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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Golf Monthly's Beginner's Golf Shaft Guide (Video)

My day has been hectic so I'm just going to post this new video (just uploaded on Tuesday!) from Golf Monthly's tech writer Jake O'Reilly. It's a nice overview of what you should know when you go to get your club shafts fitted to you -- not just your driver, but ALL your clubs. It's about six-and-a-half minutes long and it's got a lot of info in it.



Today I'm just posting it -- because of time problems -- but I plan to come back to it soon and summarize some of the most important info. Because this IS important info that can save you a lot of headaches.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Jeff Flagg on Launching One 400 Yards (Video)

Almost three years ago I did a post about how 2014 long driving champ Jeff Flagg hits the long ball. Check that post out, by all means, but here's a video where Jeff demonstrates how to do it.



Jeff's three keys are:
  1. Let your arms dictate club speed. He demonstrates this by throwing a rock sidearm.
  2. Open up your trail shoulder and remove all tension from your lead arm. You do this by letting your trailing elbow 'fly' -- that is, move away from your side during your backswing. This increases your swing arc, btw.
  3. Use the Flamingo Drill. Put all your weight on your lead foot, stand on the toe of your trail foot, and use your upper body to do most of the swing work -- just like throwing a rock sidearm. Please note that, although he's not trying to, he can't help but straighten his lead knee to "use the ground." This happens without conscious effort -- that's what Jeff wants you to understand.
I know this advice -- to focus on using your arms, not your legs -- goes against what you have heard. But Jeff's point here -- and yes, I know I keep repeating it but it's soooo important -- is that under any other normal throwing motion you focus on using your arms, and that causes you to use your legs automatically. If you TRY to use your legs, you'll exaggerate your lower body movement and actually INTERFERE with the proper motion!

Come on, give Jeff's advice a try. What have you got to lose... besides that short little dinky drive you hate?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Testing Players VS Protecting Par

Sunday's post was a rant about US Open setups, but this post is more about a mindset that I just don't understand. Can you test players and protect par at the same time?

Brooks from the 6th hole rough on Sunday

USAToday posted an article (from which the photo came) that wonders whether Shinnecock has become obsolete as a US Open course. I believe that's a flawed view to begin with.

The real question is whether the USGA's concept of a US Open setup is obsolete. And that, I believe just as strongly, is very likely.

My Sunday rant took the USGA to task for ignoring the "architect's intent" for the way the course should play -- specifically, the speed at which classically contoured greens should be played. (If you read that post early on, I added an extra paragraph early Sunday because I realized there were a couple of things the USGA does that I don't have a problem with, but I didn't mention them so I wanted that to be clear.) I contend that if you need to challenge the pros, you don't burn the greens out and make them impossibly fast. Rather, you make them a little smaller and still keep them playable.

You see, the USGA's idea of "protecting par" seems nonsensical to me. And I offer Sunday's setup as proof.

A total of 67 players made the cut at Shinnecock. And after the debacle on Saturday, the USGA on Sunday made what most of us -- me included -- consider an overcompensation. And let's be honest, they needed to. They owed Shinnecock an apology for swearing up and down that they wouldn't make the same mistakes they made in 2004... and then they made worse ones on Saturday.

But after looking at how the course played in the final round, I simply don't understand WHY the USGA made the decisions they did on Saturday in the first place!

Let's look at the facts.

Of the 67 players to make the cut, Sunday’s admittedly soft setup produced only 15 scores below par, and only four better than -2. That's just over 22% of the field -- not even a quarter of them broke par. If you want the exact breakdown, there was:
  • one 63 (-7)
  • one 65 (-5)
  • one 66 (-4)
  • one 67 (-3)
  • three 68s (-2)
  • eight 69s (-1)
Of the Top15 finishers, only seven bettered par, while only one bettered -2. That was Fleetwood's 63, of course. Then there were three each of the 68s and 69s.

And the field average was 72.3 strokes. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's an average of two over par for the entire field.

Sunday's setup involved slowing the greens down to what they should have been all along, softening the greens a bit more than necessary, and moving roughly half the flags to the center of their respective greens. They made the course MUCH easier than most of us believe was necessary, yet less than a quarter of the field beat par and the field average was more than two strokes over par.

If that setup didn't test the players, and if if was too easy in the USGA's eyes to "protect par," then what the hell do they think their job is???

If they believe their job is to prevent ANY player from breaking par, then they aren't interested in testing the players' skills. I repeat what I said Sunday -- they can get those kind of results by using a cow pasture, but the results won't be what I'd call 'golf.'

Some will debate that it's the fault of the equipment but, from a historical standpoint, the US Open is typically won with a score close to -8. If there's a need to blame something for good scores, then blame it on the influx of athletes to our game. And since that's presumably what everybody wanted, in order to legitimize our game as a sport in the general public's eyes, then making the course artificially harder to keep them from doing what they do seems a bit myopic to me. It's the equivalent of the NBA raising the baskets an extra five to ten feet during the Playoffs. It defies common sense.

If the debacle at Shinnecock -- and the resultant 'easy' setup on Sunday -- has proven anything, it's that the USGA needs to reexamine its understanding of how to 'test players' and 'defend par.' Because as far as I can see, when you have a legendary course like Shinnecock, you don't really need to push the course to the edge to create a test that protects par.

You just need some respect for the course and a little common sense.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 US Open

Winner: Brooks Koepka

Around the wider world of golf: So Yeon Ryu won the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Isi Gabsa won in a playoff at the Forsyth Classic on the Symetra Tour; George Cunningham won the GolfBC Championship on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada; and Motin Yeung won in a playoff at the Kunming Championship on the PGA TOUR China.

Brooks Koepka kisses US Open trophy

Sure, the USGA probably overreacted a bit with their setup on Sunday at the US Open. But they didn't make it too soft, as the lack of low scores proved. Of the 67 players to make the cut, Sunday’s admittedly soft setup produced only 15 scores below par, only four better than -2.

Clearly, the USGA needs to learn what "let 'em play" means. It shouldn't take an error like Saturday's to give us a usable setup.

While Tommy Fleetwood managed to become only the sixth US Open player to post a 63 – on the 45th anniversary of Johnny Miller's, no less – and a handful of players like Patrick Reed kept things interesting, it was Brooks Koepka's steady play that stole the show. In a traditional exhibition of hanging tough, his -2 round of 68 was all it took to become the first man in 29 years to win back-to-back US Opens.

It was shocking to see those we expected to contend, like DJ, Rose and Stenson, deserted by their putters. Of the challengers, only Fleetwood truly made good on the promise he's shown over the last couple of seasons.

But even a historic score wasn't enough to stop the defending champion. When I posted my "5-to-Watch" post earlier this week, I wrote:
Defending champ Brooks Koepka has never played Shinnecock, but his excellent play at Erin Hills last year proves he can hold his own on a fairly wide course, which the new Shinnecock is. Having recovered from his wrist injury, he looks to be back in the kind of form he was at last year's event, He's not getting a lot of attention this week, but I think he has to be taken seriously.
And according to GC, that lack of attention indeed drove him to hang in there when he dropped to +7 early in Friday's play. Having won two majors before his 30th birthday, he won't be underestimated going forward. I know I won't.

In the meantime, Brooks can drink a toast from the Cup while he reads his newest Limerick Summary. I suspect he'll be adding quite a few more before he's done!
Back-to-back isn’t what we expected—
Back-to-back, as the field was dissected
So methodically! Brooks
Drained a few birdie looks;
Now his two major wins are connected!
The photo came from this page at europeantour.com.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

It Happened Again...

And I just don't understand why the USGA keeps struggling with course setup. The solution is simple.

Dustin Johnson

There is a lot of talk about the "architect's intent" and making sure that the course is treated in a way that preserves that intent. Yet the USGA continually tries to set up US Open courses in a way that ignores the clear implications of their chosen course's design.

There are limits to how far you can push any course's design. In their efforts to "test" the players, the USGA takes a classic design, with greens that the architect designed with contours meant to be played at perhaps 10-11 on the stimpmeter, and they push those greens up to 13. They push them until the surface is brown and dying -- excuse me, but aren't they called "greens" for a reason? -- and then act surprised when good shots roll off them like they were made of cheap linoleum.

When the USGA wants to test a player's ability to hit a fairway, do they dry them out until they're so brown and hard that every ball rolls into the rough? No, they narrow the fairway and grow the grass around them a bit higher -- not so much that the ball can't be hit a decent distance -- so shots that aren't hit perfectly (but aren't terrible either) demand a price but can still be played.

So why don't they just do the same with the greens? All they have to do is make the greens a bit smaller. Decrease their perimeter by a foot or two, so that a well-struck shot has room to land but a poorly-struck one won't stay on the green. Let the grass in the surround grow a bit taller -- not so much that the ball must be dug out of the rough, but enough that a putt or a chip takes a little extra skill. And then they can stimp the greens at the speed intended by the architect.

[ADDENDUM: I wrote this late Saturday night and, when I woke up Sunday morning, realized I forgot to mention that shaving the edges of the greens -- so poorly-hit shots rolled off -- would be alright as well. The pin position may demand that you hit away from the pin and leave a longer putt; that's okay too. My point is that green speeds should be appropriate to the design of the green complex, so that a well-hit shot always holds and is not left to luck.]

Is that really so hard, folks? Test the players by giving them a slightly smaller target, rather than transforming grass into stone?

This isn't about testing the players. This is about pursuing an unrealistic goal, one based on how equipment from a century past behaved. If they want players to shoot 15-over, they can play the US Open in a cow pasture. At least it would be played on grass, the way the game was intended.

But it still wouldn't be golf, now would it?

I agree that the 16-under score of last year's event at Erin Hills wasn't what we want to see at a US Open. But setting things up so the game resembles craps instead of golf isn't the answer. This time, the final pairing will be two players who, if the course has been just reasonably consistent all day,  probably would not have been in contention.

If the USGA can't understand how to set up a fair golf course that STAYS fair for an entire round, perhaps it's time they let someone else take over course preparation.

End of rant.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

In a Strange Way, the Weather Was the Story...

Because it has changed our view of Dustin Johnson. Let's take a look at the first two days of the US Open.

Dustin Johnson reading a putt

Shinnecock Hills is an old soul among golf courses, in many ways the American equivalent of St. Andrews. It's not just its age, being the second-oldest course in the US (1891; the oldest is Exeter Country Club in New Hampshire, 1889), but the fact that it is still able to host a modern major without any of the shortcomings other older courses have -- it can handle the modern infrastructure of the PGA Tour while still holding its own against the power hitters -- makes it and St. Andrews kindred spirits.

So why has the weather changed our view of DJ? The weather has refused to follow the weather bureau's dictates -- not just because it gave us unexpected rain on Wednesday and Thursday but, as Jim Furyk put it on Friday:
When we were getting up this morning there was a zero percent chance of rain. I think when we got here I heard someone say it jumped to 15 percent. And then it rained for two hours.
Instead of dry and sunny, Friday started off rainy and gray -- and DJ played in the worst part of the draw both days, in Thursday's wind and Friday's cold rain. And yet -- AND YET -- DJ calmly shot 69-67 in the worst of it while many big names missed the cut playing the best side of the draw.

This isn't what was expected of DJ. I picked him to win in my "5 to Watch" post, but even I wouldn't have predicted this. DJ's domination to this point, in the week following a dominating win, wouldn't be expected of any player. (Bear in mind that no one has ever won a US Open after winning the week before... not even Tiger.)

Speaking of my "5 to Watch," I appear to have done much better than normal this week, despite not knowing how the USGA would set up Shinnecock.
  • Dustin Johnson has, of course, a four-stroke lead at -4.
  • Justin Rose is T4 at -1.
  • Brooks Koepka is also T4 at -1.
  • Phil is back in the pack, T35 at +6. But after hitting 26 of 28 fairways, it's hard to believe he could be that far back!
And while at +10 Tiger didn't make the cut, I made him my flier pick because I didn't know if his entire game would show up. It's worth noting that he was +7 on just holes 1 and 2, so I'd have to agree with Justin Thomas:
He [Tiger] definitely didn't have it, but, really, he didn't play that poorly.
A lot of the top players didn't fare any better than Tiger -- Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy come to mind -- so it's hard to disagree with Thomas.

However, that's all water under the bridge. Now we head into the weekend, and the weather -- if the predictions are finally correct -- should be very good and we should see some lower scores. But the tall lanky figure of Dustin Johnson is casting a huge shadow across this major, and the field is going to need some help if they want to catch him.
  • Will DJ stumble at some point this weekend? Probably.
  • Will any of the players be able to mount a charge? Again, probably. There are ten players between even and +2, and DJ's four-stroke lead could vanish with one bad shot. Doubles, triples and worse have been quite common at Shinnecock this week.
But my money's still on Dustin. Unless somebody waxes the steps where he's staying this weekend, I wouldn't bet on him slipping up this time.

Friday, June 15, 2018

US Open: Things to Watch for Today (Videos)

I'll have some thoughts on the first two days of the US Open tomorrow, but here's a clip from GC you may have missed with three things to watch for during today's round.



The three points?
  1. How will Friday's conditions compare to Thursday's?
  2. How will DJ fare playing with part of the lead today?
  3. Which big names will manage to make the cut?
Although it's not mentioned in the video, while the wind is supposed to drop to around 10mph today, it will start the day blowing in the same unusual direction it blew on Thursday, then slowly change direction until they get the standard winds in the afternoon. Which means that the wind will be largely unpredictable for the players.

The following video from ESPN is what Tiger said after his round, but the page the video came from has a longish preview of the second round.



My personal opinion? The young guns finally learned to appreciate just how impressive the multiple US Open winners like Tiger, Phil, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen really are... and we'll see just how many of them have what it takes to play a REAL US Open setup.

As I said, I'll have my view of the first two rounds in tomorrow's post.