Legend-making cuts both ways. Some days we talk about the best golfers as if they were infallible, ignoring the fact that on any Thursday, Jordan Spieth could be carved out by a talented pro club. Other days, we often swing in the opposite direction, lumping every group of them together, suggesting that anyone in the PGA Tour business could easily win an event when it’s actually more likely for some than others. So what is it? What is the actual difference between the top pros and those who stick to their cards?
It’s October, which means it’s already time to play the third event of the PGA Tour calendar. It’s assessment season. It’s planning season. It’s dream season. This means it is a good time for pros to focus on how much they need to play well to achieve their goals for the next year. Entering the PGA Tour rookie Harry Hall, who sat on his first official player on the tour ahead of this week’s Shriners Children’s Open.
“Yeah, I went through them the other day,” Hall said, referring to his goals for next season. He had a realistic goal and added an extended goal. “I think the FedExCup Top 40 is a goal. Playing the Ryder Cup in Rome next year would be very cool.”
If you don’t know Hole, you probably will soon. He hails from Cornwall, England, but considers the Shriners a home game; He was based in Las Vegas, where he has lived since attending UNLV as a major in Sociology. He’s 6’4″, hits the ball a mile and wears the same type of Hogan hat favored by Bryson DeChambeau, and earned himself the nickname “Bryson Bryson” on that spot last year. (He has not commented.) But to this point he hasn’t spent much time in the fields of the PGA Tour; The 25-year-old is starting only his eight career tour and his third since taking full status via the Korn Ferry Tour.
As a result, Hall is the perfect man to help guide us through this discovery process. When asked what he’s learned since becoming a professional, Hall had a straightforward and interesting answer.
“Value of the shot,” he said. “I was having dinner with a few Callaway guys last night and the difference between being in the Tour and losing your card is 0.9 of a shot, which isn’t a lot. I think I just saw that by going on the Korn Ferry and how my stroke rate has evolved since I became a pro. So far, bad golf and my really good golf has been separated by one shot and that the importance of picking the right club or the right line or hitting the right pace, whether it’s one out of 68 shots, it’s a fine line between good play and excelling here really.”
Wait a minute. Less than a full shot separates these guys?! This doesn’t sound like much, so let’s do some fact checking. If you look at averages of strokes earned over the course of the season, the last man in the Tour Championship is JT Poston, who averaged 0.697 Strokes Gained: Total over the course of the season. Then take Stuart Sinek, who finished 126th in the FedEx Cup, and Zach Johnson, who finished 151st. Neither Sink nor Johnson will lose PGA Tour status thanks to the various exemption categories, but that is irrelevant to this point: Johnson SG: Total was -203 , while Cink was -.252. This figure is 0.9 achieved. Poston received $3.3 million in prize money as well as a $715,000 bonus in the Tour Championship. Cink made just over $1 million, while Johnson just made $600,000. We’re not too concerned about their finances, but this tells us that less than one shot per round truly Add. Hall already knows that.
“I think that’s the biggest key I’ve taken is the value of every shot, and it’s something that Coach Knight at UNLV and Phil Roe taught me really well,” he said.
What are some of the other notable loopholes in the round? Rory McIlroy led last season, hitting 2,115 strokes above the field average. He built a huge gap on second-placed Matthew Fitzpatrick, who averaged 1,792 better strokes from the field. The bone Danny Willett, who averaged .004 earned strokes, had a hair rate higher than Joel Dahmin, who was two hundred behind average. McIlroy has won three times, taking home $8.7 million in the tournament and adding a FedEx Cup prize of $18 million. Fitzpatrick made his first major championship and $7.01 million plus $715,000 in East Lake. Dahmin and Willett made $2.6 million combined.
However, there was still little doubt that Dahmen’s level of play would make him an elite performer at the Korn Ferry level. A couple of years ago, DataGolf came close to summarizing our entire discussion with the chart below. (You can see the original version here). the lesson? The average golfer on the PGA Tour is likely to do better than the 95 percent average of a Korn Ferry pro, and is still nearly 1.3 shots better than the average KFT player. However, the average Korn Ferry pro can beat the bottom of the PGA Tour barrel. There’s more talent down below, too: The pros at the PGA Tour Canada and Latinoamerica are another shot at or beyond their brethren Korn Ferry.
Back to Hall’s point, then. If the difference is just about the shot each round, there are plenty of places to pick up little bits of the shot, on average. Every time you choose a club. Every time you read a hit. Each time you hit it to 30 feet instead of 15 feet. Margin is weak. Attention to detail adds.
“You see a lot of Korn Ferry Tour alumni like Scottie Scheffler, Cameron Young, Sungjae Im who have come out in the last few years on this tour and have excelled at Korn Ferry, I think it shows you the difference may not be as big as people think,” he concluded. Hole.
Joining him on the field this week is fellow rookie Vegas-based Taylor Montgomery. Each one of them tried shaving in their own way, Hall says.
“Imagine Taylor growing up in [Vegas course] Shadow Creek all his life and I grew up at West Cornwall Golf Club, which is 5,500 yards long, and I have to go back there and hit 6 irons every 4 par now. I came into UNLV swinging about 104 mph and Taylor was swinging her 135, and I had hit the driver from the first at Shadow Creek and he had hit a 4-iron,” Hall recalled.
“At the beginning of this year we actually had a long-distance competition with a friend of ours at Shadow Creek, and I beat him. I swing at 126 mph, which is part of my game that has evolved since being in America and trying to figure out how to get better. Taylor obviously honed it a bit. Just to hit it more straight and find a way to score himself as well.”
From Hall’s perspective, golfers’ environments dictate their games. It wasn’t until he spent time at UNLV that he learned to hit the ball higher and farther with better contact. It was only after he had traveled that Montgomery learned to control his power.
“He got to that and figured out how to make it even more. We hope to be some of the best players in the world,” Hall said.
They are only a few shots.