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Saturday, August 31, 2013

He Didn't Get a 59 But...

Phil Mickelson did manage to grab the first round lead at the Deutsche Bank Championship with a 63. Still, it was the other things he talked about -- or didn't talk about, depending on your perpective -- that garnered the most attention. The following quotes came from this interview transcription and this article by Helen Ross.

There were the questions about his "putting secret" that seems to have made him fearless on the greens -- at least, on most days:
Q. 10 putts on the front, 25 putts total. You said you found a secret you don't really want to talk about.

PHIL MICKELSON:
Well, for the last three or four years I haven't putted as well as I know I could. I've putted very average at best, with a few really good weeks. And now I feel like I'm putting great every week, with a few weeks, like the PGA, where it was just fractionally off. And it just feels great. I can see the line and I'm rolling the ball down that line.
Q. You went to a thicker grip, you have a better feel, you're not gripping the putter as tight, you have a better feel with the hands and you can feel the exact amount of forward thrust?

PHIL MICKELSON:
Have at it. Fire away all your theories that you want, but I ended up having conversations with eight of the best putters I've ever seen. And we've probably talked between 30 minutes and two hours, or at least I have with these guys. And I actually took notes. And there's one thing that they all said that's the same. And that's been my secret.
Q. At the end of the tournament you're going to tell me that?

PHIL MICKELSON:
Maybe. 
And as Helen Ross noted, he's refused to name those 8 putters. They must really be something if he spent anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours with each of them. We can make some reasonable guesses about who they might be.
  • He's worked with Dave Pelz for years. There's a good chance Pelz isn't one of them simply because his talks with Pelz have probably lasted for weeks at a time!
  • Steve Stricker's probably on the list.
  • Luke Donald too.
  • Brandt Snedeker's a good bet. Since he putts more "rapidly" than most players, Phil might have expected something to stand out when compared to the others.
  • Brad Faxon? Probably a lock for the list.
  • Loren Roberts comes to mind.
  • How could he not talk to Ben Crenshaw?
  • Or Jack Nicklaus?
And that's assuming that when he says "guys" he's excluding women. It's no secret that he tapped Amy Alcott when he needed some help with Riviera a few years back. There are a number of LPGA pros who might have helped him.

I don't know that Phil is going to share his little secret any time soon, though -- not given the other little bomb he dropped, the one I found most interesting. As Helen Ross quoted,
"If I finish off with one or two (more) wins this year and win the FedExCup," said Mickelson, who'll start Saturday's second round at TPC Boston with a share of the lead, "I think that would be enough to get the Player of the Year."
When I heard his interview on GC, it was very clear that he's seriously intent on getting his first FedExCup and his first POY award. This quote doesn't even begin to convey the intensity in his voice when he made this quote. When you hear him say that he gave up on the 59 around the 4th hole (his 13th of the day) and was just trying to get something in the low 60s, it becomes clear what he wants.

And today he plays with Tiger and Adam again. We know how he gets up for that!

If he does manage to get a win this weekend, the FedExCup race will heat up quite a bit. What's a 59 compared to that?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Ranking the Majors

Today's post is sort of a continuance of yesterday's post about the POY race. It occurred to me that many of you might think I was dissing the Masters because I said it had the weakest field of any of the majors -- which I didn't mean at all. I figured an explanatory post was in order.

Here's my question: Have you ever wondered why we have four majors in the first place? I don't mean why we have four instead of three or five. Rather, I mean why we have more than one major tournament each year?

The reason for having a number of majors each year is that each one tests players in a different way. That's why it's been so rare for a player to win all the majors in a row -- regardless of how many majors were played that year -- and why even the Career Slam is so rare. Only five pros have Career Slams -- Sarazen, Hogan, Player, Nicklaus, and Woods. (The amateur slam Jones has doesn't directly compare, but it's a Career Slam nonetheless.) It takes a special golfer to excel at ALL the skills necessary to win all the majors.

Let's take a quick look at each of the majors. I think you'll find it informative.

THE MASTERS: The Masters is a test of shotmaking skill and the course is set up for that. (And they can do that in part because it's the only major played on the same course each year.) There are plenty of hazards but virtually no rough; can you shape the shots and still get them to stop in the proper spots? As a result, the Masters committee sets its qualifications to get the best shotmakers -- which, in an age of bomb and gouge, means you don't necessarily get the best players at the moment. Former winners, for example, have proven they have the necessary skills but may not be particularly competitive at the event. Much has been made of the committee's refusal to give invitations to winners of alternate PGA Tour events; they may be winners but they aren't playing against the best ballstrikers, who presumably are playing in the top events.

Don't get me wrong -- the players who make it to the weekend are typically the best players in the OWGR. But because the field is so strictly limited -- usually between 90 and 100 players -- and so many of those players are amateurs and past winners who don't have a huge chance of winning, the best players don't have all that much trouble getting to the weekend. That's why I said this field is the weakest of the majors. I didn't say the winner wasn't worthy of a major title!

THE US OPEN: By contrast, the US Open is a test of fundamentals. Perhaps this came about because it's the second oldest major, started back when "golf pro" didn't mean what it does today. (Did they even have pros back then?) Because any player can become a fundamentally sound player and because it has a full field, the tournament can have open qualifying for amateurs and still get a strong field.

Unlike the Masters, where a low shot from pine straw in the trees or a massively hooked wedge from far off the fairway can become the winner's defining shot, the most memorable shot at a US Open is usually the one that didn't come off. That's what happens when you leave 6-inch rough everywhere! The winner here is the man who hits fairways, hits greens, and makes putts -- not the swashbuckler who hits the all-or-nothing shot.  That's why it's rare to find a player with only two different majors who has both a Masters and a US Open; the skills are entirely different.

THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP: The Open Championship is the oldest major and also the only one to develop entirely in "the Old World," so it has a distinct flavor of its own. For lack of a better description, I'll call it a test of recovery fundamentals. Since it's played on links land, the techniques demanded by links golf can change wildly from day to day. And links courses are designed for this very purpose -- a links course is "playable" in weather that would cause suspension in every other major! Because of this, an Open win also requires more mental toughness and flexibility than just about any other major; after all, in most majors you at least have some idea what conditions you're going to face. At an Open, they might change three times before you finish!

THE PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: Although many fans think of the PGA as the least important of the majors, that's because they don't realize how much history this event has. The PGA was first contested in 1916 and was a match play event before changing to stroke play in 1958. It's the only major that amateurs can't participate in, so the field is always tougher. The PGA's field is almost as tough as the TPC's, which is generally regarded by the players as the toughest field all year. It's not unusual to see the top 100 from the OWGR in the PGA field, despite the invited club pros; as a full-field event, the club pros don't really weaken the field. (And bear in mind that some of these club pros also play some regular events during the year.) So the PGA typically has the strongest field of any major.

Although this year's event at Oak Hill was set up more like a US Open, in general the PGA is a test of ability to score under pressure. The PGA's approach to course setup is simply "let 'em play." Both shotmakers and bomb-and-gougers can score well on the typical PGA course, so PGA scores are typically the lowest of any major. More so than in any other major, there's a constant pressure to take it deep -- originally in the crucible of match play, now because the course is specifically set up to encourage players to go for every shot.

Personally, I wish the PGA was still match play because it would really round out the majors. It's interesting to note that all of our "Career Slammers" also boast match play wins. Sarazen and Hogan each won the PGA when it was match play (Hogan won twice and Sarazen three times), Player and Nicklaus both won the Volvo World Match Play (then called the Picadilly World Match Play -- Player won it 5 times!), and Woods has three WGC-Accenture titles. And of course the US and British Amateurs Jones won both have match play finals.

As I see it, those are the differences between the majors. But the players themselves attach different values to each major for reasons that don't have much to do with what I've said. Although you'd think all Europeans would see the Open Championship as the most desirable to win, many if not most current Euro players would name the Masters because Seve was the first Euro to win it. (I suspect there's a bit of Ryder Cup rivalry in that as well.) In a similar vein, sons of teaching pros often place more value on the PGA.

I think you see that in this year's POY debate. Adam seems to have more support than Phil because Adam won THE MASTERS (yes, displayed in all caps for emphasis) as opposed to the Open Championship. Is this because no Aussie had ever won the Masters while the Open seems to be an equal opportunity major? Yeah, I think so. And I pointed out the weaker field in order to try and balance the debate.

My point wasn't that a Masters is worth more or less than an Open; rather, it was that one major is worth the same as any other major. Despite the personal values we may assign to any specific major, one isn't "better" than another -- BUT when we start talking about the value of a major versus any other event, things like field strength and personal opinion have to be identified and quantified to have a decent debate.

I stand by my assessment that NO major is worth the same as a TPC, 2 WGCs, and 2 prestige events even if Tiger says he'd trade all five for one major. That would be like paying $250k for a Kia Soul just because you want one so bad. I understand the sentiment... but only a fool would actually make the deal. We shouldn't determine the POY by such foolishness either.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Player of the Year Debate

With Adam Scott's win last week, the POY debate has really heated up. Should it be Tiger or Adam... or maybe Phil? I thought I'd point out some of what I see as inconsistencies in the debate as well as weighing in with my two cents.

For a number of the debaters, the whole thing boils down to whether you have a major or not. Just how much is a major worth, relative to other events? I haven't been particularly happy with what I've heard. To make it clear... I don't care if Tiger would trade all 5 of his wins for a major, it doesn't mean a major is worth 5 wins.

As you know, I have point values set up for different types of wins in my RGWR system. Specifically, I award points 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
It's pretty clear that I don't value all events the same. As a baseline, I set a major's value at roughly 3 times that of a regular event (3 pts VS 10 pts). However, it's only twice the value of a prestige event like Muirfield or Bay Hill (5pts VS 10 pts) and the values get much closer from there. Using my point system, Tiger's TPC and 2 WGCs ALONE total out at 22 points VS 10 points for the single majors of either Adam or Phil (or Justin Rose or Jason Dufner, if we're going to talk majors). And we haven't even considered the relative value of prestige events VS regular events.

Plus, the World Golf Hall of Fame considers a TPC win as EQUAL to a major win, since they will accept either 2 majors or 2 TPCs as part of the entry criteria. Shouldn't that be considered in the debate as well?

Nor have we considered Top5s. (Note that most of the debaters use Top10s. I grade tougher.) Adam doesn't have anywhere near the Top5s of either Tiger or Phil.

What about strength of field? Just as many debaters ignore the difference between regular and prestige events, many simply see the word "major" and assume those are the toughest fields. In fact, the majors often have weaker fields than other events!

For example, the TPC is a full-field event that is generally considered by the players to have the strongest field of ANY event, typically having at least 95 of the top 100 players in the OWGR. The WGC-Accenture (won by Matt Kuchar this year) has the top 64 in the OWGR, substituting only when one of those players can't play. Compare this to the Masters, which has arguably the weakest field of any major -- typically the top 50 in the OWGR, plus a number of invitees and past winners that leaves the total field size at less than 100 players. And most of that latter group don't have a realistic chance to win. (I'm not saying they shouldn't play; I'm just pointing out that it weakens an already limited field.)

Should the Masters really count for more in the POY race than the TPC just because it's a major, when it's clearly much more difficult to win the TPC? Whatever you think, it certainly isn't worth FIVE tournaments that have either full-fields or stronger limited fields.

Personally, I think Phil makes a better case than Adam. While Phil's Scottsdale win isn't as prestigious as Adam's win at The Barclays, Phil has both a win and a runner-up in majors VS Adam's win. In addition, Phil's Scottish Open win does give him 3 wins this year VS Adam's 2, and the Scottish Open/Open Championship double -- back-to-back links wins -- is clearly the more impressive achievement since it had never been done... and especially given Phil's past difficulties with links golf.

Here's where I stand on the matter: If I had a vote, right now I'd vote for Tiger as POY. In my opinion, the TPC is worth nearly as much as a major -- especially when you consider Tiger's troubles at the TPC are almost as legendary as Phil's at the Open. And the 5 wins in tough tournaments clearly outweigh Phil's 3 wins or Adam's 2 wins.

Historically I think this logic stands up. When Luke Donald beat out Rory McIlroy for POY a couple of years ago, voters didn't think Rory's major was enough to measure up to Luke's accomplishments without a major. In case you've forgotten what they were:
  • 4 worldwide wins -- 2 PGA Tour wins in the US, 2 ET wins overseas
  • 1 stroke play and 1 match play win on each tour
  • The WGC-Accenture (strong field) and the BMW PGA Championship (the ET equivalent of the TPC)
  • Won both tour money lists
It certainly seems clear to me that the "need a major" argument is a question of requiring Tiger to be superhuman in order to get the award. Tiger should be judged by the same criteria as everyone else; otherwise you're admitting that you're not good enough to play with him and your only chance to beat him is to change the rules. If that's how most of the Tour feels, it says more about them than they'd like to admit.

BUT -- and here's where it gets interesting -- we still have 3 tournaments left in the Playoffs. And bear in mind that while I do value a major as more than a single other win, its exact value is determined by what you're measuring it against -- for example, it doesn't outweigh the TPC as much as it outweighs a Playoff event. With that caveat in mind:
  • If Tiger wins the FedExCup, I think that should probably lock the POY for him. That's 5 really strong wins including "the 5th major" plus the Cup.
  • Phil needs to win either one of these events OR the FedExCup. If he does, he should probably win the POY. That's 4 wins or 3 wins plus the Cup -- in the second case, he would still have to outplay Tiger pretty seriously in the Playoffs. If he gets both -- especially if the win is the Tour Championship which, even though it's a limited field, will have arguably the hottest players on the planet right now -- he's a lock. Period.
  • Adam has to win at least one more event AND win the Cup if he wants POY. I'm sorry, I think the Masters is the weakest field of all the majors, so I need to see more from him. I give him extra credit for being the first Aussie to break through there, though. I do think individual accomplishments should count for something in the POY race.
  • Justin Rose needs to win 2 more events AND the Cup to have a shot at POY. That would still give him only 3 wins and the Cup, but I think the US Open is probably the hardest major to win. (Just ask Phil.) Plus he has a lot of Top5s this year and I would give him credit for those.
  • And, just to cover all the bases, Jason Dufner needs to win all 3 remaining events AND the Cup. Except for the PGA Championship, he really doesn't have anything else in his favor. Winning 3 in a row to finish the season would be the deciding factor for me.
It's nice to have a serious race for POY for a change. I'd just like to see some balance return to the debate.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Making Sense of This Week's Golf

Monday is Labor Day in the US and Labour Day in Canada -- essentially the same holiday in both countries, although Canada's is older -- and as a result it plays havoc with the PGA Tour schedule. Some people like a Monday finish and some don't, but it definitely affects what's on TV. I'm going to try and make some sense out of the schedule, just to give you an idea what's on when.

After all, there are 5 tournaments being televised (at least, here in the US).

THURSDAY: The European Tour stop is the ISPS Handa Wales Open (at Celtic Manor). It will run normally Thursday thru Sunday, and the first round broadcasts Thursday morning at 10am ET on GC. (In fact, all of the golf Thursday is on GC.) I took a quick look at the entry list and it doesn't look like any of the players who missed the FedExCup "cut" are there, although it looks to be a pretty good field. (I know the FedEx players wouldn't have known in time to make a last-minute entry, but they could have entered anyway, knowing they could withdraw if they made the cut. Unlikely, I know, but possible.)

Golf Central Pre-Game is scheduled for 2pm ET, leading into the Web.com Tour event at 3pm. This is the Hotel Fitness Championship, the first of the 4 new Web.com qualifying events that are taking the place of Q-School. The Top 75 from the Web.com Tour money list and numbers 126-200 from the big tour. (You can read more about it here.) Bear in mind that the Top 25 from the Web.com Tour already earned PGA Tour cards; except for Michael Putnam, who finished 1st and got full Tour privileges, the others are jockeying for position.

After the fourth event, 25 more Tour cards will be awarded. The #1 player at the end (assuming it's not Putnam) will also receive full Tour privileges, and everyone else will get seeded according to their order of finish. In other words, you could have finished #2 in the regular season Web.com Tour money list but end up seeded #50 if you don't play well over the next 4 weeks. I expect some bellyaching over that!

Anyway, the regular Golf Central show comes on at 5pm, then the LPGA comes on at 5:30pm for 3 hours. The Safeway Classic will be the last event before the newly majorized Evian Championship (after a week of no LPGA golf). The big news at this point is that Inbee Park has withdrawn because of illness, so she'll get no warmup before heading out to defend her victory at the original Evian Masters last year.

And don't forget that On The Range moves to Thursday this week at 8:30pm, right after the LPGA broadcast.

FRIDAY: (All of this is still on GC.) The Euro Tour starts at 9:30am ET, the Web.com Tour at 12:30pm, Golf Central Pre-Game at 2:30pm, and then we get to the FIRST round of the PGA Tour's Deutsche Bank Championship. At this point Tiger is registered to play, so we know he plans to tee off with Scott and Mickelson Friday morning.

Regular Golf Central starts at 6pm, then the LPGA event at 6:30pm, AND THEN we get the Champions Tour! The Shaw Charity Classic starts at 8:30pm.

SATURDAY: Again, everything is on GC. All times are ET:
  • 8:30am -- Euro Tour
  • 12:30pm -- Golf Central Pre-Game
  • 1:00pm -- Web.com Tour
  • 3:00pm -- PGA Tour
  • 6:00pm -- Golf Central
  • 6:30pm -- LPGA Tour
  • 8:30pm -- Champions Tour
SUNDAY: Now it gets confusing. Please note that NBC gets into the act with the PGA Tour today.
  • 8:30am -- Euro Tour
  • 12:30pm -- Golf Central Pre-Game
  • 1:00pm -- PGA Tour
  • 2:30pm -- Web.com Tour
  • NBC 2:30pm -- PGA Tour
  • 5:00pm -- Champions Tour
  • 7:00pm -- LPGA Tour
  • 9:30pm -- Golf Central
  • 10:00pm -- PGA Tour (rebroadcast)
MONDAY: This is an odd day because the only new golf is the PGA Tour. GC will be mostly rerunning last week's tournaments, so I'm only listing the PGA Tour golf on both channels.
  • 10:00am -- Golf Central Pre-Game
  • 11:30am -- PGA Tour
  • NBC 1:00pm -- PGA Tour
  • 6:00pm -- Golf Central
  • 7:00pm -- Golf Fix
  • 8:00pm -- PGA Tour (rebroadcast)
Wow, is that a mess or what? At least you'll be able to watch golf when you aren't at a barbeque or some other holiday celebration!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A New Look at the Kobra

Back in February I did a post about Lydia Ko's swing using a photo sequence I found. There wasn't any video available at the time, let alone slo-mo video.

Guess what? That's changed. And now that Lydia is not just the youngest to win on the LPGA but the first AND youngest to win twice, I suspect we'll be seeing more. (NOTE: Those of you who are paying attention know this means that Lydia is also the first amateur to defend an LPGA title. But I'll go you one better: Did you know that Lydia has won 4 pro tournaments at a younger age than Lexi Thompson won her first? Now that's pretty impressive!)

Here are some videos that were taken back in July at the RICOH. First, here's a down-the-line shot:



And here's a face-on shot. Obviously they aren't the same swing!



These videos basically reinforce what I said in my earlier post, so I won't rewrite all of that here. (That's why I included a link to the original post back in the first paragraph. Slick, huh?) But there's something about seeing the actual swing in slo-mo that just... well, it's a thing of beauty, that's what it is.

Better get used to seeing it. The Kobra is starting to strike with more frequency, so we'll be seeing her strike the ball like this more frequently as well. We might as well learn from it!

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 The Barclays

Winner: Adam Scott

Around the wider world of golf: The Kobra becomes the first (and youngest) amateur to win twice on the LPGA with her successful defense at the CN Canadian Women's Open; John Riegger won the Boeing Classic on the Champions Tour; Bronson La'Cassie won the Cox Classic, the final Web.com event before the new 4-tournament playoff system starts; Hugo Leon won the Great Waterway Classic on the PGA Tour Canada; and Tommy Fleetwood won the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles on the ET.

Scott nabs victory #2 this year

If The Barclays is any indication, this playoff series is going to be one hell of a race to the Cup.

Liberty National stepped up... and stepped on La Kucharacha, crushing his hopes of victory.

Gary Woodland discovered that the best-laid plans don't always hold up on Sunday, no matter how well you're playing.

Leader Kevin Chappell suddenly realized where he was when he hit the back 9 and promptly got lost. Given that he has yet to get his first PGA Tour win, this is nothing for him to fret about -- it's just another learning experience. But after that course record on Saturday, this one's gotta hurt.

And Tiger Woods -- who was also clearly hurting -- demonstrated what it means to be Tiger Woods. While fighting back spasms that literally brought him to his knees, he still managed to stage a late-round charge that almost got him to a playoff. (We still don't know if he'll play next week. Stay tuned.)

Numerous other players, like Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson, made final round charges that fell just short of success.

And there, in the midst of it all, Adam Scott casually shot a bogey-free round of 66 to post the early lead in the clubhouse. And I do mean early -- he was in the 8th group ahead of the leaders. Adam later said he didn't expect his score to hold up with so many others just a shot or two behind him.

But hold up is exactly what it did... and Adam Scott gets his second win of the season. He moves to #2 in the FedExCup rankings, a virtual lock to reach Atlanta in the Top 5. And, if he can manage to grab another win or the Cup -- or maybe both -- he just might snatch Player of the Year honors from Tiger.

But that's a story for future weeks. This week, the Limerick Summary salutes the hungry Aussie who gobbled up yet another trophy when no one was looking:
Though he won early on, no one knew it
Till the field proved they couldn’t undo it!
Adam’s 6-under run
Stole the thunder from some
With the lead early on… till they blew it.
The photo came from the tournament page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

La Kucharacha

According to Wikipedia,
"Cockroaches are insects of the order Blattaria or Blattodea, of which about 30 species out of 4,500 total are associated with human habitats. About four species are well known as pests."
Periplaneta americana, the American cockroachI suspect many of the pros on the PGA Tour consider Matt Kuchar a grade-A pest, perhaps even his friend Gary Woodland. Let's look at the evidence:
  • Woodland is outdriving Kuch by 26 yards this week.
  • Woodland is hitting more fairways than Kuch.
  • Woodland is hitting more greens than Kuch.
  • Woodland is putting better than Kuch.
Nevertheless, Kuch is tied with him for the lead going into the final round. The word "pest" immediately comes to mind.

It's not a foregone conclusion that Kuchar will win the Barclays. (It IS a foregone conclusion that my pick, Dustin Johnson, will not. Please don't remind me again.) Woodland and Kuchar will be in the final pairing, and Woodland is certainly playing well enough to win.

However, the pest shows no sign of backing off.

Tiger and Kevin Chappell will be in the penultimate group. That's an interesting pairing.

Chappell is coming off a course record. That certainly doesn't mean he can't post a good score and win it, but he's been less consistent than either Woodland or Kuch. And I have to wonder if he might not play a bit safe today since he's currently projected to move up from 58 to 9 in the rankings. That could almost be a lock into the Tour Championship -- no small accomplishment.

Tiger's back problem is also a bit of a wild card. (You'll recall that Ben Crane had to withdraw earlier in the week with a back problem, effectively ending his run at the Cup.) Tiger managed to hold things together well enough that there are only 3 players ahead of him... and since he'll go out so late, this will be his first normal day this week. He could get enough rest and treatment to let him play relatively pain-free today. And if he does... well, you never know.

And since we know there are a number of low scores out there since the redesign of Liberty National -- my gosh, just this week the course record has been set (Stadler), tied three times, then broken and set again (Bradley), then broken and set yet again (Chappell) -- there's no reason to believe that someone might not come out of the pack and blow past all the leaders today for the win.

But then again, the pest is tied for the lead.

Some people believe that cockroaches will someday inherit the earth. I don't know about that but, unless some PGA Tour pros are very careful, La Kucharacha may inherit the FedExCup... and start by inheriting the Barclays trophy today.

The photo came from that same cockroach page at Wikipedia.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Charley Hull, a Sports Psychologist at 17

Charley Hull is -5 (T8) at the CN Canadian Women's Open  -- 3 shots off the lead -- and she was in the interview room after Friday's round. You can read comments made by the leaders at this link from LPGA.com, but I thought some of Charley's responses were... well, what we've come to expect.
Q.  Talk about your putting stroke.  I know last week when I was watching the broadcast they commented on your straight arm approach.  What is your background on your putting, is it with a coach or anything?  Is that how you started when you were young?
CHARLEY HULL:  No, I just changed my putting stroke about eight months ago, completely changed it.  I used to have really bent arms, and I would just putt like that and I putt and it goes in.  So it's fine.  Touch wood.
Q.  In the case of Laura Davies, she looks like she's in contention for the weekend; is she someone you look up to?
CHARLEY HULL:  Yeah, definitely.  I know Laura, and she's really nice.  I love playing golf with her because we're both fast players.  I played quite a bit with her in Europe.  She's obviously been one of my heros growing up, and she's a great player.  She's got a good sense of humor as well, and she supports the same football team as me, Liverpool, so yeah.
Q.  Is there one particular hole on this course that give us more trouble than any of the others?
CHARLEY HULL:  I haven't really thought about it yet.
Q.  Anything Laura has done advice‑wise?  Has she been more of a mentor?  Is she just kind of there?
CHARLEY HULL:  No, she's just there as a competitor, so she's really good.  I like Laura.  She just like hits it, finds it, hit it's again.  She's good.
If you want to know part of the reason Charley Hull is playing so well, you can see it in these responses. Note the devil-may-care attitude:
  • Why does she putt the way she does? She used to putt with bent arms but decided to putt with straight arms. Apparently no coach guides her, she just putts and it goes in, so she decided it's a good way to putt.
  • Laura Davies is a friend and a hero. Why? Apparently because she plays fast, "she just hits it, finds it, hits it again," and they root for the same football team.
  • Is there a place on the course that's tough for her? She's halfway into the tournament but she hasn't really thought about it yet.
Real technical stuff there. Must consume her every waking hour trying to make sense of this game.

If you watched any of the the Barclays today, you heard them talking about Matt Kuchar in the same sort of way. There was some discussion about why Kuch was #2 in the FedExCup points and in position to move into #1 when his stats just weren't that great. At that point he knocked in a birdie putt to erase some less than stellar play. After a quick laugh, the GC guys noted that the current "big deal" in psychology on tour is just accepting whatever happens and moving on. (I did a post about that very thing way back in 2009, in case you're interested.)

Despite being tired, Charley Hull at age 17 is doing that very thing... and apparently without a highly-paid sports psychologist to guide her. Everybody's been so amazed that she "just hits it, finds it, and hits it again," as she put it at the Solheim Cup, but it really is that simple.

Maybe we should all give it a try. At least we won't have to deal with acne when we do.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Thunderbolts and Lightning, Very Very Frightning

Okay, it wasn't exactly a Bohemian Rhapsody at the Barclays, but play WAS delayed twice due to lightning in the area. And as a result, it's way too early to even guess who might be in contention come Sunday.

For the guys who played early, it was a long day. Tiger, for instance, needed 11 hours to finish his round. (He's -4, just 3 off the lead.) He said the rain made the course play much slower than in the practice rounds, and that clearly played into the game late in the day.

Some of those late starters are struggling but it's still early in their rounds. For example, Bill Haas is +2 but he's only played 5 holes. The early part of the course has played fairly difficult, especially for the guys who played late, but there's plenty of time to come back with a good score. Mickelson, at -1 after 6 holes, bogeyed the first hole but came back with 2 birdies. McIlroy, who played early in the day, had 3 doubles but still managed to post at E.

My pick for the week, Dustin Johnson, is E after 6 holes. My pick to take it all, Jordan Spieth, started on the back 9 with a double and made the turn at +3, but finished with 4 birdies on his front 9 to post at -1.

If you didn't catch any of the first round, you should definitely take a peek at the leaderboard. You just might be surprised at some of the leaders. Kevin Stadler's on top, Camilo Villegas is just one back, Ryan Palmer and Jason Day are in the mix. (Of course, some of the usual suspects like Henrik Stenson are up there as well.) The leaderboard will probably change a lot today as the first round players finally post, but it appears the course changes are making it more scoreable despite the rain..

The irony of it all? While the guys at the Barclays struggled with bad song lyrics, it seems that the "Queen" was in Canada. In case you didn't hear, defending champion Lydia Ko is already tied for the lead after the first round.

To paraphrase the late Freddie Mercury... "Better tie your mother down!" This weekend could get a little wild.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Solheim Cup Didn't Tire Them Out

Well, it might have taken a bit out of Lizette Salas. She's the only player from the Solheim Cup who's not at the CN Canadian Women's Open this week. (Yes, even young Charley Hull got a sponsor's exemption into the event.)

Royal Mayfair Golf Club

This is the LPGA tournament that Lydia Ko won last year while paired with (if memory serves) Stacy Lewis and Jiyai Shin in the final round. It was Lydia's "Hello, World!" moment, as it was the biggest pro tournament she'd won at that point. (Still is, I guess.) And this week she's back for her title defense.

Tony Jesselli has one of his typically great previews of the event over on his blog, so you can use this link to check it out. And you may want to check in at his blog periodically this week, as he and his wife will be at the tournament and he apparently plans to be blogging from there. Since Tony knows several of the players, he may have some very interesting posts!

The LPGA's tournament page for the event now lists Royal Mayfair Golf Club as 6403 yards and par 70. Despite the relatively short yardage, the course can play very long when wet, as it proved last year. However, the Weather Channel is currently predicting a dry weekend with highs in the mid-70s(F) and 5-8mph winds, so the rough will be the course's main defense.

Still, I'll be interested to see how the Cuppers -- both US and European -- perform this week. I suspect the Euros may have a bit of trouble concentrating while the US players will go in with something to prove, but both groups are probably very tired... and Royal Mayfair isn't a course where you want to let your guard down.

GC will be broadcasting the first round in prime time tonight, between 6:30 and 8:30pm ET. There's only one more tournament between this one and the newly-majorized Evian Championship, so this will be a very important week for the players' preparations.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My Quickie Preview of the Barclays

And why is it a quickie preview? Because the FedExCup Playoffs are getting so much coverage this week that there's not much I can add.

But I do have a couple of things.

For those of you who play fantasy golf, PGATOUR.com was nice enough to post a Field Study of the Barclays. Granted, it's not an in-depth thing -- only a sentence on each player -- but it gives you some pertinent info about that player that could help you make your picks. For example, the line on Jason Day (#14) says "Finished in the top 10 in three majors, including 3rd at Masters and T-2 at U.S. Open" while the one on Steve Stricker (#20) says, "Only scheduled to play Deutsche Bank and BMW as part of condensed 2013 schedule." Those tidbits of information might be all you need.

There's also a Fantasy Insider post by Rob Bolden for help.

diagram of hole #1

Likewise, you've no doubt heard about the changes that have been made to Liberty National after the players' complaints last time. Here's an article about the course, and you can click a link to each individual hole if you want to know the layout and specific changes that were made. The changes are notated on a diagram of the hole, and the typical strategy for playing the hole is explained beside it. (The diagram for Hole #1 appears above as an example.) It appears to be very well done, so if you're into the design side of things you might want to check it out.

And of course, here's the link to The Barclays live leaderboard.

That should get you up and running for the first playoff event. I'm picking Dustin Johnson to win -- a positive "bump" from his engagement announcement. And although I'm not picking him to win this week, I really like Jordan Spieth to take the whole thing this year.

Golf Channel begins broadcasting tomorrow at 3pm ET.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The New Guy's Swing

I had planned to take a look at one of the Solheim Cup's winners today but couldn't find the footage I was looking for. As a result, we're gonna look at the new kid on the PGA block, Jordan Spieth.

This video comes from Golfweek. After an initial chip shot, we get face-on and down-the-line views of his swing in both full speed and slo-mo:



What I really want you to look at is the face-on view as he starts his downswing. Although he's hitting a driver, his stance is relatively narrow compared to many of the big players (Jordan's 6'1"). It's shoulder width but no more. Jordan has fairly quiet feet and legs during his swing, focusing on turning his hips rather than pushing them forward.

What does this do? It keeps Jordan steadier over the ball, so he makes better contact. That's probably why he seems to come up with the big shots when he needs them -- when you're steadier over the ball, it's more likely to give you a playable shot each time.

This swing has gotten Jordan from having no status at the beginning of the season to #8 in the FedExCup standings with a 2-year exemption on Tour... and I think it just may be enough to get him the FedExCup in four weeks. I really like his swing.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 Wyndham Championship

Winner: Patrick Reed

Around the wider world of golf: The European women got their first-ever win on American soil at the Solheim Cup, beating the US team 18-10; Matt Fitzpatrick won the US Amateur 4&3 over Oliver Goss, becoming only the 2nd British winner ever; Bart Bryant won the Dick's Sporting Goods Open on the Champions Tour, becoming that tour's 1000th winner; and Peter Malnati won the News Sentinel Open on the Web.com Tour.

Reed and caddy/wife lift trophy

It seemed a bit weird, actually. The Wyndham Championship, which used to be called the Greater Greensboro Open (aka "the GGO"), has always been a big deal for me because it's our local tournament. (Well, it's less than 40 minutes away from where I live. That's close enough!) But Sunday was taken up with the Solheim Cup and the US team's desperate attempt to come back from 5 points down. (SPOILER ALERT: In case you didn't hear, they failed.)

But modern technology is a wonderful thing. Because of weather problems in the area, the final round was played early and the broadcast was tape-delayed. By following the tournament on the Net, I was able to find out what happened and change channels in time to see the playoff.

And what a playoff it was! After Jordan Spieth came back from a bogey early in the round to tie Patrick "Mr. Monday" Reed, the two-hole playoff demonstrated why these two players have caught the imagination of golf fans. Spieth scrambled from a horrible drive on the first hole, getting up and down from the fairway after he drained a 26-footer for par. Then Reed topped him, hitting a nearly impossible recovery after his bad drive on the second hole and dropping it to a mere 7 feet from the hole... and draining it, of course.

We needn't cry for Spieth -- he's 8th in the FedExCup rankings, probably a shoe-in for Rookie of the Year, and I find it hard to believe Fred Couples won't make him a Captain's Pick for the Presidents Cup. But things have changed for Reed now, who gets into the Masters AND moves up to 22nd in the FedExCup rankings, among other things. That's a huge change from all those Monday qualifiers he had to win last year just to get a chance at a tournament.

The Wyndham is a place of history -- the place where Sam Snead won 8 times, which was a big deal before Tiger came along. And lately it's become famous for launching (or relaunching) a number of careers. This week it sends Patrick Reed and his caddy/wife Justine on their way to a hopefully long and successful PGA Tour career.

In the meantime, Patrick Reed gets his very own Limerick Summary -- no Monday qualifying required:
Last year he was called “Mr. Monday.”
Every Monday he played, hoping someday
He could bypass that grind.
After so many times
Winning those spots, he’s now “Mr. Sunday.”
The photo came from the Wyndham's homepage at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

In a World of Hurt

Shock is perhaps the only word that describes what the US team felt after Saturday's rounds at the Solheim Cup... and that word probably isn't adequate. A sweep in the afternoon fourballs had to be the furthest thing from Meg Mallon's mind when she sent her pairings out.

But perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. There were plenty of hints that Saturday might be an unusual day.

There was the Nordqvist hole-in-one to win her foursome match in the morning. She was playing with Hedwall, who was 3 for 3 after that. (She was 4 for 4 at the end of the day. I believe they said she has a chance to become the first Euro player to go 5 for 5.)

There was Neumann's decision to send Ciganda out again, even after her problems Friday. And to send two rookies -- Ewart-Shadof and Hull -- out together as the lead-off group. And to play Hedwall for 4 straight sessions while sitting Pettersen. (Now that's confidence!)

There was the bizarre episode where a Euro caddie tried to concede a Creamer putt so Thompson couldn't get a read from it.

And of course there was yet another 30+ minute ruling over drops.

In the end, the US team is down 5.5 to 10.5 -- meaning they have to win 9 of the 12 points available in singles, while the Euros need only 3.5 points to keep the Cup. That's a tall ask. If they pull it off, it will be the greatest comeback in Solheim Cup history... or in Ryder Cup history, for that matter. But given how well the Euro team is playing, I wouldn't bet on it.

If the Euro team wins, at least no one will be able to say it was because of a bad ruling. The Euros have played better than the US pretty much from top to bottom.

Oh yeah... and no one will be able to say that the Euros are just a paper tiger anymore. If they finish the rout today, the Solheim Cup will succeed in becoming almost as big as the Ryder Cup.

That's probably a win for everybody involved.

But for the US, I'm afraid that's the only win they'll get this time around. Welcome to the men's world, ladies!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

And Europe Takes the Early Lead

It's Day 2 of the Solheim Cup and, as they did yesterday, GC begins broadcasting this morning at 9am ET. Europe starts the day leading 5-3.

In case you didn't see it yesterday, Europe pretty much shocked the US by winning 3 of the morning foursomes. The Lewis/Salas pairing and the Kerr/Creamer pairing, expected to be juggernauts, got shut down big time -- Salas played pretty well but the other 3 struggled. (In fact, Lewis also struggled in the afternoon fourballs.) Kerr finally started sinking some putts late in the match but it was TOO late. The only US team to win was Pressel/Korda -- a bit of a shock since long hitter/short hitter combos generally don't fare well in foursomes!

Europe's big heroes were Pettersen (no surprise!), Hedwall, and Icher. You wouldn't have known that Icher was only in her 2nd Solheim Cup... and her first was several years ago. The big shocker was Matthew being shut out in both sessions despite playing really well.

The afternoon session split 2-2 with the Brittanies (Lincicome and Lang) coming up big for the US, as did the Kerr/Wie duo. Wie should have put any questions about her pick to rest with her steady (and very creative) play in fourballs. For Europe the Pettersen/Ciganda pairing worked largely because Suzann Pettersen can play as well as almost any 2 other players on either team. (Lexi Thompson played extremely well, but without much from Lewis...) Ciganda struggled, apparently due to nerves, although she did come up big on a couple of holes. And the Carolines (Hedwall and Masson) is a fourball team you may see again today.

The biggest news of the day concerned Ciganda hitting her ball in a hazard on the 15th hole -- ironically, the hole where she made her biggest contribution to the match. The ruling took the better part of a half-hour, which the US team complained killed the momentum of 3 separate teams who were stuck on the hole, unable to play. To compound things, the officials now say the ruling was made incorrectly. I don't know if this is going to become an issue down the road, but the delay seems to be a much bigger issue than the botched ruling.
Just a thought: The LPGA takes its rules on slow play pretty seriously. I wonder what penalty will be exacted on the rules officials for being so slow?
Anyway, here are today's pairings for the opening foursome (alternate shot) matches -- EU team first, US team second:
  1. Nordqvist/Hedwall VS Pressel/Korda
  2. Munoz/Icher VS Lewis/Creamer
  3. Matthew/Masson VS Lincicome/Salas
  4. Pettersen/Recari VS Wie/Lang
Three of the Euro pairings are the same as Friday -- only Matthew has a new partner, as all her good play Friday was wasted. Only the Pressel/Korda pairing survived for the US -- neither Wie and Lang played the first session Friday, but both played well in the 2nd; Lincicome also played well in the 2nd and has been paired with Salas; and Creamer and Lewis have been teamed, perhaps in hopes they can jumpstart each other's game.

Although I don't know what Neumann has in mind, Mallon has said she doesn't plan to play anybody all 5 matches. Kerr gets her "time off" this morning, while Lewis and Creamer will both sit this afternoon if Mallon sticks with her plan. I'll be a bit surprised if we don't see the teams of Pressel/Korda, Lincicome/Lang, and Kerr/Wie this afternoon for the US; and Hedwall/Masson for Europe. (I won't be surprised if Pettersen/Recari and Munoz/Icher also show up in the afternoon rounds, although I'm under the impression that Neumann may try to get Hull more experience and Pettersen might be the best partner for her.)

There's a lot of golf left to play but Europe has made a very good start toward their first victory "over here." The US gals better step up today!

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Solheim Cup Starts Today!

Just a quick reminder that the Solheim Cup starts today. GC begins broadcasting this morning at 9am ET, so make sure you don't miss it. (I believe the afternoon session will be broadcast starting at 5pm ET.)

In case you missed it, here are the four pairings for the opening foursome (alternate shot) matches -- EU team first, US team second:
  1. Nordqvist/Hedwall VS Lewis/Salas
  2. Pettersen/Recari VS Lang/Stanford
  3. Matthew/Ewart-Shadof VS Pressel/Korda
  4. Munoz/Icher VS Kerr/Creamer
If you want to keep up with the scoring online, the live leaderboard is at this link.

The speeches by the captains at the opening ceremonies were pretty good. If they're any indication of what to expect, this should be a great Solheim Cup!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How to Hit It REALLY REALLY Low

Martin Hall had some good tips on playing trouble shots last night on School of Golf, but today I want to pass on a tip that wasn't on the show. It was a bonus on the GC website, and I've included it in this post.

This clip has two tips -- the second is how to hit a really high hook -- but the one I want you to see is the first one, on hitting a really low shot out of deep grass and under tree branches. Most of us need this one at some time or another.



The most shocking thing Martin says is that you DON'T want to use a straighter-faced club like a long iron or fairway wood. Instead, he's got Holly using a 7-iron. This shot is about extremes, because you've got to get as little grass between club and ball as possible while keeping the shot very low. Here are the key points:
  1. Choose a lofted iron like a 7-iron.
  2. Move the ball back in front of the toes of your trailing foot.
  3. Put your weight over your lead foot and keep it there throughout the swing.
  4. Put your hands in front of your lead thigh (i.e., really tilt the shaft forward).
  5. Take the club up sharply on the backswing.
  6. Chop down sharply on the downswing.
  7. Try to keep the club low to the ground for the finish.
That last one seems like it would be the difficult part. With the chopping motion and the tall grass, I would expect the club head to get caught in the grass. Still, it's pretty clear from Holly's demonstration that this is the way to go.

Hopefully this tip will save you some strokes. I know it'll save me some... I'd have pulled out the longer iron.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

European Tour for Sale?

I've included a list of reference articles at the end of this post, for those of you interested in getting the whole story -- such as we know it.

You probably heard the rumors Tuesday that the PGA Tour was in the market for some new property... Europe. The UK's Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph both reported that the Tour was making a bid to purchase the European Tour -- reports that Tim Finchem bluntly denied:
"Certain news reports today have indicated that the PGA TOUR has made an offer to acquire the European Tour. Those reports are inaccurate."
However, Finchem's statement (I've been searching for the complete text but haven't found it yet) certainly seems to have left the possibility of a future merger open:
"However, as I have stated publicly on several occasions, the integration of professional golf can create additional value for our players, sponsors and fans.
"Such integration has been ongoing since 1994, with the founding of the International Federation of PGA Tours, and has led to the establishment of the World Golf Championships in 1999 as well as the World Cup as a Federation-sanctioned event.
"More recently, all the major golf bodies around the world worked together to bring golf back to the Olympic Games."
Finchem said talks among the various tours within the federation would continue "as we explore additional collaborative efforts for the presentation of our game."
"To the extent any of those efforts prove feasible, additional information will be provided at that time."
That sounds a bit vague to me. At the very least, it sounds like they haven't ruled a merger out.

Golf Channel mentioned European Tour members who were unsatisfied with the current business perspective of the ET. The articles I checked indicate that this came primarily from Paul Casey, who is on the ET's Tournament Players Committee. Casey says it took three months just to appoint a global search firm to find a new chairman after the old one retired. Quote, "Why on earth would that simple step take three months?”

Given the PGA Tour's recent purchase of the Canadian Tour, it's clear that they aren't against acquiring other tours. But buying the ET is another thing entirely, don't you think? Other than getting all the revenue from the Ryder Cup, I don't see how taking on the ET's current problems benefits them in any way; the ET is a huge organization, not a satellite tour. Their financial problems aren't going to be solved by a simple infusion of money. And the various articles suggest that there might be a popular backlash against the PGA Tour if it did take over the ET, something which wouldn't improve the tour's value at all.

The problem here, as Casey suggests, appears to be a problem of vision within the ET itself. And I'm uncertain that the necessarily US-centric viewpoint of the PGA Tour holds the solution to that lack of vision. The discrepancy in purses between the two tours -- which is apparently a large part of the rationale behind the reports -- is a matter of perceived value by sponsors. Just adding a PGA Tour logo to the events is unlikely to change that perception.

Let's be honest about this: We do things differently here in America. That's something we Yanks take great pride in (and rightly so, I might add) but that doesn't mean our way of doing business works as well everywhere else in the world. If there's one thing the PGA Tour might be able to offer the ET, it's the determination to be true to who they are.

The ET doesn't need a new owner. It simply needs a clearer vision of what European golf should be going forward, and leaders who are willing to see that vision through.

I took some of my information from this FoxSports article by Adam Schupak, this ESPN article by Bob Harig, this Google posting of a AFP report and this GolfTalkCentral post by Rex Hoggard.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Basics of Waggling

Waggles have once again become a topic of conversation on TV since Jason Dufner won Sunday. I did a post about waggles last year that focused on Hogan's waggle as well as a post focusing on Dufner's swing the year before that, but there's certainly a lot more available on waggles now. Here's some more material to help you decide if a waggle is for you.

It appears that Jason's waggle is different from Hogan's, despite Jason being a real Hogan fanatic. That fact has become clearer to me since I wrote the post on Hogan's waggle mentioned above. There are two distinct methods of waggling:
  • a method that uses the entire arm (Hogan's)
  • a method that focuses on the wrists (Dufner's)
If you were watching Morning Drive on Monday, you heard Charlie Rymer describing the second one. It's the simpler way to do it.

Here's a Swing Fix show that Michael Breed did right after Jason got his first Tour win in 2012. (Yes, the entire show. It was only a half-hour long back then -- without commercials, just over 21 minutes.) The first 6 minutes are about waggling.



And here's a brief description of Hogan's waggle from Five Lessons. I've edited it slightly, as Hogan wrote for right-handers and I know many of you are lefties; I've substituted the terms lead and trailing for left and right. Also, a large part of this is in ALL CAPS in the book, but it's easier to read in regular print:
In the waggle, the lead hand is the controlling hand. The trailing works along with the lead. Each time you waggle the club back, the trailing elbow should hit the front part of your trailing hip, just about where your watch pocket is. When this takes place, the lead elbow, as it must, comes out slightly, the lower part of the arm from the elbow down rotates a little, and the lead hand moves three inches or so past the ball toward the target. As the hands move back to the ball on the forward waggle, the lead hand also moves an inch or two past the ball toward the target. During the waggle, the upper part of the arms remain rooted against the sides of the chest. As we stated earlier, there should be no turning of the shoulders. (p66-67)
In the Hogan waggle, there's a BIG movement and a LITTLE movement, and they alternate. (That's why he mentions a 3-inch move and a 1-inch move of the lead hand.) The trailing hand doesn't move from side to side -- the lead hand does all the moving and the trailing hand just turns. In addition -- and this is a big difference from Dufner's waggle -- the trailing elbow moves back and bumps the trailing hip, then returns to its setup position. At the same time, the lead elbow moves away from your body, then returns to its setup position.

In both types of waggle, the hands stay in roughly the same spot in front of your body. The head of the club does most of the noticeable moving. One other thing the two types of waggle have in common: Jason says he has no set way to waggle, and Hogan says you shouldn't try to "groove" your waggle. The idea is that waggles just happen and help reduce tension.

Hopefully this will clear up any confusion the TV discussions of Dufner's waggle might have caused you.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 PGA Championship

Winner: Jason Dufner

Around the wider world of golf: Emma Talley won the US Women's Amateur; Ann-Kathrin Lindner won the Honma Pilsen Golf Masters on the LET; Katy Harris won the IOA Golf Classic on the Symetra Tour; and Andrew Svoboda won the Price Cutter Charity Championship on the Web.com Tour.

No Dufnering with the Wanamaker Trophy!

We'll ALL be Dufnering now.

I don't even know how to begin this post. As I said in an earlier post, I spent last week in Disneyworld with friends. We made it back Sunday (we split the trip back over two days) in time for me to see most of the CBS coverage. The golf was as good as anything we've seen this year.

There was no backing into a victory this week. Jason Dufner set a new course record Friday, then REALLY started striping his shots. He split 20-yard wide fairways with his driver. He hit 3 of his approach shots to tap-in range on Sunday. He made important par-saving putts. True, he bogeyed the final two holes but he STILL posted a 2-under 68, the lowest final round ever posted by a major winner at Oak Hill.

His pursuers came after him. Jim Furyk, who finished 2nd, played a solid round but just couldn't make up ground. Other players made decent runs but were too far back to start and had to press to try and catch up; it resulted in meltdowns on the final 3 holes. Henrik Stenson (3rd) and Jonas Blixt (4th) gave Sweden some of their best finishes ever... for the men, that is. (I still think the pairing of Stenson and Blixt sounds more like a TNT police series.) The entire top of the leaderboard looked like a who's-who of the game.

And then Dufner got the win at a course where his idol Ben Hogan couldn't get it done. And when he did, who was there to greet him? Keegan Bradley, who beat him in a playoff at the PGA two years ago. If I understand it right, Bradley had already left the course when he heard that Dufner was going to get it done and nearly got a traffic ticket racing back to the course to see it.

All-in-all, it was almost a too perfect ending for the 2013 major season. So what more can I say? Just this...

This week's Limerick Summary salutes the most famous "Dufnerer" of all.
Oak Hill’s vegetation was deep and thick;
It ended most players’ dreams really quick!
But Duff wasn’t sleeping—
He DROVE them to weeping
And mowed down the field with his biggest stick.
The photo came from the PGA Championship homepage at majorschampionships.com.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Selecting the Right Golf Shoes for You

I asked the folks over at Function18 if they'd do an article for me about selecting golf shoes, and they were kind enough to provide the following. Short of a shoe-by-shoe comparison, it hits all the main points and should help you know what questions to ask when you shop for new shoes. Where they gave prices I've added dollar equivalents for my American readers; exchange rates change daily but they should be close enough to give you an idea.

We all understand how important comfort is when playing on the green. The average golfer walks around 4-5 miles per hour, now think about how long your average game lasts – and that is a lot of walking!

Not only is comfortable and stable footwear important for walking, stable footing is extremely important to your performance. Professional golfers take their selection of footwear very seriously, and so should you! So here’s our top guide to choosing the perfect golf shoes for you;


STYLE
When it comes to selecting stylish golf shoes, there are 3 main styles on the market – traditional, athletic with spikes, and athletic without spikes. Traditional golf shoes are made from leather, are very hard wearing and long lasting, yet lack flexibility and breathability. Athletic golf shoes, both with and without spikes, are lightweight and extremely flexible. Many of the top golf brands including Nike, Adidas, Puma, Footjoy and Oakley supply a wide range of athletic golf shoes, often worn in major tournaments by professionals.

FIT
No matter how great your golf shoes look, if they don’t fit correctly, you will not be a happy golfer! Your new golf shoes should give you space to wiggle your toes, feel secure yet give you room for your feet to breathe. Your golf shoes should be a little tighter than your day to day shoes, as you will need extra support from your whole body when swinging the club – and if your shoes are too loose this can also cause you to slide or loose stability when swinging the club.

We also suggest getting your feet measured before picking your new shoes – our top tip is to get your feet measured at the end of the day as this is when your feel will be a little swollen. Also many golfers wear extra thick socks for comfort when playing, so be sure to wear the same thickness of socks when trying on new golf shoes.

PRICE
Golf shoes generally range in price from around £45 to £150 and above. [That’s roughly $70 to $225 American.] Depending on the amount of golf you play, we suggest weighing up a number of options before splashing out on a new pair of golf shoes. Just because a golf shoe is more expensive doesn’t mean it is the best shoe for you. For example Rory McIlroy is a big fan of Nike Footwear, in particular Nike Lunar Footwear, as are many pro and amateur golfers, which are available from around £89.99. [Roughly $150 American.]

WATERPROOFING
It may be the height of summer, but you want your golf shoes to last you through all seasons! Be sure your new shoes have a waterproof element to them, as there is nothing worse that wet feet on the green. Many golfers recommend Footjoy, Oakley and Adidas branded golf shoes for sustainability in wet weather.

SPIKES OR NO SPIKES?
Spikes will give you more grip when playing and are a must on hilly courses. Some say spikeless shoes are more comfortable especially for a short game, but choose based on your swing, environment and how regularly you are playing.

Overall, your golf shoes should provide maximum comfort so you can thoroughly enjoy your game and perform to the best of your ability. To shop a wide range of golf shoes, clothing and accessories visit online golf store www.function18.co.uk.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

DUFNERING: The Key to Lower Scores!

At least it sure looks that way to me. After all, Jason Dufner set a new record (63) at Oak Hill's East Course and very nearly became the first player ever to shoot 62 at a major.

Here's the original picture that Keegan Bradley tweeted back in March that started the "Dufnering" craze. Clearly, THIS is Jason's secret:

Dufnering

What else could it be? Look at that intense concentration, that steely glare, that masterful command of his body!

In fairness to Dufner, he later tweeted "What can I say, I was tired, my back hurt from sitting on the floor, and we were talking about relaxation and focusing. #dufnering" However, that explanation did nothing to stem the tide of copycat 'dufnerings' tweeted by other golf pros and fans.

But now, Dufnering calmly on top of the leaderboard, it looks like Jason may get the last laugh, doesn't it?

Granted, he's only halfway through the tournament and some big names like Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk, Justin Rose, and Henrik Stenson are all within 3 shots. And other potential threats like Steve Stricker, Webb Simpson, Martin Kaymer, and Sergio Garcia are lurking just behind them.

But at least now we all know what Jason's staring at in that original photo. It's the Wanamaker Trophy that escaped him a couple of years ago.... and he's chanting to himself:

"I Wanamaker mine... I Wanamaker mine... I Wanamaker mine..."

If he wins, I just might give Dufnering a try myself.

Friday, August 9, 2013

I Spend ONE Lousy Day Park-hopping and...

Look what happens! While I was pounding my feet into putty on the concrete playgrounds of Hollywood Studios, Epcot/World Showcase, and Magic Kingdom, the guys playing at Oak Hill went nuts!

Except for my longshot choice Steve Stricker, none of my picks could even get under par. Jim Furyk, on the other hand, ripped the place apart. He's co-leader at 5-under.

Adam Scott, who's done relatively little since the Masters, is the other co-leader and in position to not only get a second major but possibly lock up Player of the Year.

And look at some of the other players who suddenly showed up...

Lee Westwood is one off the lead after rediscovering his iron game without losing his newfound putting prowess.

Paul Casey is two off the lead. PAUL CASEY! I know he won in Europe just recently, but he's just barely healthy again. It seems too soon for him to be competitive in a major... but here he is.

Bomber Robert Garrigus is tied with him. Garrigus is relatively inexperienced in a situation like this. Bombers shouldn't do well on tight courses, should they? But here he is as well.

And I also have to put Kiradech Aphibarnrat in this category. K-Rat is a good player -- I've been watching for him on the European Tour -- and he has a win this year as well as another Top5. He's also ranked 85 in the world... but somehow Oak Hill doesn't seem to be a track where he'd run well. Still, as with Casey and Garrigus, here he is. K-Rat is just 3 shots off the lead.

While we won't know who's really in this thing until after today's round, we're already seeing indications that Oak Hill may be ripe for another Shaun Micheel. (It probably won't be the original, since he's 6-over.) But just the top 10 players, the guys at 3-under or better, are a smorgasbord of length and accuracy, of experience and inexperience. After Day 1 this truly is anybody's major.

And they picked a day I'm park-hopping at Disney to mix it up like this, just so I can't watch it. Somebody's got a sick sense of humor...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Golf at Disneyworld

Since I'm spending the week at Disneyworld, I thought I'd bring you guys up-to-speed on what the golf situation looks like down here. And no, I haven't had a chance to play. I'm here with friends, one of whom is a rambunctious 6-year-old. Golf just doesn't fit into this trip!

Disney owns a huge amount of land down here -- roughly the size of San Francisco -- and there are 5 golf courses here. Arnold Palmer Golf Management operates all of them for Disney. You can find links to webpages for each individual course at this link, but I thought I'd give you a quick rundown. You'll need to check the courses themselves for actual greens fees; most of the listings just say $39 - $165.

Almost everybody knows about the Magnolia Course, where the PGA Tour's Children's Miracle Network Classic was played through 2012. (Remember? Charlie Beljan won the last one.) What you may not know is that the Magnolia is certified by Audubon International as a Cooperative Wildlife Sanctuary and rated 4 stars by Golf Digest. You can play the Magnolia at anywhere from a gentle 5127 to a looong 7516 yards from the tips. Its max slope rating is 141. (By comparison, Oak Hill's East Course is rated 147 by the USGA.)

Likewise,you may know about the Lake Buena Vista Course because it has hosted events for the PGA, LPGA, and USGA. Like the Magnolia, it's certified by Audubon International and rated 4 stars by Golf Digest. But this course is shorter overall -- 5177 to 6745 yards. Max slope rating is 133. I also found a "9 holes by 11am" deal where, if you're staying at a Disney Resort Hotel, you can play the back 9 before 11am and then have the rest of the day free to hit the parks. Here's the website photo:

Lake Buena Vista Course

The Magnolia and Lake Buena Vista courses were designed by Joseph L. Lee.

The Osprey Ridge Course gets 4.5 stars from Golf Digest and is also Audubon-certified. It's a Tom Fazio design. It plays from 5238 to 6968 yards, with a max slope rating of 126.

The Palm Course is closed for renovations. Another Joe Lee design, it's listed at 5262 to 7011 yards, with a max slope rating of 131.

And then there the Oak Trail Course. It's only 9 holes! The key to the par-36 Oak Trail is that it's a walking-only course with white, red, and junior tees -- that's right, it's designed so younger golfers can play it as well. The course plays from 1713 (junior) to 2913 (white) yards, so it's a good place for a family golf vacation. The website lists the adult prices as $20 to $38. Here's the website photo:

Oak Trail Course

Back in 1990 I went to something Disney called the Golf Studio, where I took a lesson under Carl Rabito. He has since coached a large number of PGA and LPGA pros, some of them to major wins. (I have a link to his website over in the sidebar, but the link in this post will take you directly to his bio.) I mention this because... well, when Disney does golf they do it right.

Now that session is simply listed as Golf Lessons on the site, and it sounds pretty much the same except that these days you have to schedule the lessons. I paid $50 for my lesson back in 1990; now adult lessons are $75 and kids 17 and under cost $50. For that you get a 45-minute private lesson with video analysis if needed; you don't even have to have your golf clubs with you -- they'll provide them at no extra charge!

Consider this an unsolicited testimonial for Disney's golf instruction. The Golf Studio was life-changing for me, and it sounds as if they're still approaching things the same way.

So that's where Disney golf is right now. Of course, I didn't include all the miniature golf courses around here...

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My 5 for the PGA Championship

Once again I tickle my keyboard's fancy with my predictions for a major -- in this case, the PGA Championship.

This year's PGA is being played at Oak Hill's East Course, a classic design by legendary designer Donald Ross. According to the PGA Tour post Ten Things to Know about PGA Championship:
Oak Hill didn't start hosting big championships until 1956, though it has staged some big moments. It's where Lee Trevino first emerged as a major champion in 1968, and where Curtis Strange went back-to-back in the U.S. Open in 1989. Europe turned the tide in the Ryder Cup with a comeback at Oak Hill in 1995. And even when it had a surprise winner in Shaun Micheel, he clinched the 2003 PGA Championship with a 7-iron to 2 inches on the last hole.
Add this little fact: Of ALL the majors played at Oak Hill, Jack Nicklaus (1980 PGA) holds the scoring record at -6. If Oak Hill stays true to form, we'll have a low-scoring major and perhaps an unexpected winner.

So here are my 5 picks -- the guys I believe are most likely to win the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill:
  • Tiger Woods: I have to have Tiger on my list. Tiger is playing well tee to green and seems to be putting pretty well also.That's the recipe for a 15th Tiger major. Besides, he won the WGC-Bridgestone last week; why not a back-to-back win?
  • Phil Mickelson: Likewise, I have to give Phil a vote of confidence. He accomplished the never-before-seen back-to-back Scottish Open/Open Championship and, like Tiger, is playing as well as ever.
  • Angel Cabrera: It's hard to get a good hold on how Angel's playing at any particular time; he's a streaky player. But as evidenced by his 2007 US Open win at Oakmont, he's got cojones grandes when the going gets tough.
When it comes to picking possible surprise winners, I'm lost. To be honest, anybody but Tiger or Phil might be considered a long shot this year. But let's give 'er a go, shall we?
  • Matteo Manassero: Matteo may not be long enough for most short lists, but I like the way he's been playing this year. One good week of putting may be all it takes for him to grab his first major.
  • Steve Stricker: Perhaps the ultimate long shot. Why isn't Steve a favorite at every major? It's simple -- he doesn't really make that many birdies. In fact, he's one of the worst on Tour when playing the par-5s! Stricks desperately needs a great week with his wedge... but if he gets it, he could walk away with his first major.
Here's the TV schedule. Note that TNT is working with CBS for this major. All times are ET:
  • THU Aug 08: TNT 1:00-7:00p
  • FRI Aug 09: TNT 1:00-7:00p
  • SAT Aug 10: TNT 11:00a-2:00p, CBS 2:00-7:00p
  • SUN Aug 11: TNT 11:00a-2:00p, CBS 2:00-7:00p
There's a lot of storylines in the works this week. Who will finally fire "Glory's Last Shot"? We'll know soon enough!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Solheim Cup Teams Are Set!

Meg Mallon (US) and Liselotte Neumann (EU) named their captain's picks after the RICOH Women's British Open on Sunday. Here are the complete teams, with dotted lines separating the various subgroups within each team.

First, here is the US Solheim Team:

American Solheim Team

On the US Team, the first 8 players listed came from the LPGA Tour points list; the next 2 came from the Rolex Rankings; and the last 2 are Meg's captain's picks:
  1. Stacy Lewis
  2. Paula Creamer
  3. Cristie Kerr
  4. Angela Stanford
  5. Brittany Lincicome
  6. Lexi Thompson
  7. Jessica Korda
  8. Brittany Lang
    -------------
  9. Lizette Salas
  10. Morgan Pressel
    -------------
  11. Gerina Piller
  12. Michelle Wie
And here is the European Solheim Team:

European Solheim Team

On the EU Team, the first 4 players come from the LET points list; the next four come from the Rolex Rankings; and the final 4 are Liselotte's captain's picks:
  1. Suzann Pettersen (Norway)
  2. Carlota Ciganda (Spain)
  3. Catriona Matthew (Scotland)
  4. Caroline Masson (Germany)
    -------------
  5. Beatriz Recari (Spain)
  6. Anna Nordqvist (Sweden)
  7. Karine Icher (France)
  8. Azahara Munoz (Spain)
    -------------
  9. Caroline Hedwall (Sweden)
  10. Jodi Ewart-Shadoff (England)
  11. Giulia Sergas (Italy)
  12. Charley Hull (England)
As usual, there are some controversies over the captain's picks for each side. I have my own thoughts on them, as usual...

On the US Team, some have questioned choosing Michelle Wie over Jennifer Johnson. Johnson had a win and was actually #11 on the US points list -- Pillar and Wie were #12 and #13 respectively, and the other 10 players were the top 10 on the points list. The conjecture is that Mallon chose two bombers, or perhaps is giving Wie a "sympathy pick" to help her get her game back on track. I suspect the reason is much simpler: Johnson missed the cut in the last 3 majors. Wie WD'ed from the US Women's Open but has otherwise made the cuts, even in that nasty weather in Scotland. Given Wie's point total, experience in big events, and her ability to pair with several US players, I can see why Mallon skipped Johnson despite her win earlier in the season.

Likewise on the EU Team, some have questioned choosing Charley Hull -- the youngest player ever to play on either side -- over Gladys Nocera, who was #5 on the LET points list, especially since Nocera is a veteran team member and the EU Team now has 6 rookies. However, Hull has been a Junior Solheim Cup member and Neumann was her captain. And the fact is that Charley has played extremely well as a rookie -- while Nocera does have a win and 3 other Top10s, Hull has 4 seconds and 1 other Top10! When you consider that Nocera was #3 on the LET Order of Merit and Hull was #4, these facts probably made Liselotte decide to groom her as a dependable future player. I think that's a fair decision.

Quite frankly, captains never get to have all the players they'd like to have. It looks to me as if both captains made picks that really strengthen their teams. I guess next week we'll get to see how well they really did.

The photos came from Solheim news posts at LPGA.com -- the US announcement and the EU announcement. The US page also has the transcript of the press conference where the captains named their picks.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Championship

Winner: Tiger Woods

Around the wider world of golf: In a marathon 36-hole Sunday in high winds, Stacy Lewis grabbed her second LPGA major at the RICOH Women's British Open, bringing an end to Inbee Park's multi-major run; Tom Pernice Jr. picked off the 3M Championship on the Champions Tour; Ben Martin won the Mylan Classic on the Web.com Tour; Gary Woodland grabbed his second PGA Tour win at the Tour's alternate event, the Reno-Tahoe Open; and the Solheim Team captains announced their teams. I'll have a look at them later this week.

He's THE MAN at Firestone!

Ho hum. A 59 watch and a course record tying 61 on Friday. Another blistering victory at Firestone CC and the WGC-Bridgestone on Sunday. A fifth quality win on the season.

And more questions about whether he'll get major #15 next week at Oak Hill.

I continue to believe in Tiger Woods. I continue to believe that he'll beat Jack's major total. And I continue to see my belief reaffirmed every time he tees it up.

Just as he's done this year in tournaments that pretty much duplicated the major fields even though they weren't majors, he's been getting more and more consistent. Admit it -- he'll get over the major hump soon enough. It's only a matter of time.

Everybody struggles with something. The ladies had to deal with 36 holes in 30mph winds Sunday, and Stacy Lewis proved she had the goods... again. It's not like Stacy has played badly this year; she's just had an occasional round that prevented the big wins. She's been working at it, and this week it all came together.

The guys at the Reno-Tahoe Open had to deal with the wild way that gravity and aerodynamics affect ball flight at altitude. Gary Woodland hasn't played that badly this year; he's made something like 13 straight cuts. It's just been one bad round each week that prevented the wins. But he's been working at it, and this week it all came together.

I think you see where I'm going with this. Tiger's been having trouble on the weekends at majors. He's been working at it. It's just a matter of time before it all comes together.

The way it did this week. The way it's done in 8 of the last 15 WGC-Bridgestones.

So this week's Limerick Summary salutes one of the best cornering sports machines on the road. And on the outside chance that you don't get the joke, take a look at the Uniroyal car tire commercial from the 1960s that follows the Summary:
In Scotland the wind provides awful draws;
In Reno the balls screw with natural laws…
But Akron’s unique.
There, the Firestone mystique
Has been run down by high-powered Tiger Paws.


The photo came from the WGC-Bridgestone page at worldgolfchampionships.com.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Galvin Green Autumn / Winter Collection 2013

As I've tried to do more fashion posts, I've learned that Galvin Green is one of the big players in the market. Function18 sent me a press release about the new autumn and winter collection, complete with a link to a short video near the end. Hope this helps you would-be fashionistas out there!


As one of the key brands within the golfing industry, Galvin Green quality garments are celebrated throughout the sport. Therefore the arrival of their latest Autumn / Winter collection is highly anticipated in the world of golf.

It may be August, but in the world of sporting fashion we’re already thinking about the next season. Designed by golfers for golfers, every Galvin Green garment has been developed to provide exceptional comfort, freedom of movement and protection from the elements that sometimes face us out on the course.

As the colder weather starts to roll in, the conditions on the course can get pretty extreme, and all golfers (no matter your level) need great, guaranteed protection from their clothing - and from outerwear and waterproofs to windstoppers, the new collection certainly does not disappoint.

Galvin Green has become a favourite amongst professional golfers, amateurs and fans of the sport, and online clothing store Function18 is pleased to announce that the Galvin Green 2013 autumn / winter collection is now available to purchase online at www.function18.co.uk.

The new collection brings with it a multitude of new Gore-Tex waterproof garments, with the introduction of the colour purple. The mid layer collection has also been expanded for autumn 2013 with the inclusion of the Dexter 1/4 zip Insula pullover and the Dawson full zip jacket.


The Ventil8 shirt collection from spring / summer 2013 has also been built upon, with the introduction of the body mapping Miller shirt, available in 4 colour ways.

The expert team at Function18 feel that the strongest product line for Galvin Green AW2013 is the collection of new Gore Windstoppers which are totally windproof, offering effective protection against wind-chill. The Brett Windstopper is also a very striking garment with contrast panel styling.

Galvin Green’s recent video commercial demonstrates the class of their latest WindStopper, and is definitely worth a watch – click here to view video.

The new autumn / winter collection is now available to purchase online from Function18.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Inbee May Be Out of the Running

Today I'm heading out on vacation with friends. While I'll still be updating the blog with new material, I'll be traveling today and most of tomorrow, with the same schedule next weekend. As a result, I don't know exactly how much final-round golf I'll get to see, although I plan to keep up with the scoring. Don't be surprised if you see some photos from Disneyworld scattered throughout the week as well!


While Tiger was putting everybody on "59 watch" at the WGC-Bridgestone, a similar watch was out at the RICOH Women's British Open for Inbee Park -- not a 59 watch though; they were just trying to find her on the leaderboard. (And no -- like Phil earlier this year, Tiger fell short. He ended up just tying the course record of 61 and could only open up a 7-shot lead on the rest of the field. Ho-hum...)

It's not that Inbee is playing bad. She just ended up on the wrong end of the draw, as sometimes happens at the Open. Winds of 20+ mph hit the afternoon wave, and the best our major chasing star could manage was a round of 73, 1-over.

The problem is that she's now 8 shots off the lead. She's T22, not first or second after 36 holes as she has been in her previous three majors.

If you want to blame something, you can blame it on her final 8 holes of the first round. After going 6-under in the first 10 holes, she lost 3 shots on the way in -- a real no-no on a calm day when everybody was putting up low scores.

In her favor? More winds are predicted today but Inbee will go out early. If she catches a break and can post a 68 or 67 (par is 72 at the Old Course), she just might get herself back into it for the final round. And most of the good rounds on Friday were posted in the morning wave, before the winds came up.

Not in her favor? For one thing, her putter seems to have gone cold... but other players are heating up. The leader at 10-under, Na Yeon Choi, played in the afternoon wave as well and posted 67 in all that wind! Miki Saiki got it to 9-under in the morning wave, but did it on the strength of two hole-out eagles; she won't be able to count on that today. Morgan Pressel, at 8-under, also played the morning wave but finally seems to be in good shape after a couple of years of injuries. And two of the players at 7-under could be really dangerous -- Suzann Pettersen posted early and Nicole Castrale (who's playing with hip pain that will require surgery) played in even worse conditions than Na Yeon Choi.

Na Yeon ChoiPersonally, I think you have to consider Na Yeon the favorite now. She had only one bogey, and she shot 2-under on the back 9. Seven of the toughest holes were on the back 9! Plus she has a major under her belt -- the 2012 US Women's Open -- so she knows what kind of pressure to expect and, although she hasn't won yet this season, she has 6 Top10s and she's been steady at #4 in the Rolex Rankings.

But worst of all -- for the rest of the field, that is -- she doesn't seemed fazed by the wind and rain at all.

Inbee and Na Yeon are good friends and Judy Rankin said during the broadcast that Na Yeon really enjoys cooking. I suspect she'll have to whip up something really special for Inbee if she keeps playing like this!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Too Many Parties for Phil

He says he just isn't focused yet. I think he's been celebrating a lot -- after all, hazy thinking usually follows an abundance of parties.

I've mentioned that I always allow major winners a "grace period" to get used to the new demands of the win... and yes, to get over the celebrations. (When Bubba won the Masters, I actually gave him an extended grace period because he was also busy adopting his son during that time.) And perhaps Phil will get focused for next week's PGA Championship because I'm sure he can smell another major within his grasp.

But only 18 players shot under par. What's their excuse? To name a few names, Matt Kuchar's +3, Adam Scott's +3, and Charl Schwartzel's +4. These are all players you expect to play well at Firestone. (Phil can at least point to relatively poor showings in the last few years at this event.)

While it's still early, a couple of my picks are doing well. Jim Furyk is -3 and Harris English is E. And from my "players to watch" at the end of the August RGWR post, Henrik Stenson is -5 (just one off the lead) and even the normally volatile Ian Poulter is -1.

I'll be interested to see if Phil really can put it together and make a run this week... but I have a feeling he's going to need that grace period. After all, he's carrying the Claret Jug around with him... and he's made it clear that it's getting used quite a bit.

I guess he earned it.