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Monday, October 31, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 WGC-HSBC Champions

Winner: Hideki Matsuyama

Around the wider world of golf: Shanshan Feng won the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia on the LPGA; Tom Pernice Jr. won the PowerShares QQQ Championship, the first event in the new Champions Tour Playoffs; Andrés Echavarría won the Colombia Classic on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Shingo Katayama won the Mynavi ABC Championship on the Japan Golf Tour; Supamas Sangchan won the Sanya Ladies Open on the LET; and rookie Cody Gribble won the Sanderson Farms Championship, the PGA Tour's alternate field event.

Hideki Matsuyama with WGC trophy and many fans

It may be the biggest moment yet in Japanese men's golf, but it's probably only a taste of what is yet to come.

Hideki Matsuyama not only won the biggest event of his career -- the WGC that is sometimes called "Asia's major" -- but he did it in dominating fashion. I mean, winning by seven strokes is never a small thing, but Hideki did it over World #2 Dustin Johnson, World #3 Rory McIlroy, and World #5-9 (Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Danny Willett).

And that's not counting all the other top players who were there. Forget all that superhero talk -- Hideki was the real deal.

Perhaps even more impressive is that this event was his third Top2 finish in three consecutive weeks -- win, second, win. Just like that.

Hideki will be at #6 in the OWGR when you check it this morning, up from #10. The Big4 talk was already beginning to fade before this event, given that those players aren't winning every other week. But it's really taking a hit with all these other players stepping up.

And no one is stepping up more than Hideki Matsuyama. So here's the big prize you REALLY wanted, Hideki -- a nice shiny new Limerick Summary!
Japan's man is now in the mix
Since Hideki's ranked World Number Six!
Just forget the Big Four—
Every week we see more
Guys compete for my great limericks.
The photo came from the front page at

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Jimmy Walker on Chipping with the 60-Degree Wedge

The reason I'm posting this is because Jimmy Walker is unusual. As he says in this Golf Digest post about doing ALL his chipping with his 60, "My coach, Butch Harmon, says I'm the only tour player he's ever taught who uses this approach, but Butch hasn't tried to change me because I've gotten good at leaning on my 60."

Jimmy Wlker with his wedge

And yes, Jimmy Walker uses his 60-degree wedge for ALL his short game shots, not just his chipping. I bring this up simply because many of you are frustrated, trying to learn several different clubs for each of your short game shots. If your time -- and perhaps your patience -- is limited, focus on learning to make a lot of your short game shots with just one club. (And it might not be the 60. You can do a lot with a 52 or 56 if you just work at it.)

But since Jimmy's talking about the 60, let's focus on that in this post.

First, he says that Butch gave him some very general advice -- namely, swing through to the target more, cut across the ball less. Most of us have been told to open our stances with the short clubs and swing across the target line. But you may find (like Jimmy) that you're better if you avoid doing that.

Note that Jimmy says he uses a SQUARE stance for flop shots and flips his hands and wrists at impact to get the ball up. That's going to take some practice for most of us. But note again that Jimmy is using a square stance. That eliminates one variable in your swing because you're swinging toward the target.

For a low running chip, Jimmy uses a CLOSED stance and feels as if he hits a baby hook to keep the ball low -- hands slightly forward at address and swings along his foot line (he's closed, so that makes him swing from the inside).

And the rest of the time he just sets up SQUARE and makes a wristless putting motion. (Well, he says it's wristless most of the time.) He just adjusts his ball position to hit the ball higher or lower.

If your short game is giving you fits and you're trying to use a lot of different clubs around the green, you might want to try simplifying your game by using just one club for those shots. Even if you can't do everything with just one club -- you're not gonna hit many flop shots with a 52 -- the goal is to make more good shots and fewer bad ones. It sure seems to work for Jimmy.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Acushnet's IPO Is a Mixed Bag

Acushnet -- that's Titleist and FootJoy, in case you didn't know -- went public on the stock market Friday. According to the reports, the results were mixed.

Titleist golf balls

The Golf Digest report said this:
The initial offering price was $17 per share with just under 20 million shares of common stock to be sold by existing shareholders of Acushnet, which was bought by Fila Korea and a consortium of Korean banks in 2011. The underwriters have a 30-day over-allotment option to purchase up to an additional 2.9 million shares. J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley are lead book-running managers and representatives of the underwriters for the initial public offering. The offering is expected to close on Nov. 2.
The first day of trading saw a little more than 6.9 million shares change hands with a day’s range of $16.90 and $18.00. At the close of trading the stock was at $17.95.
Now whether that's good or not depends on who you talk to. Fortune's report called it "Par—with a substantial handicap." CNN Money's article was less kind; their summary was entitled "Shanked! Titleist IPO lands in the rough" and their article concluded by saying "At best, the stock is a double-bogey."

Of course, given the number of recent IPOs that have opened very high and then fell, sometimes dramatically -- for example, Forbes called last year's Twitter IPO a failure -- I'm not sure Acushnet did so bad. Initial estimates called for the stock to open at $21-24; imagine the outcry if it had sold for that and THEN fell! At least the stock hadn't lost anything by the end of the session.

What I found most interesting in the articles mentioned above -- especially the Golf Digest piece -- was probably lost on most of those buying stock. Acushnet's COO David Maher, who's been with the company for 25 years, said that he believes the USGA, R&A and the golf equipment companies are largely on the same page now, and that most of the "imbalances" in the golf equipment businesses (he's talking about overstock and making too much new equipment too soon for the market) have been corrected. He says Acushnet isn't worried about the slow first day because they're in this for the long haul.

Given that Acushnet has been around since the 1930s and has managed to stay afloat through some pretty bad times, I find it hard to be all that pessimistic about their first day. Time will tell, I guess.

But if you're interested in watching Acushnet's progress, its trading symbol is GOLF. What else?

Friday, October 28, 2016

Butch Harmon on Pitching from a Buried Lie (Video)

Hey, a new Butch Harmon video! In this Golf Digest video, Butch shows the basics for hitting a high soft pitch shot when your ball is buried in the rough.

It's just five simple steps:
  • Take your most lofted wedge
  • Set up with the ball in the middle of your stance
  • Open the clubface... VERY open
  • Take the club up sharply (notice how much wrist cock he creates for a short shot)
  • No followthrough
I think the most unexpected part is the "no followthrough" finish. But I'm guessing that's what makes the ball go up so sharply, since any effort to get all the way through the grass would probably make you hit the shot thin.

This looks like a good shot to experiment with. That "no followthrough" finish from the rough might be useful with some other shots from the rough as well.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Jason Sedan on Blasting It Like Sadlowski (Video)

I saw this on Morning Drive yesterday and knew right then that I wanted to post this today. Their Coach of the Week, Jason Sedan, has the computer motion studies of Jamie Sadlowski's swing and it shows that restricting your lower body is NOT the way to create clubhead speed. Instead, you have to let your hips turn freely.

Look, I'm not even going to try and explain what he's talking about here. But I do want you to go back to this video I posted of Arnold Palmer's swing during his heyday. Pay particular attention to his hip turn. Look familiar?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at the WGC-HSBC

Okay, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth aren't in the field list for the WGC-HSBC Champions. But just about all the other big names are -- including Andrew "Beef" Johnston. As long as they have the Beef, who else do they really need?

Dustin Johnson

The WGC-HSBC Champions returns to Sheshan International in Shanghai, China this week, and it's a track known for giving up low scores. The last three winners -- DJ, Bubba and Russell Knox -- have all been very accurate players (Knox isn't a long hitter) so we could very well see a large number of low scores this week. This post on contains several charts showing which players have been the most "comfortable" at this event, which may help you fantasy golf fans out there.

In the meantime, here are my "5 to Watch":
  • My first three choices are no-brainers, really. Dustin Johnson's play this season definitely gives him an inside track on this course. Do I really need to explain why?
  • Likewise, this is a place where Bubba Watson seems to play well even when his game has been off a bit.
  • And defending champs have tended to play well this year, although only one of them has actually repeated (Justin Thomas last week). So Russell Knox has to make my list as well.
  • Now it gets a bit tricky for me, simply because so many players are hitting fairways and greens so far this year. Paul Casey is way overdue for a win so I'm going with him. He's been so consistent over the last year or so that I think this course may be just what he needs.
  • And for my flier... I'm taking Kevin Na. Kevin's another player who's been right on the cusp of victory so often over the last year or so that I believe he might break through this week.
I realize that I've left off a number of obvious picks, like Rory McIlroy. I would also really like to take Hideki Matsuyama again, after that second last week, or Patrick Reed. But I only have five picks available, and there are way too many players in form to pick them all.

And obviously -- just in case the photo wasn't enough of a clue -- I'm picking DJ to win this week. I see a very real possibility that this comes down to a battle between the Player of the Year and the FedExCup winner (despite my not picking Rory). But I'll put my money on the POY.

Especially since he's won here before.

The WGC website says that live coverage begins on GC at 11pm ET tonight, but I suspect GC will come on a bit earlier with a pre-game show. It'll be good to see the big guns back in action again.

And yes, I guess Beef counts as a big gun now. Golf is an unpredictable game...

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

More Late Night/Early Morning Golf This Week

Well, here we go again. While I realize that it's great for those international viewers among you, these Asian events -- whether they're LPGA or PGA -- are tough for us American fans.

Hana Jang, Ariya Jutanugarn and Lydia Ko

The Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia will be played at the same facility where the PGA Tour played this past week -- TPC Kuala Lumpur -- only the ladies will be on the East Course. (The men were on the West Course.) And as usual, Tony Jesselli has done a preview of the event at his website, so you can get the particulars there.

The big news, if somehow you missed it, is the change at the top of the Rolex Player of the Year race. Since Lydia Ko didn't play last week, Ariya Jutanugarn moved 13 points ahead of her. With only three events left in the season, Lydia will have her work cut out for her.

And as the photo above makes clear, both women are playing this week. The photo is from this LPGA page, where you can find other info about the field breakdown. The breakdown says nothing about Lydia's caddie, however. I think everybody is very interested to see how Lydia performs with her new caddie, since she split with her recent caddie last week.

If I understand the time zones correctly, Kuala Lumpur is exactly 12 hours ahead of us here on the East Coast of the US. The Sime Darby website has a live streaming widget on their front page, so it may be possible for us US folks to catch some of the event live. The widget shows the broadcast time as "27 - 30 Oct 2016 , 9:00-10:30am Thursday to Sunday," which I assume is Kuala Lumpur local time. If so, we should get some live streaming golf from 9-10:30pm ET Wednesday to Saturday. We shall see.

In the meantime, Tony lists the scheduled tape-delayed times in his post, with the first round starting in the wee hours of Thursday morning at 4am ET. GC lists a replay of the first round late Thursday from 6-7:30pm ET, but that's seriously cut down because there's so much PGA Tour and Champions Tour golf this week.

Just be aware that the LPGA may be a bit tricky to catch here in the US. You international viewers are so lucky this week!

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 CIMB Classic

Winner: Justin Thomas

Around the wider world of golf: Padraig Harrington won the Portugal Masters, his first ET win since 2008; Satoshi Kodaira won the Bridgestone Open on the Japan Golf Tour; Minjee Lee won the Blue Bay LPGA; and Tyler McCumber won the Lexus Peru Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Justin Thomas receives the CIMB trophy for the second time

They say the best defense is a good offense. That certainly proved true for Justin Thomas as he pursued the defense of his CIMB Classic title.

He started the final round four strokes back of Anirban Lahiri, who lost his entire lead with one quad on the third hole. After that, it was a free-for-all as players unleashed their aggression on the TPC Kuala Lumpur. It's a course that has proven susceptible to low scores since the event arrived -- a tradition that continued this year.

One player after another surged to the front, only to stumble slightly as other players passed them by. Leishman, Fathauer and Matsuyama all made their own bids for the lead, but Justin was just too much for the field. His 64 was two shots better than anybody else on Sunday.

Justin set the tournament record last year at 26-under. He came up three shots short of that this year... but he was still three shots ahead of second-place finisher Hideki Matsuyama, who matched Justin stroke-for-stroke down the back nine but was too far back to catch him.

And in keeping with his pledge to donate $250 for each birdie he makes during this three-tournament span to the victims of Hurricane Matthew, Justin added 22 birdies and one eagle to bring his current total to $13,000 with one more event to go. No matter how you look at it, Justin has certainly earned this Limerick Summary:
The race for the top spot was on.
Contenders would rise, then were gone
'Cause no one was trustin'
Their game the way Justin
Did. Down the stretch, he turned it on.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Early Reports Say Dick's Bought Golfsmith

Granted, we don't know all the details for sure yet, because this comes from those nameless "sources" who provide early info. But Reuters is certain enough that they put the word out late Friday.

It looks like Dick's Sporting Goods is going to buy Golfsmith.

Dick's Sporting Goods store

I've been scanning the net for details, and here's the best I can do at this point.

There was an auction for the chain last Wednesday, which Dick's won, although the US Bankruptcy Courts still have to approve it.

Supposedly the deal included all the stores, the inventory and the intellectual property. Intellectual property includes all the printed materials (instructional and otherwise) that Golfsmith made available to the public.

The belief is that Dick's will keep about 30 of the stores open and close the rest, but nobody knows yet whether they'll be rebranded as Dick's stores, Golf Galaxy stores (which Dick's also owns), remain as Golfsmith stores, or there could be some other arrangement. But a Golf Digest article about the sale says it would likely give Dick's "the largest collection of golf retail stores in the country. It currently operates 72 Golf Galaxy stores and adding the 30 Golfsmith stores would give it 102, compared to Worldwide Golf Shops 72 stores." The article adds that Worldwide was the other major bidder in the auction.

What does that mean for the rest of us? Well, unless Dick's removes the golf departments from its regular stores -- which I suspect is unlikely, given that a Dick's golf department employee told me several months ago that Dick's is training its own golf techs now -- your next set of clubs will most likely come from a Worldwide or Dick's-owned golf store.

At least, they will if you want to have your clubs custom-fitted.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

How to Adjust Push-ups for Your Strength Level (Video)

I'm a big fan of bodyweight exercises -- that is, exercises that use your bodyweight rather than individual weights or machines to provide resistance. They generally don't require any equipment (there are a few exceptions, like pull-ups) and they usually work a lot of muscles at once, so it's easier to work your muscles evenly in less time.

Ron Kaspriske at Golf Digest did this little video on how to make push-ups harder. I know that most of you need to make them easier! Don't worry, I'll tell you how that's done after the video. But the versions he does in this video -- which, yes, require equipment -- are pretty cool.

Alright, for the rest of you who have trouble doing push-ups, here is a quick course on how to adjust the effort level. Are you ready?
  • If you want to make push-ups HARDER, move your HEAD farther from the ground.
  • If you want to make push-ups EASIER, move your FEET farther from the ground.
Now let me explain that. It's much simpler than it may sound.

The basic push-up is done with your feet and hands on the ground. This is a medium level push-up. Let's say you want to make your push-ups easier. The easiest way is to stand up next to a wall and face it, take one small step backward so your toes are maybe 12-18 inches from the wall, and then put your hands on the wall and lean toward it.

Your head is now as high above the ground as you can get it, and this is a very easy-to-do push-up. (Perhaps it's more of a push-out. But it takes more strength than you might expect.) To increase the difficulty from there, you increase your forward lean so your head gets nearer the ground. At first you just move your feet away from the wall a little, but eventually you're going to need something flat to put your hands on to support your weight. So you can use the edge of the kitchen sink or a table, then move down to a chair seat, then use stairs or a footstool, and finally back down to the ground.

Some of you may remember the old Charles Atlas bodybuilding course. (Remember the ads in comic books with the bully kicking sand in the guy's face?) The cornerstone of the Atlas program was a push-up that used two chairs. You put one hand on each chair, which made the exercise easier than the "flat on the floor" version, but you lowered your body between the chairs so your chest could go lower. That increased the range of the motion so you got more good from the exercise. It's still a very good exercise to use as a basic piece of a workout program.

To make the push-ups harder, go in reverse but with your feet. Keep your hands on the floor but put your feet on the stool or some stairs, then on a chair seat, and so on until you're putting your feet high against the wall. These are almost the hardest you can do, and they're called handstand push-ups. (And yes, there's one version that's harder. It's called a freestanding handstand push-up, and obviously your feet don't touch the wall at all. Those are hard!)

Now, there's one other way to make push-ups easier or harder, and we used to mix these two techniques in Tae Kwon Do to build strength in different sorts of ways. You can do the push-ups on your knees instead of your feet, and then you can put your hands in awkward positions to stress different muscles. You'd be surprised how much strength you can build doing those... and yet even the students who hadn't done many push-ups before were able to do them.

BTW, that medicine ball push-up that Kaspriske does in the video? We got the same effect by doing knee push-ups while putting one hand close to our side and stretching the other hand much farther away. You can isolate individual muscles that way.

So that's your primer on push-ups. They're a convenient exercise that you can do almost anywhere... and now you know how to adjust the difficulty to fit your current strength level.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Tiger's Interview with Charlie Rose (Video)

I suppose the big news on Thursday was Tiger's interview with Charlie Rose on his PBS show. I didn't get to see it, although I've seen a couple of different clips. (The entire interview was an hour long.) This is an almost 6-minute clip from the CBS This Morning show that I could embed here on the site. And here's the link to the page, because it includes a transcript of this part of the video. (And in case the video doesn't embed properly -- I can't see it when I preview this post -- you can click the link to see the video.)

One thing which isn't in this clip but was shown on GC concerns why Tiger withdrew from the Safeway last week. Tiger's reason was very interesting to me. He said that, before the Ryder Cup, he was in a groove at his home course -- that is, that his feel for distance was there. But after he took the week off for the Ryder Cup, he was surprised to find that he no longer felt his distance control as well. He thought he could get it back with the practice in California, but he was wrong. Over the weekend he realized that, while he could hit the shots alright, he couldn't hit them well enough to shoot a low score and that since he hadn't hurried his comeback, he needn't hurry it then.

Given how low the scores were at the Safeway, that was probably a good decision. In the clip above, you can hear him tell Charlie that he believes he can get his game in shape in time for the Hero.

I also found one other clip from CBSN that I can't embed here but that I think is worth listening to. It's at this page and it's a 7-minute interview that Charlie Rose did about the interview itself. Charlie talks about what Tiger's own people said about the interview -- that he simply doesn't do them but he wanted to talk to Charlie -- and about some of the things he and Tiger talked about after the interview finished, as well as his own take on what Tiger told him.

Very interesting stuff in these two clips. They're worth a watch.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Clearing Your Hips -- An Update

As most of you realize, I keep the comments open on all my old posts in case somebody reads one and has a question. The blog emails me anytime somebody makes a comment, and then I can zip over and see if I can help. And it's a good thing I leave them open, since a lot of you do go back and re-read the old posts.

Back in 2010 I did a post called Clearing Your Hips. And a couple days back Paul left me a question that I tried to answer but the blog wouldn't accept it. Apparently my answer was too long! So I left Paul a note that I would do a new post today for him. (I've done that for a number of you, so this is nothing new.)

In the original post I was trying to get you folks to stop moving toward the target so much when you start your downswing, so your hips would unwind more naturally. Paul's question was simple enough, and it's a logical one:
If you're opening up your hips the right shoulder must come out thus the over the top, isn't there a lateral component to start first ? This I can get away with with my woods and hybrids but not irons !!
So first let me re-post a photo of J.B. Holmes that was in that post, since I referred to it in my answer, and then my answer will follow.

J.B. Holmes downswing sequence

I understand why you're confused, Paul. I've made this mistake too, just like everybody else. And I've been trying to figure out a way to explain this more clearly so my answer will make more sense to you. Hopefully this will help you see what you're missing.

And I do mean see. You've forgotten about your spine angle. We have a tendency to think of our swing the way we see it in the Holmes swing sequence above -- from face-on. But there are also some important things we would only see from a down-the-line swing photo. So, in the interest of clarity, let's start with what we normally see, as in the photo above.

I want you to imagine that J.B.'s hips and spine -- and your hips and spine as well -- are connected like an upside-down T. There's a "crossbar" connecting your hips, and your spine sticks up halfway between them, like the tall line of the T, with your head at the top.

NOTE: If this were really your spine, the tall line would tilt slightly away from your target. That's because your trail hand (in your case, your right hand) is lower on the club than your lead hand, so your shoulders have to tilt a bit. But thinking of your hips and spine at 90° angles is easier.

So your head is roughly centered between your hips at address. Are you with me so far?

What you're forgetting is that your spine (the tall line) ALSO tilts toward the golf ball. You're bent over just a little.

Now, when you turn your shoulders away from the target during your backswing -- we'll say you make a standard 90° turn -- your trail shoulder (the right one) is now well behind your back -- behind your spine -- away from the ball. If you were to draw a swing plane, like the glass plane drawn in Hogan's book, your right shoulder would be well below that plane.

At the top of your backswing, your lead heel has come off the ground and your lead knee and hip have moved away from the target. But your head is still roughly halfway between your hips. Look at the first picture of Holmes in the post above; you can see that clearly.

When you start your downswing, the first thing you do is put your lead foot down flat on the ground and your lead knee moves over almost straight above it. That's your lateral move, but it isn't a big move forward. Rather, you pushed your lead foot DOWN and your hips turned back toward the ball. Your body moved DOWNWARD just a little.

And when your body moved down, so did your trail shoulder. Not out over the ball, but DOWN toward the ground. You're correct that your right shoulder is moving forward, but it was already below your swing plane and now your downward motion lowered it even more. In fact, it may still be a little behind your spine at this point.

From this point on, that trail shoulder will come at the ball from UNDER the plane, not over it, no matter how much you turn in your downswing. That's because your spine is still straight and your head is still basically halfway between your hips.

So why are you coming over-the-top? It's because of your trail knee (your right knee). I wrote about this in my book Stop Coming Over-the-Top because it happens so much. (And yes, I struggled with it for a long time before I figured it out. Like I said, it's a common problem.)

What SHOULD happen when you start down from the top is that your trail knee -- your right knee -- should stay slightly BENT. Your trail foot is flat on the ground at the top of your swing, then it rolls to the inside as you start down. That lets your hips move naturally and shift your weight to your lead foot.

But what most of us do is we try to hit the ball hard. And to do that, we STRAIGHTEN our trail knee. That pushes our trail hip UP, and that pushes our head TOWARD THE TARGET. Instead of your spine staying vertical, it leans toward the target and your head moves too far over your lead foot. That moves your right shoulder UP instead of down, so it comes over the swing plane instead of under it. Make sense?

If you want to practice the correct move, check out the "Body Movin'" drill in this post. You don't need a club and you can practice it anywhere. It's the best drill I know to teach you how the correct move feels.

So let me give you a new answer to your question above. You think, like so many instructors teach, that you start your downswing by moving laterally and then turning. THAT'S WRONG. You want to start your downswing by moving DOWN and then turning. Because of the way your hips naturally work, the downward movement creates all the lateral movement you need.

And the more you can use your body's natural movements, the easier and more consistent your golf swing will be.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Lot of Golf Early (or Is It Late?) Today

Although it's Wednesday, both the LPGA and the PGA Tour are playing in Asia this week. That means the golf telecasts begin TONIGHT.

CIMB defending champion Justin Thomas

First up is the PGA Tour's event, the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur (that's in Malaysia). Justin Thomas got his first PGA Tour victory there last year and returns as the defending champ.

If you're into the fantasy golf leagues, you'll probably want to check out the various pages the PGA Tour has at their site. If you go to this page, you'll find links to roughly five pages of fantasy picks in different categories. Just check out the photo links. But even if you don't mess with the fantasy stuff, you might be interested to know that the Top5 in the Tour's power rankings this week are:
  1. Paul Casey
  2. Hideki Matsuyama
  3. Patrick Reed
  4. Ryan Moore
  5. Justin Thomas
Given that Hideki won on the Japan Golf Tour this past weekend and didn't have to go through so many time zones, I'd think he would rank higher on this list. As much as I like how Paul's been playing, I think Hideki should probably be the favorite.

After the PGA Tour coverage tonight -- Golf Central comes on at 10pm ET, and the tournament proper is listed for 10:30pm ET -- the LPGA tees it up in China at the Blue Bay LPGA.

Blue Bay LPGA defending champion Sei Young Kim

Sei Young Kim is the defending champion there, but the biggest news may be Lydia Ko's absence. That's because Ariya Jutanugarn IS playing, and is only 74 points behind Lydia in the Race for the CME Globe. Ariya can catch her this week!

Also of interest: Both Yani Tseng and Michelle Wie received sponsor invites this week, as did amateurs Jingwen Zhang and Yifan Ji.

As usual, I'll refer you to Tony Jesselli's website for his excellent preview of the event. Tony has the field strength ranked pretty low this year -- only 43%, with only 18 of the Top50 Rolex players in the field. But with Ariya and Brooke Henderson both playing this week, along with Sei Young Kim and Carlota Ciganda (last week's winner), the golf should still be pretty good.

GC lists the LPGA event broadcast for 2:30am ET tonight -- which I know is technically Thursday morning, but it's too dark to see a clock around here at that time of the night.

If you're like me and will be visiting your bed before the LPGA broadcast begins, the re-air is listed for 2pm ET Thursday and the PGA re-air at 6pm ET Thursday. Add in the European Tour broadcast of the Portugal Masters (6am ET and 10pm ET, both live on Thursday) and it's going to be a pretty full day of golf.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Different Approach to Breaking 90

I know a lot of you are trying to break 90. That's a huge mental barrier for most people. I mean, 90 is bogey golf. Once you get into the 80s, you're on your way to par.

So that makes 90 a big deal.

But some barriers are harder to cross than others. The 90 barrier is definitely one of them. And it seems even harder because most of us know that we're good enough to do it. I remember very early in my golf career, back when I was struggling to break 110 -- that's a long way from 90, isn't it? But when I sat down and totaled my best score for each hole on my regular course, do you know how many strokes I came up with?

Only 88. That's right, only eighty-eight strokes. The problem wasn't that my game was so bad, but rather that I was inconsistent. And that's a matter of strategy -- how I thought my way around the course. I often made poor choices because I was convinced I had to make a certain score on each hole in order to improve, and that meant I played shots that I shouldn't have tried to play.

If you're having trouble breaking 90, your problem may be that you're making it too hard mentally on your game. And if that's the case, I have an interesting approach you might want to try.

But first, let's look at a couple of approaches that often don't work very well.

As I said earlier, 90 is bogey golf. All you have to do is make bogey on each hole and you'll score 90. But once you make a double -- which often happens very early in the round -- you start trying to make a par to get the stroke back. You end up trying too hard and making bad strategy choices and... well, bye-bye, 90.

I'm sure you've also heard the concept of personal par, where you decide what is a realistic score for you on each hole, regardless of what the scorecard says par should be. You've probably tried that and been frustrated. Most of us don't know what a "realistic score" would be!

Here's the new approach: I was digging through some of my old golf books, looking for some gems of advice that you might not have heard but that would be helpful. And then I found this old book -- over 15 years old, in fact -- called How to Break 90 by T.J. Tomasi, Mike Adams and Mike Corcoran. (The first two are PGA teachers, the last is a golf writer.) And the first chapter had this cool idea...

It's called LEVEL FIVES. While it's true that 18 bogeys equals 90 strokes, it's also true that making 18 fives equals 90 strokes. On your typical golf course with 10 par-4s, 4 par-3s and 4 par-5s, that translates to 4 pars, 10 bogeys and 4 double-bogeys.

Now obviously you don't have to play exactly that way. The idea is that you AVERAGE a score of five on each hole. But the benefit here is how it changes your mental game. Now, when you make that first double-bogey, your game isn't screwed up. You've planned for at least 4 double-bogeys!

And when you get to those par-5s that you've been trying to reach in two so you can make up for that double, now you know a par is good enough. Instead of swinging out of your shoes and losing a ball on the par-5, you can probably reach it with three 7-woods easy. You might have a wedge for your third shot, hit it close and even make a birdie! And then you're ahead of the game, because that gave you a par-4.

Suppose you make a bogey on a par-3. Now you've ahead of the game there as well. Since making a five is a success, you've just made a "birdie"!

The mental game is usually the hardest part of the game for us. This LEVEL FIVES concept takes a lot of that pressure off your game and lets you play good shots instead of pressing.

And eventually, you'll be getting into the 80s regularly. That presents you with a whole 'nother problem... but that will be a wonderful problem to have!

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Safeway Open

Winner: Brendan Steele

Around the wider world of golf: Carlota Ciganda got her first LPGA victory at the the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Classic; Nicole Broch Larsen won the Symetra Tour Championship on -- what else? -- the Symetra Tour; Pavit Tangkamolprasert won the Venetian Macao Open on the Asian Tour; Alex Noren got his third ET title of the season at the British Masters; Doug Garwood won the SAS Championship on the Champions Tour; Hideki Matsuyama won the Japan Open Golf Championship on the Japan Golf Tour; Guillermo Pereira won the Roberto De Vicenzo Punta del Este Open Copa NEC on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; and Anne Van Dam won the Xiamen International Ladies Open on the LET.

Brendan Steele with Safeway Open 'trophy'

Maybe it's just as well Tiger decided not to play the Safeway Open this week. Between the flooding and cold weather and odd hours and the mad dash on Sunday afternoon, it probably wasn't the best way to reintroduce his bad back to the game.

And it was a mad dash for sure! Players would surge forward, drop back, shuffle around and suddenly fire unexpectedly good shots to get back in the game. It looked for the longest time as if Patton Kizzire would grab his first PGA Tour win but, like so many other players, he stumbled coming down the final stretch.

Many players like Kevin Na, Paul Casey, Scott Piercy and Johnson Wagner -- who tend to play well in Napa Valley -- put up their typical good numbers and finished well. They just couldn't get over the hump to win the thing. Nobody could.

Nobody except Brendan Steele, that is. Steele hadn't won in 5 years, and he started the day 5 shots back from the lead. And it was all complicated by the fact that he got that original win with a belly putter, so he didn't really have the good thoughts to draw on as he worked his way into contention.

Well, he has them now. All he did was birdie 16, 17 and 18 to post at -18, a single stroke ahead of Kizzire... and it was enough. Steele is back in the winner's circle again.

And this time he did it with a short putter.

But there was such an odd rhythm to the event, what with all the interruptions I mentioned earlier, that it seemed only proper that I find a way to immortalize that in his second-ever Limerick Summary. Don't worry, it's easy enough to read; it just sounds a bit unusual:
Steele started the day, he was five down…
But that changed as he played his last round!
With three holes to go
He put on quite a show—
With a short putter, Brendan's now quite sound.
The photo came from the tournament upshot page at

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Of Course You Get Beef from a Bull (Video)

This really needs no explanation, but here goes: The UK magazine Today's Golfer decided to interview Andrew "Beef" Johnston while he was riding a mechanical bull. Happens every day, right?

Beef on a mechanical bull

He didn't do so well, but it's sure fun to watch. Here, have a look for yourself:

Fortunately he's a pro golfer and not a pro bullrider. Granted, he's unlikely to win the British Masters this week -- he went from one off the lead after two rounds to eight back after three -- but he's got his card on two tours and we're all looking forward to seeing him play all over the world for the next couple of years.

Also fortunately, he's enjoying all the attention. Even when he's being thrown from a mechanical bull.

Now if he can just avoid getting hurt. At least he's not having a kickaround -- I guess Rory warned him about that. Much safer to ride the bull... ?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Lynn Marriott's "Tai Chi" Swing (Video)

I found this over at the LPGA's instruction site and thought you guys might be interested, especially if you've noticed the ads for things like Tathata Golf that incorporate martial arts training and are curious. This is a drill from Lynn Marriott at VISION54 that she calls a "Tai Chi" swing.

And for those of you who don't know, while Lynn refers to Tai Chi as a slow motion thing, it's much more than that. What we normally think of as Tai Chi is actually the practice forms for the martial art Tai Chi Chuan, which is considered one of the most advanced forms of martial arts. As Lynn says in the video, you practice at slow speed in order to improve your form at normal speed.

There's not much I can add to what Lynn says in the video because the concept is very simple -- as I said above, you practice at slow speed in order to improve your form at normal speed. I've tagged this post not only as a drill but as a mindset post because this sort of slow motion training is used in many sports. It helps you build strength and stability in your form, as well as helping you understand the movements of your sport better.

Just as a side note, this method is less effective when you use the techniques of a classic swing because so much of the technique is based on movement. Slow motion training focuses more on positions because you eliminate most of the momentum in the moves. But even then, this practice drill can really help you improve your form and balance, especially if you try to stay as relaxed as possible without getting sloppy, because of the subtle strengthening effect from doing it so slow. Give it a try!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Ron Kaspriske's Simple "Goblet Squats" (Video)

Ron Kaspriske is the Senior Editor at Golf Digest. Not exactly the person you'd expect to get exercise advice from -- you'd normally expect some over-muscled personal trainer, right? But Kaspriske recently did this video of an extremely simple squat movement called a "goblet squat." I think it's awesome because it eliminates most of the dangers that can come from doing squats with weights.

The fact that you're using a relatively light weight helps reduce the danger of injury here. Why? Because you're holding this light weight very close to your chest, which forces you to go straight up and down, not get off-balance the way you can when using large, awkwardly-shaped weights.

Also, bear in mind that you don't have to go down as far as Kaspriske does, especially when you're starting out. Let your existing strength level tell you when enough is enough. The goal is to get healthier, not try to impress others.

Squats, when done safely with weights you can handle easily, are great for developing much more than power in your golf swing. Squats can really strengthen your legs, hips and lower back... and that can eliminate a lot of the lower back pain that develops from sitting for so long, especially at work.

Even if you don't use a weight, you can get most of those benefits from just squatting regularly. You can even place one hand on a table or chair to help you keep your balance if necessary -- you'll still get the benefits. It's hard to think of many exercises that can make the same claim.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Se Ri Pak Says Good-bye to the LPGA at Home

Yes, the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Classic is the last event in Se Ri Pak's LPGA career. And so it only makes sense that she would play that final event in Korea.

Se Ri Pak in her last official tournament

The LPGA KEB Hana Bank Classic is the third event in the LPGA's six-event swing leading up to their Tour Championship. Tony Jesselli has done his usual great preview of the event, so I'll just link you to that post here. It'll get you up-to-date on the basics you need to know, including who's not there. According to Tony, 40 of the Rolex Top50 ARE there.

Of course, you may figure that I'm a bit late with this post, as the first round will already be over by the time you read this -- even if you catch it as soon as I post it. But this is another of those tape-delay broadcasts on GC, so you can catch the first round today at half past noon (that's 12:30pm ET).

At the time I'm writing this -- around midnight Wednesday -- most of the limited field of 78 are on the back nine, headed for the finish. For my American readers, there are only three US players currently in the Top10 -- Lizette Salas and Alison Lee are tied for the lead (with Jeong Min Cho and I.K. Kim) at -4, and Brittany Lang is in a group two back. That may change, as Lee is only on the 9th, Lang is on 14 and Salas on 17.

Likewise, defending champ Lexi Thompson is at -1 but (as I write this) is playing her 9th hole. Obviously there's still lots of golf to be played in the first round.

Se Ri is at +4, in a group that is only one stroke ahead of last place. But I imagine this has been a tough week for her, and nobody really cares what she shoots this week anyway. An era in women's golf is ending and, while Se Ri will still be involved in golf, the game won't quite be the same. Se Ri belongs up on that Mount Rushmore of Golf with Arnold Palmer, Charlie Sifford and Tiger Woods. (At least, that's MY Mount Rushmore of Golf. Golf would probably get less attention than frog jumping without those four.)

Thanks for everything, Se Ri. We'll miss seeing you on the Tour.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Virgil Herring on the Flop Shot (Video)

Here's an interesting video from GC by instructor Virgil Herring on how to make a flop shot. I'm including it because he has a couple of interesting images that might help you get the ball up quicker.

The images are:
  • Imagine the wedge's face is a mirror and make sure you can "see your reflection" all the way through the swing. Since you have to open the face a lot to make a flop shot, this basically means your lead wrist is pretty much FLAT all the way back and then CUPPED from impact to finish. It sounds a bit awkward to me, but the flop shot requires a lot of wrist action and this image may work for you.
  • The other image is to imagine that you have to sling the clubhead under a waist-high rope strung between you and the target. This one seems to use a less exaggerated motion, but that may just be me.
The idea in both cases is to get you to flip your wrists at impact to make a fairly flat, short followthough. That should cause you to automatically use the bounce on the wedge, rather than the leading edge. If you're having trouble getting consistent results from your flop shots, one of these images might be just what you need.

Of course, don't forget to (a) use your most lofted wedge and (b) put the ball forward in your stance if you want to make a flop shot. If you put the ball back in your stance like you would for a chip shot, you'll never get it up in the air.

Yeah, I know that's basic stuff. But it's usually the basic stuff that trips us up.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Oh, Wait... He's NOT Back

The big buzz Monday was Tiger's withdrawal from the Safeway Open this week, and rightfully so. This isn't like Tiger at all, to commit to an event and then turn right around and bow out. What could have happened between Friday and Monday to cause such a strange turn of events?

Tiger at Greensboro 2015

Everybody has their own thoughts; no doubt you heard many of them. And I do mean EVERYBODY. Even Scott Van Pelt over at ESPN had Steve Sands on his late night show to talk about it.

Well, I have a few thoughts as well, so I thought I'd post them -- for what they're worth, since I don't know any more than anybody else about what's going on in Tiger's head. But I HAVE played a few local pro events, and I have an idea what might have happened.

Almost everybody agrees that the key words in Tiger's withdrawal statement were:
“My health is good, and I feel strong, but my game is vulnerable and not where it needs to be.
Vulnerable. That's a word we've rarely (if ever) heard from the Big Cat. But after 14+ months away from competitive golf, it's an understandable feeling. And as Sands and Van Pelt discussed, although Tiger got himself into contention when he last played in Greensboro (that's where the above photo was taken), he didn't play very well on Sunday when he had a chance to win.

I think we have to consider this: While we're focused on 14+ months, the fact is that Tiger hasn't really been in competitive shape since late 2014 when he had the first back surgery. It's been well over TWO YEARS since Tiger's been healthy, and I'd be surprised if he didn't have a lot of questions -- even a bit of panic -- after seeing how well the Ryder Cuppers (both teams) were playing, and then seeing just how big the buzz was around his return over the weekend.

And really, do you think fans expected less than a showdown since Tiger was to be paired with Phil? Talk about pressure!

Personally, I suspect that Tiger's game wasn't perfect when he signed up for Safeway but he expected that. He was ready to try some "test" competition -- bear in mind that he had only three events planned over three months. But after the internet blew up with suggestions that Tiger would easily win the event, I wouldn't be surprised if the "less than perfect" parts suddenly became very shaky.

A personal true story: The first pro event I tried to play in was a Hooters Tour event. I went to try and make the Monday qualifier. There was something wrong in my swing -- I could get the ball mostly where I wanted it, but it just didn't feel quite right -- and I figured the pressure would make it "crack" so I could identify the problem, fix it and try again the next week. I didn't expect it to be a big problem. After all, I was shooting par even with the problem.

To make a long story short, my swing didn't crack... it shattered. I vaguely remember three 10s and a 14 during the round, simply because I couldn't get the ball anywhere near a fairway or a green, no matter what I did, even with a wedge. It ended up taking me a while to finally figure out the problem and fix it. (It was a full swing problem but, after your confidence gets shattered, your short game gets pretty ragged too. Especially when you can't get a club on the ball. I took a lot of drops that day.)

Tiger has taken both the October and November events off his calendar. It sounds to me as if, maybe, his less-than-perfect swing took a bad turn over the weekend once the pressure he put on himself ramped up. I don't think his problem is as bad as mine was, but at the pro level, it doesn't take much to put you out of the running.

And second, I think equipment may have compounded the problem. In a Golf Channel post a couple months back, Notah Begay said:
"I walked into his dining room and it was like going into a PGA [Tour] Superstore now that Nike's equipment line no longer exists. Every single manufacturer had sent equipment in there, and he's trying a variety of different things, trying to get a sense of where he's going to go from this point on."
Another article, this one on Golf Digest in early September, noted how hard it is for Tiger to find equipment he likes (see specifically questions 4 and 5). That article also notes that Tiger was 100% Nike during the Greensboro tournament... and of course Nike is now out of the equipment business. And since that event was before his last back surgeries. I just can't see how he could play the same equipment now and expect to play worth a darn.

Accordingly, this Golf Digest post on Monday says most folks expect some new equipment in his bag -- at least a new driver, which has been one of his bugaboos the last few years.

So I'm not ready to panic. I'm going to miss seeing Tiger this week, but I'm not so sure this is the fiasco many think it is. It's just one of those "unexpected but expected" bumps in the road for a player recovering from serious injury who has missed a lot of playing time. I just hope he can get things figured out in time for the Hero event.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Fiji International

Winner: Brandt Snedeker

Around the wider world of golf: Yuta Ikeda won the Honma Tourworld Cup on the Japan Golf Tour; Poom Saksansin won the BNI Indonesian Masters on the Asian Tour; Jay Haas won the Toshiba Classic on the Champions Tour; Ha Na Jang won the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship on the LPGA; Beth Allen won the Lacoste Ladies Open de France on the LET; Tyrrell Hatton won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the ET (Danny Willett and his caddie won the pro-am portion); and Curtis Luck won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.

Brandt Snedeker with his Fiji International trophy

This was a tough Limerick Summary to do, simply because I couldn't decide which tournament should get it. Had things gone as planned, the Tour Championship would have gotten it because of the 25 Tour cards being awarded. Instead, Hurricane Matthew interfered and that event was cancelled, as was the IOA Golf Classic on the Symetra Tour.

And then it seemed as if every event being played around the planet might be a blowout and a potential record performance. However, most of the leaders stumbled at the last moment:
  • Jay Haas had a 5-stroke lead to start the final round at the Toshiba Classic, but was forced to birdie the 18th in a playoff to win the thing. However, he did become the second-oldest winner ever on the Champions Tour -- just two months shy of 63 years old.
  • Ha Na Jang had a 6-stroke lead at the LPGA's Taiwan event, despite tough conditions, but could only beat a hard-charging Shanshan Feng by a single stroke. However, it was Jang's third win of the year -- only Lydia Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn have more.
  • Tyrrell Hatton had a 3-stroke lead at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Hatton didn't stumble like the rest. He did manage to increase his lead and win by four strokes, and this was his first-ever win, so it was pretty impressive. However, it wasn't the most impressive win this week.
No, that honor went to Brandt Snedeker. After a fairly emotional win at the Ryder Cup last week, where he won three out of three matches, all Brandt did was fly 7000 miles to Fiji for the Fiji International, an event co-sponsored by the ET and the Australasian Tours and hosted by Vijay Singh. The course was windy and he wasn't familiar with it. But somehow he managed to start the final round with a three-stroke lead and win by nine.

Yes, you read that correctly. He won the event by NINE strokes. It's the biggest winning margin at any ET event this year. And it's his second victory this season -- you may remember that little windblown Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

And this was his first-ever European Tour win as well. In fact, it's his first international win ever. I know it's hard to believe but it's true.

So you can see why Sneds got the nod this week. The other players got nice wins -- especially Hatton, with that breakthrough win -- but nobody strutted their stuff better than Brandt Snedeker. So here you go, Brandt... ENJOY!
Now his Cup runneth over, it seems—
Why, just look at how Snedeker beams!
First a Hazeltine win,
Then he wins once again;
Brandt is living the sweetest of dreams.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Patrick Reed on Driving (Video)

So you want to dominate your driver the way Patrick Reed does? Here's a Golf Digest video from a couple months back where Patrick shares his tips on three different types of drives.

I'm not going to try and summarize Patrick's tips, simply because they're a bit unusual and you'll do better if you see them. However, there are two things here I think are interesting.

For one thing, Patrick likes extremes in his swing. (And maybe you're not surprised by that!) Patrick likes to see movement in his ball flight, so he allows for a much bigger curve in his shots. He says, for example, that instead of aiming for a 10-yard draw he'll try to get a 20-yard -- or even bigger -- draw.

What can you learn from this? If you're trying to visualize your shots, make sure your shot is "big enough" that you can tell when it's behaving!

And the second thing -- and perhaps this should be more obvious to us than it is -- when Patrick wants to hit a big draw, he plays the ball forward in his stance and aims way right. (For you lefties, that would be way left.)

Why do I say this should be more obvious? Because when you move the ball forward in your stance, you automatically close the clubface more before you hit the ball because your body is turning toward the target. And that means you should aim for a bigger draw, otherwise you might pull the ball into trouble. By aiming for a bigger draw, you can feel free to really unleash and hit the ball with your hands. That way, even if you do get a bigger draw than you planned for, it's still a draw.

Some good thoughts from Patrick in this video. You might not use them all but, if you can find just one tip that helps, isn't it worth it?

Saturday, October 8, 2016


Hurricane Matthew was busy devastating the Southeast US on Friday, but he didn't stop Tiger from confirming his spot in the Safeway Open next week.

Tiger in full swing

It's been 14 months since Tiger's last tee off, a T10 at the 2015 Wyndham Championship in Greensboro NC (about 30 minutes or so from where I live). Since then he's seen two more back surgeries, a tour of duty as a Ryder Cup vice captain, and a pick as a 2017 Presidents Cup vice captain. (Captain Steve Stricker talked as if that depended on whether Tiger made the team or not.) Some folks wondered if this day would ever come.

But it has and now, ranked at 767 in the world, the questions are concerned with how well Tiger will play. Most of the media seem to believe Tiger will play very well, although they aren't sure exactly how well. And most of the players are anxious to see him back. (Word is that the Ryder Cup players tried to get him to hit some balls last week and he refused, so he could focus on his vice captaincy. In retrospect, good choice.)

The most interesting comments to me have come from Jesper Parnevik, simply because Jesper was so infuriated with Tiger after what happened between him and Elin. (Elin had played nanny to Jesper's kids while his family was on the road, you'll remember.) At any rate, Jesper appears to have buried the hatchet between them and has even been playing some golf with Tiger. And Jesper told GC:
"By the way, he's been hitting a lot of balls, and he's hitting it great. He's pounding it a mile and flushing everything. On the range at least, his trajectory and ball flight are like the Tiger we knew 15 years ago."
He also said:
"Comebacks are never a sure thing, but something tells me his might be spectacular."
So we may be in for something special.

What am I saying? Of course we'll be in for something special because Tiger won't be alone. Phil Mickelson also plans to tee it up at Safeway, as do Matt Kuchar and Paul Casey. John Rahm will be making his first PGA Tour appearance as a full member, and #1 amateur Maverick McNealy is in on a sponsors exemption. This looks to be the best-ever field for the Johnny Miller-hosted event.

As if 2016 hadn't already provided us with some spectacular golf...

Friday, October 7, 2016

John Feinstein's Ryder Cup Summary

In case you missed the news, Hurricane Matthew not only killed the final Playoff event but also this week's Symetra Tour event. Since you're two tournaments short of a full schedule this week, you've got more time to read, right?

But I've already written several long posts this week so I'll give you a day's reprieve and simply link you to a new John Feinstein article about Phil's part in the Ryder Cup victory. While I rarely agree with John about everything he says, I do think this article does a good job of summing up what the Ryder Cup Task Force Turned Committee did right.

Phil celebrating Ryder Cup win

I should note that a small piece of John's article apparently got left off. The sentence with the apparently missing bit starts this way: "Mickelson never did explain why he and Woods also lost that week or..." Based on comments John made during Ryder Cup Week on GC, I think that line was meant to say, "Mickelson never did explain why he and Woods also lost in fourballs that week or..."

It's a good article that tells several aspects of what happened last week that you may not have heard. And there's a link to other Ryder Cup videos, articles and photos you might want to take a look at.

Well, maybe not if you were rooting for the Euro team... but that's another story.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Problem with Copying Rory and Jason's Swings

It's been a couple weeks now since I did a post called How You Squeeze the Club's Handle Matters. At the end of it I said you needed some time to digest what was in it, and that I would come back and explain what players like Rory McIlroy and Jason Day are trying to do, and why it's so hard. Of course, we've had the Tour Championship and the Ryder Cup since then, so you should have had time to think about what I wrote in that original post.

Now it's time for me to make good on my promise... and making good on it means this is a fairly long post. I'm sorry, but there's no way around it.

You may remember the photo below, which was the first of three in that post. Classic swings and modern swings focus the grip pressure on different parts of the handle, and this photo shows that difference. As I said in that post, this difference has everything to do with the equipment -- the classic swing uses soft shafts, the modern swing uses stiff shafts. And the other photos showed how this simple change affects the hinging action of the wrists during the swing.

The difference between classic grip pressure and modern swing pressure

Now let's take a look at how these changes, both in equipment and therefore grip pressure, have caused the swing to evolve. You may need to refer back to the other post because I'm not going to repeat all of that information again. But it's not hard to follow along, because this is all very logical.

And if you pay attention, you'll understand why some of the "swing advice" you often hear doesn't help you at all.

All of these changes -- equipment, grip pressure, etc. -- have a number of effects on your swing, but one in particular is important to this conversation, and that's what I'll call your spherical spine axis. Yeah, I know that's a strange term to use, but I want you to imagine a ball joint similar to the ones you have in your shoulders. Those joints allow more than just a simple back-and-forth motion, or an up-and-down motion, or even the rotational twisting motion you use when you twist open a door knob. They allow you to move in all three of those axes. You might think of them as spherical joints.

When you swing your golf club, you get movement on a variety of axes as well. We talk about maintaining your spine tilt during your swing -- that's the angle at which you lean toward the ball. But you also have a sort of pivoting motion where your hips move back and forth along your target line; that's how you create your weight shift and allow your chest to "open" a bit at the top of your backswing and finish. And then there's the rotation of your shoulders as you create your coil. In an efficient swing, the pivot point of all three are very near each other, a point that is most easily understood as being somewhere along the length of your spine.

That point is what I'm calling your spherical spine axis, which I will abbreviate as SSA for the rest of this post. And that point has moved as the golf swing has evolved.

I want you to imagine a letter T. The crossbar of it reaches between your shoulders, and the downward bar runs down your spine. Can you imagine that?

In the classic swing, your SSA is located roughly where the two bars connect -- that is, right at the base of your neck. The swinging motion used with softer shafts doesn't create as much leverage because it's way too easy to overload soft shafts. By creating a high SSA, the amount of leverage is minimized. And that high SSA is in the natural location for the classic swinging motion.

How many of you have been told to "keep your head still"? That's more of a classic swing idea. Just think about it for a minute. With your SSA so close to your head, your head isn't going to move around very much in your swing. If it does, you're moving your upper body a lot... and that means you're moving your SSA around. In a well-made classic swing, your head stays relatively quiet during the swing.

Many of you are familiar with Ernest Jones. In fact, most modern instructors believe he teaches the classic swing and they base their criticism of classic technique on his teachings. But Jones doesn't teach classic swing for soft shafts. Rather, Ernest Jones tried to adapt the classic swing to stiff shafts. It never became popular because the SSA of a classic swing is too high to create the necessary leverage for a stiff shaft.
HOW CAN I BE SURE, you ask? It's simple logic if you know golf history. The R&A was the last of the governing bodies to make steel shafts legal for competition. As I said in the other post, that happened in late 1929. The Ernest Jones book Swing the Clubhead was published in 1937, over 8 years later! There is no logical reason for him to assume his readers were still using hickory shafts.
In addition, he says in the book that he teaches a pendulum swing, and it's a fact of basic physics that pendulums do NOT use leverage. This is why the classic swing never became the dominant way to swing steel-shafted clubs -- players couldn't get them to load with a pendulum swing, so they couldn't get the distance they wanted. That's not a problem since graphite shafts came along, but it was a very real problem until then.
It took until the early 1940s for players to figure out how to load the stiffer shafts. Byron Nelson became the first to successfully do so when he realized he needed extra leg drive to create the necessary leverage. Sam Snead said the change from hickory to steel was the hardest thing the pros had to make. And each man approached the problem in his own way.

Nelson bent both knees toward the target to create load; he still wasn't particularly long but was unbelievably accurate. Snead bent the knees in opposite directions -- the infamous "Snead Squat" -- which created a greater loading on the club and gave him much more distance. And why did this work?

The increased knee action -- and this was primarily knee action, a slight downward flex with an upward push (ie, they straightened their lead knee at impact) created a bit more forward hip movement. The net effect of this action was to lower the SSA down the spine slightly. (The head moved a bit more as well. "Keep your head still" became less useful as a swing thought! At this point, teachers began to recommend a slight head movement away from the ball at impact.)

It wasn't a huge change, but it was enough to load the stiffer shafts of the time and create more distance. Even in the mid-1950s, the great player and teacher Tommy Armour recommended in his book How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time that weekend players should get softer shafts than they believed they needed. Softer shafts meant greater distance with less effort, so weekend players could focus more on making good swings than on generating distance.

I should point out that golfers using the "drop down" loading technique don't seem to have had the back problems we see nowadays. Just look at how long -- and how well -- players from that generation were able to play without debilitating back pain. Players like Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer -- each with his own very distinctive swing -- rarely if ever had to withdraw from tournaments because of recurring pain.

And then Hogan showed up, focusing on the concept we now call connection. And the practical result of keeping the upper arms so close to the player's side during the downswing, in concert with his belief that you needed to focus on forward hip movement during the downswing, effectively lowered the SSA even farther down the spine, perhaps to the bottom of the rib cage. And that created a dramatic increase in lower back pressure, as you can see in the so-called "Reverse-C" finish that became common among those who copied Hogan's swing. (And rendered "keep your head still" totally useless.)

Which brings us to the modern day. With the vast amount of measuring equipment available to us, we've gone absolutely nuts trying to create the maximum amount of leverage we can... but that has created a new problem. If you're using your feet and lower body to create as much leverage as possible, you've moved the power source so far from the clubhead that it's almost impossible to control direction. That's a primary reason that you see so many new swing theories popping up. It's a search for control without losing any leverage.

The classic swing's pendulum motion made it much easier for the hands to control direction because the body, while it was moving, was relatively quiet. (Remember that the head naturally moves less during a classic swing.) But how do you increase control when the power creation system is moving the body so much more? You have two choices:
  1. You can try to limit your lower body movement. Some players restrict their hip turn on the way back in hopes of increasing the leverage in the swing while also minimizing body movement in hopes of increasing accuracy. However, this puts a tremendous strain on your lower back. Hello, Jason Day and Michelle Wie! Does this sound familiar?
  2. You can try to increase your strength enough that you can create leverage with your trailing hand. This is an attempt to combine some of the classic swing hand techniques with the modern leverage techniques. The problem is that you end up working against yourself to a large degree. You're combining a classic control technique (high SSA) with a modern leverage creation technique (low SSA), and that creates a lot of conflicting stresses in your back. If everything goes perfectly, you can get good results... but it takes a ridiculous amount of practice and time in the weight room. And that extra practice creates wear and tear of its own.
And many players are trying to do both at the same time. Can you say "ouch"?

Compare this approach with players like Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson or Jim Furyk, whose swings are more like Nelson and Snead. Look at Rocco Mediate on the Champions Tour, who used to have chronic back problems until he changed his swing. For Pete's sake, look at Stacy Lewis and Ken Duke -- both of whom have had scoliosis and yet play without chronic back problems! Those last three have swings that are more like what Ernest Jones would have taught but using a modern grip. (And again, I have to point out that modern graphite gives us the option to use shafts that are more flexible but don't have the inconsistency that plagued hickory. We have a lot more swing options these days.)

I guess my point here is that copying your favorite pro isn't necessarily the easiest way to become a better golfer. Many of the pros, in pursuit of some nebulous advantage over their opponents, are trying to combine swing elements that don't naturally work together. When they can make them work, it's a constant struggle -- both from a maintenance and a durability standpoint -- to keep them working. And for many players, it's becoming a question of whether these hybrid swings are going to shorten their careers.

As a weekend player, you may have to consider whether you want to swing like your favorite pro or whether you'd rather play golf for a long time. Because I'll tell you the truth -- there are simpler ways to play this game than watching the pros might lead you to believe.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ryder Cup Thoughts on the US Team

Yesterday I shared my thoughts about the Euro Ryder Cup team. Today I'll do the same for the US team.

Davis Love III
First of all, I think we have to consider the effect of Arnold Palmer's passing on the US team's play. Just as Seve's death served as inspiration for the 2012 Euro Ryder Cup team's play, I think Arnie's death did the same for the US team this year. Arnie's 1975 Ryder Cup team bag stood on the first tee all week as a reminder to all the players on both teams, but I think it had to affect the US team the most.

That's especially true after the US team swept the first session. Although they didn't know it at the time, Arnie's 1975 team was the last team to have done so. It didn't take long for that news -- and news of the other records from 1975 that were being matched -- to reach the US team room, and the mere coincidence of it all had to make them realize that the week could be something special. Arnie was as much a part of the 2016 US win as Seve had been at the 2012 Euro win.

But it wasn't just a matter of inspiration. While I've had a laugh about the "Task Force" along with everyone else -- and the folks involved now prefer just to call it The Committee -- the fact remains that there were some problems that needed to be addressed. The Ryder Cup has become such a huge undertaking now that there needs to be some sort of consistent organization at the top of the command chain, just to avoid the chaos involved in getting all the players to the functions on time.

It also helps maintain some calm among the players by having a consistent captaining style from one Cup to the next. Pro golfers are creatures of habit, but leadership styles varied wildly from Cup to Cup before The Committee was created. Now, if a player made the 2016 Cup but misses the 2018 Cup, if that player makes the 2020 Cup, he can expect roughly the same sort of leadership style as the player who made the 2018 Cup. That consistency is something the Euros already have, and I think that change -- along with more player involvement in choosing the Captain -- are the main accomplishments of the Ryder Cup Committee.

Oh, and one other thing happened that I think may have been overlooked. While the US team has always "bonded" with one another, they've never been able to relax during Ryder Cup week the way they do during the Presidents Cup, where they normally play quite well. This time, relaxed was a word we heard often from the players. I think that created an atmosphere where they made better strategic decisions on the course, which is something I think has been missing. Perhaps they were just trying too hard but for whatever reason, they seem to have regained their ability to plan better shots. (Having Tiger available for help with strategic planning may have played a big part as well. I had mentioned that as a possible advantage early on, and we know for a fact that Patrick Reed made use of it because he said so.)

So I do think the US team may have turned a corner in terms of their ability to play a Ryder Cup the way they are capable of doing. There are still some tests ahead -- we'll have to see how well they can carry this attitude into an overseas Cup when they reach Paris in 2018, for example -- but clearly something important has changed since 2014.

And it may be that Arnie gave them the final shove they needed to make that leap from tight to relaxed. Given how many lives Arnie touched and the variety of ways he did it, that wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Ryder Cup Thoughts on the Euro Team

I figured I should write two posts instead of one, since I don't want to get too confused. (Hey, I called Todd Lewis 'Tom' last week. I can take nothing for granted!) So tonight I'm going to start with the Euros.

Darren Clarke

Just for the record, nothing I say in this post should be taken as a criticism of Darren Clarke. These are just some observations I made about what happened, and I think Darren's decisions -- no doubt made with the advice of his vice captains -- made perfectly good sense, given the team's past performance.

Of course, in hindsight, I think that was part of the problem. To the best of my knowledge, no captain on either side has dealt with a team that had six rookies. It just goes to prove that, no matter how good your team is and how sound your team's "system" is, we are still humans dealing with an imperfect world. There is no guarantee that we will make the best adjustments the first time we face a situation.

There will be those who say that the Euros lost because they had six rookies. I completely disagree with that. I believe the problem was twofold, and the first was how the rookies were used. The Ryder Cup has become such a huge affair that playing a rookie only once before the singles probably isn't enough to prepare them for the challenge. With all the pressure that players now feel inside the ropes, we have to assume any rookie will lose his first match. (He may not, but we should assume he will. He'll still feel internal pressure to perform, but the captain will be able to relieve some of the external pressure.)

I also believe that today's rookies are better prepared than they were in the past and, with proper coaching beforehand, there's no reason that a pair of rookies shouldn't be sent out together. There are enough vice captains now to accompany each pairing, and that allows for "on-the-job training," which is probably the most effective way for them to learn.

I understand what Darren was trying to do. He wanted to hide some perceived weakness in the team while still giving the rookies some experience. But that brings us to the second problem -- not all of the veterans "showed up." Darren's two Captain's Picks, Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood, played a total of seven matches but could only generate one point between them... and that one point came in singles. You simply can't use traditional veteran/rookie pairings with any success in a situation like that.

It's worth noting that, had the Euros generated only one more point during the team matches -- just a single point, mind you -- Sunday singles would have begun with an 8.5-7.5 score rather than the 9.5-6.5 score the Euros actually faced. This wasn't the weak Euro team that some might wish to believe, and I think it could have won many of the recent Cups.

It just couldn't do the job this time. The level of play in this Cup was just too good to allow anybody to have an off week.

On the positive side, I believe the Euro team has discovered three rookies who are ready-to-go. Yes, I said THREE rookies. Many of you will remember that I said Thomas Pieters should NOT be considered a rookie. Thomas also said as much after the singles, and he proved it by setting a Ryder Cup record for points by a rookie. And Rafa Cabrera Bello has been playing regularly over here in the US, both on the PGA and Tours. And they'll be teaming successfully with Rory and Sergio for many Cups to come.

But many people are underestimating Chris Wood's performance. Wood played only two matches -- the Saturday foursome with Justin Rose, which they won, and his Sunday single. In that he was unfortunate enough to draw Dustin Johnson... and all he did was take DJ all the way to 18, coming back from 2down with 3 to play, and losing by only 1down. All under the pressure of knowing his team NEEDED his point.

Oh yeah, Chris Wood is Ryder Cup-tested. He'll be fine going forward.

As for the other three rookies, I don't think they really had a chance to prove themselves. Matt Fitzpatrick and Andy Sullivan only had one match -- both in foursomes, which I think may have been a mistake for their first taste of the Cup -- and then had the pressure of needing to win on Sunday. (Matt faced Zach Johnson and Andy faced Brandt Snedeker, two of the best putters on the team.)

And poor Danny Willett! First there was the fuss over his brother's post, then although he got to play two fourball matches -- which was a good choice -- one was with Martin Kaymer, the other with Lee Westwood. And then he drew Brooks Koepka in singles. It was stacked against Danny from the start, which is why I didn't hold his performance against him in my RGWR in the sidebar.

These three rookies were unintentionally set up to fail. Had Martin and Lee shown up as expected, things might have been different, but as the old saying goes, "hindsight is 20/20." At least they got a taste of the Cup, albeit a slightly bitter one, so they won't be rookies next time.

All-in-all, I didn't think the Euros had such a bad Ryder Cup. They're still 8&3 in the last 11 Cups, after all.

Besides, although it's always disappointing to lose, it's not like they'll need a Task Force or anything.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Limerick Summary: 2016 Ryder Cup

Winner: USA 17-11

Around the wider world of golf: In-Kyung Kim (you may recognize I.K. Kim quicker) won the the Reignwood LPGA Classic on the LPGA; Madelene Sagstrom got her third win this season at the Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout on the Symetra Tour; Lu Wei-chih won the Mercuries Taiwan Masters on the Asian Tour; Daisuke Kataoka won the Top Cup Tokai Classic on the Japan Golf Tour; and 17-year-old Nasa Hataoka became the youngest-ever winner of the Japan Women’s Open on the JLPGA, as well as the youngest-ever JLPGA major winner and also the first amateur JLPGA major winner (bangkokbobby has details). WOW!

Poor Rickie -- no kiss!

Oh yeah. This photo was WAY better than any old photo of Team USA holding the Ryder Cup... and probably more indicative of the way the team approached the week.

I'm not going to say a lot today because I'm going to take a closer look at the Ryder Cup tomorrow. But it's still pretty clear that this may have been the best Ryder Cup ever, merely because of the Reed/McIlroy and Mickelson/Garcia matches. Phil and Sergio made 19 birdies between them -- a Ryder Cup record -- that worked out to matching 63s and a bestball score of 58. And there's just nothing you can say about the slugfest between Patrick and Rory.

Perhaps Arnold Palmer's passing had as much of an effect on this team as Seve's passing did for the Euro team a couple of Cups back; I don't know. And you can argue about how much of this win is due to the "Task Force" changes; that remains to be seen, going forward.

But here's what I DO know: Rickie Fowler described this team as "relaxed all week." That's something the USA usually says about the Presidents Cup, not the Ryder Cup. And if that's all the TF accomplished, then I think it's a success.

As I said, I'll take a closer look at this Ryder Cup tomorrow. For now I'll just post the winners' well-deserved Limerick Summary, knowing that it'll probably be a few days before any of them will be awake long enough to read it.
When we asked, "Can the USA do it?
Will their plan of attack get them through it?"
Arnie smiled from above
And, once push came to shove,
"The New Team" stepped up big and got to it!
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, October 2, 2016

What Else Is There to Say?

Patrick Reed tees off against Rory McIlroy for the first match, and Jordan Spieth takes on Henrik Stenson for the second match. And that's just the first two!

Patrick Reed

Final day Ryder Cup coverage starts at noon ET on NBC. What else is there to say? WATCH IT! I can write about it next week.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Arnie's Rainbow

Just admit it. You want to watch the Ryder Cup, not read my comments about it; and I want to watch the Ryder Cup, not write about it until it's over.

So let's just take a moment to remember Arnie. Here's the photo of "Arnie's Rainbow" from Latrobe that took Twitter by storm on Thursday.

Arnie's Rainbow

Now get back to watching the Ryder Cup!