This is a case study on professional golfer Jonas Blixt and his eight-month journey from severe and persistent back pain to a PGA Tour win. It was written to offer insight into the work that a dedicated professional put into his body and his game after a setback due to a significant injury. The case study also serves to highlight the importance of training for posture, spinal strength, and shoulder girdle stability: three areas of training that are often misunderstood and under-appreciated.
The majority of Jonas’ rehab and progression forward was performed using GravityFit exercise techniques and products. GravityFit is an Australian-based company that specializes in a science-based approach to training the body for spinal strength, injury prevention, posture, and golf movement patterns.
Background: Jonas, 32, and is in his sixth season on the PGA Tour. He’s won three times in his career (2012 Frys.com Open, 2013 Greenbrier Classic, 2017 Zurich Classic), and his best finish in a major came in 2012 when he finished T2 at the Masters.
Strengths: Putting, Around the Green. Career-average rank of 33rd in Strokes Gained Putting. Career-average rank of 36th in Strokes Gained Around the Green.
Weaknesses: Off the Tee, Iron Play. Career-average rank of 143rd Strokes Gained Off the Tee. Career-average rank of 158th in Strokes Gained Approach the Green.
Physical Training History: College program at Florida State University. Exposure to various different methods of training stability, mobility, strength, and power since turning professional.
Jonas came to see me with after having received two cortisone shots for back pain resulting from herniated discs leading to nerve compression in his lower back. He also received another shot for pain referring into his left glute/hip, suspected at the time to be caused by facet joint inflammation. His desire was initially to return to a pain-free state, and then to improve his long game by hitting more fairways and greens, thereby gaining strokes on the field in the Strokes Gained Off the Tee and Strokes Gained Approach the Green categories. If that outcome could be accompanied by an increase in distance, then that would be a bonus.
After conducting the initial screening and assessment, I highlighted the following areas as priorities for improvement:
- Lumbar and cervical spine posture (lower back and neck).
- Core awareness, stability, and control.
- Arm and body connection movement pattern in rotation.
- Quality of rotation movement pattern from thoracic spine (mid and upper back).
- Mobility in right shoulder (external rotation), thoracic spine (rotation and extension), ankle (dorsi flexion), and quad tightness.
I believed that improving these areas would not only help Jonas move better in his golf swing, but more importantly at that stage, help take strain away from his lower back.
Of particular interest was how Jonas performed in a series of tests for awareness control and stability of the lumbar core (think core muscles and lower back). This seven-stage series of tests is called the Core Body Benchmark. It was developed by GravityFit to provide a more objective measure of core control that could be easily administered in any setting.
Jonas failed the last four tests in the series:
- Hinge Forward
- Hinge Forward with Rotation
- Single Leg Hinge Forward
- Single Leg Rotation
Despite a history of core training, Jonas was unable to use his core muscles effectively in the movements that he repeated up to a thousand times per week: hinging forward, balancing, and rotating (the key components of the golf swing). Click through for more info on the Core Body Benchmark testing protocol.
Initial Program: These assessment findings, combined with the recent back injury, immediately lead me to write Jonas’ first program using predominantly GravityFit tools and techniques, which are specifically designed for strengthening the spine and improving posture. Luckily, we had a few weeks before the first tournament of the 2017 season, so it was time to go work. Below is a snapshot of the initial program, including a few photos of Jonas and myself demonstrating the exercises.
A very basic daily program that focused on establishing good posture, as well as training basic spinal stability and quality of rotation. This program also included a 20-minute walk in the soft sand (Jonas lives near the beach) and a range of self-massage and stretching exercises. The exercises are below and were performed using the Gravity Cap and GravityFit TPro.
- 1A: Gravity Cap Walk
- 1B: Gravity Cap Knee Lifts
- 1C: Stomp and Pulse
- 1D: Split-Stance Backswing
- 1E: Split-Stance Follow Through
- 1: Beach Walk
Gravity Cap Knee Lifts (Figure 1): This exercise establishes a solid upright posture, stretching tall against the resistance provided by the Gravity Cap.
Stomp and Pulse (Figure 2): Here I’m training golf posture using the TPro for postural feedback and scapula/shoulder stability and control.
After two weeks of the initial program, we progressed into more traditional exercises (squat, lunge, push, pull) with the addition of the GravityFit TPro and Core Awareness Belt (CAB) to give audio and kinaesthetic feedback on quality of movement and postural control. We also advanced the specific posture and rotation exercises to add some more complexity and challenge. As you can see in the video below, at this stage even a simple bodyweight squat was a challenge for Jonas.
- 1A: Body-Weight Squat
- 1B: Push Up
- 1C: BW Backward Lunge
- 1D: Cable 1-Arm Row
- 1E: Mini Mountain Climber
- 1F: Pallof Press
- 1A: Gravity Cap Hurdle Walk
- 1B: Split-Squat Rotate
- 1C: Jonas Backswing Drill
Jonas Backswing Drill (Figure 4): Jonas is using the TPro and the Core Awareness Belt (CAB). Notice the hand position: right palm up, left palm down. This was a custom feel for Jonas that he wanted to train in his backswing.
Body-Weight Squat (Video 1): Jonas initially struggled to squat while maintaining his posture. A combination of ankle mobility restriction and lack of core control made it very difficult for him.
About 5 weeks after our initial session, the fall series events came around Jonas decided to play. We continued to gradually increase the complexity of the exercises, each program requiring a little more from the perspective of stability and postural control. The majority was still only using bodyweight and some light band resistance.
Programs 3 and 4
At this point, Jonas was really starting to improve his movement quality and balance.
Split-Hand, One-Foot Push Up (Figure 5): An advanced version of a push up, again using the TPro and CAB to provide feedback on the quality of posture and movement. This is a fairly typical example of advancing an exercise’s difficulty without adding external load.
- 1A: Overhead Squat
- 1B: Split-Hand, One-Foot Push Up
- 1C: Lateral Lunge with Knee Lift
- 1D: Single-Arm, Split-Stance Pulldown
- 1E: Prone Turn Under
- 1F: Split-Stance Pallof Press
- 1G: Lying Glute Bridge, Foot Up
- 1A: Gravity Cap Hurdle Walk
- 1B: Jonas Backswing Drill
- 1C: Follow Through
- 1A: Knee Band Crab Walks
- 1B: Crawling
- 1A: Goblet Squat
- 1B: Resistance Band Push Up
- 2A: Bulgarian Split Squat
- 2B: Cable 1-Arm Row
- 3A: 1-Leg Band Push Out
- 3B: Pallof Hold
Lateral Lunge with Knee Lift (Video 2): This exercise is really quite challenging to perform with balance and control while avoiding the audio feedback that the CAB provides when the core isn’t working properly.
Single-Arm, Split-Stance Pulldown (Video 3): Again, a variation on a simple exercise with the aim of introducing a balance and co-ordination challenge.
Return to Playing
Jonas’ transition back to golf wasn’t exactly smooth. Despite showing significant signs of improvements in his movement quality and overall back pain, he was still struggling with occasional flashes of pain into his left glute during play and when getting up and down from a low, seated position. His results and Strokes Gained statistics tell the story of on-course performance.
- Results: Four events, three missed cuts and a T48
- Strokes Gained Off The Tee: -1.441
- Strokes Gained Approach the Green: -0.464
Over the six-week Christmas break, it was decided that a complete rest from golf was a good idea. This would allow Jonas’ back more time to heal and also offered him the opportunity to receive some treatment and advice for the occasional flashes of pain that seemed to be hanging around. Dr. Craig Davies and the Swedish Spine Institute had very effective input into helping resolve the issue, which was eventually identified as a glute med/min tendonitis. Meanwhile, we continued to progress the difficulty of the training programs and added some more significant load.
We moved into more traditional strength movements and methods of loading. These were all done still using the GravityFit equipment to provide postural feedback.
- 1A: Fall to Wall – 2 Arms
- 1B: Single Arm Turn Under
- 1A: BB Front Squat
- 1B: DB Bent Over Row
- 2A: DB Step Up
- 2B: Torsonator Shoulder Press
- 3A: Suspended Leg Lift – Bent Knee
- 3B: Prone Hold 2 Limb Switch
Barbell Front Squat (Figure 6): This is a classic strength exercise that requires excellent squat mechanics and postural control to be performed safely.
Torsonator Shoulder Press (Figure 7): Using a uni-lateral (one-sided) external loading technique requires more from the core and postural stabilizers. It was a big step forward when Jonas was able to comfortably perform these exercises.
With the New Year came a return to practice and first start in the Sony Open. All traces of pain by this time had been eliminated, and Jonas’ elusive long game seemed to be showing significant signs improvement through his first few events of the year.
- Strokes Gained Approach Green: -0.217 (his career average was -0.44)
- Strokes Gained Off the Tee: +0.242 (his career average was -0.24)
- Club Head Speed: Increased to 112.5 mph from (108.5 mph at first event of 2017 fall season)
Building to a Win
As we moved forward into the spring tournaments, I progressed Jonas on to much more traditional strength-and-conditioning training sessions while still using the GravityFit equipment to provide feedback on posture and technique. We also continued to retain the daily exercises that focus on postural control with spinal strength and stability.
- 1: Barbell Squat to Box
- 2: Dumbell Reverse Lunge
- 3: Barbell Hip Thrust
- 4A: Underhand Pull Up
- 4B: Plate-Weighted Push Up
- 4C: Dumbell High Row
- 1A: V Sit
- 1B: Split-Stance Pallof Press
- 1C: Back Hyperextensions – Arms Up
Plate-Weighted Push Up (Figure 8): We moved to standard variations of exercises like this and adding more external load with the aim of eliciting a strength and muscle growth response (as opposed to stability before).
Barbell Squat to Box (Video 4): We used the box to avoid the lower-back strain that is most acute at the bottom of a squat. This is a natural progression toward full squats.
Jonas should be applauded for his tenacity, conviction, and work ethic during this tough time. He has used a potentially career-threatening injury as an opportunity to improve his body to new levels. He’s also become more resistant to injury using the GravityFit techniques and equipment to develop superior postural awareness and control, plus strength and stability around his spine, shoulders, and hips. These improvements, combined with better rotational movement patterns, have improved his body for golf and seem to be having a positive transfer to his ball striking.
This all went along way to helping Jonas collect his third PGA Tour win at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans with partner Cameron Smith. Cameron is also a client of mine, and he has been using GravityFit equipment and techniques for years to train his posture and movement patterns.
For more information on the GravityFit exercise tools and techniques I used with Jonas, as well as Cameron Smith, click through to GravityFit’s website. For more information on my online training, service check out my Golf Fit Pro website.
2023 Ras Al Khaimah Championship: Betting Tips & Selections
The conclusion to last week’s Dubai Desert Classic was almost perfection.
The scant amount of viewers on a Monday morning would have been treated to a surely scripted play-off between world number one Rory McIlroy and his LIV nemesis Patrick Reed, bar that damned 13-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole. It was, of course, a fitting start to the year for the world number one, and an ending that the week deserved after ‘Tee Gate to Tree Gate,’.
With our main man, Lucas Herbert, playing some sublime golf in behind and finishing strongly in third despite the absence of luck on the Saturday greens, it showed the DP World Tour in a cracking light.
It’s a shame this week doesn’t.
We move from the quality of Dubai to a standard DPWT field and, while favourite Adrian Meronk is improving fast and now up to 52nd in the rankings, the long,wide, forgiving nature of Al Hamra makes this nothing more than a bosh-it, find it, hit it, putt it, competition. Links-like it may be, but with no wind forecast, this won’t hit anywhere near the heights of the previous two weeks.
Previous DPWT winners here – Ryan Fox and Nicolai Hojgaard – suggest length is the one factor that separates the medalists from the also-rans and is the key factor behind high-level tee-to-green numbers, certainly rather than accuracy.
There isn’t really any option but to look at the handful of true links players at the top and it’s only narrowly that Victor Perez gets the vote.
Splitting last year’s winners (for there were two Al Hamra events in 2022) Ryan Fox and Nicolai Hojgaard is tough but I’ve always felt the Frenchman is capable of a higher level of play and he is the selection in front of favourite Meronk, even if they both have similar course and recent form.
I rarely get him right – backing him twice over the last six months – even if he has won two titles in the space of seven months.
Still, this is another day for the Frenchman (and me) and for a winner of the Dunhill Links, the Dutch Open and three weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, he may actually be overpriced at 16/1.
It’s tough to find any better ‘standard level’ links form lines than beating the likes of Matt Southgate, Joakim Lagergren, Tommy Fleetwood, Tom Lewis and pals in Scotland, and beating Fox in a play-off at Bernadus Golf. However, he was at it again at Yas Links, leaving behind the names Min Woo Lee, Francesco Molinari, Alex Noren and Tyrrell Hatton – all synonymous with the test he faces this week, on the same paspalum greens and with opposition of higher class than three-quarters of this week’s field.
Perez looks to have produced evidence that a golfer is at their peak at 30-years of age producing an outstanding bunker shot to win his latest trophy, with a sound coming off the club reminiscent of his play at Wentworth in 2020, when splitting Hatton and Patrick Reed.
Although this is his first outing here on the DPWT, he has a seventh and second place from two outings on the Challenge Tour and he is in the right form to take those figures one better.
Third for total driving over the last six months, Perez ranks in the top-10 for ball-striking over the same period (11th over three months) and arrives here in confident mood, telling reporters:
“I’m looking forward to playing at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship for the first time. I got the season off to a great start at the Hero Cup followed by my first Rolex Series win in Abu Dhabi, so this is a great chance to keep the momentum going and secure more Race to Dubai and Ryder Cup points,” before adding:
“I’m playing great golf at the moment, and I’m hoping it continues in Ras Al Khaimah.”
Perez is a confident selection, but back him up with another proven rip-it merchant in Callum Shinkwin, who has come in a few points since the market opened but justifies the move after an excellent top five in Dubai.
First thing we know about the three-time winner is he hits it a mile, ranking in the top-10 for off-the-tee ten times since the start of the 2022 season, including being in the top three in the two events 12 months ago. That itself is worth noting, as are his best efforts away from the victories- at Fairmont, the Dunhill Links and last week in Dubai, all with pointers to this week’s test.
There was nothing wrong with mid-20 finishes here last year, the first just a couple of days after destroying the course in a fun Texas Scramble pairs, and he will surely take comfort in lying up there with Rory McIlroy last Monday, matching those final two birdies.
Another around that ‘magic’ age, this is a course that will give Shinks every opportunity to play shorter irons into the targets and, with last week’s top-10 ranking for putting, this may be the time to go with the Moor Park magician.
I can’t see a shock result here this week – the top lot have perfect conditions in which to show their class – but I’ll be looking at the top-10/20 markets for the following:
Tapio Pulkkanen – Trilby-wearing Finn that hits the ball a country mile. Trouble is, half the time he does not know in which direction it’s travelling. Here, with accuracy not a factor, he can take inspiration from last season’s seventh place in the first of the back-to-back events, when a three-over back-nine cost him a place in the medals.
20th just seven days later shows he can play the track, whilst best efforts over the last 12 months include a third place at the Czech Masters, 10th at the Dunhill Links and third in Portugal, again all events with a leaning to the type he’ll take part in this week. Given his tied-second in Prague a year earlier, we can surmise he repeats form at tracks that suit.
It isn’t impossible he suddenly finds his form on tour, and with an inkling he’ll ‘do a JB Hansen’ and go crackers for a spell. This would seem the perfect place to start.
Julien Guerrier – Third at Hillside and Celtic Manor last season show the former winner of The Amateur Championship (at Royal St. George’s) still has what it takes to compete at this slightly lower level. Add top-15 finishes at Denmark, Spain, Germany and Mauritius – all with front-rank putting stats – and it’s easy to see the two-time Challenge Tour winner having some effect in the top-20 market.
A sixth and eighth-placed finish at the Rocco Forte in Sicily behind Lagergren and Alvaro Quiros (both who turn up when they sniff links from a mile away) reads well, and his repeat performances at his home country, Portugal, Spain and Prague show he performs where he has good memories.
With four outings here, split between the Challenge Tour and the DPWT, the Frenchman can continue an improving course record of 19/13/9.
Jack Senior – I’m convinced that 34-year-old Senior is a better player than his current ranking outside of the top-500 in the world, and although it has been a while since his win at Galgorm Castle in 2019, he has racked up top-10 finishes at Gran Canaria, the Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club (behind Min Woo Lee, Thomas Detry and Matt Fitzpatrick), Mallorca and on the Spanish mainland.
Back at Galgorm, he was tied-13th last year, a repeat result that sits nicely with his 23rd in Mallorca, and top-20s in Prague and Denmark, courses already highlighted as associates to Al Hamra.
I’m happy to ignore last week’s missed cut as it was his first outing since October, and he’s of enough interest back on a course on which he has a sixth, 11th and 19th place finish in three tries at the lower level.
I’m expecting one of the top eight or 10 to prove too good, but these events often throw up names on a surprise leaderboard, and it will take just one hotter-than-normal week with the putter for that to happen.
Victor Perez – WIN
Callum Shinkwin – WIN/TOP-5
Julien Guerrier – TOP-10 TOP-20
Tapio Pulkkanen – TOP-10 TOP-20
Jack Senior – TOP-10 TOP-20
2023 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Betting Tips & Selections
Here we go again.
After the multi-course American Express and the two-track Farmers, the PGA Tour arrives at the legendary Pebble Beach for this week’s AT&T.
Shorter than the average tour event, the coastline course/s deliver a reasonably simple test for the high-level celebrities and their professional playing partners, but this changes dramatically should any of the famed coastal weather arrive.
Bad enough for those paid to hit a dimpled ball, it can turn an amateur’s enjoyable (and expensive) round into something horrendous like this.
Three players clearly stand head-and-shoulders above the rest, both in terms of quality and world ranking, and they do have figures that justify that – in spades.
Favourite Jordan Spieth is the King of Pebble. His record here is unsurpassed, and he relishes the challenges of this seaside terrain.
However, with no serious turn in conditions, I’m not sure his current game is much to go on. The 29-year-old has missed the cut in two of his last six starts, the best results coming in limited field events at two of the FedEx play-off events and the Tournament of Champions.Not as if Spieth needs to be in form – he won the RBC Heritage last year after a run of mc/35/35/mc, but even a win, runner-up, third , fourth, seventh and ninth, it always feels as if you take your life in your own hands when backing him at 10/1 and less.
Matt Fitzpatrick and Viktor Hovland make up the elite trio, all residing in the top-16 of the world rankings.
Both justify being alongside the Texan at the top of the market, although until last season’s closing sixth place finish, only Fitz’s 12th at the 2019 U.S Open was worth noting from an event formline of missed-cut and 60th.
Interestingly, the Norwegian matched that finish three years ago, becoming low amateur for the second major in a row, and both are hard to argue against.
With combined wins in Mayakoba, Puerto Rico and Dubai, as well as top finishes at various Open championships, conditions suit both equally well. Choosing between them is tough enough, but with home players winning 27 of the last 30 events held here (17 of the last 18) and with doubts about the motivation for playing this week, they can all be left alone at combined odds of around 9/4.
The draw is probably as crucial here as any other event, with Pebble Beach having some of the smallest greens on tour and Spyglass Hill being affected occasionally by similar winds. Make the score at Monterey Peninsula, if at all possible.
Despite the quality up front, the section that includes defending champion Tom Hoge, Maverick McNealey, Andrew Putnam and Seamus Power has equally strong credentials for the title.
Hoge aims to become only the second player to defend this title since 2000 and, whilst playing as well as ever, is no Dustin Johnson, whilst it’s hard to put McNealey in front of the Irishman given the latter’s 2-0 lead in PGA Tour wins, and 3-zip if you count the KFT.
Power ranks in the top echelons of players with form at short courses and is easy to make a case for in an event at which he opened up a five shot lead at one point last year, before finishing in ninth.
The 35-year-old has never been better, now ranked inside the top-30 after a season that included that top-10 here and again at Southern Hills, a top-12 behind Fitz at Brookline, third at Mayakoba and fifth at the RSM. The highlight, of course, was the victory in Bermuda, sitting nicely with his first victory at the Barbasol, that Kentucky event showing links to proven coastal/short course player Kelly Kraft (runner-up here to Spieth in 2019) and Aaron Baddeley and Kevin Streelman, with six top-10 finishes between them at the AT&T.
Rather like the player he beat in that Barbasol play-off (J.T Poston) Power is fairly easy to read, and although the very nature of pro-ams doesn’t suit everyone, the course make-up suits perfectly.
Usually consistent and in the top echelons for tee-to-green, greens-in regulation, and for up-and-down, Power comes here looking to recover from an unusually poor performance on the large Abu Dhabi putting floors. Certainly the figures look awry compared with his 10 strokes gained for tee-to-green and 12th for around-the-green, and it’s easy to see improvement in California, where in 2022 he lay in fourth place into Sunday at the pro-am at La Quinta, as well as a previous ninth place finish at the Barracuda (fifth into Sunday).
He’s the best of the week but I’m also including:
Alex Smalley – We were on 26-year-old Smalley for the American Express a few weeks ago and he was going well until the PGA West (Nicklaus) caught him out, causing a drop into 62nd from 21st place, and close to two of the other three selections this week, as well as Garrick Higgo, who just missed out due to lack of experience here.
The recovery into a place just outside the top-20 was impressive, though, with a final round 63 comprising 10 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation, as well as making all his putts under 10 feet.
Those sorts of figures have been expected from the outstanding Duke graduate, who made his PGA Tour debut as an amateur at the 2017 U.S Open. Since then, it hasn’t been plain sailing, indeed he has yet to win an event despite an excellent return to this level in 2022.
Starting with a best-of-Sunday 65 to finish tied runner-up at Corales, he then finished in the top six behind Jon Rahm and co in Mexico, 10th at the Scottish Open and 13th at Sedgefield.
Since October, Smalley has made seven of nine cuts, highlights being 11th at Bermuda and a pair of top-five finishes at the RSM and Houston, all contributors to the tee-to-green stats that see him rank 1/2/6/11/13 for his ball-striking and significant given the test this week..
He couldn’t get it going at Waialae for the Sony but followed up the La Quinta effort with a top-40 at Torrey Pines, when his tee-to-green game was again perfectly respectably ranked in 33rd given the strength of the field.
Runner-up in the Dominican Republic, fourth and 15th in Houston, and with form at Colonial and Bermuda, this looks the prefect test for a player that at least had a look last year, and that the bookmakers simply cannot make their mind up about.
Robby Shelton – Makes his event debut here this week in his second time at the top level, but the former Walker Cup player has enough relevant form to make him of interest, particularly after a sixth place at the multi-course American Express a few weeks ago, his best finish in California so far.
Shelton included Scottie Scheffler and Ben Griffin as play-off victims when winning two of a total of four KFT events in 2019 and 2022, coming here after making eight out of ten cats (yeah, I know) since arriving back on tour in September.
Best efforts are 15th at the Shriners and a top-10 at the RSM, but let’s also throw in a sixth at Mayakoba, 11th at the Honda and a top-20 in Texas.
This is a drop in class, and significantly in distance, from Torrey Pines and I’d expect to see more advantage taken here.
Harrison Endycott – One of the Player To Follow for this season, it’s hard to work out exactly what the 26-year-old Aussie wants in terms of course set-up, but given his heritage and junior career, it’s fairly certain he can play well in the wind.
Having made his way through the grades including a win, two top-10s and two top-20s on the KFT, he wasted little time making his mark at the highest level, finishing tied-12th at the Fortinet in California, a joint best-of-the-day 65 launching him up the board on day three.A month later, Endycott started the Bermuda Championship with a pair of double-bogeys before signing for an opening nine-under 62, the catalyst for another career top-10, and in November he overcame a poor opening round at his home PGA Championship (111th) before flying through the field as the event progressed, finishing a never-nearer 18th behind Cam Smith.
Even the missed-cut at the Australian Open was not devoid of promise, an opening 68 seeing him start the second round in 7th place.
With a pedigree in Australia and a residence in Scottsdale, I’ll take the chance he will find something back in California, scene of the best of three events in 2023 – 22nd at the American Express – when his game showed the all-round prowess it did in Scottsdale – top-11 in approach and top-15 tee-to-green.
- Seamus Power – WIN
- Alex Smalley – WIN/TOP-5
- Robby Shelton – WIN-TOP-10
- Harrison Endycott – WIN/TOP-20
2023 Farmers Insurance Open: Betting Tips & Selections
Get your bets on earlier than usual this week as the Farmers Insurance Open runs Wednesday to Saturday, the advancement of a day avoiding a clash with the NFL Conference Championship games.
We raise the bar a notch as the tour reaches Torrey Pines, a course used for this (and related) events since 1968, although the current set-up on the South Course now measures almost 1000 yards than the one seen 55 years ago.
Now utilising the easier North Course for one round, players will still need to have their grinding game as the weekend progresses over a course re-configured for the 2021 U.S Open – won by this week’s hot favourite Jon Rahm – and one that has seen the last three winners score no better than 15-under.
As my learned GolfWRX colleague says:
The real 2023 PGA Tour season begins today. Let’s go!
— Matt Vincenzi (@MattVincenziPGA) January 23, 2023
While last year’s winner Luke List was a shock, beaten play-off rival Will Zalatoris certainly fits the bill in becoming the last of a long line of contenders at Torrey that have challenged at the majors.
Patrick Reed, Marc Leishman, Justin Rose and, of course, seven times Torrey winner Tiger Woods, would all be seen as elite in their time, and you can confidently add the likes of runners-up Tony Finau, Adam Scott and Xander Schauffele to those.
Greens change to Poa Anna this week, and with the home course possessing suitably tough greens, players need solid tee-to-green games to remain with a chance down the back-stretch on Saturday afternoon. Forget the pitch and putt of La Quinta and friends, this week is far from a repeat.
You would be forgiven for thinking this is the Woods era, a solid 4/1 shot heading the market.
Tiger he is not, but having won four of his last five events and winning the Farmers here in 2017 and the U.S Open four years later, Jon Rahm carries almost unbeatable status into this week. However, much depends on getting the right draw over the first two days – at the price he can be left alone.
With the trophy likely to go to one of the better fancied players, here’s a chance to select two or three from the next half-dozen and still look at a better return than backing the favourite – and, for me, Tony Finau and Jason Day fit the bill.
Unlike someone like J.T Poston, I can’t seem to call Tony Finau right, but if he is ever going to repay the faith, it is here.
Having raised his game to another level in winning back-to-back at Minnesota and Detroit, the 33-year-old was fancied to go well in Mayakoba. Naturally, he missed his first cut since the US Open in June, subsequently gagging up in Houston, making it three wins in seven starts – not Rahm (or Scheffler of early ’22) but not far behind.
Fancied to do another back-to-back special, Finau then withdrew from the RSM Classic before probably needing the run-out when 7th at the Hero World Challenge. – extremely frustrating but, on face value, continuing a career-best run.
2023 has seen encouragement in both starts, with eight rounds in the 60s leading to a seventh place at Kapalua and a most recent 16th at last week’s pro-am jolly, where he came from outside the top 60 on Thursday and from 34th at the cut mark.
Finau’s tee-to-green game remains of the highest class, ranking ninth in ball-striking over three months and third over six, but it’s now matched by a putting prowess that takes advantage of his constant green finding.
Events may be limited, but over the last 14 rounds or so, Big Tone leads the tour in putting average, beating even the likes of flying Jon Rahm. Sure, you can regard that as a skewed stat, so take it over another 12 weeks and he is in third – remarkable for someone that just a year ago was known for missing the vital ones.
Take the 2021 U.S Open away and Finau has four top-six finishes and a pair of top-20s here, and ignore last year’s missed weekend too – he was in the top-10 after the first round and was simply not at the races on day two.
Finau’s record on poa greens reads well enough – he won the Rocket Mortgage, and has top-10s at Riviera, Winged Foot and Olympia Fields, the latter pair giving credence to the Torrey/majors connection, whilst connecting Memorial form sees him record two top-10s and two top-15 finishes.
Being unconvinced that either Zalatoris’ or Justin Thomas’ games are pitch perfect, TF looks the best challenge to the favourite.
The favourite’s record in California is almost too good to be true, with four wins, seven top-5s and three top-10s but if anyone can challenge that, it’s surely Jason Day, who looks as if he is now fully recovered from injury and personal tragedy.
Winner here in 2015 and 2018, the Aussie also boasts a runner-up, third and fifth place around tough Torrey and an average position of 15th from 14 Pebble Beach outings. He loves California.
Having dropped from world number one to outside of the top-100 in five seasons, the 35-year-old has fought back from adversity to make his way back up the rankings, helped by a pair of top-10 finishes at, no surprise, Pebble and Torrey.
In order to protect what has been a fragile back, the 16-time major top-10 star reached out to swing coach Chris Como, formally an aide of Tiger Woods.
“Going into this year I did some swing changes with my coach, and I feel like those are slowly cementing themselves in there,” Day said on Golf Channel.
“I’m shallowing it out,” Day continued. “The swing has changed dramatically. It took me about a year and half to get the body correct, and the body movement correct until I could actually get into shallowing it out correctly.”
Judged on the latest figures, it seems to be coming together nicely.
Day ended 2022 with four cuts from five, including 8th at Shriners, 11th at the CJ Cup, 21st at Mayakoba and 16t in Houston, and last weekend finished in the top 20 at La Quinta having been third after two rounds.
16th for ball-striking over the last three months, slightly better over six, his top-30 for driving accuracy has led to a similar ranking for greens found. Take that, and any improvement, into an event he enjoys more than most, and we have a winning formula.
Away from the top, it’s hard to get excited about the chances of many.
Having nabbed a big-priced second last week with one of the 12 Players-to-Watch 2023, it is tempting to go back in again on Davis Thompson on a course that may suit even better. However, hitting 14 out of 18 greens at the Stadium Course is a far cry from a debut at Torrey Pines and he may just need the sighter.
Taylor Montgomery calls himself after his fourth top-five in just nine full-time starts on the PGA, particularly after a debut 11th as a sponsor’s invite last year. Prices in the 20s don’t appeal at all against proven and regular winners though, so take a chance on another top finish from the defending champion Luke List.
For someone that believes List is Dye-positive, his first win on the poa greens of Torrey Pines was a bit of a shocker.
I put the 38-year-old up as a lively top-10 bet last week, when the thought process was that this long driver should only need to drive and flip to the greens, but sadly his game was all over the place. However, I’ll take another chance in conditions that clearly suit last year’s play-off victor, a win that came off four straight cuts here that included a 10th and 12th placed finish.
Since the start of the 2022 season, List has 11 top-25 rankings for driving, five for approaches and seven for tee-to-green, whilst it was only a couple of starts ago that he matched the best at Kapalua.
As for the fabled short stick, it’s a case of being with him when he just works better than field average – 6th at Bethpage Black, in two of his four completions at Riviera and in three of five outings at Silverado, all of a similar grass type.
Players constantly repeat form here at Torrey, so whilst he may not do a 1-2 or, indeed, a 2-1 on the lines of Mickelson, Day, Snedeker and Leishman to name a few, List is very capable of pulling out a finish on the first two pages of the board.
- Tony Finau Win
- Jason Day Win-Top-5
- Luke List Top-10
- Luke List Top-20
Morning 9: Fitzpatrick snubbed | Masters LIV protest planned | Stats of the year
Charley Hoffman WITB 2022 (December)
Tom Hoge WITB 2022 (December)
TOUR REPORT: 10 takeaways from a WILD week in golf equipment at Kapalua
Kevin Na’s caddie claims two anti-LIV pros tried to join breakaway tour
John Daly makes bizarre lifestyle claim during PNC Championship
‘This guy does not stop’ – Tour pros take aim at Patrick Reed over latest rules controversy
GolfWRX Launch Report: 2023 Callaway Paradym drivers
Six-year-old golf prodigy signs Name, Image and Likeness deal with bag manufacturer
Tiger Woods sends message to ex-wife Elin Nordegren during PNC Championship
Doug Ghim WITB 2023 (January)
Doug Ghim what’s in the bag accurate as of the The American Express. More photos from the event here. Driver:...
John Pak WITB 2023 (January)
John Pak what’s in the bag accurate as of The American Express. More photos from the event here. Driver: TaylorMade...
Gunner Wiebe WITB 2023 (January)
Gunner Wiebe what’s in the bag accurate as of The American Express. More photos from the event here. Driver: Titleist...
Sam Burns WITB 2023 (January)
Sam Burns what’s in the bag accurate as of the The American Express. More photos from the event here. Driver:...
19th Hole2 days ago
‘This guy does not stop’ – Tour pros take aim at Patrick Reed over latest rules controversy
Equipment2 weeks ago
OLD vs. NEW: TaylorMade Tour Preferred MC 2011 irons vs. My modern irons (Full launch monitor numbers)
19th Hole5 days ago
Rory Mcilroy delivered a ruthless verdict when asked if he could rekindle friendship with Sergio Garcia
19th Hole2 days ago
PGA Tour pro buys second-hand set of legendary clubs on eBay
Equipment2 weeks ago
What’s the difference between Titleist’s new 2023 Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls? Here’s a full breakdown
19th Hole2 weeks ago
‘I’m annoyed at the LPGA’ – Pros hit out at off-course conditions at season opener
Equipment2 weeks ago
Nelly Korda signs multi-year deal with TaylorMade; Korda’s 2023 TaylorMade WITB
Equipment6 days ago
Bettinardi is celebrating its 25th anniversary with limited putters runs. First up: BB1 MS