The week before an unprecedented playing of the Masters in November, Arccos Ambassador Ted Scott is at home in Lafayette, La. working on precisely the same thing Bryson DeChambeau and a growing crop of Tour players are honing – increasing his swing speed and driving distance to gain an advantage on the golf course.
“I think distance is going to be the storyline to follow at this year’s Masters,” says Scott, longtime caddie for Bubba Watson, two-time Masters champion. “I think it’s fascinating that Bryson is bringing a 48-inch driver and it’s going to be in the 70s and the ball will carry.”
As of a few weeks ago, players had assumed the weather in Augusta, Ga. would be decidedly cooler for the Nov. 12-15 Masters dates than the traditional spring swing in April. With a warm-front forecast to sweep through the Eastern U.S. this week, highs are expected to be in the upper 70s and even low 80s.
“With the temperature being about the same the biggest difference is going to be the speed of the course,” Scott says. “The roots for the new rye grass haven’t taken hold and it will be a lot softer. Ironically, when the course has played that way, guys like Zach Johnson have won it and that could be because the greens hold approach shots with long irons.”
Moreover, Wednesday and Thursday’s forecast calls for thunderstorms and heavy rain, further impacting the speed of the golf course surface from tee to green.
Arccos Caddie Rangefinder
Scott and Watson are amid their 14th PGA Tour season together, the second longest player / caddie tenure on the PGA Tour behind Lucas Glover and Don Cooper. They share many fundamental beliefs and philosophies on life. But when it comes to golf, the two personalities are decidedly divergent.
When he’s not looping for Watson on Tour, Scott teaches junior and collegiate players back at home in Lafayette. A dyed in the wool disciple of data and analytics, he and his students use the Arccos Caddie App to track their on-course performance and accelerate game improvement.
“If I’m playing golf, especially on the road, I’m using Arccos,” Scott says. “The Strokes Gained [Analytics] feature has given me a lot of insight and confidence about my game. I never thought I was a good ball striker, but it turns out the data says otherwise. It’s really allowed me to let the driver go and gain clubhead speed.”
Watson, on the other hand, is the ultimate “feel player” known for seeing and shaping shots few other players would even attempt, much less execute successfully. Scott says that while Watson has unlimited access to the Tour’s ShotLink data, he prefers to rely on his instincts and past experience on a course.
“He’s art and I’m science,” Scott says, with a laugh.
To create their game plan for Augusta National this week, Scott taps his past experience and Arccos. The Arccos Caddie Preview for a virtual tour around the course from the 7,475-yard Masters tees. He takes it a step further, however, using “Start Round” with “shot detection” turned off in order to utilize the A.I.-Powered Rangefinder.
“I’ll fire it [Arccos] up on game day [Thursday] before we go out to play to get data from specific spots we want to hit,” Scott says. “If there are any holes or shots I need more information on, like wind speed and direction, I’ll also check get that info. It gives me the confidence to know there’s science behind the decisions.”
Scott also uses Arccos Caddie Rangefinder to get precise yardages for lay-up shots, distances to bunkers and tree lines off the tee, and even exact yardages to greens from adjacent fairways – a data requirement he says is unique to Watson.
“Sometimes Bubba will be like, ‘I’m going to rip it into that fairway over there, what yardage will I have to the front and back of the green over there,’” Scott says. “Well, the PGA Tour yardage books are amazing, but they don’t have that info available. Arccos helps me fill in a lot of gaps.”
Knowing precise yardages is half the battle, but Arccos Caddie Rangefinder also delivers Scott other meteorological data, such as temperature and humidity, and calibrates “plays like” yardages based on these factors.
No Fans, No Problem
A fan favorite on Tour, Watson fed off the energy of the patrons during his Masters victories in 2012 and 2014. Scott says he and Watson are used to playing without fans at this point, but that come Sunday on the back nine at Augusta National, it’s going to be a surreal feeling.
“I’m sure they’ll have members cheering us on, but the back nine at Augusta on a Sunday is like no other place on Tour,” Scott says. “Even on the front nine you start to hear the roars from the back nine. And with the additional length, they brought back the ability to make a run on the back nine, which makes it that much more exciting.”
Still, Scott says, the tee shot on No. 1 won’t be any less nerve-racking for player or caddie.
“The first time I got to play Augusta I was with Bubba, and he told me I’d be nervous,” Scott says. “So I was like ‘why would I be nervous, this isn’t the Masters, there are no fans and there’s nobody around.’ He said ‘because it’s Augusta, just wait and see.’ Well sure enough, I was shaking so badly I could barely hit my first tee shot.”
Armed with Watson’s feel and intuition and Scott’s data-driven approach, the dynamic duo has no reason to be nervous this week as they seek their third green jacket.