By V1 Game engineer Dallas Webster
Welcome to TPC Twin Cities
Even in a week when most of the game’s top players were resting before the upcoming WGC event, it is still very difficult to win on the PGA Tour. Tony Finau knows how difficult it is to win. A top-10 machine, Finau simply hasn’t been able to close the deal in the final round, and this weekend was no exception.
On the PGA Tour, the difference between winning and losing, most weeks, is a single putt dropping or lipping out over the course of 72 holes. Michael Thompson knows that as well as anyone with his well-chronicled hiatus between victories would. He has largely been a journeyman on the PGA Tour, fighting most years to keep his card and remain amongst the most-elite players on the planet. Thompson broke through this week with patience and a hot putter. Sticking to his game plan over the four-day tournament, Thompson remained patient and was rewarded.
While we typically focus on advanced stats with V1 Game, greens hit is one traditional metric that does correlate with scoring. In this case, Thompson fired a bogey-free opening round 64 in which he hit all 18 greens and made almost 100 ft of putts. You want to score? Get the ball on the green.
TPC Twin Cities plays as a par 72 for us mere mortals, therefore Thompon’s eight-birdie round was actually a seven-birdie masterpiece. Just how did Thompson get it done? Simple. He avoided mistakes and took advantage of opportunities.
Using V1 Game’s Analysis function, Thompson’s strengths are iron play and putting. In fact, Thompson gained almost eight strokes on the field with the flatstick throughout the week and another seven strokes with his irons. He only made three bogeys on the week, tied for the best in the field.
Thompson didn’t really have a weakness. He lost less than a third of a stroke, on average, with the driver. He also didn’t push himself out of his comfort zone, sticking to a conservative game plan and playing to his strengths. In fact, it’s difficult to find any flaws with the way Thompson played throughout the entire week.
V1 Game recently previewed Virtual Coach using artificial intelligence to analyze golf performance and make pointed recommendations on 1) where to spend practice time and 2) how to achieve golfing potential. Virtual Coach analyzed Thompson’s performance over the weekend and really highlighted just how well he was able to maximize his potential.
He did so by minimizing mistakes. He only had a single three-putt and a single penalty over the four days. Scoring-wise, he averaged 66.3 over the four days. Had he eliminated even more mistakes, he could have averaged 65.
This implies that Thompson really left just a single stroke on the golf course each day, whereas most amateurs are on their second set of fingers to count up the ones that got away.
Virtual Coach also guides practice. If there was one area to work on for Thompspn, it would be driving, where he lost almost a third of a stroke each day and missed predominantly to the left.
Play to Your Strengths
To really boost his driving performance, Thompson is likely going to have to hit the ball farther and take on more risk. However, he generally opted to play back and let his irons work. When you can strike it like Thompson can, this is a great decision.
In the gif below, we see Thompson’s shot distributions from V1 Game. A couple of items immediately jump out: 1) Just how often he hits the green from all yardages 2) his proximity to the hole is fantastic 3) his misses are well distributed, but tend to favor long. It’s difficult to go long if you are not flushing the golf ball.
Thompson separated from the field this week with persistence and patience. Those are virtues we could all learn on the golf course. Too many times, amateurs get frustrated with a poorly-timed double bogey and start pressing or getting out of their element, which compounds mistakes and leads to big numbers. However, golf is a game of mistakes and misses.
If you can understand your strengths and minimize your misses, you can start playing to your potential. V1 Game can help you with each of these items, particularly with the upcoming Virtual Coach to help guide your practice. Then maybe you can keep a card as clean as Michael Thompson.
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