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Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Week of Unfulfilled Dreams

At first look that's what this week of golf has been. Shall I list a few of them?
  • Both the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the AT&T Byron Nelson have been plagued by rain. GC said that enough rain had fallen in Texas this May to cover the entire state in 8 inches of water. As a result, the 400+ yard par-4 14th hole at TPC Four Seasons Resort became a 100-yard par-3. Ireland can add cold temperatures and heavy winds to their woes.
The new par-3 14th hole at TPC Four Seasons Resort
  • Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer, among other big names, missed the cut in Ireland and Luke Donald, needing a win to qualify for the US Open, probably won't get it unless he shoots some ridiculously low score today. Rickie Fowler was in the hunt until taking 16 strokes on the final two holes.
  • At the Shoprite LPGA Classic Inbee Park had a chance to retake #1 in the Rolex Rankings with a mere 3rd place finish but is currently 21st (6 off the lead) with only one round to go, and Michelle Wie missed the cut most likely because of her continuing injury problems.
  • Jordan Spieth hasn't been able to buy a putt in Texas and now finds himself T18 (6 shots off the lead but 28 players are tied with or ahead of him).
But for every broken dream there are potentially new dreams to be fulfilled:
  • Maximilian Kieffer, who has never won an event except on the Challenge Tour, is T2 in Ireland -- a mere two strokes behind leader Søren Kjeldsen.
  • Morgan Pressel once again has the lead in an LPGA event. She has truly resurrected her game after years of struggle and just might close this one out.
  • And down in Texas, a number of players are poised to do something special. Jimmy Walker could get his 3rd win of the season, and Dustin Johnson could get his 2nd. Scott Pinckney and Jonathan Randolph could get their first wins ever.
With all the ups and downs of the week, and with only a couple of weeks to go until all three tours play majors -- the KPMG Women's PGA Championship (LPGA) on June 11 and the US Open (PGA and ET) the following week -- this is going to be a very interesting day in golf.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Dozen Swings, Analyzed

It's been a while since I've done an in-depth analysis of a pro's swing, primarily because it's getting much easier to find useful ones online. For example, Golf Digest has put up a series of pro swing analysis videos (it's up to 12 at the time of this writing) all done by David Leadbetter.

The 12 swings belong to:
  1. James Hahn
  2. Bill Haas
  3. Sergio Garcia
  4. Patrick Reed
  5. Justin Thomas
  6. Jordan Spieth
  7. K.J. Choi
  8. Charles Howell III
  9. Chad Campbell
  10. Carlos Ortiz
  11. Tony Finau
  12. Stewart Cink
The link at the beginning of this post takes you to the Spieth analysis but I'm embedding the one for Patrick Reed here, simply because I think Patrick's swing is more unusual.

Now these analyses aren't perfect. For example, David doesn't mention that Patrick has that weird slide with his lead foot in large part because his left ankle is stiffer than that of many players. Still, the information is extremely useful and covers a wide variety of players whose swings represent many different approaches -- for example, Justin Thomas gets a tremendous amount of distance despite being a relatively small person while Tony Finau is tall yet hits the ball farther than many other players his size. There are rookies like Ortiz and veterans like Cink. And Jordan is very young while K.J. is... well, beginning to think more about the Champions Tour.

Whether you're a Leadbetter fan or not -- and I know most of you have faves and non-faves among the better-known teachers -- he's a very knowledgeable instructor and you just might pick up something useful that you can easily incorporate into your own swing. You may even enjoy it just because you're curious about the variety among successful Tour swings, so take a few moments to check them out.

And speaking of Leadbetter... no, I haven't forgotten about his new book The A Swing. I'm nearly finished with it and will put up a book review shortly.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Blair O'Neal from the Thick Greenside Rough

Yes, it's another Sexiest Shots in Golf video from Golf Digest. This time Blair is showing you how to get the ball up and down from thick greenside rough, which is something we all find ourselves in far too often.

Look, I know you've heard this before: Play this shot like a bunker shot. And Blair tells you how to play this as if it was a bunker shot:
  • Take a high-lofted wedge.
  • Open your stance slightly.
  • Open the club face.
  • Put the ball forward in your stance.
  • Hinge your wrists early.
  • Release the club head as you hit the ball.
But you need to make sure you understand that last one. If you're used to thinking like a chipper then you're used to trying to keep your hands slightly ahead of the club head. NOT HERE! You want to hit the ground a little behind the ball and you want the club head to start passing your hands just before you hit the ball. And when you fling the club head past your hands, that gives you more club head speed.

Let me repeat that: The bounce of the wedge should hit the ground just behind the ball and the shaft of the club should be vertical when it does. That means your hands are just behind the ball as well, and the club head will whip past your hands as it contacts the ball. I can't emphasize that enough. That lets you use the full loft of the club and makes the ball climb up quickly so it will come down softer, and the speed will give you a bit more spin to help it stop even faster.

Blair doesn't mention -- although it shows in the video -- that this isn't a full backswing shot. This is a pitch shot; your hands only go waist high or a bit higher on the backswing. However, your hands go almost to a full finish. That's because you want as much speed and height on the shot as possible, so you don't want to restrict your finish in any way.

One other quick note: This tip assumes that the ball is nestled down in the rough. If the ball is suspended in the grass above the ground, you'd need to do essentially the same things without the bounce of the club hitting the ground because then you'd go right underneath the ball. But in that case you'd have more options and might be able to choose a simpler shot. Blair is showing you a worst-case approach here.

Just make sure you practice it a few times before you try it on the course.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Stanford Takes the Prize

Yesterday I wondered if the finals of the NCAA Women's Golf could possibly match up to Tuesday's play.

The winning Stanford team and Baylor's star Hayley Davis

As it turned out, they did. It all came down to the last match between Stanford's star Mariah Stackhouse and Baylor's star Hayley Davis. The two went after each other, making some amazing shots on their way to extra holes. Here's the wrap-up video from GC. It includes some of the big shots, including the almost miraculous shot Davis made from the hazard on 16:

It was a rough loss for Baylor, yet this is a young team whose previous best finish was 16th. Clearly they'll have a lot to be proud of, once they get over the immediate heartbreak of the loss.

One last bit of business: The Marathon LPGA Classic (formerly known as the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic) awarded two spots in their event. One went to the winner of the stroke play portion of the event; that went to Alabama's Emma Talley. The other went to one member of the winning team; Stanford decided that would go to junior Lauren Kim.

Now the men take over at Concession Golf Club -- a practice round Thursday, four days of stroke play and then two days of match play, just like the women. We'll see how they handle this tricky track!

The photo came from this article at There's also a fuller explanation of some of the great shots the two stars hit in their epic match.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How Much Better Can the Finals Be?

I'm talking about the NCAA Women's Golf Division 1 Finals today, of course. Baylor and Stanford will face off today in match play to determine the winner.

But it's hard to believe it could be much better than the semis on Tuesday.

The Baylor Bears celebrate making the finals

Stanford finished off USC in fairly standard fashion... that is, if you consider falling way behind at the start and rallying in the final holes to win in a very decisive manner "fairly standard." Stanford has never won a national championship; their best finish is a runner-up in 2001.

Baylor drew defending champion Duke... and it all came down to the match between Duke's Lisa Maguire and Baylor's Lauren Whyte.

You need to understand: In the 4-day stroke play portion of the event that determined the eight match play teams, 84 players contended. Maguire and Whyte finished 83 and 84, respectively.

But those two players went 24 holes and played some of the most amazing recovery shots you'll see in any competition. Both women did themselves (and their schools) proud as Whyte sealed the deal for Baylor, a fairly young program whose players have never finished better than 16th in three appearances.

If Tuesday's matches were any indication, today's finals should be fantastic. GC is carrying the coverage live. Pre-game starts at 1pm ET and the official coverage begins at 3pm ET. And in case you missed the semi-finals, it looks like GC will re-air those at 9:30am ET, before the live coverage. Check it out if you missed it!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Annabel Rolley on Tee Height

I know you know the standard answer for how high to tee the ball for a drive -- you want it high enough so half the ball is above the top of the driver.

But Annabel (from Golf Channel Academy) says there's a bit more to it than that. Here's her explanation of how to find the best tee height for you.

First she tells you where to hit the ball on the driver face. You may think it's the center of the face but NO! You want to hit the ball slightly above the center of the face to get the best launch angle (and therefore the most distance).

While the "half of ball above driver" is a good starting point, the attack angle of your swing can affect how high you should tee the ball. Annabel gives a complete explanation in the video so I'll just give you the basics:
  • If you tend to swing down on the ball, you want to tee the ball a bit lower to keep from going under ("skying") the ball.
  • If you tend to swing up on the ball, you want to tee the ball a bit higher to keep from going over (thinning or "skulling") the ball.
You'll need to experiment a bit on the range to find out exactly how much higher or lower you should tee the ball, but this little tip could help you make much better contact with your driver... and that means more distance!

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 Crowne Plaza Invitational

Winner: Chris Kirk

Around the wider world of golf: With what we might call an "An-slaught" of birdies, Byeong Hun An destroyed the field at the BMW PGA Championship on the ET; Colin Montgomery did an equally impressive number on the Champions Tour field as he defended his Senior PGA Championship title; Danny Balin won the Guatemala Stella Artois Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Justin Shin won the United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open on the PGA TOUR China; Melissa Reid won the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open on the LET; Haruka Morita-WanyaoLu won the Symetra Classic on the Symetra Tour; and Yumiko Yoshida won the Chukyo Television Bridgestone Ladies Open on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Chris Kirk

They needed little life jackets for the golf balls at Colonial on Sunday. Tour officials said the course couldn't take any more rain. In fact, it was so wet that they declared "lift, clean and place" not just from the fairways but from the rough as well!

The result was a course without any defense... and a whole bunch of golfers ready to shoot at every single pin. At one point there were 15 players within 2 shots of the lead. But it seems that, even with soft greens, the final 3 holes at Colonial are just as hard to birdie as the legendary Horrible Horseshoe (3,4 & 5).

And in the end, parring those 3 holes wasn't good enough for pursuers Brandt Snedeker, Jordan Spieth or Jason Bohn to make a playoff... but it was good enough for leader Chris Kirk to win outright.

There's really not a whole lot more I can add to Chris Kirk's performance. He's one of those players who isn't flashy, who doesn't stand out from the crowd and isn't a media darling BUT just lets his clubs do the talking. And those clubs talk much louder than anything I could say. I will simply say that he is solid and doesn't flinch when the pressure is on. Because of that strong mental game (and really smooth swing) he now has 4 PGA Tour wins and is one of the winningest players over the last few years.

It's also why he has another Limerick Summary to add to his collection:
Despite all the rain, greens were speedy.
The chasers got just a bit greedy
And tried to do too much.
But Chris Kirk came up clutch
And got his fourth win, yes indeedy.
The photo came from the tournament wrap-up page at

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Now for the Golf Digest Golf Ball Hot List

About a week ago I did a post about Golf Magazine's Golf Ball Guide. The problem was that I couldn't find that buying guide online (and that hasn't changed).

However, Golf Digest has released their Hot List for golf balls... and it IS online. It consists of 32 slides. Balls are broken down into 3 groups -- $25 and under, $26-$35 and over $35:
  • Of course the over $35 balls come first. They start on slide 2.
  • The $26-$35 group starts on slide 10. This is the biggest group.
  • The $25 and under group starts on slide 24.
And all balls are ranked in 4 categories -- performance, innovation, feel and demand -- on a 1-to-5 star scale.

Golf Digest golf ball sales chartThere is also a link on the first slide for an article that "addresses five questions" they say might change your choices. Make sure you check out that article, which is at this link. The five questions are:
  1. Are the most expensive golf balls really that much better than the less-expensive ones?
  2. Do tour players play the same balls for sale at my golf shop?
  3. Recent start-ups sell "tour balls" with multiple layers and urethane covers that cost less than the traditional $40-plus a dozen. How?
  4. How should I determine my price point for golf balls?
  5. How do I test a ball or get fit for one?
The answers really might surprise you. For example, nearly a third of Tour players don't use a stock golf ball -- that is, you can't buy the exact ball they use at your golf shop. Their balls are tweaked for their respective swings.

But that last question about how to get fit for a ball is important. They recommend you start by hitting balls on a launch monitor -- I suspect that will help you thin down the likely options -- and then test the balls you like on the course, particularly for short game performance.

If you didn't get to check out the Golf Magazine guide because you couldn't get hold of a print copy, at least this Hot List is easily accessible.

And the photo showing that two-piece balls are still the biggest sellers came from the "five questions" article.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

One More Thought on Rickie's Umbrella Drill

Friday was a busy day and I didn't get much time to write, but I wanted to add something to yesterday's tip from Rickie Fowler.

While I mentioned how the umbrella drill helped Rickie stay connected at the top of his backswing so he wouldn't overswing, I forgot to mention how it helps his takeaway and downswing plane. Rickie has had a tendency to open the club face on the takeaway and then lay the club off on the downswing -- that is, he would drop the club shaft so it was more parallel to the ground as he started down. It caused him to be too shallow on the downswing and too much in-to-out. As a result, he often pushed the ball at impact and flipped his hands trying to save it. (Most amateurs would just hit a push.)

By using the umbrella image, Rickie doesn't twist his forearms so much on the way back, which keeps the club more vertical. (It's still tilted on plane, it's just not exaggerated.) Since the club is more vertical, the natural move is to keep the club more on plane as he comes down. In other words, he doesn't "wave" the club back and forth during his swing.

Using a one-piece takeaway (the basic drill is in this post) puts you in good position to use Rickie's umbrella drill naturally. And the two together will improve your swing plane tremendously.

Friday, May 22, 2015

How an Umbrella Improves Rickie's Iron Play

It's no secret that when Rickie Fowler went to Butch Harmon for help, Butch reportedly gave him three swing thoughts to help him tweak his swing. There's an article about those three thoughts over at, called Get More Birdie Looks, and I wanted to point out one in particular that may help many of you.

Rickie now "pops an umbrella" at the top of his backswing.

Rickie's top of backswing image

As Rickie puts it in the article:
I used to suffer the same tendency that affects a lot of amateurs: My arms kept going back after I completed my shoulder turn. When the arms get disconnected from the trunk muscles like this, the club goes past parallel and can cause a bunch of issues... So to keep everything unified going back, my slow-motion rehearsal thought was, I'm holding an umbrella on my backswing. As in, I stop going back the moment I feel the shaft points straight up and down like an umbrella.
Rickie also points out that, despite what you may think, the club is going back much further than it feels like. (That little inset picture shows where his umbrella thought actually puts him.)

On a more humorous note, he says that sometimes the umbrella thought didn't work as well as it should... at which point Butch told him to pretend he was Steve Stricker. Stricks doesn't cock his wrists much during his swing, even with a driver, which helps him keep the club under control when he changes direction. (BTW, I have a short post series about that called The Deadhanded Approach Shot which you can find over on the Some Useful Post Series page.)

The purpose of this swing thought is to keep you connected at the top of your backswing, to keep your upper arms from moving too far away from your chest. That's why you overswing, which causes you to get a bit sloppy on the way down and keeps you from hitting the ball as solidly as you should.

As I said, Rickie tells all three swing thoughts in the article. There's one for the takeaway, one for the backswing, and one for impact... but I think this one is definitely the easiest to picture and put to immediate use.

UPDATE : I added one more thought about this drill at this post as well.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Troubleshooting Your Swing (and Clubs) with a Sharpie

The June issue of Golf Magazine has a really neat tip from teacher Kevin Kirk to help you determine the cause of consistently bad shots. It's so neat that I just have to pass it on.

Basically all you need are some clean balls, an iron with a clean club face, and a Sharpie. You use the Sharpie to draw a thick straight line about 1 1/2 inches long on the ball's equator. Kirk recommends marking around a half dozen for the test.

You set one of the balls on the ground so the line is perpendicular to the ground and pointed toward the face of the club. Then all you have to do is hit it and take a look at the Sharpie mark that it leaves on the club face.

Now I know what you're thinking. You've heard this little tip before and it tells you if you're hitting the ball in the center of the club face. That's true... but Kirk's tip tells you much more!

There are 5 marks that Kirk wants you to look for. If you had all 5 on the club face, it would look something like this:

[toe of club]     |     \|/     |     [heel of club]

You'll only get one mark. Here's what it will tell you.
  • A straight vertical line near the toe tells you that you have an out-to-in (pull) swing.
  • A line with the top angled toward the toe (that's this mark \) tells you that your irons are too upright -- that is, the toe is lifted up at impact.
  • A straight vertical line in the center of the face tells you that you're hitting the ball squarely AND your clubs are fit properly for your swing. THIS IS THE ONE YOU'RE LOOKING FOR!
  • A line with the top angled toward the heel (that's this mark /) tells you that your irons are too flat -- that is, the heel is lifted up at impact. 
  • A straight vertical line near the heel tells you that you have an in-to-out (push) swing.
I suppose you could also get slanted lines near the toe or the heel as well as in the center of the face. If so, the top of the slant would point toward the part of the club that's not touching the ground at impact.

Pretty cool, huh? If you're consistently hitting bad shots, it might be worth using this tip to make sure that ill-fitting equipment isn't the cause.

The tip is on page 62 of the June issue of Golf Magazine. I couldn't find it at the website.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Can Mel Reid Get It Done?

I don't get to write about the LET very often because we here in the US usually get tape-delayed tournaments rather than live ones. This week is a happy exception, as the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open runs from Sunday to Wednesday and GC is showing it live.

Mel Reid

Today is a big day for Mel Reid. She hasn't won since mid-2012, about a month after her mother was killed in a car accident. Mel says she came back out on Tour much too soon and has been struggling to get her game back on track ever since. This week could change things for her.

The course they're playing at Carya Golf Club this week is a par-73 and Mel came out firing, shooting -8 and -4 in her first two rounds to take a 3-shot lead. Tuesday (the 3rd round) didn't run as smooth; she shot a 1-over 74. But as she told the media:
“It was really tough this afternoon. The greens are borderline unplayable, they are so firm. We were struggling to hold wedges onto it and Gwladys [Nocera] hit a couple of really nice chips and they ran out 15 yards. It was tough. I always felt like I was in between clubs. I was needing a nine and a half iron, eight and a half iron. I’m quite happy in a way that I’ve played it in these conditions because hopefully tomorrow I can play a bit better.”
Nocera is playing with a painful tendon injury in her right ankle and, while she stayed pretty close the first two days, it was Pam Pretswell who closed the gap to a single stroke by the end of play. Most of the players seconded Reid's description of a faster drier course, and it's likely to get even faster today given the weather forecast -- more sun.

Mel Reid got her first pro win at the 2010 Turkish Airlines Ladies Open, so she has good feelings there. But she's had trouble putting four good rounds together lately; hopefully the third round will be her worst and she'll light it up today, getting her career back on track.

GC's final round coverage begins this morning at 7am ET.

[WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Mel shot an even par 73 and won by 4 shots. Welcome back to the winner's circle, Mel!]

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

David Leadbetter's "A" Swing

No doubt you've been hearing about David Leadbetter's new book The A Swing, which he says is a simplified swing method that doesn't need as much practice. I've just received a pre-release copy of the book that I'm reading now and I plan to talk more about it after I've finished it.

In the meantime Golf Digest has put up an introductory article about the swing, complete with several short videos to help you understand what all the fuss is about. Here's the "most introductory" of those videos:

There are a number of small changes that the A Swing makes to your setup and motion. Primarily it's an attempt to simplify the backswing and get the club into "the slot" more easily in the downswing. Leadbetter says he's been using a number of these ideas in one form or another over the last few years with various players of different skill levels, and that he has written the book in hopes that it will shake up the teaching industry and simplify teaching.

The book begins with an intro by Michelle Wie and the first chapter -- which is what I'm currently reading -- is a biomechanical analysis by expert J.J. Rivet. And Leadbetter says that the swing can be maintained using a 7-minute practice routine performed several times a week. (That's near the end of the book, of course.) As I said, I'll be talking more about this after I finish the book.

In the meantime you might want to take a look at the "A Swing Starter Kit" article at and get familiar with the basics of it. I don't know if the book will actually stimulate any change in teaching methods, but my initial impression is that there are some useful ideas there.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 Wells Fargo Championship

Winner: Rory McIlroy

Around the wider world of golf: Jeff Maggert won the Regions Tradition, the first Champions Tour major of the year; Rod Pampling won the BMW Charity Pro-Am on the Tour; Justin Hueber won the 57 Abierto Mexicano de Golf on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Shih Chang Chan won the The Eternal Courtyard Open on the PGA Tour China; James Morrison won the Open de España on the ET; Jimin Kang won the Mission Health Wellness Classic on the Symetra Tour; and Bo-Mee Lee won the Hoken No Madoguchi Ladies on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

The LPGA event, the Kingsmill Championship, was weather-delayed and will be completed this morning (live on GC at 7am ET) [MONDAY UPDATE: Minjee Lee won]; and the LET event, the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open, runs from Sunday thru Wednesday this week (second round coverage is live today on GC at 8am ET, although the LPGA playoff may delay that).


Seriously... isn't this getting just a bit crazy? All Rory did at Quail Hollow was set half a dozen tournament records -- and move ahead of Gary Player for most PGA Tour wins before the age of 30 -- with his 11th PGA Tour win Sunday.

The two lowest rounds of his career have both come at this event, and the 61 on Saturday was the lowest of all. He broke the tournament records for low score by 5 shots (both relative-to-par and aggregate, -21 / 267), most birdies in a round (11), most birdies in a row (5), biggest margin of victory (7), and most drives over 300 yards since 2010 when he first won (I think it was 181). He became the only multiple winner of the event and even tied the back-9 scoring record (-6), just for good measure.

And now he gets his 11th Limerick Summary as well. I don't care what Rory says, I think Jordan and Rickie "got his dander up" a bit (as we say down here in the South):
A message, perhaps? Some will wonder
If, as Rory tore this field asunder,
He was taunting the rest
That they can’t beat his best
Unless he makes some dimwitted blunder?
The photo came from the tournament upshot page at

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Martin Hall on Getting More Solid Contact

Martin Hall did a sort of tribute to Calvin Peete, in the form of a lesson on how to hit the ball straighter. For the most part, it focuses on solid contact. Here's the video and I'll focus on a couple of points afterward.

Note that you can tell a lot about where the ball is contacting the face by the resulting shot shape:
  • Balls hit off the heel tend to slice.
  • Balls hit off the toe tend to hook.
  • Balls hit low on the face tend to go straight but they fly low and lose distance.
  • And although he didn't mention it, balls hit high on the face also tend to go straight but they fly very high and short.
The drill using the shoebox to help you with toe and heel hits is one he uses often, but you may have missed what he said about a very common problem... SHANKS. Pay special attention to the drill he says Byron Nelson used -- almost brushing his trailing thigh with his hands during the downswing. Since shanks tend to happen because you're swinging outward too much, this is a good way -- especially on those short pitches when shanks most often happen -- to keep the hosel of the club from hitting the ball.

These tips will not only improve your accuracy but increase your distance as well. (And distance control also, since solid contact means more consistent contact.)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Golf Magazine's Golf Ball Guide (and the AimPoint Link Again)

Earlier this week I linked you to a video at where you can find an explanation and demonstration of how to use AimPoint Express. The folks at Golf Magazine were kind enough to make that freely available to anyone who goes to the site.

But apparently everything in the May issue hasn't been put on the website. Right now I can't find a link to this -- so for now you'll have to buy the magazine to get it -- but the May Golf Magazine has a Golf Ball Buyer's Guide. It covers 66 different models from all the major manufacturers, giving you:
  • the price,
  • how the ball is supposed to help you,
  • the major technologies it uses, and
  • a bottom line assessment of the ball.
If you're in the market for a new ball, it looks like this guide could save you a lot of testing time by eliminating balls that won't help you. If it's already off the newstand shelves (my copy was a bit late arriving) you can always look through it at the library.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Does Quail Hollow Suit Streb and Reed?

Neither Robert Streb or Patrick Reed has played particularly well -- especially in the first round -- for a few months now. Quail Hollow seems to be just what they needed to perk up their games.

Robert Streb

Streb has missed 4 of his last 6 cuts and shot 80 twice in the last 3 months. He told that he finally found his putting stroke last week at THE PLAYERS, and his 65 (-7) on Thursday certainly seems to back that up.

Reed hasn't been that bad but he's been struggling with a hook. That's never good if you want to win but it didn't stop him from posting a 66 (-6) of his own.

Quail Hollow, as Phil Mickelson told GC, is a kinder gentler golf course for those who tend to be a bit wild... and neither player was particularly accurate off the tee. Streb hit only 6 of 14 fairways and while Reed did better, he still only hit 8 of 14. The shorter rough at Quail Hollow certainly helped both men.

But the true tale of the tape came in their GIR stats. Despite missing so many fairways Streb still managed to hit 14 of 18 greens and get some use from that putter. Reed continued to struggle, hitting only 11 of 18 greens, so it was his scrambling that kept him in the hunt on Thursday.

I don't mean to imply that either man is the favorite to win this week. But their first rounds do demonstrate just how wide open this tournament might be by Sunday afternoon. Birdies definitely roost at Quail Hollow.

The trick is avoiding the bogeyman. He's hiding there too.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Golf Magazine on Reading Greens... and AimPoint

The May issue of Golf Magazine has a huge spread covering 7 different techniques to help you read greens better. And the best thing about it is -- and I admit, it surprised me -- is that most of the material from that article is available online at this link.

For example, one of those techniques is a tip from teacher Todd Somes on whether to read your putt from behind the ball or behind the hole.

Why you should read from the low side

Somes gives this simple guideline:
  • If your putt is downhill, read it from behind the hole.
  • If your putt is uphill, read it from behind the ball.
In other words, always read your putt from the low side. The reason, as shown in the photo above, is that it's harder to read anything that's slanted away from you because it distorts your view... and if you try to read the putt from the high side, the amount of break is going to be distorted also.

But here's the REAL gem you'll want to see...

The article also includes an explanation of the simplified AimPoint Express technique that so many pros are using, INCLUDING A VIDEO that demonstrates how to use it. Yes, you read that correctly -- Mark Sweeney, the AimPoint guy himself, actually tells you how to do the simple version in the article, both in the magazine and online. In the online article, the video is on page 1 and the written description is on page 3.

Now that's worth taking the time to visit the website, isn't it?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Now for the First Champions Tour Major

It's finally time for the Champions Tour players to play a major. (Of course, some of them played at the Masters but that's not their major, if you know what I mean.) In this case, it's the Regions Tradition where Kenny Perry is the defending champion.

Kenny Perry and caddie

Although Kenny has played more PGA Tour events this season than Champions Tour events -- 7 versus 4 -- his best finishes have been on the "old guys tour," including a playoff loss at the Insperity Invitational just a couple of weeks ago. He should be in good form to mount his defense this week.

Fortunately for him, his competition will be somewhat less intimidating. Davis Love is out due to foot surgery, Vijay Singh is at the Wells Fargo Championship (here in NC, about 90 minutes south of me), and Miguel Angel Jimenez is over in Spain to defend his title at the Open de España.

Unfortunately, Kenny is at #22 in the Schwab Cup Race... but with the exceptions of Jimenez and Rocco Mediate, it looks like everybody ahead of him is playing this week!

This should be a pretty good event. The Shoal Creek course has hosted 2 PGA Championships and usually gives the players all they can handle.

GC lists coverage starting Thursday at 12:30pm-2:30pm ET.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What You Can Learn from Rickie's Wedge Setup

Today I want to do something different and take a look at the clubs of THE PLAYERS winner -- specifically, I was interested in Rickie's wedge setup. Rickie has long considered his wedge play the strongest part of his game. It's hard to argue that, especially after he birdied the 17th a mere five times last week. (And one par. We don't want to forget that.)

Fortunately Golf Digest posted that info on Monday. (They give the entire setup in the article, not just the wedges.) And as it turns out, Rickie has changed his wedge setup this year.

Rickie wedges another one close

No doubt most of you know that a 4-wedge setup is one of the most common on Tour these days. That typically includes a 60-degree lob, 56 degree sand, 52-degree gap, and 48-degree pitching wedge. You've also no doubt been told that those 4-degree gaps are the best way to go.

Rickie only carries 3 wedges. The article mentions the pitching wedge and lob wedge, so I'm assuming the 3rd wedge was a sand wedge rather than a gap wedge. (The difference, of course, would be the heavier sole on a sand wedge.) And the article says that Rickie's pitching wedge originally had 47 degrees -- which is fairly standard -- and his lob wedge had 62 degrees, apparently as a compromise between a regular lob wedge and a 64-degree wedge. That's the one he's so deadly with.

Clearly Rickie had more than 4 degrees between his wedges! A 55-degree sand wedge would have fit there nicely, giving him roughly 8 degrees between each wedge -- twice the recommended amount.

In the new setup that he changed to just before the Masters he went to a 51-57-62 spread. That way he kept the lob wedge which he clearly uses very well while making it easier to get more height with each of the other two wedges. Yes, he lost distance by going from the 47-degree pitching wedge to the 51 but distance doesn't seem to be a problem for Rickie. Wedges are for accuracy, after all. He can hit a knockdown 9-iron if he needs more distance than the pitching wedge provides.

He still has around 6 degrees between each wedge, not 4 degrees, and that's what I want to bring to your attention. Your wedge setup should fit the way you play best, not a formula designed by someone else. And if you have a specific wedge you hit better than the rest, don't change it! Adapt your setup around it.

It's just common sense and it works for Rickie. It can work for you as well.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 THE PLAYERS

Winner: Rickie Fowler

Around the wider world of golf: George Coetzee won the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open on the ET; Shanshan Feng won the Buick Championship on the LET; Alejandra Llaneza won the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic on the Symetra Tour; PH McIntyre won the Investec Royal Swazi Open on the Sunshine Tour; and In-Gee Chun won the World Ladies Championship Salonpas Cup (bangkokbobby has the details).

Rickie Fowler and his mom hoist trophy

Well, I guess he's not overrated anymore. However, I'm willing to bet that his anonymous critics will definitely remain anonymous just from fear of the fans. Their belief in him was made clear from all the chants of "Rickie, Rickie, Rickie" on Sunday.

And if I have to tell you what happened on the back 9 at THE PLAYERS on Sunday... my gosh, were you dead? Have you not turned on GC even once since the event ended? This had to be the best PLAYERS ever, maybe the best golf tournament in years, simply because everybody involved showed up to play. Nobody gave the tournament away; every good shot was countered with a shot that was at least as good. Everybody was firing straight at the pins, no matter how dangerous they were. And the three-man playoff between Sergio, Kevin Kisner and Rickie was pretty much all we could have asked for.

In case you missed it, Rickie went 6-under on the final six holes (birdie-par-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie) to take the clubhouse lead at -12. Sergio ran in a birdie putt on 17 from across the green to tie him. And Kisner went birdie-birdie-par to make the playoff.

And while Sergio didn't make it past the 3-hole playoff, Kisner matched Rickie shot-for-shot until Rickie birdied a 4th sudden death hole to win it all. As put it, "The finish by Garcia and Kisner would have been talked about for years. On this day, thanks to Fowler, it was nearly an afterthought."

Sergio proved he's in great form for the upcoming majors, all of which resemble Open Championships... which is where he typically plays his best. Kisner has been in playoffs twice in his last three events... and it took a birdie in both to beat him. As Frank Nobilo noted, nobody is going to want to face Kisner in a playoff anytime soon.

And of course Rickie just blistered the course, going -8 in 10 holes (counting the playoff). This was a huge win for Rickie, who may finally believe he can win the big one. His mom, pictured with him in the photo above, never doubted for a moment.

Besides, he's just won himself another Limerick Summary. How can he doubt himself any longer?
Decisively winning THE PLAYERS
Let Rickie shut up his naysayers.
With them cut down to size
He accepted his prize…
Cheered on by proud Fowler hoorayers.
The photo came from

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Thirty within Five

It's the most crowded leaderboard in THE PLAYERS history. Thirty players are within five shots of the lead, five shots being the biggest comeback ever during the final round.

Kevin Kisner did an article about the hodgepodge of players jockeying for the win. Nobody has any idea how this whole things may play out -- even a newbie might pull out a win this time, given that there are three in the final three groups. (That's Kevin Kisner, Ben Martin and Justin Thomas.)

I don't even have a prediction because I'm simply overwhelmed by the possibilities. I suspect that the winner won't come from the back of that 30-man pack -- there are just too many players who could put up a good round between them and the leader, Chris Kirk, who's won three times and is a pretty good frontrunner himself.

So like you, I plan to just sit back and watch what happens. But I won't be surprised if this goes to a playoff, which will be a 3-hole playoff this time -- 16, 17 and 18, of course.

I will say this, though -- Kisner could be a spoiler. After that playoff loss a couple of weeks ago, you've got to like his chances if he manages to make it to a playoff. And perhaps others feel that way as well since used his photo in that article I mentioned...

Saturday, May 9, 2015

About My Picks... and Tiger's Game

At the halfway point we know a bit more about how THE PLAYERS is going to shake out. As it turns out, it looks like this will be a sprint to the finish since no one has been able to distance themselves from the field.

Not yet, anyway.

All-in-all, my "5 to Watch" aren't doing so bad:
  • Jordan Spieth kinda shocked us all by missing the cut. However, even #2 in the world is entitled to an off-week every so often.
  • Erik Compton and Tiger Woods are both at even par (T61), barely making the cut yet still only 8 shots off the lead of Kevin Na and Jerry Kelly.
  • Jim Furyk continued his good play from past weeks. He sits at -4 (T13).
  • And Ben Martin is at -5 (T7), the best of the bunch and a mere 3 shots off the lead. You guys thought I was crazy to pick him, didn't you?
Of course, the big talk has been about Tiger's struggles with his game this week. The fact that his injured hand and the jet lag from his China trip cost him 3 weeks of practice has everybody debating what his priorities should be and how long it will take him to get things back in shape.

I thought I'd pipe in with a few thoughts about Tiger's journey back to a competitive game as well.

It's easy to forget that it's been only a bit more than a year since Tiger had back surgery. In the past, when Tiger wanted to change his swing he had time to think about what changes he wanted to pursue and who he wanted to coach him through them. This time there was no planning -- Tiger simply found himself lying on his back in pain and wondering if he would ever be able to play golf again. (If he would ever be able to play with his kids again, for that matter.) He's had to figure out what his body would allow him to do and then pick his best option from that.

That's not the best way to embark on a swing rebuild!

When Tiger says he's played pretty well this week -- for example, that he's been driving it pretty well -- some folks have laughed at him but his stats do bear that out.
  • He's made 11 birdies for the two rounds, which is T4 in the field.
  • He's hit 17 of 28 fairways -- nearly 61%, which is pretty darn good for Tiger. He's never been particularly good at hitting the short grass.
  • And he's second in Putts per GIR.
Granted, he's only hit a little over 55% of his GIR (20/36), but his assessment that he could have been two or three shots lower each round is reasonable. Thursday he left at least two putts (that I saw) just short but dead in the jaws, and I've seen several putts graze the edge of the hole both days. And he's hit some pretty impressive recovery shots on a course where he's never had a lot of success, despite having two wins there.

Yeah, it's easy to imagine him at -4 had a few more putts dropped. All things considered, he really has played pretty well.

Best of all, now he'll get two more rounds of competitive reps. Although he's unlikely to win this week -- despite me picking him as a player to watch -- I'd say Tiger is on a pretty good track to keep improving as he makes his comeback from surgery.

And that's what we're all hoping for, isn't it?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Butch Harmon's Generic Sand Shot

Golf Digest printed a new article by Butch Harmon on how to hit a simple sand shot that will get you out of a greenside bunker most of the time. This explanation is so simple that I had to pass it on.

Butch hitting a sand shot

Butch says:
  • Turn the face of your sand wedge so it's about 20 degrees open, then take your grip.
  • Set up so the ball is opposite the heel of your lead foot. That means it's waaaay forward in your stance.
  • Put a little more weight on your lead side.
  • Hold the shaft of the club straight up and down, not leaning toward the target.
  • Then just make a half-backswing and hit the sand about two or three inches behind the ball. You're trying to throw the sand and the ball out of the bunker at the same time.
Butch also says you don't want to cut across the ball when you swing. Rather, swing toward the target and let the open club face take care of getting under the ball.

A very simple approach to a shot that makes many of us weekend players nervous. By all means, take a look at the article.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

THE PLAYERS All Day and into the Night

This is another of those reminder posts because even has listings for THE PLAYERS all day long from 8:30am ET until midnight ET. I'm going to try and make some sense out of them for you. All times are ET.

The listings for the LIVE app overlap; there's a 8:30a-6:30p listing and a 9:00a-7:00p listing. Still, that gives you an idea.

The radio broadcast runs from noon until 7pm.

And GC will be running several shows covering the whole day (these come from both the tournament page I linked to earlier and the TV schedule at GC):
  • Morning Drive runs from 6am-9am. (Note that the Spieth-McIlroy-Day group tees off at 8:30am, so they'll probably skip over to show them.)
  • Live from THE PLAYERS picks up at 9am and runs until 1pm.
  • The broadcast proper starts at 1pm and runs until 7pm.
  • Then Live from THE PLAYERS returns from 7pm-9pm.
  • It looks like they're showing a condensed replay of the broadcast from 9pm until midnight.
  • And at that point, Live from THE PLAYERS begins repeating throughout the night.
That should help you keep up with when they're showing new material and when it's a replay.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My 5 to Watch at THE PLAYERS

Yes, it's already time for another of my eagerly-awaited "5 to Watch" posts. (You were eagerly awaiting it, weren't you? It's too late if you weren't...)

Let's face it. Picking favorites for THE PLAYERS can be hit or miss. Some players -- like Bubba Watson -- seem unable to crack the Top25 no matter how well they're playing coming in. Other players -- like Martin Kaymer last year -- seem to be struggling but maneuver their way around TPC Sawgrass without any real problems.

We'll blame this strange circumstance on Pete Dye and just move on.

There are several of the youngsters, like Daniel Berger and Justin Thomas, who I'm not picking simply because they are still too reckless for a course like this. And there are several of the big hitters, like Dustin Johnson, who are probably in the same boat. Rory doesn't seem to like this course very much, and that doesn't bode well for anyone hoping to win there. And I'm leaving Paul Casey out simply because I'm not sure he's over that stomach bug that took him out last week. (If I was sure he had recovered, he would be a pick. For that matter, Henrik Stenson would too.)

So just who does seem likely to do well this time?
  • Jordan Spieth would seem to be a good choice, if for no other reason that he seems to be in the right frame of mind for it. Last year he messed up at the Masters, this year he rectified the problem. Last year he messed up at THE PLAYERS...
  • Jim Furyk seems to be on form as well, and shorter hitters like him aren't penalized by their lack of length here. While he says he doesn't particularly like the course, this is a home game for him (he can sleep in his own bed) and he says he plays TPC Sawgrass enough to understand what the course demands. So maybe this is the year he gets it done.
My remaining three choices are all fliers in a sense because I don't have any real idea of what TPC Sawgrass might do to them, but I like some things I've seen in their games lately.
  • I like Erik Compton this week, given his consistently good play over the last year. This is the kind of course where I think he can really excel.
  • Ben Martin has stepped his game up lately and I believe his levelheaded approach fits this Pete Dye course perfectly.
  • And in an ironic twist, I'm taking Tiger Woods as a flier pick. After listening to him answering media questions on Tuesday, I think Tiger has realistic expectations of himself this week... and I believe that may free him up to scramble around and go pretty low.
TPC Sawgrass is a thinking man's course that demands the ability to move the ball both ways and choose the right moment to be aggressive. We'll see soon enough if I've read my picks correctly.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Blair O'Neal on Swinging from the "Wrong" Side

I've got a new Sexiest Shots in Golf video from and Blair O'Neal... and you'll thank me for this one. In this little tell-all Blair divulges the secrets of hitting the ball from the wrong side.

You know, that shot you need when the tree is standing where YOU need to stand.

Here are the steps she gives. Pay attention now!
  • Use your pitching wedge because it has the largest face area. We want to make it as easy to hit the ball as possible.
  • Reverse your grip from normal and flip the club head over. These things you should do automatically.
  • Move the ball back in your stance, which may not be automatic for you. Note that Blair has the ball back just inside of her (now) trailing foot.
  • Finally, make a smooth 3/4 swing where you concentrate on contact rather than distance. (Note that Blair didn't even make a 3/4 swing; she just cocked her wrists a lot.) You may find it easier to hit the ball with a chipping stroke than a pitching stroke, which is why I tagged this post for both techniques. I would advise keeping your wrists relaxed; you'll probably get a small wrist cock, more than a chip but less than a typical pitch. A chipping stroke will need to be longer than a pitching stroke to get the distance without trying to swing too hard.
Bear in mind that the loft of your pitching wedge may cause you to pull the ball a bit. Test it on the range before you try it on the course so you aim properly. If you know where the ball is most likely to go, you'll relax and make a better shot.

And then you won't have to use the foot wedge Blair had to use with the missed shot at the beginning of the video!

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play

Winner: Rory McIlroy

Around the wider world of golf: Inbee Park won the Volunteers of America North Texas Shootout on the LPGA; Ian Woosnam got his first win on the Champions Tour at the Insperity Invitational; and Smylie Kaufman got his first Tour win at the United Leasing Championship. The Lexus Panama Classic on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica has been weather-delayed and will be completed today.

Rory with Match Play trophy

When I wrote in yesterday's post that Paul Casey was barely alive -- because he still had to finish Saturday's playoff with Rory McIlroy -- I didn't expect it to be quite so prophetic. I noticed during the post-round interview Saturday night that Casey was wiping his nose a lot, but I thought it was just the cold damp weather. Instead, the bug that kept him up all night vomiting probably cost him a chance at the Match Play title.

Just as well, I suppose, as he would be unlikely to have lasted the day. An early start to finish the previous day's playoff, then two more full rounds would have probably been too much for him.

Of course, although the rapid finish to the playoff may have spared McIlroy a few holes against Casey, it still got him up in the middle of the night for a long day against two other tough opponents. And those opponents -- Jim Furyk and Gary Woodland -- made him work. HARD.

In some ways Rory got very lucky this week. His game from tee to green wasn't particularly sharp during any round. His drives were a bit wild and his distance control on his approach shots was pretty bad. He got several good bounces that at least gave him a chance at recovery shots. Perhaps most importantly, even if his opponents had been on a hot streak before meeting him in battle, their games became noticeably inconsistent during their rounds against him.

Not that I'm saying Rory won because he was lucky -- far from it. When Rory got lucky breaks, he capitalized on them most of the time with great recovery shots. And even when a shot didn't come off quite as planned, he still left himself in a playable position. Most of all, regardless of how much he might struggle tee to green, his short game was immaculate all week and his putting was spot on. When he needed to get the ball in the hole, he put it in. How many times did he go to the 16th hole down in his match and still pull out a win? That's not all luck, not by a long shot!

So Rory picks up his 10th PGA Tour win -- and his 2nd WGC win -- before turning 26, once again putting him in the rarified air breathed by Tiger and Jack. And I'm not entirely sure how many Limerick Summaries this makes, but I know he's the leader in that category for sure:
A playoff plus two rounds in one rush;
Play three guys in one day? That’s too much!
But Paul caught a virus
Then the Luck of the Irish
With Rory’s skills left all their dreams crushed.
The photo came from the tournament page at

Sunday, May 3, 2015

YAY! Paul Casey's Still Alive... Barely

Okay, I know some of you are saying that Rory McIlroy is still alive... barely. But Casey's the only guy left from my Final Four picks so I'm pulling for him.

The playoff continues this morning at 6:45am PT -- that's 9:45am ET (where I live on the East Coast) -- and who knows how many holes it might go. Paul and Rory had already played 3 extra holes before darkness took over.

The winner plays Jim Furyk, who has made it to the Final Four for the first time. And Jim is playing well so that should be a good match no matter who he faces.

But the real challenge appears to be Gary Woodland. He's set to face Danny Willett in the semis today but you've got to figure Gary is the favorite to make the finals. He's the only guy who has stayed hot from Day 1, which is why I didn't think he'd make it to the semis. I thought he'd have a bad round in one of the two rounds today as fatigue started to take its toll. (That's apparently what happened to Hideki Matsuyama. His game simply vanished against McIlroy.)

But Woodland didn't stumble after all. So you have to figure that he will be the favorite to take it all today as well.

Gary Woodland

The finals are set up to have four players with very different approaches to the game, regardless of whether Casey or McIlroy makes it through. And the winner of the Match Play will certainly have earned his victory.

I'm just hoping that's Paul Casey, that's all. ;-D

Saturday, May 2, 2015

What to Watch for in the Round of 16

Pool Play was a bracket buster for me. Of my Final Four, only Paul Casey remains alive... and for him to remain alive, he'll have to beat Charl Schwartzel this morning and the winner of the McIlroy / Matsuyama match this afternoon. Casey has been to the finals twice before so I'm hopeful....

However, this is an extremely tough bracket and if I had to pick the most likely player to come out of it, it would be Hideki Matsuyama. He's been on fire this week!

You can get the lowdown on what the day looks like from this post at but here are some things to look for in the remaining brackets:
  • Rickie Fowler VS Louis Oosthuizen: Rickie has been on an unexpected hot streak this week and will have to face the winner of Furyk VS Holmes. Four very different ways of attacking the course in this bracket should make for some interesting matches. Rickie just might pull this one off if his putter stays hot.
  • John Senden VS Hunter Mahan: This could be the toughest of the four brackets. Along with the other two players in this bracket -- Marc Leishman and Gary Woodland -- all of these guys are undefeated. However, I think that Senden is the sleeper here. If he can get past Mahan, who is playing absolutely inspired golf right now, I think he can take the winner of the other match. But in any case I think Senden / Mahan will produce the winner of this bracket.
  • Lee Westwood VS Danny Willett: This is arguably the weakest of the four brackets now. The winner of this match will face the winner of Fleetwood / Grace. Willett and Grace have arguably played the best golf in this bracket, but it's hard to bet against Westwood's experience... especially after he took down Jordan Spieth. He must feel like he can beat the world right now.
If I understand the listings correctly, GC will carry the matches from 3pm ET until 7:30pm ET, and then NBC will pick up the telecast until 11pm ET. Combined with all the other golf, NBA Playoff games and the Kentucky Derby, there's going to be a lot going on this weekend.

Friday, May 1, 2015

My Brackets Aren't Looking So Good

As we get used to this new "pool play" segment of the Match Play, it has become obvious to me that it isn't helping my brackets all that much.

Although we've only seen two of the three days, I've already lost Graeme McDowell (granted, he was my flier pick since he wasn't playing well this year) and will likely lose Justin Rose today (I should have taken the fatigue factor more seriously). Jordan Spieth still needs to beat Lee Westwood to advance, and Paul Casey needs to beat Francesco Molinari... which means both of my other picks will have to win all three of their matches in order to advance.

And with all the talk about a "group of death," nobody accurately picked the TWO groups that fit this description. In Group 3 (Furyk's group) and Group 10 (Garcia's group), all 4 players are still alive and the advancers will be determined by tiebreaks after today's matches.

If you want to see who's still got a chance and who's pretty much dead, you can check this summary post from That's the easiest way to find out where your favorite players stand.

Or fall, as the case may be.