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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sadlowski Lost More Than the $250,000 at RE/MAX

Yes, it was a shock. Jamie Sadlowski, the man who broke GC's golf simulator twice -- TWICE! -- by punching through both the net and screen didn't even make the Final 4 at the RE/MAX Long Drive finals Wednesday night.

But for Sadlowski, the worst was yet to come.

The October 8

Joe Miller and Jamie Sadlowski were the #1 and #2 seeds in almost everybody's opinion. And Miller did make it to the Finals, along with Tim Burke, the 2012 RE/MAX runner-up.

But this year Burke smoked them all... including Sadlowski's record.

You see, the guy who broke the GC simulator once with a driver and once with a 7-iron also held the record for the longest winning drive ever -- 418 yards back in 2008. That record now belongs to Burke, who hit it 427 yards. It's appropriate that he set the new record at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, don't you think?

I would have posted a pic of Tim Burke hoisting the trophy -- or at least the winner's check -- but apparently nobody felt any urgency about posting either stories or photos of Tim's triumphant return to the Finals. (Not even at the official site!) Everybody's still in shock, I guess.

But if it's any consolation, I believe Sadlowski still holds the record for broken golf simulators.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Zach Johnson on Dominating Par-5s

Today I'm just going to refer you to an article over at golfdigest.com without much addtional comment because Zach is so brief and understandable. It's called Cash In On The Par 5s and it include 4 tips on how to score better. It's all about strategy, so it should help you immediately!

Zach hitting a drive

BTW, note that in this picture of Zach hitting a tee shot, he hasn't flipped his hands or twisted his forearms. Zach hits his drives without manipulating the club face, just as I've been advising you to do, and says as much in the article. Just want to make sure you don't miss it...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Kobra Strikes Gold (and Other News)

These are all items that are worth mentioning but NOT worth an entire post... at least not yet. I've included links with further info.

Lydia

First, the LPGA accepted Lydia Ko's petition for membership. No big surprise there, although I was a bit surprised that Whan decided on the start of the year rather than her 17th birthday as he did with Lexi. But his reasoning made sense; here's the statement (at least, all of the statement that was published on LPGA.com:
After reviewing Lydia Ko’s petition, I have granted her LPGA Tour membership beginning at the start of the 2014 season. This decision ensures that Lydia can attend all of our LPGA rookie development sessions that take place in the early part of the year.
As for her exact playing status for the 2014 season, Lydia will compete out of category 7 on the 2014 LPGA Priority List. Category 7 is reserved for players who have won an official LPGA event as a non-member in the previous calendar year. We are looking forward to having Lydia as a full-time member for the 2014 season. It is not often that the LPGA welcomes a rookie who is already a back-to-back LPGA Tour champion.
As I said, no big surprise. You can read the statement and response here (the photo came from this link) and you can find the transcript of Lydia's presser after the announcement here.

Next, there was the announcement that EA Sports and Tiger have ended their partnership, making Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2014 the last installment of the video game franchise. It appears that declining sales are a factor (although that was never said) but Daryl Holt of EA said that they intend to create some new games with the PGA Tour. You can read about that situation here.

Perhaps one of the more interesting developments -- one that may become more newsworthy as 2014 progresses -- is the R&A's decision to eliminate the 36-hole International Final Qualifier into the Open Championship. Instead, it will be replaced with an "Open Qualifying Series" that will parcel out roughly 44 spots to players who meet certain qualifications at 14 different events. You can read more of the details here, and that article includes a link to another article about the change.

Two other notes of interest to some of you... Colin Smith tweeted me about his Kickstarter campaign. For those of you who haven't heard of it before, Kickstarter is a new grassroots way for people to raise funds for projects they think people will be interested in. (In this case, you can pledge as little as $1 to help fund the project, and he's well on his way toward his $10,000 goal.) Colin has designed something he calls the Green Golf Buckle -- a belt buckle that keeps your divot tool and ball marker handy. It's even gaining some attention from the big boys -- Ben Crane tweeted Colin about it. You can visit his Kickstarter site here for more details.

Finally I got an email from Golf Galaxy that they're opening two new flagship stores this weekend in Chesterfield, MO and Henderson (Las Vegas), NV. The links have all the details about the events. Former Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders will be at the Chesterfield store while Natalie Gulbis and NFL Hall of Famer Marcus Allen will be at the Henderson store. I mention these openings because the Golf Galaxy stores around here -- even the smaller ones -- have impressed me with how knowledgeable their clubfitters are.

I think that's everything. There truly isn't an off-season in golf anymore, is there?

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 CIMB Classic

Winner: Ryan Moore

Around the wider world of golf: Lee Chang-Woo got an invite to the 2014 Masters by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship; Suzann Pettersen won the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship; Kenny Perry won the AT&T Championship on the Champions Tour; Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano won the 2013 BMW Masters on the ET; Lee-Anne Pace won the Sanya Ladies Open on the LET; if I got the right info, Seung-Hyun Lee won the KB Financial Star Championship, the final major of the year on the KLPGA; and Sakura Yokomine won the Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies on the JLPGA. (The Constructivist has details on the JLPGA event. I assume he'll have something on the KLPGA event eventually.)

Ryan Moore with trophy

To be honest, before the final round started I thought I might be congratulating Kiradech Aphibarnrat on making it to the PGA Tour in this post. Ah, how quickly things change. Kiradech came up a single shot short of a playoff -- as did Chris Stroud -- and we ended up with a David and Goliath scenario.

A battle at dawn between two warriors. One with power, one with accuracy. The field of battle was soggy. The playoff hole was over 600 yards long. Everything favored Goliath.

But like the original battle, this one didn't last long. Ryan Moore laid his third shot stone dead and, with it, laid Gary Woodland's dreams of a third PGA Tour victory to rest.

It's been a couple of weeks more than a year since Moore's last win -- the 2012 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open -- but it's close enough to call this 2 wins in the last year. Are Moore victories on the horizon? I don't know... but this week's Limerick Summary salutes the latest David to take down a long-hitting adversary:
After seventy-two holes, the score
Didn’t tell us who won. But before
Woodland’s playoff par putt
Could be dropped in the cup,
Ryan’s birdie left us all wanting Moore.
The photo came from the front page of PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Let's End the DQ Question Once and for All

Simon Dyson's DQ at the BMW Masters has renewed the debate about whether viewers should be able to "help" the officials catch rules violations. It's the same old story -- Dyson tapped down a spike mark on his putting line, which is a clear violation, but nobody caught it until a viewer called in several hours after Dyson signed his card. From what I've heard, it appears Dyson just had a "brain fart" and did it absentmindedly, but it's still a violation of the rules.

And, as we have all become painfully aware, the penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard is disqualification.

Well, it is most of the time. The ruling bodies of golf have agreed that, under certain conditions, the DQ penalty should be waived. (Tiger's incorrect drop at the Masters this year is one example.)

I think it's time the Rules of Golf entered the 21st Century and the DQ penalty is eliminated -- well, mostly eliminated. There are some rule breaches for which a DQ is the ONLY prescribed penalty. In those cases, the DQ penalty should be enforced as it always has.

What I'm talking about here are those pesky breaches where you receive a stroke penalty if you catch it before you sign your scorecard... or get DQ'ed if you don't. The penalty for the rule breach is adding strokes to your score. The penalty is for signing an incorrect scorecard is a DQ.

It's the incorrect scorecard penalty that I want to see eliminated. If you're going to allow viewers to call in rule breaches -- viewers who may not even see the event until several hours after the round is over -- then you've got to remove the penalty.

Why was that penalty created in the first place? Clearly it was to prevent cheating. But in the modern game, we have electronic scorekeeping to keep everybody honest. My gosh, at many events everybody's scores are constantly updated on giant scoreboards around the course!

But, more importantly, having your peers and fans consider you a cheater is the kiss of death to your career. Just think about the fallout from Brandel Chamblee's gaff in the last couple of weeks when he said Tiger had been "...a little cavalier with the rules." The fact that Tiger's agent reacted so quickly -- and that Chamblee backpedaled just as quickly -- should be enough to make that clear. And with the ever-present video cameras on the course to make sure everything gets seen -- that no cheater has a realistic chance of getting away with his crime -- the need for the DQ penalty simply isn't there anymore.

The solution for all this fuss is simple: Eliminate the DQ penalty for an incorrect scorecard and simply add the stroke penalties to each player's score once the infraction has been verified. It really is a simple solution that deals with all aspects of the problem:
  • The field is "protected" because violations are enforced. Nobody wants to see the violations ignored.
  • Because the infractions are on tape, it's a simple matter for both players and officials to go back and verify exactly what happened. Consequently there are fewer questions about the rightness of a ruling.
  • And players don't get the sudden shock of arriving at the course for their next round only to find there will be no next round. Players don't mind taking the penalty for their errors... but they'd like the chance to correct their scorecards and avoid a DQ.
It's time we bring golf out of the Dark Ages and into the Digital Age. Is that too much to ask? It's time to do away with the DQ penalty!!!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Is Suzann the Next Rolex #1?

It's certainly beginning to look that way. Although Suzann is backing up a bit at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship (as I'm writing this, she's +2 on the day after 10 holes), she's still 3 strokes ahead of her closest competitor.

More importantly, Inbee Park isn't playing this week. That may spell trouble for the current Rolex #1.

Suzann in Taiwan

You see, Suzann's been on a tear lately. She's got at least 4 wins worldwide this season -- including the newly-majorized Evian Championship -- and a load of Top10s. Since she missed the cut at the US Women's Open, she's got 7s straight Top7s on the LPGA alone... and that includes 2 back-to-back wins.

But it's the Rolex Rankings which fascinate me the most. As recently as the first week in July -- right after Suzann missed her last cut -- Inbee Park had a 5.35 point lead (13.27 vs 9.72). In less than 4 months that lead has been trimmed to a mere .89 points (11.98 vs 11.09). If Suzann wins this week, she'll close that gap even more.

And after this week there are 3 LPGA tournaments left. Neither Suzann nor Inbee will play the Mizuno Classic but both will play the Lorena Ochoa Invitational and the CME Group Titleholders. Depending on how things go, it's possible Suzann might take over the #1 spot by the end of the year.

Apparently the top spots in the Rolex Rankings are harder to hold than the top spots in the OWGR. We can only guess what might happen once Lydia Ko joins the LPGA. But it sure like Suzann Pettersen may be the new Queen of the Hill when she does... and I'm not so sure she'll be deposed as easily as the others.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Guess What? Jack Wasn't All That Much Longer

I found a short but interesting article over at golfdigest.com about length off the tee back when Jack was playing and with the big hitters now. You might want to take a few seconds to read it because its conclusion is interesting -- namely, Jack didn't really have the big advantage most of us believe!

Classic Jack

Now clearly this doesn't mean that extra distance off the tee is useless. But it certainly points out that Jack's ability to hit fairways and greens was a lot more important than his length off the tee. After all, why do you think the long hitters aren't able to consistently finish ahead of the shorter hitters? Because recovery shots are lower-percentage shots than shots from the fairway.

Weekend players should take some solace in that knowledge. Bear in mind that extra distance doesn't get you any closer to the hole if the ball isn't headed toward the hole in the first place! And if you get that ball in the fairway, it's going to get some extra distance rolling.

It's food for thought, anyway.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Ko "Going Pro" Video (Hey, That Rhymes!)

Just on the outside chance you missed it... Here's the video where Lydia Ko officially declares herself "pro" to the world.



The guy in the video is Israel Dagg, a rugby player who's good friends with Lydia. The two conspired with New Zealand Golf's chief executive Dean Murphy to do the video instead of a press conference. As I understand it, it was done as part of a promotional push NZG is doing. This comedy video was professionally done -- by Augusto New Zealand.

Sure beats the heck out of another press conference, that's for sure.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Johnny Miller's 9-Ball Game

Today I have a video by Johnny Miller from golf.com. He calls this a game rather than a drill, mainly because of the mindset.

In this range game you hit 9 balls -- and only 9 balls -- each with a different shot shape. Here's the video:



What I like about this game is that it's practice with a purpose. Instead of just stepping up and hitting balls at no target in particular, or hitting a number of balls with the same shot shape (which allows you to get into a groove), "9-Ball" requires you to think like you do on the course. There you have only one chance to hit the shot correctly.

Please note that this video is 5 minutes long because Johnny shows you his followthrough on each shot. If you try to swing to a certain finish position, it will affect your swing much earlier in the backswing... but it's much easier to hit the ball solidly this way. I know it sounds strange, but this mindset makes it easier to get the clubface in the proper position at impact.

Obviously you can play this game more than once during your trip to the range. The point Johnny is making is that you should hit ALL 9 balls -- each with a different shot shape -- before you start a "new game." Learn to hit each shot with purpose and under the pressure to hit them all properly

You might want to rearrange the order of shots from what Johnny suggests if you have more trouble with, say, the low shots instead of the high shots. Make the most difficult shot (for you, that is) your last shot. If you've hit 8 perfect shots, that last shot for the perfect score is going to be REALLY difficult. And as you start getting better under pressure, your confidence will improve just like Johnny says.

And make sure you keep score each time you play this game on the range. You should see improvement over time... and your scores on the course should improve as well.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Wie Ray of Hope

If you saw the LPGA tournament this weekend, you may have been shocked to see Michelle Wie shoot the best round of the week (a bogey-free 6-under 66) and finish T3. This was on the heels of a T12 finish last week.

This meant 6 of her last 7 rounds have been par or better. She's had 2 rounds of 66 (the one last week was 5-under) and her only over-par round (her second this week) was just 1-over. Given how tough the course was, that really wasn't a bad score either.

Michelle Wie

Even the commentators were commenting on how much more relaxed Michelle looked over the ball -- still a bit mechanical, but at least she seemed to be enjoying herself.

Has Michelle finally turned a corner in her game? I don't know. I know we often give major winners a "grace period" of a couple of years where we don't expect a whole lot -- we say they're "readjusting" to the new demands of being a major winner. As I've said before, I think Michelle should get the same benefit of the doubt because I think graduating from college and having your entire routine of the last few years jerked away is at least as demanding. Even some of her critics like Brandel Chamblee seem to be coming around to that idea. (Perhaps the rumors of a possible defamation suit by Tiger's agent has something to do with that. I don't know the exact timing of the two, but I think I heard Chamblee's more lenient comments about Wie before the golf.com article came out.)

At any rate, Michelle has put herself back on the radar again. If she continues to show improvement -- and Michelle IS scheduled to play this week in Taiwan, perhaps hoping to build on her current good play -- we may find ourselves talking a lot about Michelle Wie in 2014.

And no matter how you feel about Michelle, that's good for women's golf.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

Winner: Webb Simpson

Around the wider world of golf: Amy Yang got her first win at the LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship; Jin Jeong got his first win at the ET's ISPS HANDA Perth International; Michael Allen got his second win of the year at the Greater Hickory Kia Classic on the Champions Tour; Scott Hend won the Venetian Macau Open on the Asian Tour; Kang Sung-hoon won the Kolon Korea Open on the OneAsia Tour (Rory McIlroy finished T2); and Na-Ri Lee won the Fujitsu Ladies on the JLPGA after the final round was rained out (the Constructivist has details).

Webb gets another one

Fortunately for NFL fans, Webb Simpson had the Shriners Open well-in-hand before Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos faced off with Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton's old team. The Colts won but it wasn't nearly as easy as Webb's win was.

Ironically, Webb's margin of victory was as large as the Colts'! (Well, 6 strokes versus 6 points. Same number, anyway.) It's not a big surprise to most fans; Webb has seemed to struggle since winning the US Open in 2012 but he'd actually had 5 Top5s (which included a runner-up) since January. That's not bad by anybody's measure.

And let's face it -- Webb really didn't seem to be struggling with his confidence. (I'm not so sure you can say that about the rest of the field. They didn't even make Webb sweat for the win.) No, Webb didn't lack confidence; he just hadn't won in a while. Unless you're Tiger or one of the other guys who live in the OWGR Top5, that's not unusual.

At the risk of slighting Webb, I think the real story was the guys chasing him. Runners-up Ryo Ishikawa and Jason Bohn will take away a lot from this tournament -- this week was a major accomplishment for them both.

But that doesn't change Webb's accomplishment. Webb won big in Vegas, so this week's Limerick Summary celebrates the Tour's newest high roller:
In Vegas, most guys are high rolling…
But Simpson was merely out strolling!
Yeah, Webb had the ticket—
His whole game was wicked!
The other guys needed consoling.
The photo came from the Shriners Open tournament page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

How Your "Love Handles" Affect Your Shots

Okay, technically your obliques aren't the same as your love handles. Your oblique muscles are underneath the fatty rolls we call love handles. But if you've got love handles, there's a good chance your obliques are a little weak... and that can affect your swing.

I've got a couple of articles that can help you identify the problem and strengthen the muscles.

Rose demonstrating exerciseThe first article is a post from Golf Digest's Instruction Blog called Activate Your Obliques for a Better Swing. GD's Fitness Editor Ron Kaspriske talked to Dave Phillips and Greg Rose -- the guys you see every week on GC's Titleist Performance Institute show -- about how weak obliques and weak glutes combine to affect your swing. One of those affects is the notorious reverse pivot, and the TPI guys show you how to test for weak obliques and give you a simple exercise to help strengthen them. The photo to the right is from that post.

But I know some of you will want more, perhaps even a full plan to help really build your core strength.  For that I found an article over at military.com called Lose the Love Handles. The author, Stew Smith, was a Navy SEAL and is a fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. (That means he's a trustworthy source of info, folks!) Smith, like Phillips and Rose, works the obliques and legs together.

The article is fairly long but the part you'll be interested in (a little over halfway down the page) is the Tuesday and Friday workout for the legs and love handles. You may not want to follow his workout precisely but it will give you an idea about what exercises are most effective for working these two areas.

And just a bit below that is a list of exercises for building the core, especially the stomach and lower back, if you're interested.

With winter just around the corner, now might be a good time to begin some simple core work to get ready for next year. These articles can get you started.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Latest PGA Championship Debate

As you have no doubt heard, the PGA is debating the possibility of moving the PGA Championship outside of the US occasionally "to help grow the game of golf worldwide." In fact, the Grey Goose 19th Hole crew debated whether it was a good idea or not Friday night.

In case you haven't heard about it, understand that the PGA can't do it until 2020 at the earliest. They've already named American courses to be used until then.

The debate was quite interesting. Host Laura Baldesarra wasn't in favor of it -- it's the PGA of America, after all -- while her media panel was split over the issue. It might work occasionally, all golf bodies should be interested in growing the game, it could help give the last major more of an identity... you know, a rehash of the standard issues that get raised. And none of them wanted a fifth major.

I'll make this post short and sweet. First, if you want to grow the game, you eventually have to play a major outside the US and Europe. Period. Whether you move an existing one around the planet or create a fifth one exclusively for "the rest of the world," you eventually have to get a major "out there." Otherwise you send the message that golf is still basically an American/European game, that golf in the rest of the world isn't as important as golf in the US and Europe. The powers-that-be may not like it, but that's how it will be interpreted.

Walter HagenAnd second, if you want to give the PGA Championship a more distinctive identity, that's a no-brainer: Return it to the match play format it started in and was played as from 1916 through 1957. Snead, Hogan, Nelson, Sarazen -- these greats all won multiple PGAs in this format. In fact, we remember Walter Hagen (pictured at right) as a 5-time winner in this format, 4 of those in a row!

It's simple enough to do... just use the US Amateur format. Have two days of stroke play to cut the field to 64, then let the survivors play 18-hole matches (and a 36-hole final) to determine the winner. Make "Glory's Last Shot" a real test of golf! Let it test players at stroke play AND match play! Make the Wannamaker Trophy not just the final major trophy of the year, but a prize that can truly say it tested its winner in every way possible. Not even the Accenture Match Play can claim to do that.

I know they aren't going to listen to me, but I bet it would get people's attention. It's not even a debate for me.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Tying Up Some Instructional Loose Ends

If you read the comments on my blog, you're probably familiar with Phil Clare's name. Phil comments on a lot of my posts -- often more than once on any given post -- and the comments are usually video links. When Phil started doing it, I originally made "thank you" comments until I realized that you'd be sorting through a lot of useless "thank you" clutter... so I stopped, figuring I'd done it enough that Phil knew I appreciated his input. (In case you didn't know, Phil, I do. Thanks.)

Anyway, Phil left several video comments on my Giving Your Ball a Wedgie post from a few days back and I wanted to bring a couple of the comments to your attention. Phil's comments are often videos that are related to but not the exact same topic. There were two of them on this post, like the Big Break video that shows how to "chip" the ball with a hard full swing (yes, it's a trick shot) and the Grand Slam of Golf highlight shots that includes some short game shots. Since the "wedgie" post was about a different way to play a difficult pitch, you can see how these are related to the topic.

It's the other two comments I wanted to focus on since they go so well with other posts I've done recently.

The 4th video comment (yes, there were 4 on this post) Phil mentioned is from GC's Morning Drive. It shows a drill Jason Dufner gave Michael Breed to help make better contact with your irons, and John Cook's commentary about the same drill (which he and other players use). The downswing of the drill looks quite a bit like what Scott Munroe is doing in the "wedgie" video, although Scott doesn't swing through the ball like Jason does. It's a drill that can help short game shots but is aimed more at full iron shots. Those of you who followed my How to Hit a Draw series (links to those posts are on my Some Useful Post Series page) may find this drill also helps you improve your weight shift when hitting a draw.

The other video comment -- the one with "norman" in the url -- references a School of Golf video about Greg Norman's chipping style. Martin Hall also referred to this technique in his short game episode of School of Golf this past Wednesday. (As an aside, Hall talked with a biomechanics researcher about short game techniques on the show... and I was pleased to discover that what I've been telling you all is very close to what his research shows is the best way to do it. I didn't have his research, but my instruction only differed in some small ways that I found to be more consistent for weekend players who don't have a lot of time to practice.)

The technique in this video is very different from what's in the "wedgie" video -- which is why I think Phil put it there -- but it's very similar to the technique in the New School Pitching post, so you might want to compare the two. (The tip in that post came from teacher Brady Riggs.) And since both of them focus on using the bounce of your wedge when making the pitch, you might want to look at A Rakish Approach to Sand Play, a post I did on using a rake to practice using the bounce. (That tip in that post came from Charlotta Sorenstam.)

I wanted to mention those two videos specifically but, as I said, Phil frequently puts neat videos in the comments section. So if you haven't been checking the comments, you might want to skim through and look for Phil's name. Some of the videos are pretty neat. (And some are just plain entertaining.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

It's 13 Hours Later in Korea...

than it is on the East Coast of America, which is why most of us won't be seeing the LPGA play live this week. All three rounds of the LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship will be shown at 11am ET on GC (the same time Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).

Suzann Pettersen

Of course, we'll already know the scores if we want to check the LPGA leaderboard.

But with the LPGA golf season winding to a close -- and not starting again until late January (early for them!) -- we've gotta take what we can get.

Tony Jesselli has a preview of the event at this link to get you up to speed. There's not a particularly strong field at this event, although Suzann Pettersen and Inbee Park are there. This could be a good chance for other players to break through for their first win, like Lizette Salas or Gerina Pillar, or for someone like Michelle Wie (who's playing much better of late) or Paula Creamer to get back in the winner's circle.

However, I should note that Suzann is the defending champion. (The photo is from the tournament site's photo section.) That may put a damper on some of the other players' hopes. When Suzann gets out on the course, I don't think her play is affected by whether she's live or not.

Hmmm... I'm sure there's something wrong with that last statement, but the complexities of modern technology prevent me from putting my finger on the exact reason why...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Giving Your Ball a Wedgie

Everybody knows what a wedgie is, right? In case you don't, Wikipedia has a rather... dispassionate description of the crime, complete with pictures (who in their right mind poses for a picture of a wedgie?):
A wedgie occurs when a person's nether underwear or other garments are wedged between the buttocks. While a wedgie can be created naturally, the term is usually associated with a prank or as a form of bullying. When a person is on the receiving end of a wedgie, his or her underwear is forcibly pulled up by a second person.
That's the image that popped into my mind when I read about this unusual technique of hitting a high spinning wedge shot from the rough when you've shortsided yourself. It's much easier to link you to the golf.com video "Get the Drop on Short Pitches" than to try and describe it. (Hopefully it's embedded properly right here.)



It's that jerking motion at the end of the shot that reminds me of a wedgie.

Scott Munroe's technique is definitely not the kind of thing you're likely to see from the big name teachers, but it's not out of character for some of the shots you see the pros try. The high points from the video are:
  • Use your lob wedge
  • Stand closer to the ball
  • Open your stance slightly
  • Put more weight on your lead foot
  • Lift the club sharply
  • Chop down on the ball but instead of swinging through...
  • "Recoil" the club as soon as you hit the ball and ground
You should definitely practice this before you try it on the course, but it looks like it might eliminate those shots where you go completely under the ball.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Rakish Approach to Sand Play

This has got to be one of the coolest drills I have ever seen -- and it comes courtesy of Charlotta Sorenstam, Annika's sister and the Director of Golf Operations at Annika's school. The full article is over at golftipsmag.com and you can use this link to get to it. There's more to it than what I'll mention here, but this will give you an idea of how unique this idea is.

Yes, this photo looks exactly like what you think it is. Charlotta is practicing her sand shots by bouncing the sand wedge's sole off a rake handle! What a cool way to learn how to use the bounce!

Charlotta's sand swing sequence

You can read the article to get the details -- and as I said, there's more to the article than just smacking a rake handle -- but here's what I think is so cool about this: Since you don't need sand to do this drill, you can do it in your backyard! You can use an old broom or rake or whatever you have laying around the house. Lay it on the ground and practice your swing the way Charlotta describes in her article

Just remember that she says to make LIGHT contact with your practice "sand trap." You don't want to have splinters splashing up into your face!

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 Frys.com Open

Winner: Jimmy Walker

Around the wider world of golf: Lexi Thompson breezed to her second LPGA victory at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia (the Constructivist has more details); Sung-hoon Kang likewise cruised to victory at the CJ Invitational Hosted by KJ Choi on the Asian Tour; David Lynn got his first-ever European Tour victory at the Portugal Masters; Russ Cochran won the SAS Championship (in front of his mom, who drove 14 hours to watch him play) on the Champions Tour; and Soo-Yun Kang got her first JLPGA win at the Stanley Ladies. (The Constructivist has details on that one too!)

Jimmy Walker hoists his first PGA trophy

Okay, let me get this straight... it's the 2013 Frys.com Open but it's the first event in the 2014 PGA Tour season... Hmmm, this could get complicated!

But it wasn't complicated for Jimmy Walker. He hit fairways and greens (for the most part) and made putts. It was enough to overtake wunderkind Brooks Koepka (who struggled with the fairways and greens part down the stretch) and resurgent legend Vijay Singh (who struggled with the putting part on Sunday).

Koepka had a four-stroke lead at one point, going into the back nine, but it looked like nerves finally caught up with him. He fell into a tie for third but -- if things work out as they usually do -- the finish gave him roughly a third of the money he'll need to get a Tour card next year, plus a spot in next week's tournament, plus a lot of publicity that will probably result in sponsors exemptions. He'll be fine.

Vijay has to feel good about where his game seems to be heading. While he's going to play some on the Champions Tour (he knocked out a second there last week) he intends to continue his focus on the regular Tour for a while. I think he'll be fine, don't you?

In the meantime, I'm sending out this Limerick Summary to the first-time winner who shares a name with a certain alcoholic beverage. I don't know if he likes whiskey, but I'm guessing that something flowed freely last night:
Don’t get him confused with the whiskey!
Jim’s game isn’t nearly as risky
As gunning the throttle
While chugging a bottle.
(Though the post-game bash might have got frisky.)
The photo came from the front page of PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sean Foley on "Smashing" Your Irons

Today I'm going to refer you to a Golf Digest article by Sean Foley on how to hit your irons more solidly. (Foley's article, complete with a demonstration video, is at this link.) The "smashing" image comes from his description of starting the downswing by "squashing a tomato."

Foley's positions for better ironplay

I'm recommending this article because I like Sean's emphasis on not trying so hard to "stay behind the ball" since he believes it often creates the wrong image in a weekend golfer's mind. (I struggle with that problem of avoiding poor images a lot myself.) However, I think some of you could also get the wrong idea when he tells you to shift your hips forward to start your downswing. Your hips do move forward a little but stomping the tomato is a downward image, which is a feeling I often recommend in my blog posts.

If you look at Sean's demonstration, you'll see that his hip shift is actually a knee movement -- he's moving his lead knee forward, so it's over his lead foot at impact. (That bent lead knee was actually closer to the ball, between his feet, when he started his downswing.) That hip shift is actually a rotation of your hips as you make your downswing. I've done a couple of posts with drills to help you create the move Sean wants without feeling like you're moving your hips too much:
One may work better for you than the other, so try them both. Pause Sean's video at the .28 second mark, and you'll see that his knees are in the same position these drills create. (You can also see it in the right side of the photo above.) The move Sean wants is exactly what you want; you just don't want to overdo the hip move and get too far ahead of the ball.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Hot Nights in Kuala Lumpur

At least it's night here in North Carolina. Since the GC broadcasts of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia are live, it's midday over there. But that doesn't change the heat -- and I'm not referring to the temperature in Malaysia.

Lexi in 2nd round

Lexi Thompson blistered the course during the second round (Thursday night) when she went 6-under in 5 holes, eventually posting an 8-under 63 that put her at -12. That was one off the lead of Ilhee Lee. As I'm watching tonight (Friday night) Lexi has already gone 3-under in her first 7 holes to take the lead at -15. (Ilhee is still at -13.)

Shanshan Feng (last week's winner) is in third place at -10 with I.K. Kim, and Suzann Pettersen is in fifth place with Anna Nordqvist at -9. Anna's the big mover today -- she's gone 6-under in 13 holes to move up from 29th place.

Paula Creamer was tied with Anna and Suzann until she made a nasty double-bogey at the 7th. Still, she's tied with So Yeon Ryu, Karine Icher, and Amy Yang at -7 (T7).

And just behind them is a group at -6 (T11) with Beatriz Recari, Pornanong Phatlum, and Michelle Wie, among others. (Yes, Michelle is playing well after a tough first round.)

Although it's awkward watching golf at this late hour -- clearly I'm not going to see all of it -- it's still nice to see GC making an effort to broadcast the ladies while they're actually playing. They're certainly being rewarded with some seriously good play. After all, Inbee Park won it last year with a final score of -15.

Right where Lexi is as I write this. Who knows where she -- and the other gals -- will be when you read it? The final round is scheduled for tonight (Saturday) at midnight ET, so you might want to try and catch some of it. The quality of the golf has been amazing.

The photo came from this golf.com article about the second round.

Friday, October 11, 2013

It's Official -- Lydia Ko Is Going Pro

OneSport in New Zealand has confirmed that Lydia Ko intends to turn pro. You can see their video report at this link. But that's just the beginning of the story.

Lydia in full flight

Here are some other articles that give more perspective on the story:
The trick here is that Lydia can turn pro without the LPGA's permission. She's filing for membership, not the right to turn pro. She has already qualified for the Titleholders tournament, so she would get whatever money she wins there. She's also considering a place in Lorena's tournament the week before, so she would get that money also. In fact, she'll be able to accept money in any pro tournament she decides to play.

There is some debate over whether Michael Whan will accept her petition or not. As I understand it, New Zealand requires 13 years of school so accepting her petition might be construed as approving of her dropping out. Given that she's managed to keep up her schoolwork while playing so many tournaments already, I don't think that's likely to be a big influence on his decision.

And while he did turn down Ariya Jutanugarn's petition, it's worthwhile to notice that Ariya didn't have a pro win at the time. Lexi Thompson had 2 wins, one each on the LPGA and LET, and he accepted hers. Since Lydia has 4 pro wins, including two LPGA and one LET, and is also #5 in the Rolex World Rankings, I suspect he'll accept her petition and probably make it valid on her 17th birthday on April 24.

Even if Michael Whan turns down her petition, I still see some logic in Lydia turning pro now. There are many more restrictions on how many LPGA tournaments she can play as an amateur; by turning pro, she'll at least open the doors to Monday qualifying. And given how much it must cost to travel around the world playing golf, and how much money others are making off of her efforts, it simply seems asinine to refuse to get paid!

But no matter what happens at LPGA Headquarters, it seems safe to say that the pros are about to get their pockets picked by a teenager. A lot. And deeply.

The photo came from the golf.com article.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

VIDEO: New-School Pitching

I found this little video on chipping/pitching over at golf.com. (You can use this link in case the video below won't run.) In it, instructor Brady Riggs is teaching a "new" pitching method with a 52-degree wedge that replaces the "old" chipping method with a lob wedge most of us have been taught.

It sounds somewhat like the "putt with a 7/8/9-iron" method I've recommended in past posts but, since it uses a wedge, this version teaches you how to use the bounce of the club. That's definitely something you want to learn!



Why does he call this a pitch instead of a chip? It's because (1) this method uses more wrist action than we generally associate with a chip, (2) the ball is airborne longer than with most chips, and (3) you aren't hitting down on the ball quite as much, which eliminates some of the "chunking" that can happen when the front edge of the wedge digs into the ground.

He accomplishes this by leaning the club shaft toward the target less than with a traditional chip. (If you've been using my tip of setting up so the ball is under your hands, you're already doing this.) Then he allows the head of the club to pass his hands after he hits the ball. (Not all that unlike my suggestion that this stroke feels something like a putting motion. His action in the video certainly reminds me of a long putting stroke.)

Note that he's using this method off shorter grass; both his method and my method work well there. But if you find yourself in deeper grass, go to a sand wedge with more bounce and use Brady's method. You'll get something more like a short sand shot that way, which is much more effective from thicker lies.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The WGHoF Finally Admits They're Confused

Despite what Gary Player says in the commercial, no matter how much the players love golf, nobody's gotta go in 2014.

At least, nobody's going INTO the World Golf Hall of Fame. There will be no inductees next year.

I've got links to a number of short articles here:
These give you a pretty good idea of just why the WGHoF has no clear idea what they should do. It's not really clear what they're doing right now!

Let's see... to get in as a PGA Tour pro you have to be at least 40 years old, a member for 10 years, and have at least 10 PGA Tour wins, two majors or two Players titles. (And yes, from what I can find, that's 10 wins OR 2 majors OR 2 TPCs. Given what I hear when they discuss possible inductees on TV, I thought they needed 16 or 17 wins with at least 2 majors.)

To get in from the Champions Tour you have to be a member for 5 years and -- it gets a bit tricky here -- 20 wins on the PGA and Champions tours combined OR five majors (regular and/or senior) and TPC wins.

And in each case, that's just to get on a ballot. Then they have criteria for how many votes you have to get... and apparently voters are getting upset over those. In fact, it appears the voters are upset over who gets a vote in the first place.

The LPGA uses 10-year membership and a points system for the qualifying criteria, which eliminates voters entirely.

And the International criteria (for both males and females) uses both points AND voters.

I don't even want to think about the potential for confusion in the Lifetime Achievement or Veterans categories, which are totally in the hands of the WGHoF Board of Directors.

According to the reports I heard, the WGHoF isn't even sure WHEN they should do the inductions anymore! (Currently they're done during TPC week.)

To be honest, I don't see any easy solution to their problems. How can you reconcile such divergent induction criteria when NONE of the individual categories seems happy as is? I doubt voters will go for a pure points system, and I doubt the points qualifiers will want to trust their fates to the unquesionably biased opinions of voters. Since the International category already uses both points and voters but still isn't happy, it's hard to believe any of the other groups will accept a combined system.

And can you see ANY of them giving the final choice to the WGHoF Board of Directors? I think not.

If it has to be points or votes, I favor a points system -- there's no favoritism involved there -- and letting players who don't qualify on points get a second chance based on votes. I also think the LPGA points system is a bit too demanding -- it only requires one major OR POY award OR Vare Trophy (that's their scoring award) but doesn't give any of those any real weight. Regular events get 1 point... but so do the POY or Vare (that's probably about right), and a major only gets 2 points (that should probably be 3 points). And let's face it, debates over the relative weight of each would probably never satisfy anybody.

Personally, I'd rather see a simple list of requirements for all Tours, and then perhaps add something that's unique to each Tour that could substitute for a standard requirement. Perhaps they could require 10 wins plus 2 majors as basic criteria and adjust from there.

For example, you might allow one substitution of a yearly trophy for one regular win... but not 2 of the same trophy for 2 wins. For example, if you won 2 Vare trophies and 3 POY awards in your career, you could count 1 Vare as a win and 1 POY as a win but not the other 3 trophies. Allowance could be made for a spectacular achievement, such as Colin Montgomerie's 8-time win of the Order of Merit or any of Tiger's 9-time or 11-time awards. Those kinds of achievements should be worth something extra.

I fear that the big task for the WGHoF will be to make new standards that are actually reasonable. With people making stupid arguments like "a major is worth a TPC and 2 WGCs plus other wins" as they did with Tiger's 5 wins this season, it's hard to believe the Hall will be able to please anybody. Who knows? If the process drags out, we may not see any new inductions for a couple of years... or more.

But in the end, I guess something's gotta go. Good luck, WGHoF.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Warming Up for the Big Drive

I found this little video by LPGA/PGA instructor Lee Huntley over at golftipsmag.com, and I think it's pretty cool. It's a quick warm-up you can use before you hit a drive. It both improves your flexibility and helps you make a more balanced swing.



I like this drill not only because it doesn't take long but because it looks like it could help prevent injury. As Lee says, we tend to develop one-sided flexibility because we swing only one way... and this looks like a simple way to help combat that.

Give it a try next time you play -- I know I plan to. Anytime you can get extra benefits from a drill without extra time or effort, why not go for it?

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 Presidents Cup

Winner: USA, 18.5-15.5

Around the wider world of golf: Continental Europe beat GB&I 15-13 in the ET's Seve Cup; Shanshan Feng won the inaugural Reignwood LPGA Classic (the Constructivist has a wrap-up on it here); and Mika Miyazato won the Japan Women's Open on the JLPGA. (Surprise -- the Constructivist has a wrap-up of this event also!)

The winning US Team with Jack Nicklaus

It wasn't really a surprise that the US Team won the Presidents Cup. All we heard the entire week was how the International Team was an underdog and the numbers were against them.

But on Saturday night Brandel Chamblee said something that I had also been thinking about. It took several decades for the European Ryder Cup Team to finally become competitive on a consistent basis, and the International Presidents Cup Team has only been at it for a couple of decades. I think there's a lot of truth in that.

The Euro Ryder Cuppers needed to have the blend of competitors changed (from just GB&I to Continental Europe) and then needed a couple of Cups to get their chemistry down. The International Presidents Cuppers have to figure out a way to blend several different cultures (and languages), plus figure some way to get them together more often. For example, Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley probably average 3 rounds together every couple of months. The full International team hadn't even been all together in one place until Monday!

However, all is not bright in the American teamroom. The US team only needed 4 points to win Sunday... and barely managed 4.5 points. The US team clearly dealt with the rain delays better than the Internationals early on; in 2 of the team sessions, the Internationals led EVERY match until those sessions were interrupted and the US turned them into routs.

But while the US team dealt with them better in the team sessions, the Internationals clearly did it better in the singles. Fred Couples rightly noted that 3 of the 4 full points they won in singles came from players they rested Saturday -- Mahan, Dufner, and Johnson. The winning point (as it has in the last 2 Cups) came from Tiger Woods, despite back problems clearly aggravated by dampness and fatigue. Had Oosthuizen been in better condition (so Schwartzel didn't have to carry their team so much), and had De Jonge and Matsuyama been more experienced in team play (hence making better strategic decisions in singles), this could have been quite a different story.

This Presidents Cup was much closer than the final score indicates... and unless the US Team figures out what is causing this lapse in their play during singles in both Cups, the next Presidents Cup may be a rude awakening.

But I'll give you a hint at what I think the problem is. Here's the scoring page, where you can access the individual scores of each match. If you take a quick look, you'll find that the International players generally lost holes when they made par and the US made birdies... but the US frequently lost holes when they made bogey and the Internationals made par. It doesn't take a genius to do the math.

Nevertheless, this week's Limerick Summary salutes the US Presidents Cup team for sending Freddie Couples out with a winning record. (Freddie said he won't be captaining the next team in Korea.) A win is a win, after all, and they certainly won this one the hard way!
In some ways, this match was decided
By rain and was not as lopsided
As the score may appear.
Though the Cup will stay here,
The US must feel a bit chided.
The photo came from the main page at presidentscup.com.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Look at Brendan De Jonge's Swing

There's been a lot of talk about Brendan De Jonge's "over-the-top" swing and how well he hits a golf ball using it. And Brandel Chamblee made a good point about it -- he said that millions of weekend players were all watching and wondering why their OTT swing didn't get the same results.

I'm going to answer that question for you in this post. First, let's take a down-the-line look at Brendan's swing since that's where the OTT move is so evident.



Although you might think Brendan's swing is unusual, it really isn't. Just look at this old slo-mo footage of the great Bobby Jones -- you'll see a very similar motion.



Part of what gives Brendan's swing such an odd appearance (and the swing of Bobby Jones, as well) is that neither has a one-piece takeaway. Both pull the club dramatically to the inside on their backswing, which puts both the club and their hands waaaaay under the proper backswing plane and gets their hands extremely close to their trailing hips.

Because of that takeaway, their backswings are extremely flat. (Brendan's is actually flatter than Bobby's because Brendan delays bending his trailing elbow even longer than Bobby does.) And because of that late elbow bend, both are forced to lift their hands -- and consequently the club -- almost straight up to the top of their backswings.

But here is where both Jones and De Jonge depart from the standard OTT swing motion.

In a standard OTT swing, the hands reach the top of the backswing AND CONTINUE UPWARD, arcing up and forward, far above the correct swing plane and never touching it again until the club head reaches the ball.

But as both Jones and De Jonge reach the top of the swing plane. THEY START DOWN ALMOST IMMEDIATELY. As a result, both actually succeed in coming down ON the correct swing plane! Here, take a look at this still I snagged from the video of Brendan's downswing. At this point, most players making an OTT move would have their hands well out in front of their bodies. Brendan's hands, however, are pretty close to the correct position for an on-plane swing. A line drawn from the head of the club down the shaft, if extended to the ground, would point at or just inside his aim line (the line drawn from the ball to his target).

And yes, I know that it looks as if his stance is closed from this angle, but that's distortion caused by the camera lens. See how the dark grass stripes on the left of the tee and the ones on the right of the tee both point inward? Look at the one running under Brendan's feet and you'll see that his feet are parallel to his aim line.

De Jonge starts his downswing

Although Brendan De Jonge appears to have an OTT move, he actually makes that move much lower than most weekend players do. As a result, his downswing is on plane -- actually, at impact his hands are just slightly above the plane and the club head is traveling slightly out-to-in, which is not the same as an OTT move. An out-to-in path impacts the ball at a much shallower angle than an OTT path, like an on-plane swing does. It's what gives him that slight little cut shot that he plays so well.

It's not a move I would recommend, simply because I think the backswing feels much too cramped with my hands so close to my trailing hip. I also think it's a bit difficult to keep from lifting my hands too high at the top of the backswing, which creates that bad OTT move. But now you know why it works for Brendan and not for you. If you can get your hands on the correct plane for your downswing, this can be a very dependable move.

After all, it worked for Bobby Jones and it works for Brendan De Jonge. It works very well indeed.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Meanwhile, Back in China...

What with the Presidents Cup moving to NBC today -- and Sammy the Squirrel moving into his new condo in the woods off of the 2nd hole at Muirfield -- the new LPGA event will finally get some airtime on GC.

The inaugural Reignwood LPGA Classic in Beijing, China will probably have finished its third round by the time you read this, and that third round will be tape-delayed for broadcast later today. In the meantime, let me bring you up-to-speed on what has been happening.

The Reignwood Pine Valley Golf Club is 6596 yards long and is a par-73 course, which should help you understand why the scores look a bit odd. (I know I was confused when I saw So Yeon Ryu at -6 with scores of 71-69.)

On Thursday, Na Yeon Choi and Jessica Korda both shot 64 to take the first round lead. They were 4 shots ahead of Stacy Lewis, Hee Kyung Seo, and Hee Young Park. Shanshan Feng, the first Chinese player to win a major (the 2012 Wegmans LPGA Championship, in case you've forgotten) shot 70 and was 6 shots back.

On Friday Korda (now -14) posted a 68 to take a 2-shot lead over Stacy Lewis and -- guess who? -- Shanshan Feng, who shot her own 64. Na Yeon Choi slipped back a bit, to -11, and Inbee Park moved up to -9. Remember that Park and Lewis are battling Suzann Pettersen for several of the LPGA's yearly awards, so this is pretty important for them.

Jessica Korda

As I'm writing this, the third round -- which you'll see later today -- has started and all but 9 of the leaders have teed off. This looks like it's going to be a pretty good tournament, so you might want to switch off NBC's coverage of the Presidents Cup briefly and check out the action. (For what it's worth, I suspect the Presidents Cup will be running long again today since there are 2 sessions being played and there's more weather expected. Even if you watch some of the LPGA, there should still be plenty of Presidents Cup coverage to watch.)

GC says they're going to broadcast the LPGA event from 3pm-5pm ET this afternoon if you're interested. And the photo came from this page at LPGA.com.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Who Needs Birdies When We Got Squirrels?

In case you missed it... the Americans were leading in all 6 matches, then there was a rain delay, then the International team came back to finish the session behind by only 1 point, which was enough to get the LPGA tournament completely dropped from the GC broadcast schedule...

And all anybody could talk about was a squirrel. See it riding around with Davis Love III?

Davis Love with his little buddy

And then Davis passed his little buddy off to Lindsey Vonn (who, btw, is apparently ahead of schedule to return to skiing and the Winter Olympics) and Lindsey decided it would look oh-so-cute riding on Tiger's shoulder...



And later on we found out it was still traveling with Davis... in his pants pocket. (I find it impossible to think about the interview without flashing back to the scene in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? where Eddie's girlfriend asks "Is that a rabbit in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?")

You can read most of the details at this USAToday link, and also find the Tweeted picture of Davis & Friend, and find the video, and the photo, and just generally everything you ever wanted to know about little squirrels that fall out of trees and make friends with golfers. Not included is the tale of how Davis came into possession of the little guy, which is as follows:

While following one of the groups, Davis noticed a commotion off the 2nd green. Not wanting it to interfere with the golf, he went to check it out. A baby squirrel had fallen out of a tree and several of the fans were trying to corral it... so David picked it up to end the commotion. Although Davis mentioned the so-called superstition where his family often picked up a stick where Davis was playing for luck, it sounded to me as if the superstition angle was an afterthought; he simply decided it made a good story. He did note that the three groups he followed -- with the squirrel -- all won or tied their matches.

It'll be interesting to see if the little guy turns up again today... and if it's any good at alternate shot.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Other Tournaments

In addition to the Presidents Cup, there are two other notable tournaments being played this week. Both are being carried by GC, but you can be forgiven if you didn't realize it since they've been barely mentioned.

On the European Tour they're playing the Seve Cup, sort of the Euro version of the Presidents Cup that Seve was responsible for starting. The Great Britain and Ireland team plays the Continental Europe team, each with 10 players, and captained by Sam Torrence and Jose Maria Olazabal, respectively. (You can see the full team listing here.)

GC begins broadcasting today at 9am ET, but you can keep up with the scoring on this leaderboard page.

The other event is the LPGA's new Reignwood LPGA Classic, being held in Beijing, China. Tony Jesselli has a preview of the event at his blog where you can get the details. According to Tony, the field isn't particularly strong. This is the first of 5 Asian tournaments over the next 6 weeks, so I suppose a number of players decided to take this first one off. There are only 81 players in the field; however, #3 Stacy Lewis and #1 Inbee Park are both there to continue their battle for #1 in the Rolex Rankings, as well as for the money list, scoring title, and POY. (Suzann Pettersen isn't playing. She's the current #2 in all of these lists except the scoring title; she's #1 there. )

GC will be broadcasting at 3pm ET but, as Tony notes, that's a 12-hour delay; at the time I'm writing this post, everyone is already at least 4 holes into their rounds. If you want, you can check the LPGA leaderboard at any time to get the latest scores.

These two events are being "squeezed in" amongst the Presidents Cup broadcasts, so you'll have to pay attention if you want to catch either of them.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Potential Presidents Cup Pairings

Later today we'll find out who the two captains have chosen to pair for the foursomes on Thursday. However, we've gotten little hints and glimpses, and here are a few of the possibles.

Nick Price has played it pretty close to the vest, in part because his players haven't had much time to practice together until this week. However, certain pairings seem likely and the practice rounds Tuesday did nothing to suggest they won't happen:
  • Sterne and Grace: These two rookies have been good friends for the last 7 years and practice together often. With 7 rookies on the roster, Price will have to pair at least 2 rookies together. These two seem to be the most likely.
  • Oosthuizen and Schwartzel: A no-brainer. These two are not only good friends but have played as a World Cup team.
  • Scott and Matsuyama: This one was rumored as a likely pairing even before this week. The belief is that Scott needs to begin acting as a mentor, and Matsuyama's play would look to be a nice complement to Scott's.
  • Day and DeLaet: This one showed up during Tuesday's practice and seems to have potential.
Fred Couples, on the other hand, has specifically mentioned some of his pairings.
  • Spieth and Stricker: This one seemed likely when the two played some matches against Phil and Keegan at the Tour Championship, and Freddie has specifically mentioned it several times since.
  • Mickelson and Bradley: After that performance at the last Ryder Cup, did anybody ever doubt this one?
  • Johnson and Dufner: Another successful pairing from the last Ryder Cup.
  • Woods and Kuchar: This one became a rumor after Stricker and Spieth became a possibility. Then on Tuesday, the two were seen practicing with each other's golf balls -- a likely indication that the two will at least play some foursomes together.
Dufner has also made no secret that he'd like to pair with Tiger, and the two have spent a fair amount of time practicing together. When you consider the fact that one of Tuesday's practice groups included Woods, Kuchar, Dufner, and assistant captain Davis Love III -- standing in for Zach Johnson, who arrived late after recovering from a stomach bug -- it's possible that Freddie may consider these four interchangeable. (In fact, Zach apparently played a few holes with Tiger Tuesday afternoon.)

Of course, each captain has good reasons to be a bit misleading about his pairings, perhaps in hopes of making it a bit harder for the other side to prepare. But since everybody has to play each session on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday (there's an opportunity for a few guys to sit during the double session on Saturday), I don't think either side has much to gain by doing so. And even if they did, the practice groupings on Tuesday and Wednesday would tip their hands.

At any rate, we'll get our answers later today. I think they're supposed to announce the Thursday pairings at noon.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Let ME Tweak the Web.com Finals

The players are already tossing in their two cents about what’s wrong and what’s right with the new Web.com Finals. I’ve decided to save everybody a lot of trouble and just fix them myself!

And yes, there are definitely some problems that need to be addressed before next year.

There’s one thing I think almost everybody agrees on—namely, the 25 players who received Tour cards during the regular Web.com Tour season should NOT be involved in the Finals. These are two entirely different animals doing the job though entirely different processes, and they should remain separate entities.

Let “The 25” stand as is, with no opportunity to improve their seeding. After all, the Finals are supposed to determine the best players—who, based on the arguments for funneling everybody through the Web.com Tour in the first place, are clearly defined as the players who are the most consistently good from week to week. “The 25” was determined over months of tournaments… and now you want to change that seeding based on four weeks of play? Forget it.

That means the Finals will determine 25 Tour cards and their seedings over four weeks of play, totally apart from “The 25” who have already been determined. Instead, the seedings of the 25 Playoff cards will be intermixed with those of the 25 Web.com Tour season winners, just as they have in the past. The Finals will be contested between numbers 126-200 from the PGA Tour and numbers 26-75 from the Web.com Tour. (In fact, they could expand the Web.com players down to #100 if they wanted to get 150-man fields.)

But now we hit another problem. The new Playoff system treats these four tournaments as a mini-Web.com Tour season… and that’s clearly not in line with the “determine the best players” concept. During the last round of the Finals, Phil Blackmar suggested that people who have a problem with a player missing 3 cuts then getting his card with a good finish in the final tournament should consider that the Tour works the same way. The money there is so top heavy that you can miss a lot of cuts and still secure your card in a single tournament.

But I think Phil is ignoring several distinct differences between the Web.com Finals and the PGA Tour:
  • Phil said the PGA Tour doesn’t reward “consistent mediocrity”—that is, players who just make cuts. However, at the very least, I don’t think you can say that a player who misses more cuts than he makes is one of the “best” players, do you? I’m pretty sure the Tour doesn’t. For comparison, Phil Mickelson is considered “inconsistent” but he made 18 cuts and missed 3 this season. Graeme McDowell had a stretch of domestic and foreign tournaments where he won 3 times and missed 5 cuts… and everybody (including Graeme) considered that unsatisfactory.
  • I’ll concede that a PGA Tour player only needs one or two decent tournaments to keep his card… but consider the competition. If you’re in the Web.com Finals, will you be facing EVEN ONE competitor who’s the caliber of Tiger or Phil or Rory or Henrik or…? Then why should you get rewarded as if you did?
  • In Q-School, players had to play well for at least 6 rounds to get a card… and that was considered an inadequate way to determine the best players because all a player had to do was “get hot” for one week. With the new system, a player can get a Top5 in the first event (a mere 4 rounds), skip the other 3, and probably get his Tour card. What’s the difference? This is unacceptable!
As you can see, I think Phil is missing the point. The goal isn’t to duplicate Tour competition; it’s to create a crucible that will identify the players capable of handling the pressures of the Tour. As it stands, the Web.com Finals don’t do that.

But I have a few ideas…

First, if you want to measure consistency, you have to narrow the gaps in the money each finishing position gets. As it is, the winner gets $180k, the runner-up gets $108k, and so forth. These gaps at the top are far too large for a series of 4 tournaments! We need to rethink the entire money setup…

And, in the process, make the entire series more exciting.

Currently, each tournament has a total purse of $1mil, so the entire series has a purse of $4mil.

Change #1: Take 20% of the total purse—$800k—and make it a prize pool awarded to the Top10 money finishers at the end of the Finals, to give them a little extra help getting started on Tour. Here’s my arbitrary division of the pool, although I’m sure Web.com could come up with something better:
  1. $180k
  2. $140k
  3. $110k
  4. $90k
  5. $80k
  6. $60k
  7. $50k
  8. $35k
  9. $30k
  10. $25k
That leaves an $800k purse for each tournament.

Change #2: I want the dollar amount for the winner lowered considerably, and I want the dollar difference between each finish position narrowed dramatically. That means that if you get a runner-up finish in the first tournament and you miss the next 3 cuts, you probably won’t get a Tour card. The whole idea for using the Web.com Finals as a “testing ground” in the first place is to prevent a player getting “hot” in the traditional Q-School and winning a spot on Tour he doesn’t really deserve.

Make sure you understand what I’m saying here. The money gaps between the top finishers should still be larger than the money gaps between the low finishers. What I’m saying is that the gaps at the top shouldn’t be as large as they are now, and certainly not as large relative to the gaps at the bottom.

Part of the idea behind the four-tournament series was to stop one bad week from ruining a player’s chances to get his card. I agree that one missed cut shouldn’t ruin your chances… but two missed cuts ought to make it more difficult to get your card. And if you miss three cuts, maybe you need another year on the Web.com Tour before you’re ready to play with the big boys. (Unless you win your fourth event. I’ll get to that in a minute.)

Let me repeat myself: The whole reason for this change from Q-School to Web.com Finals is that the best players are defined as the players who are the most consistently good from week to week. Therefore we have to eliminate the massive rewards that let a “weak player” leapfrog several good players and open an uncloseable gap between them. To do that, we have to minimize the differences between how much each finish position pays so that one great finish doesn’t overcompensate for several bad ones.

And just to make sure you understand, I’m not saying players shouldn’t be able to lock up a card in less than 4 events. If you make, say, a runner-up and a third in two of your events, I don’t have a problem if your card is pretty well locked; in that case, you’ve played very well in half the events. I just don’t want a single finish of third or fourth place to lock up a card. As things currently stand, that’s what happens.

But wouldn’t such a change mean wins are devalued? If a win doesn’t pay that much more than a runner-up, does it even matter if you win or not?

Oh, yes. Under my system, it matters more than ever!

Change #3: No matter how much money a player has (or hasn’t) won, getting a win guarantees him a Top5 seeding. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg…

You see, I want to up the Playoff stakes. As it stands, the grand prize for the player with the most money is a “Golden Ticket,” better known as a fully-exempt Tour card and an invitation to play the TPC. But suppose—depending on how well the individual players played—there could be as many as THREE Golden Tickets?

Do I have your attention yet? Let me explain.

Based on what I’ve told you so far, you can see that the Top5 seeded players at the end of the Web.com Finals would be the 4 tournament winners plus the non-winner with the most money. The order of the winners’ seeds would be determined by how much money each had made, of course, but they might be seeds 2-5 if the top non-winner made more money. (John Peterson took the top spot this time without winning an event, so I’m not suggesting anything groundbreaking here.)

But suppose a single player won TWO of the tournaments? Shouldn’t that be worth more than simply money or a higher seed before the reshuffle? I think so. In fact, I think anybody playing well enough to win two of the four tournaments should get a Golden Ticket.

But what about the series money winner? What happens to him?

Simple. In that case, there would be TWO Golden Tickets awarded—one to the double winner and the “regular” one to the player with the most money who didn’t win twice.

And suppose there were TWO two-time winners? In that case, THREE Golden Tickets would be awarded—one to each of the double winners plus the “regular” Golden Ticket.

But—and this is the kicker for me—no one would know exactly how many Golden Tickets would be available until the end of the final tournament! (And just to be clear, if one player succeeded in winning either 3 or all 4 of the tournaments, two Golden Tickets would be awarded—one to the multiple winner and one to the “regular” winner.)

Tell me… under my new rules, do you think any player is going to skip a tournament unless they absolutely have to? Do you think the pressure that players feel might be ratcheted up a few notches? Imagine the fun the announcers would have trying to project how many Golden Tickets might actually be awarded… and who would have the best shot at them.

And best of all, the final results—and rewards—are completely determined by the quality of play!

So using my tweaks, the Web.com Finals would see these changes:
  • only 25 Tour cards would be awarded and seeded; “The 25” wouldn’t play and their seedings would remain untouched
  • only the four tournament winners could lock up their Tour cards with a single good finish; that’s a perk for winning
  • it would take at least two decent finishes for other players to lock up a Tour card, thus eliminating most of the “freak finishes”
  • by lessening the money differences between finishing spots, it would truly take all 4 tournaments—16 rounds—to determine which players are most deserving of Tour cards, as the Web.com Finals were originally intended to do!
  • the Top10 finishers at the end of the Finals would share in a bonus pool, not unlike the FedExCup, to make up for the lessened prize money (at the bottom, prize money amounts wouldn’t change as dramatically)
  • there would always be 1 Golden Ticket available to the money winner, but there could be as many as 3 Golden Tickets if players played well enough (a new Golden Ticket is added when a player wins 2 events)
So my tweaks would level the playing field for everybody and better identify the best players, while creating more rewards for the best players and more excitement for the fans. Not bad for one blog post!

If only tweaking the FedExCup was as simple…