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Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Zurich Team Event Returns, Better Than Ever!

It's time for the fun event again. And I feel safe saying that, because this year's Zurich Classic has even more stars than it did last year!

Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose

You all know the drill: Players choose a fellow pro to team up with. They play two days of best ball and two days of alternate shot, and the two team members are treated as if they tied at their finishing position and split the FedExCup points accordingly. For example, the winning team splits the points for first and second place (500 + 300 divided by two = 400 points each), the second-place team splits third and fourth place points, and so on.

I think even Zurich has been shocked by how popular this format is becoming. After the huge success of their first year, the event has attracted even more of the world's top players -- after struggling to attract players before the format change, 18 of the Top30 are playing this year! Notable teams include:
  • Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose -- lots of Olympic power there
  • Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly
  • David Duval and Jim Furyk -- that pairing could be a sleeper
  • Justin Thomas and Bud Cauley
  • Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer -- competing schools there
  • Team Patrick -- Reed and Cantlay, that is
  • Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell
  • Jon Rahm and Wesley Bryan -- I can't wait to see these two
And that doesn't even hit all the big names!

New this year will be "walk-up" music for the teams, a first on the PGA Tour. Zurich seems willing to push the envelope and truly create a fun event, and the pros are embracing it. Perhaps other tournaments will grab hold of the spirit and create some new twists in their own events. I can't believe that they aren't noticing what's happening here.

GC starts the fun at 2:30pm ET today. This is becoming a can't-miss event... and not just for the pros.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Inbee Takes Over as #1 at a New Event

This week Inbee Park and her caddie Brad Beecher will resume a familiar role -- that of #1 in the world. (The photo shows Park and Beecher at her last event with the bib.) Inbee's return to the top after a couple of years struggling with injury has been amazing.

And now she gets to start all over again at a brand new event,  the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship.

Inbee and her caddie with World #1 bib

The event may be new but the venue isn't. Lake Merced Golf Club hosted an LPGA event from 2014 to 2016, the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, but the sponsors moved the event to their home in Taiwan. Now Korean skin-care company Mediheal (which I Googled and found they make facial masks) has taken over the event. Lydia Ko won the first two events played here and Haru Nomura the last one.

As best I can tell, Nomura is not in the field, so I guess Ko is the closest to a defending champion that we can find.

Tony Jesselli has a nice preview here, so I won't bore you with details he has already covered. But it's pretty clear that the big storyline this week is Inbee's return to the #1 spot in the Rolex Rankings, despite a widespread belief that this dominating but understated player wouldn't be able to find the motivation to take on the kids. She just continues to amaze us all.

I love it!

GC's live coverage begins Thursday night at 6:30pm ET, which is becoming something of a standard for them when the LPGA is playing the West Coast. I, for one, am interested in seeing what Inbee does, given her previous finishes here at T4 (2014) and T18 (2015). She didn't play in 2016, the year the injury problems became evident.

One thing's for sure -- the LPGA has not been at a loss for storylines so far this year, and this event is no different.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

David Ogrin's Burned Popcorn Theory (Video)

Greetings from almost sunny Orlando! Some friends invited me to join them for a week in Disneyworld, and how could I say no? The big question becomes one of getting my blogs done on time without slowing the group down.

Today I have a simple video from GC that centers on one simple thought -- which is all I can handle after a day of travel! This is GCA Coach David Ogrin's "burned popcorn" theory, a POST-shot routine that I really like.



What I love about this "theory" is that it gets rid of the idea of "fixing" a bad swing. When you burn popcorn, it's done for and all you can do is toss the batch and start fresh.

STARTING FRESH are the key words here.

Forget the bad swing entirely. You can't take it back. Instead of asking, "what did I do wrong?" you need to ask "what can I do differently?" This is an extremely positive way of approaching game improvement. There is no self-incrimination, no beating yourself up -- just a simple, constructive question that helps you understand what you need to do to get the results you want.

If you want to improve, figure out how to get the results you want. That's the most direct route to lower scores, and that's the one you want to take.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 Valero Texas Open

Winner: Andrew Landry

Around the wider world of golf: Moriya Jutanugarn got her first LPGA win at the inaugural HUGEL-JTBC LA Open; Alexander Levy won the Trophee Hassan II on the ET; Jenny Haglund won the Lalla Meryem Cup for her first title on the LET; the team of Kirk Triplett and Paul Broadhurst won the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge; Eric Axley won the North Mississippi Classic on the Web.com Tour; and Rahil Gangjee won the Panasonic Open on the Japan Golf Tour. The Molino Cañuelas Championship still needs a Monday playoff on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Andrew Landry with Texas Open trophy

Well, it looks like Zach Johnson just didn't have it Sunday. Experience and grit just weren't enough.

Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that experience isn't the exclusive domain of the older players. Andrew Landry, in just his 32nd start on the big stage, proved that a little experience of the correct sort can be just as effective.

He drew on a bad final round at the 2016 US Open at Oakmont. He drew from a playoff loss to Jon Rahm at CareerBuilder just a few weeks back.

As for grit... well, Landry had plenty of that to draw on already. And it was all on display Sunday.

He jumped out to a four-stroke lead after six holes and, if the birdies dried up after that, his steadiness didn't. Nobody seemed to find much out on TPC San Antonio -- at least, not enough to close the gap Landry had opened up. And Landry's seven final birdies sealed the deal.

Landry's first win comes in his home state. That's pretty sweet. And now he can say he got his first Limerick Summary in his home state as well. That's double sweet!
His battle with Rahm came up short,
But it’s there Landry learned to comport
Himself with a peace
Through the valleys and peaks—
And it brought his first Tour win, of course!
The photo came from this page at golfweek.com.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

No, That Ain't DUSTIN Johnson

He just keeps poppin' up on leaderboards, doesn't he? Zach started the year strong, then seemed to fade a bit as the season has worn on, but he keeps making cuts and posting scores.

And now he's back in Texas, playing a stroke play event. You know he's won four of his 12 PGA Tour victories in Texas, don't you? Two have come at this very event -- although it's been quite a while (2008 and 2009). And the two younger players he's paired with, Andrew Landry and Trey Mullinax, are both searching for their first wins.

Zach Johnson

After a brief hiatus, the 40-somethings are back in force this year, having won three of the last eight Tour events. And Zach's ball flight is well-suited to a tight and windy Texas course...

Assuming the wind comes up, that is. If it doesn't, he's 13-under on the back nine this week -- ironically, that's his overall score. So the question is, does TPC San Antonio favor him today or not?

I'm not sure. Landry, who's tied with Zach, lost in a playoff to Jon Rahm earlier this season, so the pressure shouldn't be too much for him. And while Mullinax is one shot back and has never been in this position, he's got to be feeling good about that course record 62 he shot Saturday.

And we can't forget the other guys close behind. Ryan Moore, Sean O'Hair, Jimmy Walker and Chris Kirk are all experienced winners and certainly close enough to win, especially if the leaders stumble.

But the weather's supposed to be in the 80s today and winds around 14mph. Is that enough to give Zach the edge? Or will the "youngsters" strut their stuff and get their first win?

Personally, the worse the conditions, the better I like Zach's chances.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Two Different Ways... to Get It Done?

While much of the attention is on the major winners in the Top5 of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open, it's hard not to pull for the two yet-to-be-winners leading the event. Both came out in 2013.
  • Neither is a power player; both average between 255 and 260 off the tee. (I know, that sounds really long to some of you, but it puts them around 70-80 in the stats.)
  • One gets it done tee-to-green, the other on the green, but both are pretty good scorers. Both make lots of birdies and get into the 60s a lot.
  • And both have been oh-so-close this year.
In second place after two rounds is Marina Alex, who posted a T2 at the Founders Cup and a T5 at the Australian Open. She's the "tee-to-greener" of the pair and she's been in the mix of several events so far, even if she stumbled near the end.

Marina Alex

And in first place is Moriya Jutanugarn, Ariya's big sister. She's got a T2 at the Thailand event, a T6 at the ANA and a 10 at the LOTTE, so she's on a bit of a roll. She's been the better putter of the two, and is Top4 in both eagles and birdies this season.

Moriya Jutanugarn

Even their approaches to the game seem to be opposites, according to the LPGA. For Marina, it's about breathing and self-talk:
“I'm way more aware when I'm kind of getting a little bit anxious, wound up. I kind of like am just, ‘Okay, this has happened so many times.’ Time to step back and not get myself into that place, into that head space. I'm managing it a lot better than my first few years on tour, so I think that's helped contribute to a little bit more consistent finishes.”
For Moriya, it's more a matter of patience:
“Just try and hit fairways and greens. That’s the key for this week. That’s what I try to do.”
What you'll hear most about are the chasers -- major winners So Yeon Ryu, Eun-Hee Ji and Inbee Park being the closest and most dangerous. Other past winners are close at their heels as well. And it's these chasers who are most likely to run down the leaders and steal their thunder.

But don't tell Moriya and Marina that. They really don't care. And I won't be surprised if one or the other finally gets a win this weekend. They're getting used to the lead and they don't seem nearly as shaken by the pressure.

Could be a fun battle for this inaugural tournament. And since I understand the winner will play with Mark Wahlberg in the event's pro-am next year, they just might have something on their minds besides the trophy. ;-)

Friday, April 20, 2018

David Ogrin's "Chain Club" Drill (Video)

GCA coach David Ogrin gave a tip on Morning Drive Thursday that used an interesting piece of equipment made from a shaft, a golf ball and a length of chain. Here, take a look:



It's an interesting way to teach clubhead speed -- specifically, how to use your hands and arms to create it. It's yet another approach that uses clubs in different ways to teach you when to uncock your wrists. Hear that swish at the end of Ogrin's swing?

Yeah, you've heard that before. You understand how this drill works now, don't you?

Of course you do.

The problem comes when you try to get hold of a club shaft with a golf ball and a chain instead of a club head. Fret not, my friends. There are other ways to get the same benefits.

Let me refer you to two of my past posts with no less than three -- yes, THREE! -- videos featuring Mike Malaska. Ironically, I posted them within a week of each other.
  • The first is called Jim Flick on the TWO Pendulums in Your Swing and it has two videos with different versions of the L-to-L drill, which I think is one of the greatest drills for creating swing speed ever created. There's a "standard" version to teach how your hands create clubhead speed, and an "advanced" version that uses the drill to teach shot shaping.
  • The other post is Mike Malaska on Controlling the Clubface, and it works well with the L-to-L drill. It teaches you how to use your hands to control the clubface, which is part of what that "advanced" L-to-L drill from the other post teaches you.
Using these three drills together will not only teach you how to create clubhead speed, but they'll teach you skills that "chain club" can't. And they're free, so it's hard to beat the price!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Countering a Push-Slice

Last week I did a post about Patrick Reed's driver swings. One of those swings was something Patrick calls a "slinger hook," which is just another name for a push-hook. That's when the ball starts on an in-to-out path -- that is, the clubhead swings out across your aimline -- and the ball then curves back across the aimline. It's a like a giant half-circle that swings around your body. If you aim correctly, the ball curves back toward the target.

In the comments I promised Phil I'd do a post about push-slices, those nasty shots that start out on an in-to-out path BUT continue to curve AWAY from you, rather than around you. The result is that no matter what you do, that ball ain't never gonna land near the target! For a righthander the ball ends up in the weeds on the right side of the course; for lefties, it's deep in the left rough.

The image below this paragraph shows the nine potential shot shapes you can hit if you're a rightie. Number 7 is Patrick's slinger hook, number 9 is the push-slice.

The nine shot shapes for righties

And the image below this paragraph shows the nine potential shot shapes you can hit if you're a leftie. In this case, number 3 is the slinger hook, number 1 is the push-slice.

The nine shot shapes for lefties

Now, the difference between the slinger hook which Patrick uses to great effect, and the push-slice which nobody gets any good out of, is the clubface angle.
  • In the slinger hook, the face is CLOSED relative to the path.
  • In the push-slice, the face is OPEN relative to the path.
Very simple, actually, and you would think it would be easy to fix. But that's not always the case. The cause can vary with each player.

The most obvious fix would be to take a stronger grip at address, and if you're doing everything else correctly during your swing, that would likely fix it. Too many players have other problems to say that for sure, though.
  • Believe it or not, something as simple as standing too far from the ball can cause you to push-slice. It creates an overly dramatic in-to-out swing that delays your clubface from closing on time.
  • Likewise, you can have your ball teed up too far back in your stance. You won't have enough time to square the clubface before it reaches the ball.
  • Some players slide their hips too far forward (toward the target) during their downswing, causing them to lean backwards at impact. That square clubface you had at address is now open because you tilted your shoulders back and opened them. But players with overactive hands sometimes flip the club and create a HUGE slinger hook that goes deep into the opposite trees. this is sometimes called "getting stuck."
  • You have no doubt heard that good players reroute the club on the way down and flatten their swing plane. That does happen for many players. But one problem instructors sometimes overlook is that you can flatten your club plane too much -- called "laying it off" -- and open the clubface on the way down. If you make a strong hip drive on the way down, you can end up lifting your trailing elbow while your hands drop down. I know about this problem firsthand; it took me months to track it down, and during that time I hit the ball both ways -- push-slices and pull-hooks. It's a nasty problem!
  • And you can simply swing your arms out too far from your body during your downswing. Specifically, your lead arm gets farther from your body than it was at address.
Each of these has a solution, of course.
  • If you're standing too far from the ball, just stand a little closer.
  • If the ball is too far back in your stance, move it a little more forward.
  • If you slide too far forward, think "down" instead of "slide" to start your downswing. The basketball drill is a great way to work on this. I periodically remind folks of this drill. You can find the basketball drill in this post.
  • If you flatten your swing too much as you start down, the basketball drill is also good for this one. Since it eliminates some of the forward slide, it also redirects your leg drive more "into the ground."
  • And if you're swinging too much in-to-out, you can use the old "glove under lead arm" drill. There are a number of similar drills, all of them concerned with connection. Some use a glove or towel held under your lead arm during your swing. And here's a post with a video of Ben Hogan's connection drill, which teaches connection with both arms.
Those are simple ways to eliminate problems that can cause an open clubface. And if they don't cure the problem, then and only then should you consider strengthening your grip. It's too easy to twist your shoulders open when you strengthen your grip, so you don't want to make big changes there.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The New LPGA Event

This week the LPGA welcomes a new event to the schedule, the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open. It's been a decade or so since the Tour was in Los Angeles, and they return to Wilshire Country Club, a historic venue that has hosted the LGPA, PGA Tour and Champions Tour.

Shanshan Feng, Inbee Park and Lexi Thompson

You can catch Tony Jesselli's preview at his website. Tony notes that this is the strongest non-major field of the year thus far, even beating out the Kia Classic which has the advantage of being the week before the ANA. He also notes that the only reason this event didn't match the majors is because the top players from other tours, who usually play majors, aren't in this event.

Clearly the ladies are excited to be back in LA!

The continuing battle for #1 in the Rolex Rankings will be in the news again this week, with Shanshan Feng maintaining a very slim (.38 point) margin over Lexi Thompson and Inbee Park. One good week -- or one bad round, as Inbee experienced last week -- could put one of them well over the top of the others. That will be worth keeping an eye on!

Natalie Gulbis is making a rare appearance this week as well, after receiving a sponsor's exemption into the event.

Here's a small bit of trivia for you: HUGEL is a South Korean company that makes beauty products -- I can't help but think that's part of the reason Natalie was chosen to receive an exemption -- and their primary product is none other than botox.

And just so you know, JTBC is the LPGA's Korean TV partner and a previous sponsor of other LPGA events.

This will be another primetime event, with coverage starting Thursday night at 6:30pm ET on GC. And since the three primary challengers for #1 in the world are teeing it up, at a brand new venue for most of the players, this could be a very compelling event.

But then again, haven't all of this year's events been compelling?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Kaylin Skovron and Michael Breed's Driving Tips

Golf Digest posted a couple of articles with simple driving tips that you might find useful.

The first is from an article by instructor Kaylin Skovron called 5-Minute Clinic: How to Make Swing Adjustments for Different Shots. It has a number of different tips but the driving tip is simple.

Kaylin Skovron driving setup tip

She recommends a change to your driving setup to get more distance. As she puts it:
To get the best launch and spin with a driver, play the ball forward in your stance and hit up on it. But if you have it aligned with your front heel (above, left), and you're still hitting it too low (and often crooked), play it even farther forward so the ball is lined up off the toes of the front foot (above, right). Address it with your feet together, and then step away from the target with your trail foot. Now you're set up to launch it higher—and hopefully straighter.
It won't work for everybody; it depends on your swing mechanics. Still, it's worth trying out.

Once you get set up for more distance, you need to get a bigger swing. Michael Breed has a short article called One Driver Swing Thought for Longer and Straighter Drives... and it's a simple one. Just keep your trail arm straight for as long as possible in your backswing.

I'd better explain this one a bit.

Michael Breed halfway into takeaway

This photo looks like a pretty stiff-armed takeaway, doesn't it? It's misleading. It just LOOKS that way because Michael hasn't bent his trailing elbow. If you try it with a club, you'll find that you can stay pretty relaxed for quite a long time as you make your backswing, even though your elbow isn't bending.

"Keeping your trailing elbow straight for a long time" is one way to keep the club farther away from your head at the top of your backswing. Players like Annika say this is a primary swing thought with them.

Bear in mind that your elbow WILL bend at the top of your backswing. Michael probably can't get much farther than the photo shows without bending his elbow. But at the top, instead of a 90° angle, it'll be more like 75° or so. IT'S STILL BENT, just not as much. It bends a bit more as you start down, which helps you keep your wrist cock later into your downswing, and that gives you more distance.

Don't overdo the bend on the way down. It always feels as if your trail arm is straighter than it actually is, so if you try to feel a right angle bend you'll probably smack your shoulders with the club shaft! If you stay relaxed and just feel as if your trail arm is staying at about the same angle, you'll probably get the result you want.

And between these two tips, you may be able to pick up some extra distance without too much effort.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 RBC Heritage

Winner: Satoshi Kodaira

Around the wider world of golf: Brooke Henderson won the Lotte Championship on the LPGA; Atomu Shigenaga won the Token Homemate Cup on the Japan Golf Tour; Steve Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic on the Champions Tour; Cristobal Del Solar won the 87 Abierto OSDE del Centro on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; and Jon Rahm won the Open de España on the ET.

Satoshi Kodaira with RBC Heritage trophy and plaid

This is why I always list the winners from the Japan Golf Tour, folks. If somehow you missed Satoshi Kodaira's play in his appearances here in the States, you would at least know his name from his six wins "over there."

And Satoshi's experience playing under the less-than-ideal conditions that overseas players often face showed when the rough weather came in Sunday. That's not a putdown of the Japanese -- or any other -- courses. But US courses often receive care that would be unrealistic elsewhere on the planet, simply because of all the money that sponsors invest here.

Still, when bad weather shows up on any course, near-perfect conditions are almost useless. After all, you can't control the wind or stop the rain... even if you're Augusta National.

Satoshi didn't expect to win when the day started. He was six shots off the lead, and he went out -- and finished his round -- an hour before the leaders. That hour may have given him a slight advantage; he shot a lower score than any other player in contention except Bryson DeChambeau, who matched Satoshi's 66. The problem was that DeChambeau was a stroke farther back.

And then Satoshi faced off against Si Woo Kim in a three-hole playoff, where Satoshi's putter didn't seem to care that he couldn't hit the ball close. He won by sinking a putt nearly four times as long as Kim's.

For American fans, the good news is that we'll get to see more of Satoshi. For Tour players, the bad news is that they'll get to see more of Satoshi.

And for Satoshi, the good news is that he gets his very first Limerick Summary. And while some may feel that's just a lot of hot air, at least it won't make his putting any harder!
An hour he waited. The weather
Came in, but he kept it together.
Kodaira hung tough
Though the putting got rough
And his pars came from outside the leather.
The photo came from the tournament page at PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Martin Hall on Getting More Distance (Video)

Hall did this video last week to help older players get more distance, but not understanding how to use your hands and arms keeps a lot of players from hitting it out there. This video is a very simple explanation of how it works.



Okay, there are two parts to this, and if you're too fixated on swinging around your body you'll never get the hang of it.
  • First, you cock your trailing elbow up and down.
  • Second, you cock your lead wrist up and down.
That's it, folks. It really doesn't get any more complicated than that. It does assume that you will get a decent shoulder turn on your backswing and in your finish, but a "decent" amount of turn doesn't have to be huge. These moves create a more upright swing plane, and that means you can get by with a little less shoulder turn than you can with a flatter swing plane.

And yes, I have more videos to help you. I've posted them in past posts, so here are the links.

The first post teaches you how that upward cocking motion creates your "top of backswing" position. It's called Using Your Hands in the Takeaway and it features K.J. Choi's instructor Steven Bann. As I said, it will help you understand how that upward cocking action creates the so-called "textbook" position at the top.

And the other post is called Jim Flick on the TWO Pendulums in Your Swing, which I also referenced in the Nick Faldo post from yesterday. That "L-to-L" drill is a great way to learn that lead wrist upcock motion that Martin Hall is talking about.

Yes, I know I recommend a lot of drills over and over, but that's because they are proven drills that teach a number of skills and they work for almost everybody. Work with them and you'll find out for yourself.

And in this case, you'll pick up some extra distance, even if you aren't particularly old. Yet.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Nick Faldo on Tempo (Video)

This short video from Nick Faldo has a number of drills to help you improve your tempo. What more do I need to say?



Note that he differentiates between a slow swing and a smooth swing. This is something that many players never understand. As Nick says, you can make swing after swing and each can be smoother than the one before... but there's a limit to how slow you can swing and still keep anything like a usable swing.

Nick suggests watching the pros, picking someone whose swing is similar to yours and then trying to mimic it. This is a good thing to do, even when you aren't swinging a club! I find that watching a player swing and then trying to feel that swing in my imagination makes me much more sensitive to the tempo of my own swing.

The first drill is to hit a number of shots with the same club -- he suggests a 6-iron -- starting with a pitching motion and then trying to make each shot just a bit longer than the last. You may remember that this was one of the competitions on the old Big Break show.

Nick also recommends counting during your swing to help your tempo. I have to say, I've never had any luck with that one -- counting ruins my ability to swing smoothly. It may be that I get too mechanical as I try to match the count. However, I find that humming a song -- NO WORDS! -- as I swing can help me swing more smoothly. Just a thought to consider if the counting doesn't work for you.

Then Nick has you hit shots with your feet together -- heels almost touching -- using the old L-to-L swing drill. (Here's a post I did with videos showing two versions of it.) This is a classic drill that instructors have recommended for years. That's because it works. ;-)

And as his last drill, Nick suggests taking five different clubs, hitting three balls with each, and trying to keep the tempo the same with each shot. (Nowadays you can tape the shots and compare them after you hit them all.)

So there you have a variety of tempo drills from a six-time major champion. It's hard to go wrong with that kind of advice!

Friday, April 13, 2018

The New Patrick Reed Mental Game

Today I'm linking you to Tim Rosaforte's GC article on how Patrick Reed prepared for the Masters last week. This is a more detailed look at the process he followed than the What Patrick Reed Did Differently This Week post I put up last week.

Patrick Reed and his brother-in-law caddie Kessler Karain

Here's something that particularly stood out to me:
These were not the typical practice sessions you see before major championships. Instead of playing the course, they walked the course, letting groups play through. Kirk estimates that Reed only hit 30 shots, but must have putted 5,000 times in the eight-hour shift on Wednesday. Reed took copious notes in his yardage book, indicating the pin placements, fall lines, wind directions and the best shot shapes for every scenario. At 7 p.m. ET, one of the club’s assistant pros came out to politely inform them that the course was closed. As Kirk remembered it, “The kid said, ‘I hate to tell you this, but I’ve got to ask you guys to leave.’”
Only 30 shots, but thousands of putts over eight hours! That's some serious prep on the greens.

The article is an in-depth interview with Reed's coach Kevin Kirk, and it's a great reminder of how tough it can be at Augusta. Reed enlisted the sports psychologist who helped the NBA's Golden State Warriors win their two recent World Championships in 2015 and 2017. And Rosaforte has details on Reed's practice sessions and such.

A fascinating read (Reed?) about how a guy that few gave a chance to win became the newest Masters champion. Great work by Tim Rosaforte.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Reed's Driver Swings Revisited (Video)

I posted this video in a post last week and promised I'd get back to it. So let's do it!

First, here again is the video of Patrick's three different driver swings.



Now let's look at the keys to each swing separately.
  • The slinger draw is a huge low hook. Patrick says he aims WAAAAAY right -- as much as 30 yards! --and really twists his forearms as he hits the ball. Yes, that will work... but it can be a bit tricky for some of you. Let me offer another method that some of you might find easier and a bit more consistent.
You'll still want to aim out to the right -- to the left if you're a lefty -- but there's another way to get a low hook. Stand a little farther away from the ball, which will make you swing more in-to-out than normal. Then experiment a little with your ball position. You'll need to move the ball a bit forward in your stance, but probably not a whole lot. You want to find a spot where you can square or close the clubface slightly at impact. If you swing in-to-out with a square-to-closed clubface, the ball will draw or even hook. Just don't tee the ball too high -- you still want a lower ballflight with this shot.
  • The high bomb is a high, long draw. Patrick moves it forward, tees it high and swings hard, again with that hard release you get by twisting your forearms.
And again, you can get that draw/hook shot shape by standing a bit farther from the ball and moving it a bit forward in your stance. Just tee the ball higher -- you want a high draw, remember -- and don't aim quite so far to the right (or left for you lefties) because you just want a draw, not a hook.
  • Finally, the butter cut is the fade with the Palmer-style helicopter finish. Patrick aims the clubface at the flag and makes sure his swing path -- which means his stance -- is aimed way left. He also tries to hold the clubface open, which means he tries to keep the toe of the driver pointed more to the right (left for you lefties) as long as possible. The helicopter finish isn't as dramatic in the video because he's indoors and not swinging as hard as he does on the course.
Note that Patrick has a natural draw that tends toward a hook, and he doesn't find it easy to play a fade. That's why his approach sounds so dramatic -- he has to overdo everything to make sure the ball fades, and even then sometimes all he can manage is a straight ball. That happened to him a number of times at the Masters.

If you don't have a natural draw, you probably won't need the extremes Patrick uses. Make sure the clubface is aimed at the flag, that you're aimed farther left than you normally would (that's farther right for you lefties) and then just try to hold the face square or slightly open during impact. You may not need the helicopter finish at all. A little practice on the range should tell you how much you need to exaggerate the address position and moves.

As you can tell, none of these swings is particularly difficult to understand. The guiding key here is that, whatever your natural shot shape is, it's the other shot shape that you'll need to exaggerate. Natural drawers of the ball, you'll want to focus on Patrick's technique. But you natural slicers, you'll want to focus more on my suggestions, simply because you don't naturally create such a dramatic release of the club at impact.

One other thing: Don't try to learn them all at once. Pick one of them, work on it until you can play it with some degree of consistency, and then you can try learning another of the swings. Adding one dependable shot shape to your repertoire is better than adding three undependable accidents waiting to happen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

More PrimeTime LPGA Action Tonight!

Yes, the LPGA is back with more primetime golf. The Lotte Championship is not only in Hawaii, which is five hours ahead of the normal Eastern Standard Times I post here, but it's a Wednesday-Saturday event. That means (obviously enough) that the tournament starts tonight, not Thursday.

Cristie Kerr with Lotte trophy

As usual, Tony Jesselli has done a fine preview of the event at his blog. I will simply note that defending champ Cristie Kerr set the tournament record of -20 at last year's event and, knowing what is possible, it will be interesting to see how low the ladies go this year.

Four of the Top5 in the Rolex Rankings are playing (Lexi's the odd girl out), as are the last four winners of the event. (The two missing champs, Ai Miyazato and Suzann Pettersen, are retired and on maternity leave, respectively.) And new major champ Pernilla Lindberg will be playing, as will Inbee Park, so we could see those two battle it out again. Today Pernilla will be paired with Ariya Jutanugar and Lydia Ko, while Inbee will go out with Brooke Henderson and Bronte Law roughly ten minutes later.

A coincidence? I doubt it.

GC's four hours of live coverage begin tonight at 7pm ET. Again, this is a Wednesday-Saturday event; and with the four hours of coverage scheduled to start at the same time each night, it should be unusually easy to keep track of when the LPGA is being broadcast this week. That's good news for us LPGA fans!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Thoughts on Tiger and Lydia Ko's Problems

Though many fans worry about the swing problems Tiger and Lydia have gone through recently, their problems are neither serious nor permanent. Today I'd like to take a quick look at them.

Lydia Ko laughing

I'll start with Tiger, simply because he just came off a Masters performance that shocked many people. If you read my "5 to Watch" post about the Masters, you know I didn't include Tiger as a favorite. To quote myself:
After some personal debate, I have decided not to include Tiger in this list. While he has improved much faster than I expected and I won't be surprised if he does win, he doesn't make my "5 to Watch" list. Why? Because I still see him making strategic errors coming down the stretch in regular events, and I suspect he's still learning how his body reacts to adrenaline after the fusion. That can only be amplified in a major, and he hasn't even teed it up in a major in two years. You have to go all the way back to the 2015 Masters just to find a major when he played the weekend!

For the record, I do expect Tiger to contend this week and I expect getting a "major rep" will help him start winning the regular tournaments soon. But I feel that he's still one, perhaps two, majors away from being a serious favorite in the big ones. So, barring any wins before the US Open, I'm targeting Carnoustie as a realistic chance for a Tiger major.
While Tiger continued to have problems with his driver -- a chronic problem during his career, and one for which he continues to try new equipment -- he himself noted that the main problem was his iron play. He simply couldn't control his distance, and that's a primary symptom of uncontrolled adrenaline. This shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone, for the exact reasons I gave in the quote above. The sheer joy of getting to tee it up in a major after so long must have played havoc with his adrenaline levels! And when he went out Friday with the potential of getting into contention... well, you know what happened.

And Tiger knows this as well. He has repeatedly said since he came back that he knows how to get into contention but, once there, he has to get the job done. But he can't do that until he gets his "feels" back. He's talking about controlling his adrenaline, pure and simple, because adrenaline changes how your body feels.

The fact that Tiger got to play the weekend should help him here. Unfortunately, the only way to learn to control your adrenaline in a major is to play more majors. But since major "feels" are more extreme than weekly event "feels," just having one major weekend under his belt should help him zero in on how his adrenaline levels affect his "new" body. I suspect we'll see more consistent performances in the regular events pretty soon. After that, it's just a matter of getting more major reps.

As for Lydia... with all the changes she's made to equipment and caddies and instructors and everything else, her problems could come from anything, right? I don't think so -- at least, not her current problems. I think most of the other changes have basically taken hold. No, the problem is much simpler yet nobody seems to have mentioned it.

Lydia has lost weight. Estimates run from ten to twenty pounds. And when you're as small as Lydia, that's a major body change.

Major enough to cause swing problems. Over the years we've seen players lose weight and then seen their games adversely affected.

I remember years ago when Joanne Carner, alias Big Momma, lost a sizable amount of weight. She never got skinny, but she was noticeably smaller. However, her game went south along with her weight. She lost her ability to consistently hit shots accurately, which was the strength of her game both as an amateur and a pro. I don't know if it was a conscious choice but she eventually gained most of her weight back.

David Duval also lost a noticeable amount of weight when he was challenging Tiger for #1, but he faced a different problem. David's game didn't suffer -- but his body did. Perhaps because the whole idea of weight training for golf was relatively new, David ended up with back problems that eventually ended his career. And he too eventually gained the weight back before he began to get better.

Why does weight loss affect a player's swing? The swing itself may not feel much different, but as arms and torso become smaller, the swing planes and angles created by those feels DO change. And then players are forced to relearn their swings, which means they're thinking more about mechanics than shotmaking, and... well, you can see how the problems begin.

Personally, Lydia looks a bit too thin to me. But whether you agree or not, she's definitely thin enough that her swing MUST have changed. Given the number of changes she's made to her swing over the past few years, I don't see this as a long-term problem. If her weight stays stable, she'll probably make the proper adjustments and get her game back on track -- although I don't know how quickly that will happen. Each case is different.

My point here is that not all swing problems the pros face stem from the kind of mechanical issues we typically blame them on. Emotional stress in one's personal life can cause inexplicable swing problems, but those problems can vanish very soon after the source of the stress vanishes.

A recent sickness can also cause problems. Jordan Spieth has been in a bit of a slump simply because it takes a while to completely recover from mono, which he had over the Christmas holidays. And Jimmy Walker's bout with lyme disease is still causing him some lingering symptoms.

The simple truth is that ANYTHING that interferes with your body's normal function can have a dramatic impact on your game. But that doesn't mean you need to make dramatic swing changes to fix it.

Sometimes you just need to give your body time to heal and adjust naturally. And that's all Tiger and Lydia need... TIME.

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 Masters

Winner: Patrick Reed

Around the wider world of golf: For obvious reasons, there weren't a lot of other tournaments this week. The only ones I know about? Stephanie Meadow won the IOA Championship on the Symetra Tour; and Marita Engzelius won the Terre Blanche Ladies Open in the LET Access Series.

Patrick Reed with Masters trophy and Green Jacket

If you are a Captain America fan -- not the guy from Marvel Comics, of course -- then you got your fill of excitement on Sunday.

First there was the McIlroy-Reed rematch, which was a rather slow battle that Patrick won fairly easily.

Then there was the Spieth-Reed rematch, which took on a life of its own as Spieth roared up through the field to tie Reed, only to have the Captain do his traditional "dig deep" routine and make a birdie late to retake (and hold) the lead.

And then the newly-discovered Fowler-Reed slugfest delivered a surprise final thrill as Rickie took the clubhouse lead with a clutch birdie on 18, forcing Patrick to make tough pars on 17 and 18 to win.

Which Patrick did, much to the surprise of all. Except Patrick, that is.

But aren't we used to this by now? Patrick Reed is one player who has proven, more times than not, that he can dig as deep as any legend our sport has seen... and seemingly do it on demand. Even Tiger paid his respects on Twitter:
No one seems to know how this might affect Captain America going forward. He was noticeably humble with his comments after the round, perhaps because it took so much out of him and perhaps because he surprised even himself a little. But it's likely that he'll be taken more seriously when he does speak out going forward.

Like when he said something earlier this week about a win at the Masters setting him up to win the single-season Grand Slam...

In the meantime, while he's in the mood for quiet contemplation, perhaps he'll enjoy his first-ever major-inspired Limerick Summary.
In the rematch of McIlroy-Reed
After neither could get up to speed,
Spieth and Fowler went wild.
Who was Destiny’s child?
“ME!” screamed Patrick—and he kept that lead!
The photo came from this page at washingtonpost.com.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Patrick Reed's Three Driver Swings (Video)

This Golf Digest video shows three different driver swings that Patrick Reed uses. You'll note that Patrick uses his hands A LOT, but then again he almost always draws the ball.

The key here are the words almost always. This video shows how he hits his slinger draw (a huge low hook), the high bomb (a high, long draw) and the butter cut.



You may wonder why I'm posting this today, since most of us would rather watch the Masters instead of reading instruction material... and since I'm not going to go into detail about the swings until a later time. The reason is simple.

No doubt you heard analysts talking yesterday about Patrick's Palmer-like helicopter finish when hitting a fade, and most of them said this must be something new. But this video clearly shows a helicopter finish to the butter cut... and this video is a year old!

So it appears that his improved fairway percentage this weekend is the result of club changes and practice, not some elaborate new mechanical technique. Patrick is simply "dancing with the one that brung him," and his dance partner came ready to boogie!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

What Patrick Reed Did Differently This Week

Golf Magazine posted an article late Friday examining why Patrick Reed is playing better in this Masters than in past majors. It's an interesting look at how his preparation has changed after a talk with his coach, Kevin Kirk. I'm going to pull a couple of quotes for this post.

Patrick Reed shaping another shot at Augusta

Early on, the article quotes Kirk:
"I told him in Mexico that his golf game reminds me of when someone leaves an oven on in a house," said his coach Kevin Kirk, who has grooved Reed's swing since 2011. "All you have to do is light a match."
Later on, we learn what happened when Reed arrived at Augusta:
With his swing clicking, he arrived in town last week, and rather than killing time on mechanics, he and his coach took a deeper dive on the course itself. On Reed's first practice day at Augusta, he spent eight hours on the course but played just four holes: 1, 2, 12 and 13. "We read the slopes, practiced at the pin positions, formed plans for different winds," Kirk said. "In his mind, he's ready."
There's a lot more to Reed's preparation than just focusing on four holes, of course. He arrived at the course last Friday and has been at work ever since. The article goes into a fair amount of detail about the strategic work he did, as well as his mindset for using that strategy this weekend.

But, as you no doubt have guessed, you'll need to read the article to get all that. And in the process, you just might pick up a few pointers you can use in your own game.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Martin Hall on Long Drive Setup (Video)

The Masters is on and you don't have time for instructional videos -- or practice. You're in luck! Martin Hall and Blair O'Neal posted this Night School video just yesterday, and you don't need a club or a trip to the range to improve your driving.



The drill is simple. Park your buttt against a wall and, before you start your "backswing," bump your hips a little toward your target. Note that:
  • you do this at setup before you make your backswing, not during your downswing, and
  • the move is small. Martin says just two inches. You want just enough to get you swinging upward at impact.
If you're observant, you may have noticed Pernilla Lindberg doing something very similar at setup in the video I posted earlier this week.

Why does this work? Because if you set your weight just a bit forward at setup, you'll tend to return to that position at impact. But you don't want to hit down with a driver, and that's why you leave your weight distributed roughly 50-50 between your feet and just bump your hips forward a bit. You'll automatically tilt your spine just slightly away from the target to keep your balance, but it will be enough to create all the good things you want at impact.

So remember: Just a slight hip bump toward the target at setup, which causes a very slight spine tilt away from the target. That will automatically create the weight shift you want on the downswing, along with the upward strike at your teed-up golf ball. Voila! Longer drives.

And you still get to watch the Masters. Just do the drill during commercials!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Here's Your Masters TV Coverage Guide

This is the most complete listing of this week's Masters coverage I could find. There are numerous viewing outlets available at differing times during the day, and I've included links to the various broadcasters later in the post.

ESPN and CBSSports.com are the main coverage for the Masters today and tomorrow. Those outlets are where you'll see the actual play during the day.

All times are ET.
GC
6am-8am Morning Drive
8am-3pm Live from the Masters

CBS
8:30am-10:30am Master on the Range (CBS Sports Network & CBSSports.com)
9:15am-7:30pm Live Masters Stream (CBSSports.com)

ESPN
10am-3pm SportsCenter @ the Masters
3pm-7:30pm Live Masters coverage

Masters.com
3pm-7:30pm TV simulcast live stream

GC
7:30-9:30pm Live from the Masters
That should get you through today. The following links will help you find the Masters coverage for the rest of the week.
I'm guessing CBS might also do some late night updates, at least today and tomorrow. In the past, those have run at 11:30pm on the main commercial CBS network, but that's not listed.

Now go get your Masters fix!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

My "5 to Watch" at the Masters

Well, after continuing my amazing track record with my ANA picks last week -- at least Inbee made the playoff! -- I'm ready to try again, this time with my picks for the Masters.

Sergio with Masters trophy

Let's be clear on this one. There are SOOOOOO many good picks this week that you could take just about any five players in the field and have a decent chance of picking the winner. And the Masters has a way of giving us unexpected winners. How many of you picked Sergio to break through last year?

After some personal debate, I have decided not to include Tiger in this list. While he has improved much faster than I expected and I won't be surprised if he does win, he doesn't make my "5 to Watch" list. Why? Because I still see him making strategic errors coming down the stretch in regular events, and I suspect he's still learning how his body reacts to adrenaline after the fusion. That can only be amplified in a major, and he hasn't even teed it up in a major in two years. You have to go all the way back to the 2015 Masters just to find a major when he played the weekend!

For the record, I do expect Tiger to contend this week and I expect getting a "major rep" will help him start winning the regular tournaments soon. But I feel that he's still one, perhaps two, majors away from being a serious favorite in the big ones. So, barring any wins before the US Open, I'm targeting Carnoustie as a realistic chance for a Tiger major.

In the meantime, who are my frontrunners for a Masters win? They might not be the ones you would expect. Here's my list:
  • With three Masters in his pocket and a WGC win already this season, Phil Mickelson seems ready to get back in the mix. Phil generally plays well here, no matter what his game looks like coming in, but he's shown steady improvement in all areas of his game through the early part of this year. He might not be my top pick, but he's definitely Top5.
  • Rory McIlroy seems to have finally found his putter, which should worry the rest of the field. And if any of his competition hopes that's a fleeting thing, Rory's win at the API should have them shaking in their Footjoys. When Rory's firing on all cylinders, he can seduce a really low score from Augusta National's sensuous greens. Look for him to make a good run at the career Grand Slam this week.
  • Bubba Watson has two Masters already, but he's never come into Augusta with two other wins in his rear view mirror. His putter is rolling well, his driver is seeking fairways better than it has in a long time, and his mind seems free from the boogeymen that have haunted him at times. And like Phil, Bubba has a special relationship with Augusta. I like his chances as well.
  • Last year Justin Rose came up just short in his duel with Sergio -- not as a result of bad play, but simply because Sergio was "on." Justin has since rebounded from that loss, posting a couple of wins in the past few months and Top5s in the Valspar and API, so he's also in good form. He's somewhat under most people's radar, and I think that's a shame.
  • And my flier is... Ian Poulter. I've already written about how I think the last couple of years have changed Ian's perspective, and I think he's primed to play well this week. It's easy to forget that he has a pretty good record around Augusta, and I think he's in a good frame of mind to make a push for his first major this week.
I know I've left out a lot of players who are getting much more media attention, but this year has given us a cornucopia of surprise winners and I see no reason this week should break that trend.

As for my pick, I've already written in past posts that Bubba Watson moved to the top of my list when he got his second win in Austin, and I've seen nothing since to change my mind. Given Bubba's current form, I think my picks may fare better this week than they did at Rancho Mirage.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Things We Can Learn from Pernilla Lindberg

I hope you all got to watch Pernilla Lindberg and Inbee Park's final four holes on Monday morning. It was pretty impressive, especially as Pernilla continued to make critical putt after critical putt, finally sinking a long one at the 10th hole (playoff hole #8). Inbee finally flinched, giving Pernilla the win.

Pernilla Lindberg after her leap in Poppie's Pond

Her caddy, who also happens to be her fiance Daniel Taylor, was also pretty impressive as he dove headfirst into Poppie's Pond.

Pernilla's caddie makes a small splash

Anyway, I thought I'd take a quick look at some things we can learn from Pernilla. First, a look at her pre-shot routine.

Those of you who follow my blog regularly probably know that I'm not a big fan of pre-shot routines -- I think they have become an excuse to avoid hitting your shot. Pernilla's is different though. She seems to use her routine almost purely to get her alignment correct.

I looked all over for a video of her current routine and couldn't find one. This video from 2014 is a little different but it's the best I could do, and you really only see her routine twice -- once at the beginning of the video and once at the end. Still, you can see that she sets her ball position, then spreads her feet, lifts her club and bumps her lead hip toward the target, then addresses the ball and makes her swing.

Her current "club lift and hip bump" is a bit more formal, and she uses a couple more club lifts instead of a waggle, but this is essentially the same that she did before each wood and hybrid shot all week. (She doesn't bump her hip on the irons, probably because she's more concerned with accuracy than distance when hitting those clubs.)



You can also learn from her strategy. She (and Inbee too, for that matter) played each hole almost the same each time through, both in the regular tournament and in the playoff. The only variation I recall happened on the 7th playoff hole Monday morning -- that's the par-5 18th -- where Pernilla got her drive close enough to go for the green in two. She didn't get close enough for a realistic chance for eagle, but she did put the ball safely on the green and walked away with a two-putt birdie.

In other words, she played smart. She played to her strengths and, when she did play an aggressive shot, she missed it in the correct spot so she kept herself in the game.

Finally, her mindset was amazing. Pernilla said she figured out early on that she was the underdog, so she figured she had nothing to lose. She took this as both an opportunity and an honor. She decided to enjoy her chance and just kept grinding. Terry and Judy said it on Monday morning -- even if Pernilla didn't win, she had proven herself and won so much respect that her future in the game would be different anyway!

And when Inbee missed the putt that would have sent the playoff to a 9th hole, Pernilla was visibly shocked. She said afterward that she just assumed Inbee would make the putt, and she was already planning her tee shot for the next hole.

When Inbee missed, Pernilla Lindberg pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent golf history. And now you know some of the reasons why she did.

Let me add just one more thought on Pernilla's amazing mindset. While most viewers will believe it came from nowhere, it didn't. No doubt many of you will have heard that you "need to pay your dues" before you can earn a win like this. Perhaps that's true.

But "dues" don't have to be "paid" in the same place where they are collected, if you follow what I'm saying.

Business people recognize what they call "transferable skills," which simply means that many seemingly unrelated professions use similar skills. A mother who manages a household with a husband and three kids, planning all the meals and coordinating all the schedules, may turn out to be a skilled office manager. The skills needed for both are essentially the same.

In much the same way, "dues paid" in one area of life can be applied in other areas as well. After all, patience and persistence and the ability to handle pressure are necessary skills in many areas of life, not just golf And once you add Pernilla's considerable experience as a college golfer -- plus her time as a competitive downhill skier, which many folks don't remember -- she's been in some pretty big arenas before, places where those dues would have been paid.

So remember that when you think you can't handle things out on the golf course. You may have more usable experience to draw on than you realize.

The only difference between Pernilla and you is that she knew she had paid her dues.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 Houston Open

Winner: Ian Poulter

Around the wider world of golf: The ANA is not in the books yet! The fifth hole of the Pernilla Lindberg-Inbee Park playoff airs today on GC at 11am ET; and Sam Burns won the Savannah Golf Championship on the Web.com Tour.

Ian Poulter with Houston Open trophy

It's never a good idea to count the Angry Peacock out. He has ripped the heart from the US Ryder Cup team more times than I want to count, and I don't believe you ever lose that kind of inner strength.

It's true that Ian Poulter has mystified me (and others far wiser than me) who simply can't understand why that indomitable beast only seems to show up in match play -- be it a Ryder Cup or a match play championship. Even Ian has sounded perplexed when asked about it. But I think I have an understanding of it now.

I believe that inner beast -- who I think we'd all agree is driven by passion -- simply hasn't been passionate enough when its opponent can't be easily seen. In match play you face off against a single opponent; in stroke play... eh, not so much.

But I believe that has now changed. And I believe it happened simply because the beast needed to be forced into a corner.

After facing a couple of years where life probably didn't seem fair, Ian Poulter found himself having to fight for something besides Ryder Cup points or the respect of the golf world. The beast could live -- albeit unhappily -- without either of those. But the pressure of seeing the game he loved slowly taken away from him merely because he had slipped down through the cracks, down where the beancounters who tally stats and points could take it from him through accounting errors, pushed the creature into a new evolution.

Over the last couple of years Ian has found himself pressured into corner after corner, where he needed stroke play results just to survive... and he got them. Those have been highlighted by a runner-up at THE PLAYERS, and now he's gotten a win at the Houston Open when that was the only way left to get into the Masters next week. The Angry Peacock was out in force Sunday -- first pounding his chest when he sank a birdie putt on the 18th to make a playoff, then in the wild-eyed screams as he locked down the win.

Having found out what it is capable of, I don't think the beast will be so willing to go back into its cage this time. Perspective gained when the full weight of life falls on you is hard-won and not easily forgotten. The enemy no longer needs an actual human face on an actual match play partner; rather, that face is now the face of what he used to be and the match is a duel with his own past. In a word, Ian Poulter has CHANGED and he will not go back.

The Angry Peacock has turned predatory. Be afraid... be very afraid.

Perhaps he'll take a few moments from his flight to Augusta and devour this new Limerick Summary I've prepared for him. I hope he likes it... I don't want to get on his bad side, you know?
Could it be pressure’s all Ian needs?
For while none of his Ryder Cup deeds
Could undo his disasters,
A trip to the Masters
Has pulled his game out of the weeds!
The photo came from this page at sportsnet.ca.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Today's Two Biggest Storylines

After several weeks of older players breaking winning droughts, we have a couple of interesting storylines to watch today.

Ian Poulter and Pernilla Lindberg

Pernilla Lindberg turned pro in 2009 and has never won a professional event, although she was quite the amateur player. She won the 2008 Amateur World Championship, was the 2007 NCAA West Regional champion and was a First-Team All-American in 2007 and 2009, in addition to her wins at Oklahoma State University.

But even though she hasn't won a pro event, you wouldn't know it to watch her play this week at the ANA. Like Dannielle Kang last year, she could make her first pro win a major. She's got a three-stroke lead going into today's final round and, while there are some proven major winners like Inbee Park, Ariya Jutanugarn and Sung Hyun Park just four strokes back, Pernilla's game seems pretty solid and she still seems pretty relaxed despite sleeping on the lead for days now.

Ian Poulter, on the other hand, has won 16 times as a pro... but not since late 2012 at the WGC-HSBC Champions, which I usually just call the WGC-China. Ian shot 73 in his first round, so far back that he'd already packed his bags. But after two bogey-free rounds of 64 and 65, he's tied with Beau Hossler at -14, two strokes ahead of the field at the Houston Open.

And Ian has something to play for as well. He needs a win to play at Augusta next week.

Pernilla at 31, Ian at 42. Both considered "veterans" on their respective tours, both in need of a win for different reasons. Both playing some of the best golf they've played in a long, long time.

And I refuse to bet against them today. This year has already been so weird, I see no reason why either should fail to get it done. I'll sure be pulling for them!