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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Quick Look at Na Yeon Choi's Swing

Na Yeon Choi is 5'5" tall and averages just over 252 yards off the tee. That's 56th on the LPGA, which is considerably better than average.

She also hits over 73% of her fairways, which puts her 75th. That would be incredible on the PGA Tour but it's just average on the LPGA.

Since she won in Arkansas on Sunday, I thought I'd do a quick post about her swing -- in particular, something that I think is a real strength of hers. This is a short video, only 35 seconds long, but it shows her swing several times and gradually slows it down. It's just a face-on view but it's recent and it shows what I want you to see.



NYC's swing, like that of most of the Korean players, is very simple and mechanically sound. But I want you to notice how balanced, how rhythmic, how smooth it is. Although she's hitting it pretty hard -- and developing quite a bit of swing speed in order to hit the ball as far as she does -- she doesn't appear to be going at it that hard at all.

The reason is that she avoids exaggeration. By that I mean that she doesn't make big dramatic moves when she doesn't need them. She's not moving off the ball on her backswing, she's not lurching forward at impact, and she doesn't squat down dramatically and then jump up off the ground in an effort to create more swing speed.

What she's doing is using her club as a tool. She swings it and lets it do the work of launching the ball. It's entirely proper to say that she NAILS the shot because she uses her club like a hammer. She can do this because, although she's swinging as fast as she can, she's trying to keep her muscles relaxed throughout the swing. Relaxed muscles can move faster than tight muscles, and she doesn't have to lurch back and forth because almost all of the energy is going into the club.

If you've ever swung a tennis racket or thrown a Frisbee™, you know this feeling. There's a sense of... let me call it "gathering yourself" as the top of your backswing. It's not really a pause because you don't stop moving. It's just a moment in your swing when you change direction.

If you exaggerate your lower body movement when you start down, you'll destroy this feeling. I often recommend that you try to feel as if you were falling from the top of your backswing, literally just relaxing your legs so both feet are planted solidly on the ground and your hips automatically move forward a bit. If you don't interfere with the start of your downswing, your lower body WILL start your move into the ball; it's physically impossible to change direction any other way.

Watch Na Yeon Choi's swing a few times, try to imagine what it feels like, and then try to duplicate it. Imitation is one of the easiest ways to learn tempo and speed.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 Travelers Championship

Winner: Bubba Watson

Around the wider world of golf: Jeff Maggert got ticked off by my post last Wednesday so he went and won the US Senior Men's Open on the Champions Tour; Na Yeon Choi dropped an eagle-birdie-par finish on the field to take the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship on the LPGA; Dani Holmqvist won the Island Resort Championship on the Symetra Tour; Pablo Larrazábal won the BMW International Open on the ET; Jeong Hwa Lee won the Hong Kong Ladies Open on the LAGT; Rob Oppenheim won the Air Capital Classic on the Web.com Tour; Kevin Spooner won the Syncrude Boreal Open on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada; and Bo-Mee Lee won the Earth Mondamin Cup on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Bubba in action

It just seems weird to me. You take a guy like Bubba Watson, a guy who likes to put big bends and curves on a golf ball, and the only places he seems to play well -- other than Augusta National, that is -- are fairly claustrophobic courses with lots of trees and tight fairways. Put him on a wide open links-style course and he seems to be entirely lost.

I just don't get it... but unfortunately for the rest of the field, they've become all too familiar with this weird quirk of being Bubba. And that's doubly true when they play at TPC River Highlands, the home of the Travelers Championship.

I admit that I was pulling for Paul Casey -- not because I didn't want Bubba to win, but just because Paul has had such a long journey back from all the injuries and such that nearly derailed his career. He's been so close this year and once he made the playoff I thought maybe this might be the week.

But it wasn't. Instead, Bubba did his typical magic tricks with the ball and made us all wonder why the hell he can't play a US Open or an Open Championship worth a damn. Perhaps he just needs some glasses that restrict his field of vision so he'll THINK those majors have no room to land a golf ball. I understand most of the other players in the field already have some of those and would probably lend them to him if he just asked...

In the meantime, Bubba receives yet another Limerick Summary to post on his wall... and a plea for him to find some way to play the Open Championship the way we know he can. Bubba, St. Andrews is a PERFECT place for you to win an Open!
Bubba traveled from West Coast to East,
Winning here where he’s always a beast.
Ain’t it strange Bubba thinks
He should struggle on links
While at Travelers he plays the artiste?
The photo came from the tournament upshot page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Tom Watson on Chipping with a 5-Iron

Here's a new video from the Golf Digest site. Tom Watson is just one stroke off the lead at the US Senior Open and the Open Championship is just around the corner, so why not learn his simple chipping / putting tip... using a 5-iron? There's a little written material at the link that you'll want to read, but this video gives you the basics.



It's simple. Just:
  • choose your 5-iron,
  • grip down on it with your putting grip -- that means the 5-iron shaft is in line with your forearms (just look at the video),
  • put a bit more weight on your lead foot,
  • lean the shaft a bit forward, and
  • use your putting stroke, which takes your wrists out of the stroke and makes it easier to get clean contact.
Tom is using a 5-iron instead of a hybrid. The 5-iron has a shorter shaft so you may find it easier to use. The 5-iron also has a bit more loft, so it gets the ball up a little quicker over that fringe grass.

The more simple shots like this that you have in your arsenal, the less stressful your short game will be.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Too Much Rain, Too Much Spain, Too Much Watson(s) on Top Again

This post is kind of a mishmash from four tours because I found Friday's rounds at all of them very interesting.

You see, all of them have something or someone dominating the broadcasts.

M.J. Hur

The LPGA event in Arkansas is only three rounds but they didn't even get the first round finished. Rain -- and lightning -- came in during the TV window and there simply wasn't enough time to get it done.

M.J. Hur -- pictured above -- is the current leader by two strokes at -8 even though she still hasn't finished her first round. (She started four hours late and has four holes left.) Anna Nordqvist, Brittany Lincicome and Azahara Munoz all finished and posted -6, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Supposedly the weather will be better this weekend.

However, I seem to remember Stacy Lewis winning the first one when it was rain-shortened to 18 holes so I'm not holding my breath...

Over in Germany at the BMW International Open, Rafael Cabrera-Bello from Spain holds the lead by a single shot after rounds of -7 and -5. The latter included a chip-in birdie after drowning his approach on the par-5 18th. Cabrera-Bello has been playing well most of the year but hasn't been able to close out a tournament in some time. Perhaps this is his week.

Martin Kaymer missed the cut, btw. These last two weeks haven't been very kind to him.

The real fun seems to be at the PGA and Champions Tour events, where both are led by Watsons.

Bubba Watson is leading the Travelers Championship by two shots, which is no surprise since he seems to own the course. GC said he's something like 89-under since 2010, which is 20+ shots lower than the next closest player. Bubba was pretty tactful when he told GC that the greens there were very easy to putt because anything seems easy after a US Open.

Ah yes, Bubba the politician. I never saw it coming, that's for sure. But you could see his good play at the Travelers coming from half a continent away. After all, he ALWAYS plays well there.

And over at the US Senior Open, Tom Watson is tied for the lead at -5 with Peter Fowler -- a pro from Europe -- and Jeff Maggert, who I went out of my way NOT to pick in my "5 to Watch" post a few days back. Jeff, was it something I said?

Watson's 4-under 66 on Thursday was just one shot shy of his age, 65. Like I keep telling you, if you want to play well for a long time then Tom Watson has a good swing to copy!

Of my picks, Colin Montgomerie is one shot back, Bernhard Langer and Kevin Sutherland are two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez is five back at even par. The course is playing very hard -- and very hot, with temps around 102 degrees Fahrenheit (that's 39 degrees Celsius for the rest of you) -- so I'll stick with Monty as my likely winner.

Fred Couples didn't tee it up because of back problems but I did pick him as a flier. I just didn't expect him to fly away before the event even started!

My point is, ALL of the events look to be pretty interesting this week... but you'll have to hunt around for the ones you want to watch. Remember that the LPGA and ET will be on GC, the PGA Tour on GC and CBS, and the Champions Tour on FoxSports1 FOX if you want to watch any of them.

Friday, June 26, 2015

How to Copy Jordan Spieth's Short Game Magic

Since everybody is still talking about Jordan's play at the US Open -- and since earlier this week I posted a link to a Golf Digest article on that 3-wood he hit -- I thought I'd continue the Spieth worship. Golf Digest has added yet another article on Jordan, this time specifically covering his short game -- a flop shot, a bump shot, a check shot, and his putting process. This photo is from that article.

Comparison of Jordan's bump and check wedge shots

For obvious reasons I'm not going to go over everything in the article. Jordan kept it all pretty short and I doubt I could make it any clearer. But I do want to mention a few things about the two shots pictured in this photo.

The top sequence is the bump shot you use when you short-side yourself and need to bump the ball into a slope to slow the it down. The bottom one is the check shot you use to make the ball bite and stop quickly.

Jordan says he uses his 52 wedge for the bump and his 60 wedge for the check. This makes sense because he wants the bump to fly lower and run, and the check to fly a bit higher and stop.

His stance is pretty much the same for both -- narrow stance and weight slightly more on his lead side. And in both cases he wants to hit the ball before he hits the ground.

But take a look at the differences:
  • For the bump he puts the ball back in his stance, just inside his trail foot. For the check the ball is in the middle of his stance.
  • For the bump there is little or no wrist cock on the backswing. For the check he lets his wrists cock more.
  • For the bump he wants to feel as if he's hitting down on the ball, even though he says it's okay if you hit just a bit behind the ball. For the check he wants to feel as if the club head is skimming the ground right after impact.
  • For the bump his lower body stays pretty still while his upper body swings past. For the check his hips turn along with his upper body.
And he swings slightly faster when he wants a check shot, to add more spin.

Jordan's article isn't very long but it's very detailed so you'll want to read the instructions in his own words. But I wanted to point out these minor differences so you'll understand that you don't have to make huge changes in your setup or technique to create these very different shots.

One other note: On GC's Golf Academy specials, Dave Stockton told Martin Hall that Jordan has all of his wedges -- from pitching wedge on down -- set up with much higher swingweights. (I think he said they were D6 or D7, compared to the D2 of his regular clubs. I may be off a swingweight or so, but the difference is about right.) The idea here is that Jordan's wedges feel heavier when he swings them so he makes smoother swings without swinging so hard.

Lee Trevino -- no slouch at the short game himself -- has always recommended weekend players use heavier swingweights (although only a swingweight or two, not four or five) and to do it all the way through the set. He says it makes it easier to feel the weight of the club head when you swing, which creates smoother swings.

When two short game wizards use the same trick, it's something to bear in mind.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Going Back to Arkansas

The LPGA is headed back to Arkansas this week for the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, where Stacy Lewis is the defending champion. Stacy went to school in Arkansas -- in case you somehow missed it, she's a dyed-in-the-wool Razorback -- and is currently a volunteer assistant women’s golf coach at the University of Arkansas.

Two of her players made the field this week –- Gaby Lopez on a sponsor exemption and Samantha Marks through medalist honors at the Monday qualifier. That's Lopez in the photo with Stacy below.

Stacy Lewis and Gaby Lopez

Tony Jesselli has his usual preview of the event over at his blog, so you can get all the important info there. An interesting factoid: The winning score has been -12 in each of the last 4 years.

Although Stacy is the defending champ this week, you can argue that Inbee Park is the favorite. Fresh off her defense at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship -- her third victory this season -- she's clearly on a roll, whereas Stacy is winless since her victory here last year. (Stacy does have something like 5 runner-up finishes though, so it's not like she's playing badly.)

And with Inbee regaining her #1 spot in the Rolex Rankings for the third time -- and opening up a nearly 3-point lead over Stacy (and a bit over 1.5 points over Lydia Ko) -- it's hard to believe that Stacy won't push a bit too hard this week. That seems to have been Stacy's problem lately; she wants that #1 spot (and some victories) a bit too much perhaps.

We'll have to see if some home cooking and "Pig, SOOEY!" calls can help her get over the hump! Maybe -13 is in the cards for Stacy this year.

This is another week where GC will be giving us live coverage. It starts Friday at 11:30am ET and is scheduled for 3 hours. YAY!.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

My "5 to Watch" at the US Senior Open

And yet another major is here -- this time, the US Senior Open. This week's major will be held at the Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento CA, so it won't be such a long journey for the few seniors who played at Chambers Bay last week.

Monty with last year's trophy

Making picks this week is considerably easier than last week, or at least it seems so to me.
  • Colin Montgomerie is my favorite this week. Not only is he the defending champion but he already defended at the Senior PGA Championship earlier this year and he made the cut at Chambers Bay last week. He has also won 3 of the last 7 majors on the Champions Tour, making him a no-brainer choice.
  • Of course you could argue that Bernhard Langer should be the favorite, given that he has also won 3 of the last 7 Champions Tour majors -- including the most recent one. He also makes my list.
In case you wonder, the 7th major -- the 2015 Regions Tradition -- was won by Jeff Maggert. Maggert, however, doesn't make my list despite playing pretty well this season. Sorry, Jeff.
  • Miguel Angel Jimenez is a still a threat on any tour... and his only 3 starts on the Champions Tour have all been wins. (None of those starts were majors, btw.) He didn't make the cut at Chambers Bay last week but I still like his chances against "the other old guys."
  • Kevin Sutherland is the Tour's resident "Mr. 59" and has played pretty well this season. He has no wins yet this season but has 4 Top10s in 10 starts and is no worse than T13 in any of the majors this year... plus Sutherland was the guy Maggert beat in a playoff at the Tradition.
  • Finally, my flier is Fred Couples. That may sound strange but Freddie has only played 3 events (1 Top10) on the Champions Tour this season, plus 2 events on the PGA Tour... and he missed the cut in both of those. Can't go out on the limb much more than that...
There are certainly other players with a chance but these are the guys -- except for Freddie, of course -- who I think are the best bets. Ironically, PGATOUR.com agrees with me except for choosing Joe Durant instead of Couples.

Oh well, I've missed on my picks before... ;-)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Keys to Jordan's 3-Wood at the 18th

It seems like everybody is trying to explain the keys to hitting that 280-yard 3-wood that Jordan hit onto the 18th green Sunday. Golf Digest is no different; they talked to teacher Michael Jacobs and did a post about it.

What I like about this article is that it gives general advice that will help you with all of your swings, not just some magic key to hit a heroic shot like Jordan.

Jordan after hitting the 3-wood to 18

Matthew Rudy (author of the article) points out that Jordan isn't a power hitter -- hasn't everybody been marveling about that? -- and that he gets himself into contention by:
  • hitting greens and
  • focusing on hitting the best shot he can at the moment (that's all "determination" really is)
But there's an overall key Jacobs points out in Jordan's swing that I've actually mentioned on this blog and in my books before.:
"When he makes the transition into his downswing, he goes into a squat and his body lowers, but the center of his hips and the center of his upper body are still at 90 degrees to the ball."
Teachers often refer to the "Snead Squat" because that was the most prominent move in Snead's downswing. It's the basic lower body move in what we traditionally call "the modern swing," which was the way great players like Snead and Byron Nelson -- and yes, Tom Watson -- start their downswings with their lower bodies. They moved downward more than forward, and they rarely ever "got stuck."

Hogan's swing (which I guess I'll start calling "the postmodern swing" now) turned that move into an exaggerated forward move because he wanted to counteract a hook. As Jacobs notes, by making a downward move Jordan gets a more consistent swing. (And, we should note, Jordan's miss is a hook, the very move Hogan wanted to prevent!)

A downward, somewhat squatty move to start your downswing is a simpler and more consistent way to swing. It eliminates excess body movement that causes you to mis-hit the ball. If you want to try it, it feels almost as if you're falling from the top of your swing but it loads the club shaft just as effectively as that Hogan-style forward drive that causes you to slice.

And if you need proof that it still works, just look at Jordan Spieth.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 U.S. Open

Winner: Jordan Spieth

Around the wider world of golf: Not much golf other than the US Open this week, although there were a couple of women's events. Christel Boeljon won the Deloitte Ladies Open on the LET; and Brooke Henderson won the 2015 Four Winds Invitational on the Symetra Tour.

Jordan Spieth gets a bit animated

The USGA set up Chambers Bay to let the field take a run at the championship... and that's exactly what they did. A PGATOUR.com article called it " an intense -- and insane -- final round."

As it turned out, the guys at +4 weren't too far back after all. Rory got it to -2 and had a putt to reach -3, but he missed it and wasn't the same afterward. He finished at even par.

Adam Scott shot the round of the week -- a 6-under 64 -- to post the early lead in the clubhouse at -3. Then Louis Oosthuizen set or tied all kinds of records, making birdie on 6 of his final 7 holes to post at -4.

The four leaders at the start -- Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Branden Grace and Jordan Spieth -- battled back and forth all day. Jason (understandably) couldn't match his heroics from the third round and fell back to even par. The other three traded the lead -- and double-bogeys -- most of the day until Jordan made a two-putt birdie on 18 to take the clubhouse lead at -5 and wait to see what Dustin would do.

But DJ made a shocking 3-putt on 18 to give Jordan the win... and it will likely fuel further debates about the greens this week. Although he and Louis were runners-up, DJ passed on the award ceremony and the media presser. He did talk briefly to local media, however, as recorded in the PGATOUR.com article referenced earlier:
Johnson didn't blame the condition of the green for his missed birdie putt, but did say, "When they are fast and bumpy, it's tough to get it in the hole. Whatever the putt did on the last hole, I don't know. I might have pulled it a little bit. But still to me it looked like it bounced left. It's tough. It's very difficult."
At least Paulina and little Tatum were there to ease the pain. The last we saw of him on TV, he was carrying Tatum and smiling. This is unlikely to be the last time we see Dustin in contention at a major!

Meanwhile, to the victor goes the spoils and yet another major Limerick Summary. But things may be a bit less cheery for the current World Number 1...
A cloud hangs o’er Rory this morning
Cause Jordan has sent him a warning:
“I’m coming to get you—
I’m not gonna let you
Keep building that lead you’ve been forming!”
The photo came from the US Open page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

An Amazing Day

"Benign positional vertigo" has suddenly become a well-known problem because of golf. Jason Day fell during the second round when hit by one of the occasional bouts of dizziness that have hounded him over the last year.

Saturday he played through it and positioned himself for a possible win at Chambers Bay today.

Jason Day during Round 3

The crowds at the US Open are cheering just as hard for Jason as they are for Jordan Spieth, and they're hoping they'll get to cheer for him again today. As I'm writing this, we have no idea if he'll be well enough to finish the week. Nausea and dizziness make it difficult to walk Chambers Bay, let alone play competitive golf there!

But while Jason moved into the lead and some other favorites -- like Phil Mickelson -- probably played themselves out of contention, even more players got right back into the game Saturday. The most notable was Louis Oosthuizen, who came back from a 77 on Thursday with back-to-back 66s. He's now only 3 shots off the lead and, with the lead falling back, could find himself with another major if he can somehow post a third 66.

Here's where we are going into today's final round:

Tied for first place at -4:
  • Jason Da
  • Jordan Spieth
  • Dustin Johnson
  • Brenden Grace
Tied for fifth place at -1:
  • Louis Oosthuizen
  • Cameron Smith
  • Shane Lowry
  • JB Holmes
Tied for ninth place at +1:
  • Brandt Snedeker
  • Andres Romero
  • Henrik Stenson
  • Tony Finau
  • Joost Luiten
  • Patrick Reed
Tied for fiftenth place at +2:
  • Charl Schwartzel
  • Matt Kuchar
  • Alexander Levy
  • Kevin Kisner
Think about this for a moment: Patrick Reed shot +6 on Saturday but if he could manage a 66 (-4) today, he could conceivably at least make a playoff at -3. And depending on how much the leaders come back today, even more players from farther back might still have a chance.

This final round is full of stories just waiting to happen... and at least one of them has put himself in position to do something monumental. A truly amazing Day may be ahead of us.

FOX starts the broadcast on their regular broadcast channel (not FOX Sports 1) at 2pm ET today.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Typical US Open After All

After all the questions we had about Chambers Bay and its unusual approach to US Open golf, two rounds have shown us that it will still give us what we expect from a US Open.

There are the usual complaints about some aspect of the course. In this case, it's the fescue-poa greens and the unusual "changing pars" of holes 1 and 18.

After Round 2 the leading score is -5, which just happens to be the same score that led after Round 1. That's pretty typical US Open scoring, no matter where you play. (For those of you who don't know, except for 2 of the previous 114 US Opens, a final score of -8 was enough to get you into a playoff if you didn't win outright. The 2 exceptions? Tiger Woods in 2000 won with -12 and Rory McIlroy in 2011 won with -16.)

Some of the favorites have slammed their trunks -- for me, Rickie Fowler is the most notable because he was my favorite to win -- and the defending US Open champ didn't make the cut. That happens more often than you might think. It's hard to defend on a different, and sometimes dramatically different course each year.

Some expected contenders barely made the cut but are still not out of it -- Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott, to name a few. The leaders are only 9 shots ahead of those who made it on the number, and we've already seen a 65 (-5), a couple of 66s and a number of 67s. Guys like Phil and Company are entirely capable of posting a couple of those scores this weekend and getting themselves right back into the mix.

Likewise, we have several unexpected names in that mix like Branden Grace, Joost Luiten and Tony Finau, along with some of the usual suspects who frequently pop up -- Dustin Johnson and Jason Day, for example -- and one major winner, in this case Jordan Spieth.

And remember this picture from the last Ryder Cup?

Spieth and Reed at the Ryder Cup

Jordan and his teammate Patrick Reed have both shot their best-ever US Open scores so far and will be the very TV-friendly final pairing in today's penultimate round.

So when it's all said and done, it appears that blatantly atypical Chambers Bay is going to host a fairly typical US Open after all. All it needs is a good battle down the stretch...

But that's the players' responsibility, isn't it?

Friday, June 19, 2015

First Impressions of Chambers Bay

After watching the first round of the US Open at Chambers Bay, I finally started to form some opinions about what to expect this week.

Besides beautiful views, that is.

While this may not be a true links course because of the elevation changes, it's clear that there are some real comparisons to be made.

The 1st hole at Chambers Bay

First of all, there certainly appears to be a real difference between playing the morning wave and the afternoon wave. I'll be interested to see if it holds up today but it looks like the best scores come from the morning wave. It seemed that players who shot -2 in the afternoon played considerably better than those who shot -2 earlier in the day. That could be big on Sunday afternoon; players going out early could put up a great round and make up a lot of ground.

The fescue-poa mix on the greens plays into that equation. According to the commentators on FOX, the fescue "goes to sleep" late in the day while the poa "wakes up" and makes little bumps on the greens. Putts don't fall as easily in the afternoon.

The winds also came up late in the day. Whether that's a regular phenomenon or just the weather this week is something I don't know, but it played a part in Thursday's scoring.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the first round was who got near the lead and who didn't. There were players I'd expect to play well in links-style conditions -- players like Rickie Fowler and Louis Oosthuizen -- who struggled badly at Chambers Bay. Likewise, players who haven't done well at majors and especially the Open Championship -- Patrick Reed and Francesco Molinari come to mind -- are playing well so far.

Granted, it's only one round but it gives me something to watch for going forward. I'll be interested to see if those patterns hold up at the end of today's round.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hitting a Wedge Off Hardpan

With the PGA Tour players facing rock-hard fairways at Chambers Bay this week, I went looking for some help on playing bump-and-run shots. After looking at some different ones, I decided this clip with Chris DiMarco hitting wedges off hardpan would be more help for most of you.

I've grabbed a couple of stills from the video. See the green square that Chris DiMarco is standing on? (That's Charlie Rymer supervising.) That's a piece of plywood. The ground doesn't get much harder than that!

DiMarco sets up on a piece of plywood

DiMarco first hit a shot with the club face open, the way most of us would. The ball went dead right like a shank. We spend a lot of time working to use the bounce when we hit wedges but when you hit a wedge off hardpan you want to use the leading edge. Again, this is NOT what you do most of the time because you'll chunk a wedge shot if the ground is soft. This technique is for hardpan only.

DiMarco's keys are:
  1. Take a narrow stance.
  2. Get your hands forward, ahead of the ball.
  3. Keep the club face square.
Here's another still, this time showing his setup.

Close-up of DiMarco's setup

Chris and Charlie go into considerable detail about:
  • how a properly-struck hardpan wedge should make a single sound, not a double sound as the ball bounces off the ground and into the ball, and
  • how the amount of bounce on your wedge affects this shot, even though you're focusing on using the leading edge.
You'll want to take the time to watch the entire video, perhaps several times, to make sure you understand the mechanics of this shot.

Relax, it's only about 4 minutes long.

Please understand that hitting wedge shots off hardpan and hitting bump-and-run shots are NOT exactly the same thing. There are two primary differences:
  1. Bump-and-run shots aren't played with wedges; rather, you use short to mid-irons to play them. For example, you might use a 7-iron for a 50-60 yard bump-and-run.
  2. Your followthrough is much shorter on a bump-and-run, perhaps as little as 12-18 inches past the shot. As you can see in the video, DiMarco's finish is much fuller, waist high or more. The difference is that the bump-and-run is a low running shot while the hardpan wedge flies higher and stops quickly.
But otherwise the techniques are roughly the same so if you can play one shot, you can probably play the other without too much difficulty.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

My "5 to Watch" at the US Open

One thing that everybody agrees on is that we have NO IDEA WHATSOEVER what kind of score might win this US Open. Chambers Bay is so different from any course the PGA Tour has played -- not just for a US Open but for any tournament -- that we have nothing to guide our expectations. This is a hard dry links course with mountainous level changes, and not even the diehard links players in the field have ever seen anything like Chambers Bay.

The 1st hole at Chambers Bay

So any picks made this week are purely guesses. Here are my rolls of the dice:
  • My overall favorite this week is Rickie Fowler. He really seems to like the course, and I think the dramatic terrain changes may actually play into his hands. As a motocross racer, negotiating the rolling racetrack of Chambers Bay is probably a comfortable feeling for him. And coming off his PLAYERS victory I think he has a lot of confidence.
  • Jordan Spieth also makes my list. Not only has Jordan continued to play consistently good golf but his caddie is intimately familiar with the course. That's got to give him a leg up on the competition.
  • Although his record on hard fast courses isn't that good, I still like Rory McIlroy this week. Chambers Bay is a wide-open course, with big fairways and without trees, so even a slightly off week with the driver shouldn't penalize him too much.
  • Phil Mickelson is a sentimental favorite, of course; I'd like to see him complete the Career Slam. But as Phil noted, this layout doesn't require you to play perfect golf... and he joked that he thought the course had a lot of room so he suspected the rest of the field (who tend to be more accurate) probably liked it just fine. And with his creative recovery shots and two runner-ups in the last two majors, you have to figure he'll be in contention.
  • As for my flier, you'll all think I'm nuts... but I'm going with Tiger Woods. A course that doesn't require perfect golf and that's hard enough for Tiger to avoid driver completely (remember his win at rock-hard Hoylake?), coupled with a short game and putting game that he's proven is back in decent shape, seems to be a perfect place for Tiger to do the unthinkable and get Major #15.
I know what you're thinking and you're right. I've basically gone chalk this time (except for Tiger, that is). But when we have no idea what to expect, it only makes sense to go with the players who enjoy the challenge of the unknown.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Did You Watch Altered Course?

Monday night was the debut of GC's new golf competition show called Altered Course. If you didn't watch it, you missed something very interesting...

The Georgia BoysI'd describe the show as extreme team golf -- that is, golf played on a "course" that includes the kind of terrain that most golfers try to avoid -- and the two-player teams are timed, with penalties dealt out if a team takes too long. That means players are running between shots, and doing it over some pretty rough terrain. Even the host, Kristen Kenney, has to run during the show to keep up with the teams!

The "hole" for the first episode was a par-4. It started on the tee of the first hole and finished on the green of the second hole. There was a 100-foot drop from the tee to the fairway, and teams played alternate shot (both teammates were allowed to hit a tee shot to try and get one in play). They had to get a ball inside a predetermined checkpoint area, regardless of how many strokes it took, then play a blind shot over a rise with some trees on it to a green with a bunker on the left and a pond on the right.

There are eight teams and Monday's episode "seeded" them according to the number of strokes and time they took playing the first hole, with ties broken by physical competitions determined by a skills challenge. How do they do that, you ask? Well, one teammate tried to hit a ball as close to a specific distance as possible -- it had to go at least that far but they tried to get as close to that distance as possible. (Failing to reach that distance resulted in automatically being the low seed.) After each team had done so -- and yes, the balls went different distances for each team -- the other teammates had to run to the ball, pick it up and run back. Ties were broken by order of finish.

The team pictured above, Shepherd Archie and Wesley Yates, are "The Georgia Boys" and they are the top seed after being the only team to score 5 on the hole.

I think this show has the potential to be a real hit. It's a really interesting blend of match play and extreme sports, and it's worth watching at least once to see if you like it.

You can find the Altered Course info page on golfchannel.com at this link.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 FedEx St. Jude Classic

Winner: Fabian Gomez

Around the wider world of golf: Inbee Park became only the 3rd LPGA player to 3-peat at a major with her win at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Bernhard Langer became the first Champions Tour player since Arnold Palmer to defend his Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship; Shane Bertsch won the Rust-Oleum Championship on the Web.com Tour; Albin Choi won the Bayview Place Island Savings Open on the MACKENZIE TOUR-PGA TOUR Canada; Jimin Kang was declared the unofficial winner of the Decatur-Forsyth Classic on the Symetra Tour when it was shortened to 18 holes; Chris Wood won the Lyoness Open on the ET; Thaworn Wiratchant won the Queen's Cup on the Asian Tour; and Misuzu Narita won the Suntory Ladies Open on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Fabian Gomez lifts his putter in victory

Let's face it: The big event this weekend was the ladies' major, the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, played at legendary Westchester Country Club. I admit that I was glued to the TV watching Inbee Park not only make history but do it by shooting 3 bogey-free rounds on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Even Phil Mickelson's T3 run on Sunday wasn't enough to pull me away.

But the FedEx St. Jude has a long history, having begun life in 1958 as the Memphis Classic. (It's as old as I am!) A lot of big name players have won there and, because of all that history, a win there carries a certain amount of status.

It doesn't hurt that TPC Southwind has a reputation as a tough track to conquer. It takes a confident shotmaker to get a win there.

On Sunday it appeared to be a two-man race between Fabian Gomez, who has won on the Web.com Tour but never on the Big Tour, and Greg Owen, who has won on the ET and Web.com Tour but also never on the Big Tour. The two were tied when the day started and they were still tied after nine...

But then things went sour for Owen. Gomez went -3 on the strength of his accurate shotmaking while Owen went +1 over the same stretch. In the end it wasn't even a contest. Granted, Owen took a lot of positives away from the event simply because getting in contention again proved, as he said, "I can relax knowing I’ve still got it."

Unless the "it" in question is the trophy, that is. Fabian Gomez adds his name to the short list of Argentinian winners on Tour, which includes Roberto De Vicenzo and Angel Cabrera -- both of whom, btw, are major winners. Fabian may have to wait a bit for one of those but his wait for a Limerick Summary is over:
Steady Gomez delivered the win
While Greg Owen’s left waiting again.
But the Argentine’s way
With this course won the day
And he hoisted his prize with a grin.
The photo comes from the tournament upshot page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Perhaps I Made Inbee Mad...

And Sei Young Kim and maybe Bernhard Langer too. Langer merely doubled his 36-hole lead during the 3rd round of the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS, so it would take a massive breakdown for him not to defend his title today.

But if Inbee wins she'll have gone back-to-back-to-back at the KPMG Women's PGA, a feat accomplished only by Annika. (I know GC said Mickey Wright also did it but, according to my sources, Wright won it 4 times in 6 years -- 1958, 1960, 1961, 1963 -- NOT 3 times in a row.)

[CORRECTION: GC said Patty Berg won 3 consecutive Titleholders Championships in 1937, 1938 and 1939. My mistake.]

inbee Park

All Inbee did was go bogey-free in the 2nd and 3rd rounds while everyone else struggled. As she told GC, she simply did everything well. Her Saturday 66 (-7 on the par-73 Westchester course) was a thing of beauty.

Barring a complete collapse by Inbee, her only real competition is Sei Young Kim. You remember her -- she beat Inbee in Hawaii with a hole-out eagle on the first playoff hole. The rookie already has two wins this year, the same as Inbee, and would be tied with her after 54 holes had it not been for bogeys on 10 and 18.

The irony for me is that I considered making Sei Young one of my "5 to Watch" this week but decided against it because of her inconsistency this season. She has either won or been largely invisible on Sunday. I guess she picked a good week to reappear!

At any rate, it looks like this will be the tournament to watch today if you want drama... or if you're just hoping to see history made. You've got to think Inbee has a great chance at getting her 6th major and a 3-peat today, or that Sei Young is going to make her 3rd win in her rookie season a major.

NBC. 3pm ET. Be there.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Lydia Leaves While Langer Lingers

I didn't expect much from either Lydia Ko or Bernhard Langer at their respective majors this week. Neither has played particularly well lately -- at least, not up to the standards we tend to expect from them -- while other players have been rounding into shape. I said as much in my "5 to Watch" posts from earlier in the week.

But even I have been surprised by the paths each has taken this week.

Bernhard Langer drains another one

Out at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, the Kobra actually missed the cut! For the first time in her professional career Lydia met a course that she just couldn't plot her way around. I didn't expect her to win this week, but I certainly didn't expect her to struggle so much. Perhaps my feeling that she's seemed tired for several weeks now wasn't far off.

And of course I had left Inbee Park off my list for the same reason -- her game (particularly her putting) has been less than what I'm used to seeing from her -- so she casually races up the leaderboard and finds herself only one shot back. And Stacy Lewis is only 3 shots back. It may be a bit early to say but I think Lydia's #1 ranking is about to vanish...

Meanwhile, out at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship, Bernard Langer has not only kept pace with the field but has left them in the dust. A 4-stroke lead after 2 rounds, while not insurmountable, is clearly a decisive statement to the rest of the field. None of my picks are better than T14, where Kenny Perry and Monty are gazing wistfully at Bernhard from 9 strokes back!

I'm certainly not disappointed that Bernhard is doing so well -- my gosh, I've been waiting for him to get his game going -- but to turn things around so dramatically? My predictions for the Champions Tour players turned out to be horribly wrong. (It's a good thing I'm not a gambler!)

At least at the women's major I appear to have gotten some of it right. After all, I picked Suzann Pettersen as the favorite and she's only 2 strokes off the lead.

It looks like we're in for some drama this weekend at both majors. Glad I bought some extra snacks Friday!

BTW, don't forget that while GC will carry the SENIOR PLAYERS all weekend, the KPMG will move to NBC today -- and of course they'll both air at 3pm ET. Great, just great. Way to go, guys.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Blair O'Neal on Hitting from the Wet Stuff

If you're having a lot of rain -- as much of the US is -- you're probably finding your ball in a lot of wet lies and you have no convenient place to take relief. Or even if you get relief, the ground is still soaked. Enter Blair O'Neal with another Sexiest Shots in golf, this one on hitting from a wet lie.



I suppose there's nothing really new here; there rarely is when it comes to fundamentals. Still, it's nice to hear things laid out as simply as Blair does here:
  • Take one extra club and grip down on it. You don't want to strain for distance.
  • Put 60% of your weight on your lead leg and keep it there throughout the swing. You need as accurate a strike as you can get, and you won't get it if you're moving off the ball.
  • Don't scoop the ball -- that is, don't flip your hands in an effort to get the ball up in the air. Your hands should be slightly ahead of the ball at impact... and they will be if you keep 60% of your weight on your lead side during the whole stroke.
  • Finish with your hands low. This shortens your swing a bit and makes it easier to keep your hands slightly ahead of the ball at impact.
Yeah, I know. It's simple stuff and you probably already knew it. But it's never bad to hear it again because we're human and we tend to forget things really easily.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

My "5 to Watch" at the SENIOR PLAYERS

Oh yeah, we got TWO majors this week! The Champions Tour is playing the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship so I need to pick my "5 to Watch " for them as well.

Bernhard Langer at last year's event

Bernhard Langer was last year's winner but I'm not sure he's in form to really contend this year. (Yes, it pains me to say that.) And Miguel Angel Jimenez isn't playing this week. (He WILL be in EA Sports' new PGA Tour video game though. It may be your only chance to play like him!) So I'll have to look elsewhere for my picks:
  • Kenny Perry plans to focus on the Champions Tour from now on... and that starts this week. I think this decision to play one tour (that's what he says, anyway) will pay big dividends. That could start this week, as he already has 3 Senior majors so he knows how to get it done.
  • Colin Montgomerie is probably the favorite this week. He only has 3 Champions Tour wins but all 3 are majors!
  • Brian Henninger had been doing commentary for GC before he reached 50. Now he's splitting his time between TV and golf... and he seems to be doing well at both. He's got a T4 and a T2 in his last two starts.
  • Tom Pernice Jr. always seems to play well but he hasn't won much lately. However he has 6 Top10s this season -- better than most of the other players -- so I'm going to show him a little love as well.
  • And my flier is Billy Andrade. His only win on the Champions Tour is the Legends team event but I think it's time he stepped up and got the job done on his own.
Nobody on the Champions Tour has won more than once this season but it's really hard to pick against Monty. You can argue that he's playing better than anybody except the Mechanic -- and, as I said, he's not in the field. But I like Henninger as a dark horse.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

My "5 to Watch" at the KPMG

It's time for the newly-renamed KMPG Women's PGA Championship (formerly the LGPA Championship). And that means it's time for one of my ever-amazing "5 to Watch" posts.

Heh heh. Ever-amazing. I like that. Anyway...

Suzann Pettersen hitting from bunker

I'm really having trouble wrapping my mind around this one. None of my cast of usual suspects -- Lydia Ko, Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park, Michelle Wie -- seems to be in championship form right now. They all seem a bit off their games and I just can't choose any of them as a favorite.

So we have to look past the faves of the last few majors:
  • Suzann Pettersen has to be the leading contender at this point. Not just because she won last week but because she's been quietly getting better week-to-week. The swing changes with Butch seem to finally be locking in and Suzann is confident. That's a bad thing if you're the rest of the field!
  • Except for the Texas event, Anna Nordqvist has also been quietly having a good year. With one win already and 5 Top10s, she could be a real threat this week.
  • Morgan Pressel hasn't won yet but it's hard to ignore her return to form. If she plays this week the way she's been playing, she's just one good Sunday back nine from victory.
  • Hyo Joo Kim has been one of the most consistent players this season and has one win as well. I wouldn't be surprised if she snagged another major this week (she won the Evian last season).
  • And finally, Shanshan Feng hasn't won yet this season but she may be playing the best of anyone. She has 7 Top10s this season and her worst finish is a T21 in Australia, plus she's won this event before. Don't count her out.
I guess Morgan is the closest to being a flier pick in this list since she hasn't won in a few years. The real irony is that none of the multiple winners this season made my list; none of them have played well as of late and I don't see anything in their games that convinces me that this week will be the turnaround week for them.

But then again, if majors teach us anything, it's that the unexpected can happen at any time. Let's see if a newly-renamed major provides the inspiration needed for a player like Minjee Lee, Charley Hull, Gerina Piller or Mariajo Uribe to break out of the pack and break through to victory.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Michael Breed on Hand Path

What I'm going to focus on today is going to sound a little different from what Michael Breed did in this Golf Fix clip, but you can see it happening right there on the video; I'm just going to give you a different perspective on it. Breed is talking about hand path and he's using a split grip on a hockey stick to demonstrate it. Watch the video first, then I'll add my two cents.



What Michael doesn't say -- but which is very clear from the video -- is that there is no forearm rotation during the downswing and through impact. I know that sounds heretical but just watch the video. He's using a hockey stick, which has flat sides. If he rotated his forearms, the face of the hockey stick would flip over at impact rather than stay square to the path.

I can hear your cries of disbelief. How can this be, Mike? How can the stick face move from facing us at the halfway down point to be square at impact without forearm rotation?

It's actually a very simple concept to understand... it just sounds different. Pick up your driver -- we want a long club for this explanation -- split your hands on the grip and follow along.

The secret here -- and I've mentioned this before but Michael's demonstration is awesome proof -- is that your upper arms, not your forearms, rotate at the shoulder joint during your swing.

First look at Michael's forearms at the halfway down point; his forearms are PARALLEL to his aim line to the target.

Now look at his forearms at impact. They are now PERPENDICULAR to his aim line. The only way to accomplish this is by rotating your upper arms with your lead elbow staying close to your body. It's slightly in front of you at that halfway down point, and it moves in close to your lead side at impact.

The reason your hands appear to rotate on the way down is because your elbows straighten out in the bottom half of your swing. If you take your address position and keep both arms straight while you turn your shoulders back and lift your hands to waist height, then turn back to impact and through to a half finish while continuing to keep your arms straight, you'll see the club face go from FACING TOWARD us at waist high on the downswing to SQUARE at impact to FACING AWAY from us at the half finish.

And that "moving forward" motion Michael says your trail arm makes and the "moving backward" motion he says the lead arm makes? It's not as dramatic with your normal grip but it happens because your shoulders continue to turn until your belly faces the target.

Play around with this drill for a while. It may seem hard to understand at first but eventually an understanding of the motion will sink in. And when it does, your swing is suddenly going to become so much easier to repeat...!

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 The Memorial

Winner: David Lingmerth

Around the wider world of golf: Suzann Pettersen won the Manulife LPGA Classic on the LPGA (of course); Madeleine Sheils won the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship on the Symetra Tour; Liang Wen-chong won the JGT Championship Mori Building Cup on the Asian Tour; Mark Calcavecchia won the Principal Charity Classic on the Champions Tour; Alex Noren won the Nordea Masters on the ET; Jeong Hwa Lee won the Hong Kong Ladies Open on the LAGT; Hunter Haas won the Greater Dallas Open on the Web.com Tour; Albin Choi won the Bayview Place Island Savings Open on the Mackenzie Tour PGA Tour Canada; and Rodolfo Cazaubon won the Dominican Republic Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Also, earlier in the week the LSU Tigers won the NACC Division 1 Men's Golf Championship. SMU's Bryson DeChambeau won the men's individual title.

Rose congratulates Lingmerth

David Lingmerth has been in a couple of playoffs before -- one on the PGA Tour and one on the Web.com Tour. He lost them both.

Not so on Sunday. Many players got into contention then fell away when mistakes got the better of them, but Lingmerth wasn't one of them. Starting the day with a 3-stroke deficit at Jack's Place, he steadily worked his way up the leaderboard with a 3-under 69 to tie Justin Rose, the favorite pick for many this week.

Rose was going for his 2nd win in 5 starts but struggled to find any consistency Sunday. It was his scrambling that kept him in the game but even then, the best he could manage was a par round. The two men found themselves in a playoff, and Rose hoped that his short game would take him just a little farther.

Alas, it was not meant to be. On the third playoff hole Rose put his ball behind a tree where not even his sharp short game could help him. But their 3-hole playoff was the longest in Memorial history... and it ended Lingmerth's playoff woes.

Welcome to the Limerick Summary Winner's Circle, David Lingmerth! I think you'll find this award just as rewarding as your first PGA Tour win! Okay, maybe not...
He took only three holes at Jack’s
To stop Justin Rose in his tracks.
It’s appropriate. Why?
It was Lingmerth’s third try
At the big win he no longer lacks.
The photo came from the tournament upshot page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Bobby Jones on Proper Weight Shift

Sometimes you read something a dozen times before it suddenly jumps out at you. That was the case for me today. I was rereading a piece from Bobby Jones Golf Tips: Secrets of the Master by Sidney Matthew, a piece called On the Proper Method of Shifting Weight, and suddenly realized how simply it explained something that many of you are struggling with.

I can't quote the whole thing here; it's three pages long. But I'll give you the key thought that struck me so hard.

Jones notes that most amateur golfers can't really distinguish between a "shift" (which they've been told to do) and a "sway" (which they've been told they must avoid). Then he makes a most interesting statement:
Let me begin by saying that although I have in the past inclined toward a different view, it is now my definite opinion that there need be no shifting of weight from left foot to right during the backstroke. I have examined numbers of photographs of the very best players and I have been able to find no case in which such a shift was perceptible. But there should occur during the hitting stroke a quite pronounced shift from the right to the left, a shift which does not follow the club or pass smoothly along coincident with its progress, but which is executed quickly and leads the arms and club all the way through. (p92)
This is really quite an amazing statement. When he says the weight does NOT shift from the lead foot to the trailing foot during the backswing, he means there is no attempt to move the position of your body backward away from the target. However -- and this is important -- there IS a noticeable shift from the trailing foot to the lead foot during the downswing.

How can this be?

Well, what you feel during the backswing is a change in the muscles of the trailing leg. It's an increase in tension rather than a shift of weight. But that doesn't explain how you make a shift forward during the downswing. Wouldn't that destroy your balance?

Not according to Jones. First of all he says that most good players stand more erect at address so they can turn more easily. (You may recognize this advice. Tiger has a tendency to squat a bit at setup and it doesn't allow him to turn easily, according to the analysts.) Jones further says that the weight should be pretty evenly divided between the player's feet.

The key is his description of the downswing:
The downswing or hitting stroke presents another picture. There is a shift here, but there is no sway, and the difference is what the average golfer wants to understand. It is this: The weight shift which is proper is a shift of the hips -- a lateral movement of the middle part of the body which does not alter the position of the head and shoulders. The sway, which is entirely improper, is a forward motion of the entire body, which sends the head and shoulders forward too, and tends to upset the player's balance. (p93, emphasis mine)
Now this sounds like a typical description of a forward weight shift until you take his description of the backswing into account. If you don't move your body backward during the backswing, there is no need to move it forward during the downswing... and, more importantly, it means that the "lateral movement of the middle part of the body" is a relatively small movement compared to the one we normally try to make.

Now how do you make that small move? Jones says:
If we but examine the styles of different golfers, even with the naked eye, it is easy enough to tell whether the weight transference has been a sway or a shift. One characteristic of the proper body action, that is to say, the shift, is that the left leg is straight at and after impact. (p94)
When he says the lead leg is straight, he means perpendicular to the ground. (Some players may have a slight bend in the lead knee; that's okay.) And he says this is the result of the lead side "lengthening" during impact by the hip moving forward without the head and shoulders having to move. That's the "pushing up at impact" move so many teachers tell you will create power. It creates the "extension" that Martin Hall says you should get after impact -- you know, when he says your chest should be pointed slightly skyward at the finish. It's how you "use the ground" during your swing.

This tip should work for almost all of you, no matter what type of swing you have. I have to say "almost" because if I don't, somebody will write and tell me it didn't work for them. We're human so it's rare that anything works exactly the same for everybody. But I bet it'll work if you try it.

Here's the key to remember: If you can't keep your head and shoulders steady, you're either trying to do too much with your legs or you're too bent over at address... or both. When I do it properly, I actually feel as if I'm focused on turning my shoulders toward the ball to start my downswing -- it's almost impossible NOT to turn my hips when I do that. (Think of making a tennis stroke. You don't think about turning your hips; you think about getting the racket to the ball.) It's actually a move that we make naturally in most sports because we don't worry about it so much.

Give Bobby's advice a try. I bet it will help you make a better smoother swing.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

I Ask Again... Should We Worry about Tiger?

As you no doubt know by now, Tiger made the cut at Jack's Place -- right on the number (-1, T64) but he'll get a couple more competitive rounds under his belt because of it. That's good for fans as well as for Tiger.

Tiger at Jack's PlaceIf you look at his rounds by nines, his scores are up and down -- 40-33, 33-37. I thought Jack's observation -- that he shot 40 to start the Masters that he won by 12 strokes -- was kinda funny, given how perplexed the analysts are by his uneven play. Their questions keep mounting:
  • Will Tiger ever be competitive again?
  • What's wrong with his swing?
  • He fixed his short game in a few weeks. Why can't he fix that wayward driver?
And the debates about his future continue.

Golf fans -- both media types and everyday fans -- tend to forget that, a little over a year ago, Tiger Woods was flat on his back, debating whether he should have back surgery and wondering if he would ever be able to play with his kids again. NOT play golf, just play with his kids!

It's true that Tiger has successfully rebuilt his swing many times, but each time it was a planned rebuild. He decided what results he wanted, what kind of changes he needed to make to get them, and which teacher could best help him achieve his goals. He did it often enough that he could even give you an estimate of how long it would take.

But this time is different. This time the swing changes weren't planned -- they were forced by circumstances he hadn't anticipated. This time it wasn't a question of what kind of changes he wanted to make; rather, it was a question of what kind of changes he COULD make. And then he tried to come back too quickly, before his body had adequately healed, simply because he was in unexplored territory and was learning about his new situation as he went.

And, understandably so, making mistakes.

All things considered, Tiger's game looks pretty good to me. Now that he seems to be healthy he's starting to play some good nines -- really good nines, given those two 33s so far this week -- and they're scattered in amongst some really uneven play, which you'd expect from someone who hasn't been healthy or played much competitive golf for a year or so. The fact that we're seeing flashes of brilliance so soon after such dramatic physical problems is encouraging to me. After all, I'm on record that I think Tiger will get back to what he once was.

Scoring-wise, that is. Of course the way he gets those scores is going to be different, after all the physical problems he's had to deal with, but I still think he'll get back there.

And what does Tiger think?

Well, Tiger says he's on the right track -- even his critics seem to agree with him there -- and just needs to play more. He gets his wish with two more rounds at the Memorial this weekend, in preparation for the US Open, and he's made it clear that he'll be playing much more frequently in the coming months. I can't wait to see how he does...

If for no other reason than to see the media struggle to explain something that seems very simple to me.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Blair O'Neal and the Toe of the Putter

Yes, another Sexiest Shots in Golf video with Blair O'Neal. But this one is something I've never really heard explained this well.

Yes, here's the skinny on how to putt from the fringe with the toe of your putter.



The key thing that rarely (if ever) gets mentioned when this topic comes up is that:
You have to have a blade putter in order to play this shot.
It's all about the shape of the toe on a blade. You need a putter with a fairly squared off toe, not a rounded one like other styles of putters. As Blair says, if you don't have a blade just move on to the next video.

Then it's just as simple as you would expect:
  • Turn the putter over so you can use the toe.
  • Move the ball back a bit in your stance so you can hit slightly down on it at the ball's equator or slightly above instead of getting hung in the grass.
  • Gauge your speed the same way you do for a normal putt.
It's important that you don't hit too low on the ball when you use this method. If you hit too low, the ball will just pop up in the air and lose speed.

Yes, it's that simple. As long as you have a blade putter, that is. If you don't, you'll have to belly a wedge.

Or maybe just whine about your bad luck. I find that always helps. ;-)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

And LSU Takes the Men's Title

Last week Stanford's women locked up their NCAA tournament. This week the men of Louisiana State University finished off their improbable run to victory just as impressively.

LSU men's golf team with NCAA trophy

This is a team that barely made the match play portion of the event but cruised through the quarters and semis, and taking the trophy by winning the finals 4-1 over the USC Trojans.

Ben Taylor of the Tigers sealed the deal when he went eagle-par on the last two holes to come from behind and win his match against Bobby Gojuangco 1up. You can see the NCAA's wrap-up at this link to ncaa.com but you can also see that beautiful second shot at the par-5 17th in this video from GC. (The photo above is from that post as well.)



And with that the NCAA golf season ends. The Stanford women won for the first time in their school's history while the LSU men won for the first time in 60 years. I don't know if that counts as parity but it should certainly give every school program some hope going forward.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Upsets at the Men's NCAA Championship

The Women's NCAA Championship last week dealt out plenty of drama. The men dealt out upsets.

After SMU's Bryson DeChambeau won the men's individual title on Monday, almost everybody expected #1 seed Illinois to do some serious damage in the team match play. But it was not to be; the #5 USC Trojans knocked them out in the semifinals, joining the #7 LSU Tigers who ousted #3 Georgia.

While a 5th seed playing a 7th seed for the championship may sound like a bit of a letdown, bear in mind that #5 USC beat the first and fourth seeds while #7 LSU beat the 2nd and 3rd seeds... and each beat their opponents pretty soundly. LSU lost only 2 of the 10 matches while USC lost only 1 match! And just to make things worse, some of them were lopsided wins, like LSU's Zach Wright winning 7&6 over Georgia's Mookie DeMoss.

Here's GC's preview of the final round (also embedded below). I think it's hard to pick a winner in today's finals, although I'm giving the edge to LSU. Experience is not a factor here; the Tigers haven't been to the finals in 60 years and the Trojans have never been.



If you missed them, you can get the Tuesday highlights from this video at ncaa.com. GC will also be re-airing the Tuesday matches starting at 9:30am ET today.

The final round will be televised on GC starting with the Pre-Game Show at 1pm ET. The "official" coverage (we all know they'll be showing bits and pieces during the Pre-Game) starts at 3pm ET.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Book Review: The A Swing

I've been promising you a book review and here it is.

The A Swing coverThe A Swing is David Leadbetter's new book, a book that he says he hopes will shake up the golf teaching community. The "A" stands for "alternative," and the swing is certainly that. In some ways it's not all that radical, as it continues to emphasize principles that Leadbetter has taught for many years... but there are some, shall we say, "unique" principles at work as well.

A couple of weeks ago I did a post about this swing -- right around the time I got my copy of the book -- and I linked you to a page at Golf Digest's website with videos demonstrating the basics of it. The primary concept that makes the swing "alternative" is what Leadbetter has nicknamed the V Plane, which is best explained by the following photo from the website.

The V Plane illustratedAt the halfway point of the backswing, the shaft of the club leans forward toward the target line. Then the club is rerouted during the change of direction at the top so it's on a more typical downswing plane. And this motion is very compact, requiring a shorter backswing to create more clubhead speed.

Leadbetter says that you don't even have to get the V quite as pronounced as the photo demonstrates. Rather, any swing that creates this V -- even with the shaft almost vertical on the backswing -- tends to help players get better results from their own swings. And after my original post about the swing I got some feedback that backed up Leadbetter's claim. In fact, this review has taken me longer than expected simply because I've been experimenting with this swing to get an idea how it works.

And I'll be honest with you -- I can't get the darn thing to work. I understand the concepts and, while I think the forearm rotation it requires between the top of the swing and halfway down is excessive, I don't think it's a bad approach to the golf swing. Leadbetter has eliminated a lot of the exaggeration that I believe makes Hogan's swing so hard for weekend golfers, and I think that's a good thing. But I still can't get it to work. Although I can get to the top just fine, I end up with a horrible in-to-out swing no matter what I try.

However, I think I know the reason why. On page 114 of the book Leadbetter writes:
It's not a perfectly symmetrical V, but it is a great image to understand how the shaft should move. This change of plane is important for the many golfers who lack energy and flow in their swing and swing steeply from out-to-in. (emphasis mine)
I haven't had a problem with an out-to-in swing in 25 years! Since then when I've had plane problems it's always been an exaggerated in-to-out swing. Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I consider the Hogan swing a fix for a duck hook, which is why it causes so many weekend players to slice badly -- most weekend players don't start with a duck hook. And the A Swing is a fix for an over-the-top swing, so it creates an exaggerated in-to-out swing if you aren't starting with an over-the-top swing. Makes perfect sense to me, and I appreciate that Leadbetter's book is detailed enough that I could figure that out.

The book begins with a foreward by Michelle Wie and an explanation of the biomechanics of the swing written by J.J. Rivet, a biomechanist who works with Leadbetter. Then the bulk of the book is a well-illustrated explanation of how the swing works, followed by a chapter on how to use the A Swing in the short game and such. Finally there's a chapter with the 7-Minute Practice Plan that everybody's been so curious about and some appendices with extra info.

Look, the A Swing isn't for everybody and, regardless of what anyone says, I'm not convinced this is something you can just dabble with. The basic positions in the swing -- and that rerouting move at the top of the swing -- are going to take a commitment if you really want to get good at them. But I think the overall concept is sound and it's definitely a better choice for most folks than the traditional Hogan swing. (I mean, which one better describes the swing flaw you're trying to fix -- a duck hook or an over-the-top swing?) Leadbetter should get his wish; this book is going to get people talking, that's for sure.

But if you don't have a problem with an over-the-top move, I'd advise you to look elsewhere. The exaggerated push shot it created for me, a player whose swing is already on a decent plane, would be unplayable on the course.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 AT&T Byron Nelson

Winner: Steven Bowditch

Around the wider world of golf: Mardan Mamat won the Bashundhara Bangladesh Open on the Asian Tour; Søren Kjeldsen won the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open on the ET; Anna Nordqvist won the Shoprite LPGA Classic; Kyle Thompson won the Rex Hospital Open on the Web.com Tour; Drew Weaver won the PC Financial Open on the Mackenzie Tour PGA Tour Canada (yes, that's the new name); Felipe Velázquez won the Honduras Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Josh Geary won the Lanhai Open on the PGA TOUR China; and Teresa Lu defended at the Resort Trust Ladies on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

And lest we forget, earlier in the week Stanford won the team portion of the NCAA Division 1 Women's Golf Tournament and Emma Talley from Alabama won the individual title.

Steven and Amanda Bowditch with trophy

Before I get to the PGA Tour event, I need to give a shout-out to Eddie Pepperell at the Irish Open. Nobody had posted a bogey-free round all week because of the bad weather until Eddie did it on Sunday, shooting a 3-under 68 in the worst weather of the week. The score got him into a playoff which he didn't win... but he did lock up a spot at St. Andrews in the Open Championship this July. Way to go, Eddie!

When a golf course gets as sloppy wet as TPC Four Seasons Resort did this week, it's critical to get your ball in the fairway -- especially when you get to lift, clean & place the ball. That became painfully evident in Sunday's final round when one really bad shot could put you out of the competition.

The classic example was Dustin Johnson. He hit one sideways at #6, posted a snowman and fell from the lead. He never recovered and finished T8, 7 shots back. Other players managed to escape those kinds of scores but still found their momentum stalled by wayward swings.

It didn't help that Steven Bowditch suddenly remembered how to win golf tournaments (his first win came at Valero last year). Other than a poor second at the 3rd hole and a three-putt at the 5th, his ball seemed to have a GPS system much like the ball in David Feherty's Hyundai commercial!

A lot was made about Steven and Amanda getting married at the 18th hole of TPC Four Seasons Resort four years ago and about how appropriate it was that he won this tournament. As you can see in the photo above, they now have another photo from the 18th to frame and enjoy.

Steven can also share this Limerick Summary with his lovely wife Amanda. And yes, I know this particular limerick is less gramatically correct than usual. Apparently my editor floated away in the flood waters of TPC Four Seasons Resort...
All it takes is a single high score
And you’re not in contention no more!
Stevie B’s game was sound—
He went low in his round
‘Cause he finished without making “FORE!”
The photo came from this page at YAHOO! Sports.