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Should the long putter be completely banned?

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The anchoring of the long putter was banned completely on Jan. 1, 2016. You would think that would spell the end of the subject, yet here we are approaching the end of 2018, and the long putter is still a hot topic in the game of golf.

At the John Deere Classic earlier this year, David Hearn was called out by the rules officials because of concerns over how well he was putting, and whether or not he was anchoring the putter.

He spent some time having his putting stroke analyzed, and the officials deemed that he was in fact not anchoring the putter and was allowed to continue with the stroke.

With golf being a gentleman’s game, we are all compelled to believe that those professionals who still use the long putter, are in fact abiding by the rules and no longer anchor the putter. However, when you see some putting strokes, you can’t help but think the putter is resting against the golfer’s chest, and it does make you question whether or not the putters themselves should be banned completely.

It does raise the question whether or not certain professionals are able to simply hold the putter away from their chests when showing the rules officials, and then revert back to anchoring the putter when actually in play. Does the game need that sort of controversy?

If there is that much doubt and controversy surrounding the subject, why are the putters not banned themselves? It seems to be a hotly debated topic among tour professionals with many still supporting a ban of the long putter completely, and many others adamant that they should be still allowed in the game.

Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els, Webb Simpson, and Adam Scott, all major winners with the long putter have all seen their putting stats drop dramatically since the ban even though, as Webb Simpson pointed out in 2012, “If you look at the facts, last year there was no one in the top 20 of strokes gained category that anchored a putter”

Bernhard Langer’s continued use of the long putter has caused more discussion and debate than anyone else still choosing to use the club, with the former golf pro, Mark Allen calling Bernhard’s stroke “illegal.”

One argument for the continued use of the long putter when the ruling against the anchoring came in, was the fact that none of the top 20 players in the PGA Tour’s stats for the most reliable putting used a long putter, and that if they were that good, more golfers would be using them.

Putting is probably the most important part of the game of golf, and when you have to hold your nerve and swing every other club from your driver down to your wedge with both feel and control, surely those conditions should be the same when putting?

Whatever side of the fence you sit, if the USGA and R&A wanted to eradicate the issues surrounding the anchoring of the putter completely, and any advantage that it may or may not give a player, then surely the only decision would have been to ban the putters themselves? As it currently stands, the air of doubt surrounding the use of the long putter is going to be with us for some time yet.

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52 Comments

52 Comments

  1. Rod Clarke

    Oct 9, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    I understood the intent was for the R&A and USGA to get rid of the long putter from the game but the anchoring rule they introduced left a big loophole.
    Going back to the foundations and ethos of the game, players hand or hands were below the elbows when holding and executing a shot. Adopting that proviso for all clubs should send the long putters into retirement. Midsize length putters (like Kouchar and DeChambeau use) would still be used I guess. In fact, doesn’t DeChambeau anchor his putter against his arm? Now that’s another question.

  2. Radim Pavlicek

    Oct 9, 2018 at 2:19 am

    Your hands has to be below your waist and the putter has to be the shorstes club in the bag. Two simple rules and problem is solved.

    • Kelly Roberts

      Oct 9, 2018 at 10:15 am

      Who the heck is Mark Allen?

      • Pete

        Oct 10, 2018 at 10:18 pm

        Mark Allen? Aussie golf pro and a very entertaining radio host on Melbourne radio.

  3. ralph

    Oct 8, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    No…. just ban the tour pro golfers who use the long putter… 😛

  4. JP

    Oct 8, 2018 at 10:04 pm

    I bet if Tiger started using a long putter, the USGA would completely allow it, and allow it to be used in any style Tiger wanted to use it. He could sell a ton of them and the USGA and manufacturers would get into bed together faster than you could blink.

  5. paul schofield

    Oct 8, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    Never mind banning the long putter. It’s a bad rule just reverse it.

  6. Phil Shockley

    Oct 8, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    The ONLY way you will end this debate if for the USGA and R&A to get some balls and eliminate the Long Putter, that will end the debate. I watch the Champions Tour and Langer says he does not anchor it but it appears that he does. Unless and Until they invalidate the use of the long putter, these discussions will continue.
    Another thought that an attorney friend stated to me is until both sides of the ocean elect NON-LAWYERS to positions of power they will never get anything done, they are the ONLY people to debate what the word IS means.

  7. C

    Oct 8, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    Yes… ban them…. anything past 36 inches should be like hockey allowing extra length for only tall players. Should get rid of mallets too. Way past time for pro equipment rules.

    • Wilfred Lowe

      Oct 8, 2018 at 6:58 pm

      If it was that much better wouldn’t all pros being doing it? Use your head if you spent the time to perfect your stroke you would do what is BEST for YOU, right. Just because you are not good at it don’t put it down. The way you talk every buddy should put the same way. Well real golfers know that Everyone is different,thus you see many different styles and Strokes whatever works within the rules. Sounds to me like you are jealous of good putters. You should try it maybe you will learn something that would help your game.

    • Bruce

      Oct 15, 2018 at 9:47 am

      Let’s go back to wood woods, hickory shafts, and feather stuffed balls – that’s how real men play.

  8. art Williams

    Oct 8, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    I tried it years ago and could not master it. It is not easy. In the beginning I felt it was not a true stroke and should have been deemed illegal. However, the USGA & the R & A took forever to move on this style of putting that it seemed unfair to then come up with the “anchor ban”. If they want to revisit it go ahead with a ban on major pro tours and elite amateur tournaments like the US Am. Let regular hackers use it if it keeps them coming out to the course each week. Golf is a game right? I’d bet half of those yelling about this putting style roll the ball in the fairway and take their share of mulligans. Play on!

  9. Bradley Smith

    Oct 8, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    1s the only player to win a major using a long putter is Adam Scott the others used belly putters !
    2nd the R&A alongwith the USGA brought the anchor ban into stopping the use of thè belly putter which they have achieved !

    the long putter was never an issue with them

  10. joro

    Oct 8, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    It should either be banned or OK’d, but not this BS. So many times it looks like they anchor it but the Cameras move behind them and you can’t see what is going on. But I do believe both MeCarron and Longer have been connected many times. There really was no reason to ban it in the first place other than the usual, Gary, jack, and Arnie didn’t like it and the Bluenoses had obey. They didn’t like the Grooves, the Bluenoses changed it, as well as the length of a Driver. It is stupid and like every other rule, not enforced. So there!!!

  11. Bob Jones

    Oct 8, 2018 at 12:27 pm

    The anchor ban was a misguided rule designed only to get back at anchoring pros winning major championships. Unfortunately, millions of recreational golfers got caught up in the hysteria.

  12. Doug

    Oct 8, 2018 at 11:39 am

    Rules change when a person wins and someone in power doesn’t like the winner’s style of play.

  13. Cody

    Oct 8, 2018 at 7:53 am

    the short and long of it is no, they do not need to ban them completely. it was a stupid rule to begin with.

  14. DJ Morris

    Oct 8, 2018 at 7:09 am

    Make the rules say that the putter MUST be the shortest club in your bag…. End of discussion and problem solved!

    • scott

      Oct 10, 2018 at 11:38 am

      No. Who is to say what length a wedge should be?

  15. andrew

    Oct 7, 2018 at 9:32 pm

    They should keep long putters and remove the anchor ban. What did really change?

  16. ChipNRun

    Oct 7, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    Have you seen the old photo in the Royal & Ancient clubhours at St. Andrews of the man being locked in the stocks for using a “longe putter”?

    The answer is no, the photo doesn’t exist. As BD57 notes, the ban was a “get off my lawn” moment for the USGA.

    And SHAWN nails it too – the longer putter relieves stress on those with bad backs.

  17. 4RiGHT

    Oct 7, 2018 at 5:26 pm

    I’ll make this long story short! Yes!!!

  18. BD57

    Oct 7, 2018 at 9:22 am

    Banning the long / belly putter was the USGA’s “get off my lawn” moment.

    If they were going to do it, the time was back when Orville Moody started using it. But they didn’t, because Orville was a horrifically bad putter “conventionally,” and they knew it, and they chose not to drive him out of the game.

    The situation was similar with the other seniors who started using them – they were older guys, past their prime, and so what?

    The USGA lost it’s mind when they saw younger guys using the belly putter. But they had both hands together on the thing – they just had the club tucked into their stomach. Still had to stroke it; you can still pull or push the heck out of a putt with your hands using a belly putter. But it “didn’t look right,” so – 20+ years after the fact, the USGA told the kids to “get off their lawn.”

    Meanwhile, for those 20+ years, people who don’t play for a living, who want to play by the rules, had been using one form or another of a “long putter” so they could at least NOT DREAD walking on a green – and they get told “you’re illegal, you have to go back to feeling like you have a snake in your hands.”

    Stupid, counterproductive, rule.

    P.S. – don’t use a belly or long putter. Tried the belly putter for a good stretch …. wound up going back to conventional, because it just. wasn’t. better. for. me.

  19. Mit

    Oct 7, 2018 at 8:04 am

    Using stats don’t justify a long putter. Who cares if the stats don’t say it makes you better, the action is not a stroke,

    Using a bad back is not justification. If you can swing a wedge you can swing a putter. And if it hurts to pick a ball, get a suction cup put on the end of your putter grip. It’s not a stroke.

    The entire action of a broom handled/arm locked putter flies in the face of a golf “swing”. It’s accepted cheating in my book.

    No broom handles,
    No arm locks,
    A putter in your hands….learn to deal with it like all the other things we have to deal with in golf.

    Glad I got that off my chest 🙂

  20. Douglas Moore

    Oct 6, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    If the long putter is such an advantage, and putting is arguably the most important part of the game EVERY tour Pro would put it into play.
    If the long putter could cut 1/2 stroke per round, that’s 2 strokes per tournament.
    As far as the guy up top saying he’s personally seen Langer on tv anchoring his putter, you are wrong. When I hold my putter 1/8″.to 1/16″ away, it’s brushing my shirt and you would be mistaken when you accuse me of cheating.
    Put a sensor on all long putters and players. If anchoring is taking place a buzzer or light goes off. Simple and effective.
    Go try a long putter for yourself. Absolutely difficult to master.

  21. Tyler

    Oct 6, 2018 at 10:32 pm

    I have seen Langer on TV anchor his putter. It was obvious and Langer says there is no intent. I can’t believe more players on the Senior Tour don’t speak out on it.

  22. shawn

    Oct 6, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    How did this all happen? Most on this forum don’t know. Here’s the story.
    The long putter originated in the early 1980s. Older golfers with bad backs seized on it as did some pros. The USGA and R&A had to make a decision. They allowed it. Why?
    Because then U.S. President Bush Sr. used it and promoted it. The USGA couldn’t go against the POTUS. Believe it or not…

  23. Eric

    Oct 6, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    Rules of golf should establish a maximum shaft length for a putter, this would put a end to the anchoring issues.

    • shawn

      Oct 6, 2018 at 4:59 pm

      In badminton the serve must be hit below waist height and with the racquet shaft pointing downwards. Similarly in golf, both hands must be below waist height at Address.

      • Greg V

        Oct 6, 2018 at 5:17 pm

        I think that this would be a great rule. IT would eliminate the broom stick – which is really not a golf swing (it is a lever action). But it would allow the belly putter – which to me looks like a golf swing.

      • Scott

        Oct 10, 2018 at 11:42 am

        Then how do you hit a side hill shot when the ball is above waist high? It does not happen often, but it can happen.

  24. Brandon

    Oct 6, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Golf is hard. Most people can’t break 90. Nothing should be banned. Why are the governing bodies so intent on driving people away from the game?

    • shawn

      Oct 6, 2018 at 4:48 pm

      Okay… but should tour pros be allowed to use it? Or only if they can’t break 90?

  25. Kim Hay

    Oct 6, 2018 at 10:49 am

    There is one way to fix all of this. Add to the rules of golf that all strokes must executed with the hands in contact with each other. The long putter action is not a stoke, it is a push. Would you ever hit a drive with the hands separated by 18″? Use any length putter you want as long as the your hands are in some way in contact.

    • Henry

      Oct 6, 2018 at 10:56 am

      I agree they need to tidy things up, but what you’re discussing would lead to many claw style grips being banned as well – that’s a tonne of players.

      • America

        Oct 6, 2018 at 12:23 pm

        Or ton, if spelled correctly.

      • Kim Hay

        Oct 7, 2018 at 11:25 am

        Claw style grips could still be used if there is contact between the hands otherwise it is a push or scoop, not a stroke. New rule description: “A stroke is the action of propelling a ball by striking it with a club held in both hands contacting each other.” Controversy over.

        • gunmetal

          May 29, 2019 at 1:14 am

          So no more one handed backwards punch outs, a la Sergio in the tree? No more split grip/hockey style even with response putters?

    • TJH

      Oct 6, 2018 at 2:01 pm

      That would then eliminate the claw grip as well

      • Greg V

        Oct 6, 2018 at 5:15 pm

        Why would it eliminate the claw? I use the claw, and my hands are touching. Every pro that uses the claw has his hands touching – not on top of the shaft, but underneath the shaft.

        • JC

          Oct 6, 2018 at 7:06 pm

          Try using a Bear Claw to putt. That’s one sweet way to putt.

  26. Ken

    Oct 6, 2018 at 10:36 am

    Anchoring should never have been banned. They have hurt the average golfer trying to simply enjoy a difficult game. At the height of the controversy with some major winners using anchoring the majority of wins occurred with conventional style putting so shouldn’t that be banned? Need bifurcation of the rules if these are the kind of short sited decisions and can hardly wait until a roll back of distance measures. This could continue the decline of the game

    • shawn

      Oct 6, 2018 at 4:51 pm

      The long putter doesn’t ‘help’ the good average golfer… it helps the decrepit golfer with a bad back and can’t bend over to putt… and get the ball out of the hole either.

    • Myron miller

      Oct 8, 2018 at 12:55 pm

      fully agree. Although I did try the long putter about 30+ years ago. had one specially built for me and tried it for a few weeks. i found that with short putts it was excellent but really really struggled getting the distance right on 20-40 foot putts. Much easier to control regular putter ( but i use a 37″ putter rather than the standard 35″ that is pretty standard. I can’t bend over that well. use tool for getting ball out of hole. easy to use and fully legal.

      same rules for pros and regular amateurs has never made any sense to me. Baseball has long had different rules as does football. College basketball is different from pro’s to college to high school, etc. Don’t know about tennis.

      But image is everything to USGA and R&A. Practicality isn’t meaningful.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 PGA Championship betting preview: Rising star ready to join the immortals at Valhalla

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The second major of the 2024 season is upon us as the world’s best players will tee it up this week at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky to compete for the Wanamaker Trophy.

The last time we saw Valhalla host a major championship, Rory McIlroy fended off Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler and the creeping darkness that was descending upon the golf course. The Northern Irishman had the golf world in the palm of his hand, joining only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as players who’d won four major championships by the time they were 25 years old. 

Valhalla is named after the great hall described in Norse mythology where the souls of Vikings feasted and celebrated with the Gods. The course is a Jack Nicklaus-design that has ranked among Golf Digest’s “America’s 100 Greatest Courses” for three decades. 

Valhalla Golf Club is a par-71 measuring 7,542 yards with Zoysia fairways and Bentgrass greens. The course has rolling hills and dangerous streams scattered throughout and the signature 13th hole is picturesque with limestone and unique bunkering protecting the green. The 2024 PGA Championship will mark the fourth time Valhalla has hosted the event. 

The field this week will consist of 156 players, including 16 PGA Champions and 33 Major Champions. 

Past Winners of the PGA Championship

  • 2023: Brooks Koepka (-9) Oak Hill
  • 2022: Justin Thomas (-5) Southern Hills
  • 2021: Phil Mickelson (-6) Kiawah Island
  • 2020: Collin Morikawa (-13) TPC Harding Park
  • 2019: Brooks Koepka (-8) Bethpage Black
  • 2018: Brooks Koepka (-16) Bellerive
  • 2017: Justin Thomas (-8) Quail Hollow
  • 2016: Jimmy Walker (-14) Baltusrol
  • 2015: Jason Day (-20) Whistling Straits
  • 2014: Rory McIlroy (-16) Valhalla

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 Valhalla

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for Oak Hill to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their past 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Valhalla will play as a true all-around test of golf for the world’s best. Of course, it will take strong approach play to win a major championship.

Strokes Gained: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Shane Lowry (+1.25)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.09)
  3. Jordan Smith (+1.05)
  4. Tom Hoge (+.96)
  5. Corey Conners (+.94)

2. Strokes Gained: Off the Tee

Valhalla will play long and the rough will be penal. Players who are incredibly short off the tee and/or have a hard time hitting fairways will be all but eliminated from contention this week at the PGA Championship. 

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Bryson DeChambeau (+1.47)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.11)
  3. Keith Mitchell (+.90)
  4. Alejandro Tosti (+.89)
  5. Ludvig Aberg (+.82)

Strokes Gained: Total on Nickalus Designs

Valhalla is a classic Nicklaus Design. Players who play well at Nicklaus designs should have an advantage coming into this major championship. 

Strokes Gained: Total on Nicklaus Designs over past 36 rounds:

  1. Jon Rahm (+2.56)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+2.48)
  3. Patrick Cantlay (+2.35)
  4. Collin Morikawa (+1.79)
  5. Shane Lowry (+1.57)

Strokes Gained: Tee to Green on Very Long Courses

Valhalla is going to play extremely long this week. Players who have had success playing very long golf courses should be better equipped to handle the conditions of this major championship.

Strokes Gained: Total on Very Long Courses Over Past 24 Rounds: 

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.44)
  2. Rory McIlroy (+2.24)
  3. Will Zalatoris (+1.78)
  4. Viktor Hovland (+1.69)
  5. Xander Schauffele (+1.60)

Strokes Gained: Total in Major Championships

One factor that tends to play a large role in deciding major championships is which players have played well in previous majors leading up to the event. 

Strokes Gained: Total in Major Championships over past 20 rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+3.14)
  2. Will Zalatoris (+2.64)
  3. Rory McIlroy (+2.49)
  4. Xander Schauffele (+2.48)
  5. Tommy Fleetwood (2.09)

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass Greens

Valhalla features pure Bentgrass putting surfaces. Players who are comfortable putting on this surface will have an advantage on the greens. 

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass Greens over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Ludvig Aberg (+1.12)
  2. Denny McCarthy (+1.08)
  3. Matt Fitzpatrick (+0.99)
  4. Justin Rose (+0.93)
  5. J.T. Poston (0.87)

Strokes Gained: Total on Zoysia Fairways

Valhalla features Zoysia fairways. Players who are comfortable playing on this surface will have an advantage on the field.

Strokes Gained: Total on Zoysia Fairways over past 36 rounds: 

  1. Justin Thomas (+1.53)
  2. Will Zalatoris (+1.47)
  3. Xander Schauffele (+1.40)
  4. Brooks Koepka (+1.35)
  5. Rory McIlroy (+1.23)

2024 PGA Championship Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (25%), SG: Off the Tee (22%), SG: T2G on Very Long Courses (12%), SG: Putting on Bentgrass (+12%), SG: Total on Nicklaus Designs (12%). SG: Total on Zoysia Fairways (8%), and SG: Total in Major Championships (8%). 

  1. Brooks Koepka
  2. Xander Schauffele
  3. Rory McIlroy
  4. Scottie Scheffler
  5. Bryson DeChambeau
  6. Shane Lowry
  7. Alex Noren
  8. Will Zalatoris
  9. Cameron Young
  10. Keith Mitchell
  11. Hideki Matsuyama
  12. Billy Horschel
  13. Patrick Cantlay
  14. Viktor Hovland
  15. Adam Schenk
  16. Chris Kirk
  17. Sahith Theegala
  18. Min Woo Lee
  19. Joaquin Niemann
  20. Justin Thomas

2024 PGA Championship Picks

Ludvig Aberg +1800 (BetMGM)

At The Masters, Ludvig Aberg announced to the golf world that he’s no longer an “up and coming” player. He’s one of the best players in the game of golf, regardless of experience.

Augusta National gave Aberg some necessary scar tissue and showed him what being in contention at a major championship felt like down the stretch. Unsurprisingly, he made a costly mistake, hitting it in the water left of the 11th hole, but showed his resilience by immediately bouncing back. He went on to birdie two of his next three holes and finished in solo second by three shots. With the type of demeanor that remains cool in pressure situations, I believe Ludvig has the right mental game to win a major at this point in his career.

Aberg has not finished outside of the top-25 in his past eight starts, which includes two runner-up finishes at both a “Signature Event” and a major championship. The 24-year-old is absolutely dominant with his driver, which will give him a major advantage this week. In the field he ranks, in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, and has gained strokes in the category in each of his past ten starts. Aberg is already one of the best drivers of the golf ball on the planet.

In Norse mythology, Valhalla is the great hall where the souls of Vikings feasted and celebrated with the Gods. The Swedes, who are of Old Norse origin, were the last of the three Scandinavian Kingdoms to abandon the Old Norse Gods. A Swede played a major role in the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla, and I believe another, Ludvig Aberg, will be the one to conquer Valhalla in 2024. 

Bryson DeChambeau +2800 (BetMGM)

Bryson DeChambeau is one of the few players in the world that I believe has the game to go blow-for-blow with Scottie Scheffler. Although he isn’t as consistent as Scheffler, when he’s at his best, Bryson has the talent to beat him.

At The Masters, DeChambeau put forth a valiant effort at a golf course that simply does not suit his game. Valhalla, on the other hand, is a course that should be perfect for the 30-year-old. His ability to overpower a golf course with his driver will be a serious weapon this week.

Bryson has had some success at Jack Nicklaus designs throughout his career as he won the Memorial at Muirfield Village back in 2018. He’s also had incredible results on Bentgrass greens for the entirety of his professional career. Of his 10 wins, nine of them have come on Bentgrass greens, with the only exception being the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. He also has second place finishes at Medinah and TPC Summerlin, which feature Bentgrass greens.

Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to argue that Bryson isn’t one of the most exciting and important players in the game of golf. He’s also one of the best players in the world. A second major is coming soon for DeChambeau, and I believe he should be amongst the favorites to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy this week.

Patrick Cantlay +4000 (FanDuel)

There’s no way of getting around it: Patrick Cantlay has been dissapointing in major championships throughout his professional career. He’s been one of the top players on Tour for a handful of years and has yet to truly contend at a major championship, with the arguable exception of the 2019 Masters.

Despite not winning majors, Cantlay has won some big events. The 32-year-old has won two BMW Championships, two Memorial Tournaments as well as a Tour Championship. His victories at Memorial indicate how much Cantlay loves Nicklaus designs, where he ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Total over his past 36 rounds behind only Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm.

Cantlay also loves Bentgrass greens. Six of Cantlay’s seven individual wins on the PGA Tour have come on Bentgrass greens and he also was one of the best putters at the 2023 Ryder cup at Marco Simone (also Bentgrass). At Caves Valley (2021 BMW Championship), he gained over 12 strokes putting to outduel another Bentgrass specialist, Bryson DeChambeau.

Cantlay finished 22nd in The Masters, which was a solid result considering how many elite players struggled that week. He also has two top-ten finishes in his past five PGA Championships. He’s undeniably one of the best players in the field, therefore, it comes down to believing Cantlay has the mental fortitude to win a major, which I do.

Joaquin Niemann +4000 (BetMGM)

I believe Joaquin Niemann is one of the best players in the world. He has three worldwide wins since December and has continued to improve over the course of his impressive career thus far. Still only 25, the Chilean has all the tools to be a serious contender in major championships for years to come.

Niemann has been the best player on LIV this season. Plenty will argue with the format or source of the money on LIV, but no one can argue that beating players such as Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Cameron Smith is an unremarkable achievement. Niemann is an elite driver of the golf ball who hits it farther than just about anyone in the field not named Bryson DeChambeau or (arguably) Rory McIlroy.

Niemann is another player who has been fantastic throughout his career on Bentgrass greens. Prior to leaving the PGA Tour, Bentgrass was the only green surface in which Joaco was a positive putter. It’s clearly a surface that he is very comfortable putting on and should fare around and on the greens this week.

Niemann is a perfect fit for Valhalla. His low and penetrating ball flight will get him plenty of runout this week on the fairways and he should have shorter shots into the green complexes than his competitors. To this point in his career, the former top ranked amateur in the world (2018) has been underwhelming in major championships, but I don’t believe that will last much longer. Joaquin Niemann is a major championship caliber player and has a real chance to contend this week at Valhalla.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What really makes a wedge work? Part 2

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In my last post, I explained the basic performance dynamics of “smash factor” and “gear effect” as they apply to your wedges and your wedge play success. If you missed that post, you can read it here.

At the end of that post, I promised “part 2” of this discussion of what makes a wedge work the way it does. So, let’s dive into the other two components of any wedge – the shaft and the grip.

It’s long been said that the shaft is “the engine of the golf club.” The shaft (and grip) are your only connection to all the technologies that are packed into the head of any golf club, whether it be a driver, fairway, hybrid, iron, wedge or even putter.

And you cannot ignore those two components of your wedges if your goal is optimizing your performance.

I’ve long been an advocate of what I call a “seamless transition” from your irons into your wedges, so that the feel and performance do not disconnect when you choose a gap wedge, for example, instead of your iron-set-matching “P-club.” In today’s golf equipment marketplace, more and more golfers are making the investment of time and money to experience an iron fitting, going through trial and error and launch monitor measuring to get just the right shaft in their irons.

But then so many of those same golfers just go into a store and choose wedges off the retail display, with no similar science involved at all. And that’s why I see so many golfers with a huge disconnect between their custom-fitted irons, often with lighter and/or softer graphite or light steel shafts . . . and their off-the-rack wedges with the stock stiff steel ‘wedge flex’ shaft common to those stock offerings.

If your wedge shafts are significantly heavier and stiffer than the shafts in your irons, it is physically impossible for you to make the same swing. Period.

To quickly improve your wedge play, one of the first things you can do is have your wedges re-shafted with the same or similar shaft that is in your irons.

There’s another side of that shaft weight equation; if you don’t have the forearm and hand strength of a PGA Tour professional, you simply cannot “handle” the same weight shaft that those guys play to master the myriad of ‘touch shots’ around the greens.

Now, let’s move on to the third and other key component of your wedges – the grips. If those are not similar in shape and feel to the grips on your irons, you have another disconnect. Have your grips checked by a qualified golf club professionals to make sure you are in sync there.

The one caveat to that advice is that I am a proponent of a reduced taper in your wedge grips – putting two to four more layers of tape under the lower hand, or selecting one of the many reduced taper grips on the market. That accomplishes two goals for your scoring.

First, it helps reduce overactive hands in your full and near-full wedge swings. Quiet hands are key to good wedge shots.

And secondly, it provides a more consistent feel of the wedge in your hands as you grip down for those shorter and more delicate shots around the greens. And you should always grip down as you get into those touch shots. I call it “getting closer to your work.”

So, if you will spend as much time selecting the shafts and grips for your wedges as you do choosing the brand, model, and loft of them, your scoring range performance will get better.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Wells Fargo Championship betting preview: Tommy Fleetwood ready to finally land maiden PGA Tour title

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The PGA Tour season ramps back up this week for another “signature event,” as golf fans look forward to the year’s second major championship next week.

After two weaker-field events in the Zurich Classic and the CJ Cup Byron Nelson, most of the best players in the world will head to historic Quail Hollow for one of the best non-major tournaments of the year. 

Last season, Wyndham Clark won the event by four shots.

Quail Hollow is a par-71 measuring 7,521 yards that features Bermudagrass greens. The tree-lined, parkland style course can play quite difficult and features one of the most difficult three-hole stretches in golf known as “The Green Mile,” which makes up holes 16-18: two mammoth par 4s and a 221-yard par 3. All three holes have an average score over par, and water is in play in each of the last five holes on the course.

The field is excellent this week with 68 golfers teeing it up without a cut. All of the golfers who’ve qualified are set to tee it up, with the exception of Scottie Scheffler, who is expecting the birth of his first child. 

Past Winners at Quail Hollow

  • 2023: Wyndham Clark (-19)
  • 2022: Max Homa (-8)
  • 2021: Rory McIlroy (-10)
  • 2019: Max Homa (-15)
  • 2018: Jason Day (-12)
  • 2017: Justin Thomas (-8) (PGA Championship)
  • 2016: James Hahn (-9)
  • 2015: Rory McIlroy (-21)

Key Stats For Quail Hollow

Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes gained: Approach will be extremely important this week as second shots at Quail Hollow can be very difficult. 

Total SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Akshay Bhatia (+1.16)
  2. Tom Hoge (+1.12)
  3. Corey Conners (+1.01)
  4. Shane Lowry (+0.93)
  5. Austin Eckroat (+0.82)

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee

Quail Hollow is a long course on which it is important to play from the fairway. Both distance and accuracy are important, as shorter tee shots will result in approach shots from 200 or more yards. With most of the holes heavily tree lined, errant drives will create some real trouble for the players.

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Ludvig Aberg (+0.73)
  2. Rory McIlroy (+0.69)
  3. Xander Schauffele (+0.62)
  4. Viktor Hovland (+0.58)
  5. Chris Kirk (+0.52)

Proximity: 175-200

The 175-200 range is key at Quail Hollow. Players who can hit their long irons well will rise to the top of the leaderboard. 

Proximity: 175-200+ over past 24 rounds:

  1. Cameron Young (28’2″)
  2. Akshay Bhatia (29’6″)
  3. Ludvig Aberg (+30’6″)
  4. Sam Burns (+30’6″)
  5. Collin Morikawa (+30’9″)

SG: Total on Tom Fazio Designs

Players who thrive on Tom Fazio designs get a bump for me at Quail Hollow this week. 

SG: Total on Tom Fazio Designs over past 36 rounds:

  1. Patrick Cantlay (+2.10)
  2. Rory McIlroy (+1.95)
  3. Tommy Fleetwood (+1.68)
  4. Austin Eckroat (+1.60)
  5. Will Zalatoris (+1.57)

Strokes Gained: Putting (Bermudagrass)

Strokes Gained: Putting has historically graded out as the most important statistic at Quail Hollow. While it isn’t always predictable, I do want to have it in the model to bump up golfers who prefer to putt on Bermudagrass.

Strokes Gained: Putting (Bermudagrass) Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Taylor Moore (+0.82)
  2. Nick Dunlap (+.76)
  3. Wyndham Clark (+.69)
  4. Emiliano Grillo (+.64)
  5. Cam Davis (+.61)

Course History

This stat will incorporate players that have played well in the past at Quail Hollow. 

Course History over past 36 rounds (per round):

  1. Rory McIlroy (+2.50)
  2. Justin Thomas (+1.96)
  3. Jason Day (+1.92)
  4. Rickie Fowler (+1.83)
  5. Viktor Hovland (+1.78)

Wells Fargo Championship Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (27%), SG: Off the Tee (23%), SG: Total on Fazio designs (12%), Proximity: 175-200 (12%), SG: Putting Bermuda grass (12%), and Course History (14%).

  1. Wyndham Clark
  2. Rory McIlroy
  3. Xander Schauffele
  4. Shane Lowry
  5. Hideki Matsuyama
  6. Viktor Hovland 
  7. Cameron Young
  8. Austin Eckroat 
  9. Byeong Hun An
  10. Justin Thomas

2024 Wells Fargo Championship Picks

Tommy Fleetwood +2500 (DraftKings)

I know many out there have Tommy fatigue when it comes to betting, which is completely understandable given his lack of ability to win on the PGA Tour thus far in his career. However, history has shown us that players with Fleetwood’s talent eventually break though, and I believe for Tommy, it’s just a matter of time.

Fleetwood has been excellent on Tom Fazio designs. Over his past 36 rounds, he ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Total on Fazio tracks. He’s also been incredibly reliable off the tee this season. He’s gained strokes in the category in eight of his past nine starts, including at The Masters, the PLAYERS and the three “signature events” of the season. Tommy is a golfer built for tougher courses and can grind it out in difficult conditions.

Last year, Fleetwood was the first-round leader at this event, firing a Thursday 65. He finished the event in a tie for 5th place.

For those worried about Fleetwood’s disappointing start his last time out at Harbour Town, he’s bounced back nicely after plenty of poor outings this season. His T7 at the Valero Texas Open was after a MC and T35 in his prior two starts and his win at the Dubai Invitational came after a T47 at the Sentry.

I expect Tommy to bounce back this week and contend at Quail Hollow.

Justin Thomas +3000 (DraftKings)

It’s been a rough couple of years for Justin Thomas, but I don’t believe things are quite as bad as they seem for JT. He got caught in the bad side of the draw at Augusta for last month’s Masters and has gained strokes on approach in seven of his nine starts in 2024. 

Thomas may have found something in his most recent start at the RBC Heritage. He finished T5 at a course that he isn’t the best fit for on paper. He also finally got the putter working and ranked 15th in Strokes Gained: Putting for the week.

The two-time PGA champion captured the first of his two major championships at Quail Hollow back in 2017, and some good vibes from the course may be enough to get JT out of his slump.

Thomas hasn’t won an event in just about two years. However, I still believe that will change soon as he’s been one of the most prolific winners throughout his PGA Tour career. Since 2015, he has 15 PGA Tour wins.

Course history is pretty sticky at Quail Hollow, with players who like the course playing well there on a regular basis. In addition to JT’s PGA Championship win in 2017, he went 4-1 at the 2022 Presidents Cup and finished T14 at the event last year despite being in poor form. Thomas can return as one of the top players on the PGA Tour with a win at a “signature event” this week. 

Cameron Young +3500 (DraftKings)

For many golf bettors, it’s been frustrating backing Cam Young this season. His talent is undeniable, and one of the best and most consistent performers on the PGA Tour. He just hasn’t broken through with a victory yet. Quail Hollow has been a great place for elite players to get their first victory. Rory McIlroy, Anthony Kim, Rickie Fowler and Wyndham Clark all notched their first PGA Tour win at Quail.

Throughout Cam Young’s career, he has thrived at tougher courses with strong fields. This season, he finished T16 at Riviera and T9 at Augusta National, demonstrating his preference of a tough test. His ability to hit the ball long and straight off the tee make him an ideal fit for Quail Hollow, despite playing pretty poorly his first time out in 2023 (T59). Young should be comfortable playing in the region as he played his college golf at Wake Forest, which is about an hour’s drive from Quail Hollow.

The 26-year-old has played well at Tom Fazio designs in the past and ranks 8th in the field in Strokes Gained: Total on those courses in his last 36 rounds. Perhaps most importantly, this season, Young is the best player on the PGA Tour in terms of proximity from 175-200 in the fairway, which is where a plurality and many crucial shots will come from this week.

Young is an elite talent and Quail Hollow has been kind to players of his ilk who’ve yet to win on Tour.

Byeong Hun An +5000 (FanDuel)

Byeong Hun An missed some opportunities last weekend at the CJ Cup Byron Nelson. He finished T4 and played some outstanding golf, but a couple of missed short putts prevented him from getting to the winning score of -23. Despite not getting the win, it’s hard to view An’s performance as anything other than an overwhelming success. It was An’s fourth top-ten finish of the season.

Last week, An gained 6.5 strokes ball striking, which was 7th in the field. He also ranked 12th for Strokes Gained: Approach and 13th for Strokes Gained: Off the Tee. The South Korean has been hitting the ball so well from tee to green all season long and he now heads to a golf course that should reward his precision.

An’s driver and long irons are absolute weapons. At Quail Hollow, players will see plenty of approach shots from the 175-200 range as well as some from 200+. In his past 24 rounds, Ben ranks 3rd in the field in proximity from 175-200 and 12th in proximity from 200+. Playing in an event that will not end up being a “birdie” fest should help An, who can separate from the field with his strong tee to green play. The putter may not always cooperate but getting to -15 is much easier than getting to -23 for elite ball strikers who tend to struggle on the greens.

Winning a “signature event” feels like a tall task for An this week with so many elite players in the field. However, he’s finished T16 at the Genesis Invitational, T16 at The Masters and T8 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The 32-year-old’s game has improved drastically this season and I believe he’s ready to get the biggest win of his career.

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