Some random thoughts and notes from the Sentry Tournament of Champions
No Jordan Spieth for Sony Open
We all have been looking forward to Jordan Spieth’s first appearance of the calendar year at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Unfortunately on Sunday he emailed and said that he has been battling a cold and didn’t want to worsen it on a long flight from Dallas. So we won’t see Jordan until the Farmers Insurance Open in three weeks.
A lot has happened to Jordan over the course of the last 730 days. At this time in 2018, Speith was 2nd in the Official World Golf Rankings and we thought that 2018 was going to be a banner year for him. It wasn’t. He dropped to 31st in the FedExCup race but the good showing was only due to his good play early. After finishing 3rd at the Masters, he only had one top-ten in 12 starts and that was a T-9th in defending his British Open title. Things go worst last year as he dropped to 44th in the FedExCup race. Now many will say geez, for about 75% of those on the PGA Tour that would be a dream season, but not for Spieth. His one bright spot was finishing T-3rd at the PGA Championship but that wasn’t very bright considering he was six shots back of winner Brooks Koepka. After years of finding himself constantly in the running in the final round, Spieth was only in the running in two events, the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial where he shot a final-round 72 to finish T-8th and the next week at the Memorial he shot a final-round 73 and was T-7th.
— Full Swing (@FullSwingGolf) January 22, 2015
It’s easy to see his problems. First, it’s driving, in his dream year 2015, he was 15th in Strokes Gained off the tee, in 2016 he dropped to 29th, in 2017 dropped to 44th, then T-50th in 2018 and then 176th in 2019. So this put a strain on other parts of his game. In Strokes Gained approach the green, which is greens hit, Spieth was 11th in 2015, T-88th in 2016, 2nd in 2017, 33rd in 2018 and 145th in 2019. Around the green and putting, he has been strong overall, but you can see some of the shine on his putter going away. An example of that is in two parts, first on putts from 3 feet in 2015 he was ranked 33rd, in 2016 T-85th, in 2017 he was T-8th, in 2018 he was T-181st and last year T-132nd. So you can see he has missed short putts two years in a row. Now overall on putts inside ten feet, he was T-52nd in 2015, T-48th in 2016, then it started to seriously slip to 102nd in 2017, T-104th in 2018 and T-85th in 2019. The combination of all this is the reason for the decline of Jordan Spieth’s game. I realize he is a young, smart and talented guy at just 26 years old, but at the pace of life he is on and the demands required it’s got to be tough on him. Frankly, we have seen the carnage of other Jordan Spieth’s before. One example I can think of off the bat is Ben Crenshaw, one of the best putters know to man when he came out of college and took the PGA Tour by storm in the 70s, but his long game created pressure on the rest of his game and that then created pressure on his putter. He was able to win two majors as he got older, his last in the 1995 Masters was the most unusual victory of all time when you consider that in his next 25 starts he had just two top-six finishes which would be the last of his career and after the Masters victory he only played in 118 more PGA Tour events before he retired only making ten cuts in his last 85 starts. But back to Spieth, this year is going to be very important for him. He needs to first get back to being able to play consistently again. Last year we saw him starting out well in the first couple of rounds only to fall apart over the weekend. For 2019 Spieth’s first-round scoring average was 69.27 ranking him 9th. In the second-round he was 68.32, ranking him 1st. But in the third-round he was 71.28 ranking 170th and 72.47 in the final-round ranking 187th, pretty ugly for the weekend. One other thing, he can’t put any more pressure on his putting. We have seen great putters that have lost that touch, they haven’t been able to regain it. In the annuals of golfers, there is nobody that has ever been anyone that has lost their great putting and regained it. It just doesn’t happen. So hopefully we will see a revitalized Jordan Spieth who can hit it straighter and hit it more consistently on the greens. If that happens and he putts as he has since joining the tour, Jordan Spieth will start winning again.
In an era of so many young superstars, many consider Jon Rahm to be the best
At the age of 19, Rahm was the No. 1 amateur in the world in 2015, and after turning professional the next year, it took him only 61 weeks to crack the top five in the Official World Golf Ranking. (Only Tiger Woods, who did it in 33 weeks, accomplished the feat faster.). At just 25, Rahm has already won over $25 million in earnings with ten victories around the world along with 25 top-ten finishes. Unfortunately, his rise has not had some bumps, In 14 starts in the majors, he only has four top-tens the best being a T-3rd in the 2019 U.S. Open. But he was T-9th going into the final round and finished strong at Pebble with a final round 68, but wasn’t in contention finishing six back of Gary Woodland. In his other top-tens he never really was close in the final rounds. Another blemish on his short career is his reputation for tantrums, most notably at the U.S. Open when he was seen in a fit of rage kicking his clubs and punching a sign. Others that have played with him have said that his emotions have gotten the best of him at times.
For fantasy players, the biggest problem with Rahm is when to chose him. Going into the final round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions he was considered the favorite after a string of winning the Spanish Open, the DP World Tour, Dubai and finishing 2nd at the Hero World Challenge. This has been a big problem for Rahm. Last year going into the British Open he had won the Irish Open 2 weeks before and was T-2nd three weeks before at the Andalucia Masters, but finished T-11th at Royal Portrush. In 2018 he was T-5th at Colonial three weeks before the U.S. Open and missed the cut. The following month he was T-5th at the French Open and 2 weeks before the British Open finished T-4th at the Irish Open but missed the cut at Carnoustie. So you see the pattern here, it’s a Jekyll and Hyde syndrome? Rahm now says that a lot of times he has gone into those majors tired, it’s been a long year and he realizes that he needs to make some schedule changes. Other than a change of schedule, what did Rahm do since the start of October in which he has only played in three events? He did get married in Spain in December
Last Friday was the best day of my life, it was a dream wedding in my hometown Bilbao w/ my beautiful college sweetheart & my better half, now Kelley Rahm. The Basilica de Begoña is very special for me and my family, it was an honor to marry her there. Best way to end the year! pic.twitter.com/8SKHf8tXf6
— Jon Rahm Rodriguez (@JonRahmpga) December 22, 2019
and plans another ceremony in San Diego in February. He also spent a good amount of time in Spain analyzing his stats from 2019 and feels a weakest is in his wedge game, especially a half wedge shot. In 2019 he was 29th in Greens in Regulation, but in approaches from 50 to 75 yards, he is T-68th, in approaches from 75 to 100 yards he is T-122nd and from approaches from 100 to 125 yards is T-88th. I also see a weakness in his game around the greens, he was 78th in Strokes Gained Around the Green mostly because he was 101st in scrambling and 69th in sand saves. The rest of his game is solid and he ball-striking is supreme, the best part of his game.
— Jon Rahm Rodriguez (@JonRahmpga) January 2, 2020
After this week we won’t see him until Farmers and I still question if he will be a big force in the majors as a Justin Thomas or a Xander Schauffele. As for Fantasy Golf, the one thing that will always make him popular is the fact that he is 6th in birdie average and T-4th in par breakers, with stats that high it’s hard to go wrong with him.
Could never have dreamt a year ago they would be in Maui this week
In the first round, Brendon Todd and Lanto Griffin were the first off the tee. It was pure chance that for the second straight event they were paired together, in the RSM Classic they played with Keith Mitchell in the first and second rounds. But at Kapalua, the two of them had a very special touch of bonding. In a span of a year, both of their lives had changed drastically.
For Griffin, his first year on the PGA Tour in 2018 wasn’t very good and he had to return to the Korn Ferry Tour so while the elite were in Maui in January of 2019,
— Lanto Griffin (@thelanto61) January 3, 2020
Griffin was preparing himself to play for two weeks in the Bahamas followed by a trip to Columbia and then Panama. For Todd things were even darker and bleaker. Things looked really great after he won the Byron Nelson Championship in 2014. It leads to a year of winning $3.3 million and that rolled over to 2015 and winning $1.8 million. But at the end of 2015 at the BMW Championship Todd hit a 4-iron 50 yards right and it started a terrible time in which he got what he called “ball-striking yips.” That one swing turned into a multi-year battle with the full-swing yips and between 2016 and the end of summer of 2018 he played in 40 PGA Tour and Korn Ferry events and only made 3 cuts but missed his last 11 cuts. He had no way back to the PGA Tour and had to endure qualifying for the Korn Ferry Tour. After missing the cut at the Barracuda Championship he spent the next couple of months contemplating live outside of golf. He talked with friends who set him up with interviews with businessman and he also thought about getting into real estate. But Todd wasn’t interested in a 9 to 5 job. In November of 2018 Todd’s manager set up a meeting to talk with someone about opening a pizza franchise.
This time last year, Brendon Todd was ranked 2,006th in the world.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 3, 2020
At the same time Todd started reading a book that Bradley Hughes had on his website called “The Golf Swing, The Great Ball Strikers” Todd fell in love with the book and did some of the drills that were in the book. Along with visiting Hughes in his home in Charlotte, and with the visits and an abundance of drill work, Todd saw results. First came when he Monday qualified and got into the RSM Classic. He shot 68-69-69-68=274, his best score since The Greenbrier Classic in 2015. He missed the cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am but finished T-25th at Puerto Rico and T-39th at Corales Puntacana. With his T-18th finish at the Wells Fargo, including a third-round 73, he felt his game was back. He was able to qualify for the U.S. Open and he played good enough to find his way into the Korn Ferry Playoffs. Thanks to a T-2nd finish at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship and good finishes in two other playoff events he finished 7th on the finals points list and a return to the PGA Tour for 2020. After a terrible start in which he missed the cut in his first four starts, he finished T-28th at the Houston Open. Then he won the Bermuda Championship and followed that up with a victory at the Mayakoba Golf Classic and then was 4th, just three shots back of the playoff at the RSM Classic.
As for Griffin he won the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail championship and went on to finish 6th on the Korn Ferry Tour points list. He has come out strong on the PGA Tour with top-25 finishes in his first four starts and then won the Houston Open by a shot. For Fantasy Golf players, Griffin has done pretty well with the except of Mayakoba have they priced him at 9,000 and he finished T-76th and RSM Classic was he missed the cut and was priced at 8,000. This week at the Sentry, you could have gotten Griffin at 6,500 which isn’t bad when you consider that for 2020 Griffin is T-34th in birdie average and 39th in par breakers. As for Todd, he was priced at 8,100 at Sentry, a bit high and for the year is ranked T-19th in birdie average and 32nd in par breakers. Both are playing at the Sony next week, I would say that I would pass on Todd, he isn’t as straight off the tee as Griffin is and if you can get Griffin for under 7,500 that would be a good price.
One last thing. After his first-round 71 Griffin was interviewed in the media room and talked about how neat it was for him and Todd walking down 17 together. They talked about what a great view it was, what a great place it was and how neat it was considering what a dark place both of them were in just four months ago, a year ago. They both agreed how neat it was and how much they could now appreciate what they had accomplished.
One neat stat on Brendan Todd
At the conclusion of the Sentry Tournament of Champions last year, Todd was ranked 2,006 in the Official World Golf Ranking, a spot at the bottom of the rankings that he shared with 6,636 other players who had made an official start in a ranking event but didn’t make a cut. Todd ended the year 63rd in the rankings meaning that he jumped 1,943 spots the biggest climb of anyone. The second biggest jump came from Collin Morikawa who today is 66th in the ranking, he too also started the year 2,006 and moved up 1,941 in the rankings.