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Friday, August 31, 2012

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: September 2012

I'm a bit surprised that August didn't shake things up any more than it did. We had a WGC event, a major, and the first FedExCup playoff event (a prestige event)... and yet I see primarily the same players, albeit with a bit of shuffling. A number of the top players of recent months lost events from August 2011, so I had 2 players with 4 events, 4 players with 3 events, and a surprisingly large number of two-timers.

That made this month's rankings more difficult, as I had fewer clear winners. Technically, there was only 1 ET event in this ranking period, as they included the Bridgestone and PGA among their tournaments while not scheduling against the other PGA events. (Presumably they were allowing their top players to acclimate over here, to give them the best chance of winning those big events.) As a result, many of this month's rankers were chosen by criteria other than wins.

As usual, here are 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's "bad patch" seems to be over. (Ya think?) His runaway win at the PGA drove him back to the top of my rankings in nearly every possible way -- he added a major as well as adding to his total wins and Top5s, he won in the last month, and he topped the OWGR as well. It's hard to do more than that in such a short period of time!
  2. Tiger Woods: 4 wins (3 prestige, 1 other), 4 Top5, 24 points. Tiger's stats remain unchanged this month, but he won within the last 2 months and he has more wins than anybody but Rory. Luke Donald still beats him on points and Top5s, however.
  3. Webb Simpson: 2 wins (1 major, 1 prestige), 4 Top5, 23 points. Webb's 2011 Wyndham win fell of his total this month. However, I'm still giving Webb a bit of a pass, simply because of his new baby. That's going to play all kinds of havoc with your practice time and, all things considered, he's not playing badly. (I'm not holding a missed cut at Bethpage against anybody in this ranking.)
  4. Luke Donald: 3 wins (1 BMW, 1 prestige), 6 Top5, 32 points. Luke is simply FLAT, compared to the stats I focus on. I think Luke tries too hard at this time of the year, what with all the majors and big tournaments that happen over the summer. But he's got 3 Top10s in his last 4 starts, so there's no way I can say he's playing badly -- he's still better than most players on a week-to-week basis. Everybody's entitled to a lull in their normal level of play, so I'm letting Luke take a brief breather without major penalty.
  5. Sergio Garcia: 3 wins (1 prestige), 5 Top5, 21 points. Sergio reenters the RGWR with his win at Greensboro and his Top5 at the Barclays. He's been shockingly consistent lately -- just look at all those Top5s! -- but Luke stays ahead of him purely because he's got the BMW win, plus one more Top5. Luke hasn't won as recently, however, so Sergio could easily leapfrog him next month if he keeps playing this well.
  6. Lee Westwood: 3 wins (2 others), 8 Top5, 21 points. Although Lee has been a bit flat recently, I'm chalking that up to the distraction of relocating to the USA. He still picked up another Top5, so I'm looking for better things from him soon.
  7. Paul Lawrie: 2 wins, 3 Top5, 12 points. Lawrie might seem an unusual choice, since both of his wins are on the ET. As I've said before in this blog, I don't buy the argument that ET events are "easier" -- if they were, Americans would actually win some of them! They're just different. Lawrie's play has been getting better and better over the last 6 months and, now that he made the Ryder Cup, I think we may be seeing him over here occasionally.
  8. Zach Johnson: 2 wins (1 prestige), 2 Top5, 12 points. No change for Z-Man this month, but he's won recently enough to still hold a spot.
  9. Keegan Bradley: 1 win (1 WGC), 3 Top5, 14 points. Keegan is here, despite having only one win, because he showed me some serious improvement this month. He won Bridgestone, then followed up with a Top5 in defense of his PGA title. Given that he's been fairly flat over the last 3 or 4 months, he's making a nice return to form.
  10. Ernie Els: 1 win (1 major), 4 Top5, 18 points. Ernie remains in this spot solely because he has the other most recent major. I guess this long stretch of important tournaments is getting to everybody; once past Keegan, I found no player with a distinct advantage in even Top5s. I'm willing to give Ernie a grace period of a couple of months to celebrate. He's currently 17th in FedEx points, so he's on target to make it to the Tour Championship. Given the problems he's worked through this year, that should count for something!
Players to watch:
  • Do you realize that John Huh is 23rd in FedEx points? I picked him last month as a "Player to Watch" and I still like him. He could make it to the Tour Championship in his rookie year!
  • Likewise, Scott Piercy is 22nd. He didn't make the Tour Championship last year... but this year it might be a different story.
  • Seung-Yul Noh also remains on my "Player to Watch" list from last month. He's currently 53rd in FedEx points. I wouldn't write him off yet, either.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

And Today It's the Mylan Classic

Yes, in case you somehow missed it, the Deutsche Bank doesn't start until tomorrow (it has a Monday finish) so today's TV action comes courtesy of the European and Web.com Tours.

The ET event is the Omega European Masters in Switzerland. GC will broadcast it from 8:30a - 12:30p ET. Although this tournament will be overshadowed by the DB at TPC Boston -- after all, many of the big Euro players are in the playoffs -- Omega still has a strong field. Paul Lawrie (one of the Ryder Cup players) will be looking for back-to-back victories this week.

Likewise, the Mylan Classic on the Web.com Tour has a lure of its own. GC will broadcast it from 3p - 6p ET this afternoon. Numbers 2 and 3 on the Web.com Tour money list -- Casey Wittenberg and Ben Kohles -- are both in the field. It's funny looking at the money list, since most of the players at the top have over 15 events... except Kohles, who has played 3. Yes, just 3 events to reach #3 on the money list.

Anyway, both are two-time winners, so either could potentially get a "battlefield promotion" this week. Yes, I realize that seems somewhat anticlimactic, as the season is pretty much over. But while I couldn't find the info to confirm this, I'm pretty sure that the battlefield promotion has a positive effect on your seeding during your first full year on the big tour. That would certainly make it desirable for more than just bragging rights!

Those are your golf choices for today. The LPGA and the Champions Tour are off this week, and the PGA Tour (as already stated) doesn't get going until tomorrow. Since the ET still has a lot of events left, the Web.com Tour event seems primed for the most drama.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Watney from a Year Ago

Just a quickie look at Nick Watney's swing. However, this is his swing from a year ago, when he was in the midst of his good run of play. I'm just going to give you a quick look at one of the ways he gets more distance:



Watch that trailing elbow as he goes back, changes direction, and starts down. Nick has a fairly upright swing so his elbow gets a little farther from his side going up than I'd like to see. However, he uses a one-piece takeaway well into his backswing, so I won't complain too much. ;-)

Note that at the top he doesn't quite get parallel, even with the driver. A good shoulder turn doesn't require that the club reach parallel.

And finally, note how his trailing elbow gets closer to his side on the way down while his lead arm stays pretty straight. This is why his wrists stay cocked well into the downswing. (If you're trying to "hold the angle," you're just wasting your time. That late uncocking is a side effect of the correct downswing move; you can't get it by focusing on your wrists.) Too many of you are moving your trailing elbow away from your side as you start down. That causes your wrists to uncock early, even right at the top of the downswing. Thiat's called casting.

You want to learn how to do that "elbow moves closer to side" move? Check my Some Useful Post Series page. It's the first series called How to Use a Single-Plane Loop for Power and Accuracy.

There you go, a quick power lesson. Have fun!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Kobra Has Struck!

Lydia Ko bio pic from LPGA.comYes, I have officially nicknamed Lydia Ko "the Kobra." I think that's a sufficiently cool name for the newest golf sensation in women's golf.

Oh, you think I'm going overboard? I can understand why... but let me tell you why I don't think I am.

Did you know that, as of 27 August 2012,  Lydia Ko is now #45 on the Rolex World Rankings? It's true. She's up 140 spots from last week. She's now ahead of more-established pros like Michelle Wie (47), Karine Icher (50), Melissa Reid (54), Katherine Hull (57), and Sophie Gustafson (63), just to name a few.

See that photo at the side of this post? That came from Lydia's LPGA.com bio page! Care to guess how many amateurs have a page at the pro site? It does look kinda funny, what with 1 win year-to-date but no wins and $ 0.00 earnings in the career column. (After all, she doesn't have a career yet.) I'm guessing it's a rush job since, at the time I checked it, it didn't show her Rolex World Ranking yet.

Of course, that 1 win is her LPGA win. She also has that ALPG win at the South Wales Open back in January. That gives her 2 pro wins this year.

The site does have a stat page, which I found interesting. (In addition to the Canadian Open, Lydia has 2 other LPGA tournaments on the books -- the 2012 U.S. Women's Open, where she finished T39, and the 2012 ISPS Handa Australian Open back in February, where she was T19.) Lydia averages 251 yards off the tee, 78% of her fairways, 72% of her GIR, and just over 30 putts per round. I wanted to find her height -- to get an idea of how typical her length is -- but apparently it's not listed on the web. I can tell you she's listed as a +5.8 handicap on her page at the Harbour Golf NZ website.

She also has a personal website, but it's under construction at the time I wrote this. Apparently her success has caught everybody offguard.

What I find really cool is that, because she's still an amateur, her U.S. Women's Amateur should count as a major just like the U.S. Amateur and British Amateur did for Bobby Jones. That gives her 2 pro wins worldwide, plus a major, in less than 8 months. Is there any golfer, male or female, who can make such a claim this year?

Hmmm... didn't think so.

And, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, Lydia is now qualified for the CME Group Titleholders event in November -- their Tour Championship -- and she'll be heading for the Ricoh Women's British Open in a couple of weeks.

So, no, I don't think I'm going overboard at all. The Kobra has struck, folks. And women's golf is about to find out just how dangerous a teenage girl can be... even before she gets a driver's license. ;-)

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 The Barclays

Winner: Nick Watney

Around the wider world of golf: Lydia Ko made history, becoming the youngest amateur ever to win an LPGA event, the CN Canadian Women's Open; Kim Hyung-sung won the Vana Cup KBC Augusta (which I think is on the Japan Golf Tour); Jay Don Blake won the Boeing Classic on the Champions Tour; Paul Lawrie walked away with the Johnnie Walker Championship on the ET; and Darron Stiles won the News Sentinel Open on the Web.com Tour.

Nick Watney finally breaks through for another win

I know this Summary is about the PGA event, but I have to take a few moments to salute Lydia Ko. The 15-year-old didn't just win the CN Canadian Women's Open, she demonstrated that she understands what a "scorched earth policy" is. Playing with Stacy Lewis and Jiyai Shin, when they and the other pros caught up to her at the turn, she casually posted 4 straight birdies to take a lead that no one ever closed. She shot her lowest round of the week -- a 5-under 67 -- and won by 3. She's now won on two professional tours (ALPG and LPGA) and won the U.S. Women's Open in less than 8 months -- and if I remember correctly, 48 of the top 50 players in the world were in this week's field. Jiyai Shin may have put it best; she simply said she felt very old. Jiyai is 24.

Get used to the name Lydia Ko, folks. She qualified for the Titleholders tournament at the end of this year (winners qualify, whether they're pros or amateurs) and she was already headed for the Women's British Open. I haven't found any good footage of her swing yet, but I'll be surprised if some doesn't show up online soon. She's got a sweet swing.

And now back to our regularly-scheduled program...

If it hadn't been for Lydia Ko, The Barclays would have easily stolen the show this weekend. The showdown between Nick Watney -- a player who's been struggling all year, trying to find the form he had last year -- and Sergio, coming off a dramatic win last week right here in North Carolina, was classic stuff. Bethpage played as hard as we expected, and neither player could seem to throw the knockout punch. All-in-all, it's the kind of final round that the Tour loves -- it continued the drama of the season so far while showing that we still can't predict who might show up big at Deusche Bank next week.

It finally came down to the back 9. At that point Sergio and Nick were tied after Nick made up his 2-shot deficit. On the back 9, Sergio posted 3 bogeys. So did Nick... but he offset them with 3 birdies. Game, set, and match. I'm taking Sergio's final round 75 as proof that he truly is tired after several big events where he was trying to make the Ryder Cup team.

The question now becomes... did Watney do enough to convince DL3 he should be on the American Ryder Cup team? Watney is #30 on the points list but with his win -- especially his overall game stats -- Davis can't afford NOT to consider him. And with the continued good play of Brandt Snedeker (posting a solo 2nd), Dustin Johnson's solid T3, and Rickie Fowler's tumble to a T24 finish after having stumbled the last few weeks, the US Captain's job just got considerably more complicated.

But we'll have those answers soon enough. This week's Limerick Summary focuses on the battle that was... with a nod to the youngster who stole the thunder from the big boys. You just can't separate the two this week:
As Lydia Ko launched a new age,
Nick Watney did his part at Bethpage—
A back-and-forth battle
With Sergio that'll
Launch FedEx's Cup to its next stage.
The photo came from the front page of PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What to Watch?

This is going to be a tricky day for watching golf. In a sense, history may be made on two fronts.

Lydia Ko is still leading after 3 rounds at the CN Canadian Women's Open. If she wins, she'll be the youngest player ever to win an LPGA event -- eclipsing even Lexi Thompson -- and she'll be the first amateur to win on the Tour since Joanne Carner back in 1969.

And Sergio is still leading at The Barclays. Granted, it won't make any kind of history if Sergio wins. But it will be 2 straight PGA Tour wins for him -- the first time he's done that in years -- and it could certainly portend some continued good play going forward. Golf is always more interesting when Sergio is in the mix -- as Forrest Gump once said, you never know what you gonna get!

But here's the problem: Both tournaments are on at the same time! GC is showing 4 hours of live coverage from the Canadian Open, and CBS is showing 4 hours of live coverage from The Barclays... and both will run from 2pm till 6pm ET.

So what to watch? I'm afraid I'll be doing some bouncing back-and-forth between channels, hoping only one of the tournaments gets interesting!

But I wouldn't bet on it. I think Sergio and Lydia might just pull off the double this weekend. That could make both the Ricoh Women's British Open AND the Ryder Cup must-see TV... as if they weren't already.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

LPGA Fun with Dick and Jane

See Dick and Jane.
Hello, Dick! Hello, Jane!
See Dick and Jane disobey Mom and Dad and stay up late
    so they can see the LPGA on GC.
Bad GC! The LPGA was tape-delayed anyway!

The LPGA is playing the CN Canadian Open.
What did Dick and Jane see?

See Yani.
Hello, Yani!
See Yani lead after the first round.
Lead, Yani, lead!
See big name players struggle in the wet conditions.
The players prepare for a tough second round.

Lydia Ko with the US Women's Amateur trophy

See Lydia Ko.
Hello, Lydia!
Lydia is 15 years old.
Lydia just won the U.S. Women's Amateur.
See Lydia shoot 68-68 in the wet conditions.
See Lydia shoot a bogey-free 2nd round.
See Lydia shoot 7 shots lower than Yani.
Goodbye, Yani!
See Lydia tie the lead in Canada.
Lydia is tied with Chella Choi.
Lydia has one professional win --
    the 2012 New South Wales Open.
Chella Choi has no professional wins.
See Lydia lead the field by 3 shots.
Lydia is still just an amateur.
Lydia is still just 15 years old.

See the LPGA field learn to be afraid.
Be afraid, LPGA, be very afraid!
The photo of Lydia Ko and the US Women's Am trophy came from the KoreAm's page tagged "Lydia Ko."

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Scramble for Captain's Picks

The Ryder Cup is overshadowing everything right now, isn't it? The Euro race is trickier to figure out, since two different points lists have to be juggled -- and that's a bit beyond my puny brain tonight -- the US team is much more straightforward.

The Top 8 on the US points list are a lock. Here are numbers 9 thru 20 on that list. The first column shows their position at the Barclays after the first round, both score and position in the field:

+2, T87 09 Hunter Mahan 4,082.228
-2, T26 10 Steve Stricker 4,015.069
E, T52 11 Jim Furyk 3,369.616
-4, T8 12 Rickie Fowler 3,313.338
-1, T35 13 Brandt Snedeker 3,176.787
-1, T35 14 Bo Van Pelt 3,152.315
-4, T8 15 Dustin Johnson 3,040.020
+2, T87 16 Robert Garrigus 2,604.580
E, T52 17 Bill Haas 2,546.017
+2, T87 18 Ben Curtis 2,457.284
+3, T97 19 Scott Piercy 2,416.346
E, T52 20 Kyle Stanley 2,341.219

If you go with the current thinking that Furyk and Stricker will make the team without question, the two players with the best shot at the remaining spots would have to be Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson. I suspect these two players would be the ones most fans guess Captain DL3 is most likely to pick.

However, Sneds and Van Pelt are in position to make a last-minute push. Both have been playing reasonably well lately.

Sneds has one win and a T3 at the Open Championship, although he only has 2 other Top10s to go with them.

Van Pelt got a win last October and has 2 runner-ups this year to go with 9 Top10s -- 3 in his last 5 starts. Add his length into the equation (he's 39th on Tour) and I'd have to say he's the most likely spoiler in the 9-20 group.

Mahan really needs to get his act in gear. He's only got one Top10 since his last win at the beginning of April. As good a player as Mahan is, DL3 is probably looking for somebody on a bit more of hot streak.

The last-minute scramble should be interesting!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Even Luke Has Hip Problems

On GC's On The Range show Wednesday, they talked some more about the improvements Luke Donald has made in his driving. One of the things they specifically mentioned was that Luke had been "slowing down his hips" because they were "getting ahead of his upper body."

Funny, isn't it? Instructors spend so much time trying to get you to "start your swing with your lower body," then they run a show to help you get better that talks about slowing your lower body down! Is it any wonder weekend golfers are confused?

I know what you're going to say. The pros are better players, so they have the opposite problem.

I disagree. Watch the show long enough and you'll hear a number of pros who insist their lower bodies still turn too slow! The fact is that most players, regardless of whether they're amateurs or pros, have trouble getting the proper lower body movement in their swings.

Most players believe that hip speed is the primary cause of clubhead speed. Your hips are indeed responsible for some of your clubhead speed, but not completely. Your whole body works to develop clubhead speed. But that's not the reason the pros worry about hip speed...

It's because hip speed -- at least the way it's being talked about by most of the pros -- has to do with club path. It's that weight shift problem I frequently talk about, where you push your hips too far ahead of your upper body (so you lean backward and push the ball) or you straighten your trailing knee (so you lean toward the target and pull the ball). When you do the former, you literally slide your hips too far forward; when you do the latter, you lock your hips in place so they can't turn.

ipcture of the drillIsn't it easier to just learn the proper movement from the start?

I've referenced this drill several times before and will continue to do so, simply because it's the best drill I've found for learning proper weight shift during your swing -- and, consequently, proper hip speed. So click here if you've forgotten it. I like it because you don't even need a club to use it, and yet it can really help you get a good handle on proper hip movement during your swing. So here it is again.

In my opinion, you simply have to keep working on the fundamentals because they're so... well, fundamental. You never waste practice time when you work on the basics.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On Women at Augusta

Everybody's buzzing 'bout the new members at Augusta National. Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore made history (again -- they're used to doing that, aren't they?) by becoming the first female members in the old boys' club.

The two new members

The reactions have been rapid and various. They span the gamut from the somewhat snarky editorial by Tim Kawakami at mercurynews.com to Martha Burk's cautious opinions at cnn.com to Christine Brennan's fairly pragmatic but upbeat article at usatoday.com to Rex Hoggard's largely fact-laden (but certainly optimistic) column at golfchannel.com. (Hoggard's column is the first one I've seen that says both women first came up for consideration 5 years ago, although he attributes it to the Associated Press.)

So -- and please pardon the golf puns -- is this a birdie, par, or bogey?

I think, first of all, we have to realize that probably nobody is completely on track here. This is a complex issue and I haven't (and can't possibly) read everything that's been written so far about it. Let me just give you a few of my own thoughts.

While I have no doubt that there's a large pocket of sexism at Augusta National, I also doubt that it's as all-pervasive as some would have us believe. I suspect the sexist group is simply more obnoxious about their beliefs than the rest of the membership and therefore determines policy more than the majority would like. The fact is that most players -- even the rich members at ANGC -- head to the course to get away from the hassles of business and therefore bide their time until they suspect they have the best chance to get things done.

I also imagine that this might have happened sooner had it not become such an issue. Forget the old boys' club image for a moment. No businessman who's had substantial success is going to let other people tell him what to do, especially if he views those people as less successful because they don't work hard enough. (I'm not saying they're right, just that's how people think. Do you like people getting in your business and telling you what to do?)

And it seems likely that Chairman Billy Payne is NOT one of those so-called "Neanderthals" who would be against this move. If there were only one progressive at ANGC, it would be Billy Payne.

But neither do I believe this is the "big breakthrough" it's being made out to be. Is it historically significant? Of course it is! Has it opened the doors for more women members? Potentially -- after all, you've got to have a first one before you can have a second one. But it certainly doesn't guarantee that the second one (in this case, third one) will get through that door.

Here's what I think everybody is overlooking. ANGC didn't just accept two women into membership, they accepted two exceptional women into their membership. Moore, among other accomplishments, was the first woman Forbes ever profiled on their cover and she's got a freaking business school named after her, for Pete's sake! Rice is a former Secretary of State, and that may be the least of her accomplishments.

My point here is that the bar for women members has been set extremely high. The old boys' club knows how hard it is for a woman to succeed in business, yet these women can hold their own against virtually any man you want to name! Call the sexist members "Neanderthals" if you want, but you'd have to be a complete idiot not to respect what these women have done... and it's unlikely someone THAT stupid would remain a member of ANGC for very long. Can you name a lot of women who have been this successful AND have the "passion for golf" that ANGC cites as a requirement?

In fact, I think you can make a serious argument that accepting these two accomplished women as members doesn't indicate a changed attitude at all. If Rice and Moore aren't acceptable members, I suspect ANGC would have to remove some of its existing membership simply because they haven't accomplished as much... and the ladies did it in a system that conspires against their success.

So while this is certainly a historic event that could send ripples through the golf world (this means you, R&A), I'll withhold judgment on whether things have really changed on Magnolia Lane.

But I'd also like to congratulate Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore on adding yet another accomplishment to their long lists of successes. Maybe things won't change as much as we hope, but they've still grabbed a couple of green jackets for themselves. I guess that'll be one more reason for the "Neanderthals" who haven't gotten an invite to grunt their disapproval. In that case, I have these words of advice for the ladies...

Next spring, when the cameras turn toward you and your green jackets, make sure you smile REAL BIG for them. As a wise man once said, "The best revenge is living well."

The photos came from Hoggard's column.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 Wyndham Championship

Winner: Sergio Garcia

Around the wider world of golf: Willie Wood got his first Champions Tour win at the Dick's Sporting Goods Open; Mika Miyazato got her first LPGA win at the Safeway Classic; Lydia Hall got her first LET win at the ISPS Handa Ladies British Masters; Shawn Stefani got his first Web.com Tour win at the Midwest Classic; and Augusta National got their first two female members, Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore. (I'll have to do a post about that last one!) In addition, Paola Moreno got her 2nd Symetra Tour win at the Eagle Classic and Mi-Jeong Jeon got her 20th JLPGA win at the CAT Ladies, but those seem a bit anticlimactic after all those firsts, don't you think? You can get the details on the CAT Ladies from the Constructivist.

Welcome back to the PGA Tour winners circle, Sergio!

It just seems appropriate, doesn't it? El Niño returns to the PGA Tour winner's circle during a rain-delayed tournament!

The storm of emotion that often derails Sergio seemed to subside as the water table rose at the Wyndham Championship. He looked calm and even showed moments of positive emotion as he sunk putt after putt last week. Those 4 birdies in the last 6 holes Monday morning really made a statement... but perhaps not as strong a statement as the calm bogey he made on the 18th after one of the rare bad shots he hit all week. He casually walked over after his poor drive, put it back in play, and left himself a tap-in for bogey.

Why not? He had 3 shots to play with!

I suspect the win wasn't as satisfying as the knowledge that he had just locked up a place on the European Ryder Cup team without needing a Captain's Pick. Poulter knocked him out of last place when Sergio missed the cut at the PGA. Monday, Sergio leapfrogged both Poulter AND Peter Hanson to end all doubt.

Sergio now enters rarified air, as far as I'm concerned. It's rare for any player to win on both sides of the Atlantic during a given 12-month period. It's not that American golf is better than European golf, or vice versa -- the two are just different, requiring slightly different skill sets, and few golfers seem to have both of them. Luke Donald may be the only golfer who can currently say that he wins on both sides with any regularity. At least Sergio is back in the conversation.

And Sergio now has 3 victories in the last 12 months -- again, rarified air.

So today's Limerick Summary salutes the warm wind of familiarity that's blown back into the PGA Tour... and into Medinah a few weeks' hence:
El Niño blew into the Wyndham;
No rain – or emotions – could send him
Careening off-course.
He'll now be a force
At Medinah, not just an addendum.
The photo comes from the Wyndham main page at PGATOUR.com.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Couple of Swing Thoughts

Since the Limerick Summary is rain-delayed (GC will broadcast the rest of the Wyndham today at 9am ET) I thought I'd pick out a couple of interesting things I saw players do this weekend.

First up, from the U.S. Amateur... the eventual winner Steven Fox had a rather unusual way of starting his backswing. Some of you have heard of swing triggers, which are just a small movement of some kind that players use to help smooth out their takeaway. A common one is called a forward press, where you lean the grip of the club a little toward the target before you start swinging the club. You might think of it as a bouncing motion -- you move one direction, then rebound in the other direction.

Fox uses a very unusual trigger. He bends both of his knees toward the ball to start his backswing! It's really kinda weird-looking when you first see it because it looks like he might fall over. However, it works well for him. He "rebounds" upward as he starts the club back -- not something I would recommend, since I think it would get most players out of position. In Fox's case, both of his knees are still bent at the top of his backswing, so he doesn't "lock them" the way some players might.

However, flexing just your trailing knee might work as a trigger for some people. A slight downward "squat" with that knee, then returning to your original flexed knee position after you've started your backswing, might be just the ticket if your lower body feels too stiff when you start back. The important things here are to (1) make sure you don't straighten your knee during your backswing and (2) don't let that flexing turn into a sway away from the target.

The other thing was a strategy move Inbee Park made at the LPGA's Safeway Classic to give her a chance to win. (Mika Miyazato got her first win instead. Did you see the trophy? It's bigger than Mika!) Anyway, on the 17th hole, which the LPGA shortened to play as a 217 yard par 4 -- I know that sounds short but the green was really hard, it was surrounded by water and thick rough, and the only bailout was the back bunker -- Park was one of the few players who gave herself a decent putt at eagle. (She lipped out but it was a good try.) How did she do it?

Most of the women had to go at the green with a hybrid. Park would have too... if she had tried to fly it to the hole like everybody else. Instead, she took a 5-iron and landed the club well short of the green, running it up the front and getting closer than the approaches of any of the players I saw. Granted, not all holes allow this sort of shot -- and Park had to hit the ball accurately to get the result she wanted -- but even if she had missed it, she would have left herself a decent chip shot. Why didn't anybody else try it? Because we're conditioned to always try and fly the ball to the hole. Sometimes good strategy means that you don't do what everybody else does.

So there are two helpful things I saw during the telecasts this weekend:
  1. use a swing trigger to help smooth out your takeaway and
  2. look at all your options on a hole before you plan your shot, especially on tricky holes.
These small things just might save you a few strokes next time out.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Yeah, Golf Is Like Life...

Because you're never out until you quit. This was an interesting theme in several tournaments on Saturday.

First, there was Yani. Friday she shot 70 for the first time in 10 rounds. Saturday she shot her lowest score since the first week of June! Her bogey-free -5 (67) tied her lowest score that week at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, and it was the lowest score at the Safeway Classic on Saturday. She's now T5.

And how about Michelle Wie? She had said she intended to forget about the first 6 months of 2012 and start all over. And now her two rounds of 70-69 (-5) are her lowest opening rounds at any tournament all year! Granted, it wasn't "pretty" like Yani's, but she found a way to get it done. She's T11; her best finish this year had been T33 at the Sybase (which, since it's match play, means she went out in the first round).

And then Sergio showed up at the Wyndham. His three rounds of 67-63-66 (-14) are 6 shots better than any full PGA tournament score so far this year! He's leading the tournament going into today.

But the real kicker has to be finalists at the U.S. Amateur. If I've got this right, Michael Weaver of Fresno CA plays Steven Fox of Hendersonville TN in the final today. Both made it out of stroke play qualifying in a 17-for-14 spot playoff. Officially, one was the 60th seed and one 63rd... out of 64 qualifiers! In the world ranking of amateurs, Weaver ranks 149th and Fox ranks 127th. These two guys barely made it out of qualifying yet they have dispatched all of the top-ranked amateurs in the world, earned exemptions into the 2013 U.S. Open, probably into the 2013 Masters, and the winner of today's match gets one into the 2013 Open Championship. (Provided they remain amateurs that long, of course.)

Oh yeah, there's that Havemeyer Trophy too. ;-)

Next time you get down on yourself about your game -- or just about anything in life, for that matter -- think about these players. Nothing's guaranteed... unless you quit, that is.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Yani Hits a Milestone

At least, a milestone since she hit her "slump" over the last few months. She posted a 70 in her first round at the Safeway Classic, the first time she's posted something that low in her last 10 rounds. That's about 4 tournaments, given how many cuts she's missed.

But she's still 5 off the lead. Sydnee Michaels (she won twice on the Futures Tour last year) and Mika Miyazato both shot 65s to post 7-under. Several players who aren't quite as well known are playing well, but 4 well-known names stand out to me... and they'll be in the broadcast window today.

Cristie Kerr may have finally snapped out of her own slump; she's at 6-under. She's been on the verge of playing well, but hasn't been getting out of the gate very well lately. She did Friday, so maybe this is the week she turns things around.

Inbee Park is continuing her improved play, also posting 6-under. She's arguably the hottest player on Tour right now, having 6 straight Top10s (with 1 win) in the last 6 weeks.

So Yeon Ryu is coming off that blistering 62 that won the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic for her last weekend. She's 5-under.

And Paula Creamer's at 4-under. She's also posted a few Top10s over the last few tournaments.

I certainly wouldn't say nobody else has a good chance. The leaderboard's pretty tight right now. But all 4 of these players are experienced winners playing well. I wouldn't bet against them.

GC starts their broadcast 6:30pm ET tonight for 3 hours. And since the tournament's in North Plains, Oregon, it'll be live. It's nice to see some live LPGA action for a change!

Friday, August 17, 2012

What's Up with Yani?

Yani tees it up again today at the Safeway Classic (GC starts broadcasting at 6:30pm ET)... and I can't help but wonder how she's going to do. She's fired her second caddy (I understand Na Yeon Choi has already hired him) and now she's going to try again. What in the world has happened to that can't-miss swing?

I've been trying to figure it out myself. Here are a couple of vids -- it's hard to find two that are far enough apart timewise but are shot at roughly the same angles. This is the best I've found so far. The first one was uploaded on 15 Feb 2011:



The second was uploaded on 04 June 2012:



And here are some stills I took from the two of them that are pretty similar. It's hard to stop them in exactly the same spot! In the first still you can see the shaft is parallel to the ground; in the second, the shaft points toward the ball (that blob isn't the head of the club, but a reflection off the shaft -- the head is just contacting the ball in the video); and in the third, you could see the streak of the driver head at it approached the ball (it's just a few inches behind the ball), so it should be roughly the same position as the second one:

2100/2012 comparison of Yani's swing

Clearly this isn't enough to say for sure what's happening, but something is definitely off. You'll notice I categorized this post under "weight shift." Let's compare the first two stills to the last one. Here's what it looks like to me:

In the third still Yani's hands appear to be in the same position as the first still... but her feet are in the same position as the second still! What exactly does that mean?

I think she's trying to hit the ball so hard that she's sliding her hips toward the target more than usual. As a result, she leans back a bit more on the way down -- that's why her hands are farther back -- and she's slinging the clubhead past her hands instead of letting her hands get to the ball first. That's changing the path of her club as she hits the ball, so she compensates by flipping her hands. She's still getting most of her distance, but she's lost her accuracy.

It also looks like her left hip is a bit further forward in the third still than it is in either of the other two. That could be a slight difference in the camera angle, but it would make sense if I'm right about her sliding her hips.

If you watch the top of her backswing carefully in the videos, it also looks to me like her downswing plane is now above her backswing plane -- in the first video, the two look to be about the same. Michael Breed and some of the other instructors would say it's a little over-the-top. I wouldn't say that, since she isn't going up when she makes that move. Her hands are moving down (not up) when they come outward, and she's not doing it a lot. That hip slide actually overrides the "outwardness" of her swing; her swing path actually drops down too much inside instead of moving way outside.

How could she fix this? Not being her teacher, I don't know what her natural tendencies are. But it looks to me like she just needs to "firm up" her lower body. Look at this footage from the CVS Charity Classic back in June. There's a slo-mo later in the video:



I can't find an older video with a face-on view like this, but her hips seem to be moving a lot more in this video than in the first video above. When I compare the movement of her right knee in the two earlier videos, it looks like it's moving more as well.

Anyway, that's what it looks like to me. I have trouble believing she and Gary Gilchrist won't figure this out soon. But when your swing gets a little "loose," it can take some time to figure out how to "tighten it up" without getting too mechanical. If it was me, I'd probably try to feel as if I was starting the downswing with my upper and lower body at the same time, since her lower body seems to be getting ahead of things. And the image I'd probably use is one of my favorites -- I'd imagine I was throwing a Frisbee™, since I know I make a smooth weight shift when I do that.

For what it's worth, that's my diagnosis. Not that Yani reads my blog...!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

WE WON!

A quick shout out to the USA soccer team for breaking a 75-year winless streak against Mexico IN Mexico. Not only did they pull out a 1-0 win, but they did it with some solid defense down the stretch in Mexico City -- yes, in the altitude and the thin air.

Granted, this was only a "friendly" but combined with our first-ever win over Italy earlier this year, this is incredibly encouraging for us US soccer fans. Maybe the men will finally catch up to the women! ;-)

You can read more details about the match here. I'm just so excited about this win that I can't think about golf tonight! I'll get back to it in the next post. For now -- IT'S PARTY TIME!!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Little Wyndham History

Yes, you'll all hear about this tournament until you're probably sick of it. You'll hear about it being Webb Simpson's first Tour win (if you haven't already), about it being the last chance to make the FedExCup playoffs, etc. But the Wyndham is played in "my backyard" -- I live only 15-20 minutes from Greensboro -- and this is a historically significant tournament. So I'd like to tell you a little about it.

Originally, this tournament was called the Greater Greensboro Open, or simply the GGO. It was started in 1938 and was a locally sponsored tournament by the Greensboro Jaycees until the late 1980s, when it became necessary to find some deeper pockets to keep it alive. However, Kmart, Chrysler, and Wyndham have been the only sponsors, so this has been a pretty stable tournament.

And that's because of its history. It's possible that you know Sam Snead won the GGO 8 times, which is the current record for victories at a single tournament. It's also the tournament which made him the oldest winner in PGA history. (If you didn't know but you're watching GC's series American Triumvirate, you'll probably be hearing about those records during the Snead show.) That's the bit of history most golfers know.

However, Greensboro was a primary player in the civil rights movement. In 1960, a sit-in that lasted several months took place at a Woolworth's store in Greensboro, after 4 students were denied service at the lunch counter. It was the seminal event that triggered desegregation in the South. Part of that counter is on display at the Smithsonian, and that Woolworth's has since become the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. Likewise, in 1969 the Greensboro Riots became a less-than-stellar part of history.

But the GGO was one of the bright spots in the civil rights movement. In 1961 Charlie Sifford played in the tournament, making him the first black golfer to play a PGA event. (At least, he was the first in the South.)

Snead, Hogan, and Nelson (yes, the whole Triumvirate) all won the GGO at least once, as did other greats like Gary Player, Bob Charles, Billy Casper, and Raymond Floyd. It was the first American win for Seve Ballesteros, and the only American win for both Arjun Atwal and Frank Nobilo.

In fact, foreign players as a whole have done well in Greensboro, with everybody from Sandy Lyle to Steve Elkington, to K.J. Choi, to Shigeki Maruyama, to Jesper Parnevik winning here. An interesting fact is that both of the scoring records at the Wyndham belong to Swedish players -- Jesper holds the record relative to par, while Carl Pettersson holds the aggregate scoring record (that's total strokes).

Until recently the Wyndham was played in March or April, whichever placed it the week before the Masters. Very few players manage to win a major and a regular tournament back-to-back, but Sandy Lyle pulled it off here in 1988.

And, as an interesting side note, Sedgefield Country Club -- a Donald Ross design that serves as the current venue -- was one of the two courses originally used for the GGO during its first four years. That was nearly 75 years ago!

So as you can see, the Wyndham Championship is more than just another tournament on the schedule. It's been one of the PGA Tour's more significant events for a long time. What kind of history might be made there this week?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Quick Lesson About Bounce

Today I found a short video explaining how you choose the bounce on your wedges. You may need to listen to it several times to get all the information, but it's pretty good to be this short.



That's all pretty clear, but let me add one other thing that isn't mentioned on this video.

All that advice about steep and shallow swings applies to your swing in general. Players with more upright swings often need more bounce on all their wedges to keep from digging in too deeply and hitting the ball fat. Likewise, players with flatter swings just generally need less bounce to get solid contact and not hit the ball thin. This video divides wedges into high- and low-bounce, but you can get almost any degree of bounce you need. Just ask the pro who fits you for your clubs.

I hope you find this video useful because this is important information. I speak from experience. I struggled for a long time with poor bunker play, only to make almost miraculous improvement when I went from 8 degrees of bounce to 15. By all means, take some time to understand how the bounce on your wedges works.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 PGA Championship

Winner: Rory McIlroy

Around the wider world of golf: Lydia Ko won the U.S. Women's Amateur 3&1 over Jaye Marie Green; Julia Boland won the Symetra Tour's Four Winds Invitational; Chris Wilson won the Price Cutter Charity Championship on the Web.com Tour; So Yeon Ryu (the 2011 U.S. Women's Open winner) pulled a "Rory" and devastated the field at the LPGA's Jamie Farr Toledo Classic with a final round of -9; and Chris Wood got his first win at the Thailand Open on the OneAsia Tour.

Rory's 2nd major trophy

Perhaps Padraig Harrington is a prophet after all.

Remember at the 2011 U.S. Open (which Rory won by 8 strokes) when Paddy predicted that Rory would break Jack's record? The press conference where Rory heard about it and just shook his head as he sighed, "Oh Paddy, Paddy, Paddy..." was classic understated McIlroy. And then Rory steps up, barely more than a year later, and blows the field away again at a major -- and again he does it by 8 strokes.

I'm going to quote some figures here. I think I've got them correct, but I'm working from memory; they quoted so many figures on TV during the round...

As I understand it, Rory and Tiger are now the only active players under the age of 40 with 2 majors. Rory also broke Jack's PGA Championship record for winning margin (Jack won by 7 strokes in 1980). And only Jack won his second major at a younger age (23 yrs 2 mos) than Rory (23 yrs 3 mos); Tiger was a few months older (23 yrs 7 mos).

(NOTE: I think everybody's wrong about Jack being the youngest two-major winner; I think Seve was the youngest. He won his 2nd major less than a week after his 23rd birthday -- born 9 April 1957, won the 1980 Masters on 13 April 1980. But at Rory's age, this win is still pretty impressive.)

Oh yeah... Rory finally broke the string of first-time major winners (16 going into the PGA).

So is Paddy right? Is Rory the next superstar, the guy who'll give Tiger a run for the record books?

There's no way to know at this point, and I'm certainly not going to lay that kind of burden on Rory. But the new World #1 is certainly making a case for himself, what with his bogey-free 6-under in the final round, staying cool even as Ian Poulter made a blistering run at him early on. (Hey, I'm a huge Poults fan, but I simply didn't see that coming!) And I think it's safe to say that he's "out of his funk" and back on track to rack up some more wins this year.

But do you know what I liked best about Rory on Sunday? It was a couple of things he said during his press conference. First, when somebody asked him what one part of his game he would have liked to improve during that final round, Rory basically said (and without hesitation, I might add), "Nothing. Everything was perfect." The other thing was when he said (nicely, of course!) that he took great satisfaction in shutting up the critics who complained about his playing as of late. It appears mild-mannered Mr. McIlroy has a bit of a defiant streak!

I like it!

So this week's Limerick Summary salutes the new record-setting double major winner on Tour... who I suspect will have his eye on the 2013 Masters. I think he may have a score to settle there:
Two wins by eight strokes, each a major;
Is this PGA a presager
Of history to come?
Rory's now Number One
And potentially Tiger's upstager.
The photo is from the PGA.com website PGA Championship home page.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

In SC It's Stormy, in Ohio It's... the KLPGA

While the men got rained out at the PGA Championship in South Carolina, the ladies up in Ohio at the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic had no problem playing at all.

It just looks like they got their tours mixed up. There are 4 players tied for the lead... and they're all Korean. I.K. Kim, Jiyai Shin, Hee Kyung Seo, and So Yeon Ryu are at -11. That's some pretty serious firepower for the rest of the field to overcome.

But it doesn't stop there. Oh no. Of the 3 players tied one stroke back -- and a couple of strokes ahead of the rest of the field -- Inbee Park and Chella Choi are also Korean. Only poor little Mika Miyazato isn't... and she's Japanese.

I'm sensing a definite Asian summer in Ohio.

Perhaps this isn't a surprise. After all, Se Ri Pak has won the Farr Classic 5 separate times, so Toledo is familiar ground for the Korean players. Still, it surprises me that a number of big name players didn't even make the cut -- Yani Tseng (still on the slide), Ai Miyazato, Morgan Pressel, Michelle Wie, and Azahara Munoz, just to name a few. And the bigger names who made the cut -- at least, the ones who aren't Korean -- probably won't be a factor today.

It looks like the ladies will have a sprint to the finish today. I suspect the Koreans will have much better results here than they did at the Olympics. (In case you didn't hear, they just missed medals in both volleyball and handball Saturday.)

As for the men... well, here are the standings for my "5 to Watch" (3rd round still in progress):
  • Keegan Bradley: T21 (+1 thru 16 holes)
  • Louis Oosthuizen: T35 (+3, round complete)
  • Thorbjorn Olesen: T43 (+4, round complete)
  • Luke Donald: T65 (+8, round complete)
  • Rory McIlroy: T1 (-6 thru 9 holes)
Of course, Rory (after 9 holes) and Vijay (after 7 holes) are tied for the lead, with Adam Scott (after 9 holes) a single shot back. Nice rebound for Adam there, and it certainly sets up today for quite a shootout.

However, unless Sang Moon Bae (+8) makes a record-breaking run today, I don't think the Korean men will match the ladies this week.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Big Bad Wolf Lives!

And he huffed, and he puffed, and he BLOWED their house of (score)cards down!

The Big Bad WolfDays like Friday make me wonder if the Big Bad Wolf's name is Kiawah, and if it's a Native American name meaning "LOOK OUT!" (There used to be a Kiawah tribe, but everything I've seen says they're extinct. *sigh*) As I understand, there were only 4 rounds under par in the 2nd round. Those came from Vijay, Tiger, Phil, and Ian Poulter.

And who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Not the "experienced" players (I'm pretty sure the TV guys really mean "old" and they're just trying to be politically correct) like Vijay, Tiger, Phil, and JD, who are all still within 5 strokes of the lead.

Here's the update on my "5 to Watch" after the second round:
  • Keegan Bradley: T15 (+1)
  • Louis Oosthuizen: T56 (+5)
  • Thorbjorn Olesen: T56 (+5)
  • Luke Donald: T66 (+6)
  • Rory McIlroy: T5 (-2)
All of my picks made it to the weekend since the cut fell at +6. I'm really glad to say that Ryo Ishikawa made it at T24 (+2), well in the running for his first major. Tommy Gainey didn't, finishing at +14.

Just for the record, things don't look much better for today. The Weather Channel predicts the wind will stay around 10-20mph, but the temperature is going up to 89 degrees F with possibly dangerous thunderstorms.

Looks like the Big Bad Wolf intends to keep on huffing and puffing. I guess we'll find out soon enough whose game is as solid as a brick house.

The Wolf came from allcartoonpictures.com.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Well, the Coastline's Kinda Crooked...

There were several good stories at the PGA Championship on Thursday:
  • Adam Scott's rebound from the Open disaster and the rust of his first rounds back at Firestone. Although I wasn't surprised by it, I'm beginning to think that I'm the only person who wasn't. Apparently Adam is unusual in that he doesn't get his self-worth from his golf score.
  • Tiger's good play. Granted, he didn't burn up the course but he didn't shoot himself in the foot either. He putted well, which was what I was concerned about coming in.
  • The 62 watch surrounding Joost Luiten. (That's pronounced YOAST -- like toast -- LOUten -- like loud -- in case you missed it.) He finally fell back as the wind came up, but it was pretty interesting while it lasted.
  • Carl Pettersson leading. While I'm interested because I consider Carl another North Carolina boy like me, it looks like the story is another long putter in contention at a major.
We might even add the changing weather, since it looks like things will get pretty interesting today.

But I think the big story has to be John Daly's play. We saw flashes of the guy who won the 1991 PGA at Crooked Stick. Yeah, I know it was only the first round and JD might implode by Sunday, but he's been playing really well this year. I think there's a lot to like about his recent resurgence.

In particular, I like the fact that he played so much in Europe early this year. I've developed a theory that perhaps playing a lot in Europe (and the rest of the world) is the key to moving up the OWGR. It's not about gaming the points available at the various tournaments, but having to play on so many different grasses and in so many different types of conditions.

Just take a look at how many players currently win consistently on both sides of the Atlantic and you'll find only one: Luke Donald. Is it a coincidence that he's also #1 in the OWGR? I think not. And even without wins, it appears that the players most consistently in the top 3 or 4 places are playing a fair amount on both sides of the pond.

Likewise, Ben Curtis re-emerged on the PGA Tour after a prolonged period playing overseas earlier this year. And now JD, who's also been playing on both sides of the Atlantic, has found himself in contention in a major again. Again I ask: Is this a coincidence?

And again, I have to say I think not.

At any rate, I'll be watching JD this week to see how he does. He's almost as interesting as the Olympics.

BTW, here's the update on my "5 to Watch" after the first round:
  • Keegan Bradley: T6 (-4)
  • Louis Oosthuizen: T25 (-2)
  • Thorbjorn Olesen: T106 (+3)
  • Luke Donald: T88 (+2)
  • Rory McIlroy: T2 (-5)
Luke and the Thunder Bear are below the cutline. If the weather comes in and they can just hold on, they still might make it to the weekend.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hey, Klinger's Back!

I'm referring of course to Jamie Farr, aka Corporal (later Sergeant) Maxwell Q. Klinger from the old M*A*S*H TV series... and his golf tournament! (For those of you who aren't familiar with M*A*S*H, Klinger was frequently seen in drag. It was part of his plan to get thrown out of the Army. MASH stands for "Mobile Army Surgical Hospital" and the show took place during the Korean War.)

Klinger in uniformAfter a yearlong absence, the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic is back on the LPGA's schedule. The event began way back in 1984, so this is a long-running tournament. It actually ended its run back in 2009 for a variety of reasons, though there were rumors of a disagreement with then-Commissioner Carolyn Bivens. After her resignation the new Commish, Mike Whan, reached an agreement in 2010 to bring the tournament back in 2012 -- the lapse during 2011 due to the U.S. Senior Open being played in the area at the same time as the Farr.

The tournament has been associated with Jamie Farr since its inception and it's been played at the Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio for all but the earliest years. It's also a tournament that Se Ri Pak has won 5 separate times! Na Yeon Choi is the defending champion from 2010.

The home page for the tournament -- complete with all kinds of info, especially since this is a relaunch of this very popular tournament -- is right here. And the leaderboard is on this page. (Apparently you'll have to use the leaderboard to keep up with the scores since I can't find a TV listing for a broadcast.) And no, I doubt Jamie Farr will make an appearance in the lovely Southern Belle outfit pictured above...

Although I don't understand why not. It's an LPGA event, after all.

The photo came from Jamie's own site. I guess he really likes yellow.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My PGA Championship "5 to Watch"

Picking my "5 to Watch" this week is tough. Almost everybody seems a bit flat to me right now -- understandable, I guess, since there's been little time to rest in the midst of this season-ending stretch -- and it's a bit hard to guess who might suddenly catch fire.

Several players don't make my list... but just barely. Tiger is one of them; I'm a bit skeptical about his putting on these Pete Dye greens. I suspect Tiger's game will be back in competition shape by Masters time, but I don't think he'll get it done this week. I put Lee Westwood in this category as well; he really fits my definition of "flat" right now. Perhaps he's just tired from moving his family here to the U.S.

I'm also a bit skeptical about Bubba Watson. Since finishing up the adoption paperwork Monday, I suspect he may have a bit of trouble getting back into competition mode this quickly. The wind could work against him as well.

And there are a lot of players I think could win, I just can't find a reason why they should win, if you understand what I mean.

But enough about my "maybe nots." Let's get to my choices:
  • Keegan Bradley: I know it's rare for a winner to double up, especially when the second win is a major. But I think Keegan has found whatever it was that he had lost for a while, and I like the fact that he seems to have lowered expectations this week. If he finds himself in the thick of it Sunday afternoon, I like his chances to finish the job.
  • Louis Oosthuizen: King Louie has been on the verge of getting one for several months now. He's proven he can get it done in the wind, and he's hitting it long and pure. He's definitely under the radar.
  • Thorbjorn Olesen: I've mentioned liking the "Thunder Bear" before. He's not cowed by the spotlight, and I think he could very well be the next first-time major winner.
  • Luke Donald: This is a course that seems like a disaster waiting to happen for Luke... and that's exactly why I think he may play well here. And given his strong finishes in his last two big events, there's no reason not to think it may carry over here.
  • Rory McIlroy: Yeah, this one's a shocker because I haven't been on the Rory bandwagon for a few months now. But I really like what I saw from him last week and think he may have turned the corner.
And while I'm not putting him on my short list, I think Tommy Gainey could be a dark horse. Being from South Carolina, this is a home game for him so he might have a little extra inspiration to play well this week.

That's my "5 to Watch" at the PGA Championship. If I have to narrow it to one, I'll pick Louis Oosthuizen. I really think he's overdue to break through, and I see no reason why it shouldn't be for his second major.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Remember the Possibilities

On occasion I've posted video footage of commercials that I think are cool. Every now and then one comes along that's just hilarious. (For example, if you haven't seen the new Comcast commercial with Jason Dufner looking like Rip Van Winkle, you really should check it out!)

But this commercial just blew me away -- not just because it's inventive, but because it sums up the importance of your mindset so well:



Sometimes it just seems like the game is never going to "come to you," that you'll never get the hang of your swing or knock those wasted strokes off your score. Like Nathan -- the kid in the video -- you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other until you reach your goal.

There's a myth most of us believe that we need to let go of... and the sooner, the better. Success isn't always pretty, folks. Sometimes it's downright ugly. Most of us want more than just a win -- we also want people to ooh and ahh at how simple and elegant we made it look. We manage to make some improvement... then we gripe that it wasn't enough and that "we're better than that," as if we should somehow be so much farther along than we are.

If we get caught up in that mindset, we sabotage ourselves. Somewhere along the line we have to learn a measure of gratitude for what we accomplish. Learning to appreciate and enjoy your progress -- regardless of how small you think it may be -- can make the difference between whether you eventually succeed or just self-destruct.

Remember: Success isn't measured from where you think you should be; it's measured from where you actually are. A mindset of gratitude and fun can make it much easier to master this game.

UPDATE: ABC News did a special story about Nathan. He's not from London, England, but London, Ohio. You can read it here.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 WGC—Bridgestone Invitational

Winner: Keegan Bradley

Around the wider world of golf: Bernhard Langer won the 3M Championship on the Champions Tour; Catriona Matthew won the LET's Ladies Irish Open; Jaclyn Sweeney won the Symetra Tour's Credit Union Challenge; J.J. Henry won the PGA Tour's alternate event, the Reno-Tahoe Open; Ben Kohles continued his undefeated career as a pro (he's 2 for 2 now) with a victory at the Web.com Tour's Cox Classic; and Shanshan Feng notched another victory by winning the JLPGA's Meiji Cup Sunday. The Constructivist has details.

Another Bradley putt drops

Yesterday I noted how hard it is to be the 36-hole leader and how the 54-hole leader doesn't fare much better. It turned out to be more prophetic than I expected. J.J. Henry did manage to hold on and win at Tahoe... by a single point. (In case you're interested, his 7-point final round worked out to a 69 in stroke play.)

But that tie for the lead at the Cox Classic? Both Guthrie and Henley got blitzed by several players -- Dawie van der Walt was on 59 watch -- and ultimately Ben Kohles took the win with a 62.

That 4-shot lead David Peoples had at the 3M Championship? Obliterated by Bernhard Langer's final round 62.

And then there was the Bridgestone, where Jim Furyk had led from Day 1 and carried a single-shot lead into Sunday's round. He held it for 71 holes. Unlike the winners at the other stroke play tournaments, Keegan Bradley could only come up with a 64... but that was good enough.

Keegan is making a habit out of last-minute heroics, having sunk big putts for most of his wins as well as the playoff earlier this year with Bill Haas and Phil Mickelson. He credited a large part of this win to a ball change -- he's now using a Srixon -- but I think he just enjoys the challenge of running down the big names on the back 9. Here's some of his after-round press conference from PGATOUR.com, if you're interested. Some of it's quite funny. (But if you're in a hurry, bear in mind that it's 13 minutes long.)



At any rate, this win puts Keegan in some rarified air. Only Tiger won a WGC and a major at a younger age, and Keegan's 3 wins are all quality wins. (His first win, in case you've forgotten, was the 2011 HP Byron Nelson.) This win also locked up a position on the Ryder Cup team -- no snub this year! All-in-all, I'd say Keegan's in pretty good form to defend his title next week at the PGA.

One note concerning that long putter: Keegan told Tim Rosaforte that he wasn't worried about a possible rule change. He said if they took it away, he'd deal with it then; for now, he just intends to keep winning. And I believe he will, simply because I've believed for some time now that he wins in spite of the long putter, not because of it. When you handle nerves as well as Keegan does, you can probably putt with a 2x4 and still make more putts than most people!

Appropriately enough, this week's Limerick Summary salutes the young guy with nerves of steel... and a whole lot of rabid fans:
He's the king of last-minute heroics
And despite what you think, there are no tricks.
Keegan putts with success
'Cause he's bold—no finesse—
Which draws crowds of loud fans… never stoics.
The photo came from the front page at PGATOUR.com, and the video comes from the worldgolfchampionships.com site.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Not a Good Day to Lead

That sounds strange -- why wouldn't it be a good day to lead a tournament? -- but Saturday certainly seems to have been just that.

Let's start at the Bridgestone. Jim Furyk had quite a gap between him and the rest of the field. Saturday he shot an even par 70 and lost ground. Now Louis Oosthuizen is a single shot back.

Or consider the Cox Classic on the Web.com Tour. Luke Guthrie had the lead entering Saturday, shot even par 71 and ended up tied for the lead with Russell Henley, who already has a win (you may remember he won as an amateur last year) and calmly shot a 3rd-round 64 to tie him at the top.

How about the 3M Championship on the Champions Tour? It was only an 18-hole lead, of course, since that's only a 54-hole tournament. But there was a 4-way tie there to start the day -- Gil Morgan, Chien Soon Lu, Steve Pate and Peter Senior all held a piece of the lead. Saturday Morgan shot +1 and the other three -1... and none of them are closer than 6 back.

Even Stableford scoring wasn't immune. Alexandre Rocha led after Friday's round at the Reno-Tahoe Open and even posted a respectable 9 points on Saturday. But it wasn't enough to keep him ahead of J.J. Henry, whose 14-point round vaulted him to a 3-point lead.

Granted, a 3-point lead isn't a lot in Stableford. But neither is 1-stroke lead or a tie in stroke play. (We won't even mention the 6-stroke lead. It's still a 36-hole lead, but we've all seen just how little they mean week after week after week this season.) Clearly no 36-hole leader this week is safe after 54 holes.

I'd be willing to give that 6-shotter a try, though. ;-)

At any rate, I've decided the Tours should be required to put a warning on all their tournaments from now on:
The Surgeon General has determined that all leads will expire within 24 hours. Please check expiration date before accepting check.
And then the player should cash it quick!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: August 2012

I'll be honest with you. Right now, compared to the Olympics, golf seems really boring. The "dominant" players in the game just don't seem to be stepping up the way I'd like, even though we're right in the middle of the "stretch run" with the last major, the playoffs, and the Ryder Cup ready to start. I certainly understand that the golf season seems endless these days, but everybody talks about peaking for the main events... and I'm just not seeing it. As it is, players like Branden Grace (with 3 wins, no less!) and Rickie Fowler drop from the rankings this month because their production has dropped off so much.

I'm in hopes that things will pick up with our last major of the year waiting in the wings.

Once again, here are 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. Tiger Woods: 4 wins (3 prestige, 1 other), 4 Top5, 24 points. Tiger jumps to the top of my rankings this month purely on numbers. While I don't feel that he is quite yet playing like the RGWR #1, he has more wins than anyone else in the list and has a win in each of the last two months. Unlike the OWGR, I don't reward consistency as much as winning and Top5s (especially the recent ones)... and Tiger clearly leads the field in that category.
  2. Webb Simpson: 3 wins (1 major, 1 prestige), 4 Top5, 26 points. Webb's been AWOL from the Tour over the last month, but I'm not going to penalize him for spending time with the wife and new baby. He moves up to #2 in the RGWR because he is the only 3-time winner among "the big boys" with a major, and his current pursuers aren't catching up even though they're playing and he isn't.
  3. Luke Donald: 3 wins (1 BMW, 1 prestige), 7 Top5, 34 points. Luke Donald dropped one of his wins last month so he falls slightly behind Tiger's pace. However, he continues to add Top5s and he's still Numero Uno in the OWGR. To be honest, I still feel that he's playing like the #1 player in the world. (Just look at his point total -- 8 better than the next highest!) He could reassert himself with a win either this week or next... or both!
  4. Rory McIlroy: 3 wins (1 prestige, 1 other), 8 Top5, 25 points. Despite Rory's "bad patch," his stats remain unchanged from July. That just goes to show how well he played over the last year.
  5. Zach Johnson: 2 wins (1 prestige), 2 Top5, 12 points. Zach is a new entry this month. He got a late start this year but he's playing better than many of the guys who have been in my rankings for a while.
  6. Jason Dufner: 2 wins (1 prestige), 3 Top5, 14 points. No change this month, yet Jason continues to get into contention. I suspect it's just a matter of time before he starts closing some of these close calls.
  7. Lee Westwood: 3 wins (2 others), 7 Top5, 19 points. I listed Lee's Top5s wrong last month (I accidently misread my stat sheet as 2 instead of 7), but there's been no change and he really hasn't played that well -- or that bad, compared to most of his typical competitors. I admit to giving him a bit of a pass simply because he's played so well for so long and I suspect his inability to get over the hump in the big tournaments is messing with his mind a bit.
  8. Ernie Els: 1 win (1 major), 4 Top5, 18 points. I'm giving Ernie this one on effort. While everybody else seems to be spinning their wheels, Ernie has simply buckled down and done the work. His final round at the Open was arguably one of the best rounds played this year. And while I know he's not played particularly well in the couple of weeks since, I suspect he's looking to next week's major... and Kiawah Island just might set up well for him.
  9. Bernd Wiesberger: 2 wins, 3 Top5, 12 points. Wiesberger has two wins this season and has qualified for the PGA Championship next week. I like his chances.
  10. Scott Piercy: 2 wins (1 prestige), 2 Top5, 12 points. Piercy has really stepped up his game in the last month or so, so I choose him above other players with similar records who aren't playing so well.
Players to watch:
  • With this year's PGA Championship being played at Kiawah, I think several of the Euros will have an advantage in the links-like conditions. One of those is the "Thunder Bear," Thorbjorn Olesen. Olesen's good play on the ET lately, plus the solid round he shot while playing with his admitted idol Tiger Woods, makes me think he may be the big surprise at the season's last major.
  • Don't overlook Seung-Yul Noh either. He's been solid all year long, making 19 out of 23 cuts, 3 Top10s and 10 Top25s, and he's currently 38 on the FedExCup standings.
  • And here's a name for you: John Huh. He seems to run in spurts, and I think next week is an excellent time for him to have another one.

Friday, August 3, 2012

As Usual, Luke Shows Up...

When his #1 position is threatened. The word is that Tiger can take it over if he wins at Bridgestone and Luke finishes 3rd or worse.

Currently Luke is 3rd, 3 off the lead, but Tiger sits T31 at even par. Tiger posted 3 birdies and 3 bogeys, while Luke posted 7 birdies and 3 bogeys.

Clearly this is the key to Luke winning a major. Just convince him that he needs a ridiculously low finish to prevent losing the #1 spot and WHAMMO! Instant major.

Of course, I guess we could argue that Jim Furyk also plays well when Luke Donald needs a low finish... at least he did Thursday. The stats say Furyk is averaging almost 310 off the tee at Bridgestone, thus proving that many of the Tour's courses bear no resemblance to the courses you and I play (Furyk normally averages 280). Furyk also hit more fairways and greens than Donald did Thursday. This translated into 7 birdies and an eagle, plus 2 bogeys.

As for Adam Scott, he shot +1 -- the numbers make it very clear it was his putting that betrayed him, as his GIR matched Furyk. At least he putted better than Tiger... barely.

I know first rounds actually tell us very little about how a tournament will turn out. But some players whose games have been off lately played well in the first round, while some of the expected leaders struggled. Maybe this will be a good sign for Luke to get his first major next week...

And maybe his first Bridgestone this week. I sure wouldn't bet against him losing his #1 position just yet.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Stableford Returns

It's quite possible that Stableford is a new concept to many of you who read this blog. Since this year the Reno-Tahoe Open is switching to this format, I thought a quick lesson was in order.

The Montreux course

Most of you are clear about stroke or "medal" play, where individual strokes are counted, and match play, where scores are determined by the number of individual holes won. Match play isn't used as much in pro tournaments because matches are played between pairs -- either two individual players or two teams -- so it usually takes the form of elimination tournaments. Stroke play allows many players to compete against each other simultaneously and is therefore more practical for mass tournaments. Match play (for the pros, anyway) is thus viewed more as a "break from the status quo" and isn't done very often.

Stableford combines elements of both match and stroke play. It allows a large number of players to compete at once while providing a bit of novelty and unpredictability.

In Stableford, points are awarded instead of stroke totals. Different tournaments may use different methods of awarding those points, but here is a list of the totals that will be used in the Reno-Tahoe Open:
  • Albatross (double eagle): 8 points
  • Eagle: 5 points
  • Birdie: 2 points
  • Par: 0 points
  • Bogey: -1 points
  • Double bogey or worse: -3 points
I can hear your obvious question: So what's the big deal? After all, you get "plus" points for holes played under par and "minus" points for holes played over par.

In a word, it changes your strategy. First of all, you can't get worse than -3 on a single hole. (If the organizers allow players to just pick up if they make worse than bogey, the game can be sped up quite a bit!) But look a little deeper...

The cut comes after two rounds. In a typical stroke play tournament, even par generally makes the cut. But in this Stableford scoring system, how many points is "stroke play par" worth?. Let's look at a few players sitting on par after 36 holes:
  • Your first opinion might be that stroke play par is 0 points. And you'd be right -- at least, if you shoot 36 stroke play pars. We'll call this guy Player 1, and he has 0 points.
  • But suppose Player 2 shot stroke play par with a single bogey and a single birdie? Birdie is worth 2 points and bogey is worth -1 points, for a net total of 1 point. If he shoots par on the other 34 holes, Player 2 is also at stroke play par... but he has 1 point, not 0! Interesting, eh?
  • Suppose Player 3 also shoots stroke play par for 36 holes, but he made 7 birdies and 7 bogeys. He has 7 points! Players 1 and 2 aren't even close!
  • And Player 4 gets really interesting. Suppose he makes an albatross (8 points) and 8 bogeys? He has the same 0 point total as Player 1... but his stroke play score is 5 over par!
Clearly Stableford scoring rewards aggressive play. Because of that, it can create some dramatic finishes on the right course. Steve Lowery became something of a legend during the final round of the 1994 Sprint International when he holed out for eagle on the par-4 15th and then double-eagled the par-5 17th -- scoring 13 points in a mere three holes -- to pull within one point of the lead. He then bogeyed the 18th and ended up losing by one point!

The Reno-Tahoe Open is played on just such a course. The Montreux Golf & Country Club was designed by Jack Nicklaus, plays 7472 yards (6832 meters) long, averages 5600 feet (1710 meters) above sea level, and has a stretch of par 4-3-5-4 finishing holes lined with bunkers and water. You could see some serious score changes coming down the final four holes!

And with Padraig Harrington playing there this week, and a pairing featuring both John Daly and J.B. Holmes, fireworks are almost inevitable.

So don't write off this alternate-field event as just another minor tournament. This prime-time broadcast could end up being the most exciting tournament of the week. You can get all kinds of info about the event at the tournament page.

And in case you're curious, the photo came from the PGA Tour tournament page, I confirmed the scoring points in this Foxnews.com article and the course stats in this Wikipedia listing.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Getting Ready... Taking Prisoners?

I'm giving you a link to an ESPN article that posed questions to four of their analysts. I thought I'd take a moment to tackle them myself.

(1) What can we expect from Adam Scott this weekend? (BTW, I believe Scott's presser is at 9am ET on GC today.) I'm kind of surprised that no one expects much from Adam. Does everybody really think Adam Scott is that weak mentally? We forget that the Open was his first real opportunity to win a major, especially "from the front." It was also his best-ever finish in a major -- the 2010 Masters was a T2 while this was a solo 2nd. I expect him to play very well this week because he'll be thinking about getting ready for the PGA Championship next week. Playing well in his defense at Bridgestone is perfect preparation.

(2) Next on the list: Pick a player currently outside the Top 12 to make the American Ryder Cup team. (You can find the current list here.) That's a no-brainer -- it's #13 Steve Stricker. Tiger ranks #1, so you have to add the guy who's currently his most consistent partner. Next question!

(3) Yes, I really like the Reno-Tahoe Open changing over to a modified Stableford system. Quite frankly, it makes almost no difference in who wins from a scoring standpoint; if you check past years from the old International tournament, you'll see that the "relative to par" scores put players in basically the same order as the Stableford scores.

What it does change is the players' mindset. In a normally-scored tournament, an eagle is worth one more stroke than a birdie; in the modified Stableford it's worth three more points. That sounds much "bigger" to the players, so they tend to go after them more. And given that the Tahoe tournament is up against the Bridgestone, it needs all the drama it can get.

(4) Finally, do the Champions and LPGA Tours have too many majors? Well, yes and no.

For the Champions Tour, yes because they're too close together. If they spaced them out, I might change my mind. For the time being, I'll just say they're too congested to have five.

As for the LPGA, I've commented on this issue before, last week being the most recent. Just to sum it up quickly, I believe they added the Evian Masters because they weren't sure they'd still have the Kraft Nabisco. (And as of this writing, KN hasn't re-upped their contract, so that's still a valid concern.) And even if KN does renew, the LPGA's concerted efforts to become global will make this workable because they'll have 2 majors in the US, 2 in Europe, and one more (probably the LPGA Championship) which they can move around Asia and Australia (and other spots as the game becomes more global).

The correspondents questioned in the article said that five majors "runs counter to traditional golf culture." They casually ignored the fact that the PGA Tour has the TPC and the Euro Tour has the BMW, each of which is often considered a "fifth major" by the individual tours. And if you disagree with that statement, let me refer you to Wikipedia's page about the World Golf Hall of Fame. Here are the PGA Tour criteria for entry into the WGHoF:
  • Minimum of 40 years old
  • PGA Tour member for 10 years
  • 10 PGA Tour wins or two wins in the majors or Players Championship
Correct me if I'm wrong, but it certainly sounds as if the PGA Tour equates the TPC with a major.

And if you add the four WGC events -- which are slowly gaining in status -- you have effectively created 9 majors on each tour. So let's get off this whole "four majors is sacred" kick. A major is simply a tournament of such importance that it is recognized by more than one tour.

So there you have my answers to the four questions ESPN neglected to ask me. But since when have I let that stop me? ;-)