Opinion & Analysis
The Wedge Guy: Are you making the game too hard?
In earlier posts, I’ve put forth the notion that most of us are playing golf courses that are much, much tougher on us than the weekly PGA Tour courses are on those elite players. This game is supposed to be fun and reasonably fair, so please hear me out…it might change the way you think of the “forward tees.”
This topic was stimulated by a conversation our golf committee had this past week regarding the course setup for our fall member-guest tournament, punctuated by the “whining” we heard from the tour players as they challenged a very tough Oak Hill Country Club in the PGA Championship.
The “third nail” was a statistic I saw a day or two ago that in a recent PGA Tour season – for the entire season — Dustin Johnson only hit one approach shot on a par-4 hole with more than a 7-iron! Imagine that — going a whole season (or even nine holes) without hitting more than a 7-iron to a par-4 hole.
Now, back to the conversation in the golf committee meeting about having all players in the member-guest play our regular white tees. These are my tees of choice because at my distance profile, they present a variety of approach shot challenges. For perspective, I’ll share that at 71 years old, I still average about 245-250 off the tee, and a “stock” 7-iron shot is 145-148 (I still play the Hogan blades I designed in 2015, and that is a 33-degree club).
Of our three par-5s, one is an honest three-shot challenge, one is often reachable with a 4-wood or 3-iron if I choose to challenge the water bordering the green on the right, and the other one plays straight into the prevailing wind, so reaching it with a 4-wood is a rare occurrence. The par-3s present me with an 8-iron to wedge, two 6- or 7-iron shots, and a full 3-iron or 4-wood. Of the remaining 11 par four holes, I’ll typically hit four to five wedges, and run through the entire set of irons for the others.
Now, let’s contrast that with many of the guys I play with. From the forward gold tees, some of them are playing what effectively amounts to six to eight par 5s (three shots to get home) and a par 6, and they rarely get an approach shot with less than a 6- or 7-iron. So, respectful to their strength profiles, they are playing a course that is brutally longer than anything the PGA Tour players ever see.
Add to that the fact that most of us do not play courses with fairways anywhere near as consistent and smooth as those on the PGA Tour, so our typical lie is much different from the tour players. Our sand texture varies from hole to hole, as opposed to “PGA Tour sand” that these guys see week in and week out.
So, I’ll give you this thought and challenge about what tees you should play to make the game more interesting and still challenging. Think about the course you play most often and process it hole by hole from the green backward. Which tees should you play to give yourself the following challenges?
- At least one reachable par 5, and the others requiring no more than a wedge or 9-iron third shot.
- Par-3 approaches with one short iron or wedge, one long iron, hybrid or fairway wood, and two that present you with a 6- to 8-iron approach.
- Of the par 4s, an assortment that gives you several wedges and short iron approaches and no more than two that put a longer club than a 5-iron in your hands.
My bet is that almost all of you will find yourselves needing to move up at least one set of tees, if not two, in order to play the course like this. But wouldn’t golf be more fun if you had a reasonable chance to have a birdie putt on most holes if you hit two good shots? And if you weren’t wearing out your fairway woods and hybrids all the way around?
Just food for thought, so share yours…
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Opinion & Analysis
2023 Charles Schwab Betting Tips: Fan favorite ready to dominate at Colonial
It is doubtful that even the most optimistic golf fan could have envisaged the field at Colonial this week.
In an era where elevated events secure the very best players, the undecorated Charles Schwab Challenge sees the re-appearance of both runners-up at Oak Hill. Scottie Scheffler’s impressive last round push once again secured his place at the top of the rankings, whilst Viktor Hovland seeks to avenge an unfortunate 16th hole, where his dreams of a first major were dashed by one single shot.
Colonial favours no ‘type’ of player other than one that is currently strong with approach play and can take advantage of finding these small greens. In that regard, the old-fashioned ‘greens-in-regulation’ stat becomes more important than usual, offering better chances of putting – after all, finding the short stuff but three-putting from 65 feet means little compared to landing the ball 20-odd feet from the pin and making half of them.
With such a strong representation from the world’s top 20 players, it is tough to find any long-shots that might compete. In that regard, I’ll play it light (as I have at the Dutch Open) and just watch re-runs of the 16th at the PGA at the ad breaks.
Clear favourite Scottie Scheffler trumps the man I consider his biggest rival in Viktor Hovland in a few ways. The 26-year-old was far less bothered about his second place last week, having re-ignited after a poor third round, and has last year’s runner-up finish to boost his chance. That he should have beaten Sam Burns is neither here nor there considering his two wins and numerous placings since, and he comes here leading the 12-week stats for greens and in a top five position for putting average. At 4/1 though, he is very hard to be with.
Hovland may well suffer a post-major hangover whilst all my Spieth bullets are lined up for Royal Liverpool in July, leaving our Mexico Open hero, Tony Finau, to take the main stage.
After four wins in 44 starts, the affable 33-year-old has long since shred his reputation of ‘not doing it’ with the start of his winning streak being at the 2021 Northern Trust where he beat Cam Smith in a play-off with Rahm in third, and a host of major contenders further behind. Flying finishes then saw the 33-year-old finish runner-up to Rahm here, and to Rory McIlroy in Canada, before beating lesser field by three shots at the 3M, Patrick Cantlay et al by five at the Rocket Mortgage and a Houston Open field containing Sheffler and Sam Burns by an easy four strokes last November.
It was hard to be too disapointed with 2023 after nine consective cuts, including top 10 finishes at Kapalua and Torrey Pines, and his victory over the then world number one, Jon Rahm, in Mexico was richly deserved.
For the eighth time this year, Finau ranked top-15 for tee-to-green, all off solid iron play, and I’ll ignore his last two being that he’s never taken to Quail Hollow and the finish just outside the top-20 is perfectly acceptable, while he never figured at Oak Hill, compiling some of his worst figures for a while.
In this week’s field he is top-10 for all of ball-striking, approaches and tee-to-green, whilst he brings vital course form to the table with seven cuts that include a runner-up in 2019 and fourth last season. Comp form is good, with four improving top-25s at a similar track in River Highlands, whilst his Texas form works out nicely with an easy win at the Houston Open.
For his last six appearances Big Tone averages just about fifth for off-the-tee, has three outings of 16th or better for iron play and averages better than 20th for tee-to-green.
Having been well away from the pressures of last week, Finau can make it a nap hand of wins inside 50 outings.
Respect to the likes of Sungjae Im and Russell Henley, but they plod rather than kick-on in contention, and I’m not sure that will work with such a top end. Instead I’ll take a chance with Brian Harman, a player for whom we can rule out half the events in a season and jump on when conditions are right.
Now 36, it’s easy to forget what the Sea Island resident does on the course, but the last two seasons have been impressive enough to have him well inside the top-50, and assurances of playing in all four majors.
2022 saw the diminutive former US Amateur run up two second place finishes at Mayakoba and Hilton Head, a track facing similar conditions to this week’s. To bolster his claims he finished third at the American Express and the higher-class St.Jude, confirming his top-10s at the Valspar, Wells Fargo, Travelers and The Open to be no fluke.
Of that lot, Copperhead links us nicely to Sam Burns, back-to-back winner of the Valspar and defending champ this week, whilst his eighth place at River Highlands was the lefty’s fifth top-10 in his last eight outings around the Connecticut track.
Harman tends to repeat form at tracks, so note his streak of cuts here from 2014 to 2021, and his three top-10 finishes. As for his miss last year, he fought back from an opening 77 to record 11 shots better in his second round.
The missed cuts at Quail and Oak Hill were by no means horrendous, if probably expected, and concentrate on the positive figures he records from being accurate. Harman finds something here, and could easily repeat his effort at Harbour Town in April when landing his first top-10 of the season.
Finally, have a shekel or two on Carson Young, a steadily progressive 28-year-old that has worked his way through the ranks via wins on the South America and Korn Ferry tours.
Now settling down after a rough start to his rookie year, he led the Honda Classic after the first round, and followed a week later leading the Puerto Rico Open until halfway, eventually finishing in third.
Results have been mixed but his last six efforts have seen missed cuts followed by top-20s at the Heritage, Mexico and Byron Nelson, all performances that have seen him in the top echelons for accuracy and green-finding.
This may be a tough ask on debut, but he’s coming off Tuesday’s impressive five-shot victory at US Open qualifying in Dallas, making nine 3’s in a row and thrashing the likes of Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell, making the prices for top-10 and top-20 very attractive.
- Tony Finau – WIN
- Brian Harman – WIN/T5
- Carson Young – WIN/T5
- Carson Young – Top-20
Opinion & Analysis
The best bets for the 2023 KLM Dutch Open
It could have been an awful lot worse.
After a thrilling PGA Championship, we could have expected the quality threshold to drop a fair bit on both sides of the pond. Instead, at Colonial, we will be treated to the sight of the new world number one Scottie Scheffler; the man who maybe should have won his first major last week, Viktor Hovland; local hero Jordan Spieth and Tony Finau. That’s not to mention the rest of the world’s top-20.
The KLM Dutch Open can’t boast such a field, but the very top of the market contains the defending champion, Victor Perez, an excellent 12th at Oak Hill, and equally in-form Adrian Meronk, winner in Italy two starts ago and 40th last week in his second consectutive US major.
Once a highlight of the European Tour – think Seve, Langer, Monty, Miguel and Westwood – we have now lost the much-loved tight tracks that called for guile, replaced by Bernardus Golf, a newish, not-quite-formed, not links-not-parkland, course and a field, the like of which we see every single week.
In the end, does it matter? The job is to identify the winner, and even though the last two winners have done the job in contrasting styles, there are some very obvious clues about the top of the board at both the 2022 and ’23 runnings.
Inaugural Bernardus champ, Kristoffer Broberg, came into the event off some slight promise. After long-term loss of form and injury, he snuck into notice at the Scandinavian Mixed, but it was the tournament after his emotional victory that catches the eye.
The Swede has only one other top-10 finish in over 30 outings since winning here, that coming at the Alfred Dunhill Links, where he shared a ninth place with Matti Schmid, the German he beat into second place in the Netherlands.
Fast-forward a year, and the defending champion, Perez, has his most notable victory at the 2019 Links, whilst his defeated play-off rival Ryan Fox also won at the same pro-am three years later.
The link (sorry) is very clear. Bernardus continues the theme adopted by designer Kyle Phillips. Responsible for the likes of Kingsbarns, Dundonald Links (home of the Scottish Open 2017), Yas Links (current host of the Abu Dhabi Championship) and the former home of this event, Hilversumsche Golf Club, it’s a surprise he did not have a hand in Rinkven Golf Club in Belgium, where Fox, Meronk and Marcel Schneider – all within two shots of Perez around here – finished in second, sixth and seventh at the Soudal Open a year previous.
Last season, Fox showed that coming off the PGA was not much of a hardship, but despite the nagging feeling that 6/1 coupled is actually a bit of value, I’ll just about ignore the jollies with the other side of the brain thinking this comes too quickly.
Others to catch the eye across the two events include Aaron Cockerill, Thomas’s Detry and Pieters, and my favourite of all for the week, Alexander Bjork, for whom a victory is very much overdue.
The Swede catches in the eye in more ways than just his 2023 form, but that has plenty to recommend him.
Bjork’s runner-up at Al Hamra in April saw him just in front of Meronk, with earlier Ras champion Fox a couple of shots ahead of Marcus Helligkilde (prominent for three rounds of the Dutch Open in 2021), Perez and Matt Jordan, a frustrating player but with a top five finish at the Links.
That was to be the third of nine successive cuts that include top five finishes in Italy (winner – Meronk – top 10 finish for Perez) and in Belgium, where on each occasion he put up some of the best stats in the field for irons and putting.
After ticking that off, look at his sixth place finish at what might as well be called Broberg’s Scandi Mixed, tied-third at the 2022 Hero Open – won by 2022 Soudal Open champion Sam Horsfield – and his seventh place here last season, when never out of the top 10.
The figures may prompt a negative comment about distance off the tee, but he has plenty of form in the desert (20/28 at Yas Links) where second shot control is more important, as well as in Himmerland, where iron players dominated. Find anything else? nah, me neither.
After a tough week, it was tempting to leave Bjork as a one-and-done but the designer-led theme leads me to Shubhankar Sharma, a player that would look to suit the old-style Dutch Open but improved from a debut 27th here to 14th last season, the best effort coming after three consecutive missed-cuts.
Best efforts over the years are all on the tighter, tree-lined courses of Malaysia, Joburg and Wentworth, but amongst those are a further two outings at a Phillips course – runner-up and seventh in Abu Dhabi – the former when a shot behind Pieters (two top 10 finishes here) and tied with Rafa Cabrera-Bello, winner of the 2017 Scottish Open.
Recent results appear worse than they are, lying inside the top-25 at halfway in Korea and 18th after round one of the Soudal in Belgium.
Scott Jamieson was tempting after a solid run of results and past results in the desert, but, for the last pick, I’ll row in again on still-progressive Clement Sordet.
The 30-year-old Frenchman went into the Soudal Open a popular fancy after a pair of top-10 finishes in Korea and Italy, but blew his chance with an opening 77 before rallying with a second-round six-under 65. That effort confirmed he was still striking the ball well and continued his top-20 figures for approaches and tee-to-green.
With the added advantage of length, Sordet very much reminds me of the likes of Meronk, and it may be that he just needs that slice of luck to get over the line in this company.
It appears that punters are asked to forgive quite a lot when looking away from the top of the market, and whilst the likes Helligkilde, Pepperrell, Mansell et al will understandably have their fans, I’ll keep it very light this week.
- Alexander Bjork
- Shubhankar Sharma
- Clement Sordet
Opinion & Analysis
2023 PGA Championship Betting Tips: Why Brooks Koepka is primed to win his fifth major
For a while, many considered the USPGA to be ‘bolt on’ major, considered the fourth in ranking, behind the Masters, US Open and The Open Championship.
Despite the roll-call of winners containing the greats (Nicklaus and Woods leading many of the world’s best) the move to May has given the event that boost in profile, coming half-a-dozen weeks after Augusta, and a month before the US Open, itself just a few weeks ahead of The Open.
It remains a bizarre thing to me we are done with the four premier events by the end of July – the tennis Grand Slams run from January to August – and I’m certain we’d have a lot more fun splitting them up down the calendar and in very differing conditions, but the promotion of the FedEx Cup, Ryder Cup years and pressure on broadcasters has led us this way.
Considering the small sample of recent winners since the move, all of defending champion, Justin Thomas, Phil Mickelson, Collin Morikawa and Brooks Koepka have proven to be elite players. Koepka won the 2017 US Open as the first of four majors, Lefty was winning his sixth major, Morikawa subsequently won The Open a year later while JT won his second major, six years after landing the Wannamaker Trophy in 2017.
There will be plenty of content written about the course, so let’s keep it simple.
After this year’s championship, Oak Hill will be the most-employed course in PGA/US Open history. Changes have been made throughout the years though, with golf.com saying, “The Oak Hill where Snead cashed in big in 1941 was not the same Oak Hill of 1968, where Lee Trevino claimed the U.S. Open, which was not the same Oak Hill of 1980, where Jack Nicklaus ran away with the PGA.”
A revised Donald Ross course, think long short holes, followed by (modernised) long, long holes, sloping greens, and ultimately a choice for the player – try the tough tee shot fraught with danger, or a simplified but shorter route – the lengthening to a 7400-yard par-70 has to favour those that either bomb it off the tee, or are full of quality with their long iron approaches.
The front nine looks to be very much a defending half with a 503-yard par-4, 615-yard par-5 and tough narrowing, closing hole at 480-yard-plus. If they’ve survived the outward half, the course tempts players with the 430-yard 10th, sub-400-yard 12th, par-5 13th, driveable 14th and, 155-yard par-3 15th.
Given the winning scores here of 10-under (Jason Dufner 2013), 4-under (Shaun Micheel 2003) and 6-under by Jack Nicklaus in 1980, as well as the last four PGA Championships (averaging around 6-under for the three May events), this could be a grind.
Sure, driving looks vital, but I’d take a look at total driving with distance an advantage, although, as always, a current strong tee-to-green game with leanings to long irons, looks key.
Given everything said, being one of the elite – or having pretensions to being so – is requisite to winning this grind. Of the last 10 winners, only Mickelson was ranked outside the top-50, with 2018 champ, Jimmy Walker, out of the worlds top 25.
Looking at the top of the market, the results when selecting players with history on par-70 courses of 7300-yard and longer sees Scottie Scheffler with an impressive pair of runner-up finishes, and a worst of 32nd in seven starts. There is no victory, though, which puts him behind the likes of his rival for the number one slot, Jon Rahm, with a win at Olympia Fields and East Lake (Ross design).
Rory McIlroy has an enviable record of three wins at East Lake and a win at Firestone amongst his impressive collection at this range, but he went missing at Augusta and actually looked even worse at Quail Hollow, despite at least making the cut.
Cases are obviously made for the likes of Thomas and Hovland as well and there is no arguing with those that opt for either but I’ve got a funny feeling this might be the day when golf goes a bit crackers.
LIV intruder Brooks Koepka was put off by some adverse commentary during the lead up to the Masters, and again by the pace of play during the final round, but he has that victory at Shinnecock Hills and is a twice two-stroke winner of this event. The Norman-led tour doesn’t have anything like a grind on its menu but the 33-year-old is made for this, with a majors record that reads 35 outings, four wins, four times runner-up, five further top-fives, and four top-10 finishes.
Just before the start of last week’s LIV Tulsa, he spoke to the media.
“Yeah, this week just trying to make sure I tune everything up, get ready for next week. I like the majors. I like the discipline, the mental grind that comes with it all, the focus, and just use this week to get ready.
“That’s a huge thing. I’ve always done it. It’s not always about results the week before, but it’s about making sure that everything is starting to line up and I can see the progress and see where we’re going to be for next week.”
Examining the criteria set for all the players in the top-12 or so of the market, Koepka has the victories at the 7400-yard-plus Shinnecock and 7300-yard Bellerive alongside top five finishes at Baltusrol (2016 PGA), as well as multiple top six finishes at East Lake and Firestone, and has been top five in his only start at the Houston Open (weekend rounds of 65 twice).
Having just announced that he and wife, Jena, are expecting their first child, there is every motivation to put up a solid showing around a course that suits the former world number one in every way.
This event often throws up first-time major winners, and Tony Finau would seem the perfect candidate for another.
Whilst the 33-year-old has not shone in the two PGA’s of this length, that’s more of a surprise than expectation, and of course, both events were before an extraordinary turn of form and confidence that has seen the hugely-likeable big fella win five events in 45 outings.
Amongst those wins, he beat a top-class field at the 2021 Northern Trust (7300-yard par-72) that included the subsequent major winners Cam Smith and Jon Rahm, with two-time PGA champ Justin Thomas five shots off the pace in fourth.
2022 saw three wins, gagging up when back-to-back winner at the 3M and Rocket Mortgage Classic (Ross design) before waltzing clear at the 7400-yard-plus of Memorial Park, Houston.
In between all that, he flew at the end of the Canadian Open to be beaten only by Rory McIlroy, and at the Mexico Open to get bested by Jon Rahm, a defeat he avenged when holding off the world number one at the end of April.
Fifth to Koepka at Shinnecock, he filled the same position behind Rahm at Olympia Fields in 2020 and flew through the field over the weekend at last season’s finale at East Lake.
Tour-tips’ three-month tracker puts Finau in at #7 in the all-round listings, ranking him 17th in total driving, 14th ball-strking, 24th for greens in regulation, 24th scrambling and 31st for putting average. With some severe pressure on par-4 play this week, he ranks in eighth for that discpline and 13th for the longer holes.
In eight tries at this championship, his best run is since moving to this earlier slot (4/8/30 last three years), he’s a different player to the one pre-2020, and he can exploit an elite tee-to-green game, an attribute for which he ranks third over the 2022/23 season so far.
Given a history of injury concerns, it could have been foolish to put up Hideki Matsuyama on Twitter over the weekend, but I’m buoyed by his play over the weekend at the Byron Nelson, recording a combined nine-under for his first two rounds and ranking in the top echelons for approach shots on all four days.
2022 wasn’t great for the 2021 Masters champion, having to withdraw from The Players, Texas Open, 3M, St.Jude and Houston, but, when right, still managed a win at the Sony, and record a closing third at the Byron Nelson, another flying finish at the difficult US Open at Brookline (winner Matt Fitzpatrick at 6-under), and a top-10 at East Lake, where a third-round 63 equalled winner McIlroy, Thomas and Rahm for low round of the week.
2023 has been a year of steady improvement, with his two top-10 finishes (at Torrey Pines and Sawgrass) overlooking that he was ninth after three rounds of the opener in Hawaii, 12th after three rounds in Texas and in fifth place going into the final round at Augusta.
Possibly still carrying the niggle he discussed after his second round, Deki just lacked that confidence to attack on Moving Day last week, when everything stalled after a missed birdie opportunity at the gettable ninth. It was good to see him get revenge on that hole plus four others for a ** under final round and momentum heading onto this week.
The last few weeks have been nothing but an encouraging sign as he bids to add a good finish to his 10/10 cuts at the PGA in all its formats and perhaps relevant, Deki has some experience of Oak Hill when top-20 in 2013, and boasts some low rounds throughout his career at the Ross-designed Sedgefield, home of the Wyndham Championship (form of 3/11/15).
Whilst not the longest driver, the Japanese star struck a final round 61 to win at Firestone in 2017, has three top 10s at East Lake, and a tied-second alongside Dustin Johnson at the 2020 Houston Open, where a weekend 66/63 brought him through from 26th at halfway.
Approach stats for Craig Ranch last week saw him rank sixth, 25th, 23rd and ** for the four rounds, leading to a high status for greens-in-reg. He may need to turn up with more gusto in his driver, but as long as he is fit, there is a percentage there in his locker, something he can easily work with.
Should this get nasty, there are a handful of players that should come to the fore.
Jordan Spieth seems obvious in single-figure winning tournaments, except from his Ross form (one runner-up and 17th at Pinehurst from seven starts). That isn’t the be-all-and-end-all for a player that is a three-time major winner, and coming off a fantastic run of form, but, having pulled out of the Byron Nelson with a wrist injury, I’m looking for clues that all is okay, before piling in for The Open at Royal Liverpool in July.
Justin Rose is a tempter for a high finish after his first win for four years at Bay Hill in February, and he can make up for Lee Westwood’s failure to exploit his good overnight position back in 2013.
It wasn’t the greatest of events, but he won easily and confirmed the promise he showed when ninth at Houston at the end of ’22 (third after three rounds) and when top-20 at Torrey Pines a week before the victory.
The experienced Englishman, who beat Phil Mickelson in a duel at the US Open at the ridiculously tough Merrion, certainly has the game to keep pounding away for par, and proved he has still got the game to compete with the elite when inside the final 10 players after three rounds at the Masters and, most recently, when in second place at halfway at the ‘elevated’ RBC Heritage.
A two-time runner-up at the Masters, Rose is also a 16-time a top-10 major player, with wins at the AT+T/Quickens Loans, Memorial and Torrey Pines to remind us just where he sits amongst the hierarchy.
The 42-year-old now sits at the highest ranking (low 30s) for over four years and it doesn’t take a long memory to remember that a 50-year-old Phil Mickelson won this event just two years ago. I’ll take the chance it’s tough enough out there for Rosey (yeah, I know, Butch, eh?) to land a decent payout on the specials.
Fellow Englishman Tyrrell Hatton is a real head-scratcher as he seems to hate everything, but is blinkin’ top class at this golf lark. He’s recently recorded a fourth place behind Rose at Bay Hill, runner-up at Sawgrass, top-20n at Harbour Town, third at Quail Hollow, all topped with last weekend’s *** at the Byron Nelson, a course that should not have fitted his grinding style of play.
Such was his play at Craig Ranch that he ranked **** ***** and he comes here carrying USPGA form of eight runs, two top-10 finishes and a most recent 13th at Southern Hills, dropping slightly from a halfway position of 10th.
The 31-year-old doesn’t ‘do’ Ross very frequently, but in four outings has a top-10 at Sedgefield and, perhaps more importantly, a top five in Detroit, the latter coming after a run of a win (Bay Hill) and third (lead after three rounds) at Harbour Town. He is absolutely the grinder amongst grinders.
In the end, yesterday’s finish might have just ruined his price, but (since 2006) and apart from Mickelson in 2021, every champion has finished in the top-28 in their event immediately before this major, with seven inside the top five and 11 inside the top-15.
We may need a pair of hardy players come Sunday afternoon, and in Rose and Hatton, we get just that.
Americans have won the last eight PGA Championships, and whilst it’s not hard to see young bucks Taylor Montgomery or Cameron Young getting involved, I’ll turn to 2019 US Open champion Gary Woodland to revive former glories after showing a return to top form over the last 18 months or so.
The form of that victory needs no explanation, beating Koepka, Rose, Rahm and Xander Schauffele by three and six shots, with McIlroy and Stenson further behind. That was to be the highlight of the now 38-year-old’s long career, one that started 16 years ago and containing a next-best major finish of sixth place at Bellerive, a 7316-yard par-70 and home of the 2018 PGA Championship.
Indeed, looking at the Florida resident’s card, all of Woodland’s best major finishes have been within the last five years. Apart from the two efforts mentioned above, he has a fast-finishing eighth place finish at brutal Bethpage Black in 2019 and a back-door 10th at last year’s US Open, all signs that he’ll stick around should it get tough out there for the more finesse style of player.
2022 saw Woodland record top-five finishes at the Honda and at Bay Hill, whilst top-10 finishes at the Texas Open, afore-mentioned US Open and Houston all provide evidence for the wager.
Following a slow start to this year, Woodland found form at Riviera, where he was fifth after three rounds, before a recent run of six cuts that include a 14th place finish at Augusta and at Quail Hollow, where ironically he sat in ninth place going into Payday.
On the three-month tracker, Woodland ranks inside the top 35 over the last three months, based on his high position of fifth for total driving (in eighth for the season overall) 11th for greens-in-regulation and top-35 for both the par-fours and fives. The official season-long PGA Tour stats see him top-25 for tee-to-green, with highlights being top-10 rankings for approaches from sub 100-yards, 150-175 yards and 200+ yards, the latter surely an advantage on this monster.
It’s all not quite good enough to see him lifting the trophy on Sunday, but there is plenty there to think he’ll give a run for a place on the front page, or at worst inside the top-20.
- Brooks Koepka – Each-Way
- Tony Finau – Each-Way
- Hideki Matsuyama – Each-Way
- Tyrrell Hatton – Each-Way
- Justin Rose – Each- Way
- Justin Rose – Top Englishman
- Tyrrell Hatton – Top Englishman
- Justin Rose – Top-20
- Gary Woodland – Top-10
- Gary Woodland – Top-20
Morning 9: Another Tiger surgery | Ko looking to end major drought | Lexi playing hurt at first major
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May 29, 2023 at 9:19 am
Amen! I have been saying this for years. This all comes from old country club conventions and a false conviction from golf courses that longer means premium.
I blame golf courses first, they should set “standard tees” at an easily playable distance. I just came back from a golf trip and the standard tees varied from 5750 to 6300 yards, a 550y difference between courses, that is almost 2 tee boxes of difference. For ego reasons, especially playing with a group, everyone will try to play the same tees.
Make Golf Fun Again.
May 28, 2023 at 8:45 am
I’m torn on this.
On the 1 hand, in my journey from high to single digit handicap, distance has always been a barrier. Big hitters get many more birdie opportunities than I do.
On the other, buying a launch monitor showed I wasn’t maximizing my average male swing speed…which aligns almost perfectly with LPGA averages. LPGA tends to play 6500-6800 yards which is comparable to the middle tees at most courses. So if I’m not playing to LPGA standards thats on me to fix my swing.
I see lots of players blame distance when they hit a spinny, curvy driver that goes 215 yards. That same swing speed would go 250+ if optimized. Ask me how I know…
I honestly think the bigger difference is course familiarity (particularly greens) and conditions.
May 28, 2023 at 8:05 am
I wrote a forum post about this a few years ago!
I looked at 3 guys who finished middle of the pack playing in 3 different events. 78% of the time they had ~160 yards or less into par 4s (27 of 35).
Average PGA TOUR carry distance for an 8 iron is 160 yards.
May 26, 2023 at 2:01 pm
Judy Rankin: Play from the set of tees where the majority of your approach shots are 7-iron or less.
May 26, 2023 at 9:50 am
This article is meaningless to anyone outside USA who actually play comps with proper handicap rules
May 28, 2023 at 5:41 am
Please explain this… we have yellow tees for men and red for women, but our course is also rated for men playing from the red tees. The course is 750 meters shorter than, but it changes from a PAR 72 to a PAR 70 and you course HCP drops about 3 strokes.
May 25, 2023 at 12:31 pm
You have just successfully (and quite persuasively) articulated a case as to why elite golf needs a major ball rollback.
I do understand that it was not your primary intent. And I fully accept your recommendations for recreational and club golfers.
But when you make the comparison to Dustin Johnson almost never needing more than an 8-iron to reach Par 4’s, that is primarily a condemnation of what technology has done for elite golf.
Notwithstanding anything I have written here, this was a very good read.