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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Jeff Ritter on Punch Shots (Video)

Jeff Ritter posted this Instagram on the proper way to hit punch shots. It's very instructive -- and perhaps a bit counter-intuitive.

Jeff gives you three tips:
  1. Make sure you pick a clear path so you get the ball out in one shot. Don't be a hero!
  2. You need to keep the shot low, so put the ball back slightly in your stance and use a lower-lofted club. (I would add that you need to make sure you don't use too little loft. You'll need a little more loft from a deep lie than you would from a bare lie.)
  3. Here's the counter-intuitive part, which is the reason I'm posting this: Take an easier, shorter swing. If you try to make a hard fast swing of any length, the ball will spin more and shoot up higher than you want. See how easily Jeff hits his punch in the video?
I bet this little video saves you a lot of shots from under trees. That last bit about swinging easier should be stressed more often.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Guessing Darren Clarke's Picks

By the time most of you read this, Darren Clarke will have made his three Captain's Picks for the Euro Ryder Cup team. But I'm writing this several hours before the picks, so let's see how close I can get to reading his mind.

Darren Clarke with Ryder Cup trophy

As I see it, Darren has roughly SEVEN potential picks to choose from. His automatics gave him four returning players and five rookies. I know the talk that Darren has too many rookies, but I disagree and here's why:
  • You can only play four pairings at one time, and Darren has four solid veterans. That means he can do veteran/rookie pairings for every doubles match if he needs to. If Darren takes only one more veteran in his picks, he gives himself the ability to rest one veteran each round. Since these guys are used to going five matches, that's plenty.
  • The four veterans he already has are proven partnerships in and of themselves. Rory and Sergio have played well in the past, as have Stenson and Rose. Picking just one more veteran allows Darren to play his two proven teams, one veteran/rookie pair and then two rookies together. He can mix those up with the four veteran/rookie pairings I mentioned earlier to give the US new looks each round.
  • And you also have to remember that the Ryder Cup is no longer the only team competition in town. With events like the Seve Cup and the EurAsia Cup, most of the Euro players have some team experience. That takes some pressure off Darren's potential pairings.
When you take those things into account, you realize that Darren doesn't have to take three veterans as his picks. Likewise, he has enough rookies that taking three rookies probably isn't desirable either. That means he'll likely take either:
  • two rookies and one veteran, or
  • two veterans and one rookie.
Which brings me back to my seven likely choices -- two rookies and five veterans. Here are the rookies:
  • Russell Knox has two wins on the PGA Tour this season, one of them just a couple weeks back at the Travelers. The other is the WGC-China early in the season. But he's also got a couple of runner-ups and four more Top25s. Overall, I think he's been the most consistent of Darren's possible rookie picks.
  • Thomas Pieters doesn't look all that impressive until the last month. His performance at the Olympics (T4) was nothing short of amazing for a player unused to the limelight, and he's capitalized with a runner-up and a win since. He's clearly the hottest of Darren's possible picks.
And here are the five veterans:
  • Lee Westwood is Darren's close friend and most think he'll get a pick because of that. To be honest, I don't think Lee has played that well this season. However -- and this is important -- stroke play success (or the lack thereof) doesn't always mean a lot in match play. Lee is probably the best teammate in Euro Ryder Cup history, he has shown that he can play with anybody and, like Mickelson, has proven that he can (usually) show up when the team needs him, regardless of his form going in. He has an 18-13-6 record.
  • Martin Kaymer is clearly the most consistent among the veterans Darren should consider. Over the last four months or so, Kaymer has six Top7s worldwide plus he played in the Olympics. With his Ryder Cup record is 3-2-1; one loss came in singles, one in fourballs.
  • Francesco Molinari is someone Tim Rosaforte has been saying for weeks is on Darren's radar. Francesco has four Top10s worldwide this season, including a runner-up at the Open de France, which had a strong field. His Ryder Cup record is only 0-2-1, although that half was against Tiger in singles.
  • Luke Donald is another player who's had an off season but you can't overlook his record. He's 8-2-1, with a weakness in fourballs. He's a perfect 6-0-0 in foursomes!
  • Graeme McDowell has one win early in this season and a T5 late, but he's been erratic the rest of the time. His Ryder Cup record is 5-5-2..
Darren has an abundance of riches from which to choose. So who would I pick if I were him?

I think the common logic is that Darren will take Westwood, Kaymer and Pieters. The logic is that, with five rookies, Darren needs Westwood and Kaymer to give the team more experience. Pieters is picked over Knox simply because he's the hot player right now. That gives the Euros six veterans and six rookies, which provides Darren with the ability to rest veterans if the rookies play well but put out several veteran teams if the rookies don't.

But if I were Darren, I'd take Knox, Pieters and Kaymer. Here's my reasoning:
  • Knox has not only been playing consistent golf, but unlike Pieters he plays regularly in the US. I would make the same argument for Kaymer. While Westwood has usually played well in the Ryder Cup, he hasn't played well in the US for quite a while. Remember, he tried moving to the US to see if that would help his game and it didn't work. He's back in Europe now.
  • I felt that Pieters pretty much locked up a Ryder Cup berth with his play at the Olympics. When you take someone as unused to the spotlight as Pieters and throw him into it, you learn a lot. I saw him play himself into contention, struggle in the third round then rally the final day and just barely miss out on the bronze. After playing under that kind of pressure, I think you have to see Pieters as a veteran, since almost everyone agreed that Olympic pressure was at least as harsh as the Ryder Cup.
  • These three players are well-known and liked among the Euros, but they are also playing very well. That combination of liked and playing well should give Darren more flexibility in his pairings.
  • Westwood is well-liked but not playing that well. If I were Darren, I'd figure out some way to get him into the team room; given his play as of late, that's where I think he would help the team most.
So that's my take. Today we'll see if Darren feels the same.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 The Barclays

Winner: Patrick Reed

Around the wider world of golf: Ariya Jutanugarn won her fifth LPGA event of the year at the Canadian Pacific Women's Open; Bernhard Langer won his 29th Champions Tour event at the Boeing Classic; Ryan Brehm won the Winco Foods Portland Open on the Tour, where The25 also got their PGA Tour cards; Brock Mackenzie won the National Capital Open on the Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada; Ryo Ishikawa won the RIZAP KBC Augusta on the Japan Golf Tour; Thomas Pieters won the Made in Denmark event on the ET; and Ritsuko Ryu won the Nitori Ladies on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details).

Patrick Reed with Barclays trophy

You've no doubt seen the viral video of Patrick Reed closing the NY Stock Exchange earlier in the week. You know, the one where the gavel broke as he performed the ceremonial pounding. Reportedly, the businessmen he was with told him to "give it a whack."

On Sunday, Bethpage Black dealt out a few whacks of its own... and they weren't nearly so humorous.

Despite good weather, the Black -- especially its back nine -- taught the players just how nice the short grass of the fairway can be. No matter how long you are, the Black takes prisoners out there in the rough (and the bunkers) and it's reluctant to let them go. As a result, the winning score on Sunday got no lower than the 54-hole score. It became a game of survival.

And once again Patrick Reed proved he has some skills when it comes to closing out a lead. He was only able to steal one more stroke from par on Sunday, but third-round leader Rickie Fowler ran afoul of the inconsistencies that have plagued him this season. (Although he did play much better this week, and may be in good shape to defend this week at DeutscheBank.)

With his win Patrick not only moved to the top of the FedExCup points list, he also moved into this week's OWGR Top10. And he proved he belongs on the Ryder Cup team, moving all the way up to 4th in the Automatic 8. In the media tent afterward, he almost glowed as he talked about how excited he was to suit up for the USA again.

There were a number of big winners over the weekend -- for example, Sean O'Hair's amazing T2 finish probably got him into at least the next two events when he expected to go home this week -- but, with his performance Sunday, Patrick Reed reaffirmed his spot as a potential USA team leader going forward. Enjoy your Limerick Summary, big guy. You earned it!
“Bomb and gouge” ain’t enough at the Black;
One by one, players surge, then they crack
As the course takes its toll.
Patrick Reed didn’t fold…
But it sure gave his bottom a whack!
The photo came from this page at the Wall Street Journal site.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Charlie Rymer on Short Game Strategy (Video)

Saturday on Morning Drive, Charlie Rymer gave some very useful tips on scoring well on unfamiliar courses.

And trust me, this really is useful info that you rarely find all together in one place.

Charlie listed several things you need to find out when you play a new golf course and want to play it well quickly. These are things the pros find out very early when they're learning a new course.

First, there are different grasses that you'll see on greens. Each has certain characteristics you need to learn. As Charlie said, these are general rules. You may find exceptions but these are generally correct.
  • Bentgrass: Read the slope. Bentgrass greens don't have as much grain as other grasses, so although you need to check the slope on every type of green, slope is the most important influence on bentgrass greens.
  • Bermuda: Read the grain. Bermuda greens have a lot of grain to them, so much that it can counteract the slope somewhat. Grain generally grows toward the setting sun.
  • Poa annua: Grain goes downhill. The grain in poa tends to follow the flow of water running off the green. Uphill putts are slower than you think, downhill putts are faster than you think.
Then he talked about how the ball generally behaves in the rough.
  • Cool weather grasses: The ball will jump. The ball comes out of it a little faster.
  • Warm weather grasses: The ball will fluff. (This includes Bermuda.) That means it's hard to catch the ball solid, so it isn't likely to fly as far.
And finally, the type of sand in the bunkers.
  • Soft fluffy sand: Make a shallow attack. You need to use the bounce more or you'll take too much sand. And fried egg lies are more likely.
  • Firm sand: Make a steeper attack. You'll be using the front edge of the wedge a bit more, otherwise you'll bounce off the sand and catch the ball thin.
Very simple information that you rarely see in one place. Thanks, Charlie!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Rickie and Patrick Want Ryder Cup Spots!

If you learn anything from watching The Barclays this week, you should learn that hitting fairways is often more important than hitting it long. Among the Top10 on the leaderboard -- which actually numbers 17 players after Round 1 -- only four are considered long hitters, at least according to Tour driving stats.

Those four (with their ranks in parentheses) are Jhonattan Vegas (T11), JB Holmes (2), Jason Day (16) and Rickie Fowler (26).

Patrick Reed

Sitting alone at the top is Patrick Reed. He's long enough (at just under 297 yards he's 45th in the stats) but certainly not among the longest.

For comparison, Ryan Moore's in solo 4th right now. He ranks T164 off the tee, just under 282 yards. And Emiliano Grillo, sharing 2nd with Fowler, is T69 at just under 294. And although Rickie is long, he has hit 9 of 14 fairways each round, and has only one bogey for the week so far.

Clearly the Black has no respect for length if you're not in the short grass. I'll say it again: You should remember how important it is to hit the short grass, especially if you have problems with rough at your course.

Having said that, it's not hard to see why Rickie and Patrick could lock up Ryder Cup spots this week. If Rickie finishes as he is now, GC estimates that he'll finish in the 7th spot, which is obviously inside the Automatic 8. And Patrick already sits in the 8th spot; a win would move him up the list as well.

I don't think Ryan Moore can make the Automatic 8, even with a win. But two wins in three weeks -- you'll remember that he won the John Deere a couple weeks back -- and Captain Love may have to consider him for a pick. I say 'may' because, even though he's scoring well on this long tough course, Ryan isn't putting so well. (He's only T66 in the field this week. YIKES!) But managing his way around like this -- as Patrick did on Friday -- may be enough for Davis. We'll see.

In the meantime, I'm watching Rickie and Patrick very closely. If they keep playing this way, the Ryder Cup dreams of Brandt Snedeker and Zach Johnson could be in serious trouble. (I think Brooks Koepka is safe in the 5 spot... but it could be close if he doesn't pick it up. He barely made the cut on the number.)

Friday, August 26, 2016

I Can Fix the "Ball Moved on the Green" Rule

If you saw Rory question whether he "was deemed to have made his ball move" on one of the greens during Thursday's round, you heard Daniel Summerhays make a brilliant (and obvious) observation. He simply said that the USGA botched this rule.

I agree, folks. And the fix is so simple that I can't understand why it's still a problem.

First, let's get one thing clear: Either you made the ball move or you didn't. There's no in-between here. Personally, I think the guys would be honest enough to say they tapped the ball if they did, so I wouldn't make it an issue at all. But that's not the way the USGA thinks, so we need a way to determine whether the player is "deemed' to have moved the ball... and that's a simple fix.

All you have to do is set a threshold, a distance that your putter should be from the ball to guarantee that you didn't touch it, and decide based on that.

So what should the threshold be? Greens are cut very close, so just use the width of a golf ball as the measure.
  • If ANY part of your putter is within one golf ball width of the ball -- regardless of whether you ground the putterhead or not -- and the ball moves, you DID make the ball move. Take your one-stroke penalty and replace the ball.
  • But if NO part of your putter is within one golf ball width of the ball -- regardless of whether you ground the putterhead or not -- and the ball moves, you DID NOT make the ball move. There is no penalty, play the ball as it lies.
This one simple change would eliminate problems on the greens. The question now becomes "Was your putter within one ball width of the golf ball?" That's a yes or no question that is easily answered. And players then know how to avoid the penalty: Don't address the ball with your putterhead closer to it than one ball width if you don't want to risk the penalty.

And just for the sake of clarity, let me suggest some solutions for the "deemed to make the ball move" question elsewhere on the course.
  • In the fairway, where the grass is cut fairly close, make the threshold two ball widths. Inside that, you made the ball move; take a penalty stroke and replace the ball. Outside that, play on and don't worry about it.
  • Anywhere else on the course EXCEPT TALL GRASS, we adapt the bunker rule: If you ground the club, you caused it to move. Take a one-stroke penalty and play it as it lies. I don't care if you're a foot behind the ball, if you grounded the club, you caused the ball to move. We play in bunkers all the time without grounding the club, we can do it in the rough as well. Ground the club at your own risk.
  • In tall grasses like heather and such, THERE IS NO PENALTY. PERIOD. Play the ball as it lies. Tall grasses are inherently unstable, and we shouldn't be surprised it the ball moves. Now I expect players to use a little common sense in these situations and not tempt fate by grounding the club two inches behind the ball. As long as they don't do something stupid like that, the bad lie is penalty enough.
I realize that some folks may disagree with these last three suggestions, especially my belief that you should play the ball from its new position if you aren't in the fairway. If you disagree, I'm okay with that. I simply see no reason to complicate play from the rough any more than we have to.

But when the ball moves on the green? Come on, USGA. This ain't rocket science. Simplify the rule and speed up the game.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Brian Jacobs on Fixing Your Plane (Video)

I don't post a lot of in-depth instruction about swing plane. It's not that plane isn't important -- I just think we're too obsessed with it, and most of the drills are too nitpicky. But I don't mind putting up something that's both simple and useful.

GCA Coach Brian Jacobs did a really short video that gives you a simple drill to improve your swing plane. I especially like it because it doesn't require training aids, which means you can use it on the course during a round if necessary. Here, take a look:

All you do is take your finish position -- that is, your "pose" after the ball is long gone -- and then, without changing your arms or shoulders, turn 180° so you mirror that position at the top of your backswing.

I know it sounds ridiculously simple, but don't underestimate this simple drill. If your "top of backswing" position mirrors your finish position, and if you make sure they match when you make your swing from backswing to finish, you're on plane. It just doesn't get any simpler than that.

And you can use this drill anywhere you can swing a club, which means you can do it in a few spare minutes every day in your backyard. Just do the drill a few times -- pose your finish, mirror it to the backswing, then swing back to the finish -- then see if you can swing to that top of backswing position from your address position. Once you can do that slowly, gradually speed it up to your normal speed.

If your swing plane is off, this drill will help you. Just add it to your practice routine and see.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at The Barclays

The whirlwind continues! We rush from the Olympics to the FedExCup Playoffs, beginning this week with The Barclays. This year it's back at the Bethpage Black Course and, once again, it should offer the players all they can handle.

View of the Bethpage Clubhouse from the course

As has been the case for the last few events, it's hard to predict what might happen this week. The PGA Tour's highly compressed schedule over the last three or four months has wrecked the neatly organized playing patterns many of the Tour's best are used to following. Some players will likely benefit from the shake-up while others may be running on fumes with no relief in sight... and there's no way to be sure on which side any player might fall.

The length of Bethpage Black would seem to favor the long hitters, so I'm favoring them this week also. I won't be surprised if some of the shorter hitters force their way into the limelight -- I saw what Inbee Park did last week under all that pressure, despite being unable to hit the ball her normal distance -- but all things being equal, a tired long hitter is more likely to score well at the Black than a tired short hitter.

With that being said, here are my "5 to Watch" up in New York:
  • Henrik Stenson remains at the top of my list. Despite the crushed schedule, since his W/D at the US Open Henrik has two wins -- the BMW International Open and THE OPEN -- plus that silver medal at the Olympics. He'll have had ten days off when he tees it up Thursday, and I think he's still got some gas in the tank.
  • Gold medalist Justin Rose doesn't have that recent run to lean on, but he hasn't played as much golf as Henrik either. He should be much fresher than his silver medalist buddy, and on a serious high after getting that gold. Let's not forget that he's added some distance off the tee as well, which should really help his chances to get his first win of the season.
  • Jason Day hasn't played for nearly a month, his last appearance being that runner-up at the PGA Championship. But he's won more than anybody else this year and I'm guessing the month off did him good. Will he have a little rust? Perhaps. But I don't expect it to last long.
  • Dustin Johnson is probably in even better shape than Jason. He had arguably the best run up to the Olympics -- two wins (US Open and WGC-Bridgestone), T9 at THE OPEN, and T2 at the RBC Canadian Open before missing the cut at the PGA. Given that time off seems to have very little bad effect on DJ, you have to figure he's in the best position of the four mentioned so far.
  • And my flier is Rickie Fowler. I can see the look of disbelief on your faces now, and I understand. Rickie has been, to put it mildly, pathetic this year. He has only two Top10s since missing the cut at the Masters, and even the Olympics couldn't raise his game. But he has the length to make some hay at the Black, and he can go low if he can get that putter of his working.
Look, there are any number of hungry players that I could have put in my list. Rory is almost back to form and Brooks Koepka has something to prove. Phil Mickelson is playing well, as are Tony Finau and Jhonattan Vegas. Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger would love to give US Captain Davis Love something to think about. And to be honest, I think the most sensible pick is probably DJ, as he has the most wins and best other finishes in the two months leading up to this event.

But I'm taking Rickie as my pick this week, and the reason is very simple: He HAS to play well. He's not in the Ryder Cup automatic picks and he's given Davis absolutely NO reason to pick him, what with Berger and Thomas waiting in the wings. Rickie's back is against the wall and he's got to turn things around NOW. So I'm gambling that desperation accomplishes what mere desire couldn't.

There's only one thing I'm sure of this week: The Black will put on the great show it always does when the Tour shows up. And that will make this a great tournament, no matter what.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Automatic Euros Are Named to the Ryder Cup Team

The Ryder Cup teams are finally beginning to take shape. The automatic qualifiers for the Euro Team were released on Monday.

Justin Rose at Rio opening ceremonies

Four players made the team via the Ryder Cup European Points List while five more qualified through the Ryder Cup World Points List. Here they are, in alphabetical order.
  1. Rafa Cabrera Bello
  2. Matthew Fitzpatrick
  3. Sergio Garcia
  4. Rory McIlroy
  5. Justin Rose
  6. Henrik Stenson
  7. Andy Sullivan
  8. Danny Willett
  9. Chris Wood
Euro Captain Darren Clarke still gets to name three Captain's Picks next Tuesday (that's August 30). Some question whether he'll pick some more young rookies like Russell Knox, who has two wins this season, or go for more veterans like Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, who have been playing well lately.

You can make a good argument for either approach, although I don't think he needs to worry about having too many rookies. Most of his "rookies" are multiple winners, and Willett's the reigning Masters champ. Add THE OPEN champ (Stenson) and the Olympic gold medalist (Rose), and remember that Garcia and McIlroy have both won this season. What's there to worry about?

As for the US Team:
  • They'll finalize their Automatic 8 on Sunday, August 28. At present, only Brooks Koepka would be a rookie.
  • They add three picks on Sunday, September 11, after the BMW Championship. I think US Captain Davis Love really needs to pick some rookies, just to give more players some experience. You don't want your experienced players to drop off all at once in a few years and leave only noobs on the team.
  • And the final pick (aka the Billy-Ho pick) is named on Sunday, September 25, after the Tour Championship.
So Sunday is the next date for team news. But at least we're finally in the home stretch for Ryder Cup action!

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Olympic Women’s Golf

Medals: Inbee Park, Lydia Ko, Shanshan Feng

Around the wider world of golf: Si Woo Kim got his first PGA Tour win at the Wyndham Championship; Paul Peterson got his first ET win at the D+D REAL Czech Masters; Laura Gonzalez Escallon won the PHC Classic on the Symetra Tour; J.J. Spaun won the News Sentinel Open on the Tour; Brock Mackenzie won a seven-hole playoff to take the National Capital Open to Support Our Troops on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada; Bo-Mee Lee won the CAT Ladies on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details); and Curtis Luck beat Brad Dalke 1up at the 116th US Amateur.

Lydia Ko, Inbee Park and Shanshan Feng

I don't know if there's much more to say than has already been said. Inbee Park proved the world -- yes, that includes me -- was wrong for not believing she could overcome biting criticism from her country's media, back problems, thumb injuries, and several weeks of over-par rounds, missed cuts and no competitive golf to crush her competition at the Olympics and take the gold medal.

She came in at (by her own estimate) around 80%, unable to hit the ball anywhere near as far as she usually does, uncertain of what to expect from round to round, and simply left the field eating her dust as she cruised to a 5-shot victory. How do you possibly put such a dominant performance into words?

In the end, all you can say is that Inbee Park beat them all with pure strength of will. If that's not the Olympic Spirit, I don't know what is.

The women came into this Olympics in much better form than the men, there's no arguing that. Let's cut the guys a bit of slack for being the first to face this unpredictable pressure, but the gals still staged a much closer battle at the end than the men.

Well, closer except for Inbee. She lapped the field, but you knew that.

I can't help but wonder how many of those little girls who were inspired by Olympic golf will end up copying the slow, upright swing that decimated a field of long hitters. After all, none of the winners' swings fit the mold of textbook swings. Inbee has her swing, silver medalist Lydia Ko uses David Leadbetter's A Swing, and bronze medalist Shanshan Feng has one of the simplest swings you'll ever see -- not terribly long, with no exaggerated hip or leg drive. They were the giant killers, and you have to think their swings will be the goal of the young wannabees.

In the meantime, the female Olympians get their own Limerick Summary. And it's certainly well-deserved!
Inbee Park made it clear with her score
That her thumb is an issue no more!
Once she snagged the gold medal,
Ko and Feng had to settle
For silver and bronze, nothing more.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Few Thoughts on Olympic Golf

I'll do an Olympic Limerick Summary tomorrow. Today I just want to share a few thoughts I had about golf's first time in the Olympics.

Korean fans at the golf venue

When the men's event finished, I wrote that I thought it probably came out better than it would have if the top male players had actually shown up. My reasoning was that the top-ranked players had been somewhat off their form leading up to the Olympics and, had they shown up, they wouldn't have played up to expectations anyway.

By comparison, having the top female players on hand definitely made their event better. The ladies were mostly playing on form, and the results seemed typical of a regular LPGA event. The normally streaky players were streaky, most of the normally consistent players were right there at the end of the final round, and we got a few surprises in the mix as well.

The course initially appeared easy -- wide fairways and big greens -- but it proved that Gil Hanse and Amy Alcott had thought things out thoroughly. The layout of the course allowed the fickle winds to challenge players without being overly penal, while forcing players to think their way around the course in good weather. As a whole, good shots were rewarded while bad shots were punished, and new fans got to see lots of exciting shots, including hole-in-ones. That makes for great TV as well.

And of course, Brazil will now have its first municpal course, and it's one done by a big name architect and a golf legend. Win, win, win all-around.

Overall, I thought both golf events played out very well. And the huge crowds that showed up for both events should have given the Olympic Committee enough reason to keep golf in the Olympics past 2020. Golf's ability to deliver big, even without all of its big guns in attendance, was a tour de force that I'm not sure many other sports could have managed.

We got a really good cross-section of performers. No country was able to dominate the event. Medals went to Great Britain, Sweden, the USA, South Korea, New Zealand and China. An Australian set the men's course record and a Russian set the women's course record. A young Indian made a name for herself, as did players (both male and female) from Belgium and Thailand. The players interacted with the crowds as they always do. And there was a clear camaraderie between the golfers and the other Olympic athletes, as evidenced on social media. Could things have gone better?

As for media coverage, I felt that NBC's ability to use Golf Channel for full round, every round coverage gave the golf events a clear advantage over many of the other sports. And using Terry Gannon -- who, in addition to being a knowledgeable golf commentator, would also be known to non-golf viewers from his career as a basketball player and his coverage of other sports -- as the point man for both events was, in my opinion, a stroke of genius. Gannon is comfortable with everybody from players like Annika to athletes-turned-celebrities like Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir.

All-in-all, I think we have to declare this experiment a success. The future of Olympic golf could open some very interesting chapters going forward.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Swings Without Takeaways (Videos)

Some of you will find this post a bit strange, and that's okay. But it's about an interesting way to study how your swing behaves, and many of you might find that these drills will help you fix flaws in your full swing -- especially, they can help you make a steadier change of direction from backswing to downswing.

I'm talking about hitting balls with a swing that doesn't include a takeaway. And I have a couple of videos to demonstrate different methods for doing it.

The first is a recent video from GC's website. The instructor is Jason Birnbaum and he's starting his swing with the shaft parallel to the ground, which is where many instructors will have you check your shaft to make sure you're on a good plane.

The second is an old David Leadbetter video that starts the swing from what I call the "baseball position." That's where you have your lead arm parallel to the ground, as if you were standing at home plate and your wrists cocked, as if waiting for a pitch. Although I couldn't find it, I remember Leadbetter doing an article for one of the golf magazines (I believe it was even before this video was made) where he suggested that the "takeaway-less swing" could be the swing of the future.

What both of these drills have in common is the belief that the takeaway is primarily an excuse for getting your club in a bad position at the top. Both men are setting up normally and using your current setup to measure how far you are from the ball. Then you take the club back to the position they recommend, stop, and start your swing from there.

Either of these can be a useful drill to improve your swing. By getting yourself in a good position that will put the club on plane at the top, you can learn what a correct move to the top feels like. The key movement here is the extremely short backswing you make at the top when you restart your swing, which is the same way a baseball player swings at a pitch. (No, you don't have to step forward with your lead foot. That's a different drill entirely.) These drills allow you to feel that change of direction at the top, which can help your balance and rhythm a lot, as well as helping you learn how your legs and hips work when you don't exaggerate your weight shift.

Some of you may also want to try Leadbetter's original idea. Just set up to the ball and measure your distance -- you can see baseball players do this as well -- and then swing your arms most of the way to the top of your backswing, stop, and try hitting balls from there. Note that your lead arm may actually get a bit higher than parallel to the ground -- you may get more of a three-quarter swing. That's okay for this drill.

Remember: The idea with any of these drills is to learn a proper change of direction while staying steadier over the ball. A little practice on the range can really help you make solid contact more frequently.

Plus it's kinda fun. Trying to hit balls "baseball style" can put you in a different mindset that eliminates some of the apprehension you have about your regular golf swing. Just make sure you put the ball on a tee at first. It might be a bit embarrassing otherwise.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Brady Riggs on Consistency with Long Chips (Video)

A couple days back I did a post about how Justin Rose creates consistency with his wedge shots. Today I've got an older video (four years old, in fact) from instructor Brady Riggs that deals specifically with the setup and technique for long chip shots that dovetails very well with Justin's technique.

The reason I'm posting this is because of a question in the comments from Jeffrey. In response I mentioned a couple of things that are typical in a wedge shot setup -- namely, that I figured "[Justin's] stance is slightly open and his weight is slightly more on his lead side."

Since this is a long chip shot as opposed to one of the wedge approach shots that Justin was writing about, Brady recommends an 8-iron instead of a wedge for the shot. But note that he is still using the same basic technique that Justin uses. Anytime that you can use the same technique for a variety of shots, that will improve your consistency with all of them.

As you can see in the video -- and in the "frozen frame" of the video above, before you even start playing it -- Brady doesn't have his weight as much on his lead side as many instructors teach. It really is just "slightly more" on his lead side. And if you run the video up to the 2:16 mark, you can see that his stance is also only "slightly" open. These do seem to match the photos included in Justin's article.

One additional aspect of this video which I really like is that Brady shows how this technique works from an uneven lie, which you will likely see very often. Please note that it works just the same as the technique Justin's photos demonstrated from a level lie.

So don't be afraid to combine these tips from Brady Riggs with the advice from Justin Rose. They are so similar that they should help your short game shots from greenside all the way out to maybe 100 yards. And anytime you can use the same techniques for a variety of shots, you should get better results from less practice time.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Rickie and Patrick Came Back for This

Of course, I'm talking about the Wyndham Championship, the PGA Tour event happening this week in Greensboro NC -- which happens to be about 30 minutes from where I live.

Rickie Fowler

The Wyndham is important to most players primarily for one reason. It's the last regular event before the FedExCup Playoffs begin, so it's the last chance to make sure you're in the Top125, which means that your Tour card is locked up for another year and you get to play for roughly $16million bucks over the next month.

But Rickie and Patrick already have their cards and their spots in the Playoffs. For them, this is about getting Ryder Cup points. They don't have enough of those.

For Patrick, this is a homecoming of sorts. He got his first Tour win at Sedgefield Country Club back in 2013, and it launched him on a run up the OWGR and into the last Ryder Cup, where you might say he quieted his critics.

Patrick Reed shushes the Ryder Cup crowd

But for Rickie, Sedgefield is a new challenge that he'll need to learn quickly. He's currently 13th on the Ryder Cup points list... and that's just not good enough, unless you're willing to gamble on a Captain's pick. But with so many friends who have been trying to get him to come for years -- especially Captain Davis Love III -- he should have plenty of help learning the course.

Patrick holds the last qualifying spot at 8th, but he'd like a little more breathing room. And the fact that he can get it in Greensboro is just fine with him. As told it:
This time last year, Patrick Reed was back home in Texas watching Tiger Woods contend and Davis Love III win the Wyndham Championship on TV.
He had decided to skip the tournament that he won in 2013 to be fresh for the upcoming FedExCup Playoffs. Still, even though his reasoning was sound, Reed was torn.
“(It) was just killing me,” he recalled Wednesday.
So this year, despite a lead-up schedule that included The Olympics, making a return trip to Sedgefield was a no-brainer.
“I was like ‘It doesn’t matter,’” Reed recalled. “I’m coming and playing because this is like home to me, going and getting your first win with my wife on the bag.
“Awesome to be back.”
While it will be fun to see how Patrick and Rickie fare after their quick trip back from Rio, the real drama will be those fighting for their cards. Apparently all but four of the players ranked 120-150 in the FedExCup rankings are in Greensboro, ready to battle it out.

And I can tell you, folks, it WILL be a battle. We're having some serious heat -- high 90s and very muggy -- and lots of thunderstorms this week. These boys are looking at a real test of their endurance. Again, to quote Patrick from the article:
“From 2 to about 4:30 [Tuesday], we’re playing nine holes and it was the hottest I’ve ever seen it,” Reed said. “… Halfway through that nine holes, I was just like ‘Kessler [his caddie], what do we have? Kessler, get the yardage. Kessler, do you want to carry me now?"
Yes, it should be a lot of fun. (At least for us spectators.) And GC's coverage isn't scheduled to conflict with the gals at the Olympics, so we can get the best of both worlds.

I love Wyndham week! So does Patrick, and I bet Rickie will too.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Justin Rose's Wedge Tips

Since Justin won the gold medal just a few days back, this new instructional post at Golf Digest seems amazingly appropriate. Here are Justin Rose's keys to improving your wedge game.

Justin's five ball positions

Justin's first tip is to skip the lob wedge and use a 56° wedge. If you don't have a 56, just use something less than a 60° lob wedge. Justin says you'll make better contact.

You'll want to go check out the article because this one has lots of helpful photos, but the ones above and below really stood out to me. Those five golf balls show the five positions he uses for his shots. As the ball moves farther back in your stance, the ball will fly lower and roll farther.

Note also that Justin keeps the shaft pointed at the center of your body. The photos below show the club relative to the front and back ball positions. It appears that he defines "the center of your body" in terms of his trailing hand, as you can see in the photos below. He says the butt of the club should never lean forward or backward of that point.

So far, all of this is entirely different from what Phil Mickelson would tell you. Phil uses his lob wedge for almost everything, says you should play the ball forward or back, never in the middle of your stance, and prefers to keep the shaft leaning forward until after the ball is struck (he calls it "hinge and hold"). Is one way better than the other?

In a word, NO. Each man has a system that works, and it works because he uses the entire system. So DON'T mix Justin's and Phil's advice. If you want to do it Phil's way, grab a copy of Phil's short game book and do what he says -- ALL OF IT. And if you want to copy Justin's way, do what Justin says -- ALL OF IT. Got it? Good.

The article has more advice from Justin concerning how to control your backswing length, which is how he controls the length of the shot (basically the same way I do in my Accurate Iron Play book), rather than by changing how hard he swings. You'll want to read that while you're looking at the photos because he shows how he measures the length of his backswing. Just look for the blue dots on the photos.

Justin's method is pretty simple and, as you may have noticed during the Olympic Men's Golf, pretty dependable as well. You could do a lot worse than copying his technique

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at the Olympics--Women

Alright. The men have made their debut, now it's the women's turn to play the Olympic Golf Course.

And it's my turn to do another "5 to Watch."

Inbee Park, Gerina Piller and Azahara Munoz ready for Rio

The temptation here is to load up on South Korean picks, since they are the only country with four players... and we know how dominant they are in the Rolex Rankings. However, I think the US men showed how difficult it can be to get even one medal -- perhaps more so for the Koreans, with all the pressure they must feel -- so I'm picking players from a variety of countries.

One obvious point I should address: I haven't picked Inbee Park simply because her thumb injury is a huge red flag for me. It has taken her out of competition for several weeks now and I just don't feel confident that she'll be able to play her best.

The fact that the women's schedule allowed for a couple weeks rest before this event should give a much greater cross-section of the field a chance to win, especially since three of their last four major winners are there (US Women's Open champ Brittany Lang didn't qualify) along with eight of the current Rolex Top10.

So although I'm picking a winner from my "5 to Watch" list, I'll also include a list with another five players I believe are worth keeping an eye on. I left some players off both lists even though I think they have a really good chance this week, like Ariya Jutanugarn, Shanshan Feng and Lexi Thompson (all strong players but somewhat inconsistent). Otherwise, I might as well just go by the Rolex.
  • Lydia Ko has been so consistent over the last year or so that it's impossible to leave her off this list. Add the fact that her short game has remained sharp -- and that short game has proven invaluable at the Olympic Course -- and you have to think she'll be there at the end.
  • Brooke Henderson has been just as consistent as Lydia, and the two seem to be feeding off each other. Again, a few weeks back I felt she was getting tired from playing so much but the break she just had makes me think she'll be ready to go Wednesday morning.
  • Sei Young Kim has that power game going for her, as well as a strong short game. I think that combination makes her a favorite among the Korean players.
  • Anna Nordqvist doesn't chip and pitch as well as the other gals, but she hits lots of greens. Between her GIR and the ability to use the putter off the tight lies in Rio, she should be able to navigate the greens just fine.
  • And for my flier pick, Stacy Lewis gets the nod. Normally I'd question whether Stacy might get in her own way, pressing to break through for another win. But Stacy's game is very much like Matt Kuchar's, and I greatly underestimated his ability to score in Rio. I won't make the same mistake with Stacy -- of the three Americans, she has the most well-rounded game.
And here are five more women who I think could make some noise.
  • Haru Nomura has quietly been going about her business this season... with enviable success. She could be the best golfer, male or female, that Japan sent to Rio. I wouldn't be surprised to see her on the medal stand.
  • In Gee Chun started the season on fire, but that freak back injury early on derailed her for a while. She could be the Korean counterpart to Justin Rose this week; the Olympic experience could jumpstart her season.
  • Nicole Broch Larsen from Denmark only has one win on the LET but she was their 2015 Player of the Year. She's coming in under the radar, and that may free her up to show what she can do.
  • Mariajo Uribe has had a rough year, but she's the only golfer, male or female, from Colombia in the Olympics. And in the past she has won the 2007 US Women's Am, the silver medal at the 2014 South American Games and the gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games. That's a resume that you just can't ignore.
  • And you may have heard Paul McGinley on GC mention Leona Maguire, one of only three amateurs in the field... but I had her on this list before that. I'm a bit more familiar with her game simply because she plays for Duke University, about 90 minutes east of where I live. I won't recite her resume, other than to mention that she's the #1 ranked female amateur in the world. Why shouldn't an amateur win? It's the Olympics!
And my choice to get a medal? Of course I'm picking an American! Tim Rosaforte joked on Live From... that, with so many runner-up finishes over the last two years, Stacy Lewis should be a lock for the silver medal. But I like that way of thinking, for one reason -- as Matt Kuchar made clear, even third place feels great at the Olympics.

I like Stacy to get a medal, any medal... and that may be all she needs to break this runner-up funk she's been in.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Olympic Men’s Golf

Medals: Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Matt Kuchar

Around the wider world of golf: Clariss Guce won the Decatur-Forsyth Classic on the Symetra Tour; Mackenzie Hughes locked up his PGA Tour card by winning the Price Cutter Charity Championship on the Tour; Ryan Moore won the John Deere Classic on the PGA Tour; and the final round of the US Senior Open has been postponed till Monday after two inches of rain fell over the weekend.

Stenson, Rose and Kuchar pose with their medals

It wasn't what anybody expected, that's for sure. While Henrik Stenson was an early favorite going into the week, Justin Rose was something of a question mark after a back injury earlier this year knocked him off-form, and Matt Kuchar was expected to put up consistent but probably unimpressive scores.

What they actually did slammed the door on all the "what will we do without the stars?" talk:
  • Rose put on a ball-striking exhibition that rivaled Stenson's last few weeks. After posting a hole-in-one during the first round -- the first hole-in-one in the new Olympic golf history -- he never looked back.
  • Stenson continued his own stellar play, scrambling like mad when his normally impeccable ball-striking began to stray. He posted no worse than a 68 in any round.
  • And Kuchar started the final round seven strokes off the lead but shot the lowest score of his professional career -- a 63, tying the new Olympic record set on Thursday by Marcus Fraser -- and nearly contended for the silver medal.
To be honest, this may turn out to be even better than a shootout between the young stars who didn't come. Those young stars have been off their games a bit this year and had their Olympic performances followed suit, the men's competition may have been anticlimactic. Instead, two international major champions staged a battle royale for the top two medals and one incredibly excited bronze medal winner provided the glowing excitement that US golf needed to see.

This week, the women will likely provide the "young vibe" that most hoped the men would bring. After all, their young stars have not only come to Rio but likely brought their games with them since three of this season's major winners are there. But in the meantime, the men get a Limerick Summary -- appropriately decked out in gold, silver and bronze, of course:
In a shocker, Matt Kuchar took bronze.
Though his final round screamed, “Bring it on!”
Henrik Stenson hung tough—
But for gold, not enough;
Tee-to-green, Justin Rose was too strong.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Quick Check-In at the John Deere (Video)

With all the Olympic excitement going on, you may have missed the challenges players faced at the John Deere Classic. Let me bring you up-to-speed quickly.

Ryan Moore

The John Deere has been plagued by rain this week -- around 4 inches -- and that has made it very hard for players to finish rounds on schedule. They had to finish Round 2 on Saturday morning, and it looked like Round 3 would run over into Sunday.

They had to finish in the dark, but somehow they managed to get the third round in late Saturday. In the video from below, you can see the shadow Ryan Moore casts while he putts in front of the electric scoreboard. (The video's short, only about 3 minutes.)

As it stands, Ryan Moore leads at -18 when today's final round starts. Ben Martin and Morgan Hoffmann are a single shot back. There are a number of familiar names in the mix, like Johnson Wagner and Steve Marino, but the most interesting to me is Wesley Bryan -- you know, from the trickshot brothers.

Very quickly, here's the deal: Wesley got his "Battlefield Promotion" from the Tour last week, which means he's got some work to do if he wants to make the FedExCup Playoffs. Coming into this week he was ranked 212 and had 49 points. Wes is currently T5 at -13, which would move him up to T189 and -- if I'm reading the charts correctly -- would gain him 100 points this week. (Yes, that would give him 149 points total.)

Now, as it stands, Johnson Wagner stands in solo 4th at the Deere and is currently 125 on the list with 405 points. He would move up to 101, gaining 135 points and bringing his total to 540.

The reason this fascinates me is that Wes can still make the FedExCup Playoffs! This week's winner gets 500 points and next week's Wyndham Championship gives the same. As it stands right now, 500 points would give him 549 points and leap him up to 95, which is Luke Donald's currrent position. Although he needs to place really well both this week and next to do it, bear in mind that 356 points would get him to Wagner's projected 101 spot... and T2 is worth 245 points.

Wesley's attempt to make the Playoffs should be an interesting thing to watch today and next week. When I'm not watching Olympic golf, that is. ;-)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

There's Another Major This Week...

While we're all very excited about golf in the Olympics, it's easy to forget that the Champions Tour players are playing the US Senior Open this week. So let's take a few minutes to catch up on the story at Scioto Country Club in Columbus OH.

36-hole leader Joey Sindelar

Joey Sindelar, the 36-hole leader (-5), graduated from Ohio State University so this is something of a home game for him. And at 58 years old, it may be a bit of a surprise to many that he's playing as well as he is. (His best major finish as a senior is a runner-up at, ironically, the 2009 US Senior Open at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Indiana.) But Joey says that the support of the crowds has really helped him.

He'd better keep looking over his shoulder, though. There's some serious competition on his tail. Just to name a few:
  • Billy Mayfair is making his first Champions Tour start this week and he's just one stroke back.
  • Miguel Angel Jimenez and Stephen Ames are part of a T4 trio, just three shots behind.
  • Several others like Jeff Maggert and Vijay Singh are within six shots (+1), which isn't all that far back on a USGA setup.
  • Even Tom Watson isn't out of it. He's sitting at +2.
You can read a more detailed summary of the event thus far at this page. You can also keep up with the scoreboard here.

The TV coverage should be on FOX -- the regular network, not the sports channel -- from 2pm-6pm ET today. If the Olympic coverage runs like it has the past two days, you should still be able to catch three hours of it if you want.

Friday, August 12, 2016

What Is the Correct Height to Tee Your Ball?

I think this is incredibly helpful. It's a Golf Digest article from Sean Foley on how high you should tee your ball. It's called Do You Know How High to Tee Your Driver?

This photo shows how the effective loft changes on a 10° driver when you tee the ball higher or lower than the sweet spot.

How tee height changes your driver loft

That's a pretty dramatic change. The 10° figure is when you hit your 10° driver right in the sweet spot. The other two numbers show the loft when you hit the ball only a 1/2 inch higher or lower than the sweet spot! Isn't that amazing?

Foley goes into considerable detail about deciding how high or low you want to tee the ball. But what I found so helpful is this little statement from the end of the article:
“The highest it [the ball] should ever be is with half of the ball above the top of the driver. The lowest is with the top of the ball slightly higher than the top of the club.”
That is perhaps the simplest explanation of how to tee your ball that I've ever seen. And it's a great visual to use when teeing it up: Never tee the ball so the top of it is lower than the top of the driver, and never tee it higher than half a ball above the top of the driver.

That should eliminate a lot of those mis-hits!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Golf Shoes Are About to Get Smart

You're already wearing FitBits and AppleWatches, your Android phone is using an app to keep track of your steps, and your clubs are sending full swing information to your smart phone so you can obsess over your swing plane faster. Now your golf shoes are about to get into the act.

Meet the IOFIT Smart Shoes, complete with phone app.

IOFIT Smart Shoes plus app

Golf Digest has a new article about the Kickstarter-funded shoes:
Developed over the last two years, the IOFIT Smart Shoes track weight transfer and balance in your golf swing. IOFIT, a creative off-shoot from Samsung, designed the shoes with thin pressure sensors inside the insoles to track how your feet work (or in many cases don’t work) during the swing.
There's a lot more to them than that. You probably want to go watch Olympic golf right now, so I'll let you read the article later to get all the info. Suffice it to say that they incorporate a portable version of some existing golf tech and they should be available early next year.

Of course, new tech continues to build on itself as we bury ourselves under more and more data. So just think: Soon you'll not only be able to keep track of how many steps you take each day, but you'll know exactly how many of them are the result of poor leg action. I can't wait...

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at the Olympics--Men

The Olympics golf events present a real challenge, for viewers as well as for the players. 

The rugged beauty of the Olympic Golf Course

This event -- and the women's event next week -- are extremely difficult for me to pick, simply because there are so many unknowns. Those unknowns include not only the lower-ranked players who make up most of the field, but also the psychology of being in the Olympics for the first time, the unfamiliar conditions of the course (different colors and textures of sand in the various bunkers, for instance) and even the shorter preparation time.

Of them all, the psychology could be the real wild card here. As we all know, players who have been under-performing can suddenly "find their games" when put in the position of representing their countries. Whether the additional emotion causes them to focus better, or it gives them an energy jolt, or it just helps their self image because they were chosen, being an Olympian can bring out an Olympian performance. So all the metrics and stats can be rendered meaningless very quickly!

A player's worldwide schedule should also be taken into account. Solid play in a variety of conditions should give some players a leg-up over players who haven't needed to adapt to different conditions as much.

So in the end, my "5 to Watch" is really just my best guess as to which athletes are playing well enough to get that Olympic "bump" in their games:
  • Henrik Stenson is the betting favorite and I can see no reason to leave him out. Henrik has a proven ability to finish once he gets on a roll, and his OPEN and WGC wins certainly qualify! He might even have won the PGA had it not been for the 36-hole final day; even Stenson had to run out of energy eventually. But he's had some time to recuperate since then, and I expect him to be ready this week.
  • Thongchai Jaidee may be the oldest player in the field, but he's been playing well of late -- especially in tropical climates. His win at the Open de France a few weeks back may well be the biggest win of his career. And he's 2-0 when he's needed to win a playoff. He has the mental make-up for a big stage like this.
  • Sergio Garcia has been playing very solidly for many months now, including a win at the AT&T Byron Nelson earlier this year, which is held at a windy course in Texas. Add the way his play seems to pick up when he gets in a team competition -- which certainly describes the Olympics -- and I can see him getting it done in a big way.
  • Emiliano Grillo is my "young guy" pick. An emotional player with a win at the Open last October, Emiliano's game has been sporadic until the last few weeks. At the Bridgestone, THE OPEN and the PGA he posted T14, T13 and T12, respectively. Is it because he realized he had probably locked up his Olympic bid and he stopped pressing? I don't know. But I do know that he -- like Sergio -- is an emotional player, and he's from Argentina, not all that far from Rio. The psychological effects could be huge for him.
  • Finally, Patrick Reed is my flier pick. I don't think the US team is as strong as some of the others -- only Bubba has won lately, but he's only had two Top25s since March. So when I look at the team, I find myself watching Patrick. He's from Texas, and his game is well-suited to the windy conditions. His consistency is up this year, and he's gone T10-T12-T13-T11 in his last four starts (Scottish Open, OPEN, PGA, Travelers). And he's proven that he can handle the big moment, especially when representing his country.
Look, there are any number of players I could have put in this list. For example, I really like Martin Kaymer's chances and I think Alex Cejka could be a real sleeper pick. But I'm an American, so I'm picking Patrick Reed to upset the field this week.

Even if he doesn't take the gold, I think he may get a medal of some sort.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

BONUS Limerick Summary: Jim Furyk’s 58

Yes, I know what you're going to say: "Why does Furyk get a Limerick Summary for his 58? Stephan Jaeger shot 58 on the Tour a week or so back and you didn't give him one. And there are several other tours where official 58s have been recorded. So what's the deal?"

Let's be clear: I didn't give Jim this Limerick Summary simply because he shot a 58. What he did is more far-reaching than that.

Jim Furyk with the history-making scorecard

Jim Furyk has become the only player on ANY tour to post TWO official rounds in the 50s. That is something special!

Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson, the founders of VISION54, have been trying to get golfers to change their mindsets for quite a while. They want them to think about making birdie on every hole and shoot a 54. And let's face it -- as cool as it sounds, it also sounds impossible.

After all, players rarely even shoot 60, let alone break into the 50s. To use the PGA Tour as an example, only six players have ever broken 60 in an official round of play.
  • 10 June 1977 -- Al Geiberger
  • 11 October, 1991 -- Chip Beck
  • 24 January 1999 -- David Duval
  • 8 July 2010 -- Paul Goydos
  • 1 August 2010, -- Stuart Appleby
  • 13 September 2013 -- Jim Furyk
I believe the figure they gave on TV was that 916,000 official rounds of golf have been shot since Geiberger posted that first-ever 59. And note that none of those players ever did it more than once. That's significant. After all, if breaking 60 is a once-in-a-lifetime act, how realistic is it to even think about shooting 54?

But now, not only has one man done it twice, but he has gone lower the second time. This in itself is a game changer. If a man can break 60 twice and go lower the second time, perhaps 54 isn't so unreachable after all.

But wait... there's more.

The man who did it was considered one of the least-likely players to do so! This wasn't one of the long-hitting youngsters who performed this never-before-seen feat. Instead, it was one of the short hitters -- his average drive around 280 -- who was 46 years old to boot. And perhaps we should consider that he shot both of these rounds within a 3-year period as well.

With his 58, Jim Furyk has changed the way we have to think about what kind of scores are possible. Jim missed at least two short putts that could have easily fallen, and he couldn't go after the reachable par-5 13th because his drive landed in a divot. With his short game, a chip from the front of the green -- instead of the wedge he had to play -- might have given him birdie there rather than par. It's not farfetched to believe that a 56 was within Jim's reach, even though he didn't get it.

For these reasons I award Jim Furyk a BONUS Limerick Summary. He has truly gone where no man -- or woman -- has gone before.
Both Pia and Lynn are ecstatic—
Jim’s making it look automatic!
He’s beat 60 TWICE!
It takes veins full of ice
To repeat an event that sporadic.
The photo came from this page at

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Travelers Championship

Winner: Russell Knox

Around the wider world of golf: Wesley Bryan got his "Battlefield Promotion" by winning the Digital Ally Open on the Tour; Anthony Wall beat Alex Noren 1up to win the Aberdeen Asset Management Paul Lawrie Match Play on the ET; Joe Durant won the 3M Championship on the Champions Tour; Charlie Bull won the Syncrude Oil Country Championship on the Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada; Bo-Mee Lee won the Meiji Cup on the JLPGA (bangkokbobby has details); and Eun Jeong Seong beat Virginia Elena Carta 1up to win the US Women's Amateur.

Russell Knox with Travelers trophy

I realize that Jim Furyk's going to get the bulk of attention today. Therefore I've done a bonus Limerick Summary for him that I'll put up later today. In this post I'm going to give Russell his due.

After Jim Furyk ripped some pages out of the history books early Sunday, it seemed like everybody and their brother thought TPC River Highlands was theirs for the taking. A large number of players went out and shot scores in the mid- and low-60s.

However, none of them were third-round leaders. Daniel Berger shocked everybody when he stumbled out of the gate, shooting a 4-over 74 and never even contending for the win. Likewise, his pursuers Russell Henley and Tyrone Van Aswegen shot 73 and 71, respectively. Even players like Brooks Koepka, who began the day within shooting distance of the lead, could do no better than a 69.

That's just not going to cut it when players are inspired by Mr. 58. Justin Thomas, for example, snagged a piece of third place with a 62. But ultimately it was Jerry Kelly (currently Mr. 49 but just months from being Mr. 50 and joining the Champions Tour) fired a 64 to put himself in second place at -13.

It was up to Russell Knox to try and get the win. Russell walked off the 14th green at -15, headed into the tough final stretch. Things didn't look good:
  • A bogey at the 16th, the tough par-3, left him a single stroke ahead.
  • A birdie putt on the 17th stopped an inch from the hole.
  • Then his tee shot into the crowd on the 18th left him a downhill sidehill lie in the rough, his second left him a long bunker shot and his bunker shot came up short.
But that left him a straight putt that he put straight in the hole. The crowd went wild, Jerry went home in second, and Russell's hat went sailing across the green during his celebration.

This win added Russell to the "Two or more wins this season" list -- you'll recall his WGC-China win early in the wraparound season. It vaulted him to fourth in the FedExCup race. And if it doesn't qualify him automatically for the Euro Ryder Cup team, I'm pretty sure he made Darren Clarke's short list for a Captain's Pick. Each of these lists is quite special, don't you agree?

Well, I would remind you that it also adds him to the "Two or more Limerick Summaries this season" list, which is a very distinguished list in its own right:
Russell Knox watched as Kelly went low;
Thirteen-under was not enough, though.
Russell sank crucial putts
While the fans all went nuts…
Then he put on a hat-throwing show!
The photo came from the tournament's daily wrap-up page at

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Butch Harmon on Flyers

Butch Harmon has a new article over at Golf Digest about how to avoid hitting flyers from the rough. Now, you're probably not too impressed by this news. After all, everybody knows that you move the ball back a bit in your stance ("about middle for a short iron," Butch says) so the shaft leans forward a little, and then you hit down on it so you don't catch grass between the clubface and ball. Everybody knows this, correct?

But there's one small thing in the article that I bet you DON'T know... and that small thing is important.

Butch hitting from the rough

Most of us expect a flyer when the ball sits down in the rough. Butch is warning you against balls that sit on top of the rough.

That's a bit of a shocker, isn't it? If the ball is on top of the rough, that's a good break. And if you were using a wood out of the rough, it probably wouldn't be that big of a deal because there's less loft on the club. That means you're going to hit more toward the midpoint of the ball.

But with a short iron, the extra loft contacts the ball down below that midpoint. In fact, the face catches the ball much closer to the bottom of the ball... and if you catch it just a bit low, you're going to get grass between the clubface and ball.

And since the ball is coming out higher (because of the extra loft), with less spin (because of the grass between the clubface and ball), it's going to fly a bit farther.

So, even though the ball is perched on top of the rough, you need to be careful if you're playing a short iron. Read that article closely, folks -- it's the short iron that can cause the trouble.

Thanks for the tip, Butch!

[UPDATE: Yeah, I know I posted a video from Butch on how to hit irons perched on the rough a couple weeks back. However, that video doesn't have the warning against short irons causing flyers. That's the reason I posted this. But I know it looks a little weird. I blame Butch for doing them separate! ;-)]

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Jeremy Easterly on Hitting It LONG (Video)

Jeremy Easterly, the runner-up at last year's Long Drive Championship, was on Morning Drive Friday morning to talk about how he drives the ball so far. This is the video (with Charlie Rymer) from the show, and he talks about a number of things that can affect your driving... but I'm going to focus on one thing in particular.

Please, PLEASE note that Jeremy draws a distinction between swinging hard and swinging fast. When Charlie asks him about the difference, Jeremy says "That's the million dollar question." Then he talks about controlling emotions because when your emotions get too high, you'll tend to tighten up.

This isn't rocket science, folks. It really is about avoiding tight muscles. Ask any martial artist or any track and field star, they'll tell you that tense muscles move much more slowly than relaxed muscles.

Now, I'm not talking about being some kind of limp noodle when you swing. It's just that you want to stay as relaxed as possible while making your swing. You want to avoid clamping your jaw tightly; you want to keep your back muscles as relaxed as you can; and if your forearms feel like you're locking your wrists, you're just losing clubhead speed.

Many players don't believe how far some of the old hickory players hit the ball, but it's not too hard to understand. My studies of the classic swing show that, because hickory shafts were so soft, those players didn't have to use strength to load the shaft; their focus was on how to keep those soft shafts from loading too much. Because of that, they could stay relaxed and were able to focus on simply swinging their clubs FAST. (Yes, they used slight technique differences to make that easier to do, but those differences weren't as dramatic as you might think.)

If you avoid tensing your muscles any more than you have to during your swing, you'll find that your tempo and sequencing are much better as well. Tensing your muscles more than you have to simply interferes with all the good things you want to do when you hit the ball.

Here's how you can start practicing it: Simply go out in your backyard and begin making those slower, relaxed "practice swings" you usually make before you hit a shot. Gradually try to speed up them up without letting your jaw, back and forearms get tight. While there are other drills you can try, this is something everybody can do and it's just as effective.

Learning to swing fast without getting overly tense, like any other skill, is just a matter of practice. Try the practice swing routine for a few minutes each day, and I can almost guarantee you'll be able to tell the difference within a month. Because moving around without being overly tight is something we humans do all the time. You'll be surprised how fast you'll be able to swing if you just practice a little.

It's simply a matter of learning that a golf swing is just like any other movement. All you have to do is get used to thinking of it that way.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Bryson DeChambeau Needs a Miracle

If you want a good reason to watch the Travelers Championship today, you need look no further than Bryson DeChambeau.

Bryson DeChambeau

According to this Golf Digest article, Bryson needs a miracle today if he wants to get Special Temporary Membership. Since the article says it well, I'll just quote this one paragraph:
The Travelers marks DeChambeau's 12th start on the PGA Tour this season. By rule, non-tour members are allowed just 12 appearances per year. Theoretically, DeChambeau -- if he musters a comeback Friday and somehow finishes second or third in the tournament -- could earn Special Temporary Membership, which could bestow invitations to the John Deere Classic and Wyndham Championship. That route is highly unlikely.
The article then details the various options Bryson has if he can't get it done today... but it certainly looks as if Bryson's got a lot more work ahead of him, no matter how it all plays out.

Perhaps the biggest irony here is that former amateur John Rahm, who turned pro just a couple of months ago, locked up his Special Temporary Membership last week. (You can read the details of that in this Golfweek article.) Rahm gained his status in just FIVE events, highlighted by a T3 at the Quicken Loans Invitational and a T2 at the RBC Canadian Open.

Sounds to me like somebody's got bragging rights!

If you want to see if Bryson can pull this off -- he's got to make the cut to have any chance, and he's currently +2 (T113, 8 strokes off the lead) -- he tees off at 2:15pm ET today, which will be well within GC's broadcast window.

Can the scientific approach to golf create a miracle? That remains to be seen... but it should certainly be an interesting experiment to watch.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Nike's Equipment Shake-Up

The news that Nike plans to get out of the golf club, ball and bag business was unexpected... or expected, depending on your point of view. The slashed prices on Nike equipment, coupled with flat or worse sales figures, raised many eyebrows in the industry. And now we know for sure.

Tiger and Rory

In many ways, this is a sad day for me because my old Nike irons were the best-feeling clubs I've ever had.

I remember getting one of the original sets of Nike Pro Combo irons and absolutely falling in love with them. (I believe that was back in 2003.) The clubs felt solid all the way through the bag -- the forged short irons had a really sweet feel to them, and the longer perimeter-weighted irons (which were also forged, if memory serves) felt just as solid. I used them for years until the groove rules changed again. And every reviewer whose posts I can remember reading seemed just as happy with them as I was.

Simply put, Nike made great equipment. So why were they unable to grab less than a tenth of Callaway and TaylorMade's sales numbers?

The problem, as Golf Digest reported in their article, was simple:
Said one current Nike staff player, "I really love their equipment, but I'll tell you this: In all the pro-ams I've played, I've never once seen one of my partners using a Nike club."
Perhaps Nike had too much product and released it too frequently. Perhaps Tiger's major drought was a bigger drag on sales than anyone would have expected, even with Rory on staff. Perhaps Nike just never developed the prestige of the other manufacturers.

In any case, if you can't penetrate the amateur market, you won't be profitable. And in a cutthroat business environment, if you aren't profitable you won't survive.

Isn't that what often happens to good products in many markets, not just golf? Solid products simply don't find a profitable niche, and they go out of production. And it may point out something that modern marketers simply haven't considered -- namely, that having a big name or two attached to your products simply may not be enough anymore.

After all, if Tiger and Rory can't lock up a decent market share, can anybody do it? You have to wonder...

You can read about the announcement in this article at and this article at, as well as at some of the financial news sites. How this will shake out is yet to be seen; surely somebody will buy rights to their tech and incorporate some of it in their own prototypes, if for no reason beyond making sure it isn't better than what they already have.

But in the meantime there will be pros in search of new sponsors, including Rory, Tiger and Michelle Wie. I never thought I'd see the day...

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Andrew Johnston on How to Stay Unstuck (Video)

Any opportunity to see Beef is probably a good idea!

Andrew Johnston was on The Golf Fix recently. He told Michael Breed how he keeps from "getting stuck" on his downswing. This is extremely simple, but it's usually the simple things that mess up our swings.

Beef talks about two things.
  • The first is spine angle. You want to keep your spine as straight as is reasonably possible from setup to finish. I stress the words "reasonably possible" since your hips are going to move backward and forward some during your swing... but you want to avoid exaggerated moves. Just think about standing tall during your swing and that should help a lot.
  • The second is "covering the ball with your chest," sometimes referred to as "keeping your hands in front of you." Basically it just means that you create a triangle with your arms and shoulders at setup -- which you already do -- and then you maintain it as long as reasonably possible during your backswing and downswing. This sounds tricky but it's actually a pretty normal move. If you were holding a tray of drinks in front of you with both hands, most of you would have no problems keeping the tray centered in front of your chest as you turned to either side while serving guests at a party. That's all this is. And that's all a one-piece takeaway is -- just another way of thinking about making the same move.
Beef has a very natural-looking swing, don't you think? That's because he doesn't overthink things, and he doesn't try to make technically perfect moves when he can just swing the club and hit the ball. I'm not advising you to be sloppy with your swing. I'm just saying that the less you try to manipulate your swing, the less you try to be too perfect, the better you'll probably hit the ball.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Butch Harmon on Playing the Deep Pins

Today: a quick tip from Butch Harmon (care of Golf Digest) on how to chip it close to those back pins.

Butch chipping to a back pin

Okay, it's dirt simple but it's something many (if not most) players don't know. If you're just off the green and the pin is a long way away, DON'T try to lob it with your wedge. Instead, use a 7- or 8-iron and make a hook chip.

To quote Butch:
"When you set up, put more weight on your front foot and the ball off your back foot. When you take the club back, bring it slightly inside. As you come into impact, swing the toe over so that the face closes slightly."
By hooking the chip -- that's why you swing slightly inside on the backswing -- you get the ball on the ground quicker and it runs farther without making a huge swing.

And just for the record, with your weight more on your lead side and the ball positioned off your trail foot, that inside swing path should happen almost automatically. That makes this a fairly natural shot for most players.

It's hard to hit the ball fat or thin with this method, while lobbing it with a wedge can bring both possibilities into play. In other words, this is a percentage shot; the odds of getting a usable result with the hook chip are much better than with a lob.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 PGA Championship

Winner: Jimmy Walker

Around the wider world of golf: Ariya Jutanugarn became the first-ever Thai major winner at the RICOH Women's British Open on the LPGA/LET; Stephan Jaeger won the Ellie Mae Classic on the Tour; Aaron Wise won the inaugural Syncrude Oil Country Championship on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada; Peiyun Chien won the inaugural Kansas City Championship on the Symetra Tour; Prayad Marksaeng won the Maruhan Cup Taiheiyo Club Senior on the Japan Senior Tour; and Chan Shih-chang won the King’s Cup on the Asian Tour.

Jimmy Walker with Wanamaker Trophy

It was a long wet week at Baltusrol, and a VERY long wet Sunday for the field at the PGA Championship. A number of players -- including Henrik Stenson, Jason Day, Robert Streb and Jimmy Walker -- played 36 holes in the rain and muck. Thankfully for the players, the PGA of America decided this would be the first major ever to play lift, clean and place.

As a result, the winner of the event was neither determined by mudballs nor slowed down by endless rulings. It turned out to be a great move by the PGA, and it resulted in a great shootout to determine the winner of the last major of 2016.

Streb faded early (nothing to be ashamed of, since he hasn't been in this position before). Stenson finally fell victim to an untimely double-bogey on the 15th. But Day and Walker traded blows all the way to the end of the round, when Day eagled the final hole and forced Walker to make a tough up-and-down for par.

Which Jimmy did, giving him his first-ever major and stretching the string of major first-timers to five -- a string started, appropriately enough, with Day himself at the 2015 PGA. It's a commonly-held belief that a first major "opens the floodgates" to more wins... but will there be enough wins to go around for all these first-timers? That should be interesting to watch!

In the meantime, Jimmy made his first major a wire-to-wire win and, despite what must have been going on in his head after a long fatiguing day, kept his swing working smoothly right to the end. As a result, he faces no competition at all as he hoists his first major Limerick Summary:
Though Jimmy led from the beginning,
By 18 his tired mind was spinning!
That eagle from Jason
Sent Jimmy’s heart racing—
But so did the win. See him grinning?
The photo came from this page at