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Thursday, June 21, 2018

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

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



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

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Jeff Flagg on Launching One 400 Yards (Video)

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



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

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Testing Players VS Protecting Par

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

Brooks from the 6th hole rough on Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let's look at the facts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 US Open

Winner: Brooks Koepka

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

Brooks Koepka kisses US Open trophy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 17, 2018

It Happened Again...

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

Dustin Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of rant.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

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

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

Dustin Johnson reading a putt

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 15, 2018

US Open: Things to Watch for Today (Videos)

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



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

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



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

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

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Jill Finlan Scally on "Toe Chipping" (Video)

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



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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

My "5 to Watch" at the US Open

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

Defending champion Brooks Koepka

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Some Thoughts on the Shot Clock Masters

Everyone agrees that the game takes too long, but few agree on how to fix the problem. The ET took a shot this past weekend with the Shot Clock Masters. And by most measures, their idea was a rousing success.

The question is, will it catch on?

Mikko Korhonen with the Shot Clock Masters trophy

The concept itself was simple enough. The Rules of Golf already regulate how long players can take over a shot -- 50 seconds if you're first to play, 40 seconds for the other players, and there's a one-stroke penalty is you take too long. So why is there a problem?

Just one word: enforcement. How do you keep track of every player's time>

The ET's solution was to send a ref and a time clock out with each group. Sounds simple enough until you do the logistics. Assuming there are 150 players in the field -- that's a few too many, but it's close enough for this discussion -- and they all go out in threesomes, that means you need 50 refs with 50 shot clocks. Each shot clock requires (in the ET's version, anyway) a golf cart, a large timer display visible to each player that shows the player's name and their countdown, plus some sort of tablet for the ref to monitor his (or her) threesome.That's a fairly elaborate setup to maintain -- certainly not overly complicated, but it definitely involves more equipment than a current threesome does.

And then there's the manpower requirement. I think it was underestimated by most viewers. Bear in mind that the tours rarely have that many refs at an event; some of the time savings came from having a ref on the scene for rapid rulings -- most events eat up a lot of time getting a limited number of refs around the course to make rulings. Given the complexity of the Rules of Golf, fielding that many qualified refs for each event might be a problem, at least for a while. That's another problem to be dealt with.

Although the data gathered from last week's event indicates that playing "ready golf" actually results in lower scores, data isn't necessarily going to convince players that playing more quickly is worth the initial discomfort. Overcoming personal inertia is a very real impediment to timely play, and we're fooling ourselves if we think everyone is simply going to say, "Yeah, this is great! Let's all speed up our play!" Long-held beliefs die hard, even in the face of evidence that those beliefs are incorrect.

And while I don't know how to quantify it, that resistance will almost certainly manifest itself in ways that create new tensions among players... which means it would eventually affect the event as a whole in unexpected ways. We all hope changes would happen smoothly, but it would be unrealistic to believe everyone will just embrace faster play without any resistance.

Look, I don't intend this to be a pessimist's post. I think what we saw last week is a good first step toward creating some positive, permanent change in the speed of play at pro tournaments. But I agree with the GC analysts who suggested that the way to get the most good from this data is to start enforcing pace of play rules in the amateur ranks. Those players are still developing their playing habits, and are the best chance we have to permanently improve pace of play.

The big question, of course, is whether we'll see other pro events adopt the methodology of the Shot Clock Masters. That remains to be seen... but I suspect we'll see it more often on the ET or the LPGA before we see it on the PGA Tour. We already know that many of the top players resist the idea that they should play "before they're ready"... and there's just too much sponsor money involved to believe the PGA Tour will force them to change. After all, they haven't done it so far, have they?

With that said, I do believe the Shot Clock Masters was a great first step toward solving the problem of slow play. But I believe that, having been responsible for taking the first step, the ET will have to be the standard bearer going forward if this first step is to lead to any lasting change.

Whether they're ready to take on the challenge or not remains to be seen.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 FedEx St. Jude Classic

Winner: Dustin Johnson

Around the wider world of golf: There was A LOT of golf this weekend! Mikko Korhonen got his first European Tour win at the Shot Clock Masters; Tom Lehman won the weather-shortened Principal Charity Classic on the Champions Tour; Chase Wright won the Rust-Oleum Championship on the Web.com Tour; Sam Fidone won the Bayview Place Cardtronics Open on the MACKENZIE TOUR - PGA TOUR Canada; Toni Hakula won the Bupa Match Play on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Charlie Saxon won the Guilin Championship on the PGA TOUR China; Annie Park got her first LPGA win at the ShopRite LPGA Classic; Maia Schechter won the Four Winds Invitational on the Symetra Tour; Panuphol Pittayarat won the Thailand Open on the Asian Tour; Trish Johnson won the inaugural Suquamish Clearwater Legends Cup on the LPGA's Legends Tour; and the US team beat the GB&I team 17-3, the biggest margin of victory in Curtis Cup history.

Dustin Johnson with FedEx St. Jude trophy

When you get right down to it, it wasn't even that interesting to watch. Dustin Johnson and Andrew Putnam were tied to start the final round, Putnam doubled the first, nobody else even made a run, and DJ played steady if uneventful golf to win the final FedEx St. Jude Classic. (Next year it becomes a WGC, replacing Bridgestone.)

At least, that was the story until they reached the final hole and DJ calmly jarred his second shot for a walk-off eagle. The crowd went wild and that single shot will be the defining moment of this year's event.

Not a bad send-off, when you get down to it.

Of course, there were other effects from that shot besides the win. DJ moved up to second in the FedExCup points race and, by the time most of you read this, he'll be #1 in the world again after bumping Justin Thomas off his brief perch at the top.

Perhaps the biggest effect will be the betting odds on DJ at the US Open next week. With Shinnecock playing around 7400 yards and his game clearly back in major shape, he'll be the favorite on most fantasy teams for 2018's second major. Still, I hope he takes a few moments to bask in the glory of his newest Limerick Summary, which he would have gotten even without that eagle...

But the Limerick Summary wouldn't have sounded as cool as it does if he hadn't jarred it. A little pizazz never hurts. I'm just saying...
The final round wasn’t that hot
Until DJ holed out his last shot
On the eighteenth for two.
The crowd went “Woo-hoo!”
Now he’s back in the Number One spot.
The photo came from this page at usatoday.com.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Harvey Penick's Magic Move (Video)

This is a decidedly mechanical video, which I generally try to avoid. But Harvey Penick was a legendary teacher, and this video from The Art of Simple Golf does a good job of explaining this technique. Done slowly as a drill, a mechanical action like this can teach you a basic swing feel.



Whether you lift your lead heel or not, let me restate the "Magic Move" so you understand what it is:
To start your downswing, let your lead knee move back toward the target so your lower leg -- that is, from knee to ankle -- is vertical. AT THE SAME TIME, swing your trailing arm down so your upper arm -- from shoulder to elbow -- is vertical as well. Your trailing forearm will point straight "toward the camera" from this position.
That is a very technical description, and I don't expect you to swing with any kind of speed while thinking about this complex motion. Rather, the way to use this is as a slow-motion drill. Swing to the top of your backswing, then swing down to the "magic" position very slowly. And I do mean SLOWLY -- take a four-count to do it. This way, you will get used to how your muscles move and your weight shifts without developing a lot of bad habits.

Here's one more thought that will make this downswing drill translate more easily to your actual swing: Don't try to point the club shaft parallel to your foot line, as it appears in the video. At the "magic" position, although your club shaft will be roughly parallel to the ground, it should actually point outward at a 20° to 30° angle away from you. The reason is because, during an actual swing, your wrists will be starting to uncock at this point, so the club will be starting to move down into impact position. By practicing with this slight angle, it will feel more like an actual swing.

Again, this is a very mechanical drill and, if you use it, make the downswing move very slowly. Some of you won't find much use for it, but it can be very helpful if you're uncocking your wrists too early in your downswing.

Just remember, DO IT VERY SLOWLY. That's how martial artists train to use unfamiliar moves for rapid movement, and you'll learn new moves better that way as well.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

David Leadbetter on Wristless Chipping (Video)

Yesterday I posted Mitchell Spearman's lesson on wristless chipping; today I post David Leadbetter's. Why? Because he has a slightly different take on the method and, with the US Open coming up, you're liable to see plenty of variations on the technique.



Some points to note:
  • Leadbetter is using an open stance, while Spearman used a square stance.
  • Spearman has the shaft almost vertical; Leadbetter wants a bit of forward lean.
  • Most of the rest of the techniques, like focusing on chest turn rather than arm swing, are the same.
One important thing to note in Leadbetter's video -- and it's one of the reasons I decided to post it as well -- is his emphasis on keeping the upper part of your trailing arm against your chest throughout the stroke. This is a good way to build more consistency into the stroke, to insure that you keep the same angle of attack at impact.

Let me repeat this: I think it's useful to know the slight differences taught by different instructors. Sometimes a technique that makes sense to you but feels a bit awkward can be totally transformed by a minor change in stance or weight shift or upper arm position.

And between Leadbetter and Spearman's videos, I think you get a pretty good idea of the adjustments you can try, to give you the best chance to get good results with this technique.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Mitchell Spearman on Jason Day's Chipping Motion (Video)

This coaching clip from GC's Golfing World show is only a couple of months old, so it's up-to-date on how Jason Day's short game works. Here, coach Mitchell Spearman teaches host Anna Whiteley the technique.



Personally, Jason's technique feels a bit stiff to me when I try it. (I'm more comfortable with a little bit of wrist cock.) But it's not that much different from what I teach, and I admit that for some players it's a bit easier to control your distance this way. The trade-off is that you may have a little trouble using the technique on longer shots, because this method limits the wrist cocking that creates easy distance.

Spearman points out three key setup points to remember when using Jason's method:
  • Instead of telling you to set up with your weight slightly on your lead foot, he suggests getting the buttons on the placket of your shirt just ahead of the ball. That's because you want the shaft mostly vertical and, if you set your weight noticeably on your lead side, you'll tend to lean the shaft. Your weight is only slightly on your lead foot.
  • You don't want your hands ahead of the ball because, again, you don't want the shaft to lean forward. You want the shaft fairly vertical so you can create a more shallow, sweeping motion as you hit the ball. I usually recommend setting up with your hands over the ball and, if you have the ball in the center of your stance, that should still give you a mostly vertical shaft setup.
  • The stroke is mostly about using your shoulders, so your lead arm and the shaft stay in a fairly straight line throughout the stroke. Note that I said "fairly straight." Don't get rigid about it; you're just limiting your wrist cock during the stroke.
There are other tips in the video, of course, but these are the primary setup keys for getting good results with the technique. The section of the video where Anna actually tries the technique -- it starts about halfway through -- should really help you get a good visual of how it works.

Jason will certainly be using this technique a lot next week at Shinnecock, so understanding how his short game works will help you learn more from what you see. He has one of the best short games on tour, after all!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

How Will Phil Play This Week?

Perhaps the more obvious question is, WHY is Phil playing this week? After all, he finished T5 at Wells Fargo the week before THE PLAYERS... and then missed the cut. He said he was too tired when he arrived at Sawgrass.

Phil Mickelson

It begs the question, doesn't it? The US Open is next week, the major he needs for the career Grand Slam... and the one where he has finished runner-up six times. He NEEDS to be fresh!

We all know he likes to play the week before a major, in order to sharpen his game. It has worked in the past, but that's when he was younger. This strategy may be less effective as he ages.

And while the analysts may forget, I think his arthritis is part of the reason he tires more easily these days. Anyone who takes a medicine regularly can tell you that, although they're grateful for the medicine and that it helps with whatever condition it's meant to control, the medicine itself has an effect on their bodies... and typically, tiring more easily is one of those effects. That's just the way life is.

But I do think one thing is different this week. As Phil told the media about this week's course, TPC Southwind:
“I feel the best way for me to prepare for the U.S. Open is to get in contention and get sharp mentally and with my game,” Mickelson said. “That’s what playing here in Memphis does. Precision is a key factor at this course.

“[TPC Southwind] doesn’t beat you up with length, you don’t have to go out and bomb it. You’ve got to be precise with every shot off the tee.”
Quail Hollow is long and demanding, and I don't think Phil took that into account. He shot 64-69 on the weekend on a course that plays roughly 7600 yards. That's probably not the best strategy to keep yourself fresh. But TPC Southwind is under 7250 yards, and Phil routinely plays well there.

So how will Phil play this week? I know what he should do. He should forget about winning the tournament and just work on getting the ball in play and putting decently. If he does that AND somehow wins the event, that's fine.

But I'm afraid Phil will go all out to try and win this event, especially since he has two T2s and a T3 in the last five years. And if he does that, with Shinnecock scheduled to play around 7450 yards, what will happen next week is anyone's guess.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Martin Hall on Daniel Berger's Warm-Up Drill (Video)

The School of Golf Extra Credit clip this week is a warm-up drill that Martin says Daniel Berger does before every round... but I'm calling it to your attention for a different reason than Martin does. Here's the drill:



Let's be blunt, folks: This is a difficult drill. You'll have to grip tightly with your lead hand, and swinging with any speed while keeping your trail palm consistently against your lead thumb -- without any of your trailing fingers touching the grip, by the way -- will take some concentration. So why do I want you to try it?

Martin says, almost as an afterthought, that this drill will increase your rotation. That is part of what I want you to get from this drill. But in order to make solid contact with the ball, you'll be almost forced to keep your upper lead arm and elbow against your side as you turn through contact. This move will help you square the clubface more easily.

In addition, the effort of keeping your trailing palm against your lead thumb -- combined with that upper-arm-against-your-side move -- will teach you how it feels when your trailing hand is squaring the clubface.

So this drill is a "two-fer," folks! It will teach you how to use your upper body and both hands to square the clubface. And the effort involved will reinforce your ability to recognize what "square" feels like, so you'll find that it takes less effort to create that feel when you swing normally. That's what I call a useful drill!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Few Thoughts on the Two-Hole Playoff Format

The USGA's decision to use a two-hole aggregate playoff to break a tie at the US Women's Open was the subject of much debate in the months leading up to the event. But now that we've seen it in action, I think we can finally make a few informed observations.

Ariya Jutanugarn with US Women's Open trophy

First of all, many thought a two-hole playoff would not be long enough to eliminate the "randomness" of sudden death, not the way a three- or four-hole aggregate playoff does. Well, we learned that's just not true. In sudden death, Hyo Joo Kim would have won on the first playoff hole... and as it turned out, a three- or four-hole playoff would not have changed the outcome we actually got.

The two-hole format allowed one player to take a lead, and the other player to even the score before moving to sudden death. Would the results have been the same if one player had been sitting for quite a while and the other player was just coming off the course? We don't know the answer to that question, but the result shows that this playoff format can work.

We also learned that the two-hole format is sufficient to provide an exciting finale to a major. It provides a real chance for a punch-counterpunch result that moves into sudden death, with each player having had a couple of holes to regain their rhythm and even some time to compensate for a poor start.

And, if the players successfully counter each other, as Ariya and Hyo Joo did Sunday, the sudden death playoff that follows doesn't seem so random anymore. In fact, Sunday's two-hole format actually felt like a three-hole aggregate that went an extra hole of sudden death.

I realize that, should this format get used when one of the players has been sitting for a while, and should that player lose two straight holes and thus the playoff, there will be a lot of questions about whether a two-hole aggregate playoff is really fair.

But given what we saw on Sunday, I'd have to say that the USGA won the first hole of this debate.

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Quick Note to My Australian Readers

I know that a number of you Down Under have bought my books on Kindle, and I've heard a rumor that Amazon is changing their "distribution model" there because of a 10% tax. Based on what I've heard, IF THIS GOES THROUGH, some of you may lose access to books you bought from any Amazon site other than the Australian site.

As I understand, this isn't a done deal yet and Amazon hasn't said for sure how this will affect you. But if our worst expectations come true and you do lose access to my Kindle books you've already bought, contact me through my blog's email address. I have no intention of letting you lose access to any of my Kindle books that you've paid for, and we'll get something worked out.

But hopefully Amazon will do right and make sure it doesn't come to that. We'll all keep our fingers crossed.

The Limerick Summary: 2018 Memorial

Winner: Bryson DeChambeau

Around the wider world of golf: Ariya Jutanugarn survived a four-hole playoff against Hyo Joo Kim to win the US Women's Open on the LPGA; Joey Garber won the Rex Hospital Open on the Web.com Tour; Jordan Niebrugge got his first win at the Freedom 55 Financial Open on the Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada; Horacio Leon won the Quito Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Astrid Vayson de Pradenne won the Jabra Ladies Open on the LET; and Thorbjørn Olesen won the Italian Open on the ET.

Bryson DeChambeau with Memorial trophy and Jack Nicklaus

The ladies at the US Women's Open saw an exciting four-hole two-woman playoff before Ariya Jutanugarn got her second major... but Ariya had to get the job done without her best stuff.

Ironically, while the Memorial Tournament finished up early in an attempt to beat bad weather, they too went to a playoff -- in their case, a two-hole three-man playoff that gave Bryson DeChambeau his second PGA Tour win. And Bryson also had to get the job done without his best stuff.

Bryson -- like Ariya -- started the day with the lead. It was a small lead compared to Ariya's, which grew to seven strokes before her game fell apart at the turn, but he held that slim lead all the way to the end, where a three-putt bogey dropped him into a playoff with Byeong Hun An and Kyle Stanley.

Stanley and An both put on strong back nines to get into contention, but they just couldn't put the final dagger into DeChambeau's dream. But once they teed it up in the playoff and Stanley stumbled out of the gate, DeChambeau escaped An's challenge on the first hole before finishing him with a clutch birdie on the second.

Bryson DeChambeau is forcing people to take his unusual approach to the game seriously. Two wins in less than a year is no small feat, and you have to wonder what he might do at Shinnecock next week. But in the meantime, he can bask in the glory of his second Limerick Summary... and perhaps calculate how soon he'll snag his third one.
Bryson led at the start of the day
And he led it for most of the way
Until Stanley and An
Said, “We’re ready—come on!”
But DeChambeau would have the last say.
The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Johnny Miller on Trevino's Signature Move (Video)

Yes, I'm on a "tip trip" this week because I don't have any other topic that has grabbed me. So today I'm posting an old Golfweek video featuring Johnny Miller talking about Lee Trevino's signature move.



Miller says that what made Trevino's swing unique was the way he "chased" the clubhead down his aimline, keeping the clubface moving toward his target longer than most players.

But what I want to focus on is how Trevino finished his shots, because it can help you hit a low-trajectory fade. For many of you, this is the "go-to" shot you're looking for when you need help hitting the fairway. Johnny demonstrates this around the 2:00 minute mark in the video.

The key is that, when he finishes his shot, he has shortened the swing slightly and the shaft is leaning toward his target line, almost parallel to his spine. That's a simple concept and, although it may take you a bit of practice to master, it can be a very useful go-to shot when the landing area is tight.

This isn't the kind of shot you're going to hit a super long distance. Go-to shots rarely are. But this is something you can hit with any club in the bag, from almost any lie, and get a playable result. Having a shot like that in your repertoire is a great strategy move that can really save you some strokes.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Zach Allen's Driver Gripping Tip (Video)

Here's a short video from PGA teaching pro Zach Allen and Golf Tips Magazine to help you improve your driver grip.



This is a simple way to get your lead hand grip out of your palm. By creating an "L" at waist height with the club and your trailing hand, and THEN gripping the club with your lead hand, it forces you to grip the club more in your lead hand's fingers.

Many of you may not need this tip. But if it's a problem for you, this is a simple way to break a bad habit.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Rickie Fowler on Long Distance Putting (Video)

Okay, Butch Harmon's in it too. In this video Rickie tells how he makes those long ones. I'll focus on just one thing he says.



Rickie says that setup is the key to making long putts because your contact and putting speed are all you can really control. This is a good point, and I want to focus on where Rickie is looking during his long putt.

According to Rickie, picking one spot to look at during your putting stroke stabilizes your stance over the ball. And while different players choose to look at different spots, such as a dimple on the ball, Rickie makes the unusual choice to look at the ground behind the ball.

Is there some special advantage to Rickie's choice? After all, Rickie has one of the smoothest strokes on tour.

Perhaps there is. If you look at a point in front of the ball -- which I do -- your setup tends to tilt your shoulders slightly. (Remember, Rickie says you want roughly level shoulders at setup, and he gets those level shoulders despite using a traditional trailing hand low putting grip. Just saying.)

And if you look at a dimple on the ball, you might turn your head slightly toward the hole as you putt. (After all, the dimple moves when the ball rolls.)

But if you look at the ground behind the ball, nothing changes during your stroke and you should keep your head -- and therefore your spine, around which your shoulders are turning -- steady in one position. And that should lead to more consistent contact.

It's a small thing, but sometimes small things can have a huge impact on your game. If you're having trouble with your putting, it's something to consider.