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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Charley Hull on Playing from the Rough (Video)

I'm back from Disneyworld, back in North Carolina. (And for the curious among you, I took a plane, not a banshee.) But I'm much more tired than I expected, so this post will be a short one.

Hopefully it's still a helpful one.

Here's Charley Hull with some tips on playing from the rough. She should be an expert on that!



Most of the tips are standard stuff -- 56° sand wedge, ball back in stance, weight more on front foot, etc. -- but her advice to chop down like a bunker shot is a bit unusual. Watch the video closely and you'll see that Charley is leaning the clubshaft forward at address, which is a different approach from most who say this is like a bunker shot.

Charley is focusing less on distance control and more on just getting the ball out of there. This is a shot you play to get safely back in play; if the ball gets close to the hole, that's a bonus.

And now I'm headed to bed. I'll be back on schedule with the Limerick Summary on Monday, and then we'll see what we can turn up going forward. But right now, I need sleep!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

How to Ride a Banshee (Videos)

Friday was the last day of my vacation at Disneyworld, so by the time most of you read this I'll be back in good old North Carolina. But rather than write about golf -- which I'll have plenty of time to do over the next few days -- I thought I'd tell you about something unbelievably fun that I did at Disney.

On Friday I rode the Avatar: Flight of Passage ride in Animal Kingdom -- that's right, the one where you get to ride an ikran, better known to us humans as a banshee. For those of you who never saw the movie Avatar, here's what a banshee looks like:

Mountain Banshee with Na'vi warriors

Pretty cool, eh? I think the ride has become way more popular than Disney anticipated because... well, let's face it. Most rides, if there's a 90 minute wait time, people don't get in line. They try to get FastPasses -- a pre-arranged time to return and ride without much of a wait -- and barring that, they simply wait to ride some other time.

However, the word of mouth about the banshee ride is different. FastPasses were unavailable all week (for several weeks, based on what I've heard) yet every person I talked to this week said I should ignore the time in line and JUST GO. And so I spent three hours Friday getting a ride -- it was a two hour wait when I started at 11:15, then some of the simulators went down from apparent overwork, and I finally finished the ride at 2:15.

And they were right. It was TOTALLY worth it. So I found some YouTube video that gives you an idea how Disney managed to make this thing believable.

If you've ever ridden Soarin', Disney's hang glider sim, AFoP is Soarin' overdosed on steroids. You can actually feel the banshee breathing as you sit on it! Add in the sensations, the sounds, the smells, even the feel of the wind and ocean spray, and you end up with an amazingly real experience. They even found a way to simulate the feel of your avatar's actual movements as you sit on the simulator, which is quite simple but blindingly effective. It's just cool.

And I've found some YouTube videos to help you understand what I did Friday. First, here's a video from Attractions Magazine that was shot when the ride opened back in May. It shows you the simulator "saddle" and some of the stuff that you go through before you ride. But this doesn't show you everything. This is just the basic orientation stuff. There some fun stuff where, for instance, your DNA gets scanned for an avatar match, that isn't shown here.



But somebody taped their entire 4:30 ride and posted it to YouTube. I've included it below. Bear in mind that this doesn't even begin to let you know how the ride feels -- for example, the whale that leaps out of the water in this video is HUGE when you're on the ride and it nearly lands on you as it comes down. You can hear the person who taped this screaming as she rode... and it's not just for effect; I found myself doing the same sort of thing.

And I just don't do that, people. But this one had me reacting as if I was really plunging straight down toward the ground on the back of a flying lizard. Have a look:



This isn't a sales pitch by any stretch. But this is one of the best vacations I've ever had, and I have to attribute much of it to this ride.

So remember, folks: There's way more to life than just golf... and riding a banshee definitely fits in that category! The next few weeks are gonna feel a bit boring by comparison.

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Variety of News Articles

Although I've been keeping up the posts this week, I am in fact on vacation in Disneyworld with friends. I haven't had time to do swing analyses and such, so I haven't tried. And while the trip is almost over, it's still going to be a couple of days before I'm back in North Carolina. So today I'm just linking you to some interesting news bits that I've run across -- in-between flights to Mars, fireworks displays and trips to a comedy club run by monsters, that is.

Catriona Matthew

I found articles at both Golfweek and Golf Digest about Catriona Matthew's appointment as 2019 Solheim Cup captain. I don't think this is any real surprise, as that competition will be held in Perthshire, Scotland. Still, it's nice to know that the Euro team didn't drag out what really should be a no-brainer.

Golf.com has a neat article about a new Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for Beer Pong Golf. To quote the article:
The venture was launched on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter earlier this summer, and in a few days it had sailed past its goal to raise $20,000. As of Thursday morning, 874 backers have poured $138,274 into the project
The irony here is that something simple like this may be a bigger draw to new golfers than some of the more publicized (and expensive) attempts to create a simple entry point. This is a grassroots, play-it-in-the-backyard approach that could become addictive.

I also found two articles about the new Titleist AVX ball. Golf Digest focuses on the initially limited distribution while Golfweek focuses on the construction. But neither article is very long because the ball is so new.

And finally, Golf Digest has an article about how Michael Phelps is helping Tiger Woods -- and other athletes -- deal with the various drug-related depression problems and such that are becoming more common among star athletes.

Those are the interesting bits I've seen between vacation highlights. Hopefully you'll enjoy them. (Especially the Beer Pong Golf. That really sounds like fun!)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The New 2017-2018 PGA Tour Schedule Is Out

Golf Digest just published a summary article about next season's schedule. I'll leave it to you to read it -- if you're interested in it -- but I'll mention a few things that caught my eye.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan

There are two new events on the schedule, bringing the total to 49. Both events are outside the US -- one in South Korea, one in the Dominican Republic. And there's a roughly six-week break for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

Tiger's event in Washington, now just called "The National", is without a venue or sponsor. Monahan said they needed to put it on the schedule because everything is still in negotiation. Likewise, the Barbasol Championship is a sponsor looking for a venue and the Houston Open is a venue looking for a sponsor.

And finally, the one-week break in the FedExCup Playoffs moves to the week between the BMW and the Tour Championship -- which makes sense if you look at almost any other sport's playoffs. (The two-week break before the Super Bowl is almost legendary at this point.)

All-in-all, it sounds like business as usual to me. Until they start shuffling big events in 2019, we're unlikely to see anything really new and interesting.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

My "5 to Watch" at the Tour Championship

Welcome to the culmination of the 2017 FedExCup race, aka the Tour Championship.

The FedEx Cup

You know the score -- East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta GA, 30 players, Top5 automatically win the Cup with a tournament win, $1.89mil to the tournament winner, $10mil bonus to the FedExCup winner.

Okay. Without further ado, here are my "5 to Watch" this week:
  • Jordan Spieth is a no-brainer here. He's won the Tour Championship and the Cup before (2015), and he's #1 in FedExCup points going into the week. He's also gone runner-up, runner-up, T7 in the first three Playoff events. Hard to bet against a man like that.
  • Likewise, Justin Thomas is almost a no-brainer. He's been a bit inconsistent lately, but he's #2 in the points list and he won the Dell Technologies Championship, the second Playoff event. Not as big a favorite as Jordan, but you can't sleep on him because he's too good when he's on.
  • Rickie Fowler... he's #6 on the list and yet I'm not quite sure what to make of him. He's too good not to make this list, and too unpredictable for me to make him my pick this week. But I wouldn't fault anybody who did pick him to win. If he can find one good week of properly controlled aggression, I think he gets it done.
  • Justin Rose hasn't played the way I think a solid #8 should. Until last week, I wasn't sure he would make this list at all. But I saw signs at the BMW that he has rediscovered the form he lost after the Masters. If I'm right about that, he could easily shock the field with a win this week... and yet it wouldn't really be a shock at all.
  • And my flier is... Marc Leishman. I know what you're thinking -- how does the #4 guy rate being a flier? He caught fire at the Dell, where he came in second, then won the BMW last week. Yet I feel he's a bit of a dark horse who turned a corner in his career at the Dell. It's been difficult for players to turn in a winning performance the week after a win. (Witness Justin Thomas's T47 at the BMW.) But if his putting continues, he could spoil a whole lot of parties this week.
And my pick is... Leishman. Despite the number of things I see that seem to be against him, I can't shake the feeling that he's on the verge of doing something big. And while that "something" might be a record performance at the Presidents Cup, I see no reason that he couldn't use the Tour Championship as a warm-up for that Cup as well.

The Tour Championship coverage begins Thursday at 1pm ET on GC. And given the way this season has played out, I think we could see something really special this time.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Why Randall Mell Might Be Wrong

It's become very popular over the last week to criticize how the Evian Championship played out, with the first round being wiped out, the event shortened to only 54 holes and the apparent mandate to finish the major in Sunday's broadcast slot. Randall Mell even wrote an opinion post called Randall's Rant: The Evian earned a major* asterisk to focus on what he sees as the problem.

He points to Mike Whan's belief that "We have to start thinking like title sponsors," that the LPGA needs to focus more on its sponsors than on the inherent integrity of the game.

photo for Mell's editorial

Now don't misunderstand. Mell isn't criticizing Whan's importance to the LPGA or the women's game in general. What he questions is whether Whan's approach works for majors as well as it works for women's golf in general.

And make no mistake, it has worked spectacularly.

As I see it, his question ignores a very important fact: The reason that the other four women's majors have become so respected is because Whan has adopted this approach. Let me explain, and I'll try to keep this short because I think the issue has been blown out of proportion but does deserve to be addressed.

Mell points out that, among Whan's other great achievements as LPGA commish, one of the things he has done successfully is convince (if you'll pardon the pun) major players in the men's game that the women deserve to be taken just as seriously. And the very reason Whan has achieved this "rise in status" for the women's game has been his attention to the sponsors. Let's look at some things that have happened since Whan became commish in late 2009.
  • More Open venues have become hosts of the RICOH Women's British Open, beginning with Carnoustie (2011) and Royal Liverpool (2012).
  • The PGA of America and the LPGA have begun working together, and that has resulted in the LPGA Championship becoming the KPMG Women's PGA Championship and expanding its play to the same championship venues that the men routinely play.
  • The PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour have begun working together, and this has also resulted in better quality events overall.
All of these advancements took time, but they happened in a much shorter timeframe than most expected. This is because Mike Whan has consistently taken gambles that appeared foolish, even contrary to the health of the women's game. Time after time, Whan's instincts have proven to be not only correct but successful to an inexplicable degree.

So when Mell ends his article with a medley of faults inherent in the Evian -- faults which he believes have become damaging to the LPGA -- and with the following statement:
Riboud’s working on it [the shortcomings], and Whan’s working on it, but we saw decisions last week that clash with major championship tradition.
I find myself laughing. As Mell himself notes, Whan declared the Evian a major just five years ago. I ask, what was the situation like at that time and how has it changed?

Evian was, at that time, considered a major by the LET although it wasn't accorded such status by the LPGA, and the sponsors had been the sponsors for a long time with little change made. Yet, in five short years, the Evian Championship course has undergone major renovations -- which are still continuing, as Mell notes in that previous quote -- the purse has gone up dramatically and the women themselves are taking it more seriously.

Is it perfect after five years? Of course not, and the tweets from the women themselves this past week indicate that they aren't satisfied yet. But this event has come much, much, MUCH further along than it would have without the "Whan approach." And we know that Mike Whan himself, as well as the sponsors -- who were satisfied with the event for so long -- we know that none of them are satisfied either.

In a word, we wouldn't even be having a discussion about how far this event has to go if it weren't for Mike Whan risking this sort of criticism. If not for Whan's somewhat radical approach, the LPGA would likely be in worse shape than the LET is right now... and the LET is willing to listen to Whan's ideas because Whan's involvement causes the Men's ET to get involved.

Randall Mell is wrong. The Evian doesn't get an asterisk for failing. Before long it will likely be seen as a major stepping stone in the growth of women's golf, because we know Mike Whan & his co-conspirators will use this as a goad to drive their game to higher levels of excellence.If this Evian gets an asterisk, it will be for inspiring new advancements in women's golf. And why am I so sure?

Because that's what Mike Whan has done time after time since he became LPGA commish. Given his success rate for meeting challenges so far, I see no reason to believe he won't meet this one as well.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 BMW Championship

Winner: Marc Leishman

Around the wider world of golf: Anna Nordqvist won the Evian Championship, the LPGA's final major of the year; Jerry Kelly won the Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship on the Champions Tour; Chesson Hadley won the Albertsons Boise Open on the Web.com Tour; Rico Hoey won the Freedom 55 Financial Championship on the Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada; Hannah Green won the Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout on the Symetra Tour; Romain Wattel won the KLM Open on the ET; Yuta Ikeda won the ANA Open on the Japan Golf Tour; and Richard T. Lee won the Shinahan Donghae Open on the Asian Tour.

Marc Leishman with BMW trophy

Let's face the facts: Except for a couple of holes early on in the final round, Marc Leishman's victory at the BMW Championship was never really in doubt. He started with a five-shot lead; he finished with a five-shot lead.

In fact, the only real challenge to the wire-to-wire winner came from an unexpected source -- Justin Rose. Rose finally seems to have refound the form he showed at the Masters, and he posted a near-perfect 65 to make Leishman at least think about the rest of the field.

However, Leishman didn't think about them for very long. An unexpected birdie at 15 triggered a three-under run to the end of the round. Unlike the final round lead he gave up in his last event, he stayed steady all the way to the end and got the biggest win of his career. Plus, he gained one of those highly-coveted spots in the Top5 next week at the Tour Championship.

Regardless of what happens next week, Leishman has turned a corner in his career this season. This is his first two-win season, peppered with some of the best scores of his career. And more importantly, he joins that exclusive group of players to receive two or more Limerick Summaries in one season!
Marc spent the whole week at the top;
The rest of the field couldn’t stop
His blazing hot putter.
At best, they could mutter
About how much champagne he’ll pop.
The photo came from the tournament page at PGATOUR.com.