ATTENTION, READERS in the 28 EUROPEAN VAT COUNTRIES: Because of the new VAT law, you probably can't order books direct from my site now. But that's okay -- just go to my Smashwords author page.
You can order PDFs (as well as all the other ebook formats) from there.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Zach Johnson’s Unusual Putting Stroke

One player getting a lot of TV time over the weekend was Zach Johnson, who played with Tiger Woods every day. Because of this, many people may have seen Zach’s unusual but very effective putting stroke. I mentioned it briefly in my book Ruthless Putting, but this seemed a good time to look at it in more detail. (Clicking the image will take you to Jim Flick’s assessment at

Zach Johnson putting

The unusual aspect of Zach’s style is that he leans the putter shaft backward, so his hands are behind the ball. Zach says this lets the ball come off the face more softly, but there’s more than that going on here.

Zach is an excellent example of what I call the law of extremes.

The law of extremes says you can make a stroke more predictable (and therefore more consistent) by eliminating one extreme of motion. You may have heard players talk about driving to eliminate one side of the course―for example, Ben Hogan designed his swing so that it would not go left, as duck hooks were a problem for him early in his career. Such a swing allows you to aim at the left side of the course, knowing that even a big slice will probably end up in the fairway.

Zach does the same sort of thing with his putting stroke. Many right-handed players have a problem with their left wrists bending backward at impact, often closing the face and causing a pulled putt. But by ‘pre-bending’ his wrist at setup, Zach prevents this from ever happening; his left wrist is already at an extreme position and can’t go any farther.

While I wouldn't recommend it to most people, it helped Zach win a Masters. And with something this simple, it's hard to argue with success!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

LPGA Safeway Classic Wrap-Up

For those of you who love the LPGA (as I do―had you guessed yet?), rookie M.J. Hur shot a career best 65 to finish at 13-under and make a playoff with Suzann Petterson and Michelle Redman. Pettersen lost a 3 shot lead late in the round, but rallied to make the playoff. Redman went out after missing a longish par putt on the first playoff hole; then Hur won a short game duel on the second hole to win the Safeway Classic. This is Hur’s first LPGA win.

It must have been very disappointing for Pettersen, who hasn’t won since 2007 and also struggled at the Solheim Cup last week.

Other Solheim Cuppers making good showings included Michelle Wie (T4), Anna Nordqvist (7), Angela Stanford (T8), and Christina Kim (T8). Natalie Gulbis had her best showing of the year, finishing at 7-under (T12).

The Big Easy Returns to Form!

Did anybody see this coming? Ernie Els, like Sergio, has struggled with his self-confidence ever since his knee surgery a few years ago. Nick Faldo said that Ernie seemed a little different this week, but I doubt that even he could foresee today’s 5-under 66. Ernie posted an 8-under total and confirmed in a CBS interview that he had indeed ‘found something’ encouraging in his game. That’s great news for the golf world.

Sergio was clearly down today, head bowed and shoulders slumped most of the day. His game has really improved lately; hopefully his planned break from golf after the playoffs will help. I know I keep saying it, but compare Ernie and Sergio; both are playing well, but it’s amazing how much difference your state of mind can have on your performance.

Another player demonstrating this is Padraig Harrington who, after blowing two consecutive tournaments with a single poorly-played hole and then posting a huge score on one hole earlier this week, also posted at 8-under, along with Tiger.

In the end, both Goydos and Marino stumbled, but 9-under remained the winning score. Heath Slocum beat Steve Stricker with a par putt on the 18th for the third and biggest win of his career so far.

The new FedEx Cup point system is definitely shaking things up this year, with drastic swings in the rankings taking place this week. Tiger was so far ahead that he was unaffected, but players like Harrington and Fredrik Jacobson jumped way up in the rankings. How volatile is the new system? Slocum came in ranked 124, barely making the field… and leaves as the number 3 man. Stricker moved up from number 3 to number 2. Remember: Under the new system, if you are one of the top 5 entering the Tour Championship and you win there, you win the FedEx Cup.

Maybe the PGA got the points system right this year.

A Soggy Saturday at the Barclays

Sergio went backward today with a 3-over 74 on a day when roughly two-thirds of the field was even or better. Such things happen in the game of golf, as we all know; one day we're unstoppable, and the next we get stopped… hard.

Of course, it can work the other way also. That’s the ‘beauty’ of golf. (Some players have another word for it!)

There was no better illustration of this today than Paul Goydos. Friday he got to 3-under on the day, only to give it all back and shoot even par. Saturday he got to 3-under again, and this time he kept it. He’s tied at 9-under with Steve Marino, who also shot a 3-under 68 and is looking for his first win.

Can either hold on? That’s anyone’s guess… especially with Tiger, Zach Johnson, and Padraig Harrington all just five back and Steve Stricker only three. Saturday’s round was played ‘lift, clean, and place,’ but the weather is expected to be better Sunday and the Tour prefers to play the ball down if at all possible. If the course dries out a bit, we could have a real shoot-out.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Wild Friday at the Barclays

After his round Thursday, Sergio said he didn’t see a 65 out there, let alone three of them.

On Friday, nobody even got close. Sergio definitely got the worst end of the draw this week, waking up to lots of wind and rain; only a handful of players managed to shoot 1-under par, and Sergio wasn’t among them. Still, his 5-over 76 hasn’t hurt him as badly as you might think. The afternoon wave didn’t play a whole lot better (except for a few players like Webb Simpson, whose amazing 3-under gave him the 36-hole lead), and Sergio ended the day tied for 11th place, actually moving up the leaderboard as the afternoon wore on. And with more heavy rains in the forecast, Sergio’s chances to win are still pretty good… and it looks like he’ll make next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship as well.

Bad circumstances happen to all golfers at some time or another. One of the tricks to making the best out of a bad situation is simply remembering that, although it may look really bad at the time, that situation may not hurt you as much as you thought. Depending on what happens to everyone else, you might even discover you got the good side of the draw!

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Basic Principles of Good Putting

Here, from my book Ruthless Putting, are the seven putting principles agreed on by Dave Pelz, Stan Utley, and Bobby Jones.
  1. The putterface should remain square to the stroke path; the forearms should NOT rotate during the execution of the stroke.
  2. The putter should be held in a “parallel” grip, where both palms are parallel to the face of the putter and the back of the lead hand faces the target.
  3. The putter should be held lightly, without tension in the arms or shoulders or hands.
  4. The putter handle should be held so that the shaft aligns with the forearms.
  5. The putter should never follow an outside-to-inside path (a cut stroke).
  6. The putterhead should travel on a long low path, as close to the ground as possible, both going back and through.
  7. The lower body should not be rigid, neither should it be consciously moved. It should move no more than the natural execution of the stroke requires.
The beauty of these principles is that not one of them requires you to use a specific style of putting. You can put them to work in your existing stroke right now and see immediate improvement!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sergio Watch & A Tip from Nick Faldo

The FedEx Cup playoffs began today at the Barclays, and I’ll be following Sergio’s progress again. Given his recent comment that he simply wasn’t enjoying golf right now, and the heartbreak of coming up one short in the Wyndham last week, I think his run at the Cup may teach all of us some things about a winning mindset.

And boy, did he show us something today! After positioning himself well inside the top 100 last week to start his run, he blistered the Liberty National Golf Course today with a 6-under 65, outscoring both Tiger and Phil by a wide margin. (And Phil is a member there!) After the round he said the small greens reminded him of Valderrama, current home of the Volvo Masters and a site where he has played well in many Ryder Cups. He said the course just looked good to him. His driving, putting, and iron play were all in good form today as well.

Here’s a great tip from Sergio for weekend golfers: When playing a course, try to find some positive connections to other courses you like or to good rounds you’ve played.

Nick Faldo also remarked about how much smoother Sergio’s swing looked compared to last week. Faldo noted that Sergio always has problems with accuracy when he “gets violent at that change of direction.”

A couple of weeks ago I discussed the use of a loop at the change of direction, and one reason for using it was to prevent jerking the club off-line at the top of the swing. Nick reiterated this today, so I want to say it again: No matter what your chosen swing technique may be, it is crucial to make the change from backswing to downswing as smoothly as possible if you want to be accurate. Even the best players―like Sergio―struggle when they don’t.

Putt Like Cristie Kerr & Michelle Wie

Many consider Cristie Kerr to be the best putter on the LPGA Tour, and Michelle Wie's new stroke also wowed 'em at the Solheim Cup. Don’t you wish you could putt like they do?

You can… and it doesn’t take a lot of practice to see results.

Golf Channel’s Dottie Pepper described the two main characteristics of Kerr’s stroke this way:
  • She grips the club very lightly.
  • She uses a long stroke, rather than the short stroke most people make.
Michelle Wie began working with Dave Stockton just a couple of weeks before the Cup. Stockton said they made a “major overhaul” of her stroke, yet she seemed very comfortable with it. Golf Channel’s Michael Breed pointed out the two primary changes:
  • She raises her hands so the putter shaft forms a straight line with her forearms.
  • She leans the putter shaft forward at address, so she doesn’t ‘flip’ the club as she strokes the ball.
None of these changes is difficult to make, nor do they require much change to your existing stroke… but the results can be amazing.

I hope you’ll forgive me for tooting my own horn, but if you had my book Ruthless Putting, you’d already know these tips. The first three are in my list of the Basic Principles of Good Putting, which are seven things that Dave Pelz, Stan Utley, and Bobby Jones all agree on. And while it’s not part of that list, I recommended leaning the shaft forward as a simple way to improve your consistency of contact. You can learn more about the book by clicking on the cover image in the right sidebar.

In the meantime, tomorrow I’ll post the Basic Principles of Good Putting. They represent a standard of good putting that’s existed for over 80 years; it’s hard to go wrong with that.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Reflections on the Solheim Cup, Part 2

4) Cristie Kerr is still the best female American golfer.
I know Michelle Wie had a huge week. I know Paula Creamer seems to be the poster girl for American golf. But if the game is on the line and I can have only one female player on my side, I want Cristie Kerr.

If Paula Creamer was the Arnold Palmer of the LPGA, Cristie Kerr would be Jack Nicklaus. She came out on tour when she was very young, before it was the popular thing to do. In her efforts to improve she completely changed her body, her game, and her image; and she did it through sheer willpower, not surgery. She continues to get better, finally winning a major in 2007. She’s had a tough year and yet, had a few holes gone differently, she would have won 2 of this year’s majors.

And in this year’s Cup, she came from behind in virtually every match to win. The only exceptions were her four-ball with struggling Nicole Castrale (even then they took the match to the 18th) and her tie in singles, where she conceded a birdie putt on the 18th after the Cup had been decided. If it's possible to win on willpower alone, she will. She is as tough as any player out there, but still has a sense of humor about herself. (She thanked Juli Inkster for making the team because it meant she wasn’t the oldest one anymore. Cristie is only 31.)

The young guns of the LPGA are going to have their hands full with Cristie Kerr, “old woman” or not.
5) Don’t write Juli Inkster off yet.
Yes, I heard the interviews and I know what she said. She said she was through with the Solheim Cup as a player. That’s what she said, yes sir, she did.

I don’t believe it for a minute.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I heard the reason Juli’s play has been off this year is because she’s making swing changes; specifically, that she’s trying to flatten her swing plane. A 49-year-old making swing changes? Does that sound like someone who’s thinking about not competing as much?

It doesn’t to me, either. Personally, I think she was just disappointed that she didn’t qualify for the team on points, and that she had to be a captain’s pick; and then they talked to her when she was understandably drained after some miraculous play with a less-than-sharp game.

Let me put it this way: Let’s see if she qualifies on points for the 2011 Solheim Cup. If she does but refuses to play, then I’ll believe she’s tired of playing in the Cup.
6) Anna Nordqvist is for real.
She won the 2009 LPGA Championship in just her fifth start on tour. It’s easy to write her off as a one-hit wonder, but Anna Nordqvist has a pedigree. She’s a member of both the LPGA and the LET, she won the LET Qualifying School last December, and then she stepped up last week as a Solheim rookie and held her own with the big guns. That’s not bad for a Tour rookie.

Despite being rather tall (6’, just an inch shorter than Michelle Wie), she doesn’t hit the ball much farther than Morgan Pressel. I suspect she’ll experiment with her equipment and do a little weight work, just as Annika did. While I won’t say she’s the next Annika, I do think she’s the next big Swedish player. (Emphasis on big.)
7) And finally, we have seen Europe’s new superstar, and she is… Catriona Matthew.
Becoming the first Scottish woman to win a major seems to have changed Catriona Matthew far beyond anyone’s expectations. She’s always had a solid, dependable swing, and she’s always been a good player. This Solheim performance wasn’t anything unusual; when she makes the team, she plays well.

Still, there was a noticeable difference this time. She just looked comfortable.

I’m not going to make any predictions about her, despite calling her a new superstar. But I’m going to be watching Catriona Matthew closely over the next year or so; I suspect her career is about to take a serious step forward.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Reflections on the Solheim Cup, Part 1

Now that the matches are in the books, I have a few observations about what I saw. You may not agree with me on all of them but, as they say, "time will tell."

1) The matches are fine as they are.
There has been a lot of talk about the Solheim Cup, primarily that it needs to be changed to make it more competitive. If this week has taught us anything, it’s that the competition is alive and well. I suspect the naysayers are people who want to see Lorena Ochoa and the top Asian players get involved. I understand what they’re saying, and the players do too. Cristie Kerr addressed this very thing in a press conference before the matches and suggested that the LPGA do what the PGA did: Rather than change the Ryder Cup, the PGA created the President’s Cup. Kerr suggested a First Lady’s Cup, which got a few laughs from the reporters, but the concept is sound.

The LPGA faces a big challenge now. Not so much from the economy and the new commissioner search, as from the “changing of the guard.” The last wave of big name players who built the game are starting to step down, and the new wave is just getting established. This is the time when it’s hard to get media coverage because you don’t have “names” that people instantly recognize. This lack of name players is also the source of the questions about the health of the cup.

For years the question was, “Where are all the young American players?” Well, they were at the Cup this year. The young European players are lagging just a bit behind, but they’re coming; players like Elosegui, Luna, Nocera, Nordqvist, and Brewerton prove that. We don’t see many of these players except Nordqvist; most of them aren’t playing the LPGA Tour regularly… at least, not yet. By 2013 (at the latest) these teams will be evenly matched.
2) This could have been a different story if Davies and Pettersen hadn’t struggled.
Both sides had players who normally play very well but didn’t last week; most notably for the Americans, Nicole Castrale had an uncharacteristically horrible time. But Nicole, as good as she normally is, wouldn’t be considered one of the USA’s top guns; Europe expected and needed big things from both Laura Davies and Suzann Pettersen. Both are streaky players, capable of amazing things… but they both hit a bad streak at a crucial time. There was talk that this could be Laura’s last Solheim, but I doubt it; a bad streak is hardly the end of a career. But it was still bad luck for the Euros and, had either been on their game, Europe might have pulled off the biggest upset in Solheim history.
3) Michelle Wie is on the verge of breaking through… big time.
I’ve been saying for some time that Michelle Wie’s only real mistake over the past few years was trying to play through injuries. Her return to top form was not just a matter of healing, but of overcoming bad habits developed by compensating for pain. She’s healthy now, and she’s had a chance to hang out with the girls and show her stuff in the premiere event of women’s golf. Her confidence and comfort level has never been better. I think this competition was the turning point for Michelle, and over the next couple of years we’re going to see some incredible play out of her.

Just for the record, Michelle’s breakout play at the Solheim may provide the media boost that women’s golf needs. Past Solheims haven’t really upped the public’s attention to the Tour, despite the great competition… but the past Solheims didn’t have the questions surrounding Michelle Wie to boost ratings. The fact that Michelle answered all her critics with such a clutch performance could have a “Tiger Effect” on the LPGA… and none too soon.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Wyndham Final & A Putting Tip

Ryan Moore beat Kevin Stadler and Jason Bohn to record his first PGA victory; Sergio finished one back in solo 4th after carding 3 birdies followed by 3 bogeys. I didn’t see the whole telecast, but I saw the last two bogeys and some other putts. Sergio may feel bad about his putting, but he really looked pretty good to me. His strokes were smooth and his distance control was very good; his primary problems seemed to be an occasional misread (which can happen to anybody) and some occasional head movement. This is a minor problem that many of you may be dealing with, and I’d like to tell you how to identify the cause and fix it quickly.

The head movement I saw Sergio making is a common problem among golfers―he wanted to see his ball go into the cup, so he turned his head toward the hole as he struck the ball. When he does this, it usually shows up as a pushed putt. Why? Because Sergio’s short game teacher is Stan Utley, and Utley teaches a putting stroke that follows a gentle arc as he putts. When Sergio turns his head toward the hole as strokes the ball, he changes the arc of the putting stroke. The intended contact point moves closer to the hole and he leaves the face open, pushing the putt. The drawing below shows this. See how the putter arc in the second drawing has shifted toward the hole so the putter face doesn’t square up?

Comparison of putting paths

If you putt the way Sergio does, the obvious solution is to keep looking at the spot where you meant to contact the ball until it’s well on its way to the hole. And that’s a simple thing to do, once you know the cause. Sergio is actually putting very well, and this is a minor problem that shouldn’t cause him any long-term grief.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Solheim Cup: Sunday Singles

The team strategies:
  • USA: Beth Daniel front-loaded with some of her best players, then scattered the rest throughout. She tried to put her best putters at the end of the lineup; as it turned out, Pressel and Gulbis were also her shortest hitters, and she expected them to be helped as the long course dried out.
  • Europe: Alison Nicholas looked at the USA’s past singles lineups, discussed them with her players, and made her matchups based on some educated guesses.

Match 17: Paula Creamer **3 & 2 vs. Suzann Pettersen

Creamer definitely played her best of the week. Pettersen played better today, but she’s a streaky player and this just wasn’t her week. Neverthless, this was a good match.

Match 18: Angela Stanford **5 & 4 vs. Becky Brewerton

A one-sided match. Stanford found her game in time for the singles and earned her first full point of the week. Brewerton never led―surprising, given her great play all week.

Match 19: Michelle Wie **1 UP vs. Helen Alfredsson

Wie was up by as many as 3, Alfredsson brought it back to square, and Wie finished it off on the 18th. All-in-all, a very well-played match by both players.

Match 20: Brittany Lang **HALVED vs. Laura Davies

This was a crushing loss for the Euros. Davies had this match well-in-hand. 3 up at one point and never worse than all square. This was a horrible week for Davies, who played only 2 matches and lost the other. Kudos to Lang, who never gave up and finally got the crucial half.

Match 21: Juli Inkster **HALVED vs. Gwladys Nocera

This was a pure bonus for the USA. Inkster never led until the 17th, but her play on the back nine was easily her best of the week.

Match 22: Kristy McPherson vs. Catriona Matthew **3 & 2

Matthew continued her amazing play. I think winning her first major, coupled with being at a good place in her life as wife and mother, may have created a new superstar for the Euros.

Match 23: Brittany Lincicome **3 & 2 vs. Sophie Gustafson

This was the battle of the bombers. Lincicome is getting better as she gets in more of these big situations. After a not-so-good Solheim two years ago, she played well under pressure this week and could be a real force in the majors next year if her putting continues to improve.

Match 24: Nicole Castrale vs. Diana Luna **3 & 2

Luna is the first Italian to play in the Solheim. This is my first time seeing her play, and she definitely has some game.

Match 25: Christina Kim **1 UP vs. Tania Elosegui

When Kim went dormie at 16, she secured a half-point that put the USA at 13 ½ points. It looked like her match might decide the cup, but the Pressel/Nordqvist match finished first with a whole point. Kim was never worse than all square.

Match 26: Cristie Kerr **HALVED vs. Maria Hjorth

Kerr was 2 down at one point, but rallied on the back nine to be 1 up on the 18th. Since the Cup had been already determined, she conceded a birdie putt to Hjorth for the half.

Match 27: Morgan Pressel **3 & 2 vs. Anna Nordqvist

For those of you keeping track, this is the match that officially guaranteed that the USA retained the Cup and remained undefeated at home. Well-played by both players, but both missed the green and Pressel chipped close enough for a conceded putt. Pressel broke down in tears during the interview afterwards, as did Captain Beth Daniel.

Match 28: Natalie Gulbis **HALVED vs. Janice Moodie

With the Cup already decided and the match all square, Gulbis and Moodie agreed to settle for a half. According to the rules, each hit a tee shot off the 18th, then agreed to halve.

In the end, the USA retained the Solheim Cup, but the matches were closer than the points might indicate.
Final point total: USA 16, Europe 12.

Saturday Wyndham Update

The Wyndham suffered two storm delays Saturday, totaling over 5 hours. (One of those storms even reached where I live, over a half-hour to the west of Greensboro!) Nevertheless, Sergio is tied with Chris Riley for the lead at 13 under. They’ll have a long day Sunday, possibly with even more storm delays. Mind you, I’m not rooting against Chris―he’s been in a deeper mental hole than Sergio―but I think this situation may play into Sergio’s hand. I’m just hoping they can finish the tournament Sunday!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Solheim Cup: Saturday Foursomes (Alternate Shot)

I didn’t get to watch the afternoon matches, so I’ve only seen some highlights… but the matches seem pretty self-explanatory.

Match 13: Paula Creamer/Juli Inkster vs. Sophie Gustafson/Janice Moodie **4 & 3

This match was pretty one-sided, as the USA never led in the match... not for one single hole. In some ways, this isn’t a huge surprise; the two played well together on Friday, but had struggled individually. Also, they came into the foursomes this afternoon without having played in the morning, as they did Friday; foursomes are harder under any circumstances, but going in with less-than-ideal games and no opportunity to see how you’re playing today…

Match 14: Kristy McPherson/Morgan Pressel **2 UP vs. Helen Alfredsson/Suzann Pettersen

As one-sided as the first match was, this one almost matched it; Europe never led. Kristy McPherson played really well with Lincicome in the morning match and had little time to cool off before teeing it up again; I think that worked in her favor. In addition, Petterson appears to be having problems with tight muscles, and needed some work from a trainer; this could be a problem Sunday.

Match 15: Christina Kim/Natalie Gulbis vs. Becky Brewerton/Gwladys Nocera **5 & 4

Yet another one-sided match, with Christina Kim getting it nearly as badly as she dished it out in the morning match.

Match 16: Cristie Kerr/Michelle Wie **1 UP vs. Anna Nordqvist/Maria Hjorth

Europe dominated the front nine, then the USA dominated the back. Michelle Wie was white-hot Saturday morning; teamed with Cristie Kerr, who is playing well despite the loss Saturday morning, this is probably as close to a juggernaut as the USA can field. Also, I believe Beth Daniel’s decision not to play anyone in every match may have played a factor here; Maria Hjorth, like Catriona Matthew, is a fairly new mother (about 10 months), and playing every match while caring for a new baby may have finally gotten to her a little.

Europe has to be happy that they aren’t behind in points, but they certainly would have liked at least a point lead going into the singles. Remember: In case of a 14-14 tie, the USA retains the Cup. The score after the afternoon matches:
USA 8, Europe 8.

Solheim Cup: Saturday Fourballs

Match 9: Christina Kim/Michelle Wie **5 & 4 vs. Helen Alfredsson/Tania Elosegui

This match was possibly the best of the Cup so far, as the lead changed virtually every hole… and usually with a birdie. It wasn’t unusual to see three or all four players in close and putting for a win. Close friends Kim and Wie were 2 down early on, but ran off 4 straight to dominate the match.

Match 10: Angela Stanford/Brittany Lang **HALVED vs. Catriona Matthew/Diana Luna

Stanford continued to struggle with the putter, burning a lot of edges but not seeing many putts drop. Brittany Lang has been slow getting started, but seems to have gotten over any rookie jitters and is playing well. The Euros must feel good getting this one, as the USA was 2 up going to the 17th. Matthew continues to play extremely well.

Match 11: Nicole Castrale/Cristie Kerr vs. Suzann Pettersen/Anna Nordqvist **1 UP

Pettersen has traditionally been paired with Annika, but the Euros may have found a suitable successor in Nordqvist. This could have been a runaway had Pettersen made any putts, but Nordqvist came up big all day and sunk the winning putt on the 18th.

Match 12: Brittany Lincicome/Kristy McPherson vs. Gwladys Nocera/Maria Hjorth **1 UP

It was inevitable that Lincicome’s putter would eventually cool down, but the two Americans played well together. They brought it back from 3 down, but the Euros squeaked this one out.

The USA traditionally dominates the singles, so the Euros need a good afternoon session to give themselves a realistic chance Sunday. The score after the morning matches:
USA 6, Europe 6.

Wyndham Update on Sergio

After finishing a round of 3 under Friday morning, Sergio went out and shot a 6 under 64 Friday afternoon, currently tied for 4th place. I heard that he could have shot even better, but what I saw of his play at the tournament looked really good. His full swing looked solid, and his chipping and putting strokes were very smooth. This is shaping up to be a good week for Sergio!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Solheim Cup: Friday Foursomes (Alternate Shot)

US Captain Beth Daniel chose (1) to play everybody the first day, and (2) not to make anybody play all five matches, so some of the hot players this morning didn’t play this afternoon. On the Euro team, only Italian rookie Diana Luna didn’t play today.

Match 5: Christina Kim/Natalie Gulbis **4 & 2 vs. Suzann Pettersen/Sophie Gustafson

Kim missed out on the last Solheim Cup, and Gulbis missed out on the last Women’s US Open; I guess they took their frustration out on the Euros, as the two led from the first hole. It has been rough for Europe today, as their powerhouse team was beaten twice.

Match 6: Angela Stanford/Nicole Castrale vs. Becky Brewerton/Gwladys Nocera **3 & 1

Becky Brewerton had to feel that this afternoon was owed to her, after the way things when in the morning round. The US team struggled to hit fairways and greens, and the Euros never really struggled at all.

Match 7: Kristy McPherson/Brittany Lincicome UP vs. Maria Hjorth/Anna Nordqvist **3 & 2

Kristy McPherson played hard today and Brittany continued to play well, but Maria Hjorth seemed to figure out her problems from the morning match and Nordqvist showed why she’s the 2009 McDonald’s LPGA Championship winner. For most of the afternoon, this match could have gone either way. It got a little sloppy for both teams at the end, but the Euros should be really proud of this win.

Match 8: Paula Creamer/Juli Inkster **2 & 1 vs. Catriona Matthew/Janice Moodie

Janice Moodie’s putter was stone cold today; it could have been a very different story otherwise. As it was, the all-Scot team made a run late in the match and nearly pulled it off. The team of Creamer and Inkster always seem to play well together, no matter how badly their individual games may appear to be.

I’m sure the Euros really missed Annika today; she and Suzann Petterson have traditionally been the power duo for the Euros. The score after the afternoon matches:
USA 4 1/2, Europe 3 1/2

Solheim Cup: Friday Fourballs

Match 1: Paula Creamer/Cristie Kerr **1 UP vs. Suzann Pettersen/Sophie Gustafson

This was clearly the marquee match, featuring some of the fieriest players on both sides. Dubbed “the Kerreamer pairing” by Cristie Kerr, the duo never had a lead until the 16th hole. The USA won this match on Kerr’s determination, pure and simple.

Match 2: Angela Stanford/Juli Inkster vs. Helen Alfredsson/Tania Elosegui **1 UP

Elosequi, from Spain, isn’t well-known over here, but she’s an extremely good ball striker; and Alfredsson became the first golfer (male or female) to qualify for team play after being a captain. (Ray Floyd played Ryder Cup after being a captain, but he was a captain’s choice.) Stanford and Inkster struggled all morning; Stanford nearly jarred a bunker shot on the 18th to halve the match, but Alfredsson got up and down from a tough lie for birdie and the win.

Match 3: Brittany Lang/Brittany Lincicome **5 & 4 vs. Laura Davies/Becky Brewerton

The battle of the Brits―Davies from England, Brewerton from Wales, and the two Brittanies―was a battle of long ball hitters. Lincicome was clearly one of the best US players in the morning. Laura Davies had an unusually awful day and was never a factor; Brewerton did a good job taking the match as long as it went.

Match 4: Morgan Pressel/Michelle Wie **HALVED vs. Catriona Matthew/Maria Hjorth

Morgan had nicknamed their team “Team Wiessel,” but they nearly got popped by the Euros. Matthew had her second child only about three months ago… and has already won a major (the Ricoh Women’s British Open) since her return. I think she has one of the simplest, most rhythmic swings in golf… and it was on display this morning. The long wet course clearly took its toll on Morgan, as she struggled to hit many of the greens. Michelle Wie showed that she deserved to be a captain’s pick, making crucial shots and putts under pressure; she was the primary reason the team came back from 2 down. “Wiessel” were one up on 17 and 18 but had to settle for a half.

Midway in the matches the Euros led 3-1, but the Americans hung tough. The score after the morning matches:
USA 2 1/2, Europe 1 1/2

Phil and Sergio: Different Mindsets

Mindset is something I write about frequently in this blog, simply because it never ceases to amaze me how easily our perceptions can be affected. Let me use Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia as examples.

If you asked most people to describe Phil and Sergio as putters, they would probably say that Phil is a good putter and Sergio isn’t. More interesting to me is the fact that, even if he hadn’t sunk a putt in months, they would continue to describe Phil as a good putter. By the same token, if Sergio went on a tear and started making everything in sight, it’s a safe bet you’d hear those same people explain it away. In fact, when Sergio began putting better last year and came close to winning the PGA, I heard commentators still bemoaning his poor putting and sadly saying they hoped it would last.

Of course, with Sergio’s struggles this year, those commentators probably feel justified. But they certainly didn’t help matters.

This mindset isn’t limited to TV personalities. In a recent Golf Channel viewer poll, 36% thought Sergio might win a major by age 40… and 44% thought he would never win one!

In the end, it’s the mindset of the player that makes the difference. Let’s not forget that, a mere five years ago, Mickelson was in the same situation that Garcia now finds himself. Phil eventually pulls out of putting slumps because he believes in his own abilities, and he went from being a player who “couldn’t close the deal” to a favorite at the majors for the same reason. When he was struggling, he faced all the hard questions with a smile; he admitted he was struggling but he never lost hope. And we found ourselves cutting him some extra slack because we began to believe in him too.

For Sergio, the problem is purely his mindset. After watching him for so long, I’m convinced that both his long game and his putting are every bit as good as Arnold Palmer’s were back when he won all his majors. But Sergio is in a bad place mentally. The unfulfilled expectations have become the most important thing in his life, and he said earlier this week that he just doesn’t enjoy playing right now.

What’s the solution?

Sergio needs to stop listening to the media. He needs to find a way to lighten up and rediscover the joy of just playing the game, without regard for the outcome. He is an incredibly talented player who is on the verge of breaking through, and he needs to learn to enjoy the journey.

Ironically, the best mental advice he could get probably won’t come from a sports psychologist, but from LPGA player Laura Davies. During a press conference at her 11th Solheim Cup on Wednesday, the 45 year old was asked how she had managed to play so well for so long. She smiled and said it was probably because she practiced so much less than most players! Laura said that while the other women were out “smashing golf balls” she was doing laundry, and she expected that this lack of hard practice would let her keep playing for another five or ten years. And then, as if to emphasize how little she obsessed over the game, her cell phone went off because she had received a text about the soccer (excuse me, ‘football’) game she was following. “That made my day,” she told the media with a smile.

Golf is part of life for Laura Davies, but only a part.

There’s a life outside golf, Sergio. You’re plenty good enough to win a lot of majors… if you just learn to enjoy the game again.

That’s a lesson most weekend golfers could benefit from as well.

(A note for Sergio followers: Thursday’s play was interrupted by thunderstorms and Sergio didn’t get to tee off until around 5pm. However, he finished 12 holes at 3 under par, tied for 18th and just 3 off the lead. Looking good, Sergio!)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Who Can Teach You More... The Men or the Ladies?

This is a great week for golf. The men are playing the Wyndham Championship, near and dear to my heart because they're playing in Greensboro NC, about 35-45 minutes from where I live. The Wyndham, which started life as the Greater Greensboro Open (aka The GGO) has a lot of history:
  • Sam Snead won the first one and went on to win a total of 8, the most wins for a single tournament; he won the first one in 1938 and become the oldest winner on tour by winning his 8th in 1965.
  • In 1961 Charlie Sifford became the first African-American player to play a PGA Tour event in the South at Greensboro.
  • And Seve Ballesteros won his first US tournament at Greensboro in 1978.
The GGO used to be played in March, the week before the Masters; now the Wyndham is the lead-in to the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

Meanwhile, the ladies will be playing the Solheim Cup up in Sugar Grove IL. The ladies’ counterpart to the Ryder Cup, despite its relatively short history, has become an awesome event. The ladies are every bit as competitive as the men, and it’s a good chance to see some of the European players who don’t play much on the LPGA.

I think both are well worth watching, but if you’re a weekend player hoping to pick up some useful tips, I’m going to recommend you spend some time watching the ladies… even if you’re one of the guys! Why? Because the women are more likely to be playing the shots a weekend golfer will face.

Most of the women don’t play the power game that the men do, which means you’ll probably learn more short game tricks; players like Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, and Juli Inkster are absolute wizards on and around the green. And Brittany Lincicome, who’s picked up the nickname “Bamm-Bamm,” and Michelle Wie will probably drive the ball far enough to make you jealous.

So enjoy all the golf this weekend, but be sure to make some time for the ladies. You won’t be disappointed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

If You Want to Experiment with the Loop…

Because the loop motion is so familiar to most of us, experimentation is a simple matter. Here are a few hints to help you get the hang of it more quickly.
  1. Remember, the loop I’m talking about is a single-plane loop. It shouldn’t change your current swing other than smoothing out your rhythm and eliminating any jerk at the change of direction. (If you currently have a two-plane swing, there’s a good chance you already loop the club.)
  2. Because the wrists aren’t fully cocked until you’re halfway into the downswing, it doesn’t really matter if they aren’t fully cocked at the top; you don’t have to get the club to parallel in order to get good distance. I can get to parallel easily, but the extra cocking motion causes the shaft to hit me across the back on the way down. OUCH! If this happens to you, just point the club more skyward at the top.
  3. Bobby Jones once said that nobody ever took the club back too slowly. Because your hands move at a constant speed through the change of direction and until you’re halfway down, you’ll find that a slower backswing actually helps you keep better control of the club at the top, so you’re more accurate.
  4. There is no need to ‘hold the angle’ with a loop; the wrist cock is increasing on the way down. You can’t ‘throw’ the club from the top if you loop.
  5. For some people, both elbows will bend a little while looping; for others, only one elbow. Either is okay; it just depends on how you normally move when you swing.
  6. The loop can really help you get more distance with less effort, but that doesn’t mean strength won’t help you. A strong looper can put some serious hurt on a golf ball; it’s just that loopers tend to get better results from their strength. And remember, the loop eliminates jerking the club at the top; loopers can get that extra length and still be pretty accurate.
Now, I can’t promise that you’ll consistently drive the ball 300 yards using the loop; the fact remains that most of the big hitters are very strong and/or over six feet tall. Still, the loop can give most weekend players more distance with better accuracy; and, if you decide to make it part of your swing, you should be able to go to a more flexible shaft, which will give you some additional distance. (A more flexible shaft also makes it easier to draw the ball, if that’s important to you.)

The loop is a bit of traditional technique that’s been cast aside by most modern teachers, but it has a lot to offer the modern player. You might be pleasantly surprised by how quickly you see results.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How the Loop Move Works

Yesterday I left you with a struggling weekend player who had an ‘over-the-top’ swing, and I said the problem is an instinctive attempt to make a looping movement they already use in other areas of their lives. Did you guess what that looping movement is?

If you’ve ever driven a nail with a hammer, or swatted a fly with a rolled-up newspaper or flyswatter, then you’ve used a single-plane loop. It feels natural, and it makes sense that we would try to use it to make such a similar move with a club. (In some cases, we even call it ‘driving,’ don’t we?)

Let’s look at the stages of the loop; we’ll use a flyswatter in our example.

Flyswatter movement sequence

You can understand why our frustrated weekend golfer is struggling, can’t you? The ‘pause’ felt at the change of direction in the modern swing causes the wrists to cock at the top of the backswing, rather than midway down as they do in this familiar swatting motion. The cocking of the wrists as they start down, right after the ‘pause,’ feels very much the way they feel after making the loop when swatting flies or driving a nail; as a result, the instinctive thing to do is ‘snap’ the wrists when the modern downswing starts. The result is an over-the-top move.

In the next post we’ll see how to adapt this loop move to a golf swing.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Classic Shaft-Loading Technique

In a modern swing, the shaft loads at the top of the backswing, at the change of direction. Many players feel this as a pause at the top. At this point, muscle power becomes important; it takes a lot of strength and speed to get the club started down without causing the wrists to uncock early. (You may also notice players like Tiger Woods, Paula Creamer, and Natalie Gulbis ‘dropping’ closer to the ball in order to start the downswing; that too is an effort to maintain the wrist cock a little longer.) There are any number of teaching techniques and training equipment available to help you learn how this is done, but they’re unfamiliar to most players; that’s why so much practice is necessary.

In contrast, the classic swing uses a single, simple technique traditionally called a loop. Back in the days of hickory shafts, many players utilized the loop as a way to change planes in a two-plane swing because they already used it to minimize the stress (loading) put on the softer shaft at the change of direction. The softer hickory shafts almost demanded a loop as the loading technique; players who didn’t use it developed a reputation as wild drivers, Walter Hagen being a good example. Hagen’s swing looks much more like a modern swing, with the shaft loading at the top of the swing―a real problem when that shaft is made of hickory.

While the loop is often (but not always) used in conjunction with a two-plane swing, the loop can be done in a single plane… and I bet most of you have used just such a loop many times in your life. I’ll even go so far as to say that most weekend players who struggle with an ‘over-the-top’ swing or with ‘throwing the club from the top’ are doing so because they’re instinctively trying to make the loop movement they already use in other areas of their lives.

If it’s such a natural move, then why doesn’t it work for these struggling golfers? It’s because they’ve combined the classic move with the modern one, and the two just won’t work together. The modern move loads the shaft by using that ‘pause’ at the change of direction…
But there is no pause at all in the classic swing. The loop requires a constant speed during the change of direction in order to work properly. That’s how it works in the moves you already know.
And just what is this wonderful move that you already know? See if you can guess; the answer will be in my next post.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Y.E. Yang Makes History

Y.E. Yang's victory over Tiger today is one of the best things that could have happened to the game of golf.

I know you'll hear how Yang made history as the first Asian to win a major championship. Make sure you understand that he's the first Asian male to do so; Asian women have been winning majors for a decade or more, led by Se Ri Pak's amazing total of 5.

And make no mistake: This may be the biggest thing to hit the Asian golf scene ever. The ripples this victory will send through the world as a whole, especially in light of the coming decision over whether golf should be in the Olympics, may be equaled only by the positive financial repercussions for the game.

But the biggest gain for the game of golf is psychological. For the first time in history, someone paired with Tiger Woods has not only played well, has not only beaten him heads up, but has come from behind to do it. I see this as being similar to Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile: Regardless of what any player may say, no one really believed Tiger could be beaten this way. In the month after Bannister broke the barrier, another dozen people did the same. They didn't all suddenly get in shape; Bannister just convinced them that it could be done, and they finally did it.

But Bannister's the guy we remember, not them.

Some will say Tiger lost this tournament, that he just didn't putt well. I say Yang missed quite a few putts as well but, in the end, his 70 matched the low score of the day. As an old commercial might have said, Yang won it the old-fashioned way... he e-a-r-n-e-d it.

Now I don't expect guys to start beating Tiger every week. Tiger's still probably the best golf talent we've yet seen, and he won't just roll over and play dead because of this loss. But now the big names in golf have seen the big cat taken down in his own arena. Everybody has off days, even Tiger, and now those big names will realize that it can happen at any time... even during a major. This single win has the potential to rewrite golf competition the way Bannister rewrote track competition. Maybe we'll finally see a rival or two stand up and give Tiger a real fight for the majors.

That's just what golf―and Tiger―need right now

As for Y.E. Yang, he gets my award for Big Game Hunter of the Year. He bagged himself the biggest cat in the jungle, and he deserves all the accolades this win brings him. Congratulations, Y.E.!

Vijay’s Putting Trick

Many of you watching the last round of the PGA today may have heard that Vijay Singh was not looking at his ball or the head of his putter when he set up on the green, but was instead focusing on the hole. He sank some long bombs that way, and you might be wondering what the trick is and why it works.

The purpose of looking at the hole instead of the ball/putter is twofold. Looking at the target is what we normally do when we toss something to someone else, so it’s a familiar way of estimating the distance to that target. As such, it aids in feel, and it may help us to better hit the ball with proper speed.

The second and perhaps more important purpose is to help smooth out our putting stroke. Many of us have a tendency to try and manipulate the putter during the stroke, resulting in jabbed putts or jerking the clubhead off-line. If these tendencies become bad enough, we end up with ’the yips.’ The logic of looking at the hole is this: If you can’t see the clubhead approaching the ball, you can’t try to make these last minute adjustments; consequently you tend to hit the ball more solidly and with a more consistent speed.

I’ve used this technique before and it can be extremely helpful if you want to improve your putting stroke’s rhythm. If you decide to try it, you may find that you tend to push or pull putts. This is because turning your head to better see the hole can move your point of contact slightly. If you find yourself pushing putts, then move the ball slightly forward in your stance; if you’re pulling them, move the ball slightly back. Don’t move the ball more than an inch at a time; the adjustment isn’t a huge one. A few minutes on the practice green should be all you need to find the proper position.

Bear in mind that this putting method takes a mental adjustment; it can be hard to trust your stroke when you can’t see the actual contact between the clubface and ball. But if you learn to trust it, you may find that Vijay’s little trick is just what you’ve been looking for.

How a ‘Classic’ Swing Differs from a ‘Modern’ Swing

Just what is the difference between a ‘classic’ swinger like Tom Watson and a ‘modern’ swinger like Tiger Woods? With so many swing theories going around today, it can be hard to tell the two apart. The one thing most people will agree on is that classic swingers ‘swing the club,’ while modern swingers ‘hit the ball.’ This is the difference I mentioned a few posts back, using rhythm versus using muscle; you might also think of it as using centrifugal force versus leverage. At any rate, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. A modern swinger can be more rhythmic and a classic swinger can use more muscle, with varying degrees of success.

So what other possibilities are there?

Well, lately there’s a great deal of talk about one- and two-plane swings. In a two-plane swing, the backswing is on one plane and the downswing is on a different one; you may have heard the term rerouting the club, and this is what is meant. Usually the downswing plane is underneath the backswing plane, although some players reverse that; Bobby Jones was a classic example, swinging back and up before starting his downswing. In a one-plane swing, the backswing and downswing planes are the same.

Some people think that a two-plane swing is a classic swing while a one-plane swing is modern, but this isn’t entirely true. Most players believe Ben Hogan created the modern swing, as described in his book Five Lessons, and that book clearly teaches a two-plane swing. The fact is, a modern swinger can use a one- or two-plane swing, and a classic player can do so as well.

The real difference between the classic and modern swings is where the club shaft gets ‘loaded.’ What does that mean? Sometimes, when a player’s swing is shown on TV in slow motion and analyzed, you can see the club shaft bending backward as the club comes down, then bending forward toward the hole after the ball is struck. This is the ‘loading’ and ‘unloading’ of the club shaft. The shaft is like a spring that stores energy on the way down, then releases it at impact. This affects both the distance you hit the ball and the accuracy of your shot, because the shaft twists (or torques) as it flexes.

This is why it’s so important to have your clubs fitted to your swing. Stronger players generally need stiffer shafts to help their accuracy, while players with less forceful swings can use more flexible shafts to add distance. So a second step to getting more distance is this: Make sure your clubs have been properly fitted to your swing.

This flexing is also the key to understanding the difference between the classic and modern swings. The modern swing loads the shaft at the top of the backswing, while the classic swing loads it halfway through the downswing. This may seem counter-intuitive, since the later loading sounds like it would take more strength, but it actually takes less strength… or rather, it is done at a point in the swing where a player is better able to use the strength they have.

Most teaching these days focuses on the modern swing. Because of this, I focus more on the classic swing; I believe it has more to offer the weekend player who has less time for practice. And to be honest, unlike the modern swing, it uses movements that you’re already familiar with, so they shouldn’t be hard to incorporate into your existing swing. Over the next few posts I’ll look at the classic loading technique more closely.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Any Made Putt is a Good One

Watching the PGA Friday afternoon reminded me yet again about how frustrating putting can be.

I understand that the greens at Hazeltine are a mixture of bentgrass and poa annua, an unpredictable mix that can be smooth in one spot, bumpy in another. Let the wind dry out the greens, add in some tricky pin placements... there is no amount of science or practice that can give you consistency under such circumstances.

Some of the putts I saw curled their way into the hole, rather than dropping in the center. You can almost hear the crowds go "OOOOH!" when those putts drop, as if it was only luck that they fell. That's not true at all. The important thing to remember is that, on all but the straightest of putts, there is a variety of line/speed combinations you can hit that will sink that putt. Some will cause the ball to motor straight in with a lot of speed, while others will send it curling in the side door as it runs out of steam. When you make one of those, rather than telling yourself that you were just lucky, you should compliment yourself for successfully finding one of the correct combinations. All you were trying to do is give the putt a chance to go in, and it did.

Any made putt is a good one. Rather than criticizing the successes when they come, enjoy them!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Speed vs Power in the Golf Swing

With the Tour playing the PGA Championship at Hazeltine, the newest “longest course in major history,” it’s fitting to talk about how to hit the long ball. Everybody was talking length Thursday, especially about how far Alvaro Quiros was knocking it. In case you didn’t hear, while on the 11th hole―a 606 yard par 5―Quiros knocked his 2nd shot 290 yards onto the green (uphill into the wind!) while Tiger and Company were putting out. Quiros was so far away he couldn’t even see them. Tiger described it as “just stupid long.”

So how does the weekend player get a piece of that action?

The first step is a simple mental adjustment: Think speed, not power. Golf balls are notoriously light; the USGA limits their weight to no more than 1.620 ounces or 45.93 grams. Just how much power do you think it takes to make it go? Not much, I can assure you. When players begin to think about power, they begin to tighten up, and tension is the enemy of speed. Having taken some Tae Kwon Do before, I can tell you that much of the training is an attempt to teach the student to perform the moves while relaxed, only tensing muscles at the moment of impact… and even then, you tighten as few muscles as possible.

The same is true in the golf swing; that’s one of the secrets to Tom Watson’s success at Turnberry a few weeks ago. Watch some footage of his swing; you won’t see any violent thrashing with the club in an effort to hit it farther. He gets his distance by creating relaxed speed. Some teachers have used the term “effortless power” in an attempt to describe this relaxation, but I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t equate power with effort. So you won’t hear me talk about power much, but you’ll hear me talking clubhead speed a lot.

Step one: Think speed, not power.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Olympic Buzz: Is Golf a Sport?

Ty Votaw and the folks at the PGA Tour are very happy. The IOC intends to add a new sport to the Olympics in 2016… and golf is one of the two finalists. (Rugby is the other.) They still have to make a presentation to the Committee in October, but they’re very optimistic. It’s easy to understand why; who wouldn’t want Tiger Woods helping their TV ratings? The Olympic Committee will certainly take that into account.

There is still some debate over whether golf is really a sport. Votaw said in a Golf Channel interview that some countries, like China, view golf as a leisure pastime instead of a sport, and that viewpoint would have to be overcome. Such a debate becomes important when countries have to choose between golf and such a physical sport as rugby.

Personally, I think golf is better compared to another Olympic sport: biathlon. Biathlon is a combination of cross-country skiing and precision target shooting and, according to, “one is an aerobic activity which requires strength, speed, and endurance; the other is a passive activity which requires concentration and a steady hand (difficult after you've been skiing all out!)”. This certainly a good description of golf; although the aerobic aspect isn’t as dramatic as skiing, golf requires more for each shot than simply holding a gun steady while pulling the trigger. In biathlon you either hit or miss the target, then go to the next shot; in golf, each shot sets up the next. There is strategy in planning the shot, hand-eye-body coordination as you try to shape that shot, and then body control as you pump up the heart rate for a few moments before calming yourself to deal with the next shot. The mere length of a round of golf, coupled with the need to make this heart rate adjustment an average of 65-75 times per round, makes this a challenge.

Golf is definitely a sport. Let’s just hope the IOC recognizes its true nature. I mean, if ping pong is a sport...?

Who's Your Pick to Win the PGA?

The PGA starts today... who do you think will win?

It's probably safe to say that Tiger's the odds-on favorite and Phil's the sentimental favorite. There's a lot of talk about Sergio (everyone remembers his big duel with Tiger back in '99), Kenny Perry (many people think this long course sets up well for him), and Steve Stricker (who's just playing very well coming into this major).

I'm going out on a limb and picking Padraig Harrington to successfully defend. I know one good showing (his 2nd last week) isn't enough to make him a favorite, but I don't think you can write him off easily. All the talk is about the swing change he's been working on; I've heard he's trying to change his wrist position at impact, which is a very difficult change to make. But he says that last week was a mental change, not a swing change; if it can make a difference that big that quickly, I'm not ready to write him off.

I just hope the officials aren't watching the clock this week...

As for the length of the course, I don't think that eliminates anybody as long as the Tour uses the length to vary the course. If they play some holes long and some holes short, but mix it up so that no hole plays exactly the same each day, we could see one of the short but accurate players (like Brian Gay) hold that trophy Sunday evening.

What can you learn from this? Don't let numbers beat you before you even start. Short courses (think Harbour Town) can be far more treacherous than a long course. Many of the players this week have already been beaten before the tournament begins.

As for the PGA... it looks like it might be a good championship.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why Tom Watson Almost Won

It’s been a few weeks since the Open Championship, but people are still talking about Tom Watson’s record-breaking run at history. Most people doubt that we’ll ever see the likes of that again.

I disagree. If anything, Watson’s performance should make us wonder if something’s wrong with the way we teach golf these days.

You see, Watson’s swing is a bit of a throwback to the past. Unlike the currently popular approach to golf, with its emphasis on muscle, Watson’s swing depends more on rhythm and tempo. Simply put, the club does more work in his swing, requiring less muscle strength to get the ball out there. A swing like his, coupled with just a decent amount of strength and endurance, can compete very well against the competition. Bear in mind that Watson’s downfall was neither accuracy nor distance. Ironically, it was adrenaline (a shot hit too far on the 18th) that cost him the tournament.

There are a lot of misconceptions concerning the so-called modern and classic swings. The best route to a low-maintenance golf swing is a combination of the two; and, contrary to popular belief, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. I’ll try to show you the real differences as we go.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Welcome to the Ruthless Golf Blog!

You may have heard someone say that the putting stroke is just a small version of the full swing. If you did, that someone was probably from a previous generation of teachers and golfers; hardly anyone seems to agree with that nowadays.

I believe just the opposite:
The full swing is just a big version of the putting stroke. If you begin by learning the basics of a good putting stroke, you have a good foundation for building a solid full swing. A solid chipping stroke is only slightly different from a solid putting stroke; a solid pitching swing is only slightly different from a solid chipping stroke; and a solid full swing is only slightly different from a solid pitching swing. Start with a solid putting stroke, and you’re halfway to a solid game.

And the real beauty of it all is that a solid putting stroke is so simple that even a child can do it!

In this blog I’ll try to take the ideas in
Ruthless Putting and expand them to include the whole game. Hopefully I will not only make the principles of good putting easier to understand, but help you learn how improving your putting can help you improve your whole golf game. We’ll learn how to develop a low-maintenance golf swing, one that doesn’t require a lot of practice in order to perform for us. In addition, we’ll look for shortcuts to help improve our game when we don’t have a lot of time to practice, as well as seeing what we can learn from the pros on TV. (Although it may not be what they expect us to learn!)