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Ways to Win: Up and down – The Spieth rollercoaster notches a rare short game win

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Jordan Spieth is back! After a long hiatus from the winner’s circle, Spieth was able to break through at the Oaks Course at TPC of San Antonio to capture his 12th career PGA TOUR victory at the Valero Texas Open. It wasn’t easy, but then again, nothing ever is with Spieth. The Golden Child always seems to find a way to add dramatics whether its shots from the driving range to steal the British Open from Matt Kuchar or holing a bunker shot to force (John Deere) or win (Travelers) a playoff. That sense of drama and fun that has surrounded the always-vocal Spieth has been missing in recent years as his weekend struggles had him plummeting down the World Rankings.

Earlier this year, he started showing signs of life with a handful of 54 hole leads, only to be undone with mediocre Sunday performances. Through eight holes on Saturday, sitting at +1 for the day, it looked like this would also be just another missed opportunity. But then Spieth did what Spieth does. He made birdies in bunches and showed off that terrific short game.

Spieth has never been traditional in the way he wins. Though he is probably best known for his putting stroke, in his best years, he was also quite dominant with his irons. This week was no exception. We can use V1 Game’s Strokes Gained Stacked view to see how Spieth performed in Driving, Approach, Short Game, and Putting over the four rounds.

The first thing that jumps out, looking at Spieth’s performance, is his short game. Speith gained well over 4 strokes over the average PGA Tour player for the week. This is not common for PGA TOUR winners. The main reason is that gaining strokes in the Short Game requires opportunities from inside 75 yards. In order to have opportunities, that typically means that you have to miss greens. Most PGA TOUR winners do not many miss greens on their way to a trophy, however Jordan Spieth missed many at the Valero Texas Open. In fact, he finished the week tied for 66th in greens in regulation (GIR) hitting only 58 percent. This is certainly more of an outlier in terms of GIR for tour winners, but when you have a short game as good as Spieth’s, you can get away with it.

The second observation is that Spieth was almost perfectly average with Driving. He came out positive in strokes gained for the week, but finished 38th in the field for Strokes Gained Driving. Strokes Gained Driving accounts for both distance and accuracy and while Jordan is certainly not one of the longest hitters on tour, lately his struggle has been with accuracy. He is hitting around 50 percent of his fairways and while the rough was not overly penal this week, several times Spieth was putting himself into recovery or difficult situations.

Known for his putting, Spieth demonstrated exactly why this weekend. For starters, he had no three putts. While a lot of the field struggled to get the ball in the hole, Jordan minimized mistakes. In fact, Jordan gained strokes on the field putting from every distance bucket <25 ft. He gained almost more than one stroke per round on the field from four -15 ft each day. Those strokes add up at the end of the week and Spieth’s putter certainly gives him an advantage.

Spieth is peaking just in time for The Masters at a golf course where he has traditionally played very well. But what should he be working on heading to Augusta? We can use V1 Game’s Virtual Coach to breakdown his game and give us some insights on how he should be practicing this week.

V1 Game’s Virtual Coach tells Jordan that first he should work on Driving as it is currently the weakest part of his game (relative to other Tour professionals). The quick insight shows that he is missing to the right more than 30 percent of the time and is losing, on average, around a third of a stroke per round from putting his tee shots into recovery situations.

Next, V1 Game’s Virtual Coach highlights Approach as his next-biggest area of focus. With the Virtual Coach, we can go as deep as we want to go to get specific targets for practice. Clicking on “WORK ON NEXT” takes us to the Approach Histogram which shows us that Jordan is gaining strokes for most yardage buckets, but struggling from 151-175 yards. This is where he should spend some time practicing, but we can go even deeper than that. Clicking on the insight takes us to a breakdown of his performance from that distance, shows that he only hit the green 25 percent of the time and tended to miss long. These key insights could help Spieth fine-tune a problem area heading into one of the most important weeks of the year.

As a Spieth fan, I was delighted to see him breakthrough and win again on the PGA TOUR. Golf is better when Jordan Spieth is adding his theatrics to the mix. His combination of approach and putting mixed with unbelievable short game is a thrill to watch. It is rare to see a PGA TOUR winner do so much damage with the short game. This proves there is more than one way to win on tour and more than one way to get it done on the golf course.

If you want to play like Jordan Spieth and start practicing the areas that will impact your game the most, V1 Game can help simplify the results of your performance and get you focusing on the right areas to improve the fastest. Download the app for free and get started on your path to better golf.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Srixon ZX and TaylorMade SIM2 Max fairways and My top 3 drivers!

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Masters hangover week is here! I have had the new Srixon ZX fairway out on the course and it is underrated as you would imagine. Reshafted the SIM2 Max 3w and it has been super consistent and comfortable. Talking about the top 3 drivers I have been hitting this year.

 

 

 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between good amateurs and those who are not-so-good—and between the top professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—lies in the consistency of their pre-shot routine. I read an interesting account on this subject after the final round of the 1990 Masters when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Greg Norman. I know that was 30 years ago, but the lesson is just as relevant today.

This particular analyst timed the pre-shot routines of both players during the first three rounds and found that on the final day that Norman got quicker and quicker through his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

Anytime you watch professional golf—or the better players at your club—you’ll see precision and consistency in the way they approach all of their shots. There is a lesson there for all of us—so, here are my ideas of how the pre-shot routine should work.

The first thing is to get a good feel for the shot, and by that, I mean a very clear picture in your mind of how it will fly, land, and roll. It is certainly realistic to have a different routine for full shots, chips and pitches, and putts, as they are all very different challenges. As you get closer to the hole, your focus needs to be more on the feel of the shot than the mechanics of the swing, in my opinion.

On any shot, I believe the best starting point is from behind the ball, seeing in your “mind’s eye” the film clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight path it will take, and on greenside shots, just how it will roll out. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and take as many practice swings as it takes to “feel” the swing that will produce that visualized shot path for you.

Your actual pre-shot routine can start when you see that shot clearly and begin your approach the ball to set up. From that “trigger point,” you should work hard to do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

This is something that you can and should work on at the range. When you are out there “banging balls,” don’t just practice your swing, but how you approach each shot.

So, guys and ladies, there’s my $.02 on the pre shot routine. What do you have to add?

 

 

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Opinion & Analysis

Ways to Win: Hideki Matsuyama from Low Am to low man at the Masters

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They say the Masters does not start until the back nine on Sunday, but by that time, this year’s iteration was all but wrapped up. Hideki Matsuyama stepped onto the 10th tee with a five-stroke lead and the volatile back nine in front of him. The Augusta pines would be void of roars, though, as Matsuyama’s pursuers near the top of the leaderboard struggled to mount a significant charge. The closest challenger was a late-charging Xander Schauffele, who made four straight birdies to get to within two of the lead heading to the 16th tee. His hopes were then quickly dashed when he dunked his tee shot in the water and eventually made a triple-bogey. Augusta National Golf Club played difficult this spring. Contrary to the record-setting November version, the greens were more brown and firm than typical and required precision. Luckily for Matsuyama, precision has made him one of the elite golfers in the world. He earned this green jacket. He just happened to earn it on Saturday where his 65 was three strokes better than the next-best round. Using V1 Game to analyze his Strokes Gained performance shows Matsuyama gained 6.7 strokes on the average PGA Tour field on Saturday and 4.2 of those were from his iron game.

Matsuyama has always been a premier ball striker and, if anything, poor putting has held him back from winning more. Augusta National is no place for a balky putter and Matsuyama has made some significant strides in that category. While he did not gain strokes on the field in putting this week, he managed to get to average and, with his elite ballstriking, that was enough. Augusta National’s lightning-quick, undulated greens reward a properly-struck shot and punish even the slightest mishit. Matsuyama made 96 feet of putts Saturday (the PGA TOUR average is around 70 feet), including birdie putts of five, 19, 10, four and 10 feet. He also made a six-foot eagle putt on 15. You don’t have to be an elite putter when you have opportunities that close. Good for Matsuyama, because while he filled it up on Saturday, for the week, his putting was sub-standard.

V1 Game breaks down putting performance by distance from the hole, where we can see that Matsuyama lost strokes to the field in all but four distance buckets. He gave significant strokes back to the field from 4-6 feet, 11-15 ft, and 31-50 feet. Matsuyama had four 3-putts on the week, including one on Saturday and one Sunday. That’s progressing in the right direction, but still with room for improvement for the 29-year-old Matsuyama.

If you are going to win the Masters, it always starts with the par 5s and Matsuyama took advantage, playing them in 11-under for the week. He played the par 3s in +1 and the par 4s in even par for the week. Clearly, the par 5s were vital to him being able to get to the required -10 to win the tournament by just a single stroke. Augusta National has arguably the finest set of par fives in golf, each of them scorable and each of them dangerous. With V1 Game’s Hole History, Hideki played the 13th the best at -4 and the 8th the next-best at -3. Hideki made three eagles on the par 5s and averaged 4.3 strokes on the par 5s. That even includes the near-disaster on 15 on Sunday. Matsuyama was consistently in play off the tee and able to challenge the greens with his approach shots throughout the week.

All of the above added up to a healthy lead and afforded Matsuyama some cushion coming down the stretch, cushion that he needed as he got closer to earning his first green jacket. The golf tournament could have turned out significantly differently if young Will Zalatoris could have found a way to play better around Amen Corner, but instead Matsuyama was able to stumble a bit down the stretch and still maintain a two-stroke cushion until the final putt was holed. The Strokes Gained Heatmap from V1 Game for his final round scorecard shows exactly which part of his game became unsteady. Matsuyama overshot the 15th green into the lake and made bogey (Approach). Then three-putted the 16th green and missed a short putt on 18 (putting), knowing bogey was enough to win the golf tournament.

Still, a well-earned victory for Matsuyama. He struck the ball better than anyone else this week and did enough to claim the victory. Augusta National showed its teeth with firmer, faster greens and challenged the field to be precise. Matsuyama has made a career out of being precise. The same strength that brought Hideki Low Amateur honors more than 10 years ago brought him the green jacket as low man in the 2021 Masters.

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