Wednesday, July 23, 2014

They're Not the International Crown

For my money, the biggest event this week is the LPGA's inaugural International Crown, the 8-country team competition. But there are a couple of other important events going on this week as well, so let's not ignore them completely!

The RBC Canadian Open is the third oldest event on the PGA Tour (only the Open Championship and the US Open are older). It's being hosted on the Blue Course at the Royal Montreal Golf Club and the defending champion is Brandt Snedeker. You may remember that Hunter Mahan was leading this event last year but had to leave early when his wife went into labor.

Personally, I like Jim Furyk this week but won't be surprised if Graeme McDowell does well. GC will carry it Thursday from 4-7pm ET.

And then there's the Senior Open Championship, being played at Royal Porthcawl in Wales for the first time. (The photo is from this European Tour page.) It's a par-71 course that's 7021 yards long.

Royal Porthcawl

Adrian Millerick from europeantour.com has done a overview of the course that may help you get a handle on what to expect. Just looking at the photo, I'd say it should be a breathtaking event to watch.

While there will be a large number of good storylines -- Colin Montgomerie seeking his third straight major, Bernhard Langer seeking to give Germany an even better year in sports, and the usual cast of players like Fred Couples and Miguel Angel Jimenez giving it a go -- the real story will be Tom Watson, who's coming off a T51 at the "Young Kid's Open" and a final round 68 that beat many of the players hoping to make his Ryder Cup team.

But let's be honest here. ESPN2 will be carrying the Senior Open on Thursday from noon until 2pm ET. With the International Crown running for twice as long during the same time, will anybody be watching?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Yet Another Tip for "Perfect Pitches"

When I found this new tip from Golf Magazine Top100 Teacher Brady Riggs, it was so simple I had to post it. And if you've been paying attention to my advice about keeping your hands in front of your body and not twisting your forearms during your swing, you're already doing this one!

But Brady explains why it works:



Basically, if you keep your forearms quiet during your swing and keep your hands in front of you, the front edge of your wedge will be parallel to your spine when your finish is waist high. This will give you more consistent contact and, consequently, better distance control.

That doesn't mean there's never a time for "manipulating the face" in a difficult situation. But if you pitch this way for your normal pitches, you'll get better results more often.

And as usual, if the video didn't embed properly, you can find the original at this golf.com link.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Open Championship

Winner: Rory McIlroy

Around the wider world of golf: Kylie Walker won the Ladies German Open on the LET; Lydia Ko got her second LPGA win of the year at the Marathon Classic; Steve Wheatcroft won the Albertsons Boise Open on the Web.com Tour; Wes Homan won the Staal Foundation Open on the PGA Tour Canada; Troy Cox won the Ian Weigh Toyota Rockhampton Pro Am on the Australasian Tour; and Misuzu Narita won the JLPGA's Samantha Thavasa Ladies (the Constructivist has details).

Rory's Open selfie

Until he bogeyed the 15th, I thought Sergio Garcia just might pull it off. He had gotten himself within two shots of Rory... but that 6-shot lead to begin the day was just too much. (Sergio said later that, even before the bogey, he knew that Rory hadn't stumbled badly enough to give him a chance. It didn't stop Sergio from giving Rory a smiling congratulations at the end. Sergio has come a long way.)

And it doesn't stop me from gloating just a bit. They may not have won, but 3 of my picks -- Sergio, Rickie Fowler, and Jim Furyk -- filled out the Top4 at the Open. I rarely choose that well!

The old cliche proved to be true: Rory both drove for show and putted for dough. (And for the Claret Jug, of course!) Rory became the only European player with 3 legs of the Career Slam, with only the Masters left to go... and Phil Mickelson was probably correct when he said Rory's game was well-suited to picking up that last leg! He became the 3rd youngest player to get to the 3/4 point:
  1. Jack at 23
  2. Tiger at 24
  3. Rory at 25
And of course he set a number of other records, most of which escape me at the moment.

Of course, it seemed that the biggest news was the bet Rory's dad (and a few friends) placed 10 years ago concerning Rory winning the Open. There are a number of different reports about the bets and exactly what the bettors won, but ESPN posted the Ladbrokes official announcement on their site. Here's the short version (these are quoted from the article):

There were 3 bets:
  • One bet -- believed to be made by McIlroy's father -- was a 200-pound wager ($341) at 500/1 odds placed in 2004 for his son to win within 10 years. That bet will pay out $171,000.
  • The second bet -- believed to be made by his dad's friends -- was for 200 pounds at 250/1 for him to win The Open by 2015, and
  • The third bet -- also believed to be made by his dad's friends -- was for 200 pounds at 150/1 for McIlroy to win The Open before age 50. These last two bets will pay out a combined $136,700.
And Ladbrokes tweeted that they will be paying these bets off. These are called special odds requests and apparently they aren't unusual, although most of them never pay off. You can get the details from that ESPN article.

In the meantime, Rory will be sipping wine from his jug in celebration of his newest Limerick Summary. That's worth more than anything, right?
Three-fourths of the way to the Slam
Rory’s proved he’s a wolf, not a lamb!
There’s a smile on his mug
When he’s holding the Jug…
And on Dad’s. He’ll drink more than a dram!
The photo is the selfie that Rory sent out on @The_Open.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

How Butch Is Changing Rickie Fowler's Swing

Today's post is more about learning by seeing. Rickie Fowler's work with Butch Harmon has really shown some noticeable progress, especially in the majors. Here's a video from PGA instructor Matt Holman outlining the differences between Rickie's 2011 swing and his 2014 swing.



The video is self-explanatory so I won't duplicate what Matt says. But what Butch has been generally trying to do is get Rickie's swing on more of a neutral plane -- it was very flat before -- and eliminate a lot of the excess motion he originally had. The first half of the video explains the original swing shown on the right; the rest of the video explains the changes on the left.

The lines Matt draws showing the differences in where Rickie's hands are at the top of his backswing now may really help a lot of you learn to keep your hands "in front of you."

This video was uploaded in March, before Rickie started playing so well in the majors. When Matt says he expected these changes to make a huge difference in Rickie's play going forward, he didn't know how right he was!

Rickie said the bad shots he hit coming down the stretch in the third round were the result of the old habits sneaking back in. Tim Rosaforte told GC that Rickie had already been on the phone with Butch to try and figure out how to keep them from coming back. It should be interesting to see if Rickie can catch Rory again today and maybe even sneak past him for his first major.

After all, that's how Rickie got his other two professional wins!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Potential for Disaster

That doesn't sound like a promising start for a post, does it? But it's the real story at most Opens, and it's certainly looming this weekend.

Rory

The R&A decided to send players off both 1 and 10 tees today in hopes of missing most of the bad weather. I understand that they expect a Spanish Plume, which sounds festive but can cause extreme heat, flash flooding, hail, and even tornados. Tennis ball-sized hail from one of these plumes slammed France just over a month ago.

It doesn't sound like the best of conditions for golf. And since Rory is leading, you have to assume he'll have considerably worse weather than some of his pursuers teeing off an hour or so earlier.

Hoylake has already wrecked the hopes of some favorites like Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson, and Webb Simpson. Despite the carnage, the leaderboard looks like a Who's Who from the OWGR. And one man's disaster is another man's opportunity.

If Phil can put something together in the tough conditions today, he just might get himself a chance to defend his title.

While Tiger isn't playing particularly well, I find the mere fact that he made the cut with only 2 competitive rounds in nearly 4 months fairly encouraging. And three of my picks -- Sergio Garcia (T3), Rickie Fowler (T3), and Jim Furyk (T9) -- are all right there in the mix.

But the story today will be Rory. Just because he got past the second round jinx doesn't mean the third or final rounds are guaranteed -- just remember the Honda Classic earlier this season -- and Dustin Johnson is right on his heels.

Oh yes, the potential for disaster is everywhere today. But I guess that's just regular old Open golf.

One last thought: Not all disasters are necessarily weather-based. After he became the oldest man to make the cut in the Open Friday, Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson calmly told the press, "I'm thinking about picking the captain." I see some potentially disastrous effects in store for some of the team hopefuls!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tom Watson on When to Chip, When to Putt

Tom Watson off the greenTom Watson has a new (and very short) article at golfdigest.com about when to putt and when to chip.

While it has the standard advice you'd expect -- quote, "even the best chippers putt when they can," unquote -- this article is nice because it tells you when chipping is best and what kind of lies will give you the best chance of success with each technique. He talks about simple things we should remember but often don't -- things like making a bigger stroke to putt the ball through the fringe, or taking a club with less loft than a wedge to get the chip rolling sooner, or using your putting grip with the wedge.

Again, a simple article... but it could save you a bunch of strokes. And this is Tom Watson talking here! How can you miss if you follow his advice?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How Close Is Tiger to Jack's Record... Really?

No doubt you've heard the comparisons of Tiger and Jack this week. Their records at the same age have been watched ever since Tiger started making a serious run at the Golden Bear. Tiger was ahead of Jack's major record when he won his 14th major at the 2008 US Open. But now, unless Tiger wins at the Open this week, he'll fall behind Jack for the first time.

I understand the logic... but it's a bit misleading, folks. The story's more complex than that.

Jack and Tiger

Going into this week, Tiger hasn't won a major since the 2008 US Open. That's 24 majors -- 6 years. For the sake of simplicity, I'm going to assume Tiger won't win this week, nor will he win the PGA in Valhalla while he gets his game back in fighting shape. That's 26 majors, or 6.5 years.

Let's take a look at how Jack fared from this point onward in his record major run.

After Jack won the 1978 Open (major #15), he won a regular event the next week but missed the cut at the PGA. He didn't win a major at all in 1979 -- he was rebuilding his swing that year -- and then he won the 1980 US Open (#16) and 1980 PGA (#17). He then went winless at the majors until his 18th win at the 1986 Masters. In fact, he only won two regular events between his 17th and 18th majors, and he never won a PGA Tour event -- major or otherwise -- after that.

Let's do a little math here. Between #15 and #16 he was winless for 6 majors -- that's 1.5 years. And between #17 and #18 he went winless for 20 majors -- that's 5 more years. By my calculation, that's 6.5 winless years in the majors... just like Tiger.

But if we're comparing their records at the same age, these barren years are still in Jack's future! From this point on -- after "this week's win" at the Open, that is -- Jack has only 6 more wins of any kind. And Jack was healthy for those years while Tiger has spent his last 6 years trying to get healthy.

To me, this sounds as if Jack is actually the one who's behind. In those 6.5 winless years, Jack played every major and missed only one cut while Tiger didn't play in 6 majors and missed 2 cuts. If Tiger is indeed finally healthy and has his game in any sort of shape when 2015 finally arrives, Tiger has 29 majors left to catch Jack by the same age.

But wait... the oldest man to win a major was Julius Boros, who won the 1968 PGA at the ripe old age of 48. If Tiger could match that feat -- and you know he's aware of this record as well -- that gives him 36 more majors to beat Jack.

Granted, a lot depends on Tiger's health. But if he's healthy going forward, I sure wouldn't bet against him. In the year-to-year comparison, Jack could start losing some serious ground within the next year or two.