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Friday, September 30, 2016

Several Cool Things from Ryder Cup Thursday (Videos and More)

Let's face it, there's really nothing happening at the Ryder Cup that isn't being broadcast almost the second it happens. So I just want to point out a few things that I found very interesting.

First, you no doubt heard that Phil and Hal Sutton cleared the air about the 2004 Ryder Cup "incident." And if you saw the opening ceremony, you also know that Danny Willett was received very well by the crowd. (Of course, when he tees off Friday afternoon -- Darren Clarke did confirm that he will play the second session -- there's no guarantee how the more partisan attendees will react. But I'm sure he expects that.) The good news here is that we shouldn't have to listen to any more about those things.

Then there was the putt-off between fan Dave Johnson and Euro members Stenson, Rose, McIlroy and Sullivan. You may have seen it but this is the original tape from earlier in the day. I'm including it because I love Stenson's reaction after Johnson sinks the putt.

This second video is one that Todd Lewis did, showing what the walk to the first tee is like. I think it's pretty cool because I had no idea the walk was so long or so convoluted.

But my final cool thing is something most of you probably DIDN'T see. It's a fairly in-depth blog post by Rex Hoggard detailing what Tiger has been doing in his role as Vice Captain. It also has some comments from the team members comparing what he's doing this week with what they usually see from him. Some of you might be surprised at what Hoggard says.

Tiger Woods

Maybe you can fit some of this stuff in during commercial breaks in the coverage today. But at some point you might want to read the Tiger article, just to see what the other players are saying.

Just make sure you don't miss any of the coverage while you do. This is already shaping up to be a battle royale!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Most Eye-Opening Ryder Cup Fact I've Heard This Week

You can always count on the Ryder Cup to give you plenty of controversy. By Wednesday night we had plenty. But sometimes you learn something you didn't know that actually teaches you something.

Phil in the media center

There was the embarrassment of Danny Willett's brother posting some very uncomplimentary comments about American crowds. Danny personally went to Davis Love to apologize, even though he was as surprised as anybody else when the comments showed up. Still no idea how this might affect Danny's play this week, although there was some debate on GC as to whether the Euros might delay how soon he actually hits the course for the first time.

And then there were the Phil Mickelson comments about when Hal Sutton tried to pair him and Tiger back in 2004. Although I'm not sure Phil meant them as harshly as they came out, you could easily understand them as blaming Sutton for his and Tiger's poor play. And as you might expect, the media went straight to Sutton, who made his own opinions about that quite clear. If you somehow missed the whole episode, you can find the basics in these two articles from The Guardian and Golf Digest. I'm not going to dwell on that whole kettle of worms.

The key here is that many of Phil's comments centered around only having a day or so to prepare with Tiger's ball back in 2004. And the fact I heard that was so interesting, I heard as a result of those Mickelson comments

Basically, both Ken Schofield and Paul McGinley said that Sergio got some of his future partner's balls a full six months before the last Ryder Cup so he had plenty of time to get used to them. SIX MONTHS, folks! I'm unclear whether that was Sergio's doing or whether the team arranged it, but I'm under the impression that Sergio took the initiative.

I also heard that one of the other Euro players -- I don't remember which one -- had balls from his potential partner several weeks before the event.

Now, I don't know whether the US team knew this fact coming in and made similar arrangements for this Ryder Cup or not. If they did, it might explain why Phil suddenly had some comments concerning that very thing! But if they didn't know before Wednesday, they know now, and I'd be surprised if this didn't affect the way they prepare for the next Ryder Cup.

This is truly the most eye-opening Ryder Cup fact I've heard this week, because it sheds some light on why the Euro team always seemed to be better prepared the the Americans.

It's because, without question, THEY WERE.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The LPGA Is Back in Action... in China

Welcome to the start of the Asian Swing! The LPGA is back in Beijing, China for the Reignwood LPGA Classic. This is only the third playing of the event, and the first two champs are in the field -- 2013 champ Shanshan Feng and defending champ Mirim Lee. (The event wasn't played last year. To my knowledge, no official reason was ever given. But unofficially, Simin Feng thought there were problems preparing the course.)

Shanshan Feng and Mirim Lee

Tony Jesselli has his usual excellent preview of the event over at his blog. He notes that a large number of the top players aren't in the field this week. However, Ariya Jutanugarn, Brooke Henderson and Sei Young Kim are there; that's three of the Top5 in the Rolex Rankings, so it's not like all of the big names skipped this event. (Tony also notes that his strength ranking of the field is the same as it was in 2014 and, as I recall, that was a pretty good event.)

Plus this is a good chance to see some of the CLPGA (the Chinese LPGA) players, as 15 of them are in the field. I don't know about you readers outside the US, but we here in North America rarely get to see any of those broadcasts. And with more Chinese players joining the LPGA in the future, it will be worth getting to know some of them now.

Bear in mind that -- at least here in the US -- the first two rounds will be in the middle of the night. Round 1 starts tonight (Thursday morning) at 1am ET; Round 2 will be Friday morning at 2am ET. However, Rounds 3 and 4 will be tape-delayed for Saturday (11:30am ET) and Sunday (2pm ET), so folks who keep "normal" hours will be able to watch those.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Arnold Palmer Talks About His Swing (Video)

We're all still a bit shocked at Arnie's passing so I thought I'd just post some footage of his early golf swing today. You'll see Arnie during a GC golf broadcast, along with Rich Lerner and Nick Faldo. Unfortunately this video cuts off some of what Arnie said near the end. (You do hear him mention "keeping his head still." I'll have more on that in a moment.)

In keeping with what I've been posting about using your hands more in your swing, please note that Arnold Palmer -- who was one of the longest drivers of his day -- used his arms and hands quite a bit at impact. (I should note that, while "keeping your head still" is generally bad advice with a modern swing, I've noted in my classic swing study that my head does feel more steady when I use my arms and hands more -- the key word here being "feel". You can see that Arnie's head swivels quite a bit during his swing.)

If you start watching at around the :55 second mark, you'll see his swing in slo-mo against the grid below. And if you watch the line that goes down just behind his lead hip, you'll see that he doesn't have the dramatic forward hip drive that so many instructors teach. Yet he still gets fully onto his lead side.

That's because he doesn't drive toward the target, but rather keeps his lead knee bent when he starts his downswing and PUSHES UP to create the power at impact. This is how Sam Snead did it as well, and it's much easier on your back than a forward shift. That move also encourages more arm and hand action.

Arnie's swing may have been homegrown but it was much simpler than most swings taught these days. We'll be learning from the King for years to come.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Tour Championship

Winner: Rory McIlroy

Around the wider world of golf: Chan Shih-Chang won the Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup on the Japan Golf Tour; Colin Montgomerie won the Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship on the Champions Tour; Grayson Murray won the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship on the Tour; Fernández Valdés won the Aberto do Brasil title on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Azahara Muñoz won the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open on the LET; and Alexander Levy won the weather-shortened Porsche European Open on the ET.

Ryan Moore successfully snagged the final US Ryder Cup team berth. I'll have a bit more to say about that down below.

And just in case you were on Mars over the weekend, 87-year-old Arnold Palmer passed away Sunday afternoon. One of the earliest reports came from Golfweek, and you can read their article at this link.

Rory McIlroy with FedExCup and Tour Championship trophies

I'm not sure the FedExCup Playoffs could have ended any better than they did. Not only was the winner in doubt right up until the end, but it would have been a bit anticlimactic if the winner of the Tour Championship hadn't won the FedExCup as well.

Dustin Johnson was entitled to a bad round. He had played so well for so long this summer, I guess one was due. It's just a shame that it had to come on the last day of the Playoffs.

But with him little more than a spectator, the Tour Championship still offered all the storylines you could possibly have asked for. Rory ate the field for lunch -- everybody except Ryan Moore, of course, who matched Rory shot-for-shot over 21 holes. And then he made an amazing par to force Rory to win with a birdie, with the fans screaming their lungs out. That's the kind of ending that many sporting events would pay for.

Of course, the PGA Tour did pay for it, to the tune of $11.5mil (that was the winner's share, more or less).

With the Ryder Cup coming up this week, you have to view this through the prism of its effect on this event. You had the #1 player from the Euro team going head-to-head against the man who got the final spot on the US team -- and it's about damn time, if you ask me! It shouldn't have taken Davis this long -- and the two took it 22 holes before one of them could win. And Rory had to WIN it, mind you; Ryan made sure he couldn't just not lose it.

That's what you want to see, going into next week.

I will add that questions of form for either side are probably being blown out of proportion. If you look at the 36-hole scores for the ET and PGA Tour events this past weekend, only DJ and Martin Kaymer had distinguished themselves. None of the other Ryder Cup players were better than -2 (in the US) or -4 (in Europe, where the scores were much lower). That's to be expected, since all the other players would be thinking about the Ryder Cup.

It was different for Rory, who was looking to do something he'd never done before - win the FedExCup -- and Ryan, who was looking to make that Ryder Cup team, regardless of what he may have said on-camera. And they both proved that "apparent form" leading up to the Big Event this week is just that, only apparent. You better believe that all 24 players will be ready to go on Thursday!

And in the meantime, Rory can enjoy his newest Limerick Summary while he's drinking vast amounts of Guinness from that huge FedEx goblet:
Once McIlroy chewed up the field
And his prey could do nothing but yield,
The Tour offered up
Both the Trophy and Cup
To its new champ. The fans were SO thrilled!
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Tim Weinhart on Practicing Your Wrist Hinge (Video)

Since I've been writing about the importance of using your hands more in your swing -- and since Bob Toski recommends practicing your hand action with shorter swings -- I'm posting this Golf Channel video from instructor Tim Weinhart showing one way you can practice wrist hinging with pitch shots.

His idea about practicing your pitching motion by using an underhand throwing motion is just one of many ways you can do it, although it's a very natural approach. It will also force you to slow down your change of direction because of the weight of the club. Even in a swing that develops a lot of speed, the change of direction is usually slower than you would expect.

However, I will point out something that few instructors will ever mention, even though many of them would recommend this drill wholeheartedly. Note that when Weinhart throws that golf ball with an underhand motion, he's holding the ball with the thumb, middle and index fingers of his trail hand. As I pointed out in yesterday's post, that's where you would put the grip pressure in a classic swing.

The best short game players have always based their short games on classic swing technique. Part of the reason modern pros have to practice so much is because they use two different swings in their game, whereas a classic player like Bobby Jones only had to practice a single swing technique for every shot he played. In his foreword to the book Bobby Jones on Golf, the famous golf writer Charles Price (who wrote for Golf World, Golf Magazine AND Golf Digest during his career) wrote:
It would be the most natural assumption in the world to think that during those eight years Bobby Jones did little other than play golf. In reality, Jones played less formal golf during his championship years than virtually all of the players he beat, and he beat everybody in the world worth beating. Excepting the three seasons when he journeyed either to Scotland or England for Walker Cup matches and, while there, the British championships, he spent most of the tournament season playing inconsequential matches with his father and an assortment of cronies at East Lake, his home club in Atlanta, where his interests and activities ranged far beyond matters of golf. Often, he would go for months on end without so much as picking up a club. Instead, he studied mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, got a degree in English literature at Harvard, dabbled in real estate, and then attended law school at Emory University. Midway through his second year, he took the state bar examinations, passed them, and so quit school to practice. As a result of these off-course activities, Jones averaged no more than three months a year playing in, and going to and from, tournaments and championships. (pp ix-x)
That might be something you want to consider when practicing your short game using this underhanded throwing technique. Classic technique tends to require less practice to maintain it, so try using the classic method of gripping when you pitch and see if it helps improve your feel and consistency.

Who knows? If you get good at it, the technique might even work its way into your full swing.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

How You Squeeze the Club's Handle Matters

In yesterday's post I referred you to an article by Bob Toski on why it's easier to learn to play golf if you use your hands more. In my post I wrote the following:
Most teachers would say that Toski is teaching a classic swing and that the idea of "controlling the motion with the lead hand" is no longer correct. This shows a complete lack of understanding about the differences between a classic and a modern swing:
  • If you have a classic swing, it feels as if the TRAILING hand controls the swing, although both hands are working together.
  • If you have a modern swing, it feels as if the LEAD hand controls the swing, although both hands are working together.
Why the difference? Because of the shaft flex. The classic swing uses a very soft shaft, so the trailing hand is the pivot hand; the trailing hand relaxes a bit at the top of the swing to control the flex. But the modern swing uses stiffer shafts, so the lead hand is the pivot hand; it keeps tension on the shaft so it will be forced to flex against the trailing hand.
If you understand what I was talking about, you'll be better able to decide if a golf tip you hear is something you can actually use. So today I'm going to explain in more detail what this means.

And yes, there will be photos at the appropriate spots.

Since I mentioned that shaft flex is important to this discussion, here's a very brief history of shafts:
  • Although hickory (soft) shafts were the standard, club designers were looking for something better because hickory was inconsistent. They actually experimented with steel (stiff) shafts in the late 19th Century!
  • It wasn't the shaft flex that made hickory shafts undesirable. Rather, it was the excess torque, the twisting motion of the clubhead during the swing (that is, the face would open and close, even if you kept your hands perfectly square). Soft modern graphite shafts don't have this problem, so a classic style of swing can work very well with modern equipment.
  • Steel shafts didn't catch on everywhere until the R&A finally voted to allow steel shafts in competition in late 1929. So, for a while, both types of shaft were used in competition.
  • It took players quite a while to figure out how to best use steel shafts because they were so stiff. Sam Snead said the switchover was the hardest thing the pros ever had to do.
  • Byron Nelson is generally regarded as the one to discover that stiff shafts required more leg drive to properly load the shafts, around the mid-1930s. He used downward leg drive; it was Ben Hogan who popularized the forward leg drive often taught now.
As you may have guessed, the physical change required an equally drastic change in mindset. Although a classic swing and a modern swing look mostly the same -- bear in mind that many classic swingers also used quite a bit of leg drive -- it's the way the hands function that changes how the swing actually feels to a player.

Alright, are you ready? Here's the first photo:

The difference between where each swing applies pressure in the grip

This is taken from a photo of Rory. The first thing you should notice is that a classic swing grip looks just the same as a modern swing grip. The change is a matter of which fingers are actually holding the club.
  • THE CLASSIC SWING uses SOFT SHAFTS and puts grip pressure in the thumb and index finger of the TRAIL HAND.
  • THE MODERN SWING uses STIFF SHAFTS and puts grip pressure in the last 3 fingers of the LEAD HAND.
As you can see, although your grip remains the same -- and it doesn't matter whether you use an overlap, interlock or baseball grip -- the two swings apply pressure at opposite ends of the grip. This creates a difference in how wrist cock -- the "hinge" of the swing -- behaves in each swing. And as a result, this has a dramatic effect on how each swing feels.

Let's start with the classic swing:

How the wrists 'hinge' in the classic swing

Since the classic swing actually grips the swing with the thumb and forefinger of the trail hand, the cocking (or hinging) of the club happens at that end of the grip. The club is actually held by the thumb and fingers of the trail hand AND the thumb and forefinger of the lead hand. Meanwhile, the last 3 fingers of the lead hand allow the butt end of the club to move slightly upward at the top of the backswing, then they apply a bit of light downward pressure to load the shaft during the downswing. This has two effects:
  • It allows the player to prevent overflexing of the shaft, which makes consistent impact more difficult.
  • It also increases the player's ability to "feel the clubhead" because the head movement is transmitted quite clearly down the softer shaft into the 3 relaxed lead hand fingers. I can verify this from my own practice.
You might think this would make it hard to keep a firm grip on the club, but it's just the opposite. Harry Vardon described the grip as being vise-like, and I can confirm that it takes very little grip pressure to lock the club in place. The relaxed grip in the final 3 fingers does NOT result in "regripping" on the way down, simply because those fingers weren't gripping the club to begin with!

And because the club actually cocks (or hinges) at the "thumb end" of the trail hand, it feels as if the trail hand is actually controlling where the clubface is pointing at impact. In reality, both hands are controlling it but you feel the main pressure in your trail hand.

Now let's look at the modern swing:

How the wrists 'hinge' in the modern swing

Whoa! Things changed up pretty quickly there! The hinge now moves all the way to the butt end of the club, while the trailing hand creates a lever fulcrum -- felt as a slight upward push -- as the club starts down. This is a power move designed to force that stiffer shaft to load. (In comparision, the soft shaft doesn't need us to make it load. Rather, we're trying to stop it from loading too much.) As a result of this, it feels as if the lead hand is controlling where the clubface points at impact -- although, again, both hands are doing it.

To get that fulcrum action during your downswing, you don't actually push up on the shaft. That upward motion is caused by the extra leg action. Your trail hand is just trying to hold its position relative to your lead hand, because otherwise the extra downforce could hurt your lead wrist badly. As a result, it feels as if you're pushing upward.

That's enough for today, I think. Take some time to digest this before we go any further. I think you'll find it helps clear up a lot of confusion about what you're trying to do when you swing.

And it's important to understand this post before you can understand what players like Jason Day and Rory McIlroy are doing... why it takes so much practice, so much time in the gym, and why it often makes their backs hurt. Again, we'll talk about that later.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bob Toski on Why You Must Use Your Hands to Swing Well

Today I'm just recommending an instructional article because it will take some time to read but it covers some material I'll be focusing on in the near future. It's a Golf Digest article by Bob Toski about how modern science says our brains learn to swing a golf club.

Bob Toski swinging a club

Toski says modern golf has adopted teaching methods that make it too hard to learn a natural swing, and he has the science to prove it. Then he gives you some ways to practice that will help you swing better by utilizing that science. I want to quote a short section of the article -- and this is a very short section, because this is a very thorough article -- that catches some of the mindset he's teaching:
We believe in simplicity. We have a saying that describes our method in one sentence: "If the club is OK, your swing is OK!" If your hands move and function properly, your swing will be effective because the clubface mirrors the hands. This is a simple concept that's true for any problem that might arise in the swing.
When most golfers practice these days, they have no plan for how they're trying to improve. For example, control in a golf swing does not begin by making full-motion, full-speed driver swings, as we see so many golfers doing on the practice tee. At high speeds, the brain performs only what it already knows, so no change or improvement is taking place. This type of careless practice simply ingrains the problems you're having.
Remember this phrase: An ounce of touch is worth a ton of brawn. Developing control over the club should start with the simple swings on and around the greens. You must crawl before you walk and then possibly run. Beginning with small swings will help you feel the momentum of the club. Learn to associate the swing with an ease of movement and flexibility, a simple flow back and through. Start with a balanced grip, the club in your fingers and your grip pressure light. As an overall thought, control the motion with the lead hand; the brain will direct the trailing hand to support the lead hand implicitly.
Let me point out three important thoughts just from this short section:
  • If your hands move and function properly, your swing will be effective because the clubface mirrors the hands. This is why Bubba Watson is so accurate despite weird stances and awkward-looking swings. He knows where the clubface is pointed because he concentrates on getting his hands to face his target.
  • For example, control in a golf swing does not begin by making full-motion, full-speed driver swings, as we see so many golfers doing on the practice tee. At high speeds, the brain performs only what it already knows, so no change or improvement is taking place. (The emphasis is mine.) That's self-explanatory, don't you think?
  • As an overall thought, control the motion with the lead hand; the brain will direct the trailing hand to support the lead hand implicitly. This whole paragraph is loaded with solid teaching! But what I want to point out is something that is often missed in Toski's teaching.
Most teachers would say that Toski is teaching a classic swing and that the idea of "controlling the motion with the lead hand" is no longer correct. This shows a complete lack of understanding about the differences between a classic and a modern swing:
  • If you have a classic swing, it feels as if the TRAILING hand controls the swing, although both hands are working together.
  • If you have a modern swing, it feels as if the LEAD hand controls the swing, although both hands are working together.
Why the difference? Because of the shaft flex. The classic swing uses a very soft shaft, so the trailing hand is the pivot hand; the trailing hand relaxes a bit at the top of the swing to control the flex. But the modern swing uses stiffer shafts, so the lead hand is the pivot hand; it keeps tension on the shaft so it will be forced to flex against the trailing hand.

Don't worry if that seems confusing, because you don't need to understand it to use your hands the way Toski is recommending. (Almost all of you are using a modern swing. I speak from experience here. If you were using a classic swing, you'd know it!)

Like I said, I'll be writing more about this in the coming days but Toski is someone whose teaching you should at least consider listening to. He's around 90 years old now, but he used to be a professional golfer. How good was he? Well, remember how Byron Nelson won a record 18 tournaments in 1945? Toski won four of the ones he didn't win that year.

That's a guy who knows what he's talking about. Read the article.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Beef's New Arby's Commercials (Video)

The Arby's logoI guess most of you know that Andrew "Beef" Johnston recently signed a sponsorship deal with Arby's. They've already made three commercials with him, and you can find all three of them in this Golf Digest article. But I decided to post one of them here.

One of the commercials is a strange one with Beef saving a fox from hunters, and one has him putting a ball down a staircase while an older man rides up on a motorized chair. But I chose the one with his five-year-old niece in it. She's cute.

The word is that Beef ate at an Arby's a few weeks back and fell in love with the place. (Trust me, I understand. Arby's is one of my favorite places to eat.) So for my overseas readers, let me tell you just a bit about Arby's since it doesn't have any restaurants outside of the US except in Qatar and Turkey.

Arby's was started in 1964 and it's one of the largest fast food restaurants we have. They don't sell hamburgers, never have. Arby's became known right from the start for their sliced roast beef sandwiches, and over the years they have branched out with all kinds of sandwiches, subs and gyros. They sell roast beef, bacon, turkey, chicken, ham, corned beef, smoked brisket, angus steak, even fish.

But to this day they still don't sell burgers.

If you want to know how good the food is... I have a friend in Brazil who, every time he visits us, the first place he wants to go is Arby's. If you visit the US, you simply have to go to an Arby's or you have missed something special.

Anyway, about that voice at the end of the commercial, the one that sounds kind of like James Earl Jones saying "We have the beef!" -- That's not something they started after Beef signed up with them. They've been doing that for a few years now. If you remember the old "Where's the beef?" commercials that Wendy's used to do back in the 1980s... well, Wendy's and Arby's were owned by the same company for a while. This "We have the beef!" campaign started not long after Arby's was sold.

So this was a tailor-made opportunity for Beef. Arby's gets a very popular sports figure... and I bet Beef gets unlimited roast beef sandwiches.

I don't blame him. I'd have taken the deal as well. ;-)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at the Tour Championship

Well, it's finally here -- the final event of the FedExCup Playoffs. The Top30 players tee it up at the Tour Championship at East Lake.

FedExCup trophy

Of course, the big news this time is that the nines have been reversed. Instead of finishing on the par-3 18th, which forces the players to squint into the sun, they'll finish on the par-5 9th, in hopes of creating a little extra drama at the finish.

And just who will create that extra drama? Let me remind you who the Top5 in the rankings are, the guys who "control their own destiny" and will win both the Tour Championship and the FedExCup if they win this week:
  1. Dustin Johnson
  2. Patrick Reed
  3. Adam Scott
  4. Jason Day
  5. Paul Casey
Perhaps a little different line-up than we expected a couple months back, but all are definitely playing well.

And now that you've been reminded who the "controllers" are, here are my "5 to Watch" that I look to make things interesting:
  • It's impossible to leave Dustin Johnson off of my list. It's not just that he's playing the best golf I can remember, but he has finished in fifth place here twice in the last three years. (Remember, he took that 6-month break at the end of 2014 and didn't play.) East Lake sets up well for him and he's playing better than ever -- hard to bet against him.
  • Paul Casey hadn't been to the Tour Championship in a while until last year... and he made it count with a T5 of his own. Now he's coming off a great comeback year and two solo runner-up finishes in the last two Playoff events. Yeah, I like his chances.
  • Ryan Moore got bitten by Crooked Stick at the BMW. In fact, it's been the BMW that kept him out of the Tour Championship for a number of years now. But he's played much better this season, including a win at the John Deere.. And with a week off to compose himself and a potential Ryder Cup pick on the line, I think he'll step up and finish this season off right.
  • Matt Kuchar has the Olympic bronze medal and a T4 at Crooked Stick. Simply put, he's due.
  • And as my flier, I'm taking Roberto Castro. I know, he's only #21 so his chances to win the whole things are long. Castro hasn't been to the Playoffs, let alone the Tour Championship, since 2013. But he was T9 that year. I think he'll be running on adrenaline this week, and that makes him a threat. He can still win the Tour Championship, you know.
I left off a number of players I would have normally considered, but I think the schedule this year has taken its toll. For example, Rory's won a Playoff event but been otherwise inconsistent. Jason's back concerns me. And Jordan may be the defending champ but he seems a bit off his game to me -- not that he's playing badly, but I'd feel better if he wasn't so erratic lately.

I'm not saying that they won't contend and even win. Any of the Top30 could put up the numbers this week. I'm just saying that I'm not confident enough to pick them this time around.

And don't forget about that Ryder Cup pick, just dangling out there, waiting to be claimed by somebody. If that counts for anything, watch out for Daniel Berger and Bubba Watson.

But me, I'm going with Paul Casey to finish just one spot better this week and take it all.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Should Tiger Be Love's Last Pick?

Since last week when Matt Kuchar suggested that Tiger "was rumored" to be a possible last pick for the US Ryder Cup team -- I believe the exact quote was "That would be legend. Dary. Legendary." -- the idea has been a subject of debate in the media. Was Kuchar joking or could this be a real consideration for Davis Love?

I've been thinking about it... and I'm not so sure it's not being considered.

Before you laugh me off, hear me out.

Tiger and Davis

You've probably heard the arguments that Tiger would draw eyes to the Ryder Cup -- especially the eyes of those sports fans who rarely or never watch golf, and potentially even the curious viewers who rarely if ever watch any sport. And Tiger is supposedly aiming to return at the Safeway Open, which is only two weeks after the Ryder Cup, so some have suggested that two weeks earlier is no big deal.

Charlie Rymer pointed out that Tiger need only play one match at the Ryder Cup, that being the singles. He also suggested that Tiger could be paired with Dustin Johnson, who probably doesn't need a partner to beat most two-man teams that the Euros could field. This would give Tiger a chance to "hide" somewhat if his game wasn't as good as he hoped.

I think some of these arguments have some value. Let me explain.

Charlie's point that Tiger only needs to play one match -- and that a good partner could cover some less-than-stellar play -- does point out something important here. If Tiger comes back as planned at the Safeway Open, he'll be hoping to play four straight 18-hole rounds. But the Ryder Cup would allow for some flexibility, and Davis Love might well like these options.

Nothing says Tiger has to play five matches. He could play just the singles match, or he could add one or two other matches, one per day. Bear in mind that most matches don't go a full 18 holes. Plus four-balls would be the least demanding on his game and, with a good partner, he could hide a bit if necessary. So Tiger could play the first day, decide whether to play the second day or not based on how his back felt, then play the final round singles.

That's a maximum of three rounds, probably less than 54 holes total. It would give him a chance to ease his back into the daily grind of competitive golf, and also give him a chance to ease his mind back into the mental grind. If Tiger feels he'll be ready to play in two weeks, it would be a great way for him to come back and a real treat for the fans. And it would probably be a major emotional lift for the team, all of whom want to see Tiger back in action.

Please understand: I'm NOT saying that Tiger SHOULD be the final US pick. All I'm saying is that the idea is not as silly as it initially sounds, and that it actually offers some attractive benefits to both the US team and to the Ryder Cup as a whole.

Do I think it will happen? In a word, no. Davis Love has too many good options to choose from and, no matter who he chooses, he'll still have Tiger right there in the team room. If Tiger's focused on being a vice captain and not on playing, EVERYONE can benefit from his strategic and analytical abilities. To my mind, the team benefits more this time from his availability as a mentor than as a player.

But stranger things have happened, folks. A Tiger pick could really change the whole dynamic of the Ryder Cup for everybody, especially since it's being held here in America.

I won't be surprised at anything that happens this time around.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Evian Championship

Winner: In Gee Chun

Around the wider world of golf: Paul Broadhurst won the PGA TOUR Champions' Nature Valley First Tee Open on the Champions Tour (Michael Allen and Patrick Fernandez won the team title); Francesco Molinari won the Italian Open (his second!) on the ET; Michael Thompson won the Albertsons Boise Open at the Tour Finals (and yes, Andrew "Beef" Johnston won enough money to secure his Tour card); Brendan Jones won the ANA Open Golf Tournament on the Japan Golf Tour; Paul Barjon won the Freedom 55 Financial Championship on the Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada; Nate Lashley won the Copa Diners Club International on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Charlie Saxon won the Ping An Bank Open on the PGA TOUR China; and Christine Song won the Garden City Charity Classic on the Symetra Tour.

In Gee Chun with the Evian trophy

Lydia Ko won the Rolex Annika Major Trophy... but she didn't even sniff the lead at the Evian Championship. Neither did Brooke Henderson, Ariya Jutanugarn or Brittany Lang, the other major winners this season.

In fact, if it hadn't been for all the damp weather, most of the field wouldn't have had any sniffs at all.

In Gee Chun won this event on Saturday. Nobody else got close to her new 54-hole record of -19 (Annika held that record and In Gee smashed it by FIVE STROKES). In fact, nobody got close to her on much of anything. She even beat the men's major scoring record by a stroke. If you're interested in all the records she either tied or broke this past week, just check out his summary article from

Only So Yeon Ryu really made a run at her, but her 66 came up four shots short. (Yeah, I know that Sung Hyun Park tied Ryu for second, but if Ryu could rack up a -5 in those conditions, it seems that a long hitter like Park should have been able to muster something better than a 69.) When all was said and done, no one else was within six shots of Chun.

When she checks the Rolex Rankings this morning, In Gee Chun will find herself at #3, the highest-ranked Korean player on the planet. But not even that can compare with getting a Limerick Summary. After all, it's not every week that I get to do one for an LPGA winner!
No, the rain couldn't stop In Gee Chun—
In just three rounds, the battle was won!
Even as the rain fell,
Record scores did as well
Till the best in the game were just stunned!
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Can In Gee Chun Smash the Women's Major Scoring Records?

I know you've heard the talk about In Gee Chun possibly breaking the women's major scoring record with a win at the Evian today. But we should really be talking about records -- plural.

In Gee Chun during the third round

The record on everyone's mind is the lowest score in relation to par. That score is -19, and the record is held by five different women:
  • Dottie Pepper, 1999 Kraft Nabisco Championship
  • Karen Stupples, 2004 Weetabix Women's British Open
  • Cristie Kerr, 2010 Wegmans LPGA Championship
  • Yani Tseng, 2011 Wegmans LPGA Championship
  • Inbee Park, 2015 KPMG Women's PGA Championship
In Gee sits at -19 after only three rounds. If she just has a decent round today, she'll break that record -- and should she get beat, the winner will likely have to beat that record as well. (And just as a side note, the men's major record is -20, held by Jason Day and Henrik Stenson. She's in rarified air for sure.)

That's the one everybody's buzzing about... but there's more.

The winning score can also be an aggregate score, which simply means it's the total of strokes taken, regardless of what par is. That record is 267 and is held by only one woman:
  • Betsy King, 1992 Mazda LPGA Championship
Bear in mind that In Gee's aggregate score after three rounds is 194. If she merely shoots par (71) today, her aggregate winning score will be 265. You can certainly blame the wet weather for some of this, but In Gee is beating 2nd-place Sung Hyun Park handily -- by four shots after three rounds -- and Park not only has seven KLPGA wins this season, but she's outdriving In Gee by around 16 yards (258 VS 242, according to the week's stats) and sometimes by over 30 yards on certain holes.

This definitely counts as a powerplay performance.

And of course, with a win In Gee would be only the second player to make both of her first two LPGA wins majors. The other woman is none other than Se Ri Pak, who did it as a rookie in 1998 (US Open and LPGA Championship). In Gee wouldn't break that record, but that's heady company -- and she's already got Rookie of the Year pretty well locked up, just like Se Ri did.

Of course, making history is never a sure thing. The weather predictions for the final round aren't looking that good and, as tight as the Evian Resort Golf Club is, In Gee could have her hands full just holding on to her lead, which is four shots to start the day.

The coverage is split -- from 8am-noon ET on GC, then from noon-1:30pm ET on NBC. I have trouble believing it will be live, since the prudent thing to do is send them out early in threesomes off split tees. But even if it isn't live, we could see history today.

That's certainly worth watching in either case.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Charlie Rymer on the 100-Yard Approach from the Rough (Video)

Here's a video Charlie Rymer did for Morning Drive. This is a shot not often covered in teaching videos -- the 100-yard approach shot from the rough.

Charlie gives you four steps:
  • Take a longer club. Charlie's taking one longer.
  • Open the clubface. You want to the ball to go up.
  • Put the ball forward in your stance. Same reason -- get the ball up.
  • Make a three-quarter swing at your normal full swing speed. In other words, this isn't some sort of soft shot.
As Charlie notes, your lie affects what you can do. But assuming that you have a decent lie, his pointers are a good place to start.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Butch Harmon on Chipping with a Hybrid (Video)

Butch has another chipping video at Golf Digest, this one on chipping with a hybrid. Let's take a look:

The tip is simple enough:
  • Play the ball back off your trailing foot. (Looks to me like it's just ahead of his big toe).
  • Get the hybrid's shaft as upright (vertical) as you comfortably can.
  • Grip down on the shaft, even actually onto the shaft a little.
Butch says he uses his putting grip, although that's not a requirement. However, this IS a putting motion so that might help you make a more solid stroke.

This really isn't any different than using the similar technique with an iron. However, a hybrid's shaft is longer -- that might be a consideration as to which club you use.

Likewise, you might also want to consider how well the ball is sitting. Either club may work well if you've got a good lie. But if the ball is down a bit, you might find that one club works better for you than the other. A few attempts with each on the practice green should tell you which club you use best.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

"Beef" Continues His PGA Tour Quest

In the first of the Tour Finals events, Bryson DeChambeau locked up his Tour card. Andrew "Beef" Johnston, by comparison, only made $6910 -- probably around $30,000 short of the magic number.

But he's got three more tries, and this week he's at the Albertsons Boise Open to narrow the gap.

Andrew 'Beef' Johnston

There are quite a few former PGA Tour winners in the field this week, as well as some hungry Tour players who didn't make The25 during the regular season. But you can be sure that Beef doesn't feel all that much pressure. In fact, as he told, he's enjoying himself:
“The more I’ve shown it [his personality], the better I’ve played,” he said. “If people want a high-five, or pictures, I love it. Everywhere I go, I feel like I’m at home. It’s a real good feeling.
He feels like he's in a good place -- a feeling many of his fellow competitors wish they had -- and says he has nothing to lose.
“It’s just good timing to come and give it a chance,” Johnston said on a cool, London-like Wednesday at Hillcrest Country Club on the rationale for why he was playing in the Tour Finals. “I have exemptions in Europe until 2018. I’m in good position to give it a go. You want to play the best events wherever they are, and America has a lot of them. If I can get a card and play some of the best events in America and the best in Europe, it’s a great schedule for the whole year.”
The initial weather report for Hillcrest Country Club in Boise ID is light wind, 42% humidity and 62℉ today. Craig Perks said the conditions will likely favor a winning score around -15, which is one of the lower scores to win at this course. That could play out well for Beef, as he has been in double digits only a couple of times this year.

Of course, I doubt that stats bother him very much. If attitude can get him a Tour card, he's a sure thing. A couple of Top15 finishes are probably all he needs.

Beef tees off today at 1:34pm MT, which is 3:34pm ET -- and that means he should get some TV time. GC's broadcast window today is from 3pm-6pm ET.

The photo came from this article at The article was done in July, and it's as entertaining as the photo!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at the Evian

The final women's major of the year is finally here -- the Evian Championship in Évian-les-Bains, France. This year we've got a real race for the Annika Award and if one of the four major winners wins this week, they'll get it.

This year's major winners -- Ko, Henderson, Lang and Jutanugarn

Lydia Ko is the defending champion but she won't have to contend with Inbee Park this time. Inbee's thumb is still causing problems and she's had to put it in a cast, so she has withdrawn from Evian. All she can do now is sit home and stare at her gold medal. What a bummer! ;-)

Tony Jesselli has his standard preview of the event at his website, which lays out just how tight the year's various competitions have become and how Evian can affect them. I'll let you pop over there to get that info, then you can come back for my "5 to Watch" this week.

And this is a tough one, simply because the only realistic approach is to go chalk and pick Ko, Jutanugarn, Henderson, Sei Young Kim and Haru Nomura. They're the Top5 in the Race to the CME Globe, and together they account for 15 LPGA victories this season, including three of the majors and 48 Top10s. The odds favor one of them winning.

But if I just go chalk, why bother to do a "5 to Watch" at all?

So this week I'm choosing "5 to Watch" from outside the Top5 dominators I just mentioned. I'm also going to ignore players who have already won this year. The new Evian re-design favors ball strikers, so consider these my most likely upset picks.
  • Despite not having a win in a couple of years, Stacy Lewis still sits at #7 in the Race. Look, the woman just keeps getting into contention. It's only a matter of time until she closes one out and gets out of this runner-up funk she's been in. Evian's as good a place as any.
  • Amy Yang is #11 in the Race and she always seems to find her way to the top at majors. She was T8 here last year and finished T3 in the US Women's Open a couple months back. Look for her to make a run.
  • Gerina Piller has been all around the lead all season with eight Top10s. That's often enough to be at #13 in the Race. This is a place where she hasn't played well... but this year, who knows?
  • Mo Martin sits at #18. She's had a so-so year with only three Top10s, but two of those came in her last three starts, including another runner-up at the Women's British Open. She missed the cut here last year but it was her first time at Evian. I expect better from her this time.
  • And my flier pick is Karine Icher at #21. She's been inconsistent this season but she's coming off a runner-up finish at Manulife... and this is a home game for the Frenchwoman. Granted, she doesn't have a good record at Evian, but that's why she's a flier pick.
You can make really good cases for players like Minjee Lee, Mirim Lee, So Yeon Ryu and Suzann Pettersen as well. I.K. Kim is coming off an LET win so she's on form as well. I wouldn't argue with any of those picks... or a large number of other players who I didn't pick. (Marina Alex, anyone?) But it's the last major of the LPGA and LET seasons, so I'm going for a home run with a long shot!

And that long shot is (drum roll, please)... Mo Martin. I really debated between her and Gerina, but I think Mo is in better form right now.

Coverage starts Thursday on GC. Bear in mind that there will be multiple broadcasts -- live from 5-8am ET on Thursday morning, then back for more coverage at 9:30am-12:30pm. I guess they'll have Morning Drive in-between.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

About the Three US Ryder Cup Captain's Picks

You no doubt noticed that I made no attempt to guess who Davis Love would announce as his Captain's Picks for the US Ryder Cup team, despite having done so for Darren Clarke's picks.

The reason why was simple. The "Billy-Ho Pick" made it almost impossible.

Fowler, Kuchar, Holmes

Just as most of those "in the know" expected Darren to pick Kaymer, Westwood and Pieters, those same folks expected Davis to pick Fowler, Kuchar and Holmes. And they were right.

But now the debate begins. Were those the right choices?

I don't know. I'm aware -- if for no other reason than Davis saying so -- that both he and Darren are buried under stats which they're using to help them choose. Davis also noted that Tiger and Jim Furyk have spent a lot of time crunching those numbers for him. And Phil's comments suggest that these picks were highly likely, even a few weeks ago.

All of that could lead us to believe that the twelfth man will be either Bubba Watson, who was #9 on the Ryder Cup points list when the first eight were announced, or Jim "Mr. 58" Furyk. did an article about these choices, and it gives us some interesting info:
  • The only Americans not on the team who are in the Top30 in the OWGR are Bubba and Furyk.
  • Among those who would be rookies, "Ryan Moore has three top-10s in his last five starts, including a win at the John Deere Classic. Daniel Berger has two top-10s in his last four starts, including a T-10 on Sunday at the BMW Championship. Justin Thomas enters the TOUR Championship ranked 12th in FedExCup points."
  • And if you believe that the "Billy-Ho Pick" will automatically go to the winner of the Tour Championship if he happens to be an American, you have 12 possibilities: Bubba Watson, Justin Thomas, Ryan Moore, Daniel Berger, Kevin Chappell, Kevin Kisner, Gary Woodland, Kevin Na, William McGirt, Sean O'Hair, Roberto Castro and Jason Dufner.
If it had been me, I think I would have taken more rookies. To be blunt, I thought on Monday Davis should have taken Holmes (he's playing too good not to take him), Daniel Berger and Ryan Moore. And I think Kuchar and Thomas should have fought it out at the Tour Championship.

I understand that Ryder Cup picks aren't just about who's hot at any given moment. You have to consider team chemistry and potential pairings as well. And Davis said that Tiger had been reminding them that it's not just about how far a player hits the ball or how well they putt.

But I can't help thinking that despite all the talk about "planning for the future," it has been forgotten that, at some point, whether you like it or not, you're going to have younger players take over simply because the older players are too old. It's easier to break in young players if they have veterans around... but that doesn't mean you need an 11-to-1 ratio. Hell, if Darren had taken my advice he'd have SEVEN rookies instead of six!

Granted, the Euro rookies have played better than the US rookies. But having half your team be rookies isn't a bad thing. It's a quick way to build a larger pool of players to choose from, and it's just about the only way to learn who's good at match play. For example, I've heard that Ryan Moore may not get picked because he doesn't have the "chemistry" that some of the others have. But they feared Patrick Reed didn't have it going into the last Ryder Cup. Do you think Reed won't be a Captain's Pick going forward if necessary?

Forgive the rant, folks. The main thing the Task Force needed to do was establish some consistency in the process of Captain selection and running the team, and they've done that. And I'm sure that Davis and his vice captains know what they're doing when it comes to picking their team. They have access to all the necessary info they need to make the correct choices.

But mark my words: The US isn't losing because they have too many vets or too many rookies. They're losing matches because they lose too many holes to par, and that's just a matter of poor course management.

Unless they fix THAT problem, it won't matter WHO they put on the team.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 BMW Championship

Winner: Dustin Johnson

Around the wider world of golf: Joost Luiten won the KLM Open on the ET; Bryson DeChambeau won the DAP Championship in the Finals series; David Pastore won the Niagara Championship on the Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada; Nathan Lashley won the San Luis Championship on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Gunn Charoenkul won the Chongqing NewTown KingRun Open on the PGA TOUR China; In-Kyung Kim won the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters on the LET; and Dana Finkelstein won the Garden City Charity Classic on the Symetra Tour.

Dustin Johnson with the BMW trophy

Perhaps it comes as news to some, but Dustin Johnson has been seriously underestimated. Hopefully this illusion has been dispelled by his performances this year. Let me explain.

For a long time, media and fans alike have lumped DJ in with all the other long hitters on Tour. It's true that there are many players who hit the ball as long as DJ, and quite a few have 'good hands' around and on the greens.

But while many players hit it as long as DJ, they don't hit it as accurately -- or as consistently -- as DJ. They can hit their irons a long way but they don't hit them as accurately -- or as consistently -- as DJ. They can scramble pretty well but they don't do it as well -- or as consistently -- as DJ. And as we have been seeing over the last few months, they may putt pretty well but they no longer do it as consistently as DJ.

In other words, DJ has moved into a realm by himself.

Paul Casey has begun to get his game back in shape as well. (I have expected this for quite some time but injuries and personal problems held him back.) He played well enough to win almost any other week he might have teed it up... except that DJ was on his game this week.

Don't misunderstand me. I don't expect Dustin to play this way all the time. Players regularly experience highs and lows in their games; it's just part of being human. But I think it's time we realize that DJ has raised his game since he became a husband and father -- let's just call it 'focus' and leave it at that -- and he has raised that game to a level we don't see very often.

So don't make the mistake of lumping Dustin Johnson in with all those other long hitters. And don't be surprised when he wins the Player of the Year Award this year, nor when he rises to #1 in the World Rankings in the not-too-distant future. The "Big Gang" at the top of the golf world is about to have their party crashed... and he probably won't even look that excited when he does it.

Of course, I know he'll be celebrating like a mad man after he gets this new Limerick Summary. But don't worry, DJ -- I won't blow your cover. It's enough that you and I know.
Paul Casey hung tough to the end
But DJ hung on for the win.
That’s three wins this season—
It’s also the reason
His POY campaign is genuine.
The photo is from this page at (San Francisco Chronicle).

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Bryson DeChambeau Leads at the DAP

While we've all been watching the BMW Championship, hoping for some clue who Davis Love might pick as his first three Ryder Cup picks on Monday, Bryson DeChambeau has been quietly moving to the top of the leaderboard at the DAP Championship.

Bryson DeChambeau

Although DeChambeau isn't exactly setting the stats boards on fire with his driving, he still seems to be doing better this week than he has most of the season. The driver head he replaced this week must be having some effect because he's T2 in birdies this week (14). But even at that, he's only one stroke ahead of Zach Sucher and two ahead of D.A. Points.

And just behind them is a quintet of very capable chasers -- Andres Gonzales, Will MacKenzie, Trey Mullinax, Rory Sabbatini and Stuart Appleby.

Granted, this is only the first of the four Finals events. But if Bryson DeChambeau can somehow hold on and win today, he'll lock up his PGA Tour card for next season. It would also put him in a good position to win the "Golden Ticket" at the end -- a fully-exempt 2017 Tour card. (And perhaps entry into the 2017 THE PLAYERS. I believe that's included as well.)

But first DeChambeau has his work cut out for him. Nine different players held the lead at some time during the third round. And true to its history, Canterbury Golf Course is standing up the way you'd expect from a major venue. If he can win today, he'll certainly be have earned his Tour card.

If you want to see how DeChambeau does -- and if the weather plays nice -- the final round will air today on GC at 2pm ET.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Fred Couples on How to Swing Like Him (Video)

Here's an old Golf Digest video from 2013 I found where Fred Couples tells you how to swing like him.

Here are the three things he says.
  • He makes sure he gets a full shoulder turn.
  • But check this second one out. You've been told to focus on starting your downswing with your lower body. However, Fred says:
    "And once I get the shoulder turn back I don't think about the change of direction, it just happens. But once I start coming, my hips will come this way but my club does not follow my hips."
    I'll come back to this one. But when it comes to focusing on hip drive to start your downswing, note that Long Drive champion Jeff Flagg says the same thing (see Tip #3).
  • And then he talks about releasing the club down the line instead of following his hips.
In a previous post I said that I believe hip action is almost automatic if you do your shoulder turn properly. Since a full shoulder turn pulls your lead hip back, you can't turn back to the ball without that lead hip moving forward, which creates your weight shift. And when he says that his hips "come this way," he means that his lead hip moves away from the ball because his lead knee straightens.

Also note that he says his club does not follow his hips. That means his club doesn't "go left" the way many instructors are currently recommending. The reason is simple: Fred doesn't exaggerate his hip move the way many players do these days. So if he jerked his club dramatically to the inside, he'd hit a duck hook.

Please note that Fred Couples doesn't need exaggerated hip drive to hit the ball a long way. He gets his distance by making a long full swing and hitting the ball solid. This may come as a surprise to many of you -- most instructors never mention it -- but the more you exaggerate your lower body motion during the swing, the harder it is to return the club face accurately to hit the ball. Fred gets added distance by releasing the club when his hands are above and even with the ball, NOT BEFORE.

Yes, folks, as hard as it is to believe, if you want to hit the ball like Fred Couples, you have to use your hands and forearms. I have a series of posts on The Route 67 Posts page called The Swoosh at the Bottom that can help you get a feel for what he means if you're interested.

At any rate, I know a number of you are fascinated by Fred's swing. Since this video is his, I thought you might be interested. Enjoy!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Phil Kenyon on Putting Rhythm (Video)

Since Rory has seen such a dramatic change in his putting by working with teacher Phil Kenyon, I figured some of you might be interested to hear what sort of things he teaches. Here's a video he posted in the last month about how to improve your putting rhythm.

The main point Phil is making here is that, when you make a putting stroke, he believes your backswing takes roughly twice as long as your downswing. And his drill is simply to count "one" on your backswing and "two" on your backswing.

BUT PLEASE NOTE that the "one" is at the END of your backswing and the "two" is at the END of your downswing, which makes your downswing twice as long as your backswing during the count. That will create the swing rhythm he wants you to have.

This is only one of the videos that he has up for Odyssey. I picked it because I think rhythm is probably the most important thing to think about when you putt, since this helps your distance control be more consistent. But you can find his other Odyssey putting videos at this link for Harold Swash Putting on YouTube if you're interested.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Tour Finals Are Here!

The third FedExCup Playoff event starts today, but so does the first Tour Final event. There are roughly 150 players in the field -- 75 from the Tour and 75 from the PGA, European and other Tours. And for those guys, Tour cards are on the line.

Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood OH

The event is the DAP Championship in Beachwood OH, which is a new event in the Tour Finals. It adds an interesting twist to the Finals, because players will next go the Albertsons Boise Open in Boise ID then double back for the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship in Columbus OH. The Tour Championship will then be held in Jacksonville FL.

As I said, the scene of the crime this week is Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood OH, which is near Cleveland. Will it be a challenge? Well, according to
"[It's] only one of two [courses] in the United States that has hosted five of the rotating men’s ‘major’ tournaments (Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York being the other): the U.S. Open, PGA Championship, U.S. Senior Open, Senior PGA Championship and U.S. Amateur."
That's a pretty serious venue, if you ask me. It should give the boys something to think about.

And the field is very interesting as well. In case you haven't seen the list of players, you can check it out on this page. But I'll mention a few of the more familiar names teeing it up this week.
  • I suppose the name getting the most attention is none other than Andrew "Beef" Johnston, who's decided to try for a PGA Tour card after a breakout year on the ET. Beef could have a really profitable career over here if he can deal with the celebrity-level attention he'll draw.
  • The other most-mentioned name is Bryson DeChambeau. Bryson has struggled a bit trying to get his card, but it appears that his driver -- which seemed to desert him not long after that first T4 at the RBC Canadian Open -- may have been damaged. Cobra suggested he try a new driver head and that seems to have straightened out most of the waywardness he'd been experiencing.
  • College standout Ollie Schniederjans has already locked up a Tour card -- he finished 6th on the season money list -- but is looking to improve his status, in hopes of grabbing a ticket to THE PLAYERS next year.
  • Trick shot artist Wesley Bryan won the "battlefield promotion" a month back and is already fully exempt next year... but he'd like that PLAYERS spot as well.
  • Curtis Thompson (that's Lexi's brother) is exempt to the Tour next year but wants a PGA Tour card.
  • Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who you may recognize from the European Tour, also has Tour status next year... but at 64 he could use a better ranking if he doesn't get his PGA Tour card.
  • Gerina's husband Martin Piller is trying to regain his PGA Tour card, as is Arnold Palmer's grandson Sam Saunders.
  • And I wouldn't want to forget Kiradech Aphibarnrat from Thailand.
Of course, there are a number of other names you'd recognize as well. It's going to be a packed field.

The website only lists today's broadcast time, on GC at 12:30pm ET. (That's just half past noon, not after midnight.) With so many recognizable names on such a historic course, this should be a pretty good event.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at the BMW Championship

Round three of the FedExCup Playoffs follows rapidly in this short week with the BMW Championship. The event returns to Crooked Stick in Indiana, where John Daly first became a major winner -- and legend -- in 1991 and where Rory McIlroy won in 2012, the last time the BMW was held there.

Dustin Johnson

Things are beginning to get tight now. We're down to 70 players this week, each fighting for one of the 30 spots at the Tour Championship. It's desperation time for many of them! And this is a track that can expose every fear a player has.

Crooked Stick is by far the longest of the Playoff tracks, with listing it at 7516 yards. However, the course was toughened up after McIlroy decimated it last time, with more length AND more hazards added. While the length automatically seems to favor the bombers, those new hazards could level the playing field for the shorter hitters. We'll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, I'm taking a mix of long and short hitters in my picks this week.
  • I'd have to be an idiot not to include Rory McIlroy in my list, and it's not just because he won here in 2012. It's the apparent return of his putter that makes him a required pick this week. If he can just putt reasonably well, his driving should give him a real advantage this week.
  • Likewise, Dustin Johnson is still playing well, even if he isn't dominating fields as he did in June. His wedge play is better than Rory's at this point so if he can just drive and putt with some success, he should be in contention Sunday afternoon.
  • Ryan Moore continues to make his case for a Ryder Cup spot. Any course that requires strategy and accuracy should favor him right now, and unless the weather turns bad I don't expect the extra length of the course to hurt him. Hard and fast courses can play into a precision player's hand.
  • Patrick Reed is still playing well after that win in the first Playoff event. Reports say he met up with his swing coach as soon as he got to Crooked Stick, so he might be able to score better this week. Any improvement that he sees -- or just thinks he sees -- in his game can only raise his confidence level.
  • And as my flier, I'm taking Paul Casey. I've been waiting for Paul's play to pick up for months now, and last week may be what I've been looking for. Had the bad weather not come in on Sunday, Paul might have been able to close at Deutsche Bank. Given how upbeat he sounded after the tournament -- my gosh, he had an off-day and still came in solo 2nd after Rory made the biggest comeback of his career -- he may bring some extra confidence into this week.
To me, some of the top players just seem a bit off their games right now, so I can't pick guys like Jason Day or Jordan Spieth. Even though I think they'll play well at Crooked Stick, I just don't think they'll win this week.

But if I have to narrow it to one guy, I'm doing something I haven't done in months. I'm taking Rory McIlroy to pull off the TPC Boston-Crooked Stick double, just as he did in 2012. It's not just because of Rory's putting, though that certainly plays a part. Rather, I was pleased to see him finally playing freely last week -- shrugging off the poor start on Thursday and even laughing at some of his bad shots. A Rory McIlroy who simply doesn't care how he's playing (so long as he's playing) is a Rory McIlroy who can rip up a field like it was so much wrapping paper.

And that could mean the BMW will be his latest present to rip open.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Deutsche Bank Championship

Winner: Rory McIlroy

Around the wider world of golf: Caroline Masson got her first LPGA win at the Manulife LPGA Classic; Carlos Franco got his first Champions Tour win at the Shaw Charity Classic; Alex Noren got his sixth ET win at the Omega European Masters; Augusto Núñez got his first professional win at the Flor de Caña Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Dan McCarthy became the first Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada player to win four times in a season at the Cape Breton Open; Zecheng Dou did likewise, winning his fourth PGA TOUR China event in one season at the Yulongwan Yunnan Open; and Nelly Korda (Jessica's little sister) won the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge for her first Symetra Tour win.

Rory McIlroy with Deutsche Bank trophy

Maybe the questions about "Whatever happened to Rory McIlroy?" will finally stop. He hasn't gone anywhere.

And it's not like he hadn't won lately. In fact, he has two wins since last November. It's just that he hadn't won on the PGA Tour recently.

That all ended Monday when Rory staged the largest final round comeback of his career and became the third-youngest player to reach 12 PGA Tour wins. And he did it in strong winds -- the Tour moved tee times up in hopes of missing the storm that was thundering up the East Coast of the US.

Seems more like Rory was thundering around TPC Boston. And that's after starting the week +4 after three holes. It's amazing how a small putting change can turn your game around so quickly!

I won't dwell on this win simply because, with a Monday finish, we just don't have much time. But I will remind you that Rory's headed to Crooked Stick this week, knowing he won the TPC Boston-Crooked Stick double just four years ago. It could happen again, you know...

But not before I give Rory his new Limerick Summary:
A bit late for majors, it’s true,
But McIlroy’s putter was due.
He drove through the wind
Then he banged the putts in—
Now the questions can stop: “Rory who?”
The photo came from the Belfast Telegraph site.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Some Thoughts on Sunday's Golf

Since I can't do the Limerick Summary until Tuesday this week, I thought I'd take a few moments to look at what happened on the ET, Champions Tour and LPGA this weekend.

Caroline Masson with Manulife trophy

ET: How can I not mention Andrew "Beef" Johnston shooting -4 in his last 5 holes to take solo 3rd at the Omega European Masters? Beef has not only become a celebrity, he's backing it up with solid play. That's important if he wants to be more than just a passing fad. And Lee Westwood's 63 went a long way toward validating Clarke's pick -- at least, it did to me.

Okay, let's get to the duel between Alex Noren and Scott Hend. Noren has run hot and cold this season while Hend has been mostly cold (other than that win in Thailand early this year), but those two played some awesome golf down the stretch. And while Noren made that big putt on the first playoff hole, I can't help but think both men walk off with some extra confidence to finish the year and the Race to Dubai.

CHAMPIONS: Let me quickly mention that Tom Watson finished T26 at -6. That in and of itself wasn't so impressive. What WAS impressive was that he shot 65 to beat his age (66) on Friday, then had a birthday Sunday which he celebrated by shooting 67 in the final round. That means he shot his age or better TWICE IN ONE WEEK! Now THAT'S impressive!

If you didn't see it, Carlos Franco shot back-to-back 63s to beat Bernhard Langer and Michael Allen at the Shaw Charity Classic, and both of those guys were charging hard down the back nine. Allen was -3 and Langer was -5 coming down the stretch, but Franco shot -4 playing beside Langer. It's not often you see someone stand up under the pressure of going toe-to-toe with Langer.

It gave Franco his first Champions Tour win. Bear in mind that Franco hadn't won since 2004, so you can see how impressive his performance really was. I bet they were partying in Paraquay last night!

LPGA: Finally, I have to mention Caroline Masson getting her first LPGA win at the Manulife LPGA Classic. Most everybody expected Ko and Jutanugarn to run away and hide from the field but it didn't happen. Jutanugarn had a chance to tie on the 18th but snapped one left and unplayable off the tee to kill her chances (I can't help but wonder if her taped-up knee was bothering her) and Ko simply went cold on the back nine.

Masson didn't get this win easily though. She made nine birdies against two bogeys and a double right out of the gate. And then it seemed like everybody in the field decided to make a run at her, but they all came up short -- Karine Icher, Minjee Lee and Mi Hyang Lee missed by a single stroke, while Suzann Pettersen, Lydia and Ariya missed by two. (Icher was most impressive, shooting -5 in her last 7 holes.)

It will be interesting to see if these wins give Carlos Franco and Caroline Masson a career boost going forward. Unlike Alex Noren, these two didn't have recent wins to build on -- Masson's lone LET win came in 2012 and I mentioned Franco's earlier -- so it should be interesting to see if "getting over the hump" will help them, what with their seasons nearing the end. There's some big money ahead if they can keep this going!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Jordan Spieth on the 50-Yard Low Check Spinner (Video)

I thought you guys might enjoy this little lesson. In this Titleist video Jordan Spieth demonstrates how to hit a 50-yard shot that comes in low with spin, checks then trickles up to the hole.

Here are the main points from the video:
  • Jordan sets up as he normally would for a short shot, with his weight slightly more on his lead foot. He moves the ball just slightly back of center toward his trail foot.
  • He says he has the clubface slightly open although a square face is okay. Since the open face would give it a bit more spin, I imagine you'd want to open the face on shots where the green runs down away from you, and perhaps square the face on uphill greens.
  • Finally, Jordan says you're aiming to land the ball in a 3-foot circle.
It's worth noting that he says the green he's chipping to in the video has a bit of a hump in it. It's a little uphill for about 12 feet then it starts running downhill away from him. He's aiming to land the ball on the uphill part. From there he expects the ball to hop once, check and then roll out.

One other point: This is not a "hinge and hold" shot. Although you don't want to flip your wrists at the ball, the way you might when playing a flop shot, you do want to unhinge your wrists as you strike the ball. You hinge your wrists on the way back, then you unhinge them as you strike the ball. The shaft should be in a straight line with your lead forearm at impact or just past the ball. And yes, that will guarantee that you're still accelerating the club when you hit the ball.

A very cool shot to have in your arsenal, demonstrated by one of the Tour's best chippers.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

“The More Things Change…”

“…the more they stay the same.” You’ve heard that saying before, I’m sure. Basically it means that, while circumstances may change, people’s reactions to them remain fairly predictable.

You may remember a book review I did a few weeks back for Trials and Triumphs of Golf’s Greatest Champions by Lyle Slovick. He dropped me an email to thank me for the review and, since he is, among other things, a consultant to the USGA and a historian, I told him about my classic swing studies and asked if he had any advice about where I might find more info. So much of what I’m looking for is over a century old, it’s not easy to find copies of the magazines and such.

I guess he gets that kind of question a lot. With a little direction from him, I’ve gotten access to some old magazines from the early 1900s. For now I’ve been focusing on The American Golfer, which began in 1908, and I’ve been surprised at many of the things I’ve found. I’ll share some of them in some future posts, because it’s just so fascinating.

For example, no less than the legendary O.B. Keeler – you know, the guy who chronicled the career of Bobby Jones – wrote a series of articles called Why These Fads and Fancies? that dealt with problems facing golfers of the day. They were done with some obvious humor, but the articles clearly explain why these problems were a concern. And in the
21 December 1921 issue I found one of those articles that dealt with the problem of golf balls that were too long.

Yes, you read that correctly. By 1921 there was already a feeling among some of the big names that golf balls were flying too far. So the USGA and the R&A set some standards for weight and size that year (although the exact size remained a bit of an issue until 1990, with a slight difference of .06 inches between the two groups). To quote Keeler:
It seems we were tending toward a pellet about the size of an old-fashioned quinine pill, with a soupcon of radium in it, or something to give it a range that would result in the scrapping of all our standard golf courses and making them over on the Great Plains of the Middle West or the Desert of Sahara, or somewhere where there was more room.
Sound familiar? And lest you think that’s just a coincidence, listen to the numbers he gives as he continues:
So the golf courses are saved, it seems; and we moderate players won't have to battle our way with a drive and five screaming brassies to get in range of the eight hundred and nine hundred and thousand-yard holes, predicted not so long ago by the more excitable pessimists as the logical outgrowth of the smaller and heavier and higher-powered projectiles turned out year by year.
That was 95 years ago, in the days of hickory shafts and hard-cored rubber balls – equipment that we now consider ‘primitive’ – and there were already predictions that holes would reach 800+ yards using THAT technology. Amazing, isn’t it?

The new 1921 standards set a minimum size and maximum weight because, as Keeler notes, smaller and heavier balls traveled farther than larger and lighter ones. (He also talks about the wake caused by dimples that stabilizes a ball in flight. Yes, modern reader, golf ball aerodynamics WERE known back then!) He then goes on to give a brief history of golf ball evolution and why distance increased along the way. At the time, players could still buy larger and lighter balls (Keeler calls them floaters), which he said several of the top players still recommended as being better for weekend golfers.

Keeler laments that the weekend golfers of his day continued to choose the balls that their favorite pros used, even though, as he says:
To extract the long flight tightly wound up in a high-powered golf ball, it must be hit firmly and truly and with a distinct and decisive kick; in a word, correctly and hard.
And while the psychology of today’s players hasn’t changed – they want to play what the big boys play, and expect to get the same results – it appears the approach of today’s manufacturers hasn’t changed either:
The fascination of the new ballistics was by no means restricted to players of golf. The manufacturers, after catching their breath, started out on an orgy of experimental production. They put nearly everything inside the rubber strands to serve as a core—everything from soft-soap and plain cooking water to some kind of acid that ruined the eyes of inquisitive children who cut into the missiles or bit them open. They made the balls smaller and wound the strands tighter, and Ted Ray and Abe Mitchell and others hit them farther and farther, until finally the legislative powers took hold of the situation to save the golf courses from further stretching, and for other purposes, as the conventional legislative bills recite.
Of course, a century later, we have some different choices available to us. While we can’t buy balls that are different sizes or weights, manufacturers have figured out how to “tune” golf balls to various types of swings and they try to get players to use the correct ball for their game. We have all sorts of regulations that those manufacturers have to meet, and those regs control aspects of the golf ball (and the clubs themselves, for the same distance control reasons) that many of us didn’t even know existed.

Nevertheless, many of the big names in the game continue to worry about the same things they did a century ago. I was amazed by that. You would think that such thinking would have evolved along with the golf ball, as courses didn’t become obsolete despite the ball’s ever-lengthening nature. And even in our time, the problem may not be so much that courses are too short as that we expect them to be too short. Who said that par HAS to be 71 or 72 strokes, and that 14 of those strokes MUST be made with the driver?

I do think that limiting the golf ball might be valuable because then we could reduce the size of golf courses, making them more economically and environmentally desirable in a number of ways. Shorter courses would require less land, less water, less upkeep, perhaps fewer clubs and hopefully less time to play. All of that could make golf more pocketbook-friendly – a necessity if we really want to “grow the game.” But I digress…

Keeler ended his article this way:
A few more yards on the drive, maybe even fifteen or twenty, is what the expert gets out of the heavy, highpowered ball now known as the standard. The duffer and I believe the average player get little except aggravation of the spirit and an occasional long wallop, when he happens accidentally to catch it just right.

It may be out of the province of ballistics to say so, but I believe that a vast majority of golfers would play better golf with a larger, lighter, and more durable ball than the new standard.
That last paragraph, taken in context of the entire article, could be seen as a plea to weekend golfers not to be (if you’ll pardon the pun) so driven to hit the ball longer. Perhaps if Keeler were writing today, his article would have focused on our ever-present obsession with distance, the length of the golf ball merely being a result of that obsession.

But if he had, we probably wouldn’t listen. After all, it’s been 95 years. And the more things change…

Friday, September 2, 2016

Jeff Ritter on Practice Swings (Video)

This is another of Jeff Ritter's Instagram videos, this one about why you keep hitting shots fat. Although he focuses on chips and pitches here, it's just as true with your sand shots and your full swings.

Did you catch that? You may be practicing hitting the ball fat with your practice swings!

Jeff's right, of course. Most players make practice swings just to loosen up, without even thinking about what they're doing, and as a result their practice swings look nothing like their real swings. But that means you're practicing a swing you never intend to use! If you want to improve your contact, you have to start thinking about what you're doing.

So what does Jeff suggest? Simply that you make sure your practice swings duplicate the shot you want to make.
  • Set up beside the ball -- not close enough to accidentally hit it, of course -- and be sure your club is brushing the ground just past the ball.
  • Make sure the bounce of your club is grazing the grass and you're not digging into the ground. Again, decide what you want to do when you actually hit the ball. Digging a bit is okay if that's what you're after, but for most short shots it's not.
And let me add this about practicing your full shots. Make sure that you're following the same procedure. Make sure your practice swing makes contact with the ground so you'll take a small divot in front of the ball. And make sure it's a small divot -- a strip of bacon, not a strip steak, to borrow a popular image.

Jeff uses the phrase a more mindful rehearsal swing. That's what you want to make. Think before you make that practice swing -- make sure you're actually rehearsing the shot you want to make -- and your actual swings will get better.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at Deutsche Bank

Last week Rickie Fowler came up short on the last day of The Barclays as Patrick Reed outlasted him down the stretch. Both men are in the field at Deutsche Bank this week. Can they possibly duke it out again?

Fowler congratulates Reed on victory at The Barclays

TPC Boston is a world away from Bethpage Black when it comes to setup. Although the two courses are comparable in difficulty -- at least, as determined by slope rating (152) and par (71) -- the Black is around 250 yards longer with narrower fairways and higher rough. TPC Boston is an Arnold Palmer design that was redone by Gil Hanse and Brad Faxon, which basically means it's a player-friendly course with numerous ways to attack the greens.

So what does that mean for my "5 to Watch"? Is accuracy less important this week? Are the shorter players unlikely to get it done? The list of past winners does appear to favor the longer hitters, but not the longest of the long. That player-friendly design tends to level the playing field a bit.

A few players aren't even being considered this week. While I try not to underestimate him these days, Henrik Stenson's knee concerns me a bit; the 2013 champ and 2015 runner-up has come back a bit soon for my taste. Although Adam Scott has a few Top10s in the past, he hasn't played particularly well here the last three times. And that's even more true of DJ. So call me a fool if you like, but I just can't pick them.

At any rate, here are my picks:
  • Rickie Fowler is the defending champion here and, while he stumbled down the stretch last Sunday, his game certainly appears to be back on track. With his short game firing on all cylinders, it's hard not to like him to repeat.
  • Okay. Maybe Patrick Reed will have a bit of a letdown this week after that big win, breaking his string of "almosts" over the last couple of years. But I wouldn't bet on it. Patrick wants to prove something, and two in a row would certainly do it.
  • Speaking of something to prove... Russell Knox. So two wins don't justify a Ryder Cup pick, eh? Darren Clarke may end up wishing he had a "Billy-Ho pick" left!
  • Another player bucking for a Ryder Cup berth is Ryan Moore. He's playing really well, coming off a win and a T7 in two of his last three starts. You wanna catch Davis Love's attention? I'm pretty sure a Deutsche Bank win would do it.
  • And my flier is... Emiliano Grillo. I know, he's one of the shortest drivers in the field and I haven't even mentioned Day or Spieth or McIlroy or any of the other players who have finished well here in the past, who have games that seem built for TPC Boston. (Gosh, Rory won it in 2012!) But Emiliano's only been out of the Top14 once in his last six starts -- and those include two majors, a WGC and the Olympics, with a T2 last week.
Which one am I taking as my eventual winner? I took Reed at the Olympics, but I was a couple weeks early. I took Fowler last week, so I'm gambling that I was a week early with him. I'll take Rickie Fowler for $200, Alex. (For my international readers who may not have seen some US game shows, that's a Jeopardy joke.)

But I'll be honest with you... I could have taken any of my "5 to Watch" and felt good about my choice. All five players are pretty hot right now, and I expect all of them to have a chance to win it this week. I'm picking Rickie primarily because he's the defending champ and his game appears to finally be back in form.

Don't forget that the Deutsche Bank event begins TOMORROW, on Friday, and ends on Monday because of the Labor Day weekend here in America.