The leading featured group this morning at the Shriners Children's Open: Brooks Koepka, Sam Burns, Abraham Ancer.
Koepka and Burns play very similar golf. Both generally have 120 mph club head speed, low 180s ball speed, play a cut off the tee, and then play aggressive approaches into the greens with their irons. Ancer, on the other hand, only with 110 mph club head speed, is consistently hitting first into the greens this week.
Ancer obviously is a tremendous player. He was able to best Sam Burns in a playoff earlier this year in Memphis, but this Friday morning Ancer's lack of distance left him scrambling to keep up with his playing competitors. He generally only plays low rope draws, and on firmer days can run the ball up the fairway to respectable distances. I have to imagine this shot was developed out of a competitive necessity growing up. Approaching the green, he tears apart back left hole locations but is unable to gain strokes on the field hitting to front pins and pins tucked to the right.
The world beaters, the guys who pick up wins every season and give themselves steady chances to secure major trophies, have a full stock of weapons. Most of the best players can not only hit it long, but with a high, cutting, soft landing ball flight. All of a sudden every pin is accessible and Par 5s are a breeze.
The wet conditions this morning have made the course much more stressful for Ancer. The drives aren't running down the fairway, leading to long approach shots. Longer iron shots off of a very soft ground bring in some concern about hitting it fat, which is automatic death, so you'll see a lot more thinned shots from the field on days like today.
Ancer's strength is his mental game. He arguably is the best manager of his game on tour. He never attempts to swing harder than he can, he plays to the middle of the green every time there's an inaccessible pin, and plays round after round without making any costly mistakes. So even with his lack of weaponry, he was 28th on Tour last season strokes gained tee-to-green.
This morning he left his comfort zone when he stepped up to the Par 5 16th. A good tee shot is required to set up going for the green in two over water. Both of his playing competitors took rips off the tee at over 180 mph ball speed. Ancer tried to follow up with a smash of his own, ended up speeding his body up and sliced it well right. Ended up 227 yds out, with the ball below his feet in the rough. Once again, tried to hit the hero shot, took off a head cover, and sent this one into the water. He proceeded to hit his drop into the water as well.
The 17th, is a shorter par 3, with a back left pin location. Ancer's specialty. Instead of hitting his stock draw, he inexplicably aims even further right and attempts to really sling this one in there. Once again he finds the water on the left. He pulled off the slinging draw part, but somewhere in the downswing he overcompensated for how far right the was aiming and pulled his start line. The slinging draw never had a chance.
Most likely this will be the worst mental round of golf Ancer will play in the 2022 season. He's scalded an easy bunker shot, and just continued to hit mediocre to bad shots on the front 9 (they started on the back). This posts goal really isn't to rip on Ancer. If anything the point is if you see Ancer high up on the leaderboard, that means there is no one in the world that is playing smarter golf that weekend.
Also, on a more positive note. Watch out for Sam Burns once again this weekend. I don't think it is a stretch to say that he will be competing for World Number 1 in years to come. He has the power, it seems like every approach shot is stuffed, and was 9th in strokes gained putting in the 2021 season.
-two weeks later, after watching the CJ Cup
Ancer played out of his mind. The quality of golf shots were outstanding all four days. He doesn't have a fade in the bag. When facing tucked right pins he attempted the fade, because he felt the stress of trying to catch a HOT Rory. These near sided bogeys would never happen on Thursday.