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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Your Final Golf Tip of 2013: Straight-Arm Pitching

Since there's not much time left in 2013, it makes sense that my final tip should be short as well. This Golf Digest article describes a short game shot known as "straight arm pitching"... but the article also says it's becoming known as "Stricker style." It seems appropriate to end the year with a technique from the man who keeps the game so simple.

Several pros using the technique

In a single sentence, it's just a chip or pitch shot that relies on connection for its consistency. You keep your wrists relaxed and both upper arms touching your chest throughout the stroke. You're hitting the shot by turning your upper body rather than relying on the little muscles in your wrists and hands. By doing this, you "keep your hands in front of you" and keep a steady distance between you and the ball... hence, you make more consistent contact.

Take a few moments to read the article. It's not something that's going to take a lot of practice to learn and, while it's not the answer to every chipping and pitching situation -- it won't help you out of deep rough, for instance -- it's certainly useful in most of the common situations you're likely to find yourself in.

And one last thought: If you're going out to celebrate the New Year tonight, leave your clubs at home. It's dangerous to drink and drive... or chip or putt, for that matter. ;-) Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Limerick Summary: Bye-Bye, 2013

guy waving goodbyeWinner: The Fans

Around the wider world of golf: There were no golf tournaments this week that I'm aware of... but Natalie Gulbis got married just before Christmas. I guess you could call that a "match" of sorts.

As the final hours of 2013 tick away, we bid a heartfelt bon voyage to the people and stories who made this year so interesting. There are so many:
  • To OWGR #1 Tiger Woods and Rolex #1 Inbee Park, who proved that they weren't as washed up as everyone seemed to believe;
  • To their rivals Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Suzann Pettersen, and Stacy Lewis, who made it clear that they have a few things to say about who's the "dominant player" on their respective tours;
  • To youngsters Charley Hull, Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, and Tianlang Guan, who showed that youth isn't always wasted on the young;
  • To average guys like Steve Stricker and Kenny Perry, who proved that age isn't a waste either;
  • To players like Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia, who reminded us that things can always get better;
  • To the ladies like Paulina Gretzky, Lindsey Vonn, and Katharina Boehm, who reminded us that while love doesn't conquer all, it can do amazing things for your golf game;
  • To the USGA and the R&A, who continue to remind us how stupidly complex this game has become;
  • To Peter Uihlein and Brooks Koepka, who reminded us that there's always another route to success;
And to all those other players, celebrities, and organizations who made the tours (and their players) more newsworthy this year.

Not only is 2013 about to come to an end, but so is the "off-season" which now consists of a single week in December. The PGA Tour kicks it off all over again this Friday with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. We don't have much time to appreciate how great "this year in golf" actually was.

But at least you get this Limerick Summary to remind you of what we had. Bye-bye, 2013!
This year got the golf world excited —
Old rivalries got reignited,
Some young guys stepped up,
Garcia made putts…
Then Ko proved the gals won’t be slighted.
The public domain clip art came from this page at clker.com.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Arnie Claus Is Coming to Town

In case you missed it, here's the Arnold Palmer Saves Christmas! video. There were a few kids too sick to go home for Christmas at the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, so Arnie made sure they got a visit from Santa just like all the other kids.

But what else would you expect from Arnie?



It's a cute video, but it also reminds you just how tough it can be for some kids (and their parents) during the holidays. Take a moment to be thankful, folks... and make the world a little better if you get the chance.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

And This Is What Downtime Gets Us

I categorized this under "Humor"... but I suppose that's a matter of opinion.

The writers and editors over at Golf Magazine must be going stir-crazy without some golf to cover. As a result, they decided to do a "Separated at Birth" article with pro golfers and their supposed long-lost celebrity siblings. (I note that they chose all males for this piece. Perhaps they feared retribution from the women? I would certainly hope so.)

It all starts with this comparison of Jason Dufner and Nacho Libre (Jack Black from the movie of the same name). Is the resemblance really that close?

Separated at Birth: Jason Dufner and Nacho Libre

There are a few that are reasonably close like Jordan Spieth and Friday Night Light's Coach Taylor or Nick Faldo and Harrison Ford. But really... Keegan Bradley and Eddie Munster? Really?

Separated at Birth: Keegan Bradley and Eddie Munster

If I counted correctly there are 34 "lost brothers" in this slideshow. If you're bored, maybe you'll get a laugh out of it.

Then again, maybe you won't. I'm still trying to make up my mind. At least we can go check out the Most Beautiful Women in Golf photo spread.

(Sorry, ladies -- no Best Looking Men in Golf spread. Looks like they left you out again. Are we detecting a pattern here?)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Justin Rose and Brady Riggs Help You Hit Your 3-Wood

From the January issue of Golf Digest comes this video starring Justin Rose. This is his primary tip to help you Rip Your 3-Wood from the fairway:



Remember how I've said your first move down from the top of your backswing actually feels like you're going DOWN rather than TOWARD the target? That's basically what Justin is suggesting here. Just watch his practice move. He's planting both feet flat on the ground and "squatting" ever so slightly to keep himself steady over the ball.

And here's an additional 3-wood tip I discovered from instructor Brady Riggs: Last week he did an online Q&A at Golf Magazine's Top100 Teachers blog and someone asked him about hitting 3-woods:
I have a problem with consistency in hitting my three wood off the fairway. It is actually a 17 degree three wood or 4 wood. I hit my 3 hybrid very consistently (200 yard club)and typically use that club on long par 4's or par 5's. I can get a gentle draw with that club. I can get an extra 20+ yards when I hit the 3 wood well,but I usually push fade it right, so I have stayed away from it and just used the 3 hybrid. Any suggestions for getting more consistent with the fairway metal?
Riggs posted the following response:
This is a very difficult time of year to hit the 3-wood well from the ground. The fairways are very tight in the winter which makes the ball sit down more so than during the summer. As a result, it is very difficult to get the center of the space on the ball with the 3-wood. The only time I would recommend using the 3-wood during the winter is if the risk of playing the shot is worth the reward. In other words, if you can get the ball to the putting surface with the 3-wood and no other club then it is a good choice. If it is just for a second shot on a par five where you won't be reaching the green I would stick with the hybrid.
This is something we don't often think about when choosing a club. We don't always pay attention to the ground conditions under normal conditions -- especially from the fairway since we automatically consider that a "good lie" -- but normal seasonal conditions can make even a good lie less appropriate for some shots. That's something worth remembering.

Hopefully these two tips will help you hit better fairway shots, especially with your 3-wood.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Catching Up on the New Golf Slang

There's not a whole lot going on in the world of golf this week... and it's not just in the pro world. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, there are family celebrations of various kinds going on all over the world... and New Year's Eve is coming up in less than a week. It's hard to find time to squeeze in a few holes.

But we're all still thinking about golf, aren't we? Even if we can't get out and play because relatives -- or perhaps a couple of feet of snow -- are visiting, we can still dream about it. Well, I found something that could help you sound better next time you tee it up with your friends.

Alec Guinness

I found Golf Magazine's new Golfer's Dictionary. You can check it out at this link; it contains 45 slang terms you may or may not have heard. Here are a few of my new faves:
  • Abominable Snowman noun a 9 on your scorecard, worse than a snowman "8"
  • Alec Guinness noun a shot that’s O.B. Wan Kenobi
  • Amelia Earhart noun a tee shot that looks great taking off and then just disappears
  • Captain Kirk noun a wayward shot that goes where no ball has ever gone before
  • Christmas Present noun a ball that lands under a tree (definitely a cool term!)
  • Concheat verb to concede a putt that your buddy has no chance of making in exchange for him conceding a putt that you have no chance of making (e.g. "They concheated their 8-foot putts.")
  • Cuban Putt noun putt that stopped just short of the hole (i.e., needed one more revolution)
  • Get the Waitress verb telling your approach shot to “Check, please!”
  • Men’s Warehouse noun when your partner sticks his approach (i.e., “You’re going to like the way you look”)
I don't want to tell you all of them. But you'll definitely want to check out what a Laurel and Hardy is, or the difference between a Danny DeVito and a Snooki, or who might be the Sammy Hagar in your group. I know I learned a lot.

Best of all, next time I go all Linda Ronstadt on my partners, I'll be sure to gloat.

The photo, of course, came from the golf.com article.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas, One and All!

I'm celebrating Christmas today so there's no golf post... but I do have a short Christmas song for you. The video's just below Santa's little helper here...

Holiday hangover



Normal posts return tomorrow... but today, have a Merry Christmas!

The dog photo came from this page at cutestpaw.com.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Golf Year Finally Winds Down...?

It's Christmas Eve and it's hard to say we've had anything resembling an off season in the golf world yet. Although some players haven't played much in the last few weeks -- or months, in some cases -- this week is the closest thing to an off season we're going to see this year. The PGA Tour resumes next week with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions (2014 January 3).

Like so many of the changes we've seen this year, it's hard to predict what effect this will ultimately have on the tours. Sunday I posted about how globehopping is already affecting the tours. In that post I referred to a post the Constructivist had published. Since then he's posted about how Momoko Ueda has decided to leave the LPGA and focus on the JLPGA and, in a somewhat related post, about how Lydia Ko is leaving the only instructor she's ever had because of distance concerns.

But since the golf tours never really stop anymore, how are players going to deal with it? Think about what the GC commentators said about the former "Fall Series" events becoming the first official events of the new season: More of the good players will have to play them to keep from falling behind in FedExCup points. For the best players -- Tiger, Phil, Adam, etc. -- this isn't a real concern because they play at such a high level at the big events that they'll get plenty of points. Just look at what "semi-retired" Steve Stricker did in the 2013 season if you need proof.

But for the other less-consistent players on the tours, they'll have to play more... or at least feel like they have to.

And you'll also recall that some of the new card members -- the players who used to play these fall events -- couldn't even get into the fields this time. Their status wasn't high enough to unseat those "senior" tour players who wanted to get that head start on the FedExCup. That's a troubling situation that already exists in just the first year of this new wraparound season.

But once you create a worldwide tour that bounces back and forth across the globe, then stretch it out so there's no time to rest, players are going to take time to rest whether the tours like it or not.

I have speculated in past posts that we're going to end up with a de facto world tour, whether it's officially sanctioned or not. This could be what finally creates it -- what actually creates two tours, in fact, whether the official tours like it or not. The big names will play a select few monster events -- majors, WGCs, TPC, and a few invitationals -- while the rest of the rank and file players fill the fields at the "lesser" events. It'll be interesting to see how things shake out in the coming years.

But, at least for the time being, everybody can take this one week off. I wonder how long that will last?

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 Royal Trophy

Winner: Europe, 8.5-7.5

Around the wider world of golf: For the most part, this week's golf concerns the various Q-Schools, so I won't go into those here. Peter Senior did defend his title at the PGA Legends Tour Championship in Australia though.

The

You can be forgiven if you don't know what the Royal Trophy is, since it hasn't gotten a lot of press. (At least, not compared with other international competitions.)

The Royal Trophy is a team competition between Europe and Asia, originally spearheaded by Seve. And the trophy was donated by the King of Thailand, hence the name. It's a mix of Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup ideas: 8 players from each side play 16 matches over 3 days -- 4 alternate shot, 4 fourballs, and 8 singles -- so everybody has to play every session. It's currently played every year, and GC provided live coverage Thursday - Saturday night.

The Asian team won last year, and the Euros had announced their intentions to take the trophy back... but it didn't look like it for most of the competition.

Asia dominated the first day, winning 3-1. Going into the final day, Asia had a 5-3 lead and, about halfway through the singles matches, appeared to be running away with it. The Asian team took the first two matches, jumping out to a 7-3 margin and most of the remaining matches were even -- there's a playoff in case of an 8-8 tie, but it didn't look as if that would be necessary. Then the unthinkable happened...

Ryo Ishikawa had been two-up after seven holes in his singles match but Marc Warren managed to square the match by the 18th. And then Ryo shanked a chip across the green (granted, it was a horrible lie) and Marc won the hole with par.

That seemed to open the floodgates. Starting with the Warren win, the Euros won 5 of the final 6 matches -- culminating in a sweet little up-and-down for par on the 18th by Nicolas Colsaerts to take down Liang Wen-chong and finish an unbelievable comeback. (You can get more details in this article from euronews.com. To be honest, I think they started the article when it looked like the Asia team would win, given that the url includes the phrase "asia-storm-ahead-in-royal-trophy.")

Let me be the first American to welcome our Asian counterparts to the US Ryder Cup team's world.

And let me also salute the Euro team's amazing finish with a Limerick Summary. (These last-minute victory charges have simply got to end eventually...)
The Asian team would have succeeded…
But the Euros refused to concede it!
They got in the mix
Winning five of the six
Final matches to get what they needed.
The photo came from the Royal Trophy website.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Price of Globehopping Tours

Jiyai ShinThe Constructivist just did a post over at Mostly Harmless about Jiyai Shin's decision to focus on the JLPGA in 2014. Like Tony Jesselli (who posted in the comments) I was a bit surprised to hear it... at first.

On reflection, it seems to be part of a greater trend.

Several LPGA and LET players have left their respective tours, citing desires to have a family or pursue other interests or just deciding that it's too much work for their "return on investment." And I'm not just talking Annika and Lorena here, you know.

Remember the buzz when Steve Stricker announced his reduced schedule in early 2013? Steve not only intended to cut his globe-trotting -- he didn't even play the Open Championship -- but he also cut his domestic schedule as well. He said he needed to be fresher for the remaining events he played. Ironically, it worked better than most people expected and left players joking that perhaps they should "semi-retire" as well.

In fact, Phil Mickelson has already said that he intends to do the same, and we may soon see other players -- both male and female -- following his lead.

For those of us who play most of our golf in a single county -- or at worst a single state -- the idea that golf could be so tiring seems silly. We think about how exciting it would be to play in Hawaii one week, California the next, take a short tour through Florida, then stop over in Mexico on our way to Scotland.

But ANYTHING can become a job after a while, no matter how much you love it. Just ask the parents of any three-year-old!

As golf becomes more global, will careers begin to shorten as players simply tire of all the travel? It's true that private jets are an option for the top players -- and "community jets" like NetJet for the next level down -- but time catches up to us all. And as you get older, spending more and more time away from home isn't always so attractive. Not every player is as driven as Gary Player!

Jiyai Shin cited fatigue and injuries as factors in her decision. The YonhapNews story that TC referenced also mentions that her primary corporate sponsor won't be renewing in 2014, perhaps adding another reason. Unlike the PGA Tour, where wins pay so much more than any other tour, it may be that she needs that money to make all the travel profitable. (I don't know, I'm just speculating.)

But it's becoming clear that the new global nature of golf -- something that we've all applauded -- may have an unexpected dark side. What other surprises might this new paradigm have in store for us? Will even more pros trim their schedules? Will the organizations that run events have to make changes to attract them... or could this set off a new decline in the number of tournaments played? This new twist to the game bears watching over the next few years.

The photo came from this page at titleist.com.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Truly Bizarre Short Game Tip

This tip from PGA teacher John O'Leary III over at golftipsmag.com is one of the weirdest I've seen... but it might help some of you, so here it is.

No doubt you've seen Jim Furyk's double-overlap grip. He uses it on his full swing. If you're having trouble with your short shots, O'Leary is recommending a triple-overlap grip to eliminate scooping. (Note that this is for shots of 40 yards or less ONLY.)

Triple-overlap grip

The basic concept here is that with the hands overlapping this much, your trailing hand can't take over and flip the club in an effort to get the ball up.

I can see where this might help if you're having problems with your chips and pitches. It essentially teaches you the same thing that the old drill of swinging a weighted string did, except the much stiffer shaft allows you to see your hands leading the club head into the hitting area.

One key to making this work that isn't mentioned in the article is to make sure you're gripping the club firmly with the ring and pinky fingers of your lead hand. Otherwise you can lose your grip on the club, which won't help your short game at all!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Lydia Ko Gets Her First Sponsor

In case you haven't heard, Lydia Ko inked her first sponsorship deal Thursday. And while it's no surprise that it's a New Zealand company, it may surprise you to hear that it's not a golf company.

Lydia is now sponsored by the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited, better known as ANZ. ANZ sponsors a number of Kiwi athletes, including "Olympic rowers Eric Murray, Hamish Bond and Emma Twigg, along with former Olympians Sarah Ulmer and Hamish Carter, and Paralympic swimmers Rebecca Dubber and Cameron Leslie."

And just like she did when she turned pro, Lydia announced it with a video of her golfing her way through the bank... and then depositing her first victory check from the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters (which GC is broadcasting -- with a week delay, of course -- tonight at 6:30pm ET).



If you want more details, you can get them from these three links:
and I'm sure there are a dozen more. After all, Lydia Ko is hot stuff now.

And she's only going to get hotter if she keeps playing the way she's been playing. She's #4 in the world already, you know.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I Thought I Was the Only One Using This Trick!

As I've gotten older I've made slight adjustments to my swing. Most of them are things I pass on to other players who are having similar problems. But there's one trick I've used for a fairly long time that I never passed on -- primarily because I thought it was something quirky about my swing. (Most players have something like that, a trick that works for them but wouldn't work for most other players.)

And then I found this new article about fixing a slice by Sean Foley on the Golf Digest site. My gosh, it's not a quirk after all! So let me share it with you now.

Generally speaking, players are taught one of two ways to grip the club. Either they use a neutral grip (both thumbs are on top of the club handle) or a slightly strong grip (both thumbs are turned slightly to the trailing side of the club handle). In each case, one hand mirrors the other -- that is, if the club handle wasn't in the way, both palms would be parallel with each other. And most teaching methods reinforce that idea.

But that's not the case with my grip. My lead hand is turned slightly strong but my trailing hand is in a neutral position. In other words, my hands aren't parallel -- they form a 45 degree angle. Here, take a look at the photo accompanying Foley's article. See how the thumb of his lead hand is turned to the side of the club's handle (1) but his trailing thumb is more on top (2)?

Palms are not parallel on club handle

I was taught to play with a neutral grip, but as I got older I had more trouble squaring the face at impact. But when I strengthened my grip a little, I had the same problem -- my trailing hand just turned underneath and opened the face even more. And if I really strengthened my grip, I'd flip the club at impact.

Somewhere along the line I realized that it felt natural for my trailing hand to come into the impact position in a neutral position -- probably from learning to use tennis rackets and ping pong paddles. Likewise, it felt natural for my lead hand to come in slightly strong -- again, probably from years of playing with a Frisbee™. So one day I just put the two together and it worked, so I stayed with it.

The nice thing is that it seems to make hand positions automatic. If I put my trailing hand on in its neutral position, the thumb on my lead hand fits right under the heel of my trailing hand.

So after all these years it appears that my quirky grip isn't so quirky after all. Thank you, Sean Foley.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Some Big Breaks Start Out Broken

I'm known to rant on occasion. It's not unusual for me to rant on this blog. And the targets of my rants are usually what I see as important issues concerning the game of golf.

But I'm sure this is the first time I've ever ranted about a reality TV show.

the Big Break NFL finalists

As you probably know, GC's Big Break NFL Puerto Rico ran its final show last night. This time around, the show put together 3-player teams consisting of 2 former Big Breakers (one male, one female) and a former NFL star/golfer. It sounds workable, right? It's definitely a twist on the show's standard format.

In this case, the final show came down to a battle between Team Rice:
  • wide receiver Jerry Rice
  • Emily Talley from Big Break Mexico
  • Isaac Sanchez from Big Break Greenbrier
and Team Doleman:
  • defensive lineman Chris Doleman
  • Shannon Fish from Big Break Atlantis
  • Brian Cooper from Big Break Greenbrier
Why am I ranting about this? Because the outcome of a show that's supposed to give a "big break" to aspiring pros was determined by the play of the football players.

Tim Doleman was a great player in the NFL, but he was a disruptive force on his team. There will be those who argue that he "toughened up his teammates." I don't disagree -- if they hadn't toughened up, they would have been forced to kill him in order to maintain their sanity. Doleman was an obnoxious partner.

But GC went further and made the NFL players the team captains, meaning that they could simply pull rank and order the professionals around. This is nothing against Doleman as a person but -- and this is putting it kindly -- he didn't seem to understand what would help his teammates. (He didn't even seem to understand that golf is approached somewhat differently than football.) For example, in one segment as they prepared for a putting challenge, Fish asked him what he saw in the putt and Doleman not only gave her no help but acted like she was asking a stupid question.

Not a week went by without several teams wondering when Team Doleman was going to self-destruct... and wondering how they managed to avoid getting eliminated when it was clear they wanted to eliminate each other.

But then, after he repeatedly "strongly implied" that he had helped his teammates grow up so they could "show up" when it counted, Doleman didn't show up at all for the final competition. The final challenge was set up in 4 quarters (like a football game) with each player facing their counterpart in a single hole of match play -- 1 point for a win, 1/2 for a halve, and 0 for a loss. The points from each of the three matches were totaled to get a winner in that quarter. The team that won the most quarters would win Big Break NFL. All 3 members played in the first 3 quarters, with only the two pros playing the final quarter.

That was too little too late for the pros on Team Doleman. Doleman tied his first match with Rice then never found the fairway in his remaining two matches, which he lost. He kept hitting slices -- which, given his play in the other shows, indicated that he couldn't handle the pressure. Had it been only the pros from each team playing, the matches would have been tied after 4 quarters and gone to sudden death. As it was, Fish and Cooper went into the final quarter needing a win just to stay alive.

That's just wrong. If the goal is to give the pros a "big break," then the outcome should be determined by the pros. The winning NFL player got $50k to donate to a charity; but the winning pros got $50k apiece, entry into an LPGA or PGA event, and a club deal. Those pros had to earn a place on their original Big Break; I'm pretty sure the NFL players "earned" their spot by being former NFL players who played golf and had agents to negotiate the gig. I know the NFLers play pretty well, but it just doesn't mean the same for them. For the pros, this could mean their future; for the NFL players, this was a lark.

If the goal is to give the pros a "big break," then the outcome shouldn't be determined by the celebrities you brought in to get ratings. But that's exactly what happened... and it's why I'm so pissed off by Big Break NFL Puerto Rico. If GC wants to bring in celebrities to set goals for the pro challenges -- as Rodney Harrison did on one show -- that's fine. But let the pros determine who gets the break into the pro ranks, not celebrities who just want to say they were on Big Break.

Rant over.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ten to Watch in 2014

Predicting the future, as Winston Churchill once noted, is best done in hindsight. (The exact quote, if you're interested, is "I always avoid prophesying beforehand, because it is a much better policy to prophesy after the event has already taken place.")

However, I'm a glutton for punishment. As 2013 draws to a close, I started thinking about which golfers -- male, in this case -- might come roaring out of the blocks in 2014. (I mentioned the women I expect to play best near the end of this LPGA year-end post. However, I would be willing to add So Yeon Ryu to that list of 7.) Here, in no particular order, are my "10 to Watch."
  1. Tiger Woods: No surprise here, eh? I still don't believe most people understand the difficulty of the change Tiger has been making to his swing. Unless he gets injured, he's only going to get better. I won't be surprised if he breaks his major drought this year. (My guess? The PGA.)
  2. Phil Mickelson: While Phil hasn't played particularly well since the Open Championship, we all know past form isn't any indication of future performance with Phil. Since he's only a US Open short of the Career Slam and has a stated goal of making the US Olympic golf team, I think he'll be focused enough to turn in some good performances early on.
  3. Henrik Stenson: Henrik has had an amazing last few months, made even more amazing by the fact that his wrist has been sore. I'll be surprised if his good form doesn't continue for a least a few more months.
  4. Adam Scott: The same goes for Adam. I suspect he's going to need some time to recover from the emotional drain of his victory tour through Australia, but I expect him to be playing very well by March. I'm thinking he may defend his Masters title.
  5. Matt Kuchar: Kuch has been in good form for two years or so now... and only seems to be getting better. Even though he's been extremely good so far, I think 2014 could be a breakout year for him. I'll go out on a limb and predict a major. (It probably goes against all logic but my gut feeling is the Open Championship.)
  6. Sergio Garcia: Despite his lack of PGA Tour wins, Sergio has been playing pretty well for the past year or so. He's a driving and putting machine now. If his new girlfriend is doing as much for his attitude as I suspect she is, the other players should take him as a serious threat in 2014.
  7. Rory McIlroy: It's simple -- Rors finally seems to have gotten his swing straightened out and eliminated many of the distractions that have plagued him this year. I look for him to make another run at #1 on the OWGR.
  8. Jordan Spieth: If anybody can shake the sophomore jinx, it's Jordan. The way he kept focus after his win at the John Deere makes me think he'll play well. I don't expect a huge year from him but I look for him to continue getting into contention and possibly winning again.
  9. Graham DeLaet: Although he didn't play particularly well at the majors, the Canadian has played very well since June. I think he'll get his first Tour win in 2014.
  10. Kiradech Aphibarnrat: The Rat is #59 on the OWGR this week after getting his first win this year. I like the way he's handled his improved pairings and I won't be surprised if he qualifies for some of the 2014 majors. In fact, I expect him to make the PGA Tour by 2015.
Of course, this list doesn't mean I think everybody else will stink. However, I think Justin Rose and Jason Dufner (two of my most notable exclusions) will take a while to recover from their major celebrations, and many of the other big names simply aren't showing much form right now.

And, of course, if I'm wrong I'll claim somebody hacked my blog and wrote this post without my knowledge.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 Thailand Golf Championship

Winner: Sergio Garcia

Around the wider world of golf: Matt Kuchar and Harris English won the Franklin Templeton Shootout; Stewart and Connor Cink won the PNC Father/Son Challenge on their first try, posting 9 straight 3s on the back 9 to do it; Dawie van der Walt won the weather-shortened the Nelson Mandela Championship on the ET; and the various tour qualifying tournaments are still going on.



It appears that love agrees with Sergio Garcia.

You may recall that Sergio and Greg Norman's daughter were an item some time back. That relationship, like so many romances, eventually came to an end and Sergio made no secret that it was painful. Many people in the golf community believe that Sergio's recent struggles have at least part of their root in that breakup.

And then Sergio showed up in Thailand this week with a different caddie -- his new girlfriend Katharina Boehm. Golfweek (from whose article the next photo came from -- the link's at the end of this post) began their wrap-up with the simple statement, "Maybe she is the spark he was looking for."

After Saturday's round GolfTalkCentral contributor Will Gray wrote:
Earlier this week, some may have questioned the decision by Sergio Garcia to have his girlfriend, Katharina Boehm, caddie for him at the Thailand Golf Championship.

After a second consecutive 7-under 65 gave the Spaniard a four-shot lead heading into the final round, those doubts have largely been silenced.

"It's great to have her around, forget about having her on the bag this week," said Garcia, who sits at 18-under 198 after three rounds. "Just a very positive person, a lot of good energy, that's what I love about her, and it's great to be able to go through this with her."
Is everybody making too much out of this? I don't think so.

Sergio's other prize

Life on Tour -- especially life in the limelight brought by heavy expectations -- can take its toll on anybody, no matter how strong they are. And if you've listened to any of his interviews, you know that Sergio is never satisfied with his game. To have someone around who can get him to lighten up a bit just might get him in the right frame of mind to win more frequently.

Just as he did this week. Henrik Stenson put some serious pressure on Sergio during that final round, and yet Sergio never flinched. In fact, he smiled and laughed with the crowd this whole week... and paused to give his caddie a quick kiss after particularly good shots.

I for one hope Katharina plans to be a steady presence in Sergio's life from now on. Especially at the majors.

In the meantime, Sergio will have to be satisfied with a Limerick Summary. Perhaps my assessment is getting a bit ahead of things, but I think this could be a reasonable expectation:
When gal Katharina plays caddie
Then Sergio’s happy, not crabby.
If Kathy is this good
For him, maybe they should
Just “Thai” the knot—you know, get married.
The top photo came from Google's AFP sports news stream. The bottom photo came from the golfweek.com site.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Dave Pelz on Recovering from Trouble

This video from the golf.com "Pelz Vault" shows Dave Pelz's advice on dealing with tree trouble... but listen carefully because this short clip is full of strategic help for all kinds of problems:



I'll summarize his tips here, but these are the kinds of things that take strokes off your game without any practice at all!
  • Sometimes you just get bad breaks; they happen to everybody. Don't let them get to you and cause you to make bad decisions.
  • Play the percentage shot, the one you KNOW you can pull off. If you choose the shot that gets you safely back in play, you may still avoid the penalty. (That's what he means by "making the penalty less than a shot;" sometimes you'll get up and down without any penalty if you leave yourself in position to do so!)
  • Choke down a little on the club to give yourself better control of the shot.
  • Very important: Check where the bottom of your swing is! No matter how well you plan the shot, if you don't make good contact you're just wasting your time.
As I said, these are all things that you can do without any extra practice. When you can save shots for free, by all means do so!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The ET Finally Gets a 59... No, Two 59s... Wait, Never Mind

In many ways it seems symbolic of the problems plaguing the European Tour's Nelson Mandela Championship.

No one has ever shot an official 59 in an ET event. Peter Uihlein came close earlier this year at the Alfred Dunhill Links but had to settle for a 60.

The Nelson Mandela Championship has been plagued by bad weather this week. The start was moved up a day -- from Thursday to Wednesday -- in order to avoid conflicts with the late Nelson Mandela's state funeral on Sunday. But rain kept the first round from being completed... then the second round... and organizers finally had to cut the event to 54 holes. Even so, on the fourth day of the event (Saturday) the second round is yet to be completed.

That didn't stop the fireworks though. Spain's Jorge Campillo and South African Colin Nel both shot 59s within moments of each other. Imagine their excitement at finally breaking through and making history!

Imagine their disappointment on finding out that neither will make the ET record books after all.

Jorge Campillo

(The photo came from the ET's summary of the round.)

Here's the problem: The Mount Edgecombe Country Club has been absolutely saturated by all the rain, forcing officials to allow preferred lies. You know what that means -- through the green you pick up the ball, clean it, and replace it to ensure that the ball isn't plugged or covered with mud. But that also means you aren't "playing the ball as it lies." You don't make the record books that way.

Believe it or not, it gets worse. The course had to be shortened to make it playable. The commentators noted that the length of some holes and their designated par didn't really make any kind of sense. Overall, the length of the course was reduced to somewhere between 6300 and 6500 yards -- hardly the test of golf that organizers had hoped for.

Both players can still be proud of their accomplishments. By my count, over 40 of those who have finished their rounds still couldn't break par. Nel's 59 brought him up to T28 (-4), ensuring that he'll make the cut. And Campillo's 59 catapulted him all the way to T2 (-11), even though he's still 3 strokes off the lead of England's Daniel Brooks.

But the ET is still waiting for someone to break that huge psychological barrier and get it into the 50s for the first time. They knew it would be hard; they just didn't know they'd have to break a weather barrier as well.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Hunter Mahan Talks Backswing

Hunter Mahan is Golf Digest's cover story for January 2014. Although the story is primarily about hitting your irons better (you can read that article at this link), he also did a short video about backswing basics. Here it is:



If you're paying attention, you'll notice that what Hunter is demonstrating is our old friend, the one-piece takeaway. He says that the first three feet of your backswing sets up the rest of your swing. He also says that what he's trying to feel is that he's turning his shoulders to take the club back. (As I have often written on this blog, most swing errors begin with the takeaway... and making a one-piece takeaway really means you're making a good shoulder coil.)

The article itself goes into much more detail about every aspect of your swing. Given that Hunter is considered one of the best ball strikers on Tour, you certainly won't waste your time if you read it carefully.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

All of the David Duval Tweets

No doubt you all heard Golf Central mention David Duval's tweets about his future plans. They only gave a summary of what he tweeted -- there were quite a large number of them! His Twitter account is @david59duval in case you want to check in on it, but I thought I'd put up the entire sequence in case you had trouble finding them in his "Tweetstream."

David Duval

(The photo comes from a Golfweek article from early January when David was denied a sponsor's exemption into the Humana Challenge, where he shot 59 to win back in 1999.)

Starting on December 8 David sent out these tweets:
  • Giving an update to plans for next year soon.
  • It will take several tweets so please be patient.
  • Plan layout will be tomorrow or Tuesday. Going to take many tweets.
Then on December 10 he sent out this string of tweets:
  • So here goes. Please be patient.
  • At the start of 2013 I had hoped to play and regain status. After playing a little on the west coast I realized I needed to get better.
  • I talked to some close friends and decided to seek the help of Chris O. The work we have done in the 8+ months I am very pleased with.
  • The restoration of my golf swing and of my hitting has been great. Unfortunately I have had nothing to show for it. I believe 100 percent in
  • what I'm doing. The hitting can't be denied. With that bring said, st some point you must take ownership of what and how you are doing thing
  • I had thought about playing in Europe next year but that really is not an option with the dedication I have to my wife and kids.
  • Susie and the support she has giving me is the reason I still believe in myself.
  • With all this being said I am hoping to play a PGA tour schedule. I believe in the work I'm found and the progress I have made.
  • Chris O has been instrumental in helping me understand how and why I hit the golf ball well.
  • I will be asking for exemptions in 2014.
  • The things is though that I believe you have to own what you are doing and where you are going. I believe 100 percent I'm doing right.
  • With all that bring said I wish to state without hesitation that 2014 is the last time I will ask for exemptions.
  • I will be asking for starts but this is the last time. I think that if I can have a 20 event schedule then it's up to me to get my status.
  • As a player you need to perform and if I don't do that in 2014 I will do something else.
  • Thanks for the support. Goodnight.
Finally, on December 11 he added:
  • Last nights tweets were not a retirement announcement. They were a statement of what I believe. You can only ask for so many chances.
  • I'm asking for one more chance next year. After that I won't ask again. It's up to me to perform.
So there you have it. I assume that, if he can't get enough exemptions and/or earn his card that way, he'll look into broadcast work or teaching or perhaps playing the Web.com Tour ("if I don't do that [perform] in 2014 I will do something else"). He didn't go into detail, perhaps because he doesn't know yet himself. We'll just have to see what happens. Good luck, David.

Sometimes golf seems to be terribly unfair. But then most of life is that way, isn't it?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Big Event This Week Is in... Bangkok?

That sounds funny, doesn't it? But it seems to be true. Here's the deal:

The European Tour event, the Nelson Mandela Championship, doesn't have a "big name" field. Although even casual viewers of the ET will recognize some of the names -- José Manuel Lara, Thomas Aiken, Shiv Kapur, Edoardo Molinari, Jbe Kruger, and Branden Grace, to name a few -- it's not THE big names, if you know what I mean. But at least it's a regular tournament and by the time most of you read this, it will already have started (at 7:30am ET this morning). They moved it up a day so it wouldn't interfere with the Mandela State Funeral on Sunday.

The Franklin Templeton Shootout (aka the Shark Shootout) is a regular event at this time of year. The 12 two-man teams play 3 rounds -- modified alternate shot, better ball (that's fourballs), and scramble. You can find out how each format is played at this link. Sean O'Hair and Kenny Perry are the defending champions, and players like Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Jason Dufner, Dustin Johnson, and Steve Stricker are playing. BUT this isn't a "real" tournament -- after all, it's only 12 two-man teams playing 3 rounds. It's fun, but hardly the big tournament this week. It starts at 1pm ET on Friday.

Just for the record, I'm picking the team of Matt Kuchar and Harris English to win.

Ironically, the big event this week is the Asian Tour's Thailand Golf Championship.  In the photo below (from the Thailand event's website) you can see Henrik Stenson reminding Rickie Fowler who's the boss while Kiradech Aphibarnrat mugs for the camera:

Stenson

In addition to these three, let's name just a few of the players playing in Bangkok:
  • Hunter Mahan
  • Brooks Koepka
  • John Daly
  • Liang Wen Chong
  • Bubba Watson
  • Sergio Garcia
  • Thongchai Jaidee
  • Ryo Ishikawa
  • Charl Schwartzel
  • Justin Rose
And this is a regular 72-hole tournament, to be broadcast LIVE on Golf Channel at 11:30pm ET tonight and re-aired at 10:30am ET Thursday morning. (You'll recall that GC just signed a 10-year deal with the Asian Tour.) And GC is advertising 4 hours of coverage for the first round.

Clearly the Thailand event is the main event on this week's schedule. Just in case you're interested.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Pelvic Thrust That Drives You Insane

Ok, please forgive me for the Rocky Horror Picture Show reference. (For my worldwide readers who may not be familiar with it, the Rocky Horror Picture Show is a science fiction / horror / musical comedy movie from the 1970s that has become a cult classic -- in fact, it's the longest-running theatrical release in film history (over 40 years) -- and the title of this post is a line from a song called The Time Warp. I'll include the YouTube video at the end of this post, in case you're interested.)

Anyway, the "pelvic thrust" I'm referring to is explained in this short video from golf.com and Golf Magazine Top100 Teacher Brady Riggs:



Please note that this is NOT a slide toward the target. It's an UPWARD thrust that helps finish your weight shift and hip turn as you hit the ball. Riggs says this will help you to hit it farther.

Martin Hall talks about this same movement, although he focuses on where your chest is facing. You may have heard him talk about the "Iron Man" move where -- if you were the superhero Iron Man -- the light on your chest would point slightly upward and above your target.

Brady Riggs describes this move as pushing your tummy up and toward the target at impact. This helps you get your weight on your lead side without sliding toward the target. (If you slide, this move will throw you off-balance.)

This is one of the better descriptions I've heard about how to get the correct weight shift and hip turn. Wish I'd been the one to think of it! If you learn to do this correctly, this is one part of your swing that shouldn't drive you insane anymore.

And -- as previously threatened -- here's The Time Warp. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is notorious for the number of future stars who appeared in it. Some of the actors you might recognize: The "normals" who stumbled into this madhouse are a very young Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon, and the narrator (the guy who keeps saying "It's just a jump to the left...") is Charles Gray, who played Blofeld in the James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever. And although they aren't in this clip, Tim Curry starred as the evil Dr. Frank N. Furter and even Meatloaf made an appearance.


Monday, December 9, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 Northwestern Mutual World Challenge

Winner: Zach Johnson

Around the wider world of golf: Miguel Angel Jiménez had the record as the oldest winner on the ET; with his win at the Hong Kong Open, he pushed that record even farther! Thomas Björn won the Nedbank Golf Challenge, also on the ET; Pornanong Phatlum won the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters on the LET; Lydia Ko won her 5th pro tournament (and 1st as a pro) at the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters, co-sponsored by the KLPGA and Taiwan LPGA (this tournament is where a number of the LPGA players were this week, and the Constructivist has details); and Yusaku Miyazato (Ai's brother) won the Golf Nippon Series JT Cup on the Japan Tour. Also, GC signed a TV deal with the Asian Tour, so we'll actually get to see some of those events over the next 10 years.

Zach captures a tiger of his own

Tiger and Company clearly decided to give Sherwood Country Club a fitting sendoff. After 14 years as the World Challenge's host, it certainly deserved something nice.

But I'm not sure anybody was prepared for the drama and surprises they got.

Both Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar thought they had a chance to win when Tiger bogeyed 14 and Zach parred it, but neither could avoid bogeys on the way to the clubhouse. They needed help from both of the frontrunners but got none, so they finished a distant 3rd and 4th, respectively.

By the time they reached the 15th tee, only Tiger and Zach Johnson had a realistic chance to win the title. Tiger led by a single stroke, and both parred the 15th. Then the fun began.

Zach nearly holed his third shot on the par-5 16th. Both he and Tiger birdied.

Zach nearly holed his tee shot on the par-3 17th. He birdied, Tiger parred, and the two went to the par-4 18th tied for the lead.

That's when it got a little wild.

Zach hit the fairway, Tiger found the rough. Tiger tried a draw from the rough with the ball below his feet, and didn't get enough on it. He ended up in the deep greenside bunker, leaving Zach with a straightforward approach... which, inexplicably, Zach shanked into the water fronting the green.

And then Zach holed his wedge from the drop zone for a par, leaving Tiger to scramble for par to force a playoff... which he did. And in the playoff Tiger left his ball in the bunker again but couldn't get it up and down this time.

Those who understand the arcane workings of the OWGR say Zach will probably jump to #9 with this win. (It may not be an official PGA Tour win, but it DOES get official world ranking points.) And next year the World Challenge will jump all the way across the country to Florida and its new home, Isleworth. But Zach's mighty leap over the host of the final World Challenge at Sherwood is going to be talked about for quite a while.

Back in 2011 Tiger beat Zach by a single shot at this event. This week Zach returned the favor, and receives his very own Limerick Summary as a reward:
Tiger went out to win his own tourney
And he brought Zach along for the journey.
At the end, both got edgy;
Zach gave him a wedgie
And Tiger’s hopes left on a gurney.
The photo came from the tournament's homepage at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Is Stacy Lewis Becoming the New Greg Norman?

I had to shake my head a bit Saturday as I watched the end of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters. (You can read the Constructivist's summary here.) It's as if history is repeating itself.

Stacy Lewis hits from rough

It was only a couple of months ago that Stacy Lewis appeared to have the new Reignwood LPGA Classic in Beijing well in hand. Stacy had shot -5 in the final round and led hometown favorite Shanshan Feng by a stroke when the unthinkable happened. Feng went for the green on the par-5 18th with her second shot and thought she had hit her ball in the water.

Not quite. Instead, the ball skipped off a pylon and snuggled up close to the flag, giving Feng a walk-off eagle and a one-shot victory over Lewis. A shell-shocked Stacy was less than happy with how she felt the fans acted, made some comments, and eventually signed off Twitter. (The account is still there, she just isn't tweeting anymore.)

And now, two months later, it happened again. Stacy stepped onto the 13th tee with a 3-shot lead, only shoot +1 on the final 6 holes while Pornanong Phatlum shot 3-under on the same stretch. On yet another par-5 18th, Stacy -- this time tied for the lead -- hit her 3rd from a poor lie onto the green about 40 feet from the hole... only to watch Phatlum nearly fly her 3rd into the hole. That ball stopped a mere 2 feet away and Phatlum tapped in for birdie, stealing a victory that had appeared to be Stacy's from round 1.

Phatlum hoists 2nd LET trophy

That's two shockers in as many months for her. I couldn't help but think of another golfer who experienced more than his share of "trophy thefts":
  • At the 1986 PGA Championship Bob Tway holed out from a greenside bunker on the 18th to beat Greg Norman.
  • At the 1987 Masters Larry Mize chipped in on the second playoff hole from 47 yards away to beat him.
  • At the 1990 USF&G Classic (now the Zurich Classic) David Frost holed out from the greenside bunker on the 18th to beat him.
And those are just the dramatic defeats. There were several other tournaments that he lost by narrow margins when it looked like he would win. (It's easy to forget that he led all 4 majors going into the last round in 1986, yet only won the Open Championship that year. The Tway hole-out was merely the coup de grâce.)

Greg Norman has always been one of my golf heroes, not so much because of the way he won but because of the way he lost. He was always gracious, always complementary to the guys who beat him... and always came right back and got in contention again. There are players who have been crushed by a single dramatic loss and never recovered, but Norman has sustained more than his share and yet never let the losses beat him down.

Stacy handled this week's dramatic loss much better than her first one. I hope she doesn't end up having as many as Greg but, if she does, I hope she learns to handle them as well as he did. She's got too much talent to let this game crush her spirit.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Relearning Your Fundamentals

I found this new article over at golftipsmag.com called Learn Like a Junior. It's a long article -- 5 pages! -- but it covers a number of fundamentals in a brief but fun way. (I guess instructor Dan Martin had to make it fun, seeing as he used junior players to do some of his modelling!)

For example, here's a photo showing the difference between strong, neutral, and weak grips. The entire second page of the article is dedicated to gripping the club properly, and it has many more photos than this. In fact, it's one of the best treatments of the subject that I've seen -- it shows hand placement from several different angles.

Strong, neutral, and weak grips

With the weather making it more difficult to play right now, it's a good time to start examining the fundamentals of your swing and making corrections where necessary. This article is a good way to start.

Friday, December 6, 2013

OK, About Tiger's New Driver...

Much of the buzz at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge on Thursday concerned Tiger's improved fairway percentage. He used the driver 7 times (I think) and hit the fairway 6 of them -- an astounding stat for the Big Cat!

Tiger on range with new driver

After Golf Channel caught on and talked about it on-air, it became such a matter of interest that PGATOUR.com put up a post specifically about the new club. Here's the skinny for you equipment geeks out there:

The driver is the new Nike VR_S Covert 2.0, which can be distinguished from the original by the white cavity back. You can see it in the photo above; it's obscured in the photo on the post because of the band identifying the source of the photo as Golf Channel.

The Covert 2.0 is an adjustable model, but either Tiger has an "unadjustable" model or has simply had the adjustable bits glued down.

The shaft has also been changed, which GC detailed on Golf Central after the tournament broadcast. Here's the detail info from the post:
Aside from the driver switch, the other interesting piece of news is that Woods decided to use a Mitsubishi Diamana Blue Board 103x shaft in the driver instead of his usual Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana WhiteBoard 73X shaft.
The Blue Board shaft is the same version he currently uses in his VR_S Covert 3- and 5-wood. Woods stated on his site that the heavier shaft gave him better feel of the club at impact.
GC added that the shaft was also softer (more flexible), probably to further help Tiger's feel. As noted earlier, the initial results from the first round suggest that Tiger may have finally solved some of his driver problems. This is probably the result of Tiger spending more time using TrackMan, which he mentioned in his presser on Wednesday.

And personally, I suspect that shaft change is what's really having the biggest effect on his fairway percentage. As far back as the 1950s, the legendary player/teacher Tommy Armour suggested that weekend players use a more flexible shaft to get better results. It seems that, as time goes on, that advice is proving to be more and more accurate, even for the pros.

There are also questions about Tiger perhaps changing his ball as well. This PGATOUR.com post about the new Nike balls says:
[Nike's chief ball designer Rock] Ishii also confirmed Tiger Woods has been experimenting with RZN Platinum, using the ball most recently during his exhibition match against McIlroy at Mission Hills Golf Club in China.
Rory is already using the new RZN Black (he was playing it when he won the Emirates Australian Open last week). Tiger apparently isn't using the new ball this week but since he's testing it, we may see him changing balls as well pretty soon.

So now you know the latest buzz about Tiger's equipment. I'll be interested to see if his improved driver play continues.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Year-End Look at the LPGA

I thought about doing this last week but decided to wait and give myself some time to mull the 2013 LPGA season over. (Just the LPGA, not the other women's tours.) I'm glad I did, as the Constructivist and Tony Jesselli have done several posts looking at different aspects of the year. I'll be linking to them so you can read over their excellent analyses.

In many ways the LPGA is in very good shape. Tony has posted the 2014 LPGA schedule, which has 32 events -- up from 28 this year -- and that total included 4 new North American events (that includes the new team play event, the International Crown). That's important because, as Michael Whan said in a GC interview, the US is still the home base of the LPGA. While the LPGA wants to be a global tour, it doesn't say much if it can't attract sponsors in its own country!

But as we move into 2014 it seems to me that the depth of the Tour isn't what we might have expected or even hoped for. As I mentioned earlier, there were 28 events in 2013. But there were several multiple winners:
  • Inbee Park, 6
  • Suzann Pettersen, 4
  • Stacy Lewis, 3
  • Shanshan Feng, 2
  • Lexi Thompson, 2
  • Beatriz Recari, 2
Take a good look at that list. Thirteen events were won by only 3 players -- nearly half of the Tour's events. (13/28 = 46.4%.) And 6 players accounted for 19 events -- over 2/3 of the total! (19/28 = 67.8%.) That sounds kinda top-heavy to me.

In addition, 2 non-LPGA members won (2/28 = 7.1%) -- Lydia Ko (CN Canadian Women's Open) and Teresa Lu (Mizuno Classic) -- and we had 3 firsttimers (3/28 = 10.7%) -- Jennifer Johnson (Mobile Bay LPGA Classic), Ilhee Lee (Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic), and Amy Yang (LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship). Those are decent numbers, I think... but that leaves only 4 tournaments to be won by the rank-and-file, just a seventh of the total (4/28 = 14.3%).

Jiyai Shin, Cristie Kerr, Karrie Webb, and Hee Young Park took those.

None of the winners were rookies... and worse than that, the outlook for the rookies isn't all that encouraging. That's worrisome to me. Both Tony and TC have noticed this as well. Let me give you a couple of quotes. The first is from Tony's post about the rookie class of 2013:
First let me say that this has not been a very good year for LPGA rookies. In fact, it may be the poorest in quite some time.

There were 35 rookies who started the 2013 season with lots of hope of establishing themselves. The sad fact is, that only 8 of them retained their playing cards as a result of their 2013 performance on the LPGA tour. That's right, just 22.8%. That is down from 36.3% last year, when 12 of 33 rookies retained their playing cards. Three other players retained their playing cards because of their play on the Symetra Tour this year, and 2 did in 2012.
The second is from the Constructivist's post about the potential rookie class of 2014:
So far, we know that Lydia Ko and Guilia Molinaro will be members of the LPGA's next rookie class, the Class of 2014.  Every other player who got a 2014 card via the Symetra Tour this year is a member of an earlier rookie class.  If that pattern holds true this week in Stage III of LPGA Q-School, then the Class of 2014 could be the tour's smallest rookie class ever.
As I said, this is worrisome. I'll grant an objection, that this year could be an aberration and it means nothing in the grand scheme of women's golf. But as the LPGA rebounds from a schedule decimated by economic difficulties -- and there is a corresponding increase in opportunities to win (or at least finish high enough often enough to keep their cards) -- the newer players don't seem to be keeping pace.

On the PGA Tour it seems to be the older players who are struggling to keep their cards while the younger ones take their places, but on the LPGA Tour it's just the opposite. While the immediate future of the LPGA is bright -- we've got a lot of popular players from all over the world to drive TV ratings -- I'm not sure what it will look like a few years down the road. Why are we having this problem?

My guess is that the problem isn't talent. Rather, it's the new global nature of the LPGA itself. The "veteran" players are better prepared to deal with all the travel and novelty of being in a new culture every week or two.They have a better handle on how to schedule and how to rest to maximize their performance. Consequently, they're the ones thriving in this new environment -- not the youngsters who may struggle just to keep their digestion functioning properly, let alone adapt to the constant travel, the jetlag, and the need to learn new courses quickly. (As an aside, I suspect this is a major reason we're seeing more surprise retirements. After a certain point, the rewards just aren't worth the price.)

Take TC's reference to Lydia Ko and Guilia Molinaro. I guess everybody knows that Lydia is from New Zealand and has traveled the world for two years or so now, but Guilia may be new to you. Here's the opening paragraph from a July 2013 article about her on the LPGA site:
Born in Italy and raised in Kenya, Symetra Tour rookie Giulia Molinaro has lived the life most people only see in the latest National Geographic documentary.
And Giulia came to the US at the age of 16, eventually going to college at Arizona State. Clearly both of these gals know a little about thriving in different cultures. Is it any surprise that they seem able to handle the demands of pro golf on a global tour?

I'm not sure what we'll see out of the LPGA in 2014. While I doubt their win totals will match this year's, I won't be surprised if a handful of players win a disproportionate amount of tournaments again -- and I won't be surprised if they're the same 6 players who dominated 2013 since they all still seem to be in good form. Lydia Ko will be a rookie in name only, and I expect her to play well also.

But I foresee increasing problems for the younger players on Tour. The ability to adapt isn't learned overnight. Hopefully they'll seek out some of the veteran players and get good advice that may shorten the learning curve... but that curve is still going to be steep. It's a survivor's game right now, and survivor skills usually come with experience.

Welcome to the new world of global golf, ladies.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Golf on Wednesday?

It's unusual to have so much golf televised on Wednesday -- and GC's TV schedules are confusing. Here's a quick rundown of what's on GC today:

Shanshan Feng

At 3pm ET we get the LET's Omega Dubai Ladies Masters. Bear in mind that, even though this is broadcast on Wednesday, it's a tape-delayed broadcast. This tournament does begin on Wednesday, but Dubai is about 9 hours ahead of the US East Coast. The biggest names in the field are Stacy Lewis and Shanshan Feng. Mel Reid, Laura Davies, Charley Hull, and Caroline Masson are some of the other names you may recognize, even if you're only a casual fan of the women's game.

Please note that on Thursday the Dubai tournament will move to 11:30am ET to make room for the World Challenge later that afternoon.

Although it's not listed on any of the GC website TV schedules, I understand that the press conferences for both Tiger and Rory from the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge are supposed to be televised at 5pm ET.

Also not listed on the main GC TV schedule (but listed on this GC schedule) is the live first round broadcast of the Hong Kong Open at midnight ET. Hong Kong is 13 hours ahead of the East Coast so that makes sense to me, especially since GC will also be carrying the Nedbank Golf Challenge (where Henrik Stenson is expected to play). Sun City, South Africa is only 7 hours ahead and the Nedbank will be carried in the Thursday morning broadcast spot (4am ET).

So bear in mind that the GC website has multiple TV listings and they don't even match each other, let alone what's been advertised during broadcasts. Be sure to check the channel itself to find out what's actually on if you're hoping to catch any of these shows.

The photo came from the Dubai Ladies Masters website.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Dig It Out of the Deep Stuff

Yes, another video! This one is from Golf Magazine Top100 Teacher Mark Hackett. He has 4 tips to help you get your ball out of the deep rough -- a place we all find ourselves far too often.



Just to make sure you didn't miss them, here are the 4 checkpoints:
  1. Stand a bit farther from the ball
  2. Lower your hands a bit
  3. Set your weight more on your lead leg
  4. Make an even-paced swing (i.e., don't try to swing faster by jerking the club -- you won't get accurate contact that way)
Doing this will move your hands slightly ahead of the ball and steepen your downswing plane. It's the steeper downswing -- and the resultant downstrike -- that gets the ball to pop up and out. The last thing you want to do is try to help the ball out and swing upward; if you do, you'll top the ball. Hit down on it!

And if for some reason the video won't run properly, here's the original link at golf.com.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 Emirates Australian Open

Winner: Rory McIlroy

Around the wider world of golf: Gaganjeet Bhullar won the Indonesia Open on the Asian Tour; Charl Schwartzel finally broke his victory drought at the Alfred Dunhill Championship on the ET; Thidapa Suwannapura won the Hero Women Indian Open on the LAGT/LET; Shiho Oyama won the Ricoh Cup, the year's final major on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has details); Fabian Gomez won the Personal Classic on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; and Hideki Matsuyama won the Casio World Open and simultaneously won the Japanese Tour's money title, becoming the first rookie ever to do so.

Rory with trophy

A few weeks back, Nickelodeon (one of the kid's cable TV channels) did a Bubble Guppies episode about Australia. It was called The Wizard of Oz-tralia... and you could argue that the title could be applied to Adam Scott.

But then came the final round of the Emirates Australian Open, the curtain got pulled back, and we all saw that Adam was human after all. (He's still the Wiz, of course; he just can't use that "Oz the All-Powerful" title anymore.)

That's not a condemnation of Adam Scott, not by any stretch of the imagination. What Adam has done in his last month Down Under has been downright magical. And I'm unwilling to say that the pressure got to him; it's more likely that he just had an off day with the putter. There were four or five putts that lipped the cup and stopped mere inches away. Some days you just don't have it.

Unfortunately for Adam, it was the day Rory McIlroy found it again

Well, it was more like the week he found it again. While he's been playing better the last few weeks, this week was the one where he posted several good rounds in the same tournament. He shot 69 under windy conditions the first round, 65 when he caught the good side of the draw during the second round, 70 during the horrible weather of the third round, and a bogey-free 66 (4 birdies and an eagle) during the final round. He played both of those final rounds paired with Adam.

Oh, and he birdied the 72nd hole when Adam bogeyed it -- a two-shot swing that ripped away Adam's one-shot lead at the final tee.

I don't want to write too much into this win. I'm not ready to say "Rory's back and he's going to kick ass in 2014." But the trend over the last month or so has been pretty consistent -- Rory certainly appears to have found his game again. There's reason for optimism in the McIlroy camp.

Of course, Adam will be alright. By any measure you want to use, 2013 has been a breakout year for him... although I think this one will sting for a while.

But at least Rory won't feel that 2013 was a total loss. Here's a Limerick Summary to celebrate the young Irishman's return to the winner's circle. (I would have posted it upside-down since he won Down Under, but that seems a bit silly even for me...)
Adam’s dream appeared destined to happen…
But that sound wasn’t Aussie fans clapping.
Somehow Rory snuck in
And won right at the end—
What you heard was his losing streak snapping!
The photo came from the Golf Australia site.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Men's Golf Style for Dummies

I haven't done a fashion post in a while and when I saw this Golf Digest post called Golf Style for Dummies I just couldn't resist it. It's by Marty Hackel but the advice isn't quite as... daring as he often seems to gives. (Sometimes when he shows up on Morning Drive he reminds me of a salmon swimming upstream to mate -- "Hey, look at me!")

As an example, I offer this photo from the slideshow that shows the proper length for golf shorts... just to the top of the kneecaps.

Correct length for men's golf shorts

There are 29 slides giving advice on how things should fit and how to make yourself look slimmer if you're a bit on the large side. All-in-all, it's fairly conservative advice from Mr. Style. I suspect even the older guys like me will feel comfortable following it.

And I don't recall seeing a single picture in the bunch that showed a guy in blue shirt and salmon pants. Thank you for that, Marty.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

All He Needs Is One More Good Round

It borders on the ridiculous. If Adam Scott can post just one more good round at the Royal Sydney Golf Course, he will have won the Australian Triple Crown and helped win the team portion of the World Cup of Golf in just 4 weeks.

Adam Scott

Add that to his wins at the Masters and the Barclays, and he's got a pretty decent year under his belt.

I know people are going to argue that these aren't "elite fields" he's playing against. I'll grant you that. But I would argue that winning like this against ANY field is impressive... and let's not forget that only one Australian has ever won the Triple Crown in the same year. (That man is Robert Allenby, way back in 2005.) These are the three majors in Australian golf -- their PGA, Masters, and Open -- so these aren't weak fields by any stretch of the imagination. It's a tough assignment.

And Adam isn't just squeaking by, either; he doubled his lead during the third round. Adam (-16) is now 4 strokes ahead of his closest pursuer, who just happens to be Rory McIlroy (-12), who seems to have finally found his game and is, in turn, 4 strokes ahead of the third-place players. And Adam's done it in windy conditions... plus his second round was the bad end of the draw, so he got cold wet windy conditions.

Adam finished -14 at the PGA, -14 at the Masters, -7 (3rd) at the World Cup -- largely because of a +5 score on one hole during the first round (he was -12 in the final 3 rounds!) -- and now he's -16 after 3 rounds this week. And he's doing it on courses that are recognized as some of the most difficult in the world, under the pressure of being on a "victory tour." (Remember, this is his first trip home since becoming the first Aussie champion at Augusta.)

If he pulls this off, I just may have to rank him above Tiger in next week's RGWR. Australian golf was hoping for some kind of a boost from Adam's play... and it looks like they got a full-blown rocket.

The photo came from Adam's profile at the Open website.

Friday, November 29, 2013

How to Do... Everything!

Now that you're stuffed with turkey and all the assorted accoutrements of a huge Thanksgiving dinner, you need some exercise. It's time to go play some golf!

But maybe you've got a few questions about... well, any number of things that happen on a golf course. Then Golf Digest has just the thing for you. They've done a web-only article called How To Do Everything In Golf that you can find at this link. It's a massive 43-frame slideshow that covers all sorts of things:
  • etiquette questions like how to tend the flag or rake a bunker or use your phone on the course;
  • rules questions like how to take relief (that's the slide below; there's text beside it in the slide show);
  • playing questions like how to practice vs how to warm up, or how to practice in your backyard;
  • diverse questions like how to yell "fore," how to avoid losing balls and how to stretch;
and more besides.

How to take relief slide

And the text that accompanies each slide, while brief, is very informative.  You'll probably learn something you didn't know just by flipping through it. (For example, I didn't know that whole grain bread is a better energy source on the course than multigrain bread. That's on slide 30, "How to eat and drink during a round.")

It's a pretty impressive little guide that gives you quick guidance on a wide variety of things that can make your round more enjoyable. So, if you've got a little time, take a quick flip through it. You might pick up something really useful.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm taking the holiday off to spend with friends and family. You should too -- take time to be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!

Snoopy and Woodstock share Thanksgiving

The picture came from WIRED's site.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Thanksgiving Golf Tournaments

No matter how often it happens, it always seems a little strange to talk about pro golf being played on Thanksgiving. I guess it shouldn't; other pro sports play on Thanksgiving -- although there are no NBA basketball games on Thursday, there will be 3 NFL football games. (Seriously -- how can it be Thanksgiving if there's no football? That's almost unAmerican!)

No matter how weird it may seem to me, we've still got 2 tournaments to watch this week.

Adam Scott

The first one -- and certainly the most interesting IMO -- is the Emirates Australian Open which starts broadcasting tonight at 8pm ET on GC. The event is returning to the Royal Sydney Golf Club for the first time since 2008 when Tim Clark won it. In many ways Royal Sydney is like Royal Melbourne; the wind and bunkering make it very difficult, so this should be a very competitive event.

Of course, the main reason this event will draw attention is Adam Scott's attempt to win the Australian Triple Crown (Australian PGA, Masters, and Open) in a single year. Jason Day is also playing -- in the same pairing with Scott and Kevin Streelman, in fact -- and Rory McIlroy is also in the field.

You can check out the Emirates Australian Open website at this link. (The photo is from this site.) And you can get to the live leaderboard with the "Scoring" button just under the header.

The other tourney is the European Tour's Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa. The big question here is whether Charl Schwartzel -- who won this thing by a whopping 12 strokes last year -- can find his game again. It's not like Charl is playing horrible golf but lately it seems that he gets in contention, only to have one or two holes derail his game. He's won this tourney twice though and with that 12-stroke victory last year, you've got to figure this is a good place for him to break through again.

The Alfred Dunhill Championship tournament main page is here. The leaderboard isn't showing yet, so just use the button on this page to get there once the tourney starts. (And yes, that button is labeled "Leaderboard.") And the event itself starts broadcasting Thursday morning at 6:30am ET on GC.

So we'll have plenty of chances to watch golf before stuffing ourselves with turkey, and plenty more opportunities after we get stuffed. I guess that's something to be thankful for as well.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Jason Day: Swing Sequence

Golf Digest did a swing sequence of Jason Day for their November issue -- ironic, given Jason's performance this past week! It seems appropriate to do a post about it now, don't you think?

The link above takes you to a summary page that gives you some general info on Jason, including some of the things he works on. If you click the "VIEW SLIDESHOW" box at the bottom, it takes you to a series of photos you can click through to see Jason at various points in his swing, from face-on and down-the-line, the latter both from behind and in front. I found a couple of photos I want to call to your attention.

This first photo shows the top of his backswing. Although Jason is considered a long hitter, I want you to notice how far short of parallel his swing is -- even with a driver as you see here.

Jason halfway through downswing

Likewise, in this next photo when he's halfway down to the ball, notice that he doesn't have 90° (or an even smaller angle) of wrist cock the way some players do. His wrists look slightly "uncocked," the way most weekend players do.

Jason halfway through downswing

My point is that you don't have to stress out trying to get every little thing you can out of your wrists. Jason is 6 feet tall, which gives him a slight advantage on us mere mortals, but he still hits it around 300 yards. Club head speed is created by your entire body, not just your wrists.

So don't tighten those wrists in an effort to cock them more. Focus on staying as relaxed as you can; you'll be able to move faster and create more club head speed that way. (At least that's Jason's approach. His teacher says Jason's workouts focus on "...core strength, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance.")

The whole swing sequence is well-done. It's worth taking a look.