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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Twofer Tuesday: WGC-Dell Match Play

It's golf's version of March Madness! The bracket is set. Now it's time for the madness to begin!

Defending champion Bubba Watson

Austin Country Club has proven to be a good test for the pros. At roughly 7100 yards it isn't particularly long, but its twisty tree-lined fairways and contoured greens definitely make it a challenge. And if they get a little wind...

Interestingly, in the three years that this event has been played in Austin, the winners have been power players -- Jason Day (2016), Dustin Johnson (2017) and Bubba Watson (2018). Will that trend hold for 2019? With the number of medium hitters who are playing well this year, it's not a given.

The WGC-Match Play also offers an unusual twist to Twofer Tuesday. Because only one player makes it out of each pool, and those winners make up the round of 16, ANY player who makes it out of their pool AUTOMATICALLY gets at least a T9. So if I pick two players who make it out of the pools, I'll at least get two Top10s added to my stats this week!

Okay, enough drooling over the possibilities. Here are my two picks:
  • For my Top10 I'm picking Justin Thomas. There are so many players I could pick and feel good about, but JT seems a bit under the radar to me. And given that he finished fourth last year, it's hard to believe he won't do well this year.
  • And my winner is Paul Casey. I admit that Casey might be a bit of a stretch, as he could be gassed after his win at Valspar this past weekend. But many of you will remember that I picked Casey a few years back, when he was broadsided by sickness on Saturday night and didn't get the win. It looks to me as if his game is back and he does have some history in Austin, having posted a T9 in 2017. So I'm taking him again.
This week is full of hard choices, as Fleetwood, Molinari, Day, DJ, Furyk and Kuchar (among others) are all playing well. But I feel good riding with my picks. And I'm really interested to see how Tiger does, since the Ryder Cup gave us no indication of how he might play with his new swing.

Remember that pool play begins on WEDNESDAY this week, not Thursday. GC's coverage begins Wednesday at 2pm ET, with PGA TOUR LIVE streaming from 10:15am ET.

All-in-all, I'm looking forward to this week. It's hard not to love match play!

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!