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Chasing The Dream: A Short Story



Editor’s Note: This short fiction story is one of a collection that appear in the book “Lessons from the Golf Guru: Secrets, Strategies, and Stories for Golf and Life,” a unique compilation of lessons and stories for the game that provide help with more than just the number you put on the scorecard.

“I do not think, comrades, that I shall be with you for many months longer, and before I die I feel it my duty to pass on to you such wisdom as I have acquired. I have had a long life, have had much time for thought as I lay alone in my stall, and I think I may say that I understand the nature of life on this earth as well as any animal now living. And it is about this that I wish to speak with you.”

— Old Major, Animal Farm by George Orwell

I first met him at Riviera in 1994, the historic club in Pacific Palisades, California that has served as host site of PGA Tour events, numerous major championships, and probably most notably, the 1948 U.S. Open won by Ben Hogan.

He wore a plain white jumpsuit similar to what you see on the caddies at The Masters, a pair of old sneakers, a faded green cap with the club’s signature “R” on the front of it, and had a dirty white towel hanging out of his back pocket.

He stood apart from the rest of the caddies, mostly younger men in their twenties, who were milling around awaiting their assignments and ribbing each other about their potential draws for the day. At first glance, he appeared to be in his mid-fifties, but as I walked closer, the picture became less clear.

He wore a patchy, closely trimmed beard that partially concealed a scar on his left cheek and just the hint of an old-school Afro peeked from the adjustment loop at the back of his cap. The aloofness I first mistook as a measure of respect from the other caddies, as well as a sign of his comparative advanced age, was now contrasted by a lean, muscular physique and youthful eyes that left me unsure whether he was fifty-five or closer to thirty-five.  He was not quite six feet tall, but for some reason I had the feeling I was looking up to him even though I was at least 2 inches taller.

He was standing near my bag, which had been brought down from the parking lot by the valets, and as I approached, he looked up from a small notebook that he had been writing in. He had a slightly gap-toothed grin that’s warmth all at once put me at ease, yet left me feeling strangely deferential.

“Name’s Major,” he said in a low velvety baritone that immediately brought to mind images of Barry White or Don Cornelius. And at first, that was all he said. He let it hang there like he was going to say more, but suddenly, remembering my manners, I realized the pause was a respectful space left for my reply.

“Frankie,” I said as I reached out my hand, followed haltingly by, “Nice to meet you. Are you…”

He cut me off as I stumbled for the right words to the question I didn’t exactly know how to ask. “I’m your man,” he said, returning my handshake with a grasp that was firm enough to suggest a level of self-assuredness one wouldn’t expect from a man who carried someone else’s golf clubs for a living.

It was a warm June day and I was playing the prestigious club near Los Angeles for the first time with my roommate Clark, a club professional whose boss had arranged the opportunity. I was 25, not yet ready to grow up, and chasing the dream; at least that’s what I typically told people as I bounced from mini-tour events, one-day qualifiers, local pro-ams, and Q-School every fall in between stints tending bar or serving time behind the counter at any local club willing to hire on a vagabond, wannabe touring professional who was not yet willing to give up on his ability to play for a living. Even when pretty much everyone else had.

And while I had attempted to play on and off since quitting college a few years earlier, I’d never had anyone but a buddy actually carry my bag, so I was somewhat unsure about how things were supposed to go down, as well as a little intimidated by the atmosphere of such a historic venue. I definitely didn’t want to appear as if this was my first rodeo.

I reached for my bag to pick it up when Major said, “Allow me sir,” in a way that was polite, but more command than request.

“Oh, I was just going to the range,” I said. “We don’t tee off for about 40 minutes still.”

“I know,” he said, again letting it hang there as he picked up the bag and turned to walk in the direction of the range, which was down the hill a bit from the large clubhouse that was perched on a bluff overlooking most of the course and the practice facilities. He didn’t look back, but when I hesitated for a moment, he called back to me over his shoulder.

“Coming sir? he asked in a way that woke me from the slightly self-conscious state of apprehension I had found myself in since our arrival.

I hurried to catch up with him, deciding I should get to know this somewhat enigmatic man who would be toting my bag for the next four to five hours.

“How long you been at Riviera, Major?” I spat out as I struggled to keep pace with his long deliberate strides, hoping to get more than a two- or three-word sentence out of him.

“A fair spell,” he said, continuing the pattern of conserving his words. His voice, while exceedingly deep, had a hint of the genteel Old South beneath the surface. It was a tone that suddenly seemed befitting of someone in his profession, and of the sport, but one you’d more expect to hear in South Carolina, not Southern California. I decided he must have been just another one of the millions of transplants that LA seemed to attract annually from small towns around the country like migrating birds looking for warmer weather.

“Ever carry for any of the guys on tour?” I continued, figuring that considering his age and the fact that Riviera had been a regular tour stop for years, he might have had the opportunity once or twice.

“No sir,” he said, but then he continued, “unless you happen to be on tour.”

“Me, no, well, not the actual PGA Tour yet anyway,” I said, chuckling self-consciously, assuming he meant it facetiously, but he gave no hint of a smile.

“I do play professionally,” I continued, suddenly wanting him to understand that I had game and wasn’t just another chop whose bag he was going to be carrying while doing his best just to stay awake during the round.

“I’m working at it, and my game’s getting close. Now if I could just figure out now how to get out of my own way and string together more than a couple of good rounds…” I said as if that explained everything. “Was hoping you might be able to help me out with that one, Major,” I added somewhat sarcastically and with a slight smile as I glanced in his direction.

“Mayyyybe sir,” he said, surprising me with his earnestness and drawing it out without any hint of humor in his voice. “As I said, I haven’t caddied for any of the guys on tour,” he continued, “but I did work a spell on the ladies’ tour many years ago, carrying for Kathy Whitworth.

“Wow,” I said. I knew Whitworth had won, and won a lot back in the ’60s and ’70s, but at the moment it didn’t occur to me to consider how unusual it must have been to have a minority caddy at the height of the civil rights movement. Instead, my mind switched back to my earlier conclusion (about his age), and I decided my original impression had been correct. He was probably in at least his middle 50’s, if not older.

“She won a lot of tournaments back then,” I said. “Quite a few majors too, if I remember correctly. Is that how you got your name?”

“Well … something like that,” he said with a bit of a faraway look. “Ms. Whitworth and I did string together quite a few, but the name was given to me long before that Mr. Frankie…”

“Here we are,” he said abruptly, cutting off that line of conversation by handing me my sand wedge. “Let’s start with the small stuff. A man who can’t be bothered with the little things can’t be trusted with the big things.” He suddenly boomed out with emphasis, “It’s all about the little things.”

We went through the bag rather quickly, with him handing me a new club every five or six balls without me asking and so I didn’t question the commanding, yet strangely calming presence next to me. All the while, he shared little doses of wisdom and what sounded like famous quotes without attributing them to anyone in particular.  It was strangely reminiscent of a tape I’d once seen of John Wooden running a basketball practice at UCLA, rather than anything I’d ever experienced with a golf coach, let alone a caddy.

“Every good shot’s like a small win, Mr. Frankie, even on the range.”

“We need small wins before we can get the big wins.”

“Remember the small wins, Mr. Frankie.”

“More magic in all those small wins than all those heroic shots.”

“Every challenge is a chance to build more confidence.”

“It’s a game of confidence, Frankie, and confidence is a verb, it’s an action you take.”

He kept at it, and I kept hitting it pretty well, wondering if he was impressed or not, until we got to the driver. The first one looked like a topped shot, but I could swear I hit it on the face. The next veered wildly off-course to the right, more like the wicked slice of a 30-handicapper than someone who claimed to play for a living.

“Where’d that come from?” I said, wanting to laugh. But with my confidence suddenly a bit shaken, I just teed up another. It was no better, only this time it hooked sharply left.

“Over-corrected, I guess,” I said, muttering the lame explanation, while fighting back an unexpected sense of panic that was beginning to wash over me. I quickly teed up a fourth, and then a fifth, sixth, and seventh, and watched as shot after shot veered wildly in a different direction.

“What in the world is going on?” I said, almost shouting. Less than five minutes ago, I had privately wished Q-School was a mere three or four days away instead of months, and now I was looking around nervously to see who was watching this embarrassing display. I was glad that the range was empty aside from Clark, who had taken a spot three or four stalls away along with his caddy but had his back to me.

“Dammit, Frankie!” I did shout after the next one, slamming the club on the ground as yet another ball flew wildly from the face of the driver that I had sworn was my salvation not a round ago. I had thought I had finally found a big stick I could trust, one I had developed some confidence in, yet in the space of three minutes it had abandoned me like a scorned lover.

“Confidence is a fragile thing, Frankie,” Major interrupted, “especially if one chooses to make it conditional. Holds up much better if it’s an action you take, rather than being reliant on results.” And in that moment, I realized he had been silent throughout my onslaught of errant drives and the resultant fits of temper I was displaying. He had stopped offering the subtle encouragement or the little pearls of wisdom he had been serving up only moments before. He reached for my driver, and I gave it to him, almost too eager to get rid of it, like someone who had reluctantly agreed to handle a large snake for the first time.

He took the club from my hands, raised the face of it up to his eyes, and inspected it for a second, then asked me to take a look. There it was, as plain as day.  A crack running all the way down one of the scoring lines. I had caved in the face of the club, and only at this angle could I now see that the face of the club was slightly concave, something I couldn’t perceive looking down at it from above.

“The important thing to remember is that whether or not we are confident is a choice we make, and it shows up in the actions we take in every moment. It does not need be tied to results,” he continued, but the sudden wave of relief that had come over me was so complete that I hardly heard him. The realization that the wayward shots I had been hitting weren’t the result of some sudden flaw in my golf swing, but rather a broken club, left me feeling effervescent, and the embarrassment I had been feeling only seconds before seemed suddenly silly. These feelings were quickly followed, however, by the realization that I wouldn’t have a driver for my first-ever round at Riviera, one of the longest and most demanding courses on tour.

“A 4-wood’ll be just fine, Frankie,” Major said, interrupting my thoughts matter-of-factly as if I had been speaking them aloud. “You hit her a good 240. That’ll be enough.”

“I guess it’ll have to be,” I said, reaching for it to hit a few more shots just to reassure myself the swing was still there. “Let’s go chip and hit a few putts, Major,” I told him as I turned instinctively to put the 4-wood back in my bag. “We’ll be up before long, and I want to get a feel for that famed Kikuyu grass I’ve always heard about.”

“Allow me sir,” he said, taking the 4-wood, picking up the bag, and turning to head in the direction of the practice green all in one motion, once again without another word or a glance back. Only this time I followed without hesitation…

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Mike Dowd is the author of the new novel COMING HOME and the Lessons from the Golf Guru: Wit, Wisdom, Mind-Tricks & Mysticism for Golf and Life series. He has been Head PGA Professional at Oakdale Golf & CC in Oakdale, California since 2001, and is serving his third term on the NCPGA Board of Directors and Chairs the Growth of the Game Committee. Mike has introduced thousands of people to the game and has coached players that have played golf collegiately at the University of Hawaii, San Francisco, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Davis, University of the Pacific, C.S.U. Sacramento, C.S.U. Stanislaus, C.S.U. Chico, and Missouri Valley State, as men and women on the professional tours. Mike currently lives in Turlock, California with his wife and their two aspiring LPGA stars, where he serves on the Turlock Community Theatre Board, is the past Chairman of the Parks & Recreation Commission and is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Turlock. In his spare time (what's that?) he enjoys playing golf with his girls, writing, music, fishing and following the foibles of the Sacramento Kings, the San Francisco 49ers, the San Francisco Giants, and, of course, the PGA Tour. You can find Mike at



  1. PK

    Sep 3, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    I downloaded the book but can not find this short story anywhere? Can you point me towards the chapter it is in?

    • Mike Dowd

      Sep 3, 2017 at 5:39 pm

      The story was re-titled for this to coincide with the upcoming full novel. In the current book there are 5 stories, this one being the shortest, and it is titled A Major Introduction. Glad you liked it and hope you enjoy the rest! Feel free to contact me with any feedback. – MD

    • Mike Dowd

      Sep 3, 2017 at 9:55 pm

      Sorry for the confusion. It’s #3 of five short stories that start each section in Lessons from the Golf Guru book #2 – Secrets, Strategies, and Stories for golf and Life, so make sure that is the book you are looking for it in. Also, the title of this one has been changed here to coincide with the upcoming full novel that tells the entire story. In the current book, it is titled A Major Introduction, so that is likely why you didn’t see it if you were scanning the table of contents. Glad you liked it and hope you enjoy the rest of the book. I would welcome any thoughts you may have when you’re done. All the best! – MD.

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19th Hole

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



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

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

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

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

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

Past Winners of the PGA Championship

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

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

Key Stats For Valhalla

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

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

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

Strokes Gained: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

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

2. Strokes Gained: Off the Tee

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

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee Over Past 24 Rounds:

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

Strokes Gained: Total on Nickalus Designs

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

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

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

Strokes Gained: Tee to Green on Very Long Courses

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

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

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

Strokes Gained: Total in Major Championships

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

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

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

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass Greens

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

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

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

Strokes Gained: Total on Zoysia Fairways

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

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

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

2024 PGA Championship Model Rankings

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

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

2024 PGA Championship Picks

Ludvig Aberg +1800 (BetMGM)

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

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

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

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

Bryson DeChambeau +2800 (BetMGM)

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

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

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

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

Patrick Cantlay +4000 (FanDuel)

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

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

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

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

Joaquin Niemann +4000 (BetMGM)

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

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

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

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

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Opinion & Analysis

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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19th Hole

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



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

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

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

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

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

Past Winners at Quail Hollow

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

Key Stats For Quail Hollow

Strokes Gained: Approach

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

Total SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

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

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee

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

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee Past 24 Rounds:

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

Proximity: 175-200

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

Proximity: 175-200+ over past 24 rounds:

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

SG: Total on Tom Fazio Designs

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

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

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

Strokes Gained: Putting (Bermudagrass)

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

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

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

Course History

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

Course History over past 36 rounds (per round):

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

Wells Fargo Championship Model Rankings

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

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

2024 Wells Fargo Championship Picks

Tommy Fleetwood +2500 (DraftKings)

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

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

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

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

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

Justin Thomas +3000 (DraftKings)

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

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

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

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

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

Cameron Young +3500 (DraftKings)

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

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

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

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

Byeong Hun An +5000 (FanDuel)

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

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

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

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

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