I especially enjoyed the final round of last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic—watching the battle of the two big ballers. As always, I was interested in Sir Nick Faldo’s commentary about the weakness in Bryson DeChambeau’s game–his wedges–and that he should make an equipment switch to tighten up this part of his game. Indeed, our Ryan Barath made the same suggestion in an article July 3.
I was all in—not only as a big fan of Sir Nick and Jim Nantz—but Bryson’s 6-iron-length wedges have always looked awkward to me. On Monday, I received several calls from instructor clients/friends asking if I could support Sir Nick’s analysis. Never one to back down from a challenge, I agreed to take a deep dive into the difference between Bryson’s game in 2019 and thus far in 2020.
The data is a bit thin—69 Shotlink rounds in 2019 vs. only 42 in 2020 through Rocket Mortgage. Nonetheless, I’d submit that we have representative samples.
Here is what I found.
Strokes Gained # and (Ranking):
- 2019: .412 (24)
- 2020: 1.11 (2)
This is a giant leap in Strokes Gained and ranking. OK, but Strokes Gained is an abstract number and not all about distance. Why the jump?
Distance: 302.5 (34) => 323 (1). Again, quite a jump. 20.5 yards in distance ON AVERAGE. Impressive!
Errors: .4 per round => .15/round. I have worked with lots of Tour players and reducing errors is extremely difficult. Most do it by prudently cutting back on distance. To pick up over 20 yards AND cut ERRORS* by 62.5% is miraculous! For perspective, the average of the PGA Tour in 2019 was .62 errors/round. So, Bryson is outdriving EVERYONE by 21 yards AND making less than 25% of the ERRORS*? Extraordinary!
[*Driving errors are Balls hit out of play that require an advancement to return to normal play or penalty results.]
- 2019: .236 (Rank 54)
- 2020: .428 (Rank 38)
Not a great improvement, but an improvement nonetheless. This is mainly because Bryson’s accuracy from the fairway went from 62% to 70%.
- 2019: .372 (Rank 28)
- 2020: .690 (Rank 12)
Another substantial improvement. Two things stand out:
- Reduced 3-Putts from .49/round to .33 (Tour avg. is .51) – excellent jump!
- In the always critical 6-10 ft. range, his makes went from 54% to 62% (Tour Avg. is 52%). Again, over 42 rounds, this is as much improvement in a Tour player as I have seen.
In my work with Tour players, I consider this to be shots from 50 to 125 yards. Bryson may very well extend this range with his length, but I chose to stay with it because I have years of data on the Tour level play for comparison.
- # shots – How many shots a player faces on average per round.
- % Greens Hit – As opposed to the Tour’s Proximity that includes greens missed w/i 30 yards of the edge.
- Putting distance when hit (My Proximity)
- Down-in – The average shots needed to get the ball in the hole.
I am going to stick with shots from the fairway only as they are over 70% of these shots for everyone.
*Avg. Putting Distance when the shots hit the green.
**Avg. Down-in: The # of shots need to hole out.
Mr. DeChambeau has performed an extremely noteworthy feat in that he has not only dramatically increased his driving distance BUT his accuracy to boot. Further, he has improved EVERY facet of his game, including his oft-criticized wedge game. And not just a little. If we do the math on his Down-In improvement: 2.84 to 2.68 = .16/shot X 114 shots in 2020 = 18 strokes saved this year.
In my studies of the value of a stroke on Tour, at Bryson’s current top-10 level, each stroke is worth $50-70,000. I tip my hat to him!
The 19th Hole Episode 159: Howard University coach Sam Puryear
Host Michael Williams talks with Howard U. coach about the trials and triumphs in the fledgling golf program. Also features Adam Martin of Haig Point (SC) and Eduardo Mestres of Los Siete Misterios Mezcal.
The Wedge Guy: The Red Zone
For those of you who are big football fans, we are lost in the off-season, waiting a few more months before we get to watch our favorite pro or college teams duke it out on the gridiron. Living in Texas, of course, football is a very big deal, from the NFL Cowboys and Texans, through our broad college network representing multiple conferences and into the bedrock of Friday nights – high school football, which drives fans and entire towns into a frenzy.
In almost every football conversation on TV, you hear talk about “the red zone”. How a team performs inside the 20-yard line is a real measure of their offensive prowess, and usually a pretty good indicator of their win/loss record, too. It breaks down to what percentage of the time a team scores a touchdown or field goal, and how often they come away empty.
I like to think we golfers have our own “red zone”. It’s that distance from the green where we should be able to go on the offensive and think about pars and birdies, ensure no worse than bogey . . . and rarely put a double or worse on the card. Your own particular set of red zone goals should be based on your handicap. If you are a low single digit, this is your “go zone”, where you feel like you can take it right at the flag and give yourself a decent birdie putt, with bogeys being an unpleasant surprise. For mid-handicap players, it’s where you should feel confident you’ll guarantee a par and rarely make bogey, and for higher handicap players, it’s where you will ensure a bogey at least, give yourself a good chance at par, and maybe even a birdie.
But regardless of your handicap, your own “red zone” should begin when you can put a high loft club in your hands – one with over 40 degrees of loft. Of course, that has changed a lot with the continual strengthening of irons. In my early days that was an eight iron, then it migrated to a nine. But regardless of your handicap or the make and model of irons you play, my contention is that golf is relatively “defensive” with all the other clubs in your bag. With those lower lofted irons, your goal should be to just keep it out of trouble and moving closer to the goal line . . . er, the flag. Even the PGA Tour pros make a very small percentage of their birdies with their middle irons.
When you can put a high loft club in your bag – whether that’s from 150 yards or 105 – that’s when you should feel like you can put your offense into high gear and raise your expectations. It’s no longer about power, because this isn’t about raw distance, but rather distance control and precision. From the red zone, it’s about trusting your technique and your equipment and taking it to the golf course a little bit.
As most of us are in the early stages of the 2021 golf season, one of the best things you can do for your golf improvement is to begin tracking your “red zone” performance. Put the numbers down as to how you are scoring the golf course from your 9-iron range on into the flag. My guess is that you’ll see this is where you can make the most improvement if you’ll give that part of your game some additional time and focus. Any golfer can learn to hit crisp and accurate short range approach shots. And so you should.
Pay attention to your own red zone stats, and work to improve them. I guarantee you that you’ll see your scores come down quickly.
Club Junkie: Reviewing Titleist TSi3 drivers and fairways! (Finally!)
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