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Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Potential Story Brewing at the Zurich Classic

I know it's still early in the tournament -- we have the better part of two rounds to finish today -- but you should still be aware of the big story that started during Saturday's stop-and-start round.

First, Erik Compton matched Jason Day's second round 65 to stay in touch with the 36-hole leader.

Erik Compton

And now, as play resumes on Sunday, Compton is tied with Day for the lead at the Zurich Classic after making birdies on 3 of his 6 holes in the third round. Day has played 3 holes of his third round in par.

Perhaps you're wondering why this is such a big deal? After all, Compton has played well at events before, with last year's US Open being the most notable.

The reason is that TPC Louisiana is basically FLAT. Compton's heart condition means he always has more to deal with during a round than most players... but this week, climbing hills isn't part of it. And that means -- if you'll pardon the pun -- that this week it's more of a level playing field.

Which could make this the best chance Erik Compton has ever had to get his first PGA Tour win. True, he'll have to play 30 holes today in that Louisiana heat to pull it off. But the flatness of the course could play a big part if they get all of the holes in.

BTW, Compton isn't in the match play next week, so he doesn't have to worry about conserving energy for that grueling event. He can go all-out trying to get this win. Jason Day, meanwhile, still has to finish this event and get out to Harding Park to defend his match play title.

It should make for some good TV today!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Guessing at Tiger's Playing Schedule

The news that Tiger will be playing in THE PLAYERS -- Tiger tweeted that out on Friday -- has everybody excited. It's also got folks wondering what his schedule might look like going forward.

Actually, if past history is any indication, we can make a pretty good guess which events he's most likely to play. Looking back at the last 10 years or so, Tiger usually plays 3 tournaments between the Masters and the US Open when he's healthy.

Next week is the WGC-Cadillac Match Play. We know Tiger won't be there because he's currently ranked at 106.

The following week (May 7 - 10) is THE PLAYERS. We know that's his next appearance, and when healthy he has played this event since it moved between the Masters and the US Open. This is typically the first of his 3 events.

The next few tournaments look like this:
  • May 14 - 17 is the Wells Fargo Championship. Tiger routinely plays here (last time in 2012) and I won't be surprised if he shows up this year. I think this will be his second event.
  • May 21 - 24 is the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. I don't know if Tiger has ever played this event.
  • May 28 - 31 is the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship. Tiger last played this event in 2005.
  • June 4 - 7 is the Memorial Tournament. Jack has already said that he talked to Tiger and the Big Cat said he intends to play. This isn't surprising because it's usually the last event he plays before the US Open. That likely makes this his third event.
  • June 11 - 14 is the FedEx St. Jude Classic. I don't think Tiger has ever played there and I have trouble believing he'll show up there this time.
And the next week is the US Open. Tiger is pre-qualified because he has won the US Open within the last 10 years (2008) and THE PLAYERS within the last 3 (2013). We KNOW he'll be there!

Will Tiger add some "atypical" appearances? That's a good question since he needs to get his world ranking up in order to make it into the WGC events later this year. If he plays well at the 3 events I expect him to play before the US Open, that probably won't be an issue. But if he adds an event, history indicates it will probably be the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship.

So that's what we're looking at right now. Probably 3 events before the US Open -- THE PLAYERS, the Wells Fargo, and the Memorial -- with a possibility that he'll add the Byron Nelson if he feels he needs either more world ranking points or more tournament reps.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Lydia Ko Is At It Again

I guess it shouldn't be a surprise but Lydia Ko is back on top of the leaderboard at the Swinging Skirts event. Of course, she's the defending champion and she's already defended at one LPGA event, the Canadian Pacific Women's Open (she won in 2013 and 2014). However, she wasn't a pro then. Last year's Swinging Skirts event was her first LPGA victory as a pro.

Lydia Ko during the first round

And after the first round she leads by one stroke. She shot a 67 (-5) on that tough Lake Merced course in fairly cool weather.

In many ways the real fun concerns what's happening behind her. For example, Juli Inkster is tied for second place right behind her (she's from the Bay Area, so she's very comfortable on the course).

Stacy Lewis is in the group at two shots back, and she has a chance to retake the #1 spot in the Rolex Rankings if she can get it together. (Inbee Park can as well, but she's at +1 -- T43 -- so she's got some work to do.) And Morgan Pressel, who's been playing very well over the last few weeks and whose game is well-suited to the tight Lake Merced course, is also at -3 with Lewis.

And that's only the tip of the iceberg. The field is loaded with top-ranked players. Even Azahara Munoz is back after her hand surgery; despite having hit full shots for only a week, she's at even par after her first round. So this could become a very fun tournament very fast.

BTW, today Lydia turns 18. The rest of the field better hope she doesn't decide to celebrate her birthday the way she did last year... that's why she's defending!

Coverage is in prime time again on GC starting at 6pm ET.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thinking Bounce Instead of Degrees

I found this short article at golfdigest.com that outlines a different way to think about pitching -- somehow I missed it when it first came out last month -- and thought it might help many of you.

The article is by Chris O'Connell, Matt Kuchar's instructor, and it advises that you think in terms of the bounce on your wedges rather than the degrees of loft. He says:
Simply put, bounce is how much the sole raises the leading edge off the turf. A wedge with high bounce (10 to 14 degrees) helps keep the club from digging in soft conditions. A low-bounce wedge (4 to 8 degrees) is best in firm conditions, where you want the club to dig a bit. But this is an oversimplification. Good players understand bounce deeply, and usually hit the right shot. I'll show you what they know.
The article is short but very informative. I'll give you a very quick summary but you'll want to read it to get all the details.

Playing with more bounce

He's using a two-wedge system -- a 54-degree high bounce and a 60-degree low bounce -- for his examples. And his basic plan of attack is to use the high bounce bounce wedge off upslopes -- where he says the lower loft also works better -- and the low bounce wedge off downslopes. He gives some very useful directions about how to do this to best effect, which is why you'll want to read the article.

Don't let the short length of the article fool you. There is an amazing amount of info in it, and it's presented very clearly. By all means, take time to look it over -- it could save you several strokes per round!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

OK... Maybe We're Just Obsessed with Jordan Now

I found this over at golf.com and laughed so hard... I mean, really, poor Jordan must be getting a little tired of this himself!

Here's the deal: Somebody with nothing better to do went through the Masters broadcast and discovered that Jordan talked to his ball quite a bit during the final round. In fact, apparently 90 words were directed at his trusty Titleist Pro-V1x as he maneuvered his way around Augusta National on his way to the green jacket.

So golf.com enlisted Tiffany Oshinsky to give a dramatic reading of those 90 words, which somebody decided were extremely poetic. In fact, in addition to the video of her performance, you can read the "poetry" yourself, now entitled Softly.
Softly
By Jordan Spieth
I.
hit it wind hit it wind just a little bit just a little bit
softly real soft
oh no short hit softly soft softly
ahhhh be long enough
ahhhh fore right
go be enough go
hit it wind get down
oh no
II.
down sit down
down sit
go hard go hard go hard go
be enough just be enough
a little be good
gotta be good c’mon be good
siddown ball
bite softly soft
aahuum
III.
down
hit softly hit softly and it’s real good
down
go hard
Forgive us, Jordan. We didn't mean to go all goofy on you. It's just the way life is these days.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Blair O'Neal and the Power Fade

Ah yes, another of Golf Digest's Sexiest Shots in Golf instructional videos. This time Blair O'Neal demonstrates how to turn a slice into a power fade, which is probably one of the most desirable fixes you can make to your golf swing.

Note what Blair says: A power fade is a draw hit with an open face. Do you understand what that means? It means that you aren't lining up to swing out-to-in; you want to swing in-to-out. That means your stance is a little bit closed, NOT open. Let's look at the steps Blair gives and I'll help you get this part right.
  1. Line up your feet on the line where you want the ball to start. Align your feet for a straight shot toward the side of the fairway -- the left side if you're a rightie, the right side if you're a lefty. (Try this on the range and use a club or alignment stick to help you do it.) Now pull your trailing foot back from that line a bit. You should still be aimed to the left center (or right center) of the fairway but you'll be able to make an in-to-out swing.

    If you don't understand how to aim for a draw, go to the Some Useful Post Series page; there are a couple of series there on how to hit draws, one for lefties and one for righties and they have diagrams. Use the 3rd option and aim your alignment stick down the "dotted aim line" in the diagram -- only this time, that aim line won't be down the center of the fairway because we want a power fade and not a draw.
  2. Aim the club face where you want the ball to finish. This will be more toward the center of the fairway, at least until you feel comfortable aiming for a power fade. Note that this is not the way you aim the face to hit a draw, as described in the posts I mentioned earlier. This is a power fade! The club face is OPEN to the draw swing path, not closed as shown in the diagrams.
  3. Stand a little bit closer to the ball. That will help you swing more in-to-out.
  4. Make an inside-out swing for a draw. Just swing along your foot line.
This may take a little practice on the range because you're probably going to pull the first few shots while you learn how to aim your body, but don't give up. This will give you a much better angle of attack on the ball, and that means you'll hit it more solidly and get more distance.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 RBC Heritage

Winner: Jim Furyk

Around the wider world of golf: Weather and playoffs wreaked havoc with the golf this weekend. Olin Browne won the rain-shortened Greater Gwinnett Championship on the Champions Tour; Tommy Cocha won the 84 Abierto OSDE del Centro on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Wes Roach won the El Bosque Mexico Championship on the Web.com Tour; Kiradech Aphibarnrat won the Shenzhen International in a playoff on the ET; Sei Young Kim won the LOTTE Championship in a playoff on the LPGA; Augusta James won the Chico’s Patty Berg Memorial on the Symetra Tour; and Erika Kikuchi won the KKT Cup Vantelin Ladies Open on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has the details).

BTW, Jordan Spieth did get to the American Country Music Awards. He helped present one of the awards to singer Miranda Lambert.

Jim Furyk celebrates on second playoff hole

Well, if you doubted how hard it is to win on the PGA Tour, now you have proof.

All Jim Furyk had to do was shoot 63 -- 9 birdies and one bogey -- in regulation and then birdie two playoff holes to beat Kevin Kisner and finally break that 4.5 year stretch since his last win. That's all -- eleven birdies in 20 holes.

Since that last win -- the 2010 Tour Championship -- Jim has made 99 starts. He's had nine 54-hole leads (and hasn't closed out any of those, mostly because he ran into tough competition), 7 runner-up finishes, and 15 Top5s. We can talk about how he struggles on Sundays...

But wouldn't you struggle if 63 wasn't good enough to get it done?

Well, Jim's struggles are over. (For this week at least.) Now the work begins on getting the next win. But in the meantime, Jim can take a breath and enjoy his Limerick Summary -- it's been 4.5 years since he had one of those as well!
After four-and-a-half years of knocking,
Furyk’s win set the whole golf world talking!
First a 63 score
And then two birdies more—
Competition’s so stiff that it’s shocking!
The photo came from the tournament upshot page at PGATOUR.com.