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Thursday, July 18, 2019

A Surprise LPGA Storyline

The LPGA's new Dow Great Lakes Bay International team event started on Wednesday... and it gave us a surprise storyline.

And no, it wasn't the Korda team. We expected them to play well.

Nelly and Jessica Korda

Nor was it the Canadian Team of Brooke Henderson and Alena Sharp. (Although I was surprised that I couldn't find a team picture of them, despite them leading the event!)

No, the surprise is the second-place team, Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel, a shot back after the first round of alternate shot. (Today they'll be playing best ball, then alternate shot again Friday and they'll finish with best-ball Saturday.) As Creamer told LPGA.com:
"We're best of friends, we've played a lot of team events together, so it's nothing new for us to be able to come out here. We haven't played alternate shot for a little while, and when we have played it in the past, it's always match play and you never have to finish. Out here you actually have to shoot a score, which is a little bit different."
Why do I say this is such a surprise?

Because this is a Solheim Cup year, and neither player is on the points list. I'm not sure they're even in the same city as the points list! But if they continue to play like this -- they're two strokes up on the Kordas, expected to be our strongest team this year -- Juli Inkster may soon find herself with a difficult decision.

Both players have been stalwarts for the US Team in the past, but neither has played particularly good golf over the last couple of years. If they continue to play well, and especially if they manage to win this event, Juli could find herself evaluating a couple of wild cards she didn't expect to have.

Granted, that would be a good problem for the captain to have. But it's certainly not one she expected... and the Solheim Cup is only a couple of months away.

Don't you just love team events?

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Darren Clarke on Strategy for a Drive (Video)

With THE OPEN in Northern Ireland this week, who else would I turn to for driving advice but Darren Clarke?



Darren goes through his normal thought process on how to play a drive, but I'd like to focus on one particular decision he makes for this drive that he says is unusual.

Although he would normally hit a fade on this hole -- because the fairway slopes from right to left and he really needs to hit the fairway -- he chooses instead to play his normal draw. Why? Because it's a bit cold and the fairway is soft so the ball won't roll as much and he won't reach the "penalty area" that might cause problems under other conditions. And since he needs all the distance he can get on this long par-4, he feels it's a safe gamble.

We weekend golfers rarely pay this much attention to course conditions. We may take note of the wind or the length of the hole but that's about it..Learning to pay attention to ALL the conditions of the course is an easy way to knock strokes off the old score.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Twofer Tuesday: THE OPEN

It's finally here -- the last major of the year. Twofer Tuesday hops across the pond in a search for the 2019 Champion Golfer of the Year.

Defending Champion Golfer of the Year Francesco Molinari

The current Champion Golfer of 2018, Francesco Molinari, will have his hands full at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland. Not only is the layout unfamiliar to the pros, as no one has played this course under OPEN conditions since 1951, but it will be the fourth longest course in OPEN history. (Don't ask me for the numbers; I heard them and promptly forgot.) And with temps in the 60s F all week, along with the winds that normally play havoc with links players, this should be a wild week.

While Matthew Wolff isn't at THE OPEN -- his win a couple of weeks back didn't get him one of the invites -- most of the big names we'd expect to see will be there. The number of potential storylines is mind-numbing and, given how different links golf is from normal tournament golf, any of those storylines could play out if a player just gets it together for one week.

Into this madness I now go, in hopes of benefiting from the momentum of picking my first Top10er in many weeks.
  • For my Top10er this week I choose Brooks Koepka. I know the guy can't possibly win every major he enters, but he's only been outside the Top2 once in his last six majors. Whether he wins or not, I'm taking him in hopes of nabbing yet another Top10 finisher.
  • But picking my winner is a tough one. As I said earlier, links golf is a different animal from what the pros play each week and all one of them needs is one good week. So I'm stepping a bit outside the box and picking Jon Rahm to get his first major. My logic is agonizingly simple: He won the Irish Open two weeks ago. Links golf, similar weather. Asking for another win so soon is probably crazy, but in similar conditions...
GC and NBC are covering this major. GC's coverage starts Wednesday night/Thursday morning at midnight am ET. That's when Morning Drive will come on for 90 minutes, then the scheduled live coverage begins at 1:30am ET Thursday morning and runs until 4pm ET that afternoon. Golf all night and most of the day! Don't you love it?

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 John Deere Classic

Winner: Dylan Frittelli

Around the wider world of golf: Sei Young Kim won the Marathon Classic on the LPGA; Retief Goosen won the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS on the Champions Tour; Nelson Ledesma won the TPC Colorado Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour; Patty Tavatanakit won the Donald Ross Classic on the Symetra Tour; Paul Barjon won the Osprey Valley Open on the Mackenzie Tour; and Bernd Wiesberger won the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open on the ET.

Dylan Frittelli with Deere trophy

God bless Collin Morikawa! My Tuesday Twofer picks did better this week, thanks to him. I picked Viktor Hovland (T16) to win and Collin Morikawa (T4) to Top10. Hovland didn't win but he was only one shot out of the Top10 and posted yet another low-60s on Sunday, which was what I expected from him. Things are finally looking up!
  • Winners: 2 for 28
  • Place well (Top10): 12 for 28 (7 Top5 finish, 5 more Top10s)
  • Overall Top10s: 23 of 56 (12 Top5s, 11 more Top10s)
Viktor wasn't the only one who went low on Sunday. Russell Henley rediscovered his game and went low early, posting a 61 that put him just one off the lead at the time. I didn't think it would be good enough... but it very nearly was.

It all came down to Jordan Spieth's college teammate Dylan Frittelli, who, unlike Spieth, has struggled since coming out on Tour. He credited the win to his caddie John Curtis, whom he called the rock of his career, and to sports psychologist Jay Brunza, who he said finally helped him realize that he couldn't control anything by obsessing over it.

That bogey-free 61 came from his now-relaxed mind, making him the only player to beat Henley. By two shots, no less.

The win has certainly upset Frittelli's plans for the year, however. Now he's got to make that long trip to Ireland for THE OPEN next week, reschedule for the FedExCup playoffs, and start planning his Tour schedule for the next couple of seasons. Phew! I just hope he finds time to read his Limerick Summary!
Russell Henley made everyone quake
‘Cause his 61 wasn’t a fake…
But Frittelli was ready.
He kept his mind steady
Despite knowing what was at stake.
The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Katie Rule's Power Drills (Video)

Golf Monthly instructor Katie Rule says these drills are to help women, but I think they're useful for everybody.



The key to both of these drills -- the first, which resembles the baseball drill, and that unusually-named "yoga drill" -- is that they both focus on squaring the clubface.

I've seen the baseball drill recommended too many times where the swing itself was emphasized with no attention paid to the position of the clubface at "impact." When you swing a baseball bat, it really doesn't matter -- after all, the bat is round so it doesn't have a "face" that needs to be squared up. But a golf club is different. I like that Katie Rule shows the face square at impact.

The yoga drill is something new to me (as a golf drill, anyway) and I like it. In fact, I think you can also do it with your hand coming in low, closer to your actual position when you hit the golf ball, because it teaches you to keep that palm square to the target.

If you're having trouble with a slice, you might want to give these drills a try. If nothing else, they will make you more sensitive to the position of the clubface at impact. That is a skill more players need to develop!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Bobby Jones on the Pendulum Putting Stroke

These thoughts are from the book Bobby Jones on Golf, a compilation of newspaper articles Jones wrote in the early 1930s. In an article called simply The Pendulum Stroke Jones talks about the perpetually controversial teaching about swinging the putter back and then forward in a straight line, with the putterface remaining perfectly square to that line from start to finish. He says:
It has been described and expressed in different ways, but when boiled down, each demonstration resolves itself into a thing absolutely impossible of accomplishment so long as human beings are built as we know them.
While he says that such a stroke is an "ideal conception of accurate striking," he adds:
But so long as human toes stick out in front, and until a golf club turns into a croquet mallet and can be swung backward between the legs, there is little hope that this can be attained.
Clearly Jones didn't think like Dave Pelz!

It does seem to me that something close to a pendulum stroke can be made if you lean over far enough so the putter is swinging on a line out past your toes, but that requires a posture that Jones himself neither used nor recommended. He often told players to stand as tall as possible, and that advice truly would eliminate the possibility of a pendulum stroke.

But whether you believe in a pendulum stroke or not, what he says at the end of the article is something that every golfer struggling on the greens should remember:
The important considerations in putting are that the putter should be faced properly when it strikes the ball, and that, as it strikes, it should be moving in the direction of the hole. If these two requirements are met, it makes no difference in the world whether or not the club was faced properly or moved along the the projected line throughout the backswing.
Let me rephrase that in a more modern way.

As long as the putter is moving toward the hole and the face of the putter is square to that line AT THE MOMENT OF IMPACT, it doesn't matter whether it did those two things for the entire time you were making the stroke.

In other words, what matters is if the club is doing what it should when it hits the ball, not what it does when it isn't hitting the ball!

If you remember that when you putt, I think you'll find putting to be less frustrating. Whether you swing on a straight line or an arc, there is some point during your swing that the putterface is pointed at the same point you're swinging toward. Find that point by trial and error if necessary, then put your ball there each time you putt and stop worrying about your backswing. You'll make a lot more putts that way!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Instructors Reflect on Matthew Wolff's Swing

Golf Tips Magazine just posted thoughts on Matthew Wolff's swing from several of their instructors. I thought you might enjoy reading the article.

Matthew Wolff

Not surprisingly, all of them are quite happy with it, even praising its unconventionality. I don't think that's unexpected. After all, Wolff had a proven college record and has now backed it up with a PGA Tour win. I doubt anybody would take them seriously if they didn't praise him!

The main thing you can take from this is how important all these instructors believe impact is, even more important than the other mechanics of the swing. You can only affect the ball's flight at the instant of impact, brief though it is, and you'll get good results if the impact is good.

But I'll simplify this a bit more: As long as you can control where the clubface is pointed at impact, you can play this game. Impact includes more than this, of course. Impact includes the club path and the angle of attack (whether the club is headed downward, parallel to the ground or upward at the actual moment you hit the ball) as well as where the clubface is pointed. To get maximum distance and accuracy, you need all three of those things to be reasonably good.

However, if you can just make sure that clubface is aimed where you want it aimed when you hit the ball, the ball will go where you want it to go.
  • If the path is off from what you intended, the ball will still curve toward where you had the clubface aimed.
  • If the angle of attack is off from what you intended, the ball may not travel as far nor on the trajectory that you intended. But the ball will still go toward where you had the clubface aimed.
Let me repeat that: As long as you can aim that clubface where you want the ball to go, it will go there.

That's what Matthew Wolff does. And as long as he continues to do that, he'll do well at this game, regardless of how unusual his swing looks.