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Friday, October 31, 2014

Freddie Talks Ryder Cup

One of the more entertaining aspects of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship has been Fred Couples answering all kinds of questions about the Ryder Cup. As you no doubt know, many people believe Freddie should be the next Ryder Cup captain, given his 3-0 record as a Presidents Cup captain.

Freddie's comments made waves all over the media and so, in case you somehow missed them, I've pulled a few thoughts from these articles at ESPN, USAToday, and PGATOUR.com. (The photo came from the latter.) I think Freddie's thoughts will likely anger a lot of people because... well...

To be blunt, Freddie apparently doesn't see what all the fuss is about. Here are a few choice "Freddie-isms." I've added some personal comments in italics.

Fred Couples

On the difficulties of the Captain's job: "I've captained three Presidents Cups teams, which is much easier to do than a Ryder Cup, but it's still 12 players in a room, and I think they all are different in certain ways. No matter who the next captain is or the next one or the next one, you can’t run the ship with a big stern. It's impossible. You've got to let the players get involved.

"I think anyone would love to be the Ryder Cup captain. I particularly don't think it's really that hard to do, I really don't. I keep hearing it's a two-year process. Well, what would I do right now? I don't even know who's going to be on the Presidents Cup team, let alone the Ryder Cup team. So I could go have dinner with Rickie Fowler for two straight years and tell him everything, and then he might not make it. So I think it's all -- it's just a little bit much. We need a little more fun and that comes with winning." [Sounds like Freddie thinks the PGA is over-emphasizing the Ryder Cup a bit!]

On creating a task force: "I don't think anyone should panic. I don't think we need a 'task force,'" Couples said, employing air quotes. "I don't think we need the PGA of America straining about this. What I really think they need is to get players that have been on a lot of these teams to get a feel for what kind of captain they need."

On Phil's comments after the matches: Tom Watson captained the last U.S. Ryder Cup team, and was put under a harsh spotlight after the loss when team member Phil Mickelson said that none of the team's 12 players was consulted on any decisions made during the competition.

Couples is hesitant to throw Watson under the bus, but he also said he had no problem with how Mickelson got his point across. Couples said he thought Watson didn't "cradle his boys enough, and that's what they need." [Is it just me or doesn't this sound as if Freddie is saying you have to treat the team members like children?]

On the one mistake he thinks Tom Watson made: Couples questioned 2014 U.S. captain Tom Watson's decision to sit five-time major winner and Ryder Cup stalwart Phil Mickelson for both Saturday sessions.

"I know one thing, I will play Phil Mickelson on Saturday of the next Ryder Cup if he's on the team. That was the only thing I could see that maybe you could say that Tom, something happened there.

"Because we lost three and a half to a half [in the foursomes session], and I guarantee you it was because Phil wasn't out there playing. I guarantee it."

In another of the articles, he added that Phil was "the best guy on every team I've ever been on."

On the European "template": "I think the easiest part is just really not panicking. You've got to have your teams ready and just get points, and it's not easy to do. They make it look easy because they're winning and their formula, whatever it might be, is not because they're closer and they're friendlier to each other. That's the biggest crazy thing ever.

"Every team I've been on has been phenomenal, and I'm sure every team Europe's ever had has been phenomenal. They just win, so it looks easier."

On what the team members have told him: Couples has had contact with most of the players on this year’s Ryder Cup team. “There are several of them that I text and talk to all the time and I did during that week, too. I mean, some of the texts were disheartening, some were exciting. Some when they got home they said, ‘You need to do this.’”

* * * * *

There's a lot more in the articles (they're well worth the read) but there are a couple of observations in the PGATOUR.com article that I think are important because they give you an idea of what Freddie has been doing with the Presidents Cup teams.

First, there's this little tidbit concerning Freddie's first Presidents Cup:
While Couples frowns on calling it a task force – he prefers “committee” as a euphemism – he likes the idea of selecting Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods to serve on the panel.

In his first term as Presidents Cup captain at TPC Harding Park, Couples said every top level meeting he had included his three-time assistant captain Jay Haas, Woods, Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk, the team’s veteran campaigners, and Michael Jordan. It was Couples’ way of empowering team leaders as he applied an age-old sports adage that your best players have to be your best players in order to be successful.

“I think that worked out great,” Couples said. “Phil Mickelson has been on 10 of them, Woods, I don’t know, eight or 10. So those guys should really have a say.”
And finally, there's this observation from vice captain Jay Haas:
Haas, who will captain the 2015 U.S. Presidents Cup team, knows exactly what Couples brings in the role.

“I can only speak to how the players responded to him in the Presidents Cup,” Haas said. “I don’t know what it is. It’s hard to put your finger on it. He just has a knack at relaxing the guys.

“Somebody asked what were some of Freddie’s speeches like. They were zero. In fact, one time somebody said, ‘Fred, give us something.’ He kind of hemmed and hawed and he goes, ‘Jaybird, what do you have to say?’”

But Haas said Couples is “way more into it than he lets on and that we see.

“He knows the details. He’s already figured the scenario out. I think he would be a great choice.”
Once you add in Freddie's reminder that captains don't hit any shots, you realize that perhaps Freddie's biggest key to success as a Presidents Cup captain is that he never forgets that this is just a game. Perhaps that's what makes him so different from most Ryder Cup captains.

And why so many players want him to be one.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Suzann Pettersen Splits from David Leadbetter

According to LPGA.com, Suzann Pettersen has stopped working with David Leadbetter after 6 years.

Suzann Pettersen

The news was buried in the pre-tournament notes for the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship, the first round of which will be over by the time you read this. Here's the brief bit from the notes:
Two-time defending Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship champion Suzann Pettersen recently decided to make a switch and is no longer working with David Leadbetter, a man who she called coach for the past six years.
“I’m no longer working with David,” Pettersen explained. “There’s just a time for everything and the timing was right. I feel great. I’m very happy both on and off the golf course. I guess it’s just the circle of the life of a golfer.
“He’s still a great friend of mine,” Pettersen continued. “I just feel it was time to get some new energy from a new angle. Like I said he’s been a great supporter of me through my entire career and I proud to say I worked with David. He taught me a lot but like I said it’s time to move on.”
I did a little searching on the Web but couldn't find anything else on the news, so this must have caught everybody by surprise. I can't help but wonder if it has anything to do with her not winning this season -- that's often all a pro needs to spark a change.

At the time I'm writing this, Suzann is even after 7 holes of her first round and 5 shots off the lead held by Shanshan Feng. Suzann's the two-time defending champion at this event but this year it's being played at a different venue -- the Miramar Golf Country Club in Taipei, which hosted the TLPGA's Swinging Skirts Invitational on the TLPGA for three years before that event moved to San Francisco. (Lydia Ko won here at last year's Swinging Skirts, and at the San Francisco event earlier this year.)

I wonder if Suzann has decided who she wants to work with yet? I guess we'll just have to keep our ears open.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Good and Bad of Phil's Driver Swing

This is interesting... both Golf Magazine and Golf Digest chose to do articles about Phil Mickelson's swing, focusing on his driver. What makes it really interesting is that each magazine focused on a different section of Phil's swing!

For example, golfdigest.com did a swing sequence slide show but the top part of Phil's swing -- the change of direction and beginning of the downswing -- is conspicuously missing.

The bottom of Phil's swing
They talk about his relaxed setup, wide takeaway, and extension through the ball at impact -- all aspects commonly associated with a classic swing. Phil creates his club head speed with the length of his swing and his relaxed, balanced action.

But over at golf.com Johnny Miller focuses on the problems Phil often faces at the top of his swing. Johnny speaks about two different problems:
  1. His swing sometimes gets too long, with the club shaft pointed down toward the ground.
  2. His hands and the shaft get too close to his shoulder as he changes directions, which creates a lot of wrist cock but makes it harder to square the club face.
Johnny also has a video in the post that talks about Phil's game, as well as how he would fix these problems.

Putting the two together, you end up with a long relaxed driver swing that stops a bit short of parallel at the top and keeps the hands away from the trailing shoulder during the change of direction and start of the downswing. And yes, it's much easier to keep your hands "as far away from your shoulders at the top as practical" if you make a long relaxed swing. It seems that Butch is always trying to get Phil to shorten his swing just a bit... and when he does, he always drives it much better.

These two articles give you a pretty thorough look at both the good and the bad of Phil's driving. If you take a little time to read them and study the photos (and in Johnny's case, watch the video), you just might find something you can use to help improve your own driving.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ted Bishop's Side of the Story

Ted Bishop is scheduled to be on Morning Drive today but, in case you miss it or would rather read Bishop's side of the story for yourself, here's the link to Jaime Diaz's article at golfdigest.com.

Ted Bishop

According to Bishop, he was set up to take a fall... and if Bishop is telling Diaz the truth about the chain of events that followed that infamous tweet, it's a reasonable accusation that the PGA will be forced to respond to.

Based on what Diaz has written in this column, I have a feeling that this story isn't going to go away very soon. It's worth taking time to read it, just to be aware of the issues that are going to shape this dispute.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 McGladrey Classic

Winner: Robert Streb

Around the wider world of golf: Lee-Anne Pace won the monsoon-shortened Blue Bay LPGA event; Michael Allen won the AT&T Championship (and Bernhard Langer locked up the Charles Schwab Cup) on the Champions Tour; Emilio Domínguez and Rafael Echenique won the Bridgestone America's Golf Cup on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Antonio Murdaca won the Asia-Pacific Amateur and will get the magic ticket to Augusta National next year; Thorbjørn Olesen won the ISPS HANDA Perth International on the ET; Anirban Lahiri won the Venetian Macau Open on the Asian Tour; and Shiho Oyama won the Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies on the JLPGA.

Robert Streb and wife with trophy

Robert Streb knows what it means to come up just a bit short. He's been a runner-up before and he's missed the FedExCup Playoffs twice by one spot, just for starters. So it probably wasn't a surprise to him when he had to go to a playoff at the McGladrey Classic instead of winning straight out.

Of course, he finished an hour and a half before his competitors in that playoff, so maybe he didn't expect the playoff at all. The commentators certainly didn't expect him to fare well, having had to wait for so long. And he was up against 2 more experienced players -- Brendon de Jonge, who hadn't won before but has been due for some time, and 2-time winner Will MacKenzie, who hadn't won in several years.

But Streb demonstrated why golf keeps us all coming back for more. In this case, that unquenchable dream of winning we all have came true for him -- and he did it with a 63 in the final round, followed by a birdie on the second playoff hole. In return he got a treasure trove of goodies, including a 2-year Tour card (always nice when you've got a baby on the way) and the ever-tempting trip to the Masters next April.

I won't bore you with details you already know; the perks of a Tour win are pretty much common knowledge, as is the potential world-altering commercial opportunities that go with it. Instead, I'll just give Robert his well-deserved Limerick Summary and let him get on with his celebration. Way to go, @therealstrebber!
There’s hope and despair in a playoff;
The win is so close and yet way off.
For Streb, hope’s eternal—
He’s off that infernal
Schneid… plus there’s a life-changing payoff!
The photo came from the tournament upshot page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Chew on This Swing Thought from Keegan Bradley

This post focuses on one of the tips from a golfdigest.com article called 6 PGA Tour Swing Thoughts. It is, as you may have guessed, about the swing thoughts commonly used by 6 of the more successful pros on the LPGA and PGA Tours.

The thought I grabbed on to was from Keegan Bradley. It's an incredibly simple swing thought but it can help almost anybody. And what is that swing thought?

Keegan Bradley

"I focus on my facial muscles. When you can get your mouth to relax, your whole body relaxes."

Sounds overly simple, I know. And if you look at the tags I put on this post, you may be a bit confused -- why are there so many? But I'm going to give you a quick explanation of why this tip is so useful.

When people tense up, they automatically grit their teeth. Whether they're trying to lift a heavy weight in the gym or some cowboy is digging a bullet out of them in a western movie, people tend to bite down hard when they tighten their muscles. And for some reason that I don't claim to understand, you can help your body relax if you consciously try to relax your jaw.

Why would you want to relax your muscles during your golf swing? If you tighten your muscles when you swing your club, you reduce your range of motion. That hurts your flexibility, which reduces your body turn, which makes it harder to get a good shoulder coil and makes your change of direction jerky, which reduces your swing speed. All of that causes you to lose distance and accuracy.

If you practice swinging without clenching your jaw -- and you all know how fast Keegan swings -- you can end up with a smoother, more powerful swing. This is also a good excuse to use a cookie as a swing aid; if you crunch the cookie, you clenched your jaw. (And of course, if you successfully swing without crunching the cookie you can eat it anyway -- a win-win situation!) I think that in itself makes this a great swing thought!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Dangers of Social Media

After all the turmoil surrounding Ted Bishop's removal from the office of PGA President a mere month before his term was up, I think it's appropriate to revisit some advice from Herm Edwards.

Herm Edwards

Many of you probably don't recognize Herm Edwards, although he frequently shows up at celebrity golf events like the AT&T at Pebble Beach. Herm was an NFL cornerback with the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams and Atlanta Falcons; he held numerous staff positions on NFL teams, including stints as head coach for the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs; and he's currently a football analyst for ESPN and a popular motivational speaker.

One of Herm's most famous quotes concerns the advice he frequently gives to athletes concerning Twitter: "Don't Push Send!" Herm is especially emphatic about not tweeting when angry about something.

Ted Bishop's life over the last couple of days is a classic example of why this is good advice for everybody. In all fairness -- and this speaks specifically to Herm's point -- it's worth remembering that the original tweet wasn't intended to be a a sexual slur at all. Ted was responding to Ian Poulter's "attack" on Nick Faldo (which was, in turn, a response to Nick's "attack" on Sergio back at the Ryder Cup), and it was also clearly influenced by what Ted saw as an attack on Tom Watson by Phil Mickelson (and those who sided with Phil) over the last few weeks.

But as Herm frequently points out, social media is a loaded gun and you can't afford to be careless with it. Ted's "little girl" remark was merely an emotional outburst, an extra little shot intended to embarrass Poulter... but he didn't think things through before he pushed "send."

The rest, unfortunately for him, is now history.

A few more mistakes followed fast on the heels of this ill-advised tweet:
  • Ted not only tweeted the remark but also posted it on Facebook -- a double faux pas. The fact that it took extra time to do the Facebook post -- which was different from the tweet, so it wasn't just that his tweet automatically uploaded to Facebook -- made it much harder to say that the tweet was merely a momentary lapse of judgment.
  • Then -- and perhaps most damning -- came the brief "apology" where he said he "may have chosen the wrong words." It sounded as if he was merely responding to criticism and still hadn't considered the import of what he had said.
  • And later, after being removed from his position, he sent out an email where he implied that he was hoping for "due process" to give him a chance to prevent the inevitable result (yes, we all knew this would happen, didn't we?)... and then he chose to use the word "impeachment" to describe the result. An accurate word, but again word choice tells a story of its own. Clearly there's some anger and perhaps even bitterness over what has happened.
And it all came from the simple act of pressing the "send" button while in the heat of the moment, without taking time to consider the potential fallout from his tweet. I'm sure that wherever Herm Edwards is right now, he's shaking his head and wondering why we're so quick to hit the "send" button -- especially when we're upset about something -- and also wondering if we'll ever understand the dangers of social media.

It's certainly something worth thinking about, don't you think?

Friday, October 24, 2014

The LPGA Prepares for a Rankings Shake-Up

While the LPGA's second round at the Blue Bay LPGA was delayed a couple of hours by heavy rains, there was no delay when the news come out...

Stacy Lewis is about to lose her #1 position in the Rolex Rankings to Inbee Park. Again.

The irony is that neither player even teed it up this week!

Inbee Park

We've seen this sort of thing happen before, of course. Adam Scott reached #1 in the OWGR on one of his off weeks. And it's not hard to understand why -- as each new week ticks by, an old week falls off the back end of the rankings period and the points average changes.

According to LPGA.com, the two players were in a statistical dead heat coming into this week. Check this out: Stacy's official average was 11.0444 and Inbee’s was 11.0382, both of which get rounded to 11.04. This week the two are separated by barely more than 5/1000 of a point! The tipping point is apparently that Inbee played last week while Stacy didn't. (You can find a more exact explanation here at golfweek.com.)

Next week Inbee will have a slight advantage that gives her the lead (don't ask me how much of a lead 'cause I've got no idea... but it can't be much!). However, both players are scheduled to play next week's Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship. Their finishes there could flip things around yet again.

The only thing I know for sure is that Lydia Ko has been left out of the fun. She can't take the #1 spot this week even if she wins at Blue Bay. But by the end of the year...?

Get ready for a wild ride, folks. The battle lines are being drawn!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Martin Hall's "Key in the Keyhole" Technique for Hitting a Draw

Sometimes the solution to a problem comes when you change the way you think about it. That's why I cover much of the same material over and over but with a slightly different approach each time. And since weekend golfers typically struggle to hit draws, I make an extra effort to find new ways of approaching that problem.

Here is a recent School of Golf clip where Martin Hall attempts to teach Sara Brown how to hit a draw instead of the pull hook she often gets:



Note that Martin is using the "new ball laws" where you leave the face slightly open to create a draw -- something that seems counterproductive to most of us. And combined with the idea of hitting the ball from the inside -- that is, starting the club path out to the right for a right-hander -- the whole method may sound doomed from the start.

But please note that Martin is also recommending an unusual image to help you square up the face. He says to think of your trailing thumb as a key and your lead shoulder as a keyhole... and he wants you to try and stick the key into the keyhole as you make your swing. Let's think about this for a moment.

With the club face slightly open at address --and the hands leaning the shaft slightly ahead of the ball, which also helps square the club face as you swing through -- this "key in the keyhole" image should help you square up the club face at impact, not close it down for a hook. The ball's path is not going straight and then curving; it's starting out on a curve (caused by the slightly open face and more open path) and then straightening out as it lands.

Note that Martin says the ball should NOT cross the aim line where Sara is lined up. An almost square club face hitting the ball slightly from inside will cause the ball to draw back toward the aim line. Martin's image will NOT cause the club face to go past square at impact because the image of sticking your thumb into your shoulder at the top of your finish should put you on plane. If you twist your forearms, your trailing thumb will point straight out behind you. That's bad!

This "key in the keyhole" image can be a very useful one to help you square up the club at impact. You might want to try it if you're leaving the club face open and hitting too many slices.

And in case the video didn't embed in this post, here's the link.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

19 Wild Practice Aids You May Already Own

Golf Digest has an interesting article on their website. If you like using training aids, they have a slide show -- actually, it's a short film clip show -- of common household objects you can use to help you improve your swing.

For example, this is a screen grab from the clip on slide 9. They call this a Swiss ball but it looks a lot like a balance ball to me. (Okay, maybe that's not a 'common' household object but I have one so it can't be that uncommon.)

Using a balance ball to train your downswing

There are some standard suggestions like slide 18 showing Vijay using a water bottle, or slides 6 (a towel) and 7 (a head cover) which show how to use those items to help with connection.

There are several really neat ones, like slide 13's suggestion that you putt with a tennis ball, which is larger than a regular golf ball, or slide 3's use of a CD to check your eye position over putts. (Be sure to use an old one!)

Some seem a bit useless to me. For example, the toothpaste drill on slide 16 seems a bit expensive -- and way too messy -- for my taste.

My favorite is probably slide 4, which teaches you how to use a cookie to help control tension in your swing. Of course, that may just be me looking for an excuse to eat more cookies.

Anyway, you might find something useful in the article so it's worth a look. I admit I would have never thought about using a balance ball to help with my downswing.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Michael Whan Is Still Making Plans

On Monday Morning Drive did a phone interview with LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan, who's in China for the inaugural Blue Bay LPGA event. (You can get a preview of it here at Tony Jesselli's blog.) Whan talked at length about the plans he still has on the table for the LPGA. I've embedded the video of the call below (here's the link in case you don't see it) but I'll sum up the basics of what he said.



In addition to talking about the new Blue Bay event, Whan announced a new sponsor for the International Crown event -- UL, a large company headquartered in Chicago IL -- and that the 2018 event will be held in South Korea. (The 2016 event will be in Chicago again, but Whan said that was because he wanted more control over the first two events while they worked out the bugs.) But that's only the beginning of what he talked about.

Although we've known for a while that the LPGA will begin the 2015 season in Florida at the new Coates Golf Championship, we didn't know for sure exactly how many more events Whan hoped to create. He told us on Monday -- maybe one more. Here's his logic:
  • Unlike the PGA Tour, he tries to schedule events to have a week off after every three or four tournaments.
  • He wants to avoid conflicts with the men's majors.
  • And also unlike the PGA Tour, he wants roughly a two-month off-season because he believes that's important for the ladies.
When you do the math, that results in about 33 or 34 events per year. The new Coates event will be #33, so he figures on adding just one more.

Beyond that, he has three goals in mind:
  1. Something still has to be done about the long-term health of the Kraft-Nabisco Championship. Just as the LPGA Championship has been morphed into the Women's PGA Championship, Whan wants to establish the KNC so it will continue uninterrupted for a number of decades.
  2. He'd like to see a pro-am event on the LPGA, something like the AT&T on the PGA Tour. Given how much the LPGA works with their sponsors, that's almost a no-brainer.
  3. And since the LPGA no longer has a yearly match play event, he'd like to get a new one on the schedule.
Given that Whan says there's only one slot left open on the LPGA schedule, clearly at least one of the existing tournaments will have to be changed to create the match play or pro-am event. That's something we'll have to watch for.

All-in-all, it appears that the LPGA is in even better shape than we thought.

You know, I remember when Michael Whan's "crazy ideas" drew criticism for being too impractical. His critics should be very glad that he doesn't hold a grudge.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

Winner: Ben Martin

Around the wider world of golf: Mikko Ilonen won the Volvo World Match Play Championship on the ET; Scott Hend won the Hong Kong Open, co-sponsored by the Asian Tour and the ET; Kyu Jung Baek won the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship on the LPGA; Lee-Anne Pace won the Cell C South African Women’s Open on the LET; Jay Haas won the Greater Hickory Kia Classic on the Champions Tour; and Sun-Ju Ahn won the Fujitsu Ladies on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has details).

Ben Martin holds trophy in Vegas

Ben Martin hopes that what happens in Vegas does NOT stay in Vegas. He’d like to take it to a number of tournaments going forward.

Of course, it's hard to duplicate what happens at TPC Summerlin. That course is designed for low scores, and players come to Vegas knowing they'll need to gamble a bit if they hope to hit the big one. But after a third-round 62 that gave him the overnight lead, Ben had to wonder if Lady Luck had kissed him good-bye and thrown her lot in with some of the other high rollers. No matter what he did, it seemed he just couldn't get it under par on Sunday.

And those high rollers were certainly hitting their numbers, Kevin Streelman being the man with the hottest hand. He had won his first tournament by making birdies on the last 7 holes... and Sunday in Vegas, he made 5 in the last 7 holes, narrowly missing a 6th at 18.

But Lady Luck is one of the more fickle women in Vegas. As easily as she left him, Martin found her back at his side when a thinned drive at the par-4 15th took a fortuitous hop onto the green. That 2-putt birdie, followed by an eagle on the par-5 16th, jumped him past Streelman and put him in the lead for good. A final unexpected birdie on the tricky 18th gave him a 2-stroke win.

The fallout from this win won't be limited to Vegas either. Martin's first win will keep him on Tour through the 2017 season and send him to the Masters, among other things. And of course, it wins him the coveted Limerick Summary. But don't worry, Ben -- I won't tell if you don't:
On a course where the pros drove it far,
Martin struggled to get under par
But he DID find a way.
If he keeps up this play,
He might end up a bonafide star.
The photo came from the tournament's daily wrap-up page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Butch Harmon on Pitching Uphill

A short one today. Butch Harmon has a new article and video at golfdigest.com on how to play a pitch shot off a severely uphill lie. First, here's the video:


And here's a photo taken just after the moment of truth:

Butch just after the moment of truth

Of course, you know the key thing is to set your shoulders to match the slope. You want to be swinging UP the slope, not INTO it. You know this because you hear it over and over on TV, right?

Butch also suggests that you move the ball a bit forward in your stance and use a less-lofted iron, like a 9-iron instead of a sand (or lob) wedge. He also reminds you not to quit on the shot. Since the ball is going to go almost straight up in the air, you've got to make a longer followthrough to create enough speed to get the ball to fly far enough.

I want to add one thing to this, something that you can see in the video that will make it easier to get all of this right. Compare the incorrect setup around the :09 mark with the correct setup around the :29 mark. See how his head is over the ball in the first setup but behind the ball in the second setup? If you get your head just behind the ball at setup, you'll automatically put the ball slightly forward in your stance.

Butch always makes things so clear. Watch the video as many times as necessary to make sure you understand what he's doing.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

As For My "Three to Watch" This Week

Earlier in the week I did a post naming three players -- each on a different tour -- worth watching this week, as each was making their first appearance in a while. The results have been all over the place!

Billy Horschel, for example, missed the cut by 3 shots at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. However, given that Billy has been a new father for less than a month and missed the cut at an event where that cut is usually under par (cut was -2, Billy shot +1), I'm willing to give him a pass this week.

Michelle Wie during second round in South Korea

Michelle Wie is faring much better at the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea. Coming back from an injury that's kept her out of the game for several months, she got off to a slow start with a first round 76 (+4). Not that she played that badly; the wind was up the first 2 days, and Paula Creamer shot an 81 that first round -- her worst round ever in competition.

But Michelle came back with a 70 (-2) in the second round and a 67 (-5) in the third round -- she just finished as I'm writing this -- to post at -3 for the tournament. That's only 3 shots back of current leaders Yoon Kyung Heo and Beatriz Recari. Not bad for her first event back!

Patrick Reed at the Volvo World Match Play

And then there's Patrick Reed, playing in the Volvo World Match Play Championship in England. Perhaps the biggest surprise to some fans, Patrick made it out of the round robin play by winning 2 of his 3 matches. He now moves on to today's quarterfinals, where the matches look like this:
  • George Coetzee VS Patrick Reed
  • Victor Dubuisson VS Mikko Ilonen
  • Joost Luiten VS Pablo Larrazábal
  • Henrik Stenson VS Jonas Blixt
And yes, as hard as it may be to believe, defending champion Graeme McDowell is already eliminated. At this point the man to beat appears to be Joost Luiten, who is the only undefeated player in the matches.

One quick note for those interested in the Ryder Cup "rematches" at the Match Play (5 Euros versus Reed)... Only Dubuisson and Stenson are still around for the Euros. Reed dispatched Donaldson on Friday to make the quarters, which europeantour.com noted might be considered a bit of payback for the USA:
Patrick Reed gained a small measure of revenge for last month's Ryder Cup defeat by knocking European hero Jamie Donaldson out of the Volvo World Match Play Championship.
In any case, great things are still very much possible for two of my three choices. It could be a very interesting weekend!

Friday, October 17, 2014

The "My Paperbacks" Page Is Now Updated

Just to let you know, I went to the blog's "My Paperbacks" page -- the page where you can order copies of the Quick Guides at a discount -- to add the new Think Like a Golfer book and suddenly realized I hadn't added either HIT IT HARD or The Putt Whisperer to the page. OOPS!

Well, that's fixed now. All of the Quick Guides are listed and the discount should be added automatically to all of them when you type in the discount code at checkout. If you have any problems, don't check out. Instead, drop me an email; I'll fix it so the right prices come up and then I'll drop you an email so you know you can check out.

But everything should be working.

Moving Your Lead Side to Start Your Downswing

Golf Magazine Top100 Teacher Brady Riggs made this little video about getting your lead side "sync'ed up" on the downswing. But there's even more here than he mentions. Watch the video first, then I'll give you the extra bit.



First, note the two errors he mentions:
  • If your hips slide forward too much, you lean backward and "get stuck." (For most weekend players, it also results in pushed shots.)
  • If your hips spin too much, you swing too much out-to-in. (Note that this also creates a reverse pivot.)
I've mentioned these things in too many posts to mention, and quoted too many teachers for me to remember! But there's still more.

Starting at around the :53 second mark Brady talks about moving the knee, thigh and hip together to start the downswing... but watch the video demonstration closely from this point on. If you do, you will note that Brady's lead shoulder is also moving together with his lower body. His hips don't get ahead of his shoulder and his shoulder stays in the same position relative to his hips that he had at address. (His lead shoulder is slightly inside his stance at setup, and you can see it's in that same position at impact.)  He makes this "sync'ed" move three times during the demonstration!

In other words, his entire lead side is moving together to start his downswing.

And when Brady does it at full speed at the end of the video, you can see that it looks like his entire lead side is moving together. That's what it means to be in sync, and you'll feel very balanced at impact and finish if you move this way.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Well, It's About Time!

And what have we learned? We have learned that, if you want to run the World Golf Hall of Fame properly, you need to put legendary golfers in charge of it!

Geoff Shackelford jokingly referred to the "right people" making the choices now -- a reference to a Golf Channel blog post on the topic -- but he won't complain about the Class of 2015. The four inductees include his two "most overlooked names" -- Laura Davies and A.W. Tillinghast -- as well as David Graham and Mark O’Meara, two other players he felt had been unfairly passed over.

2015 World Golf Hall of Fame inductees

It's obvious that putting Nancy Lopez, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and Annika Sorenstam in charge of the Selection Committee was indeed the right choice.

You can read the official press release from the WGHoF at this link (there are more links at the bottom of that page, including one to a transcript of the conference call with the three living inductees announcing the choices) but a few points about the inductees do bear mentioning.

As Geoff Shackelford said, the induction of Laura Davies is long overdue. She has over 70 worldwide wins and 4 majors, far more than many of the recent inductees into the Hall. She also has 12 appearances in the Solheim Cup. And yet she has been denied admittance because she's 2 points short of the LPGA's Hall of Fame requirements. (Ironically, I think her induction still only counts in the "greater" Hall, not the LPGA's. She'll probably still be required to come up with 2 more points for that one.)

Tillinghast is considered one of the most influential golf course architects in history, having designed, revamped, or consulted on at least 265 courses, according to Wikipedia. Ever heard of Bethpage Black or Baltusrol? Those are just two of his creations. I believe something like 20 major championships have been held on his courses.

As for the other two inductees, Mark O'Meara is the oldest player to win 2 majors in one year (the 1998 Masters and Open Championship) while David Graham is one of only 4 players to win events on 6 continents. (Hale Irwin, Bernhard Langer and Gary Player are the other three. To my knowledge, no one has won any event on Antarctica.) And both men have over 20 worldwide wins.

On a personal note, I think one of the great weaknesses of the Hall in the past has been the way it minimized the importance of wins anywhere but in the USA. Perhaps the recent poundings Americans have taken at the Ryder Cup helped amend that error? At any rate, I'm glad to see the WORLD Golf Hall of Fame finally putting more value on worldwide wins.

The official induction will be held at the University of St Andrews during the 2015 Open Championship at St. Andrews, the first time the Induction Ceremony has been held internationally. It's a fitting location for some past wrongs to be righted, don't you think?

Yeah, it's about time!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Three Players to Watch This Week

There are three players who are back in action after a short absence, and you might want to check in on them.

Of course, you'd have to be dead not to realize that Patrick Reed is the only American invited to the Volvo World Match Play Championship on the ET. As this photo indicates, Patrick gets along quite well with the Euros. (They're mimicking his shushing to the crowd at the Ryder Cup, of course.)

Patrick Reed and European Ryder Cuppers at the Volvo World Match Play

Patrick told europeantour.com that his wife was the first to suggest that he go over and play. (And no, she won't be caddying for him this week. Patrick says "She's going to probably lay low and stay as the wife for a period of time.")

Of course, he's not the favorite to win -- defending champ Graeme McDowell is -- but I think Patrick is used to those kind of expectations by now. GC starts broadcasting this morning at 9am ET. (Remember, this is a 5-day event with 3 days of round-robin play before the first players are eliminated.)

On the PGA Tour, Billy Horschel will be teeing it up at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas, his first foray into competition since destroying the field at the Tour Championship and winning the FedExCup. It's been four weeks, but if he's still on his streak this could be a rough week for the competition. TPC Summerlin is known for low scores -- the last four winners have shot -21 or lower. That sounds like it's right up Billy's alley!
 
GC will broadcast some of the pro-am tonight at 9pm ET, then repeat it Thursday at 2:30pm, followed by the Pre-Game Show at 3:30pm. The actual tournament coverage begins Thursday at 5pm ET.

Finally, Michelle Wie is back on the LPGA at the LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship over in South Korea. Let's face it -- nobody knows what to expect from Michelle. She's not 100% recovered from her hand injury but she's back hitting balls like normal and wants to play, so why not? There are only six tournaments left on the schedule this season. GC's coverage of the event starts at 11pm ET tonight. (And Tony Jesselli's weekly LPGA preview is available at this link.)

How will these three players fare in their much-anticipated returns to golf? I guess we're about to find out. This should be a good week for golf!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Paperback of Think Like a Golfer Is Also Out Now

Think Like a Golfer coverYes, I'm in shock but the paperback version of Think Like a Golfer is already available. I knew things were moving much quicker this time, but wow! I okayed the proofs this morning but it usually takes a couple of days or so before it actually shows up online.

If you want the paperback, it's available on Amazon at this link. It's still going to take a bit of time for it to hit BN.com and the other online retailers. But I can't believe how quickly they got it up this time...

My Sports Psychology Book is Out!

About 3 years ago I was approached by a sports psychologist from the UK. He had worked with some of the Ryder Cup players, and he was interested in doing a book with me. (Yes, I was a bit surprised as well, but he had been reading the blog and liked the way I approach the game.) We kicked some ideas back and forth for about a year -- put together quite a bit of material, actually -- before outside opportunities got in the way for both of us.

Think Like a Golfer cover While I learned that I knew quite a bit about sports psychology, I also realized that a lot of important areas were being ignored -- not the least of which concerned the terminology. In many ways modern sports psychology is a child of the self-help movement of the early 20th Century. However, those early self-help writers built their approach using theological terms which were commonly understood at the time. In our modern world, that is no longer the case.

As a result, much of what passes for sports psychology sounds more like "wishcraft." It's hard to build anything lasting if you don't understand exactly what you're trying to do.

So I finally broke down and wrote my own sports psychology book called Think Like a Golfer. It's not an evangelistic tract, but it does explain the basic meaning of all those theological terms. The basics of self-belief are the same whether you're talking about belief in God, belief in yourself, or belief that your car will start when you turn the key in the morning; it's just a matter of degree.

The irony of it all is that by explaining the theological terms that sports psychologists use, it's easier to take a more scientific approach to building a bulletproof self-belief. Once you understand what you're trying to accomplish, the methodology is so simple that anyone can do it.

Here are some of the things I included in this book:
  • how true self-belief differs from mere self-hypnosis and wishful thinking
  • the mechanics of self-belief—how a belief is actually built and grounded in reality so it improves your performance
  • why trying to believe "hard enough" rarely works
  • what useful self-talk sounds like and techniques for getting dependable results
  • how self-belief helps you make better strategy decisions on the course
  • how to avoid the pitfalls of self-doubt and deal with pressure
  • what "the Zone" is and how it's related to self-belief
Although I made it one of the Quick Guides, it's actually much longer than any of them. In fact, only Ruthless Putting is longer (and Think Like a Golfer has no diagrams taking up space -- it's all words). But I got to the point as directly as I could and, once you've read through it completely, you can go back, skip around and focus on the areas where your self-belief needs the most help.

Unlike the last book -- which gave me all kinds of problems getting files to the distributors -- all of the ebook versions are already shipping, including the special PDF I do here at the blog. Only the paperback hasn't hit the market yet, but the publisher has everything and I'm just waiting for them to OK the files. I expect it to be available at Amazon by the end of the week, and the other online distributors not long after.

All of the ebook versions are $6.99 and the paperback will be $11.99 when it comes out later this week. I think this may be the most useful Quick Guide I've done so far. I hope you'll all agree.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Frys.com Open

Winner: Sang-Moon Bae

Around the wider world of golf: The weather was so bad in Europe that the Portugal Masters got shortened to just 36 holes... which was just enough for Alexander Levy to get the win; Kirk Triplett won the SAS Championship on the Champions Tour; Tyler McCumber won the Transamerican Power Products CRV Mazatlan Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Shanshan Feng won the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia on the LPGA (the Constructivist has details); and Sun-Ju Ahn won the Stanley Ladies on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has details on this one too).

Sang-Moon Bae with trophy

Okay, maybe it's not such a big deal to be the FedExCup points leader after only one tournament... but don't try to tell that to Sang-Moon Bae.

To be honest, Bae didn't play all that well on Sunday, carding a +1 round of 73 to finish at -15. And I suppose that was to be expected since he hadn't been leading when he won his other title. But it was that blistering round of 65 on Saturday that gave him an insurmountable 4-shot lead going into Sunday.

Steven Bowditch managed to reach -13 and a bunch of other players like Hunter Mahan and Martin Laird got it to -12, but it just wasn't enough to overcome Bae's third round. The Frys.com Open became his second PGA Tour title.

There are a lot of perks that come to the winner of a Tour event, like retaining his card and entry into the Masters and THE PLAYERS, among other things. But for Bae, the biggest perk from the win may be all the Presidents Cup points he garnered. The next one (in 2015) will be held in Korea, and Bae certainly wants to make the team.

In the meantime, the Napa wine country where the tournament was played had me in mind of a bunch of helpless little grapes being crushed by one particularly determined pair of feet, and it's in that spirit that I offer this little Limerick Summary to the new Frys.com Open champion.
The Korean contingent was thrilled;
Sang-Moon Bae’s lead did not need to build.
Runs by Bowditch and Laird
Came, but nobody cared
‘Cause in Round 3 he trampled the field.
The photo was the link from the leaderboard page link to the upshot page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The PGA Tour's New Experiment to Speed Up Play

There's a new article at golfdigest.com about the PGA Tour's latest attempt to speed up play. You can read it at this link but here's the gist of it:
  • The first player to the tee now has 50 seconds to tee off, down from 60 seconds before. (The remaining players still have 40 seconds.)
  • On a par-5, a group will be considered out of position unless all three players have teed off before the group ahead of them clears the green. (In the past, only one player had to have teed off.)
Slugger White noted that they don't really have pace-of-play problems at the events with 120 players or less, and he's not sure they can do much to speed up the big fields of 144 or 156. But at least it's a start.

Slugger White

In addition, perhaps before year end, the Tour plans "a rollout of a new ShotLink-based tool for tournament officials." According to the article, it's supposed to help officials keep track of every group's pace of play but it won't be used to penalize players. (Bear in mind that it's the penalties that have helped the LPGA speed things up.)

Player Advisory Council member Stewart Cink expects some problems -- dealing with ruling delays and such -- but believes the effort will at least give them some data to work with.

Whatever happens going forward, the two steps I mentioned at the top of this post have already been put into action this week at the Frys.com Open. I'll be interested to see if it ultimately results in any improvement... or just more griping.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Drivers Just Got More Adjustable. Is That a Good Thing?

Let me start by saying that I have no connection with Callaway, nor am I getting any kind of remuneration for this post. In fact, this post isn't about selling you on any brand of equipment at all.

I'm just blown away by how complicated buying a driver has become. I wonder if the USGA expected this when they okayed adjustable clubs?

This post was prompted by an article about Callaway's new Big Bertha Alpha driver -- actually, two new models -- and about what may be coming from other manufacturers as a result. You can get the full details at this golfdigest.com post.

Callaway's new super-adjustable Big Bertha Alpha

Last year Callaway introduced the original Big Bertha Alpha, which was distinguished by a vertical center of gravity (CoG) adjustment. This allowed players to alter spin rates by around 300rpm, although it would cost you a little forgiveness on off-center hits. (In general, higher CoG gives you more forgiveness while lower CoG gives you more distance.)

Enter the Big Bertha Alpha 815 and Alpha 815 Double Black Diamond models. According to Callaway:
Both Big Bertha Alpha 815 and Alpha 815 DD feature lightweight composite crowns, the central core weight that can be flipped in a low or mid center of gravity position (the "gravity core"), heel and toe adjustable weights, an adjustable hosel and a revised face design that saves additional weight. In the Alpha 815 ($450; 9, 10.5 12 degrees), the weight is saved to provide lower spin and improved off-center hit stability compared to last December’s Big Bertha Alpha.
To accomplish this, the clubs are made of 8 different materials. EIGHT! It sounds like you can adjust pretty much everything but the loft -- note that you have three available lofts in the "basic" 815 (the article says the DD comes in 2 lofts). But do you really doubt that we'll soon see clubs where you can make ALL of these adjustments, and possibly more?

I have mixed feelings about where equipment designs are heading. I mean, I like the fact that it's so much simpler to get fitted for clubs now. A knowledgeable clubfitter can custom-fit you while you wait -- no more having to special order or come back later!

But I'm really nervous about the temptation these adjustments present to the determined tinkerer. We're already convinced we can buy a better swing. What happens once we can adjust every little nuance of any club with a little tool we carry in our pocket? Will we have the self-discipline to leave the adjustment screws untouched until we're sure we can hit it "off the screws"?

Can we be content with the blessing of instant clubfitting? Or will we cross over to the dark side of constant tinkering, adjusting and tweaking until our games are more frustrating than ever?

Search your feelings, my young padawan. Search them before you give in to the dark side. Down that path lies madness... and hopelessly bad shots. Just think twice before you start tinkering, okay?

And above all, make sure that you have ALL of your original settings written down somewhere so, if things get out of control, you can reset everything back to a working configuration.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Turn Your Slice into a Weapon

Yesterday I posted a video on how to get rid of a slice. Today we approach the problem from an entirely different angle -- namely, how to turn your uncontrollable slice into a fearsome fade.

This article on golftipsmag.com by PGA Professional Derek Nannen is a three-page article that covers the primary causes of those out-of-control slices... and how to turn it into a useful fade. For example, this pair of photos from the first page show two equally bad setups that can cause a banana ball.

incorrect setups that cause a slice

The one on the left, where the feet are closed but the shoulders are open, is an obvious problem. But would you have thought the one on the right, where the feet and shoulders are both open, can cause the same problem? Derek says that if the club face is still pointed down the center of the fairway and the ball position hasn't been adjusted for the setup, the ball will still slice like crazy!

The article covers the four main things you need to check in order to get control of that banana ball:
  1. Fix your alignment
  2. Move the ball forward in your stance
  3. Close the club face, not your grip (lots of helpful photos for this one!)
  4. Make a full turn into your followthrough
Rather than try to summarize the article -- it's three pages long with lots of photos and diagrams, after all -- I'm just recommending you click this article link and study it. Derek has written an extremely clear presentation of how to turn your natural tendency to slice into a powerful weapon on the course. Any time you can harness your natural tendencies, you're more likely to find success more consistenly. If you struggle with a slice, give it a try!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Billy and Craig Harmon Stop Slicing

I've posted some of Billy and Craig Harmon's golf.com videos before, but this one has one really cool tip that may help you fix your slice FOREVER. (And no, I don't say things like that very often.)

Here, take a look at this little 2-minute video:



Billy's tip about taking your grip and then holding your arm straight out in front of you to see whether the club face is open or shut is one of the coolest little spot checks I've ever seen. PLEASE NOTE that when he straightens his arm, the back of his lead hand is facing the target. This is the key! If you aren't getting the back of your lead hand to face the target at impact, you have one of two choices:
  1. Correct your backswing because you're twisting your forearms (and the club face) open on the way back. This is the best solution.
  2. Take a much stronger grip than Billy recommends... but if your problem is caused by twisting your forearms on the way back, that won't fix the problem.
If you want to experiment a bit, I would suggest taking a neutral grip -- that is, where the club face is square when you take Billy's "test" -- and see what happens when you hit the ball. If you hit the ball straight or draw it, pointing the V in your lead hand toward your trailing shoulder will likely make you hook it too much. But if you hit a slice, then you need to get that V pointed toward your trailing shoulder pronto!

The whole video is loaded with helpful hints but Billy's tip can also help you learn how to shape the ball left or right at will simply by strengthening or weakening your grip. That's a very useful little technique to have in your repertoire.

And if for some reason the video didn't embed properly, you can find the original at this golf.com page.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Jarrod Lyle Still Has His Sense of Humor

I'm sure most of you heard that Jarrod Lyle Monday-qualified for a spot at the Frys.com Open this week. I believe Jarrod has 20 events to make up $324,123, which would equal the 125 spot on the 2012 money list. (It's the 2012 money list because he was qualified for the 2012 season but had to leave in March that year for his second battle with leukemia.) It's a nice story, right?

But here's something you may not have heard, relayed by Marika Washchyshyn at golf.com.

Jarrod Lyle and family

Apparently Jarrod had applied for an exemption -- something most of us would expect to be a no-brainer, right? As T.J. Auclair at pga.com put it, "Many figured Lyle and his story would be enough to garner a sponsor's exemption." And given how well he played at the Web.com Tour's Midwest Classic just a few weeks ago (he finished T11), as well as how popular Jarrod is among fans and players, you would have thought it was a done deal.

As it turned out, it wasn't. But Jarrod told the Australian Associated Press (and Marika quoted):
“I was disappointed not to get an invite, mostly because they didn’t even let me know,” Lyle said. “My wife Briony was pretty devastated but I told her I had a chance to qualify and what a better way to stick it to them.”
"They didn't even let me know... what a better way to stick it to them." I think that attitude pretty much explains how Jarrod Lyle managed to beat cancer twice. It looks to me like the Frys.com folks have ended up with a little egg on their faces -- but if Jarrod plays really well, it could turn into an entire omelet!

For the record, Jarrod has already been granted a sponsor's exemption into the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open next week. Wouldn't it be cool if he played so well this week that he didn't even need it to get his card back?

This story will certainly bear watching. GC will be carrying it, of course -- the pro-am airs tonight for an hour at 9pm ET, then on Thursday it re-airs at 3pm, the Pre-Game Show is at 4pm, and the tournament proper starts at 5pm ET. You can be sure that Jarrod will get some TV time, one way or another.

And Jarrod, we all wish you a lot of luck this week. Keep laughing, buddy!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Equipment History VS Ryder Cup History

Well, it appears that all my file moving and domain re-pointing chores are finished and are working properly. But it took me several days of trial and error to get it all done, so I'm going to be lazy today and let someone else do the post!

I received several infographics from various sources during Ryder Cup week and, to be honest, most of them were too late for me to even consider. However, this one from UK etailer Direct Golf combined the history of the Ryder Cup with the evolution of the equipment being used in those competitions, along with a brief look at possible future equipment at the end. I figured I could still use it after the Cup... so here it is.

It'll really make you appreciate that modern equipment you have now! You can click the image to get the full-size version.

Direct Golf infographic

You can also find a larger version on this page at direct-golf.co.uk.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

Winner: Oliver Wilson

Around the wider world of golf: Steve Lewton won the Mercuries Taiwan Masters on the Asian Tour; Nicholas Lindheim won the Arturo Calle Colombian Classic on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Azahara Munoz won the Lacoste Ladies Open de France on the LET; Teresa Lu won the Japan Women's Open on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has details); and Mirim Lee won the Reignwood LPGA Classic on the LPGA, her second win of her rookie season (the Constructivist has details on this one too -- he must have stayed up all night!). [UPDATE: I forgot to include Jay Woodson's win at the Big Break Invitiational!]

Wilson with trophy on Swilcan Bridge

It's still a week until the new PGA Tour season begins. Who should get the coveted Limerick Summary this week?

I seriously considered Mirim Lee. Her LPGA win in China was her second of her rookie season... yet she still trails Lydia Ko by a considerable amount in the Rookie of the Year race. I know Lydia is technically a rookie, but it just irks me that Mirim -- who has gone from no wins to two wins in her pro career -- not only isn't leading the race, it isn't really even close. It just wasn't a cheerful enough story for me to immortalize in verse.

But Oliver Wilson's victory at the Dunhill Links -- wow, now there's a story! Wilson had become one of those guys we call a journeyman. Though he played fairly well early in his career, he's never won and he's struggled just to stay on tour -- in fact, he's only on their Challenge Tour and I think he's in danger of losing his card there. (He started the week outside the top 100 on the Challenge Tour and he was 792nd in the OWGR.) He was in this week on a sponsor's exemption.

And all he does is tie the course record at Carnoustie on Thursday, then beat the likes of Rory McIlroy and Louis Oosthuizen at St. Andrews on Sunday. Ho hum, just another week on the links.

He told the media (quoted from the page where I found the photo):
“I don’t have words for it. It’s been ten years, 11 years coming. There were nine runners-up and I hadn’t done a whole lot to lose those, but nothing had really gone my way and this week, to be given a big opportunity by Dunhill to play – I can’t thank them enough to give me an opportunity to do this – I guess it’s what golf’s all about."
But I think this is my favorite quote:
“I could be drunk for a while – I’ve had a lot of champagne on ice over the years!”
Well, Oliver, if you can still see clearly enough to read after all that champagne, I've got a Limerick Summary for you -- your first one of these as well:
Well, look who stepped up to beat Rory!
No, it’s not overblown oratory—
Ollie’s heart must be thumping!
To the Big Tour he’s jumping
While basking in “got my card” glory!
The photo came from this page at europeantour.com.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Randy Smith on More Accurate Pitching

Since I spent so much time this past week on the Ryder Cup, I'm making this a technique weekend. Yesterday I looked at better driver play; today I'm at the opposite end of the spectrum, pitching to the green.

This time I've gone to Randy Smith, one of Golf Digest's 50 Best Teachers, for a lesson on how to hit your pitches closer. And I'll be honest with you, it was these three pictures that drew me to his article. Those are the feet of PGA Tour player Martin Flores. (What? You didn't recognize them?) I'll give a brief summary of each picture.

Low pitch ball position

Low skipping pitch: Open stance, ball near trailing foot, square to slightly open club face with a fair amount of shaft lean.

Standard pitch ball position

Standard pitch: Square stance, middle ball position, square club face with slight forward shaft lean.

High pitch ball position

High quick-stopping pitch: Ball near lead foot, open club face with shaft vertical or leaning backward slightly. The article doesn't say but I'm guessing this is an open stance, much like a sand shot.

There's more to the article than this -- including some swing thoughts to help you get the desired results -- but it's rare to see the ball position and shaft lean as clearly as these photos show.

This article has the potential to really help you improve your pitching, so make sure you check it out.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Johnny Miller, Peter Kostis and Dave Phillips... Together!

Golf Magazine just posted an interview with Johnny Miller, Peter Kostis and Dave Phillips. All three of them, together, talking about the same topics. WOW! It's a killer interview and you definitely want to read it.

Kostis, Miller, Phillips

While I love to hear what Kostis and Miller say, I'm always interested to hear what Phillips thinks. He's not only a Golf Magazine Top100 Teacher, he's also part of the Titleist Performance Institute... which means he's absolutely drowning in biomechanics data! And you probably aren't surprised to learn that Miller often disagrees with Kostis and Phillips simply because he came from the persimmon generation.

However, since they're talking about different swing mechanics, that doesn't mean Miller is wrong. It just means that you should try all their ideas and see which ones work best for your swing.

They talk about a lot in this interview -- it's a long one, folks -- but I wanted to focus on their thoughts concerning drivers since we're all interested in getting max distance and accuracy with the big stick. And here's what they said (the first two are direct quotes):
Phillips: "For the average player, consistent contact is the biggest factor. To play better, get a shorter, more-lofted driver and hit it in the middle of the face... Moving the center of gravity forward is a bigger distance boost than the trampoline effect. That really helps the power hitter get distance. But the average guy, who doesn't hit it on the face, needs the center of gravity back to minimize his dispersion on mis-hits."

Kostis: "What's happened on the road to the 460cc metal wood is that Tour pros feel so confident that they swing harder and harder. So their ball speed has increased a lot. But that hasn't happened for the average player, who hits it off the toe and the heel. So I agree with Dave that shorter clubs and softer shafts would help the average golfer hit it farther. Even Tiger could try it. When he was with Butch, he was using a 43-inch, steel-shafted driver. His driving problems began when he went to a 45-inch shaft."
Phillips adds that shorter drivers have become a trend and that Sergio is now using a 43-incher. (With a fairly stiff shaft, I'm sure.)

Miller disagrees and says that unless you've got that down move that Sergio has, you can use a 47-incher if you want and still get control. He also likes more spin off the driver for better accuracy. He seems to be increasing shaft length to make up for slower swing speeds.

Apparently everyone's agreed that the biggest need for average golfers is to hit it in the center of the club face. But the best equipment setup to help you do that seems to be a matter of opinion.

So if you're an average guy or gal, you've got two possible driver setups to try here:
  1. Try a shorter driver with a softer shaft and more loft. This setup also favors having the weight farther back from the club face, giving you a higher launch and a bit less spin. This is the setup favored by Phillips and Kostis, and so I would think this has the weight of biomechanical evidence behind it. (Power hitters will likely need stiffer shafts.)
  2. Or you can try a longer driver, presumably with a bit less loft and more spin. Miller doesn't say so, but it sounds like he wants the weight closer behind the club face to give you more distance with this setup. I'm guessing this is based on his experience since he used to hit that "line drive" he talks about in the article. And I suspect this driver will need a stiffer shaft just because it's longer... but figuring that out is a clubfitter's job!
If you're searching for a new driver, it might be worth trying both setups before you buy.

And by all means, stop by golf.com and read the entire interview. It's an incredible meeting of the minds.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Guess Who's Replacing Holly Sonders?

Sara BrownWell, perhaps replace isn't exactly the right word... but Sara Brown has definitely landed a gig at Golf Channel.

The word came out during Thursday's broadcast of the Big Break Invitational tournament. According to the broadcast, Sara is going to take over sidekick duties with Martin Hall on School of Golf for the rest of the year. (I'm guessing that Karen Stupples, who's currently holding that spot down, is going to be traveling to LPGA events for the next couple of months. Most of them will be in Asia.)

It was also mentioned that Sara has already done an episode of Playing Lessons (although I forget which player it was). That show may be getting a rotating cast, as both Lisa Cornwell and Paige Mackenzie have done stints on the show so far.

Just for the record, Sara will at least go into this with some street cred. Big Break Invitational is using an unusual format -- two days of Stableford, one day of match play, and the final day (today) is stroke play. They started with 40 players -- 20 men, 20 women -- and cut each group to 12 players after the Stableford, then cut to 6 men and 6 women with the match play, and will let the remaining 12 players compete all together for a $300k total purse / $100k first prize. Not only did Sara make it through the Stableford sessions, she played some clutch shots down the stretch to take out Kristy McPherson 2up.

Several of the 2015 Tour rookies -- Tony Finau, Jackie Stoelting, Mallory Blackwelder, and Sadena Parks among them -- along with Tommy Gainey and Gerina Pillar made the final round. It should be fun watch today. It's supposed to come on at 3pm ET.

But you can count on seeing Sara Brown more than that in the coming months. They've already posted her bio at golfchannel.com!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

UH-OH! I'm Doing File Changeovers

I'm going to be doing a lot of file moving due to a server change at my internet provider... and I don't know that I'll get it set up properly the first time. (It's a whole new setup, and a bit confusing.)

The blog will still work properly (that's on Blogger, so most of it isn't affected) but images may vanish and then reappear. It's also likely that ruthlessputting.com (the direct order site for the PDFs of my books) may not work for a while. If so, I'll get it fixed soon -- just send me an email to let me know if you have a problem.

This will likely affect my email too, so use mikesouthern (at) triad (dot) rr (dot) com to email me for a while. I'll change that info in my profile as well.

I'll let you all know once I know the changeover is complete. Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow... and have yourself a Merry Little Christmas now. (I'm sorry, I couldn't resist.)

A Collection of Thoughts and Shoutouts

I had a number of odds and ends that I wanted to mention, but none of them really needed an entire post. So I figured why not put them all in one post?

You may have heard that the PGA Tour gave out its annual awards on Wednesday for the Player of the Year (that's the Jack Nicklaus Award) and the Rookie of the Year (which, to my knowledge, isn't named after any player).

To no one's surprise, Rory McIlroy won the POY -- and the Arnold Palmer Award for the money title, and the Byron Nelson Award for adjusted scoring average. Look, when a guy wins two majors and a WGC (in 3 straight weeks, no less) to take back #1 in the OWGR in addition to all his other accomplishments this year, you just step back and say, "Well done, young fella!"

And Chesson Hadley won the Rookie of the Year Award by, among other things, winning the Puerto Rico Open and being the only rookie to make it into the FedExCup Playoffs (he made it to the BMW Championship, just short of the Tour Championship, and finished 49th in the FedExCup rankings.) Again, not too shabby!

In yesterday's rant about the Ryder Cup, I meant to add a simple suggestion that I think would help the US players immensely. That simple suggestion is that the Americans play a few more European Tour events during the year. Although Gleneagles wasn't a typical European course, McGinley specifically said he set it up to play like a typical ET event. As we all know, Phil Mickelson -- who admittedly can be a bit stubborn -- said after winning the 2013 Scottish Open and Open Championship that it had taken him 10 years to learn to play links golf. I think this is part of the problem.

European golf requires more skills -- more types of shots -- than American golf, skills which the Euros are using to great effect in Ryder Cups on both sides of the Atlantic. (I talked about this at length in a post about the OWGR.) Clearly the Americans aren't learning those over here so I suggest they pick up a few events over there, even if it means skipping a few PGA Tour events. That suggestion may not be popular with the sponsors, but the US players have to do something to level the playing field. This may be the easiest way.

Finally, I got a pleasant surprise in my email the other day. You may remember that I did a Limerick Summary for the Symetra Tour Championship a couple of weeks back. That tournament was won by Norwegian player Marita Engzelius, and it jumped her all the way to the LPGA Q-School Finals.

Well, Marita has become the first player on any tour to actually thank me for composing a Limerick Summary for them. And yes, I was touched that she took the time to do it.

Marita Engzelius

In fact, Marita and her brother took their own shot at writing a limerick for me!
Three fierce contenders in a playoff duel
With birdies in sight, and adrenalin as fuel
One would eagle, the ultimate kick
Even earn herself a Mike's Limerick
But missing her card, she will be back for the sequel
I thanked her and told her I expected to see her next year on the LPGA. Help me wish her good luck at Q-School this December! You can tweet her at @MaritaEngzelius.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Today, the Rant!

Yesterday I "staged" a couple of rigged Ryder Cups, using the scorecards from the actual event, to try and prove that BOGEYS, not a defective system, are at the root of the US Ryder Cup team's problems. I think I succeeded.

And a few weeks back I did a post explaining why I think the European Ryder Cup team is stronger than it looks on paper.

So today I'm ready to rant!

Paul Azinger

I think what irritates me the most about this whole debate is the overwhelming belief that this problem is caused by magic and can therefore be solved by magic.
  • The Euros don't win because they play better; they win because they have a better system (or template or whatever they want to call it).
  • The US team doesn't lose because they play badly; they lose because they don't have an effective system (or template or whatever).
I'm irritated because these are professionals surrounded by mental coaches and swing gurus and club technicians and personal trainers, among other highly-skilled advisors, with the funding of huge corporate sponsorships that allows them to spend as much time practicing the game as they wish... and yet apparently this STILL isn't enough to enable them to go out and hit a little golf ball into the fairway, onto the green, and into the hole during a Ryder Cup.

I agree that the US side certainly appears to be disfunctional on a scale I would have never imagined, especially given all that's happened in the aftermath of the event. It's clear that they need some help.

But these same players frequently claim that they "find sanctuary inside the ropes" and that "just playing golf" allows them to deal with all manner of life-threatening circumstances. I didn't realize that an inefficient power structure was SO impossible to deal with! I guess it's a good thing they don't have to work regular jobs like normal people, huh? Imagine what a month trying to function in a corporate workplace would do to them!

Don't get me wrong -- I still think we have some of the greatest players on the planet and I love to watch them play. But I'm incredibly disappointed to see them squabble like spoiled children when a perfect Captain couldn't have won with the scores they posted last week. 

PGATOUR.com posted a brief summary of the debate, along with some potential names for the next Captain. Of course, the campaigning for Paul Azinger's return has already begun. No doubt Fred Couples will also be in the running, given his success as Presidents Cup Captain. And both of them would be good choices.

But unless they can find a lot more players like Patrick Reed -- you know, players who apparently don't give a damn who's in charge and don't use it as an excuse for poor play in any case -- or sneak in some technologically-advanced pinseeking golf balls that find their own way into the hole regardless of who hits them, I don't see any solutions on the horizon.

Solve the real problem -- TOO MANY BOGEYS -- and the symptoms will likely take care of themselves. At least that's what I think.

End of rant.