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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Koepka Out, Fowler In

In case you missed it, Brooks says he won't be in shape to play the Presidents Cup so Tiger picked Rickie to replace him. That was expected, but was it smart?

Brooks and Rickie

Second-guessing Tiger's choice is going to be a source for debate from now till the Cup is played. And a number of different articles have appeared just today (links follow) voicing their own opinions:
Tiger's choice to go with Rickie was predictable if not inevitable. It's also no surprise that the US Team is 100% in favor of the choice, given Rickie's popularity in the team room.

However, given Rickie's performance this year, I do think there were better choices. Kevin Na (won three events) and Kevin Kisner (won the WGC-Match Play) both have great short games, and even Brendon Todd (with wins in the last two events of the season) seems to be in better form. And all three have displayed unquestioned mental strength this year.

But that's all water under the bridge now. While I like Rickie a lot, I just don't think he was the best choice this time around and he's going to be under tremendous pressure to perform. Maybe Tiger believes Rickie just needs a vote of confidence to shake him out of his funk, the same way Adam Scott needed one from Greg Norman a few years back.

I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Finish Line in Dubai

I would be remiss if I ignored the final event in the Race to Dubai, the DP World Tour Championship at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai.

2018 Race to Dubai winner Francesco Molinari

Last year -- as is often the case -- this event gave us two winners. While Danny Willett is the defending champion at the DP World Tour Championship, Francesco Molinari is the defending Race to Dubai winner.

This year Molinari won't defend. The Top5 players in the Race to Dubai are:
  1. Bernd Wiesberger
  2. Tommy Fleetwood
  3. Jon Rahm
  4. Shane Lowry
  5. Matthew Fitzpatrick
And I have to say that my money's on Fleetwood. As well as Weisberger has played, Tommy narrowly missed out on the big prize last year. I just don't see it happening again. And let's not forget that Tommy won it in 2017.

GC's live coverage begins Thursday morning at 2am ET. Golf Central begins an hour earlier.

But the excitement has already begun, hasn't it? This may be the best Race to Dubai we've seen in years.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 Mayakoba Golf Classic

Winner: Brendon Todd

Around the wider world of golf: Tommy Fleetwood won the Nedbank Golf Challenge on the ET; Ricardo Celia won the Visa Open de Argentina on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Takumi Kanaya won the Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters on the Japan Golf Tour; and Joohyung Kim won the Panasonic Open India on the Asian Tour.

Brendon Todd with Mayakoba trophy

Another wonderful week for my Twofer Tuesday picks. I had Scottie Scheffler (T18) to win and Vikto Hovland (MC) to Top10. Apparently both players began their Christmas vacations early!
  • Winners: 3 for 46
  • Place well (Top10): 19 for 46 (11 Top5s, 8 more Top10s)
  • Overall Top10s: 36 of 92 (21 Top5s, 15 more Top10s)
I console myself somewhat by admitting that Brendon Todd wouldn't have been considered for either choice. His first win in Bermuda came after four MCs and a T28... and those came after five years of struggle. But clearly Brendon has proven his toughness at this point, and he probably won't fly under the radar much longer.

If he can to play this way at the RSM this week and continue next year after the break, that is.

Brendon's mental strength is going to be legend from now on, so I want to just point out what caused this most recent win drought -- a swing change. According to pgatour.com's wrap-up:
Shortly after winning the 2014 AT&T Byron Nelson, Todd changed his swing in part to create a higher launch angle. To say the move backfired would be an understatement. He developed a big right miss that got in his head for the next three years, and gradually fell off the TOUR.
I know I often belabor this point, but I can't overemphasize how important it is to avoid major swing changes if you want to get better. While -- in Brendon's case -- seeking a higher launch angle sounds like a minor tweak, it completely changed the feel of his swing and led him down a dark path to swing yips. In his case, trying to launch his driver higher resulted in an inability to hit all of his longer clubs off the deck -- a loss that far outweighed any gains off the tee.

At any rate, Brendon is back and he's going to have a great Christmas after back-to-back wins... and, of course, back-to-back Limerick Summaries. Few players ever achieve either feat!
Now that Brendon has won back-to-back,
His bank account’s back in the black
And he’s had a great run…
But the year’s nearly done!
After New Year’s, can he still stay on track?
The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Twofer Tuesday: CME Group Tour Championship

Since the Limerick Summary is delayed a day, Twofer Tuesday picks up the slack. But rather than go to the RSM Classic -- at this point (Sunday night) most of the event info I want isn't posted yet -- I'm headed for the final LPGA event of 2019.

Defending champion Lexi Thompson

As usual, the CME Group Tour Championship will be played in (hopefully) sunny Naples FL at the Tiburón Golf Club. Lexi Thompson is the defending champion and, after a less than stellar season, will be looking to duplicate last year's magic. She came into that event in a very similar situation... and crushed it.

But I digress. Let's make a couple of picks!
  • My Top10er for the event is Nelly Korda. She's already won twice this season and is coming off one of those wins, at the Swinging Skirts event in Taiwan. I see no reason that she should slack off now, what with only one event to go and that one for a monster paycheck. I won't be surprised if she pulls off a win.
  • But having said that, my winner is -- who else? -- Jin Young Ko. Three LPGA wins (two majors) plus a KLPGA win this season mark her as the one to beat. Granted, her WD from the Swinging Skirts event is a bit worrisome but she's had nearly three weeks to recover. She's been so smart about her game this year that I'm sure she stopped before the injury became too bad.
Ironically, GC is using tape delay for the first three rounds of this event, with NBC broadcasting live next Sunday. GC's tape delay begins Thursday at 4pm ET. Nevertheless, I can't wait to see how this wild LPGA season finishes up!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Thoughts on the CME Group Tour Championship

With this year's changes to the CME Group Tour Championship, there's been some debate over whether the changes are good or bad. Here are my thoughts.

Defending champion Lexi Thompson

The biggest criticism is the decision by CME Group to simply let the winner of the event win the CME Globe as well. Player #60, who barely made it in to the CME Group Tour Championship, has the same chance of winning as Player #1 who, in this case, is ridiculously far ahead in points.

Is it fair, the reasoning goes, to spend all year fighting for the top spots in the points rankings, only to have them rendered useless in the final event? In most playoff systems, the leaders get at least some advantage over the rest of the field. In the NFL, for example, the leaders in each division (AFC and NFC) get a one-week bye, which essentially is an extra week off to rest and an automatic berth in the second playoff round.

In fact, some have hesitated to say the LPGA has playoffs at all! Instead, they just have a final event. Does the LPGA's system need some more tweaking?

I think it does need a tweak... but not nearly to the extent that most of its detractors think.

The problem I see is that, for all the playoff systems we have in sports, nobody really seems to understand how they work. And once you do understand them -- I'll explain my understanding here -- you realize that the LPGA isn't far from having it right.

First, let's address the elephant in the room: Most sports simply don't have as many contestants to rank. Most team sports top out around 32 teams or so, and most individual sports have fewer than a typical field in golf. NASCAR, the most frequently compared sport, typically has 40 cars in a field and has never had more than 60. Playoffs in most sports cut to 16 or fewer competitors.

Normal professional golf fields typically have around 130-150 players. Obviously the logistics are a bit different!

Another fact rarely considered in discussions about golf playoffs is this: In most sports, the advantages gained by the top competitors are generally granted in the early stages of the playoffs, NOT in the final event itself. Looking back at the NFL, the bye weeks are granted in the first round only. The playoffs themselves are marked by cutting the field size.

The LPGA does have playoffs although they aren't currently called that. Instead, they're called the Fall Asia Swing. These events are invitationals, open only to players who qualify through the money list. None of those events has more than 62 LPGA players and the sponsor invitees into those events don't get CME Globe points.

At the end of the Fall Asia Swing, the 60 players who qualify from the CME Globe points list make it to the CME Group Tour Championship. It should be noted that the top players going into the Swing are pretty much guaranteed a spot in the final event, which is certainly an advantage for outstanding play all season.

The final point is this: In the final event of a sports season -- be it the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Stanley Cup or whatever -- whoever wins that event wins it all. I realize that in most (if not all) of those events, there are only two competitors. But that's a function of much smaller fields to begin with; the typical LPGA field is four times larger than the entire NFL!

The CME Group Tour Championship SHOULD be a winner-take-all event. If a player made it through the Fall Asia Swing -- or managed to compile enough points before the Swing to make the Top60 -- then they should win it all if they win the final event.

What tweak do I think the LPGA needs to make? Simply enough, they should shrink the CME Group Tour Championship field. I would vote for a 36-player field; that's enough to make it interesting but still elite enough make it tough to qualify. Plus 36 players allows for twosomes or threesomes, depending on how the weather plays out.

Furthermore, if they really want to ratchet up the tension, cut to 18 players after two rounds, with sudden death for ties to get exactly 18. The cut players would still get a payout based on how they finished, as a reward for making the event. But wouldn't that make for some frayed nerves?

The LPGA is really close to having their final event right -- perhaps closer than any of the other golf organizations. All they need is a smaller field for the final event.

And those are my thoughts. Make of them what you will.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

How to Lose Fewer Balls Than Eddie Pepperell

Today I've just got a link to a new article over at golftipsmag.com called Eddie Pepperell Could Use These Tips.

Eddie Pepperell

By now everybody knows about Eddie's DQ at the Turkish Airlines Open when he lost all his golf balls on the fourth hole. So why link this article?

Simply because it links to three other articles at golftipsmag.com that contain tips on how to keep your ball in play. The variety of ideas in those articles may give you some new things to practice, things that will help you hit it straighter...

And help you minimize the number of balls you need for one round of golf. With the price of golf balls these days, we can all use a little help!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Andrew Reynolds on Not Topping Your Drives (Video)

This is a dreadfully simple tip but we often forget logic when we try to kill a drive.



"For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." You've heard that often enough, right?

But when we get obsessed with 'using the ground' it's very easy to squat down too much... and when we squat too much at address, we're going to stand up at impact. (That's your equal and opposite reaction.) More times than not, that will result in a thin hit.

Teeing the ball up -- which you should do anyway -- and standing taller at address is the logical way to prevent this. When you stand tall, you'll either keep your height or perhaps move down just a little. (Again, that's your equal and opposite reaction.) With the proper address position, either of those should result in a more solid hit.

A simple tip that should be common sense, I know. But it never hurts to be reminded of simple things because those are the things we most often forget.