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Friday, May 31, 2013

Rory and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Imaginary Rory kids book coverIf his name had been Alexander, he could have been living a very popular children's book on Thursday. (And yes, I've doctored the cover at right for this post. It seemed more appropriate that way.) At any rate, Rory did have a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day at the Memorial.

Look, when a 14-year-old who has never seen the course beats you by 6 shots, it at least qualifies as a No Good, Very Bad Day!

You name it, it went bad. Two birdies, six bogeys, and one double. Shots that go short, shots that go long. Two-way misses. (For those of you new to the game and unfamiliar with that term, it means that some of his bad shots go right and some of them go left. When you're missing it one way or the other, you can compensate a little by aiming farther right or left... but when you're missing it both ways, it's impossible to aim.)

How does a guy with two major wins end up in this mess? That's the big debate among fans right now. Some say his mind's not on his game, what with all the changes going on in his life. Some say his swing's just off. Some think he's got some physical problems.

Personally, I vote for a temporary swing problem. When you swing as hard as Rory -- he's awfully long for a guy who's only 5' 10" tall -- it's easy to get out of position when you swing. Muirfield Village is a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Place for players struggling with swing issues.

I'm not so sure Rory will straighten things out enough to make the cut at the Memorial this week. But I don't think this is an impossible problem to sort out with the U.S. Open still a couple of weeks away. At least he can swing a bit easier at Merion, maybe take some shorter clubs since it will be a fairly short course for him.

Of course, if he doesn't get things worked out, he could be in for a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week at Merion... and I don't think the language would be appropriate reading for young children.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Martin Hall on Jack Nicklaus

On School of Golf Wednesday night, Martin Hall focused on how Jack Nicklaus played the game. (Not unlike what I did in Tuesday's post.) This clip is the "extra" that gets posted on GC's site with extra material not on the show.

There are a couple of tips on this one, but I want to focus on the first one concerning swing plane. How do you make sure you have a swing plane that lets you hit the golf ball straight?

Just to sum up the tip, make sure that your position at the top of your backswing and your position at the top of your finish match.
  • If you have a flat backswing and an upright finish, your plane is set up to push the ball.
  • If you have an upright backswing and a flat finish, your plane is set up to pull the ball
  • But if the two match, you have a swing plane that's aimed down your target line.
Simple enough, eh?

I did want to mention one thing Martin talked about near the end of the broadcast that may help you all understand why the things I say on this blog sometimes sound very different from what you hear other instructors say... although I insist that I'm not teaching anything different.

Martin said that Jack told him the secret to hitting a predictable slice was: He made sure that the palm of his trailing hand pointed at the sky when he reached waist high after impact. Martin said he told Jack that he had plenty of video showing Jack hitting shots and his palm NEVER pointed at the sky. And do you know what Jack told him?

"I don't care what your video shows. I know what I feel."

Jack was using the same principle I use when I post instruction on this blog and in my books. Jack wasn't actually twisting his hand so his palm faced up. Rather, he was making sure he didn't flip his hands at impact... and he did that by feeling that his palm faced up. It wouldn't have been as effective if he had merely tried not to flip his hands, because it's always easier to DO something than to NOT DO something.

That's what I do in my instruction. I want you to feel that you're doing something else, something that will prevent you from doing the wrong thing.

A classic example: I teach you to not to twist your forearms during your backswing by telling you to feel as if the club shaft points straight up in the air when you cock your wrists at waist high during your backswing. The shaft won't actually point straight up when you make your normal swing -- there are physical laws that determine where a swinging shaft points, especially with all the angles in your posture and with the bend you create in your trailing elbow. But the effort keeps you from twisting your forearms -- and therefore the club shaft -- incorrectly and therefore interfering with the natural motion of the club.

If it's good enough for the Golden Bear, it's good enough for the rest of us.

In case you can't run the video from the player above, use this link.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Anchor Around the PGA Tour's Neck

The big "event" on Tuesday was the PGA Tour's Player Advisory Committee (PAC) meeting at the Memorial. Why? Because they were discussing what to do about the anchored putting ban.

I found a couple of articles about it, one from Alex Miceli and one from Rex Hoggard. (I'll be quoting from these two in this post.) And while the coverage on GC indicated that nothing had been settled -- the PAC only makes recommendations to the Tour Policy Board -- it seems equally clear to me that this issue isn't going to be settled quickly.

The PAC has 16 members elected by Tour players to represent them. After the 90-minute meeting they hadn't agreed on anything; they're just talking for now. But here are some of the high points.

Miceli wrote that "According to one participant, some PAC members who were on the fence now seem to be going back to supporting the ban."

He also wrote that "[Bo] Van Pelt confirmed that some players would like to see anchoring banned at the start of the 2014 season, to get it behind them, but the list of positions on anchoring is lengthy."

According to Hoggard, Davis Love said “It’s a tough one because there’s a lot of passion.” Love's personal stance may best represent the problem the Tour faces:
“There is a sentiment to either agree with it and move on, which is what we ought to do, or let’s start making our own rules. That’s the big decision here now. Maybe there is a silver lining here. Maybe it becomes a better relationship with the USGA moving ahead.” (emphasis mine)
But given that Love also spoke to Miceli at length about the other "mistakes" made by the USGA and then said the real issue was:
“So should someone else be in charge, or should they be in charge? We wouldn’t have gone through this groove thing if we were making the rules.”
clearly the desire to follow the tradition of the ruling bodies is at odds with the feeling that the ruling bodies just aren't doing that great a job. It begs the question of bifurcation -- two sets of rules. Miceli writes:
"Will the anchoring ban lead to two sets of rules in golf? According to Love, there is a lot of sentiment for exactly that, to break away from the USGA rules and have the players make their own rules."
That's interesting, don't you think? Finchem has already said he's not against having two sets of rules in certain cases. It appears the Tour players are seriously considering that possibility.

Two of the PAC members -- Webb Simpson and Brandon Steele -- use anchored putters and are part of the 9-player group presumably discussing a possible suit against the Tour if it agrees to follow the USGA ruling. Yet the players Miceli and Hoggard talked to said the PAC wasn't too concerned about possible lawsuits during their meeting.

Hoggard may have summed it up best:
"But a looming lawsuit, or the end of anchoring, seemed to be less of a flashpoint during Tuesday’s meeting than a fundamental concern over who makes the rules."
The Policy Committee doesn't meet until July. I'll be surprised if the Tour comes to any conclusions before then. But it seems to me that anchoring has touched a different nerve than any of the USGA/R&A's previous rulings...

This one just might be the straw that broke the camel's back. We'll see.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Since We're at Jack's Place This Week...

I thought it might be nice to look at some basic Nicklaus technique.

Jack has always been a believer in keeping your swing simple. He believes you make the same swing for every shot -- draw, fade, high, low -- and just make minor adjustments. Clearly, this is a great approach for weekend players who don't have lots of time for practice. There is more than one "basic swing" method but we're going to focus on Jack's since the Memorial is this week.

This first video is ancient! But it's a nice intro to Jack's approach. (Please note that an ad for a Nicklaus channel appears when you start the video. If you mouse over it, a small circled "x" will appear in the upper right hand corner of it and you can close it.)

And here's a more recent one that goes into more detail about the specifics of adjusting for each type of shot. It seems as if it was made to follow the first video, doesn't it?

I'm not going to transcribe these videos -- they're both short and very clear. But I will sum up the only changes Jack says he made to shape each shot:
  • The draw: Close your stance slightly and close the face slightly.
  • The fade: Open your stance slightly and open the face slightly.
  • Low shot: Move the ball back in your stance slightly and close the face slightly.
  • High shot: Move the ball forward in your stance slightly and open the face slightly.
Pretty doggone simple, eh? This is a simple approach that will work for almost anybody. The only thing I would add is that you need to pay attention to your shoulder line when playing fades and draws. Your shoulder line should match your foot line when you open or close your stance; otherwise your shot may not go where you expect. That's part of the reason Rory's been having problems lately; a closed stance and open shoulders (or an open stance and closed shoulders) is a recipe for chaos.

These videos together take less than three-and-a-half minutes to watch. It's worth watching them several times until you're sure you understand them.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 Crowne Plaza Invitational

Winner: Boo Weekley

Around the wider world of golf: Ilhee Lee got her first win at the LPGA Noah's Ark Open -- excuse me, the flood-shortened Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic; Kohki Idoki (I love that name!) shocked the Champions Tour field by winning the Senior PGA Championship; Matteo Manassero won the BMW PGA Championship on the ET; Holly Clyburn got her first LET win at the Deloitte Ladies Open; Michael Putnam won the Mexico Championship on the Tour; and Rikako Morita won the Chukyo TV Bridgestone Ladies Open on the JLPGA (thanks to the Constructivist for that one).

Boo goes tartan again

Thank God he didn't wear camo this week. I don't think I could have taken that with the tartan!

Of course, you could be excused for believing Boo Weekley had spent the last year in camouflage. He usually wasn't on the leaderboards and often not even playing the weekend. For a man who has been at the top of the ball striking categories for the last few years, that's a real headscratcher.

Nevertheless, he's finally back. After some recent erratic play he stepped up and posted 67-67-66-66 at Colonial this week. I'm sure Matt Kuchar wishes he had picked a different week to reclaim his game, but that's the way it goes sometimes...

Boo's final round shouldn't have been a surprise. Although he's had a couple of bogeys in every round this week (and a double on Friday), he's still finished strong almost every round. After making it out of the Horrible Horseshoe (holes 3, 4 & 5) he chalked up a single bogey before going on a birdie run. Even without his camo, the birdies apparently never saw him coming. (Or maybe he'd just fooled them into thinking he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn and that they'd be safe...)

But it's obvious Boo enjoys patterned clothing. In addition to camo, he has two of the Harbour Town tartan jackets and now adds a Colonial tartan. Perhaps he intends to blind his prey... At least we can all be thankful that Pablo Picasso never designed golf jackets.

At any rate, this week's Limerick Summary salutes Boo on his easy-on-the-eyes return to the winner's circle:
Although he wore no camouflage,
Boo’s shooting was not a mirage.
For after he parred through
The Horrible Horseshoe
The birdies fell in a barrage.
The photo came from the front page of

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Can Lee Git-R-Done?

For those of you who may not know, "Git-R-Done" is the slogan of Larry the Cable Guy, a comedian who frequently takes part in the RedNeck Comedy Tour, among other things. (The photo came from TicketMaster's site.)

Larry the Cable Guy

And today I find myself wondering if Lee Westwood can git-R-done at the BMW PGA out at Wentworth. This would be the biggest win he's had in a while... and it's looking like he just might do it.

For those of you who are into stats, this ET page has stats for several of the tournament leaders; Lee is the second one listed. One thing is particularly worth quoting from this page:
As a result of his consistency, Lee has dropped the fewest shots during the tournament so far (just five bogeys).
That enabled Lee to move into solo second on Saturday, a single shot off the lead, despite the cold weather. He's been trending in the right direction this season with Top10s in over half of his tournaments this season, and he's got a decent record at Wentworth.

In my RGWR, I give the BMW PGA the same weight as THE PLAYERS. And since so many of the big names didn't play well enough to make the cut this time, this could very well be Lee's chance to get his first BMW win. It would certainly bode well for his chances in the rest of the majors this year.

There's only one thing I can say to Lee: "GIT-R-DONE!!!" Or as Larry himself would put it:

Pick one, Lee -- any one!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

More Poor Knee Action

I thought this was an interesting coincidence, albeit a very instructive one. So let us proceed...

As you know by now, Rory missed the cut over at Wentworth. The weather didn't help, of course, but he was having swing problems as well. Brandel Chamblee detailed several of them -- it's one of those "this happened, so this happened, so this happened" things -- but one thing in particular jumped out. I snagged the first still from Golf Central. Brandel was comparing Rory to Byron Nelson, and this photo shows the two just after impact. However, Rory is farther into his finish than Byron in the GC version, so I patched together the second version.

Even though Rory's shoulders have turned farther around in the original GC version, please note that his lower body looks the same in both:

Rory and Lord Byron - GC version

Rory and Lord Byron - my version

The thing to note here is the amount of knee bend at impact. A couple of days ago I ran a post featuring Butch Harmon's advice about keeping that trailing knee bent at impact to improve your contact and consistency. Look at how straight Rory's right knee is -- especially compared to Byron Nelson!

I've read several critiques of Byron Nelson's swing, and they all agreed that part of Byron's success came from that knee action. See, Byron started out with hickory shafts like most of the players of his time, but he developed that knee action as an adaptation to steel shafts. (Bet you didn't know that!) Part of the reason Byron set so many records is that he adapted to the new shafts faster than anyone else.

What's so important about knee flex? I'm glad you asked.

When you retain your knee flex longer in your swing, it does a lot of things, like help you hit down on the ball and maintain your posture longer. However, it also helps flatten out the bottom of your swing so your club head travels toward the target a bit longer. That's why Byron was one of the straightest hitters on Tour.

I'm not saying you should emulate Lord Byron and play with that much knee flex -- you can overdo anything in a golf swing. But there's a big difference between what you see from Rory and from Byron in these photos. I'm sure you can find a satisfactory balance. (BTW, Brandel mentioned that Rory's stance was wider than normal in this swing. If your swing is too wide, you'll find it harder to keep your trailing knee flexed. Just something to bear in mind so you don't hurt your back.)

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Ladies Disregard Tradition

Of all the interesting tournaments this week -- Sergio's attempts to play through controversy at the BMW and the first Champions Tour major of the year, for example -- the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic seems the most interesting.

You see, they had a little problem...

This hole looks a bit wet!

In case you haven't heard, the Bahamas got over 14 inches of rain a couple of days ago -- apparently the worst storm there in 20 years -- and it's disrupted everything from businesses and schools to golf. The course is underwater and they couldn't even get the practice range cleared until Thursday. As a result, the LPGA can't play a normal tournament.

But their solution is unusual. Apparently they have 12 holes clear and they have pumps going like crazy to try and clear the other 6 holes... but it's going to take a while. So they cancelled the Thursday round and will play a 12-hole round on Friday, probably another 12-hole round on Saturday, make NO CUT and, if everything goes well, play all 18 holes on Sunday.

That means they'll have -- if everything goes well -- a 42-hole tournament. Wild, huh?

This is the first time this tournament has been played so the LPGA definitely wants to get it in. The tournament will still count toward everything like normal and, if I understand this correctly, they'll award the normal moneys to the top 70-plus-ties at the end.

GC will carry the (now) first round at 6:30pm ET tonight. It should be interesting, since one of the suggestions for speeding up recreational golf involves cutting down the number of holes in a round. This may give us a front-row seat for a test of the idea.

The photo came from the tournament page at

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Butch on Divots

I haven't posted any instruction from Butch Harmon for a while, so I thought it was time to remedy that oversight.

This video (and the article link later in this post) were both posted at the Golf Digest site in April -- just last month! Between the two of them, Butch provides a couple of tips to help you if you've been hitting your irons a bit thin. First, the video:

That's a simple drill -- set up so you have to hit down on the ball if you expect it to do more than trickle across the ground.

The article, titled Fix The No. 1 Iron Fault, is basically a posture check. It's a move I often mention when I write about lower body movement. This pair of photos from the article demonstrates both the correct (left photo) and incorrect (right photo) ways to start down:

Butch demonstrating right and wrong lower body movement

Note that, in the correct move, your trailing knee remains flexed. Straightening your trailing knee causes you to hit the ball thin.

Between these two tips from Butch, one of them is bound to help you make more solid contact with the ball.

And in case you can't run the embedded video, here's the url for the original at Golf Digest.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Anchors Away

As we all expected, the R&A and the USGA lowered the boom on anchored putters Tuesday.  It remains to be seen what the PGA and the PGA Tour will do in response, but we can expect things to be a bit tense for a while.

In the meantime, I thought a little song parody might be appropriate. I've been working on it for a couple of months now, searching for just the right song and approach... and I think I found it!

As I've said before, I don't use an anchored putter but I don't believe they give anybody an advantage either -- in fact, I believe players have been winning on the strength of good iron play, and anchored putters are actually holding them back. It didn't take me long to decide I would write an anthem for all those maligned players who wield anchored putters.

As for the music... it's possible that some of you have never heard the song Sex and Candy by Marcy Playground. However, it's the perfect tune for this song. Perfect, I say! For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, I'm sure you'll agree after you hear it. Here's the video:

Anchors Away (with apologies to Marcy Playground)
And the USGA had a lot to say
About them belly putters
   And the way they're swung
They hate the way they're held
   And how they're swung
They're gonna make us change

Anchors away -- it's not fair
'Cause my putting makes me swear
Now they're casting devious stares at my mechanics
Mama, they're surly and they're mean, yeah
Yeah Mama, vindictive and obscene -- bigots

Now "the Man"
Is coming down on me because he don't give a damn
About my yippy putting stroke --
   My game is done
He broke my magic wand --
   My game is done
I just can't make the change

Anchors away -- it's not fair
They're not pulling out their hair
But they're casting devious stares at my mechanics
Mama, they're surly and they're mean, yeah
Yeah Mama, vindictive and obscene -- bigots
Yeah, Hannibal Lecters on the green, yeah

Anchors away -- don't they care
That my game's in disrepair
While they're casting devious stares at my mechanics
Mama, they're surly and they're mean -- bigots
Yeah Mama, vindictive and obscene
They're Hannibal Lecters on the green, yeah
Their meddling just makes me blaspheme
Maybe Jake Trout will decide to record this one! It's got greatness written all over it...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Today's the Day

Just a reminder that the R&A and the USGA are going to announce their decision on anchored putting today. And if they make the choice I expect them to make, I'll have a surprise -- hopefully an entertaining one -- on Wednesday.

I believe the announcement is supposed to be made at 8am ET today and will be carried live on GC's Morning Drive. Let's see what they do...

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 HP Byron Nelson Championship

Winner: Sang-Moon Bae

Around the wider world of golf: There were several first-time winners besides Bae this week -- Peter Uihlein won the Madeira Islands Open, the alternate ET event; Jennifer Johnson won the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic; Giulia Molinaro won the Friends of Mission Charity Classic on the Symetra Tour; Mark Anderson won the BMW Charity Pro-Am on the Tour; and Jorge Fernandez-Valdes won the Mundo Maya Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica. Among the "repeat offenders," Matthew Griffin won the SK Telecom Open on the OneAsia Tour; Graeme McDowell won the Volvo World Match Play Championship on the ET; and Adilson da Silva won the Zambia Sugar Open on the Sunshine Tour.

Bae with first PGA trophy

You might as well get used to the name Sang-Moon Bae if you don't know it already. It was just a matter of time before he got his first win on the US tour -- he's won several times overseas -- and now that he's done it once, he should be able to figure out how to do it again.

And again. And again.

Of course, there's no guarantee of that. There never is in this game. But he's come close before, a couple of times -- the second time he lost in a playoff. And while his final eleven holes Sunday weren't exactly stellar -- 3-over par -- his blistering first seven holes (four-under) more than offset the rough finish. And given how difficult the course played, what with the 25mph winds and all, it's hard to be too hard on a first-timer.

You can be forgiven if you expected Keegan Bradley to win. After his course record 60 on Thursday, his eventual triumph -- on a course where he's won before -- seemed a virtual certainty. But as I said, there's no such thing in this game. I suspect Keegan just tried too hard.

Oh well. The two will probably get many more chances to battle in the coming years. In the meantime, this week's Limerick Summary salutes the youngster who won their first war:
Though Bradley led starting the day,
The first to the finish was Bae.
Four-under in seven,
Moon’s final eleven
Holes couldn’t snatch this win away.
The photo is from the tournament page at

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Hit DOWN on Your Driver?

I found this cool little Golf Digest video from Sean Foley that will sound really odd to many of you. Seems Sean wants you to hit down with your driver while most teachers want you to swing up. Why does he say that? Take a look:

This video may help you understand why teachers often seem to give conflicting instruction. Although Foley says you're hitting down, what he means is that your hands stay ahead of the club head through impact off a tee just like they do when you're hitting a shot off the ground. You aren't really hitting down so much as making sure you don't flip your hands at impact. Swinging this way will help you finish your turn through the ball.

What Sean doesn't say -- but you need to know -- is that this technique works with the ball teed up farther forward in your stance than he's teaching in this video. Use the position he teaches here to get used to hitting solid controlled drives. (It's also good for use in the wind.) Then, once you feel comfortable hitting this shot, start inching the tee forward. Using this technique, you'll automatically start hitting upward on the ball without changing your swing; the ball position will take care of the upward angle for you.

This is a good way to learn how to hit solid drives since it doesn't require any change from your regular swing to get good results.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

And Another One Gone, and Another One Gone

Yesterday I said I would have written about the Volvo World Match Play Championship if Poulter's loss meant he was out of the tournament. Guess what I'm writing about today?

The Big One bit the dust!

Ian Poulter, who would be cast as Conan the Barbarian if Conan's Atlantean weapon was a putter, lost both of his matches in round robin play. First Thongchai Jaidee smote him (I'm continuing the sword analogy here) then Thomas Aiken hacked him into tiny pieces and sent him home in a little box. It's hard to believe he got beaten so quickly.

At least he won't need that viper anti-venom anymore. Who plans to play golf in a snake pit, anyway? (The Copperhead Course doesn't count. That Snake Pit is just a publicity ploy.)

I think it's worth noting, however, that both Jaidee and Aiken made the round of 16. I'm going to assume that their Poulter pounding is a commentary on how well they're both playing, and that it means they both have a good chance of winning this thing.

One other player who got bounced was Thorbjorn Olesen, who I thought would have a good chance here. With his determination (as well as his T6 at the Masters) he seemed to be custom-built for the Volvo. The Thunder Bear will make no noise at this tournament, however.

Although defending champion Nicolas Colsaerts is still alive, I'm looking for Graeme McDowell to come out on top this week. Despite his poor showings at Augusta and THE PLAYERS, he's looked really good at the WGCs and he has a win plus 3 other Top5s this season. I think a good match play event is just what the doctor ordered for Graeme.

And if not... well, we can play that Queen song over and over and over. It never gets old, does it?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Another One Bites the Dust

Another scoring record, that is. Keegan Bradley's 60 (-10) at TPC Four Seasons Resort was the big news in golf Thursday. Granted, Thongchai Jaidee's 3&2 victory over Ian Poulter -- IAN POULTER, OF ALL PEOPLE! -- was impressive, but the Volvo World Match Play starts out with round robin play so Poults wasn't eliminated. If he had been, I'd probably be writing about that.

Keegan whacking it hardBut Bradley stole everybody's thunder on Thursday. He made 10 birdies, an eagle, and 2 bogeys. Think about that, folks... if he hadn't made those bogeys, he'd have posted a 58 in a Tour event! According to an article by Mike McAllister:
Twenty-eight rounds of 60 have been shot on the PGA TOUR. Of those, ShotLink has hole-by-hole scores of the 21 rounds since 1983. Bradley's 60 is the first to include two bogeys.
As Darth Vader once said, "Impressive. Very impressive."

Perhaps most interesting was Keegan's mindset. I've pulled a couple of comments from his post-round interview. First, his answer to the question,"When did you start thinking about 59?"
Um, I didn't‑‑ I've played rounds before, one in particular Nationwide Tour when I was 9‑under after 14, and it was par 7 and I was thinking about it, but today I finished eagle, birdie, birdie so it didn't cross my mind very much, It did in the fairway, I hit a 136 yards, I hit a wedge, it was going right at it. And it crossed my mind for a second, and it would be unbelievable if I buried this! (Laughter.) But I had 3 feet to shoot 60. I was actually very nervous, uncomfortable over it and thank God I made it.
The other is his answer to the question, "How many places do you hold or share a course record, to your knowledge?"
I'm not 100% sure but probably four or five. It depends on if they still stand from when I was younger. Shooting a course record is pretty unbelievable at an event like this, considering the history and the players that have won and the players that have played here before me.
It's awesome. I was thinking a little bit of Phil today when he shot 60 at Phoenix. I was thinking about how, you know, I wanted to shoot 60, to at least compete with him a little bit with that one. For whatever reason I was thinking about it. I like to beat him every time I can, at anything, but it was a special day. I enjoyed the day.
Okaaaay... he wasn't thinking about shooting 59, he was thinking about beating Phil. I'm sure of it now -- that boy's deranged!

But I suppose you have to do something unusual if you want to get your second win at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. It certainly got Keegan off on the right foot. (Of course, if Phil tries to compete with Keegan at the U.S. Open... I wonder...)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Choosing Between Fairway Woods and Hybrids

Josh Blagden of was kind enough to provide me with this article on whether to choose a hybrid or a fairway wood for various kinds of shots. I thought you guys might find it helpful. Smiley Faces

Golfers of all levels have long struggled with the long-iron conundrum. For many players, long irons are difficult to hit well even with modern clubfaces, because of their very small club faces and their equally small sweet spots. The extremely low trajectory of a long iron, caused by its low loft, as well as the longer club length makes it unsuitable for tighter lies, ‘punching’ out from underneath trees and playing from the rough.

Consequently, players tend to avoid having these clubs in their golf bag and favour fairway woods with a larger sweet spot. The extra mass in the head makes it easier to get the ball airborne and travel greater distances than long irons.

Callaway Fairway X-Hot Fairway woods were the only alternative to long irons for decades, until the demand for hybrids exploded from 2004. The hybrid was designed to combine the accuracy and versatility of a long iron with the distance and forgiveness of a fairway wood.

Titleist_Fairway 913H Hybrid In terms of design, a hybrid head is very similar to a fairway wood with a shallow, slightly convex face, but the loft of the hybrid head is generally higher than either the wood or the iron. Hybrid clubs can be a great option for a variety of different shots, and can even make great chippers near the edge of the green.

Many tour pros started including hybrids in their bags, as did golfers of all levels. The advantages of using hybrids became clear, in terms of their versatility and effectiveness out the rough. However, their weaknesses were exposed too. Fewer hybrids appear in tour bags nowadays as the more powerful pros have come to recognise they are not as effective in windy conditions, nor do they offer the ability to work the ball nearly as well as long iron replacements.

But recreational golfers generally find these long iron replacements as hard to use as standard long irons. They will use hybrids and fairway woods and, in most cases, they will find hybrids easier to swing than fairway woods. The key is in knowing which club is more effective for the situation.

How does a player choose which club between a fairway wood and hybrid?

The type of shot you can play is often determined by your lie, and the lie can dictate which type of club you should use.
  • From the fairway, both woods and hybrids have their places. Hybrids launch the ball higher and straighter, helping it stop more quickly on the green, while fairway woods make it easier to curve the ball and get some roll for a little extra distance.
  • In light rough, a fairway wood such as a 3-wood may be a better choice, as its flat bottom skims the low grass easily, yet a hybrid may be a better choice in thicker rough as the heavier but more compact clubhead can cut better through the longer grass.
  • From a fairway bunker, the hybrid’s lofting ability makes it a better selection than a wood.
It is important to make the right club choice as it can vastly improve your game and lower your score. You need to look no further than Chinese teenage golf sensation Guan Tianglang, who made history at the 2013 Masters as the youngest ever player to compete at a major, aged just fourteen. Whilst the majority of his competitors were using a combination of long irons and fairway woods on the uncompromising 7435 yard course at Augusta, Guan opted to hit his fairway shots on the long par-4s and par-5s using fairway woods in order to compensate for the distance he lacked. As a result of his club choices, he successfully became the youngest player ever to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

But unlike Guan, the majority of us are not afforded the luxury of changing clubs depending on conditions. That makes it even more important to make the right decision when choosing between a fairway wood and hybrid as a long iron replacement.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How to Play Hooked Chips

I found this little video on this page over at Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Brian Manzell gives a little lesson on how to hit a bump-and-run chip by giving the ball some hookspin:

The basics are pretty simple: Aim the ball a bit to the right of your target (to the left if you're left-handed), close the club face a little, and make sure you turn your upper body through the shot.

That last bit may be the most important. If you stop turning before you finish the shot, you'll flip your hands at the ball. In all likelihood, you'll hit a high pulled shot that doesn't even get to the green.

Take a good look at this short video. Hooked chip shots almost always bounce through greenside rough better than a normal open-stance chip. It's a nice simple shot to add to your repertoire.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sergio's Good Thoughts

Although there was a lot of talk about Sergio and Tiger barking at each other after Saturday's round, I was pleased to hear how Sergio dealt with the fiasco at 17 on Sunday. Perhaps there's something from it that you can use as well.

First of all, ignore the tee shot at 18. Sergio knew he'd lost after the quad at 17 and simply wasn't interested anymore. You can argue that he should have stayed focused and tried to make the best score he could, but I'm not gonna rag him for checking out. Sergio wanted the win, period. I'll let him on that one.

Sergio explained his thinking to the media after the round. (NOTE: Many times in the past, Sergio would have stormed off and refused to talk. Not only did he talk, but he seemed to be in a pretty good mood, all things considered. I say that's a positive.) I heard several things I think can help us weekend players.

After the birdie at 16 -- in fact, he said after the 10th or 11th hole -- he felt pretty good about his game, maybe too good. That wasn't pessimism; rather, it was an acknowledgement that he might have gotten a bit sloppy in his thinking. After all, he went right at the hole when it might have been better to play more toward the center of the green and take his chances. That's what Tiger did and if Sergio had, he might have walked off 17 still tied for the lead. First tip: Don't start thinking you're bulletproof out there. Don't take unnecessary risks just because you're playing well.

Although most watchers probably thought Sergio lost his nerve or made a bad club choice, Sergio actually made some reasonable assumptions. He said he was afraid his adrenaline was running too high, so he tried to take something off his tee shot. (Obviously he took too much off.) For his third shot he opted to play from the tee rather than the drop zone because of the wind direction. These were both reasonable decisions based on his knowledge of his own game. The real problem was in being too aggressive -- something he seems to have considered in retrospect, based on how he answered the press. Second tip: You can make several good decisions but still beat yourself if you get too aggressive out there.

But perhaps the best thing I heard him say -- and it's the reason I don't think this "collapse" is going to derail his future play -- is that he simply chalked it up to a bad day. He noted that the 17th had been very good to him in the past (he won a TPC in a playoff at the 17th, you know) and that things don't always go your way. I really liked that. Third tip: Remember the good shots that you've hit and let those determine your mindset, not the bad shots.

I suspect Sergio will talk to Adam Scott about this and he'll be just fine. After all, Adam played 4 really bad holes to finish the 2012 Open Championship but decided to remind himself that he played 68 great ones... and now he's got a Masters. Sergio only had 2 bad holes... and 70 good ones. I think he'll be just fine.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 THE PLAYERS

Winner: Tiger Woods

Around the wider world of golf: For obvious reasons, the men focused on THE PLAYERS... but the women were busy. In the only other men's event I know of, Ryu Hyun-woo won the Maekyung Open Championship on the OneAsia Tour. Among the women, Yumika Adachi won the Yumeya Dream Cup on the LAGT; Lee-Anne Pace won the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open on the LET; and Laura Kueny won the Symetra Classic on the Symetra Tour.

Tiger gets PLAYERS number two

Uh... perhaps it's time to forget that whole "is Tiger back?" debate.

I'll grant you that he hasn't won major #15 yet. But I've said before -- I can't remember what post it was in -- that I thought we hadn't seen the best of Tiger yet, that I thought he was going to have a stretch of play that was even better than the stretch in 2000-2001. This week he made me look like a psychic. (Not psycho. Please don't confuse the two.) Heck, even critics like Brandel Chamblee seemed impressed.

TPC Sawgrass has run roughshod over Tiger in the past, but not this week. He beat the heck out of the par5s, going -12 on them. He was under par on the par4s and par3s as well, something he never does there. His 36-hole total was 6 shots better than ever before.

He showed up with the ability to draw or fade the ball at will, as opposed to just having a fade. I think that's what blew Chamblee away the most. The GC crew as a whole wondered what Tiger had been working on to make such a big leap forward since the Masters. His short game looked crisp and his missed putts were left almost dead to the hole.

This was his 4th win in 7 starts, the fastest he's ever gotten that many wins in a season. (His previous best was 4 in 10 starts, during his 9-win season back in 2000. I wonder what might happen this year?) In fact, he's got 7 wins in his last 22 starts. And what did he say when he was asked what had happened to him? He just smiled and said, "I'm getting better."

Is the field getting a bit nervous yet? To paraphrase Yoda, they should be. They should be.

So this week's Limerick Summary salutes that washed-up guy who used to be such a good player. I wonder whatever happened to him?
It’s getting ridiculous. Did you know
He’s won four out of seven, with months to go?
Skeptics, thinking him done,
Have been totally stunned
By this version we call Tiger two-point-oh!
The photo came from the tournament page at

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Lee Smacks a Tree

Yes, this is an instructional post. I know it sounds like a crazy idea since nobody wants to smack a tree, but it may help you understand what terms like "laying off the club," "dropping the club into the slot," and "two-plane swing" mean.

On Saturday Lee Westwood hit a bad drive on the first hole at TPC Sawgrass. It ended up against a tree and Lee tried to manufacture a swing that would let him reach the green in regulation. Here's the footage -- it shows the real time swing (hitting the tree made him completely miss the ball), followed by a slo-mo of the swing, then the chip out he had to settle for:

Lee looks to be in good shape on the backswing, and if he had a "one-plane swing" he'd have been fine since the club would have come down on the same path (or if you prefer, plane) that he took it back.

Here's where it can get confusing. When most people hear the term "two-plane swing" they immediately assume that, on the downswing, the player's hands drop down below the backswing plane. This results in a flatter downswing plane and in many cases that's exactly what happens. But if you place your mouse pointer over Lee's hands as they reach shoulder height, you'll see that his hands retrace the same path on the way down...

But the club head doesn't. You see, there's a second way to create a flatter downswing plane. Instead of dropping his hands, Lee merely pulls his trailing elbow in closer to his side on the way down. When he does, it changes where the shaft of the club is pointing -- from up over his shoulder to behind his back -- and that makes the head of the club swing in a loop behind him.

If you check his elbow position when his hands are at shoulder level on the backswing and then compare his elbow position when his hands reach shoulder level on the downswing, you can see quite a difference. Here, I've snagged stills from the video and marked the shaft in red. Compare his elbow positions to the white waistband of his pants:

Lee Westwood hits tree at THE PLAYERS

See the difference? Although his elbow is blurry in the downswing, you can clearly see that it's lower in the downswing photo than it is in the backswing photo. In essence, Lee has flattened his backswing by bowing his trailing (right) wrist a little bit. That's part of the reason he usually hits the ball so cleanly; that slightly bowed wrist helps him squeeze (or as some players say, trap) the ball against the ground more solidly.

Alright, let me try to sum this up so it's a bit clearer. There are two ways of flattening the downswing plane in a two-plane swing:
  1. Drop your hands. You do this by dropping both elbows straight downward a bit when you start your downswing.
  2. Bow your trailing wrist. You do this by dropping ONLY your trailing elbow straight downward a bit when you start your downswing. It feels like your lead arm stays in place at the top.
Both one-plane swings and two-plane swings are solid time-proven methods of swinging a club under normal conditions... but in this situation, the two-plane method cost Lee some strokes.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Sergio-Tiger Pairing

I have to say that I didn't see this coming. I think it's GREAT, it's INCREDIBLE, it's GREAT THEATER... but I didn't see it coming. Sergio and Tiger will be paired in the final group today, separated by a single stroke.

After Sergio turned in the best round of the day -- a 7-under 65 -- and Tiger turned in a second 67, it was a done deal. The course turned treacherous when the wind came up in the afternoon, and good scores were harder to come by.

But this is interesting for several reasons. Sergio is playing some of the best golf he's played in quite some time -- getting all areas of his game working at once, that is -- making 6 birdies in 7 holes Friday. And Tiger is 6 shots better than he's ever been at the halfway mark of THE PLAYERS. Even when he won.

Even better, Lee Westwood (with that cool little goatee he's grown) will be in the second-to-last group with Kevin Chappell, only one stroke behind Tiger.

And here's the kicker: Bad weather is headed for Sawgrass. Thunderstorms and wind, folks... thunderstorms and wind.

Oh, this has the potential to be a great day of golf. NBC's coverage begins at 2pm ET. I can't wait!!!

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Busy First Round at THE PLAYERS

Early in the first round of THE PLAYERS we knew it was going to be an unusual day.

It started with Roberto Castro's bogey-free 63 (-9), tying the course record held by Greg Norman and Fred Couples. He hit a ridiculous number of shots within 4 or 5 feet from the hole and actually had a putt to go 10-under on his final hole.

Rory McIlroy has never made the cut at THE PLAYERS before but he calmly shot -6 to put him in a tie for second with Zach Johnson, 3 off the lead. That's promising, to say the least.

Tiger Woods shot -5, his best starting round ever at THE PLAYERS... and he was disappointed at his iron play. (It wasn't that bad, he just expected to put the ball closer on his approach shots.) Still, you've got to like his position. He looks pretty sharp, just like Rory did.

Steve Stricker, 2013's most famous part-time pro, posted a -5 of his own to get into the hunt early.

Adam Scott made his first appearance since his Masters win and, despite some putting problems, posted a -3 to get into a huge group at T17. In fact, quite a few big-name players are in the mix, as well as the typical unexpected young players (like Casey Wittenberg) who seem to be in good form this week.

Even strugglers had moments of glory. Jason Dufner stumbled in at -1, but not before he holed out from 158 yards for eagle on the 18th -- just the 3rd eagle in the history of the tournament. In case you missed it...

So what can we expect today? It looks like the cut will be somewhere around par or +1, meaning a lot of players will need great rounds.

Tiger goes out early, which has thus far been the best time for scoring (the weather hasn't caused the scoring problems -- spiky greens in the afternoon have) while Rory and Castro get late tee times.

All-in-all, it's shaping up to be a very interesting second round.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Vijay's Drug Case

This is a short post because I've been on jury duty plus I've got some internet problems.

Last week I did a post called If It's Good Enough for the Deer... when the PGA Tour and the World Anti-Doping Agency (usually shortened to just WADA) announced that deer antler spray wasn't an illegal drug after all. I think most people missed that post because I put up two posts that day. I have two reasons for bringing it back up.

First, it was basically a rant about the slippery slope of drug testing -- a problem that I don't think is being taken seriously enough. As I pointed out in that post, IGF-1 is found in the milk you buy at the grocery store. And not only is IGF-1 difficult to test for, but no one has determined at what level IGF-1 ceases to be part of a healthy diet and becomes instead an illegal drug. This begs the question: Is it illegal for athletes to drink milk? This is a sloppy way of testing for drugs.

Which brings up my second point -- namely, that drug testing is dangerously close to becoming a witch hunt. Don't misunderstand me. Drug testing has become a necessary part of modern sports. But between sloppy regulatory examples like IGF-1 and the inherent problem of athletes whose bodies may naturally manufacture a greater amount of, say, testosterone than their competitors (is their testosterone level illegal, even though it's natural?), how do we define "illegal drug levels" in a way that's fair to all athletes?

The legal suit being brought against the Tour by Vijay and his people is the natural result. Again, let me be perfectly clear -- I don't like this move. It smacks more of revenge than justice. But it's the inevitable result of the previously-listed problems, and we're probably going to see more suits like this. Vijay's suit won't solve anything beyond polarizing people on both sides of the issue even more than they are now.

What WADA and the various sports organizations need to do is re-evaluate the entire procedure for determining what really constitutes doping -- what specific drugs and what levels of those drugs truly result in a performance boost, as well as how they will determine whether an elevated level of such drugs is natural or induced illegally. I think they also they need to reconsider including drugs such as caffeine and IGF-1 which are common in normal foods. Down that way lies madness.

To be blunt, this whole thing is just getting silly. Somewhere along the line, calmer heads will have to prevail. But I'm afraid I don't see it coming any time soon.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What Do Fans Really Want?

It happens on GC every year at this time -- Brandell Chamblee and Frank Nobilo have a "debate" about whether the 17th at TPC Sawgrass is a good hole or not. Chamblee hates it and Nobilo thinks it's what the fans want -- namely, the chance to watch the pros crash and burn. (In the following picture from, the tee is in the upper left corner.)

17 at TPC Sawgrass

What do the fans really want? I have my own opinion.

The "important" people in the game tend to talk about tradition and character and all those niceties that come up in any discussion of golf. But I think most of them are missing something important about sport in general... and if you want golf to compete for the hearts and minds of fans the same way football, soccer, baseball, and basketball do, you need to take this into account.

In any sport there's a hardcore group of fans who revel in the history of the game. But the vast part of the fanbase -- call them the "unwashed masses" if you must -- have a far more basic desire. They want a party.

There's a reason the Scottsdale event can compete with SuperBowl Sunday. The raucous stadium set up around the 16th hole, with fans screaming the way they do at any other sports stadium, is the big draw. It sells out on SuperBowl Sunday every single year.

Brandell contrasted the reverence of the Masters to the "crash and burn" mentality of the 17th at the TPC. But I would remind everybody that "reverence" didn't stop fans and players alike from lamenting the lack of roars on Sunday's back 9 when the Masters course was toughened up... or from applauding when Augusta National changed their setup and brought the roars back.

I don't doubt that some golf fans believe a nice quiet tournament, complete with gentle golf claps, is the proper and traditional way to view golf. I don't doubt that some pros want the whole course so quiet that they can hear a pin drop while they spend 5+ hours crawling around the course, meditating before they hit each shot. I'm sure all of the powers-that-be want to be seen as paragons of virtue in a sport of character... even though we all know players are getting fined and disciplined despite the Tour's refusal to admit it ever happens.

But if they really want to see the game become popular with a huge group of fans, I have two words for them: RYDER CUP. That's the "reverence" most fans want. And whatever you think of the 17th at Sawgrass, remember that Pete Dye at least recognized that basic truth.

As for me, I am one of those who will be watching the 17th with great enthusiasm -- especially on Sunday afternoon -- and proud of it. I am rabble, hear me roar. ;-)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fred Couples Swinging... 'Nuff Said

Fred Couples got inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame Monday night and his swing is a huge part of the reason why. This video was made just a few months ago -- December 2012 -- with a little commentary by Curt Byrum.

The video is self-explanatory. Do I really need to say anything else? Really?

I will add one thing to Curt's breakdown of the swing. Please note that part of the reason Freddie still gets such a long swing is because he has a flying right (trailing) elbow at the top of his backswing. Jack Nicklaus had the same move. I'm sure you've heard that this is a bad thing... and it can be. The trick to making it work is having great rhythm. You can't afford to rush the change of direction if you want a flying elbow to behave properly.

Of course, Freddie has no problems with rhythm or tempo. Just watch and appreciate the swing of the newest member of the Hall of Fame.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Limerick Summary: 2013 Wells Fargo Championship

Winner: Derek Ernst

Around the wider world of golf: Bernd Wiesberger won the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters on the Asian Tour; Esteban Toledo won the Insperity Championship on the Champions Tour; Brett Rumford won for the second week in a row at the Volvo China Open on the ET; Cristie Kerr won the Kingsmill Championship on the LPGA; Brendon Todd won the rain-shortened Stadion Classic at UGA on the Tour; Tim O'Neal won the 66° Arturo Calle Colombian Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; and James Kingston won the Investec Royal Swazi Open on the Sunshine Tour.

Derek Ernst


That was the reaction of a lot of people when Derek Ernst found his way to the top of the leaderboard at Quail Hollow and then won a playoff against David Lynn. Ernst didn't even know he was going to be in the field at the start of the week. He was on his way to the event and turned around and came back when he got in as fourth alternate. He even changed rental cars in Georgia to avoid a $1000 charge for dropping the car at a different location.

I don't think he'll have to worry about that kind of thing for a while.

In bad weather that was methodically knocking off the top players like Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney, all Ernst did was birdie two of the last four holes -- one of those birdies coming on the 18th, at the end of the Green Mile, to make the playoff -- and then make a nice clean par on the first playoff hole to seal the deal.

Ernst became the youngest winner on Tour this year. And given that he had stopped over to play a round at TPC Sawgrass -- just in case he got into the PLAYERS next week (he did) -- he may soon become the youngest multiple winner this year.

What else can I say? This week's Limerick Summary salutes the newest member of the PGA Tour -- who, very conveniently, has the kind of name that's perfect for putting in a limerick...
With his life as a golfer unsure,
Our young Derek came up with a cure.
With two birds and a smile
He tore up the Green Mile
And thus Ernst his way onto the Tour.
The photo came from the front page of

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Phil the Thrill Strikes Again

Armed with a new Phrankenwood (or is it three?) Phil Mickelson is making a run at the Wells Fargo Championship. Phil has never won here in North Carolina -- he came close in the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, the one he lost to Payne Stewart -- but here he is, tied for the lead going into the final round.

For a while there it looked like he was going to run away from the field. Then he hit one out-of-bounds on 15 for a double-bogey and added a bogey on 16. Even with all that -- shooting +1 for the day -- he still managed to tie Nick Watney for the lead. (Watney posted his own double at 17.)

Watney/Mickelson pairing

But was this just a case of Phil going wild? It doesn't look like it. Here's a link to the transcript of the interview Phil did after his round. He did talk about making some mistakes, but take a look at a couple of these excerpts -- first, part of an earlier answer:
But I grinded it out. I felt like this could be a final round deal where we're getting so much rain tomorrow and Monday that we may not be able to play. Much like when I won at BellSouth in the playoff when we got to the last round or two, it rained out. We ended up trying to get a par‑3 that was playable and play a playoff, and there is a good chance we might have that. So I was grinding it out there even though I didn't have my A‑game coming down the stretch just to be on top of the lead or tied for the lead in case that happens.
And then he went into more detail:
Q. Did today feel like it could perhaps be a final round for you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely it did. I was grinding it out coming down the stretch because there is a high likelihood that we don't play tomorrow. And it reminds me of when we had a rain out at BellSouth in Atlanta years ago, and they just made a par‑3 somewhat playable. We went out and had a playoff, and I was fortunate enough to win. I thought there was a good chance we might have that scenario again if the weather comes in like it's supposed to today and the forecast is as bad on Monday.
And as if that wasn't enough:
Q. You're sort of playing the end of the round there like it's the final round?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I really was. I was leaking oil too and made some mistakes. But there is a high likelihood we don't get the final round in with the weather coming in tomorrow and Monday, and a good chance that we'll end up having a one‑hole playoff. You have to be prepared for both scenarios. But it was important that putt on the last hole to be tied for the lead because if the last round is rained out at least I still have a chance.
"There is a high likelihood that we don't play tomorrow." That storm Phil referred to looks to be a pretty big one. Everybody in my neighborhood -- a couple of hours north of Charlotte -- was out mowing lawns Saturday because of all the rain predicted here, starting today and continuing through tomorrow. According to, the temperature is going to drop into the 50s, there's an 80% chance of rain today and a stiff wind in the 20mph range is going to come up as well.

The Tour is taking it seriously. According to this post by's Helen Ross, groups are being sent out very early -- to quote, "Players will be sent off Nos. 1 and 10, and Mickelson, Watney and McNeill will bring up the rear at 8:46 a.m. ET." That may not be enough, since's hourly forecasts say the rain could start around 7am ET.

So is Phil right? We'll have to see. But it certainly looks as if today's round could get rained out... and if it does, Phil just might become the favorite. I'd sure like his chances in a playoff.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: May 2013

Only two weeks have passed since I got the April rankings up. Still, things have changed a bit. The biggest change was Graeme McDowell's return to the winners circle, but Louis Oosthuizen dropped a few spots and Lee Westwood dropped out completely.

Perhaps the biggest news is that I'm back on schedule, posting the RGWR at the beginning of the month. June's ranking will be affected by a full month of tournaments!

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

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

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

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

As usual, although the point totals (and even the number of wins) a player has affects my rankings, they don't override my personal opinions. It's my ranking system, after all:
  1. Tiger Woods: 5 wins (1 WGC, 3 prestige), 5 Top5, 35 points. No change this month.
  2. Rory McIlroy: 4 wins (1 major, 3 prestige, 3 awards), 4 Top5, 36 points. No change this month.
  3. Brandt Snedeker: 2 wins (2 prestige), 6 Top5, 1 award (FedExCup), 23 points. Guess what? No change this month.
  4. Matt Kuchar: 2 wins (1 TPC, 1 WGC), 1 Top5, 17 points. Kuch lost one of his Top5s this month but his 2 high-quality wins keep him ahead of DJ.
  5. Dustin Johnson: 2 wins (1 prestige), 3 Top5, 14 points. No change this month.
  6. Adam Scott: 1 win (1 major), 3 Top5, 16 points. No change, but it's only been a couple of weeks since his Masters win.
  7. Graeme McDowell: 2 wins (1 other), 6 Top5, 14 points. Hey, a new entry! Graeme finally broke through with a new PGA Tour win last month and, with his large number of Top5s, vaulted over several players. 
  8. Louis Oosthuizen: 1 win (1 prestige), 6 Top5, 17 points. Louis drops down because he lost a win, but he did add another Top5 to stay in the rankings.
  9. Luke Donald: 1 win (1 TPC), 6 Top5, 20 points. Luke added another Top5 in late April to replace one that "fell off the back end."
  10. Charl Schwartzel: 2 wins (1 other), 5 Top5, 14 points. Charl continues to tread water, but his Top5 total is still better than most.
Players to watch:
  • The big news is that Rory McIlroy is starting to post good scores again. He's rounding into shape just in time for the thick of major season.
  • Luke Donald has posted new Top5s for two months in a row now. Perhaps he's figured out what was off in his game as well.
  • Boo Weekley and Lucas Glover also seem to have rediscovered their games. The way they're playing, there's a decent chance we could see one of them win soon.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Speed Up Your Putting

We talk a lot about speeding up the game, but we rarely hear any practical advice beyond just the words "speed up your play." In this little video from the site, PGA pro Jeff Ritter has a very simple tip to help you start the process by speeding up your putting.

You may be asking, "What's so great about this tip? What makes it different than just saying 'speed it up'?"

First of all, Ritter suggests speeding up a specific phase of the stroke -- namely, the time between when you get your practice putt the way you want it and when you hit the ball. It gives you a very specific part of the process to work on, and it's something that's fairly instinctive for most people. After all, you want to hit the ball while the correct stroke is fresh in your mind.

Second, I want you to note that Ritter isn't telling you to take 8 seconds. He's saying to take NO MORE than 8 seconds. There's some room for individuality here, and I think that makes it better advice. Instead of focusing on some technique or sequence of events, you're just trying to get your routine down to 8 seconds or under.

Finally, once you do this successfully -- and I believe this is simple enough that most of you can do it without a problem -- you've learned a simple technique for speeding up your play even further. After you get the actual stroke time down, you can apply the same idea to the time you take reading your putts. (Maybe not an 8 second limit, but maybe 15 or 20 seconds.) And you can use the same idea to help speed up your full swing routine -- first, speed up the time between practice swing and actual ball strike, then speed up the pre-shot routine.

It's little things like this that can really help you become a faster player without hurting your game. Using this technique will help you learn where you can speed up and where you can't. Just knowing that can help you eliminate the wasted time that actually hurts your game.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Another Busy Day of Golf

This is another one of those days with some unusual TV times, so I wanted to make sure you all know when your faves are playing.

The European Tour will be in GC's eary morning schedule like normal (after Morning Drive, starting at 9am ET). This week they're at the Volvo China Open. I skimmed the leaderboard but didn't see any of the biggest names. Apparently the world players who play both tours frequently are either here in America or taking a week off.

The LGPA is in Williamsburg VA (just a few hours north of where I live) for the Kingsmill Championship. That coverage starts at 12:30pm ET for two hours. (It will be the same on Friday, then the times change to 3pm ET for Saturday and Sunday.) Tony Jesselli has a preview of the event on his blog and the Constructivist has made some picks over at his.

And of course the PGA Tour will be in Charlotte (a couple of hours south of me here in my home state) for the Wells Fargo Championship. That coverage starts with the Golf Central Pregame Show at 2:30pm ET right after the LPGA coverage ends. It should be an interesting event, given the problems they've had with the greens. Rickie Fowler is defending for the first time (at an official PGA Tour event, that is) and Rory McIlroy is hoping for another chance to beat him.

The Tour is playing the Stadion Classic this week, but apparently there's no TV coverage.

And the Champions Tour is playing the Insperity Championship in Texas. TV coverage starts Friday night at 7:30pm ET.

That should have you straight on the times so you don't miss any of your favorite tours. (Unless you're following the Tour. Then you'll just have to check the Tour's live leaderboard.)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Golfing Fashion: Performance vs. Style

(I get requests to use guest posts every now and then, and some of them don't exactly fit the mold of a typical Ruthless Golf post. Golf fashion articles typically come under that heading. But many golf courses are getting picky about how golfers dress, and this one -- written by freelance writer Adam Mace -- looks at some of the new options that are available. The Wall Street Journal link gives a good overview of the new directions in golf wear, while the Galvin Green link shows some some of the new shirts that are stylish without being garish.)

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted the changing attitudes towards on-course attire when it comes to the average golfer. While many pros (though certainly not all) might be decked out head to toe in branded gear, most of us would prefer something a little more understated. Not least because this means we don’t have to visit the locker rooms before getting stuck in. Of course, there will always be a contingent that loves the garish on-course only look, but a neo-classic and easy going style means that you won’t be afraid to step off the course in the same clothes.

The only problem of course, is that a lot of the loud sports attire that you’ll see the pros wearing has high performance in mind. This means it’s designed to keep you dry and at the optimum temperature; because let’s face it, who wants to be too hot, too cold, or damp from the rain or your own sweat? A lot of vintage-style polo shirts and pants might give you that really classy, easy going look, but they’re not always the most advanced items of clothing that you can buy.

Galvin Green golf shirtFortunately, a lot of clothing companies have now taken note of the new style, and are trying to incorporate their design and technology into clothes that are more understated, feature minimum branding, and ultimately get the job done while you look great doing it. Galvin Green golf shirts are one such example; they’ve always had a focus on functional clothing, but they now offer toned down polo shirts that wouldn’t look out of place on Arnold Palmer sixty years ago. These feature alongside their more intense sports clothes.

If you want to look good and feel good both on and off the course, then stick with something that has modern construction and retro styling. We all want to look like the legendary players of times gone by, and now we can do, without sacrificing comfort. The best thing is that this kind of look walks right out into society without looking out of place. Boutiques are going to be a better bet than your average golfing superstore if you’re looking to buy. Not only will they have a selection of more exclusive brands, but you can be sure that you’re going to get something that fits really nicely.

The key thing to take away is that you don’t have to choose between a modern techy look and old school style. An outfit that performs well on the course, and doesn’t look out of place in the bar after a round, is entirely possible. You can look like your heroes and be comfortable; you just have to know where to look. 

If It's Good Enough for the Deer...

I guess this post comes under the "Mike's Ranting Again" heading, although it's not a rant per se. I'm just a little frustrated with the sports world in general.

You couldn't miss the talk about Vijay Singh and the notorious deer antler spray yesterday. (If you did, you can get the basics from this ESPN news post.) The big news was that the Tour wasn't going to suspend Vijay for using it after all. The World Anti-Doping Agency (hereafter referred to as WADA) sent a message to the Tour which said, as ESPN reported it:
"We're talking about a determination that was made by scientists at WADA that relate to the consumption through deer-antler spray of a technically violative substance, IGF-1, but in looking at it, the scientists concluded it resulted in infinitesimal amounts actually being taken into the recipient's body,'' Finchem said. "Amounts that couldn't be distinguished even if you had an accurate test with the amounts that you might take into your body from milk, et cetera.
"In a case where, for whatever reason, you managed to take in enough IGF 1 so that it did trigger a positive reading ... it's not possible today. Because a positive reading means that you're surpassing a certain level. There hasn't been any level ever set.''
Finchem said that if a suitable test comes along, players would be responsible if they were deemed to have too much IGF-1 in their system, based on WADA guidelines.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but -- and here's where my rant comes in -- we've got an "illegal" substance for which (1) no legal level has been set and (2) even if you had a level you could test for, there's no accurate test to determine whether your actual blood level surpasses it or not. Then, to make matters worse, WADA has decided that deer antler spray doesn't have enough IGF-1 to matter anyway.

And here's the really funny part... did you notice that part about "...Amounts that couldn't be distinguished even if you had an accurate test with the amounts that you might take into your body from milk..."? That's right, people -- IGF-1 is in common dairy milk. That's why the WADA statement made the apparently contradictory remark that the insignificant amount of IGF-1 in deer antler spray could still cause an illegal level to show up in testing.

Should such a test ever become accurate enough to bother with, that is.

Riddle me this, Batman: How can you justify punishing athletes in any sport for using IGF-1? Is WADA going to declare milk an illegal substance too?

Look, I don't have a problem with drug testing... but it's starting to look as if drug testing is the newest form of witch hunting!

Doug Barron's name popped up during yesterday's debates, and it should have. Barron, you may remember, was suspended for taking testosterone because it was medically determined that his was too low. I don't question Barron taking doctor-recommended treatment at all. However, I question the right of WADA (or any other testing body) to determine any level for testosterone and honestly expect me to believe that they know what is normal for every man on the planet. That is PURE IDIOCY!

Human bodies don't come off an assembly line, each manufactured to exactly the same specifications. To think any regulatory agency can determine such specs is the height of arrogance.

I realize this is a slippery slope. Doping is a real problem in sports. But suppose my body naturally makes more of, say, testosterone than most other athletes. The current approach to drug testing will penalize me for simply being me. If I enter the sport with naturally high levels, it will be assumed that I'm doping. This is a problem that the drug testing bodies have no adequate answer for as yet.

Cleaning up the blood doping problem in sports isn't nearly as neat as the the major sports agencies would like us to believe... and golf's ruling bodies are about to find out just how tough it is. These two cases -- the poor handling of Barron's case and what many will see as preferential treatment for Vijay concerning the deer antler spray -- could very well open Pandora's box. You better get ready.

And you can start by having a nice cold glass of milk. You're going to need your energy. Before they outlaw it, that is.