The 17th at Sawgrass
In my writings recently, I've inferred that the tour professionals are maybe not quite as good as we are led to believe, at least from the shorter ranges. Granted, you see them hit lots of shots that just cover the flags, but remember that the television broadcast is very selective. They get to scan the video of every shot hit in an event and sort them to show you the best ones. The only mediocre-to-poor shots that you get to see are the ones hit by the leaders in the final holes.

I offer as Exhibit #1 the shot that Rory McIlroy hit on #7 at Augusta a few weeks ago. He was dead center of the fairway, 121 yards from the hole and yanked it 45-50 feet long and left, into a greenside bunker that shouldn't have even been in play for that hole location. He made bogey and fell further down the leaderboard on a hole that should have yielded a good birdie putt at least.

That happened because Rory apparently doesn't have that shot. It was a "bad number" for him, as they say too often. In examination, you'll see that he carries a pitching wedge that goes 135-140 and a 54* wedge that goes 105-110. He genuinely doesn't have that 121 club. And that just amazes me.

Exhibit #2 is one you can watch the next few days. The 17th at Sawgrass has been notorious for years. Diabolical. Stunningly difficult. Why? It's 135 yards, for Petes' sake? A golfer making his living on the PGA Tour should be able to hit a shot into the middle of that green 99% of the time at worst. Shouldn't he?

But the stats show something entirely different. Tracking all 4,363, shots from 2003 until last year show that a full 11% have been dunked. More than one out of ten. You've got to be kidding, right? This is tracking all shots, over all four days. And for four years — 2005-2008 — the percentages were 15%, 13%, 21% and 15%. That blew me away. It's a pitching wedge or soft 9-iron shot. For the best players in the world at the time. And they dunk as many as one out of five into the pond?

Tiny target you say? Of course it is. It's supposed to test the best players in the world. But at 3,900 square feet, it's roughly a 70-foot circle. If you aim at the dead center of the green, you have to hit it more than 35 feet off line, short or long to miss it. My bet is that most of the shots are missed short and right.

So, have fun watching these guys then think about how you might fare on that hole. How many out of ten do you think you could hit somewhere on the green? From 135 it should be a pretty good number.

I'm hoping this one lights you guys up a bit. Let me know what you think about this opinion, and what topics more related to helping you score you'd like to see me address in the coming weeks.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.

[ comments ]
jasonfish11 says:
Most of the dunks on that hole are when the pin is up front of in the back right (sunday). If they stuck the pin dead center of that green do you think 10% of the balls would make splashdown? I doubt it would be more than 3%, with the pin dead center.

These guys aren't aiming for dead center. From 150 in they are looking for birdie. So when the pin is front they are trying to land it short of the ridge so they will have an easier birdie put. This probably makes the green they are trying to hit about 25% of the total green's surface.

Same thing with the back right pin placement.

Should they be taking such a risk/reward approach on that hole is the correct question. Given that even par was tied somewhere in the 30's or 40s yesterday, I think they need to be birdie hunting every time they are inside 150 if they want to win.

If this hole was in the US Open and -3 would win after 72 holes then put the ball in the middle of the green take your 2 putt and move on.
Anti-Mulligan says:
Terry makes a great point. These guys are really good but their proximity to the hole on 150 and in is not as magical as we see on TV. We only see the guys who are "on" that week and are playing perfect. They also play greens a ton larger than all of us do so a GIR is worth more to us than them. From 150 and in, anthing inside 20 feet should be considered a good shot.
Anti-Mulligan says:
Terry - can you do a post on flighting your more lofted clubs down when into or with the wind? I am fine 4i-7i but 8i through wedges are tough as the continually find ways to balloon even after I put weight on my front front, play the ball back and make an easier swing.
birdieXris says:
Terry congratulations on Scor4161 getting the most votes on the tested wedges in this month's golf magazine. Of the 40 players that tested wedges, more picked the 4161 than the other big names. Just sayin.
Banker85 says:
seems a lot of guys were in between a PW and aGW or sw YESTERDAY at 124 yards i believe.
jrbizzle says:
I usually like Terry's advice for us amateurs. But suggesting that PGA Tour players may not be as good as we think is all kinds of wrong. My cousin is a Master PGA Professional, he runs a high end golf course in Florida and he visits us here in the midwestna couple times a year. Last year we begged him to come play a round. He's 6'3", and hem borrowed my Dad's standard length Pro Select cavity backs form the mid 1990s. He shot 3 over.
Why do I say that...because he tried multiple times to make a run at the pros. He barely cracked the regional tour leader boards. Any of us, Terry include, has NO business criticizing pros, because we do not know one single thing about the pressure that these guys play under and the difficulty of the courses they play on. Due to the set ups and lengths of pro courses, they say a typical touring pro is anywher from a plus 4 to a plus 10 handicap. And if you know the exponential difficulty of shaving strokes from a handicap, you will realize how insanely good they are.
falcon50driver says:
The Coushatta golf course has a 19th hole fashioned after that hole. A buddy and I played it three times one day, I hit the center all three times and took his money all three times.
onedollarwed says:
One of our local courses has an island green; tee boxes range from about 100yds, all the way back to 175 or so. It's not terribly small, but it is wide and shallow. It's sloped back to front slightly, but the center portion doesn't hold at all. The left side is deeper and holds well; the right side has very little depth. Hole location is very important.
So if you step up to the tee and the yardage works out evenly to your club you don't worry - take a normal swing. If you start thinking too much about adding or subtracting a little, all sort of stupid things happen.
Pressure can kill in these situations - which I think is what we're all talking about. But while we may struggle in nailing down every 5-yard increment, wouldn't these guys/gals have it sorted?
Werepuppie says:
Sergio loves the 17th:)
Scott Shields says:
jrbizzle nailed it. The hardest course, on the biggest stages, with the most at stake, in a precison sport. These guys are good. Maybe the whole green complex is a 70 foot circle, but I'm sure in their minds eye, all they see is a 10 foot circle around a pin ... tucked into a corner, with cross wind...oh yea, and millions watching on TV, and a live audience just drooling over the chance of seeing drama.

I have to disagree here with you Terry.
sigmapete1 says:
I agree that the pros are not as good as we think they are...they are much better than most of us can even fathom.
C-4 says:
Like Jack said...anyone can make a 3 foot put...but try making on with a crane shoved up your ass...pressure is a mother!
joe jones says:
If Ben Hogan played that hole I think the chances that he would miss the green would be slim to none. He never aimed for sucker pins. Always played to the best position on the green that would give him the best chance to putt. When any pro challenges a sucker pin his chances of pulling the shot off decrease tremendously. That is the true meaning of a risk, reward hole. People knock 17 but it is good for the game and identifies smart players while punishes the ones that want to gamble.
wedgeguy says:
All I'm saying is that the statistics don't lie. These guys are not as precise on ALL shots inside 9-iron range as you might think. They have gaps between clubs in short range that are 2-3 times their gaps at long range and that makes no sense. You're right about the pressure. And when you have to carve up 20-25 yard gaps between your short irons and wedges, you're much more likely to fail. As we saw on Sunday.
Anti-Mulligan says:
JRBIZZLE - Honestly I think you and Terry are in agreement here. We are all so impressed with the Pro game and most of us know how insanely hard it is to make it out there. Their ability to go low and hit incredible shots is so good it makes you shake your head. What he is saying is you don't see for example Dustin Johnson's shots all this week when he wasn't "on". DJ is so good but averaging all his shots (even the mediocre and bad ones) creating this actual differential. Terry's point is even these guys struggle on a huge green with a wedge in their hand who practice everyday, give yourself a break. Great article at golfwrx on similar subject.
onedollarwed says:
Don't forget though, that any particular golfer has real ups and downs - which is like the rest of us. If you're watching the best play every Sunday only the absolute cream of the cream is being shown: qualified for tournament, made cut, in contention on Sunday, with caddie/ training/ usually in their prime/ having a good year, etc. etc.
jrbizzle says:
I'll quote a few stats from the PGA Tour:

The top 88 guys on tour average a less than 20 foot putt when approaching the green from 100-125 yards.
From 75-100, the top 163 all put it within 20 feet on average.
From 50-75 yards the top 25 guys put it within 10 feet.
That's from the fairway.

From all shot from the rough between 50-125 yards, the top 84 put the ball within 25 feet of the hole. And we all know what the rough looks like on the PGA tour.

Yes, some of their gaps on the low end of the set may be wide. But the reason for that is the length of PGA tour courses. These guys can not afford to sacrifice distance week after week to close gaps on the short end. If you can't hit greens from 175-225 yards out with regularity you won't stay on tour.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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