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Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Quick Listing of Tournament Times Today

This is just a quick reminder of how GC plans to broadcast the LPGA and PGA Tour events today. Remember, the women are playing a major while the men are warming up for a major. All times are ET (Eastern Standard Time).
  • 10am: Golf Central Pre-Game
  • Noon: ANA Inspiration (LPGA)
  • 4pm: Shell Houston Open (PGA)
  • 7pm: ANA Inspiration (LPGA)
  • 9pm: Golf Central
  • 9:30pm: Shell Houston Open (PGA)
And while I'm not sure that the second time slot for the ANA is more live coverage, bear in mind that 9pm on the East Coast is only 6pm on the West Coast. We'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Martin Laird on the Bump-and-Run (Video)

This is an older Golf Digest video from Martin Laird on the correct way to play a bump-and-run shot. I like how simple he makes it here.



Please note the keys to this shot. Martin is playing from a narrow stance and the ball is positioned even with the big toe of his trailing foot. Then, he simply makes a chipping swing, no wrist action.

Also, notice how smooth his rhythm is. No jerking the club at the change of direction!

And although Martin is using a 7-iron in this video, you can use other irons as well.

One last thing: Clearly Martin is chipping a ball close to the green. You can also play a bump-and-run to the green from a long way out, using a longer backswing and even a slight amount of wrist cock, as long as the fairway is firm (think of a links course). But overall, the technique is close to that of a chip shot, which means you don't have to learn different techniques to do both shots effectively.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

My "5 to Watch" at the ANA

The first LPGA major of the year, the ANA Inspiration, is finally here. It's time to pick my potential winners (or, as I did at the Match Play last week, the likeliest might-have-beens).

So Yeon Ryu

As usual, here is my link to Tony Jesselli's preview of the event. The ANA, like the Masters, is played at the same venue each year -- the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage CA. The defending champion is Lydia Ko, who picked up her second major win here.

In many ways, I'm going rogue this week. I'm not going to choose Lydia Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn, Brittany Lincicome or Lexi Thompson, despite each one being on most fantasy teams. One thing we have seen this season is that the faves aren't necessarily stepping up and getting it done. So I'm picking some players who may not rank quite as high.
  • In Gee Chun has been a bit erratic this season, but it's easy to forget that she set the all-time scoring record at the Evian last year... which also means she won the last major the women played. And she's won two majors, so the stage isn't too big for her.
  • So Yeon Ryu hasn't won in quite a while but she -- like Stacy Lewis -- has been runner-up some ridiculous number of times in the last couple of years. She's also #1 on the money list because she hasn't been out of the Top7 this season. She already has one major under her belt, and she got one of her runner-ups at Evian last year.
  • Anna Nordqvist won at the Founders Cup a couple weeks back. She has a major and, had it not been for that questionable ruling by the USGA at the US Women's Open last year, she might have made it two. And she has played well at Mission Hills before -- T4 in 2015.
  • HaNa Jang has a win and a couple more Top5s so far this season. Despite being a bit streaky, she's #4 on the money list. She doesn't have much of a record at the majors because she hasn't played that many, but when she's on, she's dangerous.
  • And for my flier, I'm taking Michelle Wie. I know -- outside of a T4 at the HSBC Women's Champions, she doesn't have a lot to show this season. But I like the way she's trending and her attitude. It's also worth remembering that she has one major, and she has played well at Mission Hills before.
And my overall pick? I'm taking Ryu, simply because she's playing so well this year and she's way overdue for a win. Like Stacy Lewis, I think So Yeon's dry spell is as much mental as physical -- but unlike Stacy, So Yeon's game is in better shape to get it done.

GC lists two TV times for Thursday's first round, noon-4pm ET and 7pm-9pm ET. I'm guessing that both might be live coverage since the event is on the West Coast of the US. I certainly hope so, anyway.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 WGC-Dell Match Play

Winner: Dustin Johnson

Around the wider world of golf: Mirim Lee lapped the field to win by 6 at the Kia Classic on the LPGA; Daniela Darquea won the IOA Championship on the Symetra Tour, becoming the first player from Equador to win on either the Symetra Tour or the LPGA; Casey Wittenberg won the Chitimacha Louisiana Open on the Web.com Tour; Patrick Newcomb won the Honduras Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; and D.A. Points won the Puerto Rico Open, the alternate field event on the PGA Tour.

Dustin Johnson with the Walter Hagen Cup

Come on now. Is this photo really that much of a surprise?

The final day of the WGC-Dell Match Play played out pretty much as expected, albeit with a healthy dose of drama. When you make it to the Final Four at this event, you expect to see the best players bring their best stuff.

And they did. Bill Haas took Jon Rahm to the 16th hole before losing his semifinal match, and Hideto Tanihara took DJ all the way to 18 before finally losing his. Likewise, Haas took Tanihara 17 holes before finishing 4th.

But the match everybody wanted to see -- Johnson V Rahm -- delivered everything we expected, and then some. DJ built a 5up lead, only to have Rahm storm back with a chance to go extra holes at 18. If there was a downside to the match, it was the bathroom door someone slammed at the worst possible moment during Rahm's eagle chip. It may not have determined the outcome of the match, but it certainly affected Rahm's stroke.

Nevertheless, the question remains. Is this photo really that much of a surprise? After the torrid run DJ has been on -- winning (as of today) his last three events, back-to-back WGCs (a feat achieved only by Tiger before this event) and now becoming the first man to win all four WGCs -- it's hard to say that we couldn't see this coming.

This week DJ will tee it up at the Shell Houston Open, where he'll again be the favorite as he prepares for the Masters -- where, presumably, he'll be the favorite once again. Is the PGA Tour ready for yet another run by a dominant player, especially when that player has won 6 times in only 9 months, including a major and two WGCs?

All I know is that it's a challenge to keep finding unique approaches to the Limerick Summary when they're all about the same player. Fortunately, DJ keeps making history with his wins. That makes it a bit easier...
Of WGCs, he's got four;
Three wins in a row—could be more
Before DJ's through.
What's the poor field to do
When they don't know what might be in store?
The photo came from this page at PGA.com.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

They All Went Bye-Bye

Alas, even the mighty Phil Mickelson fell. He made it deeper than he has in over a decade but, in the end, even he couldn't make the Final Four at the WGC-Dell Match Play. None of my picks made it to the Sunday matches, so I no longer have a dog in the fight.

However, we are left with a fascinating foursome to contend for the Walter Hagen Cup today.

Dustin Johnson

In one corner we have a semifinal battle between Bill Haas and Jon Rahm. Haas wasn't firing on all eight cylinders when the week started, but he's found his groove now. And Rahm hasn't been out of his groove all week, not even for a moment.

In the other corner we have Dustin Johnson and Hideto Tanihara. Johnson wasn't even tied for a hole this week until well into the fifth match Saturday afternoon... and even then, he didn't fall behind. And Tanihara -- well, he's not so much an underdog as just an unknown quantity. Dustin remarked that he didn't even know who he was, but Hideto's play this week has clearly announced his identity to everyone.

And you didn't need to understand Japanese to hear him, loud and clear!

On paper, you have to expect that Johnson will face Rahm for the Cup. And if that happens, I honestly don't know who will win. Dustin has been on a roll for weeks now, but Jon has been just as solid, despite not posting a large number of wins. If I had to give one an edge, I'd give it to Rahm simply because his putting seems slightly more consistent than Dustin's.

But don't quote me on that. This is match play, after all.

And if we write off the other two players, we do so at our own risk. Haas has proven in the past to have more mettle than his easygoing manner might indicate. And Tanihara has 14 wins on the Japan Golf Tour, 3 of them coming just last year. He's not going anywhere.

This could be one of the best Match Plays we've seen in many years. I'm really looking forward to it today!

Even if all my picks went bye-bye too early.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Vagaries of Match Play

As we enter the Sweet 16 at the Dell Match Play, I admit that I'm a bit shocked.

Shocked that I still have two active picks, that is, and that they won their groups 3-0-0.

Phil Mickelson at the Match Play

I'm not terribly surprised that Phil Mickelson made it through; he's been playing well all year. Likewise, Paul Casey has been playing well for a year or more, though I was less sure he'd get past Schwartzel unscathed. And Patrick Reed's elimination was no shock either; he clearly hasn't recovered from the emotional month after the Ryder Cup when he said he was just worn out. (That's why he was my flier. I though match play might revitalize him. I was wrong.)

But when the Woodland withdrawal took out Rory McIlroy -- the one pick I thought was ironclad -- before we even reached the third day, I expected EVERYTHING to go wrong. We lost three players to withdrawals, and you just never know how that will affect the field. (BTW, you'll all be glad to know that Jason Day's mom came through surgery just fine and the doctors say they're optimistic about her recovery, according to ESPN.)

While the purpose of the round robin stage was to guarantee the big names didn't leave after only one day of bad luck, it's clear the "pool" concept hasn't made match play less volatile. I would argue that its main benefit is that more players choose to come, simply because it's not a one-day trip. Even if you get bounced by an unexpected withdrawal (or three), at least you didn't spend more time traveling than playing.

Besides, there's plenty to do in Austin TX, even if you do get bounced.

But now the whole landscape of the event has changed. Bubba, Koepka and Noren have found their games while Soren Kjeldsen, Hideto Tanihara and Will McGirt have opened quite a few eyes. Throw in the dominance of Dustin Justin and Jon Rahm, and this Match Play just got very interesting.

I just hope Phil and Paul can hang on and reach the Final Four. It's been a couple of years since I had a pick make the finals. (I think that was Victor Dubuisson, the year Jason Day won his first Match Play.) I'd like to do it again.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Chris Como's Cool Putting Tip (Video)

Although this Golf Digest video is entitled Putting Tips from Tiger Woods's Coach, Chris Como is actually talking about Jamie Lovemark's practice. And it makes my blog post today for two reasons.

First of all, this tip is just plain cool.



And second, we keep hearing that we should use our feet more when we read putts, but Como is the first teacher I've actually heard recommend putting in near-dark to help you learn how to do that.

Yeah, Tiger probably does this too. But Como doesn't mention Tiger, just Lovemark. Remember that when you trip over your putter in the dark. ;-)