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Hole 6: The night Henny Bogan fired me

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This has turned out to be the toughest hole for me to write for so far. It begins, once again, at the TPC Los Colinas at a Ben Hogan Golf Company sales meeting.

If you’ve been following along, you may be wondering why the location has been so popular in my stories. I’ve thought about this as well, and see three reasons why:

  1. Mr. Hogan was there. A story about him would require that component. He also seemed to become more animated and theatrical at these events, and spoke more freely with his team.
  2. Mr. Hogan had a group of people there who loved him and hung on to his every word. This also encouraged more discussion.
  3. Cocktails.

This was one year after his speech about the mystery club. As clear as I can remember several of Mr. Hogan’s speeches, I cannot remember anything about his speech that year. It may have been a great speech, but the ensuing trauma must have erased his words from my brain.

In the year that went by, we made several real club prototypes of the “flyswatter.” In those days, we did not have the rapid prototype tools of today, so each sample took 6-8 weeks to create. Some of the prototypes performed very well, but as suspected none of them had a chance to be USGA conforming. This was also about the time of the “groove wars” between Ping and the USGA, so our management was not interested in getting into a stink about conformance.

We did, however, try to tone down some of the obvious non-conforming features of the flyswatter club. We thought if we dumbed it down, we might have a chance for approval and future production. I was working with a Southern California tool maker and foundry on one last prototype. If this one did not work out, we would have kissed this frog many times… with no magic. We would have to move on to something else.

The prototype head arrived at my office the afternoon of the sales meeting, just before I was to leave for Los Colinas. I was excited to show it to Mr. Hogan, but he had left the Pafford Street Factory and was most likely at Shady Oaks. He would be going later to Los Colinas after that, so I would have to wait until the next day to show it to him.

After the speech, Mr. Hogan sat down for drinks with a number of his salesmen and held court as he liked to do. He told fantastic stories of past major championships. The group looked like a large covey of quail. This covey, however, did not sit looking outward for danger, but faced inward toward the man.

I began at the outer fringe, but as the stories went on I worked my way closer. I remember him telling a story about the 17th hole of the final round of the 1953 Open Championship at Carnoustie. As the night started to wind down, I found myself very near the center of the covey and just to the left of Mr. Hogan. By that point in my career, I knew many things about the man, but I would soon learn two more things.

  1. At a sales meeting, you didn’t go near Mr. Hogan if you weren’t a salesman. This night was for them.
  2. Who Henny Bogan was.

When Mr. Hogan had stopped one story and was about to start another, I leaned in and said this to him:

“Sir, the latest prototype we’ve been waiting on came in today. I will be in tomorrow morning to show it to you.”

He stared intensely at me, and then spoke loud enough for everyone to hear.

“Don’t bother, you are done! I’ve waited too long on that club. Go in tomorrow morning and tell Don Holland (the Ben Hogan Company V.P of Human Resources) that Henny Bogan says you are fired!”

I was stunned, speechless and totally disorientated. Mouths hung open around the covey of salesmen. One of the old timer salesmen actually started to laugh. Others were bewildered and feeling a sliver of my pain.

The fog of unemployment started to grip me. I didn’t know what to do other than head for my Ford Bronco and drive home. Walking to the parking lot, I tried to console myself. I was looking for a job when I found this one, and I would find another. I’d never been fired before, however, let alone by a hero of mine.

I drove the one hour from Irving to my place in southwest Fort Worth. Somewhere on the trip, I started to get mad. I really loved golf. This had been a dream job. How would I ever find a job in the industry after this goes public? Fired by an icon would forever be hanging next to my name.

I did not get any sleep that night, and was the first person at the factory the next morning so I could pack up my personal things. By the time Don Holland arrived to work, I was boxed up and ready to start the rest of my career somewhere else and probably not in the golf industry, I thought. At 8 a.m., I went into the HR area and asked to see Don. When he came out, he asked what I was up to so early.

“Mr. Hogan fired me last night,” I said.

Don could see I was mad. He looked skeptical, however. “Just how did he fire you,” Don asked. “Tell me his exact words.”

I was puzzled. What part of “fired” did Don not understand. It seemed like a simple concept for a VP to grasp.

“He fired me after his speech last night,” I said. “He did it in front of a number of salesmen.” I was getting hot again, reliving the experience.

“Calm down, Tom,” he said. “Tell me exactly what he said.” I explained what happened. When I told Don the exact words — that he said “Henny Bogan” says you’re fired — he broke into a big grin.

“Don’t you know who Henny Bogan is?” Don said.

I’d never heard of him, and assumed that it was a cocktail word slur. After all, Mr. Hogan had a few drinks that night. Don explained that Henny Bogan was the character Mr. Hogan sometimes became when he pulled jokes on people, and he had done this type of thing before.

“I doubt you have real problems with the real Ben Hogan,” Don said. “In fact, if he didn’t like you I doubt he would have had Henny Bogan pull this on you.”

So it was a joke?

No way… It sure didn’t feel like a joke to me last night or early this morning. I thought about the laughing man last night. Maybe that was why he started to chuckle? Don told me to go get my prototype and take it up to see Mr. Hogan. He said I should act like nothing happened. It was hard to do, but what other option did I have?

Before I went to Mr. Hogan’s office, I found Gene and told him what had happened last night and what Don told me to do. Gene had a really good laugh at my expense, and then told me several other Henny Bogan stories. He acted like I should be happy Henny Bogan had pulled a prank on me.

“Why did you never tell me these stories before?” I asked Gene. He said I had only worked there a few years, and he would have gotten around to it eventually.

“Now you know,” Gene said, and he laughed some more. He was really enjoying the moment. God love him and I do too, but if this joke is true then I would need to inflict some payback somehow someday.

So I grabbed the prototype and went to see Mr. Henny Bogan. I knocked on the frame of his door, and still wondered if it would be the last time. Mr. Hogan looked up, but didn’t say a word. He just stared at me. It wasn’t the typical stare, and sly slight grin inched across his face. I walked over to the front of his desk. His eyes were still intensely blue but for the first time, something was different. Was he sorry? I don’t think so. Was he surprised I was there? Maybe. I stared back at Mr. Hogan for a little while myself. I wanted him to know that I knew.

Many years later, a friend told me I should have come in that day with the prototype and introduced myself as Sommy Ttites. I wish I had, but I wasn’t that sharp then. After we did a bit of two-way eye balling, I finally just showed him the prototype. He examined it a while and then we pleasantly talked about the next steps. The whole time I was in there he never said a word about last night, but it was obvious I was not fired.

I had been seriously punked by “The Hawk,” who sometimes became Henny Bogan. With that experience, I guess I entered into some sort of club. Much later I was able to laugh, too. Henny Bogan had a strange, warped sense of humor. I should tell you some of the other stories I then heard about Henny Bogan, but I promised in this series I would only share what I experienced first hand. There is another level of writing that is required for passing on second-hand stuff.

Tim Scott has got some other great stories in his book of Hogan humor and pranks. You should check it out.

One the next hole: Mr. Hogan wanted me to find a specific old club. He sent me to see his friend Mattie Reed and to dig through his private collection of 30,000 clubs. I never found it, but I did find something quite special.

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Tom Stites has spent more than 30 years working in the golf industry. In that time, he has been awarded more than 200 golf-related patents, and has designed and engineered more than 300 golf products that have been sold worldwide. As part of his job, he had the opportunity to work with hundreds of touring professionals and developed clubs that have been used to win all four of golf's major championships (several times), as well as 200+ PGA Tour events. Stites got his golf industry start at the Ben Hogan Company in 1986, where Ben Hogan and his personal master club builder Gene Sheeley trained the young engineer in club design. Tom went on to start his own golf club equipment engineering company in 1993 in Fort Worth, Texas, which he sold to Nike Inc. in 2000. The facility grew and became known as "The Oven," and Stites led the design and engineering teams there for 12 years as the Director of Product Development. Stites, 59, is a proud veteran of the United States Air Force. He is now semi-retired, but continues his work as an innovation, business, engineering and design consultant. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Ben Hogan Foundation, a 501C foundation that works to preserve the legacy and memory of the late, great Ben Hogan.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. DB

    Jul 15, 2019 at 9:03 am

    Where is the Hole 7 story?

  2. Charlie Zellner

    Feb 8, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    Hi Tom – Can you please let us know what is happening with these stories? I’d really love to see some more but it would really be appreciated if you could share why we haven’t seen a new one in about 6 months?

  3. LC4

    Feb 2, 2016 at 8:59 am

    By chance, are we going to get anymore of these stories. These are always a great read and was looking forward to hearing the rest!

  4. Charlie Zellner

    Oct 14, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    Hi, I’m loving these stories. When does the next one come out?

  5. Steve

    Sep 1, 2015 at 10:43 pm

    What I am getting out reading these stores about Ben Hogan is just how normal and real John Daly is. And after reading and watching films on Moe Norman it becomes very clear like Moe Norman, Ben Hogan had no idea how to explain what he was really doing with his golf swing, like Moe, Hogan only could tell us what he felt he was doing…

  6. Shallowface

    Aug 28, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    Tom, we’d love to see a picture of this club if you have one.
    I am loving these stories! Can’t wait for the next one. Thanks for sharing!

  7. KK

    Aug 28, 2015 at 6:20 am

    Ahaha. Tough night but great story for life.

  8. Philip

    Aug 27, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    Correction – not everyone, but a lot of workers have a negative view of executives

  9. Philip

    Aug 27, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    Sycophant – hardly. I was fortunate early-on in my career to work directly for many VPs and Presidents/Owners and the one thing common to them all is that everyone in the company thought of them solely as a$$holes. I knew that they expected perfection from me because they expected perfection from themselves. I learned early on to look them directly in the eyes and never back down. They often expected miracles and I delivered – I loved the challenge, the impossible problem solving at times. Could they be a$$holes towards me – certainly, but there was also a mutual respect developed over time. I choose to stay, work hard (sometimes you cannot leave till the job is done), and it has made my life inside and out of work a lot easier over the long term. Keep those stories coming Tom.

  10. Bob

    Aug 27, 2015 at 2:21 am

    Yet more unpleasant conduct accepted by sycophants.

  11. Ryan K

    Aug 26, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    Best one so far! !

  12. Martin

    Aug 26, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    That is pretty funny.

  13. Joe

    Aug 26, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    Hogan was a cruel man. A**H*** comes to mind.

  14. Sean

    Aug 26, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    Heck of a “prank” to pull on a young guy. He owed you a night’s sleep at least. 🙂

  15. Philip

    Aug 26, 2015 at 10:00 am

    It was a cruel joke for sure, however, I’m surprised you interrupted him during a fun time telling golf “war” stories in order to interject work related stuff. There is a time and place for everything and to be honest, what you did feels out of place – not that I wouldn’t have done it if I were in your shoes and a lot younger and inexperienced. In a way, it can be perceived that what you wanted to discuss “the prototype” was more important in your mind, than what he was presently doing – or the salesmen he was with. Perceptive can often be more important than fact. Love the stories – keep ’em coming.

    • tom stites

      Aug 26, 2015 at 12:19 pm

      Yep, I was young, stupid and always learning lessons in those days. Still 2 out of 3 these days.

  16. Mac n Cheese

    Aug 26, 2015 at 9:48 am

    I waited a long time for this and still don’t know what this prototype club is. I’m still guessing it is a hybrid, it has to be, or it could be the first of the game improvement irons.

    • tom stites

      Aug 26, 2015 at 12:22 pm

      It was a hybrid concept that went way past conforming.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi: 2024 Mexico Open First Round Leader picks

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

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

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

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

Mexico Open First-Round-Leader Selections

Jhonnatan Vegas +6000 (DraftKings)

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

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

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

Harry Hall +9000 (BetMGM)

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

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

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

Adrien Dumont de Chassart 100-1 (FanDuel)

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

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

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

Fred Biondi 130-1 (DraftKings)

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

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

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

Scott Piercy 150-1 (BetMGM)

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

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

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

Sebastian Vazquez 300-1 (DraftKings)

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

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

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

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Mexico Open at Vidanta betting preview: Birdie machine ready to notch first PGA Tour title

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Mexico Open at Vidanta! For the third consecutive year, the PGA TOUR heads to beautiful Puerto Vallarta to play the Mexico Open.

The Greg Norman-designed Vidanta Vallarta is a par-71 measuring 7,456 yards. Prior to its inaugural event, the course was extended by over 250 yards to make it PGA TOUR ready, and there were nine new tee boxes and 106 new bunkers added to stiffen the test for the best players in the world.

The course features three par 5s. Also, the par-4 seventh will be drivable for the longer hitters, but the golfers will have to risk taking on some water if they want to go for it.

The field this week will consist of 132 players. Some notable players in the field include Tony Finau, Will Zalatoris, Keith Mitchell, Emiliano Grillo, Taylor Pendrith and Thorbjorn Olesen. 

Past Winners at Vidanta Villarta

  • 2023: Tony Finau (-24)
  • 2022: Jon Rahm (-17)

5 Key Stats For Vidanta Villarta

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). 

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

1. Driving Distance

At almost 7,500 yards, Vidanta Villarta is a long par 71. The rough shouldn’t be much of a factor this week, which gives the advantage to the long hitters in the field.

Average Driving Distance Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Alejandro Tosti (+311.2)
  2. Sam Stevens (+310.4)
  3. Cameron Champ (+308.1)
  4. Patrick Rodgers (+305.1)
  5. Vincent Norrman (+304.7)

2. Strokes Gained: Ball Striking

With the course playing long and greens likely being receptive, elite ball strikers should have an advantage more so than a good short game and strong putting.

Strokes Gained: Ball Striking Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Jhonnatan Vegas (+1.10)
  2. Erik Van Rooyen (+.95)
  3. Taylor Pendrith (+.86)
  4. Tony Finau (+.81)
  5. Doug Ghim (+.74)

3. Course History

The first two editions of the event have produced plenty of leaderboard similarity. I’m looking to target players who like the golf course. 

Course History over past 8 rounds:

  1. Tony Finau (+4.05)
  2. Brandon Wu (+3.43)
  3. Davis Riley (+2.94)
  4. Cameron Champ (+2.55)
  5. Patrick Rodgers (+2.41)

4. Strokes Gained: Total in Weak Fields with Easy Scoring Conditions

Last year, the course played extremely easy, and this is one of the weakest fields we will see this year on the PGA Tour. 

SG: TOT Total in Weak Fields with Easy Scoring Conditions Past 24 Rounds

  1. Erik Van Rooyen (+1.84) 
  2. Mackenzie Hughes (+1.69) 
  3. S.H. Kim (+1.43)
  4. Michael Kim (+1.43)
  5. Tyler Duncan (+1.26)

5. Strokes Gained: Total in Caribbean

I’m not exactly sure if this part of Mexico would be considered “Caribbean”, but this statistic brings in all rounds from Corales, the Puerto Rico Open, and the Bermuda Championship, which all have close leaderboard correlation to the Mexico Open. This also brings in courses that feature Paspalum greens.

Strokes Gained: Total in Caribbean over past 24 Rounds

  1. Mackenzie Hughes (+3.14)
  2. Tony Finau (+2.73)
  3. Nicolai Hojgaard (+2.40)
  4. James Hahn (+2.35)
  5. Chad Ramey (+2.05)

The Mexico Open at Vidanta Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — Driving Distance (22%), SG: Ball Striking (28%), SG: Paspalum (16%), SG: Total in Weak Fields with Easy Scoring Conditions (16%) and Strokes Gained: Total in Caribbean (16%)

  1. Taylor Pendrith
  2. Erik Van Rooyen
  3. Carl Yuan
  4. Stephan Jaeger
  5. Mark Hubbard
  6. Matti Schmid
  7. Cameron Champ
  8. Vincent Whaley
  9. Ryan Moore
  10. Michael Kim

Mexico Open Picks

(All listed odds are at the time of writing)

Stephan Jaeger +2800 (BetMGM)

Despite not yet winning an event, Stephan Jaeger has been one of the most prolific birdie makers on the PGA Tour. In the field this season, he ranks 5th in the field in Birdie or Better percentage. 13th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and 27th in Driving Distance.

Jaeger has had a tough time closing events while in contention, but his recent T3 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open in a strong field should have helped him build the necessary scar tissue it takes to win on the PGA Tour. He shot a final round 72 at Torrey Pines, which wasn’t a horrible result, but left him two shots behind eventual champion Mathieu Pavon.

In his two starts at the course, Jaeger has finished 15th and 18th. At this point in his career, he’s one of the most talented players in the field and should have what it takes to earn his first PGA Tour victory.

Keith Mitchell +3500 (DraftKings)

Keith Mitchell took last week off after a strong start to his 2024 campaign. He finished in a tie for 9th at the American Express in January and in a tie for 17th in his most recent start at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Over his past 24 rounds, Mitchell ranks 12th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and 21st in Driving Distance in the field.

When betting on events that feature Paspalum greens, I always look to target players who’ve had some success on the surface before, as it is quite unique. Mitchell hasn’t played in a great deal of those events over the past few seasons but does have a 2nd place finish at the Corales Puntacana Championship in 2018, which is a strong signal that he likes the surface and can take advantage of a weak field.

On a golf course where great drivers of the golf ball have a significant advantage, I’ll happily take a shot on Mitchell who’s gained strokes off the tee in every one of his starts this season.

Taylor Pendrith +3500 (DraftKings)

Over the past few seasons, Taylor Pendrith has been fantastic in the weaker field events on coastal tracks. In the fall, he finished 8th at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship and was 10th a few months ago at the Sony Open in Hawaii. In his past 24 rounds, the Canadian ranks 6th in Strokes Gained: Total in events that have easy scoring conditions and weak fields and 4th in Strokes Gained: Total in the Caribbean.

Vidanta Vallarta is a course where bombers thrive and Pendrith is one of the longer hitters on the PGA Tour. He ranks 19th in the field in Driving Distance as well as 4th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking in his past 24 rounds. He also ranks 2ndin the field in Birdie or Better percentage.

In addition to the obvious course fit, Pendrith is starting to play some good golf of late. He finished 9th at Torrey Pines a few weeks ago and has two top 10’s in his last three starts. With fellow Canadian Nick Taylor winning in Phoenix, the 32-year-old will be motivated to get in the winner’s circle in a year where the Presidents Cup will be played in Canada.

Cameron Champ +6500 (FanDuel)

Cameron Champ has become one of my favorite players to bet in the outright market over the years due to his volatility. In most circumstances, volatility is a bad thing in the gambling world, but in outright betting, it’s a trait that I target. Champ finishes at the bottom of the leaderboard far more often than he finishes at the top, but he wins golf tournaments at a much higher clip than his odds indicate.

One of the courses on Tour that Champ fits the most is Vidanta Vallarta. The 28-year-old absolutely pummels the ball and the course is set up for players who can get it out there off the tee. He ranks 4th in Driving Distance in the field and also ranks 3rd in Strokes Gained: Total for the first two editions of the Mexico Open at Vidanta.

By any metric, Champ is a poor putter on just about every surface, with one notable exception: Paspalum. He gains an average of .4 strokes per event on Paspalum as opposed to losing roughly .3 strokes on other surfaces.

Many will be concerned with Champ’s horrible start to 2024 where he’s missed the cut in all four of his starts. However, last season, Champ missed the cut in eight straight events prior to finishing 8th at the Mexico Open.

Close your eyes and bet it. Embrace the volatility.

Jhonnatan Vegas +8000 (BetRivers)

Jhonnatan Vegas is one of my favorite players to bet on and I’m ecstatic to find a spot on the schedule that should suit the Venezuelan remarkably.

After an injury hiatus, Vegas is back playing consistent golf and has shown some flashes of his ceiling in his most recent start. At the Waste management Phoenix Open, the two-time Olympian finished 22nd and gained 7.2 two strokes ball striking comprised of 3.8 strokes off the tee and 3.2 on approach.

Coastal Paspalum is a surface Vegas has thrived at over the years. The 39-year-old has finishes 2nd (2021 Puerto Rico Open) and 4th (2022 Corales Puntacana) on Paspalum and should be extremely comfortable with the putter this week.

In his past 24 rounds, Vegas ranks 2nd in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking in the field and 22nd in Driving Distance. The big man will be letting it rip off the tee in Mexico this week.

Harry Hall +130000 (BetRivers)

Harry Hall has absolutely feasted on Paspalum greens over the course of his PGA Tour career. The Englishman absolutely loves playing on the coast and a good deal of his best finishes have come on this surface, including the 2023 Puerto Rico Open (7th), the 2023 Mexico Open (10th) 2023 Corales (13th), and the 2022 Great Exuma (19th).

Hall finished 10th at the event last year and arrives after a solid tied for 41st finish at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. We’ve seen longshots win this season with a hot putter and Hall is one of the best putters in the field.

Adrien Dumont De Chassart +20000 (FanDuel)

Adrien Dumont De Chassart is a young up-and-coming player I’ve committed to betting early in the 2024 season. That approach will certainly come with ebbs and flows but in the end, I am betting on the talent of the 23-year-old.

The Belgian possesses arguably the most desired trait in order to contend this week in Mexico: At his best, he’s an elite talent off the tee. ADDC gained 4.0 strokes off the tee in his last start at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and should be able to let his drive loose at Vidanta Vallarta this week.

De Chassart is a proven winner on the Korn Ferry Tour and has the upside to take advantage of a weaker field this week in Mexico.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Golf mastery begins with your wedge game

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I’ve written multiple times about just how challenging this game is to learn. Nowhere else in life is the human body required to go through such a complex sequence of motions anywhere near this level of difficulty.

From learning how to properly hold a golf club and position your body in the right way to set up a fundamentally sound golf swing, to understanding the sequence of motions that get you to the top of the backswing, to executing a reverse sequence of motions through impact into the follow-through, well, there is just nothing else you do in life that is even remotely close.

I have always been fascinated by the technique aspect of the game, and thoroughly enjoy visiting with experienced teaching professionals, sharing ideas and concepts of how to help golfers in the most efficient manner. Recently, I made my 41st annual trip to the PGA Show in Orlando and had the opportunity to interact with a number of both old and new acquaintances, wherein we engaged in discussions about the best way to help golfers learn.

It is essentially inarguable that each position you pass through in the golf swing is a direct result of the position you passed through immediately prior, and each position will determine what happens next. In essence, the golf swing is a constant reminder that “you can’t get “there” from “here.”

An improper hold on the golf club completely prohibits the ability of the wrists to hinge and rotate correctly throughout the swing. While you can see some subtle differences in grips on the professional tours, those are limited to a preference for overlap vs. interlock style and slight variations in how strong or weak the hands are rotated. But all accomplished players hold the club in essentially the same way.

Likewise, a fundamentally unsound posture and ball position effectively prevent the body from moving in a way as to affect a sound takeaway, transition, and downswing/follow-through. Again, if you watch professional golfers, you’ll see only slight variations in posture and ball position, other than the changes based on the club they are about to hit. The slight differences you do see are mostly as an accommodation for varying heights – a 6’3” golfer simply cannot take the same posture at address as a 5’6” golfer, given that their club length for any given shot is very close to the same. [NOTE:  The length and lie specifications of tour player clubs do not vary nearly as much as you see coming out of the “custom-fitting” world.]

Finally, what your body core, arms and hands, and the golf club are doing through the impact zone is really not that much different in a 30-yard pitch shot than they are in a full swing 8-iron shot – the range of motion is just smaller and slower.

So, the point of today’s post is this: If you will learn to master the core fundamentals of the 30-yard basic pitch shot, your entire golf game will benefit.

There are a ton of good instructional videos to help you fully understand how the body and club work together on a routine pitch shot, so I strongly encourage you to watch, mimic, and learn. And for those of you who are “snowed in” for the coming weeks or months, the best way to learn this is in slow motion, without a ball in the way.

Almost all teaching professionals agree that a new and improved motion technique needs to be understood and learned before you put a ball into the equation. The key is lots of reps without worrying about ball impact. The ball is an intimidator to your focus on making the correct move — if a ball is there, your goal becomes to “hit the ball,” rather than to execute the proper sequence of motions you are trying to learn.

So, if you really want to get better through the bag, commit to learning how to execute a solid, repeating technique for 30-yard pitch shots.

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