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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Peter Kostis on Jonas Blixt's Golf Swing (Video)

This is a clip from CBS coverage of the 2014 Greenbriar Classic but anytime Peter Kostis compares your swing to Sam Snead's, it's worth a look. Jonas Blixt has been playing well down in Australia so this is as good a time as any.



I'd like to add a couple of observations to what Kostis says.
  • Snead's swing looks more flexible than Blixt's in part because of his equipment. Snead began his career with hickory shafts, which means he learned to create clubhead speed through rhythm rather than power. He focused more on motion than leverage, which is why his swing had a greater range of motion than Blixt's.
  • Facts are, Snead was far more flexible than most modern players, even into his later years. Snead himself said he used yoga stretches as part of his training, and the stories about him are legendary. I've heard more than one of his contemporaries say he could kick the top of a doorjamb from a standing position underneath. (Just for the record, Snead was the first player to use weight training, not Gary Player. The difference is that Snead kept it quiet; he liked to keep his training methods to himself.)
Snead used his flexibility to his advantage. In his teaching (he was originally the Greenbriar's teaching pro, you know) he stressed the need to remain relaxed during your golf swing. That also contributes to the extreme "lag" at the top of his backswing; being so flexible, he could start his downswing while the club was still going back. And by staying so relaxed, he didn't put the stress on his back that so many modern players do.

But there certainly are a number of similarities between Blixt and Snead. While Snead's hips turn more in his backswing and open more in his finish, the movement is rotary not lateral. This is more clearly seen in face-on videos, of which there are many on YouTube. Both men are rotating rather than sliding during their swings, which allows them to return the clubface to the ball more consistently. They don't move back and forth over the ball, so the ball position doesn't change between backswing and downswing.

Blixt is struggling a bit this week at the Australian PGA, perhaps because of all the rain they've had down there. (He was -3 at one point but fell back to even on the back nine while I was watching.) But his swing is fundamentally solid and it surprises me how streaky he is. I suspect he tends to think too much about his mechanics so he's never as relaxed as Snead was. When you have as good a swing as Blixt does, sometimes the best thing you can do is just trust it... and focus on where you want the ball to go.

As he proved with his runner-up finish last week, he's more than capable of getting the job done.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The 2nd Australian Major... TONIGHT

True, Tiger tees it up on Thursday. But the Australian PGA Championship begins TONIGHT!

Well, it's tonight in the US.

Defending champion Harold Varner III

The course is the RACV Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast, a very nice course. The defending champion is Harold Varner III, a North Carolina boy (like me) who made this event his first big professional title last year.

This event was part of the Australian Triple Crown -- the Australian Open, the Australian Masters and the Australian PGA Championship. However, the Australian Masters wasn't played in 2016 and the official website still says IMG "will unveil its plans for the event in the coming months." Obviously IMG hasn't announced anything yet, so once again there will only be two Australian majors. The PGA will be the final big event of 2017.

But what an event it should be! Sergio will be back for the first time since 2010. He'll be joined by Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, and Matt Jones. Wade Ormsby, who picked up his first ET win last weekend, and Australian Open runner-up Jonas Blixt are also in the field.

Once again, we fans in the US get prime time golf. GC's live coverage begins tonight at 8:30pm ET, so you don't have to worry about missing any of Tiger's play.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

How High Can Tiger Move in the OWGR This Week?

I just thought this was a fun bit of trivia. According to an article at Golf Digest, Tiger could make a big jump from 1199 if he just finishes the Hero this week. Check out this chart from Nosferatu (@VC606):

Potential Tiger jumps in the OWGR

The article also has a graph showing his approximate OWGR rank for each possible finish position (18 plus no finish) at the event.

Again, I just thought this was a fun bit of trivia. No matter what people say, I think everybody is curious how Tiger will do this week. If nothing else, this makes for great water cooler talk.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 Emirates Australian Open

Winner: Cameron Davis

Around the wider world of golf: Wade Ormsby got his first ET win at the UBS Hong Kong Open; Seungsu Han won the Casio World Open on the Japan Golf Tour; and the KLPGA team beat the LPGA team 13-11 in the ING Life Champions Trophy/Inbee Park Invitational.

Cameron Davis with Australian Open trophy

Attention US golf fans: You may not know who Cameron Davis is yet, but you will. He just recently got his 2018 Web.com Tour card.

In the meantime, all he did was make his first professional win a big one. Not only did he win the Stonehaven Cup at one of the oldest majors in the world, he also won a spot in the Open Championship. It'll be his first-ever trip to a major. Pretty heady stuff for a player ranked 1494! (I'm pretty sure he'll be a bit higher when the new rankings come out today.)

After posting 63 in his first round Down Under, he slowed down a bit with rounds of 72-74 (par was 71). Jason Day looked to be the likely winner when the final round started, with past champion Matt Jones and past PGA Tour champ Jonas Blixt hot in pursuit.

But it was Davis, six shots off the lead after the third round, who blew everybody off the course. His final round 64 gave him the clubhouse lead by a shot, and he headed to the practice range. As it turned out, he didn't need to. And he said the results left him a bit numb.

I'm sure he'll get used to the feeling soon enough, just like he'll get used to the attention he'll garner on next year's Web.com Tour. And just wait until his new golf mates see his shiny new Limerick Summary!
Cam’s middle two rounds left him stressed
After starting out strong. Who’d have guessed
He’d beat Jones, Blixt and Day
As the field fell away?
Clearly Cam’s final round was the best!
The photo came from this page at pga.org.au.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Brad Faxon's Round with Tiger... and DJ and Trump, of Course

Brad Faxon wrote an article for Golfweek about his round with Tiger, DJ and the Prez. The article was published late Saturday, so I want to make sure you see it.

Tiger with iron

Faxon's comments on Tiger are interesting. Not so much because he echoes what everybody else is saying -- that Tiger is hitting it long (How long? Fax says Tiger was hitting it out there with DJ. I'll have to see that for myself) -- but just his overall impressions of Tiger's demeanor.

Here are the main comments that stood out to me:
Tiger looked great to me. He was happy and, more than anything, he’s finally pain-free. The issues he had with the back the last couple of comebacks seem to be gone. He looked effortless, he looked free, he had some power... I think more than anything, he looked at ease. He was not concerned about swinging hard and going at it with driver.
Those last couple of sentences are the ones I'm most happy to see. If Tiger has accepted his need to care for his back and not try to outdrive everybody, then he has a real chance to get back in the game.

Faxon notes that we still need to temper our expectations, that casual rounds like this aren't the same as competitive rounds. I agree. Still, this sounds like good news for us golf fans. And if Tiger has truly learned to accept his limitations, it could be REALLY good news.

I am now officially excited to see how he plays at the Hero this week.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

How Might Newer Equipment Help Tiger... and You?

Here's a Golf Digest article that might help you improve your driving -- and might help Tiger as well!

It's no secret that Tiger never really considered updating his equipment until after his back injuries. So this article looks at some of Tiger's driving stats and what kind of equipment changes might help him as he gets his game (and body) back in shape.

Tiger hitting a driver

The article is pretty technical without being difficult to understand, covering what sorts of equipment changes are available to Tiger -- and to the average golfer as well. What's really cool is how small changes in equipment can make huge differences in distance, even when you don't gain any clubhead speed!

Yeah, this is info that I think you'll all find very useful. And if Tiger is making any of these changes, he may surprise everybody when he starts playing again.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Shanshan Feng's Change of Direction (Video)

This Morning Drive video comes from just before the CME Group Tour Championship. Travis Fulton talks about how Shanshan hits the ball so accurately.

Many of you are trying to get that "reroute" move he mentions, but you're having trouble. Let's see if I can't help you out.



First, let's get one thing straight. Travis says Shanshan doesn't hit the ball very far. Shanshan is 5'7" tall and drives the ball 250 yards on average. Admit it -- most of you, even you men out there, would kill to consistently drive the ball 250 yards AND hit the fairway 81% of the time. (Yes, that's from her LPGA stats page.) I'm REALLY getting tired of TV teachers acting like you have to hit the ball 300 yards or you're "short." And given that she beat the "long ballers" THREE TIMES in 2017, length might be a bit overrated.

Alright, rant over. Let's get to that downswing move...

If you check out the video around the 1:09 mark, you'll see Travis has stopped her swing where her lead arm is parallel to the ground. He points out that the club is moving more vertically for her than for most players... but he doesn't tell you why.

I want you to look at her elbows. See how you can draw a straight line along her lead arm and it will cross her trailing elbow as well? That's because she's doing something many great players (like Annika) do -- during her backswing she's trying to push the handle of the club as far from her trailing shoulder as she can for as long as she can. As a result, she's keeping both arms relatively straight for a long time.

Now you don't want to get tense while doing this. As you can see, her trailing elbow is still bent a bit at that 1:09 position. Your trailing elbow is going to bend some as you turn. But you don't want it to be a BIG bend. Rather, you just want it to flex a bit as you swing up. That's the reason her club swings on a more upright path -- with both elbows fairly straight, her wrists hinge upward in a more upright plane. It just happens that way.

Then Travis stops it again at around 1:25 in the video, just after she starts down. He's talking about how she "shallows out the club." But take a good look at that freeze frame. Surprise! Her trailing elbow is now a bit lower than her lead arm! That's why the club is now on a shallower plane. When her trailing elbow bends, her trailing hand pulls the club a bit sideways and it rotates her lead arm at the shoulder joint.

Just like the "push away" move on the backswing, you don't need to exaggerate this move. If you just relax your trailing elbow a bit as you start down, you'll create that slight shallowing move naturally. In addition, it will increase your wrist cock a little at the top so you don't straighten your wrists out too soon in your downswing.

This is something you'll have to practice, simply because your tendency will be to bend your trailing elbow too much. It doesn't take all that much movement at your elbow to get a big movement at the clubhead. Just start off by swinging a bit more slowly to get the feel for that slight relaxation at the top that will shallow out the club shaft, then gradually speed up to your normal speed.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know many of you reading this don't celebrate this holiday, although many outside America do celebrate a Thanksgiving Day of some sort. But all of us should make time to give thanks, so I wish you all a very blessed day.

Thanksgiving greeting

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

You Thought Golf Was Over? O-o-o-o-oh No!

It's true that the LPGA and PGA Tours are finished for the year -- other than special events, that is -- but the ET is beginning their new season and it's Major Season Down Under! Let me get you up-to-speed on today's (Wednesday) events.

Jason Day and Jordan Spieth

At 7:30pm ET tonight GC starts with their Pre Game show. There should be some early coverage from Australia as they lead into...

The Emirates Australian Open at 8pm ET. Jason Day and Jordan Spieth are headlining the event and Jordan is the guy to beat, having gone 1st, 2nd, 1st over the last three years. You've no doubt heard that Cameron McCormick, Jordan's coach and an Aussie to boot, will be on Jordan's bag this week while Michael Greller is at home "caddying" for his wife and new baby.

In addition, this is Jason's first time teeing up Down Under in four years. I'm hoping for a battle between him and Jordan by the end of the week.

This is one of the few times we Americans get to see some of the Aussie players like Craig Perry and James Nitties (personal faves of mine). Of course, some of the Aussies who regularly play the PGA Tour like Geoff Ogilvy and Rod Pampling will tee it up as well. And I love getting to see the event during prime time rather than in the middle of our night!

Which brings me to the UBS Hong Kong Open at 1am ET. Technically that's Thursday morning here in the US, but it's still the middle of the night and there's only a couple of hours of coverage. (Then the Aussie Open coverage repeats.)

But this event has a strong line-up. Sergio is playing in Hong Kong for his first time ever! And Justin Rose, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, and Chase Koepka (Brooks's brother) are just a few of the names we ET fans will recognize. (Okay, PGA Tour fans should recognize them too, but you know what I mean.)

So the 2017 golf season is over... and we still get 7.5 hours of live golf in prime time! Is this a great week or what?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Five Specialty Metalwoods

This short Golf Digest article is nearly a month old but with Christmas coming, now is when you might need it! The article targets five new metalwoods that are tailored for specific problems various golfers face. The prices run from $200-$700.

The five specialty metalwoods

The five clubs are:
  • Tour Edge Exotics CBX, $350
  • Callaway GBB Epic Star, $700
  • Cobra F-MAX, $200
  • Titleist 818 H1, $280
  • Ping G400 SF TEC, $270
You can check out the descriptions to see which one might help you most, but it's interesting to me that the one supposedly aimed at players with slower swings -- the Callaway -- is the most expensive by a ridiculous amount.

The least expensive option, the Cobra, is also the only one listed as "full service for the flaws of average golfers." Unless one of the other clubs directly targets your main problem, this might be the first one you'll want to investigate.

It would probably be an easier sell to your potential Santa Claus as well, if you know what I mean.;-)

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 RSM Classic

Winner: Austin Cook

Around the wider world of golf: Ariya Jutanugarn won the LPGA's CME Group Tour Championship and Lexi Thompson won the Race to the CME Globe; Jon Rahm won the ET's DP World Tour Championship and Tommy Fleetwood won the Race to Dubai; Brooks Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament on the Japan Golf Tour; Céline Boutier won the Sanya Ladies Open on the LET; and Brady Schnell won the 112 VISA Open de Argentina on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Auatin Cook with RSM trophy

The RSM Classic had a relatively boring finish Sunday... and I mean that as a compliment. Other than Koepka with his 9-stroke runaway in Japan, no player this weekend made their victory look more casual and inevitable than Austin Cook.

All Cook did was cruise through his final round. He bogeyed the second hole -- many players bogeyed early in the final round, but it was only Austin's second bogey all week -- and then calmly made pars and birdies on his way in, including birdies on 15, 17 and 18 to win by four.

Calm. Relaxing. Uneventful. Even, as I said, boring.

Part of that was due to his caddie, Kip Henley, being so experienced. He knew how to keep his young charge "in the moment," and it showed. This was Austin's first win, although you wouldn't have known it to watch. He got it in only 14 starts -- again, he looked like he was far more experienced than that. He seemed unimpressed by the number of veterans chasing him, or by the low scores being shot by the other Web.com Tour grads.

It was a good way for him to end the "official" slate of events in this PGA Tour calendar year. Now he can enjoy the holidays... or perhaps play some other events around the world. Whatever he chooses to do for the rest of this year, he'll do it with his first Limerick Summary firmly in pocket.
The first-timer did it in style.
The field chased him futilely while
Cook played like a freak—
Just two bogeys all week!
And he knew it—it showed in his smile.
The photo came from the tournament page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Jason Sedan's Lob Shot Drill (Video)

Lob shots give most weekend players (and some pros!) more problems than they should. To help us all out, instructor Jason Sedan filmed this simple drill for practicing lob shots.



Note Jason's starting position. His stance is slightly open and the ball is located -- more or less -- opposite his lead instep. You can get a good visual on that position from the video; I just want to call it to your attention so you WILL notice it!

To "balance" this position -- so you don't hit the ball thin -- Jason sets up with a bit more weight on his lead foot. Again, take a good look at the video. Basically he sets up with his lead shoulder slightly ahead of the ball position BUT the shaft of the club is aimed at his belly button.

Note also that he says NOTHING about opening the clubface! Although he says nothing, if you hold the wedge as he shows in the video, with the shaft leaning slightly backward away from the target, the toe of the wedge might be a bit up in the air. It depends on exactly how YOU address the ball. You may find that you need to open the wedge slightly, or you might not need to at all. Start with the face square and adjust if necessary.

From there it's just a matter of keeping your weight over your lead foot. No moving away from the target during your backswing! This isn't a power shot so there's no need to move -- you can create enough speed with just your shoulder turn and arm swing.

I like this video because it's a super simple way to practice lob shots. Once you've got this down from a standard lie, you can start practicing those Mickelson tricks you've been dying to try.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

2018 LPGA Q-School Will Look More Like the PGA Tour Version

This is a big deal, so I'm linking you to a Golf Digest article that goes into more detail. But I'll try to summarize it here.

Georgia Hall

Currently the LPGA Q-School has three stages -- two stages of 72-hole stroke play followed by a third stage of 90 holes of stroke play (with a 72-hole cut). The field is made up of the top 15 and ties from the Symetra Tour, any players in the Rolex Rankings Top40 plus the 80 and ties who made it through Stage 2.

Starting next year, that's history.

LPGA commish Mike Whan says the new version will still have the first two stages BUT the final stage will be replaced by what he calls the Q-Series -- two 72-hole events in different places, separated by three days. There will be no cut and the scores will be added together.

There will also be a change in the field. Here's how Whan summed it up:
“When we go to [2017 Q School] stage three in a week, you'll probably have 80 or 85 players in that field that came from stage two,” Whan said. “In 2018, I'll bet that number will be somewhere around 20 to 30, maybe 20 to 25 that will come from stage two. So what that means is you can still go Stage 1, Stage 2, Q Series, LPGA card. But that will be a much tighter funnel and harder to do. The superstars of the time will still get through that, but generally speaking most players will get to stage two, play a year on the Symetra Tour and play their way on to the LPGA.”
The article breaks the new field down this way:
  • Roughly 25 players from Stages 1 and 2 of Q-School
  • Players ranked 101-150 on the LPGA
  • Players ranked 11-30 on the Symetra Tour
  • Top 5 collegiate players in the country (via the GolfWeek rankings)
  • Players ranked in the Top100 in the Rolex Rankings but not already on the LPGA Tour (that number has not yet been determined)
In other words, this will be much more like the new PGA Tour system that funnels players through the Web.com Tour, except the LPGA will use the Symetra Tour. While I understand this decision, I do think it puts some new responsibility on the LPGA.

Simply put, the Symetra Tour doesn't pay anywhere near the prize money that the Web.com Tour does. If the LPGA wants to make the Symetra Tour a viable alternative to the current Q-School, they need to find some way to raise the weekly purses on the Symetra Tour. Otherwise this change may backfire on them, as it's a much greater burden to play a full season of tournaments with minimal purses than to ante up the cash for a three-week Q-School.

But if the LPGA can solve that problem, this should help them better prepare the rookies for life on the LPGA Tour...

Although given the high level of play we've seen from rookies over the last few seasons, I can't imagine why they think that's needed.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Claude Brousseau on Giving Up Control (Video)

GC posted this drill from instructor Claude Brousseau that teaches you to gain control of your swing by giving up control. Sound crazy? It's not. It's about learning how to trust your natural movements.



What this drill teaches you is what instructors used to call "feeling the clubhead." By using this drill, you'll learn how to feel pressure changes in the shaft at the change of direction, which is caused by the clubhead's reaction to gravity as it changes direction from backswing to downswing.

Really, it's much easier to feel than it is to explain.

By taking your trailing hand off the club's handle and placing it on top of your lead hand, those pressure changes will be focused on your lead wrist. Brousseau wants you to swing slowly because, if you aren't used to it, your first experiments with this drill might HURT if you swing fast. You don't want to injure your wrist, so take it easy to start!

Once you get used to this, however, you'll be able to speed up your swing. Why? Because this drill teaches you how to feel the rhythm of your swing. Once you start to feel it, you'll learn how to move with it and create more speed with less effort.

Btw, you may be surprised to find that this drill helps you square up the clubface better than you usually do. That's because the natural movement of your lead arm will square up the clubface if you don't impede it. That's where the often-heard advice to "control the club with your lead side" comes from. But actually, you just need to let both hands and arms work together... which is exactly what this drill teaches you.

Try it without a golf ball at first. When you feel more comfortable with the drill, try hitting some golf balls. I think you'll have fun working with this drill, and your ball striking will improve.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Exciting World of Exaggerated Teachings

The Square-to-Square Golf Swing coverGolf Digest has published an intriguing article at their website called Is This the Worst Golf Instruction Book of All Time? with the subtitle We should know—we published it. That book was called The Square-to-Square Golf Swing and it was written by Dick Aultman. It was based on concepts espoused by Jim Flick -- yes, THAT Jim Flick -- and Flick became a major proponent of the method. The article follows the history of the rise and fall of the method.

Eventually Flick disassociated himself from it because it embarrassed him so badly. Even good teachers make mistakes!

I think this article can really help you understand why golf instruction is often so complex... and why such problems aren't limited to just one method.

In fact, the problems are typically just exaggerations of standard golf teachings. The swings have been designed to eliminate specific problems that golfers face, but they create other problems that have the unintended effect of complicating the swing. Most often the method requires an unusual amount of strength to do it consistently.

About halfway through the article, Golf Digest has performed a great service by listing a number of method books that, while they are great for certain players, tend to overcomplicate the swing for most golfers. I'm going to summarize the main ones they list, but you'll want to read the article to get the whole story.
  • Hogan's Five Lessons: To quote the article, "...it has been a disaster for anyone who lacks Hogan's need for an anti-hook swing..." I've mentioned this often in this blog because it's my biggest criticism of Hogan -- if you don't already have a duck hook, you have to develop one or you'll slice the ball off the face of the earth. There's a lot of good in Hogan's book and I've done many posts focusing on those points, but I've also tried to point the exaggerations out.
  • How to Perfect Your Golf Swing: I've often mentioned Jimmy Ballard because of his focus on connection, but Ballard did overemphasize the move off the ball onto your trail foot in the backswing. Some of my instructor Carl Rabito's recent teaching has used this move as well, but the drills he used to teach me "back in the day" didn't use that move at all. It's easy to get stuck on your trail leg if you get too caught up in this move.
  • The Stack and Tilt Swing: Another book with a lot of good teaching in it, but it can create the opposite error from Ballard. Bennett and Plummer want you to keep your weight more on your lead foot during your swing, which can create a reverse pivot. Sean Foley uses a lot of these principles in his teaching. Again, this doesn't mean he's a bad teacher, but the method can cause problems for a lot of players.
  • Natural Golf: Get a Grip on Your Game: This is one of the books focusing on Moe Norman's techniques. I happen to have this one, so I can tell you that it focuses a bit too much on creating a hammer blow to hit the ball. It can substantially change your fundamentals so, while it's fun to experiment with, it can cause problems with your normal swing if you aren't careful.
  • The Golfing Machine: I believe this is the method Bobby Clampett used, and Bryson DeChambeau is a big believer in it. Golf Digest points out that this method isn't a self-teaching approach, so bear that in mind.
Again, let me repeat: In no way is this a condemnation of these various approaches to the golf swing. It's just a reminder that, as a general rule, NO METHOD IS FOR EVERYBODY. But this article can help you identify where you might have problems if a particular method isn't working for you.

And knowing what causes the problems is the first step to fixing them.

Take some time and read the article. I think you'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Learning from an Old Golf Swing (Video)

The swing belongs to none other than Walter Hagen. Hagen won two US Opens, four Open Championships and five PGA Championships (it was match play back then). Hagen is third on the list of all-time major winners, topped only by Nicklaus and Woods.

Why am I posting this? Because this video shows Hagen in Europe in 1928, which means he was using hickory shafts. Although the USGA okayed steel shafts in 1924, the R&A refused to allow them until 1929. That means the swing you see in this video was made with hickory shafts.

You may have seen a lot of weird-looking hickory swings, but you won't see that with Hagen. There's a lot you can learn from this sweet move!



A few notable things you might find consider:
  • Hagen starts his backswing with a slight forward turn of his hips. That makes the start of his backswing a reaction; he isn't starting from a "frozen" position over the ball.
  • Note the full shoulder coil, almost Daly-esque in its length. There's no tension there!
  • The footwork is very simple -- the lead heel comes up off the ground and is then replanted, his hips move back freely and he turns freely toward the target. There's no sway during his backswing, no exaggerated slide forward, no leaning backward at impact. He just "steps" to turn away from the target, then "steps" to turn toward the target. Very simple and natural-looking.
  • Finally, just look at how relaxed he appears to be all the way through the swing. He's not straining for distance, although he was considered one of the longer hitters of his day. He just makes a long, rhythmic swing that moves pretty fast!
Again, Hagen is using a hickory shaft. Most players think you can't swing a soft shaft with any speed, but Hagen is a great example of how wrong they are. Watch and learn... then give it a try with your own clubs.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The LPGA Season Finale

Unlike last week's Charles Schwab Cup point reshuffle on the Champions Tour, the LPGA's Race to the CME Globe point reshuffle isn't really that controversial. No player has been so dominant on the LPGA this season that they should be viewed as a clear-cut favorite.

That doesn't mean that the CME Group Tour Championship won't be a wild ride however.

CME Group Tour Championship defending champ Charley Hull and caddie

As usual, Tony Jesselli has a preview of the event over at his site. I'll simply mention that the event returns to the Tiburón Golf Club in Naples FL and that Charley Hull is the defending champion.

The storylines are many and varied this week. Again, rather than try to summarize them all, let me give you some links to LPGA.com articles:
One thing that becomes very obvious as you read these things is that the final list of this season's winners will be much different than last year's. In Gee Chun could win the Vare Trophy again, but otherwise we're definitely in for a change. The analysts can argue whether that's good for women's golf or not, but I think it makes for a more interesting finale.

The one thing that disappoints me is GC's decision to tape-delay the first three rounds of the event. Only the Sunday finish on ABC will be shown live. GC's tape-delay coverage begins Thursday at 4:30pm ET (same for Friday and Saturday). ABC's live coverage begins Sunday at 1pm ET.

Still, if this event lives up to the rest of the season, the CME Group Tour Championship looks to be a can't-miss spectacle.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 OHL Classic

Winner: Patton Kizzire

Around the wider world of golf: Shanshan Feng became World #1 with her win at the Blue Bay LPGA; Camille Chevalier won the Hero Women’s Indian Open on the LET; Branden Grace won the Nedbank Golf Challenge on the ET; Kevin Sutherland got his first Champions Tour win at the Charles Schwab Tour Championship -- which, btw, also gave him the Schwab Cup; Julian Etulain won the NEC Argentina Classic on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Satoshi Kodaira won the Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters on the Japan Golf Tour; and Micah Lauren Shin (from the US!) won the Resorts World Manila Masters for his first Asian Tour win. And if I've read the translations correctly, Ji Han Sol won the ADT CAPS Championship on the KLPGA and Mami Fukuda won the Itoen Ladies Golf Tournament on the JLPGA.

Patton Kizzire with OHL trophy

You would think we'd learn by now. Just because you play lights-out for the first two or three round doesn't mean you can keep it up for the rest of the week. Especially when you have to play 36 holes in one day, dodging bad weather when your game is showing a bit of rust. That's basically what happened to Rickie Fowler this weekend.

Of course, it probably wouldn't have mattered if Patton Kizzire hadn't come ready to play. It looked like the pressure was affecting him a little, but he's been learning how to deal with it for a while now.

Yeah, Patton came ready to play.

Did he do anything spectacular? Well, nothing more than Rickie did at times. Let's face it -- the young guns all have the game to burn you when they're firing on all cylinders. However, Patton did it well enough to keep Rickie at bay on the final nine. And we'll be talking about his scramble from that awkward lie beside the fairway bunker on 18 for weeks!

When you're trying to get your first Tour win, "well enough" is a huge accomplishment.

Every player has his (or her) own path to the winner's circle. No matter how good they are when they come out on Tour, that path can't be predicted by anyone. And just because Patton finally got his first win, that doesn't mean "the floodgates will open" for him.

But I wouldn't want to be the guy who bets against him. Congrats, Patton, and here's what may be the first of many Limerick Summaries. You earned it!
Rickie turned out to be a bit rusty;
He left too much work for his trusty
Old putter to do.
So Patton broke through
For his first win. His play was quite gutsy!
The photo came from the tournament page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Shanshan Makes History

I'll make this short.

Last week I did a post about Shanshan Feng's swing. I talked about how simple it is and how much you can learn from it.

And then over the weekend she did this at the Blue Bay LPGA in China.

Shanshan Feng with Blue Bay LPGA trophy

Do you understand? Shanshan was the first Chinese player, male or female, to win a major (the 2012 Women's PGA Championship).

She was the first Chinese player, male or female, to win an Olympic medal (the bronze in Rio).

Now she's the first Chinese player, male or female, to become #1 in the world rankings.

And she's done it with a very simple swing. She's not the longest hitter but she hits a lot of fairways and a lot of greens. She's an average putter who has good days and bad days.

But she's got three LPGA wins and 12 Top10s this season, and 22 worldwide wins in her career. She enters this week's Tour Championship in third place, which means she can take the Race to the CME Globe with a win. And she's done it all in an age of long hitters.

I'll let you figure out what you can learn from all that. I'll just congratulate Jenny Money on her latest conquest.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Handful of Helpful Quotes

Sometimes a short thought is more helpful than a long explanation. So today I have five short quotes from famous players of the past.

Let's start with James Braid. Braid was a member of the "Great Triumvirate" with Harry Vardon and John Henry Taylor. He won the Open Championship FIVE times and designed over 200 golf courses. You could say he knew a little about golf.
"When your shot has to carry over a water hazard, you can either hit one more club or two more balls."
I like that one! It's pretty self-explanatory. You can't afford to be short when hitting over a water hazard.

Here are two from Bobby Jones -- you already know who he is. First:
"Many shots are spoiled at the last instant by efforts to add a few more yards. This impedes rather than aids the stroke."
Trying to help the ball up at the last minute tends to prevent solid contact and mess up an otherwise good shot. And second:
"The inexperienced player is always more likely to choose a club because of the number on it rather than because of what he can do with it."
Your club choices should be based on whether the club can do what you need. Just because you hit your 8-iron 130 yards doesn't mean you can do that from this lie.

Here's a neat one from Arnold Palmer.
"If you are in the woods, don't act like a seamstress. Your job is not to thread needles but to get the ball back in the fairway."
Again, self-explanatory. If you get in trouble and you don't have a clear shot to the green, chip back into the fairway.

One last one, this one from short game guru Raymond Floyd.
"In many ways, the pitch shot is the scoring shot in golf. To a master of the pitch, there's no pin that isn't accessible."
He's not talking about chip shots that roll along the ground. He's talking about those short shots you fly toward the hole. Learn to get the ball up in the air so it will land softly, and there won't be many pins you can't attack.

And there you have it -- five brief nuggets of golfing wisdom. I'd be surprised if you didn't get some help from at least one of them!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Bernhard Langer on Shaping Shots (Videos)

Why wouldn't you want to copy Bernhard Langer's swing? This clip is from early 2015, and Bernhard is explaining how he hits draws and fades.



I hope you paid attention to his lower body movement. While instructors focus on how he opens his hips on the way down, Bernhard doesn't lunge forward the way you might expect. In this next video from late 2015, Bernhard talks about how he focuses on NOT sliding forward.



And in this down-the-line shot from earlier this year, you can see how effective he has become at keeping his lower body quiet.



In fact, I've been amazed at how many similarities there are between Bernhard's swing and Shanshan Feng's swing. You might want to go back to my Feng post earlier this week and compare the two.

As for Bernhard's swing, you'll get plenty of chances to watch it this weekend. The Charles Schwab Cup Championship coverage starts today on GC at 4pm ET.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Mayakoba Event Starts Today

With the weather turning cold and wet around here, the thought of watching a nice warm tournament appeals to me. So today I can start watching the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. (That's just south of Cancún, Mexico in case you didn't know.)

Defending champ Pat Perez

The defending champ is Pat Perez, and I believe Rickie Fowler is the highest-ranked player in the field. The OHL Classic is different from many PGA Tour events, as the young players don't dominate here. According to PGATOUR.com's power rankings, the typical winner averages 34.7 years old!

Part of that may be due to the paspalum greens. It's not very common on Tour courses -- I do know it's used at Kiawah Island -- but it's very good for seaside courses because the salt water won't kill it. Rumor has it that the stuff is "stickier" so the ball grabs quicker when you shoot at the pins, and the power rankings article says it will only be running around 11 on the stimp this week. That means it's easier to hold the greens, which should mean more birdie attempts.

Personally, I'll just be glad to see some warm sunny weather. Dreaming of it is better than nothing!

GC coverage starts at 1pm ET today, although the Pre Game show should start at least a half-hour earlier.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The LPGA Snuck Up on Me!

The Blue Bay LPGA in China started on Tuesday night here in the US, not Wednesday as I expected. The event runs from Wednesday to Saturday -- China time, that is -- so that players have time to get back to Florida for the CME Group Tour Championship next week.

Minjee Lee

Tony Jesselli has his preview at this link, with all the background details to get you up to speed. I'll just mention that Minjee Lee is the defending champion and several of the big names have skipped the event, presumably to prepare for the Tour Championship. New #1 Sung Hyun Park, Shanshan Feng and Anna Nordqvist are the biggest names teeing it up this week.

Because of the extreme time difference between the east coast of the US and China, the first round was well underway when I began writing this. So I'll just give you a few of my initial impressions.

Lizette Salas is continuing her good play, only a shot off the lead (which is -5 as I'm writing this) although she's only nine holes in. Also notable, Ariya Jutanugarn is -4 as well after several months of mediocre play. (Hopefully this means she's figured out whatever has been wrong with her game.)

Alison Lee is at -2 after 12, as is Na Yeon Choi. Neither has had a particularly good year -- Lee has been fighting injuries (I think) and Choi's game has just been off. Even though it's early in the tournament, it's nice to see both playing better.

It's hard to write too much into a first round, especially coming so soon after last week's event -- the ladies didn't have as much time to prepare for the course, and the wind seems to be a bit of a factor. The vast majority of players are at par or over. So I feel safe saying this week will be a real challenge for players trying to make the Top12 next week.

The second round (LIVE!) airs Wednesday night on GC at 11pm ET with four hours of coverage. Should be fun!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Quick Look at Shanshan Feng's Swing (Videos)

Shanshan Feng (aka Jenny Money) has moved up to #3 in the Rolex World Rankings this week, less than a quarter point behind long-hitting Sung Hyun Park.. I thought it might be instructive to take yet another look at one of the simplest yet most effective swings in women's golf.

This first video shows her swing from straight on, and it includes a slo-mo view of her hands at impact.



And this second video shows her swing from a variety of angles.



Let me point out a few simple things you can learn from Shanshan -- simple things that you can put into action immediately.
  • Simple setup. Note that her lead wrist is bent a bit more than most teachers would recommend, but that's because she has the butt end of the shaft pointing at her belly button. In other words, she has the end of the shaft pointing at the center of her body, so it's pointing at her spine.
  • She cocks the club a bit earlier than some players, but there's nothing contrived here. She just takes it back in a way that feels comfortable to her, so it's consistent.
  • Her backswing isn't extremely long, even with a driver -- it looks more like a three-quarter swing -- but she gets a good shoulder turn and she doesn't slide away from the ball.
  • Yes, she starts down by moving her hips forward... but no, she doesn't make some powerful forward thrust with her hips. Physics demand that your lower body has to move first in order to start your downswing, but Shanshan doesn't exaggerate the move. She just moves in a natural way, stepping from her trail foot to her lead foot as she turns toward the target.
  • She really uses her hands, arms and shoulders, so her wrists uncock as she hits the ball. The shaft is pointing at her belly button at impact, just the way she set up to the ball. She isn't worried about getting her wrists in some special position; she just points the shaft straight at the ball.
  • Her footwork is very simple during her downswing. Again, all she does is just step from her trail foot to her lead foot as her shoulders turn completely into her finish. Since she doesn't stop her shoulders from turning, the club doesn't flip over as she hits the ball. As a result, the ball flies pretty straight.
Nothing fancy, nothing that requires a swing monitor to keep it in check. Shanshan plays golf, not golf swing. She just worries about where the clubface is pointing at impact, and she controls that with her hands -- exactly the same way any other athlete aims a bat or racket or hockey stick.

And bear in mind that Shanshan is notorious for NOT PRACTICING. If you want a dependable swing that doesn't need a lot of attention, you could do a lot worse than copying Jenny Money!

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 Shriners Hospitals Open

Winner: Patrick Cantlay

Around the wider world of golf: There were a lot of standout performances this week. Shanshan Feng won the Toto Japan Classic on the LPGA; Aditi Ashok won the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open on the LET; Justin Rose won the Turkish Airlines Open on the ET; Chan Kim won the HEIWA PGM Championship on the Japan Golf Tour; and Shiv Kapur won the Panasonic Open India on the Asian Tour.

Patrick Cantlay with Shriners trophy

Vegas is best known for its casinos, where thousands of common folks who dream of being "players" risk it all on a spin of the wheel, a toss of the dice, a cut of the cards or a pull on a "one-armed bandit" (also known as a slot machine). Some like to gamble on the golf course, betting on the outcomes even if they don't play the game themselves.

Rarely (if ever) do the gambles center around a player's ability to predict the wind. But at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, that's exactly what happened.

No one was ready for the havoc caused by the wind. A.J. McInerney said he had played TPC Summerlin since he was a child and had NEVER seen some of the pin positions dictated by the wind. The winning score was less than half the norm -- a typical winner would need around 21-under, but this week 9-under made the playoff.

While a number of players had a chance at that playoff, only three made it -- Patrick Cantlay, Whee Kim and (after a two-hour wait) Alex Cejka. It took two holes for Cantlay to win... with a par, the only par by any of the players.

Cantlay's story has been well-publicized. He was a can't-miss kid who had to fight years of back problems and the loss of a close friend (his caddie at the time) who died in his arms after a hit-and-run accident. Is it really a surprise that he finally got a breakthrough win in such testing circumstances, where he would have to hit a nearly-impossible shot to seal the win? To say this is a feelgood story is an understatement!

Will this "open the floodgates," as the analysts are wont to say? I have no idea. But Cantlay can do it if anyone can, and it is with great pleasure that I present him with his first Limerick Summary.
Vegas winds dealt the field a tough hand
So their shots didn’t come off as planned;
No one had a safe play.
The pros struggled all day
Until Cantlay at last took command.
The photo came from this page at golfweek.com.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Randy Chang on Flipping Your Club (Video)

I know you've heard this before, but instructor Randy Chang's suggestion that you make this recovery shot a regular drill is useful -- particularly since he suggests which club to use!



Chang specifically suggests you use a 9-iron because it gives you a wider face to work with when you flip your club. But it's also smart because wedges make it much more likely that you will pull the ball sideways.

In the video you can see that he creates some "loft" by tilting the club so the face points slightly upward. But equally useful is what he DOESN'T mention. Chang makes no setup changes! This drill makes the shot as much like your normal shots as possible.

There's no real trick to this drill, but that's the beauty of it. Make this a regular part of your practice and you may be surprised at how playable this shot is... and how much your comfort with this shot annoys your playing partners!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

A Quick Peek at the LET Event

I don't write as much about the LET, simply because they don't get much (if any) airtime here in the US. And because of that, I'm not as familiar with the players.

But when I checked this week's leaderboard for the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open in Abu Dhabi, it caught my attention immediately. Why? Because I recognized the names of most of the players in contention!

Third round leader Aditi Ashok

By the time most of you read this, the event may be over. But as I write this, the ladies are barely starting their final rounds.

Leading the event is Aditi Ashok (-15), the teenager from India who came to most fan's attention at the Rio Olympics, is chasing her third LET title. She is two shots ahead of Cheyenne Woods, who is after her second LET title, and three shots clear of Ellie Givens (in their threesome) and Lee-Anne Pace. Camilla Lennarth and Georgia Hall are at -11.

I admit to a certain fascination with Aditi. The trailblazers in women's golf generally attract my attention, and Aditi's success at such an early age when she hasn't had the advantages of the other female golfers around the world amazes me even more than the greater successes enjoyed by players like Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson.

Although there have been some low scores this week -- Luna Sobron posted a second-round 62 and Ellie Givens a third-found 64 -- the heat seems to be taking its toll, as most of the scores are 68 or less. With the relatively tight grouping at the top of the leaderboard, those of you who can watch the event may get to see a strong finish.

Aditi might even pick up her third LET title. Teens seem to be playing some pretty good golf lately. ;-)

Friday, November 3, 2017

Tommy Armour on Smart Strategy

Back in 1959 the legendary Tommy Armour wrote a humorous book called A Round of Golf with Tommy Armour. It's the story of Armour's friend Bill who, at the beginning of the book, has decided to quit golf because he plays so badly. Armour talks him into playing as his partner in a foursome with the argument that Bill simply plays stupid golf, and he says he can dramatically improve Bill's game without changing his golf swing. Armour says that Bill just needs to use Armour's brain for a change.

Yes, it's a funny book. But in the reading of it you learn how to make smart decisions on a golf course. Today I thought I'd just share a few basic thoughts from the third chapter, as Armour coaches Bill down the first fairway.

His first act is to teach Bill how to tee up his golf ball on the side of the tee that will give him the most room for a miss. (You want to tee the ball so you have lots of room to curve the ball toward the middle of the fairway, not toward the rough.) Armour tells Bill:
"Get in the habit of visualizing your objective, figuring out your strategy so that even if you don't hit your shot well you won't be in trouble. You've got to be thinking that there are wise places and stupid and dangerous places for you to have your ball on every one of the eighteen tees. If you tee your ball thoughtlessly on all, or most, of the eighteen tees, you are liable to produce a horrifying addition to your score."
A simple thought, that one, yet one most players continuously ignore. Armour notes that it takes effort to develop the habit of making smart choices because most players, while they know that they're playing golf, forget that they're playing a golf course. In all the years they've played their home course they've never realized there might be a best way for them to navigate their way around.

Armour cautions the reader with this:
The ordinary golfer shouldn't be discouraged if he doesn't make fast progress in learning to read the course and to govern himself accordingly. He discovers that it takes some experience to discipline himself so he deliberately shoots short and for strategic position, instead of taking a chance on pulling off a perfect shot.
One other thing I'll mention -- because it's so simple and yet can improve your score so dramatically -- concerns recovery shots. Armour is comparing Bill to a young professional he played with whose poor thinking cost him a championship:
His mental error was exactly the same as that of the 100-shooter who is in the rough farther away from the green than he possibly can make in one shot, yet tries to get distance out of the rough. He doesn't execute the shot perfectly, and is in worse position than he was before attempting the recovery, with one more shot on his card.

The simple, logical policy in such cases is to play two easy shots: one easy recovery shot and the next an easy shot to the green. About 75 percent of these situations find the thoughtless golfer playing three or four exceedingly dangerous shots instead of the two safe ones.

Why? Because he doesn't use even the minimum amount of brains.
Most of us have a tendency -- no, an obsession -- with trying to make the hero shot, convincing ourselves that we will make a miracle shot although we got into this mess because we couldn't hit an easier one!

Remember Armour's advice when you start trying to think your way around the course: Play short of trouble when you can't cover it easily (a long shot with a hazard near the end of it comes under this warning) and aim for the widest landing areas available. If you hit into trouble, hit one easy shot out and leave yourself an easy shot for your next one. And don't overestimate how far you can hit the ball out of the rough.

These few bits of advice alone can knock several shots off your score if you just apply them consistently. And the fewer shots you need, the more fun golf becomes.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Congrats to the College Kids!

This is a short post because... yes, I admit it. I was watching the final game of the World Series instead of writing a golf post. (For those of you outside the US who may be unfamiliar with the World Series, it's the biggest title in baseball. Congrats to the Houston Astros, who beat the LA Dodgers to win their first ever World Series title. It took them 55 years to get this win. Baseball is tougher than most people realize!)

So today I'll just congratulate the winners of the East Lake Cup. First, the men from Vanderbilt for their win over Illinois:

Vanderbilt men's golf team

and the women from USC (University of Southern California) for their win over Stanford.

USC women's golf team

Vanderbilt was dominant from the start in their matches. USC lost two matches and then turned the other three to win their trophy.

Now I guess we can turn out attention back to the "big boys and girls." There's still a lot to be settled this season!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Justin Rose on 3-Wood Approach Shots (Video)

Here's an older Golf Digest video where Justin Rose explains his swing thought for hitting better 3-woods. This is so simple yet so effective.



When Justin says he tries to keep his back to the target at the start of his downswing, he's not suggesting anything new. This is an old thought many players have used. But I mention it because the easiest way to do this is to think about dropping from a small height and landing on your feet.

Just think about it: Your lead heel comes slightly off the ground at the top of your backswing, so if you feel as if you're just landing flatfooted as you start your downswing, you won't start to unwind so quickly. That puts you in a stronger position to move through the ball and helps prevent an over-the-top move.

Justin does this as a rehearsal but it's very effective during your actual swing as well.

Give it a try. You might be surprised how much more solidly you can hit your 3-wood... or any of your clubs.