Masters recap: Tiger got what he deserved, so did Zach Johnson

mulligan, 09 April 2007, Comments Off on Masters recap: Tiger got what he deserved, so did Zach Johnson
Categories: masters, tiger, zach johnson

Finally, it caught up with Tiger, in the same way it caught up with Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot. If you look at Tiger’s game, he has no weaknesses, except for one: his driving. He ranks 160th on tour in driving accuracy, at 55.36%. That’s his worst overall ranking of all his standard stats. His absolute worst stat, by far.

Anyone who watches Tiger regularly knows that he’s prone to hit the drive right in the same way Phil Mickelson is prone to hit the banana left. It’s one of the reasons Tiger shelved Butch Harmon for Hank Haney. In many cases, Tiger can get away with his errant drives with his scrambling or because of the easiness of the course. (At the British last year, Tiger went a different route, hitting 2-iron off the tee most of the way.) In the end, Augusta National punished Tiger for his wayward drives, even forcing Tiger to sacrifice one of his irons in the final round that he hit against the tree to get out of the woods. That’s what the “Tiger-proofing” of Augusta was all about.

By contrast, Zach Johnson hit over 80% of the fairways at the Masters, which was tied for the second best average during the tourney. Zach hits it much shorter (265 yard average) than Tiger off the tee, but sometimes you don’t need to bomb it to win. Of all of Zach’s individual stats, his driving accuracy was the highest this past week.

Looking at the numbers, I’ve finally come around to agree with Jack Nicklaus: there’s something really messed up about golf with all the equipment changes today. The new high-tech drivers have seduced the top players to go for more distance off the tee, while sacrificing accuracy. Just check out the PGA statistics. You can search the driving accuracy stats from 1980 to today. During that time, the longest drivers on tour have gained 40 yards average. But, at the same time, the top golfers on tour no longer get close to the 70 percent accuracy range or higher that used to be the case with many of the top players, such as Greg Norman in 1988 or Jack Nicklaus in 1980. Unlike in the past, most of the top golfers today are “bombers” with lots of distance, but little accuracy. That’s why Retief Goosen got trigger shy on the back nine and hit iron off the par-5 13th. Goosen’s ranked 149th in driving accuracy.

Until the PGA does something to regulate the hot drivers, I applaud golf courses like Augusta National that punish the bombers for missing the fairway so often. Nike and Taylor Made should be working on a driver that goes less far, but in the fairway more often. Distance is overrated. After all, what good is Sasquatch when he’s in the woods?


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