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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.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Back to Kenya

I continue to be impressed by the European Tour during this pandemic. Maintaining any kind of worldwide schedule is an accomplishment to be recognized, and it's with events like the Magical Kenya Open that they have managed to do it.

Defending champion Guido Migliozzi

This event was cancelled last year for obvious reasons but this year the Karen Country Club in Nairobi is doing double duty, hosting the Magical Kenya Open and next week’s Kenya Savannah Classic in back-to-back weeks. It's easy to forget that this week's event isn't really new -- it's only been on the ET's schedule for a couple of years but the tournament itself has been around for over 50 years, with past winners like Ian Woosnam and Seve -- so they have some experience with staging an event in difficult circumstances.

And as is the case for several tournaments on several tours this year, the 2019 champion Guido Migliozzi is defending.

Obviously I'm most interested in the Americans in the field -- Johannes Veerman, Kurt Kitiyama, John Catlin and Julian Suri -- but this is a pretty strong field filled with names I suspect even most of you casual ET fans would recognize:

  • Gregory Havret
  • Haotong Li
  • SSP Chawrasia
  • Alexander Levy
  • Oliver Fisher
  • Joost Luiten
  • George Coetzee
  • Shubhankar Sharma
  • Victor Dubuisson
  • Jamie Donaldson
  • Jazz Janewattananond

GC will be covering the event starting at 6am ET on Thursday morning. And again, I salute the ET for successfully maintaining a worldwide schedule -- and keeping everyone safe -- under the current conditions. It's a truly amazing accomplishment and they should be very proud of it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Twofer Tuesday: Honda Classic

Twofer Tuesday trades the psychological terror of TPC Sawgrass for the actual terror of the Bear Trap at the Honda Classic.

Defending champion Sungjae Im

The Champions Course at PGA National isn't the longest track on Tour but it is by far one of the hardest that players face each season. If the Jack Nicklaus redesign wasn't tough enough on its own, the aptly named 'Bear Trap' -- holes 15, 16 and 17 -- easily steals as much sleep from the field as the final three holes at Sawgrass. So much water...!

Last year Sungjae Im grabbed his first Tour victory by negotiating the treacherous layout better than anybody else, finishing at -6. (Note that the Honda was played before THE PLAYERS in 2020.) It's anybody's guess who might avoid the Bear's claws this year.

Of course, that won't stop me from making my own guesses.

  • My first pick is Lee Westwood. It's possible that he's getting a bit tired given his excellent play over the last few weeks, but I think a shorter tricky layout like PGA National suits his current form. He has a good record here as well, so why not?
  • And my other pick is Brandon Wu. Wu was quite the player on the Korn Ferry Tour last year, with a lot of Top10s. He's only played two events this year, posting a T14 at the LECOM on the KFT but posting a T7 in Puerto Rico. That T7 got him into the Honda, and I think he's ready to make the best of this start.

GC's live coverage officially begins at 2pm ET Thursday but they'll be peeking in on the action pretty often with PGA TOUR LIVE's help starting at 10am ET. It's frightening to realize that, with the WGC-Dell Match Play, the Bear Trap is what passes for a breather between big events!

Monday, March 15, 2021

The Limerick Summary: 2021 THE PLAYERS

Winner: Justin Thomas

Around the wider world of golf: Antoine Rozner won the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters on the ET; Jaco Prinsloo won the Players Championship (no relation) on the Sunshine Tour; Andrew Evans won the Isuzu Queensland Open on the Australasian Tour; and Mone Inami won the Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Ladies Yokohama Tire Golf Tournament on the JLPGA (thanks, IC!).

Justin Thomas with THE PLAYERS trophy

I think the change to Daylight Savings Time on Saturday night played havoc with my Twofer Tuesday picks (and most of the field as well). I had Lee Westwood (2) and Collin Morikawa (T41). I was right about Collin being an untested quantity at TPC Sawgrass since this was technically his first PLAYERS (although he did play well on Sunday), but Lee very nearly gave me the win. Never underestimate the old guys!

  • Top10s: 8 for 20 (5 Top5s, 3 other Top10)
  • Winners: 0 for 10 events

It's no secret that Justin Thomas has had a rough 2021, starting with that... let's just call it a poor choice of words that surprised even him at the Sentry and cost him at least one sponsor (and a lot of introspection time). Then his grandfather died unexpectedly. And all of that just added to what he considered poor play -- although I see nothing worse than a T15 going all the way back to the US Open. He just hadn't won an event.

And to be honest, he was pretty flat for the first two rounds of THE PLAYERS, posting 71-71.

Then all he did was start working on records. He tied the record for lowest weekend score (64-68=132), with his Saturday round just missing the single round low score of 63. He tied the record for biggest Sunday comeback (he was five off the lead when the round started). He almost became the first player to win while hitting all 18 greens; he missed the 18th by a couple of inches. And the $2.7mil he earned for the win is also a record.

Not bad for a guy who's struggling!

So JT's Limerick Summary is a bit different than normal, as it focuses more on his personal troubles than his actual win. But I don't think he'll mind.

He’d made one mistake; yeah, he knew it—
A bad one; he couldn’t undo it.
But though it’s been rough
(So much personal stuff!)
Now JT has pushed his way through it.

The photo came from this page at golfweek.usatoday.com.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Rick Shiels Tests an iPhone Launch Monitor App (Video)

I discovered this video when I looked for the 70° lob wedge test I posted yesterday. Apparently apps that turn your phone into a launch monitor are becoming available, so Rick picked one of the most popular and put it through its paces. This is the Shotvision iPhone app and he compares it against the £20000 GCQuad monitor that he routinely uses on his videos.


Although he mentions it in the video, it's worth noting once again that Rick is testing only one of the apps you can find online and there may be others that are more accurate. But he picked Shotvision because it's so popular, so it's reasonable to assume this is one of the more accurate launch monitor apps that are currently available. At the very least this video will give you some idea of what to look for in such an app if you're interested in getting one.

And let's face it... if launch monitor apps that run on cell phones become dependable enough, just about everybody is going to want one. So here's your introduction to the latest developing golf tech.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Rick Shiels Tests the Hummingbird Lob Wedge (Video)

You've seen players like Phil use a 64° lob wedge. But what if you could use a 70° wedge? Could you even hit it decently? Rick gave it a try with the Hummingbird Lob Wedge. Take a look at what he learned...


Friday, March 12, 2021

Mike Malaska on Blending Hand Motions in Your Swing (Video)

Don't let the technical terms in this video bother you. All Mike is talking about is wrist action -- your wrists can flex upward (what we normally think of as wrist cock) and they can flex backward. They typically do both during your swing. In this short video he talks about how they work together and how having too much of one or the other makes your swing feel.


You might find this video makes a bit more sense if you also watch this Malaska video on hand action that I posted in May 2020. He even refers to that video in this one.

It's all about finding a balance in your swing that makes it easier to hit the ball solidly at impact, about removing excess motion while making sure you develop all the clubhead speed you can.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Mike Malaska on the Chair Drill (Video)

You've seen the chair drill before, but Malaska and PBA Bowling Champion Josh Blanchard show how the feel for a 'swing' in both sports is similar. They use the chair drill to teach how each sport can help you understand the other and help you eliminate both swaying and lunging -- which both stem from the same problem. It's a thought-provoking video and, having bowled before, I like it a lot.


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

At first I was a bit surprised to see the Qatar Masters opposite THE PLAYERS, which I would expect to draw the stronger field. After all, it's not like the ET hasn't had other spots available over the last month or so. But perhaps they decided that there was some advantage to being an opposite field event. I can definitely see that, especially with the pandemic playing havoc with travel for the ET.

Defending champion Jorge Campillo

It's not only the pandemic that has caused problems; it's just the latest addition. While this event had grown into a fairly prestigious tournament a few years ago, travel difficulties caused by diplomatic problems in 2018 forced the event to move to a weaker position in the schedule, and lower purses followed. Now the ET's worldwide schedule -- which under normal circumstances is a strength of the tour -- has a number of things working against it.

With most of the big names who qualify teeing it up in Florida, Qatar actually becomes a strong draw for those with no place to play this week. While the event has had weaker fields over the last few years, there aren't as many options available this year so perhaps the field will be stronger.

In addition to defending champion Jorge Campillo, a few players from the WGC and Puerto Rico Open who didn't make THE PLAYERS field are in the Qatar field. Thomas Pieters, Thomas Detry, Rasmus Højgaard, Andy Sullivan, Wade Orsmby, Brandon Stone and Aaron Rai are members of that group. Kurt Kitiyama is also teeing it up -- of course I'd know about the two-time ET winner because he's an American player! And I saw Eddie Pepperell, Jazz Janewattananond and Pablo Larrazabal in the field.

GC's coverage starts Thursday morning at 6:30am ET. It only looks to be a couple of hours but at least it's an acknowledgement that the event is going on. Given the pandemic, I think just playing the Qatar Masters is a pretty big accomplishment.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Twofer Tuesday: THE PLAYERS

Twofer Tuesday says a reluctant goodbye to Arnie's Place and heads up the road to Pete Dye's place and THE PLAYERS.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy

Since this event was cancelled last year after only one round, 2019 champion Rory McIlroy is the defender this week. Granted, 'defending' is a rhetorical term at TPC Sawgrass since -- to my knowledge -- no winner there has ever defended their title. For that reason alone I won't pick Rory this week.

As a result, I suspect his chances of victory have improved considerably. ;-)

Instead, I have chosen to jinx two other players by picking them this week. I still hold out hope that they will break my curse and provide me with two Top10s, maybe even a win.

  • My first pick is Lee Westwood. It's not just about his runner-up finish at Bay Hill last week or his excellent play so far this year, although both are certainly encouraging. The simple fact is that Lee plays pretty well at Sawgrass -- he has five Top5s in this event. And given how well he's been playing -- and, by his own account, feeling -- this year, I'm going with the old guy.
  • My other pick is Collin Morikawa... and I admit he's an untested pick. He's only been in THE PLAYERS once, in 2020, and we all know how that ended up. Still, he's a far more seasoned player in what is functionally his debut this year, having picked up three wins since the cancellation -- wins which include a major and a WGC. Why shouldn't I pick him?

GC's live coverage begins Thursday at noon ET, and PGA TOUR LIVE plans to televise every single shot live starting at 6:30am ET. While I don't know how many fans will be there, I know the announced figure is 20% of capacity (however many that is) and the available tickets sold out within 45 minutes. Should be a lively tournament!

Monday, March 8, 2021

The Limerick Summary: 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational

Winner: Bryson DeChambeau

Around the wider world of golf: Austin Ernst won the LPGA Drive On Championship presented by Volvik at Golden Ocala; Andrew Martin won the TPS Sydney on the Australasian Tour; and Rhys Enoch won the Kit Kat Group PROAM on the Sunshine Tour.

Bryson DeChambeau with API trophy and red cardigan

I'm beginning to think my Twofer Tuesday picks are deliberately tanking on the weeks I pick them. I had Rory McIlroy (T10) and Viktor Hovland (T49). After so many Top5s in the last few weeks, Hovland shot 77-78 on the weekend and Rory barely hung on for a Top10. I guess I should be thankful for small favors, huh?

  • Top10s: 7 for 18 (4 Top5s, 3 other Top10)
  • Winners: 0 for 9 events

While Arnold Palmer was notorious for saying players should hit it hard, I can't help but wonder what he would have made of Bryson's newfound power. His performance on the sixth hole this week, with two drives over the lake and nearly on the par-5 green, was just crazy!

But it may have been his 'finesse' shots from the rough and around the greens of Bay Hill that most showed off his strength. This ability to combine feel and power (and putting touch as well) is just something most of us never thought we'd see. In fact, most fans may not have thought it even possible!

Clearly Tiger is impressed as well. Bryson nearly broke down as he spoke of Tiger texting him Sunday morning to wish him good luck. Appropriately so, since Bryson finished the day in the red cardigan -- a fitting tribute to the King as well as the Big Cat's dominance at this event.

So Bryson picks up his 8th victory and perhaps marks himself as a favorite for THE PLAYERS next week. Can he pick up back-to-back Limerick Summaries? Inquiring minds want to know!

He hit the ball so hard, it bled
As he put his eighth victory to bed.
When Bryson was done
He was second to none;
Like Tiger, he wore Sunday red.

The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Teresa Zamboni's One-Legged Chipping Setup (Video)

I'm posting LPGA Instructor Teresa Zamboni's video for one reason -- it's yet another example of yesterday's flamingo drills, except this one is adapted for chipping. If you compare what she's teaching with Chris Ryan's full swing drills from yesterday, I think you'll learn that some of the basic principles of golf apply to almost every aspect of the game.


Friday, March 5, 2021

Using Flamingo Drills to Learn Feel (Video)

You may remember a couple of posts I did early in January -- the first covered what John Jacobs called "the measurement of a good swing" while the second was a Mike Malaska drill designed to teach you the feel of a square clubface. Today we're going to add some drills from Chris Ryan to teach you the feel of a draw and a fade.

He calls these drills 'flamingo' or 'one-legged' drills, and they are designed to teach you how weight distribution, weight shift and balance during your swing create predictable swing paths for draws and fades. Watch the video and then we'll talk...


I'll talk about the drills themselves in a moment, but let's start with some observations.

  • First off, I want you to notice that he is using the same ball position for both drills BUT by changing his weight distribution at address he effectively moves the ball forward or backward in the swing.
  • Second, he tries to maintain his weight distribution and balance at address throughout his backswing and down through impact. By that I mean that his body doesn't move forward or backward much at all during his swing.
  • And third, although the drills change his stance, at the end of the video he uses the feel he develops with them to hit predictable fades and draws, both from a normal square stance.

Now let's look at the drills and see how he is able to do this.

The flamingo drill is simple, and I bet you've seen it before. Simply put, your weight is centered over one foot while the other is pulled back from your regular square stance. The foot you pull back is used only for stability -- to help you keep your balance -- and only the toe is touching the ground. And you make waist-high swings during practice.

  • If you use the flamingo drill to learn how to feel a fade, your weight is centered over your trailing foot and you balance on the toe of your lead foot. This effectively moves the ball position slightly forward in your stance and causes your body to rotate over your trailing leg.
  • If you use the flamingo drill to learn how to feel a draw, your weight is centered over your lead foot and you balance on the toe of your trailing foot. This effectively moves the ball position slightly backward in your stance and causes your body to rotate over your lead leg.

Simple enough, correct? Let's consider how these changes affect your swing.

  • With your weight over your trailing leg (for the fade), your backswing is restricted slightly and, with your lead foot pulled back, your hips are open to the target so it's easier for you to get your belly button to face the target as you swing through. As a result, you cut across the ball (an out-to-in swing) and tend to leave the clubface open at impact. That gives you a fade.
  • With your weight over your lead leg (for the draw), your backswing is not restricted at all and, with your trailing foot pulled back, your hips are closed to the target so it's harder for you to get your belly button to face the target as you swing through. As a result, you come at the ball more from the inside (an in-to-out swing) and tend to close the clubface at impact. That gives you a draw.

Note that both of these shots are created by maintaining your balance over one leg throughout your swing AND being aware of the position of your clubface at impact. (That's what the one-handed Malaska drill teaches you to feel.) Flamingo drills help you learn to control the path of the club by feeling how your body moves during your swing.

Most of you struggle with shot shapes because you are used to driving your legs too hard during your swing. These drills teach you to use your arms and legs together in a more balanced way, making it easier to create clubhead speed while staying in balance.

Once you develop some consistency with these drills, you can learn to make shoulder-height swings and actually use these drills during a round of golf to hit draws and fades when you need them. That makes these drills doubly useful.

But if you watch Ryan at the end of this video you'll see that he is using the feels that he learned from these drills to actually hit fades from a square stance, without any kind of dramatic body contortions. He is using his learned ability to control his weight distribution and body rotation to control the path of his swing. He doesn't unintentionally slide backward or forward during his swing, which would change both the path and ball position he had at address and cause unexpected shot shapes.

These drills will probably seem difficult at first, especially if you have trouble keeping your balance when you swing. But the payoff for doing them will be amazing.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Mike Malaska on Making Room for Your Swing (Video)

This short video from Mike Malaska explains how Jack Nicklaus 'made room for his hands' in his swing, and compares it to how modern swings differ.


Although he doesn't call it by name, Malaska does mention how maintaining connection during your swing can prevent you from creating room to swing and, consequently, reduce clubhead speed. And if you've read this blog for any length of time, you know I believe connection is an important part of a good swing.

The trick, as with anything, is realizing that you can overdo a good thing just as easily as you can overdo a bad thing.

If you try to maintain connection all the way through your swing, you'll end up with a very flat swing. It will likely be very accurate but you won't hit the ball very far with it. Connection is important during the hitting zone of your swing; let's call it waist high to waist high. You longtime readers also know I favor swings that are more upright over getting too flat -- assuming your body will allow you to make that kind of swing. You have to create a swing that works with your body, and there have been many great players with flat swings.

But as a general rule, you want to be somewhere between flat and upright to get the best balance of distance and accuracy you can.

To create a wide swing arc and get get some height to your swing, your trailing arm will eventually have to separate (or disconnect, if you prefer that term) at some point above your waist during your backswing. Your lead arm can retain some connection almost all the way back, and your lead arm will help you get your trail arm back in position  (reconnected) on the way down so you can make solid contact with the ball.

Making room the way Jack did gives you more freedom of movement and more speed in your swing, while the more connected position during impact -- which should happen pretty naturally since your lead shoulder is turning toward the target during your downswing -- will help you create the accuracy you need.

Just remember that you don't have to swing as upright as Jack did -- back in the 80s he found he had overdone that 'reach to the sky' motion and actually had to flatten his swing a bit to regain his form. Golf, like life, is a balance... and you need to find what that balance is for your body and your swing. Experimenting with what Malaska talks about in this video may help you with your search.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The LPGA's 'Drive On' Event of 2021

You may remember that, as they scrambled to create LPGA events in the wake of the pandemic and the havoc it created for the communities that normally host events, the LPGA presented two Drive On events — one at Inverness and one at Reynolds Lake Oconee.

This year it looks like we'll have a more normal schedule and hence only one Drive On event, the LPGA Drive On Championship presented by Volvik at Golden Ocala.

Gainbridge LPGA champion Nelly Korda

The photo shows last week's winner Nelly Korda, simply because we don't have a previous winner for this event. Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club has hosted an LPGA event before, but it was the 2016 Coates Championship. That event no longer exists.

But that doesn't mean there won't be a solid field for this event. Not only will Nelly and sister Jessica be there -- the two 2021 event winners thus far -- but Danielle Kang and Ally Ewing, the winners of last year's Drive On events, are also in the field. In fact, seven of the Top10 in the Rolex Rankings are there.

New sponsors have joined the event as well. I already mentioned Volvik, which has had a continuing relationship with the LPGA for some time now. But the LPGA has also added Beltz Portable Toilets, which is a local female-owned business and fits in with the LPGA's efforts to support women in all areas of life. You can learn a bit more about Beltz at this link. I think you really have to hand it to the LPGA for consistently following through in so many ways with their focus on diversity and inclusion.

GC's live coverage begins at 10am ET on Thursday. The LPGA season has finally gotten underway, with events grouped in twos and threes early on. There's a two week break after this, and then the Kia Classic and the first major of the year, the ANA Inspiration. So this week will play a big part as players 'drive on' to the ANA.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Twofer Tuesday: Arnold Palmer Invitational

After a poor showing at the WGC, Twofer Tuesday turns hopeful eyes to the northeast and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Defending champion Tyrrell Hatton

Bay Hill is such a legendary track that I don't really need to say anything about it, other than "this is the King's tournament." The field will likely be legendary as well since so many players will make their way from the Concession to Bay Hill, only a couple of hours away by car.

Tyrrell Hatton is the defending champion but the most newsworthy participant this week may be Kamaiu Johnson, who received a sponsor's exemption after a positive COVID test kept him out of the Farmers Insurance Open. (You remember his story, I'm sure. His friend Willy Mack III replaced him.) This will be his second PGA Tour start (his first was at the AT&T Pebble Beach).

As for me, I'm still chasing Top10 players. Picking players based on recent form bit me badly last week but I see that as an aberration. Let's give it another try, shall we?

  • My first pick is Viktor Hovland. In his last seven worldwide starts he has a win, two T2s, a T3, a T5 and a T6. Maybe he'll run out of steam this week -- and he's T40 and T42 in his only two starts at the API -- but I just can't bring myself to bet against him. When you go six out of seven, you're a good bet!
  • And my other pick is Rory McIlroy. Since 2017 he's gone T4-win-T6-T5 at Bay Hill, and he was T6 at the Concession last week. I'm hoping to catch him on an upswing in his game, and he has a proven record at Arnie's Place.

GC's live coverage begins at 2pm ET on Thursday. Bay Hill is one of those courses that is always in immaculate shape when the pros show up. Bay Hill may even seem like a vacation after a week at the Concession!

Monday, March 1, 2021

The Limerick Summary: 2021 WGC-Workday

Winner: Collin Morikawa

Around the wider world of golf: Kevin Sutherland won the Cologuard Classic on the Champions Tour; Nelly Korda won the Gainbridge LPGA, getting her first win on US soil and making her and sister Jessica the first back-to-back sister victors since Annika and Charlotta did it back in 2000; Hayden Buckley won the LECOM Suncoast Classic on the Korn Ferry Tour; and Branden Grace won the Puerto Rico Open, the PGA Tour's alternate field event.

Collin Morikawa with the Gene Sarazen Cup

My Twofer Tuesday picks demonstrated why golf can be so frustrating. I had Dustin Johnson (T54) and Tony Finau (14). After nearly two months of providing at least one Top5 each week, they simply got whipped by the Concession. As a result, I concede defeat this week and watch my stats worsen.

  • Top10s: 6 for 16 (4 Top5s, 2 other Top10)
  • Winners: 0 for 8 events

Of course, when the big boys don't play so well, it follows that other players step up and show their stuff.

In the case of Collin Morikawa, it was historical stuff.

When Collin first came out on Tour, his coach's words sounded like so much hype. He talked about a young man who played with the instincts of an experienced player, and we all said "yeah, sure."

Looking back, seems he was right. Collin joined an elite group of players — I believe he's only the seventh to join since 1945 — to win at least four tournaments and one of them a major before turning 25. Furthermore, he joined his idol Tiger Woods as the only two players to win a major and a WGC before turning 25.

And he did it in a field that boasted 47 of the Top50 players in the OWGR. If the calculations are correct, he'll be #4 in that ranking on Monday.

Turns out that Collin's coach may have been downplaying his prodigy's abilities just a little. If the boy keeps on like this — four wins in his last 34 PGA Tour starts, to be exact — he might turn out to be even more like his idol than we ever dreamed.

In the meantime, Collin, enjoy your Limerick Summary. And if you plan to keep playing like this, get used to getting lots of them.

When Collin’s coach spoke like an oracle,
His praise wasn’t merely rhetorical—
The kid’s got the goods.
Like his idol, T. Woods,
His play is quite clearly historical!

The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.