Three-Way Tie Half-Way Thru the Masters Tournament

Three-Way Tie Half-Way Thru the Masters Tournament April 12, 2024

Half-way through the Masters Tournament today at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia–the first of the four major tournaments in professional golf every year worldwide–three players are tied for the lead at six-under par 138 total: Scottie Scheffler, Bryson DeChambeau, and Max Homa.

DeChambeau led the tournament yesterday with a blistering 7-under par 65, and Scheffler was alone in second place with a 66. Both are major tournament winners. Scottie, presently the #1 player in the world, won the Master in 2022 and Bryson won the U.S. Open in 2020. Sweet-swinging Max has been proving himself lately to be an outstanding player, especially on tough golf courses where majors are usually held.

The weather has played havoc so far. On the first round yesterday, inclement, rainy weather caused the tournament start to be delayed more than two hours. And the play was slow. This resulted in many of the players who teed off in the afternoon not being able to finish their first round and therefore stopping play as darkness settled in. They returned to the course early this morning to finish their first round.

For example, 48-year old Tiger Woods–who has won 15 majors, second only to Jack Nicklaus with 18 major wins–had to stop play after 13 holes yesterday and return this morning and continue play at about 8:00 to play his last 5 holes to finish his first round. He did and carded a respectable 73 and then a 72 today for a total of one over par 145 to easily make the 36-hole cut. That cut broke a record so that Tiger Woods has now made 24 cuts in succession in the Masters Tournament, which is the most ever. He had been tied with Gary Player and Fred Couples at 23 successive 36-hole cuts in this tournament, which was the most ever.

Tiger is tied for 22nd position in the tournament. He says he still has a chance to win. The cut is the 50 best scores and ties, so that only those players continue playing on the weekend. The cut was unusually high today, at 6-over par 150, due mostly to very windy conditions today. Gusts were 20-30 miles per hour which can affect putting on Augusta’s fast greens. Players were constantly addressing their ball to hit their shot and backing off because of wind gusts. Plus, sand was blowing out of bunkers and even getting in the eyes of some of the competitors.

Golf fans increasingly have been talking about Scottie Scheffler’s strange footwork in his full swing. It is especially because the stats show that he is by far the most accurate player in pro golf with his iron shots to the greens. Others have been joining me in calling his footwork “the Scottie Schuffle.” After analyzing Scottie’s swing through the use of stop action on television for longer than I want to admit, I think I’ve finally got Scottie Scheffler’s footwork figured out. Until now, it was an intriguing mystery to me.

When Scottie Scheffler hits his long shots, such as with his driver, he makes a fast, athletic move with his hips, and thus his legs, on his downswing in which his hips move toward his target at least a foot. When golfers do this, they usually also have what is called “upper body recoil,” resulting in what is called a “reverse C action” with their whole body. Many golfers used to do that when I was young, and I did it as well. But we later learned that is not the best way to swing a golf club, and it can produce back pain.

However, Scottie doesn’t have hardly any reverse C and no upper body recoil. He avoids these by moving his right knee on his forward swing an absolutely huge amount toward his target. I estimate it is almost a whopping four feet! I have never seen anyone do that. The result is he makes that weird and quick slide with his right foot, moving it mostly toward his target, but also behind him a little, until his right knee has actually “caught up” to his left knee, being even with it on his finish. The result is that Scottie Scheffler has a huge transfer of his weight in his forward swing toward his target.

In the latter part of my pro golf career, as a golf swing analyst I drastically changed my concept of the golf swing. I came to realize that accuracy, and even distance, in golf can best be achieved in two ways: (1) by creating much torque with the body on the downswing, and (2) by making a huge transfer of weight on the forward swing from the back foot to the forward foot. That is what Scottie Scheffler does about as much as anyone I’ve ever seen. I believe that those two factors were what mostly made Ben Hogan the greatest ball striker of all time.

But there is one other thing that Scottie Scheffler does that makes him a great ball striker. He, and somewhat Bryson DeChambeau, has very little wrist cock in his backswing and in his follow through. Usually, when golfers have restricted wrist cock in their swings, they lose distance. That is because the three main ways to achieve distance in golf are (1) a long backswing, (2) a big release of wrist cock on the downswing, (2) and body torque. Scottie still hits the ball long because he is 6′ 3″ tall and thus has a big arc. That produces club head speed as well. Rory McIlroy, who is one of the longest hitters on Tour and #2 player in the world, is 5′ 10″ tall and has quite a bit of release of wrist cock on the downswing and follow through. The more wrist cock, the more difficult it is to time the swing so that you make square contact with the ball. Scottie has very little wrist cock on his backswing and very little wrist cock, thus release of the club head, on his upswing, all of which provides more accuracy.

Well, tomorrow is supposed to have better weather, with less wind, at the Masters. And Tiger will like it being warmer, since he is trying to overcome his physical injuries. And it should be a day of great golf with those three players in the lead. All three of them are among the greatest ball strikers in the greatest game on grass, and that’s what you need at the Masters, where trouble lurks all over the place even though it is about as beautiful a piece of landscape, with its Georgia pines and blooming azaleas, as anywhere this side of heaven.

[Scottie Scheffler and Bryson DeChambeau are Christians who share their faith publicly. Scottie is a prominent member of the PGA Tour Bible Study that meets weekly at PGA Tour tournaments, which Yours Truly cofounded in 1965. DeChambeau is now on the LIV Golf League and thus no longer competing on the PGA Tour.]

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