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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Peter Thompson on Hip Turn (Video)

The record for winning Open Championships is six, held by Harry Vardon. But four players are tied with five, one of whom is the late Peter Thompson. So it's appropriate to share some of his swing tips this week.



Since he made this his #1 tip, Thompson clearly felt that hip turn was a crucial part of the golf swing. It was a forgotten fundamental for a while. Players tried to keep their lower bodies almost locked in place, attempting to create more power in their swing. That back-wrecking maneuver is finally being replaced by common sense, but some teachers like Thompson never forgot it.

The keys to note here are that when Thompson's hips turn, the trailing hip actually moves toward the target, not straight back. This causes the trailing knee to straighten during the backswing and then stay pretty straight during the downswing. You often see it in the swings of legends like Arnold Palmer.

This move isn't for everybody -- not all players are comfortable straightening that trailing knee -- but why might you want to try it?

If you have a problem with a sway in your backswing, or if you tend to reverse pivot during your downswing, this more extreme hip turn might help you. Both of those faults happen because you move away from the target and shift too much weight onto your trailing leg during your swing. Thompson's turn forces you to brace that trailing leg, stopping any movement away from the target.

You might think that straightening your trailing knee would steal some power from your swing, but power players like Palmer prove that's not the case. So this is something you might want to try it you're fighting a sway or a reverse pivot. If you'll pardon the pun, winning five Opens certainly gives this tip some legs!

[UPDATE: Well, I guess the joke's on me. I got a note from SJ letting me know that this isn't the Peter Thompson I thought it was, but that it was a good tip nevertheless. I didn't realize I pulled up videos from BOTH Thompsons when I did my YouTube search.

At least it was a good tip. ;-)
]

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

My "5 to Watch" at the Open

I dread picking just five players this week. The Open is, in my opinion, too wide open to limit the field that much. I can easily pick 15 players who deserve to be seriously considered as favorites.

18th hole at Carnoustie

Carnoustie has never been as hard and fast as it is this week, nor has the rough been so sparse. At least, not in anybody's memory. Nor is the weather expected to be much of a factor at this point. And that means short hitters don't have to worry about hitting long approach shots, and they don't have to worry how far the big hitters hit it. It may simply become a game of "miss the bunkers and make the putts," and that could make for a very interesting competiton.

All of which means that it's very hard to figure out which five players are most likely to win this week. But I'll soldier on and we'll see how I do.
  • Perhaps the hottest player in the field this week is Francesco Molinari. In his last four worldwide starts, Francesco has two wins and two runner-up finishes. As good as Francesco is with his irons, all he needs is for his putter to stay somewhat warm. If it does, he could be lifting the Claret Jug at week's end.
  • Alex Noren is coming off a win at the French Open, as well as a runner-up and two thirds in worldwide starts this season. Alex is a streaky player, and could be in the early stages of a new streak. He's also extremely aggressive, and Carnoustie could lend itself to exactly the kind of game he likes to play.
  • Nobody is talking much about Brooks Koepka. It's worth noting that they weren't talking about him at the US Open either, and we all know what happened there. It's also worth noting that Brooks finished 6th last year and 10th two years before (he didn't play the Open in 2016), and the time he spent on the European Tour includes several rounds at Carnoustie during the Dunhill Links.
  • Since the beginning of 2017 Brooks has the best score to par in majors... and Rickie Fowler is only one stroke behind him; both are pretty far ahead of third place. Rickie has played very well in the Open -- in fact, in all of the majors over the last year or so -- and he's won the Scottish Open before, so we know he's comfortable on a links.You have to think Rickie has a good chance, especially if the wind does get up over the weekend.
  • And my flier is... Tiger Woods. I know most wouldn't consider Tiger a flier at this point, but I've written at length about my belief that Tiger's nervous system still hasn't recovered from the trauma it's experienced over the last few years. He's only had seven months of tournament play, and I just don't think that's long enough for his nervous system to completely recover yet. Because of that, his playing is still inconsistent, and there's no telling when he'll heal completely. When he does, he'll probably make a dramatic improvement -- dramatic enough to win a major. It could be this week... but I simply don't know.
These aren't the only players I think can win, obviously, but I had to pick just five. However, I feel pretty sure that Koepka should be the runaway favorite, no matter who made my list. He knows he doesn't have to play his best to win, and he has more familiarity with Carnoustie than most of the players in the field.

Rickie is my sentimental fave, but Brooks just seems to be more ready to pick up major #3 this week. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

John Cook on Putting at a Links Course (Video)

Since the Open is this week, here's a Live from the Open clip from Monday, with John Cook demonstrating how to putt on a links course when the wind is blowing. This might help you on any windy course, though.



Cook's keys are simple:
  • Widen your stance.
  • Place the ball near the center of your body.
  • Grip down slightly on the grip.
  • Trust your eyes.
I think the "trust your eyes" advice is interesting, especially since -- after setting up with the ball more centered -- John appears to move his ball forward in his stance! Apparently what John sees in this lesson is a bit different than what he says.

This is pretty standard advice, don't you think? But I find Cook's ball position change to be the interesting bit here. No matter how much instruction you hear about how to do something, when it comes to putting, mechanics are no substitute for feel. It's important to make sure you feel comfortable over a putt. If that means you have to break the rules a bit, so be it.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 John Deere Classic

Winner: Michael Kim

Around the wider world of golf: Some players won their events outright. Laura Davies crushed the field by ten strokes in the inaugural US Senior Women's Open; Brandon Stone tied the lowest round in ET history (60) to win the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open; Cameron Champ won the Utah Championship on the Web.com Tour; Ben Griffin won the Staal Foundation Open on the Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada; Joseph Winslow won the Yantai Championship on the PGA TOUR China; Stephanie Kono won the Donald Ross Classic on the Symetra Tour; and Justin Harding won the Bank BRI Indonesia Open on the Asian Tour. But we also had a couple of playoffs, as Vijay Singh won his first senior major at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship on the Champions Tour; and Thidapa Suwannapura became only the third Thai to win on the LPGA at the Marathon Classic.

Michael Kim with Deere trophy

Illinois was the place for blowouts on Sunday. Laura Davies won the US Senior Women's Open by ten shots, and Michael Kim won the John Deere by eight. What was going on in the Midwestern US, anyway?

Of the two, Kim's was clearly the biggest surprise. Laura has been playing well all season, just not this well. But Kim's game had been... well, nonexistent. Nobody saw this coming, not even him. He had changed coaches less than a month ago, just to get a new set of eyes on his game.

The changes have been quick and decisive.

Kim celebrated his 25th birthday on Saturday with his second 64 in as many days (after a 63 on the first day of the event). He couldn't even sleep on Saturday night, but apparently he no longer needs sleep. After three birdies on his first three holes Sunday, it wasn't even a competition anymore.

Not that Kim is complaining.

He said that he felt a bit left out after his fellow members of the "Class of 2011" -- the guys he beat in college -- came out and started tearing up the Tour. You know, guys like Thomas, Spieth, Berger and Schauffele. He's not left out anymore. He got all the perks that come with a victory -- a huge leap in FedExCup points, a full exemption on the Tour, more money than he can fit in his pockets, and exemptions. Oh yes, exemptions -- like the one in next week's Open.

It'll be fun to see what Michael Kim can do going forward. If he's really found the glitch in his swing that was holding him back, he could run up some serious wins like he did in college. But regardless of what the next few weeks hold, he can at least say he picked up a Limerick Summary. What else really matters?
Sixty-three, sixty-four, sixty-four—
But the Birthday Boy had more in store!
Lightning caught in a jar
Sent Kim way under par…
Then he flew to Carnoustie for more!
The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Laura Davies on Long Drives (Video)

Since Laura Davies is leading the US Senior Women's Open by five shots going into the final round, this video seemed appropriate. It's from the GCA show featuring Laura with Martin Hall.



Now, you can get all the details of how Laura hits the long ball off the tee just by watching the video -- and I'll be honest, Laura uses some keys that I wouldn't teach because I think they lead to inconsistency -- but they work for her, so you can certainly learn from them. They aren't what I want to focus on in this post.

Instead, I'm calling your attention to how Laura isn't sure about calling her grip a 'strong' grip. She says she thinks that's what it's called, but that "she doesn't follow all that sort of thing." However, that doesn't mean she doesn't know what she's doing. She knows exactly how to set her hands on the club -- that IS the entire point of what she's saying.

Bubba is the same way. He says he doesn't know what he's doing, but he means he doesn't know the terminology to explain what he's doing. If he really didn't know what he was doing, he wouldn't be able to maintain his swing at the level he does, for as long as he has, without a teacher.

What is important for a player to know? It isn't terminology, and it isn't being able to teach others. What matters is that you know what YOU need to do in order to get the results you want. It doesn't matter if other people agree with you or not, as long as you know that it works for you.

That's the biggest thing I believe you can learn from Laura: Do what works for you. And if that puts you in position to win big -- like Laura might do today at the inaugural US Senior Women's Open -- then you get the last laugh. And I'm all for that!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Don't Forget the US Senior Women's Open on FOXSports1 Today

It's only a couple of hours coverage today, starting at 4pm ET, but this inaugural event is shaping up to be pretty good.

Trish Johnson and Laura Davies

You can keep check on the scores at the official USGA website. Of course, I'm a bit excited because of how my picks in my "5 to Watch" post from earlier in the week are doing. While Suzy Whaley missed the cut and my sentimental favorite, Pat Bradley, currently sits at T37, my other three picks -- Laura Davies, Juli Inkster and Trish Johnson are T1, 2 and T1 respectively.

That's right, three of my picks hold the Top3 spots. I know it's only been two rounds, but it's rare for me to do THAT well.

As I said, I just wanted to remind you about the TV coverage this weekend. With only two hours each today and Sunday, you don't want to miss it.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Alex Nicolson on Making a Target-Oriented Swing (Video)

While Bryson DeChambeau's shoulder is the big news from Thursday, we don't have any real details on the severity of his injury yet. So I decided to post another teaching video instead. This is an older Golf Monthly video featuring teaching pro Alex Nicolson, who demonstrates a couple of drills to help you smooth out your swing by being more target-oriented.



The second drill is simply a club-throwing drill. I'll leave that one to your imagination, if you need help throwing clubs! Instead, we'll focus on the first drill, which is quite interesting.

In order to make your actual swing more closely match your practice swing, Nicolson recommends hitting shots with your eyes closed!

Yeah, that was my reaction as well. But if you can find a place on the range where you aren't afraid you'll hit someone, there's a lot of value to this suggested drill.

If you focus on a mental picture of your target, you'll be forced to think more about hitting to the target and less about actual ball contact. (Sort of like putting with your eyes closed.) And if you can't see when you're about to strike the ball, you're less likely to tense up and ruin the rhythm and sequence of your swing.

I would advise teeing the ball up so you don't worry about hitting the ground so much, and also starting with a half-swing or even less, to build your confidence that you can actually hit the ball with your eyes closed.

While it is a bit odd-sounding, this drill might actually help smooth out your swing. Anything that helps you gain confidence in your ability to hit the ball solidly should do that, because tension can usually be traced to the fear that you won't. If you struggle with a belief in your swing, it's worth a try.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Martin Hall on Drawing a Wedge (Video)

Here's a technique I haven't posted before, so you can thank Martin Hall for this one. Here's Martin demonstrating how to hit a draw with a wedge.



Most of this sounds like typical instruction for playing a draw with any club. I'll use Martin's description, which is for a righthander, and I'll put the lefthander's version in brackets:
  • Aim the clubface at the spot where you want the ball to finish.
  • Aim your body to the right [left] of your target.
  • Twist your forearms as you hit the ball and follow through to close the face. Martin uses a bucket to demonstrate the motion.
I admit that I don't care for all that twisting. While there are times where extra forearm action is needed -- hooking the ball sharply around a tree comes to mind -- you'd generally like to keep your forearms as quiet as possible. However, hooking a wedge is difficult, so I can see where you might need some extra "stuff" to make the wedge shot hook. (I'll have to try it myself and see, when I get a chance. It clearly worked for Bubba at Augusta!)

However, here's an extra key thought that you may never have heard before, and it might help you when you need to draw the ball with other clubs as well. Martin says you want to keep your trailing shoulder high, which may be a bit misleading. It's more like you avoid dropping your shoulder as much as you normally would. (After all, your trail hand is lower on the grip than your lead hand, so obviously your trail shoulder has to be a bit lower than your lead shoulder -- and it will be unless you do something strange. If you do something strange, you'll probably pull the shot as well as hook it... and that's not good.)

Anyway, this is a good thing to remember when you absolutely have to hit a draw with any club, but especially a wedge. Feel as if you're making a level shoulder turn and that should help you get that extra curve you need. The ball should fly lower and hit the green with a lot of spin.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

My "5 to Watch" at the US Senior Women's Open

Well, it's about time, isn't it? And since the USGA finally gave the older gals a major of their own, I'm going to make some picks. Welcome to the US Senior Women's Open!

Golf Hall of Famer Pat Bradley

The US Senior Women's Open will be held at the Chicago Golf Club -- one of the five founding clubs of the USGA, in case you didn't know -- which will be playing at 6082 yards and a par of 73. There's all kinds of info you can get about the event from this USGA fact sheet, especially concerning the course, its setup and history.

I also want to link you to this great article by Beth Ann Nichols about time she spent with Pat Bradley, who will be playing in this event. The official website is this page at the USGA site, which has all kinds of links to the field. And by letting those articles give you the info you need, I can focus on my "5 to Watch" picks.

True, I often say that it's hard to pick winners for various reasons, but it's rare that I can point to a relative lack of playing time. It's true that there's a Legends Tour, but many of these players haven't played competitively for years. It's enough of an issue that the USGA has admitted they're more or less guessing at how to set the course to make an event that's competitive but not overly difficult. I doubt that will be as much of a problem in future years, but it's a reality for the 2018 edition.

Nevertheless, I have found five ladies who I believe have a serious shot at this title.
  • Laura Davies is still playing on the LPGA, so I think she has a real advantage in this inaugural event. Laura's game is not only sharper than many of the other players, but she still has a lot of her length off the tee. (That's just a function of continued competitive play.) And given the form she's shown this year, she has to make my favorites list.
  • The same is true of Juli Inkster, who, while she's playing a more restricted schedule these days, is still an active LPGA member. There is simply no substitute for competitive play, and even a limited schedule with the youngsters has to be good for them.
  • Trish Johnson is not only still active on the LET, but she's a multiple winner on the LPGA Legends Tour -- in fact, she won only a month ago! She too is in good form for this event.
  • Suzy Whaley, the first female officer of the PGA and soon to be the next PGA president, has played against the male pros before and is still very young for this event -- a mere child of 51, thank you very much. Still very active in the game, I think she also comes in with some confidence.
  • And my flier is Pat Bradley. To the best of my knowledge, Pat isn't playing the Legends Tour anymore. But if her nephew, PGA Tour player Keegan Bradley, can be trusted, her mind is as sharp as ever... and her competitive spirit as well. On a 6000-yard track, I can see her making a run at this thing.
My pick -- perhaps a sentimental one, but I don't care -- is Pat Bradley. I've seen her play some with the men on the Champions Tour, and she has more than held her own. I think she'll surprise a few fans this week, and perhaps more than a few of the competitors!

Actually, I believe quite of number of the ladies are in good enough form to take this event. The Legends Tour boasts more than 120 members, so I suspect this event will be much more competitive than many people expect.

The real bummer here is the minimal TV coverage the event is going to get. However, FOXSports1 will provide at least four hours of coverage on Saturday and Sunday, from 4-6pm ET. How can you miss a historic event like this?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

My "5 to Watch" at the SENIOR PLAYERS

We've got two majors this week, so let's get to it with the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS on the Champions Tour.

Defending champion Scott McCarron

The event is being played at Exmoor Country Club near Chicago, and the defending champion is Scott McCarron. I should note that Bernhard Langer won the three editions of the event before that (2014-2016). so he has been a dominant figure at this event.

Having said that -- and noting as well that Langer is in fourth place in the Schwab Cup, only $300k behind leader David Toms -- I don't feel there's a clear-cut favorite in this major. Of the Top10 in the Cup race, only Paul Broadhurst (in fifth place) has more than one win this season. That hardly makes anyone a betting favorite.
  • However, Paul Broadhurst's two wins include one of the Champions Tour majors, the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. He's only $5k behind Langer, in fifth place. And with the Bass Pro Shop tournament also in his pocket, as well as a T5 at the US Senior Open, I have to put him in my "5" again.
  • I won't pick Steve Stricker again -- I checked, he's playing the Deere this week -- but I think I'm going for his Wisconsin buddy, Jerry Kelly. Kelly has 9 Top10s in 13 starts and one win, with a T8, T3 and T2 in the previous three majors this year. I figure he's due.
  • Miguel Angel Jiménez has the best record of anyone in majors this year; he's 1, 5 and T2 so far. It's hard to bet against him since he, like Stricker, continues to play strongly against the young players on the "big" tours.
  • David Toms has been quietly improving this year. He leads the Schwab Cup by only $12k over Jerry Kelly, who doesn't have a major like Toms. But he does have 8 Top10s in 13 starts, and has improved in each major he's played this season. (Yes, he won the last one.) Perhaps he's figured out how it's done on the Champions Tour and can grab another major.
  • And my flier pick... hmmm, who's flying under the radar? Ah, Colin Montgomerie. He has no wins this season and only 3 Top10s. Thing is, two of them -- T6 and T3 -- came in his last three events, the first being the Senior PGA. Perhaps Colin has finally found his stride this season...
So my winning pick is... Jerry Kelly. I can't help but think he's due, and this major will be up in his area of the country. I know that's no guarantee that he'll play well, but I can't shake the feeling that he'll win a major this year... and he's running out of majors! Let's see what he can do at this one.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 Greenbrier

Winner: Kevin Na

Around the wider world of golf: Sei Young Kim crushed the LPGA's all-time tournament scoring record (which she and Annika held) with a -31 at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Russell Knox sank the same 40-foot birdie putt TWICE to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open on the ET; Nelson Ledesma won the LECOM Health Challenge on the Web.com Tour; Mark Anguiano won the Windsor Championship on the MacKenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada; Brad Kennedy won the Shigeo Nagashima Invitational SEGA SAMMY Cup on the Japan Golf Tour; John Catlin won the Sarawak Championship on the Asian Tour; and the US Team successfully defended their title at the Palmer Cup.

Kevin Na with the Greenbrier trophy and jacket

Okay, first of all: I know the tournament is now officially called A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier. But that was just too long for the blog title.

And second, I don't care how silly it sounds, it seems like I've been waiting forever to post this:



Yes, I think it's appropriate. On a Sunday when all kinds of records were set by players going crazy with their putters, Kevin Na sank over 142 feet of putts -- double the Tour average for a round -- to pick up his second PGA Tour win. This song has become a legendary sports celebration song, and if anybody deserves this particular song, it's Kevin.

I can't help myself. I absolutely love Kevin Na. He's dealt with any number of technical problems and come out on top. When he's gone through a particularly bad stretch -- remember when he set the PGA Tour record for high score on a single hole (16)? -- he's had a sense of humor about it. (He not only talked about it after the round, but let GC film his revenge with a chainsaw.) And he's given us more good-natured entertainment (like the recent exchange between him and his longtime caddie) than most players.

It makes me feel good to see him pick up his second win. It was emotional for him, as you know if you saw his interview with Amanda Balionis right after he won -- and coming right after the news that he'd made the Open this year, it just seemed like life was fair this weekend.

I won't go on about it. Just play the video, dance around a bit, and know that Kevin will probably hear it quite a bit this week as he and his friends celebrate. As for me... well, the video even made itself felt in his Limerick Summary. Way to go, Kevin!
For seven years Kevin asked “Why?”
But Sunday his spirits were high!
He started one back
But then broke from the pack
And with 64, kissed ‘em goodbye.
The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Cindy Miller on a Relaxed Lead Arm (Video)

This older video from LPGA instructor Cindy Miller kind of goes along with yesterday's post about topping... but it approaches the problem of poor ball contact from the "other side" of the swing -- the upper body, rather than the lower body.



Cindy is attacking the myth that you need to keep your lead arm straight during your swing. Now, we're not talking about bending your lead elbow at a 90° angle at the top of your backswing. (Although some players do learn to play well that way. If you do, you know it.) Rather, we're talking about trying to keep your lead arm dead straight throughout your swing.

I've mentioned this "ramrod striaght" myth many times when talking about the one-piece takeaway. You don't want your lead arm stiff -- it should be relaxed and will flex slightly as you swing to the top of your swing, then return to its address position as you make your downswing. This is a natural movement for your arm -- you do it all the time when you make any kind of sweeping motion with your arm. You want to just let it happen when you swing the club as well.

In this video Cindy mentions two problems that keeping your lead arm stiff will cause. First, it can cause you to "stand up" during your backswing, just as Andrew Reynolds mentioned yesterday in that post. Stiff arms cause you to lift up and straighten up -- but this time, you overcorrect on your way down and stick the clubhead in the ground. Can you say fat shot?

The second thing this move does is cause you to open the clubface on the way back, then you leave it open on the way down. That's because a stiff lead arm won't drop back down into your normal address position, which means your arms don't rotate back to their address position where the face was square.

Ironically, you can do this upper body lifting and yesterday's lower body "push up" at the same time. What happens? Depending on which one you exaggerate, you might hit the ball fat or thin, without any apparent logic. And if you do hit the ball, the combination will likely create an over-the-top swing with an open clubface, creating that nasty banana ball we all hate.

So hopefully this week's series of posts will help you understand how excess movement in your swing -- created by trying to reach for a bigger turn than is natural for your flexibility -- can create poor contact and unwanted ball flights. So many of these problems, both with your upper body and your lower body, are caused by unnecessary tension in your arms and legs.

Maybe I'll try to post some relaxation drills next week. Learning to relax isn't hard, but a little encouragement can't hurt!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Andrew Reynolds on How to Stop Topping the Ball (Video)

This is a simple tip to improve the consistency of your impact from coach Andrew Reynolds for Golf Monthly. It's short but important.



I know this tip may sound childish at first, but it's about the logic of your golf swing... and most people never stop to reason out why the ball behaves the way it does. Let's look at it -- from a logical standpoint -- for a moment.

So many golfers believe they can stop topping the ball if they just keep their head down. As a result, they try all sorts of things to keep their heads from moving during the swing, including squatting more at address (which Reynolds mentions here) and ducking their heads on the downswing.

But topping is most often caused by raising not just your head, but your entire upper body. And that happens because you straighten your legs during your downswing. THAT is what most players refer to as "using the ground." But -- and I have written about this before, most recently a week ago -- pushing up with BOTH legs is incorrect technique. Only your lead legs pushes up when you use the ground.

In this video Reynolds offers a simple way to minimize this problem: Just stand taller at address. The logic here is simple -- if your knees are already mostly straight, and if your spine is more erect when you begin your swing, only your lead knee will bend more during your backswing. And on your downswing, straightening your lead knee will cause your body to rotate more freely while your trailing knee will be forced to bend in reaction to that turn.

And that will make the clubhead strike downward as it approaches the ball. No more topping!

Don't be quick to write this short video off as being too simplistic. It's actually a very easy way to use natural body motions to create a more consistent strike. And when you can make the correct motion happen automatically, your game will improve naturally.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Gary Player on Being Yourself

Today I have a short quote from Gary Player's book, Don't Choke.
Make your plan and stick to it. It's when you move away from your plan that doubt creeps in. And that's when the seeds of choking are sown.

It's so easy to get sidetracked from what you have set out to do. There are so many factors pulling our minds in different directions every single moment of every day. It can be the challenges of juggling a family with your career aspirations. It can be work colleagues feeding you negative thoughts. It can even be your boss, whose own indecision influences your strategy on a particular project.

But trust yourself. After all, that's why you are in the position you are and get paid what you are paid. You are there because somebody believes in your ability to make good decisions. So believe in yourself.

Once you have considered all the necessary information, make your plan and stick to it. [p130]
Granted, Player is talking in terms of job expectations here. But the sentiment seems to fit life in general, don't you think?

Most of us second-guess ourselves on a regular basis. And we don't necessarily feel equipped to deal with many of the problems we face each day. But much of our doubt doesn't come from lack of knowledge, but from fear of what others may say or simply because we think we have to be perfect. (That's a huge problem in learning to play golf for many people as well.)

However, life isn't about being perfect. Nobody is perfect. And most of us worry about things that will never happen. As Player says, once we've considered the necessary information -- the things we need to know -- the best thing to do is make a plan and stick to it. As long as you're willing to adjust when the situation demands it, you'll probably do just fine.

After all, the people who are successful in their endeavors are generally the people who actually DO something. And Gary Player is certainly someone who knows about that.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Why You Shouldn't Always Copy the Pros (Video)

In this short video from Wednesday's Morning Drive, GOLFTEC instructor Patrick Nuber shows the difference between the ways pros and amateurs use their wrists during their swing. It might convince you that the L-to-L drill isn't something you should use... but you'd be wrong. I want to show you why copying the pros isn't always a good thing, and how "the numbers" don't always tell the whole story.



The L-to-L drill gives you the same result during the backswing that his video diagrams show. There's no conflict there.

At around the 2:20 mark Nuber shows the difference between how pros and amateurs' wrists behave as they move up to the finish. His numbers show that the amateurs bend their wrists upward much more at the halfway up point. That's the position you'll get if you use the L-to-L drill. Nuber says the pros keep their wrists much straighter at the halfway point, and that this creates more clubhead speed.

There's a lot that he doesn't say here. Let me explain some of it to you.
  • First off, bear in mind that Nuber's diagrams are taken from a full swing, not the half swing that you use in the L-to-L drill. I don't care how strong they are, no pro will make a full-speed half swing and stop with the shaft at the angle in his diagram.
  • Here's something important that you can see in the diagrams. If you look closely at the two figures -- not at the wrists, but at the upper bodies of the figures -- you'll see that the pro figure has turned his chest toward the target far more than the amateur figure. If the upper body position isn't clear to you, just look at the legs and hips -- it's VERY noticeable there. That means that the amateur figure has stopped turning, so the arms have slowed down and the wrists HAVE to bend upward. THAT'S the cause, the reason the amateur loses clubhead speed, not the wrist bend. The extra wrist bend is merely the result of his body slowing down too early.
  • Here's a corollary to the last point: If you keep turning your body as you swing into the finish, your wrists won't bend upward until much later in the followthrough. In other words, the pro arm position Nuber shows will happen automatically if you turn properly.
  • Did you notice that Nuber says the lesser wrist bend causes the ball to fly lower? Most amateurs are struggling to hit the ball higher and get more spin on wedge shots. The last thing they need is to consciously try and hit the ball lower. They should focus on creating as much clubhead speed as possible before they start trying to hit the ball lower.
  • Finally, think about your short game. When you want to hit the ball lower AND SHORTER, you cut off the finish -- exactly what his "point the shaft" drill teaches you. If you want to increase your distance, this isn't the way to do it.
Understand what I'm saying here. It's not that Nuber is wrong about what the numbers say. Rather, it's a misrepresentation of what the numbers mean, a misrepresentation that happens in any discipline when you become too enamored with the numbers. Trying to duplicate measurements taken from the middle of a motion without duplicating the entire motion will not give you the results you expect.

This is one of the great problems with our reliance on numbers. Numbers may not lie, but numbers mean nothing until they are interpreted... and interpretations lie all the time. Don't try to duplicate numbers. Focus instead on learning to play golf, and in time the numbers will take care of themselves.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy 4th of July! (Disney Fireworks Display Video)

I know the 4th of July isn't celebrated all over the world, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the fireworks. This is the 2017 display from DisneyWorld -- over 14 minutes of fireworks. Enjoy!



Just for the record, Disney does a big fireworks display almost every night at Magic Kingdom. Still, there's something special to us Americans when it's an Independence Day celebration.

And in the same vein, let me offer early wishes for a great Bastille Day (July 14th) celebration to my readers in France. Over there, it's called either "la Fête nationale" or "le 14 Juillet." I hope you have a great one, whichever you prefer to call it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Josh Kaufman on Learning the Basics of Any Skill (Repost Video)

I'm afraid many of you missed this video because it was tacked on to the end of Sunday's post. It fit there but it can help you in so many ways besides golf, so I'm reposting it today.

Josh Kaufman is author of The Personal MBA, among other books.



Here's the quick summary of the video as posted by QuickTalks (from the video comments). I can't say it any better:

Summary: Just 20 hours is enough to become “reasonably good” at any skill.

  1. Deconstruct the skill - Break the skill down into its most basic parts. Which parts are necessary for hitting the goal you have? (i.e. if your goal is to sing a song in Korean, you can primarily focus on pronunciation, not learning a bunch of vocabulary)
  2. Learn enough to self correct - Learn enough to realize when you're making mistakes.
  3. Remove barriers to practice - Turn off your phone, unplug the TV. Put your guitar, piano, language book in the middle of your room, not behind your stack of dirty laundry.
  4. Practice for at least 20 hours - Commit to 20 hours from the start. You're going to be frustrated at times, so committing beforehand will help you push through the frustration.
Spend some time with this video, folks. It will not only help your golf, it will help you learn all sorts of things that you may wanted to learn but believed the task would be too much for you. It's an excellent video.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 Quicken Loans National

Winner: Francesco Molinari

Around the wider world of golf: David Toms got his first Champions Tour major at the US Senior Open; Sung Hyun Park got her second LPGA major at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Muni He won the Prasco Charity Championship on the Symetra Tour; Anders Albertson won the Lincoln Land Championship on the Web.com Tour; Alex Noren won the HNA Open de France on the ET; Chan Kim defended his title at the Shigeo Nagashima Invitational SEGA SAMMY Cup on the Japan Golf Tour; and Jazz Janewattananond won the Queen's Cup on the Asian Tour. [UPDATE: I forgot to add Leonie Harm's win at the Ladies' British Amateur. Can't forget that!]

Francesco Molinari holds the Guicken Loans trophy

If you were unfamiliar with Francesco Molinari before this past week... well, you better get real familiar, real fast.

I remember being very impressed with Francesco the first time I saw him play, which was back in November 2010. In fact, I was so impressed that I mentioned him in three consecutive posts -- one with a Limerick Summary for his second individual European Tour win at the 2010 WGC-HSBC Champions, a "Player to Watch" mention in a Ruthless Golf World Rankings post, and a look at his golf swing in a post called Francesco is Italian for "I Piped It Again." He showed great shotmaking prowess even then.

Francesco's career has been somewhat hit-or-miss over the years though. Interestingly enough, he has tended to win ET events every two to four years -- 2006, 2010, 2012, 2016, and 2018. (He also had two non-ET wins in 2009.) But 2018 has been different, as he has two "big tournament wins" within a month of each other -- the BMW PGA, which is the ET's equivalent of THE PLAYERS, and now the Quicken Loans National, his first PGA Tour win. And both have been dominant wins -- he chased down Rory at the BMW and he won by eight strokes (and set some tournament scoring records along the way) at the Quicken Loans.

To what does he owe this sudden improvement in his play? There are two things. First, he has greatly improved his strength and flexibility, resulting in a much smoother and more powerful swing. Coupled with his already impressive shotmaking ability, that has lifted his game a few notches.

But he's always been a shotmaker. It's his newfound success with the putter that has made the biggest difference. He's always had plenty of birdie opportunities, but now he's taking advantage of them -- and, as a result, of the rest of the field. Poor unfortunate fellows!

Francesco gained a lot this week. He's going to move up in the world rankings; he pretty much locked up a couple of weeks in the FedExCup Playoffs, which he said was the main reason he played in the Quicken Loans rather than the French Open (which is held at the venue for this year's Ryder Cup); and he pretty much locked up a spot on said Ryder Cup team with his play. But we all know what he REALLY cared about... so here's your Limerick Summary, champ.
If Francesco’s career has seemed static,
It’s because his short game’s been erratic.
Now he’s putting lights-out—
And he’s left us no doubt
That his Ryder Cup team is ecstatic!
The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Jim Flick on Execution VS Understanding (Plus a Video)

This post is about more than golf. That's why it's so long. But if you stick with me till the end, you might be surprised at what sort of new "tools" are at your command.

The late Jim Flick worked with a lot of amateur players as well as pros. In fact, he and Jack Nicklaus ran golf schools together. So why was he so successful as a teacher?

This short section comes from his book On Golf, and it sums up why so many people struggle to get better at the game.

DON'T CONFUSE THE INABILITY TO EXECUTE
WITH THE INABILITY TO UNDERSTAND

Every now and then, someone in a school session will say, "Well, I don't understand that."

My usual answer, unless I'm having a bad day and realize I'm being particularly obtuse, is what Peter Kostis, an old colleague of the Golf Digest schools, used to say: "Don't confuse the inability to execute with the inability to understand."

And I go on: "You understand the material very well. Right now you haven't done it often enough that you can execute it. So don't try to get more material. Spend more time on execution."

I'm not trying to be harsh. I'm trying to be realistic. You learn golf the way you learn everything else: step by step. Get too much all at once and you break down from information overload.

Let's say you're a grown-up and you decide to study French. Do you go to school for a semester and then one day wake up speaking the language perfectly? No! You practice, you absorb, you learn in stages. Golf is exactly like learning a language: there's a huge gap between intellectual understanding and physical feel. You bridge that gap with repeated execution. In other words, practice. [p44]
You don't have to learn everything about golf all at once. You don't have to learn to hit the ball both long and straight at the same time. You don't have to learn to hit both fades and draws all at once. You don't have to learn to hit both high and low shots right from the start.

Pick one basic skill. Find a drill or two that will help you get better at that skill. And then work on that skill. You'll get better.

When you go out to play a round of golf, use that skill as much as you can. Did your ball end up in a very tight lie but you can't hit the ball well enough yet to go at the green? Then don't try. Use your putter to advance the ball into a lie you can hit from, even if that's just ten feet away. Or don't try to hit it at all -- pick it up, carry to a spot you CAN hit from, and hit the ball from there.

Don't worry about your score. Just get better at that skill.

Or, to put it in Flick's language example, if you're learning basic words, you don't worry about creating syntactically correct sentences. You just focus on making your limited vocabulary understood. You use gestures -- like pointing at signs or acting things out -- to get your point across, and you don't worry about what you don't know.

THAT'S a good way to approach your golf game. And realize that the sooner you get this one skill down, the sooner you can start working on the next one and the quicker your game will get better.

In other words, folks, be patient with yourselves.

Unlike other posts I do with videos, this one doesn't have a golf instruction video. Rather, it's a video about how to learn new skills. I think it might be eye-opening for you.

I know you've heard people say you have to do a thing for 10,000 hours -- roughly five years of 40-hour workweeks -- to become an expert at it. BUT HERE'S THE TRICK: You don't have to become an expert at something to be very good at it, and you don't need 10,000 hours to become skilled. This video from Josh Kaufman shows why it only takes 20 hours to start developing a sound skill base in a new area. The key is to focus on the important skills at the start.

This video really opened my eyes when I saw it -- primarily because I realized that I had picked up a large number of skills in my life by doing exactly what he says!



So try approaching your golf -- and anything else you want to learn -- using Kaufman's mindset. And since I've been harping on it all week, let me suggest you begin this approach using the L-to-L swing drill as a starting place. It's easy to grasp and it builds basic skills you use in pretty much every part of your game.

And if you try to learn other things by using this mental approach, you might do more than just improve your golf. It might lead you in all kinds of exciting directions!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Tyrrell Hatton on Pitch Shots (Video)

Tyrrell Hatton will likely be on the European Ryder Cup team later this year, so it's appropriate to take a look at how he plays pitch shots. Note that Tyrrell is playing only a 55-yard shot here. That's tricky for many players.



While Tyrrell says he swings "shoulder to shoulder" with this swing, you can see in the video that his hands actually never get to shoulder height on his backswing. Rather, his lead arm is parallel to the ground, which is quite normal for most players hitting a pitch shot.

He positions the ball in the middle of his stance for this shot, which creates a downward strike that gives him a reasonable amount of spin, but not enough to get the ball zipping backward once it hits the green. You don't want a lot of spin on this shot; ideally, you'd like it to hop once or twice and stop. Clean contact is the important thing here.

Ironically, as I watched Tyrrell's swing, I had the same reaction I did with Andrew Rice's video lesson in yesterday's post. Tyrrell is making a move that's almost identical to the L-to-L drill I keep mentioning. (This link goes to a post with the simplest version of that drill.)

I know I say it a lot, but the L-to-L drill is a fundamental move in the golf swing. The more you work on it, the better your impact will be, which means you'll get more distance with more accuracy than you would otherwise. And you get those advantages simply by choosing how you want to focus your practice -- in today's case, it would be short game work -- and then using the same basic drill with that goal in mind.

Since you'll be using the same drill each time, you'll continue to help your overall swing at the same time, which should cut the amount of practice time you need to keep your swing in shape.

It's a win-win situation.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Andrew Rice on Clubface Control (Video)

This is one of the short Revolution Golf videos that GC is putting up at their website, and this one was posted Thursday. It focuses on keeping control of your clubface at impact, which can help you if you're working with the swing thoughts from the Bubba post earlier this week.



Rice says that you want to make sure you keep your spine angle at impact. That doesn't mean that you have to "keep your head down"; rather, it means that you don't want to "stand up" when you swing down. How is this different from "using the ground"? When "using the ground" only your lead knee straightens at impact, while when you "stand up" BOTH KNEES straighten at impact. Simple, right?

If you "stay down" as Rice suggests, you'll be forced to turn your shoulders and hips into your followthrough, which will help you square the clubface at impact.

Now, you may not realize it, but what Rice is teaching here isn't something new to you. In fact, if you've been following this blog for a while, you will probably recognize his drill as yet another version of the multipurpose L-to-L drill which I frequently recommend. Here's a link to my most recent post on a specialized version of the L-to-L drill, and that post has a link to another post with more basic versions of the drill.

Rice's version will teach you how to use the L-to-L drill with another swing thought. And the more things you can learn from a single drill, the simpler your practice becomes and the more likely you are to develop a simple, easily repeated swing.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

My "5 to Watch" at the US Senior Open

Yesterday it was the women, today the seniors. Let's pick five players I think will play well at the US Senior Open.

Defending champion Kenny Perry

Kenny Perry is the defending champion and the event will be played at the Broadmoor Golf Club in Colorado. You may remember the Broadmoor from 2011, when it hosted the US Women's Open and So Yeon Ryu -- my pick for this week's KPMG -- won her first major there in a weather-plagued, five-day event that ended in a playoff.

There are a number of players in good form as the Champions Tour enters their third major this season and, as with the women, it's hard to go wrong picking any of them. But I'm limited to five, so here we go.
  • I'll start off with Paul Broadhurst. While not a prolific winner on the tour (only four total), he has proven that he has what it takes to win majors -- two of them in fact, the 2016 Senior Open and the 2018 Senior PGA. Broadhurst is a quiet but solid player, and not someone you want to overlook.
  • Likewise, I have to include Miguel Ángel Jiménez, who won this year's Tradition. (Yes, I've gone chalk so far, taking both of this season's major winners. So sue me.) He has five wins, one being that major... but he's also playing extremely well on the European Tour against the young guys. You've got to like the Spaniard's chances.
  • Speaking of players who are still competitive on the regular tours, let me suggest that Steve Stricker is playing well enough to take this major. He was T20 at the US Open at Shinnecock, so he's in major form. And he's played six events on the Champions Tour this season -- he has two wins and his worst finish is a T5 at the Legends of Golf, which is a team event. When solo, he has nothing worse than a T3! Yeah, I like Stricks this week.
  • Scott McCarron is T5 and T3 so far this season in majors, and he's coming off a win at the American Family Insurance Championship last week. As competitive as McCarron is, it's hard for me to take Bernhard Langer over him, especially since he's playing better than Langer right now. (Langer's always a favorite for me, just like Inbee Park on the LPGA, but I think other players are in better form going into this major. Sorry, Bernhard. Feel free to prove me wrong.) And McCarron did win the Senior PLAYERS last year, so he knows how to get it done.
  • But who to take as my flier? Hmmm... David Toms is only in his second year with the old guys and is still looking for his first win of any kind on the Champions Tour. Still, five Top5s and seven Top10s this season say he just might be ready to break through. And let's not forget that he does have a PGA and a WGC-Match Play on the regular tour, so he's been there before as well.
But who to choose, who to choose? Really, this is a no-brainer for me. I can't help but feel that Stricker is ready to get a major. With six Top5s in six starts -- and two wins -- how can I bet against him? Given his accuracy -- and knowing that the last USGA event hosted at the Broadmoor was won by a super-accurate Ryu -- I don't think anybody will be surprised to see him take a US Senior Open.

[UPDATE: I've done this before, but I'm always amazed when I do it. Stricker isn't playing this week! So I guess we'll just see how my other four players do. Maybe I need to get more sleep before I do these things...]

Remember that, since this is a USGA event, it will be broadcast on FOXSports1-- not GC -- starting Thursday at 4pm ET.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

My "5 to Watch" at the KPMG

There are two majors to pick this week, so let's get started with the ladies and the KPMG Women's PGA.

Defending champ Danielle Kang

Tony Jesselli has posted his usual must-read preview over at his blog, so make sure you pop over and check it out. Danielle Kang is the defending champion -- although, as we know, the KPMG winner never gets to defend on the course where she won. This year's event will be played at the venerable Kemper Lakes Golf Club, which has hosted a large number of major events over the years.

The big news at this point is how much rain has fallen at the course. The LPGA plans to play the course at roughly 6700+ yards, which means it will play extremely long -- at least for the first couple of rounds, as it will take some time for the course to firm up, even if the rains stop before the event starts. I, however, am going against the prevailing sentiment and am NOT picking any of the long hitters to win.

A slow course helps long hitters by minimizing run into the rough, but it can also allow the shorter players to hit their long clubs and still get controllable shots... and I believe the shorter players' accuracy will prove to be more important this week.
  • I have to start with Inbee Park. How can you not include one of the best short hitters in the game?  She's played less than almost any other big name player, yet her season's looking pretty good. Even when she doesn't make a "5 to Watch" list, rest assured that I never count her out... but she makes this one for sure.
  • I'm also going with defending champ Danielle Kang. She has only one LPGA win -- this event, last year. She's no long hitter and, as I said earlier, she doesn't get to defend on the course where she won. But both KPMGs, 2017 and 2018, are being played in Illinois, which means this is as close as it gets. Danielle's been inconsistent this season, but that's typical for her, and I think she'll be focused this week.
  • My flier at the US Women's Open was Nasa Hataoka; this time she's not a flier. I may have been a bit early with that pick, but she's proven I was right about her finally finding her stride on tour. Coming off a win in Arkansas, she can definitely make some noise this time.
  • How can I not pick So Yeon Ryu? I've been a fan for a long time and she makes these lists more times than not, but I love her game. Her play has been a bit uneven this season, but she has a win in the last month and she always seems to step forward in tough conditions. I think Kemper Lakes qualifies!
  • And my flier is... Shanshan Feng. I know, that sounds like a strange flier pick. She's a major winner, after all... and it's THIS major! Plus she's #4 in the Rolex Rankings. But despite three T3s and a T5 this season, she's having a fairly mediocre season (for her) and is flying way underneath the radar. Still, Shanshan has a tendency to show up when you least expect her, and I wouldn't be surprised if she won this event for a second time.
My pick is... So Yeon Ryu. I still remember how So Yeon won her first major, the 2011 US Women's Open at the Broadmoor in Colorado, over 6200 feet above sea level. Bad weather plagued the event -- every round spread out over multiple days, and after the tournament ran into Monday, she still had to play a three-hole aggregate playoff for not just her first major, but her first LPGA win. You want to talk about a grinder? That's So Yeon Ryu.

GC's coverage starts early on Thursday. Officially, it starts at 11am ET but GC will probably do a PreGame Show at 10:30am ET.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Bubba Watson on Swing Thoughts (Video)

Golfing World did this video a couple of years back, with Bubba passing on some of his thoughts on how he approaches the game. As usual, I'll be focusing on one specific thought from the video.



Starting around the 1:40 mark, Bubba talks about how he practices. No long practice sessions; he likes short sessions, 15 minutes or so, and he works on what needs working on. His example? Suppose his ball isn't cutting the way he wants. He goes out for maybe ten minutes and figures out why it isn't. Then he tries to overcome the problem.

Let me suggest a way to try Bubba's approach. The vast majority of weekend golfers have trouble hitting a draw, so let's use that as an example. (If you're problem is a fade, just use the same methodology but adjust accordingly.)

Let's ignore setup fundamentals and such for the time being. To make the ball draw, you have to hit the ball from slightly inside -- that means you have a slight in-to-out swing path -- and you want the clubface either square to your target or slightly closed (the latter will create a bigger curve). As long as you make an in-to-out swing and have the clubface square or closed, the ball is gonna draw.

Now, go out on the range and try to make an in-to-out swing that hits the ball with a closed clubface. I don't care whether you swing along your footline or not; I don't care if your stance is open, square or closed; I don't care how your swing looks. Forget what your instructor told you about the 'proper' way to swing. All I want you to do is find a way -- ANY WAY -- to make that ball draw. Start with a half- or three-quarter swing if you want, then stretch it out to a full swing. Find out how YOU can make the ball draw, learn how that swing feels, and then work till you can repeat that swing.

As Bubba says in the video, all that matters is how you score. Don't worry about how your swing looks; just get the results. This is what it means to "own your swing." And over time, as you keep using it and getting better with it, you'll gain more distance and control as it becomes second nature to you.

In a lot of ways, THAT is Bubba's secret that no one understands. It's not about having people applaud your swing; it's about learning to control the golf ball. Let them laugh, if that's what they want to do.

Trust me: They won't laugh for long after you start kicking their asses on the course.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 Travelers Championship

Winner: Bubba Watson

Around the wider world of golf: Matt Wallace won the BMW International Open on the ET; Nasa Hataoka got her first LPGA win at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship on the LPGA; Kanyalak Preedasuttijit won the Ladies European Thailand Championship on the LET; Ruixin Lui won the Island Resort Championship on the Symetra Tour; Scott McCarron won the American Family Insurance Championship on the Champions Tour; Brady Schnell won the Wichita Open in a playoff on the Web.com Tour; T.T. Crouch won the Lethbridge Paradise Canyon Open in a playoff on the Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada; Shota Akiyoshi won the Dunlop SRIXON Fukushima Open on the Japan Golf Tour; Minchel Choi won the Kolon Korea Open Golf Championship on the Asian Tour; and Ernie Els's nephew Jovan Rebula won the British Amateur Championship, the first South African to do so since 1966.

Bubba Watson holds his third Travelers trophy

After Paul Casey shot 62 on Saturday for a four-shot lead, most folks thought his second win of the season was a done deal. But big leads are notoriously hard to hold on the final day of an event, and perhaps Paul himself recognized that fact when he told the media before the round that he thought his game was in good enough shape to win once or twice more this season... even if he didn't win Sunday.

It certainly appears that the desire to win got in Casey's way during the final round. The smooth rhythm of Saturday's round was gone, as was the putting stroke that has been working all season. Instead, it was Bubba Watson's cautious attitude going into the round -- saying that it would take something really special to even have a chance Sunday -- that won the day.

Was 63 special enough? I think it was.

Bubba has always felt comfortable at the Travelers. He got his first-ever PGA Tour win there in 2010; he picked up a second one in 2015. His two-under front nine erupted into a five-under back nine as he sprinted to the finish, capped by a skillful downwind shot to two feet at the 18th. The pressure was just too much for Casey, who finished three shots back in a tie for second.

Not only was this Bubba's third win of the season (one of them the WGC-Dell Match Play) but it was also his third Travelers trophy -- a feat topped only by four-time winner Billy Casper. Bubba will debut in my Ruthless Golf World Rankings this week, probably at #4, just ahead of Koepka. (Spieth will fall out this week.)

But in the meantime, Bubba & Company can relax with the trophy and his third Limerick Summary of the season. His THIRD! Is this the year of Bubba? Stay tuned! (Btw, read the date in the first line as 'two-thousand-ten' to get the correct rhythm.)
He won here in 2010;
In ‘15, he did it again.
Two times weren’t enough!
Sunday, Bubba got tough
And crushed Casey to get his third win.
The photo came from this page at golfweek.com.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Paul Casey's Setup Changes (Video)

I couldn't ignore this. Paul Casey's 62 -- his lowest score ever on the PGA Tour -- was the result of a couple of simple setup changes. Here's the video where he describes them. His interview begins around the 2:55 mark and the changes he made are mentioned around the 4:30 mark.



Casey was struggling with pulled shots. He and coach Peter Kostis fixed the problem by having him stand closer to the ball, which probably played a part in the second fix -- correcting his posture. Sounds simple, but it was enough to help him hit 10 of 14 fairways and all 18 greens on Saturday, which gave him a four shot lead.

It's amazing how many problems can be fixed simply by adjusting your setup. I particularly want to call your attention to checking how far you stand from the ball. Standing closer to the ball can help you fade it; standing farther from it can help you draw it.

HOWEVER, standing too close can create a banana ball (or a dead pull) while standing too far away can cause a big duck hook (or even a big push). It depends on what other problems you're dealing with -- in this case, Casey's poor posture combined with poor ball position caused him to pull shots.

Before you think about making swing changes, do the smart thing and make sure that your address position is good. Correcting your setup can bring a dramatic improvement in your game without the difficulties involved with a swing change.

Btw, I considered posting this video of Rory's run-in with that squirrel at Travelers, but felt Casey's setup changes were more valuable to most of you. That doesn't mean you can't click the link and see what a brave squirrel can do to a pro, though. ;-)

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Fred Funk on Hitting Longer Drives (Video)

I'm posting this older GCA clip with Fred Funk because he has a very different take on getting extra distance from your drive. Bear in mind that Fred isn't the longest hitter to begin with, so this tip may surprise you.



In a time when we're being told that the way to get distance is to "tee it high and let it fly," Fred doesn't follow this advice unless he particularly wants a high shot. When he wants a long drive, he tees it LOW so he'll get more roll. Based on the quick shot of how low he tees the ball, I'd say he has only a quarter to a third of the ball above the top of his driver, not half the ball as most instructors suggest.

Note that Fred's advice won't help you if the fairways are wet. In that case, your distance will come mostly from the amount of carry you get. This is clearly a tip for use on firm fairways where you can count on a bounce or two, as well as some roll. It might also help when you're playing into a wind.

In any case, remember that the best way to get distance on your drive depends as much on the CONDITIONS as on the equipment and technique. Sometimes you want to tee it high, sometimes you want to tee it low, and sometimes you'll get more distance with a 3-wood than a driver. (It's a bit easier to draw the ball with 3-wood, and easier to fade the ball with a driver.) Take a moment to plan your strategy before you tee it up, and you'll be rewarded.

Friday, June 22, 2018

So Yeon Ryu Returns to Arkansas

The Walmart NW Arkansas Championship has drawn a strong field as players prepare for next week's major, the KPMG Women's PGA Championship. And defending champ So Yeon Ryu comes into the event with some serious momentum after winning last week at the Meijer LPGA Classic.

Defending champ So Yeon Ryu

As usual, Tony Jesselli has a preview of the event at his blog. He notes that this is the third strongest non-major event of the year -- understandable, as this is the third event preceding a major this year!

While the field is very strong and there are plenty of players with major storylines this week -- such as Stacy Lewis trying to grab a "home game" before leaving on maternity leave, and fellow Razorback Gaby Lopez hoping to grab her first win here (as Lewis did nearly a decade ago) -- it seems to me that So Yeon Ryu is the real story here. Her play has been a bit uneven this year, and there are reports that she's been very frustrated.

But after last week's win, and with the KPMG coming up next week, So Yeon could find herself with an Ariya Jutanugarn-like season if she could manage to win this week. After all, two wins leading into a major...? Last week's win wouldn't have drained her the way, say, Brooks Koepka's major win did last week -- the women simply don't draw the same media attention as the men, and the Meijer isn't a major (although it may have felt like one to So Yeon). A little positive adrenaline after finally breaking through this season could be just what she needs.

So I'm looking forward to see how she performs this week. This is only a three-day event, so it's unlikely to tire her too much. And whether she wins or not, a strong performance could put her in the right frame of mind to pick up her third major next week.

GC's broadcast starts tonight, and runs from 6:30-8:30pm.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Golf Monthly's Beginner's Golf Shaft Guide (Video)

My day has been hectic so I'm just going to post this new video (just uploaded on Tuesday!) from Golf Monthly's tech writer Jake O'Reilly. It's a nice overview of what you should know when you go to get your club shafts fitted to you -- not just your driver, but ALL your clubs. It's about six-and-a-half minutes long and it's got a lot of info in it.



Today I'm just posting it -- because of time problems -- but I plan to come back to it soon and summarize some of the most important info. Because this IS important info that can save you a lot of headaches.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Jeff Flagg on Launching One 400 Yards (Video)

Almost three years ago I did a post about how 2014 long driving champ Jeff Flagg hits the long ball. Check that post out, by all means, but here's a video where Jeff demonstrates how to do it.



Jeff's three keys are:
  1. Let your arms dictate club speed. He demonstrates this by throwing a rock sidearm.
  2. Open up your trail shoulder and remove all tension from your lead arm. You do this by letting your trailing elbow 'fly' -- that is, move away from your side during your backswing. This increases your swing arc, btw.
  3. Use the Flamingo Drill. Put all your weight on your lead foot, stand on the toe of your trail foot, and use your upper body to do most of the swing work -- just like throwing a rock sidearm. Please note that, although he's not trying to, he can't help but straighten his lead knee to "use the ground." This happens without conscious effort -- that's what Jeff wants you to understand.
I know this advice -- to focus on using your arms, not your legs -- goes against what you have heard. But Jeff's point here -- and yes, I know I keep repeating it but it's soooo important -- is that under any other normal throwing motion you focus on using your arms, and that causes you to use your legs automatically. If you TRY to use your legs, you'll exaggerate your lower body movement and actually INTERFERE with the proper motion!

Come on, give Jeff's advice a try. What have you got to lose... besides that short little dinky drive you hate?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Testing Players VS Protecting Par

Sunday's post was a rant about US Open setups, but this post is more about a mindset that I just don't understand. Can you test players and protect par at the same time?

Brooks from the 6th hole rough on Sunday

USAToday posted an article (from which the photo came) that wonders whether Shinnecock has become obsolete as a US Open course. I believe that's a flawed view to begin with.

The real question is whether the USGA's concept of a US Open setup is obsolete. And that, I believe just as strongly, is very likely.

My Sunday rant took the USGA to task for ignoring the "architect's intent" for the way the course should play -- specifically, the speed at which classically contoured greens should be played. (If you read that post early on, I added an extra paragraph early Sunday because I realized there were a couple of things the USGA does that I don't have a problem with, but I didn't mention them so I wanted that to be clear.) I contend that if you need to challenge the pros, you don't burn the greens out and make them impossibly fast. Rather, you make them a little smaller and still keep them playable.

You see, the USGA's idea of "protecting par" seems nonsensical to me. And I offer Sunday's setup as proof.

A total of 67 players made the cut at Shinnecock. And after the debacle on Saturday, the USGA on Sunday made what most of us -- me included -- consider an overcompensation. And let's be honest, they needed to. They owed Shinnecock an apology for swearing up and down that they wouldn't make the same mistakes they made in 2004... and then they made worse ones on Saturday.

But after looking at how the course played in the final round, I simply don't understand WHY the USGA made the decisions they did on Saturday in the first place!

Let's look at the facts.

Of the 67 players to make the cut, Sunday’s admittedly soft setup produced only 15 scores below par, and only four better than -2. That's just over 22% of the field -- not even a quarter of them broke par. If you want the exact breakdown, there was:
  • one 63 (-7)
  • one 65 (-5)
  • one 66 (-4)
  • one 67 (-3)
  • three 68s (-2)
  • eight 69s (-1)
Of the Top15 finishers, only seven bettered par, while only one bettered -2. That was Fleetwood's 63, of course. Then there were three each of the 68s and 69s.

And the field average was 72.3 strokes. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's an average of two over par for the entire field.

Sunday's setup involved slowing the greens down to what they should have been all along, softening the greens a bit more than necessary, and moving roughly half the flags to the center of their respective greens. They made the course MUCH easier than most of us believe was necessary, yet less than a quarter of the field beat par and the field average was more than two strokes over par.

If that setup didn't test the players, and if if was too easy in the USGA's eyes to "protect par," then what the hell do they think their job is???

If they believe their job is to prevent ANY player from breaking par, then they aren't interested in testing the players' skills. I repeat what I said Sunday -- they can get those kind of results by using a cow pasture, but the results won't be what I'd call 'golf.'

Some will debate that it's the fault of the equipment but, from a historical standpoint, the US Open is typically won with a score close to -8. If there's a need to blame something for good scores, then blame it on the influx of athletes to our game. And since that's presumably what everybody wanted, in order to legitimize our game as a sport in the general public's eyes, then making the course artificially harder to keep them from doing what they do seems a bit myopic to me. It's the equivalent of the NBA raising the baskets an extra five to ten feet during the Playoffs. It defies common sense.

If the debacle at Shinnecock -- and the resultant 'easy' setup on Sunday -- has proven anything, it's that the USGA needs to reexamine its understanding of how to 'test players' and 'defend par.' Because as far as I can see, when you have a legendary course like Shinnecock, you don't really need to push the course to the edge to create a test that protects par.

You just need some respect for the course and a little common sense.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 US Open

Winner: Brooks Koepka

Around the wider world of golf: So Yeon Ryu won the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Isi Gabsa won in a playoff at the Forsyth Classic on the Symetra Tour; George Cunningham won the GolfBC Championship on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada; and Motin Yeung won in a playoff at the Kunming Championship on the PGA TOUR China.

Brooks Koepka kisses US Open trophy

Sure, the USGA probably overreacted a bit with their setup on Sunday at the US Open. But they didn't make it too soft, as the lack of low scores proved. Of the 67 players to make the cut, Sunday’s admittedly soft setup produced only 15 scores below par, only four better than -2.

Clearly, the USGA needs to learn what "let 'em play" means. It shouldn't take an error like Saturday's to give us a usable setup.

While Tommy Fleetwood managed to become only the sixth US Open player to post a 63 – on the 45th anniversary of Johnny Miller's, no less – and a handful of players like Patrick Reed kept things interesting, it was Brooks Koepka's steady play that stole the show. In a traditional exhibition of hanging tough, his -2 round of 68 was all it took to become the first man in 29 years to win back-to-back US Opens.

It was shocking to see those we expected to contend, like DJ, Rose and Stenson, deserted by their putters. Of the challengers, only Fleetwood truly made good on the promise he's shown over the last couple of seasons.

But even a historic score wasn't enough to stop the defending champion. When I posted my "5-to-Watch" post earlier this week, I wrote:
Defending champ Brooks Koepka has never played Shinnecock, but his excellent play at Erin Hills last year proves he can hold his own on a fairly wide course, which the new Shinnecock is. Having recovered from his wrist injury, he looks to be back in the kind of form he was at last year's event, He's not getting a lot of attention this week, but I think he has to be taken seriously.
And according to GC, that lack of attention indeed drove him to hang in there when he dropped to +7 early in Friday's play. Having won two majors before his 30th birthday, he won't be underestimated going forward. I know I won't.

In the meantime, Brooks can drink a toast from the Cup while he reads his newest Limerick Summary. I suspect he'll be adding quite a few more before he's done!
Back-to-back isn’t what we expected—
Back-to-back, as the field was dissected
So methodically! Brooks
Drained a few birdie looks;
Now his two major wins are connected!
The photo came from this page at europeantour.com.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

It Happened Again...

And I just don't understand why the USGA keeps struggling with course setup. The solution is simple.

Dustin Johnson

There is a lot of talk about the "architect's intent" and making sure that the course is treated in a way that preserves that intent. Yet the USGA continually tries to set up US Open courses in a way that ignores the clear implications of their chosen course's design.

There are limits to how far you can push any course's design. In their efforts to "test" the players, the USGA takes a classic design, with greens that the architect designed with contours meant to be played at perhaps 10-11 on the stimpmeter, and they push those greens up to 13. They push them until the surface is brown and dying -- excuse me, but aren't they called "greens" for a reason? -- and then act surprised when good shots roll off them like they were made of cheap linoleum.

When the USGA wants to test a player's ability to hit a fairway, do they dry them out until they're so brown and hard that every ball rolls into the rough? No, they narrow the fairway and grow the grass around them a bit higher -- not so much that the ball can't be hit a decent distance -- so shots that aren't hit perfectly (but aren't terrible either) demand a price but can still be played.

So why don't they just do the same with the greens? All they have to do is make the greens a bit smaller. Decrease their perimeter by a foot or two, so that a well-struck shot has room to land but a poorly-struck one won't stay on the green. Let the grass in the surround grow a bit taller -- not so much that the ball must be dug out of the rough, but enough that a putt or a chip takes a little extra skill. And then they can stimp the greens at the speed intended by the architect.

[ADDENDUM: I wrote this late Saturday night and, when I woke up Sunday morning, realized I forgot to mention that shaving the edges of the greens -- so poorly-hit shots rolled off -- would be alright as well. The pin position may demand that you hit away from the pin and leave a longer putt; that's okay too. My point is that green speeds should be appropriate to the design of the green complex, so that a well-hit shot always holds and is not left to luck.]

Is that really so hard, folks? Test the players by giving them a slightly smaller target, rather than transforming grass into stone?

This isn't about testing the players. This is about pursuing an unrealistic goal, one based on how equipment from a century past behaved. If they want players to shoot 15-over, they can play the US Open in a cow pasture. At least it would be played on grass, the way the game was intended.

But it still wouldn't be golf, now would it?

I agree that the 16-under score of last year's event at Erin Hills wasn't what we want to see at a US Open. But setting things up so the game resembles craps instead of golf isn't the answer. This time, the final pairing will be two players who, if the course has been just reasonably consistent all day,  probably would not have been in contention.

If the USGA can't understand how to set up a fair golf course that STAYS fair for an entire round, perhaps it's time they let someone else take over course preparation.

End of rant.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

In a Strange Way, the Weather Was the Story...

Because it has changed our view of Dustin Johnson. Let's take a look at the first two days of the US Open.

Dustin Johnson reading a putt

Shinnecock Hills is an old soul among golf courses, in many ways the American equivalent of St. Andrews. It's not just its age, being the second-oldest course in the US (1891; the oldest is Exeter Country Club in New Hampshire, 1889), but the fact that it is still able to host a modern major without any of the shortcomings other older courses have -- it can handle the modern infrastructure of the PGA Tour while still holding its own against the power hitters -- makes it and St. Andrews kindred spirits.

So why has the weather changed our view of DJ? The weather has refused to follow the weather bureau's dictates -- not just because it gave us unexpected rain on Wednesday and Thursday but, as Jim Furyk put it on Friday:
When we were getting up this morning there was a zero percent chance of rain. I think when we got here I heard someone say it jumped to 15 percent. And then it rained for two hours.
Instead of dry and sunny, Friday started off rainy and gray -- and DJ played in the worst part of the draw both days, in Thursday's wind and Friday's cold rain. And yet -- AND YET -- DJ calmly shot 69-67 in the worst of it while many big names missed the cut playing the best side of the draw.

This isn't what was expected of DJ. I picked him to win in my "5 to Watch" post, but even I wouldn't have predicted this. DJ's domination to this point, in the week following a dominating win, wouldn't be expected of any player. (Bear in mind that no one has ever won a US Open after winning the week before... not even Tiger.)

Speaking of my "5 to Watch," I appear to have done much better than normal this week, despite not knowing how the USGA would set up Shinnecock.
  • Dustin Johnson has, of course, a four-stroke lead at -4.
  • Justin Rose is T4 at -1.
  • Brooks Koepka is also T4 at -1.
  • Phil is back in the pack, T35 at +6. But after hitting 26 of 28 fairways, it's hard to believe he could be that far back!
And while at +10 Tiger didn't make the cut, I made him my flier pick because I didn't know if his entire game would show up. It's worth noting that he was +7 on just holes 1 and 2, so I'd have to agree with Justin Thomas:
He [Tiger] definitely didn't have it, but, really, he didn't play that poorly.
A lot of the top players didn't fare any better than Tiger -- Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy come to mind -- so it's hard to disagree with Thomas.

However, that's all water under the bridge. Now we head into the weekend, and the weather -- if the predictions are finally correct -- should be very good and we should see some lower scores. But the tall lanky figure of Dustin Johnson is casting a huge shadow across this major, and the field is going to need some help if they want to catch him.
  • Will DJ stumble at some point this weekend? Probably.
  • Will any of the players be able to mount a charge? Again, probably. There are ten players between even and +2, and DJ's four-stroke lead could vanish with one bad shot. Doubles, triples and worse have been quite common at Shinnecock this week.
But my money's still on Dustin. Unless somebody waxes the steps where he's staying this weekend, I wouldn't bet on him slipping up this time.

Friday, June 15, 2018

US Open: Things to Watch for Today (Videos)

I'll have some thoughts on the first two days of the US Open tomorrow, but here's a clip from GC you may have missed with three things to watch for during today's round.



The three points?
  1. How will Friday's conditions compare to Thursday's?
  2. How will DJ fare playing with part of the lead today?
  3. Which big names will manage to make the cut?
Although it's not mentioned in the video, while the wind is supposed to drop to around 10mph today, it will start the day blowing in the same unusual direction it blew on Thursday, then slowly change direction until they get the standard winds in the afternoon. Which means that the wind will be largely unpredictable for the players.

The following video from ESPN is what Tiger said after his round, but the page the video came from has a longish preview of the second round.



My personal opinion? The young guns finally learned to appreciate just how impressive the multiple US Open winners like Tiger, Phil, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen really are... and we'll see just how many of them have what it takes to play a REAL US Open setup.

As I said, I'll have my view of the first two rounds in tomorrow's post.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Jill Finlan Scally on "Toe Chipping" (Video)

Here's yet another video on chipping with your club tilted up on the toe, this one by GCA coach Jill Finlan Scally. I know some of you may feel I post too many videos on this technique, but I think its value is underestimated by too many players and I always look for new presentations of the method..



The basics of the technique:
  • Tilt the club up on the toe, which helps you avoid stubbing the ground and mis-hitting the ball.
  • Play the ball more off the toe. (Duh!)
  • Since the ball will tend to squirt a bit right (for a rightie; a bit left for a leftie), open your stance a little.
Note also that she has the shaft tilted slightly toward the target. You don't want to overdo it, but this helps you get more solid impact.

One extra thought Jill adds which you don't see in many explanations of this technique is that, if you continue to stub the club when you try this, tilt the club up even more, so less of the toe touches the ground. A smooth unimpeded stroke is the reason for using this technique, after all.

I'll add this thought as well: Some of you may find that "hooding" the clubface -- actually turning the club so the toe is closed a bit -- may help you get a lower, smoother roll. Try hooding the face slightly with the club soled flat on the ground, THEN tilt the club up on the toe. If you try this, you may not need to open your stance at all.

Both of these methods, Jill's and the hooded method, are used successfully by various players. There's no reason you shouldn't benefit from them as well.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

My "5 to Watch" at the US Open

The majors come fast and thick during the summer, and this week the men are back in the spotlight with the US Open.

Defending champion Brooks Koepka

I don't need to give you all the details, what with GC's day-to-night coverage leading up to the event and FOX's similar coverage starting Thursday. But the event's first return to Shinnecock since 2004 and "Greengate" presents us with fascinating possibilities -- especially since the track is now 7400 yards.

I suspect that Jordan Spieth is correct when he says studying previous Shinnecock Opens won't be very helpful this time around. Agronomic practices have evolved dramatically since 2004, so conditions will likely be exactly what the USGA wants... and we really don't know what they have planned for the next few days.

Consequently, my "5 to Watch" are mostly chalk picks, although it's fair to say there are perhaps 15 chalk picks I could make.
  • Let's start with Phil Mickelson, the man gunning for the career Grand Slam at this major. Lefty isn't just a sentimental pick this time around, as his game has been very good this year. He comes into this major with a win earlier this season and several high finishes leading into this week. And while past history here is probably no indication of success this week, the fact remains that Phil is one of the few players to have played this course in major condition -- twice -- and he finished Top5s both times. (One of them is, of course, a runner-up.) That bodes well for him.
  • Defending champ Brooks Koepka has never played Shinnecock, but his excellent play at Erin Hills last year proves he can hold his own on a fairly wide course, which the new Shinnecock is. Having recovered from his wrist injury, he looks to be back in the kind of form he was at last year's event, He's not getting a lot of attention this week, but I think he has to be taken seriously...
  • As does 2016 champ Dustin Johnson. DJ seems to be fully recovered from last year's tumble down the steps at Augusta, and he's coming off a win last week. Given how well he's played so far this season and how easily he got that win last week, I see no reason to think he'll slow down this week. DJ has a proven ability to post wins in bunches, so why not continue the run?
  • Justin Rose has been on a tear for the last few months, having four total wins on the PGA, European and Asian Tours in just the last nine months. He won in Fort Worth just a couple of weeks back, so he too is on a promising career trajectory coming into this week. I think the diversity of his recent wins may give him a leg up on the rest of the field.
  • And my flier is... Tiger Woods. Why make Tiger a flier pick this week? He has improved much more quickly this season than I had anticipated, and he has gotten into contention a few times already this season. It really is just a question of whether he can get his driver, irons and putter all working at the same time. But Shinnecock's sinuously undulating fairways should minimize his driver problems and, given that his irons have been the most dependable part of his game so far, it's just a question of whether he can get the putter to cooperate. The good news for him is that a US Open course usually doesn't require extremely low scores, so the scores he's shot with a balky putter may be enough.
And my pick? Look, I really want to pick Phil because I'd like to see him make some history that no one else has done -- the oldest player to complete the career Grand Slam. But my gut says Dustin Johnson is playing too well right now and he has too much to prove -- remember Butch's comments that he wasn't working hard enough? So I have to go with DJ at Shinnecock.

But hey, Phil, if you're listening... I won't cry if you prove me wrong. Good luck, bud.