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Friday, July 31, 2015

A Bit of Match Play

If you're a fan of match play you're probably aware that the ET has a new match play event running this week. It's called the Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play and it's being hosted by -- you guessed it -- 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie.

Paul Lawrie

Unlike some of the other small field match play events that have been held on the ET in the past, the Saltire has a full 64-man field from the Race to Dubai list -- or at least it did when it began on Thursday. It uses a traditional one-and-done format with the Top32 players paired against the lower 32.

Lawrie made it past the first round and will play Chris Doak today. That could be a tough one since Doak came back from 4 down in the first round to win 1 up -- he took 6 of the final 9 holes to do it. But Lawrie won his match against Romain Wattel 5 up, so he's playing well.

There were only 2 Americans in the field -- John Daly lost his match 2 down to Jorge Campillo, but Peter Uihlein beat Oliver Wilson 2 up. Uihlein will face Matthew Fitzpatrick, the 20-year-old 2013 US Amateur champion who turned pro just last year. That should be an interesting match!

GC's coverage begins at 9am ET -- the same time as ESPN2's coverage of the RICOH Women's British Open -- but Uihlein and Fitzpatrick tee off at 7:35am ET (if I've got my time changes correct) so the two should be well underway when the coverage begins. Lawrie tees off 25 minutes after Uihlein.

This is an inaugural event so if you love match play you'll want to check it out.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

3 Swing Images from Sam Snead

This is one of those Martin's Bookshelf bits from School of Golf. You can never go wrong copying Sam Snead; the greatest players in the game have said that just watching Slammin' Sam was enough to help their game.

This video includes 3 images from Sam's instructional book Sam Snead Teaches You His Simple "KEY" Approach to Golf.

These images are:
  1. Put your hands in a holster at setup
  2. Lay the club on a bookshelf for a moment at the top of your backswing
  3. Throw an apple off the shaft at impact
You can get the details of each from the video -- and they're all extremely useful -- but I would like to mention one thing about each.
  1. The holster image is another way of teaching you not to rotate your forearms during your takeaway. If you use this image, the necessary rotation will happen at your lead shoulder and be controlled by the bending of your trailing elbow. You'll be in better position at the top, which means you'll return the club to the ball more consistently.
  2. Although Martin is demonstrating the move down with a forward hip shift, Sam actually started down with a squat -- that is, the knees flexed so that they actually separated a little (the trailing knee actually moves slightly AWAY from the target and the lead knee moves slightly TOWARD the target). This wasn't a huge squat -- it's actually very slight -- and he did shift his weight to his lead foot as he swung, but initially your body moves DOWN before moving toward the target. This is what used to be called the "modern" swing as opposed to the Hogan swing. You'll find it easier to use this image if you know that.
  3. Finally, this is yet another way to practice carrying your wrist cock later into the downswing. If you get good at this drill, you should pick up some noticeable distance.
I'm glad that Martin Hall spends some time each week sharing things from the old masters. We talk so much about golf history but we often underestimate how much useful information those old masters can still provide for us.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Billy Hurley III's Dad Is Missing

In case you missed it on Golf Central yesterday, Billy Hurley III let everybody know that his father has gone missing for over a week. Here's the report Todd Lewis filed:

Billy says he plans to play this week and hopes his dad will check in some way to find out how he's doing.

The photo of Billy's dad -- Willard "Billy" Hurley Jr. -- is in the video clip several times. He was last seen on Sunday, July 19 and was driving a dark green 1998 Ford F150 pickup, license number YWH-5898. They also know that he purchased a hotel room in Texarkana TX last Thursday. If you have any information, contact the Leesburg VA police department.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My "5 to Watch" at the Women's British Open

Three Open Championships in a row! How cool is that?

This week the ladies take their turn at links golf. Trump Turnberry may have been the source of some unwanted publicity this year but, politics aside, this is a classic track that should really challenge the women to play some of their best golf so far.

Scoreboard at the RICOH Women's British Open

The defending champion is Mo Martin, but I'm having trouble picking her to repeat. As much as I like Mo's game -- she's short off the tee but extremely accurate -- her win in last year's Open at Royal Birkdale was the highest winning score (-1) since it became a major on the LPGA. Unless they have bad weather at Turnberry, I don't see that getting it done this year.

In fact, I'm not sure there are any sure bets this year. Inbee Park, Lydia Ko and Stacy Lewis all seem a bit off their games, Michelle Wie is still injured (although she still plans to tee it up), and I'm not sure how Lexi Thompson's hand will hold up taking huge divots in hard links sand.

So it looks like time to avoid the standard chalk picks and look for hidden gems...
  • Suzann Pettersen may seem like a chalk pick but she hasn't broken into the Top5 in majors lately. And except for her win earlier this season, she's struggled to reach double digits under par. (She shot -22 at Manulife, but no better than -11 at any other LPGA event... and her best major finish was -9 at the ANA. She shot +8 at the US Open and missed the cut.) But she played pretty well in Scotland this past week and she'll be acclimated to the weather and time change, so she makes my list.
  • Gerina Piller doesn't have a good record at the RICOH but -- with the exception of the US Open -- has been playing very well lately. I'm going with form over past performance here; Gerina is due and if Phil Mickelson can pick up one of these things...
  • Morgan Pressel has three 3rds in the first 3 majors of the season. With her increased length off the tee and her ability to hit the low ball, I think she'll do well again.
  • Sei Young Kim has no record at the RICOH because she's never played it. I'm calling this one on beginner's luck.
  • And finally, Shanshan Feng was last year's runner-up and she's a Top10 machine this season. She just might get it done this time.
Of course, at least one of the big names is likely to get into contention if not win. But the RICOH is one of the hardest tournaments for any woman to build a consistent record in. And given how wild this year has been so far, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect an upset.

In fact, given Trump's recent comments, wouldn't it be really cool if Lizette Salas won? I didn't pick her but I'll sure be pulling for her!

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 RBC Canadian Open

Winner: Jason Day

Around the wider world of golf: Lexi Thompson won the Meijer LPGA Classic on the LPGA; Breanna Elliott won the Fuccillo Kia Championship on the Symetra Tour; Rebecca Artis won the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open on the LET; Marco Dawson won the Senior Open Championship on the Champions Tour; Danny Willett won the Omega European Masters on the ET; Prayad Marksaeng won the Fukushima Open on the Asian Tour; and In-Gee Chun (the US Women's Open champion) won the Hite Jinro Championship on the KLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Jason Day on the 18th after sinking the winning putt

No, there still hasn't been a Canadian champion at the Canadian Open in 61 years. David Hearn certainly gave it a brave run, one he can be proud of -- especially since he didn't have any previous wins to draw on when trying to win his national Open.

But, as you can see from the photo above, it was a better Day for Jason.

You know, we've all been somewhat lopsided in our coverage of Jason Day. We've documented the vertigo problems at the US Open and the amazing bad weather play at last week's Open Championship that came up a single shot short. But we haven't made much of Jason's win earlier this season at the Farmer's Insurance Open (at Torrey Pines, definitely a tough track) or his other four Top5 finishes, all done while the vertigo was still a problem.

The RBC Canadian Open is his second victory this calendar year, and he got it after a draining experience at the Open, which meant he had to make the time change adjustment with less-than-normal recovery time. He even remembered to hit that final putt hard enough to get it to the hole -- although, admittedly, the course wasn't nearly as wet this time so he probably would have gotten the speed right without St. Andrews on his mind.

But Jason picked up a big tournament with this win -- perhaps not as big as the Opens that got away, but a big one nevertheless. And so he gets an equally big Limerick Summary to help him celebrate it -- although I confess that I think ALL the Limerick Summaries are a big deal:
Two Opens evaded his grasp
But Jason found victory at last!
Could this Open portend
A big Whistling Straits win
Since the vertigo problem is past?
The photo comes from the tournament upshot page at

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Jim McLean's Ring of Fire

This is a very simple tip -- and it's an old tip that comes from a 2007 article Jim McLean did for Golf Digest -- but it may help you hit more fairways.

In this case, a picture truly is worth a thousand words.

Jim McLean's ring of fire visualization technique

You may remember Jordan Spieth's caddie repeatedly telling him to aim small just before he hit shots. Instead of thinking about where he didn't want the ball to go, and instead of thinking about a general target ("just hit the fairway"), Jordan was picking a very small target and aiming at that. He gave the example of aiming at the end of a branch on a tree down the fairway.

The idea is that you won't miss a small target as easily as a large target because the small target forces you to focus more precisely.

Or, as an old proverb says, "If you aim at nothing, you're bound to hit it."

McLean's image is along the same lines. As he puts it:
"...pick a precise spot where you want your ball to land, and then imagine a flaming ring about the size of a Hula Hoop 10 to 20 yards in front of you on that target line. Now all you should be thinking about is threading that flaming ring with your tee shot."
Although McLean specifically mentions this as a driving tip, you can use the same image for any full shot you want to play. The key is to find some way of focusing on a small target when you aim. If you do, you should find your shots beginning to land closer to your target.

Given how well it's working for Jordan Spieth, why not give it a try?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Danny Willett Is at It Again

If you thought Danny Willett would be down after he couldn't get it done in St. Andrews last week, you've got another thing coming. He followed up his first-round 65 with a 63 in the second round of the ET's Omega European Masters in Crans Montana, Switzerland.

Danny Willett at Crans-sur-Sierre

The Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club is part of the Crans-Montana ski resort and isn't really all that difficult, from what I understand. It's only 6,848 yards -- short by PGA Tour standards -- and at just under 5000 feet above sea level, it plays even shorter. But the course is hilly and fairly tight, and winds can be a problem.

Unless you're Danny Willett, that is.

View from one of the fairways

It seems to me that the biggest problem would be the views. How do you concentrate when you can gaze out over mountain lakes and see snow covering the Alps in midsummer?

David Lipsky, the American player who got his ET card last year by winning this event, is doing pretty well. He's 5 shots off Willett's -13 lead. But the immediate challengers are Y.E. Yang (the 2009 PGA winner) and Seuk-hyun Baek, just a stroke back. No one else is closer than 4 shots back after the second round.

For my American readers, Peter Uilein is at -6 and Patrick Reed is at -4. Along with Lipsky, they're the leading Americans at the event. But with so many rounds in the low 60s, I suppose almost anybody could conceivably win this event with a good weekend. Willett will have his hands full holding off the challengers.

But for my money, the ultimate winner is probably Sergio Garcia. He's only at -1 but he owns a chalet there. With the Alps in your backyard, who cares about the score?

Friday, July 24, 2015

ATTENTION: Freebie Lessons Alert!

Okay, this is one of the more unusual freebie lesson plans I've seen done by any magazine, so I HAVE to share it with you.

Golf Magazine has put up a 30-day, 50-lesson plan they say can help you improve all areas of your game. They brought together 5 of their Top100 teachers -- Scott Munroe, Mike Adams, Kellie Stenzel, Mark Hackett and Jon Tattersall -- and they have put together this huge guide that covers everything from driving to iron play to putting to flexibility.

And they've made it available online FOR FREE. This link will put you on the first page of the lesson guide.

The 5 teachers who wrote the guide

Part of what I try to do on this blog is help you understand enough of the mechanics of various golf swings that you can recognize the difference between what will and what won't help you. It's why I always recommend that you have a filter, a single teacher or player whose techniques work for you -- and you KNOW they work for you -- so you have a framework to help sort things out.

Here is a sterling opportunity for you to put that information to work.

Sure, you may not need all of these drills. And many of them may not work for you. But this is an excellent chance for you to check out some other teachers' ideas and drills, all without spending a penny.

As Bubba would say, you're welcome. ;-)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

My "5 to Watch" at the Senior Open

Last week the "regular" Tour guys played their Open; next week the ladies follow suit. But this week it's the seniors' turn, and they'll be playing at the Sunningdale Old Course. Colin Montgomerie describes it as sort of a English Pine Valley, with tight fairways rather than wide links, and designed in 1901 by 3-time major champion Willie Park Jr. (He won the Open in 1887 and 1889, and the US Open in 1919.)

You can find a hole-by-hole description of the Old Course here. The photo is of the 14th hole; you can find more photos here.

Sunningdale Old Course 14th

Oh well, enough dreaming about gorgeous courses. Let's get down to the picks! Although I admit that this group sounds very familiar...
  • Bernhard Langer is the defending champion -- he won by a measly 13 strokes last year -- so I suppose he would have to make my list, wouldn't he? He already has one major this year; there's no reason to suppose he won't contend for this one.
  • Likewise with Colin Montgomerie. He too has a major this year, and he is very familiar with this course. I believe I heard him say he played the Walker Cup here in 1987 so he has a long relationship with this place.
  • I'd like to think I don't make the same mistake twice. I didn't pick Jeff Maggert at the last major... and he made it his second major this year. Okay, Jeff, you got my attention. You made my list this time -- you better perform!
  • I picked Kevin Sutherland last time and he had another good performance, even though he didn't win. He's been in one playoff (that Maggert won) and has been no worse than T13 in any major this year. Yeah, I gotta pick him again!
  • And for my flier I'm taking Jesper Parnevik. Jesper hasn't got much of a Champions Tour record for me to judge by, but why shouldn't the new kid strut his stuff a little? Did I mention how Jeff Maggert's been doing that this year...?
And there you have it. There are some other players I would like to pick -- Tom Watson and Fred Couples among them -- but I think these 5 are better choices. (Except for maybe Jesper, but did I mention how Jeff made me look like an idiot for not picking him at the last major simply because he was a new kid on tour...?)

The Senior Open won't be getting a lot of TV coverage. ESPN2 will be carrying about 2 hours of coverage each day starting at noon ET and that's it. If you want to watch, that's your chance.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Zach on Hitting Solid Wedges

With Zach Johnson winning the Open, most of the golf sites are putting links to their "Johnson How-to" articles on their front pages. Golf Digest is no different; they've linked to an article they did back in March on how Zach gets those approach shots so close.

But there are also a number of other "Zach links" on that page, and I've pulled one from way back in June 2013 on hitting pitch shots. There's a short video there that demonstrates what he says in the article but I can't embed it; you'll have to pop over there to see it. Just click the link in this paragraph.

But here's a picture that catches the key position.

Zach after impact with pitch shot

This is also the position Zach is in right after he hits an approach shot. The difference is that, on the approach shots, he gets a full wrist cock at the top of his backswing. On the pitch shots, in which the top of the backswing is typically only waist high, his wrists are only flexed a little. (That's explained in the video, btw.)

The key here is that he isn't flipping his wrists or twisting his forearms. He's using the bounce of the club, allowing the loft of the wedge to get the ball up in the air.

Look, I don't have to sell you on this. You all saw him wedge St. Andrews to death last week. Go and do thou likewise!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 Open Championship

Winner: Zach Johnson

Around the wider world of golf: Chella Choi finally got her first win (Dad can finally retire from the caddie biz!) at the Marathon Classic on the LPGA; Annie Park won the Toyota Danielle Downey Classic on the Symetra Tour; Si Woo Kim won the Stonebrae Classic on the Tour; J.J. Spaun won the Staal Foundation Open on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada; Scott Piercy won the Barbasol Championship, the PGA Tour alternate event; and Yoko Maeda won the Samantha Thavasa Girls Collection Ladies on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Zach Johnson lifts the Jug

We didn't get the third leg of the single season Grand Slam. Jordan Spieth's magic finally ran out and he came up a single shot short.

We didn't get the first amateur winner at a major in 85 years. Dunne stumbled early on and Niebrugge could only get to -11, which was enough to get the Silver Medal but not the Silver Jug.

We didn't even get one of the favorites as a winner. The scoring was unbelievable, given the wind, rain and cold, and unless you could keep pace you got left in the mud.

What we DID get was the longest Open Championship in history -- 5 days and 4 extra holes -- and we got a proven major winner who shot the best final round any winner ever shot in an Open at St. Andrews. And he did it with simple guts and tenacity.

Zach Johnson came out early and dropped the hammer on the Open field. Blistering wedge work lit up the course as he went about his business in the nasty weather. His 5-under 31 on the front nine shot him to the top of the leaderboard, and his dramatic birdie on 18 landed him a spot in a 3-way playoff with Louis Oosthuizen and Mark Leishman. Leishman stumbled early as Zach birdied the first two playoff holes to take a single shot lead over Oosthuizen. A couple of misread putts prevented Louis from making up the ground after Zach bogeyed the Road Hole...

And the rest is history.

Zach Johnson becomes the first man ever to get his first two majors at Augusta National and St. Andrews, and it won't surprise anyone if he locked up a place in the World Golf Hall of Fame with his performance. It seems appropriate that the Home of Golf should choose such a gritty unpretentious competitor as its Champion Golfer of 2015.

As Brandel Chamblee noted, we learned that the John Deere Classic is indeed the best way to prepare for an Open Championship. And, if I might be so bold, it also appears to be a good way to grab a shiny new Limerick Summary to keep that shiny Claret Jug company:
The wind and the rain gave the edge
To Zach and his buddy, the wedge.
With birdies galore
He soon charged to the fore
And the hammer he dropped was a sledge!
The photo came from the Open page at the ET site.

Monday, July 20, 2015

It's Madness, I Tell You. MADNESS!

I don't know what to say. I really don't know what to say. The third round of the Open Championship gave us so many potential storylines -- many of which we couldn't possibly have predicted -- that I don't see any way to guess what will happen.

Amateur Paul Dunne and Louis Oosthuizen

This photo (from the website) of amateur Paul Dunne and Louis Oosthuizen walking together in round 3 -- which, btw, will be the final pairing on Monday -- pretty much sums up the unpredictability of this Open.
  • Paul Dunne, a student from UAB (that's the University of Alabama at Birmingham, for readers unfamiliar with the US colleges), has an opportunity to become the first amateur to win the Open since Bobby Jones back in 1930. He's currently tied for the lead at -12. And three shots back, amateur Jordan Niebrugge could possibly do it as well.
  • Louis Oosthuizen, the "defending" champion from the last Open played at St. Andrews (2010), could join the small table of champs to win two Opens there. He also co-leads.
  • And the third co-leader is Jason Day, in position to finally get a major of his own.
  • A single shot behind them is Jordan Spieth, possibly ready to join Ben Hogan as the only other man to win the first three legs of the Grand Slam in a single season.
  • Who would have predicted Padraig Harrington to be a mere two shots back, in position to win his third Open and fourth major overall? If the weather turns nasty, he has to be considered a favorite after his "mudder" wins at Carnoustie and Royal Birkdale.
  • And nine players sit three shots back at -9, including Niebrugge, Sergio Garcia, and numerous major winners like Retief Goosen, Justin Rose, Adam Scott and Zach Johnson.
  • Then there were the unexpected stumbles by Dustin Johnson and Danny Willett, who shot +3 and even par respectively, to make their jobs much harder today.
Given that Spieth was 5 back to start the day and still couldn't take the third round lead, you have to guess that anyone more than 3 shots back doesn't have much of a chance, especially since nasty weather IS predicted. (Although DJ or Willett might rally if the weather is bad, since both played well in the bad weather of the first two rounds.)

It's been a long time since I can remember an Open that was, well, so wide open. You can make a valid case for any of the primary contenders... and given how this season has played out so far, you might be right!

Obviously the Limerick Summary is postponed until Tuesday because we don't have a winner yet. But who knows who the recipient will be? It looks to be one wild Monday finish!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

On Setting Up a Golf Course

After all the controversy surrounding the Open and what makes a course unplayable on Saturday, I thought you might be interested in the basics of how the ruling bodies of golf try to make sure their golf courses are fair.

This video from the USGA and NBC explains how golf courses are measured to determine green speeds, hole placement and relative difficulty. It was made last year, so it focuses on the setup for Pinehurst #2 and, to some degree, on Merion from the previous year. You can be pretty sure this is the same technology the R&A uses when setting up an Open.

This video doesn't explain how wind is taken into account. But since the R&A had to place some of the holes at St. Andrews on high spots because of damp greens, I assume they use some formula that combines the firmness of the green and the stimpmeter readings to determine the maximum potential wind speed the greens can handle.

Unfortunately for the R&A on Saturday, I guess there's no formula that can accurately predict what that maximum wind speed will be when the players tee off.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Looking at Danny Willet's Swing

With Danny Willett just a stroke off the lead at the Open when Friday's play ended, many of you may be wondering about his swing -- especially after Brandel Chamblee remarked that his "bullet cut" might give him an advantage in the right-to-left winds they expect this weekend.

Well, wonder no more. After looking at several videos of Danny, I settled on these two. The first shows Danny at the WGC-Match Play earlier this year. Note from the shot tracker "trails" that Danny hits a draw as easily as he hits a cut. These swings are all at full speed.

Then I found this video that's about a year old but shows his swing in slo-mo.

A few things I noticed right off:
  • Danny's swing is actually pretty short -- his hands are just a bit above shoulder height even with a driver -- and he doesn't get a lot of "width," which is a fancy way to say that he doesn't get his hands as far away from his body during the backswing as he could. This shows up in his stats -- although he's 6' tall, his ET regular season driving average is only 290 yards and he hits only 56% of his fairways. He does hit 71% of his GIR, which means his iron play is pretty accurate.
  • He sets up with his weight more on his lead side and moves aggressively toward the target when he hits the ball. Perhaps because of this aggressive attack, he cocks his wrists early in his backswing -- a late wrist cock would require a slower backswing in order to keep control of the club.
  • Danny also "re-routes" the club when he changes direction at the top of his backswing -- in other words, he drops the club a bit behind him (which some folks call "laying it off"). This move flattens his swing a little, which helps him unwind a bit faster but sacrifices a little accuracy. Rickie Fowler did this until Butch helped him reduce it.
  • His finish is a lot higher than his backswing, which causes him to swing a bit in-to-out. That's not something most teachers would teach but it's not necessarily a bad thing. It lets him really extend his arms as he hits the ball, which helps him control the club face better than he would otherwise with all that body rotation.
Danny normally hits the ball about as far as Jordan Spieth does, but Danny's lower ball flight seems to be helping him much more in the windy conditions at St. Andrews. (According to the Open website stats, which measures drives on holes 5 and 14, Danny's averaging 318 VS Jordan's 260.) And Danny's -3 on the back nine -- the nine playing into the wind -- after two rounds.

Which just goes to show that the "right" way to hit the ball isn't necessarily the best way for any individual golfer. Danny Willett was the #1 amateur in the world in 2008... and if he keeps playing like this, he could end up being the Champion Golfer of 2015.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Expectation and Reality

Yes, I guess I'm on another rant. But I just can't believe what I'm hearing.

TigerI've been pretty vocal about my frustration with the unrealistic expectations the golf world has for Tiger Woods. (If you've somehow missed them, my most recent rant can be read here.) Nevertheless I thought I had come to grips with the idea that golf analysts seem utterly unaware of how complex the human body is, with how difficult it is to regain skill levels after serious illness or injury, and with their general inability to realize that Tiger is -- for all the amazing things he has done -- still very human.

But what I heard Thursday night has just blown me away.

I heard Tiger totally dismissed from any possible return to competitive form. I heard that Tiger should have suddenly "re-emerged" at St. Andrews and the fact that he didn't pretty much means he's washed up. And I heard nothing to indicate that anybody believes Tiger could have the same problems that any normal athlete would have and might need more than a few months to completely rebuild his swing and his body.

In short, I heard the people who are constantly amazed every time Tiger defies their expectations just write him off. And I just don't get it.

The irony is that, earlier this week, Tiger said something in his pre-Open press conference that may have been very telling about his swing problems... and the analysts seem to have missed it entirely.

Let me point it out to you. It was so simple, so blunt, that everybody seems to have missed it.
In answer to one of the questions, Tiger simply mentioned that he had heard various opinions about how long it takes to recover from back surgery, and he now believed the folks who told him it takes about a year were correct.
In that one statement Tiger made a tacit admission -- that he came back too soon. And in that admission is the implication that his back is only recently beginning to feel "right" again -- not that his back was still hurting, but merely that it hadn't felt quite the way he expected and that perhaps it hadn't been performing quite the way he had hoped.

Or, to put it another way, perhaps Tiger has only recently been physically able to move the way his swing needs him to move, and therefore he's not quite as far along in the rebuild as we have all thought.

Yeah, I know I'm writing a lot into a single statement. But bear in mind that it's the first time that he has admitted that his back took longer to heal than he told us, and that it follows on the comments he made at Greenbrier where he cautioned fans not to expect him to "get it back" overnight.

So the immediate questions are:
  1. Will Tiger make the cut today?
  2. And how long will it be before we can tell if the new swing is working?
I don't know the answer to the first one. I won't be surprised if he does simply because he played holes 11-18, which were the holes playing into the wind on Thursday, in -1 (1 birdie and 7 pars). The wind is supposed to be up big time today, and one of the analysts -- I think it was Aaron Oberholser -- suggested that 75 might be a great score. You can be sure Tiger spent some time on the range yesterday, so something near par just might be possible and he might make the cut.

Of course, that's conjecture. He might miss the cut badly. We'll find out later today.

In the long term, I don't think it really matters. It's pretty clear to me that Tiger's back has slowed his progress down more than we thought and he's only now beginning to feel really good physically. If that's truly the case, it may be another 3 months or so before we can even begin to make an adequate assessment of where Tiger's game is headed.

But at some point the golfing world needs to get a sense of perspective. Human bodies are intricate things that we don't fully understand, despite all our advances in medicine, and we certainly can't make them heal any quicker than they want to. And when I last checked, Tiger was still human.

It would be nice if we treated him like it.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Meanwhile, Lydia Defends

While the men tee it up in Scotland, the LPGA heads back to Ohio for the Marathon Classic... and you might be able to watch some of it even if your main concern is the Open.

Lydia Ko with trophy

The Kobra is defending this week, which should be interesting since her game has seemed a bit off lately -- at least, off compared to the way she was playing last year at this time. (Yes, I know Lydia has 2 victories so far this year, but she has a missed cut and only one Top10 since her last win back in April.)

So Yeon Ryu, who Lydia beat last year by a single stroke, clipped Lydia by 2 strokes last week at the US Women's Open. She has no wins and only three Top10s this whole season, but all of those Top10s have been in her last five events... and all have been Top5s. This rematch could be a good one.

Michelle Wie has withdrawn from the event -- understandable, if you saw her struggle through the final round last week -- and a number of the big names are also taking the week after a major off. Still, the Top4 in the Rolex Rankings are teeing it up this week so there's a good chance for some fireworks.

Tony Jesselli has his regular preview for the event here, which should get you up on the details quickly.

And, as I mentioned earlier, you may be able to catch some of the LPGA today even if you're glued to the set watching the Open. GC's coverage runs from 2pm-4pm ET while ESPN's live coverage ends at 3pm ET (at which point I expect them to re-air some of the early coverage). So you may want to catch an hour of the LPGA either before or after the live Open coverage.

At least you have options.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

How Butch Tweaked Rickie's Swing

Golf Digest is now making a series of videos featuring Butch Harmon and Rickie Fowler called Fix the Gaps in Your Game. The first "season" has 4 videos, although the first is a "behind the scenes" deal.

At any rate, this is the one on how to hit the fairway with your driver. It tells you exactly what Butch did to get Rickie's swing on plane and stop him from laying the club off so much at the top of the swing. Butch also explains how this can help you stop slicing.

Please note that the basic move they incorporated into the takeaway. Rickie already had a one-piece takeaway but the shaft was pointed off at an angle. Butch repositioned him so the shaft pointed along his toe line.

In case you need a drill to get this move down, there's a series on my Some Useful Post Series page called Dexter's Coming Over-the-Top. The drill is in the third post in the series, at this link. This is the basis of getting your swing on plane, so make sure your takeaway is in good shape!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My "5 to Watch" at the Open

The majors come rapid fire during the summer. This week the men play the Open Championship at St. Andrews. It's always a special one when it's played at the home of golf!

The clubhouse at St. Andrews

Of course, Rory McIlroy would have been just about everybody's favorite if it weren't for that little matter of a mangled ankle. (And no, I don't have a problem with his little "kickabout." He could have done worse damage just tripping down a flight of stairs, but I don't hear anybody arguing that he should avoid all staircases going forward.)

But with so many potentially good choices this week, Rory may have done us all a favor by thinning out the herd, as it were. Here are the players I've finally settled on, after a lot of debate with myself:
  • Needless to say, Jordan Spieth makes the list. Having won the last two majors, as well as the last two events he played, Jordan should be in good form to tackle St. Andrews. And with the course a bit greener than usual, he should have the same advantages that Rory would have had. However, Jordan isn't my favorite. That honor belongs to...
  • Rickie Fowler. I know I picked him at Chambers Bay and that didn't work out, but this is the week after he won the Scottish Open. I have no doubt that his game made the 90-minute drive to St. Andrews intact. And playing with the memory of his late teacher on his mind, he has an extra reason to want to play well.
  • Returning to my favorites list after a long absence is Henrik Stenson. My worry hasn't been Henrik's game, but rather his health. It takes longer than most people realize to recover from a serious illness like he had. But his play during his last couple of events tells me that his stamina and timing are finally back, and I suspect he's psyched to have a chance at St. Andrews.
  • I can't overlook Dustin Johnson. I truly believe DJ found some inner peace during his sabbatical from golf last year, and let's face it -- ALMOST NOBODY putted well at Chambers Bay. This should be a good week for DJ.
  • My flier pick was a real challenge. Matt Kuchar played really well at the Scottish Open last week, so this could be his week. Likewise, Paul Casey is still very much on my radar and he loves St. Andrews. And given his play at the Greenbrier, Tiger Woods may surprise everybody. But my flier pick is Louis Oosthuizen, the last man to win the Open at St. Andrews. He's finally healthy and he may have been the only man to figure out the greens at Chambers Bay. He'll have good memories to draw on.
So there they are, my best guesses at who will win. But having said that, there are at least a couple dozen more players who wouldn't surprise me if they won. St. Andrews is a magical place, after all, and sometimes all a guy needs is a little inspiration...

Don't forget that ESPN is covering the Open this year. Thursday's coverage starts at 4am ET and runs till 3pm ET, at which point I suspect they'll replay a lot of it in prime time. Nobody wants to miss the Open at St. Andrews!

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 John Deere Classic

Winner: Jordan Spieth

Around the wider world of golf: While Amy Yang and Stacy Lewis battled each other, 20-year-old In Gee Chun roared through the field to take her first US Women's Open on the LPGA; Rickie Fowler made another late-round charge to win the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open on the ET; Martin Pillar set a new tournament record en route to his win at the Tour's Albertsons Boise Open; Jerry Smith got his first win at the Champions Tour's Encompass Championship; and C.T. Pan won The Players Cup on the MACKENZIE TOUR - PGA TOUR Canada.

Jordan Spieth with Deere trophy

Well, he did it again.

Not only did Jordan Spieth win another tournament -- 2 in a row now -- but he's won 2 John Deere Classics in playoffs. And he did it with 4 birdies in the last 6 holes -- another last-minute charge when he looked to be out of the tournament.

And oh yes, he broke Zach Johnson's heart again. He just didn't do it in the playoff this time. But Zach will get his rematch at the Open next week.

Danny Lee came up just short of making the playoff, but he's also on his way to the Open.

And long-time Tour pro Tom Gillis got beat in that playoff, but he also got an Open berth out of the deal. So I guess, when you consider everything, it doesn't matter so much that Jordan just tore up the field again after being T101 after round 1.

Of course, I doubt any of them see it that way. And I certainly doubt that Rory McIlroy will share that view, as a win by Jordan at the Open will likely vault the wunderkid to #1 in the world. And if there are any doubters left who believe Jordan made a mistake by preparing for the Open at the John Deere... well, I don't think anybody cares what they think now

And Jordan? He just chalks up PGA Tour win #4 of 2015, worldwide win #6 of the wraparound season, and heads off to St. Andrews where he will likely approach this major like any other tournament that he expects to win.

Plus, if it matters at all in the midst of his remarkable run of good play, he also grabs his 4th Limerick Summary of the year. Funny how that works out:
With four wins this calendar year,
Spieth answered his critics that Deere
Was not among venues
To prep for St. Andrews
By winning. His game’s now in gear!
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Day for Records

Saturday was a banner day for record-breaking performances. Some you heard about, some you may not have. Let me bring you up to speed.

We'll start with the most talked-about player first.

Jordan and caddie enjoying his best round ever

Jordan Spieth shot a career-best 61 (that's 10-under at TPC Deere Run). As impressive as that is, I'm more impressed that he shot the 61 after shooting a 64 on Friday. Who says it's hard to back up a good round? All he did was make 2 eagles during his round, and finish birdie-eagle-birdie on the last 3 holes... and if that wasn't enough, the eagle was a hole-out from 106 yards.

Of course, that kind of thing is becoming routine for Jordan, isn't it? I don't think he's going to be criticized much now for going to the Deere instead of the Scottish Open.

Then, out on the Tour, Martin Pillar -- yes, that's LPGA player Gerina Pillar's husband -- set a new 54-hole record. After shooting 61-63-65, he has an aggregate total of 189 -- that's 24-under at Hillcrest CC. That course is also wet, like TPC Deere Run (and Lancaster CC where the women are playing -- water, water everywhere!) but going low is still going low. He's 5 shots clear of the field at this point.

And then there's the major record posted by Chella Choi at the US Women's Open -- the lowest 9-hole round ever at a US Women's Open (29). The LPGA site has an article about it; I'm copying it here just because this is so amazing for a major.
  • Chella Choi’s first-nine 29 is the lowest nine-hole score in the U.S. Women’s Open. Five players shot a 30, most recently Jodi Ewart Shadoff in (first round, first nine) in 2013.
  • A 29 has only been returned once in a women’s championship. Christina Kim shot a 29 (second round, second nine) in stroke play qualifying at the 2001 U.S. Girls’ Junior.
  • Tom Kite is the only player in any USGA Open championship to shoot a 28, which he did in the 2012 U.S. Senior Open (first round, first nine).
  • A 29 has been shot five times in USGA Open championships. It was shot three times in the U.S. Open. Neal Lancaster did it twice (fourth round, second nine in 1995 and second round, second nine in 1996) and Vijay Singh did it in 2003 (second round, second nine). It was shot twice at the U.S. Senior Open. Olin Browne did it in 2011 (third round, second nine) and Jay Don Blake did it in 2012 (second round, first nine).
  • Choi’s 64 is the lowest third-round score in the U.S. Women’s Open. A 65 had been shot three times, most recently by Na Yeon Choi in 2012.
  • Choi’s nine birdies are the most in a round at the U.S. Women’s Open since Lori Kane also made nine in the second round in 1999.
Does this mean Chella Choi will win? Probably not since she's 6 strokes behind leader Amy Yang and 3 strokes behind Stacy Lewis... but she's certainly in better shape entering the last round.

And of course, she's in the record books now. There are worse things to do at a major.

The real question is... what can Spieth, Pillar and Choi do for an encore?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

But There the Comparison Ends

Yesterday I mentioned that Lydia Ko and Jordan Spieth had similar scores after the first rounds of their respective tournaments.

Today the difference in the events -- and perhaps in their mental states right now -- is plainly evident.

Spieth at the John Deere

Jordan Spieth, languishing in a tie for 101st place after Thursday's round of even par, roared back into contention Friday with a 7-under 64. Now he's T16, just 5 shots off the lead. TPC Deere Run is a place where birdies come to roost in bunches, and Jordan now sits at the same score that he had after 36 holes in both of the last 2 years... which includes the year he won.

Things didn't go so smoothly for Lydia Ko. The Kobra got bitten by a US Open layout that was playing much harder despite the rains that came late Thursday. That's counter-intuitive, I know -- wet US Open courses should be easier to score on than dry courses since tee balls don't necessarily find the rough and the greens receive approach shots better.

But these greens also slowed down considerably, and players simply couldn't believe how hard they had to hit putts. You could even hear Morgan Pressel talking to herself after yet another putt came up short, telling herself that she KNEW she had to hit the ball harder!

Amy Yang

The only players to really capitalize on the situation were Amy Yang (pictured above), who sits at -7, and Stacy Lewis, T2 at -4. Yes, there are certainly other players in the mix, but these two are the only ones to shoot in the 60s on BOTH days -- 67-66 for Yang, 69-67 for Lewis. The course isn't going to get any easier this weekend; the question is whether conditions will allow the other players to make up ground or do the conditions favor Yang and Lewis going forward.

As for Lydia Ko, she is now +2 (T32) and apparently struggling with her game. FOX reported a somewhat confused Lydia in the hours before the second round, having changed her routine considerably and perhaps throwing her rhythm off for the day. At any rate, she's got her work cut out for her, with so many players ahead of her.

It will be interesting to see how Jordan performs next week when their positions are reversed and he faces major conditions. But this is Lydia's third major of the year, and her record for the first two isn't so good -- T51 at the Inspiration and a missed cut at the Women's PGA. Jordan's played a bit better in the Masters and US Open.

There was some talk on the FOX broadcast that leads me to believe Lydia is beginning to feel the pressure to win a major. Apparently she made a remark something along the lines that if she did win one, at least the constant questions would stop. I imagine it's harder to be a prodigy than most of us realize.

Since Jordan is now past that problem, perhaps these two should meet and have a chat. After all, Annika's friendship with Tiger certainly didn't hurt her game any!

In the meantime, perhaps the earlier tee time will lessen some of the tension on Lydia and just let her freewheel it a little today. The LPGA broadcast is on the regular FOX stations -- not FOXSports1 -- today at 2:30pm ET. Jordan, of course, will be on GC early and then on NBC. [CORRECTION: That should be CBS -- I got the Scottish Open coverage mixed up with the John Deere coverage.]

Friday, July 10, 2015

Lydia and Jordan Are Both Even... Imagine That!

It just struck me as funny. The two wunderkids of golf are both stuck at even par after one round at their respective events.

Lydia at Lancaster CC

Lydia's situation is easier to understand. A US Open is much more difficult than a John Deere Classic, and many more-experienced players found themselves moving rapidly under par only to have those strokes -- and more! -- taken back just as rapidly. The lead is only -4 -- held by Karrie Webb and Marina Alex -- and that on a damp course that was set up to play slightly less than 6400 yards. The ladies normally eat that sort of setup for breakfast! Lydia is merely T18, which isn't so bad after one round.

In addition, a break for lightning means some of the players didn't finish their rounds Thursday. Depending on how soggy the course is after the "torrential rains" (that's how FOX described them), Lydia's position might improve slightly.

Jordan at TPC Deere Run

But Jordan finds himself tied for 101st at a course where low scores are the norm. He's 8 off the lead starting round two and will need something spectacular if he wants to play the weekend... at least, if he wants to play in the US. Presumably he would leave early for St. Andrews if he misses the cut.

In the meantime, his buddy Justin Thomas is tied for the lead with Lexi Thompson's brother Nicholas. (Lexi didn't finish her round either. She's at even par with two holes to play.)

Of course you know you can catch the John Deere on GC and the US Women's Open on FOX Sports 1. However, you may not know that you can catch early coverage of the ladies at beginning at 10am ET for a couple of hours. (The link to the live coverage didn't show up until about 10 minutes before broadcast time. But if you don't see it, just wait; it will magically appear before 10.) And I believe the USGA site is also carrying coverage from 1:45pm-7pm ET, just in case you can't get FOX Sports 1.

At least, that's what it says on the LPGA leaderboard. And if you want to see Lydia and you don't have FOX Sports 1, you'll need it. She's in the afternoon wave today.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Driving Tip from Pete Cowen

I've heard people say that Pete Cowen is one of the three top golf teachers on the planet. He's almost certainly the top teacher in Europe, and he works with a number of top players like Henrik Stenson.

Here's a driving tip from Pete:

You may have to play it a few times to get it all because Pete has his own way of describing the golf swing. However, you should be able to pick up these basic ideas -- and they are very important ideas -- on your first viewing:
  • Because a driver shaft is longer than an iron shaft, your hands are a bit farther from your body and your swing is a bit flatter.
  • If you want to hit a draw, you need for your arms to keep up with your body on your downswing.
That last one is very important for all of you players out there who are trying to turn your lower body as fast as you can and end up hitting a push slice -- or, if you manage to get the club face closed, you hit a snap hook. Listen to how many times he tells you that your arms should basically stay in front of your body, and that you do that by turning your lower body slowly enough for your arms to keep up.

Please understand that he is NOT saying that your lower body has to turn slowly. What he says is that the lower body should not outrace the upper body if you want to hit solid shots on the line you have chosen. This is something that often gets lost when players step up to the ball, even though they typically make a properly sequenced practice swing without a ball.

This video is less than 2 minutes long. Please, PLEASE take some time to watch it and understand it. It will help your driving tremendously -- and your iron play as well.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

My "5 to Watch" for the US Women's Open

Yes, it's time for yet another of my major prognostications -- this time, the US Women's Open. A very different setup from last year at Pinehurst, this is a setup that actually has trees and green grass again. (And yes, I happen to like the Pinehurst setup. It's just amazing how different things are this time.)

Wie at 2014 US Open

As much as I would like to make defending champion Michelle Wie a favorite, I have my reservations about her hip injury. (Technically it's not an injury, it's bursitis, but it's a problem in any case.) She's been making swing changes which include narrowing her stance and, while I believe that will ultimately make her swing better, there are just too many uncertainties right now for me to pick her.

Likewise, with "Caddiegate" going on this week, I'm unwilling to pick Sei Young Kim despite good showings in the last two majors. Making a caddie change at the last minute like this can disturb the good chemistry she's had, even though her replacement caddie -- who I believe has worked for Se Ri Pak -- is almost certainly a good one.

So who am I going with this week? In no particular order:
  • Inbee Park won the last major (the Women's PGA Championship) and 5 of the last 12 majors. I'm not going to leave her out of the mix the way I did at the PGA!
  • Na Yeon Choi also gets the nod from me this time. Although she hasn't played very consistently this year, she does have 2 wins which include the last event, which was in Arkansas.
  • I didn't include Stacy Lewis last time either but I feel this time may be different. She just keeps getting so close but then something happens... maybe this time is her time.
  • I'm still picking Morgan Pressel. Like Stacy, she just keeps putting herself into contention. Unlike Stacy, she hasn't had a couple of years of being close; she's been rebuilding her game, and I think it's just a matter of time until it all clicks.
  • Finally, I'm throwing in with Suzann Pettersen. Her game, like Pressel's, has improved dramatically this year since she started working with Butch. She's due for a return to the winner's circle as well.
Yes, I realize I've gone mostly chalk this time. However, 2 of my picks haven't won at all this year, so they'll have to do something different if they want to hoist that trophy.

Of course, in all likelihood, since I left Michelle out she'll probably blow the field away again...

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Variety of Quick Fixes

Today I want to give you a link to one of those slide shows with short lessons attached that Golf Digest is so fond of. This one is called The 9 Most Frustrating Golf Shots and it hits (forgive the pun!) a variety of skanky shots that we all fight from time to time. The list includes:
    Butch from the 'Skulled Pitch' tip
  1. Shank
  2. Pop-Up Drive
  3. Topped Shot
  4. Double-Hit Chip
  5. Snap Hook
  6. Skulled Pitch Shot
  7. Toe Hit
  8. Pull
  9. Push
Remember, as with any other instructional tips you read, not all of them will work for you. But it's compiled from the teachings of some big name teachers -- Rick Smith, Butch Harmon (pictured above), Todd Anderson and Chuck Cook, among others -- so it's worth taking a quick peek.

And if one of the tips does work for you, you'll find links to more info on the fix from that teacher. Very useful!

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 Greenbrier Classic

Winner: Danny Lee

Around the wider world of golf: Bernd Wiesberger won the Alstom Open de France on the ET; Beth Allen won the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters on the LET; Daniela Iacobelli won the Tullymore Classic on the Symetra Tour; Abraham Ancer won the Nova Scotia Open on the Tour; and Michael Letzig won the SIGA Dakota Dunes Open on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada.

And in case you missed it, the US Women's Soccer Team won their 3rd World Cup title in record-breaking fashion.  GO USA!

Danny Lee with Greenbrier trophy

And all Danny could say was, "Wow."

It was a very understated way to tell what his first PGA Tour win meant to him, but it suited him very well. Danny Lee won the 2008 US Amateur, he won the 2009 Johnnie Walker Classic on the ET as an amateur, and he won the 2011 WNB Golf Classic on the Tour as a pro. In all of that he has remained a very calm, reserved young man.

In a week where Tiger Woods finally started putting his game back together when everybody could see it, where Robert Streb nearly made history by winning an event putting with a sand wedge, and where the event he played has a history that says the likely winner won't come from the last group, Danny Lee calmly went into a 4-man playoff and grabbed the win like an experienced pro.


He's scheduled to play the John Deere this week, which will be his 22nd start of the year -- 28th of the wraparound season -- and then head off to the Open Championship, only his second major start as a pro. But he made it clear that what drives him right now is a desire to be on the Presidents Cup team when it goes to Korea later this year, and he hoped a win might get him on Captain Nick Price's radar.

Personally, I can't believe Price would be deaf enough to ignore him now. Danny may not be very outspoken but his clubs scream for attention!

You got my attention, Danny. And as a result, here's your first-ever Limerick Summary. Hopefully it's the first of many:
His twenty-first start of the year
Gave Danny Lee reason to cheer.
And the Open spot’s nice…
But a pick from Nick Price
Is what drives him. So, Nick—did you hear?
The photo came from

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Nancy Lopez on Finding Your Own Swing

I found this little gem in Nancy Lopez's book The Education of a Woman Golfer, which was written back in 1979. Remember, when she came out on Tour in 1978 she won 9 tournaments... and 5 of them were consecutive wins. Everybody wanted to know how she developed that unusual swing of hers.

Here is her advice on how to develop a winning golf swing. It still rings as true 36 years later. And even though it's kinda long I'm going to quote the whole thing, especially since I'm pretty sure the book is out of print and you won't get to read it any other way. (Yeah, I know the page numbers look weird but that's because there was a two-page photo spread in the middle of this quote.)
...I never want to think too much about how I hit a golf ball when I'm actually out there hitting one because, if I do, I'm afraid I won't hit it as well as I seem to do instinctively.

But I can tell you what I concentrate upon when playing, and maybe you'll find it interesting and even helpful. It's not going to be much of the stuff you read in golf instruction books about grips, and stances, and pronation, and unleashing of the cock of the wrists, and all that. That makes me dizzy. I think golf instruction is likely to give you more complicated words and actions to think about than you can possibly swallow, and certainly more than you can digest all at the same time while you're trying to hit a golf ball. My prescription is simple, and it's the same one Dad gave me when I was eight years old. Hit the ball and keep hitting it until you find your natural swing. Then practice, practice, practice, until it's so grooved that you can do it in your sleep.

Saying "find your natural swing" goes against the idea that there's an absolutely right way and a lot of wrong ways to play golf. It seems to me that there is no sure and fixed "right way." Perhaps there is a best way for most people, but there are enough glaring examples of unorthodox players who are fine, and even great ones, for me to question whether any aspect of usual golf teaching is sacred. As an example, take Arnold Palmer. Take Judy Rankin. Take me. None of us would be a model for a film of a classic golf swing. There have been great golf players who used a baseball grip, players who prefer to fade an approach onto a green and those who prefer to draw one into it, players who always pitch right to the hole and try to hold the ball there and others who, under certain conditions, much prefer to pitch and run the shot. There may well be a best way for most people but there's no best way for everybody. (p41, 44, my emphasis)
I don't think that needs any more explanation. There are plenty of pros who aren't competitive anymore but they would be if they had simply followed Nancy Lopez's advice.

There is NO ONE RIGHT WAY to hit a golf ball. Find the one that works best for you, and become the best at doing it that you can. That's what Nancy says, and she's as good a role model as anybody.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

So, If My Ball Lands Inside an Orange...

Since today is a holiday here in the USA -- for those of you elsewhere in the world who may not know, today is Independence Day, the official birthday of our country -- since today is a holiday, I'm taking the day off.

But I still want you to learn something today, so I'm posting this humorous video from the Golf Digest site about 7 somewhat obscure rules in the "Decisions on the Rules of Golf" book. These are actually useful things to know but the applications of these rules can be a bit weird.

Like the one about oranges...

You probably know the one about being penalized if you get hit by your own ball -- that sometimes happens when you're playing from a hazard like a bunker -- but the other ones may not be obvious to you.

Enjoy the video... and have a great 4th of July!

Friday, July 3, 2015

It's Only One Round But...

Tiger's 4-under 66 at the Greenbriar on Thursday seems to have shocked everybody. That much was evident when you listened to the analysts. Tiger's round wasn't shown live -- he was in the morning wave and finished long before the broadcast window -- but we got to see some of the shots in replay as the analysts struggled to sound knowledgeable about what Tiger was doing.

Tiger on the prowl

Let's face it: Tiger continues to surprise us all. And only Tiger himself seems to be surprised by our disbelief. Perhaps my favorite line from his media talks after the round -- other than his assessment of that skulled sand shot that he meant to hit close to the ball and succeeded, that is -- was when he said:
"I felt like I wasn't very far away. I know people think I'm crazy for saying that, but I just felt like I wasn't that far. I just had to make a couple little tweaks, and I felt like I pulled that off."
While the analysts tried to explain the possible reasons why Tiger played so well, I was surprised that no one mentioned the fact that he has NEVER played well at the White Course. Since he's never played well there, he probably had no expectations -- as opposed to, say, Torrey Pines where he has pretty much owned the course over the years.

I've written before about players like Tiger and Phil saying they "aren't far off" when we see them spraying the ball everywhere. But to borrow from yesterday's post about the stages of a golfer, players like Tiger are consciously competent even when they appear to have lost control of their swings. They generally know that THIS is the problem, and they have some idea about how to fix THIS, and it may take them a while to get THIS back in line but there's no question that THIS is what they need to fix. It gives them a confidence that the rest of us lack.

I don't know how Tiger will fare today. He may struggle again because progress is rarely steady; it's always a matter of ups and downs. But he's been doing well on the range for a while -- the media has confirmed that -- and they've been seeing the same things on the course lately, as they did this week during the pro-am. It had to start showing up during the official rounds eventually.

For me, the important thing is that when it showed up this time, it gave him the lowest round he's had in two years. That sort of thing doesn't happen unless you're doing something right. I'm in hopes that we'll be seeing more of that "something right" this week. And we'll all get to watch it if it happens since he's in the afternoon wave.

But I think it's time we faced two facts:
  1. Tiger really does seem to know what he's doing.
  2. And he still has the ability to do things that none of us can wrap our minds around.
That in and of itself should make today very interesting.

The quote came from this page at

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Four Stages of Golf Learning

Martin Hall spent most of last night's School of Golf talking about Sam Snead, but his Mental Minute was about "the Four Stages of Golf Learning." I don't know if Snead actually said them -- I've read a couple of Snead books and seen some interview videos but it wasn't in them; Martin's read more -- but they're a good way to figure out where you are in your golf game.
  1. Unconsciously Incompetent: You don't know what you're doing... and you don't know that you don't know!
  2. Consciously Incompetent: You still don't know what you're doing but now you're aware of your ignorance.
  3. Consciously Competent: You know what you're doing but you have to think about it.
  4. Unconsciously Competent: You know what you're doing and you don't have to think about it to do it.
How does knowing these stages help you? These are my views on the subject:
  1. Players in the first stage generally can't be helped. It's hard to teach somebody who thinks they know everything. Just try not to snicker at them... at least, not too much.
  2. Players in the second stage are eager to learn. The biggest thing for them is to avoid conflicting information since they can be, shall we say, somewhat indiscriminate in who they listen to. That's why I recommend you have a FILTER -- that is, one teacher or player whose methods work for you. Since you know this person's methods work for you, anybody you hear whose methods don't immediately mesh well with your filter's should be ignored. You'll avoid a lot of dead ends that way.
  3. Players in the third stage are knowledgeable and often can determine where their problems are. They tend to recognize what will help them and what won't, so they make pretty good progress when they try to improve because they don't waste time on unnecessary changes. (And yes, I know a lot of Tour players who should know better are at this stage and STILL try to make massive overhauls. As my mom used to say, "If everybody else was jumping off a cliff, would you do it too?")
  4. And players in the fourth stage are generally just tweaking their mechanics -- not making wholesale changes, if they make any changes at all -- and are usually focused more on their mental games. That's because these players are more concerned with scoring than mechanics, with playing better than with developing the perfect swing. (Hint: There's no such thing as a perfect swing!)
If you keep these things in mind, you'll find that you can make more progress with less effort. (Unless you're in that first group. Then you probably won't make any lasting progress at all.)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

For You Golf Bag Shoppers Out There

Nothing fancy tonight, just a link to Golf Digest's Golf Bag Hot List. If you're looking for a new golf bag, you might want to breeze through these 22 lightweight golf bags.

Well, many of them are lightweight. Some of them are over 6 lbs. Others, like this $170 Ogio Nimbus, weigh a mere 3.6 lbs.

Ogio Nimbus golf bag

And even though it's that light, it still has 7 pockets.

I confess that I've never spent more than $40 or $50 for a bag. But then again, I didn't have a super lightweight like this bag either.

There are bags from several different companies in the list, so take a look if you're after a new bag for hoofing around the course.