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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

My "5 to Watch" at the KPMG

It's time once again for me to pick my "5 to Watch" at a major. This will be a busy week, however, with two majors to pick. Later this week I'll be picking for the US Senior Open.

Today I pick the KPMG Women's PGA Championship. Brooke Henderson is the defending champion.

Brooke Henderson with the 2016 KPMG trophy

As usual, Tony Jesselli has a preview of the event which you can access via this link. Tony and his wife also plan to attend this week, so they'll be posting pics as the week goes on.

The big story, as Tony points out, is that we will once again see the Rolex #1 ranking up for grabs -- this week by four players. So Yeon Ryu took that spot with her win in Arkansas last week, but Ariya Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson can all potentially usurp her authority with a win this week.

Which brings me to my "5 to Watch." Ironically, neither Ariya nor Lydia make my picks at this major. The fact that Ariya hasn't played in the last couple of events bothers me. I can't shake the feeling that that there's an injury of some sort involved, although I've heard nothing to substantiate that. As for Lydia, I simply don't think she's quite got her new swing working on all cylinders yet. (Ask me again at the US Women's Open in a couple of weeks.)

Olympia Fields, the course for this major, is a long one (for the LPGA) clocking in at nearly 6600 yards. But as we saw with Brian Harman's performance at Erin Hills, length in and of itself isn't the determinant that so many believe it is. I'm keeping that in mind with my picks.
  • So Yeon Ryu was my pick to win the ANA back in March, which she did. And then she became the first two-time winner of the season last week in Arkansas. Her game has been magnificent all year. To be blunt, I'm not stupid. I'm putting her on my list again.
  • Lexi Thompson also makes my list this time. We can argue whether Lexi would have won the ANA had it not been for that ridiculous ruling that cost her four shots. (I'm not blaming the LPGA, they had to make the ruling. But that doesn't mean the rule they had to enforce wasn't ridiculous.) I think Lexi feels she's owed a major, and I expect her to play like it this week. I just hope she doesn't try so hard she gets in her own way.
  • Michelle Wie was my flier at the ANA, but she's no longer a flier pick. Her growing consistency this season makes her a solid pick on any course, but I think the critical aspect is that she clearly believes she can win now. I firmly expect her to have a chance at one of this summer's majors, and I see no reason that this one couldn't be it.
  • Likewise, Stacy Lewis is well on the road to the winner's circle again. Had it not been for So Yeon's 61 on Saturday last week, Stacy could have gotten her first win in three years. With her game in shape, teeing it up at her sponsor's major, I have to think that she (like Wie) is finally in a good place to make a run at another major.
  • And for my flier... wow, this is a tough one. I can think of several players who are playing well enough to take that extra step this week. But I'm going for someone who already has a major -- Mo Martin. Mo is probably the shortest hitter on the LPGA, but she's been playing some really good golf this season. Just call it the Harman Effect -- as accurate as she is, all she needs is one hot week of putting to grab her second major.
But in the end, my pick is a no-brainer. I have to pick So Yeon Ryu again. It's possible that she'll have a letdown this week, but even her bad weeks are generally Top10s. I like her chances to go 2-for-2 this season.

Since this is a major, GC (and NBC over the weekend) will give it some serious live coverage. GC's coverage starts Thursday at 12:30pm ET.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 Travelers Championship

Winner: Jordan Spieth

Around the wider world of golf: So Yeon Ryu set a few records as she became the LPGA's first two-time winner this season at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship; Andres Romero won the BMW International Open on the ET; Fred Couples won the American Family Insurance Championship on the Champions Tour; Adam Schenk won the Lincoln Land Charity Championship on the Web.com Tour; Emma Talley got her first Symetra Tour win at the weather-shortened Island Resort Championship; and as I mentioned yesterday, Harry Ellis won the British Amateur Championship.

Jordan Spieth and Michael Greller go nuts after hole-out from bunker

It's been a long time since someone won the Travelers Championship in their first try -- that was Phil Blackmar way back in 1985. And Jordan Spieth did his best to avoid breaking that record.

But somehow, in the midst of spraying his drives all over the place, he managed to tie or set some other records and give himself a chance to win after all.

Of course, he couldn't do it the easy way. Oh, no. He struggled to separate himself from his fellow competitors. I don't mean Boo Weekley or Patrick Reed, the early challengers, or even Charley Hoffman and Danny Lee, who managed to post just short of Spieth's score. He managed to elude those pursuers fairly well.

No, I mean Daniel Berger, who defended his title at the FedEx St. Jude just a couple of weeks back and said that he felt he should at least be mentioned in the talk about Jordan.

Well, he got his point across Sunday. Jordan could feel the Bergermeister breathing down his neck in the closing holes, and it took a well-played scramble from the sand at 18 just to get him into a playoff with Daniel.

Of course, as Daniel himself put it, "Jordan does Jordan things" and that's just what he did in the playoff, holing out an unbelievable long bunker shot for birdie and leaving Berger with a long, long, LONG birdie putt just to tie.

Needless to say, it didn't fall. Jordan snagged his second win of the season (his first was the AT&T, in case you've forgotten) and even seemed a bit embarrassed about it. As he said himself:
"If I was in Berger's shoes, I'd be cursing Jordan Spieth right now for the break off the tee and then holing a 30-yard bunker shot. That's a lot of luck."
But instead, Daniel tweeted that he just hoped, in a few weeks, to be chest-bumping Jordan the way caddie Michael Greller did. And he probably will, as his runner-up finish likely made him a lock for the Presidents Cup team.

In the meantime, Jordan Spieth snags another Limerick Summary -- and another record, becoming the first player ever to get ten of them before his 24th birthday. (Tiger may have gotten to ten wins quicker than Jordan, but I wasn't writing Limerick Summaries back then!)
Jordan's fairway play wasn't so grand
So he played his best shots from the sand—
First a sandie to tie,
Then a hole-out. That's why
He's on top… it's just not HOW he planned.
The photo came from the tournament page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

When It Starts Going Bad...

It's happened to all of us. We've got a good round going but something goes wrong. Suddenly it all goes spinning wildly out of control and all we can do is panic as the round goes to hell.

That's what happened to Dylan Perry in the finals of the British Amateur on Saturday. Although Harry Ellis played a steady back nine, Perry had roughly five chances to put Ellis away but simply couldn't do it.

Harry Ellis with British Amateur trophy

Here's the deal: When they stepped onto the 34th tee, Perry was three up with three to play. I couldn't find the scorecards online but, as best I can tell, Perry went bogey-bogey-bogey in regulation, then bogey-double to lose on the 38th hole. On those same holes Ellis made five pars... and walked away with the British Amateur trophy.

I'm not going to criticize Dylan Perry. As I said, we've all been there, and Perry is just 22 years old and was trying to become only the third Australian to ever win this title. I agree with Golf Digest's article when they said "...he handled what had to have been a tough defeat with a grace beyond his tender years." As Perry said (also quoted in Golfweek's article):
“I’m pretty bummed, but at the end of the day you’ve got to take the positives out of the week. I played well all day, and down the stretch that’s what pressure does to some people. It just wasn’t meant to be, but congratulations to Harry. He played well down the stretch so good on him.”
Hopefully he'll be able to put this behind him quickly and get some more positive results under his belt. Because even though he lost, a lot of players would have been thrilled just to be runner-up in the British Amateur.

When it starts going bad, sometimes you just suck it up and remember that life goes on. That's something we all need to remember.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Sean Foley on Guided Visualization (Video)

Golf Digest calls this new Sean Foley video Why Your Practice Sessions Aren't Working. But it's actually about a concept called guided visualization. Here, take a look:



Yeah, I know what you're thinking... and you're right. Sometimes "Seanspeak" gets a bit confusing. But here's the basic idea:

I originally heard about this type of research being done on prisoners of war who had survived their imprisonment. In order to keep from going crazy, many of them began to mentally play sports they had played before their imprisonment -- for example, a tennis player may have imagined playing an entire 5-set match. And when they were finally released and able to play again, they found that their play had actually improved because of the visualization.

Now you need to understand that they weren't just imagining a match. They were imagining each individual stroke, each individual sprint to the net, even each fall when they lunged for a save. They imagined what a stroke felt like -- which muscles were used, the effort it took to sprint to the shot, the motion of their arms as they swung the racket, and so on. In a way, they actually performed and felt every shot in every set.

This is what Sean is talking about. But since you have the range available to you -- since you can literally perform and feel every shot you imagine -- he's suggesting that you visualize the shot you want to practice. It doesn't matter that the range isn't actually the fairway bunker you're going to hit the ball from (to use his example in the video). What matters is that you imagine the details of making that particular shot as you make a physical swing motion, and swing the club as if you were actually hitting that sand shot.

Yes, it all sounds kind of touchy-feely, but it's a scientifically verified phenomenon. You can even do this in your backyard, without hitting any balls but still swinging a club. What Sean is recommending here is combining visualization with actual physical practice, in order to get the benefits of both. And it just might help you break through some of the roadblocks you face in your game.

It's all about conscious purposeful practice. Never practice mindlessly.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Oh -- THERE'S Jordan's Putter!

For weeks now, we've heard Jordan Spieth answer questions about his game. "I'm hitting it pretty good," he'd say, "but I'm just not making any putts."

Well, now we know why. Some idiot took his putter to Connecticut. Who knew?

Jordan lines up a putt

The PGA Tour has asked their players to each play in one new tournament each year, to try and help the events that don't normally draw the big names. And because so many of the regular cast of attendees spoke highly of the event, Jordan and several other big names like Jason Day and Rory McIlroy decided to give it a whirl.

So in his first appearance at the Travelers Championship, Jordan promptly moved to the front of the pack with a 63, which is -7 at the TPC River Highlands course. And given that the greens there are poa annua, which isn't one of Jordan's favorite grasses to putt on... well, you've got to think that Jordan is liking that New England hospitality.

Jordan goes out early this morning, and the conditions are usually better in the morning wave at the Travelers, so maybe we'll get some idea whether Jordan really found his putter or just a very convincing imitation. But the fans are going to be thrilled no matter what happens and, based on what Jordan, Rory and Jason have said, Travelers scored pretty well themselves. It sounds like some of the big names may consider adding this event to their regular schedule.

And that's just what the PGA Tour was hoping for.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Can Stacy Get It Done This Time?

First, a quick note of congratulation to Omar Uresti for his win at the PGA Professional Championship. For those of you who don't recognize the name, Omar was a PGA Tour player for many years -- he made 351 starts, in fact -- but he never won. That doesn't mean he has never won a pro tournament; he has five other wins -- two on the then-Nationwide (now Web.com) Tour, one on the Sunshine Tour, one on the Canadian Tour, and most recently he won the 2015 Southern Texas PGA Championship as a teaching pro. But he was runner-up in this event a year ago, and now he's got the title. Way to go, Omar!

This week the LPGA tees it up in the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, where Lydia Ko is the defending champion.. As usual, Tony Jesselli has a preview of the event, so you can get the necessary numbers and stats from him. I'll just point out the storylines I think are most interesting this week.

Ai Miyazato

First of all, Ai Miyazato fans will want to tune is, as this is Ai's first appearance since she announced her impending retirement. Ai's last LPGA win came at this event in 2012, so it's a place with good memories for her. I'll be interested to see how she does, as she seems to be at peace with her decision and that may free her up to play well here again.

The defending champ is looking for her first win this season. Many of Lydia's stats say she is playing better -- better even than last year, when she won five times around the world. But her best this year has been a T2 at the LOTTE, and that has allowed Ariya Jutanugarn to take over the top spot in the Rolex Rankings. With Ariya out of the picture this year (Tony says she is no longer scheduled to play), perhaps Lydia can finally make up some ground.

But the biggest question is whether Stacy Lewis can finally get back into the win column this week. Stacy went to school in Arkansas, as you all know, and this event has a strange distinction in her career. It was her first pro win -- she won the very first playing of this event back in 2007 as an amateur, but her win doesn't count as an official tournament because it was weather-shortened to 18 holes. And her last win also came at this event, in 2014.

For so many reasons, it would be appropriate if Stacy got her next win at this event, this week.

After a number of four-round tournaments, the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship is only a 54-hole event. The broadcasts start Friday on GC at 6:30pm ET. With so many potential storylines, even beyond the three I've mentioned, it should be a good show.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Raymond Floyd on Understanding Angles

I think that Ray Floyd is one of the most underestimated strategists to have played the game. Here's a short section from his book The Elements of Scoring, where he talks about the importance of understanding angles.
Scorers know the most efficient route to get around a golf course. The key to keeping the ball in play and leaving the easiest possible shot is in understanding angles.

Off the tee, take into account what your shot pattern is, and what side of the fairway it's best to be on. If the trouble is on the left, or you simply want to come into the green from the right, tee up on the left side of the tee. If the situation is the opposite, tee on the right.

Generally, faders and slicers should hit from the right side of the tee, while drawers and hookers should start on the left. The idea is to give your curve the widest sweep possible to get in the fairway.

On par 3s, give yourself the angle that gives you the most landing area on the green. If you're shooting at the pin, in general you should tee the ball up on the side opposite the area of the green where it's cut. The idea is to open up the green, expanding the size of the safe landing area on the putting surface.

Angles are increasingly important the shorter and lower you hit the ball. If you are this kind of player, you can't carry trouble as well and will have to make use of openings between bunkers and hazards to roll up onto the green. Also, because your approach doesn't land as softly and carry as much spin as a player who hits it higher and farther, you need more room to stop the ball. Play your tee shots to create the angle that will give you the most green to shoot to, and try to avoid approaches that force you to carry a bunker to a tightly cut pin. Whenever possible, know where on the green the pin is cut before hitting your tee shot.

The final angles are around the green. Unless you are particularly adept at the quick-stopping lob shot, make an effort to avoid missing the green on the side closest to the pin. This is called "getting shortsided." Favor the wide side, from which the recovery is easier because you have more green to play to. (p52-53)
As you can see, Raymond doesn't mince words; he just lays it out there clearly.

I recommend his book, simply because it's fairly compact and gets right to the point. The paperback is still in print so if you're interested in checking out, here's the link to Ray's book on Amazon. And no, I don't make any money if you order one. I just happen to think it's one of the better strategy books you can get.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Improve Your Chances of Getting Out of the Rough

It figures. Golf Digest did an article on getting out of the rough after the US Open. (I can think of some big names who could have used this earlier...) This article is pretty detailed so you'll want to read it all, but I'll give you the high points. (Rough, high points... get it?)

Phil making some rough calculations

First of all, ignore the yardage and take a club that will actually get the ball out of the rough. Obviously you don't want to hit the ball into a hazard because it didn't travel far enough, but neither do you want to leave it in the rough because it didn't travel at all!

Bill Schmedes III (the instructor featured in this article) also says you need to move the ball back in your stance at address. He specifically says "an inch and a half." It's nice when a teacher gives you a specific number. I suppose he means an inch and a half back of your normal ball position for the club you choose, not just an inch and a half back of center.

Coupled with the ball position change, he says to aim more to the right (for a rightie; more to the left for a leftie) because the rough will likely grab your club and cause a hook.

Finally he says to make sure you hit down on the ball. If you try to help it up, you'll come in too shallow and get too much grass between the ball and clubface. He has a short list of things that might help you do this more easily; you'll want to read the article and see which one will help you the most.

While few of us have to deal with fescue, thick rough is just a fact of life. This article should give you some tools -- and some hope -- for the next time you end up there.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 US Open

Winner: Brooks Koepka

Around the wider world of golf: Brooke Henderson won the Meijer LPGA Classic on the LPGA; Aaron Wise won the Air Capital Classic on the Web.com Tour; Robby Shelton won the GolfBC Championship on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada; Jared Wolfe won the BMW Jamaica Classic on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Chorphaka Jaengkit won the Decatur-Forsyth Classic on the Symetra Tour; Nicholas Fung won the Queen’s Cup on the Asian Tour; and Teresa Lu won the Nichirei Ladies on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Brooks Koepka hoists US Open trophy

While the announcers kept talking about how Brooks had only one PGA Tour win, Brooks actually had a fairly large number of pro wins before Sunday. He had one on the ET, one on the Japan Tour, four on the Challenge Tour (the ET's version of the Web.com Tour) and, of course, one PGA Tour win. That's a total of SEVEN professional wins from all over the world, in all kinds of conditions.

Add in his 2016 Ryder Cup appearance, and it's pretty clear that Brooks Koepka was much more prepared to win a major than most folks believed.

It's that worldwide experience that gave him the tools he needed on Sunday. Everybody will focus on Brooks's prodigious length off the tee, but it might surprise you to learn that his length wasn't as important as most think. I pulled up the US Open stats for Brooks, runner-up Hideki Matsuyama and third-place finisher Brian Harman for comparison. (In case you don't know, weekly stats are available for all players in PGA Tour events by clicking their names on the leaderboard and choosing the "Full Scorecard" option.)

What I found is eye-opening. While the Driving Distance stat did show Brooks as the longest, it wasn't as great an advantage as you might think. For the week, Brooks averaged 322 yards, Hideki 308 and Brian 296. However, the telling stats are Driving Accuracy and GIR. For the week, it looked like this (the numbers in parentheses are their rankings in the field):
  • Harmon -- DA 80.36% (T22), GIR 77.78% (T7)
  • Hideki -- DA 76.79% (T37) , GIR 66.67% (T40)
  • Brooks -- DA 87.50% (T4), GIR 86.11% (1)
As you can see, it was Brooks's accuracy and not his length that gave him the advantage. And if you look at Sunday's stats in particular, it's easy to see why Brooks won. In GIR, Brooks hit 94.44% while Hideki could only manage 66.67% and Brian 77.78%. And Driving Accuracy was even worse, with Brooks averaging 85.71% while Hideki merely matched him and Brian hit only 57.14% of his fairways.

Brooks Koepka didn't bludgeon Erin Hills into submission as we expected the bombers to do. Rather, he picked and plotted his way around the course -- something the favorites who didn't make the cut failed to do. Such thoughtful execution of his plan deserves at least an equally thoughtful Limerick Summary.

Unfortunately, he'll have to make do with this one!
Wisconsin winds came up at last
And the battle to see who would last
Pushed the boys to extremes…
But then Brooks hit the greens
At a rate that could not be surpassed.
The photo came from the tournament page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Meanwhile, Elsewhere in the Midwest...

Let's take a break from the rumors of rain and the thunderclap of Justin Thomas's 3-wood to check out the LPGA event. The Meijer LPGA Classic is being held in Michigan -- just on the other side of Lake Michigan from Wisconsin -- and they DID get a lot of rain. The flooding was bad enough that the par-5 fifth had to be converted to a par-3 for the third round!

That didn't seem to dampen Lexi's spirits any. She has moved to the lead after her T2 (playoff loss) at the Manulife last week.

Lexi Thompson

There was a 2-hour delay during Saturday's round, and the soft conditions made the US Open scoring look like a traditional Open. Lexi shot one of the many 64s that were carded, getting her to a 54-hole score of -15. But the four players tied for second (one stroke back) made some noise of their own:
  • Lee-Anne Pace carded a 61
  • Sung Hyun Park carded a 62
  • Jenny Shin carded a 63
  • Brooke Henderson must have felt like a snail after carding only a 67 (she had the lead by two when the day began)
Hyo Joo Kim is alone in sixth at -12 after a 65. And among the players tied for seventh at -11, both Michelle Wie and Lydia Ko shot 64s.

Lydia's score in particular interests me, simply because when Ariya Jutanugarn took over the Rolex #1 spot last week, she only had a .44 lead -- less than half a point. Ariya is only two shots back but, because the leaderboard is so crowded, that puts her all the way back at T18. I don't know exactly how the points get doled out, but it seems to me that Lydia can narrow the gap a lot with a good finish today.

If you decide to catch up on the LPGA before you watch the PGA Tour, GC coverage will begin at 11am ET and run till 3pm ET. That means you'll still have plenty of time to watch the leaders tee off on FOX's US Open coverage, as Stephan Jaeger and Shane Lowry tee off at 11:08am ET... and they're both part of the group at T51.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

How Your Lead Shoulder Affects Your Chipping

I know that sounds like a strange title but bear with me. This post may help you dramatically improve your chipping!

In late May I did a post called Dealing with Conflicting Wedge Advice. Recently Dana left a comment on that post asking about an article he read on "side-saddle chipping" and how it compared to the pop stroke I described in Ruthless Putting. (For those of you who haven't read the book, I devoted a chapter to Bobby Jones's pop putting stroke and noted that Jones also used it for chipping.)

I found the article at golf.com. It's by Stacy Lewis's coach Joe Hallett and it's called The New Way to Chip, and Turn Bogeys into Pars and Birdies. To be honest, I wasn't particularly impressed by it because it just looks like chipping from an extremely open stance. (See the photo below.) I also told Dana I'd do a post this week about using your wrists when you chip.

Side-saddle chipping position

As I prepared to do that post, I realized I needed to talk some about how your lead shoulder works when you chip, and why your chipping problems can be caused by your shoulder. But as I started working on this post, I realized why Hallett's "side-saddle chipping" technique seemed so revolutionary to them. (I don't think they recognized it, because they never mention it in the article, and because some of the advice they gave makes no sense if they did. I'll come back to that later.) So here's what Hallett & Company didn't tell you.

I'll make this anatomy lesson as brief and painless as possible.

The drawing below shows the bone structure of one shoulder. (This is a right shoulder -- a leftie's lead shoulder -- but it works the same way for the left shoulder of a rightie.) Your humerus -- that is, the bone in your upper arm -- is actually a bit L-shaped, with the ball joint extending out past the main bone. In the drawing, I've put a huge black dot over the ball joint and an upside-down L for the upper arm.

When you address the ball for a putt or a chip or even a full swing, your shoulder line extends from the angle in the L of one shoulder, through the ball joint, along the black line to the other shoulder's ball joint and out to the angle of the other shoulder. You can see the lines for the lead shoulder in the small line drawing labeled "At Address" below the drawing. (Yes, that thick black line at the end of the "arm" represents a hand, which is presumably holding a wedge. Stop snickering!)

Shoulder design and movement during chip

But when our intrepid golfer swings the club back to chip the ball, and he reaches the change of direction (in the second drawing), notice what happens at the ball joint. For your arm to cross your chest, the entire L shape of the upper arm rotates outward, so that the small part of the L is no longer in line with the rest of your shoulder girdle. This changes how the club is going to contact the ball when you actually chip the ball, unless you return the shoulder to the original address position.

In fact, this is one reason why some of you have a "chicken wing" finish in your full swing. Your elbow can only move up and down, in line with the bone in your upper arm. When your shoulder rotates to the position shown in the "Change of Direction" diagram, your elbow now points toward the target, not behind you as it did at address. And if you don't take measures to get your shoulder back in line, your elbow will STILL point at the target when you hit the ball. Do you follow me so far?

Although they may not realize it, that's the reason teachers want you to "cover the ball" and "keep your hands/the club in front of you" and all those other phrases they use to describe keeping your elbows closer to your side throughout your swing. In fact, that's the purpose of Ben Hogan's legendary elbow drill, as shown below. Keeping your elbows as close to your side as possible during the lower half of your swing forces your shoulders to rotate back into their original address position at impact. That improves your contact and accuracy.



Which brings me back to the Hallett article. Why does "side-saddle chipping" seem to improve a player's chipping results? Because it changes the lead shoulder's address position to match its "change of direction" position, and keeps it in that same position throughout the entire chip! Once you eliminate the extra movement, you basically lock the lead shoulder into the most extreme position of the chipping motion. Ta-daaa! Fewer compensations in your chipping motion, more consistent ball contact.

Do Hallett and his people understand this? I doubt it, because the article advises:
When you’d like to chip the ball longer distances or even pitch it, adopt a more traditional setup.
The more traditional setup won't lock the lead shoulder in place, and he doesn't tell you that you need to lock it in place. That's because he doesn't realize that's the strength of his side-saddle method.

Rather than using two different methods to chip, I'd rather see you chip using Hogan's drill. You can chip, pitch, even hit knockdown shots using his drill -- a single technique that will benefit you all the way through your game. And you'll automatically use your wrists more effectively because the Hogan drill teaches proper wrist action as well. (Why? Because with your elbows close to your side, your wrists are automatically forced to bend and unbend at the proper time.)

So if you're having trouble with your chipping, you might want to try using Hogan's drill -- now that you know what it's supposed to teach you -- and see if that doesn't improve your chipping.

And Dana, I hope that answers your questions. Just let me know if you run into problems or have more questions.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Some Observations on Erin Hills

No one knew what to expect when the US Open actually got started at Erin Hills. After all, it looked like a bomber's paradise.

Rickie Fowler on the tee at Erin Hills

What we learned in short order is that Mike Davis is as devious as Pete Dye. Erin Hills is a wolfish US Open layout in sheep's clothing. Those wide open fairways aren't as wide as they appear. How can that be? Isn't a 60-foot wide fairway plenty wide for all but the worst hack? Aren't the knee-deep fields of fescue too far off the centerline to cause trouble for the best in the world?

Much has been made of the lay of the land, shaped by receding glaciers 10,000 years ago and barely altered by the architects. But those severe mounds and valleys, coupled with tilted fairways that resemble waves on a stormy green sea, mean that golf balls don't necessarily bounce in predictable ways.

And apparently -- this is why I liken Davis to Dye -- apparently the length of the course and the rolling fairways create an illusion of narrowness, and Davis recognized this when he walked the original routing, even before the course was built. Even the best golfers, all of whom are familiar with the optical illusions Dye creates in his designs, simply can't convince themselves that they have enough room to just "let 'er fly." Instead, they tend to overshape their shots, actually flying the ball deep into the fescue.

With rare exceptions, it was the shorter hitters who posted the best scores on Thursday. Of the Tour's 26 hitters who average over 300 yards, only Brooks Koepka (#5 in the list) and Xander Schauffele (#22) made it into the Top10 on the leaderboard. Kevin Na's tweet that short hitters had a chance because accuracy would be more important than length this week -- and that short hitters are naturally more accurate -- seems to have been prophetic.

Then again, perhaps the shorter hitters just can't reach the fescue. That might have something to do with it as well.

As for the scores, Rickie Fowler's -7 tied the record for lowest opening round score in relation to par. The other holders of the record? Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskop, who both shot -7 (aggregate score: 63) at Baltusrol in 1980. It's worth noting that Jack won the tournament with -8.

Rickie's total on Thursday tells us nothing about what might win this week, but I won't be surprised if we see something similar -- either because the USGA toughens up the course (they probably feel safe doing so now) or because bad weather comes in.

There were also a record number of players under par -- a total of 44. However, only ten scored -4 or better, and another seven posted -3. So while there may have been more scores under par, most of them weren't unrealistically low. I don't think it will mean much for the final result.

Ultimately, I think this US Open will play out much as the others have. The USGA will toughen up the course, and the weather will complicate things (either with dry conditions and wind, or wet conditions and wind). It's possible that we could see a record low score, of course. But except for Tiger's win in 2000 (-12) and Rory's in 2011 (-16) -- both of which were weather-related -- no one has EVER needed a final score of more than -9 to take the title. I don't expect this championship to be any different.

Oh, and one more thing: Yesterday I said I suspected the 6-9pm ET broadcast on Fox would be a recap. I was wrong. I didn't take the time zone into account. The late broadcast on Fox is showing the late groupings, so you'll want to check it out if your favorite player has a late tee time today.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Couple of Reminders

With so much going on today, I thought I should post some TV info so you can keep up with it all.

Dustin Johnson

First of all, remember that the US Open is on FOX, not GC. The FOX Sports 1 channel is broadcasting all day, from 11am to 6pm ET. Then they switch over to the regular FOX channel for three hours (6-9pm ET) for what I imagine will be a condensed broadcast of the highlights.

Second, although the US Open will pretty much dominate all of men's golf this week, the ladies are still in action. GC will broadcast the Meijer LPGA Classic from 4-7pm ET. You can read the normal preview of the event over at Tony Jesselli's blog, Lydia Ko will begin her campaign to regain the #1 spot from Ariya Jutanugarn, as both are in the field this week.

So you've got plenty of choice today. You can watch the men on FOX or the women on GC. It's gonna be a good week!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

My "5 to Watch" at the US Open

Finally! We'll get to see how the pros handle the fescue-laden Erin Hills course as they vie for the 2017 US Open title

US Open trophy

I suppose you already know the basics -- Erin Hills will host Wisconsin's first US Open, new daddy Dustin Johnson is the defending champion, Phil Mickelson desperately wants a weather delay on Thursday while first alternate Roberto Diaz desperately wants good weather, and the analysts have no idea what to expect since Erin Hills is unlike anything they've ever seen before.

So let's move on.

Let me start by eliminating a few names from my "5 to Watch" list and tell you why they've been left off.
  • Phil Mickelson: Obviously I don't think the weatherman is going to cooperate with him.
  • Rory McIlroy: I want to stress that I'm leaving Rory off purely because of the rib injury. I remember how much trouble Brandt Snedeker had with his rib injury a couple of years back. I'm not convinced Rory will survive the week, especially if he hits a couple in the rough.
  • Jason Day: Look, I know his mother is feeling better and her cancer treatment is going well. But I just don't think he's quite over the emotional strain yet.
That doesn't mean they can't play well. (Although Phil's weekend game in California probably won't help him win his sixth major.) I just think these "life issues" will affect them enough to throw their games off a bit.

So who am I picking? It's a hodge-podge that might surprise you.
  • Of course, I have to include Dustin Johnson. I think DJ is playing the best of anyone right now, having won two WGCs under wildly differing conditions. And now he gets to hit that driver into fairways that are 60 yards wide? It's just not fair.
  • Thomas Pieters is due to win on the PGA Tour, and a big European-looking course like Erin Hills seems tailormade for his game. He's not quite as accurate as DJ... but 60-yard fairways? Like I said, it's just not fair.
  • I admit that even I'm surprised at this one, but Sergio Garcia makes my handful of faves this time. Normally, I would give a player who just had a super-emotional Masters win a three-month pass and, with his wedding coming up at the end of that time, I wouldn't expect him to do anything this week. But Sergio is defying my expectations with his play since the Masters. I don't believe that bit about floodgates opening just because a player wins a major, but Sergio's win seems to have been the result of an improved mental game. THAT just might change his fortunes.
  • Jon Rahm is another player who is on his game. I no longer care that he's a rookie -- Rahm is a force of nature! Erin Hills and the US Open are not too big for him, and his emotional outbursts don't undermine his confidence. He can win here.
  • And for my flier, I'm taking Steve Stricker. It's not just that Stricks is at home. Rather, it's all about his health. He says he's playing pain-free for the first time in quite a while, and his schedule over the last few weeks proves it. I agree with Kevin Na -- short hitters have a chance at Erin Hills; heavy rains have a way of evening the odds. With his game and these wide fairways, I like his chances to become the oldest major winner ever.
As tempting as all of these players are, I still have to go with Dustin Johnson. He's on a high from his new son's birth, and the Masters withdrawal left a bad taste in his mouth. I don't believe there's a lock to win this thing, but DJ's probably the closest thing we've got.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

What Are the Keys to DJ's Chipping? (Video)

With all the Golf Channel coverage from the US Open, many of you may have missed this little piece from ESPN's Sport Science. Host John Brenkus tested Dustin Johnson's chipping prowess with a carnival-style game gallery, complete with scientific measurements of his performance.



A few interesting facts about DJ's technique may be of help to you:
  • DJ says there is no conscious difference between a 10-yard chip and a 20-yard chip. When Brenkus explains how DJ adjusts his swing to chip the ball farther, you'll note that DJ doesn't try to speed up his swing in any way. He changes the distance purely by lengthening his swing, which he learns through repetition. And given that his swing speed increases by a mere 1mph to chip the ball an extra five yards, you can see why.
  • When DJ tries to pick off the ducks -- demonstrating trajectory control -- note that he doesn't try to manipulate the clubface to lower his trajectory. Rather, he changes his club and lets the loft of the club create the lower ball flight. He doesn't change his hand action, which is part of the reason he's so consistent with his ball contact and ball flight.
  • With the fishbowl test -- demonstrating distance control -- Brenkus says that he has to "calibrate the necessary launch conditions." This isn't explained (shame on you, John!) but given how DJ keeps checking the face of his club, I'd guess that he's going through a process he would normally use around the green. (The leading edge of the wedge can't possibly be digging into the artificial turf.) Why would he keep checking the face? If it's digging in, then the ball is too far back in his stance.
  • As for the dunk tank... forget about that "half-a-millimeter margin of error" stuff. As DJ hints at early on, you can't consciously control things that accurately. Under normal circumstances out on the course, you wouldn't need to be that accurate anyway. The thing to note here is that DJ's trajectory continues to be consistent, which means he's not trying to manipulate the club. DJ has a very quiet technique; he's letting the club do the work.
All-in-all, it's a very impressive demonstration of why Dustin Johnson continues to put up good numbers, even when his game seems to be a bit off. And given all the chipping areas around the greens at Erin Hills, it helps you understand why DJ will be a favorite to defend his title this week.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 FedEx St. Jude Classic

Winner: Daniel Berger

Around the wider world of golf: Ariya Jutanugarn got her first win of the season at the Manulife LPGA Classic; Dylan Frittelli won the Lyoness Open on the ET; Brandt Jobe won the Principal Charity Classic on the Champions Tour; Stephan Jaeger won the Rust-Oleum Championship on the Web.com Tour; Max Rottluff won the Bayview Place Cardtronics Open on the Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada; Tee-K Kelly won the Puerto Plata DR Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Prayad Marksaeng won the 18th Starts Senior Golf Tournament on the Asian Tour; and Kendall Dye won the Four Winds Invitational on the Symetra Tour.

Daniel Berger kisses St. Jude trophy

I mean no disrespect to Daniel Berger by any means. It's tough to win at all, let alone defend a title.

But it was really anticlimactic, wasn't it?

Daniel wasn't even being seriously considered part of the story on Sunday at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. He started so far back that he finished nearly an hour before the leaders did. But, as I noted yesterday, St. Jude is the Patron Saint of Hope and Impossible Causes. Daniel was three shots back to start the day, with a number of players between him and the leaders.

He hacked his way around the first hole, looking more like a greenskeeper than a player. But then he chipped in for par from nearly 26 feet. Hope, you say? Impossible causes, you say?

A bogey-free 66 gave him a one-shot victory over the favorites. And as he noted in his interview after the round, he's now one-for-one in playoffs... and that's pretty good!

There was one other thing he said after his round that I thought was very interesting:
"We hear a lot about the young guns and about the Justin Thomases and Jordan Spieths, but I feel like I kind of get forgotten a little bit. I'm pretty good, so I'm just going to try and keep doing my thing and see if I can't get a few more."
Yes, Daniel, you ARE pretty good. Perhaps you won't be forgotten so quickly from now on. And with the US Open happening this week, you certainly picked a good time to grab some attention!

Will Daniel win the US Open? I don't know. Will he even be a favorite? I don't know that either. But I know he's just picked up another Limerick Summary, and I share Daniel's -- and perhaps St. Jude's -- hope that he can grab a few more:
Daniel won it again, back-to-back,
Though he waited an hour for the pack
To perceive what he'd done.
Now he's gone one-for-one—
He's a title defense crackerjack!
The photo came from the tournament page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Joe Buck on Golf Digest's Podcast

FOX's Joe Buck gets a lot of criticism as a sportscaster, but I've always thought he was pretty good. At least in the broadcasts I've watched, he always seems to be prepared and usually has a pretty good idea about what needs to be emphasized at an event.

But when he landed the post of anchorman for the US Open broadcasts, he had a steep learning curve ahead of him. And so Golf Digest had Buck on their podcast to talk about what he's learned over the first couple of years and what he expects this year.

Joe Buck

Whether you love him or hate him -- there doesn't seem to be much in-between for most listeners --  Joe Buck is going to be heading up FOX's golf coverage for the foreseeable future. And that's why I'm posting links to the podcast. You might as well get used to him, and learning how he's going to approach the broadcast this year is a good start.

You can read the Golf Digest article (and listen to the podcast) at the above link or you can listen to the podcast at this Soundcloud link.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Rickie Goes Home... or Perhaps Straight to Erin Hills

In case you didn't know, among Catholics (and some other churches), St. Jude is the Patron Saint of Hope and Impossible Causes -- which, you have to admit, is an interesting juxtaposition of optimism and pessimism.

Rickie Fowler

I wonder which is foremost in Rickie Fowler's mind this weekend? After all, next week is the US Open and Rickie can't be happy with his driving this week. He hit only 50% of his fairways at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. It cost him badly in the first round, where he had a double and a triple on the back nine.

At the same time, Erin Hills is supposed to have some of the widest fairways of any US Open. (Although big misses will be penal, given the number of trees, the amount of fescue and 130+ tough bunkers.) That width should minimize how much he has to do to get his game back in shape. The question is... can he do it in time? His driver has been a real strength in his game until recently. If he hopes to get his first major, he needs to find it again... and soon.

Rickie's short game should stand him in good stead at Erin Hills next week. But that driver has me a bit concerned. Because no matter how wide those fairways are, there is no such thing as a driver-friendly US Open.

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Nicklaus Putting Tip

I'm going back a ways here, to an old Golf Digest (print copy!) from April 2013, to get you an image to help your putting from none other than Jack Nicklaus.

Jack Nicklaus putting stroke -- before and after impact

In that issue Jack wrote that, in order to help him hit putts more softly on fast greens, he used to imagine his putter shaft was made of rope. Those of you who have read Ruthless Putting know that I have a drill that actually uses a weighted rope, but what Jack's after here is something different. While my drill is designed to help you hit your putts more decisively with less tension, Jack's image is intended to create a softer hit. Remember, he's putting on fast greens and he already has a pretty firm stroke... plus this tip was in a Masters issue.

What Jack said he found to be more successful was imagining that his putter shaft was made of glass. If he hit the ball with too much force, the shaft would shatter. He said the glass image was key to winning the 1986 Masters, when he used that bigheaded Response putter. That putter had more loft, so his tendency was to get the ball airborne with his normal stroke.

Most of you don't play greens as fast as Augusta. However, you probably see quite a few fast downhill putts during your round. Imagining that your putter shaft is made of glass could help you avoid hitting your putt too hard and leaving yourself a long comebacker. Just remember that this is a technique for hitting fast putts, NOT your normal run-of-the-mill putts.

Btw, the photo came from this post at the Golf Digest site, from another putting article by Nicklaus and the late Jim Flick. You might want to take a look at that post as well.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Cameron McCormick on Reverse Chaining

It's a short Golf Digest article, but Cameron McCormick's instruction on using reverse chaining to shape your shots is something you might want to try.

Reverse chaining finish position for a draw

This isn't a new idea, but it's the first time I've heard it called reverse chaining. McCormick explains it this way:
The concept is that if you know the type of finish position your body and club should be in to create a certain ball flight, your mind intuitively adapts, so your body and club know how to move to reach that destination. In other words, the downswing and through-swing happen simply as a result of trying to get into the proper finish position.
You've heard of it too, haven't you? The nice thing about this article is that he explains the finish positions you need for three different shots in a very simple, easy-to-picture way.
  • For a draw: a high-C finish (pictured above)
  • For a knockdown: stop short 
  • For a fade: swing low and left
Again, it's a very simple concept but it's something good to try if you need to eliminate extraneous mechanical thoughts. I don't know that it will work for everybody -- nothing does -- but it might make your swing more fluid, which is always a good thing.

Best of all, it's a swing thought you can try, no matter what swing method you use. Such thoughts are hard to find these days.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Ladies Head for Canada

The LPGA makes a run for the border -- the northern border -- this week for the Manulife LPGA Classic in Ontario, Canada.

2016 champion Caroline Masson

As usual, Tony Jesselli has a preview of the event over at his site, and you'll want to take a look at that to get the big picture. You can also pick up some interesting tidbits in this overview at LPGA.com, which includes the fact that this will be Manulife's last year as title sponsor.

Caroline Masson is the defending champion -- her only LPGA victory, btw -- and no champion has successfully defended their title here. (Granted, this tournament has only been played five times previously, so perhaps that's not as significant as it sounds at first.)

Also of note, Lydia Ko isn't playing this week but Ariya Jutanugarn is -- which means Ariya will almost certainly take over the #1 spot in the Rolex Rankings this week. As most of you know, she was projected to do so last week, but the official statement about the error is -- unlike the rankings themselves -- pretty clear.

Basically, when the initial projections were run, the wrong date was used in the calculations. Apparently the software automatically used the date when the projection was run instead of the date they wanted to check. As a result, last year's Manulife points (which included a T5 for Ariya) were erroneously included in the projections. The error was found when the official points list was run Monday morning.

It won't be happening again. That bug is going to get squashed.

In the meantime, the ladies will set about the business of shuffling the rankings the old fashioned way -- by winning. It all gets underway on Thursday at 1:30pm ET.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Full Garret Kramer Interview (Video)

Some of you may have seen the Golf Central segment Monday night where Brandel Chamblee talked with sports psychologist Garret Kramer. Well, here's the full 20-minute interview which is being shown piecemeal this week.



I still need to go through it all myself, but I was fascinated to hear a sports psychologist say that a pre-shot routine isn't always a good thing for you. I also liked the fact that much of what he said applied to everyday life -- and that he used everyday life examples, as opposed to just sports examples.

His book is called Stillpower: Excellence with Ease in Sports and Life and I was surprised to find Amazon selling the Kindle edition for only $1.99. So I've bought a copy of it and will see if I can work it into my reading schedule sometime soon. In the meantime, check out the video.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 Memorial

Winner: Jason Dufner

Around the wider world of golf: In-Kyung Kim won the ShopRite LPGA Classic on the LPGA; Conrad Shindler won the Rex Hospital Open on the Web.com Tour; Lee McCoy won the Freedom 55 Financial Open on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada; Curtis Yonke won the Quito Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Nanna Koerstz Madsen won the Fuccillo Kia Classic of NY on the Symetra Tour; Shaun Norris won the JGT Championship Mori Building Cup Shishido Hills on the Japan Golf Tour; and Renato Paratore won the Nordea Masters on the ET.

Jack congratulates Jason Dufner

I guess almost everybody figured Jason Dufner was out of it after he shot 77 on Saturday and lost his lead at the Memorial.

Almost everybody figured that. Jason Dufner and Jack Nicklaus weren't among them. Jack mentioned his own Sunday morning conversation with Dufner several times during the CBS broadcast, where the two of them agreed that the Duff wasn't out of it by a long shot.

And in the end, it was a long shot -- a 33-foot par putt on the 18th -- that sealed the deal for Jason after a blistering 4-under back nine. That score was made all the more incredible by two suspensions of play due to lightning, delaying the game by nearly three hours total and pushing the finish right to the brink of darkness. That's why the photo above is dark except for the two stars shining in the foreground.

It looks like Jason is finally getting his life back on track after health problems and a divorce. His new lady was there to meet him when he left the 18th, as was Jack Nicklaus. And of course, there's a new Limerick Summary waiting for him as well...
The lightning postponed it till night,
But Dufner still found time to strike!
With the right state of mind
He attacked from behind—
A performance that Jack really liked.
The photo came from the Memorial's tournament page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Phil Likely to Skip the US Open

In case you missed it, Phil Mickelson announced that he will probably miss the US Open to attend his daughter's high school graduation.

Phil Mickelson

You can get all the details from this PGATOUR.com article, but basically it comes down to this: Phil's daughter Amanda is the school president and scheduled to give the commencement address. Since her graduation is on Thursday morning of the US Open, and Phil lives in California -- which is two hours behind Wisconsin, where the US Open will be held -- even an afternoon tee time is unlikely to give him enough time to fly back after the graduation ceremony.

Look at it this way: It takes roughly four hours to fly from CA to WI, and then you have the two-hour time difference. If Phil was able to leave at 11am CA time, it would still be around 5pm WI time before he arrived -- much too late to play.

Phil hasn't withdrawn yet. It's possible that something could happen to make it all possible -- perhaps the graduation ceremony has to be rescheduled for some reason, or the first round of the US Open gets a weather delay. But Phil isn't counting on either, and said he wanted his alternate into the event to be ready to play, as well as for the USGA to know before they made the TV tee times.

But even if Phil misses the Erin Hills major, the next two sites -- Shinnecock Hills and Pebble Beach -- should give him good shots at the one major that has eluded him. The 2020 site, Winged Foot, might suit him as well...

Assuming that daughter Sofia doesn't have her graduation during that week.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Ko's Run as #1 Ends This Weekend

Why is there a photo of So Yeon Ryu here? Because she will determine who is the new Women's #1 when the Rolex Rankings come out next week.

So Yeon Ryu

Neither Lydia Ko nor Ariya Jutanugarn is playing at this week's ShopRite LPGA Classic, but So Yeon Ryu is. And that's why she will determine who takes up the crown next week.

Here's the situation: The current Rolex Ranking points look like this:
  1. Lydia Ko, 8.40
  2. Ariya Jutanugarn, 8.33
  3. So Yeon Ryu, 8.21
That's less than .2 points between the three.

Lydia WILL lose her position this week, and either Ariya or So Yeon will take over. For a change, the scenario is very simple:
  • If So Yeon finishes in solo third or better this week, she will be the new #1.
  • If she finishes T3 or worse, Ariya will be the new #1.
And after the first round, the leader -- Anna Nordqvist -- is at -7, with four players at T2, at -6. So Yeon is at +3, which is T98.

This will be a very interesting weekend for the LPGA.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Kevin Kisner's Move for a Draw

Kevin Kisner's swing coach John Tillery has a brief article over at Golf Digest about a move Kisner uses to create a draw.

Kevin Kisner just after impact

The article interested me because I suspect it may sound a bit misleading to some of you. Tillery describes the move this way:
Instead of doing something dramatic to re-route your swing, try a simpler maneuver to get started off on the right track. "Take a page out of Kevin's book," says Tillery, who also works with Scott Brown, William McGirt and Brandt Snedeker, among other tour players. "Keep your arms closer together and your right palm facing down in the takeaway. Now you're ready--and incentivized--to get onto your front foot, and on your way to hitting draws."
If you look at the picture, you'll see it looks conspicuously like my oft-recommended one-piece takeaway drill. Consider the key points of the move:
  • Keep your arms closer together. If you do this, you'll be forced to keep your arms straighter on the way back, which prevents you from swinging too much to the inside during your backswing.
  • Keep your trailing palm facing down (toward the ground) in the takeaway. Think about this, folks. If you actually do this, you'll be seriously weakening your grip on the way back. If you successfully maintain this position, you'll cup your wrist at the top of your backswing and perhaps hit the ground with the toe of the club.
I suspect what Tillery is after here is the SENSATION of closing the clubface. If you've been opening the clubface during your backswing, which Tillery talks about elsewhere in the article, he's asking you to FEEL as if you were turning your palm down. Keeping your arms together aids in this; keeping your elbows closer together during your backswing will do a lot to stop that "opening" as well.

In my drill, I designed it to keep your arms closer together as well, and to feel as if your wrists were cocking straight up. They don't really do that during your backswing, but I want you to FEEL as if they are. For most of you, that will be enough to get the feel Tillery is trying to create.

And both drills -- if you try to keep your elbows closer together throughout the swing, as shown in the photo above -- it will force you to keep turning your shoulders all the way to your finish, which will also help you square the clubface at impact.

The difference between our drills is just a matter of degree. Both of our drills exaggerate the feeling of a squared clubface. If you're having trouble squaring your clubface, just choose the drill that provides the amount of exaggeration you need to get the results you want.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Congratulations, Oklahoma Sooners!

Now it's official. The Oklahoma Sooners won their 2nd NCAA National Division 1 Golf title, defeating the defending champs, the Oregon Ducks, 3-1-1 in match play Wednesday.



I have to congratulate the Ducks as well for just making it back to the finals. Last year's win was the first-ever for Oregon, and making it back the following year had only been accomplished by the Stanford golf team, who have done it twice. That's heady company.

And Braden Thornberry of the Ole Miss (Mississippi) Rebels won the Individual Title on Monday, their first-ever golf title.

So there's plenty of good feelings to go around this week. That makes me feel good too.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Stan Utley's Secret to Simplifying Your Short Game

This comes from Stan Utley's book The Art of the Swing, which was unique when it came out (in 2011) for including "scan codes" to let you access smartphone lessons. I thought this short quote from the book might give many of you a new approach to help you better understand how the short game works.

In a chapter about halfway through the book called One Club, Five Shots Utley suggests learning several short game shots with only one club -- he recommends a 58° wedge. Here's a slightly condensed quote from that chapter:
Understanding the basic mechanics that go into the different shots you hit -- and how the concept of sequencing applies to those shots -- is what I would call "school." You have to learn the basics and repeat the lessons, and the tests come at the end, when it's time to go out into the real world.

Now that we've spent some time talking about the form, the sequence and the feel of different shots, I want to take those lessons out of the classroom and onto the course to show how they fit together within your entire golf game.

And I'm going to do it with one club -- my 58-degree wedge.

Why one club? It's simple -- literally and figuratively. When I do a large clinic, some of the first questions I always get are about club selection fro different shots around the green... But I believe doing it that way isn't always the simplest way.

I believe the easiest way to hit consistently good shots and develop better touch and feel is to take one club and make it your short-game specialty club. Then take the time to learn the ins and outs of that one club -- what you need to do to make shots go high or low, long or short. By getting way more practice time and reps with one club, you're going to be more comfortable and confident with it...

Understanding how to play different shots with the same go-to club will make you a complete player. You'll have a better chance of manufacturing a specialty shot for a unique situation using a club you've hit with a million times before. I'm not saying it's wrong to use different clubs around the green... But, I believe you'll get the most consistent positive results from learning the vagaries of one wedge and building a collection of different shots with that wedge. [pp 87-88]
Many of you know that I recommend a two-club approach to the short game -- typically, it'll be a lob wedge for short-sided high shots and either 8-iron, 9-iron or pitching wedge for almost everything else. (Clubs with straighter faces are easier to hit consistently.) But I'm not against Stan's approach. His logic is sound -- if you use one club a lot, you'll get really good with it and be confident when you use it. You probably already do that with other clubs in your bag. (I still remember a scramble I played in where I used a 7-wood from places where my teammates were using lob wedges... and getting my shots closer every time. Confidence matters!)

In the book -- which, unless you can find it used, is no longer available (and the listings I found were awfully expensive) -- Stan uses the one-club approach to teach the low chip-and-run, lofted pitch, bunker shot, trouble shot and distance pitch. In the past I've done posts on just about all of these, I think, although they aren't always called by Stan's names. And if I've missed any, there are plenty of videos and articles about them on the web.

But no matter where you find the instruction, learning the techniques for all sorts of short game shots by using just one club is a solid approach to improving your game quickly. It eliminates one of the variables in the shot -- you're always using the same loft -- so it's easier to learn exactly what you need to do to make each shot work.

And once you learn the techniques, you can always expand your repertoire to include two or three or even more clubs, if you want. ;-)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How Far Can DJ Whack One? (Video)

Forgive me, but I found this little humor piece at the Golf Digest site and couldn't resist posting it. Here -- in various everyday "measurements" -- is how long DJ's longest drive this season is. (If you just want yards, it's 428.)


Personally, I find the school buses are the best unit of measure for me to visualize the distance.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 Dean & Deluca Invitational

Winner: Kevin Kisner

Around the wider world of golf: Bernhard Langer won the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, becoming the first player to win all five Champions Tour majors and winning one more CT major than Jack Nicklaus; Alex Noren shot a record-tying 62 at the BMW PGA Championship, becoming the first Swede to win the ET's flagship event; Shanshan Feng won the LPGA Volvik Championship on the LPGA; and Chan Kim won the Gate Way To The Open Mizuno Open on the Japan Golf Tour.

Kevin Kisner with D&D trophy

Although the winds did their damage during the third round of the Dean & Deluca, the final round proved to be the most difficult. With Hogan's Alley tempting the players to go low, the pressure to put up that low score proved a bit much for the leaders. The players posting the lowest scores were just a bit too far back to make a decisive move.

Even Jordan Spieth's impressive bogey-free 65 came up a stroke short, as did the 66s posted by John Rahm and Sean O'Hair, despite final-round leader Webb Simpson's stumble on the way in.

But Kevin Kisner's 66 was, to borrow the words of a certain Baby Bear, "just right."

Kisner has come painfully close to his second win so many times in the last couple of seasons, posting six Top5s just since his first win. But Sunday, his rock-steady play around Colonial was enough to put this title out of everyone else's reach. As Spieth stood on a folding chair beside the 18th green, watching to see if he'd get a chance at a playoff, Kisner calmly made two strokes with his putter to snatch away all hope.

Hogan would have been proud. And I'm proud to give Kevin his second Limerick Summary. Perhaps there will be more on the horizon if he keeps playing this way.
The back nine was brutal. It wrested
The patience from each man it tested.
But Kisner was calm
So O'Hair, Spieth and Rahm
Could say little but how they were bested.
The photo came from the wrap-up page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Callaway Puts Jailbreak in Some New Irons

I saw this article at the Golf Digest site earlier this week, but I'm just now posting a link to it. It's not because I expect many of you want to buy a set -- at $2000 for eight steel-shafted irons, it's a hefty price -- but because I suspect we'll be seeing this sort of tech trickle down to lower-priced irons before long.

Callaway Epic Iron

The tech in the new Callaway Epic irons is way too complex for someone like me to explain, but this article does a pretty good job of "dumbing it down" for us laymen. It's not just a matter of incorporating the Jailbreak technology, which stiffened the framework around more flexible driver faces. There is a new cup shape around the iron face, new metal mixtures to redistribute weight removed from the traditional heavy areas, and a new design concept to shape how these innovations are combined.

As I said, I don't know that many of you will be rushing out to lay down hard cash for the irons or the new Epic hybrids, which are also described in the article. But at the very least, you know that Callaway will find ways to incorporate this tech into their less-expensive irons. It's hard to believe that the other manufacturers won't start developing their own versions if the Epic line is as successful as Callaway hopes.

We might as well get a leg up on the tech now, before it gets too complex to grasp.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Ai Miyazato to Retire

Earlier this week, it was HaNa Jang announcing she would be leaving the LPGA Tour next month. Now it's Ai Miyazato... but her announcement sounds more final.

Ai Miyazato

According to articles at golfdigest.com, golfchannel.com and espn.com, Ai will be holding a press conference in Japan on Monday to announce her retirement from the LPGA at the end of this year.

Now, it's a bit unclear to me exactly what Ai has in mind. The official (but short) announcement at lpga.com simply says:
Ai Miyazato announces her retirement from the LPGA Tour at the end of the 2017 season and will hold a press conference on May 29 in Japan. There, she will share her thoughts on the decision and will thank all the people who have supported her during her 14-year professional career.
This announcement says she will retire from the LPGA, which could mean that she might play some on the JLPGA. But it also says she "will thank all the people who have supported her during her 14-year professional career."

Ai's LPGA career is only 12 years long, since 2006. She became a pro and joined the JLPGA 14 years ago, in 2004. That sounds like she's calling it quits on any tour.

In many ways, this isn't a surprise. Ai has dealt with a number of injuries over the last few years. Given that she was never a big hitter, it may have been difficult to get back in playing shape. She's also fought putting problems lately, and has only had one Top10 finish in the last two years. GC's article also notes that she's struggled with motivation -- not surprising, given the other problems she's faced.

It will be interesting to hear exactly what she says Monday. But whatever it is, the LPGA -- and golf as a whole -- is going to miss Ai Miyazato.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Dealing with Conflicting Wedge Advice (Video)

A couple days back, I posted a short game video from Lee Trevino. Lee knows what he's talking about because he has always had a great short game.

But so does Phil Mickelson. And if you watch this slideshow of Phil's chipping at the Golf Digest site, you'll get some different guidance than you will from Lee.

And if you watch this short game video from Golf Digest Best Young Teacher Brandon Stooksbury (the video below), you'll get yet another approach. Who's right? Who's wrong? What's a poor player to do?

Let me give you a few tips to help sort things out.



One thing that I noticed right off is that none of these videos is specific about which short game shot they're teaching! I can tell you that Lee is teaching a pitch shot, and Phil is teaching a flop shot, but Brandon is teaching something midway in-between.

How do I know this, you ask? Because I look for some specific clues in the slideshow and videos. You can look for these things too.

First, if possible, I look for clues about the trajectory of the shot.
  • I can see that Lee's shot is flying pretty high when he hits it, and I can see that he and Billy are quite a distance away from the green. Lee is also using a lob wedge; I could tell that when I ran the video full screen.
  • I can see that Phil's shot is shooting almost straight up in the air (the final slide shows all the pictures in sequence), and the text on the second slide says he's using 60° and 64° wedges.
  • I can see that Brandon's shot looks to be flying about the same height as Lee's, but I can see from another section of the video (just keep reading) that he's using a lob wedge like Phil and Lee.
Although all three men are using lob wedges of some sort, the trajectories are slightly different. Those differences are explained as I gather other info.

Second, you need to note the stance. Lee and Phil both use an open stance, Brandon uses a square stance. (Lee doesn't say his stance is open, but you can see it in the down-the-line shots of both him and Billy Andrade.) If you open your stance, you also have to open the clubface. Otherwise you'll pull all your shots.

Third, check the ball position. Lee says to place it back in your stance, Phil has the ball opposite his lead heel, and Brandon say to place it forward although he actually has the ball just ahead of center, as you can see in the video.
Let me make a quick note about playing the ball back in an open stance. It sounds funny but, with an open stance, your stance is effectively narrower than the same width in a straight stance, so the ball is actually closer to the middle of your stance. If that doesn't make sense to you, let me know in the comments and I'll do a post to explain it. For now, just take my word.
But you can't stop with just knowing the ball position...

Fourth, you have to check weight distribution at setup. If your weight is more on your lead foot, the ball is probably being played farther forward. With a more balanced weight distribution, the ball position is going to be farther back. Phil has 99% of his weight on his lead foot, according to the text on slide #3. Lee has his weight more on his lead foot, but not nearly as much as Phil. And Brandon's weight is nearly equal on both feet. (You can tell from Lee and Brandon's videos.)

Finally, you have to check how the hands and arms move when compared to the ball position. And this is where it can get tricky. Check these out:
  • We'll start with Brandon this time. Brandon specifically says not to bend your lead elbow and pull the club across the ball. That's because his stance is square. He lets his arms and shoulders work as a unit, without any manipulation, and the turn of his shoulders provides a very quiet swing where his wrists don't bend forward or back. The weight of the club pulls his hands straight out so his wrists don't flip or bend. He's playing a "straight" shot, and the ball is in the standard mid-stance position for a straight shot.
  • Lee is the exact opposite. You can see him bend his lead elbow somewhat dramatically as he swings along the aimline of his open stance, and finishes with his bent lead elbow close to his side. He's "cutting across" the ball.
  • And Phil? Although he plays from an open stance, he tries to swing straight down the line for as long as possible. The result is that he actually "chicken-wings" a bit, as you can see in the final slide's swing sequence.
These are all things you need to take note of whenever you try swing techniques that are different from what you normally do. Differences in address position make a huge difference in how the swing works, as do extra hand and elbow activity. All of these affect when you actually contact the ball during your swing, and therefore it changes what you're trying to do when you hit it.

Hope that helps you know what to look for when exploring any new golf techniques.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Congratulations, Lady Sun Devils!

In case you didn't hear, the Arizona State Lady Sun Devils won a record 8th National Division 1 Golf title, defeating the Northwestern Wildcats 3-1-1 in match play Wednesday.

Arizona State women celebrate win

And Arizona State senior Monica Vaughn was the NCAA individual champion as well. The Sun Devils cleaned up this year!

But I also send congratulations to the Wildcats. This was only their sixth appearance in this tournament, and their first time making it to the finals. That's definitely something to be proud of!

And now we get ready for the men to fight it out this weekend...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

HaNa Jang Is Leaving the LPGA Tour

In case you missed the news, HaNa Jang is leaving the LPGA Tour next month and will focus on the KLPGA Tour.

HaNa Jang

The reason? A simple one, one that's becoming a bigger consideration for both men and women on all the golf tours -- family. LPGA.com quoted her thus:
"I thought being world number one was the only goal in my life and that was where my happiness comes from," said the 25-year-old, a four-time winner on the LPGA Tour. "But I realized there are many more important things than that.
"Even though I won four times (on the LPGA Tour), I still felt empty inside. I made this decision because being with my family is more important to me than being the world's top golfer."
Golfchannel.com further expanded on her quotes:
"I made up my mind after seeing my mother, who's close to 70, lead such a lonely life here," Jang said. "I thought being the best in the world was my only goal. But from now on, I'll spend as much time with my mother as I can." 
Both golfchannel.com and golfweek.com also noted that Jang has had some emotional upheavals to deal with as well. Besides the well-documented accident involving In Gee Chun -- which Chun says the two have largely dealt with -- there was criticism from the Korean press and fans over the Beyonce dance celebration at the HSBC Women's Champions, which they thought came too soon after the accident. That caused her more distress than we here in the US realized.

As I said, this isn't the first time we've seen family reasons affect a player's tour decisions. Jiyai Shinn comes to mind, having left the LPGA to spend more time at home in South Korea. Both Annika and Lorena left the LPGA to start families. Several of the PGA Tour players have taken or are taking time off from their tour to deal with family problems when, in years past, they might have tried to maintain at least some kind of schedule.

Like Jang, an increasing number of players are finding that the urge to be Number One -- whatever that happens to mean for that player -- simply isn't as satisfying as they thought it would be. And perhaps the increased prize money has made that sort of decision easier to make. Add in the never-an-off-season grind of professional golf, and it's not so surprising that players are making these decisions.

Hopefully HaNa Jang's decision will bring her the peace she's looking for. And maybe we'll get lucky -- maybe she'll find that she can still play some LPGA events after all.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Lee Trevino's Wedge Tips (Video)

This clip of Lee Trevino and Billy Andrade comes from Champions Tour Learning Center. Trevino gives a few keys to getting better results with your chip shots.



First, Trevino calls this a "deceleration" shot, although Andrade says he was always told to accelerate the clubhead. Think about Trevino's reasoning for a moment, and it will make perfect sense.

If you shorten your finish -- say, waist high instead of shoulder high -- your hands don't run full speed to the stopping height and then suddenly FREEZE in place! The key here is that you don't try to think about slowing your swing. Rather, it's something that HAS to happen, based on simple physics. Your body will automatically start hitting the brakes sooner -- decelerating -- when your hands have to stop sooner.

Second, he wants you to move the ball back in your stance so you can hit down on it and catch it cleanly.

And third, he wants you to put your trailing hand more on top of the club handle -- weaken your grip. The second and third tips work together. Let me try to help you understand the logic here.

Remember, Trevino says you decelerate on this shot because you aren't firing through to the finish. This is a short shot, after all, not a full shot! Because of that, your body doesn't turn as fully or as quickly on a chip shot as it does on a full shot.

But by weakening your trailing hand, you get it in a position very much like it would achieve in a full turn... but without making the full turn. It does so without making your lead wrist "break down" and flip the clubface.

And the combination of the weaker trailing hand and the ball position allows you to swing freely without worrying about digging the clubhead into the ground and pulling the chip off-line.

The result should be a relaxed swing that hits the ball toward your target, without putting extra effort into the shot. In other words, Trevino's advice should help you use the wedge's bounce better. Give it a try!

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 AT&T Byron Nelson

Winner: Billy Horschel

Around the wider world of golf: It was a busy weekend for golf! Bernhard Langer tied Jack Nicklaus's record of eight Champions Tour majors when he won the Regions Tradition; Lexi Thompson won the Kingsmill Championship on the LPGA; Stephan Jaeger won the weather-shortened BMW Charity Pro-Am on the Web.com Tour; Celine Boutier won the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women's Health Classic on the Symetra Tour; Alvaro Quiros won the Rocco Forte Open on the ET; Shugo Imahira won the Kansai Open Golf Championship on the Japan Golf Tour; Rattanon Wannasrichan won the Thailand Open on the Asian Tour; and Ai Suzuki won the Hoken-no-Madoguchi Ladies on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Billy Horschel with AT&T Byron Nelson trophy

This was the last time the AT&T Byron Nelson would be played at TPC Four Seasons. And the course made sure to send the Tour on a memorable sendoff.

Each day the wind was different, so it played like four different courses. The greens played hard, making it difficult to hold them with approach shots. And the putts simply refused to be predictable.

Nevertheless, four men fought it out down the stretch. Past winner Jason Day, Billy Horschel, James Hahn and Jason Kokrak each struggled to take the lead yet refused to give up the chase. No lead was safe; as one man poked his nose out in front, his pursuers picked up the pace. Only Hahn managed a birdie in the last two holes, yet he fell short.

It wasn't necessarily poor putting by the players. It was just hard to match line and speed under the conditions and the final-round pressure. That became painfully obvious when Day and Horschel went to a playoff. Neither man could sink a putt to take the title.

In the end, Horschel won when Day was unable to match him for par on the second playoff hole. It was a bit unsatisfactory for both players -- you'd really like to "win" on the final hole, not just "not lose." But a win is a win and both players found positives to carry from the event -- namely, Horschel's first win since winning the FedExCup and Day's first Top10 of the year.

But let's face it -- sometimes, victory is just a matter of outlasting your opponent. And that's certainly enough for Billy Horschel to grab his first Limerick Summary in years. Way to go, Billy-Ho!
The contenders fought hard; none would yield.
In the end, two emerged from the field—
Day and Horschel. Missed putts
At last drove both men nuts;
Horschel won when Day missed. Victory sealed.
The photo came from this page at usatoday.com.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Some New Casual Golf Shoes

Back in March I did a post about new golf shoes for 2017. Now Ashley Mayo has a new article over at the Golf Digest site called 7 Golf Shoes You Can Easily Wear Off the Course.

The main problem I have with this article is the price of the shoes. (Of course, that's becoming a common problem with golf shoes. But I digress...) There's only one shoe in her list that's under $100, and that's the FootJoy GreenJoys for $70, shown below.

FootJoy GreenJoys

My original post included FootJoy Contour Casuals for $100, and both FootJoy models appear to have similar soles. In either case, FootJoy seems to be the company to check for less expensive sneaker styles. (My original post included a $90 pair from Biion but those looked more like traditional golf shoes, albeit very light.)

My personal fave from the new list is the Adidas Golf Adicross Primeknit. They retail for $115 and remind me of boat slippers.

Adidas Golf Adicross Primeknit

These appear to have some kind of cloth or synthetic knit upper rather than leather; the description says they're breathable. In any case, they have a simple stylishness that appeals to me.

The list has a fairly wide variety of styles, considering it only contains seven models. Still, it's a quick intro to the types of choices you have if you're looking for golf shoes you can wear when you're in a hurry to leave the course for the 19th hole.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Quick Guide Two-Book PDFs Are Available

The special PDFs I create for sale from this blog are finally available for purchase. Remember, if you're purchasing from a VAT country, you'll need to get the PDFs that are available from Smashwords. (Two are up there; three more to go.) My blog isn't set up for VAT purchases at this point.

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Short Game Pack
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Smart Putter Pack
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Tee-to-Green Pack
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And of course, if you want to get all six books, the MEGAPACK is available for download. Just click on the book cover at the top of the sidebar. That's the least expensive way to get the entire set.