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Monday, August 31, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 The Barclays

Winner: Jason Day

Around the wider world of golf: Jeff Maggert got his fourth win of the season at the Dick's Sporting Goods Open on the Champions Tour; Dicky Pride won the WinCo Foods Portland Open (and locked up his PGA Tour card for next year) on the Web.com Tour; Brad Clapp won the Great Waterway Classic on the MACKENZIE TOUR-PGA TOUR Canada; Kris Tamulis got her first-ever win at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic on the LPGA; and Bo-Mee Lee won the Nitori Ladies on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Jason Day with Barclays trophy

Friday afternoon everybody was wondering what happened to Jordan Spieth. Well, now we know...

He accidently left his game in Jason Day's golf bag, and we got to see what it looked like with Jason's muscles behind it.

The scoring at The Barclays surprised a few people but I doubt anybody expected the show Jason put on Sunday. His 8-under 62 was two shots better than anyone else on the course, and his -19 total was six shots better than his closest competition, Henrik Stenson. He tied the tournament record in the process.

But the numbers just get crazier. Earlier in the week I thought Jordan was more than 200 points ahead of Jason but apparently I read an older chart -- Jason now leads the FedExCup by 290 points over Jordan. And as if that wasn't enough, even though Rory will retake World #1 this week, Jason now has a chance to take that spot if he wins next week. Crazy!

And of course the debate about Player of the Year has already started, as both Jason and Jordan now have four wins. Jordan would likely win right now; he does have one more major and, according to ESPN, Jordan's stroke average is about a half stroke better than Jason's.

So far, that is. There are three tournaments left in the playoffs, after all, and Jason Day has won three of his last four events, the last two in record fashion. Perhaps I should write a few spare Limerick Summaries for Jason Day -- you know, just in case I need them in the next few weeks. It might save me some time...
A dry spell? Well, not anymore!
Since Jason’s gone three out of four
He’s first in the Cup
And his star’s rising up—
Could his Playoffs have more wins in store?
The photo came from this wrap-up at nationalpost.com.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Jordan Spieth's Brain Games

Golf Digest has an interesting article about mirror neurons and how Jordan Spieth uses the science behind them to improve his game. It may not appeal to some of you but I'm guessing that a lot of you are just plain curious.

Everybody's brain has neurons, billions of them. At the risk of oversimplifying things, they're responsible for muscle memory. Mirror neurons are a subset of them -- roughly 20% or so -- that allow you to watch someone else do something and feel the action closely enough that you can copy it.

In other words, mirror neurons may help explain why we play better when we play with good players and worse when we play with players who aren't so good... at least, not on the day we play with them.

Yeah, that's dreadfully oversimplified... but it's good enough for our purposes.

Jordan's coach Cameron McCormick says that Jordan realized this relationship early on -- that is, he noticed that relationship between your play and that of the players you watch -- and talked to him about it. McCormick then says that "from then on [Jordan] made a concerted effort to pay keen attention to players who do things well, and to ignore those who didn't."

The article then covers some things you can do to use this information to help you play better. I won't list them here because it's not a long article and I don't want to just copy McCormick's work. But he has three examples of ways to use this info... and several funny ways to avoid watching bad players in your foursome, such as:
  • 2-Fairways-Over Slicer: Embark on an exhaustive search in your bag for that candy bar you ate already
Many of you have probably already figured this out, and you watch players you admire -- for example, you watch videos of Steve Stricker's swing and imagine what it must feel like -- while looking away when your partner starts jerking his putts ten feet off-line. But this article will give you the basic scientific reasons for it and maybe help you find some new ways to copy your golf heroes.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Unfortunate But Not Tragic... for Some

Jordan Spieth has been making history all year, and Friday he added another bit to his resumé -- he became the first World #1 NOT to win in his first outing after achieving the feat. And as a result, Rory McIlroy will regain his #1 ranking next week without having to play at all.

It seems somewhat appropriate in a way, since Jordan made up the ground between him and Rory while Rory was out with that ankle injury.

Jordan Spieth

And, as Nick Faldo noted, Jordan will probably be the best #1 to lose it after only one week, having become the youngest two-time major winner on his way to the top.

I found it somewhat ironic that, even as Jordan was missing his first cut in three months or so, that a number of players on the Web.com Tour were also missing the cut with far more dire consequences.

Jordan may have gotten all the press but the real drama was happening in Portland. Unlike The Barclays, where the cut fell at +2, the cut at the Portland Open came at -2 and ended the dreams of several players. If you missed the cut at The Barclays, you've still got your Tour card for next year. That's not guaranteed for some of the players in Portland.

In case you don't know how it works, the Top75 on the Web.com Tour's season money list and numbers 126-200 on the FedExCup points list go to the four-event Web.com Playoffs. And THE 25 -- the Top25 players all season on the Web.com Tour -- will already have their PGA Tour cards for next season; they play in their playoffs largely to see if they can improve their position.

A new twist this year is that THE 25 get to keep their season money totals going into the playoffs, as a reward for their good play all year. (I agree with that choice. It bugged me that some players won a Tour card through a year of hard work but ended up ranked worse than players who played badly all year on both tours.)  Everybody else starts with $0, zilch, nada in the bank, and they're basically playing for the remaining 25 PGA Tour cards that are up for grabs.

Ron Oppenheimer missed the cut and is predicted to drop from 24 to 27. So not only did he miss out on the first 25 Tour cards but he now loses the $160,158 he accrued playing the Web.com Tour all year. He's in the same spot as #200 from the FedExCup money list. (Although at least Ron is guaranteed a full Web.com Tour card next season. That's something.) He's still got a shot at his PGA Tour card but now there are 124 other players from two tours with the same starting position after that same card.

For him, the dream just became a lot harder.

Other players didn't fare even that well. For example, Drew Scott also missed the cut. He was the bubble boy at 75, now he's projected at 79. That means no playoffs and not even a full Web.com Tour card next season. Scott Parel fared just as badly -- 74 before, projected 78 now. For these players, the season is over and the dream of a PGA Tour card is dead until next year.

So while you're feeling bad for Jordan missing the cut and losing his World #1 rank for perhaps only a week, but still teeing it up at Deutsche Bank next week with the #1 spot in the FedExCup rankings, spare a few moments to think about the guys still trying to secure playing privileges ANYWHERE next year.

After all, for every player who lives the dream there are at least a dozen who endure the nightmare.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Improving Your Pitches

Here's one of the Night School videos from School of Golf's Martin Hall and Sara Brown. It has some stats showing how badly high handicappers get up-and-down compared to Tour professionals, and it also has a drill to help you improve your pitching.

Martin says the key to improved pitching is solid contact. (Of course, that makes a world of difference in just about any golf shot!) You may have seen this drill before -- some of the Tour pros like Martin Kaymer use it on the range.



Please note that you don't have to use a ball for this drill. A stiff piece of foam will work, as will a balloon or a cloth bag stuffed full of rags. The idea is simply to maintain the 'Y' formed by your club, hands and forearms as you swing, and anything that lets you do that is fine.

What this drill does is teach you to swing your hands, arms and shoulders as a unit, rather than flipping the club with your hands and wrists. As Sara says, "connection" is one term that is frequently used for this. If you think about it for a minute, what this drill teaches you is that you've probably got too many moving parts in your swing. A pitching stroke is a very simple motion. Don't try so hard to hit the ball; learn how to swing the club smoothly and your pitching will improve.

And here's one quick tip: You'll make faster progress if you learn to relax your arms and shoulders as you swing. Tense muscles usually create jerky swings.

Have fun with this drill. I like drills that actually let you duplicate the entire motion of a swing rather than just learn a position. If you can hit solid pitches with this drill, it will translate directly to the course.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Prepare to Meet THE 25

I admit that I probably don't spend as much time blogging about the Web.com Tour as I should. After all, even though we focus on players who get their Tour cards capitalizing on sponsor exemptions or working their way through the European Tour, the Web.com Tour remains the primary route to the PGA Tour. It's where most Tour hopefuls cut their teeth learning the ropes of Tour life... and the place to which most players who fail to keep their Tour cards return.

This week we learn the identity of THE 25, the players who by virtue of their play for an entire season on the Web.com Tour have earned the first 25 Tour cards to be awarded this season.

The guy in the photo below? That's Patton Kizzire and, if I've done my math correctly, there's absolutely NO WAY that he won't be the winner of the first Golden Ticket, the fully-exempt card awarded to the Web.com Tour Money List Leader for the season. (The other Golden Ticket goes to the winner of the Web.com Playoffs, the 4-event series that begins the second full week in September.)

Patton Kizzire

This week's event, the WinCo Foods Portland Open, WILL determine the other 24 players to lock up their Tour cards. (Although I'm not sure how they'll handle #23, Patrick Rodgers. Rodgers locked up a Tour card by his play on the PGA Tour this year.) With something like $145k going to the winner of this event, almost anybody in the field has a chance to make THE 25, although a number of the players near the top of the list are safe.

Some of the names currently in THE 25 will probably be familiar to you.
  • Martin Piller, #2 on the list, is LPGA player Gerina Piller's husband. He's been on the Big Tour before, and two wins this season (plus his outstanding play in the other events) guarantee him enough dough for a 2016 card.
  • Dawie van der Walt, the South African at #3, has played a few events on the Big Tour before but has spent most of the last five years on the Web.com Tour... but not next year!
  • Jamie Lovemark, #13, is a two-time REMAX Long Drive Champion and has been on and off the Big Tour for a few years, mainly due to struggles with injuries.
  • Steve Marino, #14, had to return to the Web.com Tour this year to regain his Tour card.
  • Rod Pampling, #18, has been splitting his time between the two tours in an effort to regain his Tour card. A good showing this week could lock it up for him.
And of course there are a number of up-and-comers you may not know yet but soon will -- players like Si Woo Kim who, at #7, will probably make it to the PGA Tour for the first time. This was a breakthrough season for him and it should be fun to see how he does full-time playing against the big boys.

If you want a quick update of the impending drama, you can check this post at PGATOUR.com concerning the major storylines this week and this post will give you more info on the bubble boys.

Coverage begins today on GC at 6pm ET and, given that the WinCo is being held on the Witch Hollow course at Pumpkin Ridge GC in Oregon -- site of two US Women's Opens, a US Amateur and a US Women's Amateur, btw -- the telecast will probably be live. If the FedExCup Playoffs aren't dramatic enough for you, you'll be hard-pressed to beat the Web.com finale this week!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My "5 to Watch" at The Barclays

After some debate I've decided to do a "5 to Watch" post for each of the FedExCup Playoff events... especially this week.

Jordan Spieth

Plainfield CC is another Donald Ross course, like Sedgefield CC last week. The course is a par 71, only 6964 yards long and with more of those devilish greens that drove the guys crazy at the Wyndham. Because of that, this week's event has the potential to shake up the playoff race more than any other.

After all, short knockers who scramble and putt well have a REALLY good chance at winning here!

And that really makes it difficult to pick definitive favorites. For example, although he won last time, I'm not picking Dustin Johnson this time because the course was so wet last time. (Remember, that event was shortened due to Hurricane Irene. That much rain can make anybody's ball stay in the fairway.)

Here are my (admittedly) random favorites for this week:
  • It's hard not to include Jordan Spieth anytime he tees it up these days. Jordan's game seems ideally suited to any course except the longest ones, where he still has to be taken seriously. And since Donald Ross green complexes require some special putting ability, you have to pick the man who is arguably the best putter on the planet right now.
  • Likewise, Jason Day has won his last two events on very different courses under very different conditions. With a forecast of good weather this week -- and a hard fast course as a result -- this course wouldn't seem to be up Jason's alley. But he's "in the zone" right now, so I think he's got to be a pick.
  • Beyond those two, I'm looking at players who have played well on Ross courses like Paul Casey. Casey finished T3 last week, just two strokes back after rounds of 66-66-66-67. That would be -19 on this course [OOPS! Par is only 70 this week, not 71 as I thought], which just happens to be the score DJ won with in 2011. And given how well he's played this whole year, he definitely makes the cut in my picks.
  • Jason Gore finished solo second last week, and he managed a 62 on Saturday when Sedgefield was hard and fast. I'm guessing he'll be freed up this week since he locked up his Tour card for next year and he'll carry his good play into this week.
  • And who else would my flier pick be but Davis Love III? Davis has so much experience on Ross greens... and his putting seems to be back on track... and he can probably take 2-iron around this course, just like he did last week... and oh yeah, he won at Sedgefield last week. Age means little on a Donald Ross course!
This really should be an interesting week, given that most of the top players in the world skipped the Wyndham. Those players coming off good weeks in Greensboro should have a decided advantage over the top players, even though the top players should be more rested.

With 2000 points to the winner up for grabs at each of the playoff events, the leader after The Barclays will be either Jordan, Jason or Bubba. (Everybody else is more than 2000 points back of Jordan.) But with the added intrigue of a shorter Donald Ross course at this event, we could see the Top10 of the points list change dramatically by week's end. You gotta love it!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Brooke Henderson Watch

As most of you know, newly-minted LPGA pro Brooke Henderson is trying to qualify for the five tournaments in the Asian Swing. To do that, she'll need to crack the Top62 on the LPGA Official Money List. (To make the Lorena Ochoa Invitational she'll need Top26 money.)

The trick here is that she only has THREE tournaments to reach that magic 62 position.

Brooke Henderson

To make it easier to keep up with her progress -- and I assume all of you are just as interested in her quest as I am -- I've added a "Brooke Henderson Watch" section to the Rolex World Rankings list in the sidebar and I'll be updating it as each week ticks off.

The Canadian Pacific Women's Open this past week was the first of Brooke's three tournaments. Although she struggled a bit early on, she went low with a 5-under 67 on Sunday. This gave her a T23 finish and her first official check, worth $22,816.

By comparison, the player at 62 has $171,383 -- a figure which will no doubt rise over the next three weeks. So, heading into the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic this week, Brooke ranks 132.

Yes, that puts her $148,567 behind the 62nd player with only two events to play. But all is not lost.

First of all, once you get down to the 31st or 32nd player on the money list, the gaps between players are not all that large. In fact, the gap between 32 and 62 is only $146,621, slightly less than Brooke's 132 is from 62. And when you realize that most of these players have averaged 18-20 events, it's clear that the total of the 62nd player probably won't rise a whole lot and some good play from Brooke should move her up the list quickly.

Second, looking at the remaining two events, there is definitely money to be had. The winner of the Yokohama event took home $195,000 last year, and T5 was worth $48,945. Even better, the Evian's winner took home $487,500 -- it's a major, after all -- and solo 5th got $136,946. And given that Brooke's had a win and three other Top5s this year (two of those in majors), a couple more Top5s -- or a single win -- would likely lock up a Top62 spot.

She'll have to play well to do it, but is it doable? Oh yes.

And finally, there will probably be some players who skip the Sime Darby Classic, which is the first event of the Asian Swing. If so, she may get an invite if she's just close to that 62 rank.

So I'll be updating my Brooke Watch as she pursues a spot in the Asian Swing over the next three weeks. (There's a one-week break between Yokohama and Evian.) Just keep watching the Rolex World Rankings section over in the sidebar to see how she's doing.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 Wyndham Championship

Winner: Davis Love III

Around the wider world of golf: Lydia Ko won the CP Women's Open on the LPGA for the third time... and this time she got to keep the check; Billy Andrade won the Boeing Classic on the Champions Tour; Patton Kizzire won the News Sentinel Open on the Web.com Tour; Sam Ryder won the National Capital Open to Support Our Troops on the MACKENZIE TOUR-PGA TOUR Canada; David Horsey won the Made in Denmark on the ET; Mayu Hattori won the CAT Ladies on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details);and Bryson DeChambeau won the US Amateur, becoming only the fifth man to win it and the NCAA individual title in the same year.

Davis Love III holds the Sam Snead Trophy

It's funny how things work out sometimes. We wondered if Tiger Woods would get his 80th win at Greensboro some 50+ years after Sam Snead did the same.

Instead we got a 50+ winner at Greensboro, just like Sam was in his last win there.

And the irony of it all is that Davis Love said Tiger helped him get his putter problems worked out before the event and encouraged him to try and win tournaments instead of just make cuts, that Davis's game was good enough. Whatever problems Tiger may be having with his game -- and yes, we saw noticeable improvements this past week -- it's equally clear that Tiger recognizes when a good player just needs a nudge. (Don't forget that Tiger did the same for Jason Day just a month before he won the PGA.)

Davis Love hasn't had to worry about his Tour card in a while, as he already had the 20 wins necessary for permanent Tour membership. Likewise, he doesn't have to concern himself with the need to prove himself to anybody -- his stature among Tour players guarantees he'll always have the respect of his peers.

But Davis didn't have a Masters invite and he didn't have a pass into the FedExCup Playoffs. Those are probably much more important to him... and he now has both.

In addition, you can add these little tidbits to his already lengthy resumé: He is now the only active player to have won on the PGA Tour in four different decades -- 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s -- he's now the third-oldest Tour winner in PGA Tour history, and he now has three wins at the Wyndham. (Perhaps not as impressive as his five wins at Harbour Town, but impressive nevertheless.)

This year was a banner year for players moving into the FedExCup Playoffs -- five players did so this year, more than any of the past five years:
  • Davis Love III
  • Jason Gore
  • Jonas Blixt
  • Camilo Villegas
  • Ryo Ishikawa
Take good note of that first name, folks. Davis Love has taken Tiger's advice... and there's no telling what he might do, now that he's healthy again. And with that I offer up a brand new Limerick Summary to the oldest Tour winner in quite some time:
At 51, Love has still got it;
He needed 8-under, he shot it!
Tour cards weren’t a concern
Nor respect to be earned…
But that train to the Playoffs? He caught it.
The photo came from the daily wrap-up page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

That "New" Chipping Technique Tiger Used

You probably heard Brandel Chamblee talking about the "new" chipping technique Tiger used at the Wyndham on Saturday... I believe it was at the 16th hole. [CORRECTION: It was 17.] Chamblee said that, although it was new to Tiger, it was a technique that both Dave Stockton and Jim Furyk use. In fact, he recommended finding a video of Furyk chipping.

Guess what? Here's your video request! I believe Jim also demonstrated this on Golf Academy Live but I couldn't find the clip at GC's website, so I pulled this old one from YouTube.



There aren't any great secrets to this method. Essentially, you hold your chipping iron like a putter, set up like you're going to putt, and then use your putting stroke. However, here are the key checkpoints:
  • Hold the iron so its shaft is in line with your forearms.
  • Stand up taller with the ball a bit closer to your feet. As Jim says, you aren't bent over like a normal iron shot; this is like your putting stroke. These first two steps are what "make the magic" with this technique.
  • Use your putting stance, although you may want to put a bit more weight on your lead foot to ensure a downward strike.
  • Place the ball about in the middle of your stance.
  • Make your putting stroke.
Now, the big change this causes from a regular chip is that the heel of the iron is a bit off the ground. That helps the club move through the grass more easily because there's less of the club's sole touching the ground.

The thing you have to watch out for -- and a little practice will teach you how to adjust -- is that the face of the club is now tilted a bit away from you so the ball might not go quite straight toward the hole. That will require a very slight adjustment in the direction the face is pointing. All you'll do is close the face just a bit at setup. It's not much and you'll find how much pretty quickly when you try it.

And that's all there is to it. A lot of players use this method because the club doesn't get caught in the grass so much, which is especially important on grainy grasses like bermuda. You'll be able to pick it up quickly, and then you'll have another option in your short game.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Two Different Players with Similar Goals

At first you might think Tiger Woods and Brooke Henderson have little in common... but at this point in their careers, they actually do.

Both are in a do-or-die situation concerning the rest of the 2015 season.

Tiger Woods and Brooke Henderson

Tiger's situation has been well publicized: Win or go home. He needs a win this week at the Wyndham Championship in order to qualify for next week's Barclays, the first event of the FedExCup Playoffs. (Technically, a win will likely qualify him for the next two weeks while a solo second would likely get him into next week's event, given how rare it has been for players to move into the Top125 in past seasons.)

And as you likely know by now, in what most would consider a shocking performance, Tiger is in position to do just that. Although we'll have to wait and see if he can close it out, Tiger's first two rounds tied him for the lead and, in the past, he's 5 for 5 when shooting two rounds of 65 or better. (Tiger posted 64-65.)

Brooke's situation is similar. Although she's qualified for the CME Group Tour Championship by virtue of being a winner as a non-LPGA member, the remainder of this year will qualify as her rookie season... and currently it's going to be an extremely short one. After this week's CP Women's Open, she is qualified only for the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic and the Evian Championship (the final major). After the break for the Solheim Cup -- which doesn't include Canada -- she isn't qualified for any of the six tournaments leading into the Tour Championship:
  • Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia (Malaysia)
  • LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship (South Korea)
  • Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship (Taiwan)
  • Blue Bay LPGA (China)
  • TOTO JAPAN CLASSIC (Japan)
  • Lorena Ochoa Invitational (Mexico)
The Asian Swing and Lorena's event are all invitationals, and invitees must reach a minimum level on the season-long Official Money List. Unfortunately, although Brooke has earned $661,264 this year -- which would put her #14 on that list -- it's all unofficial money since she wasn't an LPGA member.

As a result, Brooke has only three events -- including this week -- to get into the Top62 on the list, which currently sits at $162,213 but will likely change by the end of the Evian. Like Tiger, she has a steep hill to climb.

Unlike Tiger, she made the cut right on the number at the CP. Leader Candie Kung is at -11 while Brooke sits at +1 (T58). It's understandable after all the hoopla surrounding her win last week and subsequently being granted LPGA membership, but that doesn't make her task any easier.

Fortunately she'll make at least some money this week and then get a week off between Yokohama and Evian to recharge her batteries. The winner's share in these events is near $350k for the CP, $200k for the Yokohama and $500k for the Evian. She'll need good finishes but it is doable.

Tiger Woods and Brooke Henderson, both scrambling to keep their seasons alive. Who woulda thunk it? But you gotta love great theater like this!

Friday, August 21, 2015

When You're Between Clubs

Most weekend players -- especially high handicappers -- soon figure out that, when you've got a shot to the green but you're between clubs, you:
  1. take the longer club
  2. choke down on the grip
  3. swing normally or even a bit easier
The reason is because this is a higher percentage shot than trying to hit the shorter club hard. Even the pros have a tendency to either hit that shorter club a bit fat, hit it a bit thin or hit a pull that flies too long and misses the target.

However, you might not know that you should make some setup changes if you want to hit this "between" shot well. The September issue of Golf Magazine (p102) included a description of the proper setup for getting the best results. I'm going to sum it up here.
  • Grip down on the handle an inch or two: Obviously this takes some distance off the shot but Golf Magazine also notes that it makes the club easier to control.
  • Stand a bit closer to the ball: You've shortened the club by gripping down on it but you still want to stand as tall as you can. This is the logical solution.
  • Position the ball just a bit more forward in your stance -- that is, more toward your lead foot: This one may sound a bit counterproductive but this is part of the way you control trajectory. You're trying to hit the ball a shorter distance so this helps you hit it higher, increasing the effective loft of the longer club so your shot behaves more like the shorter iron would when it lands.
  • Set your hands directly over the ball: I routinely recommend this anyway, as it gives the shaft a slight forward lean without overdoing it (to improve contact), but Golf Magazine says this will also help you hit the ball on a bit higher trajectory so it lands more softly. I was unaware of this but now I understand that's why my shots often stop on the green more quickly than my playing companions expect.
These are minor changes to your setup but they should really help you get better results on those less-than-full approach shots.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tiger's FedExCup Campaign Begins

There are a number of interesting storylines to follow at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro -- only a half hour or so from where I live -- this week, such as:
  • Camilo Villegas's attempt to defend his title
  • Billy Hurley's first event since his father committed suicide
  • The potential for someone to leap into the FedExCup Playoffs
And of course, Tiger's making his first appearance at the Wyndham in his attempt to extend his season.

Tiger

By all reports Tiger is enjoying his time in Greensboro. In addition to rounds played with Davis Love and a pro-am pairing with LA Clippers guard Chris Paul -- who is also a North Carolina boy like me -- Tiger has apparently been spending a lot of time with fans and also laughing a lot with friends. Being in such good spirits can only help him in his mission this week, because it's certainly going to be an uphill battle.

While a win is the only way Tiger can guarantee a spot at the Barclays next week, a solo second might also do the job. In three of the last four years, no more than one player has managed to move inside the magic 125. (There were three in that other year.) If Tiger can just get inside the number, it's likely that will be enough.

Tiger's chances of getting that win are slim, given his performances so far this year. Although he's clearly showing some signs of improvement over his last few events, he hasn't been able to put four solid rounds together. (He did manage three rounds in the 60s at the Quicken Loans Invitational, more than he had posted in all the events before. Like I said, he's showing some improvement.)

One bright spot emerged during his media appearance on Wednesday. Most of the analysts felt that Sedgefield CC would be a good place for Tiger since he wouldn't need driver much if at all. But Tiger mentioned that he is able to use his 2-iron in Greensboro, something that he normally can't do here in the States because he needs the higher flight of his 5-wood for those courses.

The stinger shot that Tiger once used with devastating effectiveness has been missing from his bag for a few years now. If he can use the 2-iron, then for all practical purposes he has a stinger once more. And when Tiger has hit the fairway this year, his Strokes Gained with Approach Shots stat has been around 35th on Tour, and he's been first in Proximity to Hole. If Tiger can capitalize on that 2-iron and if his putter continues to cooperate, he should at least make the cut.

And maybe, just maybe, he can get himself into contention Sunday afternoon. That would be a tournament promoter's dream, as well as the dream of millions of fans.

History has been made in Greensboro many times over the years. Perhaps Tiger can add a chapter of his own.

The featured pairing of Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka and Hideki Matsuyama tee off the tenth hole at 7:50am ET. While GC won't begin coverage of the event until noon, you should be able to catch Tiger on the PGA Tour Live app. According to PGATOUR.com:
The PGA TOUR LIVE broadcasts begin on Thursday and Friday at 7:30 a.m. After the two Featured Groups are done, the coverage switches to the most compelling storyline on the course until the Featured Hole coverage starts at 3 p.m.
You can get the app at the Apple Store or go direct to the website and watch Tiger there.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The LPGA's Newest Queen Heads Home

As many of us expected, on Tuesday Mike Whan granted LPGA membership "effective immediately" to Brooke Henderson after her dominating win at the Cambia Portland Classic this past week. Brooke's victory moved her up 15 spots in the Rolex Rankings to #17 and made her the first Canadian woman to win an LPGA event since Lorie Kane back in 2001.

The only real question was whether she would take the immediate membership or wait until next year when she'd have a better chance of winning Rookie of the Year. As it stands, she has only a few events to make enough money to qualify for some of the year-end invitational events and to try and catch ROY leader Sei Young Kim, who has two wins and 976 points. The Louise Suggs ROY Award is very prestigious and it wouldn't have surprised anyone had she elected to make 2016 her rookie year.

But Brooke answered that question very quickly. She'll be headline news this week when she makes her first appearance as an LPGA member at the Canadian Pacific Women's Open, sharing the media stage with defending champion So Yeon Ryu.

Defending champ So Yeon Ryu and new LPGA member Brooke Henderson

A bit of history here: The CP Women's Open is the newest incarnation of what used to be the du Maurier Classic, a major on the LPGA Tour. The du Maurier lost its sponsorship due to complications from the Tobacco Products Control Act; du Maurier was a cigarette company. In 2001 the RICOH Women's British Open took its place as the LPGA's fourth major and the former du Maurier Classic reverted to its original status as the Canadian Open.

When the Canadian Open began back in 1973 it was won by Canadian Jocelyne Bourassa. To this day she is the only Canadian winner of the event. Back in 2012 this was then 14-year-old Brooke's first LPGA appearance, and you can bet that Brooke will certainly be the favorite among the Canadian fans to break the drought.

Aside from that storyline, this is the last chance for Solheim Cup hopefuls to either qualify for their repective teams or just impress their captains in hopes of a pick. In case you don't know how the teams are chosen:
  • The American team is made up of the top eight from the US Solheim Cup points list, two more players are taken from next week’s Rolex Rankings, and Captain Juli Inkster will make her two Captain's Picks next Monday night (to be broadcast on GC at 7pm ET).
  • The Euro team already has four members taken from their Solheim Cup points list -- Suzann Pettersen, Gwladys Nocera, Charley Hull and Melissa Reid -- four more will be taken from next week's Rolex Rankings, and Captain Carin Koch will name the final four Tuesday morning during GC's Morning Drive.
Clearly there's a lot riding on this week's event, so expect some serious competition at the Canadian Open. GC's live coverage of Brooke's maiden voyage as an LPGA member begins Thursday evening at 6pm ET.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Paula Creamer's Chipping Tip

Here's another Golf Digest instructional video, this one from Paula Creamer demonstrating a chipping drill. It's an interesting approach that I think could help you get crisper contact.



Here's the idea: Placing your lead hand on your lead thigh and then chipping with your trail hand forces you to do a number of things:
  • It eliminates some of the excess upper body movement you may have picked up. Keeping you steady over the ball improves your contact.
  • The single-arm swing forces you to swing the club rather than muscle it. As a result, you'll develop better rhythm in your stroke and you'll stop flipping your hand at impact.
  • By keeping your lead hand against your thigh, you'll be forced to turn your body more through impact. That will improve the consistency of your swing path and, as a result, your distance control will improve as well.
One other note that Paula makes a point of mentioning: Don't just swing the club back and forth with your trail hand. The idea isn't to pretend you're a pendulum on a grandfather clock! This drill is supposed to improve your chipping, and you don't make several chips at one time. Treat each stroke as an individual chip and give each chip the same attention you would during a round.

This is a very simple drill that requires no special techniques but can teach you some fairly complex concepts. Give it a try during your next short game practice session.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 PGA Championship

Winner: Jason Day

Around the wider world of golf: Brooke Henderson blistered the field at the LPGA's Cambia Portland Classic by eight strokes, setting a new tournament record; Vicky Hurst won the W.B. Mason Championship on the Symetra Tour; Dawie van der Walt won the Price Cutter Charity Championship on the Web.com Tour; and Hannah O'Sullivan beat Sierra Brooks in the finals of the US Women's Amateur.

Day and caddie overcome with emotion after win

At the Open Championship last month, curious reporters asked Jason Day what his frequent practice partner Tiger Woods had told him about playing majors. Jason said that Tiger simply told him he had all the shots and all he had to do was go use them.

And boy, this week did he ever! Nobody had ever posted a winning score of -20 in any major until Day's domination of Whistling Straits Sunday. Jordan Spieth posted a 4-under round, which he thought would be enough when the day started.

He was wrong. Jason posted 5-under. (Don't cry for Jordan, however. He did enough to steal the World #1 ranking from Rory McIlroy... for a couple of weeks, anyway. As Rory noted in his news conference earlier in the week, 'eras' don't last very long in modern golf.)

Day and his caddie/surrogate father Colin Swatton were overcome with emotion after Jason sank the final 6-inch putt that gave him his first-ever major. And it was an appropriate ending for a major season that has made history in oh-so-many ways. We'll be sorting out the numbers for months... in preparation for next season's majors, of course.

I don't know how many majors Jason Day will eventually win; I'm unwilling to even hazard a guess. But this major Limerick Summary is unlikely to be the last one I'll be penning for the new World #3:
Down under, they’re over the top—
The Jason Day train wouldn’t stop
Till he ran down a major.
I’m willing to wager
His stock going forward won’t drop.
The photo came from the tournament upshot page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Next Young LPGA Superstar?

If you've been immersed in all the drama going on at Whistling Straits in the PGA Championship, you can be forgiven for not keeping up with this week's goings-on at the LPGA's Cambia Portland Classic. (Of course, if you're resourceful like me, you could have been watching the LPGA on your iPad while the PGA was playing on the TV. Just saying...) But this week is becoming important for an unexpected reason.

Let me bring you up-to-date on what's happening in Oregon since it has the potential to shift the balance of power among the Top10 players on the LPGA.

In case you don't recognize the young lady in the photo below, let me introduce you to Brooke Henderson, a 17-year-old from Canada.

Brooke Henderson

I'm not going to bore you with her amateur career. It's pretty impressive but you can look it up on Wikipedia or some of the sports sites.

As a pro this year she's won on the Symetra Tour and has a Top3 finish at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic where she missed a playoff with Lydia Ko and Morgan Pressel by a single shot, plus T5s in both the ANA Inspiration and the US Women's Open. And she came into this week ranked #32 in the Rolex Rankings, making her the leading Olympic qualifier for Canada. Clearly she's got some game.

She and her sister Brittany both play the Symetra Tour and often caddie for each other. In fact, Brooke was supposed to caddie for Brittany this week until Brooke Monday-qualified in Portland. You can read more about it in this LPGA article. We talk a lot about the character of players like Jordan, Rickie and Rory; this article will give you some idea what kind of person Brooke is.

She petitioned the LPGA for membership earlier but was refused, so she's trying to bypass Q-School by making as much money as the 40th player on the LPGA money list by the end of the year. That number is expected to be somewhere around $400k, and Brooke has already made $466,264 with at least a couple more events to play after this one. (Her current winnings would put her 20th.)

But apparently she has decided she doesn't want to wait. As this Sunday morning dawns, Brooke Henderson has a 5-shot lead on the field in Portland after rounds of 66-67-65, putting her at -18 with only one bogey all week. After she Monday-qualified for this event -- and only one player in the history of the LPGA has ever won an event after Monday-qualifying -- it's hard to believe Mike Whan could refuse her petition if she wins today.

And that could dramatically alter an already competitive LPGA line-up. This year Brooke has shown an ability to put the hammer down when the pressure is on, and she seems as unfazed by the LPGA's talent as Jordan Spieth is by the PGA's.

While you're watching the final round of the PGA Championship today, you might want to keep one eye on the Cambia Portland Classic. History might be made there too.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Jordan's Keys to Dominating Par-4s

Since Jordan is once again making the field at a major take notice of him, here's a link to a few tips he wrote up for Golf Digest -- in this case, how to make the best scores on par-4s. They're broken down into three categories:
  1. Picking a target for your drives
  2. Getting good contact with your irons
  3. Controlling distance on your putts
It's a short article so it won't be a time-consuming read, but I would like to focus on one of the simpler tips he mentions.

Spieth's birdie from the rough stat

Jordan calls this tip the Three-Shot Rule: Never take more than three shots to reach the green on a par-4. If you get into trouble with your tee shot, use your second shot to put yourself back in play so you can put your third shot on the green.

In other words, bad tee shot = recovery shot next.

This is so simple and yet so hard to do. We just KNOW we can get the ball out of that questionable lie and put it on the green. But most of the time, we can't. Jordan's advice is to take your medicine and give yourself a putt (or chip) for par. You're much more likely to make that one than a 150-yard iron from the rough you're still stuck in.

No, this article isn't full of earthshaking new advice. Yes, it's the mindset that makes Jordan Spieth a force to be reckoned with in the majors. Maybe it's good advice...?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Release the Kraken!

Most of you have probably already seen this, but it's one of those commercials that's worth a second (or third) look. And I simply can't bear the idea that you didn't see this crazy thing.

GEICO has been doing some wild commercials with the "...it's what you do" theme. But this one lampooning golf announcers is one of the coolest yet. The special effects alone must have cost a fortune...



"It looks like he's gonna go with the 9-iron. That may not be enough club."

"Well, he's definitely gonna lose a stroke on this hole."

That single exchange just makes this commercial for me.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Michael Breed on Clever Uses for Your Lead Foot

I'm going to let this video pretty much speak for itself, since seeing what Breed is doing is much easier to understand than me trying to explain it. But in this video from The Golf Fix, Breed shows how you can use your lead foot to help correct swing flaws.

Yes, sounds crazy but it makes sense when you see it. Basically he's showing how to use the position of your lead foot to either speed up your hip turn or slow it down to help you hit a draw, and how to use a wedge to teach you how to improve your weight shift and get more power from your lead leg.

Just watch. Like I said, it'll all make perfect sense. It's Michael Breed, after all.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My "5 to Watch" at the PGA

Yes, it's finally time for what CBS refers to as "Glory's Last Shot." The PGA Championship, the final men's major of the year, is upon us.

And so also is my "5 to Watch" for the PGA.

Hole #2 at Whistling Straits

Let's be blunt here. There are six names that are on everybody's lips:
  • Rory McIlroy
  • Jordan Spieth
  • Rickie Fowler
  • Jason Day
  • Bubba Watson
  • Dustin Johnson
These six names probably make up 90% of all fantasy golf picks. And why shouldn't they? If you take these six players against the field, you'll probably clean up.

Therefore I am NOT going to pick any of them. What's the fun in doing that? The PGA is typically the most wide open of the majors, primarily because the PGA of America doesn't care if the winning score is -20 or +20 as long as they think the course setup is fair. And because of that, just about any player -- no matter how long or how short they are off the tee -- has a decent chance of being the PGA Champion.

And since this PGA has returned to Pete Dye's Whistling Straits, and since Pete Dye likes to create courses that give everybody a chance if they can just get past the mind games he likes to play with them, I think this PGA could be REALLY wide open.

As a result, I'm picking some less-touted players to do well this week. And even then, there are more possibilities than the five picks I'm allowed. But who knows? One of these just might skew the odds a bit:
  • Newly-crowned Open Champion Zach Johnson has to make this list. I know that performance in the 2010 PGA doesn't really tell us a lot about performance this year, but Zach finished T3 last time -- just one shot out of the playoff -- and he's definitely a better player now than he was then. And given what I heard at Zach's presser, he sounds like he's in the right frame of mind to deal with this "Dye-abolical" layout.
  • Shane Lowry was on my short list even before he won the WGC-Bridgestone last week. He's a long hitter, a great scrambler and really good on the greens. What more can you ask from a player at Whistling Straits?
  • Louis Oosthuizen has shot in the 60s in his last seven major rounds -- the final three at the US Open, all four at the Open -- and has barely missed winning both times. Although he didn't even make the cut here back in 2010 -- the year he won the Open btw -- I like where his game is right now.
  • I'm going with two fliers for this major. The first is Jim Furyk, who didn't play so well at Whistling Straits last time but who, like Zach Johnson, is playing some great golf right now. And he says he likes Pete Dye courses. That kind of brain damage has to have some value this week!
  • Finally, my other flier is Robert Streb. Streb has fallen somewhat beneath the radar since his breakthrough win at McGladrey early in the wraparound season. Except for a rough US Open -- and who besides Jordan Spieth didn't have a rough US Open? -- he's been Top10, Top20 in most of his events this summer, and he's had two Top5s in the last month.
As I said, there are a number of players I could have picked but I like this mix. There are four major winners here and all but Oosthuizen have won in this wraparound season, though Louis has seven Top7s -- two of which are runner-ups in majors. There's some proven talent in this group, and I won't be surprised to see one of them take the Wannamaker Cup if the favorites stumble.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Butch Harmon on Snap Hooks

Yeah, I usually post tips about stopping slices because the vast majority of weekend players fight a slice. But there are a number of you -- you know who you are! -- who routinely snap a hook off the face of the earth at critical moments. This post is for you.

And it comes courtesy of no less a teacher than Butch Harmon. Here's the link to Butch's Golf Digest article about snap hooks, but I'll give you a quick summary in case the link doesn't work when you try it. (The 'Net is a congested place at times...)

Butch demonstrates proper followthrough

Just as pushes and slices often happen because your lower body outraces your upper body and you "get stuck" -- your hands and arms get left behind and can't catch up -- a snap hook is usually the result of the opposite problem. The snap hooker's lower body often stops turning too soon, letting hands and arms race ahead. The player flips the club head as a result and voila! Snap hooks a-plenty!

He also notes that snap hookers frequently don't transfer their weight to their lead side during their downswing. That's also caused by the lower body stopping its turn too soon, and it just exacerbates the hook. Butch's tip is simply to get your belt buckle turned to the target and make sure your weight gets to the lead side.

Let me add a second thought: If you aren't getting your belt buckle to the target, you should focus on getting that weight shift. If your lead heel comes off the ground a little during your backswing, one thing you can try is stamping it straight down to start your downswing. I often advise players to think of falling from the top of their backswing to the ground for the same reason; it forces their weight to shift to their lead foot.

Once your weight shifts, finishing your turn is pretty natural.

The key is that you don't want to push your lower body too far forward -- as I said, that often causes getting struck. Butch mentions this problem in his article as well and suggests practicing with a narrower stance and not swinging as hard. Again, the idea is to create a weight shift without exaggerating the move.

Many problems in your golf swing are the result of overdoing something. Snap hooks are the result of underdoing it. What you want is BALANCE. Correct the problem, don't just replace one problem with another.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

Winner: Shane Lowry

Around the wider world of golf: Hannah Burke won the Tipsport Golf Masters on the LET; Gerina Piller (on the LPGA) better get to work because her husband Martin just made the Digital Ally Open his second win this season on the Web.com Tour; Jeff Maggert made the Shaw Charity Classic his third win of the season on the Champions Tour; and JJ Henry beat Kyle Reifers at the Barracuda Championship, the alternate field event on the PGA Tour.

Shane Lowry holds WGC-Bridgestone trophy

Firestone CC broke Jim Furyk's heart yet again... but this time it took Justin Rose, Bubba Watson and assorted other golfers along for the ride.

And in the process it introduced American golf fans to Shane Lowry.

Well, maybe some of you knew who he was. If you watch any of the ET coverage on GC, you've seen him quite often. I know I've enjoyed watching him play. In case he's new to you, let me give you a quick introduction to the newest WGC champ.

His career as an amateur was pretty impressive; besides the typical titles like the 2007 Irish Amateur Close Championship and the 2008 Sotogrande Nations Cup, he was only the third amateur to win a professional tournament -- the 2009 Irish Open that gained him his European Tour card. He added the 2012 Portugal Masters and a couple of runner-up finishes since. But this WGC is definitely his coming out party in America.

There will be a lot of talk about his short game -- it IS pretty awesome -- and that wedge he hoisted over a tree on the 10th hole. You know, the Bubba-esque shot that stopped a mere foot from the hole for a tap-in birdie. Oh yeah, and that approach through the trees on 18 that locked up the win. If you've seen any of the ET coverage, none of that really surprised you.

There will likely also be some talk of where he got that tough attitude; look no farther than his father Brendan, who his ET bio says was a famous Gaelic footballer who won the All-Ireland Championship with County Offaly in 1982. Tough guys, those Gaelic footballers... no pads.

But I think all you have to do is look at the man himself. He has a working man's attitude; he appreciates what he has and the work -- and help -- it took to get it. I think American fans will be as attracted to Shane Lowry as the Irish fans are.

I wanted to do something special for Shane's first PGA Tour win. Perhaps I've seen too many bad leprechaun movies but I think this Limerick Summary sounds sort of Irish. I hope he likes it!
An Irish Houdini he was!
Lowry’s short game created a buzz
First at home, now abroad.
And his new fans applaud
As he joins a new Tour, yes he does.
The photo comes from the sports section at the RTÉ site. (Yes, it's an Irish site. What did you expect?)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Annabel Rolley on Hitting Hybrids

Every now and then I find an interesting tip about how to play hybrids. The irony is that most of them give you basically the same tip: Hit your hybrids as if they were irons, not fairway woods.

However, for some players that's easier said than done. So I'm always on the lookout for some new drill or image that might help you get a better result with your hybrid.

Hence, this short practice tip from Golf Channel Academy's Annabel Rolley. Why do I like it? Because it's the kind of drill that's simple to comprehend... and it's so visual that, once you get good with it on the range, you can use it out on the course without actually using the physical target from the drill! Here, take a look at the video:



Look, teeing the ball low and placing a quarter on the ground in front of the ball is one of the cheapest range practice aids you can use to learn how to hit down and take a divot. (Although I think I'd use a second tee instead of the quarter and just push it down almost level with the ground. If you get good at this drill, you could end up losing a lot of quarters!)

But please note what Annabel says: It doesn't really matter if you actually hit the quarter. The key here is the image of trying to pick the quarter (or tee or whatever) off the ground in front of the ball when you make your swing. You can do that out on the golf course during a round -- imagining something in front of the ball, that is, not placing an actual quarter on the ground -- to help you take that divot.

If you're having trouble hitting your hybrids, this is worth a try. Tips don't get much simpler than this.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Another Legend Passes

Louise Suggs, one of the original 13 founders of the LPGA, passed away Friday at the age of 91. She was still very involved with the LPGA players and will be missed by many. I decided to gather some of the tributes that have been done, and add a few thoughts of my own about her swing.

Here's the tribute done by the LGPA:



The LPGA also did this short video that's just music and pictures from her life:



GC also did one on Golf Central:



And Judy Rankin called in to add her thoughts:



Perhaps the coolest part of the GC tribute (the 3rd video above) is that you get to see a little of Louise Suggs swinging a golf club. (No, I couldn't find a YouTube video that focuses on her. That's a shame.) What amazes me is that she patterned her swing on Bobby Jones -- no small feat, given that Jones was using soft hickory shafts and Suggs was using much stiffer steel shafts. To create the smooth rhythm she had with stiff shafts is nothing short of astonishing!

Her swing doesn't look particularly powerful but don't forget that she was the first and only woman to compete with the men from their tees AND WIN. You have to love what she said to Sam Snead when he complained about losing to a woman: "I don't know what you're complaining about. You didn't even finish second."

The LPGA's Rookie of the Year Award is named after Louise Suggs. And any rookie who manages to have a career as great as that of Louise Suggs will certainly have reason to be proud. The golf world will miss her.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Blair O'Neal on How to Juggle Golf Balls

At last, a really useful instructional video! If you've ever wanted to bounce a golf ball off the face of a club -- but just couldn't quite get the damn thing to behave -- Blair O'Neal has just the ticket for you.

Of course, it's another of Golf Digest's Sexiest Shots in Golf videos... although I guess this isn't technically a shot.


Blair's tips:
  • Use a high-lofted club.
  • Set the club on the ground, face open.
  • Drop the ball onto the face.
  • Use small vertical strokes.
Note what Blair says typically causes the problem: Holding the club head too high in the air and trying to bounce the ball too high with big strokes. Keep the movements low and compact.

However, if you want to use the club to toss the ball up in the air and then hit it before it touches the ground, I guess you're on your own...

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Are You Ready for the Mini-Driver?

No, this isn't a joke. Golf Digest has done a short slide show with 4 new clubs, two of which are mini-drivers, which they define as "about half the size of today's drivers--is larger and has a longer shaft than a typical 3-wood." Numerically, the loft is typically more than a regular driver but less than a regular 3-wood. Here's the picture of the Taylormade Aeroburner Mini-Driver.

Taylormade Aeroburner Mini-Driver
Now, these mini-drivers have been out for a while although Golf Digest is just now featuring them. In fact, this Taylormade is a new model of an existing club, the SLDR Mini.

The idea behind mini-drivers (as the Golf Digest article suggests) is that they're smaller than a driver (naturally) but the heads are bigger than a 3-wood and have a longer-than-normal shaft. I've often recommended that weekend players simply get a 3-wood with a driver-length shaft in order to gain more consistency off the tee, but the larger heads on these clubs also make the face easier to hit than a normal 3-wood.

Many of these clubs aren't so easy to hit off the turf. But if you're having trouble hitting your normal 3-wood off the turf, that's not such a big deal. The article suggests that you get a fairway wood with more loft to use in place of the 3-wood, and add a mini-driver for a second option off the tee.

There are a number of reviews of these clubs on the Web, in case you're interested -- you can just Google the club's name with the word "review" after it. (In fact, here's a recent review of the Taylormade club from GolfMagic.com to get you started.) Maybe you'll want to check some of them out -- perhaps this is an idea whose time has come.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My "5 to Watch" at the WGC-Bridgestone

Yes, we are in that part of the season where I have a "5 to Watch" list virtually every week. This week's list is for the WGC-Bridgestone.

WGC-Bridgestone emblem
This event is a tough one to pick because, while the track seems to favor certain players -- although Tiger probably has a love-hate relationship with it right now -- it's the kind of course where almost any player who's on his game can get it going low. And with defending champ Rory out of the picture, this tournament might be anybody's prize.

My faves this week are:
  • Jordan Spieth. I mean, really, how can I not pick him as a fave? He seems to show up big every week he plays. He'll almost certainly be in contention Sunday afternoon.
  • Jason Day. Jason has reached the same point although he lacks the major success Jordan's had. With his first-ever multiple win season under his belt and a win just a couple of weeks ago, you can't go wrong betting on the Aussie.
  • Rickie Fowler. Yet another young player with a multiple-win season and a win just a couple of weeks back. Again, this is a player who will likely be in contention down the stretch.
  • Jim Furyk. His T30 at the Open -- a big course in bad weather -- tied him with Rickie, who most folks think played pretty well at St. Andrews. Furyk's had his heart broken at Firestone CC more than once, but those runner-up finishes just prove how deadly he can be on this course. And since he got off the schnide earlier this year down at Harbour Town, I think he just might make some magic again.
  • And my flier pick is Danny Willett. Willett won the Omega European Masters 3 weeks back and has several great finishes in big events this year. So how does he become a flier? As best as I can tell, he's only played here once -- in 2012, when he finished T50 (+6). Firestone will be a challenge for him, but I think he's up for it.
Of course, there are a lot of other players hungry for a win -- a win that may make the difference between making the FedExCup Playoffs or the US Presidents Cup team. But if I was a betting man I'd put my money on these guys. Dare I say it? They're good...

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Some Thoughts on the Majors Debate

Let me say this upfront: I'm not suggesting that this post will settle the debate. But I thought it might help to at least get all the facts out front.

Of course, the debate is whether Inbee Park's Open win on Sunday gives her a "career Grand Slam" or not. There have been a variety of voices speaking up and I just wanted to outline where the problems lie. You can find a lot of the info I'm using in these Wikipedia articles on men's majors and women's majors. Wikipedia isn't always the final word but the info in these articles does seem to match the facts I've gathered from a variety of other sources... and it's a heck of a lot easier to reference two articles rather than a dozen!

THE MEN'S APPROACH ISN'T AS CLEAR AS IS OFTEN PORTRAYED

First of all, there's a faulty belief that the men's major rota is set in stone. It hasn't always been so.

As a general rule, most trace the "Grand Slam" to a discussion between Arnold Palmer and (I believe) reporter Bob Drum in 1960. This discussion named the Masters, US Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship as the "Big 4." In time the major labels were made retroactive so, for example, Horton Smith's win at the original Augusta National Invitational is now considered a Masters win.

In fact, Horton is credited with two majors but both are ANI victories in 1934 and 1936. Do you want to argue that they're on a par with Jordan Spieth's two majors this year? Clearly all majors are not created equal, whether they're "slammed" or not.

Likewise, there were other events that were considered "majors" but are no longer counted as such. The Western Open (which was the third oldest tournament after the Open Championship and US Open, now known as the BMW Championship) and the North and South Open in America, and the British PGA Matchplay Championship in the UK are three that once claimed that title.

And just to muddy the waters, bear in mind that players such as Harry Vardon, who won the Open Championship six times and the US Open once, had pretty much run the course of his career before the PGA Championship or Masters were even created, yet he isn't credited with a career Grand Slam. And Willie Park Sr. won four Opens when that was the only game around, but he isn't considered a career slammer either.

KARRIE WEBB IS IN A UNIQUE SITUATION

The LPGA at least recognizes the events which were originally majors. Two which you may not be aware of are the Women's Western Open and the original Titleholders Championship, both of which were no longer being played by the early 1970s. But there were periods of LPGA history when there were only two or three majors, and players in these times -- as with the PGA -- are not recognized as having career slams.

Karrie Webb is the player whose career began the confusion. There were four majors during the early part of Karrie's career -- the Dinah Shore (now the ANA Inspiration), the US Women's Open, the LPGA Championship (now the KPMG PGA Women's Championship) and the du Maurier Classic. The du Maurier ceased to be a major in 2000 due to sponsor problems; that event continues as the Canadian Women's Open and is no longer a major. The Women's British Open replaced the du Maurier in 2001... but there were still only four women's majors.

As a result, Karrie's du Maurier win was given the same weight as the British Open that replaced it. Karrie had won the British Open before it became an LPGA major; that win wasn't counted retroactively. However, Karrie won the British again in 2002 after it had become a major. Since she had won both the original major and its replacement, it was dubbed the Super Career Slam. That seems fair to me, since the total number of majors available at any given time hadn't changed.

EVIAN, THE BACKUP MAJOR

When the Kraft Nabisco (aka the Dinah) was in danger of being lost, Michael Whan took preparatory action to make sure the LPGA still had four majors -- hence, the deal with Evian. Evian would have become the new fourth major, beginning the year after the Kraft sponsorship contract ran out. However, because of Whan's amazing turnaround of the LPGA and his determination to save a long-running major, ANA agreed to become the new sponsor. As a result we now have five LPGA majors... and a problem.

THE ISSUES WITH CAREER SLAMS

For one thing, there's a fairness issue. Is it fair to say Karrie Webb now needs to win Evian as a major to have a career slam? Tacking on a new major late in an established player's career after they've won all the majors that were available during the meat of their career simply isn't right.

Then we also have to consider that the women's game is definitely global now, with several tours. What, for example, do we do with the JLPGA which has -- depending on who you ask -- four majors of its own?
  • World Ladies Championship Salonpas Cup
  • Japan LPGA Championship Konica Minolta Cup
  • Japan Women's Open Golf Championship
  • Japan LPGA Tour Championship Ricoh Cup
We should also note that both the Women's British Open and the Evian were considered majors on the LET long before they were recognized by the LPGA.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

One possibility is to label a slam by its region -- for example, Inbee Park has the American Career Slam but not the European or Japanese versions.

The Wikipedia article referenced above breaks the LPGA's major history into four eras, although these don't help much when a player's career overlaps two or more.

At this point in time we might be best served to focus on a "Traditional Career Slam" (TCS), basing the LPGA majors on the PGA majors. There is a reasonable correlation:
  • The ANA Inspiration is a good counterpart to the Masters, being based on a single golfing personality (Dinah Shore was as important to women's golf as Bobby Jones was to the men's) and held on the same course each year.
  • The US Women's Open is obviously the USGA counterpart to the men's US Open.
  • The RICOH Women's British Open is likewise comparable to the Open Championship.
  • The KPMG PGA Women's Championship is the PGA of America's counterpart to the PGA Championship.
By this measure Inbee Park would have a TCS. Laura Davies, whose last major win was in 1996 (when the du Maurier was in place, and which the LPGA has established as equal to the British because of Karrie) would achieve the TCS with a win at the ANA. (Laura already has a US Open, a du Maurier, and two Women's PGAs.) And major winners from previous eras when there were no more than four majors at any time would have a TCS if they won all four of the majors available during their career.

Yeah, I know it's not a perfect system but at least it's easy to understand. Besides, Inbee will likely win the Evian as a major in the next few years (or months!) and then this won't even be an issue anymore.

BTW, if Karrie wins Evian as a major, I vote for calling it the MegaSlam.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 Quicken Loans National

Winner: Troy Merritt

Around the wider world of golf: Inbee Park won the RICOH Women's British Open on the LPGA/LET/other women's tours, becoming the third youngest player to reach 7 major wins (Tiger Woods and Mickey Wright were slightly younger); Kiradech Aphibarnrat won the Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play on the ET; Kenny Perry defended his title at the 3M Championship on the Champions Tour; Patton Kizzire won the Utah Championship on the Web.com Tour; Daniel Miernicki won the ATB Financial Classic on the MacKenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada; and Annie Park won the PHC Classic on the Symetra Tour.

Troy Merritt on 72nd hole

The winner of the Quicken Loans National has always been a proven PGA Tour winner. Always.

Until Sunday when Troy Merritt became the first player to win his first-ever PGA Tour event there.

It's not like Troy is unfamiliar with winning. You may remember that he won that season-long Kodak Challenge (and its $1mil paycheck) a few years ago. And before that he won the Mexico Open on the Web.com Tour.

It's been slim pickings for the 29-year-old since those days... but you wouldn't have known it, watching him on Sunday. His 67, with 2 birdies in the last 3 holes, was characterized by a relentless attack on the pins. There was no holding back, no backing off, and when Rickie Fowler tried to close the gap coming down the stretch... well, Troy simply wouldn't let him catch up.

If you'll permit me a small pun, you might say Troy won it on his own Merritt.

And now he's into this week's WGC-Bridgestone, as well as the Masters, TPC, and a few other big events next year. In addition, he gets his first Limerick Summary to go with his trophy. You know, I believe this is the first time a first-time Tour winner gets his first Limerick Summary at this event...
This first-timer’s hopes weren't derailed
‘Cause Troy Merritt’s resolve didn’t fail.
Though the pressure was on
Troy hung tough all day long;
He fired straight at the pin, didn’t bail.
The photo came from the tournament's upshot page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Turnberry Shows Its Teeth

You expect wild weather swings in Scotland at an Open. The LPGA has certainly experienced it all so far.

Thursday the morning was fairly calm and things got a little rougher in the afternoon. All told, 52 players broke par.

Friday turned wet and nasty. To give you a comparison, the field was 28-under on the back nine Thursday. They were 539-over on Friday. Overall the course played 5 shots harder. Only 5 players broke par. Suzann Pettersen's 69 (-3) was the low round of the day until Maria McBride managed to post a 66 (-6) literally in the dark. If it hadn't been for the light from the electric scoreboard at the 18th, she wouldn't have been able to finish.

And Saturday the wind dropped a bit and the sun even came out for a while. Even with that, only 14 players are still under par.

Suzann Pettersen at Turnberry

This event is still wide open. The lead, entering the final round, is -8; after the first round it was only -7. And the weather is supposed to turn a bit nasty again today.

Once you get past leaders Jin-Young Ko and Teresa Lu, whose names may not be familiar to you -- Lu has one LPGA win and this is Ko's first major appearance -- the leaderboard is loaded with familiar names:
  • -7, Suzann Pettersen
  • -6, Mika Miyazato
  • -5, Inbee Park, Minjee Lee, Lydia Ko
  • -4, Mel Reid, So Yeon Ryu
And if any of them stumble, McBride proved a great round is out there even in the worst of it.

ESPN2's live coverage begins at 10am ET today, and there will be a one-hour wrap-up show on ABC at 5pm ET in case you miss the live coverage.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

You Say You Can't Activate Your Glutes?

I simply couldn't resist this. Ron Kaspriske over at Golf Digest posted this video of an exercise to help you learn to activate your glutes -- specifically, the gluteus medius muscles. These are the muscles that help you stabilize your hips so you don't sway or slide during your backswing.

It looks like a pretty simple exercise, and all you need is a stretch band.


Now all you have to do is learn how to keep a straight face when you tell folks you're "activating your glutes."