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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Why the OWGR Is So Misleading

How can a Ryder Cup team be so strong "on paper" and yet get beaten so badly in the actual event?

Since this week's Limerick Summary won't come out until Tuesday (the Deutsche Bank has a Monday finish) and I'm planning to make my Ryder Cup picks on Monday (after I see how the other tournaments finish today), I thought I'd take a few minutes to give my opinion about one of the most confusing conundrums related to the Ryder Cup.

In years past the US team has clearly been the strongest according to their world rankings, yet they haven't played the way those rankings might lead you to expect. Likewise, it's obvious the European team is a little nervous about being the strongest on paper this year and are trying to downplay it a bit. I think there's a feeling that your OWGR rankings can be a jinx!

If you want to understand why the OWGR isn't necessarily a good indicator of Ryder Cup potential, you have to realize that all ranking systems make certain assumptions... and those assumptions may not be completely accurate. The OWGR makes a couple of these assumptions, and most analysts never even recognize them.

The first assumption -- and, I believe, the most flawed one -- is the belief that strength of field alone is sufficient for a world ranking system. Although this assumption is never directly mentioned, you hear it voiced when someone complains about "playing the rankings."

For example, if the World #1 plays in a Japan Tour event -- an event where the ranking points awarded for a win would normally be quite low compared to a PGA Tour event -- and then he wins that event (which you would expect if the #1 is really that much better than the rest of the field), the World #1 is "padding his points total" by artificially inflating the number of available points at that event.

This is also why some folks complain about small fields (like Tiger's World Challenge event) getting ranking points. The small number of highly-ranked players creates a large pool of world ranking points that will be divided among them, thus giving them a disproportionate boost in the OWGR.

However, this is only one way in which the OWGR is skewed by the strength of field measure. While you can artificially boost your ranking if you play the numbers, the system can also hide player improvement by keeping their points artificially low.

This is why the European players "suddenly" became top-ranked players. Let me explain.

There is a very real difference between American golf and European golf. (Forgive me for lumping the rest of the world under the "European" label, but it makes this post easier to write. Besides, we are talking Ryder Cup here!) American golf is "target golf" -- the ball is played primarily through the air, flown a specific distance to a specific spot, and made to land softly. European golf, on the other hand, is often played "along the ground," which simply means there is no one prescribed way to get the ball close to the hole. A wider variety of skills is required if you hope to take the best scoring option.

Perhaps the classic example of this disparity is how long it took Phil Mickelson to get good enough to win an Open Championship. Despite a consistently high position in the OWGR, Euro golf requires a set of skills that even a wizard like Phil struggles to master. In fact, you may have noticed that Euro players have more success adapting to American golf than American golfers have adapting to Euro golf.

And that's where the OWGR's strength of field measure falls short.

The OWGR assumes that the best players are in America although you could argue that the style of golf here is easier to learn and excel at. American courses may be better groomed than many Euro courses, but they don't require the variety of shots that Euro courses do.

As a result, the OWGR has historically awarded Euro players fewer points for an equivalent finish than American players received, even when the skill levels of the Euro players were improving more quickly. By the time the Euro players had climbed high enough in the rankings to qualify for the majors and WGC events, their skill levels were much higher than those of an equivalently-ranked American player. Their OWGR rankings -- awarded by the strength of field measure alone -- were not an accurate indication of their playing skills.

In other words, the OWGR unintentionally causes certain players to be sandbaggers by undervaluing their skill levels. And those skills give them a real advantage, especially in the Ryder Cup.

The second assumption -- which represents a misunderstanding by the rest of us as much as it does a flaw in the OWGR -- is that stroke play rankings accurately predict match play ability. The OWGR values consistent play over streaky play, which is a logical approach to stroke play.

While everyone wants to win, our game (predominantly stroke play) is different from most other sports (which are predominantly match play). We don't often play one-on-one, which typically produces one winner and one loser, at the professional level. Rather, we most frequently play one-on-150, and a player may play extremely well yet win only once every two or three years... if that often.

There simply HAS to be some way to rank those who don't win. The OWGR is our response to that aspect of our game. Shooting -8 is a better finish than shooting +2, so we award ranking points accordingly.

However, that mindset is flawed when we approach match play. Consider this:

Stroke play is an absolute measure of performance; as I said, shooting -8 is a better finish than shooting +2. We know that because we are measuring scores against an absolute scale. That -8 is always better than a +2.

But that's not necessarily true in match play. While the scores of two competitors will rarely be so wide apart, the way matches are scored -- winning or losing a hole -- means that all strokes are not created equal. It's possible for a match play winner to take more strokes than his losing opponent, depending on how the strokes fell and on which holes.

In addition, your opponent's play is the measure of your play, not an absolute scale. You might win your match with a +2 stroke score while another player might lose their match while shooting -8. Scores are relative in match play.

The streaky player who doesn't score well consistently may have a weak OWGR ranking yet be a beast in the Ryder Cup because of his ability to "catch fire" and win a couple of key matches. Likewise, the consistent player with a strong OWGR ranking may find himself struggling to make enough birdies at the right moment to steal the winning match.

When it comes to the Ryder Cup, the OWGR is of limited value in predicting the winner. Highly-ranked players may improve your team's odds of victory, but it's the lightning bolts -- can you say Ian Poulter? -- who typically change the balance of power at critical moments.

That's why the OWGR has been so misleading when attempting to predict Ryder Cup winners... and perhaps why the Euro team has been downplaying their "paper advantage" recently. They know the real power players in match play rarely dominate the OWGR's stroke play rankings.

And this year, unlike other years, I think the US team may have gotten enough of our streaky players through the qualifying system to make the Euros a little nervous.

I'll make my Captain's picks for both teams tomorrow.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

So Yeon Ryu Is Going for Two

While the PGA Tour is just getting started (they have a Monday finish this week), the LPGA is well underway with the Portland Classic. And while I.K. Kim has a 3-shot lead on the field and is certainly playing like a champion -- she's shot 65-67 so far -- So Yeon Ryu is in position to make a run at her second win in a row.

So Yeon Ryu

Ryu sits at -8 (T5) with only Mi Jung Hur, Carlota Ciganda, and Laura Diaz between her and Kim. Both Kim and Ryu have won this year -- Kim's win came at the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters on the LET in early July -- and both have done so in dominating fashion. It won't be a surprise if either wins.

Neither is a sure bet yet. Defending champ Suzann Pettersen is T10 at -6, as is Anna Nordqvist (and Juli Inkster, who has a very good record at the Portland Classic), and Shanshan Feng is only one shot farther back. However, since most of the other players around them are unproven down the stretch, you have to feel that one of the favorites will have to stumble if anyone else is to have a chance.

Right now, it looks like a fairly small group of likely winners. The course is playing hard and fast, and players are having a tough time putting two low rounds together.

One other thing to consider is the Rolex Player of the Year competition. While Lydia Ko has pretty much locked up Rookie of the Year, the POY race is a long way from settled. According to Neal Reid at, there are 6 players very much in the running (their point totals follow their names):
  1. Stacy Lewis, 200
  2. Inbee Park, 169
  3. Michelle Wie, 151
  4. Lydia Ko, 128
  5. Lexi Thompson, 104
  6. Anna Nordqvist, 100
So Yeon Ryu -- in 7th place with 85 points -- could put herself in the mix with a win this week. (The win is worth 30 points, with 2nd claiming only 12 points.) And with none of the Top5 playing this week, this is an excellent chance for Nordqvist and Ryu to really move up the list. Ryu could reach fifth place (115) while Nordqvist could get to fourth (130).

And in case you wonder, Pettersen and Feng could only move up to around 95-100 points with a win. But with the Evian being worth 60 points...!

I like both Kim and Ryu's chances of winning this week. But will Ryu's desire to get in the POY race overcome Kim's birdie barrage? We'll just have to see. GC's broadcast starts at 7pm ET tonight.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Trailing Foot Shuffle for Better Iron Play

This is one of the more interesting tips I've found recently. It comes from Golf Magazine's Top100 Teacher Brian Manzella, and he says it will help you hit irons like Henrik Stenson.

I don't know about that... but I can see where it could help you improve your footwork.

About that "pushing up at impact" bit... I know that's one way to increase your swing speed but the timing always seems a bit tricky to me. If you want to try that, it's up to you. It's your practice time!

However, I think Brian's idea about lifting your trailing foot briefly to start your backswing could really help some of you. Far too many of you freeze over the ball -- it's amazing that pigeons don't roost on you during your setup! But hand movements like waggles and forward presses don't always help, either.

Moving your feet gets your whole body moving, and that can really help your swing rhythm. And note that Brian says you don't have to move your trailing foot much -- just high enough to slip a piece of paper under it. I don't know how well some of you would feel that, but you might try lifting your trailing heel just a bit above the ground, then "push it down" to start your backswing. That might also help you keep from swaying as much. You want a small weight shift, not a big one!

If you have trouble with getting your backswing started, Brain Manzella's little shuffle just might help you improve your footwork. It's certainly worth a try.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Ladies Prepare for Their Final Major

Since the Deutsche Bank has a Monday finish, there's no reason for any of you to miss this week's LPGA event -- especially since it's live in prime time.

The LPGA heads up to Portland OR for their final event before the Evian, their fifth and final major of 2014. With a week's break between the two, this is an excellent opportunity for someone to double dip. Suzann Pettersen did so last year, winning the Portland Classic and the Evian.

Suzann Pettersen kisses last year's Portland Classic trophy

I'll be interested to see if So Yeon Ryu can triple dip. After winning wire-to-wire last week against a much stronger field -- Tony Jesselli's preview ranks this week's strength at 56% VS 81% last week -- and with next week off to recover, Ryu could conceivably pull a McIlroy and go three in a row.

Conceivably. That remains to be seen, of course. With Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park, and Lydia Ko all taking the week off, Pettersen and Ryu are the top players in the field... and paired together for the first two days (along with Anna Nordqvist).

An interesting note (at least, I thought it was interesting): The Tour played in Portland last week, at the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club where the LPGA has played the US Women's Open in 1997 and 2003 (and yes, it was the same Witch Hollow course that the Tour used last week). However, the Portland Classic (formerly the Safeway Classic) was played at Pumpkin Ridge's Ghost Creek Course from 2009-2012, and has been played at the Columbia Edgewater Country Club since last year.

Here's the interesting bit. Suzann won at Ghost Creek in 2011 and Columbia Edgewater last year... and she told the media folks she doesn't really like either of them!
Q. You know, you won here last year. You've won at Pumpkin Ridge, two really different kinds of courses. But is this a good fit for you because of your ability to shape shots?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: Well, Pumpkin Ridge I never really liked, and this one I never really liked either (laughs) until I won.
Suzann also said that this is an "old, traditional golf course... a driver's course" and that anybody who hits the fairways should get a lot of good looks at birdie. (Perhaps this will be another good week for Mo Martin!)

This is one of the weeks that Charley Hull will be playing the LPGA as well, so it looks like it could be an interesting week. GC has three hours of live coverage today starting at 6:30pm ET. Don't forget that this is the last event before the Evian, so you don't want to miss it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Jason Day's Go-To Shot

Sunday I did a post about creating a go-to shot for those times when you absolutely positively HAVE to get the ball in the fairway. Well, lo and behold, Jason Day recently told Golf Digest all about his own go-to shot he calls his "fail-safe swing." Comparing his swing to my post should give you even more ideas for creating your own.

Jason Day at go-to swing finish

Jason tells 3 keys he uses. I'm listing them as 5 keys; the first 3 are his address adjustments and that's why he combines them:
  1. Grip down a half inch
  2. Ball no farther forward than midway in stance
  3. Weight more on left side
  4. Make sure you pivot on your left side coming down
  5. Hold off the finish, which he explains primarily as swinging slower
I want to emphasize that last one -- not so much for the hold-off move as for swinging slower. When you're struggling to get the ball in the fairway, you need solid contact. You're not going to get that by swinging all out! Jason recommends swinging at 80% -- I always laugh at these percentage guidelines because I don't think most weekend players can estimate their effort that accurately -- but the point is to swing so you can keep your balance. If you can swing pretty fast and still do that, by all means swing fast.

One last thing: The article makes it clear that Jason is using an iron for his go-to shot. You can use an iron as well if you want. However, don't think that you have to use an iron. Fairway woods also work well for a go-to shot and, if you can rein in your driver swing a bit and get a controllable result with it, there's no reason not to use your driver for your go-to shot. You'll probably get more distance that way than with any other option as well.

With a go-to shot it's all about predictability. Any shot you can control well enough to predict where it will end up when you're under pressure can be your go-to shot. Once you realize that, you're well on your way to creating one of your own.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Should Tiger Do Now?

Since the announcement Monday morning that Tiger and Sean Foley were "ending their professional relationship," the golf world has been abuzz. It seems everybody is ready to solve this little dilemma for the Big Cat. I also have an idea, which I'll get to in a minute, but first let me get you up-to-speed on the official bits.

Tiger and Foley

Monday morning this little announcement popped up at
Tiger Woods said today he will no longer be working with Sean Foley.

"I'd like to thank Sean for his help as my coach and for his friendship," Woods said. "Sean is one of the outstanding coaches in golf today, and I know he will continue to be successful with the players working with him. With my next tournament not until my World Challenge event at Isleworth in Orlando, this is the right time to end our professional relationship."

"My time spent with Tiger is one of the highlights of my career so far, and I am appreciative of the many experiences we shared together," Foley said. "It was a lifelong ambition of mine to teach the best player of all time in our sport. I am both grateful for the things we had the opportunity to learn from one another, as well as the enduring friendship we have built. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him."

"Presently, I do not have a coach, and there is no timetable for hiring one," added Woods.
There are a couple of important things to note here. One is that Tiger chose to announce this during a period when he said he won't be playing golf -- if you heard Gary Williams talking to Tiger on Morning Drive last week, you heard Tiger say he won't even be swinging a club for a month or so. That means he has plenty of time to pick another coach.

The second thing is that Sean actually has a quote of his own in this announcement on Tiger's website. That's not something you'd expect to see with Tiger and other teachers, so this is apparently a very amicable split.

Although the summaries of Tiger's record with Foley don't look as impressive in comparison with Butch or Haney, I don't think it's all that bad when you consider Tiger's injuries. Officially, Tiger had 8 wins in 55 starts (that doesn't count the 2011 World Challenge win) -- 3 in 2012 and 5 in 2013. Those aren't minor wins, folks:
  • Arnold Palmer Invitational: 2
  • Memorial Tournament:1
  • Quicken Loans (AT&T) National: 1
  • Farmers Insurance Open: 1
  • WGCs: 2
He also had a number of Top5 finishes, including 2 in majors before the back became a big issue in 2013. I think THE PLAYERS win is being undervalued, as Tiger had only one of those under the combined efforts of Butch and Haney. That's a tough course for Tiger... but he got that win before the back became a major issue.

And injury was definitely a major issue. Between Achilles tendon and back problems, Tiger was only healthy about half of his time with Foley. That certainly affected their results. The two never really had a chance to see just what they could do, a thought that Butch Harmon echoed in his comments to Tim Rosaforte Monday.

As you might expect, immediately had a betting page for Tiger's next teacher. You should take this page with a whole shaker full of salt, as Butch Harmon (who already said he and Tiger wouldn't be working together) is even odds while Tiger's ex, Elin, is 500-to-1 and Tiger's mom is 300-to-1. These are odds to be his next swing instructor? Puh-leeze!

Clearly there's already a lot of debate about who Tiger's next coach should be. Some media folks say Tiger should go solo while others have their own favorite suggestions.

Well, here's mine.

I don't think Tiger will need months to make a change. On this blog I focus on fundamentals because that's what makes or breaks a swing, and Tiger has solid fundamentals. While each of his coaches have had different swing theories, the fundamentals remain basically the same between them all, so we aren't looking at a long time to make useful swing changes -- especially if he has a few months uninterrupted by tournaments to focus on them.

I like the idea of Tiger avoiding a new swing coach... but I don't think he should go it on his own. I think he should get together with Steve Stricker and the two of them spend some practice time together. I think it would benefit BOTH of them. Here's what I'm thinking:

Tiger doesn't need a new swing; he just needs to simplify the one he has. Steve's swing was in a much worse condition than Tiger's has ever been, but Steve simplified his so much that he doesn't even need much practice to keep it sharp. This is perfect for Tiger, who needs a swing that won't require as much practice and therefore won't stress his back nearly as much. Plus he would immediately get better with the driver.

Likewise, I think Steve would benefit from seeing how Tiger strategizes his way around a course using "Steve's swing." Steve has been able to get into position to win a major but hasn't been able to get over the hump. I think Tiger could teach him some new tricks that just might help him do it.

Tim Rosaforte said he talked to John Cook on Monday, and Cook said he thought all Tiger really needed was someone to talk to on the practice range and serve as an extra set of eyes. Yes, I think Steve Stricker would fill the bill perfectly...

Plus think of all the putting practice Tiger would get! Are you listening, Tiger?

Sometimes I'm so smart I amaze myself. ;-)

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 The Barclays

Winner: Hunter Mahan

Around the wider world of golf: So Yeon Ryu went wire-to-wire at the LPGA's Canadian Pacific Women's Open; Scott Dunlap won the Boeing Classic on the Champions Tour; Carlos Ortiz won the WinCo Foods Portland Open and also locked up the top Tour card awarded on the Tour; David Bradshaw won the Great Waterway Classic on the PGA TOUR Canada; Jamie Donaldson won the D+D REAL Czech Masters on the ET, thus locking up a Euro Ryder Cup team spot; and Momoko Ueda won the CAT Ladies on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has details).

Hunter Mahan with wife and daughter

No doubt Tom Watson is very happy today. In all likelihood, one of his "possible choices" for the American Ryder Cup team stepped up and made a really good case for being much more than just possible.

In the process, Hunter Mahan also took over first place in the FedExCup standings from Rory McIlroy. And then, as if that wasn't enough, his wife Kandi and one-year-old daughter Zoe were waiting for him on the 18th green. (They weren't supposed to meet him until Tuesday at the Deutsche Bank.)'s Helen Ross started her wrap-up with the words, "Kandi Mahan stopped short of saying she had a premonition on Saturday night," but it's clear that Kandi knew something the rest of us didn't. (Perhaps she remembered Hunter's penchant for shooting 65 in final rounds.) At any rate, she and Zoe zipped up to New Jersey just in time for the award ceremony.

With the exceptions of Cameron Tringale, William McGirt, Morgan Hoffman, and Patrick Reed, the leaderboard was flush with experience -- Stuart Appleby, Jason Day, Ernie Els, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk, and Rickie Fowler, to name a few. It turned out to be a much closer race than anyone expected.

Except for Kandi Mahan, that is.

And so this week's Limerick Summary goes to Hunter Mahan, who may have had an unconscious premonition himself. If not, he got extremely lucky. After all, it's not easy to get a one-year-old to cooperate on a long trip:
With a trip to the Ryder Cup looming
Plus that purse of 10 mil, I’m presuming
Hunter said, “Gotta win!
‘Cause if Kandi flies in
And I don’t get it done, she’ll be fuming!”
The photo comes from the Tournament Upshot page at

Sunday, August 24, 2014

On Creating a Go-To Shot

We frequently hear how important it is to create a go-to shot. That's a shot that you can hit under pressure and know where it's going to end up. It's the shot that you can count on when the rest of your game seems to have gone to hell.

I have a few thoughts on this, but first I'd like you to see this short video from GC's Michael Breed on how to create a go-to shot -- in this case, a slice.

Although it may sound as if Breed is spitting out a lot of instructions here, you only need to remember 2 keys in order to create a dependable go-to shot.
  1. Make sure you know where the club face is pointed at impact. Regardless of whether the ball is hooking or slicing, the ball will hit the ground on a line straight ahead of where the club is facing. It will bounce after impact so you need to allow for that when you aim, but you definitely want to be thinking about where the ball will first touch down.
  2. Minimizing body movement during the go-to swing makes it more repeatable. The point of the go-to shot isn't maximum distance, it's maximum accuracy. You may need to reduce the amount of wrist cock during your swing, or keep your hips more centered in your stance, or limit your motion in some other way that will cut your distance. All are fine, as long as you can hit the fairway.
On a personal note, I think your first attempts at a go-to shot should involve just reducing your wrist cock. That's basically what Steve Stricker does with ALL of his shots, and he's accurate while still being an average-length hitter. Your wrists are already gently cocked at address; just try to keep that angle about the same throughout the swing. I bet you'll be surprised at how quickly you get control of the ball.

Of course, if that isn't enough to get the job done, you can move on to the other things. The idea is to make as few changes as possible to get the results you want. But reducing your wrist cock almost always ends up being part of the equation.

And remember: Go-to shots are usually slices or hooks -- shots with a lot of curve -- rather than fades or draws. That's because it's generally easier to create a big curve than a small one (or a straight ball, for that matter). However, if you can create a smaller fade or draw consistently, that's fine too.

After all, there's only one rule of thumb for a go-to shot: As long as you can put your go-to shot in the fairway, it's a good one!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ryu Go, Girl!

While Rory McIlroy was charging back toward the good side of the cut at The Barclays, So Yeon Ryu was making a little history at the Canadian Pacific Women's Open.

Okay, maybe a lot of history.

So Yeon Ryu

So Yeon Ryu has been playing very well for quite a while. It's just that she hasn't been able to close out and get a win in a couple of years now. She blames it on her putting, but I can't help but think about the quality of play over the last couple of years. Lately it seems to me that anything less than perfect could cost you a possible win on the LPGA.

Well, she hasn't hit many bad shots the last couple of days -- she's gone 63-66 (-15) so far. In fact, she told
“After I shot 9-under, 6-under isn’t that great, but still it’s a really great score, and I had a lot of great putts,” she said. “I had a bogey-free round two days in a row, so I feel really great about that. I do love Canadian fans so much. I’m really happy I was able to show really great golf in front of them...
“I’m aiming for a bogey-free round all day four days, and I’m aiming for a really good win,” Ryu said."
"After I shot 9-under, 6-under isn’t that great"? said she was joking but perhaps she's been a bit too hard on herself lately as well.

I told you she's making some history. Here's the deal:
  • Her 129 total for 36 holes is the lowest of this season and the best in the history of this event by 3 shots.
  • I think her 63 in the first round ties her best-ever score and is 3 better than any of her rounds this season. I understand that it was also a course record.
  • She has a 5-stroke lead after 36 holes. That may not be a record in and of itself, but consider this: Last year Lydia Ko won with -15. You have to go back to 2007 when Lorena Ochoa won with -16 to find a lower 72-hole score!
So Yeon Ryu is clearly the favorite at this point. I won't jinx her by giving her the tournament early -- she's bogey-free so far, but there are two rounds yet to go. However, I will say this...

If Lydia Ko -- currently at -5, T24 -- intends to three-peat, she's got some serious work ahead of her today.

GC's coverage starts at 3pm ET today.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Shortcut for Closer Greenside Bunker Shots

I love little tips like this! I call them "rules of thumb" -- they won't necessarily give you a perfect result, but they're close enough that you get a result you can use.

This video at is by Golf Magazine Top100 Teacher Fred Griffin. It's a shortcut to help you get your ball closer to the hole from greenside bunkers:

It's super simple: A typical greenside bunker shot travels roughly 1/3 of the distance that a shot with the same length swing would travel from the grass. In other words, as Fred demonstrates here, for a 20-yard greenside bunker shot you want to swing like you're hitting a normal 60-yard wedge shot.

Since Fred says this particular bunker "feels" like 3:1 sand -- and it looks to be of fairly average depth -- I'm guessing that a shot from softer sand doesn't travel as far. Likewise, if the bunker doesn't have much sand, I'm guessing the ball goes farther. You'll need to practice a bit to see what kind of results you get from the bunkers where you commonly play.

Is this going to be accurate all the time? No, it won't. But it will be correct a lot of the time, and even when it's not it should still get you pretty close to the pin.

Did I mention how much I love little tips like these? ;-)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Kobra Goes for a Three-Peat

While the big news this week is the start of the FedExCup Playoffs, we can't ignore history in the making, can we? Lydia Ko's bid for a third straight win at the Canadian Pacific Women's Open -- her first as a pro, ironically -- certainly classifies.

Lydia Ko with Women's Canadian Open trophy

For those of you unfamiliar with the history of the Women's Canadian Open, it was a major from 1979 to 2000. Back then it was the du Maurier Classic; however, du Maurier was a tobacco company and, because of the Tobacco Products Control Act, a ban on tobacco company sponsorship nearly killed the event.  (In 2001 the Women's British Open became the new fourth major.)

After going back-to-back as an amateur in 2012 and 2013, this year is going to be a new experience for Lydia -- not just because she's a pro this time but because (as is common with national Opens) the venue has changed yet again. After wins at both Vancouver Golf Club (2012) and Royal Mayfair Golf Club (2013), Lydia will now have to master the London Hunt and Country Club if she hopes to become the youngest three-peater in history.

The new venue also comes with a new sponsor, the Canadian Pacific Railway Company (the fourth since du Maurier's sponsorship ended). Canadian Pacific replaced the Canadian National Railway Company, the "CN" of the former CN Canadian Women's Open that Lydia won twice.

Here's an interesting bit of trivia from concerning something you'll probably notice during the TV coverage:
Lydia Ko entered the media center Wednesday with tape on her trademark glasses. Turns out her mother, who travels with her to every event, was to blame.
“I actually asked my mom could you please clean my glasses, but in that sense I never knew that she would break them,” Ko said, laughing. “I actually got them in Korea, and I actually got sent four new pairs but they’re all a little different to what I have. So for now I’m surviving on tape and super glue. I mean, it’s been okay. We’ve been trying to tape it up again. But I mean it shows, but I’ve already been on TV the last two weeks with it on, so what is the big difference?”
Oh, those crazy moms. You gotta love 'em!

GC will broadcast some of Lydia's attempt to defend her defense (?) at noon ET today and tomorrow. And as usual, Tony Jesselli has posted a preview as well as some photos in other posts since he's attending this event.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Pros and Cons of Relaxed Rules Golf

There's been a lot of effort put forth lately to try and make golf more accessible to beginners, and I guess most of you have heard about GC's latest contribution to the efforts. It's called "Relaxed Rules Golf" and it's stirred up a wide range of emotions. Tweets to GC have ranged from praise to accusations of "you're teaching people to cheat." And to kick off their efforts, GC sponsored a "Relaxed Rules" Tournament on Tuesday, to get some feedback directly from the golfers involved.

Geoff Shackelford posted his own take on the concept last Friday. He has mixed emotions on the subject as well, although he clearly falls on the side of simplifying things. For those of you who may have missed it, here are the 7 rules that make up "Relaxed Rules Golf":
  1. Maximum score is double par
  2. Penalties are all 1 stroke
  3. Limit ball search to 2 minutes
  4. Improve unfortunate lies
  5. Conceded putts allowed
  6. No equipment restrictions
  7. Use common sense
The idea is to speed up play and eliminate confusion for beginners. It uses ideas from the pros' practice rounds and from the common practices of weekend players. GC compares the concept to how weekend athletes (and even pros) typically play other sports.

Personally, I think each side of the debate has some merit. Today I thought I'd look at "Relaxed Rules Golf" (hereafter called RRG) and some of the issues raised by the concept. There are both pluses and minuses that have to be taken into account.

As much as I hate to do it, I have to begin by pointing out how blind we golfers tend to be to the shortcomings of our sport. Golf has traditionally been one of the last holdouts when it comes to discrimination, whether it's been race- or gender-oriented. We are so proud of how our game depends on the character of the individuals involved to call penalties on themselves on the course, but we completely ignore how we demean players who aren't "like us," which is just as much a matter of character but isn't legislated by the Rules.

I hear a lot of this in this rules debate. We hang on to the "letter of the law" (or "letter of the Rules," if you please) while ignoring the greater purpose of golf, which is to have fun competing with friends. We need rules for sure -- rules are how we define a level playing field for all participants -- but do they need to be as complex as they have become? This is the issue.

When weekend athletes play sports, unless they are playing in a tournament -- and this is an important aspect of these RRG rules -- they rarely play strictly by the official rules. You won't see a 3-on-3 basketball game where a "free path" foul gets called. (With all apologies to golfers who think they are the only athletes to call fouls on themselves, that is only true in tournaments. Most weekend athletes in other sports call their own fouls as well; it's just that they play by relaxed rules that ignore nitpicky fouls.)

The Rules of Golf recognize that there is more than one way to play golf. For example, they recognize stroke play, match play, and Stableford scoring systems. Stroke play counts every stroke; match play counts only holes won or lost (which allows it to use Rule 5 of RRG), and Stableford awards points (which allows it to use a rule similar to Rule #1 of RRG). So the Rules of Golf themselves set a precedent: In some forms of golf we don't need to count every single stroke, even though rules are provided that could be used to regulate those strokes.

Why shouldn't we have a form of golf with extremely simplified rules for recreational play? The word recreational is extremely important here. While GC's tournament on Tuesday may be useful for gaining feedback about RRG, ultimately a GGC tournament is a contradiction of terms. By definition, each foursome is playing by a slightly different set of rules, so there can be no legitimate comparison of their scores! Rules exist for the purpose of creating a level playing ground for all the participants, and RRG rules are simply not robust enough to support tournament play. For an individual foursome, RRG might be a sensible compromise... especially since most weekend foursomes play similar rules already.

HOWEVER, there is one aspect of RRG which I haven't heard discussed very much yet, but it needs to be. (In fairness, Charlie Rymer, one of GC's most vocal supporters of RRG, mentioned this briefly Tuesday morning but I doubt that it registered on most listeners.) This one aspect of golf is different from almost any other sport and it can affect even individual recreational play.

Namely, how does RRG affect a player's handicap?

To be blunt, if you plan to turn in a score that will affect your handicap, you simply can't do it under RRG rules. If you do, you are artificially lowering your handicap. It may look good when you brag to your friends, but it'll bite you in the butt when you enter a tournament! Your handicap will be much lower under RRG rules than it would be under the official Rules of Golf, and you'll be robbing yourself of strokes that you're entitled to claim. The better your game is, the less RRG will affect your handicap -- after all, most of the RRG rules affect bad shots -- but it will adversely affect your handicap all the same.

Although most golfers don't think about it like this, your handicap is the way the official Rules compensate for your poor and penalty shots. For you skeptics out there, RRG does the same thing. The difference is that RRG compensates only in this round, with this foursome, in informal play; your handicap compensates in EVERY round, in EVERY foursome, in competition as well as informal play. If you want to build a handicap, RRG is NOT YOUR FRIEND.

But for casual rounds, practice rounds, beginners learning how to hit the ball, and better players trying to learn new shots on the course, RRG makes a lot of sense. It allows you move along at a good pace which, when you're focused on getting better and not on winning something, can be better for your attitude and help you get better sooner.

I agree with Geoff Shackelford. I'd like to see "when possible, play it as it lies" retained as the primary rule in RRG because that's the basic concept in the game. But simplifying the penalties and such so that even new players could walk up to a ball in a hazard and go "Oh, I know what to do" would be a huge boost to the game for us all.

[UPDATE: Wednesday we learned that GC gave out prizes at their tournament... but they weren't based on score. Instead, they gave prizes for the best suggestions to improve RRG. It's clear they understand the limitations of what they're proposing. You have to give them high marks for that!]

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Basics of Green-Reading, AimPoint Express Style

Adam Scott reading a puttHere's a link to a article that explains the basics of AimPoint Express, the simplified green-reading system being used by Adam Scott, Stacy Lewis, and other players.

Here's a general tip I found in the article that should help you make better putts even without using the AimPoint Express system (I added the emphasis in the second paragraph):
Here's a test of your green-reading savvy: Imagine a clock face on a typical back-to-front-sloping green, with the hole at the center, and the 12 o'clock position representing a straight downhill putt. Which putt will break the most: A sidehiller from the three o'clock position? A downhill, sidehill putt from two o'clock? Or an uphill sidehill putt from four o'clock? (Assume that each putt is hit with excellent speed, so that it would roll 1.5 feet beyond the hole if it missed.) If you said that the sidehill putt (three o'clock) would break the most, you're in the majority—but you're wrong. The downhill putt from two o'clock will break the most and the uphill putt from four o'clock the least.
Why? A putt breaks because it is falling due to gravity. Since the putt from two o'clock is slightly downhill, it's hit more softly than the three o'clock putt, so it takes more time to reach the hole. Since gravity has a longer time to act, the ball breaks more.
Even if you don't try the AimPoint Express technique, that tip alone should save you some strokes.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Wyndham Championship

Winner: Camilo Villegas

Around the wider world of golf: Inbee Park defended her title at the final Wegmans LPGA Championship, the LPGA's 4th major of the year; Martin Piller won the News Sentinel Open on the Tour; Bernhard Langer picked up another trophy at the Champions Tour's Dick's Sporting Goods Open; Marissa Steen won the Eagle Classic on the Symetra Tour; Marc Warren won the ET's new Made in Denmark event (is that a cool name or what?); and Bo-Mee Lee won the NEC Karuizawa 72 Ladies on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has details).

Camilo looks at reflection in trophy

A friend from Brazil is here in the States for a visit and he wanted me to take him to Carowinds. Carowinds is an amusement park on the border of North and South Carolina, and he wanted to ride roller coasters. There are quite a few at the park, including 6 rated as "aggressive thrill rides." We went down Saturday and rode all 6 of them.

While I'm sure there are coasters in other parts of the country (and the world) that are bigger and faster, these 6 coasters let you experience just about every kind of coaster you can ride: High coasters, hanging coasters, ridiculously fast coasters, and even coasters that change direction and run backwards. My favorite is the NightHawk; here are a few photos of it in action.

NightHawk in curve
NightHawk in curve 2
NightHawk in dive

No, your eyes aren't deceiving you. Riders spend most of this ride hanging not only under the track but under the cars as well. There's nothing quite like diving straight down, head first, when there's nothing between you and the ground. They tell you to empty your pockets before you ride, but some people just won't do it. While we waited in line, we saw all kinds of things flying out of the riders' pockets as they zipped around. Understand? That's why this is an "aggressive thrill ride."

About 2 hours northeast of Carowinds, a number of very aggressive golfers were creating a thrill ride of their own. They didn't run nearly as fast as the NightHawk -- and they certainly didn't do that wild series of barrelrolls we did just before we re-entered the station -- but they were playing with their livelihoods. Who would make it into the FedExCup Playoffs next week? Who would keep their cards next year?

In an unexpected move, Camilo Villegas -- largely MIA for the last 3.5 seasons -- zipped to the top of the leaderboard with a bogey-free 63. Meanwhile, third-round leader Nick Watney -- also missing in action for a quite a while -- simply couldn't find the bottom of the cup. The leaderboard filled up with former PGA Tour winners who had been off their games for a while but suddenly found themselves in this last-ditch effort to make the playoffs and save their cards.

Of course, only Camilo pulled it off. But what did you expect? Mere mortals are no match for Spiderman! The next question is... will Spiderman retain his powers into the foreseeable future or was this just a one-time heroic effort?

Either way, in addition to an all-expenses paid ticket that will probably get him at least to the 3rd playoff event, Camilo gets his first Limerick Summary in a very long time. Can he get another one? Only time will tell...
By winning the end of the season
Camilo insured he’ll be breezin’
Through most of the playoffs
Without any layoffs.
Let’s hope that he’s back, not just teasin’.
The photos came from,,, and, in that order. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

59 -- It's Not Just a Champion's Age Anymore

Several players on the PGA Tour have shot 59, as have a few Tour players. The LPGA only has one -- Annika shot that -- but that still makes her a member of the club.

And now the Champions Tour has its first member to the 59 club, Kevin Sutherland.

Kevin Sutherland

And just like Jim Furyk last year, he had one bogey on the round -- a 3-putt on 18. Coulda been a 58 otherwise!

The reason I'm fascinated by Kevin's accomplishment is his mindset. Most players say they try to think about ANYTHING except shooting 59. But here's what Kevin told
Sutherland, playing in only his third Champions Tour event since turning 50 in June, recalls asking some of the players at the start of the week if anyone had ever shot 59 on the senior circuit and was surprised it had not been done.
He would not have seemed a likely candidate. Sutherland's career-low round on the PGA TOUR was a 62 in the 2010 Canadian Open. Even at home in Sacramento, California, he never seriously came close to golf's magic number.
On Saturday at En-Joie Golf Club, he couldn't miss.
Sutherland opened with four straight birdies -- two of them longer than 30 feet -- and hit hybrid into 6 feet for eagle on the par-5 fifth hole. He ran off three more birdies, including a bunker shot he holed on No. 7 that hit the pin instead of rolling 10 feet away.
Sure enough, after thinking about a 59, he made par on No. 9 to go out in 27.
"When I was 9 under after eight I was like, `That goes beyond being a good start,'" Sutherland said. "At that point I started thinking, `What do you have to do to shoot 59.' I started thinking maybe earlier than you should be, but it worked out all right."
Not only did the gallery begin to grow, Sutherland said the players ahead would watch him hit into the green. He made a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 11 for his second straight birdie, and then settled down for three straight pars.
"It got to the point where I didn't want to disappoint them," Sutherland said. "I had a 10-footer on 13 and missed it, and you would have thought I stole their young. They were really into it."
He drove onto the par-4 16th hole for a two-putt birdie to reach 13 under, and then he stuffed his approach to tap-in distance on the 17th, leaving him a par away from 58.
"I wasn't nervous all day, but I was nervous on 18," he said. "You don't get that chance very often."
Think about what Kevin said for a moment. "At that point [9 under after eight] I started thinking, `What do you have to do to shoot 59?'" And he had asked about 59s earlier in the week. This is a player who is consciously thinking about shooting 59. He's not worried about whether he can do it or not. He's not worried about what barriers might be in the way. He just played his game and let it happen. And he says he plans to play today without comparing today's score to yesterday's.

To quote Yoda, "There is do or do not. There is no try."

Look, I'm not going to tell you this is a magic mental talisman that will make you move mountains of strokes off your scorecard. But I think there IS some magic in being free enough to simply go out and see what you can do. Don't worry about the odds against it or how you've played in the past. Think instead about how you can shave a stroke off your score on this hole or that hole, then see if you can do it.

This is a game. Why not try just playing it for a change?

It got Kevin Sutherland into the history books. Who knows what it might do for you?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hey, How Did Brittany Lincicome Get in the Lead?

Yeah, I know. All the analysts said that a bomber had the advantage at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. Monroe Golf Club has wide fairways that just begged for a big hitter to take over.

But they all said that big hitter would be Lexi Thompson, not the LPGA's most notorious fisherwoman.

Brittany Lincicome

Granted, Lexi is tied for second place. (As is Inbee Park, so maybe that "big hitter" thing wasn't such a big deal after all.) But both Lexi and Inbee are 3 shots back. And notoriously short hitters like Jane Park, Meena Lee, and Lydia Ko are 4 shots back. Brittany simply shouldn't be there.

It's not that Brittany's a bad player. Far from it. She's got 5 LPGA titles including one major, the 2009 Kraft Nabisco. (Remember her eagle on the 18th?) But even the writer of the LPGA's 2nd round notes sounds a bit surprised by her play:
She hasn’t held a second round lead since 2009 but Brittany Lincicome now holds the 36-hole lead at a major championship for the first time in her 10-year career.
According to the article, Brittany sounds like a number of other players on various tours:
"I haven’t been here in a while so it’s pretty exciting anytime you can shoot under par especially at a major.  It feels really nice.  I feel like all year I’ve been doing a lot of good things, hitting well, putting well, chipping well, they just don’t seem to all come together on the same day.  So it was nice to play the last two days and just kind of seeing like I was out there doing my thing and there was not too much stress involved."
In other words, she's been playing better than her score would lead you to believe. I went back over her finishes this year and she's only had one Top10; the vast majority of her finishes have been outside the Top25. Some have accused her of being, shall we say, less than dedicated to her golf when there's a fishing pole nearby. (Or possibly a poker table -- she's into Texas Hold'Em as well.) I don't know what happened, but she certainly hasn't been much of a factor since 2011 when she won twice.

But while she wouldn't be the first fun-loving player to find her game derailed by the opportunities available to a Tour player, few seem determined to have as much fun as Brittany. Have you ever read any of Brittany's bio at The first thing listed under the "things you should know about Brittany" is:
Top three things on Brittany's bucket list? Get married/have kids, go fishing for sailfish and catch Moby Dick, and go on an Alaskan cruise.
Sounds to me like she may have a bit of trouble pulling all three of those off at once -- I just can't see Captainess Ahab's kids helping her man the harpoon in the Arctic North -- but that's part of what makes Brittany one of the more interesting players on the LPGA.

Regardless of how she got here, she's here now. And after a few years of just floating through the season, she may be on the verge of finally getting that big white winless whale off her back. I just hope for her sake that she doesn't get so distracted by the damn thing that her pursuers catch her.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Misleading TV Ad

I guess I'm doing another rant today, but I consider this one a public service message. I'm going to save you all a lot of time. But first I want to make one thing clear:
This is NOT a review of the teaching product promoted by the TV ad in question. The teacher in question is an excellent teacher, and I have no doubt the product is a good one. But I'm really pissed off by what I think is a misleading TV commercial.
Okay, here's the deal. No doubt you've seen the TV ads for the new Hank Haney Blueprint DVDs at The commercial tells you that if you go to that website you'll find a video that will tell you how you can cut 3, 6 or even 10 strokes off your game and furthermore add 4mph to your swing speed. You are led to believe that you will watch a video that tells you how to do this.

Technically, that's true. The video tells you to buy the DVDs. Wow, what a revelation.

But here's what really pisses me off:
  • First of all, this "video" is essentially a slide show that flashes up the words being said. That's right, you watch the words being read to you. There are a few photos and a few seconds of Haney helping someone scattered through it, but it's a pitiful excuse for a video.
  • To make things worse, the voice isn't even Haney's. That's right, the video that tells you how much you need these wondrous DVDs isn't even the voice of the teacher!
  • And what really drove me nuts was the fact that this video gives you no idea how long it goes on. I watched somewhere around 15 minutes of it and then, since it showed no signs of stopping and I had already been told multiple times how Hank was singularly suited to fix my game, I simply left the site.
Clearly the video is little more than a sales pitch... and a boring one at that. After the video ran for a minute or so, a variety of buying options appeared underneath the video. I would have appreciated it if they had been visible from the beginning.

If you saw any of the Haney Project shows on GC, you know that Hank often used a two-plane swing method to try and fix his "projects." (Ray Romano and Charles Barkley come to mind.) The new DVDs use what they're calling "the Haney Parallel Plane Method," which the video eventually says is a one-plane swing method. This one-plane swing is, according to the info that finally came up, "...on plane according to your body’s unique mechanics and delivers a longer, more accurate ball."

There are a variety of products and you can purchase various combinations of them:
  • the basic DVD set (which you can also digitally download for $10 less -- and yes, you can buy both digital & DVDs together)
  • the "Mini Clinic," a downloadable set of short videos geared to specific swing problems
  • a "Swing Plane Caddie," which is apparently a reference card of some sort
  • and a 14-day "test drive" of Haney University, his online golf school
And Haney is offering a 365-day money-back guarantee, which sounds better than most of the swing improvement guarantees I've seen.

Let me repeat myself: I'm not making any judgments about the quality of the teaching materials Haney has created. I'm certain these are high-quality materials from a well-respected teacher. But I'm terribly disappointed with the way he's chosen to market it.

Don't waste your time on that useless video. If you want Hank's new instructional materials, let the video run for a minute or so until the ordering info appears, then turn it off and place your order.

Thus endeth today's rant.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Captain Tom Knows His Players... It's the Media Who Don't

I guess this counts as one of my rants. For those of you who enjoy them, settle in.

For those of you who don't... tough. This is MY blog!


Monday Tom Watson had a news conference about the Ryder Cup and maybe half the questions were about Tiger. And when Tom said he would be waiting to see what Tiger said about his health and game, the media was shocked! Can you trust Tiger? they asked. Tom simply said “Absolutely. I trust him inherently." But that wasn't enough for the media, and Tom had to state it even more directly.

Of course, Wednesday brought us Tiger's announcement that he had withdrawn himself from consideration for the team (as well as any other golf before the World Challenge in December -- remember, that supports his foundation so he hopes to play there) and had already contacted Tom Watson with the news (this quote is from the statement on
I have already spoken to Tom [Watson] about the Ryder Cup, and while I greatly appreciate his thinking about me for a possible captain's pick, I took myself out of consideration. The U.S. team and the Ryder Cup mean too much to me not to be able to give it my best.
Tom tweeted that he hated it and praised Tiger for "taking the high road"... but I suspect he wanted to say "I told you so!" (I suspect he's also relieved that his news conferences will be about half as long from now on.)

When GC announced the announcement, most of the anchors seemed surprised. I bet that's going to be the common reaction among the media at most sports outlets. Let me explain.

The photo above came from (one of our local TV sites) last week, when they announced that Tiger told the Wyndham folks on Friday that he wouldn't be playing.

Wyndham tweet

Excuse me, but doesn't that say Tiger "...will shut it down to get healthy"? I realize that doesn't categorically state that he won't play anymore this year, but isn't "shut it down" a bit more emphatic than just "won't be playing this week"? Shouldn't this have given the media some clue that Tiger was considering his options?

Or is it just that the media has decided that they prefer the reckless Tiger of 2008 and refuse to accept anything else?

Do any of you remember when Tiger first emerged after the scandal? When he made his public apology and said he planned to change in many ways, not just his sex life? Remember how some of the media complained a mere two months later that Tiger hadn't changed at all? (As if someone could change every aspect in their life in a mere two months!)

Flash back two or three months to Tiger's return from back surgery and to the press conference. I wrote in a post that week:
Perhaps I missed something but in the presser I saw, Tiger was asked if he thought he could win. He replied, "The goal is always the same..." but then he grinned and added "...but it'll be a lot tougher this time." That sounds to me like someone who thought the question was unrealistic and answered it with a joke. But apparently Tiger isn't allowed to change OR to joke.
There's an old truism that says "If you haven't changed a major belief in the last five years, check your pulse. You may be dead."

Perhaps the media needs to check its pulse.

Clearly Tiger is changing. He's getting older and having to make adjustments to his game as well as his life. But the media seems to believe that if Tiger said something 15 years ago, he's not allowed to change it. (How well would you fare under those conditions?) Tiger always said he wouldn't play if he didn't think he could win... but that's back when he was young and did stupid things like defy doctor's orders and play 90 holes on a fractured leg. While I'm unwilling to make an absolute connection, that was the last major he won, wasn't it? He's struggled with injuries since.

But the media insists that Tiger either doesn't tell us the truth -- that is, that he no longer believes he can win -- or that he's deluded. They dissect his swing and tell him what he needs to do to fix it when it's clear he's not able to swing the club normally. In fact, more than a few analysts make it abundantly clear that unless Tiger does everything exactly as he did back in 2000 he'll NEVER break Jack's record. And Wednesday I heard analysts say that Tiger only played this summer because of the majors, that the Ryder Cup wasn't really an important consideration for him. (This despite Tiger's good friend John Cook saying that Tiger was extremely motivated to make the team and had played in an effort to get on it.)

As a side note, Michael Breed watched Tiger practice at the PGA last week and said Tiger was hitting it pure on the range, that he wasn't missing a shot, so his swing was apparently okay. But Tiger told the press that he was having trouble taking it to the course (when, among other things, video footage indicates that he's swinging much harder) and so Monday night Breed did a spot about why players have that problem. Ironically, even after Tiger's announcement Wednesday, I heard Paul Azinger on ESPN explaining how Tiger needed to change his swing despite the clear fact that his back still wasn't right. Isn't it even possible that his swing problems might be related to his back, folks?

It's clear that Tom Watson's view of Tiger's situation was different from the media's... and, as a result, they reasoned that he would choose Tiger because of the "pressure" to put Tiger on the team for TV ratings or whatever other reason they could come up with. And it's equally clear that the nine Ryder Cup team members wanted Tiger on the team as well... and it's hard for me to believe that was a popularity contest rather than a desire to win.

So I'm losing my faith in the media's ability to give me any accurate info about Tiger. I can't wait to see them backpedal once Tiger gets healthy and starts winning again with his... hmmm, this will be his fifth swing, won't it? ;-)

Okay, rant over. We now resume our regularly scheduled golf events... without Tiger. Even if the media can't understand why.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My 5 to Watch for the LPGA Championship

The Champions Tour is done. The PGA Tour is done. But the LPGA is NOT done.

With majors, that is.

LPGA Major #4 of 2014, the Wegmans LPGA Championship, begins tomorrow. As usual, Tony Jesselli has done a preview of the event at his site that will get you oriented. And of course it's time for me to pick my "5 to Watch" because... well, I just like to make a fool of myself, I guess.

Defending champ Inbee Park

In case you hadn't heard, Michelle Wie is out for a few weeks with what they're calling a "stress reaction" to her right index finger. She's hoping to be back in time for the Evian. And at the time of this writing, Mo Martin's status is yet to be determined. Mo also withdrew last week with some ligament damage to her thumb -- she called it a sprain in her presser this week. She's in Rochester and says she's about 85% but will make a decision on whether to play or not by Thursday.

That could mean two of the major champions this year won't be playing. Bummer.

Having said that, here are my picks:
  • So Yeon Ryu is simply due. I don't know any other way to put it. She has played poorly in all three majors and yet has been in the mix at almost every other event. She's got to break through eventually, so why not this week?
  • Inbee Park is defending champion and she seems to be gaining steam despite her loss to rookie Mirim Lee last week. Maybe she feels she has something to prove this week.
  • Suzann Pettersen is another player who's due. She's coming off finishes of T6, T2, and 3 since she missed the cut at the US Open.
  • Stacy Lewis. Need I say more? And she's won here before. She's my overall pick to win.
  • And finally, I'm taking another flier on Stephanie Meadow. That girl's got some game and I think this could be a good week for her.
Why am I not choosing Lexi Thompson? I just think she's still not back from her win at the year's first major -- she's been too erratic for me to pick her this week.

So there you go. Will I do better than I did last week, where at least I had Rory and Rickie? Stay tuned... says coverage begins tomorrow on GC at 12:30pm ET.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sizing Up the US Ryder Cup Team

Sunday at the PGA Championship was the last day to automatically qualify for the US Ryder Cup team. Captain Tom Watson spoke to the media Monday and dealt with a million questions, mostly concerning Tiger.

Tom Watson

Today I'm going to take a quick look at the 9 qualifiers for the US Ryder Cup Team and who I think the current frontrunners are for the 3 remaining Captain's Picks.

First, here are the qualifiers:
  1. Bubba Watson
  2. Rickie Fowler
  3. Jim Furyk
  4. Jimmy Walker:
  5. Phil Mickelson
  6. Matt Kuchar
  7. Jordan Spieth
  8. Patrick Reed
  9. Zach Johnson
All-in-all, this isn't a bad team. The only real question marks are Kucher's bad back (although it's not as bad as some other players who didn't make the team) and Bubba's recent lack of form. The ability to "hide" players should minimize these problems if they continue over the next 6 weeks.

While Jordan Spieth has been off his game lately, I suspect he's just a bit tired after a nonstop year of pushing himself. I note that he's taken this week (the Wyndham) off, so I imagine he's figured that out as well. ;-)

I suspect Tom was thrilled when Phil, Patrick, and Zach played their way onto the team. We forget that Phil nearly won in the Middle East back in January; a back injury on the plane ride home threw him off his game. (And I can tell you from experience that, as you get older, it takes longer to recover from injury than when you're younger.) In addition to Patrick becoming a father, Tom noted that he broke his driver earlier this year and only recently found a new one he likes. And Zach will provide some much needed experience, giving Tom even more freedom to pick rookies.

So the big question becomes who Tom will pick to finish out the team. Based on how they're playing right now, here are my picks:
  • Keegan Bradley: Given how well they paired up last time, almost everyone has assumed Phil and Keegan will be a team once again. And up until the PGA where he missed the cut, Keegan was making progress up the rankings -- and even then he finished up at #13. (That's with DJ not included.) I wouldn't be surprised if he's the player Tom said texted him about finding a new driver and that he was going to "make him pick him," which Tom said he liked.
  • Ryan Moore: Ryan is #11 in the rankings -- just below Dufner, who's unlikely to play -- and has four Top12s in his last 5 tournaments. (He finished T41 at the PGA.) He's got some good match play experience from his amateur days, including the US Amateur and Walker Cup. And he's also a streaky good putter.
And I'm expecting Tom to pick Tiger unless the Big Cat simply can't play. However, for this post I'll assume that he can't. Who would Tom likely choose as his third pick?
  • Brandt Snedeker: If Tom passes on Tiger, I believe this pick would come down to Brandt or Hunter Mahan, both of whom have had a rough summer -- Brandt with some mediocre finishes, Hunter with some recent missed cuts. Both played well in the last two big events. This will be a question of who plays best over the next 3 weeks... and Hunter has chosen not to play this week. Brandt is in the Wyndham field.
The US Team is shaping up better than it appeared just a week ago. The "underdog" label will still clearly belong to them, however, and I think that may be a good thing. They sure haven't dealt with that "favorites on paper" label all that well lately!

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 PGA Championship

Winner: Rory McIlroy

Around the wider world of golf: Mirim Lee got her first LPGA win in a playoff over Inbee Park at the Meijer LPGA Classic; Sadena Parks beat Jackie Stoelting in a playoff to win the New England Charity Classic on the Symetra Tour; Cameron Percy won the Price Cutter Charity Championshp on the Tour; Greg Machtaler won the Forces and Families Open on the PGA TOUR Canada; Gunn Charoenkul won the Yulongwan Yunnan Open on the PGA TOUR China; Ssu‐Chia Cheng won the Taiwan LPGA JING-DU Construction Open on the TLPGA; and Ji-Yai Shin won the Meiji Cup on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has details).

Rory with trophy in the dark

Golf has clearly entered a transitional phase. Not a passing of the torch, not a changing of the guard, but a full-blown transitional phase where legends, upcoming stars, and all the players in-between are stepping it up. If you needed any proof, all you had to do was watch the final round of this year's PGA Championship.

As recently as Friday, Tom Watson remarked that the US Ryder Cup team hopefuls were "falling like flies." And with Tiger, Matt Kuchar, and defending champion Jason Dufner out with back and neck problems, it looked as if we'd have a boring finish. Perhaps Rory would run away with it, we thought, or maybe Phil would find a little more magic. But nobody expected much, especially after so much rain fell and softened the course.

What we got was an all-out battle befitting a course called Valhalla, after the Norse Heaven where heroes went after dying in battle, and where the mighty Thor smashed his enemies with his hammer, Mjölnir. Instead of a handful of timid players trying to avoid mistakes, it seemed like players from every era rose to the challenge. The first to step up was Ernie Els, blistering the front nine with a bogey-free 30 and finishing with a 65 and a T7 finish. Then a number of players followed suit, posting 65s and 66s.

And finally the main contenders stepped up. At one point we saw 5 players tied for the lead, each making breathtaking shots to momentarily take the solo lead before another player snatched it away. At last the field narrowed to 4 players -- Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson, and Henrik Stenson. The up-and-downs came so fast and furious that CBS struggled to keep up with them. Darkness fell as the 4 men hurried to finish their battle.

In the end, the final two holes determined the victor. Stenson fell back when he could do no better than par on the par-5 18th. Phil and Rickie both bogeyed 17 while Rory birdied it to take a 2-shot lead to 18. Even then, Phil nearly holed out for eagle on 18 to force a playoff. When he settled for birdie, Rory -- barely able to see from his lie in the greenside bunker -- was able to make par for the win.

This was the best major battle of the year, and perhaps the best PGA in many years -- even better than the Tiger-Bob May battle of 2000. It certainly set the stage for some serious play during the FedExCup Playoffs in a couple of weeks... and the Ryder Cup just after that. With Phil and Patrick Reed playing their way onto the team, Tom Watson will likely have all 3 Captain's Picks free to pick hot players from the next month.

In the meantime, it's time to reward the triumphant victor with his Limerick Summary. I'm sorry, Rory -- I'd have it delivered via Valkyrie, but I just don't have those kind of connections:
In Valhalla, the home of the brave
Where Thor’s warriors live (not the knaves),
Rory dropped his own hammer
And silenced the clamor
Concerning the golf world’s new wave.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, August 10, 2014

If You're Curious About Tiger's Swing...

The arguments about what Tiger is working on with Sean Foley -- as well as whether they're working on the correct things --drags on. Brandel Chamblee has tried to explain things, although I'm not always clear what he's talking about. But I found an explanation at that includes a computer diagram of the changes to Tiger's swing.

computer image of Tiger's swing changes

In the image, blue shows Tiger in 2000 while yellow shows Tiger right now. Seems innocuous enough, doesn't it? In fact, you'll hear many instructors tell you that this is a good position.

Apparently there's more to the change than a simple shaft lean. The article explains what that "more" is. When I read the article, what I found most interesting is that Trackman doesn't show everything about your swing. I'd never heard that before.

Anyway, while the article makes no claims about what Tiger should be doing, it does a good job of explaining what's actually causing all the disagreements. If you read it, at least you'll understand what the TV analysts are arguing about!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

It's Too Bad Only One Can Win

When the rain died down and the course got long, Valhalla gave us a wilder mix of contenders than we ever expected.

Phil gets in the mix

Here are the Top8 -- none more than 3 off the lead -- and why each is interesting:
  • -9, Rory McIlroy: Everybody knows Rory's story. The Friday jinx is done, he's coming off a major and a WGC, and a wet course lets him just bomb away. Can he run away with his third win in a row?
  • -8 (T2), Jason Day: Back at the WGC Match Play earlier in the year, Jason appeared ready to do what Rory has done before a thumb injury sidetracked him for several months. Then there were other ailments, like last week's vertigo. But even though he's not 100% yet, he looks to be back in form. A major would put him in rare company, mate.
  • -8 (T2), Jim Furyk: After a season of near-misses and runner-ups, Furyk has put himself back in the mix despite the length of the course. A win at Valhalla almost certainly locks up a Hall of Fame nomination for him.
  • -7 (T4), Ryan Palmer: A PGA Tour journeyman with three wins, most of us have expected more from him. But Ryan Palmer is in a zone this week and only needs to stay there for two more rounds. A major could change his career.
  • -7 (T4), Rickie Fowler: With a T5 and two T2s in the majors this season, Rickie's cumulative score is actually several strokes lower than Rory's! He's put himself back in the mix yet again and could break through for his first major, which would seriously change his image.
  • -7 (T4), Mikko Ilonen: Ilonen probably isn't familiar to most of you since he's a European Tour player but he's the 2000 British Amateur champ and has four ET wins, including this year's Irish Open. He's a serious threat when he gets in the thick of things. A win would likely give him a Tour card and possibly a Ryder Cup spot.
  • -6 (T7), Phil Mickelson: Well, he certainly picked the right time to find his game! Winning this week would give him 6 majors, tying him with Lee Trevino and Nick Faldo. That's rare air.
  • -6 (T7), Bernd Wiesberger: Another ET player with two wins. He's from Austria and he's had two runner-ups this season. This win would likely give him, like Ilonen, a Tour card and possibly a nod from McGinley.
And there are a whole pack of serious contenders at -5 including Stenson, Stricker, DeLaet, and Westwood.

It really is too bad that only one player can win. Each of these guys has a compelling story, and you can argue that each of them deserves a win. Of course, that's been the story at most of this year's majors.

But I think it's unlikely that Rory will run away with this one. There's just too much firepower and too many guys "on their games" this week... and Valhalla is set up to let them all make birdies.

Friday, August 8, 2014

That Way Lies Madness

The first day of a major is usually a bit atypical -- unexpected names pop up on the leaderboard, one or two storylines show up that we've pretty much forgotten by the end of the weekend, etc. It's happened so much that, in some twisted way, we've learned to expect the unexpected.

But Thursday at the PGA was just a bit too weird for my tastes.

Rory in bunker

Granted, there were some things we expected. For example:
  • Rory played well but streaky -- a stretch of bad play sandwiched between two stretches of very good play.
  • Tiger played a bit worse than we expected after Wednesday's practice, but we didn't expect anything spectacular because he hasn't had much preparation time.
  • We had some of the customary unexpected players at the top. While guys like Kevin Chappell and Edoardo Molinari are definitely good players, we wouldn't expect them at the top of the leaderboard on the first day.
However... after that, things got a bit weirder than usual:
  • Although Luke Donald struggled down the stretch, he (-1), Ian Poulter (-3), and Lee Westwood (-6, tied for the lead) suddenly started playing like they wanted to get on the Ryder Cup team!
  • Matt Kuchar had to withdraw before the round with back problems, while Jason Dufner was forced to WD after 10 holes from his back problems. That's two potentially big hits to the American Ryder Cup team, especially since Duff has no idea when he'll be able to play again.
  • Jim Furyk (-5) and Tom Watson (+1) played extremely well at Valhalla despite being relatively short hitters on a long course.
  • Jason Day posted -2 despite some serious health struggles this year. I certainly didn't expect that!
  • And while Henrik Stenson posted better than he has this year (-4) and Rickie Fowler once again put up a good score (-2), a number of players I expected to do better didn't. Louis Oosthuizen, Justin Rose, Sergio, Bubba and Martin Kaymer could do no better than -1; Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott could do no better than E. Charl Schwartzel, Graeme McDowell, Ryan Moore and Keegan Bradley didn't even break par.
What's going on here?

Granted, we've only seen one day of play. Granted, once the draw has been flipped today, things could turn on their heads. And granted, bad weather is predicted for today and possibly the rest of the tournament. I'll grant you all of that.

Still, this is shaping up to be one strange major. But given that the whole year has been a bit weird -- after all, it's the Tour's first wraparound season -- I guess I really shouldn't be surprised.

I wonder if I'll be more surprised when today's round is done?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Another New Event for the Ladies

For the most part, this week our attention will be on the PGA Championship at Valhalla -- especially since Tiger surprised everyone by showing up for a practice round on Wednesday. And not only did he play 9 holes and walk the rest (with wedge and putter) but he actually looked better than he did last week before he tweaked his back! Go figure...

But before we get too caught up in "Glory's Last Shot" we should take note of the Meijer LPGA Classic, another brand new event on the LPGA calendar this year.

Lexi Thompson

As usual, Tony Jesselli has done a preview of the event and has also posted quite a few photos from the event (including this photo of Lexi). But I'll try to give you a few quick facts.

This is the first event in Grand Rapids MI since 2000, and is being held at the Blythefield Country Club. It's a full-field event (144 players) and, as a first-time event, there is no defending champion. (Duh!) Tony has rated the strength of field at only 67% because a number of players are taking the week off. However, with the Rolex #1 ranking on the line -- Lydia Ko is only 1.35 points behind Stacy Lewis, and just over 3 points separate the Top4 -- all of the Top10 players except #9 So Yeon Ryu are in the field.

Because GC isn't carrying the PGA Championship -- TNT has the Thursday and Friday broadcasts, from 1pm-7pm ET -- GC decided to put the LPGA on at the same time. You can watch the Meijer LPGA Classic on GC from 5pm-7pm ET today and tomorrow. With Tiger going off early today, you won't have to worry about missing him while you watch the ladies.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

If You Want to Know All About Rory's 3 Majors...

My friends over at Function18 (one of the UK's golf clothing suppliers) sent me a link to this cool graphic they made with all kinds of facts about Rory's 3 major wins. It's got just about everything you ever wanted to know about them -- even about Rory's dad's bet! Just click on the graphic to get a larger version.

Function18 Rory McIlroy Infographic

You can also find the original at this link at the Function18 blog.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My 5 to Watch at the PGA

Well, it's finally here. It's the last major of the PGA Tour season...

And I don't expect Tiger to play. He may try -- he's stubborn that way -- but I don't think he should and so he doesn't even factor into my calculations this week.

Of course, this guy does.

Rory with 3 major trophies

Today I unveil my "5 to Watch" for the PGA Championship. At this point in the season, there aren't a lot of surprises left, are there? Most players have been focused on this part of the season -- next week is the Wyndham (just 30 minutes or so from where I live), then the FedExCup Playoffs, and then the Ryder Cup. If guys haven't found their games yet, it's hard to believe they'll find them now!

So let's see if I can still pull a couple of surprises out of my hat...
  • Of course, I'd have to be an idiot not to include Rory McIlroy in my picks. The new World #1 got to the top the old-fashioned way -- he took it! After back-to-back history-making wins at the Open and Bridgestone, you have to figure he's at least got a chance at winning three in a row. But Rory isn't my choice to win this week.
  • Rickie Fowler is the only guy in the field with 3 Top5s in the majors this year, and he's coming off a T8 at Bridgestone. I expect him to show up big again this week.
  • Likewise, Justin Rose posted a T4 at Bridgestone this past week. After an understandably flat month -- after all, he won two big events back-to-back just a month ago -- he seems to be picking up steam again.
  • My favorite for this week is Sergio Garcia. Maybe I'm just rooting for the story, but I was actually a bit relieved when he didn't win the WGC since going back-to-back with a WGC and a major would be tough. Sergio is playing so well -- and seems to be in such a good place mentally and emotionally -- that I really like his chances at Valhalla.
  • And my flier pick is none other than Colin Montgomerie. Monty has a couple of senior majors under his belt now -- US victories as well -- so the Monty teeing it up this week is a very different man from the one who struggled on the regular tour. Valhalla puts a premium on fairways and GIR, and those are Monty's strong suit.
I know many of you wonder why I'm passing on some strong players like...
  • Adam Scott: Adam simply doesn't seem to be putting well enough right now. And to be honest, I think he's a bit bummed out that he couldn't get a win to solidify his place at the top over the last couple of majors. He'll regroup but I don't think it'll be this week.
  • Bubba Watson: Bubba's game was perfect for Pinehurst, Hoylake, and Bridgestone... and he did nothing. I simply don't see him getting things together this week.
  • Phil Mickelson: That 62 on Sunday was big... but just not big enough.
  • Jordan Spieth: I think the emotion of his nonstop rise to the top echelons of the game have finally caught up with him. He needs a break to regroup before he breaks through.
And there are a dozen more who I think are just pressing too hard, either to make the Playoffs or the Ryder Cup.

It's hard to defend any major except the Masters because of the changing venues, so I don't expect "the Duff" to pull it off this time -- especially with the neck problem he's had lately. Despite including Rory & Rose in my picks, I'm convinced we're going to see another new major winner this week.

And I think it could be Sergio. We'll find out soon enough, won't we?

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

Winner: Rory McIlroy

Around the wider world of golf: Veronica Felibert won the Symetra Tour's Credit Union Classic; Geoff Ogilvy won the Barracuda Championship, the PGA TOUR's alternate field event; Kenny Perry won the 3M Championship on the Champions Tour; Tony Finau finally broke through on the Tour at the Stonebrae Classic; Brock Mackenzie won the ATB Financial Classic on the PGA TOUR Canada; and, if I read the translation correctly, Otake Acre won the Castrol Ladies on the JLPGA.

Rory at the WGC-Bridgestone

Which do you think made bigger news -- Rory winning his first WGC win or Tiger re-injuring his back?

It's a toss-up, I guess... but I have trouble believing that both of them will make it to the Ryder Cup. Just saying...

Let's focus on Rory though. This is two consecutive starts against world-class fields where he has clearly been the best. He won the Open in a runaway; he won the Bridgestone coming from behind. And it only took him three holes to "change the narrative," as the media likes to say, going from 3 back to 1 ahead just like that.

No one will object when he takes over the #1 spot on the OWGR today. Nobody will gripe over his sudden appearance at #3 in the FedExCup rankings. As he put it in his comments at the event:
"This is better [than the last time he reached #1]," he said. "Mentally, I'm really sharp. I didn't start to think about score. I didn't think about where I was in the tournament. I just playing shot after shot after shot. So yeah, it's good."
Oh yeah, it's good. What an understatement!

Former US President Theodore Roosevelt (our 26th President, from 1901-1909) once described his foreign policy this way: "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far." Rory has taken that to heart, as the big stick -- the huge red one with Nike printed on it (you do know that Nike was the Greek goddess of victory, don't you?) -- has truly become his policy for dealing with the big tournaments.

And yes, he's definitely going far. He averaged 335 yards off the tee at Bridgestone this week!

So, as we move into the final major of 2014, let's present Mr. McIlroy with yet another Limerick Summary. I suggest reading it in a soft voice, so as not to rouse him from that sharp mental state he's in. We don't want that big stick of his smacking something besides a golf ball, now do we?
With Rory, we don’t have to nitpick
His game or get caught up in rhetoric;
His scores are deep red.
As Roosevelt said,
“Speak softly… and smash Nike’s big stick!”
The photo came from the tournament wrap-up page at