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Opinion & Analysis

Was Tiger Woods really swinging his driver between 124-and-128 mph at the Honda Classic?



In case you missed Tiger Woods in action at the Honda Classic last week, he looked strong with the driver en route to a 12th place finish. He didn’t find many fairways with the big stick, but he appeared to be swinging it fast and hitting it far — actually, he ranked No. 2 in driving distance (319.1 yards) for the week.

But, just how fast was he actually swinging the driver?

According to Brandel Chamblee’s research (he appears to be using live ShotLink data), Tiger was bringing it between 124.5 and 128.4 mph, as measured on hole No. 3 each round.

And just how high is 128 mph club head speed?

Wait a second. If he was swinging the club that fast, shouldn’t his ball speed and distance be way higher? Well, it makes more sense when you look at the smash factor, which is surprisingly low. Smash factor is a ratio of ball speed and club head speed, and the highest possible (depending on who you ask) is 1.50. So Tiger producing smash factors between 1.416 and 1.456 means that while he was swinging the club very, very fast, he was missing the center of the club face, too.

Here’s top-100 teacher and GolfWRX featured writer Tom Stickney’s take: “As with anyone, this shows that not even Tiger is exempt from hitting the ball in the sweet spot. Usually when you try and swing at the upper end of the spectrum, you will find that impact quality suffers. Therefore, you must find your own balance between swing speed and centeredness of contact.”

Of course, there’s a number of different explanations for the numbers — from a few well-respected names in the golf industry, I might add — in the responses to Chamblee’s Tweet.


What do you think? Do you think Tiger was really swinging the driver that fast, and simply missing the center of the face? Or do you think the club head speeds were jacked up?

See what GolfWRX Members are saying about this in the forums.

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He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.



  1. ray

    Mar 19, 2018 at 8:55 am

    No way 128. He was going after it pretty hard at Arnold’s tourney and wasn’t hitting 180 ball speed.

  2. Robert Parsons

    Feb 28, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    Measured hitting a fade?

  3. Stephen

    Feb 28, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    This jurry-rigging won’t last for long. canna’ change the laws of physics

  4. Christopher

    Feb 28, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    The 1.5 Smash Factor Ratio isn’t an absolute, it varies with the data gathering device. A perfect ratio with something like GCQuad is 1.45.

    Seems like a storm in a teacup for 4 measurements over 4 different days with something that usually has decent +/- tolerances at best.

  5. David

    Feb 28, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Who cares?

  6. Paul

    Feb 28, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    This has been one of Tigers problems all along. The harder he swings, the worst he hits his drives. I have seen him swing controlled and smooth and hit the fairway or al least the first cut. When he swings out of his shoes, the ball goes way right more often then not.

  7. Steve Pratt

    Feb 28, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    As a long time TM owner, I don’t believe Tiger would miss a driver bad enough to get a 1.41 smash…that’s horrible. A tour player’s worst miss is usually 1.46.

    So yah my gut feeling is that 128 he popped is an electronic outlier. If he does it again in his next tournament I will admit I was wrong.

  8. DRod

    Feb 28, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    I will take a different approach; he is driving the ball terribly since his return. This is the worst I’ve seen Tiger off the tee. It could be a number of things, regardless of these numbers. Does he even have a driver that fits his swing? I don’t think he does. He’s experimented with several shaft combinations, both on the range and now the last two tour stops. Neither worked. This data means nothing…he needs to figure out his swing and that might entail equipment changes, including the ball. Just my 2-cents.

  9. Bob Jones

    Feb 28, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    We care about this because . . .?

  10. sean coxe

    Feb 28, 2018 at 11:55 am

    Would the ball he’s using have any effect?

  11. Scott sinclair

    Feb 28, 2018 at 11:49 am

    I watch people hit balls on Trackman all day and Taylor Made drivers definitely have an amped up swing speed. Since Trackman gets the ball speed correct the smash factor will always be low.
    Also the Callaway Rogue reads slightly lower swing speeds (from my experience) and therefore the smash factor is always high.
    It is possible this was done on purpose on both companies behalf or not.

  12. OG

    Feb 28, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Did it ever occur to any of you that maybe he was intentionally aiming for the heel on the face for say, a heel-cut? Smash factor would be lower of course.

  13. Iain

    Feb 28, 2018 at 6:13 am

    That would mean every players data was wrong or do you think it was only Tigers that was wrong,!?

  14. Mike C

    Feb 27, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    The smash factor makes no sense. Neither does a 6° Launch.

    • Ogo

      Feb 27, 2018 at 11:17 pm

      It only makes no sense to the ignorant and anti-science no hope duffers.

  15. Woody

    Feb 27, 2018 at 7:14 pm

    Sure anyone on tour can go 128 for one hole…and to everyone who complains about numbers. It’s a golf website, these articles are meant to fill dead space.

    • Ogo

      Feb 27, 2018 at 11:21 pm

      High driver speed – higher risk and better/worst results. No secret here.

  16. Doug

    Feb 27, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    I think the explanation is somewhere in the middle… bad reading, mishit, wind, etc. But if we accept that Tiger wasn’t hitting the sweet spot with his new TM M3 and it’s touted Twist Face technology to compensate for the mishit, does that mean Taylormade may have some explaining to do? It might make me start to window shop!

    • foreright

      Mar 6, 2018 at 10:27 am

      supposedly tour players don’t actually use the twist face

  17. CrashTestDummy

    Feb 27, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    Too many factors involved (AOA, spin rate, launch angle, wind, turf conditions, smash, etc) to determine carry distance and total distance. However with that being said, I have found that all launch monitors are not 100% accurate exact science even though the numbers portray it as. Obviously, there is discrepancies with readings, but it doesn’t really matter a few yards here or there. The score is the important fact.

    • Ogo

      Feb 27, 2018 at 11:16 pm

      Only if launch monitors were as accurate as your Scotty/Bettinardi/Ping/Odyssey/Other Studio Tour Only putters…. and PXG clubs. Your need for perfect accuracy from launch monitors just reveals your high standards of performance.

  18. Dana Upshaw

    Feb 27, 2018 at 6:18 pm

    I can’t begin to count the number of “caved” TM driver faces I saw the last six years I operated my shop. First hint was low smash readings with center hits. Radius gauge confirmed flat or caved faces. Hand the client a new club and with same swing speed smash goes up.

    Easy driver carry computation is swing speed x 2.5. Watch the “pro tracer” numbers and run the numbers. You’ll generally be within a few yards of what PT will show for carry. Exceptional ballstrikers who produce high launch/low spin can use a 2.6 factor.

  19. SK

    Feb 27, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    If Tiger was swinging ~126 mph average and his Smash Factor was depressed at ~1.436 average that can only mean he is not impacting the ball with a squared off club face.
    His clubhead path may be on line but if his driver face is skewed slightly that will result in an undesirable initial ball path and errant spin axis which will lower the SM as well as push or pull the ball which he is doing. Simple vector physics.

  20. Nick

    Feb 27, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    Not a chance he was swinging 128. Come on Brandel – it is so easy to tell by his swing that he’s not. 128 looks and sounds different than that! He’s probably around 119-122 Not a chance. He’s swinging fast for sure. 128 is like an LD guy in regular play.

    • What?!

      Feb 28, 2018 at 1:48 pm

      LD guys swing at 145mph or faster, with a regular 45 length they still top out over 140. 128 is not outside the realm, the top guys on tour have hit that number. In fact a newbie in last years US Open hit 130mph on the radar with a tour swing.

  21. Johnnythunders

    Feb 27, 2018 at 5:38 pm

    Who cares? Why this age of fascination with computer generated numbers. Wow high ball speed, he’s back! Wow low smash factor, he sucks.

    Did he win? No, 12th is all the matters.

    • The dude

      Feb 28, 2018 at 10:16 pm


      • njrp

        Mar 1, 2018 at 7:56 pm

        He lost again…get over it. I would be focussed on instead on how there is no way Tiger won’t blow out his four time operated on back swinging that fast. The only reason he did not blow out his back at a younger age because he let his knee take all the torqueing. Once he had to protect that knee he started to blow out his back.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Awesome new drill for getting through the ball (stop shanking!)



In this week’s podcast, we describe and discuss how to stop the shanks, The Sentry Tournament of Champions. We also discuss how the LPGA now has more money and is on the official sports betting list.



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Across The Pond: 2022 Sony Open preview



Matt Vincenzi and Jason Daniels preview the 2022 Sony Open.


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Opinion & Analysis

2022 Sony Open prop bets: Why Kevin Na is the man to back in Hawaii



Across the bay this week to Waialae and, as always, the idea behind the prop bets column is to highlight some of the side bets available away from the win market, covered by colleague Matt Vincenzi. 

Here are the three players for you to take a look at this week on some side markets in Hawaii.

Kevin Na Top 5/Top 10 +550/+275

It was extremely tempting to get with Marc Leishman, but his price has now disappeared and Kevin Na rates better value to nab a place on the front page of the leaderboard.

Both played well last week with world number 27, Na, continuing a season of excellent results that started when winning here last year and concluding with his fifth win in four years at the season-ending Tour Championship.

That win from a high-class field came via a top-15 at Augusta, and a pair of tied-second placings at the John Deere and, more significantly, at Sedgefield amongst a top-10 that included winner Kevin Kisner, Webb Simpson and Russell Henley, two of those being past winners at this event.

Looking down the list of best finishes, the 38-year-old repeats form at the same places, winning twice at the Shriners and medalling at the FBR (Pheonix) Open, no surprises given the skill set required – forget driving distance, get it on the fairway, and give yourself a chance.

Figures at the Plantation course read well given the length of the track, and he comes here having improved his 2021 finish by 25 places.

With a victory and three top-10 finishes at Waialae already in the bag, he can go very close to joining Ernie Els and Jimmy Walker as two-time winners.

Aaron Rai Top 10/Top 20 +700/+330

It’s nearly five years since the 26-year-old took the Challenge Tour apart with three victories before the middle of Summer and he hasn’t stopped since, justifying his lofty reputation.

Like many of the more tactical players in the game (Simpson, Kisner, Na et al. ) Rai is far more a thinker than a bomber, his win in the horrendous conditions of the Scottish Open a testament to the patience and game-play he shows from week to week.

Whilst he, perhaps, should have won the Irish Open the week before, he succumbed only to another accurate short game wizard in John Catlin before ending the year high in the lists of everything that involves accuracy over strength.

It’s taken a short while for Rai to settle on the PGA tour via a runner-up on the Korn Ferry tour and the finals, but results at the end of 2021 suggest if he gets the right conditions, he can compete in this grade.

Three consecutive top-20 finishes read well – at Mayakoba (where four players have won there and at this week’s track), Houston and at the RSM Classic, the Sea Island track giving form links with Kisner and Simpson again as well as Charles Howell III, winner at the coastal track and with ten top-10 finishes here.

Rai is tidy off the tee, rarely ranking outside of the top-20 for accuracy, thinks hard when calculating his approach shots, and this is almost a perfect course for him. As discussed on the Across The Pond podcast, it’s doubtful that he will hole enough to get to the winning number, but he is young and ambitious enough to continue to improve, and any repeat of results over the last couple of months of last season will see him land the wager.

Aaron Rai to be Top English player +120

I make the case for Rai above, and surely anything near his better play will be enough to see off David Skinns, Callum Tarren and Luke Donald at a generous odds-against.

As with Leishman last week, it is not only the strength of one but the weakness of the opposition that makes a valid play, and I see no reason or how there is any evidence to support any of the other three combatants.

Consider that 44-year-old Donald has seen much better days, with just a couple of top-10 finishes in four years and little to speak of since a top-20 at the 3M Open. Het he looks the only real alternative given the zero encouragements from the remaining pair. That isn’t saying much.

Skinns is a PGA rookie at 39 years of age, lost strokes everywhere from tee-to-green in all four PGA starts at the end of last season, has never played here and simply can’t hold a candle to Rai’s standard level of form, whether that be top-15 at Wentworth or 26th at the WGC St Jude. Cross him out.

Tarren at least may have a semblance of improvement there but has failed to win anywhere as a professional.

Winless at a much lower level, he missed the cut at the KFT finals before starting his PGA career with three missed-cuts. In between those, the Englishman was disqualified at the Bermuda Championship for incorrectly signing his card at halfway, although he was almost certain to miss the weekend, anyway.

Odds against? Yummy. Bet of the week.

Brian Stuard – Top 10/Top 20/Top-40 +1000/+400/+150

A tad more speculative, take the 39-year-old to be ready enough to make a profit at one of his favourite courses.

Looking over his history, Stuard has appeared on the upper echelons of the leaderboard at Mayakoba, Sea Island, at Riviera and at the Pheonix Open. All courses that link to players that have placed at Waialae over the past few years.

In amongst a series of missed cuts in 2021, Stuard finished tied-6th at the 3M but more significantly, top-15 at Sedgefield and in the top-10 at the John Deere, surrounded by Kevin Na, Patton Kizzire and Russell Henley, all winners here at the Sony.

Returning at a course on which he has four top-10 finishes from nine starts, expect to prove better than his outright odds show. 

Finally, I won’t put the bet up as it is odds-on but with Abraham Ancer playing some of the worst golf of recent years at last week’s event, course specialist Russell Henley is well worth a look in a pick-em betting heat.

Finishing his season with a couple of top-7 finishes in a run of eight cuts made, he also boasts three top-20 finishes alongside the win here, a figure that far outstrips his opponent’s best of 29th and two missed-cuts in four tries.

Your choice, but I’d have made the older man a touch shorter in the market.



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