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National Custom Works brings Don White’s Craftsmanship back

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That’s right, folks.  The legend of Don White has returned. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Patrick Boyd, who has launched National Custom Works along with business partner Ari Techner (all formerly with Scratch Golf). Below is what ensued, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Talk to me about National Custom Works. What are you guys all about?

We fabricate irons (heads only for the moment), and we are a handmade custom company. There is absolutely zero mass production and everything is hand made specifically for the client. We start with heavy, raw forged heads and shape them by hand one at a time specifically to fit the client that will receive them. As of right now, this is all done by Don White, who is an absolute legend. He’s currently able to grind about 100 heads a month or so. Soon, we’ll have Jeff McCoy setup and will be able to double that capacity. I also sell custom ferrules through Boyd Blade and Ferrule, which is another brand that I’d launched last year. Custom ferrules are always a really great way to dress a set of clubs. We don’t go beyond that, at least for now, but if someone really wanted a fully assembled set of clubs, we have ways to make that happen.

Don White’s legend sort of speaks for itself, but tell me about how the two of you got linked up and how this whole thing began.

Well, I was heavily involved with Scratch Golf back in the day. Scratch started off as all handmade custom clubs as well. Later on, we got into the more mass-produced retail side of things in addition to custom product, but we eventually went down in October 2015. At the time we were trying to take Scratch to a new level. The market wasn’t ultimately ready to support a high-priced custom product. Nowadays, that market exists. But anyway, we had hired Don at Scratch in 2010, so that’s where our paths first crossed. He had worked for MacGregor since the early seventies, but MacGregor went bankrupt in 2009.

Don can do just about anything with his hands. He’s totally self-taught. He started for MacGregor polishing iron heads and he would spend his lunch break going around to all the different machines in the shop and seeing what every machine used in the process did. The guy’s just a magician. Obviously, his claim to fame is that he made countless clubs for Jack Nicklaus over the years. Really, he made just about everything for all their tour staffers from 1973 until they went bankrupt in 2009. More than that, though, Don White is one of the best people I’ve ever met. Period. I’ve been so lucky to be able to work with him. His genius in golf club making is widely known, but I can honestly say he’s as great a person as he is a craftsman.

Back to the question, though; I got in touch with Don because one of the guys from Sugarloaf Social Club reached out to me. We’d worked on a couple of projects since Scratch, but a mutual friend of ours was dying to get a set of irons made by Don. He wanted six-degree gaps, whereas a lot of standard sets are like three or four degrees. It was a cool set and it turned out really great. A tour player saw them and got a hold of me right away and we made a set for him. I knew Don was more or less retired at that point, but I asked him if he was interested in still making some golf clubs here and there. His first question was, “Well, how many do you think you can sell?” Ultimately, BB&F Co and then National Custom Works sort of grew from there.

Finished custom iron heads crafted by Don White through National Custom Works

Tell me about Jeff McCoy. What’s his role in all of this?

Jeff McCoy was one of the founders of Scratch Golf, so he and I go way back as well. He designed all the wedge and iron grinds on the clubs we produced at Scratch. He’s also a supremely talented grinder. The biggest difference between Don and Jeff is that Don mainly does crisper lines and Jeff mainly does softer lines. Jeff’s wedges are absolutely amazing and his grinds are second to none. Those are definitely his strengths in my opinion. You know, we learned our lesson with Scratch. We’re not going to try to go the retail route again. We want to keep this thing all handmade and custom-built to exact customer specifications. There are certainly challenges that come with that approach, but the rewards are also great as well. I would say probably half of the projects these days are non-traditional in the gaps of lofts. I personally just love working on those because each one is its own little puzzle. It just totally fascinates me.

What about before the club heads get into your guys’ hands? What can you say about how they’re made and all?

Well, I can tell you that they’re Japanese forgings and they’re as good as anything you can source. I have to be honest in saying some of the models are open (not made exclusively for one customer). There’s a couple of different heads we can start with and that ultimately depends on what a client wants. More often than not, we start with really heavy heads that were originally designed for prototyping. There’s probably 150-160 grams of weight to take off of those depending on the final specifications. To an OEM that is trying to crank out a ton of volume, producing clubs in this manner is not a viable option because that takes a lot of time, but for us it’s perfect. It gives us a ton of freedom to put the CG wherever we want it. We can create progressive sets where the CG moves a little lower in the long irons to help flight the ball higher and vice versa with the wedges. We can also leave a little extra weight in the toe or the heel for some fade or draw bias. All of this depends on what a client wants, but the extra material we have to play with makes it all possible.

When you buy one of our clubs, you’re not paying for advertising, an R&D budget, or clubs full of the latest technology. You’re paying for our expertise. You’re paying for craftsmanship. You’re paying to get exactly what you need. We are not taking something off the rack and just buzzing a little bit off here and there. We are able to customize virtually every aspect of the club; loft and lie of course, but we can change the offset, move the CG around, and all kinds of different things. And it is done by some of the best craftsman in the industry. Projects typically take six weeks (as of now) for you to get your heads and price can be all over the map depending on what you want, but you’re going to wind up with something that’s been handcrafted by the best talent in the industry to your exact standards. It’s something that, up until now, only the top tour players had access to and, really, even those guys are limited by what their sponsors manufacture. The end product of our process is second to none and we definitely stand behind that.

We’re trying to make the best clubs you can buy. Period. There is no target demographic in mind. We’re not looking to court people from a certain age group or anything. If you don’t want to be limited by what OEM’s have to offer and if you want a meticulously well-made product done to your exact specifications, we’re your best bet for sure.

Raw forged iron heads before being ground and finished by National Custom Works

You also run Sweetens Cove Golf Club down in Tennessee. Tell me about your duties there. Did those paths cross when this thing got started?

I’m the general manager out there. Outside of cutting the grass, I do pretty much everything else as far as the day-to-day operations go. I’m there for like 60-80 hours a week. My partner Rob Collins was the course designer, actually. He did it for a client who basically abandoned it. I first saw the course in November of 2013 and it had mostly been left for dead. Only about half the bunkers actually had sand in them. Mushrooms were growing everywhere. But you could still tell how good the bones were. It took a lot of really hard work to get it ready to open, but we did a soft opening in October of 2014 and we’ve been off and running ever since. It’s just as pure a golf experience as you’re going to find anywhere. We basically have a dinky little clubhouse and a couple port-a-potties and we’ve been the top public course in the state for the last three years according to Golfweek. We’re also No. 59 on their “Top-100 Modern Courses” list.

How long ago did you start playing golf? Tell me about your personal relationship with the game.

I started playing golf when I was 10 years old. I was really into tennis at the time, but my parents played golf. One day, I just decided I was going to skip my tennis lesson and play golf with my folks instead. After that day, it was over. I got hooked HARD. I think I played tennis for about another year or so, but golf was king in my life from that moment on. As hooked as I was on golf, though, I got way more into golf clubs specifically. When I was 12 years old, all I wanted was the Golf Club Identification & Price Guide. It was a book through Golf Works/Maltby. I finally got my hands on one and I circled everything in the book that interested me. The funny thing is more than half the stuff in there, I bought it, looked at it, maybe played a round or two with it and sold it. All I wanted was just to see everything. I just completely geek out over golf club design.

So how did golf and golf clubs then become a profession for you? How did that develop?

I suddenly found myself with some time on my hands and had always wanted to get into the golf business. I found a custom shop that was close to where I was working at the time and sent the owner an email. About an hour later, he shot me a response and about five minutes after we met I had my first golf job. The first several months, I went in after work and started cataloging all the shafts he’d pulled in the past year (there were around 400). After I went through all that, he taught me how to fit and build clubs. I ended up working with him off and on for a couple of years and we still keep in touch today. I had played golf in college at a Division III school, but that was my first actual job in the industry. From there, I was pretty much off and running.

Finished custom iron and ferrule through National Custom Works and Boyd Blade & Ferrule Co.

Lastly, tell people how to get in touch with you and how to tune in for what comes next from National Custom Works.

I get a lot of traffic on Instagram for sure. Our handle there is @nationalcustom. Our website just got launched a couple of weeks ago, and I also just launched an online store for the ferrules because that just grew to a point where I wasn’t able to take pictures for everyone. If someone is interested in starting a project with us, the best way to catch us is at my email: [email protected] or my business partner Ari Techner at [email protected]. As for what’s coming up, all I’ll say right now is that we have some very interesting collaboration projects coming soon. Watch our Instagram feed for when that stuff drops.

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Peter Schmitt is an avid golfer trying to get better every day, the definition of which changes relatively frequently. He believes that first and foremost, golf should be an enjoyable experience. Always. Peter is a former Marine and a full-time mechanical engineer (outside of the golf industry). He lives in Lexington, KY with his wife and two young kids. "What other people may find in poetry or art museums, I find in the flight of a good drive." -Arnold Palmer

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. ogo

    Apr 16, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    They may look ‘good’.. but do they play good?

  2. Brando

    Apr 16, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    Awesome irons Don White is a legend. I hope they keep the company small with low overhead and folks that respect this type of craftsmanship and the history behind White will buy Them. Thoes diamond back blades are similar to the ones Norman used in the 08 Open Championship. Awesome looking blades. I want a set. MacGregor made some of the best irons ever back in the 1980s 1990s glad to see they coming back.

  3. Jim

    Apr 16, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    It’s interesting (and not surprising)to see the MacGregor influence in them – clearly some of Don’s favorite designs.

  4. joro

    Apr 16, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    So he had time and “always wanted to get into the club business”, WOW, what fun for a Golfer to get into the business. The “business” is not fun, it is work, money, and a lot of marketing. As a club maker myself and having started up Companies for people with the same idea, failure comes real easy, no matter if you have competent people doing the clubs or not, failure comes easy and costly. I say Good Luck to them, at least they know how to go down the tubes.

    The PXG influence is at work, but Parsons can afford to fail, it aint over yet.

  5. Sweaty Cords

    Apr 16, 2018 at 11:44 am

    Great! Let these business geniuses run another company into the ground. Ask Ryan Moore what these guys are all about.

    • OJ

      Apr 16, 2018 at 1:43 pm

      Hey joro the clubmaker, I have a feeling what you have done in the past and what Patrick does isn’t the same. At all. I would love to hear your story too, though.

  6. Tom Duckworth

    Apr 16, 2018 at 5:54 am

    No idea what they would cost but if I had the game and the money I would be talking to them. I looked at the gallery on their site and I could see how you could really dial in the perfect set for your game. I would think you would need to be pretty knowledgeable
    of equipment and your own game to make this worth your money.
    I don’t see this as a set just to brag about they have a subtle design and you would really be in on the design yourself from the ground up.

  7. ogo

    Apr 15, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    If you can hit the ball on the sweet spot just put a slug of metal behind it for the greatest of feeels… and watch the ball take of into the heaven and drop on the green. Ecstasy… pure ecstasy …. and only you own exclusive model clubs.

  8. ogo

    Apr 15, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    Beautiful, oh so beautiful… I just love the shape of the back of these beauties. It just proves that the mojo is all in the grinding and not the forging. These are high-end boutique clubs that will only be found in millionaire/billionaire WITB for whom price is irrelevant. Sigh… 🙁

  9. John Murphy

    Apr 15, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    PXG who? Id pay top dollar for these heirlooms. Beautiful.

  10. snickers

    Apr 15, 2018 at 3:42 pm

    I just cant believe you can order a set of forged irons nd wedges that are handmade by Don White who has won more Majors than Tiger himself. I will have to look into this and get a set. Just to say I did it and if I cant play them everyday I can play the 6-pw any day.

  11. dat

    Apr 15, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    Drool

  12. bc

    Apr 15, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    Is there really enough demand for custom irons for these people to make a living and stay in business? I wouldn’t think so, but…

  13. Bill

    Apr 15, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Wow,

    When would the heads be marketed ?
    Can’t find any source for models and pricing.

    • rymail00

      Apr 15, 2018 at 9:37 pm

      I believe you have to contact them with what your looking to have design wise and then the price comes into it (depending on much work or shaping is needed to achieve what your after in head design, I believe that’s how it works)

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Amazing Session with Performance Coach Savannah Meyer-Clement

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In this week’s episode, we spent some time with performance coach Savannah Meyer-Clement who provides many useful insights that you’ll be able to implement on the golf course.

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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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