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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Twofer Tuesday: Butterfield Bermuda Championship

Twofer Tuesday leaves the island of Hideki and sets sail for Captain Brian Gay's harbor at Port Royal for the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.

Defending champion Brian Gay

I'm only being a little facetious here, as Brian Gay has plundered the Bermuda event for a couple of years now. Port Royal was once notorious as a pirate paradise and, despite what Disney would have you believe, Captain Jack Sparrow isn't its most prominent visitor -- not since Gay arrived, anyway. The rechristened event has only been played twice now, with Gay posting T3 and a win in his appearances.

But at a par of 71 and a mere 6828 yards, Port Royal GC in Southampton, Bermuda is ripe for a freebooter like Captain Gay. The course favors an accurate driver and a skilled shotmaker.

Alas, Captain Gay's cutlass hasn't been as sharp lately as I would like. And while we all know that golf is no respecter of persons -- nor of what you shot last week or even the last few months, as my recent picks have proven -- I'm looking for some other up-and-coming scourges of the seven seas at Port Royal.

  • My first pick is Matt Fitzpatrick. He won at Valderrama only a couple of weeks ago, another short course that rewards accurate drives and skilled shotmaking. He's had a week to down a few kegs of rum in celebration, so I'm thinking he's ready to raise the old skull and crossbones again.
  • And my other pick is Garrick Higgo. Admittedly he's still a bit inexperienced as a freebooter, and he's been out of form since winning his way onto the Tour back in June, but he's certainly proven himself capable in the last couple of years. I think he's long overdue to take another big prize, so why not reassert himself at the traditional haunt of pirates?

GC's live coverage begins Thursday at 1:30pm ET. Arr, matey, it's time to make that bloody parrot shut up so we can relax and watch some island golf!

Monday, October 25, 2021

The Limerick Summary: 2021 ZOZO Championship

Winner: Hideki Matsuyama

Around the wider world of golf: We saw some records this week. Bernhard Langer became the oldest-ever winner on the Champions Tour at the Dominion Energy Charity Classic; Jin Young Ko made it 200 Korean wins on the LPGA Tour at the BMW Ladies Championship; Jeff Winther won the Mallorca Golf Open on the ET; Luke Brown won the Blair Atholl Championship on the Sunshine Tour; Taehoon Lee won the Hana Bank Invitational on the KPGA; and Ayaka Furue won the Nobuto Group Masters GC Ladies on the JLPGA. [Thanks, IC!]

Hideki Matsuyama with ZOZO trophy

Finally! One of my Twofer Tuesday picks got the message. I had Collin Morikawa (T7) and Harry Higgs (T39). Thank you, Collin!

  • Top10s: 1 for 10 (1 Top10)
  • Winners: 0 for 5

What's old is new again as 2019 returned for a one-time appearance. Just as Tiger won the Masters and the ZOZO that year, Hideki did it this year. That's pretty cool, winning in front of your home country when you're the equivalent of a combination sports legend and rockstar.

And in so doing he became the third history maker this week, as his seven PGA Tour wins is more than the total number of PGA Tour wins by all other Japanese players combined.

Plus he did it in style, eagling the final hole to push his winning margin out to five strokes. This year is one that Japanese fans won't soon forget... and one that may keep Hideki from ever having a normal person's day in his home country ever again.

But that's the price of becoming a legend, I guess.

Of course, Hideki can take some solace in the fact that he also becomes a Limerick Summary legend... and that kind of fame won't ever keep him from having a peaceful meal in a public restaurant. Maybe now he'll be like Tiger and just start his own!

On the wings of an eagle he flew—
As a Masters champ often will do
When his fans cheer him on—
‘Til the field’s hope was gone
And Hideki’s fans’ dreams all came true.

The photo came from this page at golfchannel.com.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Bobby Locke's Putting Technique, Take 2 (Video)

About a week ago I posted Michael Breed's explanation of Bobby Locke's putting stroke. Today I have a much shorter video about the same topic, only this time the explanation comes from Gary Player himself. Player knew Locke and learned directly from him, so comparing his explanation to Breed's should give you a pretty good idea of how Locke worked his putting magic.


Saturday, October 23, 2021

Why Hitting Up with Your Driver Isn't Enough (Video)

Have you tried teeing the ball higher and more forward but you aren't getting the distance -- or accuracy -- you expected? Ali Taylor has a great explanation about the 'magic formula' necessary to get both. This may be a challenging video for many of you to understand, but I promise the effort you put into doing so will be well worth it.


Friday, October 22, 2021

Hitting a 3-wood Off the Deck (Video)

Hitting a 3-wood off a tee isn't so hard. Rick Shiels did this short video on how to hit a 3-wood off the fairway. And since no piece of instruction fits everybody, I'll add another thought after the video that you might find helpful.


At the 1:49 mark Rick shows a position with the sternum, club shaft and clubface all in a line with the ball just in front of it. He's standing with his spine pretty straight and his arms hanging straight down, and that's what creates this straight line.

But suppose you still have a bit of trouble hitting your 3-wood — or any fairway wood, for that matter — off the deck?

This is where you need to think more about ball position. Rick is showing you to set up with your hands just barely behind the ball, which is how you get the ball just in front of the clubface. But if you're still hitting a bit fat behind the ball, set up the same way but change the ball position just slightly so the ball is directly under your hands. That will cause you to hit ever-so-slightly down on the ball. You might not hit the ball quite as high this way but you should hit the ball cleanly and take a small divot just under the ball.

Use whichever method allows you hit your 3-wood best. One of the two should work.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

And the Seniors Went to Virginia

Yes, while the other tours headed to Japan and Korea, the Champions Tour began the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs. In Virginia. In the USA.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson

The Dominion Energy Charity Classic is the first event in the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs, and last year it was the site of Phil Mickelson's second Champions Tour victory. He's back to defend this year, looking to win his fourth event in five starts.

Of course, the usual suspects intend to upset his plans. Miguel Angel Jiménez is in arguably the best form entering the playoffs but he's hardly the only man playing well... and as usual, Bernhard Langer is lurking at the top of the Schwab Cup rankings. Phil is in the 26 spot, just under $1.8mil behind him.

I don't think Phil can win the Cup in three events but he can certainly play spoiler for the other guys.

This first playoff event is only three days long, so GC's live coverage window begins Friday at 2pm ET. I'm curious as to whether Phil will commit to play all three Playoff events this year. If he does, we could see some scrambling by the rest of the tour to get that top prize.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Japan for the Men, Korea for the Women

Seems like all the golf is on the other side of the planet this week. While the men tee it up in Japan at the ZOZO, the ladies are teeing it up in Korea at the BMW Ladies Championship.

Defending champion Ha Na Jang

First let's get the venue straight. Originally called Asiad Country Club, it was renamed LPGA International Busan in 2019 when it became the home course for the inaugural BMW. It's a Rees Jones renovation and the first LPGA-certified golf course opened outside the USA.

Next, the inaugural champion is the defending champion. Since the pandemic cancelled this event last year, Ha Na Jang is the only winner of this event so far.

Finally, there are only three events left in the LPGA schedule -- this one, the Pelican Women’s Championship starting November 11 and then the CME Group Tour Championship the following week. Both of those events will be in Florida.

Few of the top Americans in the Race to the CME Globe are in the field -- I think Danielle Kang at #12 is the highest -- but that doesn't mean this is a weak field. There are only three Americans ahead of Kang in the standings but many of the other Americans are there, jockeying for position, and most of the other top players from that part of the world are teeing it up. Trust me, this will be a strong field.

The biggest drawback to this event is that the ZOZO is also being played this week and, as you may expect, the PGA Tour grabbed GC's live coverage window. That means you'll have to catch GC's streaming coverage to watch the event live (it begins tonight — yes, it really is Wednesday this time, IC ;-)  at 11pm ET) or catch tape-delayed coverage at 2pm ET on Thursday. Given how little time the women have left to make the Tour Championship it should be a fun event.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Twofer Tuesday: ZOZO Championship

Twofer Tuesday heads for Japan and a touch of that Tiger magic as the ZOZO Championship returns home.

Defending champion Patrick Cantlay

Since last year's event had to be held in the USA at Sherwood Country Club in California, this is only the second time the ZOZO has been played at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Chiba, Japan. The inaugural event, way back in 2019 before the pandemic started, was the site where Tiger tied Sam Snead's record of 82 PGA Tour wins. Tiger couldn't return this time but, after photos surfaced of him walking without crutches, there's no doubt that he'll be on everybody's mind.

On my mind? Desperately getting off the schnide and putting up some scores with my Twofer Tuesday picks. So far I've picked eight players in four events... and I have yet to get even one Top10 finisher. I've tried all kinds of strategies but all have failed. So this week I'll try yet another tack.

  • My first pick is Collin Morikawa. I don't know how Collin will fare in Japan, given his great finish in Vegas last week and the recovery problems this time change may pose. At least he's posted some consistent high finishes this year so I'm going to take a chance on him.
  • And my second pick is far down the other end of the spectrum -- I'm taking Harry Higgs. Harry has yet to win on Tour and his most consistent finish over the last year has been MC. But he had a runner-up back in September 2020 and a T9 in Vegas last week, so I know he's capable of putting up four good rounds. And who knows, maybe a trip to Japan will agree with him.

Because of the huge time difference between Japan and the East Coast of the US, GC's live coverage begins tomorrow (Wednesday) at 11:30pm ET for a three-hour window. I suspect they'll have a replay sometime during the day, of course, because this is the Tour's only event in Japan. In the meantime, I'll see if my luck takes a turn for the better in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Monday, October 18, 2021

The Limerick Summary: 2021 CJ Cup

Winner: Rory McIlroy

Around the wider world of golf: Matt Fitzpatrick won the Estrella Damm N.A Andalucia Masters on the ET (he was pretty impressive around Valderrama); Lee Janzen won the SAS Championship on the Champions Tour; Blair Bursey won the Reliance Properties DCBank Open on the Mackenzie Tour; Team Jessica Korda (Jessica Korda, Karolin Lampert, Lina Boqvist and amateur Alexandra O’Laughlin) won the Aramco Team Series – New York and Charley Hull won the individual event on the LET; Ayaka Furue won the Fujitsu Ladies Golf Tournament on the JLPGA; Jung Min Lee won the Dongbu Construction Koreit Championship on the KLPGA; and Shaun Norris won the Japan Open on the Japan Golf Tour. [Thanks, IC!]

Rory McIlroy with CJ Cup trophy

The whole idea of playing these fall events is to get some FedExCup traction early in the season but my Twofer Tuesday picks just don't seem to get it. I had Justin Thomas (T18) and Dustin Johnson (T45). Why did they even tee it up?

By comparison last week's picks, both of whom missed the cut when I picked them, played better this week. Those picks were Webb Simpson (T14) and Abraham Ancer (T14). I'm beginning to believe there's a conspiracy going on! Anyway, I still haven't got on the scoreboard yet; maybe next week's trip to Japan will be my breakthrough week.

  • Top10s: 0 for 8
  • Winners: 0 for 4

While my picks certainly didn’t do it, a number of other players seem to have rediscovered some form in the desert this week. Ricky Fowler stands out among them, shooting -22 (T3) for the week and giving us some hope that he's finally emerging from his funk.

But the big man on Tour was Rory McIlroy, who seems to have rediscovered who he is -- and in the process won his 20th PGA Tour victory, something few players have done and which will result in a lifetime PGA Tour membership in another couple of years. His second win of the year feels much different from his first, way back at Quail Hollow, but I think that's just a matter of Rory deciding he's finally comfortable with who he is.

That should be a frightening proposition for the rest of the field!

In the meantime we'll all celebrate Rory's win with another Limerick Summary... which may be his 20th as well. Congrats, Rors!

For Rory, it’s been worth the cost.
Perhaps all the prowess he’d lost
Has found its way back
To the front of the pack
And his mem’ries of struggle been quashed.

The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Five Gear Checks (Video)

If you start struggling with your game and can't blame it on recent changes in your technique or strategy, the problem could be changes in your equipment that are easily fixed. This video tells you what to look for if you suspect your gear is at fault, and also how to get your gear back up to snuff. Best of all, most of these tips won't cost you a fortune.


Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Big Hole Challenge (Video)

So you think the game would be easier with a bigger hole, do you? Rick Shiels and 13-handicapper John Robins played a 9-hole match on a course with both regulation and Foot Golf holes, Rick playing to the former and John to the latter.

Bear in mind that a Foot Golf hole is -- according to the rules -- 21 inches wide and 17 inches deep.  Should be an easy win for Robins, right? Well...


Friday, October 15, 2021

Bobby Locke's Putting Technique (Video)

I heard Gary Player once describe the great Bobby Locke's putting technique as "hooking the ball into the hole." In this short video Michael Breed teaches you how Locke swung the putter to make him arguably the best putter ever to play the game. Enjoy!


Thursday, October 14, 2021

Rest in Peace, Renton Laidlaw

This will be a short post simply because I didn't know Renton Laidlaw beyond hearing him on GC's European Tour broadcasts. All I will say is that I loved listening to Renton and I believe that Renton and his fellow broadcaster Julian Tutt were one of the greatest broadcast teams in golf -- not in European golf but in golf, period.

At the age of 82 we lost him way too soon. Rest in peace, Renton Laidlaw, and know that you will be missed. My condolences to your family as well.

Legendary broadcaster Renton Laidlaw

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

An Interesting Scoring Experiment (Video)

Suppose you could have a hole set up specially for your strengths, and then play it 18 times. How would you score? Would you get better as you played the same shots, or would you get worse? How would your mental approach change during this 'round'? Would your strategy change as your mental state changed?

Rick Shiels tried this on a par-3 to see what would happen. His goal? Finish the round at 6-under. Here's my question: What can you learn from his experiment?


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Twofer Tuesday: The CJ Cup

Twofer Tuesday makes the long six-mile jaunt south of TPC Summerlin, remaining in America's most obvious substitute for South Korea (aka Vegas NV) for the CJ Cup.

Defending champion Jason Kokrak

Pandemic travel has disrupted the Asian Swing of the PGA Tour for two seasons now, and Vegas once again stands in for South Korea. Last year it was Shadow Creek Golf Course; this year it's the Summit Club, a par-72 Tom Fazio design that stretches out to just over 7400 yards. For the event it's actually a great situation, since the short commute from the Shriners to the CJ Cup is attracting a large number of last week's field -- 48 players as of Monday.

That should make things interesting for defending champion Jason Kokrak, who got his first PGA Tour win at this event last season. Whether the new venue will help or hinder his defense is anyone's guess.

With such a strong field there are a lot of potential picks I can make and, despite my poor luck in Vegas last week, surely someone can step up and help my struggling record. So I'm going for big names this week... and in true Vegas fashion, I'm making my picks using unassailable logic.

In case you didn't know, that's Vegas slang for "I'm rolling the dice and praying real hard."

  • My first pick is Dustin Johnson. It's been a while since I picked him but after going 5-0-0 at the Ryder Cup and then grabbing a little down time to recharge, how can he do anything but post a great score this week?
  • My other pick is Justin Thomas and once again I have the most logical of reasons for picking him -- namely, Bones McKay is on his bag now. As we all know, JT and Phil's old caddie have jelled very well in the few events where they've worked together. And this is Vegas, baby -- we go big or we go home!

GC's live coverage starts Thursday at 5pm ET, giving us another week of prime time golf. Clearly Lady Luck will smile on me this week, as she wouldn't dare to deny both DJ and JT a chance at the gold ring.

Would she????

Monday, October 11, 2021

The Limerick Summary: 2021 Shriners Children’s Open

Winner: Sungjae Im

Around the wider world of golf: Jin Young Ko got her third LPGA win of the season at the Cognizant Founders Cup; Rafa Cabrera-Bello won the Open de España on the ET; Phil Mickelson won the Constellation FURYK & FRIENDS on the Champions Tour (his third Champions Tour win in four tries); Prima Thammaraks got her first Symetra Tour win at the Symetra Tour Championship; Tomoyasu Sugiyama won the Japan Golf Tour's Bridgestone Open; Hinaku Shibuno won the JLPGA's Stanley Ladies Golf Tournament; Su Ji Kim won the Hite Jinro Championship (his first major) on the KLPGA; and Jae Kyung Lee won the KPGA's Genesis Championship. [Thanks, IC!]

Sungjae Im with Shriners trophy

My Twofer Tuesday picks are doing worse and worse, it seems. I had Webb Simpson (MC) and Abraham Ancer (MC). My luck has to change eventually... but Vegas certainly didn't help.

  • Top10s: 0 for 6
  • Winners: 0 for 3

What can I say about the Shriners final round? We expected a shootout. The wind laid down. We got a shootout.

But Sungjae Im showed everybody that there are shootouts and then there are shootouts. It wasn't enough that he shot a 62 that included 8 birdies in 10 holes around the turn. No, Im casually lapped the field and won by 4 shots. This was his second PGA Tour win, but add in his Korean Tour win in 2019 and two Korn Ferry wins in 2018, and he's got five worldwide wins in just four years. Pretty impressive!

If Sungjae wasn't on everybody's radar before, I guarantee he is now. And so it's only appropriate that he gets a brand new Limerick Summary to commemorate the event. Way to go, Sungjae!

On Sunday the wind didn’t blow
So Sungjae said, “Okay, let’s go!”
He kicked down the door
To win this one by four
For his second win. Man, what a show!

The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

The Hip-to-Hip Drill for Long Irons (Video)

LPGA teaching pro Jordan Lintz has a neat drill to help you get better with long irons. The only real setup change is moving the ball position a bit ahead of center (closer to the target) and then it's all tempo and sequence. A really nice little drill that uses another proven drill's approach!


Saturday, October 9, 2021

Proper Club Throwing Technique (Video)

This is just for fun but it's so cool! There are two techniques for throwing clubs -- one leaves the club intact and the other can break the shaft. Mike Malaska teaches you both in this short video. Don't say I don't try to cover all the bases in this game!


Friday, October 8, 2021

Rick Shiels Tests the TaylorMade RBZ Speedlite Package (Video)

I love watching Rick's tests of these package sets because he gives you a lot of information in a short video. This time he's testing TaylorMade's RBZ Speedlite package which comes with a driver, 3-wood, 4-hybrid, 6-PW irons, sand wedge, putter and cart bag. Who is this set made for and is it worth the price?


Rick bought his clubs in England (of course) and paid £999 for the package. I checked Amazon and found the steel-shafted set here for $1199.99 ($1299.99 for graphite shafts) if you're interested in learning more. (And no, that's not an affiliate link.)

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Mike Malaska Describes the Neutral Grip (Video)

In this short video Malaska first describes why the typical explanation of a 'neutral grip' isn't quite accurate, then gives you a better way to create it. After the video I'll add three thoughts to keep in mind as you try to find the grip that lets you square the clubface most easily.


First thought: While Malaska takes his grip by starting with his lead hand, that may not work best for you. When you think about squaring the clubface, do you feel that you're squaring it with your lead hand or your trail hand? Whichever hand is your 'squaring' hand, that's the one you should put on the club first, then place the other hand to allow the clubface to square up at the right time.

Second thought: Note that the palms of your hands don't necessarily face each other the way they would if you clapped your hands. When you talk about a neutral grip, you mean that you're holding the club in such a way that you don't unconsciously rotate the clubface open or closed.

Third thought: Please listen when Malaska says that a bowed lead wrist is a WEAK position, not a strong one! I know that many instructors say that a bowed lead wrist is the best way to hold an attack angle, but that assumes your wrists are strong enough. If you're a normal person, it's a good way to strain your lead wrist. A neutral grip is based on your wrist position when the club shaft and your forearm create a STRAIGHT line, not a bent one.

Bear in mind that the idea behind a neutral grip is that you want a club position at impact that happens automatically as a result of the swinging motion of the club. If you're manipulating the club to create any other position, you aren't using a neutral grip.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

My Replacement Pick for the Shriners Children's Open

This post is simple enough. Kevin Na withdrew from the Shriners Children's Open on Tuesday with a rib injury. Since I have learned about it in time, I'm going to make a new Twofer Tuesday pick to replace Kevin.

Tha pick is Webb Simpson. He's won the Shriners once and is a consistently good scorer in Vegas. He should be rested for this event, so let's see if he can get me on the scoreboard.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Twofer Tuesday: Shriners Children's Open

Twofer Tuesday packs up its loaded dice and hopes for a little more luck in Vegas at the Shriners Children's Open.

Defending champion Martin Laird

For 20 years the course has been TPC Summerlin, a par-71 measuring 7255 yards. It's a friendly course that generally gives out low scores freely, as witnessed by the last two years where 23-under won. The defending champion, Martin Laird, broke a seven-year PGA Tour win drought. We'll be looking for even more fireworks this year.

As noted earlier, I'm gonna try 'loading the dice' this time and go with some proven horses for this track. If I'm gonna win anywhere, it makes sense that it would be in Vegas.

  • My first pick is Kevin Na. A two-time winner who got passed over for the Ryder Cup team (again), I think he's got something to prove. Besides, if you want to get on the Ryder Cup team, what better way than to earn your way onto the Presidents Cup team? That can start here.
  • And my other pick is Abraham Ancer. Another player with a strong record here -- two fourth-place finishes in three years and a ten-round scoring average of 66.9 -- he finished the Playoffs with two T9s. He's coming in rested so I like his chances.

This is another opportunity for prime time golf. GC's live coverage starts Thursday at 5pm ET. After two poor showings by my picks, I'm looking for a change. To quote an old Frank Sinatra song, "Luck, be a lady tonight!"

Monday, October 4, 2021

The Limerick Summary: 2021 Sanderson Farms Championship

Winner: Sam Burns

Around the wider world of golf: Danny Willett broke a two-year winless streak at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the ET, and Maeve Danaher (with pro partner Michael Hoey) became the first woman to win the event; Celine Boutier won the ShopRite LPGA Classic; Sophia Schubert won the Carolina Golf Classic on the Symetra Tour; Blair Bursey won the Reliance Properties DCBank Open on the Mackenzie Tour; Maja Stark won the Estrella Damm Ladies Open on the LET; Chan Kim won the Vantelin Tokai Classic on the Japan Golf Tour; Hae-woo Ham won the Hyundai Marine and Marine Engineering KJ Choi Invitational on the KPGA; and Ga Eun Song became the first rookie to win on the KLPGA this year with her victory at the Hana Financial Group Championship. [Thanks, IC!]

Sam Burns with Reveille the Rooster

My Twofer Tuesday picks continue to struggle. I had Sergio Garcia (MC) and Will Zalatoris (T14). Sergio has an obvious excuse but Will's on a roller coaster -- outside the Top10 on Thursday, a course record put him in the lead on Friday, and then he vanished. Close again but no cigar.

  • Top10s: 0 for 4
  • Winners: 0 for 2

Like me, Sam Burns had been struggling some with his game, although he played well enough that Steve Stricker considered him for the Ryder Cup team. And with his first start of the season, his putter wasn't helping him at all. Over the four rounds his putting actually cost him two strokes to the field. But he was hitting the ball so well that he gained nearly 15 strokes against everybody else!

So much for the "drive for show, putt for dough" folks.

In the end -- on the back nine, that is -- Burns casually built a two-stroke lead that he carried to the 18th. An easy bogey gave him his second Tour win... as well as his second Limerick Summary.

Let me say just one thing more. I know that trophy isn't a chicken, okay? Reveille the Rooster is the brainchild of Sanderson Farms CEO Joe Sanderson and sculptor Malcolm DeMille. It's a life-size rooster made from six separately formed pieces of bronze which are assembled and then color-treated with heat, chemicals and wax. I get it.

But to my untrained eye, every time I see it I think, "Hey, a chicken." And chicken fit the limerick's flow better than rooster. Furthermore, I know that if I had managed to win this event and wanted to place the trophy where it would be seen by anybody who entered the house, my gang would not be thrilled to see a chicken (their eyes are as untrained as mine) in the middle of the main room. For those reasons I'm leaving the Limerick Summary as it is. Don't be offended, rooster lovers!

The chicken now roosts in Sam’s house,
A witness he’ll never renounce
To vict’ry, displayed
In a prominent way—
Which I hope is okay with his spouse.

The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Some Final Ryder Cup Thoughts

It's been a week since I promised this post in the last Limerick Summary, but I wanted to take some time to get my thoughts organized. Everybody else has had their say about what Team USA did right and Team Europe did wrong. Now it's my turn.

The victorious Team USA

Did Team USA find some key to choosing the 'right' players this time? That's a laughable thought. Here are the US Ryder Cup point standings through the Northern Trust, which is when it ended.

  1. Collin Morikawa
  2. Dustin Johnson
  3. Bryson DeChambeau
  4. Brooks Koepka
  5. Justin Thomas
  6. Tony Finau
  7. Xander Schauffele
  8. Jordan Spieth
  9. Harris English
  10. Patrick Reed
  11. Patrick Cantlay
  12. Daniel Berger
  13. Webb Simpson
  14. Scottie Scheffler

Let's analyze the team. Under normal circumstances the first nine members would have been taken from the list and then there would be three Captain's Picks. According to this list the first nine DID make the team. What happened after that?

Number ten, Patrick Reed, was out due to sickness and injury. So Stricker then took 11 and 12 from the list, skipped 13 (presumably because Webb Simpson was considered too short for the course) and 14 was taken (Scheffler was taken specifically to pair with DeChambeau).

So it appears that this 'newly discovered method' was simply to take the first 11 available players from the list and then make one Captain's Pick that wouldn't have made the team otherwise. Is this really a groundbreaking discovery?

Not really. While I will grant you that the team was especially suited to the course -- which was set up to fit this team, as each side does when they host the Cup -- the first breakthrough this time was that Team USA finally came to play. They played strategically and actually made putts when needed.

One actual breakthrough was mostly ignored by the media. Jordan Spieth specifically said that this time the Ryder Cup team felt just like a Presidents Cup team, which is an event where Team USA typically dominates. This is more a matter of who the Captain is than of anything else; Stricker has led a victorious Presidents Cup team and brought in other Presidents Cup captains like Fred Couples... then he consciously mimicked the things that had been successful with those teams. In my first Ryder Cup post I specifically said I believe the Captain has more to do with the team's success than any specific pairing methods.

I stand by that assessment. In fact, Paul Azinger said it doesn't matter whether you use a 4-man pod or a 12-man pod; what matters is that you pair players with complementary skillsets. And Stricker did exactly that.

Likewise, while I don't deny that having long players on a course set up to capitalize on having long players is good strategy, the idea that we frequently choose the wrong players for the courses we're playing is crazy. As I recall, both Tony Finau and Justin Thomas played very well in Paris on a course that doesn't fit the strategy they used at Whistling Straits. Why did they play well when the rest of the team didn't? It's because they altered their playing strategy to fit the course in Paris while the other players didn't. It's not that players don't fit the courses; rather, it's that they make no effort to change strategy to fit the courses.

I mentioned that in that first Ryder Cup post and again I stand by that assessment.

A final thought before I mention the change I'd like to see Team USA make in how they choose teams: Team Europe simply didn't play well this time. As I mentioned in my last Limerick Summary, the fact that they finally had a bad showing doesn't mean they did anything wrong. It's simply the law of averages catching up with them.

Okay, now for the change I'd like to see Team USA make to their qualifying method.

One Small Change

I don't want to overhaul the entire qualification system, but I do think Team Europe does something smart. They have two different lists for qualifying. Five players come from a World points list and four from a European points list. That gives them some players with slightly different skillsets, since the World points list picks up players with more experience on US courses while the European points list gives them some players with more experience on European courses -- and as anybody can tell you, European courses are rarely set up the same way as US courses.

As far as I can tell, that blend of skillsets is likely where their versatility comes from and it's why they've had such a great run on both sides of the pond. The more variety your team has, the more likely you are to find pairings that can score on any course. You just hide the players who are less suited to the course you're playing and ride the pairings that are playing well.

So I'd like to see Team USA incorporate two points lists -- the current list, which focuses more on 72-hole scoring, and a list based on single-round scoring. Let's take six from the current list and three from the single-round list, which I think might improve our team's skillset blend just enough to give us a slight advantage.

In my Na VS Rahm post I showed how a player could win more rounds while still losing an event, simply because the winner had one very low round. I want a second list that awards points for posting multiple low single rounds. I'm going to use a very simple point system in my example, but I'm sure the experts could figure a better way.

My system is built around the idea that you want to find the players who consistently post the lowest scores each round. Before the cut I want to award points to players in the Top25 scores -- bear in mind that since there will be a mixture of US and world players in that group, not all 25 top scores would earn points. And after the cut, I want players in the Top15 to get points.

But I want more. I want to award more points for going low under pressure. So here's an example of what I have in mind.

American players in the Top25 before the cut might get 10 points for a low round. But on the weekend, it changes a bit. The third round awards 15 points and the fourth round awards 25 points... and if you were in the Top15 in both weekend rounds, your score would double. That means you could get 80 points for a low weekend (15 + 25 and multiply by two).

If you made the grade in all four rounds, you could get a possible 100 points for the week.

The best thing about this is that we could apply it to a US player who went to an ET event, thus giving them points for playing well under different conditions than a US player would normally see.

And we could also give points for how far players get in the WGC-Dell Match Play, which is ALL single-round match play.

In my opinion, this process would give us six players who win tournaments and another three players with a proven ability to post low single round scores under pressure, which is a better indication of what you need in match play.

Anyway, that's my view of what Team USA needs to do to improve the qualifying process. And with that, I'll leave the Ryder Cup debates to rest for another couple of years.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Bryson Made the Final Eight (Video)

While Bryson didn't win the Professional Long Drivers Association World Championship he did win the respect of the big hitters he competed against. After all, he beat enough of the 139-man field to make the Final 8. This is the video of the final day -- over 9.5 hours! -- which was broadcast live on YouTube.


FOX Sports posted an excellent summary of the event at this link. If you didn't get to watch any of the broadcast, Bryson hit the grid way more often than most of the other competitors and, while his 219mph ball speed wasn't quite up to what the big guys were putting out, he still hit a number of drives over 400yds.

In fact, during the round of 16 when each player had to hit five sets of six shots to earn points, he earned 500 points (an average position of second place in each round). The irony here is that in three of those sets, he literally missed first or second place by a total of around five yards, which would have given him an extra 200 points. He actually finished the round of 16 with two thirds, two seconds and a win in the final set.

Not only was Bryson a fan favorite -- you can hear them chanting his name during the live video -- but the long drivers themselves like him. If you didn't know, one of Bryson's training partners is Kyle Berkshire -- the World #1 and the eventual winner of this event. Bryson actually outdrove him during one of the sets. And Martin Borgmeier -- another of the finalists -- told golf.com:

“What he’s doing is absolutely incredible. He’s elevating the whole game, and he knows what it takes to be successful in long drive. What he’s doing for the sport, he showcases that you can use these principles on the golf course, too. There’s a lot to come for us.”

So while Bryson didn't win, he's gained a whole new fan base and the gratitude of a whole 'nother wing of our sport. Not bad for somebody who wasn't given a realistic chance at the beginning of the week.

Friday, October 1, 2021

The Longshot Has a Chance...

Last week everybody seemed to be laughing at Bryson DeChambeau's belief that he could actually compete in a PLDA Championship.

They're not laughing anymore.

Bryson DeChambeau at the World Long Drive Championship

After a fourth-place finish in Thursday's third round of the Professional Long Drivers Association World Championship, Bryson is in Friday's Final 16 and playing for the title. That would be amazing enough but after what he did at the Ryder Cup last week, it's damn near unbelievable.

Bryson's swing speed and ball speed numbers tend to be a bit lower than the big boys, as you would expect, but it appears that his experience on the PGA Tour is playing a big part in his success. Because he's used to aiming at fairways and adjusting his ball flight in various conditions, he seems to be handling the winds in Mesquite NV better than the other competitors.

Do I think he'll win today? If the winds play in his favor, it's possible... but I suspect he'll come up a bit short. This time, that is.

This article at espn.com will give you the basics of what Bryson has been facing and how he feels he has done through three rounds. About Friday it says:

The event began Tuesday, when the field was narrowed down to 64. It went down to 32 on Wednesday, and now the top 16 will compete for the title on Friday, with DeChambeau's division starting at 6:45 p.m. ET.

As for how to watch him do his thing today, based on what golf.com said, I suspect there will be a livestream from the PLDA YouTube channel this afternoon.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I wish him luck. This is something really cool that brings more attention to the PLDA as well as making Bryson just that more interesting to golf fans... and maybe sports fans in general.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Mel Reid Looks for Two in a Row

After grabbing her first LPGA Tour win last year, Mel Reid is back to defend at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

Defending champ Mel Reid

The ShopRite is a familiar event for the ladies, having been played since 2010 (and from 1986 to 2006 as well) near Atlantic City in New Jersey. The course is part of a resort known as Seaview, A Dolce Hotel, and this is another 54-hole competition.

As I said, Mel Reid is the defending champ but a large number of the Top10 in the CME Race to the Globe are in the field. (I think Jin Young Ko at #3 is the highest-ranked of those players.) But a lot of the Solheim Cup players are back in action this week as well, so the field looks pretty stacked.

It's crunch time for the ladies though. After this event there are only four events left before the CME Group Tour Championship... and some of those are limited-field events, so we should see some serious jockeying for position in the rankings this week!

GC's live coverage starts Friday at 1pm ET.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

How to Compare Expensive VS Inexpensive Wedges (Video)

Rick Shiels says that comparing wedges is different than comparing, say, drivers because you're looking for something very different in their playability. Is a cheap wedge as good as an expensive wedge? Take a look at this video and decide for yourself.


Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Twofer Tuesday: Sanderson Farms Championship

Twofer Tuesday drags its exhausted but jubilant body from the couch where it watched the Ryder Cup and heads for the Sanderson Farms Championship.

Defending champion Sergio Garcia

The Country Club of Jackson -- Mississippi, that is -- has hosted this event for eight years now. A par-72 measuring 7461 yards, it's a track that suits almost any player. Six of the last eight winners have been first-timers, so this is definitely a place where someone could break through for their first Tour win.

Even though last week's Twofer Tuesday picks don't count against my record -- I made LPGA picks rather than PGA Tour picks -- the fact that I did get a Top10 leaves me with some good vibes for my return to action this week. Let's see just how good those vibes really are!

  • My first pick is Will Zalatoris. I took Will at Silverado and he missed the Top10 by a single position. But now that he's a legit Tour member I expect him to get his first win pretty soon, so I'm taking him again.
  • And my other pick is Sergio Garcia. I admit upfront that this is a sentimental pick. Sergio is the only Ryder Cup player in the field -- I'm sure he came just because he's defending -- and I'm sure he's worn out after that emotional loss. But he's coming off a great performance at Whistling Straits (3-1-0) plus he won that inaugural Nicklaus-Jacklin Award. He may be tired but I'm hoping he's up for a title defense.

GC's coverage begins Thursday at 4pm ET. Now that we're back to racking up FedExCup Points, I think there's going to be a bit of a letdown for fans. But there's no telling how the Ryder Cup results may affect the players in the field who might make the teams next time. Even US vice-captain Zach Johnson, who's also in the field, might surprise us this week.

Monday, September 27, 2021

The Limerick Summary: 2021 Ryder Cup

Winner: Team USA 19-9

Around the wider world of golf: Nasa Hataoka won the LPGA's Walmart NW Arkansas Championship; Kum-Kang Park won the Symetra Tour's Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout; K.J. Choi won the PURE Insurance Championship on the Champions Tour; Callum Davison won the Mackenzie Tour's GolfBC Championship; and Keita Nakajima won the Panasonic Open Golf Championship on the Japan Golf Tour.

Team USA hoists the Ryder Cup

Although I didn't do a regular Twofer Tuesday this week (that's a PGA Tour thing) I did pick a couple of LPGA players just for fun. I had Anna Nordqvist (MC) and Jin Young Ko (T6). I was one-for-two there, so that's pretty good for me. I'll get back to doing Twofer Tuesday this week

As for the Ryder Cup, what can I say? I don't think anybody expected this kind of record-breaking performance by Team USA. It's clear that my fears about the wind affecting putting were unfounded, although the wind did affect both teams' shots to the greens late Saturday and on Sunday.

I'll have some thoughts on Team USA going forward later in the week. But while I'm very happy that Team USA got their act together for this Ryder Cup, I'm unwilling to buy into the "watershed moment" sentiment that I kept hearing about Team USA this weekend. I seem to recall similar talk after the 2008 Ryder Cup because Azinger's pod strategy got us a emphatic win, which we were unable to duplicate for another eight years. I continue to believe we won in 2008 because Azinger is a good leader.

Steve Stricker has proven his abilities as a leader repeatedly, and this Ryder Cup was just another example.

Likewise, I want to see this "watershed team" win an away game. That hasn't happened since 1993.

At any rate, no matter how good the leader is, regardless of how strong the team is, teams just don't win unless they bring their games to the event. This time Team USA did... and Team Europe didn't, which had to happen eventually. They had an extremely good run of nine wins since that US win in 1993, but all good things come to an end eventually. That's just how life is, folks.

In the meantime I'll gladly celebrate the records Team USA set and/or broke Sunday, like DJ becoming the first 5-0 American player since 1979 and that record 10-point win. I'd also like to point out that while everybody was singing the praises of the young guns and lamenting how the "old guard" just couldn't get it done anymore, that half of Team Europe's points on Sunday came from Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter. The Postman's undefeated 6-0-1 singles record may never be equaled by anybody!

So here's my salute to Team USA for saying they were going to get it done... and then actually stepping up and doing it. If you can walk the walk, I don't mind hearing you talk the talk!

The US had geared up for this—
And Europe fell in an abyss
Of USA records.
We walked off with two-thirds
Of Sunday’s points. How could we miss?

The photo came from this page at thegolfnewsnet.com.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Five Ways to Improve Your Game Instantly (Video)

No, really, you don't need to practice these 'habits' in order to use them! Rick Shiels posted these five tips to improve your game INSTANTLY the very first time you try them. Some you may know, but I bet you'll find at least one new one to try.


Saturday, September 25, 2021

The TaylorMade TP5 VS the Titleist Pro V1 (Video)

I know you're all watching the Ryder Cup so we'll keep this one short. Rick Shiels is testing his regular golf ball, the Pro V1, against TaylorMade's TP5... and his results may surprise you.


Friday, September 24, 2021

A Couple of Last Thoughts Before the Matches

I've written a lot about the Ryder Cup the last week or so, but these are a couple of thoughts I didn't really mention.

Ryder Cup trophy

While I wrote a lot of stuff that I think shows Kevin Na would have been a good choice for Team USA -- I think they could really use his putting and attitude -- it's not that I think our current team is a bad one. I honestly don't know who I would leave out to put Na in. We'll never know who would have been the best choice but we will know if the current choices are good ones come Sunday night.

In fact, I really would have liked Kevin Na and Patrick Reed both on the team, but Na didn't get picked and Reed is out with injuries and illness. That's just the way things go.

As for who I think will win? I think it all depends on the weather, although not for the reason most fans do. Team USA will do just fine hitting the ball through the wind, they do it all the time.

No, I'm worried about putting in the wind. Team USA likes to set up the greens hard and fast, but the greens at Whistling Straits are pretty much exposed to the wind. And if they get sustained winds of 15-20mph on fast exposed greens... I don't like that combination at all.

Especially because -- as Team Europe has mentioned repeatedly -- they all grew up playing foursomes (alternate shot to us Yanks) regularly. Putting is one of the hardest things to do when playing foursomes because you can't get into a rhythm since you don't putt every hole. It's a whole different mindset. I suspect that mindset is why Team Europe makes so many more crucial putts than Team USA.

So, while I'm pulling for Team USA to win -- and they are on home turf, where their wins have come from over the last two decades -- I do believe the weather could play an unexpected role in determining the winner. After all, Team Europe only needs a tie to retain the Cup and the wind could easily make a half-point difference.

I'm just saying.

So now let's go enjoy the Ryder Cup. We certainly had to wait long enough for it this time, didn't we?

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Ryder Cup Musings: Spieth VS Na VS Poulter VS Horschel

In the second of these posts about why I think Team USA struggles at the Ryder Cup I promised you a free-for-all. Today we're going to compare four different players -- two Captain's Picks who I think we can all agree are solid picks and two players who are often considered similar in attitude but have never been picked:

  • Team USA pick Jordan Spieth
  • Team Europe pick Ian Poulter, aka "the Postman"
  • Kevin Na
  • Billy Horschel

The attitude similarity is important. All four of these players are considered 'bulldogs' who never give up. Poulter is the GOAT here with a 14-6-2 record (15 points) in six appearances, four of which required Captain's Picks. He has NEVER been defeated in singles (5-0-1). Jordan Spieth's record of 7-5-2 in three appearances is somewhat amazing in that he has NEVER won in singles (0-3-0).

I'm comparing Na and Horschel to these two, not to try and prove either should be picked for a Ryder Cup team, but simply to compare them to successful Captain's Picks and see if they measure up. The following table compares a variety of aspects in their games. Hopefully we'll discover what makes Spieth and especially Poulter so valuable in a Ryder Cup.

Yes, I know I said that "Statistics lie" in my previous post and here I am posting a bunch of stats. What I've tried to do is pick stats that are basically simple percentages (for example, how many of their drives hit the fairway) or simple averages (total distance of drives hit divided by total number of drives). Averages don't tell you the longest or shortest of whatever is being averaged, of course, so I've tried to add other numbers that might provide a bit more perspective. Still, I mention this to remind you that no stats can tell you everything, no matter how carefully you choose them.

That said, let's take a look at the basic stats I chose. All stats come from the pgatour.com stats pages and show the results at the end of the TOUR Championship.

  • OWGR and FedExCup rankings: At the end of the PGA Tour season.
  • Driving stats: I chose to use the "all drives" stats rather than the stats for specifically measured holes, as those tend to skew longer. I wanted an idea of how the guys play their regular drives.
  • GIR stats: Not only the general GIR stat, but stats from a few specific distances to show how playing from closer to the green improves their percentage. Ideally you'd like all of these percentages to be high numbers. I also added a stat that includes shots that land on the fringe since those lies are often as easy as putts.
  • Proximity to hole: From the fairway, from the rough, and from 50-75 yards.
  • Average approach distance: I find these interesting. How long are their typical approach shots to the green that result in birdies, pars and bogeys? Note that the birdies typically come from longer shots -- perhaps because the shorter shots are the result of bad shots that require scrambling.
  • Scrambling: From 20 yards and in, and from bunkers.
  • Putting: From various distances, plus the length of the putt made for birdie. The Birdie or better conversion stat tells how often they successfully make a birdie putt. And with the Average Distance of Birdie Putts, longer distances mean you make longer putts for birdie.
  • Scoring: Average score for a normal round and for their final round.

The numbers in parentheses beneath the stats show how the Tour lists their rank. I think this is important because it shows how misleading these numbers can be. For example, in the Scoring Average Actual stat, you can see that the difference between #28 and #76 -- 48 players -- is .64, less than two/thirds of a putt. So Horschel really isn't that much worse than Na in this stat.

Now that you know what's in the table, here it is.

PGA Tour
Stat
PGA Tour
Average
Jordan
Spieth
Kevin
Na
Ian
Poulter
Billy
Horschel
OWGR Rank 09/12/21 - 14 25 49 18
FedExCup Rank
(end of season)
- 20 3 77 9
Driving Distance
All Drives
289.8 yd 295.1
(45)
281.9
(T180)
282.4
(179)
290.2
(94)
Driving Accuracy
Percentage
60.69% 53.92%
(180)
66.56%
(35)
66.33%
(36)
65.70%
(42)
Driving %
300+ yds
All Drives
36.10% 44.17%
(51)
22.61%
(176)
23.89%
(T171)
33.75%
(112)
Driving %
320+ yds
All Drives
12.10% 13.98%
(T60)
5.70%
(166)
4.83%
(T178)
10.04%
(T105)
GIR % 65.14% 64.58%
(T139)
64.11%
(152)
60.88%
(190)
66.47%
(86)
Greens or Fringe
in Regulation
71.22% 70.57%
(127)
71.30%
(114)
65.86%
(190)
71.90%
(T105)
GIR %
175-200 yd
54.96% 48.15%
(188)
52.04%
(143)
48.84%
(185)
61.09%
(29)
GIR %
100-125 yd
75.18% 72.97%
(141)
78.57%
(T57)
78.57%
(T57)
81.75%
(15)
GIR %
<75 yd
87.35% 85.04%
(161)
87.92%
(T98)
82.14%
(185)
85.57%
(T151)
Rough
Proximity
45' 7" 44' 9"
(T80)
49' 6"
(T185)
47' 8"
(166)
51' 1"
(193)
Proximity
to Hole
37' 1" 38' 10"
(T167)
37' 0"
(T108)
39' 4"
(T177)
39' 5"
(179)
Average Proximity from
50-75 yd
15' 10" 10' 1"
(6)
18' 0"
(160)
10' 4"
(9)
16' 3"
(124)
Average
Approach
Distance
for Birdie
179.9 174.8
(T51)
180.8
(T105)
183.3
(141)
184.6
(T152)
Average
Approach
Distance for Par
165 yd 169.3
(T180)
169.6
(184)
168.9
(T176)
168.1
(T171)
Average
Approach
Distance
for Bogey
164.7 161.2
(T40)
170.3
(T172)
166.0
(115)
161.2
(T40)
Scrambling %
from 10-20 yd
63.85% 66.15%
(76)
70.48%
(17)
71.75%
(8)
65.54%
(88)
Scrambling %
from <10 yd
85.80% 83.51%
(146)
93.75%
(8)
96.92%
(1)
92%
(T21)
Scrambling %
General
57.94% 61.32%
(42)
65.12%
(4)
64.30%
(9)
59.38%
(85)
Sand Save %
General
50.05% 55.93%
(35)
59.60%
(12)
51.88%
(T79)
61.60%
(8)
Putts / Round 29.1 28.05
(5)
27.91
(4)
27.86
(3)
28.86
(89)
Putting %
from inside 5'
96.70% 96.29%
(145)
96.98%
(T81)
98.03%
(11)
98.56%
(1)
Putting %
from 10-15'
30.19% 29.65%
(114)
33.50%
(52)
31.47%
(77)
35.26%
(25)
Putting %
from <20'
7.18% 9.62%
(9)
7.23%
(T95)
9.06%
(T24)
5.70%
(171)
Average
Distance
of Birdie Putts
9' 5" 9' 3"
(T112)
9' 0"
(T131)
10' 2"
(T28)
8' 11"
(T137)
Birdie or Better
Conversion %
30.23% 36.06%
(4)
32.63%
(43)
31.93%
(T61)
30.51%
(103)
Scoring Average
Actual
70.95 69.94
(31)
69.86
(28)
70.46
(T72)
70.50
(76)
Scoring Average
Final Round
70.62 71.00
(T134)
70.05
(59)
70.69
(114)
71.35
(161)

One thing you'll learn quickly is that, although most of these guys are considered short hitters, look at how long some of their shots are. Take Poulter for example. While his 282 yards of the tee puts him near the bottom of the Tour's distance list, he still hits nearly a quarter of his drives (23.89%) over 300 yards!

In fact, this table makes it very clear why Poulter is so good... and it's neither his driving nor his approach shots. He's actually below average in those areas. Where he excels is in putting and scrambling. He's 9th in Proximity to the Hole from 75 yards and in, no worse than 9th in scrambling from 20 yards and in, 3rd in Putts per Round, T28th in the length of his typical birdie putt, and 11th Putting from 5' and in. And if that wasn't enough, his Final Round Scores are almost identical to his regular rounds, which backs up the idea that he thrives under pressure.

While Spieth isn't as good overall, his stats compare pretty well. There are some where he's better than Poulter and some where he's worse, 

What about our two Ryder Cup wannabes?

Although Horschel compares well in some areas, he has obvious gaps in others. For example, while he's longer overall than Poulter and a good putter from inside 15', he struggles with scrambling and proximity to hole. (If you're leaving your approach farther from the hole, you need to be a better putter from long distance.) And we know from experience that he's a streaky player, so that might count against him.

Then again, when he's on a streak he's gold. He is the defending WGC-Dell Match Play champion and won the BMW PGA at Wentworth, after all. That's some serious playing there!

As for Na, his overall performance is eerily similar to Poulter's. His putting is as close to Poulter's as you're likely to see, and he's better from the sand. But his scrambling isn't quite as good; given his average proximity from 50-75 yards, his wedge play needs some sharpening to catch the Postman. A little wedge work and he could be Team USA's answer to Poulter.

I guess the takeaway here is that distance, while it can be a potent weapon, doesn't seem to be the difference maker at the Ryder Cup. Scrambling and putting seem to be the difference -- and I mean CONSISTENCY across the skills needed around and on the green. And I think Team Europe is a bit better at that simply because the European Tour plays so many different types of course setups, as opposed to the uniformity of PGA Tour setups.

This post is getting awfully long so I'll call it here. I have some ideas about how Team USA could alter its qualification process to try and find players with some of Team Europe's intangibles, but I'll save that for next week.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Could This Be 2021's Killer Christmas Present? (Video)

A $200 golf simulator? MrShortGame Golf tested the tittle X Home Golf Simulator (available from Amazon) against a TrackMan to see if it was any good. Not only can you use it with the included indoor practice club but you can use it with a regular club as well, plus it works with a PC or an iOS device. I don't know whether you'll agree with his conclusions or not, but it certainly looks as if the inexpensive simulator market is starting to get interesting...


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Twofer Tuesday: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

Since the Ryder Cup will dwarf everything else this week, Twofer Tuesday gives the ladies some love by devoting some space to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Defending champion Austin Ernst

The Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers AR is the site of this 54-hole event, as it has been since it first began 14 years ago. You may remember that first playing in 2007 because it was an unofficial event -- rain forced the tournament into a mere 18 holes which Stacy Lewis, then a senior at the University of Arkansas, won.

As a general rule, the winners have all been fairly big names... or at least they are now. It seems as if everybody from Inbee Park to Lydia Ko has won here. The defending champion is Austin Ernst, who made this her second LPGA victory.

While I'm going to make two picks this week, like any other Twofer Tuesday, I won't count these against my weekly competition. I limit that to PGA Tour picks, just to keep things simple.

  • My first pick is Jin Young Ko. While that may seem like a no-brainer, the fact is that Ko has only played this event twice. She finished T9 in 2018 and T18 in 2019. But she's coming off a win in Portland and she's well rested. Given that she won the 2020 money list in only four events, I like a rested Jin Young Ko's chances!
  • My other pick is Anna Nordqvist. She took last week off for a well-deserved Solheim Cup break; now she's returning after a runner-up finish in 2020. While Anna can be a streaky player, this streak includes a victory at the 2021 ANA. If she's rested and confident -- as she should be -- she could pick up another win this week.

For obvious reasons the Ryder Cup will interfere somewhat with coverage of this event. But after GC's tape-delayed coverage at 9pm ET on Friday (remember, this is a 54-hole event) most of the Ryder Cup will be broadcast on NBC, so the second and third rounds of the LPGA event will be live on GC. On Friday there will also be streaming coverage starting at 11am ET.

If you don't care for match play, then the LPGA event is just what you're looking for.

Monday, September 20, 2021

The Limerick Summary: 2021 Fortinet Championship

Winner: Max Homa

Around the wider world of golf: Jin Young Ko won the rain-shortened Cambia Portland Classic; Janie Jackson won the rain-shortened Guardian Championship on the Symetra Tour; Kristoffer Broberg won the Dutch Open on the ET; Celine Boutier won the Lacoste Ladies Open de France on the LET; Jared du Toit won the ATB Financial Classic on the Mackenzie Tour; Darren Clarke won the Sanford International on the Champions Tour; Hyo Joo Kim won the KLPGA's OK Savings Bank Se Ri Pak Invitational; Yuna Nishimura won the JLPGA's rain-shortened Sumitomo Life Vitality Ladies Tokai Classic; Sang Hyun Park won the KPGA's DGB Financial Group Irvine Open; and Scott Vincent won the ANA Open Golf Tournament on the Japan Golf Tour. [Thanks, IC!]

Max Homa with Fortinet trophy

My Twofer Tuesday picks got off to a rough start this season. I had Jon Rahm (MC) and Will Zalatoris (T11). Jon apparently got sick and Will bogeyed the 15th to drop out of the Top10. I was so close!

  • Top10s: 0 for 2
  • Winners: 0 for 1

There's not much I can add to what Max Homa did. While the rest of the field struggled, Homa calmly went -5 on the final seven holes to win by one. Maverick McNealy's double-bogey on 17 ended his run at the title and will sting for a while.

But what caught my attention was not what Max said about getting his third PGA Tour win but what he said about his wife. Apparently, as pgatour.com summed it up:

Although the Fortinet was his third TOUR win, it was the first witnessed by his wife, Lacey. He joked afterward that she had only seen one top-10 finish from him, so it was about time.
Clearly such an august moment in time cannot be overlooked. Therefore I have devoted his newest Limerick Summary to this significant occasion. Congrats, Max!

The field helped him, that much is true
But Max knew what he had to do…
And do it, he did.
For his wife this was big
Since she finally SAW him come through.

The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Ryder Cup Musings: Na VS Rahm

Thursday I did a post giving some of the reasons I believe Team USA struggles so at the Ryder Cup. Today I'm staging a big grudge match between Kevin Na and Jon Rahm to test some of those reasons.

This is a long post, folks, so grab a drink and some popcorn and settle back for a while.

Kevin Na and Jon Rahm

The primary reason Steve Stricker gave for not choosing Na was lack of distance... and Kevin issued his own statement that basically said Team USA needed better putting more than extra distance. I agree with Kevin and have expressed this idea many times, from my Solheim Cup post last week to a huge post in September 2014 where I recalculated EVERY SINGLE MATCH TWICE to demonstrate where the points were lost.

But the fact remains that statistics say distance is the key. We hear that drummed into our heads in the coverage of every tournament, don't we? The problem is that statistics lie and I hope to show you that in this post.

I know you'll protest. "Mike, numbers don't lie!" And I agree with you. But the problem is that numbers mean nothing until they're interpreted... and interpretations lie all the time.

Statistics are just interpretations of the numbers. They are an effort to make sense of them, but they can say different things depending on what you're looking at. You need to pick stats that accurately address the issues you're interested in.

My argument in the first of these posts is that we're using stats that DON'T address those issues. In this case, we're using stats that interpret four-round individual stroke play competitions to choose players for single-round match play that involves both single and dual player teams. And as it stands, we can't get direct information on these specific points.

But I believe we have been presented with a unique situation here where we can at least create some stats that are more suited to answering the questions we have. Best of all, we can create these stats using information comparing Na's performance to the #1 player in the world, Jon Rahm!

I'm using the FedExCup Playoffs as the basis for my calculations. Both men played all three consecutive events and spent the first two weeks trying to get as high in the rankings as possible, then trying to win the $15mil the last week. While this isn't exactly match play -- the two weren't trying to beat each other one-on-one -- it's probably as close as we're going to get.

What did the Ryder Cup points list see and use to award Kevin's points? It's very simple:

  • Jon Rahm finished 3/T9/2* for the Playoffs
  • Kevin Na finished T8/T17/3* for the Playoffs

The reason for the asterisks is that, had we not used the staggered start at the TOUR Championship, Na and Rahm would have had the same aggregate score and would have played off for the FedExCup. Based on these stats, Rahm clearly played better than Na... and we all know that, under normal conditions, Rahm is much longer than Na.

But those are 72-hole scores. What happened round-by-round, which is how we determine winners at the Ryder Cup?

I decided to find out... and as you can see, I did so many calculations that my scanner couldn't get all of my writing in these photos.

Two pages of calculations

I'm not going to try and tell you all the things I discovered during this stat gathering project. But what I found makes me question Team USA's criteria for choosing their players.

First, let me make one thing clear: I am NOT saying that my project proves Na should have been chosen for the team. All I'm saying is that the stats currently being used don't give us any real indication of what might happen in match play. Likewise, both Kevin and Jon have great match play records and they might make some different choices if they were actually going head-to-head. But I think this is as close to match play results as we can get from the regular Tour stats.

That said, let's get on with it.

Since match play is built on single 18-hole (more or less) rounds, I broke these three Playoff events into 12 "matches" and compared the scores. We'll start with the stroke play scores:

  • Kevin Na:
    67-66-70-68 || 72-65-69-67-|| 66-67-66-67
  • Jon Rahm:
    63-67-67-69 || 64-66-70-70-|| 65-65-68-68

Just from these numbers we can see some interesting trends:

  • Rahm has the lowest score in the first match of each tournament.
  • Na has the lowest score in two of the second matches of each tournament, Rahm one.

That means that Rahm takes Na 4-2 in the first six matches. But let's keep going:

  • Na wins two of the third matches of each tournament, Rahm one.
  • Na wins all three of the final matches of each tournament.

These are stroke play scores, not match play, but would you have expected Na to win 5 of the 6 weekend matches and all three on the last day? Sounds like Na is quite the closer!

Overall, Na beats Rahm 7-5. Unexpected, to say the least.

Now, if we go through and recalculate all the matches, using the stroke play scores to figure out who would win each hole if this was match play, we see basically the same thing. There are some slight changes simply because -- as I said in the first post -- not all strokes count in match play. Here's a quick example of how it works:

Say Player1 wins the first hole with a birdie and Player2 makes double-bogey. Player2 wins the second hole with a birdie and Player1 makes par. In stroke play Player1 has a one-stroke lead but in match play the two men are even. It doesn't matter how many strokes you win a hole by in match play, you're still just 1up.

Here's how the twelve matches play out:

  1. Rahm wins 4up.
  2. Na wins 1up.
  3. Rahm wins 2up. (He won by 3 in stroke play.)
  4. Na wins 2up. (He actually won by 1 in stroke play.)
  5. Rahm wins 6up. (He won by 8 in stroke play.)
  6. Na wins 2up. (Again, only a 1 stroke win in stroke play.)
  7. Match is halved. (Na actually won by 1 in stroke play.)
  8. Na wins 3up.
  9. Rahm wins 2up. (Only 1 stroke in stroke play.)
  10. Rahm wins 2up.
  11. Na wins 2up.
  12. Na wins 1up.

Overall, Na beats Rahm 6.5-5.5. One of Na's stroke play wins became a half in match play, but Na still comes out on top.

There is, of course, one more question to answer. How long are the Playoff courses where Na won? After all, we know Rahm is noticeably longer than Na and this would be a concern at a long course like Whistling Straits.

Or would it? Here are the lengths of the Playoff courses, taken from the PGA Tour tournament sites:

  • Northern Trust
    Liberty National GC, 7410yds/par-71
  • BMW Championship
    Caves Valley GC, 7542yds/par-72
  • TOUR Championship
    East Lake GC, 7346yds/par-70

Whistling Straits will play 7390yds/par-71.

There are a lot of things that contribute to how long a course plays, like the size, contours and grass on the greens; the bunkering, both in the fairways and around the greens; how narrow the fairways are; how high the rough is; how hilly the course is; and so on. I have no idea how I could possibly compare all those variables... but I do know how to compare the overall length, so that's what I'll do.

Here's my formula: Take the course's par, subtract 36 (that's two putts for each of 18 holes) -- that gives me the number of shots you expect to hit between tee and green. Then divide the course length by that number of shots. I can use that "average yards per shot" to compare the length.

  • Liberty National: 7410/35= 211.7 yards
  • Caves Valley: 7542/36= 209.5 yards
  • East Lake: 7346/34= 216.1 yards
  • Whistling Straits: 7390/35= 211.1 yards

Hmmmm. It would appear that Whistling Straits is the second SHORTEST of the four! The longest, East Lake, is where poor shortknocker Kevin Na matched the low score of the much longer Jon Rahm. In fact, Na performed his best on the longest course. Hmmmm...

I've proven my point. While this post doesn't prove that Team USA should have picked Kevin Na, I think I have proven that, on a round-by-round basis -- which is how match play is done, after all -- Kevin Na doesn't seem to be at any real disadvantage on a long course against a long hitter when both are playing well, and that perhaps Team USA needs to reevaluate the stats it uses to choose its team.

And that leads into my final post. Look for it sometime next week.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Before You Go for a Fitting (Video)

Planning to get new clubs? Before you go to be fitted, take a look at this video from Golf Monthly. It will acquaint you with the main things you should know before you go to ensure that you get the best results possible.


Friday, September 17, 2021

How to Pick the Best Golf Ball for Your Game (Video)

Rick Shiels's new video is a test of a golf ball you've probably never heard of, the Titleist ProV1x Left Dash. But more importantly, he included a link to MyGolfSpy's 2021 test of a large number of golf balls. It's a long article but it'll teach you all kinds of things about what makes a golf ball suitable for your game. Watch the video and then skip on over to the MyGolfSpy page for a real education!


Thursday, September 16, 2021

Ryder Cup Musings: Myths We Believe

The media is going nuts with all the storylines, wondering if Team USA can get their act together to defeat Team Europe. There's a lot of debate over what really determines why one team dominates another. Is there really one answer? Can the questions be answered at all.?

As we head toward the Ryder Cup I've decided to take a stab at finding some answers, although I won't promise a surefire method for producing a Terminator. But I think there are some valid observations to be made, some things we can say are important contributors to the current situation.

Some things that might be self-evident if we could just get out of our own way.

Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits

Currently I intend to write three posts I'm calling "Ryder Cup Musings." Today I'd like to look at what I'm simply calling MYTHS. These are things that everybody accepts as true, even though they might not hold up under closer investigation. And for obvious reasons -- I'm American, after all -- I'm focusing on four myths WE believe.

1) It's all about team bonding and chemistry.

I've ranted about this one before, but it needs to be reiterated simply because I don't think Team Europe believes it either. They will use the terms bonding and chemistry occasionally, but most of the time they just talk about matching one player's game to another's. Whether players get along personally or not isn't really an issue; if you're a team player, you deal with it, put the team first and do your job.

In fact, you may have heard Sergio speaking on GC earlier this week about his rocky relationship with Padraig Harrington, a relationship he says is much better these days but that never affected their ability to play together effectively. They respected each other's games and, when they arrived at the Ryder Cup, it was all about doing what was best for the team.

Is it any surprise that Sergio was Padraig's first Captain's Pick... or that we've known that he would be for months?

In any case, bonding and chemistry aren't a problem for Team USA. I actually worry that this belief in the importance of bonding is HURTING our ability to put a winning team together! I'm afraid our obsession with making sure players are 'comfortable' in their pairings may be creating an 'old boys network' where Captain's Picks are made based on existing friendships rather than actually picking the best players at the time of the Ryder Cup and simply putting together effective teams.

I also feel the need to add one very obvious fact -- namely, that team dynamics have nothing to do with qualifying for the team. You qualify on your own merits in events that measure your individual performance. Presumably, if you are a normal human being, you don't suddenly lose your abilities just because you're suddenly on a team. And given that these same players seem to perform just fine at the Presidents Cup, teamed with the same people, it would appear to be a moot point.

But that does bring up our second myth...

2) Our ranking systems enable us to pick the best players.

Last time I checked, our players qualify for the Ryder Cup by earning points at the Tour's weekly events. Do I need to point out that those events are 72-hole events based on individual stroke play performance? I'll come back to this point in a later post but since the Ryder Cup focuses on 18-hole (more or less) rounds of match play -- sometimes individually, sometimes in pairs -- choosing players based on the former will always result in teams that look better "on paper" than on the course.

A further problem comes from the course setups themselves. It's no big secret that American courses are set up differently than European courses. American courses lend themselves to 'bomb and gouge.' European courses run the gamut from links courses to tracks that -- and I mean no disrespect to those courses, but you've all heard this complaint from American players -- are somewhat 'ragged' and require more trouble shots than a 'well-groomed' American course. It means that American golf and European golf have some dramatic differences in what kind of 'good play' is required.

And the OWGR itself caters to this prejudice. Because the PGA Tour plays mostly on American courses, their players tend to excel at this kind of golf; and because everybody wants to play the PGA Tour because of the purses, the points awarded for good play on those courses are higher than the points awarded on European courses. That means Team USA's choices are best suited to play US courses. While Team USA's record in the Ryder Cup isn't all that great over the last couple of decades -- they're 3-7 since 1999 -- it's no surprise that those three wins came on American courses.

Ironically, the qualification process for Team Europe may explain part of their winning ways over the last two decades. While Team USA's points basically come from playing US courses, Team Europe uses TWO points lists -- one based in the Race to Dubai points list, which are gained playing on European courses, and one based on the OWGR, which are gained mostly from play on US courses.

So Team USA gets players who excel primarily on US courses while Team Europe gets some players who excel on US courses and some who excel on European courses -- which gives them players with a wider range of skills. And since Team USA's Captain's Picks tend to be players who also scored high on the points system (which translates to 'played well on US courses')... well, you can see a problem, can't you? 

3) Science is the key to creating a winning team.

I'm not just talking about stats here, although that can certainly cause some problems. I'm talking about personality profiles, equipment set up to maximize length at the expense of control, an overemphasis on technique and other similar approaches. I'm not saying all these things are bad -- for example, we desperately needed a system for training future captains and that change has been a good one. But that doesn't mean every system should be seized as a miracle-producing revelation.

Let me focus on one such system that truly perplexes me: pods. The concept is good; as I said earlier, Team Europe tries to match player's games for the best results. But pods don't really do that; rather, they try to match player mindsets... and that isn't the same thing.

Team Europe's pairings constantly catch observers and analysts off-guard. Players (like Sergio and Padraig, who clearly don't approach the game the same way) pair up and get points, based on little more than the Captain's assessment that their skills and current form complement each other. That is beyond what a pod can do.

Allow me to point out this interesting fact: Only THREE American captains have been successful with the pod system -- Paul Azinger, who originated the idea; Davis Love III, who won with it on his second captaincy; and Julie Inkster, the only captain to have won twice (once domestic, once away) with the system. I tend to think that this has less to do with the pod system and more to do with the captains.

  • Paul Azinger came up with the system but I think it has more to do with how he managed his players. His players still look back on what he did with awe.
  • Davis Love III's first team entered the 2012 Sunday singles leading 10-6... and then proceeded to throw away that lead, losing 8.5-3.5 on the final day and losing the Ryder Cup by a single point. They came back the second time determined to make it up to Davis. If you think a pod can create determination, I think you're deluding yourself.
  • And Julie Inkster is simply a Solheim Cup legend on the LPGA. Her teams won two Solheim Cups in a row... but even a pod couldn't make it a threepeat. And I feel that I should point this out -- the LPGA plays all over the world and thus their qualification system automatically looks more like Team Europe's two-points-list system. She simply took excellent teams and -- like Azinger, Love and all good captains -- led them.

In short, belief in your captain has more to do with victory than any science they may decide to employ.

4) Course setup doesn't really affect the strategy of good players.

I realize I'll get some blowback over this one, but I think you can simply rewatch the Paris Ryder Cup and see this at work. Despite the course being set up with fairly narrow fairways and very high rough to minimize the 'bomb and gouge' strength of Team USA, how many balls did you see hit long and deep into the rough?

The simple fact is that Team USA believes that 'might is right' and that they are good enough to overpower any course regardless of setup. I'm sure they would deny this, but it's clear this belief is the most basic requirement for getting a Captain's Pick. The argument is that length is always an advantage and I won't argue that. But I would amend that statement to read "length used wisely is always an advantage" and I don't see that in US play at all. And now that Bryson has won a major and WGC on courses where judicious use of length appeared to be the key, I doubt that we'll see much restraint at all by Team USA.

But we're playing a US course this time, so maybe it will work. This time. I'll return to this myth in the later posts as well.

So take this post as a rant, if you wish. I'm not saying that I have the key to success for Team USA; rather, I'm simply saying that you can't expect consistently good results if you aren't beginning from a sound base. And these myths simply aren't sound.

Yes, you'll want to see more than just a rant. You'll want to see what kind of info I'm basing my ideas on. I'll do that in the next two posts in this series.

I think you'll find them to be thought-provoking. I know they were for me.