Drive It!

So, as we mentioned in this week’s Monday Morning Musings, there’s plenty to support and oppose Tiger Woods capturing the PGA Championship this week. Tiger has gotten some practice in on soggy Bethpage Black and also took the time during his presser to tweak John Daly for riding a cart, express a desire to play in the 2020 Olympics, and to give a carefully crafted response to a query regarding a lawsuit lodged against him and his girlfriend regarding the death of an employee who worked at a restaurant owned by Woods.

None of which will be on his mind when he tees it up with Brooks Koepka and Francesco Molinari at 8:24 AM Eastern Time on Thursday. And I would be surprised if there will be much conversation among that group once they are announced.

An Atlanta attorney who was a pretty fair golfer back in the day noted that “Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course… the space between your ears.” No doubt this will be particularly true this week – miss the fairway by too much and the golfers will be faced with this.

Patience and smart play will be critical. At the same time, we’re talking about a 7,500 yard course that will likely play longer due to the wet conditions.

Golf Channel lightning rod Brandel Chamblee dug up a relatively ancient but nonetheless telling statistic in analyzing who might have the best edge in negotiating the Black. It’s called Total Driving, a metric that combines driving distance and accuracy. In the two US Opens held at Bethpage Black, the two victors (Tiger and Lucas Glover) were both in the top ten in the respective seasons in which they won.

Chamblee is often accused of stirring the pot for argument’s sake, but in this case, he makes a ton of sense, as long and straight are particularly desirable qualities on a long and wet golf course. Koepka currently sits tied for 9th in Total Driving, while Woods is 13th. Molinari sits well back at 63rd.  Based on that, I’d be very surprised if Frankie Red Sauce makes a big impact over the weekend.

Players who could come up big include Gary Woodland (2nd in Total Driving, plus he has a good track record at the Black),  Bryson DeChambeau (3rd in TD, although the weather may throw off his pre-shot calculations, Louis Oosthuizen (5th in TD), and Jon Rahm (7th, although one could also see him throwing a tantrum the first time he draws a poor lie in the rough).

Veterans who also show well in this category are Matt Kuchar (16th) and Ian Poulter (20th).

Rory? He ranks 33rd, which is respectable, but while he is 2nd in distance, his accuracy standing is an abysmal 153rd.

Dustin Johnson? He sits all the way back in 115th place.

So this week, the cliché “Drive for show and putt for dough” goes by the wayside. Whoever can get it in the fairway the most and keep himself out of trouble will win. And it says here that will be either Tiger or Brooks. Take your pick (mine is Brooks).

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