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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Gerina with a Chance

Last week Gerina Piller and her husband Martin were both in contention for their first 'big tour' wins -- Gerina at the Swinging Skirts, Martin at Valero. And despite playing in heavy wind and shooting 73 (still tied for best final round score in the Top5 finishers), Gerina won bragging rights with a T3.

This week Gerina holds a 54-hole lead for only the second time in her LPGA career. After a 4-under 67 she's two shots ahead at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout, and she sounds pretty confident.

Gerina Piller

After the round she told
“I felt like I gave myself opportunities. Had some great shots, just couldn’t get some putts to fall. These greens are pretty tricky and they have a lot of slope to them so you definitely have to give them respect. But I don’t feel like I kind of like barely got by with eight pars, I felt like I could have been a lot lower. So definitely a lot of confidence going into tomorrow.”
Gerina made it clear that she considered last week a success, that she just wasn't good enough but she still played well. She says she just needs to hit fairways and greens, and make putts -- all of which she's done very well this week.

And she'll need to play well if she hopes to win. Amy Yang, tied for second and just two strokes back, is only one shot out of contention for that final spot on both the South Korean Olympic and International Crown teams... and she's made no secret of her desire to go to Rio.

Mi Jung Hur is also two shots back, while Jenny Shin and Sei Young Kim are four back. If Gerina stumbles at all, there's enough firepower among the four chasers to take this win away from her.

After the second cut on Saturday -- that's part of the shootout format -- there are only 53 players left that Gerina has to beat. And if she continues to play today as she has played all week, she's got a great chance to hoist her first LPGA trophy.

Perhaps more importantly, Martin missed the cut at the rain-plagued Zurich Classic. And if this commercial is any indication, a win today may have some extra importance:

Remember, GC's coverage starts today at 3pm ET.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Golf Magazine's New Hybrid Guide

Actually, Golf Magazine's new equipment guide includes reviews of 20 hybrids and 16 fairway woods. And it includes a wide variety of styles -- I've posted the photo of the Ping G Crossover hybrid just so you can see that they included more than the standard 'thick head' clubs.

Ping G Crossover hybrid

Below I've included the links to the four groupings that Golf Magazine created for this guide. Note that Page 1 is the same as the link in the first paragraph of this post:
There are also TWO videos on the first page. After you watch the one about the hybrids, it's followed by a second one about the fairway woods.

As usual, Golf Magazine enlisted players with a variety of handicaps to conduct the tests, in hopes of getting a better idea of how effective the various club designs were. And the testers say that all the club models provided more consistent performance across the board than last year's batch did.

If you're in the market for a new scoring weapon this year, hopefully this guide will save you a little time and money.

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Sample of Leslie King's Golf Technique

Jeffrey Jenkins left a comment on my post about Manuel de la Torre's death asking if de la Torre (and Ernest Jones, who was a big influence on him) taught a swing technique similar to a British teacher named Leslie King. I thought some of you might be interested to learn a bit about him.

King taught a method known as the Swing Factory, which he developed back in the 1920s. It's based around a free arm swing -- that is, the arms swing independently of the body and thus pull the body around, rather than the body pulling the arms around. King taught a large number of people, but his most famous student was probably Sean Connery. King taught him how to play for the James Bond movie Goldfinger. King also helped Gary Player and Juli Inkster, among others.

Sean Connery

Here's an old Golfweek article that tells you a bit about King and the folks who continue to teach his swing method. (The school is Knightsbridge Golf School, in London.) In answer to Jeffrey, this article definitely says that:
He was very much on the same page as Ernest Jones, who ran a similar indoor school in New York. Both men believed in the importance of the arms in the swing.
And here's a link I found to a 12-chapter how-to booklet on King's swing technique. I've only browsed it but it looks very interesting. And since it appears that none of King's original instruction manuals are available here in America -- at least, all of Amazon's listings were for out-of-print editions -- this may be the best way to learn about what he taught. (There are some books by Steve Gould and DJ Wilkinson, however. You can find the list at the Knightsbridge site.)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Brady Riggs on Hitting a Stinger

Here are Brady Rigg's tips on how to hit a stinger off the tee, from Click this link and you can see a video of how to do it. Unfortunately, the site won't let me embed the video.

Proper ball position for stinger shot

Brady says you can use a fairway wood, hybrid or long iron for this shot.
  • Stand a half-step closer to the ball. This will help you trap the ball better.
  • Grip down on your club. That shortens the club and makes it easier to control.
  • Set your stance so your feet are just wider than your hips, not your shoulders.
  • Position the ball about an inch back of the center of your stance. Just look at the photo above.
  • Tee the ball really low, even level with the ground if you're comfortable doing so. Brady says you can hit it off the ground or even kick up a little mound like Laura Davies does. But I'd go with the low tee, simply because you might as well get the best lie you can get.
  • This is the first time I've seen this particular tip, and I'm glad someone finally included it: Instead of gripping the club with the last two or three fingers of your lead hand, grip more tightly with the thumb and forefinger of your trailing hand. When Brady says this is "old school", he means it comes from the days of hickory shafts. He says this will help you square up the clubface, and I agree with that. Just bear in mind that you probably won't be able to hit the ball quite as far, as this is a soft-shaft technique and, unless you're incredibly strong, even a regular flex shaft is much stiffer than they used to use. But since the idea is to hit the fairway and you've already done some things that will reduce your distance, it doesn't matter.
  • Finally, cut off the followthrough to help keep the shot low.
The whole point of the stinger is to make sure you hit the fairway on a tight hole, regardless of whether the wind is blowing or not. It's a worthwhile shot to add to your repertoire.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Manuel de la Torre Dies at 94

I have always respected Manuel de la Torre's approach to golf, and I've mentioned quite a few of his tips in this blog. Golf Digest said he was one of only a few teachers to make their 50 Best Teachers ranking every year since it debuted in 1999.

Manuel de la TorreIt really saddened me to learn he died Sunday in Wisconsin at age 94.

Golf Digest did a short tribute to him that you can read by clicking this link, but I'd like to mention a couple of things I really liked about him.

For one thing, he persisted in teaching a very simple golf swing. His teaching was based on the work of Ernest Jones, who adapted the hickory shaft swing of the early 20th Century to steel shafts. I guess his two most famous professional students were Carol Mann and Sherri Steinhauer, both LPGA major winners and Mann is in the Hall of Fame.

I just loved the way this Spanish teacher -- the son of Spain's first teaching pro -- made things so simple for players. There were no complex drills, no obsession with positions; he always focused on motion and shotmaking. And Golf Digest's tribute gave me a new reason to respect him -- he tried to keep his lessons affordable, especially for junior golfers. (For those of you who wonder, the reason my instruction books are so inexpensive is because I wanted to make them affordable for folks with jobs that don't pay a lot of money -- and that's most jobs nowadays.)

Here's a short video I've posted before, of de la Torre hitting some shots back in 1990, which would have been in his late 60s. He taught a swing that looked this good at that age -- that's a teacher worth listening to!

And for those of you who are interested, there's now a paperback edition of his book Understanding the Golf Swing available. ( Here's a link to the book at Amazon, if you want to see it. It's available from other sources, of course, and I don't get any kind of commission if you buy it. I just really like the book.)

The golf world is going to miss Manuel de la Torre. Rest in peace, Señor.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A PGA Tour Card Is the Real Trick

One of the big buzzwords in golf right now is reactive. It's used to describe a swing made made to intercept a moving ball, and the argument is that golf swings aren't reactive.

Perhaps those instructors just haven't watched Wesley Bryan, one-half of the famous trick shot team simply known as the Bryan Brothers. In 2015 Wesley played his way through Q-School to make the Tour.

Wesley Bryan with El Bosque Mexico Championship trophy

This past weekend, Wesley won his second Tour title at the El Bosque Mexico Championship by four shots. (The other was the Chitimacha Louisiana Open, won in his third start by one shot.) He's won these two titles in only six starts. SIX, PEOPLE! And in doing so he locked up his PGA Tour card for next season.

I'm not sure you truly understand how monumental a feat this really is. Let me give you the numbers:
  • Wesley Bryan has won $260,820 in six starts. He now leads the Tour money list and has locked up a Tour card. One more win gives him the Battlefield Promotion to the PGA Tour this year. In just six events.
  • At the end of last season, Dicky Pride finished fifth for the entire season with $253,057. It took him 15 events to make that much, and no one else in the Top16 of The25 took fewer than his 15 events.
Yet Wesley is best-known for his trick shots, which involves hitting MOVING golf balls. The question is, does his 'regular' golf swing differ much from his 'trick' swing?

Why don't we compare them? Here's a video of the Bryan Brothers in action. Note that brother George usually sets up the shots while Wesley generally hits them. Don't let the GoPro strap-on camera shots confuse you; there's plenty of clear footage showing Wesley's full swing.

Unfortunately, it's hard to find the standard face-on and down-the-line video of Wesley on the golf course. But here are a couple of vids that will give you an idea -- one shows the Brothers playing some match play with some NFL players, the other shows Wesley after his win in Mexico Sunday (shots are mixed in with the interview).

I don't see a whole lot of difference. What I see is a player who stays relaxed when he plays a shot, not one who's fixated on making a perfect swing on a perfect plane.

If you want my suggestion, it might be worthwhile to get a few plastic golf balls -- so you can hit them in the backyard without hitting them a mile -- and practice tossing them in the air while trying to hit them before they hit the ground. Then try to incorporate that feeling into your regular golf swing and see if it doesn't help you get better.

Because Wesley Bryan is proving that reactive swings are not only possible in golf, but extremely desirable. And practicing trick shots is how he got his.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Valero Texas Open

Winner: Charley Hoffman

Around the wider world of golf: Got a lot of winners this week! Wesley Bryan continued to prove he's more than a trick shot artist by picking up his second Tour win this season -- this time, at the El Bosque Mexico Championship; Haru Nomura picked up her second LPGA title this season at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic; John Young Kim won the Guatemala Stella Artois Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Soomin Lee got his first ET victory at the Shenzhen International; the team of Michael Allen and Woody Austin won the Champions division at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf (the Champions Tour event) while Larry Nelson and Bruce Fleisher won the Legends division; Yuta Ikeda won the Panasonic Open Golf Championship on the Japan Golf Tour; Brittany Altomare won the Guardian Retirement Championship on the Symetra Tour; Austin Eckroat won the Junior Invitational (a big amateur event); and Shiho Oyama won the Fujisankei Ladies Classic on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Charley Hoffman with Valero Texas Open trophy

Charley Hoffman has been frustrated by the Sunday blues lately. Seems he would play himself into position after 54 holes but just couldn't seem to get out of his own way during the last round. How bad was it? He was ranked 200 on the PGA Tour in fourth-round scoring. Add the pressure of the chase pack, led by Patrick Reed, and you could understand if it had happened again.

But it didn't. This time Charley got out of his own way and let his clubs do what they'd been doing every other round he played lately...

Hit fairways. Hit greens. Scramble. Make putts.

Patrick pushed him all the way, forcing him to get up-and-down with a 9-foot birdie putt on 18 to win outright. Charley drained it, pumped his fist, and then accepted congratulations from playing partners Patrick and Billy Horschel.

Look, there were plenty of stories on Sunday, including Martin Piller's attempt to win at Valero while his wife Gerina went after the Swinging Skirts. (The Pillers managed T4 and T3, respectively, which gives Gerina bragging rights not only for winning but for doing it in 30mph winds.) But when Charley finally broke through the barrier to get his fourth Tour win, that's the kind of thing that gives fans hope that they can overcome their own limits.

Besides, it gave me a chance to write Charley a really challenging Limerick Summary. You just don't see multi-syllabic rhymes like these everyday!
All his Sundays of late were forgettable
With performances best termed ‘regrettable’;
It was different this week.
Charley let his clubs speak—
Which made this win a great deal more gettable!
The photo came from this article at