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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pettersson's "Sway"

After going to see the final round at the CIMB Classic, Ramzi had asked about Dufner's waggle -- which I wrote about yesterday -- and also about Carl Pettersson's apparent sway. Ramzi commented:
Also saw Carl Petterson teeing off, he was confidently hitting/tapping on top of the ball to get the right tee height. He also has this quasi-sway to the right when he starts his backswing. Why does he do that?
Here's what I wrote back in the comments:
As for Carl, that isn't a sway. He's moving behind the ball -- a move that Carl Rabito, the PGA teaching pro who taught me, also teaches. I generally don't teach it because I think you either do it naturally when you try to stay steady over the ball or you end up with a full-blown sway. I found a YouTube video by PGA teaching pro Brian Manzella that demonstrates it. It's in the first couple of minutes.
And here's that video I mentioned:

Just to make things clear, here are a couple of videos of Carl swinging an iron from slightly different angles. The reason for the second one will become clear shortly:

The easiest way I could think of to show Carl's move is with a "time-lapse" photo. First I took stills of his address, top of backswing position, and just after impact. Then I layered them, made sure his feet were in the same place in all three, and faded them together. Here's the result:

If you look closely, you can see that most of the side-to-side movement is with his hips. His head is tallest at address, then moves slightly downward as his hips swing backward, then turns toward the target as he makes his downswing. His head really doesn't move much, and that's why I included the second video -- from the angle it was shot, you can see just how much his head turns during his swing. It's that head turn that makes it look like he moves so much.

In Carl's case, this hip movement also contributes to that little out-to-in move in his downswing. (No, it's not really an over-the-top move because his hands don't move outward toward the ball until AFTER he starts down. In an over-the-top swing, the hands move outward while the hands are still going up.)

I think Carl makes this move because he isn't as flexible as some other players. If you watch the videos, you can see his left heel come off the ground before he ever reaches the top of his backswing. (You Stack'n'Tilters out there can leave a comment if I'm wrong, but his move actually reminds me a little of the S'n'T hip move. His head stays fairly centered -- in his case, just behind the ball -- while his lower body moves quite a bit back and through.)

The key to his success here is that his head stays in pretty much the same vertical position throughout his swing, despite the way it looks. It's a slightly unorthodox move but it's repeatable for Carl. I think it's his adaptation to his inflexibility... and it works very well indeed.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hogan's Waggle

Ramzi left me a couple of questions in the comments to my "hot and sticky" post a couple of days ago after he went to watch the final round of the CIMB Classic. (Yes, Ramzi lives in Malaysia.) One of those questions concerned Jason Dufner's waggle, and I said I'd just do a post so I could cover it properly.

Here was his comment about Jason:
I also saw Dufner and saw the famous waggle - but major question here is the swing supposed to be wristy like his waggle? It takes a lot of confidence to start the swing after the waggle, I must say.
Lots of instructors talk about "liking the waggle" but they don't talk much about the details of how to do it. And make no mistake, Ben Hogan liked details. First, here's what I wrote in the comments about the waggle, since it will save us some time:
First, the swing should NOT be wristy like the waggle. Hogan was pretty clear in his book Five Lessons: The hands and arms shouldn't do anything during the swing but hang on to the club. The trick with a Hogan-style waggle as described on pages 66 and 67 of my copy -- and this isn't made clear most of the time -- is that the waggle is a specific set of moves, but it isn't identical each time. I'll do a post about it for Tuesday.
The waggle, according to Hogan, is a bridge between address and the actual swing. It's not just about loosening up, but about practicing (1) the path back, (2) squaring up the club face at contact, and (3) visualizing the shot. But the waggle is very different from the actual swing you're going to make in several ways. Hogan mentions that there is no shoulder turn; that in itself keeps the waggle from being exactly like your backswing.

But there's a specific technique to Hogan's waggle. Most people just twist their forearms, but not Hogan. The upper arms stay connected to the chest, as in a one-piece takeaway, but the lead elbow moves a couple of inches straight away from your body while the trailing elbow moves closer to your side... then they move back to their start position. The hands stay relaxed and just keep hold of the club. This isn't forearm twisting!

The bending of the elbows of what causes the apparent rotation of the forearms; the real rotation actually happens at the lead shoulder. I know that sounds kinda weird, but remember that your upper arms are touching your chest lightly. Hogan was very specific about this:
During the waggle, the upper part of the arms remain rooted against the sides of the chest. As we stated earlier, there should be no turning of the shoulders. (Five Lessons, p67)
If you do your waggle the way Hogan says, your upper arm actually rolls up the side of your chest. If you try it, you'll see it makes perfect sense.

This means that the waggle is actually an upper arm movement, not a wrist movement. The hands and wrists stay relaxed. And it assumes you're using Hogan's concept of connection in your swing. If you aren't, the Hogan-style waggle has questionable effectiveness.

As for Ramzi's comment that "it takes a lot of confidence to start the swing after the waggle," there's more truth to that than you might think. Hogan specifically says, in all caps, "DON'T GROOVE YOUR WAGGLE" (p67). Modern players try to create a ritual that repeats exactly the same way on every shot. You may remember that Dufner received some criticism for not waggling the same way every time. (In fact, Jason said he just waggles until he feels ready to swing.) But that's exactly how Hogan said to do it. And if every waggle feels a little different, you won't feel the same way each time... although Hogan says that, after his waggle, he often felt that he had rehearsed the swing exactly the way he wanted to play it.

If you're really interested in learning a Hogan-style waggle, the thing to do is get a copy of Hogan's Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. For what it's worth, it's a fairly small paperback that retails for around 13 bucks. (You can probably find it cheaper online.) But Hogan is the expert when it comes to the waggle; in my opinion, if you want to learn how to do it right, you should go to the source.

And there you have it -- the basics of Hogan-style waggling. Simply put, if you want to swing like Jason Dufner, you may want to incorporate it into your swing. If you don't swing like Jason, it's not critical to making a good swing.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 CIMB Classic

Winner: Nick Watney

Around the wider world of golf: Suzann Pettersen won the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship; Carlota Ciganda won the China Suzhou Taihu Open on the LET; David Frost won the AT&T Championship on the Champions Tour in a playoff against Bernhard Langer; Peter Hanson won the BMW Masters on the ET (but he's still way behind Rory in the Race to Dubai); Darren Fichardt won the Sun Coast Classic on the Sunshine Tour; and Justin Bolli won the Tour Championship. The Top 25 who get PGA Tour cards was also determined there; Casey Wittenberg took the #1 spot.

Nick picks up win#2 this year

I just don't know what to say. Back before the FedExCup Playoffs we were talking about what a disappointing year Nick Watney was having. Now he's ripped off two wins in as many months... and all he did was shoot a course-record 10-under 61 to squeak out his win in Kuala Lumpur.

My, my, my. How quickly fortunes change in the world of golf... but I guess that shouldn't surprise me anymore, given how many dramatic comebacks we've seen this season.

It's not as if nobody else played well. Tiger shot 63, for Pete's sake, and the best he could muster was a T4. And there were two other scores of 62 in the Top 10 finishers. It's not often that the third-round leaders both shoot 66 and come up short, yet that's exactly what happened to Bo Van Pelt and Robert Garrigus.

I'll just say this: With the WGC-China coming up next week, at least Nick picked a good time to get hot. (That's hot with the clubs, not hot with the weather in Kuala Lumpur. But I guess he did both, huh?)

So this week's Limerick Summary salutes the player who found his lost year before it slipped away entirely. I wonder if he'll have anything left when he faces Rory next week?
Two months back, his game looked quite disjointed;
But Nick's play since that time seems anointed!
He's erratic, that's true;
But I think he'll make do –
With two wins, he can't be disappointed!
The photo came from the front page of

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bo Van Pelt's Feet

I was reading the November issue of Golf Digest and found a short article by Bo Van Pelt. Given how well Bo has played this year -- and is playing this week in Kuala Lumpur -- I thought I'd pass along what he says has been the key to his improvement over the last few years.

Bo Van PeltBo said he used to make all kinds of adjustments for each swing -- changing ball position, stance width, different feels for different shots, etc. He said it was just too many moving parts to develop any kind of consistency. So he simplified it all.

Now he just changes his stance, narrowing it when he needs to hit a low shot and widening it when he needs a high shot, and both his ball position and swing stay the same.

Although he doesn't spell it out quite this clearly, I think -- from his explanation in the article -- that he only moves his trailing foot when he changes his stance width. The ball is always the same distance from his lead foot. This way, when he widens his stance, he just moves his trailing foot back and gets the effect of moving the ball forward in his stance -- just what he needs to get a higher trajectory. Likewise, when he narrows his stance, moving his trailing foot toward the ball effectively moves the ball back in his stance, giving him a lower trajectory.

This is a simple way to control the trajectory of your shots... and if it works this well for Bo, why not give it a try?

The photo came from Bo's page at

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Is It Better to Be Hot and Not Sticky?

Kuala Lumpur is hot AND sticky, so the leaders are stuck together so tight you can barely tell 'em apart!

As I'm writing this, Tiger is two back of Bo Van Pelt's lead at -16. Bo is -9 after 12 holes while Tiger's -5 after 9 holes. There are 10 players within 4 shots and 15 within 5 shots. The scoring is insane, as there are a huge number of players who are -5, -6, and -7 for the day.

The interesting thing to me is that both Tiger and Bo finally seem to be hitting on all cylinders. It's not that they played badly in the earlier rounds; they just hadn't looked particularly sharp. That looks to be changing today. (Of course, Saturday in Kuala Lumpur is late Friday in the US.)

By comparison, the LPGA is in Yang Mei, Taiwan where it appears to be pretty hot -- though not nearly as hot as Kuala Lumpur -- but definitely NOT sticky. And, perhaps understandably, the field isn't sticking together either.

As it stands while I'm writing, Suzann Pettersen (-12), Inbee Park (-11), and Yani Tseng (-11) are separating themselves from the field in the third round. The news here is that Yani looks to be on her way to three sub-70 rounds for the first time in months.

It looks like the stars on both tours were ready for a little action... but perhaps the PGA Tour pros wanted it a bit more. Tiger had said earlier in the week that, given the conditions and if the course were set up with reasonable pins, someone -- maybe several someones -- might break 60. Bo is officially on 59 watch -- he needs to get to -11 to do that -- and unless his game deserts him, that may be the big news by the time you read this.

And if Bo does it, he may prove that being sticky ain't so bad after all.

Friday, October 26, 2012

More South Africans to Learn!

If you've been watching the CIMB Classic and the name Jbe Kruger is new to you, better get used to it. He's another of those young players coming out of South Africa with a lot of game.

I had some trouble finding Jbe's player page at the European Tour site, despite him being a member. Fortunately I was able to find a working link at Jbe's Wikipedia page, so you can get to his ET page by clicking this link.

Jbe (that's short for James Barry and he seems to be ok with pronouncing it like the initials J.B., despite the odd spelling) fascinates me because he's such a little guy. He's only 5'5" tall and around 130 lbs, yet he smacks the ball around 290 yards. (Yeah, you read that right -- 293.35 yards this season, to be exact.) He's got two wins on the Sunshine Tour and he got his first ET win earlier this season.

Here's a short piece Golfing World did on Jbe (mostly funny questions) that gives you an idea what his personality is like:

And if you want to know how good his nerves are, he played his second round with Tiger Woods -- he hadn't even met him until a few minutes before tee time -- and at the time I'm writing this, the two have finished 11 holes. Tiger is -3 for the day, sitting at -8 overall, while Jbe is -6 for the day and has the solo lead at -11.

Better get used to the name, folks. Jbe Kruger needs to develop some consistency, but he's certainly got the game... and at only 26, he's got time to make that name much better known.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

In Case You Need Some Equipment...

I got an email from Logan Baker at Callaway Golf Interactive that I thought I'd pass along. The email said, in part:
I work with Callaway Golf and I wanted to let you know about a great deal I think the users of your site would like to see. You already have a ton of great information, and I think this would be the perfect fit for your readers.

We’re offering 15% off Fairway Woods at the store until November 30 with the code V15OFFW. You can already find great deals on the Certified Pre-Owned site, and this coupon makes the deal that much sweeter! Your readers could use this coupon on the popular Diablo Edge Tour Fairway Woods, which can be found here:,default,pd.html

Please feel free to share this coupon code and link on your site.
Just so you know... I have no connection to Callaway and I don't get any money if you decide to buy anything. But given how expensive golf equipment is, and since Callaway was kind enough to let me know about this, I thought I'd pass it along -- just in case any of you are already considering some used Callaway fairway woods.

Bear in mind that the coupon code appears to be for ANY fairway wood on the preowned site, not just the Diablos, and Logan didn't specify any limit on quantity.

Hope this can save some of you some money.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Gossip About the Dozen

You may have heard about the reduced start requirements for the PGA Tour in 2013. So far I've only seen Rex Hoggard reporting on it.

In case you haven't heard, here's the skinny: Because of the changes to the Tour taking place next year -- the new "wraparound" schedule that will start the 2014 season after the FedExCup Playoffs -- the 2013 season will only be 9 months long. Largely to make sure that the guys promoted from the Tour and the last edition of Q-School get enough starts to try and keep their cards, the Tour is reducing the number of starts required to maintain voting privileges from 15 to 12.

They're doing some other things as well, such as asking events to expand their fields temporarily, to try and help the new guys during the shortened season.

However, the topic of discussion has been whether this reduction might be continued past 2013 -- perhaps as a response to the Euro Tour's decision to let team events (Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, Seve Cup) count against their tour requirements. (They only require 13 events for membership as it is.) The thinking is that the tours are competing for the best players and may reduce requirements to induce dual membership.

Hoggard said on Morning Drive that he didn't believe the reduction would extend beyond 2013.

I suspect he's correct. I don't see how reducing requirements will induce players to take dual memberships when the main issue seems to be travel time around the globe. McIlroy has already said that he tired himself out this year with too much traveling, although I think that should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, Rory relocated to the US this year, which is a major strain in and of itself without including the travel time for tournaments.

The buzz is that this whole thing could represent the beginnings of the "world tour" idea that's been debated since Greg Norman suggested it two decades back.

But this overlooks the main issue. The world tour is here, folks... at least for the big names. The four majors and three of the WGCs are the heart of it, being official events on both tours. (I suspect the WGC-HSBC Champions in China will become official on the PGA Tour before long.) If you're good enough to qualify for these seven events, you currently need only 8 PGA Tour events and 6 European Tour events -- a total of just 21 events -- to maintain dual membership. (For 2013 you can reduce that total to 18, with that one-year 12-event minimum on the PGA Tour.)

Reducing the event requirement just doesn't make sense if you're trying to draw players to your events rather than their events. Reducing the requirements merely allows the best players to cherry-pick the top events on each tour, which ultimately hurts your tour. Just think about how much trouble the PGA Tour has had trying to get the big names to play smaller events on their own tour!

If dual membership is the goal here, it seems more logical to co-sponsor enough events to fulfill most (not all) of the requirements, so players need only play two or three other events on each tour to make that tour's minimums. The key here is which tournaments you co-sponsor.

Let's assume that eventually the four majors and four WGCs give you 8 "world tour" events. Each tour should set their minimum at 15 events and pick a couple of mid-tier events to co-sponsor, making 12 "world tour " events. (I suspect those mid-tier events would soon become very desirable targets for sponsors!) Now players would only need to pick three other events on each tour to fulfill their minimums, for a total of only 18 events. (12 "world tour" events plus 3 PGA events plus 3 Euro events.)

This plan isn't perfect, of course -- you still need some way to get big name players to an occasional small event, and you need some way to sort out who gets in those mid-tier events since you'd have more players (from both sides of the pond) competing for entry. But this gives the best ET players an incentive to play in the US more often, and most of the big-name US players already play 3 or 4 overseas events in addition to their PGA Tour commitments.

The LPGA and LET already seem to have figured this out. I suspect it's only a matter of time before the guys catch on as well.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Beat That Snake!

Tommy Gainey said somebody described his swing as "trying to beat a snake with a garden hose." Well, although you're unlikely to find any instructor who teaches this swing, it's still pretty effective. And while this was Tommy's first PGA Tour win, he does have a couple of Tour wins and several mini-tour wins. Here's a quick look at his swing:

As you may know by now, the "Two Gloves" swing is based on his old baseball swing. It's actually a very flat swing that he makes from a very bent over address position -- that's why it has a good angle of attack when he plays from the rough. (I don't know how his back will hold up as he gets older, though.)

Note that his hands don't get that high. At the top of his backswing his left arm makes no more than a 45-degree angle to the ground, and he gets most of his wrist cock during his downswing. (Yep, that's a baseball swing alright.) And look how high above his head that left shoulder gets after he hits the ball! He has to do the old Arnold Palmer "helicopter" finish to keep from hitting himself in the head as he straightens up after the ball is gone.

Tommy has it right when he says "all that matters is impact." However, most weekend players wouldn't get away with a swing like this because they don't have the skill, ability, and experience to get their hands in the right position to get that good contact repeatedly. But players like Tommy are the reason I teach a very simple swing with a minimum of moves. I've tried to isolate the most basic moves needed to get power and consistency. You can learn those few moves and integrate them into your own personal way of swinging. It's that personal approach that makes Tommy so dangerous on the course.

Remember: Tommy Gainey was the first male player from Big Break to get his PGA Tour card and now he's the first to get a PGA Tour win. That's because, to use a hackneyed cliche, he owns this swing.

And Sunday he owned the field at the McGladrey Classic. I think he can win a major with his game, as long as he gets more consistent with his putting.

I don't predict nearly as rosy a future for any snakes that get in his way. ;-)

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 McGladrey Classic

Winner: Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey

Around the wider world of golf: Suzann Pettersen won the LPGA-KEB HanaBank Championship in a playoff; Bo Van Pelt won the ISPS HANDA Perth International on the European Tour (over Jason Dufner -- they were the only two American players in the field!); Russell Henley won the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open on the Tour in a playoff -- his 2nd win in less than a month; and Teboho Sefatsa won the BMG Classic on the Sunshine Tour.

Holding on with Two Gloves

I got them ALL wrong this weekend. I thought So Yeon Ryu would win in Korea; she faded badly at the end of the second round and never recovered. And I thought Jason Dufner would run Bo Van Pelt down, simply because Jason's putting seemed to be getting better with each round.

But I take comfort in knowing that NO ONE got the McGladrey right. I'm thrilled that Tommy won -- it's about time! -- but I sure didn't see it coming.

Maybe I should have. It's not just that we've had so many come-from-way-behind winners this season, but Ben Crane did the same thing here last year. Tommy was 7 back as well, and put together a bogey-free round of 10-under -- 8 birdies and an eagle. He had seven straight 3s on his final nine, and his 60 was a course record. He even had a birdie chance on 18 to shoot 59, which he left just slightly short and to the side. But he said it was a fast putt that could get away from you, so I suspect he decided to err on the safe side.

A wise choice, as it turned out. The shootout between the leaders never materialized, although David Toms posted his own 7-under and came up one short of a playoff.

With his win Tommy lays both hands on his first trophy, a trip to Hawaii, invitations to most of the big tournaments next year (I think this put him at 55th on the money list), and is now within spitting distance of Augusta. Not bad for a former factory worker with a swing that makes Jim Furyk look orthodox. (Well, sort of.)

This week's Limerick Summary pays tribute to the former Big Break winner who just made his own big break. Many congrats, Two Gloves!
Tommy's nickname makes all of his fans grin
And it seemed an appropriate name when
He clawed back from behind –
Almost shot 59!
Seems he needed two gloves to grab this win.
The photo came from the front page of

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bump and Run with Jim

Since Jim Furyk is playing in the last group at the McGladrey today with Davis Love III, I thought I'd post a golf tip from him. This is an older one on how to play bump and run shots.

Most of this is pretty much standard info, right? Ball back slightly in stance, hands slightly ahead, etc. However, he says something here that's good advice for any shot you want to play, but it's crucial for short game shots like this (and I quote):
You always want to put the club in the position you plan to hit the shot from, and then take your grip. Put your club in the position you want it, and then take your grip.
It's very easy to end up taking a slightly different stance than you originally intended. If you wait until you've taken your stance before you finalize your grip, there's a better chance you'll get the club face aimed where you want the ball to go.

We'll see if Jim can follow his own advice and put the ball where he wants it today. The way Davis is playing, he isn't gonna make this easy for Jim.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

OK, This Is Your Spoiler Alert...

Since I'm writing about the LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship. After all, the second round won't be shown until 7:30pm ET Saturday night.

However, I'm writing this around 1am ET on Friday night... and the leaders are nearing the end of the second round. So if you don't want to know what's happening, you might want to read this post later today.

Although this event -- the second in the 6-week stretch that ends the LPGA season -- is in South Korea, the Korean players aren't dominating the leaderboard the way they have most of the year. Don't get me wrong, they definitely have a presence there, just not in the overwhelming numbers we've gotten used to. I'll come back to this in a minute.

The Americans aren't showing so well thus far. Several of the big names (like Paula Creamer) aren't there, but the ones that showed aren't playing particularly well. For example, Stacy Lewis is +2, 11 off the lead as I write this. Lexi Thompson is the only US player currently in the Top10 -- she's T5 with 3 other players at -5.

As for the ladies at the top...

Suzann Pettersen was the leader after the first round, shooting -9 for a one-shot lead over Karin Sjodin. (You remember her -- she's the Swede who smiles more than just about any other player on tour.) Well, they're still on top although they aren't shooting light's-out this round. They're tied for the lead at -9, with Sjodin one-under for the day and Pettersen even. (Suzann did pop up to -10 for a hole or two before dropping back.)

South Korean player So Yeon Ryu had it to -9 but she's at -8 (two-under for the day) right now. She finished in solo fifth last week in Malaysia, so she may be making a good run during this Asian swing. I'm actually surprised she only won once this year, although she's locked up the Rookie of the Year title with her consistency.

The other South Korean at the top of the leaderboard, in solo fourth at -7, is Se Ri Pak. She just finished her round.

After that there's a two-shot gap to the T5s and four more players at -4. US player Danielle Kang posted at -3.

Personally my money's on So Yeon Ryu to take this one, although Pak and Pettersen are certainly capable. (Sjodin is as well, but she's trying to get her first win. That could make it tough for her.) Ryu just seems to be playing more aggressively without making a lot of bogeys.

This is only a 3-round event, so we'll know something late today. You can check the leaderboard later if you want to spoil those results as well. ;-)

Friday, October 19, 2012

This Bud's on Top

I just couldn't pass that up. We've only seen three rookies win this year on the PGA Tour -- John Huh, Ted Potter Jr., and Jonas Blixt -- so Bud Cauley possibly adding to that total is news.

The fact is, Cauley's been a bit flat for the last month or so. A T57, T56, and T55 in his last three events (seriously, I'm not making that up and they're in order like that) is a drop-off from his play earlier in the season. He's made around 75% of his cuts, but he had a bad string of the misses during the summer.

You wouldn't know any of that by the way he played Thursday at the McGladrey. He posted some of his best stats this year while grabbing a share of the lead at -8. He's in the Top 4 in the field in most stats except Driving Distance and GIR, although he's driving it his normal distance and hitting about 12% more greens than normal. Granted, he does have some experience at the course; he says he's played it maybe 20 times or so -- certainly an advantage for a rookie who is usually seeing courses for the first time each week.

Some people think Cauley has a chance at Rookie of the Year. Personally my money's on John Huh, who I think accomplished more -- especially being the only rookie to make the FedExCup Playoffs. But as it stands, Cauley's 6 shots ahead of Potter, 10 ahead of Blixt (who's probably still celebrating), and Huh isn't playing. If he can win this weekend, he'll certainly get his name into the debate.

His bogey-free first round was certainly a good start.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Teed Off About Perfection

I stumbled across a post about perfection in writing at the Ghostwoods website, which is the website of British writer Tim Dedopulos. The points it made seemed tailor-made for golfers as well, so I'm adapting it a bit of it for our use.

Dedopulos focused on three aspects of perfection that trip writers up. Here's the golf version:
  1. Perfection is impossible. You're never going to get your golf swing in perfect shape. You're never going to play the perfect round. You're never going to know everything you want to know. If you want to enjoy playing the game, you're going to have to learn to live with that. Don't be so hard on yourself out there on the course, and don't let the game take over your life and ruin everything else in the pursuit of perfection. They have a word for that: futile.
  2. Perfection is incremental. This is related to the first one. You can make progress, but you aren't going to just suddenly "arrive." And -- newsflash! -- nobody expects you to suddenly become SuperGolfer. Learn how to take enjoyment in the journey. I know you've heard that said until you're sick of it, but that's because you don't understand what it means. Enjoying the journey doesn't mean the destination doesn't matter. It merely means that each step you take is meaningful in and of itself, as each one brings you closer to your destination, and should therefore be celebrated on its own. You can do that, can't you?
  3. Perfection is meaningless. Look, if you can't be perfect, attempts to become perfect are meaningless. I know what you're going to say -- "it's just a goal to shoot for." WRONG. A goal is, by definition, something that can be attained. Don't aim for perfection; set achievable goals and aim for them.
Perfectionists tend to be difficult people to get along with. The good news is, you don't have to be a perfectionist in order to work hard and bring the best out of yourself. Simply choose challenging goals that are slightly above your current ability and then, once you achieve them, set new goals. New goals can be set over and over and over again as you achieve the old ones... and there is no penalty for doing so!

Bob Rotella has written quite a bit about how golfers struggle with perfection. It looks like perfection is something that plagues pretty much everybody. So make peace with the perfectionist inside you and tell him to hit the road. I suspect you'll make faster improvement that way.

Thus endeth the sermon for today. Smiley Faces

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How to Blitz Blixt the Field

Alas, there are very few YouTubes (at least so far) showing Jonas Blixt's swing. I found a grand total of two... and only one was a slo-mo. Still, I think it's informative. You see, Blixt doesn't have the most impressive stats on Tour. Since his Tour stats from last year were noticeably better, I'm chalking this up to a combination of injuries and just being a rookie (therefore not knowing the courses well).

In fact, he only hits the ball around 285 off the tee and has only hit a little over 60% of his GIR. Of course, he's #1 on Tour in Strokes Gained - Putting, so as long as he's somewhere around the hole there's a good chance he can make par or better. (He was considerably better last year in all stats, including putting.)

Take a look at his swing:

What can you learn from this one little video clip? Mainly that Blixt does most of the things I recommend you do.

First, Blixt's swing is both simple and balanced. That makes it easier for him for hit the ball consistently in the center of the clubface.

On his backswing he keeps his trailing knee flexed and he makes a one-piece takeaway until his hands are around waist high. I know it looks like his trailing elbow is bent, but it's bent at setup and it doesn't change until his hands are halfway back.

At the top of his backswing you can see his trailing shoulder in the "triangle" formed by his elbows and hands. This means that his hands are still "in front of him" and therefore he's in a balanced, powerful position. Note that the trailing knee is still flexed.

And his downswing basically looks like he just turns his shoulders and body until he faces the target again... and the ball "just gets in the way of the club." By that I mean he isn't lashing at the ball, but rather making a nice balanced turn through the ball and letting the club do the work. A club is a tool, and the idea behind tools is that they let the workman multiply his effort without sacrificing control.

Given that Blixt is one of only three rookies to win on the PGA Tour this year, and given that he's currently #35 on the money list (very close to getting in all the majors next year), I'd say this workman uses his tools very well.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Rough Night for Phil

In case you hadn't heard, the NFL game between the San Diego Chargers (quarterbacked by Philip Rivers) and the visiting Denver Broncos (led by the already-legendary Peyton Manning) wasn't the only big thing going on in San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium. Phil Mickelson was trying to win $1mil for First Book, a non-profit organization which provides new books for children in need.

Here's the deal: During halftime, Phil was placed in one end zone; a 5-foot diameter target was set up in the other one. Mickelson was given a single wedge shot to hit the target and win the million bucks, which would have purchased around 450,000 books. According to PGA Tour stats, Phil makes that shot slightly more than 13% of the time.

However, Monday night turned out to be part of that other 87%. His shot went long -- still worth $50k (20,000 books) but clearly not what he was after.

Unfortunately for Phil, the rest of the night didn't go any better. You see, he did a little pregame commentary for ESPN extolling how the Chargers were positioned to make mincemeat out of the Broncos. For what it's worth, the history between the teams was clearly on Phil's side.

As it turned out, Peyton set a few records during the game, including the first time any team has ever been down 24-0 at halftime and then came back to win by double digits. The Broncos won 35-24.

Perhaps the kids will get a chance to read about Peyton's accomplishments in the new books Phil just bought them. I'm sure that will excite Phil no end. ;-)

Here's the article where I verified my figures about Phil's attempt.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 Open

Winner: Jonas Blixt

Around the wider world of golf: It was a very busy weekend! Inbee Park won the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia on the LPGA Tour; Gaganjeet Bhullar won the Venetian Macau Open on the OneAsia Tour; Peter Wilson won the WA Goldfields PGA Championship on the Australasian Tour; Fred Funk won the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn (here in NC) on the Champions Tour; Shane Lowry won the Portugal Masters on the ET; Ya-Huei Lu won the Taiwan LPGA South Taiwan Open on the LAGT; and Shawn Stephani won the Miccosukee Championship on the Tour.

Blixt with trophy

On a day when Red Bull proved they can provide balloons and parachutes as well as wings (and this link gives you lots of pictures), Jonas Blixt proved that his family can break the sound barrier as well.

At least, they can with the proper incentive... and Jonas certainly gave them that. Despite Jimmy Walker's -9 and Tim Petrovic's -7, Blixt just didn't give the players around him any hope of catching him. What else would you expect from the guy with the longest current string of holes without a 3-putt (233)?

After a third-place finish last week in front of his family (visiting from Sweden), Blixt calmly played the final four holes in -2 to win this week. If he hadn't won, he still would have had his card for next year -- despite missing a couple of months in the thick of the season from injuries, he had still managed to make over $1mil and reach #115 in the OWGR -- but it's so much nicer to give yourself a couple of years to play. I'm guessing this win will get him high enough to qualify for the invitational tournaments if not the majors.

But the way he's playing, that can't be far off. As only the third rookie to win this season, he's keeping some pretty exclusive company... and next week's McGladrey Classic is almost a home game for him.

So this week's Limerick Summary salutes the newest Swede to chalk up a PGA Tour victory. Perhaps he'll give his family another reason to break the sound barrier this week:
With his family from Sweden transfixed
By his play down the stretch, Jonas Blixt
Got his first win on Tour.
Now for two years he's sure
That his golf dreams won't be eighty-sixed.
The photo came from the front page of

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Shots in the Dark

One of the more interesting stories this week -- at least, in my opinion -- has been the ladies' struggles at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.

Of course, virtually all the tours -- be it the PGA Tour, the European Tour, or the Champions Tours -- play in Malaysia at some time during the year. And if you've watched any of those tournaments, you know that rain eventually becomes a problem. Malaysia gets a lot of rain, sometimes every day; according to Wikipedia, they get around 98 inches of rain per year and October is right in the middle of monsoon season. (Of course, when your monsoon season lasts from April to February, that's not so unusual.)

Karrie Webb mentioned after finishing her round Saturday that designers all over the world could learn quite a bit from the Kuala Lumpur course where they're playing, as the course has taken a tremendous amount of rain this week and has still remained playable. But that doesn't mean play has gone quickly. The delays have taken their toll.

And what fascinates me is that the second and third rounds have extended well into the night because of them. As a result, some of the players were forced to finish their rounds under artificial lights! Did you know that the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club has artificial lighting so you can play at night? Although the cameras make it look much lighter than it really is -- I wish they would shut down the irises sometimes to show how dark it actually is -- you could still see the players' shadows on the greens as they tried to line up their putts! That doesn't make it any easier to post a good score.

Yet, perhaps even more interesting is that the three leaders have played under the lights in both rounds! Leaders Na Yeon Choi (-15), Inbee Park (-13), and Karrie Webb (-11) have posted better rounds than the rest of the field despite that disadvantage. Just to round out the top 5, Paula Creamer sits as -10 and (almost certain to be) Rookie of the Year So Yeon Ryu is at -9.

The leaders are about halfway through the final round as I'm writing this, so I don't know if they'll have to face more rain delays or not. But given how frustrated some of the players seemed after the third round, I imagine they'll be very happy to get this tournament in the books... and get dried out before heading to South Korea next week.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Wreck on the Information Superhighway

And I mean that literally -- a car crash Friday afternoon apparently took out a phone pole near our house. We didn't lose power -- those lines are run underground -- but we did lose cable, internet, and all those other services. As a result, I'm just now getting back online.

And obviously, I don't have a post since I have no idea what happened in the golf world yesterday! So I'll have to get caught up today and get back on schedule tomorrow. I know you're all distraught not having any of my sterling prose to read, but you'll live. ;-)

Friday, October 12, 2012

How Posture Affects Contact

I found this neat video by PGA Professional Steve Dahlby at the GolfTipsMag site. It talks about how your posture can affect whether you hit the ball fat or thin, on the toe or on the heel. Here, you can take a look at it, then I'll add a couple of comments:

Steve's suggestions are good ones. Both are good things to check since most players have these problems once in a while.

Toe or thin hits can be caused by standing up at some point during your swing. He suggests standing a bit farther from the ball and leaning forward a bit more from the hips.

Heel or fat shots can be caused by dipping at some point during your swing. He suggests doing the opposite -- move a bit closer to the ball and stand a bit taller.

In essence, he's trying to help you maintain your levels throughout your swing. I want to add a couple of other suggestions that can help you fix that problem.

You need to remember that problems often start from the ground up. If you're straightening up during your swing, you may be thinking about keeping your head down... but standing up starts from the ground. It's important for your trailing knee to remain slightly bent throughout your entire swing. (I like to keep both knees slightly bent until I reach my followthrough, when my lead knee will straighten. It IS possible to gain some extra power if you straighten your lead knee at the bottom of your downswing, but the timing can get a bit tricky. However, that trailing knee should stay slightly bent regardless.) That will eliminate most of your unintended upward movement.

That may also help with dipping too much. If your knees are already slightly bent, you're less likely to bend them more... and while you may bend at the hip when you dip, I bet you bend your knees as well. It's the natural reaction. Consider this a preemptive attack.

A drill that can help you learn to keep your knees flexed, maintain your posture, and help prevent swaying is one I recommend often, and it also comes from the GolfTipsMag site. It's called Body Movin' and you can get there by clicking this link. I really like it because it doesn't require a club; that means you can do it just about anywhere you have room to stand.

Try using these simple tips and you should start hitting the ball more in the center of the club face. That will help you with both distance and accuracy. Why settle for one when you can have both?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The ET Makes a Move

I'm sure you heard the big news from the European Tour. For one thing, the mini-event that Tiger, Rory, and 6 other golfers are playing in Turkey this week will become a limited-field (something like 78 players) on next year's ET schedule. It's going to be just before their final big tournament in the Race to Dubai. That was interesting.

But I was more interested in their other news -- namely, that the ET will count Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, and Seve Trophy team events against the 13-tournament minimum currently required for ET membership. This could potentially be a big powerplay for the Euro Tour.

Here's the deal: Some tournaments already count against membership requirements on both the PGA and Euro Tours -- all 4 majors and all 4 WGC events. That means a US Tour member can add just 5 events and be an ET member as well. Still, that's a fair amount of travel. By counting the team events, the bigger name players will only need to play 4 other ET events.

It's the "bigger name" aspect that intrigues me. This could have a double effect for the ET. First of all -- and most obvious -- it could attract some US players to take ET membership. Getting the big US names to play their tour more often could certainly help them financially as they, like most businesses, have lost some of their sponsors due to the economic climate around the globe.

Less obvious is the potential to keep their own big name players who are opting for US membership. Minimizing the demands on players like Westwood and McIlroy, among others, might encourage them to maintain dual membership. (This could end up being a serious problem to them. Colsaerts is playing the this week, having taken temporary membership to see if he can qualify for the Top 125. He's only about $100k short right now.)

While it's not a sure thing, Tiger has already announced that he will consider ET membership after he studies the new criteria more closely. Other US players might consider it as well, as the ET doesn't have the limitations on appearance fees that the PGA Tour does. (Well, officially I guess they do, but we all know they aren't too zealous about stopping it. Hey, business is business... and golf sponsorships are BIG business.)

One possibility I find interesting is whether the PGA Tour could eventually find itself making a similar decision. Might we reach a point where the US Tour finds it in its best interest to count team events against their own membership requirements in an attempt to lure more big name European players? Depending on how the world rankings shake out over the next few years, it might not be such a farfetched idea. Remember, the team events affect a relatively small number of players, all of them big name players who could be huge draws for US events as well.

That's probably not going to be a major problem any time soon... but things change quickly nowadays. And with the increasingly large number of big money events willing to pay for the big names, some of those big name players may eventually realize that -- with sponsor exemptions and such -- they don't even need to belong to a tour to play the 15 to 18 events per year that many of them seem to be happy with.

If that happens, the balance of power could shift considerably. Then it'll be the players who make the moves.

It's worth considering...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Home Stretch

While the PGA Tour is winding down, the LPGA is just beginning their final run to their tour's championship, aka the CME Group Titleholders. For the next six weeks the ladies will be skipping their way across the planet. Just check out this schedule:
  1. Oct 11-14: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia
    (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
  2. Oct 19-21: LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship
    (Incheon, South Korea)
  3. Oct 25-28: Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship 2012
    (Yang Mei, Taoyuan, Taiwan)
  4. Nov 2-4: Mizuno Classic
    (Shima-shi, Mie, Japan)
  5. Nov 8-11: Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex and Jalisco
    (Guadalajara, Mexico)
  6. Nov 15-18: CME Group Titleholders
    (Naples, FL)
That's quite a romp! Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Mexico, and the US, all in six weeks.

These tournaments will decide most of the awards for the year -- except for Rolex Rookie of the Year, which will likely go to So Yeon Ryu. I love Tony Jesselli's assessment:
This race appears to be over. It would take two Lexi wins and a So Yeon immediate retirement announcement to change this result.
And while Tony says the Rolex Player of the Year will likely go to Stacy Lewis, there is still a possibility that she can be caught -- she only needs to stumble a bit, not retire. ;-) The scoring and money titles are still very much up for grabs though.

Tony has also done a preview of the Sime Darby tournament being played this week, so I won't try to duplicate his excellent work. The tournament will be time-delayed until 9:30 each night starting Thursday, so you may prefer to keep up with the live tournament scoring at the LPGA website.

While the LPGA's final run may not be as hyped as the FedExCup Playoffs, we should see most of the top players over the next five weeks -- especially since there are still 15 spots to be determined for the Titleholders event.

Remember, the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia starts tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Little Moore Help for Your Swing

It's time for a quick look at Ryan Moore's swing. While you probably won't copy his swing precisely, you can certainly learn a few things from it.

First, here's a down-the-line slo-mo of Ryan with a driver:

And here's a down-the-line slo-mo of Ryan with an iron:

One thing you'll notice immediately is that Ryan sets up with his hands very close to his legs, just like Jim Furyk. This does have an effect on his downswing; you'll note that he has to turn his hips really early in the downswing to make room for his hands (otherwise he'd shank his shots) and he also "jumps" a bit as he nears impact. That's partially a matter of swinging hard, but also of making room for his hands.

Some instructors will say he's cocking his wrists early. I'm not so sure. With his hands so close to his legs, he has a lot of wrist cock at setup, and I think he just keeps that angle most of the way through his backswing.

You'll also note that he uses a one-piece takeaway until his hands are well above waist level on his backswing. This gives him a wide arc on his backswing, so he gets about as much distance as he can hope for. And see how it looks like the club shaft is almost vertical as he goes to the top? That's because he doesn't rotate his forearms on the way back. In a good one-piece takeaway, you don't rotate your forearms. It puts him in a good position at the top and, if you don't rotate your forearms on the way back, you don't have to "unrotate" them on the way down. That's where part of his accuracy comes from.

One thing Ryan has in common with both Furyk and Sergio is that little "lay off" move at the top. See how the club shaft moves around at the top? It looks like the clubhead moves backward before it starts down. This move is a classic method of keeping the club from coming over the top. (There are easier ways to get the same result -- and I usually recommend them on this blog and in my books -- but this is a very traditional technique for doing the same thing. It does encourage a draw -- an in-to-out swing path -- because it flattens your swing; the version I recommend is a bit more upright but gives you more flexibility in choosing your swing path.) But Ryan's method is very natural for him, and there's certainly nothing wrong with it if it's natural to you.

There's also a slight pause at the top of his swing. That's because the lay-off move takes time and Ryan doesn't start down until the club's in the proper position.

That lay-off move at the top is the only really "odd" thing about the Moore swing. Everything that happens after that is a natural response to what happened before. Again, this is part of his accuracy; he isn't making extra compensations on the way down, so the swing repeats consistently... and that gives him consistent results.

I also wanted to add this tips video from Golf Digest about Ryan's swing. It's not about making his backswing move, but about keeping your arms and wrists relaxed -- an important thing that Ryan strives for in his swing. The two checks this video suggests should help you create a smoother swing.

Staying relaxed can really help you get a good balanced finish like Ryan... and if you're in balance, you're Moore likely to hit accurate shots. ;-)

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Limerick Summary: 2012 Timberlake Shriners Open

Winner: Ryan Moore

Around the wider world of golf: Stacey Keating won the Lacoste Ladies Open de France on the LET; K.J. Choi won his own tournament, the CJ Invitational Hosted by KJ Choi, on the Asian Tour (he gave all his winnings to his foundation); Bernhard Langer won the SAS Championship (not far from where I live) on the Champions Tour; Branden Grace won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the ET (this is his 4th ET win this year, plus he won on the Sunshine Tour last week... which I overlooked!); if I read it correctly, Hsuan-Yu Yao won the Taiwan LPGA Fubon Open on the LAGT; and David Lingmerth won the Neediest Kids Championship on the Tour.

Ryan lifts his second trophy

Some things take a long time. Ryan Moore knows about that. Granted, it didn't take him long to reach the PGA Tour -- he's one of that handful of players to qualify through sponsor exemptions.

But it took him a long time to get his second Tour win. He won the 2009 Wyndham (just about 30 minutes or so from where I live) and he's won plenty of money. He just doesn't have plenty of wins.

His play during the FedExCup Playoffs this year certainly indicated that things might be turning around. His brother gave him some putting advice -- final round putting has been his problem -- and his game just took off. After a T24 at the Barclays he posted two T10s and a T3 to finish the series. Coming back home to Vegas, he was certainly a favorite.

If you didn't, you should have taken the line on Moore. By the time Sunday's final round was well underway, Moore and Brendon de Jonge had separated themselves from the rest of the field, essentially giving us another week of match play.

As it turned out, Brendon was no match for Ryan this week. I guess Ryan was Moore than he could handle.

Ryan had announced that this was his final tournament of the year. He and his wife are expecting a new baby sometime during the next month and he plans to spend the rest of the year with them. And after snagging his biggest check of the year, why not relax a little?

So this week's Limerick Summary bids Happy Baby Days to the Tour's newest champion and reminds him to get whatever sleep he can. Starting next year, there won't be an off-season to rest:
He'd only won one time before;
Now two times he's walked through that door.
He's done for the year
But the Playoffs made clear
That, next season, there's more Moore in store.
The photo came from the front page of

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ryder Cup Lessons, Part 3c

It's time for the payoff! Let's take all the theory we've discussed the last couple of days and see how beliefs affected the outcome of both the 1999 and 2012 Ryder Cups.

Here's a quick reminder about what I call The Mechanics of Belief that you must know in order to understand what happened:
  • Every belief has an object of belief as its focus. That object may be a person, a fact, or just a theory. However, that object needs to actually be true and dependable. A belief is only as good as its object.
  • Beliefs are useless unless you act on them. It's not a question of how hard you believe, just whether you believe enough to act on your belief. And you can tell what a person believes simply by watching what they do because, no matter what they say, people act on what they actually believe, not just what they claim to believe.
Are we on the same page here? Good. Let's look at really happened last Sunday at Medinah.

We have to begin with a belief that was clearly wrong because its object was wrong... and this belief was most clearly articulated by the media! The belief was that a 10-6 deficit after team play is almost insurmountable. (I'm going to use that word insurmountable a lot because it was used a lot during the commentary.) This belief was not based in fact:
  • In 1999 the US Team came back from a 10-6 deficit after the team matches were over. I'll grant you that such a comeback is difficult, but it's hardly insurmountable. According to, insurmountable means something is too great to be overcome. But it's been done before, so a 10-6 deficit can be overcome. In fact, it's now been overcome in 2 of the last 7 Ryder Cups. Betting against odds like that would break a casino!
  • Let's look at pure facts. Just how big must a lead be to qualify as "insurmountable"? There actually is such a thing. The defending team needs 14 points to retain the Cup, and the challenging team needs 14.5 to win the Cup from them. So, if the defending team finishes the team sessions leading 14-2 or better, or if the challenging team finishes the team sessions leading 14.5-1.5 or better, that qualifies as an insurmountable lead. There simply aren't enough points left in the singles to get a win!
  • Perhaps the greatest example of this fuzzy logic was exemplified by the second-guessing of whether the US should have played the Mickelson-Bradley pairing in the last team session. It was stressed that the Euros didn't just come back from 10-6, but that they actually came from 10-4 (they won the last 2 team matches to reach 10-6, you'll remember). Yet it was immediately stated that an 11-5 lead after team play WOULD have been insurmountable. That makes no sense, folks! That would have required 9 points in singles; the Euros got 8 if you don't count Molinari's half-point when Woods bogeyed the last hole. You can argue that Tiger would have won his point if it meant anything; maybe he would. But according to the scorecard, Molinari bogeyed 4, 6, 12, 13, and 17. If he just pars 2 of those holes, this match never goes to 18! I don't think 2 strokes for pars constitutes "insurmountable." A win by Molinari would have given the Euros 9 points, enough for an 11-5 comeback. So 11-5 isn't insurmountable either.
I'm not saying that comebacks like this are a given, merely that they are possible... and it's clear no one really believed this one was possible, especially since it was on foreign soil. This one belief started a ripple effect of how players reacted to it, formed their own beliefs, and then acted on them.

Knowing that they needed only 4.5 points and certainly believing that those would be pretty easy to get -- a not-so-unreasonable belief, given the US's past performance in singles -- the US Team also appears to have believed all they needed to do was not lose. (It even sounds weird to phrase it that way, but that's essentially what happened.) Negative beliefs cause problems because... well, what's the natural way to NOT do something? Simple -- you DON'T do things! And that's what happened to the US Team. In an effort not to make mistakes -- did anyone stop to wonder how you don't make mistakes? -- they became tentative.

By contrast, the Euros decided they had nothing to lose and, as I said in yesterday's post, that tends to make you choose your best option and plan the best way to ACT on it. The Euros went out with a "do" mindset while the US went out with a "don't" mindset. And it showed up pretty quickly.

Of course, not all the US players were in neutral. Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, and Jason Dufner won fairly decisively (and none of them ever trailed in their matches) and while Phil didn't win, he did post 5 birdies against 1 bogey and parred the final 3 holes -- better than most US players. Phil just got beat by a hot Justin Rose. But the majority of US players led early and fell away or never led at all. The last 2 holes destroyed the chances of several US players.

And as the matches turned, the US started to panic. Just as they hadn't planned to win -- winning was already a given, wasn't it? they had the best team on paper -- they hadn't planned how to deal with a reversal of fortunes. And that panic spread to the fans, who tried to encourage the team. But I heard one of the Euro players -- it may have been Westwood, I don't remember -- say that hearing the crowds only encouraged the Euros more. After all, it meant they were making ground and it reinforced their own beliefs.

Much will be made of the influence of Seve -- and I won't deny that extra emotional energy can boost performance, just as the emotional drain of losing ground can hurt performance -- but it was Seve's example, his never give up attitude, that made more of a difference. His example reinforced their belief that they could come back because he had done it so many times himself. The object of their faith was a proven commodity... and they acted on it.

Back in 1999 the US Team got the same boost from Ben Crenshaw. DL3 summed it up best when he told his reaction to the "good feeling" speech: "He really believes we can do this!" And because the US Team believed he knew what he was talking about, they bought into his belief as well... and acted on it.

There will be debates about what's wrong with the US Team. There will be "experts" who second-guess DL3's decisions. There will even be some who suggest that the Euros have some sort of mystical aura surrounding them that makes them unbeatable. But they'll all be wrong.

The reason Europe lost in 1999 and the US lost in 2012 was a faulty, unquestioned belief in an "insurmountable" lead. Beliefs lead to actions; in each case, neither team even considered a fallback plan in case they were wrong. And so, when the pressure finally hit, they were totally unprepared to respond. Tentative inactive teams found themselves facing determined active teams... and the active teams won. At least when it comes to golf, the best defense truly is a good offense.

So what does this mean to you? How does it help you play better under pressure?
  • Examine your beliefs about your game. Make sure you're being realistic. I don't care how much you believe in yourself, if you can't hit the ball 300 yards it's crazy to think you will just because you want it badly enough. That's not golf, that's magic.
  • Examine the strengths and weaknesses of your game. Most of us don't realize that strengths and weaknesses are just flip sides of the same coin. A lack of distance can be a weakness when driving but can enhance your accuracy in your short game. (It's easier to control your distance when you can't hit it as far because you have more control over the length of your swing.) You need to know where you're a threat so you can capitalize on those areas, and learn where you have to be careful. In those areas, decide on your best course of action beforehand so you can get back on the attack with as little penalty as possible.
  • Stay positive. I don't mean "be a Pollyanna." I mean to create action plans, not inaction plans. If you're going out with the idea of not making mistakes, you're setting yourself up to lose. It's really hard to make a plan that involves not doing something. Build your game around what you can do, not what you don't want to do.
If your game is built on solid beliefs about yourself and your game that you can act on, you'll be surprised how well you'll hold up under pressure. Your self-confidence on the course will improve as a result. And that's a pretty sure way to enjoy your golf.

At least, that's what I believe.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Ryder Cup Lessons, Part 3b

We're looking at how belief affected the outcome of the Ryder Cup... but first we have to lay some groundwork to help us understand what happened. Yesterday I covered some common wrong beliefs people have about faith and corrected them with a couple of facts:
  • It's not enough to just give mental assent to a belief, even if you believe the right things.
  • It doesn't matter how hard you believe.
Today I want to look at how belief actually works. I'll call these facts The Mechanics of Faith... and I think I'm going to surprise most of you with this post. You're probably expecting some touchy-feely explanation of fuzzy concepts, but faith is actually something all of us use every day. I have a very concrete example that will make these "mechanics" crystal clear.

First, here's the description of our "laboratory:"
I want you to imagine you're hiking in the woods. While you're there, a huge forest fire gets started and you have to run for your life. You can barely stay ahead of it but you're beginning to think you just might make it... when suddenly you have to stop. You've reached a cliff and the woods run right up to the edge of it, so you can't stop here and be safe. You can see clear ground across the chasm, but you'll fall to your death if you try to jump. However -- and this is the key part of our little experiment -- there's a bridge from this side to the other. Are you safe?
The answer is... maybe. And belief has a great deal to do with the eventual answer.

You see, a lot of this depends on whether you can trust that bridge or not. Can that bridge support your weight? Is it strong enough for you to get from this side of the chasm to the other?

This is one aspect of belief that often gets talked about in church but rarely gets any attention from motivational speakers or sports psychology. This is the first "mechanic" of belief: All faith is directed toward an object.
In our particular example, that bridge is the object of your faith... and whether it's worthy of your faith or not is critical to your survival.
Can that bridge support your weight long enough for you to get across the chasm? Then you've got a chance. Is that bridge too weak to hold you? Then you're dead. It's that simple.

"Faith in faith" is less than useless. Unless what you believe in is worth your trust, there is no amount of faith that can make it so. And that should help you understand the fact that confuses people the most -- namely, that it doesn't matter how hard you believe. Let's take another look at our bridge...

For this part of the experiment we'll assume the bridge is rotten and incapable of supporting your weight. It doesn't take a genius to realize what will happen. No matter how confident you are --i.e., how "hard you believe in" the bridge -- the instant your full weight hits that bridge, it's going to collapse and send you plummeting to your death. (If it's any consolation, at least you won't burn to death in the forest fire.)

Now suppose the bridge IS strong enough. You can run across that thing at full speed and TAH-DAHHHH! You're safe.

But... suppose the bridge is strong enough but you're not sure? Plus you're afraid of heights... but the fire keeps coming. Finally you decide you're even more afraid of becoming a crispy critter. What do you do? You get down on your hands and knees and slowly begin crawling onto the bridge. It takes every bit of courage you can muster but you keep putting one hand in front of the other. And what happens? You make it to the other side, safe and sound!

Do you understand now what Jesus meant when he talked about a "mustard seed" of faith? Assuming that what you believe in is worthy of your trust in the first place, it's not a question of how much you believe in it. Rather, it's about whether you have any trust at all! And that brings up the other primary "mechanic" most people don't understand when it comes to belief.

Remember yesterday when I mentioned that Bible verse about demons believing and it doing them no good? I said I'd be coming back to it... and this is why.

That section in the book of James keeps repeating the words "Faith without works is dead." (That saying actually shows up in several places in both the Old and New Testaments, which means it had been known for several thousand years when James used it.) This surprises a lot of people because we Christians stress that you can't work your way into heaven. But that's not what James is talking about, and our bridge experiment explains it very well.

Imagine you stand at the edge of the cliff, staring at the bridge and yelling, "Yes, I believe this bridge can get me safely to the other side!" and that's all you do. What happens? You still get burned up in the forest fire, don't you? Why?

Because you didn't act on your belief. Just like the demons who James says believe in God -- they believe God will punish evil but they don't repent of their evil and change their ways. They don't act on what they know!

Now consider the guy with just enough faith in the bridge to get on his hands and knees and crawl across. Although he didn't have what we might call a "strong faith," his willingness to act on that tiny bit of belief ends up saving his life.
It's not enough to believe in something -- to give mental assent to certain facts, no matter how accurate they may be. Here is the second "mechanic" of belief: You have to act on a belief for it to be worth anything. Otherwise you don't really believe at all.
I think I can anticipate a certain question from you: How can you say the guy who crawled across the bridge had any faith at all? As far as I can see, he really didn't have anything to lose one way or the other.

That really is a good question, and I can give you a reasonable answer using what we've covered in this post.

Looked at one way, you might say that "I don't really have anything to lose" IS a belief. Whether he was correct or not is up to debate, but I can address his response to this situation. You see, he actually had three different choices available to him here:
  1. Leap into the chasm.
  2. Stay on the cliff.
  3. Cross the bridge.
His actions tell a slightly different story -- he DID have a belief. He clearly believed the last option gave him the best chance of survival, and he acted on that belief by trying to cross the bridge. I would argue that "I don't really have anything to lose" was just a justification to help him act on the belief that "The bridge gives me my best chance to survive." It helped him avoid second-guessing himself:. Can't you hear the self-talk going on in his head? "You'll die for sure if you take option 1 or 2; at least 3 gives you a chance."

And I have to point out yet again -- because this basic "mechanic" of faith is so often overlooked -- if he hadn't tried to cross the bridge, it wouldn't have mattered what he said he believed. If you're unwilling to act on a belief, you don't really believe it.

I think part of the reason this "action" part gets overlooked is because figuring out what kind of action to take is often the trickiest part. Go back to what Jesus said about someone with "faith as a grain of mustard seed" being able to move a mountain. How do you act on that? I can understand how trying to cross the bridge acts on my belief that the bridge can get me to safety... but moving a mountain? That's probably why we don't see mountains being tossed around!

The key is that it would take God's power to move a mountain, so God determines what action is necessary. I suspect that explains a lot of of the sillier-sounding Bible stories. God often told people to do strange things that seemed unrelated to the miracles they needed Him to do. Doing those strange things -- often very simple things that just made no sense -- were meant as actions that proved they believed He would do what he said.

I'm going to make a blunt statement here that I doubt anyone can prove incorrect: People ALWAYS act on their beliefs. We can tell what they truly believe simply by watching how they act. They may say they believe this or that but, under pressure, actions rarely lie.

Even inaction is an action of sorts! If our hero from the bridge experiment said he believed there was always hope but simply sat down and waited to die, we would all know that he actually believed the situation was hopeless and that he could do nothing to change the outcome. You can use all the self-talk you want but you'll always act on what you truly believe. Just because you keep repeating something to yourself doesn't mean you believe it, no matter how often you say it.

So the important thing here is to find out what we truly believe in and then find a useful way to act on it. And in the context of sports, figuring out what beliefs we have that can be harnessed to spur us into constructive action is not always obvious. That's what we need to look at next.

And given that this post has gotten rather long, I'll break off here. Tomorrow I'll use these "mechanics" to explain why both the 1999 and 2012 Ryder Cups were shocking comebacks... and how you can learn to play better under pressure.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ryder Cup Lessons, Part 3a

Today's post will likely span two or even three days as I'll need to show why we have a problem understanding what's happening, lay out a proper understanding of how things actually work, and then apply that understanding to the question of what happened this past weekend. But before we get started...

Yesterday I looked at the team sessions. I'll recap those points here, in case they weren't quite clear -- because I realized later that I used the best Euro players to explain why the US won those sessions:
  • It's not a case of having the "best" players as determined by the stats on paper. Those stats are based on stroke play, where every stroke matters. In match play, stroke count is relative and bad scores don't hurt you as long as you have more good holes than bad holes. That's why Poulter is such a threat in match play despite not having the best stats -- he generally has more good holes than his opponents, so the bad holes don't matter as much as they would in stroke play. You may remember some charts that NBC and GC showed that compared the birdies each team scored the first two days... and the US had nearly a 2-to-1 advantage. Translation: More good holes than bad holes.
  • The teams that were truly dominant for both sides were the accurate teams, not the long teams. Bombers paired with straight shooters did well as long as the shooters were consistent; their consistency allowed the bombers to win the occasional hole and make the team more dangerous. Note that no bomber/bomber combination was able to win unless one of them was really on fire, Keegan Bradley (paired with an often wild Phil Mickelson) being the prime example.
  • Streakiness is good in match play. Colsaerts is the best example here; in the only match he won, he made 8 birdies and an eagle to carry his team. Obviously you get the best results if a consistent player is paired with a streaky one... and the streaky one gets hot.
Now let's look at the singles and ask the same simple question we asked back in 1999: What happened?

The answer to this question could potentially help your game as well, because a lot of it has to do with belief. No doubt you've been told to use positive self-talk to build your confidence -- among other psychological tricks of the trade -- and have been less than impressed with the results. It's particularly confusing when you consider that tournament leaders seem to have more problems with this than chasers, as happened in both 1999 and 2012 Ryder Cups... as well as in numerous regular Tour events this season. Why is it so hard to win with a lead? Shouldn't leaders be the most confident golfers on the course? Why are the chasers so often successful?

I promise you this won't degenerate into an evangelistic presentation. (I say that upfront because I know many of you aren't Christians.) But it's impossible to talk about this topic without religious references because... well, "belief " functions the same way whether it's belief in God or belief in yourself. In fact, most sports psychologists find themselves resorting to theological terms when dealing with self-confidence, and they often use them without fully understanding the implications of the terms.

It's very much the same with concepts like "love." Guys say "I love my wife" and "I love pizza" in the same breath and expect you to understand that the concept of "love" is the same in both cases while the difference is merely a matter of degree. (At least, we hope so. If you love pizza the same way you love your wife, I smell trouble brewing!) So if you don't understand both usages, you likely don't understand either.

The problem begins because so few modern people understand what it means to truly "believe." For example, I'm sure you've seen this commercial for Progressive Insurance:

"Why am I not going anywhere?" the clerk asks. And Flo replies, "You don't believe hard enough."

That's how most people view belief... and they're completely wrong. I wouldn't be afraid to say that most Christians view their faith this way as well, even though the Bible presents a much more complex picture. Let me show you three Bible verses that illustrate that complexity. (The verses came from the King James Version, but I've "de-eth'ed" the language so it's easier to understand. In other words, I changed phrases like "thou doest" to "you do." ) These are vital concepts if we expect to understand why leads are so hard to hold.

Most people, whether they go to church or not, have heard Mark 9:23:
Jesus said to him, If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes.
By itself, this verse doesn't contradict Flo's assertion that you just need to believe "hard enough." Most of us do just that with self-talk. We try to talk ourselves into believing that we can do anything if we set our minds to it; and if we can't convince ourselves, we hire motivational speakers and sports psychologists to help us.

However, this is hardly the only verse about belief in the Bible. Most people, if they know about James 2:19, simply gloss over it:
You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
I'm not going to quote the entire section this verse is from -- this isn't a sermon, after all, though I'll have to come back to this Bible section later -- but I think most people would agree that all things are NOT possible to demons, no matter how hard they believe! Clearly there's more to this "belief" stuff than just agreeing with the right ideas.

Even Jesus, the speaker of the first verse I mentioned, would agree with that. In Matthew 17:20 we find this little gem. Jesus's disciples had tried to exorcise some demons and failed. When they asked Him why, we read:
And Jesus said to them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say to you, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.
First, Jesus says His disciples failed because of unbelief. Surely they believed the right things -- just like those demons mentioned earlier -- so again, belief must be a bit more complex than just believing the right things.

But He doesn't stop there. Jesus says that if they just had "a mustard seed" of belief, they could toss mountains around, let alone those nasty demons. (Again, even people who don't attend church have probably heard that "mustard seed faith" phrase.) Make sure you understand what Jesus is saying here -- mustard seeds are really small, folks.

QUICK NOTE: Here's one of those spots where I need to make sure you differentiate between having faith in God and having faith in yourself. "All things" might be possible in God's power, but not in a human being's power. Obviously tossing mountains around would require God's power! Again, we're talking about a matter of degree, as when we talk about loving both our spouse and pizza. But the broad principles of belief are the same, and that's what we're interested in here.

So now maybe you can see the problem:
  • Jesus say it's not enough just to believe, even if you believe the right things.
  • Furthermore, He says it's not a matter of believing "hard enough" -- just a "tiny bit" of belief will get the job done!
And yet, He still says "all things are possible to him that believes."

So just what the heck IS "belief," anyway? How did it affect the outcome of the Ryder Cup? And how can it help you perform better under pressure?

Since this post is getting long (just like the last two...) I'll pick up here tomorrow. And I promise it'll be worth the wait.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Ryder Cup Lessons, Part 2

Yesterday I looked at some of the specific topics of debate from this Ryder Cup. Today I'd like to look more closely at the team play aspect. Why can a team appear to be so good on paper yet struggle so hard against an apparently inferior team?

And I stress the word apparently. Any of you who have read this blog for a while know that I think the OWGR doesn't tell you much about the players outside the Top 10, as there is generally a greater point differential between 1 and 10 than there is between 10 and 1000. For example, this week #1 Rory McIlroy is at 12.54, #10 Jason Dufner at 5.92... and #1000 Kim Jae-ho at .07. That puts 6.62 points between 1 and 10, but only 5.85 points between 10 and 1000.

So let's take a look at match play in general and team match play in particular. When you think about it, it becomes obvious why "the team on paper" is completely meaningless.

The Most Basic Fact

Look, I know this is going to sound insulting but bear with me: The most basic difference between stroke play and match play is that stroke play counts every stroke while match play doesn't. Yeah, that's stating the obvious but nobody seems to really grasp how deeply this affects the game... or your perception of what makes a good player in match play.

Let's assume a short 3-hole tournament held on par-4 holes, making an even-par "round" of 12. Two players tee it up. Player 1 shoots 4-4-3 for a total of 11; Player 2 shoots 3-7-3 for a total of 13. Player 1 is the clear winner.

Then they play match play over the same 3 holes with the same scores. This time Player 2 wins the first hole, Player 1 wins the second hole, and they tie the third hole -- the match is halved.

You probably say "So what? I know that." And you'd be right. After all, this tells us nothing about who's the better player. Player 1 is clearly more consistent, but Player 2 is "explosive" -- he makes more birdies but occasionally has a bad hole.

But suppose this pattern continues for 18 holes? That is, Player 1 continues to shoot par-par-birdie and Player 2 shoots birdie-triple-birdie over and over until the round ends. (NOTE: Don't get distracted by par-3s and par-5s. With 4 of each on the course, this scoring pattern gives you the same result as 18 par-4s would.) After 18 holes of stroke play, Player 1 cards a 66 and Player 2 cards a 78. I'd say Player 1 is "better on paper," wouldn't you? But after 18 holes of match play -- and this match WILL go 18 -- they still halve the match!

HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? On paper Player 1 is clearly the better player. But the "paper player" is based on stroke play results, not match play. Perhaps the most shocking observation here is that all Player 2 needs to do to win the match 1up is simply manage a par instead of a 7 on one of the holes he lost. In stroke play he'd still lose badly by posting 75!

In stroke play, consistency seems to mean more than what I'll call "birdie-ability" because two or three bad holes can ruin your chances to win no matter how well you play the other holes. But in match play, the ability to win more holes than your opponent -- regardless of whether you do that with eagles, birdies, pars, or worse -- is more important than consistency. Unless, of course, you consistently make birdies. Then you're the man.

Distance is Overrated

Of course, I'm consistent. I consistently tell you that distance is overrated! This is particularly true in match play. The Euro Team -- especially Luke Donald -- proved just how right I am. Let's just take a look at Luke's singles match against Bubba on Sunday.

Luke never trailed in the match. He made 6 birdies versus 3 for Bubba, and 2 bogeys versus 5 for Bubba. Furthermore, 2 of Bubba's bogeys were on the holes that Luke bogeyed, so Bubba missed 2 chances to make up ground. And, as if that wasn't bad enough, the 2&1 loss could have been 5&4 -- Donald was 4up with 5 to go. Had Donald not missed an eagle putt on 14 and a birdie putt on 15, and had Bubba not holed out from the bunker on 16, this match would have been a blowout.

And bear in mind that Luke did this on a course that was set up to benefit players like Bubba and penalize players like him!

In stroke play, as long as you are an average length hitter, accuracy is definitely more important than distance. That's especially true if you putt well! But in match play, accuracy can be the trump card. The reason is simple: There are at worst only a couple of holes on a long course that you won't be able to reach in regulation. Even if you lose one of those holes by several strokes, it still only puts you 1down. It's much easier to make that up on the other holes.

The Poults Clause

One of my favorite comments after the matches came from Lee Westwood, who announced the addition of a new "Poults Clause" to the Ryder Cup rules. That rule simply says that, going forward, the Euro Team will be made up of 9 qualifiers, 2 Captain's Picks, and Ian Poulter. It's a measure of how important Ian is to the team.

But the question is... why does Ian Poulter, who often struggles in stroke play events, become such a threat in match play? After all, Poults not only has a 12-3-0 Ryder Cup record, but he has also won both the Accenture and Volvo match play events. And this despite being only #26 in the world right now.

Actually, it's not such a perplexing question at all once you understand the differences between stroke play, match play, and Ryder Cup match play. Yes, there are differences between those last two as well.

First, we have to state the obvious: Ian is wired for match play. He's made no secret that he enjoys playing one-on-one, face-to-face with a single opponent or twosome. There have been relatively few truly great match players in history -- Walter Hagen being one of the greatest, having won 5 PGA Championships at match play (4 of those in a row) -- and Ian definitely seems destined to be remembered as one of them. But for Hagen, that killer instinct translated into stroke play as well -- he won 2 US Opens and 4 Open Championships as well. (And 5 Western Opens, which most players considered a major at the time.) Why hasn't it happened for Ian?

At this point in his career, Ian simply makes too many bogeys. (Hagen was wild off the tee, but had a notoriously sharp short game.) He doesn't make a lot of huge scores, but every bogey in stroke play counts as much as a birdie. In match play, sometimes a bogey is as good as a birdie! That's why he hasn't been as dominant in stroke play.

But in match play Ian can make use of another aspect of his game -- he's a streaky player. The 5 birdies he reeled off in the last 5 holes Saturday didn't surprise any Poulter fan. When you add his streaky nature to the fact that bogeys are minimized in match play, it's easy to see how Poults can appear relatively harmless until he gets rolling during the Ryder Cup.

So why hasn't he reeled off several Accenture and Volvo Match Play Championships as well? The reason is simply the format of the matches. In a standard match play tournament, you play single elimination matches -- you lose a match, you're out of the tournament. Although you must win 6 matches in a run for the Accenture title, if you lose the first one your record is 0-1, not 0-6. In addition, if you make it to the 2nd or third round, you'll always have a decent-looking record because you can only have one loss at a match play championship.

At the Ryder Cup, you can lose your first match and still have as many as 4 more. One bad match, caused perhaps by a bad draw, can be offset by good play in the other matches. Ian's record at Ryder Cup will always be more impressive than at the Match Play Championships simply because he doesn't get eliminated at the Ryder Cup... and going forward, he might never get benched again either!

Finally, add in the fact that a partner in the team matches can offset some bad play in the midst of that match... and you've got the perfect recipe for a player like Ian Poulter.

Having said all that, the Americans did pretty much everything right during the team play sessions, giving themselves a 10-6 lead going into the singles. Why couldn't they finish it off?

I'll take a look at that question tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ryder Cup Lessons, Part 1

Everybody's looking for answers about the Ryder Cup -- some to explain the "Meltdown at Medinah," some to explain the "Miracle at Medinah." The two are interrelated, of course, and perhaps overblown. Did the US Team really have a meltdown? Seems to me that they played pretty well overall. Did the Euro Team really create a miracle? While it may not have happened on foreign soil before, such a large comeback has been seen before. How much of the discussion is hype and how much is fact?

I'm going to take a few posts to look at this absolutely amazing Ryder Cup from several different angles. I want to see the larger picture -- what can we learn from this one? Are there really clear mistakes (or strokes of genius) that were made? How many of those were mental rather than physical? Is it possible that goals were set and accomplished that didn't give the results everyone expected? What can weekend players learn that might help them play better?

Today I'd just like to comment on some of the more debated issues surrounding this Cup.

The Non-Concession

There's been a lot made of Francesco Molinari not conceding the final match to Tiger after it became obvious that it didn't matter. It came out in the pressers that Francesco wanted to concede but was told by his Captain that it did matter, that a tie was not as good as a win, so he did what his Captain said. As a result José María has gotten some criticism for being unsportsmanlike, perhaps even using this Cup to get revenge for 1999 and the American outburst that may have affected his opportunity to match Justin Leonard's putt.

I think something else has been overlooked here. For all the talk about the "ghost of Seve" at this Cup, the fact remains that José María and Seve were extremely close, that this was the first Ryder Cup since Seve's death, and that José María was clearly driven by a desire to remember Seve in these matches. No one could miss the frequent emotional expressions José María had at various points in the matches, nor the silhouettes of Seve on the Euro Team's bags.

We don't know whether Seve would have conceded the match or not, but I think it's safe to say that José María didn't think he would. At the very least, I think he wanted the first Ryder Cup after Seve's passing to be an outright win. I suspect that had more to do with José María's decision not to concede than anything else... and I for one am unwilling to kick the man for wanting to honor his friend.

The Unplayed Pairing

This one has probably caused the most debate among the commentators: Should DL3 have played the Mickelson/Bradley pairing in the fourth team session? You may recall that I said (before the third session) he should if the pair was hot Saturday morning, a feeling shared by most people. The argument being made since then is that an 11-5 lead is insurmountable while a 10-6 lead isn't. (That's ironic, given that before 1999 most would argue that the 10-6 lead was insurmountable!)

"What if" games are dangerous, however. Let me point out some flaws in the thinking.

First of all, had DL3 chosen to play his hot team, there is no certainty that the teams would have gone out in the same order. Even if they had, we can't be sure that the results for the other teams would have been the same because we're changing the chemistry on the course.

Some have argued that Keegan still wanted to play (I'll agree with that) and that the move would have been to send him out with Tiger. There are two flaws with that suggestion:
  1. There was no reason to break up Tiger and Stricks at that point. They had played badly in foursomes so DL3 sat them Saturday morning, but they had played well in the Friday fourballs. Let's not forget that they played against Colsaerts on Friday, and no pairing on the American team could have beaten his 8 birdie/1 eagle performance. The Stricker/Woods pairing posted birdies on 9 holes themselves in that Friday fourball and, given their past success as a pairing, there was absolutely no reason to believe they wouldn't do the same Saturday. DL3 would have simply considered them fourball specialists in this Cup.
  2. Keegan played well because he was playing with his idol, who also indulged in Keegan's over-the-top emotional play. Tiger has always played with the quieter players and would not have encouraged the outbursts as Phil did. It's worth noting that Keegan was much less demonstrative in his singles loss, and even Nick Faldo noted that Keegan was unusual because the more you ramped him up, the better he played. That dynamic would have been gone from a Tiger/Keegan pairing.
But I think the biggest argument against Mickelson/Bradley making a difference is dreadfully obvious: Mickelson/Bradley was at its best in foursomes. They won their Friday fourball 2&1, the least impressive of their wins, against Rory (who played much better Saturday) and McDowell, who was almost nonexistent Friday. The match ended at 17, with McIlroy/McDowell only 3under on their last 5 holes... and that was their best stretch during the entire match. Yet Phil and Keegan actually lost ground there, going from 4up to 2up. Against the much hotter McIlroy/Poulter on Saturday, there's no guarantee that they would have won.

Has no one noticed that the ZJohnson/Dufner team -- the one that replaced Mickelson/Bradley -- were undefeated going into the fourth session? They were 2up going into 13, where Rory made birdie to cut their lead in half. Has no one noticed that Zach and Jason were 3-under in their last 5 holes? Ian Poulter, as we all know by now, was 5-under on that same stretch. ZJohnson/Dufner lost 1down, a very narrow margin against a team that got hot at the last minute.

My point? I'm not at all sure that playing Mickelson/Bradley would have made a difference on Saturday night. Anybody who tells you otherwise is using faulty reasoning.

The European "Advantage"

My last thought (for today, anyway) has to do with this belief that the Euros have figured something out that the US hasn't, that there's something substantially different between the two teams. Although that something is generally thought to be organizational (the Euros are more devoted to each other and we can overcome that with pods, for example), I'm hearing more and more people attribute it to... well, magic. There's no other way to describe it.

I think you can argue that the US has spent years trying to duplicate the way the Euros play... and this time, they succeeded. They created a team where the players are passionate about the Cup and each other. Most of them were in reasonable form, and the pieces were largely interchangeable. (You'll always have a few players who need a certain kind of teammate, but that's to be expected. We're individuals, not mass-produced cookies.) And in the end, they played the way the Euro team usually plays -- they dominated the team matches and got beaten in the singles. The Euros generally win the Cup when they can manage any margin of victory in the singles, while the US tends to need a huge singles victory to win.

As I told a friend, the US finally succeeded in copying the Euro model. Unfortunately, this time they chose the 1999 Euro model!

I'll look at why the team matches have generally made the difference tomorrow -- and why the singles were so lopsided in 1999 and 2012 probably the day after -- but we need to get rid of this superstitious attitude that seems to have developed around the Ryder Cup. The Euros don't "want it more," the US isn't "too individualistic," the Euros don't have a "secret," and the US isn't "mentally fragile." It's not about pods or course setup or even how the teams are actually chosen, although such things can certainly help. It's not even about stats and rankings and who looks best on paper. And regardless of how one-sided it may sound when commentators spout their figures, the Euro team has only claimed the Cup two more times than the US in the more than 30 years since continental Europe joined the fray.

In the end, the Ryder Cup is about strategy. That strategy changes from Cup to Cup, and in this one it was all about the emotions of one man and how his team feels about him. It was the same way in 1999. I should point out that it's hard to plan for such things since one side can rarely anticipate it. When Ben Crenshaw made that angry, out-of-character challenge to the media in 1999, there was no way for the Euros to anticipate it. Likewise, the US hardly expected Seve's memory to have such a dramatic effect over a year after his death.

Strategy, whether we recognize it or not, always involves emotions. If the strategy rallies the troops to believe -- and manages to knock your opponents back on their heels -- then it's an effective one for this match and it probably won't work next time.

The Euro's big advantage -- at least as I see it -- is the willingness to go in without a planned strategy and then just "go with the flow." The US looks for a pod or a qualifying system or something else that they can predict, then ruthlessly execute that plan without variation.

Creativity and flexibility are the keys to winning a Ryder Cup -- a lack of planning, if you please. The problem isn't that the US makes too many plans, it's their refusal to scrap them if new opportunities arise. The US has had some great captains -- and I think DL3 did a great job -- but there's only one man who can turn the US fortunes in 2014...