If you were to vote on who would truly be “the most interesting man in golf,” I believe Ben Hogan should win hands down. There may be a few better players in history (not many), but none had the career trajectory of Hogan, and certainly none cultivated the mystery that Hogan did regarding his technique.
Hogan’s ball striking skills were so superior (in 1940 he won three tournaments in two weeks, shooting 34-under par for 216 holes, missing just two greens in regulation) that his fellow competitors would stop their own practice to watch him on the range. When writing or speaking of the role of technique in his rise from struggling touring pro in most of the 1930’s to the game’s greatest practitioner of his time, Hogan regularly referred to the evolution of the way he gripped the club and how that affected his swing as possibly the single most important factor. His accounts, however, are often contradictory and confusing. As some have suggested, this may have been on purpose, as Hogan was loath to offer information for free that he had worked so tirelessly for on his own.
There are quite a number of sources of information regarding Hogan’s life and career, including three full-length biographies (Hogan: The Man Who Played for Glory by Gene Gregston, 1978, Hogan by Curt Sampson, 1997, and Ben Hogan, an American Life by James Dodson, 2004), two full-length books published by Hogan himself (Power Golf and Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf), and various interviews and articles including “This is My Secret” from Life Magazine in 1955, and one-on-one interviews with Nick Seitz of Golf Digest in 1985, with George Peper of Golf Magazine in 1987, and a television interview with Ken Venturi. In each of these sources, the subject of Hogan’s grip arises, and the information given about how he arrived at his beliefs as to the details of assuming a proper grip and how he changed his grip over time are sometimes conflicting, and certainly confusing at best. For the purposes of this review, we will start with Hogan’s own words and writings.
One thing we need to do right away is to dispel the myth that Hogan was actually left-handed. In a 1987 Golf Magazine article, editor George Peper interviewed Hogan and asked this question: “You were a natural left-hander who took up the game right-handed, weren’t you?” To which Hogan responded: “No, that’s one of those things that’s always been written, but it’s an absolute myth. The truth is, the first golf club I owned was an old left-handed, wooden-shafted, rib-faced mashie that a fellow gave me, and that’s the club I was weaned on. During the mornings, we caddies would bang the ball up and down the practice field until the members arrived and it was time to go to work. So, I did all that formative practice left-handed, but I’m a natural right-hander.”
This should quiet all the people who insist Hogan was a lefty who played righty and that was a big advantage (which is not true at all, but that’s another story), and affected the way he held the club. Of course, those who claim Hogan was a natural lefty do so for a good reason. Here is what Hogan wrote in Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, which was published in 1957: “I was born left-handed — that was the normal way for me to do things. I was switched over to doing things right-handed when I was a boy, but I started golf as a left-hander because the first club I ever came into possession of, an old five-iron, was a left-handed stick”. If you ever wondered why Hogan is considered to be such a mystery, and why there is so much debate about what he did and why he did it, you can start right here.
Hogan first wrote about his grip in his first book, Power Golf, published in 1948. He had won 13 tournaments, including the PGA Championship (his first major), and was the leading money winner on the Tour. He was the dominant figure in the game, but in 1947 he slumped a bit and was outshined by Jimmy Demaret. He came back strong in 1948 with 11 wins and two majors, leading the money list and winning the Player of the Year award. The swings and posed photos in Power Golf are taken at Augusta National, most likely in 1947. The first chapter in Power Golf is titled, “Evolution of the Hogan Grip” (I stole that for this article) and starts by explaining that he started playing left-handed (see above), but he switched to righty because “the only clubs I could get were right-handed clubs.” As you can see, this is already getting confusing, as he never mentions whether he was right-handed or left-handed to begin with, but only that his first club was left-handed. You will see Hogan’s grip change in photos, but Hogan’s explanations as well as the opinions and observations of his biographers as to what the changes were and how they came about are often contradictory. Nevertheless, I will try to follow the information as best I can and make as much sense of this important topic in Hogan’s career as possible. Here is an excerpt from that first chapter:
“…let me say that I have tried all of the grips known to golfers at some time or another in my career. The grip I now use (in 1947) was arrived at by a series of trial-and-error experiments which began when I first took up the game. As recently as the fall of 1945, when I got out of the service, I made a radical change in my grip which I had been experimenting with whenever I got a chance to play golf while in the Army. I had been aware for some time that if I wanted to make a comeback as a successful golfer that I would have to make a change in my grip to correct a tendency I always had to over swing on the backswing. By the time I resumed tournament play, I had made the change and had everything in good working order. Formerly I used a grip in which I had what might be best described as a long thumb when speaking of the position of the thumb of the left hand on the shaft. During the course of the backswing that thumb used to slide down on the shaft, and as a result, I was always guilty of a certain looseness at the top of my swing which prevented me from getting the maximum of control. In correcting this, I pushed the left thumb back up on the shaft. The entire change couldn’t have amounted to more than half an inch in the movement of the thumb, but it was enough to restrict my backswing so that it no longer is loose.”
Hogan writes of his grip in more detail in Five Lessons: “When I changed over to the right side, possibly as a hangover from my left-handed start, I first used a cross-hand grip. I experimented next with the interlocking grip, and at length — I must have been about 15 at the time (around 1927) — I finally arrived at the overlapping grip. I was working then in the golf shop at the Glen Garden Club, and I copied the grip of Ted Longworth, the pro … Over the years since first adopting the overlapping grip, I have made two minor alterations. Right after I came out of the service, I changed from what is called the “long thumb” to a modified “short thumb.” I made my second alteration in 1946, moving my left hand a good half inch to the left. I was working then to find some way to of retaining my power while curbing my occasional tendency to hook. Moving my left hand over so that that thumb was directly down the middle of the shaft was the first step in licking that problem.” I find it quite interesting that Hogan left that bit of information out of “Power Golf,” and that he only revealed it after his semi-retirement in 1955 in the Life Magazine article “Hogan’s Secret” and the 1956 publication of “Five Lessons.” My guess is that he omitted it on purpose, not wanting to give away any competitive advantage.
Curt Sampson, in his biography of Hogan simply titled “Hogan,” provides some color to the story of Hogan’s beginnings as a caddy and his interaction with Longworth: “Long driving had been a macho thing in the Glen Garden caddie yard. Whatever caddies were still around at the end of the day would hit one ball each from the first tee: the shortest hitter had to run out onto the deserted course and pick up the balls, then they would do it again.” As Longworth recalled it for a story in the PGA Championship program in 1946, a few members always emerged from the 19th hole to watch. “Yah, Bennie, get ready to chase ‘em again,” the other boys would say, according to Longworth. (Byron) Nelson never lost; Hogan never won. Bennie tried hitting it cross-handed.”
“Bennie, if you don’t change that hog-killer’s grip, you might as well take up cattle rustling,” Longworth told Hogan. The tall, stoop shouldered pro bent down and untangled the boy’s hands. Since distance was the name of this game, he gave Bennie a distance grip, turning his left hand to the right and his right hand underneath the club, thus helping him close the clubface during the swing and producing a left-curving shot, a hook. Hooks roll.”
We can imagine what that grip looked like when we see the photo of what Hogan described as a “hook grip” in Power Golf. Looking at the photos of what Hogan thought was the ideal grip, and the one he used at the time, you can readily see how he weakened his grip as he explained.
This is obviously the grip that won Hogan the 1946 PGA Championship and nine tournaments between August of 1945 and April of 1946, but did Hogan make further changes after three-putting the 18th hole to lose the Masters in 1946? The history (no thanks to Hogan himself) is confusing, but let’s see if we can sort it out.
In the 1955 Life Magazine article “This is My Secret” (written after Hogan had essentially retired from competition and for which Hogan was paid $10,000), Hogan explains: “…in 1946, I was having trouble getting the ball in the air. I had a low, ducking, agonizing hook, the kind you can hang your coat on. I was finishing in the money and occasionally winning a tournament, even with a terrible game. But the handwriting was on the wall. If I was going to stay and make a living, something had to be done. I left the Tour and went home to Fort Worth about as desperate as a man can be. I sat and thought for three or four days. One night while laying awake in bed, I began thinking about a technique for hitting a golf ball that was so old it was almost new.” Hogan goes on to talk about the idea of “pronation,” whereby the clubface is rolled open by the hands right from the start of the backswing, and continues to open all the way to the top of the swing. “…before the night was over I had added two adjustments, which on paper made pronation hook-proof without any loss of distance.” Hogan then recounts how well the ideas worked in practice, and then in tournament play when he went to Chicago for the Tam O’ Shanter and won two events in a row. (An interesting side note: as it turns out, Hogan did not recollect this correctly. He finished 4th in the Tam O’ Shanter and it wasn’t until the Colonial later in the summer that he began to dominate the Tour). “The two adjustments had transformed pronation into a bonanza for me. They were so delicate that no one would ever think of looking for them, and I certainly was not going to tell anybody where to look. The first was in the grip. I moved my left hand one-eighth to one-quarter inch to the left so that the thumb was almost directly on top of the shaft. The second adjustment, which is the real meat of the “secret,” was nothing more than a twist or cocking of the left wrist. I cupped the wrist gradually backward and inward so that the wrist formed a slight V at the top of the swing…which had the effect of opening the face of the club to the widest practical extreme at the top of the swing.” Here is a picture from the article of Hogan demonstrating this change in the grip:
Compare this to his depiction of a “slice grip” in Power Golf, just 8 years earlier:
And here is Hogan demonstrating the grip in detail in his instructional masterpiece, “The Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.”
Note that in the drawing the “V” formed by the left thumb and forefinger definitely points to the left of the chin, which would indicate a two-knuckle grip (Hogan says it should point to the right eye), while in the photo from the Life Magazine article above shows more of a one-knuckle grip where the “V” points more straight up. This makes a huge difference, and studying the pictures in the book it is unclear whether Hogan consistently used either. We can find a major difference between the Power Golf grip and the Five Lessons grip when we look at these two pictures of Hogan placing his left hand on the club:
At first glance, it would appear that Hogan is placing the club in his hand in a similar fashion, but take note of the angle of the shaft to the left forearm and the angle the fingers form in relation to the ground. The Power Golf version promotes more dorsiflexion (inward bending) of the wrist, while the Five Lessons grip is more palm oriented and would be what we would describe now as “weaker.” It is my opinion that Hogan played his best golf from 1946-1953 with his left hand closer to the Power Golf grip than the grip he demonstrates in Five Lessons and in the Life Magazine article. However, it is also evident to me that he steadily weakened his right hand, and that the obvious difference between the right-hand placement demonstrated in Power Golf and that of Five Lessons is more apparent in the videos of his swing after the accident. Let’s look at how he changed his ideas on right hand placement:
The key here in the eventual difference in the right-hand grip can be found in the phrasing. In Power Golf, Hogan says: “The club lies diagonally across the fingers of my right hand.” In Five Lessons, Hogan says: “The club lies across the top joint of the fingers of the right hand.” Here are examples of the finished right-hand grip:
With the club placed more horizontally across the fingers of the right hand at the bottom of the first joint with the palm facing the target, there is already much more of the hand to fold over the club, thus positioning the “V” more straight up at the chin in a weaker position. By positioning the club more diagonally across the fingers Hogan sets the right hand more under the club in a stronger position.
Hogan speaks of his game prior to his epiphany of 1946 as though he was a terrible golfer with a pronounced hook that threatened to end his career at any time. The record shows, however, that he won four events and was the Tour’s leading money winner in 1940. He won five events in 1941, and won both the Vardon Trophy (lowest average scoring average) and led the money list, and in 1942 he won six events and was leading money winner before being called up for service in World War II. Upon his return from the war, he won 5 times after August in 1945, then four more times in 1946 before his first win utilizing his “secret.’ It is apparent, however, that what Hogan found that night lying in bed propelled him to even greater heights from his win at Colonial in 1946 to his accident in early 1949. During that span, he won 29 times, a number that includes three major championships. It is interesting that Cary Middlecoff “remembered a pre-accident Hogan who occasionally missed fairways and greens just like everybody else”, but that “it was in 1950 that he began showing the kind of precision golf that set him apart,” Middlecoff wrote in his book, The Golf Swing.
“In 1950, (Hogan) began to take on the miracle-man aura. Small crowds would gather around him and try to watch his every move anytime he started hitting practice balls.” Hogan himself would disagree with Middlecoff, but said in his interview with Ken Venturi that while he never hit the ball as well after the accident as he had before, he “played” better, noting that it was his belief that course management played a greater role in his success than anyone could imagine. That’s certainly truer when you can hit almost every shot right where you are aiming.
Vincenzi: World Wide Technologies Championship First Round Leader picks
The PGA Tour continues its fall swing this week in Los Cabos, Mexico as the majority of the field battles it out to get into the top-125 of the FedEx Cup standings.
El Cardonal brings plenty of unknowns this week. The Tiger Woods design has not been used in a professional setting thus far and was built in large part as a resort style course, meaning it most likely will be torn apart by PGA Tour players. I fully expect this event to get into the -25 range and will be targeting players who can go low.
One quantifiable entity that El Cardonal will bring is Paspalum greens, which seems to bring out the best in certain players in the field.
The layout is fairly wide open with big greens, so long hitters could excel at the course, but I wouldn’t rule out shorter players given the easy layout.
As of now, there appears to be very little wind in the forecast. However, being on the coast, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see it play a small factor on Thursday.
2023 World Wide Technology First-Round Leader Picks
Matt Kuchar +7000 (Caesars)
Matt Kuchar isn’t the longest hitter, which may hold him back at El Cardonal as opposed to a course like El Camaleon where he’s won, but I still believe the resort-style setup of this course will be beneficial for the 45-year-old.
Kuchar has been playing a lot of golf lately, so he should be relatively sharp for the event. In his most recent start, he played the Andalucia Masters and shot a final round-67, which was the second lowest round of the day.
In addition to the win at the Mayakoba in 2021, Kuchar also has 3rd place finish as well as numerous top finishes on other coastal tracks. He ranks 16th in the field in Strokes Gained: Total on Paspalum.
Tyler Duncan +8000 (FanDuel)
Tyler Duncan has had a strong fall, finishing 16th at the Sanderson Farms Championship and 18th at the Shriners Children’s Open. He also has some intriguing paspalum form including a 3rd at the Corales (2023) and 23rd at Mayakoba in 2020. He ranks 12th in the field in Strokes Gained: Total on the surface.
Duncan also feasts on easy course setups and ranks 3rd in the field in the category. His most recent round played was a 65 in the final round of the Shriners and seems an ideal candidate to go low again on Thursday.
Austin Eckroat +8000 (BetRivers)
Austin Eckroat has some strong paspalum finishes including a 5th place finish at the 2023 Corales Puntacana and a 12th place finish at the Mayakoba. The Oklahoma State product managed to contend at Corales despite going into the event with six consecutive missed cuts.
Many anticipated Eckroat to have a big year in 2022-2023, but he struggled fairly often. The talent is undoubtedly there, and he’ll look to start stringing some results together starting at a course that should suit him.
Harry Hall +9000 (FanDuel)
For a multitude of reasons, I believe Harry Hall is primed to have a big week in Mexico. The Englishman absolutely loves playing on the coast and a good deal of his best finishes have come on Paspalum including the 2023 Puerto Rico Open (7th), j2023 Mexico Open 2023 Corales (13th), and the 2022 Great Exuma (19th).
Hall is a fantastic putter who can get extremely hot on the greens which is always a bonus for a first-round leader bet.
Kelly Kraft +11000 (FanDuel)
Kelly Kraft is another resort course specialist who boasts strong results on similar tracks including a 3rd and 5th place finish at Corales (2018 and 2019), a 15th place finish at the Mexico Open (2020) and 15th at the Puerto Rico Open (2016).
In addition to the strong results on correlating courses, Kraft is also in excellent form. In his past two starts, he’s gained 6.3 and 7.7 strokes on approach, which make up two of the best six approach performances of his entire career.
After finishes of 25th, 16th and 23rd in his three starts this fall, the 36-year-old should be set up to have a strong week on a course that he will undoubtedly feel very comfortable on.
Vincenzi’s World Wide Technology Championship betting preview: Paspalum green specialists ready to feast in Mexico
The PGA TOUR heads to Los Cabos, Mexico to play the 2023 World Wide Technology Championship at El Cardonal at Diamante.
Previously named The Mayakoba Golf Classic and the OHL at Mayakoba, the event was held at El Camaleón Golf Club for sixteen years prior to being moved to El Cardonal. El Camaleón is now utilized for the LIV Golf Mayakoba event.
El Cardonal at Diamante is a 7,452-yard, par-72 Tiger Woods design featuring paspalum greens. “Influenced by the old-style courses of Southern California where he grew up playing, Tiger created a course that brings back the need for strategy—providing players with several shot options to navigate during each hole.”
This event features 132 players vying for 500 FedExCup points and will finalize the top 125 for the next season. The fields continue to be relatively weak as we make our way through the end of the fall swing. Some of the notable golfers among the 132 in the field include: Ludvig Aberg, Cameron Young, Lucas Glover, Emiliano Grillo, Beau Hossler and Cameron Champ.
Past Winners at World Wide Technology Championship (at El Camaleón Golf Club)
- 2022: Russell Henley (-23)
- 2021: Viktor Hovland (-23)
- 2020: Viktor Hovland (-20)
- 2019: Brendon Todd (-20)
- 2018: Matt Kuchar (-22)
- 2017: Patton Kizzire (-19)
- 2016: Pat Perez (-21)
- 2015: Kevin Kisner (-18)
- 2014: Charlie Hoffman (-17)
- 2013: Harris English (-21)
Let’s take a look at several metrics for El Cardonal at Diamante to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.
Strokes Gained: Approach
When speaking about the course, Tiger Woods said, “Angles of approach are going to be very important and will dictate the type of shots you should consider”. With Tiger Woods’ influence, there’s a good chance that El Cardonal will play as a second shot golf course.
Total Strokes Gained: Approach in past 24 rounds:
- Lucas Glover (+29.5)
- Sam Ryder (+24.9)
- Russell Knox (+22.4)
- Chez Reavie (+18.3)
- Ryan Moore (+17.9)
El Cardonal features some forgiving fairways and is a relatively long course, so distance should be favored over accuracy this week.
Total Driving Distance in past 24 rounds:
- Cameron Champ (+22.5)
- Peter Kuest (+17.1)
- M.J. Daffue (+16.5)
- Chris Gotterup (+16.0)
- Kyle Westmoreland (+15.1)
Strokes Gained Total: Paspalum
Paspalum greens are a different surface than what most of the TOUR players are used to. They can be bumpy and slow, and certain golfers tend to really thrive on them year in, year out.
Comparable greens can be found at TPC Kuala Lumpur (CIMB Classic), Coco Beach Golf and Country Club (Puerto Rico Open) and Corales Golf Club (Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship).
Total Strokes Gained: Paspalum in past 24 rounds:
- Brandon Wu (+51.3)
- Adam Long (+42.4)
- Nate Lashley (+40.0)
- Akshay Bhatia (+34.0)
- Harry Hall (+26.8)
At a resort course in Mexico, we will likely see some scoreable conditions this week. Therefore, it will be important to target golfers who consistently see birdie opportunities from within 15 feet. Historically, poor putters have done fairly well on paspalum, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a typically strong tee to green player get hot with the flat stick.
Total strokes gained in category in past 24 rounds:
- Russell Knox (+23.8)
- Callum Tarren (+21.3)
- Doug Ghim (+19.0)
- Ludvig Aberg (+18.5)
- Chris Kirk (+18.0)
Strokes Gained: Total in Easy Scoring Conditions
At the end of the day, this is a resort course in Mexico during the swing season. There’s a high likelihood of this event turning into a “birdie-fest”.
Total Strokes Gained: Total in Easy Scoring Conditions:
- Doug Ghim (+39.4)
- Stephan Jaeger (+29.2)
- Tyler Duncan (+24.1)
- Akshay Bhatia (+23.7)
- Ludvig Aberg (+22.3)
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 (28%) Driving Distance (18%); SG: Paspalum (18%); Opportunities Gained (18%); and, Strokes Gained: Total in Easy Scoring Conditions (15%)
- Callum Tarren (+6500)
- Stephan Jaeger (+2500)
- Doug Ghim (+5500)
- Akshay Bhatia (+4000)
- Lucas Glover (+2500)
- Cameron Champ (+5000)
- Brandon Wu (+8000)
- Kevin Roy (+25000)
- Luke List (+4000)
- Kevin Yu (+11000)
2023 World Wide Technology Championship Picks
Emiliano Grillo +2800 (FanDuel)
Emiliano Grillo has played a lot of his best golf on shorter resort-style courses in this region of the world and/or on Paspalum Greens. He has a second (2015) and third (2020) place finish at the Puerto Rico Open, a sixth at Corales (2021), and three top-10 finishes at El Camaleón (2016, 2017 & 2020). He also came in 5th at last year’s Mexico Open at Vidanta. The Argentinian ranks 7th in the field in Strokes Gained: Total on Paspalum.
Grillo started slowly this fall, missing his first two cuts, but bounced back nicely with a 10th place finish at the ZOZO Championship in his most recent start. While there was no shot tracker at the event, Grillo gained on the field in what was measured including Driving Distance, Good Drives Gained and Greens in Regulation.
After the top of the board, there is a steep drop-off in terms of talent and win equity and I believe Grillo represents the best option in the next tier of golfers.
Akshay Bhatia +4000 (BetMGM)
Akshay Bhatia has shown early and often throughout his career that he favors coastal Paspalum golf courses. In the field, he ranks 3rd in Strokes Gained: Total on Paspalum and 4th in Strokes Gained: Total on easy courses. The resort style setup will be a perfect recipe for the rising star to find success at El Cardonal this week.
Bhatia has already won on the Korn Ferry Tour in the Sandals Emerald Bay, which is a coastal paspalum track that has some similarities to what we’ll see this week in Mexico. In 2021, the 21-year-old had a runner-up finish at the Puerto Rico Open and placed 26th at the Corales Puntacana Championsip. Last year, Bhatia finished 2nd at the Puerto Rico Open and 4th at the Mexico Open at Vidanta.
The smooth-swinging lefty has already broken through for his first PGA Tour victory at the Barracuda Championship, beating out Patrick Rodgers in a playoff. However, that was an alternate event opposite of the Open Championship. Akshay is still motivated with a lot to prove as we head into the 2024 season.
Cameron Champ +6600 (BetRivers)
Cameron Champ has had a strong fall, finishing 9th the Sanderon Farms and 18th at the Shriners in consecutive starts prior to a poor result at the ZOZO Championship in Japan. Despite the setback, the 25-year-old should still be in excellent form as he heads to Mexico this week.
Champ is another player who’s had strong results on Paspalum throughout his career. In the field, he ranks 10th in Strokes Gained: Total on Paspalum and has finished 6th at the Mexico Open in 2022, and 8th in 2023 to go along with a 10th place finish in 2018 at the OHL at Mayakoba. There seems to be a clear theme with Champ bringing his A-game when he plays in Mexico.
El Cardonal appears to be a course that will favor bombers, and Champ is the biggest bomber on Tour, leading the field in Driving Distance over his past 24 rounds.
He’s inconsistent, but Champ has proven that if he gets in the mix, he can win an event.
Joel Dahmen +6500 (FanDuel)
Joel Dahmen had a rough season in 2022-2023 but has shown some recent signs that he’s getting his game back on track during the fall swing. He struggled at the ZOZO Championship, but I’m happy to disregard one start in Japan after showing strong iron play in his previous start. He gained 4.6 on approach at the Shriners to go along with 5.4 strokes off the tee. The 10.2 strokes Dahmen gained from tee to green was his best performance in that category since March of 2020.
Dahmen also has some strong paspalum results. He’s won the Corales Puntacana Championship in 2021, finished 3rd at Mayakoba in 2022 and 6th there in 2019. He’s played really well on easier setups and should thrive this week in what may turn out to be a “birdie fest”.
Brandon Wu +8000 (FanDuel)
Sticking with the Paspalum theme, Brandon Wu is a player who seems to be a completely different player on the surface. He ranks 1st in the field in Strokes Gained: Total on Paspalum, and four of his best six finishes on the PGA Tour come on Paspalum, which is incredible considering the lack of events played on it.
In his past 24 rounds, the Stanford product ranks 19th in Strokes Gained: Approach and 8th in Opportunities Gained, which indicated he’s ready to break out if he can get his putter going. Considering he gains 0.6 strokes on the field per event on Paspalum as opposed to losing strokes to the field on every other surface, El Cardonal seems a likely spot for him to figure it out.
Wu has two finishes of 7th or better at both the Puerto Rico Open and the Mexico Open. I believe in the long-term ceiling for Wu, and I think this week may be the most realistic spot for the 26-year-old to get his first PGA TOUR victory.
Adam Long +15000 (FanDuel)
Adam Long is the last player on the card and continues the theme of players who are extremely comfortable on Paspalum greens. Long ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Total on Paspalum and has finishes of 2nd and 3rd in Mexico at the Mayakoba as well as a 5th at the Corales Puntacana Championship.
Long hasn’t been at his best over the last few seasons, but he started his fall swing on a positive note, finishing 35th at both the Sanderson Farms Championship and the Shriners. In both of those starts, he gained strokes on approach and tee to green. Perhaps a return to his favorite surface will spark Long to return to form even further this week in Mexico.
The Wedge Guy: How many wedges should you carry?
At Edison Golf, we’ve been doing a number of user reviews with various forums, including this one with the GolfWRX community. I always like to try to have a personal conversation with the “winners” of these, so that we can get exactly the right specs for their wedges to be reviewed. And that conversation always starts with an examination into the 9-iron and “P-club” lofts which is currently in their bags.
But let’s be honest. In today’s iron world, that club bearing the designation “P”, is not anything close to be a true “wedge”, as the typical loft nowadays is 42 to 45 degrees . . . and a true “pitch shot” simply cannot be executed with that low a lofted club. I’ve written about the disappearance of the true “pitching wedge” HERE.
So, when we ask the question, “How many wedges should I carry?”, the starting point should be from that club to the highest lofted wedge you are comfortable having in your bag. And the answer is simple…
However many it takes to optimize your scoring range performance.
Those of you who know my work and writing over the past 25 years or so also know that I am a proponent of carrying a carefully measured “set” of wedges that give you the shotmaking control you need in prime scoring range. But what I’ve learned over those many years is that the number of wedges that is “right”, and the lofts of those wedges can be very different from one golfer to another.
Getting this right is crucially important, as your scores are more heavily influenced by your play from wedge range into the green, and your shotmaking around the greens, than by any other factor. The right “set” of wedges in your bag can make all the difference in the world.
As I repeatedly preach, taking your guidance from the PGA Tour players will not likely help you achieve your goals. These guys spend hundreds of hours each year perfecting their wedge play, and you don’t. The myriad of shots they have mastered is not realistic for you to mimic by always manipulating your swing. You are much better off adding some science to your wedge set makeup that can help you have more shot choices when you are in scoring range or trying to save par from a missed green.
How many wedges should you carry?
My basic premise on the subject is that the answer can be approached scientifically for each golfer, and it is a multi-step process:
- Begin by knowing the loft of the 9-iron and “P-club” that came with your set of irons, as optimum gapping begins there. The industry challenge of producing longer-hitting irons has led most OEMs to strengthen lofts throughout the set . . . specifically so they have a chance of winning “the launch monitor war” with their 6- or 7-iron. As those lofts have constantly been strengthened, it was apparently decided to widen the gaps between the short irons to 5 degrees from the traditional 4 that stood for decades. What this does is increase the distance differential between your 9-iron and “P-club” from what I would consider optimum. For golfers of slower swing speeds, that 5* gap might well deliver a 10-12 yard differential, but my bet is that most of you are getting a difference closer to 15 yards, or even more. That just will not let you get the distance control precision you want in prime scoring range.
- The second step is to be honest with your distances. I am a big proponent of getting on the golf course or range with a laser or GPS and really knowing how far you carry each of your short irons and wedges. Hit a number of shots from known yardages and see where they land (not including roll out). My bet is that you will find that your distances are different from what you thought they were, and that the differentials between clubs are not consistent.
- Figure out where to start. If your actual and real distance gap between your 9-iron and “P-club” is over 12-13 yards, maybe the place to start could be with a stronger P-club. You can either have your loft strengthened a bit or make the shaft ¼ to ½” longer to add a few yards to that club.
- Figure out what lofts your wedges should have. From there, I suggest selecting lofts of your wedges to build a constant full-swing yardage difference of 10-12 yards between clubs. Depending on your strength profile, that may require wedges at 4* intervals, or it might be 5 – each golfer is different. Those with very slow swing speeds might even find that 6* gaps deliver that distance progression.
- Challenge the traditional 52/56/60 or 50/54/58 setup. That first sequence of lofts became the “standard” when set-match pitching wedges were 48 degrees of loft, and the second as “P-club” lofts got even stronger. With the current crop of irons, you might find that your ideal wedge gapping starts at 47 or 48 degrees. The goal is to start where true wedge play begins and work from there to achieve ideal gapping. Though no company offers wedges in every loft, you can bend any wedge to hit your numbers exactly. Just remember, bending stronger reduces the bounce and bending weaker increases the bounce.
What many of you will find with this exercise is that it suggests that you should be carrying more wedges. That’s probably true for the vast majority of recreational golfers. I have come to realize that more wedges and fewer long clubs will usually improve your scores. After all, long or short by 25-30 feet is great at long range, but not acceptable in prime scoring range.
If you have more clubs at the long end of your bag (longer than a 5- or 6-iron) than you do at the short end (9-iron and up), then you should consider an honest self-appraisal of how often you use each club between your driver and putter. My bet is that it will be an enlightening analysis.
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