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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Helen Alfredsson Wins the Senior LPGA Championship By Three

Juli Inkster may have started the day three strokes ahead of her, but Helen Alfredsson had the last laugh. When she could stop shivering, that is.

Senior LPGA Championship winner Helen Alfredsson

The weather at the Pete Dye Course at French Lick was cold and windy; at times it was a three-club wind. How tough was it? Juli had a two-shot lead over everybody to start the day, she shot a five-over 76 and still had a solo second finish.

That also tells you how well Helen played. There were only two rounds under par on Wednesday, and her two-under 70 was one of them. (Michelle McGann shot a 69.)

In the process, Helen joined Laura Davies as a Senior Slam winner by sweeping the US Senior Women’s Open and the Senior LPGA Championship in the same season.

You can read some detailed summaries of the event in this Golfweek article and this LPGA.com article. In addition, here's an LPGA.com video interview between Ron Sirak and Helen. As for my little post here, I'm just going to congratulate Helen on a hard-won victory and a great Legends Tour season!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Jin Young Ko's March Toward History

Today is a link to Kent Paisley's lpga.com article about Ko's amazing season... and what may be on the horizon.

Jin Young Ko

To put it simply, Jin Young Ko is on the verge of taking two records away from Annika -- records that defy comprehension.

Number One, she is currently ahead of Annika's record for all-time lowest actual scoring average. Annika averaged 68.697 in 2002, a year where she won eleven times. Note that this record, for which LPGA players receive the Vare Trophy, is NOT the lowest adjusted scoring average but rather the actual scoring average -- number of actual strokes struck divided by number of rounds played. (For comparison, Tiger holds the PGA Tour's actual low stroke average of 68.17, set in 2000.)

Currently, Jin Young's scoring average is 68.851. She would join Annika as only the second LPGA player with a sub-69 average. And (if I understand correctly) she plans to play four of the remaining five events on the schedule, giving her 16 more rounds on the season; Paisley says she needs only to average 68 for those rounds to beat Annika's record.

The second record? Highest percentage of greens in regulation for a season. Currently, Jin Young's GIR sits at 79.9%, 0.2% better than Annika's record and a whopping 4.7% better than Tiger's 75.2% set back in 2000.

That's right. If Jin Young can hold on, she'll have the lowest-ever GIR record of ANYBODY, male or female, in golf history.

It's worth noting that Jin Young has four LPGA wins this year, two of which are majors, as well as a KLPGA win that doesn't count toward these records. And it's also worth noting that she has already locked up the 2019 Annika Award (best majors performance) as well as another all-time record for the longest bogey-free streak on either the the LPGA or PGA Tour at 114 holes.

This could be another amazing year on the LPGA, folks. And this is only Jin Young's sophomore year...

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Twofer Tuesday: The CJ Cup

Today Twofer Tuesday sprints across the pond -- WAAAAY across the pond -- to South Korea for the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges.

Defending champion Brooks Koepka

Nine Bridges is a par-72 course playing close to 7250 yards, which doesn't sound all that long but it plays tough when the winds blow. The CJ Cup sports a limited field of 78 players and is the first of three such events in Asia (South Korea, Japan and China). The field is a blend of PGA Tour, KPGA Tour and Asian Tour players.

Brooks Koepka is the defending champion and he's in the field this week, as is the 2017 champion Justin Thomas.

My Twofer Tuesday picks have been hit-and-miss so far in this wraparound season, and I'm looking to improve my luck this week. Unfortunately, the players haven't shared my enthusiasm lately, so I'm just taking my chances and hoping the guys show up.
  • My Top10er is Viktor Hovland. The rookie is still looking for his first win and, although I don't expect him to get it this week, I do expect him to continue his string of good play. He doesn't seem to care how tough the field is or that he hasn't played the courses before. I like that about Hovland and I feel good about his chances this week.
  • And my winner is Justin Thomas. As I said earlier, he has won this event before. Likewise, his recent play has been extremely strong since he came back from his injuries earlier this year. I think he may be ready to win again.
My only regret this week is that Bernd Wiesberger isn't in the field. (Apparently he's taking the week off to celebrate.) I realize that winning back-to-back is tough, but he's been playing at an extremely high level these past few months and I think a limited field might have played into his hands.

Because of the time difference between the US and South Korea, GC's live coverage begins tonight (Wednesday) at 10pm ET. So it's almost prime time golf again this week. At least I'll get to watch most of it before going to bed!

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 Houston Open

Winner: Lanto Griffin

Around the wider world of golf: Bernd Wiesberger got his third ET win in only five months at the 76° Open d'Italia; likewise, Jerry Kelly won the SAS Championship for his third win this season on the Champions Tour; Justin Shin won the Macau Championship on the PGA TOUR China; and Shugo Imahira won the Bridgestone Open Golf Tournament on the Japan Golf Tour.

Lanto Griffin with Houston Open trophy

Once again it's the status quo for my Twofer Tuesday picks. I had Scottie Scheffler (T28) to win and Henrik Stenson (MC) to Top10. Granted, it might have helped if I had known about Henrik's 3-wood before I made my picks!
  • Winners: 2 for 41
  • Place well (Top10): 18 for 41 (10 Top5s, 8 more Top10s)
  • Overall Top10s: 33 of 82 (18 Top5s, 15 more Top10s)
As it turned out, it was a good week for those without any PGA Tour wins on their resumes (or CVs for you readers outside the US). It all came down to Mark Hubbard, Scott Harrington and Lanto Griffin. Griffin had the 54-hole lead, Hubbard was in second and Harrington was three shots off the lead.

They stepped onto the 16th tee all tied, with the 18th -- which was playing harder than the hardest hole on Tour last season -- still ahead. Griffin went one-under on those final three holes to win by one. He said he felt absolutely calm as he stood over the 6-foot par putt on 18 that locked up the win.

The emotions that poured out after it dropped surprised even him, I think. The realization that he had finally achieved his childhood dreams of playing in a final group, getting a win and getting the chance to play in two majors all at once was overwhelming. His phone rapidly filled with congratulation texts and he said he couldn't wait to celebrate with his friends and family.

He'll have nearly three years of Tour eligibility to do so. So I thought I'd kick it all off with a slightly different Limerick Summary than usual -- one that comes from his own words, albeit rearranged to fit the form. Enjoy the win, Lanto. You earned it!
“A dream,” Griffin said at the end.
“All I wanted since childhood, and then
I achieved it today.
It seemed so far away;
Now I can’t wait to share it with friends.”
The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Wie Update

Today I'm posting a link to Randall Mell's extensive article on Michelle Wie as she turns 30.

Michelle Wie

I'll just say that the article goes into considerable detail on where Michelle has been, where she is right now and what she has planned going forward. It's the most thorough piece I've seen on her for a long time, and all you Wie fans will want to read it.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Ian Poulter's Hybrid Basics (Video)

This is a really short video, but it may help explain some of the apparent contradictions you think you see in some players' setups.



Ian talks about placing the ball forward in his stance, just inside his lead heel, because he wants to hit the ball high and stop it quick. (He's using a 3-hybrid in this video.) He says you want to sweep the ball from the turf, not hit down on it. But if you pay attention, you'll also notice that the shaft of his hybrid is leaning BACKWARD at address.

How can this possibly work? From this position, how can you avoid hitting the ball fat?

At regular speed there's no way to see clearly how he does it, but the slower down-the-line view holds the key. If you watch that slower view, you'll clearly see how Ian's weight is moving to his lead foot as his legs move and his hips turn through impact. In other words, his body moves forward just enough that the club shaft is vertical or even leaning ever so slightly forward at impact.

That's not something he has to think about, folks. It just happens because his weight naturally shifts forward to his lead foot during his downswing. If you stand up right now and turn your upper body back and through, as if you were making a swing -- but without swinging a club, just turning 'away from the target' and then turning 'back toward the target' -- it will happen to you too. It's just plain physics.

So I include this video today just to make sure you understand that. You don't have to try to do it; it will happen naturally if you don't interfere.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Tom Stickney on Hitting Fairway Woods

Golf Tips Magazine posted an article by Tom Stickney on several shots you never practice but should, and they devoted a single page to each. Today I want to focus on his advice for hitting fairway woods, simply because Stickney's instruction is so clear and the drill so easy.

Fairway wood and ball

First, Stickney says that most players don't play fairway woods well and should consider playing nothing longer than a 5-wood. That may sound condescending but there's actually some good logic behind this. The 5-wood has more loft and a shorter shaft than a 3-wood -- two characteristics that make it much easier to hit. It's the same reason that a wedge is easier to hit than a 5-iron.

He says the most important part of hitting a fairway wood is understanding how the lie affects the shot. You need to choose the club AFTER you study the lie because the worse your lie is, the more loft you'll need. (Not to harp on it, but you'll hit a good 5- or 7-wood more often than a good 3-wood for that very reason. By eliminating the 3-wood off the fairway, you're less likely to mismatch the lie.)

Finally he stresses the need for a smooth change of direction at the top of your backswing. Too many players jerk the club from the top because they want to hit the ball hard. When you jerk the club from the top, you change your swing plane, change your swing path and just generally make it harder to return the club to squarely contact the ball.

And that's where the drill comes in. Swing your fairway wood like you swing your wedge. Practice that smooth change of direction by making full swings at half speed, then slowly speed up your downswing until you can make that change of direction smoothly while swinging fast.

Why was I so happy to see this? Because there is nothing in these instructions that an average player can't do! There's no rerouting the club or changing your motion, just paying attention to your lie and swinging within yourself.

And once you get good with your 5-wood, that 3-wood won't be so difficult after all.