Today’s elite players have a specialist for just about everything | Golf News and Tour Information

Collin Morikawa has a foot type. No seriously. The 25-year-old two-time major champion employs two trainers to design his fitness program, one of whom, Rian Chab, focuses on Morikawa’s feet. “If we relate it to the human gait cycle, the foot should be pronated and supinated,” Chab explains. “If it gets stuck in one of these positions, it can negatively impact the way the body moves. That’s not to say the feet are the problem, but if the feet are neglected, the other adjustments of swing you make above might not stick as well as they could.

Welcome to the modern world of elite professional golf, which is more of a team experience than ever. Professional gaming has long been synonymous with rugged individualism, and it remains true that only one person hits the punches. But behind that name on the leader board is a surprising number of collaborators, all working together in pursuit of every advantage. Browse around a PGA Tour training facility on a Tuesday and you’ll see caddies, swing coaches, short game coaches, putting coaches, mental game coaches, equipment specialists, coaches, biomechanics, data analysts and, yes, maybe even a foot guy.

Caddies are, of course, nothing new in professional golf. Neither do swing coaches, who have been perfecting the best in the world for decades. But players are now seeking advice from experts in different fields, such as Dr. Sasho MacKenzie, a professor in the Department of Human Kinetics at St. Francis Xavier University in Canada, who holds a Ph.D. in sports biomechanics. MacKenzie calls himself a “golf score optimizer” and looks at the game through an analytical lens. Most of MacKenzie’s work involves educating swing coaches on the science behind the golf swing, although he works directly with some players. One of them is US Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick. Working with Fitzpatrick’s swing coach, Mike Walker, and with the aid of data capture technology and computer animations, MacKenzie helped Fitzpatrick gain 5 miles per hour of clubhead speed in about two years. “Clubhead speed is an equation,” MacKenzie says. “It’s a literal equation; the things the golfer does add up to club head speed. I can measure it.

MacKenzie identified different ways for Fitzpatrick to increase the output of this equation without changing the feel of his swing. Increasing grip pressure was one of them, so MacKenzie encouraged Fitzpatrick to practice hitting big high draws. MacKenzie thought this would naturally help Fitzpatrick apply more “force” to the grip early in the swing. Once Fitzpatrick felt comfortable with this move, MacKenzie instructed him to begin releasing hard and to the left, a fade-like release that Fitzpatrick preferred. MacKenzie then filtered this information through Walker and asked Fitzpatrick to train with “The Stack”, MacKenzie’s speed building system. The result was an increase of about 10 meters in driving distance.

“I’ll be honest,” Fitzpatrick said. “It worked wonders.”

Another doctor on multiplayer teams is Dr. Bhrett McCabe, a clinical psychologist who works with Jon Rahm, Sam Burns, Billy Horschel and Davis Riley, to name a few. McCabe sometimes walks with his players during practice rounds, but prefers to do his work away from the golf course, such as at a coffee shop or rental house.

“My job is to get them to believe more in themselves and deal with whatever comes their way,” McCabe says. “Confidence is not knowing you can do it. Confidence is knowing you can face anything in front of you. Do you prepare like you have to prepare? Or do you always solve problems? Finally, are you Are you ready to step into the uncertainty of competition and brace for a fight when the pressure mounts?If I can get them to believe in themselves to do it, we’re 99% of the way there.

Part of that belief comes from trust in your clubs. Every player on tour, even those without an endorsement contract, will interact with equipment representatives throughout the season. These representatives are responsible for ensuring that each piece of equipment is connected during a given week. Kenton Oates, a touring rep for Ping, will play 35-38 tournaments a year.

“We check players on Sunday or Monday, every time they go to the golf tournament, to make sure they don’t need grips and that their clubs are all good,” Oates says. “Do you need a fresh lob wedge? How’s your gear? Is your driver good? We’re basically a NASCAR pit crew trying to make sure all of their gear is ready to go.

Once they have their bodies back, their minds primed, and their gear ready, players move on to on-course strategy. Where the pros of yore relied on their instincts and experience, today’s stars turn to stat experts who create custom instructions for each of their players, the details of which depend on their strengths, their weaknesses and the golf course. These stat gurus will also develop detailed training plans for players with a focus on improving specific parts of their games.

Hunter Stewart is no average stats guy. He played collegiate golf at Vanderbilt Powerhouse and was on the 2015 Walker Cup team. After a brief pro career, he dives into the world of data and convinces two pros, Maverick McNealy and Robby Shelton, to let him go. help them. He now works with seven players on the PGA Tour.

“Each player has different strengths,” Stewart says. “Some of them are going to hit drivers on certain holes that some of them aren’t. You’re not going to see my guys play the exact same spot. If you have a player who’s a bad iron player and one who’s is one of the best at it, and then you have another guy who’s not a great driver and one who is, you’re going to see a bunch of different strategies.”

For the player, whom McCabe calls “the tip of the spear”, a bunch of team members means a bunch of checks to cut. It’s not uncommon for an elite player to pay up to $1 million or more a year to his entourage. (Most of these collaborators receive a flat fee, plus a percentage of on-course winnings.) I asked Morikawa if he winced at the thought of cutting up a tournament check into so many different pieces. His answer speaks to the mindset of players in 2022, when professional golf is big business.

“At the end of the day, everything is an investment in this business, this brand that we’re building,” Morikawa says. “So whether I need to pay for that person’s flights or help me train a bit more, it’s quite an investment for me to improve and perform as best I can. It’s not hard to write these checks because I’m trying to improve myself, and all these people around me are trying to do the same thing.

Michael C. Ford