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Thursday, July 27, 2017

The New LPGA /LET Links Event Begins Today

Did you remember that the first round of the new Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open airs today?

So Yeon Ryu, Ariya Jutanugarn and Lydia Ko

Since this is the inaugural event, there is no defending champ. So Yeon Ryu, Ariya Jutanugarn and Lydia Ko are the biggest names in the field although, as Tony Jesselli notes in his preview, a number of top players have decided to take this week off and rest. Ariya, who defends at the RICOH next week, and Lydia are both in need of the preparation as neither has been very impressive lately. Am I worried about their games? No, ebb and flow are natural in life, and certainly so in golf.

Nevertheless, their struggles this season are untimely. Neither has played particularly well in the majors. And since the girls will be playing Dundonald Links, where the men played their Scottish Open a couple weeks back, we have some idea what the course will be like. This week could play a key part in determining the winner of next week's major.

GC is shoehorning the ladies in-between the Senior Open broadcasts, with today's two-hour window scheduled from 9:30-11:30am ET. The RICOH will get much more coverage next week but, as I said, I wouldn't underestimate the importance of this week.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

My "5 to Watch" at the Senior Open

The links fun continues this week. The LPGA stages their first Scottish Open while the Champions Tour heads back to Royal Porthcawl for the Senior Open Championship.

Bernhard Langer at 2014 Open, Royal Porthcawl

Royal Porthcawl is in South Wales, and the defending champion is Paul Broadhurst. He was a bit of a surprise winner last year, but that's part of the beauty of an Open.

It's time to pick my traditional "5 to Watch" at this event. But since Bernhard lost a three-shot lead at the last major -- the one he had won three times in a row -- and since Fred Couples has been fighting back problems again, it's hard to believe there's truly a chalk pick this time. But I shall soldier on and see what I can do...
  • Despite his loss, Bernhard Langer remains a favorite for me. Even the Ultimate Driving Machine's got to have a bad week now and then! As shown in the photo above, Bernhard took the trophy last time they played Royal Porthcawl. In addition, he has a win and two runner-ups in three of the last four Opens. You have to figure he'll be a factor, at least.
  • I almost picked Scott McCarron in the last major, but decided against it. Bad choice on my part. McCarron is playing well as of late, and he derailed Langer's fourpeat attempt. In addition, he was runner-up to Broadhurst last year. Have to give him props this time.
  • Colin Montgomerie hasn't been in the best of form this year; nevertheless he's second in Schwab Cup points and he had a T6 at the Constellation. He was also runner-up to Langer in 2014.
  • This will seem a bit out of left field, but Stephen Ames has Top10'ed in seven of his 12 events this season, and is coming off a string of four straight, including the last two majors.
  • And my flier is... Tom Watson. I don't care that he's 67, he has a good record at Opens. Even if he hasn't won since 2007.
I think we'll probably get another surprise winner this year, but I'm going to take McCarron this week. Langer's record this year is better, but I think he's in a bit of a low point right now while McCarron is on a run -- two wins and two runner-ups this year in 14 events, plus he finally got his first major.

The Senior Open doesn't get the TV coverage of other events -- at least, not here in the US. GC and NBC have what coverage you'll find. Here's the best list I could find:

Jul 27, Thu   
  • GOLF 7:00 - 9:30 AM ET
  • GOLF 11:30 AM - 2:00 PM ET
Jul 28, Fri   
  • GOLF 1:00 - 5:00 AM ET
  • GOLF 7:00 - 9:30 AM ET
  • GOLF 11:30 AM - 2:00 PM ET
Jul 29, Sat   
  • GOLF 1:00 - 6:00 AM ET
  • GOLF 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM ET
  • NBC 12:00 - 2:00 PM ET
  • GOLF 10:00 PM - 2:00 AM ET
Jul 30, Sun   
  • GOLF 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM ET
  • NBC 12:00 - 2:00 PM ET
  • GOLF 10:00 PM - 2:00 AM ET
Jul 31, Mon   
  • GOLF 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM ET
Hopefully that will help. This is an important event for the Champions Tour so it's important to be able to find it!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

One of Henrik Stenson's Daily Drills (Video)

I've mentioned this drill in a previous post -- I don't remember when -- but this video from Martin Hall is new to me and it demonstrates how to do it. The last couple of minutes of the video is basically an ad, so the meat of this video is in the first three minutes.

This "pressdown" drill is one way to learn a good shoulder coil. It forces you to keep your arms straight for a large part of your swing, which helps you:
  • strengthen your core
  • increase your flexibility
  • sync up your arms and shoulders
  • learn the feel of a full finish
You shouldn't create this much tension during an actual swing, of course. This is a strengthening drill that makes it easier to turn your shoulders properly and consistently. If Henrik is doing it for ten minutes a day, he's treating it as a workout.

This isn't the only way to accomplish these goals, but it's one of the better drills you can use.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 THE OPEN

Winner: Jordan Spieth

Around the wider world of golf: In-Kyung Kim won the Marathon Classic on the LPGA; Nanna Koerstz Madsen won the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic on the Symetra Tour; Sam Ryder won the inaugural Pinnacle Bank Championship on the Tour; and Hank Lebioda won the Mackenzie Investments Open on the MACKENZIE TOUR - PGA TOUR Canada. [UPDATE: I forgot to include Grayson Murray's win at the Barbasol Classic, the PGA Tour's alternate event.]

Jordan Spieth kisses Claret Jug

At least Jordan Spieth will no longer have to answer questions about the 12th at Augusta. Now his opponents will have to answer the question, "What must you do to beat him?"

It didn't look that way as the round got underway. Had it not been for his caddie, Jordan might not have held up. He said as much, confessing that the 12th at Augusta started to haunt him as it all fell apart in the first 13 holes. But as ugly as it was early on, Jordan's play was magnificent as he came down the stretch.

And it's not like Matt Kuchar has anything to apologize for. It was his first time in the final group at a major, and he met Jordan blow-for-blow throughout the round.

But what are you supposed to do when your opponent screws up and you finally take the lead, only to have him go birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie in four straight holes? As Matt noted, he went par-birdie-par-birdie on the same holes -- easily enough to finish off most contenders. But Matt found himself two down with only one to play.

There's just not much you can do at that point!

Get ready for the hype going forward. Jordan, like Rory and Phil, is now only one major from the career Grand Slam. If he wins the PGA next month, he'll be the youngest ever to run the table. (He became the youngest American to win THE OPEN Sunday.) And he only gets one chance at that record, since he'll be 25 at the 2018 PGA.

Yeah. Get ready for the hype.

Only 44 players had won three or more majors in their careers before Sunday. But only Rory could claim a Limerick Summary for each of his. Do I smell a competition brewing? Enjoy your third one, Golden Boy:
Though bad shots got under his skin,
Spieth scrambled ‘round Birkdale again.
Four holes in five-under!
He stole Kuchar’s thunder
And locked up his third major win.
The photo came from the UK Telegraph site.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Matt Kuchar's Swing: The Anti-Spieth Approach

Since Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth are the main contenders in today's final round at The Open -- and I looked at Jordan's swing a couple of days back -- I thought it might be fun to take a quick look at Matt's swing. The photo below comes from a Golf Digest sequence of Matt's swing from 2010 (I think) but it's still accurate.

Kuchar's swing at top of backswing

Now THAT is a flat swing plane! The difference between Kuchar and Spieth is even more dramatic when you consider that Matt is 6'4" and Jordan 6'1", a difference of only three inches. I chose this angle because it makes the flatness of Matt's swing very clear. (The photos from his other side look just as flat, but seeing it from his back seems clearer to me.)

As with most swings, there are good and bad points to this type of swing. Here's a short summary.

A swing this flat requires you to drive your legs pretty hard to make sure you get your lead hip out of the way. Otherwise, you'd tend to "get stuck" and push your shots. Your clubface isn't on the target line very long, so it can be a bit tricky to hit the ball on line consistently. And if you miss the fairway, you'll have a much shallower approach into the ball. That could make it harder to get the ball up and out of the rough.

But there are also definite benefits to this swing, which Matt may take advantage of today. If the winds get up as expected, Matt's lower swing plane may help him stay more steady during his swing. His flatter plane will automatically launch the ball on a lower trajectory, which should minimize the wind's effect on his shots. And the lower launch angle should give him more run on the links fairways, which helps offset his need to keep the ball low.

Matt starts the day three shots behind Jordan and, unless they mess up, the rest of the field will have trouble chasing them down. If the wind gets up as expected and Matt can keep his ball in the short grass, he just might grab his first major win today.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Travis Fulton on Inbee Park's Driver Swing (Video)

Here's a quick video from GC's Travis Fulton, focusing on the things he likes best about Inbee Park's driver swing. I want you to notice one thing in particular, something that I often mention on this blog because I think it helps both your accuracy and your back.

Travis particularly likes the fact that Inbee starts her downswing by moving down rather than laterally toward the target. Travis has his reasons for liking this move, but here's my take on it.
This move keeps you from "getting stuck" and pushing the shot, helps you make more consistent contact with the ball, puts you in a position to "use the ground" to create clubhead speed, and also takes some of the stress off your back.
That's a whole lot of benefits from one simple move, a move that players have used at least since the days of Sam Snead. It's almost like falling from the top of your backswing and landing on both feet -- yes, it's that simple.

And it's definitely something you should consider trying, especially if you have trouble hitting the ball consistently and/or have the occasional sore back after you play.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Jordan Spieth Talks About His Swing (Video)

Nearly two months ago, Golf Digest posted a video with Jordan Spieth explaining his "chicken wing" move and why he thinks it works. Since he's leading The Open after the first round, I feel this is a good time to take a peek at it.

This video does a couple of things. It not only explains why Jordan makes the move -- it's how he keeps the face square longer, to improve his accuracy -- but it explains the science behind why you should pay more attention to face angle. You'll learn a lot.

But I want you to understand something that this video glosses over. It's implied that Jordan's success with this move is because it's a better way to be accurate. That's just wrong. If that were true, someone would have discovered that fact long ago because "chicken wings" aren't new. This move definitely works for Jordan, and would likely work for a large number of players.

That doesn't mean it's right for everybody, any more than Sergio's swing is right for everybody or Jim Furyk's swing is right for everybody.

If you take a look at past history, you'll see this fascination with the hottest players' swings at work over and over. For example:
  • Instructors initially said Ben Hogan's swing was "too flat"... until he started beating everybody with it. Then they said it's the best swing ever.
  • They said Jack Nicklaus's "flying elbow" in his backswing was wrong... until he started beating everybody. Then they called it a power move.
  • It wasn't that long ago that you were supposed to keep both feet firmly on the ground during your swing... until guys like Bubba started knocking the cover off the ball. Now they call it "using the ground."
Let me also point out something that wasn't mentioned at all. Jordan prefers to play a fade. In the past, players were told not to "chicken wing" because it would cause a slice. But now we're told that the most desirable shot shape is a fade because "you want to eliminate the left (hook) side of the course."

If you want to play a fade, Jordan's "chicken wing" may be exactly what you need. But if you're after a draw, you might want to keep looking.

Don't let the popular fad of the moment determine how you swing a club. The way Jordan swings might be right for you, or it might not. But no matter whose swing is being praised, always choose your approach based on knowledge, not fads.