Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's Almost Here!

In honor of the LPGA getting the jump on the men by having their first major this week, here's a quick salute to probably the weirdest custom in modern golf: the winner of the Kraft Nabisco jumping into Poppie's Pond. I can never get enough of Karrie Webb's cannonball (it's the fifth one in the video)...



Tomorrow's the day. Remember that ESPN2 covers the first 3 days of this event, not TGC.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Limerick Summary: 2010 Arnold Palmer Invitational

Winner: Ernie Els

Vive la revolución!

Welcome to the French Revolution edition of the Limerick Summary -- starring the golfing elite from South Africa! An attempt to overthrow the reigning golf monarchy is clearly underway on the PGA and European Tours. Charl Schwartzel already had 2 wins this year and Ernie Els won the WGC-CA just a couple of weeks ago. Then Louis Oosthuizen got his first pro victory Sunday at the Open de Andalucia de Golf. His biography at the European Tour site says he is "a member of the Ernie Els Foundation in South Africa since 1999, receiving help and inspiration from the former European Tour Number One."

Wait a minute. Louis is a member of the Ernie Els Foundation? You know, Charl and Ernie are also good friends; in fact, Charl has been staying with Ernie during the Florida Swing. And I heard TGC saying that Retief Goosen was playing so well that he might be a favorite going into Augusta... and he's also a friend of Ernie's...

Hmmm... I sense a conspiracy here...

The finish was a day late, and the 10AM Monday finish was delayed until noon while the
River Seine was diverted from the fairways. Both Edoardo Molinari and Kevin Na made serious bids for the crown -- Molinari making some of those incredibly long putts we've become used to seeing, and Na just going after it, hole after hole. Nevertheless, Els held on to win by 2 shots after leading by as many as 5 on Sunday. This gives Ernie two big wins as he marches toward the Masters, the symbolic fortress of golf royalty. I think he's got to be one of a handful of favorites if not THE favorite to get his first green jacket.

Welcome to the Limerick Summary --
Ernie Els, Part Deux:
He went Els-where, alright – to Bay Hill
Where he seized the King’s sword. Tell me, will
He soon reign at Augusta –
Or find himself just the
Next upstart to storm the Bastille?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Updating All the Tours EXCEPT the PGA

Another rain-delayed Limerick Summary. Life is so cruel... Well, we can still take a quick look at what's going on around the rest of the golf world.

On the European Tour, Louis Oosthuizen got his first pro victory Sunday at the Open de Andalucia de Golf. He's another of the young group of South African pros making a mark on the Tour. Except for Sally Little, I can't think of any female South African golfers of note; you can comment if you think of any others. But I wonder why only the men are making a mark?

Of course, it's the Koreans who are storming the LPGA Tour. Hee Kyung Seo won the Kia Classic, the first LPGA event on American soil this year. Stephanie Wei has a "Know Your Asians" post about her over on her site, but I can't find a way to link directly to it; your best bet is to do a search on her blog for the name. Anyway, Seo was a sponsor's invite who already qualified for the Kraft Nabisco next week... and she won this one by 6 strokes after putting it in the water on 16. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say she'll probably do ok on the LPGA Tour.

Finally, Fred Couples shot a 10-under to win the Cap Cana Championship by 2 strokes. In four starts he has a 2nd place (he needed a warm-up event) and three consecutive wins. I'm gonna go out on another limb and say that, by the end of the year, the old guys will be playing on "the Couples Tour." (He's 77 under par in four tournaments. Yowza!)

The PGA will finish up the Arnold Palmer Invitational at 10AM Monday on TGC. I'll have the Limerick Summary tomorrow.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

So... Is Ernie "the Guy"?

You know what I'm talking about... is Ernie Els the favorite to win Augusta?

Maybe it's a bit early to say, but this year his stats are looking pretty good. OK, not all of his stats -- but enough for me to say this may be his best chance in years.

With the exception of the Honda, he's been Top 20 in every tourney he's played this year (5 out of 6). He's got the WGC-CA win -- that's pretty big. In the stats, he's 2nd in the BIG stat-- scoring (69.02). He's 7th in scrambling at 70.09%, well above my 67% number. His GIR is at 67.50% -- 81st on Tour, but again above my 67% number -- and the individual GIR distance breakdowns show that he's money inside 175 yards. Plus he's 8th in putting from 15-20 feet (30%); he'll probably have a lot of those at Augusta.

I'm thinking Ernie might win today. And if he does, with Doral and Bay Hill under his belt, I think he might be the odds-on favorite for his first green jacket. And if I'm right...

My biggest problem will be coming up with a new limerick for him.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Mojo6 Contest

Hey, we've got another contest going!

First, here is one of the stupidest video announcements you may ever see... but at least it's short:



Ok, maybe it's not that bad... but the contest gives you a shot at $10,000. You can put up with a little cheesiness for that, can't you?

You've probably heard of the LPGA's new 16-player Mojo6 tournament -- aka "Raceway Golf" -- to be played in Jamaica. Beatriz Recari got the 16th place in the tournament because she was voted in by normal people like us. (I confess... I voted for Laura Davies.) The Mojo6 is a series of 6-hole match play tournaments where the players choose their opponents, which organizer Edwin Moses (yep, the Olympic swimmer) hopes will get some competitive juices flowing! CBS will air the event on May 1 & 2, although it will actually be played in April (15 & 16, I think).

Anyway, here's the deal as stated by the tournament:
The 1st Annual Mojo 6 in Montego Bay, Jamaica, wants you to use your picking skills for a chance to win $10,000!

Simply select the 4 LPGA players in the right order you think will finish 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th on the final day of competition, April 16th and you could win!
Simple enough, eh? Just go to the Mojo6 web site, where you'll find a "who's playing?" button about halfway down the page and a nice big button labeled "pick your way to $10,000 sweepstakes -- ENTER NOW" above it.

In case you'd like to know a little more about the tournament first, here's a promo piece that Moses and a few of the ladies did:



Good luck!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Upsets

Just a brief post today about mindset...

I'm writing this during halftime of the NCAA game between Kentucky and Cornell. If you don't keep up with college basketball, all you need to know is that Cornell shouldn't even be in this game. They pulled an upset by beating Wisconsin last weekend. Ironically, there's already been one upset tonight, with Butler knocking Syracuse out. The overall favorite, Kansas, got beat last weekend by... Northern Iowa. No offense to the NI guys, but most viewers didn't even think they were in the same country as Kansas.

Upsets are the name of the game. Today on ESPN's SportsNation show, co-host Colin Cowherd (say that 5 times fast!) remarked that if Kentucky and Cornell were playing a 4-out-of-7 series, he'd say Cornell had no chance. But it's not -- it's a "one-and-done" situation where, if you make a mistake, you could be out.

He might as well have been talking about our sport.

Today at Bay Hill, Bubba Watson shot a 4-over 76. Last week he had a chance to win the Transitions Championship, but finished 3rd... and he had a T2 earlier this year. Meanwhile, Davis Love III (you remember him, don't you?) is tied for the lead. Davis had a T5 at the Sony, then promptly missed the last four cuts.

We always say that golf is a game of "what have you done for me lately." Every round is a "one-and-done" game for us, which means that, if you're good enough to play with somebody, even if they usually beat you, there's a chance you can shock them with an upset.

Should you count on that? Probably not... but I'm an optimist. I know it doesn't seem that way when you're struggling, but this isn't an impossible game. If you keep your head straight, you'll play better than you expect... and they might not.

But your biggest opponent is your own low expectations. Fortunately, they don't play very well... so play to beat them. You just might be surprised by the outcome.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Steve, Ernie, and Luke on the Beach

With all our talk about sand play and the changes at Bay Hill, I thought this would be a good time to look at a few of the best players in the game playing on the beach. To that end, I have two videos; the first shows both Steve Stricker and Ernie Els. Stricker ranks 84th in sand saves at 50%, Els ranks 12th at 64.52%.



Only 8 players rank above my magic number of 67%; that list is topped by Luke Donald at 88.89%. Here's Donald at Riviera earlier this year:



Now, you can run these videos several times and study them, but I want to point out one thing they all have in common that goes against what you will generally hear taught: All three have slow swings. They aren't trying to "accelerate" the club through the sand. While consciously trying to accelerate the club may be useful under certain conditions, the fact is that a dropped club will accelerate because gravity is a constant acceleration. Unless you try to slow it down, your swing will accelerate; and this accelerating swing will probably feel as though you are swinging at a constant speed. This is simple physics.

If you want to improve your sand game, a good place to start is by making a "slow" swing. If you need to hit the ball farther, just make a longer swing. If you do this, you will have more consistent contact with the spot in the sand that you're aiming for, so you'll get out of the sand more consistently.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Arnie's Been Tinkering at Bay Hill

According to this article at USA Today, Arnie's been working overtime, getting the Champion's Course at Bay Hill ready for this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Normally I wouldn't take any time previewing a tournament like this, but we've been talking about sand play over the last week... and apparently Arnie decided the bunkers needed work. A lot of work. The article's author, Steve DiMeglio, writes:
The biggest change involved adding, removing and repositioning the course's bunkers. And Palmer had the faces of the bunkers reworked and pulled to the tops of mounds. Rookie Rickie Fowler, who won the 2006 HP Boys Junior Championship at Bay Hill in 2006, said all the bunkers can now be seen and will change angles of tee shots.

"The bunkers look awesome," said Fowler, who has won $889,471 in eight events to rank 18th this season. "They are a little bit more visible to the eye."
There are other changes as well, such as shaved run-off areas and a return to a par of 72. But DiMeglio says this is the most extensive renovation in the course's history and that the players will be playing a course they have never seen before.

And that's why I'm devoting a little space to Arnie's tourney. There's a good chance we can all learn a little about sand play this week. (Besides, maybe Tiger can ignore Arnie's tournament, but I won't. I'd love to play in it. Are you listening, Arnie?)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Master's Raffle

Patricia over at Golf Girl's Diary sent me an e-mail about a raffle for tickets to the Masters this year, so I thought I'd pass it on. She wrote:
I wanted to let as many golf fans as possible know about this: it's a raffle sponsored by Cristie Kerr, and the prize is a trip to the Masters for two including first-class air fare, accommodations and all transportation plus two badges for the the weekend, Sat 4/10 and Sun 4/11.

The tickets are $2.00 with a $10.00 minimum, the raffle is being conducted by Celebrities for Charity and all proceeds will go to Cristie's charity, Birdies for Breast Cancer.
Of course, Patricia has a post about it on her site, and you can also get more info here.

Why Jim Furyk's Upside-Down Grip Works

Jim Furyk debuted an upside-down putter grip (the rubber grip, that is) at the Transitions Championship -- his first win since mid-2007. When asked why the upside-down grip helped, he said he didn't know, although he wondered if it had something to do with his crosshand grip.

It didn't. It can help anybody with any kind of grip; it just depends on what you're trying to accomplish with your putting technique. Today I'm going to tell you how it works, so you can determine whether it will help you. The illustrations I'll use are of a righthander's reverse-overlap grip, but the concept is so simple that you should immediately be able to apply it to any grip, whether you're right- or lefthanded.

In my book I published a list of seven principles all good putters from several eras seem to agree on, and I also posted them here. You'll notice that Principle #4 is "The putter handle should be held so that the shaft aligns with the forearms." That's the principle that Jim's upside-down grip affects.

Here's the standard grip:

Reverse Overlap Grip, Normal Grip Installation
When you flip the grip upside-down and take your normal grip, the extra rubber under the shaft causes it to angle upward. It's no longer aligned with your forearms:

Reverse Overlap Grip, Upside-Down Grip Installation

To get the shaft back in line, you have to arch your wrists upward, which means your hands tilt down:

Upside-Down Grip Installation, Wrists Arched

Here's one more picture; showing the arched wrist with an open hand may make the positioning a little clearer:

Arching Your Wrist

Now your most likely question is "What's so great about arching your wrists this way?" The answer is, it depends on what you're trying to do with your putting stroke.

Installing your putter grip upside-down can help if you're trying to minimize wrist movement during your stroke. There are two main ways your wrists can flex during your putting stroke -- up and down, or back and forth. What you may not realize is that the combination of the two can result in a flipping motion, where the toe of the club flips past the heel through the hitting area. The results of this are unpredictable from one stroke to the next, and has the same result as twisting your forearms during the stroke, which is the number one problem for most players.

Arching your wrists not only eliminates some possible wrist movement, but also moves the weight of the putter shaft more under your forearms. With the weight under the pivot point, it makes your wrist position even more stable, further minimizing any possible rotation. It does this no matter what kind of grip technique you use.

Will this help you? That depends. I like to use a putting technique where my wrists flex more than is normally taught today, therefore it would likely interfere with my motion. If you follow some of the modern teachers like Dave Pelz or Stan Utley -- teachers who prefer that you swing more with your shoulders -- then an upside-down putter grip could help you putt more consistently.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Post about the Tiger Interviews

I tried, but I just can't let this one go. I have to comment.

Tiger finally gave an interview. Two, actually -- one with ESPN, one with TGC. Each was about five minutes long. Since then, everybody, their brothers and sisters, and their dogs have been posting about them. (No cats have posted, that I've seen. I'm not anti-cat; it's just that cats don't give a rip about the whole Tiger thing. Open them a can of tuna, they're fine.) Nobody seems to agree on what to make of the interviews, which is fine, but something really bothers me about this.

The people who seem to be the angriest are the people who say Tiger doesn't owe them an explanation. They're pissed off that Tiger put a 5-minute limit on the interviews, and they're pissed off that he didn't really say anything new. If he was really sorry, he'd tell us every little detail of the whole sordid affair, dammit, and if he won't tell, it just proves he's still hiding the truth. And while we're at it, he's getting off too easy, dammit! He makes a few vague statements and expects that to be enough. Tiger Woods always gets special treatment. How can he say he didn't know he was acting that bad? He isn't really sorry. Dammit, dammit, DAMMIT!

I won't argue with any of you about that. Tiger does get special treatment, just like every celebrity (in the most general use of the word) on the planet. Fair or not, it's kind of a trade-off for not having anything resembling a normal life. Celebrities are always given special privileges, extra perks, and just general bootlicking that "regular" folks like you and me don't get. I'm not going to get in a debate over whether that's right or wrong... it simply is.

What I want to comment on is something I have noticed about humans in general. If Tiger falls into that category, I suppose it applies to him as well.

All of us have heard of "them." You know, that nameless "they" who are always espousing great truths that are always true about everybody: "Well, you know what they say..." Fortunately, on occasion, they actually know what they're talking about. One of the things I always heard was that "the easiest person to fool is yourself." The technical term is self-justification -- the idea that we can always find a reason why what we did was not only reasonable and explanable, but expected... and even ok. All of us have experienced it in some way or form; how many of us, when confronted by someone about something bad we did, said "I don't know why I did it; it didn't seem that important"? How many times have you looked back at something bad you did and said "I can't believe I did that"? (BTW, Tiger said that himself in the ESPN interview.)

You know, sometimes we even feel ashamed at what we did. Granted, shame seems to be a lost emotion these days; I'm not even sure most of us recognize it when we see it. But when we do feel shame, we avoid talking about the cause of it as much as possible. Of course, most of us don't screw up in front of 6 billion people. I don't even want to think about what that must feel like!

I'm not defending Tiger... I'm just beginning to wonder if he hasn't become a scapegoat for all the things we hate in ourselves. Short of being a rapist or a murderer, there's a good chance we can make ourselves feel better about our own failings if we can bash Tiger -- the "can't fail kid" who seemed so perfect but turned out to be so human. We would never be that bad, would we? And we can condescendingly remark that we would probably do the same in the same situation, just because we're so sure we can't end up in the same situation.

I know some will argue that Tiger knowingly created a perfect image that was a lie. But let me remind you that "images" are what modern media is all about. The nightly newscast that wants you to believe it broadcasts "unbiased reporting"? Every news organization has a bias; but they cultivate an equally false image, rather than saying upfront that they have their own agenda. Do you really believe you know all those other celebrities you see on TV and in movies? Just adding a camera to a situation changes it... unless the participants don't know it's there, and then you have legal problems! No matter how honest people try to be, media adds distortion because everybody acts differently when someone is watching; to believe otherwise is just self-delusion and not much different from what Tiger did to himself.

And speaking of the Self-Deluded One himself... I don't condone what he did in any way, shape, or form. But it sounds to me like he's making progress, and I hope it continues. I hope Elin finds it in her heart to forgive him, and they manage to build a healthy family life. I still maintain that we'll learn about the true character of Tiger Woods by seeing where he goes from here. I hope, somewhere along the way, people will realize that Tiger is actually a typical human being, capable of both incredible good and incredible evil... just like the rest of us.

And just for the record, I watched Jim Furyk win the Transitions Championship. I knew that, with two 5-minute interviews on two channels, I'd be able to watch Tiger's interviews 24 times an hour until the Masters. If Tiger doesn't owe you an apology, then why be so anxious to hear what he says next?

Just a thought...

The Limerick Summary: 2010 Transitions Championship

Winner: Jim Furyk

Around the wider world of golf... Rhys Davies won the Trophée Hassan II in Morocco, winning his first European Tour title. Tiger Woods made his first unscripted interviews since his life turned into tabloid fodder. And you can pop over to Mostly Harmless and get an update on all the action on the women's tours around the world; just click here.

Despite some heavy rain, the Transitions Championship finished on Sunday... and Jim Furyk broke a streak of "also-ran" finishes that dated back to mid-2007. (If you don't count the 2009 Chevron World Challenge last December, that is; that wasn't an official win.) Both K.J. Choi -- who also hasn't won on Tour since early-2008 (again, the 2008 LG Skins Game in November that year wasn't an official win) -- and Bubba Watson, as yet winless, both made some serious runs at him before falling just short. (This was Bubba's best finish since his T2 at the Hope, though. He's got to be pleased with that!)

The fact is, Jim hasn't played badly through this period; he's had something like ten Top-10s since his last win. But he broke his favorite driver and needed nearly a year to find a new one he liked -- I heard that he used four different drivers in one tournament while he was searching -- and he's been struggling with his putting. One interesting aspect of that battle that NBC focused on Sunday was that Jim's putter grip installed upside-down, after his father suggested that it might work better for him. Jim said he didn't know why it felt so good, but suspected it might have something to do with his left-hand-low putting style. Johnny Miller remarked that, come Monday, golf shops all over the country would be inundated with people wanting a similar setup... and he's probably right.

About that grip: I think there might indeed be a reason that the funky grip setup helped Jim; I'll talk about that in tomorrow's post.

Now, for today's limerick:
Jim Furyk, the master tactician,
Now hopes this win fuels a transition
From left-off-the-tee doubts
And left-hand-low lip-outs
To Major Champ, second edition.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

And Now, For Something Completely Useless...

Yes, the title is my homage to Monty Python... Anyway, I've had a busy weekend and not much time to work on posts, but I found this bizarre little video that got me laughing. Perhaps some of you will find this new version of golf more to your liking -- at least until you get your swing back in shape:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Aiming a Bunker Shot

For many of you, this is going to seem like a stupid waste of time because it's so basic. That's exactly why I want to cover it. One of the biggest reasons we get tripped up is because we take the basics for granted, and I think a whole lot of weekend golfers never understand this aspect of sand play. If you don't understand this, you are going to have a LOT of trouble with sand shots.

Today I'm going to teach you the basics of aiming a bunker shot.

Let's say you just hit a decent shot to the green but took a bad hop and landed in a greenside trap:

How to Aim a Bunker Shot

Yes, Court, I know: This ball will NOT fit in that hole. But it's just a diagram, ok? ;-D

And for you lefties... I've only done one drawing because this concept is so simple. You shouldn't have any trouble with this, despite the righthanded diagram.

Now, I've drawn a line labeled 'A' that runs through the ball and points directly to the hole. This is your aimline; this where you want the ball to go. Forget about it for the moment; we'll come back to it.

You've probably heard teachers say that you want to set up with your body "open" to the aimline. Line B is that "open setup" line. Your big question here may be how far open you want your stance to be; or to put it another way, what is the angle between A and B? The correct answer is: It doesn't matter. Open your stance as much or as little as feels comfortable; all that matters is that your stance is not parallel to the aimline.

The reason for this is that we want to use the bounce on the bottom of the club. The bottom of your sand wedge has a thick flange of metal that causes the club to skim through the sand, not dig into it the way the edge of the blade does. If we wanted the blade to dig, we would set up parallel to the A line -- also called a "square" setup; but to use the bounce, we set up open. When we set up open on the B line -- I'm showing your feet on the B line, but your shoulders are on it too -- the path of the club will also swing "across the line" on what I'm calling the C line. Have you got that? Once you set up along the B line, you'll swing along the C line.

Now let's look at the A line again. This is where so many people get messed up. The face of the club faces squarely toward the hole, straight down the A line. You don't twist your wrists to get the face pointed toward the hole; you turn the club's grip in your hands so the face aims at the hole although your entire body is aimed to the side. You have set up so that, if you were gripping the club normally, you would hit the ball on the C line; but you've turned the club so its face is aimed on the A line. Got it?

By the way, this is a general principle that you can use on any shot: Wherever your body is aimed, that's where the ball is going to start off. Wherever the face of your club is aimed, that's where the ball is going to land. Your body may be aimed to the left of where the clubface is aimed; if so, the ball will start to your left, then curve back toward where the face is aimed. If your body is aimed to the right, the ball will start to your right, then curve back toward where the face is aimed. This is how Jack Nicklaus played fades and draws, so it's a proven technique!

Now, when you make your swing, the clubhead will swing across the A line, hitting the sand behind the ball (just how far you want that to be depends on things like how fluffy the sand is, but 2 inches is a good average) and continuing along the C line. The cushion of sand between the clubface and the ball will cause the ball to pop out, and the ball will travel pretty much along the A line.

One last thing: You might wonder about how you determine the ball position, and I found it very hard to show it properly on the diagram because there was no way I could get all the proportions of everything right. The ball's too big, the wedge is too small, the stance is too close... it's just too tricky with the diagram. The best I could do is add the D line. Please note that this line shows your normal ball position on the C line, the club's actual path. Lines A, C, and D all intersect where you want to hit the sand -- in our example, 2 inches behind the ball. If you were to actually set up this way, it would look as if a properly-sized ball was sitting on both lines A and C, just slightly ahead of D where you would place the ball for a normal shot. (Remember, we're trying to hit behind the ball when we're in the sand. The club travels through the sand for 5 or 6 inches, so we actually take out an area about 4 inches wide and 6 inches long. On the diagram, that area looks like a tiny point where the three lines intersect.)

I hope that explains how to aim in a way you can understand. If I wasn't quite clear, just leave me a question in the comments and I'll try to answer it more clearly. This really is the biggest trick to hitting good sand shots; once you learn how to aim properly, it doesn't take any big changes to adjust for changes in the sand.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mickelson on Sand Play

When it's time for Spring Break, we start to think about the beach... so I've been looking all week for some good material on sand play. As it happens, I stumbled across some footage from Phil Mickelson's new short game DVD. This seemed perfect, because it not only teaches you bunker play from a great player, but also gives you an idea what the DVD is like. If you were thinking about buying it, this may help you decide if it's worth the money to you. It's a pretty long segment -- around 9 minutes -- so you should find some useful info in this lesson.



Since the short game is both the easiest part of the game to learn and the slowest to come back after a layoff, I'll be posting more material on different aspects of the short game. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Remembering Payne

I was poking around YouTube Wednesday night and found this jewel. This is classic Jake Trout and the Flounders, back when Payne Stewart was still alive. Make sure you note all the celebrity cameos! With Spring only a couple of days away, this seemed a good way to bring in the new golf season...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How Will Tiger Play?

For the most part I've avoided Tiger talk, simply because it's been run into the ground. While I don't like what Tiger did any more than anybody else does, sometimes people screw up (pun intended) really badly. It's part of being human. Like I said early on, this doesn't necessarily mean Tiger has no character; rather, how he handles what happens next will tell us what kind of character he has. I'm not going to belabor that point.

However, since he's announced his comeback, the question of how he -- and whoever is paired with him -- will play at the Masters has begun to come up, and I do have a couple of thoughts on that. And since those thoughts might have some value for your own weekend play, I thought I'd toss 'em out there for your consideration.

We all know why Tiger picked the Masters -- it'll be much harder for the paparazzi to get to him there. He'll have to deal with them eventually, but just going public again will be hard enough. At least this way he'll avoid being hit by everything at once. That's one thing in Tiger's favor. When you're playing in stressful circumstances, do what you can to minimize the number of things you have to deal with. You'll improve your chances of success.

How Tiger will deal with everything else is up in the air but -- and I don't mean this in a cruel way, but it's true -- he made his own bed, and as Stewart Cink (I think) said, he'll just have to man up and deal with it. Sometimes you just have to admit that you've got a tough row to hoe, then settle down and play the game. It is just a game, after all; don't lose track of that fact.

The real question mark is his playing partner. How will he do?

I'm not so sure his partner will have it as bad as everybody thinks. I think the fans will be sympathetic to his partner, and try to make it easier for him. In fact, the few at Augusta who might behave badly toward Tiger will probably want his partner to beat him, and so will be much nicer to him. I suspect the biggest problem his partner will have -- given that some guys, like Bubba Watson, have already said they would love to play with him -- is being too excited about getting to play in a historic round. Part of the key to success when you get the chance of a lifetime is enjoying the moment and focusing on the job at hand rather than getting caught up in your surroundings. That can be difficult, but it's not impossible.

Ok, that was three things. But hopefully that's the last I'll have to say about Tiger until we get some actual gameplay to talk about. I'm really looking forward to that. And in case you're wondering, I don't think Tiger will win... but I think he might post a top 10. That will probably be a victory for him, given what he's gonna have to deal with...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Very Late Puerto Rico Open Update

Since they didn't finish up until Monday afternoon, they didn't get a limerick... but they do get an update.

The Puerto Rico Open was plagued by rain. Usually they get an inch of rain in March, but this time they got 12 inches in a mere 7 days... and 6 of those came Thursday. Helicopters were brought in and hovered just over the fairways, to help dry the course. The Tour still managed to get 72 holes in, and for that reason alone they deserve an update!

The winner was Derek Lamely (that's pronounced "lam-ly," not "lame-ly") with a winning score of 19-under. The win gives him, among other things, a Tour exemption through 2012 and a berth in both TPC and the PGA Championship. I'm sure he doesn't mind being a little waterlogged.

A few other names I want to mention:
  • James Nitties (T3) had missed his first 6 cuts this year. The Aussie is way too good to be struggling the way he has; it's good to see him put in a good tournament.
  • Steve Elkington (T7) hasn't really been struggling, per se -- he just hasn't been living up to what we expect from him. Nice to see him playing well also.
  • Woody Austin (T7), aka "Aquaman," is another guy whose year hasn't started particularly well. Woody's self-flagellation is legendary, but I've followed his play for several years and am glad he had a good finish this week.
  • John Daly (T24). JD's struggles have been well-documented. After 3 missed cuts to start the year, this is his second made cut and his finishes are improving. Way to go, John!
  • Carl Pettersson (T33). Yeah, I know a lot of you guys don't follow the Swede. But he's a North Carolina boy now, and I try to keep up with how he's doing. After a T5 at Sony early on, he's been struggling; but this is a step-up from his last 5 tournaments, so hopefully he's righted the ship and will be playing better from now on.
This week we're back to full-field events with the Transitions Championship. We'll see if surviving Puerto Rico has given these guys any confidence to build on.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Little Reorganization

If you notice a few changes on the site, fear not... it's just a little "spring cleaning" as I try to make the site more usable.

The main difference you'll notice at this point is the addition of a "page list" in the upper right of the sidebar. This is both to aid in navigation and make the site less junky-looking.

The "About the Blog" page merely puts the text of the posts categorized as "about" in one place. The original posts still exist, I'm just trying to make it easier for noobs to the site.

And the "Some Useful Post Series" page takes the place of the list I had in the sidebar of the same name. I have one more post list I want to add to the Fitness Guide, and I want to add a couple of other lists, but it's just getting too crowded over there. This page should make it easier to read the list.

I'll probably be adding a couple of new pages later on. You have been forewarned!

The Limerick Summary: 2010 WGC-CA Championship

Winner: Ernie Els

Since the European Tour counts Doral as their tournament this week (WGC tourneys count on both tours, just like majors), I'll just point out that Yani Tseng ripped it up at the Women's Australian Open, beating both Karrie Webb and Laura Davies. You can pop on over to Mostly Harmless for more info on that LET/ALPG event and also this week's JLPGA event.

Of course, at the time I'm writing this, the Puerto Rico Open is still mucking around in their 3rd round. I can tell you that John Daly made the cut with a T26. They're scheduled to finish the tournament late Monday.

Big stories on Tour this week: The continued good play of Matt Kuchar (T3), Paul Casey (T6), Bill Haas (T6), Vijay Singh (T11), and Camilo Villegas (T16)... and the continued struggles of Phil Mickelson (T14). Phil's T14 shows some promise, and apparently Brad Faxon gave him a putting tip or two... apparently something about improper weight distribution during his stroke. Maybe he'll be ready by the time the Masters gets here.

I must admit I was surprised that the commentators didn't lampoon Charl Schwartzel for laying up on a par-5 in the final round. I think he played it smart -- and I should point out that he did make a birdie -- but "smart" doesn't seem to have mattered over the last few weeks.

I'm quite pleased to say that I've been on the Schwartzel bandwagon since his two European Tour wins earlier this year. I said then that I thought he might be the hottest player at the time, and it's nice to see him playing well in America as well.

Of course, Ernie's return to the winner's circle -- especially at a WGC -- is the biggest news this week. After enduring the constant prattle about how he's probably finished as a major force in the game, how he just doesn't have the heart anymore, etc., I'm sure he's enjoying this one. Perhaps a major is in his future this year.

As for today's limerick... wow, I am SOOOO disappointed. I was really looking forward to impressing you all with my rhymes for "Schwartzel." (No, I was. Really. Trust me.) But it's so nice to see Ernie in the winner's circle again, I won't even complain. (Not much, anyway...)
“On the course, he’s washed up.” Are such tales fair?
I don’t know, though we’ve seen his travails there.
But if Ernie is back
And his game is on track…
I bet players will wish he was Els-where.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

7 Weeks to 100 Pushups: Week 7

Welcome to the seventh week in my attempt to follow the workout in Steve Speirs's book 7 Weeks to 100 Pushups. This is actually the sixth week of the book's schedule, as you will remember that I repeated the third week. And just like last week, I've listed the workout schedule for each day, followed by what I actually did. (The "R" stands for Ruthless Golf.)

I was a little tired Monday -- not from pushups, but from aerobics. If you've checked out my Will Shakespeare blog, you may have seen a poem called "Sixty." It was written because our three-month long cold snap (the longest we've seen here in years) finally broke and we had a 60-degree day. Well, the warm weather has stayed all weekend and is predicted to last at least another week... so I went wild! I'm only walking right now, but the walks are fast and long, around three miles or so, and every day while the good weather lasts. So I get ready to do Monday's pushups and I see this:

M: 14 - 14 - 24 - 24 - 42+
R: 14 - 14 - 24 - 24 - 22

A one-day drop back to a 5-set workout, but with the number of pushups in each set drastically increased from last week. I did a total of 98 pushups, four more than last Monday (also a 5-set workout), but way less than the 115 pushups done in 7 sets on Friday. Still, 2 sets of 24, followed by a set of 22, isn't too shabby. I'm taking that as a success for the day.

But all was not fine in Pushup Land. My shoulder, which had been improving up till Monday, felt worse on Tuesday morning. This is the first time that's happened during this program, so it got my attention right away. I chalked this up to the increased number of reps per set. It felt better on Wednesday, but it still didn't feel quite right... and then I got a look at the Wednesday workout:

W: 16 - 16 - 20 - 20 - 16 - 16 - 46+

Usually when the program has increased the number of sets, the reps in the beginning sets (as well as in the later sets) have been decreased. That didn't happen this week; and given how my shoulder felt, I decided to call an end to this experiment and just give you guys my evaluation of the program.

Overall, I give this program an A-. While I really like the simplicity of it and believe it can increase your strength very quickly, I wish the program wasn't so one-dimensional. There are advantages to this approach -- even with my sore shoulder, I was able to double the number of pushups I could do in one set and triple the overall number I did in the first workout. I think that's pretty impressive. In addition, the extra strength I developed seems to have helped my shoulder heal, as I have detailed in the previous weekly reports.

I think that I will probably try this program again, maybe next fall or winter, once the weather forces me to start working out inside again... and after my shoulder is completely healed. In the meantime, I'm going to switch to a more rounded program of exercises designed to help my shoulder finish healing while building strength a bit more slowly... and more outdoor aerobic activity, which I have been sorely (pardon the pun) missing this winter.

Because of its simplicity, I think this can be a good program for somebody who wants to try working out but has no experience and doesn't want to enroll in a gym. It's a good halfway point, and inexpensive too. Here's the info for ordering the book, if it sounds like something you might be interested in.
7 Weeks to 100 Push-ups, Steve Spiers, © 2009
ISBN 978-1-56975-707-9, $14 95
And no, I have no connection to the guy, nor do I make any money if you buy the book.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Operation Homefront & Jim Bean Contest

I received an email today from Daniel Schacter at the PR firm Edelman about a contest Jim Bean is running in conjunction with Operation Homefront. I'm not going to post the entire press release, just the main part about the contest. You'll also find a link for Operation Homefront at the end of the post.

And, just to satisfy the government, I'm not getting anything for doing this. It just sounds like a really nice move by Jim Bean.
Today [Feb. 4] Jim Beam® Bourbon, the world's No. 1-selling Bourbon, kicks off "Salute Soldiers with the Spirit of America," a program designed to welcome home the troops returning from tours of duty, support those still on duty overseas, and give service members and their friends memorable experiences throughout the year.

As part of the program, Jim Beam® Bourbon has launched a contest in which those of legal drinking age may nominate service members who are 21 years of age or older for a chance to win VIP, legendary experiences at a high-profile sporting or music event. To help announce the contest, Jim Beam® Bourbon and military charity Operation Homefront® have teamed up and invited select soldiers and their buddies to experience the biggest football game of the year in person, and to provide an example of the types of VIP packages contest entrants will have the opportunity to win.

Through June 21, friends and families of the troops can submit nominations of up to 250 words, in English, at www.jimbeam.com or the Jim Beam Facebook fan page (www.facebook.com/jimbeam) describing why their friend or family member in the military deserves to be honored by Jim Beam(1).

The Grand Prize winners and their nominees will receive special treatment and exclusive access to one of the following events:
  • The famous thoroughbred stakes race at Churchill Downs on May 1, 2010 as well as a visit to the Jim Beam distillery and a VIP bourbon tasting and meal with Fred Noe, seventh-generation Jim Beam distiller and great-grandson of Jim Beam.
  • The final two days of a major golf championship at Pebble Beach on June 19 and 20, 2010.
  • A home game for a professional baseball team on Chicago's South Side on July 10, 2010.
  • A Kid Rock concert and the opportunity to meet Kid Rock in 2010.
Additionally, Americans can show their support by simply texting the word SALUTE to 90999 to add $5 to their phone bills as a donation to Operation Homefront(2), a nonprofit organization providing emergency and morale assistance to troops, to the families they leave behind while they serve, and to wounded warriors when they return home. They can also share their own virtual toasts (or personal messages) on the Jim Beam Facebook fan page.

(1) No purchase necessary. Must be a legal resident of the 50 United States or D.C. (except CA) and 21 years of age or older to participate. Void where prohibited. Subject to complete official rules, available at www.JimBeam.com or www.Facebook.com/JimBeam. Contest started February 2, 2010 at 12:00:01 a.m. Eastern Time ("ET"). On-line entries must be transmitted and received by June 21, 2010 at 11:59:59 p.m. ET. Enter online at www.JimBeam.com or www.Facebook.com/JimBeam.

(2) A one-time donation of $5 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. You will also receive up to 1 message per day from Operation Homefront Alerts. Msg&Data Rates May Apply. All charges are billed by and payable to your mobile service provider. Service is available on most carriers. Donations are collected for the benefit of Operation Homefront by the mGive Foundation and subject to the terms found at www.mGive.com/A. To unsubscribe text STOP to 90999, for help text HELP to 90999.
OK, you got that? The prizes include tickets to the last two days of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. That's why they sent me the info, but all the prizes sound pretty good. Dan told me the U.S. Open includes 2 tickets and, in his words, "The winners will be flying round trip to Pebble Beach and experience the tournament like the pros." Not too shabby, huh?

One other link you might want is for Operation Homefront itself. You can check out their site by clicking here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lessons from Basketball

For those of you who don't pay any attention to basketball, welcome to March Madness! This is the time when the individual conferences have playoffs to determine who the best teams are, then the 64 teams that are ranked the best overall go to the NCAA Playoffs. Here in North Carolina, about 30 minutes away in Greensboro, the ACC Tournament began Thursday. I live just outside Winston-Salem, home of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, who got slaughtered on the first day of the tourney. More than a few big name golfers, like Arnold Palmer and the Haas family, are probably in mourning with me.

I don't really get too interested in basketball until this time of year. Teams may play for rankings all season, but they only need to get hot for four days to take down a conference title. And unless they were absolutely horrible all season, a good showing will probably get them to "the big dance," as the NCAA is lovingly known.

Watching the ACC today -- and listening to the other conference updates -- reminded me how much we golfers can learn from basketball. Upsets -- where lower-ranked teams beat higher-ranked teams -- were the name of the game Thursday. One that really stood out to me was the University of Virginia (UVA) upset of Boston College (BC). While their rankings weren't so different -- BC was #8, UVA #9 -- UVA was a huge underdog. Not only had they lost 9 straight games coming into the tournament, but they had lost two of their star players -- one to medical and family problems, the other to academic problems.

To make a long story short, BC led by 6 points early on, then UVA went on a 17-2 tear and ended up winning by 6. The commentators said it was the best game the team had played for a long time... and they didn't even have their stars! They'll have to face #1 Duke Friday, but they'll sleep good tonight.

So how did they do it? A few observations:
  1. They accepted their limitations. Their stars were gone, so the other guys just did what they could. (Did it pretty well, too!)
  2. They stayed patient. They got behind early, but they didn't panic.
  3. They took advantage of the breaks. When BC stumbled, UVA pounced. For those of you who don't watch basketball, let me just say that scoring 17 points while holding your opponent to 2 points means you dominated a large portion of the game... at least, it does in college basketball.
  4. Finally, they didn't give up. It looked like everything was against them, and it was. But it's amazing how drastically things can turn around if you just hang in there!
Golf isn't that much different. Listen to a champion like Jack Nicklaus, and you'll hear him talk about playing percentage shots; that's just another way of accepting your limitations and playing to your strengths.

Rory McIlroy spent some time talking to Jack recently, and asked him what his mindset was when he won so much. He was surprised when Jack told him that he tended to just play his game and wait for the other players to blow up! Sounds like patience to me.

If you make a great shot or get a great break, you need to take advantage of it. Too often, we golfers get so elated that we lose focus and don't capitalize on our good fortune.

And finally, golf really is a lot like life... as a general rule, victory goes to the man or woman who's still standing when all the hard stuff is over.

When you think about it like that, you can understand why Fred Couples wanted Michael Jordan in the U.S. locker room at the Presidents Cup. Winning is pretty much the same all over, no matter what your walk of life. We would all do well to learn from the winners, and apply the lessons to our own lives.

And with that said, I'm heading back to the TV, to watch some more of the playoffs. I wonder if there's another upset in the making?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Harvey Penick on Irony

Today's post is very short because (1) I don't feel like doing much and (2) this tip is so self-explanatory that I don't see much need to belabor it.

However, we (and I include myself here) have a bad tendency not to follow this obvious little tip -- in life as a whole, and in golf in particular -- so I wanted to post it.

This tip is from page 143 of The Wisdom of Harvey Penick, and it's simply called "An Irony":
In golf your strengths and weaknesses will always be there. If you could improve your weaknesses, you would improve your game.

The irony is that people prefer to practice their strengths.
Not much I can add to that. Guess I'll go work on my weaknesses for a while.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Some Golf Wisdom from the Late Jeff MacNelly

I went to the library Tuesday and stumbled across a book of old Shoe cartoons by Jeff MacNelly called Golf Tips. After sitting around laughing for a while, I decided some of these bits of wisdom were simply too good to pass up. Sorry I can't post the cartoons, as my scanner's down, but these really don't need pictures. Most of these great lines come from Perfessor Cosmo Fishhawk, unless otherwise noted.
Shoe: I just spotted your problem, Perfessor. You're standing too close to the ball... AFTER you hit it.

I really need to take up a new sport... one that's easier to conceal.

Cosmo: How far is it to the cup?
Skyler: About 5 putts.

My swing is instant bogey... just add water.

Shoe: Your problem is weight transfer during the swing. You usually have to make TWO trips.

Well, put it this way, Shoe: The course record is 63... At this rate, you'll hit that by the 3rd hole.

Shoe: You need just one thing to get to the point where you can shoot your age.
Cosmo: What's that?
Shoe: Live to 112.

Sign on golf course: Please help us keep our golf course beautiful! Leave those pants in your closet. (I confess: I immediately thought of John Daly.)

Shoe: According to my calculations, I'm lying two here. What do you think?
Cosmo: I think you're lying, too...

You know, there's a fine line between a bogie and a birdie... and I've often erased it.
And my favorite:
Shoe: Want to hit a bucket of balls before we tee off?
Cosmo: Nah. Half the shots in a game of golf are putts, so I'd rather spend the time working on that aspect of my game.
Shoe: Then I'll meet you on the practice green.
Cosmo: No, I'll be in the parking lot... practicing my swearing.
Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

An Unusual Tip from Harvey Penick

You may have heard of Harvey Penick. He taught, among others, Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite, and he wrote several books, including a legendary one called Harvey Penick's Little Red Book. This tip is from a collection called The Wisdom of Harvey Penick, and it's one of the most interesting tips I think I've ever read. It's from a tip called "Keep It Moving":
Poor players usually seem embarrassed to play with good players.

The fact is that you may not be good enough to play with the good players, but no one will notice if you keep up.

The good players are not going to be watching you and criticizing your swing. They have their own games to deal with.

But if you hold up play, the others will notice you -- and probably not in a kindly manner. (p.156)
Not what I would have expected from a legendary teacher, but this thought has some merit. Pace of play is always an issue these days, and Penick also mentions how people hate to play with players who throw clubs, keep a negative mindset, and waste time. But he also says that if you "keep the game moving in a good humor," that you will generally be welcome.

I can vouch for that. I have a friend who has always been a much better player than me; our game is that I try to keep it close, and he tries to beat me as badly as possible. He told me one day that he enjoyed playing with me more than with a lot of his friends who were much better, and I asked him why. He said, "Because this is just a game to you. I know we're going to have fun. You compete, but it isn't everything to you."

Of course, if the folks you play with don't feel that way, I have a tip of my own: Find some new friends. I make it a point to play with people I know will be fun to play with, and because of that, even my worst rounds tend to be enjoyable.

With a new golf season getting underway, you might want to give this tip a try. ;-)

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Limerick Summary: 2010 Honda Classic

Winner: Camilo Villegas

First, around the wider world of golf, Seung-Yul Noh from Korea became the youngest pro ever to win on the European Tour at the Maybank Malasian Open, beating K.J. Choi with a birdie on the final hole. Fred Couples won again on the Champions Tour at the Toshiba Classic, for 2 wins and a 2nd in 3 starts. And in the women's game, Karrie Webb absolutely ripped the field at the ANZ Ladies Masters with a 64-61 weekend. Yowza!

The subject of this week's Limerick Summary, the Honda Classic, has spawned some interesting storylines beyond the Bear Trap (holes 15, 16 & 17) and the fight for the trophy. Arnold Palmer's grandson, Sam Saunders, deserves a mention this week for his best showing yet. Sam says "Gramps" is back coaching him, and Arnie remarked that he's pleased with Sam's progress; that could be bad news for the field! Ditto for Matt Every, making the cut in 4 of 6 tournaments and turning in his 3rd Top 25 finish of the year despite a horrible last round. The Big Break alum is yet another good player to make some noise after not winning on the show!

But the real news this week was the return to form of Vijay Singh and Anthony Kim -- both of whom fought injury last year -- and the continued good play of Camilo Villegas. With a 3rd at the Match Play, a T8 at Scottsdale, and a win this week -- a dominating 5-stroke win, where he was almost Tigeresque in his refusal to give up the lead -- Camilo should quiet his critics for a while. He said he tried to do too much last year, and came out this year determined to have fun. And while he did struggle a little down the stretch, after all the golf (let's not forget he hasn't taken a break since that grueling Match Play) and all the travel (he flew down to Colombia to host the new Nationwide event early this week), he has not struggled the way the others playing this long stretch have. Two Top 5s, three Top 8s -- not too shabby, Spiderman!

So here's a limerick for the conquering (super)hero:
The critics insulted our Spiderman;
They said he was more a backslider than
A winner who closes.
But now, one supposes,
He's shown he can win 'em like Tiger can.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

7 Weeks to 100 Pushups: Week 6

This is the sixth week in my attempt to follow the workout in Steve Speirs's book 7 Weeks to 100 Pushups. This is actually the fifth week of the book's schedule, as you will remember that I repeated the third week. And just like last week, I've listed the workout schedule for each day, followed by what I actually did. (The "R" stands for Ruthless Golf.)

In case you're just joining in, I skipped last Friday's workout. I planned to do the workout Saturday, then decided not to because a chronic sore shoulder problem made some major healing progress when I didn't work out. The shoulder continued to heal throughout the weekend, but I knew Monday's workout would be a bear... and it was:

M: 18 - 22 - 18 - 18 - 28+
R: 18 - 22 - 18 - 18 - 18

That's a total of 94 pushups, 16 more than I did last Wednesday, so the healing time appears to have been well-spent. The left shoulder is still a bit sore and (as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago) the right shoulder is still noticeably weaker than the left. I have decided that I need to make some further adjustments to the workout schedule, adjustments that might not be needed if my shoulders didn't have the problems I mentioned.

Here is my change: The workout suggests resting 60 seconds between sets, longer if necessary. I had been trying 90 seconds for the last couple of weeks; today, I went to 2.5 minutes between the third and fourth sets (the fourth set was still tough, but I wouldn't have made it if I hadn't), and between 4 and 5 minutes between the last two sets. I think I should have tried the 2.5 minute rest from the start, and that's what I plan to do starting Wednesday. As you will see when you read about this Wednesday's workout, the program makes a major change this week and I suspect I'll need the extra rest.

Still, I'm certainly making progress despite not being able to do the full number of pushups in the last set... and this with the shoulder problems. I'm extremely pleased.

So for Wednesday I decided to allow 2 minutes of rest between each set, and 2.5 minutes before the last set. As you can see, there are more sets this time, but fewer pushups in several of them:

W: 12 - 12 - 18 - 18 - 12 - 12 - 33+
R: 12 - 12 - 18 - 18 - 12 - 12 - 23

Clearly the extra time made a big difference in my performance. I missed the total goal by 10 pushups (again), but I did a total of 107 pushups -- 13 more than my best on Monday -- and made a new record in the final set. For those of you who are considering this program, you may find it more beneficial to allow 2 minutes of rest rather than the 1 minute Speirs recommends in his book. (He does say you can increase the rest period if you need to. Obviously I needed to.)

And so we come to Friday. Another late workout because I was busy most of the day.

F: 13 - 13 - 18 - 18 - 13 - 13 - 39+
R: 13 - 13 - 18 - 18 - 13 - 13 - 27

And again I didn't complete the last set. I'm pretty happy that I'm finishing all the other sets, since I couldn't do that for quite a while. And I did 115 pushups total, up 8 from Wednesday; doing this quantity of pushups this quickly, that's a fairly big increase. So, all-in-all, I'd call this a pretty good week.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tooling Around the Bloggerhood

Well, it's been a while since I went cruising around the other golf blogs -- at least, since I told you guys what I've been looking at. So today seemed to be a good time to kick back and point you toward the posts that have interested me lately.

In my "This Is SOOO Wrong" category comes this post from Patricia Hannigan's Golf Girl's Diary on how you can win a pair of Slix underwear, signed by John Daly. As I commented on the post, I like JD, but this.... sheesh.

Heather over at Real Women Golf took me to task for that comment. Of course, there's a reason it doesn't bother her: the mere name of her post called "I Have No Balls" summed up the differences quite nicely. Of course, her problem has nothing to do with JD's boxers... I hope.

Charles over at Me & Old Man Par took a scientific turn as he tested the old adage that sick golfers play better. (SPOILER ALERT: I don't think he agrees.)

Apryl over at Women LIKE Sports (see, Apryl, I got it right!) is on a rant against packaged foods. I liked this post for two reason: She's promising some recipes next week... and she included a cool Pennywise song.

Over at Waggle Room, Ryan Ballengee beat Lucas Glover in a chipping contest. 'Nuff said.

Maybe Heather doesn't have any balls, but Michael Green down under at Aussie Golfer does... or at least, he did. Apparently a crow took it.

Hound Dog LPGA has an update on what's wrong with Paula Creamer. By all means, check the comments and get the scoop from courtgolf about what a "metacarpal phalangeal joint" is.

Vince, the Notorious O.E.G (that's One-Eyed Golfer), has been developing a rep for posting historical golf articles... but I really liked him shining a spotlight on Matt Every, recently of the Big Break.

And finally (on this list, that is -- don't write anything else into it!), Neil over at the Armchair Golf Blog kindly gave Laura Davies a little love when she won her 73rd tournament. The Blonde Bomber is still a force to be reckoned with!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Golf-Specific Training, Complete Post List

This post lists all the previous posts on golf-specific exercises, so you can find them easier.

And as with the other posts in this series: I'm not a doctor, so all standard disclaimers apply. Proceed at your own risk!

Introduction:

The Exercises:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Stat of the Game: Updated

(After two months of straight instructional material, I'm ready for a little break, aren't you? So I thought I'd take the rest of the week "off," as it were, and look at some of the other news around the golf world.)

Back at the end of 2009, I did a post where I said the following:
Here’s what the average Tour player is doing, according to Tour stats:
  • Regardless of length, hitting 67% of fairways or less (mostly less);
  • Hitting less than 67% of greens in regulation;
  • Getting it up-and-down less than 67% of the time when they miss (way less);
  • Taking 29 putts per round.
Anybody can learn to putt, and the rest isn’t really that impressive, is it? Only 49 players hit more than 67% of their fairways. This isn’t a game of perfection, people—it’s a game of two-thirds! Get to that point and you're better than the average tour player.
Has that changed in the last two months? Granted, that post was based on a full year of stats, but I thought it might be fun to see how the average guy on Tour has been doing so far in 2010.

Here's what PGATOUR.com says about our stats so far:
  • Driving accuracy: 62.32%
  • GIR: 68.03%
  • Scrambling: 60.83%
That's the average Tour pro. GIR is better this year, but they're still struggling otherwise. How do these stats translate to the money list? I checked that list against the Top 20 in each category, plus the Top 20 in putts per round (PPR):
  1. Steve Stricker ---3rd in Scrambling, 75.44%
    ------------------------T18 in GIR, 73.61%
    ------------------------T11 in PPR, 28.00
  2. Dustin Johnson ----------15 in GIR, 74.07%
  3. Ian Poulter -------T8 in Scrambling, 71.43%
    -------------------------4th in PPR, 27.50
  4. Geoff Ogilvy ------------3rd in GIR, 77.08%
  5. Hunter Mahan
  6. Ben Crane --------15 in Scrambling, 70.15%
  7. Ryan Palmer
  8. Robert Allenby ----------16 in GIR, 73.96%
  9. Paul Casey --------------1st in GIR, 79.17%
  10. Matt Kuchar ------14 in Scrambling, 70.37%
Poulter's figures may be a bit misleading, as he only has 4 rounds in the stats. (Apparently the Match Play isn't included. Understandable, since very few rounds get completed.) Still, this is very telling.

It appears that GIR is the most important stat so far this year (5 guys excel in it) and Scrambling is second (4 guys). Palmer and Mahan are the exceptions, but both have wins. A glaring note is that NONE of the top players are in the Top 20 in Driving Accuracy. Wasn't the groove change supposed to force them to be more accurate??? I've heard that the West Coast events never have much rough, but I think we'll need to watch this stat.

And in case you're wondering, only Dustin Johnson is in the Top 20 for Driving Distance, at #3. That puts him in the Top 20 in two stats, which helps explain why he's rated so high.

Poulter is also Top 20 in 2 stats and Stricker is Top 20 in 3, which helps explain their positions at 4 and 1, respectively. And in the World Golf Rankings, Stricker is 2, Poulter is 5, and Casey is 6. Again, GIR appears to be the most important this year, as Casey makes #6 largely because he's the best at hitting greens.

One stat that's relatively meaningless for most players, Putts per GIR, is very relevant for Casey because he hits so many greens; he's T21 in this category. The same is true of Ogilvy; he's 3rd in GIR, and T9 in this category.

Now obviously these guys are doing other things well to make it this high. My point is that the top players excel in at least one of these areas. And I do mean excel; these guys are at least 5 percentage points (and in most cases, 10) above average. Palmer is T25 in Driving Distance, but he's falling down the money list so that probably won't be enough to keep him there. (He was T16 in GIR last week, down to 43 this week. He needs to get that back up if he plans to stay in the Top 10, as Putts per GIR has been his best category.) Hunter's just plain streaky, so we'll have to see if he can hang with the Top 10 money machines.

I'll be interested to see if things change during the Florida Swing... and especially if Driving Accuracy becomes more important. We could see the money list get shaken up a bit starting at the Honda this week. But in any case, it looks like the problems of the average Tour player haven't changed much over the last two months... he still needs to reach that magic 67% in the three main categories if he hopes to move up the money list.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Microsquats for Lefthanders

Today's two posts will be the last of this two-month long guide to golf fitness I've been doing. I've tried to cover the basics of strength and endurance training, help you develop some healthy eating habits, and give you some exercises to specifically help your golf swing. I hope you guys feel like it's been worth it.

There are two posts today simply because I wanted to do righthanded and lefthanded versions of the diagram. I had hoped to do a video or at least some pictures, but the weather has been uncooperative and I don't have a good place inside to shoot pics. The diagrams are the only difference between the two posts; the text is exactly the same. I have used the term "front" for the side of your body closest to the target, and "rear" for the far side.

Calling this exercise "microsquats" might be a little misleading because you don't really squat; it's just that most people will feel like they're squating. This exercise can actually be used to work on several aspects of your swing, but we'll be focusing on five things:
  • shoulder turn
  • eliminating a sway on the backswing
  • proper weight shift
  • eliminating a slide on the downswing
  • balance during the full swing
I know that sounds like a lot, but the beauty of microsquats is that the exercise takes care of all these things automatically. You will only have a couple of "swing thoughts" -- one going back, one going through. Microsquats will help you feel your swing as a single unit better than almost any other exercise I can think of.

In the diagram you'll notice a number of dashed lines. Think of the long vertical line as being behind you, like a wall that both hips touch at setup. The short horizontal line in each diagram runs through the "knees" of the diagrams and is always at the same height. Don't obsess over being perfect; just try to minimize the up-and-down movement as you "swing" back and through. These lines run through line diagrams showing your setup from the front and your rear leg and hip from the side.

Microsquats for lefthandersStep 1: Set up normally. I didn't show the upper body in these diagrams because the movement is simple and it just junked things up. It always strikes me as funny that people go nuts trying to get their arms and shoulders on a specific plane... when their legs make every swing differently. After doing microsquats for a while, your consistency and accuracy should improve considerably because your lower body will keep you more stable.

Step 2: Make your backswing. Turn your shoulders as far as you comfortably can, but your main swing thought here is to keep that rear knee steady. You don't want it to move backwards or sideways or up or down. And if you do this properly, you will probably feel as if you are squating straight down. The reason is because your rear hip will move backward (as I have indicated in the drawing), which means your upper leg will tilt rearward, which means your body will drop down ever-so-slightly... and you will feel that as a squat. But your rear knee shouldn't feel like it moves at all.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, "Wait a minute. I don't want to move down on my backswing!" First of all it's very slight; if it wasn't for the tension in your hip joint, you wouldn't realize it was happening. Secondly, a little careful thought will convince you that your rear knee has to move backward just a fraction, so you probably stay very level. But let me ask you this: So what if you did? We all go nuts trying to hit down on the ball; this very slight movement would actually help you do that without even trying. The point here is that you don't want to straighten your rear knee, and this is a good visual to help you keep it flexed. You're squating, ok? Your front knee is going to feel like it's bending even more as you go back, and that will help you keep that "squat" feel in your mind.

Step 3: Now comes the fun part. As difficult as it may be for you to keep that rear knee flexed on the way back, this part won't be too hard at all. You're going to keep that squat all the way through to your finish!

How do you do that? When you start unwinding your shoulders, the only way to keep those knees bent is to roll your feet toward your front side. Again, I can hear you protesting, "But I need to start my downswing with my lower body, not my upper body!" Listen carefully: It is physiologically impossible NOT to start your downswing with your lower body! Or, to put it another way, if you get your shoulders turning toward the ball, your lower body had to start the turn. Part of the reason we get in trouble is that we try to do things that happen naturally and automatically, and by doing so we interfere with the natural action and make it hard. Trust me on this one.

When you start swinging through, your weight will "shift" automatically. Your "weight" doesn't actually move; your body stays pretty much centered between your feet. What you feel are pressure changes as different muscles try to keep your body centered during the swing. With your knees remaining bent, you should stay level and centered all the way through your swing to your finish.

As you do this, your front hip will begin to move backward, just as your rear hip did on the backswing. However, your hips are going to pivot much more on the followthrough, and your front hip can only move backward so far; so your rear hip will move toward the ball and then finish with your stomach facing the hole.

After a few attempts, you'll find this to be a very simple move. You'll feel a squat on the way back, and you'll feel level on the way through. You can do this move in your house where it's warm, then do it outside with a club when the weather improves. It's a drill you can actually use during a round. If you desire, it will ultimately become an integral part of your swing.

Later on, I'll show you how to use this drill to help other aspects of your swing. But this should really help you develop some trust in your swing.

Microsquats for Righthanders

Today's two posts will be the last of this two-month long guide to golf fitness I've been doing. I've tried to cover the basics of strength and endurance training, help you develop some healthy eating habits, and give you some exercises to specifically help your golf swing. I hope you guys feel like it's been worth it.

There are two posts today simply because I wanted to do righthanded and lefthanded versions of the diagram. I had hoped to do a video or at least some pictures, but the weather has been uncooperative and I don't have a good place inside to shoot pics. The diagrams are the only difference between the two posts; the text is exactly the same. I have used the term "front" for the side of your body closest to the target, and "rear" for the far side.

Calling this exercise "microsquats" might be a little misleading because you don't really squat; it's just that most people will feel like they're squating. This exercise can actually be used to work on several aspects of your swing, but we'll be focusing on five things:
  • shoulder turn
  • eliminating a sway on the backswing
  • proper weight shift
  • eliminating a slide on the downswing
  • balance during the full swing
I know that sounds like a lot, but the beauty of microsquats is that the exercise takes care of all these things automatically. You will only have a couple of "swing thoughts" -- one going back, one going through. Microsquats will help you feel your swing as a single unit better than almost any other exercise I can think of.

In the diagram you'll notice a number of dashed lines. Think of the long vertical line as being behind you, like a wall that both hips touch at setup. The short horizontal line in each diagram runs through the "knees" of the diagrams and is always at the same height. Don't obsess over being perfect; just try to minimize the up-and-down movement as you "swing" back and through. These lines run through line diagrams showing your setup from the front and your rear leg and hip from the side.

Microsquats for righthandersStep 1: Set up normally. I didn't show the upper body in these diagrams because the movement is simple and it just junked things up. It always strikes me as funny that people go nuts trying to get their arms and shoulders on a specific plane... when their legs make every swing differently. After doing microsquats for a while, your consistency and accuracy should improve considerably because your lower body will keep you more stable.

Step 2: Make your backswing. Turn your shoulders as far as you comfortably can, but your main swing thought here is to keep that rear knee steady. You don't want it to move backwards or sideways or up or down. And if you do this properly, you will probably feel as if you are squating straight down. The reason is because your rear hip will move backward (as I have indicated in the drawing), which means your upper leg will tilt rearward, which means your body will drop down ever-so-slightly... and you will feel that as a squat. But your rear knee shouldn't feel like it moves at all.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, "Wait a minute. I don't want to move down on my backswing!" First of all it's very slight; if it wasn't for the tension in your hip joint, you wouldn't realize it was happening. Secondly, a little careful thought will convince you that your rear knee has to move backward just a fraction, so you probably stay very level. But let me ask you this: So what if you did? We all go nuts trying to hit down on the ball; this very slight movement would actually help you do that without even trying. The point here is that you don't want to straighten your rear knee, and this is a good visual to help you keep it flexed. You're squating, ok? Your front knee is going to feel like it's bending even more as you go back, and that will help you keep that "squat" feel in your mind.

Step 3: Now comes the fun part. As difficult as it may be for you to keep that rear knee flexed on the way back, this part won't be too hard at all. You're going to keep that squat all the way through to your finish!

How do you do that? When you start unwinding your shoulders, the only way to keep those knees bent is to roll your feet toward your front side. Again, I can hear you protesting, "But I need to start my downswing with my lower body, not my upper body!" Listen carefully: It is physiologically impossible NOT to start your downswing with your lower body! Or, to put it another way, if you get your shoulders turning toward the ball, your lower body had to start the turn. Part of the reason we get in trouble is that we try to do things that happen naturally and automatically, and by doing so we interfere with the natural action and make it hard. Trust me on this one.

When you start swinging through, your weight will "shift" automatically. Your "weight" doesn't actually move; your body stays pretty much centered between your feet. What you feel are pressure changes as different muscles try to keep your body centered during the swing. With your knees remaining bent, you should stay level and centered all the way through your swing to your finish.

As you do this, your front hip will begin to move backward, just as your rear hip did on the backswing. However, your hips are going to pivot much more on the followthrough, and your front hip can only move backward so far; so your rear hip will move toward the ball and then finish with your stomach facing the hole.

After a few attempts, you'll find this to be a very simple move. You'll feel a squat on the way back, and you'll feel level on the way through. You can do this move in your house where it's warm, then do it outside with a club when the weather improves. It's a drill you can actually use during a round. If you desire, it will ultimately become an integral part of your swing.

Later on, I'll show you how to use this drill to help other aspects of your swing. But this should really help you develop some trust in your swing.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

So... Is Ernie "the Guy"?

You know what I'm talking about... is Ernie Els the favorite to win Augusta?

Maybe it's a bit early to say, but this year his stats are looking pretty good. OK, not all of his stats -- but enough for me to say this may be his best chance in years.

With the exception of the Honda, he's been Top 20 in every tourney he's played this year (5 out of 6). He's got the WGC-CA win -- that's pretty big. In the stats, he's 2nd in the BIG stat-- scoring (69.02). He's 7th in scrambling at 70.09%, well above my 67% number. His GIR is at 67.50% -- 81st on Tour, but again above my 67% number -- and the individual GIR distance breakdowns show that he's money inside 175 yards. Plus he's 8th in putting from 15-20 feet (30%); he'll probably have a lot of those at Augusta.

I'm thinking Ernie might win this week. And if he does, with Doral and Bay Hill under his belt, I think he might be the odds-on favorite for his first green jacket. And if I'm right...

My biggest problem will be coming up with a new limerick for him.

The Limerick Summary: 2010 West Coast Swing, Complete

(Just a reminder: There is no limerick for the 2010 Mayakoba Golf Classic, won by Cameron Beckman, because it's an alternate event and not an official part of the West Coast Swing. But you still get mentioned, Cam -- congratulations!)

2010 Bob Hope Classic
Winner: Bill Haas
Haas and Clark, Watson and Kuchar –
Of these four, which three got the blucher?
On eighteen, a birdie
Put Haas minus thirty
And now he’s a first-trophy smoocher.

2010 Farmers Insurance Open
Winner: Ben Crane
It sounds like a Mike Myers movie:
Will Phil be a square, or just groovy?
While some traded glowers,
Ben Crane showed his powers
And burned all the others like UV.

2010 Northern Trust Open
Winner: Steve Stricker
While grooves cause the others to bicker,
They don’t seem to bother Steve Stricker.
His spin on competing?
Leave no room for cheating…
Or even for hope. Not a flicker.

2010 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
Winner: Dustin Johnson
Celebrity players were lustin’
For the leading man’s role, played by Dustin.
When you crush it a mile,
You just wave and you smile…
And you win the award for ball-bustin’.

2010 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
Winner: Ian Poulter
Internationals turned gladiatorial
As they gave the U.S. a tutorial
About playing to win –
And then Poulter chimed in
That the true victor’s prize is sartorial!

2010 Waste Management Phoenix Open
Winner: Hunter Mahan
Hunter’s thirst for a win wasn’t bigger
Than the thirst at 16. See, I figger
Once they drained all the beer,
With no players to jeer
All the fans hit the bars for a jigger.