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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The New Video Protocols

In case you missed it, on Monday the USGA and R&A finally released their new "video protocols" for dealing with -- let's be blunt here -- TV viewers calling in to report rule infractions. Here's your quick guide to what's involved.

First, here are the USGA video protocols page and the R&A video protocols page. And here is the link to the brief video clip (embedded below) from Morning Drive announcing those protocols:



Now, the short version is this:
  • One or more officials will watch the broadcast to monitor possible rules violations.
  • Nobody is going to take phone calls reporting said violations. (At least, that's what it sounds like.)
  • The only video that will be accepted is the broadcast video. No phone or camera videos.
  • And a local rule eliminating the two-stroke incorrect scorecard penalty will be enacted as a bridge to the 2019 official rule.
Sweet, simple and to the point. The language is a bit wordier than that, but that's the gist of it.

The page with the Morning Drive video also has a number of other videos related to the issue, since quite a lot of time was devoted to it. Even Thomas Pagel spent considerable time answering questions.

I see a couple of potential issues that might have to be dealt with as this protocol goes into effect in January:
  • First, I suspect the monitoring officials may end up being stationed in the broadcast trucks to better monitor all of the network cameras, in an effort to catch potential problems as soon as possible. If so, there will almost certainly always be more than one official on duty. Even if you only watch a single TV showing the broadcast, you don't want anybody getting distracted for a moment and missing the very thing they're looking for!
  • And second, I'm under the impression that any person physically at the event -- players, caddies or fans -- will be able to report things they see to the officials. If so, they may have to rethink the camera/phone video ban since that would provide instant feedback about the legitimacy of the report.
Having said that -- and knowing that every new protocol generally needs some tweaking -- this is a major step forward. Pagel said that their feedback from the pros had been mostly favorable and that the pros were in favor of infractions being reported and penalties enforced, even if those penalties had to be enforced in a later round. It's that extra two-stroke incorrect scorecard penalty that most of them found to be unacceptable.

For those of you who are afraid that some penalties will be missed, let me just say this... they will. Even in sports where the events happen on a relatively small playing field -- like a basketball court or a football field -- infractions are not only missed in real time but even in the replay reviews. Because we are human, there is NO WAY that all the infractions will be caught or even properly dealt with, and we'll just have to accept that. We'll just have to do our best and accept the results.

And once any little bugs have been worked out, I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised at how well it's going to work simply because our sport is unusual in that most of us want the correct ruling to be made, even if it goes against us. As Lexi Thompson tweeted regarding the new rule, "I am thankful that no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future."

All I can say is "amen to that."

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 Omega Dubai Ladies Classic

Winner: Angel Yin

Around the wider world of golf: The team of Steve Stricker and Sean O'Hair won the QBE Shootout (aka the Shark Shootout); Horacio Leon won the Il Malinalco Classic on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; and the ET's Joburg Open finish was delayed until Monday. At the time I'm writing this, the final round has not resumed but Shubhankar Sharma has a 4-shot lead with 11 holes left. [UPDATE: Sharma did win.]

Angel Yin with Omega Dubai trophy

In case you missed Juli Inkster's interview at golfdigest.com, one of the more interesting things she said was:
I’ll be honest: If the Solheim Cup were the Americans against an International side, they’d slaughter us. Of course they’d beat the Europeans easily, too. An A team of Asian players alone would trounce either team, their B team would win handily, and their C team would be very competitive. So what do we do about that?
2017 has been a rough year for the LET. Economic problems similar to those that plagued the LPGA a decade back have taken their toll. It hasn't helped their players prepare to face LPGA players, let alone the Korean juggernaut. And it's hard to get your game in shape when you don't have enough events to gain any rhythm. Hopefully the LPGA and the European Tour, both of whom have offered their aid, will help them recover their footing soon.

But you might not have known that if you watched their year-end Tour Championship, better known as the Omega Dubai Ladies Classic. After four very competitive rounds, it came down to a three-woman playoff:
  • French player Celine Herbin, who was working to keep her card
  • Korean player In-Kyung Kim, the current RICOH Women's British Open champion
  • American player Angel Yin, who came in second in the LPGA's Rookie of the Year race
Herbin went out after doubling the first playoff hole, although she clearly wasn't too disappointed. Why? Her eight-under 64, which got her into the playoff in the first place, was a new personal best. And her paycheck was enough to make #23 in the LET's Order of Merit, which I'm pretty sure guaranteed her card for next year.

Kim and Yin both birdied the first playoff hole, then Yin won the playoff with another birdie on the second. Kim had a chance to tie, which she missed; but while she was disappointed not to win, she said she was pleased to get herself into contention. As she put it, "I think that was the best scenario that I could ever have asked for before teeing off."

As for Yin, she picked up her first professional victory at only 19 years old. And she did it in a playoff, which she said was another of her personal goals. Better get used to that smiling face, folks -- going forward, she may be reaching a lot of personal goals!

Juli Inkster made Angel a Captain's Pick in the last Solheim Cup because she saw potential, a pick that helped the US defend the Cup. But I wonder if even the legendary Mrs. Inkster saw a Limerick Summary in Angel's future?
The LET finish was wild,
A playoff of contrasting styles—
Celine felt no stress
And In-Kyung tried her best
But it’s Angel who walked off all smiles.
The photo came from this page at golfweek.com.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Nicklaus Tip You May Not Have Heard

I love finding new things about the great players that I haven't heard before... and today I have one about Jack Nicklaus.

No doubt you've heard that Jack hovered the head of his driver behind the golf ball for a smoother takeaway. I found something that contradicts that.

Some years ago John Andrisani did a number of books about different players, each with a title like The [fill in the blank] Way. Here's what I found in his book The Nicklaus Way:
He sets the clubhead behind the ball, with its face aligned precisely for the type and degree of sidespin he intends to give the shot. Let me stop for a second here and discuss two observations I have made regarding this aspect of his setup.

One secret Nicklaus never mentioned is this: he sets the club down a couple of inches behind the ball, and I believe this little nuance helps promote that smooth, streamlined straight-back takeaway action he is so famous for.

The second secret: contrary to what he has said over and over, in books and on video, he does not hold the club slightly above the grass. Rather, he rests it very gently on the grass. He does not press the bottom of the club into the grass, as amateurs do. Addressing the ball like Nicklaus will help alleviate tension in your hands and arms and allow you to make a good backswing action. Once you do that, you stand a much better chance of returning the club to a square impact position. (p9-10)
Now you might think that second "secret" -- that the club is resting lightly on the grass rather than hovering above it -- is nitpicking. I would agree although, since Jack was playing with older equipment where the ball was teed lower, it might be true. When we focus on doing something we tend to exaggerate it, and trying to hover the clubhead might cause you to hold it quite a bit higher than trying to rest it lightly on the grass would. With modern equipment this probably isn't a big deal, but it's still worth noting.

However, the first secret seems significant to me. The closer you hover the clubhead behind the ball, the more likely you would be to accidently tap the ball. Consciously leaving a noticeable space between the ball and the clubface gives you a margin for error that I believe would help you stay more relaxed at address.

This is a small tip, but often small things are a tremendous help when you need to build your confidence. I know it's something I'm going to consider doing in the future.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Juli Inkster on Chipping (Video)

This is a short clip from Juli Inkster's Golf Channel Academy show on short game. She has a couple of chipping tips that anybody can use.



Juli says you should always keep your body moving. She's talking about two different things here:
  • One, you don't want to "freeze" over the ball. You need to stay "soft" if you want good feel, and if you stand motionless over the ball you'll get tight.
  • Two, you want to make sure you keep turning your hips and shoulders well into your finish. If you don't, you'll end up flipping the club with your wrists and that creates fat and thin shots.
Then I want you to note her ball position. That's a personal thing for every player, dependent on your stroke. But Juli has the ball back in a very narrow stance, just inside her trailing foot. That helps her to hit the ball before the ground gets in the way. That's worth considering if you're having trouble and you have the ball is forward.

One other thing: Juli uses a slightly open stance and she keeps the clubface open as a result. Many of you have heard players and instructors who say to use a square stance and a square face for this shot.

EITHER ONE WILL WORK, DEPENDING ON YOUR STROKE. As long as you hit the ball before you hit the ground, and you hit the ball squarely, either way is a good way. Just try them both and use the one that feels best to you and gives you the most consistency.

Personal opinion: I've done it both ways with success, although I've noted that the square method seems to work better for me when I use a wider stance and the ball closer to the center of my stance. If I'm using a narrow stance, Juli's open method seems to be the more consistent. Just a penny for your thoughts.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Journeyman 123

Golf Digest did a short article based on a post on Phil Blackmar's blog. That post is called Journeyman 123. Both are worth reading.

Phil Blackmar

Phil's point -- which I agree with and have expressed to other people over the years as well -- is that it's not easy to be a "journeyman" and yet the word is used somewhat disdainfully to describe players who don't become the next Jack or Tiger or Jordan or [fill in the blank].

And Phil's post -- which is briefly summarized in the Golf Digest article -- shows just how hard it is to get to the Tour, let alone stay there. Here's one surprising fact from Phil's article:
Since 1980 only 324 players have made at least 250 Tour starts.
Only 324 players in nearly 40 years, folks. That's it. And Phil is #123 on that list with 443 starts -- hence the Journeyman 123 moniker.

Take a few moments to read Phil's post. It'll make you appreciate those players you may not have paid much attention to over the years. And it'll let you know just how hard it is to succeed in professional golf.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Did You Know This Rule? (Video)

This short video is from GC's digital content and it highlights a Rule of Golf that I didn't know. Did you?



With all the limitations the Rules of Golf put on "helpful equipment" like rangefinders, I was surprised to learn that a compass is perfectly legal.

To be honest, I'm not sure when you would use that kind of info. Knowing where the wind is blowing relative to the pin seems more useful than knowing whether it's an east or a south wind. But it certainly seems to have helped Dylan Frittelli, so I may be wrong.

At any rate, it's always good to know the rules.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

In-Gee Chun's Driver Swing (Video)

This video is from 2013, but it's a good video to see how simple In-Gee's swing is. There's something I want you to see that is very plain in this footage.



It's most easily seen in the down-the-line view on the left above. I want you to watch her feet and knees. The first of the side-by-side views begins around the :32 mark.

Her left (lead) knee bends and her left heel comes off the ground as she starts her backswing. When she reaches the top of her backswing and starts down, note that her right (trailing) knee starts to bend and her right heel comes off the ground. At the same time her left heel goes back down, flat on the ground.

BUT NOTICE: When her left heel goes back down, her left knee DOES NOT straighten! Instead it stays bent until the club is halfway down in her downswing. It can do this because her left hip is moving away from the ball, which causes her left knee to gradually straighten as the clubhead gets to the ball.

If you watch the face-on view at the same moment, you can see that she doesn't make a big move toward the target during her downswing. It's almost as if she had her weight mostly on her trailing foot, then she just planted her lead foot back on the ground as she stepped onto it. This keeps your body fairly steady over the ball so you can make more consistent contact. That will give you better accuracy AND distance.

In-Gee is yet another of those ladies with a simple, easily repeated swing. That's one reason she's a two-time major winner. And it's a move that's so simple, you can learn to do it too.