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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sprinters

While it's still too early to pronounce any tournament winners this week, there are clearly a couple of players -- on opposite sides of the world, no less -- who seem ready to post wins in their respective tournaments.

Sandra Gal

In Florida (USA), Sandra Gal has a 3-shot lead after two rounds of the CME Group Titleholders event. After struggling most of the year with swing changes, she blistered the Tiburon course with a 64 in the first round and followed that with a 69 Friday. (It was much windier during the second round.) It's interesting to hear what she's been working on; in her after-round presser she talked about it:
Q.  Sandra, I know at the beginning of the year you weren't happy with your swing and you were really searching.  Can you talk about how your confidence has evolved since then and maybe how much Gary Gilchrist has to do with that?
SANDRA GAL:  Yeah, definitely.  I started working with Gary in April and he simplified a lot of things, just kind of shortened my swing a little bit and then worked on a lot of ball shaping.  So if you watch me warm up in the morning, that's all I do is hitting just draws and fades and high, low.  I think it really suits this golf course and I think from this kind of more of a childlike attitude just playing more, seeing the shot, reacting to it, that gave me a lot of confidence.  Less thinking.
"More of a childlike attitude, just playing more." Rather than practicing so much, I suppose. It certainly seems to be working -- especially on the par-5 17th, where she hit it deep into the trees and still managed a birdie:
Oh, well, I hooked it into the trees and I was happy to find my ball, and I had a swing, which was very happy.  So it was pretty much like bubba golf -- you have a swing, you're happy.  I got it down there and then I just had an 8 iron in and I was thinking, okay, 8 iron, that's go range so let's go for the pin and I almost holed it out.  It just pitched right on the edge of the cup and then I made the putt.  So it was very simple.  I mean, never in doubt.
Most weekend golfers aren't that confident in their swings, but it's definitely a mindset that we should be working toward. It'll be interesting to see if it can carry her to her first win since the 2011 Kia Classic.

Jason Day

Meanwhile, down in Melbourne (Australia), Jason Day is doing much better than most of us expected. As you probably know by now, Jason lost 8 family members to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. (His grandmother, uncle, and 6 cousins.) I'm sure it helps that his mother and his sisters have come to Melbourne -- he said he hasn't seen them in nearly a year.

Let me rephrase that: I'm certain that it helped. All Jason did in the third round was post a 66, tying the best round of the day. It gave him the individual lead by a single shot over Thomas Bjorn and gave the Australian team (with struggling partner Adam Scott) a one-shot lead over the defending US team as well.

Barring any surprise collapses, the team competition is between the USA at -10 and Australia at -11. (Third-place Japan is at -4, fourth-place Denmark at -2.) And Jason has never won a tournament in his homeland, so I suspect his fourth round will be something of a challenge, knowing that two trophies are within his grasp. But Jason has been playing well all year and, with his family there to watch and support him, I wouldn't bet against him.

And wouldn't that be a popular win?

The photos came from here (Gal) and here (Day).

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