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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Make Ai Miyazato Look Like a Speed Demon

I found this video over at golftipsmag.com and I think it has some value for helping you improve your swing -- especially when you can't get to the range to practice.

PGA teaching pro Dan Martin has this tip about swinging in slow motion. I mean S-L-O-W M-O-T-I-O-N, or even slower than that! Here, let him explain it:



I don't think you want to go overboard with this, gang. Even Martin suggests no more than 5 attempts during a practice session. (And note that although he says to take 30 seconds with each swing, he isn't going nearly that slow. I suspect a 10-second swing would be just fine.) But I can see some real value to this drill.
  • It helps you develop your balance. If you can't keep your balance in slow motion, you're probably off-balance at full speed.
  • It helps your weight shift. This is part of your balance. It looks to me like it could help prevent those unwanted hip slides and spine tilts some of you are fighting.
  • It's a good way to work on the sequence of your swing, especially when you start your downswing. I agree with him that the change of direction is seriously de-emphasized lately. Making a slow downswing is a good way to learn the proper elbow action that helps you create more swing speed late in the downswing.
The primary value is that it slows your swing down enough that you can learn what your entire swing feels like, especially those parts that zip by so fast that you don't even pay attention to them.

It's not about over-analyzing your swing; rather, it's about getting a good overall sense of what feels right. You want to get to the point where, when your swing doesn't feel good, you can say "it doesn't feel right at THIS point in my swing." Even if you don't know exactly what's wrong, you've made it much easier to get yourself back on track.

So give it a try. You can do it in your backyard -- maybe even your basement if the ceiling is high enough -- and learn what your swing should feel like. And as you become more familiar with the proper feel, it should be easier to swing at full speed out on the course.

And on the outside chance the embedded video above isn't working, here's the link to the video's original page at golftipsmag.com.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Rory Continues to Have Finger Problems

For those of you who somehow missed it, Rory was asked earlier this week if he'd talked to Tiger about the Big Cat's win at "the Arnie" (at which Rory missed the cut). Rory said -- and I'm quoting from a golf.com article:
Texted him said, "Well done." Hadn't spoken to him in a couple weeks. Just congratulated him and stuff as well and he said everything was good there. Told me to get my finger out of my ass and win this week.
Well, apparently Rory didn't listen. He's currently 1-over after one round at the Shell Houston Open, which included a double-bogey on the par-5 8th hole.

Normally I wouldn't consider this a big deal. Everybody goes through slumps now and then, and Rory has demonstrated a habit of it. (Just think about last summer, back before he blew everyone away at the PGA Championship.)

The reason it matters this time is two-fold:
  1. The Redstone GC Tournament Course is always set up to duplicate conditions at Augusta National as closely as possible. Most of the players have said they do a good job of it, so it's good practice under competitive conditions.
  2. This is Rory's last tournament before the Masters.
Clearly this is a problem. Rory doesn't have a lot of time to get his game in shape.

The good news is that he seems to have fixed the technical problems -- translate that as "bad habits" -- his swing had slipped into. But apparently he doesn't feel particularly confident about his game right now, and that's definitely NOT the frame of mind you want when you head to Augusta.

Right now Rory's one over the cut line. He needs a good round today if he wants to get in a couple more competitive rounds before the Masters.

Otherwise, maybe he should invest in some surgical gloves... especially since, after 3 wins in 4 weeks, Tiger probably plans to be more hands-on at Augusta this year.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ian Poulter in Stop Motion

Ian at top of backswingThis new swing series on golftipsmag.com catches the irrepressible IJP in a quick series of photos with commentary by PGA pro John Stahlschmidt. The article is simply called Ian Poulter: Classic Swing, Modern Day Result and it points out a few major points in Ian's swing.

Yeah, I know John points out that Ian keeps a lot of wrist cock well into the hitting area but doesn't tell you how to do it. You can find out how to do that in my More Golf Swing Speed Quick Guide, and you can also get some of the basics here on my site, starting with this post.

The primary points made in the golftipsmag.com article are about Ian's weight shift going back and coming through, hitting down on the ball, and finishing in a balanced position. Studying these positions and imagining what it feels like to swing through them can help you learn to make good swings quicker. (That's a scientifically proven fact, and I think I've written about it somewhere here on the blog... but I can't remember how long ago it was.)

The main thing I'd like to point out is that Ian has a mixture of classic and modern techniques in his swing, and that's why his swing looks a bit more "loosey-goosey" than some players. John points out that he uses a more restricted hip move on his backswing (photo 1), which is a modern idea. But if you look at photo 6, you'll see that his lead foot has rolled onto its outer edge. That means his lead hip has moved out past the outside of his lead foot, which is a more classic move.

Modern techniques tend to restrict how much your lead hip moves toward the target. The more that hip moves forward, the more chance there is for it to travel a different distance each time, resulting in the occasionally wayward shots that Ian gets. (That inconsistency will be worse on those days when his rhythm is a bit off, btw.) Don't misunderstand me -- the move isn't wrong, it's just one of those decisions you as a player have to make. Ian trades a little consistency for a more fluid swing. Colin Montgomerie has a very exaggerated version of this, both on the backswing and the downswing.

But the best lesson you can learn is this: If you get where you look anything like photos 4 and 5 at impact, you'll have learned a lot of seriously good technique from Ian James Poulter.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tiger and Arnie Rumble!

I had intended to talk about the Tavistock Cup today... then this turned up and it's just too cool not to post it.

The Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 video game got released Tuesday, and EA Sports released this promo video featuring Tiger and Arnold Palmer as they get in a little kungfu action between rounds:



This is definitely one of the best promos EAS has ever done. (I hope you noticed that the video game players near the end of the promo are all in casts and neck braces. It's a tough game!)

I admit I haven't played a TWPGA video game in several years, but a little poking around on the Web turned up a few interesting additions since I last played. There's an LPGA career mode, which allows you to play an entire LPGA career from amateur status and Q-School through Symetra Tour to the big stage. The PGA career mode now requires you to qualify for the Tour through the Web.com Tour. And if you want to blow the extra bucks for the Historic Edition of the game, you get (among other courses) the 1934 version of Augusta National -- just perfect for teeing it up against legends like Bobby Jones.

If you care about all that stuff, EAS's official site for the game is right here. As for me, I just enjoy seeing Arnie kick some ass off the course.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational

Winner: Tiger Woods

Around the wider world of golf: Michael Allen won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic on the Champions Tour; Kiradech Aphibarnrat won the Maybank Malaysian Open on the ET; Beatriz Recari won the Kia Classic on the LPGA; Jaco Van Zyl won the Investec Cup on the Sunshine Tour; Edward Loar won the Chitimacha Louisiana Open on the Web.com Tour; and Manuel Villegas (that's Camilo's brother) won the TransAmerican Power Products CRV Open on the PGA Latinoamérica Tour.

The Cat and the King

Yep, that's a picture of Tiger and Arnie celebrating his 8th win at "the Arnie." As the King said, it's not quite the same as what Sam Snead did -- the GGO was played at several different courses during his run of 8 wins, while Tiger won all of his at Bay Hill -- but it's still a pretty unusual accomplishment.

Well, unusual for anybody but Tiger. After all, he's got two or three more events he can win 8 times in the next year or so.

Plus this makes three wins in his last four starts, three wins this season, three wins going into Augusta, six wins in the last 12 months... yadda yadda yadda. And then there was that little thing of reclaiming #1 in the OWGR from Rory. (Of course, Rory can reclaim it next week since he's playing in Houston but Tiger isn't... but we're all used to that back-and-forth during a change at the top, aren't we?) There's not much need to beat this in the ground, after all.

One thing the media has missed that I would like to point out is that this is the first time -- at least, since the rankings were started -- that an American was at the top of both the OWGR and Rolex Rankings at the same time. Tiger and Stacy Lewis make history yet again.

We won't be seeing Tiger until the Masters in three weeks, so there'll be plenty of time for everybody to debate whether he's ready to get back on the major bandwagon and snag number 15 in his pursuit of Jack. In the meantime, the Limerick Summary salutes Tiger for grabbing another win and especially for getting back to the top of the OWGR after so many said he'd never make it back. Given that they were so far wrong about that, I'd think twice before believing that Tiger will never catch Jack...
The weatherman gave him a test
But Tiger’s game still was the best.
Rain poured and wind howled
But the story was how
He retook Number One from the rest.
The photo came from the front page of PGATOUR.com.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Beatriz Recari's Swing

Beatriz Recari got her second LPGA win in a playoff Sunday. And since the Limerick Summary has been weather-delayed for a day, I thought I'd go ahead and take a quick look at her swing.

Since Beatriz is only 5'4" but still averages over 250 yards off the tee while hitting 79% of her fairways and 71% of her greens, you might want to pay attention to what she does.

It's probably no surprise that she does the standard things I like to point out -- making a good one-piece takeaway, for instance, or avoiding a lot of hip sliding either away from or toward the target, which gives her good footwork and a nice weight shift -- but I'm going to look at where some of her distance comes from. Please note that she doesn't swing "out of her shoes" to get that distance either. Take a look at the videos and see if you can figure out what she's doing before reading my take at the end of the post.

Here's a down-the-line slo-mo shot:



Another DTL shot, but this one doesn't have slo-mo. However, the angle gives you a better view of her arm motion:



And finally, a face-on super slo-mo shot with a 7-iron. Just turn off the music if it bugs you.



Part of it is that she gets a fairly big arc during her backswing. That's a side effect of a good one-piece takeaway -- it gets the club as far away from your body as possible without you stiffening up, which costs you distance.

She also "lays off" the club when she starts down. That means she drops her hands onto a lower plane for the downswing than she has on her backswing. The flatter plane isn't what gives her extra distance, though some instructors talk like it does. (Some instructors believe an upright plane gives you more distance. I guess that's a matter of opinion.)

But watch what happens when she drops onto that flatter plane... see how her wrists cock on the way down? That little move delays how soon her wrists uncock during her downswing, and that keeps more of her wrist cock until her hands get closer to the ball. Her arms aren't moving particularly fast, but she creates a lot of club head speed down in the hitting zone.

You either have to have strong forearms or you have to slow your swing down enough that you can control the club in order to do this with accuracy. If you go to my Some Useful Post Series page and check out the first series on single-plane loops, those posts explain in more detail how the technique works. It doesn't matter whether you do it in two planes like Beatriz or one plane as my post series describes, it's the same principle.

And it does work. Just look at how far Beatriz hits it.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tiger's on the Verge

Could it happen again so soon?

Perhaps you wonder why I say "again." I'm referring to Stacy Lewis's unexpected leap to #1 in the Rolex Rankings after Yani Tseng seemed impossible to catch just a few months ago.

Now Tiger is poised to do the same thing to Rory McIlroy, who seemed so untouchable at the beginning of the year. If Tiger wins the Arnold Palmer Invitational today, he regains his position at #1 in the OWGR.

Let's face it... if he's going to do it anytime soon, Bay Hill's the logical place. Having won Arnie's event 7 times -- and being the defending champion at that -- it makes sense that he might do it here. Still, I didn't expect him to have a 2-stroke lead going into the final round.

At least, not after his struggles on Friday and Justin Rose's solid play the first two days. My, how quickly things change.

Perhaps even more surprising is that Justin isn't even the 2nd-place guy. When Tiger tees it up today, he'll be playing with Rickie Fowler. RICKIE FOWLER? I mean no offense to Rickie, but I simply didn't see this kind of play coming from him after his last four events. (He started the year with two T6s before he seemed to lose his form.)

Tiger and Rickie make one of those final-round pairings that probably has NBC execs salivating. I'm pretty stoked to see it myself...

Still, I won't be betting against the Big Cat today. And if he pulls it off, not only will he be #1 again but he'll chalk up his 3rd win of 2013. Can anybody remember the last time he won 3 events this early in the season? It was 2008... and he won a major that year.

Just for the record, he had only won twice this early in 2007, 2006, and 2005... and he won 1 major,  2 majors, and 2 majors, respectively, in those years.

Tiger may be on the verge of a lot more than just a return to #1.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Keeping a Consistent Height

A couple of years ago I did a post about learning proper knee movement with a drill using a basketball. You can find that post here.

Rolling your anklesBut I recently found a drill over at golftipsmag.com that helps with the "rolling" foot motion that can help you get that knee movement correct. It's one of their Quick Tips called Fancy Footwork by PGA teacher Mike Corcoran, and it's a simple way to help you keep a more consistent height during your downswing.

That helps you make better contact with the ball. Hitting the ball fat or thin less often is always a good thing!

Essentially, you roll your ankles -- both of them -- during your downswing. This helps you keep the same amount of flex in your knees and also helps you keep your trailing heel on the ground a bit longer. That not only improves things like balance and weight shift, but it also helps you keep your swing on line for a longer time. That gives you a chance to hit the ball straighter as well.

Give this drill a try. At the very least, you should find it helps improve your short game.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The First Lady Starts Out T16 (-2)

Stacy Lewis is #1 in the world now, but her first tournament at that position has her a bit farther back. But she's not the only player who's not where she expected to be this week.

As you probably know by now, Yani Tseng -- the defending Kia Classic winner -- missed her pro-am time and, just like with the PGA Tour players, wasn't allowed to play in the tournament proper. As I understand, she was a bit under the weather Tuesday night and overslept Wednesday morning. She apologized to the sponsor and fans, but I'm guessing she's going to lose more ground in the Rolex Rankings this week.

Natalie Gulbis also WD'ed due to fatigue. You might not know that Nats missed the Founders Cup last week because she caught malaria while in Asia. (And we thought the 90mph car wreck with Paula Creamer, Ai Miyazato, and Suzann Pettersen was bad!) She's doing alright, she's just not back up to full strength yet.

For those of you interested, GC said Natalie's going to stop by the tournament and spend some time with the announcing crew. That's at 6:30pm ET today if you want to see it.

Jane ParkThe leader after the first round is Jane Park (-6), who's been struggling with a variety of problems since she won the 2004 Women's Amateur and turned pro in 2007. Lower back problems, tendenitis, and even some family problems have made it hard for her to get anything resembling consistent play going. It'll be interesting to see how she does with the lead this week.

In addition, the leaderboard's pretty well packed. It's got everybody from players who have struggled this year -- like Caroline Hedwall and Amanda Blumenhurst -- to perennial contenders like Karrie Webb. And Paula Creamer's sitting at -3, off to another good start after getting banged up in that wreck.

I'm thinking the player to watch this week might be Jessica Korda (-4). She's been playing well this year and has even been improving a bit from week to week.

But given the uncertainty of March Madness (the college basketball playoffs, for those of you who don't live in the US or follow the sport) and the resulting number of upsets we typically see in those tournaments, it's hard to say anything for sure.

Except that Yani Tseng won't win it this week, that is. Nobody ever gives any love to the former First Lady, do they?

The photo came from Park's bio page at LPGA.com.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Swing of Golf's First Lady

First in the Rolex Rankings, that is. Since Stacy Lewis jumped up to #1 with her LPGA victory this past week, I thought it was time to take a quick look at her swing.

This first video was posted less than two months ago.



Stacy uses a one-piece takeaway and her trailing elbow doesn't bend until her hands are waist high. This is a major part of her success, as she says in the second video below.

You'll also notice how quiet her lower body is during her downswing. Her hips do NOT make a big slide toward the target, even though she gets a good weight shift when she hits the ball. Just look at how long her trailing foot stays flat on the ground. There's no way she's sliding toward the target!

This second video is actually a segment from Martin Hall's School of Golf show on GC. Stacy appeared on the show almost a year ago. (I believe it was right after she won the 2012 Mobile Bay LPGA Classic.) Although the clip is over 8 minutes long, Stacy's part is only around 5 minutes. Note how she focuses on the one-piece takeaway and that quiet lower body.



You need to realize that although Stacy is only 5'5" tall, she's averaging well over 260 yards off the tee this year, as well as hitting 75% of her fairways and 80% of her greens. I know I keep going on and on about simple things like one-piece takeaways and quiet lower bodies, but these are the things that take players -- even pros -- to the top of their games.

And right now, it's harder to get much higher than Stacy Lewis. Don't you think you should listen to what she says?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

He Played So Well, It Hurt

Brandt Snedeker will finally be back in action this week, at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. But it seems to me like he may have a problem common to weekend golfers.

You see, Sneds has been hurting but the docs can't find anything wrong.

Sneds

The pulled rib muscle (or, if you prefer, "intercostal muscle") that kept him off the course for five weeks feels better. But he says he's been to doctors all over the country... and none of them can find a reason for the pain.

You know what I mean. You hurt yourself, so you take some time off from your favorite sport and rest up until it stops hurting. But then you have occasional relapses and you can't figure out why. It's especially rough when the injured part is something you use all the time -- ribs, shoulders, knees, etc.

While he did the right thing by taking an extended break, I can't help but wonder if he was off long enough. Sometimes a pulled muscle can take months to heal completely, to the point that it won't be reinjured easily. And with the Masters coming up, he couldn't afford that!

So if he doesn't reinjure himself, we'll get to see him at least one extra time before the Masters -- he added the Houston Open to his schedule to make up for the time he missed.

I sure hope it isn't too much too soon.

The photo came from nashville.about.com.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Not as Catchy as Wozzilroy

Several newsworthy events happened over the weekend that I thought I'd get you caught up on, in case you missed them.

Tiger and Lindsey VonnThe news grabbing the most headlines was Tiger and pro skier Lindsey Vonn (who is also divorced) making it official that they're dating. You'd have to be dead not to have heard the rumors -- especially when Tiger sent his private jet to get her after a nasty crash at the Alpine World Championships in Austria last month. She tore several ligaments in her right knee, which effectively ended her season.

Both Tiger and Lindsey posted Facebook photos (like the one at right, from this golf.com article) and announced that yes, they were dating. I was surprised to see that ESPN had already added one of the photos to the montage they run behind their sports anchors.

Of course, this begs the question... what will the media call them? Unlike Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie ("Brangelina") or Caroline Wozniacki and Rory McIlroy ("Wozzilroy"), Tiger and Lindsey's names just don't lend themselves to such butchering. All I could come up with was "Linger" (which is an actual word and not so catchy) and "Lindseger"... although, if we went with Tiger's first name, we could use "Lindseldridge." However, that sounds more like an evil citadel from Middle Earth or maybe a rejected Dr. Seuss character.

Perhaps that's why they asked folks to respect their privacy...

Stacy LewisAlso in the news this weekend was Stacy Lewis's ascent to World #1 in the Rolex Rankings. (The photo is from this usatoday.com article.) I mentioned it in passing in my Monday list of tournament winners, but it deserves a bit more attention. Other than Cristie Kerr's 5-week reign at #1 back in 2010, there have been NO American #1s since the rankings began.

But it's the unlikelihood of her becoming #1 that makes it newsworthy. In the rankings one year ago -- March 19, 2012 -- Yani was #1 with 17.27 points and Stacy was #9 with 6.18 points -- over 11 points behind. This week, Stacy is #1 with 9.75 points and Yani is #2 with 9.13 points. In only one year Stacy has overcome a seemingly insurmountable points lead!

It remains to see what effect this has on women's golf in general, but it will be interesting to see how long Stacy can stay on top. After all, she got here by winning 6 LPGA tournaments in slightly more than 11 months!

Jordan SpiethFinally, if you're a Jordan Spieth fan, you're going to be seeing a lot more of him the rest of this year. With his T7 this past week at Innisbrook, he made enough money to get his special temporary status on Tour. That means he's made enough money to match #150 on last year's money list and is therefore no longer limited to only 7 sponsor exemptions. (You can read more about that at this espn.com article, which is also the source of the photo.) In addition, he automatically qualified for the Houston Open with that T7.

Those are the main stories -- at least, golf stories -- that stood out to me this weekend. I guess the big story this week will be whether Tiger can get win #3 of 2013 at Arnie's place and continue the streak of American winners on Tour this year. (I think Streelman's win made it 12 in a row.)

At least I'm sure he won't show up with any wedges sporting the name "Lindseldridge."

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 Tampa Bay Championship

Winner: Kevin Streelman

Around the wider world of golf: Stacy Lewis came back from a 2-stroke penalty Saturday to win the RR Donnelly LPGA Founders Cup and reach #1 in the Rolex World Rankings; Thomas Aiken won the Avantha Masters on the ET/Asian Tour; Prayad Marksaeng won the Thailand Open on the OneAsia Tour; David Frost won the Toshiba Classic on the Champions Tour; Ted Purdy won the 55° Abierto Mexicano de Golf on the Latinoamerica Tour; and Jaco Van Zyl won the Telkom PGA Championship on the Sunshine Tour.

Streelman holds his first PGA Tour trophy

The wind was up some at Innisbrook's Copperhead Course on Sunday, but that didn't stop a few people from posting low scores. Cameron Tringale, for example, posted a 66 to reach -7 (eventually good enough for a solo 3rd) and Boo Weekley went all anaconda on the field and squeezed out a sweet little 63 to take the clubhouse lead at -8 early on.

Eventually the truth became evident -- a sub-70 Sunday round was insufficient to overcome three other rounds that never broke 70.

But then along came Kevin Streelman. He may not have won on the Tour yet, and he may have shot 73 in the first round, but he shot three other rounds that broke 70 quite nicely, thank you very much. More importantly, he went bogey-free during his last two rounds and even made it through the notorious Snake Pit under par both days. In fact, he birdied the par-3 17th with a ridiculously aggressive shot in Sunday's round -- one of only 6 birdies made there all day.

Kevin became the 5th first-time winner this year. That's nice and all, but the important thing is that he sidestepped the fangs of the Copperhead Course and snaked his way into the sixth slot of the FedExCup rankings. Can you say "cash"? (I'm not cynical. Globetrotting takes money.)

So this week's Limerick Summary salutes the guy who coiled his fingers around the trophy at the Tampa Bay Championship and simultaneously sank his own fangs into the Tour's jackpot:
Kevin Streelman’s first win made a big hit.
His two bogey-free days in the Snake Pit
Were a real tour de force
On the Copperhead Course
While the rest of the field wound up snake bit.
The photo came from the front page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

An Expensive Stroll on the Beach

Sand penalties are pretty common for most weekend players, but Stacy Lewis incurred one that most of us have never even imagined on Saturday at the Founders Cup. It's one you might want to be aware of.

To make a long story short, Stacy was penalized two strokes when her caddie Travis Wilson "tested the sand" with his feet. If you want the whole story, you can check out these two videos from GC:
Stacy's caddie tests the sand

Sometimes the Rules of Golf (yes, we must capitalize them) seem a bit ambiguous to me, especially when it comes to the subject of intent. How do you judge something as intangible as intent? It would be easier sometimes if the Rule just said "You can't do this, period."

But in this case, it's hard to argue the ruling. When the two of them are clearly discussing the depth of the sand and the caddie is apparently tapping it with his foot, the "intent" is pretty clear.

For weekend golfers I think it's important to note something Jerry Foltz says -- namely, that there's a difference between what a caddie's allowed to do and what a player's allowed to do. While the player can't test the sand, she would have learned something by merely taking her stance. The Rules do allow you to work your feet into the sand to get a good footing, and that would have given her some idea of the sand's depth while staying withing the rules.

At any rate, it's good for weekend players to realize that this is a penalty. In Stacy's case, it doubled her deficit to Ai Miyazato -- from 2 to 4 strokes -- and may have cost her the tournament.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Miyazato's Putting Style

Having posted some putting instruction from Steve Stricker yesterday, and knowing that Ai Miyazato is just one off the lead at the Founders Cup -- in large part because she's putting so well -- I thought I'd post a few videos of Ai's putting stroke for comparison to Stricker's.

Ai is considered one of the best putters on any tour. And while Stricker is considered somewhat unorthodox, Miyazato has very classic technique. It's a great example of the Basic Principles of Good Putting, which are seven principles agreed on by Dave Pelz, Stan Utley, and Bobby Jones. (They're the basis of my book Ruthless Putting, for those of you who might be curious.) Let me point them out in the videos.



In this first video, you can see that Ai's forearms don't rotate when she makes her stroke (Principle 1). I don't mean that she manipulates the club face to keep it straight. Rather, I mean she holds the club in a relaxed grip and doesn't try to make the club do anything (Principle 3). Relaxed muscles tend to return to the same position they were at address, so the face squares up naturally.

She holds the club in a parallel grip (Principle 2). That just means that her palms face each other and the back of her lead hand faces the target.

Her putterhead travels on a long low path away from and back to the ball (Principle 6).

And although it's not one of the "official" principles, you can see that her hands are leaning the shaft forward ever so slightly. In my book I recommended positioning your hands right over the ball. That way, you get a little lean but not too much. As you can see, Ai does exactly that.



In this video you can see that the club shaft forms a straight line with her forearms (Principle 4). That helps eliminate that nasty forearm twisting.

You can also see that she doesn't make a cut stroke (Principle 5) -- that is, she doesn't slice across the ball.



And finally, you can see how little she moves. She's not stiff but she isn't moving around any more than she has to (Principle 7).

Despite all the training aids that are available, classic techniques aren't that hard to learn... and Ai Miyazato is a great example to learn from.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Stricker on Putting

Golf Digest posted an article back in August 2012 by Steve Stricker with some of his putting tips... but I just found it. So today I'm just giving you a link to it.

Stricker puttingThe article is simply called Steve Stricker Shares His Putting Secrets and it's a very interesting read. Ironically, Stricks doesn't always do things the way most instructors tell you.

For example, most instructors say you should focus more on distance than line when you putt. (I agree, btw.) Stricker, however, says:
I don't worry about speed. I just pick my line and then really concentrate on hitting the ball on that line.
Then again, according to what Stricks says, he doesn't worry a lot about line either:
My stroke is pretty straight-to-straight. I think it's got to come inside the target line a little bit, but I don't worry about that.
But what would you expect from a guy who just seems to know how to putt?

It's nice to see how Stricker approaches putting, but I think the real value of the article is that his approach is so relaxed. Stricks doesn't get too hung up on technique, although he clearly knows what he does and why he does it. Reading the article may help you stop being so hard on yourself as well.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I Hate Snakes

The squirmy reptilian things, that is. The PGA Tour players hate a different kind of snake.

For them, it's the slithering stretch of holes at Innisbrook's Copperhead Course -- the 16th, 17th & 18th holes, better known as "The Snake Pit." It's a nasty way to end the course... or the Tampa Bay Championship itself, for that matter.

Here's the description of these three finishing holes from PGATOUR.com:
  • 16: par-4, 460 yds ---- No. 16 is Copperhead's most intimidating par 4, with water stretching the entire right side. A well-positioned tee shot sets up a long second shot to a wide green.
  • 17: par-3, 215 yds ---- A long par 3 to a very narrow green, No. 17 has bunkers and trees protecting both sides of the hole, making birdie a good score.
  • 18: par-4, 445 yds ---- The 18th is a beautiful, uphill finishing hole. An accurate tee shot will leave an uphill second shot to an elevated, hidden green. The putting surface slopes back to front and has bunkers short and long.
Those descriptions don't include that the 16th is a narrow dogleg left with lots of trees down the left. Nor do they mention the hollow at the back of the 17th.

Apparently the "tweaks" done to the 17th and 18th greens for last year's tournament have been largely reversed this year, as they made putts move way to much for players to read.

Nevertheless, I don't know that I'd like this snake any better than the live kind!

Your greeting at the start of the Snake Pit

If you're looking for a favorite this week, you might look at Vijay Singh since he apparently has the best aggregate score for all the years he's played the Snake Pit. Geoff Ogilvy has also faired pretty well there, and so has Gary Woodland although he hasn't played it nearly as much. (He won in 2011, though.)

GC lists the pregame show at 2:30pm ET today, with full coverage starting at 3pm.

The photo came from this page at usatoday.com.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Back in the LPGA USA Swing

The LPGA makes its first USA start this week, which means -- among other things -- same day TV coverage here in the States. I've included some photos of the Wildfire Golf Course where the event will be played. Beautiful, isn't it?

Wildfire Golf Course, photo 1

I often link you, my readers, to previews done on other sites... and this week, I have a new site to link you to as well. The good folks over at Mostly Harmless are still covering women's golf, of course, but Tony Jesselli (who often did their tournament previews) has started his own women's golf blog. It's simply called Tony's LPGA Report, and you may have already seen the link to it in my first blog list over there in the sidebar. Among other things, he's got links to English leaderboards for most of the women's tours around the world. It's definitely worth checking out.

Here's the link to his preview of the RR Donnelly LPGA Founders Cup, to get you started.

Many of you will remember that this event was one of Commissioner Michael Whan's experiments when he first came on board and the LPGA was struggling. It honors the original founders of the LPGA and it got a lot of publicity for having a "ghost purse," where all of the money went to charity and the players got no cash. (However, the amount they would have earned was included in their official money totals.) Many thought the tournament wouldn't last, but by the time of its second playing in 2012 a normal purse was in place.

Wildfire Golf Course, photo 2

The Founders Cup is now considered one of Whan's great success stories. It brought the LPGA back to the Phoenix AZ area, which had been trying to get them to return for quite a while. It added a high-profile event to a US schedule that had been gutted by economic problems. The home course, Wildfire Golf Course, was designed by Arnold Palmer. And the first two winners were Karrie Webb (2011) and Yani Tseng (2012) -- hardly unfamiliar names to LPGA fans.

The main site for the tournament is at this link and the LPGA's tournament site is at this one, so you can get all the updated news about the event at those two pages. And, of course, the live scoreboard is here.

Wildfire Golf Course, photo 3

GC begins coverage tomorrow at 6:30 pm ET.

The photos came from the Wildfire Golf Course's page at marriott.com.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Swing Like Wiratchant?

This is the post where we answer the musical question, "Just how unorthodox can a swing be and still be fundamentally sound?"

Some of you may not have even heard of Taiwanese pro Thaworn Wiratchant before he played in the WGC-Cadillac Championship last week. He was in pretty good position after two rounds of 69 before shooting 77-77 on the weekend. But at just over 46 years old, he's had a pretty good career overseas and that's why we're finally starting to see him over here some.

Here's a video I found of his swing. There's a slo-mo at around the :24 mark and, although it's only a face-on view, it gives you a pretty good idea of what's going on:



Almost makes Jim Furyk look like Tiger, doesn't it? On Wiratchant's profile page at asiantour.com, you'll find this comment down in the "Personal" section:
Thaworn has an unorthodox swing with his hands moving directly above his head at the top of the backswing. He also has a long extended, much photographed, follow through. Said he did not see the need to change his golf swing as "it worked well for me during my amateur days and it works now." A short game wizard, thanks to countless of hours at the practice green.
Yes, his hands end up directly above his head -- as opposed to Bubba, who is also upright but has his hands back over his shoulders at the top of his backswing. Most instructors will tell you that this is a recipe for disaster, yet Thaworn is a dominant player on the OneAsia Tour. How can this be?

The trick lies in his fundamentals. Let me give you a quick tour of the good things he does:
  1. Thaworn has a strong one-piece takeaway that carries his hands well above waist high. With such an upright swing, he almost has to!
  2. Largely as a result of his takeaway, Thaworn gets a good shoulder turn, which in turn gives him a powerful coil. Many players who "lift their arms" this way don't get their backs to the target the way he does.
  3. Pay close attention to the start of his downswing. His arms drop almost straight down toward the ground! Again, many players who get this upright start their downswings by swinging forward then down -- but Thaworn swings down then forward. This keeps him from coming over the top.
  4. At impact Thaworn's lead elbow is bent. The bent elbow itself doesn't help his swing, but it's bent for a reason. When he drops his arms at the start of his downswing, he gets both upper arms connected to his torso a la Ben Hogan. His lead elbow bends because such a steep swing plane requires a lot of effort to keep both upper arms connected through impact. He's literally digging his elbows into his sides as he whips the club through the ball!
  5. See how he's up on the toes of his trailing foot at impact? He isn't hanging back. No, his weight has shifted to his lead foot so he can make solid contact with the ball.
  6. And finally, notice that although his upper body isn't hanging back, it isn't falling toward the target either. He's swinging into a balanced finish.
I keep saying that golf isn't as hard as we make it. Thaworn Wiratchant's swing is a great example of what I mean. As long as you include the important fundamentals, your swing doesn't have to look like a Tour pro in order to get the job done right.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 WGC-Cadillac Championship

Winner: Tiger Woods

Around the wider world of golf: Anirban Lahiri defended his title at the SAIL-SBI Open on the Asian Tour; Suzann Pettersen won the Mission Hills World Ladies Championship on the LET; Kevin Kisner won the Chile Classic on the Web.com Tour; and Scott Brown won the Puerto Rico Open, the alternate event on the PGA Tour.

Tiger's 17th WGC trophy

In case you've lost track, this is two victories for the Big Cat so far this year. Last year he hadn't even won one by this time... and this time, the second one's a WGC.

I'm not going to belabor what Tiger's doing so far. I will mention that he broke some of his own records, like most birdies in 36 and 54 holes and the fewest putting strokes ever in 72 holes. I will mention that this is his 17th WGC title -- the next closest player has, what, 3? -- and it's his 76th victory overall.

Likewise, I know that we're all waiting to see what Tiger does at the majors. That's what his "comeback" will ultimately be judged by.

But I spent a good deal of time Sunday laughing at all the experts who said Tiger would never be a serious force in golf again. They remind me of what the late actor Peter Ustinov once said:
"If the world should blow itself up, the last audible voice would be that of an expert saying it can't be done."
This week's Limerick Summary salutes the Big Cat -- still relevant and still giving the experts a fit:
The records are falling again
As Tiger walks off with the win.
He comes in with sixteen,
He walks out with seventeen –
WGCs make him grin.
The photo is from the WGC-Cadillac Championship home page.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Rymer's Trajectory Tip

Charlie Rymer takes a lot of ribbing on GC -- and often it's about ribs (barbequed, that is). But I heard him give a little trajectory tip that I thought was just about the coolest and simplest tip on the subject that I've ever heard.

Ok, here's the deal: Many of the shots we want to play require us to accurately guess what trajectory a given club is going to launch the ball on. (A classic example would be the glass-breaking challenge on GC's Big Break shows.) But learning the trajectories each club is capable of creating can be a long, drawn-out process...

Unless you use Charlie Rymer's trajectory tip. First let me give you a diagram, then I'll explain it.

Rymer's trajectory tip

First look at the drawing on the left. This is a standard setup. The arrow shows you the angle the ball is going to be launched at.

Charlie's tip is on the right. You flip the club over so the back of the head is on the ground. Make sure the face of the club is parallel to the ground. If you do, the shaft of the club will give you a really good idea what angle the ball is going to launch at. You can use this info to choose your club.

Of course, there are some caveats you have to be aware of.

First, this isn't going to work very well with your hybrids and fairway woods, for obvious reasons. But typically it's an iron shot that requires this kind of knowledge. And since you know all your hybrid and wood trajectories will be lower than your longest iron's trajectory, you'll have a starting point for them as well.

Second, if you lean your club shafts slightly forward at address, the way I recommend, your actual trajectories will be slightly lower than the shaft indicates. The arrow in the right hand drawing is just a copy of the one from the left hand drawing, and they look the same. But if you look really close, you'll see that top of the shaft is actually closer to the arrow than the bottom of the shaft. You should be aware of it, just in case you've got a really tight window to fit through... but most of the time, it won't make a huge difference.

And finally, uphills and downhills will affect the accuracy of this technique a little. Still, it'll be helpful. Just make sure the face of the club is parallel to the slope, and you should get a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Like I said, simple and cool. Make sure you thank Charlie for this one. (He'll probably accept payment in ribs.)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Some Major Play at the Monster

I think it's a bit unusual, and that's why I noticed it.

Of the top eight players on the WGC-Cadillac scoreboard, six of them are major winners:
  • Tiger Woods (14)
  • Graeme McDowell (1)
  • Phil Mickelson (4)
  • Bubba Watson (1)
  • Charl Schwartzel (1)
  • Keegan Bradley (1)
The other two non-major winners, Steve Stricker and Fredrik Jacobson, are both extremely good ball-strikers and putters... and not power hitters, the way most winners at Doral are. (Of course, the same can be said of Graeme, who's still bogey-free after two rounds.)

As I was saying, it's a bit unusual. Typically a WGC leaderboard sports several players who are still trying to make a mark in the game. But not so far this week.

If the wind comes up as predicted, this could end up being the most exciting event so far this season. There are so many big names in the chase, and with Tiger currently in the lead by two strokes...

All we need now is a Sunday grouping with:
  • Tiger, Phil, Stricks
  • Tiger, Phil, Bubba or
  • Tiger, Phil, Graeme
and the announcers will go freaking wild. Not to mention the gallery. Major play indeed.

The GC coverage starts at 11am ET and switches to NBC later.

As Phil often says, this could be "fun."

Friday, March 8, 2013

Guess Who's Playing Well at Doral?

Shhhhh... the Blue Monster was asleep on Thursday and many players posted good rounds.

Like the Golf Boys -- or at least 3/4 of them. Ben Crane isn't there. I'm blaming it on his combination of leotard and feathers from the new Golf Boys video, 2.Oh. Even the WGCs need to keep up appearances:



Five guys topped the leaderboard at -6, and Bubba Watson was one of them. He came close to winning last year, so he just picked up where he left off.

The Junkman, Freddie Jacobson (remember, that's YAH-kob-sun) also made the grade. He made two eagles in one round, which I understand is a first for him.

Sergio Garcia hit more greens than anybody else and putted like mad.

Then there was Graeme McDowell, who's been threading his driver through the narrow fairways of the Monster like a native. He didn't have any bogeys all day.

And the other guy was Tiger Woods, shooting the lowest round he's ever shot at the Monster.

Other guys are hanging around nearby -- guys like Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, Peter Hanson, and Steve Stricker are a mere stroke back.

But some guys aren't doing so good. I sure didn't expect Francesco Molinari and Paul Lawrie to be at +6 after just one round. And of course Rory's still struggling -- he was +1 after the first day. At least they'll get to play all four rounds since there's no cut this week.

Plus they won't be wearing leotards and feathers. There's something to be said for that as well.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How Matt Kuchar Makes His Shoulder Turn

I found this Golf Digest video from back in June 2011 showing what Matt Kuchar thinks about to get a good shoulder coil. Here's Peter Morrice to explain it:



I like the explanation of the shoulder turn. Your shoulders turn on a plane perpendicular to your spine -- which means that your shoulder plane is steeper if you bend over more at address, and flatter if you stand taller. I'd rather that you focus on keeping your shoulder plane perpendicular to your spine, as Morrice describes it here, than worrying about whether your swing is upright or flat. Get your shoulder turn correct and a lot of your plane problems will take care of themselves.

But that thing about feeling your weight move to your trailing heel... I'm not so sure about that. It's not that it's wrong, but some of you may find it more troublesome than helpful. Personally, if I try to feel my weight moving to my trailing heel, I end up straightening my trailing knee too much and losing my coil. I do better when I feel that my weight is on the instep of my trailing foot.

Here's what you should take from this: One of the keys to a consistent golf swing is finding out what the correct mechanics feel like when you do them, then just repeating that feel. That way, the mechanics take care of themselves.

So if that explanation about the weight shift to your trailing heel during your backswing helps you, by all means use it... but if it hurts rather than helps, just ignore it. Everybody feels their swing a bit differently.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hitting from the Wrong Side of a Tree

Whether you're right-handed or left-handed, eventually you end up needing to hit a shot from the wrong side of a tree -- you know, one of those shots where the tree is standing where you need to stand! The only solution is to hit a one-handed chip, but it's pretty hard to do, isn't it?

I found this little video over at golftipsmag.com and was incredibly pleased with it. The technique isn't really difficult; it's just not instinctive. Here, take a look:



Most of us tend to make a long full arm swing rather than a short wristy one. That's the real trick to this shot.

Also, please note that even though he's teaching it, Avoli's first practice swing sticks in the ground. Like I said, the shot's not hard but it's not instinctive either. It's going to take a little practice to (1) get used to the motion and (2) learn how hard you have to hit it. But it's a nice trick to have in your repertoire, and it might save you a shot every now and then.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The European Tour Drops Anchor

The potential for putter chaos has officially begun.

The European Tour released their official statement about the proposed anchoring ban, which you can read here. It reads in part:
The European Tour has confirmed its support for the R&A and the USGA and their proposal for rule 14-1b – the prohibition of anchoring any club when making a stroke under the Rules of Golf....
“We understand the points put forward by the PGA Tour and the PGA of America and respect and sympathise with their views, which are based on their experience and the evidence before them, and have been expressed with great concern for the game. The whole issue has received far greater focus and comment in the United States than in the rest of the world, perhaps because of the numbers of their golfers using the anchored method, and the set up in general terms of their golf courses and the firmness and speed of their greens.”
Of course, this isn't a shock. The ET had already indicated, earlier in 2012, that they were in favor of an anchoring ban and were considering making it a rule of their own anyway.

But with the PGA Tour and the PGA of America already announcing their opposition to such a ban (referenced in the ET statement), there is now a real possibility of "rules bifurcation" between tours rather than between amateurs and pros. I say "possibility" because the PGA Tour could still decide to go along with the ban if it indeed goes into effect; the Tour left that possibility open in their statement.

Nevertheless, it's clear that the hornet's nest has been given a solid smack. If the USGA and the R&A go ahead with the proposed ban, and the PGA Tour, PGA of America, and European Tour stay true to the intent of their official statements, here's what we're looking at:
  • The US Open (sanctioned by the USGA) won't allow anchoring.
  • The Open Championship (sanctioned by the R&A) won't allow anchoring.
  • The PGA Championship (sanctioned by the PGA of America) will allow anchoring.
  • The Masters could go either way.
  • Events co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour and ET will have to decide, though it's likely the events either won't allow anchoring or will cease to be co-sanctioned.
  • All other PGA Tour events will allow anchoring.
  • All other ET events won't allow anchoring.
Presumably, without official statements having been made by the other tours around the world, it's probably safe to assume that events co-sanctioned with the ET won't allow anchoring, and events go-sanctioned with the PGA Tour might go either way.

And it might have an unexpected side effect: Players from around the world who want to use the anchored putters may well stop playing in Europe and focus on the US tour. That could have serious financial repercussions for ET events, as sponsors debate following the big name players who use anchored putters. I'll be surprised if this doesn't become a major issue before it's all over.

In other words, we could be on the verge of a huge mess. Anchoring could end up being more like a millstone around golf's neck. It's going to be interesting to see how this finally plays out.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 Honda Classic

Winner: Michael Thompson

Around the wider world of golf: Michael Hendry won the NZ PGA Championship on the Australasian Tour; Dawie Van Der Walt won the Tshwane Open on the ET/Sunshine Tour; Stacy Lewis won the HSBC Women's Champions on the LPGA; and Patrick Cantlay won the Colombia Championship on the Web.com Tour.

Thompson looks excited

Some first-timers explode in a frenzy of pyrotechnics, the way Henley won the Sony in his first PGA start early this season with a 63 in the final round.

And then there's the guys like Michael Thompson who, after logging their fair share of starts over several years, simply put together a solid final round in the wind to snag their long-chased goal. In fact, Thompson shot one of only five under-par rounds on Sunday, and he wasn't over par in any of his four rounds.

Although he managed an eagle early in the round and managed to hit the par-5 18th in two shots -- well, he hit a greenside bunker -- for the most part he played safe and avoided bad mistakes, then let his short game take care of things. In fact, that shot to the 18th never came close to the water there; it went into a bunker that left him lots of green to work with.

In other words, no pyrotechnics. Just solid, smart play that resulted in his first win.

Besides those five under-par rounds -- all of them 69s, btw -- nobody else shot better than 71. (Par is 70 down at PGA National.) And while the winner usually gets through the Bear Trap (15,16 & 17) in par or better, Thompson went through at +1. Nevertheless, it was good enough for the win.

It was also good enough for the Limerick Summary this week, commemorating the kid named after the famous machine gun who gunned down all his competition:
In Thompson’s last round, he broke par again
While most of the pros were unravelin’.
At PGA National
Par’s not a rational
Goal when the Bear Trap has lots of wind.
The photo came from the front page of PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: March 2013

There's only one big mover in the RGWR this month. You probably won't be surprised to find that it's the WGC-Accenture Match Play winner, Matt Kuchar. There are several players who seem to be playing well but just aren't getting anything for it -- no wins or Top5s, that is. And with Rory struggling and Tiger being off just a little, the big names aren't exactly lighting it up!

But with another WGC coming next week, the Palmer Invitational two weeks later, and a little more than a month until the Masters, it's time for the contenders to get serious and start making their moves. I'll be interested to see if the April RGWR is much different from this one, as both Tiger and Rory will drop a win next month. With so many guys stuck at two wins, a victory or two from any of this month's top players could really change the complexion of the rankings.

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), 4 Top5, 41 points. Rory's still on top but he's losing ground, what with only 4 rounds played so far this year.
  2. Tiger Woods: 4 wins (3 prestige), 5 Top5, 28 points. Tiger's game appears to be in pretty good shape, but he needs to get everything working altogether.
  3. Brandt Snedeker: 2 wins (2 prestige), 6 Top5, 1 award (FedExCup), 23 points. Although he's out with sore ribs right now, Brandt's play early in the month moved him up in the rankings.
  4. Louis Oosthuizen: 2 wins (1 prestige), 7 Top5, 22 points. No change since last month but still playing well.
  5. Matt Kuchar: 2 wins (1 TPC, 1 WGC), 2 Top5, 19 points. Kuch's WGC-Accenture win gave him a serious kick up into the rankings.
  6. Charl Schwartzel: 2 wins (1 other), 6 Top5, 16 points. Although he hasn't added any wins since last month, Charl has added a couple of Top5s.
  7. Lee Westwood: 2 wins (1 other), 6 Top5, 16 points. Lee moves ahead of Sergio on the strength of a newer Top5..
  8. Sergio Garcia: 2 wins (1 other), 6 Top5, 16 points. No change since last month.
  9. Dustin Johnson: 2 wins (1 prestige), 2 Top5, 12 points. DJ lost a couple of Top5s but he still has a recent one.
  10. Darren Fichardt: 2 wins, 0 Top5, 6 points. I know this doesn't look impressive compared to the other guys, but Fichardt is the only other two-win player to win in February. This could be a sign that his game is improving.
Players to watch:
  • Ian Poulter played well in the Accenture with the exception of one day. Unfortunately, that one day had both the semis and the finals! As he starts playing more this year, I look for him to do well.
  • Jason Day has 3 Top10s in only 4 starts this year, including a 3rd at the Accenture. He's looking good with the majors coming up
  • Charles Howell III is also playing well, despite not doing it when I predict it! Still, I look for him to win before the year's out.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Rory's Motor Stalls at Honda

The big news Friday wasn't Rory's withdrawal from the Honda Classic -- first blamed on lack of mental focus, then toothache -- so much as it was about how the media and fans react to a top player's withdrawal.

I'll be blunt with you, I don't see how Rory could come out of this looking good, no matter what he said. Here's what we know, based on what I gleaned from reporters and players interviewed on GC:
  • Rory had a poor warmup session before the round.
  • He was 7-over after 8 holes -- and clearly showing more temper than usual -- then told his playing partners that he was quitting.
  • He told reporters that he was in a bad place mentally.
  • About an hour later, his agent said he couldn't concentrate due to toothache from his wisdom teeth. He had tried Advil to help him control it, but it didn't work.
  • Tim Rosaforte confirmed that Rory had been on pain medicine for about 3 weeks and had run out.
  • Rory went home and didn't practice or anything. (I assume he got the pain medicine prescription refilled.)
  • He tweeted an apology to the sponsors and fans.
  • He plans to play next week, then see the dentist in the gap before the next tournament.
And from there, the story became how Rory and Co. handled the whole thing.

Like I said, I don't see how Rory could come out on top here. I think what we saw is a standard move by a top player.

I think there's a good chance Rory simply didn't want to make an excuse for his bad play. How many times did the media complain that Tiger never admitted when he was in pain? Maybe they're afraid to show weakness, maybe they feel it's a cop-out to admit they're human, I don't know... but it happens a lot, doesn't it?

And it's not like he was wrong about the mental distraction, either. Pain does that to you.

The thing I think everybody is zeroing in on is that Rosaforte also indicated that Rory has been frustrated with his new ball lately. Perhaps he has, but I can see where such frustration would be amplified by tooth pain.

Hey, I'm not making excuses for Rory or trying to defend him. All I'm saying is that we've seen this kind of behavior by top players before... and I'm not so sure that it's not understandable. Nobody likes to admit they're weak... and certainly not when it means admitting it to millions of viewers all over the world.

Being human is such a bother, don't you think?

And for those of you tracking the play of the Villegas brothers: Manuel sits at -5 in the Web.com Tour event while Camilo missed the cut by 1 at the Honda. I did warn you...

Friday, March 1, 2013

Viva la Bogota!

While Camilo Villegas tops the scoreboard after the first round of the Honda Classic, his brother Manuel is slugging it out at the Colombia Championship on the Web.com Tour.

Manuel VillegasIt's not like Manuel gets a lot of practice -- at least, not on the Web.com Tour. He only played two events on it last year. Still, he's put himself in pretty good position so far. He's -3 after the first round, just 4 off the lead of Danny Lee.

Still, he's got his work cut out for him. Between he and Lee are a number of name players:
  • Sam Saunders (Arnold Palmer's grandson)
  • Shane Bertsch
  • Edward Loar
  • Steve Wheatcroft
  • Alex Rocha
  • Joseph Bramlett
  • Patrick Cantlay
  • Jordan Spieth
just to name a few. And that doesn't count the names you'd recognize who are tied with him, like Will MacKenzie and Matt Goggin.

It'll be interesting to see which of them fares better this week. Camilo gets the nod for the first round since he's -6 and leading the tournament. Manuel is just T15.

Welcome to the high-paying world of sibling rivalry!

Who do you think will finish better? I suspect most people would pick Camilo since he has the most experience. But I'm always reminded of the old joke about Speedy Gonzales and his cousin SlowPoke Rodriguez (from back in the days when nobody worried about being politically correct, and besides, the Villegas brothers aren't Mexican anyway)...



AND THE MORAL IS: Never underestimate little brother!