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How a 15-year-old inspired a putter switch for Justin Thomas

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Justin Thomas rocketed up the leaderboard on Thursday at Liberty National with a bundle of birdies on his way to a round of 8-under which was aided by some clinical putting

The hot day on the greens was well overdue for JT, who returned to his Scotty Cameron X5.5 for the event.

Following his round, the 28-year-old explained how a conversation with a 15-year-old was behind the flat stick’s return to his bag.

“You’re going to laugh at me. I had my AJG event last week in Louisville, went right from Memphis, went there Sunday night, spent Monday, went out and kind of saw some of the kids playing their practice rounds, and Tuesday was the Junior Am. But my dad had a couple students, and I went out to go — there’s a girl Abigail that he teaches that I went out to go see because I played a couple rounds with her. She’s a really good player, and she was playing with, I think, another two girls, a girl that my dad teaches and then a boy.

“He was using the putter, pretty much my putter that Scotty Cameron, the line that we kind of came out with, and he was like, you know, when are you going to start using — when are you going to use it again? Are you still using the long neck? I was like, yeah, I am, and I was kind of explaining it, and he’s just like, well, when are you going to start using it again? And I found myself defending myself to this 15-year-old.”

After a quick laugh, Thomas continued:

“I was like why am I not using this thing? I’ve had a lot of success. It’s not like I’m making a lot of putts with what I have. If you’re putting well, any of us can go out and putt with anything.

I don’t know, it kind of hit me. I’m like, the kid’s got a point. They designed a putter after it, maybe I should bring it out. When I brought it out, it looked good, it felt good. Again, a lot of familiar feelings with it.”

And the kid did indeed have a point, with Thomas gaining 2.5 strokes on the greens with the flat-stick, which included a 37-foot birdie effort on his 14th hole.

Overall, Thomas explained to the media that he’d been trying to over-perfect his stroke in the last few months, and the plan is now to simplify things on the greens with his coach John Graham.

“Yeah, definitely trying to over-perfect a stroke and just be perfect in putting. I think John and I, we’ve had a couple great talks the last couple weeks. … I think we do probably a lot more talking than we do putting sometimes, just to kind of talk through things because, as kind of nerdy he is, sometimes I’ll say something that he picks up on.

“Just in Memphis, we were like, you know, why am I changing so much? We want it to perform so well, and he might be even harder on himself than I am on my myself.”

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Gianni is the Managing Editor at GolfWRX. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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Tour Photo Galleries

Photos from the 2024 Texas Children’s Houston Open

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GolfWRX is on site in the Lone Star State this week for the Texas Children’s Houston Open.

General galleries from the putting green and range, WITBs — including Thorbjorn Olesen and Zac Blair — and several pull-out albums await.

As always, we’ll continue to update as more photos flow in. Check out links to all our photos from Houston below.

General Albums

WITB Albums

Pullout Albums

See what GolfWRXers are saying in the forums.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Texas Children’s Houston Open betting preview

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As the Florida swing comes to an end, the PGA Tour makes its way to Houston to play the Texas Children’s Houston Open at Memorial Park Golf Course.

This will be the fourth year that Memorial Park Golf Course will serve as the tournament host. The event did not take place in 2023, but the course hosted the event in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Memorial Park is a par-70 layout measuring 7,432 yards and features Bermudagrass greens. Historically, the main defense for the course has been thick rough along the fairways and tightly mown runoff areas around the greens. Memorial Park has a unique setup that features three Par 5’s and five Par 3’s.

The field will consist of 132 players, with the top 65 and ties making the cut. There are some big names making the trip to Houston, including Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Tony Finau, Will Zalatoris and Sahith Theegala.

Past Winners at Memorial Park

  • 2022: Tony Finau (-16)
  • 2021: Jason Kokrak (-10)
  • 2020: Carlos Ortiz (-13)

In this article and going forward, I’ll be using the Rabbit Hole by Betsperts Golf data engine to develop my custom model. If you want to build your own model or check out all of the detailed stats, you can sign up using promo code: MATTVIN for 25% off any subscription package (yearly is best value). 

Key Stats For Memorial Park

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

Strokes Gained: Approach

Memorial Park is a pretty tough golf course. Golfers are penalized for missing greens and face some difficult up and downs to save par. Approach will be key.

Total Strokes Gained: Approach per round in past 24 rounds:

  1. Tom Hoge (+1.30)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.26)
  3. Keith Mitchell (+0.97) 
  4. Tony Finau (+0.92)
  5. Jake Knapp (+0.84)

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee

Memorial Park is a long golf course with rough that can be penal. Therefore, a combination of distance and accuracy is the best metric.

Total Strokes Gained: Off the Tee per round in past 24 rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+0.94)
  2. Kevin Dougherty (+0.93)
  3. Cameron Champ (+0.86)
  4. Rafael Campos (+0.84)
  5. Si Woo Kim (+0.70)

Strokes Gained Putting: Bermudagrass + Fast

The Bermudagrass greens played fairly fast the past few years in Houston. Jason Kokrak gained 8.7 strokes putting on his way to victory in 2021 and Tony Finau gained in 7.8 in 2022.

Total Strokes Gained Putting (Bermudagrass) per round past 24 rounds (min. 8 rounds):

  1. Adam Svensson (+1.27)
  2. Harry Hall (+1.01)
  3. Martin Trainer (+0.94)
  4. Taylor Montgomery (+0.88)
  5. S.H. Kim (+0.86)

Strokes Gained: Around the Green

With firm and undulating putting surfaces, holding the green on approach shots may prove to be a challenge. Memorial Park has many tightly mowed runoff areas, so golfers will have challenging up-and-down’s around the greens. Carlos Ortiz gained 5.7 strokes around the green on the way to victory in 2020.

Total Strokes Gained: Around the Green per round in past 24 rounds:

  1. Mackenzie Hughes (+0.76)
  2. S.H. Kim (+0.68)
  3. Scottie Scheffler (+0.64)
  4. Jorge Campillo (+0.62)
  5. Jason Day (+0.60)

Strokes Gained: Long and Difficult

Memorial Park is a long and difficult golf course. This statistic will incorporate players who’ve had success on these types of tracks in the past. 

Total Strokes Gained: Long and Difficult in past 24 rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.45)
  2. Ben Griffin (+1.75)
  3. Will Zalatoris (+1.73)
  4. Ben Taylor (+1.53)
  5. Tony Finau (+1.42)

Course History

Here are the players who have performed the most consistently at Memorial Park. 

Strokes Gained Total at Memorial Park past 12 rounds:

  1. Tyson Alexander (+3.65)
  2. Ben Taylor (+3.40)
  3. Tony Finau (+2.37)
  4. Joel Dahmen (+2.25)
  5. Patton Kizzire (+2.16)

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 (24%) SG: OTT (24%); SG: Putting Bermudagrass/Fast (13%); SG: Long and Difficult (13%); SG: ARG (13%) and Course History (13%)

  1. Scottie Scheffler
  2. Wyndham Clark
  3. Tony Finau
  4. Joel Dahmen
  5. Stephan Jaeger 
  6. Aaron Rai
  7. Sahith Theegala
  8. Keith Mitchell 
  9. Jhonnatan Vegas
  10. Jason Day
  11. Kurt Kitayama
  12. Alex Noren
  13. Will Zalatoris
  14. Si Woo Kim
  15. Adam Long

2024 Texas Children’s Houston Open Picks

Will Zalatoris +2000 (Caesars)

Scottie Scheffler will undoubtedly be difficult to beat this week, so I’m starting my card with someone who I believe has the talent to beat him if he doesn’t have his best stuff.

Will Zalatoris missed the cut at the PLAYERS, but still managed to gain strokes on approach while doing so. In an unpredictable event with extreme variance, I don’t believe it would be wise to discount Zalatoris based on that performance. Prior to The PLAYERS, the 27-year-old finished T13, T2 and T4 in his previous three starts.

Zalatoris plays his best golf on long and difficult golf courses. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 3rd in the category, but the eye test also tells a similar story. He’s contended at major championships and elevated events in the best of fields with tough scoring conditions.  The Texas resident should be a perfect fit at Memorial Park Golf Club.

Alex Noren +4500 (FanDuel)

Alex Noren has been quietly playing some of his best golf of the last half decade this season. The 41-year-old is coming off back-to-back top-20 finishes in Florida including a T9 at The PLAYERS in his most recent start.

In his past 24 rounds, Noren ranks 21st in the field in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, 30th in Strokes Gained: Around the Green, 25th in Strokes Gained: Total on long and difficult courses and 21st in Strokes Gained: Putting on fast Bermudagrass greens.

In addition to his strong recent play, the Swede also has played well at Memorial Park. In 2022, Noren finished T4 at the event, gaining 2.2 strokes off the tee and 7.0 strokes on approach for the week. In his two starts at the course, he’s gained an average of .6 strokes per round on the field, indicating he is comfortable on these greens.

Noren has been due for a win for what feels like an eternity, but Memorial Park may be the course that suits him well enough for him to finally get his elusive first PGA Tour victory.

Mackenzie Hughes +8000 (FanDuel)

Mackenzie Hughes found himself deep into contention at last week’s Valspar Championship before faltering late and finishing in a tie for 3rd place. While he would have loved to win the event, it’s hard to see the performance as anything other than an overwhelming positive sign for the Canadian.

Hughes has played great golf at Memorial Park in the past. He finished T7 in 2020, T29 in 2021 and T16 in 2022. The course fit seems to be quite strong for Hughes. He’s added distance off the tee in the past year or and ranks 8th in the field for apex height, which will be a key factor when hitting into Memorial Park’s elevated greens with steep run-off areas.

In his past 24 rounds, Hughes is the best player in the field in Strokes Gained: Around the Greens. The ability to scramble at this course will be extremely important. I believe Hughes can build off of his strong finish last week and contend once again to cement himself as a President’s Cup consideration.

Akshay Bhatia +8000 (FanDuel)

Akshay Bhatia played well last week at the Valspar and seemed to be in total control of his golf ball. He finished in a tie for 17th and shot an impressive -3 on a difficult Sunday. After struggling Thursday, Akshay shot 68-70-68 in his next three rounds.

Thus far, Bhatia has played better at easier courses, but his success at Copperhead may be due to his game maturing. The 22-year-old has enormous potential and the raw talent to be one of the best players in the world when he figures it all out.

Bhatia is a high upside play with superstar qualities and may just take the leap forward to the next stage of his career in the coming months.

Cameron Champ +12000 (FanDuel)

Cameron Champ is a player I often target in the outright betting market due to his “boom-or-bust” nature. It’s hard to think of a player in recent history with three PGA Tour wins who’s been as inconsistent as Champ has over the course of his career.

Despite the erratic play, Cam Champ simply knows how to win. He’s won in 2018, 2019 and 2021, so I feel he’s due for a win at some point this season. The former Texas A&M product should be comfortable in Texas and last week he showed us that his game is in a pretty decent spot.

Over his past 24 rounds, Champ ranks 3rd in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 30th in Strokes Gained: Total on long and difficult courses. Given his ability to spike at any given time, Memorial Park is a good golf course to target Champ on at triple digit odds.

Robert MacIntyre +12000 (FanDuel)

The challenge this week is finding players who can possibly beat Scottie Scheffler while also not dumping an enormous amount of money into an event that has a player at the top that looks extremely dangerous. Enter McIntyre, who’s another boom-or-bust type player who has the ceiling to compete with anyone when his game is clicking on all cylinders.

In his past 24 rounds, MacIntyre ranks 16th in the field in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, 17th in Strokes Gained: Around the Green and 10th in Strokes Gained: Total on long and difficult courses.

MacIntyre’s PGA Tour season has gotten off to a slow start, but he finished T6 in Mexico, which is a course where players will hit driver on the majority of their tee shots, which is what we will see at Memorial Park. Texas can also get quite windy, which should suit MacIntyre. Last July, the Scot went toe to toe with Rory McIlroy at the Scottish Open before a narrow defeat. It would take a similar heroic effort to compete with Scheffler this year in Houston.

Ryan Moore +15000 (FanDuel)

Ryan Moore’s iron play has been absolutely unconscious over his past few starts. At The PLAYERS Championship in a loaded field, he gained 6.1 strokes on approach and last week at Copperhead, he gained 9.0 strokes on approach.

It’s been a rough handful of years on Tour for the 41-year-old, but he is still a five-time winner on the PGA Tour who’s young enough for a career resurgence. Moore has chronic deterioration in a costovertebral joint that connects the rib to the spine, but has been getting more consistent of late, which is hopefully a sign that he is getting healthy.

Veterans have been contending in 2024 and I believe taking a flier on a proven Tour play who’s shown signs of life is a wise move at Memorial Park.

 

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Tour Rundown: Malnati’s 2nd, Korda rebounds

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March has brought out the lion as the month draws to a close. An early spring fortnight brought dreams of golf for the northern states until Mother Nature shrieked a veil of snow across those emerald fairways. Fortunately for golf, the sun shined bright and warm across a fair part of the links landscape, and events in Singapore, the Yucatan, California, and Florida, went off as planned. We hold our breath when champion golfers rise to the occasion in grand slam events. For the Malnatis, Feaglers, and Svenssons of the golfverse, every week is a major opportunity. In honor of their efforts, let’s begin this week’s Tour Rundown with a flying beast seen rarely outside the southern oceans: the albatross

PGA Tour @ Valspar: Malnati earns second tour title

Keith Mitchell played 54 great holes from Thursday to Saturday in Florida and played two more great ones on Sunday. It was the eight rotten holes on day four that cost him nine shots and dropped him from first to 17th in one round. Mitchell looked like a man poised to collect his first tour title, until his Sunday malaise. His struggles cleared the way for a number of challengers to move up the board. The tournament was won at 12-under par, but eight players finished within four shots of that lead.

Four shots are not a lot to make up on the Copperhead golf course at Innisbrook. Adam Hadwin, Carly Yuan, Xander Schauffele, and Ryan Moore finished on 276 strokes, four back fo the leader and tied for fifth. Mackenzie Hughes and Chandler Phillips finished one shot lower, at 275 strokes, in a tie for third spot. The runner-up spot was claimed by Cameron Young, perhaps the most talented player on tour without a win. Young was spectacular all week, never leaving the 60s.

Late in the round, Peter Malnati posted his fifth birdie of the day, at the difficult 17th. His tee ball from 200 yards settled six feet from the hole, and he guided the putt home. Ahead of him, on the uphill 18th, Young flew his drive far left but was able to loft an approach onto the green. His first putt, from 50-ish feet, came up woefully short and his attempt to save par was wide of its mark. Despite a drive into the left fairway bunker at the last, Malnati was able to recover to the green in two and coax a 25-feet approach put to tap in range. The victory was Malnati’s first since 2015, and his second overall.

LPGA @ Se Ri Pak Championship: Korda rebounds for overtime win

During the first week of March Madness, maddening things happened on and off the hardwood. For Nelly Korda, the eagle she collected with five holes to play, should have given her momentum and confidence. Instead, it took her in the opposite direction. She found bogies at 15, 17, and 18, and it was only a saving birdie at the 16th that allowed her entry into a playoff with Ryann O’Toole. The pair returned to the 18th tee, and Korda once again managed to reverse fortune.

After the eagle, Korda strode at 11-under par, while her closest pursuers were a solid handful behind. At that juncture, O’Toole snared birdies at 15 and 16, and closed with pars at 17 and 18. She waited 45 minutes for Korda to finish, certainly uncertain as to her chances for more golf. In the playoff, both golfers hit stellar approach shots to the home green, with Korda about four feet inside O’Toole. The UCLA alumna missed her run at birdie, but Korda’s aim was true. The victory was her 10th on tour and her second of the 2024 campaign.

DP World Tour @ Singapore Classic: That’s Svensson with three S’s

Svenson and its variations must be somewhat similar to the name Smith across the English-speaking world.  Your father was a guy named Sven, so they didn’t think too long before giving you a last name. Jesper Svensson must be relieved: coming from a long line of Svens (hence the double S in the middle) his parents strayed from the norm and went all in on Jesper. This week in Singapore (which might be renamed Ssingapore for a bit) Jesper, son of Svenss, took down a guy that the golf world was all in on, just a decade ago.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat has a fun name to pronunce, at least for filologists. Back in the 2010s, he was a rising star, bound for glory. He collected four wins on the DP World Tour, from 2015 to 2018. Then, inexplicably, he went away. The Thai golfer made his return to our collective view in 2024 and came within a whisper of collectin win number five on Europe’s tour. Aphibarnrat opened and closed the event with rounds of 64, and normally, those fireworks would have sufficed to ice the trophy. Then came a guy named Jesper, son of Svenss.

Despite three bogies on his Sunday card, Svensson amassed eight birdies and two eagles and posted 63. This indiscrete round was enough to earn him a spot in a playoff with Aphibarnrat. The duo returned thrice to the 18th tee, and things appeared to worsen with each voyage. After having the hole with birdies in trip one, the pair managed pars in trip two, then a par and bogey in trip three. Just like that, the tournament had reached a conclusion, and Jesper Svensson the golfer will now threaten Jesper Svensson the bowler’s hold on Wiki searches. Enjoy one of his approach shots for eagle during round four.

Korn Ferry Tour @ Bupa: Feagler stands tall after playoff

The KFT event along the Mexican Riviera began day four in the hands of an Argentine golfer. Nelson Ledesma appeared worthy of the title, until he endured a thousand small cuts, on his way to a closing 81. He dropped from 1st to 31st and didn’t just open the door for his chasers. He took out two or three walls and exposed the entire barn for all to enter.

The PGA Riviera Maya course played a stout, 7200 yards this week, and its defenses were apparent for all who came to compete. The week’s low round of 65 came on Thursday, and was redeemed by Jesus Montenegro, He soared ten shots higher on day two but would steady himself enough to finish in a seventh-place tie. With 66 on Thursday, Davis Shore found himself in contention, and he would remain until closing time. As the challenges increased, scores headed north and rounds of 76 and 74 would ultimately be found on the scorecards of the men who tied at the top.

Shore posted a 76 on day three, while Clay Feagler signed for a 74. On Sunday, as Ledesma was tumbling, both Shore and Feagler marched toward a 4-under-par total. They edged past Julian Etulain and tied for the pole position. Off to extra time they went, but three trips over the 436-yard 18th resolved nothing. Each golfer posted par-bogey-par, and the playoff moved to the 10th tee for its conclusion. There, Feagler made another bogey, but Shore went one worse. Unable to avoid double bogey, Davis Shore was relegated to runner-up status, and Clay Feagler collected a shield for his first Korn Ferry Tour title.

PGA Tour Champions @ Hoag Classic: Six seniors for Padraig

If any man could ever match Bernhard Langer’s 46 wins on Tour Champions, he would certainly have many of the characteristics of Padraig Harrington. The reason he won’t is his heavy investment in a wider reach of golf. Harrington captained the European Ryder Cup side in 2021, a venture that consumes close to two years of a golfer’s attention. After turning 50, Harrington continued to play the PGA Tour, mixing in Tour Champions appearances when time allowed. The Irish golfer has also become a YouTube favorite, offering advice and wisdom to those who wish to improve at the game. In other words, he lacks Langer’s laser focus on one task: winning titles.

That’s quite all right because when Padraig Harrington is on his game, wins come his way. They are rarely runaway victories, and this enhances his reputation for performing at the wire. This week in California, Harrington managed to close out Thongchai Jaidee in a most un-Harrington-esque manner. The lad from Dublin closed birdie-double-birdie-birdie, and this was enough to hold off the champion from Thailand by one.

The double at 16 was Harrington’s second of the day. A pair of doubles is welcome in no poker hand, yet Harrington found a way to overcome. The win was his sixth on Tour Champions. With a pair of playoff losses on the senior circuit, Harrington was fortunate to conclude matters in regulation time.

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