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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Some General Tips from Luke Donald

Found this video of general tips from Luke Donald that I thought you all might find interesting. These are the things in his game he works on constantly.



Just a few things I'd like to call to your attention:
  • Luke keeps check on his fundamentals. Little things like alignment and how far you stand from the ball are things that can get out of whack a little at a time without you even noticing it.
  • He doesn't determine his ball based on his foot position. Rather, he places the ball based on his upper body -- typically between his left armpit and his left eye -- which is closer to where his arms actually are. It's too easy to get your upper body tilted and have the ball in a place where you can't hit it.
  • Luke specifically says that he cups his left wrist at the top of his swing. That's probably not a good idea for most of you since it can cause a slice. Luke has a specific problem that this wrist position fixes.
  • Note that he tries to keep his knees flexed and his hips level at impact. This helps him keep from leaning backward and hitting that push shot he mentions.
This is a good look inside the mind of a player who has to depend on good fundamentals in order to be competitive. These are good tips for weekend players as well.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Last Huh-rah?

It's shaping up to be the big story over the next few weeks. No, not the one about Donald Trump buying Doral, home of the next WGC.

As you probably know, the PGA Tour is planning to do away with Q-School. Geoff Shackelford has done a couple of posts about it, here and here (that last one has several links, some tongue-in-cheek, in case you're interested).

John Huh hoists his first PGA trophyHere's the quick summary: The Tour needs a new sponsor for what is currently the Nationwide Tour. (I believe Nationwide intends to become the sponsor of one of the Tour's regular events. Seems that I heard that somewhere.) Anyway, to make the Nationwide Tour as well as the FedExCup more attractive, the Tour plans to make its junior tour the primary -- maybe only -- way to get a Tour card. Coupled with the plan to start the new Tour season in October -- the European Tour is already pretty much a year-round affair -- Q-School will probably end up dead and buried.

And that means no more stories like John Huh, who went through all three stages of Q-School last year and won his first PGA event at Mayakoba this weekend after only 5 Tour starts... and 8 playoff holes. There will be no "shortcuts" to the PGA Tour; everybody will have to go through the Nationwide Tour.

Well, that's not quite right. I suppose you could Monday qualify for a tournament and then win it to go straight to the PGA Tour... or you could go through all the qualifying stages for the U.S. Open or Open Championship and then win it. At the very least you'd have to finish in the top 10 that week so you would be qualified for the next week's tournament and try to earn enough money that way. Only the most favored players could ever go the sponsor's exemptions route.

Given the number of Q-School grads making a splash on Tour lately -- Huh and Rickie Fowler come to mind -- it seems strange to me that the Tour would want to eliminate the possibility of Cinderella stories like this. You'd think sponsors would want this kind of story to happen, given how favorably Americans -- and just about everybody else, for that matter -- react to people who succeed against the odds.

I have mixed emotions about this. I understand that business is business. But somewhere along the line, a pursuit of business concerns at the expense of opportunity is counter-productive. What hidden cost is going to rear its head a few years -- or even just months -- down the road? What effect might these choices have on the development of a future generation of PGA golfers?

I don't have any answers but I'm pretty sure of one thing: You should enjoy John Huh's story while you can. I'm afraid that, instead of a "happily ever after," this decision could result in a lot of unharvested pumpkins left to rot in the fields.

The photo comes from a Washington Post article referenced in the second Shackelford post.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 WGC-Accenture Match Play

Winner: Hunter Mahan

Around the wider world of golf: Angela Stanford won a 4-woman playoff to take the HSBC Women's Champions on the LPGA; Mami Fukuda won the Miyazaki Ladies Open on the LAGT; Anirban Lahiri of India won the SAIL-SBI Open in a playoff on the Asian Tour; and John Huh beat Robert Allenby in an 8-hole playoff to get his first win at the Mayakoba Golf Classic, the PGA Tour's alternate field event this week.

Mahan picks up his 2nd WGC win

I may start calling him Hunter Mayhem. He certainly wreaked mayhem on the field at the WGC-Accenture.

And especially on one Rory McIlroy.

That's no knock on McIlroy by any means. I don't think any of us question that he's the best golfer in the world right now. (He'll be debuting at #1 in my RGWR today.) But Rory simply didn't have his best stuff this week. He ran hot and cold every day, even without the letdown after beating Lee Westwood in the semifinal match. I still don't think he was in the right frame of mind this week; my suspicion is that he already has magnolias on his mind.

Of course, we all know what Hunter had on his mind. Behold the Nome putter! (Click the photo to see more pics at the Golfwrx site.) Apparently Hunter's been having some problems with lining up his putts and this putter fixed them. I suspect this little baby will be on his mind -- and in his bag -- for quite some time.

Ping Nome putter

Hunter certainly used this putter -- as well as his other clubs -- to clean up at the WGC-Accenture. He picked up steam all week, taking out Zach Johnson, Y.E. Yang, Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar, Mark Wilson, and Rory McIlroy -- a murderer's row of match players if ever there was one. He's come a long way from that tearful defeat at the 2010 Ryder Cup.

Helen Ross did an article for PGATOUR.com that covers the mindset changes Hunter has made to become a tougher player. In it she writes:
Mahan, who moved from 22nd in the world to ninth on Sunday, cracking the top 10 for the first time in his career, said he began to see a turnaround toward the end of last year. Take his playoff loss to Bill Haas at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola with the FedExCup's $10 million bonus on the line, for example.

"I think ... my reaction there probably surprised a lot of people," Mahan said. "But it was because I found out that I played great and there's no reason to be upset. There's always good in every day. If you play bad, there's probably some good you can find out and something you can learn from. And that's what I do."
That optimistic attitude is something weekend golfers can learn from as well. If Hunter can learn to do it when he makes a living from the game -- and knows his failures will be seen by millions of people around the world -- surely we can handle a few scruffy shots played for fun.

For some people, the biggest news this week was that the Golf Boys have another video planned... and even an entire album. But I'd say this Golf Boy already has a big hit on his hands. Don't be surprised if we see some more before the year's over. I'd be really surprised if Rory's the only player thinking about magnolias right about now.

So this week's Limerick Summary is dedicated to a guy who's learned how to handle the pressure of big time match play and has a bag full of big game to prove it:
Oh, oh, oh… Hunter has hefted
The trophy. His play was so deft it
Could win anywhere.
Augusta, beware
If Hunter's game stays where he left it!
The photo came from the front page of PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Is a New #1 on the Way?

Since I can't bask in the knowledge that I'm any good picking winners this week -- even Katie Futcher has gone +3 on the day at the LPGA event in Thailand -- I've been musing on how much the world golf scene has changed.

Either Lee Westwood or Rory McIlroy will face Hunter Mahan or Mark Wilson in the finals at the Accenture today... and both European players will have a chance to take over the #1 spot on the OWGR. I didn't believe it would be possible so soon. Back in the first week of January Luke Donald had more than a 2 point lead on Westwood and a 2.5 lead on McIlroy, yet both players have gotten close enough in the last couple of months to pass him this week.

It made me wonder why I was so surprised.

Perhaps I got lulled into thinking it was hard to get the #1 spot because I got used to Tiger winning 5 or 6 times a year.

Perhaps I got lulled into thinking it was easy to keep the #1 spot because it took Tiger so long to fall out of that spot despite poor play.

Or maybe Tiger was an anomaly in the OWGR. Maybe we all made the mistake of thinking that the OWGR wasn't a good ranking system simply because Tiger figured out how to beat it.

I'm starting to wonder if choice #3 is the correct answer. Tiger rewrote the record books in so many ways that maybe he also strained the OWGR's boundaries. Maybe the system isn't as weak as we thought.

Maybe the man who routinely made $6 million every year was simply too strong to be bound by a few calculations.

At any rate, it looks like the #1 spot isn't as secure as I thought it was... and I'm realizing it may never be secure again.

But I'm not so sure it'll change hands this week. Now that our bionic golfer is in the shop, nobody's a sure thing.

I'm picking Mark Wilson to win it all today. I can't come up with one good reason why he should be the favorite against any of the other 3 players. That's why he'll probably win. Welcome to 2012 and a golf scene with no clearly defined leader...

Unless your name is Yani Tseng, that is.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Well, My Brackets Are Shot...

How about yours? Did you accurately predict the survivors of Friday's round of 16 at the Accenture Match Play?

All of my choices are out. I'm particularly surprised that Matt Kuchar beat Martin Kaymer. It's not that Matt isn't a good player, but he did the deed so easily!

Most of the other matches were no big shock to me. If I was shocked by anything, it's Rory McIlroy. He survived without really playing very well at all.

At any rate, I've picked 4 new finalists:
  • Matt Kuchar over Hunter Mahan
  • Sang-moon Bae over Rory McIlroy
  • Lee Westwood over Martin Laird
  • Mark Wilson over Peter Hanson
At this point I don't know that anybody is really a favorite. All of these players have clearly proven themselves. My reasons for these choices are simple. I think:
  • Kuchar has a better short game than Mahan
  • Bae is playing better than McIlroy
  • Westwood simply smells blood -- not Laird's, but the #1 spot in the OWGR
  • And Wilson is simply defying the odds.
I guess we'll find out soon enough how badly I missed with this batch of predictions.

As for the LPGA event, I have but 4 words for you: THE FUTCHER IS NOW! Smiley Faces

Yes... I know Yani Tseng is closing on her... Smiley Faces

Friday, February 24, 2012

Onwy One Golf Boy Weft!

The Fuddmeister himselfOnly Elmer Fudd could state the obvious and make it sound so fresh!

Indeed, there is only one Golf Boy left -- Mr. Retro himself, Hunter Mahan. Devoid of his fuzzy vest, Hunter (get the Elmer Fudd tie-in now?) still managed to put away Y.E. Yang quite handily, winning 9 holes on his way to a 5&3 victory.

Of course, that wasn't the only interesting match Thursday. Storylines just keep popping up and slipping away...

For example, the Brandt Snedeker/Kyle Stanley rematch gave Sneds a 2-0 record in their 2012 one-on-one duels.

Sang-moon Bae is proving to be one tough match player, having taken out Poulter in the first round and Schwartzel in the second. He faces John Senden today, who's been something of a quiet juggernaut himself.

Miguel Angel Jimenez took out Keegan Bradley. I can't say I'm disappointed -- I'm a fan of both guys, but one of them had to lose -- but it was a bit unexpected. MAJ hasn't played particularly well over the last few months, and yet he's taken out both Sergio and Keegan. Maybe he's just been aching for some one-on-one. I hope Rory doesn't leave him aching today...

Both Dustin Johnson and Lee Westwood are in the 3rd round for the first time in their careers. I think that makes them dangerous, as they've each gotten a boost from this. Lee couldn't stop grinning during his interview after his match.

Of course, the real shocker -- depending on how you look at it -- is that Tiger's out after Nick Watney beat him 1up.

But Martin Kaymer is still alive after a tough match against David Toms. I'm liking his chances better with each passing day. But there's onwy one German weft... and one Golf Boy in the same bracket.

Of course there was onwy one German to start with, but that's beside the point. Smiley Faces

The photo (?) came from Wikipedia's Elmer Fudd page.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Match Play Day 1 Fun

In typical Accenture style we saw quite a few surprises on Wednesday. I thought I'd highlight a few (in case you missed them) and update my picks since, like everybody else, my brackets got messed up!

First, Wednesday saw the largest number of "upsets" -- that is, a lower seed beating a higher seed -- since 1999. That year there were 18; 2012 gave us 15. The biggest of these was #64 Ernie Els beating #1 Luke Donald  although, as Nick Faldo pointed out, it wasn't so much that Donald got beat as by how much. A 5&4 loss is just huge.

Among my picks, K.J. Choi -- who I expected to win the whole thing -- got bounced by Kyle Stanley. No offense to Stanley, but I was shocked by that. It was only a 2&1 victory, but still... Anyway, I need to pick a new guy from that bracket to go to the final 4.

Both Choi and Donald were in the Jones bracket, and I must admit I wasn't very impressed by anybody there. Els was putting really well the first round, and I'm not sure we can count on that going forward. I'm picking Brandt Snedeker as my replacement from this bracket, primarily because of his gutty performance to beat Retief Goosen in 21 holes.

Also out is Sergio Garcia, my pick from the Player bracket. If you follow my blog you know I'm a huge Miguel Angel Jimenez fan, but I didn't expect him to win because he hasn't done much in the last 6 months or so while Sergio has won twice and played well so far this season. Today MAJ will face Keegan Bradley, who played the best of anybody on Wednesday. I'll take whoever wins that match as my player from Player, although I'll say upfront I think Bradley will win. I picked him as a player to watch this year, and he's certainly proving me right so far.

McIlroy made it through the first round in this bracket -- more than I expected after his press conference, to be honest -- but he played very unevenly. I still don't expect him to make the final 4.

My other two bracket picks lived another day -- Tiger won his match in the Snead bracket despite some uneven play, and Kaymer's still alive in Hogan. My new guy to win it all is Kaymer since he's one of my surviving original choices AND he lost only 1 hole during his match while posting 4 birdies and no bogeys.

In other news:
  • We lost 2 Golf Boys. (I hear the sobs all the way here in North Carolina.) It appears that Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan are now an endangered species. After seeing some of their new Ping commercials together, that might not be a bad thing...
  • Dustin Johnson got his first win on his fourth try.
  • Ryo Ishikawa got his first win as well, taking out Bill Haas. Japan's sole entry will see another match!
  • Scotland had only 2 entrants, Martin Laird and Paul Lawrie. They both survived as well.
  • If MAJ is the oldest in the field, both the oldest and youngest -- Matteo Manassero -- survived.
  • Robert Rock took out Adam Scott, which was probably the 2nd biggest upset of the day.
  • Finally, both Y.E. Yang and Lee Westwood are still alive. This ties Westwood's best finish ever and could be bad news for the rest of the field. Of course we all know what Yang is capable of.
And don't forget that the LPGA is playing the HSBC Women's Champions event in Singapore. It starts at 9:30am ET on GC and runs for 4 hours before Accenture coverage starts. As I'm writing this, Na Yeon Choi is leading at -5 after 12 holes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Some Interesting Match Play Twists to Watch

Since the Accenture starts today at 12 noon ET on GC, I've compiled a list of interesting twists you might want to watch for during the telecast today.

I mentioned yesterday that the Hogan bracket contains the Golf Boys battle between Bubba Watson and Ben Crane. Perhaps we should just call Hogan the boy band bracket because ALL 4 Golf Boys are in that bracket! But only Bubba and Ben are playing each other - Hunter Mahan plays Zach Johnson and Rickie Fowler plays David Toms. This means that we could finish the day with only one Golf Boy left. Oh oh oh...

Y.E. Yang is in the Hogan bracket, K.J. Choi is in the Jones bracket, and both Kyung-tae Kim and Sang-moon Bae are in the Player bracket. There are Koreans in every bracket except the Snead bracket... and the only Japanese player in the event, Ryo Ishikawa, is in that one.

There are only 2 Italians in the event -- Francesco Molinari in Jones and Matteo Manassero in Snead.

Three countries have only 1 golfer at Accenture. I already mentioned Ishikawa. Belgium is represented by Nicolas Colsaerts. And both of those players are in the Snead bracket. The third is Germany's Martin Kaymer, #1 seed in the Hogan bracket.

Snead also has the only 2 Scots in the event, Paul Lawrie and Martin Laird. That means that 3 countries could get wiped out in just the Snead bracket if things go wrong for them... or right for Tiger. Snead is Tiger's bracket.

Finally, although several countries have golfers in 3 brackets -- the Spaniards, English, South Africans, Australians, Koreans, and Irish -- only the US has players in all 4.

As for my picks, I'm not at all certain. This is the first year I've really believed that anybody could win it. But here are my best guesses:
  • Jones: K.J. Choi. I'm going for the upset here. I also like both Jim Furyk and Luke Donald's chances, but I think K.J.'s due.
  • Player: Sergio Garcia. A tough bracket because it's really stacked, what with previous champions Ian Poulter and Geoff Ogilvy in it. I was going to pick Ian Poulter, but I just like what I've seen from Sergio over the last few months. I didn't care for how Rory sounded during his presser; I'm not sure he's in the right frame of mind this week.
  • Hogan: Martin Kaymer. I just think the course suits him. Besides, he lost his #1 ranking here last year so he's got a score to settle.
  • Snead: Tiger Woods. Tiger's been playing well except for a couple of holes in his last few tournaments... and a couple of holes won't hurt him much in match play.
I'm expecting a Choi - Woods final... and I look for K.J. Choi to pick up his first WGC title in a close one.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Some Match Play at Last!

We can talk about the tournament more in the next post. I just want to get you up to speed on the WGC-Accenture Match Play for today.

First, here's the official PDF of all the brackets. You can't tell your Players from your Sneads (or Hogans or Joneses, for that matter) without a bracket.

And here's the tournament page with links to previews of all the brackets. If you heard Morning Drive on Monday, you've already got a heads-up on the expectations for most of these players. Not that you'll remember it all, of course, but that's why you've got this link!

The general line of thinking is that the Gary Player bracket (with Rory McIlroy) is going to be the toughest because it's stacked with several players like Sergio, Poulter, and the like who are really good at match play. And the Sam Snead bracket (headed by Lee Westwood) will supposedly be the easiest because so many of the players aren't known for match play prowess -- for example, Ryo Ishikawa and Webb Simpson.

Martin Kaymer heads the Ben Hogan bracket and Luke Donald, the #1 overall seed, heads the Bobby Jones bracket.

And in case you're wondering, Tiger's in the Snead bracket. That may be a blessing or a curse. After all, upsets are the rule rather than the exception in match play, so I expect the brackets will get busted up pretty quick.

Overall, it looks like the most fun match on Day 1 will be in the Hogan bracket -- Ben Crane VS Bubba Watson. Two Golf Boys stranded in the desert, with no microphones in sight... Smiley Faces

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 Northern Trust Open

Winner: Bill Haas

Around the wider world of golf: She's baaack! Yani Tseng reminded women's golf who really rules their universe at the Honda LPGA Thailand; Lindsey Wright won the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open, which counted on both the ALPG and LET; Jbe Kruger got his first win on both the ET and Asian Tours at the Avantha Masters (that's in India); Skip Kendall won the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship, the first tournament of the year for the Nationwide Tour; and Kenny Perry just ran away with the ACE Group Classic on the Champions Tour, which I guess means he finally got his equipment changes sorted out.

Bill Haas gets his fourth

Yesterday I believe I predicted some insane finishes. Boy, were they ever!

Sergio Garcia (one of the players I picked last month to play well this year) shot the low round of the week, a 64, to finish T4 in his first US start of the year. Keegan Bradley (another of my picks) entered the final round tied with Mickelson for the lead. Nobody could separate themselves from the field.

And then Bill Haas came from seemingly nowhere to post the lead in the clubhouse, forcing both Mickelson and Bradley to birdie the 18th. I think the 18th had seen maybe 6 birdies all day... until Phil and Keegan both birdied it! The three men went out to play the 18th again, and Keegan nearly birdied it again... but all three settled for par and headed for the drivable 10th.

It's always the short holes that seem to blow everybody's mind, isn't it? Maybe course architects should pay more attention...

Anyway, all three missed the green but only Haas missed it in the correct place. Even then he didn't try to go at the hole; he left himself a 40+ footer for birdie. Phil had to go at it and couldn't hold the green -- sorry, no 2-in-a-row this time, Phil. Keegan played from a bunker and left himself a makeable putt from just off the putting surface.

It might even have been an easy putt if Bill Haas hadn't sunk his long putt first. Dead in the heart, people -- a pretty sight. And Keegan again barely missed his putt, giving Bill his first win of the year and fourth of his career.

One thing from the 2012 season should have become very clear to us all by now. While analysts question Tiger's changes to his game and the loss of his "aura of invincibility," the fact is that the game has changed dramatically since Tiger first came on the scene... and Tiger's the reason. Now, over a decade later, Tiger's approach to the game isn't the exception. Golfers are in better shape and have gained confidence in their own abilities. Sheer length means nothing anymore -- just look at the world #1. It's hard to come back after you've had a single bad round, especially if you expect your opponents to have a bad round and help you. (Unless the leader's a "noob" on Tour. You might have a chance then.)

No, the game belongs to the golfers who have the mental toughness to deal with a less-than-perfect game. This week that man was Bill Haas, so this week's Limerick Summary salutes the man who Haas it all:
Another big vict'ry for Haas;
He played without strategy flaws.
Poor tee shots by Bradley
And Phil ended badly
But Bill drained his putt. Loud applause!
The photo came from the PGATOUR.com front page.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Insane Finishes

Nothing major today. I just want to make sure all of you are aware that we may have the best finishes of the year so far today.

On the Champions Tour Kenny Perry shot 64-62... and he's still only got a 3-stroke lead! Larry Mize, Tom Lehman, and Bernhard Langer are at -15, -14, and -13 respectively. They're shooting low at the ACE Group Classic so that should be a real drag race to the finish.

Over in Thailand Yani Tseng (-13) has managed to catch up to Ai Miyazato (-14). They haven't yet teed off as I'm writing this, but Yani's not the only player within range. Jiyai Shin and Karrie Webb are both at -12. Another shootout in the offing...

At the European Tour stop there are 15 players within 3 strokes of the lead. Jbe Kruger (and yes, I spelled his name correctly) from South Africa can't afford to make many mistakes.

And of course the Northern Trust Open has turned into a battle. Keegan Bradley caught up to Phil after "The Show" had a bad day (relatively speaking -- he was only -1). There are 19 players within 5 shots of the lead and there were a number of -5 rounds Saturday, so this one isn't over by a long shot. And given that Phil has a sort of mentor relationship with Keegan, this could get interesting.

I have links to the various scoreboards over in the right column. So make sure you at least take a moment today to check out the scores. Otherwise you might miss something interesting!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Phil at 50 (Yards, That Is)

How about 60 seconds of pitching instruction from Phil? He's doing so well around Riviera this week I thought it was appropriate. Just as Luke Donald did a set of instructional videos for Mizuno, this is part of a series Phil did for Callaway.



I know what you're thinking -- "But Mike says we aren't supposed to accelerate the club." Let me quickly explain this.

When most people hear the word accelerate, they end up jerking the club offline and don't hit the ball solidly. Gravity IS acceleration -- a constant acceleration of 32 ft/sec2 --so the club automatically accelerates if you don't stop it.

And that's where the problem is. People decelerate the club when they take a long backswing and a short followthrough, which is exactly the problem that Phil is talking about here. Phil wants you to take a short backswing and a long followthrough. That will keep you from decelerating the club at impact because you have to keep moving through the stroke to get that high finish he's demonstrating. No slowing down at the ball -- got that?

Give it a try. You don't have to jerk the club to accelerate the clubhead. Trust Phil -- he knows what he's talking about.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Phil LEADING After One Round?

No, we're not used to seeing this... at least, not this year. But it appears last Sunday wasn't an aberration.

Phil's been saying that he didn't understand why his practice was so good and his tournament rounds were so bad. After watching him play in windy weather the last couple of rounds, I share his confusion. I have to chalk it up to his mindset, although I'm not sure exactly which aspect of the mental game has changed. Let's take a quick look at the possible areas -- perhaps one of them is your trigger as well.

Phil has mentioned a lack of focus before, and how Tiger always seems to get his juices flowing as he did last week at Pebble Beach. But competition seems to be of limited use to Phil -- at least, it is if he only gets it when he plays Tiger. I would think that anytime he got into contention he'd be able to focus, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

If it's all about focus, perhaps Phil needs tough conditions to help him focus. It was windy in the last round of the 2011 Open Championship when he finished so well. It was windy last weekend when he faced Tiger. And it was windy Thursday at the Northern Trust Open.

Perhaps course setup has something to do with it. The greens at Pebble are about half the size of the other courses on Tour, and heavily contoured as well. I don't know how the size compares but Riviera's greens are also heavily contoured.

Confidence helps everybody, of course. After seeing some drives land in the fairway and putts go in the hole, I'm sure Phil finally believes he's found the key to his game. Unlike the other things I've mentioned, confidence is a trickier motivation to identify. When you see bad weather, it's easy to tell you've got tough conditions. But confidence can come from any number of places, not all of them understandable. A run of good play can give one player confidence, yet a mediocre round may get another player going because he believes he did something well that didn't help his score at all.

In a word, it's often hard to figure out why your mindset suddenly becomes positive. But when you find that positive thread, it's amazing how quickly your game can turn around.

J.B. Holmes, currently T2, seems to be getting his game back together after his brain surgery last year... and we don't need a sports psychologist to understand why. J.B. had been taking his golf a little too seriously. After having doctors probe around inside his skull, golf must be pure joy for him again!

Maybe Phil's found a bit of that too. At any rate, I hope he keeps hold of what he's found. It's much more fun to watch Phil when he's playing well.

BTW, about the LPGA... while Yani struggled a bit during her first round in Thailand (as well as in Australia last week), she was scampering up the leaderboard as I wrote this during her second round. Although the leaders hadn't teed off yet, Yani was only 2 behind after 10 holes. And Michelle Wie bounced back with a -4 round to get back under par.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Girls Are in Thailand

Welcome to the Honda LPGA Thailand! I'll be your tour guide today -- er, tonight. The round will be long over by the time you see it on GC Thursday.

Siam Country Club

At the time I'm writing this, most of the women have teed off. A quick Google turned up a temperature of 91°F/33°C, mostly cloudy with south winds around 8mph/13kph. (As you can tell, I have mastered the art of clicking on the metric converter.) The humidity's around 50% and it's supposed to get a little hotter as the day wears on, so it'll be interesting to see how it affects scoring.

The Siam course

At this point, Katie Futcher is the low score in the clubhouse at -2, although Jenny Shin's -4 after 11 holes. Anna Nordqvist, Karrie Webb, and Christel Boeljon are currently at -3. The biggest names -- Tseng, Kerr, Choi, Miyazato, etc. -- haven't teed off yet.

Michelle Wie and Paula Creamer are making their LPGA debuts this week. In case you're curious, Creamer was a bridesmaid in a wedding last week, which is why she wasn't in Australia.

GC's 2-hour broadcast starts today at 12:30pm ET. And the photos are of the Siam Country club where the ladies are playing, courtesy of thaigolfer.com. It certainly looks like a beautiful place, and you can see all the details about the course -- including a scorecard with all the information -- at the same site.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Phil Going Forward

Since Sunday, the futures of Tiger and Phil have been debated without much perspective. In an effort to restore some balance, I looked at Tiger yesterday and I'm looking at Phil today. Maybe you'll even learn some things from each post that can help your own game.

Phil and Amy at the 2005 PGAWhether you're a Phil fan or not, you have to appreciate what he's done. He's the only player during the Tiger Woods era to have won 40 PGA tournaments, which ties him for 9th all time, and he's won all 4 of his majors with Tiger in the field. He's won at least one tournament in each of the last 9 years. And as the announcers reminded us endlessly during the last round of the AT&T, Phil has beaten Tiger the last 5 times they've been heads-up in the final round... and Phil has won 3 of those tournaments while Tiger has won none of them. No one else can make such claims.

That makes it all the more amazing that Phil has doubted himself lately. He credited wife Amy for picking him up when he got down about it. As this article at the San Diego Union-Tribune site quoted (you may have heard Phil say this during his after-round presser):
“It’s one of the more emotional victories for me that I’ve had,” Mickelson said, “and the reason is I’ve had some doubt these last couple of weeks, given the scores I’ve shot, yet practicing and having these great sessions … I started to wonder if I was going to be able to bring it to the golf course. So this gives me a lot of confidence and erases that doubt.”
Phil has been more successful against Tiger than any other player, yet he's still fighting self-doubt. Perhaps it comes from all the beatings he took before he became a challenge for Tiger:
Mickelson’s tone was respectful, not boastful, and he later, smiling broadly, said of dominating Woods, “It’s only been in the last five years. Before, I got spanked pretty good.”
And yet he seeks those pairings. People have questioned whether Phil really means it when he says he looks forward to them, but Butch Harmon says he does and so does Amy:
After 15 years of marriage and hundreds of rounds watched, Amy Mickelson can tell from one moment to the next how her husband, Phil, is feeling and what he is thinking. She can tell you if his putting stroke is smooth or analyze the quality of his shotmaking.

She also can tell you what’s in Phil’s heart, and this was her perspective on the pairing of Mickelson with his rival, Tiger Woods, in Sunday’s final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

“I know he wanted that pairing, let me put it that way,” Amy Mickelson said. “He loves to play with Tiger. Loves it.

It shows.
So what do we make of Phil Mickelson? He's got psoriatic arthritis and his family has faced serious health problems of their own over the last couple of years. He's been through putting problems that have caused some to call him the worst putting great champion in the history of the game. And let's not forget that he's 42. No matter how many times the media says "the ball doesn't know how old you are," it's clear they don't really believe it. If so, they wouldn't be so surprised when a player like Phil plays like he did Sunday.

In some ways I think the arthritis may help him. I'm pretty sure it's a factor in his decision to become less technical in his game -- after all, I'm sure he's had to reduce his practice time somewhat, and that probably cuts down on his ability to tinker. His already incredible short game will probably get even better since short game practice doesn't strain your body the way full swing practice does. And like Tiger, I suspect his game will become much more strategic and depend less on length, which will probably make him more accurate off the tee. (As it did last week. Pebble doesn't require length, and Phil averaged only slightly more than 272 for the week -- and a mere 246 during that monster round on Sunday when he hit 93% of his fairways.)

I don't know if Phil will ever get the career Grand Slam, but I won't be surprised if he picks up at least 2 or 3 more majors. Jack's record may be in danger -- not the 18 majors, but the 6 Masters! And guess who'll probably break that one?

So I'm looking for Phil and Tiger to compete against each other for quite a while. They may not be the great friends Jack and Arnold are -- yet -- but their relationship has changed over the years and I won't be surprised if it eventually becomes closer than anyone expects. Rory and all the other youngsters may tease us with their potential, but it's going to be a while before we see another twosome like this. Don't be surprised if Tiger and Phil come to recognize that as well.

The photo came from this page in About.com's golf section.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tiger Going Forward

Tiger and Phil are topics debated without perspective since Sunday. In an effort to restore a little balance, I'll look at Tiger today and Phil tomorrow. Hopefully you'll also learn some things from each post that can help your own game.

Tiger WoodsYou'd think Tiger had never lost a golf tournament. I've heard Tiger declared a has-been, compared to Heat player LeBron James (able to play for three quarters, freeze up in the fourth), called a choker, and even his fashion sense Sunday was criticized. (And no, sad to say, that's not a joke.) Everyone was so convinced that this was the week Tiger "reasserted himself" and walked off into the California sunset, his AT&T trophy glinting triumphantly in the fading daylight, that his loss seems to have destroyed their belief in the natural order of the universe.

I maintain that intimidation tells you nothing about the so-called intimidator, although it tells you loads about the intimidated. Still, I'll play along. Answer me one question -- when did Tiger cease to be "intimidating"? Would you agree that it was sometime after June 2008 when he beat Rocco at the U.S. Open? All we could talk about then was how Tiger on a broken leg could still beat healthy players. He intimidated his opponents into submission, right? That's what we said.

Yet Phil's "domination" of Tiger -- the five final rounds that he has played with and beat Tiger heads-up, during which time he has won three of those tournaments and Tiger has won none -- began at the 2007 Deutsche Bank, nearly a full year before that Open and two full years before Y.E. Yang won the 2009 PGA -- which was, in turn, shortly before talk began about Tiger "losing his aura."

Yesterday I wrote:
"I know everybody talks about him having worked with Sean Foley since late 2010. But since he wasn't healthy enough to do any continuous work until after the PGA Championship last year, I don't see this as more than maybe 8 or 9 months of useful work. Tim Rosaforte noted that Tiger had similar problems when he was making his first swing change with Butch..."
Those problems I referred to were problems related to controlling his distances -- which, btw, are a function of trajectory problems. Tiger may trust his swing shape, but it's going to take him some time to control his trajectory because he's changed the way he's always done it. That change is how he hopes to eliminate those wild hooks of his.

(You may recall some time back that I said you'd get more good from learning trajectory control than shaping shots. As long as you have a shot you can predict, regardless of whether it's a draw or a fade, trajectory control is the best use of your practice time. And, if I might make another point, he's now learning it the way I've suggested you learn to play -- with a slight forward shaft lean. That lean is how Tiger has improved his fairway accuracy, and why his miss is now a fairly consistent shot to the right. That's also how Hogan played it.)

The putting problems aren't nerves. I also wrote a couple of weeks ago that I believe Tiger is developing a new strategy for winning. I called it his new poker face. You might say Tiger wrote the book on power golf, and now everybody's copying it. (Not as well, but they're trying. They've missed some key components.) But his body is changing, so his game has to change... and so does his mental approach. I think he's trying more to let the game come to him rather than trying to grab control. This was the less aggressive but very effective approach Jack Nicklaus used. Give Tiger credit for recognizing the need to change -- while everybody else copies, innovate! -- but it's hard to change when you're used to making things happen. Tiger wants a win but it's not coming quick enough, so when he gets a decent chance at birdie he tries to force it.

When you try to force putts into the hole, you generally grip too tight and interrupt the flow that allows line and distance to come easily. And in a word, when you grip too tight you tend to yip. Phil did the same thing for the last two years and finally realized that Bobby Jones was right:
There are, of course, good putters among the so-called average putters who by patience, study, and practice have developed putting methods they follow as they would a ritual; on the other hand, these instances are rare.
Anyone who hopes to reduce putting -- or any other department of the game of golf for that matter -- to an exact science, is in for a serious disappointment, and will only suffer from the attempt. (Bobby Jones on Golf, page 88)
Jones said more, but this is sufficient to make the point. Phil finally figured it out, and Tiger will too. They didn't become the greatest players of recent years by being stupid.

I know everyone is bummed out because Tiger lost Sunday. (Well, Phil isn't... but that's another story.) Don't despair, Tiger fans. He's a long way from finished, and he's got plenty of time to beat Jack's record. As for his swing, Tiger has always said it takes 15 months or so for him to "own" a new one. He may win before then, but we should withhold any judgments about his future until we see what he's like in June or July. I suspect things will look quite different by then. Even Phil said as much in his after-tournament press conference.

After all, it's a rare gambler who wins betting against Tiger... and even then he doesn't win very often. Smiley Faces

The photo came from this page at Golf Girl's Diary.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

Winner: Phil Mickelson

Around the wider world of golf: Jessica Korda won a 6-woman playoff to make the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open her first win on the LPGA, LET & ALPG (yes, this was a massively co-sanctioned event); Mardan Mamat won the ICTSI Philippine Open on the Asian Tour (I love this -- it was played at the Wack Wack Golf & Country Club in Manila); Corey Pavin finally got his first Champions Tour win in a playoff at the Allianz Championship; and Rafael Cabrera-Bello grabbed the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour.

Plus, for you NBA fans keeping up with Linsanity, the Knicks got their 5th straight win Saturday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Guess who just turned 40 (wins, that is)?

If you read this blog even infrequently, you know I don't believe that age is a barrier to good golf. I fully expect Tom Watson to win another major. I believe Tiger is going to get past Jack's 18 majors. And I believe we haven't seen the best of Phil Mickelson yet.

But I have to admit, even I was caught off-guard by this performance! I simply can't put it any better than the wrap-up at PGATOUR.com:
Phil Mickelson went from a six-shot deficit to a two-shot lead in just six holes, closed with an 8-under 64 for a two-shot victory over Charlie Wi and gave Tiger Woods a thrashing at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on a Sunday not many saw coming.

Mickelson and Woods played in the second-to-last group, and Mickelson beat him by 11 shots. He won for the fourth time at Pebble Beach, and became only the ninth player in PGA TOUR history with 40 wins.
And I believe it was Tim Rosaforte on GC's Golf Central who said that, after a decade of leaving players in his wake, Tiger got a chance Sunday to find out what it felt like.

What can I add to that? Phil was -5 after 6 holes, for Pete's sake! He made shot after shot, putt after putt, and after it looked like Tiger might close the gap between them with a hole-out from the bunker on 12, Phil drained a long par putt to knock all the wind out of his sails.

Don't cry for Tiger, though. He's making good progress. I know everybody talks about him having worked with Sean Foley since late 2010. But since he wasn't healthy enough to do any continuous work until after the PGA Championship last year, I don't see this as more than maybe 8 or 9 months of useful work. Tim Rosaforte noted that Tiger had similar problems when he was making his first swing change with Butch, so this is pretty much (over) par for the course. Smiley Faces

Still, I'm sure this one hurt... especially since it was Phil that laid this whuppin' on him. (That's a "down south" phrase, for those of you in other parts of the world. It means he beat Tiger baaaaad.) In their last 5 pairings, Phil has now beat him 5 out of 5... and that goes back way before that close encounter with the fire hydrant.

Oh yeah -- there was an amateur competition going on as well, so I suppose I should mention that the juggernaut team of Padraig Harrington and J.P. McManus grabbed the team title. Ray Romano actually finished in 5th place and Tony Romo, playing at scratch and pretty much carrying Tiger on Sunday, finished T17. I have to say I'm pretty impressed by that showing, and I'm starting to like Tony's chances of getting through at least some of U.S. Open Qualifying this year.

But this Limerick Summary isn't for amateurs. No, it's for the guy who stood up and showed he's a pro through and through. He admitted this week to having doubts, but I think they're all gone now. As his wife Amy told him afterwards, "What a round! Are you kidding me?"
With Tiger and Phil, we're obsessive;
When paired up, they're always aggressive.
But this time, T. Woods
Couldn't put up the goods
While The Phil Show was downright impressive.
The photo came from the front page of PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Position Wanted: First-Time Winner

A couple of players who have never won before are seeking positions as champions today.

In California, the Maxwell the Geico piggy is cheering "WI! WI! WIIII!" in hopes that Charlie Wi will get over the hump and grab his first win at the AT&T. Although I've never counted, I understand that Charlie has had the lead 11 times before without closing the deal. Perhaps today is his lucky dozenth time.

Of course, the Great Striped One (make sure you pronounce that as "Great Stripe-ed One" because it sounds more ominous that way) is not far behind and they'll both be playing the same course in the final round.



Ken Duke may have something to say about that as well, since he's in second place and Tiger's only in third, but Ken's won before and doesn't have a very visual nickname to make him sound ominous.

Meanwhile, down under in Australia, Jessica Korda is hoping for similar luck at the Australian Open. (I am unaware of any barnyard animals -- native or otherwise -- that are cheering for Jess. That's not necessarily a bad thing, although it means I can't post a video'ed commercial with an animal screaming her name. You decide.) At the time I'm writing this, Jess has fallen back to -2 at the 17th tee but Hee Kyung Seo and So Yeon Ryu are at -4 at the same hole. Stacy Lewis is already in at -3, so Jess knows what she has to do. It can be done, but it's gonna be tough.

Perhaps some of the local animals will get together and cheer for her.

If Jess wins it, she and her dad Petr Korda will be the only father-daughter team to have both won the same country's national championship, albeit in two different sports. Petr won the 1998 Australian Open tennis tournament -- that's one of the four Grand Slam events in tennis, in case you didn't know.

Sunday should certainly be an exciting day. As Maxwell would say, "Pure. Adrenaline."

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Linsanity and Golf

In case you haven't heard of Linsanity, let me give you a quick lesson.

Lin makes yet another shotThe New York Knicks (basketball team, for those of you who don't follow the NBA) have been struggling. Their two main players, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, are out with injuries... and to be honest, the team wasn't playing too well before they went out. But a week ago an undrafted point guard named Jeremy Lin was picked up to try and help them through this rough period.

Lin initially got some attention simply because he doesn't fit the normal NBA mold. He's the first Asian-American player in the NBA (his parents are from Taiwan, just like Yani Tseng) and he graduated in 2010 from Harvard -- hardly a powerhouse of basketball. He's basically been bouncing around the league because nobody wanted him. The Knicks didn't really expect much from him when they put him on the court last Saturday, but they were playing so bad they needed to do something.

The result is a phenomenon called Linsanity. The NBA is playing a condensed schedule this year and since Lin started last week the Knicks have played 4 games. First they beat the New Jersey Nets, then the Utah Jazz, and then the Washington Wizards. He scored more than 20 points per game, even setting some records for undrafted players. Many analysts have been critical of all this excitement, though. The Nets, Jazz, and Wizards aren't very good teams, they said, and it proved nothing. He hadn't taken any shots more than 5 feet from the basket, so he clearly couldn't shoot. Just wait till he played the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night; he wouldn't look so hot then.

So all he did was lead the Knicks to a 92-85 win over the Lakers and personally outscore Kobe Bryant, 38 to 34. And we discovered that he hadn't taken any shots over 5 feet from the basket because he hadn't needed to. In fact, he hit a 3-pointer to start the game and then hit shots from all over the place. And when ESPN's analysts questioned at halftime whether Lin could keep this up -- wouldn't the other players just "figure him out" -- Magic Johnson simply smiled and said, "He'll be fine. He uses his head. This kid's the real deal."

The Knicks are playing better than they have for a long time, and their coach simply says the team loves to play with Lin. They know he'll get the ball to them so they can shoot, and he gets everybody involved. The Knicks have even begun to play some defense -- a term previously unheard around this team!

Linsanity will probably be all over the news by the time you read this post. So why am I telling you about it?

Because Jeremy Lin said something at halftime that can improve your golf.

I'm sure you know that Tiger Woods is playing with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo at the AT&T Pro-Am this week. You probably also know that Romo is an extremely good player but hasn't been able to qualify for the US Open. It's because he makes mental mistakes. GC talked about Romo hitting a long club into a narrow opening on one of the par-5s and, while he pulled it off, he still needed a third shot to reach the green.

In other words, Romo took a risk that could have hurt his score without giving him an advantage when he was successful. He still hasn't learned some of the basic strategy he needs in order to make the best use of his skill.

Compare this to Lin. I actually heard this exchange on TV, but I'll just quote this USA Today post about Lin's play:
At halftime, the Knicks led 49-41, with Lin scoring 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting, five assists and one steal.

Yet interviewed at the half, Lin was upset that he wasn't taking enough of an advantage of the Lakers' "big men sagging off me" to get his own big man, Tyson Chandler, the ball. And so, he told ESPN's Lisa Salters, he was going to take a look at the film at halftime.

Salters was about to ask another question — but stopped, eyes raised, and asked, "You're going to look at tape right now."

And, indeed, after halftime, Salters reported that Chandler said they DID look at the film.
Most players study game films the next day, not during the game! But Jeremy Lin got himself an unexpected break with the Knicks -- indeed, he's been sleeping on his brother's couch this week because he didn't know if he'd get to stay on the team -- and he's making the most of it.

If you want to get better at golf, you probably want to spend all your time hitting golf balls. But do you know how to use the skills you already have? If not, learning more skills probably isn't the most productive way to spend your time. I'm not saying you should become obsessed with the game, spending every spare moment thinking about it. But, like Jeremy Lin, you've got to learn to use your head to think your way around the course.

If you do, maybe you start your own brand of Linsanity among your playing partners.

The photo came from this SC Herald post.

Friday, February 10, 2012

At Least Yani Started Well...

After the LPGA's first round of the year, Yani Tseng was a single shot off the lead behind Stacy Lewis and Sarah Kemp.

My, how quickly things can change! But, as we learned during the Presidents Cup, Royal Melbourne is a skittish lady. And apparently, she's ready for a catfight with the best women players in the world.

At the time I'm writing this, the cut is hovering around +7 and moving back. (Remember that down under in Australia, they're nearly 16 hours ahead of us -- the eastern United States, that is.) Cristie Kerr and Morgan Pressel are struggling. Both are several strokes over par for the round and sitting right at the cutline -- Cristie just inside, Morgan just outside. Fortunately both still have about half the round to go.

Even the Empress herself is struggling. Yani's 4-over for the day, dropping all the way back to +1 (T19). She's still got half a round to go as well, but it's not looking well; she's lost ground as I've written this post.

You might think the wind is up or the weather's bad, but I can't find anything about it. It appears that the ladies are just struggling with the toughness of the course. Most of them -- except the leaders, that is -- are shooting even or over par.

And that makes the leaderboard kinda interesting.

Leading -- at least while I'm writing this -- is one of the first round leaders, Stacy Lewis. According to LPGA.com's first round report:
"Stacy Lewis said that she fell in love with Royal Melbourne the first time she played the Composite Course this week. Of course it didn’t hurt that she got a few tips from honorary Royal Melbourne member Greg Norman before her trip."
She's still got a handful of holes to play, but she looks good at this point -- -3 for the day, -7 over all.

Her closest pursuers -- one and two strokes back respectively, and already in the clubhouse -- are So Yeon Ryo and Hee Kyung Seo. If those names sound familiar, they should. Ryo won last year's Women's US Open over Seo, "the Supermodel of the Fairways," in a playoff. Ryo shot -4 in her second round and Seo blew the field away with a -7 to hop up the leaderboard.

Mel Reid from England is T4 in the clubhouse one more stroke back. She's had two -2 rounds. The rest of the T4 group is a Who's Who of the women's game -- Jessica Korda, Julietta Granada, and Sandra Gal -- but these 3 are still on the course.

Brittany Lincicome is in the clubhouse at -1. Jiyai Shin (where has she been lately?) is in at even par. Lexi Thompson is +3 (4 above the projected cut) with holes left to play. And Ryann O'Toole's +5 in the clubhouse.

It's shaping up to be an interesting first tournament of the year. Maybe we'll get some idea who's going to challenge Yani for the right to rule this year.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

One-Club Golf?

I did a post last July about playing golf with only a half-set of clubs. I was glad to know I'm not the only person who enjoys it.

And it's common knowledge that some of the biggest names in golf learned the game using a single club. (They were too poor to buy a set.) For example, Seve learned by hitting rocks on the beach with a 3-iron, and I heard that Chi Chi Rodriguez learned with a 4-iron. Sam Snead, who started playing back in the days of hickory, learned with a club he carved from an old tree branch.

Just one little clubBut I was quite surprised to find this Golf Digest article on playing with just a 9-iron!

David Owen, the author, apparently plays 9-iron golf regularly. As I understand, they play only 5 holes at a total par of 20, and they all play from the forward tees. What fascinates me most about this is his description of the game:
"Each player carries just one club, a 9-iron. Because a 9 is the wrong choice for almost every shot, you learn, by trial and error, to make it the right choice."
He then tells you a little about how you use a 9-iron to play all the wrong shots.

I don't know about you, but I think that's just plain cool!

The article's not terribly long and I think you'll enjoy it. But it just might challenge your ideas about how to improve your golf game as well.

The photo's from the article.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Shark Hits 'Em Crooked Too

Today I want to give you a link to the golf tips over at Greg Norman's Sharkwatch page. It's part of shark.com (where else would Greg Norman be?) and it's got gobs and gobs of lessons and advice.

To give you an idea of what's there, I found this tip about fixing crooked shots. (And yes, there's a written lesson there in addition to this picture.)


Greg checks his setup


This is just one of those simple things that we forget to check when things go wrong. We really need to forget about gimmicks and pay more attention to our fundamentals. This tip is a great example of the little things we tend to overlook.

Greg's got 100 of these "instant lessons" and 61 "attack tips" to help you improve your game. It's hard to go wrong with free advice from the Shark!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Stuff to Watch for This Week

The golf season really gets underway this week, so I thought I'd post a reminder of what's coming.

The big news for most fans is that Tiger makes his US debut at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. This is the first time he's been there in a long time, and it'll be interesting to see what he's changed since the Abu Dhabi tournament a couple of weeks ago.

The AT&T broadcast starts Thursday on GC from 3pm-6pm.

The LPGA kicks off their season this week as well. This is one of the new tournaments on the schedule, the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open. (In case you didn't guess, it's in Australia. Smiley Faces That means, of course, that it'll be time-delayed.) The ladies will be playing the Royal Melbourne course that the men played in the Presidents Cup.

The LPGA broadcast starts Thursday on GC from 12:30pm-2:30pm. Tony Jesselli posted a full preview of the event over at Mostly Harmless, so just use this link to read it.

The European Tour's still in the desert for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, and most of the big names (McIlroy, Westwood, Kaymer, etc.) in the OWGR will be playing there. Notable Americans include John Daly, Mark O'Meara, Fred Couples, and Peter Uihlein. (I wonder if Freddie headed over to Germany to get his back fixed again, and Dubai was a convenient stop? If so, he may be end up in contention.)

I didn't see a TV listing on the tournament site, but GC usually starts ET broadcasts around 9am on Thursday.

Finally, the Champions Tour is back in action with the Allianz Championship. As best as I can tell, Tom Watson isn't playing anywhere this week, and of course Freddie's over in Dubai, but John Cook, Mark Calcavecchia, Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman, and the rest of the cast will be there.

The Allianz starts Friday at 6:30pm-8:30pm on GC.

That's definitely plenty of golf to watch this weekend! But with football done for the season and basketball kinda scattered on the schedule, there should be plenty of time to catch your favorites.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open

Winner: Kyle Stanley

Around the wider world of golf: Christel Boeljon came from behind to win the Gold Coast RACV Australian Ladies Masters on the ALPG/LET; Kieran Pratt got his first Asian Tour win at the Zaykabar Myanmar Open; and Paul Lawrie won the Commercialbank Qatar Masters on the ET (John Daly snagged a solo 4th).

This one didn't get away from Kyle Stanley

The Patriots were favored in the Super Bowl and I thought they just might squeak it out. They even led going into the 4th quarter. It wasn't enough. (BTW, congrats to Eli Manning. He'll never have to answer that "are you an elite QB" question ever again.)

Spencer Levin was in the same boat, it seems. He had led after 2 rounds before but couldn't hold on. This time he not only led after 2 rounds, he led after 3... but it still wasn't enough. Things fell apart for him during the 4th round.

The story sounded vaguely familiar... oh yeah, it happened last week to Kyle Stanley. That 4th round collapse could have destroyed him but friends, fans, and family all rallied to give him support. Everybody expected him to have a decent tournament this week.

That was an understatement. Last week's final round 74 turned into this week's 65, an 8-stroke difference.

Water was his downfall last week... but not this week. In fact, mistakes must have been the furthest thing from his mind as he blistered the course Sunday. PGATOUR.com's wrap-up quoted him:
"I didn't pay much attention to the leaderboards until maybe four or five holes left," Stanley said. "Once I made a couple birdies there on the back nine, I figured I was maybe getting close. But I didn't really think about it too much today. I made the mistake of thinking about it probably all of the final round last week. So, this week, I just kind of tried to just let it happen."
And happen it did. Just like Rory McIlroy after last year's Masters and David Toms after last year's TPC, Stanley roared back immediately from his collapse at the Farmers to grab his first PGA Tour win. The tournament announcers are probably right -- given what we've seen lately, Spencer Levin should be the early favorite for the Pebble Beach Pro-Am next week. He has a pretty good record there anyway, and now...!

So this week's Limerick Summary salutes the Tour's newest phoenix to rise from his own ashes to victory in his next PGA event. Smoking the field is apparently very good for your health!
Take two: Stanley rose from the ashes—
No flameouts this weekend, no splashes.
Last week, he got drowned;
This week, he gets crowned
And someone else learns from collapses.
The photo is from the front page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Quick Super Bowl Post

I'm not a football expert by any means, but I wanted to do a Super Bowl post anyway.

Let me say upfront that I don't really have a preference between the Giants and the Patriots. My team is the Carolina Panthers -- I live in North Carolina, after all -- and the team I root for when the Panthers aren't playing is the Denver Broncos. (Back before we got the Panthers, I was a huge John Elway fan.) And as far as Eli Manning and Tom Brady go, I like both QBs for the same reason: Each has had to prove himself -- one in the shadow of his older brother, the other because he went, like, 3056th in the draft.

That said, I do have a feeling the Patriots might pull this one out. I know the Giants are the overall favorite -- and if they had played the Super Bowl last weekend, I would have expected the Giants to win easily.

But, not to put too fine a point on it, something smells funny to me.

I think the week off will hurt the Giants more than the Patriots. The Patriots needed time to catch their breath and regroup, while the Giants would have liked their train to keep on zippin' down the track.

But it's the intangibles that bother me. For example, I keep hearing how Brady's lost his confidence since his poor game against the Ravens. He went to see his passing coach the next week to "get fixed," you know.

As a golfer, I don't see that as a lack of confidence. Phil won't play in Hawaii because the wind can cause him to make compensations in his swing that will have to be fixed. Brady -- also a golfer, in case you didn't know -- had an injured shoulder and always has trouble with the Raven defense. I'd be surprised if he hadn't made unintended compensations to protect that shoulder during the game, and just wanted to make sure they were fixed before the Super Bowl.

The whole Patriots team has somehow managed to come into this game as the underdog, despite being favored by 2.5 points in Vegas. They seemed a bit too relaxed all week; even Belichick was showing up for media gigs in purple shirts and making jokes.

And then there's the whole Chad Ochocinco thing. It bugged me no end when, in the Broncos game, they brought Chad in for one touchdown play when the game was pretty much over... then took him out immediately. All I could figure was that they were testing something. And all week I've had this nagging suspicion that Chad was going to play today, even though there was no word about it.

Until this morning. Wide receiver Tiquan Underwood got cut from the team last night, and guess who got added to the roster this morning?

To make a long story short... Suddenly the Pats have a wide receiver who is totally uninjured this season and of whom the Giants have virtually no film footage that might help them predict his role. Even if they did, they don't really have time to make more than minor adjustments.

So here's my prediction: The Brady-Ochocinco connection is going to play a big part in today's game. I look for Chad to provide 2 touchdowns and some crucial yardage in other plays.

I don't know what the final score will be, but I think the Pats are going to squeak past the Giants and win Super Bowl XLVI.

Luke Puts Some Bounce in His Pitches

I pulled another of Luke Donald's Masterclass videos he did for Mizuno. This one looked really useful -- he's playing a short pitch shot after he short-sided himself on the approach. It's also got a short mental game tip after the shot.



I wanted to post this video because it's a very different situation from most of the pitching advice I've given you. I try to give you the highest percentage shot I can, but Luke's playing from a lie where the percentage shot will get you on the green but you'll have a much longer putt than you'd like.

See, Luke didn't short-side himself in the rough. He's on the fairway but the contours of the green make a lower shot unlikely to stop fast enough to get the ball close. The only way to get it close is a high shot from a tight lie, and you have to use the bounce of the club to pull it off.

This can be a really tricky shot, folks. Using the bounce like this means you have to hit the shot accurately. If you hit it a little fat, the club is going to bounce into the ball and you'll skull it. So make sure you practice it before you try it during a round.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Luke Donald on How to Make Mistakes

Lefty directed me to this video that Michael down at Aussie Golfer posted. Somehow I missed it, but it's such a cool video that I had to post it for you guys.

Here's the deal: Luke Donald is teaching how to hit a high soft-landing pitch shot for Mizuno, the company that makes his clubs. The problem is, he messed up the shot! But -- and this is what is so cool -- he didn't stop the lesson. Instead, he turns it into a lesson on how to deal with mistakes. This is part of the reason he's #1 in the world right now.



His lesson on dealing with mistakes -- and the kinds of reactions people often have to them -- may be even more useful than the pitch shot!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Maybe JD's Been Talking to Sergio

Gonzalo "Gonzo" Fernandez-CastaƱo may be leading the Commercialbank Qatar Masters event on the European Tour, but it was John Daly who stole the show with a bogey-free round of 5-under in what the ET site dubbed a "desert storm."

You can find the first round summary here but I thought you might be interested in a few of Daly's comments. First, the ET reporter said:
The desert storm was such that many players wore sunglasses to try to limit the amount of sand blowing into their eyes on what Daly called a "brutal" day.
The reporter went on:
Daly's last victory was eight years ago, and he no longer has a US PGA Tour card.

It was in a strong wind that he won the 1995 Open Championship at St Andrews, but he did not expect this.

"I'm pretty shocked," Daly said after keeping a bogey off his card.

"I had five and a half weeks off and really didn't touch a club much.

"It's one of the best rounds I've ever played in a wind like that. You feel like you are eating a lot of sand."
Ironically, only 9 players in the field of 132 broke 70 in the first round... and one of them was John Daly.

I saw the interview with Daly on GC and he truly seemed as amazed as everybody else. Charlie Rymer suggested that JD tries too hard sometimes and maybe that five weeks away from the game was just what he needed.

Of course, Sergio followed a similar path during the last few months of 2010. As the old saying goes, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." Sergio rediscovered his love for golf and it showed in his play last year.

I'm not quite sure that's what happened to JD... at least, not yet. I think Rymer was correct when he suggested that John had lower expectations -- and I suspect the harsh weather helped keep them down Thursday. And perhaps the time away from the game let him "forget" some bad habits he had gotten into -- we've all experienced that, haven't we? But you know what I think happened?

Maybe he was so tired of struggling that he just went out and played golf the way he knows best -- grip it and rip it. And, lo and behold, that was enough.

Sometimes we want something so bad that we get in our own way. Sometimes we have unrealistic expectations that put too much pressure on us. Sometimes -- and this is a tough concept for many people -- sometimes we just need to stop caring whether we do well or not. Sometimes we need to step back from trying to get better and just enjoy the act of playing a game we love.

I found this blog post at a site called The Passions and Possibilities® Network. I don't know the full intent of this site, but I liked what they said in this particular post. Plus they have a cool term for people who do what they love -- Passioneers™. I don't know if the old saying "Do what you love and the money will follow" is true, but I do know that people who do what they love tend to be happier and, quite often, more successful than people who don't. They're certainly more fun to be around.

You'll probably do better at golf -- and life, for that matter -- if you can become more passionate about it. That's certainly been a problem for JD, and hopefully some time away from the game will have done him as much good as it did Sergio.

Oh yeah, one last thought. Rymer said it would be harder to keep expectations down as the week wore on. But the ET reporter said:
And the bad news for the entire field is that the wind is expected to be even stronger for the second round.
Worse weather may be just the cure for high expectations. Maybe old Mama Nature is a JD fan after all.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

More About One-Piece Takeaways

If you saw Martin Hall on GC's School of Golf last night, you heard him talk about something I harp on all the time. I often take instructors like Martin to task for telling viewers to do things that I say are wrong, but then they do shows like this one that prove they know how things really work. Clearly some of the bad advice is meant as a quick fix for a symptom rather than a lasting fix for the problem. When those teachers do a show like this, it's almost enough to make me forget the bad quick fixes.

Almost. Smiley Faces

Martin was talking about wrist action, something he explains better than anybody I've ever heard. Although he didn't call it a one-piece takeaway, that's exactly what he was talking about.

He talked about the importance of having the bottom of your swing arc in the same place every time you swing. And he made this very important point: Many people think their wrists twist the club away from the ball and then twist the club back to hit it. Martin said THAT'S WRONG. Your wrists only hinge straight up and down, so they only move the club straight up and down -- like hammering a nail. The side motion -- your hands traveling along the swing plane, if you will -- is created by turning your shoulders.

Do you understand that? Your wrists only hinge straight up and down. There is no forearm rotation. If you twist your forearms -- which Martin demonstrated and said was incorrect -- you mess up the bottom of your swing arc.

When I write about one-piece takeaways I want you to turn your shoulders early to start your backswing. When your wrists start to cock, I want you to feel as if you're cocking them straight up.

"But then my club won't be on plane," you may say. (Go ahead. You may say it.) But your club will be on plane, and here's why: When your elbow bends during your backswing, it will cause your wrists to cock and it will tilt the club onto the correct plane. Your forearms don't twist when this happens; rather, the shoulder joint of your straight arm rotates. That means your entire straight arm rotates, not just your forearm. And because the whole arm moves, your forearms and wrists will feel as if they're in pretty much the same position they were at address.

Then, when you make your downswing, you don't have to untwist your forearms and hope you return them to their address position. All you have to do is straighten your bent elbow. Since bending it created all the "tilting" that happened during your backswing, straightening it returns everything to the starting position.

Result: More consistency in your swing.

So if you want to hit the ball more solidly and consistently, make a one-piece takeaway and don't twist your forearms. Martin says so, and I'm holding him to it. Smiley Faces

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: February 2012

The big names were slow to get in the game this January. They didn't play much and, when they did, they all looked a bit rusty to me. But we expect that, don't we? And we did see some really good golf, along with a possible preview (at Abu Dhabi) of what the majors may look like this year. There's not much I could say that would add to that.

So chill out to the mellow sounds of 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 -- 2 wins separated by 6 months don't carry the weight of 2 wins back-to-back -- 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 point value, 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 field strength of a regular PGA or ET event.

I'm not counting the Grand Slam of Golf as a win in my rankings. 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 a win there into consideration in my rankings, much as I do money title or scoring awards. Other limited-field events (up to maybe 24 players or so) are counted as wins if the player also has an official win on the "big tours" but they only get a single point. The OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup (the 2-man team event) counts in this category.

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, although the point totals (and even the number of wins) a player has affects my rankings, they don't override my personal opinions. It's my ranking system, after all:
  1. Luke Donald: 4 wins (1 WGC, 1 BMW), 10 Top5, 4 awards, 45 points. Luke got off to a slow start this year, but after last year -- and with only one start in 2012 so far -- I'll give him a pass.
  2. Rory McIlroy: 3 wins (1 major, 1 other), 7 Top5, 28 points. Rory came in 2nd at Abu Dhabi and could have won if he hadn't had sand problems in the second round.
  3. Steve Stricker: 3 wins (1 prestige), 1 Top5, 15 points. It's a little strange -- Stricks doesn't have many Top5s, despite the 3 wins. Hopefully he'll do better now that he's got the Hyundai under his belt.
  4. Lee Westwood: 3 wins (1 prestige), 4 Top5, 15 points. Lee's another guy who got a slow start but it's early in the year yet.
  5. Branden Grace: 2 wins, 2 Top5, 10 points. Another South African apparently shooting out of nowhere, Branden won back-to-back in January. That's definitely the kind of performance I take notice of!
  6. Thomas Bjorn: 3 wins (1 prestige), 2 Top5, 15 points. After several quiet months, Thomas came out and got a Top5 against the stacked field at Abu Dhabi. Again, that's something I notice -- especially when you've got 3 wins already
  7. Brandt Snedeker: 2 wins, 4 Top5, 14 points. A new entry for the month. Whether you think he backed into his win at the Farmers or not, give Sneds credit for making the most of the opportunity.
  8. Robert Rock: 2 wins (1 prestige), 8 points. I have to give Robert credit for a prestige win, given the depth of the field in Abu Dhabi.
  9. Alvaro Quiros: 2 wins (1 prestige), 2 Top5, 12 points. He won the biggest "legit" tournament of December in Dubai.
  10. Louis Oosthuizen: 1 win, 2 Top5, 7 points. I know -- you wonder why a one-time winner makes the RGWR when some 2-timers like Mark Wilson, Webb Simpson, and Johnson Wagner don't. The reason is simple: Last month I predicted that you should watch out for him as he defended at the African Open because he seemed to be on the upswing. Indeed he was and, although it doesn't show up in my stats, he followed up with a 7th at the Volvo World Champions. I like what I'm seeing.
Players to watch:
  • Keep an eye on Robert Rock. Although he didn't post any Top5s between his two wins, his win in Abu Dhabi was huge. It could be the very thing he needed to convince him he can be a more consistent performer.
  • Louis Oosthuizen: I think he could be a force on Tour this year. That swing of his looks as sweet as ever.
  • Tiger Woods: Tiger's showing consistency in his play now. I couldn't help but laugh at the irony -- a few months ago the guy missed the cut at the PGA; last week he got criticized because his worst round of the week was PAR. I'm predicting a win before the Masters.