Monday, September 15, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Tour Championship

Winner: Billy Horschel

Around the wider world of golf: Hyo Joo Kim won the Evian Championship, giving Michelle Wie the Annika Award for performance in all the LPGA majors in the process; Min Lee won the Garden City Charity Classic on the Symetra Tour; Paul Casey won the KLM Open while Andy Sullivan's hole-in-one locked up the "trip into space" prize on the ET; Justin Thomas won the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship on the Web.com Tour; Ryan Williams won the TOUR Championship of Canada and Joel Dahmen won the PGA TOUR Canada Player of the Year on the PGA TOUR Canada; David McKenzie won the Cadillac Championship on the PGA TOUR China; and Ai Suzuki become the youngest winner of the Konica Minolta Cup on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has details).

Billy takes two

Well, it's all over now. (For a couple of weeks anyway.) And it looks like this time the Hare beat out all those Turtles in their race to the FedExCup.

He didn't do a whole lot during the year. He didn't score a Ryder Cup nod. He didn't get a win. He missed the cut at the first FedExCup Playoff event and barely made the others. But then he posted a runner-up and two wins, taking down something like $13.5mil in just three weeks. That's more money than he's made in his entire career up until now.

And the scary thing is, if it hadn't been for a single shot, he could have won all three events. And for those people who questioned his stomach for competition after that one bad shot, I think he has satisfactorily answered their questions without even resorting to that one huge rude gesture they probably deserved. (Who hits every shot perfectly, anyway?)

Billy's wife, Brittany, who's expecting a little girl in a couple of weeks (probably just as well that he didn't get the Ryder Cup call), and he had talked about whether he should continue playing if the baby came early. Or rather, as Billy told golf.com, let's just say a decision was made:
"There wasn't much discussion," Horschel said after his opening round. "I brought up the question. She said, 'You're staying.'"
I suspect their first kid is going to have one hell of a nursery!

And to Billy himself go two trophies, a ridiculous amount of money, and -- most importantly -- this week's Limerick Summary. Congratulations to the Florida Gator who chomped up the whole field with an iron will and a hot putter!
He won’t get a Ryder Cup start
(And his pants aren’t what I would call “art”),
But now Billy’s got money
To care for his honey
And baby. He’s also got heart!
The photo came from the tournament upshot page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

How to Hit a Hybrid Off a Tee

I've posted tips on this subject before, but this page at golftipsmag.com on the mechanics of a hybrid tee shot is just too awesome to ignore. LPGA/PGA instructor Alison Curdt has lots of great info here that you can check out at the link, but this one picture may save many of you a load of frustration:

Proper tee height for a hybrid

Her instruction for this photo says:
To start, use a tee whenever you can, and don't be afraid to tee it up off the ground. I like to place the tee into the ground and leave the tapered part of the tee in the air. Next, play the ball slightly forward in your stance in roughly the same position you'd play a long iron. From here, swing with a "sweep some dew" motion and focus on a smooth, shallow, easy swing. To get a feel for this, take a few practice swings near the ball and imagine sweeping off the dew on the grass. Do this a few times until you feel confident, comfortable and ready to swing.
There's also a whole sequence of photos showing you how to sweep the ball off that properly-positioned tee.

This page is part of a 6-page sequence called Tee Shots 101 on hitting 6 different types of tee shots. (This photo is from the "long par 3" page.) The first page is at this link. But this one picture is so clear that I had to post it.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Yet Another Anti-Banana Ball Drill

This golfdigest.com video by instructor Todd Anderson -- who just happens to be Billy Horschel's teacher -- is billed as a way to stop slicing. Many of you will find it interesting for that reason. But it looks like it might help you learn to draw the ball as well.

The idea is simple. You use your wedge's shaft as a guide to help you see when your downswing path is too much out-to-in. If you play chess, you can remember that the spacing between the ball and the wedge is like a knight's move -- two big steps away from the target, one large step away from the target line, turn and "plant" the wedge head into the ground.

You'll find this drill is much easier to do if you start your backswing with a one-piece takeaway because that puts you on a good plane from the start. I've got instructions on how to do that in this post.

Having a clear visual of what you want to do can certainly make getting the correct shot shape much easier. It might even help you swing a bit more like Billy Horschel, who seems to have a good handle on his swing plane right now!

Friday, September 12, 2014

In Case You Missed Rory's "Defence"

In his presser Wednesday Rory was asked about Tiger and Phil not being at the Tour Championship. Essentially he said they were injured and that's what happens when you get older. I guess it was the phrase about them "getting into sort of the last few holes of their careers" that got everybody talking. It was the only thing about the Tour Championship that made it onto ESPN Wednesday, for example.

In case you missed Rory's response to the uproar, I thought you might find this golf.com summary interesting, which also has the original comments if you missed them.

Rory

Rory went on Twitter Wednesday night and saw the comments and couldn't figure out why everybody was so worked up over them. He said, "Look, I know Tiger and Phil really well. I get on really well with both guys."

But here's my favorite line. When asked if he would have to explain himself to Tiger, he just smiled and said, "I've said worse to his face."

I believe him and I don't think either of the guys was upset. But I suspect Phil's going to be VERY rested by Ryder Cup time... and Tiger's probably got some new motivation to get healthy again as well! ;-)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship Preview

And now for the last of our big event previews. This time, it's the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship, the third of the four Web.com Finals events.

Scarlet Course at the Ohio State University Golf Club

Welcome to the Scarlet Course at the Ohio State University Golf Club, one of the tougher courses the Web.com Tour plays all year. Although there is some concern that rain may soften the course, the grounds crew intends to have the greens running at 12 on the stimp -- about as fast as they dare go, given the undulation in the green complexes. You can get more info about the course here.

You can check this link to get a complete list of the players this week, including trivia like their colleges, their countries, and how they qualified for the Finals. (There's also a link to get the updated field list, in case some of the players don't show up.)

In addition, here are the players currently projected to get the 50 Tour cards as of last week, after the Chiquita Classic. This list is subject to change, of course, since we have two more events (the Nationwide this week and the Web.com Tour Championship next week) and those winners will jump up into the mix, even if they're currently outside this list...

All of which makes for some serious drama this week and next.

GC's coverage begins today at 6:30pm ET, after the Tour Championship coverage.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Evian Championship Preview

The second of the three big golf events this week is the Evian Championship, the fifth and final major for the LPGA and related women's tours.

The view from the course

The Evian is held at the Evian Resort Golf Club in beautiful Evian-les-Bains, France. You can see Lake Geneva in the above photo, in the valleys of the Alps. The ladies loved playing there even before the Evian became a major... and I think you can see why.

As usual, Tony Jesselli has done his own preview of the event over on his blog. Tony says this has the second strongest field of the year, behind only the Kraft Nabisco.

There are a number of storylines in play this week, some of which you should be aware of:
  • Tony notes that Stacy Lewis is in danger of losing her #1 ranking this week. If either Inbee Park or Lydia Ko wins, they will take #1 no matter what Stacy does.
  • Speaking of Lydia, this is her last chance to become the youngest major winner ever. If she succeeds, she will break the record of Young Tom Morris, who won the 1868 Open Championship at age 17.
  • Lydia missed the last LPGA tournament with a wrist problem, but Michelle Wie has been out for several weeks with a finger fracture. She missed the last major and says she doesn't have any expectations this week because she's had very little practice time. However, due to the shorter length and relatively high elevation of the course, accuracy will be more important than power so Michelle may do better than expected.
  • The winner of the new Annika Award (for best performance in the majors) will be determined this week. Despite not being able to play in the Women's British Open, Michelle Wie still leads by a mere 10 points over Inbee Park.
  • And Minjee Lee makes her pro debut this week.
Suzann Pettersen is the defending champion this week. Her win last year was weather-shortened; only 54 holes were played. This is the first year that the revamped course will (hopefully) see a full 72-hole event.

And finally, this event will be getting some serious TV time. GC's coverage on Thursday and Friday runs from 7:30am-12:30pm ET, on Saturday from 6:30am-11:30am ET, and on Sunday the combined GC/NBC coverage is from 8:30am-1:30pm ET. That means it won't conflict with the Tour Championship except for 1.5 hours on Sunday (the GC/NBC crossover coverage).

That's two down. Tomorrow... the last of our three big previews.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Tour Championship Preview

We have three big events on three tours coming up this week, so I'll be taking these next three days to look at each. Today... the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour.

The FedExCup

Let's cut straight to the chase. Here are the 29 players who made it to East Lake (Dustin Johnson was #30 but isn't playing):
  1. Chris Kirk
  2. Billy Horschel
  3. Bubba Watson
  4. Rory McIlroy
  5. Hunter Mahan
  6. Jimmy Walker
  7. Jim Furyk
  8. Matt Kuchar
  9. Rickie Fowler
  10. Jason Day
  11. Jordan Spieth
  12. Adam Scott
  13. Sergio Garcia
  14. Martin Kaymer
  15. Zach Johnson
  16. Bill Haas
  17. John Senden
  18. Patrick Reed
  19. Cameron Tringale
  20. Russell Henley
  21. Morgan Hoffmann
  22. Webb Simpson
  23. Ryan Palmer
  24. Kevin Na
  25. Geoff Ogilvy
  26. Justin Rose
  27. Brendon Todd
  28. Hideki Matsuyama
  29. Gary Woodland
Notably missing from the list is defending champion Henrik Stenson, but that tends to be the standard story. I believe 2012 winner Brandt Snedeker is the only winner ever to make it back the next year.

On the outside chance you don't know, the Top5 (in boldface type) will win the FedExCup outright if they win the Tour Championship. The others can win if other players finish in the proper combination of positions... which means that you need a Nobel Prize in mathematics to calculate Gary Woodland's chances of winning.

But historically, the worst starting position for a winner was #19 -- again, Brandt Snedeker in 2012. [CORRECTION: Bill Haas was #25 the year he won.] Everybody from #20 on down better hope for that mathematics genius.

PGATOUR.com has done a Power Ranking that favors McIlroy, Furyk, Fowler, Horschel, Spieth, and Watson in that order to win the event. (No word on who they expect to win the Cup, but since they favor McIlroy to take the tournament...) If you've got a pool going at work, this link should give you the info you need to guess who might be the hottest player this week.

Personally, I like Rickie Fowler or Billy Horschel to win this week. Horschel is on a hot streak and Fowler's been on one for a couple of months now, and both are putting lights-out. I particularly like that both are avoiding the big scores. And because I like Horschel to figure in the tournament, I guess that makes him my most likely choice to win the Cup since he's #2 going in.

GC's coverage starts Thursday at 1pm ET (I suppose the pregame show will start earlier) and then NBC picks it up on Saturday.

That's one preview. Tomorrow... the ladies are up.