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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Twofer Tuesday: WM Phoenix Open

Strap on your beer hat and prepare your worst taunts! Twofer Tuesday joins the maelstrom better known as the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Defending champion Rickie Fowler

TPC Scottsdale is a par-71 course measuring 7261 yards long and with a decibel rating similar to a rock concert. That raucous 16th hole, aka "the Coloseum," is one of the most famous holes in modern golf and the beginning of a three-hole finishing stretch than can easily destroy a player's nerves. The water bordering the 17th and the "church pew" bunkers on the 18th play a major role in determining every winner at this event.

Rickie Fowler has felt the heartbreak often enough, and probably felt the course owed him the win he snagged last year.

The WM Phoenix Open is such an unusual event that I can't use the normal criteria to make picks. This event tests players in a way that no other can match; it's about embracing chaos that pros never see at other events... except maybe at the Ryder Cup. (And there they have teammates to lean on!) So let's see if I can pick a couple of Top10ers who might get the job done.
  • Despite that win in Singapore, Matt Kuchar hasn't done quite as well on the PGA Tour this year. But Phoenix seems to agree with him -- while he hasn't won here, his last three finishes have been T9, T5 and T4. Despite his 2020 PGA Tour starts, that Singapore win means his game is in pretty good shape. And since he's clearly comfortable here, he gets a nod from me.
  • Likewise, Jon Rahm has never won in Phoenix. But his last three appearances -- his whole pro career -- have been T16, T11 and T10. And going back to the US Open, he's only been out of the Top10 in PGA Tour events twice -- a T11 at THE OPEN and a T12 at the Tour Championship. Given his steadily improving record in Phoenix and his amazing performances over the last half year or so, I think he'll be high on the scoreboard come Sunday.
GC's live coverage begins Thursday at 3pm ET. Let the catcalls begin!

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Limerick Summary: 2020 Farmers Insurance Open

Winner: Marc Leishman

Around the wider world of golf: Madelene Sagstrom got her first LPGA win at the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio; and Lucas Herbert got his first European Tour win at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Marc Leishman with Farmers Insurance Open trophy

My Twofer Tuesday came through but proved how fragile 'chalk' picks can be. I had Tiger Woods (T9) and Rory McIlroy (T3). Tiger barely made the Top10, though I blame that as much on new equipment as rust, and Rory simply had a rough Sunday.
  • Top10s: 5 for 8 (2 Top5, 3 other Top10s)
  • Winners: 0 for 4 events
Like Rory, a lot of the field had rough days on Sunday. I didn't expect Tiger to win going into Sunday because, while he was just five shots back on a tough course, there were 16 players ahead of him. That's a lot of people to pass, especially if you need help to win. And Rory, while only having to catch two players, couldn't count on a good round when he needed it.

And then a guy like Marc Leishman completely upsets the odds by having a great day. Starting the final round sandwiched between Tiger and Rory (who were -7 and -9, respectively), he leapfrogged everybody else when they simply couldn't find the magic. Overnight leader Jon Rahm went four-over in the first five holes, dropping all the way back into a tie with Leish...

Or at least he would have if Leish hadn't gone three-under in those same five holes. It was a reversal nobody expected... and Leish made the most of it. In that final round he hit only three -- THREE! -- fairways on a course that demands accuracy, and still posted a seven-under 65! He hit almost 78% of his GIR, got up-and-down at nearly every green he missed and finished the week #1 in SG: Putting.

After an absence from the winner's circle that was closing on two years, Leish's putter carried him right back there.. and it did so in style. He also picked up a stylish new Limerick Summary. It's been nearly two years since he had one of those as well.
Leish struggled to hit the ball straight…
But he scrambled and putted just great!
Though a two-year win drought
Might have made others doubt,
Leishman stepped up and ended the wait.
The photo came from this page at golfweek.com.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Sport Science: Happy Gilmore and Padraig Harrington (Video)

An educational but fun video for today. Sport Science decided to see if the Happy Gilmore swing can actually make you longer, so they got Padraig -- who is famous for using the swing in practice -- to test it. And guess what? Padraig is about 30 yards longer with the Gilmore swing!

But why is he longer? And why doesn't he use it all the time? The answers are here... so have fun!


Saturday, January 25, 2020

Rory McIlroy on High Pitches VS Low Chips (Video)

You get a challenge today. Can you see what Rory is doing after he tells you?

Let's start with a Golf Digest article from 2014 where Rory talks about his short game. It's an interesting article but I'm going to focus on how he contrasts high pitches and low chips.
  • For a low chip, I generally have the feeling of hinging my wrists on the backswing and then driving my wrists through toward the target. If I'm facing an especially tight lie, I prefer a simpler motion without using much wrist hinge, where I'm just trying to clip the ball off the top of the turf.
  • For a high pitch, particularly a flop shot, I open the clubface and feel like I'm letting the clubhead pass the ball as quickly as possible through impact to help get the flight vertical. I think a lot of people cut across the ball when they try to flop it—that's not what you want to do. You want to release the club under the ball and out toward the target.
Did you catch that? The primary difference in how Rory tackles these two short game shots is in his hand action.

Now here's a video of Rory practicing both chips and pitches at the 2017 WGC Dell Match Play. Can you see the difference in his hand action?



That may have been difficult for you. While it's easy to see on the backswing -- he cocks his wrists more for the pitches than the chips -- it's may not be so easy to see after impact. Here's a tip: They're both the same! Look at where the shaft of the club is pointing when his hands reach waist high. When he chips, the shaft points slightly downward; when he pitches, the shaft points toward the sky.

So here's a simple thought to try when you practice chips and pitches: Try to make the backswing mirror the downswing. If you want to hit a high pitch, point the shaft skyward on both sides of the ball. If you want to hit a low chip, point the shaft downward on both sides of the ball. That may help your short game become more consistent.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Matt Wolff's Power Keys (Video)

I don't know that many of us will be swinging like Matthew Wolff -- his swing is definitely his own -- but in case you're wondering how he creates so much distance...



Simply enough, Matt has a key for his backswing and a key for his downswing.

His backswing key is to create a full turn with his hips. He says you don't have to lift your lead foot, but it's obviously easier to get a full hip turn if you do.

And his downswing key is to use the ground -- you know, squat down a bit as you swing down and then push upward at impact. You really have to turn through the shot to do that, which means you want to get your belly button pointed toward the target as the club swings up to waist high.

Now, you don't have to exaggerate these moves as much as Matt does in his swing. The bigger you make the motions, the more likely you are to get out of position and make poor contact. A longer shot won't help you at all if you lose the ball over in the trees.

Still, just making an effort to create a longer swing -- that's the end result of what Matt does, after all -- while keeping your balance should help you hit the ball longer. And if you keep your balance and hit the ball in the middle of the clubface, you should be hitting your next shot from the fairway. That always helps the ball go farther!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

A New LPGA Event in Florida

The first of two new LPGA events in Florida debuts today, the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio.

Boca Rio Golf Course

Gainbridge, the sponsor for this new event, is an annuity and life insurance agency. The Boca Rio course, a par-72 at just over 6700 yards long, is in Boca Raton FL. And as this is an inaugural event, there is no defending champion. The purse will be $2mil USD, with $300,000 going to the winner.

And the field should be pretty good. Six of the Top10 in the Rolex Rankings will be there -- Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang, Nasa Hataoka, Sei Young Kim, Brooke Henderson and Lexi Thompson -- and all but two from the last Solheim Cup teams will be there (Lizette Salas and, of course, Suzann Pettersen).

Inbee Park will also be there, continuing her campaign to make the Korean Olympic Team this summer. Inbee is currently #14 in the Rolex, up two spots from last week, and needs to be one of the Top4 Korean players in the Rolex Top15 by June 29th. (There are five Koreans ahead of her right now.)

The new event will be broadcast on GC today starting at 11:30am ET. And since this is the first full-field event of the 2020 LPGA season, we should see 108 very excited players!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

More Golf in the Desert

The desert in Dubai, that is. It seems that a lot of the big names who aren't teeing it up at Torrey Pines are at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau

The Emirates Golf Club at Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hosts the second of the three events that comprise the European Tour's Middle East Swing. Bryson DeChambeau is the defending champion, seen in the photo above with that really cool-looking trophy that looks like an Arabic coffee pot called a 'Dallah.'

Bryson is there, of course, as is newly-crowned Abu Dhabi champion Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson, Tommy Fleetwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Sergio Garcia, Matt Fitzpatrick and Shane Lowry -- as I said, a lot of the big names who aren't at Torrey this week.

The good thing about this is the TV coverage. GC begins their coverage tonight (Wednesday, January 22) at 11pm ET, so there won't be any conflict between the ET and the PGA Tour. We can watch them both!