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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Luke Donald Putts - er, Chips - er, Both?

Generally we think about using different clubs for different length shots around the green. But I found this video of Luke Donald gripping one club -- a short iron -- two different ways to accomplish the same thing! Here, take a look:

Please note that Luke says the putting grip only works when you're fairly close to the green! He's not telling you to start playing all your chips this way.

Here's when you might want to consider this option:
  • Note that Luke has a good lie. That's important because a putting stroke is a sweeping motion. You'll just get the clubhead caught if the grass is too high.
  • You'd like to putt but you're afraid you'll hit the ball too hard. Obviously you're fairly close to the green but the stretch of grass you're putting through, although it's not too high, is long enough to make you nervous. The putting stroke with a short iron will help you get the ball up on top of the grass so it doesn't get slowed down so much. You won't have to hit the ball as hard.
  • You're considering putting with a hybrid but the shaft is a bit too long to be comfortable with your stance. This could happen if the ball is a little above your feet, for example.
The key here is to use the skills you already have in new ways so you become more versatile without complicating your game. Even the pros use little "cheats" like this when they can... and Luke is a good example of just how effective they can be.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lightning Strikes Twice

Yes indeed. It happened at least once at the Shell Houston Open. I snagged this pic from a Golf Central video:

Lightning at 2012 Shell Houston Open

It was enough to stop the tournament dead in its tracks. Friday's gonna be a tough day, especially for players like Fred Couples who will be trying to play 33 holes.

The other strike happened at the LPGA's first major. Yes, Yani was at it again. She hacked it all over the place, hitting only half her fairways... and then hitting 16 of 18 greens to post a 4-under 68 and snag solo 3rd. She's one stroke behind Lindsey Wright and two strokes behind leader Amy Yang.

For us Americans, there are a few players up near the lead. Paula Creamer (with her best start of the year) and Nicole Castrale (back with a new baby) are in with the 3-unders. Vicky Hurst and Cydney Clanton joined the 2-unders, and Cristie Kerr is part of the group at 1-under. There weren't as many low scores as expected.

Cydney's performance is particularly interesting to me since she was born in Winston-Salem NC (I live about 10 minutes outside the city limits) although the Auburn Tigers site lists her hometown as Concord NC. She's a rookie on the LPGA this year and, for what it's worth, she kept up with Yani in the driving department Thursday. (Not just distance-wise. She also hit only 6 of 14 fairways.)

At any rate, the fact that Yani didn't have her best stuff in the first round and still ended up in 3rd must feel like a lightning bolt to the rest of the field. At least the guys in Houston could run for cover.

It'll be interesting to see what happens today. Remember, GC has two live 3-hour broadcasts from the Kraft Nabisco -- one at noon ET (they'll probably have pregame at 11:30) and one at 6pm ET -- and the Shell Houston Open will be shoehorned in-between them.

Wonder what kind of fireworks today's rounds will bring?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ernie's Quest

While the ladies begin their first major today -- GC says they'll have pre-game coverage starting at 11:30am ET, btw -- Ernie Els also begins a major quest. As things stand, Ernie needs to win the Shell Houston Open this week if he wants an invite to the Masters next week.

Ernie Els swinging

On the one hand, that sounds like a really difficult situation.

Then again, Ernie's coming off 2 straight Top5s at the Transitions Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. That would seem to bode well for him!

GC starts their coverage at 3pm ET and Ernie tees off at 12:50pm ET, so we should get to see at least his last 9 holes. (Probably most of Fred Couples's back 9 as well, since he tees off only 10 minutes earlier. Oh yeah, some guy named Mickelson is in that group as well.)

In case you can't get to a TV, here's the live leaderboard at so you can check in. And just in case you don't think this is a huge storyline this week, here are articles from both USAToday and an Associated Press report. Let's all wish Ernie good luck on his quest!

And the picture came from yet another article, this one in the Vancouver Sun.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kraft Nabisco Reminder

Just a reminder that the LPGA's first major starts tomorrow AND Golf Channel plans to air 2 -- count 'em, 2 -- live broadcasts on Thursday. The morning wave will be televised for 3 hours starting at noon ET, and the afternoon wave will get another 3 hours starting at 6:30pm ET. How often do we get 6 hours of live golf starring the ladies?

Yani's ready to rumble

Stacy Lewis is the defending champion, and Yani Tseng is coming off her 3rd win in 5 starts. You'll remember these two fought it out last year in this tournament. Yani has promised not to touch the trophy before she actually wins it this year. Smiley Faces

There's plenty of news and info at the LPGA site for those of you who want to get an early start on the tournament. You can start on this page, which has pre-tournament notes and interviews.

The photo of Stacy came from this page.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Michael Breed on Tiger's Swing

Just a quick note about some things Michael Breed said on The Golf Fix last night. I thought this might be a bit confusing to some of you, so I want you to understand why we're both right. ;-)

Number 1, Michael uses the term "over-the-top" in a different way from me. I use "over-the-top" exclusively to refer to something bad, while Breed doesn't. I use the term "out-to-in swing" to describe what he was talking about. The way I differentiate the two is that an "out-to-in swing" reaches the top of your backswing and then starts down before it starts out over the target line. I use the term "over-the-top" to describe a swing that reaches the top of your backswing but keeps going up as it starts out over the target line. The downswing plane is much steeper with an "over-the-top" swing than it is with an "out-to-in swing."

You can't play good golf with an "over-the-top" swing. You can play good golf with an "out-to-in swing." Michael Breed was talking about the latter. Clear enough?

The other thing he mentioned that Tiger is bringing his hands much more inside on his one-piece takeaway than I want you to do. The reason is because Tiger is trying to create a fade and I'm trying to help most of you get rid of a slice. Taking your hands more down the line -- the way you will if you follow my instructions for a one-piece takeaway -- will make it easier to hit a straight ball or a draw.

If you were listening closely, you may have Breed say that Tiger is making this move to help him rotate his forearms less on his takeaway. My First Rule of Good Driving and First Rule of Good Approaching -- in fact, my First Rule of Good Every Kind of Swing! -- is:
The clubface should remain square to the stroke path; the forearms should NOT rotate during the execution of the stroke.
And that's part of why Tiger is leading the Total Driving stat for the first time in his life.

One other thing -- and this is just something that I thought was funny -- Breed pointed out that Foley has Tiger getting his right heel off the ground quicker in his downswing. The reason I noticed it was, in case you don't remember, I actually pointed that out as something that was different when Tiger's ballstriking was off. Let me make it clear that I wasn't sure that was part of the problem. I just thought it was interesting that he did it when he played well and didn't do it when he played badly. I suspect Foley added it back in to take some stress off Tiger's left knee.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know why Tiger's doing things a bit differently from what I've suggested you do. It's yet another reason why pros are different from amateurs.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational

Winner: Tiger Woods

Around the wider world of golf: Karen Lunn won the Lalla Meryem Cup on the Ladies European Tour; Nick Cullen got his first pro win at the Enjoy Jakarta Indonesia Open, co-sanctioned by OneAsia and the Japan Golf Tour; Fred Couples picked up another Champions Tour victory at the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic; Michael Hoey got his 3rd ET win in a year at the Trophée Hassan II; Pei Lin Yu won the Yumeya Championship on the LAGT; Yani Tseng picked up win #3 of 2012 at the LPGA's Kia Classic; and Casey Wittenberg picked up his first win at the Nationwide Tour's Chitimacha Louisiana Open.

Tiger with his newest trophy

Guess who's back in the official winner's circle?

I won't repeat all the facts and figures that have already been repeated endlessly in the aftermath of his win (and will probably be run into the ground during the next week). I'll just refer you to the wrap-up report by Larry Dorman. It also includes video of some of Tiger's best shots.

But Sunday was a commentary of sorts on the state of modern golf. Fred Couples, arguably the most popular (and dangerous) player on the Champions Tour, got another win. He was joined by Yani Tseng, who simply tore the Kia Classic field apart much as Tiger did at Arnie's place on her way to her 3rd win in 5 starts. And now the Big Cat has returned to the competitive forefront just in time for the Masters.

In fact, apparently Tiger has already been talking privately about the "Big Four," the 2012 Grand Slam, as a real possibility. Whether you believe it or not, the fact remains that Tiger's play over the last few months has backed up his claims that the "Foley swing" was just what he needed to be competitive again.

Personally, I'm still blown away by the fact that Tiger is leading in the Total Driving stat. Years ago he reportedly told Fred Funk, at that time the most accurate driver on Tour, that one day he'd be as accurate as the Funkster. If that day has come, heaven help the rest of the field!

I'm glad to see that Graeme McDowell is finally coming back into form, despite his stumbles on Sunday. And as good as Tiger may become, I believe there are several -- SEVERAL -- of Tiger's former "mice" (as well as some newbies) who won't fall into his clutches so easily this time.

But one thing is certain: The Big Cat's no longer away, and the mice will be forced to play if they want any cheese from here on out. No one -- and especially not Tiger -- will have any excuse going forward.

Yes indeed, 2012 just got a whole lot more interesting.

So today's Limerick Summary is dedicated to the once-beloved Cat we buried out in the Pet Sematary a couple of years ago. He's back... but he looks much better than Stephen King predicted!
Despite a few shots in the woods,
At last Tiger showed us the goods.
But with one in his pocket
And "Four" on the docket
There'll be no more woulds, coulds, or shoulds.
The photo came from the API tournament page at

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Leadbetter's Baseball Fix

Baseball player at plateToday I'd just like to pass along a slice fix I found while rummaging around the Golf Digest site.

I have a belief that "mechanics inform feel, but feel creates mechanics." By that I mean that you can practice mechanics to learn how they feel, and then recreate those mechanics just by recreating the feel. So far, so good.

Here's the problem: Too many players swing by feel without some kind of yardstick to determine what their "feel" is actually doing. For example, many players twist their forearms and end up with a laid-off club on their backswing -- all because they think the feel that creates that laid-off position actually means they're on plane.

That, needless to say, causes all kinds of problems. That's why I like to compare golf swings to other common movements we all know. Those "feels" are ones that can give us the predictable results we want.

So I was thrilled to find this David Leadbetter tip on how to use a baseball swing to help you hit a draw. For those of you who have a decent baseball swing, this just might help you get rid of your slice.

And if you're not so good at baseball, never fear. I'll keep looking for other common "feels" that might help you simplify your swing thoughts.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Yani and Tiger at the Top

I don't know why this seems so momentous to me today, but it does. Both the most dominant female player in the world and the most dominant male player in the world (at least, until recently and he's apparently on his way back) have the 36-hole lead in the last tournaments they'll play before going into their first majors of 2012.

Both are leading their respective tours in many of the most telling stats. Both have been playing extremely consistent golf this year.

Neither seems to have their best stuff this week, and yet... and yet they both seem to be just casually moving up the leaderboard toward another win.

The majors they're going into are both celebrity-driven. The Kraft Nabisco is still referred to as 'the Dinah' by many players -- after the late Dinah Shore -- and the Masters is intimately connected to Bobby Jones.

Each seems to be on the verge of making history. For Yani, it's the youngest to win 6 majors; for Tiger, the first player to win a major with 4 different swings on his way to catching Jack.

Among other things, of course. Both players are making history in many ways.

What happens if the unthinkable happens and both win this week?

With all apologies to Ben Crenshaw, I'm starting to get a feeling...

Friday, March 23, 2012

For the 3rd Week in a Row...

The Waggler has a piece of the first-round lead! Jason Dufner sits at -6, tied for the lead with Charlie Wi.

This is his 4th round of 66 in his last 9 rounds. The problem has been the other rounds -- nothing lower than 71. What makes the difference?

Apparently it's his putting. For the season his "Strokes Gained - Putting" stat is -.342, good enough to rank him 139th on Tour. On Thursday that stat was 3.993, 4th in the field.

Now, are his putting woes caused by other problems? It's possible. Nobody's perfect in every stat, and it's hard to make a lot of putts if you aren't hitting it close.

That said, I think his putting is a problem. Here's why: If you look at his stats, from inside 5 feet he makes 96.61%, which ranks him 67th on Tour. I don't really pay much attention to that ranking -- I'm more interested in hard numbers. In Jason's case, he's made 285 out of 295 putts inside 5 feet. By comparison, higher-ranked players who have taken a similar number of putts have missed only 6 or 7 putts. That's not a huge number.

However, putting from 3 - 5 feet tells a different story. Jason makes only 85.71% to rank T94th. He's made 42 of 49 putts in this category, which means he's missed 7 putts. Doesn't sound like much, does it?

But then you compare him to the leaders. Tiger, believe it or not, leads this category with 23 of 23 putts. Several of the leaders (in the Top 25 of this stat) have taken between 60 and 70 putts yet have only missed 3 - 5 putts. Brian Gay (10th in this category) has made 61 of 65, which is equivalent to around 46 of 49 -- less than half of Dufner's misses.

That may not sound like much, but these are the categories where most of the putts are made. And if you multiply that 3 -5 figure so it matches his 295 putts inside 5 feet, Jason is missing 42 out of 294 putts between 3 and 5 feet.

That IS significant.

This is compounded by problems with short approaches -- take the stat from 50-75 yards. Jason is hitting these an average of 17'3" while the Top 20 in this category are hitting it less than half that. Jason's only had 4 of these to get this average. Steve Stricker (13th) has taken 7 such shots -- nearly twice as many -- and averages only 6'4"!

Yeah, I know it sounds like nitpicking, but this appears to be a case where the commentators are correct. Overall, Jason Dufner's got one of the soundest games on Tour. But it's the short game that's keeping the Waggler out of the winner's circle.

All the waggles in the world aren't going to help that. It looks like he's going to need a hot week with the putter to break through.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Ladies Are Up

Yes, I know the Arnold Palmer Invitational starts today and that it will receive the lion's share of coverage this week. It's a pretty big warm-up for the Masters, which happens week after next. (Next week is the Shell Houston Open.)

But the LPGA's first major, the Kraft Nabisco, is next week. And that makes this week's Kia Classic a very important warm-up indeed.

The usual cast of characters will be at the Kia, of course. So far as I know, NBA player and Kia spokesman Blake Griffin has no plans to dunk over any Optimas. But Creamer, Kerr, the Miyazatos (no relation), Korda, O'Toole, and all the others are scheduled to play.

Among the many storylines this week is Michelle Wie. It's her first start since graduating from Stanford. (Yeah, I know she hasn't got the sheepskin yet, but the schooling's done and the paperwork is just a formality -- congrats, Michelle!) While it probably won't be much different from her previous starts this year since she hasn't had time to do extra practice -- the word is that she's spent the week moving out of her college apartment -- it is her first week as a "free woman." It should be interesting to see how she does.

Sandra GalOf course, Sandra Gal is the defending champion so we'll see how she responds under all the resposibilities.

We'll get a rare chance to see Melissa Reid play, and the KN's defending champion Stacy Lewis will be getting her game in shape.

And -- did you even have to ask? -- the Empress is in the house! Yani Tseng will be going for her 3rd win in 5 starts leading into the KN.

Coverage runs from 6:30 to 9:00pm ET tonight on GC. (That's not tape-delay, as the Kia Classic is played in California. It's 3:30pm on the West Coast.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

R.I.P. Q-School

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to remember our fallen comrade, the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. To most of us, he was just Q-School.

Q was a baby boomer, born in 1965. His young age was deceptive -- he'd been on life support for a year or more, hoping each day that the various doctors tending him would greet him with good news. Alas, it was not meant to be.

Though bedridden, Q consistently managed to lift the spirits of those around him. He was a beacon of hope to many who were beneficiaries of his generosity, gaining fame and fortune from the opportunities he provided to those willing to accept his terms. While some of his naysayers bore him ill will, the sports world has been forever changed for the good because of his involvement.

Despite multiple statements to the contrary by trusted medical specialists, rumors persist that Q didn't pass from natural causes. Some believe his death was orchestrated by competitors seeking financial gain, that there was a conspiracy to eliminate this pillar of the sports community because he stood in the way of profiteers. His will is at this point still in probate and will likely remain there for many months.

Everyone, it seems, wants a piece of old Q.

After a tough year where his health was in constant question, our beloved Q-School finally passed on March 20, 2012. He went quietly, attended only by PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem and an assortment of media well-wishers, many of whom mourned his passing with obvious grief.

We'll miss you, Q. You left us far too soon.

You can get more details of the changes -- at least, the ones that have been decided at this point -- from this ESPN piece.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ai Yi Yi! What a Shoulder Coil!

Ai Miyazato came very close to victory at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup this past weekend, but the Empress sprinted past her on the back 9. Ai lost by a single stroke.

It's easy to forget that Ai has won 23 times worldwide with 7 of those being LPGA events, her latest being the 2011 Evian Masters. Not only that, she's got 2 runner-up finishes in only 3 starts this year! She isn't flamboyant like some players; she just quietly goes about her business. And despite being only 5'2" she averages over 235 yards off the tee. (It's not unusual for her to drive it nearly 250. Some of you guys out there only wish you were as long as she is!)

How does a small person like Ai generate this much distance? It's a combination of her one-piece takeaway and huge shoulder turn. This slo-mo video is pretty recent, and it's very instructive. Ai uses a one-piece takeaway to the extreme, and it gives her a huge shoulder turn and an equally huge swing arc. Just check out her shoulder-height position in her backswing! (It's at the 00:17 mark.)

BTW, this is a very cool video. Once you start it, you can pause it and hover your cursor over the 'track' at the bottom to see individual frames of each second in the video. If you click the track when you see the 00:17 picture, the video will move to that point. Nice! I'm glad YouTube has added this feature.

I can't help but wonder if Ai's swing was influenced by Annika Sorenstam. Annika has stated many times that one of her key swing thoughts was to keep her right arm as straight as possible for as long as possible during her backswing. As you can see from this video, Ai's right elbow has barely bent even though her arms are at shoulder height. I suspect that's part of the reason that her hands are so high at the top of her backswing. Bubba Watson does something similar, as you can see in this video. You can click on the 'track' at the 1:01 mark to see him do the same thing. (Bubba's elbow bends at the 1:02 mark.)

If you decide you want to try this, remember that you don't want your arms to be stiff. You have to really turn your shoulders to reach this position without tensing up your arms and shoulders. This isn't a short hard swing. Rather, it's a long smooth swing. You'd hurt yourself otherwise!

Most weekend players probably aren't flexible enough to get a turn this big. But it goes to show that you can create a lot of clubhead speed even if you aren't incredibly strong. Even small golfers can have big swings!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 Transitions Championship

Winner: Luke Donald

Around the wider world of golf: Frenchman Julien Quesne (pronounced Kane) won the Open de Andalucía Costa del Sol on the European Tour; David Lipsky won the HANDA FALDO Cambodian Classic on the Asian Tour; Loren Roberts won the Toshiba Classic on the Champions Tour; and despite four weather delays, the LPGA managed to finish the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup and -- huge surprise here... wait for it -- Yani Tseng got her second victory of the year.

Donald celebrates win

I believe it was Indiana Jones who uttered the immortal words, "I hate snakes." Had Indy been a golfer, he would almost certainly have been talking about the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook.

There are many PGA players who may agree with him, but I doubt that Luke Donald is one of them. Not that he did anything spectacular Sunday. He didn't shoot the lowest final-round score -- his 5-under round pales beside Scott Piercy's 9-under. He wasn't the only player to shoot a bogey-free round, although he was the only one of the Final Four to do so. His driving average was a paltry 264 yards. Even Jim Furyk beat that... by a full yard, plus change.

No, all Donald did was simply stride through the Snake Pit and chop off its head. For the entire week he made just a single birdie there... but he made it during the four-man playoff when it counted. He beat out Jim Furyk, Robert Garrigus, and Sung-Moon Bae with the simple plan of "give myself birdie putts."

The plan worked. His "Strokes Saved - Putting" stat was 2.594 -- #1 for the week -- and during the fourth round it was an incredible 4.416 strokes.

Oh yes, there was the little matter of OWGR #1 as well. After Rory McIlroy took that position from Luke a couple of weeks ago, most people believed Rory would hold it for a while. Guess who's back on top? Luke may not have seemed too disturbed to lose it, but he doesn't seem too eager to let it go without a fight either.

Granted, Luke didn't beat Rory to take it back, unlike last year when he beat then-#1 Lee Westwood to take the title from him. Still, Luke had to win to take it back and the fact that he did it (just as he did at Disney last year when he needed a win to take the PGA Tour money title) says more about his toughness than his non-threatening demeanor would let on. Say, don't they say the quiet ones are the ones you should be scared of?

Luke -- like Rory -- won't be teeing it up again until the Masters. And no, I don't expect Luke to win the Masters -- not because Augusta "doesn't favor" short hitters, but because it doesn't favor accuracy. With little or no rough, anybody can probably win there. But given how tight and unforgiving the Copperhead Course is, this win reinforces my belief that Luke should be the favorite going into the U.S. Open this year.

In the meantime, enjoy this little Limerick Summary that salutes the apparent underdog who just keeps taking a bite out of the field. With the NCAA Tournament taking its toll on teams from my home state (North Carolina) I need somebody to cheer for!
The golfing world went all a-twitter
When McIlroy tried on the glitter
Of World Number One.
But Luke wasn't done;
That title's not something he'll fritter.
The photo came from the tournament wrap-up page at

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rickie's Giving Away His Feel

At least, that's what he says. Maybe he's just been partying too much. But when I discovered this little tip from Rickie Fowler -- who happens to be a Golf Digest Playing Editor -- it seemed so out there that I thought it might have some value.

Here's the deal: It seems that Rickie likes to finish his practice sessions by hitting maybe a dozen drivers with his eyes closed. Yes, you read that right -- with his eyes closed. Apparently Rickie uses it to help him focus on his balance and visualize his swing motion.

He doesn't recommend using this technique with an iron -- as he says, "taking divots blind doesn't seem like a smart thing to do." Still, I kinda like this idea. It's tough to keep your balance with your eyes closed under any circumstances, but something like this might help you identify balance problems that you'd miss otherwise.

Of course, if you dress like Rickie, I guess you spend a lot of time with your eyes closed. Sunglasses can only block so much. Smiley Faces

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Waggler Again?

OK, this is just getting weird. Last week Jason Dufner (aka the Waggler) took the lead at the WGC-Cadillac after the 1st round. This week he leads the Transitions Championship after the 2nd round.

Is this a trend?

I've tried to find something in his stats to explain his play, but I can't. There isn't any stat that he dominates. His best "standard stat" -- in the generic ones at the top of each player's stat page -- is Birdie Average, in which he's 19th on Tour. (That's 4.28 birds per round.) His Strokes Gained - Putting, supposedly the most telling stat, is negative. (He's at -.122, good enough for 113th on Tour.)

There is most certainly something diabolical going on here!

Here's what I can tell you. Jason hasn't had a bogey in either round. He's even par through the Snake Pit -- not as impressive as Padraig Harrington's 2-under in the Pit, but definitely 2 strokes ahead of the Irishman.

I have a suggestion. Whatever Jason Dufner is doing on the course, let's all start doing it. It seems to be working. Smiley Faces

In the meantime, assuming that he doesn't finish it off this week, I figure this makes the Waggler the favorite at the Shell Houston Open in 2 weeks. Perhaps he should just skip a week in-between and win the Masters.

Holy major, Batman!

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Snake Pit Gets Snakebit

Legend says that St. Patrick banished all the snakes from Ireland.

Paddy Harrington bids adieu to the Snake PitI suppose it's only proper that, during the tournament on the weekend of St. Patrick's Day, an Irishman pulled the fangs out of the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook. In fact, Padraig Harrington birdied all three holes in the Snake Pit on his way to a course-record 10-under 61. It was his lowest round ever, according to this USA Today piece.

I'm always interested to hear what Paddy says, simply because he's such a thoughtful person. What was his assessment of the round?

"I played nicely." Smiley Faces

It's funny, but it's typical Paddy. He doesn't deny that he played well -- he pointed out what he did well, what he did poorly, and where a little (lot of) luck came in -- but he told GC that he felt he sabotaged himself by starting to think about shooting 59 fairly early in the round.

I love this section of the USA Today piece:
Did anyone see a 61 at Innisbrook?

"I did. I watched it," said Geoff Ogilvy, who played alongside Harrington. "On the first tee, I didn't see 61. But after you see it done … the only really, completely unreasonable birdie was on the 17th. There was never any stress."

That birdie putt on the 17th was from 75 feet, and Harrington said it looked good for the last 15 feet.

But if there was one putt that reminded him how everything was falling his way, it was the 6-foot birdie on the 16th, atop a crown in such a way that Harrington wasn't sure which way it was going to break. He guessed right.

"You're really guessing at which way it's going to go, but on your day, it goes the right way," he said. "I guarantee you there will be a lot of players having a frustrating day, telling you they hit it exactly where they wanted and it missed."

With a wedge into 15 feet on the last hole, he had no doubt.

"When it's your day, I could have turned my back on the hole and I would have holed the putt on the last," Harrington said. "That's just the way it is when things are going for you."
Paddy's been struggling for quite a while, ever since he started making changes to his swing after winning 3 majors. Charlie Rymer showed some stats that indicate Paddy may have made the changes to help him get into contention more often. But does this score mean he's 'back'?

I don't know. What I do know is that I like his resilience. Paddy doesn't let problems with his game get him down... at least, not for long. And now it looks like his hard work may be starting to pay off.

Not for the snakes, though. I'd advise them to steer clear of the Irishman this weekend.

The photo came from this page at

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Ladies Are Back!

Just a quick reminder that the LPGA is finally back in action today. The RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup is on GC from 6:30 to 8:30 pm ET this afternoon. This is the tournament that honors the 13 founders of the LPGA Tour. Karrie Webb is the the defending champion

Webb with trophyYou'll remember that this was the event that debuted last year with a "phantom purse." But Michael Whan's radical idea brought a tournament back to Phoenix and has paid off in a big way. The tournament has been expanded from 54 to 72 holes and has a full-blown $1.5 million purse. And it will still donate $500,000 to the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf Program. You can read the LPGA's tournament preview here and there's an entire tournament reference page here.

And of course you can check the live leaderboard here.

All the big names are scheduled to be at the event, probably because the first of the LPGA majors -- the Kraft Nabisco -- is almost here. (Next week is the Kia Classic, the KN the week after.) So get your LPGA fix now!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Getting More Distance

I guess everybody knows I've been working on a new golf book for a year or so now. And it's been one of the most frustrating experiences I've ever had. The book kept getting bigger and bigger... and less useful and less fun. When you get confused with your own writing, it's time to rethink things!

And that's what I did. This blog focuses on making things simple, so that's what I finally did -- I broke the book into different booklets of around 40 to 50 pages, with each one focused on a different problem weekend golfers face. Rather than buying a huge book and hoping you can find the info you want, you can just get the ones you need. And I'm pleased to say the first one is ready.

More Golf Swing Speed ebook coverThe first of the Quick Guides is called More Golf Swing Speed and it focuses on how to get more distance. I took some past posts from this blog and added a bunch of new material and diagrams -- for both left-handed and right-handed players, since that's what you guys have told me you need -- and tried to answer the questions you asked.

Specifically, this guide looks at the downswing from top to bottom -- the proper way to create wrist cock, keep it until late in the swing, and then let it all go in one big ball-busting blow. It goes into detail about the two big power stealers in the swing -- casting (also known as throwing the club from the top) and flipping the clubhead. It even spends some time discussing Hogan's famous supinated wrist position -- not just how to create it and use it, but how to know if it will work in your swing and what to do if it won't.

Best of all, by making a booklet rather than a huge book, it isn't expensive. More Golf Swing Speed is only $3.99, and I suspect most of the Quick Guides are going to be around the same price.

You can download the PDF now, and Amazon should have the Kindle version active within the next 24 hours or so. (Those have clearly been the two most popular formats of Ruthless Putting.) I hope to have the EPUB version ready in about the same time frame, and a Smashwords version -- I should say versions since they create multiple formats for all the different ereaders -- is in the works.

And if you hit the ball far enough already (yeah, right) and have other, more pressing problems with your swing, just wait. There are more Quick Guides on the way.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How Pros and Amateurs Differ

This post was born while I was watching Golf Central Monday night. They were talking about what Justin Rose has been working on and I realized it might confuse some of you.

See, Justin has been working on turning his shoulders less, which is the exact opposite of what I harp on in this blog. Although I have called it a shoulder turn or coil on occasion, I generally call it a one-piece takeaway since it's the early turn of your shoulders that keeps your arms straight but relaxed.

So what's the deal here? Should you turn more or less?

The problem here is that the typical pro has the exact opposite tendencies of the typical amateur: Amateurs tend to fight slices while pros tend to fight hooks. Obviously that means the two are trying to do opposite things:
  • The amateur struggles to get a 90-degree shoulder turn; the pro (at least the younger ones) frequently get 110-120 degrees.
  • The amateur struggles with an out-to-in swing, the pro often fights an in-to-out swing.
  • The amateur swings over-the-top; the pro may have an exaggerated under-the-plane loop.
  • The amateur typically can't get his hips turned fully in his downswing; the pro may be getting stuck because his hips turn so much faster than his shoulders.
  • The amateur leaves the clubface wide open at impact; the pro flips his wrists and closes the clubface too much.
These differences often mean that your favorite pro is trying to do something you're working hard to stop! It can be very confusing if you try to copy them. It can even make your problems worse if you're not careful.

But there is one thing the pros are trying to do that amateurs want to do as well: Each is trying to create a balanced controllable swing. This means that, ultimately, both players have the same goals but they're approaching them from different sides. It might help to think of the ideal swing as being halfway up a hill -- or down a hill, depending on your perspective. You may be at the bottom looking up and someone else is on the top looking down. These different starting points require different means to get to that midpoint.

What I want to help you do is to understand is how that balanced swing -- the halfway point -- works. Once you understand that -- and know where you are in relation to that standard -- you won't get confused as to how you should get there. Just bear in mind that I assume the vast majority of you are on the typical amateur's side of the swing, and that's how I decide what tips to pass on to you.

And in this case -- unless you're Justin Rose, that is -- you should probably be working on more shoulder turn, not less. Smiley Faces

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 WGC-Cadillac Championship

Winner: Justin Rose

Around the wider world of golf: George McNeill won the PGA Tour's alternate event, the Puerto Rico Open (Ryo Ishikawa's runner-up finish secured him temporary membership on Tour, so we'll be seeing him more often); Mardan Mamat won the PGM-CCM-Impian Masters on the Asian Tour; Paul Haley II won the Chile Classic on the Nationwide Tour; and Bo-Mee Lee won the Yokohama Tire PRGR Ladies Cup on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has the details).

Justin Rose gives his son a trophy

Justin Rose remarked about how often his son asked him if he won the trophy this week... and how often he had to say no. This week he got to say a big yes.

And it's probably appropriate that the tournament sponsored by Cadillac -- who enjoys poking fun at racing car legend Ferrari "borrowing" Cadillac technology -- should have come down to a drag race. The final win, place, and show positions were in doubt until the very last hole!

Once Bubba stumbled right out of the gate (should we follow the racing analogy and say he spun out in turn one?) it looked as if Keegan Bradley might take the checkered flag. But he too flamed out. Both Peter Hanson and Charl Schwartzel ran hot for a few laps before hitting pit row for good.

In the end it was the steady pace of Justin Rose who proved he was built to win. Bubba put on a final lap spurt with two classy shots on the 18th... and then couldn't sink the putt to force a playoff. (Perhaps this is the golf version of NASCAR's Subway Fresh Fit 500 last week, when Denny Hamlin won after Kevin Harvick ran out of fuel on the final lap.)

Of course, most of the challenges to the lead we expected never materialized since the big guns were too far back. Tiger ended up out of the race completely with a bad wheel, having injured his left Achilles tendon again. In the end Rory McIlroy had to play the Tiger this week, coming from nowhere just as Tiger did to him at last week's event.

Rory, of course, copied his childhood idol and came up a couple of shots short. (However, Tiger placed and Rory could only show. But he's young yet.) Let's hope he doesn't strain his Achilles before the Masters as well.

If you look at just his PGA Tour wins, Justin Rose only has four. But what a four they are! He's won at Muirfield Village, Innisbrook Aronimink, Cog Hill, and now Doral. This WGC is definitely the biggest of the four, and he can say he beat all of the other members of the OWGR Top 50 at the same time. Even the majors struggle to make such a claim at times.

My favorite factoid about Justin -- learned this weekend -- is that he has the number 99 on his golf balls. He says 9 is his wife's favorite number, so he figured two of them would be twice as lucky. But the irony is that 1999 -- his first full year as a pro -- was also his worst year ever, as he missed the cut in all of his first 21 events from 1998-99. You gotta love a golfer with a sense of humor like that!

So this week's Limerick Summary salutes the one racer who kept firing on all cylinders down the home stretch at the WGC-Cadillac. Welcome back to Victory Lane, Justin!
This time it was Rory left chasing
While most found the Monster erasing
Their leads, one by one.
But under the gun
'Twas Rose running first, Bubba placing.
The photo came from the World Golf Championships site.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Meanwhile, a Thousand Miles Away...

Actually, the Trump International Golf Course in Puerto Rico is more like 1050 miles from the Blue Monster. Am I the only one who finds it interesting that Donald Trump owns both PGA Tour stops this week? But I digress...

As Justin Rose and Bubba Watson battled with brightly-colored drivers, and Keegan Bradley tried to muscle his way into yet another final round battle, Ryo Ishikawa quietly pursued his own quest for his first PGA Tour victory.

Ryo Ishikawa in Puerto Rico

Obviously, Ryo didn't qualify for the WGC this week. He's been granted an invitation to the Masters, but in the meantime he's trying to get his card the old-fashioned way, as John Houseman used to say. And he isn't doing too badly either.

Here's the deal: Ryo is tied for fifth place at -10. George McNeill is leading at -13, and McNeill has proven he can get the job done. (Granted, he's only got one PGA Tour victory, but that's one more than Ryo.) The biggest threat is probably Henrik Stenson, who's at -12 and has a couple of Tour victories -- the 2009 TPC and the 2007 WGC-Accenture -- as well as some European Tour victories. He got into this position by shooting -7 in the 3rd round. In fact, everybody who's tied with or ahead of Ryo shot better than him on Saturday except for 2nd round leader Matt Jones. He shot even par.

In case you haven't seen any of the tournament, here are a couple of news articles on it -- a Washington Post article from Friday (from which I got the photo) and an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article from Saturday.

But I think the best news for Ryo comes from this fantasy golf site. It says that he's T1 in Putts per Round and is T7 in Total Putting. If it holds up, that could be the number that gives Ryo a Tour card.

Well, that and the 1000 miles that separates him from the guys with the most Tour experience. A guy's gotta start somewhere.

And there are certainly worse places to start than Puerto Rico. Good luck, Ryo.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Filthy Long

Have you seen that Ping commercial where Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan are playing golf and Bubba asks Hunter to watch his ball? I tried to find the commercial on YouTube -- no luck -- but I remember Hunter looking through some humongous binoculars and saying, "Wow. That's filthy long."

Friday Bubba was filthy long.

A little ole 62 -- 10-under for the day with a bogey! -- to take a one-stroke lead into Saturday. He's at -12.

And just for the record, Hunter Mahan was not filthy long. Bubba was hitting about 30 yards (and 11 strokes) past him. Bubba is the longest in the field this week -- even longer than Gary Woodland, who most players say is the longest guy on tour. (Woodland, at -3, is also about 30 yards behind.)

Maybe Bubba wants a WGC just like Hunter. Hunter has two, you know. But Bubba is filthy long. And he keeps playing like this, Bubba just might be filthy rich by the end of the week too.

It's good to be filthy. Oh oh oh...

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Waggler Reemerges

Look out, Batman! The Waggler hasn't been particularly active since his defeat at the 2011 PGA Championship, but he's baaaaack and gunning for you!

Jason Dufner

Yes, Jason Dufner marched to the top of the WGC-Cadillac leaderboard Thursday. Quietly, almost unnoticed, he posted a 6-under round in 20 mph+ winds to tie Adam Scott. His lone bogey of the day came -- predictably enough -- on the 18th, but I doubt that it bothered him too much. I don't know what the final figures were, but Terry Gannon said at one point in the broadcast that the entire field was -5 on the first 17 holes... and +48 on the 18th!

GC did a player profile on Dufner for Tuesday's Golf Central -- good timing on their part! -- and I really wanted to find it since many of you probably missed it. I lucked out and found 2 versions! First, I found this link to some excepts from the interview for those of you who don't want to watch the entire thing. It's less than 2 minutes long.

For the rest of you, here's the link to the full profile. It's only 9 minutes long, and it's a very entertaining look at the quiet guy who's better known for his Hoganesque waggle than his personality. But any guy whose work ethic can gain the respect of Vijay Singh is a force to be reckoned with!

So you should probably get to know the Waggler. If he's going to start showing up on leaderboards at the big events, it probably won't be long before he steals one. He really needs a cool outfit though... perhaps something blue and monsterish.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

And So It Begins...

Just a quick video from outlining the main storylines at this week's tournament. Here's the most interesting one to me: I knew that Rory could lose his #1 ranking this week, but I didn't know that both Luke Donald and Lee Westwood could take it with a win.

It's possible that the embed code won't work. (For some reason, the preview mode of Blogger isn't letting me test the links to make sure they work, and this is a good preview of the event.) If so, try this link . And if that one doesn't work, going to this link and choosing the "PGA TOUR Today: March 8, 2012" video will put you in the right place.

All of the major groups will be playing during the broadcast, so if you don't catch them at 12:30pm you can catch them later tonight at 8:30pm on GC.

Remember, folks, this is the first time this year that all of the major players are in one field. Every member of the OWGR Top 50 is playing this week! Consider this a preview of what the Masters might be like. Cool, huh?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A New Big 3?

That's the buzz, isn't it? A new golden age of golf dawning right here in 2012.

Phil Mickelson has long been compared to Arnold Palmer -- the swashbuckling gunslinger who attacks the course with ruthless abandon.

Tiger Woods has long been compared to Jack Nicklaus -- the methodical strategist who dissects the course (and the field) with cold calculating logic.

And now (I think it was Jack who said it over the weekend, but I don't remember for sure) I heard someone compare Rory McIlroy to Gary Player -- the smallest of the original Big 3, a globetrotting international player who had a game much bigger than his very athletic frame.

The Big 3 were TV gold during the early 60s. I found this photo of them from 1962. The caption on the photo notes that the Big 3 won 34 majors in a span of 28 years. (Clearly the caption is part of a much later Rolex promotion.)

=Photo of the original Big 3

Here's the only footage I could find on YouTube of the old TV show. But for those of you who have never seen any of Big Three Golf (GC reran it for a while), this will give you an idea what the show was like. (BTW, only part of the video is in slow motion.)

I don't know if a new golden era of golf is really on the horizon... but it's certainly causing a lot of speculation. If nothing else, it's going to be fun.

And we'll get our first taste of it tomorrow at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Let's see if it lives up to the hype.

The photo comes from the Rolex blog.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How a 62 Changes Things

Tiger celebrates another good puttWhen Tiger shot that 62 on Sunday at the Honda Classic, it appears he did more than post the best final round of his career. I said yesterday that I thought it was his lowest round ever -- I couldn't remember a round lower than 63 in any round -- but apparently he's had a few 62s and even a few 61s. They just weren't in the final round.

ESPN ran this article about the final round at PGA National. You might enjoy reading it, especially to read Ernie Els's comment to Tiger as they played the 2nd hole. That was priceless! But the article reinforced something I noticed in the post-round commentary on both ESPN and GC.

The talk surrounding Tiger's game has changed. Even the skeptics seem to be 'buying in' to the evolution of Tiger's swing under Sean Foley.

Perhaps it's the total lack of bogeys or worse in that final round. Perhaps it's the fact that Tiger shot that round in the worst of the weather. Perhaps it's the knowledge that his round could have been a shot or two lower. Perhaps it was Foley saying the putting woes were Foley's fault and that the two of them had figured out what happened... and it worked. Perhaps it was Tiger not fading in the final round. Or perhaps it's simply the desire for a full-blown Woods-McIlroy rivalry.

I'm not sure exactly what caused the change but one thing is clear: This record final round has shaken the ground under the feet of Tiger's critics -- the ground they were so sure had buried his game for good. I've heard more than one skeptic pick Tiger to win at Doral this week.

To me the real irony is that the source of Tiger's inconsistency may have been something dreadfully simple. Over the past few days I heard changes in ball position cited by several people when talking about each problem Tiger seemed to have solved. That's a lesson for every golfer: Never overlook the small things, the fundamentals of the game.

Monday Tiger committed to Arnold Palmer's tournament at Bay Hill, which will give the Big Cat 4 PGA Tour events in 5 weeks. That's quite a string for him.

Maybe that 62 changed things for someone besides the media. Smiley Faces

The photo came from this article at the Palm Beach Post site.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 Honda Classic

Winner: Rory McIlroy

Around the wider world of golf: It was a relatively quiet golf week elsewhere on the planet. ShanShan Feng won the first ever World Ladies Championship on the LET; Airi Saitoh won the Daikin Orchid Ladies, the season's opening tournament on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has all the details); and despite a Sunday 74, Edward Loar still managed to hang on and win the Panama Claro Championship on the Nationwide Tour.


All I can say is... Wow.

I'll get to the new Big Kahuna in a moment. Let's take a moment to remember the other big stories of the week.

There was the new course record set on Friday by noob Brian Harmon. Just a little 9-under 61, smashing the former course record by 3 strokes. Of course, several other players tied the original 64 over the course of the tournament.

There were the amazing runs by Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood, just to remind Rory that the guys in his rear view mirror are closer than they appear. Playing in the worst of the weather on Sunday, both guys beat the original course record without posting a single bogey. Lee shot 7-under, which included one eagle and got him solo 4th, and Tiger shot 8-under, which included two eagles and got him T2. This was Tiger's lowest professional round ever. Skeptics of both Tiger and Lee, take note!

There was the amazing tournament that Tom Gillis shot, getting him a T2 with Tiger -- his best finish in any tournament ever.

And then there was the golden boy himself, scrambling from every bunker and rough patch on the course to get his 3rd PGA Tour win against a strong field and snag the #1 spot on the OWGR. He didn't even seem to be bothered by the roar when Tiger eagled 18 to post 10-under in the clubhouse.

Just another ho-hum day on the PGA.

Look, you're going to hear about Rory's ascent to the top of the golfing world all week -- and rightfully so, I might add -- so I won't repeat it all here. It's enough to point out that he shot +16 last year and -12 this year. Is a 28-stroke improvement enough to let you know he really deserves to be the Big Kahuna this week?

The biggest news for me is that we've got a WGC next week. All the big guys will be in it -- Rory, Luke, Lee, Martin Kaymer, Stricks, Schwartzel, Phil, Tiger -- and it looks like they're all playing good enough golf to make Doral look like a major.


So this week the Limerick Summary salutes the new #1. What more is there to say?
His race to the number one ranking
Meant Rory gave two guys a spanking.
Both Tiger and Westy
May feel a bit testy—
Their best was no more than chain-yanking!
And in case you're unfamiliar with the term, "yanking your chain" means someone is trying to annoy you.

The photo came from's front page.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Golfing Large

A couple of days ago Ramzi left a comment on one of the older posts. Here's part of it:
My driving sucks big time & I am never consistent in setting up. But when I hit a long one it's pretty long (for Malaysian standards).

So what would you recommend for myself who is:

1. 175cm tall or nearly 5ft 9 inches
2. Wide shouldered - I wear a 44inch jacket for my suit.
3. Weight approx. 220 pounds or 98kg
4. Due to a 'one-piece' gut, i don't have great flexibility, but I've tried my best to point my left shoulder at the ball during the backswing.

Hence, would appreciate any guidance/advice on driver setup for someone slightly chunky like me. Also how do less flexible people start the swing from the ground with their legs?
I suspect this is a problem for a lot of you larger golfers. Obviously I can't tell each of you exactly what to do since I don't know your individual swings, so I'm going to try and give you some ideas on how to find your own way to understanding how your own swing works.

First, there's one question here that I won't answer -- the one about driver setup. That's one that a clubfitter needs to answer. He'll evaluate your swing and give you a club that will make the most of it.

That said, I think we can get Ramzi -- and the rest of you large golfers out there -- hitting the ball a little better.

The big key here is that we've got to help him start getting a more consistent setup.

I'm assuming, given the 'one-piece gut' comment, that Ramzi is slightly pear-shaped -- that is, his stomach is a bit larger than his chest. Add to that the facts that he's an average-height man (I'm between 5'9" and 5'10" myself) and that he doesn't consider himself particularly flexible.

All these things mean that Ramzi, like most of you larger golfers, will have a flatter swing than many golfers his size. His 'one-piece gut' means his arms will always stick out farther from his body than a thin golfer unless he can lean over enough for his arms to hang down without hitting his stomach. That may not be possible.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm very big (sorry, I couldn't resist the pun) on connection in the golf swing. This simply means that the triceps of both arms rest lightly against your chest during the bottom part of your swing -- from waist high on your downswing to waist high on your followthrough. I've done several posts on connection, but I want you to pay specific attention to this one. It's got a video by Jimmy Ballard that demonstrates the key point really well. Since Ramzi's swing will be flatter anyway, this move will work just perfect for him. It will feel similar to throwing a Frisbee™ or hitting a tennis backhand.

That will help him develop a more consistent swing so he can hit the ball more solidly more often. Now all we need to do is increase his flexibility so he can make a good swing with this connected move.

We're going to do that by closing his stance, which means pulling his trailing foot back from a square setup. Here's an easy way to figure out just how much. I'm assuming Ramzi plays right-handed, so he'll be moving his right foot. Obviously a left-handed player moves his left foot back to close his stance.

Go to a practice range. Lay two clubs down on the ground -- one parallel to your target line (this is your toe line for your normal stance), the other one between your legs and perpendicular to the first (this one points at your ball position). You're going to place a practice ball so the club between your legs is pointing at it, and after you've hit it you'll replace it with another one until you figure out where the ball should be every time you set up and you know what the correct setup looks like.

First set up normally and practice that connected swing. Don't worry about getting your shoulder to point at the ball; just make the best turn you can and get used to making good contact.

Then you learn how to adjust. First you move that trailing foot a couple of inches closer to the lead foot -- narrowing your stance -- and then move your trailing foot a couple of inches back from the first club. Now you're aimed a bit to the right (if you're right-handed) and it's easier to make a bigger turn without a strain.  If you've got it right, you should hit a little draw that lands near your target. If that's not what you get, try moving both feet a couple of inches toward the target, which will move the ball position back in your stance a little.

Just keep playing with this until you can get the results you want several times. You shouldn't have to move the ball back more than halfway in your stance at most. When you finally get it right, look at where your feet are in relation to the clubs -- especially your heels, since those are the best indicator -- and use this setup each time you play a normal full shot.

One extra note here: Make sure you keep a little bit of flex in both of your knees while you swing. If your legs get too straight, it'll be too hard for you to make a consistent swing.

Ramzi had one last question: How do less flexible people start the swing from the ground with their legs?

Here's the best answer I can give you, Ramzi: Don't worry about it. Most weekend players worry about this too much. If you didn't use your legs, you couldn't hit the ball at all! If you make a connected swing like Ballard demonstrates in the video I mentioned earlier and keep a little flex in your knees, you'll automatically use your legs properly.

Ramzi, this should give you enough direction to start getting your swing in shape. Let me know how it goes and feel free to ask me any questions you might have. I'm sure the other large golfers who read this blog will be glad to hear from you as well.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

What Does Jack Know...

...that other course architects don't?

I mean, PGA National is a par-70 course and a mere 7158 yards long. (That info came from the course info page.) This week several players have shot 64 -- the course record coming into this week -- and 65. On Friday Brian Harmon set a new course record of 61. This doesn't sound like it should be particularly challenging to PGA Tour players, does it?

Entry to the Bear Trap

And yet the leaders are tied at 8-under... and one of them, Tom Gillis, has a 64.

Again I ask: What does Jack know that other course architects don't?

In a world where golf courses get longer and longer because of improved equipment and more athletic players, Jack still manages to give the best players in the world all they can handle on shorter courses. Before we trash Tiger's game because he's only 1-under, let's remember that he's tied with Lee Westwood, who is arguably playing the 2nd-best of anybody in the world right now. Even Rory McIlroy is only 7-under... and let's not forget last year when he went +6 in the Bear Trap during the 2nd round.

ESPN has an interesting post on their golf blog with lots of stats about the Bear Trap -- holes 15, 16 & 17. Here are a few of the more interesting stats they ran (these are quotes taken from the post):
  • The PGA National Champion Course was home to 309 double-bogeys a year ago. That was the most on the PGA Tour in 2011.
  • When you exclude the major championships, The Honda Classic has played as the toughest course on the PGA Tour each of the past two years. Last year, the field averaged a score of more than 2½ shots above par.  
  • If a player is going to make some headway, he'll need to do it early. Holes 1 through 4 had a combined birdie or better percentage of 20.7. For the rest of the course, that number was just 11.4. And for The Bear Trap by itself? Eight percent.
Ironically, this course appears to be very playable for average golfers. Did you know that there are 8 sets of tees on the par-3 17th? Jack somehow managed to make a course that drives the pros crazy... and yet a weekend golfer can actually play the course.

Another short course that challenges the pros is Harbour Town Golf Links, the course where the RBC Heritage is played. A par-71 course, this one only 7101 yards long. (Again, info taken from the PGA Tour's course info page.) I looked to see who designed it, and the page says it was Pete Dye... in consultation with Jack Nicklaus.

Yet again I ask: What does Jack know that other course architects don't?

Perhaps Jack should consider opening a golf course design school for those other poor architects who just can't seem to design a challenging course that's smaller than Panama.

The photo came from Stephanie Wei's blog Wei Over Par.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: March 2012

February threw the RGWR a bit of a curve. Many players dropped tournaments off the back end of my rankings -- only 12 months, you'll remember -- yet relatively few picked up even a Top5 to offset the loss. Even my #1 changed last month! Because of these surprises, I have a few of my own to add this month.

So here's what the RGWR criteria look like:
I focus on the last 12 months of play -- that's long enough to see some consistency but short enough to be current. Every player in the RGWR won at least once on either the PGA or European Tour. The OWGR rates consistency over the last 2 years, so I see no reason to rank that; my RGWR says if you're a top player, you've won somewhere recently. My priority list (based on quality of field) looks like this:
  1. majors, TPC (PGAT), BMW PGA (ET), and WGCs
  2. FedExCup playoffs and prestige events (like Bay Hill and Dubai), the latter often determined by the history and difficulty of the course
  3. other PGA and ET events
I put extra emphasis on recent form -- 2 wins separated by 6 months don't carry the weight of 2 wins back-to-back -- and I make some allowance if you're recovering from injury or serious sickness. Also, remember that I count Top5s as a separate category from wins; if you see a player has 3 Top5s, those are seconds through fifths only.

I assign points to tournaments this way:
  • Majors: 10 points
  • TPC & BMW PGA: 8 points (yes, I'm calling them equals!)
  • WGC: 7 points
  • Prestige events: 5 points
  • Regular wins: 3 points
  • Top 5 finishes: 2 points
  • Other wins: 1 point
I give full credit (not in point value, but they carry the same weight as "official" victories) for wins on the "minor" tours like the Nationwide and Australasian Tours provided the winner has a current win on the PGA or European Tour. These wins will count only as "regular" wins and not "prestige" wins, no matter how prestigious they may be for their tour, because they generally don't have the field strength of a regular PGA or ET event.

I'm not counting the Grand Slam of Golf as a win in my rankings. I've decided that 4 players isn't a large enough field to give it the weight of a win against a larger field. However, I do take a win there into consideration in my rankings, much as I do money title or scoring awards. Other limited-field events (up to maybe 24 players or so) are counted as wins if the player also has an official win on the "big tours" but they only get a single point. The OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup (the 2-man team event) counts in this category.

And because of a strange quirk on the ET site, I've decided I have to specifically state that a tournament win can only count once. Therefore, to avoid possible confusion, I'm just telling you that the RGWR says you can only win a tournament once at a time.

As usual, although the point totals (and even the number of wins) a player has affects my rankings, they don't override my personal opinions. It's my ranking system, after all:
  1. Rory McIlroy: 3 wins (1 major, 1 other), 9 Top5, 32 points. Maybe he hasn't taken over the OWGR #1 yet, but he tops my RGWR. Although he hasn't added any more wins, he has added Top5s. He's only been out of the Top5 once in the last 3 months!
  2. Lee Westwood: 3 wins (1 prestige), 6 Top5, 19 points. Lee also jumps ahead of poor old Luke. The fitter and stronger Mr. Westwood has also been adding Top5s to his totals. He, like Rory, added 2 more last month and both had a chance to win the WGC-Accenture.
  3. Steve Stricker: 3 wins (2 prestige), 1 Top5, 15 points. No new stats in February, but Stricks does have the Hyundai Tournament of Champions from January.
  4. Luke Donald: 3 wins (1 BMW), 9 Top5, 36 points. Mr. Donald lost ground this month. While I understand the reasons, the fact is that the 3 men ahead of him have played better than him in the last couple of months.
  5. Bill Haas: 2 wins (2 prestige), 4 Top5, 19 points. That win at Riviera was a big one, especially since it came against Phil and Keegan. He also picked up a Top5. Not too shabby, Bill!
  6. Phil Mickelson: 2 wins (1 prestige), 2 Top5, 12 points. A win at Pebble and a T2 at Riviera gets Phil the Thrill back into the RGWR. Welcome back, Lefty -- we missed ya!
  7. Paul Lawrie: 2 wins, 3 Top5, 12 points. Lawrie is resurrecting a career that many thought was only a flash in the pan. His win in Qatar was impressive.
  8. Sergio Garcia: 2 wins (1 prestige), 3 Top5, 14 points. Did you realize El Nino started his year with 2 Top5 finishes in February? This continuation of his improved performance late last year earns him a spot among the RGWR greats.
  9. Kyle Stanley: 1 win, 2 Top5, 7 points. My first surprise entry pulled off one of the feelgood stories of the month. After crashing and burning at Torrey Pines, Stanley came right back the next week and pulled off an upset of his own.
  10. John Huh: 1 win, 3 points. My other surprise came out of Q-School and walked right into a victory in only 5 starts. Something that impressive deserves some recognition!
Players to watch:
  • I continue to believe in Keegan Bradley. Although I didn't put him in my rankings this month, he picked up another T2 in a playoff against the Bill & Phil Show. I'm going to be watching him hard as the Masters nears.
  • Mark Wilson: Will he keep up this head of steam? He didn't last year, but I like it when players continue to put themselves in position to do it.
  • John Huh: Despite the nickname, Huh's not a question mark anymore. He's 2-under at the Honda, even after last week's hoopla. Could he be another Keegan Bradley-type story?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Really Shocking Haney Quote

...doesn't appear to have made it online anywhere yet. I heard Hank Haney say it during Golf Central Wednesday evening. It was an excerpt from an interview which I assume was done in the last day or so, since it referenced the notorious "Navy SEAL" quote. That seems to be the lightning rod for the media, although I don't understand why.

Hank HaneyWhy are we so surprised that Tiger may have explored a childhood dream? You can find where Tiger labeled it as such a couple of years ago and was quoted Wednesday in this UK Daily Mail article:
'I've always wanted to be a SEAL,' said Tiger, back then. 'That's something I told my dad from the get-go. Either I'm going to become a professional golfer or I'm going to become a Navy SEAL. A lot of my friends are special ops operators.'
Haven't you ever considered chasing a past dream, especially when life turned difficult? Tiger had spent 30+ years working his butt off, and we all know that the practice tee was his favorite time to spend with his dad. Don't you suppose that after a few years on the practice tee without his dad, compounded by the constant pain in his leg, and almost certainly including some "other factors" weighing on him at the time, maybe Tiger considered getting away from it all?

As someone who's taken some martial arts and read more than a few exercise books, I can tell you that the Navy SEAL training regimen finds a real source of interest among athletes and other fitness aficionados. For example, you can see a couple of the available books here and here, and if you scroll down the page to the "Customers who bought this item also bought..." list, you'll find quite a few more titles. The whole SEAL question just makes me want to say "duuuh!"

No, Haney said something I find far more shocking than any of the book excerpts I heard mentioned. In fact, when I heard it my mouth dropped open and I was speechless.

Hank Haney, who talks constantly about how hard golf is, about how much work you have to put into it to get better, and who hawks plenty of expensive golf aids that are supposed to help you accomplish this overwhelming task, told interviewers that he was shocked to find out that even Tiger Woods had trouble learning some things.

Read that again: Hank Haney told interviewers that he was SHOCKED to find out that even Tiger Woods had trouble learning some things.


Tiger has talked about the difficulty of making changes before. I remember an interview -- I believe it was during an NBC tournament shortly after he started working with Hank -- where he was asked why he said swing changes took 15 months. Tiger said they should only take two or three months but that, especially for pros who were trying to play tournaments while they made changes, that there was constant backsliding into the old habits. It didn't matter how hard you worked, some things just took longer to learn than others.

And Hank Haney didn't know this? He expected Tiger to be different from every other human on the planet? Even Jack Nicklaus had struggles with his swing, some of which he documented in his 1984 book The Full Swing. Every great player from Jones to Mickelson struggles with making changes.

For me this raises more questions about Hank Haney than about Tiger Woods!

I think many instructors make this game much harder than it needs to be. I don't think it should take years for you to learn to break 90. (Press me a bit and I'll lower that all the way down to 80. If you can play hockey or swing a baseball bat or hit a tennis backhand or throw a Frisbee™, you can learn to hit a golf ball decently.) But if you think you're never going to find something in the game that you have trouble learning, you aren't living in the real world.

The fact that no one in the media has even bothered to bring this up bothers me. If Hank missed something this simple, just how much should I trust his interpretation of Tiger's actions -- especially since he says they never talked about them?

I'm not telling you not to buy his book, folk. I just think you should take what you read with a grain of salt.

Especially when the source misses something this simple. Make sure you don't make the same mistake and get depressed when it takes you a while to improve your game.