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Curved or straight? How should you hit the golf ball

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When you hit the golf ball close to the hole and have a short birdie putt, we call that positive variance. When you hit a less than ideal shot that curves into the woods, we call that negative variance. They both represent the same thing, a change in the average or normal outcome. With that said, almost every first coaching experience begins with an athlete wanting to become more consistent, but once shown how consistently they curve the ball, they quickly change their answer to wanting the ball to land closer to the hole on average.

There are only two ways to help the golfer. Either change the motion pattern to produce a different ball flight that better matches their intent, or help the athlete better understand their pattern and learn to use this consistency to their advantage when it comes to the formation of their strategy for maneuvering the golf ball around the course safely. Both options are valid with one requiring more “work” in the short-term than the other.

Is there a way in which we could use both strategies to improve performance faster, you bet! This is where we learn that aiming the face of the club head exactly at your target and expecting the ball to have zero curvature is an option, but probably not a likely outcome. Therefore, if we know the ball is likely to have some curvature, then we want to make sure that the ball is always curving towards the target, and not away from the target line and towards trouble.

Keep in mind you don’t hit it solid and straight when you hit it out-of-bounds and into the hazard, you hook and slice it into the out-of-bounds and the hazard, therefore learning to minimize curvature is the easiest way for a golfer to improve their score and save money on golf balls.

The Nine Ball Flights from a Physics Perspective

In general, we can swing the golf club head in three directions; left of target (out-to-in), at the target (square-to-square), or right of the target (in-to-out). Similarly, we can only point the face of the club head in three directions; left of the target, at the target, or right of the target. Understanding that we can swing the club head and point the face of the club head in different directions at the same time is key and explains why curvature happens.

If you assume center contact between the golf ball and the club head, the only thing the golf ball is aware of is which direction the club head is traveling in, and in which direction the club face is pointing. Transitioning away from a linear model of the golf swing motion, we now understand that angular momentum is needed to create maximum speed, and when we apply angular momentum (the club head torquing about the mid-hand point) we introduce “twisting” of the club head face about the club shaft. This “twisting” causes a separation between the direction the club head is moving in and the direction the club head face is pointing.

If the direction of the club head (Club Path) and the direction the club head face is pointing (Face Angle) are equal, assuming centered contact between the club head and the golf ball, the ball will fly straight with zero curvature. If the direction of the club head (Club Path) and the direction the club head face points are not equal, the ball will curve.

“The Face Sends It, And The Path Bends It” -Unkown

Assuming centered contact, the golf ball will always curve the opposite direction relative to the direction the club head is moving in (Club Path). Therefore, if you have your club head moving “in-to-out” by five degrees (+) with a club head face pointing (Face Angle) directly at your target (zero degrees), the golf ball will start fairly straight and then curve to the left (away from rightward club path).

The opposite of this is also true. If the club head is moving “out-to-in” by negative five degrees (-) (Club Path) with a club head face pointing (Face Angle) directly at your target (zero degrees), the golf ball will start fairly straight and then curve to the right (away from the leftward club path).

Shallow/Steep | Fade/Slice |Draw/Hook

As learned from Dr. Kwon, the golf club head only travels on an inclined “plane” from mid-downswing to mid-follow through. What determines the pitch of that “plane” has to do with the Biomechanics and the relationships within the human anatomy. Using Mike Adams definitions, a Side-Cover style athlete is going to have a “steeper” or more upright pitched “plane” meaning that the club head (Club Path) will be traveling more leftward at impact. This will tend to produce a more downward decent into the golf ball (Attack Angle). A Side-Under style athlete is going to have a “shallower” or flatter pitched “plane” meaning that the club head (Club Path) will be traveling more rightward at impact. This will tend to produce a shallower descent into the golf ball (Attack Angle). A Side-On Style athlete is going to have a more “neutral” pitched plane meaning that the club head (Club Path) will be very neutral at impact. This will tend to produce a more “average” decent into the golf ball (Attack Angle).

When Does a Fade Become a Slice and Vice Versa?

When the golf ball crosses the target line and begins to curve away from the target, either curving leftward or rightward of the target-line, then it goes from being classified as a draw/fade to a hook/slice. For example, if you line up “straight” at your target and start the golf ball 20-feet left of your intended target line, and it begins to curve back towards the target line, as it curves the amount of lateral dispersion between begins to diminish. The entire time the golf ball is curving towards the target line the “gap” between where the ball started, and the target line decreases. In this example the golf ball is curving rightward and if that golf ball should curve right of the target line while still in the air, it has become a slice and is now increasing the amount of lateral dispersion until the golf ball comes to rest.

Pattern vs. Straight

Without getting into “rabbit-hole” Biomechanics conversations about immobilizing joint segments, we are equipped with wrist that are capable of three translational movements and three torques which creates six degrees of freedom. We also need to create acceleration and force which will require angular momentum to create maximum distance. With that said, we are going to be introducing twist about the handle which will cause the club head face (Face Angle) to rotate open during the backswing and will require “closing” during the downswing.

Due to the rotation of the club face about the club shaft, there becomes an element of timing to having the club head face (Face Angle) equal to the direction the club head is traveling (Club Path) consistently. As Humans, and not machines we have to be willing to accept a certain amount of variance in our movements. It is impossible for a Human Being with as much variation as we have to repeat the same motion time after time consistently. Therefore, attempting to create zero curvature on every shot becomes a very elusive goal and tends to make golf very difficult.

If we are attempting to hit the golf ball with the center of the club head face, create a club head movement (Club Path) of zero degrees or “straight”, and point the club head face (Face Angle) directly at your target (zero degrees), more often than not, you are going to be unaware of which way the ball is going to curve on “non-perfect” golf shots creating a two-way miss.

There are two reasons for this, one is gear-effect which is another conversation, and the second reason is due to human variance. One swing, you may accidentally rotate the club face closed relative to the club path and the ball curves leftward, on another swing, you may have learned from your previous mistake and now you leave the face open relative to the club path and the ball curves rightward.

By Owning YOUR Curve, YOU Can Eliminate the Double Cross!

“Square” is a relative term. If we understand that a contributing factor to the “shallowness/steepness” of the golf swing is the relationship that exist which would be the between the overall height of the athlete and the wingspan of the athlete, for example if the athlete has a wingspan that exceeds their height, the hands will move more away from the center of the body as the hands make the backswing. This will in turn create less hand path “depth” and the athlete will tend to have a more leftward Club Path and a more deciding strike into the ball (Attack Angle). The opposite would also be true for an athlete having a wingspan less than their height, with the hands traveling more around the body during the backswing and swinging more rightward (Club Path) with a “shallower” Attack Angle.

Armed with the knowledge that we are going to swing it either leftward, rightward, or square-to-square, we now can begin to understand where our club head face (Face Angle) needs to be at impact to get the ball to start opposite of the intended curvature. As mentioned earlier, attempting to always have the Face Angle return to zero degrees at impact and getting the golf ball to land near the target is going to be very difficult for a Human Being to accomplish consistently. Therefore, moving them away from a “linear” approach and into a “pattern” approach becomes much easier to accomplish and produces the results wanted more consistently.

Once the Club Path (combination of Swing Direction and Attack Angle) is understood from an individual Biomechanics perspective, we can create a strategy that aligns with how we are designed to move. For example, an athlete has a wingspan that exceeds their height, will create a more “negative” or leftward Club Path at impact. Understanding that the “path bends it” and assuming centered contact between the club head and the golf ball, the ball is generally going to curve rightward (away from the club path). This means that we will need the golf ball to start or launch leftward of the target. Understanding that Face Angle is the first touch point of the golf ball and represents the majority of the factor that will indicate where the golf ball will start in time and space, it now becomes paramount that the club head face (Face Angle) returns “closed” relative to the target line.

Face Angle is a measurement of where the club head face is pointed relative to “square”, which is determined by the position of the Launch Monitor relative to the Target. Face-to-Path is a calculation of the relationship between where the club head face is pointing (Face Angle) and the direction the club head is moving (Club Path). With that said, if we have a leftward Club Path and the club head face (Face Angle) is “closed” relative to the target line, the Face Angle can still be “open” relative to the Club Path which will create a positive Face to Path relationship.

Creating the patterns becomes much simpler due to the simplified approach. If you are determined to create a more leftward pattern from a Biomechanics perspective, then creating a leftward Club Path must be accompanied by a matching “closed” Club Face relative to the target line, and an “open” or positive (+) Face to Path relationship. An athlete wanting to draw the golf ball would need a more “shallow” or rightward Club Path with a matching “open” Face Angle, and a negative (-) Face to Path relationship assuming centered contact.

Consistency Through Built in Margin of Error

Keeping with the idea of creating a pattern when we discuss error, the error becomes much smaller, and it becomes easier to eliminate one of the “misses”. For example, an athlete that is predetermined to make a “shallower” club head path from a Biomechanics perspective will understand that the Face Angle needs to be “open” relative to the target line to match their naturally occurring rightward Club Path. Therefore, if they should swing a little too far rightward, assuming centered contact and the face remains “open” relative to the target line the ball may Hook (cross the target line) some but is still a very manageable miss. This pattern is easy to manage as long as the athlete stays aware that Club Path or Face Angle becoming leftward not only doesn’t fit their Biomechanics, but also produces the worst outcome.

In conclusion, while attempting to create a zero-curvature golf shot can be accomplished, over a large enough sample size is going to produce very few occurrences due to the variable nature of the Human. Also, by understanding the geometric relationships within the golf swing, we can curve the golf ball either way and still maintain efficiency and speed production. While playing from the middle of the fairway is always going to be a great position, it is also important to be able to have a good chance of landing in the fairway/on the green while taking the obstacle that leads to a higher score completely out of play. 

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Graduating from the Professional Golf Management program at Eastern Kentucky University, Michael started his professional career as an Assistant Golf Professional. After a brief hiatus from the industry, Michael began to teach golf part-time at the Kendall Academy where Dave Kendall helped Michael find his true calling and passion in life. In addition to being exposed to Trackman, Michael was also exposed to Scott Hayes and “The Golfing Machine”. Scott Hayes was paramount in exposing Michael to the “science of golf” which has consumed him ever since. Without knowing the difference between kinetics and kinematics, Michael knew that there was a piece to the puzzle that was missing and quickly added his first set of force plates to go along with his Trackman. The force plates immediately unlocked the world of ground reaction forces and Biomechanics which led Michael into the BioSwing Dynamics group including Mike Adams, E.A. Tischler, Terry Rowles, etc. Getting a crash course into how the anatomy affects the motion of the golf swing, as well as how the forces and torques are acting on the anatomy gave Michael the piece to the puzzle that he had been missing all along. Michael wanted to create a performance training environment where everything was measured and quantified, and opinions didn’t matter. In November of 2020, Measured Golf opened for business. In addition to coaching athletes of all skill levels, Michael also works with several tour players and serves as an Advisory Board member to Swing Catalyst. Michael also consults and works with several other industry leading technology companies and continues to attend and present at education events around the world.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. lambs

    May 1, 2022 at 4:30 am

    I’m going to hang myself…straight !!!

  2. Bob

    Apr 30, 2022 at 5:04 pm

    Cliff’s Notes:

    Everybody needs to have and know their preferred curve. If you draw the ball, aim at the right side of the fairway. If it draws, you are in the middle of the fairway. If you hit it straight, you are on the right side of the fairway. Vice versa for a preferred fade.

    Very simple.

    If you hook or slice, quit.

    • Acemandrake

      Apr 30, 2022 at 6:05 pm

      True. I play a fade & my “miss” is a straight ball.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: World Long Drive! Go Mu!

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In this week’s podcast we discuss Wisdom In Golf Premium, new ways to help and fun talk about rules and etiquette.

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Vincenzi: How the 2022 Presidents Cup actually grew the game

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As fall approached, the world of professional golf was drowning in a sea of continuous division and animosity.

The Presidents Cup, which should have been a silver lining in the most tumultuous time in the history of the sport, had suddenly become a pasquinade.

The Internationals had always been an underdog and had just one win in fourteen tries against the Americans.

In 2019, the scrappy Internationals led by Ernie Els gave the United States team led by Tiger Woods all that they could handle at Royal Melbourne. The United States retained the cup, winning the competition 16–14, but the Els’ team fought to the end. The future was bright for professional golf on the world stage.

In 2022, things were different. The Internationals had just lost arguably their two best players in Cameron Smith and Joaquin Niemann, plus a handful of other Presidents Cup shoe-ins including Louis Oosthuizen and Abraham Ancer.

The International players who had joined the controversial LIV Golf series were deemed ineligible to participate in the competition, which resulted in the decimation of what should have been a deep and competitive team of Internationals. By the time the event started, the United States had ballooned to a -900 favorite.

One phrase that’s been repeated ad nauseum over the past few months has been “grow the game”.

After a bleak opening few days at the Presidents Cup, we caught a glimpse of what “growing the game” looked like over the weekend.

There are plenty of ways to potentially grow the game of golf. One of those ways unfolded in real time at Quail Hollow thanks in part to a spirited group of Asian golfers who refused to let their team go quietly into the night.

First, there was the budding superstar, Tom Kim.

Kim scored two points for the Internationals, but the impact he had on the event dwarfed his point total. The South Korean hijacked the event with his charisma, energy and determination to help his team succeed. Golf fans were treated to memorable moment after memorable moment whenever the 20-year-old was on their television screen.

Kim had already had a handful of moments that will live in our memories for many Presidents Cups to come, but the most memorable came on the 18th hole of Saturday’s afternoon foursomes. Facing a seemingly invincible duo of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, Kim put a 2-iron to less than six feet of the hole. He then sunk the clutch putt to knock off the fourth and fifth ranked players in the world.

Tom wasn’t the only “Kim” to leave a lasting impact at the 2022 Presidents Cup. Fellow South Korean Si Woo Kim had his share of memorable moments as well.

Going into Sunday singles, the Internationals were trailing 11-7 and in need of a historic day. Typically, the trailing team will “frontload” their best players to attempt a comeback. When United States captain Davis Love III called the name of Justin Thomas to lead off in the first match of the day, many expected the international team captain Trevor Immelmann to call the name of Hideki Matsuyama or Adam Scott. Instead, he called the name of Si Woo Kim.

Si Woo did not disappoint. Kim took out the de-facto leader of the United States team 1-up. The 27-year-old didn’t shy away from the spotlight, and matched Thomas both in his ability to sink clutch putts and to bring energy with his animated style of play.

Tom Kim and Si Woo Kim provided some of the most memorable moments of the Presidents Cup, but it’s Sungjae Im who’s been the best player for the Internationals in both 2019 and 2022.

Back in 2019, Sungjae tied with Abraham Ancer for the leading points scorer (3.5) for the Internationals during their narrow defeat in Australia. He was a rookie then, but this year he was depended upon to go against some on the United States best teams and delivered, scoring 2.5 points and knocking off young American star Cameron Young in their singles match.

As influential as the performances by the trio of South Koreans were, the overall impact of Asian golfers cannot be discussed without mentioning Hideki Matsuyama.

The 2021 Masters Champion has long been rumored to be interested in joining LIV Golf, but he was at Quail Hollow competing alongside his International teammates.

Stars were born at the 2022 Presidents Cup, but Matsuyama has been “growing the game” for what feels like a lifetime. Labeled from an early age as the savior for Japanese golf, Hideki has delivered time and time again. The former young prodigy has slowly but surely turned into a pillar of global golf and leader of the Internationals.

After a slow start, Hideki was able to grind out a win and a tie to help the Internationals remain competitive throughout the weekend.

While the Internationals were eventually defeated 17.5-12.5, a more important mission that cannot be measured by wins and losses was undoubtedly accomplished.

Amongst all of the turmoil and strife in the world golf, it’s easy to forget how much the game means to so many people.

Countless young golfers across the world went to bed on Sunday night and dreamt of being the next Tom Kim, Si Woo Kim or Hideki Matsuyama.

That sounds like an excellent way to “grow the game”.

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2022 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship: Betting Picks & Selections

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After an enthralling weekend, things get back on track with ‘standard’ 72-hole events on both sides of the pond.

In Europe, the DP World Tour continues an excellent, varied, schedule by hosting the 21st running of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, taking in rounds at Kingsbarns, Carnoustie and St. Andrews, before finishing the pro-am format at the Home of Golf.

It’s been just a few weeks since Cam Smith broke Rory McIlroy’s heart here at the 150th Open, and much has changed since, most notably the Aussie’s defection to the LIV tour. Given the proliferation of amateurs, the course won’t be set up anywhere near as tough as it was in August, but with some wind and rain expected, it will be as unpredictable as we can get it.

The PGA Tour resumes the always-bizarre wraparound season, this time at the Sanderson Farms, once an ‘opposite’ event, but now a fully fledged member of the schedule.

‘Average’ is the word I’d use to describe this event, as that is exactly what it is.

Average width, average length, average greens, and whilst fairways and greens will always help, the last four winners have ranked in the top four for strokes gained off the tee. 2018 champion, Cameron Champ, summed it up best by saying, “I felt like if I was further up, even in the rough versus hitting a 3-wood being 40 yards back, I would rather be up there. I guess that’s the game plan.”

Here are this week’s best bets at each:

Robert MacIntyre 33/1

Thorbjorn Oleson 66/1

Ewen Ferguson 100/1

The top of the market is predictably strong, with the ‘best’ player in the world, Rory McIlroy, rightly heading the market. However, backing golfers at 9/2 will not make anyone rich, especially given the way Rory has failed to convert chances here and recently at The Open, Wentworth and at the Italian Open.

Given links courses in Autumn offer a unique test, it is no surprise to see home players have won two-thirds of the 21 events held here so far, with the first seven being won by either an Englishman, Scot, or Pádraig Harrington.

That theme can continue this week with the back-in-form Robert MacIntyre, a player that may well be sitting on the odds-list next to Tyrrell Hatton before too long.

The 26-year-old has long been considered a high-class recruit to the professional ranks, and while we always expect more, the eventual second win in Italy has to have settled any self-doubt.

The Scot has been on the tour for just over three seasons, so it’s tough to feel disappointed at a record that shows five top three finishes and 12 further top-10s.

Included in those top performances are a pair of top-10s at The Open at Portrush and St. George’s, where a better tee-shot on the final par-five would have resulted in a comfortable top five, and a tied-12th at The Masters, easily good enough and significant enough to be competitive in this grade, and on a course that will suit.

MacIntyre’s versatility has already been shown with his wins at the gettable Cyprus Showdown and most recently at the far tougher Italian Open, coming through the field on Saturday, before shooting the lights out on Payday, eventually beating Matt Fitzpatrick in a play-off.

Previous best efforts of 2022 were 13th at Mount Juliet and 12th in Himmerland, both courses with an eye on the factors required here, whilst his stats have settled into a decent level – top-7 in tee-to-green for three of his last four events – with everything working around his natural ability.

Just after the Scottish Open in July, he admitted that, “My head hasn’t been right. I’m getting down on myself pretty easily. When it all clicks in and I start getting momentum going, I’ll be back to myself. Golf’s a funny game and it’s not been kind to me just now, but it will be.”

He’s back, and the best bet of the week.

Given the bookmakers often react quickly to form changes, back up the Scot with players that may look out of form, but arrive at conditions that suit much better.

Thorbjorn Olesen is one of those players that is very hard to read, but when showing something, and getting to windy links, he is an almost must-bet.

First and second around here in eight starts, the Dane has had a tumultuous couple of years, but looks to be close to his best once again, a best that includes top performances in .

It may have involved a bit of a closer finish than desired, but the one-shot victory at The Belfry in May came after showing a bit at both Abu Dhabi and Qatar, more evidence to his liking of windy Middle East tracks.

It’s true that he’s been very in-and-out since then, but in both Italy and France, his overall figures point to a player in full control of his game. Yes, we must forgive the poor performance on the greens at Le Golf National, but these are a completely different test and I’d wager he will return to the positive putting figures of his previous six outings.

Having withdrawn from the BMW International in June, the 32-year-old has four top-20 finishes, 22nd and 30th finishes on the card, returns to a favoured venue, and can make his way again up to the top echelons of the tour.

I’ll continue to put up Ewen Ferguson as he seems to drift further down the market each week as, frankly, a convincing two-time winner should not be triple-figures, especially he could legitimately be chasing a fifth title of the year this week.

As discussed multiple times, the 26-year-old wasn’t experienced enough in contention to take advantage of a final round lead in Kenya, but used that when out-grinding his opposition in Qatar, and proving far too good for compatriot Connor Syme and co at Galgorm Castle.

Just two weeks later, Ferguson was the best player on the Himmerland course, only to be denied by Oliver Wilson’s bizarre putting, a result that links in very well here. After all, the Englishman has only ever won twice, his first being here in 2014.

The Glasgow-born player is the only golfer to have held the British Boys, Scottish Strokeplay and Matchplay titles at the same time, his win at Royal Liverpool in 2013 coming via a comprehensive 10 & 9 victory. Winning the Scottish Champion of Champions and finishing in third place at the Irish Amateur Open led to a place on the 2016 Walker Cup team where he contributed one win from two singles matches (beating Maverick McNealy) in a comprehensive victory over a certain Bryson DeChambeau et al.

Shut your eyes and ignore the last two missed-cuts. This event should mean he can load up on his driving, allowing his top-grade iron play to present plenty of chances to return to the ranking of first for tee-to-green that he showed in Ireland and Denmark.

Coming off such a highly strung Presidents Cup may not suit the obvious pick Sam Burns, especially after a series of results that won’t flatter him. Still, should he win, that would be the third leg of a Max Homa-Team USA-Burns three-peat of 2021. It doesn’t happen.

In a tough event to start the year proper, just a couple to be with.

Start the plan off with Sahith Theegala to gain revenge on the event that first made his name.

Just the fifth person to win the Haskins, Hogan and Nicklaus awards in college, the Pepperdine athlete was always going to do something in the professional game, but few thought it would come in his second event as a full PGA Tour player.

12 months ago, the 24-year-old shot a bogey-free third round 67 to take a lead into the final round at the Country Club of Jackson, but faded to finish in eighth place behind Sam Burns after a bizarre attempt to hit the hero shot from a bunker. Absolutely no connection with Ewen Ferguson at all, except that he too faded from the lead to 8th on his first attempt at landing a title with an overnight lead, and he soon won twice.

Like the Scot, Theegala learned from the experience to lie in sixth at Torrey Pines, before a sponsor’s exemption allowed him into the Raucous Phoenix Open, where again he took a lead into the final round. This time, he lasted to the short par-four 17th, when fate would conspire against him, a bad bounce leaving his ball in a water hazard, and costing him that vital shot that left him out of the final play-off, one that served up the first win for eventual world number one, Scottie Scheffler.

What has followed has been a steady flow of improvement, coming from behind to finish seventh in the Valspar, fifth at Muirfield, second at the Travelers and 16th at Deere Run before a run at the FedEx finals, eventually qualifying for the Tour Championship. The knowledge he is among the best of the maidens on tour should have given him confidence for the 2022/23 season, and supporters cannot ask for more than an opening sixth place at the Fortinet, when he was never outside of the top 10.

Expect a victory this season – it’s where, not if.

Is Benny back?

Subject of the best of Sam Harrop’s parody songs, Byeong-Hun An (as he is officially named) would be one of the most popular winners of recent times, and after an extremely encouraging opener, is worth taking the chance with at the price.

The youngest-ever winner of the U.S Amateur, when winning 7&5, he should have made the following year’s qualifier, giving way late in his semi-final. It wasn’t long, however, before he made his way through the ranks, winning the BMW at Wentworth in just his first full season on the European Tour, gaging up by six shots from Thongchai Jaidee and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

And it’s not gone quite right since, all down to the putter – back to Sam again:

Let’s concentrate on the positives – which may include the player sending the crooner one of his own putters – and witness significant improvement over the last few months.

Down a level on the KFT, Benny found something from somewhere, winning his first event for five years at the Suncoast Classic, his seventh best performance according to the OWGR.

Almost certainly securing his card, the Korean followed up his win with a never-nearer 12th and second in April, and lay inside the top 10 before the final round at Memorial Health in July, whilst in-between he nabbed 14th place alongside Sungjae Im.

Two weeks after the Korn Ferry Tour finals, Benny was back on the PGA Tour with a bang, finishing in fourth behind defending champion Max Homa and Danny Willett, the latter a winner of both the BMW PGA and Alfred Dunhill Links.

Ranking second in driving, third in tee-to-green, fourth for around-the-green and better than field average for putting.

If he’s back, and has confidence in the short stick, there is no reason he can’t repeat his 2019 effort here, when third on debut.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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