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Ways to Win: Persistence – Michael Thompson wins with patience and putting

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Even in a week when most of the game’s top players were resting before the upcoming WGC event, it is still very difficult to win on the PGA Tour. Tony Finau knows how difficult it is to win. A top-10 machine, Finau simply hasn’t been able to close the deal in the final round, and this weekend was no exception.

On the PGA Tour, the difference between winning and losing, most weeks, is a single putt dropping or lipping out over the course of 72 holes. Michael Thompson knows that as well as anyone with his well-chronicled hiatus between victories would. He has largely been a journeyman on the PGA Tour, fighting most years to keep his card and remain amongst the most-elite players on the planet. Thompson broke through this week with patience and a hot putter. Sticking to his game plan over the four-day tournament, Thompson remained patient and was rewarded.

While we typically focus on advanced stats with V1 Game, greens hit is one traditional metric that does correlate with scoring. In this case, Thompson fired a bogey-free opening round 64 in which he hit all 18 greens and made almost 100 ft of putts. You want to score? Get the ball on the green.

TPC Twin Cities plays as a par 72 for us mere mortals, therefore Thompon’s eight-birdie round was actually a seven-birdie masterpiece. Just how did Thompson get it done? Simple. He avoided mistakes and took advantage of opportunities.


Using V1 Game’s Analysis function, Thompson’s strengths are iron play and putting. In fact, Thompson gained almost eight strokes on the field with the flatstick throughout the week and another seven strokes with his irons. He only made three bogeys on the week, tied for the best in the field.

Thompson didn’t really have a weakness. He lost less than a third of a stroke, on average, with the driver. He also didn’t push himself out of his comfort zone, sticking to a conservative game plan and playing to his strengths. In fact, it’s difficult to find any flaws with the way Thompson played throughout the entire week.

V1 Game recently previewed Virtual Coach using artificial intelligence to analyze golf performance and make pointed recommendations on 1) where to spend practice time and 2) how to achieve golfing potential. Virtual Coach analyzed Thompson’s performance over the weekend and really highlighted just how well he was able to maximize his potential.

He did so by minimizing mistakes. He only had a single three-putt and a single penalty over the four days. Scoring-wise, he averaged 66.3 over the four days. Had he eliminated even more mistakes, he could have averaged 65.

This implies that Thompson really left just a single stroke on the golf course each day, whereas most amateurs are on their second set of fingers to count up the ones that got away.

Virtual Coach also guides practice. If there was one area to work on for Thompspn, it would be driving, where he lost almost a third of a stroke each day and missed predominantly to the left.

 

Play to your strengths

To really boost his driving performance, Thompson is likely going to have to hit the ball farther and take on more risk. However, he generally opted to play back and let his irons work. When you can strike it like Thompson can, this is a great decision.

In the GIF below, we see Thompson’s shot distributions from V1 Game. A couple of items immediately jump out: 1) Just how often he hits the green from all yardages 2) his proximity to the hole is fantastic 3) his misses are well distributed, but tend to favor long. It’s difficult to go long if you are not flushing the golf ball.


Thompson separated from the field this week with persistence and patience. Those are virtues we could all learn on the golf course. Too many times, amateurs get frustrated with a poorly-timed double bogey and start pressing or getting out of their element, which compounds mistakes and leads to big numbers. However, golf is a game of mistakes and misses.

If you can understand your strengths and minimize your misses, you can start playing to your potential. V1 Game can help you with each of these items, particularly with the upcoming Virtual Coach to help guide your practice. Then maybe you can keep a card as clean as Michael Thompson.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What you CAN learn from tour pros

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I have frequently noted how the game the PGA Tour players play is, in most ways, a whole different game than we “mere mortal” recreational golfers play. They hit their drivers miles it seems. Their short games are borderline miraculous. And they get to play from perfect bunkers and putt on perfect greens every single week. And it lets them beat most courses into submission with scores of 20-plus under par.

The rest of us do not have their strength, of course, nor do we have the time to develop short game skills even close to theirs. And our greens are not the perfect surfaces they enjoy, nor do we have caddies, green-reading books, etc. So, we battle mightily to shoot our best scores, whether that be in the 70s, 90s, or higher.

There is no question that most PGA Tour players are high-level athletes, who train daily for both body strength and flexibility, as well as the specific skills to make a golf ball do what they intend it to. But even with all that, it is amazing how bad they can hit it sometimes and how mediocre (for them) the majority of their shots really are — or at least they were this week.

Watching the Wells Fargo event this weekend, you could really see how their games are – relatively speaking – very much like ours on a week-to-week basis.

What really stood out for me as I watched some of this event was so few shots that were awe-inspiring and so many that were really terrible. Rory even put his win in jeopardy with a horrible drive on the 18th, but a very smart decision and a functional recovery saved him. (The advantage of being able to muscle an 8-iron 195 yards out of deep rough and a tough lie is not to be slighted).

Of course, every one of these guys knocks the flag down with approach shots occasionally, if not frequently, but on a longer and tougher golf course, relative mediocrity was good enough to win.

If we can set these guys’ power differences aside, I think we all can learn from watching and seeing that even these players hit “big uglies” with amazing frequency. And that the “meat” of their tee-to-green games is keeping it in play when they face the occasional really tough golf course like Quail Hollow. Do you realize less than 20 of the best players in the world beat par for those 72 holes?

It has long been said that golf is a game of misses, and the player who “misses best” is likely to be “in the hunt” more often than not, and will win his or her share. That old idiom is as true for those of us trying to break 100 or 90 or 80 as it is for the guys trying to win on the PGA Tour each week.

Our “big numbers” happen for the same reasons as theirs do – a simply terrible shot or two at the wrong time. But because we do not have anywhere near their short game and recovery skills, we just do not “get away with” our big misses as frequently as they do.

So, what can you take away from that observation? I suggest this.

Play within your own reliable strength profile and skill set. Play for your average or typical shot, not your very best, whether that is a drive, approach shot, or short game recovery. And don’t expect a great shot to follow a bad one.
If, no, when you hit the “big miss,” accept that this hole can get away from you and turn into a double or worse, regroup, and stop the bleeding, so you can go on to the next hole.

We can be pretty darn sure Rory McIlroy was not thinking bogey on the 18th tee but changed his objective on the hole once he saw the lie his poor drive had found. It only took a bogey to secure his win, so that became a very acceptable outcome.

There’s a lesson for all of us in that.

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Opinion & Analysis

Ways to Win: Horses for Courses – Rory McIlroy rides the Rors to another Quail Hollow win

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Tell me if you’ve heard this before: Rory McIlroy wins at Quail Hollow. The new father broke his winless streak at a familiar course on Mother’s Day. McIlroy has been pretty vocal about how he is able to feed off the crowd and plays his best golf with an audience. Last week provided a familiar setting in a venue he has won twice before and a strong crowd, giving McIlroy just what he needed to break through and win again. A phenomenal feat given that, not long ago, he seemed completely lost, chasing distance based on Bryson DeChambeau’s unorthodox-but-effective progress. McIlroy is typically a player who separates himself from the field as a premier driver of the golf ball, however this week it was his consistency across all areas that won the tournament.

Using the Strokes Gained Stacked view from V1 Game shows that Rory actually gained the most strokes for the week in putting. Not typically known as a phenomenal putter, something about those Quail Hollow greens speaks to McIlroy where he finished the week third in strokes gained: putting (red above). He also hit his irons fairly well, gaining more than 3.6 strokes for the week on a typical PGA Tour field. Probably the most surprising category for McIlroy was actually driving, where he gained just 1.3 strokes for the week and finished 18th in the field. While McIlroy is typically more accurate with the driver, in this case, he sprayed the ball. Strokes gained: driving takes into account distance, accuracy, and the lie into which you hit the ball. McIlroy’s driving distance was still elite, finishing second in the field and averaging more than 325 yards as measured . However, when he missed, he missed in bad spots. McIlroy drove into recovery situations multiple times, causing lay-ups and punch-outs. He also drove into several bunkers causing difficult mid-range bunker shots. So, while driving distance is a quick way to add strokes gained, you have to avoid poor lies to take advantage and, unfortunately, McIlroy hurt himself there. This was particularly apparent on the 72nd hole where he pull-hooked a 3-wood into the hazard and almost cost himself the tournament.

It’s rare that a player wins a tour event without a truly standout category, but McIlroy won this week by being proficient in each category with a consistent performance. From a strokes gained perspective, he leaned on his putting, but even then, he had four three-putts on the week and left some room for improvement. He gained strokes from most distances but struggled on the long ones and from 16-20 feet. Overall, we saw good progress for McIlroy to putt as well as he did on the week.

McIlroy also had a good week with his irons, routinely giving himself opportunities to convert birdies where he tied for seventh-most in the field. When he did miss with his irons, he tended to miss short from most distances. His proximity to the hole was quite good, averaging below 30 feet from most distance buckets. That is surely a recipe to win.

When you add it all up, McIlroy showed little weakness last week. He was proficient in each category and relied on solid decision-making and routine pars while others made mistakes on the weekend. Sometimes, there is no need to be flashy, even for the best in the world. It was good to see McIlroy rejoin the winner’s circle and hopefully pull himself out from what has been a bit of a slump. Golf is better when McIlroy is winning.

If you want to build a consistent game like Rors, V1 Game can help you understand your weaknesses and get started on a journey to better golf. Download in the app store for free today.

 

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Fujikura MC Putter shaft review and cheap Amazon grips!

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Fujikura’s new MC Putter shafts are PACKED with technology that you wouldn’t expect in a putter shaft. Graphite, metal, and rubber are fused together for an extremely consistent and great feeling putter shaft. Three models to fit any putter stroke out there!

Grips are in short supply right now, and there are some very cheap options on Amazon. I bought some with Prime delivery, and they aren’t as good as you would think.

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