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Monday, March 25, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 Valspar Championship

Winner: Paul Casey

Around the wider world of golf: Scott Hend won the Maybank Championship on the ET; Vince Covello won the Chitimacha Louisiana Open on the Web.com Tour; and Jin Young Ko won the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on the LPGA.

Paul Casey with his second Valspar trophy

Here's my Tuesday Twofers update: I picked Tommy Fleetwood (DNP) to win and Dustin Johnson (T6) to Top10. About par for the course for me. My record for 2019 so far looks like this:
  • Winners: 2 for 12
  • Place well (Top10): 8 for 12 (4 Top5 finish, 4 more Top10s)
  • Overall Top10s: 14 of 24 (6 Top5s, 8 more Top10s)
Unfortunately, I didn't get the memo that Fleetwood (along with a few other players) withdrew from this event right after THE PLAYERS. It's really hard to pick winners when your picks aren't even playing! Still, DJ gave me another Top10 so I won't complain too much.

At any rate, I wouldn't have picked Paul Casey to win. It's not because I don't like his game -- many of you will remember me picking him over and over at majors over the last few years -- but simply because nobody has successfully defended at the Valspar.

Turns out all the defending champ needed was a little help from the weather and the mental strength to avoid putting too much pressure on himself. (It didn't hurt that DJ didn't make a single birdie on Sunday, but that's just the way golf is sometimes.) I mean, he shot +1 for the day and still won by a single shot -- the same as the lead he held after the third round.

Yeah. Some days it's all about survival... and Paul did it when it counted.

Becoming the first back-to-back winner at Innisbrook already seems to be benefitting Paul. He seemed at ease with himself on the course Sunday, even before the win, and his confidence after the round was hard to miss. Now, with a new Limerick Summary in his back pocket and another trip to Augusta just around the corner, you could do worse that make him a favorite going forward.

But one step at a time. Here's your new Limerick Summary, Paul. Congrats!
A first-ever back-to-back win
As Casey wins Valspar again—
And not just for Paul,
It’s the first time for all
The past winners. The drought finally ends!
The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Rickie and Butch on Escaping the Trees (Video)

With so many trees to contend with at Innisbrook this week, I thought a quick lesson on getting out of them might be appropriate. Here's Rickie Fowler and Butch Harmon with some tips.



Note that Rickie recommends you just try to get out of the trees, not hit some heroic shot. It depends on the situation, of course, but it's good advice if you typically struggle to get back in play when you end up in the woods.

Here are the keys Rickie mentions:
  • Choke down on the handle for better control.
  • Keep your lower body quiet. Remember, you're playing this like a big chip shot so you don't need to drive your legs hard.
  • Rickie doesn't ground the club because he's in loose stuff that might cause the ball to move. Hovering the club slightly above the ground might help you make a smoother backswing no matter what the ground is like. And you can't ground your club in a hazard anyway.
  • Use a narrower, open stance. Again, you're not trying to kill the ball so play it like a big chip shot.
  • And your final thought: DON'T HIT A TREE.
I'm going to say it one more time. Don't be ashamed to just get the ball back into play on the fairway. Approach this trouble shot like a big chip shot. You're more likely to hit the ball accurately between the trees that way.

And remember: One shot from the trees is ALWAYS much easier on the scorecard than two shots from the trees!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The "Phil Kwon Do Calves" Workout (Video)

Sorry, couldn't resist. After his calves went viral -- which sounds like a serious physical problem, I admit -- Phil Mickelson has decided to have some fun with the attention. Here's what he says is the first of five videos on how you too can achieve sculpted calves.

What else can I say? At least you get to watch all the March Madness ball games while you work out.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Dustin Johnson on Practicing Wedges (Video)

I listened to DJ describe the logic behind his wedge practice and thought, "Hey, maybe this has some other applications for weekend golfers..."



The biggest surprise for me was that DJ says he does most of his practice with just one wedge. Although in this video he says he spends a half-hour each day practicing his wedges (plural), around the :40 second mark he says that it makes no difference what kind of shot he's playing or where he's playing it, "I use the same wedge" (singular).

DJ certainly wouldn't be the only player to do this. Phil Mickelson is another top player who uses just one wedge for most of his shots. And the logic makes sense: It's easier to learn how a single wedge behaves under various conditions than it is to remember the variations between different wedges.

And clearly, when the game is on the line, as long as that wedge will let him play the shot he needs, that's the wedge he's going to go to -- the wedge he has the most confidence in. He'll practice them all, for sure, but when the game is on the line, he goes with Old Reliable.

Weekend players aren't any different. And that's why, when I heard this video, I found myself wondering why that "go-to" club had to be a wedge...

Look, DJ is so long that he's just going to have wedges into a lot of holes. But for those of us who hit the ball like mere mortals, it's more likely that club will be a 9-iron, an 8-iron, maybe even a 5-hybrid.

So why can't we use the same strategy, but with a longer club?

The logic is simple. What club do you most frequently need for your approach shots to the green? Perhaps a better question would be "what club would cover your most frequent approach shots to the green?"

Here's an example:

If you play a lot 7-, 8- and 9-irons when you shoot for the green, choose the 7-iron. Then start experimenting with various length swings, just like you would with a wedge. How far do you hit a full 7-iron, a three-quarter 7-iron and a half 7-iron? Can you hit those partial 7-irons for the 8- and 9-iron approach shots? What can you do with your 7-iron from the fairway bunkers? How about low shots under tree branches?

I'm not saying that you never use the other clubs in your bag. But if you can learn to play that 7-iron with the same confidence that DJ plays his wedge, you're going to have a serious weapon for attacking the course and lowering your scores.

It's just a thought I had. But who says that wedges are the only scoring clubs in a player's bag?

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Basics of Controlling the Shape of Your Shot (Video)

Instructor Joseph Mayo's short video on why you slice has some very useful info in it. But this info teaches more than you realize. Let's make sure you get the full value of it.



You can imagine the conditions at impact this way:
  • Although the ball doesn't fly exactly in the direction you aim the clubface -- unless your club path is also on that line -- the direction your clubface points is the primary thing that determines where the ball goes. But regardless of whether the ball is curving or flying straight, it will hit the ground -- make its first bounce, if you prefer -- on a line directly in front of where the clubface is aimed.
  • The path of the clubface at the moment of impact will determine which way the ball curves -- in fact, it will curve in the opposite direction of the path.
Let me spell that out for you.

Unless your club path matches the clubface aim (in which case the ball flies perfectly straight), the path always crosses the line on which your clubface is aimed. The following statements are true, no matter whether you're righthanded or lefthanded.
  • If the path is moving to the right of the clubface's aim, the ball will curve to the left.
  • And it the path is moving to the left of the clubface's aim, the ball will curve to the right.
The theory really is that simple. But let's make it even simpler...
  • The bigger the angle you create between the clubface and the club path, the more the ball will curve.
  • And the smaller the angle you create between the clubface and the club path, the less the ball will curve. That is plain enough, right?
But when it comes to stopping a slice (or a hook, if that's your problem), the amount of curve you put on the ball is IRRELEVANT. Do you understand?
It isn't the amount of curve you put on the ball that matters. It's just the fact that you put some curve on the ball AT ALL.
You don't have to get picky about your plane. If you learn how to aim the clubface where you want it to go (I guess I'll have to do a post or two about that, won't I?), the ball will ALWAYS curve toward the target as long as your club path crosses your aimline at least a little in the opposite direction that you want the ball to curve.

I'll revisit this topic soon. But this is enough to dramatically improve your game if you take the time to understand it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Back in the USA (Video)

I'm sure many of you are thinking about Green Day (a different song), but I'm thinking Chuck Berry (original, 1959) and Linda Ronstadt (cover, 1978)... and the LPGA, of course.



The ladies have finally returned to the West Coast for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. Tony Jesselli says this is one of the strongest non-major fields of the year (only two events last year were ranked higher).

It's hard to believe that this is the ninth holding of this event, and that the original had a "ghost" purse (no actual money awarded other than charity). It was a key move in Mike Whan's move to rebuild the Tour, bringing the LPGA back to Phoenix for the first time in years and inspired by the history of the 13 Founders who started the LPGA. It's come a long way since and it's an important event, as proven by the field strength.

Six of the former champions are in the field, including defending champ Inbee Park.

A late-minute scratch from the event is Paula Creamer, who gave no reason for the WD. However, given that she had wrist surgery during the off-season and stated that she was "optimistic that I will return to competitive play soon," you have to assume that it's due to an injury of some sort.

Oh, and in case you've never heard her, here's Linda Ronstadt's cover. She's no longer performing, due to Parkinson's Disease, but she was a superstar in the 1970s and 1980s. She had one hell of a voice...



The Founders Cup is yet another prime time event for US audiences -- except this time, we don't have to stay up all night. GC's coverage begins at 6pm ET on Thursday night. I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Twofer Tuesday: Valspar Championship

This week, Twofer Tuesday moves along the Florida Swing to the Valspar Championship, where -- at the time of this writing -- 87 of the 144 field played in THE PLAYERS last week.

Defending champ Paul Casey with Valspar trohy

The course? The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort, a 7340-yard par-71 layout with tight driving holes and a noticeable elevation change from TPC Sawgrass. Probably no surprises in the weather -- dry and mostly sunny, although I won't be surprised if the Snake Pit sees a little wind. It usually does.

The defending champ? Paul Casey, who broke a nine-year PGA Tour win drought by beating Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed. Casey posted early and had to watch both players come down the stretch... and come up one shot short.

This year's Twofer Tuesday picks? Here they are:
  • My Top10 pick is Dustin Johnson. DJ hasn't played the Copperhead since 2010 but he's definitely playing well, having two worldwide wins since 2019 started and coming off his first-ever Top10 at THE PLAYERS. I admit that this was a tough pick for me; I can't help but feel that Jim Furyk is on the cusp of a win, and while the Copperhead may seem a bit long for him, its tight tree-lined fairways are custom-made for such an accurate player. (He did win here in 2010.) But I'm guessing that solo second last week took something out of him while DJ is probably on a high.
  • Ironically, my pick to win is Tommy Fleetwood. I say ironically because Tommy has been a bit wild with the driver over the last couple of weeks -- it cost him wins at both of his last events -- and the Copperhead is notoriously unforgiving off the tee. (It certainly bit Tiger last year!) But Tommy's struggles seem to be pressure-related and, after a couple weeks in that pressure cooker, I think he may surprise everybody. With that short game of his, he doesn't have to be perfect... just playable.
GC's coverage begins at 2pm ET on Thursday, while PGA TOUR LIVE's streaming coverage starts at 7:45am ET. The Valspar has tended to give us surprise winners -- I would say that in the last decade only Jordan Spieth's 2015 victory might have been predicted -- so this week will likely follow suit. That should make for good TV!