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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: 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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