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Friday, May 27, 2016

Inbee Park Withdraws Again

Inbee Park's left thumb hasn't improved. She struggled to a +12 round Thursday at the LPGA Volvik Championship, then withdrew.

Inbee Park

She told GC that she didn't want to withdraw halfway through the round like she did at Kingsmill last week, so she toughed it out. But if you saw the TV coverage, it was obvious that she was just going through the motions as she reached the end of her day. She wasn't doing her normal routines; she was just stepping up and striking (or putting) the ball then moving on to the next shot.

It was easy to see why. She had trouble making the change of direction at the top of her swing, and she was hitting weak shots to the right because she couldn't square the clubface. Both problems were due to the pain in her left thumb, which was already wrapped pretty heavily.

She's skipping next week's event and will try to defend her title at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. That appearance, combined with the round she finished Thursday, will be enough to meet her qualifications for the LPGA Hall of Fame.

According to the statement she released a couple days ago, she'll be seeking more medical attention after the KPMG. And she told GC that the KPMG could be "it" -- presumably, she meant the end of her season. Since she's qualified for both the International Crown and the Olympics, that would be a major development.

At this point, all we can do is wish Inbee well. She's been struggling with this injury since late last year, and it's turned into a most untimely problem.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Big Howl for the Huskies' Victory!

Today is just a shout-out to the Washington Huskies for winning the NCAA Women's National Golf Championship for the very first time in the school's history. Way to go, gals!

Washington Huskies with NCAA Women's National Golf Championship trophy

And also a late shout-out to Duke freshman Virginia Elena Carta, who won the 2016 NCAA Individual title on Monday. (Duke, of course, is a college here in North Carolina.)

The photo came from the Huskies' women's golf page.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at the Senior PGA

Hey, it's back-to-back majors for the Champions Tour... and this week, I'll try to pick potential winners who are actually in the field.

The major, of course, is the Senior PGA Championship. And Colin Montgomerie is going for a three-peat at the event, at the course where he won his first one in 2014 (Harbor Shores in Michigan).

Colin Montgomerie with the Senior PGA trophy

My "5 to Watch" for this major is greatly influenced by who was in form last week:
  • Coming off a win, it's hard not to pick Bernhard Langer as the favorite. But ironically, this is the only major that seems to elude Bernhard. Does that mean that he's not a favorite? I don't think so!
  • Last week I picked Woody Austin, who skipped the first major for his son's high school graduation. I'm okay with that -- Woody's priorities are in the right place, and I should have double-checked the field list. But I know for a fact that he's in the field THIS week, and he has three wins so far this year. Granted, he either wins or doesn't finish well at all, but three wins is hard to ignore.
  • Olin Browne hadn't played all that well this year until the Insperity, but now he has two Top5s in a row (he was runner-up last week). Got to like a man who seems to have hit his stride.
  • Kevin Sutherland is pretty far down the Charles Schwab Cup rankings (20) to have finished as consistently as he has this season, with six Top11s. But when you're that consistent, things should break your way eventually.
  • And my flier is Colin Montgomerie. How can the two-time defending champion be a flier, you ask? Out of nine starts, he has three Top6s... and nothing else better than T17 last week. And he's at 21 in the Schwab Cup, behind Kevin Sutherland. That's why.
So my pick to win is (drum roll, please)... Bernhard Langer. He hasn't finished worse than T11 in eight starts this season, and he's coming off that win at the Tradition. And if that wasn't enough, he was T3 when they played this course in 2014.

Sorry, Monty. I'm afraid the German's gonna take you down this time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Final Word About Phil and the SEC

Today is a link to a Golf Digest article by Shane Ryan about the insider trading case that Phil was involved in. Why am I posting this link? Because it does a good job of explaining why Phil didn't get charged -- and why he's extremely lucky that he wasn't.

Phil Mickelson

I'll let you read the original article to get the whole story -- it's well-written and you won't get buried in legal jargon -- but here (in my own words) is the crucial bit of info responsible for Phil's "escape":
In order to protect people who may have gotten insider info without knowing where it came from, the Second Circuit (the U.S. Court of Appeals with jurisdiction over New York and Wall Street) issued a ruling in 2014 which is now known as "The U.S. v. Thomas Newman". This ruling basically says that if a person gets a "stock tip" from someone other than the original source, that person can't be convicted because they didn't necessarily know the tip was illegal info.
Since the original source was Thomas Davis (of Dean Foods), and he gave the tip to gambler Billy Walters, Walters can be convicted of insider trading. But since Phil is one of the folks who got the tip from Walters, he can't be convicted because Walters isn't the original source.

So, since Phil made his trade in 2012 but "U.S. v. Newman" wasn't ruled until 2014, Phil simply got lucky. Period.

And while Phil couldn't be convicted, he was required to pay back the profits he made on the deal, plus interest. Phil didn't "volunteer" to repay the money; he was legally required to repay it.

So, just to be clear, there truly is nothing to indicate that Phil knowingly broke the law. But the fact is this: Innocent or not, Phil is getting off with only paying back the money simply because "U.S. v. Newman" is on the books. Anything you hear to the contrary is just "spin."

And you can rest easy that Phil didn't get off because he's a famous person. You would have gotten off as well, had you been in the same position.

But hopefully you would have been smart enough to avoid that position in the first place. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is... and if you ask me, stock tips from a professional gambler would certainly seem to come under the category of "too good to be true."

The photo came from this page at cnn.com, which has nothing to do with the insider trading case at all.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 AT&T Byron Nelson

Winner: Sergio Garcia

Around the wider world of golf: Rory McIlroy got off the schnide by winning the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open on the ET; Ariya Jutanugarn got her second LPGA win of the season at the Kingsmill Championship; Laura Wearn won the Gosling’s Dark ‘n Stormy® Classic on the Symetra Tour; Byung-Min Cho won the Kansai Open Golf Championship on the Japan Golf Tour; Bernhard Langer won the Regions Tradition, the first Champions Tour major of the year; Richy Werenski won the BMW Charity Pro-Am on the Web.com Tour; and Sebastian Vazquez won the 58 Abierto Mexicano de Golf on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Sergio Garcia with AT&T Byron Nelson trophy

This was the week for top players to complain about how bad their games were. I couldn't help but think about how Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka, despite leading the AT&T Byron Nelson, seemed determined to talk themselves out of playing acceptable golf. Jordan clearly got in his own head by the end of the round, and Brooks simply kept trying to hit shots that were giving him problems.

And then there was Sergio Garcia, who sometimes seems as stormy as his El Niño namesake. He said that his game wasn't at its best, but he just kept plugging along and managing his game as best as he could. And there was no better example of that than the playoff. While Brooks stepped up and blasted his tee shot into the water, Sergio made sure he hit a drive in the fairway, played to the safe side of the green, and two-putted for the win.

Sergio's joy at winning again was evident. And the crowds seemed to enjoy it as well, despite their clear support for Jordan.

Jason Sobel wrote an interesting article about Sergio's win for ESPN's website. He said this win might become a blueprint for Sergio's future, because it appears Sergio has realized that winning isn't everything:
"I guess nowadays I also realize that, obviously, winning is amazing; it's great, it's an unbelievable feeling, but it's not the only thing in the world," he said. "There's so many other things that you can do to help people other than hitting the golf ball."
In these moments, just after the victory, he became reflective. Even philosophical.
"When I'm out there, I'm trying my hardest, but if it doesn't come out, I try to take it as the best way possible. Some weeks are better than others, but, you know, I tried."
I certainly hope Sobel's right. Sometimes I think people with a lot of talent labor under unrealistic burdens, simply because the key to success often has nothing to do with the talents themselves. And learning those 'keys' often takes much longer than expected. Extremely talented people are often the tragic stories, while those who are less talented -- and from whom less is expected -- are given the freedom to fail without being judged.

After all, they weren't supposed to succeed. And because of that, they are given the time necessary to learn how to win.

For Sergio, realizing that majors aren't the be-all and end-all of life may be the very key that frees him up to win one. And if not, he's not doomed to misery. I've felt for some time that Sergio may be like Vijay Singh, who did most of his winning during his 40s. I think that, by then, the external pressure to win that Sergio feels -- and that he has internalized -- may be gone because no one will expect anything then.

In the meantime, I'm thrilled that he got back in the winner's column this week... and that I got to write a new Limerick Summary for him. After all, it's been a while since I had the chance:
The fans came to cheer and applaud,
But their faves claimed their games were too flawed
And drove balls in the muck.
That’s when El Niño struck!
His game management left the crowds awed.
The photo came from this page at espn.go.com.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Using the K Setup with a Driver

Chip tweeted me with questions about hitting the driver, and hopefully this post will answer some questions the rest of you might have as well.

A little background: Chip has been using my Stop Coming Over-the-Top book and he says it has really helped his iron play BUT he's hitting a slight slice with his driver and hasn't been able to figure out why. Since he's hitting his irons okay, I doubt that there's a problem with his grip; I suspect it has more to do with ball position. (I'll come back to that before we're done.) But using the K setup should help him get more distance, so we're going to look at both.

PLEASE NOTE: You don't use the K setup for normal shots, just off a tee when you need more distance.

Every instructor teaches the golf swing a bit differently, so I've picked videos by both Martin Hall and Michael Breed to show differences in the way they teach the K setup. Neither talks about ball position in these videos, although that's important. Again, I'll come back to that.

First, here's the Breed video:



And here's the Hall video (the first 1:40 covers the K setup):



You should notice one difference right off: Hall is having you tilt your upper body more than Breed. Hall puts his trailing hand behind his trailing knee to get the tilt, while Breed only puts his hand on his trailing thigh. The reason is simple: Hall is using a wider stance than Breed. If Breed tried to reach that low, he would be terribly uncomfortable -- assuming he could keep his balance, that is.

Hall also recommends strengthening your grip with the driver while Breed doesn't say anything about it. That goes hand-in-hand with another difference that you wouldn't catch because Hall doesn't mention it in this video. (He mentions it in the first 1:20 of this video but doesn't detail how to do the K setup, which is why I didn't use it.) Breed wants you to aim straight down the target line to hit the ball straight, but Hall says that will cause you to slice. Again, this is due to differences in how they teach the swing. Hall teaches a more extreme lower body move in the downswing than Breed, so Hall ends up leaning backward a bit more... and that leaves the clubface more open at impact.

I lean more toward Breed's approach to the K setup because the Stop Coming Over-the-Top method looks more like Sam Snead's swing than Ben Hogan's. Snead was a power hitter but his swing is simpler because it's a more vertical move in the weight shift, which also puts less strain on your lower back. Although Snead used a fairly wide stance, he stood taller -- more like Breed than Hall -- so his tilt wasn't quite as extreme as Hall's. That's also why Breed can aim straight down the target line without slicing. So obviously I'm going to recommend that you stand a bit taller.

But everybody swings a bit differently. Experiment a little on the range and find out which one works best for you.

Which brings us back to ball position. If you want to get distance with your driver, you need to tee the ball higher and get your upper body a bit more behind the ball so you can hit up on it. (Simple logic there: If you put the ball in the center of your stance, you're going to hit down on it. If you want to hit up on the ball, it has to be placed in the front of your stance.)

You have to experiment a bit to find out where your proper ball position is because -- you guessed it! -- everybody swings a bit differently. A good rule of thumb is to start with the ball even with your lead armpit. Obviously, if you have a wide stance (like Hall), it will look as if the ball is closer to the middle of your stance; and if you have a narrower stance (like Breed), it will look as if the ball is closer to your lead heel.

Likewise, if you slide forward a lot during your downswing (like Hall), you may need to move the ball even farther forward in your stance to hit up on it. And if you don't slide forward as much (more like Breed), you may need to move the ball back a bit.

Now the big question -- which I answered for Chip and will now answer for you -- is:
Q: How do you know when the ball is too far forward?
A: You'll pull the ball.
Again, simple logic: The club swings around you so the clubface closes as it moves around you. The farther forward the ball is, the more time the clubface has to close. And, by the same logic, if you push the ball, it's probably too far back in your stance -- before the clubface begins to close.

Hopefully this will help you use the K setup -- and find your proper ball position to use with it -- so you can hit straighter and longer drives off the tee. And if you have questions, just ask them in the comments below this post.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Dash Day IS Happy Gilmore

Jason Day tweeted this video of son Dash going all Happy Gilmore at a driving range, yelling "Happy! Go to your home!!

Really... does it get any better than this?

It must be good times at the Day household these days.