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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Tip from Cristie Kerr (and Inbee Park)

Cristie Kerr, like most of the successful golfers on the pro tours, has a unique swing. Since she won this past week, I thought it might be fun to take a quick look at something in her swing that most of you probably would never think about doing in yours.

In fact, Inbee Park does this as well. We'll take a quick look at both of them. I'm including some video footage of both players -- three videos in fact -- and I'll tell you what to look for. We'll start with the Playing Lessons with the Pros show that Cristie did for GC a few years back.

And yes, this is the entire show... but back then it was only a half-hour, which means it's about 20 minutes or so when you remove the commercials. There's a lot of good material in this show but we're only going to focus on about 20 seconds of it, starting at around the 1:40 mark. That section shows Cristie hitting an iron to the green.

What I'd like you to notice is that Cristie doesn't really cock her wrists during her backswing. Isn't that odd? This move is part of the reason she's so accurate. But you'd think that would make her an extremely short hitter, wouldn't you? Yet Cristie averaged nearly 255 yards off the tee this season... and Cristie is only 5'3" tall.

Now there's a little trick to this, of course, but you can't see it so well with this short iron swing. So I've pulled up a YouTube video of Cristie hitting driver at the 2014 CME Group Tour Championship a year ago. The longer driver swing makes it easier to see what's happening, especially in the slow motion part.

There! Did you see it? Although she doesn't cock her wrists on the way back, she DOES cock her wrists a little as she starts down. This is an excellent way to make a small amount of wrist cock last much longer into the downswing.

And despite what you may think, it's not all that difficult to do. The trick is simply to relax your wrists a bit as you start down. The change of direction takes care of creating that small wrist cock if you do. Take the club back slowly, and don't let the club flop around at the top. Then, as you change direction, relax your wrists and forearms for a moment and that little wrist cock will happen.

Now, if you listen to Golf Central, you've probably heard Tripp Isenhour say (many times) that he simply doesn't understand how Inbee Park creates any power with her swing. Inbee is 5'6" and she averages 248 off the tee, nearly as much as Cristie, despite having a much slower swing. Well, just take a look at this video of Inbee hitting driver. As an interesting side note, Lydia Ko's driver swing is shown here as well. Lydia is 5'5" and also averages 250, but notice how much more effort she has to put into her swing to get the same results as Inbee:

It's not just about how fast you swing the club, folks. It's about how you use it. A golf club is a tool for driving balls, just like a hammer is a tool for driving nails. This little "lag" move at the start of the downswing is very much like the way a carpenter swings a hammer. And because you cock your wrists as you start down, you don't have to jerk the club from the top in order to get more clubhead speed.

Cristie and Inbee both use this move. It's not a big move so it doesn't show as much as the clubs get shorter because the shorter shafts don't flex as much. But this also makes it much easier to deliver clubhead speed to the ball with accuracy, so you'll hit more fairways and greens.

This is something that's worth practicing. It's not hard to learn but you do have to stick with it until you get it. It's as much a mental adjustment as a physical one. But it can really help you poke that ball out there!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Let's Talk LPGA 2016

I'm not going to do a long post today but, with the 2015 LPGA schedule winding up over the weekend, I thought it might be fun to take a look at what may await us next season.

Inbee Park and Lydia Ko

First, a reminder of how the end of year races finished up:
  • Race to the CME Globe winner: Lydia Ko
  • Rolex Player of the Year: Lydia Ko
  • Vare Trophy (scoring title) winner: Inbee Park
  • Rolex Rookie of the Year: Sei Young Kim
  • CME Group Tour Championship winner: Cristie Kerr
Inbee also gained enough points to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame when she finishes her 10th year next season. Congrats, Inbee!

And if you pop over to this link at Tony Jesselli's site, you can find the 2016 LPGA playing schedule. There are 34 tournaments, up two from 2015, and the LPGA will take around three weeks off for the Olympics.

The debates have already begun over who will enter 2016 with the most momentum... and who will most likely stumble. Here are my initial reactions to what we've seen so far.

Of course, the Top3 of the LPGA -- Lydia Ko, Inbee Park and Stacy Lewis -- will most likely continue their rivalry. Among other things, Stacy has been making equipment changes this past season -- tell me, how does a conforming golf ball suddenly cease to be conforming? -- but I expect she'll get everything sorted out over the off-season and be fresh and ready to go in January.

Add to this Top3 the ROY, Sei Young Kim. She came over here because she wanted to qualify for the Olympics. Right now she's got it, and I don't expect her to let up with her goal so close.

Cristie Kerr had her first multiple win season since 2010. Tim Rosaforte said she's spent the last two years learning to juggle golf and motherhood, and she thinks she's got it figured out. If so, I expect her to play even better next year.

In the up-and-coming category, let me give you three names. Gerina Pillar and Ha-Na Jang both had big seasons -- Gerina since her performance at the Solheim Cup, and Ha-Na's had moments of brilliance all year as she has adjusted to being in America. The third, In-Gee Chun, won the US Open in addition to five KLPGA and two JLPGA events this season. I'm not sure any female golfer has ever had a performance like that! I like her chances on the LPGA next year.

There are also a number of players I have questions about, although I think their talent is unquestioned. Can Michelle Wie get over her injuries? Can Suzann Pettersen and So Yeon Ryu get out of their own way? Can Lexi Thompson develop a bit more consistency before she begins to press? I'm also a bit concerned how Brooke Henderson will handle the pressure of being a new LPGA member. She's another player I fear may put too much pressure on herself during her first year on Tour. These are all players who can -- and have -- done great things thus far but need to deal with self-imposed pressure to succeed.

Finally, let me add a dark horse to keep your eyes on. There are rumors that Jiyai Shin intends to return to the LPGA in 2016. Currently she doesn't have a card but, if she's serious, she shouldn't have trouble getting sponsor exemptions and earning her way back on like Brooke Henderson did this past season. Remember, Jiyai is a two-time major champion with 11 total LPGA wins, and has won twice on the JLPGA this season, so she's still got the skills to do it. She's currently 39 in the Rolex Rankings.

And with that, I'll let the girls take a rest until next year. They're going to have their hands full beating the performance they put on in 2015!

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 RSM Classic

Winner: Kevin Kisner

Around the wider world of golf: WOW! There's a lot to tell this week. Rory McIlroy won the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai as well as the Race to Dubai on the ET; Cristie Kerr won the CME Group Tour Championship, Inbee Park won the Vare (scoring ) Trophy, and Lydia Ko picked up the POY Award and Race to the Globe on the LPGA; Peter Senior won the Australian Masters (at age 56) on the Australasian Tour; Yusaku Miyazato won the Dunlap Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour; Natipong Srithong won the Resorts World Manila Masters on the Asian Tour; Haimeng Chao won the Nine Dragons Open on the PGA TOUR China; Rodolfo Cazaubon won the Lexus Peru Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; and Bo-Mee Lee won the Daio Paper Elleair Ladies Open for her 7th JLPGA win of the season (bangkokbobby has details).

Kevin Kisner with RSM trophy

"Could be epic."

That's what Kevin Kisner told GC's Todd Lewis about the upcoming celebration after his breakthrough win at the RSM Classic. (Formerly the McGladrey Classic, in case you didn't know. It's still the same company; they just changed their name.) After all, Kevin now lives at Sea Island so everybody was right there, just waiting for him to get his first win.

Just as Kevin has been doing all year.

As you know if you follow my blog, I've picked Kevin as a favorite in several tournaments this past year. He's just been playing so well! When he's lost, it hasn't been because he played badly... he just got beat, as often happens in golf. (And in the rest of life as well, but that's a whole 'nother topic.) He came up just short once again a couple of weeks back at the WGC, his fourth runner-up of the year. He lost by two strokes.

Not this week. After getting his first 54-hole lead -- a fairly sizable 3-stroke lead -- he casually set about building on it. In fact, except for checking back a couple of times, I watched the LPGA's finale because Kevin already had a 5-shot lead when the LPGA broadcast started.

I got to see him finish though. Back-to-back 64s gave him a 6-shot victory when it was all done.

I don't know that I believe that old line about "once you get your first win, the floodgates open." I've seen -- as I'm sure you have -- that most of the time, that old saying is wrong. There are just too many variables in terms of courses and weather, and too many good players at the various events, for us to believe anybody is guaranteed an easier road to victory than anybody else.

But Kevin Kisner has proven that coming up short -- and doing so A LOT -- doesn't get him down. He understands the odds and he accepts them. And with a mindset like that, I think he has as good a chance of opening those floodgates as anybody out there. We'll see what happens for him next year.

But in the meantime, Kevin scores his first-ever Limerick Summary. Congrats on finally breaking through, Kev!
His lead went to six up. It’s true—
Kevin’s runner-up streak is now through.
Back-to-back 64s
Busted down all the doors
To an epic post-game rendezvous!
The photo came from the tournament wrap-up page at

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Chalk One Up for the Old Guys

If you didn't watch the Australian Masters because Adam Scott wasn't a factor -- his driver deserted him this week -- you missed seeing a bit of history.

You see, all 56-year-old Peter Senior did was win his third Australian Masters gold jacket.

Peter Senior

Peter is no stranger to making history. In 2010 he won the Australian PGA Championship at age 51. Then in 2012 he won the Australian Open -- the event Jordan Spieth won last year -- at age 53.

And now he's won the Australian Masters again -- 20 years after his second win -- by 2 shots. Do you understand what he's done? He's won all three legs of the Australian Triple Crown in his 50s. That's just impressive beyond belief.

Just as a side note, one of the three players who finished in second place was amateur Bryson DeChambeau, who won both the NCAA Division I championship and the US Amateur this year. This finish certainly bodes well for him. He left school to try and play his way into shape for Augusta next year before turning pro, and this is definitely a good start.

In the meantime you'll probably be hearing plenty about this over the next week because it's just such an unusual accomplishment. Peter has yet to win on the Champions Tour... but I'm pretty sure this win will minimize his disappointment! 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Rethinking Your "Best" Shots

I found an older article from Hank Haney over at the Golf Digest site that some of you might find interesting. It's called 4 Obsolete Shots and What to Play Today, and it's about the strategy you use out on the course.

Haney hitting an iron

Haney says there are 4 commonly-recommended strategy tips that simply aren't useful anymore. They are:
  1. Hit your 3-wood for accuracy
  2. Lay up to your favorite yardage
  3. Take dead aim at the flagstick
  4. Chip your ball from the fringe
I'll let you read the article to find out why he says you shouldn't follow them most of the time -- hey, there's always an exception to the rules! -- but I want to focus on that third one because I think it could help most of you a lot.

Rather than aiming at the flag, Haney recommends shooting for the middle of the green. And the logic of this is so overwhelming that it's hard to believe we don't do it automatically.

Simply put, most weekend golfers don't know exactly how far they hit the ball. I mean, do you know -- right here, at this very moment -- how far you carry each iron, how far it rolls out, and how far overall you can expect the ball to travel? Probably not. But by shooting at the middle of the green you maximize your chances of hitting the green and leaving yourself a putt.

And, although you may not have thought about it this way, if your ball always ends up in the middle of the green you'll never have a putt that's more than half a green from the hole! And since most holes aren't placed right on the edge of the green, they'll usually be much shorter than that. It's simple logic.

So pop over and read the article. It will give you some food for thought. And by all means, try shooting for the middle of the green for a few rounds and see if it doesn't lower your score.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Alejandra Llaneza on the Symetra Tour... and Rattlesnakes

Today I'm just referring you to an interesting article written by LPGA golfer Alejandra Llaneza for The Player's Tribune. The article is called Let the Rattlesnake Deal with Me and it's about life on the Symetra Tour.

Pay special attention to how the economics work out. It's a real eye-opener.

Alejandra Llaneza

It's a fascinating inside look at how hard it is for female golfers to make it onto the LPGA. It might give you a new appreciation for women's golf and the determination of the players.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Erika Larkin on the One-Piece Takeaway

I realize some of you get tired of hearing me harp on the one-piece takeaway (OPT) but I'd be willing to bet that 95% of you who struggle with your swings don't do it.

You should. And therefore, although I already have a post with a drill on how to do a OPT, I like to put up as many different approaches to teaching it as I can find.

This one is a video from Golf Channel Academy Lead Coach Erika Larkin -- she's GC's Teacher of the Week this week -- and it's yet another coach's way of teaching the move and the feel.

Erika is focusing on the shoulder turn involved in a one-piece takeaway. By putting the butt end of your driver against your belly and turning without bending your elbows, you learn to feel a good shoulder turn without stiffening your arms. Relaxation is very important in the OPT!

I would suggest using this drill to get the feel for the shoulder turn, then try doing my drill to feel the actual position you'll be in when you swing with a OPT. This will help reinforce the correct movement when you're actually hitting balls.