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Monday, June 29, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 Travelers Championship

Winner: Bubba Watson

Around the wider world of golf: Jeff Maggert got ticked off by my post last Wednesday so he went and won the US Senior Men's Open on the Champions Tour; Na Yeon Choi dropped an eagle-birdie-par finish on the field to take the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship on the LPGA; Dani Holmqvist won the Island Resort Championship on the Symetra Tour; Pablo Larrazábal won the BMW International Open on the ET; Jeong Hwa Lee won the Hong Kong Ladies Open on the LAGT; Rob Oppenheim won the Air Capital Classic on the Web.com Tour; Kevin Spooner won the Syncrude Boreal Open on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada; and Bo-Mee Lee won the Earth Mondamin Cup on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Bubba in action

It just seems weird to me. You take a guy like Bubba Watson, a guy who likes to put big bends and curves on a golf ball, and the only places he seems to play well -- other than Augusta National, that is -- are fairly claustrophobic courses with lots of trees and tight fairways. Put him on a wide open links-style course and he seems to be entirely lost.

I just don't get it... but unfortunately for the rest of the field, they've become all too familiar with this weird quirk of being Bubba. And that's doubly true when they play at TPC River Highlands, the home of the Travelers Championship.

I admit that I was pulling for Paul Casey -- not because I didn't want Bubba to win, but just because Paul has had such a long journey back from all the injuries and such that nearly derailed his career. He's been so close this year and once he made the playoff I thought maybe this might be the week.

But it wasn't. Instead, Bubba did his typical magic tricks with the ball and made us all wonder why the hell he can't play a US Open or an Open Championship worth a damn. Perhaps he just needs some glasses that restrict his field of vision so he'll THINK those majors have no room to land a golf ball. I understand most of the other players in the field already have some of those and would probably lend them to him if he just asked...

In the meantime, Bubba receives yet another Limerick Summary to post on his wall... and a plea for him to find some way to play the Open Championship the way we know he can. Bubba, St. Andrews is a PERFECT place for you to win an Open!
Bubba traveled from West Coast to East,
Winning here where he’s always a beast.
Ain’t it strange Bubba thinks
He should struggle on links
While at Travelers he plays the artiste?
The photo came from the tournament upshot page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Tom Watson on Chipping with a 5-Iron

Here's a new video from the Golf Digest site. Tom Watson is just one stroke off the lead at the US Senior Open and the Open Championship is just around the corner, so why not learn his simple chipping / putting tip... using a 5-iron? There's a little written material at the link that you'll want to read, but this video gives you the basics.



It's simple. Just:
  • choose your 5-iron,
  • grip down on it with your putting grip -- that means the 5-iron shaft is in line with your forearms (just look at the video),
  • put a bit more weight on your lead foot,
  • lean the shaft a bit forward, and
  • use your putting stroke, which takes your wrists out of the stroke and makes it easier to get clean contact.
Tom is using a 5-iron instead of a hybrid. The 5-iron has a shorter shaft so you may find it easier to use. The 5-iron also has a bit more loft, so it gets the ball up a little quicker over that fringe grass.

The more simple shots like this that you have in your arsenal, the less stressful your short game will be.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Too Much Rain, Too Much Spain, Too Much Watson(s) on Top Again

This post is kind of a mishmash from four tours because I found Friday's rounds at all of them very interesting.

You see, all of them have something or someone dominating the broadcasts.

M.J. Hur

The LPGA event in Arkansas is only three rounds but they didn't even get the first round finished. Rain -- and lightning -- came in during the TV window and there simply wasn't enough time to get it done.

M.J. Hur -- pictured above -- is the current leader by two strokes at -8 even though she still hasn't finished her first round. (She started four hours late and has four holes left.) Anna Nordqvist, Brittany Lincicome and Azahara Munoz all finished and posted -6, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Supposedly the weather will be better this weekend.

However, I seem to remember Stacy Lewis winning the first one when it was rain-shortened to 18 holes so I'm not holding my breath...

Over in Germany at the BMW International Open, Rafael Cabrera-Bello from Spain holds the lead by a single shot after rounds of -7 and -5. The latter included a chip-in birdie after drowning his approach on the par-5 18th. Cabrera-Bello has been playing well most of the year but hasn't been able to close out a tournament in some time. Perhaps this is his week.

Martin Kaymer missed the cut, btw. These last two weeks haven't been very kind to him.

The real fun seems to be at the PGA and Champions Tour events, where both are led by Watsons.

Bubba Watson is leading the Travelers Championship by two shots, which is no surprise since he seems to own the course. GC said he's something like 89-under since 2010, which is 20+ shots lower than the next closest player. Bubba was pretty tactful when he told GC that the greens there were very easy to putt because anything seems easy after a US Open.

Ah yes, Bubba the politician. I never saw it coming, that's for sure. But you could see his good play at the Travelers coming from half a continent away. After all, he ALWAYS plays well there.

And over at the US Senior Open, Tom Watson is tied for the lead at -5 with Peter Fowler -- a pro from Europe -- and Jeff Maggert, who I went out of my way NOT to pick in my "5 to Watch" post a few days back. Jeff, was it something I said?

Watson's 4-under 66 on Thursday was just one shot shy of his age, 65. Like I keep telling you, if you want to play well for a long time then Tom Watson has a good swing to copy!

Of my picks, Colin Montgomerie is one shot back, Bernhard Langer and Kevin Sutherland are two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez is five back at even par. The course is playing very hard -- and very hot, with temps around 102 degrees Fahrenheit (that's 39 degrees Celsius for the rest of you) -- so I'll stick with Monty as my likely winner.

Fred Couples didn't tee it up because of back problems but I did pick him as a flier. I just didn't expect him to fly away before the event even started!

My point is, ALL of the events look to be pretty interesting this week... but you'll have to hunt around for the ones you want to watch. Remember that the LPGA and ET will be on GC, the PGA Tour on GC and CBS, and the Champions Tour on FoxSports1 FOX if you want to watch any of them.

Friday, June 26, 2015

How to Copy Jordan Spieth's Short Game Magic

Since everybody is still talking about Jordan's play at the US Open -- and since earlier this week I posted a link to a Golf Digest article on that 3-wood he hit -- I thought I'd continue the Spieth worship. Golf Digest has added yet another article on Jordan, this time specifically covering his short game -- a flop shot, a bump shot, a check shot, and his putting process. This photo is from that article.

Comparison of Jordan's bump and check wedge shots

For obvious reasons I'm not going to go over everything in the article. Jordan kept it all pretty short and I doubt I could make it any clearer. But I do want to mention a few things about the two shots pictured in this photo.

The top sequence is the bump shot you use when you short-side yourself and need to bump the ball into a slope to slow the it down. The bottom one is the check shot you use to make the ball bite and stop quickly.

Jordan says he uses his 52 wedge for the bump and his 60 wedge for the check. This makes sense because he wants the bump to fly lower and run, and the check to fly a bit higher and stop.

His stance is pretty much the same for both -- narrow stance and weight slightly more on his lead side. And in both cases he wants to hit the ball before he hits the ground.

But take a look at the differences:
  • For the bump he puts the ball back in his stance, just inside his trail foot. For the check the ball is in the middle of his stance.
  • For the bump there is little or no wrist cock on the backswing. For the check he lets his wrists cock more.
  • For the bump he wants to feel as if he's hitting down on the ball, even though he says it's okay if you hit just a bit behind the ball. For the check he wants to feel as if the club head is skimming the ground right after impact.
  • For the bump his lower body stays pretty still while his upper body swings past. For the check his hips turn along with his upper body.
And he swings slightly faster when he wants a check shot, to add more spin.

Jordan's article isn't very long but it's very detailed so you'll want to read the instructions in his own words. But I wanted to point out these minor differences so you'll understand that you don't have to make huge changes in your setup or technique to create these very different shots.

One other note: On GC's Golf Academy specials, Dave Stockton told Martin Hall that Jordan has all of his wedges -- from pitching wedge on down -- set up with much higher swingweights. (I think he said they were D6 or D7, compared to the D2 of his regular clubs. I may be off a swingweight or so, but the difference is about right.) The idea here is that Jordan's wedges feel heavier when he swings them so he makes smoother swings without swinging so hard.

Lee Trevino -- no slouch at the short game himself -- has always recommended weekend players use heavier swingweights (although only a swingweight or two, not four or five) and to do it all the way through the set. He says it makes it easier to feel the weight of the club head when you swing, which creates smoother swings.

When two short game wizards use the same trick, it's something to bear in mind.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Going Back to Arkansas

The LPGA is headed back to Arkansas this week for the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, where Stacy Lewis is the defending champion. Stacy went to school in Arkansas -- in case you somehow missed it, she's a dyed-in-the-wool Razorback -- and is currently a volunteer assistant women’s golf coach at the University of Arkansas.

Two of her players made the field this week –- Gaby Lopez on a sponsor exemption and Samantha Marks through medalist honors at the Monday qualifier. That's Lopez in the photo with Stacy below.

Stacy Lewis and Gaby Lopez

Tony Jesselli has his usual preview of the event over at his blog, so you can get all the important info there. An interesting factoid: The winning score has been -12 in each of the last 4 years.

Although Stacy is the defending champ this week, you can argue that Inbee Park is the favorite. Fresh off her defense at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship -- her third victory this season -- she's clearly on a roll, whereas Stacy is winless since her victory here last year. (Stacy does have something like 5 runner-up finishes though, so it's not like she's playing badly.)

And with Inbee regaining her #1 spot in the Rolex Rankings for the third time -- and opening up a nearly 3-point lead over Stacy (and a bit over 1.5 points over Lydia Ko) -- it's hard to believe that Stacy won't push a bit too hard this week. That seems to have been Stacy's problem lately; she wants that #1 spot (and some victories) a bit too much perhaps.

We'll have to see if some home cooking and "Pig, SOOEY!" calls can help her get over the hump! Maybe -13 is in the cards for Stacy this year.

This is another week where GC will be giving us live coverage. It starts Friday at 11:30am ET and is scheduled for 3 hours. YAY!.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

My "5 to Watch" at the US Senior Open

And yet another major is here -- this time, the US Senior Open. This week's major will be held at the Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento CA, so it won't be such a long journey for the few seniors who played at Chambers Bay last week.

Monty with last year's trophy

Making picks this week is considerably easier than last week, or at least it seems so to me.
  • Colin Montgomerie is my favorite this week. Not only is he the defending champion but he already defended at the Senior PGA Championship earlier this year and he made the cut at Chambers Bay last week. He has also won 3 of the last 7 majors on the Champions Tour, making him a no-brainer choice.
  • Of course you could argue that Bernhard Langer should be the favorite, given that he has also won 3 of the last 7 Champions Tour majors -- including the most recent one. He also makes my list.
In case you wonder, the 7th major -- the 2015 Regions Tradition -- was won by Jeff Maggert. Maggert, however, doesn't make my list despite playing pretty well this season. Sorry, Jeff.
  • Miguel Angel Jimenez is a still a threat on any tour... and his only 3 starts on the Champions Tour have all been wins. (None of those starts were majors, btw.) He didn't make the cut at Chambers Bay last week but I still like his chances against "the other old guys."
  • Kevin Sutherland is the Tour's resident "Mr. 59" and has played pretty well this season. He has no wins yet this season but has 4 Top10s in 10 starts and is no worse than T13 in any of the majors this year... plus Sutherland was the guy Maggert beat in a playoff at the Tradition.
  • Finally, my flier is Fred Couples. That may sound strange but Freddie has only played 3 events (1 Top10) on the Champions Tour this season, plus 2 events on the PGA Tour... and he missed the cut in both of those. Can't go out on the limb much more than that...
There are certainly other players with a chance but these are the guys -- except for Freddie, of course -- who I think are the best bets. Ironically, PGATOUR.com agrees with me except for choosing Joe Durant instead of Couples.

Oh well, I've missed on my picks before... ;-)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Keys to Jordan's 3-Wood at the 18th

It seems like everybody is trying to explain the keys to hitting that 280-yard 3-wood that Jordan hit onto the 18th green Sunday. Golf Digest is no different; they talked to teacher Michael Jacobs and did a post about it.

What I like about this article is that it gives general advice that will help you with all of your swings, not just some magic key to hit a heroic shot like Jordan.

Jordan after hitting the 3-wood to 18

Matthew Rudy (author of the article) points out that Jordan isn't a power hitter -- hasn't everybody been marveling about that? -- and that he gets himself into contention by:
  • hitting greens and
  • focusing on hitting the best shot he can at the moment (that's all "determination" really is)
But there's an overall key Jacobs points out in Jordan's swing that I've actually mentioned on this blog and in my books before.:
"When he makes the transition into his downswing, he goes into a squat and his body lowers, but the center of his hips and the center of his upper body are still at 90 degrees to the ball."
Teachers often refer to the "Snead Squat" because that was the most prominent move in Snead's downswing. It's the basic lower body move in what we traditionally call "the modern swing," which was the way great players like Snead and Byron Nelson -- and yes, Tom Watson -- start their downswings with their lower bodies. They moved downward more than forward, and they rarely ever "got stuck."

Hogan's swing (which I guess I'll start calling "the postmodern swing" now) turned that move into an exaggerated forward move because he wanted to counteract a hook. As Jacobs notes, by making a downward move Jordan gets a more consistent swing. (And, we should note, Jordan's miss is a hook, the very move Hogan wanted to prevent!)

A downward, somewhat squatty move to start your downswing is a simpler and more consistent way to swing. It eliminates excess body movement that causes you to mis-hit the ball. If you want to try it, it feels almost as if you're falling from the top of your swing but it loads the club shaft just as effectively as that Hogan-style forward drive that causes you to slice.

And if you need proof that it still works, just look at Jordan Spieth.