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Monday, November 30, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 Emirates Australian Open

Winner: Matt Jones

Around the wider world of golf: Charl Schwartzel became the first South African to win the same European Tour event four times at the Alfred Dunhill Championship; Jung-Gon Hwang won the Casio World Open on the Japan Golf Tour; Xi-Yu Lin successfully defended her title at the Sanya Ladies Open on the LAGT/LET; Haimeng Chao won the Nine Dragons Open on the PGA TOUR China; and Jiyai Shin won the JLPGA Tour Championship Ricoh Cup (bangkokbobby has details).

Matt Jones with Stonehaven Cup

To paraphrase an old commercial, Matt Jones earned his title at the Emirates Australian Open the old-fashioned way...

He EARNED it. (You're supposed to really stretch out the word EARNED but I have no idea how to make that readable.)

After coming in to the final round at -10, with a 3-stroke lead over his closest competitor, he proceeded to post a bogey, a double AND a triple, all on the front nine.

That gave hope to some of the players who thought they were out of the tournament. It started when Rod Pampling went absolutely nuts, shooting a course-record 10-under 61 to post at -6. That got everybody's attention!

Then Adam Scott shot a 6-under 65 to post at -7 as Jones struggled just to get back to par.

At least playing partner and defending champion Jordan Spieth cooperated with his golf buddy. Spieth had to work just to post a par round himself -- although he did give himself an eagle putt on 18 to force a birdie from Jones if he wanted to make a playoff.

Alas, it was not to be. Jordan could only make birdie himself, posting a par round which put him at -7 as well.

But Matt Jones would not be denied. Despite all his problems he managed to birdie that final hole for a 2-over round... and a final score of -8. Oh yes, Matt earned it.

It's only Matt's second worldwide win -- he does have a PGA Tour win, the 2014 Shell Houston Open -- but this is by far his biggest, especially since it's his national Open. It got him a berth in next year's Open Championship and will likely vault him into the OWGR Top50, which should get him into the other majors. But bear in mind that this event launched its last two winners -- Rory McIlroy in 2013 and Jordan last year -- into years that were mind-numbing in their dominance. Could it do the same for Matt Jones?

I don't know, but it's gotten him one of the last Limerick Summaries of 2015. Those are rare at this point!
Down under, Jones came out on top.
He beat Spieth and Pampling and Scott
With a four at the end.
Spieth had hoped to extend
The match just one more hole. (He could not.)
The photo came from this tournament summary page at

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cristie and Inbee's Swings... The Physical Side 2

Before I go on to today's topic -- the downcock at the top of Cristie and Inbee's swings -- I want to add a bit more to what I wrote yesterday. It may help some of you catch on to this quicker.

While the movements I wrote about yesterday are actually very natural movements, some of you may have run into the problem that Bobby Jones observed (and that I wrote about in this post) -- namely, that you may have unintentionally interfered with your natural movements while trying to learn the game, and now the natural movements don't feel so natural anymore. Learning to get out of your own way again can be frustrating.

Unlike a lot of modern swings which are based on angles and positions, this Hammer Swing is based more on feel and movement. (Again, that's why some TV commentators have trouble understanding how it works.) You really don't have to learn any positions -- but if you're looking for one, the closest I've been able to come is shown in this photo, which I put in yesterday's post:

Cristie and Inbee entering the impact zone

The important "position," if you can call it that, is the relationship of your hands and trailing elbow as you enter the hitting zone, which I wrote about at length yesterday. This is what happens during the move that helps you keep your wrist cock long enough to create a lot of clubhead speed at impact.

The irony here is that it's the same position you get into during a short game shot. It's just that you aren't swinging fast during your short game! And since you aren't swinging so fast, it's easier for you to be relaxed. If you're having trouble, it's tightness that's giving you fits -- you're too tight during your full swing.

So, for those of you who found that getting into this position was a little awkward when you made a full swing, try practicing it with a pitch shot. Just swing from waist high to waist high at a comfortable speed. As you start down, your trail elbow will be separated just a little from your side, then you'll just let it drop into the "position" in the above photo and keep swinging through to waist high for your finish.

Once you feel comfortable with that, lengthen the swing to shoulder height, keeping that relaxed feeling. Gradually speed up the swing while staying relaxed until you can swing quickly and smoothly. And then, when you're comfortable with that, stretch it out to a full swing and go through the same routine. It's just a matter of learning to swing relaxed rather than tight. You aren't lifting weights here, so you don't have to create "grunt" power.

NOW let's talk about the downcocking move. Please understand that this is a very personal move -- your natural tendencies play a huge part in how you do it. You don't just say "I want to make this move the way Inbee does" because her move may not be the way you instinctively do it. As a result, my instructions may sound a bit... well, sketchy. But there's more than enough here to help you find the way you do it best.

So let's get on with it.

I don't know if you've been watching the Australian Open but if you have, you might have seen long hitter Lincoln Tighe use this downcock move during Saturday's round. He had a very restricted backswing -- no longer than the photo position Cristie and Inbee are in at the start of this post -- and he used a version of the downcock to create more clubhead speed. (And he used it very effectively too!) This is a very versatile technique once you understand it.

The downcocking move can be fast or slow, long or short, with or without a pause, in any length backswing. It's this versatility that makes it hard for some players to understand. Way back when I started this blog I did a post showing the basics of the move using a flyswatter. I'm going to use that diagram again -- I'll put it just below this paragraph so you don't have to keep going back to the old post -- to help me explain how you use it and how the variations look.

Flyswatter diagram

In this diagram I showed a large downcock, as evidenced by the flyswatter "shaft" getting nearly parallel to the ground in Figure 3, because it was both easier to illustrate and more common when using a flyswatter. But regardless of how big or small the downcock is, there are two things that always happen:
  • The hand moves slightly in the direction the backswing was moving. That's the cock.
  • The elbow moves slightly downward just after the hand starts moving. That's the down.
The combination of these two moves creates a slight downward arc that moves in the direction of the backswing and lets the club continue to cock the wrist as the arm starts the downswing. That's what happens between Figures 3 and 4, as you can see by comparing the positions of those two images in Figure 4. Simple, eh?

Obviously it's a bit more complicated in a golf swing because both hands are holding the flyswatt--uh, I mean the club, and the lead elbow isn't bent. Otherwise we wouldn't need to talk about it -- it wouldn't be any different than swinging a tennis racket. But even when we take both hands and arms into account, it's really not as different as you might think. Why?

Because, as Inbee demonstrates, neither the cock nor the down has to be very large at all. The arms and hands work as a unit, and the moves may feel more like a flexing than a bending:
  • The wrist cock may be no bigger than a wiggle.
  • Your straight lead elbow doesn't have to bend; it only needs to give a little as you start down.
  • And while you may think a pause would happen before the downcock, it may actually happen briefly BETWEEN the cock and the down.
Because a swing like this is mostly a matter of feel and movement, there are no set positions to hit at certain points of the swing. You'll have to experiment to find out what works best for you, but here are some general guidelines that will help:
  • The bigger you make the wrist cock, the slower it will be. Likewise, small wrist cocks tend to be fast wrist motions.
  • It works exactly the opposite with the elbow drop. A big drop is usually a faster drop, a small drop generally happens slower.
  • Small wrist cocks generally work best with big drops, while big wrist cocks tend to work best with small drops. Sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but think about it for a minute. A small wrist cock would be lost too quickly if you dropped your hands slowly. And a big cock/big drop combo would probably throw you off-plane and off-balance.
  • Likewise, if your downcock move includes a brief pause, the pause is most likely to come IN-BETWEEN the cock and the down if you use a large wrist cock. The larger your wrist cock, the more time you'll need to "gather yourself at the top" and make a smooth change of direction. Small wrist cocks may not include a pause at all but, if they do, the pause will most likely come BEFORE the initial cocking action.
Remember, these are only guidelines to help you find your way more quickly. You may discover that your swing works better with that big cock/big drop combo. If so, go for it. Just make sure you try the more likely combos first. It may save you some time and frustration.

And remember that you can go back to the original post and watch both Cristie and Inbee's swings -- and find videos of Stricker's swing as well -- if you need to see the swing in action to get a feel for the rhythm. Each player uses a slightly different method for the downcock, so you'll get to see a variety.

An important thing to remember is that the length of your golf swing doesn't determine what your downcocking move looks like. Take mine for instance. No matter how long or short my swing is on any particular day, and no matter how flexible I may be when making my shoulder turn, I ALWAYS end up using a big slow downcocking motion. That's what's natural to me. If I try to make a short quick one like Inbee, it feels wrong and I simply can't make it work consistently.

The idea here is to make your swing feel as natural and easy to repeat as possible. And if for some reason you can't find a downcocking move that works for you, just stick with the regular Hammer Swing. Once you start hitting that ball consistently on the sweet spot, which that swing will help you do, you'll get more distance from your swing than you might expect.

And that should be enough to get you all going. If you have specific questions, just post them in the comments below or send me an email. I'll try to give you a helpful answer.

Just remember: this is YOUR swing. Take ownership of it and it will serve you well.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Cristie and Inbee's Swings... The Physical Side 1

So far I've done a post about Cristie Kerr and Inbee Park's swings, which I've decided to nickname the Hammer Swing because it uses movements that are similar to driving a nail with a hammer.

Inbee at top of swing

I've also done a post about the mindset you need to use this swing effectively.

Today we get down to the physical act of making the Hammer Swing.

I'm dividing the instruction about the physical side of the swing into two parts. Today I'll give you the basic swing -- which, btw, you can team up with the material in my Accurate Iron Play Quick Guide to become much more accurate with your distance control on your approach shots. Tomorrow I'll cover the "extra" wrist move because there's more than one way to do it and, if you know your options, you can choose the one that works best for you.

Inbee's swing probably amazes most of you as much as it does GC's Tripp Isenhour, who frequently remarks that he simply doesn't see where she creates her clubhead speed. That's because we don't recognize all the angles that are created during a golf swing. After all, we cock our wrists, we bend our trailing elbow, we twist our shoulders, we drive our legs, etc. -- and we don't understand the cumulative effect.

Clubhead speed is NOT created by wrist cock alone. Let me give you a better appreciation for just how much you're doing without even trying. Here's Inbee at setup. When she actually hits the ball, the club shaft will be in line with her lead arm. I've added a white line to demonstrate how much wrist cock she gets just by setting up.

Inbee at setup

As you can see, she already has some wrist cock to start her backswing. Everybody gets some wrist cock at the start. It's natural and automatic.

You also get a lot of "cock" from bending your trailing elbow. If Inbee were to do that in her setup position -- without turning her shoulders, which adds speed in its own way -- the shaft of her club would point somewhere between straight up and back over her shoulder. That's important because your trailing elbow doesn't straighten out until just before impact, which gives it a major effect on how much effective wrist cock you have in the impact zone. We'll come back to that in a moment.

Your shoulder turn and natural leg movements also create clubhead speed. That can be hard to visualize, so just be aware of it. You'll also note that Cristie and Inbee have very upright swing planes -- Inbee's is extremely upright -- but that helps them create more speed as it's easier to use gravity that way. My point is that you have plenty of natural "wrist cock" in your swing to begin with.

Bear in mind that we want to stay as relaxed as we can when we swing. Relaxed muscles can move more quickly -- that's something any martial artist or track and field athlete can tell you -- and ultimately we're interested in creating speed here, not the "grunt" effort we equate with power.

Which brings us to acceleration. Most of you think acceleration means starting your downswing by jerking the club up-to-speed as quickly as possible. But think about this for a moment. Let's say you manage to create your maximum swing speed with that move (and without jerking the club off-plane). If you're already at max speed, how can you accelerate during your downswing? All you can do is slow down.

To accelerate the clubhead, you have to start down slowly -- which helps keep you on-plane -- and speed up as you get closer to the ball. To do that, you have to maintain that natural wrist cock as long as possible. How do you do that?

By keeping your trailing elbow bent as long as possible. Here's another quote from the Jeff Flagg article I mentioned in the last post:
WHAT AM I THINKING ABOUT WHEN I SWING? My only real thought is, Right hand and arm drive the swing. That's it. I'm literally trying to make a sidearm throwing motion—like a 3-6-3 double play in baseball. If more golfers swung with the same motion, as if they were skipping stones, they'd pound the ball.
Since Flagg is a rightie, his right arm is his trailing arm. And this is his key thought for developing speed. Why?

If you take your setup position -- with both arms straight -- and then bend your trailing elbow while keeping your lead arm straight, your wrists will cock. Straighten your trailing elbow and your wrists will uncock. Your wrist cock is controlled by the bend in your trailing elbow.

So if you want to create more clubhead speed, you need to keep your trailing elbow bent until you reach the impact zone. And you need to use your hands and arms in order to do that.

Here, take a look at Cristie and Inbee at impact, taken from the videos in my original post. Cristie's elbow doesn't look quite as bent but that's because it's bent more toward the camera while Inbee's is bent more toward the target. Everything about Inbee's swing seems a bit unusual, doesn't it?

Cristie and Inbee at impact

To create this move, your trailing elbow has to move slightly in front of your chest during your downswing. If you have trouble, I bet it's because you're trying to keep your elbow ahead of your trailing hand. DON'T! Look at both Cristie and Inbee -- their trailing hands are AHEAD of their elbows! Practice moving your hand and elbow together, so that if you stand in front of a mirror it looks like your hand is on a straight line between the mirror and your elbow. Here's another pic of Cristie and Inbee during the downswing, just as their shoulders turn square to the ball. See how their hands are even with their trailing elbows?

Cristie and Inbee entering the impact zone

Just to make sure you understand where their trailing elbows are in relation to their bodies... From this photo angle their elbows look like they're laying against their bodies, but those elbows are actually extended toward the camera. You could see that from a down-the-line view; it's not that different from their setup positions.

The easiest way to practice this is to get your arms up to the top of your backswing -- lead arm straight, trail arm bent -- and practice swinging your hands down to waist high without altering their positions. That includes keeping your elbows the same distance apart as they swing down. Don't turn your shoulders when you first try this! It will feel as if you're swinging your hands in a diagonal line from above your trail shoulder to your belly button -- almost like a slashing move with a sword. When you actually swing a club and your whole body is turning, this move will look like an arc.

One other thing to notice here. See how the upper part of Cristie and Inbee's leading arms are pressed against the side of their chests? This is connection, and Hogan wasn't the first to teach it; I've found it taught in a Harry Vardon book from 1907. You don't twist your forearms to square the club; you roll your lead shoulder. Here's how to learn what that feels like:
Stand up and straighten your lead arm against your side like you're standing at attention. Then bend your lead elbow 90° so your forearm points straight ahead of you. Now, while you keep your upper arm against the side of your chest, make a sweeping motion with your lead forearm back and forth across your chest from left to right to left to right -- you know, like you're backhanding something.
Once you get used to that, straighten your lead arm again and make the same motion but with your hand swinging up and down as your upper body turns "away from and then toward the target." Your upper arm "rolls" up your chest on your backswing, then "rolls" down your chest during your downswing and separates during your finish. (That rolling motion helps square the clubface during your downswing.) This is how your shoulder should feel as you swing the club through the impact zone.
It's much simpler to do than to explain. Combine that diagonal arm move with the shoulder roll and do them together as you make your shoulder coil; the result should feel pretty natural. The diagonal arm move won't "swing parallel" to your toe line until you combine it with the shoulder turn -- by itself, your hands will move out away from you at first, then in toward your lead hip as you near "impact." But if you get comfortable with the diagonal move first you'll find it's very easy to square your hands at the impact position when you add the shoulder turn.

And you'll wonder why it seems so much easier this way, so I'll tell you. Because you haven't added any wrist cock besides what happens naturally, squaring the back of your lead hand at impact also happens more naturally.

Because you're using your arms so much, you can use shafts that are a little softer. Exactly how much softer depends on how strong you are, of course, but back before Hogan became "the guy," most folks turned to a book called How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time by the legendary Tommy Armour, aka the Silver Scot. (He taught Babe Didrikson Zaharias, among others.) And one of the things that Armour advised his students was to get shafts that were a bit softer than they thought they needed because it would help their feel and rhythm. You can certainly play with stiffer shafts, but that's worth knowing.

Okay, there's plenty more I could write -- maybe I'll do a Quick Guide about it -- but this should be enough to get you started. This is a very natural way to swing, once you learn to trust your feel, and you'll find that the correct way for you is generally the way that feels best.

Tomorrow I'll teach you some of the ways you can add that little "downcock" move that adds some extra zing to your shots.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Cristie and Inbee's Swings... The Mental Side

I noticed that, based on the number of hits it got, a lot of you were interested in the post I did on that unusual "quirk" in Cristie Kerr and Inbee Park's swings. (We could add Steve Stricker to that group, as well as a number of other players who use variations of their method.) And I think your interest is a good thing because, to paraphrase an old saying, "one swing does NOT fit all."

Inbee Park at top of swing

So, for the next couple of days I'm going to try and teach those of you who are interested what you need to know in order to make a swing like this your own. It's really not that hard but it does require you to know some things that instructors don't often talk about on TV or in books.

In my original post I wrote that learning this swing is "as much a mental adjustment as a physical one." Tomorrow we'll look at how the physical adjustments work but today I'll focus on those mental adjustments. And understanding these mental adjustments will probably help improve your existing swing as well, no matter what it looks like.

The more I study the differences between classic swings and modern swings, the more I realize that the differences are caused by THE SHAFTS. The classic swing developed around soft but inconsistent shafts, the modern swing around consistent but stiff shafts. The classic swing fell out of favor not because it was an inferior swing but because the equipment was inferior. Without going into a lot of detail -- I can do that later if you guys tell me you need it -- the fact is that now we have soft shafts that are as consistent as stiff shafts, so these days we have a choice.

However, these days we also have a new problem: Modern golf has become brainlocked because of an obsession with Hogan and Trackman. Don't misunderstand me -- I'm not saying Hogan or Trackman are evil! But Hogan's technique demands stiff shafts, so Trackman studies focus on stiff shaft performance, so no one takes soft shaft technique seriously anymore -- even though Hogan's technique hasn't created a huge number of major winners.

To see what I mean, look at this Wikipedia list of golf's major winners. You'll see that very few of the multiple major winners have followed Hogan's lead -- which, if Hogan's approach was really that much more superior, you'd see more multiple winners who use Hogan's approach. After all, Hogan's techniques are nearly 60 years old now, which is plenty of time for them to have demonstrated their dominance.

Instead, just going down through the 5-time winners, the only ones that would likely fall in that category are Tiger (for his later majors under Haney), Hogan (of course), and perhaps Gary Player and Nick Faldo. If one player has had more influence than any other on major winners, it would appear to be either Bobby Jones or Sam Snead... and both originally played soft shafts, which affected Snead's technique even after he changed to steel.

The reason I spent so much time on this is because soft shaft technique requires a different mental focus than stiff shaft technique. "Softies" tend to focus on hand and arm movement while "Stiffies" focus on lower body movement. And this focus difference has a huge effect on how we swing the club.

Why is this true? It's all about loading the shaft. Soft shafts loaded easily, so players focused on controlling how much they loaded with their hands and arms. But it takes a lot more force to load a stiff shaft, so players had to create more power during their swing... and hands and arms alone just aren't strong enough to do that.

So -- and this is the important mental point -- "Stiffies" (like Hogan) built their games on developing power to load the shaft, which then had to be converted to clubhead speed. But "Softies" didn't have to worry about loading the shaft, so they simply focused on speed. If you follow that line of development out, the "Softies" ultimately end up with a simpler swing since they only have to worry about one thing... but the difference in focus makes the swing feel different.

Which brings us to Cristie and Inbee's (and other similar players') swings. Although everybody is using their whole body to make their swing, and while the fundamentals they use are all basically the same, what they actually THINK ABOUT during their swings can be very different. So if you want to swing more like Cristie or Inbee, you'll probably have to focus differently than you do now.

Let me flash you back to some recent posts I've done, featuring thoughts from some very different players at different points in time.
  • From What Bobby Jones Said About Slow-Motion Video: "...But even slow-motion pictures need interpretation. The one great difficulty from the standpoint of the average golfer has been in separating the consciously controlled movements from those that are purely instinctive."
  • From Jeff Flagg on Hitting It Long: "IN TRUTH, MY HIPS LEAD THE DOWNSWING. But I don't think about that. They just do. Do you think pitchers, quarterbacks or javelin throwers think about clearing their hips before they throw? Their arms dictate all of that motion subconsciously." (Remember, Flagg was the 2014 REMAX Long Drive Champ.)
  • From Why Shoulder Turn Is Important: "If we just get our shoulders fully coiled at the top of our backswings, then starting the downswing with our lower bodies is the most natural thing in the world. A full shoulder coil stretches the muscles of your torso, and that tension causes you to shift your weight back and then drive your legs forward to start your downswing."
All of these posts -- and I could find a dozen more if I needed to -- tell us how mental focus during the swing creates the proper fundamentals.

If you want to try a swing more like Cristie or Inbee's, you'll still end up using your whole body -- which includes your hips and legs, of course -- but you'll have to start thinking more about your hands and arms.

To build on what Jones was saying about slo-mo video, you tend to EXAGGERATE what you focus on. When you focus on your hips and legs, you tend to exaggerate the movements -- and since those movements affect your balance and stability, focusing on those movements results in more inconsistent contact. When you try to consciously control movements that should happen subconsciously, you overdo them and get results you didn't plan on.

When you try to swing like Cristie and Inbee -- and Stricks and all those other players -- you'll need to focus more on your hands and arms, which (as Flagg said) is what you naturally do when you play other sports. Using your hands and arms this way is so natural to you that you focus less on movements and more on TARGETS, and that helps you keep it all in balance.

Tomorrow I'll give you some help learning the physical side of swinging like they do. It's really not hard once you understand what you're trying to do.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving, Everybody!

Even if you don't live in the US -- where we have a national holiday to remind us that we have a lot to be thankful for -- all of us can think of something good in our lives. I hope all of you can think of a lot of good things and find time to celebrate them today!

Disney Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Tip from Cristie Kerr (and Inbee Park)

Cristie Kerr, like most of the successful golfers on the pro tours, has a unique swing. Since she won this past week, I thought it might be fun to take a quick look at something in her swing that most of you probably would never think about doing in yours.

In fact, Inbee Park does this as well. We'll take a quick look at both of them. I'm including some video footage of both players -- three videos in fact -- and I'll tell you what to look for. We'll start with the Playing Lessons with the Pros show that Cristie did for GC a few years back.

And yes, this is the entire show... but back then it was only a half-hour, which means it's about 20 minutes or so when you remove the commercials. There's a lot of good material in this show but we're only going to focus on about 20 seconds of it, starting at around the 1:40 mark. That section shows Cristie hitting an iron to the green.

What I'd like you to notice is that Cristie doesn't really cock her wrists during her backswing. Isn't that odd? This move is part of the reason she's so accurate. But you'd think that would make her an extremely short hitter, wouldn't you? Yet Cristie averaged nearly 255 yards off the tee this season... and Cristie is only 5'3" tall.

Now there's a little trick to this, of course, but you can't see it so well with this short iron swing. So I've pulled up a YouTube video of Cristie hitting driver at the 2014 CME Group Tour Championship a year ago. The longer driver swing makes it easier to see what's happening, especially in the slow motion part.

There! Did you see it? Although she doesn't cock her wrists on the way back, she DOES cock her wrists a little as she starts down. This is an excellent way to make a small amount of wrist cock last much longer into the downswing.

And despite what you may think, it's not all that difficult to do. The trick is simply to relax your wrists a bit as you start down. The change of direction takes care of creating that small wrist cock if you do. Take the club back slowly, and don't let the club flop around at the top. Then, as you change direction, relax your wrists and forearms for a moment and that little wrist cock will happen.

Now, if you listen to Golf Central, you've probably heard Tripp Isenhour say (many times) that he simply doesn't understand how Inbee Park creates any power with her swing. Inbee is 5'6" and she averages 248 off the tee, nearly as much as Cristie, despite having a much slower swing. Well, just take a look at this video of Inbee hitting driver. As an interesting side note, Lydia Ko's driver swing is shown here as well. Lydia is 5'5" and also averages 250, but notice how much more effort she has to put into her swing to get the same results as Inbee:

It's not just about how fast you swing the club, folks. It's about how you use it. A golf club is a tool for driving balls, just like a hammer is a tool for driving nails. This little "lag" move at the start of the downswing is very much like the way a carpenter swings a hammer. And because you cock your wrists as you start down, you don't have to jerk the club from the top in order to get more clubhead speed.

Cristie and Inbee both use this move. It's not a big move so it doesn't show as much as the clubs get shorter because the shorter shafts don't flex as much. But this also makes it much easier to deliver clubhead speed to the ball with accuracy, so you'll hit more fairways and greens.

This is something that's worth practicing. It's not hard to learn but you do have to stick with it until you get it. It's as much a mental adjustment as a physical one. But it can really help you poke that ball out there!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Let's Talk LPGA 2016

I'm not going to do a long post today but, with the 2015 LPGA schedule winding up over the weekend, I thought it might be fun to take a look at what may await us next season.

Inbee Park and Lydia Ko

First, a reminder of how the end of year races finished up:
  • Race to the CME Globe winner: Lydia Ko
  • Rolex Player of the Year: Lydia Ko
  • Vare Trophy (scoring title) winner: Inbee Park
  • Rolex Rookie of the Year: Sei Young Kim
  • CME Group Tour Championship winner: Cristie Kerr
Inbee also gained enough points to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame when she finishes her 10th year next season. Congrats, Inbee!

And if you pop over to this link at Tony Jesselli's site, you can find the 2016 LPGA playing schedule. There are 34 tournaments, up two from 2015, and the LPGA will take around three weeks off for the Olympics.

The debates have already begun over who will enter 2016 with the most momentum... and who will most likely stumble. Here are my initial reactions to what we've seen so far.

Of course, the Top3 of the LPGA -- Lydia Ko, Inbee Park and Stacy Lewis -- will most likely continue their rivalry. Among other things, Stacy has been making equipment changes this past season -- tell me, how does a conforming golf ball suddenly cease to be conforming? -- but I expect she'll get everything sorted out over the off-season and be fresh and ready to go in January.

Add to this Top3 the ROY, Sei Young Kim. She came over here because she wanted to qualify for the Olympics. Right now she's got it, and I don't expect her to let up with her goal so close.

Cristie Kerr had her first multiple win season since 2010. Tim Rosaforte said she's spent the last two years learning to juggle golf and motherhood, and she thinks she's got it figured out. If so, I expect her to play even better next year.

In the up-and-coming category, let me give you three names. Gerina Pillar and Ha-Na Jang both had big seasons -- Gerina since her performance at the Solheim Cup, and Ha-Na's had moments of brilliance all year as she has adjusted to being in America. The third, In-Gee Chun, won the US Open in addition to five KLPGA and two JLPGA events this season. I'm not sure any female golfer has ever had a performance like that! I like her chances on the LPGA next year.

There are also a number of players I have questions about, although I think their talent is unquestioned. Can Michelle Wie get over her injuries? Can Suzann Pettersen and So Yeon Ryu get out of their own way? Can Lexi Thompson develop a bit more consistency before she begins to press? I'm also a bit concerned how Brooke Henderson will handle the pressure of being a new LPGA member. She's another player I fear may put too much pressure on herself during her first year on Tour. These are all players who can -- and have -- done great things thus far but need to deal with self-imposed pressure to succeed.

Finally, let me add a dark horse to keep your eyes on. There are rumors that Jiyai Shin intends to return to the LPGA in 2016. Currently she doesn't have a card but, if she's serious, she shouldn't have trouble getting sponsor exemptions and earning her way back on like Brooke Henderson did this past season. Remember, Jiyai is a two-time major champion with 11 total LPGA wins, and has won twice on the JLPGA this season, so she's still got the skills to do it. She's currently 39 in the Rolex Rankings.

And with that, I'll let the girls take a rest until next year. They're going to have their hands full beating the performance they put on in 2015!

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 RSM Classic

Winner: Kevin Kisner

Around the wider world of golf: WOW! There's a lot to tell this week. Rory McIlroy won the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai as well as the Race to Dubai on the ET; Cristie Kerr won the CME Group Tour Championship, Inbee Park won the Vare (scoring ) Trophy, and Lydia Ko picked up the POY Award and Race to the Globe on the LPGA; Peter Senior won the Australian Masters (at age 56) on the Australasian Tour; Yusaku Miyazato won the Dunlap Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour; Natipong Srithong won the Resorts World Manila Masters on the Asian Tour; Haimeng Chao won the Nine Dragons Open on the PGA TOUR China; Rodolfo Cazaubon won the Lexus Peru Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; and Bo-Mee Lee won the Daio Paper Elleair Ladies Open for her 7th JLPGA win of the season (bangkokbobby has details).

Kevin Kisner with RSM trophy

"Could be epic."

That's what Kevin Kisner told GC's Todd Lewis about the upcoming celebration after his breakthrough win at the RSM Classic. (Formerly the McGladrey Classic, in case you didn't know. It's still the same company; they just changed their name.) After all, Kevin now lives at Sea Island so everybody was right there, just waiting for him to get his first win.

Just as Kevin has been doing all year.

As you know if you follow my blog, I've picked Kevin as a favorite in several tournaments this past year. He's just been playing so well! When he's lost, it hasn't been because he played badly... he just got beat, as often happens in golf. (And in the rest of life as well, but that's a whole 'nother topic.) He came up just short once again a couple of weeks back at the WGC, his fourth runner-up of the year. He lost by two strokes.

Not this week. After getting his first 54-hole lead -- a fairly sizable 3-stroke lead -- he casually set about building on it. In fact, except for checking back a couple of times, I watched the LPGA's finale because Kevin already had a 5-shot lead when the LPGA broadcast started.

I got to see him finish though. Back-to-back 64s gave him a 6-shot victory when it was all done.

I don't know that I believe that old line about "once you get your first win, the floodgates open." I've seen -- as I'm sure you have -- that most of the time, that old saying is wrong. There are just too many variables in terms of courses and weather, and too many good players at the various events, for us to believe anybody is guaranteed an easier road to victory than anybody else.

But Kevin Kisner has proven that coming up short -- and doing so A LOT -- doesn't get him down. He understands the odds and he accepts them. And with a mindset like that, I think he has as good a chance of opening those floodgates as anybody out there. We'll see what happens for him next year.

But in the meantime, Kevin scores his first-ever Limerick Summary. Congrats on finally breaking through, Kev!
His lead went to six up. It’s true—
Kevin’s runner-up streak is now through.
Back-to-back 64s
Busted down all the doors
To an epic post-game rendezvous!
The photo came from the tournament wrap-up page at

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Chalk One Up for the Old Guys

If you didn't watch the Australian Masters because Adam Scott wasn't a factor -- his driver deserted him this week -- you missed seeing a bit of history.

You see, all 56-year-old Peter Senior did was win his third Australian Masters gold jacket.

Peter Senior

Peter is no stranger to making history. In 2010 he won the Australian PGA Championship at age 51. Then in 2012 he won the Australian Open -- the event Jordan Spieth won last year -- at age 53.

And now he's won the Australian Masters again -- 20 years after his second win -- by 2 shots. Do you understand what he's done? He's won all three legs of the Australian Triple Crown in his 50s. That's just impressive beyond belief.

Just as a side note, one of the three players who finished in second place was amateur Bryson DeChambeau, who won both the NCAA Division I championship and the US Amateur this year. This finish certainly bodes well for him. He left school to try and play his way into shape for Augusta next year before turning pro, and this is definitely a good start.

In the meantime you'll probably be hearing plenty about this over the next week because it's just such an unusual accomplishment. Peter has yet to win on the Champions Tour... but I'm pretty sure this win will minimize his disappointment! 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Rethinking Your "Best" Shots

I found an older article from Hank Haney over at the Golf Digest site that some of you might find interesting. It's called 4 Obsolete Shots and What to Play Today, and it's about the strategy you use out on the course.

Haney hitting an iron

Haney says there are 4 commonly-recommended strategy tips that simply aren't useful anymore. They are:
  1. Hit your 3-wood for accuracy
  2. Lay up to your favorite yardage
  3. Take dead aim at the flagstick
  4. Chip your ball from the fringe
I'll let you read the article to find out why he says you shouldn't follow them most of the time -- hey, there's always an exception to the rules! -- but I want to focus on that third one because I think it could help most of you a lot.

Rather than aiming at the flag, Haney recommends shooting for the middle of the green. And the logic of this is so overwhelming that it's hard to believe we don't do it automatically.

Simply put, most weekend golfers don't know exactly how far they hit the ball. I mean, do you know -- right here, at this very moment -- how far you carry each iron, how far it rolls out, and how far overall you can expect the ball to travel? Probably not. But by shooting at the middle of the green you maximize your chances of hitting the green and leaving yourself a putt.

And, although you may not have thought about it this way, if your ball always ends up in the middle of the green you'll never have a putt that's more than half a green from the hole! And since most holes aren't placed right on the edge of the green, they'll usually be much shorter than that. It's simple logic.

So pop over and read the article. It will give you some food for thought. And by all means, try shooting for the middle of the green for a few rounds and see if it doesn't lower your score.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Alejandra Llaneza on the Symetra Tour... and Rattlesnakes

Today I'm just referring you to an interesting article written by LPGA golfer Alejandra Llaneza for The Player's Tribune. The article is called Let the Rattlesnake Deal with Me and it's about life on the Symetra Tour.

Pay special attention to how the economics work out. It's a real eye-opener.

Alejandra Llaneza

It's a fascinating inside look at how hard it is for female golfers to make it onto the LPGA. It might give you a new appreciation for women's golf and the determination of the players.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Erika Larkin on the One-Piece Takeaway

I realize some of you get tired of hearing me harp on the one-piece takeaway (OPT) but I'd be willing to bet that 95% of you who struggle with your swings don't do it.

You should. And therefore, although I already have a post with a drill on how to do a OPT, I like to put up as many different approaches to teaching it as I can find.

This one is a video from Golf Channel Academy Lead Coach Erika Larkin -- she's GC's Teacher of the Week this week -- and it's yet another coach's way of teaching the move and the feel.

Erika is focusing on the shoulder turn involved in a one-piece takeaway. By putting the butt end of your driver against your belly and turning without bending your elbows, you learn to feel a good shoulder turn without stiffening your arms. Relaxation is very important in the OPT!

I would suggest using this drill to get the feel for the shoulder turn, then try doing my drill to feel the actual position you'll be in when you swing with a OPT. This will help reinforce the correct movement when you're actually hitting balls.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Preparing for the ET Finale

Like the LPGA and the CME Race to the Globe, the European Tour holds its final event in the Race to Dubai this week -- the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.

And in case you didn't know, the two leaders -- separated by a mere 1613 points -- are Rory McIlroy and Danny Willett. You might say Rory's the fox and Danny's the hound, although the ET site says that there are 5 other players capable of winning should both McIlroy and Willett falter.

Danny Willett and Rory McIlroy

That's one difference between the Race to Dubai and "playoffs" on the other tours -- there is no redistribution of points. The final four events (changing to three next season) offer a lot more points but those points carry into this week's final event.

A total of 60 players made it to the finale. The Top7 players in the field -- the ones who still have a chance to win the whole thing -- are, in order:
  1. Rory McIlroy
  2. Danny Willett
  3. Justin Rose
  4. Shane Lowry
  5. Louis Oosthuizen
  6. Branden Grace
  7. Byeong Hun An
It's interesting to note that, although the Race spans 47 events, the actual number of events played by these players varies wildly. Rory played the fewest with 11 while Byeong Hun played the most with 25. (A quick scan of the field showed that the most events played by anyone in the Top60 was 32. I think this is understandable, given that the ET plays in 26 countries on 4 continents. That's a lot of travel!)

You may not be aware of just how much is on the line this week. Most fans know the money title is at stake, as is a bonus pool of up to $6.355mil for the Top15 finishers -- $5mil for the official pool, plus $1.355mil additional is available to players who play 3 of the 4 final events. But there are more important things up for grabs:
  • The Race to Dubai winner receives the Harry Vardon Trophy (that's the money title), and a seven year European Tour Card exemption. (That's a Category 1 card, like you get for winning a major.)
  • Likewise, the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai winner -- if he's a different player -- receives a five year European Tour Card exemption. That's a Category 2 card, which also goes to the winner of the BMW PGA Championship.
So you can see how a win this week could make a player's life much easier for the next few years.

The ET announced this week that they're reducing the membership requirements for the Tour to just 5 non-major and non-WGC events, down from 13 total events, starting in 2016. They also announced that reduction from 4 to 3 playoff events. Most of the talk has been how it will make it easier for world players to maintain some loyalty to the ET as well as make it easier to qualify for the Ryder Cup, but the timing also helps the winners of those ET cards this week. It will be much easier for those winners to retain their freshly-won cards, giving them the freedom to play more or less on the ET depending on how they fare on the PGA and other tours.

So this week could potentially kickstart some budding international careers -- like Danny Willett's and Shane Lowry's -- without the risk of burnout from so much travel. This week can truly be a life-changer.

GC's live coverage starts tonight -- at least, it's tonight here in the States -- but there are two different tournaments being broadcast so make sure you get the times straight. The DP World Tour Championship, Dubai starts at 3am ET Thursday morning. In addition, tonight at 8pm ET they'll be broadcasting the Australian Masters. If you plan to record the Race to Dubai event, make sure you get the correct time!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 OHL Classic

Winner: Graeme McDowell

Around the wider world of golf: Inbee Park won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational on the LPGA; Kristoffer Broberg got his first win on on the ET at the BMW Masters; Shingo Katayama won the Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters on the Japan Golf Tour; Danthai Boonma won the inaugural World Classic Championship on the Asian Tour; Fabian Gomez won the NEC Personal Classic on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; and Bo-Mee Lee won the Ito En Ladies Golf Tournament on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Graeme McDowell with OHL trophy

The weather forced an extra day of play but the players forced the playoff. I guess some guys just can't bear to leave Mayakoba.

At first it looked as if the field was going to experience the School of Hard Knox. (Sorry, but I really like that pun.) Russell Knox was clearly on a high after his win at the WGC last week and he carried that high halfway around the world to Mayakoba. But Jason Bohn has been on a streak as well, and Graeme McDowell was unwilling to let one hole determine his week. (He was 5-over on the first hole last week, in case you didn't hear.)

But Graeme posted first, Jason scrambled around well enough to tie him, and Russell lost his one-shot lead on the final hole to send them all into the three-man playoff. Then Graeme rifled a 5-iron to within 3 feet of the cup, nearly holing it in the process, and tapped in for birdie and the win.

It seemed appropriate that the other two didn't falter on the playoff hole (both made par) but were simply beat. In fact, Russell followed his first win with a runner-up -- that's a pretty good accomplishment -- and Jason joined Kevin Na at that small table where players with two runner-ups and a third sit -- and both have done it in only five weeks. Amazing!

As for Graeme... no doubt you all heard his post-round comments where he talked about all the self-doubt he's experienced this past year and how much this win meant to him. He's in good shape going forward, as his Tour card was about to expire -- now he's set for a few more seasons -- and he wasn't qualified for some big events like the Masters. All that's taken care of now.

Most importantly, Graeme's return to the winner's circle also gained him another Limerick Summary:
In the end Knox, McDowell and Bohn
Played off Monday. Who’d bring the win home?
With his second shot, Graeme
Hit it closest and BAM!
Now that OHL trophy’s his own.
The photo came from the tournament wrap-up page at

Monday, November 16, 2015

Preparing for the LPGA Finale

The Limerick Summary is delayed because the PGA Tour event doesn't finish until Monday morning, and we have two different tours playing their final events of the season this week. So today I'll set up the LPGA event, tomorrow will be the Limerick Summary, and then I'll look at the European Tour event Wednesday.

Of course, Inbee Park won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational this past weekend, which she needed in order to have a realistic chance to win some of the year-end awards.

Inbee Park with latest trophy

The LPGA event is the CME Group Tour Championship, and this is the week when those awards are finalized. These awards are important because some of them give the winners points toward membership in the LPGA Hall of Fame while others are just raise a player's stature in the game. And Inbee's win seriously enhanced her chances, especially since Lydia Ko and Stacy Lewis didn't play in Mexico.

Let's take a quick look at what's at stake this week:
  • Inbee's win wasn't so critical for the CME Race to the Globe, the LPGA's equivalent of the FedExCup, worth a cool million. Inbee remains in 2nd place while Lydia remains in 1st and Stacy in 3rd. Since the Top3 can each take it all by winning the Tour Championship, all three still "control their own destiny." Of course, if none of them win, the points could become important since any of the Top9 have a mathematical chance of winning.
  • The Money Title is now a two-woman race. Lydia has $2,758,417, Inbee has $2,570,096, and the winner's check is $500.000.
  • The Scoring Title -- known officially as the Vare Trophy -- has become extremely tight, with Inbee taking the lead with her win. How tight? Inbee's scoring average for the year is 69.433 strokes (for 90 rounds) while Lydia's is 69.449 (for 89 rounds). That's less than 2/100s of a stroke difference! This one counts a point toward the LPGA HoF.
  • And then the big one, the Rolex Player of the Year, is still being led by Lydia. She has 276 points against Inbee's 273. This one also counts a point toward the LPGA HoF.
  • I should also mention the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, which has already been locked up by Sei Young Kim. She's in the 4th spot on the Race to the Globe points list and could certainly figure into the picture this week.
In addition, should Inbee win the Tour Championship this week or either the Rolex POY or Vare Trophy, she will have accrued 27 points thus far in her career -- enough to qualify for the LPGA HoF. All she'll have to do is play one more season to meet the 10-year career criteria.

Of course, other players would like to get the points as well. I believe Lydia currently has 11 points (9 regular events and one major) while Stacy has 17 points (9 regular events, 2 majors, 2 POYs and 2 Vares). There are 3 points up for grabs this week, plus Stacy would like a win to get off the schnide of 9 Top3s this season.

Given that Inbee has said she has trouble with the Bermuda greens at Tiburon, where the final event is held, and that Lydia and Stacy could be a bit rusty after taking a week off, and that there are a number of other players in good form right now... this should be a very interesting finale to the 2015 LGPA season.

GC's coverage starts Thursday, November 19 at 4pm ET. ABC will cover the final round on Sunday at 2pm ET.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

If You Wonder Why You Haven't Seen Bubba...

It's because Bubba is playing the Japan Tour this week -- specifically, he's playing in the Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters. (Yeah, that's a mouthful.) At the time I'm writing this, he still has one more round to play. But since most of you probably aren't getting updates, I thought I'd try to bring you up-to-date.

Some of you may have seen this video that Bubba tweeted from Japan on Tuesday.
Pretty cool, huh?

Shingo KatayamaBubba is doing well in the tournament itself -- he seems to do very well in Japan, and he really seems to like playing there. After three rounds he finds himself just two shots off the lead. Japanese player Shingo Katayama -- he often wears a cowboy hat when he plays, remember him? -- is still leading the tournament at -14 (he has led since the second round) and Taiwanese player Khrongpha Thanyakorn is just a stroke back. Then Bubba is at -12 and three other players at -11.

I did a quick check on the weather there -- Gotemba in the Shizuoka Prefecture of Japan -- and found that it's supposed to be in the mid-60s, 82% humidity and 7mph winds with a 40% chance of rain (and the chance goes down as the day wears on). Those sound like good scoring conditions to me, although the scores from the first three rounds indicate that the course is getting harder. Bubba may have his hands full winning this event.

You can find the Taiheiyo Masters leaderboard at several sites on the web. This link goes to the one at, which is in English. You'll want to check in later today and see if Bubba can close this tournament out. It will probably only get a brief mention on GC.

[UPDATE: Apparently the tournament was shortened to 54 holes and Shingo was declared winner. Bubba finished third.]

The photo of Shingo came from

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Christina Kim and Rickie Fowler's Swing Thought

Given that defending champion Christina Kim is just one stroke off the lead down at Lorena's tournament...

and given that Christina gave Rickie Fowler and Butch Harmon some credit for the swing thought that's helping her play better this week...

and given that everybody's looking for "a secret" of some sort...

I'm going to pass along the swing thought Christina lifted from Rickie's head. There are a couple of links below this photo; check them both out.

Rickie getting the toe of his club straight up on the takeaway

The first is Golf Digest's story about Christina lifting that swing thought and the tweet that tipped her off. And the second is the original Golf Digest article that the tweet referenced, where Rickie told what he and Butch had been working on. The paragraph from that original article that Christina mentioned said:
In my old takeaway, the clubface pointed at the ball for too long. There was this initial tension as my shoulders turned early while the club slowly dragged back, putting the clubface in a shut position. To fix this, my slow-motion rehearsal thought was, The toe of the club makes the first move.
Christina's been having a problem keeping her clubface square during her swing, and this takeaway thought helps her -- and Rickie -- swing the club more naturally.

I may have linked to the original article before -- I remember linking to something where Rickie talked about what he and Butch were working on -- but good instruction is always worth hearing again.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Don't Over-Squeeze the Toothpaste!

This is a super-simple tip from GC's Lead Coach of the Week, Kenny Nairn. Here's how to use a tube of toothpaste to learn proper grip pressure!

Just take the top off the tube and grip it tight enough to get the toothpaste just barely squeezing out of the tube, then duplicate that pressure when you swing your driver. How simple is that?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Almost the End of the LPGA Season

Well, the 2015 LPGA season is nearly over. There are only two more events on the schedule, and after five weeks of overseas tournaments they're both during daylight hours here in the USA.

This week it's the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, with its extremely limited field of only 36 players. You may recall that defending champion Christina Kim got her first win in nine years there.

Christina Kim

As usual, Tony Jesselli has a preview post of the event at this link. He can get you up to speed on the pertinent details of the event. I just want to make sure you understand what's at stake this week.

Of the top 3 players in the Rolex Ranking, only Inbee Park is playing this week and even if Inbee wins, Lydia Ko will remain #1 in the world... but I'm not sure if she would keep her lead over Inbee in the Race to the CME Globe, Vare Trophy, Rolex Player of the Year and Money List standings. Nevertheless, you can be sure Inbee wants to grab at least some of them! Stacy Lewis took the first three and Lydia the money list last year.

However, it's not going to be completely smooth sailing for Inbee this week because Sei Young Kim is also in the field. Kim locked up the Rookie of the Year Award last week and a win at Lorena's event would put her into the Top3 of the Race to the CME Globe... which would mean she could take that prize if she wins the Tour Championship next week.

This is a critical week for Inbee, what with three other players potentially able to take all the year-end prizes... and Inbee hasn't played well on the Bermuda greens at the Tour Championship. She needs a win this week to give her the best possible starting position for the final event.

GC's coverage of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational begins today at 4pm ET.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Jeff Ritter on Making a Solid Swing

According to Golf Digest, "Jeff Ritter is founder of MTT Performance, a Golf Channel Academy located at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach." Therefore he should know his stuff.

Jeff has an instructional article at called Five Steps To A Solid Swing. It's a slideshow with five slides and commentary about what he considers the five main positions you should swing through if your golf swing is solid. For this post I want to focus on the third slide, the top of the backswing, because I noticed something a bit unusual -- especially since I've done several posts on shoulder turn lately.

Here's the slide:

Shoulder turn at top of backswing

Now the caption says, in part:
...Golfers hear all the time that it's important to have a "wide swing arc," but that image alone often falls short. A good thought to get and maintain width is, Play keep away. As in, keep your right hand as far from your right shoulder as possible (pictured). Maintain that feeling throughout the backswing.
Take a good look here, folks. Jeff is NOT getting a 90° shoulder turn! He's getting a good turn, with his hands quite a way from his trailing shoulder, but he's not stretching and turning so hard that he loses his spine angle from his address position.

Note also that Jeff is using an iron in this photo. I think that's important as well. Typically your iron shots are made with the ball resting on the ground. If you try to make your shoulder turn too big, it becomes more difficult to maintain your spine angle from your address. As a result, your upper body ends up moving around and it's harder to make solid contact with the ball. Therefore you're more likely to hit your iron shot fat or thin.

However, if you're hitting driver and your ball is on a tee, making solid contact isn't as hard. If you hit the ball a bit low or high on the face, you might lose a few yards but you can still hit the ball solidly. So working to get that bigger shoulder turn -- and a potentially less accurate hit -- is a fair trade-off to get the distance.

My point is that you don't have to swing full out on every shot. Your approach shots off the ground don't require quite the shoulder turn that you try to get with the driver off a tee. Bear this in mind during your round and you may be able to cut a few shots from your score without any extra practice.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Five Out of Four, Plus Three

The reason for the weird title is simple. There were two unrelated events I wanted to mention today and that's the best title I could come up with. So sue me.

First off, the Sanderson Farms Championship finally finished up. Peter Malnati became the fifth straight first-time winner on the PGA Tour this season in only four weeks (hence my title). So for those of you debating whether Spieth, Day, McIlroy or Fowler will dominate in 2016, you now know NONE of them will win, not even once...

For clearly, 2016 has already been declared a "first-timers only" zone.

Peter Malnati with Sanderson Farms trophy

And then there was the rather complex announcement of the new Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs on the Champions Tour, scheduled to begin next year. Here's the video of Tim Finchum with the details from Monday's Morning Drive:

You can get all the details from the video clip. But here's the new playoff setup:
  • 72 players will make it to the new Powershares QQQ Championship, which will be cut to
  • 54 players for the new Dominion Charity Classic, culminating with
  • 36 players (up from the current 30) going to the final event, the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
The events will be held in Los Angeles, California; Richmond, Virginia; and Scottsdale, Arizona. That means the players will be leaping from one coast to the other for three weeks. But it should end the possibility of someone locking up the Cup before the last event is ever played, since you know they intend to create something like the FedExCup race -- which means there will most likely be a points reshuffle before the final event.

You can read a bit more about the Triple-Q at, and about the Dominion at Given the new 20-year sponsorship deal with Schwab, an overhaul like this makes perfect sense.

The photo of Peter Malnati came from this page at

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 WGC-HSBC Champions

Winner: Russell Knox

Around the wider world of golf: Billy Andrade won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship for his third win of the season but Bernhard Langer won the year-long Charles Schwab Cup competition for a record third time; Kent Bulle won the 110 VISA Open de Argentina on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Xiyu Lin successfully defended her title at the Sanya Ladies Open on the LET; Sun-Ju Ahn got her first LPGA victory at the Toto Japan Classic; and the rain-delayed Sanderson Farms Championship won't be finished until later today.

Russell Knox

By the halfway point it seemed pretty clear that this could be a two-man race between Kevin Kisner and Russell Knox. And I have to admit that I was pretty thrilled about that. While the bigger names drew most of the attention, Kevin and Russell have both played well in 2015. Both could realistically break through for their first PGA Tour win at any time. And both would deserve that break if they got it.

And here they were, pushing each other for a WGC title. It was a perfect storm.

Of course, the bigger draws weren't about to let their names be left out of the mix. Everybody from DJ to Spieth to Reed to Grace to McIlroy to Stenson to Garcia made runs at the lead, as well as newer stars like Fitzpatrick and Berger and even local superstar Haotong Li. Ross Fisher continued his comeback and Danny Willett made some noise early on Sunday with a 10-under 62. But in the end it came down to Kisner and Knox, and Knox came out on top.

Knox barely made it into this WGC at all; only a WD by JB Holmes got him a spot as an alternate. But once there, he made his first-ever WGC appearance his first PGA Tour win -- and his first ET win as well, since this was a Race to Dubai playoff event -- something which hasn't happened in nearly 20 years. And this is big for Scottish fans as well; bear in mind that Martin Laird and Russell Knox are the only Scottish players currently on the PGA Tour... and Knox is the first Scot ever to win a WGC. You can bet they were celebrating in Inverness (Knox's home town) last night!

And with this victory Russell gains another new distinction -- he's the only Scot ever to receive a Limerick Summary for winning a WGC:
Russell Knox is surprised—with good reason;
He’s the fourth first-time winner this season.
Though he barely got in
To compete for the win,
Now the Scots will all cheer till they’re wheezin’!
The photo came from the wrap-up page at

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Go Over the Drink, Not into It

I often link you to an article I've read in these posts because I think they'll help and I think the source of the tips should be recognized.

Today I'm linking you to two different but related articles -- both short -- that I think build on one another but that you might not have put together on your own because they're in different places.

Fish and golf balls

The articles are both at the Golf Digest site. One is by teacher Rick Smith about hitting shots over water and the other is about calming your nerves under pressure by former professional football player Lewis Howes.

Smith says that most weekend players tend to get nervous when faced with a shot over water. (Did you know that? Talk about an understatement!) As a result they tighten their grip on the club and end up making a very short backswing, which then translates into a awkward stab at the ball and an irritating splash.

His solution is to think about making a smooth stroke back and keeping your arms and body in sync on the way through. He also warns against trying to help the ball up, as you'll hit it fat or else scoop it. Both will put you in the water.

But saying "Don't get tight when you swing" is a lot easier than actually staying loose, isn't it? That's where the Howes article comes in. He has a four-step process for relieving the pressure:
  1. Visualize. Take a deep breath, close your eyes and try to see the shot you want to hit. That helps you focus on the job at hand.
  2. Breathe. You already took a deep breath, so why not take a few more? Howes suggests at least ten deep breaths; this helps you make sure that you're alert and your muscles have lots of oxygen to work with.
  3. Be grateful. See this shot as a great opportunity to accomplish something wonderful. Lots of players actually wish they had this shot!
  4. Remember that you're in control. You make the shot, not your playing partners. You take the club back, you make the stroke and you choose when you make the stroke. (Well, within reason. Don't stand around for ten minutes, but wait till you're ready.)
Now, when you're faced with a shot over water, you have a clear goal -- make a smooth swing -- and a short routine to help you get loose. Shots like this aren't that difficult if you know how to prepare for them... and now you do.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

An LPGA Update from Japan

Since this week's LPGA event, the Toto Japan Classic, isn't being carried by GC I thought I'd try and bring you up-to-date on what's been happening there. The second round isn't finished yet and I don't know if it will finish before I get this post ready, but I'll try to make it as current as I can.

Angela Stanford and Ryann O'Toole

As you may have heard, Jessica Korda, So Yeon Ryu, Azahara Munoz and Beatriz Recari were in Bali for the Lexus Cup early in the week and got stranded there when a volcanic eruption forced the airports to close. Officials at the Toto tried to help by giving Munoz and Recari -- who were also scheduled to play in Japan -- the last tee times on Friday, but they were forced to WD anyway.

After the first round of this 54-hole event, Angela Stanford and Ryann O'Toole (pictured above) held the lead at -7 while Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson were just two shots back. However, conditions are calm and second round scores are really low. Despite being -11 and -10 respectively after 14 holes (-4 and -3 on the day), Stanford and O'Toole are now chasing. Pornanong Phatlum sits at -12, having shot -7 in her first 16 holes. Lexi and Stacy are at -9 and -8 after 17 holes so they also have some work to do.

Sunday's round is supposed to see a bit more wind -- 9mph according to's prediction for Shima in the Mie Prefecture of Japan -- with a brief chance of rain. But with an expected temperature of 68°F (20°C) and 94% humidity, scoring conditions may be tougher -- something Stacy Lewis has been wishing for.

Although GC isn't carrying the event you can still check the updated leaderboard on at this link. A lot of players are going REALLY low in the second round, so the potential for a real shootout on Sunday is definitely there.

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Lesson from (Maybe) Phil's New Teacher

By now you've all heard that Phil Mickelson and Butch Harmon are no longer working together. You've probably also heard that Phil's new teacher is rumored to be Andrew Getson, an instructor at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale and also a Cleveland Golf teaching pro. (For those of you who want all the skinny on the "breakup," you can get up to speed by reading this Matthew Rudy post and this Tim Rosaforte post, both at the Golf Digest site.)

At any rate, I thought you might like to hear the kind of stuff Getson teaches. Here's one of his Cleveland Golf videos about creating more club head speed.

Earlier in the week I did a post about the importance of shoulder turn and why all the emphasis on leg drive is misplaced. I think it's interesting that Getson takes the same position. He definitely encourages you to take a stance that will let your legs drive on the downswing but he focuses on shoulder turn and using your hands and arms to swing faster.

According to the reports, Getson helped Phil with his posture before the Presidents Cup and apparently that's part of the reason Phil played so well after such a lackluster year. Phil says he just wants to get "...some different perspectives and ideas." So I checked out several of Getson's videos on YouTube just to see what kind of stuff he teaches. I like what I've heard so far.

If this is the guy Phil's chosen, the rest of the Tour might want to prepare for a new chapter in the Mickelson saga.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Three Surprising But Useful Facts About Divots

This post will sound painfully simple but you'll be amazed at how much it can help you troubleshoot swing problems.

Martin Hall began School of Golf Wednesday night with "three things you might not know about divots... but should." These three facts were:
  1. The divot made by a straight shot actually points a bit to the left. (That's for righties, of course. If you're a lefty, it should point slightly right.)
  2. If you hit the ball correctly, the divot should begin right under the center of the ball and NOT in front of it.
  3. Except when attempting special shots, your divots shouldn't be very deep.
Now let's look at each of these facts in more detail.

1. You swing on an inclined plane, which means that -- for a straight shot -- the club head approaches the ball from inside your aim line, contacts the ball when the club head is facing straight down the line and then immediately moves back inside your aim line. So if you hit the ball straight, the club head should be moving to your left (if you swing right-handed) right after it contacts the ball. Therefore your divot should point just a bit to the left -- not a lot, just a bit.

That also means that if your divot is pointing straight at the target, you probably pushed the shot. So if you keep slicing but your divot points straight ahead, you've got the ball a bit too far back in your stance.

This actually makes sense once you think about it... but you do have to think about it

2. Although the main part of your divot is in front of the ball -- if you hit the ball before you hit the ground, it has to be -- that doesn't mean ALL of the divot is in front of the ball. In fact, the beginning of the divot is UNDER the ball. The club face should hit the ball first, then hit the ground where the ball is resting, and then take out the divot starting there.

Again, this makes sense if you think about it. If the entire divot was in front of the ball, you would have hit the ball thin.

3. Martin quoted the late Moe Norman, who once said your divots should be "bacon strips, not pork chops." Under normal circumstances you want a shallow divot that doesn't slow down the club head or twist it sideways when it hits the ground. A shallow divot four to six inches long -- Martin said the size of a dollar bill -- is a good rule of thumb.

If you're coming over-the-top, you'll likely get a deep divot that points quite a bit left. (Or quite a bit right, if you swing lefty.) That's because your downswing comes in steep and from the outside of your aim line. And taking deep divots can also hurt your wrists.

So there you have it --  a quick lesson on "reading" divots. These simple facts about divots provide a lot of very useful information when you're trying to troubleshoot your swing.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Big Boys Finally Come Out to Play

Yeah, I know we've already seen Rory playing for the last three weeks... but he was just trying to get his game back in shape. This week it's the players whose games were already in shape who get back into the game!

The World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions starts tonight -- remember, American readers, that this event is in China so Thursday starts around half a day earlier for them. (Is it just me or are the men chasing the women around the globe? The LPGA was in Malaysia two weeks ago, and the PGA Tour played there last week while the LPGA teed it up in China, and this week...)

Bubba Watson is the defending champion.

Bubba Watson

Ten of the Top15 in the OWGR are in the field:
  • Jordan Spieth
  • Rory McIlroy
  • Bubba Watson
  • Rickie Fowler
  • Henrik Stenson
  • Dustin Johnson
  • Sergio Garcia
  • Adam Scott
  • Louis Oosthuizen
  • Hideki Matsuyama
The other five -- Jason Day, Jim Furyk, Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose and Zach Johnson--  aren't playing anywhere this week. Rose's absence surprises me a bit since he's fifth in the Race to Dubai but he skipped last week as well. He is listed in next week's event, the BMW Masters which is also in Shanghai.

I believe Spieth, Stenson and Watson are GC's featured group in their telecast tonight, although the McIlroy-Fowler-Johnson group tees off about an hour later so you'll probably get to see quite of bit of them as well.

GC lists their lead-in coverage to begin tonight at 9pm ET and the event broadcast proper at 10pm ET. Looks like another week of late, late, LATE night golf!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Why Shoulder Turn Is Important

Today I'm including a video from Michael Breed about how to get a better shoulder turn. It's pretty much self-explanatory, so I won't add much to what Breed says.

But I do want to talk about why shoulder turn is more important than you think... and it's NOT because it helps you get more distance.

Most instructors spend a great deal of time emphasizing the need to start your downswing with your lower body. I think this is a recipe for disaster and I can give you a number of reasons why:
  • It is physiologically impossible to get the club moving forward on your downswing without using your lower body. If you don't believe me, just try to swing the club while wearing sneakers on wet grass! The club will hit the ground well behind the ball because you can't use your legs.
  • You tend to exaggerate any movement that you focus on, especially when it's a movement that you do naturally. Since using your lower body is a natural move -- I know some of you disagree, so I'll come back to that in a minute -- "trying" to drive your lower body typically results in driving your hips too far forward, and that results in leaning backward, slanted planes and pushed shots.
  • Unless you practice it a lot, focusing on leg drive tends to throw your form and balance off. Bear in mind that the pros practice this every day, sometimes for hours, and they STILL can't always predict whether their bad shots will go left or right. If you aren't going to practice a lot, you're going to have the same problem but worse.
Okay, let me get back to that "lower body drive is natural" thing. The fact is that most of us do have a natural lower body drive when our arms and hands remain lower than our shoulders throughout the swing. Whether it's a baseball swing, a tennis stroke or a hockey shot, most of us automatically turn away from the ball and use our legs to make the swing.

But most of us, in making these swings, don't turn our shoulders fully. We don't turn enough for our backs face the target. That's because we don't need to. With our hands moving beneath shoulder level, this is a naturally powerful position for most of us. When we make that "level" swing movement we automatically shift our weight back and then forward to hit the ball.

That doesn't happen automatically once we swing our hands high above our shoulders. We don't make a full shoulder turn; instead, we have a tendency to just lift our hands. That's because it takes a lot more flexibility to reach up and back during a full golf swing than it does to simply reach back as we do when we make, say, a tennis stroke.

If we just get our shoulders fully coiled at the top of our backswings, then starting the downswing with our lower bodies is the most natural thing in the world. A full shoulder coil stretches the muscles of your torso, and that tension causes you to shift your weight back and then drive your legs forward to start your downswing.

That's why I want you to pay more attention to getting those shoulders fully coiled when you make your backswing -- if you do, driving your legs will happen naturally, which will in turn help you stay in balance and make better contact with the ball.

That's why shoulder turn is important. Of course, it will help you hit the ball farther as well... but that's just a bonus.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Limerick Summary: 2015 CIMB Classic

Winner: Justin Thomas

Around the wider world of golf: Sei Young Kim got her third win of the season at the Blue Bay LPGA event in China; Duffy Waldorf made the Toshiba Classic his first win on the Champions Tour; Victor Dubuisson won the Turkish Airlines Open for the second time on the ET; and Lanto Griffin won the Roberto De Vicenzo Punta del Este Open Copa NEC on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Justin Thomas with trophy

It was a birdiefest in Kuala Lumpur. A foot or so of rain made the course so soft that the entire CIMB Classic was played "ball in hand," meaning everybody who managed to hit the fairway got a perfect lie. And while we didn't see a 59, we did see plenty of rounds in the low 60s.

Justin Thomas managed a 61 on Friday -- a course record and the lowest round of the week -- and that still wasn't enough to put him out of reach on Sunday. Brenden Steele and Kevin Na stayed right with him all day, and Adam Scott's putter put in a surprise appearance as well; the Aussie posted a 63, Sunday's low round.

Justin has had several close calls in 2015, but apparently he wasn't satisfied with just having so many chasers. No, he had to add a bit more drama with a double bogey on 14, just to keep everybody interested. Then he birdied 15, 16 and 17 before heading to the par-5 18th with a one-stroke lead. Time to put this baby away, right?

Wrong. Justin missed the fairway right, then found the bunker short of the green. From there he hit the ball to 20 feet before sending his putt far past the hole. Then he casually knocked the long par putt in to seal the deal and claim his first PGA Tour win.

You've got to love his comment about it: "I still can't believe what happened. I made that par to clinch the title. I don't care how I got it done; it just feels awesome."

After a year of coming up just a bit short, Justin finally breaks into the "Be Like Jordan" club and becomes the third first-time winner (as well as the third winner under the age of 23) to start the new wraparound season. And so, just like those other youngsters, he gets his very first Limerick Summary. Hey, how much luckier can a young guy get?
Okay… Justin may feel he stole one
By scrambling at 18 to hole one
For par and the win.
But it just shows again
How the young guys continue to roll on.
The photo came from the tournament leaderboard page at

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Can Stacy Lewis Finally Get It Done?

That has been the question all year, with Stacy consistently getting near the lead at events but having to settle for a runner-up or third-place finish.

This week at Blue Bay has turned out to be the same story. But this time it's been complicated by the conditions in China, with strong gusty winds and average scores in the mid-70s.

Stacy Lewis at Blue Bay

Stacy entered the final round just a stroke back of 54-hole co-leaders Candie Kung and Sei Young Kim... and the leaders were both just even par. That's right, NOBODY was under par after 54 holes. In fact, only four players broke par during the third round and conditions weren't looking to get much better.

After her third round Stacy told
“Yeah, it was frustrating. I left a lot out there. It was playing hard but I played well. Just didn’t quite do the little things right, so it’s a little frustrating. But only a couple back, which is good. I think the weather is going to be even worse tomorrow, so it’s really more of a mental test than anything.”
Earlier in the week she talked about the need to be patient with herself, to take what the course would give her and do the best she could. But even as I write this, she's being tested. GC's live coverage hasn't begun yet but there's already been some action on the leaderboard. Stacy came out and birdied the first two holes, bogeyed the fifth and birdied the eighth to get herself -1 for the tournament. Candie Kung has two birdies and one bogey; she's also -1 for the tournament. Sei Young Kim is still even.

Understand that the best score for the round so far is -2 and, while several players besides Stacy are there, none but Stacy is in a position to win. She's doing what she needs to do if she just doesn't start pushing too hard, which is likely the reason she has struggled to close tournaments lately.

By the time you read this, the event will likely have wrapped up and we'll know the answer to the question. After 9 holes, Stacy is right where she needs to be. She has played the back 9 better than Candie so far this week and only one worse than Kim. Still, with the tough conditions continuing, you have to wonder if Stacy can stay patient with herself long enough to finally break her winless streak.

But there's one thing we know about Stacy Lewis: If she can stay patient, these tough conditions may be just what she needs.

[MORNING UPDATE: Alas, Stacy came up short again. Sei Young Kim snagged her third win of the season... and Stacy is once again runner-up.]