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Friday, January 31, 2014

Lydia Ko and the LET Are in New Zealand

The LPGA isn't playing this week. Rather, the LET is playing the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open in -- where else? -- New Zealand. For obvious reasons (i.e., it's not an LPGA event) it isn't being televised in the US, which is too bad since it would have been prime time TV. It's just after midnight here in North Carolina and the first round is nearly complete.

Lydia Ko is back home

They haven't posted a first round summary yet -- after all, the first round isn't quite finished -- but I've cruised through the scores looking for the "big names" on the leaderboard. "Big name" is a relative term this week since most of the top Rolex players are taking the week off -- although Lydia Ko, of course, is playing.

The score breakdown is pretty interesting. The lead is -4 and there are 2 players tied, Seonwoo Bae and Stacey Tate.

There are 5 players in the -3 (T3) grouping, which includes Lydia, Charley Hull, and Sarah Jane Smith.

Another 8 players are at -2 (T8), 10 players are at -1 (T16), and 16 players are at E (T26). As you can tell, scoring has been pretty tight among the leaders. That's 41 players (a third of the field) within 4 shots of the lead!

Some notable names and scores:
  • Laura Davies, E
  • Melissa Reid, E
  • Christel Boeljon, E
  • Lindsey Wright, +1
  • Titiya Plucksataporn, +1
  • Lorie Kane, +2
  • Gwladys Nocera, +2
  • Trish Johnson, +2
  • Becky Brewerton, +3
  • Minea Blomqvist, +4
  • Katie Futcher, +5
  • Cheyenne Woods, +5
  • Sophie Gustafson, +7
The VOLVIK RACV Australian Masters -- also an LET event -- is next week and that entry list shows a number of players from this week's event, as well as some players like Karrie Webb and Yani Tseng. And since the LPGA event in two weeks (the Australian Open) is co-sponsored by the LET, quite a few of these players are trying to play their way in, so you might want to keep an eye on this event.

The LET leaderboard is at this link so you can keep check on your favorite players.

UPDATE: The Constructivist has further notes on the first round.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Tiger's Cut Isn't Cutting But...

it looks like his short game and putting are back on track.

Tiger at Dubai

Tiger, Rory, and Stephen Gallacher (he's tied with Tiger after 9) teed off on the 10th hole at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and I've stayed up to watch their first nine. Last year Tiger started at Dubai, missed the cut, then flew to Torrey Pines and won. This year he struck out at Torrey and flew to Dubai, so everybody's wondering if he can win this time.

If he does, it's going to be a struggle. Tiger's driving looks pretty bad -- which isn't always a bad thing, since he's always had a less-than-stellar record off the tee. But his cut isn't working and he doesn't seem confident enough to draw the ball. (On one whole he laid up over 60 yards behind Rory in order to avoid playing a draw.) He isn't very consistent with his irons right now either; he's hit some fat shots from the waste areas.

And yet he's scoring very well, As I'm writing this he's one stroke behind Rory, he's bogey-free and he's capitalized on all the par-5s he's played. (There are 3 of them on the back 9.) He's scrambled as well as I've seen in quite a while, and his putter is working well on the near-perfect (and FAST) greens of the Emirates Golf Club. Again, he's only one behind Rory despite his poor driving.

Meanwhile Rory is also playing well. He too is bogey-free and is one off the lead at -5. Rory's game looks very good all the way through the bag, from driver to putter. Unless Tiger finds the missing pieces to his swing so he doesn't make it so hard on himself, Rory will probably pull away from him.

But Tiger's game is way better than it was at Torrey last week. Although he hesitates to call it "rust," it's beginning to look as if that's his biggest problem so far.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Paul Azinger on Pitching

If you saw Paul Azinger's Golf Channel Academy show on Tuesday night, you got an in-depth lesson on pitching. GC will be showing it again -- several times, I bet -- so if you get a chance to catch it, by all means do so. I'm going to mention a few important things he said that may help you improve your scoring.

Zinger is one of the few players I've heard who says there's a difference between chipping and pitching AND can define that difference simply. Chipping is when you hit the ground with the front edge of the iron, while pitching is when you hit the ground with the bounce.
  • When you chip, the front edge hits the ground and you take a divot.
  • When you pitch, the bounce hits the ground and you don't take a divot.
That's pretty simple to grasp. It automatically tells you a number of things about the differences between them:
  • For a chip, the ball is back in your stance. For a pitch, it's up in your stance.
  • A chip is a steep downward strike. A pitch is a shallow "parallel to the ground" strike.
  • That, in turn, means that the shaft leans toward the target when you hit a chip but it points straight up or even leans backward when you hit a pitch.
  • When chipping, your hands are ahead of the ball at contact. When pitching, your hands are even with or even behind the ball -- which means the club head passes your hands at contact when you're pitching.
  • A chip shot flies low. A pitch shot flies relatively high.
  • After they land, chip shots roll much further than pitch shots.
Because there's a lot of instruction about chipping, Zinger focused on pitching. He had a few keys for proper setup:
  • You want a narrow stance when you pitch. In fact, he said he'd rather see your feet touch than be too far apart.
  • You want to take an open stance. (Zinger was very open, maybe 60° open, but he said you don't need to be that open if you aren't comfortable with it.) Your swing path swings along your foot target line.
  • You want your weight either distributed evenly between your feet or slightly on your trailing foot. (Yes, he said that goes against normal teaching but this is pitching, not chipping.)
  • You want a longer backswing and a shorter followthrough. Again, this goes against normal teaching but this is pitching, not chipping. A "decel" sort of stroke helps you swing the club head past your hands at impact.
And it's important to know where the bottom of your swing is when you pitch. He suggested a simple drill to help you learn the proper swing for pitching:
Place a tee partway into the ground. When you make your swing, try to hit the top of the tee. If you make a chipping stroke, you'll pick the tee out of the ground... but if you make a pitching stroke, you'll drive the tee straight down into the ground.
What Zinger is teaching is similar to the technique in this post I did a few months back on "New School Pitching." That post has a video so you might find it helpful in understanding what Zinger's talking about. The big difference is that the technique Brady Riggs shows in the video still has some forward shaft lean while Zinger has none. Of course, the irony is that "New School Pitching" is very similar to what Zinger was doing back in the 1980s and 1990s. (Isn't it always that way when people tell you they have something new?)

Zinger says that learning to pitch properly is a key to getting your score down because it's a more forgiving way to play. It's certainly something worth learning, so watching the GC show should be well worth your time. If I'm reading the GC TV listings correctly, it looks like it will run again today at 1pm ET and on Monday, February 3, at 1pm ET. Set your DVR!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Playing Brain Games on the Course

Monday night I watched a half-hour TV show on the National Geographic Channel called Brain Games. (Here's the show's website, in case you're interested. The video page has several shorts that give you an idea of how the show works.) It's the first time I've ever seen it, but I was fascinated by it.

This particular show was about how stress triggers the "fight or flight" response in your brain and how it affects your performance. NGC did a special page for this show at this link, if you'd like to take the tests that were on this episode. (You can also see part of the stress episode on this page if you scroll down.) I want to tell you about a specific test they did late in the show using the old kid's game Perfection with the help(?) of standup comedian Ben Bailey.

Perfection gameIn case you aren't familiar with Hasbro's game Perfection (pictured at right), it's pretty simple. You have 25 different shapes that you have to put into their corresponding slots in the board before the timer runs out. It's a shape recognition game.

Here's the deal: They asked people to play the game BUT with Bailey's "help." That means that he yelled at them, berated them, and just generally made a pest of himself. Less than half of the group successfully completed the game.

Then they did it again, only this time Bailey was calm, he tried to be helpful, and he was encouraging. And under these conditions, most of the players won the game.

The show concluded that you can improve your performance through better stress management, and you could accomplish that by eliminating distractions as much as possible and replacing them with a positive, more relaxing environment.

This helps explain some of the golf advice given out by mental coaches -- and even instructors. For example, you keep hearing that you should play by feel and not with a lot of swing thoughts. That's to help remove some of the clutter (distractions) that can affect your performance. In effect, too many swing thoughts create a "ticking clock," just like the one on the Perfection game; you have so many things to do in a short time frame that it increases your stress.

In addition, if you're afraid you're going to forget some of those swing thoughts, that's another source of stress. So simplifying your swing thoughts can eliminate two sources of stress!

Although they didn't play all the things Bailey said when he was being encouraging, I didn't hear much of the "come on, you can do it" kind of talk. He was commenting how well the participants were doing certain things, or offering guidance that reinforced their good performance. In other words, if you're going to use "self-talk" you don't want nebulous "you can do this" talk. What you want to do is reinforce the things you're doing well.

For example, when your practice swing is nice and smooth, you want to tell yourself things like, "Yeah, that's it. Nice and smooth. That's the way you want to strike the ball. Do it again, just like that." And after you make the swing, find the good in what you did and talk to yourself about that.

We saw players multiplying their stress at Torrey all weekend... and it destroyed their chances to win. Don't do that to yourself. Remember: Pressure comes from within. You can learn to control your stress on the course if you choose to.

Will Shakespeare's New Book Is Out!

This is the first of two posts today -- the second is the regular golf post. But I wanted to let everybody know that my alter ego Will Shakespeare's new book is out.

299 pdf banner src=It's called The Exercist: A Not-So-Divine Comedy about Health & Fitness in Devilishly Clever Verse and it's a parody of Dante Alighieri's classic, The Divine Comedy.

Here's the plot: When an overweight guy's family forces him to get help dealing with his demon pal Sloth, he goes to see an Exercist. (That's a specialist who gets rid of demons by working 'em hard at the gym.) But neither the Exercist nor the demon is very cooperative and our guy is caught in the middle... until he comes up with his own plan for dealing with BOTH problems.

It seemed to be a perfect match for all those readers with broken New Year's resolutions!

It's only available in electronic editions because it's the size of a short story, not a novel. (Amazon figures it at around 36 pages, which sounds about right to me.) You can get it on Kindle and Nook, and at Smashwords (which distributes the book to Apple and Kobo, among others). You can also get a special PDF version from the book page at Will's blog.

If you're in the mood for something fun to read, you might enjoy it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Farmers Insurance Open

Winner: Scott Stallings

Around the wider world of golf: Joanna Klatten won the Bing Lee Fujitsu General Women's NSW Open on the ALPG; Sergio Garcia won the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters on the ET; Yani Tseng(!) won the Taiwan LPGA Taifong Open on the LAGT; and Jessica Korda won the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic on the LPGA.

Yes, Scott, you won a bonsai tree!

To paraphrase one of those Farmers Insurance commercials, "What if you didn't know that some unexpected player could come from several strokes back and spank the big boys?"

A quick look at the leaderboard from Saturday and after the final round shows that, if you were a leader on Saturday, you struggled to finish the Farmers Insurance Open in the Top10. Perhaps this will be some consolation to Phil and Tiger, both of whom got beaten up in different ways by Torrey Pines this week. Now they know everybody got smacked around.

"The more you know, the better you can plan for what's ahead..." or so says J.K. Simmons, who portrays the agent in those commercials. According to's final round wrap-up, Scott Stallings DID know more. He had blown a 5-shot lead at the 2013 Humana Challenge when he didn't take everything into account on the final hole. To quote the wrap-up, "He didn't make the same mistake twice."

They were talking about the 18th hole, but there was another mistake he didn't make that everybody else did. He parred the pivotal 17th hole, giving himself a realistic chance to win at 18... which he did, in case you didn't hear. ;-)

So Scott Stallings gets his third Tour win in his 20s, an insane amount of money, a metal bonsai tree, another trip to Augusta, and yet another of my precious Limerick Summaries.(Clearly his desire for the latter was the driving force behind his victory.) BTW, desultory means "lacking a plan, purpose, or enthusiasm":
After four days in golf purgaTorrey,
Scott Stallings became the big story.
He burst from the pack
When the rest went off-track
And hit shots that were quite desultory.
The photo came from the front page of

Sunday, January 26, 2014

My First Look at Potential Major Contenders

With Torrey Pines playing more like Winged Foot during the US Open (anyone for a massacre?) and the other tours back in action, perhaps we can begin to identify some of the potential contenders at this year's majors.

Augusta National clubhouse

In case you've forgotten, here are the 4 venues for this year's majors:
  1. US Masters: Augusta National (Georgia -- pictured above)
  2. US Open: Pinehurst No 2 (North Carolina)
  3. Open Championship: Royal Liverpool aka Hoylake (England)
  4. US PGA: Valhalla Golf Club (Kentucky)
(A quick note: The Open is in the city of Hoylake, England but many players just call the Royal Liverpool golf course "Hoylake.")

Several commentators have already noted that Tiger has a great record at all of these courses and should perhaps be considered the favorite. But with him not playing well at Torrey this week, I think it's too early to decide whether he's a favorite or not.

The same goes for Phil, who has been playing well but had to withdraw from Torrey with a strained muscle. Until we find out whether this is a nagging injury or not -- remember how badly Brandt Snedeker was sidetracked by a muscle strain to his ribs in 2013? -- I will refrain from labeling him a favorite as well.

Likewise, I think Henrik Stenson may have cut his off-season too short. He seems to have cooled down a bit too much right now, and it may be weariness and/or that wrist injury. I need to see some Top10s from him.

So who has an early start out of the gate as we head toward the Masters? I looked for some consistency and, if possible, recent wins. I think a few early possibilities stand out.
  • Sergio Garcia: With his win on the ET this week (his first in the Middle East btw) Sergio now has two wins in less than two months. Coupled with his good finishes since September, he's put himself into the conversation for sure. Plus I really like his improved attitude on the course.
  • Adam Scott: I don't think I need to explain this choice. The player with three wins since September is also the defending Masters champ.
  • Zach Johnson: Like Sergio, he has two recent wins and a half-year of good play. I also like the way he got things back together after a lackluster round at the Humana. Finally, he's proven he can win on a long major course by winning the 2007 Masters... and I'd argue that he's playing much better now than then.
  • Webb Simpson: Webb's been playing much better as of late and he's already won twice in the 2014 wraparound season. My one concern with him is that he might play too much leading up to the majors. If he paces himself, he's a potential contender.
  • Jordan Spieth: Although he only has one win and NO familiarity with the courses, I'm hard-pressed not to have him as an early favorite. If anybody can break through this year, he can.
  • Matt Kuchar: Kuch comes in late on my list simply because he hasn't won since the Memorial last year. But I like all the Top10s -- in the tough conditions of a major, his consistency could make a major his first win in nearly a year.
Yeah, some two-time winners didn't make my early list, like Jimmy Walker and Harris English. That's because they've been pretty much all or nothing -- they win or they don't place particularly well. Thomas Bjorn is in the same boat; I'll be keeping an eye on his progress. And Rory certainly appears to be on the comeback trail but I need to see a little more before I feel good putting him on this list.

I'm sure things are going to change as we near Augusta since there are 11 tournament weeks between Torrey and Augusta. But barring injury, these six players look like pretty good early bets to me.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Some Practice Tips

I know, I know. The pros may be playing in California and the Bahamas, where the weather is gorgeous, but the rest of us aren't so lucky. (When I took the dog out for a walk Friday, I looked like a refugee from the Charlie Brown Christmas special... and North Carolina isn't even getting the worst of it!) So why do a post on practice?

practice range

Eventually the weather is going to cooperate and let us get in a little practice. And we'll need it -- with all this cold weather, we're going to have a bit more rust than usual and have a little less time to get ready for the start of the season. Rick Sessinghaus of the PGA did this 4-page article at about practicing like a professional, and some of the ideas can be adapted to your living room.

I'm not going to summarize the article because it's basically a summary to begin with! However, I'll note a couple of his tips that you can use indoors, right now.

You can do some stretching. I don't have the ceiling height or floor space to make swings, but I can still make the "shoulder twists" Rick demonstrates in the article.

You can also check your alignment. You don't have to swing clubs to get comfortable with a correct address position. Best of all, you can watch TV while you stand in the proper position for short stretches!

As for the rest of the tips, you can begin thinking about them. Decide which areas of your game need the most work, perhaps start thinking about the best way (and maybe best times) to work on them. There are ways to do some of the work in your backyard, and that will allow you to get in 5- and 10-minute practice sessions once the weather improves. And once we reach that point, I'll try to include a few posts with ideas that won't require a special trip to the range.

In the meantime, we can at least dream about playing well...

Friday, January 24, 2014

Apparently Lydia Ko Knows Something Rory Doesn't

At the beginning of 2013 Rory McIlroy went through a lot of changes -- new equipment, new management, etc. He had a miserable 2013.

At the beginning of 2014 Lydia Ko went through a lot of changes -- new equipment, new instructor, new home, etc... and the changes keep on coming. Many people fear that she'll experience the same letdown.

They needn't worry.

Lydia Ko at the Pure Silk Bahamas

For her first regular season round as a full-fledged LPGA rookie, the 16-year-old calmly shot -5 (that's a 68 on the par-73 Ocean Club Golf Course) to tie the lead of Meena Lee, one shot better than Stacy Lewis. She made 6 birdies against 1 bogey... but wasn't quite satisfied. According to the LPGA's first round recap:
“I thought I was playing much better than my scores,” Ko said. “3‑under was a great score during the middle of my round, but I thought I was playing even better.  I gave myself opportunities and I hit my putts on the line that I wanted to hit them, and sometimes it would just dive off to the left or right.  So I had a couple close ones, but like I said, the grain can definitely affect the ball.”
During the GC broadcast Lydia was asked about all the questions concerning her decision to change teachers. She said she was really surprised by the uproar, that this kind of thing happens all the time on Tour. Despite all the massive changes that are happening in her life, she seems singularly unaffected by them. New instructor David Leadbetter says she needs a hobby to get her mind off golf; she just sighs and says she'll think about it.

She truly doesn't seem to understand what all the fuss is about!

In a particularly humorous moment, GC showed the moments before her after-round interview. Her mom was flitting around her, straightening her collar so she'd look right... and Lydia had one of those "Really, Mom? You're embarrassing me" looks on her face. Priceless!

She was paired with Stacy Lewis, who said:
“I think she's really good.  Gosh, when she gets some confidence and really figures that out, watch out for the rest of the Tour.  I mean, it's nice to see [her modesty], but at the same time you want to see her kind of really believe in herself and believe that she is one of the best players in the world.”
Lydia's unlike Rory in a lot of ways. We'll have to see how she does as her rookie season moves on, and what kind of staying power she has. But one thing is becoming clear...

Perhaps the young guys like Rory should be asking Lydia for advice.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

About the New Latin American Amateur Championship

By now you've all heard about the new Latin American Amateur Championship. In case you missed the official announcement on Wednesday, here are the basics:

Billy Payne at tournament announcement

The Masters committee, the R&A, and the USGA are combining forces to launch a new amateur tournament to spur the growth of golf in South America. Billy Payne, Peter Dawson, and Mike Davis (from the three groups, respectively) all traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina to make the announcement.

The new Latin American Amateur Championship will be played just outside Buenos Aires on January 15-18, 2015, and will be open to amateurs from 27 South American countries (or territories, as the case may be).

This event is being patterned after the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, in which the winner gets an invite to the Masters. That little perk has already boosted the careers of now-pro Hideki Matsuyama (who is #24 on the OWGR this week) and youngster Guan Tianlang. However, since the R&A and USGA have joined forces with the Masters for this event, the rewards are much greater.

The winner gets:
  • an invitation to the Masters
  • a full exemption into the British Amateur Championship
  • a full exemption into the US Amateur
  • a full exemption into any other USGA event for which he is eligible
  • a spot in final qualifying for the Open Championship
  • a spot in final qualifying for the U.S. Open.
In addition, all of the runners-up (if there's more than one) also get full exemptions into final qualifying for the Open Championship and US Open.

I saw the announcement and, since both Angel Cabrera and Eduardo Romero were featured guests there, I suspect they will figure into the promotions in a big way.

It will be interesting to see if this event meets with the success of the Asia-Pacific, but the timing -- they'll be able to play this new event twice before the Rio Olympics, which have already encouraged increased golf development in South American countries -- along with the number of "prizes" should certainly give it a running start.

The photo came from the ESPN article about the announcement.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Putting Tip from Paul Azinger

This is a short post but it could end up being very helpful for a lot of you.

Paul Azinger is doing a series of Golf Channel Academy shows, and last night he covered his putting techniques. One tip stood out to me.

Paul Azinger

Azinger said he always imagines that the cup extends ABOVE the green. When he practiced during his career, he would putt toward a second ball and try to hit it. Then he started using a bottle of water or a styrofoam cup with enough water to keep it steady... and he would try to hit the bottle / cup. When he actually putted, he imagined the bottle sticking out of the hole -- or, depending on how far away he was, he would imagine a bait bucket or even a 55-gallon steel drum.

The reason? He says he found that he could hit the bottle very easily because it's easier to hit a raised object than to try and drop the ball in a hole... and when he imagined the bottle sticking out of the hole, it became much easier to visualize where to hit the ball. He said it also smoothed out his stroke because it was easier to "hit the bottle."

I really like the idea. After watching him demonstrate the idea repeatedly during the show, it also seems to be a good way to learn proper speed for various distances. It just might be worth a try.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The LPGA Kicks Off Its 2014 Season This Week

For the first time in several years the LPGA season kicks off in January! And they've chosen a great place to do it -- at Paradise Island in the Bahamas. (No relation to the place where superhero Wonder Woman and her Amazonian sisters come from.) The inaugural event was nearly drowned out last year in May; we'll hope for better weather this time of year.

Paula Creamer at the Pure Silk Bahamas

Tony Jesselli has posted his Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic preview at his site (just click the link to see it) so I won't duplicate his work. I think the most important thing to note is just how few of the top players are planning to make appearances. I suspect many of them plan to start their season in New Zealand at:
  • the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open (Jan 31st - Feb 2nd), followed by
  • the Volvik Racy Australian Masters (Feb 6th - 9th), both LET events.
Then it's the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open the following, which is co-sponsored by the LET and LPGA. With several players trying to cut down on their globe-hopping schedule, this sort of thing is to be expected.

However, that means a number of players will have a chance to get a jump on the others. To me, the most notable of the missing players are (numbers in parentheses are their Rolex Rankings):
  • Inbee Park (1)
  • So Yeon Ryu (5)
  • Shanshan Feng (6)
  • Suzann Pettersen (2) -- UPDATE: Suzann is NOT playing because she says she's worn out
  • Stacy Lewis (3)
  • Lydia Ko (4)
  • Paula Creamer (13)
all plan to play. Paula probably sees this as a good chance to try and break her victory drought while the others are almost certainly looking to gain ground on Inbee Park. And, of course, it gives them a headstart on the new Race to the CME Globe.

GC plans to begin broadcasts at 11:30am ET Thursday, which almost certainly means live golf. Plus they plan a 3-hour broadcast, which is a nice way to get the season started. This tournament may give us a good indication of how tight the battle for #1 will be in 2014.

I don't know about you but I'm looking forward to some women's golf!

The photo came from this page at

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Humana Challenge

Winner: Patrick Reed

Around the wider world of golf: Dani Holmqvist won the Mount Broughton Classic on the ALPG; Prayad Marksaeng won the King’s Cup Golf Hua Hin on the Asian Tour; Bernhard Langer won the Mitsubishi Electric Championship on the Champions Tour; Pablo Larrazabal won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on the ET; and Nontaya Srisawang won the Royal Open on the TLPGA. And for you football fans out there, the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks will play in the Super Bowl on February 2.

Patrick Reed knows he did it!

Well, it wasn't as easy as Patrick Reed had hoped... but it was still satisfying, as you can see from the photo.

After his third round of 63 (on 3 separate courses, no less), Patrick had told the media that he planned to attack the final round in the same way -- as if he was playing yet another Monday qualifier and everybody was trying to go low. However, after Sunday's round he said he had changed his mind before the round and decided to play a bit safer.

In retrospect, that was probably a bad move. By the time he reached the 15th, he was still even on the day while his pursuers were... well, pursuing. Every birdie was offset with a bogey -- after making only 2 bogeys in the first 3 rounds, he made 4 in the final round. His 7-stroke lead had dwindled to a mere 2 strokes and the sharks smelled blood. In fact, Zach Johnson shot the 62 Patrick had been trying to shoot all week!

But a birdie on the 15th returned him to a 3-stroke lead and, as he said afterward, he was kind of on cruise control after that.

Patrick's win made him only the third "under-23" player to have multiple wins, with Rory McIlroy (6) and Harris English (2) being the only others. That's heady company to be in... and perhaps he can thank his brother-in-law, his new caddie while his wife Justine takes time off the bag to have their first child, for that little piece of history. And Patrick now cracks the OWGR Top50, which qualifies him for the Accenture Match Play.

So this week's Limerick Summary goes out to the newest multiple winner on the PGA Tour. But a bit of advice, dude: Maybe you should go ahead and risk being a bit over-aggressive. It might be easier on the nerves!
Sixty-three, sixty-three, sixty-three
Is the fast track to taking the lead!
Though his last round was bumpy
And Patrick seemed jumpy,
It was too large a lead to concede.
The photo came from the front page at

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A 63 Kind of Day

Desert golf is generally low-scoring golf. The fairways are hard and fast, the winds aren't too bad, and the heat makes the ball fly. (Plus, if you've got tight muscles, it can loosen those up as well.) But on Saturday some players just went crazy low.

Over in Dubai, after struggling for a couple of days, Phil Mickelson teed off  quite a while before the leaders... and calmly shot a 9-under 63 to take the tournament lead at -10. You heard me right -- not to catch up, but to TAKE the lead. And for a long time it looked as if no one was going to catch him. Gaganjeet Bhullar (66) finally caught up to him and Craig Lee (69) got it to -12. The three of them will be in the final group on Sunday.

A quick note on Phil's round: He only had 22 putts! He was making the short game look ridiculously easy. He finished with 9 birdies, an eagle, and 2 bogeys.

Rory was a bit of an enigma. He started slow, then got it to -11 only to find that he had a 2-shot penalty for an improper drop. (He had his foot on the line marking ground under repair, so he was deemed "not to have taken full relief.") He's still playing well, and he's still got a chance to win -- he's only 3 shots off the lead and will be in the second-to-last group -- but he clearly wasn't happy about what he called "a stupid rule." (I agree with him; I think a lot of golf rules are silly. But a rule's a rule.)

I don't know if Phil will get it done today, but you've got to like his chances if his putter stays hot.

Patrick Reed

Back in the American desert, Patrick Reed shot his third straight 63. He obliterated the 54-hole scoring record with his -27 total and now has a 7-shot lead on Charley Hoffman and Brendon Todd.

Nobody's ever lost with that kind of lead when they went that low. (In case you didn't know, there are 3 players who have shot -25 for 54 holes and 3 more who have shot -24.) Nick Faldo noted that Patrick deserves some credit for going so low when he wasn't surrounded by the crowds to keep him "hyped up." But I don't think that's so surprising -- remember, Patrick Monday-qualified for 6 tournaments in 2012 before he got his Tour card. In fact, he said he would approach the final round as if it was a Monday qualifier, as if everybody was starting even and having to shoot as low as possible.

I really like his chances to win Sunday, even though he'll have to do it with the crowds watching. After all, he got his first win last season in a playoff against Jordan Spieth. Between that and the Monday qualifying, he clearly knows how to deal with pressure.

I should also note that Bernhard Langer went low in Hawaii to tie the lead there with Fred Couples. It was only a 64 but, given his thumb injury, that's not too shabby either.

Don't you wish YOU could have a 63 kind of day?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Friday Was a Day for Wild Bounces

Yes, there were some wild goings-on in the world of golf on Friday... and many of them involved bounces.

For example, I guess almost everybody heard about the pinball shot amateur Chris Mohan made at the par-3 17th hole at the Humana Challenge. The ball went wide left, bounced far right, then bounced back onto the green. Mohan made the birdie!

BTW, Holly Sonders is holding up her end of things in the amateur competition there. Of the four invitees, only Craig T. Nelson (-13) is playing better than Holly (-11). Michael Bolton (-8) and Jay Feely (-6) will have to confess they got beat by a girl. Relative to the field, Holly is T91 out of 156 amateurs; the leader, Dave Colby, is -23 after two rounds... and shot a net 58 in the second round!

HOWEVER, there were some wild bounces elsewhere also. At the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, the Champions Tour event in Hawaii, Fred Couples did his own pinball imitation at the par-5 7th when his second shot went far right and bounced way up in the air, off the cartpath, and onto the green for an 8-foot eagle. (Sorry I couldn't find a better video.)

And Bernhard Langer is trying to bounce back from a thumb injury he sustained during the pro-am there on Thursday. He said it's causing considerable pain although he was able to play through it in Friday's round. It's the same thumb he had surgery on a few months ago, so that injury bears watching.

The bounces in Dubai, at the European Tour event, had nothing to do with rocks or lava but were pretty dramatic nevertheless. Phil Mickelson bounced back from his birdieless first round with 5 of them in the second, and Rory McIlroy continued his bounceback from a poor 2013 by posting a 67 to get within 2 shots of the lead.

But the most dramatic was seeing Henrik Stenson get bounced from the tournament. According to the ET website, it's his first missed cut on the ET since the Alfred Dunhill Links in October 2012 -- 469 days. (He had also missed the cut on the PGA Tour at the 2013 Wells Fargo Championship in May.) Still, after all his good play in the last few months, it's strange seeing him miss the cut.

I wonder what kind of bounces we might see this weekend?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sean Foley on the Short Game

Hey, a new video over on the Golf Digest site! This one is a quickie short game tip from Sean Foley. It applies to both chipping and pitching.

The concept is simple enough, isn't it? You're lightly connecting your upper arms against your upper body, then doing most of the work with your upper body. The reason for minimizing the lower body action is to make it easier to keep the bottom of your swing more consistent. (Note that Sean says to put about 60% of your weight on your lead foot -- in other words, your weight is just slightly more on the target side of your body.)

A key point to remember: You aren't locking your knees and legs. Your knees still flex and your lower body can still move... but they move in response to the movement of your upper body. You aren't driving your legs when you play short game shots. In the video you can see Sean's hips turning as he demonstrates the shot; he's just not driving them toward the target.

This isn't something novel that Sean's teaching. (Most good teaching isn't novel -- at least, not in terms of technique. Fundamentals are fundamentals, folks!) This is standard short game technique, the same technique taught by everybody from Dave Pelz to Stan Utley. (And me!) But this video lets you actually SEE how the move looks. Simple, eh?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The PGA Tour Gives You Your Holly Sonders Fix Today

You'll notice that this post includes the tag "tour business." Let's be honest about things, right? We all know why the Humana Challenge gave Holly Sonders one of the four celebrity invitations. (According to the Golf Digest article where I got the photo, the other invites went to actor Craig T. Nelson, Arizona Cardinals kicker Jay Feely, and singer Michael Bolton.)

Holly Sonders

Not that I have a problem with that. Regardless of the jokes that the invite has provoked, Golf Digest didn't title their article "Holly Sonders Reaffirms Her Rock Star Status, Receives Invitation to Humana Challenge Pro-Am" for nothing.

Whether we like it or not, pro golf is a business. Events are given the right to issue special invitations and exemptions for that very reason -- to attract more viewers. And even the most cynical of golf fans will admit that Holly Sonders attracts viewers.

More importantly, Holly can play. (GC lists her as a 7 handicap.) If you've watched any of the Playing Lessons shows she's done, you'll frequently see that the pros are impressed with her shots. For all the glamor shoots and such that focus on her looks, the fact remains that she's a very capable athlete.

GolfTalkCentral has posted the new pro pairings for Holly. Several different pairing were originally released but apparently the PGA Tour felt they could get more attention from her appearance.

Today she's scheduled to play with John Daly and Jesper Parnevik at 12:30pm ET, according to the GolfTalkCentral post. But she'll still be on the course when GC begins coverage (times are listed at the end of this post). And of course you can be sure GC will have plenty of tape showing her best shots from before the broadcast.

Her tee time on Friday (and, I presume, her pairing) aren't available yet.

And on Saturday she gets the marquee group with Brandt Snedeker and Rickie Fowler at 1:20pm ET, guaranteeing plenty of TV time.

GC will have the PreGame Show at 2:30pm ET, then start regular coverage at 3pm. Enjoy your Holly fix, golf fans!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why I Like Michael Whan

In case you missed it, Michael Whan (the LPGA commissioner) was on Morning Drive Tuesday morning. GC posted a video of the interview -- it's around 7 minutes long, and I've included it at the end of this post -- but he was on the show much longer than this clip, maybe 40 minutes or so. I wanted to call attention to a few things he said, things that make it clear why I like him..

Michael Whan on Morning Drive

Not included in the interview clip is the Front 9 segment, where Whan and Phil Blackmar each answered 9 questions... and a few of them concerned Michelle Wie and Charlie Rymer. In case you missed it, somehow Michelle managed to challenge Charlie to a rib eating contest when she was there last week. Charlie agreed to it, and there was talk of involving charity somehow.

That eating competition is actually going to happen! GC announced the next day that it was working on it. The contest will be broadcast on Morning Drive, and Beth Daniel has volunteered to be the judge.

What does this have to do with Michael Whan? He was watching that day and he said that, as soon as the show was over, he was already calling around for sponsors! You gotta love that!

Here are a few other thoughts from his appearance:
  • On why so much of the later part of the year is played overseas: “Typically, when the NFL schedule starts it's better for us and TV ratings and for sponsors to move around the world."
  • On whether it was a 'no-brainer' to give Lydia Ko LPGA membership: "It was a no-brainer after she won the Canadian Women's Open a second time."
  • On why they created the Royal Crown rather than adding Asia to the Solheim Cup: "Korea doesn't want to play with Japan. They want to beat Japan, and vice versa."
  • On questions about playing the US Women's Open the week after the men's and the problems it presents (and this is a paraphrase): "We will get more coverage than ever. On Saturday and Sunday of the men's event, we'll have players talking about the women's event on TV... but I'm glad course setup is the USGA's problem."
It's this kind of out-of-the-box thinking -- and honest statements about that thinking -- that makes me like Michael Whan. And I think it's the same way with almost everyone else he meets.

And here's the video clip from GC:

Here's a link to the original clip at GC's website, in case it doesn't embed properly in this post.

The photo came from GC's site also.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Louis Oosthuizen's Swing Sequence

Louis OosthuizenSince Louis Oosthuizen is generally regarded as having one of the best swings in golf -- he's only 5'10" tall but averages nearly 300 yards off the tee (when his back feels ok) -- Golf Digest posted a new swing sequence / slide show of his swing over on their website. And they got world famous instructor Pete Cowen to analyze it for them.

Why should you care about King Louis's swing? Because he's great at one of the fundamentals I frequently write about on this site. To quote the article:
Cowen says Oosthuizen is one of the best at maintaining the connection between the body—what Cowen calls "the engine"—and the arms and club—"the steering."
The concept of connection was probably Ben Hogan's greatest contribution to golf instruction... and it's one of the things most teachers agree on.

So by all means, pop over to the Golf Digest website and check out the article and slide show... and get your swing off to a solid start this new year!

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Sony Open

Winner: Jimmy Walker

Around the wider world of golf: I found a number of "minor" tournaments this week -- probably because there aren't enough big tournaments to overshadow their coverage yet! Pavit Tangkamolprasert won the Linc Group Jakarta Invitational on the Asian Development Tour; Joanne Klatten won the Inghams Antill Park Pro-Am on the ALPG; Louis Oosthuizen won the Volvo Golf Champions on the ET; and Pornanong Phatlum won the Hitachi Ladies Classic on the TLPGA (the Constructivist has details).

Jimmy Walker

It's hard to believe that Jimmy Walker missed 6 cuts in his last 9 events of the 2013 season. In the new wraparound season, Jimmy has played 6 events... and won 2 of them. Golf is a crazy game sometimes.

Of course, making 4 birdies on the last 6 holes is just as crazy. But Walker said he felt calm all day -- in fact, that's what he said he learned from his first win at the Open. It's a good thing because there was a feeding frenzy on the back 9, with as many as 5 players tied for the lead at any given point.

Harris English came close to getting a second win this season, 3 wins in the last 12 months, which would have gotten him into my RGWR Top10. But alas, he'll just have to wait.

Chris Kirk came close to getting the second win of his career. But he'll have to wait too.

And Jerry Kelly -- whose first name is NOT "47-year-old" -- got his best finish since 2011, a solo third. Way to go!

But it's Jimmy Walker who came up big in Hawaii this week. For a guy who, a few years back, had a serious neck injury -- serious enough that his playing future was in doubt -- a multi-win season must be pretty sweet! As a result, he gets his second Limerick Summary of the season... but I can't help but wonder how he's going to celebrate. After all, there's only one way to party in Hawaii:
It’s now two wins in six tries for Jimmy
So a big celebration’s a gimme!
Since his neck doesn’t hurt,
Will he don a grass skirt
And let hula girls teach him to shimmy?
The photo is from the front page at

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Mental Game

I spent Saturday watching football. That's not typical for me. While I enjoy watching the NFL sometimes, I'm typically doing something else and biding time until the golf starts. Although I was working on my computer while the games were on, I watched a lot more than usual.

And I only checked in on the Sony Open from time to time. That's VERY unusual. But this week football might have taught us more about golf than GC's broadcast.

For those of you who don't keep up with the game, this weekend is the Divisional Playoffs. This weekend is when the Super Bowl contenders get cut down to four. Next week it's cut to two... and those teams will go to the Super Bowl on February 2. My Carolina Panthers are in the playoffs for the first time in several years. They'll try to get through today.

Saturday night I sat in amazement as quarterback Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to a 43-22 win in bad weather over the Indianapolis Colts.

Tom Brady

This has been a rough year for the Pats. They've lost a lot of key players to injury, and they've had to fill in with a lot of rookies. The Pats have a fairly complicated system that some players simply can't learn. Most of Brady's favorite receivers have either been injured or lured away by other teams. And Brady himself is 36 years old; many teams wouldn't play someone that old. A lot of people didn't think the Pats could even make the playoffs.

But here they are, and they seem to be getting stronger as they go. The amazing thing is how they're doing it... and that's where we can learn.

You see, Brady is one of the best quarterbacks the game has ever seen. (I know there are a lot of Patriot haters out there -- you know who you are -- but even you have to concede that point.) He is one of those QBs who can make the big pass under pressure when it has to be made. This season Payton Manning (with the Denver Broncos) broke the record for touchdowns thrown in one season. That record had been Brady's.

The Pats scored 6 touchdowns in Saturday's game. Do you know how many of them were the result of Brady's throws?

ZERO. Brady didn't throw a single touchdown pass. He made a few critical passes but, for the most part, was content to hand the ball to his running backs and let them make the big plays. In fact, he only attempted 25 passes while the backs ran the ball nearly twice as much -- a very un-Patriotlike performance. In fact, I heard LeGarrette Blount (who ran 4 of those TDs in) say that if you had told him before the game that Brady wouldn't have thrown a single TD, he wouldn't have believed you.

But -- and this is what I want you to get from this post -- Brady has said he doesn't care about his stats. He cares about winning games, and that was the way to win this one.

How often have you addressed the ball, knowing that you just needed to hit a fairway wood off the tee... but you pulled out the driver because you could hit it so much further? Of course, you didn't. You probably sliced it into the trees and butchered the hole.

How often have you tried to get a fancy approach shot close to the hole when all you needed was a simple shot somewhere on the green? Bet you ended up missing the green entirely and racking up a big score, didn't you?

How often have you tried to ram a putt into the hole because you couldn't bear the thought that you might leave a short tap-in... and ran the ball ten feet by for a 3-putt?

Here's the big question: How many of those errors did you make simply because you felt like you "weren't trying hard enough" unless you did it the hard way? Or because you didn't want to look weak to your foursome? Or simply because you couldn't bear the thought that you might lose a shot by playing safe? (BTW, not playing safe cost you two shots... or three... or...)

Tom Brady and his team dissected the opposition because they looked at what they could do best and then DID IT. And actually accepting what we can and can't do and then playing that way is often the hardest part of our game. The mental game isn't so much about "gaining a winner's mentality" as it is about accepting our limitations and learning to exploit them so we get the best score we can... and that's way harder than reciting "I can do this" as you stand over a putt.

But taking what the game gives you can be awfully rewarding. Just ask Tom Brady.

The photo of Brady came from It's a 2-year-old article, but I liked the picture.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: January 2014 (Sort of)

Alas, I still don't have the new RGWG database set up yet... and given the projects I have in the works, a rapid fix isn't looking very promising. I can still rank players -- I just don't have my points system working. But who cares? It's my ranking system, after all!

Until I have the points system running again, my rankings will work very simply. To qualify for the rankings, a player must have a win on either the PGA Tour or the European Tour. I take the total number of wins and Top5s over the last 12 months into account, with heavier weight given to recent performance and "big wins."

And, as was usual even with the points, mere numbers don't determine my final rankings. This is who I think is playing the best right now.

Since much of the last two months were unofficial events, I waited until after the Hyundai Tournament of Champions to make my first ranking of 2014. I think you may be surprised by some of my picks though. For example, Harris English didn't make my list; he has 2 wins but no Top5s -- very inconsistent.
  1. Tiger Woods: 5 wins (TPC, 2 WGC), 3 Top5... While Tiger has no recent wins, that's largely because he hasn't played anywhere other than the Turkish Airlines Open, where he finished 3rd. One event, one Top5; I can live with that.
  2. Adam Scott: 4 wins (major), 4 Top5, plus World Cup team... While Adam only gets credit for one major, the Australian Masters and Australian PGA are majors on their tour. And unlike many of the other players, Adam has continued to play during the "off season." And play well.
  3. Henrik Stenson: 3 wins (2 Tour Championships), 6 Top5... Of course, Henrik also nailed both "races," FedExCup and Dubai, a first-ever for the tours. And he did it with a bad wrist.
  4. Matt Kuchar: 2 wins (WGC), 5 Top5, plus Franklin Templeton team... Like Adam, Matt also continues to play while others aren't. Ironically, it's been Adam who's beaten him out at several tournaments during this time!
  5. Zach Johnson: 3 wins, 4 Top5... Zach makes his appearance at #5 simply because he may be the hottest player with multiple wins right now.
  6. Phil Mickelson: 3 wins (major), 4 Top5... Phil, like Tiger, hasn't played much. But when he's played, he hasn't done as well. I guess we'll have to wait for another "spurt" from him.
  7. Justin Rose: 1 win (major), 4 Top5... Justin's out with a shoulder injury for now. But he got a Top5 at the WGC-China, so he was still showing well.
  8. Jordan Spieth: 1 win, 5 Top5 (4 runner-ups)... Jordan makes it onto my list purely because he climbed 800 spots in the OWGR in the last year and came close to having 5 wins like Tiger... on courses he had never played before. That kind of consistency catches my attention.
  9. Webb Simpson: 1 win, 6 Top5... Webb's recent win and improved performance lately get him in over some other players with more wins.
  10. Dustin Johnson: 1 win (WGC), 3 Top5... Dustin hasn't been particularly consistent, but that big win is recent and he's been playing fairly well since.
Honorable Mention: Victor Dubuisson: 1 win, 4 Top5 (3 thirds)... Dubuisson broke through in a big way at the Turkish Airlines Open, where he beat a number of highly-ranked players (like Tiger).

Players to Watch:
  • Zach Johnson seems to have hit a groove. He could rack up another win or two on the West Coast.
  • Jordan Spieth missed the cut at the Sony this week, but it's such a drastic change from last week's course -- and it's another course he'd never seen before -- that I don't think it's an indication of where his game is going. With 4 runner-ups in the last year, I look for another win soon.
  • We're due for a Phil Mickelson sighting any time now. He always seems to play well on the West Coast Swing.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Michelle Wie on "Tabletopping"

When Michelle Wie visited GC's Morning Drive on Thursday, she talked about a lot of things. But let's face it, the topic drawing the most curiosity was Michelle's putting technique, aka "tabletopping." And since I talk about putting quite often here on the blog, I thought her comments might interest many of you.

How does a golfer end up bent over like this?

Michelle Wie tabletopping at GC

First of all, Michelle has said several times that she felt she was too tall to putt properly. And when she was struggling the most, she decided to try getting closer to the ball. She said she had almost immediate results, particularly in eliminating 3-putts.

But Michelle also says that originally she didn't realize she was bent over so much. She demonstrated what she thought she was doing; she was maybe 30° up from horizontal. However -- and I think this is important -- she says she was already bending over that much when she tried to read putts from behind the ball. So it was probably instinctive for her to bend down into the same position when over the ball.

She admitted that the position was much more mechanical at first, but now she felt as if she was just setting up and stroking the ball. When you make a putting change, you should also realize that initially it's going to feel more mechanical than you'd like. Relaxation and naturalness come from familiarity, and you aren't going to have that early in the learning process.

Of course, everybody's big question is "Doesn't that hurt your back?" Michelle has repeatedly said no, that the stress is in the legs and not the back. Perhaps the most eye-opening moment was when Gary Williams followed Michelle's instructions on how to set up and said, in obvious shock, "Oh my gosh! It isn't in your back -- it's all in your hamstrings!"

Michelle said she thought the lack of pain was the result of two things:
  1. She keeps her back straight. She doesn't roll her spine into a curve, so all the stress is transferred to her legs.
  2. Because her upper arms are held so close to her body, there isn't as much weight hanging down from her shoulders. This also creates good connection in her upper body, so it's easier to get a consistent stroke.
While Michelle didn't say she'd recommend it to anyone, she also said it works for her right now and it feels pretty good to her. I guess she'll be sticking with it for a while.

Now you know how and why Michelle "tabletops."

The photo came from this page at Michelle was at GC most of the day and this photo is from later. She didn't wear high heels when she putted on Morning Drive.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The New Race to the CME Globe

It's possible you didn't hear about the newest wrinkle in the LPGA's 2014 season. Other bloggers -- most notably, the Constructivist -- have already done posts about it. You'll definitely want to read his post and the links within it, 3 of which I'll list here just to make sure you know which post is which:
This post is my take on the new LPGA season-long points race called the Race to the CME Globe.
new Race logo
The LPGA paid a lot of attention to the FedExCup and Race to Dubai setups, and tried to pick the best aspects of each while minimizing the weaknesses. For example, the points system is simpler so it should be easier for fans to keep up with who needs to do what to win.

The most interesting aspect to me is how they decided to handle the final event. As with the other tours, there's a point reset right before the final event -- which has changed its title from the CME Group Titleholders to the CME Group Tour Championship -- so no player can lock up the points race before the final event. (Shall we call this the Vijay Singh Rule?) Otherwise the points work the same as in the other tours' races... except only 9 players will have a mathematical chance of winning the LPGA's Race. And only the top 3 "control their destiny."

And only 3 players get payouts. The winner gets $1mil, second gets $150k, third gets $100k. This is really close to a winner-take-all situation. That's definitely more interesting, don't you think?

In addition, CME Group will run a season-long program for the Wounded Warriors Project. Every eagle made during a weekend round at any LPGA event will result in a donation of $1000.

Based on what I've heard so far, this sounds like a great publicity generator for the LPGA. (Just consider how much the FedExCup sparked buzz for the PGA Tour.) It sounds like they've avoided most of the big problems that the other tours had to tweak in their points races. And at a point where many players are considering staying on their home tours and avoiding the LPGA's travel schedule, it's a huge carrot to lure those players back.

But most of all, it seems to highlight how well Michael Whan has managed the LPGA during hard times... and how attractive it has become to sponsors. After the economy tanked and hurt the Tour so badly, did we ever expect to see a Corporate Race to the LPGA? Yet it appears that's exactly what we have here. If the International Crown event (the new 8 country team competition in July) works out as planned... and the Race works out as planned...

Who knows what we might see next from the LPGA?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Lindsey Vonn Makes Golf News

Since skier Lindsey Vonn is Tiger's girlfriend -- and since Tiger was expected to skip several weeks of golf during the Sochi Olympics next month -- Lindsey's surprise announcement yesterday opened all kinds of possibilities.

Lindsey Vonn in action

In case you missed the news, here's a quick summary from this ESPN article:
Vonn tore two ligaments in her right knee during a high-speed crash at the world championships this past February, sidelining her for about 10 months. She retore her surgically repaired ACL in a training crash in November, a key setback. Then, after returning to competition in early December by finishing 40th, 11th and fifth in a set of World Cup races at Lake Louise, Alberta, Vonn sprained her MCL during a race last month at Val d'Isere, France.
Then, later in that same article:
After skiing in two downhills and a super-G at Lake Louise, Vonn sounded optimistic, declaring she would be in Sochi, "fighting for my medal."
But a couple of weeks later in France, during a downhill -- with Woods watching in the finish area -- Vonn lost her balance, sending her left ski into the air and forcing all her weight onto her right knee. She grimaced as she pulled up, then clutched her right knee.
[Her publicist, Lewis] Kay said Tuesday that an MRI after that episode "showed an MCL sprain, which coupled with the torn ACL has made it impossible to stabilize her knee and be ready to safely ski again next month."
So that's it. Lindsey will have surgery again soon and aim for a return at the 2015 World Championships in Colorado. (The article contains considerably more info and is well worth a read.)

And here's where Lindsey makes golf news. While it's clear that Tiger will be spending time with Lindsey and trying to help her recover, this has potentially changed his schedule. He had made no secret that he intended to be at the Sochi Olympics to support Lindsey; since she won't be there, it opens up three potential appearance dates for him, according to this Golfweek article:
  • Feb 6-9: The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
  • Feb 13-16: The Northern Trust Open
  • Feb 19-23: The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
Will he actually add one or more of them to his schedule? Well, if the past is any indication, he typically plays the Accenture and he played the AT&T once in 2012. And I'd guess Lindsey would be a month or so past her surgery by then, so she may even push him to go play and get out of the house!

At the very least, we'll be seeing Lindsey at more golf tournaments as her recovery progresses. And one thing's for certain -- Tiger seems to play very well when Lindsey's around.

That could bode well for him in the majors this year. Very well indeed.

The photo came from this ABCNews article about Lindsey's announcement.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Hyundai Tournament of Champions

Winner: Zach Johnson

Around the wider world of golf: What wider world of golf? Most of the tours are still on vacation.

Zach gets win #11

On Saturday I did a post about the first round of the Hyundai in which I wrote, "I think either Webb or Jordan will win it this week." Ironically, that line originally read, "I think either Webb, Zach, or Jordan will win it this week." Why did I decide to leave Zach out? Because I thought his play in the first round was a bit erratic.

Shows how much I know, huh? That "erratic" play yielded a -7 second round, a +1 third round, and another -7 in the final round. The more consistent play of Webb Simpson was only good enough for T3, 2 shots back, and Jordan Spieth's consistency got him another runner-up finish a single stroke back.

Granted, given that this was Spieth's first trip to the Plantation Course -- and that he'll still be making "first trips" to Tour events for a few months yet -- that wasn't such a bad thing. And in all likelihood it was the poor first pitch shot at 15 that kept him from forcing a playoff -- not too shabby for his first time! But I guess Zach reminded him that ZJ's a force to be reckoned with.

In fact, you could say that Zach reminded everybody that ZJ's a force to be reckoned with!

There are those who will say this win doesn't mean much, that neither Tiger nor Phil nor Henrik were there. But let's not forget that Zach put a beatdown on the lot of them back in Illinois at the BMW Championship... and then stunned Tiger at the World Challenge just last month. Zach may be posting his recent wins against small fields -- 70 players at the BMW, 18 at the World Challenge, and 30 here -- but they're quality fields. He's beaten at least the #1 or #2 player in each event, as well as a number of Top20 players each time.

Zach's #9 in last week's OWGR. He'll be moving on up this week, I think!

So my first Limerick Summary of 2014 goes to one of the Tour's bulldogs. Chew 'em up, Zach -- there's a lot of events waiting for you this year!
No Tiger, no Henrik, no Phil —
No matter; Zach still lapped the field.
(NOTE: Tiger remembers
Who won in December.
They ALL recall Lake Forest IL.)
The photo came from the front page of

Monday, January 6, 2014

Getting a Headstart on the Week

The first Limerick Summary of 2014 will be delayed, of course, because the Hyundai Tournament of Champions finishes today instead of Sunday. So I asked myself, "What should I talk about on Monday?"

Ah yes -- the rest of the golfing world slowly but surely shifts into gear this week. I know of only two tournaments this week besides the next PGA Tour event, but today seemed like a convenient time to look ahead. The first is for fans of the women's game.

Although neither the LPGA nor the LET starts until later this month, the TLPGA (that's the Taiwan LPGA) gets underway on Friday. The Hitachi Classic will be played at the Orient Golf & Country Club in Taoyuan, Taiwan and Pornanong Phatlum is the defending champion. (You may recall that she beat Stacy Lewis at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters just last month.)

I'm afraid I don't have any more info than that. I couldn't even find a home page for the tournament. I'm sure the Constructivist (and possibly Tony Jesselli) will be covering the event on their blogs.

Ernie Els

The other event is the Volvo Golf Champions on the European Tour. It starts on Thursday and is played at the Durban Country Club in South Africa. Essentially this is the ET version of the Hyundai, so you can count on seeing many of the big name players from the ET. That means players like Matteo Manassero and Darren Clarke, among others. Of special interest to American fans, Peter Uihlein is in the field.

One player you won't see is Ernie Els. He's mentioned as the headliner in one of the site's main articles (the photo came from there) but he isn't listed on the tournament entry list. A GolfTalkCentral post explains that Els has elected to skip both this event and the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in order to get some family time. (This is a potential problem that I have already written about at length. Looks like several players have had the same idea.)

Here's the link for the event's leaderboard, in case you can't catch the broadcasts on GC. The first round broadcast is listed at 11:00am ET Thursday morning, so I assume this event will not be carried live.

That's what you'll be seeing this week -- besides the PGA Tour's Sony Open, of course. The first round of the Sony broadcasts live starting Thursday night at 7:00pm ET. More prime time golf!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

How Far Do Your Shoulders Turn?

Let's start the new year of instructional articles with a very simple golf tip.

Over at I found a new video. Teacher Pomp Braswell from the Jim McLean Schools posted this short video on how to hit the ball farther. I really liked the simple method he recommends to check your shoulder turn.

Let's be realistic here. Some of you aren't going to get a full 90° shoulder turn because you aren't flexible enough. There's no shame in that. It doesn't matter what popular teaching methods say you should do; some of us simply can't do it.

Some of you will be able to increase your flexibility, some of you won't. Again, there's no shame in that. Each of us is different.

Some of you will be able to make that turn but it hurts. My advice is not to turn that much if it hurts. It's a game and it's supposed to be fun. Maybe you disagree with me but I don't think it's fun if it hurts!

So you may wonder: If so many of you will have trouble making this turn, then why have I put this video up?

Because this is a good way to find out what you CAN do... and if you're trying to increase your flexibility, it's a good way to test your progress. Self-knowledge is a good thing if you want to get better. .Use this simple test as a way to learn about your abilities, not to beat yourself up over what you can't do.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

And the New Season Resumes

Yes, it seems funny to say "resumes" rather than "begins," but such is the conundrum known as the wraparound season. The Hyundai Tournament of Champions is actually the 7th event of the 2014 season... and you could tell. It looks like the players came ready to play.

Jordan Spieth

But it also seems as if the Plantation Course was eager to make up for last year. Of the 30 players who teed it up, only 3 didn't break par:
  • Jimmy Walker shot even par
  • Jonas Blixt shot 3-over
  • Derek Ernst shot 6-over
At the other end of the scoreboard, 4 players are tied for the lead at -7 and 4 more are a stroke back at -6. Webb Simpson, one of the leaders, said the greens were very receptive. And Curt Byrum said the winds weren't from the usual directions, so that had an effect on scoring as well. For those of you keeping track, the trade winds (from the north) are the scoring winds and the kona winds (from the south) make the course harder. Friday's winds came from the west.

Today I just want to note the players I think you should keep your eyes on.

Three of the leaders have won in the first 6 tournaments of the 2014 wraparound season:
  • Webb Simpson (-7) won the Shriners
  • Chris Kirk (-7) won the McGladrey
  • Ryan Moore (-6) won the CIMB Classic
To them you can add:
  • Zach Johnson (-6) won Tiger's World Challenge
These guys are clearly still in good form from before Christmas.

Obviously all of the players at this event are winners, and several others (like Kuchar and English and Scott) have played well recently but they aren't leading at this point. That certainly doesn't rule them out but, if this turns out to be a scoring frenzy -- and it looks that way after the first round, especially since the weather is supposed to improve going forward -- the lead players have a clear advantage.

But the guy I think will be the most dangerous this week is Jordan Spieth. (You might have guessed that since I posted his picture! It's from the site, obviously.) Here's the reason: Spieth is playing well -- he and Simpson were paired together and were the low pairing on the course -- but he's playing well despite not playing much since the 2013 season ended. He finished 17th at the WGC-China and T16 at Tiger's event... that's it. But here he is, back at the top of the leaderboard and he appears to be very relaxed.

I think either Webb or Jordan will win it this week. If I had to pick one, it would be Webb just on the experience edge -- this is Webb's third trip to Kapalua vs Jordan's first -- but I think it's too close to call. I won't be surprised if Jordan gets his 2nd Tour win this weekend.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Michelle Wie Swings It Lefty Too

At some point most golfers try hitting a golf ball "from the other side" -- regardless of which side that may be. Ben Crane did it on GC's Morning Drive last year, for example, and Mac O'Grady (a former PGA Tour player who now teaches) is right-handed but can play as a scratch golfer left-handed.

Michelle Wie

On Thursday Michelle Wie sent out a little video on Instagram showing her own left-handed swing. You can see it at this link. The note with it says, "Getting lefty swing tips from @hallyleadbetter today. How does it look? #bears" (In case you're curious, Hally is David Leadbetter's daughter.) It's not a bad looking swing at all, and trying it may even help her loosen up a little in her regular game.

I'm looking for Michelle to have a pretty good year in 2014. I'm not ready to predict a major yet, but I like the way she was improving last year. I'm anxious to see how her game looks when the LPGA kicks off their season later this month.

I'm pretty sure she won't be playing lefty though.

The photo came from this page at the Omega Watches site.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

This Week's Entertainment at the Hyundai

Since the Hyundai Tournament of Champions doesn't begin until Friday, there's not a whole lot to talk about yet besides who is in the field. But you can get that info here, and you already know that Tiger and Phil won't be there. So there's not much sense in that, is there?

Ryan Kamakakehau FernandezInstead I thought I'd give you some info about the Aloha Kick-Off Ceremony that happens Friday before the event. I found it very interesting.

I suppose you've noticed that GC typically features a ukulele player on some of their intro pieces during the tournament. Let me introduce you to the man you're most likely to see.

If you're interested in a little ukulele history, keep reading. Otherwise, just skip the next paragraph.
Although most people around the world refer to the instrument as a "yoo-kuh-lay-lee" the typical Hawaiian pronunciation is "oo-koo-lay-lee." The instrument developed during the 19th century as a Hawaiian version of a small guitar-like instrument from Portugal. There are actually several sizes of ukulele -- including bass ukuleles -- but the most common performance instrument is the tenor uke, and it's gaining popularity with serious musicians. If you'd like to hear a real pro playing it, one player you can check out on YouTube is Canadian player James Hill. He has a killer solo uke version of Michael Jackson's Billy Jean where he carries the drum, bass, and guitar parts all at the same time. He's quite funny as well.
Anyway, this year the player brought in by the event is a man named Kamakakehau Fernandez. I think he's interesting because he was originally born in Little Rock, Arkansas but he was adopted at 6 weeks of age (his original given name is Ryan) and taken to Maui, where he grew up. He sings in a style called leo kiʻekiʻe, which is a falseto technique. Here's a YouTube video I found of him:

There's a pretty good chance you'll be hearing him at some point during GC's coverage since he's the event's featured musician. And if you're interested in learning more about him, here's the link to his website. The photo came from his website as well.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Regular posts will be back tomorrow... but today I'm celebrating the new year!


2014 fireworks in Sydney AU

The photo of the 2014 fireworks display in Sydney, Australia came from the website.