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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Twofer Tuesday: Honda Classic

This week Twofer Tuesday, still wheezing from the heights of Mexico City, tiptoes around the jaws of the Bear Trap at the Honda Classic.

Defending champion Keith Mitchell

PGA National (Champion Course) is a Jack Nicklaus redesign, yearly rated as one of the hardest courses on Tour, and the Bear Trap -- holes 15, 16 and 17 -- is named in his honor. Last year Keith Mitchell snagged his first-ever PGA Tour win with a mere 9-under score for the week, which has been the story at the Champion Course six out of the last seven years. This is a really tough test!

While less-prominent players can win here, it's more likely that big names will take the trophy. Before Mitchell got it done last year, the previous four winners were Padraig Harrington, Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas.

So who's my money on this year?
  • My first Top10er is Erik van Rooyen. After posting a T3 last week, he came oh-so-close to getting special status to play the Tour! Another good showing this week could get the job done for him and, on a course where the scoring is unlikely to be very low, I think he can get it done.
  • And my other Top10er is Rickie Fowler. It wouldn't be far wrong to say that Fowler owns the Champion Course; besides his win in 2017, he was T2 behind Mitchell last year and he's the all-time tournament earnings leader there. After a week off, he should be rested and comfortable at this event.
GC's coverage starts Thursday at 2pm ET. I've taken a chalk pick and a bit of a longshot in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle and getting my first winner of the year. In any case, the Bear Trap always provides some good theater at this event, and the 2020 edition should be no different, so get the popcorn ready and settle in for some serious competition!

Monday, February 24, 2020

The Limerick Summary: 2020 WGC-Mexico

Winner: Patrick Reed

Around the wider world of golf: Stephanie Kyriacou won the Geoff King Motors Australian Ladies Classic Bonville on the LET; and Viktor Hovland won the Puerto Rico Open, the PGA Tour's alternate field event, becoming the first Norwegian winner on Tour.

Patrick Reed with the WGC trophy

Much like last week, Rory salvaged my Twofer Tuesday picks. I had Rory McIlroy (T5) and Adam Scott (T26), and once again Rory got me a T5. Perhaps Adam was just drained from his win at Riviera; perhaps the altitude got to him this year. But he got the week off to a poor start and never recovered. Such is life...
  • Top10s: 8 for 16 (4 Top5, 4 other Top10s)
  • Winners: 0 for 8 events
Once again, Rory was in position going into the final round but couldn't get it done. Nor could 54-hole leader Justin Thomas, nor hard-charging players like Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau, nor even aspiring Tour player Erik van Rooye. Each man had his chance on Sunday and each fell away on the back nine...

Except Patrick Reed, that is. Dogged by murmuring rumors and a wayward driver, he nonetheless used his amazing short game and an incredibly hot putter -- did I hear correctly that he had 45 one-putts on the tricky greens at Club de Golf Chapultepec? --to put up a relatively hot back nine and step up to the 18th tee with a two-shot lead.

From there he promptly lost his tee shot right in the trees, was forced to chip out, and after a so-so third shot left himself an incredibly long and tricky two-putt to win the tournament. He did so with no apparent trouble at all!

It's easy to make Patrick the villain. (He seems to relish the role, after all.) I still don't believe he tried to cheat at the Hero -- whatever you think of him, Reed isn't stupid enough to cheat when he knows a camera is only a few feet behind him, catching it all. I still believe it was a brain fart and, being a bit of a control freak, he simply refuses to admit he did something he can't explain. (Personally, I think you can chalk many of his 'social blunders' up to that; he simply has to have something to blame besides himself, something that was out of his control but that he can clearly name.) He's a polarizing character, to say the least.

But like him or not, you can't deny his toughness or his skill. And now he's got a second WGC, two wins in his last ten starts, has moved to 7th in the OWGR and is on the verge of making the Olympic team! Like him or not, he's earned this Limerick Summary:
For some, adulation’s a need—
But apparently not for Pat Reed!
He’ll wear that black hat
Like a badge, say “Take THAT!”
To the field, and fight on—guaranteed!
The photo came from this page on pgatour.com.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Justin Thomas on Not Liking Your Golf Swing (Video)

This Golfing World video is less than two weeks old and I found it very interesting -- especially since JT is leading the WGC-Mexico going into the final round. Did you know that he doesn't really like the way his swing looks?



There are several things you can pick up from what Justin discusses in this video, but the fact that he doesn't like his footwork -- in fact, he says he doesn't recommend anybody copy it -- and that he has unsuccessfully tried to change it in the past were a surprise to me. He says he can't even hit the ball if he doesn't jump around when he swings! He hopes that there are things in his swing that people will try to copy, but apparently his footwork isn't one of them.

Most importantly, he says that -- even when he's hitting the ball well -- he can get so caught up in the way he thinks his 'funky' swing looks that he tries (again!) to change it.

What I want you to remember is this: JT says that, when he gets too caught up in the technical aspects of his swing, he just has to 'get over it' and accept that this is how he plays his best and leave it alone.

If even Justin struggles with this, then we mere mortals need to take his advice and -- if we're playing well -- just accept our swings as they are and focus on playing better instead of making changes.

It's all about the score, folks. Never forget that!

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Pocket-to-Pocket Pitch Shots

It's no secret that I believe the L-to-L drill is one of the best ways you can improve your game. (Here's a link to the most recent post I did about that drill.)

Well, instructor Krista Dunton published a multi-page article over at golftipsmag.com that shows some ways this drill can help your short game. She uses what she calls 'pocket-to-pocket pitch shots' to play standard, high and low ptich shots. I thought you all might be interested in it.

The pitching swing at the backswing pocket

I'm not going to try and summarize the article because it's four pages long and has detailed photo sequences to illustrate it, so you really should go over and read it for yourself. But basically it takes the L-to-L swing and creates several different pitch shots with it, just by changing the ball position and the club you use.

Definitely worth a look if you'd like a simple way to expand your short game repertoire.

Friday, February 21, 2020

How to Calculate Elevation Changes (Video)

Unlike the pros at Club de Golf Chapultepec who are dealing with altitude, today we're talking about dealing with big slopes at normal altitudes. This GolfersRX video has a couple of simple tips to help you get the ball closer to the hole.



To get your overall yardage, figure one yard less for each yard of drop. In their example they have a 150-yard hole with 10 yards of elevation, so they subtract 10 yards from 150 yards to get a 140-yard shot. It's only a rough estimate but it should get you in the ballpark.

I think it's interesting that they don't come out and say exactly how it affects you going uphill, but it appears they're using the same yardage. So do you take a longer or shorter club to compensate for the elevatio?
  • If you're hitting to a lower elevation, the ball will drop in at a steeper angle and won't roll as far. In this case, you want to take a club that will carry the ball almost pin high.
  • If you're hitting to a higher elevation, the ball will come in at a shallower angle and roll out some. In this case, you choose the club that will put the ball a bit short of pin high to allow for the rollout.
Clearly this approach takes some experience. Relate your club choice to what your normal level-ground choice would be. You'll need a longer-than-normal club when you hit to a higher elevation and a shorter-than-normal club when you hit to a lower elevation. Why?

Because you have to allow for the trajectory of the ball. When you hit the ball to the lower elevation, your normal club would fly too far because it's in the air for a longer time. And when you hit the ball to the higher elevation, it won't fly as far before it starts down.

The tricky part is hitting to the higher elevation. A longer club launches the ball on a lower trajectory. If the rise is too high, the longer club won't be able to hit the ball high enough to get all the way to the top of the rise. And if that's the case, you'll just have to accept that you'll need two shots instead of one to get all the way to the top.

If you don't have a rangefinder that calculates slope, this is probably the best way to guess what club you'll need. This is where a good short game comes in handy!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Other PGA Tour Event

Other than the WGC-Mexico, the only golf on TV this week -- at least, on GC -- is the PGA Tour's alternate event, the Puerto Rico Open.

Defending champion Martin Trainer

The Grand Reserve Country Club is the place to be if you aren't (a) playing in Mexico City or (b) taking the week off. The 120-player field boasts some pretty good names, including defending champion Martin Trainer:
  • Maverick McNealy
  • Scott Brown
  • Viktor Hovland
  • Patrick Rodgers
  • Matthew NeSmith
  • Emiliano Grillo
  • Alex Noren
  • Tom Lewis
among others.

GC's coverage begins this morning (Thursday) at 10:30am ET. The only other game in town should provide some good competition, as well as some gorgeous scenery. I don't always get a chance to remind you of these alternate events, but today is a good day to remember.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Mickey Wright 1935-2020 (Videos)

Another legend is gone. Mickey Wright, whom Ben Hogan once said had the most perfect golf swing he had ever seen, died at the age of 85. She holds a huge number of records in the game and did a tremendous amount to grow the game, which you can read about elsewhere. I thought it might be nice to remember her by remembering her as a teacher. Here are a couple of Mickey Wright's thoughts on the game.

Mickey Wright

This little video lets us hear how Mickey described her own concept of her swing:



And Luke Kerr-Dineen posted an article at the golf.com site with what in 1964 Mickey told Gene Sarazen was the best advice she could give on how to get more yardage off the tee. It's in this clip, starting right around the 3:30 mark.



As Kerr-Dineen writes:
Asked by host Gene Sarazen how to groove a more powerful golf swing, Wright shared one of her favorite drills.
It’s pretty simple: She places a tee about 12 inches behind her golf ball down the “intended line of flight,” or the target line.
Her goal is to simply make sure she knocks the tee away on her takeaway. In Mickey’s own words:
Knock the tee down; it will ensure I am keeping the clubhead long, low, and wide away from the ball. With this wide start, you’re automatically ensured you’ll make the biggest arc possible to the golf swing.
That's elegant and accessible to all, just like Mickey Wright was. We'll miss her. My prayers go out to her family and friends.