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Thursday, May 6, 2021

The First Champions Tour Major of 2021

Yep, it's about time the Champions got to their majors. This year the Regions Tradition is back on the schedule and the previous champ is in prime form to defend.

Defending champion Steve Stricker

Steve Stricker got his first ever major at Graystone Golf & Country Club a couple of years back, but you could be forgiven if you think he's got too much on his mind to put up a good defense this time around. After all, the US Ryder Cup captain has his hands full this year trying to sort through his six captain's picks for the best team available.

That is, you could be forgiven if he wasn't playing so darn well. He's got a 4th place at the WM Phoenix Open earlier this season on the PGA Tour, as well as a 3rd (Cologuard Classic) and a win (Chubb Classic) on the Champions Tour. This simply isn't what you expect from a Ryder Cup captain with bigger things on his mind!

Of course he'll have plenty of competition but it's hard not to wonder if he isn't the favorite coming in.

GC's coverage starts today (Thursday) at 11am ET. The first major of the season is always interesting, no matter which tour it's on, simply because there's so much anticipation from the players. We saw some great stuff at the ANA Inspiration and the Masters; I have no doubt we'll get some fireworks from the old guys this week as well.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

More Prime Time LPGA

The LPGA continues its Asian Swing this week at the Honda LPGA Thailand at its traditional venue, the Pattaya Old Course at Siam Country Club. And the player who should be the favorite probably won't get as much attention as she should.

Defending champion Amy Yang

The defending champion from 2019 is Amy Yang... and that was her third win at this event. She almost has to be the favorite this time around, no matter who the announcers choose to talk about.

And we all know who they'll be talking about, don't we?

By my count there will be ten Thais playing in this event, but the focus will be on Patty Tavatanakit. She's returning home for the first time since before the 2020 Australian Swing and she's fresh off her first major at the ANA Inspiration. The Thai contingent has come a long way in the last 10-15 years and will rightfully get a lot of attention for their success in such a short time.

But don't be fooled. Amy Yang is the most interesting player to watch in this field because no one else has so many wins here. She has won nearly 25% of the Honda LPGA Thailand that have been played thus far.

I call that domination.

And as it was last week, GC's coverage begins tonight (Wednesday) at 11pm ET. I'm looking forward to see how Amy does in pursuit of her fourth title.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Twofer Tuesday: Wells Fargo

Twofer Tuesday leaves the Deep South and heads back home to North Carolina and the Wells Fargo Championship.

Defending champion Max Homa

Granted, the Wells Fargo Championship is played a bit farther south in the state than my home (Charlotte vs the Piedmont Triad area of Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem) but it's still a home game to me.

The Quail Hollow Golf Club is a long hard trek for the players brave enough to tackle it -- a par-71 measuring over 7500 yards, always ranked as one of the toughest tracks on Tour, finishing with one of the toughest three-hole stretches in the game, the notorious Green Mile.

The defending champion -- from 2019, as it is at so many events this year -- is Max Homa. It was his breakthrough win and, along with his recent win at Riviera, has given him a rep for playing well on challenging courses. He'll have his hands full trying to defend at Quail Hollow though.

And while you'd normally expect a long hitter to dominate here, the occasional 'normal length' hitter gets his due -- most recently, Brian Harman won back in 2017.

So who shall we pick this week? I've decided to take one favorite and one dark horse.

  • My first pick is Will Zalatoris. Let's be honest -- after all the Top10s he's had and that runner-up at Augusta, you have to consider him a favorite on a course like this. And after taking a little time off he should be fresh and ready to show the big boys that he can win here, just like Homa did in 2019. If his putter comes along for the ride, he could make it really tough for the other guys.
  • And my dark horse pick is Joaquin Niemann. He'll need to be a bit more accurate off the tee if he hopes to do well here, but he's plenty long off the tee, hits plenty of greens and he's 10th in birdie average. He may sneak up on the rest of the field.

Yeah, I picked two guys who haven't won on Tour yet. But strange things can happen at Quail Hollow... and if you know anything about the movie The Green Mile, then you know miracles sometimes happen there.

GC's coverage starts at 2pm ET Thursday. It's one of those weeks when we get to see the best in the game struggle the way we mere mortals do. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

Monday, May 3, 2021

The Limerick Summary: 2021 Valspar Championship

Winner: Sam Burns

Around the wider world of golf: Dean Burmester won the Tenerife Open on the ET; Hyo Joo Kim won the HSBC Women's World Championship on the LPGA; Lilia Vu won the Garden City Charity Classic on the Symetra Tour; Mike Weir won the Insperity Invitational on the Champions Tour; Paul Barjon won the Huntsville Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour; Hyun Kyung Park successfully defended at the KLPGA'S CreaS F&C 43rd KLPGA Championship; Momoko Ueda won the Panasonic Ladies Open on the JLPGA; Dong-eun Kim won the KPGA's Gunsan Open; and Hiroshi Iwata won The Crowns on the Japan Golf Tour. [Thanks for the Asian scores, IC!]

Sam Burns with the Valspar trophy

My Twofer Tuesday picks did better this week. I had Charl Schwartzel (T21) and Abraham Ancer (5). Charl didn't carry his good play over from Zurich but Abraham did just what I expected from him. He's becoming a consistent player on Tour.

  • Top10s: 11 for 36 (7 Top5s, 4 other Top10)
  • Winners: 0 for 17 events

Sam Burns has been so close so many times. I've made him a Twofer Tuesday pick before, only to have him stumble or have an off week. But he's one of those players you couldn't help but believe would eventually break through.

Well, this was his week. All those past opportunities that slipped through his fingers have proven to be learning experiences after all. And on Sunday we saw a much steadier, more comfortable player as he made his way through the Snake Pit in even par.

I'll grant you that Keegan Bradley gave him a little help with that double on 13, but it truly was just a little help -- you can argue that Keegan's tee shot was the only truly bad shot he hit all day and that he had been rock solid up until that point. Sam simply wasn't going away this time.

Now, instead of being one of the best players on Tour never to win, Sam has completely changed the conversation. This win will kick him up into the Top50 in the OWGR, which means he's eligible for the majors (like the upcoming PGA Championship) and WGCs. But more than that, he has finally gained the most prestigious honor that comes with a Tour win...

His very own Limerick Summary.

In tournaments past, Sam had chances
Yet somehow he only caught glances
Of what might have been.
But now, with this win,
He’s changed his career circumstances.

The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Mike Malaska on How Driver and Iron Swings Differ (Video)

This is an older video from Mike that explains why a driver swing is different from an iron swing... and why they shouldn't feel any different.


Note that the drill he gives for matching the driver and iron swings merely involves slowing your driver swing enough to feel the same sequencing, and then gradually speeding up your driver swing until you can keep your iron swing sequencing at driver speed.

To a large extent, this is a mental problem rather than a technique problem. You just need to learn to swing the same way regardless of whether you're swinging a driver or an iron. That means that you might be able to make this change rather quickly, depending on how easily you can change your concept of how your swing should feel.

And as a bonus, if you can begin to swing your driver with the same sequence as your irons, you should soon be able to hit your irons farther as well because you'll be able to swing your irons faster. Now that's worth some practice!

Saturday, May 1, 2021

How to Get More from Your Range Session (Video)

This is a simple video to understand. It lists 11 mistakes frequently made on the range, mistakes that keep you from seeing real improvement from your range work. You'll find at least a few tips here that will help you get better quicker.


Friday, April 30, 2021

Rick Shiels Teaches the Four Shot Shapes (Video)

In this brand new video Rick teaches you how to hit the ball low and high, how to hit a fade and a draw, and when you want to use each of these shots. While there is more than one way to hit these shots, Rick's guidelines are pretty simple to remember and use.


And of course, I probably don't need to say this but I will anyway:

If you are a leftie, you have to make some mental adjustments to Rick's instructions for fades and draws -- namely, when he says 'left' you need to think 'right,' and when he says 'right' you need to think 'left.'

I know most of you lefties do this automatically because you're used to teachers who think all their students are righthanded. But I always like to remind you, just in case you're new to this game. Your fades will behave just like Rick says a fade behaves EXCEPT that your fade will curve from right to left. Likewise, your draw will curve from left to right instead of right to left. It's a bummer but it's just the way life is.

If you're a leftie and need a bit more help, over a two-week period back in September 2013 I did two series of 5 posts each on how to hit a draw. There are 5 posts for righties and 5 identical posts for lefties. Here is the link to the first leftie post. Those posts not only describe the draw in left-handed terms but also include diagrams showing left-handed setups and ball flights.

And as usual, if you run into problems, just drop your questions in the comments below and I'll try to help.