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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Back in the USA (Video)

I'm sure many of you are thinking about Green Day (a different song), but I'm thinking Chuck Berry (original, 1959) and Linda Ronstadt (cover, 1978)... and the LPGA, of course.



The ladies have finally returned to the West Coast for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. Tony Jesselli says this is one of the strongest non-major fields of the year (only two events last year were ranked higher).

It's hard to believe that this is the ninth holding of this event, and that the original had a "ghost" purse (no actual money awarded other than charity). It was a key move in Mike Whan's move to rebuild the Tour, bringing the LPGA back to Phoenix for the first time in years and inspired by the history of the 13 Founders who started the LPGA. It's come a long way since and it's an important event, as proven by the field strength.

Six of the former champions are in the field, including defending champ Inbee Park.

A late-minute scratch from the event is Paula Creamer, who gave no reason for the WD. However, given that she had wrist surgery during the off-season and stated that she was "optimistic that I will return to competitive play soon," you have to assume that it's due to an injury of some sort.

Oh, and in case you've never heard her, here's Linda Ronstadt's cover. She's no longer performing, due to Parkinson's Disease, but she was a superstar in the 1970s and 1980s. She had one hell of a voice...



The Founders Cup is yet another prime time event for US audiences -- except this time, we don't have to stay up all night. GC's coverage begins at 6pm ET on Thursday night. I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Twofer Tuesday: Valspar Championship

This week, Twofer Tuesday moves along the Florida Swing to the Valspar Championship, where -- at the time of this writing -- 87 of the 144 field played in THE PLAYERS last week.

Defending champ Paul Casey with Valspar trohy

The course? The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort, a 7340-yard par-71 layout with tight driving holes and a noticeable elevation change from TPC Sawgrass. Probably no surprises in the weather -- dry and mostly sunny, although I won't be surprised if the Snake Pit sees a little wind. It usually does.

The defending champ? Paul Casey, who broke a nine-year PGA Tour win drought by beating Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed. Casey posted early and had to watch both players come down the stretch... and come up one shot short.

This year's Twofer Tuesday picks? Here they are:
  • My Top10 pick is Dustin Johnson. DJ hasn't played the Copperhead since 2010 but he's definitely playing well, having two worldwide wins since 2019 started and coming off his first-ever Top10 at THE PLAYERS. I admit that this was a tough pick for me; I can't help but feel that Jim Furyk is on the cusp of a win, and while the Copperhead may seem a bit long for him, its tight tree-lined fairways are custom-made for such an accurate player. (He did win here in 2010.) But I'm guessing that solo second last week took something out of him while DJ is probably on a high.
  • Ironically, my pick to win is Tommy Fleetwood. I say ironically because Tommy has been a bit wild with the driver over the last couple of weeks -- it cost him wins at both of his last events -- and the Copperhead is notoriously unforgiving off the tee. (It certainly bit Tiger last year!) But Tommy's struggles seem to be pressure-related and, after a couple weeks in that pressure cooker, I think he may surprise everybody. With that short game of his, he doesn't have to be perfect... just playable.
GC's coverage begins at 2pm ET on Thursday, while PGA TOUR LIVE's streaming coverage starts at 7:45am ET. The Valspar has tended to give us surprise winners -- I would say that in the last decade only Jordan Spieth's 2015 victory might have been predicted -- so this week will likely follow suit. That should make for good TV!

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 THE PLAYERS

Winner: Rory McIlroy

Around the wider world of golf: Guido Migliozzi won his first ET title at the Magical Kenya Open presented by Absa; Diksha Dagar won the Investec South African Women’s Open for her first LET title; and Kelly Tan won the Florida's Natural Charity Classic on the Symetra Tour.

Rory McIlroy with new PLAYERS trophy

To start, here's my Tuesday Twofers update: I picked Francesco Molinari (T56) to win and Ian Poulter (T56) to Top10. Let's just say... not a particularly good week for me. My record for 2019 so far:
  • Winners: 2 for 11
  • Place well (Top10): 7 for 11 (4 Top5 finish, 3 more Top10s)
  • Overall Top10s: 13 of 22 (6 Top5s, 7 more Top10s)
This is twice I've picked winners but a week early. I picked Justin Rose the week before he won, and last week at the API I had Rory to win and J-Day to Top10. (That pairing would have netted me two correct picks this week.) So close and yet so far away...

Jim Furyk nearly stole Rory's thunder this week with that -2 run on 16 thru 18. But Rory knew when Jim posted -15 in the clubhouse, and matched his -3 on the back nine Sunday afternoon to beat Jim by one and make the finish one to remember.

Rory made a lot of history with this win, beginning with him becoming the first Irishman to win THE PLAYERS. But I'm sure the biggest thing for him is breaking that run of Top6 finishes without a win.

That and adding another Limerick Summary to his haul, of course.
St. Patrick is smiling, I’m sure,
‘Cause Rory at last found the cure
For coming up winless.
I’m guessing the Guinness
Will flow with a joy that is pure.
The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Bobby Jones on Using Your Legs

Some people believe that the "old" golfers who used hickory shafts played golf very differently from the way we play now. While it's true that there have been some changes -- primarily due to the stiffness of modern shafts -- most of the fundamentals haven't changed.

Today I thought you might enjoy seeing just how ancient some of the "modern" techniques of golf are.

Most modern viewers hear analysts and instructors talk about the rather dramatic upward leg action that many pros now use -- okay, let's call it a jump because that's what it has become -- and believe that this is a recent innovation. But this short newspaper piece Bobby Jones wrote back in the early 1930s puts the lie to that. It's from the book Bobby Jones on Golf and is simply called Using Your Legs. Make sure you notice the part that I've put in italics.
One often sees a player who habitually allows the right leg to cave in as his club approaches the ball. This gives his swing a sort of loose-jointed, haphazard appearance and, of course, reduces to zero his chance of controlling his stroke or delivering a well-directed blow. But the fault is equally apparent in the left leg, for there he has made the mistake of accentuating the bend of the knee and failing to straighten the leg as he nears the ball. Once he learns to handle his left side correctly, he will not likely have trouble with his right.

The two most important things to watch in the leg movement are, first, that in starting down the bend of the knees should not be sufficient to cause any appreciable lowering of the head and shoulders; and, second, that as the club nears the ball, the legs should be ready to produce the upward thrust that means so much to power. To all who have studied motion pictures of the golf stroke, the semisquatting posture at which the player arrives when his hands are about waist high on the downstroke is familiar. From that point on, there takes place a straightening of the left leg that culminates suddenly in a powerful upward thrust immediately prior to contact. Inevitably, this movement tends to straighten the right leg as well.

The correct use of the legs is as important as anything in golf, for the expert player makes much of his connection with the ground. A golfer is no exception to the rule in athletics, placing such a high value upon substantial underpinning. [p64-65]
Granted, Jones never jumped off the ground when he swung the club; that much effort would have been too much for those more flexible hickory shafts. But even then, the move was still powerful enough for him to describe it as "a suddenly powerful upward thrust."

And notice that he even talks about using the ground. You thought that was a new term, didn't you?

Many of the classic players set records that stand to this day. It's because they understood a lot more about the golf swing than we give them credit for. Never underestimate the legends of the game!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Gary Alliss on Creating Backspin (Video)

This is the simplest demonstration of how to create backspin I've found. Gary Alliss from Golf Monthly really breaks it down here.



Note that you don't want to lean the shaft too far forward. Many players don't realize that if you deloft the club too much, the ball will fly too low and go nowhere.

Gary gives you two primary keys:
  • Ball position
  • Top of the shaft just on the inside of your lead leg
You can see a number of other things he's doing as well, like putting a bit more weight on his lead leg, opening his stance slightly and using a lot of wrist cock on this fairly short swing. (You'd need that wrist cock on a longer swing as well.)

But it's your setup that makes all of that work properly.

It's a bit difficult to tell exactly where the ball is positioned in Gary's stance because the camera angle seems to change partway through. But you can see that the ball is between the middle of his stance and his trailing foot -- to my eye, it looks to be closer to the middle of his stance. And Gary indicates that the position might change a bit, depending on the shot.

And the top of the shaft isn't in front of his lead thigh, but it would be just touching the inside of his thigh. The key thing you should notice here is that the shaft and his lead forearm do NOT form a straight line. That's because the ball is farther back in his stance, and creating that straight line would make the shaft lean forward too much.

From this position, you can create a lot of backspin with that wrist action.

This is something you can practice pretty easily because it doesn't take a lot of strength. It's all about setup and technique -- and it's a pretty simple technique, at that.

Now if the weather will just clear up long enough to get out to the range...

Friday, March 15, 2019

Ken Green on Playing Downhill Lies (Video)

Don't set your shoulders in line with the slope? I bet this video is very different from what you've been told.



Rather than setting your shoulders parallel to the slope, instructor Ken Green says you should set your knees parallel to the slope!

Here's how you do it:
  • First, you widen your stance. You don't want to make it so wide that turning is difficult, but your weight is going to be more on your downhill leg and you need to brace yourself.
  • Then you slide your knees downhill a bit. This sounds strange but it's simple if you just slide your hips downhill a bit. Not much -- just enough to get your weight more on your downhill foot.
  • Now you set up as normally as you can, which will put your trailing shoulder lower than your lead shoulder, just like normal.
If you were to drop a line straight down from your lead hip to the ground, your lead foot would be just slightly more downhill than your hip. There's a diagram with arrows showing the "slants" at around the 1:00 mark, but there's a really good picture of the correct setup at the 1:33 mark.

As you can see in that last picture, it looks as if your lead foot, lead leg and lead shoulder are almost vertically above each other in a straight line, as I've tried to show in the following screen grab.

Downhill setup showing lead side alignment

It may sound somewhat tricky, but I think you'll find that the position Green recommends actually makes you feel more balanced when you make your swing. Use that balance as your guide, and you shouldn't have much trouble setting up properly.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Martin Hall on "The Azinger Secret" (Video)

I know many of you use a very strong grip. This is a video Martin Hall did some time back, showing how Paul Azinger kept from flipping the clubhead at impact. This is one of Martin's Morning Drive videos.



The secret Martin talks about is keeping the knuckles on your lead hand pointed upward at impact. (Another way to think about this is, since the back of your lead hand is on top of the grip when you use a really strong grip, you want to keep it on top through impact.) The idea here is that, as long as the ball is gone before your forearms rotate -- and they MUST rotate eventually if you use a really strong grip -- as long as the ball is gone first, you won't hit a duck hook.

But for my money, it's equally important that Paul kept his arms and grip as relaxed as he could. If you don't do that, it's really hard to get any major distance with a strong grip. Tight muscles slow down the clubhead.

Now, to do both of these things, you have to let your body turn fully into your finish. Too many people are stiff in their lower body when they swing and, if your lower body and hips stop turning too soon, you're going to flip your wrists. You have to, because your upper body will stop turning and that means your lead arm is either going to flip your hands or tear up your lead shoulder. It's just simple physics.

So if you use a strong grip, you need the Azinger Secret. A good way to practice it is to use the L-to-L drill because it's a shorter swing -- which means you won't put so much pressure on your shoulders and arms if you do it wrong -- but it's a full motion for your wrists, so you get the practice at delaying that wrist flip until after impact.

Of course, that drill is good for your swing, period. But if you have a really strong grip, this drill is even more important to help you learn how to use it properly.