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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Dale Abraham on Reading the Rough

I found this short article over at golftipsmag.com on how to read your lie in the rough and make the proper adjustments.

Two balls, one sitting down in the rough and one on top

Although the article is short, PGA instructor Dale Abraham tells you what questions you need to ask in order to read a lie in the rough and then explains what sort of adjustments you need to make, as well as how those adjustments will affect the ball flight.

Because the article is so short and yet has several photos to illustrate what he tells you, there's really not a lot I can reprint from the article without reprinting the whole thing. Basically:
  • If the ball is on top of the rough you can usually take your normal setup and expect to get a normal shot.
  • If the ball has settled down into the rough, your normal setup will likely result in a topped shot. You'll need to make adjustments.
The two balls shown in the photo above are his examples, and he provides photos (with explanations) showing how you adjust your setup and how the changes will affect your swing.

This is a remarkably informative and helpful article, especially given how short it is. I suspect you'll not only want to read it but also save the page in your browser for future reference. It really communicates a lot of useful instruction in just a few paragraphs.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Twofer Tuesday: Charles Schwab Challenge

In 2017 it was the Dean & DeLuca Invitational; in 2018, the Fort Worth Invitational; this year, the Charles Schwab Challenge. But you know the venue -- the legendary Colonial Country Club.

Defending champion Justin Rose

This event is an invitational with a limited field of 120. The defending champion Justin Rose is in the field, but the runner-up -- some unknown named Koepka -- is taking the week off this year. Big surprise, huh?

Colonial itself is a par-70 measuring just over 7200 yards and its main defense is the Texas wind, expected to be around 15mph this week. It's one of the courses bearing the moniker "Hogan's Alley" because Hogan won here a total of five times. And it has the record for being the longest-running host course at any non-major, having done so since 1946.

In other words, this course is a known quantity for anybody who's ever played it. Familiarity with the layout is no problem.

However, after a tough week at the Black, I'm not sure how anybody is going to play. The guys coming from the PGA may very well be gassed while the pros who didn't play last week may find their games a bit rusty for a course that tends to favor good ballstrikers. So I'm going to throw caution to the wind, throw the dice and just hope for the best.
  • For my Top10er I'm taking Graeme McDowell. He doesn't play here very often and, in his last visit (2017) he finished T29. But the Irishman has a win this season and after a T29 last week (+5) Colonial will probably look like a relaxing resort course. Plus, with the Open Championship in his sights I think he'll be motivated to improve his current OWGR position of 115.
  • And for my winner I'm taking Jordan Spieth. I know, one good T3 finish doesn't mean he's ready to win yet. But that T3 came at the Black, and he showed signs that he's beginning to just play shots instead of micromanaging them. Like Graeme, I think he'll find Colonial to be a welcome change. And this is almost a home game for the Texas boy, so why wouldn't he?
After all the excitement of last week -- and the relief that they won't have to face down the four-time major winner in back-to-back weeks -- I'm thinking these two may relax a bit and just play golf. If they do that, they could both do some serious damage to the field.

GC starts their coverage at 4pm ET on Thursday while PGA TOUR LIVE starts streaming at 8am ET. It should be quite interesting to see how the field recuperates from the thrashing Brooks gave them last week!

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 PGA Championship

Winner: Brooks Koepka

Around the wider world of golf: Robby Shelton won the Knoxville Open on the Web.com Tour; Evan Harmeling won the BMW Jamaica Classic on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Luke Kwon won the Qinhuangdao Championship on the PGA TOUR China; Helen Alfredsson won the US Senior Women’s Open Championship on the LPGA Legends Tour; Leona Maguire won the Symetra Classic on the Symetra Tour; Céline Herbin won the La Reserva de Sotogrande Invitational on the LET; and Seong-Hyeon Kim won the HEIWA PGM Challenge on the AbemaTV Tour (that's part of the Japan Golf Tour).

A tired Brooks Koepka with the Wanamaker trophy

Well, my Tuesday Twofer picks did better this week. I picked Jon Rahm (MC) to win and Dustin Johnson (2) to Top10. I had such a strong gut feeling about Rahmbo when the week started; apparently it was only indigestion. But DJ lived up to expectations and even had a chance to win.
  • Winners: 2 for20
  • Place well (Top10): 11 for 20 (6 Top5 finish, 5 more Top10s)
  • Overall Top10s: 21 of 40 (11 Top5s, 10 more Top10s)
In the end, though, the story was about Bethpage Black. After a few days of slumber the old girl woke up, shook the sleep out of her eyes and began to terrorize the poor mortals who had dared to challenge her.

Even the hero of the script, Brooks Koepka, wasn't immune to her rage. After three days of setting records and humiliating the rest of the field, Brooks learned he wouldn't escape without a fight. On Sunday the Black began stealing back all the strokes he had stolen from her, even putting his victory in jeopardy.

And to whom did she offer it? Why, Dustin Johnson, of course! Had DJ simply managed to go -1 on the last three holes he could have forced a playoff.

But the Black was merely toying with him, it seems. In the end, all Brooks needed was a hard-won bogey on the final hole to defend his title and become the first player ever to defend two titles and hold their trophies at the same time -- in this case, the PGA and the US Open.

Now all eyes will be on him at Pebble. Can he possibly pick up a third US Open in a row? Perhaps the better question is... can anybody possibly stop him?

As of today, the answer is in doubt.

Brooks has broken too many records for me to list here, and he may break more before the year is out. All I know is that he made Brandel Chamblee eat his words -- the photo came from a golfchannel.com article citing Brandel's admission of defeat -- and he challenged me to make him a suitable Limerick Summary. I think I did a decent job. Do you?
His back-to-back majors made history.
His length off the tee and his wizardry
‘Round the greens is so strong
That, unless Brooks goes wrong,
How another might win is a mystery.
The photo came from this page at golfchannel.com.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Brandel Chamblee on Triggering Your Backswing

I guess everybody knows that Brandel Chamblee has written some books on what you might call the "historical mechanics" of the game. Probably the best-known of them is The Anatomy of Greatness, which focuses on the full swing.

The Anatomy of Greatness book coverToday I've got a short quote from that book (well, three paragraphs) that focus on how you trigger your backswing. You need to understand that we aren't really talking about how you move into your backswing. Rather, we're looking at how you prepare to move into your backswing.

That may sound a bit strange. Let me put that another way.

Your backswing is a reaction to movements you make before starting your backswing. Think about using a slingshot -- you don't just lift up the slingshot and expect it to shoot without any effort from you! First you have to stretch the rubber band to put some energy into it. Then, when you let go of the rubber band, that energy is released and the ammo is fired.

This triggering action that Brandel is talking about is the equivalent of stretching the rubber band. Here's what he says about it:
Unlike many other sports in which the athlete reacts to a ball in motion, the golfer must initiate all movement, and before the ball moves -- before the club moves -- the player must.

Almost without exception, going back to the earliest days of this game, the best professional golfers have written about the importance of the movement of the body that precedes the swing, to stave off tension. Some have waggled the club, like Ben Hogan, who famously wrote on the subject, while others like Bobby Jones and Lee Trevino took a few steps as they addressed the ball to kick-start their swings. Still others like Gary Player and Mickey Writght talked of using a forward press to initiate, as much by rebound, the beginning of the backswing. Jack Nicklaus and Sam Snead both used a combination of the forward press of their bodies, though it was more pronounced in Sam, and a turning of their heads to the right to serve as a preamble to their move away from the ball.

Perhaps one of the most ruinous trends in professional and amateur golf alike is the death of what Hogan called "the bridge" between the setup and the backswing. As the game's teaching has become more and more complex and microscopic in nature, players of all abilities have become frozen in thought over the ball and, it seems, have lost sight of the fact that the goal is to move in as big a circle as possible, as fast as possible, as smoothly as possible -- and none of those three things can be accomplished as easily without being relaxed as the swing begins. [p71]
Now you might wonder why I chose that section for this post. It's because it addresses a common misconception about triggering the backswing.

There's more than one way to get your backswing in motion!

Look at the number of ways Brandel mentions. You can start your backswing by:
  • Waggling the club. At the very least, you've seen Jason Dufner do it, so that should be self-explanatory.
  • Stepping into the swing. Those steps can be walking up and stepping into your stance, or shuffling your feet around after you take your stance.
  • Making a forward press. That's where you start with your weight pretty even on both feet, then you shift your weight onto your lead foot and use the motion of moving back to an even split to start your backswing. Think of it as a rocking motion toward and then away from the target.
  • Combining a forward press with turning your head away from the target. That's a sequential move, of course; you rock forward, then turn your head as you rock back.
There may be more ways to do it, but Brandel has named four in this short quote. It's likely that at least one of them will work for you, helping you relax and make a smooth start to your backswing. A little experimentation might help you swing with a lot less tension... and a lot more speed and accuracy.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Koepka Show Just Keeps On Rolling...

...and I'm in complete shock at how many big name players missed the cut.

Brooks at Bethpage on Friday

How many records did Brooks set, anyway? I know he set a new 36-hole record (128) and a new record lead for the event (7 strokes, the next closest being 5 strokes back in the Dark Ages).

And what players are seven strokes back? Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott, who have both struggled with their games of late, are the closest big names. Dustin Johnson is eight back and Justin Rose is nine back. It's not until we go ten back (-2) that we find a larger number of "the usual suspects."

I at least understand Tiger missing the cut. I know that, after I've been through a very stressful period, it's when things finally look up and I can relax that I usually get sick. After all the physical problems Tiger has had, capped by the breakthrough at Augusta last month, I'm not surprised that he finally got sick.

As for the rest of the field, I can't help but wonder if this isn't an unexpected side-effect of the new Tour schedule. This is the first year players have had to deal with five majors (and at least as many other big events) in a four-month period. And after that, they'll have the FedExCup to deal with. Players simply haven't figured out how much to play in order to be ready for the Big Five without wearing themselves out.

Reps or rest? It's a puzzle that will probably stump the pros for a while yet. But I think that's the most likely explanation for what we're seeing this week, and I don't know how long it's going to take for them to figure it out. In the meantime, this season might offer some opportunities for those pros who would normally only dream of a major.

Unless Brooks has anything to say about it, that is, He's a greedy fellow!

Friday, May 17, 2019

How Arnold Palmer Got His Distance (Video)

During Live From... last night Brandel Chamblee talked about how Danny Lee successfully got more length without losing his swing the way many players have. He talked about how using your knees creates this extra clubhead speed.

Arnold Palmer used basically the same technique during his career. The main thing he did differently from what Brandel described is that he started the process with his trailing knee straight instead of bent. Otherwise it's the same sequence.

I originally posted this video back in 2014. It explains the basics of the Palmer swing.



In Brandel's explanation he focused on the up and down movement. In my original post I included a couple of photos with vertical lines to help explain the lack of sideways movement that keeps you steady over the ball for solid contact.

When it comes to modern swing analysis, we're learning that the old techniques are new again. You can still learn a lot from the legends of the game.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

REMINDER: The PGA's on TNT

Because it's easy to forget. TNT's coverage starts today at 1pm ET.

2019 PGA Championship logo

And if you want to spend the whole day streaming, PGA.com coverage starts at 8am ET.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Tips for Playing in the Rain (Video)

This is an older Morning Drive video (you can tell because Holly Sonders is in it) but the advice is still good. With all the rain we've had lately, tips on playing in wet weather could be really useful!



I'm not going to list everything in the video -- if I did, why would I bother with the video? -- but I do want to mention a few things that stand out to me.

Paige's suggestion about using rain gloves is something that most people don't even think about. The gloves grip better when they're wet, so you don't even need to worry about drying your grips. That's one less thing to think about when you're out in less-than-pleasurable weather.

Charlie's tip about using a gallon-size plastic baggie to keep your phone, watch and wallet dry is another of those "well, duh" suggestions that is so simple we never think of it.

The last one is Paige's thought about casual water. While most of us realize that wet greens are slower than dry greens, have you ever realized that greens with casual water are even slower than merely wet greens? That could save you some three-putts.

Watch the whole video to get all the tips. These are just the ones that stood out most to me.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Twofer Tuesday: PGA Championship

First, congrats to Steve Stricker on his first-ever major, the Regions Tradition on the Champions Tour. Stricks started the last round with a two-stroke lead and won with a six-stroke lead. That just might give him enough confidence to finally get a PGA Tour major at the PGA. Maybe.

But it doesn't get him a Twofer Tuesday pick. Sorry, Stricks.

Defending PGA champ Brooks Koepka

The PGA Championship will be played at Bethpage Black (here's a video guide to all 18 holes) and the defending champion is Brooks Koepka. In a way I feel sorry for Brooks because, with the restructuring of the Tour season, he hasn't even had a full year to enjoy his win. That's a bit of a bummer in my opinion. Just because you won two majors last year is no guarantee you'll get another this year, let alone defend one you just won.

However you feel about that, it brings us to the purpose of this Twofer Tuesday, which is me picking a winner and a Top10er for the PGA Championship. Last year I was just picking five players that I thought the winner would come from, which was a lot easier -- although, admittedly, my record wasn't all that good. But at least I felt like I had a better chance.

And the weather hasn't made it any easier. The recent rains have really opened up the scoring possibilities at the Black, since shorter hitters can get their longer shots to hold on the softer greens. But does that mean I'm taking some shorter hitters?

Not necessarily.
  • My Top10 pick is Dustin Johnson. I guess this is my "DJ or Brooks?" pick since it's hard to make a pick this week without taking one of the two. If I was picking five players like last year, I'd have both men in my picks but, since I'm not, I'm taking DJ over Brooks. While there's been a lot of talk about Brooks feeling slighted, I think DJ is probably feeling it as well. Don't you think he's tired of hearing how Brooks has three majors and he has only one? I do, and I also think he's in better form than Brooks. They may have tied for second at Augusta but, in my opinion, that T2 was a better indication of where DJ is than where Brooks is.
  • My pick to win is a bit outside the box though. I'm loving me some Rahmbo this week! While Jon Rahm is a bit down the list for most fans -- and I've heard few analysts pick him -- I like the way Rahm is playing. While it's easy to discount the team win with Ryan Palmer, Rahm has more Top10s this season (8 in 12 events) than anyone but McIlroy (8 in 10 events). If he continues to channel his emotions as effectively as he has so far this season, I like his chances to break through at the Black.
For the record, I would finish out my old "5 to Watch" picks with Tiger and Tony Finau. Tiger has played well in the last three majors, and Tony seems to be learning what he needs to know very quickly.

The big thing you need to remember this week is that TNT and CBS are sharing the coverage this week. TNT's coverage begins Thursday at 1pm ET and PGA.com begins streaming coverage at 8am ET. Let the battle begin!

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 AT&T Byron Nelson

Winner: Sung Kang

Around the wider world of golf: Marcus Kinhult got his first ET title at the Betfred British Masters; Michael Gellerman won the KC Golf Classic on the Web.com Tour; Richard Jung won the Beijing Championship on the PGA TOUR China; Maria Parra won the IOA Invitational on the Symetra Tour; and the Champions Tour will need one more day to determine the winner of the Regions Tradition.

Sung Kang with AT&T Byron Nelson trophy

My Tuesday Twofer picks struggled this week. I picked Pat Perez (T12) to win and Charles Howell III (WD) to Top10. Perez did put on a run Sunday but was unable to make up enough ground, finishing just outside the Top10. Howell WD'ed after ten holes Thursday, presumable from a back injury (he wouldn't have been the only one).
  • Winners: 2 for 19
  • Place well (Top10): 10 for 19 (5 Top5 finish, 5 more Top10s)
  • Overall Top10s: 20 of 38 (10 Top5s, 10 more Top10s)
Sung Kang didn't WD, however. In fact, the 61 he shot Friday and Saturday during all the delays probably won the event for him; I think it was the low round of the week. It gave him a buffer that neither Scott Piercy nor Matt Every, both of whom had amazing weekends, were able to make up.

Of the two, only Every was really close enough to give Kang a run... and he certainly tried. I didn't hear much of the action on Sunday -- our TV coverage was largely consumed by tornado watches, caused by the front that terrorized this event and the Champions Tour event this weekend. But I was able to tell that Every would take the lead, then fall back, then retake the lead, then fall back... until Kang went on that birdie tear from 14 thru 16.

This week was good news for Kang in more ways than one, though. Not only did he get his first PGA Tour win, he also got a berth in next week's PGA Championship AND his first Limerick Summary. Of course, we all know which one of those was the most important, don't we?
Lord Byron could not stop the rain
Nor the lightning, but neither stopped Kang—
And neither did Every!
Now… will Kang’s reverie
Lead him to PGA fame?
The photo came from this page at golfchannel.com.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Tim Mahoney on the Correct Ball Position for Drives (Video)

I talk about ball position a lot. This video from Troon Golf instructor Tim Mahoney is yet another of my attempts to make sure you pay attention to it!



The basic principle is this:
  • If the ball is too far back in your stance, you'll tend to hit it with the face open.
  • If the ball is too far forward in your stance, you'll tend to hit it with the face closed.
Notice that I didn't say playing the ball back causes a fade and playing it forward causes a draw. You may find that to be true, but it depends on how you use your hands during your swing and how you align yourself to the shot. For example, if you have very active hands at impact, a "back" position might give you a draw and a "forward" position would give you a duck hook.

You'll need to experiment a little to find out how ball position affects your game. But as a general rule, if you struggle with a slice you should try moving the ball forward first. And if you struggle with a hook you should try moving the ball back first. That's good advice from Mahoney.

However, I'm going to take slight issue with his statement that the correct ball position is always two inches inside your lead heel. I agree that's a good place to begin experimenting with ball position FOR A DRIVE, but there are too many different swings out there for only one position to work. If everybody needed the same ball position, then ball position wouldn't be an issue!

Also, bear in mind that in special driving situations you'll need to change the ball position. For example, if you want to hit a low stinger, you'll probably need to move the ball back a bit in your stance and tee it lower.

I write about ball position a lot because it can make or break an otherwise good swing. Take some time to practice with the ball in different positions so you can learn where you get the best results. And once you find them, write them down so you'll remember them! Proper address position can knock strokes off your score faster than almost any other change you can make.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Hole-by-Hole Tour of Bethpage (Video)

Ron Whitten from Golf Digest did this video just a few days back to help you get reacquainted with Bethpage. Since it's a longer video (nearly nine minutes) I thought I'd put it up early so you'd have time to take a look.



Most of us fans don't get to see Bethpage Black more than once every few years -- this is only the fourth time it's hosted a PGA Tour event -- so hopefully this refresher video will help you get prepared to enjoy next week's PGA Championship.

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Basics of Side-Saddle Putting

I am not a side-saddle putter. To be honest, I don't even try to use the technique because I don't feel comfortable with it. But I found this recent article over at the Golf Tips Mag site and was impressed by how thorough it is. PGA teacher Dr. Gerald Walford has clearly learned the ins and outs of this technique.

Side-saddle putting with a long putterI'm not even going to try and summarize this technique. Dr. Walford has written a fascinating four-page article, complete with charts and photos, that documents all the things he has learned in the process of using this method.

I will point out that he says a short putter is inadequate for this style of putting -- you need a long putter to make it work well. He talks about how the equipment needs to be set up, and even how take a short putter and properly lengthen the different types of shafts you might run into.

And when he discusses the mental approach you need, he includes all kinds of data to help you develop realistic expectations.

As I said earlier, I've never felt comfortable using this method, so I'm not the right one to try and explain it. But this is, by far, the best explanation of what's involved in the method of side-saddle putting, the mental approach to the method, and how to adjust your equipment for the method that I have ever read.

If you're interested in side-saddle putting, I think this article is required reading.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The First Champions Major Is Up...

The Champions Tour finally gets its major season underway with the Regions Tradition.

Defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez

Not only is Miguel Angel Jimenez defending at the Tradition this week, but his win last year was his first Champions Tour major. In fact, it was his first major, period. (Hard to believe, isn't it?)

The Tradition is played on the Founders Course at the Greystone Golf & Country Club, which is a par-72 course that can play nearly 7300 yards from the tips. This is the event's fourth year at this venue; Bernhard Langer both won the 2016 and 2017 editions.

Of course, the big question is whether Langer can make it three out of four. His finishes this year, while not as dominant as some might have expected, are still better than most -- T3, 1, T2, T5, T14 and T15. He leads the Schwab Cup standings going into this week but Scott McCarron (#2 in the Schwab race) has two wins and a lot of Top5s. Jimenez has only one Top5 -- admittedly, that's a win -- but it could be tough going against those two juggernauts.

Still, those are the three top picks in the PGATOUR.com power rankings, so we could be looking at a pretty exciting weekend as Jimenez tries to defend.

The Regions Tradition gets underway today on GC at noon ET. Better get your popcorn ready!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Martin Chuck on the Hand-Controlled Pivot (Video)

Martin Chuck did this video for Revolution Golf that teaches some classic swing technique, focusing on using your hands and arms more. It's about five-and-a-half minutes long but it's a good watch -- especially if you struggle to use your legs because of age or flexibility.



The key points from this video are very simple.
  • Narrow your stance so it's easier to turn your shoulders.
  • Bend your trailing elbow on the backswing and don't straighten it until after the ball is gone.
Super simple, right? When you first start doing it, I think you'll find that you need to swing a bit slower until you get the hang of the rhythm. Once you've got it, you can swing as fast as you can control it.

Don't make the mistake of thinking you don't use your legs. YOU DO. It's just that you don't drive your legs with the idea of dragging your hands through impact -- that's what he means when he talks about "pivot-driven hands." In that method, the lower body creates a hitting motion.

With the "hand-driven pivot" he's talking about, your lower body definitely does move and add momentum to your swing. But in this method of swinging your lower body doesn't start the downswing as violently. Rather, the lower body action supports the swinging motion while your hands and arms create the swing.

In both cases, the lower body initiates the swing. That's simple physics. But in the "hand-driven pivot" the hands are consciously used to create speed, while "pivot-driven hands" feel as if they are just responding to the leg action.

For many of you, this method will make it easier to square up the clubface at impact. In fact, this method feels much closer to a pitching motion, the way John Smoltz described it in my Sunday post.

Personally, I think this is the more natural way to swing and, once you get used to the rhythm of the swing, I think you'll find it much easier to repeat consistently. But even if you don't adopt it as your regular swing, doing some range work with it as a drill should help your swing become smoother and more rhythmic.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Twofer Tuesday: Byron Nelson

My weekly ritual continues. It's time to make my picks for the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Defending champion Aaron Wise

The Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas TX is a par-71 course that plays to just over 7370 yards. Although that sounds daunting, Trinity's only real defense is the winds, and if they don't show up...

Let's just say that scores are usually pretty good there.

Aaron Wise is the defending champion this week. Wise is defending his first PGA Tour victory and will be the favorite for a lot of fantasy players this week. Not for me, though -- there are too many good players in the field who are in better form going in.

I'm not sure I've picked any of those, however. I guess we'll find out soon enough.
  • My Top10 pick this week is Charles Howell III. He finished T9 at the event last year, and he's played okay this season, although he's missed his last two cuts. But it's amazing how coming to a familiar track, one where you've played well, can quickly turn your game around. I'm hoping he'll get that boost this week.
  • And for my winner I'm taking Pat Perez. Yeah, this pick is a bit off the map because he's coming back from a calf injury. Last week at the Wells Fargo he was in the mix until a final round 74 dropped him to a T8 finish. But Pat has a tendency to play some of his best golf when he's on the comeback road -- perhaps because he feels less pressure to perform -- so I'm thinking Trinity may be a good track for him this week.
My gut feeling is that we'll see an unexpected winner this week, so I'm not going with any of the big names. I suspect they'll have their minds on next week's major... and this isn't a particularly good track to prepare for Bethpage.

GC's official coverage begins at 3:30pm ET on Thursday (the PreGame will likely begin earlier) while PGA TOUR LIVE begins at 8am ET.

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 Wells Fargo Championship

Winner: Max Homa

Around the wider world of golf: Sei Young Kim won the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship; Mikko Korhonen won the Volvo China Open on the ET; Scott McCarron won the Insperity Invitational on the Champions Tour; Robby Shelton won the Nashville Golf Open on the Web.com Tour; Cristóbal Del Solar won the Puerto Plata Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Katsumasa Miyamoto won The Crowns on the Japan Golf Tour; Taehee Lee won the GS Caltex Maekyung Open Golf Championship on the Asian Tour; and Nuria Iturrios won back-to-back tournaments, winning this week at the OMEGA Dubai Moonlight Classic on the LET.

Max Homa hoists the Wells Fargo trophy

My Tuesday Twofer picks did a bit better this week. I picked Rickie Fowler (T4) to win and Rory McIlroy (T8) to Top10. Rickie put on a run, albeit too late, but Rory continued to struggle on Sundays -- which is why I didn't pick him to win. Hopefully both players will get things figured out soon.
  • Winners: 2 for 18
  • Place well (Top10): 10 for 18 (5 Top5 finish, 5 more Top10s)
  • Overall Top10s: 20 of 36 (10 Top5s, 10 more Top10s)
But I confess that the Wells Fargo, despite being just a couple of hours from my home, wasn't my first concern this Sunday. Within minutes of the suspension of play due to lightning, I was on my way to watch Avengers:Endgame with friends. (Spoiler alert: The Avangers won.) But Max Homa had a three-stroke lead when I left, and I felt pretty good about his chances.

After all, despite how rarely he's had a chance like this on the PGA Tour, he showed no inclination to start going backward. And but for a bogey on 16 -- highly understandable, given the Green Mile -- he did just what I expected.

Plus he did it without Infinity Stones or a gauntlet. Pretty impressive, if you ask me.

Lightning delays have been far too frequent on all the tours lately, and the fact that Max dealt with them so professionally bodes well for him going forward. In fact, now that he's in the PGA Championship, I can't help but wonder if lightning might strike twice for the newest PGA Tour winner.

At any rate, Limerick Summaries carry no danger of lightning strikes, so there will be no delay getting it ready for him. In fact, here it is, right now!
In his battle for first, down the stretch
At Quail Hollow, Max still wasn’t vexed
When a lightning delay
Caused a stoppage of play—
Now, could Bethpage be where he strikes next?
The photo came from this page at newsok.com.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

John Smoltz Compares the Golf Swing and Pitching (Video)

I think this is interesting. Smoltz says that most of the comparisons are mental, such as being target-oriented. But he makes a comparison that you rarely hear instructors make.



The idea that you shouldn't shift your weight so far forward is contrary to most instruction. Yet it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. While you don't want to make a reverse pivot, it's far too easy to overdo your weight shift. When you "use the ground" you push upward, not forward.

The Smoltz drill uses a mirror because, if your head moves too far forward -- which means your upper body has moved too far forward -- your reflection will move forward off the edge of the mirror... and it will be very noticeable! You don't need a big mirror; a small one that you can mount on a shaft stuck in the ground and position so you can see yourself will work just fine.

And yes, you can just use a tall shaft stuck vertically into the ground and positioned so your eyes go past it when you go too far forward. You just don't get that added jolt from seeing your face slide off the edge of the mirror!

The big question is... how far forward is too far? That's a reasonable question and fortunately it has a simple answer. Your lead leg should never go past vertical and, when it's vertical, your shoulders should be facing the target and your spine leaning just slightly back away from the target. The reason is that you want your chest to point slightly upward as you swing to your finish. That's a good balanced position that will allow you to fully release the club and finish your swing. But it's just a slight lean; you don't want to get into a reverse-C position that could hurt your back.

I realize that many of you won't bother with this drill because it takes a bit more effort to set up than many drills. But if you're struggling with this problem, you might find it very helpful.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Bobby Locke's Hook Putting Technique (Video)

Since the legends are playing today at the Champions Tour event, I thought it might be fun to look at the unusual putting stroke of a past legend -- the "hooked stroke" of South African legend Bobby Locke. This first video simply shows one of Locke's putts over and over so you can see how he did it.



In this video you can clearly see that Locke uses a closed stance (his trailing foot is farther from his aimline than his lead foot is) and takes the club sharply inside the aimline.

In this video Gary Player both describes and demonstrates how Bobby Locke actually performed the hook putting stroke.



There are four things happening here, according to Gary Player.
  • The ball is placed just off the toe of the putter (not the center of the face).
  • For a straight putt he aims two feet to the far side of the hole. (This aim point changes, depending how far the ball is from the hole to begin with.)
  • He takes the club back to the inside of the aimline.
  • The putter travels only about six inches past the ball on the followthrough.
What Gary doesn't say -- but you can see when he sets up -- is that Locke also hooded the face of the putter. This means that he leaned the putter shaft forward at address so his hands are ahead of the putter face and therefore ahead of the ball. This is part of the key to this style of putting, because keeping the hands ahead of the putter face helps keep you from twisting the face open at impact. If you open the face at impact, the ball drifts off the aimline -- that is, you "wipe" the putt. By hooding the face, you get very solid contact between the ball and the face, which helps eliminate that.

Now there are a couple of other things you might notice while watching these videos that aren't mentioned -- Locke and Player both do them -- so let me explain them briefly.

One thing is that both players keep their hands very close to their thighs throughout the stroke. You have to do that in order to keep the face hooded. (It's also the reason that Locke had such a short followthrough.) If you let your hands drift away from your body, you'll tend to open the face. That's a bad thing because you get that "wiping" motion.

The other thing, which is related, is that it looks as if both men are using their shoulders a lot and pulling the putter through impact. But that's not what is happening; actually, it's the shoulders that are being dragged through the impact area. If you keep your hands close to your thighs as you make this stroke, your shoulders have to move like this because the hands and hips are moving together and the shoulders have no choice but to go along for the ride.

Although it sounds like a crazy way to putt, the hook stroke is actually a very sound approach. It's even possible to get good results by aiming directly at the hole and hitting the ball in the center of the face. That's because, depending on where you position the ball, hooding the face affects how the face closes at impact, and that affects where you aim. Hook putting is something you have to practice in order to get good at it.

But players like Locke have proven that it's a dependable way to putt. As I said, hooding the face creates very solid contact between ball and putter, and almost any putting style works well if it gives you solid contact. So don't be afraid to experiment with this style. You might be surprised at how well it works!

Friday, May 3, 2019

Anne Van Dam on Hitting It Long (Video)

Back on April 24 I did an LPGA post called LA Women about the LA Open. On my Twitter account Alfred Mol dropped me a note about Anne Van Dam, one of the rookies on Tour. Since Anne is tied for the lead at the MediHeal after the first round, I thought I'd post this video she did about hitting long drives.



Anne gives two tips here. (I like when players make it simple!)

The first is something you have probably heard before -- namely, that you need to hit up on the ball when it's on a tee. That means you have to play the ball a bit further forward in your stance because if you hit down on the tee shot, you won't get the height and reduced spin you need in order to get distance.

But it's the second tip that may surprise you, and it's actually good advice for any club when you want to get distance. As Anne says, most weekend players try to swing fast from the top of their backswing... but that's wrong. You don't want to try and swing really fast until you're halfway down!

There are a number of reasons for this. Anne mentions that you'll lose all your speed if you try to create it at the top. That happens because you'll tend to release all your wrist cock in the top half of your downswing if you do. Waiting until late in the swing lets you keep that wrist cock longer.

By waiting until the bottom half of your swing to consciously speed up, you also give yourself a better chance to get the club on line and hit the ball where you want it to go. That's because your body is already in position at that point, so your legs don't twist your body around too soon or too late. You not only get more clubhead speed but you make better contact.

A side effect of this is that you're less likely to stand up and hit the ball thin. When you wait until late in the swing to speed up the clubhead, the effort of getting your wrists to uncock tends to make you move slightly down toward the ball and "stay down on it" better.

This is a case of letting the natural physics of the golf swing work in your favor, so you do the right things automatically. It's a great tip from a player with four LET wins and a big drive. You can read a bit more about her at this post on the LPGA site.

Trust me, Alfred is right. You'll want to keep an eye on her, especially this week.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Kerrod Gray on Keeping Your Backswing in Sync (Video)

I'm going Down Under for today's tip! PGA of Australia instructor Kerrod Gray has a "square" drill to help you strike the ball more consistently.



While Kerrod's "square" drill may sound a bit odd, it's actually a concept that Ben Hogan believed in. Letting your trail elbow get too much behind you puts you too much below your natural swing plane, and as a result you tend to swing up and over to start your downswing. That can create a too-steep attack angle at impact, costing you both distance and control.

The goal of any swing is consistency -- especially if that consistency feels so natural that you don't have to think about it. This idea of getting the upper part of your trailing arm parallel with your shirt seam (I think Hogan described the concept as "pointing your elbow at your hip") keeps you from getting either too deep or too steep during your swing. It also eliminates a lot of potential back strain in the process.

Give this drill a try and see if it doesn't improve your ballstriking. I think you'll be surprised how quickly this more neutral backswing position will both feel natural and help your consistency.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The End of the LPGA West Coast Swing

It's back to Lake Merced Golf Club for the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship. Lydia Ko defends her last victory on the LPGA. Tony Jesselli's preview is at this link.

Defending champion Lydia Ko

Last year Minjee Lee forced a playoff between her and Ko, and Lydia walked away with the trophy. Now, fresh off a win last week in LA and a jump to #2 in the Rolex Rankings, Minjee is looking to even the score. That could be a tall order though, as Lydia has won the events held at Lake Merced in 2014, 2015 and 2018. She also made the semis at the 2012 US Girls Junior Championship when it was held there. (Minjee Lee did win that year, however.)

Yeah, Lydia likes it at Lake Merced. And a duel between her and Minjee Lee certainly seems to be in the offing this week.

Of course, they won't be the only players in the field. According to Tony, 36 of the Rolex Top50 will be teeing it up this week, which should give us a very competitive event.

GC's coverage begins Thursday at 6pm ET. (Yes, it's another prime time broadcast on the East Coast of the US.) Given the strength of the field, plus the potential battle between Lydia and Minjee, this should be a great event.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Twofer Tuesday: Wells Fargo

It's time again for my weekly exercise in futility. This week I'm picking for the Wells Fargo Championship.

Defending champion Jason Day

The defending champion is Jason Day, and the defending course is Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte NC, home of the Green Mile which GC says has been the hardest three-hole stretch on the PGA Tour every year since 2007.

I know I say this every year, but I think it's worth repeating. For those of you who don't know, the Green Mile (holes 16-18) gets its name from the book (and movie) of the same name by Stephen King. In that book, the Green Mile is the nickname for Death Row, the final trip from a convict's jail cell to the electric chair. The floor is covered in green linoleum, hence the name.

And that name is appropriate. Many a pro has seen his dreams of victory killed on Quail Hollow's final three holes.

But enough of that. It's time for my picks to take their own journey down the Green Mile and hopefully not kill my hopes.
  • My Top10 pick this week is Rory McIlroy. Rory definitely has the game to get it done, having done so twice already (2010 & 2015). In fact, the 2010 victory was his maiden win on the PGA Tour and he got it in a playoff with Rickie Fowler and D.A. Points. But I wonder how much his performance at Augusta may have set him back emotionally. I expected him to struggle this year, simply because he carried so much baggage into the Masters that it was going to test his new mental approach. I don't expect any setbacks to be permanent; I'm just not certain he's had enough time to recover yet. But his PLAYERS win before the Masters should help him somewhat.
  • And my winner is Rickie Fowler. Rickie has won once at Quail Hollow (2012). Like Rory it was his maiden win on the PGA Tour... and he got it in a playoff over Rory and D.A. Points. (Quail Hollow has not been kind to D.A. Points!)  Rickie also has a win earlier this season at Phoenix, a place where -- like Rory -- he carried significant baggage about his past performance. I'm hoping that success will help him regain his footing at Quail Hollow.
I can't help but feel that both players are primed to play well the rest of this year, and I know that both are focused on major wins. But good showings down the Green Mile could help both players as they head to Bethpage in a couple of weeks, and could be just the thing to get them over the hump in a major.

PGATOUR LIVE begins streaming at 7am ET, and GC picks up the TV coverage at 2pm ET on Thursday. I'll be watching!

Monday, April 29, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 Zurich Classic

Winner: Jon Rahm & Ryan Palmer

Around the wider world of golf: Jorge Campillo got his first ET win at the Trophée Hassan II; also in Morocco, Nuria Iturrios won the Lalla Meryem Cup on the LET; Tom Pernice Jr. and Scott Hoch won the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf on the Champions Tour; Xinjun Zhang won the Dormie Network Classic on the Web.com Tour; Tom Whitney won the 88th Abierto OSDE del Centro on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Minjee Lee won the Hugel-Air Premia LA Open on the LPGA; Cydney Clanton (from NC!) won the Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout on the Symetra Tour; and Yuka Yasuda won the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship by a very decisive eight shots.

Zurich winners Ryan Palmer and Jon Rahm

Tuesday Twofer picks continue to challenge my sanity. I picked Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown (T5) to win and Henrik Stenson and Graeme McDowell (T18) to Top10. At least Kiz and Brown gave me a Top10; I take some solace from that.
  • Winners: 2 for 17
  • Place well (Top10): 9 for 17 (5 Top5 finish, 4 more Top10s)
  • Overall Top10s: 18 of 34 (9 Top5s, 9 more Top10s)
But my poor record was no consolation for the field at the Zurich Classic. Team play like this is notoriously hard to pick, simply because we have little or no history for the teams involved. Such was the problem with the winning team of Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer. Their previous partners -- Wesley Bryan and Jordan Spieth, respectively -- were unavailable and Ryan expressed his own surprise that "Rahmbo" agreed to play with him.

Both men are glad he did though, and the remainder of the field may never recover from the emotional scars of their dominating performance. The two fourball rounds of 64 probably didn't surprise anyone; rounds of 60 aren't unusual in that format.

It was the two alternating-shot rounds that decimated their opponents. The 65 they shot in the on-again, off-again second round was the best in the field and, while Sunday's 69 wasn't the best, it was easily enough to best their pursuers. Their relentless fairway-green-hole-the-putt play just kept them moving ahead of the field and they walked up the final fairway with a three-shot lead.

And Rahm's comment in the post-round interviews that Jordan and Wesley would just have to find new partners next year couldn't have settled that well on their shocked victims.

Ryan may not have won in nearly a decade, but his game -- and especially his putter -- proved that he and Jon can be a potent team. So this year they receive their first joint Limerick Summary... and the PGA Tour begins calculating their part of the medical bill for all the counseling the other pros are going to need.
When Ryan and Rahmbo destroyed
The field down at Zurich, they toyed
With the psyches of all—
And left so many mauled
That the Tour has employed Sigmund Freud.
The photo came from this page at fox8live.com.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Maternal Decisions

Today is just a link to Randall Mell's article about the USGA's decision to review their policy on maternity leave.

New mother Stacy Lewis

Since the LPGA has made some adjustments to their maternity policies, the USGA has decided they need to do the same. And Mell does a good job of outlining the things they've already done and what they're going to look at.

All I can say is "it's about time." When you keep talking about wanting to grow the number of women playing golf, it seems that you would want to make it easier for women who are becoming mothers. After all, women have been having babies a lot longer than they've been playing golf!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Chad Phillips on "Putting to the Picture" (Video)

GCA coach Chad Phillips did this tip Friday about "putting to the picture" the way Tiger says he does.



The drill is simple enough. You make practice putts -- not hitting the ball, just making a stroke -- while looking at the hole and imagining how it will feel, as well as how far the ball will roll. Then you actually hit the ball, while looking at it, and try to duplicate the stroke you "saw" in your mind with the practice putts.

He then suggests repeating the practice putts while looking at the hole, and then actually hitting the putt while looking at the hole. My experience has been that, if you putt while looking at the hole, you will push your putts. If you want to strike the ball while looking at the hole, you will probably need to position the ball just a bit farther forward in your stance. (Maybe an inch forward, but that's about all. Looking at the hole changes your shoulder angles just enough to effect your stroke.) Otherwise you probably won't get the results you expect.

With that small caveat in mind, I think this is a great drill to help your putting. It gets you thinking more about the feel of the putt than about the mechanics, and that's a good thing because your stroke will be more relaxed and natural... and more repeatable.

Friday, April 26, 2019

George Knudson on the Flowing Golf Swing

Canadian golfer George Knudson died in 1989 but his book The Natural Golf Swing is still in print. Given that he is a Canadian legend -- he's one of the golfers whose PGA/LPGA record was tied by Brooke Henderson this past week -- that's no surprise.

George KnudsonI'm going to quote a short section from his book today because I think it has some very important ideas in it. This material comes from near the end of the book and, while he refers to all the things he has talked about in the book, the important thoughts don't require you to have read his book in order to understand them.

One thing he says is:
The natural swing motion is not a new tip or a quick fix. It is an overall view of the swing that is based on fundamental laws of motion and on fundamental considerations in any physical activity.
It's easy to overlook that little word "any." We tend to treat golf as if it's some bizarre form of sport that behaves differently from other sports. We talk about how athletes struggle to learn the motions, as if that proves how tough this game is... and yet most teachers will note that hockey players seem to take to the game quite easily. The fact is that we have a vested interest in making the game harder than it is, because that way we can justify our struggles to play a decent round.

A large part of our problem is that we don't approach golf as if it were any other sport -- sports which we learn pretty easily as kids -- so we don't have the same success with it. If we stopped making it so hard, we'd start to see some improvement in our games. That's one thing we learn from Knudson.

There's one other section I'd like to quote here. You may need to read it a few times to understand exactly what he's saying, because it's written with the assumption that you've read his whole book. But as I said before, you don't need to have read it in order to understand the important points:
The swing motion is a whole-body motion. You can now appreciate that every aspect of the motion is related to every other aspect. I could describe the motion from the point of view of the arc, for example, and show that by arranging for a maximum arc we also design the conditions for weight transfer. That is, we could not produce a maximum arc unless weight transfer were the means of moving the club. If we initiated the motion by picking up the club instead of transferring weight, we would compromise the integrity of the arc. It would shrivel, become smaller and choppier, not a genuine arc at all.

Similarly, I could describe the motion from the perspective of good posture. If we allow ourselves to get out of posture, we change the arc; and of course we also alter the plane. That natural swing motion, then, operates as a feedback loop. Every element can be the central point from which we discuss the motion. Balance is THE central fundamental.

For interest's sake, let's examine the motion from the point of view of clubhead control. It's fair to say that if we are confident that the clubhead is moving properly, then we will allow ourselves to make the motion. Golfers who try to control the clubhead by manipulating it destroy all other components of the motion. We want to set up a situation so that we need not worry about the clubhead because we know it is flowing properly.

The best swing is one that is uninhibited while under the control that ensues naturally from balance.
Yeah, that seems like a lot to digest, given that you haven't read the book. But you don't need to in order to understand why we get so twisted up with the golf swing.

Knudson says that the golf swing is a unit, not a bunch of separate movements that have to be mastered one at a time. If you mess up one part -- say, the arc or your posture -- you automatically mess up the other parts, like weight transfer and the plane of your swing.

Knowing that, you can start with any of these pieces of the swing and use it as the basis for how you view the entire swing. This is largely why we have so many different swing methods... and why each of them works for some players while others don't. It just depends on how you can best understand the swing motion. If you tend to use your legs a lot, there's a good chance you'll respond to a method that focuses on leg action and therefore on things like weight transfer.

This is also why methods that work for you initially may cease to be as effective later on. You can only do so much with your legs and once you get the basic leg action down... well, something else is probably out of whack. Now you need a teaching method that focuses on that problem.

Note that Knudson simplifies this whole thing quite a bit. He says that balance is the central fundamental, and then he spends the last few pages of the book looking at the swing in terms of clubface control. Let me break this down just a bit more, and you'll see how this works.

When you swing the club freely -- when you swing in balance, because balance allows you to relax and swing without undue tension -- the club makes an arc around you. As you swing the club around you, and if you don't twist your forearms to make it happen, the clubface will be open relative to your target line at the start of your downswing, square (pointed at the target) at impact, and closed at the end of your finish. That happens simply because your body is turning as you swing. And Knudson says that this should happen automatically if you simply swing in balance, because then you aren't leaning in five different directions during your swing. (That erratic movement comes from tension, caused by trying to regain your balance.)

Even if you aren't a particularly good tennis player or baseball pitcher, I bet you can swing a racket or throw a ball and get reasonably close to your target if you just stay in balance. The ball goes toward your target because (when throwing) you have your palm pointed at the target when you release the ball or (when playing tennis) you have the face of the racket pointed at your target -- and the racket points at the target because you're holding the racket so it's pointed at the target when your palm is pointed at the target.

Do you see a correlation here? If you hold the club so its face is pointed at your target when your palm is pointed at the target, you'll hit the ball toward the target. You just need to find out where the ball should be when your palm is pointed at the target. That's where you should position the ball when you set up for your shot.

Balance, grip, ball position. Just focus on getting those correct and a lot of the problems vanish. But it's a different way of thinking about the game, one that your brain may insist simply won't work. It's hard to believe that something we've struggled with for so long can be solved merely by consistent practice of a few simple basics.

But that's how it works. You need to focus on a few simple drills that let you practice hitting the ball at your target. As usual, I'd recommend the L-to-L drill as your basic motion. Then just pick targets - close ones at first, and practice hitting the ball to them. And as you get better, move the targets farther away until you have to make full swings. Before too long, you'll be hitting all of your shots closer.

As I said, this is a dramatically different way of thinking about your game. But if you try it and stick with it for a couple of months, I think you'll be surprised at the positive changes you see in your game. Knudson didn't become a legend without understanding how to play the game. Learn from his example.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Brad Skupaka on Finding Your Swing's Low Point (Video)

Brad Skupaka from GOLFTEC did this short video showing a drill that helps you identify the low point of your swing.



It's a very simple three-point drill using a towel to give you a good visual of where the club should hit the ground.
  1. First, identify where you should position the ball. Use the towel to help you see where you actually take a divot in your swing.
  2. Second, shallow out your divot. Now try to make the same swing, taking a divot in the same place but taking a smaller divot than before.
  3. Finally, actually hit a ball. Leave the towel in place and try to hit the ball with the shallow divot from the second step.
There's nothing complex about this drill. It's all about getting a clear visual of where the bottom of your swing is while taking a very shallow divot. How much more can you say about it? It's less of a technique drill than a knowledge drill.

After all, you can't make solid contact until you learn where to place the ball so you can make solid contact.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

LA Women

Forgive the Doors reference but I couldn't resist. The LPGA is back from Hawaii, back on the West Coast for the HUGEL AIR-PREMIA LA Open. You can find Tony Jesselli's preview of the event at this link.

Defending champion Moriya Jutanugarn

The LA Open is held at Wilshire Country Club, a par-71 course -- a rarity for the gals -- that can play up to 6500 yards. There's a bit of history here, as you would expect from a century-old course (it was founded in 1919). It has hosted PGA Tour and Champions Tour events in the past, and became the home of this LPGA event last year.

It gained a bit of notoriety when Moriya Jutanugarn, Ariya's sister, got her first win at the inaugural event... and Ariya cried much more than Moriya. It also put the two sisters in the history books as they became only the second sister act where each had won a Tour event. (In case you forgot, Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam were the first sisters to do it.) Now that Jessica and Nelly Korda have joined them -- and become the only siblings with multiple wins each -- Moriya has another reason to defend.

She'll have some competition though, specifically from Jin Young Ko. The current World #1 finished runner-up last year and is on a roll this year. That should make for some interesting TV!

The biggest news thus far in the week, at least to my knowledge, is that Michelle Wie had to withdraw on Tuesday after doctors recommended more rest for her injured wrist. Injured wrists can be very stubborn and Michelle has struggled with them over the years. Get well soon, Wiesy!

At least we get more prime time golf since there's a three-hour time difference between the West and East Coasts of the US. GC's coverage begins Thursday night at 6:30pm ET.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Twofer Tuesday: Zurich Classic

It's my first attempt at picking a team competition for Twofer Tuesday! This week the Tour heads to New Orleans for the Zurich Classic.

Defending Zurich champs Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy

In case you need a reminder, this week we have two-man teams playing two days of fourball and two days of alternate shot. After two rounds, the 35 best teams make the cut. It's stroke play, not match play, and the team with the lowest score after 72 holes wins.

The event is played at TPC Louisiana, a par-72 Pete Dye layout that tops out at 7425 yards. The Bermuda rough will be just under two inches and the smallish Bermuda greens (overseeded for this time of year) have some serious contours. This, added to the wide-open fairways, makes this an excellent course for team competition.

The defending champs are Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy, but why would I go with the defending champs? This is Twofer Tuesday! But seriously, for some reason my picks seemed clear to me from the outset, so let's get down to it.
  • My Top10 pick is the team of Henrik Stenson and Graeme McDowell. The fact that these two are Ryder Cup teammates seems a natural pairing -- but so does the pairing of Sergio and Tommy Fleetwood. Why go with Henrik and Graeme? Simply because Graeme -- who is coming off a win just a month ago -- is playing for something. He wants an exemption into the Open Championship at Royal Portrush, and I believe Henrik is on board for that. Two great teammates playing for a common goal that's bigger than the event? I like that pairing.
  • And my pick to win is the team of Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown. These two have played together in both of the previous editions of this team play event -- they lost the first in a playoff and had the 54-hole lead last year before fading to T15. I can't help but feel that they're due. And with Kiz coming off the WGC-Match Play win, he's definitely on fire this year.
Again, both teams seem like no-brainers to me. That may be a bad sign, given my record over the last few weeks, but I still like my picks.

If you're interested in who is on whose team, here's the page with the teams. And if you're playing fantasy golf, here are the pgatour.com power rankings.

GC coverage starts Thursday at 2pm ET. I love team events!

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 RBC Heritage

Winner: C.T. Pan

Around the wider world of golf: Brooke Henderson tied the most LPGA wins by a Canadian at the LOTTE Championship; Scott McCarron won at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic on the Champions Tour; Lanto Griffin won a four-hole playoff hole at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Championship on the Web.com Tour; John Somers won the Abierto de Chile on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Brendan Jones won the Token Homemate Cup on the Japan Golf Tour; and Stanford University won the Western Intercollegiate.
C.T. Pan with RBC Heritage trophy and tartan jacket

Well, in my Tuesday Twofer picks I went chalk... and ended up with a handful of chalk dust. I picked Jim Furyk (MC) to win and Webb Simpson (T16) to Top10. Unlike the Tour events, my drought continues.
  • Winners: 2 for 16
  • Place well (Top10): 9 for 16 (5 Top5 finish, 4 more Top10s)
  • Overall Top10s: 17 of 32 (8 Top5s, 9 more Top10s)
At least I've picked a couple of winners this year.

C.T. Pan picked up his first PGA Tour win when he wasn't expected to win... by anybody. DJ was the favorite and there were a number of other experienced players in contention, but they all faded (okay, some of them pull-hooked) in the windy conditions they faced this weekend. DJ's unexpected 77 opened the door for a wild scramble but only Pan walked through. The best score on Sunday was 66, and Pan was one of four players to shoot 67. However, of them all, only Matt Kuchar was in position to win.

Unfortunately for Kuch, he started the day one stroke behind Pan.

C.T. Pan almost didn't play this week but his wife convinced him to go. (Good advice on her part!) And now, after a weekend of scrambling around the Harbour Town course, he'll be scrambling to figure out his schedule for the next few weeks. I think there are some majors waiting for him...

In the meantime he gets his first Limerick Summary, to go along with his first PGA Tour win. And since Tiger is his inspiration, I decided to let the Big Cat inspire the Limerick Summary also. Well done, C.T.!
The storms and the winds on the coast
Were almost too much for the boats!
But still the pros played
And Pan showed the way—
Down the stretch, HE was “better than most.”
The photo came from this page at golfchannel.com.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Henderson Defends... and More

Since I've been shouting out special achievements this week, let me shout out Brooke Henderson who made history with her defense at the LOTTE Championship on Saturday.

Brooke Henderson holds her second LOTTE trophy

In case you hadn't heard, eight is a magic number in Canadian golf. Up until Saturday, Sandra Post held the Canadian record for LPGA wins at eight. So Brooke has tied the legend.

But it gets even better, because Mike Weir and George Knudson (whose book, The Natural Golf Swing, I sometimes refer to in this blog) hold the Canadian record for PGA Tour wins. Can you guess what it is?

You got it the first time. Eight.

Which means Brooke is one of the four Canadian golfers with the most LPGA or PGA Tour wins in history -- and she did it in style, winning by four strokes under tough conditions.

You can read the LPGA's write-up about it at this link. But this is a major milestone for Canada, and it shouldn't pass unnoticed. I'll just content myself to say, "Congratulations, Brooke. Now go get that ninth win!"

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Rudy Duran on Tiger's Current Swing

If you don't recognize the name, Rudy Duran was Tiger's first swing coach. Golf Channel asked him to take a look at Tiger's new swing, and they've published a slide show with Duran's comments on the major positions from setup to finish.

For what it's worth, before I hit the right arrow button to move to the next frame, I had to hit the refresh button on my browser each time to make the slide show advance. Hopefully GC will get that little glitch corrected.

Tiger at waist high in his backswing

This photo is the third slide in the sequence, and I chose it because... well, you guys know how I harp on the importance of the one-piece takeaway. (Yes, that's the link to the post with the drill in it.) I think it's a necessity for most players because it can keep you from coming over-the-top.

As you can see in this photo, Tiger's one-piece takeaway is textbook. See how the clubhead is sitting in the V formed by his forearms? The club shaft is pointed straight toward the camera, which means it's "on plane" and "parallel to the aimline" and all those other terms you might use to describe a club that has been swung back without any manipulation. And that means you won't have to make compensations on the way down to get it back to the ball correctly!

Given that this swing is working so well for Tiger -- despite the limitations his fused back puts on him -- I thought you all might like to take a look. Duran really likes where Tiger's swing is at this point... and why shouldn't he? This is a major-winning swing!

There's a lot to see in this brief slide show. Take some time to study it and learn from it. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, April 19, 2019

TaylorMade's Mini Driver

TaylorMade's new Original One Mini Driver just became available for pre-order a couple of days back and should hit retail outlets early next month. And if you're struggling off the tee with your regular driver, maybe you should consider it.

First let's talk some specs. I'm comparing it to a standard 15° 3-wood here.

TaylorMadeForget your 460cc big stick -- the Original One Mini has a mere 275cc head. That may sound incredibly small, but bear in mind that the M3/M4 3-wood was around 176cc while the M5/M6 is 161cc. So this mini driver is still noticeably larger than a 3-wood.

It comes in two lofts, 11.5° and 13.5°, it's 43.75" in length (a regular M5/M6 3-wood is 43.25") and it's intended to give players of all playing levels another option off the tee. Yes, it's been designed to fit between your driver and your 3-wood, should you be inclined to carry both.

I suspect this club would be a replacement for a standard driver for most weekend players. If you don't get a lot of distance with your driver because you don't generate as much clubhead speed, the extra loft should help you get that higher launch angle that normally comes from extra speed. And it's got all the same tech that goes into the regular drivers, like that twist-face all the pros seem so excited about.

Plus it comes at a lower price than the driver. At $400 it might be the way to go if you want the tech but don't want to pay for a driver that you don't hit all that well to begin with.

Obviously I don't know what would work for you and what wouldn't. But if you're considering something like this, here's the page at TaylorMade's website that has all the specs for the Original Mini One and here's the announcement of the club from Golf Tips Mag's site, which includes some guidance on whether you should consider it or not.

Personally, given how many of us prefer 3-woods off the tee anyway, I'm glad to see TaylorMade catering to that potentially large group of players.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

And Let's Not Forget the Amateur of the Week

We really should take a moment. After all, Isaiah Salinda went five extra holes to get the individual title at the Western Intercollegiate.

Western Intercollegiate individual champion Isaiah Salinda

Salinda plays for Stanford, so it's probably no surprise to you that Stanford won the team title as well.

I'm going to link you to Brentley Romine's article over at golfchannel.com for the details, but I did want to mention something Salinda's coach said because it might help some of you.

Romine writes: "Stanford head coach Conrad Ray credits the development to Salinda learning how to play well without his best stuff." He also notes that Salinda told his coach how proud he was to have won when he wasn't playing his best.

Scoring when you don't have your best stuff is mainly about strategy -- learning what you can still do on those days when your game is off and making a game plan that uses those strengths. It's also about keeping your head and not getting down on yourself.

Anybody can learn to do those things, folks. Anybody.

Ironically, the NCAA doesn't recognize playoffs so Salinda and his fellow competitor (and teammate) Brandon Wu share the individual title in their records. (Yet one more thing the NCAA needs to change.) But we all know who the winner is. Congratulations, Isaiah!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Ladies Head to Hawaii

The LPGA is back in action this week at the LOTTE Championship. Brooke Henderson is the defending champion.

Defending champion Brooke Henderson

As usual, Tony Jesselli has a preview of the event over on his blog. The LOTTE is played at the Ko Olina Resort in Kapolei, on the island of Oahu. The course is just under 6400 yards long and the winds almost always have a say in the outcome.

I can't think of much to add to Tony's preview except to mention that Paula Creamer plans to play. She hasn't played since before the Founders Cup and she gave no reason for withdrawing at the time. Whatever the reason, it appears that she's ready to go.

And there's one more important thing to know -- namely, that this is a Wednesday-Saturday event so things get underway TONIGHT. GC's live prime time coverage -- at least, prime time on the East Coast of the US -- is scheduled for 7pm-11pm ET each night. And how can you lose with all that beautiful scenery in Hawaii to watch?

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Twofer Tuesday: RBC Heritage

The madness of the Masters is over. While Tiger chills at home in his nice new green jacket, a number of pros will unwind at the RBC Heritage.

Defending champion Satoshi Kodaira

At least they say they're unwinding down there at Hilton Head Island. I see a Pete Dye special with extremely tight fairways and small greens and a lot of wind, thanks to its location along the SC coastline. That doesn't sound all that relaxing to me but, hey, after the complicated greens and chipping areas of Augusta National, perhaps Harbour Town GC seems more relaxing.

Or maybe they just like the laid-back atmosphere of Hilton Head and golf is just an excuse to spend a week there. I could understand that as well.

Alas, there is no rest for me. After a couple of decent picks at the Masters -- correct except for the order of finish -- I move on to Twofer Tuesday in Hilton Head. While the course is pure Pete Dye, it has proven friendly to first time winners like Wesley Bryan and Satoshi Kodaira, the last two victors.

But I'm not taking a first-timer this week, no sir.
  • My Top10 pick is Webb Simpson. Webb has rediscovered his form over the last couple of years, and his Top5 at the Masters last week was a great showing for him. I'm not sure how much that T5 took out of him so I'm not taking him to win, but his accuracy should help him place well even if he's tired. It's not like he'll have to hit the ball hard or anything.
  • And my winner is Jim Furyk. What can I say? I'm going chalk, baby! Furyk is the all-time money winner at Harbour Town and has won there twice. Given how well he's been playing this season, I can't help but feel this is a great place for him to pick up another win. By the way, did I mention his last win came here in 2015?
It's rare for someone who fared well at Augusta to play well at Harbour Town, simply because Augusta takes so much out of the players. That may be why first-timers do so well here -- often they haven't played the Masters! And Furyk didn't play the Masters this year, so...

Chalk, people. I'm big on chalk this week. ;-)

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 Masters

Winner: Tiger Woods

Around the wider world of golf: Yes, it's true that some pros didn't watch the Masters. Andrés Echavarría won the Molino Cañuelas Championship on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; and David Kocher won the Haikou Championship on the PGA TOUR China.

Tiger celebrates his fifth Masters win

Well, my Tuesday Twofer picks went better this week. I picked Francesco Molinari (T5) to win and Tiger Woods (1) to Top10. While I got the order reversed, it's still two Top5 picks for me this week and -- let's face it -- I'm not disappointed with the outcome.
  • Winners: 2 for 15
  • Place well (Top10): 9 for 15 (5 Top5 finish, 4 more Top10s)
  • Overall Top10s: 17 of 30 (8 Top5s, 9 more Top10s)
And the whole golf world seems to agree with me.

After the first Augusta National Women's Amateur and the Annual DC&P competition, Masters Week just got better and better -- in large part because Augusta National took on so much water that even the Competition Committee couldn't dry it out. All they could do was make it reward good shots... and boy, did we get good shots! The number of records that were broken last week was amazing.

Hole Number 12 turned out to be the turning point, as it so often has in the past, but on a level that was unexpected. Was it the wind or the Tiger Effect that caused Molinari, Koepka, Finau and Poulter all to come up short and post double-bogeys? We do know that it was Tiger's experience that let him walk away with a par.

And by the time he reached 18, with the crowd chanting, "TIGER, TIGER!" at a deafening volume, you have to wonder if the youngsters are really all that glad they got that taste of "PrimeTime Tiger" they've been saying they wanted. I suspect the older players are getting a good laugh about that.

In the meantime, Tiger got his first-ever come-from-behind win, his fifth Masters victory, his 81st tournament win (just one behind Sam Snead) and another round of Tigermania -- only this one must be bigger than even he expected. At least his latest Limerick Summary will be quiet enough that he can get some well-deserved sleep today!
His first major win from behind!
The Tiger we hoped he would find
Is back on the track
To chase after Jack;
It all seems like some grand design…
The photo came from this page at golfdigest.com.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Just a Reminder...

In order to beat the storms, the Masters field will tee off in threesomes on split tees starting at 7:30am ET. CBS will begin coverage at 9am ET. Don't miss it!!!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Jack Nicklaus on Hitting It Long and Straight (Video)

The weather in Augusta is supposed to turn bad today, so perhaps some help from Jack Nicklaus on how to hit the ball long AND straight might be helpful.



I like Jack's answer to the question, "How far can you hit it?"
"As far as I need to."
And he notes something that is overlooked by a lot of people -- namely, that he utilized his adrenaline when he needed to hit the ball a long way. That's a strategic decision, folks, based on knowing how your body is reacting to the situation you're in at the time.

The key to drives that are both long and accurate is, according to Jack, to swing within yourself. While he says that golf is played from the ground up -- which means you need good footwork and lower leg action -- the key is to do that without throwing your body around in a sloppy way.

In other words, you can swing hard as long as you stay in balance.

Yeah, that covers a lot of things like sound mechanics and proper sequencing and self-awareness, among other things. But while you may not be able to know for sure how well you're doing all those things, you CAN tell if you're swinging in balance.

And the best drill to get better at that is simply swinging as fast as you can without losing your balance. Start with half swings, then go to full swings -- and don't hit balls with either. What you want to do is start swinging at a speed where you can keep your balance, then try to swing faster and faster until you can't.

The fastest speed at which you CAN keep your balance becomes the starting point of your drill. Mix it up -- make some fast swings, some slow swings, some medium-speed swings. And after you do that, try hitting some balls while making the same swings.

And focus on staying in balance. Watch some video of Jack in his prime. No matter how hard he swung, Jack was never out of balance.

That's how you begin developing your ability to play by feel. Swinging in balance is the basis of playing by feel. Learn to swing in balance and you'll make a huge stride towards hitting the ball longer and straighter.

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Odds Have Changed

I don't do a lot of articles like this lately, but the great play on Thursday has changed the odds so dramatically that I thought you might be interested to see how they're evolving just since the first round finished.

New betting favorite Brooks Koepka

Here are the odds from Westgate LasVegas Superbook, as listed by Will Gray on golfchannel.com.
  • 9/2: Brooks Koepka
  • 6/1: Dustin Johnson
  • 13/2: Bryson DeChambeau
  • 10/1: Tiger Woods
  • 12/1: Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm
  • 14/1: Rickie Fowler
  • 20/1: Adam Scott, Francesco Molinari
  • 25/1: Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy
  • 30/1: Kevin Kisner, Tommy Fleetwood
  • 40/1: Jason Day
  • 50/1: Gary Woodland, Cameron Smith, Tony Finau, Louis Oosthuizen
  • 60/1: Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar
  • 80/1: J.B. Holmes, Kiradech Aphibarnrat
  • 100/1: Justin Harding, Charley Hoffman, Justin Rose, Marc Leishman, Xander Schauffele, Lucas Bjerregaard, Corey Conners
  • 150/1: Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Cantlay, Webb Simpson, Thorbjorn Olesen, Patton Kizzire
Note that Brooks has leapt all the way from 20/1 to 9/2 while Rory fell from 9/1 to 25/1. Tiger and Phil improved incrementally while Bryson also made a big leap toward the top.

Why do I find this so interesting? Here are the odds Gray listed back in August 2018. Take a look:
  • 10/1: Jordan Spieth
  • 12/1: Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas
  • 14/1: Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy
  • 16/1: Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm
  • 20/1: Jason Day
  • 25/1: Bubba Watson
  • 30/1: Patrick Reed, Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama
  • 40/1: Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Tony Finau, Adam Scott
  • 50/1: Sergio Garcia, Matt Kuchar, Marc Leishman
  • 60/1: Alex Noren, Xander Schauffele, Joaquin Niemann, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Louis Oosthuizen
  • 80/1: Thomas Pieters, Branden Grace, Ian Poulter, Brandt Snedeker, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Charley Hoffman, Cameron Smith
  • 100/1: Kevin Kisner, Tyrrell Hatton, Daniel Berger, Kevin Chappell, Ryan Moore, Aaron Wise, Russell Henley, Charl Schwartzel
Obviously they didn't know every player who would qualify back at that time. But look at how much some of these players have changed! The most glaring change is Jordan Spieth, moving from the 10/1 favorite to a 150/1 longshot. And -- surprising to me -- Jason Day's odds actually improved despite the obvious back discomfort he experienced Thursday.

Granted, it's only been one round and a lot can change before Sunday night. But it demonstrates how seriously the betting community takes the stat that says most Masters champions are in the Top10 after the first round.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

John Hughes on Better Scoring Through Smarter Golf

PGA instructor John Hughes has a lengthy article at golftipsmag.com on how to improve your scoring by using a strategy better suited to your game. I think it's a good article to study.

Pick a target for your shots

Here are the basic points of his article.
  • Aim your shots toward smaller, more precise targets. Even if you don't hit them, you'll improve your results by focusing on a smaller target.
  • Rather than trying to hit every club as far as you possibly can, choose clubs that you know you can hit pin-high without a struggle. You'll put yourself in better position more often.
  • Aim for the middle of the green. You're more likely to make a long putt on the green than a tricky chip from a tough lie.
  • Understand the challenges of the course you're playing. That way, you can figure out how to put the shots you already know how to hit in play more often, and that will eliminate a lot of your big scores.
  • Finally, play to your strengths. You'll always score better if you hit shots you have confidence in than if you try to hit shots you have trouble with.
I know, it all sounds terribly basic. But it's always the basics that trip us up. How many poor shots have you hit because you were set up improperly? How often have you hit a ball into trouble because you didn't take enough club? How many times have you ended up in trouble because you tried to hit a club that you never hit well, even on the range?

John Hughes has a lot of good tips on how to take these simple tips and apply them consistently to your game. If you spend some time reading and studying this article, your game will improve -- even if you don't get a lot of practice.

Remember: You always play better when you know what you're doing and why!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Rob Strano on the Perfect Tee Height (Video)

Today I have a cool tip on how to tee your ball perfectly every time from GCA coach Rob Strano.



A simple idea: Push the tee into the ground beside the ball so that the top of the tee is level with the top of the ball. Seriously, how cool is that?

Using the ball itself to determine how high the tee should be is a no-brainer for getting it right without guesswork. Give it a try and see if you agree.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Twofer Tuesday: The Masters

The women have played. The juniors have played. Now it's time for the Masters proper. That's why Tiger is smiling...

Tiger Woods

I'm not going to bore you with any details of the event -- you KNOW the history of the Masters and what it's all about. So let's just get to the picks, okay?

The Masters is always a bit difficult to pick for a variety of reasons. The players are extremely familiar with the course, there's usually very little rough, and many of the players just seem to find another gear at Augusta, no matter what their form looks like going in. Add a lot of rain into the mix -- which traditionally seems to have favored the short hitters -- and you've got a free-for-all just waiting to happen.

But this year adds a new wrinkle, and that's the dramatic schedule change. There are no off-weeks this season, and players are feeling their way through the new schedule. I think that may have a bigger effect than most expect, but there probably won't be any way to quantify its effect or even prove that it has an effect. At any rate, it's yet another unpredictable factor in the picks.

Let me eliminate a couple of favorites right now. Jordan Spieth could certainly find his game this week but I just don't see him putting four rounds together -- and that's basically what has killed his chances for the last two years at least. And while I like Rory McIlroy's new mental approach and expect him to win a Masters in the next two or three years, I simply don't expect it to happen this year -- I don't think he'll be able to apply that new mental game until he's found out exactly what Augusta will throw at him this year.

So who should I pick?
  • For my Top10 I'm taking Tiger Woods. I'm not sure Tiger has had time to find the balance of play and rest in this new schedule. I think he will before the year is out but, as with Rory, I think Augusta might throw him a few curves this time around. Still, I think his game is in good enough shape that he can make a run on Sunday and post yet another Top10 at this event.
  • And my winner? I have to take Francesco Molinari. His win at the API was proof that his game is back in shape, he should be well rested after a week off -- he also took a week off before the API -- and I think the wet course may help him by allowing aggressive shots with longer clubs. And that will only give him more opportunities to exploit that awesome short game of his.
Let me add that I'm pulling for Rickie Fowler to break through this time, but I think Francesco has a better chance of winning so he's my pick. If Rickie wins, I won't complain about being wrong. ;-)

This page at pga.com has the complete TV schedule for Masters week. Bear in mind that ESPN has the Thursday and Friday coverage, while CBS has its traditional weekend coverage. ESPN's coverage starts at 3pm ET on both days of their coverage, and they'll be covering the Wednesday par-3 tournament as well. Masters.com will be handling the streaming coverage.

Given all the storylines at play this week, this should be a fun Masters to follow!