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5 reasons why The Masters is the most difficult tournament to win

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Everyone’s favorite time of year is here: The Masters! Truth be told, it’s the only tournament I watch every single shot possible. It’s such great theater and it’s the mecca for golfers all over the world. Having been there and played the course, I can tell you it’s a different set of conditions than most have ever seen. Therefore, I would like to give you my five reasons why Augusta is the most difficult tournament to win in the world… and putting is not one of them!

1) History

The Masters is the one tournament where everyone knows the history and the course. Even casual sports fans who have never touched a club know what Amen Corner is, and what the Green jacket means.

It’s also the tournament you grow up pretending to win. “Ok, this one is for The Masters,” you’ll say to yourself while night putting as a junior. The Masters just means a little something more to the fans and participants because of it’s history.

Playing Amen Corner on Thursday is one thing, but playing Amen Corner on Sunday with the Green Jacket hanging in the balance is quite another. And it takes a special golfer to get the job done on Sunday with a place in that history on the line.

2) The Pressure of Forever

The Masters invite is highly coveted, even among players who have already played in the event. You see the guys on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram showing off their Masters invite like it’s a trophy.

As we all know, winning the tournament gives you the Masters invite for life. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this special even for perpetuity? You can’t tell me that having that special perk on your resume wouldn’t make your entire career, not to mention being the highlight of your year, every year until even after your career is over. If you don’t think I’m right, look at how many of the old timers come back just for the Par-3 Contest and/or just to enjoy the week as Augusta’s special guests?

This too may weigh heavily on the minds of the leaders the night before Masters Sunday.

3) Shot Shaping

Everyone knows Augusta is a right-to-left biased course off the tee, and all the players know that this is a requirement. So everyone works on their right-to-left game with their driver; I don’t think many players hit a soft fade off the tee on 13 towards the trees on the right… they try and hammer it around the corner to give them a shorter shot into the green.

Additionally, you will find that the different pin placements and green slopes will also force you to move the ball both directions with your irons if you truly want to have an easier shot at birdies. I don’t know about you, but if I had to go at that Sunday pin on hole No. 12, a soft fade off the center of the green would be a much easier shot to hit than starting it over the water with a draw if I had to go at that pin… it gives you a bit of leeway if you get a touch froggy.

Anyone can move it both directions on Tour, but can you rely on your non-typical shot shape with the tile on the line if the shot calls for it?

4) Trajectory Control combined with Distance Control

The biggest issue for players at Augusta is that you cannot hit the ball into the greens with your normal trajectory for 72 holes… you must alter your trajectory to control your landing angles so the ball stops quicker, or you can get the ball on the proper shelf. Think hole No. 15; you simply cannot hit a low draw into that green with a long iron, or you will quickly cascade over the back of the green leaving yourself with an impossible pitch to an elevated green running downhill toward the water. No thanks.

But here is the issue… do you know your distances when hitting the ball with different trajectories? And can you trust those numbers down the stretch, or when the adrenaline gets pumping on the back nine on Sunday?

Getting to know the shots you need to hit into the different pins at Augusta National takes time to learn, and is possibly a more complicated process than at any other golf course in the world. My advice for new Masters participants would be to work on TrackMan to understand how your different swing feels effect launch angle, and then figure out exactly how far those different feels hit the golf ball. Sometimes, you’ll need to hit a flighted draw into a certain pin location, and a yard-or-two off your distance could lead to a double bogey and cost you a made cut or a Green Jacket. Dial in those distances on shots with different trajectories!

 

5) Pitching Control

First timers who have never played on the perfectly-manicured, yet extremely firm conditions at Augusta National are at a distinct disadvantage compared to the veterans. There’s simply no course in the world that can perfectly mimic the conditions around the green.

I know the Houston event tries to accommodate some of these Augusta-like conditions, but it’s not really the same because you are hitting off of Bermuda grass. And players know the golf ball won’t react like it does off Rye. So you come into Augusta on Monday-Wednesday trying to practice as much as you can to get used to the different grass and different ball reactions. For some, this will mean changing lofts and grinds of their wedges. For others, a shift in technique or mindset may be necessary.

Your short game must be a strength at Augusta, but have you really simulated it enough for it to work when you get there?

By now, you should have a better understand of what players face when trying to win The Masters. And, in my opinion, it’s the most difficult tournament to win in golf. Who do you think will jump the 5 hurdles above and win come Sunday?

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Tom F. Stickney II, is a specialist in Biomechanics for Golf, Physiology, and 3d Motion Analysis. He has a degree in Exercise and Fitness and has been a Director of Instruction for almost 30 years at resorts and clubs such as- The Four Seasons Punta Mita, BIGHORN Golf Club, The Club at Cordillera, The Promontory Club, and the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. His past and present instructional awards include the following: Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, Golf Digest Top 50 International Instructor, Golf Tips Top 25 Instructor, Best in State (Florida, Colorado, and California,) Top 20 Teachers Under 40, Best Young Teachers and many more. Tom is a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 25 people in the world. Tom is TPI Certified- Level 1, Golf Level 2, Level 2- Power, and Level 2- Fitness and believes that you cannot reach your maximum potential as a player with out some focus on your physiology. You can reach him at [email protected] and he welcomes any questions you may have.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Masters Tournament: The Epitome of Prestigious Golf Events - Virtual Hangar Media

  2. Steve Wozeniak

    Apr 4, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    Typical for this site……it’s actually the exact opposite of what the “pro” thinks……

    Steve Wozeniak PGA

  3. Tom54

    Apr 4, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    I agree the field is smaller but I would hardly call it weaker. I think the history and how it has remained true to its origins is why it is so special. Multiple winners I believe is because of course familiarity. More you play more you become comfortable with it. That’s why very few first time winners. I believe it’s the most prestigious of the majors because of all the attention given to past champions. Other majors are important and hard to win too. There is something a little different about being a Masters Champion

  4. Tony Lee

    Apr 4, 2018 at 11:33 am

    Putting?

  5. Markallister

    Apr 4, 2018 at 1:55 am

    it is the easiest major, because the field is weakest. everybody knows that. in fact, it should not be a major, but rather a silly-season invitational which would better fit with the strength of the field.

    • ND Hickman

      Apr 4, 2018 at 5:09 am

      Won many green jackets then, have you?

    • Zach Bartness

      Apr 4, 2018 at 7:23 am

      On flip side, hardest to win because the field is so limited. If you aren’t in you can’t win it. Goes both ways….

  6. Man

    Apr 3, 2018 at 9:14 pm

    It’s the easiest to win. That’s why so many Spaniards win it, and why there are so many multiple winners

    • aman

      Apr 3, 2018 at 10:45 pm

      Tiger is a mix of African and European on his father’s side and Thai, Chinese and Dutch on his mother’s side. He was raised as a Buddhist. He has no Spanish ancestry.

    • Javier

      Apr 4, 2018 at 8:17 am

      Quite the contrary.
      Multiple winners: Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods…
      Spaniards: (i) Seve, one of the best players of the golf History, (ii) Ollie, included in the golf Hall of Fame, and (iii) Sergio, one of the best players of the last 20 years.
      Therefore, just the best ones (some exceptions as in the other majors) are able to win the Masters.
      Man, just think a little before say/write anything.

  7. fuzz

    Apr 3, 2018 at 6:42 pm

    How about the bikini-waxed greens… 😮

  8. juststeve

    Apr 3, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    On the other hand it has the weakest field of any major, weaker than most regular tournaments.

    • Sean Foster-Nolan

      Apr 3, 2018 at 6:12 pm

      I agree with this. While the field is strong, it is limited. I would think of all the majors it would be the “easiest” to win.

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19th Hole

5 examples of how Lexi Thompson has been treated harsher than any of her peers

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*Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on GolfWRX in September 2023*

Following Lexi Thompson’s Solheim Cup post-round presser on Friday evening, the 28-year-old has been the topic of much discussion.

Golf pundits and fans alike have been weighing in with their takes after this exchange with a reporter surrounding an untimely shank on Friday afternoon went viral:

After the incident, LPGA Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez said that Lexi has “been picked on and drug through negative comments. She is tired of it”

So has the criticism of Lexi Thompson been justified, or is this yet another example of her being unfairly treated?

Well, here are five times, in my opinion, that Lexi has been scrutinized far differently over the years than her peers.

2022 KPMG PGA Championship

At the 2022 KPMG PGA Championship, Lexi Thompson held a two-stroke lead with three holes to play. She couldn’t close the deal and lost the tournament.

Afterwards, she was fined $2k (as were the rest of the group) for slow play.

Lexi declined to speak to the media and got hammered on social media for doing so…

Almost every golfer at some point has skipped a media session following disappointment on the course, and nobody has really batted an eyelid.

Tiger skipped back-to-back post-round media briefings at the 2019 WGC Mexico after being frustrated with his putting. Remember the backlash over that? Nah, me neither.

Donald Trump

@TheWhiteHouse

Every (or nearly every) big-name golfer under the sun has played golf with Donald Trump. Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy etc. Nobody really cared.

For whatever reason, when Lexi Thompson did, it was a story, and she took herself off social media soon after the photo was posted.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi)

2021 U.S. Women’s Open

In the final round of the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open, Lexi Thompson had a 6-foot eagle on her opening hole. She missed and made birdie to lead by five.

She then lost the tournament.

Following the round, Brandel Chamblee said on ‘Live From’:

“She’s got 6 feet away. Now professional golfers don’t miss the center of the face by a pinhead. Look where she hits this putt on the very 1st hole. Look where this putt comes off the face. She would have missed the center of the putter there by a half an inch. I have never — I have never — seen a professional golfer miss the center of the putter by a wider margin than that. That was at the 1st hole. “

Honest? Absolutely. Correct? Brandel usually is. Has any other LPGA golfer been handed the full-on Chamblee treatment? Not to my knowledge.

2023 Solheim Cup

Lexi Thompson spoke the words, “I don’t need to comment on that” when a reporter asked her about a failed shot, and the golf community collectively lost their minds.

Lost on many people is the fact that she literally answered the question instantly after.

Jessica Korda described the reporting of the awkward exchange with the media member as yet another example of the golf media shredding Lexi, but in reality, it was really just golf media covering the furore created by golf fans reacting to the viral clip.

Lexi then won her next two matches, collecting 3 points from 4 for the U.S. team. But nobody seems to care about that.

Instagram

‘yOu ShoUlD PrAcTIce puTTinG’

There’s very few golfers that have been plagued with such inane posts on their Instagram page as Lexi Thompson has.

I’ve tracked golfer’s social media accounts over the past few years (job requirement, sort of?). I can categorically say that Lexi gets some of the angriest and most aggressive responses to her posts of any golfer. Male or female. (She also gets some very nice ones too).

Despite countless posts of Thompson relentlessly practising her putting, the number of comments from dummies accusing her of neglecting that area of her game is both bizarre and alarming. Notice how the comments have been disabled on the post below? Probably not a coincidence.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi)

Go on any other golfer’s social account, and it will be hard to find the same dynamic.

Throw in the scandalous rules decision at the 2017 ANA Inspiration that cost her a second major title and spawned the “Lexi rule,” and it’s hard not to think Lexi has had a bit of a raw deal at times.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 RBC Canadian Open betting preview: Breakthrough PGA Tour winner likely in Canada

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The PGA Tour is heading north of the border to play the 2024 RBC Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf and Country Club. 

This will be the seventh time that Hamilton Golf and Country Club will be hosting the Canadian Open. The previous six winners were Rory McIlroy (2019), Scott Piercy (2012), Jim Furyk (2006), Bob Tway (2003), Tommy Armour (1930) and James Douglas Edgar (1919). 

Hamilton Golf and Country Club is a par-70 measuring 7,084 yards and features greens that are a Bentgrass and Poa Annua blend. The course has been open since 1915 and is one of the oldest golf clubs in Canada. 

Since we’ve seen it last, the course underwent a $8.5-million restoration guided by Martin Ebert.

The RBC Canadian Open will play host to 156 golfers this week.  Notable players include Rory McIlroy, Sam Burns, Cameron Young, Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood, Sahith Theegala and Alex Noren.

Past Winners at RBC Canadian Open

  • 2023: Nick Taylor (-17, Oakdale)
  • 2022: Rory McIlroy (-19, St. George’s)
  • 2019: Rory McIlroy (-22, Hamilton)
  • 2018: Dustin Johnson (-23, Glen Abbey)
  • 2017: Jhonattan Vegas (-21, Glen Abbey)
  • 2016: Jhonattan Vegas (-12, Glen Abbey)

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 Hamilton Golf and Country Club

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for Hamilton Golf and Country Club to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

The best metric to start with is Strokes Gained: Approach. Proficient iron play is a requirement anywhere, and this statistic will help target the hottest golfers. With the winning score likely being very low, players will need to be dialed with their approach shots. 

Strokes Gained: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Corey Conners (+1.14)
  2. Kelly Kraft (+1.06)
  3. Rory McIlroy (+0.88)
  4. Patton Kizzire (+0.87)
  5. Alex Noren (+0.76)

2. Good Drive %

Hamilton is a short golf course, so keeping the ball in the fairway, or just off, will be more important than bombing the ball this week. 

Good Drive % Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Kelly Kraft (+89.3%)
  2. Daniel Berger (+87.9%)
  3. Nate Lashley (+87.6%)
  4. Chan Kim (+86.6%)
  5. Aaron Rai (+86.1%)

3. Bogey Avoidance %

I expect golfers to go low this week, in order to compete, limiting bogeys will be crucial. 

Bogey Avoidance % Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Alex Noren (+10.6%)
  2. Brice Garnett (+10.6%)
  3. Aaron Rai (+11.3%)
  4. Kevin Tway (+11.4%)
  5. Henrik Norlander (+11.4%)

4. Strokes Gained: Total in Canada

This stat will boost the players who’ve done well in Canada over the past 36 rounds. 

Strokes Gained: Total in Canada Over Past 36 Rounds

  1. Rory McIlroy (+4.28)
  2. Tommy Fleetwood (+3.07)
  3. Aaron Rai (+2.91)
  4. C.T. Pan (+2.80)
  5. Gary Woodland (+2.21)

5. Strokes Gained: Putting

Shorter courses with a lot of birdies being made tend to turn into putting contests. I believe a good putter will win the RBC Canadian Open.

Strokes Gained: Putting Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Mackenzie Hughes (+1.04)
  2. S.H. Kim (+0.84)
  3. Matt Kuchar (+0.74)
  4. Ben Griffin (+0.72)
  5. Sahith Theegala (+0.66)

The RBC Canadian Open Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (30%), Good Drive % (25%), Strokes Gained: Canada (15%), Bogey Avoidance % (15%), SG: Putting (15%).

  1. Aaron Rai
  2. Rory McIlroy
  3. Sahith Theegala
  4. Patton Kizzire
  5. Justin Lower
  6. Shane Lowry
  7. Tommy Fleetwood
  8. Alex Noren
  9. Kelly Kraft
  10. Jhonnatan Vegas

2024 RBC Canadian Open Picks

Tommy Fleetwood +1800 (FanDuel)

Tommy Fleetwood was incredibly close to winning last year’s RBC Canadian Open. The Englishman took Canadian Nick Taylor to four playoff holes before losing on Taylor’s miraculous eagle putt from 72 feet.

Despite being at a different course this year, Fleetwood is still a great fit for this event. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 23rd in the field in good drive percentage and seventh in bogey avoidance. The course is a shorter, plotters track, which will suit Fleetwood’s ability to hit it accurately from tee to green.

Tommy has gained strokes off the tee in six consecutive events. Those events include some big events such as The Masters, the PGA Championship and the Wells Fargo Championship. In those six starts, he has three top-15 finishes.

It’s been well documented that Fleetwood is yet to win on American soil and has looked like a different player when in contention outside of the United States. While it’s most definitely a mental hurdle that the 33-year-old will need to overcome, it doesn’t hurt that this event will be north of the border.

Martin Ebert, who redesigned Royal Liverpool and Royal Portrush, redesigned Hamilton as well. Fleetwood finished 2nd at Royal Portrush in 2019 and T10 at Royal Liverpool in 2023.

Backing Tommy has been frustrating at times, but I’m still of the mindset that betting on talent will eventually pay dividends.

Alex Noren +2500 (BetMGM)

Alex Noren is in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career. The Swede has an incredible eight straight top-25’s on Tour, with two of those being top-ten finishes. Noren has gained strokes on approach and around the green in all eight starts and has gained strokes off the tee in seven of eight.

Despite the strong results, the concern with Noren has been his inability to truly get into contention. However, this golf course feels like the right one for him to change that. He’s not incredibly long off the tee, so the shorter layout should help him. In his last 24 rounds, Noren ranks 6th in Strokes Gained: Approach, 8th in Good Drive Percentage and 3rd in Bogey Avoidance.

Noren’s ability to keep the ball in the ideal spots and limit mistakes should serve him well at Hamilton this week. In an event where accurate drivers should shine; he will have an advantage on the field. He hasn’t won on the PGA Tour, but the 41-year-old has ten wins on the European Tour. Being outside of the U.S. certainly won’t hurt Noren’s case.

Sam Burns +2800 (FanDuel)

Sam Burns had an excellent showing in Canada a few years ago, finishing in a tie for fourth place at the 2022 RBC Canadian Open a week after winning the Charles Schwab Challenge.

After a hot start to the season, Burns has struggled over the past few months, but has seemed to find some form with his irons in recent weeks. He finished T13 at the Wells Fargo Championship and gained 2.0 strokes on approach for the week. His irons were even better in the two rounds at the PGA Championship (+1.51 strokes per round), but a balky putter cost him the weekend, as he lost 5.1 strokes on the greens.

Burns is a player who can win an event with a hot putter and has done so in the past. He can make birdies in bunches and is one of the few players in the field that can win in both a difficult event and a shootout.

Robert MacIntyre +8000 (FanDuel)

Robert MacIntyre showed some life at the PGA Championship, finishing in a tie for 12th. For the week, MacIntyre ranked 16th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 18th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

The 27-year-old is a high upside player who has shown he can compete in big events. He’s also been putting great recently which I believe is one of the most important factors this week. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 6th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting.

We’ve seen MacIntyre play well at Open Championships and Martin Ebert, who redesigned Royal Liverpool and Royal Portrush, redesigned Hamilton as well. MacIntyre finished T6 at Royal Portrush in 2019.

Bobby Mac has gone toe-to-toe with some of the world’s best players at the Ryder Cup, and I believe has the right mentality to beat anyone if he finds himself in contention down the stretch.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Early season wedge game tune-up

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Depending on the part of the country you call home, you might just be getting into the 2024 golf season, or you might be several months into it. Either way, your scoring success this season – like every season – will likely drill down to how good your game is from 100 yards and in.

The best way to sharpen your wedge play is, surprise, spend some time refining and practicing your technique. Whether it’s winter rust or mid-season sloppiness, your wedge game can be a serious cause of frustration if and when it goes sour on you.

If you want to be sharp when it really counts, give it some time and attention. Start with a detailed look at your fundamentals – posture, alignment, ball position, grip, and grip pressure – and then advance to an examination of the actual chipping and pitching motion of the swing.

No matter what your skill level might be, I am convinced that time spent on the following drills will yield giant rewards in your scores and enjoyment of the game. There is nothing quite so demoralizing and maddening than to hit a good drive and better-than-average approach shot, then chunk or skull a simple chip or pitch, turning a par or bogie-at-worst into a double or even more.

Core activation

The key to a solid short game is to synchronize your arm swing with the rotation of your body core. They simply have to move together, back and through impact into the follow-through. When I’m about to start a short game session, I like to begin with the club extended in front of my body, with my upper arms close to my chest, then rotate my upper torso back and through, to give me the sensation that I am moving the club only with my core rotation, with the hands only having the job of holding on to it. In this drill, you want to ensure that the clubhead is exactly in front of your sternum as you rotate back and through. When you lower the club into the playing position, this puts the upper end of the grip pointing roughly at your belt buckle and it stays in that “attitude” through the backswing and follow through.

S-L-O-W motion

I believe one of the most misunderstood and destructive pieces of advice in the short game is to “accelerate through the ball”. What I see much too often is that the golfer fails to take a long enough backswing and then quickly jabs at the ball . . . all in the pursuit of “accelerating through the ball.” In reality, that is pretty hard NOT to do if you have any kind of follow through at all. Relying on that core activation move, I like to make very slow swings – back and through impact – experimenting with just how slow I can make the swing and still see some ball flight. You’ll be amazed at how slow a body rotation can be made and still make the ball fly in a nice trajectory.

Windows

I’m borrowing this term from Tiger Woods, who often spoke of hitting his iron shots through certain “windows,” i.e. first floor, second floor, etc. For your short game, I simplify this into hitting short pitch shots on three different flight trajectories – low, medium, and high. I have found the simplest way to do this is to use the same swing for each shot and determine the trajectory by where you place the ball in your set-up. Start by finding the ball position that gives you what you consider to be a “normal” trajectory with your sand wedge. Then, hit some shots with the ball just one inch back and forward of that spot and see what trajectory you get. You can then take that to another level by repeating the process with your other wedges, from your highest lofted to your lowest.

Ladder drill

For this exercise, I like to have some room on the range or practice area that lets me hit balls any distance I want, from ten feet out to about 25 yards, or even more if you can. I start by hitting a basic chip shot to fly precisely to a divot or piece of turf I’ve targeted about ten feet in front of me. The next shot I try to land where that ball stopped. I repeat that process until I have a line of balls from ten feet to 25 or so yards from me. With each shot, I repeat it until I can land my shot within a foot or less of my “target ball.”

The idea of this kind of practice with your short game is to hit so many shots that you feel like you can do anything with the ball, and you can take that confidence and execution skill to the course. You can literally work through a few hundred shots in an hour or so with these drills, and there’s nothing like repetition to build a skill set you can trust “under fire.”

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