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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Scott Munroe on How to Keep a Slice in Play

Golf Magazine has made a lot of its online content unavailable unless you have a subscription. (You can get to the pages but they won't respond to your mouse.) However, I keep checking things there because sometimes I find useful things that ARE available for free.

One such thing is the video at this link. In this video Top100 Teacher Scott Munroe teaches you how to keep a problematic slice in the fairway when you simply can't afford to miss. I'm going to summarize his tips here but you'll want to watch the video.

  • Tee the ball on the right side of the tee. (Obviously you lefties will tee it on the left side since your slice flies right to left.)
  • Tee the ball lower. Yeah, this may cost you a little distance but the lower ball flight makes it easier to reduce the slice and hit the ball straighter. Think stinger.
  • Aim down the left side of the fairway. (Again, you lefties will aim down the right side.)
Let me take a moment here to make sure you understand what Munroe is saying here. He is NOT saying to open your stance. If you do that, you're only going to make your slice worse.

What you want to do is take a square stance -- a stance for hitting a straight ball -- that is aimed down the side of the fairway. (Again, righties are aimed down the left side, lefties are aimed down the right.) The idea is to aim your shot so that, if you do hit the ball straight, it will land in that side of the fairway. Got it?
  • Make sure you don't have a weak grip on the club. You don't have to overdo it and turn your grip so it's superstrong. Just make sure that you can clearly see a couple of knuckles on that lead hand when you take your grip.
  • Finally, when you make your backswing be sure to get your lead shoulder back behind the ball.
Again, let's make sure you understand this. You don't want a big sway away from the ball during your backswing. You're just trying to make sure you get a good shoulder turn.

Also, when you make your downswing you don't want to hang back or slide forward ahead of the ball. If you do this whole "lead shoulder behind the ball" correctly, your upper body will stay relatively centered in your stance until you smack that ball and finish your swing with your weight balanced on your lead foot.

Practice it slowly a few times to get used to the feeling because a good shoulder turn might feel strange if you haven't been making one. Here's a good checkpoint to help you know if you're doing it correctly: Your trailing knee should be over the inside of your trailing foot when you reach the top of your backswing. You can check it by using your club shaft -- if you point it straight at the ground in front of your knee, the grip end should point at the ground and not the top of your foot.

And that's all there is to it. The main mistake to watch out for is opening your stance when you need to aim a straight stance down the side of the fairway. (Remember, opening your stance increases the slice.) If you follow these steps, they should help you start turning that slice into a nice controllable fade.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Quick Fix for 23 More Yards

Golf Digest has a new article on how most players can pick up, on average, 23 yards off the tee. That's worth a look, don't you think?

Drawing from GD Fitting article

Basically the article is recommending a driver fitting, much the same way you get fit for your irons. The best thing to do is simply read the article -- it's not overly complicated -- and follow the instructions. However, I want to pick out a couple of practical suggestions.

After testing about 150 players with a variety of swing speeds (from 60mph to 130mph) and handicaps, they said:
What we found is that the average golfer launches the ball too low, generates too much backspin and doesn't make solid contact with the center of the face. Specifically, we're not hitting it as far as we should given our respective swing speeds.
They suggest using your average driving distance to help determine if you have a problem:
What's a good estimate for your driving-distance potential? If you're not hitting it 2.5 to 2.7 times your clubhead speed, you need a better-fitting driver, a lesson, or both. This means if your swing speed is 75 miles per hour, you have the potential to hit your drive at least 185 yards. If your swing speed is 100 mph, your distance potential could be as high as 270 yards.
I'm sure you've heard instructors like Michael Breed and Martin Hall say you should make some changes that let you "swing up" with your driver swing. Without going into all the info in the article (read it!) Golf Digest says:
Simple things like shifting the ball forward in your stance, teeing it higher and swinging slightly up on the ball can dramatically change distance. A recent test by TrackMan, whose launch monitor is used on the PGA Tour, found that a swing speed of 90 miles per hour can gain about 30 yards by just swinging up on the ball.
Like I said, take a few minutes to read the article. It's well worth your time if you want to pick up some easy yardage without driving yourself nuts.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Since Tour Pros Are Such Big Sports Fans...

I found this Tuesday and just couldn't resist posting it, although *technically* it isn't golf-related. But since we always hear the PGA Tour pros discussing their favorite sports teams (and the ladies do it as well), and since we're right on the verge of March Madness -- which, for those of you who live outside the States, is what we call the NCAA college men's and women's basketball championships -- this seemed just perfect.

I'm a huge Weird Al Yankovic fan, and this is from his latest album Mandatory Fun. Rather than being a parody of a specific song, it's a parody of college fight songs simply called Sports Song. You can find a version of it on YouTube (I can't embed it because embedding has been disabled for this video) but it's better if you go to this link at the Funny or Die website anyway because they have the high-definition version of the song.

And yes, I know that they're marching on a football field but the college bands always play their teams' fight songs at the March Madness events.

Weird Al leading the marching band

As the tagline says, "'Weird Al' Yankovic doesn't need a full marching band behind him to tell you your team sucks. But it definitely doesn't hurt." Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Swing Like Hahn, James Hahn

I know a lot of you -- like me -- have been watching James Hahn for quite a while, even though he hadn't won on the big tour until this past weekend. But since he won, Golf Digest decided to post a brief analysis of his swing here. I'm posting the video below.

To be honest, his overall swing doesn't look that different from anybody else's -- not even that little drop move at the top of his downswing. The one thing I would point out is most visible in the face-on view, although you'll have to watch closely to catch it.

I want you to look at his waggle. Most weekend players think a waggle is a big movement in which the club traces part of the backswing. Not so! James actually wiggles his backside just a bit with the club head sitting on the ground behind the ball, then he moves the club head vertically up and down a few times -- not a big movement, but enough that you can see it in the video. When he starts back, the bottom of the club head is actually near the equator of the ball, then he lowers it as he swings back.

My point is that you don't have to do something big to start your backswing. As long as you have some kind of movement to keep you from "freezing" over the ball you'll find it easier to get a smoother, more relaxed takeaway.

You can be sure that little bit of movement helped James make better swings when he was putting Paul Casey and DJ away during the playoff. It's a great cure for tension and nervousness when you're standing over the ball.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

By 4:30pm ET Today...

...everybody expects Davis Love III to be named as the next US Ryder Cup Captain. In all likelihood, he will be; I have trouble believing we've gotten so much info about the choice over the last week and it would turn out to be wrong.

In case you didn't see Golf Central last night, here's Tim Rosaforte's report about what to expect. (In case the video didn't embed properly, here's the link to it at And don't be freaked out by that 45 minute time showing on the video player; Rosaforte's report is only a bit more than 3 minutes long. You don't have to watch the rest of Golf Central if you don't want to!

A few high points here:
  • Davis was unanimously voted Captain when the task force first met in December, then reaffirmed as such in the next meeting.
  • Davis will also be announced as a vice captain for the 2018 Ryder Cup -- part of the continuity the task force wants.
  • Although Paul Azinger had withdrawn his name from consideration, he has been very involved as a consultant and some version of his pod system may be the basis of the new setup.
  • Fred Couples is probably going to be a vice captain this time around.
  • Several other changes will be announced as well, including more scheduled practice time for the team.
  • And apparently the players will now be calling the shots about how the team is run, with the PGA having a voice but only a voice.
GC will be carrying the official announcement at 4:30pm ET today if you want to catch it live. I'll be interested to hear the details, if only to see how the task force intends to deal with the interruptions caused by the 2016 Olympics.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 Northern Trust Open

Winner: James Hahn

Around the wider world of golf: The Kobra strikes again! Lydia Ko won the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open on the LPGA/LET/ALPG; high schooler Hannah O’Sullivan became the youngest ever winner on the Symetra Tour when she won the Gateway Classic; and Anirban Lahiri won the Hero Indian Open on the ET/Asian Tour.

James Hahn

A little bit of rain made the Northern Trust Open oh so much more interesting.

In my opinion, those green complexes weren't meant to be stimped at 12 or 13. When you can't pitch directly onto the green, and when gentle putts from just off the front run 70 or 80 feet across the green and then 30 yards away, the greens need to be a bit softer for the contours! So I was thrilled to see players able to stop shots to the greens.

At least, they'd stop if you were hitting from the fairway... and a number of players simply couldn't hit them. The leading score slowly dropped until we had a 3-way playoff at -6, 3 shots more than when the round started, and none of the playoff contestants was closer than 4 shots off the lead when the day began.

Of course, it didn't seem like it would be much of a playoff. Dustin Johnson was cracking the ball way down the fairway, Paul Casey was methodically picking the course apart, and James Hahn had no Tour wins but a steady game. In all that rain, DJ seemed to be the prohibitive favorite, and he alone hit the first fairway, but virtually nobody faired well on the 18th all day so they all moved on with pars.

On the 10th only Casey managed to hit the fairway -- and he left the ball in the right spot, only to be knocked out by two improbable birdies from the rough.

And then on the 14th Hahn sunk a 25-foot birdie putt to crush DJ. The Player Formerly Known as That Gangnam Guy got his first PGA win on a legendary course against a decorated field.

Of course, getting that first win was the easy part. Now he has to get ready for his first child.

And so it is that James Hahn breaks through for his first PGA Tour win and, not coincidentally, his first Limerick Summary. I guess when it rains, it pours:
Hahn started the day four behind
But, though Riviera’s a grind,
He got to the playoff,
Gave Casey the brush-off
And birdied on DJ two times.
The photo came from the tournament wrap-up page at

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Leadbetter on Hybrids

David Leadbetter made the following short video for Golf Digest on how to hit hybrids properly. Basically he just says to swing a hybrid as if it were an iron, not a fairway wood, so the 4 basics he gives are a good refresher on how to hit irons as well.

The 4 basics are:
  1. Set your weight a bit more on your lead side to encourage a downward hit.
  2. Move the ball back a bit in your stance, for the same reason. Leadbetter suggests a position similar to your 7-iron.
  3. Be sure to get a full shoulder turn during your backswing.
  4. Stay down on the ball at impact. (Here's my tip: If you find yourself straightening your legs, you're probably trying to jerk the club to start the downswing. Instead, feel as if you're starting down more slowly and "hit the accelerator" when the club is near waist level.)
And remember: Leadbetter says these 4 basics will improve your hybrid play, but they should help your iron play as well.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Shaping Shots with Grip Tension and Swing Speed

This is a clip from Martin Hall's 2014 year-end show for School of Golf. (You can tell because if you look closely at the big TV screen in the background, you can see the logo for the year-end "Martini Awards" he gave out.) It focuses on a tip from Johnny Miller on how to create different shot shapes WITHOUT changing your stance or swing plane.

Since some of us have trouble figuring out how to get a draw or fade when we need it, this is yet one more method that may work for you when other methods have not.

Again, bear in mind that you don't have to change your stance or swing plane to use this method. That means you don't have to open or close your stance, you don't have to strengthen or weaken your grip, and you don't have to create an in-to-out or out-to-in swing plane.

You always set up for a straight shot; you just aim to one side of the fairway or the other, depending on what shot shape you want to create. For example, righties would aim to hit a straight shot into the right side of the fairway to create a draw (the shot will curve back to the left, toward the center of the fairway) while lefties would aim to hit a straight shot to the left side of the fairway to get a draw.

Once you get set up, you make two changes:
  • For a DRAW, you want to RELAX your grip and make your downswing SLOWER than your backswing.
  • For a FADE, you want to TIGHTEN your grip and make your downswing FASTER than your backswing.
Here's the logic of this, in case you don't understand immediately.

By relaxing your grip and feeling like your downswing is slower than your backswing, you create a "flippy" motion that will help the club head pass your hands as you hit the ball. That will make the face close and give you a draw.

But by tightening your grip and feeling like your downswing is faster than your backswing, you create a "dragging" motion that keeps the club head from passing your hands. That makes you leave the face open and therefore hit a fade.

It's certainly not the only way to get these shot shapes, and it may not work for some of you because there's definitely some timing involved. But it has the advantage of being simple to try, plus it doesn't require any tricky address changes. If you have trouble creating shot shapes when you need them, a little time practicing this on the range may be just the ticket for shaving a few strokes off your score.

Friday, February 20, 2015

No Tiger at the Honda

Just a quick note today: Tiger won't be teeing it up at the Honda Classic after all. That's according to Over at they confirmed that the word came down from both tournament officials and Tiger's agent.

Of course this is no big surprise to anybody since Tiger said he wouldn't be playing again until his game was in better shape and nobody expected him to fix it in a couple of weeks.

Personally, I'm glad Tiger's taking a little time off so he can work on things at his own speed. I suspect he'll actually make faster progress that way. But it does mean he won't qualify for the next WGC (the Cadillac Championship at Doral), so his next most likely appearance -- assuming he gets his game in shape by then -- will be Arnold Palmer's event on March 19.

And I'll be surprised if he doesn't squeeze in some practice rounds at Augusta, just to see if his game works there. You know that's what he's really focusing on.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

For All You Trick Shot Enthusiasts Out There

In case you somehow missed it, here's the San Diego State University women's golf team demonstrating how team trick shots are done. That little scoop move at the :23 second mark is particularly cool.

Anybody ready for "synchronized golf trick shots" in the 2020 Olympics? These girls definitely have a head start on the event.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I've Heard of Keeping Your Head Still, But... Really?

This was just so bizarre I had to post it.

Golf Digest did a post called Ryan Moore's At-Home Training Aid Proves PGA Tour Pros Are Just as Crazy as the Rest of Us, which included this picture of a "head stabilizer" Ryan installed in his indoor putting practice area.

Ryan Moore's putting aid

As you can see, it's very simple -- just a couple of boards and 4 angle brackets placed head high and head width on the wall.

No, I don't recommend it. It may be effective -- indeed, it seems to be working for Ryan -- but this seems like overkill to me. I think staying stable and being rigid are two different things. But as the article title says, Tour pros are just as crazy as us weekend players.

Besides, with as much money as Ryan has won, I would have at least sprung for padded boards.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

And the 2016 Ryder Cup Captains Are...

...apparently already chosen, although we won't officially know the Euro captain until tomorrow and the USA captain next Tuesday. The names have already made it out of the rumor mill -- even though the PGA says it's "too early" to discuss Ryder Cup captains. (Question: Do they really think that will suddenly make their choice become a surprise next Tuesday? I guess I'll never understand corporate minds.)

Darren ClarkeDavis Love III

On the Euro side, the word is that Darren Clarke -- who was the favorite of the media to be chosen anyway -- really will get the nod. Politics are involved, as they always are in the Euro camp, but supposedly Paul McGinley has the deciding vote and he has decided to back Clarke after all. (Again, the word is that there was some bad blood between them stemming from the process that made McGinley captain at the last Ryder Cup.)

Personally, I expect the Mechanic to make the team so I doubt that he'll be too disappointed by this turn of events.

On the American side, word came out late Monday that Davis Love III would be the next captain -- shocking most observers, who believed that Fred Couples would get the nod. Based on the talk during Golf Central, it seems that Love was chosen as part of a 10-year plan to get a "captain grooming school" started, similar to the one used by the Euros.

The talk at GC was that Love would be the captain, with Tom Lehman, Steve Stricker, and probably Fred Couples as his assistants. Lehman and Stricker are from that part of the country (Wisconsin and surrounding area), and Lehman's previous experience as captain will allow him to help with the training process. Stricker already has one Ryder Cup assistant captaincy under his belt as does Couples, who also has Presidents Cup experience.

There was also some question about why Paul Azinger isn't more involved. Tim Rosaforte (who broke the story) said he expected Love to tap him for pod system advice, but I think the real reason Zinger wasn't mentioned as part of the formal process is simple. While Zinger is a good captain he can be, shall we say, a bit "abrasive." Look at the players expected to head this 10-year project; do any of them have a personality anywhere near as confrontational as Zinger's?

I don't mean that Zinger is hard to get along with, only that he's a bit more "publicly vocal" than the other players named to the 2016 captaincy. It seems pretty clear that the task force chose low-key personalities to front the new look of America's future Ryder Cup teams.

Assuming that the "advance announcements" we've heard are accurate, it looks like the 2016 Captains will be fun to watch as they go about the business of photo ops and media events leading up to the Cup itself. Clarke and Love have been friends for years so it should be a relatively casual process for both.

But more importantly, I hope the US players will come ready to win some points for their new Captain. While I agree that having a more consistent style of leadership is a good thing, I don't think that takes the place of good course management during the matches. They lose too many holes to par and, in my opinion, that's still the biggest issue for the US team. I guess we'll find out soon enough.

The photos came from the player's profiles at

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

Winner: Brandt Snedeker

Around the wider world of golf: Su-Hyun Oh won the RACV Ladies Masters, co-sponsored by the LET and ALPG; Lee Janzen won the ACE Group Classic on the Champions Tour; and Andrew Dodt won the True Thailand Classic, co-sponsored by the ET and Asian Tour.

Brandt Snedeker

A funny thing happened on the way to Augusta...

While poor Jim Furyk was left to answer still more questions about why he can't seem to close out 54-hole leads lately, Brandt Snedeker decided to set a tournament record and pretty much lock up visits to all the majors and WGCs.

According to Brandt, that falls under the heading of "being relevant again." After a couple of years that were sidetracked by injury (and apparently a lack of confidence that new coach Butch Harmon has restored), Brandt says he can finally just play golf again without thinking about his swing.

For example, here's a driving tip that Brandt passed on from Butch:
Snedeker said Harmon was "in my ear all day." One of those nuggets Snedeker remembers being told was to tee the ball down and try to hit it low on days like Sunday when hitting fairways is at a premium.

"I did that a lot on the back nine," Snedeker said. "When things got tough and I ... didn't feel like I was swinging great at it, but I was kind of managing it, doing something as simple as that kept the ball in the fairway and kept it in front of me and made me play to my strengths, which is my short game and my putting."
All I know is that if Brandt thinks this kind of play merely makes him "relevant," the Tour should be shaking in their Footjoys and hoping he doesn't become "a force on the course!"

In the meantime, Mr. Relevant receives invites to all the big tournaments this year, more media attention about the Masters than he'll know how to deal with, and of course this week's Limerick Summary:
While Furyk must deal with the elephant
In the room, Brandt again says he’s relevant
‘Cause his plan to get back
To Augusta’s on track.
His relief after winning was evident.
The photo came from the tournament wrap-up page at

Sunday, February 15, 2015

David Leadbetter on Putting from Off the Green

David Leadbetter did a short article for Golf Digest called Rollerball on how to putt from off the green. It's a very short article with diagrams and a video.

Leadbetter putting from off the green

4 steps to better off-green putting

There's one tip in particular that I think you'll want to glean from his post. David suggests hitting the ball 10% to 15% harder than a regular putt to be sure you get it there. Personally, I always find these percentage figures confusing when I'm on the course, so here's a simpler way you might want to try:
For every 3 paces you need to roll the ball through the "rough," count an extra pace to get your distance.
Example: Let's say you pace off your putt and it's 12 paces from the ball to the hole, but 5 of those paces are off the green. I'd add 2 paces -- I'm rounding off here -- to compensate for the 5 paces that are in the rough, and try to hit my putt about 14 paces.

Look, there's no one easy formula for this because the grass on every course is different. You'll have to learn how to adjust for the type and height of grass on your course, and of course downhill putts roll farther with less effort than uphill putts. But this is a good place to start -- the more rough you have to putt through, the harder you'll hit the ball -- and it's much easier than calculating percentages for each putt.

To adjust: If you're hitting the ball a little too far this way, add fewer paces; if you don't hit it far enough, add more paces. But this is a simple way to get a ballpark figure.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

And Now We've Lost Rhonda Glenn

It's been a rough couple of weeks in the sports world. This week we lost college basketball legends Jerry Tarkanian (of UNLV) and Dean Smith (of UNC-Chapel Hill), and now we have to add women's golf pioneer Rhonda Glenn to the list.

Rhonda Glenn

For those of you who somehow don't know who she was, Rhonda Glenn became the first ever full-time national female sportscaster for any TV network when she went to work for ESPN way back in 1981. She was co-anchor back then with Chris Berman (who, btw, is T7 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am with partner J.J. Henry). Click this link and you can read some of Boomer's memories of their days together.

And that's just one of the things she was known for.
  • She was an amateur golfer who played in five US Women's Amateur Championships and two US Women's Opens.
  • She was a golf commentator for nearly two decades on ABC starting back in 1978, even predating her time at ESPN.
  • She wrote several books on golf, including The Illustrated History of Women’s Golf which won the USGA International Book Award back in 1992.
  • She was on the USGA Communications Board for 17 years. GC also noted that "She was instrumental in guiding the establishment of the Mickey Wright Room in 2012, the first room dedicated to a woman at the USGA Museum."
  • She was a correspondent for Golf World, and last year she won the William D. Richardson Award for outstanding contributions to the game from the Golf Writers Association of America.
She'll be remembered primarily as a sports broadcaster and golf historian. And she was only 68 when she died Thursday after a long battle with health problems.

The photo above is from the GC post, and that smile is probably how I'll remember her. I can't ever remember seeing her on TV when she didn't have a huge smile on her face. And apparently, based on the things I've read announcing her passing, that's what most of her friends will remember as well.

That's not a bad legacy to leave behind.

Friday, February 13, 2015

John Daly's Balance

Nothing complex today. I just thought that, since John Daly shot his best score on the PGA Tour in around 10 years Thursday, you all might like to be reminded why he's still so good at 48 years old. Just take a look at his balance in this slo-mo swing from the 2014 Turkish Airlines Open Pro-Am, roughly 3 months ago.

Despite that long swing -- it doesn't look like it's shortened any at all over the years, does it? -- he still manages to stay balanced and swing smoothly. A smooth balanced swing makes it easier to make solid contact consistently. Just watch and absorb!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Lou Guzzi on Shortening an Overswing

Here's a quick video tip from Lesson Tee Live on how to shorten an overswing. It features Annabel Rolley and instructor Lou Guzzi.

The concept is simple enough. If you practice making chipping-length backswings and swing to a full finish position, you'll get used to making a shorter backswing. Then you can just use a mirror or video to learn how long to actually make your backswing.

If you're having trouble with overswinging, this sounds like an interesting drill to help fix it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Debate Over Laying Up Continues

There's an article over at the Golf Digest site about whether players should lay up or go for it when they're in contention. This time the debate was set off by J.B. Holmes not going for the green on the 18th.

The article, called There's Science to Prove Laying Up Doesn't Pay Off, refers to a study published in December 2013 that found pro golfers who play more aggressively when trying to make the cut tend to make more cuts than the golfers that don't. The article concedes that these aggressive players have more volatile scores but says that the increased number of cuts made makes it worthwhile.

This does, of course, beg the question: Is it better to be an aggressive player than a conservative one? The abstract for that study (which costs $40 if you want to read the whole article) says, in part:
The convex payoff structure in professional golf rewards scoring volatility, giving rise to player types who succeed in spite of higher average scoring. The same risk incentives should influence all players to adjust risk strategies at key moments in tournaments when payoffs either crystallize or become particularly convex.
Even though I haven't read the study, this bit of the abstract makes me question whether the strategy is really that clear, especially for golfers who aren't playing on a big tour.

As I see it, here's the stumbling block. Let me quote Golf Digest, which makes the questionable part more obvious:
...[In the study] Edmund M. Balsdon, a professor of Economics at San Diego State University, argues that pros should start playing more aggressive under pressure, because tournament purses are heavily skewed in favor of the winner. In other words: Start pin-seeking once you're in contention, because even if you bomb-out a few times, all it takes is one win to make the deal more than worth your while.
Do you see? It's all about the money. Cuts made -- and theoretically, tournaments won -- are equated to money made, which may be a reasonable assumption on the PGA Tour (the study focuses on the 2003–2012 PGA Tour seasons) where many players are concerned with making a living. (Nothing wrong with making a living!)

I can also see where this might be a plausible strategy on a smaller tour like the Symetra Tour where there is much less money available, so winning outright is almost a necessity if you hope to move to the next level.

Poker players are well-acquainted with this mindset. A poker player may call or even raise a bet with a hand that is almost certain to lose in a showdown because the "pot odds" make the risk acceptable. Part of the logic here is that many of the hands these players play aren't obvious winners; in Texas Hold'Em, for example, a new card may be dealt that turns an otherwise losing hand into a very powerful one. (A pair of twos is the weakest pair in the game, yet a third two gives you three-of-a-kind, a very powerful hand in most cases.)

But the abstract mentioned above also notes that:
Analysis of individual players indicates that some elite players are more risk responsive.
And here's where using profitability as an indicator seems questionable to me. That statement seems to indicate that increased aggressiveness is one reason that many players become "elite." And I think that may be misleading.

First, it also means that some elite players are not more aggressive. Aggressiveness and elite status are not automatically connected.

But are we arguing that, like the poker player with the weak hand but great pot odds, taking a 'bad' shot -- that is, one you'll miss more often than you make -- is an advisable way to become a more successful player? Playing pot odds doesn't require any skill beyond basic math. Presumably an elite player has considerably more golfing skill than the less-successful player, and therefore a lesser player's "aggressive" shot is more of a "routine" shot for the elite player.

In other words, perhaps elite players appear more aggressive but their skill actually makes such a shot less risky for them. That makes more sense to me.

The debate will continue, of course. Should J.B. have gone for the green with his third shot on 18 and tried to win the tournament outright, even though he didn't like the lie? Many will say so, and perhaps they're right...

But me? I'm pretty sure that the safe play on 18 wasn't nearly as costly to J.B. as airmailing the 16th green during the playoff. If he couldn't hit a green with a mid-iron from a perfect lie on a tee, I'm guessing that going for the 18th from a questionably lie with a long iron, hybrid or fairway wood wouldn't have even gotten him into the playoff.

Maybe numbers don't lie, folks, but numbers are meaningless until they're interpreted... and interpretations lie all the time. Consider that next time you wonder whether to go for it or not!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

One Target, Multiple Aimpoints

Today I have an interesting tip from the late Jim Flick. It comes from his book On Golf (1997) -- from page 121, specifically. Flick actually titled this section of the book "Multiple Targets," but I think multiple aimpoints is a better way to describe it.

Many of you may know that Flick worked with Jack Nicklaus, both as his instructor after Jack Grout died and also as a partner in the Nicklaus-Flick Golf Schools, so Flick was very familiar with how Nicklaus did things. And one of those "things" was how Jack aimed his shots.

Most of us are familiar with the idea of an intermediate aimpoint -- that is, you imagine a line from the ball to your target, then pick a point on that line but much closer to you. You use that point to help you aim. For example, I typically pick a point about 18-24 inches ahead of my ball and use that to help me get aligned when I take my stance.

According to Flick, Nicklaus took the concept a bit farther:
   Jack Nicklaus uses four intermediate targets. One is just a few inches in front of him, so he can see it in his peripheral vision when he's looking down at the ball. Another is some twelve to fifteen feet in front of him and a third maybe thirty to forty yards down the fairway. And Jack even uses one behind the ball to help delineate his swing line when he takes the club back.
   When you see him turning his head forward and back, as he addresses the ball, it's not because he's trying to work out a crick in his neck. He's locking in on his intermediate targets.
There you have it, direct from Jack's instructor. Nicklaus used four intermediate aimpoints -- three in front of his ball and one behind, all located on his aimline to his target. (I must admit, I find that aimpoint behind the ball very interesting. It never occurred to me, even though I know that starting the takeaway properly is probably the most important part of the swing.)

So don't feel silly if you need more than one intermediate aimpoint to help you get properly aligned. Use as many as necessary to improve your accuracy. If it's good enough for Jack Nicklaus, who are we to refuse?

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 Farmers Insurance Open

Winner: Jason Day

Around the wider world of golf: Anirban Lahiri got his first ET win at the Maybank Malaysian Open; Paul Goydos won the Allianz Championship on the Champions Tour; Patrick Rodgers got his first pro win at the Colombia Championship on the Tour; Marianne Skarpnord won the Oates Victorian Open on the ALPG; Richard Green won the Oates Victorian Open Championship on the Australasian Tour; and Sei Young Kim got her first LPGA win at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic.

Jason Day

It seems that no one could get to -- let alone stay in -- double digits at the Farmers Insurance Open on Sunday. Players would make runs, only to fall back. In fact, only 6 players managed to shoot scores below 70 on the Torrey Pines South Course.

That, of course, resulted in a bunched-up leaderboard. And after numerous starts and stumbles, 4 players finally managed to post at -9 -- defending champion Scott Stallings, Harris English, J.B. Holmes, and Jason Day. And of the 4, only English managed to make birdie on the par-5 18th in regulation.

Sounds like he'd be the favorite in the playoff, right? Not so much. In fact, both English and Stallings struggled to make par... which just wasn't good enough. Holmes decided to lay up and count on his wedge play (good choice) while Day nailed one up the narrow right side to leave a long chip for a tap-in (also a good choice).

Two down, two to go.

On the par-3 16th Holmes blasted his tee shot over the green, resulting in a bogey. Day managed to hold the green and two-putt for his first win since last year's Accenture Match Play. (Remember the duel with Victor Dubuisson?)

Of the wins so far this calendar year, Day's victory this week seems the most significant to me. He spent last year fighting all manner of injuries to his back and hand, which derailed a potentially solid run at the majors. But now he seems healthy and, with a T3, T17 and playoff win in 3 starts, I'm ready to make some predictions.

And so it is that Jason Day not only gets his first Limerick Summary in a while but also a vote of confidence:
Scott and Harris got canned at eighteen.
On the next hole J.B. flew the green;
Jason Day knocked it in.
On his chances to win
At Augusta I’m really quite keen.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Another Legend Passes

It's been a rough week for golf legends. Earlier this week it was 92-year-old Charlie Sifford, and Saturday 83-year-old Billy Casper joined him.

Billy Casper

Casper had been having some health problems over the last year, beginning when he passed out at the Masters last year, had pneumonia over Thanksgiving, and had been going to cardio rehab over the last four months. Even so, his family said he was doing well until he started feeling bad this past week.

At least when the end came, he was with his family and it came quickly and painlessly.

Unlike Charlie Sifford, whose golfing performances in his prime -- or even on the Champions Tour -- are rarely replayed so those of us too young to remember can appreciate them, Billy Casper's game is a bit more familiar. It's not just because he was a bit younger or even because he won more (51 times). In fact, Casper didn't get that much attention when he was in his prime because "the Big 3" of Palmer, Nicklaus and Player garnered the TV time.

But Casper did win 3 majors and one of them -- the 1966 US Open -- was the biggest comeback in US Open history... and it was at the expense of one Arnold Palmer. Palmer entered the final 9 at the Olympic Club with a 7-stroke lead, only to have Casper run him down and then beat him in an 18-hole playoff.

That kind of thing will get you a lot of TV time, even years after it happened.

ESPN quoted a Facebook post from Jack Nicklaus after the news came on Saturday night, and it probably says it best:
"Billy Casper was one of the greatest family men -- be it inside the game of golf or out -- I have had the fortunate blessing to meet," Nicklaus said in a Facebook post Saturday night. "He had such a wonderful balance to his life. Golf was never the most important thing in Billy's life -- family was. There was always much more to Billy Casper than golf. But as a golfer, Billy was a fantastic player, and I don't think he gets enough credit for being one. I have said many times that during my career, when I looked up at a leaderboard, I wasn't just looking to see where a Palmer or a Player or a Trevino was. I was also checking to see where Billy Casper was.

"Billy had tremendous confidence. He just believed in himself. You knew when you played against Billy Casper, Billy would not beat himself. You want to talk about someone who could perform under pressure, if you wanted someone to get up-and-down for you, Billy Casper was your man. I think it is fair to say that Billy was probably under-rated by those who didn't play against him. Those who did compete against him, knew how special he was."
Golf has lost two great players -- two great men -- this week. The new kids will have some big shoes to fill going forward.

The photo came from this USAToday post about Casper's passing.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Sean Foley on Playing Draws and Fades Easily

The instruction in this Golf Digest article by Sean Foley isn't new, but Foley explains it better than most and -- because he has video shot from a different angle than the photo -- some of the confusing issues are made much clearer.

First, here's the photo from the article:

Setups for draws and fades

Now, here's the video:

I think most players get the fade setup mostly correct. They may aim the club face wrong, but they generally get the foot and ball position close to what they want. I think that's just because fades seem a bit more natural to most of us.

The same can't be said of draws, however.

Please note that, although the instructions for the draw say you should set the ball about the middle of your stance for an iron, the view in the video looks as if the ball is all the way back at the inside of your trailing foot. But if you look at the photo, you can see that the ball is centered if you look at your toe line (the blue line) while it appears to be way back in your stance compared to your aim line (the dotted line).

You may be tempted to think that Foley's draw setup is too exaggerated. (And let's face it, most people have beat up on Foley quite a bit since he and Tiger worked together.) But I can assure you that this is the time-tested way to do it.

In fact, if you go all the way back to Harry Vardon's book The Complete Golfer (published in 1905, after he'd won 6 majors, and available free online at Project Gutenberg), you'll find this photo of the setup for a draw with a driver or brassie (that's a 2-wood), a shot which he calls a pull. Note the diagram in the upper right-hand corner. The ball is even farther back than in Foley's photo.

Vardon's setup for a draw

BTW, Vardon's measurements assume your driver is 42" long, roughly a modern 7-wood. If you're just over 5'9" tall, you'll find he's reaching for the ball just a bit. (Yes, he gives all those measurements in the book.) For our purposes, just note that his lead toes are over 21" from that white ball line while his trailing toes are only 4" away.

Be sure to check out Foley's article if you've been having trouble getting a draw, Your problem may be the result of a poor setup.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Those Pesky Glutes

Tiger is going to be the "butt" of a lot of jokes going forward, all because he blamed his back problems Thursday on not being able to get his glutes to "stay activated." But I won't be joining in the laughs.

See, although I don't have Tiger's back problems, I think I understand what happened... and I bet it was really painful. So let me give you a quick lesson on "deactivated glutes."

First of all, in case you somehow missed it, your glutes are your butt muscles. And I do mean muscles plural -- they're actually a group of muscles on each hip. When Sir Mix-a-Lot sings Baby Got Back he's singing about glutes... and all the fat around them. You can see them below in this image I found at

the glute muscles

The main purpose of these muscles is very simple: They help you straighten up when you bend over. Let me give you an example that I'm familiar with because it happens to me sometimes.

I have a favorite chair that I like to use when I'm writing on my laptop. When the laptop is in my lap and I'm sitting normally  -- that is, my back is resting properly against the chair back -- I have no problems. But sometimes when I really get into a project, maybe when I'm searching for something online, I bend over the computer. If I lose track of time and do it for too long, I get "stuck" when I stand up -- that is, I get about halfway up and suddenly feel some stiffness in my lower back, right at the base of my spine. It doesn't hurt per se, but it takes a few seconds before I can finish straightening up.

In a very real sense, my glutes won't "activate" because they haven't been moving for a while.

If I try to straighten up too soon, before my glutes are ready, it WILL hurt because I don't have the full range of motion in my glutes and my lower back will have to do the work. That's where the problem is, because back muscles aren't supposed to work at that angle. That's why you're always told to bend your knees when you lift things off the floor.

Now imagine what that feels like when you've had a back operation less than a year ago, and you can understand what must have happened to Tiger. During a golf swing you don't have the option to stop moving for a few seconds while your glutes adjust to the demand. His lower back is forced to finish the movement.

This probably means he still has some weakness in his pelvic muscles. We tend to get spoiled when we hear about the occasional athlete who returns from surgery much earlier than anyone expected. The fact is that most athletes can require 18-24 months before their muscles and all those little connecting tissues between them and the joints are back to full strength... and you can't make them heal faster just because you tell them you're Tiger Woods.

So I'm guessing that this is just another muscle spasm, not a new injury to his back. But that makes me wonder if he'll be able to compete before later in the year. What Tiger probably needs is more time to heal.

The real question is whether he'll be patient enough to take that time. If he doesn't, there will be a price, just like there was during all those "heroic" performances where he played through pain -- like the leg fracture at the 2008 US Open. Fans applauded those efforts... but they aren't looking all that smart anymore, are they?

He's still young enough to have another good run at Jack if he takes the time to heal now. I just hope he's realized that.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Legend's Passing

I know I'm not the best person to do a post about Charlie Sifford -- although I'm in my late 50s, I'm still not old enough to have seen him play in his prime -- but I can't let him go unmentioned.

The best way I know to salute his passing is simply to say: I just thought he was cool.

Charlie Sifford in his prime

When Sifford became the first black man to play the PGA Tour after the "Caucasians-only" clause in the PGA of America's charter was overturned way back in 1961, I was only 3 years old.

I live in North Carolina, just a couple of hours north of Charlotte where he was born and just about a half-hour from Greensboro where some of the major equality protests happened around the same time. I was fortunate to grow up in a home where color was never an issue and, when NC schools integrated in 1970 -- when I entered junior high school -- I went to a school in a black neighborhood where all of us kids got along and were proud to say that we did. While I knew that bad things like those Charlie Sifford endured happened, I can truthfully say that I never saw anything like that firsthand.

When I first heard about Charlie Sifford -- when I first seriously got into golf -- he had already been on the Champions Tour for a few years. I still remember seeing him puffing on that ubiquitous cigar of his and thinking that he was a man who didn't care what others thought. (And I mean that in a good way. By that time there was already some backlash against smokers.) When I learned what he had gone through just to play the game, I understood. He carried himself like a man who knew who he was.

It's hard enough to make it to 92 when your life is easy. Charlie Sifford earned every year of his. I'm just glad he made it long enough to get the Presidential Medal of Freedom and know how much he meant to us -- blacks and whites alike. Rest in peace, Charlie.

The photo came from this post.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The School of Golf Short Game Fix

Martin Hall and Sara Brown posted a video over at GC's website about Tiger's short game problems. It's pretty much self-explanatory, so without further ado here it is:

The drill at the beginning of the video is a simple one you can use on the course before you actually hit your shot to "find the bottom of your stroke." Make sure you do it beside the ball as Martin suggests and not somewhere else, since you want to be sure you know where the bottom is relative to the ball.

Ironically, Martin's suggestion about dealing with chipping yips -- although he has a different reason for doing it than I do -- is very similar to the drill I suggested for treating putting yips in my book Ruthless Putting. Given Martin's explanation, I would say that the player's eyes "jump" because of the hitting anxiety I talked about in my book.

But I guess that just goes to prove that the solution is pretty much the same no matter what causes you to stab those putts and chips. If you can't see the actual strike, it's much harder to mess it up!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Be Careful What Equipment You Buy Going Forward

Today I'm just posting a link to a Golf Digest article that you need to read, especially if you order equipment online. Apparently not all of the equipment from Japan is USGA-conformant.

According to the article:
The Japan Golf Goods Association, the trade organization for golf equipment manufacturers in Japan, today [that's Monday, 2 February 2015] announced that it would support the distribution of non-conforming golf equipment.
The article details the JGGA's reasoning and their realization that this could possibly confuse golfers. However, it's clear they don't believe that should be a deterrent. They are "advocating" that non-conforming equipment should be clearly marked but have yet to indicate how that should be done. Their professed rationale is that this equipment will make the game more fun for more golfers.

Of course, non-conforming equipment is available almost everywhere, even here in the USA. But I believe this is the first time that a major trade organization has officially supported the manufacture of such equipment.

I admit that I'm a cynic about this issue. They can say what they want but I believe the main reason for anyone to manufacture and sell non-conforming equipment is simply that they believe they'll make more money than they will by selling conforming equipment.

The reason I'm calling this to your attention is simple. It doesn't matter how many trade organizations decide to support the manufacture and distribution of non-conforming equipment. If you want to use that equipment in any USGA- or R&A-sanctioned event, you will be disqualified because that equipment is illegal for competitive use. (That's why it's "non-conforming" in the first place!)

So caveat emptor -- Buyer, Beware! Japanese companies sell nearly a quarter of all golf equipment worldwide. If you suspect you might EVER want to play in a sanctioned event, double-check any equipment before you buy in the future, especially online purchases. You might save yourself a lot of heartache.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open

Winner: Brooks Koepka

Around the wider world of golf: Na Yeon Choi won the Coates Golf Championship on the LPGA (and Lydia Ko became the youngest #1, male or female, ever); Rory McIlroy won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the ET; and Mathew Goggin won the Panama Claro Championship on the Tour.

And in case you missed it, the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl. Keegan Bradley's probably STILL celebrating.

Brooks Koepka

It was all set up to be Martin Laird's tournament.

Or Hideki Matsuyama's. Or Bubba Watson's. Or Ryan Palmer's. Or Zach Johnson's. Heck, even Freddie Jacobson and Jordan Spieth made realistic runs at the lead.

But in the end Brooks Koepka showed why so many people think he's one of those "next big thing" guys in American golf. Only 4 players shot better scores than his bogey-free 5-under 66, and his 51-foot eagle putt on the par-5 15th pretty much sucked the air out of everybody else's balloons. And the drive he gutted down that tight fairway on 18 popped any that refused to deflate willingly.

Brooks has 6 pro wins now -- 4 on the European Challenge Tour (for US fans, that's sort of like a Euro, 1 on the ET, and 1 on the PGA Tour. The ET win, the Turkish Airlines Open, is a Race to Dubai tournament that's a Who's Who of European golf, and now he's beaten some serious class at Phoenix. With his Tour card now locked up for a couple of years and a valid ET card as well -- in addition to being well within the Top50 in the world, which gets him in all the majors and WGCs -- we could see Brooks run up a nice record in the near future.

In fact, I think you have to consider him a very real contender at Augusta. Rory, Rickie, Bubba & Co. better keep an eye on their rearview mirrors -- Brooks may be even closer than he appears!

In the meantime, Brooks gets his first-ever Limerick Summary (Christina Kim got it the week Brooks won), and I doubt that it will be his last:
This U.S. win took time for Koepka
But fans gazed in shock as he leapt the
Few players between
Him and vict’ry. I mean,
The one thought in their heads was: “What kept ya?”
The photo came from the tournament upshot page at

Sunday, February 1, 2015

17 Years, 9 Months, 8 Days

Under normal circumstances I should be writing "Remember Saturday, 31 January 2015. That's the day Na Yeon Choi won the inaugural Coates Golf Championship." And because of that -- it's been something like 2 years since NYC last won -- I'm going to start with that and post this picture of her with the trophy because she deserves the recognition. This victory was hard-won, and you can read some of NYC's comments at the LPGA's tournament page. Well done, Na Yeon!

NYC with trophy

But ultimately the headline has to be "Remember Saturday, 31 January 2015. That's the day Lydia Ko made history... again."

At the very young age of 17 years, 9 months and 8 days old, Lydia Ko became the youngest golfer ever to become World #1 -- even younger than Tiger, by nearly 4 years. (Okay, the post lists her at 17 years, 9 months and 9 days but GC listed her at 17/9/8 so that's what I'm posting.)

The Kobra finished in a 3-way tie for second at the Coates, just one shot off NYC's winning score, but that was enough to take the top spot in the Rolex Women's World Rankings. And according to that page at I mentioned earlier, only 3 players in ANY sport have become #1 at a younger age than Lydia -- Martina Hingis, Monica Seles and Tracy Austin, all three tennis players.

Pretty heady company, no matter how you slice it.

Of course the debates have already started. Can the Kobra keep it up like Tiger did and dominate for a long time? Or will she burn brightly for a short time like Yani Tseng, then find herself struggling to recover? Will it change Lydia's charmingly naive persona or will she somehow manage to stay the same?

I'll leave the debates for another day. What I will say is that we'll all remember Saturday, 31 January 2015 as the day we got to see history being made by the youngest member of the LPGA Tour...

And that, however briefly, Na Yeon Choi forced her to share the spotlight, which is something few other players manage to do. Remember that too.