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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Michael Phelps Goes to Waste

The Waste Management Phoenix Open, that is. You know, the tournament with the completely enclosed par-3 16th hole. According to a article, the quasi-stadium can hold 15,000 fans.

According to the same article, Michael Phelps got a taste of the booing and jeering during Wednesday's pro-am. Taking 4 on the par-3 isn't the way to get applause there, of course. Even playing with Bubba Watson didn't help.

Watson and Phelps

It would appear that Hank Haney still has work to do.

Of course, there will be plenty of booing to go around starting today. Mickelson will be the biggest name to get booed, but the fans will find no lack of good players to humiliate. Everybody from Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner to Padraig Harrington and Ryo Ishikawa will be in the desert.

And as usual, Boo Weekley will welcome the boos and the fans will welcome the booze. Welcome to Scottsdale!

The PreGame Show starts on GC at 3:30pm ET today. The actual TV coverage of the booing begins at 4pm ET.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hybrids on the Green

Today I just have a quick tip for you. Have you ever considered putting with one of your hybrid clubs instead of a putter?

Your first reaction is probably, "Oh, you mean from off the green."

And I'm saying, "No. I mean using it on the green instead of your putter."

So I can hear you now: "Why would I ever want to use a hybrid on the green?"

Here's why: Most players don't like to make long strokes with a putter. As players get farther from the hole, they tend to leave the ball short more often. That's because most of us have a maximum-length stroke that we feel comfortable making. Once a putt gets longer than that, we second-guess ourselves and either hit the ball too hard or too soft.

A hybrid has a longer shaft -- so you don't have to make as long a stroke to hit the ball farther -- but it doesn't have as much loft on the face. That means the ball doesn't "jump" as much when you hit it. In fact, if you move the ball just slightly back in your stance from your normal putting position -- maybe an inch or even less -- you'll deloft the club enough to keep the ball from jumping at all.

This can really help you putt better on those long putts. And on the extremely long ones, you might even consider using your driver on the green. The idea is that you can make a comfortable stroke and let the longer-shafted club create the extra club speed you need. This isn't much different than choking down on short irons when you need to "take a little off" a pitch shot.

A few minutes spent practicing lag putting with a hybrid can really improve your long approach putts. Give it a try... you might be surprised.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 Farmers Insurance Open

Winner: Tiger Woods

Around the wider world of golf: Caroline Hedwall won the Bing Lee Samsung Women's New South Wales Open on the ALPG (Lydia Ko took second); David Bransdon won the Lexus of Blackburn Heritage Classic on the Australasian Tour; Chris Wood won the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters on the ET; Phoebe Yao won the TLPGA Yeangder Open on the LAGT; and Oliver Bekker won the Telkom PGA Pro-Am on the Sunshine Tour.

Tiger picks up his 7th Farmers trophy

Perhaps the final round lacked a bit of drama. It certainly lacked a decent pace of play. It took 3 hours to play 9 holes, for Pete's sake! Tiger admitted that the slow play caused him to lose his patience and go +4 on his last 5 holes.

It's not like anybody else played that well, though. Tiger still won by 4 strokes and picked up win #7 at the Farmers (win #8 at Torrey Pines if you count the 2008 US Open) and win #75 overall. It was cold, windy, and -- as previously mentioned -- slo-o-o-ow.

There's not much more I can say about the Farmers Insurance Open... but I would like to make an observation about Tiger's play.

Much was made of his inconsistency with the driver. Well, Tiger's never been that consistent with the driver but it's never really stopped him from winning. The problem during his comeback has been short irons in general and wedges in particular... and those were sharp this week, even with all the cold wind and delays.

That bodes well for Tiger in 2013.

So this week's Limerick Summary salutes Tiger's dominating if somewhat inconsistent play at Torrey. As Forrest Gump once said, "Life is like a Tiger Woods drive. You never know what you gonna get."

Well, he said something like that...
Though some folks say Tiger Woods owns the place,
At Torrey his ball needed “breathing space”
The fairways all lacked.
It looked like he hacked
It around but he won… at a snail’s pace.
The photo came from the Farmers tournament page at

Monday, January 28, 2013

Wild Cat

In football, the wildcat is a special formation often used in the "red zone." (That's the last 20 yards before you reach the goal line for a touchdown.) The wildcat is designed to confuse the defense. They don't know whether to expect the quarterback to pass the ball or run with it or give it to somebody else so they can run it.

Almost anything can happen when you run the wildcat. And the offense hopes that it results in a touchdown.

Wild Cat is also a good term to describe how Tiger played on Sunday. Nobody knew quite what to expect. Sometimes the ball was in the fairway, sometimes in the rough, sometimes in the sand, sometimes behind a tree. But the result was the same just about every time... birdies.

One of Tiger's rare misses on Sunday

On Saturday I said that we should watch his iron play this weekend to see if he was making any progress. After watching him stick his wedge time after time, I think it's safe to predict a major this year. It was his wedge that killed his chances last year...

Looks like that's what will kill everybody else's chances this year.

Going into today's final round, Tiger leads by 6 -- which, ironically, is the same number of points in a touchdown. I don't think this one will go into overtime, though.

GC will begin coverage of the remainder of the final round at 1:30pm ET today. CBS will pick it up at 4pm ET. Unless something goes horribly wrong for Tiger and incredibly well for the rest of the field, it looks like Tiger will chalk up win #75 today.

I wonder... since Tiger said he'll be wearing his customary red shirt today, I wonder if that makes the final round at the Farmers his own personal "red zone"?

The photo comes courtesy of ESPN.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Some Help from Chris Wood

As many of you now know, Chris Wood finally got his first ET win at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters this weekend. Chris is one of those REALLY tall players at 6' 5", so what he does looks somewhat exaggerated to most of us and it can be a bit tricky to learn from his swing.

But I've got something for all of you lucky readers out there. This video is one of those Mizuno Masterclass mini-lessons -- I've used some of Luke Donald's before -- but I'm not using this one the way it was intended. This one's about swing planes.

I, however, am going to focus on wrist cock, a topic I've written about a couple of times this week already. I'm using this video because it shows my point so well.

Although you can see what I want to show you at several places in this video, you can see it very clearly at the :37 to :39 mark. You'll note that Chris is using the ever-present one-piece takeaway, which he demonstrates at the :37 mark. You'll also note that he is demonstrating an early wrist cock at the :39 mark.

Now THIS IS IMPORTANT. I know it's going to seem obvious but so many players miss it that I need to point this out. When Chris makes his one-piece takeaway, his trailing elbow stays away from his side; and when he cocks his wrists, his trailing elbow moves close to his side.

HERE'S THE OBVIOUS THAT YOU MAY BE MISSING: Wrist cock is caused by bending your trailing elbow. Please note the word "caused." This is a matter of cause and effect. You don't cock your wrists to bend your elbow. NO! You bend your elbow to cock your wrists.

This has several important implications for your swing, and here are the two most important ones:
  1. You control when your wrists cock in your swing by choosing when to bend your trailing elbow.
  2. If you want to "hold" your wrist cock until later in your downswing, you need to keep your elbow bent until later in your downswing.
I'm not going to beat these into the ground. You, my dear readers, are intelligent people; you can understand why these implications are so important. But I rarely hear instructors state them this clearly. How are you supposed to know them if nobody tells you?

So just to make sure you got it: You bend your trailing elbow to make your wrists cock. That's a large part of the reason you want your grip to be as relaxed as you reasonably can -- so they can cock easily when you bend your elbow.

Any questions?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Cat Prowls at Torrey

Tiger at Torrey on FridayWell, I thought it was clever anyway. But whether you agree it's clever or not, it's still true.

And that could make for an interesting weekend, eh?

After two rounds Tiger leads the Farmers Insurance Open by two strokes. That's not a slam dunk by any stretch of the imagination. As we all know, Tiger has been less than impressive over most weekends during the last year or so. Unlike the pre-2009 Tiger, no lead of his has been safe lately.

Nevertheless, I have a feeling that Tiger circa 2013 may be a different animal than we have become used to. I think he's finally gotten through the worst stage of his swing change -- a change which I have repeatedly said is different from his other swing changes because this one was a completely new move designed to protect his left knee. Now he's far enough along to focus on his short game instead of his long game.

I'm not saying that I expect him to run away with the tournament. I think this weekend will be a bit of a test for him. But I think we should pay close attention to his iron game -- especially his wedges -- over the next two rounds. If he keeps them under control this weekend, I think it's safe to say he's finally turned the corner in his "process."

And if he has, Rory might find it a bit trickier to hold that #1 position than he expected.

The photo came from this USAToday post.

Friday, January 25, 2013

How Little Wrist Cock is Too Little?

Since I wrote earlier in the week about Brian Gay's wrist cock (or lack thereof), I thought this post might be apropos.

Are you wondering why I've included this post in the "mindset" category? It's because too many players have a mental hang-up about power, and it keeps them from making the correct moves. If you have the right mindset, proper wrist action is almost automatic.

Rocco Mediate is another player who doesn't cock his wrists a lot during his backswing (as is Steve Stricker), although he gets a bit more wrist cock than Brian Gay. It's part of the reason these guys have a reputation for being so accurate... and such good short game players. This little video says a lot in just a couple of minutes, so play it as many times as necessary.

I know Rocco says that the swing is all legs and no arms, and that anybody who tells you different is wrong. But he's only half right. All swings use both legs and arms; it's just that you only notice the one you have trouble with! If you tend to use your arms too much, you think the legs are the most important part of the swing. If you tend to use your legs too much, you think the arms are the most important.

A good swing is a balance of the two, and most weekend players tend to overuse one or the other. The irony is, if you give those same players a Frisbee™ or a tennis racket or even an axe, they won't have any trouble at all moving everything in sync.

It's important to note that players like Rocco don't have problems with flipping and such. If you're having those problems, there's a good chance you're trying to manipulate your wrists rather than just hold onto the club and let nature take its course.

When a player like Rocco Mediate says he doesn't feel his wrists cocking at all (as he has in some of his TV appearances), it's because they are relaxed and because of the way he moves. Rocco actually bends his lead elbow at the top of his swing, which lessens how much he cocks his wrists but gives him the same effect as a bigger wrist cock. (You may remember that big-hitting J.B. Holmes has a similar move. You might want to go back to that post and compare his move with Rocco's.) I think I've used this video before, but this is so relevant that I'm posting it again.

Also note what Rocco says about where the elbows should be pointing. That's why I make such a big deal about the one-piece takeaway. If you make an OPT your elbows will point toward the ground pretty much all the way through your swing.

All-in-all, there's a lot of good advice in this video. To quote another famous Rock, maybe you should "smell what the Rock is cooking" and see if it doesn't heat up your game a bit. Even if you can't get yourself to use it in your full swing -- as I said, some people just can't get past that mental power block -- I bet you'll see a major improvement in your short game.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Phil and the Media

Since yesterday's post was about the latest "what will Phil say next?" moment, I figured his news conference at Torrey Pines on Wednesday might be interesting.

And it was. About half of it was about "the tax thing." But in addition to being one of his funnier pressers, Phil also had what I believe were some thoughtful views on (1) why the Tour shouldn't make its own rules and (2) using Torrey as an example, how course designers can help amateur players while also making the course more profitable.

One of the better Phil interviews.

BTW, this video is from which means it's ridiculously small. If you want to watch it at a more normal size, just start the video and then click on that little icon in the lower right corner that looks like two arrows. It'll give you a screen-size view.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Taxing Time for Phil

PhilPhil Mickelson's comments about the tax rate in California have been considered "controversial" and Phil backed off this week, saying he probably shouldn't have said anything. Tiger was asked about it in his presser Tuesday and simply said he thought he knew what Phil meant and that's why he moved to Florida when he turned pro back in 1996.

Perhaps California collects so much tax in order to pay for those "Come to California" commercials. After all, movie stars demand big pay. (Apparently because of those California tax rates.)

I did a little searching and found some articles on Phil's problem. First, if you want to know exactly what Phil said that started the whole thing, you can read the transcript at this link.

Then, at, I found some interesting info about the problem:
The word is that Phil pays in the neighborhood of a 62% tax rate. It sounds as if California isn't careful, cool commercials won't be enough to attract new residents.

I suspect Phil can find a nice place in Florida though... and they don't have any state income tax.

FYI: For those of you who are curious, there are 7 states with no state income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. In addition, Tennessee and New Hampshire tax only dividend and interest income. These states do have other taxes (such as higher sales taxes) but they still aren't as high overall as most other states. That information came from this page at

And the photo of Phil came from the first article I mentioned.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Power of Powerlessness

Brian Gay is only 5' 10" and 165 lbs, so he's a pretty normal guy. He typically drives the ball between 270 and 280 yards, making him one of the Tour's short knockers. Yet his swing is a potent weapon, capable of winning him 4 tournaments thus far in his career.

His is a swing we can all learn from. First, let me give you a couple of YouTube videos. The first is a Peter Kostis analysis from 2009:

The other is from teacher James Ridyard and focuses on Brian's swing from this past week's win:

I've taken a couple of stills from these videos to point out some things that might help you if you're struggling with feelings of inferiority!

The first comes from the Kostis video. Brian Gay's teacher is Lynn Blake, who uses the Golf Machine teaching theory. There are a variety of things Brian does in his swing, such as bend his trailing elbow fairly early in his backswing, have a closed face at the top, and straighten his legs as he hits the ball. But what I want you to notice is his address position.

See how straight his elbows are at address? Instructors differ in their opinions about this technique but, if you're comfortable with it, it can help you strike the ball more consistently. With your arms extended like this at address, it's much easier to keep a consistent distance to the ball. It also gives Brian a slightly bigger arc in his swing, which may help him get a bit more distance.

This double shot I created from Ridyard's video shows Brian at the top of his swing and halfway down. What I want you to see is how little wrist cock he has. Note that the right-hand photo has lines showing Brian's position at the top of his backswing (Ridyard added those). He doesn't create any extra wrist cock during his downswing. This is a position that creates very little power compared to most of the big hitters on Tour. However, note that Brian consistently hits his driver 270-280 yards. Do you hit it that far? If not, maybe lack of wrist cock isn't your problem.

What Brian's swing proves is that consistent solid contact is more valuable than fancy technique. Granted, the three courses used at the Humana aren't the longest on Tour; they ranged from 6924 to 7060 yards. But the long hitters were unable to beat Brian, even though they should have been hitting wedges into most of these greens.

Perhaps you should worry less about power and more about consistent contact. If it works for Brian Gay against pros who hit the ball 40 or 50 yards farther than he does, it can work for you too.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 Humana Challenge

Winner: Brian Gay

Around the wider world of golf: Jamie Donaldson won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on the ET; John Cook won the Mitsubishi Electric Championship on the Champions Tour; David McKenzie won the Turner Plumbing Victorian PGA Championship on the Australasian Tour; and Pornanong Phatlum won the Hitachi Ladies on the LAGT. In addition, there were three 1- or 2-day events on the ALPG: Stacey Keating won the Vintage Golf Club Pro Am, Emma de Groot won the Ingham Antill Park Ladies Pro Am, and Caroline Hedwall won the Mount Broughton Classic.

Brian Gay holds his trophy

I admit it. I was far more interested in the AFC and NFC Championship games Sunday than in the Humana Challenge. (For those of you who aren't into football, the winners of these two games go to the Super Bowl in two weeks.) But that doesn't mean I didn't see any of the Humana. I had it running on my computer while football filled my TV screen. Truly dedicated to the sport, that's me.

And what I saw was amazing. Scott Stallings, who most expected to win the event, stumbled coming in and three other players wound up tied for the lead -- Charles Howell III, rookie David Lingmerth, and Brian Gay. The three shot 64, 62, and 63 respectively to make the playoff. Brian Gay is the shortest off the tee -- his stats for 2013's two events show him about 15 yards longer than his full year stats from 2012 -- and definitely not the guy you'd expect to dominate in the desert.

But Gay knows how to get around a golf course. At the 2009 Verizon Heritage he won by 10 shots! And Sunday he demonstrated how you win a playoff -- hit fairways, hit greens, and putt it in the hole. Lingmerth left on the first playoff hole when he knocked his approach in the water, and Howell fell when his approach found the bunker on the second.

All Gay did was birdie both playoff holes.

Brian is a player who simply shouldn't be able to win on the modern tour, yet he has four victories since 2008. So this week's Limerick Summary salutes the short-hitting underdog who somehow seems to be building a nice little career for himself:
See that tee time for three? It’s a playoff!
Most approach shots wound up being way off…
Except Brian Gay’s.
He don’t drive a long ways
But his shots to the green are the payoff.
The photo came from the front page of

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Researchers and Long Putters

I received a copy of a press release from Golf Datatech about a survey they did of "serious amateur golfers" concerning the proposed anchoring ban, and I thought some of you might be interested in the results. I'm going to take direct quotes from the press release several times to make sure I get the info right.

First, for those of you who have never heard of Golf Datatech, they describe themselves as "the golf industry’s leading independent research firm for consumer, trade and retail golf trends." Golf Digest, among others, considers them a major player in golf research so the results will probably be taken seriously by the powers-that-be.

The survey was done among "serious golfers" (their quotes), which they define this way:
The results of the study are based on responses from 1,766 randomly selected golfers drawn from Golf Datatech’s exclusive Serious Golfer Database, who play an average of 68 rounds per year with an average handicap of 14.3.
While the numbers they uncovered are interesting, I found this paragraph from the press release to be the most interesting:
“This is such an explosive topic in golf that we felt the industry needed a benchmark for evaluating the opinion of the game’s most avid players,” said John Krzynowek, Partner, Golf Datatech. “On a practical level, the proposed ruling on anchoring putters has minimal impact on most amateur golfers, as only 5% use a long putter, and the majority of serious golfers don’t believe long putters aid in the putting process. Overall, however, the debate over long putters has far more to do with a few elite professional players and less to do with the game as played by the average golfer.”
To be honest with you, this interested me because it seems to contradict the general feeling I get from the media debates over anchoring. By that I mean that the proposed rule's effect on amateur golfers has been stressed repeatedly (though this survey suggests that it actually has very little effect) and that the majority of serious golfers don't believe long putters help (although it's their use by pros that has come most under fire). Also, the 5% number contradicts some of the figures quoted on TV -- I believe the number I heard was 10%.

The other numbers included in the release are as follows:
  • Respondents were divided almost in half about whether anchored putters make it easier to putt -- 45% say yes, 55% say no.
  • 60% believed that anchoring should be banned, 40% disagreed.
  • 62% did not believe that the anchoring ban would affect an amateur's enjoyment of the game. (I feel I should point out that this number is nearly identical to the 60% who agree with the ban. Is that somewhat telling in and of itself?)
  • If the rule goes into effect in 2016, 31% will continue to use an anchored putter, 31% will not anchor, and 38% will switch to a conventional putter. (I guess that means the 31% who won't anchor will continue to use a long putter with a different technique.)
If this research is to be believed, I think we could have a problem. Clearly Golf Datatech uses scientifically sound research methods or their work wouldn't be taken seriously by the golf industry. But if Golf Datatech is considered a reliable source of info by the golf industry, don't these results bring the very nature of the anchoring debate into question? After all, according to this survey "the debate over long putters has far more to do with a few elite professional players and less to do with the game as played by the average golfer.”

Although the Euro Tour has spoken out against it, it appears that the PGA Tour could care less. So what's the big deal?

As for the results themselves, regardless of how scientific they are, they still represent the opinions of "serious golfers," not the weekend amateurs that the questions seem to be concerned about. Isn't it a bit presumptuous to think the serious golfers can speak with any certainty about the "enjoyment of the game" by less serious golfers -- especially when the percentage of those golfers using an anchored putter is so small? Bear in mind that the 31% who would continue to use an anchored putter even if it was banned is just 31% of the 5% of amateurs who use them now. That's roughly 1.5% of all golfers.

I'm on record -- several times -- that I don't have a problem with other players using anchored putters. That's because I believe anchored putters make the game harder. There are aspects of putting that anchoring makes a little easier, and aspects that anchoring makes a little harder. Taken on the whole, I believe that anchoring makes it harder to putt well without a tremendous amount of practice. (Of course, with enough practice you can putt with an acoustic guitar or a brick tied to a yardstick... but do you really want to?) And after all that practice, a player using an anchored putter still isn't any better than a player who knows how to use a conventional one. I feel that anchored putters are more about desperation than facts.

To me, the main thrust of this survey is that the anchoring debate has more to do with emotion than science. But we already knew that, didn't we?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Well, At Least These Cups Are Safe

The post title is, of course, a reference to Tiger & Rory's new Nike commercial nicknamed No Cup Is Safe. (If you haven't seen it, I included the video in this post.)

Because, as you probably already know, Tiger & Rory's assault on the Abu Dhabi golf course came to an abrupt halt on Friday.

Tiger and Rory

Tiger's exit was interesting since it involved penalty strokes because of a local rule that neither he nor Martin Kaymer (the third member of the group) knew about. The primary rule he "infringed" is Rule 25-2, which reads as follows in The Rules of Golf:
25-2. Embedded Ball
A ball embedded in its own pitch-mark in the ground in any closely mown area through the green may be lifted, cleaned and dropped, without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where it lay but not nearer the hole. The ball when dropped must first strike a part of the course through the green. “Closely mown area” means any area of the course, including paths through the rough, cut to fairway height or less.
The key phrase here is "through the green," which doesn't include hazards like sand. Again, the USGA defines "through the green" like this:
“Through the green’’ is the whole area of the course except:
a. The teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played; and
b. All hazards on the course.
Tiger's ball ended up in an area that looked like lush vegetation to me but that the tournament folks insist is desert. Have a look for yourself, courtesy of the NY Daily News. Apparently there's a local rule that says this is sand. (I would have thought "closely mown area" would be sufficient, but golf rules are always more complicated than they need to be, aren't they?)

Tiger in desert?

At any rate, Tiger incurred a two-stroke penalty that put him over the cutline.

Less dramatically, Rory just didn't play well. He shot two 75s and was so frustrated after the first one that he took the new Nike Method putter out of his bag and put his old Scotty Cameron back in for the second round.

Not that it helped.

Personally, I think the two would have done just fine if tournament organizers had the forethought to flood all the putting greens... or put plate-glass windows in front of them... or maybe just scheduled some wedding receptions during their rounds.

After all, it worked in the video.

The top photo of Tiger and Rory came from this page at

Friday, January 18, 2013

No Snow in Abu Dhabi

As North Carolina (and most of the Southeastern United States) gets its first snow of the season, I find myself watching the golf in Abu Dhabi with great fondness -- for the warm weather, that is. I suppose Rory (+3) and Tiger (E) aren't quite as thrilled -- as I write this, they haven't even teed off for their second round yet. Tiger is 6 shots off the lead and McIlroy is actually below the projected cutline. Justin Rose is leading so far.

I suppose I could say the same about the Humana Challenge in La Quinta CA -- that is, about my fondness for warm weather. Last week's Sony winner Russell Henley shot a 64 in his first round, making four of his first five rounds as a PGA Tour rookie either 63 or 64.

See, warm weather is good for you!

And today the Champions Tour kicks off their year at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship. Yes, Fred Couples and Tom Watson are scheduled to play.

And yes, they're playing in Hawaii. [-sigh-] At least it's all on TV later today.

In the meantime, I guess I'll figure out how I'm supposed to walk the dog in several inches of snow. Did I mention my fondness for warm weather?


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hitting Out of Mud

With all the wet weather we have this time of year -- at least in the Northern Hemisphere -- I thought it might be time to think about hitting your ball out of muddy lies.

Here's a video I found from teacher Mel Sole:

Clearly this is about short game play. Mel's three tips are:
  1. Use your sand wedge (the bounce helps prevent digging)
  2. Move the ball back in your stance so you don't hit it fat
  3. Turn your lower body more during contact (I'm guessing this is to flatten out the bottom of your swing, again to help prevent digging)
Can we use these tips to help us with our full shots as well? I think so.

Clearly we can't use our sand wedges on long shots, but the idea of using a club that won't dig as much is valid. Hybrids and fairway woods have wider soles than most irons, so those clubs will be easier to hit from the muck. (Of course, I've seen some irons with very wide soles even in the mid-irons. If you have them, they should work well also.)

Moving the ball back in your stance is self-explanatory. Clearly you can't move it back as far when you're using a longer club -- especially a hybrid or fairway wood -- but you can move the ball back a little more than usual. Remember that this will help you make better contact, but it will also make the ball come out lower than usual. You'll need to take more club.

As for turning your body more during contact... This can be a bit tricky with the longer clubs in sloppy weather. The more you turn your body on your backswing, the more likely it is that your feet will slip when you start down. So think short game. With the longer clubs you'll want to shorten your backswing -- which, as I said, means you'll be using more club than normal. You won't need to move your feet so much with a shorter backswing, so you'll be less likely to twist and slip. And with both a shorter backswing and a better "grip" on the ground, it will be much easier to turn fully through the shot.

Stability is probably the biggest problem in muddy conditions. If you approach your round as if it was a huge short game session, you'll probably be much happier with your results. Just don't be surprised if you take more shots than usual. After all, you can't hit it as far when the course is sloppy.

And don't forget to clean the grooves on your clubs more frequently.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ryder Cups, New Events & Other Tidbits

A lot of news has come out in the past few days, so it's a good time to get everybody caught up.

We finally know who the European Ryder Cup captain will be -- Paul McGinley, who's not so well-known on this side of the pond but is a familiar name to those of us who keep up with the ET. McGinley's done a couple of stints as captain at the Seve Trophy and been a Ryder Cup assistant captain a couple of times as well. (Do I need to add that he has a lot of experience winning team events?) He is also the first-ever Irish captain -- which, I admit, was a shock to me.

The LPGA finally announced its full schedule -- at least, they have announced all the tournaments they know about now. (More are being negotiated and may be added later this year.) There are 28 tournaments so far -- one more than last year -- but there are three new events, plus the Evian becomes the tour's fifth major. Tony Jesselli over at Mostly Harmless has a post that he's been updating as news comes out, so you can get the latest info there.

I'm sure you've heard the official announcement that Rory McIlroy has joined Nike Golf -- a 10-year, $200million deal according to the rumors. However, you may not have seen the new Nike commercial with Rory and Tiger having a little "closest to the pin" competition that escalates into a hail of golf balls at every kind of cup imaginable. (The trash talk's pretty good too.) It's one of the better commercials lately, so take a look:

Finally, don't forget that the Dubai tournament -- where Tiger and Rory will be paired for at least the first two rounds -- will be televised on GC starting tonight at 10pm ET.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

This Rookie Is Good

As usual, I want to take a look at the swing of this week's winner -- in this case, Russell Henley. The problem, common with many of the newer players, is a lack of video -- especially slo-mo video. We're going to try and make do here, however.

This first video is a couple of years old. It only shows a down-the-line view, but it's worth seeing:

During Sunday's coverage there was talk that Russell had shortened his swing a bit, but this footage from December (courtesy of GolfWeek) looks pretty much the same length to me, although Russell is standing a bit taller and his swing is bit flatter. (It may simply be that this video shows a driver while the other shows an iron.) This video shows both down-the-line and face-on driver swings, both regular speed and slo-mo:

And this short clip was posted since Russell's win by Brent Mann. I have a couple of comments to add after you see it:

Note that Brent is demonstrating the one-piece takeaway that I "preach." Brent is showing a couple of differences from what I normally tell you, and I want to explain why they're there.

The reason for the club face position being tilted at the spine angle -- rather than pointing straight up, the way I teach -- is a matter of technique. First of all, Brent is restricting his hip turn more than I expect most of you to do. This is partially because Brent is making a shorter and flatter swing than I usually teach. (You can see that in his demonstration.)

As I have said at other times, there's nothing wrong with a flatter shorter swing; Jason Dufner is just one of the many players who swing that way. But a flatter shorter swing causes your lead arm to stay more "under" you when you make your takeaway, so the club face appears to be tilted on your spine angle, as he says. It also has to do with connection in your golf swing, about which I have several posts on this blog. Brent is much more "Hogan-esque" in his connection, by which I mean he keeps his upper arms a bit tighter to his side than I teach.

Many of you aren't flexible enough to do that and make a long swing. When I teach connection, I allow your lead elbow to move out a bit from your side... which also means your lead upper arm "rolls" a bit upward on your chest as you swing. That rolling action cause the face of the club to point more upward. (Brent will get that rolling action as well but his upper arm won't "roll" until his trailing elbow bends, at which point it happens fairly quickly at the top. Mine happens gradually throughout the backswing.)

The difference between what Brent is saying and what I'm saying basically comes down to how tight you keep your lead elbow against your side, which also helps determine whether your swing is flatter or more upright.

However, the rest of what he says mirrors what I tell you almost exactly! You don't want your forearms to start rolling on the backswing because that causes you to "lay off the club" and starts the looping motion that can cause an over-the-top move. Again, what I teach assumes a bit of rotation at your lead shoulder joint, which happens naturally if you don't keep your lead elbow as tight against your side as Hogan would have. And, since that "roll" happens naturally on the backswing, it also "unrolls" naturally on the downswing.

And you don't want to just lift the club straight up because that disconnects your swing and gets it up over the swing plane you were so careful to start with your one-piece takeaway. The club starts moving upward when your trailing elbow bends, and that elbow shouldn't bend until your hands are around waist high.

The quieter your hands and forearms are throughout your swing, the easier it is to make solid contact with the ball. That's the primary reason Russell Henley was so solid all week... and it's how you can be solid too.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 Sony Open

Winner: Russell Henley

Around the wider world of golf: Louis Oosthuizen won the Volvo Golf Champions on the ET, so he'd have a new trophy to go with his new excavator; and Titiya Plucksataporn won the TLPGA & Royal Open on the LAGT.

Russell Henley with Sony Open trophy

Bear with me here. There's a reason behind my rambling...

The 2012 NFL Draft (for those of you unfamiliar with the Draft, that's when the various pro football teams choose new rookies from the college players who have decided to become pros) was considered one of the best ever, especially where quarterbacks were concerned. In fact, three of those rookie QBs actually led their teams into the finals this year. Two of them were knocked out in the first round. The one who was left got knocked out yesterday, despite breaking several records along the way.

His name was Russell -- Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks.

Many in the golf media think this year's rookie class of golfers may be one of the best in recent memory. One of them is also named Russell -- Russell Henley -- and he also broke several records this weekend. But he had considerably better results than the other Russell had, since he won the Sony Open.

Because the rookies in both football and golf are having such success, questions have been raised -- specifically, can you really call them "rookies"? Unlike rookies of the past, these new players have been prepared for the pro ranks in ways never dreamed of. Russell Henley, for example, won twice on the Tour last year -- the Chiquita Classic and the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open. Can you really call him a rookie?

Well, I know what you can call him... DANGEROUS. Russell shot three 63s at the Sony! According to's wrap-up report:
Henley finished at 24-under 256, breaking by four shots the Sony Open in Hawaii scoring record last set by Brad Faxon in 2001.

It was the second-lowest score for a 72-hole tournament in PGA TOUR history, two shots behind Tommy Armour III in 2003 at the Valero Texas Open.

And that wasn't the only record.

Henley set tournament records for the low 36-hole score after his 63-63 start, he shared the 54-hole record with [Scott] Langley and set another tournament record with the lowest final round by a champion.
Does that sound like a rookie to you? Whether it does or not, I'm sure the word "threat" has been attached to his name by the other Tour pros.

So this week's Limerick Summary salutes the "rookie" who just made the rest of the Tour -- probably including last year's rookies -- feel very old indeed:
Russell’s first win caused quite the sensation
And the field came to this realization:
They must stop his low scores
Or become dinosaurs…
So they’ve asked for his swift deportation.
The photo came from the front page of

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Rookies Behaving Badly

At least I'm sure it seems that way to the "non-rookies." (They're such a diverse group, what should I call them? Veterans? Established players? Snookie, DJ Pauly D, and the Situation?)

Here's the deal: Rookies aren't supposed to play well. They're supposed to struggle in their first "official appearance as Tour members." Rookies aren't supposed to handle the pressure well. They're supposed to be confused by course setups and intimidated by the "big stage" on which they find themselves.

Rookies aren't supposed to set the tournament record for the 54-hole lead at the Sony Open.

Above all, TWO rookies aren't supposed to set the tournament record for the 54-hole lead at the Sony Open.

Two rookies in Hawaii

And yet I submit the strange case of Scott Langley and Russell Henley, two rookies who are so out of their element that they clearly don't realize they are rookies. Furthermore, they are so clueless that they don't seem to understand their sad situation... even after the media explains it to them.

Ah, the foolishness of youth! Will no one help them? Can no one show them the error of their ways and help them crumble under the weight of unrealistic expectations? Are they destined to suffer the folly of their own ignorance and end up decimating the Sony Open field?

I fear that only time -- specifically today's final round -- can answer that question. But at least we appear to have the answer to another question...

Perhaps 2012 won't be such a tough act to follow after all.

The photo came from this page at

Saturday, January 12, 2013

But Can You Parallel Park It?

This is exactly the kind of story that reminds us that pro golfers are just as pragmatic -- or weird, depending on your perspective -- as the rest of us. And personally, it just makes King Louis seem that much cooler to me.

Louis Oosthuizen is playing at the Volvo Golf Champions down in Durban, South Africa. It's a pro-am event, and Volvo planned to give a car to the second-round leader of the event. Louis easily took that honor with his two-round score of -12... but he didn't need a new car.

As we all know, Louis is a farmer at heart who played the John Deere Classic just because it was John Deere... and who not only spent time at the Deere factory but bought some equipment while he was there.

Many of you may not realize that, in addition to cars, Volvo also makes heavy machinery. (In fact, Volvo Trucks North America's corporate headquarters are in Greensboro, NC about 20 minutes from where I live.) And it just so happened that Volvo was giving away a different kind of vehicle for a hole-in-one on the 15th.

The prize at the 15th

It didn't take Louis long to convince Volvo he'd rather have the excavator than the car.

another view of the excavator

Here's what Louis said about it:
"I've been nagging my wife for a few years that I want something on the farm as there are a few stumps and things I need to get rid of. And that's why I stood over that putt on 18 for a bit longer than normal. So I'm going to play around with it and might dig out a few bunkers."
Apparently he doesn't plan to play golf next week:
“I'm walking away with a nice gift for the farm. That's going to be a lot of fun next week playing around with it!”
At least he won't have to worry about speeding tickets.

The photos and quotes came from articles at and at

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the 17th Green

If you missed the first round of the Sony Open yesterday, you may have missed this. This is probably the coolest shot of the season so far.

Have you ever played marbles with someone who's good with a "shooter"? Then this is going to look very familiar to you. To quote Osric from Hamlet: "A hit, a very palpable hit."

There's a reason the PGA Tour's motto is "These guys are good." K.J. made a great save from the bunker... but I love that tee shot!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Season Starts in Earnest

Just a reminder that the golf season finally gets underway for real today. Both the Sony Open on the PGA Tour and the Volvo Golf Champions on the European Tour start today.

The Volvo is the ET's version of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The difference is that, in addition to last year's winners, players with 10 or more ET wins are also eligible. The size of the field is similar as well, with 33 players in this year's event.

The Sony is the first full-field event on the PGA Tour and about two-thirds of the Hyundai's field is playing this week as well.

I couldn't get the TV schedule to come up for the times but both should be broadcast on GC.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions

Winner: Dustin Johnson

Around the wider world of golf: Nothing yet. It's just the first week of the new season!

DJ hoists the Hyundai trophy

You're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy... although I know the winds might have reminded you of it...

It wasn't the paradise the players have come to expect. High winds, sideways rain, and three cancelled rounds of golf -- two of which were started but never finished. There was some doubt that the Tour could even get in the requisite three rounds that would make this an official event.

But they did. And as he has done the last two times we had three-round rain-shortened events, Dustin Johnson calmly sprinted out to a lead and never relinquished it.

Only defending champion Steve Stricker really gave him a run, pulling within a stroke at times during the final round. But even when DJ made a rare mistake, like the double-bogey he took on 13, he bounced right back with a birdie -- or, in the previous case, an eagle on 14. When you manage to shoot 3-under on your back 9, even with a double-bogey, you're playing well.

An important thing to note from this week's tournament is that DJ's short game is clearly improved. He was a bit ticked late last year that he wasn't getting any credit for how much better it was, but this week it was impossible to ignore. Given how well it held up, even in these tough course conditions, it's hard to doubt that he might be on the verge of a breakout year.

So this week's Limerick Summary -- the first of 2013 -- is a quick salute to the man who won a quick tournament and has an equally quick turnaround for his next tournament (he's scheduled to tee off at the Sony at 7:50am Hawaii time on Thursday):
After three days’ delay from winds gustin’,
Every man in the field learned that Dustin
Has a new dossier:
He just blew them away
With a short game it seems he can trust in.
The photo came from the Hyundai tournament page at

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Admiral... There Be GOLF Here!

For those of you who don't recognize it, the title is a parody of a line from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Scotty has just transported two humpback whales onto a Klingon bird of prey (an alien starship) in which they time-traveled back to the 20th Century. It may be the funniest of the Star Trek movies:

The weather at the Hyundai Tournamentof Champions has certainly borne a strange resemblance to the storm plaguing 23rd Century Earth in that Star Trek movie. Nevertheless, after three days of delays the PGA Tour finally got started...

And Dustin Johnson got jump-started. The king of the three-round event is leading the pack after two rounds... and there's only one more round to go.

Defending champion Steve Stricker -- the token "old guy" in the field -- is three shots back, and the field starts dropping off from there. But since the Plantation Course is finally playable (DJ shot -7 in the second round Monday) the tournament is still very much up for grabs.

Here's the 1-minute video from of DJ's interview with Steve Sands after his second round. (Yeah, it's a thin little video!) Bear in mind that par at the Plantation Course is 73, which is why his -7 is a 66:

Keegan Bradley told GC that he had only taken a couple of weeks off as well. He's 5 back of DJ, well within striking range.

Is this bizarre tournament a portent of what we might see in 2013? Will DJ go where no golfer has gone before (at least, I think it's new territory) and win three weather-shortened tournaments on the big tour? Is it a coincidence that players have gone humpback whale-watching in Hawaii this week? Am I reaching too far for a little humor?

Oh well. It's only the first tournament of the year. There's plenty of time for me to do worse. ;-) But the Hyundai is running out of time to give us a winner...

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: January 2013

I had planned to do this RGWR post in mid-December and skip January, but things got busier around here than I expected. And since it looks like we won't even have a Limerick Summary before Wednesday, you all get a January RGWR that covers every tournament through the end of December 2012.

Ironically, things haven't changed very much since the November rankings despite the huge time gap. In fact this RGWR looks almost identical to the November one.

So 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 don't count 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, 4 prestige, 3 awards), 7 Top5, 47 points. Rory added a POY award over in Europe as well as replacing a win on a minor tour (that is, not the PGA or ET) with the Dubai Championship, thus further solidifying his already solid spot at the top.
  2. Tiger Woods: 3 wins (3 prestige), 6 Top5, 27 points. Tiger dropped his 2011 win at the World Challenge but otherwise remained unchanged.
  3. Branden Grace: 4 wins (1 prestige), 1 Top5, 16 points. Although Branden has 4 wins, he doesn't move ahead of Tiger because Tiger has more prestige wins and Top5s.
  4. Ian Poulter: 2 wins (1 WGC), 6 Top5, 19 points. Poults is still playing well after his Ryder Cup showing... and yes, I rank him a little higher because of that.
  5. Luke Donald: 2 win (1 TPC, 1 prestige), 5 Top5, 23 points. Luke continues to post Top5s despite not winning recently.
  6. Louis Oosthuizen: 2 wins, 7 Top5, 20 points. Louis also continues to post Top5s. I look for 2013 to be a much better year for him.
  7. Peter Hanson: 2 wins (1 prestige), 5 Top5, 18 points. Peter posted two wins late in the year.
  8. Jason Dufner: 2 wins (1 prestige), 4 Top5, 16 points. Although it doesn't show up here because I only count wins on the other tours, Dufner played well around the world after the PGA season ended.
  9. Brandt Snedeker: 2 wins (1 prestige), 3 Top5, 1 award (FedExCup), 15 points. Like Dufner, Sneds played well around the world after the PGA season ended.
  10. Charl Schwartzel: 2 wins (1 other), 5 Top5, 14 points. Charl is my only new entry this month, taking Lee Westwood's place. Westwood had been #3 but one of his tournaments fell off the rankings and Mr. Red Hot here is playing better over the last 3 months. He had two double-digit victory margins, for Pete's sake!
Players to watch:
  • Charl Schwartzel is the obvious choice here. The only question is whether he can carry his momentum from December into the new year. I'm guessing he can.
  • And I like Tour rookie Patrick Reed to come out firing. With the 2013 season being so short, rookies will be under pressure... and Reed Monday-qualified about 6 times in 2012. I think he'll handle the pressure better than most.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

So the 2013 Golf Season Starts When?

It's a good thing the NFL playoffs started this weekend because we're still waiting for golf. I saw both the Houston Texans beat the Cincinnati Bengals AND the Green Bay Packers beat the Minnesota Vikings. (I even got to see Manchester United squeak out a tie against West Ham in the FA Cup third round. Yes, I had a busy Saturday. ;-)

The reason for the delay? Wind. The sideways rain might not have been such a problem if not for the 40-50mph wind gusts. I snagged this photo off GC that shows the conditions. Look at them try to pour water into a cup!

Water defies gravity in Hawaii

When the wind is stronger than gravity, it's not a good day for golf.

At any rate, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions is now a 54-hole event, with 36 holes planned for today and 18 tomorrow. I suppose that's subject to change, depending on the weather. The word from the Tour was that today's wind would only be 5-10mph slower. I can only assume they believe the course will be playable in 30-40mph gusts.

I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Dustin Johnson remarked that he's done well in these shortened events, and I have to concur. I'm guessing either he or Webb Simpson (who played well in Friday's cancelled round) will -- pardon the pun -- blow away the competition.

And if they don't get to play today... well, at least there are two more NFL games scheduled.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

You Know the Weather's Bad When...

It gets more time on ESPN than the golf scores did.

And as a result -- of the weather, not ESPN -- the entire first round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions got cancelled. See the pretty tropical weather?

Flag in winds at Hyundai ToC

Nobody even finished 9 holes. NOBODY. Only two players were under par, Webb Simpson at -3 and Jonas Blixt at -1. Needless to say, they aren't particularly happy to have their rounds wiped out.

Scott Stallings, on the other hand, is elated as he was already +7. The operative word here is WAS. Everybody is back to even par now.

But with more wind predicted for Saturday, will they really get 36 holes in today? I'll be shocked if they do.

At least this is Wild Card Weekend in the NFL. If the weather in Hawaii doesn't cooperate, for us fans there's always football.

But I don't think that's what the PGA Tour had in mind.

Here's the cancellation notice at And the photo came from this post at SBNation.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Well, I Was Close

At least I got the starting time for the golf coverage right yesterday. But aside from the full hour of On The Range (which I thought would be a half-hour), much of the coverage seemed somewhat less than exciting, didn't it?

Oh, well. Today the real thing gets underway.

According to the GC TV schedule, the pre-game show starts at 3:30pm ET and the actual tournament starts at 5:30pm ET.

There are 30 players in the field -- I think Bubba is the highest ranked at #8 in the OWGR. Perhaps tomorrow I'll finally have some interesting things to write about to get 2013 started.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The New Season Starts... Sorta

Alright, here's the deal in case you missed it.

First of all, the European Tour does NOT start this week, so there's no European golf on TV.

The PGA Tour DOES start this week in Hawaii with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. However, the tournament runs from Friday to Monday, not the standard Thursday to Sunday... but there's still golf today. Here's the Golf Channel schedule as I understand it:

At 5pm ET GC will air the season premiere of On The Range, which will apparently only be a half-hour this week.

At 5:30pm ET the pregame show is scheduled.

Then at 6pm ET the pro-am for the event will be televised.

Bear in mind that this tournament is in Hawaii, so there's around 5 hours difference in the time. That's going to put live coverage of all the rounds in prime time. At least, it will here on the East Coast of the US.

I for one am looking forward to seeing what Tommy Gainey can do at the Plantation Course. The course is kinda funky, you know -- there are 90-foot changes in elevation on some of the holes -- so experience usually plays a factor there. But if Tommy gets it going, this could be an interesting week.

At least the regular season is finally underway.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Matteo Manassero on Fairway Woods

Matteo Manassero has won 3 times on the European Tour, yet he isn't a big hitter -- at least, not by Tour standards. He hits his driver around 275 yards. When I found this little video from Golf Monthly (shot just a couple of months ago) on fairway woods -- especially the 3-wood -- I knew it was worth passing along.

Some of the info is more a matter of curiosity -- what clubs he uses and their lofts, for instance -- but he gets a bit more into technique as he goes along. He even compares his 3-wood distance to his driver distance.

A couple of things from the video worth mentioning:

Although driver technique (off the tee) is typically different from the way you play your other shots, Matteo says he doesn't play his 3-wood any differently off the tee than he does when hitting it off the fairway. This is why I often recommend that players working on their swings use their 3-woods instead of a driver. You can use the same swing all the time, so you make progress faster.

Note that Matteo hits his 3-wood with a slightly in-to-out path when he wants to hit the ball lower and farther. Don't make the mistake of thinking that this is a huge path change. Essentially he's just trying to flatten out the bottom of his swing, so he doesn't hit down on the ball as much. This makes the ball fly lower and roll more when it hits the ground.

Learning to hit your 3-wood well can certainly help you overcome a lack of distance on the holes where length is a problem. Matteo is proof that you don't have to be a bomber to play this game well.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

No post today -- just wishing you a Happy 2013!


The photo came from a wallpaper collection at