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Monday, April 30, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 Zurich Classic

Winner: Jason Dufner

Around the wider world of golf: Bernd Wiesberger got his first ET win at the Ballantine's Championship (that also counts on the Asian Tour and the KPGA); Stacy Lewis got her 2nd official win at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic (she did win the 2007 LPGA NW Arkansas Championship as an amateur, but it was rain-shortened to 18 holes and therefore isn't counted as an "official" win); Luke List won the South Georgia Classic on the Nationwide Tour; and Chie Arimura won the CyberAgent Ladies on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has the details).

Dufner finally breaks through

The culture of New Orleans has long been associated with voodoo -- witness the James Bond movie Live and Let Die, for example -- and Anne Rice's vampire novels did a lot to make the Big Easy much more attractive to the living dead than Transylvania ever was. So perhaps it's an appropriate place for the best golfers in the world to confront their demons.

The psychological kind, not the supernatural ones.

And if ever two golfers were typecast to star in such a duel, Ernie Els and Jason Dufner would be the ones. Each has developed a bit of a reputation for getting right to the cusp of victory, only to have it slip tantalizingly through their fingers. And you could argue that both where plagued by the same demon -- a tall, skinny zombie that seems blind to the proper line a golf ball should follow once it reaches the green.

Alas, the two were destined to meet on Sunday afternoon in sudden death. (Somehow that seems eerily appropriate for men plagued by zombie golf equipment.) And in the end it was putting that finally ended Jason Dufner's long wait for his first Tour win.

I've already written about my admiration for Dufner's determination, which has finally been rewarded. (Although, as agonizing as that wait may have been, the $8mil+ he pocketed in the meantime should have been some small compensation!) But I also hold that same admiration for Ernie Els, who has refused to give in to despair despite a long struggle with that scrawny blind demon. It appears that he may be winning that battle and will soon re-enter the winner's circle himself.

In the meantime Dufner, like Bond in the afore-mentioned movie, will be riding into the sunset with his lady. Jason and his fiance Amanda are to be married this coming weekend. I just hope they don't plan to leave by train as Bond did... it's better if they don't give Baron Samedi an opportunity to tag along!

In the meantime, this week's Limerick Summary salutes the newest Tour winner, who successfully triumphed over his demon without voodoo dolls or other non-golf paraphernalia of any kind:
Each tournament served as a toughener
While vict'ry evaded J. Dufner.
He never berated
Himself while he waited;
His bank account won. He kept stuffin' her!
The photo came from the front page of PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Maybe Age Really Is Just a Number

Lately I've been considering the saying "the golf ball doesn't know how old you are."

Although it gets batted about by the media quite often, I'm convinced that few of them really believe it. If they did, would they be so shocked when Tom Watson competes at an Open Championship? Would they gaze in amazement when Fred Couples shows up on a Masters leaderboard... or on any PGA Tour leaderboard, for that matter? Would they be so surprised at the number of wins Vijay Singh has amassed since the age of 40?

No, clearly the media still doesn't believe their own words. It doesn't matter what they say, their attitudes are proof that they truly believe golf balls know your age... and have a vendetta against seniors.

Older players who have become commentators -- as well as commentators who never played -- just can't believe it when an Ernie Els or a Steve Stricker pokes his nose into the Top 10 of a tournament. They keep speculating on just how long Phil can "hold it together" and "be competitive." I'm beginning to believe that most of them are now convinced that the game has passed them by and therefore it's only fair if it passes by the rest of us as well.

I've got news for you, folks. All that talk about how your putting leaves you when you get older because you lose your nerve or get too much "scar tissue" from missed putts is just so much sour grapes. Don't listen to those who lament how young players play with such confidence and how "those days are gone for us older folks."

Do you want to know why older players struggle with their games while younger players don't? It's because the older players have learned so much that they believe they can control every aspect of their games. They believe that if putts don't go in, it's because they didn't take something into account. They believe that if they don't take all those things into account, they are bad golfers and even worse people. So they "focus" themselves into a nervous mindset that won't settle for less than perfection. And this attempt to over-control their games eventually destroys their ability to play well.

But those are lies, folks -- pure boldfaced lies. You never control it all. You never did, and you never will.

Ernie Els and Steve Stricker aren't unusual in their passion to keep playing. They're just unusual in that they haven't given in to the lies that most golfers believe. They know the game hasn't passed them by. As long as you're reasonably healthy and willing to play the game with the same patience you need to live your life, the game will never leave you.

Even players in other sports are beginning to realize this. Payton Manning expects to make some waves with the Denver Broncos this year, and other "old" players are proving that they can still play football with the young kids.

I've been watching the NBA Playoffs as I write this. The Dallas Mavericks were supposed to be too old to win last year and after they did, the oddsmakers didn't even give them a fighting chance to defend. Well, here they are in the playoffs again and giving the much younger Oklahoma City Thunder a run for their money in the first game. Too old indeed.

Several of the young players on various teams are out of the playoffs due to injuries sustained during this shortened season. The Boston Celtics were written off early in the season because they were too old, and people laughed at the San Antonio Spurs when Tim Duncan sat out a game earlier this year and the listed reason was simply "old." But not only did both teams make the playoffs in relative good health, but the Spurs finished with the best record in the West and analysts are saying that nobody wants to face the Celtics right now.

Maybe age is just a number after all... and not just in golf. If I were you, I would ignore the people who tell you otherwise.

And if you suspect your golf ball really does know your age, just lose it. Ignorant balls are available by the dozen.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Waggler Is at It Again!

Yes, for the 4th time in 16 starts Jason Dufner (aka the Waggler) is at the top of the leaderboard again. Yet another 36-hole lead.

The Waggler lines up another puttYet another tough weekend ahead.

I can't tell you just how much I admire Jason Dufner. There are players who would have been totally disheartened by this point. He's come so close to winning -- even in the majors! And yet Dufner just cruises along and plays himself right back into position in his next event. According to Helen Ross's article at PGATOUR.com, he's even browsed through a sports psychology book someone sent him, just to make sure he's not overlooking something.

But I don't think he is. He understands that he's getting his leads in the events with the strongest fields. He knows that the courses toughen up over the weekend, which is when he's been having his problems. And he seems to have decided that he's just pushing a bit harder than he should, that he's right on the cusp of breaking through if he just lets his clubs do the talking.

He reiterated those things in his after-round press conference. His mind sounds pretty clear to me.

But this could be the weekend that he finally breaks through. He's played well at New Orleans in the past, and he says he feels good on the course. In response to a question about how this lead compares to leading the Masters, he told the interviewers:
"Just this event probably makes it a little bit easier.  Obviously in a Major and the Masters playing with Freddie Couples that could be a pretty high pressure situation. This week is always good for myself and my fiancee, we love coming here, we love the food here, we love staying downtown and we always love playing -- I always love playing this golf course. So maybe that will equal some better success on the weekend."
Of course, the pressure will be back on this weekend. Ernie Els seems to have finally hit his stride and is charging up the leaderboard. Steve Stricker is also back on the attack, and those two aren't even his closest competitors.

Still, I can't help but feel that the Waggler will finally achieve arch-villain status this weekend and successfully steal his first trophy. If you keep dynamiting the door, the safe is bound to open.

I just hope that, if he does win, he doesn't decide to wear a leotard like Ben Crane. Some aspects of super-villainy are best left alone.

The photo came from this page at supersport.com.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Paula Teaches Her Driving Drill

A couple of days ago I posted some quotes from Paula Creamer talking about her attempts to improve her driving. She said she was trying to flatten her driver swing so she could hit up on the ball.

Surprise! Paula actually has a video showing a drill she uses to help her learn the move. (There's no way to embed the video in this post, so you'll have to click the LPGA.com link above to go see it.) But this drill illustrates an interesting aspect of drills that I often talk about here -- namely, that what you try to feel often isn't what you actually do.

First, go look at the video. (It's only a minute long.) Here are a couple of stills from that video lesson:

Two positions in Paula's drill

The top picture shows the move she makes as she hits her ball one-handed off the tee during her drill. The bottom picture shows her trying to duplicate the move as she makes a regular driver swing. Note that there are a number of differences between the two. In the top picture:
  • She stands taller.
  • Her hips don't turn nearly as much.
Not clear in these stills but very obvious in the video, during the drill you see:
  • Less lateral movement.
  • Less shoulder turn.
  • Right shoulder much higher.
  • Right elbow bent much less.
The point is that this drill doesn't really duplicate the actual swing motion very well. That isn't the goal of the drill. What Paula is really after is the feel of how her arm and shoulder move after impact. This drill forces her to make a longer movement past the ball with her right arm and shoulder. Even though she moves differently when she makes a normal swing, the feel she gained in the drill helps flatten her downswing so she can swing up at the teed-up ball.

I know that sounds strange, but it's the same idea as hitting lower shots by stopping your followthrough at waist level. The ball is long gone by the time you finish your swing but, in order to shorten it at the finish, your body has to make changes much earlier in your downswing. And since you're thinking about how you want to finish, your mind automatically changes the earlier part of the downswing so you can stop it at the right time.

That's why some seemingly strange drills help you do what you want, while some drills that seem very logical don't help you at all. Learning how to make a motion can be a very different process from learning how that motion should feel. You need to be clear on which thing you're trying to learn if you want your practice time to be successful.

And in this case, if you're having trouble hitting down too much on your drives, Paula's drill just might help you learn to swing more upward at impact. But before you try it, don't ignore the possibility that there's a simpler reason for your problem:

Make sure the ball is farther forward in your stance than when you hit it off the ground. If the ball is teed up in the center of your stance, you're going to hit down on it no matter what you do.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Busy Day for Golf Viewers

Today's the first time in a while that we've had a full schedule of golf. I just thought I'd make sure y'all knew what is on and when. At least everything's in one place -- Golf Channel.

At 9am ET the Ballentine's Championship (that's the European Tour stop this week) comes on. If you want to watch Adam Scott, Paul Casey, Y.E. Yang, Ian Poulter, or Todd Hamilton, this is the one you want. (This one's already underway as I'm writing this. Darren Clarke has finished at +5. He's certainly having trouble getting back in gear since his Open win, isn't he?) This year's only male three-time winner, Branden Grace, isn't playing.

At 12:30pm ET coverage switches to the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic. Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Lexi Thompson, Na Yeon Choi, and Suzann Pettersen are some of the bigger names that are playing. Neither Yani Tseng or Ai Miyazato are playing this week. Julieta Granada is supposed to be mic'ed up.

Golf Central Pre-Game is on at 2:30pm ET, followed at 3pm ET by the big boys. The Zurich Classic will feature Bubba Watson, Steve Stricker (haven't seen him in a couple of weeks), Carl Petterssen, Ben Curtis, Graeme McDowell, and Luke Donald, among others. There's a pretty strong field in New Orleans. Everybody loves Cajun food, I guess.

Golf Central comes on at 6pm ET, and then the LPGA (6:30) and PGA (8:30) broadcasts will repeat in case you missed them earlier.

I'm a bit surprised. I thought they might cover the Nationwide Tour's South Georgia Classic this week. But it's not like they don't have enough golf to fill the day, huh? Smiley Faces

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pink Panther Progress

I was checking out some of the info on this week's LPGA tournament, the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic, and ran across an interesting article on Paula Creamer. Everybody knows that Paula's been dealing with some personal issues -- injury as well as the death of her grandfather -- but this article added some new information.

Paula hitting driver

I knew Paula had been working on her swing for some time, trying to minimize the "head dip" she makes during her downswing. I didn't know that she had been doing some other changes as well. Since the info might help some of you, I'm quoting it here. Note the parts I've bolded:
Implementing the swing changes with coach David Whelan has also been a difficult adjustment to make. Creamer said they’re working on tightening her swing with her irons and doing a near overhaul to her driver swing, which was costing her distance off the tee.
“I tend to get flat and hit it on the way down and not on the way up,” said Creamer, who ranked 113th at 241 yards per drive in 2011. “I’ve really been trying to get some (added) distance with that. I feel like, because I’m 5-9 and a pretty strong girl, I should be able to hit it a lot farther than I do. I have a lot of wasted energy in my golf swing, and I’m just trying to be a little bit more efficient with it.
“That’s why I’m such a good iron player – I hit the ball on the way down and am consistent with that. But I lose 15-25 yards with the driver. You want to hit it on the way up, and that’s something I’ve never done. I’m trying to do it, but it’s such a big change.”
The mental aspect of making changes to her swing has perhaps been even tougher than the physical.
“Golf is a crazy game, that’s for sure, and I’m trying to get better by making swing changes,” said Creamer, who is 10th in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings. “I know something worked so well (in the past), and it’s hard to get away from that. But, in reality, this is what’s going to help me and hopefully take me to the next level.”
The fact that Creamer is having some success with the swing changes as a part of her game has helped her believe it is the right decision for the long run.
“I’m not going to get away from my strengths, which is hitting fairways and hitting greens,” said Creamer, who has earned nearly $9 million in her career. “It’s a very fine line. It’s hard, and it’s frustrating. But at the same time, when it’s good, it’s so good that it makes you want to keep doing it and trying.”
She's clearly working on several things at once -- not something I'd recommend to a weekend player -- but she's right. She's tall for an LPGA player and she should be driving the ball further. Note what she says: One of the big keys for hitting a driver long is that you've got to hit up on the ball when it's on a tee, not down as you do when the ball is on the ground. That's why it's on a tee, after all!

But also note the reason she says she's having trouble making the change: “I know something worked so well (in the past), and it’s hard to get away from that." The fact is, even if something hasn't worked particularly well for us in the past, it can be hard to make a change. We're all pretty comfortable with what we do, even when it's not in our best interests. (That's true in more than just golf, of course.) We just have to tough it out and make the change.

And in Paula's case it's working. That 241-yard average from 2011 is up to 250 so far this year, and hitting it 260 isn't an unreal expectation for her. (Remember, she's 5' 9" tall. Stacy Lewis is 5' 5" and averages 262; Yani Tseng is 5' 6" and averages 275.) It'll be interesting to see if it helps her at Mobile Bay this week. At 6,521 yards, her 250-yard drives should put her in good position on most of the holes.

Don't forget that GC begins coverage tomorrow at 12:30pm ET.

The photo is from the article at LPGA.com.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Quick Look at Ben Curtis

I just want to take a quick look at something in Ben Curtis's swing that you may have missed during the coverage this week. This particular video is from a couple of years ago, but the move hasn't changed.

It appears that Ben only makes this move with his woods, btw. That's because it's a full swing. On shorter swings (like iron shots) he doesn't do it.



The section I want you to look at is between the :10 and :14 second marks. This is one of the YouTube videos that lets you look at each frame by merely hovering your mouse over the stripe at the bottom where the little "ball" moves as the video plays. (Start the video if you can't see the stripe, then stop it when the stripe appears.) Here's what I want you to do:
  1. Make sure the video is stopped. Any time during the video is fine.
  2. Put your mouse over the stripe so you can see the :09 frame and click once. That will move the video to the :10 frame. (Yeah, it sounds funny, but apparently there's a slight difference between the running video and the stopped video.)
  3. Place your mouse pointer over the butt end of the club that's sticking out of Ben's left hand.
  4. Click the mouse once to start the video, then click it again to stop it when Ben's hand is back level with the cursor. That'll be around the :14 mark.
See how far in front of the cursor his hands are when you stop the video? In my new book Stop Coming Over-the-Top I wrote about the difference between an over-the-top move and an out-to-in swing. I said you could play good golf with the second but not with the first. Ben is a really good example of this. He's one of the most accurate players but his swing isn't "perfect." He plays a fade most of the time -- this kind of swing works best that way -- but that's been good enough for 4 wins, one a major. (Remember, as I pointed out in yesterday's post, Ben said his putting was the main reason for his victory drought. He's always been very accurate.)

The lesson here is that you don't need to drive yourself nuts building a textbook swing. Even the pros aren't perfect but that doesn't stop them from competing and winning tournaments. And Ben won on the toughest course the Tour has played this year... even tougher than Augusta.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 Valero Texas Open

Winner: Ben Curtis

Around the wider world of golf: Ai Miyazato returned to the LPGA's winner's circle with a win at the inaugural LPGA LOTTE Championship; Lee Westwood defended his title at the Asian Tour's CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters; Michael Allen and David Frost won the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf on the Champions Tour; Branden Grace got his 3rd win in 2012 (this is his rookie season, folks!) at the Volvo China Open on the European Tour; and Kaori Ohe won the Fujisankei Ladies Classic. (bangkokbobby has the wrap-up. Seems the Constructivist is off somewhere having a party to celebrate Ai's victory. ;-)

Ben Curtis hoists his new trophy

It's been an up-and-down career for Ben Curtis. He popped up out of nowhere to win the 2003 Open Championship, then pretty much dropped out of sight until 2006. He won twice on the PGA Tour that year... then dropped out of sight again. He had been nearly invisible for 6 years, even losing his Tour card and having to skip back and forth across the Atlantic. See, he still has a 10-year exemption on the ET for his Open win (good till next year). He didn't want to stay over there -- his family lives in Stow OH, and his kids are still pretty young -- but he had to make a living.

That won't be a problem any longer. With his win at the Texas Open this week he'll be spending a lot of time at home with the kids.

Ben blamed it on his putting. Perhaps it was -- he's clearly 2nd on Tour in the "Strokes Gained - Putting" stat this year. But as we say down here in the South, "whatever it was, it ain't no more."

He certainly earned everything he got Sunday. Matt Every, another Big Break alumni proving he really does have some game, and rookie-already-winner John Huh gave Ben all he could handle. Huh came back from +9 on his front 9 Thursday to grab a piece of 2nd place -- no small accomplishment -- and Every came from a course record 63 that first round and what turned out to be a bad draw to grab the other piece. It was all up in the air until the very last hole, when Curtis followed-up a miracle par save on 17 with a birdie on 18.

Ironically, all three had reason to celebrate. Huh's confidence jumped to a whole new level, while Every not only gained confidence but locked up his Tour card for next year. And Ben? He won a vacation from airport security.

So this week's Limerick Summary salutes the weary world traveler who can finally head home and rest those new Texas Open boots of his for a spell:
On putting Ben could not depend.
The money list he did descend
And wound up in Europe.
Now with his card sure, up
In Stow time with family he'll spend.
The photo came from the front page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Flash! Yani Didn't Win!

I'll get to what should be the story in a moment, but let's take that moment to let this sink in:

Yani Tseng is NOT unbeatable.

Yani shot a 2-over 74 in the final round and was overtaken by several players this week. That sort of thing happens routinely on all the tours. The important question here may be why. Over the last few weeks Yani's game has seemed to be a little off -- not a lot, just enough to make her wins (and she has 3 so far this year, so let's not feel too bad for her) seem a little harder to come by.

I found this article about Yani at SportQA.com. There's no date but it was apparently written right after Yani successfully defended her title at the 2011 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, which would put it in February 2011. The article says:
"Tseng managed to play good shots despite being in pain throughout the tournament. Yani has been suffering from tendonitis since many years now. Prior to the tournament, it was reported that Tseng will be playing covered in Steri-strips and possibly be going though ice treatments. Sticking to pain killers, the player stays from shots for her condition."
That was over a year ago and Yani is still using those strips on her right arm. I can't help but wonder if the tendonitis has gotten worse and is now starting to affect her game. It's something that bears watching.

Ai Miyazato photo from LPGA.comOK, moment's over. Smiley Faces

Ai Miyazato won the LPGA LOTTE Championship with some pretty amazing play, didn't she? Three of the four rounds were played in some heavy wind. The GC crew disagreed on just how bad the winds were, but all agreed on at least 15mph. Gusts were much stronger. And yet she managed to birdie 3 of the last 5 holes to put this tournament away by 4 strokes. A simply incredible performance.

I also want to give a shout-out to Mariajo Uribe, who shot 4-under to finish T7. I've been trying to keep up with her since she won the 2007 U.S. Women's Amateur. She's from Colombia, like Camilo Villegas, which makes her somewhat unique on the Tour.

Next week the LPGA plays the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic, where Maria Hjorth defends, and the HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup is the week after that. Mariajo is the defending champion there. I hope GC covers both of them. Wouldn't 3 weeks of LPGA TV be nice for a change?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Forgotten Legends

At least it seems that way to me. The Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf -- the event that really launched the Champions Tour way back when -- has been all but unnoticed so far. While the LPGA received at least 3 hours of prime time coverage (well deserved after being ignored for so long) and the PGA Tour showed rounds taped earlier in the day because of bad weather (and replayed them after the LPGA broadcast), the Legends tournament got 2 hours of coverage from 12:30pm to 2:30pm Friday and a repeat broadcast well after midnight. They didn't even get much time on Golf Central.

I'm a realist. I know there are only so many hours in a broadcast day. I know that advertising drives the broadcast industry and the LPGA and PGA are the prime movers in the golf world. I'm not griping about that at all. I'm thankful that we can watch golf at all, especially with the NBA Playoffs on the horizon.

I just think it's sad that the flagship event of the Champions Tour, which does get some coverage on CBS today and tomorrow -- something the LPGA won't get -- is receiving so little attention. I can't help but wonder why.

It could be the team format, but my best guess is a lack of starpower.

Yeah, I know Fred Couples is playing and he's still extremely popular. Couples is teamed with Jay Haas, and they were paired with the team of Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman. The first round wrap-up on PGATOUR.com said they clearly had the biggest galleries at the event.

But "at the event" isn't the same as generating TV ratings, is it?

Whether we like it or not, and regardless of how much we debate the virtues of parity on the various tours, the fact remains that golf is driven by stars. Tiger and Phil can draw an audience all by themselves. Ditto for Jack and Arnie, especially since they appear together so infrequently these days. But none of these players are in the Legends of Golf, and it's beginning to look as if the networks give it minimal support because it's a tradition of sorts.

I'm afraid the Legends of Golf is going the way of the Skins Game. Is it an event whose time has come and gone? I honestly don't know. But I'm not sure even Fred Couples is enough to keep it alive.

After all, he was a regular at the Skins Game as well.

CBS is showing the Legends of Golf both Saturday and Sunday from 1pm - 3pm ET.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Stop Coming Over-the-Top

Although I have other Quick Guides planned, Stop Coming Over-the-Top finishes a golf trilogy of sorts.

Stop Coming Over-the-Top book coverMore Golf Swing Speed focused on getting more distance out of your downswing.

Accurate Iron Play focused on getting more accuracy out of your downswing.

And Stop Coming Over-the-Top focuses on the backswing and change of direction that makes both of those downswings not only possible but effective. Obviously this is the book that goes into detail about one-piece takeaways... but it covers material that goes into far more detail than I could ever hope to cover on this blog. I'm particularly proud of this one.

I specifically dealt with the causes and fixes for an over-the-top swing because that's the most common problem weekend golfers have -- and I came up with a very unusual but effective way to explain the mechanics of an over-the-top swing, if I do say so myself. But the book just generally covers the mechanics of a good takeaway and a good change of direction at the top of the backswing, so it will help any golfer trying to improve his or her swing.

This Quick Guide includes several drills and 35 diagrams (!) and it covers a variety of topics like:
  • What really causes an over-the-top swing
  • How to create a good shoulder coil with a big swing arc
  • A simple way to get your swing on plane
  • Why your lower body always starts your downswing… but not always correctly
  • How to start your downswing correctly every time
  • Why you have trouble "holding" your wrist cock until late in your downswing
  • How to stop "chicken-winging"
It even includes a series of diagrams -- both left- and right-handed -- that can be used like a flipbook to identify where changes happen at various points during the swing. (Yes, you can even do it with the PDF.)

Stop Coming Over-the-Top is $4.99 (just like Accurate Iron Play, although SCOTT is noticeably longer). The PDF and EPUB versions are already available direct from me, and the Kindle version is well into the publishing process at Amazon. (BN.com is processing their EPUB version as well. The Smashwords versions will be along in a few days.)

I feel that with these three books I've done a pretty good job of making the basics of a good swing easy enough that a weekend player can build a solid game with a minimum of practice... and without spending a fortune to do it. I hope you guys like them.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Scene of the Crime

Valero Texas Open logoYes, Kevin Na is back at the Valero Texas Open. His tee time is listed as 12:40pm -- I don't know if that's Eastern Time or not -- and he'll be playing with Brendan Steele and Bud Cauley, which virtually guarantees him TV time.

As if he wouldn't get it anyway.

Kevin became infamous last year for taking a 16 on the par-4 9th during the first round... and then became a bit of a fan favorite by the way he handled it in the press. On the outside chance you missed it, here's one of the most popular golf videos on YouTube:



It's had over 840,000 hits as I write this post. The sad thing is that Kevin would have shot 68 and been a single stroke off the lead if he could have merely parred the hole. Instead, he missed the cut at +13.

Of course Kevin also got some attention this week because the powers-that-be decided to clear out some of the dead wood around that hole and they invited Kevin back to help -- a small measure of payback. Inside the PGA Tour sent a camera crew along and will do a spot on his return to the scene of the crime next week as part of their tournament wrap-up. (I hope this preview will run. If it doesn't, you can watch it at the Aussie Golfer site.)



Give Kevin credit for a sense of humor.

GC has first-round coverage -- pre-game at 2:30pm ET and live coverage at 3pm ET. Let's all pull for Kevin to shoot a bit better this year. (He does have 4 Top10s and a couple of Top12s coming into this event.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Some Early LPGA Play

I just want to remind you LPGA fans that the LPGA Lotte Championship starts today at 6:30pm ET. Tony Jesselli has a preview over at Mostly Harmless, so I'll just refer you to that link for the main info.

One interesting note: The LPGA scoring site says the broadcast will run from 6:30-11:00pm -- much longer than the 2 hours Tony lists (and which the GC TV schedule lists). Perhaps GC upped the coverage because their LPGA viewing audience is up. It certainly helps when viewers know what channel the broadcasts will be on. Before the LPGA/GC deal, they were too hard to find.

Ah, Hawaii!

The Lotte Championship marks the LPGA's return to Hawaii after 4 years. The "biggest" pairing will be Jessica Korda, Lexi Thompson, and Michelle Wie, listed to go off at 8:55am. Hawaii time is 6 hours behind us East Coast viewers, so that's 2:55pm ET. The latest pairings go off at 1:20pm (7:20pm ET). I don't know if GC will do an early live broadcast to try and capitalize on that -- again, their TV schedule site differs from the LPGA site even on the primetime broadcast.

At any rate, it's a good chance to watch some LPGA coverage without PGA competition. I wonder if this Wednesday-Saturday event is a test case for the LPGA?

The picture is from the LPGA's tournament site.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Quiet Swing of King Louis

Louis Oosthuizen is finally getting some attention this week after having the "blip" round before the Masters that caused him to finish 3rd when he was expected to win, then finishing runner-up in the Masters, and then traveling 30 hours to win this past week on the European Tour.

Of course, Louis has proven he's mentally tough. But everybody loves that syrupy swing.

I found this little clip from the 2010 Open Championship that he won by 7 strokes. It's short, but it has a swing breakdown by Tom Watson. It's clearly worth 42 seconds of your time.



Tom points out several things Louis does well but I'd like to point out a couple of things that I think are important.

The first is that Louis uses an early wrist cock. (That means his wrists are fully cocked when his lead arm is parallel to the ground.) Although I frequently talk about using a late wrist cock -- primarily because I think it's a greatly underestimated technique these days -- there is certainly nothing wrong with an early cock and Louis is a great model to copy.

The other is simply how quiet his body is during his swing. By "quiet" I mean that there are no jerks or lunges when he swings. His lower body doesn't slide back away from the target on his backswing, nor does he lunge toward the target during his downswing. If you check his position at the :13 mark -- the top of his backswing -- you'll see that he's in a position very close to his address except that his hands are above his head. ;-)

At that point he moves toward the target very slightly -- no big slide toward the target. His hips are turning and they never get past the outside of his lead foot -- that is, his lead leg is vertical when he hits the ball.

Simply put, Louis doesn't lunge away from or toward his target at any point in his swing. He puts all his effort into turning his shoulders and hips since they deliver the clubhead to the ball.

Many of you are trying to use your big muscles to power the swing and that's a perfectly acceptable way to hit the ball. Just make sure those big muscles are creating rotary power and not mrely pushing your lower body back and forth. All that does is change your body tilt, which changes your swing plane and sends the ball to places you don't want to visit.

Louis Oosthuizen is a quiet man with a quiet swing to match. Swing like King Louis -- don't waste power in your swing with excessive movement.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 RBC Heritage

Winner: Carl Pettersson

Around the wider world of golf: Louis Oosthuizen traveled for 30 hours to bounce back from his Masters runner-up with a victory at the European Tour's Maybank Malaysian Open; Michael Allen ran away from the field at the Encompass Insurance Pro-Am of Tampa Bay on the Champions Tour; Alex Aragon won the weather-plagued TPC Stonebrae Championship on the Nationwide Tour; and Maiko Wakabayashi won the Nishijin Ladies Classic on the JLPGA. bangkokbobby has the details (and a lot of pictures as well).

A Swede in Scot's clothing

"A fat guy in a little coat." That's how Carl Pettersson described himself after he put on the Heritage Plaid Tartan jacket as winner of the newly-rechristened RBC Heritage. (Lest you think that's not a big deal, I'll have you know that "The Heritage Plaid is accredited by the Council of the Scottish Tartan Society." You can find that -- and other interesting tidbits about the winner's jacket -- at the "get your plaid on" page at the Heritage site.)

Carl's win sets very well with me since he's also a North Carolina boy like myself. Granted, he came here via Sweden, but he's lived here at least half his life. That's good enough for me.

This was his 5th American win, tying him with Jesper Parnevik for Top Winning Swede on the PGA Tour. (I have to qualify that, as there's this woman golfer named Annika with a few more LPGA wins than that. Even Liselotte Neumann, often forgotten in the conversation, has 13 LPGA wins with one major. The Swedish guys need to get to work!) Carl also completed the RBC Slam, as he already holds the 2010 RBC Canadian Open title.

Much was made during the TV broadcasts (both GC and CBS) about Carl's swing being somewhat "homemade" like Bubba's, since neither seems to need a swing guru to keep his swing in shape. I believe that the "old-timers" would simply say that they "own" their swings, as opposed to most of the pros playing these days. That's something of which I think all weekend golfers should take notice. It's not the perfect swings that win tournaments so much as the swings that their owners can use successfully. Remember that, folks.

And Carl is certainly using his successfully, as he's made somewhere around $17mil with it.

Carl took the lead Saturday and ran with it, never giving his pursuers a chance during the final round. When he got in trouble, he just took his medicine and minimized the damage. If he keeps his putter working as well as his other clubs, watch out for him the rest of this year.

So "Grattis, Carl!" (That's "congratulations" in Swedish.) And for turning out such a dominant win, my fellow North Carolinian, I offer you this little Limerick Summary. It's not a Tartan plaid... but then again, size doesn't matter with limericks:
On Saturday, Carl took the lead
And those in the field will concede
He showed he could back it
Up. That tartan jacket
Just goes to prove vict'ry is Swede.
The photo came from the front page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Feherty is Contagious

I watched a lot of golf Saturday... and found myself more drawn to the commercials than the golf. No offense to the tournaments, it's just that everything's a bit of a letdown after the Masters.

But of course, these aren't just any commercials either.

I don't know if you've seen them yet, but CBS finally decided to let their lunatic golf broadcasters loose. Maybe it's because GC's Feherty show has been so popular, I don't know. But these are actually pretty cool.

The first one with Faldo is subtle...



This one has McCord in a police line-up...



Somehow I believe Nance is at home in this confessional...



But Feherty as a GPS system? Sign me up!



I wonder if there'll be more of these? Give us more Feherty. Give us more FEHERTY!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Even #1 Struggles at Times

Nobody is immune to struggle in life. Our strengths aren't always there when we need them, no matter how hard we work or how diligent we are.

Donald smiling

Luke Donald is going through that right now. He's struggling at the RBC Heritage, although he did make the cut. I was surprised to hear that someone close to him -- I don't remember who it was -- said that it was his short game, particularly his putting, that had betrayed him lately.

I think they're wrong. I'll grant you that he's missed quite a few putts lately but I checked his stats. He's still #1 in the Strokes Gained (Putting) category this year and T11 in Scrambling.

The problem appears to be GIR. The normally accurate Luke Donald sits at T143 on the Tour. That's almost unthinkable. It's certainly unexpected. And if he doesn't finish in the Top 8 this week, he'll lose his #1 ranking.

On The Grey Goose 19th Hole Friday night they were speculating on the why behind it all. Perhaps he's tired from last year, since all that globetrotting can take its toll. Maybe he just didn't get enough rest. I would add that he did go through two massive emotional swings right at the end of the year, with his father dying and his daughter being born within days of each other.

But I suspect Luke Donald is suffering from the same malady that the rest of us have to deal with on a daily basis.

He's human.

It's so easy to forget that no matter how good you are, changeability is part of being human. Even corpses decay. (Yuck. That's a pleasant thought.) Your best efforts today may not be as good as they will be tomorrow... or they may be much worse. You simply have to learn to deal with it.

Part of surviving the ups and downs of your golf game -- and life -- is learning to take it all in stride and accept your humanity. It helps to remember, at least in golf, that it's still just a game. That's not always easy, but it certainly makes it easier to rebound from the bad shots and bad breaks that inevitably come.

As the photo from the Heritage shows, Luke is still managing to smile and enjoy himself. Once you can do that, it's easier to regain your balance and get back on top of your game.

At least, as long as I'm not picking you to win. I guess some things are a challenge for even the best in the world. ;-)

The photo came from this Golfweek story about the Heritage.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Kip Henley Is My Hero

I'm sorry but I HAVE to post this video!

Some of you may remember Kip Henley from one of the Big Break series. He also happens to caddie for Brian Gay. Thursday at the RBC Heritage, Kip became a folk hero in his own right. When I saw this on the broadcast, I couldn't believe it!

In case any of you guys missed it...here's Kip Henley attacking an alligator with a sand trap rake so Brian can play his ball.



That is just insane. Goes to show what the pressure of Big Break can do to a player.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Just a Little More Bubba

Indulge me a bit, folks. Bubba is just good TV so I wanted to add a couple more clips.

Yesterday I tried to find the David Letterman clip with Bubba, but it wasn't up yet. So today I wanted to get the Piers Morgan video -- I didn't get to see the whole thing -- and all I could find were a couple of short bits with the two having a putting competition. (Spoiler alert: Bubba won.)



But I was able to find the complete Letterman clip, so here it is for those of you who didn't get to see it.



Is it my imagination, or are these very polished media people -- who are used to dealing with almost anything -- totally flustered by Bubba? I guess there are only two words we can say...

You're welcome.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bubba on Morning Drive

On the outside chance you missed it, I thought I'd post Bubba's appearance on GC's Morning Drive Tuesday morning. Bubba was preparing to go to New York for the standard round of TV interviews that the new Masters champion makes -- Letterman, etc. -- and hosts Erik Kuselias and Gary Williams expected to talk to him on the phone. Instead, Bubba surprised them at the studio.



The interview is nearly 25 minutes long. In fact, GC kept Morning Drive live well past its scheduled run time simply because his appearance was such an unexpected coup for the channel.

This is actually a pretty cool interview because Bubba has spent a lot of time on Morning Drive, so Erik and Gary asked questions that you won't hear asked on the other shows. You certainly won't hear an interview as long or in-depth as this one.

If you didn't get to see it, by all means take the time to listen. You'll get a chance to learn some things about Bubba you might not have known.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sergio, We Need to Talk

Look, I know you're frustrated. You've come close in the majors several times but you just can't seem to break through and get one. I understand -- it hurts. But that doesn't mean you're not good enough.

Look how long it took Phil to grab his first one. It took him a looooong time, and the media didn't let him forget it either. But just because it took him a long time didn't mean he wasn't good enough. It just meant he needed more time.

Look at all the guys who managed to grab one -- guys who looked like they were ready to win several majors -- and never won another one. Guys like Davis Love III, Justin Leonard, Tom Lehman, and Fred Couples to name a few. Do you think they just suddenly lost "it," whatever "it" is? Rory's the newest "can't miss kid" but I believe you beat him pretty soundly this week, didn't you?

Look at all the players who still haven't got one. Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood are high on that list. Do you believe they're incapable of winning a major? And how long did it take Darren Clarke to get one? He's well into his 40s now. (I think you've still got some time.)

Have you forgotten that there are only 4 majors each year? You said it's been 13 winless years for you. By my count you've played 44 majors, counting your Opens in 1996 and 1998. (Phil took more than that to get his first one. I think he needed 46.) Tiger snagged 14 of those, Phil took 4, and Vijay another 3. That cut your possibilities by nearly one-half, and you're not the only one that got burned during that time.

Of course Padraig took another 3 of those majors, and I know 2 of those losses were particularly painful for you. But luck is part of the deal. Even Tiger and Phil get bad breaks that cost them majors. (Just check out Phil's triples this past week.)

So let's lose that whiny "I'm just not good enough" speech. You've got more talent than the majority of players currently on Tour, and you know it. Or maybe you feel so sorry for yourself right now that you can't see straight. May I quote you?
"If I felt like I could win, I would do it. Unfortunately at the moment, unless I get really lucky in one of the weeks, I can't really play much better than I played this week and I'm going to finish 13th or 15th."
This whole quote is so ludicrous that I can't believe it came out of your mouth. It's time somebody gave you a piece of their mind. So, as we say down here in the South, sit your ass down and let me talk some sense into you!

First of all, Phil felt like he could win last weekend. Did he do it? Last time I checked, Bubba was wearing the green jacket. Stupid thought #1: You have to feel like you can win in order to win. If that was true, sick golfers would never win... and we all know to beware of those guys, don't we?

Stupid thought #2: You played well on Sunday and couldn't have played much better. What have you been drinking, Sergio? Since when did 71 become a good final-round score? Since when did -2 become the best you can play? Only a month ago at Riviera -- a pretty tough course -- you shot -5 with a second-round 76 (worse than any score you shot at Augusta) and a 64 in the final round. Last year you shot -5 at the U.S. Open on a course with lots more rough than Augusta. And given how bad your mental state has been the last few years, I'd say you're nowhere near the level of play you usually display.

The only accurate thing you said was "at the moment." You're beating yourself, Sergio. Right now you still aren't fully in the game. I don't have a problem that you're struggling with low confidence right now, at this moment. Everybody goes through it eventually, and the talented people usually get it the worst because they expect so much from themselves.

You're a big boy, Sergio, so I'll be blunt with you. What you need is simple: You need a new strategy. You're where Phil was before 2004 -- you don't know how to turn a 75 into a 72. Do you know what "parity" means? It means that everybody leaves their game to chance, that they play well when they feel like they can win.

I got news for you: A blind mule can win a tournament when everything is going his way. You think your skill should be enough to win a major, but it isn't. It never has been and it never will be... not for anybody. Part of the reason Tiger won so many majors is that the other players thought just like you do. In their minds, Tiger had more skill so he was going to win.

No offense to Y.E. Yang, but if you think he's got more shots in his arsenal than Tiger, you're certifiably nuts. Y.E. beat Tiger because he knew that scores, not skills, win majors. They don't give you bonus points just because you can bend the ball like Bubba or hit a Tiger stinger. They give you the trophy because you put the ball in the hole with fewer strokes.

You, my friend, are taking too damn many strokes. Don't blame some "golf god" for your losses to Padraig or Tiger. You want something to blame? Check your stats. You're putting great -- you're 14th in Strokes Gained-Putting -- but you're 154 in Scrambling.

Here's what you need to do. First, go talk to Jack or Arnie or Gary. Ask them to teach you how to win... then do what they say. Just ask Rory whether it works or not. And second, practice your scrambling. Not to put too fine a point on it, but you suck around the greens. That's something you can fix.

You've got a lot of majors in you, Sergio. I believe in you. You really can do this!

But it's time you learned to believe in yourself. (And work on your scrambling. You suck at scrambling.)

And I took the quote from this article at espn.com.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 Masters

Winner: Bubba Watson

Around the wider world of golf: Believe ir or not, there was a little golf played elsewhere around the world. Scott Hend won the ISPS Handa Singapore Classic on the Asian Tour; and Andres Gonzales won the Soboba Golf Classic on the Nationwide Tour.

Bubba done good

At the last minute, just before the Masters began, I picked Luke Donald to win. I've already sent him my apology. In my RGWR earlier in the week I picked 3 players to watch. Sergio played himself out of contention on Saturday, along with his buddy Rory McIlroy and a bunch of other hopefuls.

But Bubba done good. So did Louis. They played off for the green jacket while the favorites watched from the sidelines.

Bubba's quote, "I dreamed about winning the Masters but I never made the putt" will probably become one of the most replayed soundbites of the week. So will his 40-yard hooked wedge from behind a tree out of the pine straw on #10 in the playoff.

But so will Louis Oosthuizen's albatross (I like that term better than double-eagle) on #2, the first ever on that hole, the first ever caught on TV, and only the 4th in Masters history.

There's just not much I can add to Sunday's drama. I will say that we probably saw two of the future stars of the Tour emerge from that playoff. Louis has clearly healed from the ligament damage that sidetracked his career after the 2010 Open Championship, and Bubba certainly seems to have turned a corner when it comes to being "skittish" under pressure.

Bubba's emotion was easy to understand, of course. His father Gerry -- whom Bubba was apparently named after -- died back in 2010 after he got to see Bubba play in the Ryder Cup. His wife Angie couldn't be there because she was tending their newly adopted son Caleb. (Angie told Kelly Tilghman by phone that she was amazed how well Bubba had played over the last few months, given the problems they had experienced involving the adoption.) And it all happened on Easter, which has both family and faith-related importance to Bubba.

What happens now for the new Masters champ? I don't know... but I'm pretty sure it won't be a straight-line journey! And I'm seriously considering a new nickname for him. What do you think about the General (as in Lee)? Smiley Faces

This week's Limerick Summary salutes all the colors of Bubba Golf (not to be confused with the "united colors of Benetton" ads) and the need for bigger dreams. (BTW Bubba -- you made the putt this time!)
A Bubba-pink driver to crush the ball;
A Bubba-bright passion that's off-the-wall.
And now Gerry's young gun
Has picked up a big one—
A Bubba-green jacket to cap it all.
The photo came from this article at majorschampionships.com.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

But It IS a Mechanical Problem

It seems like every sports commentator on every channel is convinced that Tiger Woods is thinking "mechanics" when he should be thinking "golf." But that's what Tiger should be thinking about.

After all, Tiger's problem IS a mechanical one.

I know most of the golf blogs will be writing about Phil's amazing back 9 -- and rightfully so, he deserves it -- but somebody needs to set the record straight about Tiger. Since many of my conclusions about Tiger's swing over the past couple of years have proven to be right (many of you read them as I posted them), I want to tell you where I see the evolution of Tiger's swing going.

First, let me "reframe" what has already happened:

Back in the late 1990s a teenaged Tiger went to Butch Harmon for a swing rebuild. Many people didn't understand why, but it's pretty clear if you look at the old footage. Tiger was a great player, but he had a huge move off the ball on his backswing. This first rebuild was indeed an attempt to improve his swing, and Tiger played well even while he made changes. That's because you revert to your old swing when you "backslide" during a swing change, and Tiger's old swing was still a pretty effective swing.

But somewhere along the line it became clear that the "Butch swing" wasn't perfect. Tiger began to experience knee problems because he snapped his left knee violently during his downswing. It was during this time that Tiger changed teachers from Butch to Hank Haney. I don't remember where I got the information (I wasn't writing this blog at the time, so it didn't seem important) but I was under the impression that Tiger made the change to try and eliminate the knee snap, not to "perfect his swing" as I have heard many people say. Tiger has made it clear over the last year or so that he was having continuous pain back around 2005 or so, and I seem to recall him having knee surgery shortly after he started working with Hank.

This seemed logical to me at the time. Tiger's swing has always been relatively upright, and Butch didn't change that. Moving to a flatter, more rotary swing made sense as a way to eliminate the knee snap and help ease the knee pain. And again, Tiger played well during the transition because when his "backslidden" swing was the Butch swing, which worked pretty well. (I should also mention that Hank had previously gone public with his own battles against driver yips -- in the August 2004 issue of Golf Digest -- and Tiger may have figured Hank could help him straighten out his driver. But I was under the impression at the time that the knee problem was his primary motivation for change.)

The plan apparently didn't work. Tiger's natural motion is upright, not flat, and soon he was making compensations. All the head dipping and squatting became a constant point of criticism during TV swing analyses, but they were compensations that allowed Tiger to think about playing rather than his swing mechanics. However, he continued to snap his knee badly enough that he required more knee surgery.

As impressive as the 2008 "broken leg" US Open may have been, it set Tiger back much more than he ever let on. (Tiger never talked about his pains until recently. That would have shown weakness, right?) I think the damage was much worse than we knew because, although he won 6 or 7 tournaments in 2009, I remember thinking his game appeared to be "off" somehow. I couldn't put my finger on it, he just didn't look sharp. After the car accident, I initially chalked it up to mounting mental pressure. After all, it made sense that the house of cards had begun falling earlier in the year.

But then we started seeing a lot of missed tournaments because of the constant injuries, and soon Hank was history and Sean Foley was the new guru. Everybody started talking about yet another attempt to "perfect his swing." Yet when Tiger was asked why he was changing his swing, he said simply, "Because I can't get in those positions anymore."

I noted all these things in a post after one of Tiger's pressers during Masters Week in 2011 and how they demonstrated that Tiger's reasons for change had as much to do with injury as improvement. I wrote in this March 2011 post comparing Tiger's different swings that with the Foley swing:
...he 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. Eliminate the dipping, and I believe this would actually be a better swing than he started with.
After a presser Tiger did in December I wrote:
The statement was a simple one. Tiger was asked what had changed about his swing and why he was playing so much better now. He said he had known what he wanted to do and what he needed to do, he just couldn't do it. (A lot of that was health-related, of course.) He talked about the time it took to learn the new approach Sean Foley was teaching him. He talked about how it took a while to understand what he was doing wrong when he made mistakes. And then he said -- and I believe this is the exact quote -- "Sean has me in a position I recognize."
And I added:
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.
Then during the Abu Dhabi tournament earlier this year I wrote:
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.)
And yet I keep hearing commentators say that Tiger's problems aren't mechanical. They most certainly are! Sean Foley and Tiger are clearly trying to create a swing that allows him to make his natural moves without tearing up his knee. If that's not a mechanical problem, what is?

I also need to point out that, unlike the Butch and Hank swing changes, this time Tiger doesn't have a working swing that he can fall back on when he "backslides." When he doesn't make the new pain-free motions, he makes a bad swing. Period.

We're seeing indications that Tiger and Sean know what they're doing. He's been relatively pain-free for around 6 months. (I can tell you from experience that Achilles tendon injuries heal very slowly, especially as you get older.) He's had some moments of brilliance, like the final round 62 at Honda and the 5-stroke win at Bay Hill. But their work isn't about "perfecting his swing," it's about prolonging his career. Tiger's frustrated because he's progressing in starts and stops, but that's what happens when anybody tries to learn something new... even the great Tiger Woods. Last time I checked, he was human too.

Let me leave you with this final thought: Shortly after Tiger had changed from Butch to Hank, he did an interview in the booth during a tournament with NBC. He was asked how long a swing change takes. Tiger said it should only take about 2 or 3 months, but it actually takes about 15 months because you go out and play, backslide, and have to work to undo the backsliding.

In February, after Phil beat Tiger at Pebble, I wrote this:
I know everybody talks about him [Tiger] 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... 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.
By my figuring, Tiger's 15 months aren't up yet. Just wait until the Open Championship, folks. We'll see how much trouble Tiger has playing "mechanics" instead of "golf" then.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Winner with No Name

A couple of bad hombres just strode through the cloud of Augusta gun smoke, the barrels of their six-shooters still hot...

Oh my gosh! Is that Fred Couples and Miguel Angel Jimenez on the front page of the leaderboard? Who'd-a thunk it?

And yet, there they are.

Clint EastwoodThe Waggler (Jason Dufner) is up to his old tricks as well. Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood are both just one off the lead.

And while I seem to have doomed Luke Donald by picking him to win (at least he's not headed for Boot Hill), I'm shocked to see that my three "Players to Watch" -- Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, and Louis Oosthuizen -- are all just 1 stroke off the lead.

Who'd-a thunk it? And yet, there they are.

Tiger is struggling to get his game firing on all cylinders, but I found all the speculation I heard on Friday extremely funny. I'm not particularly surprised by this, as I noted in this post back in February:
"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."
Have you ever thought you had something new completely figured out, only to have it fall apart in your hands? Invariably, it's because you were on the verge of a breakthrough. I actually view Tiger's struggles this week as a positive thing. To me, it's another indication that he's probably right on schedule.

Unfortunately, it's useless to bring a knife to a gunfight...

And finally, there was Phil, casually blowing the smoke from his custom pearl-handled revolver as he got himself within 3 strokes of the lead going into the weekend. Did we really expect anything else?

This is shaping up to be a pretty special Masters after all, even if it isn't the Clint Eastwood-style shootout we expected. I wonder who'll be left standing Sunday night?

At least if it's the Mechanic, we'll get the Clint Eastwood signature cigar.

The photo came from this site.

Friday, April 6, 2012

I Put the Kibosh on Luke...

Just as I did last year. Forget the par-3 curse... you don't want to be my pick to win the Masters!

Luke Donald ended the day at +3 and was the victim of a scoring glitch that could have gotten him DQ'ed.

On the other hand, my "Players to Watch" from Tuesday's RGWR post did rather well. Sergio's at E, Bubba's at -3, and Louis is at -4. (Of course, I didn't pick any of them to win. Big distinction there.)

Lee Westwood has his first-ever lead in a major at -5. It's hard to bet against him, as he's proven to be a good frontrunner in other tournaments. Even Jason Dufner (aka the Waggler) managed to get into the fray, posting -3 on a course that most felt didn't fit his game.

Tiger, Rory, and Phil had struggles of their own which will presumably be fixed in time for today's round.

I will refrain from making any predictions about how things might go today, as I don't want to jinx anybody else.

On the bright side, I am totally free of blame for Phil's triple on 10 or Stenson's quad on 18. I take some solace in that.

As for Luke... well, last year he still came close to winning despite a rough start. He finished 4th. He's farther back after the first round this year, but I remain hopeful. Maybe he just needs the game to be a bit harder in order to break through and grab his first major.

I guess I've done all I can for him now. Smiley Faces

Thursday, April 5, 2012

And My Masters Pick Is...

Luke Donald. And I can't tell you why, I just think this may be his week.

Nothing I could say today would mean anything, so I'll wait until tomorrow so I can talk about the first round. ;-)

Golf Channel starts their coverage with Morning Drive at 6am ET.

ESPN will broadcast live from 3pm to 7:30pm ET today.

Masters.com says they'll have live 3D and streaming radio broadcasts as well. You can find that information here.

The time for hype is over. Let's see what these boys can do!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Par-3 Tournament

Just a reminder that the Masters Annual Par-3 Tournament is today. TV coverage on ESPN (also at masters.com) begins at 3pm ET and runs until 5pm.

Here's a link to the page at masters.com. You can find all the info you need there.

BTW, Luke Donald isn't going to try and defend his par-3 title. Does he believe in the curse? I don't know, but he said he's focusing on the regular tournament this year.

Also, in case you missed it, there were several funny moments at the press conferences. For example, Rory McIlroy's cell phone rang during his and as he tried to shut it off he started calling out, "No phones at the Masters! No phones at the Masters!"

When asked if he would like to make an opening statement, Lee Westwood deadpanned, "Not really."

And when asked how much a 4th Masters would mean to him, Phil Mickelson said, "A lot." When pressed to expand on his answer, he thought deeply for a moment before saying, "An awful lot."

But Keegan Bradley had the quote of the day on Tuesday. When asked what he thought his chances of winning were, he replied, "Well, I've won every major I've ever played in. So I don't think it's that hard, to be honest."

Don't you just love Masters week?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: April 2012

March was a wild month, boys and girls! Many players whom we expected to step up didn't, while the big boys made some dramatic returns to the winner's circle. With the Masters in just a few days, things stand to become very interesting this week.

Here's 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. Rory McIlroy: 4 wins (1 major, 1 prestige, 1 other), 10 Top5, 39 points. Rory's trip to the top of the OWGR may have been a short one, but it was certainly well earned. His win at the Honda Classic gives him 4 worldwide wins.
  2. Luke Donald: 4 wins (1 BMW, 1 prestige), 9 Top5, 41 points. Mr. Donald took his #1 back from Rory with his win at Innisbrook. Although Luke has more points than Rory, Rory squeezes him out with one extra Top5.
  3. Lee Westwood: 3 wins, 7 Top5, 21 points. Lee drops back one spot since Luke grabbed another win. He did pick up another top5 last month, however.
  4. Steve Stricker: 3 wins (2 prestige), 1 Top5, 15 points. Stricks has been pretty quiet for the last couple of months.
  5. Hunter Mahan: 2 wins (1 WGC, 1 prestige), 1 Top5, 14 points. It's all or nothing for Hunter Mayhem. Adding the Shell Houston Open to his WGC last month more than makes up for the lost Top5s.
  6. Michael Hoey: 3 wins (1 prestige), 0 Top5s, 11 points. Michael Hoey has quietly been making a name for himself on the European Tour. Although he has 3 wins -- which I find quite impressive -- with no Top5s and fewer points than Mahan and his WGC, I just can't put him any higher.
  7. Justin Rose: 2 wins (1 WGC), 1 Top5, 14 points. Justin returns to the RGWR after a long absence with his own WGC win. As Dick Vitale would say, "It's go big or go home, baby!"
  8. Bill Haas: 2 wins (2 prestige), 4 Top5, 19 points. He didn't really do anything during March, but his February was still pretty darn good.
  9. Phil Mickelson: 2 wins (1 prestige), 3 Top5, 14 points. Despite adding a Top5 last month, Phil still didn't quite catch Bill Haas. Maybe this week...
  10. Tiger Woods: 2 wins (1 prestige, 1 other), 4 Top5, 14 points. After a long, long absence the Big Cat finally makes an appearance in the RGWR. That win at Arnie's Place, along with the Chevron win in December and his Top5s over the last 4 or 5 months bodes well for him to move up soon.
Players to watch:
  • I continue to believe in Sergio Garcia. He could be a sleeper pick going into the Masters this week.
  • Another sleeper this week may be Bubba Watson. With 2 Top5s in his last 2 tournaments, he's peaking at the right time.
  • Despite last week's 11th hour breakdown, don't overlook Louis Oosthuizen this week. Given his play over the last few months, I suspect last week was a blip.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 Shell Houston Open

Winner: Hunter Mahan

Around the wider world of golf: The expected coronation of Yani Tseng never materialized. Instead, after a wild day of scrambling, Sun Young Yoo grabbed her first LPGA major in a playoff at the Kraft Nabisco. (Poor I.K. Kim never knew what hit her.) Digvijay Singh got his first Asian Tour win at the Panasonic Open India; Thorbjørn Olesen got his first ET win at the Sicilian Open; and Ritsuko Ryu won the Yamaha Ladies Open on the JLPGA. (The Constructivist has the details.)

Hunter Mayhem strikes again!

When Hunter won the WGC-Accenture Match Play a few weeks ago, I dubbed him Hunter Mayhem because of all the damage he was doing to the field. It appears that he likes the name!

It's not that Hunter is doing anything spectacular. In fact, he shot a miserly 1-under 71 in his win at the Shell Houston Open. And yet no one else within range of the lead could do any better.

Louis "King Louis" Oosthuizen looked to be back in form -- he's been trending well the last few months -- but squandered his 3rd round lead with a 4-over final round. The only man to make a real run at the title was Carl Pettersen (who lives in NC, btw) and the best he could come up with was a 71 as well. It just wasn't enough.

So how did Hunter Mayhem become the first 2-time winner this season, leap to the top of the FedExCup points race, and grab enough world ranking points to become (projected) the new #4 in the world?

It's simple. Hunter has been coming up big in the short game and putting departments lately. It started when he added that new Ping putter to his bag at the Accenture (I included photos of it in the Limerick Summary post referenced earlier) and it's continued with some Mickelsonesque (is that a word?) chipping this week. And, according to PGATOUR.com's wrap-up report, Hunter credits his sports psychologist Jim Murphy for helping him enjoy the game more.

Easy job. The guy's the only 2-time winner on Tour so far, one of those is a WGC, and he's won nearly $3mil this year just on the PGA Tour. How hard can it be to enjoy the game? Take the money and run, Jim! Smiley Faces

He "enjoyed himself" on a course set up to play as much like Augusta National as possible, I should add. That's something we shouldn't overlook here. Hunter's headed for the Masters with 2 wins -- including that WGC -- and a full head of steam. Does that make him a favorite over Tiger, Phil, or Rory? (We probably shouldn't overlook Lee Westwood either.)

Probably not... but I wouldn't want to tell him that.

So this week's Limerick Summary salutes the newest "big thang" (that's Deep South slang, for those of you not from the southeastern US) on the PGA Tour... and the total lack of respect the betting houses will probably give him this week at Augusta. Not that I think that's very smart:
H. Mayhem is back with a vengeance!
He clearly no longer plays defense
When he's near the lead…
But no one will cede
Him a win at the Masters in deference.
The photo came from the front page of PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Accurate Iron Play

No, it's not an April Fools joke. The next RuthlessGolf.com Quick Guide is out!

Accurate Iron Play coverThis one is called Accurate Iron Play and it focuses on approach shots to the green. Some of you may have seen Patrick's comment earlier in the week asking if I was going to do a Quick Guide about the deadhanded approach shot, and this is it.

Although I used those posts as a starting point, I went into far more detail than the originals. Not only did I add left-handed versions of the diagrams already in the posts, I added quite a few new diagrams. There are now complete swing sequences with step-by-step explanations showing, among other things, how approach shots differ from power shots, as well as other tips that should help you troubleshoot any problems you're having.

But I didn't stop there. A full third of the guide discussses how the ball behaves when you hit it with different irons -- complete with diagrams, of course -- and why you can hit certain shots with some irons and not others. There's even an explanation of how you can learn to control the distances you hit your irons so you can get the ball closer to the hole more often.

This guide is $4.99, primarily because it's about 50% longer than the first guide, More Golf Swing Speed. (BTW, I want to thank you guys for the kind comments I've received about it. Your enthusiasm for it has been even better than I had hoped. I'm glad it's been so helpful.) But like the first guide, there's nothing here that's not immediately usable, nothing that you can't use right now and see some improvement in your game. And the longer you use it, the more improvement you should see.

At this point I've got the PDFs and EPUBs ready for immediate download -- just click on those cover images in the sidebar -- and Smashwords has a page for it up already where you can download several different versions. Before I did this post, Amazon said the book was "live" but I couldn't pull it up in a search; their order page for it may be live as well by the time you read this. And Barnes & Noble still lists it as "processing," so it may be a couple of days before it's online there.

I hope you find this Quick Guide as helpful as the last one.