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Does the average golfer putt better or worse on FAST greens?

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A few months ago, the GolfWRX Editorial Team emailed me three story ideas. The first two have worked out quite well (you can read them here and here), so I decided to dig into the third. Being somewhat of a grizzled veteran, I thought that I knew the answer to the above question… but could I prove it by researching the ShotByShot.com 160,000+ round database?

From the very beginning, 27 years ago, I have enabled ShotByShot users the flexibility to categorize their rounds by what I believe to be meaningful filters. Two of these filters are germane to this topic: Green Speed (fast, medium or slow) and Format (non-tournament vs. match play or stroke play tournament rounds). With considerable help from my genius programmer, we selected 17,000+ fairly recent rounds that represent the average 15-19 handicap golfer. We then sliced up the putting analysis according to the above green speed and format filters.

Let me try to anticipate and answer some obvious questions.

  • Aren’t one man’s fast greens another’s medium or even slow? Absolutely! But as we have no way of knowing, I decided to ignore this variable and accept the indicated speed at face value.
  • Do average golfers actually use these filters? Yes! The program has defaults for those who choose not to, but again, we can only evaluate the information provided.

The default for green speed is medium, and 71 percent of the selected rounds were medium. The default for format is non-tournament, which accounted for 84 percent of the rounds. These numbers made sense to me, as the average 15-19 handicap golfer tends to not participate in many tournaments, especially not stroke play where one must hole out on every hole.

The Answer?

It was what I expected, but nowhere near as dramatic. Putting was slightly better on slow- and medium-speed greens, and the putting on non-tournament greens were slightly better than tournaments.

  • 1-Putt Percentages: These were within one percentage point across all categories, from a high of 18.9 precent on medium greens to a low of 18.1 percent of fast greens.
  • 3-Putt Percentages were a bit more interesting. A low of 12.5 percent on medium greens vs. a high of 14.3 percent on fast greens. Again, not a great difference.
  • Tournament vs. Non-tournament: Rounds recorded as stroke play also showed themselves to be more difficult, which makes sense.

What I found most interesting was the incidence of Four Putts. I used to say that the vast majority of golfers go through an entire career and never 4-putt. Why? They simply pick up after three putts. I was wrong when it comes to our ShotByShot.com subscribers, as they do record their 4-putts. I know that I generally 4-putt once a year. When it happens, I am never happy but always tell myself: “Look on the bright side, we got that out of the way and now won’t have to worry about it for the rest of the year.”

In a Putting Distance Control study of the 2015 PGA Tour, I learned that there were 88 four-putts and five 5-putts recorded by ShotLink last year. More than I would have guessed!

But here’s what I found interesting about our average golfer study; the incidence of 4-putts more than doubled from medium, non-tournament (one 4-putt every 20 rounds) to fast, stroke play rounds (one every nine rounds). This clearly demonstrates the added pressure of having to hole out when it counts.

4_putts_chart

How often do you 4-putt? Do you fall into the NEVER category, or one of the handicap ranges in the chart above?

In conclusion, fast greens (or at least greens golfers consider to be fast) are more difficult for the average golfer. They pose a greater challenge for distance control, leading to more 3- and 4-putts. That’s why before starting a round on an “away” course, I recommend golfers spend some time on the putting green to get a feel for the speed. I like to place tees 30 feet apart, and putt two balls back and forth until I have a great feel for my 30-foot stroke. As the vast majority of lag opportunities fall in the 20-40 foot range, you can measure most of yours lag putts as a slight variation of that 30-foot stroke. You will also avoid a big surprise if the greens are what you consider fast.

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In 1989, Peter Sanders founded Golf Research Associates, LP, creating what is now referred to as Strokes Gained Analysis. His goal was to design and market a new standard of statistically based performance analysis programs using proprietary computer models. A departure from “traditional stats,” the program provided analysis with answers, supported by comparative data. In 2006, the company’s website, ShotByShot.com, was launched. It provides interactive, Strokes Gained analysis for individual golfers and more than 150 instructors and coaches that use the program to build and monitor their player groups. Peter has written, or contributed to, more than 60 articles in major golf publications including Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and Golf for Women. From 2007 through 2013, Peter was an exclusive contributor and Professional Advisor to Golf Digest and GolfDigest.com. Peter also works with PGA Tour players and their coaches to interpret the often confusing ShotLink data. Zach Johnson has been a client for nearly five years. More recently, Peter has teamed up with Smylie Kaufman’s swing coach, Tony Ruggiero, to help guide Smylie’s fast-rising career.

23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Grizz01

    Aug 3, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    Totally missed the most important factor. Which made all this null and void. The conditions of the greens. The author is concluding that slow, medium and fast greens are all in tournament shape. Smooth rolling and such. I’ve played some high end courses after playing my muni. I always putt better on the high end course and they are much faster. The roll way better and I can read them better.

    • Andrew Todd Yocum

      Aug 3, 2016 at 10:57 pm

      I agree with this Grizz01. Feel the exact same way.

    • Christian

      Aug 4, 2016 at 4:04 am

      This is true. It’s very rare for hairy greens to be uniformly hairy. To add, I always putt better on fast greens, sliw greens makes my stroke more forced/less smooth.

  2. Rev G

    Aug 3, 2016 at 7:27 am

    This is assuming that the non-speed factors of the greens are the same, which I wouldn’t think they would be. The courses that can afford to keep greens up at faster speeds are usually those with greens that have had more difficulty put in them by the “big name” architect they had design their course. Typically courses with slower greens are the smaller budget courses that had less extensive shaping of the greens. To me greens with slope, tiers, level changes and saddles are the ones that are tough to putt -regardless of speed – but because of the expense, courses that have those feature also typically are faster.

  3. ooffa

    Aug 3, 2016 at 7:27 am

    I put better on temporary greens during the winter.

  4. SirShives

    Aug 2, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    Prior to this summer, I can only remember having one 4 putt in 15 or so years of playing golf. (I’m not saying I’ve only ever had one 4 putt, just that I can only remember that one.) Earlier this summer, I recorded 2 in one round playing at a course with crazy fast greens. To be fair, the starter warned us the greens were going to be that way. This course had recently replaced their greens and they were dealing with a combination of maturing grass and a very hot, dry start to the summer. It’s brutal to have your buddies ask you “How’d you shoot?” and sum up your round with “I had 2 FOUR PUTTS!!” ????????????

  5. Justin

    Aug 2, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    As a low handicapper, I will almost always putt better on greens that are faster AND roll true. I believe the simple reason behind this is the less you have to take the putter head back, the less chance you have of altering your stroke. A 30 foot flat putt on greens that stimp out around 8 or 9 requires a significant hit to get the ball to the hole. Put that same put on a green that rolls to a 12 and you need significantly less force behind the ball to get it there. Less force causes less “skidding” after impact and gets the ball rolling on line faster.

    That being said, what I have noticed is that the courses that have greens which run a little bit faster also tend to be tougher overall. They’ll have at least a few greens with multiple tiers and tend to have more undulation overall. So, after factoring that into the equation, I think that the “slope” of the greens and what a golfer is used to playing on factor much more into success or failure than the actual speed of the greens. In fact, it would be nice if each course slope rating was divided into two groups: Through the green and on the green. The combination of those would give you your total slope. Take 2 courses with an overall slope of 130 and figure out that 1 of them has greens that rate out at a slope of 75 and the other only 60. Invariably you find that one will be harder on the greens and the other is more about ball placement off the tee and approach shots.

    A lot of golfers rely on reviews on various websites when deciding what course to play on their destination vacations or a little outside their normal area. I feel that if slope (moreso than course rating because slope accounts for your handicap level) was used to measure both green difficulty along with the rest of the course, more golfers would choose to play courses based on their skill set. Everyone wants to have a good time out there and while some courses (Pebble, Sawgrass, Pinehurst, etc) will be played regardless of difficulty, most can make a more educated decision about where to spend their hard-earned money versus how well they “may” play. Lately I’ve struggled with the driver but have always been a very good putter and would likely choose a course with tough greens over one that had tough tee shots and approaches. Some may feel the exact opposite and would not look forward to a hellish day on the greens. My best scores ever have come on days where my putter was hot and if I actually tracked the stats I bet those days would also show up as the longest feet of putts made I’ve had all time. I’ve had incredible ball striking rounds where I’ve not broken par because I either wasn’t familiar with the greens or just had an off putting day. I’v ealso shot under par when I felt my swing was way off that particular day.

    We always hear that putting is the key to improving your game, but I also think it’s the key to the enjoyment of the game. Not everyone can drive the ball over 300 yards and very few who can’t will ever build up enough strength or the proper fundamentals to do so. BUT, everyone has the opportunity to sink a 30+ foot putt, and the feeling that produces is so magical that you may just start to feel like a golfer after you had lost all hope 🙂

  6. larrybud

    Aug 2, 2016 at 11:46 am

    c’mon now, we all know 1/2/3 putt percentages are MEANINGLESS! Unless you have a strokes gained chart, you can’t glean anything from these stats.

    1 putt percentage may be more because players chip farther from the hole on faster greens (short sided chips are harder to get close on fast greens!).

    3 jack percentage may be more because the first putt distance is greater on fast greens (ball rolls out more on fast greens, effectively making the green smaller!)

    • Peter Sanders

      Aug 2, 2016 at 5:13 pm

      Larrybud,
      You are correct that Strokes Gained is the true measure of putting performance and I of course had it and used it. That said, it is just a number and I felt it more meaningful to describe the % 1-Putts, 3 and 4-Putts that make up the number.

  7. Other Paul

    Aug 2, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Greens are usually super slow in the spring where i live. And then medium all summer. We got a ton of rain this year and no heat waves yet so the greens are healthy and short. Balls roll far right now. In the spring i averaged 1.9 putts per hole. And then i had a few rounds with hand full of 3 putts, now i am used to it again and my average is dropping back down to under 2 per hole.

  8. Sm

    Aug 2, 2016 at 9:59 am

    It’s not just speed that matters when it comes to Average Joe’s courses.
    It can’t just be fast.
    It also has to be smooth. I bet even Average Joe’s stats would go up if the greens he played on more often than not were smooth.

    • BlakLanner

      Aug 2, 2016 at 10:54 am

      I agree completely. I am far from the greatest putter but I can adjust to the speed of greens within a hole or two if they are consistent and smooth. However, when I am on a course with inconsistent or bumpy greens (like the muni courses around here with the brutal weather we have had this summer), my putting greatly suffers since I cannot trust any feel from previous greens or even if the ball will follow a line without bouncing around in a few spots.

  9. Shallowface

    Aug 2, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Regardless of green speed, one major factor in three putting is the fact that at so many courses the person setting the pins doesn’t follow the USGA’s suggestion that the area three feet around the cup be as level as possible. They’ll set them on the sides of slopes, on top of ridges, anywhere but where they should. It leads to what I call “McDonald’s Putts,” where you have a three footer that breaks a foot and the roll of the ball is in the shape of an arch. How often do see a three footer on TV played any further than the top edge of the hole? Not often. No wonder they make more than we do.

    • Obee

      Aug 2, 2016 at 10:53 am

      Totally true. For the most part, the tour plays “USGA-spec” greens, that have a maximum slope of ~2 – 2.5 degrees in the pinnable areas, which makes for boring putting. I much prefer slightly slower greens (9 – 10 on the stimp), but with MORE contour. Makes putting much more of a challenge.

    • Philip

      Aug 2, 2016 at 11:33 am

      What! There is a recommendation on this – I’m going to look it up and give it to our course pro and greens keeper. We have a few holes where the ball will never stop near the hole and just keep rolling off the green 10-20+ feet away. If you carefully place it – it will stop rolling almost immediately.

    • JJVas

      Aug 3, 2016 at 12:00 pm

      So totally true. Living in the Northeast and playing all of the classics that run WAY WAY WAY faster than Ross and Tillinghast ever had in mind gets ridiculous when the Super has a bad day.

  10. Shallowface

    Aug 2, 2016 at 9:08 am

    The only problem with your last suggestion is I have yet to play at a course where the speed of the practice green and the speed of the greens on the course were anywhere near the same. 🙂

    • Philip

      Aug 2, 2016 at 12:55 pm

      I only played one course where the two practice greens where an exact match for the course, but given the entire new huge, oak clubhouse (the locker doors were an inch or two of oak) that required an oak forest – I would expect no less (one would expect it for the price they ask for a round). It also has hosted a few professional events. Any other course I just check my alignment, otherwise, the speed of the practice green can mess up the first couple of holes for my expectation of green speeds.

    • Justin

      Aug 2, 2016 at 1:51 pm

      I find that the vast majority of practice greens in Southern California roll much truer and are in better shape than the greens out on the course. I really wish they would do something about this, but i understand that it’s easier to manicure and keep in good shape a green that sits next to the clubhouse and gets the most use. I will say that more of the courses I’ve played in AZ have matching practice and course greens than here for sure. I also know that it’s harder to replicate like conditions green to green on bent vs bermuda as bent is a more delicate grass in my opinion (it’s also the perfect putting grass when properly manicured!)

    • Keith V Shannon

      Aug 21, 2016 at 7:09 am

      I totally agree here. I’ve fallen into this trap a few times, I’ll warm up with my putter on the clubhouse green, then head out to the first hole and watch my lag putt blow by the hole and come to a stop in the rough off the green because the stimp is as much as double on the course, even at private courses. Then I spend the rest of the round recalibrating muscle memory, being afraid of my putting strength and not really regaining any ability to stick the ball a clublength from the hole until the round is long since blown.

      Maybe the club wants the practice green to look nicer because it’s right there. Maybe the shade of the clubhouse or outbuildings requires thicker grass to avoid losing it altogether. Maybe higher traffic calls for a thicker carpet. Maybe the course groundskeepers aren’t responsible for those greens, that’s a job for the separate landscaping crew (made up of the scrubs the greensmaster doesn’t trust with the money grass yet). Whatever it is, it’s extremely frustrating to the casual golfer who doesn’t get practice rounds on the course before the putts start to count.

      It’s gotten to the point that I don’t practice my putting at the course before the round, and I don’t pay attention to the actual roll distance after impact when warming up my chipshots; if I want to practice, there are a few ranges near me that do a better job at replicating local courses’ stimps than the clubs seem to be capable of on their own practice greens. Then on the day of a round I trust my muscle memory, with more minor adjustments based on the first few holes.

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19th Hole

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

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

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

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

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

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

Past Winners of the PGA Championship

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

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

Key Stats For Valhalla

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

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

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

Strokes Gained: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

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

2. Strokes Gained: Off the Tee

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

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee Over Past 24 Rounds:

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

Strokes Gained: Total on Nickalus Designs

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

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

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

Strokes Gained: Tee to Green on Very Long Courses

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

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

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

Strokes Gained: Total in Major Championships

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

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

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

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass Greens

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

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

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

Strokes Gained: Total on Zoysia Fairways

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

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

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

2024 PGA Championship Model Rankings

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

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

2024 PGA Championship Picks

Ludvig Aberg +1800 (BetMGM)

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

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

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

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

Bryson DeChambeau +2800 (BetMGM)

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

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

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

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

Patrick Cantlay +4000 (FanDuel)

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

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

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

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

Joaquin Niemann +4000 (BetMGM)

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

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

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

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

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What really makes a wedge work? Part 2

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In my last post, I explained the basic performance dynamics of “smash factor” and “gear effect” as they apply to your wedges and your wedge play success. If you missed that post, you can read it here.

At the end of that post, I promised “part 2” of this discussion of what makes a wedge work the way it does. So, let’s dive into the other two components of any wedge – the shaft and the grip.

It’s long been said that the shaft is “the engine of the golf club.” The shaft (and grip) are your only connection to all the technologies that are packed into the head of any golf club, whether it be a driver, fairway, hybrid, iron, wedge or even putter.

And you cannot ignore those two components of your wedges if your goal is optimizing your performance.

I’ve long been an advocate of what I call a “seamless transition” from your irons into your wedges, so that the feel and performance do not disconnect when you choose a gap wedge, for example, instead of your iron-set-matching “P-club.” In today’s golf equipment marketplace, more and more golfers are making the investment of time and money to experience an iron fitting, going through trial and error and launch monitor measuring to get just the right shaft in their irons.

But then so many of those same golfers just go into a store and choose wedges off the retail display, with no similar science involved at all. And that’s why I see so many golfers with a huge disconnect between their custom-fitted irons, often with lighter and/or softer graphite or light steel shafts . . . and their off-the-rack wedges with the stock stiff steel ‘wedge flex’ shaft common to those stock offerings.

If your wedge shafts are significantly heavier and stiffer than the shafts in your irons, it is physically impossible for you to make the same swing. Period.

To quickly improve your wedge play, one of the first things you can do is have your wedges re-shafted with the same or similar shaft that is in your irons.

There’s another side of that shaft weight equation; if you don’t have the forearm and hand strength of a PGA Tour professional, you simply cannot “handle” the same weight shaft that those guys play to master the myriad of ‘touch shots’ around the greens.

Now, let’s move on to the third and other key component of your wedges – the grips. If those are not similar in shape and feel to the grips on your irons, you have another disconnect. Have your grips checked by a qualified golf club professionals to make sure you are in sync there.

The one caveat to that advice is that I am a proponent of a reduced taper in your wedge grips – putting two to four more layers of tape under the lower hand, or selecting one of the many reduced taper grips on the market. That accomplishes two goals for your scoring.

First, it helps reduce overactive hands in your full and near-full wedge swings. Quiet hands are key to good wedge shots.

And secondly, it provides a more consistent feel of the wedge in your hands as you grip down for those shorter and more delicate shots around the greens. And you should always grip down as you get into those touch shots. I call it “getting closer to your work.”

So, if you will spend as much time selecting the shafts and grips for your wedges as you do choosing the brand, model, and loft of them, your scoring range performance will get better.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Wells Fargo Championship betting preview: Tommy Fleetwood ready to finally land maiden PGA Tour title

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The PGA Tour season ramps back up this week for another “signature event,” as golf fans look forward to the year’s second major championship next week.

After two weaker-field events in the Zurich Classic and the CJ Cup Byron Nelson, most of the best players in the world will head to historic Quail Hollow for one of the best non-major tournaments of the year. 

Last season, Wyndham Clark won the event by four shots.

Quail Hollow is a par-71 measuring 7,521 yards that features Bermudagrass greens. The tree-lined, parkland style course can play quite difficult and features one of the most difficult three-hole stretches in golf known as “The Green Mile,” which makes up holes 16-18: two mammoth par 4s and a 221-yard par 3. All three holes have an average score over par, and water is in play in each of the last five holes on the course.

The field is excellent this week with 68 golfers teeing it up without a cut. All of the golfers who’ve qualified are set to tee it up, with the exception of Scottie Scheffler, who is expecting the birth of his first child. 

Past Winners at Quail Hollow

  • 2023: Wyndham Clark (-19)
  • 2022: Max Homa (-8)
  • 2021: Rory McIlroy (-10)
  • 2019: Max Homa (-15)
  • 2018: Jason Day (-12)
  • 2017: Justin Thomas (-8) (PGA Championship)
  • 2016: James Hahn (-9)
  • 2015: Rory McIlroy (-21)

Key Stats For Quail Hollow

Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes gained: Approach will be extremely important this week as second shots at Quail Hollow can be very difficult. 

Total SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Akshay Bhatia (+1.16)
  2. Tom Hoge (+1.12)
  3. Corey Conners (+1.01)
  4. Shane Lowry (+0.93)
  5. Austin Eckroat (+0.82)

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee

Quail Hollow is a long course on which it is important to play from the fairway. Both distance and accuracy are important, as shorter tee shots will result in approach shots from 200 or more yards. With most of the holes heavily tree lined, errant drives will create some real trouble for the players.

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Ludvig Aberg (+0.73)
  2. Rory McIlroy (+0.69)
  3. Xander Schauffele (+0.62)
  4. Viktor Hovland (+0.58)
  5. Chris Kirk (+0.52)

Proximity: 175-200

The 175-200 range is key at Quail Hollow. Players who can hit their long irons well will rise to the top of the leaderboard. 

Proximity: 175-200+ over past 24 rounds:

  1. Cameron Young (28’2″)
  2. Akshay Bhatia (29’6″)
  3. Ludvig Aberg (+30’6″)
  4. Sam Burns (+30’6″)
  5. Collin Morikawa (+30’9″)

SG: Total on Tom Fazio Designs

Players who thrive on Tom Fazio designs get a bump for me at Quail Hollow this week. 

SG: Total on Tom Fazio Designs over past 36 rounds:

  1. Patrick Cantlay (+2.10)
  2. Rory McIlroy (+1.95)
  3. Tommy Fleetwood (+1.68)
  4. Austin Eckroat (+1.60)
  5. Will Zalatoris (+1.57)

Strokes Gained: Putting (Bermudagrass)

Strokes Gained: Putting has historically graded out as the most important statistic at Quail Hollow. While it isn’t always predictable, I do want to have it in the model to bump up golfers who prefer to putt on Bermudagrass.

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

  1. Taylor Moore (+0.82)
  2. Nick Dunlap (+.76)
  3. Wyndham Clark (+.69)
  4. Emiliano Grillo (+.64)
  5. Cam Davis (+.61)

Course History

This stat will incorporate players that have played well in the past at Quail Hollow. 

Course History over past 36 rounds (per round):

  1. Rory McIlroy (+2.50)
  2. Justin Thomas (+1.96)
  3. Jason Day (+1.92)
  4. Rickie Fowler (+1.83)
  5. Viktor Hovland (+1.78)

Wells Fargo Championship Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (27%), SG: Off the Tee (23%), SG: Total on Fazio designs (12%), Proximity: 175-200 (12%), SG: Putting Bermuda grass (12%), and Course History (14%).

  1. Wyndham Clark
  2. Rory McIlroy
  3. Xander Schauffele
  4. Shane Lowry
  5. Hideki Matsuyama
  6. Viktor Hovland 
  7. Cameron Young
  8. Austin Eckroat 
  9. Byeong Hun An
  10. Justin Thomas

2024 Wells Fargo Championship Picks

Tommy Fleetwood +2500 (DraftKings)

I know many out there have Tommy fatigue when it comes to betting, which is completely understandable given his lack of ability to win on the PGA Tour thus far in his career. However, history has shown us that players with Fleetwood’s talent eventually break though, and I believe for Tommy, it’s just a matter of time.

Fleetwood has been excellent on Tom Fazio designs. Over his past 36 rounds, he ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Total on Fazio tracks. He’s also been incredibly reliable off the tee this season. He’s gained strokes in the category in eight of his past nine starts, including at The Masters, the PLAYERS and the three “signature events” of the season. Tommy is a golfer built for tougher courses and can grind it out in difficult conditions.

Last year, Fleetwood was the first-round leader at this event, firing a Thursday 65. He finished the event in a tie for 5th place.

For those worried about Fleetwood’s disappointing start his last time out at Harbour Town, he’s bounced back nicely after plenty of poor outings this season. His T7 at the Valero Texas Open was after a MC and T35 in his prior two starts and his win at the Dubai Invitational came after a T47 at the Sentry.

I expect Tommy to bounce back this week and contend at Quail Hollow.

Justin Thomas +3000 (DraftKings)

It’s been a rough couple of years for Justin Thomas, but I don’t believe things are quite as bad as they seem for JT. He got caught in the bad side of the draw at Augusta for last month’s Masters and has gained strokes on approach in seven of his nine starts in 2024. 

Thomas may have found something in his most recent start at the RBC Heritage. He finished T5 at a course that he isn’t the best fit for on paper. He also finally got the putter working and ranked 15th in Strokes Gained: Putting for the week.

The two-time PGA champion captured the first of his two major championships at Quail Hollow back in 2017, and some good vibes from the course may be enough to get JT out of his slump.

Thomas hasn’t won an event in just about two years. However, I still believe that will change soon as he’s been one of the most prolific winners throughout his PGA Tour career. Since 2015, he has 15 PGA Tour wins.

Course history is pretty sticky at Quail Hollow, with players who like the course playing well there on a regular basis. In addition to JT’s PGA Championship win in 2017, he went 4-1 at the 2022 Presidents Cup and finished T14 at the event last year despite being in poor form. Thomas can return as one of the top players on the PGA Tour with a win at a “signature event” this week. 

Cameron Young +3500 (DraftKings)

For many golf bettors, it’s been frustrating backing Cam Young this season. His talent is undeniable, and one of the best and most consistent performers on the PGA Tour. He just hasn’t broken through with a victory yet. Quail Hollow has been a great place for elite players to get their first victory. Rory McIlroy, Anthony Kim, Rickie Fowler and Wyndham Clark all notched their first PGA Tour win at Quail.

Throughout Cam Young’s career, he has thrived at tougher courses with strong fields. This season, he finished T16 at Riviera and T9 at Augusta National, demonstrating his preference of a tough test. His ability to hit the ball long and straight off the tee make him an ideal fit for Quail Hollow, despite playing pretty poorly his first time out in 2023 (T59). Young should be comfortable playing in the region as he played his college golf at Wake Forest, which is about an hour’s drive from Quail Hollow.

The 26-year-old has played well at Tom Fazio designs in the past and ranks 8th in the field in Strokes Gained: Total on those courses in his last 36 rounds. Perhaps most importantly, this season, Young is the best player on the PGA Tour in terms of proximity from 175-200 in the fairway, which is where a plurality and many crucial shots will come from this week.

Young is an elite talent and Quail Hollow has been kind to players of his ilk who’ve yet to win on Tour.

Byeong Hun An +5000 (FanDuel)

Byeong Hun An missed some opportunities last weekend at the CJ Cup Byron Nelson. He finished T4 and played some outstanding golf, but a couple of missed short putts prevented him from getting to the winning score of -23. Despite not getting the win, it’s hard to view An’s performance as anything other than an overwhelming success. It was An’s fourth top-ten finish of the season.

Last week, An gained 6.5 strokes ball striking, which was 7th in the field. He also ranked 12th for Strokes Gained: Approach and 13th for Strokes Gained: Off the Tee. The South Korean has been hitting the ball so well from tee to green all season long and he now heads to a golf course that should reward his precision.

An’s driver and long irons are absolute weapons. At Quail Hollow, players will see plenty of approach shots from the 175-200 range as well as some from 200+. In his past 24 rounds, Ben ranks 3rd in the field in proximity from 175-200 and 12th in proximity from 200+. Playing in an event that will not end up being a “birdie” fest should help An, who can separate from the field with his strong tee to green play. The putter may not always cooperate but getting to -15 is much easier than getting to -23 for elite ball strikers who tend to struggle on the greens.

Winning a “signature event” feels like a tall task for An this week with so many elite players in the field. However, he’s finished T16 at the Genesis Invitational, T16 at The Masters and T8 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The 32-year-old’s game has improved drastically this season and I believe he’s ready to get the biggest win of his career.

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