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In golf, perspective is more important than perfection



By Dennis de Jesus Jr.

GolfWRX Contributor

I’m a mid-handicap golfer who would love to be a single-digit or even a scratch. It’s not so I can join the tour and compete for the big (but often times small) purses of a tournament, it’s more of a badge of honor and to brag to friends that you can hit a dimpled ball pretty consistently and manage a decent round every once in a while. Anyone who is a casual golfer knows of someone who is a pretty solid golfer. He or she is that person who you want to be paired with for a scramble tournament and would only play for skins if they gave you a handful of generous strokes. I wanted to be that person – a guy that can run with the low handicappers and be somewhat envied by the mid-to-high handicappers.

But the reality is that I don’t practice or play enough to warrant such unreasonable expectations and I don’t have the natural talent to hide the imperfections (and there are many) in my game. But that doesn’t mean I’m not trying. A year ago, I decided to take lessons for the first time in my eleven year golf “career” because I really wanted it to be my goal to be that low digit handicapper that I’ve always dreamed about.  So I packed my bags and went down to Palm Springs for a week of one-on-one sessions with a PGA Master Professional – a wizard who would presumably magically transform my swing from a weekend hacker into the rhythmic balance of Adam Scott. Turns out that to be Adam Scott you have to be born with some sort of physical gift that allows you the flexibility and length that he possesses. So a week of drills and many practice rounds later, I still had not perfected the golf swing, but I managed to take home with me a better tool set than I came with and improvements that actually helped lower my handicap a few strokes.

But with that kind of investment in time and money comes expectations and for whatever reason, I thought I could translate all that knowledge and good habits immediately and better my game by at least 10 or 11 strokes in the next season. Realistically, I probably improved about four-to-five strokes, but it didn’t feel like that was enough. I began to over think my swing and brought too much of the mental aspect into it, which as many of you know, is the harbinger of disaster when it comes to your golf game. With too much of my brain affecting my swing, I experienced a case of the dreaded —- (four letter y-word) and really tanked my game to a point where it wasn’t as fun anymore. I resigned to playing Tiger Woods on my PS3 to bring my confidence back, which would be similar to wearing a bandana tightly around your head to cure a migraine.

So there I was, less than a year removed from the excellent instruction I received from a PGA Master Professional, yet frustrated at the realization of sitting in the valley part of a roller coaster ride that is my golf game. I had already seen the improvements and I revelled in the little things that helped me go from being happy to have a 60-foot putt for birdie to actually seeing an approach shot as flag hunting. I knew it was a cyclical thing and often times getting out of the rut is a mind over matter, but I didn’t know what kind of trigger would help me this time around.

Almost by chance, I came across an advertisement from the local chapter of the Special Olympics looking for volunteers. I had been looking for a new volunteering opportunity around the same time, so the opportunity to work with such a respected organization already had my interest, but when they highlighted their need for coaches specifically in their golf program, I knew this would be a perfect fit for me.

My first day on the job wasn’t easy. We were asked to evaluate the athletes in a way that would allow the organizers to divide the group up into the various skill levels. This was the first time I was around golfers who had disabilities that limited their physical movement while others faced mental challenges which affected their motor skills. Up to that point, I was so critical of my own swing and those of my regular playing partners that I couldn’t quite grasp the concept of how imperfect the swings of these special athletes were. That first day was designed to just observe and judge and it was a struggle to do so objectively considering all the things I have been taught and conditioned to look for while watching golf telecasts and reading golf instruction books. Breaking plane, arms misaligned, bad grip, poor foot position, little shoulder turn — all the things that an instructor would cringe at were right in front of me. But in this environment, we celebrate the occasional good golf shot and encourage them to stay positive no matter what. To be honest, I think I was tough in my assessments of each athlete but at least I was consistent. As expected, each athlete had their own flawed swing all to their own and there wasn’t going to be a cure all drill or adjustment that would fix all of them at the same time.

Based on the assessments from the first day, each coach was assigned a handful of athletes that they would work with over the next two months on a weekly basis to develop a proper golf swing based on traditional instruction methods. Being a lefty, I was assigned the lefty athletes that were a mix of beginner (never swung a club) to intermediate (has played on a course a few times). Each week we worked on one component of the swing and then built upon that the following week, the intent being that by the end, the athletes are given the right tools and associated drills that would help them hit the ball more consistently and with more confidence. In essence, I would be teaching the golf swing from the ground up, starting from the basics all over again. In addition to teaching the sport to these eager athletes, this would be a nice refresher for myself because after a few years of being active in the sport, the basics can be quickly ignored in favor of bad habits and perhaps a reset was what I needed to get out of my rut.

It turns out the refresh of the golf swing mechanics was not what helped me. I thought that reviewing the basics of the “perfect” golf swing and teaching/learning it with these athletes would help me get over my own mental hurdle of the golf swing, as though repetition and teaching good habits out loud would trigger the proper swing thoughts even for myself. Nope — in fact it was witnessing the simple joy in the athletes when they occasionally hit the ball clean off the face and it would fly and go straight in the intended direction. Sure it might not have traveled an adequate distance for the club they had in their hand, but it was recognizing that it was a good golf shot versus a shank or a mishit. And a good golf shot was worth a high five.

My students also showed composure when they did mishit or miss the ball entirely. There was no swearing, no slamming the club to the ground, no club toss. They just reset, went through the prescribed pre shot routine and tried again. Not once did I hear any complaining from the athletes when I suggested an adjustment, even if the adjustment was physically impossible to achieve based on their disability. They still tried and allowed me to see how my suggestions would take or not, often times forcing me to make the adjustment.

Through it all, one thing remained constant – a good golf shot was welcomed and celebrated and a not so good one was quickly erased from memory until a solid shot was made again. This was all under the guise of athletes with less than perfect golf swings. Again, we can teach what an ideal setup is or what it means to be “on plane,” but the execution of it is usually less than ideal, even for an able bodied athlete.

Observing their composure and noting how to enjoy the simple success of a well hit golf shot helped me to appreciate the game as a whole again. I managed to take the intangible things I learned from working with these athletes onto the course and wouldn’t you know it, my game improved again. I began to see the game differently and instead of worrying about what I was doing wrong, I tuned my brain to believe in the shot I wanted to make and appreciating it more when it was well executed. I also learned to have a short memory with my bad shots and not dwell on them so much. I managed to stay relaxed throughout my round and just enjoy being out on the course regardless of how many circles/squares were on my card.  And as an added benefit, my scores started to come down and I started to hover in the low-to-mid 80s, which is not bad for a hack like me. Obviously, there is still a lot of room for improvement and I’d like to be able to approach a round with breaking 80 in mind, but I think I’ve learned enough about perspective in the last few months that I won’t stress myself to get there.

Sometimes, it’s embracing imperfection that truly helps with one’s perspective. I didn’t need a sports psychologist or hours upon hours on the range to fix the mental block I created in my own mind. It was a simple matter of surrounding myself with the right mix of people with good attitudes and learning from them. I already received excellent professional instructions to fix the mechanics of my swing, but I overlooked the importance of the mental component of my game. It may seem strange that in addition to lessons, I learned how to play better golf by helping out disabled athletes who cannot physically or mentally build a perfect Ben Hogan-esque golf swing, but I can honestly say that what those athletes taught me about golf was more helpful than what Peter Kostis and the Swing Vision camera could ever do for me. I know I’m never going to be a pro golfer and I might even be hard pressed to be a scratch golfer, but I’m not going to resent the game because I’m unable to achieve those lofty goals. Instead, I’ll just enjoy my time on the course and high five my buddies every so often, even for a well-played double bogey.

Click here for more instruction in the “Golf Talk” forum. 

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Dennis lives in Calgary, Canada where golf is available (at best) six months of the year. The other six months are spent understanding the nuances of the game that make it so addicting and wonderfully frustrating. In a perfect world, Dennis would take his set of G10s and his D300S to travel the world playing and photographing the beautiful, unique landcapes of the golf world. For now, he sits at a desk and is developing an eight-layer golf ball simply called "The Tour Ocho."



  1. Binx Watts

    Oct 7, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    What a great article and what wonderful insights you had! As the golf professional at a course in Elkridge, Maryland, I often comment that golf can be enjoyed on many levels…from beginner to pro.
    I’ve felt the same elation while teaching students with physical limitations such as those in the Special Olympics. There’s nothing better than seeing the joy in their eyes after a shot they consider successful.
    You and I have experienced first-hand the wisdom of the cliche’: one shot at a time. Congratulation!
    Binx Watts
    The Timbers at Troy G.C.

    • Dennis de Jesus Jr.

      Jan 21, 2013 at 2:40 pm

      Thanks very much for your kind words. It truly is amazing when you are reminded of the simple joys that sport can provide and more so when you are able to help make it a positive contribution. I have definitely learned to appreciate the sport a lot more through this experience and hope I can continue to help and encourage more students to pick up golf as a hobby. Thanks to you as well for growing the sport in your area!

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The Wedge Guy: My top 5 practice tips



While there are many golfers who barely know where the practice (I don’t like calling it a “driving”) range is located, there are many who find it a place of adventure, discovery and fun. I’m in the latter group, which could be accented by the fact that I make my living in this industry. But then, I’ve always been a “ball beater,” since I was a kid, but now I approach my practice sessions with more purpose and excitement. There’s no question that practice is the key to improvement in anything, so today’s topic is on making practice as much fun as playing.

As long as I can remember, I’ve loved the range, and always embrace the challenge of learning new ways to make a golf ball do what I would like it to do. So, today I’m sharing my “top 5” tips for making practice fun and productive.

  1. Have a mission/goal/objective. Whether it is a practice range session or practice time on the course, make sure you have a clearly defined objective…how else will you know how you’re doing? It might be to work on iron trajectory, or finding out why you’ve developed a push with your driver. Could be to learn how to hit a little softer lob shot or a knockdown pitch. But practice with a purpose …always.
  2. Don’t just “do”…observe.  There are two elements of learning something new.  The first is to figure out what it is you need to change. Then you work toward that solution. If your practice session is to address that push with the driver, hit a few shots to start out, and rather than try to fix it, make those first few your “lab rats”. Focus on what your swing is doing. Do you feel anything different? Check your alignment carefully, and your ball position. After each shot, step away and process what you think you felt during the swing.
  3. Make it real. To just rake ball after ball in front of you and pound away is marginally valuable at best. To make practice productive, step away from your hitting station after each shot, rake another ball to the hitting area, then approach the shot as if it was a real one on the course. Pick a target line from behind the ball, meticulously step into your set-up position, take your grip, process your one swing thought and hit it. Then evaluate how you did, based on the shot result and how it felt.
  4. Challenge yourself. One of my favorite on-course practice games is to spend a few minutes around each green after I’ve played the hole, tossing three balls into various positions in an area off the green. I don’t let myself go to the next tee until I put all three within three feet of the hole. If I don’t, I toss them to another area and do it again. You can do the same thing on the range. Define a challenge and a limited number of shots to achieve it.
  5. Don’t get in a groove. I was privileged enough to watch Harvey Penick give Tom Kite a golf lesson one day, and was struck by the fact that he would not let Tom hit more than five to six shots in a row with the same club. Tom would hit a few 5-irons, and Mr. Penick would say, “hit the 8”, then “hit the driver.” He changed it up so that Tom would not just find a groove. That paved the way for real learning, Mr. Penick told me.

My “bonus” tip addresses the difference between practicing on the course and keeping a real score. Don’t do both. A practice session is just that. On-course practice is hugely beneficial, and it’s best done by yourself, and at a casual pace. Playing three or four holes in an hour or so, taking time to hit real shots into and around the greens, will do more for your scoring skills than the same amount of range time.

So there you have my five practice tips. I’m sure I could come up with more, but then we always have more time, right?

More from the Wedge Guy



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19th Hole

Vincenzi: Fortinet Championship First Round Leader picks



The PGA Tour begins its fall season with a trip to Wine Country as the world of golf patiently awaits the 2023 Ryder Cup which is just a few weeks away. Silverado is a course where plenty of players with varying skill sets can compete, but strong West Coast history tends to be a major factor.

In the past four editions of the Fortinet Championship, there have been six first-round leaders or co-leaders. Of the six, three have started their rounds in the morning wave, and three started in the afternoon. The leading scores have all been between 63 and 65.

As of now, the winds look to be very docile, with speeds of 4-7 MPH throughout the day. I don’t see either the AM or PM wave as having a major advantage.

2023 Fortinet Championship First-Round Leader Picks

Zac Blair +9000 (FanDuel)

First-Round Tee Time: 1.22 p.m PT

A big theme for me this week is targeting players who have had success at both Silverado and the West Coast in general. Blair finished 22nd here last year, and also finished 4th back in 2019. That year, he shot 66 in rounds two and three, showing his ability to go low on this track.

In 2022, Blair gained 3.8 strokes putting and in 2019, he gained 8.6. The 33-year-old seemingly has these greens figured out.

C.T. Pan +9000 (FanDuel)

First-Round Tee Time: 8.23 a.m PT

At the end of the 2023 season, C.T. Pan showed flashes of what made him a good player prior to his injury struggles early in the year. He finished 4th at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May, and 3rd at the RBC Canadian Open in June. He also finished 6th at Silverado back in 2021, gaining 4.5 strokes on approach and 6.6 strokes putting.

A few weeks off may have given Pan a chance to reset and focus on the upcoming fall swing, where I believe he’ll play some good golf.

Joel Dahmen +110000 (FanDuel)

First-Round Tee Time: 7:28 a.m PT

After becoming a well-known name in golf due to his affable presence in Netflix’ “Full Swing” documentary, Dahmen had what can only be considered a disappointment of a 2023 season. I believe he’s a better player than he showed last year and is a good candidate for a bounce back fall and 2024.

Dahmen finished in a tie for 10th at the Barracuda Championship in late July, and the course is similar in agronomy and location to what he’ll see this week in Napa. He has some strong history on the West Coast including top-ten finishes at Riviera (5th, 2020), Pebble Beach (6th, 2022), Sherwood (8th, 2020), TPC Summerlin (9th, 2019) and Torrey Pines (9th, 2019).

James Hahn +125000 (Caesars)

First-Round Tee Time: 1:55 p.m PT

James Hahn absolutely loves golf on the West Coast. He’s won at Riviera and has also shown some course form with a 9th place finish at Silverado back in 2020. That week, Hahn gained 4.7 strokes putting, demonstrating his comfort level on these POA putting surfaces.

He finished T6 at the Barracuda back in July, and there’s no doubt that a return to California will be welcome for the 41-year-old.

Peter Malnati +125000 (BetRivers)

First-Round Tee Time: 12.27 p.m PT 

Peter Malnati excels at putting on the West Coast. He ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting on POA and has shown in the past he’s capable of going extremely low on any given round due to his ability to catch a hot putter.

His course history isn’t spectacular, but he’s played well enough at Silverado. In his past seven trips to the course, he’s finished in the top-35 four times.

Harry Higgs +150000 (BetRivers)

First-Round Tee Time: 1.55 p.m PT

In what is seemingly becoming a theme in this week’s First-Round Leader column, Harry Higgs is a player that really fell out of form in 2023, but a reset and a trip to a course he’s had success at in the past may spark a resurgence.

Higgs finished 2nd at Silverado in 2020 and wasn’t in particularly great form then either. Success hasn’t come in abundance for the 31-year-old, but three of his top-10 finishes on Tour have come in this area of the country.

Higgs shot an impressive 62 here in round two in 2020, which would certainly be enough to capture the first-round lead this year.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s Fortinet Championship betting preview: California native ready for breakthrough win in Napa



After a three-week break, the 2022-23 PGA TOUR season kicks off in Napa Valley at the Silverado Resort and Spa to play the Fortinet Championship.

Prior to 2021, the event was called the Safeway Open, but the tournament sponsor changed to Fortinet with contract that will last for three more seasons. Although the name has changed multiple times, Silverado’s North Course has been featured on the PGA TOUR since 1968.

The course is a par 72, measuring at 7,166 yards. Silverado features Poa annua greens that can be tricky, especially as the surface becomes bumpier in the afternoon. The tree-lined fairways aren’t easy to hit, but the rough shouldn’t be exceedingly penal. Shorter hitters are in play on this relatively short course, and accuracy will be at a premium.

There will be a re-routing at Silverado for this year’s Fortinet Championship. Ten holes will be played in a different order. Holes 1-7 and 18 will remain as in year’s past. The new finishing stretch – No. 14 (par 4), No. 15 (par 5), No. 16 (par 4), No. 17 (par 3) and No. 18 (par 5). The new 17th was previously the 11th, which is the signature hole on the course.

The field will consist of 155 players. Being the swing season, the field for this event is usually relatively weak. However, there are some intriguing names in the field including Justin Thomas, Webb Simpson, Sahith Theegala, Joel Dahmen, and Kevin Kisner.

Past Winners

  • 2022: Max Homa (-22)
  • 2021: Max Homa (-19)
  • 2020: Stewart Cink (-21)
  • 2019: Cameron Champ (-17)
  • 2018: Kevin Tway (-14)
  • 2017: Brendan Steele -15
  • 2016: Brendan Steele -18

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

Strokes Gained: Approach

Historically, one of the North Course’s defenses will be tightly tucked pin placement, so effective shot-shaping and a higher ball flight may be an advantage this week. In order to find success, players need to hit the correct level of the sloping Poa Annua greens.

Strokes Gained: Approach past 24 rounds:

  1. Chez Reavie (+24.7)
  2. Sam Ryder (+20.0)
  3. Mark Hubbard (+17.8)
  4. Kevin Streelman (+18.3)
  5. Doug Ghim (+17.1)

Good Drives Gained

Hitting fairways in regulation at Silverado is more difficult than TOUR average, as players have done so in the past at a rate of only 52.2%. While the rough isn’t extremely long here, controlling spin out of the thick grass is much more difficult than doing so from the fairway. In order to find success, players need to hit the correct level of the sloping Poa annua greens.

In 2021, the top eight players on the leaderboard all had a positive week in “Good Drives Gained. The winner, Max Homa was +3.3 in the category and Mito Pereira, who finished third, was +8.3.

In 2022, 12 of the top 13 players on the leaderboard gained in the category including the winner Max Homa (+6.0) and runner up Danny Willet (5.0).

Good Drives Gained past 24 rounds:

  1. Doug Ghim (+24.4) 
  2. Matt NeSmith (+23.8) 
  3. Russell Knox (+20.6)
  4. Brice Garnett (+19.9)
  5. Ryan Armour (+19.8)

Par 4: 400-450

There are six par 4’s at Silverado that are between 400 and 450-yards. It will be important to target players who excel at playing these holes. With the par 5s being fairly short and reachable, the par 4 scoring may prove to be the bigger difference-maker.

Par 4: 400-450 past 24 rounds:

  1. Beau Hossler (+14.7) 
  2. Max Homa (+12.4)
  3. Garrick Higgo (+8.5)
  4. Justin Suh (+8.3)
  5. Stephan Jaeger (+8.2)

Birdie or Better: Gained

With scores at Silverado potentially approaching the 20 under par range, making plenty of birdies will be a requirement in order to contend this week.

Birdie or Better: Gained in past 24 rounds:

  1. Nick Hardy (+15.3)
  2. Scott Piercy (+15.2)
  3. Ryan Gerard (+14.9)
  4. Max Homa (+14.0)
  5. Peter Kuest (+13.5)

Strokes Gained: Putting (Poa Annua)

Poa annua greens on the West Coast can be quite difficult for golfers to adjust to if they don’t have much experience on the surface.

Prior to the 2019 Safeway Open, Phil Mickelson talked about how the type of putting surface is a major factor:

“I think a lot of guys struggle with the Poa annua greens, which is a grass that I grew up playing, so I’m very comfortable on the greens. When you grow up and spend most of your time back east in Florida on the Bermuda, this is a very awkward surface to putt on. The color looks different — it’s hard to sometimes read. But when you’re used to it, I don’t know of much better surfaces than these right here.”

This week it is important to look for the golfers who historically excel on Poa annua.

Total Strokes Gained in category in past 24 rounds:

  1. Kevin Kisner (+27.7) 
  2. Max Homa (+21.2)
  3. Peter Malnati (+20.5)
  4. Justin Suh (+18.5)
  5. Mackenzie Hughes (+16.0)

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%), Good Drives Gained: (25%), Birdie or Better (20%), Par 4: 400-450 (15%), SG: Putting (Poa annua) (15%).

  1. Max Homa (+750)
  2. Doug Ghim (+5000)
  3. Andrew Putnam (+4000)
  4. Chez Reavie (+4500)
  5. Kevin Streelman (+5500)
  6. Mark Hubbard (+5000)
  7. Sam Ryder (+7000)
  8. Brendon Todd (+3500)
  9. Akshay Bhatia (+6000)
  10. Cameron Davis (+2200)

2023 Fortinet Championship Picks

Sahith Theegala +2000 (DraftKings):

Sahith Theegala is yet to break out for his maiden PGA Tour victory but is a great candidate for a player who can have a strong fall and take advantage of some weaker fields. The 26-year-old ended his season on a positive note, finishing 13th at the FedEx St. Jude and 15th at the BMW Championship.

I’ve long believed that Theegala’s first win would come on the West Coast. He grew up in California and was a three-time All-American at Pepperdine University, where he became the fifth player to win the Jack Nicklaus Award, Haskins Award and Ben Hogan award all in the same year (2020). Sahith made his PGA Tour debut at Silverado in 2020, where he finished in a tie for 14th. Last year, he finished 6th at the Fortinet Championship.

Theegala is very comfortable playing in California. That is perhaps most noticeable on the putting surface where he gains an average of +0.44 strokes on the field per event on POA, which is more than four times what he gains on Bermudagrass or Bentgrass. The POA greens at Silverado can get especially difficult late in the day, which is a reason why players with a background on them have had so much success at the course. In the past seven years of the event, five winners have come from California.

Theegala is pricey this week and is as close to the top of the odds board as I can remember him being, but that’s the nature of the PGA Tour fall season. It’s hard to find a spot on the schedule that Sahith will have a better chance at winning than this one.

Justin Suh +5000 (PointsBet)

Consistency has been an issue early in the career of Justin Suh, but he’s shown flashes in 2023 of what made him such a highly regarded prospect to begin with. After a few top-10 finishes at the PLAYERS Championship and the Honda Classic, Suh ended the season on a bit of a sour note, failing to finish better than 34th in his last five starts of the season.

Despite the struggles, I’m optimistic about Suh as we begin the fall swing. The 26-year-old made the trip to Crans-Montana, Valais, Switzerland to play in the Omega European Masters, and finished 24th in a decent field. More encouraging than the finish was how Suh hit the ball. He gained 5.24 strokes on approach and hit plenty of fairways.

The 2018 Pac-12 Player of the Year grew up on California golf courses. Suh was a highly decorated amateur golfer with plenty of wins on the West Coast prior to attending USC, where he was one of the best players in the country.

When he’s on, Suh is one of the best putters on Tour, and he should comfortable playing in his home state in search of his first PGA Tour victory.

Akshay Bhatia +5500 (DraftKings):

Akshay Bhatia is still just 21 years old and one of the most tantalizing prospects in the world of golf. The smooth-swinging lefty was able to obtain his first PGA Tour victory at the Barracuda Championship at Tahoe Mountain Club in Truckee, California just a few months ago. The course is just a few hours ride from Silverado and the conditions and course should be very similar.

Bhatia will have no issue making birdies in bunches at Silverado, and the rough shouldn’t be exceedingly penal if he gets loose with his driver.

Bhatia made his debut at Silverado in 2020 at just 18 years old and managed to finish 9th. Since then, he’s gained a great deal of confidence and has refined his game as a professional.

Akshay got engaged this week. He can celebrate with a victory this week at the Fortinet.

Sam Ryder +8000 (FanDuel):

Statistically, Sam Ryder jumps off the page this week. In his past four measured starts, he’s gained 4.2, 5.4, 5.2 and 5.7 strokes on approach and is completely dialed in with his irons. Despite the numbers, he hasn’t managed to crack the top-30 on the leaderboard in that stretch but this is a field that is much weaker than he faced at the end of last season.

In addition to the recent stats, Ryder played some good golf on the West Coast last year. Most notably, he finished 4th at Torrey Pines in a loaded field and also finished 20th at both the Waste Managment Phoenix Open and the Genesis Invitational.

If Ryder continues with his hot approach play, he should be able to contend at Silverado this week.

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