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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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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s Sanderson Farms Championship betting preview: Eric Cole ready to show his class in Jackson



After a dominant performance by Europe at the Ryder Cup, the PGA TOUR heads to Mississippi for the Sanderson Farms Championship at the Country Club of Jackson.

The course is a 7,461-yard par 72 with fast Bermudagrass greens. The tournament had been an alternate-field event up until the 2019-20 season, when it was upgraded to a standalone event.

The field is largely as expected for a swing-season event, but there are some talented players teeing it up in Jackson this week looking to play their way into next season’s singature events. Some notable golfers in the 156-man field this week include Ludvig Aberg, Eric Cole, Keithy Mitchell and Emiliano Grillo.

Past Winners at Country Club of Jackson

  • 2022: Mackenzie Hughes (-17)
  • 2021: Sam Burns (-22)
  • 2020: Sergio Garcia (-19)
  • 2019: Sebastian Munoz (-18)
  • 2018: Cameron Champ (-21) 
  • 2017: Ryan Armour (-19)
  • 2016: Cody Gribble (-20)

Let’s take a look at several key metrics for the Country Club of Jackson to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

Strokes Gained: Approach

SG: Approach will be important this week as the club was renovated in 2008 and tried to imitate some classic Donald Ross course features. This means the greens will be relatively small, and finding the right level on approach shots will be crucial. 

The course will generate plenty of low scores, so it’s important that players give themselves plenty of birdie looks. Sergio Garcia gained 7.0 strokes on the field in his victory three seasons ago, which was third in the field. Sam Burns gained 8.3 in 2021, which was good for second. 

Last season, Mackenzie Hughes gained 5.3 strokes on approach in his victory.

Total strokes gained: Approach in past 24 rounds:

  1. Chez Reavie (+26.8)
  2. Alex Smalley (+23.7)
  3. Sam Ryder (+23.1)
  4. Kevin Streelman (+18.1)
  5. Eric Cole (+17.5)

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee

Placing an emphasis on who the best drivers of the golf ball is a smart strategy. This stat has driving accuracy built into it, and though the fairways are relatively easy to hit at the Country Club of Jackson, long and straight is always a big advantage.  

I am looking for golfers who are going to have the shortest approach shots and are coming in from the fairway. In 2020 and 2021, respective winners Sergio Garcia and Sam Burns led the field (+5.5) and (+6.1) in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee. In 2023, Mackenzie Hughes was roughly average off the tee, but that seems to be an outlier when examining the winners in totality. 

Total strokes gained: Off the Tee in past 24 rounds:

  1. Brent Grant (+27.0)
  2. Ludvig Aberg (+26.8) 
  3. M.J. Daffue (+17.5)
  4. Kevin Yu (+17.1) 
  5. Trevor Cone (+16.8) 

Driving Distance

With the rough not being a major problem this week, the bomb-and-gauge approach should be very successful.

Driving Distance gained over past 24 rounds:

  1. Peter Kuest (+20.9)
  2. Brandon Matthews (+20.3)
  3. M.J. Daffue (+17.2)
  4. Garrick Higgo (+17.2)
  5. Kyle Westmoreland (+15.1)

Strokes Gained: Par 5

Three of the four par 5s on the course should be reachable by the longer hitters, with the longest par 5 hole measuring 587 yards. Finding eagle and birdie opportunities on the Par 5s this week may be the difference in determining a winner.

Total Strokes Gained: Par 5 in past 24 rounds:

  1. Stephen Thompson (+19.3)
  2. Scott Harrington (+14.1) 
  3. Stephan Jaeger (+14.0)
  4. Grayson Murray (+13.8) 
  5. Jason Dufner (+12.4)

SG: Putting (Bermudagrass Greens Fast or Lightning)

Historically, SG: Putting at the Sanderson Farms Championship has weighed as the most indicative score of the tournament winner. While this isn’t necessarily rare in PGA TOUR tournaments, it was 10% more important at Country Club of Jackson than the average course on TOUR. 

The greens have been either “fast” or “lightning” in every round the tournament has been played. Whoever wins this week will need to catch a hot putter, so the best putters on Bermuda should have the best chance to do that.

Total Strokes Gained: Putting (Bermuda+Fast or Lightning) past 24 rounds:

  1. Martin Trainer (+25.0)
  2. Chad Ramey (+24.3) 
  3. Brian Gay (+22.3)
  4. Alex Noren (+19.8)
  5. Ben Taylor (+16.2)

Statistical Model

Below, I’ve reported overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed.

These rankings are comprised of SG: APP (25%) SG: OTT: (25%), Driving Distance (18%), SG: Par 5 (18%), SG: Putting (Bermuda) 14%.

  1. Peter Kuest (+8000)
  2. Stephan Jaeger (+2500)
  3. Kevin Yu (+6500)
  4. Trevor Cone (+20000)
  5. Callum Tarren (+6000)
  6. Chad Ramey (+9000)
  7. Scott Harrington (+30000)
  8. Luke List (+5500)
  9. Matthias Schmid (+10000)
  10. Joseph Bramlett (+20000)

Sanderson Farms Championship Picks

Eric Cole +2000 (DraftKings)

With the PGA Tour’s new fall format, there are a few very talented players that will be looking to parlay a strong fall into an invitation to all of the big money signature events come the beginning of 2024. Eric Cole, who’s looked excellent since his emergence on the PGA Tour, is among the players who has the skill and motivation to challenge for one of the spots up for grabs.

The Florida native is extremely comfortable playing on fast Bermudagrass greens. In the field, he ranks 14th in Strokes Gained: Putting on similar surfaces and has some strong results on Bermuda tracks to back up the statistics. Cole missed the cut at the Country Club of Jackson last year, but he’s a much different player now.

In his most recent start at the Fortinet Championship, Cole finished 4th and gained 12.4 strokes from tee to green, which led the field. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach.

Cole was among the most impressive performers in the fall swing’s first event. Now, he’ll have a much weaker field to grapple with and will benefit from Sahith Theegala, Max Homa and Justin Thomas not being in the field.

S.H. Kim +3300 (BetRivers)

S.H. Kim had one of the most impressive ball striking displays at the first event of the fall series. Kim finished 2nd at the Fortinet Championship and gained 11.0 strokes from tee to green, which was good for second in the field. He also gained 6.0 strokes on approach and 3.2 strokes off the tee.

If his strong performance at Silverado wasn’t enough, he also has an encouraging history at the Country Club of Jackson. Kim finished 13th at the course last season and should be much more comfortable in contention this year with some strong PGA Tour finishes under his belt.

Kim has had two runner-up finishes on the Korn Ferry Tour, both of which came on Bermudagrass greens. If he can build off the best ball striking performance of his career, he will be difficult to beat this week in Mississippi.

Sam Ryder +5000 (BetMGM)

I followed Ryder closely during the Fortinet Championship and he put on a ball striking clinic, which has been the case consistently since July. He finished 14th at Silverado and gained 6.4 strokes on approach, which was good for 2nd in the field. Over his last 24 rounds, Ryder ranks 3rd in Strokes Gained: Approach. 

The 33-year-old didn’t have his best putting week in his most recent start (-2.6 strokes), which makes some sense considering the putting splits he’s shown us throughout his career. He typically putts field average on POA greens but he’s statistically a positive putter on Bermudagrass throughout his career. The fast Bermuda greens should be a welcome change for Ryder this week, who grew up playing in Florida.

Ryder’s history at the Country Club of Jackson isn’t spectacular by any means, but he’s yet to play the course when he’s in the type of form he’s in at the moment. If he continues his superb ball striking, he should have a good chance to contend this week in Mississippi.

Ben Griffin +5500 (PointsBet)

Ben Griffin is a player who loves playing on Bermudagrass greens. He has top-5 finishes in his career at the Wyndham Championship and the Butterfield Bermuda Championship. After playing in the final few groups over the weekend, I believe he’ll feel much more confident when he finds himself in that position again. 

In his past 24 rounds, Griffin ranks 20th in Strokes Gained: Approach and 15th in Strokes Gained: Putting on fast Bermuda greens. Griffin is one of the better putters on Tour and can get hot in a hurry on the greens. Last year, we saw a shorter hitting good putter win this event, so the bombers can be beaten at the Country Club of Jackson, despite having an advantage.

Griffin played this event last year. He finished 24th in his first trip to the course and gained 6.2 strokes on approach, so the course layout seems to fit his eye. After making the FedEx Cup playoffs last year, the 27-year-old is ready to take the next step in his development on the PGA Tour.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: 3 surefire ways to never get better at golf



That may seem like a rather strange title for an article, but hear me out.

I’ve written this blog every week for nearly 20 years so that I can share some observations from a lifetime in this game and over 40 years in the golf equipment industry. If you read many of my posts, you know that one of my favorite areas of subject matter is the process of learning how to play this game at a higher and higher level. I can’t begin to number the hundreds of instruction books and articles I’ve digested or the innumerable hours I’ve spent watching golfers of all skill levels.

The simple fact is that the more often you hit your best shots – and the less frequently your worst ones show up – the more enjoyable the game becomes. What amazes me is how many golfers I encounter who must really not want to get better at this game. How else can you explain the fact that, in spite of all the gains in equipment technologies and the unlimited amount of instruction available (much of it free), so many golfers just cannot achieve any measurable semblance of success?

So, a bit tongue in cheek, this week I want to share what I believe are the three surefire ways to never get better at golf.

Ignore the importance of a proper grip

I was taught from the very beginning that the first fundamental of golf is learning how to hold the club properly. Doing so takes no athletic ability whatsoever, and you can practice it to perfection anywhere. I’m a firm believer that there is really only one way to do that, and close observation of elite players on the PGA and LPGA tours seems to verify that.

It doesn’t matter whether you opt for the traditional overlap (Vardon) grip, or the interlock grip, which has become increasingly more popular since the best player of the modern era made it his own. You can even choose the full-finger (not “baseball”) grip on the club, particularly if you are not as strong in the hands (ladies and seniors take note). Your grip can be rotated a bit stronger or weaker, but the fundamentals are the same:

  • The club has to be controlled with the last three fingers of the upper hand, and the grip needs to be positioned under the heel pad, not across it.
  • The lower hand pressure is also in the fingers, more specifically the middle two fingers – the thumb and forefinger have to be more lightly engaged, if at all.
  • The upper or lead hand has to be “in control” of the movement of the club.

Very simply, if you are not holding the club in this fundamentally sound manner, the body and club just cannot move properly through the swing motion.

Disregard the importance of proper posture and setup

Likewise, it requires little to no athletic ability to “just stand there” in the proper posture for the athletic move that is a sound golf swing.  And again, watch the best players in the world – there is  little-to-no variance from one to the other in the way they position their body to be prepared for a fundamentally sound and powerful, repeating golf swing.  I don’t need to describe it – just look at pictures and video of good players – they all start from basically the same posture and set-up.  If you think you can become a solid player when you are starting from an unsound, “homemade” set up, you are sadly mistaken.  The biggest mistakes I see in this area are that the hands are too high, eliminating the Secret Angle of Success, or that the hands are positioned way too far ahead of the clubhead at address.

Take instruction from your buddies

Golf instruction is part art and part science, and your buddies — even those who seem to be pretty good players — are not likely versed in either facet of golf instruction. But tips and advice are cheap, and I cannot begin to count the number of times I’ve watched or heard a golfer who can’t break 80 (or even 90) try to “coach” someone who also can’t break 80. Unless your buddy has spent hours and years studying the golf swing and can play a pretty good game himself or herself, close your ears and eyes when they offer advice.

Compared to all the costs associated with golf, availing yourself of professional instruction is pretty darn cheap. My Dad had a wise saying: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” And my bet is that you have already committed to the fact that golf is certainly “worth doing.” So, please, engage a professional instructor who “gets” you and see him or her regularly.

So, there you have it. Frank Sinatra made a fortune singing “My Way,” but that certainly isn’t the pathway to better and more consistent golf.

More from the Wedge Guy

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19th Hole

5 examples of how Lexi Thompson has been treated harsher than any of her peers



Following Lexi Thompson’s Solheim Cup post-round presser on Friday evening, the 28-year-old has been the topic of much discussion.

Golf pundits and fans alike have been weighing in with their takes after this exchange with a reporter surrounding an untimely shank on Friday afternoon went viral:

After the incident, LPGA Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez said that Lexi has “been picked on and drug through negative comments. She is tired of it”

So has the criticism of Lexi Thompson been justified, or is this yet another example of her being unfairly treated?

Well, here are five times, in my opinion, that Lexi has been scrutinized far differently over the years than her peers.

2022 KPMG PGA Championship

At the 2022 KPMG PGA Championship, Lexi Thompson held a two-stroke lead with three holes to play. She couldn’t close the deal and lost the tournament.

Afterwards, she was fined $2k (as were the rest of the group) for slow play.

Lexi declined to speak to the media and got hammered on social media for doing so…

Almost every golfer at some point has skipped a media session following disappointment on the course, and nobody has really batted an eyelid.

Tiger skipped back-to-back post-round media briefings at the 2019 WGC Mexico after being frustrated with his putting. Remember the backlash over that? Nah, me neither.

Donald Trump


Every (or nearly every) big-name golfer under the sun has played golf with Donald Trump. Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy etc. Nobody really cared.

For whatever reason, when Lexi Thompson did, it was a story, and she took herself off social media soon after the photo was posted.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi)

2021 U.S. Women’s Open

In the final round of the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open, Lexi Thompson had a 6-foot eagle on her opening hole. She missed and made birdie to lead by five.

She then lost the tournament.

Following the round, Brandel Chamblee said on ‘Live From’:

“She’s got 6 feet away. Now professional golfers don’t miss the center of the face by a pinhead. Look where she hits this putt on the very 1st hole. Look where this putt comes off the face. She would have missed the center of the putter there by a half an inch. I have never — I have never — seen a professional golfer miss the center of the putter by a wider margin than that. That was at the 1st hole. “

Honest? Absolutely. Correct? Brandel usually is. Has any other LPGA golfer been handed the full-on Chamblee treatment? Not to my knowledge.

2023 Solheim Cup

Lexi Thompson spoke the words, “I don’t need to comment on that” when a reporter asked her about a failed shot, and the golf community collectively lost their minds.

Lost on many people is the fact that she literally answered the question instantly after.

Jessica Korda described the reporting of the awkward exchange with the media member as yet another example of the golf media shredding Lexi, but in reality, it was really just golf media covering the furore created by golf fans reacting to the viral clip.

Lexi then won her next two matches, collecting 3 points from 4 for the U.S. team. But nobody seems to care about that.


‘yOu ShoUlD PrAcTIce puTTinG’

There’s very few golfers that have been plagued with such inane posts on their Instagram page as Lexi Thompson has.

I’ve tracked golfer’s social media accounts over the past few years (job requirement, sort of?). I can categorically say that Lexi gets some of the angriest and most aggressive responses to her posts of any golfer. Male or female. (She also gets some very nice ones too).

Despite countless posts of Thompson relentlessly practising her putting, the number of comments from dummies accusing her of neglecting that area of her game is both bizarre and alarming. Notice how the comments have been disabled on the post below? Probably not a coincidence.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi)

Go on any other golfer’s social account, and it will be hard to find the same dynamic.

Throw in the scandalous rules decision at the 2017 ANA Inspiration that cost her a second major title and spawned the “Lexi rule,” and it’s hard not to think Lexi has had a bit of a raw deal at times.

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