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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Poor System or Just Poor Play? Let's Find Out...

I'm in the mood for a rant about the Ryder Cup, just like everybody else. But let's face it -- all these opinions are nothing but opinions. Is there some way to make my rant carry a little more weight?

Ah yes, I have it. I'll run another Ryder Cup -- no, wait, TWO more Ryder Cups -- to prove my point!

I know, that sounds silly... but I think I can make it work. Okay, here are the ground rules:

We have the results of every single match that was played at Gleneagles -- in fact, you can find them right here. All you have to do is click the little "details" button under each match to see the scorecards. Of course, I doubt that most of you will take the time to click on each of those little buttons to see each individual scorecard...

But I did. And I came up with a way to use these scorecards to stage two more Ryder Cups. In the table below you'll see every match for all three days listed down the right side. Then there are three more columns, each one representing one of my Ryder Cups:
  • Actual Results are what really happened.
  • US Bogey-Free is my first test match-up. I simply replaced every US score (on every hole, on every scorecard) that was a bogey or worse with a par -- Euro scores remained the same -- and then recalculated the results to see who won.
  • Europe Birdie-Free is just for comparison to give me an extreme. I replaced every European score (again, on every hole, on every scorecard) that was a birdie or better with a par -- US scores remained the same -- and then recalculated the results to see who won.
Do you see what I've done? US Bogey-Free fields a US Team that never makes worse than a par, while Europe Birdie-Free fields a European Team that never makes better than a par.

The Other Info column simply tells you if there were holes that didn't get played. (There were a couple of matches that didn't go the full number but my recalculations showed that those holes would never have been played in any case, so I didn't note the extra holes there.)

The results should be mostly self-explanatory -- eu5&4 means Europe won 5&4 while us1up means the US won 1up. If there are extra holes listed in the Other Info column, I had to make some guesses. Out of fairness, I assumed matches that were dormie or all square (as) were halved, and other matches were awarded to the leader at the last hole that was played -- if Europe was 1 up and there were 3 holes left unplayed, Europe wins the match.

All point totals list the US first, then Europe. I'll have my conclusions after the table.

Match-ups Actual Results US
Bogey-Free
Europe
Birdie-Free
Other
Info
Rose / Stenson
Watson / Simpson
eu5&4 eu3up as 4 to play
Bjorn / Kaymer
Fowler / Walker
halve us1up us4&2
Gallacher / Poulter
Spieth / Reed
us5&4 us6&5 us6&5
Garcia / McIlroy
Bradley / Mickelson
us1up us3&2 us2up
Friday Morning
Fourball Totals
2.5-1.5 3-1 3.5-.5
Donaldson / Westwood
Furyk / Kuchar
eu2up halve us1up
Rose / Stenson
Mahan / Johnson
eu2&1 us1up us1up
McIlroy / Garcia
Fowler / Walker
halve us4&3 us3&2
Dubuisson / McDowell
Bradley / Mickelson
eu3&2 us1up as 2 to play
Friday Afternoon
Foursome Totals
.5-3.5 3.5-.5 3.5-.5
Rose / Stenson
Watson / Kuchar
eu3&2 eudorm as 2 to play
Donaldson / Westwood
Furyk / Mahan
us4&3 us4&3 us4&3
Bjorn / Kaymer
Spieth / Reed
us5&3 us5&3 us6&5
McIlroy / Poulter
Fowler / Walker
halve halve us5&4
Saturday Morning
Fourball Totals
2.5-1.5 3-1 3.5-.5
Donaldson / Westwood
Johnson / Kuchar
eu2&1 as us2&1 1 to play
Garcia / McIlroy
Furyk / Mahan
eu3&2 eu1up eudorm 2 to play
Kaymer / Rose
Spieth / Reed
halve us5&4 us2&1
Dubuisson / McDowell
Fowler / Walker
eu5&4 eu2up eu3up 4 to play
Saturday Afternoon
Fourball Totals
.5-3.5 1.5-2.5 2.5-1.5
McDowell
Spieth
eu2&1 us1up eu1up 1 to play
Stenson
Reed
us1up us3up us2up
McIlroy
Fowler
eu5&4 eu5&4 as 4 to play
Rose
Mahan
halve halve us5&4
Gallacher
Mickelson
us3&1 us3&1 us4&3
Kaymer
Watson
eu4&2 eudorm us1up 2 to play
Bjorn
Kuchar
us4&3 us5&3 us5&3
Garcia
Furyk
eu1up halve us4&2
Poulter
Simpson
halve us3&1 us2&1
Donaldson
Bradley
eu4&3 eu3up eu1up 3 to play
Westwood
Walker
us3&2 us3&2 usdorm 2 to play
Dubuisson
Johnson
halved us2&1 us3&1
Sunday
Singles Totals
5.5-6.5 8-4 9-3
Final Points Totals
US-Europe
11.5-16.5 19-9 22-6

This table hints at some very interesting things. Let's compare the Actual Results with those of the hypothetical Bogey-Free US Team.
  • First of all, the Fourball sessions aren't much different between the two. The BF team is slightly better but not enough to make a stink over. In fact, many of the matches turn out exactly the same. Clearly the US Team didn't struggle in fourballs.
  • But that certainly isn't the case in foursomes. In the actual matches the US won 1 out of 8 points. If they had merely eliminated the bogeys they would have won 5 of the 8 available points! You do realize that fourballs used to be a strength of the US team, don't you?
  • Here's something you may not have noticed immediately. While the US Team's scores in fourballs are nearly the same, that's not the case when you compare the Singles results. But they're playing their own balls in both cases. What gives? Simple -- more bogeys start slipping through.
There are some matches where my rigged setup didn't change the outcome. These players (on both sides) were playing well. When they couldn't make birdie, more times than not they found a way to scratch out a par. My rigged Ryder Cup indicates that most of the US Team couldn't do it. If they had -- if they had simply managed to make pars when they couldn't score birdies -- they would have easily beaten the Euro Team and taken 19 of the available 28 points.

But perhaps the most striking thing to me is the comparison between the Bogey-Free US Team and the Birdie-Free Euro Team. Do you understand what I did? I created a Euro Team that was so bad that they couldn't make a single birdie on any hole in three days! And yet my rigged scores show that the US Team wouldn't have beaten that straw team much worse with their actual scores than they would have beaten the actual Euro Team if they had just avoided making so many bogeys.

In fact, there are a few matches where the no-birdie Euro Team (vs actual US scores) actually got better results than the no-bogey US Team (vs actual Euro scores). Consider the McDowell / Spieth singles match or the Spieth / Reed / Kaymer / Rose foursome on Saturday, for instance. The reason is simple. There were too many holes where replacing a Euro birdie with a par was still good enough to beat the US players' actual score. It's ALWAYS better to make par than to depend on your opponent screwing up!

David Feherty probably said it best. "It wouldn't have mattered if you sent them out paired by height. The Europeans just played better."

I think I've made my point. You want a winning system? MAKE PARS, NOT BOGEYS! That's a system that would have an immediate effect!

I'll take a little time tomorrow to rant about what I think should be done.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Ryder Cup

Winner: Europe 16.5-11.5

Around the wider world of golf: Believe it or not, there was quite a bit of golf going on this weekend. John Cook won the Nature Valley First Tee Open on the Champions Tour (Lee Janzen and junior partner Christopher Meyers won the pro-junior team event); Tyler McCumber won the Ecuador Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Hiroyuki Fujita won the Asia-Pacific Open Golf Championship Diamond Cup on the Asian Tour; Hao Tong Li won the Jianye Tianzhu Henan Open on the PGA TOUR China; Kanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul won the Taiwan LPGA Party Golfers Open on the TLPGA; and Miki Sakai won the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has details).

Jamie Donaldson seals the win

Well, the European Team did it again... and that means we're in for another round of finger-pointing and second-guessing.

Apparently it's already begun in the American Team room. Phil Mickelson's comments in the after-round presser seemed to indicate that Tom Watson's "approach to team management" didn't set particularly well with many players on the team. I may do a post about those things later in the week, but one thing is very clear:

It don't matter what the Captain does if the players don't put up the numbers. Wouldn't you all agree?

In this short post I'll just point out some high points from both teams.

The top point getter for the Euros was Justin Rose with a 3-0-2 record and the top US player was Patrick Reed with 3-0-1. Rose has been passed over in past Ryder Cups -- that's unlikely to happen ever again! -- and Patrick Reed was widely maligned by fans and the media before the event. Again, that's unlikely to happen now.

And I should point out, for those who are convinced the Euros have a "magic system" that creates giant killers, that the one US player uniformly singled out for praise by European stalwarts like Darren Clarke was Reed. In fact, Colin Montgomerie told NBC, "If the US team had 12 Patrick Reeds, they wouldn't have been trailing 10-6 Saturday night."

Neither captain did particularly well with their picks: The Euro picks finished 3-5-2, the US picks 2-5-2. (So much for the "magic system.") The US rookies did far better than the Euro rookies -- 6-2-5 vs 5-3-1 (that's 8.5 points to 5.5) -- although I think it's safe to say both teams appear to have bright futures.

But none of these stats is as meaningful as 16.5-11.5, which is Team Europe's margin of victory. (I suppose even those numbers will pale compared to the number of champagne and beer bottles emptied in celebration this week!)

And therefore I submit this bittersweet Limerick Summary (bittersweet for Americans like me) to salute the European Team on yet another dominating Ryder Cup win. Man, this is getting old...
A troubled American Team
Soon found itself swimming upstream
‘Gainst the power of the current
Team Europe, who weren’t
The underdogs they tried to seem.
The photo came from this page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Blair O'Neal Hits It High

Since the Ryder Cup failed to give me anything I wanted to write about -- I expected the US team to split the foursomes session but you know what happened -- I've decided instead to beautify my site with another of Golf Digest's Sexiest Shots in Golf videos. In this one, Blair O'Neal shows you how to hit it sky high over a tree:

That's simple enough to say, but it's going to take a bit of practice.
  1. Take the highest-lofted club that will still let you cover the distance of your shot. This will also be affected by how far you are from the tree. If you're too far away from your target or too close to the tree ahead of you, you won't be able to pull this off.
  2. Move the ball a little forward in your stance. This makes you hit it later in the swing, which gets more effective loft on the ball. This is what will take some practice because if you move it too far forward, you may hit the ball fat. You're trying to catch the ball right at the bottom of your swing arc.
  3. When you look toward your target, look up in the air over the tree. That will unconsciously help you get more height on the shot.
  4. Make a big swing with a high finish. That high finish is really important because it helps you release the club better, giving you more power as well as more loft.
And there you go. Spend a little time practicing this shot and you'll find it can also help you stop the ball faster on hard greens... even if you don't need to fly over a tree.

If for some reason the video didn't embed, here's the original link.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Looking Ahead to Saturday's Matches

This is another case of me posting early but most of you will still likely see the matches before you read this post. Here are my takes on Friday and my predictions for Saturday. We'll see how well I do.

First, let me say that I think Tom Watson's about to change the standard strategy for the US team -- namely, don't make anybody play all 5 sessions. Tom certainly intimated as much in his news conference where he remained noncommittal on whether he would sit guys or not.  On the first day Tom (and Paul too, for that matter) wanted to play every member of his team to see how they would do. There was some controversy when Tom chose not to play a certain pairing in both sessions...

Spieth and Reed

I suspect we'll see Spieth / Reed and Fowler / Walker the rest of the way out. (They're the power teams; ride 'em!) I also expect Furyk and Kuchar to play the rest of the way, although I don't think they'll play together. (I could be wrong, as that would mean that Bradley would NOT be paired with Mickelson in the afternoon. But that's my feeling.) And I suspect some other players are going to sit until Sunday -- specifically Webb Simpson. I think I'd send out Furyk / Johnson and Kuchar / Bradley in the afternoon.

For the Euros, I suspect Dubuisson / McDowell, Rose / Stenson, Donaldson / Westwood, and Bjorn / Kaymer will be the afternoon foursomes. Why mess with success? Let Rory and Sergio rest for singles, and unless Poulter plays better Saturday morning, sit him as well.

I'm not surprised Gallacher struggled a bit, just as I'm not surprised the other 5 rookies played extremely well. It's rough being the hometown boy, especially with all the connections his father had to the event. High expectations on a first-timer are rough; the other rookies sort of snuck in under the radar. Their play bodes well for both teams.

The US didn't play as bad as they may have looked. Had the team draws come up differently in the afternoon, the results would have been a little better for the US -- although I think it's likely the Euros would have still had a single point lead.(I think that's why Tom is putting Furyk and Kuchar out again this morning.) As it stands, I expect the US to gain a point back today, winning 4.5 of the 8 points up for grabs.

So at the end of today, I expect the Euros to be up 8.5 - 7.5 over the US. If I'm right, Sunday singles should be pretty exciting.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Patrick Reed-Jordan Spieth Pairing

I'm writing this before the first session of Ryder Cup matches begins. The weather has turned in Scotland -- it appears the teams may be facing 30mph winds and sideways rain, just what we tend to expect for a European Ryder Cup. (That's not a slam against Europe, just a matter of geography.)

The first four matches were named hours ago and, although I'm posting this a little earlier than normal, by the time you read this post those matches may be mostly in the books. But I couldn't help but make some observations about one particular team, perhaps the most controversial of US Captain Tom Watson's pairings.

Namely, the Patrick Reed-Jordan Spieth pairing which will face off against Euro rookie Stephen Gallacher and "the Match Play Ninja," Ian Poulter.

Patrick Reed and wifeJordan Spieth and girlfriend

This one seems to have caught everybody off-guard and the general impression is that their play will either make Tom Watson look like a genius or start the barrage of criticism. But this is why Watson was chosen as Captain; he has the ability to do whatever he thinks will work and not worry about the consequences. In this case, Watson liked the way the two played in the practice rounds.

But Spieth reportedly asked to play with Reed. PGATOUR.com quotes Spieth as saying, “I’ve played a lot of golf with (Reed), not only as a professional golfer, but junior and amateur golf. I think it’s a comforting factor for us and I think we’ll go out there and kill it.”

For his part, Watson told the media, “I told them today, I said, ‘I'm going to throw you in the ocean without a life preserver. You're on your own. You get out there and you get it done."

No doubt you've heard the pluses this team brings to the event. Golf.com did an article that focused on the pairing which lists some of them (it's a good read, though it did fail to mention all the Monday qualifying Patrick did to become a PGA Tour member or how well Jordan did in his first Masters this year) but they missed something I think is very important to the success of this duo. Let me tell you about it.

You may not have heard Patrick's media presser but one of the interesting things that came out of it was that Patrick's dream foursome -- you know, one of those "get to know the players" questions that they all get asked -- included Ian Poulter. When asked why, Patrick said that he had been able to play some with Poults in a tournament and had enjoyed it immensely. Patrick said he was a blast to play with, and that he'd like to play with him again.

I know a Ryder Cup confrontation is different from playing in a stroke play tourney, but it means that Patrick Reed won't be intimidated by Ian Poulter. And since neither Patrick nor Jordan has proven to be intimidated by very much anyway...

That, my friends, could make for a very interesting match indeed.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tom Watson on Pitching from a Tight Lie

With Tom Watson leading the US Ryder Cup team this week, it only makes sense to have a playing tip from the Captain. Here's his newest tip at Golf Digest -- this one's on pitching from a tight lie (and yes, that's Rickie Fowler demonstrating in the photo):

Rickie Fowler pitching from a tight lie

Tom's simple tip for pitching from a tight lie -- that is, when there's no cushion of grass under the ball -- is to move the ball back about an inch in your stance and make a slightly steeper stroke, to insure that you hit down on the ball. That's it. No fancy club face manipulation or other tricky stuff. He says if you hit it a bit thin, you'll probably still get a good shot. (In fact, he often plays for a thin shot.)

He says to practice short pitches first, in order to get a feel for the shot, then move on to longer clubs. Here's the video he included; you can also see it at the above link if it doesn't embed properly:


Tom also suggests pitching into a crosswind rather than riding the wind. He says that the wind affects short shots more than most people expect, especially after the ball lands. Pitching into the wind minimizes the rollout.

You know, I bet the coolest part of being on the Ryder Cup team is being able to have Tom show you how to play these kinds of shots in person.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Ryder Cup Infographic

With the start of the Ryder Cup just a couple of days away, I know you might need some little conversation starters to use with your non-golfing friends. (Because you're ALWAYS looking for an excuse to talk golf with your non-golfing friends, right?)

So I've got an infographic here from the kind folks over at Function18, who occasionally do some guest fashion posts for me. It has a variety of facts and trivia about the history of the Ryder Cup. If you click on the graphic, you'll be taken to a larger version at their blog.

Ryder Cup Facts And Stats Infographic

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Billy Horschel's Putting Grip Change

Brian Manzella, the Golf Magazine Top100 Teacher, recently did a video about the putting grip change Billy Horschel and his teacher Todd Anderson made just before the 2nd FedExCup Playoff event. One thing this video does is show how misleading a simple instruction can be, and Brian does everybody a favor by showing us exactly what Billy's new grip actually looks like.



As you can see, when Billy "separated his hands" on his putter grip, he didn't actually make a split grip where there's a space between his hands. Rather, he now uses what I call a "10-finger" grip -- the hands aren't really separated, he just doesn't overlap any of his fingers anymore.

Billy's grip is a crosshand (lead hand low) grip -- since Billy is right-handed, that means his left hand is lower on the shaft than his right -- and his left pinky touches but doesn't overlap his right index finger. With more fingers on the grip, he says it's easier to feel the putter. (I'd say that's because, with more fingers on the grip, you don't have to grip as tightly to keep control. A lighter touch equals better feel.)

Brian also advises practicing long putts (in addition to short putts and tap-ins) to help your distance control. Makes sense to me!

On the outside chance the video didn't embed, here's the link to the original.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 SymetraTour Championship

Winner: Marita Engzelius

Around the wider world of golf: Mi Jung Hur won the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic; Jiyai Shin won the Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic on the JLGPA (the Constructivist has details); Connie Chen won the Tenerife Open de Espana Femenino on the LET; Joost Luiten won the ISPS Handa Wales Open on the ET; Derek Fathauer won the Web.com Tour Championship; and Paul Goydos won the Pacific Links Hawaii Championship on the Champions Tour.

9 of the Top10 LPGA card winners

Whenever the PGA Tour doesn't play, I have the option of doing a Limerick Summary for one of the other events going on. (Since it's my blog I suppose I have that option every week, but you know how habits can be.) And this week I had a lot of possibilities.

Did you know that this week's Wales Open was the final time it will be played on the ET? They had a real shootout going down to the wire, with 8 or 9 guys within a shot or two of the lead most of the final round.

Stacy Lewis started the day 4 shots behind M.J. Hur at the LPGA event, shot -6... and didn't gain a single shot. Hur not only got her first LPGA win in 5 years, but set a new tournament record doing it.

And of course, we had all the drama at the Web.com Tour Championship. In case you wonder, 3 players got full exemptions to the Big Tour -- Derek Fathauer and Adam Hadwin got the ones with the PLAYERS invite, and Carlos Ortiz had already gotten the field promotion for winning 3 times last season.

But in the end I decided to give the Symetra Tour gals a little love. Their event ended in a 3-way playoff that vaulted an unexpected player into the Top10 who got Tour cards. Here's a list of the 10 lucky ladies -- and yes, I know there's only 9 in the above photo. I think #7 Yueer Cindy Feng is the missing face:
  1. Marisa Steen (also won Player of the Year)
  2. Min Seo Kwak
  3. Jackie Stoelting
  4. Sadena Parks
  5. Min Lee
  6. Wei-Ling Hsu
  7. Yueer Cindy Feng
  8. Kendall Dye
  9. Demi Runas
  10. Mallory Blackwelder
Demi Runas was one of the 3 in the playoff (she started the week at #15 on the money list), along with Jackie Stoelting (#7 to start) and Marita Engzelius (sitting way back at #54). Engzelius, a Norwegian player who idolizes Suzann Pettersen, eagled the first playoff hole to get her first Symetra Tour win... and a trip straight to the Final Stage of Q-School, which greatly increases her chances of getting a Tour card that way. Here's her after-round interview:



If you'd like to check out some of the things that went on after the round, you can check out Twitter's #VolvikRace page here. (That's where the photo's from, btw.) Since Gary Williams from Morning Drive was there, I assume Morning Drive plans to do some after-the-fact coverage today.

You can also check the official Symetra Tour Twitter page here. That's where you'll find the video of all 9 card winners doing a cannonball to celebrate! (It's also on their YouTube channel. The above video can link you there.)

As for Marita Engzelius herself, I have (drumroll please!) her very own Limerick Summary. She might be the only Symetra Tour player to get one while she is actually still on the Tour -- I can't remember if I've ever done another one -- and I'm sure she's the only one to get a Limerick Summary featuring Norse mythology. (She is Norwegian, after all.)
Marita Engzelius got a shock
When she won the playoff. Her golfing stock
Shot up like a rocket—
The cash in her pocket
Means she’s off to Finals, not Ragnarok!
Good luck to all the Volvik Race to the Card winners... and to Marita and her friends as they prepare for Q-School!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Only an $8 Lead

I was looking over the situation at the Symetra Tour Championship -- remember, there are 10 fully-exempt cards up for grabs -- and discovered that things have gotten very interesting indeed.

And much of the reason is Maude-Aimee LeBlanc, who is leading the event going into the final round.

Maude-Aimee Leblanc

Here's the deal: Of the Top10 cards, 6 are pretty well locked up. And given how the other players are playing, it looks like #7 Jackie Stoelting is pretty solid as well since I don't think she can fall past #10 as long as she succeeds in posting a score. (My calculations say any finish below 3rd place won't award enough money to pass her unless #8 Dye manages to take 4th-7th but no higher. Stoelting could conceivably fall to #11 then.)

#8 Kendall Dye could be in trouble. My calculations say she could also fall 4 spots if she stumbles and the Top4 finishers fall in just the right way. The problem is that she only has 2 spots to play with, while Stoelting has 3.

But #9 and #10 could be passed by anybody down to at least #21 on the money list, depending on whether the challengers win or get solo 2nd-5th and depending on who gets which position. Here is the table posted at symetratour.com after the 3rd round. (Note that #18-21 didn't make the cut and that #12 Lee Lopez is pretty much out of the running, which helps the Top10 a bit.)

Player Current Money 2nd Rd. Finish Projected Money* Projected Ranking
#7 Jackie Stoelting $48,580 T27 (-2) $1,484 7 ($50,064)
#8 Kendall Dye $46,032 T14 (-4) $2,484 8 ($48,516)
#9 Mallory Blackwelder $39,487 T21 (-3) $1,827 10 ($41,314)
#10 Veronica Felibert $39,479 T27 (-2) $1,484 12 ($40,963)
#11 Sara-Maude Juneau $36,538 T7 (-5) $4,448 11 ($40,986)
#12 Lee Lopez $36,115 T64 (+4) $481 14 ($36,596)
#13 Lindy Duncan $36,063 T7 (-5) $4,448 13 ($40,511)
#14 Brittany Altomare $33,864 T27 (-2) $1,484 16 ($35,348)
#15 Demi Runas $33,223 T21 (-3) $1,827 18 ($35,050)
#16 Emily Talley $32,747 T14 (-4) $2,484 17 ($35,231)
#17 Nicole Vandermade $31,896 T7 (-5) $4,448 15 ($36,344)
#21 Maude-Aimee LeBlanc $25,229 1 (-11) $22,500 9 ($47,729)
#34 Casey Grice $19,521 3 (-8) $10,255 19 ($29,776)
*projected money does not account for ties (i.e. T1 standing is projected out as solo first place money)

The thing to note here is the Current Money column, which shows where players stand coming into this event. Note that #9 Mallory Blackwelder and #10 Veronica Felibert are separated by a mere $8, while #11 Sara-Maude Juneau and (of course) #21 Maude-Aimee LeBlanc are both playing better than them.

As things stand right now -- again, assuming that Blackwelder, Felibert, and Juneau can solo in their current positions, and that LeBlanc wins -- LeBlanc leaps past both Blackwelder AND Felibert, pushing Felibert out of a card. In fact, Juneau leaps Felibert as well!

And that's all because Blackwelder is just one single stroke ahead of Felibert.

But here's the trick: Except for LeBlanc (and Grice, who can't get a card even if she wins), everybody else in this table is in a tie. That means that the money totals are all hypothetical and could change drastically. One stroke more or less -- especially for Blackwelder and Felibert -- could mean the difference between a card and Q-School.

Even if players don't get a card, a good finish here could jump them straight to the final round of the LPGA Q-School. But getting a fully-exempt card today would make the next few months much more restful.

I doubt there will be much resting today.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Anna Rawson on the Power Draw

A few months back I posted a video from Golf Digest's Sexiest Shots in Golf series where Anna Rawson demonstrated how to hit a checked wedge. Well, I've brought Anna back to demonstrate how to hit a big power draw with your driver. Take it away, Anna...

Okay, it's 3 very simple steps:
  1. Use a stronger lead hand grip. (Note that Anna actually strengthens BOTH hands. That should guarantee that you don't leave the club face open.)
  2. Tee the ball a little more forward in your stance.
  3. Close your stance AND your shoulders.
You need all 3 for this to work. You close your stance and your shoulders --even if you close your stance, it won't work if your shoulders are open -- and you move the ball forward to give you more time to square up your hands. Those 2 things delay impact by making the club head travel farther before it gets to the ball. Then the stronger grip forces you to square up the club face... because if you're slicing the ball, you aren't getting it squared.

You'll have to experiment with these 3 steps a bit to see just how much you need to alter each one. You may need to move the ball farther forward but not close your stance as much, or you may need to close your stance more and move the ball less. You may need to make your grip a lot stronger or only a little stronger. But this technique should help you get that draw when you hit your driver.

If you need some extra help, go to my Some Useful Post Series page and check out the "How to Hit a Draw" series. There's both a right-handed and a left-handed version of the series that might help you get more out of this video.

And in case the video didn't embed, here's the link to the original.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Ladies Have Some Drama Too

I'm including a number of links in today's post because BOTH the LPGA Tour and Symetra Tour events have a bearing on who gets their cards next season.

Stacy Lewis and caddie

First of all, the Symetra Tour Championship is the ladies' equivalent of the Web.com Tour Championship (which is also going on this week). On this I'm going to refer you to posts by the Constructivist and by Tony Jesselli, and also the Symetra Tour site's own summary.

Why so many links, you may ask? Because the Symetra Tour only gives out 10 Tour cards... but unlike the Web.com Tour cards, all 10 cards will give their owners FULL TOUR PRIVILEGES. Yes, you read that right -- full Tour privileges. However, there is no agreement on how many of the Symetra Tour players have locked up cards. TC believes 8 are probably safe, but both Tony and the Tour seem to think it's only 6. The problem is that NONE of the Top10 on the money list are inside the event's Top10 after the first round!

But they aren't the only ones feeling some pressure. The girls on the LPGA are running out of time to make both the Top100 money list to keep their cards for next year AND to make the Top72 for the Race to the CME Globe (think FedExCup). Counting this week there are only 8 events before the CME Group Tour Championship, and some of those are limited-field events. And some players simply HAVE to make the cut this week in order to have any chance of keeping their cards. TC's post covers the LPGA situation as well as the Symetra Tour.

Among the players who gave up worrying about Tour cards long ago, Stacy Lewis found the putting stroke she couldn't find at the majors this year and vaulted to the top of the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic leaderboard alongside M.J. Hur. (Hur finished T3 at the Evian last week.) Both are tied at -8, while South African player Paula Reto is in 3rd at -7. Reto is one of those players who really needs a good week to try and keep her card -- she's currently at 105.

GC is broadcasting the LPGA event today at from 5pm-7pm ET. You'll have to follow the Symetra event on their live leaderboard.

Between the men and the ladies, are there enough nerves to keep you entertained this week?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Last Chance to Get a Tour Card

Well, it's finally here. The Web.com Tour Championship, the final event of the playoffs, the one that will determine who gets on the PGA Tour and who goes back to the Web.com Tour, starts today. It's being played at the Dye’s Valley course at TPC Sawgrass, which some folks say might actually be harder than TPC Sawgrass itself.

Dye's Valley Course

I've also printed the rankings for the Top50 entering this final week below. You can find more detailed info on this page.

'THE 50' ENTERING THE WEB.COM TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP
Rank Player
1 Carlos Ortiz
1 Adam Hadwin
3 Bud Cauley
4 Justin Thomas
5 Colt Knost
6 Andrew Putnam
7 John Peterson
8 Zack Sucher
9 Richard Sterne
10 Blayne Barber
11 Tom Hoge
12 Tony Finau
13 Sam Saunders
14 Derek Fathauer
15 Greg Owen
16 Alex Cejka
17 David Lingmerth
18 Jason Gore
19 Whee Kim
20 Steven Alker
21 Tom Gillis
22 Andres Gonzales
23 Sean O'Hair
24 Jon Curran
25 Jim Herman
26 Daniel Berger
27 Scott Pinckney
28 Cameron Percy
29 J.J. Henry
30 Jonathan Randolph
31 Oscar Fraustro
32 Max Homa
33 Tyrone Van Aswegen
34 Steve Wheatcroft
35 Hudson Swafford
36 Mark Hubbard
37 Nick Taylor
38 Kyle Reifers
39 Greg Chalmers
40 Ryan Armour
41 Roberto Castro
42 Byron Smith
43 Dicky Pride
44 Bill Lunde
T45 Will Wilcox
T45 Carlos Sainz Jr.
47 Roger Sloan
48 Fabian Gomez
49 Vaughn Taylor
50 Patrick Rodgers

You'll note that there are two players at #1. That's because Ortiz won the #1 ranking at the final event of the Web.com Tour's regular season and Hadwin is ahead in the 4-event Finals. Both of the top players get a fully-exempt Tour card when this is all over, as well as an invite to the 2015 THE PLAYERS. Ortiz, plus the other 24 players who got their cards in the regular season, are simply trying to improve their status this week. Hadwin's #1 position is still up for grabs until the end of this event.

Meanwhile, #50 is only $703 ahead of #51. Think there's a little pressure this week?

GC's broadcast begins at 2pm ET today, with a rebroadcast at 8pm ET.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Few Scattered Thoughts on Recent Topics

Just catching up on some recent events that don't require full posts but about which I have an opinion.

First of all, in case you haven't heard (and I know you're all interested), Billy Horschel's little girl Skylar Lillian arrived at 8:48pm Tuesday night. Billy tweeted that she's 20 inches and 6 pounds 6 oz. Here's the photo he tweeted:

The Horschel family

Looks like all is well and good in the Horschel household.

I've also been asked my thoughts about the Ryder Cup process for choosing players. It's been a big subject of debate this week since Billy won the last two FedExCup events after the deadline for the Captain's Choices. The assumption is that Tom Watson would have wanted somebody like Billy on the US team... and I can't say that I disagree. (I doubt he'd have enough energy to play though. Babies are pretty demanding, especially in their first few months.)

However, my primary beef with the process is that the two teams are chosen at different times. While waiting later would make it more likely to get "hot" players with the Captain's Choices, it bothers more that the Euro team sets their automatic picks a full three weeks after the US team. I think both teams should be set at the same time. It's not like they need to coordinate 88 countries like the Sochi Olympics did!

In short, as long as both sides choose their teams at the same time, I'm okay with the current timing.

Tiger's press conference for the newly-renamed Hero World Challenge (Hero Motocorp in India being the new sponsor) drew a lot of attention when Tiger mentioned that he hadn't swung a golf club since the PGA and didn't plan to before the end of this month or early October, and also that he wasn't even thinking about a new teacher yet. I think this shows that Tiger is starting to realize that he needs to approach the rest of his career as a human being rather than a superhero, and I also think that gives him the best chance of returning to form quickly. He certainly seemed in good spirits, which can't hurt his chances.

Hmmm, did I miss anything? Oh yes, I did want to comment on how well Michelle Wie played in order to win the Rolex Annika Major Award despite being injured. Inbee Park played in all 5 events (38, T43, 4th, 1st, T10 for 76 points) versus Michelle effectively playing only 2 events (2nd, 1st, MC, DNP, WD for 84 points) and yet Michelle still beat her by 8 points. (You can read the LPGA wrap-up here.) In case you wonder where the point totals come from, they're the same points awarded for the Rolex POY award. I hope it doesn't take Michelle too long to get back in form when she finally heals up.

Finally, this week finally saw a shake-up in my Ruthless Golf World Rankings (the RGWR in the sidebar) and I wanted to explain why it now looks the way it does. The Top3 are the year's major winners--Rory with 2 majors and some other events worldwide, Martin with 1 major and the TPC (as strong a field), and Bubba with the Masters and one other win (plus his play picked up during the Playoffs). Those three should be pretty obvious choices.

Then comes Billy Horschel with that torrid 3-event streak at the end of the season (the Tour Championship and one other event, plus a 2nd, is better than what most of the other players have done in the last few months), and finally Adam Scott. Adam had that run of Australian majors late last year, a win at Colonial, and he was OWGR #1 for 4 weeks in May and has been #2 the rest of the time since the 2013 Barclays. But while he's been playing well, he's just not winning as much as I expected.

I think that covers everything.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hyo Joo Kim's Major-Winning Swing

This past weekend, in her first major appearance, Hyo Joo Kim shot the lowest score ever (male or female) in a major -- 61. Then she finished the week by winning the Evian Championship in a head-to-head match-up against Karrie Webb.

Matthew Rudy at Golf Digest posted an article that included the following YouTube video and a brief breakdown of H.K.'s swing.



At only 5'3" tall, she averaged 250 yards off the tee yet missed only 9 fairways total during all 4 rounds.. (A lot of you taller men out there can't do that!) And she does it with a swing that seems very relaxed. PGA instructor Michael Jacobs gives an explanation of the main mechanics of her swing:
"It's because of how her arms travel 'up' in the backswing and the way she uses her lower body to turn her hips on the downswing."
Obviously there's more to it than that -- there's more detail in the article -- but the basic idea is that she has a fairly upright swing and strong leg action. The combination gives her a lot of room to swing her arms and generate a lot of clubhead speed.

Read the article and make sure you watch that video a few times. This is a simple swing with strong fundamentals... and let me repeat that she obviously stays as relaxed as possible throughout her swing. She's not concerned about hitting positions; she's just concerned about swinging that club. That's the real key.

If you try making practice swings (you know how relaxed you feel when you make those!) and just try to clip tees out of the ground, you might find that this is a fairly simple motion to learn. Don't worry about her flexibility; if you stay relaxed, you'll get your most flexible swing naturally.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Tour Championship

Winner: Billy Horschel

Around the wider world of golf: Hyo Joo Kim won the Evian Championship, giving Michelle Wie the Annika Award for performance in all the LPGA majors in the process; Min Lee won the Garden City Charity Classic on the Symetra Tour; Paul Casey won the KLM Open while Andy Sullivan's hole-in-one locked up the "trip into space" prize on the ET; Justin Thomas won the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship on the Web.com Tour; Ryan Williams won the TOUR Championship of Canada and Joel Dahmen won the PGA TOUR Canada Player of the Year on the PGA TOUR Canada; David McKenzie won the Cadillac Championship on the PGA TOUR China; and Ai Suzuki become the youngest winner of the Konica Minolta Cup on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has details).

Billy takes two

Well, it's all over now. (For a couple of weeks anyway.) And it looks like this time the Hare beat out all those Turtles in their race to the FedExCup.

He didn't do a whole lot during the year. He didn't score a Ryder Cup nod. He didn't get a win. He missed the cut at the first FedExCup Playoff event and barely made the others. But then he posted a runner-up and two wins, taking down something like $13.5mil in just three weeks. That's more money than he's made in his entire career up until now.

And the scary thing is, if it hadn't been for a single shot, he could have won all three events. And for those people who questioned his stomach for competition after that one bad shot, I think he has satisfactorily answered their questions without even resorting to that one huge rude gesture they probably deserved. (Who hits every shot perfectly, anyway?)

Billy's wife, Brittany, who's expecting a little girl in a couple of weeks (probably just as well that he didn't get the Ryder Cup call), and he had talked about whether he should continue playing if the baby came early. Or rather, as Billy told golf.com, let's just say a decision was made:
"There wasn't much discussion," Horschel said after his opening round. "I brought up the question. She said, 'You're staying.'"
I suspect their first kid is going to have one hell of a nursery!

And to Billy himself go two trophies, a ridiculous amount of money, and -- most importantly -- this week's Limerick Summary. Congratulations to the Florida Gator who chomped up the whole field with an iron will and a hot putter!
He won’t get a Ryder Cup start
(And his pants aren’t what I would call “art”),
But now Billy’s got money
To care for his honey
And baby. He’s also got heart!
The photo came from the tournament upshot page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

How to Hit a Hybrid Off a Tee

I've posted tips on this subject before, but this page at golftipsmag.com on the mechanics of a hybrid tee shot is just too awesome to ignore. LPGA/PGA instructor Alison Curdt has lots of great info here that you can check out at the link, but this one picture may save many of you a load of frustration:

Proper tee height for a hybrid

Her instruction for this photo says:
To start, use a tee whenever you can, and don't be afraid to tee it up off the ground. I like to place the tee into the ground and leave the tapered part of the tee in the air. Next, play the ball slightly forward in your stance in roughly the same position you'd play a long iron. From here, swing with a "sweep some dew" motion and focus on a smooth, shallow, easy swing. To get a feel for this, take a few practice swings near the ball and imagine sweeping off the dew on the grass. Do this a few times until you feel confident, comfortable and ready to swing.
There's also a whole sequence of photos showing you how to sweep the ball off that properly-positioned tee.

This page is part of a 6-page sequence called Tee Shots 101 on hitting 6 different types of tee shots. (This photo is from the "long par 3" page.) The first page is at this link. But this one picture is so clear that I had to post it.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Yet Another Anti-Banana Ball Drill

This golfdigest.com video by instructor Todd Anderson -- who just happens to be Billy Horschel's teacher -- is billed as a way to stop slicing. Many of you will find it interesting for that reason. But it looks like it might help you learn to draw the ball as well.

The idea is simple. You use your wedge's shaft as a guide to help you see when your downswing path is too much out-to-in. If you play chess, you can remember that the spacing between the ball and the wedge is like a knight's move -- two big steps away from the target, one large step away from the target line, turn and "plant" the wedge head into the ground.

You'll find this drill is much easier to do if you start your backswing with a one-piece takeaway because that puts you on a good plane from the start. I've got instructions on how to do that in this post.

Having a clear visual of what you want to do can certainly make getting the correct shot shape much easier. It might even help you swing a bit more like Billy Horschel, who seems to have a good handle on his swing plane right now!

Friday, September 12, 2014

In Case You Missed Rory's "Defence"

In his presser Wednesday Rory was asked about Tiger and Phil not being at the Tour Championship. Essentially he said they were injured and that's what happens when you get older. I guess it was the phrase about them "getting into sort of the last few holes of their careers" that got everybody talking. It was the only thing about the Tour Championship that made it onto ESPN Wednesday, for example.

In case you missed Rory's response to the uproar, I thought you might find this golf.com summary interesting, which also has the original comments if you missed them.

Rory

Rory went on Twitter Wednesday night and saw the comments and couldn't figure out why everybody was so worked up over them. He said, "Look, I know Tiger and Phil really well. I get on really well with both guys."

But here's my favorite line. When asked if he would have to explain himself to Tiger, he just smiled and said, "I've said worse to his face."

I believe him and I don't think either of the guys was upset. But I suspect Phil's going to be VERY rested by Ryder Cup time... and Tiger's probably got some new motivation to get healthy again as well! ;-)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship Preview

And now for the last of our big event previews. This time, it's the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship, the third of the four Web.com Finals events.

Scarlet Course at the Ohio State University Golf Club

Welcome to the Scarlet Course at the Ohio State University Golf Club, one of the tougher courses the Web.com Tour plays all year. Although there is some concern that rain may soften the course, the grounds crew intends to have the greens running at 12 on the stimp -- about as fast as they dare go, given the undulation in the green complexes. You can get more info about the course here.

You can check this link to get a complete list of the players this week, including trivia like their colleges, their countries, and how they qualified for the Finals. (There's also a link to get the updated field list, in case some of the players don't show up.)

In addition, here are the players currently projected to get the 50 Tour cards as of last week, after the Chiquita Classic. This list is subject to change, of course, since we have two more events (the Nationwide this week and the Web.com Tour Championship next week) and those winners will jump up into the mix, even if they're currently outside this list...

All of which makes for some serious drama this week and next.

GC's coverage begins today at 6:30pm ET, after the Tour Championship coverage.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Evian Championship Preview

The second of the three big golf events this week is the Evian Championship, the fifth and final major for the LPGA and related women's tours.

The view from the course

The Evian is held at the Evian Resort Golf Club in beautiful Evian-les-Bains, France. You can see Lake Geneva in the above photo, in the valleys of the Alps. The ladies loved playing there even before the Evian became a major... and I think you can see why.

As usual, Tony Jesselli has done his own preview of the event over on his blog. Tony says this has the second strongest field of the year, behind only the Kraft Nabisco.

There are a number of storylines in play this week, some of which you should be aware of:
  • Tony notes that Stacy Lewis is in danger of losing her #1 ranking this week. If either Inbee Park or Lydia Ko wins, they will take #1 no matter what Stacy does.
  • Speaking of Lydia, this is her last chance to become the youngest major winner ever. If she succeeds, she will break the record of Young Tom Morris, who won the 1868 Open Championship at age 17.
  • Lydia missed the last LPGA tournament with a wrist problem, but Michelle Wie has been out for several weeks with a finger fracture. She missed the last major and says she doesn't have any expectations this week because she's had very little practice time. However, due to the shorter length and relatively high elevation of the course, accuracy will be more important than power so Michelle may do better than expected.
  • The winner of the new Annika Award (for best performance in the majors) will be determined this week. Despite not being able to play in the Women's British Open, Michelle Wie still leads by a mere 10 points over Inbee Park.
  • And Minjee Lee makes her pro debut this week.
Suzann Pettersen is the defending champion this week. Her win last year was weather-shortened; only 54 holes were played. This is the first year that the revamped course will (hopefully) see a full 72-hole event.

And finally, this event will be getting some serious TV time. GC's coverage on Thursday and Friday runs from 7:30am-12:30pm ET, on Saturday from 6:30am-11:30am ET, and on Sunday the combined GC/NBC coverage is from 8:30am-1:30pm ET. That means it won't conflict with the Tour Championship except for 1.5 hours on Sunday (the GC/NBC crossover coverage).

That's two down. Tomorrow... the last of our three big previews.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Tour Championship Preview

We have three big events on three tours coming up this week, so I'll be taking these next three days to look at each. Today... the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour.

The FedExCup

Let's cut straight to the chase. Here are the 29 players who made it to East Lake (Dustin Johnson was #30 but isn't playing):
  1. Chris Kirk
  2. Billy Horschel
  3. Bubba Watson
  4. Rory McIlroy
  5. Hunter Mahan
  6. Jimmy Walker
  7. Jim Furyk
  8. Matt Kuchar
  9. Rickie Fowler
  10. Jason Day
  11. Jordan Spieth
  12. Adam Scott
  13. Sergio Garcia
  14. Martin Kaymer
  15. Zach Johnson
  16. Bill Haas
  17. John Senden
  18. Patrick Reed
  19. Cameron Tringale
  20. Russell Henley
  21. Morgan Hoffmann
  22. Webb Simpson
  23. Ryan Palmer
  24. Kevin Na
  25. Geoff Ogilvy
  26. Justin Rose
  27. Brendon Todd
  28. Hideki Matsuyama
  29. Gary Woodland
Notably missing from the list is defending champion Henrik Stenson, but that tends to be the standard story. I believe 2012 winner Brandt Snedeker is the only winner ever to make it back the next year.

On the outside chance you don't know, the Top5 (in boldface type) will win the FedExCup outright if they win the Tour Championship. The others can win if other players finish in the proper combination of positions... which means that you need a Nobel Prize in mathematics to calculate Gary Woodland's chances of winning.

But historically, the worst starting position for a winner was #19 -- again, Brandt Snedeker in 2012. [CORRECTION: Bill Haas was #25 the year he won.] Everybody from #20 on down better hope for that mathematics genius.

PGATOUR.com has done a Power Ranking that favors McIlroy, Furyk, Fowler, Horschel, Spieth, and Watson in that order to win the event. (No word on who they expect to win the Cup, but since they favor McIlroy to take the tournament...) If you've got a pool going at work, this link should give you the info you need to guess who might be the hottest player this week.

Personally, I like Rickie Fowler or Billy Horschel to win this week. Horschel is on a hot streak and Fowler's been on one for a couple of months now, and both are putting lights-out. I particularly like that both are avoiding the big scores. And because I like Horschel to figure in the tournament, I guess that makes him my most likely choice to win the Cup since he's #2 going in.

GC's coverage starts Thursday at 1pm ET (I suppose the pregame show will start earlier) and then NBC picks it up on Saturday.

That's one preview. Tomorrow... the ladies are up.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 BMW Championship

Winner: Billy Horschel

Around the wider world of golf: Move over, Lydia Ko -- Minjee Lee declared pro after she, Su Hyun Oh and Shelly Shin won the Women's World Amateur Team Championship for Australia; Dewi Claire Schreefel won the Helsingborg Open on the LET; Olivia Jordan-Higgins won the Prairie Band Casino & Resort Charity Classic on the Symetra Tour; Shiho Oyama won the Golf 5 Ladies on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has details); Wes Short Jr. won the Quebec Championship on the Champions Tour; David Lipsky won the Omega European Masters on the ET; and Adam Hadwin won the Chiquita Classic in the Web.com Finals.

Billy Horschel with BMW trophy

He told you it was just a bad shot at a bad time. He told you it was nothing to worry about. He told you he finally had his putter working. But did you believe him?

If you didn't, you should have. Billy Horschel proved he knows what he's talking about. To paraphrase the poet, "One fat 6-iron doth not a FedExCup Playoffs make."

It's not like a number of players didn't try to stop him this week. First it was Ryan Palmer, then Sergio, then Bubba... but it was all to no avail. There were only two guys making a run on Sunday:
  • Morgan Hoffman made an unbelievable two-day run, shooting 62-63 to snag himself a place in the Tour Championship next week. He made it all the way up to #21.
  • And Billy himself sprinted up the final fairway to the Port-a-John before two-putting to finalize the win. A different kind of run, to be sure, but an important one nevertheless!
Billy's win was big in many ways. It was his second win on Tour, and certainly his biggest to date. It vaulted him to #2 in FedExCup points, meaning that he can win the whole thing if he wins next week.

And if you still don't believe in him, @PGATOUR tweeted Billy's thoughts on the matter:
Horschel: "Honestly, it feels good to win one for all the people who tweeted nasty things at me last week after Deutsche Bank." #FedExCup
As he told Mike McAllister at PGATOUR.com:
"You want to keep saying negative things to me, that just adds fuel to my fire," he said. "I'm going to stick it to you every time."
Well, I believe in you, Billy. I believe so much that I've written an extra-special Limerick Summary just for you. You picked the right time to put it all together and you made it clear that nothing could take your mind off your goal:
Though his season has been a bit spotty,
Billy’s putter has stopped being naughty
And his irons got the job done
Despite that surprise run
Up eighteen to get to the potty.
The photo -- as well as the skinny on his bathroom break -- comes from the Upshot page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

David Leadbetter Unplugged (from the Sand, that is)

I like my eggs scrambled or boiled. However, the bunkers on my golf course seem to like them fried.

Fortunately, instructor David Leadbetter doesn't care for fried eggs -- aka "plugged lies" -- any more than I do. And so he did this little video on golfdigest.com just for folks like me (and maybe you too)!



Here's a quick summary of the technique:
  • Ball in the middle of a slightly open stance, weight a bit more on your left side.
  • Close the club face.
  • Take the club back a little outside and steeper. (Sounds like he wants you to swing along your toe line.)
  • Dig into the sand a bit (can't be helped with that closed face).
  • Short followthrough (in some cases, stick the club in the sand).
  • Allow room for the ball to run when it hits the green.
Sounds simple enough. But that's why he's David Leadbetter, right? ;-)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The New Twist to This Year's Web.com Finals

This week the second of the four Web.com Tour Finals, the Chiquita Classic, is being played in Davidson NC -- just north of Charlotte and only an hour or so southwest of where I live.

But if you want to know how the tournament is going, you can check in on GC's broadcasts this weekend. What I find most fascinating is the "small tweak" that was made to the Web.com Tour finals this year, and I bet many of you don't know about it.

In the photo below you see the Top25 from the regular season on the Web.com Tour, the guys who have already locked up a Tour card for next year.

The Top25 from the Web.com Tour season

However, many of you may remember that the graduating class from last year's regular season got shortchanged when the new PGA Tour season started. In the past, the fall season events got no FedExCup points so there were plenty of spots for the new guys to tee it up and get their feet wet on the big tour.

Not so last year. Web.com Tour graduates struggled to get spots since most of them were pretty far down the priority list and couldn't play, now that the "regular" Tour members were busy accruing FedExCup points.

Needless to say, this led to a bit of grumbling from the new kids on the block... and rightfully so, in my opinion. Having earned their cards from a full year on the Web.com Tour, they felt they had been shortchanged. And so, in an effort to correct the problem, the Tour's Policy Board decided to make a few changes. You can read about them here and also here, but I'd like to focus on the grandaddy of them all. As the faqs page puts it:
What happens to the Regular Season money list?
New this year, players from the Web.com Tour will carry their money into the Finals, and will be placed in the priority ranking based off their combined money from the Regular Season and Finals.
This becomes very important because (this is from the page defining the new structure):
While the Top-25 players from the Web.com Tour Regular Season will earn their PGA TOUR cards, their order of priority won’t be determined until the conclusion of the Web.com Tour Finals. They will now carry their earnings into the Finals and priority will be established on the combination of Regular Season and Finals earnings.
Do you understand what that means? The Web.com players, the ones who worked so hard all season, are going to end up with the highest priorities among the 50 awarded cards. Last year after all four events, Trevor Immelman -- trying to regain his Tour card by playing in only the 4 Finals events -- ranked 23rd with $180,000 and Seung-Yul Noh ranked 19th with $210,125 after only 3 events. Each guy won an event, but they actually got ranked higher than some of the guys who played all year and won multiple events.

And John Peterson got the top seed for the 4 events with $230,000 but without a win at all.

Fast forward to this year. After ONE Finals event, Bud Cauley's win last week got him to #22 with $184,460 (he had $4,460 from a previous Web.com event this season). The $230,000 that won the top spot after 4 Finals events last year is only good enough for the 14th spot after ONE event this year! If you didn't play events on the Web.com Tour this season, you're going to have to win A LOT during the Finals to get one of the top cards.

That's going to make it easier for the Web.com Tour players to get playing time in 2015. And it's going to make it much harder for those PGA Tour guys who lost their cards to get them back.

You might want to read those two pages about the new Finals rules. It's going to make things much more interesting over the next 3 weeks!

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Butch Harmon and Johnny Miller Teaching Extravaganza

Butch with a driverToday I'm giving you the skinny on EVERYTHING!

That's right, today I've pulled a couple of links that cover a wide variety of tips and hints for just about every aspect of your game. If you've got a problem, there's a good chance today's post will give you at least one tip you can use.

The first link is from golfdigest.com and it's from Butch Harmon. It's called Butch Harmon From Tee To Green and it's a slideshow of tips for virtually every kind of shot in the game --from drives to hybrid swings, bunker shots to uneven lies, lob shots to lag putting. Each set of tips has one slide and there are 14 slides, so there's a good chance you'll find something new to work on.

The second link is to golf.com and a video by Johnny Miller called What You Can Learn from the LPGA. The video starts with a few observations on the state of the LPGA right now, but then it moves on to some of the things Johnny likes about the swings of several different women players. He also talks about what the women do more frequently than the men and shows you how to duplicate the moves.



Between these two teachers, I think there's a good chance you'll find something that will help your game. Best of all, most of the tips look like you can put them to work in your game almost immediately. Those are MY favorite kind of tips!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Book Review: Draw in the Dunes

Draw in the Dunes coverIt's been a while since I did a book review but with the Ryder Cup just around the corner, I feel this is a timely one.

Some of you will recognize Neil Sagebiel's name. He writes the Armchair Golf Blog (he has for many years, and I've had a link to it in my blog sidebar since I launched this blog) and you may also be familiar with his first book, The Longest Shot, which was about the upset victory of Jack Fleck over Ben Hogan at the 1955 US Open.

Neil recently released (actually, it's scheduled to start shipping next Tuesday) a new book called Draw in the Dunes, about the 1969 Ryder Cup at Royal Birkdale. This event is probably best remembered for the legendary concession Jack Nicklaus made to Tony Jacklin on the final hole of the final match, which resulted in the first tie in Ryder Cup history.

If you saw the recent Ferherty episode with Sam Torrence, you heard Sam say that it was the 1969 Ryder Cup that truly got him interested in the event. And yet it was an event that nearly didn't happen. It was in 1968 that the tournament-playing members of the PGA became dissatisfied with their parent organization and tried to secede from the PGA, a bitter battle that eventually resulted in the creation of the current PGA Tour. The Ryder Cup, dominated by the American players up until that time, was on the verge of becoming irrelevant and possibly even ended.

Knowing how big and important the Ryder Cup has since become, that can be a hard thing for newer generations to believe. And most of those who are aware of the history of the event would probably name 1979 -- the year that the GB&I Team added Continental Europe to the mix, with legends-to-be like Ballesteros and Langer -- as the pivotal year in Ryder Cup history. But had it not been for the 1969 event, the Ryder Cup might not have survived that long.

Unlike many history writers, Neil's prose is never boring. Personally, I thought his decision to frame the story itself within another related story that happened 30 years later really made the importance of this event clearer. And if you want to know how the book is being received by the folks involved, consider that Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin themselves wrote the book's foreword.

I'm fortunate. Neil got me an advance copy, so I can tell you this firsthand: If you enjoy golf history, his book is definitely one you'll want to read. Although it's not shipping until next Tuesday, you can pre-order it online now.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Morgan Pressel's Tempo Drill

Most weekend players have a problem avoiding that "jerk from the top," the too-quick change of direction that messes up your swing. Well, Morgan Pressel has a breathing exercise that she uses to smooth out her swing:



It's deceptively simple, this "breathe in during your backswing, breathe out during your downswing" idea. When Morgan says to make sure you breathe out all the way to the finish, that's the key. If you try to change direction too quickly, you won't have a long smooth exhale. Rather, you'll "puff" out your breath too fast and it will slow down your swing.

If you do it right, you'll be able to swing at full speed but you'll get that brief moment to "gather yourself" at the top and make a smooth swing to the finish. Otherwise, your swing won't feel smooth at all.

It's a simple drill that you can use out on the course as well... and quite frankly, proper breathing can help you pick up some club head speed. If you look at the url for the golf.com page I linked to above the video, you see it says it's a tempo trick for longer drives. I can tell you this from experience: Controlling the power of your punches with your breathing is an old martial arts trick. To use the technique to its fullest extent with your golf swing, just exhale more gently at the top as you start down, then "force your breath out" as the club head strikes the ball. You might be surprised how much it helps!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

And the Picks Are In

Now that Tom Watson has announced his picks, I didn't do too bad. I got all of Paul McGinley's picks and two of Tom Watson's... and while I thought Bill Haas should be the final US pick, I did say Webb Simpson was his main competition. I'm giving myself 5.5 out of 6. Well done, me!

So, in case you missed it today, here are all of the Captain's Picks. For the Euros:
  1. Stephen Gallacher
  2. Ian Poulter
  3. Lee Westwood
And for the Americans:
  1. Keegan Bradley
  2. Hunter Mahan
  3. Webb Simpson
Two very strong teams for one very exciting competition.

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Deutsche Bank Championship

Winner: Chris Kirk

Around the wider world of golf: Austin Ernst landed her first LPGA victory in a playoff over I.K. Kim at the Portland Classic; Trish Johnson won the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open on the LET; Hennie Otto won the 71° Open D’Italia on the ET; Fred Couples beat Billy Andrade in a playoff at the Shaw Charity Classic on the Champions Tour; Bud Cauley regained his PGA Tour card by winning the Hotel Fitness Championship at the Web.com Tour Playoffs; Nate McCoy won the Wildfire Invitational in a playoff over Michael Gligic on the PGA TOUR Canada; and Jiyai Shin won the Nitori Ladies on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has details).

Chris Kirk

As is typical at the Deutsche Bank on their traditional Monday finish, players had to go low if they hoped to win the event. Perhaps the only real surprise to most viewers was that Rory McIlroy wasn't part of the charge. Nevertheless, the event didn't disappoint.

The young guns like Chris Kirk, Russell Henley, and Billy Horschel joined experienced players like Geoff Ogilvy and John Senden on a romp around TPC Boston that could best be described as a shootout. On the outside chance that you know nothing about classic Wild West gunfights, movies can be misleading. In a real gunfight most bullets never hit their targets, not even at close range. And in the days before smokeless gunpowder, the clouds of smoke further obscured their targets.

Fortunately for us, the gunslingers at TPC Boston were at least close to their targets -- close enough to provide a few bogey-free rounds. And as you might expect, Chris Kirk shot one of those rounds. His 5-under 66 was good enough to hold off all challengers, especially after Billy Horschel's approach on 18 fell just short of the green.

With his win -- the biggest of his career to this point -- I suppose I could write some classic rhyme focusing on his composure and steady play. But with all of the "Captain Kirk" jokes during the broadcast and the Star Trek movie marathon running Monday on Syfy Channel, how could this week's Limerick Summary turn out any different than this?
Chris Kirk is a star on a trek
To Atlanta. Since Horschel’s ship wrecked,
Captain Kirk’s enterprise
Could end up realized—
He might cling on to win the BIG check!
The photo came from the tournament update page at PGATOUR.com.