cannot be quantified, predictions excluding these factors provide insufficient data.
    While you touch on your background in journalism, you fail to provide information regarding your athletic background. Have you played competitive golf? Do you play any sports? To me, the information you could supply here, would be just as pertinent to the article as your beloved statistics.
    You state, “Walker is 36 years old and just a couple of seasons away from an age where professional golfers generally face a steep decline.” “The greatest late bloomer of this generation, Vijay Singh, only made it to 45 before his steep decline, and another age-less wonder, Phil Mickelson, jumped off his performance cliff at age 43.” By my calculations this gives Jimmy 7-9 years of potentially great golf. Not knowing his personal training regime, it is impossible to predict if he will have a similar time table as Vijay or Phil, but if he were to keep himself in prime condition, this could extend those 7-9 years out to possibly 12 years. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that Jimmy Walker at age 36 is in much better shape than both players mentioned above, which once again, could potentially postpone his decline even further. “Contrast that with guys like Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler who could have decades before they decline and still haven’t reached the average peak golf years for a pro.” While these players are certainly younger than Jimmy, one cannot assume that they will still be playing in 10 years. The potential for a longer “peak” career is just that, potential.
    “We also tend to overrate wins and treat them as the only barometer to measuring a player’s greatness. Victories only represent a player’s best few weeks, why wouldn’t we look at their full list of performances when evaluating them?” To answer your question, the goal of every player when putting a peg in the ground in a PGA Tour event is to win. EVERY player out there would take 10 W’s and 0 Top 5’s, over 4 wins, 10 seconds, and 6 thirds. When a player wins 5 times in two seasons, the results are far from a mere representation of his best few weeks.
    “Walker has absolutely no control on where the ball will go off the tee.” If this were true, how could he possibly post 5 victories in the past 2 seasons? I find it ironic that you bash Jimmy’s driving ability but reference the age-less wonder Phil Mickelson in the same article. Has Phil ever driven the ball with Fred Funk accuracy? How does Phil’s major record look at this point in his career?
    In the “Major” section, you go from quoting statistics to offering personal opinion. Where is this analysis coming from? Does Journalism class at Northwestern provide you with insight into a players potential in Major Championships? “I’d say he has a good chance this year”. “If Walker’s decline starts around age 38, I don’t think he wins a major.” “But if he can get about a half-dozen more cracks at Augusta in or near his prime, he will snag a Green Jacket.” When one begins a sentence with I’d say, or If, they are simply offering their opinion of what could happen. Once again, I do not see anything in your background that gives you a leg to stand on here. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but when you have no background in covering Tournament Golf, or playing Tournament Golf, your opinion holds no weight.
    “In the next couple of years, Walker will add to his win total at a slower rate. After that, aging might get the better of him, but we’ll see.” You write an article that you know will NOT be received well by those who are fans of Jimmy Walker. But instead of taking a stand and hiding behind the statistical “evidence” provided in the first few sections, here, you tuck your tail and hide. You should have finished with something more powerful, such as, “He will win again, but as he ages he may not, but in the end I don’t know what’s going to happen so we’ll just have to wait and see.”
    Access to PGA Tour Statistics and the Google search engine allows for anyone to question a player’s ability and/or make predictions about what a player’s future may hold. But after 5 W’s in the past 2 seasons do we really need to? Keep winning Jimmy, even though the statistics say you can’t!

  11. Golfraven

    Apr 2, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    tough but true. He is cool player though and hard as nails. Great to watch!

  12. Steve Wozeniak

    Apr 2, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Just keep winning Jimmy!!!!! His Coach at Baylor Tim Hobby is one of the best players in Texas and is one of my students. Jimmy was one of his first recruits and he groomed that great swing. So all Butch has had to do the last few years is say nice swing Jimmy, keep it up, easy gig if you can get it!!!!

    Steve Wozeniak PGA

    • Greg

      Apr 2, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      I took a few lessons from Tim Hobby years ago when I lived in Waco. He is truly a great teacher and player.

  13. Duncan

    Apr 1, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    Kevin, where do you get the idea that JW doesn’t hit the ball high? I saw him in person at the masters last year and the only one who hit a higher 4 iron off #4 was Bubba. And if you can remember, almost no one could hit it high enough to stop the ball on that green. I was very impressed with the towering bombs that Jimmy hit. I left there thinking he IS one of the game’s best players.

    • Kevin Casey

      Apr 2, 2015 at 12:51 am

      Hey Duncan,

      That must have been a cool experience! I feel like that’s subtly a really good spot at Augusta.

      Anyway, I didn’t say that Walker wasn’t a high ball hitter. Going back to my words in the article: “He doesn’t hit it as high as you would think, but Walker can still loft it up there pretty well.”

      I said that he does still hit it pretty high, just not to the height you would think. What does that mean? Well, clubhead speed/driving distance correlate a lot to ball flight. with the fastest swingers/longest hitters tending to possess the highest ball flights and slow swingers/short hitters possessing the lowest ones (there are certainly exceptions both ways, though).

      Walker is top 20 on Tour in driving distance, so you’d expect him to be roughly top 20 in ball flight height, but the stats show something different. The main metric we look at here is’s “Apex Height” tabulation. This stat shows the average peak height of a player’s ball flight on a number of drives throughout the year. Not perfect, but gives us a good measurement of whose golf balls reach the greatest height in flight.

      Looking over the last three years, Walker has been something like 65th, 25th and 110th in the category, which speaks to a player who has a high ball flight but not to the top 20 distinction one might presume.

      That being said, that stat could be skewed if Walker purposefully flights his ball down more than the average PGA Tour pro. If that is the case, he could be a really high ball hitter whose Apex Height numbers drop because of these intentional knockdown drives. But I don’t know that is the case with Jimmy for sure without some sort of database.

      The Apex Height stat is an average and the Tour offers up the player’s highest Apex Height among the sample, and Walker’s is really high. Walker’s average Apex Height in 2015 is 104’6″ (65th in that category) and his peak in 2015 has been 154’9″ (maybe top-10 in that category). That could point to my theory about Walker flghting the ball down more than the average pro. Or it could show that Walker can reach massive heights but struggles to consistently sky it up there. Or that peak number could be a fluke.

      What all of this is to say is that the data is kind of limited here, and from that protracted set, the conclusion is that Walker is a high-ball hitter but not to the extent his distance would suggest (top-20). Everything else is just conjecture.

  14. Ben

    Apr 1, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    This is a solid, well thought out piece that does a good job of letting the facts speak for themselves. Because it was written in this way, it rises above the simple emotional response. If your gonna attach it, at least bring the same amount of data and research.

    • Prime21

      Apr 2, 2015 at 4:16 pm

      While statistics are given throughout the article, referring to them as research is quite a stretch. If the facts, as you call them, truly were to speak for themselves, there would be no reason for his sections to end with statements of opinion (If….I’d say….I don’t think….). Considering the author is questioning Jimmy Walker’s abilities as well as his potential for future success, he had to know that his article would be “attached” by any JW fan who happened to read it.

  15. Nelly11

    Apr 1, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    Tough Crowd. Jimmy Walker has won 5 times in the last 17 months at the top of golf, winning almost $3.5 million this year alone and this thing is littered with negativity and talk of an imminent decline. Really? I hope articles like this continue to fuel his amazing career.

    I’m a big fan of his game, he has it all. I hope to follow at the Tuesday practice round and perhaps even pick up a thing or two watching him to help my game. Amazing talent.

  16. The dude

    Apr 1, 2015 at 9:15 pm


    Keep winning JW!!!!

  17. Kevin Casey

    Apr 1, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Definitely wouldn’t disagree with that general sentiment there. When I say his wins are against mediocre or weak fields, I am putting it to the incredibly high PGA Tour standard. And Walker has had some great finishes against some of the world’s toughest fields (top 10s at three majors and the Players last year).

    I feel like this article is being misconstrued as me being a Jimmy Walker hater. I am not. Really good player that I think will stay at or near his current level of performance for at least the next couple of years. And I think he has a decent shot of hanging on to his prime past the general decline age.

    I just don’t think he will continue to win at this same clip or is the top American, both incredibly high standards some have put on him. It’s not negative, it’s realistic.

    • devilsadvocate

      Apr 2, 2015 at 10:32 am

      I feel where u are TRYING to come from…. But dude read your article… A little rough don’t u think? I don’t know about you but I have seen this guy on the very top of the FedEx cup points list for most of the last two seasons and I watched a couple of his victories in which he won by a large margin… Pretty obviously an elite player right now imho

  18. Erlybrd

    Apr 1, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    Regardless of what this columnist says, Jimmy Walker is playing great against tough competitions and scoring lower than everyone more often than not. Sure all careers have ups and downs, but let’s hope he will keep his good play for many more years to come.

    • Kevin Casey

      Apr 1, 2015 at 8:37 pm

      Whoops, meant to put the above reply here.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Zurich Classic of New Orleans betting preview



The PGA TOUR heads to New Orleans to play the 2023 Zurich Classic of New Orleans. In a welcome change from the usual stroke play, the Zurich Classic is a team event. On Thursday and Saturday, the teams play best ball, and on Friday and Sunday the teams play alternate shot.

TPC Louisiana is a par 72 that measures 7,425 yards. The course features some short par 4s and plenty of water and bunkers, which makes for a lot of exciting risk/reward scenarios for competitors. Pete Dye designed the course in 2004 specifically for the Zurich Classic, although the event didn’t make its debut until 2007 because of Hurricane Katrina.

Coming off of the Masters and a signature event in consecutive weeks, the field this week is a step down, and understandably so. Many of the world’s top players will be using this time to rest after a busy stretch.

However, there are some interesting teams this season with some stars making surprise appearances in the team event. Some notable teams include Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry, Collin Morikawa and Kurt Kitayama, Will Zalatoris and Sahith Theegala as well as a few Canadian teams, Nick Taylor and Adam Hadwin and Taylor Pendrith and Corey Conners.

Past Winners at TPC Louisiana

  • 2023: Riley/Hardy (-30)
  • 2022: Cantlay/Schauffele (-29)
  • 2021: Leishman/Smith (-20)
  • 2019: Palmer/Rahm (-26)
  • 2018: Horschel/Piercy (-22)
  • 2017: Blixt/Smith (-27)

2024 Zurich Classic of New Orleans Picks

Tom Hoge/Maverick McNealy +2500 (DraftKings)

Tom Hoge is coming off of a solid T18 finish at the RBC Heritage and finished T13 at last year’s Zurich Classic alongside Harris English.

This season, Hoge is having one of his best years on Tour in terms of Strokes Gained: Approach. In his last 24 rounds, the only player to top him on the category is Scottie Scheffler. Hoge has been solid on Pete Dye designs, ranking 28th in the field over his past 36 rounds.

McNealy is also having a solid season. He’s finished T6 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and T9 at the PLAYERS Championship. He recently started working with world renowned swing coach, Butch Harmon, and its seemingly paid dividends in 2024.

Keith Mitchell/Joel Dahmen +4000 (DraftKings)

Keith Mitchell is having a fantastic season, finishing in the top-20 of five of his past seven starts on Tour. Most recently, Mitchell finished T14 at the Valero Texas Open and gained a whopping 6.0 strokes off the tee. He finished 6th at last year’s Zurich Classic.

Joel Dahmen is having a resurgent year and has been dialed in with his irons. He also has a T11 finish at the PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass which is another Pete Dye track. With Mitchell’s length and Dahmen’s ability to put it close with his short irons, the Mitchell/Dahmen combination will be dangerous this week.

Taylor Moore/Matt NeSmith +6500 (DraftKings)

Taylor Moore has quickly developed into one of the more consistent players on Tour. He’s finished in the top-20 in three of his past four starts, including a very impressive showing at The Masters, finishing T20. He’s also finished T4 at this event in consecutive seasons alongside Matt NeSmith.

NeSmith isn’t having a great 2024, but has seemed to elevate his game in this format. He finished T26 at Pete Dye’s TPC Sawgrass, which gives the 30-year-old something to build off of. NeSmith is also a great putter on Bermudagrass, which could help elevate Moore’s ball striking prowess.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 LIV Adelaide betting preview: Cam Smith ready for big week down under



After having four of the top twelve players on the leaderboard at The Masters, LIV Golf is set for their fifth event of the season: LIV Adelaide. 

For both LIV fans and golf fans in Australia, LIV Adelaide is one of the most anticipated events of the year. With 35,000 people expected to attend each day of the tournament, the Grange Golf Club will be crawling with fans who are passionate about the sport of golf. The 12th hole, better known as “the watering hole”, is sure to have the rowdiest of the fans cheering after a long day of drinking some Leishman Lager.  

The Grange Golf Club is a par-72 that measures 6,946 yards. The course features minimal resistance, as golfers went extremely low last season. In 2023, Talor Gooch shot consecutive rounds of 62 on Thursday and Friday, giving himself a gigantic cushion heading into championship Sunday. Things got tight for a while, but in the end, the Oklahoma State product was able to hold off The Crushers’ Anirban Lahiri for a three-shot victory. 

The Four Aces won the team competition with the Range Goats finishing second. 

*All Images Courtesy of LIV Golf*

Past Winners at LIV Adelaide

  • 2023: Talor Gooch (-19)

Stat Leaders Through LIV Miami

Green in Regulation

  1. Richard Bland
  2. Jon Rahm
  3. Paul Casey

Fairways Hit

  1. Abraham Ancer
  2. Graeme McDowell
  3. Henrik Stenson

Driving Distance

  1. Bryson DeChambeau
  2. Joaquin Niemann
  3. Dean Burmester


  1. Cameron Smith
  2. Louis Oosthuizen
  3. Matt Jones

2024 LIV Adelaide Picks

Cameron Smith +1400 (DraftKings)

When I pulled up the odds for LIV Adelaide, I was more than a little surprised to see multiple golfers listed ahead of Cameron Smith on the betting board. A few starts ago, Cam finished runner-up at LIV Hong Kong, which is a golf course that absolutely suits his eye. Augusta National in another course that Smith could roll out of bed and finish in the top-ten at, and he did so two weeks ago at The Masters, finishing T6.

At Augusta, he gained strokes on the field on approach, off the tee (slightly), and of course, around the green and putting. Smith able to get in the mix at a major championship despite coming into the week feeling under the weather tells me that his game is once again rounding into form.

The Grange Golf Club is another course that undoubtedly suits the Australian. Smith is obviously incredibly comfortable playing in front of the Aussie faithful and has won three Australian PGA Championship’s. The course is very short and will allow Smith to play conservative off the tee, mitigating his most glaring weakness. With birdies available all over the golf course, there’s a chance the event turns into a putting contest, and there’s no one on the planet I’d rather have in one of those than Cam Smith.

Louis Oosthuizen +2200 (DraftKings)

Louis Oosthuizen has simply been one of the best players on LIV in the 2024 seas0n. The South African has finished in the top-10 on the LIV leaderboard in three of his five starts, with his best coming in Jeddah, where he finished T2. Perhaps more impressively, Oosthuizen finished T7 at LIV Miami, which took place at Doral’s “Blue Monster”, an absolutely massive golf course. Given that Louis is on the shorter side in terms of distance off the tee, his ability to play well in Miami shows how dialed he is with the irons this season.

In addition to the LIV finishes, Oosthuizen won back-to-back starts on the DP World Tour in December at the Alfred Dunhill Championship and the Mauritus Open. He also finished runner-up at the end of February in the International Series Oman. The 41-year-old has been one of the most consistent performers of 2024, regardless of tour.

For the season, Louis ranks 4th on LIV in birdies made, T9 in fairways hit and first in putting. He ranks 32nd in driving distance, but that won’t be an issue at this short course. Last season, he finished T11 at the event, but was in decent position going into the final round but fell back after shooting 70 while the rest of the field went low. This season, Oosthuizen comes into the event in peak form, and the course should be a perfect fit for his smooth swing and hot putter this week.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What really makes a wedge work? Part 1



Of all the clubs in our bags, wedges are almost always the simplest in construction and, therefore, the easiest to analyze what might make one work differently from another if you know what to look for.

Wedges are a lot less mysterious than drivers, of course, as the major brands are working with a lot of “pixie dust” inside these modern marvels. That’s carrying over more to irons now, with so many new models featuring internal multi-material technologies, and almost all of them having a “badge” or insert in the back to allow more complex graphics while hiding the actual distribution of mass.

But when it comes to wedges, most on the market today are still single pieces of molded steel, either cast or forged into that shape. So, if you look closely at where the mass is distributed, it’s pretty clear how that wedge is going to perform.

To start, because of their wider soles, the majority of the mass of almost any wedge is along the bottom third of the clubhead. So, the best wedge shots are always those hit between the 2nd and 5th grooves so that more mass is directly behind that impact. Elite tour professionals practice incessantly to learn to do that consistently, wearing out a spot about the size of a penny right there. If impact moves higher than that, the face is dramatically thinner, so smash factor is compromised significantly, which reduces the overall distance the ball will fly.

Every one of us, tour players included, knows that maddening shot that we feel a bit high on the face and it doesn’t go anywhere, it’s not your fault.

If your wedges show a wear pattern the size of a silver dollar, and centered above the 3rd or 4th groove, you are not getting anywhere near the same performance from shot to shot. Robot testing proves impact even two to three grooves higher in the face can cause distance loss of up to 35 to 55 feet with modern ‘tour design’ wedges.

In addition, as impact moves above the center of mass, the golf club principle of gear effect causes the ball to fly higher with less spin. Think of modern drivers for a minute. The “holy grail” of driving is high launch and low spin, and the driver engineers are pulling out all stops to get the mass as low in the clubhead as possible to optimize this combination.

Where is all the mass in your wedges? Low. So, disregarding the higher lofts, wedges “want” to launch the ball high with low spin – exactly the opposite of what good wedge play requires penetrating ball flight with high spin.

While almost all major brand wedges have begun putting a tiny bit more thickness in the top portion of the clubhead, conventional and modern ‘tour design’ wedges perform pretty much like they always have. Elite players learn to hit those crisp, spinny penetrating wedge shots by spending lots of practice time learning to consistently make contact low in the face.

So, what about grooves and face texture?

Grooves on any club can only do so much, and no one has any material advantage here. The USGA tightly defines what we manufacturers can do with grooves and face texture, and modern manufacturing techniques allow all of us to push those limits ever closer. And we all do. End of story.

Then there’s the topic of bounce and grinds, the most complex and confusing part of the wedge formula. Many top brands offer a complex array of sole configurations, all of them admittedly specialized to a particular kind of lie or turf conditions, and/or a particular divot pattern.

But if you don’t play the same turf all the time, and make the same size divot on every swing, how would you ever figure this out?

The only way is to take any wedge you are considering and play it a few rounds, hitting all the shots you face and observing the results. There’s simply no other way.

So, hopefully this will inspire a lively conversation in our comments section, and I’ll chime in to answer any questions you might have.

And next week, I’ll dive into the rest of the wedge formula. Yes, shafts, grips and specifications are essential, too.

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