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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Just a Reminder -- Zurich Tee Times Moved Up

Just a reminder that they're expecting storms in New Orleans today, so the PGA Tour has moved the tee times up. Groups will tee off -- if all goes well -- between 7:40am and 9:20am ET.

GC's coverage should begin around 9am ET. I suppose the CBS coverage later in the day will be time-delayed.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Rocco Mediate and Jim Ferree on Swinging Lower (Video)

I know this clip from Champions Tour Learning Center is funny, but I'm posting it here because the drill is so simple and yet so helpful. Take a look:



When Rocco says that you need to swing lower if you're topping the ball, he's talking about a whole lot of things -- footwork, weight shift, balance and so on. Most players think they're lifting their heads and don't realize that you can only lift your head if you straighten your legs too early! And so Rocco and former player/teacher Jim Ferree recommend this simple drill.

Start with a chipping motion. Just hit short chip shots, then gradually lengthen the chip shots until they are full swings. If you do this, you'll learn to hold your posture, your spine angle and your knee flex throughout your swing. Your lead knee should remain slightly flexed until you hit the ball. Your lead knee straightens at that point because body rotation forces it to. Just let it happen!

As Rocco says, this game is a lot simpler than we make it. This drill can help you clear your mind of the over-complications and learn to swing more naturally.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Leaning the Shaft for Different Lies

Shaft lean from the fairwayThere's a short slide show over at Golf Digest called Basics: Get a Handle on Your Short Game that shows how to position your grip (club handle) for four different short game shots. Essentially, it's a photo guide to leaning the club shaft. I'll summarize them here, but seeing the photos will really help you lock them in your memory.

The photo at the side here shows the standard position for a short game shot from the fairway. The shaft is vertical. You want to use the bounce here.

With buried lies -- either in rough or sand -- the shaft leans forward. You want to use the leading edge to get down in there and dig that baby out! The deeper the ball is buried, the more you want to lean the shaft.

And with a fluffy lie -- where the ball is sitting up on top of the grass -- the shaft leans backward. The ball is teed up, if you will, so you want to hit up on it. Otherwise you'll just slide completely under the ball.

Simple guidance that's easy to remember. Just take a look at the pictures and read the captions; it'll really help you remember how to address the ball in each case.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Here's How Lexi Accidently Mismarked Her Ball (Video & Pics)

After listening to Lexi's presser Wednesday -- and recreating the mismarking incident myself -- I think I can finally explain how Lexi could mismark her ball so badly by accident. And since Lexi seemed genuinely confused by the event when asked at the presser, perhaps it will help her as well.

First, here's the now-notorious video of the event, currently posted on this page at the Golf Channel website. (In the photos below, please forgive the ever-present "arrow" -- it appeared every time I paused the video for a screen capture.) The footage I'm using is in the first 32 seconds of the video:



There are actually two things you need to know in order to understand this video, and Lexi told us both of them at her presser. You can find the quotes I'm using in this Golfweek post.

The first is her mental focus at the time. She had just missed a short putt on the last hole and, as she walked up to tap this putt in, she said she could hear her dad's voice telling her to slow down:
Thompson began by explaining how upset she was about her birdie effort from 20 feet in the third round. Terrible stroke, she said.
She initially thought about tapping it in, but because her father, Scott, has fussed about the number of short putts she has missed over the years by moving too hastily – “I’ve stubbed a few” – Thompson decided to mark the ball.
She walked along the line of the original putt to tap in the putt, then decided at the last second to mark it. You can see the momentary indecision in the video. That indecision is why she marked it from the side.

The second is how she marks her ball:
“The way I mark my ball, I mark my ball with a dot, and that’s where I focus my eyes on where I want to make contact,” she said. “So when I went to mark it, I just rotated my ball to line up my dot to where my putter would make contact.”
She uses a dot on the back of the ball, not a line on top, so she's looking at a tiny dot when she marks.

Now we're ready to go through the incident as it happened in the video.

Lexi has just made that "terrible stroke" and walks toward the ball, intending to just tap it in. But she thinks better of it -- her father's voice, if you will -- and decides instead to mark it. Perhaps because she's still frustrated by the miss on the previous hole and the bad stroke she just made, perhaps because she just didn't think things through because it's a spur-of-the-moment decision, perhaps because it's such a short putt, she doesn't walk around and mark the ball as she might for a longer putt. Instead, she marks it from the side. This is the mistake that sets the whole debacle in motion.

You see, Lexi may have thought about her dad's words, but she's still "moving too hastily." Her mindset hasn't changed from "this is just a tap-in." She's more concerned about the dot than the putt.

As we all know, it's very easy to miss the obvious when your mind is on something else. (How often have we heard an announcer say, "He fell in love with the line and forgot to hit the ball?" Same thing.) But because we don't want to be disturbed when we're trying to putt, we're advised to choose a very small target -- like a single dimple on the ball, or a dot -- and focus on that. Lexi's focusing pretty hard on that dot at this point, and not much else.

My first thought was that perhaps when Lexi tried to line up that dot, she tilted her head somehow and changed the way she saw the line. But as you can see from this comparison showing just after she put the coin down to reach for the ball and then just after she set the ball down to reach for the coin, her head is in the same position:

Comparison of Lexi before and after moving her ball

At this point I realized that I needed to try and recreate what she did. Often we watch things over and over without really seeing what's there, and we don't really "see" until we try it ourselves. And that's what happened to me.

Because when I tried to mark the ball just like Lexi did, I suddenly discovered that I COULDN'T SEE THE BALL MARKER AT ALL AFTER I PUT IT DOWN. MY PALM WAS IN THE WAY.

Look, here are four stills from the close-up in the video. I've added a small yellow dot just below the position of the marker. The stills show:
  1. Lexi just after placing the marker
  2. Lexi rotating the ball
  3. Lexi placing the ball
  4. Lexi reaching to pick up the marker
The ball marker is under her palm -- hidden from view -- in all four stills. In fact, I found that rotating the ball as Lexi did actually made the marker even harder to see -- my fingers got in the way.

Sequence of Lexi marking her ball

Why didn't Lexi notice this? Because her attention was on the small dot she was trying to line up with the hole. And from her point of view, her hand never moved from its original position, so no alarms went off in her head.

Go back and watch the incident again at full speed. It's obvious, once you know what to look for.

Look, this doesn't mean that Lexi didn't break a rule, not even when you take the new "naked-eye" and "reasonable judgment" standards into account. The movement is clearly visible when viewed at full speed from the original broadcast footage. But this should put to rest any rumors that Lexi did it on purpose.

However, we should note the cause of this whole sad sequence of events. Once Lexi decided to mark the ball, if she had been thinking about making a normal putt instead of a tap-in, and had lined up the ball as if it were a longer putt, her hand would have been to the side of the marker, not covering it while she marked the ball. She would have had a clearer view and would likely have noticed if she positioned the ball incorrectly.

As much as I hate to say this -- given the current fuss about slow play -- Lexi simply didn't take enough time to gather herself. She probably should have put down her coin, picked up her ball and walked away. She should have taken a few deep breaths, a few practice strokes, and taken time to clear her mind of the bad putt she had just hit. And then she should have taken the time to line up her putt like normal.

In short, Lexi didn't treat this like an important putt. But it was.

There's no such thing as a tap-in at a major. I.K. Kim can tell you that. And now, so can Lexi. Hopefully she'll move past this sooner rather than later.

Of course, we'll get to watch her first tournament back starting today at noon ET when GC broadcasts the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout. You can get a quick overview of the event over at Tony Jesselli's blog.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Introducing... the Nordqvist Rule!

Yes, everybody was expecting a Lexi Rule. But what we got wasn't bad at all, in my opinion.

Lexi at the ANA

Decision 34-3/10 institutes two new criteria for judging rule breaches. They are the "naked eye" standard and the "reasonable judgment" standard.

In addition, a new "working group" has been created to examine the best way to deal with video and viewer-submitted evidence when enforcing the rules. That working group includes folks from the USGA, R&A and the major tours.

Personally, I was thrilled to see the "naked eye" test included. If you follow my blog, you know I've been arguing this for a while, as I did in my Why Armchair Officials Are Unneeded post right after the Lexi debacle, where I wrote:
I think that any "infraction of the rules" that can't be seen with the naked eye from a few feet away ISN'T an infraction. That's how the rules were enforced when The Rules of Golf were originally written.
And that's why I call this new rule the Nordqvist Rule -- because it specifically mentions the Nordqvist ruling at the US Women's Open last year:
...there are two situations in which the use of video evidence is limited: When a player unknowingly touches a few grains of sand in a backswing with a club in making a stroke from a bunker... In such situations, if the Committee concludes that such facts could not reasonably have been seen with the naked eye and the player was not otherwise aware of a potential breach of the Rules, the player will be deemed not to have breached the Rules, even when video technology shows otherwise.
The second example they quote happened several years ago. (I forget the name of the player, although GC mentioned him during their broadcast.) The point is that the USGA and the R&A agree that the rules need to evolve along with technology. That's a HUGE step forward, and the fact that they've decided to put it into effect immediately is also very promising. (Kendra Graham told GC that evolving the rules along with the technology is a guiding principle of the new rule revisions and, since it's so basic to the revision, they saw no reason not to put it into effect right now.)

Ironically, neither of the new standards would have actually helped Lexi. According to the video evidence that was used originally, you can see that the ball was moved perhaps two inches from its original position -- no closer to the hole, just sideways. But based on the standards, that's an amount that's observable by the naked eye of a competitor.

The "help" will be left up to the working group. They will work to decide what evidence will be allowed in the enforcement of the rules. And I suspect this will be somewhat messy for a while, as different methods are tried at different events in different circumstances.  Ironically, Kendra said she was all for eliminating video evidence entirely -- but noted that doing so would also eliminate using video to help players, as when it's used to determine where a ball entered a hazard.

MAKE NO MISTAKE -- THERE WILL BE SOME MISTAKES MADE DURING THIS PROCESS. As Kendra noted, there are going to be unforeseen consequences with any decision the group makes, and we'll just have to put up with them during the process.

But I think that's okay. The rules will be worked out in the crucible of the game itself, not in some remote office where only the carpets are green. The actual effects of proposed changes -- the often unexpected repercussions -- will be seen in the real world, not just in some theoretical debate.

In the end, there is no substitute for experience. As critical as I have been of the ruling bodies for some of their decisions, I think this is a necessary step if they really want to make the Rules of Golf work under actual circumstances. I'm applauding them for what they did Tuesday.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Zurich Becomes the First of the Alternate Format Events

This is the week we finally get to see the retooled Zurich Classic, the singles-turned-team event that has captured everyone's imagination.

Stenson and Rose, together again

The new format is pretty simple: Start with 80 teams. Each plays a round of alternate shot and a round of best ball. Cut to 35 teams. Play another round of alternate shot and a round of best ball. Declare a winner.

I am a bit disappointed that the winners don't get a Masters invite. After all, the event isn't an alternate event, and part of the idea here is to create an event that will appeal to more people, which I think should count as a "grow the game initiative" and therefore get Augusta's support since they're really into that lately.

But at least each of the winners gets all the rest of the normal swag, created by combining normal winning positions (the winning team splits the normal first and second place winnings, the runner-ups split third and fourth, etc.):
  • 400 FedExCup points (800 divided by two)
  • Half of the combined money for first and second place
I'm curious how this will affect Ian Poulter, should he and Geoff Ogilvy place high. Poults only needed around $30k last week to keep his card but now that his major medical exemption ran out, I don't know how much he'd need to regain his card. (Assuming they don't win, of course. I bet that's what he's got his eye on now.)

Plus each player on the winning team gets:
  • Two-year Tour exemption
  • Invite to the invitational events like the Tournament of Champions and THE PLAYERS Championship
  • Invite to the PGA Championship
  • Credit for an official Tour win
So when you combine all that with the ability to pick your own teammate and spend the week in New Orleans, it's not hard to see why this event looks to be even more popular than the Zurich folks ever dreamed.

TV coverage is supposed to start Thursday afternoon at 3:30pm ET on GC. And here's a list of the teams that have signed up, although Jimmy Walker had to back out to begin treatment. Sean O'Hair's new partner wasn't listed.

One final note: I originally had a different title for this post, one that I felt summed up the unexpected popularity of this format change. I don't know for sure yet if this is really true, although the initial response suggests it is. Nevertheless, I guess I should issue a Juvenile Humor Alert before I say:

At the Zurich Classic, Two Balls Are Better Than One.

Snicker at your own risk.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 Valero Texas Open

Winner: Kevin Chappell

Around the wider world of golf: Carlos Franco and Vijay Singh set a course record when they won the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf on the Champions Tour (Allen Doyle and Hubert Green won the Legends Division); Bernd Wiesberger won the Shenzhen International on the ET; Florentyna Parker won the Estrella Damm Mediterranean Ladies Open on the LET; Hannah Green won the Sara Bay Classic on the Symetra Tour; Kenichi Kuboya won the Panasonic Open on the Japan Golf Tour; D.H. Lee won the United Leasing & Finance Championship on the Web.com Tour; and Nelson Ledesma won the Abierto OSDE del Centro on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Kevin Chappell is mildly excited by his win at the Valero

Yee-haw! Kevin Chappell finally broke the bronc that's been throwing him at the end of tournaments for the last few years. That critter pitched and bucked, but ole Kev wasn't having none of it this time. No sirree, that feller pulled out his six-shooter and shot that monkey right off his back and...

Okay, enough of the bad cowboy jokes. But you'd sure think Kevin had just survived the notorious shootout at the OK Corral. Take a good look at that photo! And that was nothing compared to the whole celebration.

But he deserved it. He's been so close so many times, so many runner-ups in the last couple of years, that it just seems appropriate to frame it as a classic western showdown. Even Brookes Koepka, his closest pursuer at the end, seemed genuinely happy for Kevin to finally get that big old monkey off his back.

And how did Kevin do it? By doing the one thing that he hadn't been able to do any previous time -- he hit one close on 18 and drained the putt for birdie to win. In and of itself, that one fact would have been enough to warrant the celebration. But Kevin played solid all the way down the stretch, making smart decision after smart decision. Even his reasoning for the "putt-not-chip" decision on 16 made sense for a guy who hadn't won before.

So this week Kevin Chappell get his first-ever Limerick Summary. It won't shine like his new cowboy boots, and it won't "jingle, jangle, jingle" like spurs, but you can't buy one of these in a store, either!
The long years of waiting are done
Since Kevin at last made the one
Big putt that he needed…
And Koepka conceded.
The boots simply made it more fun!
The photo came from the tournament upshot page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

This Drill May Have an Important Side Effect! (Video)

This is one of the Night School videos from School of Golf. Martin and Blair demonstrated a drill Martin got from the late Mo Norman... but it may help you in a way Martin didn't mention!



Here's the deal: Martin says it should help your balance, and that's true.

He also says it should help your swing plane. I'll admit I'm not as interested about that, except as it helps your balance. After all, if you take the club back properly (one-piece takeaway, anyone?) then you should come down properly.

But what caught my attention was the stance. Usually this kind of drill is done with the weight on the lead foot, and the trailing foot is drawn back and "unweighted." But this drill is the exact opposite! Your weight is on your trailing foot, and the lead foot is drawn back.

To be honest, my first thought was... won't this teach you a reverse pivot?

Instead -- and perhaps this is because my balance is already pretty good -- I found myself making a swing with no reverse motion at all. But I discovered something else as well.

Martin focuses on how this might help you fight an over-the-top move. But it will also help stop an in-to-out move, which may help a lot of you square up the clubface at impact!

Here's the reason: Both moves are caused because your elbows get too far away from your body -- your trailing arm in the downswing (that exaggerates the over-the-top move) and your lead elbow in the followthrough (that makes many players leave the clubface open). If you keep your lead elbow close to your side until the ball has been hit, the rolling of your lead shoulder will cause the clubface to square up.

Be aware -- and Martin didn't mention this -- if you have a problem with hooking the ball, this drill could exaggerate that problem. So if hooking is a problem for you, you might be better served to make swings with both feet together. Gets the same result for improving your balance without encouraging a hook.

But if you're having trouble squaring the face at impact, you might want to give this drill a try.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Cheer Up, Tiger Fans!

Just a link today. Golf Digest ran an article called 9 Facts That Will Cheer Up Even the Saddest of Tiger Woods Fans. And if you're afraid Tiger is done, I think this article will indeed give you some hope.

Tiger Woods

I'm just going to quote one fact for you. It's the first one:
There have been 22 majors won by golfers 42 or older.
Tiger isn't 42 yet, though he likely will be when he finally tees it up again. There is reason to believe that Tiger will be able to play golf again once his back heals. And -- most importantly, in my estimation -- is that Tiger has always beaten other players because he thought his way around the course better than they did.

Sure, Tiger has been able to do some amazing physical feats in his career, and he has won many tournaments because of that. But he has also been able to win a huge number of events when he didn't have his best stuff and couldn't take advantage of those physical abilities. We need to remember that.

I mean no disrespect to any of the other golfers but -- and I'll pick a golfer at random here -- if Tiger Woods had come out with Matt Kuchar's game, he probably wouldn't have won as many events as he did. BUT I feel it's safe to say that he would still have had a Hall of Fame career, and would have won more than one major in the process.

Don't forget that he's won with four different swings (and approaches) so far. Is it such a stretch to believe he could do it with yet another type of game?

When Tiger finally heals, I think there's a good chance he'll have at least as much game as Matt Kuchar. And if he does, I think we're in for a great ride over the next few years.

Time will tell. But I'm not giving up yet. Tiger has surprised me too many times.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Another Back Surgery for Tiger

Was this really a surprise? Probably not. Tiger's recovery after his ill-advised trip to the Middle East in January hadn't gone as well as hoped, although his appearance at Big Cedar Lodge earlier this week raised our hopes a bit.

Tiger Woods

But it wasn't to be. Tiger had another back surgery, and the details are in this Golf Digest article. The most reasonable expectation is that, between rehab and reconditioning, he'll miss the rest of the season.

However, I was interested to note that Tiger had a different surgery this time -- not a microdiscectomy but a single-level fusion. The difference? The first removes herniated material from between discs, the second fuses two discs together. The fusion, according to Dr. Richard Guyer of the Center for Disc Replacement at the Texas Back Institute, who did the surgery, is that this is only a six-month recovery period.

That makes sense to me. For all practical purposes, they're completely removing the source of the problem -- the space between the discs that grinds out that "herniated material" isn't there anymore.

So it seems the big question is no longer whether Tiger will finally be able to function normally in his everyday life; it sounds like this will do the job. But how will effectively having one less vertebra affect his golf swing?

I guess it'll be a while until we know for sure. But in the meantime, it's nice to know that Tiger probably won't be crippled with back pain anymore.

And now we wait...

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Update on the Quick Guide MEGAPACK

RuthlessGolf.com Quick Guide MEGAPACK coverI said I'd update you guys as I got the various MEGAPACK formats out, so here it is.

As I said originally, the ebook versions are available in MOBI, EPUB and PDF direct from the blog here. That didn't help those of you in the EU countries that charge VAT, so I was working to get them up at Smashwords.

Smashwords now has a PDF and an EPUB, but not a MOBI version. They'll let me upload an EPUB of my own making but insist on generating the MOBI themselves. However, their software choked on the file and won't create a decent Table of Contents... and the MEGAPACK is just too big to use without one. That means you can only get the PDF and EPUB from them right now.

But here's the big surprise. There is now a paperback version available! (This link is for the Amazon page, but it should be available at BN and the other bookstores as well.) It's 560 pages long and the price is $39.99, which is much cheaper than buying the individual paperback versions. I simply couldn't do the paperback as an exclusive edition and still get worldwide shipping. (Or free shipping for those of you who qualify.)

I started doing these Quick Guides to try and make quality golf lessons available at an inexpensive price. Hopefully this edition will make them even more affordable.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Cristie Kerr's Downswing Move #2 (Video)

Yesterday I posted a face-on video of Cristie Kerr smacking a driver, to help you learn a better move down to the ball. Today I want to add a bit to that instruction, and I'm using a down-the-line video of Cristie's drive to help you see this part better.



I quoted this from the Golf Digest article I referred to in yesterday's post:
"Most amateurs are moving their hands hard down toward the ball and moving their bodies toward the target. The key move is to avoid letting your right hip rotate toward the target too early as you move your hands and the club away."
And I said that it's easier to get that result if you focus on your arm and shoulder motion by keeping your trailing elbow straighter, rather than focusing on lower body action. I'm not changing that at all. However, I'm going to tie that advice to another tip I've mentioned many times, a tip that works very well with the arm motion I recommended.

In fact, this tip will make the arm motion much easier to learn.

I have often written that I would rather see you move DOWN to start your downswing, not forward toward the target the way many teachers suggest. That's how Sam Snead used to do it, and they didn't call him "Slammin' Sam" for nothing! Cristie does this as well, and the above video will not only help you understand why I recommend this move, but it will help you start your downswing smoothly.

The second and third swings on the above video are slow -- and the third one is REALLY slow, just like yesterday's video, so it's the easiest one to see the move in. When Cristie gets to the top of her backswing, her trailing knee (her right one) is almost straight. But to start her downswing, she bends that knee. That starts her weight moving downward, and that in turn helps pull the club down without changing the amount of bend in her trailing elbow.

But it does more. Bending her trailing knee -- a mini-squat, if you like -- pulls her trailing hip forward, toward the ball, and shifts her weight onto her lead leg. (It has to. If it didn't, she'd lose her balance and fall down!) It's almost as if she fell onto her lead leg and braced herself with it... and since her lead knee is already bent, it automatically "loads up" to push her upward at impact, effectively "using the ground."

That one downward move -- bending her trailing knee to start her downswing and pull her arms downward without changing the angles created at the top by her trailing elbow -- creates both hip rotation AND weight shift without any kind of dramatic hip or leg action... and that means you stay stable over the ball, creating better contact. It also stops you from uncocking your wrists too early in your downswing, so you create more clubhead speed as well.

If you watch both videos and try to feel the rhythm of her backswing-to-downswing move, and then try it out on your own, I think you'll be pleased with the results you get after just a little practice. It's a simple, natural way to use the physics of your swing to create more clubhead speed with less effort.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Cristie Kerr's Downswing Move (Video)

Golf Digest did a short post called Change Directions Like Cristie Kerr to Fix Your Driver. (Pretty self-explanatory, to be honest.) Here's the video they included, which I may have used several months back; I don't remember. It's a good video.



The article says, "Most amateurs are moving their hands hard down toward the ball and moving their bodies toward the target. The key move is to avoid letting your right hip rotate toward the target too early as you move your hands and the club away."

That's good advice, but I think it could be simpler. We're just too hung up on driving our lower body -- we think everything has to be described in terms of leg drive. Let me give you a drill that will teach you the move a bit more simply.

What you want to focus on is keeping your trailing elbow straighter. Don't fold your trailing elbow so much as you swing to the top of your backswing. I know, I know -- it feels as if it stops you from turning your shoulders fully, it feels as if it shortens your backswing. it feels too upright. Ignore these feelings! Here's the drill, which will translate very easily to your swing:
As you take the club away from the ball, keep your trailing elbow fairly straight for as long as possible. I say "fairly straight" because your elbow HAS to bend some. You can keep it straight longer if you let your lead knee bend toward the center of your stance and your lead heel come off the ground. Stop swinging before you get near a 90° bend in your trailing elbow.

Now, to start your downswing, try to plant your lead heel back on the ground AND swing your arms down without bending your trailing elbow AT THE SAME TIME. Basically, it feels as if you're just holding your arms in the same position while you pivot them down from your shoulder joints. It's like a karate chop with both hands. IF YOU BEND YOUR TRAILING ELBOW EVEN MORE AS YOU START DOWN, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!
You may not be able to do this very fast at first, but you'll get used to it. It won't take long. Try it in your backyard until it feels a bit more natural, then try hitting some balls at the range.
It won't take long to catch onto the rhythm of this move. It feels a bit awkward because it keeps your trailing hip from moving forward too quickly. After you get used to the move, your swing speed will pick up and you'll start to naturally bend your elbow a bit more... but you'll also start to create more wrist cock on your downswing. If you watch the third swing in the video, which is in much slower motion, you'll see that Cristie's trailing elbow is bent around 100° and her wrist cock increases before her hands reach waist high on her downswing. That will start to happen naturally.

An added benefit of this move: You'll get more consistent contact because this motion makes it easier to tell where the bottom of the club is. That means fewer fat and thin shots.

UPDATE: I've added a second post at this link, with an extra tip that may make this move easier to learn.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 RBC Heritage

Winner: Wesley Bryan

Around the wider world of golf: Cristie Kerr set a new tournament record with her win at the LOTTE Championship on the LPGA; Stephen Ames got his first Champions Tour win at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic; Edoardo Molinari won the Trophee Hassan II in a playoff on the ET; Klára Spilková became the first Czech player to win a Ladies European Tour event at the Lalla Meryem Cup; and Wen-Chong Liang won the Token Homemate Cup on the Japan Golf Tour.

Wesley Bryan accepting RBC Heritage trophy

I'm calling it Bryan's Law: Take the trick-shot artists seriously.

I'll admit... the Easter egg outfit might cause you to think twice about that. (Come to think of it, I think I've seen a similar outfit during other final rounds Wesley's played. Or perhaps I was just blinded by the sheer flamboyance of it all.) But no matter how he dressed, Wesley didn't crack under the pressure as he came down the stretch. His 67 may not have been the lowest score of the day -- that goes to Matt Kuchar, who was too far back for his 64 to affect the outcome -- but it was the next lowest.

Most importantly, it was enough.

So Wesley took home an Easter basket full of goodies from Hilton Head, which included an invite to the 2018 Masters and a very large winner's check. He also gained the title of "First South Carolinian to win the RBC Heritage in its 49-Year History," which is a very long and impressive title, and likely one he will take great pride in.

Just as he did on the Web.com Tour -- getting the Battlefield Promotion in his first year on that tour -- he picks up his first PGA Tour win in his rookie year there. I can assure you that Bryan's Law is taken very seriously among his peers!

And it's also taken very seriously here at RuthlessGolf.com, where we don't give out Limerick Summaries just because a player has a colorful personality... or a matching wardrobe. Better get used to the bright colors, folks -- this kid may be around for a while:
On Sunday, our trick-shooting golfer
Did NOT lay an egg. Wesley offered
Some clothes with bright dyes—
He's an Easter surprise!—
And then left with a much fuller coffer.
The photo came from the tournament wrap-up page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Cristie Kerr Gets Her 21st HoF Point

This has been a season for dramatic comebacks after surgery. Pat Perez, for example, won at Mayakoba in November, only his third event back after shoulder surgery.

And now, Cristie Kerr has won again after knee surgery in the off-season -- this time in Hawaii, in the LOTTE Championship that finished on Sunday.

Cristie Kerr

And she didn't just squeak out a win either. In case you missed it, she tied the course record of 62 in Friday's third round, then came back to post a 66 in the final round. In her last 36 holes she made 16 biridies and no bogeys to win by three.

Did you get that? SIXTEEN birdies, NO bogeys! And after three holes in the final round, she was still five behind the leader, Su-Yeon Jang. Jang was playing on a sponsor's invite for winning the LOTTE event on the KLPGA, where she's a member. Jang looked good (two birdies in the first three holes) until she reached #6, where she made her first bogey of the week(!) and then the wheels started to come off a bit.

It's very possible that being paired with Cristie for the final round eventually got to her. When an experienced player gets in a groove, she's not going to be shaken by an initial surge like the one Jang managed. Cristie's been on the Tour for over two decades and, with 18 LPGA wins, she knew she had plenty of time if she played well.

And she did.

So Cristie picked up her 21st Hall of Fame point. That's for the LPGA Hall of Fame, of course, because she'll make the World Golf Hall of Fame without any problem. But the LPGA has an unvarying criteria for entry -- 27 points (1 point for each win, 2 points for each major) -- and Cristie was seven points short.

Was short, that is. Make it six now. Congrats, Cristie!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

To Call or Not to Call (Video)

Today I'd just like to make sure you all know both sides of the continuing argument about the Lexi Thompson ruling at the ANA a couple weeks back. I've got an article and a video for you.

The article is from Golf Digest and is called Viewer Discretion Advised. In it Jaime Diaz covers the discussions between the USGA, R&A, PGA Tour, LPGA and European Tour since the whole thing took place. It also discusses the rule that might change it -- the proposed Rule 1.3a(2).

The video is from Morning Drive's interview with Michael Bamberger about why viewer phone-ins should be allowed. Needless to say, his is going to be a controversial opinion!



The one thing I gathered from these two pieces is that a rule change may be a much bigger issue than many people expect. To me, this is an issue grounded in the history of the rules -- namely, that video was never considered when the rules were made because video wasn't even a possibility at the time. For that reason, I don't think "video police" who aren't on the premises of the event should be allowed to act as referees. Having tournament officials use video to confirm infractions -- including questionable behavior witnessed by fans attending the event -- would be allowed.

To me, that seems to fit the spirit of the rules.

But it's becoming more and more clear that this will be an issue about the "squeaky clean" image that the major golf organizations wish to maintain. Whether it's intended or not, that image is being called into question more and more as the debate goes on, especially with Jack Nicklaus having used the term cheating during a TV interview to describe a situation at the 2015 Presidents Cup. (That incident is mentioned in the article as well.)

As a result, I'm afraid this might get ugly before it's over. I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Getting the Right Grip for Your Swing

Golf Digest posted an article called Match Your Swing to Your Body Like Sergio Garcia. You might not realize it but this article is about matching your grip to your swing. The article explains how that works with Sergio's grip, but the real meat of this article is the short explanation of how you can find the right grip for you.

Sergio hitting shot at Augusta

Here's the basic test. Note that when the text says to hold the club in your right hand, it means your TRAILING hand:
Hold a club in just your right hand, first with an extremely strong grip (where your hand is under the bottom of the handle). Make some half speed swings and notice if the face rapidly closes, stays square or tends to stay open. Do the same exercise with a neutral grip (on the side of the handle) and a weak one (with the hand more on top). The grip that produces the most square, natural-feeling release is going to be the best one for you.
"Once you've found the right one, use that as your right hand grip," says [Top50 Teacher Mike] Adams. "It dictates the direction of the hinge. It will dictate what your right elbow does, and what your path does. You don't have to think about it. Each of us has a pattern that fits us best."
You'll want to read the entire article to understand how this can help you. There's a full explanation of Sergio's grip, but the key here is that your trailing hand grip determines the direction that you'll hinge the club in your backswing -- on an upright, neutral or flat plane. It should be obvious that if you're making a flat swing but hinging the club in an upright plane, you're going to need compensations in your downswing.

And compensations just make it harder to hit good shots.

It's a good article that covers some instruction that isn't often talked about -- and does so in a clear, understandable way. Check it out!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

How to Impress People with a Shovel (Videos)

This is just entertaining. Golf Digest had Justin Thomas hit golf balls with a number of different objects, just to compare his smash factor with those objects to his smash factor with a driver (1.52). They gave him some pretty weird stuff to try.



My personal favorite was the shovel. I'm relieved to know he can only hit one around 42 yards, with a smash factor of 1.20 and a clubhead speed of just over 34mph. Even Justin Thomas isn't that impressive when he hits golf balls with a shovel.

No, if you really want to impress people with a shovel, you should copy a different Justin -- namely, Justin Johnson, who can play just about anything with strings. Check him out, playing a three-string electric shovel:



And just for the record, you can actually buy those electric shovels at his website. If you're serious about playing electric shovel, that is.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

LPGA + Hawaii = PRIME TIME!

Look, you want to see Hawaii. I want to see Hawaii. We ALL want to see Hawaii because we can't be there! So here's your chance. The LOTTE Championship starts tonight on GC.

Minjee Lee with Lotte trophy

Tony Jesselli, as usual, has a preview of this event over at his blog that you can check out. I'll just give you a few broad strokes:
  • The tournament is at Ko Olina Golf Club on Oahu, which is the third largest Hawaiian island. That's where Honolulu (the capital) and Pearl Harbor are, and about two-thirds of the state's population lives there.
  • The event is sponsored (for the third year) by Hersheys, which I think is cool simply because macadamia nuts are one of Hawaii's major exports... and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts are AWESOME! (Yes, I got off-topic there, but they really are.)
  • Minjee Lee is the defending champion and is coming off a T3 at the ANA, which is her best major finish.
According to Tony, this isn't a particularly strong field although it's stronger than last year. Lydia Ko, So Yeon Ryu (the ANA champ) and Ariya Jutanugarn are all there. One notable player who isn't is Lexi Thompson, who may have taken it off because of the ANA shocker. (She was T10 at the LOTTE last year.)

Of course, Michelle Wie is there. She's from Honolulu, after all, so this is a home game for her. And given her play of late -- as well as her past success here -- she may turn in another good performance.

The big thing to remember is that live coverage begins at 7pm ET tonight on GC. I love prime time golf, especially when I get to look at beautiful Hawaiian scenery. (It would be even better if I had some of those chocolate-covered macadamia nuts to munch while I watch, but I guess you can't have everything.)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Some Final Masters Thoughts

So let's take one last look at the Masters and put this baby to bed.

The lack of pursuers: While everybody seems worried about Jordan and Rickie and other assorted players who couldn't seem to post scores on Sunday, I'm not really surprised. It's hard to make anything happen at Augusta National, especially on the front nine when the greens have firmed up. And once Sergio went 2-under in three holes, the rest of the field felt the need to press. That plan is almost always guaranteed to fail.

Jordan's struggles: Likewise, I'm not worried about Jordan going forward. We've got this crazy idea that Jordan's swing is always going to be perfect... or just perfect crap. There's no in-between in our expectations. But Jordan's swing was only a bit off -- not a lot, but enough to be a problem at Augusta -- and he was trying to do something he's never had to do at the Masters -- CHASE. The results were what we should have expected.

BTW, the shots that went in the water on 15 Thursday and on 12 Sunday? Both were headed straight for the hole. They just came up short, which was a problem he had all week (and of which he was aware). I think part of that was just the result of trying to get too cute with his short irons. Sometimes you just have to accept a 20-footer and move on. Jordan will learn that sooner or later.

Changes for Sergio: Trevor Immelman made an interesting point on Golf Central Monday. While we normally expect a major win to change a player's life, he didn't expect that to happen to Sergio, simply because he's been in the limelight all his life.

I do think he'll see one change. Finally getting a major -- and getting it the way he did -- will probably result in more supportive American galleries. His attitude wasn't gloating but grateful, especially toward the people who have helped him. It might even be appropriate to say he was humble, and that will go a long way here in the States.

Finally, on opening the major season: Admittedly, we never know exactly what we'll get each year. But if the Masters truly sets the tone going forward, this season will likely be full of surprises. DJ's health in question, Sergio finally breaking through, some unexpected shuffling among the dominant young players coupled with a reemergence of the 30-somethings, and the completely new venue of Erin Hills means we have NO clear direction for the foreseeable future.

The word is that DJ plans to play THE PLAYERS in a couple of weeks, so we'll get some idea how his back is. Sergio has a good record there, of course, and a good attitude to go with it -- a potentially dangerous combination! Justin Rose has an uneven history there but is clearly on-form going in. We can say the same about Rickie Fowler, and the field is the first truly deep one of the season.

If the Masters is a taste of what we might get this year, my mouth is watering!

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 Masters

Winner: Sergio Garcia

Around the wider world of golf: Hyemin Kim got her first win at the POC Med Golf Classic on the Symetra Tour. Everybody else was watching the Masters!

Sergio with Green Jacket and trophy

The crowds were chanting his name. He was doubled over with joy, crouched down, fists clenched... and beside the 18th green, his fiance Angela mirrored his body language.

To me, that will probably be the lasting memory of this Masters. That, and Sergio and Angela walking off together, arm-in-arm, to Butler Cabin.

Yes, the seemingly impossible finally happened. Sergio Garcia finally got a major -- the one that he probably wanted most, since it's the one his two idols (Seve and Jose Maria) share -- and words just seem inadequate to describe it. In one afternoon Sergio gave his fans everything they ever wanted, and did it with all the drama and exuberance they could have asked for.

I'm not going into any great detail summing it up, for the simple reason that if you didn't see it, you'll see all the highlights at some time or another in the next few weeks. Let me just make one observation.

Sergio Garcia has, like Dustin Johnson, grown up and found out who he is. He spoke in his presser about having done stupid things before, having let his emotions get the better of him, and having accepted the help and love of those who care for him most. He spoke of encouraging notes stuck to the bathroom mirror by Angela. He spoke of friends who never gave up on him. He smiled a whole lot.

And, oh yes, he went to a playoff and played just one hole. Perfectly. Just the way we knew he could. Piped the drive, flagged the iron, and made the longish birdie putt to end everybody's doubts.

I don't know if this will "open the floodgates," as they say. But if this win does for Sergio what the US Open win did for Dustin, we may be in for another seismic upheaval in the Tour's competition.

In the meantime, perhaps Angela will stick this Limerick Summary on the bathroom mirror for Sergio, along with her love notes. This one has certainly been a long time coming and boy, are we glad it's here!
That fun-loving, high-jumping teen
Has long been away from the scene
Of professional golf…
But now Sergio's off
To a land where his dream's everGreen.
The photo came from this page at theguardian.com.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Everything's Back on Track!

And I'm sending out a big thanks to the folks at GoDaddy for getting the mess straightened out quickly.

Yes, Virginia, There's a Problem...

Something has gone wrong with my publishing website and it's affected ruthlessgolf.com. Some images aren't available, etc. Hopefully I'll be able to get this straightened out with my hosting company pretty quick. Be patient with me, okay?

So Who's the Favorite?

After listening to the Golf Central crew Saturday night, I thought I'd see who Masters history says is most likely to win today.

Justin Rose and caddie

GC provided several stats, most of which I can't remember exactly! But as I recall, one of those stats says the winner comes from the last group about 72% of the time. Clearly, that would be either Justin Rose or Sergio Garcia.

At some point in the past -- I can't remember when or where -- I heard that the winner almost always comes from one of the two final groups. In that case, we can add Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth to the list.

Some commentators say it's the Top5. That would add Ryan Moore and Charley Hoffman to the list. And I can see that, as Moore and Hoffman are tied with Spieth. If Spieth has a chance, so should the other two.

But how far back is too far? The three players in fourth place are at -4, only two shots off the lead. Is three shots too far back? Four? Five? There are only ten players under par, so let's add:
  • Adam Scott three back at -3
  • Charl Schwartzel four back at -2
  • Lee Westwood and Thomas Pieters five back at -1
I don't see how it could go much farther back UNLESS the lead group -- perhaps the three lead groups -- fall back. Not very likely, in my opinion.

So where do we draw the line?

An interesting article at golfdigest.com might help. Called Masters 2017: Is 'Moving Day' at Augusta a myth or a reality?, it has a couple of interesting facts about how eventual winners perform in the THIRD round. It says:
The average position of eventual champions after 36 holes is 3.95, with it improving to 2.28 after 54 holes. The average third-round score of eventual winners is 70.19, and the average number of strokes picked up on the lead (or having the lead increase) is 1.16 strokes.
According to this stat, the eventual winner starts the third round around FOURTH place, and enters the final round around SECOND... and to make that move, they shoot around 70 and gain one stroke relative to the lead.

Of course, stats are nothing but numbers, and while it may be true that "numbers never lie," it's also true that numbers mean nothing until they are interpreted... and interpretations lie all the time!

And none of these numbers match what has happened this week. (Okay, Sergio shot 70 in the third round, but that's as far as it goes.) So I've decided to chuck the historical stats. Instead, here's my take on how this plays out.

I don't see all of the leaders struggling today, so it's probably a stretch for anybody more than three strokes back to win. That gives us SEVEN potential winners, with Adam Scott (-3) being the long shot. Of those seven players, ONLY ONE PLAYER HAS BEEN UNDER PAR EACH ROUND.
  • In addition, that player has more pars and fewer bogeys (or worse) than his closest competition.
  • And despite these numbers -- which indicate playing safe -- he's still made enough birdies to compete.
Believe it or not, that player is Sergio Garcia.

Folks, we just might see history made today. That's all I'm saying.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Changeable Winds... or the Winds of Change?

Everybody expected the weather would be tough on Masters Friday, but I'm not sure anybody expected the results.

Sergio Garcia

I guess we all expected Charley Hoffman to come back to the field. Not that Charley played badly, but even he said he got a bit lucky on Thursday. He didn't get the same breaks Friday and ended up shooting 75, which was the average score of the field. Still enough to keep a piece of the lead.

The shocks began when Sergio birdied the first three holes. Birdies were virtually non-existent on #1! Then Rickie Fowler and Thomas Pieters started going low and, by the end of the day, we had a four-way tie for the lead.

I'm not sure anybody expected a 4-under lead -- at least, not unless Charley made a deal with the devil. The winds were just too strong. Will McGirt -- alone in fifth place at -2 -- chalked it up to the way the winds swirled, saying that they would often completely change direction.

In the end, only 9 players finished under par. But that group includes players as diverse as Jon Rahm and Fred Couples. And the three players at even par -- Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth -- virtually guarantee a wild weekend at Augusta.

The changeable winds of Thursday and Friday may give way to the winds of change this weekend. It's a healthy mix of veterans and fresh faces, of major winners and major possibilities. And while each of the most-likely contenders right now will garner attention, it's probably safe to say that Sergio and Rickie will be the most-watched of the bunch.

At any rate, it's shaping up to be one of the best Masters weekends we've seen in a while. Pardon the pun, but something major is likely to happen Sunday afternoon.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Playing the Half Wedge

Golf Digest posted instructions Thursday on how to hit the half wedge, right after Martin Kaymer used it to hit the shot pictured below and make eagle.

Martin Kaymer holes out for eagle on #2 Thursday

Here's the key: You don't want to hit the ball hard. Instead, you want to hit the ball as easily as you can and still get the ball to the hole, because hard strikes create more spin and more height on the shot. That's a killer in the wind! The half wedge is a low shot that flies low, hops once and rolls slowly toward the hole.

Instructor Kevin Meeks says you take a less-lofted wedge -- 54° is a popular choice -- play the ball just back of center, and sweep it gently off the ground. Meeks advises using your body to control this motion rather than your arms, because you can control the speed of your swing better that way.

This shot probably seems to contradict common sense. We're all taught that you need speed to create enough spin to stop the ball, but that's not entirely correct. You need clean contact to create spin, and a short gentle swing that makes solid contact will get the job done.

The half wedge is a good shot to add to your arsenal. As Martin Kaymer demonstrated in that windy first round at Augusta, you don't need the speed of a Dustin Johnson to make that golf ball behave.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Looks Like the Freakish Week Came After All...

In yesterday's "5 to Watch" post I wrote:
And so, buoyed by last week's winning pick of So Yeon Ryu -- after that freakish ruling totally changed the final round -- I'm going to bet on another freakish week. I'm taking Westwood to get his first major this week in a low-scoring Masters plagued by bad weather.
I didn't have anything like this in mind!

Dustin Johnson

Tim Rosaforte posted this report at golfdigest.com, and it's about as up-to-date as any full article I can find as I'm writing this (after midnight on the US East Coast). I did find this tweet from Matt Ginella, sent roughly 3.5 hours ago:


The trick, of course, is that nobody knows exactly whether this is a bruise or something more serious. At least DJ has the last time of the day today, so he's got the maximum amount of time to get healthier.

Add this little accident to the bad weather that's expected -- and for those of you outside the US, this is part of a front that has already caused serious damage not far from Augusta -- and we could have a truly strange brew of circumstances converging this weekend.

Who knows what new strangeness might emerge from Augusta National today? Depending on how DJ fares, maybe Lee Westwood isn't such a bad bet after all!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

My "5 to Watch" at the Masters

We have finally reached the first men's major of the year. The Masters may get a rough start because of the expected weather, but at least we're underway!

Defending champion Danny Willett

Do I really need to give you a "preview" of the event? The Masters is the only major held at the same venue every year, Augusta National was the pride and joy of Bobby Jones, Danny Willett is the defending champ, first-timers rarely win the event, blah, blah, blah. You folks know all of this, so let's get on with it.

This year we may see the most wide-open field ever. I know I often say that about the Masters, but this year it could be true. After all, the top of the world rankings are in flux, we have a number of other players who have seen their games return to form over the last few months, and there are decent reasons not to pick the most obvious suspects. So I've chosen an unusually large number of flier picks this year.

The wild card here is the weather. If players see the 20mph+ winds, with 35mph gusts, that have been predicted, the draw could play a much larger part than normal. The shorter hitters have generally performed better in bad weather, despite the lack of truly penalizing rough at Augusta which would put a premium on accuracy. And if the winds get really swirly, the veterans in the field could gain a distinctive advantage.

Several players don't make my list, not because I don't think they can win, but simply because I question their mental readiness right now.
  • For example, I suspect Jason Day's mind will still be on his mom, and that may be enough to accentuate his lack of practice. However, if his mom's health improves enough for her to come down for the weekend, all bets are off. I think the emotional boost of playing in front of his mom at Augusta for the first time could actually make him the favorite. I can't bet on that, though.
  • Rory McIlroy's best major performances have come in bad weather. Still, with the inward pressure he's putting on himself to complete the career Grand Slam, I think the winds might prove too much for his concentration. I do believe he'll eventually win the Masters... just not this year.
  • Rickie Fowler is playing some of the best golf of his career right now, he has a win coming into the Masters for the first time, and he has played well in bad weather Opens before. But I'm a bit concerned about his consistency right now, even though my inclination is to put him on the list.
  • And while Paul Casey has a T6 and a T4 in his last two Masters, his Open record is nowhere near as good. I don't like his chances in the predicted conditions.
So I wonder who I should pick? I've decided to use results from the recent Opens to help me, as several have been played in bad weather.
  • I can't find a good reason not to put Dustin Johnson at the top of the list. Can he make the Masters his fourth win in a row? It's hard to believe that he could, yet DJ's current form is unlike anything he's had coming in to past Masters. And when you consider that DJ has played well in bad weather Opens, added to his newfound accuracy with driver and wedges, he has to be at the top of the list.
  • Likewise, Jordan Spieth's short but impressive record at Augusta puts him high on the list despite a few cautionary thoughts. The dip in his putting stats is troublesome. And save for his T4 in 2015, Jordan has poor showings in the Open. Since we all know that Jones and MacKenzie modeled aspects of Augusta after links courses, the bad weather could give him an unusually tough time. Nevertheless, it's hard to bet against him.
  • My fliers start early. First on the list is Phil Mickelson, who is playing well. Given his play in the Open over the last few years -- three Top2s in his last six starts -- often in poor weather, and the well-known "magical touch" that Augusta seems to have on him, I can see him finding the touch again for a fourth Green Jacket.
  • Flier #2 is Jon Rahm. I don't care what the odds against a first-time winner are, Rahm has convinced me he could pull it off. He's a quick learner, and he's in such good form that he might be able to handle the weather.
  • Finally, I go for my biggest flier of all: Lee Westwood. Lee has been slowly getting his game back in shape. But it may have gone unnoticed that, in his last 7 starts at Augusta, he has posted two runner-ups (one was last year), a third, a 7th, an 8th and an 11th. His record at the Open over that time hasn't been nearly as good, and he hasn't played much this year. (He's focused on the Euro Tour now.) But that recent record has to be taken seriously.
And so, buoyed by last week's winning pick of So Yeon Ryu -- after that freakish ruling totally changed the final round -- I'm going to bet on another freakish week. I'm taking Westwood to get his first major this week in a low-scoring Masters plagued by bad weather.

Yes, I know. Power and success have gone to my head. But I'm still smiling. ;-)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Why Armchair Officials Are Unneeded

I'll do my "5 to Watch" at the Masters post tomorrow. Today it's time for my promised rant about letting TV viewers affect tournament rulings. I think there are a number of things which are being ignored in the debate, even after the Thompson ruling at the ANA Sunday. I'd like to look at three of them in this post.

Point #1: Allowing armchair officials actually works against the ideal of creating a level playing field for all competitors.

The Rules of Golf, like the rules of most sports, were never designed to deal with a digital world. That's part of the reason we're having these struggles now, as are many other sports organizations like the NFL. Of course, golf is having a worse time than most, simply because the other organizations don't allow viewer input at all. For example, former Vice President of Officiating for the NFL Mike Pereira tweeted:


In fact, here's an interesting note on how the NFL will now treat video reviews, as expressed in a decision made at the NFL Owners' Meeting just this past March 28:
Most notable Tuesday was the change in handling officiating of video replays. Referees will now watch replays on the field using tablets, eliminating “going under the hood” to the watch on television monitors.

League officiating chief Dean Blandino and his staff in New York will make the final decisions on those calls, with input from the referee, who in the past was the ultimate arbiter after consulting with league headquarters.

“And I think that’s important to remember, we’re not taking the referee out of the equation,” Blandino has said. “The referee will still be involved, the referee will still give input, but will no longer have the final say.”
For those of you who don't understand why the NFL would want to minimize the part played by the actual refs on the field during a video review, you have to realize that NFL games are taking place all over the nation and each game has a different set of refs. What the NFL wants to do is have only one voice in EVERY game making the final decision during video reviews, in order to get one consistent set of rulings for the entire league.

In other words, the NFL decided that you make the game fairer for every player by MINIMIZING the number of people involved in officiating. And when the golf tours allow viewers -- who aren't even part of the appointed officiating crew -- to influence decisions, they actually increase the likelihood that players will be treated unfairly.

Lexi's ruling was a case in point. Millions of fans watched the same broadcast but saw no violation. However, one person who discovered a problem 24 hours later probably cost her a major. In no other sport -- where only the officials on the field are allowed to make such rulings -- would a travesty like that have been allowed. Which brings us to...

Point #2: Officials are unbiased. Fans are not.

I realize that this point is going to offend some people, but we have to deal with it. And while I don't mean to insinuate that every fan is motivated in the following ways, the nature of the violations that get reported are problematic. For when fans call tour officials to "report a violation" -- something that none of the officials, nor millions of other fans saw, and especially when finding said violation requires examination of extreme video close-ups to verify what happened (and those close-ups weren't shown as part of the broadcast) -- we have to ask what kind of fan goes to that much trouble.

And the answers aren't very pretty.

We may be dealing with people who feel powerless, and they boost their feelings of self-esteem by trying to effect the actions of "famous people." I think we'd all agree that these people have a psychological problem that requires therapy, not the validation of ruining things for the "famous person." Granted, this is less dangerous than stalking or attempting to murder a celebrity, but it's still not something we want to re-enforce.

We may be dealing with fans who will do anything to help "their" player win. In this case, the player has been specifically targeted, rather than the randomness of the previous example. And since a particular player has been targeted, the integrity of the field has clearly been compromised if we allow these "violations" to be heard.

But perhaps the darkest possibility is that the entire event is being manipulated. Whether the tours want to talk about it or not, we all know that a great deal of sports betting goes on around the world. I wonder how much money -- betted legally or not -- changed hands when Lexi was assessed a 4-stroke penalty and the odds on who might win the ANA changed dramatically?

Worse yet, imagine how much money could be made if the bettor KNEW that the odds were going to change because he or she orchestrated that change? This possibility simply can't be ignored.

One of the sides of the debate I've heard over the last day or so is that "golf is different from other sports, and this is part of what makes our game different." But I would argue that every decision we make has consequences, and we can't simply ignore some of them because we don't want to admit they exist. There is a reason why other sports don't allow the fans to influence the referees in this manner.

Tell me: Is the fear that someone may occasionally make a cut because of a missed penalty really worth risking such wholesale manipulation of the sport itself? I can't agree with that. The risk is too great.

When ANYONE can affect the officiating of a game, we open the door to all sorts of manipulation that can destroy the integrity of that game. The only way to prevent that is to stop it at the source. We simply MUST limit the number of people whose voices matter. If we don't, we're being irresponsible toward the players in the field and the vast majority of fans who are content to let the appointed officials do their jobs.

Point #3: Eliminating the outside voices will not allow more violators to "get away with it." Rather, the fix is rather simple to implement.

In listening to the debates over the last day or so, I've been amazed at how easily we are overwhelmed by technology. How many officials are needed in the TV truck, for example? Who will keep watch on the 30 or more video streams coming from the on-course cameras? Perhaps we need all the viewers to help us keep watch on the field, to make sure no one cheats!

There are so many flaws in this line of thinking that I almost don't know where to start. But I'll try.

First of all, we don't need to worry about all the cameras on the course. In case no one has yet realized it, all of those millions of fans are watching the exact same cameras -- namely, the network broadcast stream. I'm pretty sure the tours can find one or two officials who are willing to take a beer and some pretzels, head off into an air-conditioned room, and settle into comfy chairs in front of a large-screen TV to watch the broadcast! Since this is such a strenuous job, we can rotate the officials every hour or so. That way we'll always have fresh eyes watching.

We can even give them a direct intercom to the TV truck. That way, if our "official viewers" should see something, they can buzz the official in the truck: "Hey, can you take a look at Lexi's ballmark on 17? She might have marked it wrong. Thanks."

Is that really so hard?

As I said earlier, The Rules of Golf were never designed to deal with a digital world. But that really shouldn't be a problem when it comes to enforcing them. We talk constantly about the integrity of our players, and we build entire youth programs around the values our game teaches. But we seem compelled to contradict that by our actions...

After all, if our golfers are so honest, then why do we need super-magnification on our cameras to detect when the ball has been misplaced by a single inch? It's obvious, isn't it? It's because WE MUST PUNISH ANY IMPERFECTION WITH THE MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE PENALTY! WE MUST NOT TOLERATE LAWBREAKERS, EVEN IF THEY CLEARLY DO SO BY ACCIDENT AND THEIR TRANSGRESSION HAS NO MEASURABLE EFFECT ON THE GAME!

Our game has reached a point where it is no longer about having fun. It's about the paranoia of being perfect in every possible way:
  • We MUST have perfect mechanics, or our swings are subject to criticism.
  • We MUST hit every wedge shot within a statistically acceptable range, or our players look as if they just ate a live slug and they slam the ground with their clubs.
  • And we MUST call every penalty possible on ourselves, lest our integrity be called into question. You say that you caused that ball to shift position by ONE WHOLE DIMPLE? My God, man! Call that one-shot penalty on yourself or forever be a pariah among your peers!
Other sports -- all of which accept the fact that there will be occasional errors in the officiating -- continue to grow in popularity, much faster than golf. Apparently the fans are less concerned with perfection than with fair competition. Perhaps golf should adopt the same attitude, especially since we are so proud of our players' integrity. Why not trust them for a change?

But there is no longer any room for human frailty in our game, is there? We can't just present a good product; it has to be a perfect product. It doesn't matter whether the so-called violation has any effect on the outcome of the game or not. And in the process, we teach the youngsters coming up that nothing we do is ever good enough. We teach them that legalism and punishment are more important than logic and common sense. We teach them, in effect, to be "holier than thou."

I think that makes "growing the game" a good deal harder than it needs to be.

There has been a great deal of debate so far over the proposed rule changes being considered by the USGA and the R&A. Everyone is debating whether individual changes are integral changes to the game or just overdue logic. We're even beginning to ask if intent should matter when enforcing the rules. These debates are necessary. They're how we discover what is important in our rules.

But perhaps common sense should play a bigger part in our rules. Lexi was penalized 4 shots for placing her ball one inch to the left of her original line... on a flat putt measuring twelve inches in length. While we don't want our players to get sloppy about marking their ball, there has to be some point at which we simply say, "Oh well, it didn't make any difference to the outcome. But you need to be more careful from now on."

It happened 24 hours earlier, folks. It didn't affect how difficult Lexi's putt was, and the integrity of the field wasn't harmed. But that 4-shot penalty, assessed in the midst of the final round, DID affect the integrity of the field and tainted the whole event. Even So Yeon Ryu, who benefited from the ruling, stood there crying at the end and told Lisa Cornwell that it just didn't feel right.

When the Rules create the very problems they were meant to prevent, it's time for the Rules to change.

I think that any "infraction of the rules" that can't be seen with the naked eye from a few feet away ISN'T an infraction. That's how the rules were enforced when The Rules of Golf were originally written. If the infraction couldn't be seen, the players were expected to call it on themselves. And no one worried that someone would "get away" with breaking a rule. If we modern types believe they will, unless we use the most high-powered enforcement tools available...

Well, maybe we don't believe in personal integrity as much as we claim.

At the very least, we don't need millions of viewers all calling in about it. Video wasn't part of the Rules when they were originally set down. It DEFINITELY shouldn't be part of them now.

End of rant. For today, anyway. ;-)

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 Shell Houston Open

Winner: Russell Henley

Around the wider world of golf: So Yeon Ryu broke her winless streak in what may well have been the most bizarre ANA Inspiration ever on the LPGA (and yes, there WILL be a rant post soon!); Miguel Angel Jimenez won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic on the Champions Tour; and Liv Cheng (from New Zealand) won the Gateway Classic on the Symetra Tour.

Russell Henley with Houston Open trophy

It's amazing how often it happens. Everybody gets focused on a couple of players who seem likely to duke it out all the way to the finish, only to have someone sneak up with a great round and steal the whole thing.

Well, actually, Russell Henley had an amazing round. Ten birdies' worth, which I would call amazing, even if it only added up to a 65. After all, it was the best round anybody shot on Sunday.

Sung Kang (the golfer, not the actor) looked like the runaway winner after Saturday's round, and Rickie Fowler seemed most likely to chase him down, even after his struggles late in the third round. And Luke List certainly seemed capable of pulling it off after a 65 of his own Saturday.

Still, a guy with nothing to lose -- a guy who has struggled for most of the season, with a T9 his best finish -- well, that's a guy you might want to watch out for. Especially when his last three Houston Open starts have all been T7 or better.

And that's the attitude Russell went out with on Sunday, knowing that a Masters berth was on the line (he missed out last year). Now that he has that invite, it'll be interesting to see how he does there, especially since the best of his three starts there is 21st place.

But at least, as he ponders his possibilities down Magnolia Drive, he'll have a nice new Limerick Summary to help psych him up. Be amazing again, Russell!
With skill Russell "Mastered" the course,
A last-minute invite the source
That inspired his great play.
So he's now on his way
To Augusta… where his mastery is sparse.
The photo came from the tournament upshot page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Different Take on a Toski Drill

Today I'm borrowing -- and altering -- a drill Bob Toski made popular in his book How to Feel a Real Golf Swing. The drill is called the "Hitchhiker Drill" and it's on page 33 of the book. Here's the illustration:

Bob

Toski uses this drill to teach proper hand motion during your swing. The drill focuses on your lead arm -- in this case, it's his left arm.

But today I want you to do this drill while focusing on your TRAILING arm. Why? Because if you do, the Hitchhiker Drill is a wonderful way to improve your footwork and help you learn to turn to a full finish.

To get your trailing hand into the same position as the illustration of Toski's lead hand, you simply MUST make a full release into your finish. For many of you, this drill will minimize your slices and hooks because you'll learn to swing your hands and arms in sequence with your body. Slicers tend to stop their swing before the clubface can square up. Hookers tend to stop their swing and then flip their wrists to square up the clubface. Two different problems with the same basic cause -- a body turn that stops too soon!

So give this variation of the Hitchhiker Drill a try. In fact, try it both ways! You might be surprised just how many problems this one little drill can help eliminate... and you don't even need a club to do it.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Hitting Driver Off the Deck (Video)

On Morning Drive earlier this week, John Cook, Arron Oberholser and Charlie Rymer all tried to explain the tricks for hitting a driver off the deck. I'm going to point out the main things I think you need to remember.



First of all, note that John says he only plays this shot maybe twice a year. Here are his criteria for deciding when the shot may be appropriate:
  • Uphill lie
  • Into the wind
  • On a par-5
Why these criteria? Because a 3-wood will balloon up into the wind under these conditions. Even if you top the shot with a driver, the ball stays low and runs. That's what you're after here.

Arron notes that you have to hit this shot like a fairway wood, not a teed-up driver. You need to hit slightly down on the shot, not try to swing up (in which case you'll mis-hit the shot). And pay attention to his ball position. The camera angle is a bit misleading; while the ball is back in his stance, it is no more than halfway back. You'll want to play the ball slightly AHEAD of center, but not so far forward that you'll hit the ground first. Remember how John plays this shot off an uphill lie? That will help you.

John says he also grips down a bit, to shorten the effective length of the club. It helped him hit the ball straighter than Arron, even though Arron's club had more loft.

An important equipment note here is that newer drivers make this shot easier because they have more loft and tend to hit the ball higher, even off the tee.

Remember: If you play this shot, you're looking for a stinger, not a high shot. And don't be too upset if you don't hit it perfectly. If you need to play this shot, your normal shot isn't likely to give you better results, even if you hit it perfectly. So be forgiving with yourself. Advancing the ball and keeping it in play may be the best you could hope for under the circumstance.