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Monday, February 28, 2011

The Limerick Summary: 2011 WGC—Accenture Match Play

Winner: Luke Donald

Around the wider world of golf: Someone other than Yani Tseng won on the LPGA! Karrie Webb took the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore; Mathew Goggin won the Panama CLARO Championship, the first Nationwide Tour event of 2011; and Johnson Wagner won the PGA Tour's alternate field event, the Mayakoba Golf Classic, in a playoff against Spencer Levin.

Photo of Luke Donald at Accenture
Click the image to read the EurpeanTour.com wrap-up.

The repercussions of this WGC were already being felt throughout the golf world. Merely by making it to the finals, Martin Kaymer had assured the end of Lee Westwood's brief -- and some would say uneventful -- reign at the top of the Official World Golf Rankings. It would be the first time since 1992 that 3 Europeans had topped the OWGR. A Kaymer win would be his 5th in the last year and his 7th in 2 years, thus proving his right to claim the title many of us (me included) awarded to him a couple of months or so ago.

But, as usual, there was a second story bubbling just beneath the surface. The other finalist, Luke Donald, could make a bit of history himself. If he could beat the newly-crowned #1, Donald would vault to #3 -- his highest position ever -- and make it 4 Europeans atop the OWGR.

But Donald had a few demons to conquer. While he has won 5 times in his career -- the latest just last year at the Madrid Masters -- he hadn't won on the PGA Tour since 2006. He'd been through wrist surgery, a slew of 2nds, and so many Top 10s that he had still managed to reach #9 in the world despite not playing for 3 months. In fact, he was coming off a missed cut in his 2011 debut at Riviera last week.

You wouldn't have believed it to watch him play this week. He became the first man in Accenture history to win without ever playing the 18th in a match. Few of his matches even went past the 14th! He never trailed an opponent in any match all week. And he did it despite wind, snow, and hail.

Cool Hand Luke -- an appropriate nickname, given the weather this week -- went 3up against Kaymer, lost it all, and regained it to win 3&2. This WGC is the biggest win of his career. Will it kickstart Luke's own run to the top of the golf world's heap? We'll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, this week's Limerick Summary salutes the world's newest member of the OWGR Top 5:
The OWGR is rocking
But this change was certainly shocking!
New Number 3, Luke,
Has shown he's no fluke—
Look out, Number 1! Guess who's knocking?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Can the New #1 Win It All?

Well, I came close with my picks for Saturday's matches at the Accenture. Although only one of my four actually won, it turned out to be pretty close.

Y.E. Yang was probably my biggest disappointment. If you were watching, it was pretty obvious by the 2nd or 3rd hole that he wasn't in a "good place" to compete, if you know what I mean. He got upset early on, although he did put up a fight before losing 2&1 to Matt Kuchar.

Luke Donald simply walked over Ryan Moore 5&4. But Ryan shouldn't take it personally -- Donald then walked over Kuchar 6&5. I believe I heard that Donald said he wanted to finish both rounds Saturday in just 24 holes. He took 27.

On the other side of the draw, Jimenez lost 1up to Kaymer. Taking Kaymer a full 18 was no small accomplishment for the oldest player in the field, so I felt pretty good about that pick.

And then there was Bubba. Say what you want, Bubba gained some respect Saturday. He was 5dn after 10 in his match with J.B. Holmes, then came all the way back and won it in 19 holes -- probably the biggest comeback in the tournament's history. Then he faced Kaymer and took him 18 before finally losing 1dn. Bubba played 9 hours of golf Saturday and nearly pulled that off as well. Again, hard to feel bad about that pick!

So now it comes down to Luke Donald vs Martin Kaymer. By just making it to the finals, Kaymer has secured #1 on the OWGR... a position many (me included) feel he has legitimately held for several months already. But if Donald wins the Accenture, he'll jump up to #3.

Everybody's picking Kaymer, but I'm picking Donald to win it all. I think he's finally back from his wrist injury and -- very importantly -- is confident that the wrist is strong and that his game is back. Last week's missed cut at Riviera was his first tournament in 3 months. I'm calling that rust. Kaymer is longer, but Donald is more accurate... and with bad weather predicted today, I'm putting my money on Donald playing from the fairway.

We'll see if Cool Hand Luke validates my faith in him.

Of course, this tale of #1s wouldn't be complete without a quick trip to Singapore. After the 3rd round I didn't give Yani Tseng much of a chance to come up with her 5th win in a row. Imagine my surprise when I pulled up the leaderboard and saw she was only 1 stroke back with 9 holes left! I had to stay up and see what would happen.

Apparently the winds have continued to wreak havoc on the field. There were very few low scores being posted -- I saw a lot of +3, +4, and +5 scores on the board. Yani shot -4 on the front 9, but bogeys on 10 and 12 took some wind out of her sails. She birdied 12 to get one back, but that left her 2 back of Chie Arimura (who fell back to even on the day) and left her 4 back of Karrie Webb. Webb also bogeyed 10, but posted 4 straight birdies on 11-14 against Tseng's par stretch there.

In the end Yani was just too far back to catch Webb. She finished up in 3rd, 2 strokes behind Arimura and 3 behind Webb. Still, 4 wins and a 3rd in 5 starts isn't a bad way to start your reign as #1 in the world, is it?

Webb took down the LPGA #1. Can Donald do the same on the PGA? Stay tuned!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Times, They Are A-Changin'

I'm sure you think I'm referring to the loss of the "usual suspects" in the Accenture Match Play and the great showing by the young players... but you'd be wrong.

It's the fact that most of the big names are gone but I'm not sure anyone will really notice. We've got some really good matches this weekend that pretty much cover the gamut of the golf world.

Here are the pairings for the quarters. The winner of the first two brackets will face each other to give us one finalist. The other finalist comes from the last two brackets:

1) Bobby Jones Bracket
  • Ryan Moore vs Luke Donald
A battle of young traditionalists.

2: Ben Hogan Bracket
  • Matt Kuchar vs Y.E. Yang
The 2010 scoring and money list winner against the Tiger tamer.

3) Gary Player Bracket
  • Martin Kaymer vs Miguel Angel Jimenez
The man many believe should be World #1 (and he will be if he makes it to the finals) against the man branded "The Most Interesting Golfer in the World."

4) Sam Snead Bracket
  • Bubba Watson vs J.B. Holmes
The battle of the bombers. You're welcome.

How can you not love these matchups? There's something for everybody... and most of these players have become "names" in their own right, so they may be able to pull some ratings.

I'll be honest with you: I don't think Kaymer will get it done. I'm pulling for Jimenez, but I think the final will likely be Bubba Watson against Luke Donald. The consolation match? Miguel Angel Jimenez against Y.E. Yang. These are the guys who seem to be playing the best.

Meanwhile, a world away in Thailand... the HSBC Women's Champions has taken a bit of a turn. The Tseng Dynasty is under attack by the outside world! Yani's struggling a bit this week -- after 4 straight weeks of nearly flawless golf, I suppose we can cut her a little slack -- but the battle has clearly been joined by some LPGA upstarts. (Yes, the "usual suspects" are struggling a bit on that tour as well.) Let's take a quick look at the world rankings of the players in the mix, bearing in mind that this is the first real chance many of them have had to move up in the last couple of months.

Chie Arimura (#19) and Karrie Webb (#13) have pretty much had the top spot to themselves. They separated themselves from the pack by a couple of strokes Friday and picked up the battle today. When I last checked, Chie was at -12 and Karrie at -10.

Sun Yoo Young (#30) had also positioned herself well, but is struggling to gain on the leaders. She had fallen a stroke to -5, where she was joined by Na Yeon Choi (#4).

The real mover has been I.K. Kim (#7), who's been struggling since her collapse in the final round last week. Saturday she found her stuff again, posting a -5 round to vault up 17 spots to 4th... where she was tied with Yani at -4. and 3 players stood at -2 -- a group that included Cristie Kerr (#2) and the unrelated Miyazatos, Ai (#6) and Mika (#22).

But let's face it -- unless they get some help from the leaders, nobody's going to catch Arimura or Webb. I guess being #1 is no guarantee of success, no matter what tour you're on.

At least that hasn't changed. ;-)

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Attrition Continues

Match play continues to take its toll. Day 2 at the Accenture saw some legitimate upsets. Two in particular stand out.

Jason Day took out Paul Casey. Casey almost always makes it deep in match play events. I don't know how much match play Jason has played, but he's been making it look easy so far. Day beat Casey 4&2.

Probably the biggest upset came from the Snake Shaker. (I've decided that if Jack Nicklaus can be the Golden Bear, Ben Crane should be the Snake Shaker. Get used to it.) The image from Ben's "exercise video" certainly seems appropriate here, as he took out Rory McIlroy in a blistering 8&7 performance. McIlroy never led in the match. Crane went 1up on the first hole and never looked back.

In fact, most of the "upset feel" of Thursday came not from the losses but the degree of the losses. Typical results looked like this:
  • Rickie Fowler beat Phil Mickelson 6&5
  • Y.E. Yang beat Stewart Cink 4&3
  • Ryan Moore beat K.J. Choi 5&4
And while all the #1 seeds aren't gone, it could have easily gone that way. Tiger left Wednesday, of course, and I've already mentioned Mickelson's loss to Fowler. I thought Westwood would make it past the second round this year, but he fell to Nick Watney. I take some consolation that his match was close -- he lost 1up -- and I believe he shot 4-under in the process, so it wasn't like he played horrible; Watney just beat him.

But Martin Kaymer darn near joined them all. Justin Rose took him 20 holes before Kaymer finally put him away.

So, in case you haven't been able to keep up for some reason, the round of 16 shapes up like this:

Bobby Jones Bracket
  • Nick Watney vs Ryan Moore
  • Matteo Manessaro vs Luke Donald
Ben Hogan Bracket
  • Rickie Fowler vs Matt Kuchar
  • Graeme McDowell vs Y.E. Yang
The ultimate winners of those brackets give us one finalist.

Gary Player Bracket
  • Martin Kaymer vs Hunter Mahan
  • Ben Crane vs Miguel Angel Jimenez
Sam Snead Bracket
  • Geoff Ogilvy vs Bubba Watson
  • Jason Day vs J.B. Holmes
Those two give us our other finalist.

This is actually a pretty strong field with some interesting match-ups, and I think most of these players are well-known to most golf watchers. While it's not Phil vs Tiger or Tiger vs Lee, it still has Martin Kaymer -- who most think should be #1 anyway -- along with a lot of young players and several recent winners. Today's round should be very interesting.

As for the LPGA... well, there's some attrition there as well, courtesy of the wind. As I'm finishing this post, the leaders are halfway through the round. Only 12 players (out of 63) are under par at this point, and the leader Chie Arimura is -7. Cristie Kerr has the low round of the day so far with a -5, which has moved her from T31 to T5 (-3). Juli Inkster, normally a good wind player, is currently +9 for the tournament. That should give you an idea how tough the conditions are. Nevertheless, several of the lead pack are -3 for the day so far, so we'll see what happens.

Of course, there's no attrition at all at Mayakoba... except maybe for those poor unfortunate worms who wander too near the bar. Tequila, anyone?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

32 Men Go Home, 63 Women Start Up

No sooner had the field of 64 got underway at the Accenture Match Play than 32 went trunk-slamming. Among them were Tiger Woods (the only top seed to go) and Ian Poulter (the defending champion). Of course, this is the way match play works and we all expect it. The TV commentators talk about the upsets, which just means higher seeds get beaten by lower seeds, and the significance of all these will be debated endlessly.

Ironically, I found myself in agreement with Brandel Chamblee's assessment -- we didn't really see much in the way of true upsets, no matter what the numbers say. The only real upset in my opinion was Steve Stricker's 2&1 defeat (on his birthday, no less!) by 17-year-old Matteo Manassero. I might be convinced to add Dustin Johnson's loss to that list, although Mark Wilson has two wins already this year and Dustin hasn't really played too well so far. But that's about it.

Tiger's 19-hole loss to Thomas Bjorn wasn't a real surprise. Bjorn seems to be on the comeback trail, having won last year and again just a couple of weeks ago. (And let's not forget, Bjorn was known as "the Great Dane" before that debacle at Royal St. Georges a few years back.) Anthony Kim was under the weather, and lost to Nick Watney who's been playing pretty well this year. And Jim Furyk's loss to Ryan Palmer? Jim's missed 2 cuts out of 4 this year... and a T9 is his best finish in the other two.

No, there were very few upsets Wednesday.

But even as Poults tweeted his way out of Marana, the LPGA was preparing to tee it up in Singapore at the HSBC Women's Champions event. There are 63 women there -- the strongest field anywhere this year, as the Constructivist points out in this post over at Mostly Harmless -- and they're as ready to duke it out as the men are.

As usual with Asian events, the tournament is already underway as I'm writing this. Defending champion Ai Miyazato is struggling a bit -- +2 after 10 holes -- but at least she won't be leaving early like Poults because there's no cut in Singapore. Yani Tseng is already making another run -- are you really surprised to hear that? -- and she's T2, -1 after 11 holes. Chie Arimura leads after posting a 4-under 68. If her name sounds vaguely familiar, that's because she's a JLPGA member, not a regular on the LPGA. And Jiyai Shin's E after 10.

Golf Channel has coverage of both events today -- a tape-delay of the women from 11pm - 1pm, and the men from 2pm - 6pm. (Neil at the Armchair Golf Blog has a complete list of the Accenture broadcasts this week.) There's also a regular Tour event at Mayakoba this week, and that starts at 6:30pm. You can also catch live coverage of the Accenture here at PGATOUR.com's video feed.

So whether you prefer starting up or going home, there's some golf for you today. Enjoy yourself!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Few Unrelated Thoughts

I had several things I wanted to mention today, but they're not related beyond all being about golf. So here, in no specific order, are some of the things buzzing around my skull...

Martin Hall talked about putting on Tuesday night's episode of School of Golf. He talked about several of the things I've talked about as well:
  • a square clubface is the most important aspect of putting
  • the clubface position has 5 times more effect on the ball than the club swing path
  • a good swing tempo has a backswing 3 times longer than the downswing (he even used my "one-thousand-one" count... although he didn't accent the "thou-" like I do, Court ;-)
  • he even said one putting style isn't better than another!
Yeah, I'm feeling pretty smug right now...

Lexi Thompson beat the men in a mini-tour event on the Minor League Golf Tour Monday. It was on her home course, the TPC at Eagle Trace, and she shot a 4-under 68. She then went into a two-hole playoff which she won, thank you very much. She only won $1100 but she's also only 16 years old, which I figure gives her some serious bragging rights. You can read the Golf Digest write-up here, and there's also a link there to a swing sequence of Lexi.

I keep telling everybody that if they don't keep up with the ladies' game, they're missing some good stuff. Guess I'm right again...

And finally, I've been listening to some interesting debates about the Accenture Match Play which begins today. I have no idea who will have the best chance of winning the thing, but theoretically the Top 4 in the world could end up facing each other in the semifinals.

In case you didn't know, theoretically is a big word that means "highly unlikely." So the actual question being debated is "Which one of the Top 4 will go deepest into the tournament?"

I choose -- and apparently I'm in the minority -- Lee Westwood. I know he doesn't have a great record here (ok... it stinks; I don't think he's ever been past the second round), but I believe being #1 will make a difference this time. So Lee's my pick to last the longest of the Top 4.

And that's some of the stuff that's been bouncing around inside my head today. (I've been considering the galactic significance of dark chocolate as well, but that subject's much too deep for a short blog post...)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Vijay Rolls a Few In

Today I wanted to post a little footage of Vijay practicing a couple of weeks ago at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he posted a tidy little T3 finish. Vijay's putting woes are almost as legendary as Bernhard Langer's. I found this video clip very informative:



Of course, we all know about his odd new stroke... and I'm not advising you to copy it. But there are a couple of tips you can glean from this practice session.

One, notice that Vijay is using a variation of the "putt between two tees" routine. Vijay actually has the tee closest to him placed a few inches ahead of the outer tee. I suppose this new stroke has a tendency to go too much to the inside, so he's set up a practice "station" that lets him know if he starts making that mistake.

That's your first tip: Set up your practice sessions so they work on your problems. Someone once defined insanity as doing the same old thing over and over... and expecting something to change. If you want to get better, you have to work on your problems, not your strengths.

The other thing is simply to look at how relaxed Vijay is. That's one odd-looking stroke -- a mix of the technique most players use with a long putter and the crosshand technique others use with a standard putter, combined for use with a belly putter. Nevertheless, Vijay looks very relaxed and his stroke is very rhythmic. Doesn't he look like he just walks up and hits it? That's the feeling you want in your stroke -- you just walk up and hit it as if you didn't have to set up at all.

So here are two things you can learn from Vijay's new putting stroke and how he practices it:
  1. If you're going to practice, work on your problems. Don't just hit balls.
  2. Work on rhythm and relaxation when you putt.
Vijay only took 105 putts in 4 rounds last week. I don't care for the look of his new putting stroke... but I sure hope he stays with it!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Limerick Summary: 2011 Northern Trust Open

Winner: Aaron Baddeley

Around the wider world of golf: S.S.P. Chowrasia got his 2nd ET win at the Avantha Masters in India; Kristie Smith won the Pegasus NZ Women’s Open on the LET (LPGA rookie Tiffany Joh finished 2nd -- good show, T-Joh!); Bernhard Langer won the the ACE Group Classic on the Champions Tour; and -- huge surprise here -- Yani Tseng butchered the field at the LPGA's first event of the year, the Honda LPGA Thailand. (Granted, she had some help, I.K. Kim quintupled the 17th -- that's a 9 on a par-4 -- to fall out of contention, but Inky still would have come up short.) This is Yani's 4th win in 2011, 4th in a row -- 3 in consecutive weeks -- and 8th win in 12 months. You can argue who's #1 on the other tours all you want, but everybody knows who's #1 in the women's game!


Photo of Aaron Baddeley from ABCNews.comI was pretty sure today a youngster would win at Riviera, perhaps in a playoff against an older player. I was right... except it wasn't Kevin Na winning over Fred Couples. Rather, it was Aaron Baddeley over Vijay Singh.

It looked at first like I might have been onto something. When Freddie opened with 3 straight birdies, I thought perhaps it was just a matter of time before Kevin got things in gear and the battle was on. Alas, it was not to be; Kevin posted 3 bogeys against 2 birdies on the front 9, and finished with an even-par day. Struggles with his putter took their toll.

But the magic left Freddie as well. A bogey on 5 took some of the wind out of his sails, but it was the 3-stroke swing on 6 that really ended his hopes. Fred's double was offset by Aaron's birdie, and the tournament was basically Aaron's to win or lose.

In a sense, this was a resurrection of two careers. Much has been made of Baddeley leaving the "Stack and Tilt" fold, but it's easy to forget that he had previously made swing changes with David Leadbetter. He's now back with his original swing coach Dale Lynch and getting back to the way he used to swing. The lesson here isn't that Stack and Tilt (or David Leadbetter) are bad for your golf, but rather that radically changing a successful swing is a questionable move. Supposedly he wanted to improve his driving, but there are better ways to find the fairways than risking losing your game.

As for Vijay... well, Vijay was #1 in Total Putts and #2 in Putts per GIR this week. Yes, Vij has a weird new grip that seems to be working for him. Add that to finally being healthy (Vijay reportedly said that he finally realized you can't practice the way he always has without hurting yourself), and we may be seeing Vijay win shortly as well.

But not this week. Vijay got within one shot of Aaron, but the Aussie would not be denied. And now both players are looking forward to a great year.

I'd have to say Aaron has the head start, though.

And so this week's Limerick Summary both salutes Riviera's newest champion and serves as a cautionary tale about too much swing experimentation. Dr. Frankenstein, eat your heart out!
He's rebuilt his swing twice, has Baddeley,
Because he has driven so saddely.
But after this win,
Perhaps he'll begin
Exploiting his game's strengths more gladdely.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Totally Up in the Air

I won't be able to stay up late tonight and try to catch the LPGA live. But just like the PGA event in LA, it looks like everything is up in the air. Only Bernhard Langer looks likely to win now. So I'm just going to make a couple of predictions and we'll see how close I get.

Of course, we all know my record for picking winners, so I won't dwell on that...

My gut instinct at this point is that Yani Tseng will win in Thailand (although I expect Paula Creamer to push her) and Kevin Na will get his first PGA win Sunday, possibly in a playoff against Fred Couples.

Yeah, I can hear you now: "Go to bed, Mike... NOW!" But I'm writing this before the LPGA even tees off for their fourth round, so let's see if my crystal ball is working well or just cracked.

Alright, alright, I'm going to bed already! Geez, a guy gets a few delusions of grandeur and everybody turns on him... ;-)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Age of Competition

This will be a very short post. (Some of you are quite relieved -- I can tell!) But we have a potential storyline forming on both the PGA and LPGA Tours.

In Los Angeles, Fred Couples has taken over the lead at the Northern Trust Open. I'm not surprised -- after all, he's won there twice -- but I don't hear any TV announcers giving him much chance to win... he's too old.

Meanwhile, 8000 miles away in Thailand, Juli Inkster has the lead by herself after 6 holes. Juli is also a "senior" now.

Could the world see three over-50 winners on three separate tours this week? (The third tour would be the Champions Tour, of course!) We'll just have to see... but this could get really interesting if it keeps up.

I can tell you exactly why Juli's playing so well. I didn't include her on my entry in the 2011 LPGA Prognostication Derby. I expect her to win this year but I figured she might not want to travel a lot, which would limit her playing time somewhat. Never tick off an LPGA professional!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Delays, Delays

I had hoped to post an update of the scores in the LPGA event, but apparently they had a weather delay. The scoreboard "froze" for an hour or so, even though the times kept updating. (They need to add something to the leaderboard so we can tell when the tournament is weather-delayed.)

Anyway, only a few scores are in... and very few players are making a move. Anna Nordqvist shot -4, but that only got her back to +2. Karrie Webb is -4 after 14 holes, putting her at -2 overall. Stacy Prammanasuhd is -3 after only 6 holes, putting her at -4. Several players are at -2, and only the pairing of I.K. Kim and Juli Inkster haven't teed off yet.

It appears the players who teed off after the delay are posting better scores, so we may see some movement on the leaderboard among the leaders before it's all over.

Don't forget: the Golf Channel will have delayed coverage of the 2nd round from 12:30pm - 2:30pm today. Finally some televised women's golf -- I can't wait!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I.K. Kim's from Mercury...

...and the rest of the LPGA Thailand field is off chilling on Pluto. At least it certainly seemed that way by the time I packed it in for the night.

I.K. Kim photo from LPGA.comInky, who many of you will remember won Lorena's tournament late last year and donated her entire check to charity, ripped up the Siam Country Club with a round of -9. She shot 32-31 with no bogeys.

The next closest player to post when I last checked was Morgan Pressel at -2, T2 with several others still on the course. Among the "usual suspects" who had teed off, Yani Tseng was at -2 after 3 holes; the rest were struggling a bit early on. Rookie Jessica Korda (daughter of tennis player Petr Korda) was also -2 after 5 holes. The course appears to be playing pretty difficult, based on the scores.

I was really proud of Kristy McPherson. Coming off elbow surgery, she was +4 after 6 holes and brought it back to finish at -1.

Since there is no TV coverage of the first round -- delayed or otherwise -- you'll have to check the live leaderboard to get the scores. The LPGA changed the live leaderboard page at their site, but I now have the correct link so when you click on the LPGA leaderboard link in the sidebar, you'll actually go to this year's leaderboard! Be sure to check it out and see if the quicksilver play of In-Kyung Kim held up for the whole round.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Entry in the 2011 LPGA Prognostication Derby

OK, it's last minute but here's my entry in the Derby that the Constructivist, Hound Dog, and assorted other LPGA fans have been promoting. Just put me in as "Ruthless Mike."
  1. Cristie Kerr
  2. Paula Creamer
  3. Na Yeon Choi
  4. Jiyai Shin
  5. Yani Tseng
  6. Ai Miyazato
  7. Azahara Munoz
  8. Suzann Pettersen
  9. Hee Kyung Seo
  10. I.K. Kim
  11. Kristy McPherson
  12. Song-Hee Kim
  13. Stacy Lewis
  14. Katherine Hull
  15. Inbee Park
  16. Mika Miyazato
  17. Amy Yang
  18. Maria Hjorth
  19. Anna Nordqvist
  20. Jennifer Song
  21. Morgan Pressel
  22. Se Ri Pak
  23. Beatriz Recari
  24. Brittany Lincicome
  25. Michelle Wie
  26. Sara Brown
  27. Sun Young Yoo
  28. Angela Stanford
  29. Christina Kim
  30. Hee Young Park
And what is my secret method for choosing this list? A dartboard! Seriously, I just tried to mix it up and throw a few surprises into my choices.

At least I know I have last place locked up. ;-)

Bill Murray's Partner's Swing

Yeah, I'm talking about the less-famous part of the winning Pebble Beach Pro-Am team, D.A. Points. Despite how long D.A.'s been on Tour, there was very little video footage of him until this week... and even then, most of it isn't swing-related. All I could find was this one analysis by Peter Kostis.

But it's actually more revealing than you might first think:



Listen to how Kostis describes the Points swing -- "typical modern golf swing" and "the quintessential modern golf swing." It's not often I say something like this about a winner, but... there's absolutely nothing that stands out about this swing. Zip. Nada. He's perfectly textbook -- no more, no less. It's just a good solid dependable swing.

You know, most of us agonize over getting every little bit we can out of our swing. I imagine D.A. has been guilty of the same thing. If you look at his stats, you'll see they've been nothing spectacular over the last few years, although he's generally been about average in Driving Distance and Accuracy, GIR, Scrambling, and Putting. I've been looking over his stats for the last few years, and there's nothing to make him stand out from his fellow pros... until this year.

The reason D.A. won last week is that his Scrambling is improved by more than 10% this year, and his Total Putts are down by one to two per round. In fact, last week at Pebble, his Total Putts stat was nearly three shots lower than last year!

You frequently hear the TV folks -- teachers, commentators, and players -- say that short game is where you score. D.A. is proof of what I've been telling you -- namely, that those guys are right if you can get on or around the green in regulation most of the time. His play from tee to green wasn't really much different from normal last week, but his short game stepped it up another notch. As a result, he won the tournament.

I don't want you to stop working on your short game. In the end, your score is determined by your ability to get the ball in the hole. But take a lesson from D.A. Points: Make sure you develop a long game that gets you close to the green so you can capitalize on that short game. You don't have to be perfect to get it close, just solid.

D.A. Points has been solid for a long time. It's nice to see him get the short game working too.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Tsenging Sword

I was thinking about that old bit from the cartoon "Knighty-Knight, Bugs" with the Singing Sword, or perhaps the parody of it from "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"...



...and it occurs to me that Yani Tseng's swing is much more effective. Have you wondered how she does it?

Fortunately some enterprising souls have added recent footage of Yani's swing over at YouTube. I found something very interesting that you might want to see. Yani's been averaging around 270 yards off the tee and hitting a ridiculous number of fairways (nearly 80% down in Australia), and I think I can tell you why.

First, let's check out a very revealing face-on view. A quick note: there's no sound on this footage until the very end, so don't let it startle you.



If you stop the video around the :16 mark, you'll see that the clubhead has dropped below parallel on her backswing... and yet Yani's left foot is still planted firmly on the ground! And this is with a driver, no less.

Now let's look at another driver swing, this one a down-the-line view:



Again, stop the video around the :07 mark and check that left foot. You can't see her heel, but you can see that her foot is clearly flat on the ground at the top of her backswing.

Granted, there's no wasted motion in Yani's swing -- she doesn't make any noticeable corrections during her swing, and simple swings are usually effective ones. But it's Yani's flexibility that is her big weapon! When you can keep both feet flat on the ground throughout your swing the way she does, you're going to be much more consistent making contact with the ball.

You'll hear talk about how "freakish" Dustin Johnson's athleticism is, but Yani Tseng's abilities deserve just as much respect. You might wonder if there's anything you can learn from Yani that you could use, given how unusual her abilities are.

I believe there is.

While most of us aren't going to be as flexible as Yani, we could drastically improve our games by shortening our iron swings enough to keep both feet flat on the ground throughout our motion. Perhaps not on drives -- that might cause us to lose too much distance -- but it might be just the thing when we're having trouble hitting greens. Those shots are generally less than full swings anyway because of how much we're bent over, and a steady base can make all the difference in your accuracy.

Just ask Yani. Her GIR was better than 90% in Australia! (It probably seemed like "Witchcraft" to the rest of the field.)

So take a tip from Yani and add this move to your arsenal. With a weapon like this at your disposal, you just might cut a swath through your competition as well!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Limerick Summary: 2011 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

Winner: D.A. Points
Pro-Am Champions: D.A. Points/Bill Murray

Around the wider world of golf: Yani Tseng won the ANZ RACV Ladies Masters on the LET down under in Queensland, Australia, snagging her 7th victory in 12 months and #1 on the Rolex Rankings as well; Alvaro Quiros won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in Dubai on the ET; and Tom Lehman won the Allianz Championship on the Champions Tour.

The worst chestbump everLet's not kid ourselves. Everybody knows the real news at Pebble Beach was "the Cinderella story." (Ok, I promise not to use that again... but Google listed no less than 1604 articles about Murray winning at Pebble. Points? Who's Points?) And nobody involved in the TV coverage even pretended it was otherwise.

Can you blame them? That the star of one of the most iconic golf movies ever made (and yes, I vote for Caddyshack over Tin Cup) should finally win the most history-laden pro-am in the history of the game has to rate as one of the greatest golf stories of the year. I'll leave everybody else to sing the praises of Bill Murray (rightfully so -- he played pretty well all on his own) and limit myself to the pros who made up the subplot.

And what a subplot it was! Hunter Mahan charging up the leaderboard to prove that his Ryder Cup experience had only strengthened him; Steve Marino once again placing himself in position to get his first win -- and at Pebble, no less; Phil Mickelson's "on again, off again" heroics that nearly got him into contention; and D.A. Points, another good young yet-to-win player who supposedly had the most distracting amateur partner on the course. Of course, Points said the distraction was good for him... and by Sunday, everyone agreed with him.

Even if Mahan had managed to birdie 18 instead of settling for a three-putt par, he would have come up one short. The Points hole-out for eagle at 14 (which spawned the awkward celebration between Points and Murray pictured above) and the long snaking putt he sank for birdie on 15 pretty much locked up the tournament, despite the typical "oil leak" that Points, like most first-time winners, sprouted down the stretch. He still managed to post three pars to finish the tournament... and make his partner the darling of the media in the process. (Who do you think will make more late-night talk show appearances this week?)

And so I give you another magical moment with this week's Limerick Summary. Oh... and that promise not to use the Cinderella story line again? I lied. ;-)
The story was pure Cinderella
As Murray kept Points feeling mella.
His manner's not slick,
But Points says that his schtick
Does a shrink job as good as Rotella.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The New Queen

Photo of Yani Tseng from LPGA.comBy the time you read this, Yani Tseng will be firmly entrenched at the top of the ladies game.

Yani just won the ANZ RACV Ladies Masters down under in Queensland, Australia. (That's an appropriate place to be crowned Queen of Rolex, don't you think?) And she won it in dominating fashion, posting 67-66-63-68. Her -24 was 4 better than Nikki Campbell and Stacy Lewis, her closest competitors.

Do you realize how impressive this is, folks? This is three victories since January 1st this year! To be specific:
  • The Taifong Ladies Open (The LPGA of Taiwan) on 01-16-11
  • The ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open (ALPG, LET) on 02-06-11
  • The ANZ RACV Ladies Masters (ALPG, LET) on 02-13-11
She's now up to 7 tournaments won in the last 12 months, 2 of which are majors, and she won the 2010 LPGA's Player of the Year Award.

That's impressive by anyone's standards.

I'll be interested to see just how big her lead on Jiyai Shin will be when the new Rolex Rankings come out. You can be sure Jiyai won't just roll over and play dead. (She didn't play at all this week. ;-) And the other women won't take this laying down either.

But for now, the Taiwan Tornado is cutting a swath through her competition wide enough to hold Pebble Beach -- all three courses -- and entire emirate of Dubai as well. I can't wait for the LPGA to get in on the act.

Way to go, Yani! You earned this -- make sure you take time to enjoy it!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Few Developing Storylines to Watch

Just thought I'd pass along a few things to watch out for this weekend.

First, at Pebble Beach:
  • Steve Marino is positioned to get his first Tour win. He's posted 65-66 with only one bogey, and Saturday he plays Monterey Peninsula, the easiest of the three courses.
  • Arnold Palmer's grandson Sam Saunders carded a 67 at Pebble, moving up 16 spots into a logjam at -7 (T4).
At Dubai:
  • Rory McIlroy leads and is position to win his 3rd tournament.
  • Tiger Woods shot a 66 Friday -- the lowest score by anybody in the field Friday -- to get himself back in the tournament. The big news was his scrambling (5 for 5), which has been one of his weakest stats lately.
  • Sergio Garcia is -10 after rounds of 67-67 and no bogeys. It's still too early to say he's back, but he's starting to smile on-course again. That's a good sign!
And finally, at the LET tournament in Australia:
  • Belen Mozo -- should I call her Greg Norman's protegĂ©? -- posted -8 in the third round and jumped into a tie for third.
  • Stacy Lewis is still on the course as I write this, but is in 2nd (-14)after 12 holes.
  • And not surprisingly, Yani Tseng leads by three (-17) after 12 holes. If she wins this week, she'll probably take over the #1 spot in the women's world rankings.
Looks like it's going to be an interesting weekend!

Friday, February 11, 2011

7-Under

Well, now we know. The answer is -7.

The question, in case you forgot yesterday's post, was "1 + 2 + 3 = ?"
  • OWGR #1 Lee Westwood carded a -3.
  • OWGR #2 Martin Kaymer carded a -3.
  • And OWGR #3 Tiger Woods carded a -1.
Hence, an earth-shattering -7.

Well, it might have been earth-shattering if OWGR #7 Rory McIlroy hadn't carded a -7 all by his lonesome. He led the tournament Thursday, which is the only number that really matters this week.

By comparison, Westwood and Kaymer are T10. Tiger sits at T27.

But are any of those scores really any better than the bogey-free -5 carded by OWGR #79 Sergio Garcia?

Sergio's resurgence is good news for us fans. He's still so young... and yet he's so old. Sergio has been playing professionally for maybe 15 years now, yet he's only 31 years old. It's no wonder he's gone through a period of burnout.

His putting has been fingered as the main source of his troubles over the last few years, and most attribute his improved scoring to a new putting grip. I managed to find this picture of the new grip (click it to go to the original posting):



It was taken at the Volvo Golf Champions a couple of weeks ago, where he placed 30th. It looks like a claw grip -- a grip I don't care for much, simply because I think it locks your wrists too much. But Sergio appears to be keeping his "claw" hand very relaxed, almost as it he wasn't gripping the club at all... and it does appear to be working for him. Ultimately, that's all a player can ask.

But is Sergio's improved play really because of his new grip? To be honest, I don't think so -- at least, not for the reasons most folks believe. According to his ET stats, this is his worst putting year since at least 2005. What I see is his best year for both Driving Accuracy and GIR combined (66%/75%). His Putting per GIR stat is virtually the same from year to year, so I'm inclined to believe he's simply hitting more greens.

As I've pointed out before, if you hit a lot of greens, you don't have to putt as well to score well. All things being equal, if you hit all 18 greens and take 32 putts per round, you score -4. But you'll beat the snot out of somebody who took only 28 putts and hit only 12 greens in the process. They'll end up with a score of -2... assuming they didn't get lucky and chip a couple in.

But perhaps this new stroke has given Sergio some badly-needed confidence. Charlie Rymer suggested that Sergio may have spent his time off seeking a less-volatile state of mind in which to play the game. Sergio's attempts to deflect expectations that his game has suddenly turned around certainly seem to back up that idea.

But whatever he's done, it's worked. As I said, he placed 30th at the Volvo Golf Champions a couple of weeks ago, 9th at last week's Qatar Masters, and Thursday he had the second-best score in the field at Dubai.

Maybe he'll get a 7-under of his own on Friday. I'll be rooting for him.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

1 + 2 + 3 = ?

It's well after midnight, but I can't wait any longer. The Omega Dubai Desert Classic has begun but, according to the live leaderboard, the "featured group" won't be teeing off for maybe another 3 hours

Of course, that featured group includes the top 3 players in the world -- at least the current top 3 on the OWGR. I've been getting a kick listening to the debates over which player will be most motivated to play well the first two days of the tournament:
  • Lee Westwood hasn't carried the #1 title particularly well so far, so he has something to prove.
  • Martin Kaymer hasn't played with Tiger before, so he has something to prove.
  • Tiger hasn't played well in over a year, so he has something to prove.
Isn't that amazing? They all have "something to prove." I must admit that I'm terribly impressed by the sheer overpowering logic of these arguments.

Hmmm... I wonder if Sergio has anything to prove? He's been pretty well written off for the last two years or so.

Or maybe Alvaro Quiros. He's been so close to winning lately -- he's had 3 Top 10s in his last four events, and finished second just last week. I bet he's got something to prove, too.

Todd Hamilton is tied for the lead (-2) as I write this. He hasn't won since the 2004 Open Championship. Do you think he has something to prove?

I suppose we could add Colin Montgomerie and Jeev Milkha Singh and Ben Curtis and... ooh, ooh, how about Nick Dougherty? He's only 363 in the OWGR, but he's got 3 wins and was supposed to be one of the "young guns" not that long ago.

And then there's Thomas Bjorn. Everybody's been saying that he just got lucky when he won last week. OK, all together now: "I BET HE'S GOT SOMETHING TO PROVE!"

Well, they can prove all they want. My money's on Miguel Angel Jimenez to notch another win this week. And do you know why?

Because he's probably strutting around the course, puffing on an expensive cigar and planning what wine he'll have with dinner. I don't think he has anything to prove at all. ;-)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dave Stockton on Putting

I ran across this short putting video from Dave Stockton while rummaging around the YouTube archives. And what does the great Dave Stockton recommend as a swing thought while you putt?



"You make more putts when you don't care whether you make them or not." Why? Because then you relax, grip the club with less tension, and make a smoother stroke. It's logical advice.

Now if you can just stop caring so much about whether you drop that putt or not... ;-)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Limerick Summary: 2011 Waste Management Phoenix Open

Winner: Mark Wilson

Around the wider world of golf: Thomas Bjorn won the Commercialbank Qatar Masters for his 11th career title on the European Tour, moving into the Top 60 on the OWGR and qualifying himself for the WGC–Accenture Match Play; and Yani Tseng won the ISPS HANDA Australian Women's Open on the LET, moving up to #2 on the Rolex World Rankings.

Photo of Mark Wilson from PGATOUR.comAfter several days of frigid temperatures, a cancelled Wednesday pro-am, two four-hour delays due to frost on Thursday and Friday, nearly two full rounds of play on Sunday, and a Monday finish that went to a playoff, Mark Wilson proved that he thrives in tough situations -- just like he did three weeks ago when he won the Sony Open after monsoons resulted in a 36-hole Sunday finish. If he can just manage to win one in fog, he'll have completed the Triple Crown of Watergolf!

And like most of the tournaments so far this year, it turned into another exciting finish. After Phil, Rickie Fowler, and Bill Haas stumbled during their final rounds, and Vijay Singh posted -16 as play ended Sunday, it came down to Wilson, Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey, and Jason Dufner. All of these three players are the kind of guys you like to see win on Tour.

Gainey, who I've been pulling for ever since his Big Break days, was clearly nervous but holding it together pretty well until the 17th hole Monday morning. He said he had a good warm-up and felt good about his driver, but it let him down on the drivable par-4 17th. The ball drew too much, rolled down the shaved bank to the left and hit a hazard stake before bounding into the water. He admitted he was thinking too much about the ball rolling back into the pond during his recovery shot; his chip never made it over the green's false front. It did roll back into the water, resulting in a triple that ended his chances of winning. He still finished T8 and will be at Pebble this week.

Dufner continued his good play from the last three years by shooting -2 on the last three holes to post -18. He also led the field in putting this week. He's never won, but it's only a matter of time if he keeps playing this well. This wasn't his time, however; Wilson parred the last hole to force a playoff, then birdied the 2nd playoff hole to win.

You may remember that Mark called a 2-stroke penalty on himself after his caddy inadvertently gave information to a fellow competitor at the 2007 Honda Classic, the tournament that ultimately became his first win. At the end of a bad 2010, Wilson needed a good finish at Disney just to keep his card. He finished in 6th place, squeaking into 123rd place on the money list.

Now, after 5 tournaments -- and he's only started 3 of them! -- Wilson has 2 victories and leads both the FedExCup race and the money list. In addition, he leads the Scrambling stat and is 3rd in GIR, having hit just under 80%. And you might not believe it, but he's only T70 in putts per round. That's not bad though, folks -- when you hit a lot of greens, you generally have more two putts.

I heard them say Wilson's hero is Ben Hogan, and some of the commentators remarked on how much like the "Iceman" he was. So this Limerick Summary pays tribute to the first two-time winner of the year. Don't worry, it won't be a chilly reception:
He’s two out of five for the season
And there’s no need to search for a reason:
Though conditions may change,
Mark has ice in his veins
And a golf swing that won’t commit treason.
The photo is from PGATOUR.com.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Brawl Is On!

Since the Limerick Summary has been weather-delayed, I thought I'd bring you all up-to-date on the women's ranking shuffle I wrote about yesterday.

Photo of Yani Tseng from LPGA.comYani Tseng did win the ISPS HANDA Australian Women's Open this past weekend and leap to #2 in the Rolex World Rankings.

Here's last week's Top 5 list as posted yesterday:
  1. Jiyai Shin, 10.06
  2. Cristie Kerr, 9.56
  3. Suzann Pettersen, 9.55
  4. Na Yeon Choi, 9.52
  5. Yani Tseng, 9.24
And here's the updated list for February 7:
  1. Jiyai Shin, 10.17
  2. Yani Tseng, 9.80
  3. Cristie Kerr, 9.41
  4. Suzann Pettersen, 9.40
  5. Na Yeon Choi, 9.39
Shin gained a meager .11 points for her second-place finish (a 3-way tie, btw) while Tseng gained .56 points. That's not a large amount, but it's more than enough to put her within a single tournament win of gaining the #1 spot -- which she has never held before. Perhaps even more interesting are the 3, 4, and 5 spots which are now only separated by .02 points!

Ai Miyazato, sitting in sixth with 8.92 points, actually gained .02 points while doing nothing. I assume she dropped a low finish off the back of the ranking period. She's going to have her work cut out for her if she expects to challenge for the #1 spot soon.

Perhaps the Constructivist or Hound Dog would like to comment about this interesting turn of events. But if I was doing a Ruthless Golf World Rankings for the ladies (which TC asked about in a comment a couple of days ago), I would certainly have to put Yani Tseng at #1 right now. She has 6 wins over the last year:
  • 2010 Women's Australian Open (LET, ALPG)
  • 2010 Kraft Nabisco Championship (LPGA)
  • 2010 Ricoh Women's British Open (LPGA, LET)
  • 2010 P&G NW Arkansas Championship (LPGA)
  • 2011 Taifong Ladies Open (LPGA Taiwan)
  • 2011 Women's Australian Open (LET, ALPG)
Yep, the Australian Open counts twice because it was played in March last year. How many players get to defend a tournament and have both wins count in a single year? You've gotta admit, that's pretty cool.

I couldn't find out if Tseng plans to play in the ANZ RACV Ladies Masters in Queensland this week, but I'll be surprised if she doesn't. After all, she's already there and warmed up. I think Yani would like my suggestion of changing the name of the Rolex to "the Brawl for #1." Whether you agree with me or not, one thing is certain...

The Brawl is definitely on!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Ladies Start the Brawl Early

The Constructivist over at Mostly Harmless has been following the ISPS HANDA Australian Women's Open all week while I've been pretty quiet about it. The reason is simply because I can't watch it, so I've been reading his posts and checking the leaderboard.

If you're reading this, the tournament is probably history because, as I write this, the leaders have finished the 11th hole of their final round... and Yani Tseng leads Jiyai Shin by 5 shots. She's 6 ahead of 3rd-place Eun Hee Ji, and 9 shots ahead of the group tied for 4th. In all likelihood, either Tseng or Shin will win.

As TC points out in his posts, Tseng is most likely to do the deed. And since this is an LET event and thus gets world ranking points, it means the women's game is going to get interesting way before the LPGA starts their season.

See, here's how the Top 5 in the Rolex World Rankings sit right now:
  1. Jiyai Shin, 10.06
  2. Cristie Kerr, 9.56
  3. Suzann Pettersen, 9.55
  4. Na Yeon Choi, 9.52
  5. Yani Tseng, 9.24
Less than a point -- .82 of a point, to be exact -- separates #5 Tseng from #1 Shin. However, because everybody's points have been dwindling since the end of last season, the gap between #2 and #4 is merely.04 points. That's 4 one-hundredths of a point! And Yani is only .32 behind Kerr -- that's less than a third of a point!

And what all of that means, exclamation points aside, is that a win in Australia could vault Tseng into at least 2nd place. She's unlikely to catch Shin, who'll likely grab a sizable number of points for a runner-up finish... but the gap will close. And barring some play abroad, the trio of Kerr, Pettersen, and Choi stand to lose even more points next week.

TC remarked on a previous post that "the guys have reached the point where the women's game was a few years ago, as it became clear Annika was catchable and eventually that Lorena was human." You can argue that Annika was injured and Lorena distracted... but haven't both been true of Tiger? What we're seeing on the women's pro circuit may be a foretaste of what lies ahead for the men -- namely, some real competition for the rank of Top Dog.

Just remember that the ladies got there first. (And yes, my dear female readers, you are permitted to gloat.)

Yes, the 2011 Rolex Brawl for #1 (that's a cool name for the ladies' points race, I think) is underway. I can't wait to see how the other gals respond to this!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Tale of Two Deserts

Ask most people to name the largest desert on the planet and they'll answer "the Sahara." And they will be wrong. The Sahara is the largest hot desert, but only the second-largest desert overall.

Believe it or not, the largest desert in the world is Antarctica. You see, scientists don't define a desert in terms of heat, but by how difficult it is for life to survive there.

Two gloves are warmer than one, and Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey is scorching hot in frozen Scottsdale. His first-round 63, followed by a 33 on the first nine of his second round, tied him at the top with Sony Open winner Mark Wilson, who's also still on the course but with only 4 holes left in his round. These scores may not hold up since several players haven't started their second rounds at all but, if Gainey finishes his second nine strong, I suspect he'll be leading or tied for the lead at the half. The Tour announced a Monday finish for this event, so there'll be a normal cut made sometime today.

Meanwhile, things turned very cold for Lee Westwood out in Doha, Qatar. A 30-footer hanging on the edge of the 18th hole sent him packing after his second round, leaving the way open for Martin Kaymer to take over #1 in the world rankings. Lee probably won't lose much sleep over it though; Kaymer, who rarely plays well in Qatar, barely made the cut and sits 10 shots off the lead of Marcus Brier. As I was writing this, I checked the leaderboard and Kaymer was even for the round after six holes.

Perhaps the biggest question for me this weekend hasn't been mentioned at all -- at least, not that I've heard. Phil Mickelson's only .48 behind Tiger Woods on the OWGR. Could he possibly place high enough this week to catch Tiger?

If he could, a frozen desert would be the perfect place for Phil to slip past Tiger and retake #3 in the world. Not that those folks at the alcohol-warmed 16th even know it's cold... ;-)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Should We Be Worried about Tiger?

I've been listening to the buzz surrounding Tiger's performance -- or lack of, depending on your viewpoint -- at Torrey last week, and it's been hard not to laugh.

On the one hand we have the "Tiger groupies" who insist that we should expect him to perform as he always has. This is just another swing change, and it will take hold any second now... and then all his opponents will be sorry.

On the other hand we hear the "Tiger haters" who believe that the Tiger of the past 15 years is dead and gone, Jack's record is probably safe, and what kind of idiot thinks Tiger can still play golf anyway?

I think each group is partly right... but not for the reasons they think.

Tiger has changed his swing at least twice before, and he's always amazed us by winning during the change despite obvious struggles to get the new mechanics correct. We've come to expect miracles from him. But you see, there's one big difference this time around that I haven't heard anybody mention.

In each of his previous swing rebuilds, everybody wondered why Tiger wanted to change such an obviously great swing. The reason, as Tiger has stated so often, was a desire to get better. When you start with a solid swing and try to make changes, your squirrely swings aren't really going to be that bad because you're reverting to your old swing... which wasn't so bad, thank you very much.

This time, everybody was screaming for Tiger to change a swing that obviously wasn't working. As a result, when Tiger hits a bad one now... well, it's R-E-A-L-L-Y bad. Skanky bad. Weekend hacker bad. Drop an F-bomb bad.

As a result, we aren't going to see Tiger pop back quite so soon this time. When he reverts to his old swing, the gallery's gonna need body armor. Right now, Tiger is one of us normal golfers trying to learn the "right" way to swing a club.

I'm not worried about Tiger. He's learning that he took a lot for granted. That marvelous control we've all lusted after is backfiring now because he has 10 swing thoughts in his head at once, just like you and me. He doesn't even have a low skank shot that he can count on right now -- in time he will, but it's going to take him a bit longer than it has in the past. In time I believe he'll hit the ball as well as he ever did, and maybe even better. A complete rebuild of your swing either destroys you or makes you better... and Tiger's too good for this to destroy him.

But he won't be able to dominate the way he did. It's no longer a question of skill or even intimidation. Rather, the rest of the Tour's been learning also:
  • They've watched Tom Watson fall one stroke short of another major at the age of 59, and learned that age isn't necessarily a barrier.
  • They've watched an average-length hitter named Steve Stricker hold his own using a much simpler technique against Tiger when Tiger was still playing well, and learned that lack of length isn't a problem.
  • They've watched Adam Scott struggle with a swing very similar to Tiger's 2000 swing, a swing method which nobody thought could be beat, and learned that mechanical skill isn't as important as they once thought.
  • They've watched Sergio struggle, and learned that talent is overrated.
  • And they've seen the European players reach the top of the world rankings playing in tournaments that didn't get many ranking points because Tiger wasn't there. Granted, if Tiger hadn't backed up over the last year they wouldn't have reached #1... but common logic said they shouldn't have gotten close enough to take even a fallen Tiger, given how few ranking points they got. So apparently they've learned that if you play well consistently enough, the system can be beaten.
The result is that most players no longer believe you have to play like Tiger to beat Tiger. All you really have to do is learn how to score. Do that and you can hold your own against anybody... even a healthy Tiger.

That's something that maybe Tiger should worry about.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Another Golf Digest Golf Tip

Guess what? Another tip related to Hunter Mahan! This one is from Sean Foley in late 2009, although it's presented by Golf Digest Senior Editor Peter Morrice. Depending on how you look at it, it's about weight shift... or stacking... or facing the target... uh, let's just call it smacking the ball:



Martin Hall mentioned on his show that trying too hard to maintain your spine angle will mess up your swing, and this tip seems to be saying much the same thing. I particularly like that Foley said you don't need to think about turning your hips because your hips are already turning. This is a case of trying to do something that happens naturally, and it's that interference that often messes up an otherwise good swing.

Please note that this full turn is accomplished basically by straightening the left knee -- what classic teaching called "hitting against a firm left side." Equally important, note that the right knee doesn't straighten. That's why Hunter doesn't "stand up" and raise his head at impact the way so many of us do. Don't make the mistake of thinking this is about pushing up to create power; rather, Hunter straightens his left knee so his left hip is free to move the way it's already trying to. He's not trying to add a move to his swing, but just letting something happen that's already underway. Just let the knee straighten as you turn -- you'll find that's what it's already trying to do.

Much of what seems to be "hot and new" on the teaching scene are things that have been around for a long time but fell out of favor. What was it King Solomon said? "There's nothing new under the sun." This is a classic example.

And for those of you who are interested, I found this online link to that story at the Golf Digest Singapore site, and it includes a slide show of Hunter's swing sequence from face-on and down-the-line. The main thing I think you can learn from it is how quiet Hunter's body looks, even though he's developing a lot of clubhead speed. If you stop the face-on sequence at impact, you can see how much the shaft has flexed!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Butch Harmon on Topping

You may have seen Hunter Mahan top the ball from the rough this past weekend, sending the shot a blistering 10 feet or so... and still leaving it in the rough. It was one of those embarrassing moments (for Hunter) that gave millions of weekend hackers hope. After all, if even the pros hit one like that on occasion...

While it wasn't exactly the same problem that most of us face when we top one from the fairway, there are some similarities between the two. I found this recent tip video from Butch Harmon that deals with the problem, and I thought I'd pass it along.



I don't have much to add to this, but here's something for you to consider if you're having trouble "staying down" on your shot: Perhaps you simply need to think about your shot differently.

If you have too much up-and-down movement in your swing, perhaps your concept of your swing is too vertical. If you start thinking of your swing in terms of side-to-side movement, you may have better luck. I don't mean that you sway back and forth but simply that you think in terms of moves that are more rotary, which you may feel as being more horizontal. Think in terms of making a tennis forehand, or perhaps throwing a Frisbee. (You may remember Jimmy Ballard's image of backhanding the target; that works also.) Too much vertical movement can be a symptom of pushing up with your knees rather than turning your hips.

If you're struggling with "standing up" on your shots, look for a swing thought that's more rotary. Maybe it'll help you avoid leaving one in the rough as well.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: February 2011

Tomorrow is Groundhog Day. Like its namesake, most of the big names haven't come out to be seen much if at all, and several other players have stepped up their games in their absence. As a result, unlike the movie of the same name, February's RGWR is not just the same old thing.

As usual, here's a quick description of my criteria:
I focus on the last 12 months of play -- that's long enough to see some consistency but short enough to be current. Every player in the RGWR won at least once on either the PGA or European Tour. The OWGR rates consistency over the last 2 years, so I see no reason to rank that; my RGWR says if you're a top player, you've won somewhere recently. My priority list (based on quality of field) looks like this:
  1. majors, TPC, and WGCs
  2. FedExCup playoffs and prestige events (like Bay Hill and Dubai)
  3. other PGA and ET events
I put extra emphasis on recent form, and I make some allowance if you're recovering from injury or serious sickness.

I assign points to tournaments like this:
  • Majors: 10 points
  • TPC: 8 points
  • WGC: 7 points
  • Prestige events: 5 points
  • Regular wins: 3 points
  • Top 5 finishes: 2 points
Although the points affect my rankings, they don't override my personal opinions.
  1. Martin Kaymer: 4 wins (1 major, 2 prestige). Kaymer edges McDowell this month because he's the most recent winner of the two. Of course, Kaymer also got 2 end-of-year awards to G-Mac's 1.
  2. Graeme McDowell: 4 wins (1 major, 3 prestige). These two are still so close! G-Mac has Kaymer beat on Top 5s, 4 to 2. Still, it's hard to go wrong with either of these two guys.
  3. Louis Oosthuizen: 3 wins (1 major). A huge leap from Shrek, courtesy of his win at the Africa Open in mid-January. That, coupled with a Top 5 in December, tells me he's recovered from his ankle injury and possibly a force to be reckoned with over the next few months.
  4. Ernie Els: 3 wins (1 WGC, 2 prestige). Ernie really hasn't done anything yet this year, but he did win in December... and he also won the Grand Slam of Golf last October (only three other players, but they were all major winners). That, added to his performance over the last 12 months (he's got that WGC win), barely keeps him ahead of the next player... although it was close.
  5. Jhonattan Vegas: 3 wins. I'm giving the newly-crowned "Jhonny Vegas" credit for his Nationwide win (since many PGA players play those events) and the Venezuela Open, where he beat several major champions. He's got a win and a T3 in only three starts as a rookie. And he's done all that in a mere six months! He deserves this spot... and if Ernie hadn't won in December, I'd have made Vegas fourth.
  6. Miguel Angel Jimenez: 3 wins (2 prestige). This was a tough one. MAJ and Furyk have been going head-to-head for a few months now, but Jimenez is playing better. He added yet another Top 5 last week.
  7. Jim Furyk: 3 wins (1 prestige). Jim hasn't really played well since the FedExCup playoffs... then again, he hasn't played much, period. The POY award is worth something, though, and he's still in the 3-win elite. Unless he starts playing well in the next month or two, he'll be dropping off this list.
  8. Bubba Watson: 2 wins (1 prestige). Now it gets a little tougher. We've got several players with 2 wins, and it's a bit tricky to judge between them. I'm giving Bubba the edge because he's shown some fairly steady improvement over the last year and, unlike most players who took a lot of time off, he's gotten off to a really good start with a prestige win.
  9. Lee Westwood: 2 wins (1 prestige). Westwood won the Sun City event in December and has 5 Top 5s over the last year... plus he's still #1 on the OWGR. He drops this far because he hasn't played all that well in January. I expect a little more from #1.
  10. Jonathan Byrd: 2 wins (1 prestige). Granted, J-Byrd didn't do much for most of 2010. But two wins in four months -- including the Hyundai Tournament of Champions -- makes him one of the hotter players among the 2-timers.
A few names I'm going to be watching over the next few months are Anthony Kim, who seems to have finally gotten past his wrist injury; Phil Mickelson, who came close at Torrey and seems both healthy and eager; and Bill Haas, who stumbled Sunday but is playing really well so far this year.

Now let's see if any of the big boys finally intend to come out and defend their honor this coming month... or if they just see their shadow and crawl back in their holes!