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Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Senior Duel

In the midst of the excitement over Inbee Park being just one round from history -- only Babe Didrikson Zaharias has managed to win the FIRST three majors of the season (Western Open, Titleholders Championship, and US Women's Open, in 1950) -- the battle over at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship has suddenly become very interesting.

Fred Couples

Fred Couples still leads at -15 (66-62-67) but only by 2 strokes. It seems that Kenny Perry decided to shoot back-to-back 63s (71-63-63) to reach -13. Fox Chapel is extremely soft after all the rain but -- as an old Wild West cowboy might say -- that's still some pretty fair shootin' thar. This link will take you to a much more indepth article about the event over at ESPN.com, but here's an interesting factoid from that article:
After a lethargic 71 in the first round left him frustrated, Perry switched putters to one with more loft hoping it would help keep the ball online on the soggy and cleat-marked greens.
The decision paid off handsomely as Perry set a tournament record for the lowest score in consecutive rounds. The combined 14-under 126 Perry posted in the second and third rounds is two better than the 128 Jack Nicklaus shot in 1990 when the tournament was held in Dearborn, Mich.
You read that right: Kenny went to a putter with more loft to help keep the ball on line on the wet greens. More loft helps get the ball up on top of the wet grass more quickly. That's a useful thing for you readers to remember if you play in the rain very often. Although I haven't heard the exact amount, I'm guessing Kenny went from around 3 degrees (fairly standard on the Tour's superfast greens) to around 5 degrees.

Granted, the soft conditions have made the SENIOR PLAYERS a much closer competition than the US Women's Open is shaping up to be. There are 5 players within 5 shots of Freddie, as opposed to Inbee leading a pack of only 5 women under par. Inbee's attempt to make history gives the women a real interest boost over the seniors.

Still, if today turns into a shootout between Freddie and Kenny (and possibly another player or two), it might be worth your time to leave Inbee & Co. for a few moments to check in on the old guys. At least during the commercials.

The photo came from golfweek.com.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Inbee In Front Again

Here is the story of Inbee Park's year in a single photo:

Park with caddy

She's got another putt for birdie. She isn't making them all, despite how players like Stacy Lewis -- who had a ringside seat on Friday -- may feel:
" … It's frustrating because she is not exactly knocking the flags down. She is making putts off the edge of the green, ones that you wouldn't expect her to make. It's definitely frustrating for us watching."
You need to understand what isn't being said here, folks. It's true that Inbee isn't knocking them close and it's true that she's making some birdies that no one expects her to make. But that's not the whole story.

What isn't being said is that she's giving herself more chances at makeable birdie putts than the other players. If you watched any of Friday's broadcast, you heard the commentators say that most of her putts are pretty straight. The fact is that Inbee is missing her shots in the correct places, leaving putts that may be long but that don't have to deal with lots of level changes or break.

The tournament isn't over by a long shot. I.K. Kim is only a couple of shots back and she seems to be firing on all cylinders this week. But there are only 4 players within 5 shots of Inbee. (Granted, the second round hasn't been finished at the time I'm writing this, but it doesn't look likely that anyone else will close that gap.) And the weather looks to worsen over the weekend. If the USGA toughens the course as usual -- and if Inbee doesn't stumble, of course -- there won't be a lot of players with a chance to win come Sunday afternoon.

Today's round could be VERY interesting for Inbee Park, I.K. Kim, Lizette Salas, and Jodi Ewart Shadoff. I sure plan to watch!

So here's your reminder: NBC picks up the coverage of the US Women's Open today. The LPGA website lists it at 3pm ET while GC says it will begin at 2:30pm ET. I guess that means a pregame show.

The photo and quote came from this USAToday article. In addition, you can get even more details from this ESPN post.

Friday, June 28, 2013

"I'm Feeling a Bit Lost at the Moment..."

That's what Rory said when he finished his 2-over round at the Irish Open on Thursday. Here's the full quote as James Corrigan reported it for the UK Telegraph:
"I’m feeling a bit lost at the moment," McIlroy said. "Off the tee I'm missing it left and right and it’s difficult when you stand there not knowing that one side is out of play. I don’t know if it’s a case of playing through it or grinding it out in practice."
And it appears that the golf media as a whole is growing concerned about this turn of events. It was a topic for the Grey Goose 19th Hole folks on GC. (Yani Tseng was discussed as well.) On the show they seemed to have decided that Padraig Harrington was right when he said Rory had a lot of Phil in him. The implication was that Rory was going to be a great player -- he just wasn't going to be a consistent performer.

Corrigan further quoted Rory:
"It’s tough when you have a rounds like this and, when you’d thought you were getting somewhere, all of a sudden you’re stopped in your tracks and you’ve got to reassess everything again." 
Of course, this is no big news to weekend golfers, is it? It's something all of us have to deal with from time to time, even if the pros think they should be exempt.

It has something to do with being human. It's not enough that old Murphy works with the USGA and R&A, making sure that if anything goes wrong... there's a penalty for that. How are golfers -- whether they do this for a living or not -- supposed to deal with the volatile nature of a golf swing?

It seems likely to me that Rory simply hasn't identified the real problem behind what some of us call his "Army swing" (left, right, left, right, left, right...). Without knowing the true cause of the problem, you don't know if it CAN be played through. If you don't know what's wrong, how can you grind it out in practice?

I have a theory: Players have swing problems from time to time. They go out and have a bad round. They decide to fix the problem, so they go hit balls until their fingers bleed and they can hit the ball where they're aiming.

But they misunderstood the problem. They thought they had fallen into a swing flaw when they merely had a day when their body didn't work normally. Like maybe their back is a bit stiffer than normal today, so they didn't turn their shoulders quite as fully as normal, so their swing plane was a bit different from normal.

What should they have done? Maybe, instead of trying to fix the problem after the round -- what good will THAT do? They aren't going to play golf again until tomorrow -- maybe they should wait until the next day's warmup and see what the ball is doing THAT day. Perhaps the problem is gone; perhaps it's a different problem. At any rate, they find a fix BEFORE they go out to play instead of AFTER they finish playing.

I suspect this is why players often hit stretches where a perfectly good swing suddenly seems to be different everyday. Instead of dealing with today's problem, they dealt with yesterday's problem... which gives them absolutely NO help with today's problem.

Our swings are like us, a little different everyday. I suspect Rory's feeling lost because he expects his swing to be a machine when he's just a garden variety human. Perhaps he -- and the rest of us -- would have fewer swing problems if we could be satisfied with something less than inhuman perfection.

As for Rory, I suspect in time he'll find his swing is where it's always been. Maybe he just needs to settle for a little less perfection for a while, just set his goals a little lower... like, say, finding a single shot shape, a "go to" shot, that he can predict for this round, today.

It's ok to be human, Rory. Trust me.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Inbee Park's Pause

(A quick note: Although the LPGA website says NBC's Saturday and Sunday coverage of the US Women's Open starts at 3pm ET -- and as I listed in yesterday's post -- GC says it will actually start at 2:30pm ET both days. I assume that means there will be a pre-game show.)

No doubt you've heard about Inbee Park's pause at the top of her swing. You've heard commentators talk about how unusual it is and how it gives her great rhythm. All of their comments are true except...

Inbee Park does NOT have a pause at the top of her swing. I'll concede that it looks that way from a face-on view, but that view is misleading. Today I'm going to show you exactly what happens. I'm going to show you two videos from slightly different angles that will help you see what's really going on.

The first one is a down-the-line shot. There are 4 speeds here -- regular speed, slo-mo, super slo-mo, and one more at regular speed. Pay careful attention to her club head as it reaches the top of her backswing and changes direction.



This second one is also DTL but from a higher angle. It also has 4 speeds... and the nonstop movement of the club head is even more obvious from this angle.



What exactly is happening here? Basically, it's the same thing that happens with players like Sergio. Some instructors call it "laying off the club." It's a method of rerouting the club onto a lower swing plane for the downswing... which means she has a two-plane swing.

Here's how it works: As she reaches the top of her backswing, her trailing elbow starts down just a little ahead of her lead arm. This gives the appearance in a face-on view that her swing has indeed stopped momentarily. What actually happens? The slight difference in speed between how fast each arm is dropping causes the back of her lead hand to tilt slightly skyward. That, in turn, flattens her downswing plane.

Inbee has a bit of a flying right elbow, which contributes to this move. When she starts down, her right elbow moves a bit closer to her left elbow, which helps twist the back of her right wrist upward. A flying trailing elbow is generally considered a swing flaw, but it certainly helps Inbee here.

This twisting move has roughly the same effect as bowing her lead wrist as she starts down. Hogan said that keeping the lead wrist bowed through impact helps you make more solid contact with the ball. When you hear some players talk about "covering the ball," this is what they're talking about. It helps insure that the club shaft is leaning slightly forward when you actually hit the ball, which helps you "pinch" the ball against the ground, which helps you hit the ball more solidly and even a little straighter. Players who are considered ballstrikers usually hit the ball this way.

Now you know part of the reason Inbee is such a threat at the US Women's Open this week... and why she doesn't pause at the top of her swing.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My 5 for the Women's Major

The women's major this week is the US Women's Open, generally considered as the most important major by all the ladies, no matter which country they're from. It's going to be held at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, New York. And, in an unusual twist, the ladies' course will be longer than the seniors' course, at a little over 6800 yards, though it plays as a par 72 rather than a par 70.

Sebonack Golf Club

I heard Stacy Lewis say that this course has a bit more forgiveness to the fairways, so the driving will be less critical than the second shots to the greens. If this photo from the LPGA's site is any indication, she may be right. And if that's so, this major could be wide open... but I have trouble believing the USGA will have wide fairways at a flagship event like this.

In either case, it doesn't affect most of my picks.
  • Inbee Park: With 5 wins already this season -- including the first two majors of the year -- it would be hard not to pick the World #1 anyway. But as far as I'm concerned, it's not the number of wins that makes her a favorite. Rather, it's the way she won them. No heroics, flashy plays, or daring shots here, folks; Inbee has simply hit the fairways, hit the greens, and putted the ball in the hole. Boring golf wins majors.
  • So Yeon Ryu: I've been on the KangaRyu's bandwagon for a while now, and she's done nothing to scare me off. With one US Open already under her belt, a loss in last week's playoff, and a solid gap between her #5 position and #6 in the Rolex Rankings, I have to think she's ready for this week.
  • Stacy Lewis: While the World #2 (who's losing ground to Inbee Park with each passing week) appears to be struggling with her game, nothing could be farther from the truth. With 2 wins and three Top5s this season, she's just run into a buzzsaw... or rather, a buzzing Inbee. The US Open has been a tough major for Stacy in the past, but she certainly has the game to take it on.
And now it gets tough. I've chosen two players who have been somewhat inconsistent this season:
  • Karrie Webb: Karrie has shown moments of brilliance this year, plus she won less than a month ago. It's been a while but she does have two US Opens on her record, so she knows how to get it done.
  • Paula Creamer: I never thought I would call the Pink Panther a flyer, but here she is. I actually debated between her, Cristie Kerr, and Lydia Ko for my fifth pick, but decided to go with Paula because she made a putting change last week to left-hand-low for the short putts. If that change pays off -- and I know that's a big if during a major week -- she definitely has the experience edge on Ko. I won't be surprised if both Kerr and Ko get themselves in position to win, but somebody has to get the Panther's back.
Unlike the senior major, the US Women's Open gets multi-channel coverage. ESPN2 will cover the first two rounds (3-7pm ET) while NBC takes the last two (3-6pm ET). With Inbee's chance to get the third leg of the Slam, I expect this year's event to generate a lot of interest.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My 5 for the Senior Major

Alright, we've got two majors this week. Today I'm picking my 5 favorites for the senior major; tomorrow I'll pick 5 for the ladies' major.

The senior major is the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship. (I guess the Champions Tour decided to avoid that whole "fifth major" argument that PGA Tour players have about the PLAYERS.) It will be held at the Fox Chapel Golf Club in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While the course is only a par 70, it's also only a bit over 6700 yards. That should make this course gettable for all the players, no matter how long or short they hit the ball. She's a beauty, ain't she?

Fox Chapel Golf Club

That being said, there are definitely some favorites going into this tournament. While I'm certainly going to pick some of them, I'm going to follow my standard procedure of picking at least one "flyer." After all, last year's winner, Joe Daley, wasn't even on most viewers' radar!
  • David Frost: My first two players are the tour's only multiple winners this year, so I have to consider them favorites. In addition, Frosty's second win -- only a couple of weeks ago -- was the Regions Tradition, the 2nd of the five Champions Tour majors. He also has a 2nd and a 3rd this season.
  • Bernhard Langer: Both of Langer's wins came earlier in the year, but he also has two 2nds and two 3rds -- one of those 3rds coming just this past week.
  • Fred Couples: How can you not pick Freddie? While he doesn't have any wins this year, Fred's been playing both tours. In only 6 starts on the Champions Tour he has three 2nds and two 4ths. It sounds like he's due, don't you think?
You probably won't be surprised to learn that these three players are also 1, 2 & 3 in the Charles Schwab Cup points race. They are clearly the men to beat.
  • Colin Montgomerie: Making his Champions Tour debut this week, you can be excused for not expecting much from Monty. In 7 ET starts this year he's only finished in the money twice, and he's coming straight from the tournament in Germany. But one of those money finishes was the BMW PGA, the ET equivalent of our PLAYERS, so he showed up for the big tournament. And although he missed the cut in Germany he shot 71-71, his best two opening rounds in any tournament this year. Add the rush of excitement for both his first appearance on the Champions Tour and his first time playing in a major this year, and the new kid on the block just might get over the hump on his first try.
  • Craig Stadler: I know, a 60-year-old is a REALLY long shot, even if he did win this past week for the first time in 9 years. But beginning to work with Billy Harmon just 3 months ago is paying off -- as evidenced by his win -- and on a fairly short course like Fox Chapel, I think he could be a dark horse this week.
The home page for the tournament is right here, in case you'd like to get more info on the course, the field, last minute news, or whatever. GC alone, without help from NBC or CBS, will be covering all four days of this event. This could be the most interesting of the senior majors so far -- expecially with Freddie and Monty both committing to play.

The photo came from the course page at PGATOUR.com.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 Travelers Championship

Winner: Ken Duke

Around the wider world of golf: In many ways this was a week for the old guys, as Craig Stadler (age 60) won the Encompass Championship on the Champions Tour and Ernie Els (age 43) won the BMW International Open on the ET. Among younger winners, Inbee Park got her 5th title of the season at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship on the LPGA; Pariya Junhasavasdikul won the Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters on the Asian Tour; Gwladys Nocera won the Allianz Ladies Slovak Open on the LET; Cydney Clanton won the Four Winds Invitational on the Symetra Tour; and Chesson Hadley won the Rex Hospital Open on the Web.com Tour.

Ken Duke finally grabs a dream

Every now and then, golf reminds us that numbers DO lie sometimes. Age can be misleading. Age can actually teach you a lot of things.

Like patience.

Ken Duke, age 44, turned pro way back in 1994. Like Stacy Lewis on the LPGA, he's fought his own battle with scoliosis (the back disease) although he had it as an adult. He's won a couple of times on the Web.com Tour -- long before it became the Web.com Tour. And he needed 187 starts (plus a playoff) to get his first PGA Tour win.

But Sunday he got it... and he beat the young guys to do it. Age is just a number, after all.

Ken's final round at the Travelers was full of numbers. Like 11, which is par on the treacherous final three holes at TPC River Highlands. Or 3, the number of times he had to play the 18th in order to beat the incredible efforts of Chris Stroud. Or 2, the number of feet from the hole where he stuck his sand wedge to win the playoff. Or 86...

That's the age of Ken's teacher, the legendary Bob Toski. Toski won this very tournament around 60 years ago, and Sunday morning he called Duke to tell him it was time his student won it too.

So Ken did. Age also teaches you the importance of following your teacher's advice.

Therefore today's Limerick Summary salutes the man who learned one more thing from the numbers -- appreciation for finally achieving a lifelong dream:
In two-thousand-thirteen, at forty-four,
Ken Duke’s not a wannabe anymore.
There’ll be no more waiting;
His second on eighteen
The third time down gave him the winning score.
The photo came from the front page of PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Meanwhile, Back in Arkansas...

Even as Ernie Els contends with a 3-way tie for the lead in Germany at the BMW, the ladies of the LPGA have a similar situation at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. Except they have a 4-way tie going!

(For those of you outside the US, "Arkansas" is pronounced AR-kan-saw. I know that's a little weird -- especially since it's right next to Kansas, which is pronounced exactly the way it looks -- but such is life.)

This tournament is worth your attention simply because next week is the US Women's Open. The players who are playing well this week could very well be the best bets to win at Sebonack next week. And just who are those players?

Stacy Lewis is one of them. This tournament is very important to her since she went to school at the University of Arkansas, plus she won it as an amateur. The tournament makes a habit of inviting amateurs from UA each year, and it was her first win... albeit an unofficial one since the tournament was shortened to 18 holes because of bad weather. As she walks the fairways you'll hear the crowds "calling the hogs" for her; the "Hogs" are the Arkansas Razorbacks, the school's team. Stacy is #3 on the money list and #2 in the Rolex Rankings.

Beatriz Recari is the second player tied at -10. Beatriz is from Spain and has 3 victories -- 2 on the LPGA and 1 on the LET, including this year's Kia Classic. She's #4 on the money list right now.

The third player is Chie Arimura. She's probably the least familiar name in this list, at least for American viewers. She's from Japan and has 13 JLPGA wins; she's a rookie on the LPGA Tour this year although she's been playing some over here for a few years. She had a Top5 at the Shoprite earlier this month.

The last of the four is So Yeon Ryu, who I've been touting for several months now. She has 6 wins on the KLPGA and two on the LPGA, including the 2011 US Women's Open. She was 2012 Rookie of the Year. This year she's #9 on the money list and went to #5 on the Rolex Rankings just last week.

You've got to think all of these ladies are in good form going into next week's major, and there are a number of highly-ranked players just behind them on the leaderboard... but I'll only mention one of them.

Inbee Park. Remember her? She's T5, 2 shots back. She's also #1 on the Rolex, #1 on the money list, #1 in the Player of the Year race, and she has 4 wins just this year. Did I mention that 2 of those wins are the first 2 majors of the year, the Kraft Nabisco and the Wegmans LPGA? I don't know if she'll win this week, but I'm sure liking what I see going in to next week. I think she's gonna have a legitimate chance to get the third leg of the Slam.

In the meantime, this is shaping up to be quite the finish. Even if you're not a Hog. “Woo, Pig! Sooie!”

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ernie on a Roll

Padraig Harrington is playing at the Travelers this week (he's tied for 2nd, in case you didn't know) and he had an interesting take on the whole "playing the week after a major" thing. He said that most players try to peak for the major but they miss it by a week. Then they decide to play the week after and, because they no longer feel the pressure, they relax and have a good week.

Conversely, I suppose you could argue that players who do well at the major don't play that well the following week, due to fatigue. The limited number of players who have won the week after winning a major would seem to support that idea.

And then we have the curious case of Ernie Els. After a T4 at Merion last week, he skipped the Travelers -- perhaps a three-hour drive away -- and jetted instead to Munich, in Germany, to play in the BMW International Open, a tournament he's never won.

At the halfway point, he leads by one at -12.

Ernie at the BMW

Ernie's been playing pretty well over the last couple of months. If you just look at his finishes, they seem erratic until you realize that he's been hopping back and forth between the US and Europe. The first week when he arrives doesn't look so good, but the next week (or weeks) are solid. Missing the cut at the RBC Heritage after a T13 at the Masters is the only real aberration; the following week at the Zurich Classic was a T15.

Which brings up the question of whether Ernie will peak for the defense at the Open Championship. A quick check of his schedule the last two years shows no US starts between the US Open and the Open Championship, and his website lists no tournaments between the BMW this week and the Open this year at Muirfield (in Scotland). Ironically, he HAS played the Scottish Open both years. If his past pattern holds, I could see him adding the Scottish Open -- the week before Muirfield -- just to get himself back in form.

I must say, I'm starting to like Ernie's chances to defend. Especially if he shows up at the Scottish Open. Why change the routine when you're on a roll?

Especially since, according to what I can find, rolls are traditional in Scotland.

The photo came from europeantour.com.

Friday, June 21, 2013

What Should You Expect from a Hybrid?

This post started with a short video Ian Poulter did for MasterCard. It’s going to seem like I’m rambling a bit, but stick with me. I think you’ll find this post helpful.

First, here’s the Poulter video. You’ve probably seen it but, for those of you who haven’t...



What drew my attention was Ian’s statement that his 4-hybrid spins the ball about as much as a 6-iron. That’s a huge difference, folks! Since the ball is coming in much higher than a normal 4-iron, the combination of spin and trajectory can make a big difference for players who don’t hit the ball as far.

I started wondering if this 2-club difference in spin rates was typical. Would a 3-hybrid spin like a 5-iron? Perhaps more important for a weekend player, would a 5-hybrid spin like a 7-iron? While many players struggle to hit the longer clubs, most of us can hit a decent 5-iron… and getting 7-iron spin would certainly help us hold more greens.

That, in turn, got me to thinking about Jiyai Shin. No doubt you’ve heard TV commentators remark that she hits her hybrids as close as most players hit their wedges. I decided to see what Jiyai has in her bag. Bear in mind that Jiyai isn’t a long hitter – her stats at LPGA.com say she hits her driver around 241 yards – so hybrids must be a huge help to her.

I managed to find out what she had in her bag when she won the 2012 Women’s British Open (from this GolfWeek article) and when she Top-Ten’ed at the 2013 Wegmans LPGA (at this LPGA.com page). They match. Likewise, I confirmed at the Mizuno site that she’s played this same setup since March 2010.

Here’s a shocker, folks… Jiyai carries ONLY ONE hybrid! It’s a 23-degree hybrid, which works out to about a 4-iron loft. She carries three fairway woods – 3-wood, 5-wood, and 7-wood.

In my search for spin rate comparisons between hybrids and irons – which I didn’t find, BTW – I also turned up this page at thehackersparadise.com comparing the lofts of hybrids and irons. The key thing I got from this page is that you can’t just match up the numbers when you replace an iron with a hybrid. That is, a 3-hybrid isn’t a direct replacement for a 3-iron; the hybrid actually hits the ball farther as well as higher. One commenter on the page mentioned that there was a huge gap between his 4-hybrid and 5-iron – a gap that was easily filled by a 5-hybrid.

So it appears from the info on the Hacker’s Paradise page that the numbers are roughly a club off. That is, a 5-hybrid probably replaces a 4-iron in terms of distance. Even if you match the lofts – for example, a 23-degree hybrid for a 23-degree iron – you’ll probably get a bit more distance because hybrids have longer shafts. But because of the higher launch angle, the hybrid will stop quicker on the green.

And all of that, in turn, made me wonder what loft Poulter has on his hybrid. His page locked up my browser, so I had to make do with his page at Cobra Golf. It informed me that Poults has TWO Cobra AMP Cell hybrids in his bag – a 3/4 hybrid and a 4/5 hybrid. Based on some other info I found (he carried a 21-degree hybrid back in 2011, for instance) I’m guessing that the 4/5, which is available with 23 degrees of loft, is the one referred to in the video.

I should note here that 23 degrees is a common loft for 4-irons. I should also note that the Cobra AMP Cell hybrid Poults can be adjusted to 25 degrees, closer to a 5-iron. He might have it set slightly different.

As a result of this, I think I can suggest a couple of questions you should ask yourself before you buy a new hybrid, and maybe even give you some idea what kind of performance to expect.

The obvious question is “Which iron do I want to replace with a hybrid?” That’s your starting point… but you should take that iron with you when you go to pick your hybrid.

The second question you should ask is “Do I care if there’s a distance gap around this club?” Based on some of the information I found on the webpages I mentioned earlier, a typical 5-hybrid hits it about the same distance as a typical 4-iron. Technically the 5-hybrid should replace the 4-iron, not the 5-iron. If you want the 5-hybrid to replace the 5-iron, that might be a reasonable switch… but you should be aware that you’ll have a larger distance gap between your 6-iron and the new 5-hybrid.

Such a gap isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You might decide you could just choke down on the 5-hybrid when you needed a 5-iron-length shot. Perhaps you could replace both the 4- and 5-irons with the 5-hybrid and free up space for another wedge or fairway wood; that might actually be a better setup for you. (Note that this is what Jiyai Shin appears to have done.) The point here is that putting a hybrid in your bag may affect your setup beyond just replacing one club.

Finally, ask yourself “What kind of improvement do I expect from this club?” Believe it or not, I think we can make a couple of decent guesses, based on the info in the video and the webpages I listed.

You took the club you plan to replace with you, didn’t you? Compare it to the new club. Is the new club the same loft? You’ll probably hit the ball about the same distance, but the higher launch angle should increase your ball spin. Figure you’ll get about one club more stopping power – for example, if your new 5-hybrid has the same loft as your current 5-iron, the higher launch angle will probably result in 6-iron spin.

Is the shaft longer? Are you comfortable swinging the longer club? The longer shaft should increase your swing speed and distance if you can swing the new club as well as the old one. If your new longer-shafted 5-hybrid is maybe an inch longer, it will probably give you something close to your current 4-iron distance – maybe even a bit more, because of the higher launch angle – and the increased swing speed should result in something between 6- and 7-iron spin.

Of course, nothing is certain in golf and these are just the best estimates I could come up with, based on the info I found… but I think they’re reasonable estimates. It’s at least something to start from, to give you some realistic expectations. If you get a new hybrid to replace an iron, feel free to leave a comment on this post to let me (and all the other readers) know what your experience is like.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Justin Rose on Letterman

Just in case you missed it, here's the official CBS YouTube post of Justin Rose's appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. For you readers in other countries who may be unfamiliar with Late Show, Dave typically has each major champion on the show within a couple of days of their victory to do "The Top Ten List." Justin's list is "The Top Ten Questions People Ask Me About Golf."

My favorite part actually happens before they start the list, shortly after Dave announces that Justin is the first Englishman in 43 years to win the U.S. Open and asks Justin where he's from. When Justin simply says "England" and after Dave says "I know that" Justin adds "From London -- be specific," it just cracks me up. That's the kind of exchange Late Show fans live for!



There's clearly one thing you can learn from this Top Ten -- whatever you do today, you do NOT want to get caught slapping your caddy,

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Rethinking Bounce

I was answering a question on yesterday's post about sand play when I had a brainstorm. (Ok, maybe it was more of a sprinkle than a storm, but still...) It occurred to me that we, the golfing public, may have a misunderstanding.

I think we need to rethink our concept of bounce in sand play.

Yes, I said concept. Mention "bounce" to most players and they think of a huge lump of metal on the sole of a sand iron. Yes, that heavy sole is called the bounce of the club... but if that's all you think bounce is, then you're missing the whole point. With only that simple understanding, you can make the mistake of thinking that you need a club with a big heavy sole to play well in sand.

But if that's true, then how did Seve Ballesteros manage to play sand shots with a 3-iron? Clearly there's more to this whole bounce thing than just equipment.

You need to understand that EVERY club in your bag has bounce. On a sand wedge the bounce is positive (that is, it sticks down lower than the front edge of the club head) while a wood may have neutral or even negative bounce. You don't usually think about bounce when you play those clubs, but the bounce controls how high you can hit the ball. We'll limit our discussion to irons since those are the clubs whose bounce concerns us most.

The purpose of bounce is to keep the front edge from digging in. Period. A heavier sole makes it a bit easier to control the how the club bounces; the less weight there is in the sole, the more critical a precise hit is. That's why Seve could play sand shots with a 3-iron when most players can't; Seve controlled how the club head entered the sand better than most.

You "lay the club face open" and "cut across the target line" in order to further limit the front edge from digging in. Take one of your short irons and take a stance right there in your home, on a hard floor, with the shaft either straight up or leaning backward, and take a good look at the front edge. You'll probably see a little bit of space between the front edge and the floor. That's because the bounce is holding the edge off the ground.

Here, take a look at this picture of some irons from thesandtrap.com:

side view of irons

Can you see how the front edge will lift up off the ground if you tilt the club shaft backward so the face points up at the sky? And the shorter the iron, the more space you'll see.

Now twist the club face open and check again. There's even more space between the front edge and the floor. That's because opening the club face points the face more toward the sky, so the bounce on the sole is holding the front edge of the club head up even higher. If you were actually swinging this club through sand like this, the bottom of the sole -- that is, the part of the sole that connects directly to the front edge -- would also act like a little bulldozer blade to the head from digging in so much.

When Seve used a 3-iron, he further tilted the face up by squatting down and lowering the handle of the club closer to the ground. In effect, he created a flatter swing plane to the club head entered the sand even less steeply.

I think you'll find that your sand play improves considerably if you start thinking of the physical bounce of any club head as the back of the club head rather than just the sole. To get the back of the club head down onto the sand, you have to point the face of said club up at the sky. That's part of what the "L-to-L" swing taught in yesterday's post helps you accomplish. You want to get that club face pointed up at the sky as it reaches the ball and enters the sand.

Which means that if you're having trouble with your club digging too much into the sand, then you aren't getting the club face pointed up soon enough. The reason a good sand shot "thumps" is because the back of the club head hits the sand flat... or at least that's how I want you to think about it. It's only the sole that's hitting the ground unless the sand is really soft (that's why you need more bounce in soft sand -- the sand "squishes" around the sole when it hits)

So try practicing your sand shots with this concept in mind: Try to get the club face pointing straight up just as it gets under the ball. You have several ways to do this:
  • Making an "L-to-L" swing
  • Lean the club shaft vertical or backward, not toward the target
  • Open the club face
  • Cut across the target line
  • Flatten your swing plane
It will take a little mental adjustment. At first you'll try too hard. But as a general rule, if you can get the club shaft fairly vertical as it hits the sand, with the face open, and making that "L-to-L" swing, you're going to find that your sand play improves dramatically.

And one other tip: I would suggest that you start by practicing with a 9-iron. You'll have to lay the club open and lean the shaft back to get the club face pointing up. Since it doesn't have a big heavy sole it forces you to think of the back of the club head as your "bounce." Initially it may be a bit frustrating, but you'll make progress more rapidly because it forces you to swing properly. That's how I finally learned to play sand shots successfully.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

An Interesting Bunker Video

It may sound as if I'm throwing PGA teaching pro Greg Baresel under the bus here, but that's not my intention. However, I found his new instructional video Bunker Simplicity over at golftipsmag.com and noticed something very interesting...



I'm not questioning whether his method works or not. Clearly it does -- the ball gets up and out of the bunker, doesn't it? -- and there are other instructors who teach this method as well. But it's easy to watch this video and miss something significant.

Do you see those two lines drawn in the sand? Greg is using them to help you see his alignment -- first when he opens his stance and then when he squares up to his target. Those lines are pointing slightly to the viewer's right, which means that's where he's aimed. But when he hits the ball, it flies to the viewer's left.

That can mean only one thing: Even though he set up with the intention of squaring the clubface at impact, the clubface was actually open. I'm guessing that's because when the bounce skims through the sand, the sand grabs it and holds the club face open. (Similar to the way tall rough grabs the hosel and closes the club face.) Which also probably explains how the whole "open your stance, open the face, swing across your body" sand technique developed -- it was probably a little easier to predict where the ball was going if you did.

Does this mean you shouldn't use Greg's method? Of course not. It clearly works. But when you use it, you'll still have to set up so you're aimed along an "open" line if you want the ball to fly toward the hole. With Greg's method you're just squaring the club face down that line instead of opening it up.

Something important that Greg mentions and demonstrates -- but that may get lost in the debate over square vs. open setups -- is that "L to L" swing with the hands even with the club head at setup. These are the two primary keys to getting the bounce to work, so you want to use them no matter which technique you choose.

The "L to L" swing with hands back is demonstrated face on in slow motion at the end of the video. Make sure you take time to watch that -- again, it'll really help your sand play no matter which technique you choose!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 U.S. Open

Winner: Justin Rose

Around the wider world of golf: Prayad Marksaeng won the Queen's Cup on the Asian Tour; Simon Thornton won the Najeti Hotels et Golfs Open on the ET; Sue Kim won the Decatur-Forsyth Classic on the Symetra Tour; Scott Parel won the Air Capital Classic on the Web.com Tour; Dean Burmester won the Polokwane Classic on the Sunshine Tour; and Rikako Morita won the Suntory Ladies on the JLPGA. (The Constructivist has those details.)

a victorious Justin Rose

Alas, it was not to be for Phil Mickelson. Not even on his birthday. For the 6th time -- a record it's clear he'd rather not own -- Phil the Thrill was a bridesmaid once again.

Perhaps the greatest irony of this whole U.S. Open -- an irony repeatedly mentioned by Phil in his after-round interviews and by the other players all week -- was that nobody really expected little Merion to beat them up so badly.

Not even after she'd beaten them up for three solid days. Despite rumors that she might even be "gettable" on Sunday, she steadfastly refused to give up any round lower than a 3-under 67... and she refused to give those up to anybody capable of winning.

All Justin Rose did was post the only even par round of the day. Yes, you read that correctly -- there were 6 rounds in the 60s and a single round of par. Everybody else fell victim to the short little course that was supposed to give up rounds in the low 60s and a winner in double digits. Justin Rose held it together even though the course got waterlogged, even though the wind blew around 20mph, even though the course finished up hard and firm. Merion demonstrated that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover... or a true championship course by its yardage.

I know some of you will wonder why Justin leaped up to #2 on my RGWR with this win when Adam Scott didn't after he won the Masters. The reason is simple: Not only did Justin do a number on all the other players listed (Tiger was T4 at the Masters while he barely eked out a T32 this week, for instance), but Justin has as many points for just Top5s as Adam has when his Masters is included! Justin hadn't had a win since March 2012 though.

Well, that's not a problem anymore. The only question that remains is whether Justin will be able to escape the "major slump" most first-time winners have. Will he use this as a jumping-off point to win multiple tournaments this year? Stay tuned...

At any rate, this week's Limerick Summary salutes the newest sports hero in Philadelphia. I wonder if he'll run up those famous steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art before he leaves?
No Rocky performance for Phil, it seems;
An Open win’s still just the stuff of dreams.
But Justin’s par round
On a Merion drowned,
Blown, and dried proves he’s ready for golf’s extremes!
The photo came from the tournament page at majorschampionships.com.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

"Inconceivable!"

If you've ever seen the movie The Princess Bride, you recognize that line. The Sicilian genius Vizzini uses it every time something doesn't go as he planned. Eventually, after hearing it so many times, the Spanish swordsman Inigo Montoya says, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."



This week's tournament at Merion reminds me of this clip. Can a small course like Merion handle the infrastructure of a U.S. Open? Can such a short course, especially after it's drenched with 6 inches of rain, challenge the best in the game? You really think the winning score will be somewhere around even par? You think most of the favorites will struggle?

INCONCEIVABLE!

And yet, it's time for the final round and it appears every last one of these things was true. I'm still in shock that all five of my picks from earlier in the week did so poorly. Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar are 9-over while Graeme McDowell, Matteo Manassero, and Sang-Moon Bae didn't even make the cut. To this point, nobody has shot a better round than a 3-under 67, and a single player is under par. Do you realize that the final 5 holes at Merion are the toughest 5-hole stretch in Open history?

INCONCEIVABLE!

Even more amazingly, the one player under par is Phil Mickelson, the least likely player in the field to play a conservative game. And who would believe that two of his closest competitors would be Steve Stricker (E) and Luke Donald (+1) -- two players who always struggle at U.S. Open courses because they aren't particularly accurate?

Could one of these three players actually win this major? Could Phil finally, after 5 close calls, snag one on his birthday?

The only thing I'm sure of today is that the ending of this tournament will be... well, inconceivable.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Are You Stuck in the Deep Stuff?

Since the big boys struggled so much up at Merion during the first two rounds of the U.S. Open -- and will probably continue to do so over the weekend -- I thought this might be a good time to look at ways to escape the deep stuff.

And I do mean DEEP stuff. There is plenty of instruction on how to play out of the rough, but the videos rarely ever show the instructor hitting out of SERIOUS rough. For example, Martin Hall has video showing the techniques but he's in a studio. Other teachers demonstrate techniques out of only 2- or 3-inch rough.

But not Irish golf instructor Barry Power. He's in some seriously deep rough here and, while it may look a bit sparse compared to the green stuff at Merion, the color of the grass is misleading. You can barely even see the ball...



He has three main keys to pulling this shot off, and they're very simple: Take your grip so the club face is open about 45 degrees, just like in a sand shot, position yourself so the ball is about an inch back of the center of your stance, and then make a "confident" swing -- which means you don't have to swing out of your shoes.

The idea is to hit the ball without catching any more rough than necessary. Moving the ball back in your stance helps with that because it gives you a steeper swing down onto the ball. Likewise, opening the club face presents less of the leading edge to get hung up as you swing down.

Then, once you're down into the rough, the grass snags the hosel and twists the face square so you get a solid hit. You don't swing out of your shoes because you need to make solid contact, not jerk away while pretending you're a bodybuilder, and making solid contact in the rough is hard enough as it is.

This is an easy-to-use method for getting out of the deep stuff. Some of the pros could use it this week at Merion!

Friday, June 14, 2013

OK, So Maybe Phil CAN Play Strategically...

A quick note about TV broadcasts: ESPN is going to start coverage a half-hour earlier this morning. Coverage will begin at 8:30am ET.

Yes, I admit it. In Tuesday's "My 5 for the Open" post I wrote that:
Likewise, Phil Mickelson seems to be playing pretty well... but I simply don't believe he's emotionally capable of playing a strategic game at Merion. Phrankenwood is going to break loose from the lab and go on a rampage because Phil isn't satisfied with any win that doesn't require heroics.
And he certainly proved me wrong. He walked off his private jet (after flying back from his daughter Amanda's 8th grade graduation) directly onto the course, bogeyed his first hole (his only bogey of the day), and then proceeded to shoot 4-under over the next 17 holes. Even with a 3.5 hour rain and lightning delay in the middle of it.

He played an utterly unPhil-like game, hitting all but 3 fairways and all but 3 greens. He hit irons off most of the tees. He only took 29 putts despite that 3-putt bogey at the start of his round. He even managed a few heroics... but he limited them to his short game.

Phil prepares to make another putt

I understand he took his driver out of the bag and added an extra wedge, meaning he has 5 wedges in his bag this week. (Even Dave Pelz must have looked askance at that!) But so far it seems to be working.

The real irony of all this is that only two of the players in the clubhouse are under par: Phil at -3 and Nicolas Colsaerts at -1. (This ties Phil's best first round in a U.S. Open since way back in 1999!) And while 13 other players are under par as I'm writing this, there's no guarantee that any of them will be under par once the round is finished. Bear in mind that several players got it under par in the morning, but only Phil and Nicolas were able to post. Luke Donald currently leads at -4, but he's got that tough 5-hole stretch from 14 to 18 coming up this morning... and the wind is supposed to change.

So I was wrong. Phil is in great position after the first round to get a U.S. Open of his very own. All he has to do is keep doing what he did Thursday. Maybe Phil CAN strategically plot his way around Merion...

And then again, maybe it was just jet lag. This IS Phil, after all. ;-)

The photo came from cbssports.com.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: June 2013

Just a quick note: U.S. Open coverage begins this morning on ESPN at 9am ET, moves to NBC at 3pm, then moves back to ESPN at 5pm. According to the official U.S. Open website, this will ALL be live coverage!

Alas, I'm a couple of weeks late doing the June rankings (again!) so this is actually the June-and-a-half rankings. I'm including the two weeks of tournaments we've played this June as well as all of May, so this ranking is accurate up to the U.S. Open. Primarily, this post will explain the shakeups I've been showing in my sidebar rankings since the last full listing in May.

Please note that, although I've removed Tiger and Dustin Johnson's wins (at the 2012 Memorial and St. Jude, respectively), players may still get credit for Top5s in those tournaments if they show up on the current RGWR. What can I say? I'm lazy!

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. Tiger Woods: 5 wins (1 TPC, 1 WGC, 2 prestige), 5 Top5, 38 points. Do I really need to explain why he's here? I figure the bad week at Memorial was just that -- a bad week. He's certainly earned the right to have one!
  2. Matt Kuchar: 2 wins (1 WGC, 1 prestige), 2 Top5, 16 points. Matt adds the Memorial to his already impressive resume. 
  3. Rory McIlroy: 4 wins (1 major, 3 prestige, 3 awards), 4 Top5, 36 points. Rory remains at #3 by the thinnest of threads. If he doesn't start playing better soon... well, the dogs are yapping at his heels. If McDowell or Manessero win the U.S. Open this week (and both are in my 5 to Watch), he's outta here!
  4. Graeme McDowell: 3 wins (1 prestige, 1 other), 5 Top5, 19 points. Hey, a new entry! Graeme finally broke through with a new PGA Tour win last month and, with his large number of Top5s, vaulted over several players.
  5. Matteo Manassero: 2 wins (1 BMW, 1 prestige), 3 Top5, 19 points. Another noob to the rankings! Manassero is coming off the biggest win of his career at the BMW PGA Championship, which he followed with a T4 at the Nordea Masters. Oh yeah, he's leading the Race to Dubai as well.
  6. Brandt Snedeker: 2 wins (2 prestige), 6 Top5, 1 award (FedExCup), 23 points. Guess what? No change this month. Better get it in gear, Sneds!
  7. Adam Scott: 1 win (1 major), 3 Top5, 16 points. No change, but he hasn't played much since his Masters win so he gets a couple of months' grace period.
  8. Charl Schwartzel: 2 wins (1 other), 6 Top5, 16 points. Charl continues to tread water, but his Top5 total helps keep him here.
  9. Louis Oosthuizen: 1 win (1 prestige), 6 Top5, 17 points. Louis posted another Top5 in May, so in this tight competition he holds his place in the rankings.
  10. Phil Mickelson: 1 win, 6 Top5, 15 points. Phil has been playing well over the last couple of months, including a runner-up finish just last week.
Players to watch:
  • You may not know Mikko Ilonen, but he's had a win and a Top5 in the last two months over on the ET. (He also had a Top5 in March.)
  • Scott Stallings barely missed my RGWR this time. He has posted 2 new Top5s in just the last two months. That is almost certainly a sign of good things to come.
  • It seems I was right last month -- Boo Weekley has rediscovered his game. With a recent win, I look for him to start placing well in the bigger tournaments soon.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Galvin Green's Spring/ Summer 2013 Collection

Here’s another of my attempts to provide some useful golf fashion info. I have to get outside help, as the labels on my golf wear show names like Hanes and Dockers, maybe some Hagar. They look good but they certainly don’t use the newer high-tech fabrics like the golf-specific designers. As I’ve tried to learn more about it in the last couple of months, I’ve recognized one name that’s shown up a lot – Galvin Green, a Swedish company which distributes in around 20 countries. The folks over at Function 18 were kind enough to send me this little article and a bunch of neat photos.

There is no shortage of golf clothing available on the market today, but as some brands can generally fall short of that essential combination of style, comfort and performance it is easy to see why golf wear specialists Galvin Green have stood the test of time. Designed by golfers for golfers, the new Spring/ Summer 2013 Galvin Green collection focuses on three core elements: distinctive designs, protection and freedom of movement – demonstrating that looking good and playing well really do go hand in hand.


A Swedish brand, Galvin Green has built an edge on its competitors through how their in-house designers and clothing specialists are actually golfers themselves – therefore no one has a better understanding of the requirements and aesthetics of golf clothing.



To create a range of distinctive designs that will set any golfer apart on the course, Galvin Green have incorporated a bold mix of colours which can be seen in their selection of waterproofs as well as in their funky golf trousers. These vibrant pieces can be effortlessly mixed with smart golfing polo shirts as well as golf shorts to build a classic and distinctive playing look every time.



Strong protection has been skilfully implemented by Galvin Green designers through the use of innovative materials such as Gore-Tex®. No one likes to call off a game just because of a spot of rain, and with Galvin Green golf clothing you will not only stay protected from whatever the elements throw at you, you will also remain smart on the course.



Every golfer knows that well-fitting golf clothing is all about freedom of movement. Galvin Green have incorporated full stretch materials to ensure you get that full freedom of swing – so not only will you look well, you will play well too.

The new season range of Galvin Green golf wear is available to buy online at specialist golf clothing retailers.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My 5 for the Open

Yes, once again I take keyboard in hand to make a fool of myself and pick my favorites for the U.S. Open.

As usual, I'm going a bit against the grain with some of my picks. With all the rain at Merion, the commentators have been making guesses at how a wet course will affect things. Are the long players now favored, as they can hit shorter clubs and not worry about roll-out as they would on a dry course? Or are the shorter players with flatter ball flights now favored, as they can hit longer clubs without fear of roll-out?

I'm basing my choices purely on gut feelings. For example, although Rory McIlroy has demonstrated an ability to play well at majors despite struggling at regular events, he's had too much trouble with the short clubs for me to feel he has a particularly good chance.

Likewise, Phil Mickelson seems to be playing pretty well... but I simply don't believe he's emotionally capable of playing a strategic game at Merion. Phrankenwood is going to break loose from the lab and go on a rampage because Phil isn't satisfied with any win that doesn't require heroics.

So here are my five favorites to place their names next to Jones and Hogan as winners at Merion:
  1. Tiger Woods: No shocker here, eh? He has four wins this season already, and his poor play at Jack's Place is meaningless to me. Why? Because, whether we remember it or not, Tiger Woods is a human being. That means he's going to have a bad week every now and then... but I don't think this week will be one of them.
  2. Graeme McDowell: A wet Merion must be like a wet dream for Graeme. (Gosh, that's a disturbing image... but I'm leaving it in.) He's been playing well most of this season and just got a win at the RBC Heritage. (Isn't that a short course too? I'm just saying...) I really like his chances this week.
  3. Matteo Manassero: I know the kid hasn't played particularly well on this side of the pond this season, but you can't say the same about his play in Europe. He's leading the Race to Dubai, he just won the BMW-PGA (the ET equivalent of THE PLAYERS) and followed that with a T4 at the Nordea Masters a week ago. Merion is going to play more like a European course this week, and that will suit him just fine.
  4. Matt Kuchar: He's #2 in my Ruthless Golf World Rankings for a reason. Other than Tiger, he's the only player with 2 PGA wins this season -- a WGC and the Memorial. And, lest we forget, he posted a 2nd at Colonial the week before the Memorial... and didn't Hogan win there as well? I'm just saying...
  5. Sang-Moon Bae: Didn't see this one coming, did you? Moon got his first win just a few weeks back at the HP Byron Nelson and, while he's been a little erratic this year (okay -- a LOT erratic) I think he could do well on this wet Merion course. He definitely counts as a flyer (I think Boo Weekley, Lee Westwood, or Zach Johnson are all better bets) but the conditions at Merion are perfect for a dark horse winner.
So there they are, my 5 for the Open. And with even more rain falling there, this is shaping up to be a most unusual tournament!

BTW, just a quick note in reference to an earlier post: Mike Weir DID make it into the Open. Way to go, Weirsy!

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 FedEx St. Jude Classic

Winner: Harris English

Around the wider world of golf: David Frost captured a senior major, the Regions Tradition on the Champions Tour; Joost Luiten won the Lyoness Open on the ET; Inbee Park won the Wegmans LPGA Championship, giving her the first two majors of the year (WARNING: SLAM ALERT!); Jacques Blaauw won the Vodacom Origins of Golf on the Sunshine Tour; and Junko Omote won the Yonex Ladies on the JLPGA. (The Constructivist has that info.)

Harris English with trophy

The road to your first win at anything is rarely easy. Even with a little experience at winning, taking the next step can be an ordeal. Just ask Shawn Stefani, who had two wins on the Web.com Tour last year and the lead going into the final round of the St. Jude. His 76 (6 over par) left him in a tie for 7th place.

Even with some experience, getting another win can prove equally difficult. Scott Stallings has 2 PGA Tour wins and looked golden for 14 holes. His double-birdie-par-bogey finish rendered him little more than an afterthought.

Phil Mickelson was just trying to get his game on in preparation for Merion next week. Had it not been for a slow first round, he might have won this week.... however, he didn't. Even a 41-time winner can find it hard to pick up #42.

But some days it all comes together. That's how it was for Harris English. He has a Web.com Tour win, and in 2012 he had 3 Top10s on the big tour. He already had that many Top10s this year. He was playing well, and didn't seem to be worrying about the relative slowness of his progress. Commentators noted that he's so patient with himself that he seems to have a 25-year plan.

Sunday he jumped about 23 years ahead. He was up and down most of the day, but he kept coming back until he ended up ahead...

Of everybody!

So this week's Limerick Summary salutes the new guy on Tour with a trophy. Granted, it didn't get him into the Merion field next week, but at least he can look forward to Augusta next year:
After Phil’s chance to win was deterred,
Stallings’ sprint to the top seemed assured.
But a bad shot or two
Tripped him up. He was through
And a first win for English occurred!
The photo came from the front page of PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Remember -- 36 Holes Today!

Just a quick reminder that the LPGA is playing 36 holes today to try and finish their major on time. The Locust Hill course is tight and hilly anyway but as Jerry Foltz said, if they get the sunshine that's predicted today after getting so much rain, the rough will officially be a crop! It's so thick and wet that even the strongest players have been struggling just to get the ball in the fairway.

Morgan PresselIn the final group Morgan Pressel is leading (-6), with Inbee Park and Chella Choi both two behind. Morgan finally appears to have gotten over her wrist injuries and is playing some beautiful iron shots. You'd probably learn a lot just by watching her today.

In the second-to-last group, Sarah Jane Smith, Amy Yang, and Jiyai Shin are tied at -3.

Na Yeon Choi, Catriona Matthew, Sun Young Yoo, Angela Stanford, and Brittany Lincicome are in the group at -2.

There are only 13 players under par, and there is a log jam of big-name players at even par. Included among them are Michelle Wie, Shanshan Feng, Laura Davies, Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and Se Ri Pak. As tough as the course has played and with 36 holes left, none of them is out of it.

The LPGA site is listing GC's broadcast window as 2:30pm - 7:00pm ET, but I suspect they'll have a pre-game show at 2pm and I won't be surprised if the broadcast runs long.

I'm really looking forward to this. It should be a real shootout!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Chipping with Your Knees

Yes, I'm talking about knees again -- this time, in reference to chipping. This is a new piece by teacher Pomp Braswell, who teaches at one of Jim McLean's schools. You'll want to check out this brief article at golftipsmag.com. This photo is from that article.

Staying low when chipping

Essentially, this article focuses on the importance of keeping your knees flexed when you chip. If you have trouble hitting your chips consistently, you need to make sure you're keeping your knee flex consistent throughout the stroke.

I write a lot about knee flex because it's one of those things that everybody seems to know about, yet to which nobody gives much serious attention. Knee flex is important in every swing you make, not just when you chip. You need to keep a consistent level during your swing if you want to make solid contact, and that means keeping your knee flex consistent throughout the swing.

There may be a few of you who drop too much when you start down, but the vast majority of you straighten your knees. Maybe you're trying to help the ball up; maybe you lack some flexibility and just don't turn fully into your finish; maybe you're just swinging too hard. But whatever the reason, if you straighten your knees during your stroke, you'll probably mis-hit the ball.

And while I shouldn't have to say this, I will: If your playing partners or you yourself end up saying, "You're lifting your head. You need to keep your head down," then you are straightening your knees during your downswing. It's a rare bird indeed who straightens his back without straightening his knees.

Let me repeat myself: If you think you're lifting your head or otherwise losing your posture during your swing, check your knee flex. It's a fairly simple problem to fix, and I can give you links to two posts on this very blog to help you. Here's the "basketball drill" and here's the "rolling ankle drill." Between the two of them, you'll learn to stay level during your chipping... and your whole swing.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A 36-Hole Final

At least, that's the current plan for the Wegmans LPGA Championship -- round one today, round two tomorrow, a marathon on Sunday. Does this look familiar?

wet fairways

Or maybe this?



Thursday's round never even got started. GC showed 2 fans -- yes, TWO FANS -- who hung around the course to watch a couple of determined players splash balls around the range.

One thing that's always a subject of discussion is how players deal with rain delays. Several of the players did media time (hey, they couldn't play anyway) and Stacy Lewis had an interesting take on the whole subject:
Q.  Plans for the rest of the day?
STACY LEWIS:  I will probably go to the gym and get some lunch and maybe a movie later.  It's kind of nice.  You know, we don't usually get days off, a full day off at least.  So it's nice hopefully that we'll be able to get out of here and rest, because it does take it out of you when you do have to sit at the golf course all day.
Paige MacKenzie had a similar response:
Q.  So you have the rest of the day to relax, but the forecast doesn't exactly look great for the rest of the week.  Just kind of -- what will it take mentally to survive this week of delays and then potential marathon days after that?
PAIGE MACKENZIE:  No, that's a good question, because most of us are in our fourth week in a row, and it was going to be kind of a week of survival anyway.  I remember talking to friends and family at home saying you can't even talk about when I'm coming home because I really, really need to focus on the next four days, because I don't even want to hear about what my dog is doing at home at all because I really am tired.  I'm worn down and I want to go home, but I need to focus and stay in the present on what I'm doing here.
So on top of that, now we're going to be dealing with this kind of weather and potentially long days.  You're right, it's going to be a real drain mentally to stay focused.
See? Even pro golfers want more days off. They're just like you and me! (Out of fairness to Stacy and Paige, I should note that this is actually the 7th tournament the tour has played in as many weeks. They have next week off, then two more tournaments... and the 2nd one is the US Women's Open. That IS a pretty stiff schedule.)

Ironically, the weather may not get a lot better this weekend. They expect more rain today, then some wind comes up Saturday and Sunday. Add all that thick wet rough into the equation and this is going to be one tough major to win.

The photos came from this suspension notice and this interview page at LPGA.com.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Seniors Have a Major Too

(First, a quick update on the Wegmans LPGA Championship today. Although the website -- and my post yesterday -- say the TV broadcast starts at 12:30pm ET, GC has been advertising NOON as the start of the broadcast. Just to get you up-to-date.)

Tom LehmanNot only is the LPGA playing a major this week, but the Champions Tour is as well. The Regions Tradition is the second of the 5 senior majors. It's played at Shoal Creek Golf & Country Club in Shoal Creek, Alabama -- a course that's got a major pedigree of its own, having hosted the 1984 and 1990 PGA Championships on the "regular" tour.

Ironically, Shoal Creek didn't become the site of this championship until 2011... and apparently you can't win there unless your name is Tom Lehman. Lehman is the defending-defending champion and is going for a three-peat this year.

GC lists today's broadcast time as 6:30pm ET today, switching to 12:30pm ET on Friday... although the LPGA event is ALSO listed at 12:30pm ET Friday. I'm guessing that the Champions Tour early broadcast times are wrong (GC typically broadcasts the Champions Tour events as rebroadcasts in primetime), so you'll need to check those times as the week goes on.

And here's a fun fact: If you check the Champions Tour site for the course information, you'll find that the course is described as a par-72 course that's a mere 7 yards in length. It must be a very demanding 7 yards, however, as Lehman is ranked 2nd in Total Driving and 1st in GIR on the Champions Tour. At least slow play shouldn't be an issue!

The photo came from the main tournament page at PGATOUR.com.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

This Week, a Ladies Major...

Before the men tee it up at the U.S. Open next week, the LPGA plays their second major of the year.

The Wegmans LPGA Championship is played in Pittsford, New York at the Locust Hill Country Club. Though the course typically plays between only 6500 and 6600 yards, don't let that fool you. The course has tight fairways and tough greens and a slope rating of 138. (By comparison, Augusta National has an unofficial slope of 137, Pebble Beach is 143, Merion 149, and Winged Foot is 141.)

In his tournament preview Tony Jesselli writes:
This will be the strongest field of the year so far. My strength of field rating is 87.5%. The entire top 20 players in the Rolex Rankings, and 39 of the top 40 players on the LPGA Priority List will be in attendance.
Tony's preview includes TV times and all sorts of notes you'll need for "intelligent viewing." I suspect he'll be adding more as the week goes on -- he's already added a post about Ariya Jutanugarn's shoulder injury.

The Constructivist is going to be at Locust Hill several times this week, and is already blogging about what he saw there on Tuesday. His first post also includes some links to other sites with player news and notes.

The reason I'm just linking you to their blogs and individual posts is because these two guys stay on top of the women's game. I look to them for a lot of the info I use. Both of them know many of the individual players and get many of their facts direct from the source. You can't do better than that!

GC will begin their broadcasts on Thursday (June 6) at 12:30pm ET. The three winners since this tournament moved to Locust Hill in 2010 are Cristie Kerr, Yani Tseng, and Shanshan Feng. This is a tough course that turns out deserving winners. It'll definitely be worth watching.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Long Day for Mike Weir

Monday was the day for U.S. Open Qualifying. All over the country (and a couple of sites overseas) Open hopefuls played 36 holes to try and win a spot. Of course, there were more losers than winners -- there always are; there are a LOT of hopefuls! But some were sadder than others.

Two-time Open champion Lee Janzen, for example, got disqualified for wearing steel spikes. Steel spikes aren't allowed on the qualifying courses and it said so on the rules sheet. Janzen missed it (shades of Dustin Johnson!) but was philosophical about it, saying his first 18 holes pretty much killed his chances anyway.

Ryan Palmer and Zack Fischer have played 9 holes of sudden death at the Dallas TX site... and they STILL don't know who got the last spot! They'll finish up this morning -- that's happening at a couple of sites -- and one of them will go home disappointed after a very tough battle.

Mike WeirAnd then there was Mike Weir, still working his way back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. (That's an elbow ligament operation named after a famous baseball pitcher who had it. It was considered radical surgery at the time.) Weir ended up in an 11-for-7 playoff and was the last man out.

It's been a long climb back for Weir. He's currently 963 in the world. That 2003 Masters victory probably seems a million years in the past.

But at least there's some good news. Weir is the first alternate at his site. (The winner of the Palmer-Fischer playoff will be the first alternate at their site as well.) Being a first alternate isn't such a bad deal. The USGA always leaves some spots open for players who move up into the Top 60 of the world rankings this week. (I think they left 6 spots this time.) And if some of those places aren't filled -- and most of them probably won't be -- first alternates will be called to fill in those spots.

In addition, there will probably be some withdrawals before the major actually starts. The first alternates will get the first crack at those spots as well.

Since there are 11 first alternates, there's even a chance that all 11 of them will get their chance at Merion after all.

I hope so, for Mike Weir's sake. It's amazing how much a good break like that could help his comeback.

And the best news may be that metal spikes will probably be allowed at the U.S. Open. At least he shouldn't have to worry about that.

The photo is from his page at Wikipedia.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 Memorial Tournament

Winner: Matt Kuchar

Around the wider world of golf: Karrie Webb won the ShopRite LPGA Classic; Russ Cochran won the Principal Charity Classic on the Champions Tour; Mikko Ilonen won the Nordea Masters on the ET; Carlota Ciganda won the UniCredit Ladies German Open on the LET; Michael Putnam won the Mid-Atlantic Championship on the Web.com Tour; Ryan Blaum won the Dominican Republic Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; and Mamiko Higa won the Resort Trust Ladies on the JLPGA. (Thanks to the Constructivist for that update.)

Matt with Jack

Ho hum. Matt Kuchar just became the second PGA Tour player to win more than once this season. The other, of course, was Tiger Woods, who took this week off while preparing for the U.S. Open. (What? He was AT the Memorial? Just didn't play well, huh? Ho hum.)

Why do I say, "ho hum"? Because Matt just took the teeth out of a tough course without any drama at all. Other players went for the big shots, the impressive plays, the go-for-broke recovery shots... and came nowhere close to Matt's boring little 4-under round under tough conditions. He missed one fairway, folks. ONE FAIRWAY!

Ho hum.

In fact, the only real excitement came AFTER the round. Matt's son Carson was giving Jack Nicklaus the high-five as Matt finished up on 18, then the whole Kuchar family rushed the conquering hero. I feel safe saying that the party celebrating Matt's first-ever multiple-win season will be anything but ho-hum!

So this week's Limerick Summary salutes one of the most boring dominators on Tour -- a player who has bored his way right to the front of my favorites for the Open in a couple of weeks:
Going forward, the field may be traumatized
By the way Matt’s good play was just dramatized.
But his first two-win season
Gives him one monster reason
For a party that’s “two boys and Mama”-sized!
The photo came from PGATOUR.com because it's better quality than the one on the tournament page.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dress Code: The Dos and Don’ts on the Course

(I'm trying to include an occasional post on golf fashion -- especially since you guys responded so positively to the first one. Of course, I'm not a fashion expert so I'm bringing in some guest posts. This one's from James Reynolds, a freelance writer and blogger from England.)

When on the course, one area many golfers (both beginner and experienced) slip up is the etiquette that is required on the golf course. Some golf clubs are more lenient than others but most have a very strict dress code that golfers have to adhere to.

Here is a guide on how to dress (and NOT dress) for the golf course.

Golf Course Dress Code: Dos

  • Men’s shirts must always have a collar and must always have sleeves. The most popular choice for the golf course is a polo shirt. There are some specialist brands which are ideal for first timers wanting to get the golfing etiquette spot on.
  • Wear tailored shorts or long trousers. If the weather is warm and you want to wear shorts instead of trousers, make sure they are smart and tailored. Find men’s golf clothing here.
  • Take a golf bag to store your golf clubs in. A standard golf bag should store at least five of your clubs. Many golf clothing brands also branch out into bags and accessories so you will be able to find a suitable bag at your nearest retailer.
  • Socks can be either long or short but they need to be above the ankle and they also need to look smart and clean.
  • Golf shoes are to be worn when playing this sport. Specialist shoes can be purchased from most online or high street golf retailers.

Golf Course Dress Code: Don’ts

  • Do not wear a t-shirt, a football shirt or a shirt without sleeves. Shirts or tops that are too casual will not be deemed acceptable at your golf club.
  • Don’t wear your shirt / polo shirt tucked outside of your shorts and trousers. Always make sure they are tucked in and look smart.
  • Do not wear sport shorts, swim shorts or beach shorts. If you want to wear shorts, make sure you do not wear casual ones that are not tailored.
  • Do not leave the house without your golf bag. Carrying your golf clubs without the proper equipment or accessory is poor golfing etiquette and reflects badly on you as a player. Always make sure you have the right storage solutions for your golf equipment.
  • Do not wear your trousers tucked into your socks.
  • Do not wear sports trainers or casual footwear. If you are unsure of what is acceptable footwear, the best thing to do is to purchase footwear from a specialist golf shop.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Michelle Wie Sighting!

She slipped under the radar on Friday, virtually unnoticed amid Tiger's unexpectedly high round, Rory's sudden resurgence after a chat with Jack Nicklaus and a drastic change in the weather, and Andrew Dodt's ET record-making 2 hole-in-ones in the same round. But there she was, nevertheless.

Yes, Michelle Wie popped up on the leaderboard at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. And it wasn't just an OK round -- she's solo fourth, a mere two strokes off the lead. It was, I believe, only her fourth round in the 60s this season (a 3-under 68 on a par-71 course).

I know what you're going to say: "Why are you making such a big deal of this? She can't put two good rounds together anymore. I've given up on her."

You're probably in good company. It seems that almost everybody believes Michelle is burned out or too caught up in mechanics or just doesn't care anymore.

I, on the other hand, continue to believe she's just readjusting from a dramatically different college lifestyle. If pros can tank for a year or two merely because of one week where they win a major, surely a major life change like finishing college is at least as disruptive.

But what I find most amazing is that the problem doesn't seem to be her putting. Rather, it's her full swing that's giving her fits. This season she's hit only half her fairways and less than two-thirds of her GIR. That sounds unbelievable, given what a machine she's been in the past.

Of course, you could say the same about Rory! She's done much better this week though, hitting 12 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens.

So I'll be watching today to see if she can follow up this 68 with another good round. GC will broadcast the second round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic today at 2:30-6:00pm ET. Maybe the rest of the world has given up on Michelle, but I haven't.

Even if she does look like a doorstop when she putts.

Michelle putting

The photo came from somewhere on collegegolfpass.com.