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The Wedge Guy: The highest loft you should carry

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I am starting to get more and more emails from you all, sharing your own personal questions and comments about what I’m writing. Thank you all for doing that and for taking the time to share. I will do my best to answer all of you individually, but realize that as the mailbox gets more and more full, that may be hard to do.

That said, I did get a few emails this past week asking for my thoughts about the highest loft wedge you should carry, so I thought that would make a good topic for today’s post. But first, let me share that I did my first GolfWRX podcast this week, and had a great time doing it. You can listen here.

So, now on to the big question that so many golfers have: What is the highest loft wedge I should carry?

Let me start with a bit of history of putting wedges in our bags, as that might help make sense of the subject for each of you.

After the invention of the sand wedge in the 1930s, a design generally credited to Gene Sarazen, most golfers began to carry one. Did you know that the 1930s was also the decade that witnessed one of the greatest contributions to modern golf clubs, the numbered and matched set of irons? Well, from that time through the 1940s, most golfers relegated that club to only those shots hit from the sand. Most “sand wedges” from that time until the mid-1980s were about 55-56 degrees in loft, but loft was not a specification that many paid much attention to. Sets of irons had a “pitching wedge” of about 50-52 degrees, and that was the more generally used wedge for greenside shots. However, in his 1949 book, “Power Golf,” Ben Hogan wrote that the sand wedge could be a great tool for certain greenside shots.

Through the 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, most of golf’s biggest stars only carried one “wedge” after their set-match pitching wedge. Many of them used that club to great success, and we witnessed near genius in the likes of Tom Watson, Phil Rogers, Seven Ballesteros and others.

It was the late 1980s, I believe, when Tom Kite began using the first 60-degree wedge to great success. They say he was deadly from his “magic number” — 63 yards, as I remember. I do know those first 60-degree wedges had very large heavy soles, with very pronounced camber from front to back. And they were very difficult to master for most recreational golfers.

Since that time, the higher lofted wedges began to take on more of the look of the traditional sand wedge, and the loft selection was expanded in both directions, with this design applied to wedges as low as 46 degrees and as high as 64. I believe Phil Mickelson gave the lofts over 60 degrees more visibility and curiosity than anyone.

So, with all these choices, what do each of you do with regard to deciding how high to go with the loft of your wedges? The reality is that the answer to that question is different for everyone but let me try to help you make sense of the process.

My observation is that the lofts over about 57-58 degrees are much more challenging to master for most recreational golfers. As loft increases above that level, controlling ball flight and distance becomes more and more difficult. Most golfers just have a hard time making as full a swing as required to move the ball a given distance with these high loft wedges. That said, I have seen recreational golfers that do a great job and use their high-loft wedges to great utility. But that number is very small in my estimation.

The biggest “fail” with the high loft wedges is making contact with the leading edge or very low on the face, either of which imparts much more dynamic force to the ball and sends it screaming over the green into a worse lie than you started with. Right behind that is the tendency to “bail out” on this fuller swing and decelerate before impact, laying the sod over on the ball, and having a similar result.

I do believe that mastering the higher lofted wedges of 60-64 degrees requires a great deal of practice, hitting all kinds of shots from whatever distance you consider “full” to delicate greenside chips and pitches. If you can take the time to do that, then you might turn that high-loft wedge into a powerful scoring tool. But if you don’t…well, my bet is that it will cost you more shots than it saves.

As I’ve already shared, I firmly believe you should select wedges that give you consistent distance differentials on full swings from your set-match 9-iron or “P-club,” all the way down to your 56-58 wedge. For most golfers that differential should be not more than 12-13 yards for optimum scoring. Depending on your strength profile, those loft differences could be as wide as 5-6 degrees, but 4 seems like it works for the vast majority of golfers.

Whether you choose to carry a wedge with a higher loft than that should be left to your own experiences with it, and an honest assessment as to whether that club should have a place in your bag.

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Terry Koehler is a fourth generation Texan and a graduate of Texas A&M University. Over his 40-year career in the golf industry, he has created over 100 putter designs, sets of irons and drivers, and in 2014, he put together the team that reintroduced the Ben Hogan brand to the golf equipment industry. Since the early 2000s, Terry has been a prolific writer, sharing his knowledge as “The Wedge Guy”.   But his most compelling work is in the wedge category. Since he first patented his “Koehler Sole” in the early 1990s, he has been challenging “conventional wisdom” reflected in ‘tour design’ wedges. The performance of his wedge designs have stimulated other companies to move slightly more mass toward the top of the blade in their wedges, but none approach the dramatic design of his Edison Forged wedges, which have been robotically proven to significantly raise the bar for wedge performance. Terry serves as Chairman and Director of Innovation for Edison Golf – check it out at www.EdisonWedges.com.

47 Comments

47 Comments

  1. Pingback: What Is The Loft On A 7 Wood | Golfing Revolution

  2. Lefthack

    Dec 13, 2020 at 10:34 am

    When I decided to refresh my 20 year old bag, I got an AW, a 56 and a 60 thinking I was missing something having only a SW bellow my set matched PW. After getting new irons, I realized I wasn’t using either the AW or the 60 and was doing everything with either the PW or 56.

    It might be due to the fact I used my old SW for anything 20 yards or more off the green. The rest is PW out to 80 yards. But now I have 2 wedges I don’t use.

  3. ChipNRun

    Jan 25, 2020 at 9:40 am

    PGA tour stats validate Terry’s comment on 57*-58* being upper limit on what most amateur golfers can handle. On tour, half the golfers have 58* as their highest lofted wedge.

    When I redid my wedges two seasons back, I went with Callaway MD3 in 48* and 54* and an MD-PM in a high-toe 60*/10.

    The 60* was good for certain greenside shots, but I had distance control problems and it was iffy for anything more than a half swing. It did NOT work out of junk lies – 54* much better.

    An MD4 58*/8 C-grind has replaced the 60*. MD4 much easier to control on distance, and just overall easier to use. Took me about 10 shots to get used to it.

    My brother, however, is a different story. I gave him a brand X 60* that was a golf clinic give-away, and he does magic tricks with the thing. (He does limit it to half swings). Whatever works!

  4. joro

    Jun 20, 2019 at 9:25 am

    I looked at a 64 the other day and it looked like the Ball would come straight up hit he in my Juevos. No Thanks, 58 is just fight.

  5. Christopher Hansen

    Jun 12, 2019 at 5:45 pm

    5 index. I have carried a 4-wedge setup for years. 45, 52, 56, 60. Why? Because I get predictable coverage at all distances inside of 140 yds. I can open up the 60 to flop or for delicate bunker shots.

    My favorite wedge of all time has to be the SM5 64 from Titelist. Sadly, they don’t make them anymore (but I still have one, heavily used). A 64 imparts big spin, and you can get balls to stop on a dime if executed properly. Very handy for sand, delicate greenside chips, and tight pin placements over hazards with very little green to work with. I only stopped carrying my 64 because it was so worn its grooves looked a bit questionable. I never picked up the Mac Daddy 64 when it came out. I’ve generally avoided Callaway as a brand (although I’m sure there’s no *real* difference for most people). Call me a wedge snob, but Vokey’s are still king.

    I’d love to see the 64 made in a Taylor Made wedge (or bring back the Titelist model).

    • Bob vokey

      Dec 6, 2019 at 9:50 pm

      Wedge snob and wrong. Look at any flight monitor and Vokey is king in name only.

  6. Distance Compression Dude

    Jun 9, 2019 at 3:46 pm

    90 degrees.

  7. James T

    May 25, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    “…we witnessed near genius in the likes of Tom Watson, Phil Rogers, Seven Ballesteros and others.”

    Terry… I’m glad your word correction program fixed it for you. Just a bit surprised it didn’t change it to Seven Ball and Stereos!

  8. Wally

    May 24, 2019 at 11:57 am

    I have a 60* and an old TM 64* wedge but I don’t carry them because I’m so inconsistent with them. You almost have to have the perfect lie to hit those clubs and at the courses that I play, very seldom do I get the manicured grass needed to hit those clubs. The highest lofted club that I carry is a 58* Ping Stealth or Cleveland RTX4 and even then I don’t take full swings with them.

  9. ChipNRun

    May 22, 2019 at 11:58 am

    Terry K. said…

    “My observation is that the lofts over about 57-58 degrees are much more challenging to master for most recreational golfers.”

    A couple of years ago, Golf Digest reported that half the male tour pros use a 58* as their highest-lofted wedge.

    As for pre-1980s role of SW, I would differ with Terry. Lots of players – including me – used a SW for greenside cut shots long before the LW arrived. First-cut lie = PW, shaggy lie = SW.

    Also, golf-ball designer Dean Snell has another angle on wedge problems of mid-HDCP golfers: harder distance balls. Dean suggests that a urethane ball will grab the clubface better on higher-lofted clubs such as wedges, and give better spin and control to ALL golfer.

    I carry a 48-54-60, mainly because I found a 60* I could hit. Big distance control problems with earlier 60* adventures.

    Also, many golfers only hit partial shots with SW and LW, as per Juststeve.

  10. G

    May 21, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    I remember the year G Mac won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. The lowest wedge in his bag was a 56*. Spoke with him during the Wednesday practice round and asked him why only one sand wedge. he said because it’s his best club for that course!

  11. slash

    May 20, 2019 at 8:38 pm

    46* is the squish club for an 85% shot that the 54* can’t be relied upon for a full swing
    54* is for long bunker and squishable 60* shots
    60* is for a rare full swing, bunkers, lobs (long and short) as well as big rough

  12. Howard Clark

    May 20, 2019 at 8:32 am

    I am scratch but, having said that, I can atke anyone’s 56, fan it open going back, and turn it into a 64.

    • Steve O

      May 29, 2019 at 6:02 am

      I’m a 3 and if I fan it open I can get the shanks. So I carry the loft that requires no adjustments, just as I do with my other irons.

    • Hank Hill

      Dec 6, 2019 at 9:52 pm

      I’m sure you can, Boomer.

  13. Frank

    May 19, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    Play in a real pro tournament and all those short side misses with the real tucked pins will 100% convince you to carry a 64 degree wedge, there’s a reason both DJ and Phil carry 64 degree wedges and it’s absolutely for those short shots with no green to work with.

    • Tiger Noods

      Jun 24, 2019 at 5:36 am

      Play as much as a pro, and you too can play any loft your heart desires.

  14. Sp4cetime

    May 19, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    In your podcast you suggest that forged tour wedges are a detriment to your average golfer. What do you suggest as an alternative?

    • Andrew

      May 21, 2019 at 6:38 pm

      Cleveland CBX. I have the 52, 56, and 60 degree.

  15. Phillip Pearson

    May 18, 2019 at 3:14 pm

    I love my 62* wedge. Yes it took practice BUT when you learn it , it’s a great club. From 65 yards in I can get it close most of the time. If you go out and practice the high lofted wedge at the practice range I think you will learn to love that high lofted wedge

    • Zach Bartness

      May 19, 2019 at 2:12 pm

      What’s your wedge setup with the 62*?

  16. Geoffrey Holland

    May 18, 2019 at 3:43 am

    “It was the late 1980s, I believe, when Tom Kite began using the first 60-degree wedge to great success.”

    Actually he started playing a lob wedge in 1980. Quite a big difference from your completely incorrect anecdotal evidence.

    I bought my first 60 degree wedge not long after Tom Watson won the US open in 1982 and Ram released the wedge series with his name on them. I’ve carried a Ram Tom Watson 60 degree wedge in my bag for probably 95% of the rounds I’ve ever played in my life.

  17. JG

    May 15, 2019 at 9:25 am

    The gapping and the sole is the most important in my estimation. I have rolled with setups like 50/55/60 and I currently game 50/54/58. If your scoring wedges aren’t properly dialed in correctly what’s the point. You just eliminated your ability to score…

  18. James

    May 15, 2019 at 9:12 am

    No one going to pick up on the seven Ballesteros’ in the list of great names?

  19. JThunder

    May 15, 2019 at 1:58 am

    “The highest loft you should carry” is like saying “the largest size shoes you should wear”. People are individuals. The corporate world and the internet desperately wish they were not, so it would be easier to make profits by selling everyone the same thing. This includes advice.

    If you want to know “the highest loft”, either work with a pro you trust who knows your swing and game, or find out for yourself. You can carry 14 clubs according to the rules. Generic advice won’t get you any further than what you already know, unless you’re new to the game.

  20. TD

    May 15, 2019 at 12:41 am

    I have a Ping G25 PW(45°) UW(50°) and a Vokey SM6 56°/M-8 and that’s all i ever need

  21. CG

    May 14, 2019 at 5:13 pm

    I like a 60* wedge with low bounce and wide flange. It’s my go to club around the greens. I honestly don’t see how people get by without a lob wedge. I watch them hit chips that run out too far and think, why? Learn to use a lob wedge!

    • JG

      May 15, 2019 at 9:22 am

      Because an average golfer (practice or plays once a week) who knows how to chip properly will see far lower scores than if they attempt to master a 60. Learning how to chip is just proper setup and making a putting stroke. Mastering a 60 takes practice and touch which the average once a week player doesn’t have at their disposal.

      • Boris Yeltsin

        Dec 6, 2019 at 9:55 pm

        Learning how to chip is the same with any club. Making the same stroke with different clubs is how you control distance. Good try.

      • Buckeye Doug

        Jan 3, 2020 at 4:41 pm

        Agreed a weekend duffer has a difficult time adjusting to a 60*. I used to play 52/56, now I play 52/56/60, i am not sure it has changed my score, but have several shots on my courses which are pitches between 10-30 yards

  22. JP

    May 14, 2019 at 4:35 pm

    Phil has been doing it wrong!

  23. Thomas Prosserr

    May 14, 2019 at 3:06 pm

    48pw a 56sw an a 60lw covers it all. Feel is the most important aspect of it. If it feels good do it. Me an my buds arent good enough to say you gota hit a certain club from a particular yardage an we all shoot about 10hdcp. yrstlawy in pa

  24. Nanananana

    May 14, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    Nobody will take away my 64 degree bent to 67 away from me. It does wonders around tight lies and checks the ball like it has a string attached

    • 3puttPar

      May 29, 2019 at 12:55 pm

      Sounds like you need to hit more GIR’s.

  25. Rich Douglas

    May 14, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    I play Wishon Sterling single-length irons. My set is 4-iron through lob wedge (60 degrees).

    I started out playing traditional SW and LW, but those clubs began to feel funny. I added the Wishon versions–which are the length of an 8-iron and struggled with them at first. Some back-and-forth ensued, but I stuck with the SW first, then the LW. I’m not interested in going back.

    I play a course that’s short and all the greens are Donald Ross-style pop-ups; small and elevated. Almost every approach shot is hit with a wedge, and all shots around the green have to be hit high and soft or they won’t stay. Sure, you can try to run them up the slopes, but that’s a guessing game. I have no trouble anymore hitting lob shots with my LW opened way up. The swing is a little flatter, but it’s not a problem.

    But the best part of these wedges is hitting them from the fairway. It’s nice to use the same swing planes (back and down) I use with all my other wedges. That was the point of going to single-length clubs; the SW and LW complete the experiment. I’m never going back!

  26. Pete

    May 14, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    Funny, the 60′ is one of the few clubs I goet a consistent distance with full swing. Handy 18

  27. Scratchscorer

    May 14, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    If the bounce and lie angle are a good match then I see no problem with 60 degrees. It’s all about getting those two things right and then finding the lofts that fit your eye and give you the ball flight you expect from your shots.

  28. PSG

    May 14, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    Right. So “in your estimation” you “have seen a lot” of high handicappers that are not good with high lofted wedges.

    It is the exhaustive research and hard-hitting data that makes this article so good.

    I’ll save everyone else some time: “I think 57-58 is too much, because I can see the loft on the wedge watching most people hit. So, eh, have good gaps I guess. Who knows. This changes if you practice some.”

  29. RudyV

    May 14, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    I’m 62 and I never carried anything more than my Pitching wedge until about 15 years ago…my PW has a loft of 46 degrees so my next wedge is 50 then 54…I find it very difficult, for myself, to hit a loft larger than that consistently but I do almost always take a full swing with my wedges…I’m not as long as I used to be but I do find it advantageous on wedge shots to try and take full swings…as I said, that works for me…then again if I can’t get to the green on my second shot I will put myself as close to 100 yards out as I can…for me, that’s my 50 degree at a full swing

  30. Dayunski

    May 14, 2019 at 10:57 am

    I’m a 12. I use 50, 54 and 58. My benchmark distances for regular full swings are 100, 85 and 70. I practice 3/4 and 2/3 swings. In theory, I have a swing in 5 yard increments from 60-105 yards. The wedge I use also depends on how I want to land the ball and how much green to work with. Works for me 70% of the time.

  31. ~j~

    May 14, 2019 at 10:44 am

    when first swinging a club around age 16-17, I had an old dunlop 64* I used to mess around with in a park beside my house, walk out at anytime with a few cold beers and spend an hour + just hitting it back and forth to things (had 100y or so of ample space).

    I wouldn’t touch a 64* now, but I bank on my 60* Vokey from 105y and in every round. I wouldn’t recommend it to my golfing peers but I’ve always been able to scale the 60* to whatever distance needed, and it sticks like a dart.

    I’ve hear the arguments against it, things like one could lay a 56* open and have the same effect. True, but I’d rather take a full swing with a squared club than one that’s held wide open.

    My 2 wedges I carry are 50-08* and 60-04*. 60* gets me up to 105y max, and a 75% 50* gets me from 100y up to 130 comfortably before my PW takes over. Just enough space between wedges to allow a choice, but anything within 100y is normally my 60-04* vokey, unless I need a little more bounce.

    • Christian Larsson

      May 22, 2019 at 2:29 am

      You had a habit of drinking a few beers….at 16 years of age?

    • Gene Seretore

      Dec 9, 2019 at 12:58 pm

      Upon further review, this comment has been flagged as fake news.

  32. Juststeve

    May 14, 2019 at 10:23 am

    Consistent full swing distance gaps, 12-13 yards is of little significance to me since it is very seldom I make a full swing with any of my “distance wedges”. I carry a 50, a 54, and a 58, but, inside about 80 yards I will most likely be making a partial swing with any of my wedges depending on the trajectory I want and how I want the ball to act after it lands. Full swing carry distances are irrelevant to me.

    • Alex Corona

      May 14, 2019 at 11:11 am

      So you don’t hit full swing wedges? what do you hit at 135yrds pin but carry 132 yrds? Full swing wedges matter as well as charting partial swing wedges. Both are valuable but saying full carry distances are irrelevant doesn’t make a ton of sense to me.

      • Juststeve

        May 14, 2019 at 12:24 pm

        From 135 I hit a nine iron, in real life, on the internet it’s a little sand wedge.

        It’s not that I never hit a stock wedge, but it’s seldom I find myself on the number just to hit a full wedge. Much more often I am inside the full wedge range for any of my wedges trying to figure out how to best get the ball close to the hole. In that large majority of cases how far I hit the club with a full swing has very little to do with the club I choose. I’m not going to make a full swing with any of the wedges.

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Opinion & Analysis

2023 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Betting Tips & Selections

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Here we go again.

After the multi-course American Express and the two-track Farmers, the PGA Tour arrives at the legendary Pebble Beach for this week’s AT&T.

Shorter than the average tour event, the coastline course/s deliver a reasonably simple test for the high-level celebrities and their professional playing partners, but this changes dramatically should any of the famed coastal weather arrive.

Bad enough for those paid to hit a dimpled ball, it can turn an amateur’s enjoyable (and expensive) round into something horrendous like this.

Three players clearly stand head-and-shoulders above the rest, both in terms of quality and world ranking, and they do have figures that justify that – in spades.

Favourite Jordan Spieth is the King of Pebble. His record here is unsurpassed, and he relishes the challenges of this seaside terrain.

However, with no serious turn in conditions, I’m not sure his current game is much to go on. The 29-year-old has missed the cut in two of his last six starts, the best results coming in limited field events at two of the FedEx play-off events and the Tournament of Champions.Not as if Spieth needs to be in form – he won the RBC Heritage last year after a run of mc/35/35/mc, but even a win, runner-up, third , fourth, seventh and ninth, it always feels as if you take your life in your own hands when backing him at 10/1 and less.

Matt Fitzpatrick and Viktor Hovland make up the elite trio, all residing in the top-16 of the world rankings.

Both justify being alongside the Texan at the top of the market, although until last season’s closing sixth place finish, only Fitz’s 12th at the 2019 U.S Open was worth noting from an event formline of missed-cut and 60th.

Interestingly, the Norwegian matched that finish three years ago, becoming low amateur for the second major in a row, and both are hard to argue against.

With combined wins in Mayakoba, Puerto Rico and Dubai, as well as top finishes at various Open championships, conditions suit both equally well. Choosing between them is tough enough, but with home players winning 27 of the last 30 events held here (17 of the last 18) and with doubts about the motivation for playing this week, they can all be left alone at combined odds of around 9/4.

The draw is probably as crucial here as any other event, with Pebble Beach having some of the smallest greens on tour and Spyglass Hill being affected occasionally by similar winds. Make the score at Monterey Peninsula, if at all possible.

Despite the quality up front, the section that includes defending champion Tom Hoge, Maverick McNealey, Andrew Putnam and Seamus Power has equally strong credentials for the title.

Hoge aims to become only the second player to defend this title since 2000 and, whilst playing as well as ever, is no Dustin Johnson, whilst it’s hard to put McNealey in front of the Irishman given the latter’s 2-0 lead in PGA Tour wins, and 3-zip if you count the KFT.

Power ranks in the top echelons of players with form at short courses and is easy to make a case for in an event at which he opened up a five shot lead at one point last year, before finishing in ninth.

The 35-year-old has never been better, now ranked inside the top-30 after a season that included that top-10 here and again at Southern Hills, a top-12 behind Fitz at Brookline, third at Mayakoba and fifth at the RSM. The highlight, of course, was the victory in Bermuda, sitting nicely with his first victory at the Barbasol, that Kentucky event showing links to proven coastal/short course player Kelly Kraft (runner-up here to Spieth in 2019) and Aaron Baddeley and Kevin Streelman, with six top-10 finishes between them at the AT&T.

Rather like the player he beat in that Barbasol play-off (J.T Poston) Power is fairly easy to read, and although the very nature of pro-ams doesn’t suit everyone, the course make-up suits perfectly.

Usually consistent and in the top echelons for tee-to-green, greens-in regulation, and for up-and-down, Power comes here looking to recover from an unusually poor performance on the large Abu Dhabi putting floors. Certainly the figures look awry compared with his 10 strokes gained for tee-to-green and 12th for around-the-green, and it’s easy to see improvement in California, where in 2022 he lay in fourth place into Sunday at the pro-am at La Quinta, as well as a previous ninth place finish at the Barracuda (fifth into Sunday).

He’s the best of the week but I’m also including:

Alex Smalley – We were on 26-year-old Smalley for the American Express a few weeks ago and he was going well until the PGA West (Nicklaus) caught him out, causing a drop into 62nd from 21st place, and close to two of the other three selections this week, as well as Garrick Higgo, who just missed out due to lack of experience here.

The recovery into a place just outside the top-20 was impressive, though, with a final round 63 comprising 10 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation, as well as making all his putts under 10 feet.

Those sorts of figures have been expected from the outstanding Duke graduate, who made his PGA Tour debut as an amateur at the 2017 U.S Open. Since then, it hasn’t been plain sailing, indeed he has yet to win an event despite an excellent return to this level in 2022.

Starting with a best-of-Sunday 65 to finish tied runner-up at Corales, he then finished in the top six behind Jon Rahm and co in Mexico, 10th at the Scottish Open and 13th at Sedgefield.

Since October, Smalley has made seven of nine cuts, highlights being 11th at Bermuda and a pair of top-five finishes at the RSM and Houston, all contributors to the tee-to-green stats that see him rank 1/2/6/11/13 for his ball-striking and significant given the test this week..

He couldn’t get it going at Waialae for the Sony but followed up the La Quinta effort with a top-40 at Torrey Pines, when his tee-to-green game was again perfectly respectably ranked in 33rd given the strength of the field.

Runner-up in the Dominican Republic, fourth and 15th in Houston, and with form at Colonial and Bermuda, this looks the prefect test for a player that at least had a look last year, and that the bookmakers simply cannot make their mind up about.

Robby Shelton – Makes his event debut here this week in his second time at the top level, but the former Walker Cup player has enough relevant form to make him of interest, particularly after a sixth place at the multi-course American Express a few weeks ago, his best finish in California so far.

Shelton included Scottie Scheffler and Ben Griffin as play-off victims when winning two of a total of four KFT events in 2019 and 2022, coming here after making eight out of ten cats (yeah, I know) since arriving back on tour in September.

Best efforts are 15th at the Shriners and a top-10 at the RSM, but let’s also throw in a sixth at Mayakoba, 11th at the Honda and a top-20 in Texas.

This is a drop in class, and significantly in distance, from Torrey Pines and I’d expect to see more advantage taken here.

Harrison Endycott – One of the Player To Follow for this season, it’s hard to work out exactly what the 26-year-old Aussie wants in terms of course set-up, but given his heritage and junior career, it’s fairly certain he can play well in the wind.

Having made his way through the grades including a win, two top-10s and two top-20s on the KFT, he wasted little time making his mark at the highest level, finishing tied-12th at the Fortinet in California, a joint best-of-the-day 65 launching him up the board on day three.A month later, Endycott started the Bermuda Championship with a pair of double-bogeys before signing for an opening nine-under 62, the catalyst for another career top-10, and in November he overcame a poor opening round at his home PGA Championship (111th) before flying through the field as the event progressed, finishing a never-nearer 18th behind Cam Smith.

Even the missed-cut at the Australian Open was not devoid of promise, an opening 68 seeing him start the second round in 7th place.

With a pedigree in Australia and a residence in Scottsdale, I’ll take the chance he will find something back in California, scene of the best of three events in 2023 – 22nd at the American Express – when his game showed the all-round prowess it did in Scottsdale – top-11 in approach and top-15 tee-to-green.

Recommended Bets:

  • Seamus Power – WIN
  • Alex Smalley – WIN/TOP-5
  • Robby Shelton – WIN-TOP-10
  • Harrison Endycott – WIN/TOP-20
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Opinion & Analysis

2023 Farmers Insurance Open: Betting Tips & Selections

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Get your bets on earlier than usual this week as the Farmers Insurance Open runs Wednesday to Saturday, the advancement of a day avoiding a clash with the NFL Conference Championship games.

We raise the bar a notch as the tour reaches Torrey Pines, a course used for this (and related) events since 1968, although the current set-up on the South Course now measures almost 1000 yards than the one seen 55 years ago.

Now utilising the easier North Course for one round, players will still need to have their grinding game as the weekend progresses over a course re-configured for the 2021 U.S Open – won by this week’s hot favourite Jon Rahm – and one that has seen the last three winners score no better than 15-under.

As my learned GolfWRX colleague says:

While last year’s winner Luke List was a shock, beaten play-off rival Will Zalatoris certainly fits the bill in becoming the last of a long line of contenders at Torrey that have challenged at the majors.

Patrick Reed, Marc Leishman, Justin Rose and, of course, seven times Torrey winner Tiger Woods, would all be seen as elite in their time, and you can confidently add the likes of runners-up Tony Finau, Adam Scott and Xander Schauffele to those.

Greens change to Poa Anna this week, and with the home course possessing suitably tough greens, players need solid tee-to-green games to remain with a chance down the back-stretch on Saturday afternoon. Forget the pitch and putt of La Quinta and friends, this week is far from a repeat.

You would be forgiven for thinking this is the Woods era, a solid 4/1 shot heading the market.

Tiger he is not, but having won four of his last five events and winning the Farmers here in 2017 and the U.S Open four years later, Jon Rahm carries almost unbeatable status into this week. However, much depends on getting the right draw over the first two days – at the price he can be left alone.

With the trophy likely to go to one of the better fancied players, here’s a chance to select two or three from the next half-dozen and still look at a better return than backing the favourite – and, for me, Tony Finau and Jason Day fit the bill.

Unlike someone like J.T Poston, I can’t seem to call Tony Finau right, but if he is ever going to repay the faith, it is here.

Having raised his game to another level in winning back-to-back at Minnesota and Detroit, the 33-year-old was fancied to go well in Mayakoba. Naturally, he missed his first cut since the US Open in June, subsequently gagging up in Houston, making it three wins in seven starts – not Rahm (or Scheffler of early ’22) but not far behind.

Fancied to do another back-to-back special, Finau then withdrew from the RSM Classic before probably needing the run-out when 7th at the Hero World Challenge. – extremely frustrating but, on face value, continuing a career-best run.

2023 has seen encouragement in both starts, with eight rounds in the 60s leading to a seventh place at Kapalua and a most recent 16th at last week’s pro-am jolly, where he came from outside the top 60 on Thursday and from 34th at the cut mark.

Finau’s tee-to-green game remains of the highest class, ranking ninth in ball-striking over three months and third over six, but it’s now matched by a putting prowess that takes advantage of his constant green finding.

Events may be limited, but over the last 14 rounds or so, Big Tone leads the tour in putting average, beating even the likes of flying Jon Rahm. Sure, you can regard that as a skewed stat, so take it over another 12 weeks and he is in third – remarkable for someone that just a year ago was known for missing the vital ones.

Take the 2021 U.S Open away and Finau has four top-six finishes and a pair of top-20s here, and ignore last year’s missed weekend too – he was in the top-10 after the first round and was simply not at the races on day two.

Finau’s record on poa greens reads well enough – he won the Rocket Mortgage, and has top-10s at Riviera, Winged Foot and Olympia Fields, the latter pair giving credence to the Torrey/majors connection, whilst connecting Memorial form sees him record two top-10s and two top-15 finishes.

Being unconvinced that either Zalatoris’ or Justin Thomas’ games are pitch perfect, TF looks the best challenge to the favourite.

The favourite’s record in California is almost too good to be true, with four wins, seven top-5s and three top-10s but if anyone can challenge that, it’s surely Jason Day, who looks as if he is now fully recovered from injury and personal tragedy.

Winner here in 2015 and 2018, the Aussie also boasts a runner-up, third and fifth place around tough Torrey and an average position of 15th from 14 Pebble Beach outings. He loves California.

Having dropped from world number one to outside of the top-100 in five seasons, the 35-year-old has fought back from adversity to make his way back up the rankings, helped by a pair of top-10 finishes at, no surprise, Pebble and Torrey.

In order to protect what has been a fragile back, the 16-time major top-10 star reached out to swing coach Chris Como, formally an aide of Tiger Woods.

“Going into this year I did some swing changes with my coach, and I feel like those are slowly cementing themselves in there,” Day said on Golf Channel.

“I’m shallowing it out,” Day continued. “The swing has changed dramatically. It took me about a year and half to get the body correct, and the body movement correct until I could actually get into shallowing it out correctly.”

Judged on the latest figures, it seems to be coming together nicely.

Day ended 2022 with four cuts from five, including 8th at Shriners, 11th at the CJ Cup, 21st at Mayakoba and 16t in Houston, and last weekend finished in the top 20 at La Quinta having been third after two rounds.

16th for ball-striking over the last three months, slightly better over six, his top-30 for driving accuracy has led to a similar ranking for greens found. Take that, and any improvement, into an event he enjoys more than most, and we have a winning formula.

Away from the top, it’s hard to get excited about the chances of many.

Having nabbed a big-priced second last week with one of the 12 Players-to-Watch 2023, it is tempting to go back in again on Davis Thompson on a course that may suit even better. However, hitting 14 out of 18 greens at the Stadium Course is a far cry from a debut at Torrey Pines and he may just need the sighter.

Taylor Montgomery calls himself after his fourth top-five in just nine full-time starts on the PGA, particularly after a debut 11th as a sponsor’s invite last year. Prices in the 20s don’t appeal at all against proven and regular winners though, so take a chance on another top finish from the defending champion Luke List.

For someone that believes List is Dye-positive, his first win on the poa greens of Torrey Pines was a bit of a shocker.

I put the 38-year-old up as a lively top-10 bet last week, when the thought process was that this long driver should only need to drive and flip to the greens, but sadly his game was all over the place. However, I’ll take another chance in conditions that clearly suit last year’s play-off victor, a win that came off four straight cuts here that included a 10th and 12th placed finish.

Since the start of the 2022 season, List has 11 top-25 rankings for driving, five for approaches and seven for tee-to-green, whilst it was only a couple of starts ago that he matched the best at Kapalua.

As for the fabled short stick, it’s a case of being with him when he just works better than field average – 6th at Bethpage Black, in two of his four completions at Riviera and in three of five outings at Silverado, all of a  similar grass type.

Players constantly repeat form here at Torrey, so whilst he may not do a 1-2 or, indeed, a 2-1 on the lines of Mickelson, Day, Snedeker and Leishman to name a few, List is very capable of pulling out a finish on the first two pages of the board.

Recommended Bets:

  • Tony Finau Win 
  • Jason Day Win-Top-5 
  • Luke List Top-10 
  • Luke List Top-20 
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Opinion & Analysis

2023 American Express: Betting Tips & Selections

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Last week’s Sony Open saw the unusual occurrence of a top-10 devoid of a name that had played the Tournament of Champions, and yet eventual champion Si Woo Kim won his fourth PGA event, all on Bermuda greens.

Sometimes, like picking the week that a poor putter knocks in 30-footers, it’s just picking the right stat on the right day.

The tour makes the annual return to southern California for the charity pro-am event, where in its 63 history many courses have played host to the great and the good of the entertainment world. And Bill Murray.

For us, concerned with only who might win and at what price, we return to a three course rotation on which one one player in the last 16 years has won in under 20-under and an in an event that has seen four of the last 10 winners start at triple figures, with Adam Long going off at 500-1+.

Put simply, the set-up is too easy to enjoy it too much, players won’t miss many greens, and, as Adam Long said, “you can make a lot of putts because these greens on all three courses are just perfect. So you can make them from all over.”

The front of the market is classier than normally found here, but with the combined price of the top eight, we are asked to take around 4-6 that any of those win. Sure, that’s highly likely, but many of that octet have thrown away winning chances over the last few months, and the obvious man to beat, Jon Rahm, threw his hands in the air last year, calling this a less than satisfactory set-up.

In an event that is worth looking at after the cut – the average halfway position of winners over the last five years is 8th – the suggestion is to play a touch lighter than usual, with just two selections in the pre-event market.

Short tracks that reward consistent tee-to-green and putting efforts see me look for ‘The Real JT’ at every opportunity, and at 60/1 I can’t resist putting James Tyree Poston up as the best of the week.

Winner of the 2019 Wyndham Championship in 22-under, from course specialist Webb Simpson, JT confirmed then his love for Bermuda greens, something he had shown when seventh here and sixth at Harbour Town a few months earlier. The Wyndham, incidentally, home to a trio of wins by Davis Love III, a confirmed Pete Dye specialist.

Fast forward to 2022 and, after a solid all-round performance at sub-7000 yard River Highlands, the 29-year-old comfortably won the John Deere Classic, where he again proved too good for some charging rivals, from tee-to-green and on the dancefloor.

Poston’s best form outside of his two wins is at the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town, another specialist Dye/DL3 track, where he has a record of 3/mc/8/6 and where he has ranked in fifth and seventh place for tee-to-green.

After a solid top-10 at the top-class Tour Championship at the end of last season, Poston comes here after a solid run of 21st at the RSM, the same at Kapalua and 20th at last week’s Sony, ranking 6th and 13th for tee-to-green in both of the more suitable, shorter tracks, all of which have Bermuda greens.

Now teetering on the edge of the world’s top 50, Poston probably can not compete on the longer, elite courses. He’ll need to take advantage of ‘his’ tracks, and, with a 7th and 25th already in his locker around here, this event is most definitely one of those.

I’d like to have been with Andrew Putnam, playing excellent golf, making his last 13 cuts, and holding an enviable course record, but at the same price as last week he’s just left out given the tougher opposition. Top that with a tendency to throw away a weekend lead (Barracuda, AT&T and the RSM just a couple of months ago) and I’d rather be with Alex Smalley who has gone the opposite direction, now trading at more than double his price for the Sony just seven days ago.

The 26-year-old Duke graduate played in both the 2019 Arnold Palmer and Walker Cup sides, finishing with a record of three wins from four at each, before gaining his PGA Tour card when recording three top-five finishes and two top-15s on the KFT, eventually finishing 12th on the 2021 KFT finals lists.

Included in his 2021 season was a 14th at Corales, and he showed that to be no fluke when finishing in the top 15 at both Bermuda and Houston, both with similar greens as he will find this week.

2022 was a big year for Smalley, starting with a best-of-Sunday 65 to finish tied runner-up at Corales, finishing in the top six behind Jon Rahm and co in Mexico, 10th at the Scottish Open and 13th at Sedgefield.

Since October, Smalley has made five of seven cuts, highlights being 11th at Bermuda and a pair of top-five finishes at the RSM and Houston, all contributors to the tee-to-green stats that see him rank 1/2/6/11/13 for his ball-striking.

The second-season player was always on the back foot at Waialae last week, finishing the first round way down the pack after the first round. Cross that out and I’m struggling to see why he’s been dismissed by the oddsmakers for his second attempt at a course that found him ranked top-10 off the tee just 12 months ago.

There is a lingering fantasy around Luke List, whose 11th at the long Kapalua course might indicate a solid run this week. Given his first two wins came at Pete Dye related tracks (South Georgia designed by Davis Love, five time champion at Harbour Town) and Sawgrass Valley (the very name giving away its Dye/Bermuda links) he is clearly one to watch, even if he is simply one of the worst putters on tour.

He may be left behind by a few around this putter-heavy track, but he has a best of a 6th place finish in 2016 and a pair of top-22 finishes over the last two seasons. List should only have to flip wedges to many of these greens, and should he simply finish field average in putting as he did when finding over 11 strokes on the field at Torrey Pines (yes, 11 strokes. Plus 11 strokes) he will land a top-20 wager.

Reccomended Bets:

  • J.T Poston WIN/TOP-5
  • Alex Smalley WIN/TOP-10
  • Luke List TOP-20
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