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Friday, February 15, 2019

ISPS Handa Stays Busy!

The ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth snuck up on me this week. I wanted to mention it, but realized that ISPS Handa has been in the midst of several recent golf events. It's easy to overlook exactly how many events this single sponsor has a hand in, so I wanted to take this post to give them a shoutout.

Panuphol Pittayarat at the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth

The International Sports Promotion Society, better known as ISPS Handa, is a Japanese non-profit organization that promotes blind and disabled golf worldwide. And they are developing a reputation for popularizing a number of unusual formats for regular golf tournaments as well.

In just the last two weeks we've seen several examples in Australia:
  • the Vic Open, the first event to have the men and women play the same course at the same time for identical purses
  • the Women's Australian Open, one of the big events for all of the women's tours
  • the World Super 6 Perth, a men's event with a unique blend of medal play and match play where the ultimate winner is determined by a series of six-hole matches
And those are just in the last two weeks! This article at Wikipedia will give you a better idea of just how many events they're currently involved with, and also how many they've helped in the past. I think you'll be surprised to see just how widespread their influence has been.

For those of you unfamiliar with the rules of the World Super 6 Perth, this page at thegolfnewsnet.com will give you a quick breakdown of the format. Basically, a full field of 156 players plays three rounds of medal play, with a cut to 65 and ties after two rounds and another cut to 24 after three rounds, then those 24 play off with the six-hole matches to determine the winner.

It's a fun format that GC covers, and ISPS Handa's involvement in the current Australian events is just another example of how they look for new and unexpected ways to spread the game. They are certainly one of the unsung heroes in modern golf.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Tiger Gives It Another Shot

I suppose you all heard the announcement that in 2020 the Genesis Open will become the Genesis Invitational, and will basically become Tiger's tournament the same way the Memorial is Jack's tournament and the API is Arnie's tournament. Complete with all the perks, of course.

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods

But that's next year. This year it's business as usual. The event is played at Riviera Country Club, aka Hogan's Alley, and the defending champion is three-time winner Bubba Watson.

Of course the biggest story -- and the biggest mystery -- is that Tiger has played Riviera a dozen times without a single win, a fact that defies logic. It will be interesting to see how Tiger's revamped swing will fare here. (Last season he was still testing his back, his swing and his equipment at this event.)

It will also be interesting to see how Phil fares after his Monday victory at Pebble Beach. Both he and Tiger have talked this week about how they push each other, and Phil does have back-to-back victories here... although that's a decade past. With both men in the field -- as well as the young fellas who must be starting to wonder if they really want to see another Tiger/Phil era after all (the old boys do have three wins in the last twelve months) -- this could be yet another week of big stories to follow.

Which brings me to my weekly picks. For those of you who have somehow missed it, starting in January I began picking a winner and a Top10 finisher for each week's event, then upgrading my score the following week in the Limerick Summary post. So far I've picked two winners out of six (which would be three of six had I simply followed my gut with Rickie at Phoenix). This is an outrageously good record for me, so I'm excited to see if I can keep it up.

Last week I lamented not going with my gut and picking Rickie, so I did take the "gut pick" with Phil and got my second winner of 2019. The logical thing to do this week is follow the same plan, which would give me Justin Thomas to win and Tiger to Top10. (I really don't think Tiger will hit his stride until he gets to the Florida Swing.)

But I won't. Unlike TPC Scottsdale and the Pebble Beach courses, where upset winners happen quite frequently, Riviera truly is a track that seems to favor certain players. And the rain will only make this course harder for a random player to win. So here are my picks.
  • For my Top10, I'm taking Justin Thomas. That may seem to contradict what I just said, but hear me out. Previous to last year, JT's best finish was something like T39 and that was in 2017 when he began to post multiple wins. Last year he finished T9 -- clearly something changed there -- and in his first three events this season he's posted 3, T16 and 3. I think JT is trending, both in his game and at this course, and with his long high ball flight I think he can capitalize on the wet conditions.
  • And as my winner, I'm going chalk. It's time for Bubba Watson to become one of Riviera's back-to-back winners. He won in 2014, 2016 and 2018, and he finished T4 at Phoenix this year, another course where he feels very comfortable. The only real question is whether his putter shows up, and that's always the question with Bubba. I think Riviera has a better than average chance of seeing that putter get hot.
PGA TOUR LIVE will start streaming the event at 9:30am ET today, but GC's coverage begins today at 2pm ET. I look for something special to happen this week, although I don't know what. But there's a buzz in the air...

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

More LPGA Prime Time Golf

The LPGA is still in Australia, which means the US gets live golf in prime time again.

Defending champion Jin Young Ko

The ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open is the third event of the LPGA season, and Jin Young Ko -- the 2018 LPGA Rookie of the Year -- is the defending champion.

Tony Jesselli, in his preview of the event, notes that this is one of the weaker fields of the year although 20 of the Top50 in the Rolex Rankings will be teeing it up. It appears to me that a number of the higher-ranked US players are skipping the event, as they did last week's. This may just be a function of having more tournament choices now, and the 15-plus hour time change may have become a bigger consideration for them.

At any rate, a number of popular US players will join the field and should have a chance to improve their rankings as a result. For one, I'm looking for Alison Lee to have a good week.

Don't be misled into believing that this won't be a good event, however. It's still got a lot of firepower in it, starting with Ariya Jutanugarn, and we should get a really good show from the gals.

GC's coverage of the event starts tonight (Wednesday) at 9pm ET. I'm really looking forward to it!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Winner: Phil Mickelson

Around the wider world of golf: At the multi-tour-sponsored ISPS Handa Vic Open (ET, LPGA, Australasian, ALPG), David Law won the men's event and Celine Boutier won the women's event; Bernhard Langer won the Oasis Championship on the Champions Tour; and Michael Gligic won the Web.com Tour's Panamá Championship.

Phil Mickelson hoists fifth AT&T trophy

First, my results from last week: I successfully picked Phil to win, but was less successful with Kuchar as a Top10 (he finished T22). My totals for 2019 look like this:
  • Winners: 2 for 6
  • Place well (Top10): 4 for 6 (2 Top5 finish, 2 more Top10s)
  • Overall Top10s: 8 of 12 (4 Top5s, 4 more Top10s)
Granted, it took Phil five days to get that win but -- like him -- I'm not complaining. It was vintage Phil, with an unexpected bogey-free 64 during that bizarre last round that boasted heavy wind, sunshine, rain, even hail. Phil's 44-win total now trails the great Walter Hagen by just one.

I should also mention Paul Casey, who, although he didn't win, secured a solo second for himself and a team win for his partner Don Colleran. That was a great finish on a course that he doesn't have a great record on and bodes well for him going forward this year as well.

There's not really a lot more I can say about this win that hasn't already been talked up in the media. A win and a runner-up in just three starts this year, and the win came on the course that's already been narrowed for the US Open, albeit a very soft course that made Phil's wayward drives a bit more playable. The big question is how Phil will handle a harder, faster course in June.

But there's no question how Phil will handle his latest Limerick Summary. This was a major achievement, without a doubt!
A warm-up for June, many thought;
So wrong! “Warm” was NOT what they got!
But nevertheless
Phil was up to the test—
Can he do it again when it’s hot?
The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Eric Johnson on Putting Like Nicklaus

The Limerick Summary has to wait until Tuesday so they can finish this morning at 11am ET on GC. So here's a new putting article I found. Enjoy!

PGA instructor Eric Johnson has a cool article about the Nicklaus putting style over at golftipsmag.com. It covers a number of basics about the stroke, which he demonstrates WITHOUT Jack's trademark hunched-over-and-open stance, so more of you may find some use in it.

I want to focus on what Johnson calls "The Perfect Piston" position because this is the basis of the technique.

The Vertical Piston Position

As you can see in this photo from the article, the lead forearm, hands and shaft form a straight line. Most people do that automatically. But the key here is that the forearm/shaft line is vertical and actually lines up just ahead of the lead leg as you swing through the stroke.

Other photos in the article show the ball being positioned just ahead of the center of Johnson's stance, and the lead elbow swinging away from the body when the club is in the position shown in the above photo. That's how the club moves straight down the line after impact.

Johnson also explains in the article that while this appears to be a "rocking shoulder" stroke, that's actually a bit of an illusion. You don't rock your shoulders to make the stroke; rather, you make the motion using your arms. It's the pushing of your trailing hand and arm -- the "piston" in the stroke -- that rotates the shoulders forward slightly on the followthrough.

You might find that the ball is better positioned just inside the lead foot, in front of your instep, so the club is traveling more level to the ground at impact. And, as Johnson demonstrates above, you might like a slightly closed stance rather than the Nicklaus open stance. There's a lot of room here for customizing the stroke to your body.

The important thing to note is that this is a push stroke with the trailing arm. If you try to use your shoulders too much, you'll create more of a curved stroke instead of the straight piston stroke.

There are several photos in the article, each with clear explanations. It's a nice adaptation of the Nicklaus technique for modern players.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Guess Who's Leading the Champions Tour Event?

When the week started, all the talk was about Gary Nicklaus teeing up as a pro for the first time since 2003, and about Retief Goosen making his debut as a Tour member, and about Fred Couples finally being healthy.

But headed into the final round of the Oasis Championship, all the talk is about him. Is that any surprise?

Bernhard Langer

Bernhard Langer's pursuit of Hale Irwin's Champions Tour record of 45 wins is almost as big as Tiger's pursuit of Jack's major record. With 38 wins so far, Langer is only seven wins from tying Irwin, eight from taking his record entirely. But no one has ever won that many events after their 60th birthday.

Well, Langer is 61 and on the brink of win #39. And all he did was eagle the 18th on Saturday to take the final round lead.

Langer lives only ten minutes from the course and expects the wind to be up today. He was the betting favorite when the week started... but he's always the betting favorite these days, isn't he?

There are 13 players within four strokes of Langer, and we all know that nothing's guaranteed in golf. Nevertheless, if Langer manages to close out the Oasis today and take the first full-field event of the Champions Tour season, he'll have made a statement right out of the gate. (As if his T3 at Hualalai didn't get anybody's attention!)

With all apologies to the rest of the field, we all know who the talk of the Tour is this week. And I have to wonder... if he succeeds today, what other stories might Bernhard tell in 2019?

Talk may be cheap, but I'm not betting against him today.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

What Will Phi--er, Tony Do Next?

Did you see Tony Romo doing his best Phil Mickelson impression at the AT&T Friday? It was awesome!


On the outside chance that the video didn't embed for some reason, just click the Twitter link in the tweet and you'll be taken to it.

Although the second round didn't finish because of rain, Romo and partner Jim Furyk did finish their round. Romo made four birdies on the way in and made a creative shot to the 18th at Pebble from behind a tree. The two are unlikely to win, but it was a great finish for them.

If Tony Romo keeps this up, he just might get good enough to make the Tour someday.