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Thursday, May 6, 2021

The First Champions Tour Major of 2021

Yep, it's about time the Champions got to their majors. This year the Regions Tradition is back on the schedule and the previous champ is in prime form to defend.

Defending champion Steve Stricker

Steve Stricker got his first ever major at Graystone Golf & Country Club a couple of years back, but you could be forgiven if you think he's got too much on his mind to put up a good defense this time around. After all, the US Ryder Cup captain has his hands full this year trying to sort through his six captain's picks for the best team available.

That is, you could be forgiven if he wasn't playing so darn well. He's got a 4th place at the WM Phoenix Open earlier this season on the PGA Tour, as well as a 3rd (Cologuard Classic) and a win (Chubb Classic) on the Champions Tour. This simply isn't what you expect from a Ryder Cup captain with bigger things on his mind!

Of course he'll have plenty of competition but it's hard not to wonder if he isn't the favorite coming in.

GC's coverage starts today (Thursday) at 11am ET. The first major of the season is always interesting, no matter which tour it's on, simply because there's so much anticipation from the players. We saw some great stuff at the ANA Inspiration and the Masters; I have no doubt we'll get some fireworks from the old guys this week as well.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

More Prime Time LPGA

The LPGA continues its Asian Swing this week at the Honda LPGA Thailand at its traditional venue, the Pattaya Old Course at Siam Country Club. And the player who should be the favorite probably won't get as much attention as she should.

Defending champion Amy Yang

The defending champion from 2019 is Amy Yang... and that was her third win at this event. She almost has to be the favorite this time around, no matter who the announcers choose to talk about.

And we all know who they'll be talking about, don't we?

By my count there will be ten Thais playing in this event, but the focus will be on Patty Tavatanakit. She's returning home for the first time since before the 2020 Australian Swing and she's fresh off her first major at the ANA Inspiration. The Thai contingent has come a long way in the last 10-15 years and will rightfully get a lot of attention for their success in such a short time.

But don't be fooled. Amy Yang is the most interesting player to watch in this field because no one else has so many wins here. She has won nearly 25% of the Honda LPGA Thailand that have been played thus far.

I call that domination.

And as it was last week, GC's coverage begins tonight (Wednesday) at 11pm ET. I'm looking forward to see how Amy does in pursuit of her fourth title.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Twofer Tuesday: Wells Fargo

Twofer Tuesday leaves the Deep South and heads back home to North Carolina and the Wells Fargo Championship.

Defending champion Max Homa

Granted, the Wells Fargo Championship is played a bit farther south in the state than my home (Charlotte vs the Piedmont Triad area of Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem) but it's still a home game to me.

The Quail Hollow Golf Club is a long hard trek for the players brave enough to tackle it -- a par-71 measuring over 7500 yards, always ranked as one of the toughest tracks on Tour, finishing with one of the toughest three-hole stretches in the game, the notorious Green Mile.

The defending champion -- from 2019, as it is at so many events this year -- is Max Homa. It was his breakthrough win and, along with his recent win at Riviera, has given him a rep for playing well on challenging courses. He'll have his hands full trying to defend at Quail Hollow though.

And while you'd normally expect a long hitter to dominate here, the occasional 'normal length' hitter gets his due -- most recently, Brian Harman won back in 2017.

So who shall we pick this week? I've decided to take one favorite and one dark horse.

  • My first pick is Will Zalatoris. Let's be honest -- after all the Top10s he's had and that runner-up at Augusta, you have to consider him a favorite on a course like this. And after taking a little time off he should be fresh and ready to show the big boys that he can win here, just like Homa did in 2019. If his putter comes along for the ride, he could make it really tough for the other guys.
  • And my dark horse pick is Joaquin Niemann. He'll need to be a bit more accurate off the tee if he hopes to do well here, but he's plenty long off the tee, hits plenty of greens and he's 10th in birdie average. He may sneak up on the rest of the field.

Yeah, I picked two guys who haven't won on Tour yet. But strange things can happen at Quail Hollow... and if you know anything about the movie The Green Mile, then you know miracles sometimes happen there.

GC's coverage starts at 2pm ET Thursday. It's one of those weeks when we get to see the best in the game struggle the way we mere mortals do. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

Monday, May 3, 2021

The Limerick Summary: 2021 Valspar Championship

Winner: Sam Burns

Around the wider world of golf: Dean Burmester won the Tenerife Open on the ET; Hyo Joo Kim won the HSBC Women's World Championship on the LPGA; Lilia Vu won the Garden City Charity Classic on the Symetra Tour; Mike Weir won the Insperity Invitational on the Champions Tour; Paul Barjon won the Huntsville Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour; Hyun Kyung Park successfully defended at the KLPGA'S CreaS F&C 43rd KLPGA Championship; Momoko Ueda won the Panasonic Ladies Open on the JLPGA; Dong-eun Kim won the KPGA's Gunsan Open; and Hiroshi Iwata won The Crowns on the Japan Golf Tour. [Thanks for the Asian scores, IC!]

Sam Burns with the Valspar trophy

My Twofer Tuesday picks did better this week. I had Charl Schwartzel (T21) and Abraham Ancer (5). Charl didn't carry his good play over from Zurich but Abraham did just what I expected from him. He's becoming a consistent player on Tour.

  • Top10s: 11 for 36 (7 Top5s, 4 other Top10)
  • Winners: 0 for 17 events

Sam Burns has been so close so many times. I've made him a Twofer Tuesday pick before, only to have him stumble or have an off week. But he's one of those players you couldn't help but believe would eventually break through.

Well, this was his week. All those past opportunities that slipped through his fingers have proven to be learning experiences after all. And on Sunday we saw a much steadier, more comfortable player as he made his way through the Snake Pit in even par.

I'll grant you that Keegan Bradley gave him a little help with that double on 13, but it truly was just a little help -- you can argue that Keegan's tee shot was the only truly bad shot he hit all day and that he had been rock solid up until that point. Sam simply wasn't going away this time.

Now, instead of being one of the best players on Tour never to win, Sam has completely changed the conversation. This win will kick him up into the Top50 in the OWGR, which means he's eligible for the majors (like the upcoming PGA Championship) and WGCs. But more than that, he has finally gained the most prestigious honor that comes with a Tour win...

His very own Limerick Summary.

In tournaments past, Sam had chances
Yet somehow he only caught glances
Of what might have been.
But now, with this win,
He’s changed his career circumstances.

The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Mike Malaska on How Driver and Iron Swings Differ (Video)

This is an older video from Mike that explains why a driver swing is different from an iron swing... and why they shouldn't feel any different.


Note that the drill he gives for matching the driver and iron swings merely involves slowing your driver swing enough to feel the same sequencing, and then gradually speeding up your driver swing until you can keep your iron swing sequencing at driver speed.

To a large extent, this is a mental problem rather than a technique problem. You just need to learn to swing the same way regardless of whether you're swinging a driver or an iron. That means that you might be able to make this change rather quickly, depending on how easily you can change your concept of how your swing should feel.

And as a bonus, if you can begin to swing your driver with the same sequence as your irons, you should soon be able to hit your irons farther as well because you'll be able to swing your irons faster. Now that's worth some practice!

Saturday, May 1, 2021

How to Get More from Your Range Session (Video)

This is a simple video to understand. It lists 11 mistakes frequently made on the range, mistakes that keep you from seeing real improvement from your range work. You'll find at least a few tips here that will help you get better quicker.


Friday, April 30, 2021

Rick Shiels Teaches the Four Shot Shapes (Video)

In this brand new video Rick teaches you how to hit the ball low and high, how to hit a fade and a draw, and when you want to use each of these shots. While there is more than one way to hit these shots, Rick's guidelines are pretty simple to remember and use.


And of course, I probably don't need to say this but I will anyway:

If you are a leftie, you have to make some mental adjustments to Rick's instructions for fades and draws -- namely, when he says 'left' you need to think 'right,' and when he says 'right' you need to think 'left.'

I know most of you lefties do this automatically because you're used to teachers who think all their students are righthanded. But I always like to remind you, just in case you're new to this game. Your fades will behave just like Rick says a fade behaves EXCEPT that your fade will curve from right to left. Likewise, your draw will curve from left to right instead of right to left. It's a bummer but it's just the way life is.

If you're a leftie and need a bit more help, over a two-week period back in September 2013 I did two series of 5 posts each on how to hit a draw. There are 5 posts for righties and 5 identical posts for lefties. Here is the link to the first leftie post. Those posts not only describe the draw in left-handed terms but also include diagrams showing left-handed setups and ball flights.

And as usual, if you run into problems, just drop your questions in the comments below and I'll try to help.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

I Forgot the LPGA Started Early This Week!

I'm writing this as I watch the HSBC Women's World Championship on GC... because I forgot it started on Wednesday night USA time.

2019 Defending champion Sung Hyun Park

This event, like so many events, wasn't played last year so 2019 champion Sung Hyun Park is the defending champion this time. Of course, some things never change -- Singapore is just as hot as ever and the change from last week in California is definitely noticeable to the players.

Although some of the big names chose to skip this week and next week (in Thailand) to get some rest and avoid some of the travel -- and, I presume, some of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic protocols -- the field is still pretty strong. With the Olympics just a few months away, the scramble to qualify makes skipping the Asian Swing a bit of a chancy decision.

That's especially true for the South Korean and American Olympic teams since each have more than four players in the Top15 of the Rolex Rankings. I don't know how their choices may affect their chances but it does seem to be a bit of a gamble. Do you try to grab more points or take a break, hoping you'll be fresh enough to gain more points in the upcoming majors? I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Anyway, GC began broadcasting the first round starting at 9:30pm ET on Wednesday night and looks to be on the same schedule for the next three rounds. And based on the early scoring, it seems the South Korean players -- especially Hyo-Joo Kim, So Yeon Ryu and Jeongeun Lee6 -- are making the best of the opportunity. Kim is currently in the fourth spot on the team but Ryu and Lee6 are right there with her on the leaderboard. With only a bit more than one point separating the three, we might see some unexpected drama this week!

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

More from Mike Malaska on Proper Forearm Action (Video)

Last Friday I posted a short video from Malaska about forearm rotation and how it interferes with clubface control. Today I've got a slightly longer video from him that explains the proper wrist action in more detail.


There's a lot to unpack here and I'll be coming back to this soon. But here's the takeaway for today:

If your trail wrist is 'cocking' properly, the clubface stays square to the plane of your swing. Even if you don't 'uncock' your trail wrist at impact, you'll STILL make square contact with the ball. You'll just hit it low instead of high.

The timing that causes your trail wrist to uncock at impact, the same way it 'uncocks' when you throw a baseball, is something I'll be writing about soon. (Yes, I have found videos to help illustrate how it works.) It's not difficult to understand but you won't be able to do it easily and consistently until you understand how your trail wrist uncocks.

If you've been following this blog for a long time, you'll recognize this action as what I have described as a slapping action. (That image alone should help you understand it better.) If you want to take a look at a couple of posts I've done about the motion, I did one back in 2017 called The Wall Slap Drill and, if you want to go back even further, I think I first started talking about the motion in a 2011 post called A Relaxed Approach to Wrist Action. Although I've done more posts than that, those two are probably the easiest to understand.

But for as long as I've been talking about the motion, I'm still learning more about how it works... and we'll be going into more detail over the next few weeks. So stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Twofer Tuesday: Valspar Championship

Twofer Tuesday leaves the thrill of team play and heads back to the one-man grind of the Snake Pit and the Valspar Championship.

Back-to-back defending champion Paul Casey

Paul Casey is the only player since this event began in 2000 to defend his title, but he had to wait an extra year to try for the threepeat. However, the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Florida hasn't lost any of its bite so he'll have his hands full for sure.

However, my Twofer Tuesday picks have already been snakebit for quite a while this year, so I'm just hoping for somebody to step up and give me a Top10 finish. I'm stepping way outside the box this week, with no picks inside the Top10 of the Power Rankings.

  • My first pick is Charl Schwartzel. Charl is 14 in the Power Rankings, more or less because of his play at the Zurich last week. But that's why I like him as well. I think making his way up the leaderboard and having a chance to win may have been just what he needed to kick his game back into gear. After all, it's not like his play has been horrible -- just a bit lackluster. And it's easy to forget that he's won at Innisbrook before (2016) so he knows how to tame the Copperhead. He just needs to step up and get it done.
  • My other pick is Abraham Ancer. His driving skill should serve him well on those tight fairways and he hasn't missed a cut in his last 16 events. He skipped Zurich and should come in well-rested, which may give him yet another advantage against the members of the field who fought through that demanding foursomes round on Sunday. Besides, he's due.

GC's coverage begins Thursday at 2pm ET. The Copperhead is ready to strike!

Monday, April 26, 2021

The Limerick Summary: 2021 Zurich Classic

Winner: Marc Leishman/Cameron Smith

Around the wider world of golf: Brooke Henderson got her tenth LPGA victory at the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open; Garrick Higgo got his second ET win at the Gran Canaria Lopesan Open; Bailey Tardy got her first Symetra Tour win at the Copper Rock Championship; Tyson Alexander won his first Korn Ferry Tour victory at the Veritex Bank Championship; Oliver Bekker won the Limpopo Championship on the Sunshine Tour; Min Ji Park won the Nexen Saint Nine Masters on the KLPGA; Mone Inami won the Fujisankei Ladies Classic on the JLPGA; and Riyuka Hoshino won the Kansei Open on the Japan Golf Tour [thanks again, IC!].

Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith with the Zurich belts and trophy

My Twofer Tuesday picks came so close. I had Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele (T11) and Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose (T11). Just one spot out of the Top10!

  • Top10s: 10 for 34 (6 Top5s, 4 other Top10)
  • Winners: 0 for 16 events

It's funny, really. One of my teams had two major winners, and one of the final contenders had two major winners... just wasn't the team I picked.

Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel (from South Africa) led Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith (from Australia) by a single shot when the day began. And after a lot of back and forth, with one team surging ahead while the other fell back -- and vice versa -- it came down to a single-hole playoff where Louis hit maybe the worst shot he'd hit all week, dumping it into the water.

The Australians were left with a two-putt to win. They only needed one.

The irony is that, in the last Presidents Cup, Els didn't put Leish and Cam together because stats said there were better combinations. (In case players have somehow missed it, stats aren't always correct.) I suspect International Captain Trevor Immelman won't make that same mistake!

But in the meantime, the Aussies can bask in the glow of their well-deserved Limerick Summary... and I suppose they might enjoy all the bling that comes with the win as well. To each his own.

‘Down under’ is where they began,
One back—that was Leishman and Cam.
When the final putt fell
All of Oz gave a yell
As the two passed the final exam.

The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Rick Shiels Tests Ping Putters (Video)

This is an interesting video to me because Rick isn't really questioning whether Ping putters are still any good. Rather, he's trying to figure out why Ping seems to have lost some of its 'luster' in the marketplace. As part of this, he tests the 2021 Anser, Fetch and Harwood. It's a good video for learning what makes each putter distinctive. That's useful info if you're considering a new putter.


Saturday, April 24, 2021

Tiger Is Better

In case you somehow missed it, Tiger is up and around and he posted the following photo of him and his dog Bugs on Instagram.

'The course' is presumably The Hay, which he describes as "our reimagined 9-hole short course and putting course at Pebble Beach" and which opened April 16th.

I'm just glad to see that he's doing better.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Mike Malaska on Proper Forearm Action (Video)

Mike Malaska recently posted some short videos where he is working with pro baseball players who struggle with their golf games. There's a lot of good stuff in them and I'm sorting through them for the blog, but I decided to post this one because it's so amazing. Listen to what Mike tells Jordan Luplow of the Cleveland Indians, and look at how quickly it changes his ball flight.


You'll need to watch this simple video several times to digest just how much it explains. But let me call out one thing Mike says. It starts just after the 2:00 mark. He says -- and I'm pulling just enough from the statement to get the point across, you'll want to listen to his full explanation -- "You guys play a sport where there's no twist in your arms... your wrists don't roll over like this... most of that comes because of where your grip was."

This is an important concept, folks. Watch this short video until you understand it. It really could revolutionize your ballstriking.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Rick Shiels Plays with One Club (Video)

Many legendary players learned to play with a single club -- Seve with a 3-iron, for instance, or Chi Chi Rodriguez with a 4-iron. In this video Rick plays three holes (par-4, par-3 and par-5) with a single club chosen at random by viewers on Instagram to see how well he can do.


The reason he's doing this is because playing with a single club forces you to think your way around the hole -- figure out an appropriate strategy -- and play the shots you need by feel since you have to create shots with a club you normally wouldn't play.

Listen to how he attacks each hole; perhaps it will give you some useful ideas of your own.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

More Prime Time LPGA Golf

This week the LPGA heads out to Los Angeles for the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open.

Defending champion Minjee Lee

Like so many other events last year, the HUGEL-JTBE fell victim to the pandemic. But this year the event returns to the Wilshire Country Club where Minjee Lee picked up her fifth LPGA title way back in 2019 -- making her the defending champion, of course.

Would a win from Minjee rank beside Lydia Ko's win last week? Not really. Besides her 2019 win in LA being more recent than Lydia's had been, Minjee has posted several Top10s since the LPGA resumed their schedule last July. But since her T5 at the KIA, Minjee's T25 at the ANA and MC last week at the LOTTE aren't what we've come to expect from her... and certainly less than she expects from herself.

LA is a good place for her to get some winning vibes going again, even though the field looks to be pretty strong -- the HSBC Women's World Championship in Singapore is next week so, despite the impending travel, players are looking to tune up their games this week.

But I suspect Lydia's win last week provided some motivation for Minjee. Their rivalry goes back quite a ways.

GC's coverage begins TONIGHT (Wednesday night -- I'm not making that mistake again) at 6pm ET. Let's see if Minjee can rediscover that edge she had before the pandemic trashed everybody's 2020.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Twofer Tuesday: Zurich Classic

Twofer Tuesday sails away from the laidback atmosphere of the RBC Heritage to the rowdy team competition of the Zurich Classic.

Defending champions Ryan Palmer and Jon Rahm

The Zurich is one of those evolving events which has changed considerably over the years. After a few years of declining popularity, the event was resurrected as the Tour's only team event... and found immediate acceptance (and excitement) among the PGA Tour players. Now it's one of the most anticipated events by the players, as well as a fitting event for the spirit of New Orleans.

Just as I made a change to my picks for the WGC-Dell Match Play, this event forces a different approach. Instead of picking two players, I pick two teams. Although that's four players, since the winner is a team I will only count each team as a single player. That's the most obvious approach but I want to spell it out beforehand so there is no confusion.

Picking this event is tricky simply because I see so many teams I like, made up of players I probably wouldn't pick individually because team play eliminates the penalty for quite a few poor shots.

  • My first pick is an easy one for me: Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele. While both players may seem like no-brainers, Xander has struggled to get over the finish line in the last few months while Patrick has been a bit erratic. But this is a case where I think the team format may be just what they need to get over the hump, perhaps gaining some momentum as they move into the heart of major season.
  • Now I'm going a bit outside the box: Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose. Both men have strong records in team play -- can you say 'Ryder Cup'? -- but the results just haven't been there as of late. Still, I don't think they've forgotten how to win, and I think the Ryder Cup coming later this year may inspire their play. This team could be a sleeping giant.

GC's coverage starts Thursday afternoon at 3:30pm ET. Thus far 2021 has proven to be as unpredictable as 2020 was, except in a good way. I believe players have had enough time after the Masters to rest up a bit and the novelty of the Zurich Classic is just the thing some of them need to get their juices flowing. It should be a fun week!

Monday, April 19, 2021

The Limerick Summary: 2021 RBC Heritage

Winner: Stewart Cink

Around the wider world of golf: There was A LOT of golf this week! Lydia Ko won the LOTTE Championship on the LPGA; Steve Stricker won the Chubb Classic on the Champions Tour; Peter Uihlein won the MGM Resorts Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour; Ruixin Liu won the Casino del Sol Golf Classic on the Symetra Tour; John Catlin won the Austrian Golf Open on the ET; Joe Highsmith won the individual title at the NCAA's Western Intercollegiate and Pepperdine won the team title; Do Yeob Moon won the DB Accident Insurance Promy on the KGPA; Takumi Kanaya won the Token Homemade Cup on the JGTO; and Miyuu Yamashita won the KKT Cup Ventelin Ladies Open on the JLPGA. [Thanks again for the Asian tour updates, IC!]

Stewart Cink with the RBC Heritage trophy

The Masters hangover definitely affected my Twofer Tuesday picks this week, but I'm not complaining. I had Webb Simpson (T9) and Will Zalatoris (T42). Will simply ran out of gas over the weekend but Webb held it together well enough to get me another Top10.

  • Top10s: 10 for 32 (6 Top5s, 4 other Top10)
  • Winners: 0 for 15 events

But Stewart Cink really found something in the aftermath of Augusta. After blistering the course for two days he held his own Saturday and took a five-shot lead into the final day... and nobody else had enough gas to make a run at him on Sunday.

With his son Reagan on the bag again for another win -- joining Bryson DeChambeau as the only two-time winners on Tour this season -- and the rest of his family there to celebrate with him, Stewart set all kinds of records at Hilton Head without ever seeming to doubt the outcome. I won't list them all here, other than to mention he's won this event three times over 21 years.

You might remember that Stewart took time off from the Tour a few years back to make sure his wife Lisa had all the help she needed to beat cancer, and on Sunday she cried as she expressed her amazement at what he was doing at age 47. His other son Connor (who has won the Father-Son event with him in the past) made a special trip to make sure he was there for this win.

Harold Varner III summed it up the best: "“He's old and he's kicking everyone's ass."

The analysts are always talking about how golf is a game where age doesn't make a difference, but you can tell from their reactions to Stewart's season that they don't really believe it. But clearly Stewart does and he may yet make believers of us all.

In the meantime he can bask in the glow of his second Limerick Summary in less than a year. You go, Stew!

Not ready to step off the stage?
Apparently Stewart says, “Nay!”
Though some folks won’t hear,
Two wins make it clear:
The golf ball DOES NOT know your age.

The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Is Lydia Ko Back?

No doubt you'll hear the debate over the next few weeks as everybody tries to decide. But Lydia is certainly showing the signs of a Jordan Spieth-like resurgence.

And the similarity wasn't lost on Lydia in her post-win remarks at the LOTTE.

Lydia Ko holding LOTTE Championship trophy

She talked about her nerves at the Marathon last August when she finished T2. She talked about her self-doubt as she tried to put her game back together... and it took longer than she expected.

And like Jordan Spieth, much of the credit seems to come from getting away from so much technical thought and just playing golf again. (She credits Sean Foley for that.) Apparently she has realized that she gets 'confused' when she gets too technical.

Which does sound a lot like the process Jordan is going through.

But unlike Jordan, Lydia does seem to have a better swing now, highlighted by an increase in distance through the bag of 10-15 yards. The LPGA stats list her average distance off the tee this year at just under 260 yards. (BTW, that ranks her 63rd on tour. You men out there really should pay more attention to how the women play!)

The real evidence has come just since the ANA a couple of weeks back. You probably remember the -10 she shot in the final round and now, two weeks later, she posted rounds of 67-63-65-65 (-28). Bear in mind that four players -- Inbee Park, Sei Young Park, Nelly Korda and Leona Maguire -- finished at -21.

That was Lydia's score after three rounds.

So now, after posting her 16th career LPGA win, we're going to have to watch and see if Lydia continues this kind of play.

Because if she really is back, the power balance on the LPGA may have just shifted again.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Downs and Ups of Billy Horschel (Videos)

It's been an interesting week for Billy Horschel. Last week at the Masters he hit a ball into the creek on 13 and... let's just say he slipped up.


On the bright side, he made a great shot from the creek and walked away with par. Sunday he had a tantrum after a bad hole and it got caught on video. (I'm not including that one. Everybody's entitled to a... 'slip-up' now and then.)

But on Friday at the RBC Heritage he had a redemptive video moment. After becoming the only player in the field to hit his tee shot in the water on the par-3 17th, he hit a 77-yard shot from the drop zone and this happened:


All of which I guess goes to show how truly silly golf can be, as Billy's week ended as it began... with a slam dunk.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Mike Malaska on Playing Par-3s (Video)

Although Malaska talks a lot about using a launch monitor in this video, the basics he teaches you on how to play a par-3 can be applied by anyone. (If you have access to a launch monitor, great! But you can work out a lot of the same info on a decent range just by paying attention to the distance markers.) The example he uses here, the par-3 12th hole at Augusta, is an extreme example but if you can learn to play THAT par-3 you can play ANY par-3!

It's a very short video, only about four minutes, so you can learn this lesson quick.


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Rick Shiels Tests The PXG 0211 Driver (Video)

The 0211 is PXG's "cheap" driver and Rick bought one to see if it really could deliver on its promises. Then he compared it to a slightly more expensive driver that he considers one of the best. How did the 0211 measure up? I think you'll find this to be a very interesting video.


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

LPGA... Hawaii... What More Do You Need?

The LOTTE Championship is back after being cancelled last year (like so many other events) by the pandemic. But Brooke Henderson still returns at the defending back-to-back champion.

Two-time defending champion Brooke Henderson

The field list looks pretty good. In addition to Brooke, I see Inbee Park, Sei Young Kim, So Yeon Ryu, Lexi Thompson, Minjee Lee, Danielle Kang, Nasa Hataoka, Hannah Green, Cheyenne Woods, both Kordas, the ever-popular duo of Kupcho and Fassi... this field is loaded! And this is the first of three weeks in a row, culminating in the HSBC Women's World Championship in Singapore, so we should get to see good fields in all three events.

GC's coverage looks to be live since Hawaiian events are always in prime time. Coverage begins at 7pm ET Thursday night [MY MISTAKE -- coverage started Wednesday night!] and runs for four hours. I'm looking forward to this event, as it often seems to have a dramatic finish.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Twofer Tuesday: RBC Heritage

Twofer Tuesday pries itself away from the excitement of the Masters and chills its way into the relaxed world of the RBC Heritage.

Defending champion Webb Simpson

Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina is generally viewed as 'decompression' from the pressure cooker of the Masters. The course is short, a par-71 measuring only 7121 yards. But it's a Pete Dye/Jack Nicklaus design that tests players in almost every way except distance, making this event a free-for-all for the participants since anybody could win. Webb Simpson made this his second win of the season last year -- setting the tournament scoring record in the process -- and he's back to defend.

With such a wide open field I think the play is to look at proven track records here. But we're seeing some great play from the youngsters this season, so...

  • My first pick is Webb Simpson. I didn't say I wasn't going to pick a proven quantity! But Webb is also still in good form after posting a T12 at Augusta, a course where I wouldn't expect him to play so well because he lacks some of the length usually seen in the winners there. I think he's a good pick for a Top10.
  • And my other choice is Will Zalatoris. This is Will's debut at Harbour Town, but 'debut' isn't a word that seems to affect him. Granted, that runner-up finish to Hideki last week was his first Top10 in a couple of months... but I'm willing to gamble that he's got another one in him as he chills out this week..

GC's coverage begins officially at 3pm ET Thursday but it appears that PGA TOUR LIVE is going to contribute some TV time starting at 11am ET. The RBC Heritage is always a fun event to watch as the guys compete on a course where they expect to score and seem to have a lot of fun doing it. It's a nice way to wind down from Augusta for us all.

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Limerick Summary: 2021 Masters

Winner: Hideki Matsuyama

Around the wider world of golf: Manon Gidali won the Cape Town Ladies Open on the Sunshine Ladies Tour; So Mi Lee won the Lotte Car Rental Ladies Open on the KLPGA; and Mone Inami won the JLPGA's FujiFilm Studio Alice Ladies Open [thanks for those last two, IC!].

Hideki Matsuyama with Master trophy and Green Jacket

At least my Twofer Tuesday picks weren't horrible this week. I had Jordan Spieth (T3) and Collin Morikawa (T18). Collin just didn't have his stuff this week but Jordan gave me a good scare on the front nine Sunday.

  • Top10s: 9 for 30 (6 Top5s, 3 other Top10)
  • Winners: 0 for 14 events

I don't know about you but I just didn't see this performance coming from Hideki at the Masters. Even he seemed a bit surprised, saying that he found something in his swing on Wednesday and it gave him some confidence that only grew as the week went on.

And of course the back nine on Saturday, after the rain delay, shocked everybody. Nine holes of nearly perfect golf after a sketchy front nine completely changed the complexion of the tournament. It definitely set the tone for Sunday, as no one could get anything going soon enough to try and shake Hideki's newfound confidence.

Don't get me wrong, It was no small task to just 'hold on' to the lead on Sunday, as Augusta played tougher than it has over the last few years. Too many favorites missed the cut to minimize what Hideki did down the stretch. But I do think that worked in Hideki's favor, as the course was just too difficult to try and force anything... and, as it turned out, Hideki didn't need to.

I can't help but think that Hideki's biggest challenge still lays ahead. If you missed GC's Saturday discussion about how a Masters win could affect Hideki's life, just think about this: We measure Tiger's career in hundreds of millions of dollars but this single major victory could be worth a billion to Hideki. A BILLION. Talk about pressure! That much wealth brings massive responsibilities all its own.

Although given what I've heard about Hideki, I suspect Japan is about to witness a wave of philanthropy like it has never seen before. He just seems like that kind of person.

But the analysts are probably right. Given that we're only a hundred days or so from the Tokyo Olympics, Hideki will likely carry the Olympic Torch in the Games... and that will only be the beginning of his new position in Japanese sports culture.

Alas, all I can offer is a Limerick Summary. Congratulations on making history, Hideki!

An Olympic accomplishment, this—
To fulfill an entire country’s wish
When the pressure’s intense
And the odds are against
You. Hideki deserves all he gets.

The photo comes from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Paige Spiranac on Reading Greens (Video)

Paige did this video for Masters Week with ideas to help improve your greens-reading. It has some good tips in it.


I'll add a couple of my own as well.

  • I like to walk all the way around my putt so I can see it from every angle. I find that getting a 360° view helps me see the slopes in the green better.
  • And while Paige mentioned reading the green from the halfway point to improve your feel, I tend to break putts into 2, 3 or even 4 segments and get a feel for the speed at each of them, starting at the spot closest to the hole. It helps me make a better guess at how fast the putt really is.

Greens-reading is as much an art as a science. Some days you'll be better at it than others. But that doesn't mean you can't find a process that works for you more often than not. So don't be afraid to experiment.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Rick Shiels's Five Scoring Tips (Video)

If you've been watching the Masters, you've seen all of these tips in play already. Rick posted this video just a couple of days back so why don't we compare them to the pros?


I do want to clarify the first tip, although I'm sure you lefties are used to doing that already!

Rick is righthanded so he uses the terms draw and fade to describe a rightie's shots. I'm going to restate this tip in my 'universal' way:

  • If your normal shot curves from left to right, tee up on the right side of the teebox.
  • And if your normal shot curves from right to left, tee up on the left side of the teebox.

In other words, tee up on the side of the teebox your shot curves toward. That way, you can aim at the opposite side of the fairway and get more room for the ball to land safely as it curves back toward the middle of the fairway.

Again, five useful tips to help lower your score. And that's what this blog is all about!

Friday, April 9, 2021

Mike Malaska on the Trail Arm at Impact (Video)

This video is primarily about one simple concept -- if you understand what a good swing looks like at impact, you'll instinctively avoid most of the major swing problems that can mess you up. It's short so let's have a look...


You might think that Mike's first comment, the one about the guy who said he hit the ball best when his trail arm lined up with the club shaft, tells you the position you want to duplicate. But since he doesn't demonstrate what that position looks like, I'm not sure that's what he means. (Personally, I can't find a way to create that position without leaning the clubshaft backwards at impact, and I'm pretty sure that's not what he means.)

I've been studying how the trail arm moves at impact, basically for the reason I mentioned at the beginning of this post -- namely, that if you understand what a good swing looks like at impact, you'll instinctively avoid most of the major swing problems that can mess you up. And while I've developed some ideas about what impact looks like, I'm still working on how I want to talk about it. I plan to do some posts about it soon.

For today, I just want you to become familiar with this concept. I believe it's one of those truths that gets casually tossed out and passed over as if it were self-evident... but I don't think it is. So spend a little time watching this short video until you fully understand what Mike Malaska is talking about.

We'll build on this understanding soon.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Rick Shiels's Slice Cure (Video)

This video show Rick's three-step process for eliminating a slice. In many ways it's a very traditional procedure that any instructor would agree with, but in my opinion it can ultimately lead to a hooking problem.

So, you may ask, why am I posting this video?

Because (1) learning this process is instrumental in understanding why you slice and helping you to straighten it out, (2) because some of you will need to try this method because your slice is so bad that you need to take dramatic measures to straighten it out, and (3) because much of your success in curing a slice stems from your belief that you can actually hit a shot that doesn't slice, and this extreme approach can give you the confidence you need to create a better overall swing.

Understanding the three steps Rick covers in this video is the beginning point for creating whatever swing shape you want, regardless of whether you prefer a draw, a fade or a straight shot. And Rick's explanation is extremely simple to understand. So if you struggle with a slice -- or a hook, for that matter -- this video can teach you the basic keys to getting control of it.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Maria Fassi on How to Aim Your Full Swing (Video)

During Masters Week I think Maria Fassi, the runner-up in the 2019 Augusta National Women's Amateur, is a fitting person to give a lesson on how to aim. The LPGA just uploaded this video and I pass it on to you.


What Maria is describing here is basically the method Jack Nicklaus used when he aimed his tee shots. He used a target 'spot' no more than 18 inches in front of his ball because, as Maria says, it's much easier to aim at a close target than a distant one.

But you might be a bit confused when Maria says she aims her feet a bit to the left. She's not opening her stance; rather, she's using the classic image of train tracks to explain aiming.


If you imagine the aimline of your ball as the rightmost rail in the above image (her aim spot would be located 18 inches ahead of the ball on that rail), then your feet are aligned to the leftmost rail, parallel to your aimline. And although Maria doesn't mention it, it's worth noting that you align your heels to the leftmost rail, not your toes. Your heels determine whether your stance is set up square, open or closed.

This is, as I said, a simple and classic method of describing how to aim your full shots... and it's still a good one to use.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Twofer Tuesday: The Masters

Twofer Tuesday risks azalea allergies to make its way down Magnolia Lane for the Masters.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson

I don't need to give you any info on this event, do I? I'll just remind you that Dustin Johnson has only had the Green Jacket for around five months and will mount his defense in very different conditions than he won last November. That said...

The drier firmer conditions in April could have as big an effect on the outcome as the cool damp conditions had when DJ won. Granted, DJ finished runner-up in 2019 behind Tiger, but it's worth considering how much the softer conditions may have helped him.

And hurt the players who normally contend in April. I'm just saying...

If you listened to Brandel Chamblee on Monday night, you know that all the recent winners except Patrick Reed have been ranked 16 or higher in the OWGR. Those winners have also been ranked very high in Strokes Gained: Approach. If we list the players in the Top16 of both lists, here are our choices (SG:A first, OWGR second):

  • Collin Morikawa (1,4)
  • Justin Thomas (3, 2)
  • Tyrrell Hatton (10,8)
  • Dustin Johnson (11,1)
  • Tony Finau (12,13)
  • Jon Rahm (14,3)
  • Bryson DeChambeau (15,5)

I'm not so sure these players really have the best chances, given the ups-and-downs of recent form, but there they are.

Now here are my two picks:

  • First pick goes to Jordan Spieth. Jordan is clearly in neither list, but that's because his improvement has come in the last couple of months. While I'm not sure Jordan is ready to win Augusta again, I do think his game is in good enough shape to post another Top10 here. And let's face it, there are horses for courses... and Jordan clearly runs well at Augusta.
  • My other choice is Collin Morikawa. He's only played Augusta once -- T44 in November -- but I can't shake that WGC performance at the Concession just a month back. And I think the fast firm conditions this week will suit him much better than the November track.

Coverage starts Thursday at 3pm ET on ESPN. There will be a few roars this time as some patrons will be allowed on the course, so the intangible of crowd support will be back in play. There's no telling what we may see as the Masters inches closer to normal.

Monday, April 5, 2021

The Limerick Summary: 2021 Valero Texas Open

Winner: Jordan Spieth

Around the wider world of golf: Patty Tavatanakit made her first LPGA win a major at the ANA Inspiration (Lydia Ko tied the course record as she tried to chase Patty down); Stephan Jaeger won the Emerald Coast Classic on the Korn Ferry Tour; Tsubasa Kajitani won the Augusta National Women's Amateur; and Mone Inami won the Yamaha Ladies Open at Katsuragi on the JLPGA (thanks, IC!).

Jordan Spieth with the Texas Open trophy

My Twofer Tuesday picks have been a bust lately. I had Matt Kuchar (T12) and Ryan Palmer (T17), both of whom looked good until the weekend. But that doesn't help me on Sunday, does it?

  • Top10s: 8 for 28 (5 Top5s, 3 other Top10)
  • Winners: 0 for 13 events

When I made my picks I guess I should have paid more attention to the all-time money winner at Valero, Charley Hoffman. He and Jordan Spieth ended up being the story on the back nine Sunday afternoon. Charley went from three shots back with six holes to play to just one back with two to play.

Alas, it was not to be. Jordan birdied 17 and took a two-shot lead to 18. And we all know that you usually have to screw up pretty badly to lose a two-shot lead on the final hole.

Jordan didn't.

So I guess Jordan's 'comeback' is now complete, having broken his four-year win drought in San Antonio, which -- in case you didn't know -- is the home of the Alamo, site of perhaps the most famous battle during the Texas Revolution, which ultimately resulted in Texas becoming part of the US. Given the battle Jordan has had with his game, it just seems appropriate for it to end here.

At least, we think it's ended; with golf you never know. But I wouldn't bet against Jordan continuing to improve. And then there's that little soirée going on down in Georgia next week. I hear Jordan has a standing invitation... You know, this sounds like a good place for a Limerick Summary!

The Golden Boy’s back with a win
In Texas. His face-splitting grin
Had been missed for a while
But it showed up in style…
Now Augusta awaits him again.

The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Congratulations, Tsubasa Kajitani!

I had to take a moment to congratulate the new 2021 Augusta National Women's Amateur champion, Tsubasa Kajitani.

2021 ANWA champion Tsubasa Kajitani

Tsubasa was the youngest player in the 30-woman field that made the Saturday finals at Augusta, only 17 years old. She and Emilia Migliaccio weren't expected to be the ones to play off against each other, but both of them survived the weather and pressure of the event when the favorites fell away. Like Kupcho and Fassi, they'll be the names we remember from this second playing of the Augusta National Women's Amateur. What a finish!

Obviously both women deserve congratulations but the moment belongs to Tsubasa and there's no telling what effect it will have on Japanese women's golf going forward. Tsubasa said that lately there had been a bit of a downturn in the sport for women in Japan. I think that trend is about to be reversed.

And don't sleep on Emilia's future. Being runner-up in this event, especially given the caliber of players who didn't get it done, isn't going to hurt her career either.

What a great start to Masters Week!

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Just a Reminder

The final round of the Augusta National Women's Amateur will air today at noon ET on NBC. I'm guessing that GC will do some early updates before the official broadcast begins. Don't miss it!

Augusta National Women's Amateur pin flag

Friday, April 2, 2021

Let's Talk About Shanshan's Swing (Videos)

You no doubt heard about Shanshan Feng's bogey-free 67 at the ANA on Thursday, which put her in second place after one round. You probably also heard that she did it without picking up a club for over a year -- which, some of GC's analysts noted, sounds like Shanshan's well-known aversion to practice!

The question becomes, how did she manage to play so well?

I've done posts about Shanshan's swing over the years, so I thought today might be a good time to revisit those posts and bring you up-to-date on Shanshan's current swing. Fortunately the LPGA posted a video of all her televised first-round play on YouTube so I'm going to post it here. It's only about 7 minutes long but it shows a variety of shots, complete with the analysts' comments.


The belief that Shanshan didn't touch a club until a couple of months ago seems to have come from her caddie, whom she calls 'The Boss', who said she only started practicing a couple of months ago. But I think, based on what she said in interviews after the round -- I'll post one of those at the end of this post -- that he just meant she didn't start working with him until about two months ago. She told Amy Rogers in a GC interview right after the round that she had done a little practicing during her time off, and the interview later in this post clarifies that she didn't play any tournaments for the last 14 months.

I am very frustrated that some of the videos I've posted about Shanshan's swing -- including one from GC -- are no longer available and just show up as blank spots on my posts. (Who says that anything posted on the internet is there forever?) Fortunately the best video survived. That video is from the most in-depth post I did on her swing back in 2017, and I did another post later that month that added some more info. I won't reprint those posts; you can use the links to get the details. But I did want to repost the video itself so you can compare her 2017 swing with her 2021 swing. They are virtually identical, and I think that's part of the reason she played so well.


While Shanshan believes she lost some yardage over the last 14 months, 'The Boss' told her she's actually just a bit longer. As I noted in the second post about her swing, Shanshan uses this simple swing to hit the ball around 250 yards. And while the analysts talked about some of Shanshan's swing quirks, bear in mind that these quirks are so natural to her that she doesn't need much practice to keep her swing working. I suspect most of her practice has been on her short game -- it looked pretty good to me on Thursday.

I'll leave you with Shanshan's official 'media scrum' after her round. Shanshan's just so much fun to listen to, and yet she does give you some insight into her mindset coming back to tournament golf after 14 months away.


I wish more people approached the game the way Shanshan Feng does. They would probably be happier AND score better as well.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

2 Reasons to Watch the ANA

And I think they're good reasons, too.

Defending champion Mirim Lee

A quick recap: The ANA Inspiration was delayed by the pandemic last year but not cancelled. It was played in September, and Mirim Lee won in a three-way playoff. So she won't keep the trophy for quite a year,

The first reason to watch is simply airtime. Because the ANA is played in California, on the West Coast of the US, their playing time runs well into prime time here on the East Coast. That means we get TWO windows of live golf today -- from noon to 4pm ET, and then again from 7-9pm ET. So we get some of the morning wave and some of the afternoon wave.

The second reason is a bit more fun. You may remember that Beth Ann Nichols wrote a Golfweek article a couple of weeks back saying that LPGA course setups were hindering scoring in a way that the men don't deal with, and she suggested making certain holes shorter to encourage scoring.

She's getting her wish. The ANA is going to shorten the par-5 18th in all four rounds to entice players to go for the island green in two... but there's a twist. The normal grandstands haven't been built, nor has the big blue wall from the last playing -- which I believe Nichols had dubbed 'The Great Wall of Dinah'. That means that the ball can easily roll into the water when it hits the firm green, which should make for some interesting decisions by the players.

If you saw the charity event on GC Wednesday night, you know what I mean. In this case, the sponsors got long drive champ Troy Mullins to hit drives for the two teams, and she put both teams down within 6-iron distance. Both Sophia Popov and Danielle Kang went for it and thought they hit perfect shots, only to watch both balls trickle off the back into the water. This is a problem that players used to face at the Dinah all the time, and it will make players think long and hard.

Yes, a true risk and reward hole!

So this ANA will have some extra excitement. This should be fun!

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Just a Reminder: The Augusta National Women's Amateur Starts Today...

But the TV coverage doesn't match up to the importance of the event yet.

Inaugural winner Jennifer Kupcho

Here's what Golfweek posted about the first two rounds:

Wednesday, March 31 and Thursday, April 1

TV

Golf Channel will have live reports and highlights during the first two days. The top 30 golfers will advance to the final round. There will be no ties. In the event there’s a playoff to determine the final spots in the top 30, that playoff on Thursday will be streamed live on ANWAgolf.com as well as the tournament’s official Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts.

GC did add this note at their site:

Thursday, April 1

6:15-8PM: Augusta National Women's Amateur playoff, if necessary (Click here to watch)

And I tried that "Click here to watch" link. It does go to a stream for the Augusta National Women's Amateur.

Let's face it. As important as this event is to women's golf, the media outlets still need to catch up. I realize that the first two rounds are played on a different course and that would entail extra personel and equipment, but it seems that at least some effort could be made. Perhaps set up a single camera on each of a few holes with particularly tough tee shots or greens... but just make an effort. Only 30 players will make it to the Saturday round, after all.

The final round at Augusta National will be televised, of course. This is the link GC has listed for the 10am-noon ET stream, and NBC will broadcast from noon til 3:30pm ET.

Despite the meager coverage, it's nice to have a second Augusta National Women's Am after last year's cancellation due to the pandemic. Don't forget to check in for the scores today and tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Twofer Tuesday: Valero Texas Open

Twofer Tuesday leaves the madness of match play for the more placid pace of stroke play at the Valero Texas Open.

2019 Defending champion Corey Connors

Okay, maybe placid isn't the right word. TPC San Antonio has a reputation for tough winds, tight fairways and tortuous greens. Nevertheless there are a number of players who seem right at home on the AT&T Oaks Course... and assuming you can catch them when they're on their games, you've got a good chance to pick up a couple of Top10s to add to your stats.

If you're playing a Twofer Tuesday like me, that is.

Corry Conners is the defending champ from 2019 -- the Valero was another casualty of the pandemic last year -- but the first-time PGA Tour winner was certainly on point as he worked his way around the course and its hazards.

A number of players who are 'horses for this course' are potentially in good form this year. Ironically I'm not sure the tournament's top money winner, Charley Hoffman, is one of them so I'm looking elsewhere. Let's see if I can catch lightning in a bottle.

  • My first pick is Matt Kuchar. Matt's a bit of a gamble simply because he played seven rounds last week and was clearly losing a little steam on Sunday. You could also argue that his game has been a bit off this year. But it looks to me like he found something last week in the Texas winds on that tight little Austin course, so let's see if he's got some of his magic back.
  • And my other pick is Ryan Palmer. No, he didn't do so well in Austin last week, and his season has been kinda spotty, posting good finishes one week and not-so-good the next. But he definitely seems to love something about TPC San Antonio and, like Kuch, I see some promising signs in his game. This could be the week he's been waiting for.

GC's live coverage starts Thursday at 4pm ET, between broadcasts of the ANA Inspiration. I think the more relaxed feel of stroke play will suit the players this week... and the lure of the Masters next week may even serve to give them a second wind.

Monday, March 29, 2021

The Limerick Summary: 2021 WGC-Dell Match Play

Winner: Billy Horschel

Around the wider world of golf: Inbee Park added to her impressive win total at the Kia Classic on the LPGA; Joel Dahmen got his first PGA Tour win at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, the PGA Tour's alternate field event; Adam Svensson won the Club Car Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour; Daniel van Tonder won the Kenya Savannah Classic on the ET; Bryden Macpherson won the NSW Open on the Australasian Tour; Sophie Hausmann got her first win at the Symetra Tour's IOA Championship; and Eri Okayama won the JLPGA's AXA Ladies Golf Tournament (thanks, IC!).

Billy Horschel with the Walter Hagen Cup

As I wrote last Friday, my Twofer Tuesday picks stank. Unlike most weeks, I made four picks last week to try and pick the Final Four. I had Paul Casey (T17), Patrick Reed (T17), Jason Day (T17) and Bryson DeChambeau (T17), none of whom made it out of pool play. But with 19 of the Top20 seeds going out in pool play, I won't be too hard on myself.

  • Top10s: 8 for 26 (5 Top5s, 3 other Top10)
  • Winners: 0 for 12 events

I also -- just for fun -- tried to pick a new Final Four on Friday, and only Matt Kuchar made it there... and after guessing he would win he actually came in 3rd. So much for my predictions.

But I do have a new perspective now that Billy Horschel has won it all.

On Sunday I wrote that I thought the big winners would be everyone but Horschel because of the Ryder Cup. Billy probably wasn't very high on Stricker's list to begin with and one week of decent play probably wouldn't get him a spot on the team. Of course, winning the Match Play during a Ryder Cup year has clearly put Billy on Captain Stricker's short list... but he did it in a way that I didn't expect. Let me explain.

In past reviews of American Ryder Cup failures I have put the blame squarely on one huge fault -- namely, that the US team loses too many holes by not making par. What Billy did was survive the Final Four with less than his best game because he managed to make pars more times than not. You can argue that his opponents didn't have their best games either, but that's precisely my point. Only Billy made par when pars counted most. That's something Stricker simply can't ignore.

Billy has possibly cracked the Top20 of the OWGR with this win and, if he can put up some consistent numbers as this year goes on, he may very well have become a no-brainer pick for the Ryder Cup team. But regardless of whether he does or not, he has added another win to his CV, broken a four-year win drought (or three year, depending on whether you count his team win), packed up a nice load of bling and -- best of all -- got himself a brand new Limerick Summary. There are some things you just can't put a price on!

At some point you find you can’t bluff;
It’s clear that you don’t have enough.
When pushed to the brink
In the end, one will blink—
And Billy proved he could hang tough.

The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Well, At Least I Got One Right This Time...

My Match Play picks have done downright horrible this year, but at least I got one of the Final 4 correct.

The Walter Hagen Cup

Just to remind you, the picks I made on Tuesday are the ones that count on my running totals that I update every Monday with the Limerick Summary, but since NONE of those made it through I thought I'd see if I could do any better when I only had to sort through 16 players rather than 64.

And I got precisely ONE correct.

Garcia, Fleetwood and Poulter all went out on Saturday -- Poulter in the Round of 16, the others in the Round of 8. The only pick that made it was Kuchar, so I'm going with him to win today.

As for my reasoning that the Ryder Cup figured strongly in who would finish well, I think it's safe to say that we did see some 'winners' along those lines. Garcia and Poulter certainly did enough to get Harrington's attention, and I suspect Fleetwood did as well. But the biggest winner was probably Victor Perez, as the Frenchman is now definitely on the European team radar, no matter what happens today. And given that the captains can only make so many picks, that is VERY important.

In the same way, both Kuchar and Scheffler are solidly on Stricker's list now whether one of them wins or not. Scheffler has proved he can hold his own with the big names and Kuchar has proven that his game is coming together at the right time. I'm not sure Harman and Horschel fared as well, simply because there are so many good players just outside the automatic picks at this point.

I suspect Perez will beat Horschel just because he's made good strategic choices all week, but in my opinion the Kuchar-Scheffler match is too close to call. Will Kuchar's playing experience top Scheffler's local knowledge? At any rate today's finals should be pretty interesting.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

I Went 0 for 4

My Top10 picks did me no favors this week. Alas, not one of them will hoist the Walter Hagen Cup. Although the WGC-Dell Match Play isn't over until Sunday, my four picks all failed to make the Round of 16 and thus I am 0 for 4.

The Walter Hagen Cup

Just to refresh your memory, on Tuesday I picked:

  • Paul Casey
  • Patrick Reed
  • Jason Day
  • Bryson DeChambeau

But I can't say I feel too bad about my picks, given that no one in the Top20 seeds except Jon Rahm (3) made it this far. Here is the remaining bracket -- remember that one of the finalists will come from the left side and one from the right:

  • Upper left side: Robert McIntyre, Victor Perez, Mackenzie Hughes and Sergio Garcia
  • Lower left side: Tommy Fleetwood, Dylan Frittelli, Kevin Streelman and Billy Horschel
  • Upper right side: Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Brian Harman and Bubba Watson
  • Lower right side: Scottie Scheffler, Ian Poulter, Erik van Rooyan and Jon Rahm

I suspect the toughest part of the bracket -- and thus most likely to produce the Match Play champion -- will be the Kuchar-Spieth-Harman-Watson group. This foursome has two past winners on this course (Kuchar and Watson), local favorite Spieth and a real bulldog in Harman.

If I were picking one I think I'd take Kuchar, but I'd be afraid to bet against any of the other three.

In the other groups I suspect Garcia, Fleetwood and Poulter are the most likely winners. Why? Simply because these three will likely need Captains picks to get on the next Ryder Cup team and have often risen to that challenge in the past. (Rahm will make the team no matter what.)

Of course those are just my speculations... but what do I know? I just went 0 for 4.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Rick Shiels's Grip Guide (Video)

When I say 'grip' I'm talking about how you hold the club, not the soft tube on the shaft that you're gripping. Rick Shiels has created a very cool guide that teaches you the basics of a neutral grip -- one that is neither too strong (draws and hooks) or too weak (fades and slices). Here it is:


You will, of course, see players who grip the club differently than Rick is teaching here. That's because a neutral grip is THE STARTING POINT FOR CREATING YOUR GRIP. You may end up making your grip a bit stronger or a bit weaker, depending on your swing tendencies. But if you want to grip your clubs consistently, any adjustments you make need to begin from a neutral grip.

So spend whatever time is necessary for you to understand how to create a neutral grip. This is a great video for gaining the necessary info as quickly and simply as possible. Thanks, Rick!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Gia Bocra Liwski on Connection (Video)

Gia Bocra Liwski's short LPGA video on power leaks in your swing is -- if you're still a little confused about it -- a great explanation of how connection works and why it's important in your swing. Just bear in mind that your arms don't stay connected all the way through the entire swing, only up to about shoulder height. (She demonstrates this but doesn't explicitly mention it.) Remember that and you'll have a solid basis from which to 'connect' your swing properly.


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Kia Classic Is Back!

Just like the WGC-Dell Match Play on the PGA Tour, the LPGA's Kia Classic 'caught the bug' last year but is back on the schedule for 2021. And the field is stacked!

2019 defending champion Nasa Hataoka

Let's put it in simple terms. You've got the Top10 in the Rolex Rankings, all of the 2020 major champions, 21 of the 24 competitors from the 2019 Solheim Cup, plus Michelle Wie West is back from hand surgery and maternity leave. That's a pretty tall field!

Why so many top players? It starts with the ANA Inspiration, normally the year's first major but not played last year, being next week so a lot of players are looking for a warm-up.

But the ANA is only the tip of the iceberg because it starts off a whole series of events that were cancelled last year. After the Kia and the ANA in California, we get the LOTTE Championship in Hawaii, and then back to California for the HUGEL-AIR PREMIA LA Open. Add in the qualifying process for both the Solheim Cup and the delayed 2020 Olympics and you've got a recipe for some great fields going forward.

GC's coverage is tape-delayed Thursday, starting at 9pm ET but some of you might catch it streaming at 6pm ET. Either way, given what's at stake this season, it should be worth the wait.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Twofer Tuesday: WGC-Dell Match Play

Twofer Tuesday goes rogue and tries a Fourfer Tuesday at the Dell Match Play.

2019 Defending champion Kevin Kisner

I'll explain the 'fourfer' bit in a minute. First a bit of gratuitous detail...

The WGC-Dell Match Play has been played since 1999 at a variety of courses around the USA but in 2016 it moved to the Austin Country Club in Austin TX, a par-71 playing around 7100 yards. The front nine is high ground while the back nine is lowland, making for some interesting shifts in strategy during the round.

Only the higest-ranked 64 players from the OWGR make the field, with the spots of any players who choose not to play being filled by the next highest player in line. Kevin Kisner is the 2019 defending champion since this event was a casualty of the pandemic last year. Coincidentally he was runner-up in 2018.

I'm calling this 'Fourfer Tuesday' because I'm going to pick four players this week; hopefully I will successfully pick the Final Four at this event. If I get supremely lucky -- which is unlikely, based on my past record at this event -- and all four of my choices at least make it out of pool play into the Sweet 16, I will be guaranteed four Top10s. (All of the losers from the Sweet 16 are given the same T9 finish.)

Because we've only played four WGCs at this course, you might find the past finals informative when making your own bracket.

  • 2016: Jason Day beat Louis Oosthuizen. J-Day is also the only player to win multiple Match Play titles.
  • 2017: Dustin Johnson beat Jon Rahm. DJ is the only player to have won all four WGCs.
  • 2018: Bubba Watson beat Kevin Kisner.
  • 2019: Kevin Kisner beat Matt Kuchar.

Here are my four picks, made before I ever looked at the Power Rankings for this event... and I was shocked to find that I picked the 1st, 2nd and 6th players in that ranking. I can only assume I am doomed! Moving clockwise around the bracket, starting at the upper left:

  • Pick #1: Paul Casey. Casey posted two runner-ups before the event moved to Texas, and I had him picked one of those years when he got sick the night before the finals. Casey is #2 in the Power Rankings.
  • Pick #2: Patrick Reed. Given Reed's dominance at international match play events, and his good showings on Tour so far this year, you have to think he'll do well here this week. Reed is #1 in the Power Rankings.
  • Pick #3: Jason Day. Jason has won here before and he seems to be in better health this year. He didn't make the Power Rankings at all, and I think a lot of people may be shocked if they don't pick him.
  • Pick #4: Bryson DeChambeau. Bryson has proven himself in match play, having won the 2015 US Amateur. And his new length, paired with his iron play, could give him quite an advantage playing to those tricky greens at Austin Country Club. Bryson was #6 in the Power Rankings.

GC's live coverage starts at 2pm ET on WEDNESDAY. Remember, the winner will have to play seven rounds of golf -- three days of pool play, then two days of 36 holes each. I'm really interested to see how Bryson's use of power with his irons works out since this may give us a peak into his Presidents Cup strategy later this year.

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Limerick Summary: 2021 Honda Classic

Winner: Matt Jones

Around the wider world of golf: Justin Harding made a little magic of his own at the Magical Kenya Open on the ET; Roberto Diaz got his first Korn Ferry Tour win at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open; Jbe Kruger won the Gauteng Championship on the Sunshine Tour; Ruixin Liu won the Carlisle Arizona Women's Golf Classic on the Symetra Tour; and Sakura Koiwai won the T-Point X ENEOS Golf Tournament on the JLPGA (thanks, IC!).

Matt Jones with the Honda Classic trophy

My Twofer Tuesday picks deserted me this week. I had Lee Westwood (MC) and Brandon Wu (MC). I knew Brandon would be an untested quantity at PGA National, but Lee... let's just say it would have been nice if he had told me he planned to play 54 holes at Augusta before the tournament! (I guess the two rounds he played Monday gave him a Twofer Monday, which doesn't roll off the tongue at all.)

  • Top10s: 8 for 22 (5 Top5s, 3 other Top10)
  • Winners: 0 for 11 events

But Matt Jones, nearly seven years removed from his only PGA Tour win, definitely showed up at the Honda. His bogey-free record-tying 61 in the first round, in windy conditions on a hard and fast course, left everybody in shock. (It probably shouldn't have; Matt's a two-time winner of the Australian Open, a major on the Australasian Tour and one of the four or five oldest professional tournaments in the world, having been first played in 1904. And we all know how tough Australian golf courses are.) From there he just needed to hang on and let everybody else self-destruct.

And that's exactly what the rest of the field did. While he lost the lead during the second round when he shot even par, his three-under weekend blasted him past everybody for a five-shot win.

Matt's comment that he doesn't get nervous on the golf course also shocked some people, but his steadiness on his way to this dominating win certainly proved the truth of it. That doesn't mean that wins mean nothing to him, of course -- you could see the emotion when he won. But dealing with tough conditions on the course is a different matter, and his steady play through the windy weather made it look like nothing to him.

Yes, it's a shock that Matt hasn't won more often... but then again, while it's a trite thing to say, it's true: Winning on any tour is hard. But given what we've seen this week, as well as all the big events this win qualified him for, we may see him win another one before long.

So, since Matt won this one in such an unexpected way, I thought I'd give him an equally unusual Limerick Summary. To get the full effect, you need to pronounce the words at the end of the 1st, 2nd and 5th lines as 'ah-tah', 'wah-tah' and 'nah-dah'. It's not exactly an Australian accent but it's almost as much fun to say!

Matt ended his drought like he oughta—
By winning amidst lots of water!
A record first round
While the other pros drowned
Meant, when asked what he’d done, he said “Nada!”

The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Rick Shiels Tries Speed Training (Video)

Rick Shiels spent six weeks trying to increase his swing speed enough to increase his carry with the driver 20 more yards. He didn't make it -- although he did increase his swing speed and average carry distance some -- but I think you'll find his analysis of the project helpful if you want to try and increase your own swing speed.


While Rick's analysis seems spot-on to me, I'd like to add one other thing that he didn't mention.

Look, we all know this is about Bryson's massive improvement so we should consider what Bryson did that Rick didn't... and it's related to Rick's conclusion that he should have also hit more golf balls.

What gets overlooked about Bryson is that he began his 'experiment' with a swing that made him very accurate off the tee. As he tried to increase his speed he hit a lot of golf balls, which we all know is pretty normal for him. And you can bet he used a swing monitor to get as much info about those hits as he could.

Swing monitors tell you more than just swing speed. They tell you how the ball behaves when it comes off the clubface. Rick noted that his normal driver created more backspin at higher speeds, which certainly affected how much distance he got. We know Bryson also made changes to his driver as his speed increased.

But Bryson didn't just swing faster. One thing that the TV analysts all noticed was how Bryson's swing had changed as he got faster... but they also noticed that he was more accurate than most players at that higher speed. The reason why should be obvious if you think about it.

It's because Bryson altered his swing technique to maintain his accuracy as his swing speed increased.

So bear in mind that if you want to increase your swing speed, you can't just swing faster. You have to change your equipment so it can handle that speed, and you have to make small alterations to your technique so you apply that increased speed to the ball as effectively as possible. It's the combination of the three that gives you the best results.

Thanks to Rick for giving such a good analysis of his six-week project. I hope it helps those of you who are interested in trying it yourself.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Peter Finch on 7-Woods (Video)

While Peter does talk about a particular Ping 7-wood model he uses in this video, I included this video because he gives a lot of good information about 7-woods in general. No matter what kind of clubs I have played in the past, the 7-wood has ALWAYS been my favorite club in the bag. I don't have one of the newer models like Peter is hitting, but I have always found the 7-wood gives me about the same distance as 3-iron but is much easier to hit -- and with more consistent results.

One bit of trivia for you: The 42" length of current 7-woods is the same length as most drivers were a century ago. For example, in his book The Complete Golfer Harry Vardon says his driver has a 42.5" shaft.


Friday, March 19, 2021

Paige Spiranac Shows You How to Play Several Tough Shots (Video)

Paige just did this video on how to play a number of shots that most players struggle with. (I think I counted six.) These are everything from pitching from a downhill lie to an uphill green, to buried sand shots, to shortsided shots to a green that runs away from you, to playing from a fairway divot, to... well, you get the idea. You'll probably find something you can use in this video.


Thursday, March 18, 2021

The Korn Ferry Tour Is Back

It's been three weeks but the Korn Ferry Tour is finally teeing it up again, this time at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open.

Defending champion Vince Covello

The Chitimacha Louisiana Open is another of those events that got cancelled last year, so the defending champion is 2019 winner Vince Covello. This time the event will be played at Le Triomphe Golf and Country Club in Broussard LA, which measures 7067 yards at a par of 71.

Ironically, the most interesting story I've seen so far for this event concerns Monday qualifier Preston Stanley, who got into the event via a rule that I didn't even know existed.

Here's the short version: Stanley made a three-way playoff for two spots and he was the first guy out. But as he was leaving... well, I'll let him tell it:

“So the rules official puts Tom Hearn [a senior tournament referee on the Korn Ferry Tour and the advance rules official for this week’s Chitimacha Louisiana Open] on the phone and he goes, ‘Hey Preston, you’re in the tournament,’” laughed Stanley. “It was crazy stuff. Apparently since The Honda Classic field went final at 6:13 p.m. CDT [central daylight time], and the last group at our event finished at 6:18 p.m. CDT, the guy who shot 61 at our qualifier was the first alternate. So the 61 comes off the board and all three of us got in.”

As it turns out -- not for the first time lately -- GC isn't giving the Korn Ferry Tour any TV time this week. To keep up with the event you'll have to check out the leaderboard at this link. But things might get interesting as both Ollie Schniederjans and Curtis Thompson are in the field, and a win from Davis Riley will give him the Three-Win Promotion to the PGA Tour.