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Why do Tour players prefer fades over draws from the tee box?

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There is a growing trend on the PGA Tour and other professional golf tours where some of the game’s best players favor a fade from the tee box. Amateur golfers often struggle with golf shots that slice away from their target. These shots can lead them out of play and have them eagerly chasing a more neutral or drawing shot shapes. Additionally, a large fraction of low handicap and professional golfers play a golf shot that draws repeatedly onto their target. These thoughts can leave you wondering why anyone would choose to play a fade rather than a draw with their driver.

The debate over whether players should fade or draw their golf shots has been intensely lobbied on either side. While this is highly player specific, each particular shot shape comes with a set of advantages and disadvantages. In order to discuss why elite golfers are choosing to play a fade and why you might as well, we must first explore how each shot shape is created and the unintended effects within each delivery combination. This article explores the ideas that lead some of the most outstanding players in the world to choose a fade as their go-to shot shape for their driver.

Before examining what makes each shot unique, golfers should be familiar with some common club fitting and golf swing terminology. Club path, clubface angle, impact location, spin-axis or axis tilt, and spin loft are all detailed below.

The curvature of a golf ball through the air is dependent on the backspin and sidespin of each shot. These spin rates are directly linked with each players golf swing and delivery characteristics. During every shot, each golfer will deliver the golf club back to the golf ball in a specific orientation. The relationship between the golf club face and the path of that club will determine much of how the golf ball will travel. A golf clubface that is closed to a club path will result in golf shots that either draw or hook. A clubface more open to the club’s path with create a shot that fades or slices. It is important that face angle measurements are taken in reference to the club path as terms like “out-to-in” or “in-to-out” can results in either of these two curvatures depending on face angle and impact location measurements.

Impact location should not be overlooked during this exchange and is a vital component of creating predictable golf shots that find the fairway and reach their maximum distances. As strikes move across the clubface of a driver gear effect begins to influence how the golf ball travels. In its simplest form, gear effect will help turn the golf ball back to the center of the golf club head. Impact locations in the heel will curve towards the middle and lead to golf shots with a more pronounced fading shape. Toe strikes lead to the opposite reaction and produce more draw or hook spin. Striking a golf ball from the upper half of the driver clubface produce higher launches and less spin, while strikes from the bottom create lower launches with higher backspin rates.

Spin-axis tilt or simply axis tilt is a result of the amalgamation of face angle, club path and strike locations. A golf shot will curve in the direction that its axis tilts during flight. Golfers familiar with launch monitors like Trackman and GCQuad, can reference axis tilt and spin-axis tilt measures for this measurement. Shots that curve to the left will have a leftward tilted axis, and shots to the right a rightward axis tilt. Golf shots tilting to the left and to the right are given names depending on which hand is dominant for that golfer. A draw or hook is a golf shot that curves in the air away from the golfers dominate hand. Right-handed players will see a golf ball hit with a draw spin from right to left in the air. Left-handed golfers see their draw shots spin from left to right. Fades and slices have the opposite shapes.

Spin loft is another critical component of creating and maintaining the flight of a golf ball. In concert with the spin-axis tilt of the golf ball, the spin loft influences the amount of backspin a golf ball possesses and will determine much of how stable that golf ball’s flight becomes. Golf shots hit with more backspin curve less violently than golf shots hit with too little spin especially in the wind. Spin loft is exemplified as golfers find themselves much more accurate with their wedges than their driver. More spin equals more stability, and this leads us to why professional players opt for their fade.

Modern drivers can be built to maximize the performance of each golfer on their best swings, but what about their misses? Golfers often lose confidence standing over their golf shots if they see the ball overdrawing or hooking too often. Overdraws and hooks create golf ball flight conditions that are unpredictable and lead to directional and distance detriments that can cause dropped shots and penalties. Because of this, elite right-handed players do not often like to see the golf ball going left from the tee box. By reducing their chances of hitting hooking tee shots, golfers often feel more freedom to swing the golf club freely and make smooth, powerful motions. This is never more evident than when watching Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson hit their drivers. While both players hit the golf ball both ways, their go-to shot from the tee is a left-to-right curving fade.

But wait, doesn’t a draw go further than a fade? While it is not inevitable that a draw will fly further or roll out more than a fade, the clubface and club path conditions needed at impact to produce each shape often lead to differences in spin rates and launch angles that affect distance. Less dynamic loft created by a closed clubface can lead to lower launch, less spin, and more distance. The drawback of these conditions is the reduced spin loft and decreased stability. So how much distance is worth losing to find more fairways? As we continue to see some of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour win tournaments and major championships distance is the premium.

Luckily, modern drivers and club fitting techniques have given players a perfect blend of distance and accuracy. By manipulating the center of gravity of each driver, golfers can create longer shots from their best strikes without giving up protection from their mishits. Pushing the weights more near the clubface of drivers has given players the ability to present more loft at impact without increasing backspin. The ability to swing freely and know that if you miss your intended strike pattern your shot will lose distance but not end up in the most dangerous hazards have given players better, more repeatable results.

While it can be advantageous for casual golfers and weekend players to chase as many yards as possible, players that routinely hit the golf ball beyond 300 yards can afford their misses to fall back if they will remain in play and give them a chance to find the green in two shots. More stability when things do not go as planned thanks to increased spin lofts and less violent curvature has allowed elite level golfers to perform consistently even under the most demanding situations and it is why we continue to see a growing number of players favor a fade from their tee shots.

 

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Paul Liberatore was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. He has been an avid and passionate golfer for over 30 years, and loves learning and increasing his knowledge on the game. While still in college, Paul co-founded the AccuHit Company with his father and helped it to become one of the most recognized golf training aids in the world. A lawyer by day, his true passion is his website Golfers Authority which delivers the very latest in golf equipment reviews, buyer guides, tips, and advice that helps players take their golf game to the next level.

34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Pingback: Draw Vs Fade In Golf – What’s The Difference And What’s Better - (MUST READ Before You Buy)

  2. Micheal L Timpson

    Jun 29, 2020 at 8:11 pm

    Absolutely love this article! Thank you for your dedication too teaching and wanting to help others improve their games.

  3. Tim

    Aug 1, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    The simple answer is the players just aren’t good enough to play draws all the time. its become too strong of a shot for them. Only a select few can control it anymore.

    • Funkaholic

      Aug 14, 2019 at 1:45 pm

      I think shot shaping is not as easy with modern equipment and modern balls that favor straight flight and distance, it has nothing to do with skill.

    • Paulo

      Jan 7, 2020 at 11:50 am

      I guarantee they’re still better than 99.99999999% of people posting on here

  4. Eric Sidewater

    Jul 29, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    It has nothing to do with ball flight and everything to do with the aforementioned players having a closed face throughout almost all of their swings, so they lock in a slightly closed face and can use the ground to create massive leverage for their pivot, so the club path can rip hard to the left and you’ll get 10 yard fades with over 175 MPH of ball speed and your SG: Driving soars.

  5. Dan W

    Jul 28, 2019 at 3:15 am

    I’ll sum up the article for everyone. Fades have more backspin than draws. Fades don’t roll out as much, making the fairway wider than if a draw was played. It’s also wrong that a high spin shot is more stable in the wind. I almost laughed out loud st that one. Why do players flight down shots sometimes with more club in the wind? It spins less. Wind adds spin unless it’s down wind. Plus it’s hard to fade a low shot. So low flighted draws are always hit in high side or hurting wind. It’s pretty much common knowledge.

  6. Frank

    Jul 26, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    “Distance is the premium” yet after measuring over 40 PGA Tour events of tee shots from winners that led to birdies/eagles on par 4’s and 5’s, the average distance is only 295 and 305 yards, respectively. So that’s only 5 yards further than the average PGA Tour driving distance on par 4’s and 15 yards further on par 5’s. That’s not even 2 clubs difference.

    Also, the author doesn’t differentiate draws as push draws and fades as pull fades as push draws actually launches higher instead of lower than pull fades, because of the face angle being open to the target line and thus adding dynamic loft. Not to mention the angle of attack is less steep with an in-out path, making the ball launch higher as well.

  7. geo

    Jul 22, 2019 at 9:29 pm

    During every shot, each golfer will deliver the golf club back to the golf ball in a specific orientation

    With exception of those who sweep the inside quadrant of the ball.
    The back of the ball brings in the two way miss.
    Whether our go to shot is draw or fade; our misses should be restricted to one way. Ben Hogan learned to hit a fade, but his go to shot was a draw.

  8. Aztec

    Jul 16, 2019 at 11:21 pm

    I always thought that, for whatever reason, a controlled fade is less likely to turn into a slice than a controlled draw into a hook.

  9. Born

    Jul 15, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    Short version- balls spin less, drivers spin less, draw typically spins less, tour fairways are hard and 2100-2400 spin is ideal to hold fairways,. Also fade miss (over fading) is *typically* a more manageable miss vs over drawing especially it you’re at bottom end of spin threshold (ie 1800-200 rpm at tour level ball speed.

  10. Ralph Ebbutt

    Jul 14, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    In summary: a fade offers more control under pressure, and tour pros prefer predictability/control over distance

  11. Bob Saget

    Jul 14, 2019 at 6:59 am

    This is over-analysis to the max. Pros hit whatever shape the shot calls for. On straighter holes, it’s preference or whatever they’re more comfortable with

  12. Geoffrey Holland

    Jul 13, 2019 at 7:28 pm

    “growing trend”?
    Better players have been playing fades for decades this is not something new. I suggest you do a little bit of research before posting such drivel.

    • Tom

      Jul 14, 2019 at 1:38 am

      Lighten up mate not everyone is an expert like you? X being an unknown number & ‘spurt’ being a dip under pressure?

    • Bob Saget

      Jul 15, 2019 at 5:19 am

      I guess Rory McIlroy and Jason Day aren’t “better players” lol

  13. ChipNRun

    Jul 13, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    When I first started as a self-taught golfer, I had a lot of trouble with slices. After I eventually took lessons and straightened things out, I decided to play a draw to get rid of slices.

    If I’m hitting a slight draw, I’m squaring up at impact and moving through the ball smoothly.

    Another point: Gary Player reported years ago that he had gone to a draw because it was less strain on his back than a fade.

    I’ve found a similar thing: I’m right-handed, and I have an arthritic right hip that gets tight during golf. On the torso rotation machine at the gym, I can only rotate about 80 degrees to the right (backswing motion) but 90 degrees to the right (downswing motion).

    By setting up for a draw, I aim at the right half of the fairway. If all goes well, my ball lands in the fairway and rolls out toward the middle. My miss is a slight push, which puts me on the edge of the fairway or in the first cut of right rough, which is entirely manageable.

    This would support Prime21’s remark… “you can’t just say “they’re missing right” and that in and of itself proves that tour professionals are all hitting fades.” My miss right is the push that FAILED TO FADE.

    That said, I can fade a tee shot with a driver or a hybrid or a short iron. I mean, the ball is up on a tee on a flat surface, and with a slightly open stance can get the ball to go “the other way.”

    That’s my one trick shot. For most others I go with a draw.

    • ChipNRun

      Jul 13, 2019 at 4:16 pm

      CORRECTION:

      , I can only rotate about 80 degrees to the right (backswing motion) but 90 degrees to the {/r/i/g/h/t} LEFT (downswing motion).

    • Andrew McArthur

      Jul 13, 2019 at 5:00 pm

      Wow

    • Aztec

      Jul 16, 2019 at 11:17 pm

      Your miss right is a push that failed to DRAW. If you succeeded at the fade, your miss right would miss right even more.

  14. JP

    Jul 13, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    I always thought they preferred fades over draws because the rollout was more predictable.

  15. John

    Jul 13, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    Matt Kuchar is a donkey

  16. Lars Philipson

    Jul 13, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    As Lee Trevino said: “You can talk to a fade but a hook won’t listen.”

    • Joe

      Jul 14, 2019 at 11:23 am

      And it’s the most overused false statement that slicers cling to in order to make themselves feel better. A fade and hook are not exact opposites. That would be a slice and a hook. 99% of golfers who day they fade the ball are actually slicing it which is just as out of control as an equally hit hook.

  17. gery katona

    Jul 13, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    I volunteered at Torrey Pines this year and was positioned in the landing area on a par 4 hole and can confirm that the vast majority of fairway misses are to the right side.

    • Yippers

      Jul 13, 2019 at 12:55 pm

      Well there is an OCEAN on the left slide of #4. And it falls off pretty hard over there from fairway to rough to cliff to ocean. The green also opens up more from the right side. As long as you miss the fairway bunker right, there’s literally no reason to ever flirt with the left side on that tee shot.

      • MushPotatoes

        Jul 13, 2019 at 1:26 pm

        He said “a par 4 hole”, not hole #4 on the South Course.

        • Prime21

          Jul 13, 2019 at 3:09 pm

          The point was that you can’t just say “they’re missing right” and that in and of itself proves that tour professionals are all hitting fades. Many factors could go in to that, as Hole #4 proves, but to make a blanket statement as he did certainly offers little proof. A draw doesn’t always miss left and a fade doesn’t always miss right.

    • Pelling

      Jul 13, 2019 at 10:21 pm

      Except for Phil. He always misses left, badly.

      • gpfan

        Jul 14, 2019 at 7:32 am

        Any that would be hitting a fade. So the article must be true! I couldn’t bring myself to trying to finish reading it.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie Reviews: VA Composites Raijin 2.0 wood and hybrid shafts

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VA Composites has been making premium graphite shafts since 2017 and the company’s shafts been played on professional tours as well and can be found in many amateur bags. Victor Afable has been designing shafts for a long time and brought all of that knowledge to VA when he started it. The original Raijin came out six years ago and has been one of the most popular models in the lineup.

The Raijin 2.0 is a new shaft with plenty of updates, but keeps the original Raijin DNA intact. The profile on the 2.0 stays the same as the original with a firm handle section and stiff mid and tip. The torque rating is slightly lower on the new 2.0 and they are both mid-high launching shafts. Graphics have always been something that VA has knocked out of park and the matte finish on the Raijin 2.0 is pretty cool to look at.

I was hitting the 2.0 in my Titleist TSR2 driver and was really impressed with the shaft. I think it feels a touch more stout than the original but keeps the expected smooth feel. The launch was a touch lower and had a flatter flight than the original Raijin and I would slate it as a mid/high launch for me. In the TSR2 I had an average launch of 12.4 degrees, and that was very close to the shaft I have been gaming. The flight was pretty flat and boring with no rise to the shots, even if they were a small fade.

The Raijin 2.0 has a great kick at impact and is easy to square up without having to worry about hitting a big hook. Shots missed off the toe and heel stayed online really well and had very little curve to them. I could easily see that shots struck low heel tended to go right, but without that fade curve to them.

The hybrid Raijin 2.0 was very similar in the Tour Edge Exotics C722 head. The ball was easy to launch off the deck and provided a very straight ball. Even shots struck low on the face, my miss with hybrid, the ball was still able to get in the air a good amount and add some carry. Well struck shots flew high and landed very soft. Using it off the tee was great but I didn’t get much roll, if any, off the fairway. Again the Raijin 2.0 offered very good stability on miss hits and kept the ball online consistently. The shaft was easy to square up at impact but didn’t add any left bias to the hybrid.

Overall I was really impressed with the new VA Composites Raijin 2.0 and think it is a solid upgrade. Victor and his team didn’t take anything away from the original profile and gave us a little tighter and lower launching version. Check out vashafts.com for more info on the Raijin 2.0.

To hear the full review on the Raijin 2.0 driver and hybrid shaft check the podcast links below or search GolfWRX Radio on your preferred podcast app.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: 3 keys to handling pressure

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Editor’s note: Snapping an iron over one’s knee is not one of The Wedge Guys’s approved keys to handling pressure.

Whether you play competitively or not, “pressure” is a big part of this game. Even when we are out for an evening practice nine, when we get over any shot, from drive to putt, we are putting “pressure” on ourselves to perform to our best capability.

So just what is pressure? My Dad used to tell us the story about a guy who wanted to learn how to walk the tightrope. He strung a rope across his yard about a foot off the ground and started practicing – first just balancing, then walking, skipping, he got where he “owned” that tightrope. Finally, he decided he was ready for the big top, and wanted to join the circus. The circus manager says, “Well, climb up there and show me what you’ve got.” When he got to the top and looked down about fifty feet, he couldn’t even get off the platform.

Pressure affects all of differently, but it does affect all of us. How can we totally jack a two-foot putt sometimes? Or chunk a chip shot? We don’t do that on the practice tee! But then, how can tour pros hit some of the gosh-awful shots we see them hit coming down the stretch? No one is immune.

So, today I’m going to share what I believe are the three keys to handling pressure. I’d like for all of you to chime in with your own personal keys that you use with success. But here are mine:

Recall success!

The first thing that happens in pressure situations is that fear sets in. You may find yourself thinking of that last short putt you missed, or that chip you chunked, or bunker shot you skulled. In the now-almost-classic golf book called Seven Days of Golf in Utopia by Dr. David Cook (which I highly recommend if you haven’t read it), the mentor tells his student, “See it. Feel it. Trust it.” And that’s great advice. See the shot you have, and recall the dozens or hundreds of times you’ve successfully executed it before. Take a few practice swings and feel the swing that will produce that vision. Then trust your skill that you KNOW you have and just execute.

Get S-L-O-W

We all have a tendency to get quick when we are under pressure. So, as you begin to approach any shot, slow down a bit. If you are riding in a cart and approaching the green, pause for a count before you jump out of the cart. Take a breath before you pull the clubs from the bag. Walk a little more slowly over to your ball, which gives you time to think those successful thoughts we just talked about. Make your practice swings or strokes a little slower, more deliberately. And feel the end of your backswing. The quickness killer is not finishing the swing, whether it’s a full iron shot, a short chip or pitch, or even a putt. FEEL the end of the backswing to neutralize quickness.

Lighten up!

One golfer told me when he is under pressure, it’s like he “can’t feel his hands.” That happens when you grip the club too tightly. A gentle relaxed grip is essential to a good golf shot of any kind, but pressure affects that first, most of the time. When you are feeling a little “amped up”, focus on your grip pressure and R-E-L-A-X. Your body will not let you hold a club too softly, but pressure sure can make you put the death grip on the club. And it’s hard to swing too quickly when you have a nice soft grip on the club.

So, those are my three keys to handling pressure. Try them the next time you find yourself a little nervous, whether it’s for the club championship, or just beating your buddies out of a few bucks.

And let us know your keys to handling pressure, too.

 

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Opinion & Analysis

2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open: Sam Burns can capture title in Texas

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The move in 2020 from the Golf Club of Houston to Memorial Park has seen a shift in emphasis for the style required to win the Houston Open.

From a par-72 that offered preparation for The Masters, to a 7400-yard par-70 held on the cusp of winter, and offering a real chance for the long driver to dominate.

Last year’s winner Jason Kokrak and the joint-runner-ups Scottie Scheffler and Kevin Tway ranked in the top dozen for distance off the tee, whilst at the inaugural Memorial outing, Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama and Brooks Koepka all gave more than a hint of what to expect in future years.

Matthew Wolff called it a bomber’s track, Adam Scott said “it requires something long and straight” and just a glance at the names already mentioned gives the event something of a major feel, a long PGA or US Open.

Hit it long, find the small greens, be Bermuda positive.

The top two in the market hold claims that suggest their short prices aren’t particularly too short.

Former world number one Scottie Scheffler, usurped only by a rampant Rory McIlroy, arrives here with the form lines suggesting we should not look elsewhere.

Despite losing almost six shots with his irons on debut, his final round 65 is eye-catching, as is that 11-plus shots gained total when running-up last season.

12 months ago, it was the putter that let him down, but everything else was tickety-boo in a stellar season of four wins and having now retrieved his major-winning putter from the loft, he gave notice of his intentions when soaring from 35th overnight to joint-third last weekend at the Mayakoba.

Whilst he has to go close, there is still that poor effort at East Lake to get over, and he wasn’t exactly flying on the Bermuda greens of Congaree. The report on pgatour.com suggests he uses this time of year to “experiment with stuff” but the silly season starts in December, and others may just want this a bit more.

At the same price as Rory was to win that C.J Cup, he could have done with being just a few points bigger.

Second-in, Sam Burns, however, deserves support, even if it is in cross-doubles with Tommy Fleetwood and Jordan Smith in South Africa.

The 26-year-old has been a revelation over the last couple of years, finally realizing his early promise by winning four PGA events in the space of 13 months.

Back-to-back wins at Copperhead read well, with last season’s Houston champ, Kokrak, finishing runner-up there in 2019, whilst both Burns and Kokrak have won at Colonial, scene of Burns’ play-off win against Scheffler.

With a Texas record that reads one win, runner-up at the Byron Nelson and a pair of seventh place finishes around here, it was only his recent form that might have put off backers. However, on the Congaree greens, he ranked first in stroked-gained-putting, bettering his excellent figures at East Lake, St. Andrews, Colonial, Southern Hills and Brookline. It’s either top grade competition or Bermuda grass.

In-form, top class in wind and on these green types, two efforts here have seen him total 16-and-a-half shots from tee-to-green and he comes here off his best effort of seven consecutive cuts. Sorted.

I was all over Tony Finau last week and it wouldn’t shock to see him leave that missed-cut behind after blowing away the cobwebs.

There is little to add to the comments before Mayakoba where it was noted that apart from elite form over the last few months, Finau finished his 2021/22 season ranked 12th for approaches, fifth for greens-in-regulation and in the same position for tee-to-green helped, no doubt, by the two back-to-back wins in July.

Previous years have seen the ‘Big Break’ graduate finish in the top echelons for all those vital statistics – it has been a constant, but he now adds confidence with the putter, a facet that has seen him ranked in the top-20 in six of his last nine completed outings.

He was, admittedly, disappointing in his first outing for ten weeks, but, having been three-over after two holes of day one, he fought back to be six shots better by the 18th hole. Finau’s second round also had errors, but they disguise an eagle and two birdies – simply the look of someone that needs the outing.

Possessing an excellent correlative Colonial record (4/4/20/23) he sat inside the top-10 before finishing 24th on debut here, and whilst he missed the cut last year, he was comfortably inside the top 40 after day one.

Finau has another top year in him, and he’s just about a pick as one of the few true elite players in the field.

Taylor Montgomery is a hugely tempting play given his mammoth driving, and his outstanding start to his PGA Tour career seems sure to keep him around 25/1 for a while, but, at the prices, it’s a lack of a recent ‘1’ (even on the KFT) that sees him dropped from the list in favour of Will Gordon.

A top-class junior, the Vanderbilt graduate is showing enough in recent starts to believe he has the hang of the top league, and he is just the pick in a powerful section of the market, in which long driver Keith Mitchell was also strongly considered.

After what looks at first glance to be no more than a decent run-out in Bermuda, his 35th place finish should have been an awful lot higher, a final round 75 dropping him from an overnight eighth place, after looking a bit ‘deer in the headlights.’

However, just a week later, the 26-year-old put up his third best-ever performance according to OWGR, an opening 62 paving the way for his four-day stay in the top three places, an effort that lies alongside his win in Idaho and another bronze medal behind Dustin Johnson at River Highlands.

There is little chance of telling which of the graduates will be top class, but Gordon has claims as good as any, with current yearly rankings of 32nd off-the-tee, 56th in tee-to-green and 34th in greens-in-regulation.

When finishing 38th on his course debut a year ago, the now-three-year professional lost strokes off the tee, something he seems to have straightened out in the intervening year, with his three monthly figures listing him as 24th for total driving, 17th for greens, 30th in scrambling, just outside the top-50 for putting and 11th for par-fours.

Given the nature of the champions both here and at the former venue, it’s hard to be confident that a young gun will lift the trophy. That said, all the afore-mentioned plus Taylor’s Moore and Pendrith, and Davis’ Riley and Thompson are easy to fancy to go well, even if the maiden victory might wait for another week.

Recommended Bets:

Sam Burns Win 

Tony Finau Win

Will Gordon Win/Top-5

Will Gordon Top-20 

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