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Friday, February 28, 2014

Tiger in Neutral, Rory in Overdrive

Did you watch any of the Honda Classic on Thursday? Tiger played before the broadcast window but Rory was featured. And it was probably a good thing it worked out that way.

Rory had the better day by far. He shot a 63 (-7) while Tiger shot 71 (+1).

Rory

Tiger had 3 birdies, 2 bogeys and a double. On the two par-5s -- which most people consider a measure of how well Tiger's doing -- he was even for the day (1 birdie, 1 bogey).

Rory, by comparison, had 7 birdies and no bogeys. It's the first time he's had a bogey-free round at PGA National. And yes, he was -2 on the par-5s (2 birdies).

Is Tiger irritated? I'd say that's a good bet. Is Rory ecstatic? Oh yes... and he said as much:
"I've reached a point now where I'm very comfortable with everything in my game and my swing," he said. "I'm seeing shots the way I want to see them. When I do that, I feel like the scores are just a byproduct of all the hard work and making good swings."
Rory's back to where he's just hitting shots. That's what he needs going into the majors. As we've seen in the past, Rory tends to press when he's not comfortable with his game.

Tiger's still trying to get his swing in shape, which doesn't surprise me -- after all, he's still rebuilding his swing so it doesn't wreck his knee and end his career prematurely. That's not as simple as everybody seems to think it should be. Personally, I won't be surprised if it takes another couple of years before Tiger reaches the level of consistency both he and the rest of us expect. I don't think it'll take that long for him to get another major, but getting his swing where he wants it is another matter.

These struggles may actually work out in Tiger's favor. If he gets to the Masters without a win -- unlike last year -- his expectations will probably be a bit lower and he might swing more freely.

Of course, Phil's playing too and he shot even par... which tells us absolutely nothing about how well he'll play in the majors.

I bet both Tiger and Rory wish it were only that simple... ;-)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jason Day's 4 Keys to Power

Golf Digest has a great article on Jason Day's swing keys. Jason says he tries to keep things simple. Check out this quote from the article:
"Swinging harder is not the best way to drive it farther. Instead, focus on the fundamentals, such as grip, setup and making solid contact, and you'll be in a much better position to crank the ball."
This is a really good article from September last year that Golf Digest is featuring since Jason won just last week.

Jason Day in action

BTW, here are a few interesting facts from the article. Bear in mind that Jason is 6' tall and that these facts are about 6 months old. Still, they're pretty impressive!
  • Day keeps his tee shots in the air longer than any other tour player—a whopping 6.7 seconds.
  • Day's clubhead is moving more than 120 miles per hour when he blasts a tee shot.
  • No one on tour hits it higher than Day. The average apex of his tee shots is nearly 132 feet.
  • Day's average drive goes 295 yards—on the fly! He ranks 11th in driving distance on tour.
Given how much attention guys like Bubba and DJ get for their hang time, swing speed, etc., I think those are interesting facts.

And one other thing: Please note that the photo in the Getting Things Going section of the article very clearly shows Jason making a one-piece takeaway and that's what he describes. If you don't start your swing well, you're going to be making corrections the rest of the way through. So why not do it right from the very start? ;-)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The LPGA Tees Off Tonight

The LPGA moves on to Singapore this week for the HSBC Women's Champions, and the broadcast begins tonight.

As you can see, the ladies aren't that different from the men when it comes to going native at the HSBC tournaments in China. What IS different is that the women look good when they do it, as evidenced by this photo of Paula Creamer, Suzann Pettersen, Inbee Park, and Shanshan Feng.

LPGA players go native

As usual, Tony Jesselli has done a preview of this event. He says that 18 of the Top20 in the Rolex are there -- including #17 Jiyai Shin, who is no longer an LPGA member. This is one of the few times we get to watch her this year.

Plus we get to see the beautiful Serapong Course at the Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore. Don't you wish your course looked this good? (Although all that sand and those odd-shaped contours make it look a bit tricky...)

the Serapong Course at the Sentosa Golf Club

So don't forget: The HSBC Women's Champions broadcasts on GC tonight from 10:30pm to 2:30am ET. I love it when we get to see live coverage of the ladies!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Playing Lessons from the Match Play

The golf world is still buzzing about the finals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play. Jason Day got a big win, Victor Dubuisson got unlimited sponsor invites, and Victor's runner-up finish gave me the best results I've had in a long time when picking this event. ;-)

Day and Dubuisson

But there's more that we can learn from the Final Four in this tournament. Today I thought we'd take a quick look at some easy-to-apply lessons we can all use.

From 4th place Ernie Els we can learn the importance of proper equipment. Ernie has been struggling to regain the putting prowess he used to have, trying almost anything to make putts. However, he finally moved to a shorter, counterweighted putter (I talked about them in detail a couple of days ago) and found a piece of equipment that suits him to a tee. It allows him to rely on the same rhythm that makes his full swing so smooth and dependable. Many of us are using sticks that we just aren't comfortable with, and that's a problem that's easily corrected.

From 3rd place Rickie Fowler we can learn to double-check our fundamentals when we have swing problems. Far too often, our response to a persistent swing problem is to try an entirely different way to swing -- and as a result we just end up with a swing that's a mix of different techniques that don't work together. When Rickie went to Butch Harmon, Butch didn't rebuild his swing, according to Rickie in this Golf Digest article:
"[There are] no major changes, just taking what I have and cleaning it up, making it consistent and more repeatable."
Fowler says the essence of the effort is to get started in the right takeaway position and to shorten his backswing a bit. "My tendency," he says, "is to get a little long and the club gets stuck behind me."
No major changes, just cleaning things up. Note that Rickie specifically mentions working on a proper takeaway position. That's why I keep harping on a properly-done one-piece takeaway; even the pros tend to get into bad habits there. Keep your eyes on your fundamentals.

From runner-up Victor Dubuisson you can learn to trust what you know. A number of people on social media felt that Victor was too careless over those amazing shots he hit to keep the match going. But Victor's nickname is "Golden Hands" and the word is that he doesn't practice as much as the other guys; he prefers to play more. You don't find those kind of lies on the range, but you can end up in all kinds of bad lies out on the course so Victor has a good sense of what he has to do when he hits into something unusual like teddy bear cholla. As a result, he doesn't second guess himself; he decides what he's going to try and then he tries it. And he doesn't beat himself up if it doesn't come off the way he planned -- as he said, "I just played it like I had nothing to lose." Don't overthink your game.

Finally, from winner Jason Day we can learn simple mental toughness. After a couple of miraculous saves by Victor, Jason said he started to wonder if he should just hand over the trophy right then. But as Helen Ross wrote for PGATOUR.com:
After all the shots that left him shaking his head in disbelief like the rest of us on Sunday afternoon, especially Victor Dubuisson's stunning escape from beside that small cholla and the other ball he liberated from the branches of a bush, Jason Day was still focused on one thing.
He wanted to win the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Yes, it was that simple. Jason simply didn't give up. You don't have to, either. Just keep your head in the game, trying to make the best score you can. You might be surprised what you can do.

These aren't complex techniques that let these players triumph over 60 other players. But then, victory usually comes down to just not quitting. And you can do that as well as they can.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship

Winner: Jason Day

Around the wider world of golf: Amateur Minjee Lee won the Oates Women's Victorian Open on the ALPG; David Vanegas won the 67 Arturo Calle Colombian Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Anna Nordqvist won the Honda LPGA Thailand on the LPGA; and Alena Sharp won the Visit Mesa Gateway Classic on the Symetra Tour (the Constructivist has more details).

Jason Day victorious

I told you to remember his name. Will you take me more seriously now? ;-)

As it stands, the names of both Victor Dubuisson and Jason Day will be remembered for a loooong time. Not only was Sunday's championship match the most memorable in the WGC-Accenture's history, it was the most memorable round in ANY tournament of the last few years. After the match finished, I checked Twitter. Guess what topics were trending?
  • #WGCMatchPlay
  • Jason Day
  • Victor Dubuisson
While I'm sure a lot of it centered on Victor's astonishing scrambles to keep the round going for 23 holes -- my gosh, even Tom Watson tweeted about how awesome Victor's play was! -- the fact is that both men played some of the best golf we've seen.

Jason Day is expected to leap up to #4 in the OWGR and Victor to #23. Jason also leaps up into my RGWR since this gives him two wins -- the individual World Cup win in Australia plus this WGC -- in just the last three months or so.

In addition, we also saw some great play -- especially putting -- from Rickie Fowler (3rd) and Ernie Els (4th). That bodes well for both men as we head toward the Masters.

And as if that wasn't enough, Victor's runner-up finish earned him enough money to get conditional status on the PGA Tour and unlimited sponsor invites. We're finally going to get to see him play more in the USA!

This is exactly the kind of breakthrough we've been waiting for Jason Day to make. As Jason noted, it was like playing on Sunday every day for a week. Sounds like good preparation for a major to me... and like a perfect theme for the victor's Limerick Summary:
It was long but no one was yawning!
The heroics Dove Mountain kept spawning
Had the Twitterverse trending
'Bout Jason’s big ending.
Could it be that a new Day is dawning?
The photo is from the wrap-up page at worldgolfchampionships.com.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why a Counterbalanced Putter Might Improve Your Putting

Just like last year, only one of my choices made it to the Match Play's Final Four -- this time it was Victor Dubuisson. Since my pick last year finished 4th, I'm guaranteed to do at least as well this year even though Victor is playing Ernie Els. Els has been putting unusually well this week.

As it turns out, Els has switched to a counterbalanced putter. Louis Oosthuizen, who also putted lights out at the Accenture, switched to a counterbalanced putter earlier in the week. And Bubba has been using a counterbalanced putter too, as he discussed with the folks at Morning Drive just this past November:



Bubba mentions Justin Rose winning the US Open with a counterbalanced putter. In fact, several players began experimenting with them after Rose's win. So what's the big deal with counterbalanced putters?

First, here's a simple explanation of counterbalancing: You may have heard the term 'swingweight' when you were fitted for clubs. Swingweight (usually given as a letter-number combination; D2 is a common swingweight for men's clubs) is a measurement that tells how heavy the club head feels relative to the grip of a club. A heavy swingweight means the head feels heavier compared to the grip.

But with shafts getting lighter, it keeps getting harder to keep swingweights from becoming too heavy. So clubbuilders have used counterbalancing to offset that weight. Counterbalancing simply means the clubbuilder puts more weight in the butt end of the club to offset the heavier feel of the head.

Counterbalancing isn't a new thing. I'm including links here to a couple of articles on the web -- one from February 2008 that Golfsmith published for clubbuilders (they sell the tools) and an August 2012 post from Tom Wishon's site (he's written manuals on clubbuilding, including the one I learned from) in case you want to learn more.

Counterbalancing has become big news recently because of the anchored putter ban. As the Golfsmith article states:
... for the average golfer the putter may be the place where counterbalance causes the greatest improvements... Weight in the head is a cosmetic challenge and usually leads to the golfer flipping their wrists while attempting a stroke. Additional weight in the hands through counterbalancing eliminates this issue altogether.
So counterbalancing helps you stop flipping your wrists, which is the reason most players went to a belly putter in the first place. And Wishon, after listing a number of putting problems that counterweighting seems to help, writes:
The most commonly used putter counterweights are the 60g, 80g and 100g weights, with the 80g and 100g counterweights being the most commonly used by most golfers for the putter. There is no question the chance of improved putting performance with a heavy counter weight in the putter is very high. From speaking with clubmakers who offer this fitting service to their golfers and from our own work with golfers, we estimate the putting improvement rate for counter weights to be over 80%.
The reason I include these weight numbers is to help you understand how dramatic the counterbalancing is. Typical putter heads have traditionally ranged in weight from around 200 grams (standard) to 400 grams (belly) each, so we're talking about adding some serious weight to the butt end of the shaft! For example, here's a picture of TaylorMade's Spider Blade. It has a 130-gram counterbalanced grip.

TaylorMade Spider Blade counterbalanced putter

The great thing is that a large number of manufacturers have begun selling counterbalanced putters off-the-shelf, so it should be a simple matter to find some and try them before you buy.

So before you convince yourself that you simply can't live without your belly putter, you might want to try out a counterbalanced putter. Just look at how much better Ernie Els is putting with a short counterbalanced putter as opposed to the belly putter he used for so long. You can be sure the Tour pros will continue to check them out.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Variety of Scores to Watch this Weekend

Before I take a quick look at where we stand at the Accenture, I'd like to take a few minutes to catch up with the ladies. There are two events of interest going on this weekend -- which the Constructivist is trying to keep up with at his blog -- but I want to get you quickly up-to-date.

The most obvious one is the Honda LPGA Thailand, and the course took revenge on Friday. (Here's the Constructivist's Friday summary. He may have the Saturday summary up by the time you read this.) Anna Nordqvist is still leading... and she's still at -6. Very few players were able to post a low score; Julieta Granada and Azahara Munoz managed to post -4s and passed everybody except Nordqvist. Sandra Gal's -2 tied her with them.

At this point (just after midnight) Inbee Park is making a move up the board, going 2-under for 3 holes to reach -4 for the tourney. As TC points out in his post, scoring on this course has proven to be volatile. Drastic changes are likely during the round so Inbee may fall back soon. As an example, during Friday's round So Yeon Ryu got it to -7 for the tourney in 13 holes before dropping 4 shots in 3 holes.

Cheyenne Woods

The other tournament is the first Symetra event of the year, the Visit Mesa Gateway Classic. It may get some attention simply because Cheyenne Woods (pictured above) is in the field... but her first round wasn't so good. She's +3 after the first round, 8 shots behind the lead group (6 players at -5). I should point out that a couple of Big Breakers are playing well right out of the gate -- Mallory Blackwell and Sara Brown are both in that lead group.

As for the WGC-Accenture Match Play, the big news (for me, anyway) is...

I've Still Got Two Horses in the Race!

Yes, two of my Final Four are still plugging away. I lost Patrick Reed in the second round to the Announcer's Curse (yes, capitalized and intoned in a spooky Vincent Price voice) and I lost Sergio Friday when Rickie Fowler finally found his putter again.

A quick note about that: I know Sergio is going to take a lot of heat for conceding that long putt on 7, but I'm giving him a pass. One of the best pieces of advice my uncle ever gave me was that life is much easier when you live without guilt. I'm not going to second-guess Sergio for making a decision he could live with.

Most of you probably aren't too surprised that Jordan Spieth is still in the game. (Although he said it in jest, I'm guessing Matt Kuchar probably regrets that remark about playing "12-year-old Jordan Spieth" he made to GC before the third round.) Jordan's match with Ernie Els today should be interesting since Ernie has had some moments of brilliance to win matches. If his game clicks today, Jordan could have his hands full.

However, I bet very few of you picked Victor Dubuisson to make it. You should have. (In case you've forgotten, check this post.) Victor plays arch-thief Graeme McDowell today, which could end up being the best match of the day.

Well, that or the Jason Day/Louis Oosthuizen match. Those boys have been tearing it up at Dove Mountain. The Rickie Fowler/Jim Furyk match should also be pretty good.

At any rate, we'll have our Final Four by the end of the day and I'll have a chance to see if I have any picks left. (For those of you who don't remember, last year only one of my Final Four -- Ian Poulter -- made it... and he finished in 4th place. I'm hoping for better this time.)

Like I said, there's a lot of golf to keep up with this weekend. Don't forget to check the Constructivist's blog to keep up with the women.

Friday, February 21, 2014

At Least It's Fan-Friendly

After two days of match play, I suspect GC and NBC are relatively happy. I mean, this could have been a horrible situation.

First there was Tiger, Phil, and Adam all skipping the WGC-Accenture entirely. They all had perfectly acceptable excuses but you can be pretty sure they just don't like the Dove Mountain course.

Then, after two days, all of the #1 seeds are gone. No more Zach. No more Rosie. No more Rory. No more Stensonator. Plus Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood tanked the very first day!

My gosh, this is a disaster, isn't it? Won't the TV ratings be killed?

Hardly. For the first time I can ever remember, the fact that all the top seeds are gone means relatively little. For you see, my friends, we can argue that most of the fan favorites are still here. Let's do a quick roll call...

Jordan Spieth? Here. (Didn't you hear the roar when he holed out from the bunker?)

Jordan Spieth

Bubba Watson? Here. There. Everywhere... but still able to hit the green.

Jason Dufner? Here. (He raised his hand but the movement was so slight you may not have noticed.)

Jason Day? Present, mate.

Graeme McDowell? He's at the bar sipping a Guinness, but he'll be at the first tee on time.

Rickie Fowler? He's that glowing orange light over there.

Matt Kuchar? Just follow the trail of bodies left by the Smiling Assassin. It's Friday and he's still smiling.

Plus we've still got Sergio and Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk and... well, you get the point. It appears that many of the most popular players have developed the types of followings once limited to the biggest names in the game.

I know some people think that's a sign of the apocalypse and the sad result of commercializing the game, but I say that's a good thing. Everybody tends to know the big name players in most sports, even if they aren't into that sport. (Hey, I know who Alexander Ovechkin is and I don't even follow hockey.) It's when this next tier of players becomes known that you know a sport is becoming a bigger part of society.

That's where we're at. People are beginning to recognize players in the Top25 to Top50 in the rankings, not just the top two or three, and they're tuning in and showing up at tournaments to follow them. That's not just good for TV ratings -- that's good for all of us golf fans. It means more exposure for the game and more golf broadcasts for us to watch.

And, fortunately, it means an interesting match play tournament even with all the "big names" gone.

BTW, all but one of my Final Four picks are still in it. And since one of the GC reporters started the day by saying that Patrick Reed had impressed him the most of any player during the first round, I'm blaming Reed's exit Thursday after 21 holes on "the announcer curse."

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. ;-)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

And Today the Ladies Start in Earnest

Even as I recover from the shock of seeing all 4 of my Final Four choices advance from the first round at the Accenture Match Play, the LPGA tees it up in Thailand at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

And yes, #1 Inbee Park, #2 Suzann Pettersen, #3 Stacy Lewis, and #4 Lydia Ko are all in the field. Park, Pettersen, and Lewis are all playing together the first two days.

The Rolex Top 4

In fact, according to Tony Jesselli's preview of the event, 17 of the Top20 are in the field. (That's why I say the LPGA season begins in earnest today.) And the Constructivist has a list of the more interesting pairings for the first two days.

At the time I'm writing this on Wednesday night, the tournament has already begun but the big names haven't teed off yet. However, the leaders are currently at -3 and Lexi Thompson is one of them -- after only 2 holes! Lexi has gotten off to a slow start this year but perhaps this is the week she'll kick it into gear. Danielle Kang and Anna Nordqvist also have a share of the early lead, and both Gerina Pillar and Yani Tseng are in the group at -2.

The LPGA broadcast starts today at 9am ET on GC, followed by the Accenture and another chance for my choices to blow my brackets.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How to Lay Up from the Tee

This sounds like a "yeah, yeah, right" kind of tip, doesn't it? Anybody can lay up, right? Then why do the pros screw up the easy shots so often?

Here's a video clip from Golf Magazine and Top100 Teacher Mitchell Spearman on how to use a hybrid or long iron from the tee instead of a driver when you absolutely positively must hit the fairway. (Use the link if the video isn't embedded properly here.)



Only three simple points to remember:
  • Tee it back in your stance just a bit.
  • Tee it low. These first two steps help you get the slight downward strike you need to make solid contact.
  • Make an "committed" swing. (That is, don't back off and try to swing easy, and don't swing harder than normal either. Choose a club that allows you to swing normally and get the layup you want.)
Simple enough, eh? But it's always the simple things that trip us up. Following these three steps should help you make a confident swing that puts the ball in the short grass so you can attack the green.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My Picks for the Funnest Week of the Season!

Yes, the WGC-Accenture Match Play is finally here! (And yes, I know that "funnest" isn't in the dictionary, but I like it.) And it's time for me to make my annual fruitless attempt at picking the winners, since somebody will probably lose and screw me up the very first day.

the Accenture ball

First of all, here's the homepage for the event. It's not just the place to keep track of scores, but it's where you can play the Bracket Challenge if you're so inclined. Got it? Good.

Now, let's see if I can find my notes... Hah! Who am I kidding? This is all about gut feeling at this point. All I'm going to do is pick my Final Four, the guys who will come out of each bracket to fight it out on the weekend. But in the process I'll try to give you an idea what each bracket will be like.

Let's start with the Bobby Jones bracket, where Henrik Stenson is the 1 seed. This group has a number of Presidents Cuppers and a few Ryder Cuppers in it. I don't see this as a particularly strong bracket -- and I know I'm in the minority there -- but I'll be surprised if the final winner comes from this group. While I'm tempted to take 5 seed Webb Simpson, I'm going long on this one and picking 11 seed Patrick Reed to come out of this group. My reasoning is that anybody tough enough to Monday qualify as many times at Patrick, get on Tour that way, and then win his first year out is a good bet in match play.

Next we have the Ben Hogan bracket, where Rory McIlroy is the 1 seed. This will be a tough bracket because of the number of European Ryder Cuppers in it. Although McIlroy or 3 seed Ian Poulter are the most obvious choices, I'm going with 2 seed Sergio Garcia. Sergio has been to the Accenture finals before; coupled with his recent good form (2 wins) and improved attitude, I think he could put it together this week.

Then there's the Gary Player bracket with 1 seed Justin Rose. This group is a mismash of players -- good players, but they don't have a lot in common. You've got a couple of long hitters (Piercy and Stallings), a couple of past winners (Kuchar and Donald), major winners (Els, Rose, and Dufner), youngsters (Spieth and Manassero), and veterans (Els and Bjorn). I'm taking 3 seed Jordan Spieth from this group simply because he's been in contention nearly every week he's played and the occasional bad score that has kept him from winning won't hurt him so much here. However, I won't be surprised if 6 seed Thomas Bjorn comes out of this group -- he's been sneaky good over the last year or so.

Finally we have the Sam Snead bracket, headed up by 1 seed Zach Johnson. This is the bomber bracket, what with Woodland, DJ, Bubba, Keegan, Dubuisson, and Matsuyama (he's pretty long as well). Zach and Graeme McDowell aren't long hitters but you've got to give them some respect. And you've also got Hunter Mahan in this group, who's a past winner and nearly made it two last year. I'm going long on this bracket as well. I've been touting 7 seed Victor Dubuisson for a year and a half now; he's got a win and a 3rd in the last couple of months on the ET and this is his first try at the Accenture. I like his chances.

And there you have it -- my Final Four for the Accenture. Let's see if I get any of them right this year.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Northern Trust Open

Winner: Bubba Watson

Around the wider world of golf: Lots going on this weekend! Karrie Webb got Win #40 at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open on the LPGA/LET/ALPG; Anthony Summers won the Coca-Cola Queensland PGA Championship on the Australasian Tour; Kirk Triplett won the ACE Group Classic on the Champions Tour; Alex Cejka won the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship on the Web.com Tour; and Thomas Aiken won the Africa Open on the ET.

Bubba pumping fist on 18

It was a cute shot captured by the CBS cameras. There was little Caleb Watson standing beside mom Angie at the 18th green, his hands raised and chanting, "Yay, Daddy!"

He was a bit premature -- Bubba was still in the 18th fairway, waiting to hit his second shot -- but it's a measure of how much Bubba's life has changed in the two years since he last won at the 2012 Masters. Here's the little guy, in a photo from the Seattle PI site:

The 'Bubbas' with the trophy

Perhaps Bubba has been out of the winner's circle for a couple of years but he certainly hasn't forgot how to put on a show. A couple of weeks back in Scottsdale, he came close to winning. This week he calmly shot two bogey-free 64s on the weekend to scorch the field. Just think about that -- he was at -1 after two rounds and Sang-Moon Bae led at -9...

But it was Bubba won by two at -15. That's amazing, especially considering how firm the greens played on Sunday.

Does this put Bubba back in the discussion for this year's Masters? Perhaps. We need to see what he does over the next few weeks. But he's certainly going to get more attention now than he was getting last week!

In the meantime, I have a fresh Limerick Summary for the new champ and his son. Well done, Bubba!
For Bubba, the long drought has ended.
His blistering weekend transcended
What most players thought
Could be reasonably shot.
Bubba did what son Caleb intended!
The top photo came from the front page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Looks Like Suzann Will Have to Wait

It's nearly 1am ET here in North Carolina and I've been following the final round of the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open online. The leaderboard has been interesting -- a lot of movement both up and down.

Mainly down.

Suzann Pettersen

First, let me answer the question that may be foremost in your mind. To become #1 in the Rolex this week and pass Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen needs one of three things to happen:
  1. She wins
  2. She comes in second place
  3. She ties second with one other player
As it stands, she's 7-over for the day after 14 holes. That puts her at -3 for the tournament... and the lead is currently at -11. If I had to bet, I'd say this isn't the week Suzann does it.

So... if not Suzann, who's gonna get it done?

Well, with 11 players within 2 strokes of the lead and all of them either on the back 9 or finished, it's still anybody's guess.

Paula Creamer is the leader in the clubhouse at -10 (she shot -4 in the final round). Originally I didn't think that would be good enough but, as I said, this has been a very active leaderboard. The leaders are now only one stroke ahead of her... and nobody seems to be moving forward anymore. In fact, in the last hour, Paula has continually moved up the leaderboard until she is now solo third!

Given that the Pink Panther began the day T23, the conditions must be tough at the Victoria Golf Club. I've browsed the scores so far and found only two 68s (one is Paula's), two 69s, and a large number of scores over par.

Lydia Ko is currently at -9 after 14 holes (+2 for the round).

Perhaps the surprise of the day is Karrie Webb. After signing an incorrect scorecard last week, she seems to be on a mission and is now tied for the lead at -11. She's only got 1 more hole left but her co-leader, Chella Choi, is +2 for the day.

Right now, I really like Karrie's chances.

Ah, make that three 68s. Karrie just posted at -12, making her the clubhouse leader and -- unless somebody gets hot -- the most likely winner. It's late, so I'm going to shut the computer down and head off to bed.

But regardless of who wins, it's going to take a miracle for Suzann to take #1 from Inbee Park. Looks like she'll have to do it the hard way -- Inbee tees it up again next week.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Some Indoor Drills from the University of Mississippi

I continue to be amazed at how many places around the world -- California, Australia, Colombia, South Africa, even Florida -- have weather nice enough to play golf in. For the rest of us, the picture isn't so pretty.

So I spent some time hunting for some different indoor drills that we snowlanders could do. And I found a page (from 13 months ago) with some unusual suggestions at theolemissgolfcourse.com's blog.

Ole Miss Golf Course blog banner

Not surprisingly, most of the drills deal with putting. You can click on the post link above to check those out. (Some of them are new to me, and sound quite interesting.)

However, there is one drill listed for improving your range of motion during your backswing. I want to include that one here:
Sit down in a dining room chair with your feet flat on the floor and spread widely apart. Hold the club head in one hand and the grip in the other and place the shaft of the club on the back of your neck. Twist your shoulders to the right, holding the position for five seconds. If done properly, you'll feel the torque on the left side of your body. Turn back to your starting position and relax. Repeat this process 10 times.
It's not a new move but it's the first time I've seen it done from a sitting position. I'd suggest doing the drill on BOTH sides to improve your overall muscular balance.

Since you can do it sitting down, it's a good one to use while watching TV. It's not like we can go out and play golf or anything...

Friday, February 14, 2014

It's Hard to Feel Sorry for Jordan Spieth...

Or Fred Couples or Matt Kuchar or any of those players struggling to make the cut at the Northern Trust Open. After all, the rest of us are dealing with this:

snow day

I shot this photo out our kitchen window on Thursday during the second wave of snow. I know many of you are seeing far worse conditions than we are here in NC. We've had between 6" and 8" of snow, which our local TV station says is the most we've had in roughly 18 years, but many of you have had much more and may be without power for several days. (We were lucky here -- we got very little ice.)

Let's face it, the weather is better in Sochi right now than it is along the East Coast and Midwest. I checked the weather forecast -- it's supposed to be 64° at the Olympics today!

But it's supposed to be 72° in Pacific Palasades. No, I suspect there's very little sympathy for those who miss the cut this week!

Jordan had problems with his driver during the first round. (Of course, we've had a lot of driver problems because of this storm!) He also had problems with sand, problems with rough, and problems with the back 9 in general. Even Fred Couples, who's the king of Riviera, had troubles around the course.

But otherwise, the usual suspects are doing what we expected them to do. Dustin Johnson is leading at -5. Jimmy Walker and Scott Stallings are in a huge pack of players a single shot back. Pat Perez and Kevin Stadler are 2 and 3 shots back, respectively.

It's too early to pick a winner yet, but it certainly looks as if one of this season's winners could pick up another one. In the early rounds, form is proving to be very important.

As best as I can tell, none of those forms have been snowmen. (Several 7s have been sighted, however.)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Lee Westwood and Sean Foley No Longer an Item

You may have already heard about "the split." When players change teachers, it causes all kinds of buzz in the golf world.

When Westwood and Foley called it quits after 7 months, the speculation began.

Lee Westwood

Randall Mell wrote about it in his GolfTalkCentral column Wednesday, and it got a brief mention on Golf Central. You can read the original article at the link above, but I'd like to spend a few moments on one sentence from Lee:
“I just wanted something else, a new way of teaching.”
I guess that sums up most of the player-instructor changes on Tour -- any tour, for that matter. In the great search for something that will give them an edge, get them out of a funk, or just make them feel better about their games, even the best players in the world will move from a teacher who got them "there" (in Lee's case, that's Pete Cowen, who also teaches Henrik Stenson) to someone who'll give them "something else."

That's not a criticism of Lee Westwood, not by any stretch of the imagination. Lee left Cowen some time back to go it on his own. It was an understandable move -- he'd come so close to winning a major so many times, he probably just thought he was missing something.

I suspect the reason for the Westwood/Foley split is simply a difference in feel. At the risk of oversimplifying things, Foley teaches a modern swing (the legs pull the arms around) while Cowen teaches more of a classic swing (the arms and legs split the effort more evenly) -- a powerful version of the classic swing, but classic technique nonetheless.

Don't misunderstand me. The fundamentals of each swing are basically the same; it's just that the swing feels very different. For example, the bottom of the swing moves to a slightly different place when you change from one to the other. That's because your legs are driving harder in a modern swing than a classic swing. And for a player like Lee Westwood, who's spent thousands of hours working with a teacher who teaches a more classic swing, that can be a hard adjustment to make.

I wouldn't write anything (like personal animosity between Lee and Sean) into this move. But I think it's a good lesson about just how different the teachings of two leading instructors can be. Lee didn't need "something else" so much as he needed "more of the same, only better."

And because of that, I won't be surprised if Lee doesn't consider working with Cowen again. If Stenson's progress hasn't convinced him that Cowen can adapt his teaching, nothing will.

02-18-14 update: GC says that Westwood is now working with Mike Walker, a Cowen protégé.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cheyenne Woods Goes for Number 2

After you're done watching the final round of the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters which -- spoiler alert! -- Cheyenne Woods won, you have some "fresh" golf to look forward to. (And yes, that was sarcasm. I'm still not happy that we didn't get to see it live.) However, that doesn't mean that GC is unaware of how popular Cheyenne's win was, as she is featured prominently in their promotion of this week's event.

Cheyenne Woods

The reason we get to see it is that this week's event is co-sponsored by the LET and LPGA. The ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open has been an LPGA event since 2012, the year Jessica Korda won it for her first LPGA win. Jiyai Shin won it last year but won't be defending this time. (You'll recall that she withdrew from the LPGA earlier this year and is focusing her attention on Asian golf. Less travel, more rest.)

As usual, Tony Jesselli has done a great preview of the event which you can read here. An interesting note: Although GC has been promoting this as a "star-studded" event -- and there are a number of top players here, as there was at the Masters last week -- this is still a relatively weak field. According to Tony, "Ten of the top 25 players on the LPGA Priority List will not be in action, and 9 of the top 20 in the Rolex Rankings are skipping the event." He ranks the field strength at 51.5%.
To put that in perspective, his preview of the True Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic said, "My strength of field rating is just 52%, which would have ranked as the 4th lowest number in the 2013 season."
While that doesn't mean that a win comes easy, it does let you know that many of the big players aren't in action yet this season. However, we will see Suzann Pettersen, Stacy Lewis, Lydia Ko, and So Yeon Ryu in the field, which gives them 4 of the Top5 in the Rolex. [UPDATE: Ryu ISN'T playing -- my bad. That makes 3 of the Top5.] (Inbee Park will be back in action next week at the Honda LPGA Thailand, according to Randall Mell at GC.)

The Constructivist says that Mell is also reporting that Cheyenne intends to focus on the Symetra Tour this season. Clearly she wants to get back onto the LPGA Tour and, with last week's win locking up a two-year exemption on the LET, now's the ideal time to try.

At any rate, you can watch the first round of the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open tonight at midnight ET on GC. It's always great when we can see the women when they're actually playing, not on tape delay, and it will be interesting to see how Cheyenne deals with all the hoopla over her win. As much as she has been prepared for the attention she draws just by being a Woods, I can't believe she was ready for this. She has certainly sounded surprised in her interviews.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Michael Breed on HItting into the Wind

I've posted material on hitting knockdown shots before, but this tip from Michael Breed has some info you don't normally get. He covered this during The Golf Fix on Monday night, and they posted a short version at golfchannel.com:



Let me pick out the extra info Michael has here (and some things he mentioned on the regular show):
  • Michael specifically says you should pick out a club that is either (a) two clubs longer or (b) 20 yards longer than you would normally use. However, he's demonstrating this on the 7th hole at Pebble Beach, a DOWNHILL shot. Note that he says you can go three clubs longer; on the show he actually said the three-club guideline might be better for a downhill shot to further minimize the time the ball spends in the air. That's an important piece of information to have!
  • Note also that not getting enough lower body action or shoulder turn can cause this shot to slice badly. You need to keep your lower body relaxed so it can move normally and help you square up the club face. This is important even on approach shots that you aren't playing into the wind. If you just maintain the connection between your upper arms and your chest (which I've talked about a lot on this blog) you'll make the proper moves automatically.
  • He also mentions using an abbreviated backswing and followthrough to keep the ball down, and this is important when hitting any kind of knockdown shot. On the show he specifically mentioned keeping your hands at shoulder level or below. You can see this in the video as well.
Bear in mind that many of the short game shots you normally hit, even in good weather, are hit with these same techniques. Many short game shots are just knockdown shots. Master this technique and you'll improve your short game as well as your wind game.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

Winner: Jimmy Walker

Around the wider world of golf: Cheyenne Woods broke through with her first LET victory at the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters; Michael Allen won the Allianz Championship in a playoff on the Champions Tour; and George Coetzee got his first ET win at the Joberg Open (and a spot in the Open Championship as well!).

Jimmy Walker sinks the winning putt

There's an old saying (which was also made into a hit song by Meat Loaf) that "two out of three ain't bad." I'm pretty sure three out of eight is much better!

As you probably heard over and over during the broadcasts, Jimmy Walker has now entered some elite company -- players to win 3 or more tournaments in their first 8 starts of a season. He joins players like Tiger Woods, David Duval, and Phil Mickelson as the only players to do so in the last 20 years.

I think Jimmy proved that it's not so hard to sleep on a large lead. Rather, it's just hard to play the last 9 holes with it! Jimmy's 6-shot lead slowly shrank, stroke by stroke, until he needed a par on 18 to win outright. Nerves slowly affected his short game and putting until he was just holding on. BUT...

He DID hold on. That's what counts.

And that's not all. He also increased his lead in the FedExCup points race and he probably locked up a spot on the US Ryder Cup Team later this year. He jumped 11 spots to #24 in the OWGR, so he has absolutely NO worries about not qualifying for any of the big tournaments this year. And he probably got himself in the early running for Player of the Year.

Those are the things I can think of so far. I'm sure more will pop up as the year progresses -- maybe even next week when he tees it up at the Northern Trust Open. That's another event where he's played pretty well in the past...

But in the meantime, Jimmy picked up his third Limerick Summary of the wraparound season. If he intends to keep winning like this, I'll need to do some research so I can come up with new ones for him...
Maybe “two out of three ain’t bad,”
But three out of eight is RAD!
Jim’s high in the FedExCup;
Tom Watson, sign him up!
How much more stuff can he add?
The photo came from the front page of PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Of D.A. Points and Practice Aids

As you probably heard, D.A. Points got DQ'ed at Pebble Beach for using a foam ball -- a training aid -- to stay loose during the slow play on Friday. There was a lot of talk about it on Saturday, but this kind of thing happens occasionally. You may remember Julie Inkster got DQ'ed last year for using a weighted club to stay loose during a delay.

The rule that deals with this problem is Rule 14, Striking the Ball. Here is the complete rule, copied from the USGA's Rules of Golf website; I'll go over the main "points" that affected D.A. Points after you read it:

14-3. Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of Equipment

The USGA reserves the right, at any time, to change the Rules relating to artificial devices, unusual equipment and the unusual use of equipment, and to make or change the interpretations relating to these Rules.
A player in doubt as to whether use of an item would constitute a breach of Rule 14-3 should consult the USGA.
A manufacturer should submit to the USGA a sample of an item to be manufactured for a ruling as to whether its use during a stipulated round would cause a player to be in breach of Rule 14-3. The sample becomes the property of the USGA for reference purposes. If a manufacturer fails to submit a sample or, having submitted a sample, fails to await a ruling before manufacturing and/or marketing the item, the manufacturer assumes the risk of a ruling that use of the item would be contrary to the Rules.
Except as provided in the Rules, during a stipulated round the player must not use any artificial device or unusual equipment (see Appendix IV for detailed specifications and interpretations), or use any equipment in an unusual manner:
a. That might assist him in making a stroke or in his play; or
b. For the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that might affect his play; or
c. That might assist him in gripping the club, except that:
  • (i)  gloves may be worn provided that they are plain gloves;
  • (ii)  resin, powder and drying or moisturizing agents may be used; and
  • (iii)  a towel or handkerchief may be wrapped around the grip.

Exceptions:

1. A player is not in breach of this Rule if (a) the equipment or device is designed for or has the effect of alleviating a medical condition, (b) the player has a legitimate medical reason to use the equipment or device, and (c) the Committee is satisfied that its use does not give the player any undue advantage over other players.
2. A player is not in breach of this Rule if he uses equipment in a traditionally accepted manner.

PENALTY FOR BREACH OF RULE 14-3:

Disqualification.
Note: The Committee may make a Local Rule allowing players to use devices that measure or gauge distance only.
Basically, the rule says you can't use any "artificial device or unusual equipment" during the round that might help you make a stroke (that's the line marked "c"); if you do, you get DQ'ed. In other words, NO training aids on the course. And #2 under "Exceptions" says you can use your regular equipment in a normal manner as long as it doesn't help you make the stroke.

BTW, that's why I don't recommend or advertise any training aids on my site. It's not that I have anything against them, but I want you to learn ways to correct swing problems that are legal while you're playing. After all, that's when you need help the most!

The question becomes... what constitutes "using equipment in a traditionally accepted manner?"

Here are a few examples:
  • If you need to stay loose while you're on the course, you can swing two clubs at once rather than using a weighted club. The clubs are standard equipment and that's an accepted way of using them to loosen up. That's what Julie should have done.
  • In fact, you can use your clubs to help you stretch in many different ways during your round, like putting one behind your back and using it to stretch your torso by turning from side to side. Again, that's "a traditionally accepted manner."
  • You can stick a club cover under your arm during practice swings to help you work on your swing, but you CAN'T do it when you hit the ball. This is what D.A. should have done. (This one sounds questionable to me, but I found a Decision that explains the logic behind it. We'll get to it in a moment.)
  • You can lay clubs on the ground to check your alignment during the round. This is an accepted way of using clubs. Again, the trick here is that you CAN'T leave them down while you actually make the stroke, as this would "assist you in making a stroke or in your play." (I know, this one also sounds questionable. But it's one of the things that was specifically mentioned during the discussions on TV.)
It may help you to know how the Decisions clarify this question concerning the stranger things I just mentioned that are allowed by the Rules. Decisions 14-3/6 and 14-3/6.5 deal with a player holding a golf ball in his or her left hand against the grip during a putting stroke. (Some of the Decisions deal with strange stuff!) The first decision says a player may not do this during the actual putting stroke, while the second decision says it's okay during a practice stroke. That second decision includes this paragraph:
The prohibition in Rule 14-3 against using equipment in an unusual manner applies to strokes that count in the player's score and not to practice swings or practice strokes.
That may help you to identify potential rule infractions before you "infract" them. Trust me, you don't want to break Rule 14-3 because this rule doesn't assess stroke penalties -- you just get DQ'ed, period.

And hopefully that clears up some of the confusion you may have experienced this weekend.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

I'm Very Disappointed in the LET

A couple of days back I did a post about the live coverage of the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters this weekend. I was ready to see it, since we rarely get to see the LET over here in the States.

So Friday night I went to YouTube. There it was -- the player showing the event's logo and the words "LIVE NOW" right beside it. I clicked on the player...

And got the message "The uploader has not made this video available in your country. Sorry about that."

YouTube message

AAARRRGGG!

Now, I don't know if the uploader is the LET or the people handling the cameras or some division of YouTube. To be honest, I don't care. But if you're going to advertise a broadcast -- as the LET did -- and not make it clear that certain areas won't be carrying it -- which the LET didn't -- shouldn't you make sure it's going to be available to everybody?

This is the kind of thing that turns off potential fans of a sport. It's a problem the LET could have headed off. Instead, it gives the impression that they just don't care whether fans can see them or not.

That's not good marketing. That's not good PR. And it certainly isn't the way to build your fanbase. I'm very disappointed.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Drill for Hitting It Pure from Michael Breed

I've got a video from GC's "video vault" -- a brand new one, posted Thursday! This one's from Michael Breed and it's a simple drill to help you learn how to hit the ball in the center of the club face more consistently. I like it because you can do it in your backyard without a ball, as well as when you hit balls on the practice range.



Did you notice that he's allowed an extra inch or so on either side of the club head? Here's a still from the video that shows that extra space:

How much space to leave between the tees

Once the weather warms up a bit, you can do this drill in your backyard when you can't get to the range.

And no, there's no shortcut around this kind of practice. The only way to improve your ballstriking is to hit balls and do drills like this. But if you focus on what you're doing, you don't need to spend hours each day to get better. This is a really simple drill that can dramatically improve your contact with just a few minutes of practice a few times a week. Let me repeat that: Just 10 minutes of focused practice a day, three or four days a week, can really make a difference in your game.

In case you can't see the video after the first paragraph, here's the link to the original at golfchannel.com.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

LIVE LET Coverage This Weekend... REALLY!

Yes, believe it or not, the LET is broadcasting the final two rounds of the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters live this weekend.

On YouTube on the LET channel! Here's the banner from the LET site (and yes, I fixed it so you can click the banner as well):

LET banner announcing live coverage

Here in North Carolina, that should be prime time Friday and Saturday night. I hope this works well for them, since it may mean more live broadcasts like this going forward.

In the meantime, let me bring you up-to-date on the first round.

At the time I'm writing this -- just after midnight ET -- the leaderboard still shows a huge number of players not finished. According to this post at couriermail.com.au (the most recent post I could find via Google, roughly 4 hours old) the wind was up very early in the day and nothing was said about a stoppage of play, but I'm guessing the wind just got too bad and they had to take a break. The scores have only started updating in the last few minutes.

Things have changed since the Constructivist posted an update earlier Wednesday. Since then Jessica Korda has taken the early lead. She finished at -5 (that's a 68 at the Royal Pines course). She's only one shot ahead of Valentine Derrey (she's a French player, but the ALPG leaderboard shows an American flag next to her name) and two ahead of a group at -3.

Korda's position is interesting because of the International Crown team. Tony Jesselli noted that she probably needs another win to crack the Top4 -- Korda is currently ranked 24 in the Rolex, while Cristie Kerr holds the last team spot at 13 but that's less than a point behind. A win in Australia could put her right in the mix.

Only 31 of the 144 players are under par at this point and there's no telling how soon they'll finish. If you want to check on the scores, you can check in on either the LET live leaderboard or the ALPG live leaderboard.

And don't forget about that LIVE coverage on YouTube during the final two rounds!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Nancy Lopez on Rhythm and Impact

I've been searching GC's video archives for days, searching for clips from Paul Azinger's pitching show. Alas, it seems that GC is deliberately avoiding that show! But I was pleased to find the tips Nancy Lopez gave when she appeared on Morning Drive last week. Here it is, nearly 9 minutes of instruction from one of the greatest ever to play the game. (If you can't see the video, there's a link to the original at the end of the post.)



A few interesting points she mentions:
  • She actually slowed her rhythm down as a youngster because, although she already had a slow backswing, she saw Donna Caponi and her swing was even slower... and Nancy says, "I liked what I saw."
  • The only thing she ever really thought about during her swing was returning the club face square at impact.
  • Her key for doing that was "hitting through" the ball -- that is, she tried to keep the club face square for several inches after contact.
  • And she knew whether she hit it square or not by paying attention to the ball flight. She focused on swinging down the line toward her target.
She also talks a lot about the importance of grip and making sure your swing feels natural. She talks some about putting. And there's a comparison between her and Inbee Park's swings which is very informative. And there's even more!

It's not often that Nancy Lopez gets a chance to share how she played in such detail. There's a lot of useful info in this clip so I hope you spend some time studying it.

In case the video didn't embed properly, you can also watch it at this link.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Golf Digest 2014 Hot List

I'm sure many of you are watching GC's Morning Drive this week because several of the equipment editors from Golf Digest are visiting. They're going over some of the highest-ranked equipment from the Golf Digest 2014 Hot List. Monday they talked about drivers.



Well, here's the link to the online 2014 Hot List. This page lets you choose what equipment category you want to look at, as well as providing links to some other interesting info such as how the Hot List is made and explanations of some of the technical terms they use.

There's also a link to the 2013 golf ball Hot List farther down the page. Hopefully they'll get a 2014 ranking up soon.

Oh, and one quick note from Morning Drive: Mike Stachura, the Golf Digest editor who came in to discuss the drivers, said the reason some manufacturers have as many as three drivers with seemingly identical technology is that (1) in some cases the drivers use slightly different applications of the same technology but most frequently (2) the lower-priced versions simply have fewer adjustments. For example, a $500 driver may allow independent adjustment of loft and shot shape while the $350 version may combine the two so the numerically-lower loft adds a fade bias while the numerically-higher loft adds a draw bias.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Waste Management Phoenix Open

Winner: Kevin Stadler

Around the wider world of golf: Kind of a slow week for golf. Stephen Gallacher became the first player ever to defend at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the ET, and Mi Hyang Lee won the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open on the LET. And the Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII.

The Lesser Walrus takes his place with Dad

No one can settle on a nickname for Kevin Stadler. For the time being, I'll just call him "the Lesser Walrus." He's got a ways to go before he's on a level with his dad, Craig Stadler aka THE Walrus (no, not the late John Lennon), but he's made a start.

It's been a long haul for Kevin. Although he's won several times on the Web.com Tour (one of those wins came on the same day as a Champions Tour win for his dad) and once on the Euro Tour, he's had trouble getting past the runner-up stage in PGA Tour events. And with Bubba Watson starting the final round 2 shots ahead of him, on a course that suited a long hitter like Bubba, things didn't look that good for him on Sunday.

Until Kevin birdied the first 3 holes. And for most of the day it looked like it was between Bubba and Kevin... until around hole 15. Then it seemed like it was anybody's tournament for the taking. In the end only Graham DeLaet made a real run -- he finished just one off the lead -- and it came down to Kevin and Bubba on the 18th hole.

Neither player had displayed particularly stellar play over the back 9 -- they were all over the course, dumping balls in the water and the sand, and Kevin even managed to get a ball suspended in air on cactus spines -- but somehow they were tied at -16 on the 18th tee. Kevin played the hole as well as possible, hitting the fairway, sticking the ball fairly close to the pin, and two-putting for par.

For Bubba it was less tidy. He missed the fairway wide right, then hit the ball long into the rough, leaving a downhill lie to a fast green. His chip didn't come off as he planned but he left himself a longish putt for par... which he missed. But it was that kind of hole -- Ryan Moore, the third member of the group, saw his birdie putt make a full 360° lap around the rim before stopping a couple of inches away.

In the end, a very pleased Lesser Walrus waddled up to accept his first PGA Tour trophy. (Okay, maybe "Lesser Walrus" isn't that great a nickname. I'll work on it.)

At any rate, I am very pleased to give Kevin his very first Limerick Summary. After all, when Kevin tees it up at Augusta with his dad in April, that will be yet another bit of father-son history for the Stadlers:
When Bubba fell prey to disasters,
It sent Kevin straight to the Masters
Where he’ll play with his dad—
The first time we’ve had
Such a pair. That’s prime stuff for broadcasters!
The photo came from the front page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Shocker in New Zealand

I'm sure the Constructivist will do a wrap-up post about the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open -- he's been following it all weekend -- and with more info than I have, since the LET hasn't even done a wrap-up post yet. (I'll include a link to his post here once he gets it up.)

But I can tell you this much: New Zealand got a bit of a shock when the tournament ended.

It wasn't just that Lydia Ko didn't win. (She was definitely in the mix btw.) No, the shocker was that the winner wasn't even in the final pairings. Hell, she wasn't even under par when the final round started!

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Mi Hyang Lee. (The photo's from her bio at LPGA.com.)

Mi Hyang Lee

According to her bio at Seoul Sisters, Mi Hyang Lee was a rookie on the LPGA Tour in 2012 and she'll be 21 this year. Her stats aren't much to look at. She missed a lot of cuts last year. And although she has a win on the Symetra Tour, her best LPGA finish was a T19 at last year's Evian and her lowest score was a 64 shot at last year's Manulife.

Seoul Sisters will have to update their bio after this week!

Lee started the day at even par. Apparently the course has gotten tougher as the week went on; if you read my post about the first round you'll recall that nearly a third of the field (41 players, to be exact) were under par. By the end of the final round there were only 25...

And Lee sat on the top of the heap after blistering the course with a 63, her lowest competitive round ever, to take the early lead at -9. If I counted correctly, there were only 9 scores under 70 in the final round. Second-round leader Anya Alvarez shot a 73; Lydia Ko shot a respectable 70 to lose by one.

I'm wondering if Mi Hyang Lee will take up dual membership on the LET and LPGA now. If nothing else, a few good tournaments on the LET (and let's not forget that her best finish before today was a co-sponsored LET/LPGA major) could really move her up the Rolex Rankings.

Congrats to Mi Hyang Lee. She had trouble getting into tournaments last year because of her status, but I don't think that's going to be a problem in 2014. Way to make it count, girl!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Making Solid Chips

Wednesday I did a post about Paul Azinger's pitching tips. In that post I mentioned Zinger's simple definition of the difference between chipping and pitching: Chipping is when you hit the ground with the front edge of the iron, while pitching is when you hit the ground with the bounce. Or, to put it another way:
  • When you chip, the front edge hits the ground and you take a divot.
  • When you pitch, the bounce hits the ground and you don't take a divot.
Given the number of you who checked out that post, I'm guessing you're all having some trouble with your short games. ;-) Well, Zinger said you should know how to do both. And since we already looked at pitching, let me give you an interesting -- and I must say, very simple -- approach to improving your chipping.

Ironically, on Wednesday Golf Magazine Top100 Teacher Shawn Humphries posted a video at golf.com showing an easy way to chip more consistently.



Now don't over-complicate this. Essentially all Shawn wants you to do is take a normal narrow chipping stance... but instead of an open stance, use a closed stance.

Here's the thinking behind this: When you open your stance, the ball is farther forward in your stance so you naturally have your body behind the ball (farther from the target), which also puts your weight more on your trailing foot, and you hit the ground behind the ball.

But when you close your stance, your lead foot is in front of the ball (closer to the target), which makes you put your weight more on your lead foot, and that makes you hit down more steeply on the ball. That steeper angle of attack makes it easier to hit the ball first, so you hit it more solidly.

I've heard some of the Tour pros recommend this technique if you want to get the ball rolling on the ground quicker. It's a simple way to do a lot of things automatically, so give it a try if you're having trouble hitting solid chips.