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The Wedge Guy: Why modern irons don’t make sense to me



One of the things that really bothers me about most of the newer iron models that are introduced is the continued strengthening of the lofts — I just don’t see how this is really going to help many golfers. The introduction of driver and hybrid technologies into the irons – thinner faster faces, tungsten inserts and filling the heads with some kind of polymer material – is all with the goal of producing higher ball flight with lower spin. But is that what you really want?

I’ll grant you that this technology makes the lower lofts much easier to master, and has given many more golfers confidence with their 5- and 6-irons, maybe even their 4- and 5-. But are higher launch and lower spin desirable in your shorter irons? I’ve always believed those clubs from 35 degrees on up should be designed for precision distance control, whether full swings are when you are “taking something off,” and I just don’t see that happening with a hollow, low CG design.

Even worse, with lofts being continually cranked downward, most modern game improvement sets have a “P-club” as low as 42-43 degrees of loft. Because that simply cannot function as a “wedge”, the iron brands are encouraging you to add in an “A-club” to fill the distance void between that and your gap wedge.

But as you ponder these new iron technologies, here’s something to realize . . . and think about.

Discounting your putter, you have 13 clubs in your bag to negotiate a golf course. At one end, you have a driver of 10-12 degrees of loft, and at the other end your highest lofted wedge of say, 58 to 60 degrees. So, that’s a spread of 46 to 50 degrees. The mid-point of that spread is somewhere around 35 degrees, the iron in your bag that probably has an “8” on the bottom.

Now consider this: From that 35-degree 8-iron downward, you have a progression of clubhead designs, from the iron design, to hybrids, to fairway woods to your driver, maybe even a “driving iron” design as a bridge between your lowest set-match iron to your hybrids. At least four, if not five, completely different clubhead designs.

But in the other direction, from 35 degrees to that highest lofted wedge, you likely only have two designs – your set-match irons and your wedges, each of which all essentially look alike, regardless of loft.
I feel certain that no one in the history of golf ever said:

“I really like my 6-iron; can you make me a 3-wood that looks like that?”

But do you realize the loft difference between your 6-iron and 3-wood is only 12-14 degrees, even less than that between your 6-iron and “P-club”? So, if you can’t optimize an iron design to perform at both 28 and 15 degrees, how can you possibly expect to be able to optimize the performance of one design at both 28 and 43 degrees?

And you darn sure won’t get your best performance by applying 6-iron technology to an “A-club” of 48 to 50 degrees.

This fact of golf club performance is why you see so many “blended” sets of irons in bags these days, where a golfer has a higher-tech iron design in the lower lofts, but a more traditional blade or “near blade” design in the higher lofts. This makes much more sense than trying to play pure blade long irons or “techy” higher lofts.

Most of my column posts are oriented to offering a solution to a problem you might have in your game, but this one doesn’t. As long as the industry is focused on the traditional notion of “matched sets,” meaning all the irons look alike, I just don’t see how any golfer is going to get an optimum set of irons without lots of trial and error and piecing together a set of irons where each one works best for the job you give it.

If you want to see how an elite player has done this for his own game, do some reading on “what’s in the bag” for Bernhard Langer. Very interesting indeed.

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Terry Koehler is a fourth generation Texan and a graduate of Texas A&M University. Over his 40-year career in the golf industry, he has created over 100 putter designs, sets of irons and drivers, and in 2014, he put together the team that reintroduced the Ben Hogan brand to the golf equipment industry. Since the early 2000s, Terry has been a prolific writer, sharing his knowledge as “The Wedge Guy”.   But his most compelling work is in the wedge category. Since he first patented his “Koehler Sole” in the early 1990s, he has been challenging “conventional wisdom” reflected in ‘tour design’ wedges. The performance of his wedge designs have stimulated other companies to move slightly more mass toward the top of the blade in their wedges, but none approach the dramatic design of his Edison Forged wedges, which have been robotically proven to significantly raise the bar for wedge performance. Terry serves as Chairman and Director of Innovation for Edison Golf – check it out at



  1. Murv

    Dec 2, 2022 at 12:52 pm

    I’ll be 79 for next season. A couple of years ago I had a short trial with a 7 wood. Didn’t like it. Put it back in last fall and loved it. Looking for a 9 wood. Will go from 2 fairways and 3 hybrids to 4 woods and 1 hybrid then the 7 iron. Sad when you can’t elevate hybrids anymore. 44 set pw. 49, 54 and 58 wedges.

  2. Neville Hubbard

    Dec 2, 2022 at 11:23 am

    I have 16.5° 3-wood, 19°, 23°, 25° hybrids, 27.5° 7-iron, 31° 7-iron, then conventionally lofted clubs to a 44° pitching wedge, 50° gap wedge, 56° sand wedge and, I’m ashamed to say, a chipper!!! It works for me!!!

  3. WiTerrp

    Dec 2, 2022 at 11:19 am

    By trial and error, my set reflects your opinion. In the under 90 mph driver head speed, I only routinely carry 7-P irons. My gap wedge is a Vokey, not the set 48 iron. The wedge is far better at feel shots and the P can cover shots that I would use the 48. The 6 iron is replaced by a 25 hybrid. I have both the 6 and 48 irons, but only carry the 6I based on a specific par 3 distances Since adding the wedge, the 48 is pretty much just for set resale value.

    Having lost club head speed, the promise of more distance doesn’t impress me much. When an iron can’t give me 10+ yards over the previous iron, time to add another hybrid.

  4. Larry "Bud" Melman

    Dec 2, 2022 at 1:41 am

    Naw bruh, I want 4 irons in the bag and 7 wedges. That’s just how I roll.

  5. David Aceto

    Dec 1, 2022 at 5:48 pm

    good article my irons start 31 to 33 degrees to 36 to 41 to 46 to 51 degrees 5 degree gaps due to my 65 mph clubhead speed with a iron the only speciality is i use r9 tp b irons for my 8 9 and pitching wedge works out great

  6. Rob

    Dec 1, 2022 at 5:40 pm

    Overfocusing on Loft is just as bad as overfocusing on the number on the bottom of the club.

    Loft, and especially static loft, is only one variable in the equation. Work backwards from your ideal ball flight, distances, forgiveness, and feel instead.

    Whatever that loft, length, clubhead, and shaft is, let that be.

    • Jeff

      Dec 3, 2022 at 10:26 pm

      Many golf ball OEM’S when working with their various tour staff. Start working with their staff from the green to their drivers. The player wants the sound and feel of the ball around the green. Shows the importance of having the right ball for the short game.

  7. Edward Gambler

    Dec 1, 2022 at 5:21 pm

    You loft jack complainers miss out on one important factor. Shorter shafts are easier to hit and easier to hit straight. So putting a 7 iron loft on an eight iron shaft immediately makes that distance easier to manage for the average and sub average golfer. Simple fact.
    You claim we shouldn’t care what number is on the club, but it seems to me you’re the ones who get all bent out of shape with the number not meaning what you want it to. Lighten up…I went from about 6 GIR per round with my traditionally lofted irons to over ten with my new PXGs. All that extra distance with shorter shafts and more forgiveness has been an absolute Godsend.

    • Philip

      Dec 2, 2022 at 9:33 am

      You only posted to brag you paid a ridiculous amount of money for clubs made by a dope. I a 5 and he’s ? right… I even published an article about this very topic when I was marketing Director for a HIGH END boutique club maker

  8. Mark Blake

    Dec 1, 2022 at 4:02 pm

    The number on the club matters because 8 iron and above is a different shape to 7 iron down. i guess because 8 iron is formerly a ‘pitching’ club, and therefore is used for different shotmaking.

    So yes its ridiculous to have an 8 iron at <40 deg of loft, because that means a golfer needs even more wedges.

    One day golfers will be advised to drop the "hard to hit" short irons, and just use some hybrids then a 30 degree wedge, then more wedges. Then they will call it a 1 wedge and so on.

  9. Kourt

    Dec 1, 2022 at 11:13 am

    This dude just loves blades, which is fine, but I’ve seen many high handicap golfers find much more joy in their games by playing game improvement irons. Even with my dad switching to cbx cavity wedges has helped him. Yes if you’re an elite striker they might not be “as precise” but for most high handicappers they are just trying to avoid bunkers and hit more greens.

    • Livininparadise

      Dec 9, 2022 at 11:57 am

      I have to agree with you. Many high handicapped golfers can’t hit blade style wedges any better than they could a 1 iron. I notice that their distance is very inconsistent with blade style wedges, which causes them more issues than direction.

      This article is for some players. Most players should get fitted and not worry about what Bernhard Langer is hitting

  10. Reality

    Dec 1, 2022 at 4:29 am

    I’ve never been happier than with my new Titleist T300’s. I play Driver, 23 Hybrid, 7, 8, 9, P, W1, W2, 56Vokey and 60Vokey. I am 72 years old with a handicap of 26 and am hitting my 7 iron 15 yards further than when I was 34 years old playing off 2!

  11. sandtrap

    Dec 1, 2022 at 4:11 am

    Pickles I think one of the main points in this debate is that some manufacturers choose to make their 9 irons with 37 or 38deg lofts while a traditional 7 iron might be 36 or 37deg. These manufacturers know full well that the average person comes out of a club fitting thinking ‘Gee I hit those INSERT BRAND NAME HERE’s 9 iron(not knowing it is 38deg)just as far as INSERT BRAND NAME HERE’s 7 iron (nearly the same loft)… They must be the superior club!’

    This is completely deceitful and all it is accomplishing is moving the goal posts. I can’t wait until the day when we are all playing bag consisting of a Driver then a 21 deg 9iron, and then F, O, E, Q, J, X, A, G, P, S and L wedge. The only realistic way to get around this would be to label every club by degrees instead of a number or have industry regulations as to what loft within a degree, belongs on each iron. Then manufacturers would actually be able to sell the clubs due to the actual characteristics and engineering of the club eg.higher launch/steeper descent angle, more forgiving etc.

    One writer on WRX argued your same point just as poorly a few years ago after publishing an obvious paid advertisement/review/article by an OEM who had strengthened their lofts considerably in one line of irons and stating that they were revolutionary in terms of length.

    However , the only real objective way to compare clubs from a performance perspective is to eliminate as many of the variables as possible and making a decision from there. Same shaft, same flex, same loft, same ball and even as far as same grip and number of papers. However OEM’s knowing that their 8iron is actually a 6.5 iron and still marketing it as an 8 is taking advantage of Average Joe’s ignorance of what they are ACTUALLY hitting.

    FYI- I hit my F-Wedge further than your 4 iron 😉

    • Jeff

      Dec 3, 2022 at 11:36 pm

      1. Never going to get industry standards. Clubs, balls, shafts, etc. Different strokes for different fokes.
      2. Stamping/loft on an iron doesn’t work! We saw that did not work a few years back. I don’t want to have to pull out a piece of paper and match the number to the iron I am playing. That will certainly slow play and we already have that problem!!
      3.All OEM’s have on their web sites the specs of their irons. So they are not hiring their lofts
      4. Do you only buy one shirt color or pants color?

    • Jeff

      Dec 3, 2022 at 11:42 pm

      Paper? Did you mean wraps/tape?Looks like your advocating bifurification. Typo on previous email OEM’S not hiring their specs

    • Pickles

      Dec 6, 2022 at 11:42 pm

      Sandtrap, I’d guess we agree on more than disagree. Agreed, many buyers may get confused by loft changes over the last decade. But to be fair, lofts have been strengthening since the modern balata era. At one point, your “traditional” 37 degree 7 iron would’ve been considered strong.

      However, you are missing the main points from my post. The author contends that consumers are hurt because OEMs design short irons exactly as they do long irons. My rebuttal was that I disagreed that OEMs do this, giving examples of specific iron sets that contradict authors point.
      Additionally, I disagreed with the premise that irons should have an even spread of loft because loft’s impact on distance is correlated with speed. As speed decreases, so too does the impact of loft. Test for yourself, tweak a 64 degree wedge one degree and note the distance change. (Or go to the extreme and tweak your putter). Then tweak your driver a degree and note the change. Surely if you have access to a boutique club fitter you could obtain the data. All loft degrees are not equal, thus it is illogical to gap a set purely on loft. In my set, I don’t care what the number on the sole is, I care how far it goes. Happy to carry a 4iron as my longest, or a 2, whichever hits my number.

      FYI- funny quip about your f wedge. Afraid you’re probably overconfident tho; my college degree was free thanks to golf ?

  12. jamho3

    Nov 30, 2022 at 5:20 pm


    I know this matches your club making agenda, but at the same time I still appreciate your being willing to take this on and spread the truth and this perspective. Keep it up.

  13. O_o

    Nov 30, 2022 at 2:48 pm

    Fittings over the last 4 years have shown me that the average golfer really isn’t interested in improving their game realistically anyway, and it’s obvious that these equipment companies know that. If hitting a 6 iron an extra 15 yards means something to Joe the 27 handicap, more power to him. Whatever makes you enjoy the game

    • Jeff

      Dec 3, 2022 at 11:45 pm

      I haven’t met anyone yet who wants to hit it shorter! Age will allow that to happen.LOL

  14. Common sense.

    Nov 30, 2022 at 2:42 pm

    Ego and salesmanship is the answer. You can sell a 130 yard pitching wedge alot easier than a 110 yard pw.

  15. Clayton

    Nov 30, 2022 at 2:14 pm

    I agree, but well thought out irons like my Mizuno 223 have a more “wedge like” 8 to Pw based off 46*. A bit strong but nothing crazy. That being said, I’m planning on reshafting some classic CB irons I have based off a 48* PW, bending them all a degree weak and seeing how I like that wider spread from 3 to PW, gaining a long iron slot but not losing my “GW” loft (49-51) that I use so much every round. It’ll just be called a PW again like it was in the 1990-2010s.

  16. Matts

    Nov 30, 2022 at 2:10 pm

    I agree that current modern day iron sets (4 iron to PW) have too many clubs with lofts less than forty degrees and often with only three or two and a half degrees of loft between clubs, for most average golfers. If you cannot hold a green with a long iron, you should change to a hybrid or a lofted fairway wood if those clubs can.

    • Matts

      Nov 30, 2022 at 2:21 pm

      To expand further, the golfer of average driver swing speed (90 to 95 mph) needs a WITB of driver, fairway wood/s, hybrid/s, irons and specialist wedges, meaning buying a set of irons (4I through PW) is wasteful because one should not be putting some of those irons in your bag.

  17. Pickles

    Nov 30, 2022 at 1:12 pm

    First, I don’t agree with the general argument because it’s circular. If loft is such a critical determinant, why should one care if their set is a 5-A instead of a 4-P? Even with your point about a 6 iron being so close to a 3 wood, why does that matter if it’s the longest iron in one’s bag (and how many people should even carry a 15 fairway anymore)?

    Second, a degree of loft doesn’t have a linear impact on distance relative to speed. As clubspeed decreases, more loft is required to impact distance. A degree of loft difference with a driver could account for 20 yards, a 59 degree wedge might only carry 3 yards further than a 60 degree. Surely this should impact one’s set makeup more than sticking to an arbitrary loft spread.

    Last the author argues that OEM’s make short irons the same as long. Unfortunately, OEM’s have been incorporating blended sets into one for a decade or more. Taylormade RBZ Tour, Titleist AP2, etc, have had game improvement tech in the long irons (slots, tungsten) with more basic/traditional short irons. This might not even be expressly necessary; as loft increases, the value of these game improvement aspects diminishes.

    • Cucumbers

      Dec 1, 2022 at 3:00 am

      Extremely well said

    • Livininparadise

      Dec 9, 2022 at 12:08 pm

      Pickles, yes.

      Kohler should know this and any article like this that does not give a brief overview of moden club design is disingenuous.

      In an effort to make clubs easier to hit, manufacturers have lowered the center of gravity. If traditional lofts were utilized, everyone would just pop the ball up, so lofts have to be dialed down. The result happens to be a club that does hit the ball further, but also is easier to hit. However, just because clubs are easier to hit does not take into consideration lack of practice and lack of overall ability. They players that have benefited from easier to hit clubs get closer to the green in regulation. However, talent gets the ball into the hole.

  18. Raj LP

    Nov 30, 2022 at 11:34 am

    This quest for low spin and distance has been interesting to me as well but I am a higher swing speed player so I have P770s which are a more traditional lofted. I find those go a specific distance more consistently. Whereas, the modern lofted irons gave me a pretty big variance on distance. I guess the manufacturers point is that, by moving COG lower, the trajectory of a longer shot will give it the same height and landing iron of a shorter iron. Hence, it enables lower swing speed hitters to reach greens further away and still hold them.

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Opinion & Analysis

2023 American Express: Betting Tips & Selections



Last week’s Sony Open saw the unusual occurrence of a top-10 devoid of a name that had played the Tournament of Champions, and yet eventual champion Si Woo Kim won his fourth PGA event, all on Bermuda greens.

Sometimes, like picking the week that a poor putter knocks in 30-footers, it’s just picking the right stat on the right day.

The tour makes the annual return to southern California for the charity pro-am event, where in its 63 history many courses have played host to the great and the good of the entertainment world. And Bill Murray.

For us, concerned with only who might win and at what price, we return to a three course rotation on which one one player in the last 16 years has won in under 20-under and an in an event that has seen four of the last 10 winners start at triple figures, with Adam Long going off at 500-1+.

Put simply, the set-up is too easy to enjoy it too much, players won’t miss many greens, and, as Adam Long said, “you can make a lot of putts because these greens on all three courses are just perfect. So you can make them from all over.”

The front of the market is classier than normally found here, but with the combined price of the top eight, we are asked to take around 4-6 that any of those win. Sure, that’s highly likely, but many of that octet have thrown away winning chances over the last few months, and the obvious man to beat, Jon Rahm, threw his hands in the air last year, calling this a less than satisfactory set-up.

In an event that is worth looking at after the cut – the average halfway position of winners over the last five years is 8th – the suggestion is to play a touch lighter than usual, with just two selections in the pre-event market.

Short tracks that reward consistent tee-to-green and putting efforts see me look for ‘The Real JT’ at every opportunity, and at 60/1 I can’t resist putting James Tyree Poston up as the best of the week.

Winner of the 2019 Wyndham Championship in 22-under, from course specialist Webb Simpson, JT confirmed then his love for Bermuda greens, something he had shown when seventh here and sixth at Harbour Town a few months earlier. The Wyndham, incidentally, home to a trio of wins by Davis Love III, a confirmed Pete Dye specialist.

Fast forward to 2022 and, after a solid all-round performance at sub-7000 yard River Highlands, the 29-year-old comfortably won the John Deere Classic, where he again proved too good for some charging rivals, from tee-to-green and on the dancefloor.

Poston’s best form outside of his two wins is at the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town, another specialist Dye/DL3 track, where he has a record of 3/mc/8/6 and where he has ranked in fifth and seventh place for tee-to-green.

After a solid top-10 at the top-class Tour Championship at the end of last season, Poston comes here after a solid run of 21st at the RSM, the same at Kapalua and 20th at last week’s Sony, ranking 6th and 13th for tee-to-green in both of the more suitable, shorter tracks, all of which have Bermuda greens.

Now teetering on the edge of the world’s top 50, Poston probably can not compete on the longer, elite courses. He’ll need to take advantage of ‘his’ tracks, and, with a 7th and 25th already in his locker around here, this event is most definitely one of those.

I’d like to have been with Andrew Putnam, playing excellent golf, making his last 13 cuts, and holding an enviable course record, but at the same price as last week he’s just left out given the tougher opposition. Top that with a tendency to throw away a weekend lead (Barracuda, AT&T and the RSM just a couple of months ago) and I’d rather be with Alex Smalley who has gone the opposite direction, now trading at more than double his price for the Sony just seven days ago.

The 26-year-old Duke graduate played in both the 2019 Arnold Palmer and Walker Cup sides, finishing with a record of three wins from four at each, before gaining his PGA Tour card when recording three top-five finishes and two top-15s on the KFT, eventually finishing 12th on the 2021 KFT finals lists.

Included in his 2021 season was a 14th at Corales, and he showed that to be no fluke when finishing in the top 15 at both Bermuda and Houston, both with similar greens as he will find this week.

2022 was a big year for Smalley, starting with a best-of-Sunday 65 to finish tied runner-up at Corales, finishing in the top six behind Jon Rahm and co in Mexico, 10th at the Scottish Open and 13th at Sedgefield.

Since October, Smalley has made five of seven cuts, highlights being 11th at Bermuda and a pair of top-five finishes at the RSM and Houston, all contributors to the tee-to-green stats that see him rank 1/2/6/11/13 for his ball-striking.

The second-season player was always on the back foot at Waialae last week, finishing the first round way down the pack after the first round. Cross that out and I’m struggling to see why he’s been dismissed by the oddsmakers for his second attempt at a course that found him ranked top-10 off the tee just 12 months ago.

There is a lingering fantasy around Luke List, whose 11th at the long Kapalua course might indicate a solid run this week. Given his first two wins came at Pete Dye related tracks (South Georgia designed by Davis Love, five time champion at Harbour Town) and Sawgrass Valley (the very name giving away its Dye/Bermuda links) he is clearly one to watch, even if he is simply one of the worst putters on tour.

He may be left behind by a few around this putter-heavy track, but he has a best of a 6th place finish in 2016 and a pair of top-22 finishes over the last two seasons. List should only have to flip wedges to many of these greens, and should he simply finish field average in putting as he did when finding over 11 strokes on the field at Torrey Pines (yes, 11 strokes. Plus 11 strokes) he will land a top-20 wager.

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  • J.T Poston WIN/TOP-5
  • Alex Smalley WIN/TOP-10
  • Luke List TOP-20
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Opinion & Analysis

2023 Abu Dhabi Championship: Betting Tips & Selections



Just days after the inaugural running of the Hero Cup, we get the chance to see the first full-field event of the 2023 DP World schedule.

For the second year, the Yas Links provide the venue for the well-established Abu Dhabi Championship, but last year’s leaderboard showed not much has changed, with a board of ‘linsky’ players and also those with firm form-lines in this part of the world.

Last year’s champion, Thomas Pieters, is one of 18 players that took part at ADGC last week, and he heads a defending leaderboard that included the likes of Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Victor Dubuisson, Ian Poulter, Tyrrell Hatton and more than a handful of others that appear regularly in the Middle East, Portugal, Holland and Denmark – just some venues that offer clues to regular top-10ers.

Continental Europe won last week’s renewal of what was in effect the old ‘Seve Trophy’ but that shouldn’t stop a strong showing from many of the beaten side. Opting between the likes of Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowry is as tough as it gets, all having top class links form and a promising ending to the 2022. Still, combine them with Alex Noren, playing well but winless since July 2018, and the coupled odds offer somewhere around 85-40. Despite their obvious claims, that doesn’t appeal.

It is the next group that appeals mostly this week and, whilst Thomas Pieters holds very solid claims for going back-to-back here, the pair of Robert Macintyre and Adrian Meronk are the first to go into the plan.

I’ll admit a weakness for the Scot, whose talent has still not reached anything like a ceiling, but Ryder Cup year may see him raise his levels, particularly having told The Telegraph that:

“Playing for Europe has been one of my life goals since I started to believe I was half decent at this game. I’ve played Walker Cup and now I want to appear in the best event in the world and a lot of the older guys––the likes of Sam (Torrance) and Stevie (Gallacher) who we’ve spoken to here this week have told me it would be the best thing to do in my life. And I’ve got a great opportunity to do that.” 

Bob’s claims to a place in the European locker room will be far stronger with a place inside the world’s top 50, which gives him access to all the majors and top events around the world.

He’s been there before, after his first win on tour, a strange lockdown-influenced event in Cyprus, but the victory was no surprise given his three runner-up finishes and a 6th at The Open in his inaugural year (2019) after which he received the Rookie of the Year award.

Available for all the four majors in 2021, he finished tied-12th at Augusta and eighth at Royal St. George’s, an event that may be significant this week.

Down the stretch on Sunday, Bob looked set to finish inside the top five before a pulled tee shot on the final par-5 (14th), a move that cost him a bogey. If I was to take just one of the recent Opens as a guide, the 2021 running may be the one.

Whilst the wind was only a zephyr, and disappointing for such a contest, conditions may well mirror the type we see this week. If not, the leaderboard certainly gives some idea with Jon Rahm in third place (three wins and a place in Dubai), Lowry and Viktor Hovland sharing 12th, Paul Casey in 15th and Sergio Garcia also just inside the top-20.

All those named have terrific form not only in the UAE but also in the immediate vicinity, and it seems the same with those beaten in last season’s Italian Open.

Held at the Marco Simone Club – this year’s Ryder Cup venue – Bob shot a final round, and best-of-the-day 64 – to reach a play-off against Matt Fitzpatrick. Winner with a birdie at the first extra hole, he also left behind the likes of Victor Perez, Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton and Jorge Campillo, all fine exponents of links golf, whilst he also joined Nicolai Hojgaard in a tiny Marco Simone winner’s club, the latter beating Tommy Fleetwood and Meronk for his maiden victory.

Macintyre followed his second victory with a top-10 at classic Le Golf National, top-20 at the Alfred Dunhill Links (11th into payday), top-10 at Valderrama and a closing 18th in Portugal at least two of those being a form guide to Yas this week.

The 26-year-old has admitted he often tries ‘too’ hard and that he plays his best golf when happy and relaxed. Having left the course yesterday with a 4&3 victory alongside Seamus Power and a heavy singles victory over Noren, he should be spot on.

In contrast to the first selection, Adrian Meronk was on the winning side over the weekend, and comes here as another improving 20-something.

Although the Pole was ranked around 200th at the end of the 2020 season, he caught the eye when running-up to Christiaan Bezuidenhout at Leopard Creek in November of that year, seemingly a tad naïve when challenging.

That immaturity is now a distant memory, replaced by a player that had three top three finishes in 2021, and topped by a closing top-10 finish in Dubai.

Having gone on many ‘to follow’ lists for 2022, the 29-year-old withdrew midway through this event before compensating his fans with four top six finishes in seven starts, three in this part of the world.

Belgium and the Netherlands saw Meronk finish in a closing sixth and third, the latter finish at Bernardus Golf (significantly designed by Kyle Phillips) before his (almost telegraphed) victory at Mount Juliet saw him follow in the footsteps of Lucas Herbert, another wind and links specialist.

11th in France and 22nd at the multi-course Dunhill Links works for me, as does his finish to 2022 – seventh at the DP finale, in fifth at halfway in Brisbane, and his impressive second victory at this level, by five shots at the Australian Open.

That win, by a handful from proven links and top-class players such as Adam Scott and Min Woo Lee raises the Pole to yet another level, and now just inside the world’s top 50, a huge effort that sees him receive the ultimate invite:

With confidence at a high, expect the Polish hero to enjoy the expanses of Yas Links, as he did when sitting inside the top-20 for the three rounds he did complete last year.

Nicolai Hojgaard has already been referenced as the winner of the 2021 Italian Open, and that win alone might be enough to stir interest, but take into account many of his best performances and he appeals greatly at anything around 50/1.

The more flamboyant of the twins is much more of a bully on the course than his brother, Rasmus, for whom he deputised for at the Hero Cup. That decision was justified after an unbeaten 3.5 points saw him produce one of the more surprising performances of the weekend and that encourages me to take the hint soon after a 10th place finish Australian Open, where he was never off the front page at any point.

Second place at both the Portugal Masters and KLM and, of course, a win at Ras Al Kaihmah read nicely for this week’s test, whilst he can add a fourth place to his UAE record having finished strongly on his debut at the DP World Tour Championship.

Ignore the missed cut last season as the 21-year-old was lying in 17th place after the first round before experiencing very tough conditions – eventual winner Thomas Pieters was also one that was over par for Friday.

With this track sure to suit his distance off the tee – Pieters and Hovland ranked top 10 in that regard – and with his confidence up after holing the winning putt for Continental Europe, this should be time to be with him.

It’s hard to believe that a player would win two events in his rookie year and also come within a whisker of his third title, yet be triple digits for this week.

In Ewen Ferguson there is a player that not only showed class in difficult conditions in Qatar (Meronk in third) but also only got done by a superstar putting performance when going for the three-timer in Denmark.

At all three victories, the Scot ranked highly in all tee-to-green aspects, something he found again towards the end of 2022, at Mallorca and the Gary Player GC. Whilst his excellent short game was lacking towards the end of the year, I’m prepared to err on the side that says it had been a long, if successful, first foray at the highest level, one that could have seen him win Rookie of the Year, although ultimately beaten to that by Thriston Lawrence.

Having been one of the success stories of the 2022 Players To Follow column, the 26-year-old more than paid his way, and it’s worth taking a chance that comes out and performs in similar conditions.

I’m watching former star Joost Luiten like a hawk, as his back-form hints to a great week now he and his health are back to something like their best, but the final selection goes to Marcus Helligkilde, another highlighted in last year’s column, and once again in 2023.

Whilst his overall profile is sketchy, we should remember that the Dane missed the middle few months of 2022 with a persistent shoulder injury, before doing enough to retain his DPWT card, something that looked unlikely as the tour approached the autumn months.

Having seen the likes of Jordan Smith and Brooks Koepka graduate from the Challenge Tour with success, much was expected of Helligkilde as he made his way through his rookie year on tour, particularly after three wins led him to a comfortable championship.

The season started in pleasing enough fashion, opening his first look at Yas Links with a 69 to lie inside the top 20, before a mid-event 66/67 saw him lie in ninth going into Payday at Ras. Back in the Middle East, the Dane came from outside the top-50 to finish 12th in Qatar and the sharks were buzzing for a coup in the near future.

However, after a couple of months, Helligkilde revealed he had been suffering with a shoulder injury for a while and would require surgery, something that meant taking at least six weeks off tour.

He admitted he was nowhere near 100 percent when re-appearing at the Irish Open, but a mid-point 22nd was encouraging, as was the trip to the KFT where he performed with credit at both the co-sanctioned events.

Among a large amount of DPWT players at the Barbasol, Helligkilde recorded 16 out of 18 greens-in-regulation on his way to a bogey-free third round of 66 before following up with the same figure on payday, resulting in a move from 64th at halfway to 8th when the cheques were being handed out.

The following week, the Dane was never outside the top-22 in finishing 13th at the Barracuda, both weeks suggesting he was close to being back to his best.

By finishing 4th in Ireland and 8th in his home event, the ‘Made In Himmerland’, Helligkilde showed he can perform when necessary, his top-30 at the Spanish Open enough to secure a place inside the top-100 on the Race To Dubai.

The Dane is far better than that number and, now injury free, is hopefully in a position to show his best, in conditions that will suit a player for whom the middle of the green is always a target.

Recommended Bets:

  • Robert Macintyre WIN
  • Adrian Meronk WIN/TOP-5
  • Nicolai Hojgaard WIN/TOP-5
  • Ewen Ferguson WIN/TOP-5
  • Marcus Helligkilde WIN-TOP-10
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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Make 2023 YOUR year for better golf



Regardless of your average scores or the way you play the game, the mass appeal of this great game of golf is that you can always get better — and shooting lower scores regularly makes the game even more enticing and addicting. From my feedback, it seems that the GolfWRX readers are pretty evenly divided between those who put emphasis on the actual score at the end of the round and those who are more likely to evaluate the day on the number of good shots they hit, or their avoidance of the really bad ones. But no matter which camp you find yourself in, the pathway to enjoyment is the same.

The USGA had an ad campaign a while back featuring the late and superbly great Arnold Palmer, with the campaign slogan “Swing Your Swing.” The point of it was that we all have a golf swing that has produced a number of wonderful shots — thought maybe on too rare an occasion. Some swings are fundamentally more sound than others, of course. And some of us are blessed with more natural athletic abilities, body strength and flexibility, or just outright skills. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get that swing of yours to repeat more reliably and hit a higher percentage of good shots without committing to a swing overhaul. Very few of us have time for that kind of commitment.

You’ve heard the old answer to the question “How do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time.” Improving your golf game has to be accomplished in that same “one bite at a time” manner. So, let me offer you a few suggestions for the first few bites to improve your rounds this year.

  • Give your body a chance. The golf swing is a very athletic motion that requires much more of your body in the way of flexibility than strength. And most adults are guilty of letting their flexibility wane as they get older. I cannot tell you how important it is to stretch . . . not just before each round, but on a daily basis. If you will incorporate even just 3-5 minutes of stretching into your daily routine, not only will your golf swing improve dramatically, but you will feel better all around. I guarantee you it will make a difference.
  • Give “your swing” a chance to repeat. As I mentioned, we all have a swing that has shown the ability to produce a good, or even great, golf shot on an occasional basis. So, how do we get that to happen more often? It’s a matter of paying attention to your set-up and ball position. Some time back, a very accomplished custom fitter friend of mine shared some data he had collected on golfers of all skill levels, regarding their consistency of set-up and ball position. What he showed me is that the higher the handicap, the less precise the golfer was in his or her alignment and set-up to the ball. For your swing to repeat, you simply have to be consistent in the position of the ball in two directions – how far it is from you, and where it is located with regard to the lead foot (the left for right-handed players), and in the alignment of your body to the target line. The advice of another great teacher whom I was privileged to meet was to never hit a ball on the range without your alignment stick in place. That way every swing – especially in your pre-round warm-up – is also a piece of practice on good alignment and ball position. It takes no athletic ability to give yourself a chance at a good shot by getting the pre-swing part of it right.
  • Chill out and lighten up. In golf, just as in life, stress is a killer. When we are over a shot and feel stressed – which happens all too often – our grip tightens and our body tenses up. Those are killers to the smooth, flowing action that the golf swing, chipping/pitching motion or putting stroke all require. Facing any golf shot – even if it’s just a three-foot putt or a simple chip shot – causes us to tense up. Before each shot, pay attention to your stress level by focusing on your grip pressure. And then lighten up and execute the shot.

I hope these three tips will help you get ready for the 2023 golf season and make it your best one ever, regardless of how long you have been playing. It’s never too late to get into a path of improvement with golf. That’s one of the wonderful things about this game.

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