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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Final Driving Tip of 2014

Yes, it's only appropriate that we end 2014 with a driving tip. This golf.com article says it will give you 10 more yards with your driver -- indeed, that it will make you longer with every club in the bag.

I found this fascinating because it's a tip that goes against the advice you hear from most teachers... but it's actually a fundamental of the classic swing from a century ago!



As you can see from the article's photo, you're trying to get the club shaft parallel to the ground at waist high rather than taking the club back so sharply inside. I routinely recommend this move -- you can check out my now notorious article on how to make a relaxed one-piece takeaway if you need proof -- but what stands out in this article is how Brad Brewer recommends you do it. He says:
Take your normal grip with your driver and then let go with the last three fingers on each hand, leaving only your thumbs and index fingers on the handle.
Yes, he's suggesting that you do his drill while holding the club with the thumb and forefinger of each hand. Ever since Hogan became the yardstick for golf teachers, this has been a no-no! Such a grip supposedly tightens the wrist and limits the free cocking and uncocking of the wrists.

However, the great Harry Vardon -- you know, the guy they named the Vardon grip after! -- recommended exactly the same thing in his 1905 book The Complete Golfer. He specifically said that the grip should be concentrated in the forefinger and thumb of each hand to improve release. There are a variety of reasons why this makes sense, but let me suggest just one...

When you want to use a flyswatter or a tack hammer -- tools which require a lot of relaxed wrist action -- don't you grip them primarily with your thumb and forefinger?

While Brewer is merely suggesting this as a drill -- and he does point out that it will feel odd at first, so don't be surprised -- you might want to consider trying it on the course once you get used to it on the range. You might be surprised at how freely your wrists move when you focus your grip in those fingers.

And with that tip, we bid farewell to 2014. Remember not to drink and drive tonight... especially if you tend to hit wild slices or duckhooks. ;-)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Golf Ball Dimples Still Can't Match the Blue Angels

I just think this is a cool video.

Golf Digest did a short article on how dimples affect the flight of a golf ball and they included this little Titleist video of Iron Byron hitting a golf ball. It looks like they used ProTracer to show the ball flight. Make sure you pay close attention to the first one; that's a normal golf ball. You can see that it flies very high and has just a slight fade. Presumably Iron Byron likes the fade for added control. ;-)

Then they go to a ball that's half-dimpled and half-smooth. (A cool-looking golf ball, to be sure!) Iron Byron hits it with the dimples on the left side of the ball, then on the right side. You get two low hard curves.

Finally they use a completely smooth ball which goes nowhere compared to the first ball. You can see how much lower the ball flight is.



The video helps explain why the ball companies spend so much time experimenting with new dimple patterns and shapes. I wonder if they'll ever be able to make the ball do barrel rolls like the Blue Angels? The only dimples the Angels need are caused by their smiles as they zip overhead.

Blue Angels doing barrel rolls

The Blue Angels photo came from the US Navy's official blog.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Limerick Summary: Goodbye, 2014!

Winner: The Fans

Around the wider world of golf: Nothing happened. However, I have to give a shout-out to my favorite football team, the Carolina Panthers. Despite a rough season in a less-than-impressive division, the Panthers became the first NFC South team to successfully win the division two years in a row, thus making the NFL Playoffs. If they can win three more games, they win the Super Bowl!

PGA Tour holiday wishes

There's not a lot to say this week because everybody's taking the holidays off. 2014 ends this Thursday, and then we've got another week until the PGA Tour resumes their 2015 wraparound season. There really isn't much more to say, is there?

I can point to the first tournament of 2015, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, where Zach Johnson will be the defending champion... but to be honest, I doubt that even Zach is thinking too much about that this week. It's the holidays, people -- time to think about family and upcoming bills for all those expensive presents you bought them!

So I'll just drop this little generic end-of-year Limerick Summary to round out the 2014 that was:
Now we bid Twenty-Fourteen adieu
As we wait. In a weekend or two,
They’ll be golfing once more
Up on Maui’s north shore—
Kapalua, where Zach last broke through.
The photo came from a page at PGATOUR.com that will be changing in the next week or so.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Dave Pelz SHOWS You How to Pick the Right Bounce

A couple of days back I did a post on matching your sand wedge to the sand you're playing from. Today I'm going to expand that to playing off hardpan, fairway, and rough.

Here's a link to a golf.com video by Dave Pelz that actually shows you up-close how the wedge contacts the ball in different lies. (I'd embed the video but golf.com won't allow it. But I snagged the still below so you can see what he's doing.) This video is nice because Dave actually shows you how the ball lies on different types of surfaces and how the bounce affects contact with the ball when the shaft is vertical to the ground AND when the face is square or open (to get extra height).

Pelz demonstrates bounce off hardpan

The basic things to learn here are:
  • The best contact happens when the ball contacts the club face between the 4th and 5th grooves. (Again, he actually shows what this looks like.)
  • When choosing loft, the distance you want to hit the shot only matters if you can get that best contact. Otherwise, use the club that gives you best contact (or as close as you can get) and then control distance with the length of your swing.
  • On hardpan you can't get the best contact, even with low bounce, so you take what you can get, which means use low bounce. Anything else results in a skulled shot.
  • On tight fairways use low bounce.
  • On normal fairways -- about 1/2" of grass under the ball -- use medium bounce.
  • In light rough -- about 1" of grass under the ball -- use high bounce. Low bounce will go right under the ball.
  • And of course you use high bounce for anything taller than light rough.
Watch the video a few times to make sure you get it. This can save you a lot of strokes from skulled or fluffed shots.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Rory's "High Altitude" Training Regimen

Today I'm linking to an article at golfdigest.com about an unusual training technique that Rory's been using. It's called hypoxia training or altitude training and -- surprise! -- it's intended to duplicate the effect of training at very high altitudes. Athletes have trained at mountaintop sports centers for decades, believing that the thinner air (and therefore reduced oxygen) will make their bodies more efficient... and thus able to perform better at sea level where there's plenty of oxygen.

Rory is one of those who is using a mask to duplicate the effect without having to go to the mountains. You can see it in this photo from the article.

Rory with training mask

This isn't something you'd want to try without a doctor's supervision -- there are definitely dangers associated with this kind of training, especially if you have certain health problems (some of them are listed in the article). But Dr. Ara Suppiah -- yes, you've seen him on GC -- says that the interval training Rory does can help most golfers because it duplicates the brief explosive power of a golf swing, even if you don't use a mask.

Why am I telling you about this?

With the New Year just a few days away, many of you will be making resolutions that affect your training methods. I just want you to be aware that there are many different types of training programs available to you, some of which you may have never even heard of. Some may seem pretty bizarre -- like hypoxia training -- but many are simple and may even be things you'll enjoy.

Take a little time to explore your options. There's no reason to choose an exercise program that makes you miserable.

And no, I don't expect to try hypoxia training any time soon.

Friday, December 26, 2014

How to Match Your Sand Wedge to the Sand

I have an old book (2002) called Turn Three Shots into Two by PGA Master Instructor Bill Moretti. It's a book on various facets of the short game, and I found some info in the section on sand play that may be news to many of you.

While most of us focus on how to play from various types of sand, we don't always realize that we're having trouble playing from different types of sand because we have the wrong sand wedge for the job. I can tell you this from experience. For a long time I thought I couldn't play from the sand until I found out I had the wrong amount of bounce for the sand at my favorite course. Once I got the right wedge, I had no more trouble.

According to Moretti, when you choose a sand wedge you need to consider the type of sand on the courses you'll be playing, the weight of the club, and the way the wedge fits in with the rest of your set. The three main design variables that you need to consider are:
  • the loft (Moretti's specs are from 55 to 58 degrees, but now they can easily range from 52 to 64)
  • the bounce (typically from 8 degrees or low bounce, to 13 degrees or high bounce), and
  • the swingweight (D1 to D8 -- that's light to heavy -- although women's clubs can go down to C8 and I've seen men's clubs up to E2)
Swingweight is just a measure of how heavy the club head feels relative to the club's grip. A higher swingweight makes the club feel heavier at the top of the swing and slows down your change of direction.

Moretti makes the following recommendations:
  • If you play a variety of courses -- that is, many different types of sand -- you should stay in the middle of those ranges for loft and swingweight.
  • If you play mostly hard sand and elevated greens, pick a wedge with more loft (higher number), less bounce, and a lighter swingweight.
  • If you play mostly soft sand and heavy rough, pick a wedge with less loft (lower number), more bounce, and a heavier swingweight.
And those choices reflect the way you'll want to use your sand wedge:
  • In the softer sand you'll want to use the bounce more so you make a shallower swing to let the club head slide under the ball.
  • In the hard sand you use the bounce less so you make a steeper swing that's more like a chipping stroke.
Those are the basics. And of course there's no law that says you can carry one of each -- a high loft / low bounce wedge for short game shots off tighter lies, and a low loft / high bounce wedge for fluffier lies.

Just for the record, I originally had a 56-degree wedge with around 10 degrees of bounce. The problem was that my course had very soft sand. I went to a 52-degree wedge with 13 degrees of bounce and immediately started hitting good bunker shots.

Believe me, the right sand wedge is a truly miraculous piece of equipment.

Of course, it's possible you play something else, like a course with soft sand and deep bunkers. That would indicate a high loft / high bounce wedge, wouldn't it? But such a club is very specialized and might not get used enough to carry its weight in your set. Your local pro can get you fitted for what you need.

But at least now you know the basics of matching sand wedge to sand.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Quick Red-Green Colorblindness Test

Golf Digest has an article about Jack Nicklaus being colorblind... and I mean REALLY colorblind. Like he was unable to tell which numbers were red on the leaderboards.

The article includes a video that gives you some idea what it's like to be red-green colorblind, and it has a link to an online test for red-green colorblindness. It's called the Ishihara 38 Plates CVD Test and it uses 38 pictures like this:

Sample colorblind test picture

You've seen these before, haven't you?

Anyway, while the online test isn't perfect -- it explains why at the test page -- it can still give you an idea about whether you're affected or not. I knew I had some colorblindness -- not a lot, but it shows up if there's not enough contrast between the two colors (that is, one being darker or lighter than the other) -- and the test picked it up. You might want to try it if you're curious.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Weird Guinness World Golf Records

Most of you aren't going to be playing much golf for the next two or three days, so let's see what kinds of interesting golf info we can find to help you stay sane during the Christmas countdown, shall we?

Here's the link for a golfdigest.com article with 15 of the weirdest golf records that are verified by the Guinness World Records people. For example, here's a photo of the world's largest golf tee, measuring "30 feet, 9 inches (length); 6 feet, 3 inches (head diameter); 2 feet, 1 inch (shaft width)."

World's biggest golf tee

There's even a description of how the guy made it. In case you want to make one of your own, of course.

Several of the records concern hole-in-ones. There's also the world's fastest golf cart, most holes played in one day, longest golf club, longest shot hit into a moving vehicle, and various other bits of trivia with which you can amaze your friends during those boring office Christmas parties. Enjoy!

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Dubai Open

Winner: Arjun Atwal

Around the wider world of golf: Nothing to report this week that I'm aware of.

Arjun Atwal with trophy

While a Darren Clarke win at the Asian Tour's Dubai Open would have been a surprise, it probably wouldn't be a bigger surprise than Arjun Atwal's win. Arjun hasn't played a full schedule on the PGA Tour since 2012... but even counting that season, he's missed the cut in more than half of his starts.

Some of that can be attributed to health problems. Arjun has had back and hip problems for at least the last two years. In 2014 he had only 4 starts on the PGA Tour (he missed 3 cuts) and one start on the European Tour (he missed that cut as well).

But this week -- this week -- in Dubai he played much better. After a slow start with a 73 he posted rounds of 65, 68 and 66 to finish at -16. He beat 19-year-old Wang Jeung-hun by a single stroke, posting a birdie on the par-5 18th when Wang could post no better than bogey.

It was Arjun's first win since his only PGA Tour win, at the 2010 Wyndham Championship.

Christmas is going to be a lot brighter for Arjun Atwal this year because he gets a nice shiny Limerick Summary to place under his tree. (Well, the win -- and prize money -- probably feels pretty good too.) Perhaps this is the harbinger of a brighter 2015 to come. Merry Christmas, Arjun!
Arjun Atwal brings much Christmas cheer
From Dubai’s final tourney this year.
Over there, he was hot
Though at home, he was not.
Could this win get his season in gear?
The photo came from the tournament wrap-up page at asiantour.com.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

An Irish Surprise in Dubai

Today's post is short but it's definitely newsworthy.

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke shot a third-round 64 at the Asian Tour's Dubai Open and is now just a single shot off the lead.

Darren Clarke

South African Jbe Kruger also shot 64, which snagged him a piece of the lead -- a four-way lead featuring Kruger, Korean Wang Jeung-hun, and Indians Arjun Atwal and Shiv Kapur. And just to make things more interesting, Wang is only 19 years old versus Clarke at 46.

You can read the Asian Tour's summary of the third round at this link and keep check on the leaderboard at this link. But this is definitely turning out to be a tournament worth following, and today's final round could end up being a very nice Christmas present for Darren Clarke.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

There's Golf This Week?

Yes, believe it or not, there's golf being played this week over in Dubai. The Asian Tour event -- which apparently isn't being televised here in the States -- is the inaugural Dubai Open.

Shiv Kapur

Shiv Kapur from India -- you may recognize his name, as he plays the European Tour a lot -- is tied for the lead at -7 with Thai golfer Pavit Tangkamolprasert after 2 rounds. There are a number of other Asian golfers near the lead whose names you might recognize, like Gaganjeet Bhullar and Prom Meesawat.

More familiar to American golf fans is Indian player Arjun Atwal, one of Tiger's close friends and also a PGA Tour winner -- of the Wyndham Championship, just about 30 minutes or so from where I live. Atwal is only one shot off the lead.

Some other names you might know -- players who made the cut but aren't particularly close to the lead -- include Darren Clarke, Jeev Milkha Singh, Daniel Chopra, Thaworn Wiratchant, Richard Finch, and Jbe Kruger.

Let's face it, the Asian Tour isn't big news here in America. (At least, not unless somebody like Bubba or Jordan Spieth is in the field, as they were in Japan a few weeks back.) GC may air a summary show sometime in the next week or two... or they may not; they're kinda hit-and-miss that way. Events like this often slip right under the radar, especially this close to a holiday like Christmas.

Still, if you're interested, you can read a summary of the second round here (the photo came from this article as well). You'll be able to find links to the latest articles on each round here at the Asian Tour homepage (there's also a link in my blog's sidebar under "Live Leaderboards") or you can go straight to the Dubai Open leaderboard at this link.

If you need a quick golf fix this weekend, this may be the only game in town.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Butch on Ego Mistakes

Butch Harmon has a new short article at golfdigest.com about "ego mistakes." You know, the shots you mess up because you wouldn't accept your limitations or because you're trying to prove something. Everybody makes them; even the pros do so at times.

Butch's article focuses on two especially common ones:
  • not using enough club when you hit into the green and
  • using too much loft when you chip and pitch around the green.

Butch in midswing

Although I'm oversimplifying here, to fix the first mistake Butch says you should take one more club and swing at something less than full speed. That will help you hit the ball more solidly.

And on the second one, he simply advises trying different clubs for shots around the green. Don't just grab your lob wedge. (Yeah, I know that's what Phil does -- he plays every shot with the same wedge. Butch knows that too. But you're not Phil yet, are you?)

He also reminds you to avoid flipping your hands at impact when pitching with a wedge. You can refer back to this post featuring a video with Paul Azinger's pitching technique if you need more help. (Butch's technical advice in this article is better for chipping than pitching, at least if your ball is sitting down a bit in the rough. Just think about all those guys stubbing pitches at the Hero World Challenge.)

I'm sure many of you will say, "This is basic stuff. I already know this." But spend any time watching players on the golf course and you'll realize that knowing what to do is different from actually doing it. Butch knows we all need reminders -- that's what makes him such a great teacher.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Better Way to Practice

This is one of the cooler articles I've seen lately... and it originated with a clarinetist. (That's somebody who plays the clarinet, in case you wonder.) I'll 'fess up -- I found out about her work because golfdigest.com wrote about it.

Golfers often listen to music when they practice. And apparently both musicians and golfers approach practice all wrong -- at least, they do if they really want to see lasting improvement.

Dr. Christine CarterAccording to the bio on an article by Dr. Noa Kageyama at bulletproofmusician.com, Dr. Christine Carter has played at a number of places like "Carnegie Hall, the ancient cloisters in Avignon France, the Sydney Opera House, the Heritage Theatre in rural Newfoundland, and a Baroque Palace in the South of Germany. She completed her Doctor of Musical Arts at Manhattan School of Music, where she now teaches the Woodwind Lab." Those are pretty good credentials.

What she says, in golfing terms, is that standing on the range and shotgunning balls with the same club until you get it right isn't an effective method for improvement. Musicians often practice the same way, playing a difficult passage over and over until they get it right. In both cases, you think you're making progress because you eventually get it right during practice. It sounds logical.

But according to Dr. Carter, "Practicing in a way that optimizes performance in the practice room does not optimize learning." That's NOT the way you actually perform, either on a stage or a golf course, so the skills don't necessarily carry over. She recommends mixing it up with what she calls a blocked or interleaved practice schedule. As Dr. Kageyama puts it in his original article:
"In a random practice schedule, the performer must keep restarting different tasks. Because beginnings are always the hardest part, it will not feel as comfortable as practicing the same thing over and over again. But this challenge lies at the heart of why random practice schedules are more effective. When we come back to a task after an intervening task, our brain must reconstruct the action plan for what we are about to do. And it is at this moment of reconstruction that our brains are the most active. More mental activity leads to greater long-term learning."
So next time you head to the practice range, don't just hit wedge after wedge, then 9-iron after 9-iron, etc. Don't hit the same club twice in a row; instead, mix them up the way you would playing a regular round of golf. If you would normally hit each club 10 times, you can still do it; just don't hit the same club twice in a row.

Dr. Kageyama's article, Why the Progress You Make in the Practice Room Seems to Disappear Overnight, can be found at this link.

And the Golf Digest summary article, You've Been Practicing Golf All Wrong, and There's Science to Prove It, can be found here. But I'd advise reading them both, as the original article is far more detailed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bubbaclaus. Need I Say More?

In case you missed it, here's the full version of Bubba Watson's first solo rap video -- called, appropriately enough, "Bubbaclaus."



All I can say is... it looks like Gumby's been eating the cookies and milk that were supposed to be left for Bubbaclaus. Took his bling, too. Maybe that's why Bubbaclaus didn't bring him any real golf clubs for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Getting Stronger to Stop Your Slice

A couple of weeks back I posted a golfdigest.com video on strength training to help you finish your swing better. Apparently they're doing a number of these videos, and I found another one I really like on exercises to help you stop your slice.

There are a couple of easy exercises here -- the one-armed bent-over row and the Lateral Heisman.


The one-armed bent-over row is a standard weightlifter's exercise that's pretty easy on your back because the straight arm helps support your upper body during the workout.

I've never seen the Lateral Heisman before (so called because it duplicates the pose of the figure on the Heisman Trophy, which is awarded to the US college football player voted as the athlete who best represents the excellence and spirit of the game) but I really like the looks of this exercise. Obviously you can use any weight you can hold, not just a medicine ball, and it looks like a good core strengthening movement.

Hey, many of you are stuck inside because of bad weather. Might as well get a headstart on getting in shape for next year!

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Australian PGA Championship

Winner: Greg Chalmers

Around the wider world of golf: Jason Day and Cameron Tringale won the Franklin Templeton Shootout; Bernhard and Jason Langer won the PNC Father/Son Challenge; Lee Westwood won the Thailand Golf Championship on the Asian Tour; Shanshan Feng won the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters on the LET for the second time in three years (Charley Hull won the Order of Merit and Amy Boulden won the Omega Rookie of the Year); and Branden Grace won the Alfred Dunhill Championship on the ET.

Greg Chalmers hoists the Australian PGA trophy

I probably could have chosen almost any tournament this past week for this post and it would have been a good choice. Shanshan Feng was nearly perfect in her win at Dubai, as were Jason Day and Cameron Tringale at the Shark Shootout. Lee Westwood made a statement of sorts with his win in Thailand, as did Branden Grace in South Africa; both have been out of the limelight for a while and their wins may be a sign of things to come. And Bernhard Langer now has a team win with both sons Stefan and Jason, leaving only Christina to make it a sweep for the Langer clan.

But the Australian PGA was the biggest event of the week and clearly had the most drama. Adam Scott was in position to defend his title at -10, at least until Greg Chalmers shot a bogey-free 64 to rocket up through the ranks and post at -11 in the clubhouse. By my count only 4 players managed to shoot in the 60s during the last round, and the next closest score was 68. Wade Ormsby and Adam could only manage 71s but that was enough to get them into a 3-way playoff.

And an epic playoff it was, too! Seven times they played the par-4 18th. Twice the trio made par. On the third time through Ormsby missed the green and settled into thick rough, from which he pulled off a miraculous par... which wasn't enough. Scott and Chalmers both made birdie -- the only birdies in the entire playoff.

Those two continued the playoff through four more holes. That's right, a 7-hole playoff where Adam's putting woes continued. It wasn't that he putted particularly bad; he just couldn't get the ball to lip into the cup for birdie. Unfortunately for him, on the seventh hole he couldn't get a par either.

Chalmers putted like a machine all day and, even though he had to work for pars during the playoff, those par putts tracked into the hole from everywhere. Early in the day he made some putts in the 50-60 foot range!

Greg Chalmers hasn't made a big name for himself in the States. He has only two wins here, and both of those are on the Web.com Tour. But he has four Australasian majors -- 2 Australian Opens and now 2 Australian PGAs. That's a pretty distinguished career for anybody so it's my pleasure to also provide him with his second Limerick Summary, to go with his 2011 Australian Open verse:
Greg sliced through the field like a razor,
His putting as straight as a laser—
At least ‘til the playoff,
Where pars were the payoff
As Scott went as cold as a glacier.
The photo came from the tournament page at pga.org.au.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

How to Take Relief from an Unmovable Object

I haven't done a lot of posts about the Rules of Golf so I'm going to try and do better. Today I have a video from Michael Breed on how to take relief from an unmovable object -- in this case, a plaque in the middle of the fairway. (Could have been a sprinkler head as well.)



This one's a fairly simple matter. Just:
  1. determine your nearest point of relief no closer to the hole,
  2. measure one club length from that point -- again, no closer to the hole -- and
  3. drop within that club length NO CLOSER TO THE HOLE. Voila! The ball is in play.
Note Michael's demonstration of the difference between a rightie and a leftie taking relief. The key is that the ball has to remain as close to its original position as possible when taking relief. In this case, that means the leftie takes relief on the opposite side of the plaque than the rightie.

I'll try to post more rules videos -- especially on taking relief, since those tend to be the most confusing problems -- as we go along.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Where to Tee It for Different Shot Shapes

I found an article at golftipsmag.com about hitting longer and straighter drives by PGA instructor Mark Greenslit that advises teeing the ball a slight distance ahead of the club face. The idea is that it ensures you're swinging up on the ball when you hit it. You can read the article for a clearer understanding, but here's the photo from the article.

However, what I found most interesting -- and potentially more helpful to many of you -- was farther down in the article in the section called Great Heights.

Teeing with a gap between club face and ball

Essentially, this is a three-step plan for teeing the ball properly to hit the shot shape you want:
  • For a draw, tee the ball higher, move it away from you, and play it farther forward in your stance.
  • For a fade, tee it lower, move it closer to you, and play it farther back in your stance.
  • For a straight shot, follow Mark Greenslit's tip in the article and just tee the ball a few inches ahead of your normal setup position.
This is something you can try on the range before your next match. Just hit a few practice shots using the recommended setup for the shape of tee shot you'd like to hit. If nothing else, it should help you straighten out your tee shot enough to hit the fairway more often.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cheyenne Copies Uncle Tiger in Dubai

You can be forgiven if you didn't realize the ladies are still playing golf -- the ladies on the LET, that is. Their final tournament of 2014, the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, isn't being shown live although GC is at least showing a couple of hours from 10:30am-12:30pm ET this week. (Note that this tournament is played Wednesday through Saturday. Today's round is the third round.)

Cheyenne Woods, fresh off getting her LPGA Tour card at Q-School, zipped out to Dubai to make her first appearance in the event. (She's had an LET card during 2014, you'll remember.) And as part of her time there, she celebrated the 10th anniversary of Tiger's famous shots from the helipad on top of the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, the big luxury hotel in Dubai.

Cheyenne copies Tiger's iconic pose in Dubai

Of course, she's not just there to shoot photos. She's currently T6 (-5) in the tournament, 6 shots off the -11 lead of Shanshan Feng. She's just 2 shots behind second place Charley Hull (-7), so she's actually in pretty good position to make a charge with a couple of good rounds.

I should note that Hull would be at -9 had she not doubled the par-5 18th. Her approach spun back off the green and into the lake fronting it. Even if you haven't seen the women's event, you're probably familiar with the course; it's the same one played by the ET during the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February. This is a course where heroics are often necessary to win; last year, Pornanong Phatlum hit her wedge to 2 feet for an easy birdie and her biggest LET win. So don't be surprised if we see more drama at the 18th this week.

The third round is just getting underway as I'm writing this, and the leaderboard is crowded. Only 66 players made the cut -- that's right, the LET's championship has a cut! -- and there was a 6-way playoff for 1 spot. It should be a pretty good finish. Charley Hull leads the LET money list and Gwladys Nocera, who's second on the money list, is just a shot back.

Remember, the tape delay airs at 10:30am ET on GC.

The photo came from this article at ladieseuropeantour.com.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Quezada Hustle

Get ready for a shocker, Big Break fans. Anthony Quezada, the jerk everybody wanted to see knocked off the show, isn't a jerk after all.

Anthony QuezadaI remember -- I think it was after the third show -- thinking that Quezada was a genius. Was he really a jerk or was he just putting it on? I didn't know, but I remember thinking to myself, "Man, is this guy running a hustle on the other players or what?"

By acting like such a jerk, he made the other players want to bump him off. However, early on, the weaker players were the ones most likely to end up in the eliminations. These were the players who decided to call Quezada out, not realizing that they were playing right into his hands.

Folks, you can't run a golf hustle unless you've got the game to back it up. If Quezada really was a jerk, he was used to playing with a target on his back. Ironically, several of the players actually said that he was putting a target on his back, but didn't realize that meant he was used to playing under pressure. They were already under more pressure than they were used to... and then they chose to play against someone who was used to it. Not smart!

Of course, Quezada won the first couple of eliminations. And after that, NO ONE wanted to play him, choosing instead to pick easier targets.

Like I said, it was pure genius. Quezada's strategy allowed him to avoid most of the challenges from then on, and he took out the one or two players who still dared to take him on later in the series when the pressure was worse.

Wednesday morning he was invited to Morning Drive, where he talked briefly about his decision to "play this one differently." A couple of things to note from this clip: He had no problem at all teeing it up in front of Annika Sorenstam, and he told Annika that a young Anthony was in the crowd watching Annika the day she shot 59.



On the outside chance you didn't see Anthony's elimination on Big Break, he was in charge of his match and about to make the finals when he hit the snap hook he mentions after his first shot in the video. He got a great lie in the neighboring fairway but was left with a blind shot that required a layup. He picked a bad line and put it a water hazard. The bogey cost him a spot in the finals.

But I suspect you'll be seeing him on one of the tours soon. Anthony Quezada has game, he's not a jerk, and now we know he's got a mind for strategy. I sure wouldn't bet against him!

The photo came from the Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday's Big Break page. You might want to check out his bio there -- there's more to Anthony than you might expect.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Butch on the 30-Yard Pitch Shot

This short video is a brand new one from Butch Harmon that I found Tuesday on golfdigest.com. I'm posting it because it illustrates a specific way to use the bounce of your wedge, just like in yesterday's Azinger video.

Butch calls this shot "the clip." This is how Steve Stricker plays this kind of shot... and you know how much I like Stricker's technique.


The primary technique in this shot is the relatively wristless wide takeaway and stroke through the shot. Note that the ball is in the middle of Butch's stance so the club shaft will be vertical when he actually hits the ball. That's how you make sure you use the bounce on the club.

One last thought: Obviously this shot wouldn't work from thick rough. To get clean contact with such a wide shallow arc, you need to be playing from the short grass. From the rough you want to use your wrists more, the way Zinger does in yesterday's video.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Azinger on Pitching, Take Two

I've been fascinated by the number of golf commentators who seem worried over Tiger's pitching woes this past week. You may have heard Geoff Shackelford on Monday's Morning Drive, adding his voice to those with serious concerns.

I'm reminded of the reaction Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had to the concerns that wracked Packer Nation (that's their fans, for those of you outside the US) after the team started the season with a single win and two losses. On his weekly ESPN Milwaukee radio show he said:
"Five letters here just for everybody out there in Packer-land: R-E-L-A-X. Relax. We're going to be OK."
Since then the Packers have won 9 of their last 10 games and most football analysts expect them to make the Super Bowl in a couple of months.

Trust me, folks. Tiger will be fine. R-E-L-A-X.

But some of you may be struggling the same way Tiger (and most of the field) did this past week, so I felt it might be worthwhile to cover the basics of pitching again.

One of the most "hit" posts I've done was a summary of the pitching episode Paul Azinger did for the Golf Channel Academy series. (Here's the link if you'd like to check it out again.) In that show Zinger talked about the difference between chipping and putting, and I tried to include as much of his instruction in the post as I could.

Since Tiger was using chipping technique this past week when he probably should have been pitching, it would seem to be a simple mental mistake he needs to correct. (And let me repeat, Tiger wasn't the only one making that mistake. It's just that every one of Tiger's botched chips got TV time. Such is the burden of being Tiger.)

Ironically, GC hasn't seen fit to include any clips from Zinger's pitching show in the instructional videos at their site. But I did manage to find the following video that Zinger did several years ago. It's short but it's a very clear demonstration of the basic pitching technique he talked about on GC.



There you have it. Use the bounce of the club -- which you do by hitting the ball when the shaft is perpendicular to the ground, not leaning forward -- and keep your arms "soft" while you keep your body turning.

See? It's not so difficult. Tiger will be fine... and so will you, if you just put in a little practice time.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Hero World Challenge

Winner: Jordan Spieth

Around the wider world of golf: Yep, there's still some golf going on around the world. Coincidentally, Gwladys Nocera won the Hero Women’s Indian Open on the LET; Padraig Harrington won the BANK BRI Indonesia Open on the Asian Tour; Lincoln Tighe won the Nanshan NSW PGA Championship on the Australasian Tour; and Danny Willett won the Nedbank Golf Challenge on the ET. Oh, and Cheyenne Woods got her LPGA card at Q-School. Marita Engzelius (winner of the Symetra Tour Championship) didn't but will get another chance on the Symetra Tour. (Tony Jesselli is still updating last-minute results over at his blog.)

Spieth with tiger trophy

Let's get this out of the way first: Tiger did okay in his first tournament back. Despite fever and short game problems (the latter seemed to affect everybody except Jordan), his swing looked free and relaxed for the first time in a long time. He was hitting it fairly long and accurate, and he made quite a few birdies -- which is NOT what happened the last few times after injury. The Masters could be quite interesting in 2015!

Now let's get to the up-and-comer of the year, Jordan Spieth. Try as I might, I couldn't get past the debates on GC and NBC about whether Jordan might be the next dominant American golfer. Of course it's too early to predict something like that, but various analysts (who shall remain nameless) kept harping on his lack of power. Despite his ability to consistently get into contention and post scores -- which is how you win tournaments, anyway -- and his clear grasp of what it takes to be a champion, they just couldn't get past his lack of length.

Here's how I see it: Forget for a moment that only he and Tiger have 3 pro wins at age 21. Forget for a moment that he nearly won at Augusta National, a course unanimously considered a bomber's track. Forget his performances in the Presidents and Ryder Cups. Forget all that.

Just remember this: In the last two weeks Jordan has beaten 8 of the world’s Top10 players on world-class courses… and done so in record-breaking fashion. (And don’t forget his runner-up finish to Bubba in Japan the week before that.)

And remember this: Jordan doesn't seem to care whether the analysts believe in him or not. (He told them as much in an interview earlier in the week.)

I have a little sign on my desk that says, "The world is moving so fast these days that the person who says it can't be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it." If Jordan continues to focus on his game rather than what the so-called experts say, I suspect he's going to make them all look pretty silly over the next few years.

In the meantime, here's his second Limerick Summary in as many weeks.
Jordan wanted more victories to show
For his efforts… but analysts crowed,
“He lacks power.” “He’s short.”
Jordan’s only retort
Was to beat the best… twice in a row!
The photo was snagged from this video at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

If You Think Your Golf Swing Looks a Bit Weird...

I know a lot of you think your swing should look a certain way. You want to look like Tiger or Adam or Rory or [ fill in the blank ], and it bothers you that you don't.

Perhaps today's post will get you to relax.

If the name Ted Ray sounds vaguely familiar to you, it may be from seeing the movie The Greatest Game Ever Played with Shia LaBeouf. LaBeouf played Frances Ouimet in that movie, which was about the 1913 US Open battle between the American amateur Ouimet and British professionals Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. We remember Vardon for winning one US Open and six Open Championships (he still holds the record with six), but Ray also won two majors -- one US Open (1920) and one Open Championship (1912).

BTW, Ray won that US Open at age 43, which gave him the record for being the oldest U.S. Open champion -- a record he held for 66 years until Raymond Floyd won in 1986. 

Ray had a reputation for being a bit wild with his shots. I found this video showing his "technique." Take a look...



Take a look at all the movement in his swing! I'm sure the hickory shafts Ray used contributed to his wildness, but that swing would be wild even with stiff shafts.

Next time you feel bad about your swing, take a look at this video and remember: Ted Ray won two majors with this swing. You don't need a perfect swing to play good golf.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Swing Relaxed Like Lydia Ko

This is a slo-mo video of Lydia Ko from back in April 2013, so it's over a year-and-a-half old. But it might be very informative for those of you who are struggling with getting a full shoulder turn.

I'm not going to do a lot of analysis on this today. I just want you to notice that, despite what you may hear many teachers say, Lydia doesn't try to keep her lower body locked in place with both feet flat on the ground. Just watch how quickly her hips and legs start moving when she starts her backswing. Look at how quickly her lead knee starts to bend and move behind the ball.



You don't have to immobilize your lower body to hit the ball accurately or fairly long. Lydia is only 5'5" tall but she averages 250 yards off the tee and hits 79% of her fairways. (Many of you men reading this can't do that!)

Take a tip from Lydia. You'll swing better if you stay relaxed when you swing.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Better Than It Seemed

Yeah, he's at the back of the pack. Yeah, he shot a 77. Yeah, he chipped like a rank amateur. If you want more details, you can check out this golfdigest.com article about his round.

Still, after a 4-month layoff to recoup from a bad back, I think Tiger's round was better than it seemed.

Tiger at Isleworth

Tiger's long game got off to a rough start but looked pretty good on the back 9. He hit all the fairways there -- when do you last remember him doing that? -- and 7 of the 9 greens.

True, his chipping was horrendous. Playing partner Jason Day said he was as surprised as Tiger because his chipping seemed fine during their practice round. Perhaps it was a matter of adrenaline, but I suspect it's just the nature of swing changes.

Tiger is trying to focus more on feel now and less on mechanics but I can tell you from experience that, even if your chipping technique doesn't change, making a swing change still affects it. You get used to a certain relationship between your short game technique and your full swing technique, and any change to one makes the other feel really weird. I've always had a pretty good short game but the last time I played, it gave me fits. The swing changes I've made this year, although they actually make my full swing more like my short game swings, totally messed up the way my wrist action felt. It takes a little time to get your mind to adjust.

I thought it was kinda funny that, in the after-round media appearance, Tiger seemed a bit surprised (but happy) that his back wasn't hurting. It's easy for us to forget how much the back surgery affected Tiger and how much of a victory it is just for him to be back on the course this soon.

But I won't be surprised if Tiger's game is pretty good by Sunday. His full swing looks the most relaxed it has looked in years and, as he said, his back didn't hurt despite taking some pretty hard swings out there. Give him a couple of days to get used to the rush of competition again -- and maybe the grainy Florida grass of Isleworth -- and he may just surprise everybody by dropping a lot of rust real fast.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Getting Stronger So You Can Finish Your Swing

Yesterday I posted a golf.com video from Blair O'Neal on finishing your swing. But what if you're struggling to move that way?

Well, here's a golfdigest.com video with a couple of simple ways to strengthen your body so you can get that final turn.



Okay, just because they're simple doesn't mean they're easy. Still, you don't have to do them fast to get some good from them!

Bear in mind that when the instructions say "5 reps" it means you want to do the interval pattern 5 times. That is, you exercise for the number of seconds shown, then rest for the number of seconds shown -- that's 1 rep.

The rope jumping probably won't be too difficult for most of you. You can also try jogging in place. In either case, you'll probably find it easier to do it on a soft surface like carpet. And don't be ashamed to go slow; your leg muscles will probably take longer to adjust to the workout than your heart and lungs. At least, it always seems that way to me.

The hill climbers are TOUGH. Make sure you start out doing them slowly. If you've never done anything like them before, you can always put your hands on a chair seat instead of the floor. That's a much easier way to do them when you're starting out, and there's no shame in adjusting the exercise to better fit your abilities. (I would recommend making the rest period twice as long as the workout when you start. It's even harder than it looks.) Remember, the idea is to get stronger, not kill yourself.

There are plenty of exercises you can do as interval training, from jumping jacks to sprints around a track to weight lifting. (With weights, it's better for most people to use light weights. Work out for a given number of seconds rather than a given number of lifts, and make sure you allow longer for the rest period than for the workout.) Just pick something that you enjoy and don't overdo it, especially when you're starting out.

Yes, I believe in caution when you start a new exercise routine. You may think it's going to take you too long to get in shape if you start slowly... but then again, you can't work out at all if you hurt yourself. Just a thought...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Blair O'Neal on Finishing Your Swing

Blair O'Neal has added a Hot Tips from a Hot Golfer video over at golf.com. This one is a drill to help you make a stronger finish with your swing, which she says will help you make better shots.



The drill is simple: Place a tee in the ground a few feet in front of your ball (hers appears to be around 3 feet ahead) and then try to swing "through the tee" and into your finish. The idea is that this will keep you from making a weak swipe at the ball, as well as encouraging you to swing toward the target and make a fuller turn (which should help you square the club face).

Obviously this is a range drill and not something you'd do on the course. And I probably don't need to say this but I will: When I say to swing "through the tee" I don't mean you actually try to hit the tee. It's too far ahead of the ball! But this drill should help you if you have a tendency to get too "ball-bound" and lose your focus on the target.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Quick Look at the "New" Tiger Swing

Today I'm just passing on a link. This is a video tweeted by the Tiger Woods Foundation showing his "new" swing. Here's a still from the video.

Tiger's New Swing

This post at golfdigest.com notes that Tiger appears to have a slightly wider stance and longer swing. GC showed some of Tiger's exhibition on Monday at the Hero World Challenge, and Tiger himself said he was trying to get back to some of the things he did as a teen. At any rate, it appears that Tiger and Chris Como are on track to do some things that most of his critics have wanted him to do for a while.

Does that make this a "new" swing? I don't know, but at least we'll get to see it in full flight in a couple more days.

One more quick note: The video is also embedded in the golfdigest.com post but watch the link at the top of this post, in the paragraph above the photo; it's a bigger clearer video. That's the one I took the still photo from.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Emirates Australian Open

Winner: Jordan Spieth

Around the wider world of golf: Not a whole lot going on this week. Thaworn Wiratchant won the King’s Cup on the Asian Tour, and Sakura Yokomine won the ElleAir Ladies Open on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has details).

Jordan Spieth with Australian Open trophy

On occasion I make a prediction and get it right. For example, back in January 2011 I said Luke Donald was in position to have a breakout year and predicted at least one big win -- roughly two months before Donald won the 2011 WGC-Accenture Match Play and went on to win the money title, PGA Tour Player of the Year, and become #1 on the OWGR.

Then there was the June 2011 post where I said that a new kid named Victor Dubuisson bore watching, that "once he acclimates a bit more to Tour life, he could become an outstanding player." A couple of years later he won the 2013 Turkish Airlines Open... and he was off to the races.

But predicting a winner at a specific event isn't one of my strong suits. In fact, I've remarked more than once about the Ruthless Golf Curse affecting my picks. (You may even remember this post apologizing to Jiyai Shin and Corey Pavin for jinxing them.) So you'll understand that this victory by Jordan Spieth is particularly satisfying for me!

When I picked him before last week's event to get his first international win, I had no idea he would put on such a show -- such a show, in fact, that even ESPN gave him some air time. He led at -4 after round one, sat 2 strokes back at -3 after round two, was tied for the lead again at -5 after round three...

And then he obliterated the field with a bogey-free 8-under 63 in the final round, posting a total of -13 to win by 6 full shots. To make it even better, he did it on a tricky sandbelt course in swirling winds.

Other players made a number of birdies, but none could escape the inevitable bogeys. Jordan chipped and putted as if he were born to Australian golf. Grabbing a big international victory like this could be just the thing Jordan needs to get 2015 off to a fast start. (If you're interested in what was in Jordan's bag -- including the new driver and ball combo -- you can get that info in this golfdigest.com article.)

Jordan entered the week as one of the event's "Big Three" alongside Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott. By the end of the week, he stood alone amid the roaring crowd at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney. It's only fitting that he alone should receive this week's Limerick Summary:
The ground shook as crowds cheered in wonder—
An echo of Spieth’s rolling thunder!
His putter got hot
While the others’ did not,
Which pushed him up over Down Under.
The photo came from this ESPN article.