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Opinion & Analysis

True or False: PEDs Cannot Improve a Golfer’s Game



Rory McIlroy said recently that pro golfers should be blood-tested for illegal substances, but that he didn’t see how Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) could improve one’s game, specifically eye-hand coordination, that factor so important to high level golf.

“I don’t really know of any drug that can give you an advantage all the way across the board,” McIlroy said at The Open Championship. “There are obviously drugs that can make you stronger. There are drugs that can help your concentration. But whether there’s something out there where it can make you an overall better player, I’m not sure. Physically, obviously, you can get stronger, recover faster. So, I mean, for example, HGH is only … you can’t really pick it up in a urine test. I could use HGH and get away with it. So I think blood testing is something that needs to happen in golf just to make sure that it is a clean sport going forward.

Well, I agree with him around blood testing as opposed to the present urine testing where some key substances cannot be detected. But whether such substances can make you a better overall player, I beg to differ with Rors.

It’s generally agreed that PEDs can improve performance in baseball, football, swimming, soccer, tennis, cycling, and track and field, improving strength and endurance, and recovery time from injury. Those sports, like golf, also require so much more than those advantages I just listed. For example, eye-hand coordination is an important factor in most of those sports, as are mental aspects like motivation, attitude, determination, body flexibility, inspiration, feel, touch, day-to-day physical health (like flu or cutting your finger preparing breakfast), distressing news from family or friends (Henrik Stenson, at The Open Championship, was mourning the death of a close friend), and current events, like the horrendous terrorist attack in Nice, France, during The Open. PEDs have absolutely no effect on those vital factors in golf, or any other sport. But what they do effect in all sports, including golf, are strength, endurance and time recovering from injury; factors that help pave the way to improvement in performance.

So how can a professional golfer, or any golfer for that matter, benefit from banned substances such as Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and others from the PGA’s official list such as anabolic agents, peptide hormones, diuretics and other masking agents, drugs of abuse, stimulants, and beta blockers? Faced with the likes of longer hitters like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, Gary Player was one of the first pros to emphasize exercise to increase strength, endurance, conditioning and flexibility in order to keep pace with those bigger fellows and improve his performance. He did this without the use of PEDs. And with nine majors and dozens of worldwide wins, he did quite well with this exercise regime. He achieved added strength, endurance, flexibility and recovery time via hard work, will power, and the integrity to not supplement his regime with any drug that could have today been construed as illegal.

“If you don’t test,” wrote Don H. Catlin, MD, Founder and CEO of Anti-Doping Research, in a 2004 article titled “The Steroid Detective, published in US News and World Report, “sport is gone. People will start getting really sick. All these things are toxic.”

If Player had instead used PEDs back in his day, as is suspected some are using today, he could have increased his strength, which definitely does help with club head speed, and therefore distance, for all tee-to-green clubs; his endurance, which improves the ability to maintain skills over a four-day tournament; and speed up recovery time from injury, which quite importantly allows one to return to the course sooner. For tour players, this of course translates to possible success and money in the bank to support the family.

Dr. David Geier, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, South Carolina, in commenting on human growth hormone, wrote that “many athletes claim to use it to recover from injury more quickly, allowing them to train harder.”

To resurrect or maintain skills, top players may hit 300-500 balls a day at the range, honing and grooving techniques their instructors have gone over. Golf takes that kind of practice and preparation, especially at professional levels. That’s been the case since Ben Hogan dug his game “out of the dirt” to overcome a near fatal car accident, and go on to win six more majors. We don’t know how many balls The Hawk hit per day, but you can bet it was hundreds. I get achy hitting a small bucket a few times a week, so I can imagine how driven and how well conditioned Hogan was.

Tiger Woods took practice to an even higher level, by not only hitting many, many balls each day, but working out intensely in the gym under the eye of a personal trainer. In his prime, Tiger won some tournaments, including majors, via his ability to endure hot summer temperatures because of his conditioning. Later, after surgeries, Woods would often try to come back too soon, and has become unable to sustain the rigors of intensive practice. Some have theorized that Woods may have turned to PEDs to hasten his return to practice and preparation in order to regain the form necessary to perform at before unreachable levels, but those allegations have never been proven. We can only assume, based on negative urine tests, that an impatient Tiger simply did not giving himself enough recuperation time.

And that’s true of many of us amateurs, as well. I was out for almost a year with golfer’s elbow, champing at the bit to return to the game I love. I’d try to hit some balls at times, crossing the boundary of pain, and preceded to re-injure that elbow, adding to the time I eventually was able to return to the fray. Sometimes the ego that says, “I’m ready” or “Just do it” is like a runaway stagecoach, out of control… and intelligence.

But pros are playing this game for a living, and might be tempted to give PEDs a try if they suspect they could help — not improve their skills directly, but speed up the recuperation process to allow them to hone their skills and help get back to work faster. The same could be true around minimizing fatigue over a four-day tournament grind. What a challenge that must be! To play at that level over four days in weather that can include heat, cold, rain, wind, you name it. PEDs represent a potential shortcut in dealing with the kinds of obstacles that make earning a living as a touring pro the challenge it is. Golf, though, is a game of integrity, as it has been since its inception. Still, with the kind of money involved in this modern era, the temptations are there.

Russell Meldrum, MD, Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine, wrote in a 2002 article published in Sport Journal: “Drug use is a serious concern, not only for the concepts of integrity and fair play in competitive sports, but because of the health threats to the athletes. Certainly drug testing programs should continue with increasing numbers of athletes being tested and increasing penalties for detection, since these are most likely means of deterrence.”

So can PEDs, such as HGH, improve a golfer’s game? No, as far as swing mechanics, course management, feel, touch, green reading, etc. are concerned. But they can boost the capacity for the golfer to endure more, get stronger, and recuperate faster from injury to allow him or her to gain an edge to hit more practice balls and improve one’s ability to feel more in control of their physical and mental condition.

I vote for random blood testing to definitively keep these substances out of professional golf.

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Stephen has been a freelance writer since 1969. He's written six books, including the award-winning The Mindful Hiker and The Mindful Golfer, a best seller. His book covers all aspects of the game of golf, and can be purchased at local booksellers and online here. Stephen has also written many regional and national articles, and currently blogs at



  1. Pingback: PEDs in the MLB – Sports

  2. mannyv

    Aug 14, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    To the first poster. TW has always been an athletic freak. When he was at Stanford he was the strongest athlete pound for pound football team included.
    Remember when he won the Masters in 1997 as a skinny kid he was hitting pitching wedge into to 500+ yard par four while other players were using 4 irons.

    • Justin

      Aug 16, 2016 at 11:34 am

      “He was the strongest athlete pound for pound football team included”

      There’s not a chance in hell that’s true!! Have you seen pictures of him when he was at Stanford? Everyone on the Stanford Football team is laughing at you right now. What a ridiculous comment!

    • CW

      Aug 19, 2016 at 10:10 pm

      Really,i heard he used his putter.
      Also,i heard he used to flap his arms really really fast and was able to fly over the course before playing it..

  3. AllBOdoesisgolf

    Aug 11, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    look what happened when Tiger was on them and then look what happened when he stopped because they started testing…..

    • Tom

      Aug 11, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      You could walk onto a highschool football field and find five kids who are in just as good of shape as Tiger ever was. He was in great shape, but he wasn’t anything spectacular in terms of the fitness world. Compared to other golfers, yes, he looked like a powerhouse, but you wouldn’t have to look far in the closest Golds Gym to find someone warming up with Tigers max weights, all while doing it drug free. On top of that, PED’s would have nothing to do with Tiger’s injuries. If he were doing them, I would assume he would have proper council, and would have gotten certain ones that would’ve helped him feel much better through the latter few years of his career.

      • CCshop

        Aug 12, 2016 at 5:16 pm

        So your saying I could go into any high school and find 5 kids that could go through the rigorous Navy Seal training that Tiger was doing. Doubt it. He ruined his body during that training and with how much he lifted outside of golf. Not sure 5 kids I went to high school with could have done the same.

  4. Tom

    Aug 11, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Depends what PED’s people are talking about…

    General PED’s in the sense of steriods and muscle growth… Very debate-able. You could argue that they enhance athletic performance and that’s better for just about anyone and anything you do that’s sports related, but let’s remember: Furyk shot the lowest round in golf history this weekend, and if that man takes PED’s, someone will have to scoop my jaw off the floor for me.

    I propose looking at it from a completely different angle: Are steroids necessary to perform at a high level in golf? No.

    If you took them, would they help you perform to that high level? NO.

    Golf is a game of accuracy, not just distance. If you look at the guys with the most strokes gained putting, you’ll generally find them around the top of the leader board.

    Now, if you bring in things like amphetamines, beta blockers, etc.. that could be, and IMO is an entirely different story. It’s been said at minimum a million times: “Golf is a mental game.”

    If hitting the ball further was all that the game required, then yes, the PED’s which enhance athletic ability may give you an edge, but even then, it’s doubtful. Jamie Sadlowski is a prime example: Trains hard, athletic, sound mechanics, but does not possess a skillset that can be obtained by PED’s, nor would he be helped by them. If anything, MOST PED’s would hinder what gives him the ability to hit the ball like he does.

    However, on the course, the drugs that give an advantage to the mind.. Something to help you focus on the 18th tee when you’re T1. Something that kills the nerves for the 10′ down hill putt for a +$1M purse and a major title. Those are what will help golfers.

    I’ve played my best golf when I’m focused and relaxed, not when I’ve been in the best shape of my life.

    Side note: People look at Tiger and Rory like they’re freaks. Compared to the golfing world, they are freaks. But put them in a gym with a group of guys who truly know how to train, and they’re mediocre in size, at best.

    • KK

      Aug 14, 2016 at 12:41 pm

      It’s farther, not further. And Furyk with the power of DJ would’ve shot 54.

  5. Amp

    Aug 11, 2016 at 3:23 am

    Adderall helps me a lot. I get a lot of focus and concentration from that stuff. If I didn’t get it, I’d go lazy and my mind will wander. I don’t play serious competitions, just play recreationally, so don’t put the evil label on me, I am responsible, I wouldn’t ever try to cheat this way.
    It’s crazy to think how old this drug really is. Makes you wonder who was using it back in the day without the kind of detection methods we now have in the modern world. But then again, you can ask that about so many drugs, including drugs of abuse, some of which weren’t even considered as such until somewhat recently.
    The world is changing rapidly now, and nobody will be able to cheat this way. And it’s good that everybody will have to submit to testing.

  6. KK

    Aug 10, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    No question it’s true. Golf is easier with more athletic ability and PEDs increase athletic ability. Faster recovery is also an underrated benefit. This is an exaggeration but imagine Tiger with the healing power of Wolverine. He’d have 30 majors by now. HGH is much less than being Wolverine but it’s measurably better than no HGH.

  7. BSGolf

    Aug 10, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    I vote do whatever you want to do to your own body…God made it for humans to use…Drugs are good and professional golf is entertainment…let the syringes fly and lets see someone on Beta Blockers shoot 54

    • Justin

      Aug 10, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      One man’s demise is often at the detriment of many

  8. Justin

    Aug 10, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    If you don’t think PEDs (specifically anabolic steroids, peptides, and hgh) can help improve a golfers game, then you probably don’t know much about PEDs. Unlike most other sports, there is such a thing as being too “big” for golf. You can be fat and golf just fine, but it becomes increasingly difficult to repeat a swing when muscles that are huge get in the way. Tiger, at his physical peak, never had muscle size that approached the size of many other athletes in many other sports. Yet, some still argued his size was holding him back and decreased his flexibility (which may have lead to some injury issues he has and is now dealing with).

    What most people don’t realize is steroids alone will not grow huge muscles. Steroids are simply a “booster” for the incoming nutrients. If you continue to eat a normal diet, you likely won’t get much bigger. The guys and gals that gain tons of weight through the use of steroids are eating far more calories than normal. The steroids allow your body to use more of these incoming nutrients and convert them into muscle whereas they would normally be wasted or converted into fat. Think of steroid use as a time travel device…they’re simply speeding up the process (and in some cases pushing you past your physical limitations). What you could accomplish in 2 years of hard work can likely be accomplished in 6 months or less.

    As for practical use in golf, you can still eat a “light and healthy” diet while on steroids and increase strength. Your muscles will certainly grow a bit, especially if you jump right in without a ton of prior history of intense weight training. But the main benefit here for golfers is recovery time, and because they are not worried about gaining muscle all that fast, they can use some of the lighter drugs that the body builders don’t even bother with. Instead of “bigger, stronger, faster” you get “stronger, leaner, fresher.”


    Most people know it can help accelerate injury recovery. Some scientists will debate that it has any effect on injury recovery, but I’ve seen it first hand and can tell you the results are unbelievable. In just the first week on HGH, your body will “force” you to catch up on the sleep you’ve been missing out on. You’ll be very tired during the day for most of the first week and may be forced to nap occasionally. After that, you’ll notice you are sleeping much better at night and wake up feeling looser and more refreshed. I would think that right there would help to heighten focus indirectly if nothing else. Like most of these drugs, at a certain point you get diminishing returns because the body builds up a tolerance. Users are forced to cycle them to give their receptors a chance to refresh (again, this is debated, but it works time and time again in real life). But now, with the introduction of peptides, you don’t even have to cycle off. HGH is an exogenous hormone that both suppresses and replaces your natural GH production. Most people believe that steroids and HGH “add” to your natural levels, when in fact they completely flat line your natural production. This is the main reason why they are viewed as dangerous or risky, and rightfully so. Now athletes are using HGH in conjunction with peptides such as GHRH and GHRP to benefit from both natural and exogenous production. This is achievable because of the short half life of these items. GHRH and GHRP work together to increase both the number of receptors producing natural GH in the hypotahlamus and increase the output of those receptors. So, you can cycle peptides and HGH at intervals throughout the day to achieve maximum results without ever having to come off (theoretically).

    Now you know that it sounds like a pain in the ass (literally and metaphorically) to use steroids and HGH… would you do it if you know you wouldn’t be caught and it would increase the chance of financial success in your life? This is what these guys are faced with and I really hope that golf is enough of a gentleman’s game to simply weed out the users who shouldn’t be there. Physical fitness is more important in the game now than ever. Even Andrew “Beef” Johnston works out hard so he can have a consistent swing (even though his body may not show it!). I think long term we’ll be seeing more and more instructors teaching a swing that stresses preservation of the body. I can’t help but think guys like Rory McIlroy and Jason Day will have injury issues in the future because of the torque they create in their swings. I really hope they play forever and never get injured, but it seems like a high probability that they will. Remember, chicks dig the long ball… but you can only hit the long ball if you are able to walk out onto the course!

    • LT

      Aug 10, 2016 at 1:00 pm

      You know nothing. Got all that from Google, didja?

      • Justin

        Aug 10, 2016 at 2:22 pm

        Because I’d love to spend my time regurgitating info from Google…

        There is so much misinformation out there and most people refuse to listen to the things I have to say, but that’s not my problem. Take from this what you will but it should be very informative for the 7 people that will actually read the entire comment

        • LT

          Aug 10, 2016 at 10:12 pm

          Everybody already knows everything you said. It makes you sound like an idiot for repeating it over and over

          • Justin

            Aug 11, 2016 at 11:31 am

            Since when do you refer to yourself as Everybody

            • snowexcuse

              Aug 15, 2016 at 2:02 pm

              I thought your post was great, thank for the write-up. I did not know the specifics of PED use.

              • Justin

                Aug 16, 2016 at 11:36 am

                Thank you! Finally someone that shows LT is the real idiot!

    • Jim

      Aug 11, 2016 at 3:06 am

      I have a ‘broken back’ and have been teaching a biomechanically more correct swing for 20 years. It works, it’s powerful, the derotational shear forces are dispersed over a greater ROM. Increased emphasis on hand speed, maintaining spine angle during winding up & shifting well before unwinding front hip and speeding up the hands. I turned pro in 95 after breaking my back in 1990…from 97-2001 I was averaging 298 off the tee and 150 was a 9 iron.

      The only time I ever hurt my back moving this way was when I slipped on a tee shot with those shitty 1st gen soft spikes! I’ve taught over 100 students with back injuries who saught me out and have had success with everyone. (No one’s back ‘fixed itself’ and some with degenerative or arthritic conditions continued to deteriorate, but no one ‘hurt their back’ swinging this way. Most played more often, hit bigger buckets at the range with less or no pain than ever before.

      ps…tell Tiger to see me 😉

      • Jim

        Aug 11, 2016 at 9:03 am

        I had a few broken bones and from the usual foorball, rugby stuff, my service, but it was a fall at the WTC pile during the ‘rescue phase’ after
        9/11 when everything held together with spit n duct tape finally broke. I had 3 lower back surgeries in 01-02 and 2 C Spine surgeries in 03. 2004 was mostly all rehab, strengthening and relearning another ‘bad back’ swing…2005 was
        my first year back fully employed on green
        grass teaching and playing with members daily.

        I have pain everyday – some days worse than
        others, and in 2014 I finally had my shoulder rebuilt
        This was by far the most painful surgery I ever had and the 16 week recovery was brutal.

        If taking some kind of steroid or HGH or whatever MEDICINE my doctor could have given
        would’ve helped speed the recovery time – I
        would’ve taken it. I’m still working to strengthen it and may end up with a 20-30% loss. Balls definitely aren’t goin as far anymore.

        So, if say I’m playing in a section event or a Monday 4 spot and by some miracle get in, am I cheating taking my pain pills (without which I can’t play 18 holes or work a full active day) or some Medicine helping my torn up miscles heal?

        There was a thread about what Jimmy Walker was thinking on that last putt…If he was taking Ritalin – I’M NOT EVEN suggesting he was, the hole would’ve looked 3 times bigger and all he woulda been thinkin is ‘back of cup’…
        THAT’S a PED drug for golf

    • Tom

      Aug 11, 2016 at 2:52 pm

      HGH is a little different than you’re making it out to be in your post.. It heals and actually creates more cells, but isn’t one of the drugs that has direct strength or endurance properties. It enhances size, burns fat, and helps your tendons and ligaments heal significantly faster by creating more cells. That being said, your head, hands, heart, and other internal organs will grow. If you look at a body builder who seems to have a big gut, even though he’s sitting there with 3% body fat, that’s because HGH caused his intestines to grow. Pretty nasty.

      Before you reply, I do happen to know quite a bit about PED’s.

      Golfers don’t need PED’s. It’s not a game of strength. Endurance is necessary, but as long as you can swing as fast on the 18th tee as you did on the 1st tee, you’re pretty much set.

      As said in a post before, Furyk just shot the lowest round in professional golf history, and although I can’t be certain, I’d be pretty dang surprised to hear he did any kind of drugs to get there.

      • Justin

        Aug 16, 2016 at 11:56 am

        You say HGH doesn’t have direct strength properties and then immediately after you say it enhances size. Don’t you think it’s highly probable (if not absolute) that when your muscle size increases that your strength would also increase? It goes along with the common misconception that Steroids alone increase muscle size, without caloric intake increase or resistance training… which is simply not true.

        It’s actually debatable whether HGH actually enhances muscle size at all. The only direct way it could enhance muscle size would be through Hyperplasia, which hasn’t been proven to take place within the human body yet. To effectively “gain” muscle size on HGH, you have to use so much of it that you start to run into problems like acromegaly (unnatural growth), which is normally caused by a pituitary tumor but in this case is caused by an “overload” of sorts.

        The distended guts of bodybuilders are likely not the result of overuse of HGH. The reason they look that way is a visceral layer of fat has formed underneath their abs and to me and many others, the only logical explanation for this is the rampant use of insulin. It’s likely that not many people know about the use of insulin to increase muscle mass, but the effects can be more dramatic than steroids. I won’t go into it in detail because the topic here is golf, but just look at a pic of Ronnie Coleman at any Olympia he won vs a pic of Arnold at any Olympia he won. One will look much bigger and the other will look much better.

        I don’t doubt that there could already be PGA Tour players using HGH. The routine to use it effectively is very “needle intensive” because of the very short half life of the drug and I would think this would be inconvenient for the schedule of a golfer when compared to other sports. Golfers do not need PED’s, but I’m certain that they help give an unfair advantage when used properly. Recovery time is something that is rarely discussed because you can’t see it compared to the bulging muscles, but it’s more important than the actual strength gains.

        If Jim Furyk is on Steroids then we should suspend the entire sport, haha.

    • Ken

      Aug 11, 2016 at 7:10 pm

      Can agree with you as in early 70″s had two fiends both win some middle level body building contests (both were good enough to get some face time with Joe Weider, and in his magazines several times) We talked about steroid use a lot and it was very clear it gave them the ability to work out longer and add weight faster, and the eating was key…. 2 year gains in 6 months sounds very fair for top body builders like them.

  9. SV

    Aug 10, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    I have found beer helps tremendously, or at least it takes the sting out of playing badly.

  10. Robert

    Aug 10, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    Some PED’s can improve eye sight as well, which can improve hand eye coordination. If you don’t believe PED’s can help you in golf, you are just sticking your head in the sand. It helps in everything. And I don’t blame any player that is just trying to survive out there for doing them if they end up being a steady member on the tour. It’s their livelyhood. I do whatever I can to be better at my job. Why wouldn’t they?

  11. Christosterone

    Aug 10, 2016 at 11:51 am

    The same discussions took place back in the 80s regarding baseball…we all know how that turned out…
    NEWSFLASH: steroids are super helpful in every single sport….with absolutely no exceptions.


  12. alexdub

    Aug 10, 2016 at 11:42 am

    Obviously, no one believes that taking PEDs are going to fix your swing flaws. However, PEDs can have a substantial effect on endurance and recovery. Every one of us—including pro golfers— has been at that 4 hour mark of a round when your body starts to give in a little. Mental lapses in concentration often follow physical lapses in strength. I don’t think PEDs are a cure-all, but I do think that they could help. The PGA should have an open and regular testing process.

  13. ta

    Aug 10, 2016 at 11:33 am

    PEDs includes so many drugs. The list is huge. Some simple drugs, other than Steroids or HGH, can have instantaneous benefits, and that is why it is on the list. Just because people see the label as PED doesn’t mean it’s some kind of mega drug that only wealthy athletes can buy from a specialized source. You are neglecting to mention basic drugs that you can buy over the counter, such as some ingredients found in cold and allergy medications.

  14. ooffa

    Aug 10, 2016 at 10:17 am

    They may not improve ones game, but they sure can hasten the end of ones career. It happened to Tiger. Now it’s happening to Rory.

    • Tom

      Aug 11, 2016 at 9:24 am

      Tiger and Rory have very aesthetic, and athletic physiques. They’re in great shape, but they don’t have anything that isn’t attainable naturally.

      They have the build of dang near everybody I ever played sports with and lifted with. It’s impressive to the golf world because we are used to looking at John Daily-esque guys walking around the course. However, comparing them to others in the fitness world, they’re just in great shape. It’s very impressive, but it’s honestly nothing crazy..

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Opinion & Analysis

The best bets for the 2023 Scandinavian Mixed



There could hardly be a more distinct difference between two courses holding consecutive events.

Last week, 20-year-old Tom McKibbin pounded his way around the 7500-odd-yards of Green Eagle to break his maiden in impressive fashion, courtesy of this outstanding approach shot to the 72nd hole. Remind you of anyone at that age?

Fast forward not long and the DPWT arrives at Ullna Golf and Country Club for the third renewal of the mixed-gender Scandanavian Mixed.

The welcome initiative sees male and female players on the course at the same time, playing to the same pins. Only movement of the tee boxes distinguishes the challenge, and whilst there is water aplenty at this coastal track, yardages of no more than 7000 and 6500 yards should frighten none of the top lot in each sex.

Genders are one-all at the moment, with Jonathan Caldwell winning the inaugural event thanks to a lacklustre Adrian Otaegui, and the brilliant Linn Grant winning by a country mile last season.

Most will be playing their approach shots from the same distance this week and with neither particularly stretched, this may be the most open of mixed events yet.

Defending champ Linn Grant and fellow home player Madelene Sagstrom look on a different level to the rest of the European ladies this week, but preference is clearly for the 23-year-old winner of eight worldwide events, including her last two in Sweden.

Last season, the Arizona State graduate took a two-shot lead into the final round before an unanswered eight-birdie 64 saw her cross the line nine shots in front of Mark Warren and Henrik Stenson, her nearest female rival being 14 shots behind.

Since that victory, Grant has won two events on the LET, the latest being a warm-up qualifying event for the upcoming Evian Championship, held at the same course and at which she was 8th last year. The Swede is making her mark on the LPGA Tour,

Given the yardage advantage she has off the tee amongst her own sex, the pin-point accuracy of her irons and a no-frills attitude when in contention, this looks no more difficult than last year.  If there is a a market on ‘top female player,’ there may be a long queue.

He’s been expensive to follow for win purposes, but Alexander Bjork is another home player that will revel with the emphasis on accuracy.

There isn’t a awful lot to add to last week’s preview (or indeed the previous week’s) which both highlighted just how well the Swede is playing.

Recommended Bets:

  • Linn Grant
  • Alexander Bjork


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Opinion & Analysis

Winning and the endowment effect



A central concept in behavioral economics is the endowment effect. Coined by Richard Thaler at the University of Chicago, the endowment effect describes how people tend to value items they own more highly than they would if they did not belong to them. So how does this relate to sports, or more specifically, to golf? Let me explain.

Golf is hard. Winning is harder. Golf has created a lure where winning major championships is the hardest of all. The problem is that mathematically a win is a win. This means that valuing wins differently is actually an instance of the application of the endowment effect in golf.

Winning in golf creates an inverse normal distribution where winning can be very hard, then easy, and then very hard again. To win, players must evoke the “hot hand”; this is the idea that success breeds success. In golf, the reality is that birdies come in streaks; players typically enjoy a run of birdies over a couple of holes. The goal for every player is to hold this streak for as long as possible. The longer and more often they are able to do this, the more likely a player is to win.

Another question is, how much do players value wins? At the current moment, up to the PGA Jon Rahm sees winning as easier (or less valuable) with his recent win at the Masters and other early season events to accompany his U.S. Open win from 2021. However, that changed at the PGA, when he opened with a round in the mid-70s. All of a sudden the lure of the trophy distracted Rahm. Likewise, we saw both Corey Conners and Hovland hit extremely rare shots into the face of the bunker on Saturday and Sunday. These are shots that do not happen under distribution. In my opinion, the prestige of a major was at the root of these shots.

To overcome the barrier of becoming a champion, players must first understand that winning is not special. Instead, winning is a result of ample skills being applied in duration with the goal of gaining and holding the hot hand. The barrier for most players with enough skill to win, the endowment effect tells us, is that they overvalue winning. Doing so may prevent them from ever getting the hot hand. So maybe, just maybe, the key to winning more is wanting to win less. Easier said than done when one’s livelihood is on the line, but to overvalue a win at one specific tournament, be it the Masters or the two-day member guest, may be doing more harm than good.

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Opinion & Analysis

The best bets for the 2023 Porsche European Open



Green Eagle hosts the European Open for the sixth consecutive time, missing only the pandemic year of 2020.

Known for its potential to stretch to 7800 yards, this monster course in Hamburg is able to reduce itself to around 7300, a far less insurmountable proposition that allows the non-bombers to make use of their pin-point iron play.

Of the top 16 players last year (top 10 and ties) nine fell into the top 12 for tee-to-green, split into those that made it off-the-tee (six in the top-12) and those from approach play (total of four players). Go back to 2021 and champion Marcus Armitage won the shortened three-round event with a ranking of 40th off-the-tee, whereas four of the remaining top-10 ranked in single figures for the same asset.

It’s a real mix, and whilst I’m definitely on the side of those that hit it a long way, there are more factors at work here, particularly a solid relationship with the Italian Open, as well as events in the Czech Republic and Dubai, weeks that allow drivers to open up a tad.

Last year’s winner Kalle Samooja has a best of 2023 at the Marco Simone Club, a tournament won by Adrian Meronk, and with a top-10 containing the big-hitters Julien Guerrier, Nicolai Hojgaard and Daniel Van Tonder, with Armitage a couple of shots away in ninth place.

Like Armitage, the Finn also boasts a win in China (although at differing courses) where solid driver Sean Crocker (third) carries a link between the Czech Masters, being runner-up to Johannes Veerman (10th here, eighth Italy), and another bomber Tapio Pulkkanen, whose best effort this year has been at the Ryder Cup venue to be.

Of the 35-year-old Englishman, his only other victory came in the 2018 Foshan Open, where his nearest victims included Alexander Knappe, Mattieu Pavan and Ryan Fox, all constantly there in the lists for top driving, with Bernd Ritthammer (tied runner-up here 2019) in ninth place.

Amidst plenty of Crans and Alfred Dunhill form on various cards, 2022 Italian Open winner Robert Macintyre was the second of three that tied in second place here behind the classy Paul Casey in 2019, as well as tying with Matthias Schwab at Olgiata, Italy, in the same year.

The Austrian, now plying his trade on the other side of the pond, also brings in the third of three players that ran up here, a seventh place at Green Eagle, two top-10 finishes at Albatross and top finishes at the Dubai Desert Classic and China.

Current favourites Victor Perez and Rasmus Hojgaard both disappointed last week at the Dutch Open, and whilst that occurred in completely differing circumstances, they give nagging doubts to what would otherwise be solid claims on class alone.

The Frenchman hadn’t recovered from a week away at Oak Hill when missing the cut, but probably should have won here last year when eventually third, and his ball-striking doesn’t quite have the same sound at the moment. On the other side, the Dane star again had a chance to prove best last week, but for the fourth time in nine months, failed to go through with his effort after entering Sunday in the final two groups.

If wanting a player to link up all the chosen comp tracks, then Jordan Smith would be the selection, even at 20/1 or thereabouts. However, having been safely in the draw for the weekend after 12 holes of his second round at Bernardus, the 2017 Green Eagle champ completely lost control of his tee-to-green game, dropping nine shots in his last seven holes. The 30-year-old is made for this place, as his two further top-11 finishes indicate, but last week’s effort needs a large bunker of forgiveness and I’ll instead nail my colours (again) to Alexander Bjork, the man that beat Smith in China in 2018.

I was with the Swede last week based on crossover form, and this week he makes similar appeal being able to back up that Asian form with top finishes in Dubai, Abu Dhabi (see Casey) and Crans (Armitage and shock winner of this event Richard McEvoy). Of that sole victory at Topwin, it has to be of interest that former China Open specialist Alex Levy won the last running of the European Open at Bad Griesbach before finishing second and 13th here, whilst impossible-to-read HaoTong Li, the 2016 Topwin champ, was 18th on his only try around the monster that is Green Eagle.

Last week’s top-30 made it 10 cuts in a row for 2023, with some impressive displays through this first half of the year, including top-20 in Dubai, second in Ras and back-to-back fourth placings at both the Soudal and Italian Opens.

The 32-year-old ranks fifth for overall performance over the last 12 weeks comprising 32nd in total driving, 24th for ball-striking and 12th for putting. He is exploiting his excellent tee-to-green game, and now ranking in third for scrambling, remains one of the rare players that can recover well when missing their target – although at 19th for greens-in-regulation, this isn’t that often.

Bjork has made all four cuts here, with his last three finishes in the mid-20s, but is in probably the best form of his life. With doubts surrounding many of the rivals at the top, his constant barraging of the short stuff should see him challenging over the weekend.

Home favourite Yannik Paul has been well backed from a far-too-big early price, and there is a case for making him still value at 30+, but Jorge Campillo needs forgiving for an awful display from the front last weekend, even if that was an outlier to his otherwise excellent run, that includes a victory and top-10 in Italy.

There seem to be an awful lot of doubts about the top lot in the market (save a mere handful) so take a trip downtown and try nabbing a bit of value prices that will pay nicely should they nab a place.

Whilst Gavin Green would seem to be an obvious place to go, he sits in the range between 50/1 and 100/1,  full of untapped talent and players, that have least not had too many chances to put their head in front.

Jordan Smith won on debut here, so it’s not impossible, and whilst Jeong Weon Ko may need another year or two to reach his peak, he is one that appeals as a ‘watch’ for the rest of 2023.

The French-born Korean dominated his home junior scene before taking his time through the Alps and Challenge Tours, eventually settling in during the second half of 2022. From July to September, Ko played 14 times, recording four top five finishes, two further top-10s and a pair of top-20s, those results including a fourth place finish at the Challenge Tour finale.

His rookie season at this level started well with a 30th and fourth place in Africa, and he has since progressed steadily as the DPWT ramped it up a level.

Top-20 finishes in Korea, India and Belgium, where he was in second place at halfway, suggest he should soon be competing on a Sunday, whilst in-between those, a third-round 67 was enough to launch him to inside the top 10 at St. Francis Links.

On the 12-week tracker, Ko ranks 12th with positions inside the top-30 for all the relevant stats.

15th for distance, 25th for greens, and top-10 for par-5s, he has a bit of Green about him but without the question marks. Whilst he hasn’t won on the professional stage, his second to bomber Daniel Hillier at the Swiss Challenge reads nicely, as does his top-15 at the Di-Data in 2021 when surrounded by longer hitters, and he appears to be of the quality that will leave these results behind in time.

Hillier himself can be fancied, especially after last week’s fifth at the Dutch Open, but I’ll go with the man that beat him by a single shot last week in the shape of Deon Germishuys.

The DPWT rookie has already had a season to remember, leading home fellow South African Wilco Nienaber at U.S Open qualifying at Walton Heath at the beginning of May, and securing his ticket to his first major.

Interestingly, two of the other five qualifying spots were won by Alejandro Del Rey and Matthieu Pavon, all four names being some of the longest drivers on the tour.

That may well have been the boost that pushed the 23-year-old to record his best effort on the DPWT so far, his third at the Dutch Open marking another step up from the 15th in Belgium just two weeks previous, and a top-10 in Japan when just behind Macintyre, Paul, Smith and Campillo.

In what is a fledgling career, this event starts just a few days after the anniversary of his first victory on his home Sunshine Tour where he beat some of the country’s longest hitters to the biggest prize for a non co-sanctioned tournament, before nabbing his DPWT card via a 20th place ranking at the end of the Challenge Tour season.

The three mentioned top-15 finishes have all appeared on his card since the beginning of April, and this rapidly-improving player now has last weekend’s finish fresh in the mind, finishing in front of Meronk et al, despite not being able to buy a putt on Sunday.

A lot of what Deon is doing on the course reminds me of compatriot Dean Burmester, who had a terrific record at the Di-Data at Farncourt, something being repeated by the younger man (20th and 7th). Now signed by LIV, Burmy also had a solid record at Albatross and in Italy, where a best of fifth place should have been higher at the bizarre Chervo track, biased towards long-hitters but won by a demon putter instead.

I’m tempted by the names Tom Mckibbin, nowhere near a finished article and keen to attack this course, flusher Dan Bradbury, and bomber Marcus Helligkilde (still not convinced he is absolutely one-hundred percent), but they may only make the top-10/20 bets.

Kalle Samooja should go well in his bid to defend his crown, but I’m taking fellow Finn Tapio Pulkkanen to improve on his 18th here last year with the chance to again make his length count.

Having won both the Nordic League (2015) and the Challenge Tour Order of Merit (2017), the be-hatted one was always going to be a player to look out for and, in truth, it hasn’t really happened.

However, his case lies with the best of his efforts, all of which combine to believe that should organisers stretch this course to over 7500-yards at any point, then he is one of a few that could handle the layout.

Silver and bronze at the Czech Masters, Pulkkanen thrived on the open layout of the Dunhill Links, finishing top-10 twice since 2019.  Add those to a second (Hainan) and 14th in China, top-20 finishes in Dubai and Himmerland, as well as good finishes at the classier BMW at Wentworth and he just needs to show something to make appeal at one of only half-a-dozen tracks that he could be fancied around.

The 33-year-old led in Chervo in 2019 before showing he enjoys Italy with his best-of-the-season 16th at the Marco Simone at the beginning of May, where he should have done better, having been in the top five for all the first three rounds.

By no means one to place maximum faith in, he is similar to the likes of Veerman and Joakim Lagergren in that they suit certain types of tracks, and they are the only ones they could be backed at. This one, Green Eagle, together with Pulkkanen, seems like one of those times.

Recommended Bets:

  • Alexander Bjork 
  • Dean Germishuys 
  • JW Ko 
  • Tapio Pulkkanen 
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