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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 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

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Some Ideas for Cool Weather Golf Gear

This article over at Golf Digest lists some ideas for stylish fall golf gear. Maybe I'm just behind on the fashion scene (yes, sad but quite possibly true) but I found a couple of things that sort of surprised me.

Like puffy down jackets. Apparently they don't restrict your swing although they can make those irritating zippy noises. This Under Armour ColdGear Reactor jacket is an affordable one that isn't supposed to make noises.

Under Armour ColdGear Reactor Jacket

The other thing they mentioned was hoodies. Apparently some of the companies are making hoodies that are "safe" to wear on the golf course -- that is, they won't get you thrown off.

All-in-all, they listed 11 different types of gear that they say you should consider. For my tastes, some of it was too expensive and some was just not me. But you might find the article instructive if you're looking for something fashion-forward to spice up your golf wardrobe.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Skinny on Ben Crane's 8-Stroke Penalty and DQ

Today I've just got a link for you. Here is Golf Digest's explanation of what happened to Ben Crane at the Albertson's Boise Open in the Playoffs. After reading the article I finally understand why Ben got DQ'ed. At least Ben had a sense of humor about it.

Ben Crane

But it still seems a bit senseless to me. The stickers had no more influence on the club's performance than the company engravings on the clubhead did. And given that he hadn't even used the clubs...

Let's just say I have mixed emotions about this ruling. There's the letter of the law, and there's the spirit of the law. Perhaps the rather important distinction between the two has been forgotten here.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Joe Miller on Range of Motion (video)

Golfing World did a few videos with long drive champ Joe Miller. This one focuses on range of motion -- yes, that insanely long swing Joe uses -- and he demonstrates the basic principles by helping host Anna Whitely pick up some distance.

Here is what I want you to get from this video. These couple of points are dirt simple but so easy to misunderstand.

First, Joe says there are two main ways to create swing speed:
  • One is force. You try to swing the club down as fast as you can. Joe says most people think this is the most obvious way.
  • Two is length of swing. If your hands -- yes, Joe focuses on hands rather than clubhead -- travel a longer distance, the club has more time to pick up speed. This is the one Joe says he uses.
This is basically the difference between the modern and classic swings.
  • Modern swings try to swing as fast as possible. Many people tense up their back muscles and jerk the club from the top when they try. And then they wonder why they have back problems!
  • Classic swings don't necessarily try to swing harder, but by swinging longer the club picks up speed more smoothly.
And second, swinging longer automatically makes you swing faster. You don't have to try any harder than normal to pick up speed if you just swing longer.

Joe and Anna are using a device that measures speed. And simply by swinging longer -- watch the video and see, Anna isn't trying to swing out of her shoes -- she picked up 6mph. That's 15-20 extra yards.

I'm not saying you have to twist yourself into a pretzel and swing like Joe Miller. But I keep telling you that swinging relaxed will increase your swing speed... and trust me, you can't swing like anything like Joe Miller if you tense up and try to swing hard. Let gravity do most of the work. The key is to stay as relaxed as possible until your arms are near parallel to the ground in your downswing. (I'm giving you a safety measurement here. At this point, your body will be less likely to pull any muscles. Always better to be safe than sorry. Trust me on this.)

Watch this video a few times then try to practice making a longer, more relaxed swing. I'm thinking you just might pick up some yardage without lifting cars in the gym everyday... and with fewer back problems as well. REMEMBER: Always err on the side of safety!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Latest Caddie Change

For those of you who missed Jason Day's explanation of his "split" from caddie Colin Swatton, here's a Golf Digest article that gives the details.

Jason Day and Colin Swatton

I put the word split in parentheses because while everybody is using the word, it doesn't sound like the right word to me. Their business relationship hasn't ended, not the way Phil and Bones ended theirs, or Rory and J.P. did, or even Lydia Ko and Gary Matthews (after a mere nine events). Cole is still Jason's coach, which he was before. He just isn't looping for him right now.

And Jason told GC that it might end up being temporary, but that he felt he needed the change to keep from possibly ruining their friendship. Remember, Cole has basically been Jason's dad since J-Day was 12. Jason also said it was ironic that, having made this choice, he was actually getting to spend more non-business time with him.

In other words, Jason has -- at least for the time being -- returned his relationship with Cole back to what it was when Jason was a teenager more in need of guidance than a caddie. And given all the upheaval in his life this year, including the stress of his mother's battle with cancer (again, remember that at one point he thought he was going to lose her), it sounds to me as if Jason has simply decided he needs his "dad" more than his caddie at this point in his life.

All-in-all, that sounds pretty smart to me. And I won't be surprised if Cole is back on his bag sometime next year, after Jason's back in a good place emotionally. We'll see. For now, let's see if Jason can make it to East Lake next week.