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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

How to Play a Par-3 (Video)

Last week I posted a Golf Monthly video where Graeme McDowell's coach Clive Tucker gives GW's Neil Tappin a strategy lesson on how to play par-4s. Surprise! That was the first of a three-video series.

Today you get the second video, which covers the strategy for playing par-3 holes. It's nearly 22 minutes long, so grab a drink and settle in for a master class in strategy.



Monday, March 30, 2020

Some Good Golf News (for a Change)

This 7-minute Golf Central update has some Tour business info as well as some practice drills that you can use at home.



This link sums up what the Tour plans to do to help their players and caddies who are financially struggling because there are no events to play.

Plus Brandel Chamblee has a cross-section of social media videos showing drills that have been posted by a number of Tour players, each giving a drill to help you improve different areas of your game without ever leaving home.

While we don't know if we're any closer to seeing "fresh" golf yet, at least we're getting some new golf content that isn't bad news. I'll take that any day!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

How to Use Your Rangefinder

You say you live in an area where you can still play golf but the lack of players on the course hasn't sped up your game any? You say you still aren't hitting the ball any nearer the hole? Betty William from golfershot.com may have just the guidance you need.

No matter who you are, it’s hard to enjoy golf when you hit every green and still have a long putt left. If you want to leave shorter putts, it’s important to know the correct distance between you and your target.

Knowing the correct distance your ball has to carry helps you choose the right iron. When you know which club you’re using, you can plan for the best shot shape. That’s what leaves you a shorter putt.

A rangefinder helps you get the distance from you to the hole and to the front and the back of the green. You can figure out all the options for your next shot with a rangefinder, but you need to learn how to use one.

Types of rangefinders and how they work

Most rangefinders use reflective beams to get the reading, calculate the results and make recommendations. They include the distance to the target, the temperature of the green and the type of club you should use. You can get an in-depth idea of rangefinder suggestions from the golf rangefinder reviews here.

There are three basic types of rangefinders you need to know how to use. They are:
  1. Laser rangefinders.
  2. GPS rangefinder.
  3. Optical rangefinder.

1. How to use a Laser rangefinder

A laser rangefinder uses a laser beam locally from the device to calculate your next shot. Here is how you get it to work:
  • Get the rangefinder and switch it on. The power button placement varies from one manufacturer to another. Search for it and press the button.
  • Set the parameters to take the slopes into account and adjust the laser frequency if necessary. You're ready to rock!
  • Now, point the rangefinder towards the flag you're targeting and hold it still. The laser beam travels the distance and bounces back to the sensor inside the rangefinder.
  • Once the rangefinder has a reading from the sensor, it will calculate the travel distance and let you know with the display and sound.
You might need to get the reading more than once if you don't hold the device steady.

2. How to use a GPS rangefinder

GPS rangefinders use the Global Positioning System and the advancements of satellite technology. Here is the process for using a GPS rangefinder:
  • Most golf courses have their map and blueprint on their server to help golfers use their GPS rangefinders.
  • Turn your GPN rangefinder on and connect it to the golf course online feed.
  • The blueprint and the map of the golf course will help you locate the flag and calculate your next shot.
  • Point the rangefinder to the flag and it will calculate the coordinates, map the geo-location of the hole, and measure the distance.
Make sure you keep the rangefinder up-to-date, so it can connect to the maximum amount of satellites available. Also, update the maps regularly to get the best reading for the slopes.

3. How to use an Optical rangefinder

Optical rangefinders aren’t as advanced as Laser or GPS rangefinders. They use basic optics to calculate distances. You use an optical rangefinder by looking through lenses and adjusting a knob to focus on the target.

Once you can clearly see the target, the distance given is more of an educated guess rather than a calculated accurate reading. However, you can increase your accuracy if you have some knowledge about the course.

Final thought

Rangefinders are great when it comes to determining your next shot and getting closer with your next putt. They also help you choose the right club for your shots by giving you an accurate reading of the green. Rangefinders even suggest the right club if you have the right device in your hand. You can rapidly improve your bunker shot accuracy and putting with a rangefinder.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Debbie O'Connell's Frying Pan Drill (Video)

This is a great drill to use while many golf courses are shut down.



I want to explain some things about this drill, things that I think make it useful but that many instructors wouldn't mention.

First of all, when you watch this drill head-on it really does look like you're rotating your forearms a great deal... but that's an illusion. If you were standing erect -- that is, with your spine vertical as you swing -- the 'face' of the frying pan would stay vertical to the ground all the way through your swing. From head-on it would look as if your forearms were rotating, but from your viewpoint you would see that both arms remain straight and there's no rotation at all.

But you're actually bent at the hips as you swing, so there's a minor bit of rotation during your swing. HOWEVER, there's only enough rotation to keep the 'face' of the frying pan vertical to the ground. From head-on it looks as if there's a lot of forearm rotation but from your viewpoint you will only see a slight bit.

And most of that forearm rotation comes from your lead elbow staying close to your side throughout the swing. (If that elbow moves away from your side during your followthrough, you're chicken-winging.) This is where it can really help if you're swinging a cast iron frying pan, as the weight of the pan will help pull your trailing arm straight while also helping you feel the effort of keeping your lead elbow close.

Please note that even when you don't chicken-wing it, your lead elbow still bends a little on your followthrough. That's the mirror image of what your arms do during your backswing.

Again, this is a great drill for doing inside, especially if the golf courses near you are closed and you can't play because of COVID-19. It doesn't take much room to do and the weight of the frying pan gives you great feedback on whether you're doing it correctly or not. A month spent using this drill for a few minutes daily can really make a difference in your swing once you can hit the course again.

Friday, March 27, 2020

In Case You Haven't Heard Yet...

The New York Post is reporting that the USGA has finally postponed the US Open.

The clock at Winged Foot

It was just a matter of time, you know. The June date is looking less and less feasible, especially since Governor Andrew Cuomo basically shut down the state last week in hopes of slowing down COVID-19. New York is one of the USA's main hot spots for the virus.

The Post says that although the USGA hasn't made an official announcement yet, they intend to delay the event and hopefully still play it at Winged Foot, perhaps in September.

That's now four of the big events that COVID-19 has affected. THE PLAYERS was cancelled, of course, and now the Masters, the PGA and the US Open have been postponed. Will THE OPEN, scheduled for mid-July, also be postponed?

With the Olympics also being postponed until sometime next year, some spots have opened up on the calendar for these events to be rescheduled if the virus will just cooperate. Hope springs eternal...

Thursday, March 26, 2020

How to Play a Par-4 (Video)

For many of you, playing golf isn't an option right now. But that doesn't mean you can't improve your game. You don't have to visit a course in order to learn better scoring strategies.

In this video Graeme McDowell's coach Clive Tucker gives Neil Tappin from Golf Monthly a detailed lesson on how to play a par-4. First they tackle a short par-4, then a long one. Settle in for a 25-minute master class on strategic thinking!




Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Mental Challenges of Pandemics

Tuesday night on ESPN's SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt I was watching Scott Van Pelt and Michael Phelps talk about how the delay of the Olympics would affect athletes in terms of their mental preparation and even their mental health. And the more I watched, the more I thought this was something that also affects golfers -- and not just about dealing with their games but with their everyday lives as well.

Former Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps

Of course it was too soon to find a video of the discussion, so I started looking around the Web to see if I could find something similar that might help those of us struggling to find a 'mental game' for dealing with the challenges this pandemic is throwing at us.

And I found this article on the tellfp.com site that seems to fill the bill.

Just as a quick intro, this is how TELL describes themselves on their mission page:
TELL is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing world-class, effective support and counseling services to Japan’s international community as well as helping to address the country’s growing mental health care needs.
Since Japan was one of the first countries needing to deal with COVID-19, this article seems especially useful.

The article is simply called Coping with a Pandemic. It was written in early March and it covers all the different strategies for dealing with the emotional backlash of a pandemic. The article says
The three primary strategies for coping with the emotional impact of a pandemic are:
  1. Education: Factual information about COVID-19 and current guidelines for prevention.
  2. Preparation: Personal and family readiness.
  3. Understanding common reactions to pandemics.
The first section covers some basic medical facts that you may or may not know.

The second section has some useful tips on how to channel those uncomfortable feelings you and your family may be struggling with.

The third section lets you know how these conflicts may manifest themselves, so you can prepare for them.

Perhaps the most useful section is at the end, simply called How to Build Resilience. It's just some tips on how to head off some of the more common problems before they become too big to handle.

I hope this article can help some of you deal with the problems we're all facing but which will probably get worse before they get better. To use a golf metaphor, I think this article can help us all get a little better at 'taking our game from the range to the course.'

And who among us can't use a little help with that?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Imitating Inbee Park's Tempo (Video)

Since I focused on Collin Morikawa's tempo over the weekend, let's continue with this important fundamental. LPGA instructor Katie Detlefsen has a quickie lesson on how Inbee Park maintains a consistent tempo from swing to swing.



Katie has picked out two aspects of Inbee's tempo that are easy to duplicate.

First, she doesn't freeze over the ball. She rocks back and forth in her stance, keeping her leg muscles relaxed and encouraging a feeling of agility over the ball. That gentle rocking motion, shifting her weight from one foot to the other in a way that feels comfortable to her, makes relaxation a more natural reaction to her shot.

And second, Inbee's swing starts slow and gradually speeds up until she smacks the ball. That 3-to-1 ratio between her backswing and downswing that Katie mentions is something that was discovered through video research nearly 20 years ago. The results were published in a book called Tour Tempo by John Novosel, and it was something of a revelation to instructors.

In case you don't know, Novosel was comparing videos of pro swings, looking for similarities, and that's when he discovered that 3-to-1 ratio. But here's the interesting part: It wasn't that the pros all had swings that took the same time, but merely that their backswings always took three times longer than the downswings. For example, Nancy Lopez's total swing took much longer than Nick Price's, yet each players backswing was three times as long as their downswing.

In simpler terms, if you count 1-2-3-4 as you swing and make each count the same length, your tempo will give you the best results if you need three counts to reach the top of your backswing and change direction and then actually hit the ball on the fourth count! That ratio creates speed at the proper place in your swing to hit the ball a long way while helping you retain your balance so you can hit the ball more accurately.

If you're interested in learning a bit more about that 3-to-1 ratio, just go to YouTube and search for 'tour tempo golf training'. John teaches the technique using audio rhythms (when I bought the book shortly after it was released, it came with a CD to use for practice) and you'll find a number of videos that introduce you to the rhythm.

Just don't forget to use Katie's first tip as well. It's much easier to swing in tempo when you're relaxed!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Let's Take a Quick Look at the News...

Another Monday passes without the Limerick Summary, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty happening. Here are links to some articles about how golf is surviving during the pandemic. I've got seven links for you, hitting many areas of the golf community.

GOLF Magazine's Luke Kerr-Dineen and Steph Curry

Let's start with tournament news from this golfchannel.com post.
The LPGA announced Friday that the ANA Inspiration has been rescheduled to Sept. 10-13 at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California.
And three more tournaments have been postponed, so...
The earliest the LPGA season could resume is now the Pelican Women's Championship on May 14-17 in Belleair, Florida.
The Korn Ferry Tour players are having more financial worries than you might expect. This Golf Digest article details some of the financial differences between the KFT and the PGA Tour that you might not have thought about. KFT player Mark Baldwin said he's doing better than most because of one finish, and the article tells why:
The check [Baldwin's] talking about: $19,988 for finishing T-7 in the El Bosque Mexico Championship. For comparison, each of the 144 players who teed it up in the one round of the Players Championship, even the ones who shot 78 or 79, received a check for $52,083. Only 18 players on the Korn Ferry Tour have made that much for the entire season thus far.
The KFT has played only six events this season and they were the most expensive events of the year. Those players are in a very different bind than the big names on the PGA Tour.

You might be surprised to know that some mini-tours are still playing. Anna Nordqvist just won a playoff at a Cactus Tour event, and this GC article can give you some info on how the mini-tour situation looks.

Not everyone is so lucky, even at the club level. Pennsylvania has been hit really hard by COVID-19, so much so that the governor pretty much shut down the golf industry there. The Philadelphia Inquirer site is covering efforts to at least get the courses themselves back open.

Assuming you can get out on the course, the USGA has enacted some temporary amendments to the Rules of Golf to make the game a bit more 'pandemic friendly.'

In the wider world of sports, the Olympics are only a few months away and the International Olympic Committee is starting to feel the heat. This Golf Channel article notes that:
The International Olympic Committee agreed Sunday to explore other options for the 2020 Games, including the possibility of postponement. A decision should be made within the next four weeks...
The Games are currently scheduled for July 24, and that doesn't give the world much time to recover from the vast number of changes that the pandemic has forced on us all. And once you add the training problems caused by those changes... Well, at least the IOC plans to postpone instead of cancel the Olympics.

At least, that's the plan right now.

And finally, let's look for a bright spot. Look at the photo that heads this post. That's GOLF Magazine's Luke Kerr-Dineen and Steph Curry taking part in a social media campaign that hopes to brighten things up a bit; it's tagged #PlayingThrough. The golf.com article is called #PlayingThrough: How the golf world is coming together to spread positivity, and it has lots of tweets and videos that may give you a smile.

God knows we can all use some good news. Stay safe.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

A Quick Collin Morikawa Seminar (Video)

Today I've got a Collin Morikawa two-for-one -- a video on varying the height of your drives and an article on improving your iron play. First, the video:



Note how simply Morikawa adjusts his setup and finish to create different trajectories. He moves the ball position from teed low and slightly inside his lead heel to teed high and opposite his lead big toe (low to high trajectory) and changes the level of his shoulders (level for low trajectory, lead shoulder higher for high).

And on his finish he tries to finish low for a low trajectory and high for a high trajectory -- that is, he tries to keep the clubhead low and level through impact for a low shot and he swings more upward for a high shot. All very simple things.

Morikawa

His approach to iron shots is also simple. You can read the article at golfdigest.com but here's a key that stood out to me because he also mentions it in the driving video. This short section is entitled Dial Back Your Swing Speed:
When I was in college at Cal, they said my shot dispersion with a 6-iron was about the same as the average tour pro’s with a pitching wedge. I guess that’s a humble brag, but if you want to know why I think I hit my irons so straight, it’s tempo. Swinging with good tempo is one of the first things you’re taught as a golfer, but many players eventually forget its importance for accuracy and instead focus on club and body positions. To swing rhythmically, first focus on a good finish (above). Practice hitting shots at half speed and gradually swing faster as long as you can make a full swing back and through­—no shortcuts!—and still create this poised-and-balanced finish. It’s the fastest way to improve your tempo and become a better ball-striker.
Do you get that? Tempo is the key to becoming a better ball-striker and dialing back your swing speed is the quickest way to improve tempo. Wouldn't YOU like to hit your 6-iron as close as a pro's pitching wedge? You don't have to be a pro to improve your tempo; you just have to stop swinging so hard that you can't control it.

Notice that you don't have to stop swinging hard; you just have to stop swinging so hard that you can't control it. That's a very different thing altogether!

Dramatic improvement isn't always the result of complex technique. Sometimes you just need to get the simplest of fundamentals down. Collin Morikawa is a great example of how impressive those improvements can be.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Swinging Like Jon Rahm (Video)

In this video coach Mitchell Spearman helps Anna Whiteley try out Jon Rahm's short full swing.



There are a few basics in Jon's swing that go against the typical way you're taught to swing. The primary one is that Jon drops straight down from the top and doesn't shift his weight forward until later in the swing. That's right -- Jon Rahm stays back on his trail leg as he makes his downswing.

Let me quickly list the basics of Jon's swing that Mitchell mentions.
  • wider than normal stance
  • more of a sitting stance
  • short flat backswing
  • drops straight down on the downswing
  • stays back on his trailing leg longer than most
  • uses his legs a lot as he strikes the ball and finishes his swing (the leg drive allows him to get his lead hip out of the way at impact)
I know that many of you have a stout build that limits your shoulder turn. That's okay -- Jon Rahm proves you can play good golf anyway. (Jon IS #2 in the world, you know!) It's not about having some instructor's idea of a perfect build for golf; rather, it's about learning to use what you have effectively.

If you aren't as flexible as Dustin Johnson, you could do a lot worse than copy Jon Rahm!

Friday, March 20, 2020

A Drill for Hitting Looooooong Irons

This article from golf.com teaches a drill to help you hit your long irons a long way, like Scott Piercy.

Setup for drill to help you hit long irons

While the article specifically says it helps you hit your long irons, it seems to me that the technique could help you pick up some distance with any iron. Bear that in mind as you read the article.

The drill setup is simple, as you can see in this photo from the article. You just tee your ball low, push a second tee in the ground at the same height just a few inches ahead of the ball -- it looks to be about two balls ahead to me -- and then hit both tees when you hit the ball. If you miss the second tee, you're lifting up at impact and hitting the ball thin.

Look, with everybody staying home more to slow the spread of COVID-19, I realize you may not get to practice this drill for a while. But this is the kind of drill that's good to have in the back of your mind, knowing that it will help you once you can hit the course again.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Brooks and Rory Aren't Always Rivals, Apparently

Just thought this was an interesting tidbit of news, given how much has been made of Brooks Koepka's statements portraying him as a lone wolf who doesn't care what others think.

Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy

Several news outlets -- here are links to posts from Golf Channel and from Golfweek -- about Brooks calling Rory to discuss the Premier Golf League. The short version is this:

After Rory's presser in Mexico City where he said he was 'out' of the League (if it ever happens), Brooks called him to just to talk and share the info each had on the proposal. Brooks then said he was out a few days back, and Rory has since remarked that Brooks brought up some more good reasons for staying out.

While other players had certainly reached the same conclusions on their own, the combined weight of Brooks and Rory's opinions seems to have freed a deluge of players to speak their minds and add their voices to the two giants. Although this probably won't kill the proposed league outright, it has to have been a blow to the potential investors.

And you can be sure that the PGA Tour and its assorted tours and partners are pleased to hear it.

Looks like when the future of their sport might be in doubt, Brooks and Rory aren't really rivals at all.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Wristy VS Wristless Chipping (Video)

With new cancellations pushing the golf season out another month, we might as well get some practice in. This recent video from Michael Breed compares and contrasts the chipping styles of Phil Mickelson and Jason Day, all to ask the musical question: Which technique is best for you?

The first part of the video is one of Breed's viewer swing analyses. I've set the video to start at the 11:03 mark, which is the start of the short game lesson.



You'll learn quite a bit about the Mickelson and Day techniques, and around the 18:38 mark Breed starts teaching the different ways to create hinge for different types of shots.

I think most of you will find something here that will help improve your short game.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Possible Future of Tours and Rankings

COVID-19 has interrupted all sports for now, but events will eventually begin again. The question is, how long will it be before golf resumes? And how will the delay affect world rankings?

Today I'm linking to some articles that address those very things.

Current World #1 Rory McIlroy

Here's a GC article by Will Gray looking at how this interruption will affect the Official World Golf Rankings (aka the OWGR). The article talks about how the Top10 of the OWGR might shape up in the April 13 version -- assuming nothing changes in the meantime. Rory McIlroy would still be #1 if the OWGR continues on its present course.

What might change? Gray says the powers-that-be are considering a freeze to the rankings. According to a golf.com article, "a spokesperson from the OWGR said simply, 'All these matters are under discussion.'"

Why is it important? One word: Olympics. Assuming the Olympics can go on as planned, the golf participants will be chosen based on the OWGR (and Rolex Rankings for the ladies). And you can bet that both organizations will be seriously considering their options because, as old events drop off the back end of the rankings without new events to take their place, the rankings could play havoc with the current expectations of the players.

While the rankings would also affect entries into the various majors and WGCs, you have to believe that the Olympics are first and foremost in the minds of the ranking organizations.

I also want to link to a GC article listing, as of Monday, the next expected events on each of the world tours. At this point most of the world's tours expect to get back in action sometime in April or May, but I found two notable exceptions:
  • PGA Tour of Australasia: NT PGA Championship, Palmerston Golf Course, Palmerston, Australia, Aug. 20-23
  • Japan LPGA: AXA Ladies Golf Tournament, UMK Country Club, Miyazaki, Japan, March 27-29
It's the JLPGA that surprises me most. Despite being right next door to China, where this virus first made itself known, they currently plan to play an event next week! I really have trouble believing that won't change soon, but it's interesting that it hasn't been changed already.

Given the 'fluid nature' of the COVID-19 pandemic, these seem to be the most volatile aspects of the golf landscape in the immediate future. And the world rankings strike me as the most critical of the two, as they could serious alter the fields of events when they finally begin again. After all, unlike the tournaments which will find their choices largely dictated by health concerns and travel restrictions, the rankings are simply calculations in a computer, unaffected by COVID-19.

Unless it finds a way to jump from humans to computers, that is.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Rory on Driving (Video)

Feels a little strange not posting a Limerick Summary today, but disruptions are the reality for all of us right now. So I've been thinking about what I can do to make things a bit more interesting on the blog until we get back to some form of normalcy.

Normally I try to post very short videos that will give you a tip quickly, so you can get on with your life and watch whatever golf is on TV. But since we don't have any new golf, I've decided (as one possibility) to post some longer videos occasionally over the next few week.

Today I've got one of the GOLFPASS videos that GC has put up as samples of what they're offering. This one is Rory and his coach sharing some of the things he works on that make him the great driver he is.



There's plenty to digest in this video, but a couple of things that stood out to me are right in the beginning.

First, Rory says he has a tendency to get the ball a bit too far forward in his stance. He also says he sometimes lines up with his upper body a bit open and his lower body a bit closed. It's always good to know what your most common mistakes are; that way, when things go wrong, you may be able to eliminate the problem quickly. (He talks about one way he deals with the open/closed problem later in the video.)

The other thing is that Rory (like me!) tends to use an intermediate point that's only a couple of feet ahead of the ball to line up his shots. He believes that makes him less likely to aim the shot incorrectly, which I agree with. That's a tip long recommended by Jack Nicklaus, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out that's where Rory first learned it as well.

And in case you're interested, near the end of the video Rory describes how he hits 'the Bullet', which is his slightly different approach to Tiger's stinger. I never cease to be amazed at how players create their own versions of similar shots.

Maybe you'll find a couple of tips that can help improve your driving in this video as well.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Picking a Putter Based on Your Misses (Video)

Here's a simple tip from Nick Clearwater at GOLFTEC on how to choose a putter based on how you miss putts.



The tip itself is insanely simple.
  • If you tend to pull your putts, choose a putter where the shaft enters the head behind the face.
  • If you tend to push your putts, choose a putter where the shaft is offset ahead of the face.
So if you're a rightie who misses to the left (or a leftie who misses to the right) you'll want to look at a putter where the shaft enters the head behind the putterface. The idea is that the putterface gets to the ball before the shaft does, before you've had a chance to close the putterface, and that makes you hit the putt a bit straighter.

Likewise, if you're a rightie who misses to the right (or a leftie who misses to the left) you'll want to look at a putter where the shaft is offset ahead of the putterface. The idea here is that the shaft gets to the ball before the putterface does, so you have more time to close the putterface and hit the putt a bit straighter.

If you have a consistent miss, you might want to try this out and see if it works for you.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Why COVID-19 May Actually Help Some Players

I know, it's a strange thought. But during the first round of THE PLAYERS on Thursday there was some talk about how hard it is to 'find something' at this time of the season, during the run to the majors. And that got me to thinking...

Jordan Spieth

At this point we're facing at least five weeks without golf -- that's the four weeks cancelled by the PGA Tour plus the postponement of the Masters. That's five weeks when players are not only free of the obsessive drive to play well in majors, but they're also free of the continuous scrutiny that comes from working on swing changes while under the televised glare of the fans.

Five weeks is longer than most of these players take as an off-season, so the potential to deal with the problems in their games without the pressure to perform might be an unexpected blessing.

I've identified at least five players who could come out of this enforced layoff stronger than before.
  • At the top of my list is Jordan Spieth. The Golden Boy's struggles have been endlessly documented and debated over the last couple of years; I think an unplanned break like this one could provide the privacy he needs to collect his thoughts and simply make changes without the need to waste needed practice time traveling to yet another public dissection of his problems.
  • Close behind him is Rickie Fowler, plagued by the one unexpected big number that ruins an otherwise commendable round. There have been so many changes in his life over the last few months that he has a number of things to deal with... and ironically, if the speculations are correct, COVID-19 might finally allow him to get over the sickness that has plagued him since just before the Hero Challenge.
  • Not struggling as much but still off his regular form, Justin Thomas has also struggled with an unusual number of wild shots that seem to come from nowhere during his rounds. A chance to take a spring break of sorts, with no important events demanding he show up in order to remain high in the rankings, could serve as a breather in which to slow down and regain his normal rhythm.
  • Are you surprised to see Brooks Koepka on my list? His knee injury has clearly had an effect on his mental game as much as it did on his physical wellbeing. A few weeks during which he can rebuild his confidence without putting undue pressure on his game could pay big dividends later this year. Especially in the majors.
  • Finally -- and perhaps surprisingly to many of you -- I would add Rory McIlroy to this list. After seven Top5 finishes all would seem well with his game, and I would agree... as long as you're talking about his technique. We all know that Rory has been aiming toward Augusta, and I can't help but feel that his failure to close out more tournaments lately is the result of trying too hard. I think that having the certainty of a date for the Masters ripped away from him, as it was on Friday, may let him get back into the mindset of focusing only on the event at hand, rather than the one that has been eluding him for so long.
Under no circumstances am I saying that the COVID-19 virus is a good thing nor am I making light of the pandemic we're facing. But history has proven that, as we rise to deal with such evils, sometimes even the worst situations provide us with unexpected benefits somewhere down the road.

Perhaps we've all taken too much for granted, and a heavy dose of reality -- painful as it is going to be -- is something we need. Life is precious and far more important than any game. And once this pandemic is past and we remember what's really important, we just may find the game itself more enjoyable.

Friday, March 13, 2020

The Coronavirus Wins... For Now

After a day of rapidly changing developments in the COVID-19 virus saga, Golf -- capitalized here because I'm referring to all the governing bodies around the world -- decided that it's not safe after all to compete for at least a month. Here's Jay Monahan's brief statement, issued around 10pm ET Thursday night:
It is with regret that we are announcing the cancellation of THE PLAYERS Championship.

We have also decided to cancel all PGA TOUR events – across all of our Tours – in the coming weeks, through the Valero Texas Open.

We have pledged from the start to be responsible, thoughtful and transparent with our decision process. We did everything possible to create a safe environment for our players in order to continue the event throughout the weekend, and we were endeavoring to give our fans a much-needed respite from the current climate. But at this point – and as the situation continues to rapidly change – the right thing to do for our players and our fans is to pause.

We will be prepared to answer additional questions on Friday at 8 a.m.
Note that THE PLAYERS is cancelled -- it will not be rescheduled. The 2020 edition will simply be a footnote in golf history, a casualty of an unexpected pandemic.

While many are talking about this decision almost being too late, it's worth remembering that the situation in Florida changed dramatically in the hours after the Tour announced they intended to go on with Friday's round -- most notably, Disney World in Orlando was closed until the end of this month and the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state jumped nearly 50%. Jay Monahan did exactly what he said the Tour would do -- continue to monitor the rapidly-changing situation and make new decisions if necessary.

The next domino in line will be the Masters, as Valero is the last event before the Tour heads to Augusta. The LPGA had already axed the ANA Inspiration, hoping this will be merely a postponement until later in the year. I doubt the Masters team will wait until the last moment to make an announcement; that doesn't seem to be their style. I don't know how soon to expect their decision. But given that many players show up a week early to begin prep, I have trouble believing it will be much later than the first of April.

With all the sports cancellations over the last couple of days (NASCAR and Indycar being the two exceptions left) it will be interesting to see how television handles the newly-opened airtime. GC will likely rebroadcast older editions of the events that have been 'pre-empted' as well as golf movies, but CBS, NBC and their fellow stations will probably have to scramble a bit. March and April are heavy sports months in most years, so COVID-19 has thrown the entertainment industry a huge curve.

It has been said that "the door of history swings on small hinges." I guess hinges don't get much smaller than a virus. The big question is where will this door lead?

Thursday, March 12, 2020

EVERY SHOT? You Betcha!

I'm linking you to Randall Mell's article about NBC Sports Gold and PGA TOUR LIVE broadcasting every single shot that will be played at THE PLAYERS this week. Jay Monahan said, “That's more than 32,000 shots over the course of the week, captured by more than 120 cameras throughout the course.”

Just think about that. It's mind-blowing.

Rory McIlroy

Mell says this is the best thing to happen to golf since sliced bread. Is he right? I don't know.

But I do think it's cool that you can watch your favorite player -- regardless of how popular he is -- play his entire round each day if you want.

Or, if you so desire, you can watch every single ball that goes in the water on 17 each day.

Is this the wave of the future? Again, I don't know. But if your favorite player never gets TV coverage and you've been wishing you could watch him play, this could be a game changer for you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Commissioner's State of the Tour Talk (Video)

And yes, at the end of this post there's also a link to Rory's press conference in case you missed it. It was very entertaining!

But business first. Jay Monahan gave his usual PLAYERS press conference Tuesday and he covered a lot of questions about things like the coronavirus as well as talking about the new media deals and such. It's all stuff that inquiring golf fans want to know about.

Commissioner Jay Monahan

So I have three links for you.
And as I promised, here's a link to the Facebook video of Rory's press conference (just under 32 minutes). While there were a number of high profile golfers in the media area on Tuesday (and more scheduled for today), Rory's appearance was probably the most fun to hear. We learned all about his involvement with fake IDs and 'juiced' Peloton bikes, among other things.

If today's media events are half as interesting as Tuesday's were, it'll be a pretty good day.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Twofer Tuesday: THE PLAYERS

Twofer Tuesday blows into town for this year's playing of THE PLAYERS.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy

Do you really need much in the way of details? TPC Sawgrass, Pete Dye's crown jewel and the headquarters of the PGA Tour, hosts this week's major/not a major event. (Call it whichever you want, but two of them will get you into the World Golf Hall of Fame as fast as two Masters.)

This week's defending champion is Rory McIlroy, which presents me with a dilemma. After seven straight Top5s, the defending champion is one of my obvious picks this week. But having taken advantage of Rory's machine-like performances for the last two weeks, I feel a bit guilty picking him for a third week in a row.

So I'm going against my better judgement and picking two different players this time around. It's hard to believe I can find two more potential Top10ers that are as certain as McIlroy. Fortunately TPC Sawgrass doesn't favor one type of player over another so I have a number of options open to me.
  • My first Top10er would have been one of my choices even if I had taken McIlroy. Sungjae Im has been a bit of a Top10 machine himself the last two weeks. After his win at the Honda Classic I wondered if he would have a letdown, but he posted a third place finish at Arnie's Place despite the tough conditions. Sawgrass smiles on ballstrikers like Im, so I'm taking the guy who's #1 in the FedExCup rankings.
  • My other Top10er may seem a bit of a stretch, but he's currently #5 in the FedExCup rankings. In his last six events (not counting the Presidents Cup) Webb Simpson has posted five Top10s which included a third at the Sony, a runner-up at the RSM and a win at Phoenix. And while his last event wasn't so hot -- a T61 at the WGC-Mexico -- TPC Sawgrass is back on familiar territory for him. I think he'll come off his short rest ready to play.
And while Rory is the odds-on favorite to win, I truly think both of my picks have a good chance this week to get their second wins of 2020. TPC Sawgrass plays no favorites!

GC's live coverage begins at 1pm ET on Thursday. We get six hours of that first round, not counting the PGA TOUR LIVE coverage that GC will probably show intermittently before their coverage starts. This is a week where truly anyone in the field can win, and that spells some serious fun for us viewers!

Monday, March 9, 2020

The Limerick Summary: 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational

Winner: Tyrrell Hatton

Around the wider world of golf: Jorge Campillo got his second ET win at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters; Ernie Els got his first Champions Tour win at the Hoag Classic; Alexandre Rocha won the Estrella del Mar Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Janie Jackson got her first pro win at the Florida's Natural Charity Classic on the Symetra Tour; Trevor Simsby won the Malaysian Open on the Asian Tour; and Musiwalo Nethunzwi won the Sunshine Tour's Vusi Ngubeni Tournament.

Tyrrell Hatton with API trophy and cardigan

Did the weather derail my Twofer Tuesday picks, Rory McIlroy (T5) and Henrik Stenson (MC)? Perhaps. At least Rory held on to give me a T5 this week. I thought Henrik would be ready to go after his brief off-season, but I guess a little rust and a lotta wind don't work well together.
  • Top10s: 9 for 20 (5 Top5, 4 other Top10s)
  • Winners: 0 for 10 events
But who would expect Tyrrell Hatton to emerge as the winner at Bay Hill? By his own admission he tends to sabotage hiself, simply because he has trouble controlling his emotions. (BTW, that doesn't change the fact that he's an incredible player. It just makes it that much harder for his abilities to win out.)

He almost did it again, after dunking his drive in the lake on 11... and then stubbing the pitch, which he followed with a short tantrum and a divot that had nothing to do with the shot... and then a bad putt, followed by an entire series of theatrics that ended with not one but two, shall we say, rude gestures toward the lake. You're telling me that this is the guy who's going to win?

Ironically, Hatton said he could have done worse. His caddie said he would have broken a club had that happened just a year ago.

Apparently they were both correct. Hatton pulled it together and parred the final seven holes to beat Marc Leishman by a single shot.

Perhaps this win will be the tipping point in his efforts to gain better control of his emotions. He's exempt for three years on the PGA Tour now and, while that card may not actually be necessary to prove a player's worth, it certainly opens the door to some serious opportunities. It also gives him a Limerick Summary, which I understand the ET wishes they had more chances to offer as well. (Hey, it's nothing personal, guys. I just happen to be an American who covers our tour most of the time!)
After Tyrrell splashed in for a double
His emotions moaned, “Man, you’re in trouble!”
But he learned he still led;
Hopeful thoughts filled his head
And he parred in… with just a few grumbles.
The photo came from this page at golfchannel.com.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Pennick's Magic Move and the Pump Drill (Videos)

I've got two videos for you today, demonstrating the same drill in a couple of different ways.

First, Alex Fortey talks about the late Harvey Pennick's Magic Move and explains some of how the pump drill helps you learn it.



But I really like Michelle Dube's demonstration of the pump drill and her explanation of all the things it helps you learn in order to sequence your swing properly.



This drill focuses on your downswing from the change of direction at the top down to the point where the shaft is parallel to the ground. The drill does several things:
  • helps you feel a correct lag from the top
  • gets the upper part of your downswing -- that's where things tend to go wrong -- on a good plane down the line
  • teaches you proper footwork and how your hips unwind through impact
  • lets you feel the proper sequence of upper and lower body movement during the downswing
Some of you may have even seen pros using a short version of this pump move as their 'waggle' before they actually hit their shots during a round.

This is an old drill but it has survived because it works. Adding it to your practice routine can really make a difference in how you hit the ball. And bear in mind that you can use this drill in your backyard because you don't even have to hit balls in order to get the benefits! To me, that makes it a great drill.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Paul Azinger on Pitching Off the Toe (Video)

I found this short video that was filmed but not included in Zinger's Short Game Special on GC.



This is a technique that was taught by the legendary short game instructor Phil Rodgers. (He's probably better known for that now than for his six-win PGA Tour career.) If you know his name, it's probably because Rodgers did a lot of work with Jack Nicklaus.

Anyway, Zinger talks in this video about how much easier it is to chip and pitch when you stand the club up more on the toe. It uses more bounce this way as well as helping the clubhead get through the rough more easily.

Zinger says this is the easiest way to use a wedge around the green. You might want to try the technique, especially if you struggle with chipping and pitching.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Nick Clearwater on Shorter Driver Shafts (Video)

This short GOLFTEC video is about something you should seriously consider: Can you really get more distance from a shorter driver shaft?



Think about what Clearwater says at the beginning of this video:
  • The average driver you buy at the golf shop usually has a 44.5 inch shaft.
  • The average driver used by PGA Tour pros usually has a 43.5 inch shaft.
  • And some of the best drivers on Tour use a driver with a 43 inch (or even shorter) shaft.
Longer shafts don't automatically equate to longer drives. I know that sounds crazy, but a shaft that is too long for you isn't as easy to swing effectively (which usually results in a slower clubhead speed). And if you aren't swinging effectively, you probably aren't hitting the sweet spot on the clubface very often either.

I know modern clubs are more forgiving, but 'forgiving' only means the ball doesn't go as far off line with an off-center hit. But you still get less distance on the off-center hit.

Clearwater's little rubber band test is a good way to see if you hit the center of the clubface more often with a shorter shaft, but be aware that this test won't give you the same distance you'd get with the 'correct' shaft for that length.

When you grip down on the shaft, the shorter shaft is stiffer because you've changed where the flex point of the shaft is. Getting the correct shaft length puts that flex point back in the correct spot and you get more distance. Or, to put it another way, gripping your 44.5 inch shaft so it plays at only 43 inches won't give you the same distance as an actual 43 inch shaft would give you.

So bear that in mind if you try testing for your proper shaft length. Once you find the correct shaft length using the Clearwater method, you'll need to try hitting a club with an actual shaft of that length to find out how it actually affects your length off the tee.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

How Rory Got His Groove Back

Today, a link to Rex Hoggard's article about how the 2018 API started Rory's reemergence as a top player.

Rory at the 2018 API

To say that the key to Rory's return to #1 is simplifying his approach would be both correct and yet terribly incomplete. There have been a number of changes in his life over the last two years or so, but it seems that the combination of changes that created the Rory we're seeing in 2020 began during this week in 2018.

I really like the way Rex charts the evolution of Rory's new sense of focus, so I'm recommending his article. It might give you some clues on how to find your own winning mindset. A seriously good article.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Something's New in Qatar

The Qatar Masters was first played in 1998. This year there's been a change...

Defending champion Justin Harding

Defending (first time ET) champion Justin Harding won at the Doha Golf Club in Doha, Qatar in 2019. But this year he'll do something no other defending champion has done -- defend on a new course.

The Education City Golf Club was designed by Jose Maria Olazábal, and it makes its debut as the host course this year. The Championship Course plays just over 7300 yards and, after playing nine holes there, Harding told europeantour.com that he expected the wind to be a big factor this week.

He'll be teeing it up beside another first-time winner, last week's Oman Open champion Sami Välimäki. ISPS Handa Vic Open winner Min Woo Lee (Minjee Lee's brother) is also in the field, as are some ET stalwarts like Eddie Pepperell, Thomas Pieters and Martin Kaymer.

If you live here in the US and want to watch, however, you'll have to get up pretty early. GC's live coverage is listed to start at 3am ET. But this is always a good tournament -- a lot of major winners have won in Qatar -- so if you're able to get up that early, it should be a good watch.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Twofer Tuesday: Arnold Palmer Invitational

Twofer Tuesday stumbles out of a poor showing at the Bear Trap, in hopes of better hunting at the home of the King.

Defending champion Francesco Molinari) width=

The Arnold Palmer Invitational is almost as legendary as the King himself. Bay Hill challenges players year after year, always offering us dramatic finishes. Tiger has eight wins here although we won't be seeing him this year; his back is still a bit stiff and he's clearly looking toward Sawgrass.

That doesn't mean the field isn't stacked. Trust me, it is. And while the pros definitely want a win at one of the most prestigious tournaments of the year, they're also (like Tiger) looking toward Sawgrass. But that three-year exemption has got to be a least a small distraction!

The defending champion is Francesco Molinari but it has to be said -- he just hasn't been the same since hitting that ball into the creek on #12 at the Masters last year. I hesitate to blame his lackluster performances since then on that; I just have trouble believing a single shot could unravel a game as solid as Francesco's was. But it seems clear that it was a contributing factor. Returning to Bay Hill might be just what he needs to find his game again.

However, I'm not going to gamble on that. The poor performances of my Twofer Tuesday picks last week means I need some sure things this time around. The real question is: Are there any sure things at Bay Hill?
  • My first Top10er seems to be a no-brainer. Rory McIlroy has been a virtual Top5 machine over the last few months and he's also a past winner at Bay Hill (2018). How can I not take him this week when he's been delivering exactly what I need?
  • My other Top10er is Henrik Stenson. He had posted four API Top5s in a row until last year's T17. If he's healthy, his game is a great fit for Bay Hill. Granted, he doesn't have a lot of good performances since his win at the Hero, but this is pretty much a home game for him since he lives in Orlando. If he's going to break out of a slump, this is the place for him to do it!
GC's live coverage begins at 2pm ET on Thursday. And while I've pretty much taken chalk picks in hopes of improving my pick percentage, I actually think Rory has a great chance to win this week. We'll find out soon enough!

Monday, March 2, 2020

The Limerick Summary: 2020 Honda Classic

Winner: Sungjae Im

Around the wider world of golf: There were a number of firsts this week, like Sami Valimaki getting his first ET win at the Oman Open; David Kocher getting his first Korn Ferry Tour title at the El Bosque Mexico Championship; Julia Engström getting her first LET title at the Women’s New South Wales Open; and Bernhard Langer getting his FORTY-first Champions Tour win at the Cologuard Classic. Poor Brad Kennedy was the odd man out, getting his eighth pro win at the New Zealand Open on the Asian Tour.

Sungjae Im with Handa Classic trophy

Well, at least my Twofer Tuesday picks managed a sweep. Both Rickie Fowler (MC) and Erik van Rooyen (MC) left PGA National on Friday evening. I suppose I should take some comfort from the fact that the Bear Trap snapped up the hopes of many of the top golfers in the field... but I don't. This was just a bad showing. There's got to be a better way to make picks!
  • Top10s: 8 for 18 (4 Top5, 4 other Top10s)
  • Winners: 0 for 9 events
Still, I would never have picked Sungjae Im out of the field. He's been a solid player for sure -- just look at how consistent he's been, despite playing more weeks than anybody else, and how impressive he was at the Presidents Cup. I don't think anybody doubted that he would eventually win.

But picking him to win at PGA National? Picking him to demolish the Bear Trap on Sunday afternoon when the leaderboard was packed and everybody was fighting their nerves? On a week with the highest winning score in a decade? Nope. Never would have guessed.

You have to be impressed by his composure and execution down the stretch. Sure, he botched one shot on 18 -- he's human, after all -- but his recovery shot was nothing short of amazing. He was as casual and relaxed as a player could be when doing what he was doing.

This is definitely going to be a trademark win for him going forward, and you have to think he's going to be on everybody's radar at THE PLAYERS in a couple of weeks. After all, if the schedule he's been playing didn't tire him out, I'm sure a couple of nights celebrating his first PGA Tour win won't affect him either!

I just hope he spares a few moments to check out his first Limerick Summary. That's a landmark achievement as well!
Im plays the game week after week
With his mad skills defying critique.
All the praise was backed up
At the Presidents Cup;
Now he’s ended his “should have won” streak.
The photo came from this page at golfweek.usatoday.com.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Tommy Fleetwood's Shot-Shaping Drill (Video)

This tip from Tommy is around four-and-a-half years old, but it's clear that it has helped him become the shotmaker he is today. Take a look:



No doubt you've already figured out why this video tip caught my eye. Tommy has built this shot-shaping drill around the L-to-L drill! I never cease to be amazed at how many ways this simple drill can be used to teach new concepts as well as correct swing errors.

Tommy says that the shorter swing minimizes how much you can use your hands, so it's easier to focus on how to actually shape the shot. (And I would add that, because this practice swing is so short, you don't have as much time to make other errors that would complicate the learning process.)

And once you've got a handle on how to create fades and draws with an L-to-L swing, he says you can start stretching the swing out until you can reproduce the drill results with a full swing. I couldn't have put it better myself!

Once again the L-to-L drill proves its usefulness. It's the Swiss Army knife of drills -- you should start using it immediately!