Thursday, September 18, 2014

Last Chance to Get a Tour Card

Well, it's finally here. The Web.com Tour Championship, the final event of the playoffs, the one that will determine who gets on the PGA Tour and who goes back to the Web.com Tour, starts today. It's being played at the Dye’s Valley course at TPC Sawgrass, which some folks say might actually be harder than TPC Sawgrass itself.

Dye's Valley Course

I've also printed the rankings for the Top50 entering this final week below. You can find more detailed info on this page.

'THE 50' ENTERING THE WEB.COM TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP
Rank Player
1 Carlos Ortiz
1 Adam Hadwin
3 Bud Cauley
4 Justin Thomas
5 Colt Knost
6 Andrew Putnam
7 John Peterson
8 Zack Sucher
9 Richard Sterne
10 Blayne Barber
11 Tom Hoge
12 Tony Finau
13 Sam Saunders
14 Derek Fathauer
15 Greg Owen
16 Alex Cejka
17 David Lingmerth
18 Jason Gore
19 Whee Kim
20 Steven Alker
21 Tom Gillis
22 Andres Gonzales
23 Sean O'Hair
24 Jon Curran
25 Jim Herman
26 Daniel Berger
27 Scott Pinckney
28 Cameron Percy
29 J.J. Henry
30 Jonathan Randolph
31 Oscar Fraustro
32 Max Homa
33 Tyrone Van Aswegen
34 Steve Wheatcroft
35 Hudson Swafford
36 Mark Hubbard
37 Nick Taylor
38 Kyle Reifers
39 Greg Chalmers
40 Ryan Armour
41 Roberto Castro
42 Byron Smith
43 Dicky Pride
44 Bill Lunde
T45 Will Wilcox
T45 Carlos Sainz Jr.
47 Roger Sloan
48 Fabian Gomez
49 Vaughn Taylor
50 Patrick Rodgers

You'll note that there are two players at #1. That's because Ortiz won the #1 ranking at the final event of the Web.com Tour's regular season and Hadwin is ahead in the 4-event Finals. Both of the top players get a fully-exempt Tour card when this is all over, as well as an invite to the 2015 THE PLAYERS. Ortiz, plus the other 24 players who got their cards in the regular season, are simply trying to improve their status this week. Hadwin's #1 position is still up for grabs until the end of this event.

Meanwhile, #50 is only $703 ahead of #51. Think there's a little pressure this week?

GC's broadcast begins at 2pm ET today, with a rebroadcast at 8pm ET.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Few Scattered Thoughts on Recent Topics

Just catching up on some recent events that don't require full posts but about which I have an opinion.

First of all, in case you haven't heard (and I know you're all interested), Billy Horschel's little girl Skylar Lillian arrived at 8:48pm Tuesday night. Billy tweeted that she's 20 inches and 6 pounds 6 oz. Here's the photo he tweeted:

The Horschel family

Looks like all is well and good in the Horschel household.

I've also been asked my thoughts about the Ryder Cup process for choosing players. It's been a big subject of debate this week since Billy won the last two FedExCup events after the deadline for the Captain's Choices. The assumption is that Tom Watson would have wanted somebody like Billy on the US team... and I can't say that I disagree. (I doubt he'd have enough energy to play though. Babies are pretty demanding, especially in their first few months.)

However, my primary beef with the process is that the two teams are chosen at different times. While waiting later would make it more likely to get "hot" players with the Captain's Choices, it bothers more that the Euro team sets their automatic picks a full three weeks after the US team. I think both teams should be set at the same time. It's not like they need to coordinate 88 countries like the Sochi Olympics did!

In short, as long as both sides choose their teams at the same time, I'm okay with the current timing.

Tiger's press conference for the newly-renamed Hero World Challenge (Hero Motocorp in India being the new sponsor) drew a lot of attention when Tiger mentioned that he hadn't swung a golf club since the PGA and didn't plan to before the end of this month or early October, and also that he wasn't even thinking about a new teacher yet. I think this shows that Tiger is starting to realize that he needs to approach the rest of his career as a human being rather than a superhero, and I also think that gives him the best chance of returning to form quickly. He certainly seemed in good spirits, which can't hurt his chances.

Hmmm, did I miss anything? Oh yes, I did want to comment on how well Michelle Wie played in order to win the Rolex Annika Major Award despite being injured. Inbee Park played in all 5 events (38, T43, 4th, 1st, T10 for 76 points) versus Michelle effectively playing only 2 events (2nd, 1st, MC, DNP, WD for 84 points) and yet Michelle still beat her by 8 points. (You can read the LPGA wrap-up here.) In case you wonder where the point totals come from, they're the same points awarded for the Rolex POY award. I hope it doesn't take Michelle too long to get back in form when she finally heals up.

Finally, this week finally saw a shake-up in my Ruthless Golf World Rankings (the RGWR in the sidebar) and I wanted to explain why it now looks the way it does. The Top3 are the year's major winners--Rory with 2 majors and some other events worldwide, Martin with 1 major and the TPC (as strong a field), and Bubba with the Masters and one other win (plus his play picked up during the Playoffs). Those three should be pretty obvious choices.

Then comes Billy Horschel with that torrid 3-event streak at the end of the season (the Tour Championship and one other event, plus a 2nd, is better than what most of the other players have done in the last few months), and finally Adam Scott. Adam had that run of Australian majors late last year, a win at Colonial, and he was OWGR #1 for 4 weeks in May and has been #2 the rest of the time since the 2013 Barclays. But while he's been playing well, he's just not winning as much as I expected.

I think that covers everything.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hyo Joo Kim's Major-Winning Swing

This past weekend, in her first major appearance, Hyo Joo Kim shot the lowest score ever (male or female) in a major -- 61. Then she finished the week by winning the Evian Championship in a head-to-head match-up against Karrie Webb.

Matthew Rudy at Golf Digest posted an article that included the following YouTube video and a brief breakdown of H.K.'s swing.



At only 5'3" tall, she averaged 250 yards off the tee yet missed only 9 fairways total during all 4 rounds.. (A lot of you taller men out there can't do that!) And she does it with a swing that seems very relaxed. PGA instructor Michael Jacobs gives an explanations of the main mechanics of her swing:
"It's because of how her arms travel 'up' in the backswing and the way she uses her lower body to turn her hips on the downswing."
Obviously there's more to it than that -- there's more detail in the article -- but the basic idea is that she has a fairly upright swing and strong leg action. The combination gives her a lot of room to swing her arms and generate a lot of clubhead speed.

Read the article and make sure you watch that video a few times. This is a simple swing with strong fundamentals... and let me repeat that she obviously stays as relaxed as possible throughout her swing. She's not concerned about hitting positions; she's just concerned about swinging that club. That's the real key.

If you try making practice swings (you know how relaxed you feel when you make those!) and just try to clip tees out of the ground, you might find that this is a fairly simple motion to learn. Don't worry about her flexibility; if you stay relaxed, you'll get your most flexible swing naturally.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Tour Championship

Winner: Billy Horschel

Around the wider world of golf: Hyo Joo Kim won the Evian Championship, giving Michelle Wie the Annika Award for performance in all the LPGA majors in the process; Min Lee won the Garden City Charity Classic on the Symetra Tour; Paul Casey won the KLM Open while Andy Sullivan's hole-in-one locked up the "trip into space" prize on the ET; Justin Thomas won the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship on the Web.com Tour; Ryan Williams won the TOUR Championship of Canada and Joel Dahmen won the PGA TOUR Canada Player of the Year on the PGA TOUR Canada; David McKenzie won the Cadillac Championship on the PGA TOUR China; and Ai Suzuki become the youngest winner of the Konica Minolta Cup on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has details).

Billy takes two

Well, it's all over now. (For a couple of weeks anyway.) And it looks like this time the Hare beat out all those Turtles in their race to the FedExCup.

He didn't do a whole lot during the year. He didn't score a Ryder Cup nod. He didn't get a win. He missed the cut at the first FedExCup Playoff event and barely made the others. But then he posted a runner-up and two wins, taking down something like $13.5mil in just three weeks. That's more money than he's made in his entire career up until now.

And the scary thing is, if it hadn't been for a single shot, he could have won all three events. And for those people who questioned his stomach for competition after that one bad shot, I think he has satisfactorily answered their questions without even resorting to that one huge rude gesture they probably deserved. (Who hits every shot perfectly, anyway?)

Billy's wife, Brittany, who's expecting a little girl in a couple of weeks (probably just as well that he didn't get the Ryder Cup call), and he had talked about whether he should continue playing if the baby came early. Or rather, as Billy told golf.com, let's just say a decision was made:
"There wasn't much discussion," Horschel said after his opening round. "I brought up the question. She said, 'You're staying.'"
I suspect their first kid is going to have one hell of a nursery!

And to Billy himself go two trophies, a ridiculous amount of money, and -- most importantly -- this week's Limerick Summary. Congratulations to the Florida Gator who chomped up the whole field with an iron will and a hot putter!
He won’t get a Ryder Cup start
(And his pants aren’t what I would call “art”),
But now Billy’s got money
To care for his honey
And baby. He’s also got heart!
The photo came from the tournament upshot page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

How to Hit a Hybrid Off a Tee

I've posted tips on this subject before, but this page at golftipsmag.com on the mechanics of a hybrid tee shot is just too awesome to ignore. LPGA/PGA instructor Alison Curdt has lots of great info here that you can check out at the link, but this one picture may save many of you a load of frustration:

Proper tee height for a hybrid

Her instruction for this photo says:
To start, use a tee whenever you can, and don't be afraid to tee it up off the ground. I like to place the tee into the ground and leave the tapered part of the tee in the air. Next, play the ball slightly forward in your stance in roughly the same position you'd play a long iron. From here, swing with a "sweep some dew" motion and focus on a smooth, shallow, easy swing. To get a feel for this, take a few practice swings near the ball and imagine sweeping off the dew on the grass. Do this a few times until you feel confident, comfortable and ready to swing.
There's also a whole sequence of photos showing you how to sweep the ball off that properly-positioned tee.

This page is part of a 6-page sequence called Tee Shots 101 on hitting 6 different types of tee shots. (This photo is from the "long par 3" page.) The first page is at this link. But this one picture is so clear that I had to post it.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Yet Another Anti-Banana Ball Drill

This golfdigest.com video by instructor Todd Anderson -- who just happens to be Billy Horschel's teacher -- is billed as a way to stop slicing. Many of you will find it interesting for that reason. But it looks like it might help you learn to draw the ball as well.

The idea is simple. You use your wedge's shaft as a guide to help you see when your downswing path is too much out-to-in. If you play chess, you can remember that the spacing between the ball and the wedge is like a knight's move -- two big steps away from the target, one large step away from the target line, turn and "plant" the wedge head into the ground.

You'll find this drill is much easier to do if you start your backswing with a one-piece takeaway because that puts you on a good plane from the start. I've got instructions on how to do that in this post.

Having a clear visual of what you want to do can certainly make getting the correct shot shape much easier. It might even help you swing a bit more like Billy Horschel, who seems to have a good handle on his swing plane right now!

Friday, September 12, 2014

In Case You Missed Rory's "Defence"

In his presser Wednesday Rory was asked about Tiger and Phil not being at the Tour Championship. Essentially he said they were injured and that's what happens when you get older. I guess it was the phrase about them "getting into sort of the last few holes of their careers" that got everybody talking. It was the only thing about the Tour Championship that made it onto ESPN Wednesday, for example.

In case you missed Rory's response to the uproar, I thought you might find this golf.com summary interesting, which also has the original comments if you missed them.

Rory

Rory went on Twitter Wednesday night and saw the comments and couldn't figure out why everybody was so worked up over them. He said, "Look, I know Tiger and Phil really well. I get on really well with both guys."

But here's my favorite line. When asked if he would have to explain himself to Tiger, he just smiled and said, "I've said worse to his face."

I believe him and I don't think either of the guys was upset. But I suspect Phil's going to be VERY rested by Ryder Cup time... and Tiger's probably got some new motivation to get healthy again as well! ;-)