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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

My "5 to Watch" at the WGC-Mexico

After President Trump made news for his comments about Mexican immigrants, Mexico made some news of its own. Now Mexico will get a chance to shine!

WGC-Mexico trophy

The course is the Club de Golf Chapultepec, a 7,330-yard par-71 layout. It was built in 1928 in an affluent neighborhood halfway between Mexico City and the suburb of Naucalpan, and I guess you could say it's the crown jewel of Mexican golf. It definitely sounds like it will be a good test for the players, especially since they'll have to adjust every shot for altitude. Mexico City is 7,349 feet above sea level, so they'll have to contend with both carry distance adjustments and the challenge of having less oxygen to breathe!

The defending champion is Adam Scott, although the drastic change of venue may mean he gets no advantage from that.

Picking my "5 to Watch" this week is a challenge, since I expect fitness to be a greater factor than skill this week, due to the extreme altitude. For that reason, I haven't included Rory McIlroy in this list, as I don't know how his recent rib injury may affect his endurance.
  • I think Dustin Johnson is the logical favorite at this point. I'm tempted to say that's because he's already 6'4" tall and used to altitude. However, given his play over the last year or so, DJ almost has to be a favorite every week until he proves otherwise.
  • Jordan Spieth is also playing well this year and should probably be a favorite. At this altitude, no one will struggle with distance off the tee, so accuracy and the simple ability to breathe will be more important.
  • Henrik Stenson returns to our side of the globe this week, and he has Top10s in his last six worldwide starts. His ever-dependable 3-wood could be a backbreaker for the rest of the field.
  • Hideki Matsuyama has enough wins in the last few months to make him an automatic pick here, especially since he won the last WGC.
  • And my flier pick? This is Jon Rahm's rookie season and he has played well this year on courses he hasn't played before. Wouldn't THIS be a great place to show off that skill?
Everything is so different this week that I think we're going to see a surprise winner. So I'm going with Jon Rahm, who may feel right at home in these cultural surroundings. Combine that with a new course, and I think Rahm has an outstanding chance this week to pick up a big win.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 Honda Classic

Winner: Rickie Fowler

Around the wider world of golf: Amy Yang won the Honda LPGA Thailand on the LPGA; Darren Fichardt won the Joburg Open on the ET; and Trent Phillips and Skylar Thompson won their respective categories at the Dustin Johnson World Junior event.

Rickie Fowler with Honda Classic trophy

It wasn't Rickie's first win with a 54-hole lead. It was just his first PGA Tour win with a 54-hole lead.

But it wasn't Rickie's prettiest win either, and I suspect there will continue to be criticism of him for that reason. All the work with the driver over the first three days will likely be forgotten since it deserted him on Sunday. He finally closed out a PGA Tour 54-hole lead but he still shot over par. There will be those who say that this win was handed to him.

Let me speak out for Rickie in today's post.

To those who say he didn't play well on Sunday, I say that NOBODY played well late on Sunday. True, Jhonattan Vegas shot a 64. But he shot it early, before the main winds came, and that blistering round got him all the way up to T4. In other words, he hadn't played well enough to be a factor in the first place.

One day of good play doesn't offset three days of bad play for anybody. Rickie played well enough that he won by four shots with an over-par final round, and nobody else did. Rickie earned this win.

Fans and media often criticize Rickie for not winning enough, as if it were easy to win an event. They say he just doesn't try hard enough, because you can do anything if you just set your mind to it. So if everybody just set their minds to it, we would have 156 winners each week, right?

Obviously not. If winning was as easy as some would like to believe, we wouldn't waste our time celebrating victories. Winning is hard and it doesn't happen very often.

And I don't care how much you try to compartmentalize things, emotions affect everybody at some time or other. Rickie's learning how to handle them, however; we can see it in the increased number of victories he has posted in the last few seasons. And this is his earliest US win in a season to date.

So maybe Rickie isn't setting the world on fire right now. But he's gradually learning to come through at the end, and he's keeping his wits (and nerves) about him enough to make 57 of 57 putts inside 7 feet. In my book, that's well worth a Limerick Summary!
On Sunday, the Bear Trap was sprung!
And Rickie's composure, undone
By inaccurate drives,
Somehow kept hope alive
Till his putter could get the job done.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Rickie's Shorter Driver

With all the reporting this week about Rickie Fowler sporting a driver with a shorter shaft, I started hunting for more info that might be of help for any of you curious to try it. I did find a few useful bits.

Rickie Fowler's finish with driver

According to Golf Digest, Rickie is using "a 43.5-inch Cobra F7+ driver with an Aldila NV2K 70X shaft." The shaft info may not help you, but the club model does because:
The Cobra King F7+ driver features three weights with one of them heavier than the others. Fowler had the heavier weight positioned in the front position, which is designed to produce a lower ball flight with less spin.
I chose the photo above because you can see them. Golf Digest is unclear whether that front weight is heavier or lighter this week, but they know it has been changed since last week. Note that the heavier front weight lowers his trajectory and therefore his carry distance, but doesn't seem to have hurt his overall length off the tee much at all.

In fact, GC noted that there was a noticeable amount of lead tape on the head last week, as Rickie was experimenting to find the best weight distribution. The Cobra techs then took the taped head and made weights that would match.

Here's an interesting tidbit that I didn't know before:
Fowler noted his irons and fairway woods also are shorter in length, and bringing the driver down in length made for an easier progression from club to club, as all are now approximately the same swing weight.
Rickie's only 5'9" tall, so it makes sense that his clubs would be shorter. However, given how long he is with those shorter clubs, it's a bit surprising to find that shortening his driver an entire inch merely brought its length down in proportion to the rest of the set.

The swingweight information is helpful here too. It appears from his comments in the article that his driver was noticeably heavier than his other clubs:
"The club is out in front of me a lot easier and with it being a little shorter, it is easier to save when it does get a little out of position."
The interesting part of this, which I found in a article, is that:
Fowler also is playing a left-to-right ball-flight, which helps him better control his tee shots. He was hitting a draw until recently to try to fix a fault in his swing; the club was too steep in his transition to the downswing.
Now that Fowler has fixed that, he can return to the fade.
A fade is his preferred swing, but apparently the length and weight of the driver was forcing his swing off-plane.

So what does all this mean to the average weekend player who may be struggling with the driver?

Well, bear in mind that almost all weekend players tend to hit their 3-woods better off the tee than their drivers... and 43.5 inches is the length of a standard 3-wood. Putting a driver head on a 3-wood shaft would give you extra distance because of the loft difference and the resulting lower trajectory. So the shorter shaft might not hurt your distance after all.

And you want to make sure that your driver isn't heavier to swing than the rest of your clubs. Remember, if you can't get the club around fast enough, it can unintentionally alter your swing..

The changes for Rickie have been dramatic. He's hitting something like 25% more fairways this week.. and that's played him into a 4-stroke lead. Today we'll see if he can bring it home with this new driver setup.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Travis Fulton on the Knockdown Wedge (Video)

Here's a tip from instructor and GC regular Travis Fulton on how to hit knockdown wedges. I always like to see new ideas on how to play common shots, but Travis mentions something you may not have heard before.

This idea of not turning your hips fully as you hit the ball goes against everything you normally hear about the golf swing these days, and there's a reason for that.

Most modern instructors have traditionally taught that you want an exaggerated hip drive and less arm action. (That's Hogan's idea.) Belief in that idea, as I have noted in many posts -- over the last few months especially -- has begun to change. To finish your swing without fully releasing your lower body, which is what Travis is teaching here, requires you to use your arms more. You have to swing your arms past your lower body -- and this is actually a natural movement for most people. You just relax your arms and hips a bit, and let your shoulders turn past your hips.

The fact is that most of you do this frequently in your daily life, whether it's sweeping with a broom or simply moving an item from one spot on the table to another. You can learn to do it with a golf club as well; it's mainly a mental thing for most players. You've trained yourself to do it the other way.

As a general rule, you don't want to restrain your hips on your followthrough. But if you reach the point where your arms and shoulders are pulling your hips through to your finish, rather than driving your hips to pull your arms through, you'll probably have fewer back problems going forward.

Friday, February 24, 2017

"Feel" Fred Couples's Swing for 38 Seconds (Video)

The Champions Tour posted this video of EVERY full swing Fred hit on the back 9 at the Chubb Classic on Sunday. If you want to get a good sense of how smooth his swing is, this will definitely help.

Bear in mind that Fred hits the ball a long way WITHOUT shoving his hips way out ahead of his upper body. His spine doesn't bend backwards at impact. And he never looks to be straining.

Want to hit the ball better? Copying the rhythm and tempo of Fred's swing is a good place to start.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bob Rotella on (GASP!) Choking

Some days you just need an inspirational quote that is so blunt that it hits you between the eyes and you say, "Yeah, I get it." That's what I've got for you today.

Dr. Bob Rotella

This is a quote from sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella, and it's from the foreward to Gary Player's book Don't Choke: A Champion's Guide to Winning Under Pressure.
To learn how to handle, enjoy and thrive on pressure, you have to be willing to choke. With time, experience, a great deal of self-reflection, and honest self-understanding, anyone can learn how to thrive on pressure.

The great competitors actually learn to perform better in pressure situations than in casual ones. But even the best will still occasionally choke and then have to relearn their lessons.
You've probably heard successful people say that, in order to succeed, you've got to be willing to fail. But I bet you've never heard them use the word 'choke'! That's because nobody wants to admit it happened to them.

All of us choke from time to time. We don't just fail, we CHOKE. We may hate the word but it doesn't change the truth of it. Choking is inevitable -- not just in golf, but in all areas of life. Call it what you want, but it happens to everybody. And it's going to happen to you more than once in your life. It's nothing to be ashamed of.

But as Rotella says, there's hope. Anyone can learn to handle pressure. It's a skill you learn, just like everything else in life. As long as you don't give up, you can learn to deal with choking.

Hopefully this quote will help you find the courage to get up, brush yourself off and try again when it happens to you.

And it will. Welcome to the human race.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Golf's Urban Legends Exposed

Here's a cool Golf Digest article explaining the truth about some of golf's most common urban legends. How long will golf balls last? How long will clubs last? Are range balls better than new balls?

Fish exploring a golf ball

It's a short post covering six questions golfers often have. Personally, I was most interested to learn how long golf balls last if I don't lose them. But, the article cautioned, playing balls you found in the water isn't a good idea.
"Water can seep into the core, and that costs you distance and speed," [former golf-ball designer Dean] Snell says. "Velocity slows after 48 hours in the water, but the ball really loses speed after two to three weeks in the water."
Take a look if you have a spare moment. It's a very informative post.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Surprise Tip to Avoid "Getting Stuck"

When you study swing mechanics as much as I do, sometimes you experience a moment of serendipity. That is, two separate things that you thought had no connection suddenly slam into each other... and a little light bulb appears over your head. That happened to me Monday.

Dustin Johnson at top of backswing

Michael Breed was on Morning Drive -- as he often is -- and was talking about DJ's change of direction at the top of his swing. Many players, Breed said, don't get a full shoulder turn like DJ. Instead, their shoulders stop and their arms just keep going, trying to make a longer swing. As a result, Breed said that their trailing elbows move too much behind them and they simply can't return them into the proper position in time to make their downswing. Their elbows literally "get stuck" behind them.

That's when my little light bulb lit up, and I decided this tip might help some of you.

In past posts I have mentioned that some players and instructors recommend pushing your trailing hand away from your head at the top of your backswing. This is supposed to help you keep more width in your swing, which should help you get more distance.

But on Monday morning I realized that, if you push your trailing hand away from your head at the top of your backswing -- that is, if you try to straighten your trailing elbow a little -- then your trailing elbow CAN'T move behind you at the top. Just try it. If you push the club away from you at the top of your backswing, your elbow HAS to move back into the proper position.

Lights suddenly went on. Voilà! No more getting stuck!

Mechanics don't get much simpler than that, folks. If you're getting stuck on your way down, just try to push your hands away from your head at the top. You'll get your trailing elbow back into position without any trouble at all. Problem solved.

I love serendipity.

The photo came from this page at

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 Genesis Open

Winner: Dustin Johnson

Around the wider world of golf: A number of these tournaments are co-sponsored events, but I'm just listing the largest sponsor because some have as many as three! HaNa Jang won the ISPS HANDA Women's Australian Open on the LPGA; Brett Rumsford won the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth on the ET; Fred Couples won the Chubb Classic on the Champions Tour; Andrew Putnam won the Panama Claro Championship on the Tour; and José de Jesús “El Camarón” Rodríguez won the 70 Avianca Colombia Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.

Dustin Johnson with Genesis Open trophy

The Wild West -- at least, California used to be the Wild West -- was primed for a showdown between the man with the badge (Jason Day) and the upstart gunslinger (Dustin Johnson). But the man with the badge ended up with wet powder and just couldn't get a shot off.

Looks like there's a new sheriff in town, pardners.

Don't give me that sour look! You may not care for my "high noon" metaphors, but you have to admit it: The battle for the top spot in the world rankings has at least resembled the legends of the Wild West lately. And the golf world was ready, even anxious for that showdown. After all, all Jason needed was a Top3 finish but DJ had two runner-ups in the last three years.

Then the rains came. And came. And CAME some more. Bunkers flooded. Trees fell. The final day was a really long, really tiring one. Jason Day finished T64.

And Dustin Johnson finished first in the whole world.

We could be debating how long DJ will hold the top spot for weeks or months or even just days. As far as I can tell, there are only two certainties here. DJ adds yet another Limerick Summary to his growing collection... and there's a nice soft bed calling his name. I hope he wakes up long enough to read the verse:
Enthronement as World Number One
Was certain, once J. Day was done.
DJ held it together
Through wind and wet weather—
Now a warm cushy bed sounds like fun!
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Some Thoughts on Cotton's Tire Drill

Yesterday I posted an old video of a lesson from Henry Cotton. The video focused on a drill that involved hitting an old tire with an iron. Cotton said it was to strengthen the hands and forearms for better ballstriking.

I have some thoughts on the drill and why you might want to try it. Here are several segments from scenes in the video, each showing a student hitting the tire. In each photo, the club is either making contact with the tire (2) or is bouncing off after contact (1, 3). These guys are really pounding those tires!

Various views of the Cotton drill

You'll notice that in the most vigorous hit (1), there is no reverse pivot. Although the student isn't shoving his hips forward, the way most modern instructors say you must (slide and turn!), he is clearly transferring his weight to his lead foot. That's not as clear in the other two photos because of the viewing angle (plus the student's stance is narrow), but there's no way the tire in the last photo is lifting off the ground if the student is moving backward.

NOTE: "Using the ground" doesn't have to mean that you shove your hips toward the target. If your legs and hips are letting you apply force toward the target, you're using the ground. Just look at how strong the first student's stance is as he pounds that tire!

One very important thing you should pay attention to -- in all three shots -- is that the upper part of the lead arm is close to the chest. This isn't something the students are trying to do; it's just the result of using the hands and arms to hit the tire solidly.

Many of you struggle with "chicken-winging" or just having your lead arm separate from your body at impact. The reason is that you aren't turning your shoulders into the shot. You can see that turn in all three photos. Again, using the hands and arms to hit the ball is creating that turn. The students aren't consciously trying to make it happen; it just does because IT HAS TO.

And in the last two photos, you can clearly see that the wrist of the lead hand hasn't flipped over. Instead, it's either flat or slightly bowed. That's also a consequence of using the hands and arms to hit the tire.

All of these things happen AUTOMATICALLY when the students actively use their hands and arms to hit the tire.

When my instructor taught me a tire drill many years ago, he didn't teach me to hit the tire hard. Rather, he used the tire as if it were an impact bag, to teach me to square up the club at impact. (It worked, by the way.) But it's clear that Cotton's tire drill will do this as well, as evidenced by the bowed wrists at impact.

As I said in yesterday's post, you need to ease into this drill or you could hurt yourself. It's a strengthening drill, so you have to give it time to work. (In the section of the video where I found the last two pictures, you can hear Cotton tell his students to start gently.) But it's pretty clear that this drill could teach you a lot of correct swing motions without you needing to obsess over mechanics. I plan to work with this drill myself, simply because I like the concepts it ingrains.

And, as I also said yesterday, it just looks like a lot of fun!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Golf Lesson with Henry Cotton (Video)

I'll come back to this post at a later time, because I discovered this video quite unexpectedly and wasn't ready to write extensively about Henry Cotton. But Cotton, who is considered one of England's three greatest golfers -- the other two being Henry Vardon and Nick Faldo -- was the man who most emphasized the use of the hands in the golf swing.

This video, which is apparently from 1986, shows one of Cotton's favorite drills for strengthening your hands and teaching you the correct way to use them at impact. I read once that Cotton could hit a driver over 175 yards with either hand. Yes, you read that correctly -- using only one hand at a time!

There is also a link below this video on its YouTube page, which I'm including here. This link takes you to a page that documents a wide variety of instruction on using the hands, dating from 1900. It includes the above video, and the number of great players quoted here is amazing.

While some of it overemphasizes forearm rotation -- remember, many of the early quotes come from the days of hickory shafts, when the club shaft itself twisted during the swing (we call that torque) -- there's still a lot of useful stuff there for modern golfers.

The one thing I'd like to add to this video is this: If you decide to try this version of the tire drill, take it easy at the beginning because it would be very easy to hurt yourself if you get too... ambitious too soon. It's meant to help strengthen your hands and forearms, so you need to start slowly.

But I have to admit, it sure looks like a lot of fun!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Jerry Kelly Makes the Leap

Well, it finally happened. Jerry Kelly has joined the Champions Tour and will make his debut this week at the Chubb Classic. And he said that he doesn't plan to jump back and forth -- this is his new home.

Jerry Kelly

This looks to be a good year for the Champions Tour, given the rookies who'll come out his year. Jose Maria Olazabal made his first appearance last week and, although he only finished T41, his -5 debut is a good start for a favorite player who has struggled with so many health problems. David Toms also played last week and posted a T23, at -10. And Steve Stricker will turn 50 next week.

According to this lengthy article at, Kelly has been planning for this move since he was 40. Check out this quote from the article:
Kelly is right where he wants to be. He said he identified the over-50 circuit as a goal of his as early as the age of 40. He would play often, make cuts, cash checks, keep his card and climb the career money list. The top 70 players on the PGA TOUR all-time career money list are eligible to play on the PGA TOUR Champions, and Kelly sits comfortably at No. 30.
Now THAT'S planning ahead! He said he realized that, with his lack of length, he wouldn't be able to keep up with the young guys forever.

Of course, that begs the question of how well he'll actually play on this tour. After years of playing a lot of tournaments to make sure he qualified for it -- but only winning three times -- can he really compete with these guys? Again, here's a quote from the article:
Kelly is hardly a bomber off the tee, but he is extremely accurate with his driver. In his final full season on the PGA TOUR in 2016, he ranked 174th in driving distance but third in driving accuracy. He also ranked 66th in greens in regulation but fourth in proximity to the hole. 
What does it all mean? It means he hits fairways nearly all the time, and when he hits greens, he hits it closer than the guys he’s playing against. Don’t be surprised if it’s a recipe that leads to victory in his first season.
I don't know how soon he'll win, but I'd be willing to bet he's going to enjoy himself.

The Chubb Classic starts today at 11:30am ET on GC. And yes, both Jose Maria and David Toms are teeing it up too. It's a good week to watch your favorites!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

How Bernhard Langer Putts without Anchoring (Video)

When I saw this GC clip on Wednesday morning from Bernhard Langer, detailing how he putts without anchoring that long putter, I knew I had to post the video as soon as it was available.

The key is his posture. By making sure his spine is straight and pulling his shoulder blades back to create a very erect posture -- perhaps even a bit more erect than you would normally want to stand -- he's able to stabilize his upper body and make a turn that keeps the putter on line.

This is a case where Bernhard's demonstration will tell you more than all the words I could write. For those of you who really want to keep using a long putter, this video should be all you need to get the technique down and maintain it.

Leave it to Bernhard Langer to figure this out. I wonder if Scott McCarron is using the same technique with his long putter?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Michelle Wie Finally Gets to the Claw

Well, now you have something to watch for at the Women's Australian Open this week. It appears that Michelle Wie has finally gone to the claw.

Golf Digest has a short article about it, including Wie's responses to questions about the change. The gist of it all is that the tabletop method is out -- at least for now -- and the claw is in. But as we all know, Michelle is an inveterate experimenter. I wonder how long this change will last?

BTW, the first round of the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open is listed to start at midnight ET tonight and run until 6am ET tomorrow morning, then there's a highlight show (at least that's what it appears to be) at noon ET tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Primer on Greensomes

Since the European Tour has announced the GolfSixes tournament, there's been a lot of talk -- at least, here in America -- about the new format. While those of you in Europe and elsewhere around the world may be familiar with it, we aren't. So I did a little research to try and come to a simple explanation for those of us who aren't used to it.

McIlroy, McGinley and MacDowell at the 2009 Vivendi Trophy

The format is called greensomes, and it's not something we see over here in the USA very often. I say 'very often' because we do see it at least once every year. It's used in the Shark Shootout but there it's called modified alternate shot. You might think of it as a cross between foursomes and scramble -- both players tee off, choose the best shot, then the other player hits the second shot and they alternate until the ball is holed.

If you saw any of the Vivendi Cup / Seve Cup events, you've also seen this format. It was called greensomes in that event.

Golf Monthly UK's page about greensomes says that this format is more forgiving because not every shot counts. A team struggling off the tee might still score well if just one player is driving well, while in foursomes, every shot counts. It's a good choice for an event that is meant to be more fun for spectators to watch, since they're more likely to see good golf.

And just as an interesting sidenote, the page about greensomes says there's an alternative version called gruesomes (I also found the name bloodsomes used elsewhere), in which each team uses their WORST drive instead of their best. And to make sure that it really is the worst drive, their opponents get to pick which drive they use.

Now that sounds like an interesting alternative format for a tournament! Perhaps the European Tour might consider adding a round of that...

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Winner: Jordan Spieth

Around the wider world of golf: Melissa Reid won the Oates Vic Open on the LET; Fabrizio Zanotti won the Maybank Championship on the ET; Ethan Tracy won the Club Colombia Championship on the Tour; Scott McCarron won the Allianz Championship on the Champions Tour; and the team of Ken Duke and Carson Daly won the pro-am title at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am..

Jordan Spieth with the AT&T Pebble Beach trophy

Sunday was a quiet day for Jordan Spieth. Two birdies, 16 pars, ninth PGA Tour win, fifth win by a three-shot margin or better. One outstanding putt, the long one for birdie (30 feet) at 17 that made his win all but inevitable. Ho hum.

He set even more records with the win, something he seems to do each time he wins. Second youngest player to reach nine wins. (Tiger beat him by a month, I think.) Youngest player to win five times by three shots or more. Several other records as well, but I can't remember what they were. (Who hunts up all these records, anyway?)

I think the real question now is how this will affect his world ranking. It might be enough to move him back up to #5, ahead of Hideki Matsuyama, but probably not enough to move him to #4 and displace Dustin Johnson.

But we know the win moved him up to #3 in the FedExCup points, just behind Matsuyama and Justin Thomas, who have both beaten him since 2017 started. Thomas has beaten him twice -- and soundly -- since the new year came 'round, and that was probably in Jordan's mind Sunday as well.

Late Sunday night, Spieth told ESPN that he went to a single ball flight during his time off at the end of 2016. (At least, he's using a single ball flight most of the time now.) He's crediting that -- along with some rethinking of his game -- with his return to form so far this year. It certainly seems to be working.

At any rate, it worked well enough to grab his first win of 2017, as well as his first Limerick Summary of the year. And given how solidly he's played so far this year, that could be bad news for all the other players lusting after a Limerick Summary of their own.
So frustrated this year by Justin
Who twice (so far) gave him a dusting,
This week, Jordan shone—
Although Thomas was home—
But now Spieth's got a swing that he's trusting.
The photo came from the wrap-up page at

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Josh Zander on Improving Your Impact

PGA Instructor Josh Zander gave Golf Digest a drill on how to make more solid impact.

Ironically, he wants you to hit more balls from the rough.

Josh Zander hitting from rough

Here's the deal: Zander says most players don't stabilize their clubs enough at impact. It's a balancing act, after all -- you want to remain relaxed enough to let the club swing easily, yet not so relaxed that the club can be knocked off-line or stopped by the ground.

His solution is to practice hitting half-shots from the rough, since that will make you automatically firm up your grip at impact:
Here’s a tip to help you get the most out of hitting balls from rough. Zander says that you need to get that feeling of connectedness between your arms and your torso to hit solid shots. To practice that, he says, “At address, feel pressure in both armpits, the biceps pressed against the chest. As a drill, tuck the sleeves of your shirt under your arms and practice making half swings, keeping that pinch.”
Zander says this will give you immediate feedback if you're not making a firm, decisive swing at the ball. Then, all you do is try to recreate the feeling when you make a full swing. Makes sense to me!

The article is short but the advice is easy to use. Best of all, you can use this drill even during a round if you feel the need to refresh your memory about how your swing should feel. That kind of drill is a win-win situation for any player!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Golf Gets More Dangerous Every Day (Video)

I found this over at the GC site. CBS46 News reported on this golfer who got attacked by a 10-foot gator while on the putting green. This just isn't something you expect to happen as you get ready to putt!

CBS46 News

Fortunately, Tony Aarts survived to tell the tale. Wonder if Cleveland Golf will be hiring him as a spokesperson?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Want to Understand What a Swing Is? Here's One Way...

Leo DiegelI have a copy of the Ernest Jones book Swing the Clubhead, which was originally called Swinging into Golf when it came out in 1937. The book was an attempt to teach players how to swing like the classic players did, albeit while using steel-shafted clubs.

There's an interesting sequence of pictures in the book that shows Leo Diegel hitting balls while standing on only one foot. The pictures are very small and dark in the book, and I haven't been able to find copies of them on the web, but the concept is an interesting way to learn how to swing.

No doubt you've heard of the famous Jones teaching aid -- a pocket knife attached to a handkerchief. You can read a good explanation of how that works at this GolfWorx page. But the Diegel exercise might help you understand that handkerchief drill better than the drill alone will, so let me explain what Diegel did.

Diegel was right-handed, so Diegel swung while standing on his right foot (his trail foot). So you righties would stand on your right foot, while you lefties would stand on your left foot. The idea is to make a full swing, hit the ball solidly, and finish in a balanced position without your lead foot ever touching the ground. If you overuse your body, you won't be able to keep your balance and will have to put your lead foot down.

Start by hitting pitches and half-shots, then lengthen your swing as you get more confident. This will help you get your hands, arms and body in sync throughout your swing. And when you go back to your normal stance, you should be able to hit the ball longer and perhaps more accurately.

Jones says that Diegel was able to shoot in the low-70s playing this way. I assume he shot some practice rounds this way, in order to work on his rhythm and balance. It sure sounds like a lot more fun than some of the practice techniques I've seen.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Belen Mozo on Hitting Longer Drives

Golf Digest's article on how Belen Mozo carries the ball so far is very interesting. I just want to mention a few points from the article that I think many players will miss, simply because they're looking for something "new" instead of just something that works.

Belen Mozo just after impact

Belen talks about using a wide stance at address, but if you look at the photo in that section of the article (or even the photo above) you'll see that her "wider than shoulder width" stance isn't as wide as many of you might assume. As she says, if you get too tense, you'll cut down on your ability to turn.

When she talks about making a big arc on her backswing, she's talking about keeping "her hands in front of her." If you pay attention to what you read, you'll see that she's simply keeping her upper arms lightly against the sides of her chest on the way back and as she swings down. That's basic Hogan technique and, while I think some players overdo it and get too tense, that's what most good players do on the backswing until their hands are just below their shoulders. That's how you get a big shoulder coil, and that's what she wants you to do here.

Finally, this is the most unusual thing she says:
When I swing down, my left leg is locked and pushing hard into the ground for leverage to create more power. Also, my upper body is almost completely behind the ball's position through impact. I've shifted my weight into the left leg (that's why it's straight), but I'm putting as much body weight into the hit as I can. I'm not really swinging my fastest until the ball is struck. My swing speed is building until then.
Her left (lead) leg is locked during her downswing. Do you understand that? Essentially, as soon as her lead heel is planted flat on the ground when she starts her downswing, she straightens her lead knee so she's pushing down with that foot.  If you do that, you CAN'T slide your hips very far forward on the downswing! The fact that she says her upper body is still behind the ball at impact emphasizes this fact. This keeps you steady over the ball and should help your accuracy as well as your distance.

Belen carries the ball 240 yards off the tee vs 219 for the average guy on the weekend. If you're looking for some extra distance, this might be worth a try. It's definitely not a difficult technique to learn.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Some Help for You Fantasy Golfers Out There (Video)

Since I'm a bit bored by the lead-in stuff for the Pebble Beach Pro-Am this week, I decided to post some help for all you fantasy golfers.

Brandt Snedeker

I found the following video at GC, with Will Gray's over- and underrated picks this week.

Here's the expert advice page from I don't see anything out of the ordinary there except for maybe Ben Everill's inclusion of Brett Coletta. Coletta doesn't even have a player page at has their tournament page here. No player recommendations but they do list which stats might help you make good picks. lists their picks here, and they DO give recommendations. Please note that their salary figures come from DraftKings, and may not match the figures in your particular league. For example, Sean O'Hair is listed at $7300 at DraftKings but $22,300 in Will Gray's GC video. However, this list will give you some possible picks that I haven't seen listed elsewhere.

And has a fairly comprehensive list that's also based on the DraftKings salaries.

As for my pick... I don't do the fantasy games because I don't feel that I'm very good at them. But I will make a pick for this post: J.B. Holmes. Even when he's not playing well, J.B. seems to find some form at Pebble. I'll take him this week.

Good luck, fantasy gamers!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Sorting Out the Matsuyama Downswing

So you wonder if you should copy Hideki Matsuyama's pause at the top. (Let's be blunt here. It's not a pause, it's a full stop.) Instructor Michael Jacobs over at Golf Digest says you shouldn't copy the pause, but you should copy his hand action at the start of his downswing.

I'm going to suggest a modification to his instruction, one that will give you the same sort of action but with a much simpler motion. And I give you this suggestion based on my own experience.

You see, the motion Jacobs says Hideki makes is one that Davis Love was making when he first came out on tour... and Davis himself described it as "a slippery little move."

Hideki Matsuyama

I don't have a copy of the magazine, but memory seems to say it was a Golf Magazine cover story in the mid- to late-1980s called The Secret Move. (But don't quote me on that. That kind of memory is a "slippery little" thing in itself.) And it detailed the technique, because Davis was not only long but he could create extra yardage when he needed it.

This move -- where you start your downswing by moving your hands away from both your body and the target -- widens your downswing, and does so in a way that increases your wrist cock on the way down. (I've written extensively about downcocks in this blog, often in relation to Inbee Park and J.B. Holmes.) Jacobs says you want to move your hands straight out from your body first, then start down. And if that sounds a little tricky, understand that it's basically the same move a fly fisherman makes when he casts his rod.

The reason it's a tricky move is that the fisherman casts his (or her) rod using only one hand, and in the direction he (or she) is facing. Coordinating a two-handed move away from your body IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION OF WHICH YOU'RE TURNING is extremely complex.

I know. I tried for quite a while to get that move down and discovered that Davis was right -- it IS a slippery little move. I finally gave up. HOWEVER...

You can get a similar effect with a much simpler move, one I use myself.

Most of you are bending your trailing elbow as you start down. DON'T DO IT. Instead, feel like you're straightening that elbow as you start down.

Instead of moving your hands out THEN down, you'll be moving them out AND down simultaneously. Instead of moving parallel to the ground and then dropping, it will feel like your hands are sliding down an incline as they move down. Then, when your hands are somewhere between shoulder and waist high, let that trailing elbow bend and smack that ball! You'll find that you get the same sort of result, but it will be a lot easier to do.

And, on the way down, you'll feel the increased pressure against your wrists as they retain their cock later into the downswing.

Just as a side note: Davis eventually said he had to reign this move in a little to gain more accuracy. So don't get upset if you pick up some distance but lose some control. There's a balance you'll have to find if you want to use this technique. But keeping your trailing elbow straighter as you start your downswing won't be as hard to control as that "slippery little move."

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Limerick Summary: 2017 WM Phoenix Open

Winner: Hideki Matsuyama

Around the wider world of golf: Sergio Garcia posted another impressive win at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the ET; and Jazz Janewattananond (a young Thai player) won the Bashundhara Bangladesh Open on the Asian Tour.

And congrats to the New England Patriots, who won SuperBowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons. The two teams set so many records during the game -- including it being the first-ever overtime SuperBowl -- that I can't even list them all.

Hideki Matsuyama with Phoenix Open trophy

I guess you could say Hideki Matsuyama broke the curse. Nobody has won the WM Phoenix Open back-to-back since it moved to TPC Scottsdale.

Nobody but Hideki, that is. And he did it with back-to-back playoff wins, which hasn't happened on tour anywhere since 1990.

True, it's easy to feel sorry for Byeong Hun An, who lost the 54-hole lead, but that happens to everybody at some point. He'll come back from that.

Even Webb Simpson, who lost the four-hole playoff, will be fine. This is his best showing in three years, especially since he had to change his anchored putting stroke.

But Hideki is better than fine. He's won two PGA Tour events plus three other worldwide titles in his last nine starts. Two of those losses came courtesy of Justin Thomas, who has three PGA Tour wins this season. And he leaps to the top of the FedExCup points race, leapfrogging Thomas as the two press their claim as part of the 2017 Big3. (The other member is yet to be determined.)

Perhaps Hideki will become the World #1 before the year's out. Perhaps he'll be the first Japanese player to win the FedExCup. All of these things are clearly in play going forward. But one thing is for sure -- Hideki is sure to receive this week's Limerick Summary!
Forget about last year's Big Three!
It appears that Hideki will be
One of this year's new members—
And maybe, September,
A FedExCup winner? We'll see.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Latest on the Rules of Golf Update

Lately, many of my posts seem to be links to other websites. But there has been so much happening lately that I feel referring you to these other posts are the most helpful thing I can do.

And I finally have a link about the update to the Rules of Golf that we've all been waiting for.

USGA President Diana Murphy and Executive Director Mike Davis

Golf Digest's post on the update doesn't give us a lot of specifics, but what we do get is tantalizing:
What’s expected to be revealed is nothing short of the biggest restructuring of the Rules in decades. “It doesn’t fundamentally change how you think golf is played,” Davis said. “What it does do is fundamentally change the understanding of the rules, why they are the way they are, and how they’ll be communicated.”
That includes a re-organization of the Rules that is expected to blow up the current 34-rule structure.
That post refers to the rumored changes that were reported last month, and this Golfweek post can fill you in on those if you only heard about the changes secondhand.

The most stunning news from this new post is the dramatic re-organization that is predicted. Given that there will be a more visual presentation, I'll be very interested to see how the new Rules are going to be organized... and if the book will be any thinner! If a more visually-accessible book is in the works, the book itself could end up being much larger, even if the number of rules is actually reduced.

Finally, we now have a date for the big reveal. The new and improved Rules of Golf -- at least, the proposed changes -- will be made public sometime in March.

The post is very informative, so check it out. That way you'll be better prepared for what's coming next month.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Logistics of Tiger's Return

After Tiger's withdrawal from the Dubai event, it's hard to ignore the possibility that his comeback could be cut short by back problems. And I know that many of you will think I'm just overly optomistic, but I'm not sure it's that bad yet. NOT YET.

And the reason has to do with logistics, which nobody -- media-based or otherwise -- seems to consider.


If you Google the word, the first definition of logistics that comes up is "the detailed coordination of a complex operation involving many people, facilities, or supplies." But that's a fancy definition that actually hides the practical meaning.

To put it simply, logistics means that SIZE AND COMPLEXITY CHANGE THE WAY THINGS WORK. The reason many small businesses fail is because the owners don't understand how logistics change things. Let me give you an example I learned a long time ago, and then I'll explain how I think it applies to Tiger's comeback.

Let's say you decide to bake your friend a pineapple upside-down cake. You go to the store, pick up the ingredients, come back home and bake it. For you, the most complex and time-consuming aspect of this project is the actual baking. You have to get the oven to the right temperature, measure ingredients, mix them properly, and time your preparation so the fruit, frosting and cake layers are all ready at the same time for the "final assembly."

After you do this a few times, your friends start saying, "Wow, your cakes are great. You should go into business!" And as you consider this, you think to yourself, "How would I ever get money for a factory to do all the baking?" But you don't really understand the problem, because the baking problems will be the easiest ones to solve.

The real problem at this larger scale is making sure you have fresh ingredients, when you need them, at a price you can afford. You see, you can't just run down to the store and pick up what you need anymore, because you need way more ingredients than the store carries. Let's just consider a few concerns about the pineapples for a moment.
  • If the pineapples, cream, sugar and flour arrive in your factory at the same time, the pineapples and the cream will go bad long before you can use them all, so you have to figure out how often to have each delivered and how much in each delivery.
  • Pineapple prices rise and fall depending on how the harvests are going, which are affected by things like weather, transportation costs and worker strikes -- and you can't predict any of those accurately. At the very least, you're going to need to get involved buying and selling pineapple futures in order to get the best prices you can.
  • Have you considered consumer demand for your tasty cakes? Is pineapple upside-down cake more popular during the summer months, or at holidays, or at a specific holiday? You'll have to adjust your deliveries so you don't get too much at the wrong time.
  • Oh, did I mention that the ingredient prices you can get and the customer demand will affect your delivery schedule as much the freshness issue will?
And we've only considered a few of the issues concerning the pineapples! There are also new issues that you didn't have to bother with before. For example, you can't just deliver the cake on your best cake plate then get the plate back when your friend is done with it. You've got to consider product packaging now.

This is what I mean when I talk about logistics. The bigger your project gets, the more the nature of the problems change.

Let's transfer this to Tiger's return, and we'll start with the travel. I assume most of you have gotten stiff from sitting in a chair for too long. This is a "small logistics" issue -- if you sit in your car and drive for 20 minutes, you reach your destination and you feel okay. But if you plan a five-hour drive, you have to arrange for rest stops to avoid getting stiff and sluggish. You don't hurt, but you don't move very well either.

I can't help but shake my head when I hear the analysts talk about the pros traveling overseas. They laugh and say, "Well, it's not like they're traveling tourist." As if knocking ten hours off a 30-hour trip made it no different than that 20-minute jaunt across town!

Tiger is a businessman. He understands logistics. Most folks don't.

Last week after he missed the cut at Torrey, Tiger was asked how he felt about the upcoming trip to Dubai. And Tiger smiled and said he'd have to see how the 17-hour trip went. I remember that number because I didn't realize it would be that long in a private jet, but my mind immediately started spinning. I wondered: Would he have enough time to recover from the flight? It was clear from his interview that the three-hour flight to Torrey had been a question mark in his mind, let alone the Dubai trip.

So he arrived in Dubai and the analysts started talking about how "gingerly" he was moving. But he wasn't in pain, folks -- he was STIFF. If you'd had three back surgeries and had just traveled 17 hours by plane, you'd be moving carefully too. He probably thought he'd just take it easy and work through the stiffness as he played. It sounds reasonable.

But, according to Mark Steinberg (as quoted in this article):
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg said the player started to feel pain on Thursday night and regretted having to pull out.

“He went into a spasm in his lower back very late last night after dinner,” Steinberg told reporters. “We tried to work it out last night (but) really didn’t get worked out.

“We had treatment starting very early this morning for the past three, three and half hours, but can’t get the back spasm to calm down. He feels terrible.”

Steinberg said the problem was not the same nerve pain that caused Woods’ lengthy absence from the sport.
Note that Steinberg used the term spasm to describe the pain -- the same word Jason Day uses to describe the sharp, unexpected but temporary pains that his back gets. Maybe I missed it, but I don't remember hearing Tiger's back pain described as a spasm in most of his WDs. Usually they just say he has back pain.

Once you look at the logistics of the travel, this explanation from Steinberg makes perfectly good sense. Tiger was aware that this trip was an experiment to see where he was in his recovery -- as evident from his post-round interview at Torrey -- and he has discovered that his back isn't ready for it yet.

And Steinberg's explanation does give us some hope that this is just a temporary setback. One of the back doctors who appeared on ESPN said that this isn't the worst level of potential back pain -- "spasm" means it's caused by muscles seizing up, not disc problems -- and probably means he just needs to take more time between tournaments.

Taking the logistics into account, I suspect it means that he should limit himself to domestic tournaments for a while -- no prolonged travel, which would mean no Open Championship this year.

While in past posts I've mentioned giving Tiger a few months before making any assessments of his future, privately I decided (back before the Hero, that is) to wait until 2018 and see what happens this year. Golfers are creatures of habit, and we fail to realize just how much these back problems have already interrupted those habits:
  • How much recovery time does he need after a flight? What routines are most effective for him now?
  • How much practice time can he count on each day? What should he practice? What CAN he practice? In what order? For how long? And do any of these change between the day he plays his first practice round and the day he plays his final official round?
  • How long can he comfortably sit or stand in a media scrum? Will he need special equipment to sit or stand on? (Remember, something as simple as the angle at which he holds his neck when he's looking at people can affect his back.)
  • Will his courtesy car need special lumbar support in the seats?
  • How will he deal with delays during a round? Can he stand, or does he need to walk (will he have the space?), or does he need to carry some kind of folding chair?
  • Does he need special sleeping arrangements to avoid potential back strain?
And all of these have to be figured out through trial and error, on the road. There are probably more that I can't even imagine, but these will give you a basic idea about what he faces now.

When Tiger was rehabbing at home, just getting a controllable swing was the hardest thing. But that's going to be the easiest part for him going forward.

It's those logistics again. Never underestimate their importance, because they rear their ugly heads at the worst possible moments.

Just ask Tiger.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The 2017 Golf Digest Hot List Is Out (Video)

Just letting you know that the new Hot List from Golf Digest is out. This link will take you to the 2017 Hot List driver page -- I'm guessing that's the one most of you are interested in -- but you can get to the entire list from there as well.

Callaway GBB Epic/Sub Zero

I've included info on the new Callaway GBB Epic/Sub Zero driver in this post because it's the one that fascinates me the most right now. You've probably seen the commercials about the new "Jailbreak" technology, the two titanium posts located just behind the driver face. Golf Digest says that 14 of their 16 testers put this driver in their Top5, which is unusual.

Here's the video summary from the review page:

The retail price on the Epic is $500, and there are two versions.

And there are ten other drivers in the Driver Hot List, plus all the other equipment you might be interested in. So just click the link to get to the driver page, and you can get to the other sections from there.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Michael Breed on Hitting Hybrids (Video)

Super short tip today from Michael Breed on how to hit a hybrid. (He says it works with a fairway wood as well, but it will probably help with any shot played off the turf.) If you're topping your hybrids -- or maybe even hitting them fat -- this may be the key for you.

This is yet another way to think about keeping the club in front of you. You'll find Michael's tip much easier to do if you think about dropping down from the top of your backswing, rather than driving your legs hard to start your downswing. Too much lateral motion in your downswing will cause you to twist your chest skyward at impact -- that's simple physics.

So try Michael's tip and hit the ball when the center of your chest is pointed at your lead foot. It's a simple image to keep you from spinning out at impact.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Martin Hall on Hips & Grips

Tuesday night I heard something really cool from Martin Hall on School of Golf. It's a very simple tip that can help you deal with pulls and pushes.

The key is to match up your hip speed with your grip.
  • If you have a strong grip and you keep hitting pulls, you probably aren't moving your lower body fast enough. To hit a reasonably straight shot with a strong grip, you have to turn your hips really fast. That means you try to feel as if your hips are starting the downswing well before the club. (More lag between hips and clubs.)
  • But if you have a weak grip and you keep hitting pushes, you are probably moving your hips TOO fast. To hit a reasonably straight shot with a weak grip, you have to turn your hips more slowly. That means you try to feel as if your hips are starting the downswing at the same time as the club. (Hips and club move are more synchronized.)
These combinations of "hips & grips" aren't exactly instinctive. That's why you need to know them. Remember it as "strong grip, strong hips" and "weak grips, weak hips," or something similar. The trick is that the stronger the grip, the stronger your leg drive has to be, and vice versa.

A simple tip that offers a lot of help.

And don't forget that Tiger tees off in Dubai tonight in primetime (I think coverage starts at 10pm ET, during Golf Central). With so much less rough to contend with, Tiger could potentially make a lot of birdies -- enough to offset the inevitable bogeys -- and make the cut this week.