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You can order PDFs (as well as all the other ebook formats) from there.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Ladies Are Playing Too

While we watch the men tee it up at Jack's Place this week and prepare for the U.S. Open in two weeks, let's not forget about the LPGA. They're playing this week -- the 54-hole ShopRite LPGA Classic -- in preparation for their second major, the Wegmans LPGA Championship, next week.

The ShopRite is played in Galloway, New Jersey, and Brittany Lincicome is the defending champion. This event has 21 of the Top25 in the Rolex Rankings, so it's one of the stronger fields outside a major.

An interesting note I found in the ShopRite pre-tournament notes at the tournament site:
Upping the Coverage…Golf Channel will again extend its LPGA Tour coverage this week at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. An hour and half of air time will be added to Saturday’s telecast (2:30-6:00p.m.ET) and two hours to the final round broadcast on Sunday (2:00-6:00p.m.ET).
Friday will be GC's standard 12:30pm-2:30pm ET broadcast window.

Both Patricia Hannigan and Tony Jesselli have posts about the event, so I'll just link you to them.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll have the June RGWR post ready to go. ;-)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Steve Stricker Driving Tip

Since Steve Stricker is the defending champion at this week's Memorial Tournament, I thought I'd post a video with some of the driving tips he shared with Golf Digest last year:



This was very interesting to me since I've been using Stricker as one of my recommended swing models. I knew he did things in a way very similar to the moves I teach in this blog, but this video specifically mentions three of them (the links in the following list connect to a typical post on the topic):
  1. The "back of left hand at target image" (right hand for you lefties) matches up with one of my frequent images -- feeling that you are throwing a Frisbee™ at the target. I would like to add that the image also works with a slightly stronger grip, since many people don't hold the Frisbee™ with the back of their hand perfectly vertical. I know I don't.
  2. "Taking the club straighter off the ball" is my tried-and-true one-piece takeaway.
  3. And the "right elbow tight to the side" (left elbow for you lefties) is part of the connection move that I talk about and which almost every commentator on TV has pointed out in Jason Dufner's swing. You'll also note, if you look at video of Stricker's driver swing, that it is also short like Dufner's.
As I often say, this game isn't really that difficult. The same simple moves show up over and over in the most consistent players. Focus on those moves if you want to see rapid, lasting improvement.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Hogan & Dufner Comparison

On Sunday Peter Kostis did a side-by-side comparison of Ben Hogan and Jason Dufner that was very informative. I was hoping someone would post it on YouTube, and I managed to find this clip.

Although this isn't a great copy, I wanted to post it. Just turn the volume up a bit and you should be able to hear it fine.



The one thing I'd like you to notice concerns that "narrowness" that Kostis talks about. If you compare the two swings at the top, you'll see that Hogan gets MUCH more narrow than Dufner. As a result, Hogan's driver drops below parallel while Dufner's never reaches parallel. (If you recall, I pointed that out in a post early last week.) It gets this narrow because Hogan bends his trailing elbow against his side before his hands get waist high, while Dufner's elbow is still fairly far away from his side at the same point.

What this means -- and Kostis doesn't point it out, because it's not immediately visible from this angle -- is that Hogan's swing plane is much flatter than Dufner's  You can see that Hogan's club is down around ear level when it's parallel, and he gets much more wrist cock coming down than Dufner does.

But here's the trick: The Hogan swing takes a great deal more strength than the Dufner swing. It develops a lot of clubhead speed, but at a price. If you want to copy one of them -- and you aren't already very strong or don't intend to spend a lot of time in the gym -- you'll be much happier with the Dufner version. It will put less strain on your body.

Just a tip.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 Crowne Plaza Invitational

Winner: Zach Johnson

Around the wider world of golf: Luke Donald successfully defended a title for the first time and returned to world #1 with his win at the BMW PGA Championship on the ET; Anne-Lise Caudal won the UniCredit Ladies German Open on the LET; Roger Chapman got his first-ever Champions Tour win -- and first major -- at the 73rd Senior PGA Championship; and Shanshan Feng won the Yonex Ladies on the JLPGA. The Constructivist has the details on that one.

Zach in another plaid jacket

I have a desk calendar with daily sayings. One of them is "Madness takes its toll. Please have exact change."

This certainly seems to be the best way to sum up the final round of the tournament at Colonial. Madness reigned as the two men who separated themselves from the field -- Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner -- prepared for their duel.

In the end, their dueling pistols had wet powder, misfired continually, and proved nearly impossible to aim. And, in a final "rub of the green" that somehow seemed appropriate, the victor had a brief moment where he thought he might have lost the tournament.

There were two-shot and three-shot swings back and forth throughout the round. The typically even-tempered Dufner misjudged distances and showed frustration while the normally accurate Johnson scooped chips and nearly hit himself with a shot from the bunker. And after a momentary brain fart where he forgot to replace his ball marker on the 18th hole, a two-stroke penalty left Zach with a prayer of thanks on his lips for a much closer victory than he expected. Three strokes reduced to a single stroke, as measured by the width of a putter head.

It's forgivable, of course. Both men were clearly tired after several weeks of sterling play. Jason had won 2 of his last 3 starts and gotten married. Zach had 2 runner-ups in his last 3 starts and his caddie had lost his father to cancer. Life is a mixed bag, after all. Both will be ready for the US Open and both will probably be favorites going in.

In the meantime, this week's Limerick Summary salutes Zach Johnson's return to the winner's circle as well as the strange way that winners are sometimes determined:
Let's talk about greens and their rubs:
Sometimes it's not swings made with clubs
That send players reeling.
Zach's win left him kneeling
Since scores swung so wildly from flubs!
The photo came from the front page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Luke and Jason Are on the Verge Again

All Luke needs is a Top8 finish to retake #1 in the world. It looks like he intends to put an exclamation point on it.

The BMW PGA Championship is essentially the ET's equivalent of The PLAYERS. I know we can argue that the field is stronger at The PLAYERS. Still, it's no small thing to win the BMW. The course is a proven track with a history of legends as winners, and it's a test that doesn't favor one type of player. That's why I give it the same weight as The PLAYERS in my own rankings.

The real question is, can Luke successfully defend his title there? Remember, this is where he took #1 for the first time last year (at that time, from Lee Westwood) and became the first player since Tiger to hold the position for more than a few weeks. And while other players have knocked him off the pedestal several times, he keeps stepping right back up to retake it within a few weeks.

I think he can do it. He'll have his hands full with the wind at Wentworth, but I expect him to finish the job. It appears that he finally has his game back in shape -- I think it was understandable that it would fall off, given the triple punch of a record year, his dad's death, and his daughter's birth -- and he seems to be comfortable again.

Then you've got Jason Dufner, calmly mimicking Ben Hogan on Hogan's own track, potentially on his way to a 3rd win in 4 starts.

And yes, if they both win, I suppose I'll have to rank them #1 and #2 in the RGWR. Rory's played horribly for the last few weeks and nobody else with 3 or more wins in the last year -- a short list to be sure -- is really making a move.

It's funny, you know... we've all been waiting for Rory and Lee and Tiger and Phil and the young guns to rumble. And guess what? It appears that the two best players in the world right now as we head into the thick of major season have no majors and always seem to slip under the radar.

Unless something changes soon, it looks like this year may end up being a battle for supremacy between Luke Donald and Jason Dufner. And while I wouldn't have said this before the year started... I really don't know if we could write a more interesting script than that.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Quick Guides Are Now in Paper

It wasn't planned. The Quick Guides I've written so far were only going to be available as ebooks because the setup fees for my normal printer would have run hundreds of dollars.

Quick Guide coversAnd then the things started selling like crazy. (Thank you all very much for that!) But they're selling primarily as PDFs through my website and the Kindle version at Amazon. Two of them actually made it into the Kindle Top50 golf books for a while, if you can believe it. So I decided to explore CreateSpace (Amazon's POD unit) as a possible printer for paperback versions. That way I could get around the expensive setup and still get the books out on Amazon and through this blog.

As a result, the paperback versions "went live" at Amazon sometime Friday. Here's the deal:

I tried to make the books as useable as possible. I've discovered that traditional book design is a bit less versatile than ebook design, so the Quick Guides have been designed as large format books incorporating as much ebook functionality as possible. That means that they're larger than normal -- 7.5 x 9.25 inches -- which let me put huge diagrams in them and large print. That not only makes them easier to use when you're actually outside practicing, it also makes them usable for people with less than perfect vision. (I believe that's one of the strongest selling points for ereaders -- adjustable print size.) There aren't many golf books designed for those players, so I figured I'd include them too.

In addition, I tried to add the "flip book" feature to Stop Coming Over-the-Top that I included in the ebook version. The last chapter was redesigned so lefties can flip through a swing sequence with their left hands while righties can do the same with their right hands. It's not as neat as the ebooks, but it does work.

If you order the books through Amazon, More Golf Swing Speed will set you back $6.99 and the other two books are $7.99. If you have Amazon Prime or are ordering $25 or more to get free shipping, you're all set. That's simple enough.

However, I know some of you don't order a lot of stuff from Amazon, so I'm trying to help you out. If you click on the My Paperbacks button under the blog's masthead, you'll go to a page I call the "Defiant Publishing Store" where you can get the books at a discount. You put your books in a "shopping cart" -- you know how this works, and there are complete instructions on the page if you don't -- and then check out. There's a discount code on the store page that you can put in at checkout to get $1 off on every book you buy. Instead of $6.99 and $7.99, you'll only pay $5.99 and $6.99 which should help offset a lot of the postage.

Eventually I'll make the Quick Guides available everywhere... but that costs money I don't have right now. In the meantime those of you who want paperbacks instead of ebooks at least have a choice.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Waggle, Waggle, Waggle...

No offense to Zach Johnson. He had a great day Thursday, posting a bogey-free 64 to take the lead at 6-under at Colonial. He drained putts from everywhere and, while he hit a paltry half of his fairways, he did hit 78% of his GIR.

Nothing against Kevin Na, who posted a respectable even par round while trying to incorporate his new faster pre-shot routine into his round. He made 3 birdies and 3 bogeys, but it was clear his new routine affected his play as he hit only 64% of his fairways and 56% of his GIR.

I could point out the sterling play of Harris English after blitzing British Open qualifying earlier this week with rounds of 60-63, followed by a 65 in the first round at Colonial, or the possible resurgence of both Tommy Gainey and Sergio Garcia, who posted 4-under rounds in the windy Texas conditions. I could even mention John Daly's even par round, which means his improved play is continuing.

But let's just admit it. The real story is that the hottest player on Tour, the guy who won 2 of the last 4 events (and got married in-between), is back in the hunt again.

Jason Dufner calmly hit 79% of his fairways and 67% of his GIR on his way to a 5-under 65. He took a mere 26 putts and was 11th in that mysterious new "Strokes Gained - Putting" stat. All-in-all, a typically boring Waggler round that sent him racing up the leaderboard.

As an aside, Zach's SG-P stat was nearly double Jason's but he took the same 26 putts. Go figure. Knowing what I do about their rounds, I suppose the new stat takes the "footage" of putts made into account.

Of course, that doesn't mean the tournament's over by any stretch of the imagination. But it's amazing how consistently competitive Dufner has been on so many different types of courses. In a world of players who seek every possible edge they can find, the Waggler is getting the job done with a simple swing and sound course management. And it doesn't look like he plans to change either.

That's the real story... and I hope everybody's paying attention.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Armchair Golfer Gets Published

I'm sure a lot of you read The Armchair Golf Blog, Neil Sagebiel's little baby. It's one of the longer running golf blogs around -- 7 years now -- and there's always something interesting to read there.

The Longest Shot coverWell, Neil isn't satisfied with that. No, he wants you to read his book too!

That's right, Neil has joined the ranks of published authors with his new book, The Longest Shot, which is subtitled Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf's Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open. (On the outside chance you're a bit slow on the uptake, it's a book about how Jack Fleck beat Ben Hogan at the 1955 U.S. Open. Funny how that works out, isn't it?) The easiest way for me to sum it up is with the official blurb from the book's Amazon page:
The inspirational story of the unknown golfer from Iowa who beat his idol in the 1955 U.S. Open

With the overlooked Jack Fleck still playing the course, NBC-TV proclaimed that the legendary Ben Hogan had won his record fifth U.S. Open and signed off from San Francisco. Undaunted, the forgotten Iowan rallied to overcome a nine-shot deficit over the last three rounds—still a U.S. Open record—and made a pressure-packed putt to tie Hogan on the final hole of regulation play. The two men then squared off in a tense, 18-hole playoff from which Fleck emerged victorious in one of the most startling upsets in sports history.

On par with the classic golf narratives of Mark Frost and John Feinstein, The Longest Shot will surprise and delight fans as they trace the improbable journey of an unheralded former caddie who played his way into the record books by out-dueling the sport's greatest champion of his time.
Look, I'm not going to drop a huge sales pitch on you because I don't need to. If you read Neil's blog, you don't need me to tell you he can write. And since he's got links to the book's page at several booksellers, why don't you just pop on over and get yourself a copy? It'll be a nice way to spend your time during all that slow play at the Colonial. (Of course, that won't be Kevin Na's fault... ;-)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Na VS Demons, Round 2

Today I just want to give you a quick head's-up about something you might have missed on Tuesday's Golf Central.

On the tails of the controversial slow play penalty at the Sybase Match Play this past weekend comes a new chapter in the larger slow play saga. Kevin Na is returning to action in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial two weeks after his excruciating ordeal at The PLAYERS.

But Kevin spent the week off trying to change his pre-shot routine to speed it up... and he believes he has succeeded.

Golf Central shot footage of Kevin's new routine and showed it Tuesday. (I tried to find the video on the 'Net but had no luck.) Let's see if I remember this correctly... Essentially he's reduced it to:
  1. a practice swing, then
  2. he sets up,
  3. looks once at his target, and
  4. pulls the trigger.
Kevin doesn't know how well or badly he's going to play for the next few weeks, but he said he's determined to use this new routine and speed up his play. The video timed out at around 20 seconds, less than half the average time he was taking before.

Personally I have mixed feelings about this whole slow play debate. While I'm no fan of slow play, the "speedsters" are beginning to sound awfully self-righteous to me. I've heard players talk as if slow players destroy the rhythm of fast players, but fast players never do the same to slow players. Of course, we all know that Tiger traditionally played slowly when paired with fast players and quickly when paired with slow players to try and gain an advantage. And I don't care what you speed demons think, cruising around the course in 3 hours doesn't make you a hero. Some people like to spend a little longer on the course just to get away from things.

I view speed of play as just another condition of the course, like pin positions, tee placement, wind, rain, and all of those other aspects of the game. You're supposed to adapt to your opponent's speed of play just as you do to the weather; nobody is obligated to play at a certain speed just because it makes the game easier for you. Again, I'm not saying that extremely slow play should be the norm, but I think we should realize that some players are never going to be happy unless things are running (literally) at the speed they desire.

That ain't gonna happen, boys. No matter what is done about it, the game will never be played at a speed that satisfies everybody. If we're lucky, the best we'll eventually achieve is an average speed that doesn't please anybody! There will always be faster players and slower players, and they'll have to adjust to each other on the course. So regardless of which side of the debate you're on, grow up and learn to live with it.

In the meantime, I applaud Kevin Na for taking action to speed up his play. His inner demons weren't strong enough to make him hit bad shots, even when they were screaming in his head. To me, that says they aren't strong enough to make him listen to them... and I suspect he'll shut them up in fairly short order now. That slightly traumatic experience he went through at The PLAYERS was probably just the mental shot he needed to make him realize that.

So keep your eyes open for the new Na pre-shot routine this week at Colonial. You can bet GC will chronicle this newest twist to Na's journey toward a faster speed of play... and to the slow play debate as well.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Quick Dufner Lesson

I just wanted to show you all something I noticed today during a Golf Central segment. I took this still from this YouTube video from the Zurich Classic:

Dufner at top of backswing

This is the top of Jason Dufner's backswing with a driver. That's with a driver, folks! And yet the Waggler, a mere 5' 10" tall, is averaging almost 291 yards off the tee this season (according to his PGA Tour stat page) and over 316 in his win last week.

Some of you are trying to get a huge arc on your backswing when your bodies aren't really built for it. As a result you put yourself in a position from which you simply can't make a good swing. Granted, Jason gets a huge shoulder turn, but just a good 90-degree shoulder turn should be enough to get most average guys (with an otherwise sound swing, that is -- not great, just sound) a good 250 yards or so.

A shorter backswing like this also puts you in a stable balanced position, so there's a good chance you'll be more accurate as well.

So if you can comfortably get a huge swing arc like Bubba, that's great. Go for it! But a good 3/4-position like Jason's can be a potent weapon in anybody's arsenal.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 HP Byron Nelson Championship

Winner: Jason Dufner

Around the wider world of golf: Nicolas Colsaerts won the Volvo World Match Play Championship on the European Tour; Azahara Munoz got her first LPGA victory at the Sybase Match Play Championship; Nick Flanagan won a 3-hole playoff at the Nationwide's BMW Charity Pro-Am; and Ji-Hee Lee won the Chukyo TV Bridgestone Ladies Open on the JLPGA. (The Constructivist has all the details.)

A rare show of emotion

Oh my gosh! Is that emotion on Jason Dufner's face? Has the world gone mad?

Yes, marriage seems to suit the Waggler very well, very well indeed. A win less than a month ago, a mere week before his wedding, and now a second win with his new wife cheering wildly from the sidelines. (Well, at least it was wild for a Dufner.) The man who was good at leading after the first and second rounds seems to have finally found the key to fourth-round leads... and he's using it every chance he gets.

There's not much I can add to all the things that are being said about Jason in the media. He just keeps playing good golf... and he finally seems to realize that he is good. It's hard to beat a man once he learns that.

I bet Vijay Singh has already reminded him of that little nugget of truth. The two will probably go celebrate by practicing for several days nonstop. It'll give Jason some time to consider what he's done, as well as what might lie ahead.

Jason is only the 2nd two-time winner on the PGA Tour this year (the other being Hunter Mahan). He now leads the FedExCup points list. I heard he probably locked up a spot on the Ryder Cup with this win. And the most interesting fact I heard is that the Nelson was Keegan Bradley's win last year before going on to beat Jason at the PGA Championship. Is this an omen?

Whether it is or not, it's clear he's going to need more gym time if he plans to keep hoisting these huge trophies. He doesn't need to hurt himself right here in the heart of major season!

At any rate, this week's Limerick Summary salutes the Waggler. Whoever thinks they can become the new Batman on Tour better keep an eye out for this new supervillain. He clearly intends to steal some trophies!
He waggled to victory once,
Then twice with a calm nonchalance.
But know this: he'll mention—
Without any flinchin'—
His wife's his best win. He's no dunce!
The photo came from the front page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Finals Get Interesting

By now you've heard what happened in the semifinal match between Azahara Munoz and Morgan Pressel. Quick recap: Morgan won hole #12 to go 3up. However, the officials met the pair on the 13th tee and told Morgan she had been assessed a slow play penalty. As a result, Morgan lost the hole and suddenly dropped from 3up to only 1 up. (It took me a moment to process that too. Morgan was 2up on the 12th tee and Aza won the 12th because of the penalty, so that left Morgan only 1up.)

Then, on the 15th hole Morgan said Aza touched her line during a practice stroke. Jerry Foltz noted that while practice strokes over the line of your putt aren't unusual, he also said that Aza gets very close to the ground when she does it. The rules officials looked at the tape and decided the evidence was inconclusive -- meaning Aza wasn't penalized -- but warned Aza to be careful. Aza then won the 15th, 16th, and 17th to take the match 2&1.

The GC commentators believe the slow play ruling will be somewhat controversial because it had the effect of penalizing Morgan 2 holes. I'm not so sure that's the case. It just looks like Morgan went from 3up to 1up when in fact she only went from 2up to 1up. (She never got to 3up because the penalty was loss of hole, regardless of what she scored on it.) Hopefully that will become more clear as the match gets more discussion in the media.

But here's what I think makes this interesting. Added to the fact that these two are good friends -- assuming this bizarre turn of events doesn't cause permanent damage to their friendship -- I think the finals just became a whole new ballgame.

How much will this carry over into Munoz's afternoon match against Candie Kung? Aza was in tears after the semifinal match. I have trouble believing that it won't have some effect on her play in the finals.

The same goes for Morgan. She has a consolation match against Vicky Hurst and, despite how well she seemed to handle it, everybody knows Morgan can be very emotional.

Morgan didn't talk after the match but Aza, despite her tears, said she didn't believe this would hurt their friendship. They would give their emotions a chance to cool down and then talk about it.

I suspect their friendship will be ok. Things like this happen in professional sports and if you don't learn to deal with it, you don't have any friends. But those afternoon matches might not play out the same way now.

UPDATE: Apparently the two got together briefly before the afternoon matches and at least made sure their friendship was intact. A smart move on their part -- both professionally and personally.

I Haven't Lost My Touch

At least one of my choices made the semis! Morgan Pressel pulled the upset I predicted at the Sybase Match Play -- with a vengeance I didn't expect. I don't think anybody could have predicted the 5&4 thumping she gave Anna Nordqvist.

But the rest of my picks were on the wrong end of the thumper. I take some consolation in having correctly assessed the competition, even if I came to the wrong conclusions!

Vickie Hurst's length finally beat So Yeon Ryu's steady play. Ryo said herself that she hit a couple of shots coming in that usually indicate she's getting tired.

Candie Kung's steady play -- especially her putting -- kept on coming after Julieta Granada's streaky play streaked away.

And I picked Stacy Lewis purely because of her length advantage over Azahara Munoz. Guess what? Aza hit last on almost every hole!

At least this gives me something solid to try and base my picks for the semis on.
  • Kung over Hurst: I'm picking Kung because of how well she's putting. Granted, Hurst could stop leaving putts short... but with the pressure ratcheted up, I don't think she will. Kung's experience may give her an edge here.
  • Pressel over Munoz: My head says I should pick Munoz because of her newfound length and confidence.  Munoz is ahead of Pressel in virtually every stat, although Morgan's picked up a noticeable amount of length herself over the last year or so. But I'm taking Morgan because of her sheer determination.
And I'm picking Morgan Pressel to win it all. I just hope I haven't jinxed her the way I jinx Luke Donald.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

My Picks for the Afternoon at Sybase

I'm not going to do much for the Volvo. I had expected Ian Poulter to defend, especially after he cruised through the pool stage. With him out, I'm leaning toward Paul Lawrie. I'll leave it at that.

But for the LPGA it's a different matter. I didn't do too bad with my morning picks, having gotten 3 of the 8 right. (That's a major success for me.) I picked Tseng (who I noted was struggling, but I wasn't sure how strong Kung's opponents had been) and Choi (no real length difference over Pressel) primarily because of their world rankings. When you're #1 and #2, that spells consistency. Icher nearly pulled out a win against Granada -- who, since she's won 3 in a row, I can no longer consider flukey -- and the Munoz/Ewart match did turn out to be a pretty good one. The only real shocker for me was Stanford's loss to Hurst

So now we reach the quarters. Here are my picks:
  • Pressel over Nordqvist: Morgan finally seems to have her game going. This would be a bit of an upset, but I'm going with the US in this one.
  • Ryu over Hurst: I know Hurst is the longest, but I really like the way Ryu's playing. I think this is a case of a steady player over a streaky one.
  • Granada over Kung: This is a tough one. Candie Kung is an underestimated player on the LPGA who could very easily pull this out, but I think Granada has proven she's on her game this week. In this match I take the streaky player over the steady one.
  • Lewis over Munoz: I'm really stuck on this one, as I believe it's just a matter of which one gets a hot hand. I'm going with Lewis purely on her length advantage.
And I'll say now that if Ryu makes it to the semis, I think she wins the whole thing. I am really impressed with her play -- and her mental game -- since she won the US Women's Open last year.

Shredded Brackets

There were some upsets at the Volvo World Match Play over in Spain. You always expect some good players to go out because that's the nature of match play. But the Volvo uses pool play -- 3 players in each bracket play each other for 2 spots. The shocker is when good players get skunked.

Martin Kaymer and Darren Clarke are two players I didn't expect to lose both matches. It's one thing for them to go out, but to lose both matches? Unbelievable.

For us in the US, our sole entrant -- Brandt Snedeker -- made it through. His bracket had a 3-way tie and Brandt won the top seed in it. Way to go, Sneds!

But the Sybase didn't just have upsets. Around 7 bulls went crashing through that china shop! Let me list some of the casualties, their finish last year, and the round in which they fell this year:
  • Suzann Pettersen, defending champion -- 1st
  • Cristie Kerr, runner-up -- 2nd (her's is the only match so far to go extra holes)
  • Ai Miyazato, T5 -- 1st
  • Paula Creamer, T5 -- 1st
  • Michelle Wie, T9 -- 1st
  • Jiyai Shin, T33 -- 2nd
  • Brittany Lincicome, T33 -- 1st
  • Caroline Hedwall, DNP -- 2nd
  • Karrie Webb, T17 -- 2nd
You might think it sounds like this is going to be a no-name tournament, but you'd be wrong. Several players who went a long way last year are still in it:
  • Na Yeon Choi was 3rd
  • Angela Stanford was 4th
  • Yani Tseng was T5
  • Stacy Lewis was T9
Are there some surprises? Yes, but perhaps only because we haven't seen them in match play before.

Yesterday I briefly mentioned Jodi Ewart, who took out Suzann Pettersen. Friday she added Sophie Gustafson... and she won both matches 3&1. Those are convincing wins without being flukish, if you know what I mean. She could be a real contender here.

Likewise So Yeon Ryu took out Karin Sjodin 2&1 and Mina Harigae 3&2. That's a long hitter (on a wet course) and a 2-time Jr. Solheim Cup player. We don't get to see the Korean players in match play very often, but bear in mind that she won the US Women's Open last year during a rain-plagued erratic schedule that eliminated many of the competitors. She looks very relaxed out there; she might be very dangerous simply because no one has seen her in this situation.

In the morning matches I like (in order of their matches on LPGA.com):
  • Choi over Pressel (how can I bet against world #2?)
  • Nordqvist over Yang (Nordqvist had a slightly tougher route)
  • Ryu over Hull (she just looks so comfortable in the matches I've seen, plus she's the runaway Rookie of the Year so far)
  • Stanford over Hurst (picking experience here)
  • Tseng over Kung (I think Yani's struggling, so this should be close)
  • Icher over Granada (this one's just a feeling -- Granada's first two rounds feel a bit lopsided, but this match could be close)
  • Ewart over Munoz (this should be the best match of the morning!)
  • Lewis over Yoo (Yoo's playing well though, so this should be close)
We'll see how well I do. After the housecleaning we've had so far, I'm not sure of anything.

Friday, May 18, 2012

My Newest Kid's Book Is Out

I considered writing about the Sybase Match Play today, but they had so many upsets Thursday that I figured I'd have a better handle on things if I waited until after Friday plays out. Can you believe that 2nd-year player Jodi Ewart took out defending champ Suzann Pettersen 3&1? That's why we love match play -- it's unpredictable!

So I'll tell you instead about my second Mick Michaels book, Prince Jonathan's War: A Bible Story, that just came out. Like the others, it's for kids reading at level 2-3.

Prince Jonathan's War cover imageIt's a retelling of the story from 1 Samuel 13:15-14:23. In case you're unfamiliar with it, Prince Jonathan is the son of King Saul. (He was the king just before King David.) Saul had just disobeyed the Lord and been scolded by Samuel, the "big" prophet in Israel at the time. Maybe Saul was still moping about it, but in any case he was unwilling to lead his army against the Philistines who had overrun the land.

In fairness, perhaps the fact that the army had only two swords had something to do with it as well! The Philistines had gotten rid of all the blacksmiths. That way it was less likely the Hebrews would try to fight back. As a result the army had only two swords -- Saul had one of them and Jonathan had the other. Everybody else had to use clubs, farm tools, or whatever they could get.

Jonathan saw an opportunity to attack the Philistines, but knew his father wouldn't do it. So he took his sword and his armor bearer and the two of them went to fight the Philistines alone. It's one of my favorite Old Testament stories.

Obviously I like to mix things up a bit. The first book was science fiction, this one's a Bible story, and the next one (which is already written but the illustrations are taking a while) is a Japanese legend. I'm writing lots of different types of action-adventure books!

Anyway, the book is already available at Amazon for the Kindle and BN.com for the Nook, and will soon be at Smashwords in a variety of formats, all priced at $2.99. (I'll update the Smashwords link once I have it.) And, as I do with my other books, since the Smashwords-generated PDF won't be particularly attractive to a young reader, I have a special PDF version available here on site. The PDF will be available on the World Lit page at my Mick's Place blog.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Suspicious Fines

I really miss Jake Trout and the Flounders. (For those of you too young to remember, Peter Jacobson and some friends used to record song parodies to raise money for charity. The Flounders essentially broke up when harmonica player Payne Stewart was killed back in 1999. Now all we have is the Golf Boys. Oh oh oh.) I want to coax them back into the recording studio. But how?

"Easy," I said to myself. "Jake's a recording star. All I need to do is offer him some new surefire Top40 hits and he'll be helpless to resist!"

Consequently I've started a new category here on the old blog called song parodies where I will occasionally add some new songs that Jake will be unable to resist. Here's my first effort, a romantic ballad about the Tour's refusal to admit that players have been fined. The song, like the debaters, seems unable to determine whether this is a good thing or not...

Suspicious Fines (with apologies to Elvis)
I plug in a trap
I can't hack out
And so I drop the F-bomb, baby
No one can see
What the Tour does to me
When they try to stop the words I say

But still my fans hear rumors
Of suspicious fines
No one can end these rumors
It's an awkward time

When trouble starts at home
And won't leave me alone
I tell the press my season's ended now
But things get worse -- I know
That every evening show
Will speculate that I'm suspended now

So all my fans hear rumors
Of suspicious fines
No one will end these rumors
It's an awkward time

If only the truth were known
And the talk not so overblown
Then perhaps I could atone
To my fans and let them know I really paid my dues, ooh, yeah

I just want to curse
Though it makes things worse
Exploding like a supernova
I can't ever tell --
That gets me fined as well
And starts this crazy farce all over

(Don't you know I'm) plugged in a trap
I can't hack out
So here's another F-bomb, baby
(repeat to fade)
I wonder if I'll get a Grammy for this one? Call me, Jake!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Match Play Heaven

Can you believe it? There are TWO match play tournaments going on this week! How cool is that?

The European Tour has the Volvo World Match Play Championship. Small field -- only 24 players -- but this is one of those prestige tournaments. The course is at the Finca Cortesin Golf Club in Casares, Spain. And you can get a PDF of the brackets if you click this link. It starts Thursday.

The LPGA also has their big match play event this week. The Sybase Match Play Championship has the standard 64-player field and is played at the Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Gladstone NJ. This one also starts on Thursday, but I'm talking about it today because there's a pro-am going on today and GC is going to broadcast it at 5pm ET. (Which means it's tape, not live. Same thing for the first two rounds of the tournament. Oh well.)

Here's something I just found -- I know, I'm slow -- but I'm guessing a lot of you haven't found it yet either. If you mouse over the word "tournaments" in the top menu bar at lpga.com and then look in the left column of the dropdown menu, you'll see the words "Printable TV Schedule." It's a PDF of the entire year's LPGA TV schedule. And it's got more than the TV times. It's got the location and purse for each tournament as well.

So for all you match play lovers like me, this is a great week. Get your fill, since this will have to hold us over until the Ryder Cup.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

If You Want to Swing Like Kuch...

Yeah, I know you're curious. Matt Kuchar's swing looks so flat, yet it works so consistently.

I've done posts about Matt's swing before. In 2009 I wrote a brief piece called Matt Kuchar Can “Flat-Out” Play, then added a fuller look at his swing in 2010 with It's Not Over Till the Flat Man Swings. But I have a feeling that we'll be hearing even more about him if this win is the breakthrough it appears to be, so today I'll add a new one.

This is a Golf Digest Tips Plus video about his swing. It makes a good point, but it leaves something out which I'll add after the video:



It's important to understand that your left shoulder (right shoulder if you're a lefty) moves down when you coil your shoulders, not parallel to the ground. That's true in virtually any swing you might make, not just a Kuchar copy. And the tip about being able to wiggle your toes will help you make sure your hip moves back and doesn't make a slide to the side.

But Kucher's swing is MUCH flatter than Peter Morrice is demonstrating. Here's a link to a Golf Digest swing sequence for him. The link will take you to photo #14 in the sequence, which is the top of his backswing as seen in a down-the-line view. See how much flatter his arms are than Peter's in the Golf Tips video? Matt's swing, by his own description, feels more like a baseball swing. The description on the photo may say "Classic one-planer: Left arm on the same angle as the shoulders," but you can see that his left arm is clearly WAY below his shoulders. This puts his right elbow very close to his side, which might feel cramped to some of you.

As I pointed out in my 2009 post about his swing, Kuchar is 6' 4" so this relatively flat swing plane is more like a 5' 10" player's "proper" swing. If you're shorter than Kuch, this swing will make it harder to get a steeper swing, the kind you need when you dig balls out of the rough. But if you do it right, it can be a good way to develop a draw and could be especially useful off the tee. You want to swing upward there anyway, so a flatter swing isn't a big problem.

This Tips Plus video will help you understand the basics of a good shoulder coil, which are the same for almost any swing. But if you want to give Matt's swing a try, make sure you get that low arm position correct. Matt's accuracy comes from the fact that his right elbow is so close to his side that he can't help but have a more consistent swing plane. It's an extreme application of Hogan's connection principle, but it works.

I can't guarantee that you'll win a PLAYERS trophy, though.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 THE PLAYERS

Winner: Matt Kuchar

Around the wider world of golf: Christel Boeljon won the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open on the LET; Bi-o Kim won the GS Caltex Maekyung Open on the OneAsia Tour; and Ricardo Santos won the Madeira Islands Open on the European Tour.

Matt Kucher takes THE PLAYERS

During Sunday's round Jimmy Roberts did a brief piece that played on some Shakespearean themes going on in the final round.

At first it seemed more like a film festival to me. A number of unexpected movies made it to the big screen, such as:
  • The Demons of Na: A low-budget horror flick characterized by its black-and-white depiction of how our personal expectations can get into our heads, turning even seemingly simple actions into an onerous burden.
  • The Color Orange: A documentary about youth, culture, and the cult of personality in the early 21st Century.
  • The Reappearing Man: An independent film about a golfer no one had seen for years who suddenly begins appearing on leaderboards each week.
  • I Know Where You Ranked Last Summer: A thriller about the battle for #1 on the OWGR.
  • Martin, Lord of Scots (known as Martin, Laird of Scots in his homeland): An imported film about the next major Scottish golfer. Originally opened in a small number of theaters, but now receiving much wider release.
I could go on... but after some thought, I realized Jimmy was probably right. It was a Shakespearean comedy that eventually took center stage... The Taming of the Shrewish Course.

But since that little number was actually written by Matt Kuchar -- a playwright of increasing stature in the game -- and since he eventually received the Crystal from the Academy for his starring performance in his own work, I guess All's Well That Ends Well.

So this week's Limerick Summary salutes the supremely performed work of Matt Kuchar... and wishes Kevin Na well in his attempts to end his Midsummer Night's Nightmare:
Kevin's "demons" left viewers dumbfounded
While for Fowler, support was unbounded.
But 'twas all much ado
About nothing—we knew
Fears that Matt wouldn't win were unfounded.
The photo came from PGATOUR.com's Tour Report.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Some Demons Play Rather Well

At least, they do if they're Kevin Na's demons. I wish GC could have interviewed those little guys. Wouldn't that have been a fascinating interview?

Kevin Na photoWhat I find so interesting is how specific these "demons" are. Most of us struggle at one time or another with too much information bouncing around in the attic. But generally those distractions completely derail our game. They mess up our whole swing and leave us wondering if we'll ever hit a ball squarely again.

That's not the case with Kevin. According to his teacher Dale Lynch, Kevin's been making a dramatic swing change in order to improve his driving. And it's working -- in fact, the improvement itself is dramatic. Kevin has jumped a long way up in the driving stats, and it's even had a positive effect on his iron play.

But Kevin isn't comfortable with the change yet. He's having trouble once he gets over the ball, and that causes him to have trouble "pulling the trigger." Most people would expect these "driver yips" to completely derail his ability to hit shots, yet once Kevin gets the club going he generally stripes the ball.

His demons are specific. They haunt the changes that he and his coach have made to his setup. Once he gets comfortable enough in his setup to start the swing, everything else happens exactly as it should.

Tim Rosaforte called it "double-clutching" and I think that's a good term. It reminds me of a car with clutch problems. Everything in the drivetrain works just fine... but sometimes the clutch works and sometimes it doesn't. Once it catches, the car jerks into motion and shoots forward at high speed.

Otherwise the car just sits there while the engine revs wildly.

These demons are so specific that they defy both description and understanding to the rest of us. But I think this may be the key to understanding why Kevin's game continues to improve, even as he berates himself for his inability to beat them now. Kevin knows what his problem is, and he knows what he has to do to beat it. Make a note of this, because it may help you overcome mental problems in your own game: It's easier to find the determination to beat the problem when you know exactly what the problem is.

Kevin says he and his coach hope his current struggle will be won before the year ends. (His playing companions certainly hope so. Kevin has been so open and non-defensive about it that they all probably sympathize... but that doesn't mean they like it.) When it is, his pace of play should pick up considerably as well. In the meantime he can see the improvement that he expected when he began these changes.

But the biggest challenge of his life may come today. He slept on the 54-hole lead. He's missed the cut at TPC Sawgrass far more often than he's made it... and only once has he cracked the Top50. (That was a T3 in 2009.) Can he continue to stave off the demons long enough to close out the biggest tournament of his life so far?

And if he does, will his demons throw a party for him or just demand a cut of the purse?

The photo came from Kevin's bio page at PGATOUR.com.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mechanical Problems, Part 2

I'm really starting to feel sorry for Tiger. Everybody's begun to psychoanalyze his game now. And when he wonders out loud how other people can know what's going on inside his head, they poke fun at him. After all, he fixed his swing, didn't he? What else can it be but a lack of confidence?

Back in early April I wrote a post called But It IS a Mechanical Problem where I took issue with virtually every analyst and instructor on the planet. (I have to single out Frank Nobilo as the primary exception. He alone seems to believe the problem isn't as simple as everybody else does.) I wrote it after Tiger won at Arnie's Place.

Did anybody notice that I didn't pick Tiger as a favorite going into the Masters? Did anybody notice that I haven't been on the "he's back" bandwagon yet?  Back in February, after Phil pounded him at Pebble, I wrote:
"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."
Was anybody paying attention? Did anybody wonder why I remained cautious, even after the win?

It's time to return to the subject. This time, let me explain a little bit about how people learn. I don't want to go all geeky here, but I've got to refer to some scientific stuff in order to make it all clear. I want you to know that I'm not just making this stuff up. (Disclaimer: Mike Southern is NOT a brain expert. He only pretends to be one on his blog.)

The key word here is synapse (plural: synapses). Synapses are, according to this educational website:
"...the microscopic contiguous gaps between brain cells. These junctions form tiny synaptic gaps that are approximately 0.02 microns (8 millionths of an inch) wide. Synapses link the cells inside the brain through the process of synaptogenesis, which organizes those cells into the all-important operating circuits."
Or, if you prefer a more entertaining (and perhaps clearer) explanation, take a quick look at this video:



Synapses are bridges that your brain's instructions travel across or, if you prefer, electrical switches that "turn your muscles on and off." And learning a new activity -- such as swinging a golf club -- involves building new bridges or "rewiring" your nervous system so that you can get the correct instructions to the correct muscles at the correct time. That's simple enough to understand.

However -- and this is where Tiger's critics are missing the boat -- you also have to consider the existing switches (or bridges, depending on which analogy you prefer). Those instructions from your brain are used to traveling along different synaptic connections that result in different movements... and that causes some problems. Let me cut right to the chase, or this post will get ridiculously long:
  • When you're learning a new golf swing, you focus on resisting the strong synaptic signals traveling along the existing routes. At this stage, your swing looks pretty mechanical but you can play decent golf after a little practice.
  • When the new synaptic connections are fully in place, they carry the strong signals as the old routes weaken from disuse. You focus on allowing the strong synaptic signals traveling along the new routes. At this stage, your swing looks very flowing and may even feel effortless to you.
In both cases your mental choices are based on the strongest signals. You can focus on them and take the appropriate action to either encourage or impede them and thus help the proper synaptic routes to develop.

The problem comes at the halfway point in their development, where the old neural pathways are weaker and the new ones are stronger but neither is really in charge. In effect, there's a fork in the road and your brain's instructions can follow either path. At this point it doesn't seem to matter what you're thinking because your thought processes are built on either resisting or following the strongest path. Without a path that's clearly the strongest, performance becomes a hit-or-miss situation.

When Tiger talks about playing better when he's "uncomfortable," he's acknowledging this. When he's comfortable, he's responding to the mixed signals... and they send his muscles "hybrid instructions" that result in poor shots. To overcome them he has to consciously try to play shots... and that's uncomfortable since he's forcing one synaptic route to override the other. And it's complicated by the fact he may choose the wrong synaptic route.

The only way through this time is to tough it out until the new pathways become the strongest. But it's an extremely frustrating time in the learning process because you have no way of knowing how long the process will take.

This is why players who try to change their swings often lose their games. If they go back to their old swing method they may be able to get back on track, although they frequently end up with new hitches in their swing. These are caused by the new partially-formed synaptic patterns that are just strong enough to interfere with their familiar motions.

More commonly, however, they hit this very frustrating part of the process and -- because they don't know what's happening -- they give up and move on to yet another swing method. As a result, they end up with multiple layers of partially-formed synaptic patterns that conflict with each other.

There's a good chance you've experienced this yourself. Many years ago (as a teenager) I tried to learn how to fingerpick guitar. The book I had taught three-finger style -- forefinger, middle finger, and thumb -- and I was making decent progress. But I got interrupted and had to stop for several months. That wouldn't have been a problem... except that when I started again I tried to learn classical-style fingerpicking. That uses four fingers -- forefinger, middle finger, ring finger, and thumb. I ended up unable to pick either way and was so confused that I finally quit trying.

This midpoint in the process is where Tiger is right now. He's struggling, not because he has no confidence in his game, but because his new synaptic patterns have developed to a crucial point and he's on the verge of truly making these swing changes "his." The new swing may "take" any day now, or may be several months yet. I give him a lot of credit for ignoring everybody else's opinion and staying the course. I believe he's going to succeed in these swing changes simply because, despite what his critics say, he IS confident in his swing and the process he's following.

And those times when he suddenly seems to become more engaged in his shots and starts playing better? That's when one of the synaptic patterns momentarily becomes a bit stronger and he realizes he can focus on it. Then he knows what to do to get the most from where he is at the moment, and his play improves.

So I'll say it again. Tiger IS dealing with mechanical problems, not mental or emotional ones. He hasn't "lost his way" -- he knows where he's going much more clearly than his critics. It's going to look a bit "fragile" for a while, folks, but if you understand the learning process you'll expect that and even recognize it as a sign of progress.

And just for the record, our "lost, fragile little Tiger" made the cut... unlike some star players who shocked us by missing the weekend. Like I said, just give him a few more months. Tiger will have the last laugh yet.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Typical First Round

Ah yes. We've grown to expect this, haven't we?

Very few of "the usual suspects" got off to a good start, while more than a few unexpected names zipped to the top of THE PLAYERS leaderboard. Rory, Tiger, Phil, Rickie, Luke, Lee, and the others are all back at -1 or worse while players we haven't seen for a while sit at -7 or thereabouts.

I will point out that my three victims-- er, picks are all under par. Louis Oosthuizen (despite a waterball at 17) and Lee Westwood are both at -1 while Ben Curtis leaped all the way up to -4. The first round means little, of course, as the powers that be will not take kindly to this little scoring binge. Today's round will almost certainly feature much more difficult pin placements -- over a third of the field was under par Thursday, half the field at par or better -- in an effort to slow the rush toward double digits.

I thought the most surprising thing in the first round was the number of withdrawals. There were a total of five:
  • D.A. Points for back spasms, a somewhat strange situation that (rightfully, I think) allowed Brian Harmon to get in playing as a "onesome" at midday
  • Angel Cabrera for personal reasons, though some speculated that a 9 on the 17th may have fueled them
  • Simon Dyson with a "shooting pain" in his hip and leg
  • Hunter Haas with back pain
  • Paul Casey with shoulder pain
I think Casey's is the most distressing. He's had chronic ailments for the last couple of years and this certainly isn't going to help him. He had finally gotten back into the Top50 in the OWGR and now this! I finally tracked down some info about the injury. Apparently this is a relapse of the dislocated shoulder he got snowboarding during Christmas. He says he's going to try and play at the Volvo World Match Play next week, but he doesn't sound too convincing about his schedule beyond that.\

At any rate, it means Casey won't be low Englishman this week. I guess Poults, Westwood, Donald, and Brian Davis -- who's at -4 so let's not forget him -- will have to duke it out for that honor.

But I'm highly interested in Ben Curtis now. I wonder if he can keep up the pace and snag another big tournament despite playing under the legendary Ruthless Golf curse?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Picking THE PLAYERS

Well, it's time for me to put the kibosh on-- er, pick the guys I think have the best chance of winning THE PLAYERS this week. (They have it all in caps at the PGA Tour leaderboard, so I'll type like I'm excited too.) I've picked three players who I think will finish high.

The first is Lee Westwood. Westwood is one of the best ball strikers in the field, and TPC Sawgrass is what they call a second-shot course. That just means most of the players will be playing their drives from basically the same spot in the fairway, so approach shots will be more important than usual. At least, that's what they said on GC.

But I really like Westwood because he's playing so well lately. He's had two Top5s in the last month, and this course sets up really well for him. Although he didn't play last year, he was T4 in 2010.

My second choice is Louis Oosthuizen. His last three tournaments have been a third, a runner-up (the Masters), and a win. In addition, he has two wins this year (he won the African Open in January). I think he's finally healed up from his injuries and back on track. And like Westwood, I think TPC Sawgrass sets up really well for him.

And number three -- Ben Curtis. Curtis is a streaky player... but he's dangerous when he gets on a streak. The last time it happened he won twice. He already has one -- the Valero Open about three weeks ago -- and he was T5 at Quail Hollow last week. He may actually be the most dangerous player in the field.

Westwood, Oosthuizen, and Curtis. That's my triumvirate of hot players for THE PLAYERS this week. Let's see how well they withstand the old Ruthless Golf curse, eh? Smiley Faces

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lee Westwood on Driver Fitting

I found this little video tip Lee Westwood did about getting fit for a driver. I'll expand a bit on what he says after the clip:



Lee talks basically about shaft flex and driver loft. Let's take a brief look at each.

First of all, let me state the obvious. If you have a slower swing speed, you probably need a more flexible shaft to get distance.

But too many players make a worse mistake. They think a stiffer shaft will make them more accurate. That's not always true. If a shaft is too stiff for your swing technique, you won't load it properly during your swing and that can cause you to slice the ball. If a shaft is too flexible for your swing technique, you'll load it too much and tend to hit hooks.

Clearly, if you have a trouble with hitting slices, you want to err on the side of more flex, not less. And if you have hooking problems, a stiffer shaft can help straighten you out. That's something your clubfitter can determine during your driver fitting.

As for driver loft, the number of degrees is somewhat misleading since your swing technique can make a club play very differently than the loft would lead you to believe. A good launch angle is what you're after. Launch angle is affected by several things:
  • Swing speed is a big factor. The slower your swing speed, the more loft you need. For example, if your swing speed is in the 80-90mph range, you might actually hit the ball farther with a 3-wood than a driver.
  • Angle of attack is how steep or flat your clubhead approaches the ball. If you chop down on the ball you may need more loft to get the ball up in the air. With a driver -- unlike your other clubs -- you want to swing up when you hit the ball. If you're swinging up, you'll need less loft.
  • Shot shape is one of the most misunderstood factors. If you want to fade the ball, you may need a driver with less loft while a drawer of the ball may need more.
Or, to make that last example a little clearer, let's assume you want a 10-degree launch angle.

If you like to fade the ball, the face is open relative to your swing path when it hits the ball and that increases the effective loft of the club -- it may behave like it has a 12- or 13-degree loft face. To get your fade to fly on a 10-degree trajectory, you may need only 7- or 8-degrees of loft.

Likewise, if you draw the ball you lessen the effective loft of the club -- it may behave like it has 7- or 8-degree loft. To get your fade to fly on a 10-degree trajectory, you may need 12- or 13-degrees of loft.

You don't have to figure that out yourself, of course. Just tell the clubfitter whether you like to fade or draw the ball and he'll give you the proper loft -- in conjunction with your swing speed, angle of attack, and so on -- so you end up with the correct driver to get the most distance and accuracy possible for your swing.

And Lee should know. He averages 290-295 yards per drive (that's both PGA and ET figures) and players aren't always using driver on the measured holes. He busts it pretty good.

That's also why most pro shops keep a clubfitter on hand. Make use of him (or her) and get fit properly.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: May 2012

I slipped up this month as I usually do the RGWR during the first week, not the second. But I'm back on track now, and with the 2012 Masters in the book I expected some shuffling this month. We didn't have as much as I expected but there are a few surprises. Also, the first tournaments of May count in this ranking which is unusual but couldn't be helped. I am a week late, after all.

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), 9 Top5, 37 points. Rory and Luke Donald keep splitting time at the top of the OWGR, but currently it's a Northern Irish title. He lost a single Top5 finish this month.
  2. Luke Donald: 4 wins (1 BMW, 1 prestige), 8 Top5, 39 points. Mr. Consistency has been struggling a bit as of late. He too lost a single Top5, meaning (just like last month) Rory beats him out in my rankings by a mere Top5.
  3. Branden Grace: 3 wins, 1 Top5, 11 points. The only three-time winner of 2012 (among the men, anyway), Branden debuts so high in the RGWR for two reasons -- 3 wins in less than 5 months, plus he has a Top5. That shows a bit more consistency than some of the other players ranked below him.
  4. Lee Westwood: 3 wins, 9 Top5, 23 points. Although he hasn't won as consistently as Grace (technically his "official" win is about to drop off the rankings, which will drop him from the RGWR), Lee picked up another 2 top5s this month. That tells me that he's on the upswing. I'd watch out for him at the TPC this week.
  5. Steve Stricker: 3 wins (2 prestige), 0 Top5, 13 points. Stricks has no Top5s now. He needs to get his act in gear if he wants to stay in the RGWR.
  6. Bubba Watson: 2 wins (1 major), 3 Top5, 19 points. Bubba got hisself a green jacket and a new baby. I picked him as a player to watch the very week he won. Bubba done real good. You're welcome.
  7. Hunter Mahan: 2 wins (1 WGC, 1 prestige), 1 Top5, 14 points. No changes for this Golf Boy. He holds his spot on the strength of being the only two-time PGA Tour winner this year.
  8. Michael Hoey: 3 wins (1 prestige), 0 Top5, 11 points. No change in stats for Hoey this month but he does have those three wins.
  9. Louis Oosthuizen: 2 wins, 4 Top5, 14 points. Now it gets a bit dicey. Down here at the bottom it's getting crowded with two-timers over the last 12 months. I considered Keegan Bradley and his major, but he's done relatively little as of late, and Justin Rose has cooled off after his TPC win. King Louis lost a playoff for the Masters (after a very disappointing final round the week before) then won the very next week on the other side of the world. I had him picked as a player to watch last month. I think you should continue watching, so he makes the rankings this time.
  10. Rickie Fowler: 2 wins (1 prestige), 2 Top5, 10 points. Don't forget his Korean Open win last October. This is 2 wins, both won head-to-head with Rory McIlroy. That's gotta get some recognition, even if it's only for this month.
Players to watch:
  • After his win this past week Rickie Fowler talked as if he had finally realized how he was taking himself out of tournaments. If he truly has, "watch" may be an understatement.
  • It may sound strange to call Lee Westwood a sleeper but, as I said, I really like him this week at TPC. If his putter gets even a little warm...
  • I don't know what he's found but Ben Curtis should bottle it and carry it with him at all times. The next few months could be really good for him.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 Wells Fargo Championship

Winner: Rickie Fowler

Around the wider world of golf: Fred Funk returned to the winner's circle at the Insperity Championship on the Champions Tour; Francesco Molinari notched another ET win at the Reale Seguros Open de España (bravo, Francesco!); Carly Booth won the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open on the LET; Pornanong Phatlum won the LPGA Brasil Cup; Hudson Swafford won the Stadion Classic at UGA on the Nationwide Tour; and Sun-Ju Ahn won the Salonpas Cup on the JLPGA. (The Constructivist has the lowdown on that one.)

Rickie Fowler finally broke through

This week Captain Jack Sparrow made his debut as a winner on the PG-- oh wait, that was Rickie Fowler, wasn't it?

Well, I had to make a joke and it was either that or borrow Nick Faldo's "that orange was freshly squeezed today" line. And given the swashbuckling nature of Fowler's first PGA Tour win, I knew which one I wanted to use.

But the Wells Fargo Championship was certainly awash with color. Of course there was Rickie's trademark orange Sunday outfit.

You can't escape the Carolina Blue comments when you're in North Carolina. Although the university color actually refers to UNC-Chapel Hill and not UNC-Charlotte, commentators rarely seem to notice. Carolina blue skies are something we're all proud of here though, so we rarely complain much.

And then there's the notorious Green Mile. I guess everybody knows the name comes from a Stephen King novel (and subsequent movie) about a Death Row inmate, although I find it ironic. The inmate had magical healing powers. I've seen very little that I'd call "healing" about Quail Hollow's Green Mile. Players appear more rather than less damaged after 4 rounds.

Unless you're Rickie Fowler, that is. Not that Rory McIlroy seems particularly bothered by the course -- he's won there before, you know -- and even D.A. Points seemed to have made peace with it this year. But only Rickie seemed to grow stronger with each step Sunday, and his birdie on the 18th in the playoff certainly drove the dagger solidly into his challengers' hearts.

Man, there was another Jack Sparrow reference. I just can't seem to shake the pirate analogies, so I suppose I should also note that Sparrow is notorious for avoiding Death Row. And that Rickie hauled off all the loot.

But in the end, the most vivid color may not be silver (the trophy) or gold (the cash) but the pure white-hot competition that seems to be kindling between Rickie and Rory. Rickie's two pro wins have both come against Rory, and most of Rory's wins have come with Rickie in the field. And the two truly seem to enjoy their opportunities to square off against each other.

All that remains is for Rickie to go to Disneyworld. Isn't that what all winners -- especially those who look like Captain Jack Sparrow -- do to celebrate?

In the meantime, this week's Limerick Summary celebrates the colors of Rickie's first PGA Tour victory. I was rooting for him, weren't you?
The trip down the Green Mile's no quickie;
Predicaments there can be sticky.
The champ's black and blue
Once he pulls off this coup—
But orange you glad it was Rickie?
The photo came from the official site for the event.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Do NOT Play Arnie for Money...

Even if he is 82 years old. The same goes for Jack and Gary. The over-70 set will eat you for lunch.

The Big 3 stride to victory

The leaders of the Insperity Championship on the Champions Tour were the secondary story of the day... and they'd probably tell you they didn't mind. Half of them ran from the scoring tent to watch the real show for themselves.

OK, here's the deal: Insperity thought it would be cool to have a tournament within the tournament this year, so they came up with the idea of having the living legends of the game play a scramble as part of the second round. They invited 9 of the surviving legends to play a threesome scramble right behind the last group of the regular event. The teams were:
  • Miller Barber, Don January, and Dave Stockton
  • Lee Trevino, David Graham, and Gene Littler
  • Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer
Over 40,000 fans showed up for the scramble. That might have been a shock to some, although Trevino said he personally knew of people who drove 500 miles for the chance to see the Big 3 play together.

But the real shocker was how well the teams played. I think the first two teams managed rounds of -9 -- that's better than some of the rounds at the Shark Shootout! (Yes, I know we're talking threesomes rather than pairs, but there's a slight age -- and practice time -- difference as well.) And then the Big 3 blew everybody out of the park.

Gary, Jack, and Arnie managed a bogey-free -11 to win the 18-hole scramble.

And these weren't lucky shots either. Jack and Gary were competing to see who could drive it the farthest, then who could hit it closest to the pin. Often one would hit a shot to within 5 to 10 feet, only to have the other tuck it inside. And Arnie was making putts from all over, including a 25-footer on the 18th to seal the victory.

If you want to read a bit more about it, here's a link to a summary of the event and here's a link to the after-round interview with Jack, Gary, Arnie, and Lee. I think the best thing to come out of this is that all four said they were open to doing something like this again.

In case you didn't see it, you should. I can almost guarantee that GC will replay it more than once since this could be the last time we get to see all three play together competitively. This is one nostalgia tour that's worth its weight in gold.

The photo came from the summary article. And, btw, Tom Lehman and Fred Funk are tied for the lead at the main tournament.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Well, It's Not Golf But...

I'm really proud of this. I'm now a children's book writer!

The Krilt's Secret Weapon cover imageSeveral months ago our local children's librarian convinced me to try writing some easy reader-type adventure books that would appeal particularly to boys. What I came up with is a sort of halfway point between easy readers and chapter books. I'm particularly happy because they sound more like adult books -- no "See Spot run. Run, Spot, run!"

The first book is a science-fiction story called The Krilt's Secret Weapon. It stars Captain Nexus and his first mate, Scopes, as they go on a mission to destroy a new secret weapon that threatens the Border Space Worlds. However, they're in for a surprise...

Most publishers say that kids don't read science fiction until around the 4th or 5th grade. My friend at the public library would disagree. Star Wars is incredibly popular with those young guys. I wanted to blend the idea of old movie serials with more modern serious SF (which can be written for this age group btw), so Captain Nexus is a blend of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, while I patterned Scopes after Doc Savage.

My "first grade novels" have a mostly first-grade vocabulary with two or three "advanced" words that the kids would know if they heard them. The books are between 2000 and 2500 words long -- longer than an easy reader, but nowhere near as long as a chapter book -- with chapters that are no more than 400 words long. (That's about the length of a short story for that age group.) And the books have a few full-color illustrations to ease the transition from picture-heavy books to text-heavy ones.

According to the librarian, I "nailed" the reading level. And they still sound "adult enough" that she said they might even work as hi-lo books, which are what adult literacy classes use.

The Krilt's Secret Weapon is available at Amazon for the Kindle, BN.com for the Nook, and at Smashwords in a variety of formats, all priced at $2.99. I'm writing my kids' books under the pen name Mick Michaels to keep them separate from my golf books, and I plan to have a special PDF version available at the Mick Michaels site as soon as I finish the site. (I'll have a link to it in this blog's sidebar once the site's up and running.) It's not available in paper yet simply because the color pictures would make it too expensive, but the librarian said that the kids were more eager to read on a computer anyway. What a surprise, huh?

So that's my newest project. See, I don't expect you to live and breathe golf... and I don't either. Smiley Faces

Friday, May 4, 2012

Trump Gets an Open

On the outside chance you haven't heard, Donald Trump's Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster NJ will be hosting the U.S. Women's Open in 2017. If you want to read more about it -- and you're too lazy to Google and choose from the thousand or so articles that have been (and will be) written about it -- you can get the basics from this New Jersey Star-Ledger article.

Trump takes his prize

I wanted to write a few words about this because a conspiracy theory of sorts is starting to brew in golf circles:
  • As you are no doubt aware, Trump already bought the Doral Resort & Spa -- site of the WGC-Cadillac Championship -- which gave him a presence on the PGA Tour.
  • He's been involved with tournaments on the LPGA Tour in the past. The Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida hosted the ADT Championship while it lasted.
  • Trump National-Bedminster has already hosted the U.S. Junior Amateur and Girls Junior championships back in 2009.
The theory is that Trump wants to become a major player in golf (sorry, couldn't resist) at any and all costs... and he's buying his way into the inner circle of the powers-that-be.

Depending on who you talk to, this is somewhat akin to the Evil Empire striking a deal with the Rebel Alliance in Star Wars. Trump is one of those guys we all love to hate. There's a reason that, when DC Comics recreated all their superheroes and super-villains, Lex Luthor morphed from a mad scientist to a corporate executive. It was the most evil thing they could imagine!

I have a confession to make. I am a closet supporter of the Donald. No, I don't watch The Apprentice -- I have no use for most reality TV -- and I had no intentions of voting for him if he ran for President.

But I think Donald Trump may be just what professional golf needs right now.

I have no doubt that Trump will potentially make a fortune off his golf involvement. That's called free enterprise, and it's one of the principles that encouraged (and still encourages) people to come to America and try to make it a better place.

But what I think makes Trump different from other potential investors is that he is truly passionate about golf as a game. He doesn't just want to "do golf" -- he wants to do it right. He gets personally involved with the design of his courses. (Btw, he had Tom Fazio and Tom Fazio II design the courses at Trump National.) And he wants his courses to be the best courses the players ever set foot on. In a lot of ways he's like Herb Kohler, who saved St. Andrews when it went into bankruptcy -- just as Trump saved Doral -- and built Whistling Straits, which hasn't turned out to be such a bad place.

So, I just wanted to take a moment -- in the midst of all the potential naysayers who'll speak up as we go forward -- to thank Donald Trump for saving Doral and for taking such a personal interest in golf. When Trump is interested, lots of people get interested.

And if they don't, I suppose they'll all be fired.

The photo came from the Star-Ledger article.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Just a Reminder...

That the Wells Fargo Championship begins today. It's in Charlotte NC, only about 90 minutes south of me and it's the first time in a few weeks that we'll see Tiger, Phil, Rory, and Lee Westwood all together. (This is a warm-up for The Players next week, of course.)

Golf Central Pre-Game comes on at 2:30pm ET, followed by the tournament from 3pm until 7pm (an hour longer than usual). Golf Central comes on for a half-hour at that point, followed by a rebroadcast of the golf.

As for me, I'm taking the day off. I've been working on some writing projects -- NOT golf-related, btw -- and my brain is just too tired to create a witty post. I know some of you would say that's not unusual, but I'm too tired to argue. Smiley Faces

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mickey Wright Footage

Since the ladies are playing in Rio de Janeiro this week (and apparently will not be televised on GC) and we've all been fascinated by Jason Dufner's slightly retro swing, I thought this might be a good time to take a quick look at one of the most celebrated classic swings ever.

Ben Hogan once said Mickey Wright had the best swing he'd ever seen. So when I found this footage condensed from a 1964 Shell Wonderful World of Golf telecast, I knew I had to post it. The reason is that it shows Mickey hitting a wide variety of shots with different clubs and from different kinds of lies.



A couple of things stand out to me. (Besides the fact that she's playing for only $3000.) One is that her swing reminds me of Steve Stricker's move -- it's simple, smooth, and very balanced.

It's also very powerful. There's a driver swing at around the 2:30 mark that is slightly downwind but definitely uphill... and she hit it 260 yards. A woman hitting uphill with 1964 equipment. And Wikipedia lists her as a very average 5' 9' tall. That's up there with the best of the male pros at the time, and it's extremely impressive.

There's also a tip for increasing distance at the end. Just to give you a head start on it, you'll find it much easier to do if you use -- you guessed it -- a one-piece takeaway. You'll also find that her foot and legwork is similar to that of Ernie Els, as I discussed in yesterday's post.

Please spend the four-and-a-half minutes to watch this piece of video. While you do, try to imagine how this swing feels... then try to duplicate that feel with your own swing. Even after all these years Mickey Wright is still one of the best swing models you can imitate.

And that goes for you men as well as you women. Mickey Wright was just flat-out awesome!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ernie Feet

I've been searching for some video of the swing change Ernie Els has been working on recently that he says is helping his accuracy so much.

I believe I finally found one... at least it's close enough for you to get an idea. Here's a slo-mo video from back in March:



Take a good look at how his knees (and therefore his feet) are moving during his swing, especially his backswing. The first thing to note is that both knees stay flexed all the way through the backswing and pretty much until his hands are below waist high on the downswing. Too many of you are making one of two mistakes:
  • Straightening one or both knees during your backswing, which locks your lower body and contributes to an over-the-top move.
  • Straightening both knees during your downswing, which causes you to stand up and hit the ball thin.
If you look closely at his left foot during his backswing, you'll see the change he's been working on -- he's letting his left heel come off the ground during his backswing. (I think Kostis said he's after around 3 inches of lift, but he's only getting about half that right now.) This is a move that can help in several ways:
  • It helps those "old bones" when they need a little more flexibility, although I don't think Ernie has this trouble. If you're not flexible enough to get a full shoulder turn, this can help.
  • It's a rhythm helper. By letting his heel come up he eliminates some muscle tension, and relaxed muscles make it a bit easier to keep your rhythm. Any of you who have ever danced know what I'm talking about -- tight muscles are stiff, jerky muscles.
  • It's a downswing trigger. He has to push that heel back down to the ground to start his downswing, and that helps initiate his weight shift.
One last thing: Pay attention to his hip movement. Although Ernie has a lot of lower body motion in his swing, his right leg is still leaning slightly toward the target at the top of his backswing, and his left leg is still leaning slightly away from the target after the ball is gone and his hands are halfway up into his finish. His hips are turning, not sliding from side to side. This helps keep his spine from leaning too much toward or away from the target, and that helps keep his swing plane more consistant -- which means his swing path is more consistent time after time.

And the result of the whole thing is a much more balanced finish.

Ernie's Total Driving stat has improved considerably this year. It's as important to his improved play as his improved putting is. He's gone from 237 (158th) in 2010 and 235 (162nd) in 2011 to 121 (26th) this year. Golf is much easier when you play from the fairway.

Improving your footwork can always help improve your swing. Keeping those knees flexed during the swing is one of the things that pros do so much better than weekend players... but it's something that is easily improved. Just look back at this post and focus on keeping your knees flexed while doing the drill. You don't even need a club to practice

If it helps Ernie Els, it'll probably help you too.