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The Search For Hogan’s Secret

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I love a good mystery. I love reading them, watching them and even writing them in my spare time. Many of the most wildly popular literary works involve the quest to solve history’s mysteries or the search for lost treasure, and cinematic forays depicting these adventures are often blockbusters. When it comes to history’s biggest mysteries, certain ones have been sought after more fervently, by more men, than almost all others. The Ark of the Covenant comes to mind, and The Holy Grail is an obvious contender. But amongst my ilk, the search for Ben Hogan’s Secret is undoubtedly foremost among the game’s modern mysteries. Enough passion, intrigue and pursuit surround all of these things that I’m not really sure what is most shocking: that none of them has actually been found, or that, unlike The Ark and The Grail, a movie hasn’t (yet) been made about The Search for Hogan’s Secret.

Now before I begin in earnest, I should concede that I’m treading dangerous waters here. A cottage industry has evolved around Hogan’s Secret, with no less than a gazillion swing zealots claiming to have uncovered it everywhere from in an abandoned locker at Riviera to in the last will and testament of a guy who used to pick the range at Fort Worth Country Club back in the 1950’s. Among those teaching, pondering, and pontificating on the mysteries of the golf swing, there are hordes of “Hoganophiles” invested in ways that span from emotionally to professionally to financially in their claims to Hogan’s treasure. And anyone else coming along making claims even slightly at odds with their own conclusions can invite swift and vehement reactions: calls of blasphemy, incompetence or worse. But I forge on, because if I can shed even a little light upon this on-going investigation, I’ll risk the abuse. All in the name of the greater good of the game.

So back to Hogan. For starters, his playing record inspires understandable awe. And when you consider the fact that he won more than half his majors after a near fatal and crippling car accident that prohibited him from playing in more than a half-dozen events a year for the remainder of his career, you begin to understand why he is so revered. In 1953, having won the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship, Hogan very possibly could have been the only person to have completed the modern Grand Slam if the Open and PGA championships hadn’t had conflicting schedules that year. And while he only won nine majors (compared to Nicklaus’ 18 and Woods’ 14), he won those nine majors in only sixteen starts between 1946 and 1953. He also only finished out of the top-10 once. Had the PGA not still been match play during his competitive career, requiring winners to play 36 holes in a day (something Hogan couldn’t do after his accident) it’s very likely he would have added a few more majors to his total.

In truth, it’s unsurprising that a stoic man like Hogan, with a nickname like The Hawk and a record such as his would leave behind a legend that went beyond his mere exploits on the links. It was in Life Magazine back in the 1950’s that Hogan first claimed to have discovered his elusive Secret. The change that allowed the struggling journeyman pro to harness his wayward hook, a shot that almost drove him from the tour, and go on an almost unprecedented streak of tournament wins that would ultimately see him hailed as one of the best players in history a decade later. And in the process that success, combined with his explanations for it in the years to come, would inspire decades of debate.

Now, like most golf professionals, I have my opinions about what I like to see in a good golf swing and the elements that are crucial to obtain a modicum of success. But I’m self-aware enough to understand that, as I said, these are to a degree just my opinions. One of the most beautiful things about the golf swing is that it’s short on absolutes. The number of different looking golf swings that have tasted major success in the history of sport is near uncountable. Tiger Woods alone won major championships with three very different swings and PGA Tour events with four, and still an armada of us who claim to know a thing or two about the motion debate incessantly about which one was best. If swings the likes of Jim Furyk, John Daly, Ray Floyd, Jim Thorpe, Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer and Miller Barber can win at the highest level, it should truly give hope to the most unorthodox among us — while giving pause to the rest of us who say you have to do it a certain way if you want to be any good.

That being said (and understood), I’m as guilty as the next guy who coaches competitive golfers for a living of getting sucked into searching for Hogan’s buried treasure. I suppose it’s understandable seeing as how he cryptically mentioned at one point that it could be found in the dirt somewhere, but I digress. You see, whether it was in that Life article, various interviews, his book Power Golf, or the Immortal Five Lessons, Hogan actually left us some very detailed clues as to what he felt was most important when it came to swinging a golf club. But it’s what Hogan supposedly didn’t say that left the treasure hunters among us still looking under the couch cushions for that missing remote. Like a master chef who holds back one key ingredient when offering up the recipe of a famous dish, one that will keep it from ever being truly replicated by scores of imitators, we believe Hogan withheld something from the golfing masses. Something he would ultimately take with him to his grave.

Now, from my point of view, I think Hogan was actually a bit of a shy man, and one who didn’t mind remaining a bit of a mystery. It only added to his intimidation factor when it came to competition, and ultimately elevated the Hogan mystique. And a bit of intrigue as it related to his historic success wasn’t an all bad thing when it came to marketing the golf clubs and balls that Hogan occupied most of his post tournament golf years doing. I also believe that Old Ben wasn’t immune to possibly having a quiet laugh at all of our expense. Could it be that all that talk of the pronation of the wrists, the short left thumb, or hitting balls left-handed as a youngster was nothing more than a red herring? Something planted in the public consciousness by a man who wanted to throw us all off the scent? Hogan wouldn’t have been the first mystical golf guru to have done so, nor would he be the last, but there is one other thing to consider.

Is it possible that Hogan’s real secret was something he wasn’t himself quite aware he was actually doing? It is quite possible that the changes in grip, wrist position, or any of the other things Hogan claimed were his Secret might possibly have served as a distraction in and of themselves. Something that may have in fact aided, or complemented, what he was doing in this swing, but something that in a technical sense would have been actually quite inconsequential if he wasn’t already doing something else, something pretty much every other legendary striker of the ball has done as well.

In the 1960’s Hogan recorded a video for Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf in which he explained what he did in his golf swing. In it he described how he initiated the first move down with his lower body. This is what Hogan felt that he did, and if you look at slow-motion video of his swing you can certainly see that he does start moving his hips first, almost before he completes his backswing on some clubs. In fact, if you look at Hogan swinging a driver you can actually see the clubhead still moving backward as he initiates his hip turn in the forward swing.

The thing that Hogan didn’t articulate in the video, though, a thing he might possibly have not even been consciously aware of, was the reason he could initiate the forward swing with his lower body as much as he did was how low and connected his right elbow was to his right hip, and how it remained underneath the left arm not just to, but through impact. This is what nearly every great ball-striker does, including Woods, Nicklaus, Byron Nelson, Bobby Jones and even that legendary savant so revered by golf swing geeks, the quirky Canadian Moe Norman.

All those great golfers arrived in that position by various methods, but they ended up there just the same — like London cabbies who might not take the GPS recommended route to get you to Heathrow, but they get you there on time just the same. And whether it was Hogan, Nelson, Nicklaus, or Norman, when you combined that position with a little lateral hip slide just prior to impact, it allowed them to deliver the face of the club to the back of the ball with very little release of the hands into the hitting area. In this way, the club is squared not so much through hand or forearm rotation, but by the turn of the body, a reality illustrated by the fact that every great ball-striker’s hips and shoulders are about half-way turned to the target at impact.

Now I know the technocrats out there will decry this as an over-simplification of what Hogan and others have done, and I get that, but I do so for a few reasons. One, to point out that there are common similarities amongst great players. Two, to give an idea about which area of the swing is possibly most important to focus on if you feel you need to make a change. And three, to highlight the fact that despite those similarities, there is no one way to get there, as long as you ultimately do.

Hogan, whether it was intentional or not, wasn’t the first professional to articulate something about his golf swing that was a bit misleading. And the real problem with most golfers (and instructors) taking Hogan’s advice at whole cloth is that most players who attempt to initiate the forward swing with the lower body have arms so disconnected from their lower bodies that it causes them to come over the top and hit the ball form the outside, exactly the opposite of what Hogan claims it will do. You see, there’s this pesky little thing called your spine that connects your arms and shoulders to your hips. Most golfers, especially those of advancing age, aren’t nearly as flexible as the modern athlete. When they run out of available body turn in the backswing, they lift the club into position the rest of the way. This disconnects the upper and lower body, setting them up to have the upper body stuck behind the lower because the arms hands and shoulders can only resist so much of that hip turn before they cry uncle and follow along.

Having your arms connected to the lower body through the impact area not only allows you to strike the ball more directly from the inside, but allows you to square the club through body rotation. When the hips are too far in front of the upper body, the lower body often begins to move up and out of the hitting area before the club is in position to strike the ball. And as you get farther and farther from the ball and/or the club gets stuck open due to the arms and hands getting left behind, it forces you to cast or flip the club at the ball through impact in order to square it. This move sacrifices both power and consistency.

So what do we do? First and foremost, acquiring the necessary flexibility to complete a backswing by turning isn’t a bad place to start regardless of your age. Second, if you don’t have that flexibility at the moment, you may want to point your toes outward as Hogan did, allowing a bigger hip turn, and maybe even allow your front heel to come off the ground in the backswing like Nicklaus. The important thing is to try to get the club to the top more by turning than by lifting. And finally, if you’re in a position right now where your flexibility not only isn’t quite where you want it, and these adjustments still won’t allow you to turn the club back fully to the top without lifting it, then you just might need to start that downswing with the upper body.

What you say??? That’s not what Bantam Ben said! I know, I know, but one of the things I’m fond of telling people is, “The higher your right elbow, the higher your handicap,” especially on the way down, so kick-starting your forward swing by making sure your elbow tucks low and in front of the right hip prior to the initiating that hip turn can be the missing link that allows you to get it back underneath the left arm so you can strike the ball from an inside path again. It’s not what the immortal Mr. Hogan might have told you to do, but if you’ve been searching in vain for Golf’s Holy Grail of moves for a while now, and neither Mr. Hogan’s description, nor the multitudes of instructors claims of what his actual Secret was have turned out to be the genuine article, it just might be because Ben didn’t honestly know what his real secret was. And even though it was hiding in plain sight, his own description of what he was doing made it easy to be confused about where to look.

At least that’s my opinion, but just remember, it’s only an opinion. So… what’s yours?

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

35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. Scott

    Feb 7, 2019 at 6:27 am

    Sir:

    If Hogan’s right elbow was in front of his body then how do you explain that, in every photo & video in the world, his right elbow is still level with his hip at impact? Once the right elbow passes or gets “in front of the body” right hip you cannot make it stay there.

    I know the answer, and most assuredly I can tell you that this whole “keep the arms in front of you” and “getting stuck” movement we hear on every telecast is NOT accurate at least in terms of BH swing.

    The moment that elbow passes the right hip there is no moving it back, lol. And the truth is, you’re just an arm swinger when it happens, throwing the club at the ball with your arms, manipulating the clubhead with various goofy techniques. “Ohhh look at him use the GROUND, OMG he’s GOT it now” after the years of “Look st Jadon Day’s swing, he’s only turned his hips 11 degrees. OMG, LOOK at the power!!!” And the NEWEST *hot* verbiage, “swing left, swing left, that’s how Hogan did it. Or “Diverging Planes” lolz. I mean, seriously, come on now. Does anyone really think Hogan was trying to gouge his leading edge of the club by tilting his shoulders and…sheesh. These guys are charlatans. Again, there’s more than 1 way to hit a golf ball solidly but please leave (not you, sir, the hucksters) Mr. Hogan alone with your pontificating & flat out lies & stealing, using his name to profit.

    Nobilo is the worst. But I digress.

    You don’t have to swing like Hogan to be successful. Lots of funky stuff will work fine. But one thing is for sure, photos & videos don’t lie. I don’t claim to know “The Secret” but I know the answer to this puzzle & it’s not “sticking your arms in front of you” or “waiting for the club” or “sitting on your right foot” or “great timing” or “he had great hands”.

    I’ll tell you this much, at least: they should stop focusing on his arms and hands and elbows and cupping and his fingernail size on his left pinky, because if you read it all carefully there’s one word that I finally discovered that elicited a whole bunch of different revelations.

    Beginning in the 70’s I was a part of the whole Reverse C revolution, where everyone was trying desperately to figure out the puzzle of the right elbow and right hip.

    Look at sequences of his swing backwards & try to figure out how he was able to get to those positions, and just know that it is. NOT “swinging left” omg what an abomination. I can’t even….

    Really respect your writing and your teaching, please keep up the great work.

  2. Bob

    Dec 28, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    I believe in Jim McLean’s 8 step swing, he describes that at impact the right elbow, right hip and right knee will be in alignment with the right elbow right in front of the hip. See the photo sequence above. Whether that was Hogan’s “secret” is another matter.

  3. Caddy

    Dec 27, 2017 at 10:49 am

    I think he certainly knew what he was doing and feeling – likely more than anyone ever. You said,

    “when you combined that position with a little lateral hip slide just prior to impact, it allowed them to deliver the face of the club to the back of the ball with very little release of the hands into the hitting area. In this way, the club is squared not so much through hand or forearm rotation, but by the turn of the body…”

    That certainly kept the face from closing until after impact. The hip rotation being the 1st move from the top and mentioned over 40 times in Five Lessons, was huge in keeping the club from coming TOO much from the inside. His path was better by feeling that he rotated the hips 1st. Even if there was a little lateral slide it was a result of dynamic motion and not intentional. His intent was to rotate and that “fixed” his extreme in to out path. Keeping his right arm under kept his face from closing early. Once the path and the face were coordinated… he was MONEY!

  4. Guia

    Dec 26, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    No, secret. He practiced his butt off. I love the way he keeps his arms close to his body.

    • Sid

      Dec 27, 2017 at 12:47 pm

      That’s the “secret”!!!!!! Practice, and more practice!!!!
      Everybody wants that secret tip to avoid practice and physical failure.
      Their solution?: Buy the latest greatest new equipment. Losers all!!!

  5. RBImGuy

    Dec 26, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    “it just might be because Ben didn’t honestly know what his real secret was.”

    If you ask me that was it.
    If hee really knew then his explanation would make someone else able to repeat, he wasnt able to.

    I am however able to do that, repeat and teach the same “the real secret” to the golf swing

  6. Kelvin

    Dec 25, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    I believe Hogan’s secret was that he worked out the Trackman secret that no one knew…that the face controls the start direction and the path to face creates the curve. He used to practice behind a tree at Shady Oaks curving the ball. Armed with that knowledge he built himself a cut swing that he knew he could trust.

  7. Ray Bennett

    Dec 24, 2017 at 8:02 am

    Not sure why people are so obsessed with Ben Hogan’s secret. To me he was a journeyman pro who gave his all to work out a golf swing that would earn him and his a comfortable living. He wasn’t a gifted athlete the likes of Sam Snead and Coy who used their athleticism to swing the club the easy way. Hogan swing the club differently which he described in the introduction to “Five Lessons….”. He pronated the left arm fully in the backswing and supinated it early during the downswing resulting in a hold off release with a stable clubface through the impact zone (referred to as a shut to open release where the clubface has minimal rotation coming into impact and beyond). He needed to practice many hours every day where Snead and Coy did it the easy athletic way. I guess we pay homage to those who give their guts and all to succeed in their endeavours.

    • Mj

      Dec 24, 2017 at 12:07 pm

      Pronating and supinating means rotating the forearms.
      There is no hold off move.
      move.
      .

      Saved Photo
      ?
      ?

    • Benseattle

      Dec 25, 2017 at 7:58 pm

      Sorry… does anyone have a clue as to who this “Coy” is?

      • Ray Bennett

        Dec 26, 2017 at 3:14 pm

        The hard way to swing a golf club is to consciously rotate the clubface open to it’s maximum during the backswing and square it up during the downswing with minimal rotation through impact and finish with the clubface open – which is what Hogan did. His swing was powered by tremendous body rotation.

  8. LarryG

    Dec 23, 2017 at 2:51 am

    If the truth be known, Hogan’s “Secret” is unique to his body anatomy and nobody else. Trying to imitate Hogan’s swing and hoping something magical will happen is foolish, and rather futile too.

    • SK

      Dec 23, 2017 at 3:00 am

      Hogan’s real secret was his flat ‘duffer’ cap that he always wore and the cap centered his swing down through his body into the ground. Soooo obvious.

      • roger

        Dec 23, 2017 at 2:44 pm

        LOL

      • Sid

        Dec 27, 2017 at 12:49 pm

        No… the secret is the belt that holds up his pants!!!
        If your belt isn’t exactly right your pants will mess up yer swing!!!

    • Mj

      Dec 23, 2017 at 5:38 pm

      What part of his anatomy was different than anyone else’s. The only successful instructors have systems. He told his secret in the article and repeated it through the years including on video.

      • LarryG

        Dec 24, 2017 at 1:51 am

        Hogan had exceptionally big and meaty hands and popeye forearms… and he was rather short, like 5’7″…. and he was not obese with a belly hanging over his belt like most men I see on the golf courses.

    • Caddy

      Dec 27, 2017 at 10:53 am

      The principles are the same. The more you stay connected and turn the more efficient your swing and ball-striking will be. If you use a lot of hands and arms, you had better have good hand eye coordination, timing and sheer talent.

  9. Rich Douglas

    Dec 22, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    Hogan was–and is–the greatest perpetrator of advice leading to slicing there ever was. He battled a hook for most of his early career. The methods he later proffered were a result of his overcoming the hook. He hit a slice to negate the hook.

    Do not follow that.

    If you want basic instruction on the swing, I recommend “Getting Back to Basics” by Tom Watson, “Five Fundamentals” by Steve Elkington, and/or “Swing Like a Pro” by Ralph Mann. Stay away from Hogan at all costs.

    • LarryG

      Dec 23, 2017 at 2:41 am

      HERESY!!!! Hogan and even Homer are sacred names in the world of golf swing understanding and to desecrate their names will get you a forum fatwah …!!!

  10. Mj

    Dec 22, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    Read the top right of the life magazine cover it says Hogan tells his secrets. Tell the secret means this a secret which is in the article
    Not this might be his secret.

    • LarryG

      Dec 23, 2017 at 2:43 am

      No no… it’s buried in The Amazing World of Insects article…!!!

  11. CB

    Dec 22, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    The only secret is that he had to hit thousands of balls just to maintain his swing.

    • LarryG

      Dec 23, 2017 at 2:46 am

      … and that’s what weird Moe “Pipeline” Norman did while proclaiming he he was the G.O.A.T. swinger of the golf club, at his demos and on his youtube videos too!!!

  12. FG

    Dec 22, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    Jim Furyk’s right elbow isn’t connected to his right hip at all so that must means he’s a terrible ball-striker, right? Shooting 58 and 59 with a bogey, how bad is that?

    • roger

      Dec 23, 2017 at 2:46 pm

      It’s painful watching Furyk’s loopy swing.

      • Wizardofflatstickmountain

        Dec 23, 2017 at 6:21 pm

        Yeah, totally gross and an offense to my eyes.

        That swing has produced over $67MM in earnings.

        I’m sure your swing looks like a poem wrapped in a rainbow.

        • roger

          Dec 24, 2017 at 1:57 am

          You are correct when you say you are sure my swing looks like a poem wrapped in a rainbow… 99.9 mph too ….!

  13. HennyBogan67

    Dec 22, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Nice article which reveals absolutely nothing! The secret is not in the downswing but how Hogan got to the top with his left wrist cupped. I think I found it and won’t reveal it here but ask yourself how did he go from a flat wrist at the 9 o’clock position to a cupped one at the top. The secret is always in the hands. Ben’s was miles ahead of everyone’s. If you figure it out, it will take you 3 swings to improve your ballstriking exponentially. The secret allows me to play Mizuno MP-4’s at 62 years old and to rip every iron in the bag with a tiny draw. Good luck, it’s worth the effort.

    • Ur_A_Bogan

      Dec 22, 2017 at 5:12 pm

      Wow dude seriously, do you not realize the absolute hypocrisy in your comment. “This Bogan goes on and claims he knows about Hogan’s secret but actually reveals nothing!” As you directly follow that with a sentence about how you’ve found Hogan’s TRUE secret, and yet you just can’t tell us plebs about it here. Get over yourself.

    • roger

      Dec 23, 2017 at 2:51 pm

      A cupped wrist at the top suggests that the ligaments on the palm side of wrist are weak compared to the ligaments on the top of the wrist. These are the finger ligaments that go through the carpal tunnel and then into the elbow.
      The unequal ligament strength causes the wrist to cup when the club lever at the top goes into reversal.
      A flat wrist is anatomically neutral while a cupped wrist is in palmar extension.

  14. Marnix

    Dec 22, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    Thanks for this carefully written insight. Whether your observation of the low right elbow happens to be ‘the secret’ or not is somewhat irrelevant, but your explanation on why it is important will certainly be helpful to many. Coincidentally or not, this is exactly what I have been working on for the past 6 months and my ball striking has improved and my scores are inching lower.

  15. Frank

    Dec 22, 2017 at 11:53 am

    When I stated in golf 50 years ago I struggled until
    I read the first Hogan book. I was hooked on Hogan and fought a slice forever. I even practiced the Hogan grip for hours in my spare time. I took lessons, lots of lessons, and read every other theory (and tried them out) always coming back to Hogan. Finally after retirement and all of my flexibility and strength gone with my youth I looked at the Hogan swing sequence then Nicklaus then Trevino then all of my past heroes swings and picked up a pen flashlight put my Hogan grip on it with the light on mimicking the butt of the grip and traced my swing slowly on the rug. I transitioned to a strong grip, a 10 finger grip , a weak grip and found that if I traced the in to out swing I would come to impact in a square position. What was really surprising was my right arm position looked like Hogan’s Eureka. I’m now breaking 40 constantly and with less effort. At age 78 I think I got it.

    • roger

      Dec 23, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      So you only play 9 holes?
      Do you walk and push a trolley or carry a bag… or do you ride a cart?

  16. toyzrx

    Dec 22, 2017 at 11:52 am

    Probably wasn’t anything ground breaking but was a personal swing key he held which he did not want to share with anyone. Maybe he wanted to covey to us in silence that there was not such things as secrets in golf swing or golf period.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 RBC Heritage betting preview: Patrick Cantlay ready to get back inside winner’s circle

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Just a two-hour drive from Augusta National, the PGA TOUR heads to Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C. Hilton Head Island is a golfer’s paradise and Harbour Town is one of the most beautiful and scenic courses on the PGA TOUR.

Harbour Town Golf Links is a par-71 that measures 7,121 yards and features Bermuda grass greens. A Pete Dye design, the course is heavily tree lined and features small greens and many dog legs, protecting it from “bomb-and-gauge” type golfers.

The field is loaded this week with 69 golfers with no cut. Last year was quite possibly the best field in RBC Heritage history and the event this week is yet another designated event, meaning there is a $20 million prize pool.

Most of the big names on the PGA Tour will be in attendance this week with the exceptions of Hideki Matsuyama and Viktor Hovland. Additionally, Webb Simpson, Shane Lowry, Gary Woodland and Kevin Kisner have been granted sponsors exemptions. 

Past Winners at Harbour Town

  • 2023: Matt Fitzpatrick (-17)
  • 2022: Jordan Spieth (-13)
  • 2021: Stewart Cink (-19)
  • 2020: Webb Simpson (-22)
  • 2019: CT Pan (-12)
  • 2018: Sotoshi Kodaira (-12)
  • 2017: Wesley Bryan (-13)
  • 2016: Branden Grace (-9)
  • 2015: Jim Furyk (-18)

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

Key Stats For Harbour Town

Let’s take a look at key metrics for Harbour Town Golf Links to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their past 24 rounds.

Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes Gained: Approach is exceedingly important this week. The greens at Harbour Town are about half the size of PGA TOUR average and feature the second-smallest greens on the tour. Typical of a Pete Dye design, golfers will pay the price for missed greens.

Total SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.27)
  2. Tom Hoge (+1.27)
  3. Corey Conners (+1.16)
  4. Austin Eckroat (+0.95)
  5. Cameron Young (+0.93)

Good Drive %

The fairways at Harbour Town are tree lined and feature many dog legs. Bombers tend to struggle at the course because it forces layups and doesn’t allow long drivers to overpower it. Accuracy is far more important than power.

Good Drive % Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Brice Garnett (88.8%)
  2. Shane Lowry (+87.2%)
  3. Akshay Bhatia (+86.0%)
  4. Si Woo Kim (+85.8%)
  5. Sepp Straka (+85.1%)

Strokes Gained: Total at Pete Dye Designs

Pete Dye specialists tend to play very well at Harbour Town. Si Woo Kim, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk and Webb Simpson are all Pete Dye specialists who have had great success here. It is likely we see some more specialists near the top of the leaderboard this week.

SG: TOT Pete Dye per round over past 36 rounds:

  1. Xander Schauffele (+2.27)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+2.24)
  3. Ludvig Aberg (+2.11)
  4. Brian Harman (+1.89)
  5. Sungjae Im (+1.58)

4. Strokes Gained: Short Game (Bermuda)

Strokes Gained: Short Game factors in both around the green and putting. With many green-side bunkers and tricky green complexes, both statistics will be important. Past winners — such as Jim Furyk, Wes Bryan and Webb Simpson — highlight how crucial the short game skill set is around Harbour Town.

SG: SG Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Jordan Spieth (+1.11)
  2. Taylor Moore (+1.02)
  3. Wyndham Clark (+0.98)
  4. Mackenzie Hughes (+0.86)
  5. Andrew Putnam (+0.83)

5. Greens in Regulation %

The recipe for success at Harbour Town Golf Links is hitting fairways and greens. Missing either will prove to be consequential — golfers must be in total control of the ball to win.

Greens in Regulation % over past 24 rounds:

  1. Brice Garnett (+75.0%)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+69.9%)
  3. Corey Conners (+69.0%)
  4. Shane Lowry (+68.3%)
  5. Patrick Rodgers (+67.6%)

6. Course History

Harbour Town is a course where players who have strong past results at the course always tend to pop up. 

Course History over past 24 rounds:

  1. Patrick Cantlay (+2.34)
  2. Cam Davis (+2.05)
  3. J.T. Poston (+1.69)
  4. Justin Rose (+1.68)
  5. Tommy Fleetwood (+1.59)

The RBC Heritage Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (24%), Good Drives (20%), SG: SG (14%), SG: Pete Dye (14%), GIR (14%), and Course History (14%)

  1. Shane Lowry
  2. Russell Henley
  3. Scottie Scheffler
  4. Xander Schauffele
  5. Corey Conners 
  6. Wyndham Clark
  7. Christiaan Bezuidenhout
  8. Matt Fitzpatrick
  9. Cameron Young
  10. Ludvig Aberg 

2024 RBC Heritage Picks

Patrick Cantlay +2000 (FanDuel)

With the exception of Scottie Scheffler, the PGA Tour has yet to have any of their star players show peak form during the 2024 season. Last week, Patrick Cantlay, who I believe is a top-5 players on the PGA Tour, took one step closer to regaining the form that’s helped him win eight events on Tour since 2017.

Cantlay limped into the Masters in poor form, but figured it out at Augusta National, finishing in a tie for 20th and ranking 17th for the week in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking. The former FedEx Cup champion will now head to one of his favorite golf courses in Harbour Town, where he’s had immaculate results over the years. In his six trips to the course, he’s only finished worse than 7th one time. The other finishes include three third places (2017, 2019, 2023) and one runner-up finish (2022). In his past 36 rounds at Harbour Town, Cantlay ranks 1st in Strokes Gained: Total per round at the course by a wide margin (+2.36).

Cantlay is winless since the 2022 BMW Championship, which is far too long for a player of his caliber. With signs pointing to the 32-year-old returning to form, a “signature event” at Harbour Town is just what he needs to get back on the winning track.

Tommy Fleetwood +3000 (FanDuel)

I truly believe Tommy Fleetwood will figure out a way to win on American soil in 2024. It’s certainly been a bugaboo for him throughout his career, but he is simply too talented to go another season without winning a PGA Tour event.

At last week’s Masters Tournament, Fleetwood made a Sunday charge and ended up finishing T3 in the event, which was his best ever finish at The Masters. For the week, the Englishman ranked 8th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, 10th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and 16th in Strokes Gained: Putting.

Harbour Town is a perfect layout for Fleetwood, and he’s had relative success at this Pete Dye design in the past.  In his four trips to the course, he’s finished inside of the top 25 three times, with his best finish, T10, coming in 2022. The course is pretty short and can’t be overpowered, which gives an advantage to more accurate players such as Fleetwood. Tommy ranks 8th in the field in Good Drive % and should be able to plot his way along this golf course.

The win is coming for Tommy lad. I believe there’s a chance this treasure of a golf course may be the perfect one for him to finally break through on Tour.

Cameron Young +3300 (FanDuel)

Cameron Young had a solid Masters Tournament last week, which is exactly what I’m looking for in players who I anticipate playing well this week at the RBC Heritage. He finished in a tie for 9th, but never felt the pressure of contending in the event. For the week, Young ranked 6th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 6th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Despite being one of the longest players off the tee on the PGA Tour, Young has actually played some really good golf on shorter tracks. He finished T3 at Harbour Town in 2023 and ranks 20th in the field in Good Drive% and 16th in Greens in Regulation in his past 24 rounds. He also has strong finishes at other shorter courses that can take driver out of a players hand such as Copperhead and PGA National.

Young is simply one of the best players on the PGA Tour in 2024, and I strongly believe has what it takes to win a PGA Tour event in the very near future.

Corey Conners +5500 (FanDuel)

Corey Conners has had a disappointing year thus far on the PGA Tour, but absolutely loves Harbour Town.

At last week’s Masters Tournament, the Canadian finished T30 but ranked 20th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach. In his past 24 rounds, Conners ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, 3rd in Greens in Regulation % and 24th in Good Drive %.

In Conners’ last four trips to Harbour Town, his worst finish was T31, last season. He finished T4 in 2021, T12 in 2022 and ranks 8th in Strokes Gained: Total at the course over his past 36 rounds.

Conners hasn’t been contending, but his recent finishes have been encouraging as he has finished in the top-25 in each of his past three starts prior to The Masters, including an impressive T13 at The PLAYERS. His recent improvement in ball striking as well as his suitability for Harbour Town makes Conners a high upside bet this week.

Shane Lowry (+7500) (FanDuel)

When these odds were posted after Lowry was announced in the field, I have to admit I was pretty stunned. Despite not offering much win equity on the PGA Tour over the last handful of years, Shane Lowry is still a top caliber player who has the ability to rise to the top of a signature event.

Lowry struggled to score at The Masters last week, but he actually hit the ball really well. The Irishman ranked 1st for Strokes Gained: Approach on the week and 7th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking. As usual, it was the putter that let him down, as he ranked 60th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting.

Harbour Town is most definitely one of Lowry’s favorite courses on the PGA Tour. In his six starts there, he’s finished in the top 10 three times, including third twice. Lowry is sensational at Pete Dye designs and ranks 7th in Strokes Gained: Total in his past 36 rounds on Dye tracks. 

Lowry is perfect for Harbour Town. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained: Approach, 2nd in Good Drive% and 5th in Green in Regulation %. If he figures it out on the greens, Shane could have his first win in America since 2015.

Lucas Glover +12000 (FanDuel)

This is one of my weekly “bet the number” plays as I strongly believe the odds are just too long for a player of Glover’s caliber. The odds have been too long on Glover for a few weeks now, but this is the first event that I can get behind the veteran being able to actually contend at. 

Glover is quietly playing good golf and returning to the form he had after the understandable regression after his two massive victories at the end of 2023. He finished T20 at The Masters, which was his best ever finish at Augusta National. For the week, Lucas ranked 18th for Strokes Gained: Approach and 20th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Over his past 24 rounds, Glover ranks 9th in Strokes Gained: Approach and 13th in Good Drive %. Harbour Town is a short course that the 44-year-old will be able to keep up with the top players on Tour off the tee. He’s played the course more than 20 times, with mixed results. His best finishes at Harbour Town include a T7 in 2008, but recently has a finish of T21 in 2020.

Glover has proven he can contend with the stars of the Tour on any given week, and this number is flat out disrespectful.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi: The 6 biggest takeaways from the 2024 Masters

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The 2024 Masters offered up plenty of excitement throughout the week with Scottie Scheffler delivering when it mattered to live up to his pre-tournament favorite tag. With the year’s opening major now in the books, here are my six biggest takeaways from the 2024 Masters.

Scheffler In a League of His Own

In the most impressive way possible, Scottie Scheffler won the Masters without having his absolute best stuff. For the week, Scottie ranked 19th in Strokes Gained: Approach, which is a category the number player in the world typically dusts the rest of the field in. After a strong approach day on Thursday, the 27-year-old lost strokes to the field on approach on Friday and Saturday, before gaining on Sunday. The iron performance was more than solid, but it was an all-around game that helped Scheffler get it done around Augusta National.

For a year or more, the narrative around Scheffler has been, “With his ball striking, if he can just putt to field average, he’ll be unbeatable.” At Augusta, his ball striking came back down to earth, but his touch around the greens and ability to manage the golf course demonstrated why he is the best player on the planet right now. For the week, Scheffler ranked 1st in the field in Strokes Gained: Around the Green and 24th in Strokes Gained: Putting.

For the time being, there is a major gap between Scottie Scheffler and the second-best player in the world, whoever that may be.

The Future is Now

Ludvig Aberg went into his first back-nine at the Masters with a legitimate shot to win the tournament. When he teed it up on the treacherous 11th hole, he was one behind Scottie Scheffler, who had just stuck one to a few feet on the 9th. By the time he approached his tee shot, which was perfectly striped down the left side of the fairway, he was two behind. Unfortunately, the 24-year-old got too aggressive with his approach at the 11th and found the water, making double bogey. Ludvig rebounded nicely and finished the event in solo second place.

With the Masters now in the rearview, it’s never been more evident that Ludvig Aberg is no longer an “up-and-comer” — he has arrived. The Swede has been an integral part of a winning European Ryder Cup team and has now contended at Augusta National. With a calm demeanor, a picture-perfect swing, and a build and stature that appears as if it was built in a lab, Ludvig Aberg is already amongst the world’s best. I’d be extremely surprised if he wasn’t in the mix at next month’s PGA Championship at Valhalla.

Nostalgia Wins

I try to avoid as many cliches as possible, but there’s something about the Masters that brings out the sentimentality in me. Tiger Woods strategically making his way around Augusta National without all of the physical tools that made him arguably the most dominant athlete in the history of sports will always be riveting, regardless of what score he shoots. Woods made it interesting until a tough stretch of holes on Saturday, but he ultimately wore down, shooting 16 over for the week in difficult conditions. It’s remarkable that the 15-time major champion was able to put together a few solid rounds of golf despite barely playing any competitive golf in 2024. As long as Woods tees it up at Augusta, we will all continue to be mesmerized by it.

Verne Lundquist’s 40th and final Masters Tournament was also a must-watch aspect of the event. The iconic voice of Lundquist and his calls throughout the years still give me chills each time I hear them. Verne is an icon of the game and will be missed in future renditions of the Masters.

The Masters also brings another element that is unique to the tournament. Former champions turn back the clock to battle with the golf course again which creates some amazing stories. There are a few that stick out this year and were an absolute pleasure to witness. 61-year-old Vijay Singh made the cut for the first time since 2018 and shot a pretty incredible even-par, 72 on Sunday. 58-year-old José María Olazábal made the cut as well, reminding us why fellow Spaniard Jon Rahm sought his valuable advice prior to his Masters victory in 2022.

Regardless of who wins, the Masters always delivers.

Bryson Moves the Needle

Plenty will disagree with me on this point, but outside of Tiger Woods, and potentially Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, no one moves the needle in golf as much as Bryson DeChambeau. The uniqueness in which Bryson approaches the game has always been fascinating, and if he gets near the top of the leaderboard at any major championship, whether it’s to root for him or against him, people are interested.

It began on Monday with a pretty bizarre story of DeChambeau using 3D-printed irons that got just got cleared for use by the USGA when the week began. It once again felt like a storyline that would only be possible with a character as eccentric as Bryson. He then raced off to a first-round lead in tough conditions, reminding the world of what made him such a great golfer to begin with. He made some mistakes on the weekend, but still finished a career best T6 at The Masters.

Bryson is more than just quirky; he is a former U.S. Amateur Champion and U.S. Open who I believe will contend for more majors in the future. I will continue to root for DeChambeau, but I’m perfectly content with the fact that plenty will root against him, and I encourage those people to do so. That’s what makes it fun.

LIV Walks Away Empty-Handed

Last year, there were a multitude of questions about LIV players coming into the year’s first major. They had played very limited tournament golf, and critics of LIV questioned whether the 54-hole events were enough to sharpen the players enough to compete against the best in the world on the biggest stage.

The results were fascinating, with LIV players all over the leaderboard. Brooks Koepka held the 36- and 54-hole lead, with Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed finishing T2 and T4, giving LIV three golfers in the top-4 of the leaderboard.

This season, with even more time removed and with some more massive additions to the roster, the intrigue surrounding LIV players at Augusta was once again palpable. While some players, including Bryson DeChambeau, exceeded expectations, I can’t help but walk away from the Masters feeling underwhelmed by the performance of the LIV players.

Brooks Koepka finished runner-up last season and is a certified major championship killer. The 5-time major champ was never involved and simply didn’t have it at Augusta. Dustin Johnson put together a putrid performance, shooting 13 over for his two rounds, making it fair to wonder if his days of contending at major championships are over as he rapidly approaches his 40th birthday.

Jon Rahm and Joaquin Niemann were both players who were amongst the favorites this week, but Rahm was faced with the daunting duties of defending champion and Niemann proved he was still not quite ready to master the quirks of Augusta National, bleeding strokes both around and on the greens.

To be fair, when all was said and done, LIV had four players in the top twelve at The Masters. Tyrrell Hatton stormed the leaderboard early on Sunday, finishing T9 and earning himself an invite back to Augusta next season. Cam Smith and Patrick Reed put together gritty performances, which isn’t too surprising considering the fact that they both absolutely love Augusta National, but neither ever felt a real threat to win. There’s no doubt the players on LIV are good, and that’s why some encouraging leaderboard positions aren’t enough. They needed to contend.

With no players part of the storyline on Sunday, I view the first major of the year as a disappointment for LIV. The players will head into next month’s PGA Championship at Valhalla with a lot to prove.

Rory’s Struggles Continues

Rory struggling at Augusta National is no surprise at this point. The four-time major champion has now had 10 attempts to complete the career grand slam and has never had a chance to win. His T2 in 2022 was deceiving, the Northern Irishman stormed the leaderboard on Sunday, but was never in contention, and never got within three shots of the winner, Scottie Scheffler.

I didn’t expect Rory to win, but I have to admit that this year felt a bit different. McIlroy played the week prior to the Masters, which he typically doesn’t do, and finished third at the Valero Texas Open. He gained 7.56 strokes on approach and 2.0 strokes off the tee, which told me that his visit with world-renowned swing coach, Butch Harmon, after the Players Championship paid dividends.

McIlroy also approached the media quite differently. He cut his pre-tournament press conference short after only 10 minutes and seemed to be laser-focused on just playing golf.

Despite the different approach to the Masters, the results were the same. McIlroy struggled over the course of the week, finishing T22 (+4) and never sniffed a decent weekend position on the leaderboard. It’s back to the drawing board for McIlroy, and I have doubts that he will ever figure it out at Augusta.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi: The 8 best prop bets for the 2024 Masters

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We’ve finally reached The Masters and excitement is at an all-time high. The world of golf has been fractured for the better part of two years, but for a week at Augusta National, all of the outside noise will disappear. All of the best players in the world will be together seeking to make history.

In addition to betting on The Masters champion. This is one of the few weeks of the year where there are so many more markets to explore, with value to be had in plenty of different categories.

Throughout this article, I’ll discuss all of my favorite props and players for the 2024 Masters.

Placement Bets:

Tony Finau Top 5 +750 (DraftKings):

I badly wanted to include Tony Finau in my outright betting selections, but I simply ran out of room on my card. Additionally, it’s slightly difficult to see him hitting the putts necessary to win the Masters on back nine on Sunday. However, I do strongly believe he will play great golf this week at Augusta National.

In his past 24 rounds, Finau ranks 4th in Strokes Gained: Approach is always amongst the best drivers of the golf ball in the game. Back in 2019, Finau had a great chance to win The Masters. I expect him to be hanging around over the weekend once again in 2024.

Gary Woodland Top 20 +550 (DraftKings), Gary Woodland to make the cut -110 (DraftKings):

Last season, Gary Woodland had his best ever finish at The Masters in his eleven tries. The 39-year-old finished T14 and played incredibly steady across all four rounds.

In Woodland’s most recent start at the Texas Children’s Houston Open, he struck the ball incredibly well. He led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach (+8.8) and Strokes Gained: Ball Striking (+10.0).

Gary has been working with Butch Harmon and absolutely flushing the ball both in tournaments and during practice.

Woodland appears to be healthy once again and in a great place physically and mentally. If he can build off his impressive performance at Augusta last year, he can place inside the top ten in 2024.

Additionally, the make the cut number on Woodland seems generous considering the number of players who miss the cut will be relatively small this week. Woodland is striking it well enough to make the cut even if he’s hindered by a balky putter once again.

Thorbjorn Olesen Top 20 +400 (FanDuel):

The Thunder Bear, Thorbjorn Olesen, made his Masters debut in 2013 and finished an incredibly impressive T6 for the week. In the two additional starts he’s made at Augusta National since then, the Dane has continued to be incredibly solid, finishing T44 and T21.

This week, Olesen heads into the week playing some good golf. He gained 3.8 strokes on approach and 5.52 strokes around the green at last week’s Valero Texas Open on his way to a strong T14 finish. Back in January, he won the Ras Al Khaimah Championship on the DP World Tour.

Olesen has the skill set to be successful at Augusta and seems primed for a good performance this week.

Top Nationalities:

Sergio Garcia Top Spanish Player +280 (DraftKings):

I believe Sergio Garcia can get into contention this week with the way he’s striking the ball in addition to his good vibes with a refurbished version of the Scotty Cameron that he used at the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah.

I am slightly concerned about the emotional letdown he may face after losing in a playoff at LIV Miami, but I believe a veteran and former Masters champion should be able to regroup and focus on an event far more meaningful.

This is essentially a tournament head-to-head with Jon Rahm at +280. While Rahm deserves to be respected this week, the history of the lack of success of defending champions at The Masters is difficult to ignore.

Joaquin Niemann Top South American Player -230 (FanDuel):

While I hate paying this much juice, I don’t see a world in which Joaquin Niemann isn’t the top South American this week at The Masters. Joaco comes in playing better golf than anyone in the world not named Scottie Scheffler and has a serious chance to win the green jacket.

He only needs to beat two players: Emiliano Grillo and Camilo Villegas.

Tournament Head-to-Heads:

Justin Thomas -110 over Collin Morikawa

JT isn’t having his best season but is playing a lot better than he is getting credit for at the moment. In the past three months, there are only six players on the PGA Tour who have averaged 1.7 Strokes Gained: Tee to Green or better. Justin Thomas (+1.7) is one of the six and is currently tied with Rory McIlroy (+1.7).

Morikawa, on the other hand, has been extremely poor with his irons, which is incredibly uncharacteristic for him. I can’t help but feel like something is completely off with the two-time major champion.

Tony Finau -110 over Wyndham Clark

I explained in the placement section why I’m so high on Tony Finau this week. With how well he’s striking the ball, it seems as if his floor is extremely high. I’m not sure if he can make the putts to win a green jacket but I believe he will be in the mix similarly to 2019 when Tiger Woods emerged from a crowded pack of contenders.

Clark is a debutant, and while some debutants have had success at The Masters, it certainly poses a challenge. I also don’t believe Augusta National suits Clark as well as some of the other major championship venues.

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