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The Great Opportunity in the Golf Industry

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Amateur golf, not the professional golf on TV, has been the subject of many articles in recent years, and there have been few, if any positives when the subject is participation. Course closings, dramatic drops in play, retail chains selling golf equipment going out of business… and the list goes on. 

There is a melody in the wind, distant, but if you listen closely it’s growing. Reduced to numbers, it’s this: By The Year 2020, The Number of Americans Over 65 Will Increase by 55 percent.

Think of it this way. You own an Italian restaurant and you hear that Italy is closing and moving down the block. I don’t think the entire country will be dropping in, but you can bet I’m expanding the menu and sprucing the place up.

I realize that reaching 65 doesn’t mean automatically retiring and taking up golf and that some in this category already play, but if you just look at hard numbers the message is irrefutable. There are a whole bunch of folks that, starting in 2020, could have a positive impact on a game that has suffered participation losses. One could even conclude that now is a good time to formulate plans and programs to capture a chunk of this significant market.

What kinds of plans, you might ask. Well, to start, the industry has several organizations with well paid, skilled people who are more than capable of tackling such potential. Since I brought it up, I’ll throw out some thoughts, but I’m simply another amateur voice.

To start my big picture objective, I would engage the Golf Channel and get them actively on board. Why so much emphasis? Go back to the participation statistic. If we can’t get them on the bandwagon (they’re a for-profit business, and their business is golf) it’s time to head to the 19th hole and a cold one.

What is on the bandwagon? Again, I’ll repeat, they’re the golf marketing experts. I prefer to be regaled by the quality and depth of their insight. Should they ask me, if it were “my restaurant,” I’d say we need a definitive culture on speed of play. Bringing in new players to “enjoy” slow play invokes the response “too slow, no fun” as they leave the premises.

Slow Play

I’m a very strong advocate of 3.5-3.75 hour rounds. I play with other old people and we have no problem with those times. We could run around and crowd the folks in front, but that’s just as objectionable as a 4.5-hour round.

“No Fun”

If we approach this (or any) group and say that golf is fun, we are being disingenuous. Golf is fun only if you are clear that the definition is the joy of overcoming a very difficult challenge. No one will defeat the game; the fun comes with small victories. Now Top Golf is fun, but it isn’t golf unless swinging one-handed while holding a cell phone in the other is the long lost magic move we’ve all missed. I still take the grandkids, though. It has beer and excellent viewing. 

Senior Lessons

I watch young, supple instructors showing swings that if I attempted I’d need a lifetime pass to the Chiropractic Institute. The market here is a 65-year-old group. They aren’t flexible, and many have scars and lesions from surgeries. I see the Golf Channel running a series on lessons specifically oriented to the physicality of the majority. My restaurant customers don’t like really spicy food, and I don’t try and teach them how to enjoy it.

Course Setups

Courses are set up with range flags tuned into tee markers. If you comfortably hit the ball to the green flag, play the green tees. Why? Go back to the paragraph on “too slow, no fun.” In this instance, the green tees allow the occasional chance to hit shots into a green that provides an “occasional victory.”

This issue isn’t about perfect ideas that guarantee success. It’s understanding that the amateur game is facing an opportunity that’s unique and significant to long-term stability.

Now, being honest, this story doesn’t really apply to GolfWRX readers. They already play, in fact; some may play on courses that have plenty of customers, thank you very much. It really applies to those in industry leadership positions and it would be nice to see some positive programs emerge. It would also be nice to pick up 20 yards. Call me negative, but I think the odds are about the same. 

It’s a positive opportunity; gotta keep pushing!

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Barney Adams is the founder of Adams Golf and the inventor of the iconic "Tight Lies" fairway wood. He served as Chairman of the Board for Adams until 2012, when the company was purchased by TaylorMade-Adidas. Adams is one of golf's most distinguished entrepreneurs, receiving honors such as Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 1999 and the 2010 Ernie Sabayrac Award for lifetime contribution to the golf industry by the PGA of America. His journey in the golf industry started as as a club fitter, however, and has the epoxy filled shirts as a testimony to his days as an assembler. Have an equipment question? Adams holds seven patents on club design and has conducted research on every club in the bag. He welcomes your equipment questions through email at [email protected] Adams is now retired from the golf equipment industry, but his passion for the game endures through his writing. He is the author of "The WOW Factor," a book published in 2008 that offers an insider's view of the golf industry and business advice to entrepreneurs, and he continues to contribute articles to outlets like GolfWRX that offer his solutions to grow the game of golf.

34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Scudder Graybeal

    Sep 1, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Barney-Come visit us in The Villages. Twelve regulation courses (10 are 27 hole layouts) and 36 executive courses which can be harder than the regulation courses. The largest golf complex in the world and more courses to be built. 55+ mostly retirement community with some real world beaters from all over. Always looking for ways to increase golf participation and speed up play. We like “out of the box” thinking. Would love to play with you again and swap war stories.

  2. Charlie

    May 21, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    “Senior Lessons
    I watch young, supple instructors showing swings that if I attempted I’d need a lifetime pass to the Chiropractic Institute. The market here is a 65-year-old group. They aren’t flexible, ”

    Boy, I’m 70+ and as a Starter for my local GC I watch hundreds of seniors play hole #1 and hole #18. Seniors are not flexible and they hit the ball fat or thin almost every time. Divots, if they get a divot, are on the wrong side of the ball. Good senior instruction would help us get that divot moved to the target side of the ball. Getting that swing-bottom on the target side of the ball when we have a short backswing is no easy task and we need good senior instruction to help us. I know – I’ve been working on that divot problem for 3 years and I still am VERY inconsistant.

    • setter02

      May 22, 2017 at 7:17 am

      Depending on the changes needed, a good number of Sr’s don’t want to regress in their current ability for any length of time (you have to put in the work for changes to take place) given they are on the wrong side of the expectancy equation. Also hard to tighten things up with all the moving parts added to their swings in hopes of generating more power/longer back swing.

  3. Dave R

    May 20, 2017 at 11:44 pm

    I’ll bet you are the grouch that complaines your milk is to warm

  4. Dave R

    May 20, 2017 at 11:42 pm

    Bogey golf mabey for you buddy. Ever read what you write ? Not likely eh!

  5. Dave R

    May 20, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Mike finally someone who makes sense on this form good for you ,couldn’t agree more .

  6. DaveT

    May 19, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    Hooray, Barney! Somebody needed to say this.

  7. Kromulous

    May 19, 2017 at 9:18 am

    You need to redefine Golf in general, for older golfers. The scoring system is actually absurd, to say you get a par (most people think that means average, i know…) when you get a ball in the cup on a 400 yard par 4. Most Seniors, older ones, cant hit a Driver a 160 yards or better. He couldn’t make par if his life depended on it.

    Green tees will help, but getting older golfers to understand that you should play to the slope number of a golf course to start out is your target. If your playing a 125 slope course, and your a 1st or 2nd year Senior Golfer you should consider that PAR, not 72 on a course that you stand a better chance at getting struck by lightning than to actually shoot a 72. Hell most couldn’t do it from the 150 yard makers on any course.

    I have personally seen many guys quit because Golf is to hard, you got to make it easier at least starting out, so people have time to improve and engage the game properly. After all the par / birdie etc system was just made up for TV.

  8. JLG

    May 19, 2017 at 2:20 am

    At 35 I feel nothing but optimism for the game of golf. The fundamentals of the sport are too strong for it to do anything but grow. Such a pure feeling is the well-struck golf shot *Costner voice*. Golf also has tremendous physical benefits. GolfWRX plus teaching pros sharing information all over the internet combinated with video on your cell phone and launch monitors for $500 (and dropping) will have a profound effect over the next 5 years.

    • setter02

      May 19, 2017 at 2:55 pm

      Think about how small a percentage of ‘golfers’ are on wrx and are even 2% as informed as most on here, its basically non existent. I with with all the online golf forums worldwide (some will have overlapping members) you might total up 1% of the total golfers. As anyone who has worked within the industry can tell you, marketing works on the lemmings and they also have pretty steep delusions of their actual ability.

      I actually see things differently in that the fundamentals are too hard (it’s not an easy game, physically or mentally) and that is what hinders it. Its only a select few who crave that challenge, not even close to sustainable numbers to grow the game. It’s a niche sport, always has been, always will be.

  9. ROY

    May 18, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    Think BA is being a little too optimistic with his 55% growth in the 65+ age bucket over the next 3 years – not gonna happen

  10. setter02

    May 18, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    So what you’re saying is that you just couldn’t hold out long enough to cash in and help all these Boomers with Adams gear! I’ll be my typical self and be the naysayer, but your forecasting leaves little to be desired based on your previous position and the eventual outcome. Golf is expensive (relative to location, rural is much cheaper), takes too long (5+ hrs isn’t acceptable, never has been) and is competing with a host of other entertainment offerings to spend your money and time on that are cheaper and can take less (or longer if you so choose) time to partake in.

    Private will have to continue to get creative on pricing and payment structures (initiations will have to disappear as who at 65+ will want to join a place and being paying for 10 years for something), low to mid level public will be fine as people will gravitate towards that level if they still want to get more bang for the buck vs. quality (conditions, amenities) course.

    Another thing missed is how Boomers are now doing more with family as their kids are pressed for time and take on more of a parenting roll to help as their kids are all working, not many single income families anymore. Of the 6 ‘golfers’ on my street (3 retired, 3 under 40), 1 places once a week for 3 months, I play 8-12 times a month, the rest might play 5 rounds a season.

    But the #1 reason, it’s very hard to get good at or play to an acceptable level, people don’t want to bother with the frustration, more so if they were good golfers with a declining ability that they can’t accept. But what do I know.

    • FH

      May 19, 2017 at 1:10 am

      ….. but your handicap is you don’t know jack sh_t

      • Jebaited

        May 19, 2017 at 8:43 am

        I can see the reason as to why you have “no women, to handicap your performance” you can barely form a functional sentence, even while disregarding your disgusting overuse of elipses. Something tells me in 2020 you will be in the same bucket this article is describing, either that or you need to do some reading other than the 120 you read on your scorecard every weekend.

    • Steve S

      May 19, 2017 at 8:42 am

      “the brutal reality that most “seniors” are sedentary, decrepit, obese, weak, uncoordinated, clumsy, bitter, depressed, delusional and outright physical and mental failures”

      A generalization that bares examination. Seniors are usually defined as 55 and up. You comment may be applicable to many of those over 80 or 85 because their bodies and brains are worn out due to LIFE. Those who are 55-70 are probably in better health than any generation of that age previously. It’s also the generation Adams is talking about. If you go to rec centers around my area you’ll see that the overwhelming population during the day is gray hairs even tho they are a relatively small percentage of the total population here. A large portion of boomers did not work grueling jobs like their parents which means they aren’t physically worn out. Also, a much smaller percentage smoked than the previous (Greatest) generation.

      If your outlook is that negative about ageing then you probably should take yourself out before you hit 65 and save the rest of us the cost of taking care of you as you age.

  11. AceW7Iron

    May 18, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    “Senior”

    As in…I just had a SENIOR moment

  12. AceW7Iron

    May 18, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    I only invest in senor A flex shafts now…this is why…
    Resale will be so easy by 2020

  13. Matt

    May 18, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    Cheers Barney, great insight. In my demographic, among non-golfer mates (a mix of easy going mid-40’s gen x creatives and sportspeople), golfs garish ‘corporatizated’ appearance/marketing as well as the loud, ignorant guys you hear on the sidelines at PGA tour events, seems to sum up the game for them. I hope more retirees do start playing.

  14. Bishop

    May 18, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    I too, love the idea of using flags on the range as the tee markers (not that some of the young 30+ handicappers will heed the advice of an indication that they shouldn’t be playing from the tips). I feel like someone who is interested in actually playing from the correct tees, rather than swinging out of their shoes from the tips, then losing 2-3 balls per hole, will have much more fun, and it will definitely increase speed of play, as they’re not spending 75% of their time looking for their ball in the right rough.

  15. God Shamgod

    May 18, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Athough I understand how the author, a man I greatly respect for founding Adams Golf, I believe he is missing the real reason why golf is in the position it is in and in fact this demographic shift is the problem.

    Golf participation grew greatly from the mid 90s to the 10s. Why did this happen? Some cite Tiger Woods but I think that is silly. Sure, some non-golfers picked up clubs for the first time after watching Tiger but the real reason for the participation bump was the baby boomer generation hitting prime golf spending age.

    The prime golf spending age is between 40 and 60 years of age. That is a time in someones life when they are likely earning the largest amount of money they will ever earn. They also have more time than they had when their children were young. They generally still have the physical health and stamina to play consistently.

    The people under 40 have tighter budgets and have more family commitments. The people over 60 begin to live on fixed incomes and many don’t have room in their budgets for golf. Of course this is contrary to the financial planning ads you see during golf tournaments, but most people didn’t plan that well for retirement (hmmm..$500 drivers?).

    The Great Recession hit the retirement accounts of many of these people now turning 65. Even if their accounts recovered, I believe it has altered their outlook on risk and spending going forward.

    I also notice that older folks tend to not spend as much on equipment. Maybe they don’t have the budget or maybe they aren’t as wowed by the latest stuff like they were when they were younger.

    The fact is that the boom the golf industry saw for 25 years until recently was due almost entirely to these soon to be 65 year olds. Now if those 65 year olds could somehow live like they are 40 again, maybe the boom would happen again. Of course, that isn’t possible.

  16. xjohnx

    May 18, 2017 at 9:34 am

    That’s the first time I’ve heard this idea of range flags that coordinate with tee markers. I think that’s absolutely brilliant. I would really like to see more people play from the appropriate tees.

  17. Huh?

    May 18, 2017 at 9:22 am

    I am curious to know why that man in the feature photo is wearing two wrist watches.

    • guessing

      May 18, 2017 at 11:16 am

      one is an actual watch the other is GPS unit.

    • talljohn777

      May 20, 2017 at 1:21 am

      One is to monitor his heart. The other is to monitor his insulin levels.

  18. Stewart Graham

    May 18, 2017 at 7:09 am

    Dear Mr Adams,
    I could not agree more ,often I have senior golfers 70/80 years old come to me after a series of lessons from a a young pro who has told them they do not have enough pivot not only in the backswing but in the follow through position as well .When will golfers and hotshot pros understand that there are two swings one for the tour pros and one for the ordinary mortals .At the moment in the current crop of tour players I can’t see many making making the senior tour.Swing the club head not your body.Stewart Graham PGA GB A A Golf de Bondues.France.

  19. Ian

    May 18, 2017 at 7:08 am

    Hi Barney. Valid points, but as a 30 year old, your solution doesn’t excite me. It seems like you want “The Old Boys” club with stuffy dress codes and select membership. Regress is the word that comes to mind.

    • Dat

      May 18, 2017 at 8:40 am

      Precisely why golf is still a rich old man’s game even though we keep thinking it has changed. It really hasn’t changed. Unless you actually enjoy playing the $15 9 hole muni down the road from the 18 hole private GC/CC.

      • George

        May 18, 2017 at 10:14 am

        Well the thing is the times are changing. I dont know almost anyone who wants to/will join a private club at any point in his life. Sure it is a rich mans sport. In about 20-30 years you will see that keeping it this way as a rich old man’s game will be a bad idea. I am also 30 and only know a very few people I can actually play with. Everyone I know thinks golf is a terrible sport. You have to realize that many people in my generation do not want to live in the burbs. Everyone is moving to the city.

    • mike

      May 18, 2017 at 9:02 am

      Im 31, i would love if there were more 65 yr olds out playing, they tend to play from 7-12 in the morning when us “younger” people are working anyway, and alot I know actually dont play weekends as they feel this is the time non-retired people can play. they pay membership fees like everyone else and allow courses to stay open and keep rates reasonable for the rest of us. TLDR more people playing lower cost and more courses stay open

      • Ian

        May 18, 2017 at 9:19 am

        Where is this utopia you speak of?

      • Jack

        May 19, 2017 at 12:05 am

        yes, exactly the point of the story. There are synergies to be had. 65 plus are retired and can play whenever they want and more often.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s LIV Golf Jeddah betting preview: Course specialist ready to steal the show in Saudi

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LIV Golf makes its third stop at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City this week to play LIV Golf Jeddah. 

Royal Greens Golf & Country Club is a par-72 that measures 7,010 yards. There is plenty of water on the course and it features large greens and numerous sand traps. The fairways are Zoysia grass and the greens are Paspalum. The course has hosted several prestigious events in the past including the Saudi International, LIV Golf Jeddah, the Aramco Team Series and the Aramco Saudi Ladies International. The course is undoubtedly one of the best tracks that the Middle East has to offer. 

LIV Jeddah will be absolutely loaded with storylines this week. Perhaps the most exciting of them all is the return of Anthony Kim to professional golf.

Last seen at Quail Hollow in the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship, the golf world often wondered aloud what ever happened to the charismatic party boy who once played a major role in the United States 2008 Ryder Cup win at Valhalla, thrashing Ryder Cup legend Sergio Garcia 5&4 in a singles match.

Six months later, “AK” made eleven birdies in a single round at Augusta National, shooting a -7 (65). The following year, Kim would finish 3rd at The Masters.

Kim was a “can’t miss” star who was poised to be near the top of the world rankings for the next decade. Until he wasn’t.

Starting in around 2010, injuries started to derail AK, causing him to have surgery on his Achilles tendon in June of 2012.

Reportedly, the then 26-year-old cashed in on an insurance policy that paid him somewhere between $10 and $20 million, which would force him into retirement.

Twelve years later, Kim will be playing at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club beginning on Friday this week.

There is still a great deal of mystery regarding what’s occurred in the past twelve years, but reports indicate that Kim is receiving somewhere between $5 and $10 million to sign with LIV Golf.

Details aside, Kim’s return to golf should be absolutely captivating.

Past Winners at LIV Jeddah

  • 2023: Brooks Koepka (-14)
  • 2022: Brooks Koepka (-12)

Past Winners at the Saudi International

    • 2023: Abraham Ancer (-19)
    • 2022:Harold Varner III (-13)
    • 2021: Dustin Johnson (-15)
    • 2020: Graeme McDowell (-12)
    • 2019: Dustin Johnson (-19)

The top of the odds board will be tough to beat this week. Jon Rahm has played well to start the year but still hasn’t gotten in the winner’s circle. He ought to be hungry to get it done this week. Brooks Koepka has won the event two straight years and is a force to be reckoned with. Dustin Johnson has a staggering record at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. In six trips to the course, he’s finished in the top-8 each time including two wins and a runner-up. 

Stats From LIV Las Vegas

2024 LIV Jeddah Picks

Sergio Garcia (+2500 FanDuel)

Sergio Garcia began his 2024 LIV Golf season with a bang, losing in a four-hole playoff to the Chilean superstar Joaquin Niemann at LIV Golf Mayakoba. Despite the runner-up finish, it was an encouraging start to the season for the former Masters Champion.

Garcia’s strong week didn’t directly follow him to LIV Las Vegas, where he finished 26th, but the unfamiliar course didn’t necessarily fit his skill set. Royal Greens Golf & Country Club is a relatively short course that can get extremely windy. Garcia still has the iron game to compete with the elite players in this field, and is a great wind player and shot maker. 

In Sergio’s seven trips to the course, he’s finished in the top-6 three times, and finished 3rd in both of LIV’s trips to Jeddah. 

The 44-year-old can still stripe it and my gut tells me he will be a part of the story late on Sunday. 

Paul Casey (+3500 DraftKings)

I’ve been extremely high on Casey to kick off 2024 and thus far things have gone extremely well for the Englishman. In his two starts this season, Casey has finished in a tie for 11th and a tie for 5th, and was the first-round leader at LIV Las Vegas. 

Casey has had success at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club and has finished 5th in two of his past three trips to the golf course. The 46-year-old is a superb ball striker and wind player when he’s healthy, and all signs point to him finally being back to full strength. 

In Vegas, Casey led the field in birdies made (tied with a few at the top), and finished in the top ten in both fairways hit and greens in regulation. 

Veterans have done well on LIV to date, and Casey may be next in line of players on the back nine of their careers who show they still have the game to compete with some of the world’s best. 

Matt Wolff (+4100 FanDuel)

The mercurial Matt Wolff has seemingly found a comfortable home with the RangeGoats and has been playing his best golf to date on LIV in his two starts this season. Wolff finished 4th at LIV Las Vegas and followed that up with a tie for 7th place finish at the Asian Tour’s International Series Oman. 

In his past four trips to the course, the 23-year-old (Wow! He’s still only 23?) has finished in the top-10 three times. 

The Oklahoma State product was once tabbed as a future superstar, and it’s still far too early to give up on such a talented player. A win is coming soon. 

Bubba Watson (+8000 FanDuel)

It’s been a long road back for Bubba Watson since he had surgery to repair his meniscus a few years ago, but the two-time Masters champion is beginning to show some signs that he may once again be healthy enough to complete.

In his two starts this season, Bubba has finished T21 (Mayakoba) and T15 (Vegas). Watson has always been a player who plays “his” tracks well, with multiple wins at Augusta, Riviera and TPC River Highlands. With a few more cracks at it, Royal Greens Golf & Country Club could certainly be one of those courses. He’s only played the course three times, but has a 2nd place finish in 2022 when he lost to Harold Varner III in a playoff.

In Vegas, Watson was 7th in the field in Greens in Regulation. When he’s on his game, there are few players more fun to watch than Bubba. 

 

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches betting preview: Grinders fancied to survive tough PGA National test

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After finishing the West Coast swing and making a pit stop in Mexico, the PGA TOUR heads to PGA National to begin its Florida swing and play the Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches. The event was previously called the “Honda Classic”.

The tournament will be a significant challenge for golfers, as PGA National is one of the most difficult courses on the PGA TOUR.

PGA National is a 7,054-yard par 71 and features Bermudagrass greens.  Originally a Tom Fazio design, it was redesigned by Jack Nicklaus. The course features the infamous “Bear Trap” on holes 15-17, three of the toughest holes on TOUR. Wind tends to play a factor, which makes the scoring even more challenging.

The field is solid and much stronger than we saw last year with the event being directly after two signature events. Some notable players in the field include Rory McIlroy, Matt Fitzpatrick, Shane Lowry, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Min Woo Lee, Russell Henley and Gary Woodland. 

Past Winners at PGA National

  • 2023: Chris Kirk (-14)
  • 2022: Sepp Straka (-10)
  • 2021: Matt Jones (-12)
  • 2020: Sungjae Im (-6)
  • 2019: Keith Mitchell (-9)
  • 2018: Justin Thomas (-8)
  • 2017: Rickie Fowler (-12)
  • 2016: Adam Scott (-9)
  • 2015: Padraig Harrington (-6)

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). 

5 Key Stats for PGA National

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

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes Gained: Approach has been far and away the biggest indicator of the winner at PGA National. Hitting the target is especially important with all of the water at the course.

Total SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Tom Hoge (+1.08) 
  2. Mathieu Pavon (+1.07)
  3. Chesson Hadley (+.68)
  4. Michael Kim (+.67) 
  5. Adam Svensson (+.66)

2. Strokes Gained: Putting Bermuda (Florida)

As we enter the Florida swing, players will have to adjust to the Florida Bermudagrass greens, which favors some golfers who are more accustomed to playing the surface over others.

Strokes Gained: Putting Bermuda (Florida) over past 24 Rounds:

  1. Beau Hossler (+1.05)
  2. Matt Fitzpatrick (+.87)
  3. Sungjae Im (+.81)
  4. Ben Martin (+.75)
  5. Denny McCarthy (+.71)

3. Strokes Gained Total: Florida

This stat will bring in players who’ve played their best golf in the state of Florida.

Strokes Gained Total: Florida Over Past 36 Rounds:

  1. Rory McIlroy (+1.72)
  2. Matt Fitzpatrick (+1.62)
  3. Shane Lowry (+1.44)
  4. Sungjae Im (+1.32) 
  5. Chris Kirk (+1.30)

4. Strokes Gained: Ball Striking

Historically, Strokes Gained: Ball Striking has been much more indicative of success at PGA National than Strokes Gained: Short Game. The difficult track rewards a solid tee-to-green game, which is the key to avoiding trouble.

The winning score will likely stay close to single digits, so an extremely hot putter isn’t all that predictive. 

SG: BS Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Corey Conners (+21.1)
  2. Jhonnatan Vegas (+19.5)
  3. Adam Svensson (+19.3)
  4. Mathieu Pavon (+18.6) 
  5. Tom Hoge (+18.3) 

5. Strokes Gained: Difficult or Very Difficult Courses

PGA National is one of the most difficult courses on the PGA TOUR. Including this stat will highlight some players who thrive when scoring is difficult.

Strokes Gained: Difficult Courses Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Rory McIlroy (+2.62)
  2. Matt Fitzpatrick (+1.59) 
  3. Tom Kim (+1.59) 
  4. Jake Knapp (+1.55)
  5. Shane Lowry (+1.34)

Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (27%), SG: Putting Florida Bermuda (15.3%), SG: Florida 15.3%), SG: Ball Striking (27%) and SG: Difficult Scoring(15.3%).

  1. Chris Kirk
  2. Daniel Berger
  3. Jhonnatan Vegas
  4. Corey Conners
  5. Adam Svensson
  6. Rory McIlroy
  7. Tom Hoge
  8. Shane Lowry
  9. Sepp Straka
  10. Kevin Streelman

2024 Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches Picks

(All odds are the best available at the time of writing)

Cameron Young +2200 (BetMGM)

Cameron Young has yet to break out with a PGA Tour win, but PGA National is a good course for the former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year to showcase his elite driving ability. In his past 24 rounds, Young ranks 1st in Total Driving.

PGA National isn’t the longest course, but with water lurking everywhere, it helps to hit approach shots with higher lofted clubs. Bombers such as Rory McIlroy, Keith Mitchell, and Brooks Koepka have thrived at the course in the recent years, and Young could look to replicate their play style here.

Young has had a strong start to his 2024 season, finishing in a tie for 8th at TPC Scottsdale and a tie for 16th at Riviera. In those two starts, he gained significant strokes on the field both off the tee and on approach. He also finished 16th in his debut at the Honda Classic in 2022. With two additional top-13 finishes at Bay Hill, the 26-year-old has shown he likes playing in Florida.

With the fields in 2024 weaker than in recent seasons, Young is one of the best players teeing it up this week and has the talent to come out on top.

Shane Lowry +3500 (DraftKings)

Shane Lowry has been very quiet this season, but he’ll now kick off the Florida swing, which is the part of the PGA Tour schedule that he’s had most success at over the course of his PGA Tour career.

In his past eight starts in the state of Florida, the Irishman has finished in the top-13 five times, including a runner-up at PGA National in 2022 and a tie for 5th here last year. The former Open champion is a resident of Jupiter, Florida and is extremely comfortable playing on these Bermudagrass greens.

Lowry is typically amongst the favorites at PGA National, but this year is being offered at a bit of a discount due to his underwhelming start to the season. If the course plays difficult, which it typically does, there are few players I’d rather have than Shane Lowry on my betting card.

Byeong Hun An +4000 (DraftKings)

I’ve bet Byeong Hun An a few times this year and it almost paid off when the South Korean lost in agonizing fashion in a playoff to Grayson Murray at the Sony Open. Given his current form and excellent course fit, I feel compelled to give the affable An one more shot at PGA National this week.

An is a great driver of the ball and ranks 17th in the field in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 4th in Carry Distance. With danger lurking on almost every hole, longer hitters will have the advantage coming in with shorter irons. While not typically the most reliable putter, Benny ranks 18th in the field in his past eight rounds on Bermudagrass.

In addition to his strong start to the season, An has also had plenty of success at PGA National. He finished in a tie for 4th at the course in 2020 and tied for 5th in 2018. If he can avoid the water, we may finally get to celebrate a Benny An victory this week.

Corey Conners +5000 (FanDuel)

On a difficult course that produces relatively high scores such as PGA National, players who are accurate both off the tee and on approach will have the advantage. In his past 24 rounds, the Canadian ranks 4th in Total Driving and 2nd in Strokes Gained: Off the tee.

Conners is another player who has thrived in Florida. In his past seven starts in the state, he’s finished in the top 21 five times. The course history at PGA National hasn’t been great, but I am willing to overlook that in favor of his overall form in the state and his apparent course fit.

A few weeks ago, at Riviera, Conners’ signature iron play came back to life as he gained 5.04 strokes on the field on approach. If he can make some putts on Bermudagrass, which has been his favorite surface to date, there’s no reason why he can’t contend at PGA National this week.

Alex Noren +5000 (FanDuel)

Despite never having won on the PGA Tour, Alex Noren has racked up 11 total wins professionally, and has come close many times in the United States. The Swede has played on a winning European Ryder Cup team (2018) and has won big events in Europe such as the BMW PGA Championship and British Masters.

Noren is a tremendous wind player who has enjoyed plenty of success at PGA National throughout his career. He finished in a tie for 5th at this event in 2022 and finished 3rd back in 2018. Noren ranks 15th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting on Florida Bermudagrass and 20th in three putt avoidance on the surface.

If the course plays as difficult as expected, the 41-year-old is the type of grinder who can contend on one of his favorite tracks.

Matt Wallace +10000 (FanDuel)

Matt Wallace demonstrated his ability to play well on a tough Florida track at last year’s Valspar Championship, where he finished in a tie for 7th. The Englishman has also played reasonably well at PGA National, finishing 29th last year and tied for 20th in 2019.

Wallace played well last week in Mexico and was more involved than his T33 finish would indicate. He struggled in round 4, shooting 74, but indicated that he was “playing for the win” which brought a lot more trouble into play. Wallace is one of the better wind players in the field and has shown winning upside in the past.

The 33-year-old is a grinder with winning upside.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi: 2024 Mexico Open First Round Leader picks

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The Mexico Open begins on Thursday at beautiful Vidanta Vallarta. The tournament will have a full field this week with most of the big names on the PGA Tour taking the week off.

In the past two editions of the tournament, there have been seven first-round leaders or co-leaders. Of the seven, six have come from the morning wave. At first glance, there certainly looks to be an advantage to having an early tee time this week in Mexico but with such a small sample size I won’t put too much stock in that and take a balanced approach.

As of Tuesday, the wind doesn’t look as if it will play a factor at all during round one. It will be about hot and sunny for most of the day with wind gusts never exceeding 7 MPH.

This week, I used the Betsperts Rabbit Hole to see each players floor/ceiling. You can sign up using promo code: MATTVIN for 25% off any subscription package (yearly is best value).

Mexico Open First-Round-Leader Selections

Jhonnatan Vegas +6000 (DraftKings)

First-Round Tee Time: 12:15 p.m. Local Time

After a long injury layoff, it certainly seems as if Jhonnatan Vegas is “back”. In his most recent start at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the Venezuelan gained 7.2 strokes ball striking, which was his best performance in the category since June of 2022.

Vegas loves playing on Paspalum, and while he struggles with the putter often, he’s been consistent putting on these slow and spongey surfaces. I expect the big man to have a great week in Mexico.

Harry Hall +9000 (BetMGM)

First-Round Tee Time: 8:14 a.m. Local Time

While you wouldn’t expect an Englishman in a flat cap to play his best golf in tropical paradises, that’s certainly been the case for the 24-year-old throughout his career thus far. The 6’4″ UNLV product with a soft touch around the greens has shined in places such as Puerto Rico and Puntacana as well as at Vidanta Vallarta last year.

Hall is a fantastic putter, which never will hurt you in the first-round leader market.

Adrien Dumont de Chassart 100-1 (FanDuel)

First-Round Tee Time: 1:54 p.m. Local Time

Those who have been following me this season know that I’m high on this 23-year-old bomber from Belgium. With off the tee prowess being a major point of emphasis at Vidanta Vallarta, it makes sense to give him another crack at the first-round lead once again this week.

In his most recent start at TPC Scottsdale, ADDC gained 4.0 strokes off the tee.

Fred Biondi 130-1 (DraftKings)

First-Round Tee Time: 8:47 a.m. Local Time

Fred Biondi recently won a National Championship as a Florida Gator and has loved playing on coastal courses throughout the early part of his career. In the fall, the Brazilian finished 13th at the Butterfield Bermuda and 23rd at the RSM Classic, with both events having fields either stronger or comparable to this one.

Biondi is a good iron player and putter and should be comfortable playing in Mexico.

Scott Piercy 150-1 (BetMGM)

First-Round Tee Time: 8:25 a.m. Local Time

Scott Piercy got in the field this week after Will Zalatoris withdrew following a strong performance at the Genesis Invitational. Piercy may be well past his prime, but this is the type of event where the 47-year-old has thrived over the years.

Piercy has been prone to fast starts and has finished in the top-5 after the first round 32 times in his career and has been within two of the lead in the first round 45 times. He’s also been great on Paspalum, boasting finishes of 6th at the 2018 OHL, 7th at the 2015 CIMB Classic and 4th at the 2016 OHL.

Sebastian Vazquez 300-1 (DraftKings)

First-Round Tee Time: 1:21 p.m. Local Time

Sebastian Vasquez is a name that many golf fans won’t be familiar with but has played some good golf in South America over the course of his career. At last year’s Mexico Open, Vazquez shot an opening round 67. At last year’s World Wide Technology Championship at El Cardonal at Diamante in Cabo San Lucas, Vazquez closed his tournament with a Sunday 64, which was just two shots off the round of the day.

The Mexican has been playing this season on the Gira de Golf Profesional Mexicana and doing so relatively well. He also finished 38th at El Cardonal in a pretty strong PGA Tour field. Vazquez could come out and fire a low one while feeling extremely at ease playing in his home country.

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