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Monday, March 31, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Valero Texas Open

Winner: Steven Bowditch

Around the wider world of golf: Anna Nordqvist got her second win of the season at the LPGA's Kia Classic; the first Eurasian Cup was declared a tie between the Euro and Asian teams; Michio Matsumara won the Enjoy Jakarta Indonesia PGA Championship on the Australasian Tour; Kris Blanks won the Tour's Chitimacha Louisiana Open; Armando Favela won the Stella Artois Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; and Ayaka Watanabe won the JLPGA's AXA Ladies. (The Constructivist has details.)

Steven Bowditch takes a bow

When a final round of 4-over is good enough to win a tournament, you know it's been a trying day on the golf course.

No, let's be blunt about it. TPC San Antonio made the PGA Tour crowd look like a bunch of weekend players Sunday. The course is tough enough on its own but, once you added all the wind -- and a different wind from normal at that -- I don't know that anybody was going to look particularly good. Will MacKenzie and Daniel Summerhays shot 70 and 71 respectively... and vaulted up the leaderboard to grab T2.

Most folks thought Matt Kuchar had the best shot at winning because he had the most experience of those on the leaderboard. Instead, he shot 3-over for a T4.

And Bowditch? Well, I believe they said he made only 2 putts over 5 feet all week. It was a week for short game wizardry, and Steven Bowditch had his Harry Potter going on. He knocked chips and pitches stone dead all week, and in the end it paid off with his first PGA Tour victory and his first trip to Augusta.

If I understand things correctly, there have been only 3 international winners so far this season... and all are Australian. Jason Day, John Senden, and now Steven Bowditch are carrying the banner for the world right now -- and, as fate would have it, they now have the only 3 international Limerick Summaries this season. I hope you enjoy yours, Steven!
When the wind put the field in a fix,
Making par required all of their tricks.
But one man made it through…
Bowditch took ‘em to school
And he STILL shot a 76!
The photo came from the tournament page at

Sunday, March 30, 2014

...But the Asian Team Really Won. Right?

So the first Eurasian Cup finished out 10-10 and was declared a tie. Really?

The Eurasian Cup trophy presentation

Look, from one viewpoint I can see why it happened. As the inaugural event, neither team already had possession of the Cup so it wasn't as if either side was wimping out to prevent losing it. And apparently this wasn't a spur of the moment decision like it was at the Presidents Cup several years ago.

Still, I can't help but feel that the Asian Team won. I feel like that rule was put in place to "protect" the Asians in case they weren't good enough to hold their own against the Euros.

Turned out they didn't need any help.

Here are the simple facts: On Day 1 in fourballs -- a format where the Euros routinely beat the Americans at the Ryder Cup -- the Asian team got skunked 5-0. But the Asians beat the Euros 10-5 over the last two days, including a singles win over Graeme McDowell, the Euro team's "big gun."

Like I said, turned out the Asians didn't need any help... and I suspect they would have won a playoff.

The announcers noted that this was a good trial run for potential members of the European Ryder Cup team. I suppose that was true... but I'm not sure it gave the Euros much good news.

In my opinion, it's the American Ryder Cup team who should really pay attention to this event. I've had a theory about the recent Euro dominance in the Ryder Cup -- based on a few of the online scorecards I've checked -- and this event more or less backed it up. Do you want to know why I think the Euros have dominated the Ryder Cup recently but didn't do so well in this first Eurasian Cup?
At the Ryder Cup, the US team generally wins holes with birdie while the Euros win holes with par. But the Asians forced the Euros to make birdies in order to win holes... and that wasn't so easy.
It doesn't happen on every hole, of course. But if you compare some of the US-Euro matches with some of this week's Asian-Euro matches, you'll see the pattern. For example, here are the first 3 singles matches:
  • In the Jiménez 1-up victory over Fung, the Mechanic won 5 holes -- 4 with birdie, 1 with par. (He could have won 2 of the birdie holes with par.) Fung won 4 holes -- 2 with birdie, 2 with par.
  • In the Jaidee 3&2 victory over McDowell, Jaidee won 5 holes -- 4 with birdie, 1 with par. Graeme won 2 holes -- 1 with birdie, 1 with par.
  • In the Aphibarnrat 2&1 victory over Björn, Kiradech won 7 holes -- 3 with birdie, 4 with par. Thomas won 5 holes -- 4 with birdie, 1 with bogey.
Let's compare the first 3 singles matches at the last (2012) Ryder Cup:
  • In the Donald 2&1 victory over Watson, Luke won 4 holes -- 2 with birdie, 2 with par. Watson won 2 holes -- both with birdie.
  • In the Poulter 2up victory over Simpson, Ian won 6 holes -- 5 with birdie, 1 with par. (He could have parred one of those birdie holes and won it.) Webb won 4 holes -- 2 with birdie, 2 with par.
  • In the McIlroy 2&1 victory over Bradley, Rory won 5 holes -- all with birdie. (He could have won one hole with par.) Keegan won 3 holes -- 2 with birdie, 1 with par.
Now you're probably thinking that, in both cases, both sides won some holes with par. That's true... but my point is that the winners of each match generally win more holes with par than the losers. Look at how these matches change if the winner only halves with par:
  • Jiménez and Fung halve.
  • Jaidee and McDowell are tied with 2 to play.
  • Björn BEATS Aphibarnrat 2&1!!!
  • Donald and Watson are tied with 1 to play.
  • Poulter beats Simpson 1up.
  • McIlroy still beats Bradley 2&1 because he won every hole with birdie... even though he didn't have to.
Only 2 of these matches have the same outcome if the loser just makes more pars. I hope Tom Watson drills this into our team this year: PAR MATTERS!

And that's my point: The Asians were playing much better than the Euros by the end of the Eurasian Cup. They had all the momentum. Regardless of what the official results say, I have a feeling that the Asians walk off feeling like they won.

And the Euros probably do also.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

On the Eve of the First Majors

While everybody is talking about the Masters in two weeks, it's easy to forget that the LPGA's first major is next week. The Kraft Nabisco (aka the Dinah) is a mere two rounds away!

Lizette Salas

Let's take a quick look at both, beginning with the Masters.

Several players are taking the next couple of weeks off -- Adam and Tiger being the most notable -- but some are trying to play themselves into form. Although the commentators talked like the second round of the Valero would run into Saturday (due to the fog delays Thursday), play finished up as planned on Friday night. Phil Mickelson made the cut right on the number (+3) and Jordan Spieth got to +1, so both will have a chance to get some more competitive rounds under their belts.

For the most part, "name" players struggled. Many of them got the bad end of the draw but, name player or not, only leader Steven Bowditch (-8, 69-67) has managed to put two really good rounds together. Matt Kuchar isn't lighting up the leaderboard but he's at -2 after shooting 70-72 and Zach Johnson is -3 after 70-71. Pat Perez is playing the best of this group at -5 (68-71). 

Chesson Hadley's hopes of making the Masters are still alive. I believe he needs a Top7 to gain entry through the OWGR and he's currently T16 (-2), just a couple of shots out.

Out at the Kia Classic several name players missed the cut, starting with defending champion Beatriz Recari. Other shockers were Angela Stanford, Sandra Gal, Pornanong Phatlum, Chie Arimura, Caroline Hedwall, and Brittany Lincicome. Laura Davies is listed in next week's field but missing the cut probably won't help her mindset going in. And amateur Mariah Stackhouse (who's from Charlotte, just a couple of hours south of me) missed the cut as well. She isn't listed in next week's field either.

On the positive side, Karrie Webb's amazing rebound was a great sign for her. This season's two-time winner shot 75-68 and barely got into red figures... but after such poor form in Thursday's round, that was almost miraculous. Stacy Lewis, Cristie Kerr, and Lizette Salas (pictured above) are the top name players in the field -- definitely good signs for them heading into the KNC. Inbee Park didn't fare as well, missing several short putts and bogeying 15, 16 and 17 on the way in. (They said her mental coach was there this week; she really may need her help!)

I have to give a shout-out to Dori Carter who posted an 8-under 64 -- the best round of her life, according to her -- and that was after a bogey-bogey finish! Although she didn't expect a round this low, she says this is the result of a plan of attack she's had for a few months now, not something new she's doing at this event. But I think she has to win to make the major next week.

All-in-all, I don't know that we learned a great deal more about Masters contenders but it's clear that many of the LPGA's usual suspects aren't ready for the Kraft Nabisco. We could very well see a first-time major winner next week.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Up and Down and Around, Part 3

In the second post in this series I looked at how a connected modern swing built on a knowledge of how your body works eliminates the need to twist your forearms in the modern golf swing. (As a quick summary, the rotation of your lead shoulder while connected takes care of all the motion necessary to get your club face on plane, and does it pretty much automatically.) But it creates an even simpler motion in a classic-style swing, and that's what we're looking at today.

I say a 'classic-style swing' instead of just a classic swing because there are a number of swing variations being taught these days, both classic-style and modern-style. Some of these variations are starting to blur the differences between the two and, in my opinion, are better than either of the originals. Many of the old swing thoughts that clearly belonged to one original swing type or the other are not so clear anymore.

Let's look at the originals and then how they've evolved.

The original classic swing developed during the age of hickory, back when shafts couldn't take much stress before they flexed out of control. I think that's why two-plane swings originally developed -- the looping action at the top minimized the stress during the change of direction. Too much leg action created even more stress, so the focus was on the arm action -- the legs were often described as just "moving beneath" the player, as supports rather than power sources. Because of this, players often turned their hips a lot on the backswing.

The club was swung back and up, then looped down and around to create a path from the inside. (Typical swing thought: Pull down and ring the bell.) In order to make room for this inside path, the hips needed to move toward the target. (Typical swing thought: Slide your hips forward.) To facilitate a free-swinging arm action, the arms remained unconnected and players often didn't think much about proper leg action -- which often resulted in an over-the-top swing.

The classic swing evolved a bit when steel shafts took over, eliminating much of the looping at the top. Colin Montgomerie is a good example of that classic swing. There's not a lot of worry about bracing his trailing knee, and all of his hip action and arm swing look very loose and relaxed compared to the modern swing. The classic swing is typically an upright swing, with the hands carried very high.

In contrast, the original modern swing -- also a two-plane swing -- developed after steel shafts took over. Hogan's new connection technique was the real revolution here and, since the legs became the main power source and the arms were clearly the weakest link in the chain (hence connection, to help brace them), it lent itself to making a flatter swing.

At the top of the backswing, the legs drove hard toward the target and loaded the shaft. This motion dropped the hands to a lower inside plane but, since now the legs had to start the turn as well as get the hips out of the way of the inside path, the swing required a more complex lower body movement. (Typical swing thought: Bump and turn.) The trailing leg had to be braced in order to start the downswing with a forceful move, and the hands went around rather than up and down. Ben Hogan is the original, of course.

For a long time instructors said you couldn't combine techniques from these two swings. But once people believe that something can't be done, it generally doesn't take long before someone figures out how to do it. Various versions of what we now call the one-plane swing were born.

And connection was the key. You see, with the upper arms connected to the chest during the downswing, the hips no longer got in the way. Now the hips only needed to move enough to create a good weight shift. And because of that, instructors found lots of new ways to blend the two swing methods. For just a couple of examples:
  • Teachers like Jimmy Ballard continued to focus on the leg action but added enough arm power to keep the back straighter. This not only created a more natural throwing motion (remember my own swing thoughts about throwing Frisbees™ and hitting tennis backhands) but relieved some of the back stress caused by all that hip sliding and twisting. Like the original modern swing, this one is flatter and much more around.
  • Likewise, teachers like Pete Cowen continued to focus on the arm action but added more leg drive to create more club head speed. Like the original classic swing, this one is much more upright and therefore more up and down. This is the one I want to focus on.
In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if many of you are using some combination of the two already without being aware of it. If you're having a lot of trouble with your swing, that could be the reason -- a bad combination of classic and modern swing techniques. The fact is, most instructors don't tell you which method they're using -- some of them may not even know themselves, they just know their swing method works. Unless you've taken lessons from a single teacher, you could have patched together some bits and pieces that weren't meant to be patched. (The method I use in Stop Coming Over-the-Top and in any of my posts that don't say differently is similar to what Jimmy Ballard does -- primarily leg driven, but with a straighter back. I think I've mentioned that before.)

As a side note, it seems to me that the classic style is more common among the European and Asian players while the modern style is more common among American and Australian players. There are certainly exceptions -- for example, Stacy Lewis appears to have more of a classic swing while Graeme McDowell is more modern -- but overall that seems to be the case.

Anyway, for the rest of this post we're going to focus on the connected classic swing. All swings have an 'up and down' component and an 'around' component. For the time being we're going to ignore the 'around' part of the connected classic swing and focus on the 'up and down' part.

In yesterday's post I included a video of Steven Bann demonstrating that you don't have to twist your forearms to get your hands 'on plane' at the top of your backswing. I summed up the connected move this way:
From your address position, with your hands basically in front of your belly button, your straight lead arm rotates at your shoulder and rolls up the side of your chest where your lead tricep touches it. At the same time, your trailing elbow bends and guides your lead arm so your lead hand finishes just outside and above your trailing shoulder.
So on the way up your hands travel at an angle from in front of your belly button to above and outside your trailing shoulder. (Of course, in an actual swing you'd be turning your shoulders around at the same time. Your hands would reach the top of your backswing when you finished coiling your shoulders.) Your trailing arm disconnects briefly at the top so you can get more height.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could just pull our hands straight back down to our address position in order to hit the ball? In this new connected classic swing, WE CAN!

Why couldn't we do it in the modern swing? It's because all the leg drive forces us to focus on the 'around' part of the swing. The swing is flatter so the hands don't move downward as much... and even then they're pulled down by the leg action.

In contrast, a classic swing is focused on the 'up and down' motion in the swing. Therefore, we can do more than just let our hands drop. Instead, we can actively straighten our arms to get them back down to the address position! As our connected lead arm rolls back down the side of our chest on the downswing, we just pull our trailing arm down so it reconnects... and then we straighten the elbow of our now-connected trailing arm. As our shoulders return to our address position, our hands also return to their address position almost automatically.

And to get to our finish, we just let our lead elbow bend as our shoulders continue to turn toward the target. Our trailing arm, now straight, mirrors what our lead arm did on the backswing. Our hands finish above and just outside our lead shoulder.

In other words, our arms and hands -- when viewed without our shoulders turning -- basically move in a giant V shape in front of our torso. A very simple motion indeed, as shown in the following diagram. (For you lefties out there, the sequence is A-C-A-B where C becomes the top of the backswing and B becomes the top of the finish. Except for the labels, things didn't change enough to warrant two diagrams.)

V-shaped path of hands in connected classic swing

Yeah, I know -- this is a very different way of thinking about arm motion during your swing. And you have to understand that this description is specific to a connected classic swing -- it doesn't necessarily describe how the motion feels during a modern swing, for example, because of the dropping action that starts a modern swing's downswing.

I discovered this while changing my own modern swing to a more classic one, and it takes a little effort to get your mind around it. But it didn't take me long -- we're talking a matter of weeks here. And now my swing thought as I start down is simply to straighten my arms and hit the ball. You can really feel the lead arm rolling down into position!

When I first started experimenting with a classic swing, my biggest problem was finding the bottom of my swing because my trailing hand was uncocking too soon. (The classic swing is more upright, so the swing is longer.) This V-shape swing concept helped me get it straightened out.

If you want to experiment with it, I'd advise starting with slow half swings and move to slow full swings. Once you get there, the timing is extremely easy to get because the swing rhythm isn't complex -- just up and back, down and around.

But no matter whether you use a classic swing or a modern one -- an arm-powered one or a leg-powered swing -- you've got to stop twisting your forearms if you want to become more consistent in your game. Staying connected -- and letting that connection control the rotation at your lead shoulder -- is the path to more fairways and greens.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Up and Down and Around, Part 2

In yesterday's post I focused on how the design of your shoulder joint and the connection between the upper part of your lead arm and your chest create all the club rotation you need -- that is, you don't need to twist your forearms during your swing. Today we'll look at how it works in the modern golf swing.

First we need to clear up some common misconceptions about the differences between the modern golf swing and the classic golf swing. A couple of definitions are in order:
  • A modern golf swing is a swing where the legs are the primary power source for creating club head speed.
  • A classic golf swing is a swing where the arms are the primary power source for creating club head speed.
Misconception #1 is that the modern swing is all legs and the classic swing is all arms. Both swings are whole body swings; the arms provide some of the modern swing's power and the legs provide some of the classic swing's power.

Misconception #2 is that the legs start the downswing in the modern swing and the arms start the downswing in the classic swing. WRONG! The legs ALWAYS start your downswing, no matter whether you have a modern or classic swing. (And just to clarify another misconception, you start your downswing with your legs even in an over-the-top swing; the problem there is that your legs push in the wrong direction.) Here's how it actually works in each type of swing (some instructors call this "sequencing"):
  • In the modern swing, the legs push hard to begin the swing. The arms don't do anything but hold the club at first; they are pulled down to around armpit height by the leg's movement, then they add their effort to the swing.
  • In the classic swing, the legs push more easily to start the swing. The arms begin pulling the club down just after the legs start pushing. Then, when the arms get down around armpit height, the legs start pushing harder.
As a result, the modern swing has more lateral movement (toward the target) while the classic swing is more rotary (hip turn). The classic swing isn't quite as hard on the back because the spine stays more vertical than in a modern swing.

Finally, I've used the following video from K.J. Choi's teacher Steven Bann several times before because he gives such a good demonstration of how vertical your arm movement during your backswing really is. Take another look at it to be sure you understand what he's saying -- that you don't have to twist your forearms as you take the club back -- and then we'll get into today's post.

Bann doesn't use a connected position to get up to the top here, but it's easy to imagine what it looks like, isn't it? From your address position, with your hands basically in front of your belly button, your straight lead arm rotates at your shoulder and rolls up the side of your chest where your lead tricep touches it. At the same time, your trailing elbow bends and guides your lead arm so your lead hand finishes just outside and above your trailing shoulder.

If you try this and keep both upper arms connected -- a drill Hogan used in Five Lessons, although he said you'd never actually keep both arms connected all the way through your swing -- if you try it, you'll find that your lead arm has rotated so much that the back of your lead hand is pointing up to the sky. That's how much your shoulder and arm can rotate... but you didn't have to twist your forearms to do it. I want to make sure you understand that.

From this position, you can return your hands to your address position -- and yes, they'll be just as square as they were when you originally set up -- just by letting your arms straighten and drop back down. That's because your connected lead arm rotates at your shoulder and AUTOMATICALLY returns to your address position as it rolls back down the side of your chest. That's what we want; that's what will increase our accuracy without any extra effort on our part.

Now, how does this work in the modern swing?

Once we get to the top of our backswing -- we use a one-piece takeaway because that's how you make a connected backswing -- we start down by driving our legs and letting them pull our arms down. In fact, it feels as if we're just letting our arms drop by themselves... and they drop straight down. That gets our hands (and the club) down to around armpit height. Just look at the first two positions in this partial sequence of Sam Snead I included in a post I did about 3 weeks ago. See how the arms have just dropped down as his legs pushed forward?

3 Sam Snead positions during downswing

From that point I have often described the rest of the downswing motion as "throwing a Frisbee™" or "hitting a tennis backhand." As you can see in the second position of the sequence, the back of Sam's lead hand seems to be in the same position as in those two motions. It's an easy way to help you simplify the move back to the ball.

But actually, his hands are still moving straight down because that connected lead arm is rolling down the edge of his chest while his wrists uncock. Try it yourself. Grab a club and make a small practice swing back to waist high and then through to a waist high finish. Do it twice:
  • The first time, try to feel as if you're hitting a backhand while your wrists uncock.
  • The second time, try to feel as if you're simply straightening out your lead arm as you turn your body through to the finish.
I bet those two swings feel pretty much the same. How we think about the motions determines a lot about how they feel to us. That's really all swing keys are, just different ways of thinking about the same motions. We're just searching for some new way to think about the movements so it will be easier for us to repeat them every time.

Some of you will find the "straighten your arms" swing thought to be a better swing key than the "backhand" swing thought. But either one will give you much more consistent results than the "twist your forearms" swing thought because that one doesn't use connection or your natural movements.

Tomorrow I'll look at how a classic swing can benefit from using connection instead of twisting your forearms. You're going to be shocked at just how easy a golf swing can be...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Up and Down and Around, Part 1

A few days back I did a post called Is Your Golf Swing Causing Back Problems? where I referenced Henrik Stenson and his teacher Pete Cowen. In the comments Peter Cheng left a link to a video of Cowen's "Ax Drill" and asked what I thought. Here's the video:

You see, the Ax Drill teaches you to twist your forearms -- a move that I am dead set against. In fact, my number one Basic Principle of the Game (and that link gives just one place where I've said it), whether it's a drive or a putting stroke, is:
The clubface should remain square to the stroke path; the forearms should NOT rotate during the execution of the stroke.
I guess my teaching is unusual just because of that one thing. But please note that Cowen actually says in this video that the swing would be so much simpler if we didn't need to twist our forearms!

It's been a while since I've done an instructional series, but that seems the best way to answer Peter's question. We DON'T have to twist our forearms, and this post series will explain why. It's basically all-new material and I'm guessing it will take 3 posts.
  • The first post will deal with the physical reason that we don't need to twist our forearms.
  • The second post will explain how this physical reason works in the modern golf swing, where the arms don't do a lot of work until the hands reach the impact zone.
  • And the third post will explain how it works in a classic swing, which is basically what Cowen teaches (very well, I might add) and in which the arms play a much bigger role in the swing.
So let's start with the physical reason we don't need to twist our forearms during the swing.

I'm not surprised if you're skeptical about the idea. Our swing plane is very clearly tilted at an angle during a golf swing. But don't misunderstand what I'm saying. I'm not saying there is no rotation during a golf swing, just that our forearms aren't what create that rotation.

And that, my friends, is a very different thing.

You see, most people don't have a clear understanding of how their bodies work. But that's very important knowledge if we want to build a repeating golf swing because our natural simple moves are easier to repeat. And in this case, your lead shoulder joint plays a vitally important role in how your swing works.

Just take a look at this drawing:

Shoulder bone -- actual vs imagined

Because the "arm bone" is slightly offset in the joint -- and actually angled forward a little, as you can see in the following two images from -- the arm doesn't move quite the way we might expect.

Shoulder bone
Shoulder joint

Because of this unusual construction, our shoulders have a range of motion that boggles the mind. But that offset can also have some unexpected side effects -- like unexpected rotation.

A few paragraphs down I've added a crude drawing that shows a couple of positions we typically take when we move our arms. In both of the positions in this diagram, the lead thumb is pointing upward. In the first position (A) the man is just standing straight and holding his lead arm out in front of his lead shoulder, parallel to the floor. In the second (B), he's taken a typical golf address position, again with his lead arm out in front of his lead shoulder to hold a club. In both cases, he keeps his lead hand and forearm relaxed while he moves his lead hand until it's opposite his trailing shoulder (no shoulder turn, just moving his arm).

Try each position for yourself. Here's a quick tip: Your lead thumb probably WON'T point straight up in the air when your wrist and forearm are relaxed. That's because most people's hands naturally turn inward slightly when they're relaxed. That's also why most people play better with a slightly stronger grip -- it's the most natural position.

Keep your lead hand and forearm relaxed while you move your hand from its starting position in front of your lead shoulder to its finishing position in front of your trailing shoulder.

How your arm moves in different stances

Here's what will happen. In the A position, unless you have a large chest, your hand will stay at roughly the same angle it was when you started. But in the B position, your hand will rotate noticeably toward your trailing side. That's because the offset design of your shoulder joint causes your tricep (the big muscle on the back of your upper arm) to roll across your chest as your arm moves. That's because your tricep and chest stay connected during the move. (How many times have we talked about the importance of connection in your golf swing?)

That's also why the big-chested person gets some rotation from the A position. When a thin person tries position A, their tricep and chest get disconnected -- there is no rolling action. The person with the thicker chest (and likely thicker arms as well) still gets some degree of connections

The rotation that happens during your golf swing should happen at your lead shoulder, not in your forearms. If you maintain that lead arm-chest connection throughout your swing, you will get a controlled rotation that is consistent on both the way back and the way down. You won't even have to think about it.

In contrast, when you create the rotation with your forearms, you have to consciously try to match the amount of rotation on the backswing with the amount on the downswing. And that rotation is added to the natural rotation at your shoulder! Furthermore, if you don't maintain that connection throughout your entire swing -- a very real possibility when you're twisting your forearms (think about all those pros sticking gloves between their lead arm and chest during practice!) -- if you don't maintain that connection, the shoulder rotation becomes inconsistent as well and makes the guessing game even trickier.

It's definitely much simpler to let the natural design of your shoulder, along with proper connection, create a consistent rotation at your lead shoulder rather than by twisting your forearms.

But believe it or not, the nature of the golf swing itself makes this shoulder roll a better move. And we'll discuss that tomorrow when we look at the modern swing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The New World Golf Hall of Fame Induction Criteria

The World Golf Hall of Fame announced their new WGHoF induction standards on Sunday. We'll see the first results in May 2015.

Big names at the official announcement

Here are the new critieria:
  • Players will be inducted every other year, instead of every year as in the past.
  • A 20-member subcommittee will create a list of potential inductees, and a 16-member selection commission will make the final choices. That 16-member group will be headed by Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Nancy Lopez, and Annika Sorenstam -- all WGHoF members themselves.
  • Inductees must receive 75% of the selection commission's votes to gain entry.
  • Inductees will fall into 4 categories -- men, women, veterans and lifetime achievement.
  • Players need either 15 wins on approved tours (there are 6 of these for the men and 5 for the women) or 2 majors to be considered, and must be either 40 years old or retired for 5 years. (For the men, 2 PLAYERS Championships can substitute for the majors.)
This does simplify things considerably although not everyone is happy. For example, the media will have a lot less say-so over the inductions since very few of them will get a vote -- only 20 people choose candidates and only 16 people will vote on them. (I suspect many others will approve of this change.) Others say the age should have been raised to 45 or 50. (Gary Player stated rather bluntly that he would rather be alive to enjoy the induction ceremony!)

For the men, the standards have toughened somewhat -- from 10 wins to 15. And the combination of the 75% vote and two-year induction cycle should reduce the complaints, as when Fred Couples and Colin Montgomerie (both worthy members) were inducted with a mere 51% of the vote... and they had the biggest part of the votes. Wins from the following tours count toward admission:
  • PGA Tour
  • European Tour
  • Japan Golf Tour
  • Sunshine Tour
  • Asian Tour
  • Australasian Tour
For the women, the standards are considerably reduced. When I heard the announcement, my first reaction was that Laura Davies is getting in next year. An interesting side note is that the LPGA will continue to use their own points-based criteria for the LPGA Hall of Fame, which is separate from the WGHoF. Randall Mell did a post at GolfTalkCentral listing several of the women who will now become eligible for the WGHoF under the new rules. Wins from the following tours count toward admission:
  • LPGA
  • LET
  • ALPG
Despite some of the reservations I've heard voiced over the last couple of days, I think the new criteria are good changes. It's about time that everybody was judged by the same measure, and the new rules are stiff enough to ensure that we don't end up with a mere popularity contest. And by allowing wins from several tours to count, international golfers have virtually the same eligibility opportunities as American golfers.

Alex Miceli at Golfweek has a detailed article about the changes here. (That's also where the photo came from.)

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Arnold Palmer Invitational

Winner: Matt Every

Around the wider world of golf: It was a lost week for 54-hole leaders. Karrie Webb nabbed her 41st LPGA victory at the JTBC Founders Cup; Jeff Maggert won his first Champions Tour start at the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic; and Carlos Ortiz won his first Tour title at the Panama Claro Championship; Our exceptions for the week? Marcelo Rozo closed out his 54-hole lead for another NEC Series-PGA TOUR Latinoamérica win at the TransAmerican Power Products CRV Open, and Rikako Morita did likewise at the JLPGA's T-Point Ladies. (The Constructivist has details on that last one.)

Every gets his due from the King

I have a book called Wild at Heart, in which author John Eldridge says that every man eventually asks himself one question: "Do I have what it takes?"

Matt Every doesn't have to ask that question anymore. Every has been runner-up a couple of times before but hasn't been quite able to get the job done. Sunday he finally did it by beating out two major champions and his own nerves. In fact, he was the only player in the last 2 groups to break par, despite his struggles over the last few holes as he became aware that he was no longer the pursuer but the pursued.

Here's his after-tournament interview with PGATOUR Radio, where he discusses those tough shots coming in:

Every becomes only the 2nd Big Break alum to win on the PGA Tour. (Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey is the other, of course.) Perhaps it's appropriate that he finally broke through at the King's tournament since that was the first event he ever attended as a child. He cried when he won... but the smile in the photo with Arnie says it all, doesn't it?

This wraps up a wild Florida Swing. You have to hand it to Gary Williams on Sunday's Morning Drive who, when his cohorts picked either Scott or Bradley to win, noted that none of the eventual winners had been the favorites going into the final round... and then said he was betting on Matt Every to take the title.

As Every prepares for his first trip to Augusta, I offer up this little Limerick Summary for the newest of the new blood to make their mark this season:
I guess you can call him an Everyman.
People wondered, “When things don’t go quite to plan
And the stress makes him quake,
Can he seize his Big Break?”
That’s a question no more, folks. Matt Every can.
The photo came from the tournament wrap-up page at

Sunday, March 23, 2014

He Said, She Said

Have you heard about the unrest that's been brewing between the LPGA players and the USGA concerning the back-to-back PGA-LPGA majors at Pinehurst this summer? If not, you must have been asleep for a few months.

If you've been confused about the reasons behind it, Beth Ann Nichols did an article for Golfweek a few days back that explains it very well.

5th hole at Pinehurst #2

Here's the basic arguing point: The women seem to like the basic idea of back-to-back US Opens as a publicity tool, but they thought they would be playing Pinehurst first instead of second and are concerned about the course being "divoted up" by the time they get there. So Mike Whan called in USGA Executive Director (and Chief Setup Dude) Mike Davis this week to explain the logic behind the decision... and apparently many of the women don't buy it. The article Nichols wrote is the first I've seen to explain that logic.

Davis says, "Plain and simple, it has everything to do with the agronomics.” He says it's much easier to make the green speeds match if the women go second. (The greens will have to watered more for the women to make them receptive to their shots, which come in lower with less spin.) You can understand that.

The women, however, are upset about the thousands of divots the men will dig out of the course. You can understand that as well.

Nichols also quotes Stacy Lewis as saying that too much of the USGA plan depends on the weather... and the women aren't so sure they like that. Again, you can understand the skepticism. (Hey, I live in North Carolina. The weather has been rather... eccentric during the last few years.)

Let's get one thing clear: The controversy is going to continue until both US Opens have been held. We'll just have to see how everything turns out. But at least you now know what all the hubbub is about.

You can thank Beth Ann Nichols for that. Thanks, Beth!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Is Your Golf Swing Causing Back Problems?

One thing I meant to include in yesterday's post -- but forgot -- was what I heard about Tiger's back. The word is that Tiger has a bulging disc that doesn't require surgery. That's good news because it means Tiger may be able to manage the pain, even get rid of it for periods of time, if he finds ways to take the strain off his back.

Tiger driving

That's where this post from Golf Digest's Instruction Blog comes in. Dr. Jim Suttie wrote a new post Friday called Guys Who Swing Like Tiger Don't Last and it has some interesting thoughts for golfers who want to avoid back problems. I want to bring it to your attention because I recently started making similar changes to my own golf swing to try and head off future back problems.

Suttie has been on both Golf Magazine and Golf Digest's Top Teacher lists for a long time, has been a PGA National Teacher of the Year, and he has a PhD in biomechanics. Oh yes, and he has a six-inch steel rod and seven screws in his back, largely because of his golf swing.

Suttie's basic premise in the article is simple:
"The essential elements of the 'modern' swing -- a steep shoulder turn, restricted hip turn and lots of leg drive -- don't lend themselves to longevity."
He lists a number of players past and present who swing this way and suffer back problems. He then tells what his advice to Tiger and other such players would be. (He also notes that Sean Foley has probably explained this to Tiger, but Tiger has always swung this way. It would certainly explain why Tiger has struggled with some of Foley's techniques.)

Let me add that making the changes Suttie suggests -- which basically amounts to using some of the techniques from the old classic swing, like allowing your lead foot to come off the ground during your backswing so your hips can turn more freely -- won't guarantee that you won't have back problems. However, they are techniques that certainly reduce the stress on your lower back. Players like Sam Snead and Tom Watson have stayed competitive for a long time using that kind of swing.

And while Suttie suggests that his changes would make Tiger lose some distance, I'm not so sure they would. After all, Henrik Stenson is one of the longest hitters on Tour and he has more of a classic swing. (Check out some of Pete Cowen's students. Most of them do.) Here, take a look at this video:

The article isn't terribly long but it's a good informative read. The changes Suttie suggests don't require any major overhaul to your swing. And, in addition to putting less strain on your back, they just might help you swing with better rhythm. It's worth your time to take a quick look at Suttie's advice. Trust me on this one.

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Kinder, Gentler Bay Hill?

First Jason Day withdrew from Bay Hill with hand problems. Then Tiger Woods withdrew with more back spasms. And after a first round of 83, Bubba Watson withdrew with allergies.

All of them must be wondering what course Adam Scott is playing.

Adam Scott

Scott tied the course record with a 10-under 62, a record that has stood for 30 years. According to the wrap-up, only Andy Bean in 1981 and Greg Norman in 1984 have ever shot 62 at Bay Hill. And Adam did it despite having flu-like symptoms.

Do I really need to add that he's the 18-hole leader? He really should play Bay Hill more often!

I imagine most of the field is in shock. After all, Bay Hill rarely gives up low scores -- at least, not to anyone but Tiger. The article mentions that one caddie asked Adam what he shot and, upon being told, he said, "Is there a 10-shot rule when you haven't teed off?"

But the guy who really caught my eye on the leaderboard was Ryo Ishikawa. He, along with John Merrick, is at -7. Despite missing some cuts this season, he's got one runner-up finish and may be starting to round into form for Augusta. I'll definitely be watching him for the next few weeks.

Adam is clearly the favorite since Tiger isn't there... and especially NOW, after this first round. And if he should win and neither he nor Tiger play before the Masters, I understand that Adam would take over #1 in the OWGR the week of the Masters.

But here's what you should be watching for: They aren't expecting any wind to speak of at Bay Hill this week. Despite the greens still being fairly firm, they can be attacked. Will the field be able to readjust their tactics in time to post some low scores?

More to the point, could the tournament record fall this year? In 1987 Payne Stewart set the aggregate record of 264 (that was -20 on a par-71 setup) while the record-to-par is -23 (265 on a par-72 setup) by Buddy Allin in 1973.

This is one time when ignorance may truly be bliss. Since Adam hasn't played this event in a while, he may not have the cautious mindset of the other players. And since his caddie Steve Williams was on Tiger's bag for "a few" of Tiger's 8 wins, Adam's got all the inside info he needs.

Might want to stay sick for a few more days, Adam. It appears Bay Hill might have a soft spot for you. ;-)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

...But the Cash Is Real Now

While folks over at the Arnold Palmer Invitational are hunting for a favorite now that Tiger's out with a bad back, things are considerably more upbeat out in Phoenix.

Back in 2011 when that tournament debuted as the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, a three-round event with an "imaginary" purse that counted on player's money totals but not in their bank accounts -- all the proceeds went to charity -- many people laughed at "Whan's Folly." Now, with a $1,500,000 purse, 4 full rounds, and a new sponsor (ironically, a South Korean broadcaster that was also launched in 2011), the JTBC Founders Cup is on the map.

And check this out: Not only is it the first American event of the year but, according to Tony Jesselli's preview, it boasts the strongest field of 2014 so far. Not bad for a poor business decision, eh?

Paula Creamer

It will be interesting to see how Paula Creamer does this week. (The photo is from Brad Guice's photography site -- along with a very impressive portfolio of movers and shakers in sports, TV, etc. Check it out!) Paula is coming off her victory at the HSBC Women's Champions, her first victory since the 2010 US Womens Open. The ABC News site posted this article about Paula and the Founders Cup, noting that the HSBC winner has followed that with a win at the Founders Cup in both 2011 (Karrie Webb) and 2013 (Stacy Lewis).

GC's coverage starts today at 6:30pm ET.

In a somewhat-related note, I'd also like to refer you to the Constructivist's post about the Kraft Nabisco Championship losing its sponsor after this April. (You can also read more details at this Golfweek article from last week.) Nevertheless, Mike Whan says the first major of the year will remain at Dinah's Place.

At least, that's his intent. He's proven his ability to create something out of nothing, but I'm not holding my breath that he can get this done in time for next year's event.

As I have written several times before, I thought Whan made the Evian a major because he saw this coming. At the very least, he has ensured that there will be 4 women's majors in 2015 even if no sponsor can be found for the Dinah. (I agree with TC that they should officially go back to calling it the Dinah.)

That's TWO "foolish" moves Mike Whan has made that have proven to be extremely farsighted. It'll be interesting to see what he does next.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Monty on Trajectory

I'm always on the lookout for new ways of making the basics easier to use, and today I have a really unique approach to trajectory. In fact, it's so simple that I'm amazed I didn't stumble across it sooner.

I am a great believer that controlling trajectory is more important that controlling shot shape. I know that goes against what a lot of instructors teach but as long as you can hit one consistent shot shape, you can play most courses. You may have to lay up at a sharp dogleg that bends the wrong way for your shot shape. Big deal -- that's easy enough to do.

However, unless you can hit your shot higher or lower when you need to, you won't be able to hit under trees or over obstacles. You won't be able to keep the ball low into a wind or hit it high to take advantage of a tailwind. In my book, controlling trajectory is the more useful skill.

On Tuesday night's Golf Channel Academy Colin Montgomerie had an amazingly simple approach to trajectory that you can use RIGHT NOW, without any practice whatsoever. I was blown away by the simplicity of it.

Colin Montgomerie

Are you ready for this?
  • When you need a high trajectory, hit your normal full shot. The spin imparted to the ball will make it go high.
  • When you need a low trajectory, hit a shot at less than full power -- in other words, hit a knockdown shot. You won't get as much spin on the ball so it will fly lower.
Now obviously when you hit that knockdown shot it won't go as far as the full shot, so you take a longer club to get the distance you need.

And it follows that when you're hitting downwind you'll hit the full shot, and when you're hitting into the wind you'll hit the knockdown shot.

Here's an interesting fact: When hitting into the wind, Monty pointed out that the knockdown shot will travel farther than the full shot even if you use the same club with both shots. That's because the extra spin on the full shot will cause the ball to balloon into the air and fall short.

And do you want to know what makes this such an incredible tip? In order to adjust your trajectory this way, you don't have to alter your setup or ball position one little bit! You just set up normally and hit your full or knockdown shot.

Like I said, it's dirt simple and almost foolproof. What more can you ask for from a golf tip? Thank you, Monty!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Of Majors and Cups

Just need to make sure you're aware of a couple of developments from Monday.

Jason Day

First, Jason Day's thumb continues to be a problem. He has withdrawn from the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week and will probably shut it down completely until the Masters. As I understand it, he has been able to hit short game shots -- putts, chips, pitches -- but when he got to Bay Hill and tried to hit full shots, he couldn't do it. In fact, he said he was extremely frustrated because he was flinching before he ever hit the ball -- he knew it was going to hurt, despite having it well-wrapped.

You can read Golfweek's announcement here for more details. Although Jason has had the thumb checked out and they say there's no damage -- so rest should be enough to heal it -- this isn't good news so close to Augusta. He is definitely one of the favorites there if he can play.

Julie Inkster at Solheim

The other announcement -- which is going to be made official today -- is that Julie Inkster will be the 2015 US Solheim Cup captain in Germany. And she's already announced that Pat Hurst will be her assistant captain (at least, her first one). Golf Digest has noted that this isn't all that dissimilar from the PGA picking Tom Watson for this year's Ryder Cup captain, since Julie's 53 and has a lot of Solheim Cup experience -- including her recent stint as a playing assistant.

You can get further details from these articles at and This announcement will probably be received by the LPGA players much the same way Watson's was received by the PGA Tour players -- with ecstatic applause.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 Valspar Championship

Winner: John Senden

Around the wider world of golf: It was a fairly busy weekend. Fred Couples won the Toshiba Classic on the Champions Tour; Charley Hull got her first win at the Lalla Meryem Cup on the LET; Richard Lee won the Solaire Open on the Asian Tour; Alejandro Cañizares won the Trophée Hassan II on the ET; and Jon Curran won the Brasil Champions on the Tour.

John Senden

I have one thing in common with Indiana Jones. It isn't the endless trail of women who follow in his wake, the number of people who want him dead (at least, not that I'm aware of), the amount of punishment he takes in the course of his job, or even the vast number of valuable objects that slip through his fingers.

No, the one thing I have in common with Indiana Jones is that I don't like snakes. That's doubly true of the poisonous ones... like copperheads.

However, it appears that John Senden has no problem with snakes whatsoever. Nor does he have any real problem with heavy winds or thick sticky rough and brush. Perhaps this is because he comes from Australia, where golfers frequently have to deal with deadly snakes in thick rough while resisting strong winds -- or so I am told.

After his exhibition in Sunday's final round, I'm willing to believe it. While virtually every other golfer on the course seemed eager to take as many strokes as possible, perhaps hoping to beat the Copperhead Course into submission, Senden got himself under par on the front nine and then managed an even-par back nine. Only Kevin Na managed any real challenge -- a surprise to almost everyone, I bet -- but he lost too many strokes on the front to overcome with his surge on the back.

Of course, John Senden wasn't on most people's radar either. He hadn't won since the 2006 Steve Stricker Annuity Class-- excuse me, John Deere Classic although he had scored a few runner-up finishes. Ironically, 2 of those were at the Valspar. (Although in 2007 and 2008 it was called the PODS Championship.)

This time around the snake killer came out victorious and will presumably wear a stylish snakeskin belt when he gets to this year's Masters. So let's all salute his return to the winner's circle after 8 long years with his very own Limerick Summary. I promise it won't bite:
Shots slithered around in the wind
And taut nerves made it hard to contend.
But John Senden faced both
(Plus some thick undergrowth!)
And he’ll soon face Augusta again.
The photo came from the wrap-up page at

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Age Is Just a Score

Hardly a week goes by that somebody in the golf media doesn't say, "The ball doesn't know how old you are." I always laugh when I hear that because, while it's true, I know that not a damn one of 'em believes it. If they did, they wouldn't be so shocked when one of the older players -- translation: a player over 40 -- plays well.

On Saturday, Tom Watson made their jaws drop in surprise once again. For the first time, Tom bettered his age with an 8-under 63. (Tom is 64.) He said it was because he sank a lot of putts.

Tom Watson at Toshiba

But more than just his putting is working this week. In case you missed it, check out this short game shot from Round 1 that hit the pin on the par-3 8th and stopped a mere foot from the pin... after he chipped it backwards.

Tom moved up 43 spots to T12, just 5 shots behind Bernhard Langer (who posted his own 63 in the first round, btw).

And as if that wasn't enough, Hale Irwin also beat his age -- by 2 strokes. He shot a 5-under 66 at the ripe old age of 67... and this was his third time beating his age.

At some point, I guess the media will finally catch on a little secret: Although golf can be played in a very athletic manner, you don't have to be 6'4" tall and have a 120mph club head speed to score well.

And once the older guys start to believe it themselves, at least one of them is going to shatter the record for the oldest player to win a major. That record is held by Julius Boros, who won the 1968 PGA Championship at 48 years, 4 months, 18 days old. Tom nearly won the Open Championship at age 59.

Like age, it's just a matter of time.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Laura Davies in the Hunt in Morocco

The Constructivist is covering the LET's Lalla Meryem Cup over on his blog, and he is rightfully focusing on Ariya Jutanugarn (who has the lead after the second round) and the younger players who are fighting it out for the lead.

But I'm an old guy so I'm going to focus on the "old lady" in the field -- Laura Davies.

Laura Davies in Morocco

You see, Laura is playing some of the best golf we've seen from her in a while. She's currently at -5 (T4), 3 shots off Ariya's lead. But her stats say she's playing some great golf. She has 7 birdies against 2 bogeys, and she's hitting 86% of her fairways and 94% of her greens. (That's 34 out of 36 greens.) Those are just amazing stats for someone who is typically as wild off the tee as Laura!

Although they only have Ariya's stats for the first round, she hit 43% of her fairways and 78% of her greens in that round. So why is she beating Laura? In a word, putting. Laura's averaging 33 putts per round while Ariya took 25 in the first round.

Here's a short interview Laura did after the second round:

Laura blames her putting as well. It's been her bugaboo for quite a while.

But she's playing well otherwise and Laura has always been a streaky putter. If she could just get a little warm on the greens -- and if Ariya keeps missing fairways and greens -- she could steal this tournament. And she has some extra motivation because she needs the Solheim Cup points.

I for one will be checking in to see how Laura does. This could be a great story in the making!

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Old Guys Tee It Up Again

While the ladies on the LET are playing in Morocco this week (just like the ET), I haven't shown the Champions Tour much love yet this season so let's take a look at them today. (You can keep up with the ladies over at Mostly Harmless and at the LET website.)

Duffy Waldorf

After about a month's hiatus the Champions Tour is back in action at the Toshiba Classic in Newport Beach, CA. Toshiba is the longest-running sponsor on the Champions Tour and has recently renewed their contract through 2017, so this is comfortable ground for the players.

And perhaps because of that, the big names tend to show up for this event. The winners of the 3 events so far this season -- Bernhard Langer, Michael Allen, and Kirk Triplett -- are all in the field, as are Fred Couples, Tom Watson, Hal Sutton (back after heart surgery), Kenny Perry, Craig Stadler, Hale Irwin, and Rocco Mediate, among others.

I should also mention that David Frost is defending.

Duffy Waldorf (pictured above) is also playing, and he's my pick to win it this week. Duffy wasn't qualified for the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai (their Tournament of Champions) to start the year, but he lost in a playoff at Allianz and came in T2 at the ACE Group. I'm figuring he's about due for a win!

GC will start broadcasting tonight from 6:30pm-9:30pm ET, which probably means a LIVE broadcast. (There's a 3-hour time difference between the East and West Coasts of the US.)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Loft Down in the Bunker

No doubt you've heard the "Loft UP" commercials, telling you how the new adjustable drivers almost require you to use more loft to get the ball flying further.

Well, I've got a video here from Shawn Humphries at advising you to loft DOWN for bunker shots:

Although this may sound somewhat strange, it's right in line with the "easier to hit short shot" techniques that are being taught more frequently now. You're often advised to chip with a 9-iron -- and sometimes with as much as a 7-iron -- to get better results with your chipping. (The "taller" faces of these clubs make it easier to get solid contact.) And the logic is the same with this sand shot tip.

When you use a less-lofted club -- Shawn recommends a 52-degree wedge but I would recommend even trying a 9-iron if the sand is fairly soft -- you don't have to swing as hard to get distance, so it's easier to hit the sand where you mean to hit it.

But in this video Shawn points out that he didn't hit the shot quite the way he intended but he still got a decent result. The "taller" face of the less-lofted wedge is less likely to go right underneath the ball, especially in soft sand, so you have a better chance of getting the ball out with a less-than-perfect shot. And when you use a less-lofted club, you also create more bounce when you open the face... and bounce is the key to good sand shots.

So when you end up in a greenside trap, don't automatically grab that 60-degree wedge. Unless you have to get the ball up really quick from a deep bunker, you may get a better result using less loft.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sean Foley Drops the Ball... Literally!

I found this Sean Foley video over at Golf Digest and I just had to pass it on. (It's brand new for the April 2014 issue.) This is a drill that I've mentioned several times on the blog -- typically using a basketball -- but this video really gives you a good sense of how it works.

Please note that Sean is stopping at various points to emphasize the moves. When you actually do this drill, you want to do it in one smooth motion. Do it slowly at first, then speed up as you get used to the feel of it. You can practice this drill in the backyard without a golf ball as well as using it for hitting shots on the range. (Obviously you'll need a basketball or something similar whether you're hitting a golf ball or not!)

Let me take a moment to explain why I am so big on this drill and periodically repeat it.
  • The slight squatting motion ensures that you start shifting your weight onto your lead foot as you start down.
  • As a result, you start using your feet properly early in your downswing.
  • The forward movement of your lead knee helps your lead hip start moving out of the way, promoting a better turn.
  • The squat gets your body moving slightly downward. Many of you straighten your knees and stand up as you begin your downswing. This move helps you stop "lifting your head" by focusing your mind on your knees -- that's where the real problem is.
  • Since you're moving downward, you've started the downswing in a way that promotes hitting down on the ball. That's a necessary fundamental for proper contact.
  • For those of you who want to "use the ground" and move upward as you hit the ball (when it's on a tee, that is), this move gets you into a position where you can do that.
  • It helps prevent the reverse pivot some of you are struggling with.
That's why I keep recommending this drill. Give it a try, okay?

Click the link at the beginning of the post if the video isn't embedded like it's supposed to be.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Has the Major Picture Changed?

Back in January I took an early look at possible major contenders this year. Things have changed a bit since then -- Jimmy Walker has picked up a third win, for example, as has Patrick Reed while some other players are dealing with injuries. With only 4 tournaments left between now and the Masters:
  1. the Valspar Championship
  2. the Arnold Palmer Invitational
  3. the Valero Texas Open
  4. the Shell Houston Open
I feel that it's appropriate to reassess the landscape and see how our expectations may have to change in the next month.

Scott wins 2013 Masters

Our first consideration is injuries. Justin Rose is still dealing with a shoulder injury, Tiger's back injury has become more of an issue, and both Nick Watney (back injury) and Jason Day (thumb injury) withdrew from WGC-Cadillac. Dr. Ara Suppiah, a doctor who works with several of the tour pros (though not Tiger), told GC that he was certain Tiger was following all of the protocols this kind of injury required and that Tiger would have enough time for his back to heal before Augusta.

Personally, I find Jason Day's injury to be the most worrisome of the bunch. I've found nothing about his status and, while a player might be able to play through back spasms, a thumb injury can shut that player down completely and require surgery. Given his win since my earlier post and how well he was playing, this could seriously change the complexion of things at Augusta if he can't play.

Bubba Watson's resurgence also changes what we might expect. After being MIA for most of the last two years, Bubba picked up a win at Riviera plus 2 runner-ups and a T3 in his last few events. He's starting to look like the guy who won the 2012 Masters again! That's good news.

Jimmy Walker's third win also puts him in the role of a favorite with many folks. He's been a bit too erratic for me to do so but, given his length off the tee and his ability to handle pressure, he could certainly factor into this Masters.

However, for me the biggest change is the number of young players (under 25 years old) who we've seen qualify for Augusta in the last few months, and especially in the last month or so. Patrick Reed has picked up a couple of wins, of course, but we've also seen Russell Henley and Harris English get back into the winner's circles. In addition to these 3 players, according to this December 16 listing at Yahoo! Sports, we've got some other under-25s already qualified to compete (and I may have missed some):
  • Thorbjorn Olesen
  • John Huh
  • Derek Ernst
  • Jordan Spieth
  • Hideki Matsuyama
  • Victor Dubuisson
  • Matteo Manassero
And of course there's Rory McIlroy. And these are just the under-25s! Rickie Fowler and Branden Grace are already 25, Jason Day's 26, and Billy Horschel and Sang-Moon Bae are 27, just to give you an idea of how much youth is in this field. AND THE FIELD ISN'T COMPLETE YET!

Here's my point: The typical Masters champion's average age is 32. (Adam Scott was 32 and Bubba was 33, in case you didn't know.) But I think you can make a good case that this year we will have a very young winner, perhaps even a player making his first appearance at the Masters. Other than the very first Masters, only Fuzzy Zoeller ever accomplished that task.

I'm unwilling to make any picks yet -- in particular, I want to see what kind of shape Jason Day and Tiger are in when we get to Augusta. But I think we could be in for a huge shock when this year's winner slips on that green jacket.

At least, that's how it looks to me with 4 weeks yet to go.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Limerick Summary: 2014 WGC-Cadillac Championship

Winner: Patrick Reed

Around the wider world of golf: Inbee Park blitzed the field at the World Ladies Championship on the LET (no surprise, Korea also won the team portion of the event -- the Constructivist has details); Onnarin Sattayabanphot won the Daikin Orchid Ladies on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has details on this one too); Chesson Hadley won the Puerto Rico Open, the alternate event on the PGA Tour; and Adam Hadwin won the Chile Classic on the Tour.

Patrick Reed stares down a shot

Patrick Reed stirred up some controversy when he said he was a Top5 player during a couple of interviews. Understand, he didn't say he would be a Top5 player someday; he said he is one. Aaron Olberholser and Johnny Miller -- among others -- said it was okay to think that way but that he shouldn't be saying it. It's going to ruffle some feathers.

By the same token, Pat Reed isn't just blowing smoke. With his win this week at the WGC-Cadillac he moves up to #3 in FedExCup points, #20 in the OWGR, becomes the youngest-ever winner of a WGC, and posts his 3rd win in 7 months. And of course one of those is a WGC against the best in the world (plus he beat Rory Jordan Spieth in a playoff at the Wyndham for his first win). That's why he's jumped up into a 3-way tie for 4th in my RGWR. (So he's in my Top5, anyway.)

And it's clear he's learning as he goes. After the 3rd round at the Humana (remember the three 63s?) he said he was going to play agressively but changed his mind on the way in to the 4th round; that nearly cost him. This time he did play aggressively and although he struggled -- didn't everybody? That fact was lost on the announcers -- he did get the job done. And let's not ignore the fact that, having had the 54-hole lead 3 times, he's won every one of them. Maybe he really IS a Top5 player.

One thing's for sure: If he keeps going at this rate, he very soon will be.

And so a brash young 23-year-old wins the coveted Limerick Summary this week. Did I mention that it's his 3rd Limerick Summary in 7 months? At least if he keeps on talking I'll have something to write about!
His bravado may make some folks cringe
But he’s well on his way with three wins.
Is he really Top Five?
Patrick thinks it’s no jive…
Nor may we, if he stays on this binge!
The photo came from the wrap-up page at

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Guess Who's Back on the Leaderboard?

I wasn't planning to write about the WGC-Cadillac today... but this is turning out to be just too good to ignore. (Note to self: Send Donald Trump a thank-you note.)

The wind died down for the third round, although it changed direction for the third day as well. (Unless something changes, today's round will see wind from yet a fourth direction -- something unusual at Doral before the removal of so many trees.) The field's scoring average dropped nearly 3.5 strokes from Friday's 76. A lot of balls still went in the water, but it was generally due to poor shots -- players were starting to play Doral more like a links course and seeing some success.

And yet only 5 players finished under par, compared with 4 on Friday. And guess who one of them was...

Tiger sinks another one

Tiger's charge up the leaderboard early in the round got the media in a festive mood. eagerly announced Tiger Woods Shoots Scorching 66, Will Compete for Doral Title Sunday while proudly proclaimed PGA Tour: Tiger Woods Tames Blue Monster with 66 at Doral. (the source of the photo above) went all Jason Dufner on us and enthusiastically offered an understated Tiger Woods back in it after 66.

But all jokes aside, it was certainly newsworthy. Tiger's 66 -- 8 birdies and 2 bogeys -- was the best of only 9 sub-70 rounds on a day where Doral was there for the taking. He leapt over 21 players to grab a T4. But he also seemed to pick up right where he left off last Saturday at Honda before back problems derailed him on Sunday. To be only 3 out of the lead (-1) is no small deal after the start of Tiger's year so far.

On top of the heap (-4) is one of the guys from my Final Four at the Accenture, Patrick Reed. (Clearly I was a WGC early. My bad.) How Patrick will fare with the Big Cat playing in the pairing ahead of him remains to be seen, but I suspect his experience at Humana (where he barely hung on to win after shooting three 63s) will help him here. Patrick is currently the youngest player with 2 PGA Tour wins; he has a serious chance to make it 3 today.

Likewise, you've got to like Dufner's chances. He's done the major win thing before; unlike Reed, he's used to playing against a stiff field like this. He's only two off the lead at -2.

Hunter Mahan also sits at -2 and has won WGCs before. But I have to admit I have my doubts about his ability to finish this one off. It's not his mental toughness; he just seems to be a bit wilder than normal with his drives and approaches this week.

And rounding out the under-pars is Jamie Donaldson, the unnoticed member of today's Fab Five. Donaldson, from Wales, has 2 wins on the European Tour, is #6 in the Race to Dubai and #30 in the OWGR. He managed to post 70 in that nasty weather on Friday, the best of the day, so don't sleep on his chances.

Of course, these aren't the only guys with a chance to avoid getting fired at Trump's Playground today. But they're certainly the most likely... and you've got to think that seeing Mr. Sunday Red in the penultimate group is going to make it a lot more exciting than it's been in a while.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Monster Once Again

They've complained that the Blue Monster had become too easy, they being the media and many of the Tour players. There's an old saying: "Be careful what you ask for. You just might get it."

Let's just say they're unlikely to complain anymore. After 2 rounds only 4 players are under par... just by one stroke, but they're under par. Those four are Hunter Mahan, Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, and Patrick Reed (pictured below).

Patrick Reed

Tim Rosaforte at GC reported that architect Gil Hanse spent most of the day with his head in his hands, frustrated with the way the course was playing. He shouldn't have felt so bad -- the greens hadn't had time to settle in because of the time frame for the redo, so they were a bit hard. Perhaps the banks shouldn't have been mown so closely but it's hard to plan for unexpected 30mph winds. Once the greens have some time to age, the course will probably need very few tweaks.

Reportedly, Donald Trump enjoyed the carnage immeasurably. After all, hadn't everybody lamented that the Monster had lost its teeth? It's ba-a-a-a-ack! Trump wanted a major-quality course and he got it.

Best of all, the Monster is an equal opportunity devourer.

The Top10 on the leaderboard are separated by only 3 strokes, and they represent a cross-section of Tour players -- the Blue Monster didn't favor long hitters over short hitters. Bubba and DJ find themselves in a battle with Francesco Molinari and Zach Johnson. I'd say that's a pretty fair layout, even if the setup was tough.

The water swallowed up 113 balls, yet there were birdies to be had. Tiger made 5 birdies in 6 holes while Phil made 3 doubles in 3 holes, yet both sit at +5 and very much in the mix.

And in case you missed it, here's the 91-foot putt Tiger made -- the longest on Tour in 5 years:

The wind is supposed to be down the rest of the weekend, so perhaps the scores will be better. But I can understand why the Donald is so happy...

The Tour wanted the Blue Monster back. Trump gave them what they asked for. And Henrik Stenson may have best summed up the way most of them wanted to thank him: "How do you say something you might regret the rest of your life?"

Friday, March 7, 2014

Playing to Hard Greens

While watching the WGC-Cadillac Thursday it became glaringly obvious that even the pros have trouble playing to hard greens. In some ways it was reassuring to see them getting upset over good shots that didn't end up good -- after all, we've all been there.

Still, it got me thinking about the best way to play hard greens. We'll start at the green and work our way back.

Obviously the putter is your best friend when you're on a hard green or just off the edge. Since it's hard to get any spin on the ball when you hit it, it makes putting a safer bet than chipping.

Moving back from the green a bit... I found a new tip from Butch Harmon on the Golf Digest site about how to hit high pitches that land softly. Essentially it's about using your lead hand to control the club face -- turning your knuckles up at impact to keep the face open and hit it high, turning them down toward the ground for a running shot.

Even if you don't manipulate the club like Butch suggests, focusing on lead hand control makes sense. That's the hand that's farthest away from the club head, so it allows the head to swing most freely. The club behaves most like a pendulum that way; once you get the feel of the swing's rhythm, it's easier to hit any high shot accurately. (And remember that all high shots, whether flops or full approach shots, are a bit easier if you have a little grass under the ball.) But you'll have to practice if you want to hit a decent flop shot -- there's no quick fix.

Butch Harmon

When you have to hit an approach from the fairway -- especially if there's a bunker or pond in the way -- you have to make some choices. Again, as the pros at Doral proved, even the best players have trouble with hard greens when you've got to carry a hazard. We mere mortals need a few tricks.

You may have seen Victor Dubuisson roll the ball around a front bunker early in the round, which the announcers called a links shot. Victor demonstrated three ideas you can use:
  1. the bump-and-run shot, popular on links courses but you'll need a reasonably firm fairway to make it work
  2. choosing your approach angle -- if you can go around trouble, you have more options
  3. using the terrain to your advantage -- Victor didn't fire straight at the green, he aimed for a slope at the side
If you simply have to go over a hazard, you might consider laying up short so you can use a wedge to attack the green. More loft equals a higher shot, making it a bit easier to stop the ball. Also, because the shot is shorter, you don't need as much club head speed so the ball won't run so far after it lands.

One other possibility besides landing the ball short of the green and bouncing it on -- a dicey situation if the green is hard but the fairway is soft -- is to hit a higher shot. You set up with the ball more forward in your stance -- an inch ahead of your normal position is probably enough -- open the club face and try to hit a high cut. You want to try and catch the ball right at the bottom of your swing arc. Again, you'll need a bit of cushion under the ball to pull that one off.

Of course, sometimes getting a good result on hard greens is just a matter of luck, no matter what you do. But at least you can console yourself with the knowledge that the pros have the same problem -- they just get paid for having it. ;-)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Storylines at WGC-Cadillac

There are a lot of good storylines to follow this week at the WGC-Cadillac. I wanted a good photo of the course to show you, but this one from is the best one I could find that would allow me to link it here. (You can see some gorgeous views at this Google page.)

Doral course photo

You can also download a PDF of the course layout from this page at It might help you keep up with where everybody is. It's near the bottom of the page under "Course Info."

OK, here's what we're looking out for this week:
  • Of course, the biggest story is probably Tiger's back. He didn't play any practice rounds but his caddie Joe Lacava charted the course changes Tuesday and Tiger walked all 18 on Wednesday, trying to visualize the new lines and do some chipping and putting. Despite his record at Doral, Notah Begay said Tiger was surprised by how dramatically the changes affect the way he'll play the course. So this could be very interesting.
  • The changes themselves will be a big story. Some players (like Jason Day) have already been there for a week trying to learn the changes. Gil Hanse said they were happy with what they did but they would access the course after the tournament to see if any tweaking was needed. Golf Digest has an article called 7 Things Gil Hanse Would Have You Know about the New Blue Monster; one of the most interesting (to me anyway) was that the original designer's plans weren't really followed so Hanse tried to incorporate as much of them as he could.
  • If Adam Scott wins and Tiger does no better than 6th (or a tie for 6th, I can't remember) then Adam moves to #1 on the OWGR. [CORRECTION: Tiger has to finish outside the top 6. I was close!]
  • Adam, Tiger, and Henrik Stenson are all paired together for the first two rounds. It will be interesting to see how Tiger and Henrik deal with their injuries while playing with a very healthy Adam.
  • Victor Dubuisson accepted his special PGA Tour membership so he'll get unlimited exemptions to try and get his card for next season. He starts that quest this week at Doral.
  • Jason Day and Rory McIlroy will both be big stories to watch as well. Rory tries to regroup after not winning at Honda (although I don't think it bothers him all that much) and Jason tries for back-to-back WGCs. [UPDATE: Jason has withdrawn with a thumb injury.]
And while it's not really a storyline, I think it's interesting that the WGC-Cadillac is at Trump National Doral in Miami and the PGA Tour's alternate field event -- the Puerto Rico Open -- is at Trump International Golf Course - Puerto Rico in Rio Grande. Just an interesting fact.

The WGC coverage begins today at noon ET on GC. And, if you're interested, the Puerto Rico Open is at 6:30pm ET. (You Jhonattan Vegas and John Daly fans will definitely want to catch that one.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

This Week's LET Event

Although the LPGA isn't playing this week, the LET is... and, surprise, surprise! GC is carrying some of the broadcasts.

The event is the World Ladies Championship at Mission Hills in China. You can read more about it in this article at the LET website.

amateur Minjee Lee

Remember how upset I was that YouTube didn't carry the last LET event that was publicized? Well, IceCat noted in the comments that GC held the North American rights to the broadcast and it appeared that they blocked it. This time it looks like they intend to carry the live YouTube broadcast themselves.

The event is an unusual one, best summed up by this paragraph from the article I mentioned earlier:
The World Ladies Championship is unique in professional golf in that it consists of three events in one – an individual professional competition, a professional team championship in which 18 countries are represented by teams of two, and an individual amateur tournament.
GC will be carrying the final 2 rounds -- the same ones YouTube is broadcasting -- on Saturday and Sunday (March 8th & 9th) from 6am-9am ET. (The YouTube listing is from 5:30am-8:30am GMT, if you're in an area that gets them.) And here's the page where you can find all the different leaderboards.

At least this time we get to see the rounds when they happen. If we're awake, that is.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Drill from Sam Snead

Perhaps you heard the guys at GC comparing Russell Henley's swing to that of the legendary Sam Snead before Henley teed off on Sunday. Well, "Slammin' Sam" was one of the big hitters of his day... and pretty accurate too. (Bear in mind that the total wins record Tiger is chasing belongs to Snead.) You could do a lot worse than copy some of Snead's action.

Snead swing sequence

So I have gathered a couple of videos to help you learn some of Sam's moves. The first here comes from and Top100 teacher Mike Perpich. It will teach you a versatile little drill that can help you get a better turn and better position at the top of your backswing.

The reason you lay the club on your shoulder when you start the drill is so you'll eliminate the upper body tension that can restrict your shoulder turn. This way, as Mike says, you get a true indication of how flexible you are.

That video was posted in late January. Ironically, Martin Hall and Holly Sonders posted a School of Golf video that included the same drill (along with a couple of other tips) back in October. It's the second of three Snead tips in this video. I find it interesting that Martin doesn't recommend hitting balls with it when Mike does -- such are the preferences of different teachers! I think the drill is a good one... and while Martin may say he doesn't recommend it, the 3rd key in this video is one to help make this drill work better! So have a look at Martin's take:

Please pay attention to that 3rd key. Gripping the club with the tension in the proper fingers -- the ring and pinky fingers of the lead hand -- can help eliminate a lot of slicing problems whether you use the Snead drill or not. You'll square the club much more consistently if you grip it this way.

Even after all these years, Sam Snead is still teaching the best pros a thing or two.