Monday, October 20, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

Winner: Ben Martin

Around the wider world of golf: Mikko Ilonen won the Volvo World Match Play Championship on the ET; Scott Hend won the Hong Kong Open, co-sponsored by the Asian Tour and the ET; Kyu Jung Baek won the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship on the LPGA; Lee-Anne Pace won the Cell C South African Women’s Open on the LET; Jay Haas won the Greater Hickory Kia Classic on the Champions Tour; and Sun-Ju Ahn won the Fujitsu Ladies on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has details).

Ben Martin holds trophy in Vegas

Ben Martin hopes that what happens in Vegas does NOT stay in Vegas. He’d like to take it to a number of tournaments going forward.

Of course, it's hard to duplicate what happens at TPC Summerlin. That course is designed for low scores, and players come to Vegas knowing they'll need to gamble a bit if they hope to hit the big one. But after a third-round 62 that gave him the overnight lead, Ben had to wonder if Lady Luck had kissed him good-bye and thrown her lot in with some of the other high rollers. No matter what he did, it seemed he just couldn't get it under par on Sunday.

And those high rollers were certainly hitting their numbers, Kevin Streelman being the man with the hottest hand. He had won his first tournament by making birdies on the last 7 holes... and Sunday in Vegas, he made 5 in the last 7 holes, narrowly missing a 6th at 18.

But Lady Luck is one of the more fickle women in Vegas. As easily as she left him, Martin found her back at his side when a thinned drive at the par-4 15th took a fortuitous hop onto the green. That 2-putt birdie, followed by an eagle on the par-5 16th, jumped him past Streelman and put him in the lead for good. A final unexpected birdie on the tricky 18th gave him a 2-stroke win.

The fallout from this win won't be limited to Vegas either. Martin's first win will keep him on Tour through the 2017 season and send him to the Masters, among other things. And of course, it wins him the coveted Limerick Summary. But don't worry, Ben -- I won't tell if you don't:
On a course where the pros drove it far,
Martin struggled to get under par
But he DID find a way.
If he keeps up this play,
He might end up a bonafide star.
The photo came from the tournament's daily wrap-up page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Butch Harmon on Pitching Uphill

A short one today. Butch Harmon has a new article and video at golfdigest.com on how to play a pitch shot off a severely uphill lie. First, here's the video:


And here's a photo taken just after the moment of truth:

Butch just after the moment of truth

Of course, you know the key thing is to set your shoulders to match the slope. You want to be swinging UP the slope, not INTO it. You know this because you hear it over and over on TV, right?

Butch also suggests that you move the ball a bit forward in your stance and use a less-lofted iron, like a 9-iron instead of a sand (or lob) wedge. He also reminds you not to quit on the shot. Since the ball is going to go almost straight up in the air, you've got to make a longer followthrough to create enough speed to get the ball to fly far enough.

I want to add one thing to this, something that you can see in the video that will make it easier to get all of this right. Compare the incorrect setup around the :09 mark with the correct setup around the :29 mark. See how his head is over the ball in the first setup but behind the ball in the second setup? If you get your head just behind the ball at setup, you'll automatically put the ball slightly forward in your stance.

Butch always makes things so clear. Watch the video as many times as necessary to make sure you understand what he's doing.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

As For My "Three to Watch" This Week

Earlier in the week I did a post naming three players -- each on a different tour -- worth watching this week, as each was making their first appearance in a while. The results have been all over the place!

Billy Horschel, for example, missed the cut by 3 shots at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. However, given that Billy has been a new father for less than a month and missed the cut at an event where that cut is usually under par (cut was -2, Billy shot +1), I'm willing to give him a pass this week.

Michelle Wie during second round in South Korea

Michelle Wie is faring much better at the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea. Coming back from an injury that's kept her out of the game for several months, she got off to a slow start with a first round 76 (+4). Not that she played that badly; the wind was up the first 2 days, and Paula Creamer shot an 81 that first round -- her worst round ever in competition.

But Michelle came back with a 70 (-2) in the second round and a 67 (-5) in the third round -- she just finished as I'm writing this -- to post at -3 for the tournament. That's only 3 shots back of current leaders Yoon Kyung Heo and Beatriz Recari. Not bad for her first event back!

Patrick Reed at the Volvo World Match Play

And then there's Patrick Reed, playing in the Volvo World Match Play Championship in England. Perhaps the biggest surprise to some fans, Patrick made it out of the round robin play by winning 2 of his 3 matches. He now moves on to today's quarterfinals, where the matches look like this:
  • George Coetzee VS Patrick Reed
  • Victor Dubuisson VS Mikko Ilonen
  • Joost Luiten VS Pablo Larrazábal
  • Henrik Stenson VS Jonas Blixt
And yes, as hard as it may be to believe, defending champion Graeme McDowell is already eliminated. At this point the man to beat appears to be Joost Luiten, who is the only undefeated player in the matches.

One quick note for those interested in the Ryder Cup "rematches" at the Match Play (5 Euros versus Reed)... Only Dubuisson and Stenson are still around for the Euros. Reed dispatched Donaldson on Friday to make the quarters, which europeantour.com noted might be considered a bit of payback for the USA:
Patrick Reed gained a small measure of revenge for last month's Ryder Cup defeat by knocking European hero Jamie Donaldson out of the Volvo World Match Play Championship.
In any case, great things are still very much possible for two of my three choices. It could be a very interesting weekend!

Friday, October 17, 2014

The "My Paperbacks" Page Is Now Updated

Just to let you know, I went to the blog's "My Paperbacks" page -- the page where you can order copies of the Quick Guides at a discount -- to add the new Think Like a Golfer book and suddenly realized I hadn't added either HIT IT HARD or The Putt Whisperer to the page. OOPS!

Well, that's fixed now. All of the Quick Guides are listed and the discount should be added automatically to all of them when you type in the discount code at checkout. If you have any problems, don't check out. Instead, drop me an email; I'll fix it so the right prices come up and then I'll drop you an email so you know you can check out.

But everything should be working.

Moving Your Lead Side to Start Your Downswing

Golf Magazine Top100 Teacher Brady Riggs made this little video about getting your lead side "sync'ed up" on the downswing. But there's even more here than he mentions. Watch the video first, then I'll give you the extra bit.



First, note the two errors he mentions:
  • If your hips slide forward too much, you lean backward and "get stuck." (For most weekend players, it also results in pushed shots.)
  • If your hips spin too much, you swing too much out-to-in. (Note that this also creates a reverse pivot.)
I've mentioned these things in too many posts to mention, and quoted too many teachers for me to remember! But there's still more.

Starting at around the :53 second mark Brady talks about moving the knee, thigh and hip together to start the downswing... but watch the video demonstration closely from this point on. If you do, you will note that Brady's lead shoulder is also moving together with his lower body. His hips don't get ahead of his shoulder and his shoulder stays in the same position relative to his hips that he had at address. (His lead shoulder is slightly inside his stance at setup, and you can see it's in that same position at impact.)  He makes this "sync'ed" move three times during the demonstration!

In other words, his entire lead side is moving together to start his downswing.

And when Brady does it at full speed at the end of the video, you can see that it looks like his entire lead side is moving together. That's what it means to be in sync, and you'll feel very balanced at impact and finish if you move this way.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Well, It's About Time!

And what have we learned? We have learned that, if you want to run the World Golf Hall of Fame properly, you need to put legendary golfers in charge of it!

Geoff Shackelford jokingly referred to the "right people" making the choices now -- a reference to a Golf Channel blog post on the topic -- but he won't complain about the Class of 2015. The four inductees include his two "most overlooked names" -- Laura Davies and A.W. Tillinghast -- as well as David Graham and Mark O’Meara, two other players he felt had been unfairly passed over.

2015 World Golf Hall of Fame inductees

It's obvious that putting Nancy Lopez, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and Annika Sorenstam in charge of the Selection Committee was indeed the right choice.

You can read the official press release from the WGHoF at this link (there are more links at the bottom of that page, including one to a transcript of the conference call with the three living inductees announcing the choices) but a few points about the inductees do bear mentioning.

As Geoff Shackelford said, the induction of Laura Davies is long overdue. She has over 70 worldwide wins and 4 majors, far more than many of the recent inductees into the Hall. She also has 12 appearances in the Solheim Cup. And yet she has been denied admittance because she's 2 points short of the LPGA's Hall of Fame requirements. (Ironically, I think her induction still only counts in the "greater" Hall, not the LPGA's. She'll probably still be required to come up with 2 more points for that one.)

Tillinghast is considered one of the most influential golf course architects in history, having designed, revamped, or consulted on at least 265 courses, according to Wikipedia. Ever heard of Bethpage Black or Baltusrol? Those are just two of his creations. I believe something like 20 major championships have been held on his courses.

As for the other two inductees, Mark O'Meara is the oldest player to win 2 majors in one year (the 1998 Masters and Open Championship) while David Graham is one of only 4 players to win events on 6 continents. (Hale Irwin, Bernhard Langer and Gary Player are the other three. To my knowledge, no one has won any event on Antarctica.) And both men have over 20 worldwide wins.

On a personal note, I think one of the great weaknesses of the Hall in the past has been the way it minimized the importance of wins anywhere but in the USA. Perhaps the recent poundings Americans have taken at the Ryder Cup helped amend that error? At any rate, I'm glad to see the WORLD Golf Hall of Fame finally putting more value on worldwide wins.

The official induction will be held at the University of St Andrews during the 2015 Open Championship at St. Andrews, the first time the Induction Ceremony has been held internationally. It's a fitting location for some past wrongs to be righted, don't you think?

Yeah, it's about time!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Three Players to Watch This Week

There are three players who are back in action after a short absence, and you might want to check in on them.

Of course, you'd have to be dead not to realize that Patrick Reed is the only American invited to the Volvo World Match Play Championship on the ET. As this photo indicates, Patrick gets along quite well with the Euros. (They're mimicking his shushing to the crowd at the Ryder Cup, of course.)

Patrick Reed and European Ryder Cuppers at the Volvo World Match Play

Patrick told europeantour.com that his wife was the first to suggest that he go over and play. (And no, she won't be caddying for him this week. Patrick says "She's going to probably lay low and stay as the wife for a period of time.")

Of course, he's not the favorite to win -- defending champ Graeme McDowell is -- but I think Patrick is used to those kind of expectations by now. GC starts broadcasting this morning at 9am ET. (Remember, this is a 5-day event with 3 days of round-robin play before the first players are eliminated.)

On the PGA Tour, Billy Horschel will be teeing it up at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas, his first foray into competition since destroying the field at the Tour Championship and winning the FedExCup. It's been four weeks, but if he's still on his streak this could be a rough week for the competition. TPC Summerlin is known for low scores -- the last four winners have shot -21 or lower. That sounds like it's right up Billy's alley!
 
GC will broadcast some of the pro-am tonight at 9pm ET, then repeat it Thursday at 2:30pm, followed by the Pre-Game Show at 3:30pm. The actual tournament coverage begins Thursday at 5pm ET.

Finally, Michelle Wie is back on the LPGA at the LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship over in South Korea. Let's face it -- nobody knows what to expect from Michelle. She's not 100% recovered from her hand injury but she's back hitting balls like normal and wants to play, so why not? There are only six tournaments left on the schedule this season. GC's coverage of the event starts at 11pm ET tonight. (And Tony Jesselli's weekly LPGA preview is available at this link.)

How will these three players fare in their much-anticipated returns to golf? I guess we're about to find out. This should be a good week for golf!