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Opinion & Analysis

The Subtle Flair of Justin Rose

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If you decided to skip out on the final round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, you missed quite a show.

A gaggle of golfers held the lead or had it within their grasp at some point on Sunday, and three names fought furiously for the title over the final holes, with Justin Rose proving the strongest of the trio.

The Englishman birded Nos. 17 and 18 to take the initiative and eventually the title by one stroke, lasering an approach on a dangerous line on the penultimate hole, rolling in the subsequent 10-footer and following up with a 14-foot birdie effort that confidently dove into the left side of the cup.

It was Rose’s seventh career PGA Tour win and characterized in the aftermath as a quality triumph for a good guy.

And that’s great. From there, words like “solid,” “stoic” and “classy” come to frame Rose, and a player could do far worse than that. But while these descriptors aren’t necessarily incorrect, coloring the Englishman by these simple terms misses an essential point. Rose isn’t some vanilla personality who has some quality wins and a major: He’s an exciting force that some fans have generally yet to fully appreciate.

OK, it’s no secret that the Englishman has blossomed into a star as he’s progressed into his 30s (his mainstay among the world’s top-10 is tough to hide), but it still feels like he gets lost in the shuffle among the best players.

For one, if you mention Rose and his recent years of on-course performance, it doesn’t elicit that much enthusiasm. Yeah, he’s a great golfer, an elite one even, but he doesn’t produce hot bursts of play that capture media attention and can vault a golfer to exalted status in the game.

But there’s more than one way here.

How about this: Over the last half-decade, Rose has possibly played the consistently highest level of golf in the game. Does that sound enticing?

The beauty with Rose stems from his ability to mix stability with top-of-the-line play like few others. It’s a brilliant balance that doesn’t deserve to remain under the radar. After all, it’s terribly hard to reach a top-five level of play, which Rose has in the past five years, and significantly more difficult to basically never stray from that impeccably high bar.

Yet, Rose has mastered this tightrope.

Aside from one poor stretch in the middle of 2011, the Englishman all together avoided extended slumps from the spring of 2010 through 2014. (He also started off 2015 very poorly, but it later became clear that he wasn’t at all healthy.)

From the time of his big wins in 2010 through 2014, Rose produced an 87 percent made cut rate, finished top-25 in 68 percent of events and top-tenned 45 percent of the time. And his numbers year to year from 2010 to 2014 were eerily similar to these totals.

Compare this to other top-five players from 2010 on, and you start to see just how startling these consistent numbers are over a five-year period.

Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood, Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald — all top-five players at one point or another from 2010 or later — can point to consistent numbers over a season or two just as good if not better than Rose’s 2010-2014 stretch (especially Donald, who finished in the top-25 88 percent of the time and top-tenned at 76 percent rate in 2011). Over a five-year period, though, their numbers do not hold up, as every one of these cream of the crop golfers had at least one significantly down season, a distinction Rose managed to avoid.

The only players that really belong with Rose in managing to keep up this elite level of play over the past five years are Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy.

That’s it. Just those two. Heck, from 2011-2013, McIlroy experienced a few months-long valleys where he never sniffed contention.

This tiny list is instructive. Rose’s run over the past five years, rather than mundane in its sameness each season, actually proves quite marketable. The fact is, the 34-year-old has displayed an extremely exclusive ability, a long-term high-level consistency that has eluded almost every single top golfer over the past half-decade.

That’s pretty flashy to me.

And then there’s the personal side of Rose.

The Englishman doesn’t really seem to get the reputation of having an interesting backstory or possessing a discernible personality. On the former point, remember that Rose was a prodigy from a young age, a 17-year-old who inspired a nation with his performance at the 1998 Open Championship.

He then famously proceeded to miss the first 21 cuts of his professional career and really fell off the radar until he won four times in 2002. Rose then dropped off again as his father passed away that same year and he rose back up in 2006. That’s two devastating pitfalls only to re-emerge from the ashes stronger than before.

As a result, Rose has a sneaky confidence that comes out on the course from time to time, especially on the greens. It’s almost a cheeky sort of attitude that’s pretty amusing to watch. You can see a couple of examples from the top and bottom GIFs in this Adam Sarson post.

He’s generally also just kind of has a weird side, as we can see in these two examples.

05-01-14-rose-move

GIF via Adam Sarson

 

 

 

Honestly, these snipits speak to an inspired soul rather than a boring, flatlined personality.

So throw away your pre-conceived notions. Rose possesses plenty of unearthed allure, reiterated by his spirited reactions to his final putt in New Orleans.

It’s about time everybody catches on.

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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

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Lawrence

    Apr 30, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    He’s everything that’s right with golf…….personable, consistent, gracious and humble.

    Was a sign-bearer for him @ Honda Classic probably 8-10 years back…..still learning his game but you could see that he had what it takes…..

    Hopefully there are more victories and majors coming his way!

  2. ND Hickman

    Apr 29, 2015 at 4:31 am

    He was also the best player at last years Ryder Cup and by some margin.

  3. gwillis7

    Apr 28, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    I am liking Rose more and more. I like that he is a bit quirky, and enjoyed watching him and spieth go at it in Augusta. I also like that he uses TM, those slots are definately helping those mishits.
    Ok ok, I am not even a TM hater, I like their woods (love their woods actually), just wanted to get that in there.

  4. Jengus

    Apr 28, 2015 at 9:49 am

    “Rose isn’t some vanilla personality” – great use of the word vanilla. Too many golfers fit this category, not taking anything away from their ability but the names Scott and Spieth spring to mind as some high profile players who just aren’t very interesting characters. Everyone loves an athlete who doesn’t always ‘toe the line’ and shows a bit of flamboyance or quirkiness (apart from Patrick Reed, he’s a bit off).

    I will admit I really like hearing Jordan talk to the ball while it’s in flight though 😉

  5. Alistair

    Apr 27, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    Quiet bloke and not many people know too much about him. Subtle he is not, back home. He is actually a pretty boisterous guy amongst his mates. He actually does have a fondness for loudmouth pants too which I thought was a little weird. Don’t see too much of those on this side of the pond!

    • ParHunter

      Apr 28, 2015 at 11:03 am

      “Don’t see too much of those on this side of the pond”? You obviously don’t play at my club 😉 Hurts my eyes sometimes!

  6. Ronald Montesano

    Apr 27, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    The membership at Merion has embraced Rose. I doubt they could have asked for a better US Open champion.

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Opinion & Analysis

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

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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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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Amazing Session with Performance Coach Savannah Meyer-Clement

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In this week’s episode, we spent some time with performance coach Savannah Meyer-Clement who provides many useful insights that you’ll be able to implement on the golf course.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 RBC Heritage betting preview: Patrick Cantlay ready to get back inside winner’s circle

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Just a two-hour drive from Augusta National, the PGA TOUR heads to Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C. Hilton Head Island is a golfer’s paradise and Harbour Town is one of the most beautiful and scenic courses on the PGA TOUR.

Harbour Town Golf Links is a par-71 that measures 7,121 yards and features Bermuda grass greens. A Pete Dye design, the course is heavily tree lined and features small greens and many dog legs, protecting it from “bomb-and-gauge” type golfers.

The field is loaded this week with 69 golfers with no cut. Last year was quite possibly the best field in RBC Heritage history and the event this week is yet another designated event, meaning there is a $20 million prize pool.

Most of the big names on the PGA Tour will be in attendance this week with the exceptions of Hideki Matsuyama and Viktor Hovland. Additionally, Webb Simpson, Shane Lowry, Gary Woodland and Kevin Kisner have been granted sponsors exemptions. 

Past Winners at Harbour Town

  • 2023: Matt Fitzpatrick (-17)
  • 2022: Jordan Spieth (-13)
  • 2021: Stewart Cink (-19)
  • 2020: Webb Simpson (-22)
  • 2019: CT Pan (-12)
  • 2018: Sotoshi Kodaira (-12)
  • 2017: Wesley Bryan (-13)
  • 2016: Branden Grace (-9)
  • 2015: Jim Furyk (-18)

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 Harbour Town

Let’s take a look at key metrics for Harbour Town Golf Links to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their past 24 rounds.

Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes Gained: Approach is exceedingly important this week. The greens at Harbour Town are about half the size of PGA TOUR average and feature the second-smallest greens on the tour. Typical of a Pete Dye design, golfers will pay the price for missed greens.

Total SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.27)
  2. Tom Hoge (+1.27)
  3. Corey Conners (+1.16)
  4. Austin Eckroat (+0.95)
  5. Cameron Young (+0.93)

Good Drive %

The fairways at Harbour Town are tree lined and feature many dog legs. Bombers tend to struggle at the course because it forces layups and doesn’t allow long drivers to overpower it. Accuracy is far more important than power.

Good Drive % Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Brice Garnett (88.8%)
  2. Shane Lowry (+87.2%)
  3. Akshay Bhatia (+86.0%)
  4. Si Woo Kim (+85.8%)
  5. Sepp Straka (+85.1%)

Strokes Gained: Total at Pete Dye Designs

Pete Dye specialists tend to play very well at Harbour Town. Si Woo Kim, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk and Webb Simpson are all Pete Dye specialists who have had great success here. It is likely we see some more specialists near the top of the leaderboard this week.

SG: TOT Pete Dye per round over past 36 rounds:

  1. Xander Schauffele (+2.27)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+2.24)
  3. Ludvig Aberg (+2.11)
  4. Brian Harman (+1.89)
  5. Sungjae Im (+1.58)

4. Strokes Gained: Short Game (Bermuda)

Strokes Gained: Short Game factors in both around the green and putting. With many green-side bunkers and tricky green complexes, both statistics will be important. Past winners — such as Jim Furyk, Wes Bryan and Webb Simpson — highlight how crucial the short game skill set is around Harbour Town.

SG: SG Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Jordan Spieth (+1.11)
  2. Taylor Moore (+1.02)
  3. Wyndham Clark (+0.98)
  4. Mackenzie Hughes (+0.86)
  5. Andrew Putnam (+0.83)

5. Greens in Regulation %

The recipe for success at Harbour Town Golf Links is hitting fairways and greens. Missing either will prove to be consequential — golfers must be in total control of the ball to win.

Greens in Regulation % over past 24 rounds:

  1. Brice Garnett (+75.0%)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+69.9%)
  3. Corey Conners (+69.0%)
  4. Shane Lowry (+68.3%)
  5. Patrick Rodgers (+67.6%)

6. Course History

Harbour Town is a course where players who have strong past results at the course always tend to pop up. 

Course History over past 24 rounds:

  1. Patrick Cantlay (+2.34)
  2. Cam Davis (+2.05)
  3. J.T. Poston (+1.69)
  4. Justin Rose (+1.68)
  5. Tommy Fleetwood (+1.59)

The RBC Heritage Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (24%), Good Drives (20%), SG: SG (14%), SG: Pete Dye (14%), GIR (14%), and Course History (14%)

  1. Shane Lowry
  2. Russell Henley
  3. Scottie Scheffler
  4. Xander Schauffele
  5. Corey Conners 
  6. Wyndham Clark
  7. Christiaan Bezuidenhout
  8. Matt Fitzpatrick
  9. Cameron Young
  10. Ludvig Aberg 

2024 RBC Heritage Picks

Patrick Cantlay +2000 (FanDuel)

With the exception of Scottie Scheffler, the PGA Tour has yet to have any of their star players show peak form during the 2024 season. Last week, Patrick Cantlay, who I believe is a top-5 players on the PGA Tour, took one step closer to regaining the form that’s helped him win eight events on Tour since 2017.

Cantlay limped into the Masters in poor form, but figured it out at Augusta National, finishing in a tie for 20th and ranking 17th for the week in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking. The former FedEx Cup champion will now head to one of his favorite golf courses in Harbour Town, where he’s had immaculate results over the years. In his six trips to the course, he’s only finished worse than 7th one time. The other finishes include three third places (2017, 2019, 2023) and one runner-up finish (2022). In his past 36 rounds at Harbour Town, Cantlay ranks 1st in Strokes Gained: Total per round at the course by a wide margin (+2.36).

Cantlay is winless since the 2022 BMW Championship, which is far too long for a player of his caliber. With signs pointing to the 32-year-old returning to form, a “signature event” at Harbour Town is just what he needs to get back on the winning track.

Tommy Fleetwood +3000 (FanDuel)

I truly believe Tommy Fleetwood will figure out a way to win on American soil in 2024. It’s certainly been a bugaboo for him throughout his career, but he is simply too talented to go another season without winning a PGA Tour event.

At last week’s Masters Tournament, Fleetwood made a Sunday charge and ended up finishing T3 in the event, which was his best ever finish at The Masters. For the week, the Englishman ranked 8th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, 10th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and 16th in Strokes Gained: Putting.

Harbour Town is a perfect layout for Fleetwood, and he’s had relative success at this Pete Dye design in the past.  In his four trips to the course, he’s finished inside of the top 25 three times, with his best finish, T10, coming in 2022. The course is pretty short and can’t be overpowered, which gives an advantage to more accurate players such as Fleetwood. Tommy ranks 8th in the field in Good Drive % and should be able to plot his way along this golf course.

The win is coming for Tommy lad. I believe there’s a chance this treasure of a golf course may be the perfect one for him to finally break through on Tour.

Cameron Young +3300 (FanDuel)

Cameron Young had a solid Masters Tournament last week, which is exactly what I’m looking for in players who I anticipate playing well this week at the RBC Heritage. He finished in a tie for 9th, but never felt the pressure of contending in the event. For the week, Young ranked 6th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 6th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Despite being one of the longest players off the tee on the PGA Tour, Young has actually played some really good golf on shorter tracks. He finished T3 at Harbour Town in 2023 and ranks 20th in the field in Good Drive% and 16th in Greens in Regulation in his past 24 rounds. He also has strong finishes at other shorter courses that can take driver out of a players hand such as Copperhead and PGA National.

Young is simply one of the best players on the PGA Tour in 2024, and I strongly believe has what it takes to win a PGA Tour event in the very near future.

Corey Conners +5500 (FanDuel)

Corey Conners has had a disappointing year thus far on the PGA Tour, but absolutely loves Harbour Town.

At last week’s Masters Tournament, the Canadian finished T30 but ranked 20th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach. In his past 24 rounds, Conners ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, 3rd in Greens in Regulation % and 24th in Good Drive %.

In Conners’ last four trips to Harbour Town, his worst finish was T31, last season. He finished T4 in 2021, T12 in 2022 and ranks 8th in Strokes Gained: Total at the course over his past 36 rounds.

Conners hasn’t been contending, but his recent finishes have been encouraging as he has finished in the top-25 in each of his past three starts prior to The Masters, including an impressive T13 at The PLAYERS. His recent improvement in ball striking as well as his suitability for Harbour Town makes Conners a high upside bet this week.

Shane Lowry (+7500) (FanDuel)

When these odds were posted after Lowry was announced in the field, I have to admit I was pretty stunned. Despite not offering much win equity on the PGA Tour over the last handful of years, Shane Lowry is still a top caliber player who has the ability to rise to the top of a signature event.

Lowry struggled to score at The Masters last week, but he actually hit the ball really well. The Irishman ranked 1st for Strokes Gained: Approach on the week and 7th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking. As usual, it was the putter that let him down, as he ranked 60th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting.

Harbour Town is most definitely one of Lowry’s favorite courses on the PGA Tour. In his six starts there, he’s finished in the top 10 three times, including third twice. Lowry is sensational at Pete Dye designs and ranks 7th in Strokes Gained: Total in his past 36 rounds on Dye tracks. 

Lowry is perfect for Harbour Town. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained: Approach, 2nd in Good Drive% and 5th in Green in Regulation %. If he figures it out on the greens, Shane could have his first win in America since 2015.

Lucas Glover +12000 (FanDuel)

This is one of my weekly “bet the number” plays as I strongly believe the odds are just too long for a player of Glover’s caliber. The odds have been too long on Glover for a few weeks now, but this is the first event that I can get behind the veteran being able to actually contend at. 

Glover is quietly playing good golf and returning to the form he had after the understandable regression after his two massive victories at the end of 2023. He finished T20 at The Masters, which was his best ever finish at Augusta National. For the week, Lucas ranked 18th for Strokes Gained: Approach and 20th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Over his past 24 rounds, Glover ranks 9th in Strokes Gained: Approach and 13th in Good Drive %. Harbour Town is a short course that the 44-year-old will be able to keep up with the top players on Tour off the tee. He’s played the course more than 20 times, with mixed results. His best finishes at Harbour Town include a T7 in 2008, but recently has a finish of T21 in 2020.

Glover has proven he can contend with the stars of the Tour on any given week, and this number is flat out disrespectful.

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