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The Wedge Guy: Why modern irons don’t make sense to me

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One of the things that really bothers me about most of the newer iron models that are introduced is the continued strengthening of the lofts — I just don’t see how this is really going to help many golfers. The introduction of driver and hybrid technologies into the irons – thinner faster faces, tungsten inserts and filling the heads with some kind of polymer material – is all with the goal of producing higher ball flight with lower spin. But is that what you really want?

I’ll grant you that this technology makes the lower lofts much easier to master, and has given many more golfers confidence with their 5- and 6-irons, maybe even their 4- and 5-. But are higher launch and lower spin desirable in your shorter irons? I’ve always believed those clubs from 35 degrees on up should be designed for precision distance control, whether full swings are when you are “taking something off,” and I just don’t see that happening with a hollow, low CG design.

Even worse, with lofts being continually cranked downward, most modern game improvement sets have a “P-club” as low as 42-43 degrees of loft. Because that simply cannot function as a “wedge”, the iron brands are encouraging you to add in an “A-club” to fill the distance void between that and your gap wedge.

But as you ponder these new iron technologies, here’s something to realize . . . and think about.

Discounting your putter, you have 13 clubs in your bag to negotiate a golf course. At one end, you have a driver of 10-12 degrees of loft, and at the other end your highest lofted wedge of say, 58 to 60 degrees. So, that’s a spread of 46 to 50 degrees. The mid-point of that spread is somewhere around 35 degrees, the iron in your bag that probably has an “8” on the bottom.

Now consider this: From that 35-degree 8-iron downward, you have a progression of clubhead designs, from the iron design, to hybrids, to fairway woods to your driver, maybe even a “driving iron” design as a bridge between your lowest set-match iron to your hybrids. At least four, if not five, completely different clubhead designs.

But in the other direction, from 35 degrees to that highest lofted wedge, you likely only have two designs – your set-match irons and your wedges, each of which all essentially look alike, regardless of loft.
I feel certain that no one in the history of golf ever said:

“I really like my 6-iron; can you make me a 3-wood that looks like that?”

But do you realize the loft difference between your 6-iron and 3-wood is only 12-14 degrees, even less than that between your 6-iron and “P-club”? So, if you can’t optimize an iron design to perform at both 28 and 15 degrees, how can you possibly expect to be able to optimize the performance of one design at both 28 and 43 degrees?

And you darn sure won’t get your best performance by applying 6-iron technology to an “A-club” of 48 to 50 degrees.

This fact of golf club performance is why you see so many “blended” sets of irons in bags these days, where a golfer has a higher-tech iron design in the lower lofts, but a more traditional blade or “near blade” design in the higher lofts. This makes much more sense than trying to play pure blade long irons or “techy” higher lofts.

Most of my column posts are oriented to offering a solution to a problem you might have in your game, but this one doesn’t. As long as the industry is focused on the traditional notion of “matched sets,” meaning all the irons look alike, I just don’t see how any golfer is going to get an optimum set of irons without lots of trial and error and piecing together a set of irons where each one works best for the job you give it.

If you want to see how an elite player has done this for his own game, do some reading on “what’s in the bag” for Bernhard Langer. Very interesting indeed.

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Terry Koehler is a fourth generation Texan and a graduate of Texas A&M University. Over his 40-year career in the golf industry, he has created over 100 putter designs, sets of irons and drivers, and in 2014, he put together the team that reintroduced the Ben Hogan brand to the golf equipment industry. Since the early 2000s, Terry has been a prolific writer, sharing his knowledge as “The Wedge Guy”.   But his most compelling work is in the wedge category. Since he first patented his “Koehler Sole” in the early 1990s, he has been challenging “conventional wisdom” reflected in ‘tour design’ wedges. The performance of his wedge designs have stimulated other companies to move slightly more mass toward the top of the blade in their wedges, but none approach the dramatic design of his Edison Forged wedges, which have been robotically proven to significantly raise the bar for wedge performance. Terry serves as Chairman and Director of Innovation for Edison Golf – check it out at www.EdisonWedges.com.

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Murv

    Dec 2, 2022 at 12:52 pm

    I’ll be 79 for next season. A couple of years ago I had a short trial with a 7 wood. Didn’t like it. Put it back in last fall and loved it. Looking for a 9 wood. Will go from 2 fairways and 3 hybrids to 4 woods and 1 hybrid then the 7 iron. Sad when you can’t elevate hybrids anymore. 44 set pw. 49, 54 and 58 wedges.

  2. Neville Hubbard

    Dec 2, 2022 at 11:23 am

    I have 16.5° 3-wood, 19°, 23°, 25° hybrids, 27.5° 7-iron, 31° 7-iron, then conventionally lofted clubs to a 44° pitching wedge, 50° gap wedge, 56° sand wedge and, I’m ashamed to say, a chipper!!! It works for me!!!

  3. WiTerrp

    Dec 2, 2022 at 11:19 am

    By trial and error, my set reflects your opinion. In the under 90 mph driver head speed, I only routinely carry 7-P irons. My gap wedge is a Vokey, not the set 48 iron. The wedge is far better at feel shots and the P can cover shots that I would use the 48. The 6 iron is replaced by a 25 hybrid. I have both the 6 and 48 irons, but only carry the 6I based on a specific par 3 distances Since adding the wedge, the 48 is pretty much just for set resale value.

    Having lost club head speed, the promise of more distance doesn’t impress me much. When an iron can’t give me 10+ yards over the previous iron, time to add another hybrid.

  4. Larry "Bud" Melman

    Dec 2, 2022 at 1:41 am

    Naw bruh, I want 4 irons in the bag and 7 wedges. That’s just how I roll.

  5. David Aceto

    Dec 1, 2022 at 5:48 pm

    good article my irons start 31 to 33 degrees to 36 to 41 to 46 to 51 degrees 5 degree gaps due to my 65 mph clubhead speed with a iron the only speciality is i use r9 tp b irons for my 8 9 and pitching wedge works out great

  6. Rob

    Dec 1, 2022 at 5:40 pm

    Overfocusing on Loft is just as bad as overfocusing on the number on the bottom of the club.

    Loft, and especially static loft, is only one variable in the equation. Work backwards from your ideal ball flight, distances, forgiveness, and feel instead.

    Whatever that loft, length, clubhead, and shaft is, let that be.

    • Jeff

      Dec 3, 2022 at 10:26 pm

      Many golf ball OEM’S when working with their various tour staff. Start working with their staff from the green to their drivers. The player wants the sound and feel of the ball around the green. Shows the importance of having the right ball for the short game.

  7. Edward Gambler

    Dec 1, 2022 at 5:21 pm

    You loft jack complainers miss out on one important factor. Shorter shafts are easier to hit and easier to hit straight. So putting a 7 iron loft on an eight iron shaft immediately makes that distance easier to manage for the average and sub average golfer. Simple fact.
    You claim we shouldn’t care what number is on the club, but it seems to me you’re the ones who get all bent out of shape with the number not meaning what you want it to. Lighten up…I went from about 6 GIR per round with my traditionally lofted irons to over ten with my new PXGs. All that extra distance with shorter shafts and more forgiveness has been an absolute Godsend.

    • Philip

      Dec 2, 2022 at 9:33 am

      You only posted to brag you paid a ridiculous amount of money for clubs made by a dope. I a 5 and he’s ? right… I even published an article about this very topic when I was marketing Director for a HIGH END boutique club maker

  8. Mark Blake

    Dec 1, 2022 at 4:02 pm

    The number on the club matters because 8 iron and above is a different shape to 7 iron down. i guess because 8 iron is formerly a ‘pitching’ club, and therefore is used for different shotmaking.

    So yes its ridiculous to have an 8 iron at <40 deg of loft, because that means a golfer needs even more wedges.

    One day golfers will be advised to drop the "hard to hit" short irons, and just use some hybrids then a 30 degree wedge, then more wedges. Then they will call it a 1 wedge and so on.

  9. Kourt

    Dec 1, 2022 at 11:13 am

    This dude just loves blades, which is fine, but I’ve seen many high handicap golfers find much more joy in their games by playing game improvement irons. Even with my dad switching to cbx cavity wedges has helped him. Yes if you’re an elite striker they might not be “as precise” but for most high handicappers they are just trying to avoid bunkers and hit more greens.

    • Livininparadise

      Dec 9, 2022 at 11:57 am

      I have to agree with you. Many high handicapped golfers can’t hit blade style wedges any better than they could a 1 iron. I notice that their distance is very inconsistent with blade style wedges, which causes them more issues than direction.

      This article is for some players. Most players should get fitted and not worry about what Bernhard Langer is hitting

  10. Reality

    Dec 1, 2022 at 4:29 am

    I’ve never been happier than with my new Titleist T300’s. I play Driver, 23 Hybrid, 7, 8, 9, P, W1, W2, 56Vokey and 60Vokey. I am 72 years old with a handicap of 26 and am hitting my 7 iron 15 yards further than when I was 34 years old playing off 2!

  11. sandtrap

    Dec 1, 2022 at 4:11 am

    Pickles I think one of the main points in this debate is that some manufacturers choose to make their 9 irons with 37 or 38deg lofts while a traditional 7 iron might be 36 or 37deg. These manufacturers know full well that the average person comes out of a club fitting thinking ‘Gee I hit those INSERT BRAND NAME HERE’s 9 iron(not knowing it is 38deg)just as far as INSERT BRAND NAME HERE’s 7 iron (nearly the same loft)… They must be the superior club!’

    This is completely deceitful and all it is accomplishing is moving the goal posts. I can’t wait until the day when we are all playing bag consisting of a Driver then a 21 deg 9iron, and then F, O, E, Q, J, X, A, G, P, S and L wedge. The only realistic way to get around this would be to label every club by degrees instead of a number or have industry regulations as to what loft within a degree, belongs on each iron. Then manufacturers would actually be able to sell the clubs due to the actual characteristics and engineering of the club eg.higher launch/steeper descent angle, more forgiving etc.

    One writer on WRX argued your same point just as poorly a few years ago after publishing an obvious paid advertisement/review/article by an OEM who had strengthened their lofts considerably in one line of irons and stating that they were revolutionary in terms of length.

    However , the only real objective way to compare clubs from a performance perspective is to eliminate as many of the variables as possible and making a decision from there. Same shaft, same flex, same loft, same ball and even as far as same grip and number of papers. However OEM’s knowing that their 8iron is actually a 6.5 iron and still marketing it as an 8 is taking advantage of Average Joe’s ignorance of what they are ACTUALLY hitting.

    FYI- I hit my F-Wedge further than your 4 iron 😉

    • Jeff

      Dec 3, 2022 at 11:36 pm

      1. Never going to get industry standards. Clubs, balls, shafts, etc. Different strokes for different fokes.
      2. Stamping/loft on an iron doesn’t work! We saw that did not work a few years back. I don’t want to have to pull out a piece of paper and match the number to the iron I am playing. That will certainly slow play and we already have that problem!!
      3.All OEM’s have on their web sites the specs of their irons. So they are not hiring their lofts
      4. Do you only buy one shirt color or pants color?

    • Jeff

      Dec 3, 2022 at 11:42 pm

      Paper? Did you mean wraps/tape?Looks like your advocating bifurification. Typo on previous email OEM’S not hiring their specs

    • Pickles

      Dec 6, 2022 at 11:42 pm

      Sandtrap, I’d guess we agree on more than disagree. Agreed, many buyers may get confused by loft changes over the last decade. But to be fair, lofts have been strengthening since the modern balata era. At one point, your “traditional” 37 degree 7 iron would’ve been considered strong.

      However, you are missing the main points from my post. The author contends that consumers are hurt because OEMs design short irons exactly as they do long irons. My rebuttal was that I disagreed that OEMs do this, giving examples of specific iron sets that contradict authors point.
      Additionally, I disagreed with the premise that irons should have an even spread of loft because loft’s impact on distance is correlated with speed. As speed decreases, so too does the impact of loft. Test for yourself, tweak a 64 degree wedge one degree and note the distance change. (Or go to the extreme and tweak your putter). Then tweak your driver a degree and note the change. Surely if you have access to a boutique club fitter you could obtain the data. All loft degrees are not equal, thus it is illogical to gap a set purely on loft. In my set, I don’t care what the number on the sole is, I care how far it goes. Happy to carry a 4iron as my longest, or a 2, whichever hits my number.

      FYI- funny quip about your f wedge. Afraid you’re probably overconfident tho; my college degree was free thanks to golf ?

  12. jamho3

    Nov 30, 2022 at 5:20 pm

    TK.

    I know this matches your club making agenda, but at the same time I still appreciate your being willing to take this on and spread the truth and this perspective. Keep it up.

  13. O_o

    Nov 30, 2022 at 2:48 pm

    Fittings over the last 4 years have shown me that the average golfer really isn’t interested in improving their game realistically anyway, and it’s obvious that these equipment companies know that. If hitting a 6 iron an extra 15 yards means something to Joe the 27 handicap, more power to him. Whatever makes you enjoy the game

    • Jeff

      Dec 3, 2022 at 11:45 pm

      I haven’t met anyone yet who wants to hit it shorter! Age will allow that to happen.LOL

  14. Common sense.

    Nov 30, 2022 at 2:42 pm

    Ego and salesmanship is the answer. You can sell a 130 yard pitching wedge alot easier than a 110 yard pw.

  15. Clayton

    Nov 30, 2022 at 2:14 pm

    I agree, but well thought out irons like my Mizuno 223 have a more “wedge like” 8 to Pw based off 46*. A bit strong but nothing crazy. That being said, I’m planning on reshafting some classic CB irons I have based off a 48* PW, bending them all a degree weak and seeing how I like that wider spread from 3 to PW, gaining a long iron slot but not losing my “GW” loft (49-51) that I use so much every round. It’ll just be called a PW again like it was in the 1990-2010s.

  16. Matts

    Nov 30, 2022 at 2:10 pm

    I agree that current modern day iron sets (4 iron to PW) have too many clubs with lofts less than forty degrees and often with only three or two and a half degrees of loft between clubs, for most average golfers. If you cannot hold a green with a long iron, you should change to a hybrid or a lofted fairway wood if those clubs can.

    • Matts

      Nov 30, 2022 at 2:21 pm

      To expand further, the golfer of average driver swing speed (90 to 95 mph) needs a WITB of driver, fairway wood/s, hybrid/s, irons and specialist wedges, meaning buying a set of irons (4I through PW) is wasteful because one should not be putting some of those irons in your bag.

  17. Pickles

    Nov 30, 2022 at 1:12 pm

    First, I don’t agree with the general argument because it’s circular. If loft is such a critical determinant, why should one care if their set is a 5-A instead of a 4-P? Even with your point about a 6 iron being so close to a 3 wood, why does that matter if it’s the longest iron in one’s bag (and how many people should even carry a 15 fairway anymore)?

    Second, a degree of loft doesn’t have a linear impact on distance relative to speed. As clubspeed decreases, more loft is required to impact distance. A degree of loft difference with a driver could account for 20 yards, a 59 degree wedge might only carry 3 yards further than a 60 degree. Surely this should impact one’s set makeup more than sticking to an arbitrary loft spread.

    Last the author argues that OEM’s make short irons the same as long. Unfortunately, OEM’s have been incorporating blended sets into one for a decade or more. Taylormade RBZ Tour, Titleist AP2, etc, have had game improvement tech in the long irons (slots, tungsten) with more basic/traditional short irons. This might not even be expressly necessary; as loft increases, the value of these game improvement aspects diminishes.

    • Cucumbers

      Dec 1, 2022 at 3:00 am

      Extremely well said

    • Livininparadise

      Dec 9, 2022 at 12:08 pm

      Pickles, yes.

      Kohler should know this and any article like this that does not give a brief overview of moden club design is disingenuous.

      In an effort to make clubs easier to hit, manufacturers have lowered the center of gravity. If traditional lofts were utilized, everyone would just pop the ball up, so lofts have to be dialed down. The result happens to be a club that does hit the ball further, but also is easier to hit. However, just because clubs are easier to hit does not take into consideration lack of practice and lack of overall ability. They players that have benefited from easier to hit clubs get closer to the green in regulation. However, talent gets the ball into the hole.

  18. Raj LP

    Nov 30, 2022 at 11:34 am

    This quest for low spin and distance has been interesting to me as well but I am a higher swing speed player so I have P770s which are a more traditional lofted. I find those go a specific distance more consistently. Whereas, the modern lofted irons gave me a pretty big variance on distance. I guess the manufacturers point is that, by moving COG lower, the trajectory of a longer shot will give it the same height and landing iron of a shorter iron. Hence, it enables lower swing speed hitters to reach greens further away and still hold them.

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Opinion & Analysis

2023 Ras Al Khaimah Championship: Betting Tips & Selections

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The conclusion to last week’s Dubai Desert Classic was almost perfection.

The scant amount of viewers on a Monday morning would have been treated to a surely scripted play-off between world number one Rory McIlroy and his LIV nemesis Patrick Reed, bar that damned 13-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole. It was, of course, a fitting start to the year for the world number one, and an ending that the week deserved after ‘Tee Gate to Tree Gate,’.

With our main man, Lucas Herbert, playing some sublime golf in behind and finishing strongly in third despite the absence of luck on the Saturday greens, it showed the DP World Tour in a cracking light.

It’s a shame this week doesn’t.

We move from the quality of Dubai to a standard DPWT field and, while favourite Adrian Meronk is improving fast and now up to 52nd in the rankings, the long,wide, forgiving nature of Al Hamra makes this nothing more than a bosh-it, find it, hit it, putt it, competition. Links-like it may be, but with no wind forecast, this won’t hit anywhere near the heights of the previous two weeks.

Previous DPWT winners here – Ryan Fox and Nicolai Hojgaard – suggest length is the one factor that separates the medalists from the also-rans and is the key factor behind high-level tee-to-green numbers, certainly rather than accuracy.

There isn’t really any option but to look at the handful of true links players at the top and it’s only narrowly that Victor Perez gets the vote.

Splitting last year’s winners (for there were two Al Hamra events in 2022) Ryan Fox and Nicolai Hojgaard is tough but I’ve always felt the Frenchman is capable of a higher level of play and he is the selection in front of favourite Meronk, even if they both have similar course and recent form.

I rarely get him right – backing him twice over the last six months – even if he has won two titles in the space of seven months.

Still, this is another day for the Frenchman (and me) and for a winner of the Dunhill Links, the Dutch Open and three weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, he may actually be overpriced at 16/1.

It’s tough to find any better ‘standard level’ links form lines than beating the likes of Matt Southgate, Joakim Lagergren, Tommy Fleetwood, Tom Lewis and pals in Scotland, and beating Fox in a play-off at Bernadus Golf. However, he was at it again at Yas Links, leaving behind the names Min Woo Lee, Francesco Molinari, Alex Noren and Tyrrell Hatton – all synonymous with the test he faces this week, on the same paspalum greens and with opposition of higher class than three-quarters of this week’s field.

Perez looks to have produced evidence that a golfer is at their peak at 30-years of age producing an outstanding bunker shot to win his latest trophy, with a sound coming off the club reminiscent of his play at Wentworth in 2020, when splitting Hatton and Patrick Reed.

Watch Perez trophy-winning shot here!

Although this is his first outing here on the DPWT, he has a seventh and second place from two outings on the Challenge Tour and he is in the right form to take those figures one better.

Third for total driving over the last six months, Perez ranks in the top-10 for ball-striking over the same period (11th over three months) and arrives here in confident mood, telling reporters:

“I’m looking forward to playing at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship for the first time. I got the season off to a great start at the Hero Cup followed by my first Rolex Series win in Abu Dhabi, so this is a great chance to keep the momentum going and secure more Race to Dubai and Ryder Cup points,” before adding:

“I’m playing great golf at the moment, and I’m hoping it continues in Ras Al Khaimah.”

Perez is a confident selection, but back him up with another proven rip-it merchant in Callum Shinkwin, who has come in a few points since the market opened but justifies the move after an excellent top five in Dubai.

First thing we know about the three-time winner is he hits it a mile, ranking in the top-10 for off-the-tee ten times since the start of the 2022 season, including being in the top three in the two events 12 months ago. That itself is worth noting, as are his best efforts away from the victories- at Fairmont, the Dunhill Links and last week in Dubai, all with pointers to this week’s test.

There was nothing wrong with mid-20 finishes here last year, the first just a couple of days after destroying the course in a fun Texas Scramble pairs, and he will surely take comfort in lying up there with Rory McIlroy last Monday, matching those final two birdies.

Another around that ‘magic’ age, this is a course that will give Shinks every opportunity to play shorter irons into the targets and, with last week’s top-10 ranking for putting, this may be the time to go with the Moor Park magician.

I can’t see a shock result here this week – the top lot have perfect conditions in which to show their class – but I’ll be looking at the top-10/20 markets for the following:

Tapio Pulkkanen – Trilby-wearing Finn that hits the ball a country mile. Trouble is, half the time he does not know in which direction it’s travelling. Here, with accuracy not a factor, he can take inspiration from last season’s seventh place in the first of the back-to-back events, when a three-over back-nine cost him a place in the medals.

20th just seven days later shows he can play the track, whilst best efforts over the last 12 months include a third place at the Czech Masters, 10th at the Dunhill Links and third in Portugal, again all events with a leaning to the type he’ll take part in this week. Given his tied-second in Prague a year earlier, we can surmise he repeats form at tracks that suit.

It isn’t impossible he suddenly finds his form on tour, and with an inkling he’ll ‘do a JB Hansen’ and go crackers for a spell. This would seem the perfect place to start.

Julien Guerrier – Third at Hillside and Celtic Manor last season show the former winner of The Amateur Championship (at Royal St. George’s) still has what it takes to compete at this slightly lower level. Add top-15 finishes at Denmark, Spain, Germany and Mauritius – all with front-rank putting stats – and it’s easy to see the two-time Challenge Tour winner having some effect in the top-20 market.

A sixth and eighth-placed finish at the Rocco Forte in Sicily behind Lagergren and Alvaro Quiros (both who turn up when they sniff links from a mile away) reads well, and his repeat performances at his home country, Portugal, Spain and Prague show he performs where he has good memories.

With four outings here, split between the Challenge Tour and the DPWT, the Frenchman can continue an improving course record of 19/13/9.

Jack Senior – I’m convinced that 34-year-old Senior is a better player than his current ranking outside of the top-500 in the world, and although it has been a while since his win at Galgorm Castle in 2019, he has racked up top-10 finishes at Gran Canaria, the Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club (behind Min Woo Lee, Thomas Detry and Matt Fitzpatrick), Mallorca and on the Spanish mainland.

Back at Galgorm, he was tied-13th last year, a repeat result that sits nicely with his 23rd in Mallorca, and top-20s in Prague and Denmark, courses already highlighted as associates to Al Hamra.

I’m happy to ignore last week’s missed cut as it was his first outing since October, and he’s of enough interest back on a course on which he has a sixth, 11th and 19th place finish in three tries at the lower level.

I’m expecting one of the top eight or 10 to prove too good, but these events often throw up names on a surprise leaderboard, and it will take just one hotter-than-normal week with the putter for that to happen.

Recommended Bets:

Victor Perez – WIN

Callum Shinkwin – WIN/TOP-5

Julien Guerrier – TOP-10 TOP-20

Tapio Pulkkanen – TOP-10 TOP-20

Jack Senior – TOP-10 TOP-20

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Opinion & Analysis

2023 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Betting Tips & Selections

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Here we go again.

After the multi-course American Express and the two-track Farmers, the PGA Tour arrives at the legendary Pebble Beach for this week’s AT&T.

Shorter than the average tour event, the coastline course/s deliver a reasonably simple test for the high-level celebrities and their professional playing partners, but this changes dramatically should any of the famed coastal weather arrive.

Bad enough for those paid to hit a dimpled ball, it can turn an amateur’s enjoyable (and expensive) round into something horrendous like this.

Three players clearly stand head-and-shoulders above the rest, both in terms of quality and world ranking, and they do have figures that justify that – in spades.

Favourite Jordan Spieth is the King of Pebble. His record here is unsurpassed, and he relishes the challenges of this seaside terrain.

However, with no serious turn in conditions, I’m not sure his current game is much to go on. The 29-year-old has missed the cut in two of his last six starts, the best results coming in limited field events at two of the FedEx play-off events and the Tournament of Champions.Not as if Spieth needs to be in form – he won the RBC Heritage last year after a run of mc/35/35/mc, but even a win, runner-up, third , fourth, seventh and ninth, it always feels as if you take your life in your own hands when backing him at 10/1 and less.

Matt Fitzpatrick and Viktor Hovland make up the elite trio, all residing in the top-16 of the world rankings.

Both justify being alongside the Texan at the top of the market, although until last season’s closing sixth place finish, only Fitz’s 12th at the 2019 U.S Open was worth noting from an event formline of missed-cut and 60th.

Interestingly, the Norwegian matched that finish three years ago, becoming low amateur for the second major in a row, and both are hard to argue against.

With combined wins in Mayakoba, Puerto Rico and Dubai, as well as top finishes at various Open championships, conditions suit both equally well. Choosing between them is tough enough, but with home players winning 27 of the last 30 events held here (17 of the last 18) and with doubts about the motivation for playing this week, they can all be left alone at combined odds of around 9/4.

The draw is probably as crucial here as any other event, with Pebble Beach having some of the smallest greens on tour and Spyglass Hill being affected occasionally by similar winds. Make the score at Monterey Peninsula, if at all possible.

Despite the quality up front, the section that includes defending champion Tom Hoge, Maverick McNealey, Andrew Putnam and Seamus Power has equally strong credentials for the title.

Hoge aims to become only the second player to defend this title since 2000 and, whilst playing as well as ever, is no Dustin Johnson, whilst it’s hard to put McNealey in front of the Irishman given the latter’s 2-0 lead in PGA Tour wins, and 3-zip if you count the KFT.

Power ranks in the top echelons of players with form at short courses and is easy to make a case for in an event at which he opened up a five shot lead at one point last year, before finishing in ninth.

The 35-year-old has never been better, now ranked inside the top-30 after a season that included that top-10 here and again at Southern Hills, a top-12 behind Fitz at Brookline, third at Mayakoba and fifth at the RSM. The highlight, of course, was the victory in Bermuda, sitting nicely with his first victory at the Barbasol, that Kentucky event showing links to proven coastal/short course player Kelly Kraft (runner-up here to Spieth in 2019) and Aaron Baddeley and Kevin Streelman, with six top-10 finishes between them at the AT&T.

Rather like the player he beat in that Barbasol play-off (J.T Poston) Power is fairly easy to read, and although the very nature of pro-ams doesn’t suit everyone, the course make-up suits perfectly.

Usually consistent and in the top echelons for tee-to-green, greens-in regulation, and for up-and-down, Power comes here looking to recover from an unusually poor performance on the large Abu Dhabi putting floors. Certainly the figures look awry compared with his 10 strokes gained for tee-to-green and 12th for around-the-green, and it’s easy to see improvement in California, where in 2022 he lay in fourth place into Sunday at the pro-am at La Quinta, as well as a previous ninth place finish at the Barracuda (fifth into Sunday).

He’s the best of the week but I’m also including:

Alex Smalley – We were on 26-year-old Smalley for the American Express a few weeks ago and he was going well until the PGA West (Nicklaus) caught him out, causing a drop into 62nd from 21st place, and close to two of the other three selections this week, as well as Garrick Higgo, who just missed out due to lack of experience here.

The recovery into a place just outside the top-20 was impressive, though, with a final round 63 comprising 10 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation, as well as making all his putts under 10 feet.

Those sorts of figures have been expected from the outstanding Duke graduate, who made his PGA Tour debut as an amateur at the 2017 U.S Open. Since then, it hasn’t been plain sailing, indeed he has yet to win an event despite an excellent return to this level in 2022.

Starting with a best-of-Sunday 65 to finish tied runner-up at Corales, he then finished in the top six behind Jon Rahm and co in Mexico, 10th at the Scottish Open and 13th at Sedgefield.

Since October, Smalley has made seven of nine cuts, highlights being 11th at Bermuda and a pair of top-five finishes at the RSM and Houston, all contributors to the tee-to-green stats that see him rank 1/2/6/11/13 for his ball-striking and significant given the test this week..

He couldn’t get it going at Waialae for the Sony but followed up the La Quinta effort with a top-40 at Torrey Pines, when his tee-to-green game was again perfectly respectably ranked in 33rd given the strength of the field.

Runner-up in the Dominican Republic, fourth and 15th in Houston, and with form at Colonial and Bermuda, this looks the prefect test for a player that at least had a look last year, and that the bookmakers simply cannot make their mind up about.

Robby Shelton – Makes his event debut here this week in his second time at the top level, but the former Walker Cup player has enough relevant form to make him of interest, particularly after a sixth place at the multi-course American Express a few weeks ago, his best finish in California so far.

Shelton included Scottie Scheffler and Ben Griffin as play-off victims when winning two of a total of four KFT events in 2019 and 2022, coming here after making eight out of ten cats (yeah, I know) since arriving back on tour in September.

Best efforts are 15th at the Shriners and a top-10 at the RSM, but let’s also throw in a sixth at Mayakoba, 11th at the Honda and a top-20 in Texas.

This is a drop in class, and significantly in distance, from Torrey Pines and I’d expect to see more advantage taken here.

Harrison Endycott – One of the Player To Follow for this season, it’s hard to work out exactly what the 26-year-old Aussie wants in terms of course set-up, but given his heritage and junior career, it’s fairly certain he can play well in the wind.

Having made his way through the grades including a win, two top-10s and two top-20s on the KFT, he wasted little time making his mark at the highest level, finishing tied-12th at the Fortinet in California, a joint best-of-the-day 65 launching him up the board on day three.A month later, Endycott started the Bermuda Championship with a pair of double-bogeys before signing for an opening nine-under 62, the catalyst for another career top-10, and in November he overcame a poor opening round at his home PGA Championship (111th) before flying through the field as the event progressed, finishing a never-nearer 18th behind Cam Smith.

Even the missed-cut at the Australian Open was not devoid of promise, an opening 68 seeing him start the second round in 7th place.

With a pedigree in Australia and a residence in Scottsdale, I’ll take the chance he will find something back in California, scene of the best of three events in 2023 – 22nd at the American Express – when his game showed the all-round prowess it did in Scottsdale – top-11 in approach and top-15 tee-to-green.

Recommended Bets:

  • Seamus Power – WIN
  • Alex Smalley – WIN/TOP-5
  • Robby Shelton – WIN-TOP-10
  • Harrison Endycott – WIN/TOP-20
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Opinion & Analysis

2023 Farmers Insurance Open: Betting Tips & Selections

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Get your bets on earlier than usual this week as the Farmers Insurance Open runs Wednesday to Saturday, the advancement of a day avoiding a clash with the NFL Conference Championship games.

We raise the bar a notch as the tour reaches Torrey Pines, a course used for this (and related) events since 1968, although the current set-up on the South Course now measures almost 1000 yards than the one seen 55 years ago.

Now utilising the easier North Course for one round, players will still need to have their grinding game as the weekend progresses over a course re-configured for the 2021 U.S Open – won by this week’s hot favourite Jon Rahm – and one that has seen the last three winners score no better than 15-under.

As my learned GolfWRX colleague says:

While last year’s winner Luke List was a shock, beaten play-off rival Will Zalatoris certainly fits the bill in becoming the last of a long line of contenders at Torrey that have challenged at the majors.

Patrick Reed, Marc Leishman, Justin Rose and, of course, seven times Torrey winner Tiger Woods, would all be seen as elite in their time, and you can confidently add the likes of runners-up Tony Finau, Adam Scott and Xander Schauffele to those.

Greens change to Poa Anna this week, and with the home course possessing suitably tough greens, players need solid tee-to-green games to remain with a chance down the back-stretch on Saturday afternoon. Forget the pitch and putt of La Quinta and friends, this week is far from a repeat.

You would be forgiven for thinking this is the Woods era, a solid 4/1 shot heading the market.

Tiger he is not, but having won four of his last five events and winning the Farmers here in 2017 and the U.S Open four years later, Jon Rahm carries almost unbeatable status into this week. However, much depends on getting the right draw over the first two days – at the price he can be left alone.

With the trophy likely to go to one of the better fancied players, here’s a chance to select two or three from the next half-dozen and still look at a better return than backing the favourite – and, for me, Tony Finau and Jason Day fit the bill.

Unlike someone like J.T Poston, I can’t seem to call Tony Finau right, but if he is ever going to repay the faith, it is here.

Having raised his game to another level in winning back-to-back at Minnesota and Detroit, the 33-year-old was fancied to go well in Mayakoba. Naturally, he missed his first cut since the US Open in June, subsequently gagging up in Houston, making it three wins in seven starts – not Rahm (or Scheffler of early ’22) but not far behind.

Fancied to do another back-to-back special, Finau then withdrew from the RSM Classic before probably needing the run-out when 7th at the Hero World Challenge. – extremely frustrating but, on face value, continuing a career-best run.

2023 has seen encouragement in both starts, with eight rounds in the 60s leading to a seventh place at Kapalua and a most recent 16th at last week’s pro-am jolly, where he came from outside the top 60 on Thursday and from 34th at the cut mark.

Finau’s tee-to-green game remains of the highest class, ranking ninth in ball-striking over three months and third over six, but it’s now matched by a putting prowess that takes advantage of his constant green finding.

Events may be limited, but over the last 14 rounds or so, Big Tone leads the tour in putting average, beating even the likes of flying Jon Rahm. Sure, you can regard that as a skewed stat, so take it over another 12 weeks and he is in third – remarkable for someone that just a year ago was known for missing the vital ones.

Take the 2021 U.S Open away and Finau has four top-six finishes and a pair of top-20s here, and ignore last year’s missed weekend too – he was in the top-10 after the first round and was simply not at the races on day two.

Finau’s record on poa greens reads well enough – he won the Rocket Mortgage, and has top-10s at Riviera, Winged Foot and Olympia Fields, the latter pair giving credence to the Torrey/majors connection, whilst connecting Memorial form sees him record two top-10s and two top-15 finishes.

Being unconvinced that either Zalatoris’ or Justin Thomas’ games are pitch perfect, TF looks the best challenge to the favourite.

The favourite’s record in California is almost too good to be true, with four wins, seven top-5s and three top-10s but if anyone can challenge that, it’s surely Jason Day, who looks as if he is now fully recovered from injury and personal tragedy.

Winner here in 2015 and 2018, the Aussie also boasts a runner-up, third and fifth place around tough Torrey and an average position of 15th from 14 Pebble Beach outings. He loves California.

Having dropped from world number one to outside of the top-100 in five seasons, the 35-year-old has fought back from adversity to make his way back up the rankings, helped by a pair of top-10 finishes at, no surprise, Pebble and Torrey.

In order to protect what has been a fragile back, the 16-time major top-10 star reached out to swing coach Chris Como, formally an aide of Tiger Woods.

“Going into this year I did some swing changes with my coach, and I feel like those are slowly cementing themselves in there,” Day said on Golf Channel.

“I’m shallowing it out,” Day continued. “The swing has changed dramatically. It took me about a year and half to get the body correct, and the body movement correct until I could actually get into shallowing it out correctly.”

Judged on the latest figures, it seems to be coming together nicely.

Day ended 2022 with four cuts from five, including 8th at Shriners, 11th at the CJ Cup, 21st at Mayakoba and 16t in Houston, and last weekend finished in the top 20 at La Quinta having been third after two rounds.

16th for ball-striking over the last three months, slightly better over six, his top-30 for driving accuracy has led to a similar ranking for greens found. Take that, and any improvement, into an event he enjoys more than most, and we have a winning formula.

Away from the top, it’s hard to get excited about the chances of many.

Having nabbed a big-priced second last week with one of the 12 Players-to-Watch 2023, it is tempting to go back in again on Davis Thompson on a course that may suit even better. However, hitting 14 out of 18 greens at the Stadium Course is a far cry from a debut at Torrey Pines and he may just need the sighter.

Taylor Montgomery calls himself after his fourth top-five in just nine full-time starts on the PGA, particularly after a debut 11th as a sponsor’s invite last year. Prices in the 20s don’t appeal at all against proven and regular winners though, so take a chance on another top finish from the defending champion Luke List.

For someone that believes List is Dye-positive, his first win on the poa greens of Torrey Pines was a bit of a shocker.

I put the 38-year-old up as a lively top-10 bet last week, when the thought process was that this long driver should only need to drive and flip to the greens, but sadly his game was all over the place. However, I’ll take another chance in conditions that clearly suit last year’s play-off victor, a win that came off four straight cuts here that included a 10th and 12th placed finish.

Since the start of the 2022 season, List has 11 top-25 rankings for driving, five for approaches and seven for tee-to-green, whilst it was only a couple of starts ago that he matched the best at Kapalua.

As for the fabled short stick, it’s a case of being with him when he just works better than field average – 6th at Bethpage Black, in two of his four completions at Riviera and in three of five outings at Silverado, all of a  similar grass type.

Players constantly repeat form here at Torrey, so whilst he may not do a 1-2 or, indeed, a 2-1 on the lines of Mickelson, Day, Snedeker and Leishman to name a few, List is very capable of pulling out a finish on the first two pages of the board.

Recommended Bets:

  • Tony Finau Win 
  • Jason Day Win-Top-5 
  • Luke List Top-10 
  • Luke List Top-20 
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