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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Rickie Fowler Bunkered to His Knees (Video)

This video from Golf Digest featuring Rickie Fowler and Butch Harmon covers a shot you hope you never have to hit -- a plugged bunker shot from your knees. I've never seen a presentation on how to play this specific shot before, so I wanted to pass it on.

Note that Rickie can't go toward the hole if he takes a normal stance. Don't rule that possibility out too soon! If you have a better angle to the fairway than the hole, that might be your best play. But obviously Rickie is showing you how to play this bizarre shot, so let's get on with it.

I want to focus on the stance because that's the real key here. Here's a frame snagged from the video so you can follow what I'm saying.

Butch with Rickie on knees beside bunker

First, Rickie isn't down on both knees. I know there are numerous videos showing how to hit shots from your knees, but in this case -- a plugged ball -- you may lose your balance when the clubhead hits the sand. You have to move A LOT of sand to dig this plugged ball out. By going down on only one knee, you create a wider base so you stay steadier over the shot.

Note also that Rickie's TRAILING knee is the one on the ground. This helps you avoid any movement backward during your downswing, which might result in a fat shot that is more likely to leave the ball buried in the bunker. If you do move a little, you want to move toward the target, not away from it.

The extra 'twist' you can get from using your lower body this way also helps you get the ball out.

From there it's basically just chopping down on the ball with the club, like an ax chop. You want to hit just behind the ball, not way behind it -- remember, this shot is plugged. You may end up sticking the head of the club in the ground. That's okay, as long as the ball pops out.

Remember, there's some luck involved here. A plugged ball may not come out, no matter how perfectly you hit it. But Rickie's technique gives you the best chance of making your next shot a putt.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at the WGC-Bridgestone

The scrunched-up summer schedule continues for the PGA Tour. This week we're back at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron OH.

You know Akron... that's LeBron Country. (For you international readers who don't recognize the name, LeBron James is probably the top player in the NBA and he led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Championship a couple of weeks ago, breaking a 52-year drought of victories in ANY pro sport. And LeBron was born in Akron.)

WGC-Bridgestone trophy

Of course, several big names are missing this year, headed by Rory McIlroy. The centennial edition of the Open de France is this week, and it offers double points for the Ryder Cup, as well as counting as two events toward the Race to Dubai. Add in the ET's decision NOT to count the WGC this week toward the Race to Dubai, and you can see why many big names are there.

I'm leaving a couple of other players off my Watch list for various reasons. Bubba was runner-up last year, but I suspect the stress of the Greenbrier flood will be on his mind. I'm also leaving Jason Day off because I think his decision to skip the Olympics despite being #1 may end up being a media distraction. Of course, there are still plenty of big names in the field, beginning with:
  • Shane Lowry. His decision to defend his title will no doubt win him a lot of support this week. Given his T2 at the US Open a couple of weeks back, he's on form to get that defense done! And he may feel that he has something to prove, given that the ET forced him to choose between defending his title and getting credit for playing this week.
  • Brooks Koepka is also playing pretty well this year, and he finished T6 last year at Bridgestone. It's hard not to give him serious consideration for the title this year. At this point in his career, Koepka is in search of a first "big" tournament and a WGC often fills that role.
  • Jordan Spieth also probably feels that he has something to prove this week after his struggles at the US Open. He played only slightly better than Jason Day at this event last year, but Jason was in full flight at the time so Jordan may feel he has a decent chance to make up ground on #1. The big question is whether he can get out of his own way and just play golf this week.
  • Rickie Fowler has been struggling this season, despite an international win. But he had a Top10 here last year, and he did show signs of improvement in his last event. It's hard to believe that he won't get out of this funk he's in, sooner rather than later.
  • And my flier is Jim Furyk. Jim seems to play consistently well at Bridgestone, but he's had a short season due to the wrist surgery and says he's still breaking up the scar tissue in the wrist. Nevertheless, he posted a T2 at the US Open so a run at Bridgestone certainly isn't out of the question.
And my pick to win it all? I think Lowry will make a good defense, but I'm putting my money on Furyk. Hurley gave us a Cinderella story last week, so an experienced player on a familiar track -- recovering from surgery or not -- seems reasonable to me.

But don't be surprised if the field treats this event as if it were a major. Since next week's Greenbrier Classic has been cancelled, players may decide the extra week of rest will allow them to put more than usual effort into winning this WGC.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Why Men Worry More about Zika than Women

With Jason Day's decision to wirhdraw from the Olympics due to risks from the Zika virus (and Shane Lowry's decision shortly afterward), there have been a number of people wondering why the men seem to be more worried about Zika than the women.

It seems almost counter-intuitive, doesn't it? The dangers we know about seem to focus on Zika's effects on unborn children and pregnant women. But if you read the information about Zika, you will find that there are more unanswered questions concerning Zika's effect on men than on women. Bear in mind that the men say they have talked in depth with health officials before making their decision.

Unless otherwise noted, the info in this post comes from the Zika pages at the CDC site, so this is the most accurate and dependable info we have access to. This is the link to the main page of the CDC's Zika site, but I'm going to refer mainly to this specific page on Zika and sexual transmission. I'm going to cut and paste things from the page, so you read exactly what the CDC says.

Here's the first thing that grabs your attention, and it's something that hasn't been emphasized on TV.
Zika virus can stay in semen longer than in blood, but we don’t know exactly how long Zika stays in semen.
How much longer? Although the CDC doesn't know how long the Zika virus can remain in semen, says Public Health England (the British equivalent of the CDC) reported finding the Zika virus in semen 62 days after the patient became ill. This was originally reported in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, but the report doesn't say whether further tests were done to determine if the virus was there AFTER that time. Who really knows how long the virus might affect a man?

In addition, the ability to pass Zika through sexual activity is different for men and women. In regards to women, the CDC says:
It is not known if a woman can pass Zika to her sex partners.
But here's what the CDC says about men and Zika:
A man with Zika virus can pass it to his female or male sex partners.
  • In the known cases, men had symptoms. Zika can be passed before symptoms start, while he has symptoms, and after his symptoms end.
  • Men without symptoms may be able to pass the virus to their sex partners.
  • In the known cases, the men had vaginal, anal, or oral (mouth-to-penis) sex without a condom.
In other words, although the CDC doesn't have enough solid evidence to say anything for certain, it appears that a Zika infection could potentially have much longer-lasting effects on men than on women.

A few other facts from the CDC site must be considered as well. My thoughts are added in the parentheses following the CDC quotes.
  • Testing blood, semen, or urine is not recommended to determine how likely a man is to pass Zika virus through sex. This is because there is still a lot we don’t know about the virus and how to interpret test results. Available tests may not accurately identify the presence of Zika or a man’s risk of passing it on. (Read that again. Not only is there no way to determine risk once a man has Zika, but we may not even be able to accurately determine when the Zika virus is gone!)
  • In many cases, Zika does not cause any symptoms or causes only mild symptoms lasting several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. (So a man may not even be aware that he has contracted the virus.)
  • No vaccine exists to prevent Zika virus disease. (This is the first fact on the CDC's Prevention page and, given the first two facts, I think this problem becomes even more critical.) 
Taken all together, there are even more unknowns regarding Zika's effect on men than regarding its effects on women.

A further consideration is the timing for having children. The wives of the men who are withdrawing are either currently having children or plan to have them soon. For the women athletes I've heard interviewed, they aren't planning on having children soon. Most women athletes -- not just those being asked about Zika -- usually say they plan to pursue their careers and have children later. I suspect the majority of women athletes considering the risks of Zika are looking at having children perhaps 5-10 years down the road, so they may consider the immediate effects less threatening.

And while it's not a health concern, I can't help but wonder how many women athletes are affected by the lack of respect shown by society at large for their accomplishments. The potential backlash that the male athletes expect for withdrawal is unlikely to affect their careers the way it would affect the female athletes, should they make a similar choice. That's not a criticism of the women by any means, just a recognition that they face different societal pressures.

At any rate, these are the primary reasons that male athletes are reacting more dramatically to the Zika virus than the women. If they're being advised by knowledgeable health care professionals, the men are aware that Zika could have effects on their ability to father healthy children that are longer-lasting than those affecting the women. At this point, we simply don't know.

I know that if I had to make the decision, I'd rather be safe than sorry.

DJ's Unbowed Bowed Wrist (Video)

This is a video Hank Haney did for Golf Digest several months ago. It's a breakdown of Dustin Johnson's swing, with specific attention on that dramatically bowed wrist of his. But Haney makes a couple of points in this video that I think everybody should be aware of. Take a look:

The first thing Haney mentions -- and I've never heard this before -- is that more women than men have this as a swing flaw. If you've been watching the instructors on GC lately, you've heard a number of them telling you how this position enables you to hit the ball longer AND straighter. This is true, provided you have a powerful swing. Bear in mind that DJ is 6'4" tall, which gives him a huge swing arc and -- according to's clubhead speed stat page -- a 122mph clubhead speed with a driver.

It's possible that you might increase your distance off a tee with this technique but, at least on every other kind of shot, the average golfer is going to have the problem that Haney mentions, which is not getting the ball off the ground.

But the most revealing part of this video by far is the proof that DJ actually flattens his wrist during his downswing, which means he isn't hitting the ball with that extreme wrist position at all! Compare his wrist position at the top of the swing (at around the :45 second mark) with his wrist position as he enters the impact zone (at around the 1:38 mark). There's still a little bow in his wrist -- and there should be, unless he's got too much tension in his grip -- but it's nothing like the top of his swing.

It's interesting to note that, in another article for Golf Digest on how to play a flop shot, DJ says that his bowed wrist makes that shot too hard. He says you don't want to bow your wrist at the top, as he shows in this photo. I know he's still got some bow in it, but look at the clubface just above and to the left of his hands. The toe points STRAIGHT DOWN, which is nearly 90° more open than his normal position.

DJ demonstrating flop shot technique

All of this simply illustrates what we already knew, that DJ is a singular golf talent and a physical freak. And regardless of what you may hear, that extreme bowed wrist position isn't necessarily something you want to duplicate.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Quicken Loans National

Winner: Billy Hurley III

Around the wider world of golf: Lydia Ko won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship on the LPGA; Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong won the Island Resort Championship on the Symetra Tour; Henrik Stenson won the BMW International Open on the ET; Kirk Triplett won the American Family Insurance Championship on the Champions Tour; Ollie Schniederjans won the Air Capital Classic on the Tour; Max Rottluff won the SIGA Dakota Dunes Open on the MACKENZIE TOUR - PGA TOUR Canada; Jun-Won Park won the ISPS HANDA Global Cup on the Japan Golf Tour; and Bo-Mee Lee won the Earth Mondamin Cup on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Billy Hurley with trophy while Tiger applauds

One year ago, Lieutenant Bobby Hurley III's week at the Quicken Loans National was a tough one. His father had gone missing and his family was desperate to find him. With help from viewers of the event, they finally did. But life got even tougher a few weeks later when his father unexpectedly committed suicide.

The last year has been a struggle for him. He lost his Tour privileges and has been bouncing back and forth between the PGA Tour and the Tour, playing on sponsor's exemptions when he could get them. Perhaps in part because this event honors the military, Tiger and Company gave him an exemption into this week's event, which also happens to be his hometown event.

Looks like they made a really good choice there. Billy had only had one other 54-hole lead -- ironically, at the 2014 Greenbrier Classic (which has been cancelled this year due to the severe flooding) -- and he didn't play well that last round. You'd have never known it if you watched his final round Sunday. He shot a very steady 2-under 69, punctuated by a dramatic 35-yard hole-out at the 15th and a 27-foot putt at the 16th. It was more than enough for a three-shot victory.

Tiger probably put it best:
"To have a serviceman actually win the event, it doesn't get any better than that. He's actually truly one that did serve his country, and for him to win an event that honors the military more than any other event, it's very apropos that he did it here."
And now you might say he's signed on for a two-year Tour of duty, complete with invites to several big events, including the Open. He said he might not make it to Troon this year -- his sister gets married that weekend. But even if he doesn't, the 2017 Masters awaits.

In the meantime, Billy can celebrate his first Tour victory and the upcoming Independence Day holiday with a brand new Limerick Summary. Well done, Lieutenant!
With a troublesome year now behind,
Maybe Billy will have a clear mind
To pursue life on Tour—
He’s got two years for sure—
And pull rank at a major next time.
The photo came from the tournament daily wrap-up page at

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Randy Chang on "Mental" Chipping (Video)

I love this little video! If you didn't see this segment on Morning Drive when it aired earlier in the week, you need to take a few moments to watch it now. GCA coach Randy Chang explains the "mental modes" we can be in when we chip -- or putt or make full swings or whatever -- and why chipping isn't as hard as we make it.

But make sure you don't miss the opening part of this video. Chang shows that chipping doesn't require "eye-hand coordination" by hitting several chips without ever looking at the ball!

First, note that Chang says "eye-hand coordination" is necessary to hit a MOVING ball, not a stationary one. This is important, because we can psych ourselves out before we ever get started if we don't understand that hitting a stationary ball is actually pretty simple. The problem comes when we get too focused on results, which simply means we try to get it too perfect.

He then points out that there are three ways we can think about chipping the ball:
  • Hit mode: This is where we get locked on making perfect contact with the ball and trying to do everything absolutely perfect. If the ball doesn't do exactly what we want, we get bent out of shape. This is the worst possible way to play golf!
  • Target mode: This is where you think about where you want the ball to end up. This is better than hit mode because your thinking isn't "ball-bound". But at Chang says, this can also be problematic if you aren't hitting the ball where your target is. Then you get as focused on being perfect as the player in Hit mode.
  • Swing mode: In this mode you simply try to swing the club and let the ball get in the way. This is actually the way most players make their practice swings, so it's not something we can't do. The problem is that we switch to a less desirable mode when we get ready to make the actual shot.
Obviously, Swing mode is the desired mode. And as Chang says, most of us use this mode automatically when we make a practice swing. We don't worry about hitting the ball, we just take the club back and swing through.

REMEMBER THIS: You can learn to make practice swings at faster speeds if you're worried about not getting the ball to the target. But what you most likely need to practice is keeping the same mindset when the ball is in the way (actual swing) as when it isn't (practice swing). And you can do it with a little practice.

Chang also demonstrates how to use a putting stroke with an iron when you want to chip the ball. This is extremely simple to do -- with a little practice, of course. This is just another mental adjustment, not a technique change. And once you "get hold" of the mindset, it's really easy to do.

Like I said, I love this video. And if you practice the Swing mode mindset a little bit, I think you'll love it too.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Ben Shear's New Core Workout (Video)

Golf Digest has started a new three-video series on core exercises that are aimed at the specific needs of golfers. The first one uses three static exercises in a half-kneeling position, and that's the one I have here.

Although the video shows each exercise to only one side, obviously you need to reverse position and do them the other way as well. And although there are two people demonstrating these exercises, you could clip the exercise band in a doorway and do them by yourself.

They're doing this as part of their Fitness Friday series, so the next one should be out next week. Next week's video is supposed to be static exercises while standing, and the last one will focus on dynamic core exercises.

I'm bringing this to your attention simply because -- at least in this first video -- the exercises are neither complicated nor do they require a lot of room. And if the other videos use a minimum of exercises like this one, the total workout shouldn't take much time either. We'll have to see what Shear comes up with next week.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Strengthening the Olympic Golf Field

Yesterday I wrote about some of the Olympic concerns affecting golfers and why so many seem to be saying "no, thanks" to the Games. It was late at night when I finished the post and my mind was tired, so I didn't always go into depth about the effects of these concerns. But you can already see how they are shaping a lot of the dialogue:
  • For example, when Graeme McDowell withdrew Thursday with Zika concerns over his pregnant wife. How could the unknown future cost of Zika exposure affect your child's or your spouse's future?
  • Or when traditional Olympic athletes say they don't want athletes at the Games who don't want to be there. What do you expect from athletes whose careers are defined by the Olympics? Tiger Woods is currently suffering the effects of winning at any cost. What risks might he have been willing to take if he only got one chance every four years at a major, and that one chance might be his only chance?
  • The concern over an overcrowded schedule is the flipside of the 'get one chance' Olympic athlete. If I'm going to risk my health to get one big prize, is the Olympic gold really the best prize for a golfer? As things stand, I honestly don't think it is.
I'd like to address that last one. Yesterday I questioned how valuable an Olympic gold would be when valued against a major. Today I'd like to look at some potential ways to narrow that gap by improving the strength of the field.

As things are structured right now, there are 60 golfers in each gender's field. These represent, on average, somewhere between 25 and 35 countries. The International Golf Federation website describes their eligibility this way:
The IOC has restricted the IGF to an Olympic field of 60 players for each of the men’s and women’s competition. The IGF will utilise the official world golf rankings to create the Olympic golf rankings as a method of determining eligibility. The top-15 world-ranked players will be eligible for the Olympics, with a limit of four players from a given country. Beyond the top-15, players will be eligible based on the world rankings, with a maximum of two eligible players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top-15.
In addition, the host country gets one male and one female participant if they are otherwise ineligible.

I understand that the IGF wants to keep any one nation from having a disproportionate number of players in the Games, but in doing so they completely ignored field strength. Olympic athletes are, by definition, supposed to be the best in the world. But since the IGF criteria for participation eliminates the majority of the best players in the world rankings, there is no way the Olympic gold medalist can possibly lay claim to being 'the best in the world'.

Can you say 'just an exhibition'?

So how do we fix this?

1) At the very least, the Olympic fields MUST allow the Top15 in the world rankings to play, regardless of what country they come from. That is the minimum you can do. Otherwise your field isn't even as strong as the Hero World Challenge.

If one of those Top15 players is unavailable -- for example, #3 Inbee Park might not be able to play because of her hand injury -- then #16 automatically qualifies, and it doesn't matter what countries they represent. In this case, Gerina Piller would be her replacement -- an American replacing a South Korean. That is irrelevant -- we want the 15 best players available to ensure the strongest possible field.

What if that means one country has ten players in the Games? Then so be it. If one country dominates the game that much, then that country must be beaten in order to claim the 'best in the world' title. Again, as things now stand, South Korea would have seven in the women's field, the US would have six in the men's field. But now you have the truly dominant players in these fields, and you MUST beat the best to get the gold.

Please note that these Top15 make up only a quarter of the entire field. You could still have just as many countries represented as in the current eligibility requirements, but the fields are substantially stronger.

2) Go to a match play format. I know this was rejected because it was considered too cumbersome. But team match play might be the best way to ensure a real competition and build excitement for the event.

I'd go to two-player teams, and I'd expand the Top15 to a Top16. Every player in the Top16 would play, and the teams would be constructed this way:
  • If a country has only one player in the Top16, that player would team up with the next highest player from their country outside the Top16.
  • If a country has two players in the Top16, they form a team.
Now it gets interesting:
  • If a country has three or more players in the Top16, you divide the number in half and round up. For example, three players means you get two teams and the top two players from that country head up the teams. In the examples I gave above, South Korea would have four female teams and the US would have three male teams. You get the extra player for the final team from outside the Top16.
But the second member of those teams is a matter of choice. Let's say you have three players in the Top16, so you get two teams. The two top players must be on separate teams, but the top player can decide to team up with the lowest-ranked player on the team if he (or she) so desires. This allows for a little choice in chemistry.

I really like the idea of making the match play event solely alternate shot (or foursomes, if you prefer that term) so the team aspect REALLY stands out. And bear in mind that such a two-player team match play event could include twice the number of individual golfers without seriously affecting pace of play. It would also be much more exciting.

You would start with either 32 teams (64 total players) or 64 teams (128 players) -- the first would take five days of play, the second would take six days. You divide into groups of four teams for pool play. Here's how it would work:
  • For 32 teams:
    Eight groups of four teams for three days of pool play. Top two teams from each group go to single elimination. Day four has 36 holes, cutting the 16 to 8 (morning) and then the 8 to 4 (evening). Day five also has 36 holes, cutting the 4 to 2 (morning) and then having the Gold medal and Bronze medal matches that afternoon.
  • For 64 teams:
    Sixteen groups of four teams for three days of pool play. Top team from each group goes to single elimination. Day four cuts 32 to 16. Day five has 36 holes, cutting the 16 to 8 (morning) and then the 8 to 4 (evening). Day six also has 36 holes, cutting the 4 to 2 (morning) and then having the Gold medal and Bronze medal matches that afternoon.
Yes, these are longer than the four-day medal play that we'll be playing this time. But this is the Olympics, it's supposed to be a challenge. 'Best in the world', remember?

3) Eliminate the world rankings entirely and institute national tryouts, the way other sports do it. Yes, this is a radical solution but I think it's probably the best for the Olympic Games. It certainly fits the spirit of the Games.

Let's find the best for this event with an open competition. Let's have local and regional qualifiers, culminating in a national qualifier. Open it to the pros and amateurs alike. If you want to get players who WANT to go to the Olympics, this is the way.

And just imagine the potential teams for a match play Olympics event. Suppose pro Dustin Johnson has been playing some rounds with amateur Maverick McNealy and the two really like their chemistry, so they enter the qualifiers as a team. You're NEVER going to get a team like that with the current system!

There are any number of ways that the luster of the Olympic gold medal can be enhanced among golfers, but it has to start with a stronger field. When you have four major events every year with stronger fields than a single Olympic event, there really is no competition.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Is Rory's Olympic Withdrawal a Symptom of Something Deeper?

Brian Wacker did an article for Golf Digest about Rory's withdrawal from Olympic consideration and how it might affect things going forward. It does a good job of touching on some of the effects his decision may have on other golfers, especially when added to those who have already withdrawn and who sound less certain than they did a few months ago.

Wacker also lists some of the reasons golfers may be cooling toward Rio itself. I had already been thinking about all of these things, and I have a few thoughts of my own to add -- things which may or may not have been considered by those in charge.

Olympic rings

First, I do think the Zika virus is a larger concern than many of the Olympic supporters realize. For example, History Channel did a special on the Black Plague, and the last ten minutes or so were devoted to explaining how some unknown virus could rapidly spread around our modern world. This sort of documentary isn't unusual, and the dangers of a 'killer virus' are common movie themes. For Pete's sake, many zombie movies assume that a virus is the cause of the zombies!

Such things are firmly in the back of the public's mind, and the fact that virtually no one had even heard of Zika two years ago -- along with its rapid appearance in the US and the lack of knowledge about its long-term risks going forward -- make it one more uncertainty to be dealt with.

Wacker mentions Rory's recent statement that he “...had this argument with someone last week talking about golf being in the Olympics and how it can grow the game, but fencing is in the Olympics, and how many people watch that?” I wonder if that isn't a symptom of a much larger issue that hasn't been considered.

You see, the majority of Olympic sports don't have the professional power base that golf has. True, basketball, hockey, tennis, baseball and soccer are sports that do. Other sports like cricket and rugby have followings, although they aren't on the level of, say, basketball. But other sports like track and field, or swimming, or table tennis are sports that primarily gear toward the Olympics. The system of meets and competitions that exists for these events is aimed toward Olympic qualification. They happen only rarely during the year, and they pit the best in each country against each other. Most of these athletes know each other when they finally reach the Olympics, and are used to competing against each other.

And that raises the question of the value of an Olympic medal to a golfer. This one has been seriously underestimated. The criteria for Olympic qualification in most sports is considerably different than the golf qualification... and this raises valid questions that have been ignored.

In swimming, for example, most of the Top30 or Top40 in the world will make it to their next Olympics. If you win the gold medal in a swimming event, you have legitimately beaten the best in the world.

But will most of the Top50 in the world be competing in the golf competitions? Not hardly. Let's look at the women's teams, using these Olympic qualification charts for June 20 in this article and compare them with the Rolex World Rankings for the same week, since none of the women have as yet withdrawn. As things stand currently:
  • Ha-Na Jang at #8 in the Rolex doesn't qualify at all, due to the four-player limit in the Top15, nor does So Yeon Ryu at #11. In fact, seven Koreans in the Top25 will not be allowed to play.
  • Four Americans in the Top25, beginning with Gerina Piller at #16, will not be at the Olympics.
So 11 of the Top25 in the Rolex aren't even allowed to play. Going further down:
  • Catriona Matthew, #67 in the Rolex, is #27 in the Olympic list.
  • Nicole Broch Larsen, #88 in the Rolex, is #30 in the Olympic list.
  • Laetitia Beck, #220 in the Rolex, is #41 in the Olympic list.
So 40 of the Top67 in the Rolex aren't allowed to play. And 58 of the Top88 aren't allowed to play. And 179 of the Top220 aren't allowed to play.

Now I understand that the field has to be limited and you can't very well have only ten nations participating in an Olympic event, so don't misunderstand me. I'm not arguing that all these other players should be in the Olympics.

What I AM saying is that this event won't even have the strength of a 'regular' LPGA event. If Rolex #1 Lydia Ko wins the gold medal, how can you legitimately compare it to winning a major?

For the men, the disparity is not quite as great but it's still troubling. Victor Dubuisson, #71 in the OWGR, is #30 in the Olympic list. Graham DeLaet is #136 in the OWGR but #41 in the Olympic list. You could make a fair argument that the limited field of the Hero World Challenge is stronger than the Olympic field... and yet purists complain because the Hero gets world ranking points!

And we already have a number of players -- like Rory -- who have withdrawn from the event. How much will Olympic gold weigh against a major in the years to come?

It's possible that Olympic exposure might help grow the game in parts of the world where it currently receives very little support. But not even the Jamaican bobsled team, popular enough to have a movie made about it, caused serious growth in that event among the nations that weren't already involved. And building a golf infrastructure in nations that don't have one will not be cheap. It will certainly cost more than a couple of competitive bobsled designs and a few trips to a bobsled track.

I don't mean this to be a damper on all the Olympic enthusiasm. I hope golf succeeds beyond its wildest dreams. But golf has been left out of the Olympics for over a century while table tennis and curling held on to their spots (and yes, I enjoy the curling competitions), and it has a seriously bourgeois reputation to boot. That's a lot to overcome under any circumstance, let alone an Olympics troubled with security and health concerns.

So is it any wonder that Rory's concerns over Zika finally won out? I don't think so. Perhaps Rio, with all its problems, was the wrong Olympics for golf to enter. Hopefully we get more than one chance before the Olympic Committee pulls the plug on this experiment.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Putting Drill from Ian Baker-Finch

I'm sure many of you know that Ian Baker-Finch has become something of a putting and short game guru among PGA and LPGA players. (So Yeon Ryu is one of his students who immediately comes to mind.) I found this short video he did for Odyssey Golf that details one of his putting drills, in case you'd like to see what he teaches.

What I like about this drill is his emphasis on touch and feel, on getting the speed of your putts right. While you want to get your putts on line, more putts miss because they're hit too hard (or too soft) than are missed with a poor line. If your speed is wrong, the right line won't necessarily help you!

Ian's approach is a bit more mechanical than I would teach, but there are so many different teachers simply because not everybody learns the same way -- and of course, you don't have to be mechanical when you practice if you don't want to be. If you're looking for a new putting drill to try, I think this is a very good one. Any time you avoid just hitting the same putt over and over, that's a good thing.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Of Golf Balls and Footballs

The controversy over DJ's one-stroke penalty continues. Today I'd like to clarify what I believe are the three major questions that the golf community -- and the USGA in particular -- have to answer if they want to prevent these kinds of problems in the future.

DJ over the controversial putt

1) Why put a rules official with each group if that official's ruling isn't binding?
This is the most obvious question that needs to be asked. DJ's official ruled that there was no infraction, to play on. The ball was NOT replaced, which an infraction demanded. Therefore DJ couldn't possibly avoid a penalty if the decision of the official APPOINTED BY THE USGA wasn't binding.

I'm reminded of the LifeLock commercials. For those of you, especially overseas, who may not have heard of LifeLock, they're a company that claims they monitor and prevent credit problems. Here's a typical commercial:

At least this guy is upfront about it -- unlike the USGA, he doesn't claim that his presence means anything. The USGA will have to address this problem if they don't want potential golfers to see golf as a game with impossible rules.

2) How can you demand the ball remain still when you want greens where the ball 'trickles' 30, 40, even 50 feet after it should have stopped?
This goes back to a post I did where I mentioned Phil Mickelson's misgivings about the speeds of classic green complexes. (The specifics about greens are near the end of that post. Geoff Shackelford has voiced similar concerns on many occasions.) Classic courses designed with more slope on the greens assumed much slower green speeds, perhaps 8-10 on the stimpmeter. But the USGA insists on speeding these greens up to 12-13, speeds where the ball can't be expected to stay still.

And even though the USGA said that Oakmont has faster greenspeeds "in its DNA", the fact remains that they estimated that the greens were only about 70% of the firmness and speed they desired. What would have happened if they had gotten the green speeds they wanted? Such disregard for simple physics is simply begging for rules violations like this.

3) Are we expecting too much from video replay in our rulings?
This is where football enters the picture. In case you don't watch NFL football, one of the most contentious areas of the rules there has become a real embarrassment for the game. And what is that problem?

Ironically, no one can say for sure what constitutes a 'catch' anymore. Before video replay, it was pretty easy to say when someone had caught a pass and when they hadn't. But now, with the ability to make extreme digital close-ups in ultra-slow motion, referees are forced to try and determine whether a diving catch was actually touching the ground a thousandth of a second before it was 'caught'.

In other words, the question used to be "Did they hold on to the ball when they hit the ground?" Now they can't even determine when the ball was actually caught, or even how much a ball might move in a player's hands when a catch is made and still be considered a 'catch'. And this confusion has already changed the outcome of games.

Take a look at this catch by the Dallas Cowboys' Dez Bryant in a 2015 Divisional Playoff game. Ten years ago this would have been ruled a catch; it's pretty clear that Dez is holding the ball in one hand when he hits the ground, and the ball stays firmly in his hand when he lays out on the ground. (He hit the ground hard enough for the ball to bounce loose at impact if his grip wasn't good.) But extreme slo-mo shows tiny wiggles that happen too fast for the naked eye to see -- and therefore wouldn't affect the ruling at regular speed. (And it's not that I'm a Cowboys fan -- I'm a Panthers fan. But this kind of thing is happening too often, and this is one play that I remember well enough to find easily.)

The answer to football's catch riddle -- and to golf's moving ball question -- is to create some simple criteria that are easily seen and verified in real time. In Dez's catch, the fact that he had the ball in one hand and it remained in that hand after he hit the ground should have been enough to say that was a catch. Instead, the Cowboys' run to the Super Bowl was ended.

The USGA should make a simple test for moving balls. Did the player ground his or her club behind the ball? That should be sufficient in most cases. If they need more, tell players not to make practice strokes within one putterhead length of the ball to either side. These are objective criteria, not "more likely than not" subjective criteria.

Here's MY rule for rules questions: If the test can't be a simple one, then the problem in question shouldn't be a rules infraction. If you can't KNOW FOR SURE that a rule was broken, then you don't need a rule in the first place.

These are the issues that the USGA needs to face concerning the Rules of Golf. If they don't, things are only going to get trickier going forward.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 US Open

Winner: Dustin Johnson

Around the wider world of golf: Sei Young Kim won the Meijer LPGA Classic on the LPGA; Jackie Stoelting won the Four Winds Invitational on the Symetra Tour; Nanna Koerstz Madsen won the Tipsport Golf Masters on the LET; Scott Hend won the Queen’s Cup on the Asian Tour; James Driscoll won the Nashville Golf Open on the Tour; Scott Gregory won The 121st Amateur Championship; and Jiyai Shin three-peated at the Nichirei Ladies on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

And although it wasn't golf, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team ever to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Playoffs. They broke a 52-year win drought for the city; the last team to win had been the Cleveland Browns, their NFL team, way back in 1964. Congrats, all you Clevelanites!

Dustin Johnson with US Open trophy

When I picked DJ to win last week, I didn't expect it to go down this way. Not with another rules controversy. But perhaps this is the best way it could have happened, since it just proved how tough Dustin Johnson has become as a player.

DJ's problems winning his first major have been well-documented, perhaps the most famous being the club he grounded in a bunker at the 2010 PGA Championship -- a bunker that most players didn't even think should have been a bunker. The penalty knocked him out of a playoff. But you could argue he should have known better that time -- after all, the local rules sheet (which DJ admitted he didn't look at) said EVERY sandy area on the course was a bunker.

But this one... When DJ called for a ruling on the 5th green after his ball moved, he was told there was no penalty and to play on. (If he had been deemed to move the ball, he would have had to replace it.) Then, on the 12th tee, USGA officials told him the incident was under review, but couldn't tell him if it was a rules infraction or not. He -- and the rest of the field -- finished the tournament without even knowing what score was leading the tournament.

Fortunately for DJ, he stepped up to the plate and made one of the only two birdies posted on the 18th hole all day. He drilled a drive, tucked his second a mere three feet from the hole and drained the putt. Even with the penalty he eventually received, he still won by three shots.

DJ got the monkey off his back -- and joked about doing so with the media -- but the USGA probably won't be so lucky. The player response on social media was quick and merciless, uniformly condemning the USGA for a "ridiculous" (McIlroy) decision that was "a joke" (Spieth). According to Tim Rosaforte on GC's Live from... afterward, even the legends of the game blasted them. Like this quote from the ESPN article that I took the photo above from:
Jack Nicklaus, who was on site as an honorary chairman of the U.S. Open, congratulated Johnson as he walked off the green, telling later that "I told [him] what you did with all that crap that they threw at you was pretty good."
I don't think this is going to go away. After all, when you are the arbiter of rules and you not only reverse a decision mid-round but refuse to give a definitive decision at all, especially when it means nobody knows what the lead is, you cause people to question your right to be an authority at all!

For DJ, however, this is all water under the bridge. (Or is it balls moving on the green?) At any rate, DJ gets his first major championship and ends much of the debate over his ability to close the big ones. And it also gives him a major Limerick Summary to add to his running total of regular ones.
Was he leading by two or by one?
DJ said, “Either way, this gets done!
Let the USGA
Try to mess up my day—
Soon they’ll KNOW I’ve got this major won!”
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, June 19, 2016

US Open Coverage Begins at 7am ET

Just a quick note this morning:

FOXSports1 will be broadcasting the rest of Round 3 starting at 7am ET Sunday morning. There are 25 players who still have to finish their rounds, and the final pairing has five holes left.

At some point during the day -- I don't know exactly when -- the coverage will move from FOXSports1 to the regular FOX Network. I suspect it will be around 10am or so, as that's been the routine so far.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Putting Tip from Bobby Locke

Continuing my attempt to make shorter posts this weekend because there's so much US Open coverage (and other golf) on TV, I offer this short quote from Gary Player's book Don't Choke: A Champion's Guide to Winning Under Pressure.
Bobby Locke was one of the finest putters the game has ever seen. Locke's philosophy on putting was that it is always better to leave a putt a little bit short than run it past the hole.

It is completely contrary to what you always hear. As golfers, we are taught from an early age to never leave a putt short. Sayings such as "Never up, never in" or "The hole won't come to you" are drilled into us. It's almost as if it's shameful to leave a putt short of the hole. But I've never seen one that goes past the hole go in either. And frankly, I'd rather be a few inches short of the hole than three feet past it.

Locke's reasoning was that if you hit a putt at just the right speed, it can drop in anywhere in the front of the hole, on the side or even at the back. But if you hit a putt hard, there's only one place it can go in, and that's in the center of the hole.

Throughout my career I've discovered that for every putt you charge at the hole, you sink ten putts with the right speed. (p110)
As Gary Player says, this goes against what we're taught. And to be honest, it's embarrassing and heartbreaking when you leave the ball just on the lip. But unless you're willing to take the risk, you may never learn to putt consistently.

This philosophy is how I like to putt also. Still, I'm willing to admit there are times when a "stronger" putt seems reasonable. On occasion, stroking the ball a bit harder to take out some of the break may make sense. But just remember that such a play is risky and may cost you more shots than you would have lost if you had just accepted a two-putt. Locke's philosophy is the best play, most of the time.

If you're interested in looking at the book, here's a link to its page at Amazon. And no, I don't profit from any sales. However, there's an older edition for sale as well, and this link takes you to the new edition. The new edition is the one I used for this post.

Friday, June 17, 2016

More New Putters

It's US Open weekend. We're all too busy to read long posts. So I'm linking you to a new Golf Digest slideshow of seven new and unusual game improvement putters you can buy. And since you can't help but think about putting during an Open -- especially when it's held at Oakmont -- this is a really good time for me to post it!

For example, this is the Directed Force Reno, which is designed to act like a mallet putter (to improve off-center hits) but also square the face better at impact. I don't know if I'd want to use one, but I think it's a really cool design.

Directed Force Reno

And this is the Happy Putter Tour Mallet, which you may have seen some of the players using on the Tours. You can adjust the lie, loft, weight and even the aim line on top.

Happy Putter Tour Mallet

Most of these putters are truly unusual-looking. If you're curious about the new crop of putters and just can't stand a "normal" putter, maybe one of these would do the trick. They're all certainly good examples of fresh thinking.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Quick Reminder of the US Open TV Schedule

The reason for this post is simple: The US Open is being broadcast on the FOX Network these days, and that means some of the coverage won't be available for everybody.

FOX's Joe Buck

First, here are the hours for FOX's TV coverage. All the times are ET.
    • FOXSPORTS1 10am-5pm
    • FOX Network 5pm-8pm
    • FOXSPORTS1 10am-5pm
    • FOX Network 5pm-8pm
  • SATURDAY: FOX Network 11am-7pm
  • SUNDAY: FOX Network 11am-7pm
But there's more coverage available with online simulcasts from 10am-8pm ET on (or 11am-7pm ET if you go by's listing).

And various feature groups will be covered on You can find all the details for those in this CBS Sports post.

And just in case you're worried that the FOX will be as awkward as they were last year, youi might want to check out this article about the changes FOX made for this year. It's called 9 Reasons to Be Optimistic That FOX's U.S. Open Coverage Will Be Better at Oakmont. Part of the reason is that FOX raided ESPN's golf crew for this year so lead man Joe Buck will have a better team around him. (And just for the record, I thought Joe Buck did a pretty good job last year, especially for his first time.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at the US Open

Finally, the US Open at Oakmont is here! The weather reports -- at least at the time of this writing -- are for rain during the first round, but drying out over the weekend. And on a course as tough as Oakmont, that simply has to influence my picks.

Dustin Johnson

For one thing, it forces me to leave Rory McIlroy out of my "5 to Watch". Between the speed of Oakmont's greens and the weird tilts of the fairways (and no bail-outs), I simply don't think it suits Rory's game. And given that Rory himself seemed less than confident at his presser, I reluctantly leave him out.

There are a number of players who have been playing well and might be able to close the deal this week. In the past, Oakmont has proven to be an equal-opportunity torture track, awarding wins to big hitters and short hitters alike. As a result, I'm mixing it up.
  • I think Jason Day is probably on almost everybody's list of top picks. His game is as good as you could hope for this event, he seems confident, and his win at THE PLAYERS proved he can adapt his game, much as Tiger did at majors. That could be a winning combination this week.
  • Likewise, Jordan Spieth has proven that he can contend on hard fairways and slick greens without his best stuff. But his "stuff" is much better than it was at Augusta, and it's hard to believe he won't find a way to score well at Oakmont -- especially since he can use some sort of driving iron instead of that wayward driver all the time.
  • Dustin Johnson has been quietly having a stellar season so far, posting eight Top10s in 13 starts. Say what you want about his 3-putt on the 18th at Chambers Bay last year, he IS a good putter and has a proven ability to play well at courses like Oakmont... and he's been focused on improving his wedge play this year. It shows.
  • I see no way to exclude Phil Mickelson from this list. He's still playing incredible golf this season, his putter seems to have finally come around, and his six runner-up finishes prove he can play US Open golf, even when he makes poor decisions. Maybe Bones can talk some sense into him this week.
  • And for my flier... another tough decision. There are a number of shorter players who could do well at Oakmont -- Jim Furyk played well here in 2007 (it's a home game for him) and Branden Grace is playing well also, just to name a couple. But I'm going out on a limb and take Luke Donald because his game has been showing marked improvement over the last few months. A tough course like Oakmont may be just what he needs to get over the major hump.
I confess that Lefty is my sentimental favorite this week; I'd love to see him get the career Grand Slam. But I'm going to step out a bit -- you may have guessed this from the photo -- and predict that DJ breaks through to get his first major this week. I just have a feeling that this US Open is going to throw us a curve, and DJ's ability to hit the ball really high seems perfect to take advantage of it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Brooke's Ultra-Flat Driver Swing

Since Brooke Henderson got her first major this past weekend, I thought it might be interesting to take a quick look at that unusual driver swing of hers. This isn't something everybody should try, but understanding why it works might help you improve your own drives.

This video shows her at normal speed, then slowed down. It's less than two minutes long, so you can watch it several times if you need to.

First off, they said Brooke's driver is 47 inches long in this broadcast, 48 inches long this past weekend. It doesn't matter that much; what does matter is WHY Brooke uses a long shaft. She grips down on the shaft two or three inches (she does that with all her clubs) but this allows her to still get the kind of distance off the tee that she would if she held a normal driver at full length while also getting a bit more control.

I'll add an extra thought: The extra shaft at the butt end of the club can help counterweight the club at bit. That would make the clubhead feel a bit lighter, and might help her get a little more clubhead speed.

Kay Cockerill notes that she has a one-piece takeaway. I know I talk this into the ground, but a one-piece takeaway can do more than almost anything else to give you a good swing. If you start your swing well, it's much easier to finish it well. My primary post on how to make a one-piece takeaway is right here, if you need it.

Brooke overswings. So does John Daly. So do a number of good players. Overswinging isn't a problem as long as you can control the club at the top of your backswing. That means you need a stable body position throughout your swing. That's important.

On the way down, Brooke seriously re-routes the club. She really flattens her swing plane on her way down. Kay talks about this in the video. Stop it at the 1:20 mark and you'll see just how much her hands have dropped, way below her trailing shoulder.

Look at how close her trailing elbow is to her side! That's how she manages to pull this off. Brooke is almost making a baseball bat swing, and she's letting her trailing side brace her arm so she can keep the club in position as she turns through the ball. This is mostly a body swing, and her arms don't really swing away from her body much until the ball is long gone.

This swing is so flat that it can be troublesome unless you're hitting the ball off a tee. For comparison, here's a wedge swing from the same tournament. Notice that this swing is more arm-oriented and much more upright. Otherwise she'd hit a lot of fat shots.

Brooke's driver swing is really unique. However, gripping down a bit on the shaft (for better control) and making a one-piece takeaway (to get the club started back on plane) are two things you can definitely copy from the newest Women's PGA champion.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 FedEx St. Jude Classic

Winner: Daniel Berger

Around the wider world of golf: Brooke Henderson got her first major at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship on the LPGA; Ashun Wu won the Lyoness Open on the ET; Bernhard Langer won his third Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship in a row on the Champions Tour -- the first player ever to do so; Max Homa won the Rust-Oleum Championship on the Tour; Dan McCarthy won the GolfBC Championship on the MACKENZIE TOUR - PGA TOUR Canada; Soo-Yun Kang won the Suntory Ladies Open on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details); and Britain & Ireland beat the US 11.5-8.5 in the Curtis Cup.

Daniel Berger

I confess that I didn't watch much of the FedEx St. Jude Classic on Sunday. Between the rain delays that spread from the GC coverage into the CBS coverage, and the event coverage then jumping from CBS to CNBC and then to NBCSN, and then the unexpected shootout between Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson and Ariya Jutanugarn (that became a playoff between Ko and Henderson)... well, the St. Jude just seemed a bit boring.

I'm sure it didn't feel that way to Daniel Berger, however. It was his first time ever in the final pairing, and a lot of analysts speculated that he might have trouble keeping it together -- especially after the rain delays and his bogey on the first hole. But not even the power trio of Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Brooks Koepka could run him down. In fact, in all the times I checked in on the action, I don't ever remember Berger not having at least a share of the lead.

That's pretty stout if you ask me.

Last year's Rookie of the Year had a couple of runner-up finishes under his belt (you might remember that he became friends with Padraig Harrington after Harrington beat him in a playoff at last year's Honda Classic) but he said it felt good to finally get the job done. Especially after Phil gave him some grief during Sunday's rain delay about winning Rookie of the Year without a victory.

I guess Daniel got the last word after all.

In the meantime, I get the last words in today's post. It's that Limerick Summary that he didn't get on the way to winning Rookie of the Year in 2015. Better late than never, that's what I say:
Some thought Daniel wouldn’t be ready
To handle the last group. Instead he
Survived rain delays
And the challenges raised
By Steve, Lefty and Brooks. He stayed steady.
The photo came from the daily wrap-up page at

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Shortsided in a Greenside Bunker

Swing coach Jeff Ritter -- you may have seen him on GC, he's been on several times -- did this tip for getting out of a greenside bunker when you shortside yourself. Here's the link that Golf Digest posted with a verbal summary of the bunker shot, and I've embedded the Instagram video below.

Here's a quick summary of my own:
  • take the most lofted club in your bag
  • open the face
  • grip down so one finger is on the shaft
  • set up with the ball forward in your stance
  • make a short aggressive swing (choking down on the club keeps the ball from traveling too far)
The key here is to avoid decelerating during your downswing. Make an aggressive swing so the ball will get out of the bunker.

I would also point out that, in the video, Ritter is NOT opening his stance. This is something that teachers often disagree about. But the video is pretty clear: As long as you keep your swing speed up and hit an inch or two behind the ball, the sand should throw the ball out whether you open your stance or not. That should simplify your setup a bit!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Karen Stupples in the Trees

The LPGA is playing at Sahalee, which just might be an old Native American word for "lost in the woods." Karen Stupples did this video on getting out of the trees for Morning Drive. She shows two possible options and tells how to pull them off.

Option #1: Just Chip Out
Often this is your best option, simply because it gets you back in play with only one lost shot. (And if you're fortunate, you might even scramble for par.)

You want to keep the ball low to get under the branches. In this video Karen uses a 5-iron, plays the ball back a little in her stance, and makes a short swing. This is basically just a big chip shot -- easy to play, very low risk.

Option #2: Thread the Needle
Some folks believe in what Matt Kuchar says in his Skechers commercial -- the only time you play safe from the trees is when you still live at home with your parents. Karen shows you how to be the hero -- with as little risk as possible.

A very important strategy note here: Karen says the trees are about ten feet apart in this video BUT you have to consider how low the branches are nearly 60 yards ahead. Those limbs are the big consideration here.

She's using the 5-iron again, as well as an old favorite trick of Jack Nicklaus to aim: She picks a spot about a foot or so ahead of her ball, on the line she wants to hit the ball. That's where she aims the face of her club. And note that she isn't worried about what her feet are doing, just where the clubface is aimed.

The ball is back in her stance again; in the video, it's nearly back in front of the big toe of her trailing foot. She grips down on the shaft, for extra control. And again, she makes a short swing -- in this case, it's more like a pitching swing (call it a half-swing). She said hers went about 80 yards... and you can guess it rolled quite a bit to get there.

So there you have it -- a safe shot and a hero shot. Choose your escape route from the trees based on how high a score you're willing to tolerate if you goof up.

Friday, June 10, 2016

A Couple of Link Fixes

I'm updating the security on my website and, in the meantime, I discovered a couple of glitches both there and in this blog.
  • The My Smashwords author page link in the orange box above the posts was linked to the wrong page. I have no idea how it happened, as I thought I tested it when I first put it up. Anyway, it goes to the list of my golf books at Smashwords now, the way it should have in the first place. (I bet some of you got really confused when you ended up at Will Shakespeare's page!)
  • And the new security caused some unexpected conflicts at the website. For all practical purposes, that site is unusable for the near future. I was able to work around most of it -- and you'll never know the difference -- EXCEPT for the links Ruthless Putting purchasers could use to get the free Ruthless Chipping booklet. I've created a new Ruthless Chipping page where you folks can go and download it without problems. That link is in the yellow block to the right of the posts, and will remain active until I come up with a workable solution to the problem.
So that's where we are for now. Hopefully you guys won't have any further trouble with them.

Inbee Park Qualifies for the LPGA Hall of Fame

In case you missed it yesterday, Inbee Park qualified for the LPGA Hall of Fame when she finished her first round at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship.

Michael Whan congratulates Inbee after her round

Here is what says are the criteria for the LPGA Hall of Fame.
Active players:
To qualify for entrance into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame, members of the LPGA Tour, who were active in 1998 and going forward, must meet the criteria outlined below. An LPGA Tour member who was active prior to 1998 and has since been inactive for more than five years would be eligible for the Veteran's Category. Entrance to the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame is limited to LPGA Tour members who meet the following criteria:
  1. Must be/have been an "active" LPGA Tour member for 10 years
  2. Must have won/been awarded at least one of the following - an LPGA major championship, the Vare Trophy or Rolex Player of the Year honors; and
  3. Must have accumulated a total of 27 points, which are awarded as follows - one point for each LPGA official tournament win, two points for each LPGA major tournament win and one point for each Vare Trophy or Rolex Player of the Year honor earned.
Inbee got her 27th point when she won the Vare (scoring) Trophy for the second time at the end of last year. All she needed to do then was get ten seasons with ten starts, which she did Thursday. She is only the 24th player to qualify, and at age 27 she's the youngest to do so.

Here is the 15 minute press conference she did after she finished her round and was greeted by Mike Whan, Se Ri Pak, Annika, and all the other well-wishers:

Of course, now the speculation will start. While Inbee intends to finish this major and try to win it, which would make her fourth time in a row (that would be three successful title defenses!), apparently her thumb injury can only be healed through rest. Will she play in the International Crown or the Olympics? Will she consider retiring completely to start a family?

Personally, I don't think she'll retire. At the very least, I think she wants to win the Evian and shut up her critics. As for the Crown and Olympics... those are probably up in the air, depending on how quickly her thumb heals.

But I'm sure she'll take some time to celebrate this accomplishment. Congratulations on achieving a dream that few ever manage, Inbee!!!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Patrick Reed on Bombing It

Golf Digest did a short post about how Patrick Reed hits it so long. The post simply tells you to tee the ball higher -- but not too high, so you don't change how your swing bottoms out -- and aim a bit right (for a right-hander). Doesn't sound particularly impressive, does it?

Patrick Reed

But the really cool thing is the 16+ minute video interview with Patrick they posted on their Facebook page. (There are a lot of comments on it as well.)

Here's the video. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at the SENIOR PLAYERS

Yesterday it was the LPGA major, today the Champions Tour major. The Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship is the third major in four weeks for the old guys -- which could be an advantage, depending on how you look at things. If you're in a groove, you want the big events to happen while you're rocking the field. Bernhard Langer is the defending champion.

The Philadelphia Cricket Club

The Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship is being held at the Philadelphia Cricket Club in Flourtown, Pennsylvania. (That's near Philadelphia.) It was founded in 1854 and it's the oldest country club in the US, although golf courses weren't added until the late 1890s. The US Open was hosted there in 1907 and 1910, so there's some serious history here.

And who do I think might add their name to that history?
  • How can I not put Bernhard Langer on this list? With one major (the Regions Tradition) already this season? On a par-70 course that's just over 7000 yards? With his game? This venue is practically begging him to win here!
  • Colin Montgomerie was runner-up just two weeks ago at the Senior PGA. Like Bernhard, I think this course is right up his alley. Monty's trademark has always been accuracy, not length, and he's been playing well on northern US courses this season, so this one should suit him.
  • Got to give Billy Andrade a nod for this one. After a T5 at the Senior PGA and a T2 last week, he's on form to get his first major.
  • Can Rocco Mediate add another major to his Senior PGA? Why not? After a lackluster season, Rocco got that win and backed it up with a T6 at Principal last week. The Rock is streaky, but I'm thinking his streak may continue.
  • And my flier... this is a tough one. But I'm really gonna fly with this one and take Fred Funk. Why Fred, when he doesn't have a single Top10 this season? I've looked at his stats and they aren't really that bad. I'm guessing that Fred will get a boost from his son Taylor's play in the NCAA tournament. He said he had learned from his son; let's see just how much he learned.
Clearly I would take Bernhard Langer if I had to take just one of these guys. He's probably in the best form of anyone and I know he'll come ready to play.

But then, I thought he'd win the Senior PGA too...

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at the KPMG Women's PGA

We have two majors this week -- the KPMG Women's PGA Championship on the LPGA and the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship on the Champions Tour. Today I'll take on the LPGA.

The KPMG Women's PGA Championship will be held at Sahalee Country Club near Seattle, Washington, which is a very densely wooded course that has given the men problems several times. Sahalee has hosted a PGA Championship, a WGC and a Senior US Open -- and that doesn't even include the amateur events.

One of the holes at Sahalee

Although Inbee Park is the defending champion, it's really hard to pick her since I don't know whether her hand has healed enough that she can play. Consequently she doesn't show up on my list.

Likewise, Lydia Ko seems to be in a bit of a funk right now, despite having won the last two majors. While a course like this would seem to be custom-made for a game like hers, I can't help feeling that she's going to be a bit off this week. So -- although I may regret it -- Lydia doesn't make my list either.

I'm also leaving Lexi Thompson and Stacy Lewis off my list. Lexi's putting has been inconsistent and Stacy's problems have been well-documented. So who, you may wonder, DOES make my list?
  • My first pick is Ariya Jutanugarn. With three straight wins in her last three starts, you have to like her chances. That 3-wood of hers is plenty to get her around Sahalee... and she's deadly with it.
  • I also like Haru Nomura. She's a multiple winner this year and is in the Top5 of several stats, plus she's coming off a runner-up finish last week.
  • Mo Martin generally doesn't make my faves list because she's not even an average-length hitter off the tee. However, she leads the LPGA in Driving Accuracy at 87.5% and she can shape shots pretty well. I'm thinking that might be a valuable stat to lead this week!
  • Gerina Piller just keeps hanging around the top of the leaderboard each week. Eventually she's got to break through, and Sahalee is likely to provide us with an unexpected winner. Why not her?
  • And my flier is Christina Kim. After a lot of struggles she seems to have found something, having posted a 2nd and a 4th in her last two events.
But if I had to pick just one, I think I'd go with Haru Nomura this week. She's 5th in Scoring Average, 2nd in Birdies and 4th in Putting for the season, and she seems to be in form after that 2nd at ShopRite. Those could add up to her first major this week.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Memorial Tournament

Winner: William McGirt

Around the wider world of golf: Matthew Fitzpatrick won the Nordea Masters on the ET; Anna Nordqvist defended her title at the Shoprite LPGA Classic on the LPGA; Jackie Stoelting won the Fuccillo Kia Championship on the Symetra Tour; Scott McCarron won the Principal Charity Classic on the Champions Tour; Dominic Bozzelli won the inaugural Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship on the Tour; Adam Cornelson won the Bayview Place Island Savings Open on the MACKENZIE TOUR - PGA TOUR Canada; Alex Kang won the Cadillac Championship on the PGA TOUR China; Yosuke Tsukada won the JGT Championship Mori Building Cup on the Japan Tour; and Porani Chutichai won the Yonex Ladies Golf Tournament on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Will McGirt with Jack Nicklaus and trophy

I love to see Carolina boys do well. And Will McGirt was born in North Carolina and lives in South Carolina, so he's got both Carolinas covered.

Because of that, you probably won't be surprised to know that I've been following Will's career for a while, just waiting for him to break through and get that first win. Little did I suspect that it would come at Jack's Place -- but maybe I should have. Will is the third first-timer in a row to get it done at the Memorial.

But on a day when the winds hit 15-25mph after a weather delay, Will said he won the way Jack did -- by just watching his opponents self-destruct and fall away. He hit one birdie and 19 pars to win in a two-hole playoff over Jon Curran, whose first win likely won't be far behind Will's.

Much has been made of Tiger's advice to Will that he should watch the leaderboard, which he said he did at every chance he had Sunday, but in the end it was the sum total of his 164 previous starts that taught him everything he needed to know. As reported:
"The few times I've been in this position, everything sped up, but I learned what my tendencies were," McGirt said. "So I knew starting today I needed to walk as slow as I possibly could all day long. And the same thing on my golf swing, I knew I needed to try to swing as slow as I possibly could. It's just been years and years of practice and getting your nose bloodied and learning from it."
And it all came together at a place he loves. What a storybook ending!

In the meantime Will gets to celebrate his first win with $1.5mil, a 3-year Tour exemption, a ticket to next year's Masters... and his very first Limerick Summary. Some guys have all the luck!
Will’s hundred and sixty-fifth start
Showcased wisdom that set him apart
From the Will of the past.
So his breakthrough, at last,
Came at Jack’s, a place close to his heart.
The photo came from the tournament upshot page at

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Just How Much Exercise Do You Need?

In case you aren't abreast of the latest trend in fitness science, let me bring you up-to-date. Athletes have been using interval training for decades, but the new scientific evidence is turning things upside down.

Many scientists now believe you can get as much good from one minute of exercise as you can from 45 minutes' worth. That's right, I said ONE MINUTE.

Female runner

I think that's just a bit misleading. In fact, you're working out for more than one minute... but it's broken down into three or more intense spurts of hard work, with a few minutes of much easier exercise in-between. Still, we're talking about cutting your workout time by a factor of three or more. Wouldn't you like to cram that 30-minute running or cycling workout into only 7 minutes or so?

Here are links to a couple of articles on the New York Times website that will help you understand what's going on:
  • The first is a general overview of the new research called 1 Minute of All-Out Exercise May Have Benefits of 45 Minutes of Moderate Exertion. Again, I think that title's a bit misleading but the article does explain things pretty well. Read this one first to get a handle on the new paradigm.
  • The other article is called Really, Really Short Workouts and it has links to a number of different ways you can try this new approach to interval training. There are 10-minute, 7-minute, 4-minute and 10-20-30 second (yes, you read that correctly) training programs, among other types. Think of this as a grab bag of possibilities.
Before you run out and try any of these workouts, you need to understand that these are STRESSFUL workouts. The shorter the workout, the closer to all-out effort you need to expend. That means you should probably see a doctor first, especially before you try the shortest workouts. High-intensity interval training -- which several of your favorite pros are already using -- is challenging and takes a lot of concentration.

You just don't have to concentrate for quite as long, that's all. And for some of us, that may be all it takes to get us working out more -- uh, less.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Which Is More Important... Swing Path or Clubface Angle?

Lately I've been seeing more commercials for training aids that focus on your plane. I won't name them, and I'm not saying that they're of no use. But amazing claims are being made for some of them -- how much they will help your game, that is -- and I'm shocked at just how little thought is being given to what's really important in a golf swing.

In this post I want to focus on what will improve your game more quickly than this obsession with plane.

While there are a number of variables that can affect ball flight and shot shape, the most important are swing path and clubface angle. Swing path is the primary source of sidespin on the ball, and clubface angle is the primary source of aim.

And it really bugs me that so much emphasis is being placed on swing path, which is basically the same as your plane, and so little on clubface angle. Think about this for a moment:
  • When you see a pro hit a double cross -- they mean to hit a fade but end up hitting a pull-hook -- the problem is clubface angle, not plane.
  • When you see a pro get stuck -- they swing the club on too much of an in-to-out path -- and they either push-slice the ball or snap-hook it, the problem is still clubface angle more than plane. I'll explain this apparent contradiction in a moment.
In both cases, had the clubface been aimed properly at impact, the ball would have likely ended up somewhere close to the pro's intended target. Why is this so?

As I said, the swing path creates sidespin. BUT -- and this is important -- regardless of which way the ball is spinning, whether the ball is hooking, slicing, or flying straight, the ball will always land on a line straight in front of where the clubface is aimed. After the ball hits the ground, the sidespin will cause it to bounce in the direction the ball is spinning -- for example, a hooking ball will get a "ground hook". But unless you've put a huge amount of sidespin on the ball, it won't hook too dramatically after it hits the ground.

In the double cross, the swing path is the same for the correct swing as for the faulty swing. But since the clubface is closed relative to the flight path, the ball hooks. Had the clubface been properly aimed at the target, it would have been OPEN relative to the flight path and the ball would have sliced.

And while the plane is incorrect when the pro gets stuck -- the pro made an in-to-out swing when he or she intended a straight or out-to-in path -- the ball would have flown toward the target if the clubface had been aimed correctly. If the ball was a push-slice, the face was open relative to the target line; if the ball was a snap-hook, the face was closed relative to the target line.

So I think that when you make a shot, your primary goal should be to make sure the clubface is aimed where you want the ball to land. When the ball hits the ground it will bounce in the direction of its sidespin, so you want to allow for the ball to bounce that way after it hits. If you mean to hit a fade but your swing path is wrong and you end up hitting a draw, the ball will still hit the ground where you planned if your clubface is aimed correctly. The ball will just move a little farther sideways away from the pin than you intended... but it should still be in play.

I did a post on clubface awareness a couple of months back, and I included a video from Martin Hall where he explained clubface awareness. Here's a still I snagged from that video, where Martin put a glove on his trailing hand and drew a clubface to help you imagine where the face was pointing and how you should move your hand to get the face square to your target.

Clubface orientation drawn on glove

How do you improve your clubface awareness? My suggestion is to practice it on the range. Start with a chipping stroke -- no wrist cock. Take the club back so the shaft is parallel with the ground, then try to square the clubface at impact. Don't make a huge exaggeration with your swing; I'd suggest trying to get the clubface square about six inches before impact, and try to keep it square until it's about three inches past the ball.

A quick side note: I'm not crazy. That's only nine inches, and I know you won't be able to be that exact. But that's enough to get you thinking about squaring the clubface without altering your swing in some bizarre way. Unless you've been twisting your forearms a lot when you swing, this should be enough to get you "thinking square." If you HAVE been twisting your forearms too much, this should help you quiet them down.

Now, as I was saying, start with a chipping stroke. Once you can do that pretty well, add a little bit of wrist cock. DON'T make the swing longer, just add a little wrist cock. When you can hit that pretty well, make your full wrist cock on this short swing. Are you with me so far?

When you can hit that short shot pretty well -- and try mixing up your practice, with varying amounts of wrist cock -- when you can hit that shot pretty well, try a longer chipping backswing (maybe with your forearms parallel to the ground) without any wrist cock. Work through all three levels of wrist cock with this backswing.

Then try all three levels of wrist cock at a three-quarter swing. Once you get that trio of shots down, you should be able to make reasonably square contact with a full swing.

REMEMBER: If you want to really improve your shotmaking, then you want to work on getting your clubface square at impact. If you want, you can work on your plane also; there's nothing wrong with that. But time spent developing clubface awareness will give you quicker results in less time.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Jordan Spieth's Heart Array Drill

Golf Digest posted this video from Jordan's coach Cameron McCormick demonstrating the "Heart Array" drill. It's a simple concept -- hit six shot shapes that, if you show the flight traces all together, form a heart pattern. And you try to hit the six shapes in as few shots as you can.

Just take a look at the video. It'll all make sense.

The instructions are pretty clear, but I snagged this still from the video; it shows the three ball positions for the various shots. Please note that halfway between Cameron's heels -- the middle of his stance -- is the gap between the back and middle balls. That means the middle ball for the normal (middle trajectory) shot is just ahead of center. It may not work out exactly that way for your swing, but it gives you an idea what position to start with.

The three ball positions you use for the drill

It may make you feel better to note that Cameron wasn't able to do the drill very easily either. Just take a look at the traces for his shots as he demonstrates them! You may find it easier to start with just focusing on the fade and draw using the middle ball position -- as he suggests near the end of the video -- and then try to increase the amount of sideways movement. Then you can move on to the varied trajectories.

If nothing else, it will be a good way to break up your normal practice routine with a drill that feels more like a game.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Ducks Paddle Their Way to Victory

Congrats to the University of Oregon Ducks on their victory in the NCAA Division 1 Men’s National Championship! Look at the photo -- do you think Oregon Coach (and former PGA Tour player) Casey Martin is a bit excited?

Casey Martin and his Ducks go wild

This is the first-ever golf championship for the Ducks, who join the University of Washington women as first-time winners. (Remember, the Huskies took the women's title last week.) And the Ducks doubled up when their top player, Aaron Wise, won the Individual title on Monday -- another first for the school.

Sometimes fairy tales do come true...

The photo came from this page at