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Friday, November 30, 2012

Watney's Power

Since Nick Watney leads Tiger's World Challenge Tournament after round one, I thought I'd post a video with some tips concerning his swing. Here's a Golf Digest Tips Plus video from a couple of years ago with some of his teacher Butch Harmon's observations:

The video is pretty self-explanatory, but I just want to point out that basically what this video talks about is one of my pet fundmentals, the one-piece takeaway. Although I go into much more detail about these things in my Quick Guides, this video does give you some basic guidance on the way a good swing works. If you watch this video and compare it with the post I've linked to earlier in this paragraph, you should get a good start on improving your swing.

Unless you're 6'2" like Watney, you're probably not going to develop the kind of power he does. But that doesn't mean you can't get a lot out of your swing with the proper fundamentals.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Take on the Proposed Rule Change

Wednesday I listened to all the back-and-forth about the USGA and R&A's proposed new anchored stroke ruling. It's been very interesting, and I'm sure we haven't heard the end of it. After all, the two ruling bodies announced it Wednesday in order to get three months of reactions to the actual proposal, as opposed to the rumors we've been hearing. I think I have an different perspective on this, one which I heard touched on only by Brandel Chamblee (very well, I might add) and that I want all of you to think about as this goes forward.

And let me remind you that I personally don't have a problem with long or belly putters. Despite what many people say, I don't think they make putting easier and I believe that, all else being equal, a player who knows how to use a short putter will beat a player who knows how to use a long putter more times than not. If you want to use a putter that I believe limits your potential, you're just giving me an advantage. So I have no reason to want anchored putting outlawed.

Having said that, let me tell you why this proposed ruling isn't as bad as everybody seems to think.

one-page PDFFirst, let me give you a couple of important links. The first one is a USGA news release about the proposed ruling. The second one, shown in miniature here, is a downloadable one-page PDF that shows some of the allowable grips under this proposed ruling. (I keep saying "proposed ruling" because I'm afraid we forget that it hasn't been finalized yet.) The second link shows you the PDF online as well as giving you a link to download a copy -- just check the upper and lower left corners of the page.

One thing to be noted is that this affects more than putting. This affects any stroke you might make, which in most cases includes short game strokes. You can't anchor a driver like a belly putter when you're chipping, for example.

While much has been made of the fact that belly and long putters will still be legal equipment -- quite useful when taking drops from hazards! -- equally important is just how many different grips are still allowed.

The key to understanding the rule is essentially ELBOWS. In many cases, your elbows are the dividing line between legal and illegal grips. While the club itself is not allowed to touch your body, it's allowed to touch your forearms. You'll see that Matt Kuchar's grip is still allowed, as well as the old "hold the handle against your forearm" grip once used by Bernhard Langer with a short putter. But the club, your hands, and your forearms cannot be anchored against your chest or in your armpits or under your chin.

Here's why I think that players are going to be pleasantly surprised when they finally get past the initial shock. Let me tell you a short story.

Many of you have read my book Ruthless Putting and know that a large portion of the book is devoted to understanding yips and several approaches to beating them. Back in 2008-2009 when I was writing it, I actually wrote a chapter that never made it into the book, a chapter on what I called "Body Putting." As part of my research I developed several putting strokes that either minimized or removed the small "twitchy" muscles -- in some cases, the larger muscles as well -- while still allowing you to hit solid putts with reasonable feel. But at the last minute I decided not to include it in the book. At the time I felt it would just confuse players.

At the time I couldn't have predicted the explosion in long putter use nor this proposed ruling.

I mention this because, when I looked at the PDF, I found that the grips I used in the strokes I created are still legal under the proposed ruling! In fact, I got some new ideas just looking at the variety of examples they included in the PDF.

As far as I can see, despite all the gloom and doom talk, the USGA and R&A have written the rule in such a way that it still allows players to get the benefits of belly putters but without anchoring... and I believe many of these ways are not just better than anchoring, but will give far superior results.

So, as the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe proudly proclaimed in large friendly letters inscribed on its cover, DON'T PANIC. This may not turn out to be the bad situation everybody expected after all.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

So What's the Verdict?

It's still several hours away as I write this, but the USGA and R&A are supposed to have a teleconference this morning at 8:30am ET. GC is going to carry it during Morning Drive, in case you want to see it.

But it'll probably be all over the news today. Although the topic hasn't been announced, almost everybody I've heard expects it to be about belly putters... or more specifically, about anchoring any club.

I'll be doing a post about it after we know what's what. In the meantime, just remember that time --  8:30am ET on GC's Morning Drive. I suspect it'll be repeated at 10:30am ET as well (Morning Drive usually gets repeated).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

School Is Almost in Session

Q-School, that is. Tomorrow is the first day of the final stage of both PGA and LPGA Qualifying Tournaments. The two are slightly different, yet nauseatingly the same.

At least, I'm sure that "nauseatingly" is the adjective most of the participants would use.

Rather than trying to rehash all the info on the official Q-School sites, I'm just including links so you can delve into them all you want.

The primary LPGA Q-School page is at this link. The LPGA Q-School lasts for 5 days, Nov 28 - Dec 2. It will take place on the LPGA International Golf Course at Daytona Beach, FL -- although I understand that's actually 2 courses, the Champions Course and the Legends Course -- with 126 players teeing it up. You can see the complete list of pairings and tee times for the first round here.

If you just want the basic info about it, you'll want to check this page which explains who gets what category of exemption, etc. The basic deal is this: The Top20 get full status while 21-45 get conditional status. Two of the big names looking for Tour cards are Mel Reid and Chie Arimura.

And no, I couldn't find any TV listings for the LPGA Q-School. GC apparently plans to focus on the PGA Q-School.

The primary PGA Q-School page is at this link. (The links for pairings and such are prominently displayed on that page.) The PGA Q-School lasts for 6 days, Nov 28 - Dec 3. It's being held at PGA West in La Quinta, CA, on the TPC Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament courses. PGA West used to be considered a real bear (no Nicklaus puns intended) when it opened back in 1986. TPC Stadium was designed by Pete Dye -- do I need to say anything more?

As best I can tell, there are 172 players in the field, and the Top25 and ties get their PGA Tour cards. Although 5 European Tour players made news by announcing that they would join the PGA Tour, other ET players will be at Q-School -- like Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Rafael Cabrera Bello.

GC's PGA Q-School coverage starts Thursday at 2:30pm ET with the PreGame Show, then tournament coverage starts at 3pm ET.

Yes, it's time for the annual live broadcast of sports-induced nausea... the original reality TV show. Enjoy it -- none of the participants will.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 DP World Tour Championship

Winner: Rory McIlroy

Around the wider world of golf: Obviously it's a bit slow this week as the last of the major tours finished up the 2012 season. Jake Higginbottom won the BMW NZ Open on the Australasian Tour, and Jake Roos won the Lion of Africa Cape Town Open on the Sunshine Tour.

Rory wins everything

There's not a lot to say, really. The World's #1 showed everybody why he's World #1! After 13 holes of uneven play in his final round, Rory McIlroy knocked out 5 birdies in the final 5 holes to take the DP World Tour Championship title.

To go along with his Race to Dubai title, of course.

Luke Donald, the guy most seemed to think would be his biggest challenger -- I know I did -- just didn't have it Sunday. After 102 straight bogey-free holes at Dubai, he bogeyed not only the 3rd but the 12th hole as well. In addition, he could only manage 3 birdies. A round of -1 in the final round just isn't going to cut it at the Jumeirah Golf Estates. Luke finished in a tie for third.

No, the surprise challenger was Justin Rose. He blasted through the course with a 10-under 62 and said, as he finished his round, that he thought he might have done enough. Instead, he lost by 2 strokes. This could bode well for Justin going forward, but it just wasn't enough this week.

As for those who questioned the "validity" of Rory winning the Race to Dubai without winning a European Tour event -- the PGA Championship may count on the ET, but it's clearly in the USA -- Rory shut them up as well by winning the richest, most European talent-laden event on their Tour. Enough said, eh?

So what else can I say? As Rory heads out, presumably on vacation with the lovely Caroline Wozniacki -- and around €9million, according to this Irish Sun article -- all I can do is post yet another Limerick Summary in praise of his victory:
Though the big boys went low in Dubai,
Buoyed by hopes understandably high,
Rory got his fifth win –
An appropriate end
As we bid this golf season good-bye.
The photo came from the tournament page at

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Fitting End to the 2012 Season

At the time I'm writing this, the final round of the DP World Tour Championship has started but over half of the players have yet to tee off. It may be finished by the time you read this post, although GC will probably be showing the final round twice more before Sunday is over. It should be worth watching.

After a season where we've seen more great storylines than we imagined possible, the last big tournament of the year comes down to this: The World #1 and #2 paired together, tied for the lead, with 2 other major champions -- one of whom has been just short of magnificent this year -- in the second to last group.

Does it get any better than this?

Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald are tied at -17. According to GC, Donald has played his last 100 holes at this course (going back to last year's tournament) without a single bogey. Rory's a bit under the weather, yet he's still managing to match Luke's score.

Right behind them at -14 are Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen. But for a handful of shots this year, Oosthuizen would have won the Masters and 5 or 6 other tournaments. Schwartzel has been recovering from rib and ab injuries this year, but has been showing signs of returning to form.

I don't know what's going to happen, but one thing is clear...

After this year, the 2013 season is gonna have some mighty big shoes to fill.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sergio is Laid Back and Laid Off

After Sergio blitzed the field at Dubai with that bizarre little 64 that included 2 eagles, 9 birdies, 2 bogeys, and a triple-bogey (no pars at all on the back 9!), I figured some of you might be curious what makes Sergio's swing different. Here's a down-the-line view -- complete with Peter Kostis analysis -- that shows the trademark Sergio move:

That looping drop at the top of his backswing -- he's not just dropping his hands, he's redirecting the direction in which the shaft points -- is called "laying off" the club. It's common in two-plane swings like Sergio's. A two-plane swing means the plane of the backswing is different from the plane of the downswing. When players talk about in-to-out or out-to-in swings, they're usually talking about two-plane swings.

I called it a looping drop. If you watch the head dropping as he starts his downswing, you'll notice that the shaft is also becoming more parallel to the ground. Because the shaft gets roughly back on the "shaft plane" that Kostis has drawn on this video, the club head comes in very low to the ground. This encourages the low draw that Sergio likes to hit.

A note of warning if you want to try it: See how much Sergio turns his hips toward during his downswing? See how much his left knee has moved to the left (left in this view) when he hits the ball? You wouldn't be able to see some players' left knees at this point. Without all that leg and hip rotation, he'll tend to flip the club head and hit a duck hook.

This move is responsible for much of Sergio's power, but it's a more complex way to do it. It can be harder to control because of all the looping. That's a large part of the reason Sergio's game isn't consistent from day to day.

You'll see this move in the swings of a number of Tour players if you just look. Most of them will be pretty long off the tee... and most of them will be fairly inconsistent. It's not a bad move, it just takes more practice to keep it working well.

And as Sergio showed Friday, when it works well it's a thing of beauty.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Well, Dubai Had a Few Surprises Left After All!

The Race to Dubai is a done deal, but at least there's a little excitement brewing in the desert. After the first round, OWGR #2 Luke Donald led the tournament by one stroke over #1 Rory McIlroy. As I'm writing this, the second round is barely underway and neither man has teed off yet.

This battle between #1 and #2 fascinates me because of how different the two players are from each other, yet neither really stands out from the rest of the players on tour. Let me explain that a little more, because I think it may help some of you who are worried that your game isn't good enough to compete against... well, whoever you choose to play against.

Neither man is above average height -- both are listed at 5'9" on the ET site. Most of the guys up near the top of the ranks are 6' or taller.

Rory's fairly long off the tee -- listed at 302 this year. Yet Luke, listed at 288, can score with the best of them. The distance difference is offset by the accuracy difference -- Rory's at 59% while Luke's at 69%.

Rory's better in GIR this year -- a little over 79% vs just under 72% for Luke.

Luke's total putting strokes per round is two strokes better than Rory's -- 28.5 vs 30.5.

How do these differences work out in stroke average? It's ridiculously close, with Rory's 69.98 average barely edging out Luke's 70.12. That means Rory outscored Luke this year by just over a half-stroke... for an entire tournament! A half-stroke over four rounds is basically what separates #1 from #2. (Last year Luke edged Rory by .04 strokes per round, or a sixth of a stroke over four rounds.)

GC did a comparison of the two on Golf Central which showed another difference. The main difference between the two -- other than Rory winning 4 times vs Luke's 3 -- was that Luke missed one cut while Rory missed 5. (That's for both tours.)

All-in-all, Luke held #1 for 24 weeks during 2012 while Rory held it for 22 weeks.

My point is that there's more than one way to win at this game. Rory is more "explosive" while Luke is more consistent. Luke's Driving Accuracy and GIR were off this year compared to 2011, which may have cost Luke that #1 spot more than Rory's wins did. But what you need to see is that you can win with either power or accuracy -- it's rare for anyone to have both for any period of time. Build your game around your strengths and you'll be surprised how well you can score.

It'll be interesting to see if Luke, who's clearly rediscovered some of his accuracy over the last few weeks, can beat Rory's power at Dubai. He's certainly off to a good start.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, Everybody!

I realize that Thanksgiving is primarily an American holiday. But since I live in America, I'm off to visit relatives and celebrate. So no post today. I'd just like to wish everybody a Happy Thanksgiving -- no matter where you live!

Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and Woodstock celebrate Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Last ET Event of 2012

Last week ended the LPGA season, this week ends the European Tour season. Officially called the DP World Championship, Dubai -- it's not a World Championship; rather, it's sponsored by DP World -- it's to be played at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai. (And yes, Jumeirah is the name you've been seeing on Rory's cap.)

Of course, the tournament's a bit anticlimactic this year since Rory locked up the money title a couple of weeks ago. It seemed to me that the men who might have challenged him simply abdicated the title -- they all either went to play in Australia or didn't play at all. (I'll give Poulter a pass on that one, simply because he was the defending champion at the Talisker Masters and it was only an outside chance that he could have caught Rory. But had he known Rory would miss the cut, would Ian have skipped Australia? Hmmm...)

So why should you even bother to watch? Well, there is one very interesting twist to this tournament. You see, we have the potential for several possible back-to-back winners! Luke Donald won in Japan last week, Henrik Stenson won in South Africa, and Miguel Angel Jimenez -- the Most Interesting Golfer in the World -- won in Hong Kong. All three are in the field.

And yes, as much as I like Luke Donald, I'm rooting for the Mechanic to get His Most Interesting Win of the Year. ;-)

For those of you who are interested, the home page for the Dubai tournament is here. This page has links to the leaderboard and all of the other info about the event. GC will begin televising the event tonight (technically, that's Thursday morning) at 3am ET.

Rory may have taken the money title, but I'm not so sure he can get another win this year. I don't think the other players are ready to concede that to him.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Swing of the Most Interesting Golfer in the World

Yes, Miguel Angel Jimenez is often likened to the Dos Equis guy. He alternately gets called "The Most Interesting Golfer in the World" or "The Most Interesting Man in the World," depending on who you hear. And since winning the UBS Hong Kong Open this past weekend made him the oldest winner on the ET, I thought it worth taking another look at his swing. (Yes, I've posted about the Mechanic's swing before.)

The reason is because, perhaps more than any other golfer on any tour, Miguel is a normal guy. He likes fine wines, cigars, and fast cars -- the latter being the source of the Mechanic nickname. He clearly doesn't spend hours in the gym -- he's just a normal guy of average height and weight (roughly 5'10" and 183 lbs). Yet he hits the ball around 277 yards off the tee, which is about 10 yards short of the PGA Tour average. (I don't know the ET average, but he's ranked 204 there.) I know that doesn't sound impressive in this day and age... but do you consistently average over 275?

Here's a video of his swing, both face-on and down-the-line:

The big thing I want you to notice here is how much his hips turn during his swing, which makes it look like he's moving around much more than he is. Most instructors want you to restrict your hips movement, to develop more power by getting a big shoulder turn without a lot of hip turn. Jim McLean calls this "the X-Factor," and I've mentioned it in several past posts if you want to use the search box to find them.

But the Mechanic proves that this restricted hip move isn't necessary to good golf. As long as you don't move off the ball during the backswing, you can still get good distance and accuracy. I want you to note how Miguel achieves this. If, while watching the face-on view, you place the tip of your mouse pointer on his right hip, you'll see that his hip never moves to the left of the pointer. (You'll see the same thing if you place the pointer on his trailing knee.) But he keeps that trailing knee flexed all the way through his swing.

We call that "keeping a firm trailing knee," and you can practice it by putting something under the outside of your trailing foot -- a golf ball is commonly recommended for this drill -- to teach you how to keep your weight on the inside of your trailing foot, to stabilize your trailing knee.

This is a natural move, and it's certainly helpful for those of us who aren't as flexible as those flatbellies who spend every spare moment in the gym. I can't promise it will make you the most interesting golfer in your foursome, but it sure might help you score better... and that's what it's all about, isn't it?

It sure works for the Most Interesting Golfer in the World.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 CME Group Titleholders

Winner: Na Yeon Choi

Around the wider world of golf: Adam Scott won the Talisker Masters (formerly the Australian Masters) on the Australasian Tour; Luke Donald won the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Tour; Miguel Angel Jimenez won the UBS Hong Kong Open on the Asian/European Tour; and Henrik Stenson won the SA Open Championship on the Sunshine/European Tour.

NYC kisses trophy

Alas, the LPGA season is officially over. The ladies who qualified for the CME Group Titleholders -- three players each from each official tournament of the season -- played some pretty spectacular golf over the last few days.

But in the end, as is usually the case, it isn't a round or two of spectacular play that gets the job done. Rather, it's a consistently good level of play.

Na Yeon Choi didn't post any course records. In fact, her scores got a little worse each day. She shot 67-68-69-70. But when your worse round is -2, you're not doing bad at all!

She began the day with a one-shot lead. After a rough start -- her front 9 had a double-bogey, a bogey, a birdie, and an eagle -- she did what she often does when she has a lead. She closed it out, shooting a bogey-free -2 on the final nine to win by 2.

NYC (aka "the Big Apple") got her first major this year at the U.S. Women's Open, which is generally considered the most important tournament on the Tour -- especially for the Asian players, since it was in that tournament where Se Ri Pak broke through. (It also has the biggest paycheck.) The Titleholders has the second largest check, so she racked up the two biggest events of the year. She had 3 other runner-up finishes as well, so this win was no fluke finish.

The Rolex Rankings are already posted for this week, and NYC moved up to the #2 spot, just over 2.5 points behind Yani Tseng. Remember earlier this year when we thought Yani was almost untouchable? Remember just recently when we figured it would be Stacy Lewis who caught her? I have a feeling it may be the Big Apple who takes a bite out of the rankings in the next few months!

In the end, Na Yeon didn't win any of the major awards of 2012... but I suspect a lot of LPGA players would have gladly taken her year instead of their own. So this week's Limerick Summary salutes the "big city girl" with the even-bigger game:
They're the biggest wins of her career.
Na Yeon Choi's made it perfectly clear
With her first U.S. Open
And now this, she's hoping
She'll conquer the Rolex next year.
The photo came from the wrap-up page for the tournament at

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Duel

If you didn't get to see Ian Poulter and Adam Scott's duel at the Talisker Masters (the Australian Masters, if you prefer) late Saturday night, you missed a great one. If you don't want to know what happened because you're going to watch the replay today and want to be surprised, STOP READING NOW.

Oh, you're still reading? Then I'll get on with the post. Bear in mind that Ian Poulter was also the defending champion at this tournament, so this was exactly the type of finish the crowds wanted -- the defending champion against a big-name Australian player.

Ian led Adam by a single stroke after some great play during the third round, so the two were paired for the final round. It was really cool because the crowds were walking the fairways behind them, just like in some of the old golf tournaments in the early 20th Century. At one point they were about 10 shots ahead of the rest of the field, so it really was a duel.

And the two of them traded blows all during the first 9 holes. Ian would get one ahead, then Adam would get one ahead, then Ian, then Adam... you get the picture. They didn't tie a hole until the 9th.

The back 9 was where things changed. On the par-5 12th both men went in one of those weird bunkers they have at Kingston Heath... and Ian got a little greedy. He didn't clear the lip and ended up bogeying the hole. After that it got worse. He bogeyed the 14th, birdied the 16th, but bogeyed the 17th.

Adam simply parred the entire back 9. He went to the 18th with a 3-shot lead... and then birdied the 18th for a 4-shot win.

Adam Scott has had a couple of chances to win the Australian Masters in the past but couldn't get the job done. This time he did, and I suspect it feels pretty good. (Adam has said winning this tournament has been a goal of his.) Although it won't count in my RGWR until he wins a tournament on either the PGA Tour or the European Tour, it's still a pretty important win for him... especially since he had to beat Ian Poulter head-to-head to do it.

It'll be interesting to see if this win jumpstarts his 2013 the way the Ryder Cup did for Ian these last few months.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

How to Destroy a Golf Simulator

I'm sure by now you've heard about Jamie Sadlowski's trip to GC's Morning Drive... and his subsequent destruction of their golf simulator. In case you missed it, here it is:

Note that Gary says Jamie had expressed some concern before hitting his drive; he didn't believe the net would stop the ball. And clearly it didn't, as the ball punched a hole through the net, through the screen, and then ricocheted some 15 or 20 yards left of the simulator. As I understand it, the ball finished on the practice putting green... proving, I suppose, that Jamie Sadlowski can drive almost any green.

And as J.B. Holmes says about the ball in his Callaway commercial, "I'm pretty sure it has a dimple on it now."

I'm certain more than a few of you are curious as to how Jamie did it -- so you can avoid doing the same thing, of course. ;-) For you, I found an analysis of Jamie's swing by Peter Kostis that shows the "lengths" some guys will go to in order to crush a golf ball:

Bear in mind that most power hitters have slightly more than a 90-degree angle when their hands reach waist high on the downswing. Jamie has something like 35 to 45 degrees of wrist cock. Added to that ridiculous shoulder turn -- probably around 110 to 115 degrees from his address position -- it's no surprise that he generates 140mph club head speed and well over 210mph ball speed.

One interesting thing to me is that he "chicken wings" his followthrough. I guess he has to do that to keep the club head from flipping over and duck-hooking the ball. I also wouldn't be surprised if he had to do it in order to keep from slamming his back with the club shaft!

So there you have it. Now you know why, if Jamie Sadlowski asks to use your golf simulator, you should follow the advice of former First Lady Nancy Reagan and "just say no."

Friday, November 16, 2012

When Number 1 Feels Like Number 2

For my international readers who may not be familiar with the term, we Americans sometimes jokingly use "Number 2" to refer to... how shall I put this delicately? How about excrement... or dung... or maybe manure? At any rate, I'm sure you get the picture -- if someone says "I feel like Number 2," they mean they aren't feeling very good.

Today I found myself musing about Number 2 -- the position, that is. Just how bad is it?

After Rory blamed his poor first round at the UBS Hong Kong Open on mental exhaustion -- feeling like intellectual Number 2, if you please -- he followed up with a second round that was almost as bad. Missing the cut with a +5, he'll have plenty of time to recuperate before next week. But since he was the defending champion, this is clearly a case of #1 feeling like Number 2.

Of course, scorewise it's not so bad to be Number 2... as long as you're not several shots back. At most of the events I checked there are ties for the lead so, technically, nobody is Number 2. With so many of the best players scattered around the world -- for example:
  • Adam Scott and Ian Poulter in Australia
  • Matt Kuchar and Matteo Manassero in Hong Kong
  • Charl Schwartzel and Martin Kaymer in South Africa
  • Luke Donald and Ryo Ishikawa in Japan
I'm not really surprised that so many players are tied for leads. Apparently being Number 2 isn't particularly popular.

One player who's tied for the lead but probably still feels like Number 2 is Sun Young Yoo, the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship winner. She was -9 after 16 holes at the LPGA's CME Group Titleholders event before going double-bogey/bogey on her last two holes to finish at -6. She's tied with Suzann Pettersen and So Yeon Ryu for the lead. Cristie Kerr's in a group one shot back.

Ironically, there are two actual Number 2s in the world. These are, of course, Stacy Lewis (#2 in the Rolex Rankings) and Tiger Woods (#2 in the OWGR). Stacy had made it to a group that was two off the pace, but bogeyed 15 and 16 to finish four off the lead. She probably doesn't feel real good about that.

But Tiger's not playing this week. Ironically, he may be the only Number 2 in this post who doesn't feel like it.

I guess the only thing left to do is remind you all that today is Friday, the day when the golf world is filled with Round Number 2s. I wonder how many leaders will play like it today?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Last LPGA Event of 2012

Yes, today is the start of the CME Group Titleholders, the Tour Championship of the LPGA. It's somewhat unique in that the winner gets a full third of the total purse -- a half-million dollar winner's check from a $1.5 million purse. There are, by my count, 73 players in the field and no cut.

It should be interesting, as there's no reason to play safe!

Tony Jesselli over at Mostly Harmless has put together a preview of the event, so I won't duplicate his work. But I would like to note a few players to watch coming into this event.

Stacy Lewis has already been named Player of the Year (unlike the PGA, the LPGA uses points not votes) and So Yeon Ryu has won Rookie of the Year. It's the first time an American has won POY since Beth Daniel back in 1994. Stacy has 4 wins this year and So Yeon has 1. Needless to say, both of these players are playing well.

Inbee Park is coming off an incredible run since June. She's won twice, plus had 6 runner-ups and a third. One of those seconds came last week, so she's definitely in good form. In addition, she leads both the money list and the scoring average -- two awards that have yet to be determined.

Cristie Kerr broke a two-year winning drought last week. I'd be surprised if she doesn't have a little extra pep in her step this week.

At the other end of the spectrum, Paula Creamer is still in a two-year winning drought and Yani Tseng is playing better but hasn't won in months. Plus, as Tony points out, Stacy Lewis is now less than 3 points behind Yani for #1 in the Rolex Rankings. Obviously Paula and Yani are motivated to play well... and with the prize money set up the way it is...

Look for a shootout this week. Coverage runs today on GC from 1:30pm to 4pm ET. (Finally, some live coverage!)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: November 2012

It's halfway through November, and the PGA Tour season is officially over. As I said last week, I held off doing the RGWR until this week so I could wrap up the PGA. Next month I'll finish up the European Tour season, then we won't have a RGWR until February. After all, I don't count most of the off-season events in my rankings.

By waiting until the PGA season finished, I ended up with some clear winners and losers in the rankings this time. Ironically, most of the "big tournament" winners -- besides Rory, that is -- did little else over the last year. Because of this, Top5 finishes figured in heavily this time. There were some big changes!

And 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: 5 wins (1 major, 3 prestige, 1 other, 2 awards), 7 Top5, 44 points. It's no surprise that Rory remains on top, is it? And he added 2 awards -- the money titles on both tours. (Well, he locked up the Race to Dubai, even if it's not official yet.)
  2. Tiger Woods: 4 wins (3 prestige, 1 other), 6 Top5, 28 points. Likewise, Tiger is so firmly entrenched in second place that it's going to take some work for anyone to catch him.
  3. Branden Grace: 4 wins (1 prestige), 1 Top5, 16 points. Branden hasn't been as consistent as most of the other players in this month's rankings, but how can you argue with 4 wins in a single year -- especially when it's your rookie year?
  4. Lee Westwood: 3 wins (2 others), 7 Top5, 19 points. Lee moves up this month because he continues to play well, even if he isn't adding more wins yet. But now that he's finished relocating to the US, I expect his play to start improving.
  5. Ian Poulter: 2 wins (1 WGC), 8 Top5, 24 points. Poulter has been quietly posting a very consistent year; he just needed some more wins to break into the RGWR. His win at the last WGC did it! In fact, Poulter has more Top5s than any other player in the rankings, including Rory. That's quite an accomplishment!
  6. Luke Donald: 2 win (1 TPC), 5 Top5, 27 points. Luke's been a little off-form lately, but he's still playing better than most players. I suspect he'll have a better 2013.
  7. Louis Oosthuizen: 2 wins, 6 Top5, 18 points. Louis, like Poulter, has had a deceptively good year. If you saw the little piece GC did on him last week, you realize that he had the lead going into the final round of 6 different tournaments this year! Louis was only a few strokes from beating out Rory for the title of Top Dog. It's only a matter of time...
  8. Peter Hanson: 2 wins (1 prestige), 7 Top5, 22 points. Another player who was largely under the radar all year. Look at all those Top5s!
  9. Jason Dufner: 2 wins (1 prestige), 4 Top5, 16 points. Mr. Cool just keeps on racking up the scores. He added 2 more Top5s in the last month or so, and he's giving us no reason to think he's going to stop anytime soon..
  10. Brandt Snedeker: 2 wins (1 prestige), 3 Top5, 1 award (FedExCup), 15 points. No change in Brandt's stats this month, but he continued to put himself in contention -- including shooting a 60 that was nearly a 59 at the WGC.
Players to watch:
  • Nick Watney finally seems to be out of his slump and playing better. (Two wins will do that for you, I guess.) I'm waiting to see if his consistency picks up..
  • Paul Lawrie seems to be re-energized by his improved play from earlier in the year.
  • Since Nicolas Colsaerts has his PGA Tour card for next year, look for him to make some waves. Some very lo-o-ong waves.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Beljan's Not Over-the-Top

I could only find one video of Charlie Beljan's swing on YouTube. For those of you looking for a secret to getting the distance he gets, you can find that on his bio page at -- Charlie is 6'4" tall, which gives him a huge swing arc. Likewise, his caddy told Golf Central that when Charlie keeps his swing "smooth and silky" -- which means he doesn't jerk the club down from the top of his backswing -- he hits it long and straight. When he "goes after it" -- when he jerks the club -- he pulls it to the left. (Charlie's right-handed; a leftie would pull it to the right.)

But there is something valuable I can teach you with this one short slo-mo video. First, here it is:

Charlie has an out-to-in swing. Although many instructors use the term "out-to-in" synonymously with "over-the-top," the two are not the same. This down-the-line shot of Charlie shows the difference very clearly.

Charlie reaches the top of his backswing right at the :07 mark in this video. If you start at the :06 mark and watch his change of direction carefully, you'll notice that his hands reach the highest point of his backswing BEFORE they start moving forward over his backswing plane. After he hits the ball, the club goes very much to his left -- you can see on the video that, in the followthrough, his hands are moving to the left below his left shoulder. That's an out-to-in swing.

In an over-the top swing, the followthrough looks similar. However, the start of the downswing would look much different. The club would start moving forward before it ever reached the top of his backswing -- putting his hands much more toward the ball -- then start moving steeply downward.

The little diagrams below may help explain this more clearly. Note that the over-the-top swing goes higher, loops forward as it nears the top, then drops down more sharply:
      *                    *   *
     * *                  *     *
     *   *                *      *
      *    *               *      *
       *     *              *      *
         *     *              *     *
The reason for this is two-fold. In the out-to-in swing (that's the good one!) the trailing knee stays bent and the trailing elbow stays closer to your side as you start down. That keeps the club much closer to your body -- lower and inside -- so the downswing plane is much shallower and you hit the ball solidly below its equator. That gives you the maximum use of the club's loft.

But in the over-the-top swing, the trailing knee straightens and the trailing elbow moves away from your side as you start down. That throws the club much farther away from your body -- higher and forward -- so the downswing plane is much steeper and you end up hitting more on top of the ball. That causes the ball to squirt out lower.

In other words, joints straighten too much in the over-the-top swing.

Just watch Charlie. See how his trailing knee and trailing elbow stay flexed during his change of direction. You can't suddenly grow to 6'4" but you can certainly keep your joints flexed during your swing! That will help keep you from coming over-the-top.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 Children's Miracle Network Classic

Winner: Charlie Beljan

Around the wider world of golf: Cristie Kerr came from behind to win the Lorena Ochoa Invitational on the LPGA and end a two-year win drought; Matteo Manassero beat Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff to win the Barclays Singapore Open on the ET; and Oscar Fraustro won the Dominican Republic Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Charlie and friend

It was to be the last Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic... and possibly the last PGA event at DisneyWorld, as no replacement sponsor has been found yet. I guess it was only proper that it be sent out with a bang.

Or rather, an ambulance siren.

I wrote in Saturday's post about Charlie Beljan's unexplained bout of illness in Friday's round. Personally, I don't believe it's a panic attack, which is the explanation most of the announcers seem to have settled on. The doctors found that Charlie's body was low on a number of minerals -- electolytes -- that would have given him those symptoms. It was noted that Charlie was drinking sports drinks, not water, during Saturday's round -- a round during which he got progressively better. As for feeling badly on Sunday morning, the man played Saturday on one hour of sleep. I'm not surprised he crashed!

As you can guess, I believe any panic attacks were caused by feeling bad, not the other way around. Having experienced the electrolyte problem before, I believe that explains all his symptoms -- including the unexplained episodes earlier in the year.

At any rate, Charlie himself says the events of the week -- while not desirable -- probably helped him deal with the pressure of leading. After all, he had bigger problems! But winning wasn't one of them. No one ever really challenged him; he won by 2 strokes after a bogey on the final hole.

This was Charlie's rookie year on Tour. He got married earlier this year, then came close to winning at the Greenbrier Classic, and then became a dad 7 weeks ago. It's probably all felt like Fantasyland to him anyway, so getting his first win at Disney just seems appropriate.

Anyway, this week's Limerick Summary salutes Charlie Beljan and his... eventful win after a somewhat Goofy week at Disney:
As Charlie endured Friday's terror,
He wondered if he'd made an error
By going eighteen –
But his toughness might mean
He's become Disney's last trophy bearer.
The photo came from the front page of

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Wee Bit More About Wie's Play

Yeah, I know... the final round of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational has yet to be played. And, barring a shockingly low round by someone like Stacy Lewis (-8, T6), who's 7 shots off the lead, this looks to be a 4-girl sprint to the finish:
  1. Inbee Park, -15
  2. Cristie Kerr,-13
  3. So Yeon Ryu, -12
  4. Angela Stanford, -11
I know anything's possible this year, given the number of come-from-behind wins we've seen. Heck, Stacy Lewis won the Mizuno Classic last week by shooting -8 in the last round while the leader could only manage even par. But this is Inbee Park we're talking about here, who's been out of the Top 10 only twice since early June and has 2 wins and 4 runner-ups in that period. It's hard to believe anybody outside these four has a realistic chance to catch her.

But I'm greatly encouraged by Michelle Wie's showing so far this week. So Michelle merits two posts from me this weekend.

Friday I wrote about how I feel she's been hammered a bit too hard for her poor play this year, as well as how proud I am of the way she's handled it. I said I was happy to see her post another good round -- a bogey-free 66 (-5) on her first round, giving her a share of the lead -- and while I didn't know if she could bring it home for a win, I thought it was a good sign.

Her second round wasn't as good -- a 75 (+3) littered with 4 bogeys and a double, against only 2 birdies -- but she came right back in the third round with another bogey-free round of 67 (-5), tying her for sixth place with Stacy Lewis, Candie Kung, and Hee Kyung Seo (aka "the Supermodel of the Fairways").

I know it's only one week, but improvement has to start somewhere. Unless she shoots some ridiculous score like +6 today, I think she's going to walk away from this week with a really good taste in her mouth. She may not be consistent from round to round yet, but she IS starting to put entire rounds together now rather than just a few holes. Added to the trend of improvement she's shown over the last few tournaments, this looks like good new for Michelle.

As for the tournament itself, I'm unwilling to award it to Inbee Park yet. As well as she's been playing, Ryu -- who's become a perpetual good pick, as far as I'm concerned -- is putting the best of the leaders by far (only 80 putts for 3 rounds) as well as making the fewest bogeys (only 2). And Kerr has both matched Ryu's bogey count and managed to get one stroke ahead of her despite putting the worst of the leaders (89 putts). This tournament is still up for grabs.

But I'll be pulling for Michelle Wie today. If she just keeps going out and trying to play well, 2013 could end up being a resurgent year for the Big Wiesy. And I for one will be very happy to see it.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Charlie Beljan Plans to Play

I'm not sure DisneyWorld was the happiest place on earth for Charlie Beljan Friday. He shot -8 and has the lead by 3 strokes, but they had to carry him off on a stretcher and, after several minutes of care at the course, took him to the hospital.

You can click here to hear the 5-minute phone interview he did with GC later in the evening. And if you'd rather read the original GC post written before the interview, click this link.

Just to get you up-to-date on the situation: Charlie's had this problem before -- elevated heart rate, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and feeling faint. The doctors don't know what's causing it, and apparently they can't predict when it's going to strike. Talk about a bummer!

Charlie struggles near the end of his round

The paramedics had to check him out on the range before he went out to play because he didn't feel well, and they followed him around the course. They really didn't like his blood pressure readings at the 10th hole, and Charlie says he doesn't remember much of the last third of his round.

Given that Charlie's just about the longest hitter on Tour, it may not surprise you that he made two eagles during his round. Chalk one more up for that old saying, "Beware the wounded golfer." I'm sure that wasn't written about players who need an ambulance in order to finish the round, but...

Charlie said that, unless the doctors tell him he's in danger, he plans to play today. With his best chance to get his first win, it's hard to blame him -- as he said, it's a dream come true.

Hopefully some of the Disney magic will rub off on him and he'll have a healthy finish to his week -- healthy for both his body and his trophy case.

The photo came from the GC post listed earlier.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Wie, Wie, All the Way Home?

A quick note: For those of you wondering if I forgot the November RGWR, I decided to wait until after the Disney tournament. That way I can cover the end of the PGA Tour year in November, then cover the end of the European Tour's Race to Dubai in December. I'll skip the January RGWR since there's little of importance during December and pick up again in February after a full month of 2013 tournaments.

I don't understand why GC isn't televising the Lorena Ochoa Invitational this week. After all, you'd think the rare Lorena sightings we get would warrant the attention, wouldn't you? As it is, we have to make do with the LPGA live leaderboard... and this week it tells an interesting story.

Michelle Wie is tied for the lead after the first round. Yes, you read that correctly... Michelle Wie.

Where has the Big Wiesy been all year? If you've followed the LPGA, you know that she's been struggling badly. She's had only one Top10 all year. And while it's tempting to blame it on her putting -- that's what the commentators generally do, isn't it? -- the fact is that Michelle's game in general hasn't been too good.

She's barely hit half her fairways and two-thirds of her GIR, and she gets up-and-down from the sand less than half the time so she's not scrambling well. She's taking 31.5 putts per round on average, which is bad when you aren't putting for birdie on every hole. Her scoring average is a whopping 73.62, which translates to only 15 rounds under par, only 7 in the 60s.

That just isn't going to get it done.

I know it's popular to bash Michelle right now, but I have a different view than most people. You see, if a golfer wins a major and their game tanks for a year or two, we chalk it up to "life changes" brought about the win. The poor golfer has to learn how to handle all these new demands on their time, etc. The effect of one week of golf is considered a perfectly acceptable excuse for a year of pitiful play.

Yet, for some reason I can't understand, completing a degree at Stanford while trying to maintain a golf career isn't considered "life-changing" enough to explain a year of poor play. Call me stupid if you want, but I believe it's much harder to adjust from a life at college to a life on Tour than it is to learn how to say "no" a bit more often to people who want more of your time.

The guy who wins a major has more people asking for his or her time. The college graduate has just had every routine in their life uprooted, and now has to develop a whole new plan of attack for their life.

If anything, I suspect Michelle has been trying too hard. For us mere mortals, it's hard to imagine that being gifted -- being a prodigy at something -- doesn't mean you have it all together. Nobody is born with the whole package; there's always something -- usually several very important somethings -- that still need to be developed. And it's rare that the people around you recognize those missing intangibles and focus on helping you develop them. That's the reason so few prodigies ever reach their potential... or, if they do, they eventually crash and burn.

Fortunately, Michelle hasn't crashed and burned. She's turned out to be a fairly-well-adjusted young adult, despite the constant criticism she grew up with. (Imagine trying to survive your teenage years with the mass media criticizing every move YOU made!) And now, starting with the Ricoh Women's British Open, Michelle has shown some improvement, posting 7 of her under-par rounds and 2 of her sub-60 rounds late in the year -- nearly half of her good rounds are in her last 5 events. And, of course, she added a 66 Thursday.

Will Michelle be able to bring this tournament home? I don't know. But she's managed to keep in a good frame of mind during most of her struggles this year, and she's finally showing some improvement.

I'm certainly rooting for her... and it would suit GC right if they missed it because they didn't televise the event.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


When I flipped over to the Barclays Singapore Open coverage on GC, I nearly went into shock. I thought I heard GC say the Top 6 in the Race to Dubai were playing this week. But I checked the leaderboard, even using my browser's search function, the results were negative.

Alas, no Poulter.

A little websurfing uncovered this note in an post:
The five players in closest pursuit of McIlroy on the Race to Dubai standings have all elected not to play in Singapore or Hong Kong: Peter Hanson, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Branden Grace and Ernie Els – have, in effect, conceded the title to the Ulsterman who could be out of reach by the time the ultimate event is held in the desert. Poulter, who has his eyes set on winning a Major following on a second WGC title, has decided to bypass next week’s Hong Kong Open in favour of an appearance in the Australian Masters.
A quick note: Ernie Els couldn't have caught McIlroy anyway. Apparently he didn't play enough European Tour events this year to qualify.

Nevertheless, the golf world is Poulterless this week.

If you want to see how Rory does in his now almost certain triumph in the Race to Dubai, you can check the Singapore Open leaderboard here. When I checked, Rory was +1 after 2 holes and Thomas Bjorn had posted the lead at -5 although he was only through 12 in the TV coverage. Mickelson was on the 4th hole on TV but the leaderboard showed him finished at +2.

But we won't see any Poulterish heroics this week. ** sigh **

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Nike's Lucky Horseshoe?

It's bigger news than Nike's potential new player reps. I don't get that excited over new equipment very often, but this one has a chance to become a game changer in the golf industry.

It's the VR-S Covert and Covert Tour driver. Can you say red?

The New Nike Covert driver

Here's a link to a GolfWeek article about the new club, and here's a link to a USA Today article. You can read those if you want all the details. What's all the buzz about? Why, it's about that "notch" where the big VS is in the above photo.

The club is being called the first cavityback driver, but the description of the club sounds more like a horseshoe. The weight has been moved to the heel and toe to increase the head's stability during the swing.

But here's what caught my attention: The loft has an adjustment range of 4 degrees, from 8.5 degrees to 12.5 degrees. That's just amazing to me! It means that one driver can fit just about any player, whether you swing the club at 80mph or 125mph. And you can change the loft without changing the face angle.

This driver could send ripples through the entire golf equipment market... and no, I'm not being over-dramatic. While buyers can always decide that they don't like a club for various reasons, a club with that much adjustability almost guarantees that poor fit will NOT be one of those reasons. This could become the killer product that Nike needs to make their golf equipment as profitable as their apparel lines.

The Covert is due out in February. If you're tired of black -- and maybe even white -- drivers, red could end up being your lucky color.

The photo came from

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Goodbye, Jim

As you probably know, teacher Jim Flick died Monday from pancreatic cancer at the age of 82. USA Today did a nice article about him that you can read by clicking this link. Many pros sought his help -- not the least of which was Jack Nicklaus, and their work eventually resulted in the Nicklaus-Flick Golf Schools.

I never met him, but I've known who he was since I first started learning to play golf. It was through a large book he did with Bob Toski for Golf Digest called How to Be a Complete Golfer. I sometimes mention things Flick said because he believed in keeping it simple. Rather than write some long history of what he did, I'd rather just post a couple of short videos that show some of the simple things he taught. You'll learn a lot from these two short videos if you take the time to watch them.

The first one focuses on grip pressure and how it affects all aspects of your game, from club fitting to how you hit the ball. It reflects one of his basic thoughts that I always keep in mind when I write instructional material -- the club is a tool. (Flick likes to call it an "instrument.") The idea behind using a tool is that the tool does most of the work, something that most golfers just don't understand:

And this second one focuses on a classic technique that many of the greatest players have used. It's the idea that you swing with your arms, not your shoulders. Initially this sounds like the opposite of what Hogan taught, but again he's talking about tension. Your shoulders have to turn for your arms to swing freely, and that's one of the reasons I stress being able to see your trailing shoulder between your forearms at the top of your backswing -- if you were looking down the target line, that is -- because that helps keep your arms where they can swing freely:

Like I said, Jim Flick kept it simple. Not only will his friends miss him, but so will the world of golf instruction.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 WGC-HSBC Champions

Winner: Ian Poulter

Around the wider world of golf: 14-year-old Guan Tianlang won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Bangkok and "punched his ticket" to the Masters; Stacy Lewis won the Mizuno Classic on the LPGA; Cassandra Kirkland won the Sanya Ladies Open on the LET; and Tom Lehman won both the Charles Schwab Cup Championship and the year-long Charles Schwab Cup.

Poulter does it again

Like I said in yesterday's post about the WGC, "The play is just too volatile to know what might happen before the end of the round... And the lead changes with almost every hole... The season of come-from-behind winners doesn't seem to be waning yet."

After Friday's second round, Ian Poulter was 9 strokes back of then-leader Louis Oosthuizen (who was at an amazing -16) and didn't appear to have a chance to catch him. All Ian did was shoot 65-65 (-14) on the weekend and end up with a two-stroke victory. No, I didn't see it coming.

But am I shocked? Hell, no. This is Ian Poulter we're talking about here, the original Mr. Clutch Under Pressure. He's better at riding a streak of good play than almost any other player in the game.

And it's probably worth mentioning that players who come up big in a Ryder Cup tend to play well in the following months. Mickelson did -- as did Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer -- and Jason Dufner also continued to play well, tying for second place after a 64 in the final round. But no one came up bigger than Poulter, either in the Ryder Cup or this week.

And may be more worrisome for someone who didn't even play this week. For Rory McIlroy, the big news is Ian's newfound spot in the Race to Dubai. He's now in fourth place, a little over €1.1million behind with 4 more tournaments (including the final championship) left to go. Granted, this is a big ask -- Rory will continue to make money over the next few weeks, making it harder to catch him. But Poulter has a win and a T6 the last two times he's played in Singapore -- this week's tournament and the biggest remaining purse outside the final -- and while Rory won in Hong Kong last year, Ian won it in 2010. I don't know if I'd bet against Mr. Clutch, now that he can smell blood.

I mean, just look at this photo from the WGC-HSBC Champions home page. Would you bet against this man?

Ian looks excited

But in the meantime, this week's Limerick Summary salutes the warlord who successfully conquered his opponents in China. The only question is how long his barbaric assault will last...
This week's scoreboard looked more like a smorgasbord
With the leaders attacking like Mongol hordes.
Though the lead was quite fragile,
Ian proved the most agile –
His last minute charge topped the leaderboard.
The top photo is from the WGC-HSBC Champions page at

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Up In The Air

Despite waiting as late as possible the last few nights, the WGC scores I saw before bed bore little resemblance to the actual scores I saw the next morning. At the time I wrote yesterday's post, for instance, I had no clue that Ernie Els would stumble on the way in, that Brandt Snedeker would have a putt for 59, or that Lee Westwood would grab a share of the lead with a 61. The play is just too volatile to know what might happen before the end of the round.

As I write this, Lee Westwood is at -20, followed by a group at -18 that includes Ian Poulter, Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen, and Phil Mickelson. The last group (Lee, Louis, and Phil) has only played 8 holes. And the lead changes with almost every hole.

OOPS! Ernie just posted another birdie to reach -19. See what I mean?

And it's not just the men... the Mizuno Classic on the LPGA/JLPGA this week has had a similar situation. After Bo-Mee Lee from Korea separated herself from the rest of the field at -10 in the second round, she -- like Louis Oosthuizen -- suddenly lost her mojo and has shot an even-par final round through 15 holes. This has given Stacy Lewis a chance, and she's taken it -- she shot a -8 round to post -11 in the clubhouse.

The season of come-from-behind winners doesn't seem to be waning yet. The Limerick Summary for the WGC may be a very interesting verse this week!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I Thought We Were in China...

But it sounds more like South Africa. Louis Oosthuizen's assault on Mission Hills finally slowed a bit -- as I write this, he's only -1 for 8 holes, -17 for the tournament -- but now Ernie Els is after him. Ernie is -4 for the day, also after 8 holes, and -15 in all.

The South Africans are separating themselves from the field a bit. Lee Westwood is -6 for the day, getting to -13 after 10 holes, and players like Jason Dufner, Ian Poulter, Phil Mickelson, and Martin Kaymer are within a couple of shots of Lee. But the sprint is clearly on, and the South Africans are the fastest.

Although so many players are scoring low, it's Ernie and Louis that interest me the most here. This event has the biggest purse in these Race to Dubai "playoffs" -- other than the finale, of course --and, at $1.2million (about €935,599), that's enough to get both South Africans back in the running. Currently Rory leads with €3,407,300, while Louis is fifth with €1,887,506 and Ernie is ninth with €1,756,971.

But Rory's not playing this week. If my figures are right, that gives Ernie a chance to get within €800,000 (around €2.6million) and Louis within €600,000 (around €2.8million). And with four events left -- including the big DP World Tour Championship, the finale in Dubai -- I think that's doable. Before this week I never thought second place had a chance, let alone fifth and ninth!

This should make Rory think twice about having chosen to skip this event. After all, both men seem to just now be hitting their stride. And ironically, the last event before the Dubai finale takes place in South Africa.

I thought we were in China, but the Race to Dubai may end up going through South Africa... in more ways than one.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Phil's New Secret Weapon

Although the WGC-China is still in the midst of its second round (as I write this), it's pretty clear that this tournament may give us some ridiculously low scores. Louis Oosthuizen went -7 in his first round... and he's already -14 after only 13 holes of his second round.

Phil Mickelson is -5 after 9 holes, putting him at -11 for the tournament, and Adam Scott is -3 on the day after 13 holes for a total of -10. And there are a load of -4 and -5 scores in the second round. It's just crazy scoring, even compared to last week's CIMB Classic.

At least we now have some idea of how Phil is doing it. He has a new 3-wood -- apparently a prototype-- that he's hitting almost as far as his driver but he's far more accurate with it. There are no stats on his scorecard page to tell how many fairways he's hitting, but it sure looks like he's hitting out the fairway most of the time.

Ironically, many of you might get more use out of a 3-wood as well.

In case you don't know, weekend players with slower swing speeds often hit their 3-woods farther than they hit a driver. The reason is that, with a slower swing speed, you need more loft to get the ball up quicker off the tee. This is part of the reason you're starting to see more 12-degree and even 13-degree drivers in the pro shop.

It's kinda funny how old becomes new again when it comes to equipment. It was only 50 to 60 years ago that many pros used drivers with 12 degrees of loft. They needed it to get the balls of the time up in the air. Now, with the new golf ball designs that spin less, many pros are starting to add loft to their drivers to get the new balls up quicker as well.

Between softer graphite shafts, balls with lower spin, and the slower swing speeds of the typical weekend player, we may be coming to a point where modern club specs look more like specs for the old hickory-shafted clubs. Golf really is a funny game.

Just don't expect to hit your 3-wood over 300 yards the way Phil does. I don't care how much they change the equipment, it won't make you 6'3" like him.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Phil Likes China

Bubba Watson does too. As I'm writing this, both are tied at -4 -- a mere stroke behind leader Julien Quesne. Needless to say, this is a good showing for Phil.

After all, this is his first tournament since the Ryder Cup. His scorecard (at this point anyway) is flawless -- 4 birdies and the rest pars. His putting touch also looks to be good, so that may bode well for him this week. He's won this event twice before.

In a Tour Report segment at, Brian Wacker wrote about Phil not being over the Ryder Cup loss yet. But he mentioned an interesting side effect of the Cup, which I'm going to quote here (you can read the full article by clicking the link):
There was, however, a silver lining in Mickelson’s eyes: The partnership he and Keegan Bradley forged. The two went 3-0 playing together and in doing so Mickelson saw some areas of his own game that he needs to improve on.

“I have this new kind of excitement and energy that Keegan has, and it’s rubbed off on me and I am excited to play and work and practice,” Mickelson said. “When we played alternate shot and I was hitting the ball from the middle of the fairway way down there, we were shooting some low scores.

“If I could drive the ball the way Keegan did, I would really have some opportunities and chances to do something special in my career.”

Indeed. Mickelson’s best year driving the ball in the last 10 years came in 2004 — the same year he won his first career major.

“I think [Mickelson] is going to try to focus in on getting the ball in the fairway more and in play, because he’s the absolute best iron player I’ve ever seen,” Bradley said. “If he can do that more consistently, he’ll win so many times more and he’ll be competitive well past and in his 50s.”
This caught my eye because Phil said he's been so excited to practice (leading up to this event) that he couldn't wait to get out to the course. And his driving has been immaculate so far -- at least, what I've seen on TV.

If Phil has truly committed himself to improved driving, he just might go on another tear like he did back in 2004. Wouldn't that make the 2013 season a lot more interesting?

It's certainly making this WGC-HSBC Champions more interesting. By the end of the week, Phil might have another reason to like China.