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Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Zurich Team Event Returns, Better Than Ever!

It's time for the fun event again. And I feel safe saying that, because this year's Zurich Classic has even more stars than it did last year!

Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose

You all know the drill: Players choose a fellow pro to team up with. They play two days of best ball and two days of alternate shot, and the two team members are treated as if they tied at their finishing position and split the FedExCup points accordingly. For example, the winning team splits the points for first and second place (500 + 300 divided by two = 400 points each), the second-place team splits third and fourth place points, and so on.

I think even Zurich has been shocked by how popular this format is becoming. After the huge success of their first year, the event has attracted even more of the world's top players -- after struggling to attract players before the format change, 18 of the Top30 are playing this year! Notable teams include:
  • Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose -- lots of Olympic power there
  • Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly
  • David Duval and Jim Furyk -- that pairing could be a sleeper
  • Justin Thomas and Bud Cauley
  • Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer -- competing schools there
  • Team Patrick -- Reed and Cantlay, that is
  • Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell
  • Jon Rahm and Wesley Bryan -- I can't wait to see these two
And that doesn't even hit all the big names!

New this year will be "walk-up" music for the teams, a first on the PGA Tour. Zurich seems willing to push the envelope and truly create a fun event, and the pros are embracing it. Perhaps other tournaments will grab hold of the spirit and create some new twists in their own events. I can't believe that they aren't noticing what's happening here.

GC starts the fun at 2:30pm ET today. This is becoming a can't-miss event... and not just for the pros.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Inbee Takes Over as #1 at a New Event

This week Inbee Park and her caddie Brad Beecher will resume a familiar role -- that of #1 in the world. (The photo shows Park and Beecher at her last event with the bib.) Inbee's return to the top after a couple of years struggling with injury has been amazing.

And now she gets to start all over again at a brand new event,  the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship.

Inbee and her caddie with World #1 bib

The event may be new but the venue isn't. Lake Merced Golf Club hosted an LPGA event from 2014 to 2016, the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, but the sponsors moved the event to their home in Taiwan. Now Korean skin-care company Mediheal (which I Googled and found they make facial masks) has taken over the event. Lydia Ko won the first two events played here and Haru Nomura the last one.

As best I can tell, Nomura is not in the field, so I guess Ko is the closest to a defending champion that we can find.

Tony Jesselli has a nice preview here, so I won't bore you with details he has already covered. But it's pretty clear that the big storyline this week is Inbee's return to the #1 spot in the Rolex Rankings, despite a widespread belief that this dominating but understated player wouldn't be able to find the motivation to take on the kids. She just continues to amaze us all.

I love it!

GC's live coverage begins Thursday night at 6:30pm ET, which is becoming something of a standard for them when the LPGA is playing the West Coast. I, for one, am interested in seeing what Inbee does, given her previous finishes here at T4 (2014) and T18 (2015). She didn't play in 2016, the year the injury problems became evident.

One thing's for sure -- the LPGA has not been at a loss for storylines so far this year, and this event is no different.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

David Ogrin's Burned Popcorn Theory (Video)

Greetings from almost sunny Orlando! Some friends invited me to join them for a week in Disneyworld, and how could I say no? The big question becomes one of getting my blogs done on time without slowing the group down.

Today I have a simple video from GC that centers on one simple thought -- which is all I can handle after a day of travel! This is GCA Coach David Ogrin's "burned popcorn" theory, a POST-shot routine that I really like.



What I love about this "theory" is that it gets rid of the idea of "fixing" a bad swing. When you burn popcorn, it's done for and all you can do is toss the batch and start fresh.

STARTING FRESH are the key words here.

Forget the bad swing entirely. You can't take it back. Instead of asking, "what did I do wrong?" you need to ask "what can I do differently?" This is an extremely positive way of approaching game improvement. There is no self-incrimination, no beating yourself up -- just a simple, constructive question that helps you understand what you need to do to get the results you want.

If you want to improve, figure out how to get the results you want. That's the most direct route to lower scores, and that's the one you want to take.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 Valero Texas Open

Winner: Andrew Landry

Around the wider world of golf: Moriya Jutanugarn got her first LPGA win at the inaugural HUGEL-JTBC LA Open; Alexander Levy won the Trophee Hassan II on the ET; Jenny Haglund won the Lalla Meryem Cup for her first title on the LET; the team of Kirk Triplett and Paul Broadhurst won the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge; Eric Axley won the North Mississippi Classic on the Web.com Tour; and Rahil Gangjee won the Panasonic Open on the Japan Golf Tour. The Molino Cañuelas Championship still needs a Monday playoff on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Andrew Landry with Texas Open trophy

Well, it looks like Zach Johnson just didn't have it Sunday. Experience and grit just weren't enough.

Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that experience isn't the exclusive domain of the older players. Andrew Landry, in just his 32nd start on the big stage, proved that a little experience of the correct sort can be just as effective.

He drew on a bad final round at the 2016 US Open at Oakmont. He drew from a playoff loss to Jon Rahm at CareerBuilder just a few weeks back.

As for grit... well, Landry had plenty of that to draw on already. And it was all on display Sunday.

He jumped out to a four-stroke lead after six holes and, if the birdies dried up after that, his steadiness didn't. Nobody seemed to find much out on TPC San Antonio -- at least, not enough to close the gap Landry had opened up. And Landry's seven final birdies sealed the deal.

Landry's first win comes in his home state. That's pretty sweet. And now he can say he got his first Limerick Summary in his home state as well. That's double sweet!
His battle with Rahm came up short,
But it’s there Landry learned to comport
Himself with a peace
Through the valleys and peaks—
And it brought his first Tour win, of course!
The photo came from this page at golfweek.com.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

No, That Ain't DUSTIN Johnson

He just keeps poppin' up on leaderboards, doesn't he? Zach started the year strong, then seemed to fade a bit as the season has worn on, but he keeps making cuts and posting scores.

And now he's back in Texas, playing a stroke play event. You know he's won four of his 12 PGA Tour victories in Texas, don't you? Two have come at this very event -- although it's been quite a while (2008 and 2009). And the two younger players he's paired with, Andrew Landry and Trey Mullinax, are both searching for their first wins.

Zach Johnson

After a brief hiatus, the 40-somethings are back in force this year, having won three of the last eight Tour events. And Zach's ball flight is well-suited to a tight and windy Texas course...

Assuming the wind comes up, that is. If it doesn't, he's 13-under on the back nine this week -- ironically, that's his overall score. So the question is, does TPC San Antonio favor him today or not?

I'm not sure. Landry, who's tied with Zach, lost in a playoff to Jon Rahm earlier this season, so the pressure shouldn't be too much for him. And while Mullinax is one shot back and has never been in this position, he's got to be feeling good about that course record 62 he shot Saturday.

And we can't forget the other guys close behind. Ryan Moore, Sean O'Hair, Jimmy Walker and Chris Kirk are all experienced winners and certainly close enough to win, especially if the leaders stumble.

But the weather's supposed to be in the 80s today and winds around 14mph. Is that enough to give Zach the edge? Or will the "youngsters" strut their stuff and get their first win?

Personally, the worse the conditions, the better I like Zach's chances.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Two Different Ways... to Get It Done?

While much of the attention is on the major winners in the Top5 of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open, it's hard not to pull for the two yet-to-be-winners leading the event. Both came out in 2013.
  • Neither is a power player; both average between 255 and 260 off the tee. (I know, that sounds really long to some of you, but it puts them around 70-80 in the stats.)
  • One gets it done tee-to-green, the other on the green, but both are pretty good scorers. Both make lots of birdies and get into the 60s a lot.
  • And both have been oh-so-close this year.
In second place after two rounds is Marina Alex, who posted a T2 at the Founders Cup and a T5 at the Australian Open. She's the "tee-to-greener" of the pair and she's been in the mix of several events so far, even if she stumbled near the end.

Marina Alex

And in first place is Moriya Jutanugarn, Ariya's big sister. She's got a T2 at the Thailand event, a T6 at the ANA and a 10 at the LOTTE, so she's on a bit of a roll. She's been the better putter of the two, and is Top4 in both eagles and birdies this season.

Moriya Jutanugarn

Even their approaches to the game seem to be opposites, according to the LPGA. For Marina, it's about breathing and self-talk:
“I'm way more aware when I'm kind of getting a little bit anxious, wound up. I kind of like am just, ‘Okay, this has happened so many times.’ Time to step back and not get myself into that place, into that head space. I'm managing it a lot better than my first few years on tour, so I think that's helped contribute to a little bit more consistent finishes.”
For Moriya, it's more a matter of patience:
“Just try and hit fairways and greens. That’s the key for this week. That’s what I try to do.”
What you'll hear most about are the chasers -- major winners So Yeon Ryu, Eun-Hee Ji and Inbee Park being the closest and most dangerous. Other past winners are close at their heels as well. And it's these chasers who are most likely to run down the leaders and steal their thunder.

But don't tell Moriya and Marina that. They really don't care. And I won't be surprised if one or the other finally gets a win this weekend. They're getting used to the lead and they don't seem nearly as shaken by the pressure.

Could be a fun battle for this inaugural tournament. And since I understand the winner will play with Mark Wahlberg in the event's pro-am next year, they just might have something on their minds besides the trophy. ;-)

Friday, April 20, 2018

David Ogrin's "Chain Club" Drill (Video)

GCA coach David Ogrin gave a tip on Morning Drive Thursday that used an interesting piece of equipment made from a shaft, a golf ball and a length of chain. Here, take a look:



It's an interesting way to teach clubhead speed -- specifically, how to use your hands and arms to create it. It's yet another approach that uses clubs in different ways to teach you when to uncock your wrists. Hear that swish at the end of Ogrin's swing?

Yeah, you've heard that before. You understand how this drill works now, don't you?

Of course you do.

The problem comes when you try to get hold of a club shaft with a golf ball and a chain instead of a club head. Fret not, my friends. There are other ways to get the same benefits.

Let me refer you to two of my past posts with no less than three -- yes, THREE! -- videos featuring Mike Malaska. Ironically, I posted them within a week of each other.
  • The first is called Jim Flick on the TWO Pendulums in Your Swing and it has two videos with different versions of the L-to-L drill, which I think is one of the greatest drills for creating swing speed ever created. There's a "standard" version to teach how your hands create clubhead speed, and an "advanced" version that uses the drill to teach shot shaping.
  • The other post is Mike Malaska on Controlling the Clubface, and it works well with the L-to-L drill. It teaches you how to use your hands to control the clubface, which is part of what that "advanced" L-to-L drill from the other post teaches you.
Using these three drills together will not only teach you how to create clubhead speed, but they'll teach you skills that "chain club" can't. And they're free, so it's hard to beat the price!