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How to select the proper tees to play from (What tees you should play from)

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Unless you are a professional golfer or playing in a competitive tournament, the main goal for every round should be to have fun, and a big part of having fun means selecting the correct tees to play from. But it doesn’t stop at just picking the correct tee color, you need to consider the yardage because the “middle tees” on one course might not equate to the middle tees on another.

The wonderful thing about golf is that as an individual pursuit, even when playing with other golfers each player can choose to play from different yardages while on the same course to ensure that they are getting maximum enjoyment from their round.

Rules for selecting the right tees to play from

There are a number of ways to quickly and easily figure out which yardage and tee you should play from. The PGA of America offers a guideline chart to allow golfers to reference their driving distance which then recommends total course yardage.

GolfWRX: Average driving distance for male golfers

An important thing to keep in mind for those golfers that fall into the category of playing yardage that might not actually be available on the standard scorecard is you can simply tee up from an area in the fairway in front of the traditional tee decks to make each hole as short as you would like. As mentioned off the top, unless you are playing in a competitive round being ruled by a governing body, you should be making decisions to have fun.

Iron distance formula for picking the right tees

Another popular formula for selecting the correct set of tees to play from is based on 5-iron distance, if you do not use a 5-iron specifically, you can reference your 5-hybrid or a 9-wood.

5 iron distance X 36 = the total yardage

By using this method to select the correct yardage, you will be put in a position to hit similar approach shots into greens as other players that might be playing from different yardage. For example, if a golfer playing from the middle tee deck on a par 3 is hitting a 7-iron, you should also be playing from a yardage that allows you to a 7-iron or equivalent club give or take one club up or down.

“Let’s start at the forward yardage, and if we’re having too much fun and making too many birdies, we can move back one” – Scottish caddy saying

USGA – Choosing the right tees to play

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Ryan Barath is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. ChipNRun

    Jan 25, 2021 at 3:03 pm

    One consideration is what time of year it is. From November through March the ball just doesn’t roll out very much due to softer ground, and leaf clumps in the fairway. Plus, my muscles don’t feel as fluid at 50* and overcast as they do at 85* and sunny.

    In November through March, I play the Senior tees (5,300). Once things warm up a bit, I move back to the Middle tees (5,800).

  2. JB

    Jan 18, 2021 at 6:51 pm

    My pro believes if you are playing the right set of tees you should be have the chance to hit 1-2 of the 3 or 4 par 5s in two giving yourself an eagle putt.

    Remember he said have a chance of doing it – not necessarily doing it every round.

  3. Dennis

    Dec 17, 2020 at 12:39 am

    Regarding the 5-iron-formula: Is it carry or total distance? Is it a strong or traditional lofted 5 iron?

    • Steve Frishmuth

      Dec 31, 2020 at 9:06 am

      Really…..

      • DrP

        Aug 8, 2022 at 5:08 pm

        Yes, really, it’s a great question that makes a huge difference. My 6 iron is lofted more like a traditional 5 iron (some sets like Callaway Mavrik lofts are even a full club stronger than mine). If I use my “6” iron distance that’s really closer to a 5, that gives me 6,300 yards.

        I don’t even play a regular 5 iron, I have a 5 hybrid that is lofted more like a 4, if I use that distance, I get a tee recommendation of 7,020 yards. This is a massive difference and I really don’t think I’m a 7,000 yard tee kind of golfer.

        If I used the regular 5 iron from my set that’s really closer to a 4 in loft I imagine I’d be around 6,700 or so tee distance.

        Are you getting the picture? Without more specific parameters (say a set loft for the calculation), it is essentially useless. Personally, I think my 6 iron is pretty close and I tend to play Tees 6,100 – 6,400 in length.

  4. X flex

    Dec 15, 2020 at 11:50 am

    X Flex ? and play from the tips…. these are the wanna bees that clog up the course. Oh, and the guys that drive the ball 225 and wait for the green to clear on par fives so they can hit their 275 yard shot?

    • RAY

      Dec 21, 2020 at 8:55 am

      Yeah, exactly.
      They hit 225 with a driver, but wait to hit into the par 5 (275) with their 3 wood?? huh?
      Result? About 205 with a cut into the trees.

      Priceless.

  5. Rick Flynn

    Dec 15, 2020 at 10:28 am

    This is WRX though. We will never get anyone to admit how far they really hit their driver or 5 iron. Slow play continues…

    • John

      Dec 21, 2020 at 9:00 am

      ahhhh yes…

      The incredibly fragile male ego. its a curse on the game.
      The equipment manufactures love them though. LOL

  6. Boo

    Dec 14, 2020 at 9:59 am

    This is a terrible way to determine which tees to play from. This should be based on your handicap. Using formula means bernhard langer and I should use the same tees… Cmon man.

    • NP

      Dec 16, 2020 at 11:08 am

      disagree. Remember this is for when ‘playing for fun’. Handicap is NOT an indicator of driving distance.

      • Obee

        Dec 16, 2020 at 3:42 pm

        Nor should driving distance determine where you play from — solely.

  7. William Davis

    Dec 14, 2020 at 9:32 am

    I look forward to joining the Ladies – if they’ll have me.

  8. Tom Duckworth

    Dec 14, 2020 at 9:24 am

    It a pain when you get stuck behind a group that thinks they need to play from the back tees when they don’t have the game for it. When it’s busy you can’t play through because there’s a group in front. So please put your egos aside and play the proper tees.It will only help pace of play.

    • Dosier88

      Dec 30, 2020 at 7:45 pm

      A shank into the woods and looking for the ball for 10 minutes is the same no matter what tee it was shanked from IMO.

  9. Ajit Pillai

    Dec 13, 2020 at 8:13 pm

    I keep it even easier. If I can’t reach a par 4 with my driver or 3 wood and my 4 iron (I carry a hybrid) then I’m on the wrong tees. I don’t care what the total yardage is, it’s the par 4’s I focus on. Currently I’m good for 445-450 par four with Driver/4 iron under normal conditions.

    • Mike

      Dec 20, 2020 at 10:00 am

      Great way to look at it. For me, if I can’t reach the average par 4 on a course w/ a driver & 4H, time to move up tees. Par 5 & par 3 distances are irrelevant; on any tee distance I would consider playing from, most par 5’s are a 3 shot hole & I can probably reach any par 3.

      But based on my driving distance (210 yds), I should play at what, 5,600 yds? That’s ABSURD, unless I wanted to purely feed my ego. But I CRINGE when I see folks heading to the back tees. Watching 1 or 2 of your swings, I can tell if they belong there. Most of the time, they DON’T.
      And I know it’s gonna be a long & frustrating round. BTW, when you aren’t good & are playing from the back tees, please don’t insult my intelligence & tell me this just happens to be your worst round of the season!

  10. Dennis Beach

    Dec 13, 2020 at 9:25 am

    I play the white tees all the time at every course I play. The distances on the courses I play are less than 7000 yds., and some of the blue tees are so far back, that it is over 200 yds.to the fairway, so the white tees cut this in half or less. 25+ hdcp. with no golf ego, and being 64, and never was a long hitter. I average 200-220 on my drives, so I know what tees to play from to have the most fun.

    • NP

      Dec 16, 2020 at 11:11 am

      You should play about 6000 yard tees. You’ll have more fun.

  11. George Gearhart

    Dec 12, 2020 at 11:34 pm

    I am a 75 year old 8 handicapper who averages about 200 yards off the tee, but I hit my 3Wd about 190 off the fairway. If I don’t hit the greens on Par 4s over 380 there a pretty good chance I can get up and down in one, certainly two, which means I will usually be hitting Par 5s with an 8 iron or less with GIR more often than not. I have a very good short game and can average low 80s from most White Tees and shot 76 three times this year. So I would say there are acceptions to the driver distance for tee selections.

    • Jack Matthews

      Dec 13, 2020 at 3:14 pm

      I agree. I’m 70 and my drives are usually between 190 to 210 unless it’s really cold and/or wet. However, I usually play from 6250 yards. Obviously to break 80 I have to chip and putt well. A lot of the guys with which I play are sometimes 30 to 40 yards longer than me, but I usually score the same or better than them as I rarely miss a fairway. If one has a really good short game and is a great putter he (or she) can overcome being short off the tee.

    • CV

      Dec 30, 2020 at 8:34 am

      Sir, you are an inspiration. Keep it going. I wish I could get in the 70’s.

    • Matt S

      Jan 13, 2021 at 3:31 pm

      Some good thoughts put together by various respondents. I would agree that distance and handicap should both be considered in determining an appropriate tee colour.
      However, I would suggest that most golfers should not play one tee colour only, but play another tee colour occasionally for a different challenge and experience. Also, suggested tee colours should always be guidelines and not obligatory.

    • Bruce E

      Jan 23, 2023 at 8:41 pm

      I’m a 5.3 index. A short hitter (bad back) but dead straight, I fly my driver 205 (78% fairway) and hit my fairway woods well. Strong short game. (I practice.)

      If I play up front (where no one plays) I’m a 2.5 or 3 handicap player. Instead I set my handicap from back tees ((5.3 gets me 7 from our middle and 10 from our championship tees) and play with the low handicappers.

  12. Redo Mulligan

    Dec 12, 2020 at 8:27 pm

    Tell that to Dechambeau

  13. Bruce Helbig

    Dec 12, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    If you are hitting more than a 7 iron into the greens for your second shot on most par 4 holes, move up. There fixed it for you.

    • Carolyn

      Dec 16, 2020 at 9:03 am

      My favorite is still the young guy’s that drive it 300 or more then miss the green from 80 YRDS. chilly dip their chip, second chip 15 feet past hole and then two putt…mean while my partner and I smash our 220 yard drive, get close to the green with our 7 wood, chip close to hole and one putt. First hole we are two up….and the pattern continues till we shoot 85 and the long boys are trying to figure out why they both shot 97?

    • NP

      Dec 16, 2020 at 11:13 am

      Agreed. And unless your playing for money, don’t be influenced by the others in your group.

      • John

        Dec 21, 2020 at 9:17 am

        Agree, Ironically the last part of your comment is where most golfers get their self esteem from. They are more concerned with what they think than anything else, even if the average handicap is 30.

        Not sure who said this but its got a lot of truth built in.
        “The less people know about something”, the more they talk about it”

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am betting preview: Patrick Cantlay to hit form at iconic venue

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The PGA TOUR heads to historic Pebble Beach this week to play the 2024 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

The tournament will be much different this season than what fans are used to, with plenty of welcome changes to the event. The 2024 edition of the tournament will be a “Signature Event” which means Pebble Beach will finally get the star-studded field it deserves and a prize pool of $20 million, with $3.6 million going to the winner as well as 700 FedExCup points. 

This should be one of the most exciting events of the season, as we will finally get to see many of the best players in the world play at one of the world’s most iconic golf courses over the weekend.

As Johnny Miller once said, “They say it’s the greatest meeting of land and sea in the world. This course was heaven designed”.

The event has previously utilized three courses: Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course and Monterey Peninsula Country Club, but with the smaller field this year, we will now only see Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill Golf Course. Monterey Peninsula was the easiest of the three courses, so it’s removal should make scoring more difficult overall. It will be a no-cut event, with each golfer playing one round at Spyglass Hill and three at Pebble Beach. The Pro-Am portion of the event will only take place Thursday and Friday. 

The field this week is made up of 70 players including the top 50 from last year’s FedExCup standings, the top 10 available and not otherwise exempt from current FedExCup standings (Aon Next 10), and the top five available and not otherwise exempt FedExCup points earners from the swings leading up to each Signature Event (Aon Swing 5). Adam Scott, Webb Simpson, Maverick McNealy and Peter Malnati have also received sponsor’s exemptions. 

Pebble Beach Golf Links is a par-72 measuring 6,828 yards and featuring Poa Annua greens. Spyglass Hill is a par-72 measuring 7,035 yards, and Monterey Peninsula is a par-71 measuring 6,958 yards.

Past Winners at The Pebble Beach AT&T Pro-Am

  • 2023: Justin Rose (-18)
  • 2022: Tom Hoge (-19)
  • 2021: Daniel Berger (-18)
  • 2020: Nick Taylor (-19)
  • 2019: Phil Mickelson (-19)
  • 2018: Ted Potter Jr. (-17)
  • 2017: Jordan Spieth (-19)
  • 2016: Vaughn Taylor (-17)
  • 2015: Brandt Snedeker (-22)

Going forward, I’ll be using the brand-new Bet The Number data engine to develop my custom model. All statistics listed come directly from the PGA Tour. If you want to build your own model or check out all of the detailed stats, you can sign up using promo code: MATT for $5 off the Monthly and $50 off the Annual Subscription. 

Strokes Gained: Approach

Unsurprisingly, approach grades out as the most important statistic for Pebble Beach.

On a shorter course, approaches to the green are understandably more indicative of success than smashing it off of the tee. With very small greens, Pebble Beach is undoubtedly a second-shot golf course.

Total Strokes Gained: Approach in Past 24 Rounds (per round):

  1. Mark Hubbard (+.91)
  2. Taylor Montgomery (+.90)
  3. Xander Schauffele (+.84)
  4. Chris Kirk (+.84)
  5. Scottie Scheffler (+.77)

SG: Around the Green

With extremely small greens, Pebble Beach will be suited for players who are good around the green after they inevitably have to scramble for par. 

SG: ARG in Past 24 Rounds (per round):

  1. J.J. Spaun (+.61)
  2. Russell Henley (+.57)
  3. Sahith Theegala (+.51)
  4. Beau Hossler (+.45)
  5. Jordan Spieth (+.39)

Strokes Gained: Putting (West Coast POA)

With the course being so short, one of its main defenses is its fast Poa Annua greens. Strokes Gained: Putting has historically been extremely important here, as evidenced by former winners (Spieth, Mickelson, Snedeker).

SG: Putting (West Coast POA) Last 24 Rounds (per round):

  1. Denny McCarthy (+2.2)
  2. Max Homa (+1.9)
  3. Peter Malnati (+1.4)
  4. S.H. Kim (+1.3)
  5. Harris English (+1.1)

Course History

Pebble Beach has historically been a specialist’s course.  Every winner of this event since 2006 has a top-21 finish in a previous appearance. 

Total Strokes Gained (Pebble Beach): Gained per Round in Past 24 Rounds

  1. Maverick McNealy (+2.6)
  2. Taylor Moore (+2.1)
  3. Jordan Spieth (+1.7)
  4. Patrick Cantlay (+1.5)
  5. Jason Day (+1.4)

Approach 125-150

Pebble Beach is extremely short, and players will be faced with plenty of wedge shots into the course’s tiny greens. 

Approach 125-150 past 24 rounds (per round):

  1. Taylor Montgomery (14.9)
  2. Mark Hubbard (15.8)
  3. Beau Hossler (16.1)
  4. Max Homa (16.6)
  5. Cameron Young (16.7)

Statistical Model

Below, I’ve reported overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed.

These rankings are comprised of SG: App (28%), Approach 125-150 (18%), SG: Putting West Coast Poa (18%), Course History (18%) and ARG (18%).

  1. Max Homa (+2000)
  2. Taylor Montgomery (+10000)
  3. J.T. Poston (+6600)
  4. Beau Hossler (+8000)
  5. Xander Schauffele (+1800)
  6. Scottie Scheffler (+850)
  7. Brendon Todd (+8000)
  8. Patrick Cantlay (+2000)
  9. Collin Morikawa (+2200)
  10. Alex Noren (+7500)

2024 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Picks

Patrick Cantlay +2000 (FanDuel)

Patrick Cantlay hasn’t been playing his best golf to begin the 2024 season, which is why we are getting a palatable number on the 31-year-old. Cantlay absolutely loves Pebble Beach and hasn’t finished worse than 21st in his last four trips to the course. He finished in a tie for 3rd in 2021 and a tie for 2nd in 2022. In 2021, Cantlay tied a course record (62) at Pebble Beach, matching David Duval’s round in 1997. He was born in Long Beach, California and attended UCLA, which has clearly translated to his performance in the state throughout his career.

Cantlay has been struggling this year but has gotten progressively better in each start in terms of Strokes Gained: Approach, and the putter has been solid in the early part of the season. It hasn’t been pretty, but I believe after shaking the rust off Cantlay will find himself in contention at a golf course he’s very comfortable at.

Jordan Spieth +2000 (BetRivers)

With the exception of Augusta National, there might not be a course on Tour more suited to the strengths of Jordan Spieth.

He struggled last year, but prior to that he was in contention in just about every start at Pebble Beach. He finished 2nd in 2022, 3rd in 2021 and tied for 9th in 2021. He also won the event in 2017 and had two additional top ten finishes in 2014 and 2015.

Spieth is playing well to begin his 2024 campaign, finishing 3rd in his only start at The Sentry while gaining strokes on the field in all significant categories. With LIV Golf kicking off its season this week, the Tour would like nothing more than one of its most recognizable stars in contention at one of the world’s most iconic courses over the weekend.

Byeong Hun An +6600 (BetRivers)

In his two starts in 2024, Byeong Hun An has finished 4th at the Sentry and lost in a playoff at the Sony Open. As frustrating as it was to be on the losing side of his short playoff miss, it’s undeniable that An is currently playing the best golf of his career. 

In his start at the Sony, the South Korean gained 8.3 strokes from tee to green and despite the short miss, exhibited the ability to putt on West Coast POA, gaining 3.4 strokes putting.

An played in the event last year and finished 37th. However, he played in the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and finished in a tie for 16th, showing he can compete at the course when conditions are tough.

The jury is still out on whether or not An can hit a clutch putt when it matters most, but he’s playing too well to ignore right now.

Beau Hossler +7000 (FanDuel)

Beau Hossler loves Pebble Beach. The 27-year-old grew up in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, which is only a few hours away from Pebble Beach.

In 2022, Hossler finished in solo third place at last year’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and gained 4.1 strokes putting in two rounds at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Last year, he finished 11th. While he struggles at times to keep up with the best players in the world at longer tracks, he can catch a hot putter in this event. 

Hossler has had a strong start to his season, finishing 6th at last week’s Farmers Insurance Open. The once “can’t miss” prospect has a chance this week to achieve a career defining win at a course that suits him perfectly.

Adam Scott +8000 (FanDuel)

Adam Scott is making his PGA Tour debut this week, but he’s quietly been getting reps throughout the early part of 2024. A few weeks ago, the Australian played in the Hero Dubai Desert Classic and finished in a tie for 7th place. He also played three other times in the fall and finished in a tie for 7th (Bermuda), 6th (Australian PGA), and a tie for 4th (Australian Open).

With Monterey Peninsula out of the mix and cold/rainy weather incoming, I anticipate the scores to be relatively high over the weekend. That should favor Scott and his dependable ball striking. In the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Scott finished in a tie for 7th place. With difficult conditions and a strong field, the event might play similar to that Pebble Beach rather than the Pro-Am setup. The 41-year-old has played well in California in the past and has a win at Riviera and a runner-up at Torrey Pines.

At long odds, Scott is worth a shot this week.

Patrick Rodgers +150000 (FanDuel)

Patrick Rodgers hasn’t played well at Pebble Beach over the last four tries, but he did finish in a tie for 8th at the 2018 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

In his three starts this season, Rodgers has finished 14th (Sentry), 24th (Sony), and a tie for 9th (Farmers Insurance Open). Last week at Torrey Pines, the former Stanford Cardinal gained 2.5 strokes off the tee and 1.1 on approach.

Pebble Beach may not be an ideal fit for Rodgers on paper, but he’s showing signs of consistency from the 31-year-old that we’ve been waiting to see for many years. His ability to putt on West Coast POA and strong current form makes him worth the chance at triple-digit odds.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Why golf is 20 times harder than brain surgery

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cactus, Arizona, desert, golf, golf course

For most of us golfers, improving is the great challenge of this game we love. But understand that statistically speaking, golf at the highest level is at least twenty times more difficult than brain surgery.  How do I figure that?

Check this out.

There are over 5,000 brain surgeons in the U.S. earning an average income of $368,000. But only 190 PGA Tour professionals had winnings of that much in 2023. Add to that the 68 LPGA players and five Korn Ferry players who surpassed that figure. So, there are less than 270 professional golfers making more than the average brain surgeon. So, attaining the functioning highest level of golf skill must be almost twenty times more difficult than brain surgery…right?

With that bit of levity behind us (though these are real numbers), let’s talk about getting better at this game that has us captivated. I have never met a golfer who admitted he or she had absolutely no interest in getting better. Quite to the contrary, golfers who are even the least bit serious keep score, because they are at least somewhat interested in seeing those numbers get smaller. So, what better time of the year to make that promise to yourself than right now, as a new year begins?

The pathways to improvement can be widely different, depending on how badly you want to improve your golf game and your scoring. So, just for fun (that levity thing again), I thought I would share my observations about some of those pathways you might consider as your own for the coming year:

The “Wish” Path. This path is the easiest to execute because you don’t have to really do anything different from what you’ve always done. Just spend your time sitting around hoping your golf gets better.  I actually know a lot of golfers like that. They barely know where the practice range is, would never consider a real lesson and step up to the first tee shot with not much more than a half-hearted practice swing. And they wonder why they don’t get better.

I lost my father very early in life, but he left me with many “pearls of wisdom”, as he called them. One of my favorites of his more colorful ones was this:

“Son, just go wish in one hand and s**t in the other one and see which one fills up the fastest.”

The “Hope” Path. I’ll be the first to admit that this game is very difficult to attain any level of mastery.  The golf swing and all its many idiosyncrasies are not easy to ingrain to a level that offers any reliable measure of repeatability. And the golfer who can “self-teach” their way to even a consistent high single digit handicap is a rare bird indeed.

I can’t tell you how many golfers I frequently see on our practice range, banging away ball after ball after ball…quite apparently not working on learning a new position or movement, but just hoping that enough repetitions will allow them to create a measure of repeatability to improve their shot-to-shot consistency and therefore lower their scores.

Newsflash…the old saying that “practice makes perfect” does not apply to golf. Practice makes “permanent” and the more you practice that fundamentally unsound sequence of movements, the harder it will be to “unlearn” them and replace them with swing movements that really work.

With those two “fun” paths out of the way, let’s take a turn more serious and lay out three proven pathways to better golf.

  • Improve your physical plant.  This is particularly important for those of us who are aging a bit faster than we’d like but applies to all of us who don’t routinely hit hundreds of golf balls a week.  The golf swing takes flexibility to execute and our daily routines are the enemy of flexibility.  Most of us spend too much time sitting and not enough time improving our range of motion that a good golf swing requires.  My key to having maintained my skills into my 70s is that I stretch every day . . . maybe not as much as I really should, but enough to still be able to make a full turn away from the ball and back through to a full follow-through.  Even if you do the minimum, it is remarkable what 10-12 minutes of stretching can do for your golf.  I won’t go into detail here because there are tons of good videos, programs and products out there.  Just do it!
  • Learn, learn, learn.  You cannot execute a golf swing until you really understand it.  My father was a Ben Hogan disciple, so I was raised on Power Golf and Five Lessons.  And I was tutored as a youth by my father and our local golf pro.  I just wrote about Learning and Practice a few weeks ago.  Check it out and commit to learning about the golf swing in all its iterations – full swings, pitching, chipping and putting.  With understanding comes enlightenment.
  • Carnegie Hall.  The old adage goes . . . “How do I get to Carnegie Hall??  The answer: “Practice. Practice. Practice.”  But practice with a definite purpose . . . ALWAYS.  As I mentioned earlier, just banging balls is fun, but it’s not practice.  And it won’t make you a better golfer.  When the PGA and LPGA tour players go to the range, they have a very specific thing they are practicing.  It might be a minute little adjustment but watch them if/when you get the chance.  They are not just banging balls one after the other.  Each swing is taken with a purpose and intent, followed by an evaluation of how they did.

So, there you have some levity and guidance to start your year.  Let me know your questions and I’ll do my best to give you sound answers you can bank on.  Always feel free to drop me a line.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s Farmers Insurance Open betting preview: Major champs to show their class at Torrey Pines

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The PGA Tour season ramps up this week as we head to historic Torrey Pines Golf Course for the 2024 Farmers Insurance Open.

To many, this event marks the true start of the PGA Tour season as it draws big names and a difficult test, which is something golf fans have been craving after three weeks of low scoring events.

The event will be played from Wednesday through Saturday this week for the second consecutive year to avoid going against the NFL conference championship games so golf fans can enjoy both sports.

Torrey Pines Golf Club (South) is a par-72 measuring 7,765 yards. Golfers will play three rounds on the South Course and one round on the North Course.

The South Course is the far more difficult of the two and features Poa Annua greens. The North Course is 7,258 yards and features Bentgrass greens.

The 2023 Farmers Insurance Open field is a full-field event comprised of 156 golfers. The field is very strong and will include Ludvig Aberg, Jason Day, Tony Finau, Collin Morikawa, Max Homa, Sungjae Im, Hideki Matsuyama, Xander Schauffele, Min Woo Lee, Justin Thomas and Sahith Theegala. 

We’ve back tested past tournaments at Torrey Pines to see which metrics matter this week.

Past Winners at The Farmers Insurance Open

  • 2023: Max Homa (-13)
  • 2022: Luke List (-15)
  • 2021: Patrick Reed (-14)
  • 2020: Marc Leishman (-15)
  • 2019: Justin Rose (-21)
  • 2018: Jason Day (-10)
  • 2017: Jon Rahm (-13)
  • 2016: Brandt Snedeker (-6)
  • 2015: Jason Day (-9)

Let’s take a look at several metrics for Torrey Pines to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds:

Strokes Gained: Approach

Hitting greens will be important due to the difficult around the green areas at Torrey Pines. Strokes Gained: Approach has been the most indicative statistic of top-10 finishers at the course historically.

Total Strokes Gained: Approach in past 24 rounds:

  1. Sam Ryder (+22.4)
  2. Xander Schauffele (+21.5)
  3. Eric Cole (+20.8)
  4. Chez Reavie (+19.1)
  5. Collin Morikawa (+19.0)

Driving Distance

Torrey Pines is a long course, and distance will absolutely be a major factor. Average driving distance is a far greater factor here than your average TOUR event, while driving accuracy is a lesser factor. We are most definitely looking at a bomber’s track this week.

Driving Distance per round in past 24 rounds:

  1. Min Woo Lee (+22.4)
  2. Cameron Champ (+21.0)
  3. Chris Gotterup (+18.6)
  4. Kevin Yu (+15.4)
  5. Callum Tarren (+14.6) 

Strokes Gained: Putting (Poa)

We typically see a lot of golfers play well in this area year after year. One determining factor in the consistent results is whether or not golfers prefer the Poa out West to other surfaces.

Great Poa putters typically play very well in California.

Strokes Gained: Putting (Poa) in past 24 rounds:

  1. Xander Schauffele (+22.5)
  2. Max Homa (+21.2)
  3. Justin Suh (+20.5)
  4. Peter Malnati (+16.0)
  5. Mackenzie Hughes (+15.5)

Par 4: 450-500 Yards

Torrey Pines has a total of six par 4s between 450 and 500 yards on the South Course. To play well this week, golfers will need to outplay the field on these particular holes.

Total Par 4: 450-500 in past 24 rounds

  1. Xander Schauffele (+15.6)
  2. Beau Hossler (+15.0)
  3. Eric Cole (+14.5)
  4. Patrick Cantlay (+12.8)
  5. Sahith Theegala (+12.5)

Par 5: 550-600 Yards

With all four par 5s at the Torrey Pines South Course measuring between 550 and 600 yards, the long hitters will have a major advantage. The course can play difficult, so it’s an absolute must to take care of the par 5s and make birdies.

Keegan Bradley ranked 5th in this range last year and finished runner-up at 60-1.

Par 5: 550-600 in past 24 rounds:

  1. Garrick Higgo (+11.1)
  2. Lee Hodges (+9.9)
  3. Doug Ghim (+8.6)
  4. Alexander Bjork (+8.1)
  5. S.H. Kim (+8.0)

Course History

Here are the 10 best players in terms of Strokes Gained: Total at Torrey Pines South in the past 24 rounds. 

  1. Tony Finau
  2. Jason Day
  3. Brandt Snedeker
  4. Sungjae Im
  5. Justin Rose
  6. Will Zalatoris
  7. Keegan Bradley
  8. Xander Schauffele
  9. Collin Morikawa
  10. Hidedki Matsuyama

Statistical Model

Below, I’ve reported overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed.

These rankings are comprised of SG: App (28%), Driving Distance (22%), Par 4: 450-500 (16%), Par 5: 550-600 (16%) and SG: Putting POA (18%).

  1. Patrick Cantlay (+1000)
  2. Taylor Pendrith (+8000)
  3. Xander Schauffele (+900)
  4. Max Homa (+1000)
  5. Will Zalatoris (+4500)
  6. Sahith Theegala (+4500)
  7. Eric Cole (+3500)
  8. Ludvig Aberg (+1800)
  9. Chesson Hadley (+13000)
  10. Shane Lowry (+5500)

2024 Farmers Insurance Open Picks

(Listed odds are at the time of writing)

Jason Day +3000 (FanDuel)

There aren’t many courses in the world that Jason Day has played better at than Torrey Pines. He won at the course in both 2015 and 2018 and also has four top-10 finishes at the course. In his past 24 rounds, Day ranks second in the field in Strokes Gained: Total at the course.

Day has had a solid start to his season finishing 10th at The Sentry and then 34th in a birdie fest at the American Express. The Australian has come to Torrey Pines and contended in far worse form than he is at the moment and got into contention despite of that fact. 

Putting on the bumpy and fast West Coast POA will be a key this week. Day has putt the ball extremely well at Torrey, including last year where he finished 7th and gained 5.8 strokes putting. In 2022, he finished 3rd and gained 3.9 strokes putting.

Day is currently enjoying one of the longest stretches of good health and consistent play in the past five years or so and is one of the players to beat this week in a historic event. 

Sahith Theegala +4500 (DraftKings)

Sahith Theegala will undoubtedly be a popular bet this week and for good reason. The former Pepperdine star grew up playing on west coast POA and has been fantastic on the west coast in general throughout his career. 

Theegala won the Fortinet Championship in California in the fall similar to how Max Homa won it prior to conquering Torrey Pines. Last year, Theegala finished 4th at the Farmers Insurance Open and was in contention for most of the round on Sunday. He also has plenty of other strong finishes out west including a 3rd at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and a 6th at the Genesis Invitational.

The 26-year-old opened his season with a 2nd place finish at the Sentry prior to missing the cut at the Sony. Theegala has shown consistently that he will show up and play his best at the Tour stops that he is best suited for.

Hideki Matsuyama +6500 (FanDuel)

In an event where a lot of the value on the betting board has seemingly dissipated, the odds for Hideki Matsuyama have drifted to a place where I feel it’s worth taking the chance on the Japanese star. It’s been a rough year for Matsuyama, who’s struggled to consistently play well and has dealt with a nagging neck injury.

The 30-year-old has had some success at Torrey Pines throughout his career and finished third at the course in 2019 and 12th in 2018. He was also able to finish 9th last season despite being in mediocre form, similar to the way he’s playing now. 

The 30th place in his most recent start at the Sony wasn’t extremely impressive, but Matsuyama did gain strokes across the board. He gained 1.7 strokes on approach and 1.2 off the tee, which is encouraging sign.

I’m not sure if we get peak ‘Deki this week, but if we do, he can beat anyone in the field.

Patrick Rodgers +8000 (BetMGM)

Thus far, 2024 has been the year of the Cinderella story. The winners have been Chris Kirk (150-1), Grayson Murray (400-1) and Nick Dunlap (300-1). In addition to the long odds, each of the three players have amazing stories such as Kirk and Murray’s recoveries from personal demons or Dunlap’s amazing feat of becoming the first amateur to win since Phil Mickelson in 1991. 

Patrick Rodgers winning at Torrey Pines would be another remarkable story. The Stanford graduate was once regarded as a can’t miss prospect and even broke Tiger Woods’ win record as a Cardinal. He won the Hogan award and was the top ranked amateur player in the world for 16 weeks.

Things haven’t gone according to plan for the former prodigy, who’s now 31 years old. Rodgers is yet to win on the PGA Tour and has been largely disappointing since turning professional. However, some of Rodgers’ best golf has been played at Torrey Pines. He has finished 4th here in 2017 and 9th in 2020. He’s also showed some encouraging signs of late. He narrowly lost to Akshay Bhatia at the Barracuda Championship late last summer and began his 2024 campaign with back-to-back strong performances, finishing 14th and 24th at the Sentry and Sony Open.

We’ve seen some amazing stories this season, but Patrick Rodgers returning to glory in the state where he was once considered golf’s next big thing may surpass them all.

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