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Opinion & Analysis

Ways to Win: Determined Dustin

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In “Ways to Win,” we track the PGA Tour winner’s rounds using the V1 Game mobile app and then analyze how they got the job done using the same tools available to V1 Game users.

It was a different Masters tournament this year, but Augusta National Golf Club was just as beautiful in the fall as it is in the spring. Even with softer conditions due to the early rain, Augusta National required precision shot making and a balanced game to claim the green jacket. It certainly felt different without the typical roars from patrons with eagles reverberating through the pines. It felt tamer, but the pressure of trying to win one of the golf’s most prestigious tournaments was still there.

Augusta National is an interesting golf course and home to the only major played on the same course year after year. The Masters is the major where experience seems to matter the most. A tournament where a 63-year-old Bernhard Langer can not only make the cut, but beat the tournament favorite in Bryson DeChambeau. A tournament favorite that Vegas got wrong. DeChambeau may be the longest player on tour, but what he lacks is experience at Augusta. At least good experience. His best finish at the Masters remains a T-21 as an amateur. DeChambeau’s early bad luck with a lost ball and poor driving accuracy led to his struggling to barely make the cut. The membership gets to hold its head high for at least another 5 months as more than raw distance is required to don the green jacket. This time, Vegas picked the wrong bomber.

Dustin Johnson is no stranger to strong finishes at the Masters. Contrary to DeChambeau, DJ has seemingly figured out how to navigate the undulating fairways and greens with top 10 finishes in each of the last 4 years. This includes a runner up finish to Tiger Woods just last year. However, as good as Johnson’s recent history at Augusta has been, his history with 54-hole leads in majors is not kind. Golf is hard. Golf with a big lead is very hard. Mindsets can change and it is easy for a player to go from aggressive to defensive. It is difficult to tell if Johnson is nervous as he is notorious for his steely-cold demeanor on the golf course. However, his game certainly showed a nervy start. Using the V1 Game scorecard heatmap, we can see just how unsteady the first hole holes were.

The shades of red and green for the five Strokes Gained categories (Total, Driving, Approach, Short, and Putting) indicate the quality of that part of the game on a hole-by-hole basis. Sketchy short game and putting showed up on holes three through five, indicating that maybe Johnson’s hands were not quite working as well as they typically do. He chunked a short wedge shot on 2 to leave it in a bunker and missed reasonable par putts on holes four and five. However, this Masters would not be another let down. Johnson birdied the 6th hole and really never looked back with a smattering of green across the rest of his scorecard as he separated from the field. While the last round was a master class, matching the low round of the day, it’s a four-round tournament and DJ separated himself as the best player each day. It all started with driving performance.

Johnson is a bomber. Using V1 Game analysis to look at his driving over the week, he averaged over 310 yards across all drives. This includes tee shots where he hit less than driver, like on hole 13. His long drive surpassed 350 yards on each of the first three rounds.

Long drives make the rest of the game easier as Johnson routinely has less club into greens. This is particularly important on a course like Augusta National that requires precision approach shots to get near to the hole and allow for manageable birdie putts. The slightest miscalculation can lead to balls ripping down the false fronts and undulations of the greens. However, driving distance is only valuable if it puts you in proper position for the second shot. Accuracy is also critical. Look no further than Bryson DeChambeau who led the field in distance, but was all over the golf course, hitting out of trees and into trouble. Johnson hit 78 percent of his fairways on the week, including 14 / 14 in the third round. Long and straight is a combination that typically puts distance between a player and the field.

However, long drives are useless if they don’t also translate to greens in regulation. Johnson took full advantage of his driving performance by hitting more greens than anyone else in the field. Johnson hit 60 out of 72 greens in regulation, four more than his closest competitor. This adds up to more birdie putts than everyone else in the field, but Johnson was not just hitting greens. He was hitting it close. He also led the field in proximity to the hole. V1 Game can also measure proximity to the hole, highlighting just how solid the performance was. From 175-200 yards, Johnson averaged just 29 feet from the hole.

Johnson was long off the tee and accurate into the green, yet he still had to make putts and that’s an advantage he has never really taken during his career so far. Augusta’s putting surfaces are undulating and typically lightening fast. Bringing even the best putters in the world to their knees. Johnson has always been a streaky putter but his performance at Augusta was sensational. For the week, he had just a single three putt. He made all of his putts of six feet or less. He gained strokes putting for all distances less than 15 feet.

Johnson is number one in the world for a reason. He is a well-rounded player who does everything well. When he is on his “A game”, there is not another player that can touch him and he seems to be finding that “A game” much more often as he matures on the course. Looking at his Strokes Gained Stacked performance from V1 Game, Johnson gained strokes in every category for the week. In fact, other than Putting in Round 2 and Short Game in round 4, he gained strokes in every category for every round. Impressive.

If you stuck around to watch the post-round interview with Johnson and Amanda Balionis, you got some insight behind the nonchalant front DJ has long portrayed. For all his emotionless plodding on the golf course, the guy cares. He wants to win and he works extremely hard. His ability to segment on-course emotion and play one shot at a time is absolutely incredible when you see how much it matters to him in the end.
For the average golfer, playing like Johnson is just not attainable, but channeling his ability to focus on the shot at hand, however, is. Additionally, he has put in a tremendous amount of work in the past several years to improve his wedge game and putting, turning him into a world class player.

 

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  1. Pingback: Morning 9: Masters ratings | DJ’s master plan | The unique pain of die-hard Rory fans – GolfWRX

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Opinion & Analysis

The future of club fitting is going virtual

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Thanks to technology, you can buy everything from custom-made suits to orthotics online without ever walking into a store or working in person with an expert.

Now, with the help of video and launch monitors, along with a deeper understanding of dynamics than ever before, club fitting is quickly going virtual too, and it’s helping golfers find better equipment faster!

What really took so long?

The real advancements started in the coaching world around a decade ago. What used to require heavy cameras and tripods now simply requires a phone and you have a high-definition slow-motion video that can be sent around the world in a matter of seconds.

Beyond video, modern launch monitors and their ability to capture data have quickly turned a guessing game of “maybe this will work” into a precision step-by-step process of elimination to optimize. When you combine video and launch monitor elements with an understanding of club fitting principles and basic biomechanics, you have the ability to quickly evaluate a golfer’s equipment and make recommendations to help them play better golf.

The benefits of virtual fitting

  • Any golfer with a phone and access to a launch monitor can get high-level recommendations from a qualified fitter.
  • Time and cost-saving to and from a fitter. (This seems obvious, but one of the reasons I personally receive so many questions about club fitting is because those reaching out don’t have access to fitting facilities within a reasonable drive)
  • It’s an opportunity to get a better understanding our your equipment from an expert.

How virtual fittings really work

The key element of a virtual fitting is the deep understanding of the available products to the consumer. On an OEM level, line segmentation makes this fairly straightforward, but it becomes slightly more difficult for brand-agnostic fitters that have so many brands to work with, but it also shows their depth of knowledge and experience.

It’s from this depth of knowledge and through an interview that a fitter can help analyze strengths and weaknesses in a player’s game and use their current clubs as a starting point for building a new set—then the video and launch monitor data comes in.

But it can quickly go very high level…

One of the fastest emerging advancements in this whole process is personalized round tracking data from companies like Arccos, which gives golfers the ability to look at their data without personal bias. This allows the golfer along with any member of their “team” to get an honest assessment of where improvements can be found. The reason this is so helpful is that golfers of all skill levels often have a difficult time being critical about their own games or don’t even really understand where they are losing shots.

It’s like having a club-fitter or coach follow you around for 10 rounds of golf or more—what was once only something available to the super-elite is now sitting in your pocket. All of this comes together and boom, you have recommendations for your new clubs.

Current limitations

We can’t talk about all the benefits without pointing out some of the potential limitations of virtual club fittings, the biggest being the human element that is almost impossible to replicate by phone or through video chat.

The other key factor is how a player interprets feel, and when speaking with an experienced fitter recently while conducting a “trial fitting” the biggest discussion point was how to communicate with golfers about what they feel in their current clubs. Video and data can help draw some quick conclusions but what a player perceives is still important and this is where the conversation and interview process is vital.

Who is offering virtual club fittings?

There are a lot of companies offering virtual fittings or fitting consultations over the phone. One of the biggest programs is from Ping and their Tele-Fitting process, but other companies like TaylorMade and PXG also have this service available to golfers looking for new equipment.

Smaller direct-to-consumer brands like New level, Sub 70, and Haywood Golf have offered these services since their inception as a way to work with consumers who had limited experience with their products but wanted to opportunity to get the most out of their gear and their growth has proven this model to work.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Why wedge mastery is so elusive

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I have conducted numerous surveys of golfers over my 40-year golf industry career, because I have always believed that if you want to know what people are thinking, you simply have to ask them.

As a gearhead for wedges and a wedge designer over the past 30 years, most of my research and analysis is focused on these short-range scoring clubs and how golfers use them. What this research continually tells me is that most golfers—regardless of handicap–consider the wedges the hardest clubs in the bag to master. That’s because they are. I would even go so far as to say that the difficulty of attaining mastery even extends to the best players in the world.

Watching the Genesis Open this past weekend, for example, it seemed like these guys were hitting wedge approaches on nearly every hole. And while there were certainly many shots that covered the flag—like Max Homa’s approach on 18–there were also a great number that came up woefully short. Not what you would expect when a top-tier tour professional has a sand or gap wedge in their hands.

The simple fact is that wedges are the most difficult clubs in our bags with which to attain consistent shotmaking mastery, and that is because of the sheer design of the clubhead itself. For clarity of this article, I’m talking about those full- or near full-swing wedge shots, not the vast variety of short greenside shots we all face every round. To get mastery of those shots (like the tour pros exhibit every week), you simply have to spend lots of time hitting lots of shots, experimenting and exploring different techniques. There are no shortcuts to a deadly short game.

But today I’m talking about those prime opportunities to score, when you have a full- or near-full swing wedge into a par-five or short par four. We should live for those moments, but all too often we find ourselves disappointed in the outcome.

The good news is that’s not always all your fault.

First of all, you must understand that every wedge shot is, in effect, a glancing blow to the ball because of the loft involved. With 50 to 60 degrees of loft—or even 45 to 48 degrees with a pitching wedge—the loft of the club is such that the ball is given somewhat of a glancing blow. That demands a golf swing with a much higher degree of precision in the strike than say, an 8-iron shot.

I have always believed that most golfers can improve their wedge play by making a slower-paced swing than you might with a longer iron. This allows you to be more precise in making sure that your hands lead the clubhead through impact, which is a must when you have a wedge in your hands. Without getting into too much detail, the heavier, stiffer shaft in most wedges does not allow this club to load and unload in the downswing, so the most common error is for the clubhead to get ahead of the hands before impact, thereby adding loft and aggravating this glancing blow. I hope that makes sense.
The other aspect of wedge design that makes consistent wedge distance so elusive is the distribution of the mass around the clubhead. This illustration of a typical tour design wedge allows me to show you something I have seen time and again in robotic testing of various wedges.

Because all the mass is along the bottom of the clubhead, the ideal impact point is low in the face (A), so that most of the mass is behind the ball. Tour players are good at this, but most recreational golfers whose wedges I’ve examined have a wear pattern at least 2-4 grooves higher on the club than I see on tour players’ wedges.

So, why is this so important?

Understand that every golf club has a single “sweet spot”–that pinpoint place where the smash factor is optimized—where clubhead speed translates to ball speed at the highest efficiency. On almost all wedges, that spot is very low on the clubhead, as indicated by the “A” arrow here, and robotic testing reveals that smash factor to be in the range of 1.16-1.18, meaning the ball speed is 16-18% higher than the clubhead speed.

To put that in perspective, smash factor on drivers can be as high as 1.55 or even a bit more, and it’s barely below that in your modern game improvement 7-iron. The fact is—wedges are just not as efficient in this measure, primarily because of the glancing blow I mentioned earlier.

But–and here’s the kicker–if you move impact up the face of a wedge just half to five-eights of an inch from the typical recreational golfer’s impact point, as indicated by the “B” arrow, smash factor on ‘tour design’ wedges can be reduced to as low as 0.92 to 0.95. That costs you 40 to 60 feet on a 90-yard wedge shot . . . because you missed “perfect” by a half-inch or less!

So, that shot you know all too well—the ball sitting up and caught a bit high in the face—is going fall in the front bunker or worse. That result is not all your fault. The reduced distance is a function of the diminished smash factor of the wedge head itself.

That same half-inch miss with your driver or even your game-improvement 7-iron is hardly noticeable.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Breakthrough mental tools to play the golf of your dreams

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Incredibly important talk! A must listen to the words of Dr. Karl Morris, ham-and-egging with the golf imperfections trio. Like listening to top athletes around a campfire. This talk will helps all ages and skills in any sport.

 

 

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