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Monday, January 25, 2021

The Limerick Summary: 2021 American Express

Winner: Si Woo Kim

Around the wider world of golf: Jessica Korda won the pro division and Mardy Fish the celebrity division of the LPGA's Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions; Darren Clarke won the Mitsubishi Electric Championship on the Champions Tour; and Tyrrell Hatton won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the ET.

Si Woo Dim with AmEx trophy

My Twofer Tuesday picks didn't do so well, but I did go pretty far off from the betting favorites. I had Patton Kizzire (53) and Chris Kirk (T16). I don't know what happened with Kizzire, but Kirk did well after that emotional high of locking up his card last week. 

  • Top10s: 3 for 6 (2 Top5s, 1 other Top10) 
  • Winners: 0 for 3 events

Si Woo Kim hadn't won in a couple of years, and last year at this event he had to withdraw when his back problems became too much to ignore. While I don't know that he ever doubted he would win again, I doubt any athlete can escape being concerned when they develop chronic physical problems.

It was appropriate that he would break his winless drought in the desert, don't you think?

After a restless Saturday night he began the final round with a share of the lead. But he still couldn't rest because Patrick Cantlay went absolutely nuts during the round and posted a 61, his lowest round ever on Tour, after barely making the cut! He said later that he didn't think he could have played much better, and he posted the clubhouse lead by a single shot.

Si Woo watched the leaderboard all the way to the finish, knowing he had to find some way to keep up with Cantlay's blistering pace. And while his 64 might not have been as impressive as Cantlay's, it was enough to give him a one-stroke win.

He even gave a post-round interview in English, which may have taken more courage than working through the back problems. Asian languages and English are far more different to learn than, say, English and Spanish, which share a lot of words and syntax and are therefore much easier for the speaker of one to learn how to speak in the other. Despite the inherent difficulties, Si Woo did a good job at that as well.

What else can I say? The man deserves a Limerick Summary... and here it is. Congrats, Si Woo!

Another pro breaks through a drought.
I wonder if Kim fought the doubt
That he’d soon win again?
Well, he proved that he can
Once he got his back problems worked out.

The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Paige Spiranac's Approach to the Wedge Game (Video)

Paige has a unique take on playing wedge shots from 100 yards and in. She patterns her approach after her chipping game and uses the basics of connection to further simplify things. In this video she explains the basics.


A quick summary: The key to your wedge game isn't how far you hit the ball but how well you control your distance. Paige takes more club, chokes down on the grip, keeps her arms connected throughout the swing (note that she mentions a towel drill that can help you with that) and makes a shorter overall swing based on her chipping setup.

I really like her approach because you don't need to think about so much or do anything fancy to get good results. Paige's video will give you a good base on which to build your wedge game. Give it a try!

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Rick Shiels Tests the Wilson Staff D9 Driver (Video)

This is an interesting test for one reason: Rick is testing this driver against a 2021 Callaway Epic driver, which is a similar build but costs nearly twice as much. See what you think...


Friday, January 22, 2021

Yeah, I Know They Started Yesterday But...

The Champions Tour is starting their year in Hawaii and it's still cold here on the East Coast of the US. So let's talk briefly about their first event, the Mitsubishi Electric Championship.

Defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez

This event is played at Hualalai Golf Course, meaning this is the third Hawaiian island we get to see this month. (The ladies are down in Florida.) Miguel Angel Jimenez is the defending champion and looking to become a three-time winner at Hualalai so he can join Bernhard Langer, who seems to hold just about every record on the Champions Tour except for the most wins. (That's still Hale Irwin, folks, but Langer isn't that far behind. And Hale is playing this week.)

As we have already come to expect in this year's golf, the players who are in great form aren't necessarily the ones that the analysts are picking. For example, I checked the Power Rankings after Thursday's first round and here's what I found.

Two players are tied in third place so far, Scott Parel and Jerry Kelly, both at -8. Parel is 10th in the rankings and Kelly is 4th. So far so good.

The player in second place is Darren Clarke at -9. Clarke is ranked 7th and, as well as he's been playing, should have more than one win by now. But the routine and courses on the Champions Tour are definitely different than the regular tours, and they take some getting used to. Look for him to play better this year.

But sitting at the top of the leaderboard at -10 is Retief Goosen... and he isn't in the Power Rankings at all. Go figure.

Technically this isn't the beginning of the season because the Champions Tour is treating 2020 and 2021 as one giant season. That should set us up for an interesting final stretch as players position themselves for the Charles Schwab Cup, simply because there are so many events this year where you can pick up points. So these early events may end up being even more important than ususal.

GC's coverage for this three-day event started Thursday and will broadcast at the same time today and Saturday, starting at 7pm ET. Since the players went this low in the first round, this could end up being a real sprint to the finish. I wonder if Retief will hang on and surprise them all?

Thursday, January 21, 2021

The LPGA Starts Their Season Today

With every tour getting back in action this week, I feel the need to give each a quick post about their event. Today it's the LPGA and the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.

Defending champion Gaby Lopez

As I'm sure you all know by now -- but I'll mention just in case you don't -- the LPGA's Tournament of Champions is a pro-am event. However, we don't get a team score; it's just that the celebrity players are playing their own event alongside the LPGA pros. Or, as lpga.com puts it:

The LPGA winners-only field plays for a $1.2 million purse over 72 holes with no cut. The sports and entertainment celebrities compete for a $500,000 purse of their own using a modified Stableford format.

It's an interesting twist on a champions event since you also get a separate celebrity event... but it still feels a bit like the Pebble Beach pro-am on the PGA Tour. The difference is that the pros aren't worried about how their score will affect a team score, so the strategy doesn't change from a regular event.

But it can be more fun to watch than a 'straight' tournament.

Gaby Lopez is the defending LPGA champion while baseball great John Smoltz is looking to get his third title in a row. There are 25 LPGA players and about twice that many celebs, including Annika Sorenstam among them. And since this is the only event we get until the LPGA season starts in earnest a month from now, it's definitely something we want to see.

GC's live coverage begins today at 3pm ET. I suspect it'll be something of a celebration of just surviving 2020 for everyone involved, so we'll probably see players have even more fun than normal.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The European Tour Gets Back in the Game at Last!

It's been a while but the European Tour is finally teeing it up again this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Defending champion Lee Westwood

There are four premium Rolex Series events this year, and the HSBC is the first. And the first defending champion of the season is none other than Lee Westwood, who started 2020 with a win here and finished with the Race to Dubai trophy.

Oh yeah, I'm looking forward to this event!

Last year's win was Lee's 25th ET win, which meant he had won ET events in four different decades. Like so many other players, he seems to be regaining his form at a time in his life when too many people are ready to write him off. But as he tees it up with so many great players from around the world this week, I'm looking forward to him beginning yet another great year.

Yes, I'm even hoping for a major. Keep your fingers crossed.

While GC's TV times are a bit scattered over the next few days, you can catch some live coverage of the first round tonight (Wednesday) on GC at 10:30pm ET. It's great to see European golf back on the air despite the pandemic's continued efforts to disrupt our lives. Let's all pray that things only get better from here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Twofer Tuesday: The American Express

Twofer Tuesday reluctantly leaves Paradise and heads for pandemic-plagued California and the streamlined American Express event.

Defending champion Andrew Landry

When I say streamlined I mean that the event has seen its normal form slimmed down considerably. Due to the rising number of flu cases in California, for the first time in event history the American Express will be played without its usual pro-am format. That in turn means that, also for the first time in event history, the number of courses needed has been trimmed from three to two -- the Stadium Course and the Nicklaus Tournament Course.

With only pros teeing up, a standard 65 cut after two round will be used. That could make a big difference in how the competition plays out.

While the two courses have been lengthened slightly, neither course will play particularly long. Both will measure a bit over 7100 yards, both at a par of 72. While weather could be an issue, I don't see it making this event much different from Sony last week. That means almost anybody could win.

In the first two events of 2021 I made some pretty obvious choices for my picks. This week I'm mixing it up a bit and taking two players who probably aren't in anybody's power rankings, since I'm uncertain how the changes forced by the pandemic in California may affect individual players.

  • My first pick is Patton Kizzire. Patton has been slowly working his way back into form since the wraparound season began, but in his last four events he's had three Top11s, capped by a T7 at the Sony. His history at this event isn't that good -- in fact, he's missed the cut in the last two seasons -- but this week there are no amateurs and only two courses. Given his good play of late, I look for a change in his fortunes here in the desert.
  • And my other pick? Chris Kirk. I know, he's only got one good finish on the PGA Tour this season, and that was his T2 at Sony last week. And like Kizzire, he hasn't had a good record in the desert. But this isn't the same Chris Kirk who has struggled in the past and, with the pressure to keep his card taken away, I look for him to benefit from the changes I mentioned earlier as well as his improved outlook on life.

GC's live coverage begins Thursday at 3pm ET. While the coverage will extend into prime time, it won't run nearly as late because there are two hours difference between Hawaii and California time. Let's see how much difference those two hours make to the players.