Saturday, August 30, 2014

So Yeon Ryu Is Going for Two

While the PGA Tour is just getting started (they have a Monday finish this week), the LPGA is well underway with the Portland Classic. And while I.K. Kim has a 3-shot lead on the field and is certainly playing like a champion -- she's shot 65-67 so far -- So Yeon Ryu is in position to make a run at her second win in a row.

So Yeon Ryu

Ryu sits at -8 (T5) with only Mi Jung Hur, Carlota Ciganda, and Laura Diaz between her and Kim. Both Kim and Ryu have won this year -- Kim's win came at the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters on the LET in early July -- and both have done so in dominating fashion. It won't be a surprise if either wins.

Neither is a sure bet yet. Defending champ Suzann Pettersen is T10 at -6, as is Anna Nordqvist (and Juli Inkster, who has a very good record at the Portland Classic), and Shanshan Feng is only one shot farther back. However, since most of the other players around them are unproven down the stretch, you have to feel that one of the favorites will have to stumble if anyone else is to have a chance.

Right now, it looks like a fairly small group of likely winners. The course is playing hard and fast, and players are having a tough time putting two low rounds together.

One other thing to consider is the Rolex Player of the Year competition. While Lydia Ko has pretty much locked up Rookie of the Year, the POY race is a long way from settled. According to Neal Reid at LPGA.com, there are 6 players very much in the running (their point totals follow their names):
  1. Stacy Lewis, 200
  2. Inbee Park, 169
  3. Michelle Wie, 151
  4. Lydia Ko, 128
  5. Lexi Thompson, 104
  6. Anna Nordqvist, 100
So Yeon Ryu -- in 7th place with 85 points -- could put herself in the mix with a win this week. (The win is worth 30 points, with 2nd claiming only 12 points.) And with none of the Top5 playing this week, this is an excellent chance for Nordqvist and Ryu to really move up the list. Ryu could reach fifth place (115) while Nordqvist could get to fourth (130).

And in case you wonder, Pettersen and Feng could only move up to around 95-100 points with a win. But with the Evian being worth 60 points...!

I like both Kim and Ryu's chances of winning this week. But will Ryu's desire to get in the POY race overcome Kim's birdie barrage? We'll just have to see. GC's broadcast starts at 7pm ET tonight.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Trailing Foot Shuffle for Better Iron Play

This is one of the more interesting tips I've found recently. It comes from Golf Magazine's Top100 Teacher Brian Manzella, and he says it will help you hit irons like Henrik Stenson.

I don't know about that... but I can see where it could help you improve your footwork.



About that "pushing up at impact" bit... I know that's one way to increase your swing speed but the timing always seems a bit tricky to me. If you want to try that, it's up to you. It's your practice time!

However, I think Brian's idea about lifting your trailing foot briefly to start your backswing could really help some of you. Far too many of you freeze over the ball -- it's amazing that pigeons don't roost on you during your setup! But hand movements like waggles and forward presses don't always help, either.

Moving your feet gets your whole body moving, and that can really help your swing rhythm. And note that Brian says you don't have to move your trailing foot much -- just high enough to slip a piece of paper under it. I don't know how well some of you would feel that, but you might try lifting your trailing heel just a bit above the ground, then "push it down" to start your backswing. That might also help you keep from swaying as much. You want a small weight shift, not a big one!

If you have trouble with getting your backswing started, Brain Manzella's little shuffle just might help you improve your footwork. It's certainly worth a try.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Ladies Prepare for Their Final Major

Since the Deutsche Bank has a Monday finish, there's no reason for any of you to miss this week's LPGA event -- especially since it's live in prime time.

The LPGA heads up to Portland OR for their final event before the Evian, their fifth and final major of 2014. With a week's break between the two, this is an excellent opportunity for someone to double dip. Suzann Pettersen did so last year, winning the Portland Classic and the Evian.

Suzann Pettersen kisses last year's Portland Classic trophy

I'll be interested to see if So Yeon Ryu can triple dip. After winning wire-to-wire last week against a much stronger field -- Tony Jesselli's preview ranks this week's strength at 56% VS 81% last week -- and with next week off to recover, Ryu could conceivably pull a McIlroy and go three in a row.

Conceivably. That remains to be seen, of course. With Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park, and Lydia Ko all taking the week off, Pettersen and Ryu are the top players in the field... and paired together for the first two days (along with Anna Nordqvist).

An interesting note (at least, I thought it was interesting): The Web.com Tour played in Portland last week, at the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club where the LPGA has played the US Women's Open in 1997 and 2003 (and yes, it was the same Witch Hollow course that the Web.com Tour used last week). However, the Portland Classic (formerly the Safeway Classic) was played at Pumpkin Ridge's Ghost Creek Course from 2009-2012, and has been played at the Columbia Edgewater Country Club since last year.

Here's the interesting bit. Suzann won at Ghost Creek in 2011 and Columbia Edgewater last year... and she told the media folks she doesn't really like either of them!
Q. You know, you won here last year. You've won at Pumpkin Ridge, two really different kinds of courses. But is this a good fit for you because of your ability to shape shots?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: Well, Pumpkin Ridge I never really liked, and this one I never really liked either (laughs) until I won.
Suzann also said that this is an "old, traditional golf course... a driver's course" and that anybody who hits the fairways should get a lot of good looks at birdie. (Perhaps this will be another good week for Mo Martin!)

This is one of the weeks that Charley Hull will be playing the LPGA as well, so it looks like it could be an interesting week. GC has three hours of live coverage today starting at 6:30pm ET. Don't forget that this is the last event before the Evian, so you don't want to miss it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Jason Day's Go-To Shot

Sunday I did a post about creating a go-to shot for those times when you absolutely positively HAVE to get the ball in the fairway. Well, lo and behold, Jason Day recently told Golf Digest all about his own go-to shot he calls his "fail-safe swing." Comparing his swing to my post should give you even more ideas for creating your own.

Jason Day at go-to swing finish

Jason tells 3 keys he uses. I'm listing them as 5 keys; the first 3 are his address adjustments and that's why he combines them:
  1. Grip down a half inch
  2. Ball no farther forward than midway in stance
  3. Weight more on left side
  4. Make sure you pivot on your left side coming down
  5. Hold off the finish, which he explains primarily as swinging slower
I want to emphasize that last one -- not so much for the hold-off move as for swinging slower. When you're struggling to get the ball in the fairway, you need solid contact. You're not going to get that by swinging all out! Jason recommends swinging at 80% -- I always laugh at these percentage guidelines because I don't think most weekend players can estimate their effort that accurately -- but the point is to swing so you can keep your balance. If you can swing pretty fast and still do that, by all means swing fast.

One last thing: The article makes it clear that Jason is using an iron for his go-to shot. You can use an iron as well if you want. However, don't think that you have to use an iron. Fairway woods also work well for a go-to shot and, if you can rein in your driver swing a bit and get a controllable result with it, there's no reason not to use your driver for your go-to shot. You'll probably get more distance that way than with any other option as well.

With a go-to shot it's all about predictability. Any shot you can control well enough to predict where it will end up when you're under pressure can be your go-to shot. Once you realize that, you're well on your way to creating one of your own.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Should Tiger Do Now?

Since the announcement Monday morning that Tiger and Sean Foley were "ending their professional relationship," the golf world has been abuzz. It seems everybody is ready to solve this little dilemma for the Big Cat. I also have an idea, which I'll get to in a minute, but first let me get you up-to-speed on the official bits.

Tiger and Foley

Monday morning this little announcement popped up at tigerwoods.com:
Tiger Woods said today he will no longer be working with Sean Foley.

"I'd like to thank Sean for his help as my coach and for his friendship," Woods said. "Sean is one of the outstanding coaches in golf today, and I know he will continue to be successful with the players working with him. With my next tournament not until my World Challenge event at Isleworth in Orlando, this is the right time to end our professional relationship."

"My time spent with Tiger is one of the highlights of my career so far, and I am appreciative of the many experiences we shared together," Foley said. "It was a lifelong ambition of mine to teach the best player of all time in our sport. I am both grateful for the things we had the opportunity to learn from one another, as well as the enduring friendship we have built. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him."

"Presently, I do not have a coach, and there is no timetable for hiring one," added Woods.
There are a couple of important things to note here. One is that Tiger chose to announce this during a period when he said he won't be playing golf -- if you heard Gary Williams talking to Tiger on Morning Drive last week, you heard Tiger say he won't even be swinging a club for a month or so. That means he has plenty of time to pick another coach.

The second thing is that Sean actually has a quote of his own in this announcement on Tiger's website. That's not something you'd expect to see with Tiger and other teachers, so this is apparently a very amicable split.

Although the summaries of Tiger's record with Foley don't look as impressive in comparison with Butch or Haney, I don't think it's all that bad when you consider Tiger's injuries. Officially, Tiger had 8 wins in 55 starts (that doesn't count the 2011 World Challenge win) -- 3 in 2012 and 5 in 2013. Those aren't minor wins, folks:
  • Arnold Palmer Invitational: 2
  • Memorial Tournament:1
  • Quicken Loans (AT&T) National: 1
  • Farmers Insurance Open: 1
  • WGCs: 2
  • THE PLAYERS: 1
He also had a number of Top5 finishes, including 2 in majors before the back became a big issue in 2013. I think THE PLAYERS win is being undervalued, as Tiger had only one of those under the combined efforts of Butch and Haney. That's a tough course for Tiger... but he got that win before the back became a major issue.

And injury was definitely a major issue. Between Achilles tendon and back problems, Tiger was only healthy about half of his time with Foley. That certainly affected their results. The two never really had a chance to see just what they could do, a thought that Butch Harmon echoed in his comments to Tim Rosaforte Monday.

As you might expect, paddypower.com immediately had a betting page for Tiger's next teacher. You should take this page with a whole shaker full of salt, as Butch Harmon (who already said he and Tiger wouldn't be working together) is even odds while Tiger's ex, Elin, is 500-to-1 and Tiger's mom is 300-to-1. These are odds to be his next swing instructor? Puh-leeze!

Clearly there's already a lot of debate about who Tiger's next coach should be. Some media folks say Tiger should go solo while others have their own favorite suggestions.

Well, here's mine.

I don't think Tiger will need months to make a change. On this blog I focus on fundamentals because that's what makes or breaks a swing, and Tiger has solid fundamentals. While each of his coaches have had different swing theories, the fundamentals remain basically the same between them all, so we aren't looking at a long time to make useful swing changes -- especially if he has a few months uninterrupted by tournaments to focus on them.

I like the idea of Tiger avoiding a new swing coach... but I don't think he should go it on his own. I think he should get together with Steve Stricker and the two of them spend some practice time together. I think it would benefit BOTH of them. Here's what I'm thinking:

Tiger doesn't need a new swing; he just needs to simplify the one he has. Steve's swing was in a much worse condition than Tiger's has ever been, but Steve simplified his so much that he doesn't even need much practice to keep it sharp. This is perfect for Tiger, who needs a swing that won't require as much practice and therefore won't stress his back nearly as much. Plus he would immediately get better with the driver.

Likewise, I think Steve would benefit from seeing how Tiger strategizes his way around a course using "Steve's swing." Steve has been able to get into position to win a major but hasn't been able to get over the hump. I think Tiger could teach him some new tricks that just might help him do it.

Tim Rosaforte said he talked to John Cook on Monday, and Cook said he thought all Tiger really needed was someone to talk to on the practice range and serve as an extra set of eyes. Yes, I think Steve Stricker would fill the bill perfectly...

Plus think of all the putting practice Tiger would get! Are you listening, Tiger?

Sometimes I'm so smart I amaze myself. ;-)

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 The Barclays

Winner: Hunter Mahan

Around the wider world of golf: So Yeon Ryu went wire-to-wire at the LPGA's Canadian Pacific Women's Open; Scott Dunlap won the Boeing Classic on the Champions Tour; Carlos Ortiz won the WinCo Foods Portland Open and also locked up the top Tour card awarded on the Web.com Tour; David Bradshaw won the Great Waterway Classic on the PGA TOUR Canada; Jamie Donaldson won the D+D REAL Czech Masters on the ET, thus locking up a Euro Ryder Cup team spot; and Momoko Ueda won the CAT Ladies on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has details).

Hunter Mahan with wife and daughter

No doubt Tom Watson is very happy today. In all likelihood, one of his "possible choices" for the American Ryder Cup team stepped up and made a really good case for being much more than just possible.

In the process, Hunter Mahan also took over first place in the FedExCup standings from Rory McIlroy. And then, as if that wasn't enough, his wife Kandi and one-year-old daughter Zoe were waiting for him on the 18th green. (They weren't supposed to meet him until Tuesday at the Deutsche Bank.)

PGATOUR.com's Helen Ross started her wrap-up with the words, "Kandi Mahan stopped short of saying she had a premonition on Saturday night," but it's clear that Kandi knew something the rest of us didn't. (Perhaps she remembered Hunter's penchant for shooting 65 in final rounds.) At any rate, she and Zoe zipped up to New Jersey just in time for the award ceremony.

With the exceptions of Cameron Tringale, William McGirt, Morgan Hoffman, and Patrick Reed, the leaderboard was flush with experience -- Stuart Appleby, Jason Day, Ernie Els, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk, and Rickie Fowler, to name a few. It turned out to be a much closer race than anyone expected.

Except for Kandi Mahan, that is.

And so this week's Limerick Summary goes to Hunter Mahan, who may have had an unconscious premonition himself. If not, he got extremely lucky. After all, it's not easy to get a one-year-old to cooperate on a long trip:
With a trip to the Ryder Cup looming
Plus that purse of 10 mil, I’m presuming
Hunter said, “Gotta win!
‘Cause if Kandi flies in
And I don’t get it done, she’ll be fuming!”
The photo comes from the Tournament Upshot page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

On Creating a Go-To Shot

We frequently hear how important it is to create a go-to shot. That's a shot that you can hit under pressure and know where it's going to end up. It's the shot that you can count on when the rest of your game seems to have gone to hell.

I have a few thoughts on this, but first I'd like you to see this short video from GC's Michael Breed on how to create a go-to shot -- in this case, a slice.



Although it may sound as if Breed is spitting out a lot of instructions here, you only need to remember 2 keys in order to create a dependable go-to shot.
  1. Make sure you know where the club face is pointed at impact. Regardless of whether the ball is hooking or slicing, the ball will hit the ground on a line straight ahead of where the club is facing. It will bounce after impact so you need to allow for that when you aim, but you definitely want to be thinking about where the ball will first touch down.
  2. Minimizing body movement during the go-to swing makes it more repeatable. The point of the go-to shot isn't maximum distance, it's maximum accuracy. You may need to reduce the amount of wrist cock during your swing, or keep your hips more centered in your stance, or limit your motion in some other way that will cut your distance. All are fine, as long as you can hit the fairway.
On a personal note, I think your first attempts at a go-to shot should involve just reducing your wrist cock. That's basically what Steve Stricker does with ALL of his shots, and he's accurate while still being an average-length hitter. Your wrists are already gently cocked at address; just try to keep that angle about the same throughout the swing. I bet you'll be surprised at how quickly you get control of the ball.

Of course, if that isn't enough to get the job done, you can move on to the other things. The idea is to make as few changes as possible to get the results you want. But reducing your wrist cock almost always ends up being part of the equation.

And remember: Go-to shots are usually slices or hooks -- shots with a lot of curve -- rather than fades or draws. That's because it's generally easier to create a big curve than a small one (or a straight ball, for that matter). However, if you can create a smaller fade or draw consistently, that's fine too.

After all, there's only one rule of thumb for a go-to shot: As long as you can put your go-to shot in the fairway, it's a good one!