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Thursday
Nov232017

Shark Talks Weakness Of Today's Players Inside 150, Why The Masters Can Make Players Use Anything They'd Like

We forget that when Greg Norman is not hawking golf carts and posting shirtless Instagram images, he can be a keen observer of the game.

In an interview with an unbylined Gant News writer filing for the CNN affiliate, Norman touches on Patrick Reed knowing so little about his clubs, LPGA players being more accurate with their drivers and many other topics.

But the two getting my attention involved what he sees as a big change in the prowess of today's players with a wedge approach (inside, gulp, 150 yards).

“If you look at today’s top players, their distance control inside 150 yards with a wedge is quite amazingly poor,” he said.

“These guys are 20ft short, 30ft left, 20ft long, their distance control is not consistent. It could just be the way they play — when it works, it works and when it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

“In our era, every time you’d put a pitching wedge in your hand, if you didn’t think you’d get the ball inside 10ft every time, or seven out of 10 times, you weren’t having any control over your golf game.”

I do see this in watching many of today's players compared to Norman's era and wonder what the exact cause is that makes Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson such standouts in this distance.

On the topic of distance, Norman agrees with others that this is about sustainability and Augusta National could be the solution.

“I remember the eighth hole at Augusta was nearly impossible to reach in two and now these guys are hitting irons in there,” said Norman who finished second three times at The Masters, perhaps most notably in 1996 when he blew a six-shot lead and Nick Faldo took the green jacket.

“Augusta can’t lengthen itself anymore but the tech is going to allow these players to keep hitting it longer year after year.

“If they sent out an invitation to the players and said ‘you’re going to use a gutter percha ball and a hickory shafted golf club, go get them worked out, practice before you get there, the best player will still win that week.

“The best players have that ability to make that adjustment no matter what they’re using.”

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Reader Comments (27)

In 1981 I saw Tom Watson hit 8 at ANGC in two with driver, driver. I believe that Jordan Spieth hit it last year with a 3-wood, 3-iron.

Crazy.

By the way, that "inside 10 feet" didn't work so well on 18 at Inverness.
11.23.2017 | Unregistered CommenterHardy Greaves
True on Inverness, Hardy. Norman was likely unaware a kid living Sarasota, FL, spent a lot of time at Bobby Jones GC separating locals from their money with his short game ;-)
11.23.2017 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
Said the guy who used to land it in the back rough to access a back pin.

I'm with him on the tech comments, but he was notorious for poor short iron spin control-resulting in poor distance control to certain pins.

I will say watching him negotiate ANGC in the early-mid 80's with his persimmon driver raw power and control was one of the highlights of my 43 years of attending the event.
Those who think pro golf would be less exciting with a equipment rollback mis the fact that distance is relative to scale-as in seeing live a baseball hit 400 or 500 feet is epic and doable by few, but is still only "165 yards and in" stuff.
11.23.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Warne
i believe its "gutta" percha, correct or no?
11.23.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDrew Scott
He’s got a point about ANGC ability to do whatever they want regarding equipment.

It would be great to see em haul out a few giant display bags filled with persimmon drivers onto the range Monday morning with a sign “Toonamint spec Drivahs”
11.23.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJohnnnycz
High MOI irons apparently can cause a lot of variance on shots. so you can't get nearly as accurate of "touch" as with a muscleback blade with the weight directly behind the sweetspot (instead of spread across the entire clubface)
11.23.2017 | Unregistered CommenterConfused
"Those who think pro golf would be less exciting with a equipment rollback mis the fact that distance is relative to scale-as in seeing live a baseball hit 400 or 500 feet is epic and doable by few, but is still only "165 yards and in" stuff."

Bingo!
11.23.2017 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
The excitement in golf is in the short game. Period!
You don't have to be Greg Norman to figure that out.
11.23.2017 | Unregistered CommenterZimmer
Greg's talking out of his rear end on the wedge stuff. He was one of the worst with a wedge, too.

Zach Johnson averaged over 19' from 100-125 yards (in the fairway). DUSTIN Johnson averaged a foot closer, and thus 32 spots higher, at 19th. Phil Mickelson? Almost 21' and back in 109th place.

https://www.pgatour.com/stats/stat.074.2017.html

The stats are a little bit better back in 2002, but that could be explained when you consider how close the holes are cut to the edges of the greens. If they're well away from the edge, you can go right at it. If they're on the edge, you've gotta err toward the side with more green.
11.23.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
Who cares what that blowhole thinks?
11.23.2017 | Unregistered CommenterChicago pt
Well, his comments about wedge play in his era are complete and utter bullshit.

In his extensive data collection during that time, Dave Pelz found that Tour pros average error with full shots was about 7% of the distance.

But with the wedges, that went up to about 15%.

IOW, their average distance to the hole was worse from 100 yards than it was from 150 yards. And the change was almost all from distance errors.

On full shots, they were very good at hitting it the right distance, on short shots they were very good at hitting it on the correct line.

Greg is, as we all know, delusional.
11.24.2017 | Unregistered Commenterkenoneputt
@Ken, 15% of 100 yards is a 15 yard miss. That’s 18 handicap level. Sure your facts are good?
11.24.2017 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
Ken, that’s not what Pelz discovered. The bit about distance control with wedges/ short irons versus accuracy control with longer clubs is correct...what was most enlightening, that I think you’ve misunderstood, is that the percentage error was very consistent. 5% for the leaders and 7% or 8% as an average if I remember correctly.
11.24.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJS
Distance control quips, from the guy who led the tour in greens hit and spun off?
11.24.2017 | Unregistered CommenterAGN
Greg Norman
Hard worker. world number 1 331 weeks
P Thomas. Hard worker Never in top 100
Geoff Shackelford Good writer 78.36 college scoring average

Easy to make fun of Greg's retirement self promotion, tough to make fun of his game from my perspective
11.24.2017 | Unregistered CommenterP Thomas
Tway, Mize, Nicklaus, Calcavecchia, Faldo, etc., etc., etc. Ghosts of Christmases past.
11.24.2017 | Unregistered CommenterFC
Hawkeye ans JS:

While my shortened version of his stats is a little misleading and easily misinterpreted, Pelz did indeed find that as the PGA Tour pros of the 80s moved from full swings, to partial swings, their average PEI went from ~7% to mid-teens.

My post did misstate it a bit. The 15% error wasn't necessarily from 100 yards exactly. But given a 50- to 60-yard shot, the pros did make an average distance error of about 20 feet.

This is directly from Pelz Short Game Bible:

"On average, the Tour players had–and still have–about 7% error in their full swings: 5% was the very best, 10% shots were poor. A 1% or 2% error shot was truly rare, while 15% to 20% was awful, and also very rare. Every player-every one, bar none -had a very different PEI for his full swing than for his wedges which was usually at least twice and, for some players, three times as high. Tom Simons was 8% with his full swing, but about 17% with his wedges which is more than twice as bad. Andy North was 7.3% with his full swing and 16% with his wedges, while Kite was 7.5% and 13% respectively. These were three among the better wedge results."
11.24.2017 | Unregistered Commenterkenoneputt
With the amount of wedges these guys hit these days, they should be within 10 feet...7/10 times, as Norman states (I think). I also think there may be something in the club design variance. Anyone who has watched McIroy's wedge game in the last 12 months and his floundering to achieve consistency to the point that the words 'McIlroy from 120, Gap Wedge' starts a drinking game may think the same.
11.24.2017 | Unregistered CommenterCenter Cut
The ball is also better for wedge play, much easier to control in the wind and on the ground than a balata
11.25.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDJ21
@Ken, thanks for the clarification.

As for Norman’s wedge play, he did have well documented problems with spin control in the 80s. But he did improve a lot with his shorter, more compact Butch Harmon swing in the 90s - he was especially amazing with his short irons during his wins at S:t George’s in ‘93 and Sawgrass in ‘94. Not many on Tour these days could give that version of him a match with the wedge.
11.25.2017 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
I appreciate CNN Sport conducting their Greg Norman interview over the phone... that saved us the obligatory accompanying photo(s) of Greg in some level of taking his clothes off...

But on Greg's comments themselves... I see where he's coming from on the wedge control thing... but the fact is today's Tour level golf requires emphasis on different skill-sets than when Greg was playing. But of course great wedge play would benefit any player of any era, but the advancement in clubs and ball (and analytics) have taken some of the emphasis off of "ball striking" and shifted it to "around and on the greens".
11.25.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRobopz
"Greg Norman
Hard worker. world number 1 331 weeks
P Thomas. Hard worker Never in top 100
Geoff Shackelford Good writer 78.36 college scoring average"

Brad Stevens, high school basketball star, successful small college player, never set foot on a pro basketball court, arguably the best basketball mind and coach in the NBA. Five seconds left, in bounds play, do we let Hall of Fame players Shaq or Barkley draw it up or Stevens?
11.25.2017 | Unregistered CommenterKPK
Cleverly omitted the last part of my post.

My OP was simply pointing out the absurdity of some talking garbage about an amazing players' game.

There' kind of a creepy infatuation about all things Norman here at times
11.25.2017 | Unregistered CommenterP Thomas
"There' kind of a creepy infatuation about all things Norman here at times"

Greg Norman was a great player. Many here maybe don't realize how dominant he was for a stretch. But Greg Norman is a bizarre guy who begs for relevancy any way he can.
11.25.2017 | Unregistered CommenterKPK
In the 1980s a number of players contracted to use equipment that wasn't really suited to them. I'm not sure about the Spalding Tour Edition ball he played in that time. The "zinthane" cover gave it a helluva spin and it sometimes hard to control the back spin. That's probably what we're remembering.
11.26.2017 | Unregistered CommenterClaude
No creepy infatuation. Greg Norman has simply become a creeper, as the kidz say, always undressing for the camera. And I say this as a near-exact contemporary of the Great White Shark who loved his game. Even, especially, when he was the best at winning the first three rounds of a Major.

"That Greg Norman, he spins the ball too much."
-Ken Venturi
That is indeed what we are remembering. As Ol' Ken also said, you can know how much a ball will go forward, but it is impossible to know how far back it will spin. And Norman could spin it back 30 yards or more. Especially on certain famous holes against certain assassins.
11.26.2017 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
I'm afraid Greg's memory of how close the tour players of his era hit their wedges and today's players is a bit foggy. I'm 74 and saw a lot of tour play in the 60's through mid 90's and every era thinks they were better if they allow "old man memory" to intervene. Greg's memory of leading every major on sat night in 86 and winning NONE is foggy too! Shut up Norman(these current players are good also) you are sounding like an angry old guy.
11.27.2017 | Unregistered CommenterD Sanguinetti

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