PGA Championship 2019: Rory McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama are solid bets at Bethpage Black—based on this important stat
The PGA Championship might be coming to Bethpage’s Black Course for the first time, but it will be the third major championship held at the public facility, with the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens preceding it. That affords an opportunity to study the data to point to statistical trends that could point to some players likely to have success at the year’s second major. Indeed, in both 2002 and 2009, the winner (Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover, respectively), performed well off the tee and on their approaches to greens. Woods ranked seventh in driving distance, seventh in driving accuracy and first in greens in regulation while Glover was eighth, 13th and fourth in those categories. With that in mind, we take a look at the top five in the PGA field in strokes gained/tee-to-green and the drivers they’ll use this week at the PGA Championship.
Driver: TaylorMade M5, 9 degrees
Rory McIlroy’s prowess off the tee is a prime reason the four-time major winner is not only leading the tour in strokes gained/tee-to-green, but doing so by more than a half-stroke over Justin Thomas, second in this field in this stat (who has withdrawn from the PGA Championship). McIlroy is clearly feeling comfortable with his 9-degree TaylorMade M5 driver, with the adjustable weights set where one is back and one in the heel area to promote higher launch and a slight draw bias. Oh, and consumers who purchase a TaylorMade M5 or M6 by May 15th will get a full refund on their purchase if McIlroy wins his third PGA.
Driver: TaylorMade M5, 10.5 degrees
Finding a driver that stays in the bag for a long period of time has been an issue for Hideki Matsuyama ever since his Srixon ZR 30 with a Graphite Design Tour AD-DI 8TX broke during practice in 2016. As such it will be interesting to see how long the Japanese star keeps the 10.5-degree TaylorMade M5 in the bag. Similar to McIlroy, Matsuyama has the weights in the back and heel position, although the one in the front-to-back track is slightly more forward than McIlroy’s.
Driver: TaylorMade M6, 9 degrees
Tommy Fleetwood has become a favorite to contend almost every time he tees it up. Part of the reason is his strong game off the tee that sets himself up in good position for his approach shots. Fleetwood changed drivers this year, going with TaylorMade’s new M6 model with a Mitsubishi Kuro Kage shaft. Although the club does not feature the movable weights of its M5 sister, it does have an adjustable hosel that Fleetwood has in the lower loft setting.
Driver: Titleist TS3, 8.5 degrees
Byeong-hun An has consistently driven the ball well in his career, averaging no less than 299.6 yards off the tee in any of his last five seasons, including a 309-yard clip this year, good enough for 13th on tour in driving distance. That’s helped bolster his strokes gained/tee-to-green standing. An’s driver is an 8.5-degree Titleist TS3 with a Project X HZRDUS Smoke shaft—a low launch, low spin profile that works well with An’s aggressive swing.
Kevin C. Cox
Driver: Ping G400 LST, 8.5 degrees
In winning the Valero Texas Open in April, Corey Conners became an instantly known quantity in professional golf. A large part of Conners’ victory at the Valero was his prowess in the strokes gained/tee-to-green stat as he ranked second for the week, picking up more than 14 strokes on the field. That week he also was fourth in strokes gained/off-the-tee with his 8.5-degree Ping G400 LST driver with a UST Elements Gold 6 shaft.
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