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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Kristin Sunderhaft on Ball Position (Video)

Kristin Sunderhaft, an LPGA teaching pro in Las Vegas, did this video some time back on ball position. It's helpful because you can actually see how she's positioning the ball, so have a look:



Kristin teaches three ball positions for your full swing, depending on what club you're using. That may sound different from what I teach -- I position the ball under my hands -- but bear in mind that, as the clubs get longer, my arms have to reach out a bit and that straightens my trailing elbow. And as that happens, my hands move a bit more toward the target as the clubs get longer.

So Kristen's method isn't really that much different from mine, but many of you may find it easier to understand what's happening when you see her in the video. So here are the three ball positions:
  • Wedges: Ball in the center of your stance.
  • Driver: Ball just off your lead heel or lead instep.
  • All other clubs: Ball is slightly left of the center position.
And she shows these positions using a couple of golf clubs to mark your aimline and your ball position. This is a good tactic to use during your own practice, to help you visualize how the actual ball position looks when you're standing over it and not looking at it from the front, as you are when you watch this video.

One last thought: You may think this setup with the two clubs is a reasonably recent invention, perhaps since Hogan really started focusing on mechanics. But here's a photo I posted in a past post about Harry Vardon's method for playing a draw. See anything familiar?

Vardon's setup for a draw

That line drawing in the upper right-hand corner -- and the chalk lines drawn on the ground -- are doing the exact same thing as Kristin's clubs. This is a time-honored method of visualizing ball position, and you should make use of it too.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

My "5 to Watch" at the Senior PGA

The Champions Tour is playing two majors in a row, so this week they tee it up at the KitchenAid Senior PGA. And the picks aren't as simple as they may first appear.

2017

One reason is that the defending champion, Bernhard Langer, isn't teeing it up this week. Another reason is the strange rotation pattern of the courses -- this week's course, the Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Michigan, has been the track for the last four events in even years (2012, 2014, 2016 and this year) while last year the event was in Virginia, Indiana in 2015 and Missouri in 2013.

What we can learn from this is that Harbor Shores seems to favor low scores -- 13-under in 2012 and 2014, 10-under in 2016. I guess you'd call Rocco Mediate the defending champ at this course, with Colin Montgomerie having won the time before. But after so much time, does that really help us?

Weather could have an noticeable effect on this week's play, as it's expected to change dramatically. It's in the high 50s today, going up about 10 degrees each day to the low 80s Friday and Saturday, then starting to drop again. Who will adapt best?

About all I can do is look at recent form and compare it to past performance at this course. So here's my best guess at who might contend. (At least I've done pretty good picking contenders lately. Just no winners!)
  • Having won last week, Miguel Angel Jimenez has to be considered a favorite. With no break between events, he should carry last week's form over to this week. Assuming the weather change from Alabama doesn't throw him off too much, that is.
  • Although Stricker isn't there this week, his buddy Jerry Kelly is. And Kelly's dedication to the Champions Tour has paid off, as he picked up a win earlier this year and is in contention almost every week. Last week he finished T8... and for a Wisconsin boy, this event is almost like playing at home.
  • Joe Durant has been playing well all year, posting lots of Top10s, including a T2 at last week's major. Again, current form counts for a lot in my rankings this week, and Durant is knocking at the door.
  • Scott McCarron won four times last season but has yet to enter the winner's circle this year. His scoring has been erratic but he's had three Top10s in his last six events, with a T5 at the Tradition last week. Maybe the majors have his attention now.
  • And my flier is... Jeff Maggert. He isn't someone who immediately comes to mind but he's been playing much better as of late, posting T10, T2 and T5 (last week) in his last three starts. Maggert hasn't won since 2015, but this could be his week.
So my choice this week is Jerry Kelly. To be honest, I'm picking him because he's in decent form and this is almost a home game for him. He nearly got it done last week; perhaps this will be the week he gets his first major.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 AT&T Byron Nelson

Winner: Aaron Wise

Around the wider world of golf: Ariya Jutanugarn won the Kingsmill Championship on the LPGA; Jenny Haglund won the Symetra Classic on the Symetra Tour; Miguel Angel Jimenez won the Regions Tradition on the Champions Tour; Michael Arnaud won the BMW Charity Pro-Am on the Web.com Tour; Andrés Gallegos won the Puerto Plata DR Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Adrian Otaegui won the inaugural Belgian Knockout on the ET; Ryuko Tokimatsu won the Kansai Open Golf Championship on the Japan Golf Tour; John Catlin won the Asia-Pacific Classic on the Asian Tour; and Hee-kyung Bae won the Chukyo TV Bridgestone Ladies Open on the Japan LPGA Tour.

Aaron Wise with AT&T Byron Nelson trophy

It was way past dark at my house before the PGA Tour closed shop for the night. Fortunately for the guys playing in the AT&T Byron Nelson, they had almost one more hour of daylight in Texas than we did here in North Carolina.

Almost. It looked pretty dark to me, even with the TV cameras' added light. But it wasn't like Aaron Wise needed any more light. After he striped his final drive and hit the green with a three-shot lead, nobody had much of a chance to catch him anyway.

Much has been made of how good Wise is and how much he learned at Quail Hollow just a couple of weeks back, when he posted a T2 finish. But that was just talk.

What Wise did on Sunday proved that we may have underestimated his potential. He never seemed to lose focus on what he was doing -- striding calmly around the course, making good strategic choices that put him 5-under on the front nine while giving him mostly easy pars on the back nine as he cruised to his first PGA Tour win. And those shots were made with confidence -- there was no sign that he felt any pressure until cameras caught him taking a deep breath before that striped drive on 18.

If his performance Sunday was any indication of what's coming, I'd better start looking for more words that rhyme with Wise. I'll be needing them for all the Limerick Summaries he's going to claim!
Though thunderclouds darkened the skies,
Young Aaron did not take his eyes
Off his goal. From the start
His mind and his heart
Were proved, by his play, truly Wise.
The photo came from this page at the Republican American site.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Kathy Hart Wood on Chipping with a Hybrid (Video)

This video from LPGA teaching pro Kathy Hart Wood focuses on chipping with a hybrid but -- at least to me -- this video seems to take a different tack than others on the topic. Here, take a look:



There are two important things for you to note here.
  • First, playing a hybrid well is mostly a matter of setup. She devotes most of this video to proper setup, so you want to pay attention to that.
  • Second -- and I want to stress this, since this stood out to me in her presentation -- this is NOT a shot that you want to use out of the rough. Many times "hybrid chipping" is offered as a generic alternative for dealing with chipping problems, but it's not. Kathy stresses using this method from the short grass and, as you can see, she can use it from quite a distance from the hole!
The setup is basically the same as some of the chipping techniques with an iron, where you stand the iron up on its toe so the shaft is straight with your forearms. Your putter shaft should be in line with your forearms as well, if you want to get consistency in your stroke.

You stand closer to the ball as a result, so you might have to bend your elbows outward a bit, and you want the ball just ahead of the center of your stance. She says your eyes will be over the ball; that means your weight is slightly on your lead foot. Nothing complicated here, just standard short game technique but using your putting stroke.

As for chipping from the fairway with your hybrid -- and again, note that she is using a 4- or 5-hybrid -- this is a strategy play, something you use as a conscious decision and not just because "I always chip with my hybrid." She is using this technique when she's got some ground to cover with the chip.

Very basic info here but, as we have seen with Jordan Spieth's putting struggles lately, basic stuff is usually what goes wrong when our games get out of whack. You won't find a much simpler explanation of hybrid chipping than in this Wood video.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Long Irons VS Hybrids VS Driving Irons (Video)

Well, the video covers part of today's post. The video is a GOLFTEC lesson from GC that explains the difference between long irons and hybrids, as well as why you might want to sub one for the other. The stats about pros in the video are fascinating.



Perhaps the biggest thing to take away from this video is that, even though they have the swing speed to get away with it, a large number of pros carry nothing longer than a 4-iron and that many -- perhaps most -- amateurs are better off with nothing longer than a 5-iron.

And how do you know if you're carrying a long iron that's "too long" for you? Just check the gaps between your clubs. When the gaps become too small, that's where you should probably consider replacing long irons with hybrids.

But this video doesn't address driving irons, which are getting a lot of attention during TV broadcasts lately. For that I went to this post at the GOLFTEC site. It's an older post but it gives us the basics.

Driving irons fit between long irons and hybrids -- more forgiving than the former but not as much as the latter. The driving iron creates a lower trajectory than a hybrid for shots in the wind -- or, as many of the pros are using them for, hitting stinger shots when they can't control their drivers -- while still being easier to hit than those pesky long irons.

Unless you have a high clubhead speed, your best bet for low shots into the wind or for stinger shots is to take a longer, higher-lofted club -- a hybrid or a fairway wood -- and use a three-quarter swing. This will give you the best combination of distance and forgiveness.

Of course, if you have a 120mph swing, you can hit any kind of club you want. But unless you do, hybrids are probably the way to go.

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Couple More Putting Thoughts from Harry Vardon

Yesterday I posted a long quote from Harry Vardon about putting and, while I intend to explore some of the other things he wrote about putting soon, there are a couple of other things in that long quote that are worth looking at as well. I didn't cover them yesterday because the quote was so long!

Harry VardonOne of those things has to do with practice, and this might surprise you. You see, Vardon wasn't a big fan of putting practice:
While I am not prepared to endorse the opinion that is commonly expressed, that a golfer is born and not made, I am convinced that no amount of teaching will make a golfer hole out long putts with any frequency, nor will it even make him at all certain of getting the short ones down. But it will certainly put him in the right way of hitting the ball, which after all will be a considerable gain.
"I am convinced that NO AMOUNT of teaching will make a golfer hole out long putts with any frequency, nor will it even make him at all certain of getting the short ones down." Vardon does write about the things he believes WILL help you putt better at a later point in the chapter this quote came from, and we'll get to that in another post.

But Vardon does seem to contradict himself, doesn't he? He starts by expressing his disbelief in that old "golfers are born, not made" saying, yet he doesn't believe a lot of practice will help you get better either -- although he says learning proper technique won't hurt.

As you'll see -- in that future post that won't be long in coming -- Vardon is a big believer that every player putts best when they putt in their own way, the way that feels most natural to them. Putting is different from the other strokes in golf, where certain techniques are necessary in order to get the ball to fly a specified distance or bounce in a specified way. If you're putting properly, the ball isn't going to fly or bounce! It takes no special skill to simply hit the ball so it rolls on the ground, and that's all a putt should do.

So I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how simple Vardon's putting advice is when I post it. It's more about how to fix problems that prevent you from hitting the ball smoothly rather than learning techniques about how to hit the ball.

The other thing I want to point out from yesterday's quote concerns experience. Bear in mind that when Vardon wrote the book this quote came from, he had already won five majors:
Experience counts for very much, and it will convert a man who was originally a bad putter into one who will generally hold his own on the greens, or even be superior to the majority of his fellows. Even experience, however, counts for less in putting than in any other department of the game, and there are many days in every player's life when he realises only too sadly that it seems to count for nothing at all.
Again, we're looking at some apparent doubletalk. Experience can make you a better putter... but it won't help as much as you might hope. It's right after this part of the quote that he starts talking about new players who run putts in from everywhere while you, the experienced player, can't seem to find the hole at all. He also says that fear -- which I focused on in yesterday's post -- is a major reason that experience doesn't always help.

Why doesn't experience help us all the time when we putt?

The simple fact is that we don't control as much when we putt as we would like to believe. Blades of grass are as individual as fingerprints. Here, take a look at a single grass plant in this diagram from the Lawn Institute:

Basic illustration of a grass plant

That's a pretty complex organism you're looking at there! Add the variables of grass type, moisture, length, growth direction (they grow toward the sun, you know -- that's called grain), the fact that no piece of ground is perfectly smooth, etc., and you'll soon realize that you can't predict the exact path of the ball with any certainty. All the experience in the world won't make you able to predict the path with the accuracy you'd like to expect.

Now perhaps you can understand why Vardon says that fear is a bigger problem than technique. A confident stroke is more likely to track along the path you choose than a hesitant stroke, as grain has the most effect on your ball as it loses speed. And the inexperienced player, who doesn't realize how many variables can affect his putt, simply steps up and hits the ball firmly -- often too firmly -- and as a result the ball tracks along much better and gives him a better chance that the ball will drop.

Assuming the new player made a decent stroke on a reasonable line, that is. As Vardon says, nothing is certain in putting.

So hopefully the extended quote from Vardon in yesterday's post makes a bit more sense now. And when I put up the next post containing his advice -- probably early next week -- this may help you get the most good from it.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Harry Vardon on the Simple Putt... and Why It's Not So Simple

Harry Vardon's first golf book, The Complete Golfer, was published in 1905 and is in the public domain here in the US. It's a mixture of instruction, memoir and opinion that takes some time to work through. But Vardon set records that still stand today and, in his time, was known as the Greyhound because once he got in the lead he was rarely caught.

This somewhat long quote is from Chapter XIII, Simple Putting, and I haven't even quoted the entire paragraph! But Vardon makes a point here that few players ever seem to realize, and I think it's worth pointing it out.
Putting in golf is a game within another game. While I am not prepared to endorse the opinion that is commonly expressed, that a golfer is born and not made, I am convinced that no amount of teaching will make a golfer hole out long putts with any frequency, nor will it even make him at all certain of getting the short ones down. But it will certainly put him in the right way of hitting the ball, which after all will be a considerable gain. Experience counts for very much, and it will convert a man who was originally a bad putter into one who will generally hold his own on the greens, or even be superior to the majority of his fellows. Even experience, however, counts for less in putting than in any other department of the game, and there are many days in every player's life when he realises only too sadly that it seems to count for nothing at all. Do we not from time to time see beginners who have been on the links but a single month, or even less than that, laying their long putts as dead as anybody could wish almost every time, and getting an amazing percentage of them into the tin itself? Often enough they seem to do these things simply because, as we should say, they know nothing at all about putting, which is perhaps another way of saying that their minds are never embarrassed by an oppressive knowledge of all the difficulties which the ball will meet with in its passage from the club to the hole, and of the necessity of taking steps to counteract them all. They are not afraid of the hole. The fact is that putting is to a far greater extent than most of us suspect purely a matter of confidence. When a man feels that he can putt he putts, and when he has a doubt about it he almost invariably makes a poor show upon the greens. Do I not know to my cost what it is to feel that I cannot putt, and on those occasions to miss the most absurdly little ones that ever wait to be popped into the hole without a moment's thought or hesitation? It is surely the strangest of the many strange things in golf, that the old player, hero of many senior medal days, victor in matches over a hundred links, will at times, when the fortunes of an important game depend upon his action, miss a little putt that his ten-year-old daughter would get down nine times out of ten. She, dear little thing, does not yet know the terrors of the short putt. Sometimes it is the most nerve-breaking thing to be found on the hundred acres of a golf course. The heart that does not quail when a yawning bunker lies far ahead of the tee just at the distance of a good drive, beats in trouble when there are but thirty inches of smooth even turf to be run over before the play of the hole is ended.
Let me call your attention to a couple of sentences in the middle of this quote, where Vardon mentions inexperienced players who make putts that the "more expert" among us don't. Of those inexperienced players he simply says:
They are not afraid of the hole. The fact is that putting is to a far greater extent than most of us suspect purely a matter of confidence.
They are not afraid of the hole. As much as we hate to admit it, this is the simple truth. The shorter the putt, the more afraid we become.

We are expected to make the short putts, but we know that they won't all go in... and we're afraid that this putt is one of them. We may be afraid that we won't score as we expect, or that we won't score as others expect, or that some other unnamed expectation won't be met, but it all comes down to FEAR.

If we want to become better putters, a major stumbling block is overcoming this fear. But how do you do that?

Vardon has some interesting ideas on how one becomes a better putter later in that chapter, and I'll post some of them soon. But for now I will just mention that your PERSPECTIVE on the game is a major weapon in this battle.

To put it simply, if you are "afraid of the hole," something about the game means too much to you -- that is, you don't see it as a game but as a part of your self-worth. If you want to putt better, THAT HAS TO CHANGE. You have to find a way to put golf back in its place; you have to draw your self-image from something more dependable than golf.

It's as simple -- and as difficult -- as that. But what did you expect? It's golf, after all!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

My "5 to Watch" at the Tradition

Time for the Champions Tour players to get in on the act. This week they tee it up at the Regions Tradition, their first major of the year.

And you know what that means...

Two-time defending champion Bernhard Langer

Yep, it's "5 to Watch" time. Time for me to demonstrate why Monday's Supreme Court ruling, which makes gambling legal in any state that wants it, doesn't help me one bit.

Of course, if there's a sure thing on any tour, you could argue that it exists on the Champions Tour...
  • And his name is Bernhard Langer. Last year he passed Jack's record of eight Champions majors. This week he goes for major number ELEVEN and he does it as the two-time defending champion at this event, as well as being the tour's most recent winner this season. It's hard not to consider him a favorite.
  • Then there's Steve Stricker. It took him a while to find his "old guy legs" but this season he's already got two wins. That's not particularly amazing... but the fact that he's done it in only four starts is! Add in his great play last week at THE PLAYERS and you have to consider him a favorite this week as well.
  • Stricker's buddy Jerry Kelly is no slouch either. True, he has only one win in eight starts this season but that's good enough to put him at #3 in the Schwab Cup standings. (Langer's #1 and Stricker #2, in case you're curious.) In addition to the win, he's got three Top8 finishes, is third in the All-Around stat and fourth in Scoring Average. Sounds like a winner to me!
  • I know it seems as if I'm just running down the Schwab Cup points list, but Joe Durant (#4) also has a win this season, is #3 in Scoring Average and is coming off five straight Top10 finishes. It's hard to ignore him this week either.
  • But now I need to pick a flier, someone who might not come to mind at first, and after some consideration I'm picking Steve Flesch. Flesch is coming off his first win, followed by a T5 at the Legends of Golf team event. The rest of the year has been less than impressive. (Forgive my bluntness, Steve.) So the question is, has the leftie turned a corner or have the last two events just been blips on the radar? We'll find out this week.
And my pick? Langer is the obvious choice, but I'm going with Stricker to get his first major. He seems to have found a comfortable state of mind from which to play, and that good showing at Sawgrass last week should stand him in good stead at the Greystone Founders course -- a course which also demands strategic play.

Of course, Langer will probably spoil my party, but I'm used to that. Go, Stricks!!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Sean Foley on Changing Your Angle of Attack (Video)

GC is posting some bits of their Revolution Golf teaching for free, probably as samples of what you'll get if you pay for the service. In them I found this short video from Sean Foley that might help improve your driving.



I know Sean sometimes gets very technical in his explanations, but this isn't difficult to understand.

Your angle of attack is simply whether you're hitting down or up on the ball at impact. And what Sean is saying is that you unconsciously change your angle of attack just by teeing the ball higher or lower. Furthermore, you'll do it regardless of whether you change your ball position or not, because your eyes react to the height of the ball.
  • If you tee the ball low, you'll automatically try to hit down on the ball, even if you move the ball forward.
  • If you tee the ball high, you'll automatically try to hit up on the ball, even if you move the ball backward.
Obviously, you'd like to move the ball a bit forward when you tee it high, and you'd like to move the ball a bit backward when you tee it low. That way, your ball position and angle of attack are working together to get the results you want.

But what you need to take away from this video is that you can change your angle of attack by as much as ten degrees just by changing how high or low you tee the ball -- and that will happen without any effort on your part to change the angle of attack.

This is a case of simple knowledge being more important than technique. Knowing that what you see will change what you do can eliminate a whole lot of frustration caused by working against your natural tendencies.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 THE PLAYERS

Winner: Webb Simpson

Around the wider world of golf: Vicky Hurst won the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic on the Symetra Tour; Stephan Jaeger won the Web.com Tour’s Knoxville Open; Tyson Alexander won the Costa Rica Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Todd Baek won the weather-shortened Haikou Championship on the PGA Tour China; Toru Taniguchi won the Japan PGA Championship on the Japan Golf Tour; Malcolm Kokocinski won the AB Bank Bangladesh Open on the Asian Tour; and Joakim Lagergren won the ET's Rocco Forte Sicilian Open.

Webb Simpson with THE PLAYERS trophy

What is there to say? Webb Simpson just proved that you can't keep a good player down.

Or perhaps I should say that you can't anchor him to the past.

Webb hasn't won on Tour in a few years -- since 2013, to be exact -- despite being a US Open champ and being heralded as an up-and-coming player to watch. That was all before the anchoring ban outlawed his belly putter. And it was the beginning of a very dark journey in search of a viable alternative.

As everyone learned this week, Webb Simpson is one of the few players to succeed in that journey. He ranked as the #10 putter on Tour entering this week, and will no doubt be higher than that when the stats are updated.

He put that same determination into his journey around TPC Sawgrass this past week, and the rest of the field learned just how true the expectations of a few years back were. After blistering the field the first three days, he dug deep on Sunday and held on to win. Decisively!

David Duval noted that Webb was even walking differently at THE PLAYERS, carrying himself with a confidence that David hasn't seen for quite some time. It will be fun to see how Webb's career progresses from here, now that he's proven to himself that his new putter stroke can handle the heat. And just for good measure, he'll have this hot new Limerick Summary to keep him nice and toasty for a while!
For three days Webb cruised through the field;
But when struggles came, he didn’t yield.
Like the anchoring ban
That crushed many a man,
They gave Webb something on which to build.
The photo came from the front page at theplayers.com.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Lightning in a Bottle

I'm going to talk about why Tiger's play seems a bit more erratic than most fans expect, but let's take a moment to appreciate what he did Saturday.

Tiger set at least two personal records. The 30 he shot on his first nine was the best nine he's ever shot by two strokes, and the 65 he shot is his best-ever round at THE PLAYERS.

Think about that, folks. A year ago Tiger wasn't even sure he'd ever be able to play, and yet Saturday he played a round that was better than anything the "Unbeatable Tiger" of the early 2000s was able to do. That's pretty special.

Tiger at THE PLAYERS

But it's that kind of special performance that makes fans wonder why Tiger is so erratic. Why does his game seem to be so hit-and-miss?

In one of my posts I said I didn't expect Tiger to really start winning for maybe 18 to 24 months. The reason -- and it's a reason that affects all kinds of athletes who have surgeries that affect their spine -- is how nerves heal.

I don't mean nerves as in a player's mental state. I mean the physical neural pathways that let the brain tell the muscles what to do.

Tiger mentioned early on that some of the players who had gone through back surgery told him that it had taken as much as two years before they felt "right." When Colts quarterback Payton Manning had neck surgery, it took the better part of two years for him to return to the field. And, as it turns out, there's a medical reason for that.

While doctors can predict how quickly muscles and bones will heal, they can't do the same with nerves. The pure and simple fact is that nerves are somewhat magical in their behavior. What western medicine describes as electrical impulses traveling through bundles of nerve fibers as they leap little gaps called synapses, eastern medicine describes as a mystical force called chi that flows through meridians or channels throughout the body. When you see those Chinese martial arts movies where masters battle each other with energy bursts, they're flinging chi at each other.

That may sound hokey to western ears, but the chi explanation leads to results that even western doctors have trouble arguing against. Nerves resist easy explanations because nerves march to their own drumbeat.

Here's some info from two different websites, this one on how nerves heal and this one on recovery from surgery. Let me give you a quick and simplified summary, snagged from that first site.
Regeneration time depends on how seriously your nerve was injured and the type of injury that you sustained. If your nerve is bruised or traumatized but is not cut, it should recover over 6-12 weeks. A nerve that is cut will grow at 1mm per day, after about a 4 week period of ‘rest’ following your injury. Some people notice continued improvement over many months.
Sensory nerves are more resilient than motor nerves and can recover sensation months or years after injury.
Motor nerves have a time limit for healing. The reason for this is a structure called the ‘motor endplate’, where the nerve joins into the muscle. If the motor endplate receives no nerve impulse for more than 18-24 months, it dies away and there is no longer any way that the muscle can be activated by the nerve. The muscle then whithers away. Thus surgical repair of motor nerves needs to happen within 12-18 months of the injury.
Now bear in mind that this is info on nerve healing in general, not nerve healing specific to athletes. A normal person who doesn't push his or her body to extremes on a daily basis will "feel normal" sooner than an athlete, simply because the demands on the nervous system are different.

But note that damaged nerves grow very, very slowly and that sensory nerves -- the nerves that give Tiger the "feels" he's been trying to relearn -- can take much longer to recover than the motor nerves that control the muscles. In a worse case scenario, the motor control can take up to two years to return (if it doesn't return by then, it probably won't return at all) but the sensory nerves can't even be predicted that THAT accurately.

That's probably the source of Tiger's erratic performance. While the motor activity in his muscles seems to be recovering quite quickly, the sensory nerves are taking their own sweet time. He feels a number of different things when he swings, and different groups of nerves function at different levels of consistency. Some days it's more hit-and-miss, while other days give him a more complete overall performance.

And then there are days like Saturday, where they all got their act together at the same time and Tiger catches lightning in a bottle.

The fact that we're seeing this sort of thing begin to happen more frequently is a good sign. It doesn't tell us how soon Tiger will return to his old form, but it certainly indicates that it WILL happen sooner or later.

And that is very good news for the golf world... but maybe not such good news for those young guns who want to see the old Tiger in action.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Sometimes the Cliches Are Correct

I'm not going to take much time today. I just want to remind you that some things never change.

Webb Simpson on Friday

Webb Simpson has tied the records for lowest round (63) despite having a double-bogey on the card, and he's tied the record for lowest 36-hole score (-15). But how did he get this huge five-stroke lead that he'll take into the weekend?

The Strokes Gained stats tell you by how many strokes a player bettered the field average. And you may have heard that Webb's Total Strokes Gained for these two rounds was 14 (actually 14.287) strokes. And I know you've heard that the stats gathered by the Tour indicate that your driving is more important than your putting. Well, here's how Webb's game has stacked up through two rounds:
  • SG: Off the Tee, 1.031
  • SG: Approach to the Green, 0.600
  • SG: Around the Green, 3.576
  • SG: Tee-to-Green, 5.208
  • SG: Putting, 9.079
Pay attention, folks. This is one of the most impressive performances we've seen in a while, so let's see how he did it.

Webb's driving -- he's T5 with 78.57% -- accounts for a little more than one stroke over two rounds. You might think that's because his distance is 80th in the field with 273.1 yards, and his long drive of 317 only ranks T167. But his SG is 34th in the field with that single stroke, however, so all those long drives don't seem to be all that helpful to the big hitters when it comes to scoring.

Webb's GIR is T2 with 86.11% greens hit. He's second in the field, folks, yet that still accounts for only .6 of a stroke and his SG for approaches only ranks him 50th! So hitting greens doesn't seem to be all that important either.

Webb's scrambling stat is 60% (T38) and his sand saves stat is 50% (T28). That's despite his SG Around the Greens being second in the field! Most of his SG Tee-to-Green is because of his scrambling.

And yet -- AND YET -- his putting alone accounts for nine of that 14 stroke SG Total stat. It's nearly twice his SG Tee-to-Green stat and three times his SG Around the Green stat. Take note, my friends: Webb is Numero Uno in the field when it comes to putting, and because of that he'll carry a five-shot lead into the third round.

You can read all the stats you want, folks, but the old cliche is still true: You drive for show but putt for dough. Now let's see if Webb can keep it up for two more rounds.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Keith Lyford's Three Critical Golf Shots

You'll want to take a look at this article by PGA teaching pro Keith Lyford over at golftipsmag.com. It has all kinds of info about the differences between different types of shots -- info that you may not have heard before

I want to focus on some of his new info about pitching.

Flat-footed pitching

This is new info that Lyford says wasn't available even a year or so back. First of all, thanks to force plate technology, we know not only that the pros set up with about 60% of their weight on their lead leg, but they keep it there during the backswing.

Now I bet a number of you had guessed that, even if you didn't know the exact percentage. Keeping your weight forward for pretty much the entire pitching motion is something many instructors have taught for a long time, even without high tech confirmation.

But here's something that's really new to most instructors, and it's something rarely even considered until the figures from the new tech came in. Are you ready for this? Here's the quote from the article:
The pitch shot’s kinematic sequence is different from the full swing. On a full swing, the lower body starts the down-swing. But for pitches, the upper body starts the downswing sequence. That’s why you see Tour Pros hitting pitch shots with a more flat-footed swing—without a lot of weight shift, compared to their full swing.
Let that sink in: Full swings are more leg-oriented but pitches are more arm-oriented. If you're having trouble hitting your pitch shots consistently, there's a really good chance you're using your legs too much. According to the new force plate info, during your pitch shots you shouldn't be using your legs much at all! 

Don't misunderstand. You don't want to lock your legs rigidly in place when you pitch. You're going to use your legs a bit; you're standing on them, after all, so that can't be helped. But you want to keep your legs fairly quiet. Don't try to drive your legs when you hit your pitch shots.

That one little bit of new info may save some of you a lot of shots going forward.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

My "5 to Watch" at THE PLAYERS

Time to pick my "5 to Watch" for this week's major, THE PLAYERS. And yes, I call it a major. The World Golf Hall of Fame ranks it with the majors, so that's good enough for me. Besides, just because you do or don't call something by a particular name doesn't change what it is, so the use -- or lack thereoft -- of the label "major" doesn't change anything.

Enough of my mini-rant. Let's pick some winners!

Defending champion Si Woo Kim

Because TPC Sawgrass doesn't favor any particular style of play, we often get surprising winners. Did any of you have Si Woo Kim on your fantasy radar last year? I didn't think so. And that makes picking winners at THE PLAYERS a tricky situation. Quite literally, anybody in the field could hoist that crystal trophy at week's end.

Even picking a winner based on recent form is a bit of a crapshoot. Again, all I have to do is point to Si Woo Kim last year -- he wasn't in good form at all. Nevertheless, it's probably my best chance of picking a winner... so here I go.
  • I have to say, I really like Ian Poulter's chances. Poults posted a second here last year, and has continued to show good form ever since. And with a win at the Houston Open, I think he's playing well enough to get it done this week.
  • Likewise, Henrik Stenson has been showing really good form despite not winning recently. And we should remember that he is a former champion at this event. Sawgrass is built for that towering 3-wood of his, and I see no reason he couldn't break his win drought this week. Drought-breaking has been something of a habit on Tour this year. ;-)
  • One player who shows up on a number of fantasy lists is Tommy Fleetwood, and I agree with the pick. Tommy has consistently played well in big events, and I see no reason that he couldn't snag a PLAYERS title for his first PGA Tour win.
  • Yes, my list has a decided European bias; that's because so many of them are playing well. But let me throw Rickie Fowler into the mix. His win at Sawgrass was one of the great performances at any event in recent memory and, despite a few stumbles lately, his play at the Masters showed his game is still in great shape. Returning to the site of perhaps his greatest victory thus far -- and playing with Tiger and Phil the first two days -- could be just what he needs to add a second PLAYERS to his resume (I believe you Euros out there call it a CV).
  • As for my flier, I'm taking Tiger Woods. I understand why the Big Cat isn't on anybody's radar but -- and I admit, I'm surprised to hear myself say this -- I think he's being underestimated this week. He's the only two-time winner in the field; he can play around his driver on most holes; those irons he put in play last week certainly seem to be working; and let's be clear here, do any of us really believe Tiger's putter is going to stay cold? I don't.
And my pick is... look, I really, really, REALLY like Poulter's chances this week. I like what I hear in his pressers, and I like what I see on the course, and I think you can't overestimate how much the Ryder Cup is driving him. I REALLY ought to pick him...

But I'm taking Tiger. I can't shake the feeling that he's going to catch lightning in a bottle this week. Hey, he's had three Top5s this year so far, all of them realistic chances to win.
  • He had a T2 at the Honda Classic, on a course he hadn't played in decades. Where was that event? Florida.
  • He had another T2 at the Valspar Championship, a really tight course. Where was that event? Florida.
  • He had a T5 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which really challenged his game. Where was that event? FLORIDA!
And now he's teeing it up at Sawgrass, in Florida. His putting has been wonderful on courses in Florida. And he's playing the first two days with Phil, who already has a win this season.

Oh yeah. I'm picking Tiger this week. Stranger things have happened. Like Si Woo Kim.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Fred Griffin on Iron Shots That Stop Quickly (Video)

GCA coach Fred Griffin shared a feel-oriented approach to hitting a high iron shot that lands softly on the green. It's simpler than many methods you might have heard.



Fred gives you three simple steps.
  • Put the ball slightly forward of center in your stance. If you stop the video around the :54 second mark, there's a good ground level image of the ball position. You can see that the ball is still inside your lead heel. You don't want to put the ball too far forward or you'll hit it thin.
  • He says to feel as if you "sink" a bit on your backswing, but he just wants you to keep your trailing knee slightly flexed on the way back. You don't want to straighten your trail knee when you make this shot! This gives you a more level approach to the ball, as opposed to (a) raising up and hitting it thin or (b) dropping during your downswing and hitting it low.
  • And then there's that "waiter's tray" image. He wants you to swing to a high finish, and that's a good image to help you straighten up as you finish your swing. Yes, if you stayed level during your downswing, you'll be using the ground here!
The key to hitting the ball high is to make a small adjustment to the ball position -- just a little forward -- and then hit the ball cleanly. And a ball that flies high drops down more vertically onto the green, which means it doesn't bounce forward as much.

Make sure you understand the images. If you can imagine how the shot feels, you'll be able to hit it much better than you expect. Never underestimate the value of a good mental image of your shot!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

What I Like About GolfSixes

Commentators have mixed opinions about the ET's GolfSixes tournament, but I like it. So before we move on to THE PLAYERS, I thought I'd take a post to share my feelings about the format.

Moynihan and Dunne with GolfSixes trophy

I think almost everybody likes the team match play aspect of the event, which is something we don't get to see very often in pro golf. And there's something to be said for the overall shortness of the event itself, just two days. It's an event with a hidden benefit. It's a good way for busy pros to squeeze in a bit of off-time during a crowded schedule, since you have two more free days leading into the event.

This also works well for fans. The shortness of the event means fans can see more of the event in less time -- more like a football or baseball game -- while the shortness of the individual matches means the action is fast and furious, more like a basketball game. The less formal atmosphere certainly seems to attract families with young kids, Need I expound the virtues of that?

And ironically, the fact that players are eliminated from competition more frequently actually plays into this as well. Once players are eliminated, they have more time to mingle with the fans -- and because they play fewer holes overall, they aren't as tired, making this part of the job less draining for them. Having this sort of event every so often could be a great way to build the fanbase.

The biggest argument against GolfSixes has been the extreme shortness of the matches -- a mere six holes, from which the tournament gets its name. With each match taking only six holes, the entire pool play portion of the event can be finished in one day, and even the players who advance to Day 2 have only played 18 holes. The argument? That the matches are too short to give everyone a fair chance. After all, if you fall two down, it's going to be mighty hard to come back!

But the event has made two changes to pool play as you would see it in the WGC Match Play.
  • First, two teams advance from the four-team pool play.
  • Second, even when a team has won their match, all six holes are played and each team is credited with the number of holes they won.
As a result of these two changes, some of the randomness is minimized. Since two teams from each four advance, everybody has a better chance. And since ties are broken by the total number of holes each team won, even a lost match can help you qualify for Day 2 -- if you played well enough to have a close match, that works in your favor even if you lost.

This second playing of GolfSixes also demonstrated its flexibility. As the tours search for a way to integrate the male and female tours in a single event, GolfSixes showed itself to be an ideal venue for that. And the less formal nature of it all makes it easier for the players to mingle and perhaps find mutual ways to work together. After all, many of these players run individual charity events and help each other with them; this would be a great chance to broaden those networks!

Finally, although no one has said anything about it yet, I can see how GolfSixes could be expanded into a larger event. The current two-day event handles 16 teams, with eight eliminated after Day 1 and the other eight playing for the trophy on Day 2. Using the same format as Day 1, you could expand this to a three-day event with 32 teams cutting to 16 on Day 1, 16 to eight on Day 2, and the finals on Day 3. That's 64 total players, just as in the WGC Match Play, and everyone could make a payday as they do in that event. (This page at thegolfnewsnet.com gives the WGC percentages.)

For a small event like this, the money wouldn't be nearly as much, but for a three-day event during a crowded schedule -- or perhaps an off-season event held at some place like Disneyworld -- I suspect it would be attractive enough.

I don't know that GolfSixes will ever become a popular format, but I see possibilities that I like. And as golf searches for new ways to attract fans, I think it has a place.

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 Wells Fargo Championship

Winner: Jason Day

Around the wider world of golf: In a surprise to no one, Bernhard Langer won the Insperity Invitational on the Champions Tour; the Irish team of Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan won the GolfSixes tourney on the ET; Michael Buttacavoli won the BMW Jamaica Classic on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Sung Hyun Park won the weather-shortened Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic; Elizabeth Szokol won the IOA Invitational on the Symetra Tour; and Sanghyun Park won the GS Caltex Maekyung Open Golf Championship on the Asian Tour. Charlie Saxon leads the Changsha Championship on the PGA Tour China but the finish has been delayed.

Jason Day and family with Wells Fargo trophy

After a fairly dominant win at the Wells Fargo Championship -- his second win of this calendar year, with both being on tough courses -- Jason Day had this to say about his game:
“I had no idea where the ball was going today, especially off the tee. I missed a lot of fairways, missed a lot of greens. My short game stood the test, which was nice. This was probably one of the best wins I’ve ever had just because of how hard everything was today.”
The stats bear him out. His Strokes Gained: Tee to Green stat for the week was pretty much zero, while his short game (if you'll pardon the pun) won the day for him.

Young Aaron Wise was the only player to really make a run at Day, and he was rewarded with second place for his efforts. After Day's consecutive bogeys on 13 and 14, Wise was tied with Day and believed he truly had a chance to win. But Day made a birdie on 16 and a near miraculous birdie on 17 after his shot hit the flag and stopped about three feet from the pin, and that spelled the end of the Wise Guy's dream.

With two wins and a runner-up finish just since late January -- and despite a swing that seems to have a mind of its own -- Jason Day seems poised to make some noise next week at THE PLAYERS and in the majors that follow close behind. While he may feel the need to clean up his game a bit, he's not having any problems cleaning up financially.

And with a third kid on the way, that's probably a good thing!

At any rate, the Limerick Summary isn't judgmental. It doesn't discriminate against players who don't know where their shots are headed. As long as the ball finds the cup in fewer shots than anyone else, it says, "Hey, buddy! Add me to your trophy collection as well!" In fact, I believe he now has one for all 12 of his PGA Tour wins. Well done, J-Day!
Jason’s ball didn’t know where to go;
Left or right? Fade or draw? High or low?
But his short game was stout
And it sure helped him out
Of the rough and up high in the dough!
The photo came from this page at golfweek.com.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

A Golf Lesson Among Friends (Video)

In case you missed it, here's Jack Nicklaus helping Gary Player get some height on his shots before they tee off at the Insperity Invitational Greats of Golf competition. The video is nearly 15 minutes long but you only need to see the first 1:30.



This is a great discussion between two legends who understand their swings. Listen to Jack talk about how, if you swing to the inside with your takeaway like Bobby Jones did, you have to swing back out -- that is, your downswing path is above your backswing path. That's a loop. And if you don't, you'll tend to get stuck and lose speed and height. Gary is swinging inside but not back out -- he says as much.

Listen to Gary talk about the difference in the width of their backswings. Jack had an upright swing with a one-piece takeaway -- which is very wide -- but Gary couldn't do that because, with his flatter swing, he tended to lay the club off at the top. (That means he points the club too much behind him, rather than toward the target.)

Jack talks about how his swing plane was so upright because he had such a huge shoulder turn. And he helps Gary widen his takeaway without making a more upright swing, which would cause that "lay off" move at the top for him.

That 1:30 is worth listening to several times, simply because you can learn so much about how the various parts of the golf swing work together to create the trajectory of a shot. Great stuff from the legends!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Ball Positioning: Feet VS Hands

This is a response to a comment Dana left on my post about Claude Harmon III's setup advice. In that post I mentioned there was a difference between using your feet and your hands to position your golf ball. Dana asked for a bit more detail, so here we go.

Let's start with a theoretical setup with the ball positioned right in the middle of your stance. Your weight is evenly divided between your feet, and a vertical line (dotted in the diagrams that follow) would pass through your chin, along your spine, through your hands and split the ball exactly in half in the middle of your stance.

As you can see, in this admittedly perfect setup, the clubhead sits just behind the ball at address and, as the curved line with the arrow shows, its swing path would contact the ball perfectly and take a tiny divot just after you hit the ball.

Normal setup and ball position

But this is a perfect address position, after all. Let's suppose -- simply because we need a situation that you might commonly experience -- that there's a stiff wind blowing at us from the direction of the target. In order to steady ourselves, we shift our weight a bit forward, placing more weight on our lead foot. As you can see in the diagram below, the vertical dotted line shows that our spine has shifted forward.

However, since the ball is positioned in the center of our stance -- that is, we positioned the ball using our feet -- the ball is no longer in the correct position for solid contact. In fact, the ball is actually hidden by the clubhead in this diagram! If you position the ball relative to your feet, you'll have to make changes to your swing just so you can get the ball in the air.

Forward setup and ball position by feet

But what if we had been using our hands to position the ball? In the original diagram, the ball was also directly under our hands. What if we had set our weight forward to resist the wind BUT we still positioned the ball under our hands?

Forward setup and ball position by hands

As you can see from the final diagram, the ball is still in the correct position relative to our head and our spine, which is the critical thing here if we want to keep our swing arc consistent. In this final address position, we'll make the same solid contact with the ball that we would have made in the original setup in the first diagram.

And as long as we don't lean our spine toward (or away from) the target, positioning the ball relative to our hands means we automatically keep our swing consistent.

Obviously we're talking about stances on fairly level ground here. If we have a serious uphill or downhill lie, we'll always have to adjust our swing. But for the vast majority of normal stances, just letting your hands hang down and setting up so the ball is directly beneath them gives you the most consistent method of creating solid contact.

Now I have to admit, it's not exactly correct to say the ball is UNDER your hands. The ball would be much too close to your body if that was the case. It would be more correct to say that, if you drew a line on the ground extending away from you -- imagine a line connecting your feet, and the "ball line" would form a T with that line -- the ball would be on that line far enough away that your could make proper contact with the clubface. When using this method, you just let your hands and arms hang down, then position the ball so that the T is directly under your hands.

Hopefully that's pretty clear. (I didn't think to make a diagram showing the T positioning method, so that may be a bit hazy.) If you have any questions, you can just put them in the comments below and I'll try to do a better job. But once you've done it a time or two, I think you'll agree it really simplifies your setup with all but the most difficult stances.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Martin Hall's Downswing Drill (Video)

This short Home School video is actually pretty sweet. It's an equipment-free, do-it-in-your-living-room drill to help you learn an in-to-out swing path. And all you need is a magazine and a convenient wall.



Just a few simple steps.
  • Roll up the magazine and hold it like a club. Martin says a golf magazine; that's because it will give you a 'club' that's roughly a foot long.
  • Stand with your back to the wall and make a 3/4 backswing. That's means your hands are shoulder high.
  • At the top of your 3/4 backswing, the tip of the magazine should touch the wall. And it should stay in touch with the wall during your downswing until your hands are waist high.
  • Then return your hands to their impact position.
As Martin says, this is an extreme move. It's a drill for players who either come over the top or tilt the clubhead toward their aimline at the top of their backswing. If you don't have those problems, this drill probably won't help you.

Still, you might want to try it a time or two, just to get a feel for starting your downswing in a more downward manner. After all, if you don't 'drop the club' a bit as you start down, you'll really have trouble learning to draw the ball. But in that case, I would only try to keep the magazine tip against the wall for perhaps half as long as Martin shows in the video -- that is, halfway between your shoulders and waist. That way, it will help improve your footwork if you tend to drive your legs too hard to start your downswing.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

An Early LPGA Start Today

After a few weeks in primetime, the LPGA gets an early broadcast window -- at least for the first two days -- at the Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic.

Defending champ Haru Nomura

As usual, Tony Jesselli has a preview of the event at his site.

There has been some talk about the change of venue this year and how the players haven't seen the course before. You might think that would be a problem for defending champ Haru Nomura. But I've been unable to find her listed in the pairings, so I'm not even sure she's there.

Instead, Stacy Lewis, who announced her pregnancy earlier this week, seems to be the favorite among the expert pickers. Personally, I think the new venue makes any pick little more than a guess. And if the wind comes up -- as the wind is prone to do in Texas -- I wouldn't even try to pick a winner. While I would expect a low ball hitter to have an advantage, this one looks to be anybody's title.

The only thing I can say for sure at this point is that GC's coverage starts at 10:30am ET this morning. You've got three hours of live golf to get your day started, on an unfamiliar course where any player could win this week. What more do you need?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Skinny on Tiger's New Irons

Ever since he tweeted the photo of his new "TW Phase1" irons -- and yes, that's what TaylorMade is calling them for now, to differentiate them from future tweaks -- everybody wants to know what's up with Tiger's new sticks. Let's see if we can shed some light on things.



The photo above came from a golfdigest.com article in early January. It shows Tiger and TaylorMade VP of Tour Operations Keith Sbarbaro hard at work during one of their early test sessions. I'd advise you to read the whole article, because it will give you a clear view of how Tiger -- and, I suppose, any tour pro -- goes about getting fitted for clubs when they sign a new mega-million dollar equipment deal.

I was interested to learn that Tiger is able to tell slight differences in clubs because he has played the same specs for so long:
Woods is well-equipped to notice anything amiss with his irons. He has used the same iron specs since he was a kid, saying he only changed the lie angle at times when a swing change called for it. He’s also aware that alterations are easier to make today, recalling that during his early years as a pro he would need to go through eight or nine sets of irons and cherrypick clubs from each set to get the CGs to match.
That's interesting, don't you think? We tend to believe Tiger makes wholesale changes in his game every so often, but it's clear that he never makes changes that affect his impact position too much. If it did, he'd have to make major equipment changes. That could explain how Tiger managed to make so many swing changes successfully when most players have trouble making a single change.

Golf Digest also notes that while Tiger's primary concern is trajectory -- big surprise, right, given how much he talks about it -- he was able to identify slight differences in feel as well, and was able to easily discuss the science behind those discrepancies. I suspect that's part of the reason Tiger and Bryson DeChambeau have been playing practice rounds together so much. Swing geeks love to talk equipment!

Also noted: Tiger wants his clubs to look a certain way. He likes a muscleback iron with a longer blade length, thinner sole and a squared-off toe. And he likes a smaller head on his driver.

Here are a couple of other articles that you might want to take a look at.
I suspect we'll be hearing more about the irons before the week is over. But at least you'll have some idea what all the fuss is about.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

How Close Is a Joint PGA-LPGA Event?

A recent post from Golf Digest's Dew Sweeper included this little bit of news amidst its collection of tidbits. I thought you might find it interesting.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan

Here's the part of the article that we're interested in:
The Zurich's success last spring spurred conversation regarding other outside-the-box tournaments the tour should implement, chief among them a mixed competition of PGA Tour and LPGA players. This talk arose again last week, its prospects advocated by LPGA commissioner Mike Whan. That Whan would proselytize on the matter is not surprising; the LPGA would greatly benefit from the heightened spotlight of the PGA Tour's platforms. However, the idea received further endorsement on Sunday, from a particularly influential voice.
“We’re very interested in getting the men and women together inside the ropes in the same week and in the same competition,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan told media members on Sunday. “I think that’s something you’ll see in the future. It’s just a matter of time. That’s really exciting and interesting.”
The PGA Tour's revamped schedule is coming out shortly, but sources told Golf Digest that a mixed event is not currently on the table for next season. Conversely, both Monahan and Whan floated the theoretical tournament as an offseason possibility, one that could be happening in relative short order.
“They’re partners of ours,” Monahan said. “Generally speaking, that’s something we’d like to see.”
So at least the talks are still on. Let's hope it becomes more action and less talk very soon.