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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Unofficial Events Begin

With most of the Tours taking their annual midseason holiday breaks, we finally get to the unofficial but often very gripping events of the golf year. We kick off with the ISPS Handa Melbourne World Cup of Golf. (Wow, that's a mouthful!)

Team USA -- Kuchar and Stanley

We get teams from 28 countries, all converging on The Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia. This course is one of the Sandbelt courses and has hosted the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in 2001, the 2009 Women's Australian Open and all three of the Australian Triple Crown events. This is a class course, folks!

The World Cup of Golf is a 72-hole stroke play event, but rounds 1 and 3 are four-balls while rounds 2 and 4 are foursomes. The course will play 7308 yards, the greens typically stimp at better than 12, and rough weather is predicted -- just what you want for a nerve-wracking team event.

Of course you knew I was going to post a photo of Team USA -- I am a US citizen, of course -- but pgatour.com's power rankings don't favor us. We're number four behind Australia, Korea and England. Granted, Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith will be a tough pairing and both are surely familiar with the Sandbelt, so it's hard to argue with them as the favorites. Still, I like the Kuch and Kyle Show to give them a run.

The TV times at GC have me a bit confused. It appears that they're going to alternate between the World Cup and the ET's Hong Kong Open -- a couple of hours of one, then switch to the other, back and forth. At any rate, they've got the World Cup starting at 8pm ET Wednesday night, so that should get us started. Golf in Australia is always interesting!

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 RSM Classic

Winner: Charles Howell III

Around the wider world of golf: Danny Willett won the DP World Tour Championship on the ET while Francesco Molinari took the Race to Dubai; Lexi Thompson won the CME Group Tour Championship on the LPGA while Ariya Jutanugarn won the Race to the CME Globe (as well as the Vare Trophy and pretty much everything else); Abraham Ancer became the first Mexican to win the Emirates Australian Open on the Australasian Tour; Isidro Benitez won the 113 VISA Open de Argentina on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Kodai Ichihara won the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament on the Japan Golf Tour; and Shubhankar Sharma won the ET's Rookie of the Year Award.

Charles Howell III lifts the RSM trophy

We've seen several players end long winless droughts this season, but the way Charles Howell III did it has to be one of, if not the most dramatic of the year. After starting 3-over after two holes, Charles went 6-under over the next 16 holes to force a two-hole playoff.

Which he won in dramatic fashion. He didn't back into the win. He birdied 15, 16 and 17, then he hit putts that barely missed going in on 18 twice.

The third putt on 18 didn't barely miss. And CH3 nearly broke down in tears when it didn't.

I'm sure he's been near tears several times over the last eleven years as well. I personally don't think a player needs to apologize for 'just' keeping his card and making millions of dollars in an age where young hotshots with no staying power come and go every year. But Charles believes that he should have won more, despite the fact that "potential" often means nothing in the real world.

Clearly though, the struggle has toughened him up a bit and forced him to become a better player. And he ends this part of the wraparound season with a win and a shiny new Limerick Summary -- his first! -- as he enters Thanksgiving week with the appropriate attitude. Congrats, Charles!
Another drought comes to an end
With Charles’s third PGA win.
It took seven years
And he’s shed a few tears
But this week he’s the best that he’s been.
The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Last LPGA Round of the Season is LIVE

It's worth mentioning because it's on ABC, not GC.

Lexi Thomson and Ariya Jutanugarn

There's still quite a bit to be settled today in Naples FL, including:
  • The $1mil CME Globe is still up for grabs.
  • Lexi Thompson can extend her years-with-a-win run to six.
  • Ariya Jutanugarn can sweep the year's awards with a win today, something that's never happened before.
Final round coverage begins at 1pm ET today on ABC. Don't miss it!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Keegan Bradley's New Putting Technique

Having talked about Matt Kuchar's putting style yesterday, I thought I'd mention Keegan Bradley's version today. I've found a bit about it in this Golf Digest article, so I thought I'd add it to the mix. Today I'm focusing more on the equipment involved.

Keegan Bradley's putting stroke

The article covers several players' equipment and says this about Keegan's:
Perhaps no player has been affected more by the ban on anchoring than Keegan Bradley, who has struggled mightily on the greens since the rule went into effect in 2016. Bradley has ranked 183rd, 128th and, this season, 186th in strokes gained/putting. Recently, however, the 2011 PGA champ has shown some signs of improvement while using an Odyssey Works Versa 1W Red Arm Lock putter. The putter, which has a head weight of 400 grams and is 43 inches in length with a loft of 7 degrees, is designed to act like an extension of the arm for a smoother, more repeatable stroke. Given Bradley's breakthrough victory at the BMW Championship in the playoff over Justin Rose, and him contending at the previous two events—the Northern Trust and the BMW Championship—it's safe to say he might have finally found his solution.
And a second Golf Digest article added this:
During Monday’s final round Bradley posted an impressive 3.182 strokes gained/putting mark with his Odyssey Works Versa 1W Red Arm Lock putter. The putter is 43 inches in length, with the added length allowing Bradley to brace the putter against his left arm, similar (but not identical) to how Matt Kuchar putts.
This photo comes from that second article. You can see how much the neck of the putter is bent to get that 7-degree loft.

Bradley lines up a putt at BMW

Now it's worth noting that both Matt and Keegan are fairly tall guys -- 6'4" and 6'3", respectively -- so that 43-inch shaft is probably a bit long for a lot of weekend players. However, the 7-degree loft on the face is probably a reasonable number for almost anyone using this method, as the shaft does lean forward quite a bit and you'd need a fair amount of loft to get an effective loft of 3-5 degrees.

Note that the second article says that Keegan's grip isn't identical to Matt's. That's why I included the first photo. It looks to me like Keegan has the shaft going a bit farther up his forearm than Matt. However, that side view clearly shows that the rubber grip is a bit underneath his forearm, as I noted in yesterday's post about Matt's putting.

If you decide to go with a method like this, you'll almost certainly need to go with a specially-made putter as Matt and Keegan have done. It's not so much about the shaft length -- you could have a longer shaft put in almost any putter -- but bending the neck of the putterhead enough to get the necessary loft might be more than a standard putter is made for. You could very well end up breaking the putter. Plus the head is about the same weight as an old belly putter and roughly double the weight of a standard putter. You'll need to take that into account as well.

Anyway, that's a bit more info for those of you interested in the armlock putting method these players use.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Matt Kuchar's Armlock Putting Style (Videos)

I know many of you are curious about the Kuchar Technique, so here are two videos about it. Matt's been putting this way since around 2011, so the first video is from 2013 and the second from a mere four months ago.



In this first video Matt shows his basic technique. Note that the grip only extends halfway up his lead forearm and that otherwise his grip looks pretty normal. He doesn't use his trailing hand to hold the butt end of the shaft against his forearm; rather, he recommends putting with your lead hand alone to learn the technique.

His stance is a little open -- he says it helps him see the line better -- his elbows are held close to his body and from there he just rocks his shoulders. The angle in his trailing wrist stays pretty stable. As he puts it, there's not much happening in terms of movement.

In the second video -- which is five years later -- he talks about the tweaks he's made to his equipment and technique to fine-tune it.



Over that five year period he says he's changed the length and the loft of his putter slightly, to suit the amount of forward press (or, if you prefer, forward lean) he uses. Note that he says the loft adjustment was made purely by trial and error; you would probably want more loft than Matt uses unless you play professional course setups all the time.

By the same token, he has played with his ball position for the same reason -- off his front foot for less forward lean, center of his stance for more forward lean.

And note that he says that comfort is the primary consideration for him.

The only thing I would add is that it looks as if the butt end of the putter is, as you look down in your address position, touching more on the underside of your forearm than centered on the side of it. Again, that's probably part of the comfort thing he mentions, as I think you'd have to bend your lead wrist unnaturally to center it.

And that's it. It's short and sweet, but the technique isn't complicated at all.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Lee Westwood on Weight Distribution (Video)

Of course I'm taking a look at the old guys this week! Here is Lee Westwood demonstrating a proper weight shift.



I'm using Lee's video here to demonstrate something about golf swings -- namely, that what we're doing is often somewhat different from the way our explanation makes it sound.

Look at Lee's demonstration of how you want to shift your weight during the backswing (it's right around the :20 mark). See how much his body seems to move to his right side?

Now look at his actual swing (around the :37 mark). You'll see that his body isn't shifting to his right side nearly as much as his demonstration would have you believe!

In both parts of the video, the principle that he wants you to learn -- that his right hip is braced to prevent a sway -- is the same. But when he makes his actual swing, there's even less movement than in the demo because he's using his whole body to make the actual swing, as opposed to isolated muscles in the turn in the demo.

That's common whenever a player or instructor is teaching a lesson. The demo is an isolated, perhaps even exaggerated move while the swing uses the demo'ed move "in context" and is less exaggerated. You can work on a specific position in your swing all you want, but it will always look slightly different when you make the actual swing at full speed.

Lee's anti-sway move is a good one to learn. But learning that the actual execution of that move is slightly different is a good principle to remember whenever you're trying to learn something new.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Matt Wallace on Swing Thoughts (Video)

Matt Wallace has won three ET events this season, making this his breakout year and getting him consideration for a Ryder Cup pick. Here are his thoughts on swing thoughts:



While Matt says his primary swing thought is to hit the ball in the center of the clubface, his most valuable advice here is about how to choose a swing thought.
  • You need to find the swing thought that works best for you.
  • Finding that thought can give you extreme confidence when you make a swing.
  • You need to make sure it's only ONE thought, in order to better focus your mind.
  • Your swing thought doesn't have to be a mechanical thought.
He also makes an interesting statement related to that last one, that putting is about art and feel, not mechanics.

Matt Wallace won't win the Race to Dubai; at #19 he's too far back in the rankings. But he IS in the field and if he continues to think clearly when he plays, there's no telling how far he may go in the future.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Jason Zuback on Creating Power (Video)

This is an older video, but 5-time World Long Drive Champ Jason Zuback knows a bit about hitting it long. Besides, this drill can help you in numerous ways.



Zuback's drill is simple. He sticks club shafts in the ground touching the outside of each foot, then he tries to make a full swing back and through without his knees hitting the shafts.

This drill encourages a number of good things in your swing:
  • It teaches you to make a good shoulder turn, which helps create clubhead speed.
  • It helps eliminate swaying, a flaw which reduces clubhead speed.
  • It helps you stay centered over the ball, which helps you hit the ball more solidly.
Yeah, I know. Zuback's swing was extremely long and flexible, especially in his younger days. You don't have to go to such extremes. But doing this drill with your normal range of motion will help you create a more repeatable swing without requiring you to learn some unnatural move. Best of all, since you can feel your knees tap the shafts if you sway, you can just swing freely and know that the shafts will give you feedback if you move too much.

A great little drill.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 Mayakoba Golf Classic

Winner: Matt Kuchar

Around the wider world of golf: Gaby Lopez got her first win at the Blue Bay LPGA; Vijay Singh won the Schwab Cup Championship on the Champions Tour, but Bernhard Langer got his fifth Schwab Cup; Lee Westwood broke a four-year drought at the Nedbank Golf Challenge on the ET; Tatsunori Nukaga won the Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters on the Japan Golf Tour; and Clodomiro Carranza won the Neuquén Argentina Classic on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Matt Kuchar wins at Mayakoba

It was a weird bit of symmetry. Lee Westwood had won his last tournament on 20 April 2014. So had Matt Kuchar -- exact same day.

And here we were, around four and a half years later. Lee finally broke his drought in South Africa, and Matt broke his in Mayakoba -- exact same day.

The wins themselves weren't quite the same though. Lee posted a dominating four-stroke win.

Matt started the day with a four-stroke lead... but things went a bit downhill after that. He toughed it out down the final stretch to squeak out a one-stroke win over Danny Lee.

Still, after four winless years, it's hard to find fault with Matt's performance. Lee broke down with emotion after his win, expressing how hard it can be when you don't know if you'll ever do it again. The players around Lee struggled down the finish, while Matt wasn't so lucky. A number of chasing players shot four, five, six, even eight-under while Matt could only muster two-under.

Nevertheless, a win's a win and the trophy isn't sized by the margin of victory. A couple of rough seasons have finally given way to victory for Matt, so he gets a fresh Limerick Summary and a wish for a bright 2019. (Lee gets the wish as well, though without the limerick. But I look for him to snag one of his own in 2019.)
And so Kuchar broke through a long drought
But the outcome was not without doubt.
Though he led it by four,
Loose play opened the door;
Just a single shot let him win out.
The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Gaby Lopez on Uphill Bunker Shots (Video)

With Gaby becoming only the second Mexican winner on the LPGA -- the great Lorena Ochoa being the other -- I thought it might be fun to find a tip from her. And I found a very useful piece of info in this video about playing uphill bunker shots.



For the most part, Gaby's advice here is the same you'll hear for playing most any bunker shot, but few weekend players ever consider changing clubs when the lie changes. The tendency is to always use the same club -- usually your lob wedge -- out of a greenside bunker, but Gaby doesn't.

In this video, she first mentions that she generally takes one more club than usual -- that is, if she normally plays a 60° lob wedge, she'll move up to her 56° sand wedge. The reason is that the uphill lie causes the ball to fly much higher. In fact, she specifically says a lie like the one you see in the video will add about 2° to the loft of the club.

But she doesn't stop there. Later in the video she says you could use other clubs, up to around 50°. Depending on your particular set, that's a gap wedge (typically a 52° wedge) or a pitching wedge (47-48°). Not all uphill lies are the same, of course, so you'd probably want to use one of these clubs on a steeper lie.

And you'll want to experiment a bit to see what works best with your swing; I have successfully used a 9-iron out of a steep uphill lie before when the sand was soft.

If you saw any of Gaby's final round, you know she's a good scrambler. So -- especially if these kinds of bunker shots give you problems -- you may find more success by using a different club, based on her guidelines.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

History

Well, it's official. Suzy Whaley is the first-ever female president of the PGA of America.

New PGA officers Jim Richerson, Suzy Whaley and John Lindert

Actually, that's just one of a lot of firsts Suzy has done. You can get a more complete listing in this PGA announcement -- as well as info on the other two new officers -- and there's a link in that announcement to her bio (which is loaded with her accomplishments) but here's a few of her more notable achievements:
  • first woman to serve as a PGA Officer in the roles of PGA President, Vice President and Secretary
  • first woman since Babe Zaharias in 1945 to qualify for a PGA Tour event (the 2003 Greater Hartford Open)
  • first PGA of America female professional to win the Connecticut PGA Championship
  • first person to represent both the Connecticut and South Florida PGA Sections as PGA President
Ironically, she's the 41st President of the PGA of America. I say it's ironic because the 41st President of the United States of America is George H.W. Bush. He was named after his grandfather George Herbert Walker, who was President of the USGA in 1920 and started the Walker Cup. And of course his son, George W. Bush (often just referred to as "W") was the 43rd President of the US and also very involved with golf.

I won't be surprised if they start referring to Suzy as just "W" before it's all over. Congratulations, Madame President!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Thinking About the 2018-2019 Schedule (Video)

Today I have a link to Rex Hoggard's GC article about the new PGA Tour schedule. It's easy to underrate just how different the season will look when it gets to March next season, and Rex does a good job showing just how things will change.



As Brandel says in the above video clip, the 2019 FedExCup winner could win up to $30mil next year... but to do that, they'll have to make some serious decisions concerning how they'll pace themselves. They will have a three-week break between "seasons" in September, but it's a murderers' row of events from THE PLAYERS at its new place in March all the way to the Tour Championship in late August. How will they chose which events to play and which to skip?

You can see the full lineup in the Tour's 2018-2019 schedule here.

But it's not just the schedule over the spring and summer months that will test them. After that three-week break, commissioner Jay Monahan says the fall events may increase from eight to perhaps eleven. Players will want to play more in the fall, hoping to "get ahead of the curve" so they can take time off in that rough March-August stretch and not fall behind in the points race.

When Monahan says it may take three or four years for players to figure out how to deal with this wealth of opportunities, he may actually be understating the case. We saw how tired players got at the end of the season this year, and next year will be worse.

I want to see how the players deal with this next year -- especially that July jump from the Open in Northern Ireland to the WGC in Tennessee the very next week. The Playoffs start two weeks later. Oh yes, this will be very interesting to watch!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Dan Martin on Using Your Practice Swing (Video)

This tip is so simple that you won't believe it.



I'm always harping on the importance of ball position but even I hadn't realized this.

When you make a practice swing, you are relaxed. When you're relaxed, you don't reach for the ball. Consequently, your practice swing typically uses a 'ball position' that's closer to you. And to get the same smooth swing when you actually hit the ball, you need to make sure the ball is in the same position as it was during your practice swing.

There's not much more to say, is there? Just try it!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Tom Watson on Playing Greenside Bunkers (Video)

In this short Callaway Golf video, Tom Watson shows you how to hit out of a greenside bunker. I want to focus on one thing he says, because I don't think most people understand what it means.



Around the 1:20 mark Tom says that the BACK EDGE of the sand wedge's bounce is what contacts the sand and makes it slide through the sand. There's some logic here that affects your address position, and that's what I want to focus on.

In order for the back edge to hit the sand first, you need to open the face of the wedge. In fact, this is the reason you open the face. Since you hit the sand behind the ball and moving the sand is what throws the ball out, you won't get a big slice.

But simply opening the face isn't enough, and that's where most players make their mistake.

I know that you are told over and over that, for most shots, you want to lean the shaft forward at impact. The key words here are FOR MOST SHOTS. That simply doesn't work for a sand shot! If you lean the shaft forward, the front edge of the wedge will hit the sand first even if you open the face. You absolutely do NOT want to lean the shaft forward.

That requires an adjustment to your address setup.

To get the shaft vertical or even leaning backward a bit at address, you want the butt end of the shaft to point at your belly button at address. And if you set up with the shaft vertical and pointing at your belly button -- without the ball, just take the position -- you'll quickly realize that the ball has to be moved FORWARD in your stance. In fact, since you want to hit the sand behind the ball and not the ball itself, you need to set up so the ball is maybe two to four inches ahead of the clubface.

Yes, I know that sounds like a sure recipe for a thin skulled shot, but it isn't. Remember, you're hitting the sand first and letting the clubhead slide underneath the sand. It's the sand being moved by the clubhead that throws the ball out of the bunker.

There's one other thing you need to do. Most players set up with their stance a bit open, and that's so they don't hit the ball with the hosel of the club. Remember, you've opened the clubface so the available area of the face is narrower than when the face is square. From an open setup, you can set up to hit the ball in the center of the clubface like a normal shot.

But you can also hit the ball from a square setup. To do that, you need to stand a bit farther from the ball, so the ball is closer to the toe than to the middle of the clubface. Again, remember that you only have to hit the sand behind the ball, not the ball itself. You'll move plenty of sand to get the ball up in the air cleanly.

So remember, to get the ball out of the sand:
  • Open the clubface so the back of the sole hits the sand first.
  • Set up with the shaft vertical, aimed at your belly button, so the shaft isn't leaning forward at address.
  • Position yourself so the ball is two to four inches ahead of the clubface, to make sure you don't lean the shaft forward at impact.
  • And stand a bit farther from the ball so it's a little nearer to the toe of the club, so you won't hit the ball with the hosel.
It's going to look a bit weird at first, but you'll be surprised at how quickly you can get used to it once that ball starts popping out of the sand and onto the green.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The LPGA on TUESDAY???

Alas, 'tis true. The Blue Bay LPGA is a Wednesday-Saturday event but, with the time difference, we get to watch it tonight.

Defending champion Shanshan Feng

As you no doubt expected, Tony Jesselli has a good preview of the event at his blog (as he usually does for all LPGA events). Shanshan Feng is the defending champion and, as this is a 'home' event for her, she'll be trying to get her first win of the season right here.

Tony noted in his preview that this event doesn't have a particularly strong field, with only 19 of the Rolex Top50 playing this week. (And of that 19, only four are Americans.) I think it's easy to understand why. There's a 13 hour time difference between Hainan Island, China and Naples, Florida, the site of the LPGA's final event next week. I suspect most of the players simply don't want to hit the Tour Championship with that much jet lag.

All of which means that this week's event should provide more chances for the players still struggling to secure their cards or just pick up a win. It won't be easy because there will still be some serious firepower in the field, like Ariya Jutanugarn and Sung Hyun Park. Still, the odds have got to be better against 19 Top50 players than against all 50 of them!

For me, Ariya and Shanshan are the big stories. Ariya has already locked up the LPGA's POY Award and Shanshan, as I said, is still looking for her first win in 2018.

GC will be carrying the event live tonight, but with split coverage. You can catch the first hour of the Blue Bay LPGA at 10pm ET on GC's golf app, then pick up the coverage on GC proper at 11pm ET. This event always provides some excitement, so I look for it to live up to expectations.

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Limerick Summary: 2018 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

Winner: Bryson DeChambeau

Around the wider world of golf: Nasa Hataoka picked up her second LPGA win at the TOTO Japan Classic; Justin Rose successfully defended his title (and regained the OWGR #1 spot) with a win at the Turkish Airlines Open on the ET; and Shaun Norris won the HEIWA PGM Championship on the Japan Golf Tour.

Bryson DeChambeau holds the Shriners trophy

A lot of folks tease Bryson DeChambeau for his "scientific approach" to the game, but the laughter is starting to sound a bit strained.

Yeah, I know he had a bad Ryder Cup. (It was sort of a thing for the US team. I'd rather not talk about it.) But the Golf Machine has now won three of his last five tournament starts, and he's three-for-three when holding at least a share of the 54-hole lead. It's his fifth win in just 68 starts. And there are some pretty strong wins in there, with two of them being FedExCup Playoff events and another at Jack's Place. That's no laughing matter.

Not only did Bryson chalk up his fourth win this year, but he'll rise to OWGR #5 this week. And while I don't think he'll continue to win at this rate indefinitely, he's certainly proving that he intends to remain part of the conversation about the best young players.

And if he keeps this up, we may soon hear the AJGA players talking about the COR of flagsticks.

But I must say... if he keeps this up, it may become a bit hard to keep coming up with new material for these Limerick Summaries. Still, I was pretty good at math and physics in school, so I do enjoy a challenge!
The Golf Machine’s fourth win this year
Announced to the field, loud and clear,
That he’s going nowhere.
They’ll be pulling out hair
If they’re hoping he’ll just disappear!
The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

[UPDATE: It wasn't until I started doing the RGWR for this week that I realized Bryson actually has FOUR wins this year. As a result, I've corrected this post and the Limerick Summary. Sorry, Bryson -- didn't mean to cheat you out of a win!]

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Fred Griffin on Long Lag Putts (Video)

GCA coach Fred Griffin did this slide presentation on how to hit long lag putts -- and I do mean long, as he talks about 30-100 foot putts!



Griffin emphasizes that you want to hit your putts with a long smooth swing rather than trying for a short quick "acceleration" (which is just another way of saying you jerk the putter to start your downswing). I've talked about that plenty of times, both in this blog and in my Ruthless Putting book, so I won't belabor that here.

But Griffin's thoughts on how long a lag putting stroke should be are very interesting. (For those of you using the metric system, a meter is about 39 inches or just over a yard. Bear that in mind as you read the rest of this post.)

Griffin says that his research shows you need a backswing that's about 15 inches long (roughly half a meter) to hit a 30-foot putt. Obviously that figure depends on the speed of your greens -- it'll be longer for slow greens and shorter for fast greens. Still, it gives you a baseline from which to begin your practice.

He also says that a 100-foot putt requires a backswing about three feet (36 inches or roughly a meter) long. Think about this for a moment. The putt is over three times as long, but the backstroke is only a bit more than twice as long. It's not a direct ratio -- you don't just say, "oh, this putt is twice is long so I make a swing twice as long." That's why you need to practice your lag putting; it really is a matter of feel.

But he says something else that I think may be more helpful for many of you. He says that hitting a 100-foot lag putt is about the same as hitting a 30-yard pitch shot. While he's using this example to encourage you to use your hips and shoulders more during the stroke, I think it's a great place to start your lag putting practice.

Thirty yards is 90 feet. If you've been practicing your chipping and putting -- which you should, because it's a great way to lower your scores -- then using your pitching and chipping stroke as a basis for lag putts of the same distance is a great place to start. If you have a 50-foot lag putt, that's about the same as a 16- or 17-yard pitch (roughly 15 meters). Start your practice by using that length stroke for your lag putt and see how close you get to the hole. You can adjust from there.

Starting with your pitching swing for a similar distance should help you lag putt the ball closer to the hole with less guesswork. And any time you can make practice in one area of your game do double duty to improve other parts of your game is a winning strategy!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Some Thoughts on Golf, Love and Money

Near the end of the movie Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius, there's a scene where Jones (James Caviezel) is asked what's wrong with him that he isn't taking money from sponsors yet.

And Jones responds that the word amateur comes from the Latin word for love and that once you start taking money for something, it's not love anymore. Then O.B. Keeler (Malcolm McDowell) adds that money is going to ruin sports.

You might make an argument for Keeler's thoughts, but I think the movie Jones is completely wrong. And if that's what the real Jones really believed, I'd have to call him a hypocrite.

Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones

I got to thinking about this today when Phil posted a link on Facebook to a Golf Digest article called There's a Class Divide in Junior Golf and We're on the Wrong Side of It. The article's subtitle says it all:
Golf should be a meritocracy, but it's hard not to feel like certain kids are granted a head start.
It details one family's problems financing their teenage daughter's attempts to play amateur golf. It talks about how the kids whose parents had money to spare had access to so many more instructors, equipment (the occasional TrackMan was mentioned), playing opportunities and even college offers. It also detailed how the lack of opportunities compared to those more privileged kids threatened their daughter's dreams, how despair took its toll on her.

Ironically, she has continued to play because of two things. Her father struggled with similar problems growing up, so he has been able to give her some perspective.

The other reason is that, despite all the monetary barriers in her way, she continues to chase her dream because she loves the game.

You might think that's backwards of what Jones is saying in the movie. Jones says that taking money kills love, while I'm saying that being barred from money can kill love. But you're misunderstanding my point.

See, if money kills your love for golf (or anything for that matter) then you didn't really love it in the first place -- you loved the money you thought it would bring you. And i repeat, if the real Jones really did believe what his character says in the movie, I would call him a hypocrite. After all, Jones came from a family of lawyers and businessmen, who could afford to send him to college for not one but TWO degrees -- and just the law degree would have cost a fortune! Jones never had to worry about the money necessary to travel across country or overseas to play in amateur events.

The movie Jones could talk about how horrible money was because he had all the money he wanted. To say that being an amateur made him better than those who took money for playing makes him a hypocrite. And if that's how the real Jones felt... well, I would think less of him because he had no room to talk. He didn't know what it was like for a REAL amateur, who typically has little money to finance his or her love of the game.

There's a Bible verse that gets misquoted all the time. It's 1 Timothy 6:10. People think it says that money is the root of all evil, but what it actually says is "the love of money is the root of all evil." There are people who have a great deal of money but it doesn't have a hold on them, and there are people who have only a little but it rules their lives.

Money isn't the problem for us. It's how we feel about money, how much money controls us. We hear older players talk about how Bernhard Langer remains driven to succeed at golf while they don't. The reason is simple: Bernhard still loves the game more than the money.

The problem today isn't that money steals an amateur's love for golf. The problem is that money has become such a huge barrier to indulging our love for golf that only the rich or the pros can really afford it. It isn't the amateurs who are raising that barrier; rather, it's the people who stand to make the most money off of them.

And until that problem is removed, golf will never be what we all think it should be.

End of rant.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Pia Nillson and Lynn Marriott on Playing in the Wind

Since In-Kyung Kim is doing so well at the TOTO Japan Classic (she's leading as I write this), I thought it might be helpful to see what she works on. This Golf Digest article with Pia and Lynn talks about one of her keys from 2017 -- playing in the wind.

In-Kyung Kim lines up a putt

Lynn Marriott said that, after an injury derailed part of her season, I.K. began focusing on what Lynn calls "the 'human skills' necessary to play satisfying golf."

In the article Pia says:
"It's very important and helpful to be OK with 'good enough' shots -- even if they're a little short, right or left."
And Lynn added that:
...mindset -- always an important component in putting -- becomes even bigger when dealing with windy conditions.
So often we talk about the mental side of golf as if it were some kind of magical hypnosis, where we convince ourselves that we can do something that we aren't really confident about. But what the founders of Vision54 are talking about is something much simpler -- that is, just allowing ourselves to be human and not expecting perfection.

In golf, 'good enough' is often a very good shot indeed!

I'm afraid we've been brainwashed by the unrealistic standards the pros often set for themselves. We see them hitting shots that most of us would pay for, then throwing clubs and berating themselves because the ball landed three feet farther from the hole that they wanted. A judgmental attitude like that isn't conducive to good golf; it causes players to wreck their bodies with too much practice, which won't solve the problem anyway simply because they're human.

And while the pros may delude themselves into believing perfection is possible, the average golfer can't put in the ridiculous amount of practice necessary to make such a foolish goal seem plausible. That's especially true in the wind, where luck can play as much -- perhaps more -- a part as skill does. Your evaluation of your shot should more often follow Pia's guideline:
Did you get a usable result from your efforts?
If you can answer 'yes,' then perhaps you should appreciate what you've done. If you do, you'll probably play better in the wind while also taking more enjoyment from your game.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Auburn and USC Win the East Lake Cup, But...

In the men's competition, Auburn beat Alabama and, in the women's competition, USC beat Stanford. (Yes, those are links to the GC summaries of the events.) Congrats to the champs!

Golfweek photo

For the winners, this may seem to be a case of deja vu. USC won this event last year against Stanford, and Auburn beat Alabama in the SEC Championships earlier this year. Auburn won 4-1 and USC won 3-2. I don't think is so unusual, as both winning teams have largely the same personnel as they did in their previous wins.

What I find more interesting about this event is the controversial attention the LPGA Q-Series received. (And yes, that's a link to another GC article. When you already have thorough summaries, why re-invent the wheel?) As you probably know, the Alabama women's team wasn't at full strength because their two top players were competing in the Q-Series, having received exemptions from the LPGA. Bear in mind that the LPGA exemptions are "generic," in the sense that they are given to the Top5 college players, whoever they may be, as opposed to specific players asking for an exemption.

In this case, Alabama had the 3rd and 4th ranked players -- Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman -- and their trips to the Q-Series basically decimated the team that went to East Lake. I don't mean that as an insult to the players who competed at East Lake but, even in the pro ranks, the Top4 or Top5 players are generally a step above everyone else.

I'll be interested to see what the fallout from this "publicity" finally is. The colleges and the LPGA have generally gotten along pretty well but this could cause some serious friction, depending on what comes of it.