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The greatest misunderstanding in Masters history all came from a practice ticket

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Great golf stories can come from surprising places. This week, a story shared in the reddit community “ActLikeYouBelong”, made the rounds on social media.

According to the thread, a man who had a ticket for a Masters practice round at Augusta National showed up to the course on the week of the 207 Masters under the impression that the ticket gave him the opportunity to play a practice round at the Augusta National.

The man came to the course with his clubs and was absolutely ready to go. Unfortunately, ANGC is arguably the most the exclusive golf club on the planet, so it looks like the Augusta police got involved in the photo.

Whether this was a classic misunderstanding or a “fake it ’til you make it” situation, we can all agree that this guy is a legend for giving it his best shot.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Open Championship betting preview: Jon Rahm ready to silence doubters at Royal Troon

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The 2024 Open Championship returns to Royal Troon Golf Club to play the 152nd edition of the tournament.

This marks the tenth time that Royal Troon will host the Open Championship. The last time we saw the course host The Open was 2016 and it provided one of the best major championship final rounds of all time when Henrik Stenson outlasted Phil Mickelson in a shootout. 

Royal Troon Golf Club is a par 71 measuring 7,385 yards. The front-nine typically plays relatively easy and will give players plenty of birdie chances. However, the back-nine is a lot more challenging and will provide a difficult finishing stretch. 

There are 156 players in the field this week, with the top 70 and ties making it to the weekend. As expected, almost all of the world’s top players will be in attendance this week, seeking a highly coveted Claret Jug.

The Latin motto of Royal Troon is “Tam Arte Quam Marte”, which means “as much by skill as by strength”.

Past Winners at Royal Troon

  • 1950: Bobby Locke (-1)
  • 1962: Arnold Palmer (-12)
  • 1973: Tom Weiskopf (-12)
  • 1982: Tom Watson (-4)
  • 1989: Mark Calcavecchia (-13)
  • 1997: Justin Leonard (-12)
  • 2004: Todd Hamilton (-10)
  • 2016: Henrik Stenson (-20)

Past Winners at The Open Championship

  • 2023: Brian Harman (-13)
  • 2022: Cameron Smith (-20)
  • 2021: Collin Morikawa (-15)
  • 2019: Shane Lowry (-15)
  • 2018: Francesco Molinari (-8)
  • 2017: Jordan Spieth (-12)
  • 2016: Henrik Stenson (-20)
  • 2015: Zach Johnson (-15)
  • 2014: Rory McIlroy (-17)
  • 2013: Phil Mickelson (-3)
  • 2012: Ernie Els (-7)
  • 2011: Darren Clarke (-5)
  • 2010: Louis Oosthuizen (-16)

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 Royal Troon

Let’s take a look at the most important metrics at Royal Troon to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds. This should give us a good starting point for building our betting card.

Strokes Gained: Approach

Henrik Stenson was one of the best iron players of his generation, and that proved to be the difference in 2016. As the course motto suggests, skill is more important than power this week, and iron play should be the most important factor. 

Total Strokes Gained: Approach in past 24 rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.63)
  2. Xander Schauffele (+1.13)
  3. Tony Finau (+0.98)
  4. Collin Morikawa (+0.80)
  5. Tom Kim (+0.79)

Strokes Gained: Links Golf

Royal Troon is a true links test. This statistic will show us who’s been the best on links courses over their past 36 rounds (minimum 12 rounds). 

Strokes Gained: Links Golf over past 36 rounds:

  1. Cameron Smith (+2.41)
  2. Robert MacIntyre (+2.15)
  3. Collin Morikawa (+1.97)
  4. Rory McIlroy (+1.84)
  5. Scottie Scheffler (+1.75)

Strokes Gained: Total in Major Championships

Over the past few years, recent major form has been a strong indicator of performance at the following major. I suspect we may see some familiar names atop the leaderboard this week. 

Strokes Gained: Total in Major Championships over past 36 rounds:

  1. Rory McIlroy (+2.83)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+2.72)
  3. Ludvig Aberg (+2.48)
  4. Xander Schauffele (+2.44)
  5. Will Zalatoris (+2.24)

Strokes Gained: Total (Windy Conditions)

Wind is always going to be a factor when playing in an Open Championship. Even if the wind speed doesn’t get extremely high, it will still be a factor in club selection and execution.

Total Strokes: Total (Windy Conditions) in past 36 rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+3.18)
  2. Xander Schauffele (+2.09)
  3. Matthew Southgate (+1.91)
  4. Rory McIlroy (+1.79)
  5. Jon Rahm (+1.61)

Strokes Gained: Putting

Good putters tend to win Open Championships at St. Andrews. Adding putting to the model will help to eliminate golfers who won’t be able to hole enough putts to contend.

Strokes Gained: Putting in past 24 rounds:

  1. Mackenzie Hughes (+1.05)
  2. Robert MacIntyre (+1.01)
  3. Xander Schauffele (+0.90)
  4. Bryson DeChambeau (+0.86)
  5. Alexander Bjork (+0.86)

Strokes Gained: Ball Striking on Small Greens

The greens at Royal Troon are the smallest of any in the Open Rota and are one third the size of the greens at St. Andrews. Players who’ve excelled at hitting into small greens will have an advantage. 

Strokes Gained: Ball Striking on Small Greens over past 24 Rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.40)
  2. Ludvig Aberg (+1.43)
  3. Viktor Hovland (+1.37)
  4. Tony Finau (+1.33)
  5. Xander Schauffele (+1.30)

Statistical Model

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

These rankings are comprised of SG: APP (27%); SG: Putting (14%);SG: Links Golf (15%); SG: Windy Conditions (15%) ; Strokes Gained: Ball Striking on Small Greens (15%), and SG: Majors (15%)

  1. Xander Schauffele
  2. Collin Morikawa
  3. Rory McIlroy
  4. Scottie Scheffler
  5. Viktor Hovland
  6. Corey Conners
  7. Tommy Fleetwood
  8. Patrick Cantlay
  9. Brian Harman
  10. Tom Kim
  11. Aaron Rai
  12. Shane Lowry
  13. Ludvig Aberg
  14. Tony Finau
  15. Tom Hoge
  16. Sahith Theegala
  17. Christiaan Bezuidenhout
  18. Robert MacIntyre
  19. Russell Henley
  20. Si Woo Kim

2024 Open Championship Picks

Jon Rahm +2500 (FanDuel)

I’ve resisted the temptation to bet Jon Rahm at a major thus far in 2024, but now seems like the right time to take a swing at one of the world’s most talented players at what I believe is a very fair number.

Rahm would be the first to tell you he’s had a relatively weak season by his extremely lofty standards, but he’d also tell you that he’s one major away from a great season. It hasn’t been all bad on LIV thus far for Rahm. He’s finished in the top ten in all but one of his LIV starts, and the one where he failed to do so was because of an injury.

The Spaniard seems to be healthy now, and heads to a major that he’s been excellent at over the course of his career. In his last four Open Championships, he’s finished T11, T3, T34, T2 respectively. He’s been fantastic on the coast and on links tracks, and Royal Troon should suit him well.

Rahm didn’t finish as well as he’d hoped at LIV Andalucia (T10), but there were some positives to take away from the performance. He ranked 1st on the week in greens in regulation and 16th in total birdies. He ranks 4th in the field in Strokes Gained: Total in windy conditions, 13th in Strokes Gained: Total at Major Championships and 15th in Strokes Gained: Total on Links courses.

Rahm may not be having his best season, but if he gets in contention over the weekend, he’s more than capable of beating anybody in the world.

Tommy Fleetwood +2500 (FanDuel)

It’s been frustrating at times backing Tommy Fleetwood to win golf tournaments, but I’ll be giving him one last shot at the Open Championship this week. His inability to cross the line and win events is undeniable, but he’s been one of the best Open Championship players of his generation.

Over his past five Open’s, the Englishman boasts finishes of T12, 2, T33, T4 and T10 respectively. Last year, Tommy was in the final pairing on Saturday before Brian Harman ran away with the tournament, so the T10 doesn’t tell the whole story of how well he played.

The week calls for some wind, rain and chilly temperatures, which should suit Fleetwood well. As hard of a time as he’s had winning in the U.S., he’s been very solid in the UK. He had six DP World Tour victories and has beaten some world class players in doing so.

Fleetwood has been one of the best major championship players in the world over the past three seasons. In his past 36 major rounds, he ranks 6th in Strokes Gained: Total, only trailing Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa and Will Zalatoris. He’s played his best golf in the biggest events and has risen to the occasion against the best of the best.

Tommy is one of the best links players on the planet and can change the narrative that he can’t close with a win at Royal Troon Golf Club this week.

Viktor Hovland +3000 (DraftKings)

I believe in the long-term ceiling of Viktor Hovland about as much as I do for any player in the world. 2024 hasn’t gone according to plan for the 26-year-old, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a top-5 talent in the field.

Hovland has missed the cut in two of his three major starts this year but had a chance to win the PGA Championship deep into his final round on Sunday. He also finished T15 at the Memorial Tournament a week later, so has shown flashes of the form that won him the 2023 Tour Championship.

The betting odds for Hovland have risen to a point where I feel it’s an auto bet for the foreseeable future at this number. He ranks 8th in Strokes Gained: Total at majors and has four top-7 finishes in majors since 2022. He’s also been excellent in Open Championships. Over his last three Open’s he’s finishes no worse than T13, with his best being a T4 in 2022.

I trust Hovland on links in the wind and I have no doubts that he is a viable threat to win this week’s Open Championship.

Joaquin Niemann +6600 (BetRivers)

Joaquin Niemann has been disappointing in majors so far throughout his career, but his talent is simply too great to ignore at deeper prices on the odds board.

In addition to the enormous talent of Niemann, I also believe the course fit for Royal Troon is too strong to ignore. The Chilean has a lower ball flight and is a fantastic wind player. In his past 36 rounds, he ranks 17th in Strokes Gained: Total in windy conditions.

Niemann has been great on LIV and is first in the individual standings. He’s won two events and has three additional top-3 finishes on the season as well. He started slowly last week at LIV Andalucia but finished strong, posting rounds of 68 and 69 on Saturday and Sunday at Valderrama. The week played windy and difficult and therefore should serve as a solid warmup for Niemann heading into the season’s final major.

The questions on whether or not Niemann has what it takes to perform in majors are fair to this point, but I’m betting on the talent once again.

Louis Oosthuizen +6500 (FanDuel)

I bet Louis a few months back at 130-1 and he was 110-1 as recently as Sunday on plenty of books, however, the number has taken a Monday dive.

The Oosthuizen popularity is warranted, as he can most definitely still compete with the world’s best on certain golf courses, with Royal Troon being one of them. The South African has had his best season since 2021, which is a year that saw him finish in the top-3 of three of the year’s four majors. This season, four top-five finishes on LIV to go along with two DP World Tour wins last fall.

Oosthuizen has finished in the top-20 in three of his last four Open Championships, and of course, won The Open at St. Andrews back in 2010. Opens have been kind to older players, and at 41 years of age, it may be the only one of the four majors in which Louis can still truly contend.

Don’t let the LIV “retirement” narratives fool you, Louis is still a good golfer who can contend at Royal Troon.

Akshay Bhatia +12500 (FanDuel)

It still may be too early for Akshay Bhatia to win a major, but at triple-digit odds, the 22-year-old is absolutely worth a punt with how talented he is. Bhatia has the upside to be a future top-5 player in the world and has shown in 2024 that the enormous hype he received as a teenager was warranted.

Bhatia comes into the Open Championship scorching hot. After winning in April, Akshay has once again hit his stride and finished in the top 22 in his last four events, culminating with a T2 in his most recent start at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He missed a short putt to win, but that is part of the growing and maturation process of a young player.

It’s early in his career, but Bhatia has already shown the world he’s one of the most reliable players on the PGA Tour when it gets windy. He’s also a prolific birdie-maker, so if the scoring is easier than expected this week, he can keep up with the scoring.

Bhatia is a high upside play that could pay huge dividends if he brings his best stuff with him across the pond.

*Featured image courtesy of LIV Golf*

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19th Hole

Charles Barkley caught in hilarious hot mic moment on golf course

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Former NBA player and current analyst, Charles Barkey, is a known golf enthusiast. The “NBA on TNT” star has commentated on Capital One’s “The Match” and played in plenty of celebrity events.

Barkley’s quirky swing, which is much improved in recent years, still leaves a bit to be desired.

Over the weekend, a video of Barkley golfing was taken, and the 61-year-old was pretty hard on himself after a bad shot.

Just a warning, the following content is NSFW.

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Victor Hovland explains why he rejected LIV Golf

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Over the past few years, LIV Golf has been successful in taking some of the best players in the world and inking them to multi-year, guaranteed contracts. Jon Rahm, Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka and Tyrrell Hatton have all made the jump to the rival tour, but plenty of players have declined.

Viktor Hovland is among the stars who chose to stay on the PGA Tour. While speaking with The Times, the Norwegian explained his decision.

“I have no hard feelings against the guys that went. I completely understand because there are a lot of grey areas at the moment but, for me, I did not think their product was appealing enough to go. Obviously, they’re throwing out a lot of money, but I’ve already made a lot of money. I’m not a very materialistic person. It’s nice to make life easier for yourself, but that’s not what gets me up in the morning.”

“At the end of the day, the question is ‘What’s going to make me a better player?’ And hey, in 20 years, if I’m on the back end of my career, playing LIV Golf wouldn’t be too bad. It might have been a pretty cool opportunity but, right now, it’s something I think I’d probably look back [on] and regret.”

Hovland seems content with his decision to stay on the PGA Tour but added that he does wish the PGA Tour was more transparent with the players when the LIV threat surfaced.

“A lot of the players I’ve talked to want more transparency. And if you claim you’re representing our best interests, you at least meet with the people involved.

“Now we’re in this stalemate or whatever you want to call it, but it’s not something that required the prediction of 20 different chess moves.

“I’m not a guy that just wants to blindly follow people and be told what to do,” he said. “I want to understand everything.”

Hovland will tee it up this week at Royal Troon with sights set on his first major championship.

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