Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Game's Still On Down Under

While we Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving this week and the European Tour takes a brief break between seasons, golf continues in the Land Down Under. The second of the Australian Big Three, the Emirates Australian Open, gets underway Thursday (that's tonight here in the USA).

Scott and McIlroy

The defending champion is Rory McIlroy, making his final appearance of 2014 at the event he quite literally stole from Adam Scott last year. Adam looked to be in control until Rory ran him down in the final stretch, winning with a birdie on the final hole. Adam is looking to even the score this year.

In fact, Adam requested that he and Rory be paired together the first two days, presumably to keep an eye on Rory. But the event organizers decided to keep the two separated, according to this SkySports article (from which the photo also came), simply to spread the main draws across as many groupings as possible. As Golf Australia championship director Trevor Herden told SkySports:
“It’s very tempting, but there are several considerations when pairing the strongest world-class players in the Australian Open field. And it’s for the exact reasons that the Masters, US and British Opens and the US PGA separated these two guys this season. Just like all the major championships do, we will spread out the superstars across the draw to ensure as many people as possible see them.”
Therefore, Rory will be paired with Geoff Ogilvy and Stuart Appleby in the morning wave. Adam will be paired with Jordan Spieth and last week's Australian Masters champion Nick Cullen in the afternoon.

Personally, I'll be very interested to see how Jordan does. It's his first trip to Australia and he's coming off a third-place finish in Japan last week, where he missed the playoff by a single shot. Given that Jordan's coach is Australian PGA Professional Cameron McCormick, Jordan may have a better chance than most expect. And according to the Australian PGA site, Jordan has idolized Adam for a long time and is looking forward to playing with him.

GC starts their broadcast tonight at 8pm ET. I'm looking for Jordan to get his first international win this weekend.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

An Instructional Intro to Chris Como

Golf.com ran an article featuring 3 of Chris Como's past instructional videos, just to get everybody familiar with Tiger's new "swing consultant." Unfortunately none of the videos can be embedded in the post here so you'll have to click the link to see them.

Chris Como

BUT let me give you a correction to the notes golf.com added to one of the videos.

The first video, Hitting It Farther with Footwork, says:
Here’s a quick tip to gain extra yards with every club using only your lower body. Crank your right foot (or left if you are a lefty) clockwise into the ground to develop a powerful lower body move and stripe it off the tee.
IF YOU ARE A LEFTY, this is incorrect. Lefties need to "crank" their left foot COUNTERclockwise into the ground to get the result Chris is describing here. Having gotten twisted up myself when trying to "transpose" from rightie to leftie, I sympathize with the editors.

The photo came from this Business Insider article which chronicles the debate that's already begun in golf circles. (This article also includes the notorious "jumping off the diving board" video you may have heard about.) Como is a relative unknown in the golf community at large -- although he's been recognized as a top teacher by both Golf Magazine and Golf Digest -- and a huge chorus of voices are claiming this is going to be a disaster for Tiger.

Maybe it will, but one thing makes me think things will be okay. Tiger has yet to use the words "swing coach" or anything similar to describe Como's duties. Tiger says he's a "consultant" and some believe that Tiger simply wants his input to help him avoid bad mechanics that might hurt his back or knee. Given that Tiger's friend Notah Begay knows them both and believes it's a good match -- and knowing how much trouble Notah's had with back problems -- there's a good chance that this will work out just fine.

At any rate, I guess we'll all get a better idea when Tiger shows up at the Hero World Challenge next week.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 CME Group Tour Championship

Winner: Lydia Ko

Around the wider world of golf: Mardan Mamat won the Resorts World Manila Masters on the Asian Tour; Hideki Matsuyama won the Dunlop Phoenix Open on the Japan Tour; Henrik Stenson successfully defended his title at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai on the ET; Nick Cullen won the BetEasy Masters on the Australasian Tour; amateur Ssu-Chia Cheng won the Xiamen Open on the LET; and Sakura Yokomine won the ElleAir Ladies Open on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has details).

Lydia Ko with trophies

Sunday the Kobra struck and struck hard... but if we're honest, it appears that no one really expected it.

Going into the CME Group Tour Championship the big buzz was around Stacy Lewis and Inbee Park, the two leaders in... well, in just about everything. Lewis and Park were expected to duel it out down the stretch for:
  • the tournament title,
  • the $1mil CME Race to the Globe,
  • the money title,
  • the scoring title (aka the Vare Trophy), and
  • the Rolex Player of the Year Award.
Lewis and Park were 1 and 2, respectively, in just about every category. There was also some talk about Michelle Wie, at 4 in the Race to the Globe, perhaps winning the tournament and the big bucks.

Nobody was talking about Lydia Ko at all.

The big battle never materialized. Both Lewis and Park struggled, although Lewis did enough to win the money title, Vare Trophy, and POY Award. Those were the ones she said were most important to her, and she did make history by winning all three -- the first American to do so since Betsy King way back in 1993.

Wie managed to get herself in position to win the tournament and the money but just didn't have enough juice to get it done. In fact, none of the Top9 who had the potential to take it all seemed able to mount a charge...

All except the Kobra, that is. She not only played well enough to lock up the Globe, she clearly had her sights on the tournament victory as well. She, Julieta Granada (who had won the old ADT Tour Championship with the $1mil first prize), and Carlota Ciganda (with no LPGA victories but three on the LET) finished in a tie and went to a playoff.

Granada faltered on the second playoff hole when her par putt barely slipped by, and Ciganda's nerves apparently got to her with a bad approach on the fourth playoff hole. The Kobra, by comparison, put her tee shots in basically the same spot each time down... and the same on her approach shots. Her final birdie putt stopped a mere inch or two short of the cup, giving her the title and $1.5mil.

Only the Top3 points getters got bonus money. They were:
  1. Lydia Ko, with $1mil
  2. Stacy Lewis, with $150k
  3. Michelle Wie, with $100k
And Lydia set a number of records this season. Among them, she became the youngest Rookie of the Year in LPGA history. She also continues to rewrite the record books for the youngest multiple tournament winner ever on any tour. The PGA Tour's youngest one-time winner is 19 years old; the LPGA has one other ont-time winner at 18. Lydia has 5 LPGA wins and she's still just 17!

So now Lydia can head back to New Zealand for a well-deserved rest. But before she goes, I hope she takes time to pack a Limerick Summary along with all her other prizes!
She’s something that golf’s never seen
With five wins—but she’s not yet eighteen!
Though too young for a beer,
Ko’s top rookie this year
Plus she ran off with all of the green!
The photo came from this photo page at LPGA.com.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Harmon Hook Fix Might Fix Your Slice Too

Yes, on Saturday Tiger made news by announcing his new "swing consultant" Chris Como and Suzy Whaley made history by becoming the PGA of America's first-ever female officer (and ultimately first female president). But everybody's talking about those things so why don't we look at some swing help today?

I saw this golf.com video by the Harmon brothers and immediately went, "WOW! Why don't more teachers stress this swing basic?" First take a look at this lesson on how to stop a duck hook -- which I know doesn't trouble most of you -- and then I'll point out the important lesson that may help you slicers as well.



Okay, here's the simple thing that you may not have caught the first time through: Your wrist position at address should match your wrist position at the top of your backswing. Flat wrist at address, flat wrist at top; cupped wrist at address, cupped wrist at top.

Let's use this to troubleshoot things a bit. First, the extremes:
  • If you have a strong grip and a flat (or bowed) wrist, you're going to get a hook shot shape.
  • If you have a weak grip and a cupped wrist, you're going to get a slice shot shape.
But many of you are changing in the midst of your swing:
  • If you have a flat wrist at setup and a cupped wrist at the top, you're OPENING the clubface and will likely hit a SLICE.
  • If you have a cupped wrist at setup and a flat (or bowed) wrist at the top, you're CLOSING the clubface and will likely hit a HOOK.
If you're having trouble getting the shot shape you want, check these wrist positions. And of course, you want to keep the same wrist position at setup, at the top, and at impact. Get all three to match and you'll have a much better chance of figuring out how to get the ball to curve the way you want... and do it consistently.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Michelle Wie Mounts a Charge While Adam Scott Struggles

WIND. Some golfers dread it while others see it as an ally. For players with the ability to work their ball through the wind, a gusty day provides a unique opportunity -- a chance to make up ground on the rest of the field, perhaps even separate themselves.

Michelle Wie during Friday's round

For Michelle Wie, the winds whipping around the Tiburon course in Florida did just that. Although the field managed to shoot lower scores on Friday -- a full shot lower despite the tougher winds -- Michelle managed to follow up Thursday's frustrating round of par with a 5-under 67. She rocketed up the leaderboard into a tie for fourth in the tournament, giving herself a chance to win the million dollar CME Globe. In fact, for a while she was in first place in that race... until a struggling Stacy Lewis managed to make a birdie on the 17th hole to regain the top spot. (Stacy is T15, at -1.)

Currently, Carlota Ciganda and Julieta Granada are tied for the lead in the tournament at -7. Stacy Lewis is first in the race for the $1mil, the POY award, and the Vare Trophy for scoring. Inbee Park is struggling along a couple of shots behind her.

Given how well Michelle plays in the wind, she could very well be leading by the end of play today.

Meanwhile, down at the BetEasy Masters on the Australasian Tour, Adam Scott's bid for a third gold jacket hit a snag during the third round. Although Scott says he felt that he hit the ball better during Saturday's round, his score didn't show it. Starting the day 6 shots behind the leaders he went out in 2-over and came back in 3-under, improving his total score by only 1 stroke to -4 (T9) -- not enough to catch the leaders (Michael Wright sits at -9, but Wright still has 4 holes to play at the time of this writing).

Granted, Adam has only 8 players ahead of him which makes his task somewhat easier. Let's face it -- if the winds continue and Adam plays a great final round, a win still might be doable. But 3 of those ahead of him have posted rounds in the mid-60s and, although Wright is struggling a bit in the third round, he looks pretty solid. And they expect more wind for the final round.

I don't like Adam's chances all that well. In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say that James Nitties sits at -6 after a 5-under round, and I have a feeling he just may be due.

It's amazing how much the wind can change the complexion of an event... and in this case, it just might be blowing some favorites right out of contention.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pete Cowen's Basic Chipping Technique

I assume that most of you know who Pete Cowen is. He works with a lot of European pros -- Henrik Stenson is one you might have heard of! -- and many in the golf industry consider him one of the two or three best instructors on the planet.

Today I've got a short video where Pete teaches you basic chipping technique. This is really simple, folks, and I think you'll find it very helpful if you're having problems.



Let me call your attention to one particular point. Pete says your wrists can only hinge four ways. He demonstrates them quickly in this video, starting around the :12 second mark. Here are the four ways (his terms for them are in parentheses):
  1. Up (wrist cock)
  2. Down (downcock)
  3. Backward (hinge back)
  4. Forward (hinge forward)
He says that, during a chip, your trail hand hinges BACKWARD ONLY (no up or down) and your lead hand just kind of goes along for the ride. (Although the lead hand is moving with the trail hand, the lead wrist doesn't really have to hinge to do it. Try it and see.) Just be sure to move both hands together; that will keep you from flipping your hands at impact.

This is a very classic method of chipping, and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how simple it is to get good results this way.

You're welcome. ;-)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Does Tiger Have a Case?

Ever since Golf Digest published the Dan Jenkins piece My (Fake) Interview with Tiger and Tiger made it clear that he didn't like it at The Players' Tribune, a debate has been going on. Some of it concerns the fairness of the Jenkins piece while some concerns the legality. Does Tiger have any recourse if he doesn't get the apology he'd like?

To put it simply, no, he doesn't. But since this particular issue may be in the news for a while, you might like to know the hows and whys behind that answer. In this post I'm going to give you a quick lesson in the legal aspects of parody and satire. After all, you don't need to be a lawyer or even stay at a Holiday Inn to understand this stuff.

All you need is an authoritative website -- in this case, the very impressive site of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Dan Jenkins

First -- and this doesn't come from the rcfp.org website -- parody is generally humorous and focuses on form while satire tends to be less humorous and focuses more on a topic or person. Some of the comments made about the Jenkins article have protested that it isn't even funny, but satirists are rarely after a laugh.

A classic example of satire is A Modest Proposal (you can read it for free at this Project Gutenberg page), written in 1729 by Jonathan Swift, who is probably better known for Gulliver's Travels -- which is itself, according to Wikipedia, both "a satire on human nature and a parody of the 'travellers' tales' literary sub-genre."

In the same way, the Jenkins piece is both satire and parody -- a satire on Tiger's behavior (or at least the Jenkins perception of it) and a parody of magazine interviews.

About A Modest Proposal Wikipedia says, "This satirical hyperbole mocks heartless attitudes towards the poor, as well as Irish policy in general." Even now Swift's "proposal" -- which suggests that starving Irish beggars sell their babies to the rich as food -- remains a remarkably disturbing read, with very little humor. You can imagine how it was received when it was first published!

What Jenkins has done with his "interview" is mount a personal attack on Tiger, much the same way Swift attacked the uncaring members of Irish society in his day. It's not meant to be funny; it's meant to hurt. It's no secret that Jenkins has been, shall we say, a longtime antagonist where Tiger is concerned, and his pet peeve has been Tiger's refusal to grant him an interview -- hence, the interview format.

The question becomes, does this in some way classify as libel? The Reporters Committee site has a page called Protection for Satire and Parody, which says in part:
Satire and parody are important forms of political commentary that rely on blurring the line between truth and outrageousness to attack, scorn and ridicule public figures. Although they may be offensive and intentionally injurious, these statements contain constitutionally protected ideas and opinions, provided a reasonable reader would not mistake the statements as describing actual facts. Put another way, subjects of even the most biting satire or criticism cannot successfully sue unless the irreverent comments contain a provably false fact. Moreover, public officials and figures must prove that the defendant published the statement with actual malice.
Note that the comments may be "offensive and intentionally injurious" but still be protected under the First Amendment.

Another page, Avoiding Libel in Satire, lists a number of steps that a writer or publisher can take to make sure they're protected -- among them, making it clear from the outset that the piece in question would never be mistaken for a literal truth (a condition also referred to in the above quote). Among the other things Golf Digest did, they included the word fake in the article title, which certainly fulfills this criterium.

A particularly interesting page is called Defining "Actual Malice." (That page links from the final words in the quote.) The US Supreme Court defines actual malice as either purposely or negligently printing lies (aka "reckless disregard for the truth"). Interestingly, the page lists a number of things which do NOT constitute actual malice, and these include:
  • ill will or intent to harm
  • extreme deviation from professional standards
  • publication of a story to increase circulation
So in the end, even if you believe Dan Jenkins wrote the piece because he "had it in for" Tiger, or that he wrote it solely to boost magazine sales, or just that it was an unprofessional thing to do, the fact remains that he was totally within his rights to write the piece and Golf Digest was totally within their rights to publish it... and there is nothing Tiger can do about it.

Of course, that doesn't mean Jenkins should have written it... but that's why the debate will go on.

The photo comes from this ESPN story about the "interview."