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Opinion & Analysis

Hot & Cold: Where strokes were won and lost at the AT&T Byron Nelson

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In “Hot & Cold,” we’ll be focusing each week on what specific areas of the game players excelled and disappointed in throughout the previous tournament. On Sunday, Sung Kang triumphed to claim his maiden title on the PGA Tour, and here’s a look at where some of the most notable players gained and lost strokes over the four days of action.

Hot

Sung Kang was on fire all week at the AT&T Byron Nelson with his work on the greens proving to be the main factor in his victory. Kang gained over ten strokes on the greens with his flat-stick, which unsurprisingly is the 31-year-old’s best-putting performance of his career. Check out the clubs Kang used to dominate last week in our WITB piece here.

While Jordan Spieth lost strokes both off the tee and for his approach play, the Texan continues to impress with the flat-stick in hand. Last week, Spieth gained 6.2 strokes over the field on the greens, meaning he has now gained strokes with the putter in his last four consecutive events.

Brooks Koepka is in excellent form as he heads to Bethpage Black, with his play off the tee looking very impressive. Koepka gained over four strokes over the field off the tee last week, which is his best total in this area since February.

Cold

Tony Romo produced a respectable showing at the AT&T Byron Nelson, but his poor driving cost him massively over the opening two days of the event. Romo lost over eight strokes for his play off the tee for his two rounds last week. To put that number in perspective, the former Dallas Cowboy’s quarterback only lost half a stroke to the field for his approach play, and 1.2 strokes on the greens.

It was an indifferent week for Patrick Reed, who continues to struggle for form. The Texan’s downfall at the AT&T Byron Nelson was his flat-stick, with Reed losing almost 3.5 strokes on the greens last week. Reed has now lost strokes on the greens in his last five consecutive tournaments.

It was a missed cut last week for Jimmy Walker, and it was the 40-year-old’s poor putting that did the damage. Walker dropped over four strokes to the field with the flat-stick – his worst performance in this area since February.

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Gianni is the Assistant Editor at GolfWRX. He can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @giannimosquito

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Podcasts

On Spec: The TRUTH about club fitting | How I got into the golf industry

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This week’s show goes deep into the subject of what club fitting can do to help golfers play better and also, what it can’t do. The discussion includes a wide-ranging spectrum of questions about cost, technology, advantages, and limitations of the process.

The final part of the show answers a common question about how the host (Ryan Barath) got into the golf business, and the long road to sitting in front of the microphone each week.

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The Gear Dive: The TXG Boys are back!

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In this episode of TGD brought to you by Titleist, Johnny catches up with Ian Fraser and Mike Martysiewicz of TXG. They discuss their top club picks of 2020 and what to expect in 2021.

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The Wedge Guy: Is lighter always longer?

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One of the continuing trends in golf clubs – particularly drivers – is the pursuit of increasingly lighter shafts; this obsessive goal has given us the premise that the lighter the club, the faster you can swing it. And that idea is driven by the relentless pursuit of distance at all levels, and for all golfers.

But as long as he is, for example, Dustin Johnson ran away with the Masters because he was exactly that – a “master” at ball control and precision. DJ outperformed almost everyone in the field in terms of fairways and greens. That gave him more birdie putts, better looks because of his precise approach shots, and many fewer tough par saves.

But my topic today is to pose the question: “Is lighter really the key to being longer for all of us “recreational” golfers?”
Let me begin by saying that “recreational” doesn’t mean any lack of seriousness or dedication to the game. Hitting better shots and shooting lower scores is the goal for all of us who care about our golf games, right? What I mean is that we do not make our living playing the game. We do not practice incessantly. We do not spend hours at the gym every day specifically preparing our bodies to optimize our golf skills.

Today I’m going to put on my “contrarian” cap and challenge this assumption of “lighter is longer” on a couple of bases.
First, if you watch every accomplished player, you will see that the body core rotation is fast enough to “beat” the hands and clubhead to the ball. All instructors agree that the big muscles of the legs and body core are the key to power and repeatability in the golf swing. The faster you can rotate your body through impact, the more power you generate, which flows down the arms, through the hands and shaft and to the clubhead. This is a basic law of “golf swing physics”.

The simple fact is, the speed at which you can fire these big muscles is not going to be measurably impacted by removing another half ounce or less of weight from your driver. But what that removal of weight can do is to possibly allow for your hands to be faster, which would aggravate the problem I see in most mid- to high-handicap players. That problem is that their body core is not leading the swing, but rather it is following the arms and hands through impact.

Secondly, speed without precision is essentially worthless to you, and likely even counter-productive to your goal of playing better golf. Even with the big 460cc drivers, a miss of the sweet spot by just a half inch can cost you 8-12% of your optimum distance. You could never remove enough weight from the driver to increase your club speed by that amount. So, the key to consistently longer drives is to figure out how to make consistently more precise impact with the ball.

No golf adage is always true, but my experience and observation of thousands of golfers indicates to me that the fastest route to better driver distance is to get more precise with your impact and swing path, and not necessarily increasing your clubhead speed. And that may well be served by moving to a slightly heavier driver, not a lighter one.

I’ll end this by offering that this is not an experiment to conduct in a hitting bay with a launch monitor, but rather by playing a few rounds with a driver that is heavier than your current “gamer”.

Continuing with my “contrarian” outlook on many aspects of golf equipment, the typical driver “fitting” is built around an intense session on a launch monitor, where you might hit 30-40 or more drives in an hour or so. But the reality of golf is that your typical round of golf involves only 12-13 drives hit over a four-hour period, each one affected by a number of outside influences. But that’s an article for another time.

For this week, think about pulling an older, heavier driver from your closet or garage and giving it a go for a round or two and see what happens.

I would like to end today’s post by wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. It’s been a helluva year for all of us, so let’s take some time this week to count our individual and collective blessings.

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