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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rock Solid

Robert Rock didn't even show up on most golf fans' radar until he got his first win at the 2010 Italian Open. That win got him into the U.S. Open the very next week and he rushed to get over here. It cost him around $24k to get the appropriate visa and another $1k for a very long taxi ride from Newark NJ to Washington DC. Not only did he shoot a 70 after getting virtually no sleep, but he made the cut and finished in 23rd place.

It was his efforts, which showed his appreciation for the chance to play, that made him a minor star here in the States. His 2nd win this past weekend, beating most of the world's best, jumped him to #55 on the OWGR and probably guaranteed that he'll be on everybody's radar from here on out.

Let's take a quick look at the swing that took down Woods and McIlroy. Because Robert's a fairly typical 5'10" tall -- a bit unusual in this age of giants -- there's a good chance most of you can learn something from him. And I find his swing to be very interesting.

First, here's a video showing both face-on and down-the-line views of Robert hitting a 7-iron:



Robert has a reputation for being extremely involved in the technical aspects of the golf swing. That in itself is very interesting because his swing is so simple and smooth that you'd never know it! There's a tip that all of you can take to heart: If you're trying to make a swing that confuses you or seems too complex, you may need to reassess whether it's the right swing for you. Your swing concept should be very simple and easy to understand. You want to focus on where the ball is going, not what you have to do to make it go there.

As far as the technicals go, the main thing Robert does differently from what I normally like to see is his early wrist cock, which just means that his wrists are almost fully cocked by the time his hands reach waist high in his backswing. That, in turn, simply means that his right elbow bends earlier in his swing than I try to get you to do. Let me be perfectly clear that there's nothing wrong with an early wrist cock/early elbow bend. I've just found that when players have trouble with an over-the-top swing, they tend to bend that elbow early because they twist their forearms, which makes the OTT move worse. Clearly Robert's not having that problem!

Otherwise his swing looks pretty much the way I've been suggesting for all of you. Note that Robert sets up with his hands over or just in front of the ball as I recommend. In doing this, he gets the shaft pretty much in line with his left forearm. That's the position it will be in when he actually hits the ball.

He starts his backswing by turning his shoulders, not just bending his elbow and lifting his hands, and you can see on the down-the-line view that his forearms don't twist during his swing. (If he did, the shaft would lean over, more parallel to the ground.) He simply lets the bending of his elbow and cocking of his wrists combine with the turning of his shoulders to create his swing plane.

In addition, his triceps and chest stay "connected" almost all the way through his swing, and there's no excess hip slide -- that is, his right hip doesn't move backward over his right foot on the backswing and his left hip doesn't slide past his left hip on the downswing. His body stays pretty much centered between his heels. This is a very simple move that makes you much more accurate because it stops you from leaning too much one way or the other.

Now here's a face-on view of him hitting a driver:



Note that the ball is more forward in his stance, but the shaft still forms a straight line with his left forearm. Except for the ball position, the mechanics of his driver swing are almost identical to his short iron swing. This is what I find most interesting about Robert's swing. The swing is longer -- that's because the longer shaft gets him standing a bit taller, making it easier to turn -- but otherwise the swings look the same. He doesn't try to swing faster or harder with the driver.

If a pro who's known to be a mechanics freak can end up with a swing this simple, shouldn't you do the same?

American fans will probably get to see this swing more often this summer. Robert was already trying to get into the Pebble Beach tournament in a few weeks, and he's positioned to make the Accenture and maybe even the Masters. If you get the chance to watch him, you definitely should.

A Rock solid swing isn't beyond anybody's reach.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 Farmers Insurance Open

Winner: Brandt Snedeker

Around the wider world of golf: It was a week for unexpected victors. Robert Rock showed both Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy how it's done as he got his 2nd European Tour win in a year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship; and Lydia Ko became the youngest winner ever (only 14!) of a professional golf tour event, taking the ALPGA's Bing Lee New South Wales Open by four strokes. She beat a few no-names like Katherine Hull, Melissa Reid, and Laura Davies.

Brandt won a bronze bonsai tree trophy for his win

Apparently when it comes to the world of agriculture, Kyle Stanley doesn't have a green thumb. First Steve Stricker took his John Deere away, then Farmers Insurance foreclosed on him. (I wonder if they cover that?)

It certainly looked like one of those Farmers Insurance University commercials, didn't it? On the outside chance you don't know what I'm talking about, here's the most recent one:



I don't think Stanley would have been more surprised if "obscure space junk" had indeed dropped on him. He probably felt like it had. After getting out to a 7-stroke lead early in the final round, golf happened. A series of unfortunate events -- no relation to the children's books by Lemony Snicket -- came down on him as his ball started wandering all over the course. His lead fell to 3 strokes when he still thought it was 5 shots.

[cue giant hand-cranked jack-in-the-box]

Meanwhile, Brandt Snedeker casually enjoyed the beautiful California seascape. After all, he was 3 strokes off the lead and had no chance of even getting into a playoff.

[cue obscure space junk falling from the sky]

Then came Stanley's disastrous 8 on the final hole that wiped out his lead. Shades of Charles Howell III and Robert Garrigus! A stunned Snedeker was summoned to a playoff with the stunned Stanley, and the stunned audience watched both men in a two-hole playoff nobody expected. And on the second hole Snedeker got a fortuitous bounce off a TV tower, rather than a more likely unfortuitous bounce into the water. Snedeker got up and down, Stanley didn't. Snedeker sympathized -- he's been through this himself, you know -- then smiled and took the trophy and check.

[cue space monkey parachuting down -- "Moving on..."]

To me, the really eerie part of this was that Snedeker actually referenced "this monkey" when talking to Peter Kostis. He clearly meant the old phrase "get the monkey off your back," but the unintended appropriateness of it -- given the context -- was a bit weird even for me.

Kyle Stanley will win eventually -- he's too good not to. But this victory belongs to Brandt Snedeker, who collected the check from Farmers Insurance (they clearly covered that) and thus receives this shiny new Limerick Summary to go with his bonsai trophy -- an artificial tree that doesn't care whether you have a green thumb or not:
The Farmers was not kind to Stanley;
His three-shot lead should have won grandly.
Then SHOCK! Two holes later
His putter turned traitor
And Snedeker beat him quite handily.
The photo came from the PGATOUR.com home page.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tiger's New Poker Face

By the time most of you read this, we'll know who won the Abu Dhabi tournament. In all likelihood, it'll be either Tiger or Rory. And then the debates will begin anew...

Is Tiger "back"? Has Rory "made a statement"?

It's pretty silly, of course. It's just one tournament after a brief layoff. If you've paid much attention, nobody's been particularly sharp. But nobody's been questioning Rory's ability to contend, so I'm going to focus on Tiger today and just make a few observations.

First, let's put that "is he back?" question to rest. I agree with Frank Nobilo -- no, Tiger's not "back" but he's definitely getting things together. You can see that Tiger is reasonably happy with his progress after he finishes a round. During the round, he's clearly not hitting shots exactly the way he wants.

That's probably as it should be. During the round he's "in the moment," just thinking about the shot at hand. After the round, he looks at the totality of the round and assesses his overall performance. I think that indicates that he's mentally "back in the game." All the questions raised in the media about his mental toughness were little more than ways to fill airtime. Let's not mince words here -- yes, he was mentally screwed over for quite a while; that was to be expected after his frustration over the mess he made of his life got magnified by his continued poor health.

Personally, I think the lack of focus vanished once he played the Frys.com and could still walk after four rounds. And I suspect his confidence started coming back after that final round at the Presidents Cup. That was where he was under the most pressure -- not only about his own game, but because he didn't want Freddie to look bad for picking him. The win at Chevron can be attributed to that performance as much as anything, because that's when he knew it was all starting to gel.

And I have to thank Tiger for making me look like I know what I'm talking about. Smiley Faces In case you don't remember, all the way back in March 2011, I wrote that:
"...in the 'Foley' swing, he [Tiger] really is closer to his original swing than with either the 'Butch' or 'Haney' swing. This swing is very similar to his original swing except his weight is more on the left side than the right."
And then in December I wrote:
"It's no secret that I think Tiger and Sean have been trying to go back to his teenage swing -- minus that big move off the ball that Tiger eliminated under Butch Harmon's care."
In his media presser after Saturday's round Tiger confirmed that he and Sean had done exactly that, and that Sean had actually pulled out old video footage of Tiger's teenage swing to help him see where they were going. As far as I know, I'm the only person who made the connection and put it in writing, so I'm feeling pretty smug right now. (And I'm enjoying it, as I don't get to feel smug very often.)

One more observation: I don't know how many of you have heard of Doyle Brunson, but he's a legend in poker circles. He quite literally wrote the book on poker... twice. After winning so much that he became a legend, Brunson wrote a book called Doyle Brunson's Super System: A Course in Power Poker. It's MASSIVE and it's considered THE textbook on the game. Many people expected him to retire. After all, how could he continue to win after divulging all his secrets?

It's simple -- he just figured out a new way to do it. And after he beat people that way for a while, he published a second book called Doyle Brunson's Super System 2: A Course in Power Poker.

Ironically, although he doesn't win as much as he used to -- internet poker has changed the playing field, tournaments that used to have 600 entrants now have 6000+, and Doyle himself is nearly 80 years old -- he still holds his own. Apparently he's continuing to find new ways to win.

Hank Haney was on Morning Drive last week and I thought he sounded somewhat disappointed in Tiger's new game -- not the swing, but the way he's approaching the game. Tiger used to shape every shot differently, now he seems to be focusing on that little stinger cut of his. The implication seems to be that Tiger's settling for a less impressive game.

Tim Rosaforte has noted that Tiger seems to be "more comfortable with himself" and is relating better to other players like Rory. Other commentators have noticed it as well. Everyone has commented that the new kids have learned from what Tiger did, so you might say the one or two guys who could compete has multiplied into dozens. The old intimidation is gone and, although it goes unsaid, I think most of them believe Tiger has just acquiesced to the fact that he'll never be the player he was.

It would appear that Tiger Woods's Super System: A Course in Power Golf has been a bestseller.

When I wrote about Phil's problems yesterday I said he would probably need to make some changes to his pre-shot routine to get his new mental approach to work. I think we're seeing some of the same thing with Tiger, except he's changing his playing strategy just like Brunson had to do. Tiger rewrote the book on how golfers prepare to play, so now everybody's training in the gym, improving their short games, etc.

Tiger's not "back" yet, folks... but books take time to write. We're only seeing the intro and part of the first chapter right now. Don't be surprised if this one turns into a bestseller too.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

No Phil for the Game

At least, not this weekend. After shooting 77-68, Phil Mickelson tossed his bags in the trunk and headed on home. His +1 score missed the cut by 3 shots.

Phil at workThe irony here is that Phil says he feels pretty good about his game. He said Thursday's round was "pathetic" and he can only blame it on lack of focus. Friday he put it this way:
"I don't feel like there's any one area that I feel bad about my game. It's just that I'm not bringing it from the practice session on to the golf course yet. I'm not sure why that is, but the good news is in my practice sessions it's been great in every area, except that I'm not carrying it to the course and scoring and playing smart and putting the ball in the right spot and what have you. So that's probably the area that I'll be working on here this weekend now that I have it off."
Sound familiar? Some of you may think that's a cop-out, but I think Phil may be right.

I wouldn't call it a lack of focus though. Rather, I think it's a confusion of focus.

You may remember a post I did a week ago about Phil's debut at the Hope. One of the articles I referenced from Golf.com included this statement:
"Butch Harmon raved to Golf World recently about Mickelson’s improved outlook under mental coach Julie Elion and said Mickelson is making more putts."
And indeed, Phil did make more putts on Friday. But the rest of his game seemed a bit off.

An article in USAToday from last August had more detail on Julie Elion. It included this quote from Tim Rosaforte, which came from this Golf Digest post:
"Mickelson doesn't want to go into detail on what they work on, but inside the camp Elion is credited, in part, with Phil's enthusiastic attitude during tough links conditions that resulted in his T-2 at the British Open. Elion works with 10 players on the PGA Tour, including J.B.Holmes."
You may remember that Phil seemed to lose focus on the back nine at the Open as well. He missed the cut at the Greenbrier Classic and his best finish the rest of the year was a 10th at the Tour Championship.

We have heard some about what Phil is working on. Butch Harmon told GC that Phil was trying to freewheel it a bit more, which I guess means he's trying not to over-analyze his game so much on the course. My point here isn't that he's doing anything wrong but that, much like swing changes, mental changes can take a while to fully incorporate into your game.

To use the swing thought from yesterday's post as an example, when you try to focus on your target rather than your mechanics -- but you're used to thinking mechanics -- sometimes your brain sends mixed messages to your muscles. It can take a while to develop a new thought pattern, especially if you're still trying to figure out exactly what thoughts should be changed.

If you make changes to your mental game, you may find yourself with the same problem as Phil. Mental adjustments could be the hardest part of improving.

That's what I think is happening to Phil. He's so used to dissecting shots with Bones before he even addresses the ball that his brain ends up with extra time when he steps up to the ball... then his mind just slips into neutral for a few moments, so to speak, and he loses his train of thought. Being a creature of habit, I suspect he needs to make some changes to his pre-shot routine to eliminate that "dead spot" in his thinking. You may need to do the same thing when you take a new approach to your game.

But don't worry about Phil, folks -- he'll get it figured out. He figured out how to win the Masters, didn't he?

Friday, January 27, 2012

That Sneaky Lead Elbow!

Here's an image to help you make better contact and stay on plane throughout your swing.

If you've looked at the posts in the "basic principles of the game" category, you'll see that I have a real hang-up about twisting your forearms during your swing. Twisting your forearms (often called "releasing the clubface") is one of those things that most instructors casually assume you need to do during a good swing. Let me make this perfectly clear: You don't and you shouldn't.

Let me repeat that. You don't need to twist your forearms during your swing and you shouldn't. No less an authority than Ben Hogan backs me up on this. In his book Five Lessons, which is a bible for many instructors, Hogan writes:
"The action of the arms is motivated by the movements of the body, and the hands consciously do nothing but maintain a firm grip on the club."
That's on page 82 of my copy, and Hogan felt so strongly about it that he put the whole thing in capital letters. If you try to use your hands, you automatically twist your forearms.

Why is that such a big deal? There are several reasons, but I'll focus on just one today. If you start trying to twist your forearms during your swing, most of you will end up with a "chicken wing followthrough." And among other things, "winging it" will produce slices and topped shots.

When you twist your forearms, you point your hands and club shaft away from the ball and pull through the shot with your elbow leading the way. If you do that, your hands can't "catch up" and square up the club face, hence you slice. Then that bent elbow pulls the clubhead into a shorter arc and you hit higher on the ball, hence you top it.

I talk a lot about connection -- that is, keeping your triceps resting lightly against your chest as much as you can throughout your swing -- and you can keep your lead tricep resting against your chest all the way from address until you swing your club over your lead shoulder when you pose at the finish. Your lead shoulder is your left shoulder if you play right-handed, and it's your right shoulder if you play left-handed. This connected position keeps your lead elbow fairly close to your chest.

That's important because a connected lead elbow is pointed toward the ground all the way through your swing.

And if your lead elbow stays close to your side and points to the ground all the way through your swing, your hands and the club tend to stay in front of you. When that happens, the back of your lead hand tends to return to its address position and you square up the club. Your arm doesn't shorten its arc. You get a nice solid hit on the ball.

Best of all, no one accuses you of being Col. Sanders's next victim. Smiley Faces

One of the best ways to get a feel for this move is to imagine you're throwing a Frisbee™ or hitting a tennis backhand. Most people naturally make the correct movement if they do that, plus they make the proper lower body move without sliding their hips too far forward during the downswing.

So pay some attention to that sneaky lead elbow and its tendency to move too far away from your side and lead your downswing. The only good chicken wing is an edible one!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

An Abu Dubious Start

I stayed up late tonight (Wednesday) to watch some of the Abu Dhabi HSBC.

The tournament is getting off to a slow start. I really expected some fireworks, given all the firepower in the field and the simple fact that this is desert golf with near perfect weather.

Instead, with a number of the big names already halfway through their rounds -- Kaymer and Westwood haven't teed off yet -- Gareth Maybin (who?), Michael Hoey (2-time winner last year), Anders Hansen, and Rory McIlroy lead at -3, with a group tied at -2. K.J. Choi and Luke Donald are in that group. Tiger and Jason Day are in another group at -1.

I understand that the course groundskeepers tried to toughen up the course this year because the scoring has been so low in the past. Thus far it looks like they've succeeded.

Given that no one is blistering the course, Tiger's -1 is obviously good. He looks a bit frustrated to me -- not quite happy with his execution -- although the same could be said of Rory. (I don't know if Luke ever looks rusty, even though he hasn't played for 5 weeks. That swing of his always looks the same, even when it isn't working well... and that's not a problem for him so far.) Overall, Tiger looks to be hitting the ball pretty well.

All of these players look a bit rusty to me. Of course, for most of the big names, this is their first competitive round in a few weeks, so I probably shouldn't be surprised. Still, last year's play (and, surprisingly, the first three weeks this year) have me expecting better golf from the top players.

How ironic. Tiger and Phil were basically "off" during 2011, and the other players convinced me I should expect more than I did before. Despite what I would call a lackluster round, I guess 2012 is off to a good start after all.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ben's New Video

Well, the video didn't show up where I thought it would. At YouTube it has a message above it that says "This video is unlisted. Only those with the link can see it." Instead, you had to go to bencranegolf.com (at least there was a link at the YouTube channel) to see it there.

But now it's been released, and here it is:



Just one question remains: I wonder if all slow boars need crash helmets?

Will Ben Release It Today?

Today's post is very short for a simple reason...

Ben Crane's new video is due out and it didn't show up in time for me to post it!

All I know is it has something to do with being a gymnast. (!!!)

Here's the link to Ben's YouTube channel. When it comes out, it ought to show up there. At the time I posted this, the Golf Boys video was the featured video and the last video he posted (in the list beneath it) came out last November.

I can't believe this. Ben speeds up his play, only to slow down his video releases. Oh, the irony of it all!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Is It Just About the Money?

Tiger starts his year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship this week. Of course, there's no question why he's playing there instead of Torrey Pines. Word on the street is that he's getting paid seven figures -- $2-3 million. That's a lot of good reasons to show up, especially since Tiger almost certainly has money concerns like alimony payments and those new digs down in Florida.

But are we sure that's the only reason?

Some have suggested that he's also bypassing Dubai since it's sponsored by Omega -- a move that might not set well with his new sponsor Rolex.

But is that all?

I'm sure both of those play a part in Tiger's decision to play Abu Dhabi this week. But I'm not so sure they're the only reasons.

Back in December I questioned how much the world rankings were really worth. I won't rehash all of that, but I can't help but wonder if Tiger hasn't chosen Abu Dhabi in part because he could make a huge move in the world rankings this week.

Look at it this way. According to this week's OWGR rankings, #1 Luke Donald has 9.89 points and #10 Jason Day has 4.93 points -- a difference of 4.96 points. But from Jason all the way down to #1001 Shamim Khan, at 0.06 points, there's only a difference of 4.87 points. There's more distance between #1 and #10 than between #10 and #1001!

Tiger is currently #25. He has 3.44 points. He's only 1.49 points out of the Top 10.

Now let's look at the fields. At Torrey Pines, Dustin Johnson -- #9 in the OWGR -- is the only Top 10 player scheduled to play. (And let's not ignore the fact that he had to withdraw with back problems last week. That could happen again this week, depending on how far out of shape he is.) Make it the Top 15 and you can add #12 Nick Watney and #15 Phil Mickelson.

How about Abu Dhabi? Well, I see Luke Donald (1), Lee Westwood (2), Rory McIlroy (3), Martin Kaymer (4), Charl Schwartzel (8), and Jason Day (10). That's 6 of the Top 10... and please note that 5 of these players are all ranked above DJ. You can add Graeme McDowell (13) and K.J. Choi (14) to that list if you go down to the Top 15.

I don't know exactly how the points for a win are assigned but I'm pretty sure that, with so many highly-ranked players in the field, a win at Abu Dhabi just might kick Tiger all the way back into the Top 10 in the world. A win at the Farmers Insurance Open probably wouldn't.

The list of events Tiger has committed to (listed at his website) only has two events so far -- Abu Dhabi and Pebble Beach. I don't know what the field at Pebble will look like, but the WGC-Accenture Match Play is only 3 weeks after Pebble. The major season gets started in earnest after that.

So maybe it's not just about the money after all. If I was Tiger and wanted to make a serious run at #1 in the world again, I'd play Abu Dhabi too.

But then, $3 million wouldn't hurt either. Smiley Faces

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 Humana Challenge

Winner: Mark Wilson

Around the wider world of golf: Several tours got back in action this week. Brendon Grace won the ET's Volvo Golf Champions, his 2nd win in 2 weeks -- a month ago he was in Q-School!; Karen Lunn won the ActewAGL Royal Canberra Ladies Classic on the ALPG; and Dan Forsman won the Mitsubishi Electric Championship on the Champions Tour.

Mark Wilson gets his fifth win

Some very important people gave Hope to a struggling tournament this week.

Just last year, the future of the tournament formerly known as the Hope (thank you, Prince, for a joke that never dies!) was in serious doubt. It had no sponsor; it had no big names in the field; it had no panache.

And then the executive order came down -- "Save the Hope!"

Former President Bill Clinton and Humana signed up for long-term sponsorship. (Eight years is an eternity in pro golf.) President Clinton completely overhauled the format, called on some friends like Greg Norman, and personally contacted some big-name players like Phil Mickelson. More importantly, he showed up at the event and interacted with players and fans alike, just like Bob Hope had in those glory days so long ago.

Because of President Clinton's efforts, Mark Wilson hoisted his third trophy in 13 months, his fifth in his career. (Is it a surprise that the trophy is now called the Hope Trophy?) But it wasn't easy.

Wilson entered the final round with a 3-shot lead, but a bogey on the 3rd -- and the expected low rounds by the players behind him -- soon put him out of the lead. It looked as if his Hope was dashed. (Sorry, you're going to get a lot of bad Hope jokes today.) But then he reached the 11th and seemed to catch his second wind -- an appropriate thing to do at a tournament that's now dedicated to health awareness. He reeled off 4 birdies in the last 8 holes, including one on the 18th to dash everybody else's Hope of a playoff.

So here's to Mark Wilson and the fifth win of his career. This Limerick Summary is dedicated to him and all the folks involved, who proved that "The Hope springs eternal...":
Though briefly his lead took a dentin'
Mark's final-hole birdie putt went in.
His Hope was revived
Because new friends arrived—
Humana and President Clinton.
The photo came from the PGATOUR.com tournament page.

Monday Post Delayed by Power Outage

Pretty much says it all. ;-) I'll get it up later today.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Third Master

Sounds like a sequel to my A Tale of Two Masters post, doesn't it?

Surprise! It is.

Of course, my original two masters -- 2010 Masters champ Phil Mickelson and 2011 Masters champ Charl Schwartzel -- continue to make news. I didn't realize the cut at the Humana Challenge was to come after 3 rounds. Yet Phil's news still isn't clear, as play was halted yesterday when winds made the La Quinta course too dangerous to play. Play on all three courses had to be stopped as a result, and Phil had 6 holes left to play. Phil has gotten better each day, and at -5 is a single stroke short of the projected cut. Of course, with better weather today, that cut may move up.

As for Charl... man, you just can't underestimate that guy! The course that the Volvo Golf Champions is being played on is par 73, and after a 75 on Thursday that left him 11 strokes back. Then he calmly shot a 67 and 68 to leave himself a single shot off the lead going into today! (I'll save you the math. The Day 1 leader was at -9; the Day 3 leader is at -10. They didn't exactly make it hard for him, did they?) The irony here is that Charl putted poorly, missing several short putts. He could have actually had a 2- or 3-shot lead going into Sunday!

But it's the third Master who made the real news Saturday. José María Olazábal, the 1994 and 1999 Masters Champion, sits just 2 off the lead... and, save for a double on the 17th, would have been co-leader going into today's round. The 2012 European Ryder Cup captain is more than a sentimental favorite.

2012 Ryder Cup captains José María Olazábal and Davis Love III

You see, José María has had more than his share of health problems over the years. He's suffered from rheumatoid arthritis since the mid-1990s. Shortly after getting the captainship he told the Guardian (a UK site) that he would need to "manage my programme very carefully over the next 20 months" because of the pain. He also told them that at times over the past three years (the interview was done in January 2011) "I have been in such excruciating pain I was unable to do anything at all. All you can do is just sit or lie down and not move."

I have to confess that I'm pulling for JM to win the Volvo Golf Champions today. His last win came way back in 2005. After everything he's been through, wouldn't it be a cool story if he won again leading up to the Ryder Cup?

At any rate, José María Olazábal certainly deserves the title of Masters champ. Even thought I can't do anything else, at least I can pay him that much respect. Good luck, JM!

The photo came from JM's page at europeantour.com.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Old Boys' Club

While Mickelson worked his way back under par in the desert -- he's now at -1 and only 15 off the lead -- and Schwartzel got himself within 8 of the lead in South Africa, the old boys started their season on the Champions Tour.

Anybody for a trip back to Hawaii?

The Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai -- the tournament names just get longer and longer, don't they? -- has only 41 players in its field but the scoring looks more like the Humana Challenge. The leaders are Tom Lehman and Bruce Vaughn (no relation to Vince, see picture below) at -7.

Bruce Vaughn, no relation to Vince

Brad Faxon is in a pack at -6. Tom Watson had it to -5 but three bogeys coming in dropped him to -3. Fred Couples at even par is feeling it in his back again and plans another trip to Germany, the mecca for ailing athletes. (You may have heard that even Kobe Bryant of the Lakers has been there for knee treatment. It's revitalized his career as much as it did for Freddie and Vijay Singh.)

I don't know what's up with Hale Irwin. He's bringing up the rear at +7. I looked but couldn't find anything to tell whether he had some physical ailment or just Mickelson Syndrome (medically described by Dr. Forrest Gump as "you never know what you gonna get").

The Mitsubishi's limited field is determined a bit differently than the PGA Tour's Hyundai ToC. According to the West Hawaii Today site:
"To play in the Mitsubishi Electric, golfers must have won a Champions Tour major tournament in the past five years, won a Champions Tour event in the past two years or received a sponsor exemption. [According to PGATOUR.com, 8 players received exemptions.]

"The players who receive exemptions must have accumulated either a minimum of 30 combined victories on the PGA and Champions tours or tallied 15 combined wins and at least one major championship."
The article also has comments from several of the players in the event, especially John Cook who is currently at -3.

It's no secret that the PGA Tour is looking for ways to increase attendance at the Hyundai. Perhaps they should consider expanding the Hyundai qualifications along the lines of the Mitsubishi. I had already considered adding winners of 9 or more events in an earlier post. Just expanding the field to winners from the last two years might be enough to get a decent-sized field, as many of the one-time winners would almost certainly want to start the year in Hawaii.

And I'm sure some of the old boys would enjoy joining the club as well. After all, with the Hyundai, the Sony, and then the Mitsubishi, what better excuse would you need to spend 3 weeks in Hawaii?

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Tale of Two Masters

Phil Mickelson's exuberant return to competition turned into a struggle Thursday. The 2010 Masters Champion turned a front-side -3 into a +2 round at the Humana Challenge. I'm sure he was frustrated.

Charl Schwartzel feels his pain. Down in South Africa at the Volvo Golf Champions, the 2011 Masters Champion also carded a +2... but he never even sniffed a score below par. He went +3 on the front side, then got it back to even before dropping another 2 shots.

Which do you suppose feels worse -- dropping from -3 to +2, or never getting out of the basement?

Unfortunately, the ironies don't end there. The leaders at both tournaments sit at -9. The leaderboard's grouped a bit more tightly for Phil -- Camilo Villegas and David Toms lead the Humana, with 5 players tied at -8. In Charl's world, Nicolas Colsaerts leads by 4 over last week's winner Branden Grace, Thomas Aiken, and young Tom Lewis.

A mere 5 players trail Charl, while 7 trail Phil. The main difference? Phil's in a full-field event while Charl faces 35 players (and no cut), so Phil has a bigger challenge to get back into the fray.

But does it really matter? The back of the pack is the back of the pack. Phil may need a -7 or -8 round just to make the cut while Charl will go 4 rounds and get a check no matter what, but I doubt that's any comfort to Charl.

With all apologies to AC/DC, when you're used to green, it's no fun being back in black. So this long-distance dedication goes out to the two Masters who got mastered on Thursday. It's a cruel game -- better luck today, boys!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Debut of Phil

Yes, today he swaggers back into the spotlight. At least, we hope he's swaggering and not just struggling with pain. Since we haven't seen him in a while, are we really sure what we're going to see?

It's Phil!This is Phil Mickelson's first time back at the Humana Challenge, AKA the tournament previously known as the Hope, since 2007. Personally courted by former President Clinton, Phil (along with Greg Norman) is reportedly giving the revamped tourney a ticket boost it hasn't seen in years.

Back to the swagger: The word is that Phil is trying a new approach this year. Butch Harmon says Phil is taking a less mechanical approach to his game this year -- that should be fun to watch! -- and has even enlisted a sports psychologist (Julie Elion) to help him putt better. (In case you're interested, here's her website.)

Of course, since Phil is the leading money winner at the Hope, it'll be interesting to see how he does this week. As a general rule, when Phil has gotten an early start and played well, he's had a pretty good year. We may get to see him for a little bit in the broadcast window today since his tee time is listed as 8:50am PT (that's 11:50am ET). He's scheduled to start on the La Quinta Country Club course, the longest of the three courses being used. (At 7060 yards and listed at par 72, you can guess there'll be some low scores.)

If you want to get more info on the event, you can check out this article at Golf.com by Cameron Morfit. (The photo's from that article as well.) GC's broadcast window starts at 3pm ET.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Getting a Grip on Grip Size

I'm sure you've seen ads for oversize club grips. I'm thinking of the one with the smug guy who makes a bet with a friend who uses oversize grips (I think they're called JumboMax) and ends up having to play a round in a dress. And it's no secret that K.J. Choi has been using an oversize putter grip for several years (I believe that one's the SuperStroke, made by Tiger Shark).

Well, if you're a curious sort, you might be wondering if oversize grips will really help your game. I wish I could answer that question, but I can't. I'm not sure anybody can, simply because every player is different.

However, you might find this article on a grip size test Golf.com did interesting. Their test was a small sample size -- only 24 golfers -- so I wouldn't call it particularly scientific. But it had these players compare 5 identical 5-irons with different size grips, both for feel when they held them and for consistency as measured by Trackman.

They found that most players were playing the wrong size grips. And what was their advice? They concluded that "The only way to know what size grips to use is to experiment with as many different sizes as possible."

Not very helpful, huh?

But in reference to oversize grips, I can tell you this. As a general rule, the larger your grips are -- within reason, of course -- the less tightly you have to grip them to hold the club firmly. That should mean you rotate your forearms less during the swing, which should help your accuracy.

The key word here is should. That's the theory behind oversize grips. But should you go out and get a set?

I wouldn't unless I was sure I liked them. If you're really curious, you might consider having one of your clubs, preferably one you use a lot, regripped with an oversize grip and spend some time playing with it. If you like it -- and more importantly, if it helps your game -- then you might want to invest in a full set. But bear in mind that even the jumbo grips that all the manufacturers have made for years are more expensive than the regular sizes. These new oversize jokers are MUCH more expensive.

For example, I zipped over to Golfsmith to compare grip prices. I decided to compare Golf Pride Tour Velvet grips:
  • The standard Tour Velvet was listed at $4.19 each.
  • The mid-size +1/16 inch was $4.99.
  • The jumbo +1/8 inch was $5.39.
Some other oversize grips went up to $9.99.

Then I went to the JumboMax site and their grips were $10.99. Their sizing chart is here.

So hopefully that will answer any questions you have on the topic -- at least, as well as I can answer them.

And no, I don't have any arrangement with any of these companies where I make a profit if you buy their stuff. This post is purely for your information only.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Euros Prefer Volvos to Hyundais

The PGA Tour season began with a limited-field event. Not to be outdone, the European Tour will have one this week.

I copied this from the event's info page at europeantour.com:
The 2010 Volvo Golf Champions will take place over The Links at Fancourt, George, South Africa from 19th – 22nd January 2012, the first exclusively-sanctioned European Tour event of the year, open only to winners from 2011 and European Tour players with 10 or more Tour titles to their name.

The limited field event will play all four rounds, with no halfway cut, the champion earning a first prize of €350,000 from a total prize fund of €2million.
At current exchange rates, that's a first prize of $444,990 and a total prize fund of $2,542,800. That's less than half of the Hyundai's purse. (That's less than half of the Sony Open's purse.)

The PGA Tour has been wondering how to increase participation in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, since so many of the winners don't seem to take it seriously. I've heard it suggested that they expand it to the winners from the last two years instead of one. The Volvo Golf Champions is an interesting twist on the concept, allowing the previous years' winners plus ET players with 10 or more Tour titles.

How would that work out for the PGA Tour? Well, according to the golf guy, Brent Kelley, over at About.com's golf page, here's the list of active players with 9 or more wins:
  1. Tiger Woods - 71
  2. Phil Mickelson - 39
  3. Vijay Singh - 34
  4. Davis Love III - 20
  5. Ernie Els – 18
  6. Jim Furyk - 16
  7. Fred Couples - 15
  8. Corey Pavin – 15
  9. Kenny Perry - 14
  10. David Duval - 13
  11. David Toms - 13
  12. Justin Leonard - 12
  13. Steve Stricker - 12
  14. Steve Elkington - 10
  15. Stuart Appleby - 9
Except for Woods and Mickelson (who are already no-shows), the other guys would probably show up if they didn't already qualify with a current win. It's an idea that might be worth considering.

It's interesting to note that the Volvo's list shows only 35 eligible players -- not many more than the Hyundai currently has. I'll be interested to see how many actually show up. Wonder if they'll put the PGA Tour pros to shame?

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 Sony Open

Winner: Johnson Wagner

Around the wider world of golf: Another week without much going on yet. Branden Grace got his first ET win at the Joberg Open in South Africa.

Man, this caterlipper itches!

When it looked (after the third round) as if Matt Every was going to win, I had a brilliant idea. After the media brouhaha over his brush with the police, I jotted down a Limerick Summary giving him a brush with an entirely different Police -- a limerick based on the song "Every Step You Take." Oh, it was sooooo clever.

Alas, sometimes the best-laid plans go awry. They certainly did for Matt Every. Of course, every (Every?) player seeking their first PGA Tour win goes through this process at one time or another. But it meant my musical tribute was all for naught.

Uh, not quite. I was inspired. If pop stars couldn't get it done, perhaps a classical composer could!

Alright, Johnson Wagner isn't quite Richard Wagner. (You do know that's pronounced Rikard Vogner, don't you?) But the composer's masterpiece, the four-opera cycle called Der Ring des Nibelungen -- literally The Ring of the Nibelung but perhaps better known as The Ring Cycle -- seemed quite appropriate for Johnson's win.

The Ring Cycle is based on old Norse and German myths, and centers around a magic ring that can give its owner the power to rule the world. (Sound familiar, Lord of the Ring fans?) The mortal hero Sigfried and his lover, the Valkyrie Brünnhilde are major characters. Golf holes aren't gold, but they're certainly rings; and PGA victories could be viewed as power bestowed by them...

I'm sure you can see where this is all going.

Being the animation fan that I am, you're probably not surprised to learn that all of this triggered a fond memory of Chuck Jones's What's Opera, Doc? starring Elmer Fudd as Sigfried and Bugs Bunny in drag as his beloved Brünnhilde. On the outside chance you've never seen it -- it's considered Jones's magnum opus -- here's a YouTube version:



I don't know if the original Sigfried had a caterlipper going on like Johnson Wagner did, but at least Johnson didn't die at the end of his performance. Johnson triumphed over all those little rings in the ground, coming from out of nowhere to win by 2 strokes over his four closest competitors. Not only that, he even got his own little ticket to Valhalla.

Well, most pros consider Augusta to be the equivalent. Having never been there, I don't know if Valkyries guide the first-timers down Magnolia Lane or not.

At any rate, here's a very classical Limerick Summary celebrating Wagner's entry into the glorious circle of winners. I guess you could call them the Fellowship of the Rings:
Like Brünnhilde reclined in her bower,
This vict'ry's a magical flower.
The putts Wagner downed
Through rings in the ground
Imbued him with Master-ful power.
The photo came from the front page of PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Super Simple Trajectory Control

Which club should I choose?I found this super simple tip on how to control your trajectory by PGA pro Dr. T.J. Tomasi and I just had to pass it on!

The article is called Drop Down, Choke Down and it details a technique that Tomasi says Jim Furyk, Briny Baird and Sergio Garcia have all used to control their trajectory.

Simply put, it details how to pair your irons from 5-iron down to SW so you can hit low-trajectory shots without any change to your swing. Here's one key paragraph that summarizes the idea:
"Here’s how to keep the ball low without changing your swing or your ball position. Group your irons in pairs: 5-iron/7-iron, 6-iron/8-iron, 7-iron/9-iron, 8-iron/PW, and 9-iron/SW. Now you’re set to control trajectory like a pro. To produce the distance of a 9-iron with the height of a 7-iron, grip down on the handle of the 7 until your right index finger (for right-handers) touches the shaft itself. All you have to do is make exactly the same swing with the 7-iron as you would if you were hitting a full 9."
By all means read the tip. It might save you a lot of frustration, especially on a windy day.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Just a Tadd Older

Someone turned 21 last Sunday.

Tadd Fujikawa at the 2012 Sony Open

It seems like just yesterday that Tadd Fujikawa became the youngest player ever to qualify for the U.S. Open. (That was 2006 and he was a 15-year-old amateur.) Lately he's been plying his trade -- none too successfully, I'm afraid -- on the Hooters Tour and the eGolf Professional Tour, which used to be called the TarHeel Tour and is HQ'ed in Charlotte NC, just a couple of hours south of me. He's fought some back problems. He tried to go through Q-School but didn't make it past 2nd stage. And he played the Monday qualifier for the Sony but missed the playoff by one stroke.

It hasn't been a particularly good few months.

Then Brian Davis withdrew and Tadd got the last sponsor's exemption into the event at 10:30am Tuesday morning. He looks to be making the best of it -- he's 5-under, T17 and just 5 behind leader Matt Every after two rounds.

The men's game certainly isn't as kind to young prodigies as the ladies' game. No matter what problems may befall the girls, whether it's a Cristie Kerr or a Michelle Wie, they seem to survive and eventually thrive. People may worry about Lexi Thompson, but history seems to indicate that she'll do just fine. Maybe the women just take better care of each other, I don't know. But young PGA Tour pros almost always seem destined to struggle. Even Ryo Ishikawa seems to be feeling the strain of expectation -- he missed the cut.

Here's hoping that this week becomes a new jumping-off point for Tadd Fujikawa. This Taddpole has spent long enough as a frog -- it's time for him to become a prince. Our game could certainly use another great story like him.

I got some of my info from this Golfweek article.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Shoulder Turn VS Shaft Position

I stumbled across this Golf Digest video tip and went "WOW!" This is one of those things that never gets clarified during those TV swing analysis sessions because they always talk about pros, not weekend players.

This tip comes from Jim Flick and Jack Nicklaus:



Let's focus on one specific "point" -- namely, where should the shaft point at the top of the backswing? The standard teaching is that it should point straight down the line toward the target. As pointed out in this video, Nicklaus was also ok if it pointed slightly right of the target since he got more than a 90° shoulder turn.

But what if you don't get a 90° shoulder turn? That's what made me say "WOW!" to this video. Pay attention here:

If you have a shoulder turn that's less than 90°, your club shaft should point to the LEFT of the target line. (Or to the right if you play left-handed.) And if you look at what Stina is demonstrating, you'll also note that the club may be pointing up in the air, not parallel to the ground. The reason is that your shoulders aren't making what most instructors consider a complete turn, so it's no surprise that your club should end up in a shorter than standard position.

Or, to put it another way, if you don't get a 90° shoulder turn, your shoulder turn looks more like a three-quarter shot than a full shot. Therefore the top of your backswing should also look like a three-quarter backswing, not a full backswing.

Keep this in mind when you're using the one-piece takeaway I always stress that you should use. If you have limited flexibility -- either because you have a thick torso (that's not a crime, folks) or perhaps because of age (again, that's no crime) -- then when you make a proper takeaway you aren't going to look like a Tour pro who typically gets 100° or more of shoulder turn. Concentrate on getting the best turn you can and getting your arms and club into a good position relative to that turn.

Pay attention to this and you'll get the maximum distance and best accuracy your body can provide... with a lot less frustration and a lot less pain.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The New LPGA Schedule

Sometime back I said that I would do a post on the LPGA schedule when it got released... but a whole lot of other people have already done some really good posts on the subject. I'm going to give you links to them, but I'd like to quickly mention a few high points.

First, the number of tournaments is up to 27. Everybody is happy that the LPGA picked up 4 new tournaments, but the news is actually better than that. You may know that they lost the State Farm event (I believe State Farm is moving to the PGA Tour as a sponsor) and that they had a couple of "iffy" tournaments last year that didn't get played. None of those are included in this year's schedule, so there were actually more tournaments added.

The new tournaments include the return of the Jamie Farr (missing last year because of a schedule conflict, I think), some brand new tournaments that have already been talked about, and the return of events in Hawaii and Kingsmill (those last two have new sponsors, but they're places the LPGA used to play).

Also, the somewhat controversial Founders Cup (remember the "phantom purse" from last year?) now has a bonafide purse for the players as well as the charity purse. That's like giving them another tournament as well!

And Michael Whan says they may be adding another tournament later this year, but the details weren't finalized in time for the schedule's release.

All-in-all, you have to hand it to Whan. He made some apparently radical moves over the last year or so that got a lot of criticism... and they've all paid off. The LPGA is on better footing than it has been in quite a while.

Now, here are the links to some of the other posts. (Thank The Constructivist over at Mostly Harmless for several of them.)
And finally, here's the local video of the Kingsmill announcement:



I think that pretty well covers it. Smiley Faces

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Some More Trajectory Help

Last month I did a basic post on controlling trajectory. As you know, I like to keep things simple.

hitting it lowhitting it low


However, I recently found this article with more detailed instructions on how to vary your trajectory. It's simply called Control Trajectory and it was written by PGA instructor Jeff Ritter. It has two short checklists of six items each to check for hitting it high and hitting it low.

My simple list works well, but some of you might find these more detailed lists (with short explanations of what each step accomplishes) help you better visualize what you're trying to do.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 Hyundai Tournament of Champions

Winner: Steve Stricker

Around the wider world of golf: Nothing widespread yet, just Louis Oosthuizen's win at the ET's Africa Open, which I wrote about yesterday. I guess if you want to get picky, since both Tim Tebow and Ben Roethlisberger play golf, you could include the Broncos win over the Steelers. Does either guy have dimples?

Stricks in Hawaii

Maybe we should start calling him Mr. January? The Ice Man, a chip off the old Hogan block?

Personally, I like Mr. Freeze. He comes from Wisconsin. He practices his game in the snow. And he's got ice water in those veins once he gets a lead, doesn't he? I believe he's 6 out of 6 now when he's got a solo lead after 3 rounds. He's getting harder and harder to catch with a lead. And he didn't cry this time... perhaps even the Hawaii heat couldn't melt the ice.

But there was some Hawaii heat. Martin Laird, Jonathan Byrd (the defending champion), and Webb Simpson all took shots at him. In the end nobody could catch him. Stricks had said earlier in the week that the Plantation Course at Kapalua was one place where you needed local knowledge to really post a good score.

He certainly had it on the final 4 holes. By my count he was 13-under on 15-18 over the four days. He finished the tournament at 23-under.

Ironically, although Stricks is a favorite of mine, I didn't pick him to do well this week. That nagging neck problem from late last year -- remember, he worried that it might keep him out of the Presidents Cup -- required several cortisone shots and therapy. I needn't have worried.

It's rare for Stricks to get started so early in the year. Is this the year for him to get a major? We'll have to see. Meanwhile, this week's Limerick Summary is dedicated to the man who, after struggling with a pain in the neck last year, shows signs of becoming a pain in the neck to the rest of the field this year:
He wasn't high up in my picks
'Cause some vertebrae gave him the cricks
At the end of last year.
But the winner at Deere
Adds some Hyundai swag. Way to go, Stricks!
The photo came from the front page of PGATOUR.com.

Monday, January 9, 2012

King of the Swingers

Of course, the Limerick Summary is delayed because of the PGA Tour's Monday finish.

Since I was little, one of my favorite Disney movies has been The Jungle Book. I suspect it was because of the embryonic "world" music, the mixture of jungle rhythms with jazz and blues, as much as the art. And my favorite song was "I Wanna Be Like You," a duet between King Louie the ape and Baloo the bear which featured a large amount of scat singing. I even memorized all the parts sung by all the characters. It gave my friends a kick to hear me sing it as fast as I could.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, "In vocal jazz, scat singing is vocal improvisation with wordless vocables, nonsense syllables or without words at all. Scat singing gives singers the ability to sing improvised melodies and rhythms, to create the equivalent of an instrumental solo using their voice." That's from Wikipedia article on scat singing.

Anyway, King Louie's song starts out "Now I'm the king of the swingers, oh, the jungle VIP." I couldn't help but think about it when Louis Oosthuizen (aka "King Louis") successfully defended his African Open title Sunday. I hope Louis likes cartoon characters -- first he was nicknamed Shrek, now King Louis. (Several fans wore shirts that said "All Hail King Louis.")

King Louis and his newest scepter

But he's definitely the VIP of the European Tour jungle so far. His 27-under gave him his first win in a while -- a pretty impressive win, given that he beat Tjaart van der Walt by 2 and Retief Goosen by 3 strokes -- but I didn't realize that his last 6 finishes have all been Top8s! I picked him as a "Player to Watch" in my January Ruthless Golf World Rankings last week, but I may have to upgrade him now.

Unlike the cartoon King Louie, however, Louis certainly can't say "I've reached the top and had to stop, and that's what's bothering me." It looks like Louis finally has that sweet rhythmic swing of his back in shape, and I assume he kept his PGA Tour card this year. Maybe he'll make a little noise over here as well.

And in keeping with noise, just in case some of you have never seen The Jungle Book, here's a clip of King Louie and Baloo swinging with a little scat. "Da zop ah nodie, hop da deedle dahdle dop don known...." (The actual song starts around the 1:30 mark.)



The photo comes from this page at europeantour.com.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Same Old New Faces

After 2 rounds of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions -- remember, it ends on Monday this year -- the leaderboard looks remarkably like a 2011 leaderboard.

Maybe I shouldn't be too surprised. After all, only the winners from 2011 are playing this week. Smiley Faces

But I am surprised. I know it's only halfway through, but should Steve Stricker (at -15) be blowing the field away like this? Isn't he supposed to be suffering from a neck injury? Isn't he supposed to be too old for this sort of thing on this sort of course?

It would appear that Stricks isn't any of these things. He's just AWESOME!

Webb Simpson is still playing well despite his off-season. He's just 5 strokes back.

And Kevin Na must have figured out how to hit his golf ball on the first swing. He shot -8 on the back 9, and became the first player ever to finish eagle-eagle in this tournament.

Yes, I'm surprised. I didn't believe we could start getting great storylines this quickly... let alone get them from everywhere at once! And the big boys aren't even playing yet.

This is already up to be another great year. There's only one thing I can say at this point...

Bring it home for us old guys, Stricks!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Quick LPGA Note

During the lead-in to GC's Hyundai broadcast Friday, LPGA commish Mike Whan was on for a few minutes. You've probably heard about the new tournament in Hawaii, the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf, scheduled for April 18-21. You can read more about it in this USA Today article.

According to Wikipedia, "Lotte Co., Ltd. is a South Korean-Japanese Jaebeol (conglomerate) and one of the largest food and shopping groups in South Korea and Japan... Lotte Group consists of over 60 business units employing 60,000 people engaged in such diverse industries as candy manufacturing, beverages, hotels, fast food, retail, financial services, heavy chemicals, electronics, IT, construction, publishing, and entertainment." That's a pretty big sponsor.

And J Golf is a Korean broadcaster. Whan said the event would end on a Saturday, which would allow live broadcast in the US Saturday afternoon and in Korea Sunday morning. Convenient, eh?

That's neat and all, but it wasn't the best part of the announcement.

Whan also announced that GC would be broadcasting 100% of the LPGA's weekend coverage LIVE this year! That's something I've been complaining about for a while now, so I'm glad to hear that GC's finally going to do the right thing.

Of course, if I remember correctly, Whan said their US audience went up 38% in 2010. That means increased ad dollars. Money talks! But that's just part of the business, and I'm not complaining.

Finally, folks -- every LPGA event live (at least, on the weekend) on GC! How cool!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Guess Who Won the Closest to the Pin Contest?

It was a charity competition to launch the PGA Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Nick Watney, and Steve Stricker each hit a shot to a 160-yard par-3 11th. They were playing for a $30,000 pot, with half going to the winning charity.

Keegan leads the way
Better get a move on, Pepsi... Keegan's ready to play!

If you guessed Keegan Bradley won, you're right. Keegan hit it to 11' 9"... and everybody else was at least 4 times farther away! You can see the full results here, as well as the names of the charities and how much each got. But I'd say this bodes very well for Keegan this week.

Remember, live coverage of the Hyundai starts today at 3:30pm ET on GC. It looks like Nick Faldo and Johnny Miller are calling it together. That should be a real hoot!

The photo came from the Hyundai's official tournament home page.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Well, It's Not the PGA Tour...

But the European Tour is in action today! The Africa Open is our first chance to see a couple of the big names in action this year -- Louis Oosthuizen, the defending champion, and Retief Goosen are in the field.

Unless you keep up with the European Tour, you might not recognize many of the other players. I recognized a few of the names:
  • Chris Wood
  • Oliver Wilson
  • Jaco Van Zyl
  • Tjaart Van Der Walt (Tjaart has played the PGA and Nationwide Tours some)
  • Richard Sterne
  • Phillip Price
  • Scott Pinckney (he's from the USA)
  • John Peterson (the amateur who won the Arnold Palmer Award and was NCAA Champ this year)
  • Garth Mulroy
  • Damien McGrane
  • Thomas Aiken
And more, but I got tired of typing. ;-)

Anyway, if you want to get a head start on the 2012 golf season, I think GC starts the tape-delayed broadcast (the tournament's just getting underway as I write this) at 9am ET. And you can check the Africa Open live leaderboard here.

Later tonight (6pm ET, I think) GC will have a special broadcast from Hawaii with some closest-to-the-pin competitions and stuff to get ready for the Hyundai.

Welcome to the new golf season!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: January 2012

December is typically a quiet month for golf, although we did get the Race to Dubai winner and a few other tournaments without full fields. (The 2 European Tour events and the JBWere are exceptions, of course.) Added to the usual drop-off of tournaments from a year ago, we find a little bit of shuffling in the rankings before the 2012 season can even get underway.

So be amazed as I present to you the RGWR 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 (PGAT), BMW PGA (ET), and WGCs
  2. FedExCup playoffs and prestige events (like Bay Hill and Dubai), the latter often determined by the history and difficulty of the course
  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. Also, remember that I count Top5s as a separate category from wins; if you see a player has 3 Top5s, those are seconds through fifths only.

I assign points to tournaments this way:
  • Majors: 10 points
  • TPC & BMW PGA: 8 points (yes, I'm calling them equals!)
  • WGC: 7 points
  • Prestige events: 5 points
  • Regular wins: 3 points
  • Top 5 finishes: 2 points
  • Other wins: 1 point
I give full credit (not in points, but they carry the same weight as "official" victories) for wins on the "minor" tours like the Nationwide and Australasian Tours provided the winner has a current win on the PGA or European Tour. These wins will count only as "regular" wins and not "prestige" wins, no matter how prestigious they may be for their tour, because they generally don't have the strength of field of a regular PGA or ET event.

I'm not counting the Grand Slam of Golf as a win in my rankings. (I didn't give Ernie points for it last year either.) I've decided that 4 players isn't a large enough field to give it the weight of a win against a larger field. However, I do take that win into consideration in my rankings, much as I do money title or scoring awards.

And because of a strange quirk on the ET site, I've decided I have to specifically state that a tournament win can only count once. Therefore, to avoid possible confusion, I'm just telling you that the RGWR says you can only win a tournament once at a time.

As usual, the point total (and even the number of wins) a player has affects my rankings but doesn't override my personal opinions:
  1. Luke Donald: 4 wins (1 WGC, 1 BMW), 10 Top5, 4 awards, 45 points. While Luke only added a Top5 from the Dubai tournament, he picked up (by my count) 4 awards -- 2 money lists and 2 POYs. Those awards added 4 more points to his total.
  2. Rory McIlroy: 3 wins (1 major, 1 other), 7 Top5, 28 points. Rory makes a huge leap this month on the strength of his UBS Hong Kong Open win -- one of the 3 "legit" tournaments of the month -- and the fact that somehow his unofficial win in Shanghai, which I put in my spreadsheet a month ago, didn't add into last month's totals.
  3. Lee Westwood: 3 wins (1 prestige), 4 Top5, 15 points. Why does Rory jump ahead of Lee, you may ask. Simple -- Rory had a "legit" win, while Lee only added a limited-field event (Sun City).
  4. Alvaro Quiros: 2 wins (1 prestige), 2 Top5, 12 points. He won the biggest "legit" tournament of the month in Dubai.
  5. Keegan Bradley: 2 wins (1 major, 1 prestige), 0 Top5, 1 award, 15 points. Keegan also has the Grand Slam of Golf and Shark Shootout on his resume, as well as adding the Rookie of the Year award.
  6. Martin Kaymer: 2 wins (1 WGC, 1 prestige), 4 Top5, 20 points. This was a tough one -- Kaymer or Poulter at #6? I finally went with Martin because his WGC win in November carried more weight than Ian's JBWere win in December.
  7. Ian Poulter: 2 wins, 1 Top5, 8 points. Ian is a new entry this month. The JBWere isn't a "official" win (defined as a PGA or ET win -- no offense meant to the Australasian Tour) but it's a "legit" win (defined as a full-field event). Hopefully this bodes well for Poults going forward.
  8. Charl Schwartzel: 2 wins (1 major, 1 prestige), 4 Top5, 21 points. Charl added a couple of Top5s over the last 2 months, showing that he may be getting back on form.
  9. Sergio Garcia: 2 wins (1 prestige), 1 Top5, 10 points. Sergio hasn't played since his back-to-back in October, but that's a nice way to finish your year. I suspect Sergio has found he needs an off-season after all, and I've got no problem with a guy taking the holidays off.
  10. Thomas Bjorn: 3 wins (1 prestige), 1 Top5, 13 points. Thomas hasn't done much since September, but he's still got 3 wins so I'm keeping him in the Top 10... for now.
Players to watch:
  • Keep an eye out for Gary Woodland and Keegan Bradley at the Hyundai this week. The course should fit them well and, with Woodland coming off the World Cup and Bradley off the Shark Shootout, I imagine they're both ready to go.
  • Louis Oosthuizen is defending at the African Open this week. He's way overdue to start winning again, and a couple of Top5s late last year indicate he may be on the upswing.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Players to Watch in 2012

As we count down to the start of the new golf season this weekend, I decided to pick ten players (PGA Tour players, that is) that I think will make some serious noise this year.
  • Luke Donald: I'm already on record for saying that he'll get a major this year and that I think it will be the U.S. Open. I didn't have any reason other than a feeling at the time, but I checked and discovered it will be played at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, California. That's a course with really tricky greens -- perfect for Donald. And I look for him to hold on to his #1 ranking all year.
  • Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson: These two are always on the radar, aren't they? But they're on mine for two different reasons -- Tiger because his game seems to be coming back together, and Phil because his health is a matter of conjecture at this time. Both will be favorites at the Masters, of course. If Tiger gets a major this year, I suspect Augusta will be the place... but he's not my pick for the tournament.
  • Keegan Bradley: I was a bit surprised to find that Tim Rosaforte shares my belief that Keegan will have a good sophomore year. I actually believe Keegan will win his second major and, while I don't know which one it will be, he's my fave for the Masters.
  • Rickie Fowler and Jason Day: I just think this is the year they both hit their stride.
  • Sergio Garcia: I mentioned Sergio last week in my year-end wrap of the European Tour. I think he'll make some noise on the PGA Tour this year.
  • Brian Kokrak: I'm looking forward to see what this big hitter from the Nationwide Tour can do on the big stage. He had two NT wins in 2011. I don't know how he'll play, but he should be fun to watch.
  • Bud Cauley: The little guy with the big swing. Cauley got his Tour card the hard way -- he made the money list by qualifying for events and getting sponsors exemptions. I really like his chances this year.
  • Harris English: He got his card at Q-School, but he also played two events on the Nationwide Tour -- won one and lost the other in a playoff. Got game? Oh yeah.
I also like Tom Lewis and Matteo Manassero from the European Tour, but they don't make this list because (obviously) they aren't going to be on the PGA Tour. And add Peter Uihlein since he's playing the ET this season as well. With a little luck we'll see all three at some of the majors.

Speaking of majors, while Bradley and Donald are my current faves for the Masters and the U.S. Open, I need to see how the other guys are playing before I make any picks about the last two.

I'll be interested to see how my picks do this year. Luke Donald made me look like a genius in 2011. Wonder if any of the other players are interested in making this old guy look good? ;-)

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Limerick Summary: The End of 2011 Parity? (repost)

(Another retweet failure. What a way to start the new year!)

Winner: Yet to be determined

Around the wider world of golf: What golf? Unless you had a video game machine and this puppy... Smiley Faces

Tiger Woods 2012 game

While we slogged our way through the end of the NFL regular season -- and hangovers from New Year's Eve parties -- the 2012 golf season quietly got underway. PGA winners from 2011 either arrived or prepared to arrive in Hawaii for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions this Friday.

Parity was the buzzword in golf last year. At least, everywhere but the LPGA, where the buzz was all about Yani Tseng. Despite the massive drives and power games of the PGA youngsters, few players managed to sustain any momentum. Luke Donald certainly tried to create some buzz -- which he did -- and Tiger tried to regain some buzz -- which he did -- but Yani owned the buzzsaw!

With the addition of Lexi Thompson to the ladies tour, the guys will have their hands full trying to prove they mean business. I figure they've got maybe a month before the ladies hit their stride; although there will be some worldwide ladies golf soon, it won't get the attention that the LPGA will.

So as we prepare for the new season, this week's Limerick Summary poses the musical question: Are the boys really back in town, or will the LPGA and "I Think I'm Turning Taiwanese" reign on the charts again?
While males bragged that their tours were brawny,
The dominant player was Yani.
But Tiger is back
And Luke's on attack—
Will oh-twelve excite… or be yawny?
The photo came from this page at GameRant.com.

The Limerick Summary: The End of 2011 Parity?

Winner: Yet to be determined
Around the wider world of golf: What golf? Unless you had a video game machine and this puppy... Smiley Faces

Tiger Woods 2012 game

While we slogged our way through the end of the NFL regular season -- and hangovers from New Year's Eve parties -- the 2012 golf season quietly got underway. PGA winners from 2011 either arrived or prepared to arrive in Hawaii for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions this Friday.

Parity was the buzzword in golf last year. At least, everywhere but the LPGA, where the buzz was all about Yani Tseng. Despite the massive drives and power games of the PGA youngsters, few players managed to sustain any momentum. Luke Donald certainly tried to create some buzz -- which he did -- and Tiger tried to regain some buzz -- which he did -- but Yani owned the buzzsaw!

With the addition of Lexi Thompson to the ladies tour, the guys will have their hands full trying to prove they mean business. I figure they've got maybe a month before the ladies hit their stride; although there will be some worldwide ladies golf soon, it won't get the attention that the LPGA will.

So as we prepare for the new season, this week's Limerick Summary poses the musical question: Are the boys really back in town, or will the LPGA and "I Think I'm Turning Taiwanese" reign on the charts again?
While males bragged that their tours were brawny,
The dominant player was Yani.
But Tiger is back
And Luke's on attack—
Will oh-twelve excite… or be yawny?
The photo came from this page at GameRant.com.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year... Again!

(This is a repost of today's post. The "retweeter" failed again. ARRRGHHHH!)

I wanted to give you guys some fireworks but couldn't make up my mind. So take your choice!

The first is this year's New Years fireworks display from Sydney, Australia.



This second one isn't New Years. Rather, it's this year's Christmas fireworks display from Disneyworld in Florida. If you've never seen a Disney display in person, you definitely should go. They do a full-blown fireworks display every single night!



Happy New Years, everybody!

Happy New Year!

I wanted to give you guys some fireworks but couldn't make up my mind. So take your choice!

The first is this year's New Years fireworks display from Sydney, Australia.



This second one isn't New Years. Rather, it's this year's Christmas fireworks display from Disneyworld in Florida. If you've never seen a Disney display in person, you definitely should go. They do a full-blown fireworks display every single night!



Happy New Years, everybody!