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Opinion & Analysis

What Tiger should give back to the game

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After Tiger Woods’ nothing-less-than astonishing return to form this year, capped by his recent win at The Tour Championship, it seems nearly everyone is back on the bandwagon. Need proof? Odds makers around the world have already made him the favorite to win next year’s Masters. And if you listen to the pundits tripping over each other to provide each fresh take you’d think this older, wiser, and humbler version of Tiger is not only now primed to do finally break Nicklaus’ major tournament record, but to possibly even be the one to who finally brings peace to the the Middle East, but I digress.

It’s true, Tiger’s done much for golf, likely more than any player of the modern era. In the past, he’s been penned as the games’ savior, bringing more eyeballs on, and players to, the sport than anyone since Palmer, and maybe more. He ushered in the era of the golfer as an uber-athlete, while bringing more attention, and more money to the sport (and the pockets of all his would-be successors and competitors), than any player before him. And he’s done all that just by playing it.

At the same time, though, the game has given Tiger much, arguably much more than any player before him, and so to a degree, I think it’s okay to expect that he owes it much more than any player before him. Sure, he’s given back in ways that go beyond just playing, like what he’s given to many who may never even play the game through his foundation. But it occurred to me after his win the other day, that Tiger now has a unique opportunity to give something different back to the game, and a host of struggling rank and file golfers that have largely supported him through the highs and lows of his career. And maybe, just maybe, this kinder, gentler, humbler Tiger is finally in a place where he’ll consider doing it.

Despite the scourge of slow play, time famine, and the other myriad of reasons cited for a drop in golf participation during the decade Tiger has spent absent from the major winners’ circle, one of the biggest ongoing issues affecting participation often goes unheralded. And this issue not only drives an estimated 25 percent of the players who quit the game from it, it greatly hampers the enjoyment of it for a vast multitude of others who still choose to play. The affliction known as the yips.

Now, if you listened to nearly every one of those same back-on-the-bandwagon pundits a mere year or two ago, they were lining up just as fast to claim how the yips were as much behind Tiger’s absence from competition (and his poor showings when did compete) as was his ailing back. Even the Tiger apologists had begun to come around, resigning themselves to the fact that something was seriously wrong, even while they tip-toed around the actual word like its utterance alone had the power to take him down. But with each topped tee shot, skulled bunker shot, or pitch from a tight lie that he laid the sod over, what were at first whispers rose to a near crescendo. Tiger had the yips. Especially around the greens, but it didn’t stop there, as his decade-long struggle with the big-stick was also being hailed as more mental than anything to do with the umpteen incarnations of his golf swing.

Watch this new Tiger, though, especially these past few months, and while his driver is still suspect, it’s hard to believe all those conversations about the yips were even being had. Contending in numerous events, coming close in two majors, and now winning The Tour Championship, and nearly The FedEx Cup, and even the staunchest Tiger critic would have a hard time not agreeing that he’s back, and not just from a bad back, but from a mental abyss the likes of which it can be argued that few have ever returned to the top of the sport from.

And this is where Tiger can finally, truly give something back. As one of the best to ever pick up a pitching wedge, I think it’s time we were treated to a little bit more than a mere platitudes, a What’s in The Bag, or an analysis of the nuts and bolts of the latest incarnation of his golf swing. It was long considered that Tiger’s iron-clad psyche, his iron will, and his mental toughness were his greatest weapon. In his prime, he was other-worldly, winning often by sheer intimidation. But now that that the myth of his immortality has been shattered, and he’s been revealed as much everyman as he is the superman we once put up on that pedestal, it’d be nice to see him play the part of Toto and pull back the curtain a bit on the struggles of the great and powerful Oz. And give us some real insight on what it exactly took to bring him back from the brink.

Tiger’s former coach Hank Haney (who also battled the yips) once did it, even wrote a whole book about it, something I’m sure it took some pride-swallowing to do. Tiger doing it would be on another level. And while it would be an even bigger act of humility for him to do so, especially when you consider his long-standing disdain for admitting to any kind of weakness, it would mean so much more.

If what we’re really seeing is a kinder, gentler, wiser, humbler Tiger this time around, one whose more appreciative of all he once had, all he still does, and all the game has given him, then maybe just maybe this time he’ll throw a bone to some of the rank and file who love this game, who’d love to keep loving it, and shed some light on the specifics of how he’s managed to leave one of the games’ biggest specters behind. It could help many get more out of the game, and give many more the hope they need to keep playing it. And in the process, Tiger just might give back to the game something he never knew he had the power to: the gift of its enjoyment.

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

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. bernd

    Oct 9, 2018 at 1:04 am

    1. Tiger owes nothing to the game of golf, he has given as much as he has received, if not moreso if you’re talking net revenues, etc
    2. Poorly written article, terrible transitions from one thought to another. Please, stop writing.
    3. Tiger doesn’t need to be anything to anyone besides his family at this point. If perceived as kinder, humbler, gentler, to the public, does it even matter? Is it even real? And again, he doesn’t owe that to the public. Last thing we need is another athlete pretending to put on a facade.

  2. Aztec

    Oct 8, 2018 at 9:19 pm

    Mike Dowd is the same guy who wrote an article saying amateurs should play at 30 times their average driving distance in order to break 100, 90, etc. (it’s easy to find on this site if you want). So, if you’re average drive is 250 you should be playing 7,500 yd courses to maximize your chances. AND he says this is backed by ‘research’. A lot of people called him out on this – not one response from him to either defend his position of just admit he made a mistake. This should give you an idea how credible he is.

  3. frank cichon

    Oct 8, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    His putting is not close to what it was like 5-6 years ago. I first noticed at Agusta a few years back when he had an eagle putt around 10 feet for either taking the lead or to tie for the lead (back 9 on Sunday) and he missed the put on the low side and the putt would not have hit the back of the hole..maybe it would not have even got to the hole. When Tiger was winning most of his putts hit the back of the cup with speed……too of he come up SHORT & often short on the LOW side…how often did that happen 5-6 years ago.His win was in a short field event (30 in the field , although a strong field) rounds of 65,68,65 FINAL round of 71 (average score for final round was UNDER 70) had a 4 shot lead after the 1st hole and only won by 1 when really only 2 players had a chance to beat him and they posted rounds of 74 & 75. I do not think he had much pressure put on him Sunday or the result may have been different.

  4. dat

    Oct 8, 2018 at 11:06 am

    Pathetic piece.

  5. William Davis

    Oct 8, 2018 at 9:38 am

    Could we not have a rest from Woods for, say, two months. He can then make yet another comeback.

  6. Hawkeye77

    Oct 8, 2018 at 7:45 am

    Seems like the only folks suggesting Tiger needs to “admit” he had the yips are those folks who wrongly claimed that he did in the first place, lol. Now he’s won and all the naysayers have to cling to something. Well written but the premise simply wrong.

  7. JP

    Oct 7, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    Author of this story should be fired.

  8. Kool Aid

    Oct 7, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    I said that when Tiger fell from grace, he should have donated 100 million dollars to 3rd world countries

  9. Duggie Howser

    Oct 7, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    Sounds like an Elizabeth Warren piece.

  10. Johnny Penso

    Oct 7, 2018 at 6:48 pm

    “I would hate to see golf get lost again in that Tiger talk” – Greg Norman

    Quite prophetic.

  11. bj

    Oct 7, 2018 at 6:25 pm

    Worst Ive read on this forum…..Way off base with this. wrong…wrong….wrong

  12. Paul Booij

    Oct 7, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    Tiger owes us nothing. However, it would be nice if he wrote a book about what he went through. I would probably buy it. Just to know about how he changed his swing from where he was a few years ago.

  13. Really?

    Oct 7, 2018 at 11:16 am

    Tiger owes us nothing.

  14. Beau B. Jamin

    Oct 7, 2018 at 10:56 am

    Mike – There is far more factual basis in Big Foot and UFO’s that there ever will be in the so called dreaded golf “yips”. It makes me laugh every time I hear anyone bring this topic up as it is some sort of incurable disease. Where did this goofy old school mythological golf disease actually come from? A scene from Caddyshack perhaps? I honestly don’t know. . . Now if you want to discuss poor performance brought on by a wide variety of things such as : A lack of confidence due to a lack of practice and experience with a given lie, distance, and/or ground conditions; or a lack of confidence due to mental distraction often brought on by paralyzing self consciousness and fear of failure which is more often than not brought on by lack of practice and experience with a given lie or situation, then we might have something to talk about, but “the yips”. . . I don’t know. . .

    • The dude

      Oct 7, 2018 at 9:08 pm

      Here’s what I learned from your post……you don’t know…(really bad post)

      • Bob

        Oct 8, 2018 at 9:23 am

        Here’s what I learned from your post. You’re a troll. . .

  15. Francis Speight

    Oct 7, 2018 at 10:47 am

    He never had the yips he had a bad back, it effects every part of your game.

    • dixiedoc

      Oct 8, 2018 at 10:26 pm

      He still has a bad back and he still has the yips. They’ll come back, you’ll see

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What really makes a wedge work? Part 1

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Of all the clubs in our bags, wedges are almost always the simplest in construction and, therefore, the easiest to analyze what might make one work differently from another if you know what to look for.

Wedges are a lot less mysterious than drivers, of course, as the major brands are working with a lot of “pixie dust” inside these modern marvels. That’s carrying over more to irons now, with so many new models featuring internal multi-material technologies, and almost all of them having a “badge” or insert in the back to allow more complex graphics while hiding the actual distribution of mass.

But when it comes to wedges, most on the market today are still single pieces of molded steel, either cast or forged into that shape. So, if you look closely at where the mass is distributed, it’s pretty clear how that wedge is going to perform.

To start, because of their wider soles, the majority of the mass of almost any wedge is along the bottom third of the clubhead. So, the best wedge shots are always those hit between the 2nd and 5th grooves so that more mass is directly behind that impact. Elite tour professionals practice incessantly to learn to do that consistently, wearing out a spot about the size of a penny right there. If impact moves higher than that, the face is dramatically thinner, so smash factor is compromised significantly, which reduces the overall distance the ball will fly.

Every one of us, tour players included, knows that maddening shot that we feel a bit high on the face and it doesn’t go anywhere, it’s not your fault.

If your wedges show a wear pattern the size of a silver dollar, and centered above the 3rd or 4th groove, you are not getting anywhere near the same performance from shot to shot. Robot testing proves impact even two to three grooves higher in the face can cause distance loss of up to 35 to 55 feet with modern ‘tour design’ wedges.

In addition, as impact moves above the center of mass, the golf club principle of gear effect causes the ball to fly higher with less spin. Think of modern drivers for a minute. The “holy grail” of driving is high launch and low spin, and the driver engineers are pulling out all stops to get the mass as low in the clubhead as possible to optimize this combination.

Where is all the mass in your wedges? Low. So, disregarding the higher lofts, wedges “want” to launch the ball high with low spin – exactly the opposite of what good wedge play requires penetrating ball flight with high spin.

While almost all major brand wedges have begun putting a tiny bit more thickness in the top portion of the clubhead, conventional and modern ‘tour design’ wedges perform pretty much like they always have. Elite players learn to hit those crisp, spinny penetrating wedge shots by spending lots of practice time learning to consistently make contact low in the face.

So, what about grooves and face texture?

Grooves on any club can only do so much, and no one has any material advantage here. The USGA tightly defines what we manufacturers can do with grooves and face texture, and modern manufacturing techniques allow all of us to push those limits ever closer. And we all do. End of story.

Then there’s the topic of bounce and grinds, the most complex and confusing part of the wedge formula. Many top brands offer a complex array of sole configurations, all of them admittedly specialized to a particular kind of lie or turf conditions, and/or a particular divot pattern.

But if you don’t play the same turf all the time, and make the same size divot on every swing, how would you ever figure this out?

The only way is to take any wedge you are considering and play it a few rounds, hitting all the shots you face and observing the results. There’s simply no other way.

So, hopefully this will inspire a lively conversation in our comments section, and I’ll chime in to answer any questions you might have.

And next week, I’ll dive into the rest of the wedge formula. Yes, shafts, grips and specifications are essential, too.

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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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