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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Key Move from Ariya Jutanugarn

Here's a simple tip from Golf Digest and New York teacher Michael Jacobs. How does Ariya Jutanugarn create so much clubhead speed? It's actually very simple.

Why did it catch my attention? Because I've suggested this on numerous occasions, but Jacobs states it in a different way.

Ariya Jutanugarn

Many instructors tell you that you need to make sure your lower body makes a noticeable move to start the downswing, creating extra separation between your upper and lower body. In contrast, I have often suggested that weekend players try to feel that their upper and lower bodies start down at the same time.

Here's how Jacobs describes the move:
"Most players change the relationship between their upper chest and stomach area all through the swing by lunging, leaning, tilting and hunching over. But when you look at Ariya, from her ribcage down to her hips is a consistent cylinder throughout the swing. She doesn't change, and that gives her a clean transfer of energy. It's also way easier on her back." 
Now Jacobs recommends keeping this upper/lower body relationship from address all the way through your swing. I think that's a bit extreme and can create too much lower body movement for some people... but that's better than the other extreme with an overactive lower body. (If you want to see somebody who does it the way Jacobs suggests, Rocco Mediate appears to do so. He won a major this weekend, so you could do worse than copy him!)

I'd like to see you get some separation between your shoulder coil and hip turn during your backswing -- what Jim McLean calls "the X-Factor" -- and then try to maintain that angle until you hit the ball. This may pull your lead heel off the ground a little at the top of your swing, or maybe not; it depends on how flexible you are.

But if you try to feel as if you start everything moving down at the same time, you'll tend to keep that shoulder/hip angle difference until just before you hit the ball -- it's a natural movement for most folks. Then the angle will 'close' as the club's momentum pulls your upper body through impact and into the finish.

Look, it works for Ariya. She's only 5'7" tall yet Jerry Foltz says she can hit the ball further than Lexi Thompson, who's about 5 inches taller. It's a simple thing to try, and it should help your accuracy as well as your distance.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 DEAN & DELUCA Invitational

Winner: Jordan Spieth

Around the wider world of golf: Ariya Jutanugarn won the LPGA Volvik Championship, becoming the first LPGA player ever to get her first three victories in three consecutive starts; Natalie Sheary won the W.B. Mason Championship on the Symetra Tour; Chris Wood won the BMW PGA Championship on the ET; Rocco Mediate won his first major, the Senior PGA Championship, on the Champions Tour; Dan McCarthy won the Freedom 55 Financial Open on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada; Martin Trainer won the Mazatlan Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Zecheng Dou won the United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open on the PGA TOUR China; and Kyung-Tae Kim won the Mizuno Open on the Japan Golf Tour. And in the amateur ranks, the University of Washington Huskies won the NCAA Women's National Golf Championship; Duke freshman Virginia Elena Carta won the 2016 NCAA Individual title; and the team of Benjamin Baxter and Andrew Buchanan won the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship.

Jordan Spieth with DEAN & DELUCA trophy and jacket

There were a few people who didn't want Jordan Spieth to win in Fort Worth. He didn't mind the ones who wanted friend and competitor Ryan Palmer to win. But some of them kept trying to remind him of that one bad hole at Augusta and, as he said, “there’s a little red-ass in me – and it came out on the next few holes.”

Sure enough, he went low on the back 9 with a 5-under 30. He ended up winning by five strokes.

Just for the record: All you folks who want to see Jordan lose? It's probably better not to poke him. He really doesn't take that too well!

Look, all golfers struggle. Despite Jordan's statements last year that he expected to play at that level all the time, it just doesn't happen to most players... Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods excepted, of course. But it does appear that he's getting back to where he's not making so many mental errors during his rounds, and that can spell trouble for his competitors. Most of the time, Jordan doesn't crash and burn unless his thinking gets a bit off.

At any rate, Jordan finally broke through to get a win in his home state of Texas, and it appears he's ready to start mixing it up with Jason Day and Rory McIlroy again. In the meantime, I decided to have a little fun with his Limerick Summary this week. That's because, while most things may be bigger in Texas, the list of words that rhyme with Texas isn't one of them:
So Spieth got his first win in Texas
Without those bad shots that perplexed us.
He knocked off the rust
Our boy’s shown since Augusta—
No final-round big-number wreckses.
The photo came from this page at golfchannel.com.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Finally! Help with Mud Balls

Yesterday I linked to a Golf Digest post on how a golf ball's price effects its spin and launch angle off your irons. That was definitely useful info if you're looking for a new ball.

But now Golf Magazine has posted an article on how mud affects the flight of your ball. Not guesses, folks -- they went out and got some actual test data that can help!

Golf ball with mud on it

This is a very thorough article and you need to read it to get all the different info they included. There's a list of different ways that mud affects ball flight, and there's also a graphic to help you get a quick visual guide. But one quick note: The testers were all right-handed, so you lefties will need to take that into account when you read the article.

Here's the brief section of the article that sets the stage:
Deciding how a muddy ball will affect your shot's trajectory has always been a guessing game. Traditionally, it's been assumed that as the ball flies, the mud creates air resistance—or drag—that sends the shot in the direction of the ball's soiled side. So mud on the ball's left quadrant, for example, would tug the ball to the left. But there's never been compelling data to confirm or refute this assumption—until now.
With the help of the Keiser University golf staff in West Palm Beach, Fla., GOLF used TrackMan to analyze 400 "muddy" 6-iron shots hit by 10 single-digit-handicappers. We used weighted lead tape to simulate a 1.9-gram chunk of dirt (a bit less than the width of your thumb) clinging to various locations near the ball's equator. We compared these 400 swings with some mud-free base swings, then tallied the results.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, every single "muddy" ball curved in the opposite direction of the sphere's dirty side (results, right). It's clearly time to rethink our assumptions about mud's effect on ball flight.
The post has A LOT of info that the Golf Magazine testers learned, and it's presented in a very easy-to-read format, so you will definitely want to pop over and read it.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Why Spin Rate Matters

Golf Digest posted their 2016 Golf Ball Hot List some time back and I believe I did a post about it, although I don't remember when. But they just did a post specifically about ball testing and what you should look for when you're after a new ball, and I thought the info was interesting.

The new article specifically draws a distinction between feel and performance, and I want to pull out a couple of facts that may help you avoid the seemingly endless tests involved in finding the right ball for your game.

The article notes that there is a measurable difference between the lower- and higher-priced balls. WHY? Because balls are generally designed to spin less and fly higher off the driver... but in the lower-priced balls, they do the same off all the clubs. Higher-priced balls actually behave differently off the irons than off the woods. To quote the article:
Generally, the expensive tour-type balls launched lower (29 degrees or less) and spun more (7,000 rpm or more), while the less expensive balls launched higher (30 degrees or more) and spun less (5,500 rpm or less).
The article says that, on a 50-yard shot, the difference between 5000rpm and 7000rpm can result in being ten feet farther from the hole than you intended -- assuming both shots were launched at the same angle, of course. That's a lot.

The graph below is from the end of the Golf Ball Hot List, but it deserves more attention in light of the info in this new article. If you click the link, then right-click on the graph and choose "View Image," you'll get a larger image that you can actually read.
Spin rate VS Launch angle chart
Now, you don't want to just take the numbers from this chart to choose your ball. But it may help you narrow down the number of balls you need to test, by telling you which balls tended to give the best results within the various price ranges.

The article also gives you a good way to sort through the balls you choose to test:
...play a few holes with balls you like from different price categories, focusing on the shots from 100 yards and in. Whether you notice a difference and how much that difference matters to you should determine what kind of ball you should play. 
Hopefully this Golf Digest article -- and its related links -- will help you find a ball in your price range that gives you better performance around the greens. After all, one good way to improve your putting is to have shorter putts!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Inbee Park Withdraws Again

Inbee Park's left thumb hasn't improved. She struggled to a +12 round Thursday at the LPGA Volvik Championship, then withdrew.

Inbee Park

She told GC that she didn't want to withdraw halfway through the round like she did at Kingsmill last week, so she toughed it out. But if you saw the TV coverage, it was obvious that she was just going through the motions as she reached the end of her day. She wasn't doing her normal routines; she was just stepping up and striking (or putting) the ball then moving on to the next shot.

It was easy to see why. She had trouble making the change of direction at the top of her swing, and she was hitting weak shots to the right because she couldn't square the clubface. Both problems were due to the pain in her left thumb, which was already wrapped pretty heavily.

She's skipping next week's event and will try to defend her title at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. That appearance, combined with the round she finished Thursday, will be enough to meet her qualifications for the LPGA Hall of Fame.

According to the statement she released a couple days ago, she'll be seeking more medical attention after the KPMG. And she told GC that the KPMG could be "it" -- presumably, she meant the end of her season. Since she's qualified for both the International Crown and the Olympics, that would be a major development.

At this point, all we can do is wish Inbee well. She's been struggling with this injury since late last year, and it's turned into a most untimely problem.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Big Howl for the Huskies' Victory!

Today is just a shout-out to the Washington Huskies for winning the NCAA Women's National Golf Championship for the very first time in the school's history. Way to go, gals!

Washington Huskies with NCAA Women's National Golf Championship trophy

And also a late shout-out to Duke freshman Virginia Elena Carta, who won the 2016 NCAA Individual title on Monday. (Duke, of course, is a college here in North Carolina.)

The photo came from the Huskies' women's golf page.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at the Senior PGA

Hey, it's back-to-back majors for the Champions Tour... and this week, I'll try to pick potential winners who are actually in the field.

The major, of course, is the Senior PGA Championship. And Colin Montgomerie is going for a three-peat at the event, at the course where he won his first one in 2014 (Harbor Shores in Michigan).

Colin Montgomerie with the Senior PGA trophy

My "5 to Watch" for this major is greatly influenced by who was in form last week:
  • Coming off a win, it's hard not to pick Bernhard Langer as the favorite. But ironically, this is the only major that seems to elude Bernhard. Does that mean that he's not a favorite? I don't think so!
  • Last week I picked Woody Austin, who skipped the first major for his son's high school graduation. I'm okay with that -- Woody's priorities are in the right place, and I should have double-checked the field list. But I know for a fact that he's in the field THIS week, and he has three wins so far this year. Granted, he either wins or doesn't finish well at all, but three wins is hard to ignore.
  • Olin Browne hadn't played all that well this year until the Insperity, but now he has two Top5s in a row (he was runner-up last week). Got to like a man who seems to have hit his stride.
  • Kevin Sutherland is pretty far down the Charles Schwab Cup rankings (20) to have finished as consistently as he has this season, with six Top11s. But when you're that consistent, things should break your way eventually.
  • And my flier is Colin Montgomerie. How can the two-time defending champion be a flier, you ask? Out of nine starts, he has three Top6s... and nothing else better than T17 last week. And he's at 21 in the Schwab Cup, behind Kevin Sutherland. That's why.
So my pick to win is (drum roll, please)... Bernhard Langer. He hasn't finished worse than T11 in eight starts this season, and he's coming off that win at the Tradition. And if that wasn't enough, he was T3 when they played this course in 2014.

Sorry, Monty. I'm afraid the German's gonna take you down this time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Final Word About Phil and the SEC

Today is a link to a Golf Digest article by Shane Ryan about the insider trading case that Phil was involved in. Why am I posting this link? Because it does a good job of explaining why Phil didn't get charged -- and why he's extremely lucky that he wasn't.

Phil Mickelson

I'll let you read the original article to get the whole story -- it's well-written and you won't get buried in legal jargon -- but here (in my own words) is the crucial bit of info responsible for Phil's "escape":
In order to protect people who may have gotten insider info without knowing where it came from, the Second Circuit (the U.S. Court of Appeals with jurisdiction over New York and Wall Street) issued a ruling in 2014 which is now known as "The U.S. v. Thomas Newman". This ruling basically says that if a person gets a "stock tip" from someone other than the original source, that person can't be convicted because they didn't necessarily know the tip was illegal info.
Since the original source was Thomas Davis (of Dean Foods), and he gave the tip to gambler Billy Walters, Walters can be convicted of insider trading. But since Phil is one of the folks who got the tip from Walters, he can't be convicted because Walters isn't the original source.

So, since Phil made his trade in 2012 but "U.S. v. Newman" wasn't ruled until 2014, Phil simply got lucky. Period.

And while Phil couldn't be convicted, he was required to pay back the profits he made on the deal, plus interest. Phil didn't "volunteer" to repay the money; he was legally required to repay it.

So, just to be clear, there truly is nothing to indicate that Phil knowingly broke the law. But the fact is this: Innocent or not, Phil is getting off with only paying back the money simply because "U.S. v. Newman" is on the books. Anything you hear to the contrary is just "spin."

And you can rest easy that Phil didn't get off because he's a famous person. You would have gotten off as well, had you been in the same position.

But hopefully you would have been smart enough to avoid that position in the first place. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is... and if you ask me, stock tips from a professional gambler would certainly seem to come under the category of "too good to be true."

The photo came from this page at cnn.com, which has nothing to do with the insider trading case at all.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 AT&T Byron Nelson

Winner: Sergio Garcia

Around the wider world of golf: Rory McIlroy got off the schnide by winning the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open on the ET; Ariya Jutanugarn got her second LPGA win of the season at the Kingsmill Championship; Laura Wearn won the Gosling’s Dark ‘n Stormy® Classic on the Symetra Tour; Byung-Min Cho won the Kansai Open Golf Championship on the Japan Golf Tour; Bernhard Langer won the Regions Tradition, the first Champions Tour major of the year; Richy Werenski won the BMW Charity Pro-Am on the Web.com Tour; and Sebastian Vazquez won the 58 Abierto Mexicano de Golf on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Sergio Garcia with AT&T Byron Nelson trophy

This was the week for top players to complain about how bad their games were. I couldn't help but think about how Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka, despite leading the AT&T Byron Nelson, seemed determined to talk themselves out of playing acceptable golf. Jordan clearly got in his own head by the end of the round, and Brooks simply kept trying to hit shots that were giving him problems.

And then there was Sergio Garcia, who sometimes seems as stormy as his El Niño namesake. He said that his game wasn't at its best, but he just kept plugging along and managing his game as best as he could. And there was no better example of that than the playoff. While Brooks stepped up and blasted his tee shot into the water, Sergio made sure he hit a drive in the fairway, played to the safe side of the green, and two-putted for the win.

Sergio's joy at winning again was evident. And the crowds seemed to enjoy it as well, despite their clear support for Jordan.

Jason Sobel wrote an interesting article about Sergio's win for ESPN's website. He said this win might become a blueprint for Sergio's future, because it appears Sergio has realized that winning isn't everything:
"I guess nowadays I also realize that, obviously, winning is amazing; it's great, it's an unbelievable feeling, but it's not the only thing in the world," he said. "There's so many other things that you can do to help people other than hitting the golf ball."
In these moments, just after the victory, he became reflective. Even philosophical.
"When I'm out there, I'm trying my hardest, but if it doesn't come out, I try to take it as the best way possible. Some weeks are better than others, but, you know, I tried."
I certainly hope Sobel's right. Sometimes I think people with a lot of talent labor under unrealistic burdens, simply because the key to success often has nothing to do with the talents themselves. And learning those 'keys' often takes much longer than expected. Extremely talented people are often the tragic stories, while those who are less talented -- and from whom less is expected -- are given the freedom to fail without being judged.

After all, they weren't supposed to succeed. And because of that, they are given the time necessary to learn how to win.

For Sergio, realizing that majors aren't the be-all and end-all of life may be the very key that frees him up to win one. And if not, he's not doomed to misery. I've felt for some time that Sergio may be like Vijay Singh, who did most of his winning during his 40s. I think that, by then, the external pressure to win that Sergio feels -- and that he has internalized -- may be gone because no one will expect anything then.

In the meantime, I'm thrilled that he got back in the winner's column this week... and that I got to write a new Limerick Summary for him. After all, it's been a while since I had the chance:
The fans came to cheer and applaud,
But their faves claimed their games were too flawed
And drove balls in the muck.
That’s when El Niño struck!
His game management left the crowds awed.
The photo came from this page at espn.go.com.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Using the K Setup with a Driver

Chip tweeted me with questions about hitting the driver, and hopefully this post will answer some questions the rest of you might have as well.

A little background: Chip has been using my Stop Coming Over-the-Top book and he says it has really helped his iron play BUT he's hitting a slight slice with his driver and hasn't been able to figure out why. Since he's hitting his irons okay, I doubt that there's a problem with his grip; I suspect it has more to do with ball position. (I'll come back to that before we're done.) But using the K setup should help him get more distance, so we're going to look at both.

PLEASE NOTE: You don't use the K setup for normal shots, just off a tee when you need more distance.

Every instructor teaches the golf swing a bit differently, so I've picked videos by both Martin Hall and Michael Breed to show differences in the way they teach the K setup. Neither talks about ball position in these videos, although that's important. Again, I'll come back to that.

First, here's the Breed video:



And here's the Hall video (the first 1:40 covers the K setup):



You should notice one difference right off: Hall is having you tilt your upper body more than Breed. Hall puts his trailing hand behind his trailing knee to get the tilt, while Breed only puts his hand on his trailing thigh. The reason is simple: Hall is using a wider stance than Breed. If Breed tried to reach that low, he would be terribly uncomfortable -- assuming he could keep his balance, that is.

Hall also recommends strengthening your grip with the driver while Breed doesn't say anything about it. That goes hand-in-hand with another difference that you wouldn't catch because Hall doesn't mention it in this video. (He mentions it in the first 1:20 of this video but doesn't detail how to do the K setup, which is why I didn't use it.) Breed wants you to aim straight down the target line to hit the ball straight, but Hall says that will cause you to slice. Again, this is due to differences in how they teach the swing. Hall teaches a more extreme lower body move in the downswing than Breed, so Hall ends up leaning backward a bit more... and that leaves the clubface more open at impact.

I lean more toward Breed's approach to the K setup because the Stop Coming Over-the-Top method looks more like Sam Snead's swing than Ben Hogan's. Snead was a power hitter but his swing is simpler because it's a more vertical move in the weight shift, which also puts less strain on your lower back. Although Snead used a fairly wide stance, he stood taller -- more like Breed than Hall -- so his tilt wasn't quite as extreme as Hall's. That's also why Breed can aim straight down the target line without slicing. So obviously I'm going to recommend that you stand a bit taller.

But everybody swings a bit differently. Experiment a little on the range and find out which one works best for you.

Which brings us back to ball position. If you want to get distance with your driver, you need to tee the ball higher and get your upper body a bit more behind the ball so you can hit up on it. (Simple logic there: If you put the ball in the center of your stance, you're going to hit down on it. If you want to hit up on the ball, it has to be placed in the front of your stance.)

You have to experiment a bit to find out where your proper ball position is because -- you guessed it! -- everybody swings a bit differently. A good rule of thumb is to start with the ball even with your lead armpit. Obviously, if you have a wide stance (like Hall), it will look as if the ball is closer to the middle of your stance; and if you have a narrower stance (like Breed), it will look as if the ball is closer to your lead heel.

Likewise, if you slide forward a lot during your downswing (like Hall), you may need to move the ball even farther forward in your stance to hit up on it. And if you don't slide forward as much (more like Breed), you may need to move the ball back a bit.

Now the big question -- which I answered for Chip and will now answer for you -- is:
Q: How do you know when the ball is too far forward?
A: You'll pull the ball.
Again, simple logic: The club swings around you so the clubface closes as it moves around you. The farther forward the ball is, the more time the clubface has to close. And, by the same logic, if you push the ball, it's probably too far back in your stance -- before the clubface begins to close.

Hopefully this will help you use the K setup -- and find your proper ball position to use with it -- so you can hit straighter and longer drives off the tee. And if you have questions, just ask them in the comments below this post.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Dash Day IS Happy Gilmore

Jason Day tweeted this video of son Dash going all Happy Gilmore at a driving range, yelling "Happy! Go to your home!!

Really... does it get any better than this?

It must be good times at the Day household these days.

Friday, May 20, 2016

And Then There Were Four

In one of my classic faux pas, I picked a winner who wasn't even in the tournament. Not that Kenny Perry cared -- he finished the first round of the Regions Tradition with a two-stroke lead.

Kenny Perry at the Tradition

I'm referring, of course, to choosing Woody Austin in my My "5 to Watch" at the Regions Tradition post a couple of days back. Woody took the week off to go to his son's high school graduation -- an excellent decision, in my opinion -- but it does leave me with egg on my face. That's what I get for not checking the field list before choosing my picks. (I normally do. Have no idea why I didn't this time!)

However, I still have four dogs in this hunt and they didn't do badly the first day out:
  • Bernhard Langer is tied for second at -6, two shots behind Perry.
  • Billy Andrade sits at -5, in solo fourth.
  • Jeff Maggert is at -4, tied for fifth.
  • And even Jesper Parnevik made me look good early on. Jesper got to -5 before a bogey-par-double finish dropped him to -2. Still, this is far better than his showings at any major during his rookie season last year... and it's still only the first round.
Of course, Kenny's bogey-free round of -8 was a great start after an erratic first part of the season. He hit 9 of 13 fairways and EVERY green. When you do that, you're going to have a decent round unless your putter is stone cold.

And Bernhard Langer was right there with him until Bernhard bogeyed the 18th, which Kenny birdied.

Gene Sauers had the lead at -6 after the morning wave. Many of you may not have seen Gene on the PGA Tour but he had three wins there until he left the Tour in 2005. It wasn't by choice -- rather, he was diagnosed with a rare (and very painful) skin condition called Stevens-Johnson syndrome, where your skin cells actually start dying. He was only given a 25% chance of survival... but he did, and he joined the Champions Tour in 2012. While he hasn't won there yet, he does have four runner-up finishes. Now he's back in contention again.

Yes, it shaping up to be a very competitive first major of the year for the old guys. Just not for Woody Austin.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Charley Hull's Swing Drill (Which You Probably Already Know)

Golf Digest posted this Instagram video from Charley Hull under the title You Have Charley Hull's Training Aid In Your Bag. So why am I reposting it?

A video posted by Charley Hull (@charleyhull12) on

Because they included this comment from Keegan Bradley, who also uses this drill a lot:
“Try and keep it [the headcover] there as long as you can during the swing. It’ll drop eventually, but not until well after impact.”
It's really important to try and make the entire swing without dropping the headcover. Charley's video is one of the best demonstrations of this drill I've ever seen -- it shows her entire swing from a good angle.

This is a really good drill to teach an inside-to-inside swing, which means your hands and arms "stay in front of you" during the swing. It simultaneously helps improve your posture, your shoulder turn, your footwork and your balance. You can hit balls with it or just make practice swings at a tee in your backyard, and it doesn't take hours of practice to get better. What more can you ask of one simple drill?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at the Regions Tradition

The Champions Tour finally gets in on the fun this week with their first major of the season, the Regions Tradition. Jeff Maggert is the defending champion.

Jeff Maggert with 2015 Regions Tradition trophy

The Tradition is being played at a new course this year, Greystone Golf & Country Club in Birmingham, Alabama, so Maggert's past performance isn't a guarantee that he'll do well in his defense. In fact, we have no idea how anybody will perform this week. But this is the first of back-to-back majors -- the Senior PGA Championship is next week -- so whoever wins this week should be in good form for the Senior PGA as well.

And just who makes my "5 to Watch" at the Tradition?
  • Although I haven't seen him in any of the lists I've checked, I think Woody Austin has the inside track to get his first major. Austin has only three Top10s so far this season but they're all wins! Granted, he's been hit or miss -- his next best showing has been a T39 -- but he's got to be in a good frame of mind coming into this event.
  • Bernhard Langer is a perennial favorite when it comes to ANY event. Despite the putting change, he has finished in the Top10 six out of seven times this year, and he has one victory. It's hard not to expect him to make a run at the title.
  • Jeff Maggert has every reason to think he can defend. He's been here before -- he won two majors last year -- plus he's got a T3 and a T2 in his last three events. And he's only got one finish outside the Top16 this season, although he doesn't have a win. This would be a good time to get one!
  • Billy Andrade doesn't have a win yet this season either, but he's coming off three straight Top8 finishes (8, T3, T5). He's yet another player who is in good form and poised to win again.
  • And for my flier... Jesper Parnevik. He got his first Champions Tour win at the last event, so I'm going to gamble that he's finally finding his comfort zone on Tour and we'll see better finishes from him going forward. And, of course, that those better finishes in majors will begin this week!
As I said, if I was betting I'd put my money on Woody Austin. He's always been at the extremes, either playing very well or not so well. But I believe he finally believes in what he's doing, and I think that confidence will serve him well this week.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Want to Know What's Wrong with Jordan?

That's the big question right now: What's wrong with Jordan Spieth? Why can't he crush fields the way he did last year?

Just so you know, nothing is really wrong with Jordan's game, other than the normal ups-and-downs of golf that affect everyone. His stats look very similar to last year, as you can see on his stats pages. (That link will automatically bring you up on his 2016 stats. You can check any season by changing the year in the upper right corner of the 'Statistics' tab.")

Jordan Spieth

His driving stats are almost identical, although he's hitting slightly more fairways this year (63.76% VS 62.91% in 2015).

His proximity to the hole is worse this year (37' 3" VS 33' 8" in 2015). That extra 4' 5" is enough to reduce his odds of making putts... but he's actually making more one-putts this year (44.79% VS 44.26% in 2016). So that may not be as bad as it appears.

His scrambling is also slightly worse (61.06% VS 65.03% in 2015).

It might surprise you to know that his overall putting stats are nearly identical to last year, although his Strokes Gained Putting stat is worse (.372 VS .571 in 2015). I was actually surprised that neither year looked particularly good to me, but Aaron Baddeley was the best last year with only .722. Steve Stricker is best this year with 1.065 but only he and Jason Day are better than 1.000.

The fact is, none of the stats seems to be different enough to explain Jordan's struggles this year -- no stat, that is, except for his overall Scoring Average. Last year he averaged 68.938 strokes per round; this year it's only 70.086 -- a difference of 1.148 strokes.

Let's add Stokes Gained Tee-to-Green and Strokes Gained Putting for each year:
  • 2016: 1.205 + .372 = 1.577
  • 2015: 1.583 + .571 = 2.154
That's a difference of .577 strokes per round.

Bear in mind that we don't have a full year for 2016, so it's a smaller sample size than last year and that could be skewing the stats slightly. But the problem seems clear enough:
This year Jordan is taking about one more stroke per round than he did last year, or four more strokes per tournament. And the Strokes Gained stats only account for a little over half of it.
So I can't help but wonder if maybe he's just putting too much pressure on himself to match last year's performance, even though he says he doesn't expect to match it. But we've heard him berate himself harshly on the course quite often this year. Given how often he told us last year that he wasn't on a streak, and that he expected to play at that level all the time, I'm not sure I believe him when he says he has lower expectations now.

Perhaps when he stops berating himself so much on the course, then maybe I'll believe him. I think his mindset is the real problem, and a change in that is what I'll be watching for the rest of this year.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 THE PLAYERS

Winner: Jason Day

Around the wider world of golf: Jeunghun Wang won the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open -- his second win in a row -- on the ET/Asian Tour; Trey Mullinax won the Rex Hospital Open on the Web.com Tour; Tim O’Neal won the Casa de Campo Dominican Republic Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica (way to go, Tim!); Zecheng Dou won the Henan Open on the PGA TOUR China; Shanshan Feng successfully defended her Buick Championship title on the LET; and Erica Popson won the Symetra Classic on the Symetra Tour.

Jason Day with PLAYERS trophy

I know you've already heard about all the records Jason Day set with his win at THE PLAYERS, and you've heard all the comparisons with Tiger, and so on. So I thought I'd take a slightly different tack today and focus on something Jason said to the media this past week -- namely, that a win at THE PLAYERS could ultimately determine whether he got into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

And in the process, I think I can clear up some of the debate over whether THE PLAYERS should be called a major or not.

What Jason has done over the last ten months is something we haven't seen since Tiger was in full flight, having won 7 of his last 17 starts. (Granted, he's got a long way to go to catch Tiger, but that's a pretty good start!) He has ten PGA Tour wins, which include a PGA Championship, a PLAYERS and two WGCs, among other prestigious titles.

Now here are some of the criteria for induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame, as posted at their site (I didn't include the age criteria and such):
A player must have a cumulative total of 15 or more official victories on any of the original members of the International Federation of PGA Tours (PGA TOUR, European Tour, Japan Golf Tour, Sunshine Tour, Asian Tour and PGA of Australasia) OR at least two victories among the following events: The Masters, THE PLAYERS Championship, the U.S. Open, The Open Championship and the PGA Championship.
Once Jason reaches the ripe old age of 50, this says he can be inducted if he has 15 or more valid victories OR -- and that OR is important -- two major wins. (As a side note, that means John Daly meets the tournament criteria if the committee chooses to induct him.) Oh, wait... those two major wins can include THE PLAYERS! So, since he already has a PGA Championship and a PLAYERS, Jason Day has already met the tournament criteria for induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame!

Is THE PLAYERS called a major? No, not yet... but "called" is the operative word here. Because the criteria on their website makes it clear that the World Golf Hall of Fame already thinks THE PLAYERS is equivalent to a major. And because of that, I think it's just a matter of time before THE PLAYERS officially becomes the fifth major.

That probably won't happen until the PGA Championship becomes an international major and starts moving around the planet to different continents, which is something the PGA of America is already talking about, but I suspect both will happen eventually. It will be part of the recognition process once golf has truly become global. It's just going to take time for the powers-that-be to adjust to the changes that will ultimately come, especially if Olympic golf is as successful as they all hope.

Jason can rest easy, knowing that his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame is probably a lock -- especially if he keeps winning over 40% of his starts.

But in the meantime he can sit back, relax, hold Dash and Lucy in his arms, and stare at his lovely new crystal trophy while Ellie reads his latest Limerick Summary to him:
Next Tuesday they’ll tear out the greens
But this week, Day tore out the dreams
Of the rest of the field.
His unshakeable will
Has him Hall of Fame-bound now, it seems.
The photo came from this page at the CBC/Radio-Canada site.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Rare PLAYERS-US Open Double

Since quite a few big names missed the cut at THE PLAYERS -- Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson, to name just three -- you might wonder how that's going to affect them in the next major. You'd think that THE PLAYERS would play a big part preparing a pro for a run at the US Open, wouldn't you?

Apparently not. There's an interesting article at Golf Digest about this very thing, and it turned up some interesting facts.

Martin Kaymer

The article looks at how players finished in THE PLAYERS since 2007 when it moved to May, and how they finished in the following US Open. Check out these pertinent facts:
  • Martin Kaymer in 2014 became the first and only player to win both tournaments in the same year. (That's in all of golf history, not just since 2007.)
  • Only one other US Open champ -- Graeme McDowell in 2010 -- even made the cut in THE PLAYERS the year they won.
  • Only one PLAYERS champ besides Kaymer -- Henrik Stenson in 2009 -- posted a Top10 in the US Open that year.
  • Sergio Garcia, PLAYERS champ in 2008, is the only other winner to post a Top20 in that year's US Open.
There are a lot more interesting facts in the article, but here's the takeaway:
Performance at THE PLAYERS in May is absolutely NO indication of how a player will perform at the US Open in June.
So for all you fans of Rickie and Jordan and Phil -- or any other player who is struggling this week at THE PLAYERS -- perhaps you should pull for Jason Day to win today. If history is any indication, that may give your boy the best chance to snag a US Open next month!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Déjà Vu, Mate!

The second round of THE PLAYERS isn't done yet, having been delayed by electrical activity. (That's a thunderstorm, of course.) But there are a few things we can already tell.

Jason Day

The soft conditions have dramatically affected play. I said I didn't like Jason's chances this week because his inaccuracy off the tee (and he's only hit 52% of his fairways this week) would put too much strain on his short game. The rough at Sawgrass is notoriously tough, but playing from the unexpectedly short rough to soft greens have given him a sizable advantage after all. (I believe he's gotten up-and-down 8 out of 8 times so far, as of this writing.) He's well on his way to obliterating Greg Norman's scoring records.

Likewise, other long hitters have posted pretty good scores thus far while the shorter but more accurate players aren't benefiting as much from the conditions. The cut is likely to be -2, the lowest cut in years, and scoring records that have lasted for two decades are already falling. How good is the scoring? Up until this year, no one had ever shot 29 on the back 9.

We've already seen THREE 29s this week -- Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Kevin Chappell.

I picked Rickie Fowler to be the first back-to-back winner. Instead, he has missed the cut. His poor short game performance caught me completely off-guard. If I had known these conditions would exist, he would have been an even bigger favorite in my picks!

The rest of the second round picks up this morning on GC at 9am ET. Jason still has four holes left to finish his round, but he's already tied with Norman's all-time low 36-hole score. It's hard to believe he won't beat it, especially since the course will probably be soft again that early in the day.

But it's also hard to believe that the Tour won't firm up the course for this weekend, especially since the greens will be torn out on Tuesday so it won't matter if they have a near-death experience. Knowing that, I wouldn't want to face those greens on Sunday!

Friday, May 13, 2016

All About Tiger's Chin

Bet that got your attention, huh? Keely Levins at Golf Digest did an article about a swing key that shows up in several of Tiger's instruction pieces for the magazine. It's called The Body Part You Never Thought Of That Could Be Ruining Your Swing.

It's your chin. Tiger says you should keep your chin up all the way through your swing.

Tiger Woods chipping

I'll let you read the article for the details -- it's relatively short -- but here are the four bad effects Tiger says burying your chin in your chest at setup can cause:
  • It restricts your shoulder turn during the backswing.
  • It inhibits your weight shift during the downswing.
  • It affects your spine angle during the downswing.
  • It messes up your balance all the way through your swing.
Learning to keep your chin up, as Tiger does in the photo above, is a very simple thing you can practice almost anywhere. But don't underestimate its importance. It's usually the simplest things that make golf harder than it needs to be... and it doesn't take a genius to improve his or her posture.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Martin Hall on Rickie's Swing Changes

Since Rickie is defending this week, I thought I'd post this short piece Martin Hall did for Morning Drive about the changes Butch Harmon made to Rickie's swing.



Rickie had a problem with an unpredictable hook, caused in large part because he got the club too far behind him in the backswing (in other words, his downswing plane came too much from the inside). The three tips are very simple:
  • When the club shaft is parallel to the ground in the backswing, the shaft is also parallel to his aimline and the toe of the club points straight up. (In other words, a basic one-piece takeaway.) Note that because Rickie tended to swing outside his target line originally, Butch exaggerated this new takeaway move a bit so he felt as if he was bending his trailing elbow slightly on the way back. Starting his backswing too much to the outside started the chain of events that put the club too much behind him on his downswing.
  • He shortened Rickie's backswing a little. Rickie tended to overswing, which caused him to drop the club too much behind him on the downswing. That made him come at the ball too much from the inside, so he flipped his wrists to square the clubface, which was the cause of those wild hooks he used to hit.
  • He got Rickie to make sure he finished his followthrough. Rickie would stop turning toward the target too soon after hitting the ball, and that also contributed to those flip-hooks.
These are useful tips if you're having trouble with overhooking the ball. And the one-piece takeaway helps almost everybody because, if you start back on plane, you're more likely to come down on plane.

The tips definitely worked for Rickie.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at THE PLAYERS

It's time to make picks for the most unpredictable of the PGA Tour's big events -- namely, THE PLAYERS.

The Island 17th

Because TPC Sawgrass doesn't favor one type of player over another, saying that anybody can win is an understatement. This is truly a level playing field, as long as a player's game is in shape. (Hell, Stewart Cink could win this week and he's not even playing!)

So here are my "5 to Watch," all of whom have as good a chance as anybody.
  • No picks list at this course is complete without Sergio Garcia. If there's any player who can truly say this course fits his game, it's El Niño. With a win and three other Top3s in the last eight years, you can't go wrong by picking him.
  • Although no one has ever defended at THE PLAYERS, if anyone can do it I think Rickie Fowler can. His game hasn't been bad over the last few weeks, just a little inconsistent. But Butch Harmon is on site so I suspect he can fix any problems that may pop up.
  • I like Kevin Kisner to factor in again this year, even though nobody else seems to like his chances. Yes, his finishes haven't been that great over the last three months and he missed the cut at Quail Hollow. Still, he was in the playoff last year so he's got some good memories of Sawgrass. I think that may be just what he needs to get his game back in gear.
  • Everybody seems to think Henrik Stenson needs to use his driver more, but guess what? Henrik's nasty 3-wood is probably all he needs to get another win at the PGA Tour's home course. Let's not forget that he won here in 2009.
  • As for my flier... I'm taking James Hahn. After the emotional win at Quail Hollow this past week he might find it a bit harder to get up for this. But his game is solid right now and, let's face it, if you can handle eight straight missed cuts I'm sure you can handle a big win!
Yeah, I know. No Rory. No Jordan. No Jason. No Danny Willett. But Jason's short game is a bit suspect right now and I expect to see some rust from the other three.

If I had to pick only one of my 5, I'd probably go with Rickie... but only by a slight margin. This is the most democratic course on the Tour, after all.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

How to Survive a Stretch of Bad Play

As I mentioned in my Limerick Summary this week, James Hahn had missed eight straight cuts before winning at Quail Hollow. Tony Ruggiero -- he's Smylie Kaufman's teacher -- did a short post for Golf Digest on how to work your way out of a bad stretch of golf.

James Hahn

If you watched any of the tournament coverage, you probably heard that Hahn is a loner -- that is, he doesn't have a teacher or psychologist that he works with. Instead, he maintains his own swing and trusts his caddie to help him spot both swing and focus problems.

The Golf Digest article says:
To bust the slump, you need to monitor a few specific things in your swing -- by watching your own swing on video, not a bunch of others -- and measure your progress, says Ruggiero. "And you need to have a system in place to monitor those things over time -- not as a response to a few bad shots or bad rounds," he says. "It's easy to experiment. But staying committed to the plan and tracking your progress in the big picture is what will get you there."
Hahn and his caddie had spent some time talking at the Zurich Classic, which helped Hahn stay the course. He kept checking his grip and alignment through the entire eight weeks, and he focused on a few swing thoughts that help him keep his swing moving properly. It all finally came together again at Quail Hollow, and now it looks like he's back on track.

I often recommend that you find one player or instructor whose teachings work for you... and that you stick with them. You can try things from another source -- that's perfectly acceptable -- but if they don't immediately work with your existing swing, THROW THEM OUT RIGHT THEN and go back to what has worked before. Swings don't go bad overnight; usually you just get sloppy with some of your fundamentals. Fix the fundamentals and your swing will eventually straighten out.

James Hahn is an excellent example to follow. When you focus on keeping your swing fundamentals in shape and not chasing after every tempting fix, you won't stay in a slump for very long. And when you finally come out of that slump, you'll be better equipped to avoid slumps in the future.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Wells Fargo Championship

Winner: James Hahn

Around the wider world of golf: Ariya Jutanugarn got her first LPGA win at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic; rookie Nuria Iturrios won the Lalla Meryem Cup on the LET in only her second pro start; Madelene Sagstrom won the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic, her second win in the last three Symetra Tour events; Jeunghun Wang won the Trophée Hassan II on the ET; Jesper Parnevik got his first Champions Tour win at the Insperity Invitational; Sam Fidone won the Honduras Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; and Lexi Thompson won the World Ladies Championship Salonpas Cup, the first major on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

James Hahn with wife Stephanie, daughter Kailee and trophy Wells Fargo

It's been a long time since the Gangnam Style dance in Phoenix. It's been over a year since the playoff win at Riviera. In fact, it's been eight consecutive missed cuts since James Hahn felt good about his golf.

You sure couldn't tell it at Quail Hollow this week. And boy, did he pick an interesting place to find his confidence.

For those of you who don't know where the Green Mile name came from, it's from a Stephen King novel (and movie starring Tom Hanks). In the story, the Green Mile is the final path criminals walk from their Death Row prison cells to the electric chair. (The 'Green Mile' nickname comes from the color of the floor's linoleum.) Perhaps ironically, water plays a big part in the electrocutions in the story.

Water plays a big part in the final three-hole stretch of Quail Hollow as well, and I suppose you could draw some parallel in Hahn surviving largely because he avoided the water both during the final round and in the playoff while that long meandering creek on 18 caught Roberto Castro in the playoff. Fortunately for both men, the only electricity was in the crowd!

We often talk about how difficult it is to win a tournament, but how much mental toughness does it take to win after eight missed cuts? How hard is it to find that toughness on one of the hardest three-hole stretches in professional golf? It's a measure of the man that James Hahn did it... and did so with apparent ease. There were only eight scores lower than his 70, and none of those players finished better than T4.

So this week I salute James Hahn, who strolled down the Green Mile to victory. I'm sure Stephen King would be terribly confused by this turn of events, which is why I write the Limerick Summaries and not him:
The Green Mile leaves many dumbfounded.
Its fairways and greens are surrounded
With water and sand
That few pros can withstand—
But James Hahn’s mental strength was unbounded.
The photo came from the tournament upshot page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Annabel Rolley's Chair-Twist Pose for Flexibility

This yoga-style flexibility exercise from Annabel Rolley reminds me of the drill my teacher gave me to teach me how to coil and how to use my legs correctly, all at once. (My stance was wider because we were actually swinging a club, but you get the idea.)



The video explains it in fewer words than I can here, but I snagged this still to help you remember it. Essentially, you put your feet together and squat -- try to keep your feet flat on the floor -- until you're almost in a sitting position. (Your upper body will be leaning forward, of course. Otherwise you'll fall down.) Then you cross your arms across your chest and try to rotate your shoulders -- Martin Hall would say your 'thorax' or chest -- and hold the position briefly before rotating the other way.

Annabel Rolley beginning the twist part of the stretch

This stretch will help you become stronger, more flexible through your back and hips, and also help your balance. Not bad for a single exercise!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

John Daly Hit It Big on the Champions Tour

And I mean that several ways. JD was a fan favorite -- as usual -- he averaged 317.5 yards off the tee, and he's only four shots off the lead (-2, T12).

John Daly at the Insperity

If you missed his debut on the Champions Tour, here's his stat line:
  • 4 birdies and 2 bogeys
  • 317.5 yards off the tee
  • 13 of 14 fairways
  • 16 of 18 greens
  • tied with Fuzzy Zoeller for loudest pants
That last may need some explanation: JD wore his usual Loudmouth pants -- this time they were "red pants dotted with a pop-art stylistic ovals with turquoise centers ringed with black," according to PGATOUR.com's report, while Fuzzy wore "his own version of Daly’s signature Loudmouth pants – bottles of his vodka embroidered on both legs of Kelly green pants and “Get Fuzzed Up” written on the back of the pants and his shirt."

Daly was worried that he wouldn't play well, but apparently his game was in pretty good shape overall. His fiancee Anna Cladakis caddied for him, and apparently she understands the psychology of being a caddie pretty well. (You can read the PGATOUR.com article mentioned earlier for those details, and you can get more details about his play from this article.) But perhaps the most revealing thing she said was how fun the day was, despite the crush of fans and media. In fact, Fuzzy said that learning to say 'no' is going to be JD's biggest challenge now.

But it sounds like John Daly may be ready for that challenge. He certainly seems thrilled to be where he is now.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Some Trick Shot Drills

A week or so ago I did a post called A PGA Tour Card Is the Real Trick, about trick shot wizard Wesley Bryan winning twice on the Web.com Tour and locking up his PGA Tour card for next year. I also suggested that practicing some trick shots could help improve your game.

Well, it seems that Golf Digest agrees with me and did an article on the very same thing! It's called Trick Shots Can Make You a Better Golfer. Here's How.

Wesley and George Bryan

I'm not going to repeat the whole article here -- it explains how trick shots can help your game -- but I did want to mention the two drills that it recommends to help you get better.

One is the 'basic shotmaker' drill. You simply take a 6-iron (to be honest, I imagine a 7-iron or 5-iron would work just as well), pick a target and try to hit a draw or hook around it. Keep trying until you're successful, then try to hit a fade or slice around the same target. Again, keep trying until you're successful and then go back to the draw/hook. If you spend ten minutes at this drill each time you practice, you'll soon get where you can draw or fade on command.

The other drill is the 'classic trick shot', which Tiger made popular. You just bounce the ball on your wedge a few times before smacking it in mid-air. The article says this will improve your coordination and wrist/hand strength, but I bet it will also help you learn to find the bottom of your swing so you don't go right under the ball in thick rough.

Luke Benoit, the teacher Golf Digest talked to for the article, suggests a trick shot session -- he gives more ideas for things you can try -- as an alternative to just beating balls on the range. He says you'll be a better golfer for the effort.

It sounds like more fun too.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Quick Peek at the Wells Fargo

Since the Wells Fargo Championship is played in Charlotte NC, just about 90 minutes south of where I live, and since GC's coverage starts today, I thought I'd take a quick look at what you can expect this year. Overall, things look pretty good.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy

Of course, defending champion Rory McIlroy is there, as are Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson. These guys are just some of the big names who show up at Quail Hollow fairly often, and it means we may get a change in my RGWR this week should one of them win.

Jim Furyk usually plays here and this is his first tournament back from wrist surgery. I don't expect him to win but it should be a good place to test how well he's healed up.

There are some new names like Bryson DeChambeau, Ollie Schniederjans, Patton Kizzire and Bobby Wyatt (remember him from last week?). And the Carolina contingent is back in force -- guys like Webb Simpson, Chesson Hadley and rookie Harold Varner III, led by Davis Love III.

Names that have withdrawn are Stewart Cink, because of his wife's cancer diagnosis, and Dustin Johnson, who quoted a schedule conflict (apparently unexpected) that interfered with his trip down.

And I haven't even touched on the large international cast, many of whom are likely warming up for THE PLAYERS next week.

Wells Fargo is an event that usually delivers on its promises, and this week should be no different. Plus, the weather looks like it's going to be pretty good so the guys are probably looking forward to that!

GC's coverage begins today at 4pm ET.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

GC's National Instruction Day Schedule

Most of you have heard that GC, in cooperation with the PGA of America, is running a National Instruction Day today. There's going to be LIVE instruction all day, broadcast from six different sites around the US.

You can get the full details about it here, but I've copied the TV schedule into this post so you can find the instructor(s) you're interested in watching more quickly. After all, when you can get this much free instruction, why not take advantage of it?

National Instruction Day TV Schedule (all times ET):
7am-10am: Morning Drive (Orlando, Fla.)

10am-11am: Baltusrol Golf Club (Springfield Township, N.J.)
                   Lead Instructor: Michael Breed
                   Guest Instructors: Lou Guzzi, Tom Henderson
                   Special Guest: Derek Sprague, President, PGA of America

11am-noon: Tranquilo Golf Club (Lake Buena Vista, Fla.)
                   Lead Instructor: Martin Hall
                   Guest Instructors: Jim McLean, Craig Harmon
                   Golf Channel Host: Sara Brown

2pm-3pm: Keeton Park Golf Course (Dallas)
                   Lead Instructor: Cameron McCormick
                   Guest Instructors: Tony Martinez, Randy Smith
                   Golf Channel Host: Matt Adams

4pm-5pm: Cog Hill Golf & Country Club (Lemont Township, Ill.)
                   Lead Instructor: Stan Utley
                   Guest Instructors: Todd Sones, Kevin Weeks
                   Golf Channel Host: Charlie Rymer

6pm-7pm: Golf Central (Orlando, Fla.)
                   Special Guests: National Instruction Day instructors

7pm-8pm: Fossil Trace Golf Club (Golden, Colo.)
                   Lead Instructor: Hank Haney
                   Guest Instructors: Trent Wearner, Sandy LaBauve
                   Golf Channel Host: Brian Crowell

8pm-9pm: TPC Harding Park (San Francisco)
                   Lead Instructor: David Leadbetter
                   Guest Instructors: Suzy Whaley, Secretary, PGA of America;
                                                 Josh Zander
                   Golf Channel Host: Lisa Cornwell

9pm-11pm: Golf Channel Studio A (Orlando, Fla.)
                   Lead Instructors: Michael Breed, Martin Hall
                   Guest Instructors: Mike Bender, Cheryl Anderson

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Zurich Classic

Winner: Brian Stuard

Around the wider world of golf: Jenny Shin got her first LPGA win at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout; Kyung-Tae Kim won The Crowns on the Japan Golf Tour; Hao-tong Li won the Volvo China Open on the ET; Seamus Power won the United Leasing & Finance Championship on the Web.com Tour; amateur Curtis Luck won the Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open on the Australasian Tour; and Hiroko Fukushima won the CyberAgent Ladies on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Brian Stuard with Zurich Classic trophy

"Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." This is a quote from the Greek philosopher Herodotus, back around 503 BC. It's inscribed on the outside of the General Post Office facility at 33rd Street and 8th Avenue in New York City, and it has traditionally been used to describe the dependability of the US Post Office.

But even the Post Office would have had trouble with the weather in Louisiana this past week. The whole concept of 'appointed rounds' went completely out the window! And yet, despite the Zurich Classic being shortened to 54 holes -- plus two playoff holes -- players delivered some amazing golf to their fans.

There were plenty of stories, like Bobby Wyatt's fourth place finish which vaulted him close to 800 points up the OWGR and will likely make conditional Tour status possible for him, or Jason Day's T5 after a rough nine in the first round. But the big story had to be eventual winner Brian Stuard -- and not just for winning the playoff over Byeong-Hun An and Jamie Lovemark.

When you talk about delivering, you have to talk about Brian's short game. Despite the weather, he didn't bogey a single hole throughout the tournament! He was perfect getting up and down (I believe he was 20 for 20) and putting from around 10 feet on the greens (I think he was 46 of 46). Now THAT'S delivering!

Brian Stuard went from playing in the 125-150 category to being completely exempt for the next two years. It's his first-ever PGA Tour win... and his first-ever Limerick Summary. I doubt even the weather can dampen his excitement!
The Post Office couldn’t do better
When facing such flood-making weather!
But Brian delivered
On fairways-turned-river
Where two rounds did not flow together.
The photo came from this page at golfchannel.com.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Is It Easier to Chase?

Since we have a Monday finish for the rain-shortened Zurich Classic -- and thus a Tuesday Limerick Summary -- we might as well take a look at a popular debate...

Gerina Pillar came up short on Sunday as Jenny Shin blasted past everybody to get her first win at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout. Her 4-under 67 gave her a two-stroke victory over Gerina, Amy Yang and Mi Jung Hur.

Which begs the question... is it really easier to chase than to lead?

Jenny Shin with VOA Texas Shootout trophy

Gerina stumbled right at the start with a bogey. Her game didn't resemble her play in the first three rounds at all. And the weather made it tough -- of the four players who were chasing her, Yang and Hur could only manage even par and Sei Young Kim, who's considered a closer, was 3-over for the round. Only Jenny Shin went under par, and that by a lot.

I'm not so sure that whether you lead or chase makes a difference. Rather, it's your mindset during the round. Gerina might say the win didn't matter, but her tears at the end told a different tale. Players do press sometimes, whether they're leading or not. Judy Rankin said some of Gerina's club choices seemed conservative to her; perhaps that indicated an attempt NOT to press. But you might argue that the falloff in her accuracy -- both in fairways and greens -- was the result of more tension. And Gerina is also in the run for a position on the Olympic and International Crown teams.

Likewise, Yang and Kim were also fighting for spots on their national teams as well as the win.

Jenny was near tears as well -- tears of joy. But check out her comments after the win:
“I think I’ve been in contention so many times that I’ve kind of learned how to tune it out. I’m not sure I can repeat it exactly the same if I have a chance next time. I think every year I become a better player and I get a little bit more experience. And I think I’ve gotten a lot out of it every time I go through this, so hopefully next year will be better, the year after that will be better.”
Familiarity with the position is something players often mention as a factor in their first win. But Shin went further:
“I was chasing the leader all week so looking at the leaderboard didn’t get me nervous at all. I practiced a lot of three footers the first two days because I kept hitting it too far past, and I know that I’ve made almost every single one of them so that really helped me with my confidence and I had a lot of them coming down the last six holes. So as soon as I made the first one, I went okay, I know I’ll make the second one and make the third one so it was good.”
It's interesting to note that Jenny said on TV that she thought she was only ONE shot ahead while playing the 18th, so she should have felt MORE pressure there. But two of these comments jump out at me, comments which may help explain her apparent calm during the final round.
“I think I’ve been in contention so many times that I’ve kind of learned how to tune it out."
and
“I was chasing the leader all week so looking at the leaderboard didn’t get me nervous at all."
There's a running debate on Morning Drive about whether you should look at the leaderboard or not. Charlie Rymer advises against watching the leaderboard -- a position that many sports psychologists would agree with -- while many of the players insist that you need to watch the leaderboard so you can adjust your strategy in case someone 'makes a move'.

I confess that I have some problems with that last stance just from logic -- namely, if Bubba drives a par-4, deciding that I have to respond isn't going to give me an extra 30 yards off the tee. I'm either trying to post the best score I can or I'm thinking too much about other players' games... and not enough about mine. But there's an unspoken belief in BOTH of these stances that I believe is flawed, a belief that Jenny Shin doesn't have.

What is that unspoken belief? That looking at the leaderboard DEMANDS a response, that looking will either cause you to react in fear or somehow elevate your game.

Jenny Shin had neither response. She tuned it all out and didn't let it affect her strategy at all. In Jenny's mind, she was going to post the best score she could and the burden was on the others to beat HER!

It didn't matter to Jenny whether she was leading or chasing. What mattered was that she was in contention and that she trusted her game. Read her comments above once again; it's hard to miss that confidence! But it was a simple confidence, not some "I've got it now" bravado -- note that she says she's not even sure she could duplicate it next time. She knew her game was there this week and she could trust it, so the other players would have to worry about her -- not the other way around.

I don't think it matters whether you're leading or chasing.

I don't think it matters whether you have a big cushion for a lead or whether you're trailing by one or two or six.

I just think it's easier to win when your game is in good shape and you know it. Give me quiet confidence any day!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Gerina with a Chance

Last week Gerina Piller and her husband Martin were both in contention for their first 'big tour' wins -- Gerina at the Swinging Skirts, Martin at Valero. And despite playing in heavy wind and shooting 73 (still tied for best final round score in the Top5 finishers), Gerina won bragging rights with a T3.

This week Gerina holds a 54-hole lead for only the second time in her LPGA career. After a 4-under 67 she's two shots ahead at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout, and she sounds pretty confident.

Gerina Piller

After the round she told LPGA.com:
“I felt like I gave myself opportunities. Had some great shots, just couldn’t get some putts to fall. These greens are pretty tricky and they have a lot of slope to them so you definitely have to give them respect. But I don’t feel like I kind of like barely got by with eight pars, I felt like I could have been a lot lower. So definitely a lot of confidence going into tomorrow.”
Gerina made it clear that she considered last week a success, that she just wasn't good enough but she still played well. She says she just needs to hit fairways and greens, and make putts -- all of which she's done very well this week.

And she'll need to play well if she hopes to win. Amy Yang, tied for second and just two strokes back, is only one shot out of contention for that final spot on both the South Korean Olympic and International Crown teams... and she's made no secret of her desire to go to Rio.

Mi Jung Hur is also two shots back, while Jenny Shin and Sei Young Kim are four back. If Gerina stumbles at all, there's enough firepower among the four chasers to take this win away from her.

After the second cut on Saturday -- that's part of the shootout format -- there are only 53 players left that Gerina has to beat. And if she continues to play today as she has played all week, she's got a great chance to hoist her first LPGA trophy.

Perhaps more importantly, Martin missed the cut at the rain-plagued Zurich Classic. And if this commercial is any indication, a win today may have some extra importance:



Remember, GC's coverage starts today at 3pm ET.