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Friday, January 31, 2020

Some Fun with Harry Vardon (Video)

I found this old footage of Harry Vardon -- winner of six OPENs and one US Open -- and thought you all might enjoy seeing what a master of the classic swing looked like back in the late 1890s-early 1900s.

Vardon may have been the first to use something similar to what we call a modern swing. Up until his time, most players used what was called the St. Andrews swing -- the club was taken back sharply to the inside (a very flat swing) and then looped dramatically up and over in the downswing. (Take a look at some footage of Bobby Jones and you'll see what I mean.) Vardon consciously tried to take the club straight back from the ball into a more upright position, then swing down on a similar plane (more like Jack Nicklaus).

In the video you can clearly see how his hands actually start back before the clubhead moves. This "dragging" motion was also used in the St. Andrews swing and helped control the softer hickory shafts that were common at the time. Modern stiff shafts are loaded by a strength move but the softer shafts of the time were loaded by a slower, more rhythmic motion. Since soft shafts didn't need as much effort to load them at the top, players could create a lot of clubhead speed with less effort.

Vardon had a reputation for being able to generate as much as 50 extra yards when he needed it, simply by adjusting his swing rhythm.

You might wonder why the more modern swing replaced the classic swing when the latter required less effort. It was simply a matter of the limitations of the equipment. Metal shafts, which were much stiffer, could be manufactured to be more consistent than hickory shafts ever could. Had graphite shafts been invented back then, it might have been a different story.

Vardon's nickname was "the Greyhound" because his opponents said he was hard to catch once he took the lead. This swing is the reason why, and it's similar enough to that of players like Mickelson and Els that we can still learn from it today.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

A First for the Champions Tour

For the PGA Tour as well, since the the Morocco Champions is the first ever PGA Tour-sanctioned event to be played in Africa.

Samanah Golf Club in Morocco

The Samanah Golf Club in Marrakesh was designed by Jack Nicklaus, so the players should feel some familiarity with it. But only Scott Parel has any experience with the layout -- he played a mini-tour event there in 2011 -- and I know Colin Montgomerie has done some course design in Morocco himself. So it will be interesting to see how the pros deal with it.

This is the first full-field event for the Champions Tour this year -- at least, there are 66 players this week (far more than last week) -- and the first of a five-year deal. The European Tour already has an event there, so it will be interesting to see how this Champions Tour event compares.

GC's coverage begins today (Thursday) at 9:30am ET. And I just wanted to make sure you remembered it because... well, history doesn't happen everyday.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

DJ Goes on the Defensive

That is, Dustin Johnson is defending this week... at the Saudi Invitational.

DJ with Saudi International trophy

DJ won the inaugural playing of this event, but he may have a tougher time of it this year. It's not just the caliber of players gunning for him; he's got to get his game back after rehabilitating his knee. This week will be his first real test.

As for those other players, he'll be facing off against Stenson, Westwood, Koepka, Garcia, Lowry, Larrazábal, Reed and Dowell, even Mickelson... and that's just some of the pack licking its chops to take him down.

GC's early live coverage starts Thursday morning at 3am ET and picks up again later at 6:30am ET. Regardless of how you feel about the politics that plagued this event when it began last year, it's hard to deny the quality of the field. This should be a very good event.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Twofer Tuesday: WM Phoenix Open

Strap on your beer hat and prepare your worst taunts! Twofer Tuesday joins the maelstrom better known as the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Defending champion Rickie Fowler

TPC Scottsdale is a par-71 course measuring 7261 yards long and with a decibel rating similar to a rock concert. That raucous 16th hole, aka "the Coloseum," is one of the most famous holes in modern golf and the beginning of a three-hole finishing stretch than can easily destroy a player's nerves. The water bordering the 17th and the "church pew" bunkers on the 18th play a major role in determining every winner at this event.

Rickie Fowler has felt the heartbreak often enough, and probably felt the course owed him the win he snagged last year.

The WM Phoenix Open is such an unusual event that I can't use the normal criteria to make picks. This event tests players in a way that no other can match; it's about embracing chaos that pros never see at other events... except maybe at the Ryder Cup. (And there they have teammates to lean on!) So let's see if I can pick a couple of Top10ers who might get the job done.
  • Despite that win in Singapore, Matt Kuchar hasn't done quite as well on the PGA Tour this year. But Phoenix seems to agree with him -- while he hasn't won here, his last three finishes have been T9, T5 and T4. Despite his 2020 PGA Tour starts, that Singapore win means his game is in pretty good shape. And since he's clearly comfortable here, he gets a nod from me.
  • Likewise, Jon Rahm has never won in Phoenix. But his last three appearances -- his whole pro career -- have been T16, T11 and T10. And going back to the US Open, he's only been out of the Top10 in PGA Tour events twice -- a T11 at THE OPEN and a T12 at the Tour Championship. Given his steadily improving record in Phoenix and his amazing performances over the last half year or so, I think he'll be high on the scoreboard come Sunday.
GC's live coverage begins Thursday at 3pm ET. Let the catcalls begin!

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Limerick Summary: 2020 Farmers Insurance Open

Winner: Marc Leishman

Around the wider world of golf: Madelene Sagstrom got her first LPGA win at the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio; and Lucas Herbert got his first European Tour win at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Marc Leishman with Farmers Insurance Open trophy

My Twofer Tuesday came through but proved how fragile 'chalk' picks can be. I had Tiger Woods (T9) and Rory McIlroy (T3). Tiger barely made the Top10, though I blame that as much on new equipment as rust, and Rory simply had a rough Sunday.
  • Top10s: 5 for 8 (2 Top5, 3 other Top10s)
  • Winners: 0 for 4 events
Like Rory, a lot of the field had rough days on Sunday. I didn't expect Tiger to win going into Sunday because, while he was just five shots back on a tough course, there were 16 players ahead of him. That's a lot of people to pass, especially if you need help to win. And Rory, while only having to catch two players, couldn't count on a good round when he needed it.

And then a guy like Marc Leishman completely upsets the odds by having a great day. Starting the final round sandwiched between Tiger and Rory (who were -7 and -9, respectively), he leapfrogged everybody else when they simply couldn't find the magic. Overnight leader Jon Rahm went four-over in the first five holes, dropping all the way back into a tie with Leish...

Or at least he would have if Leish hadn't gone three-under in those same five holes. It was a reversal nobody expected... and Leish made the most of it. In that final round he hit only three -- THREE! -- fairways on a course that demands accuracy, and still posted a seven-under 65! He hit almost 78% of his GIR, got up-and-down at nearly every green he missed and finished the week #1 in SG: Putting.

After an absence from the winner's circle that was closing on two years, Leish's putter carried him right back there.. and it did so in style. He also picked up a stylish new Limerick Summary. It's been nearly two years since he had one of those as well.
Leish struggled to hit the ball straight…
But he scrambled and putted just great!
Though a two-year win drought
Might have made others doubt,
Leishman stepped up and ended the wait.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Sport Science: Happy Gilmore and Padraig Harrington (Video)

An educational but fun video for today. Sport Science decided to see if the Happy Gilmore swing can actually make you longer, so they got Padraig -- who is famous for using the swing in practice -- to test it. And guess what? Padraig is about 30 yards longer with the Gilmore swing!

But why is he longer? And why doesn't he use it all the time? The answers are here... so have fun!

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Rory McIlroy on High Pitches VS Low Chips (Video)

You get a challenge today. Can you see what Rory is doing after he tells you?

Let's start with a Golf Digest article from 2014 where Rory talks about his short game. It's an interesting article but I'm going to focus on how he contrasts high pitches and low chips.
  • For a low chip, I generally have the feeling of hinging my wrists on the backswing and then driving my wrists through toward the target. If I'm facing an especially tight lie, I prefer a simpler motion without using much wrist hinge, where I'm just trying to clip the ball off the top of the turf.
  • For a high pitch, particularly a flop shot, I open the clubface and feel like I'm letting the clubhead pass the ball as quickly as possible through impact to help get the flight vertical. I think a lot of people cut across the ball when they try to flop it—that's not what you want to do. You want to release the club under the ball and out toward the target.
Did you catch that? The primary difference in how Rory tackles these two short game shots is in his hand action.

Now here's a video of Rory practicing both chips and pitches at the 2017 WGC Dell Match Play. Can you see the difference in his hand action?

That may have been difficult for you. While it's easy to see on the backswing -- he cocks his wrists more for the pitches than the chips -- it's may not be so easy to see after impact. Here's a tip: They're both the same! Look at where the shaft of the club is pointing when his hands reach waist high. When he chips, the shaft points slightly downward; when he pitches, the shaft points toward the sky.

So here's a simple thought to try when you practice chips and pitches: Try to make the backswing mirror the downswing. If you want to hit a high pitch, point the shaft skyward on both sides of the ball. If you want to hit a low chip, point the shaft downward on both sides of the ball. That may help your short game become more consistent.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Matt Wolff's Power Keys (Video)

I don't know that many of us will be swinging like Matthew Wolff -- his swing is definitely his own -- but in case you're wondering how he creates so much distance...

Simply enough, Matt has a key for his backswing and a key for his downswing.

His backswing key is to create a full turn with his hips. He says you don't have to lift your lead foot, but it's obviously easier to get a full hip turn if you do.

And his downswing key is to use the ground -- you know, squat down a bit as you swing down and then push upward at impact. You really have to turn through the shot to do that, which means you want to get your belly button pointed toward the target as the club swings up to waist high.

Now, you don't have to exaggerate these moves as much as Matt does in his swing. The bigger you make the motions, the more likely you are to get out of position and make poor contact. A longer shot won't help you at all if you lose the ball over in the trees.

Still, just making an effort to create a longer swing -- that's the end result of what Matt does, after all -- while keeping your balance should help you hit the ball longer. And if you keep your balance and hit the ball in the middle of the clubface, you should be hitting your next shot from the fairway. That always helps the ball go farther!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

A New LPGA Event in Florida

The first of two new LPGA events in Florida debuts today, the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio.

Boca Rio Golf Course

Gainbridge, the sponsor for this new event, is an annuity and life insurance agency. The Boca Rio course, a par-72 at just over 6700 yards long, is in Boca Raton FL. And as this is an inaugural event, there is no defending champion. The purse will be $2mil USD, with $300,000 going to the winner.

And the field should be pretty good. Six of the Top10 in the Rolex Rankings will be there -- Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang, Nasa Hataoka, Sei Young Kim, Brooke Henderson and Lexi Thompson -- and all but two from the last Solheim Cup teams will be there (Lizette Salas and, of course, Suzann Pettersen).

Inbee Park will also be there, continuing her campaign to make the Korean Olympic Team this summer. Inbee is currently #14 in the Rolex, up two spots from last week, and needs to be one of the Top4 Korean players in the Rolex Top15 by June 29th. (There are five Koreans ahead of her right now.)

The new event will be broadcast on GC today starting at 11:30am ET. And since this is the first full-field event of the 2020 LPGA season, we should see 108 very excited players!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

More Golf in the Desert

The desert in Dubai, that is. It seems that a lot of the big names who aren't teeing it up at Torrey Pines are at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau

The Emirates Golf Club at Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hosts the second of the three events that comprise the European Tour's Middle East Swing. Bryson DeChambeau is the defending champion, seen in the photo above with that really cool-looking trophy that looks like an Arabic coffee pot called a 'Dallah.'

Bryson is there, of course, as is newly-crowned Abu Dhabi champion Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson, Tommy Fleetwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Sergio Garcia, Matt Fitzpatrick and Shane Lowry -- as I said, a lot of the big names who aren't at Torrey this week.

The good thing about this is the TV coverage. GC begins their coverage tonight (Wednesday, January 22) at 11pm ET, so there won't be any conflict between the ET and the PGA Tour. We can watch them both!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Twofer Tuesday: Farmers Insurance Open

This week Twofer Tuesday makes a stop at Tiger's Alley, aka Torrey Pines.

Defending champion Justin Rose

The Farmers Insurance Open has been, as noted, pretty much owned by Tiger. The Big Cat has seven FIO wins as well as the US Open held there in 2008. The first two days are split between the North Course (7258 yards) and the South Course (7765 yards, its yardage increased from last year), with the South Course hosting the final two rounds. Justin Rose is the defending champion.

This week's field will likely be the strongest we've seen at any tournament since 2020 started, so I'm not getting cute with my picks. No, I'm going chalk this week... although, to be honest, even chalk picks come with some questions.
  • Tiger Woods makes his 2020 debut at Torrey and, given his past dominance here, seems an easy pick. But even Tiger has struggled over the last few years at Torrey -- blame it on his back -- and while he seems to have a handle on that now, there's still the early morning chill to worry with. For you readers around the world who may not realize it, the US is in the middle of winter now, complete with short days and cool damp mornings. Tiger's ability to manage those back-stiffening conditions is still in question. However, if he can endure his early draw in the first two rounds and play well, he could have late tee times (and warmer weather) over the weekend. I can't help but expect at least a Top10 from him this year.
  • Rory McIlroy also makes his 2020 debut this week, and there's a question for him as well. Although he posted a T5 in his first appearance last year, a win this week would vault him to #1 in the OWGR. I'm sure Rory knows that and remembers that Brooks said there was no rivalry since Rory hadn't been #1 since he made his own appearance in the rankings. I'm sure Rory would like to make Brooks eat those words... and that could be a problem. When Rory wants a title too much, he has tended to get in his own way (see the 2019 Masters and 2019 OPEN for examples). That could happen this week... but this isn't the same Rory we saw early last year. I think Brooks may be in for a surprise.
GC's coverage begins Thursday at 3pm ET. With so many of the big boys showing up this week, I'm looking for some fireworks and maybe -- possibly -- some movement in the Ruthless Golf World Rankings.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Limerick Summary: 2020 American Express

Winner: Andrew Landry

Around the wider world of golf: Tommy Gainey won the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic on the Korn Ferry Tour; Lee Westwood got his 25th ET victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship; Miguel Angel Jimenez won the Mitsubishi Electric Championship on the Champions Tour; Matt Kuchar won the SMBC Singapore Open on the Japan Golf Tour; and Abel Gallegos became the first Argentinian champion of the Latin America Amateur. And while John Smoltz defended his celebrity title at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, the LPGA's playoff between Gaby Lopez and Nasa Hataoka is yet to be determined and will continue Monday morning at 8am ET on GC. [UPDATE: Gaby won on the seventh playoff hole.]

Andrew Landry with AmEx trophy

My Twofer Tuesday picks struggled again this week. I had Rickie Fowler (T10) and Kevin Kisner (MC). Rickie got me excited after two rounds but lost his putter over the weekend, and Kevin left his whole game back in Hawaii. But at least I got one out of the two right. (Thanks, Rickie!)
  • Top10s: 3 for 6 (1 Top5, 2 other Top10s)
  • Winners: 0 for 3 events
It's been a couple of years since Andrew Landry got his first Tour win. Two years ago he forced a playoff with Jon Rahm at this event but lost, then got his first win later that year at the Valero. He's been pretty quiet since then.

Sunday he came out of the gate like a madman, going six-under and bogey-free for the first 12 holes, racing away from his nearest competitor, Scottie Scheffler. But Abraham Ancer, who started the day farther back, matched his pace although it looked as if he would merely grab second.

Then Andrew stumbled. Bogeys on 13, 14 and 15 plus a par on the scoreable par-5 16th, coupled with Ancer's continued bogey-free charge, left him tied for the lead with only two holes to play. But Andrew stepped up big, posting birdies on both 17 and 18 while Ancer could manage only a single birdie on those two holes.

Andrew almost made the win look easy.

Now that he's back in the winner's circle -- with all the bonuses and bling appropriate for a winner -- it looks as if he could be in line for another great year. And just to make sure he remembers it, I've got this memorable new Limerick Summary to help!
Starting Sunday, he outraced the pack;
At the turn, he gave all his lead back!
Though it took him a while
Andrew won it in style
And this win put his game back on track.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Gary Player on Facing -- and Beating -- Our Fears

Don't Choke book coverIn his book Don't Choke, Gary Player has a lot to say about overcoming failure. This short section from a chapter called Play Your Own Game has an interesting perspective on how to win when you're afraid of what you're facing.
Fear is crippling. The fear of being overshadowed by someone else's achievements is a tremendous obstacle in business. That's when you need to shift the focus away from the other person and back to your own plan. No matter what others are doing, stick to your own plan.

Golf teaches you this like no other sport. Over the four rounds of a Major championship, you cannot play just one man because there are so many factors that go into overall success. You have to deal with the playing conditions, the golf course, and a whole field of competitors. If you teed off the first hole in a Major focused on just beating one man, you would surely lose sight of all the other elements that can prove to be your undoing. Similarly, you cannot control what the rest of the field does. You can control only your own game.

You can't stop somebody from shooting a 64, but you can stop yourself from producing your best performance on the day by being so fixated with somebody else's game. To stick to your plan, you need to have confidence in that plan. Then you need to have the patience to see that plan through. Your chance will come, and when it does you'll be ready to take it. So stick to your plan. [pp128-9]
This is a foreign idea to many of us, this idea that having a plan and following it is a way to beat fear. Yet that's exactly how Gary says he often faced challenges successfully in his own career -- not only in golf but in business and life as well.

Having a plan of attack gives you a fighting chance to not only beat the problems you know about, but also the unexpected problems that come your way. Plans help you anticipate some problems while giving you a sound foundation for adapting to changing conditions.

It's early in the new year -- in a new decade, for that matter! -- so this is a great time to start thinking about how we're going to face the challenges ahead of us. It doesn't matter whether we're trying to knock shots off our score, achieve some new goals at work or just make our personal lives better.

Your plan doesn't have to be perfect, but it should be sound. Make the best plan you can, then be prepared to follow it. You might be surprised how much easier it is to succeed when you have some idea what that success will look like! That's what Gary says and if anybody knows what success against the odds looks like, it's Gary Player.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Tom Stickney on Avoiding One Side of the Course (Video)

Instructor Tom Stickney has a simple three-point plan for avoiding the side of the course where the trouble is.

First, set up on the side of the tee where the trouble is and aim away from the trouble. That seems simple enough but most people don't do it. Why? Because they instinctively want to get away from the trouble so they set up as far away from it as they can. But that doesn't leave them enough room to aim away from it, so they end up hitting toward the trouble. You need to set up near the trouble and aim away from it.

Second, you want to pick an aim point that's only a couple of feet in front of the ball. You don't want to be looking up at the trouble. By picking a point on the ground that's close to the ball you don't have to see the trouble at all, plus it's easier to hit the ball over a point that's close to you rather than one that's farther away from you.

BTW, Jack Nicklaus used this one all the time. He didn't miss many fairways!

Finally, make sure the last place you look is at the safe side of the course, not the dangerous side. Just as a driver tends to steer their car in the direction they're looking -- that's one reason they tell you not to stare at accidents in the other lane -- you'll tend to hit the ball toward the point you're looking at, whether you want to hit it there or not. It's just the way the human mind works.

These three tips are likely things you've heard before but simply went "yeah, I know that." Still, if you make these three things a habit on the tee, you'll end up in trouble a lot less often.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Brad Skupaka on Driver Fitting Myths (Video)

GOLFTEC's Brad Skupaka did this short video on driver fitting myths that, with all the new equipment coming out in the next couple of months, you might want to see.

The three myths are:
  • Adjustability fixes everything: The adjustments on drivers are for fine-tuning your equipment, not correcting swing faults
  • Everybody needs more loft: If you already create too much backspin, more loft will only exacerbate the problem
  • Longer shafts make for longer drives: There's a point of diminishing returns where longer shafts actually reduce your clubhead speed
I particularly like the drill he gives for that last one -- putting impact tape on the face of your driver, then hitting shots while choking down on the grip to see where you get the most consistent contact. For example, I know for a fact that I hit the ball more consistently with a 3-wood length shaft and I'm most consistent with a 7-wood shaft... but with the 7-wood shaft I might give up more distance, depending on the driver head.

And just for the record, according to Harry Vardon's book The Complete Golfer, his driver shaft was the same length as a typical modern 7-wood -- 42 inches. And he was considered a long hitter in his day!

Anyway, Skupaka's video is good advice to keep in mind if you're in the market for a new driver when the new models come out.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Jazz Does the Twist (Video)

Many of you may be unfamiliar with Thai golfer Jazz Janewattananond's swing. But considering how well he plays, you might want to see what he does.

Although, to be honest, I can't do it...

The key to Jazz's swing is that he keeps a fair amount of weight on his trailing toes during his downswing. This allows him to use his toe as a pivot point, not unlike a figure skater spinning, as his lead hip moves rapidly out of the way. We've seen a similar move from Patrick Reed and other players, as his lead foot 'hops' to a more open stance at impact.

That toe spin can be seen (from behind) very clearly around the :06 second mark in the video.

Jazz's move creates a lot of clubhead speed but it strikes me as more of a young man's move. It puts a lot of stress on his lower back -- at least it does on mine -- as you can see from his exaggerated reverse-C position at impact.

It's not a move I'd recommend -- you all know how I feel about swings that encourage back problems. But only you can decide if it's right for you or not. One thing is for sure: With four wins in the last year, it's been a very effective move for Jazz.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

How Quickly Can We Stop Slow Play?

Both the PGA Tour and the European Tour have adopted new rules to battle slow play. The big question is how well they will work...

Shotlink sign

GC and published two articles concerning the new rule:
The ET begins enforcing some of these new rules this week while the PGA Tour will simply begin teaching players this week, with actual enforcement beginning the week after the Masters. Both tours plan to use similar guidelines, so we should begin seeing some consistent results as players move back and forth between tours.

What makes these rules so different from past attempts is twofold: A focus on individual players (rather than groups) and a new dependence on Shotlink data to eliminate any charges that officials are singling out particular players based on reputation.

One thing that stood out to me is that the 'slow play list' will use a rolling ten-week average. In other words, if you're on the list and you go ten weeks without a penalty, you'll drop off the list. (At least that's my understanding.)

The most obvious change that viewers will notice is that players will begin receiving penalty strokes after two bad times in a single tournament, and then more penalties for each successive bad time.

It will be interesting to see how things go at Abi Dhabi this week. I can't help but wonder if rounds will actually be shorter by the end of the year, or whether other causes of slow play will show themselves. I guess time will tell.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Twofer Tuesday: American Express

After two weeks in a rainy windy paradise, Twofer Tuesday returns to the mainland -- and the desert -- for the American Express.

Defending champion Adam Long

Although the American Express uses three courses for its pro-am format, the official host course is the TPC Stadium Course at PGA West, once considered a monster that tested the most skilled pro. The par-72 course only measures 7113 yards -- a big deal back in the 1980s -- but it's a Pete Dye design featuring some truly challenging holes. (By all means avoid that bunker on the 16th -- it's 19 feet deep!) Adam Long got his maiden PGA Tour victory here last year and will relish his chance to defend.

A shorter length desert setup like the American Express encourages low scores. Look for some scoring records to fall.

So who am I picking for my two Top10ers this week?
  • My first pick is Rickie Fowler. The newlywed hasn't played a lot over the last couple of months but he had a 9th at the Hero (coming back from sickness) and a T5 at the Sentry. I think he's in a good place right now and, for a guy who has struggled with expectations, he might be playing as free as we've seen for quite some time.
  • And while a part of me really wants to take Branden Steele on a continuation of form, I can't shake the idea that Kevin Kisner is in even better form. In his last four events he has three Top10s and a T14, coming off a T4 last week in horrid conditions. The desert will likely feel like heaven to him... and I can see another heavenly score in the wings.
GC's coverage starts Thursday at 3pm ET. (Back to the regular broadcast window for US viewers.) With players like Phil Mickelson, Francesco Molinari and Steve Stricker making their 2020 debuts, the strong field will make this event a great kickoff for the West Coast Swing.

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Limerick Summary: 2020 Sony Open

Winner: Cameron Smith

Around the wider world of golf: Branden Grace won the South African Open on the ET; and Wade Ormsby won the Hong Kong Open on the Asian Tour.

Cameron Smith hoists the Sony Open trophy

My Twofer Tuesday picks were looking pretty good until the last few holes. As a reminder, this year I'm just picking two Top10ers and will make a note if one of them wins. This week I had Joaquin Niemann (T57) and Collin Morikawa (T21). Joaquin struggled early on -- I guess the excitement of the Presidents Cup finally caught up with him -- and Collin was still in the Top10 when he teed up at the 16th hole on Sunday. Rain took its toll on a lot of players this week.
  • Top10s: 2 for 4 (1 Top5, 1 other Top10)
  • Winners: 0 for 2 events
Brendan Steele's wind play looked as though it would get him through this week... but the additional rain and changing winds on Sunday made it much tougher for him and everybody else.

As Cameron Smith tried to run him down, the rain played havoc with his game. Shots that he had hit well all week suddenly couldn't find the fairway and he found himself manufacturing shots from under overhanging tree branches and thick wet rough as well as making exacting shots from wet bunkers. But he did it... and nowhere did he do it better than on the final hole of regulation and the first playoff hole.

When his second on the 72nd hole found the bunker, he hit a long bunker shot close enough to sink the birdie putt and force a playoff. And after his drive in the playoff found the rough and the trees, he squirted a low runner close enough to make an easy par -- which was all he needed.

The long delays between shots on the last regulation hole seemed to affect everybody but Smith. The miss in the bunker seemed more a result of a bad bounce than a poor shot. And just as he did in the Presidents Cup, he sucked it up coming down the stretch to get the big win.

Brendan Steele will take a lot of positives away from the Sony, as will Cameron Smith. But Smith will also get the trophy, the winner's check and that all-important Limerick Summary.
He chased Brendan Steele all day long.
Though the rain made his shots come out wrong,
Still he scrambled his way
To a playoff and HEY!
When it counted, he finished off strong.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Martin Hall Hits the Stinger (Video)

Martin Hall went to Scotland, just to hit this shot! I'm sure you've all heard how to hit a stinger but it's Martin's drill I want you to see.

Ball in the middle of your stance, keep your weight on your lead foot, swing easy into the wind and take a slight divot -- you know those basics. (And though he didn't mention it, Martin shortened his followthrough as well.) But how do you take that shallow divot that keeps the trajectory down?

Enter what I'm calling the 'drag drill'.

Place the clubhead on the ground near your trail foot. As you turn through the shot, drag it along the ground until the clubhead is even with the ball... then feel as if you're turning and lifting your lead shoulder simultaneously in order to get the clubhead off of the ground. That's the drill.

I know it sounds like a strange move but you already know this move by another name. This is what happens when you use the ground. Yes indeed! As you contact the ball you thrust slightly upward while your shoulders are finishing their turn through the ball. That's what allows you to avoid that deep divot while creating a low swing path. That's what keeps the ball's trajectory down.

And if you listen to the broadcasts at all, you know that the good ballstrikers control their trajectory and try to keep it fairly low most of the time, especially with their short irons and wedges.

So Martin's drill should help improve how solidly you hit your normal shots as well. A drill that helps your normal shots AND helps you play those tricky trouble shots as well? Priceless!

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Zach Johnson on Impact (Video)

Since Zach is back in contention at the Sony Open after an uncharacteristically off season, I thought I'd post this very simple drill that summarizes the main strength of his game -- impact.

His drill is just a rehearsal of his impact position. I'm not going to repeat what he says -- his demonstration is far better than I could describe. But I do want to explain why I decided to post this.

I guess most of you know that Zach has a very strong grip (if you didn't, you can certainly see it in this video!) and a flat swing plane (the two generally go together). That strong grip causes him to hit the ball on a much lower trajectory, which is a big reason he's moving up the Sony leaderboard in those gusty winds.

This post is aimed at those of you who play with a strong grip. I admit that I tend to focus on more of a neutral (or even slightly weak) grip in most of my posts, even though I've always tried to 'spread the posts around' and make sure I cover all the bases. So this year I'm going to try and include more of the specialized posts that will hit those of you who are sometimes ignored by conventional instruction.

After all, there are a lot of ways to play good golf. Zach Johnson is a good example because he has never really been considered a world beater, and yet he has 12 PGA Tour wins including two majors -- at St. Andrews and Augusta National, no less. He's going to be in the World Golf Hall of Fame someday. So if your swing looks a bit like his and it works for you, there's no reason for you to change.

And if you want to capitalize on that similarity, then rehearsing his impact position is a great way to improve your game. Two majors say it works!

Friday, January 10, 2020

Remembering Pete Dye

Golf course designer Pete Dye died Thursday at the age of 94. In many ways he redefined golf architecture and there will be many memorials written about him, like this one in USA Today. So I thought I'd do something different.

One of the views at The Cardinal by Pete Dye

It's easy to name some of Dye's iconic designs like TPC Sawgrass, Whistling Straits and Harbour Town. But many people don't realize that he designed a number of less well-known courses.

I live less than a half-hour from one of them. It's in Greensboro, owned by the same people who own Sedgefield Country Club, which hosts the Wyndham each year. It's just a stone's throw from the Piedmont Triad International Airport and until last March it was a private course. In March 2019 it became semi-private because the owners, McConnell Golf in Raleigh NC, decided more people should get a chance to play it. Here's an article from the Triad Golf Today site that announced the change.

The course is simply named The Cardinal by Pete Dye. It was originally built in 1974 as a private club, a family country club with everything from a swimming pool to tennis courts. It was intended to host some amateur events, but nothing like the huge events we now associate with Dye layouts.

I've never played the course, but back in the mid-80s I had an opportunity to walk it. I had just gotten into the game of golf and, as I recall, it was being used as the Monday qualifier course for the Greater Greensboro Open, better known as the GGO and now -- after several name changes -- as the Wyndham Championship.

I knew who Pete Dye was, but it was my first experience of a Dye course. And I was in awe of what I saw.

The Cardinal is a par-70 course measuring just over 7000 yards long. Bear in mind that equipment advances like metal woods and Spalding's  revolutionary balata killer, the two-piece Tour Edition, were still very new and 7000 yards was a long course. I remember that my two biggest impressions of The Cardinal was that it looked extremely difficult... and that I had never seen so many railroad ties in my life.

I was also blown away by the sheer beauty of the place. The photo I included earlier in this post only hints at what it's like.

Pete Dye will be remembered for many things but I think my most vivid memory will be that chilly March day at The Cardinal, when I got my first real glimpse of how stunning a golf course could be -- not just courses where the PGA Tour, huge sponsors and TV networks were involved, but smaller venues that would likely never see a multimillion-dollar event. That's how I'll remember Pete Dye.

And I think that's a good way to be remembered, don't you?

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Now There Are 4 Mixed Events on the ET

Yeah, I know -- it's hard to believe, isn't it? But while the PGA Tour talks about creating a joint event for men and women, the ET now has FOUR.

Henrik Stenson and Annika Sorenstam

Morning Drive had Henrik Stenson and Annika Sorenstam on the show Wednesday to talk about the Scandinavian Mixed, the newest joint tournament on the ET, which they'll be hosting. But the event was actually announced back in October (I admit I missed it) and I'll link you to that article on the ET site here. It says, in part:
As part of the European Tour’s commitment to inclusivity in golf, the inaugural Scandinavian Mixed Hosted by Henrik & Annika will feature 78 men and 78 women at Bro Hof Slott Golf Club in Stockholm from June 11-14, 2020 and will be co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Ladies European Tour.

Hosted by Sweden’s most successful male and female golfers for the next three years and with a prize fund of €1,500,000 for the entire field, the tournament will offer Official World Ranking points for both Tours, plus Race to Dubai and Ryder Cup points for European Tour members, and Order of Merit points for the Ladies European Tour.
But while I knew the ET had already created some mixed events and have enjoyed watching them, I didn't realize this made a total of FOUR such tournaments! They are:
  • FEBRUARY 6-9: the ISPS Handa Vic Open in Australia
  • MAY 9-10: the GolfSixes Cascais in Portugal
  • JUNE 4-7: the Trophée Hassan II tournament in Morocco
  • JUNE 11-14: the Scandinavian Mixed Hosted by Henrik & Annika
I just hope the PGA Tour gets their act together soon and creates something similar. The PGA Tour and LPGA Tour pros have all made it clear they would like to play some events together, but the powers that be just don't seem to get it. This is one area where the European Tour is leaving the PGA Tour in the dust...

And I commend them for it.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The First ET Event of 2020

Just like the PGA Tour, the European Tour is staging its first full field event of the new year -- the new decade! -- but it's on the other side of the world, in the City of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Defending champion Louis Oosthuizen

The South African Open is the second oldest national Open in golf; only THE OPEN is older. It became part of the ET schedule back in 1997, and since then South Africans have won it 13 of 23 times.

Similar to many other events on the PGA and European Tours, both of Randpark Golf Club's 18-hole courses -- Firethorn at 7506 yards and Bushwillow at 7114, both par-71s -- will be used for the first two rounds, with those who make the cut playing the final two rounds on Firethorn. Last year it was Louis Oosthuizen who survived the test, and he's looking to go back-to-back this week after a strong showing at the Presidents Cup.

One important note: The South African Open is part of the Open Qualifying Series. The three leading finishers in the Top10 who haven't already qualified will get spots in the oldest Open in the world, at Royal St George’s this July. So there's a lot on the line for players this week.

GC's live coverage begins Thursday morning at 5am ET. It looks to be a strong start to the 2020 ET schedule.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Twofer Tuesday: Sony Open

Twofer Tuesday continues to take a break from the chilly temperatures of the mainland as it checks out the Sony Open.

Defending champion Matt Kuchar

The Tour stays in Hawaii, making the short flight from Maui to Oahu and the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. Waialae has always been the host course for this event, and the 7044-yard track rarely plays over par (the last time was 70.06 way back in 2010). But it's not the distance that gets you at Waialae, it's the wind -- the course is stimpped at a mere 11 because of it.

That makes the Sony Open a wide-open tournament. Matt Kuchar -- hardly the longest player on Tour -- is the defending champion, and this is an event where anybody with a hot game can take the title.

As I said last week, I'm doing Twofer Tuesdays a bit differently this year. Rather than picking a winner and a Top10er, I'm just going to pick two players each week to post Top10s (because I ended up keeping track of that anyway) and should one of them win, I'll make a note of it. It'll streamline the whole process.

Here are the players I like this week:
  • My first Top10er is Joaquin Niemann. While he wasn't great at his first Presidents Cup, he clearly learned a lot from it and is playing really well now. In his first appearance at the Sentry ToC last week he posted a T5, which is nothing to sneeze at. I see no reason that he shouldn't do as well in his first appearance at the Sony.
  • Last week I passed on Justin Thomas and he won. This week... I'm passing again. Instead, I'm taking another first timer -- Collin Morikawa. In his first appearance at the Sentry he posted a T7. Granted, he had some familiarity with the course but I think that familiarity with the conditions could certainly help him at Waialae. And the shorter length of the course should play into his hands, given that marvelous iron game of his.
Just because I'm not trying to name a winner this year doesn't mean I'm simply going to go chalk each week. While these two players are dark horses in terms of experience, I think they can hold their own against the more established players. They certainly did last week!

GC's live prime time coverage begins Thursday at 7pm ET. I'm looking forward to seeing some more warm sunny weather, even if it's only on TV.

Monday, January 6, 2020

The Limerick Summary: 2020 Sentry Tournament of Champions

Winner: Justin Thomas

Around the wider world of golf: So far as I know, none of the other major tours played this week.

Justin Thomas at Tournament of Champions

My first Twofer Tuesday of 2020 went pretty well. As I said last week, this year I'm just picking two Top10ers (since I was keeping track of that anyway) and I'll simply make a note if one of them wins. This week I had Xander Schauffele (T2) and Dustin Johnson (T7) as my picks.
  • Top10s: 2 for 2
  • Winners: 0 for 1 event
Early on in the final round both of my picks made runs at the top, but only Xander made it to the playoff. He was joined by Patrick Reed, who made his living off one-putts this week, and Justin Thomas -- all three of whom are previous winners of this event. Patrick finished early and probably thought he had no chance until the other two stumbled down 18 during regulation and could only manage to tie him.

But JT continued to stumble his way through the playoff. He did manage to birdie the first playoff hole and tie Patrick (Xander three-putted and was eliminated), but he could do no better than par on the second playoff hole (again tying Patrick) and barely covered the chasm that fronted the 18th on his third trip down. Still, he managed to stuff his wedge close to the hole and it was Patrick who finally blinked.

Justin couldn't believe he'd won after so many poor shots down the stretch, but that's the way golf is. Sometimes you just have to hang in there... and JT did. It wasn't the most direct route to victory but a win's a win.

This win moves JT into that rarified air of having 12 wins before his 27th birthday... and he's still got time to add a few more. He's also got time to add a few more Limerick Summaries like this one, the first of 2020:
Three champs from the past fought it out;
Three playoff holes, each one in doubt.
But Justin hung on
Till the others were gone…
Though he took a circuitous route.
The photo came from this page at

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Jackie Burke Jr. on Swing Energy (Video)

Yes, this advice from legend Jackie Burke Jr. sounds a bit strange but it's all about the feel of your golf swing, particularly at the change of direction.

I want to focus on one particular thing he says here because until you understand that one thing, the rest probably won't make much sense to you.

In some of my posts I have written about feeling as if you fall from the top of your swing. That's how you give the momentum of your swing time to change direction at the top without you jerking the club to start the downswing.

That's also what Jackie Burke is talking about here:
The swing comes down and then it gets fast.
His image is one of pushing a little girl in a swing. (You moms and dads out there should follow this one easily.) The little girl in the swing is moving toward you and you don't push her until she has reached the point where the swing is ready to change direction. If you push too soon, rather than pushing her and the swing, you push her out of the swing.

It's very much about feeling the rhythm of the back and forth movement of the girl's swing. You just develop a feel for when the time is right to give her a little push. She has actually already started forward when you add your push to her motion. And you push her gently, just fast enough to give her a little boost so she goes higher at the other extreme of her swing.

That's how Jackie is feeling a swing with a club. The club swings to the top and gently changes direction -- what I call 'falling from the top' -- and that's when you add your own power to the downswing.

Spend some time thinking about that. Make some swings and pretend the head of the club is that little girl sitting on the swing. Then see how smoothly you can add your effort to the downswing without breaking that rhythm.

Once you finally get that, it will teach you more about 'feel' than all the lectures in the world.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

JT's Bad Decision

Justin Thomas should have made a New Year's resolution: "No white pants in bad windy weather." But he didn't. As a result, he got more coverage than he wanted.

Coverage in soggy wet grass and dirt, that is.

Justin Thomas realizes he shouldn't wear white pants in a storm

In case you missed the live coverage of the incident, Nick Menta's post over at gives the play-by-play, complete with multiple pictures and embarrassing dialogue. I will only include JT's final comment to the camera:
"This is the new Ralph Lauren pant. It’s called the Speckled Splattered Mud. Check it out at a store near you."
Just a reminder that even the pros don't always make good decisions OFF the course. And that even a week in Paradise doesn't always run smoothly.

And that if you're in some of the bad weather hitting the US, you can still find something to laugh about. Thanks, JT!

Friday, January 3, 2020

Matthew Wolff in Slo-Mo (Video)

Everybody was talking about Matt Wolff's swing yesterday. This slo-mo video is from the 3M Open. Don't worry if you can't hear Peter Kostis clearly -- I just want you to watch the swing.

You're probably not going to swing like Matt; his swing is pretty unique to him. But I want you to notice something I talked about last week...

Look at how relaxed his hands and arms are as they reach the top of his backswing and change direction to come down. There is no tenseness in this motion!

Again, you're not going to duplicate this motion. But you could do a lot worse than trying to feel that much relaxation in your arms and wrists during your swing. Matt swings so fast that he sometimes has trouble controlling the direction of his swing, but if you swing at a comfortable speed -- you'll need to, in order to have any hope of predicting where the ball is going! -- then you'll start creating some good repeatable positions in your swing automatically. You'll also find some extra distance in your shots.

This is an excellent mindset for practicing with the L-to-L swing. It lends itself to practicing a relaxed swing motion.

It won't come overnight, but it's something to aspire to in your own game. Relaxation -- a great swing thought for 2020!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

NOT Twofer Tuesday: Sentry Tounament of Champions

Yeah, I know it's not Tuesday... but let's make some picks for the Tournament of Champions anyway.

Defending champion Xander Schauffele

The Sentry Tounament of Champions starts the new year each year, featuring the winners of events from the previous year plus some invitees with recent wins. The event is held, as it is each year, at Kapalua on the Hawaiian island of Maui and the defending champion is Xander Schauffele.

This year I'm making a slight change to Twofer Tuesday. Instead of picking a winner and a Top10er, I'm just going to pick two players to Top10. I ended up keeping track of those finishes last year anyway, so I'm just going to pick two top finishers and make note of whether any of them win.

Maybe that sounds like a cop-out, but it sure will simplify keeping track!
  • My first Top10er is Xander Schauffele. Xander only had the one win last year -- this event -- but he played well all year despite not posting another victory. It's easy to forget that he lost the WGC-HSBC Champions late last year to Rory in a playoff. This is a course that definitely suits his game and I'll be surprised if he doesn't play well here again.
  • My other Top10er is Dustin Johnson. This was a tough pick for me because Dustin is still on the comeback while both Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm are in full flight. But like Xander, this course suits his game well -- he's won here twice, and I suspect he spent last month working on his game. At this time of the year I think motivation may mean more than form... and DJ is probably VERY motivated.
New Year's Day postponed my start but not the PGA Tour's -- they tee off today and GC's live coverage starts this evening at 6pm ET. Let's see which guys came ready to play!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year, Everybody!

I wish all of you -- and your families and friends -- the best year ever!

Happy New Year 2020