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Friday, February 15, 2019

ISPS Handa Stays Busy!

The ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth snuck up on me this week. I wanted to mention it, but realized that ISPS Handa has been in the midst of several recent golf events. It's easy to overlook exactly how many events this single sponsor has a hand in, so I wanted to take this post to give them a shoutout.

Panuphol Pittayarat at the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth

The International Sports Promotion Society, better known as ISPS Handa, is a Japanese non-profit organization that promotes blind and disabled golf worldwide. And they are developing a reputation for popularizing a number of unusual formats for regular golf tournaments as well.

In just the last two weeks we've seen several examples in Australia:
  • the Vic Open, the first event to have the men and women play the same course at the same time for identical purses
  • the Women's Australian Open, one of the big events for all of the women's tours
  • the World Super 6 Perth, a men's event with a unique blend of medal play and match play where the ultimate winner is determined by a series of six-hole matches
And those are just in the last two weeks! This article at Wikipedia will give you a better idea of just how many events they're currently involved with, and also how many they've helped in the past. I think you'll be surprised to see just how widespread their influence has been.

For those of you unfamiliar with the rules of the World Super 6 Perth, this page at thegolfnewsnet.com will give you a quick breakdown of the format. Basically, a full field of 156 players plays three rounds of medal play, with a cut to 65 and ties after two rounds and another cut to 24 after three rounds, then those 24 play off with the six-hole matches to determine the winner.

It's a fun format that GC covers, and ISPS Handa's involvement in the current Australian events is just another example of how they look for new and unexpected ways to spread the game. They are certainly one of the unsung heroes in modern golf.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Tiger Gives It Another Shot

I suppose you all heard the announcement that in 2020 the Genesis Open will become the Genesis Invitational, and will basically become Tiger's tournament the same way the Memorial is Jack's tournament and the API is Arnie's tournament. Complete with all the perks, of course.

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods

But that's next year. This year it's business as usual. The event is played at Riviera Country Club, aka Hogan's Alley, and the defending champion is three-time winner Bubba Watson.

Of course the biggest story -- and the biggest mystery -- is that Tiger has played Riviera a dozen times without a single win, a fact that defies logic. It will be interesting to see how Tiger's revamped swing will fare here. (Last season he was still testing his back, his swing and his equipment at this event.)

It will also be interesting to see how Phil fares after his Monday victory at Pebble Beach. Both he and Tiger have talked this week about how they push each other, and Phil does have back-to-back victories here... although that's a decade past. With both men in the field -- as well as the young fellas who must be starting to wonder if they really want to see another Tiger/Phil era after all (the old boys do have three wins in the last twelve months) -- this could be yet another week of big stories to follow.

Which brings me to my weekly picks. For those of you who have somehow missed it, starting in January I began picking a winner and a Top10 finisher for each week's event, then upgrading my score the following week in the Limerick Summary post. So far I've picked two winners out of six (which would be three of six had I simply followed my gut with Rickie at Phoenix). This is an outrageously good record for me, so I'm excited to see if I can keep it up.

Last week I lamented not going with my gut and picking Rickie, so I did take the "gut pick" with Phil and got my second winner of 2019. The logical thing to do this week is follow the same plan, which would give me Justin Thomas to win and Tiger to Top10. (I really don't think Tiger will hit his stride until he gets to the Florida Swing.)

But I won't. Unlike TPC Scottsdale and the Pebble Beach courses, where upset winners happen quite frequently, Riviera truly is a track that seems to favor certain players. And the rain will only make this course harder for a random player to win. So here are my picks.
  • For my Top10, I'm taking Justin Thomas. That may seem to contradict what I just said, but hear me out. Previous to last year, JT's best finish was something like T39 and that was in 2017 when he began to post multiple wins. Last year he finished T9 -- clearly something changed there -- and in his first three events this season he's posted 3, T16 and 3. I think JT is trending, both in his game and at this course, and with his long high ball flight I think he can capitalize on the wet conditions.
  • And as my winner, I'm going chalk. It's time for Bubba Watson to become one of Riviera's back-to-back winners. He won in 2014, 2016 and 2018, and he finished T4 at Phoenix this year, another course where he feels very comfortable. The only real question is whether his putter shows up, and that's always the question with Bubba. I think Riviera has a better than average chance of seeing that putter get hot.
PGA TOUR LIVE will start streaming the event at 9:30am ET today, but GC's coverage begins today at 2pm ET. I look for something special to happen this week, although I don't know what. But there's a buzz in the air...

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

More LPGA Prime Time Golf

The LPGA is still in Australia, which means the US gets live golf in prime time again.

Defending champion Jin Young Ko

The ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open is the third event of the LPGA season, and Jin Young Ko -- the 2018 LPGA Rookie of the Year -- is the defending champion.

Tony Jesselli, in his preview of the event, notes that this is one of the weaker fields of the year although 20 of the Top50 in the Rolex Rankings will be teeing it up. It appears to me that a number of the higher-ranked US players are skipping the event, as they did last week's. This may just be a function of having more tournament choices now, and the 15-plus hour time change may have become a bigger consideration for them.

At any rate, a number of popular US players will join the field and should have a chance to improve their rankings as a result. For one, I'm looking for Alison Lee to have a good week.

Don't be misled into believing that this won't be a good event, however. It's still got a lot of firepower in it, starting with Ariya Jutanugarn, and we should get a really good show from the gals.

GC's coverage of the event starts tonight (Wednesday) at 9pm ET. I'm really looking forward to it!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Winner: Phil Mickelson

Around the wider world of golf: At the multi-tour-sponsored ISPS Handa Vic Open (ET, LPGA, Australasian, ALPG), David Law won the men's event and Celine Boutier won the women's event; Bernhard Langer won the Oasis Championship on the Champions Tour; and Michael Gligic won the Web.com Tour's Panamá Championship.

Phil Mickelson hoists fifth AT&T trophy

First, my results from last week: I successfully picked Phil to win, but was less successful with Kuchar as a Top10 (he finished T22). My totals for 2019 look like this:
  • Winners: 2 for 6
  • Place well (Top10): 4 for 6 (2 Top5 finish, 2 more Top10s)
  • Overall Top10s: 8 of 12 (4 Top5s, 4 more Top10s)
Granted, it took Phil five days to get that win but -- like him -- I'm not complaining. It was vintage Phil, with an unexpected bogey-free 64 during that bizarre last round that boasted heavy wind, sunshine, rain, even hail. Phil's 44-win total now trails the great Walter Hagen by just one.

I should also mention Paul Casey, who, although he didn't win, secured a solo second for himself and a team win for his partner Don Colleran. That was a great finish on a course that he doesn't have a great record on and bodes well for him going forward this year as well.

There's not really a lot more I can say about this win that hasn't already been talked up in the media. A win and a runner-up in just three starts this year, and the win came on the course that's already been narrowed for the US Open, albeit a very soft course that made Phil's wayward drives a bit more playable. The big question is how Phil will handle a harder, faster course in June.

But there's no question how Phil will handle his latest Limerick Summary. This was a major achievement, without a doubt!
A warm-up for June, many thought;
So wrong! “Warm” was NOT what they got!
But nevertheless
Phil was up to the test—
Can he do it again when it’s hot?
The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Eric Johnson on Putting Like Nicklaus

The Limerick Summary has to wait until Tuesday so they can finish this morning at 11am ET on GC. So here's a new putting article I found. Enjoy!

PGA instructor Eric Johnson has a cool article about the Nicklaus putting style over at golftipsmag.com. It covers a number of basics about the stroke, which he demonstrates WITHOUT Jack's trademark hunched-over-and-open stance, so more of you may find some use in it.

I want to focus on what Johnson calls "The Perfect Piston" position because this is the basis of the technique.

The Vertical Piston Position

As you can see in this photo from the article, the lead forearm, hands and shaft form a straight line. Most people do that automatically. But the key here is that the forearm/shaft line is vertical and actually lines up just ahead of the lead leg as you swing through the stroke.

Other photos in the article show the ball being positioned just ahead of the center of Johnson's stance, and the lead elbow swinging away from the body when the club is in the position shown in the above photo. That's how the club moves straight down the line after impact.

Johnson also explains in the article that while this appears to be a "rocking shoulder" stroke, that's actually a bit of an illusion. You don't rock your shoulders to make the stroke; rather, you make the motion using your arms. It's the pushing of your trailing hand and arm -- the "piston" in the stroke -- that rotates the shoulders forward slightly on the followthrough.

You might find that the ball is better positioned just inside the lead foot, in front of your instep, so the club is traveling more level to the ground at impact. And, as Johnson demonstrates above, you might like a slightly closed stance rather than the Nicklaus open stance. There's a lot of room here for customizing the stroke to your body.

The important thing to note is that this is a push stroke with the trailing arm. If you try to use your shoulders too much, you'll create more of a curved stroke instead of the straight piston stroke.

There are several photos in the article, each with clear explanations. It's a nice adaptation of the Nicklaus technique for modern players.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Guess Who's Leading the Champions Tour Event?

When the week started, all the talk was about Gary Nicklaus teeing up as a pro for the first time since 2003, and about Retief Goosen making his debut as a Tour member, and about Fred Couples finally being healthy.

But headed into the final round of the Oasis Championship, all the talk is about him. Is that any surprise?

Bernhard Langer

Bernhard Langer's pursuit of Hale Irwin's Champions Tour record of 45 wins is almost as big as Tiger's pursuit of Jack's major record. With 38 wins so far, Langer is only seven wins from tying Irwin, eight from taking his record entirely. But no one has ever won that many events after their 60th birthday.

Well, Langer is 61 and on the brink of win #39. And all he did was eagle the 18th on Saturday to take the final round lead.

Langer lives only ten minutes from the course and expects the wind to be up today. He was the betting favorite when the week started... but he's always the betting favorite these days, isn't he?

There are 13 players within four strokes of Langer, and we all know that nothing's guaranteed in golf. Nevertheless, if Langer manages to close out the Oasis today and take the first full-field event of the Champions Tour season, he'll have made a statement right out of the gate. (As if his T3 at Hualalai didn't get anybody's attention!)

With all apologies to the rest of the field, we all know who the talk of the Tour is this week. And I have to wonder... if he succeeds today, what other stories might Bernhard tell in 2019?

Talk may be cheap, but I'm not betting against him today.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

What Will Phi--er, Tony Do Next?

Did you see Tony Romo doing his best Phil Mickelson impression at the AT&T Friday? It was awesome!


On the outside chance that the video didn't embed for some reason, just click the Twitter link in the tweet and you'll be taken to it.

Although the second round didn't finish because of rain, Romo and partner Jim Furyk did finish their round. Romo made four birdies on the way in and made a creative shot to the 18th at Pebble from behind a tree. The two are unlikely to win, but it was a great finish for them.

If Tony Romo keeps this up, he just might get good enough to make the Tour someday.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Brian Gay's Swing (Video)

Brian Gay is only 5'10" tall. He's 47 years old and his stats aren't the best on Tour. Yet after the first round he's tied for the lead after shooting a 64 (-7) on the Monterey Peninsula course. Let's take a quick look at his swing.



Brian's not a long hitter. On this wet course he only drove the ball 256.5 yards; his longest drive was only 269. That's not very long. If you look at his swing, you'll see that he doesn't get a lot of wrist cock in his backswing and, while he does cock his wrists on the way down, he still doesn't create a lot of angle to create clubhead speed. So why did he play so well Thursday?

Simply put, Brian made his shots count. He hit over 76% of his fairways, which is actually a little better than usual, and he hit 17 of 18 greens, which was tied for best in the field. While he doesn't create a lot of clubhead speed, those quiet wrists make it easier to hit accurate shots. And since Monterey is only playing around 6950 yards, he didn't need to be as long.

Plus he was the fourth best in putting, even though the greens were tricky. When you hit that many greens, you can get a good score if you just manage to avoid three-putts.

And that's what he did. He made eight birdies and only one bogey, the rest pars. Nothing fancy -- just a solid, workmanlike round.

My point is that you don't have to do spectacular things to improve your golf. You may not make eight birdies in a round, but it's amazing how well you can score if you just minimize the bogeys. If you're trying to improve, you might be surprised how well you can score if you just focus on hitting the middle of greens and two-putting.

That means you should work on your lag putting. You don't have to be perfect -- just get better at it. And as your lag putting gets better, some of them will start to drop.

It certainly seems to work for Brian, even though he's competing against some long hitters. Find your strengths and capitalize on them. That's the key.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Pros on the Conditions at Pebble

Just a quick link to a Randall Mell post about Pebble.

:Jordan

The biggest thing I saw in the article is that Jordan Spieth expects to play lift, clean and place today because of all the rain. Mell also notes that the wind will be colder and wetter than usual.

Add to that the narrowing of the fairways that's already happening as part of the prep for the US Open and you're looking at some interesting conditions this week.

Remember, GC's coverage starts today at 3pm ET.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

It's Team Time at Pebble!

The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is back, despite heavy rains and high winds. It should favor the longer hitters, who will be hitting much shorter clubs into the greens AND be able to stop them even better than usual.

Defending champion Ted Potter Jr.

But I won't let simple logic bother me this week. I've been thinking about my picks too much lately. I'd have had Rickie to win last week if I'd just gone with my gut. I'm going to do that this week.

First, though, here's info about the tournament for those of you who are new to this event: This is a pro-am, meaning that not only do the pros play on their own score but also have a team score with an amateur partner, who will also get a trophy. This is the granddaddy of all pro-ams, with the longest history and some of the most popular celebrity names on the amateurs' trophy.

Three courses are used -- Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill GC and Monterey Peninsula CC’s Shore course. The cut will be held Saturday night after everyone has had a chance to play all three courses, then the survivors will play Pebble Beach on Sunday. And despite what I said about long hitters having the advantage this week, that doesn't guarantee a long hitter will win. Last year's champion Ted Potter Jr. is proof of that.

Now let's get to my two picks:
  • My Top10 pick is Matt Kuchar. Kuch has been playing consistently at a very high level this season, with two wins so far. He had a chance last week at Phoenix but his putter didn't show up on Sunday in the bad weather -- an unusual condition for Phoenix. Having said that, you can be sure Matt won't be caught off-guard this week.
  • And my winner is Phil Mickelson. He's got four wins at this event and is hitting the ball pretty long this year. I don't expect him to hit driver all the time, however -- these courses are short enough that he can use a lesser club some of the time and take advantage of the improved accuracy he'll get with the shorter club. Add in Phil's love for this event and his determination to make up for missing the cut last week...
GC's coverage starts Thursday at 3pm ET, but in past weeks they've shown some of the PGA Tour LIVE coverage (which starts at 11am ET). I expect they'll do the same this week.

Don't let me down, Phil. I'm counting on you!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Women and the Men Join Forces in Australia

The only tournament of its kind tees off this week. Both men and women compete in the ISPS Handa Vic Open, and they play for equal prize money.

The 13th Beach Golf Club

This is a new event on the LPGA's schedule and will give them a two-week swing through Australia. (It's followed by the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open.) It's co-sponsored by the LPGA, the ALPG, the European Tour and the Australasian Tour. (That's two women's tours and two men's tours.)

So today I'm primarily giving you links to articles that give you the details about the event because there is so much new about it, although the Vic Open originally started in 1957.
Something to note about this event is that it isn't an invitational event where players are guaranteed a paycheck. This is a regular full field tournament with a cut, and this is the first year that the LPGA and the ET have been involved.

This new twist to the event has the potential to create yet another new format for golf tournaments, with male and female golfers teeing off in alternate groups so that both genders are playing the course at the same time.

Tony's post lists the TV times, as GC intends to give this event around 18 hours of coverage. It begins on Wednesday (Feb. 6) for three hours starting at 11pm ET.

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 WM Phoenix Open

Winner: Rickie Fowler

Around the wider world of golf: Dustin Johnson won his first European Tour event (not co-sponsored) at the Saudi International; and Mark Anderson won the Country Club de Bogotá Championship on the Web.com Tour.

And in case you somehow missed it, the New England Patriots won Super Bowl LIII, giving them six trophies in 18 seasons. Whether you like them or not, you have to agree that it's an absolutely unbelievable accomplishment.

Rickie Fowler with Phoenix Open trophy

My picks for the Phoenix Open this week were Xander Schauffele (T10) to win and Rickie Fowler (1) to Top10. As it turned out, I had them backwards. That puts my totals for 2019 so far at:
  • Winners: 1 for 5
  • Place well (Top10): 4 for 5 (2 Top5 finish, 2 more Top10s)
  • Overall Top10s: 7 of 10 (3 Top5s, 4 more Top10s)
Ironically, when I originally wrote the post, I picked Rickie to win. Why did I change? Because while I thought Rickie, like Justin Rose the week before, would play better after a week of knocking off the rust, I felt that Rickie was less likely to jump from T66 to 1 than Rose had been to jump from T20.

Sometimes I think too much...

But for a while it looked as if I might be right. Rickie's four-stroke lead evaporated quickly in the bad weather that descended on TPC Scottsdale Sunday. A double-bogey and an unbelievably unlucky triple stripped away his entire lead and set Branden Grace alone on top of the leaderboard, as all of the last pairings were unable to do any better than Rickie.

It looked as if Rickie would come up short once again and his critics would be proved right, that he wasn't a "closer" after all.

And then something strange happened. Rickie found something deep inside, something that steadied his nerves and allowed him to rally. His usually poor performance on the final five holes turned into a two-under stretch, giving him a two-stroke win as Grace struggled to finish. It wasn't the dominant finish most expected... but then, nobody posted a dominant finish!

Rickie posted the gutty finish he needed and closed the tournament with a win.

I know the analysts will debate whether Rickie 'proved" anything Sunday or not. But I think he did, and I think it will stand him in good stead as he moves forward this year. Sunday's finish was a harder victory than a four- or five-stroke win would have been, and no critic will be able to take it away from him.

It will certainly make this Limerick Summary that much sweeter.
A four-stroke lead wasn’t enough
‘Cause TPC Scottsdale played tough
Once it started to rain.
Rickie said, “Not again—
I’ll show critics I’m no powderpuff!”
The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Haotong Li's Most Extraordinary Day

Just a week after one of the new rules bit him in the you-know-what, Haotong Li got a measure of revenge. To begin with, it appears that the Arabian Desert is something of a bird sanctuary.

Specifically, for eagles. Four of them. All in the same 18 holes.

Haotong Li

And as historic as that was, only one of them came on a par-5. All of the others were twos made on par-4s. Haotong eagled the par-4 first hole, tenth hole and seventeenth hole, then capped the round off with a "normal" eagle on the par-5 eighteenth.

If that wasn't enough, Li's round included a double-bogey. Add in a couple of birdies and he managed to post an eight-under 62.

But even THAT wasn't enough. For you see, after Haotong Li managed this amazing scoring feat, the PGA Tour decided the new rule that bit Haotong had overstepped its bounds when it did the same to Denny McCarthy on Friday. After contacting the USGA and the R&A, the lawmaking bodies agreed that there was indeed a problem, rescinded McCarthy's penalty and promised to reexamine the rule.

Granted, that doesn't change what it did to Haotong Li. But it does give him a measure of vindication.

By the time most of you read this, the Saudi International will be over and we'll know if Haotong was able to capitalize on a historic performance that sends him into the final round tied with Dustin Johnson. But regardless of how the event turns out, Haotong Li has had a most extraordinary day.

And I couldn't let it pass without giving him a shout-out. Well done, Haotong! I hope you have many more days just as wonderful as this one!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Remembering Alice Dye

When news came Friday that Pete Dye's wife Alice had died just weeks before her 92nd birthday, I think a lot of people were shocked.

Alice Dye

The tribute articles are already hitting the 'Net. Here are links to one at pgatour.com and another at golfdigest.com, but there are far more than that out there and I suspect many more will be up by the time most of you read this. And many of those writers knew here personally, so their tributes will say much more than mine.

Still, I wanted to pay my respects. This is the woman who came up with the 17th at Sawgrass, after all, and was herself a Curtis Cup player at age 49. She learned how to play with hickory-shafted clubs, for Pete's sake! Alice has been in golf her entire life, and was very successful in every aspect of the game.

Did you know she was the first female member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, in 1983? Or their first woman president in 1997? Or the first woman named to the PGA of America Board of Directors, in 1999?

Here's pgatour.com's summary of her amateur career:
Those state amateur wins in Indiana – Dye winning the last of her nine in 1969 at the age of 42 – were only part of a brilliant playing resume. Alice Dye also won the 1968 North and South Women’s Amateur; went back-to-back in both the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur (1978-79) and Canadian Women’s Senior Amateur (1983-84); and triumphed in three women’s state amateurs in Florida (1973, ’74, ’79).
In 1970, Alice Dye produced arguably the key point in the Americans’ 11 ½ - 6 ½ triumph over Great Britain & Ireland in the Curtis Cup at Brae Burn CC outside of Boston. Two down with four to play against Julia Greenhalgh, Dye rallied to win; instead of a presumed 4 ½ - 4 ½ tie, the American side scratched out a one-point first-day lead thanks to Dye, and never looked back.
Another prideful honor was being named American captain at the 1992 World Amateur team championship in Vancouver.
The golfdigest.com article writes about her design ability:
In the 1990s, I [author Ron Whitten] asked Alice if she’d ever wanted to design a golf course by herself, start to finish. “I’ve already done that,” she said, pointing to Heather Hills in Indianapolis (now Maple Creek Golf & Country Club), billed as Pete’s first 18-hole design. She took the lead on that project while Pete was off chasing work in Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska and elsewhere. She handled the routing, negotiated with government officials, prodded lenders, supervised construction and deferred to Pete only in the contouring of its greens. Her involvement was fairly well covered by the Indiana press in 1961, where she was invariably identified as Mrs. Paul Dye. Such was the fate of a rare female golf architect in those days.
She and Pete were married for something like 70 years. And most of her time lately has been spent supervising Pete's health care, since he's suffering from Altzheimer's. Those two lovebirds have been inseparable their whole lives.

An era in golf has passed. Alice Dye will be missed.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Matthew Wolff's Swing (Video)

Since amateur Matthew Wolff is T11 (-4) with 15 other players at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and since I'm sure a number of you are unfamiliar with him, here's a slo-mo video of his swing.



Golf World did an article several months ago listing his sizable accomplishments at Oklahoma State University -- yes, Rickie Fowler's alma mater -- and after reading it you'll have a better understanding of why everybody is so excited about him.

But it's that unusual swing of his that has everybody buzzing. Wolff creates a lot of clubhead speed because he doesn't worry so much about positions. Rather, he just worries about smashing the ball with as much clubhead speed as he can generate and if it's not pretty... well, tough luck for you.

The fact is, while his swing is unusual, it's not as if we haven't seen other players with these moves before.
  • Wolff gets a huge shoulder turn because he lets his hips turn freely, even lifting his left heel high off the ground to get the maximum turn.
  • At the top of his swing he makes a big loop, rerouting the club so the shaft -- and consequently his downswing plane -- is much flatter than his backswing plane. That's why he hits a draw almost all of the time. But note that he can hit that draw really high, which many players can't, and that height allows him to stop the ball almost as fast as a fade would.
  • And like so many young players these days -- and most long drive hitters -- Wolff launches himself off the ground to create as much swing speed as he can.
What IS different is that he does ALL OF THESE THINGS AT ONCE while managing to keep some semblance of control over the ball. You generally don't see a swing with this many moves, simply because it's hard enough to find the ball when you use just one of these moves, let alone all of them!

Given his success as an amateur, it'll be interesting to see how he fares against the pros. TPC Scottsdale sets up well for his style of golf so, if he can keep the ball in play, Wolff could be a threat this week.

And if he's there Sunday afternoon with a chance to win, it'll be very interesting to see how the pros handle this lone Wolff.