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Augusta National Golf Club. (Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
June 15th, 2021
Some of the best golfers on the PGA Tour today are also some of the longest hitters. Yet, without a precise short game to match all that power off the tee, a player like Bryson DeChambeau is destined to tumble down the leaderboard.
Accounting for approximately 43 percent of a golfer's total strokes, putting is a critical component of golf. It's also susceptible to an incredible amount of variance, because of subtle differences in the greens at courses on the PGA Tour.
While some bettors overlook its significance, knowing which type of grass is found on the greens of a particular tournament — and which players excel on that surface — can give you an added advantage in golf betting.
Below we analyze the different grass types on the PGA Tour, which players perform best on certain surfaces, and provide a complete list of each PGA Tour tournament, broken down by putting green grass.
Common in areas with tropical climates, Paspalum grass is extremely salt-resistant. You can often find it on coastal courses, like Corales in Punta Cana, and El Camaleón in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where the Mayakoba Classic is hosted.
As four-time major winner Rory McIlroy describes it, "(Paspalum) just really grabs the ball... Even if you get the greens firm here, the ball is still going to grab on this grass… You can be aggressive with your chip shots and aggressive with your wedge shots, too."
McIlroy won the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course, which features Paspalum greens. In 2021, Phil Mickelson won the major in its return to the Pete and Alice Dye design.
Richy Werenski, who placed third in the 2019 Mayakoba Classic, is also a fan of Paspalum. In an interview following a round of play at the Mayakoba Classic, he stated, "I feel like it's easier for me to stay confident on these type of greens because it's hard to really have a putt that gets too far away from you."
Hideki Matsuyama, Keegan Bradley, and Emiliano Grillo are a few other top golfers who are known to putt well on Paspalum.
There may be no better player on Poa annua than Patrick Reed.
The 2021 Farmers Insurance Open winner gained an average of four strokes on the field with his putter during the tournament, which is hosted at the famed Torrey Pines Golf Course — also home to the 2021 U.S. Open.
Reed also ranked third in putts per green in regulation at the event, where he won by five strokes this past season and has finished 23rd or better in each of his last four appearances.
While Reed has made a name as a Poa annua specialist, many golfers on tour despise this grass species, known for its rapid growth.
Even the greatest golfer of all time, Jack Nicklaus, had issues on the putting surface. As golf writer Dan Jenkins explained, "(Poa) makes the greens uneven, bumpy, fast, unpredictable, (and) unreadable."
A study found that since 2015, players have made 68.3% of putts from 4-to-8 feet on all putting surfaces, but 66.5% of putts, when isolating the numbers to Poa annua greens.
Always interesting to see how the pros respond to Pebble’s Poa Annua greens. They get very bumpy on Sunday afternoon. pic.twitter.com/6bY9KTH2h6— Top Performance Golf (@topperformgolf) February 6, 2014
Always interesting to see how the pros respond to Pebble’s Poa Annua greens. They get very bumpy on Sunday afternoon. pic.twitter.com/6bY9KTH2h6
This jagged grass has caused many a headache for some of the greatest players of the game, but not every golfer hates it.
Kevin Kisner, Ian Poulter, and Brandt Snedeker often see their strokes gained statistics soar when putting on Poa annua.
Mickelson, who was born in San Diego, also grew up playing on Poa annua. Ahead of last year's Safeway Open, he noted, "When you grow up and spend most of your time back east in Florida on the Bermuda, this is a very awkward surface to putt on. The color looks different — it’s hard to sometimes read. But when you’re used to it, I don’t know of much better surfaces than these right here."
Typically dispersed throughout courses in cool summer or coastal climates, Bentgrass comes in many varieties, has a fine texture, and is considered the best grass for greens in the South.
One of the most famous courses in the world, Augusta National, features Bentgrass greens.
Coincidentally, Nicklaus, who has won the Masters more times (six) than any other player, designed some of his most famous courses with Bentgrass, including Muirfield Village (aka "Jack's Place") and Sherwood Country Club, the host of the Zozo Championship.
DeChambeau and Patrick Cantlay are two players who putt best on Bentgrass, as seen in their recent appearances at the Memorial. Cantlay won the 2021 edition via playoff, which marked his second victory at the course, while DeChambeau earned a win in 2018, and finished in the top 20 this season.
Jason Kokrak is another golfer who does his best work on Bentgrass. In 2021, he claimed the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek and finished first at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas.
Bermudagrass greens are usually slower and have less break compared to Bentgrass.
The warm-season strain is comprised of thick blades of grass that create a greater impact on the direction and speed of a putt, depending on the angle of the grain.
What's the difference between Bentgrass and Bermuda grass greens? @SERVPRO goes #BehindTheNumbers at the @playofffinale. pic.twitter.com/2WDpNmBGSN— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) September 23, 2017
What's the difference between Bentgrass and Bermuda grass greens? @SERVPRO goes #BehindTheNumbers at the @playofffinale. pic.twitter.com/2WDpNmBGSN
A rule of thumb when putting on Bermuda: If the grass is dark in color, you are putting into the blades of grass, or against the grain, and need to add more speed to your putt. If the grass gives off a silvery shine, you are putting with the blades growing away from you and the ball will naturally travel faster.
Bermudagrass is the star of the PGA Tour's Florida Swing, which includes the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, the Honda Classic at PGA National, and the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort.
One player who thrives on Bermudagrass is Sam Burns. Since 2010, he has made 79% of his putts from 4-to-8 feet on the Florida Swing, compared to all other players, who average 68.7%.
Unsurprisingly, he won the Valspar Championship in April.
Brooks Koepka grew up in Florida and is well-versed in Bermudagrass, as is Florida native Billy Horschel. In a 2019 interview, Horschel expounded on his fondness for Bermudagrass: "Obviously that’s something I like a lot. Poa annua is Poa annua – you’re going to hit a lot of good putts and have some weird bounces and not go in. It’s nice to come back on greens that just stay smooth for the consistency of a round of golf."
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