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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Ai Miyazato to Retire

Earlier this week, it was HaNa Jang announcing she would be leaving the LPGA Tour next month. Now it's Ai Miyazato... but her announcement sounds more final.

Ai Miyazato

According to articles at golfdigest.com, golfchannel.com and espn.com, Ai will be holding a press conference in Japan on Monday to announce her retirement from the LPGA at the end of this year.

Now, it's a bit unclear to me exactly what Ai has in mind. The official (but short) announcement at lpga.com simply says:
Ai Miyazato announces her retirement from the LPGA Tour at the end of the 2017 season and will hold a press conference on May 29 in Japan. There, she will share her thoughts on the decision and will thank all the people who have supported her during her 14-year professional career.
This announcement says she will retire from the LPGA, which could mean that she might play some on the JLPGA. But it also says she "will thank all the people who have supported her during her 14-year professional career."

Ai's LPGA career is only 12 years long, since 2006. She became a pro and joined the JLPGA 14 years ago, in 2004. That sounds like she's calling it quits on any tour.

In many ways, this isn't a surprise. Ai has dealt with a number of injuries over the last few years. Given that she was never a big hitter, it may have been difficult to get back in playing shape. She's also fought putting problems lately, and has only had one Top10 finish in the last two years. GC's article also notes that she's struggled with motivation -- not surprising, given the other problems she's faced.

It will be interesting to hear exactly what she says Monday. But whatever it is, the LPGA -- and golf as a whole -- is going to miss Ai Miyazato.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Dealing with Conflicting Wedge Advice (Video)

A couple days back, I posted a short game video from Lee Trevino. Lee knows what he's talking about because he has always had a great short game.

But so does Phil Mickelson. And if you watch this slideshow of Phil's chipping at the Golf Digest site, you'll get some different guidance than you will from Lee.

And if you watch this short game video from Golf Digest Best Young Teacher Brandon Stooksbury (the video below), you'll get yet another approach. Who's right? Who's wrong? What's a poor player to do?

Let me give you a few tips to help sort things out.



One thing that I noticed right off is that none of these videos is specific about which short game shot they're teaching! I can tell you that Lee is teaching a pitch shot, and Phil is teaching a flop shot, but Brandon is teaching something midway in-between.

How do I know this, you ask? Because I look for some specific clues in the slideshow and videos. You can look for these things too.

First, if possible, I look for clues about the trajectory of the shot.
  • I can see that Lee's shot is flying pretty high when he hits it, and I can see that he and Billy are quite a distance away from the green. Lee is also using a lob wedge; I could tell that when I ran the video full screen.
  • I can see that Phil's shot is shooting almost straight up in the air (the final slide shows all the pictures in sequence), and the text on the second slide says he's using 60° and 64° wedges.
  • I can see that Brandon's shot looks to be flying about the same height as Lee's, but I can see from another section of the video (just keep reading) that he's using a lob wedge like Phil and Lee.
Although all three men are using lob wedges of some sort, the trajectories are slightly different. Those differences are explained as I gather other info.

Second, you need to note the stance. Lee and Phil both use an open stance, Brandon uses a square stance. (Lee doesn't say his stance is open, but you can see it in the down-the-line shots of both him and Billy Andrade.) If you open your stance, you also have to open the clubface. Otherwise you'll pull all your shots.

Third, check the ball position. Lee says to place it back in your stance, Phil has the ball opposite his lead heel, and Brandon say to place it forward although he actually has the ball just ahead of center, as you can see in the video.
Let me make a quick note about playing the ball back in an open stance. It sounds funny but, with an open stance, your stance is effectively narrower than the same width in a straight stance, so the ball is actually closer to the middle of your stance. If that doesn't make sense to you, let me know in the comments and I'll do a post to explain it. For now, just take my word.
But you can't stop with just knowing the ball position...

Fourth, you have to check weight distribution at setup. If your weight is more on your lead foot, the ball is probably being played farther forward. With a more balanced weight distribution, the ball position is going to be farther back. Phil has 99% of his weight on his lead foot, according to the text on slide #3. Lee has his weight more on his lead foot, but not nearly as much as Phil. And Brandon's weight is nearly equal on both feet. (You can tell from Lee and Brandon's videos.)

Finally, you have to check how the hands and arms move when compared to the ball position. And this is where it can get tricky. Check these out:
  • We'll start with Brandon this time. Brandon specifically says not to bend your lead elbow and pull the club across the ball. That's because his stance is square. He lets his arms and shoulders work as a unit, without any manipulation, and the turn of his shoulders provides a very quiet swing where his wrists don't bend forward or back. The weight of the club pulls his hands straight out so his wrists don't flip or bend. He's playing a "straight" shot, and the ball is in the standard mid-stance position for a straight shot.
  • Lee is the exact opposite. You can see him bend his lead elbow somewhat dramatically as he swings along the aimline of his open stance, and finishes with his bent lead elbow close to his side. He's "cutting across" the ball.
  • And Phil? Although he plays from an open stance, he tries to swing straight down the line for as long as possible. The result is that he actually "chicken-wings" a bit, as you can see in the final slide's swing sequence.
These are all things you need to take note of whenever you try swing techniques that are different from what you normally do. Differences in address position make a huge difference in how the swing works, as do extra hand and elbow activity. All of these affect when you actually contact the ball during your swing, and therefore it changes what you're trying to do when you hit it.

Hope that helps you know what to look for when exploring any new golf techniques.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Congratulations, Lady Sun Devils!

In case you didn't hear, the Arizona State Lady Sun Devils won a record 8th National Division 1 Golf title, defeating the Northwestern Wildcats 3-1-1 in match play Wednesday.

Arizona State women celebrate win

And Arizona State senior Monica Vaughn was the NCAA individual champion as well. The Sun Devils cleaned up this year!

But I also send congratulations to the Wildcats. This was only their sixth appearance in this tournament, and their first time making it to the finals. That's definitely something to be proud of!

And now we get ready for the men to fight it out this weekend...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

HaNa Jang Is Leaving the LPGA Tour

In case you missed the news, HaNa Jang is leaving the LPGA Tour next month and will focus on the KLPGA Tour.

HaNa Jang

The reason? A simple one, one that's becoming a bigger consideration for both men and women on all the golf tours -- family. LPGA.com quoted her thus:
"I thought being world number one was the only goal in my life and that was where my happiness comes from," said the 25-year-old, a four-time winner on the LPGA Tour. "But I realized there are many more important things than that.
"Even though I won four times (on the LPGA Tour), I still felt empty inside. I made this decision because being with my family is more important to me than being the world's top golfer."
Golfchannel.com further expanded on her quotes:
"I made up my mind after seeing my mother, who's close to 70, lead such a lonely life here," Jang said. "I thought being the best in the world was my only goal. But from now on, I'll spend as much time with my mother as I can." 
Both golfchannel.com and golfweek.com also noted that Jang has had some emotional upheavals to deal with as well. Besides the well-documented accident involving In Gee Chun -- which Chun says the two have largely dealt with -- there was criticism from the Korean press and fans over the Beyonce dance celebration at the HSBC Women's Champions, which they thought came too soon after the accident. That caused her more distress than we here in the US realized.

As I said, this isn't the first time we've seen family reasons affect a player's tour decisions. Jiyai Shinn comes to mind, having left the LPGA to spend more time at home in South Korea. Both Annika and Lorena left the LPGA to start families. Several of the PGA Tour players have taken or are taking time off from their tour to deal with family problems when, in years past, they might have tried to maintain at least some kind of schedule.

Like Jang, an increasing number of players are finding that the urge to be Number One -- whatever that happens to mean for that player -- simply isn't as satisfying as they thought it would be. And perhaps the increased prize money has made that sort of decision easier to make. Add in the never-an-off-season grind of professional golf, and it's not so surprising that players are making these decisions.

Hopefully HaNa Jang's decision will bring her the peace she's looking for. And maybe we'll get lucky -- maybe she'll find that she can still play some LPGA events after all.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Lee Trevino's Wedge Tips (Video)

This clip of Lee Trevino and Billy Andrade comes from Champions Tour Learning Center. Trevino gives a few keys to getting better results with your chip shots.



First, Trevino calls this a "deceleration" shot, although Andrade says he was always told to accelerate the clubhead. Think about Trevino's reasoning for a moment, and it will make perfect sense.

If you shorten your finish -- say, waist high instead of shoulder high -- your hands don't run full speed to the stopping height and then suddenly FREEZE in place! The key here is that you don't try to think about slowing your swing. Rather, it's something that HAS to happen, based on simple physics. Your body will automatically start hitting the brakes sooner -- decelerating -- when your hands have to stop sooner.

Second, he wants you to move the ball back in your stance so you can hit down on it and catch it cleanly.

And third, he wants you to put your trailing hand more on top of the club handle -- weaken your grip. The second and third tips work together. Let me try to help you understand the logic here.

Remember, Trevino says you decelerate on this shot because you aren't firing through to the finish. This is a short shot, after all, not a full shot! Because of that, your body doesn't turn as fully or as quickly on a chip shot as it does on a full shot.

But by weakening your trailing hand, you get it in a position very much like it would achieve in a full turn... but without making the full turn. It does so without making your lead wrist "break down" and flip the clubface.

And the combination of the weaker trailing hand and the ball position allows you to swing freely without worrying about digging the clubhead into the ground and pulling the chip off-line.

The result should be a relaxed swing that hits the ball toward your target, without putting extra effort into the shot. In other words, Trevino's advice should help you use the wedge's bounce better. Give it a try!

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 AT&T Byron Nelson

Winner: Billy Horschel

Around the wider world of golf: It was a busy weekend for golf! Bernhard Langer tied Jack Nicklaus's record of eight Champions Tour majors when he won the Regions Tradition; Lexi Thompson won the Kingsmill Championship on the LPGA; Stephan Jaeger won the weather-shortened BMW Charity Pro-Am on the Web.com Tour; Celine Boutier won the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women's Health Classic on the Symetra Tour; Alvaro Quiros won the Rocco Forte Open on the ET; Shugo Imahira won the Kansai Open Golf Championship on the Japan Golf Tour; Rattanon Wannasrichan won the Thailand Open on the Asian Tour; and Ai Suzuki won the Hoken-no-Madoguchi Ladies on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Billy Horschel with AT&T Byron Nelson trophy

This was the last time the AT&T Byron Nelson would be played at TPC Four Seasons. And the course made sure to send the Tour on a memorable sendoff.

Each day the wind was different, so it played like four different courses. The greens played hard, making it difficult to hold them with approach shots. And the putts simply refused to be predictable.

Nevertheless, four men fought it out down the stretch. Past winner Jason Day, Billy Horschel, James Hahn and Jason Kokrak each struggled to take the lead yet refused to give up the chase. No lead was safe; as one man poked his nose out in front, his pursuers picked up the pace. Only Hahn managed a birdie in the last two holes, yet he fell short.

It wasn't necessarily poor putting by the players. It was just hard to match line and speed under the conditions and the final-round pressure. That became painfully obvious when Day and Horschel went to a playoff. Neither man could sink a putt to take the title.

In the end, Horschel won when Day was unable to match him for par on the second playoff hole. It was a bit unsatisfactory for both players -- you'd really like to "win" on the final hole, not just "not lose." But a win is a win and both players found positives to carry from the event -- namely, Horschel's first win since winning the FedExCup and Day's first Top10 of the year.

But let's face it -- sometimes, victory is just a matter of outlasting your opponent. And that's certainly enough for Billy Horschel to grab his first Limerick Summary in years. Way to go, Billy-Ho!
The contenders fought hard; none would yield.
In the end, two emerged from the field—
Day and Horschel. Missed putts
At last drove both men nuts;
Horschel won when Day missed. Victory sealed.
The photo came from this page at usatoday.com.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Some New Casual Golf Shoes

Back in March I did a post about new golf shoes for 2017. Now Ashley Mayo has a new article over at the Golf Digest site called 7 Golf Shoes You Can Easily Wear Off the Course.

The main problem I have with this article is the price of the shoes. (Of course, that's becoming a common problem with golf shoes. But I digress...) There's only one shoe in her list that's under $100, and that's the FootJoy GreenJoys for $70, shown below.

FootJoy GreenJoys

My original post included FootJoy Contour Casuals for $100, and both FootJoy models appear to have similar soles. In either case, FootJoy seems to be the company to check for less expensive sneaker styles. (My original post included a $90 pair from Biion but those looked more like traditional golf shoes, albeit very light.)

My personal fave from the new list is the Adidas Golf Adicross Primeknit. They retail for $115 and remind me of boat slippers.

Adidas Golf Adicross Primeknit

These appear to have some kind of cloth or synthetic knit upper rather than leather; the description says they're breathable. In any case, they have a simple stylishness that appeals to me.

The list has a fairly wide variety of styles, considering it only contains seven models. Still, it's a quick intro to the types of choices you have if you're looking for golf shoes you can wear when you're in a hurry to leave the course for the 19th hole.