Stick To Your Game Plan!

Henrik Stenson by Golf Week
Henrik Stenson by Golf Week

Love this post by 3underthru2 on Henrik Stenson’s work ethic.  The message of committing to steady improvement is clearly directed to everyone but applies specifically to us desk jockey’s who try to capture a swing thought at the range and adapt it to our once-a-weekend round of golf.  I’m as guilty as the next guy, and admittedly Stenson’s approach is easier dialoged than implemented.  The closest I’ve come is when I play my ten rounds in six day marathons in Myrtle Beach.  I don’t let any individual hole or round get to me and view the entire trip as a process, not a handful of individual results.  But playing that much golf is not the norm.

Fast forward to the current state and I find myself coming off the worst statistical ball striking round of the year last weekend (3 GIR), but almost fully healed from my hip injury sustained July 7, and heading out to play a very hilly and difficult ball striking course at Little Bennett today.  Last week, I took the view of my round as part of a recovery period or journey and was actually quite satisfied with myself for managing my game while dealing with a pull or pull hook on every shot as I continued to over-compensate for lack of hip strength with an over-the-top move.  I kept the driver in the bag most of the day and despite my lack of control, carded a 9-over 80 at Poolesville.

I know I need to re-synch my timing by getting my hips to fire and pull my upper body through the shot, but can I commit to a single approach, as Stenson says, and not deviate when the frustration of a tough ball-striking course presents itself?  I have a plan today and I think I can stick to it, but often struggle to stick to my plans when adversity strikes.  Does this happen to you?

In war, they say you can “plan, plan, plan, but when the shooting starts, throw out the plan.”  I’m gonna try to stick to this plan today if it’s the last thing I do.  Wish me luck!

Will Anchoring a Standard Putter Be Illegal?

WieI was stunned when I saw Michelle Wie’s new putting stance during Solheim Cup action today.  It appears that she is bending over at 90 degrees and anchoring a standard size putter, and I’m wondering if this is going to be legal under the ban set for 2016?  I thought the ban pertained to long putters but was wondering if it covered all putters, because while odd, Wie’s stance is technically anchoring.

Despite her improved putting stats, Wie looks more like the nose gear assembly of a single engine Cessna than a professional golfer, and this posture has got to be painful to implement during a protracted practice session, not to mention during play.  I suppose pros will go to great lengths and try anything if it will get them past the yips with the flat stick.  Bernhard Langer has run the gambit on putting grips, with his forearm grasp probably the most outrageous. Langer

I’ve been very hesitant to make major changes to my putting grip or posture even after a sustained period of poor performance.  I will usually change my stance and either open my left foot or widen/narrow my feet, depending on what gives me more feel.  Usually, the change of something minor or a different mental key is enough to get me out of a funk.  The most significant change I’ve implemented over the past couple of seasons is to read all my putts from the low side.  This is a tip I picked up from Dave Stockton’s book Putt To Win and it’s proved invaluable.  Some of the other recommendations he’s made just don’t work for me, but I love the below the hole tip.

Have you ever made the change to an alternate putting style like Wie or Langer?  Claw, left hand low, or if you are anchoring, do you plan to change in 2016?

Golfer And Genius – The Only Thing Common Is The “G”

EinsteinAlbert Einstein defined insanity as repeating the same behavior over and over and expecting a different outcome.  I was reminded of this today as I twisted myself into a mental basket case trying to implement too many mechanical fixes during the first eight holes of my golf game.  Fed up with hitting pop-ups and chunks off the tee, I decided on the 9th hole to “screw all these stupid swing thoughts” and just hit the ball hard at the target.  “Bingo!” The flow and rhythm immediately returned and I rifled short irons right at the pin on four of my next five holes and carded three birdies.  Having done the “think target only” thing in the past with great success, I was left to wonder, “Why do I keep doing this to myself?”

The culprits are not just us weekend warriors.  I learned during Saturday that Jim Furyk’s resurgence at the PGA was due largely to some recent work he’d been doing with Dr. Bob Rotella.  Apparently, Furyk’s mind was so twisted he couldn’t get out of his own way.  Watching Furyk reset five times before every putt was starting to drive me insane, but he was making most of them, so he must have been doing something right, and Rotella must be making a boatload of cash off these touring pros.  He has developed quite a reputation for fixing guy’s heads right before stellar performances in the major championships.

Weekly players practice once or twice before a round and latch onto a swing thought that happens to be working at the time and then try to put that into play.  The fallacy in this method is that swing thought momentum is fleeting and inevitably we make a bad swing using the good swing thought and the mistake is a catalyst for a new swing thought.  Every been there?  I think we’d all be better off playing 18 holes and starting the round by just thinking target and attempting to “trust our swing” as Dr. Bob advocates.

I wonder how much an hour of Dr. Bob’s time costs?  How’s your mental game?

What’s Your Favorite Golf Drill Of The Year?

During today’s PGA Championship telecast, I was watching Tiger on the putting green pre-round and was loving his use of Butch Harmon’s Two Tee Drill.  Butch's two tee drillWhile watching that pure stroke bang putts into the hole with perfect form, I immediately grabbed a couple balls out of my bag and set up shop on the carpet.  Using a golf ball in lieu of a tee on each end, I quickly found out how perfect you had to be to slide that putter head through the gate.  Though not nearly as proficient as Tiger, I still can’t wait to take this out to the course tomorrow and give it another try.

The effort got me thinking about all the excellent and not so excellent golf tips I have received this year and I was trying to pick the best.  Do you have one or more to share?  Here are my top three:

1st place:

“Push out your pecs!”  I received this from a friend while warming up in Myrtle Beach before a round.  After a particularly bad ball striking day the day before, I was still all over the place in my warm up and just didn’t feel right at address.  My friend told me to push out my pecs and all of a sudden, I felt like I was in a good strong athletic position and started hitting it pure.

2nd place:

“Keep your left upper arm tight to your chest on the back swing and down swing.”  Got this one from Graeme McDowell in one of the spring Golf Digest magazines.G-MAC  This worked great for about two or three rounds till a hook worked it’s way into my swing.  Maybe that’s why G-Mac fights a hook.

Honorable mention:

“Hinge and hold.”  Resurrected this one from the archives of my own practice notes.  Back in the spring I was fighting some very loose and embarrassing green-side pitch shots with my new 58 degree wedge.  Skinny and lateral were in the lexicon and it turned out that I was trying to release the club on these short shots.  Found the tip and started holding my finish with the club face pointed at the sky and down my target line and all of a sudden, I was cured.  More importantly, I remain cured.

If you’ve come across a great tip or two, please share.  I’d love to put some good ones into play.  Thanks!

2013 PGA Picks

TigerTiger Woods just turned the 2013 PGA Championship picking apple cart upside down with the butt kicking he administered at Bridgestone, but let’s settle things down and take an organized approach to pick your winner for this year’s event at Oak Hill.

Like most majors, position off the tee and putting will be critical and the course setup at Oak Hill doesn’t appear terribly long at 7,163 yards, but is brutally difficult and should be playing fast and firm.  With no soaking rain in the forecast for the week it will stay tough and a few strokes under par should win it.

We’ve seen this drill with Tiger before as he’s won the same WGC event at Firestone eight times and actually followed up one time with a victory in the 2007 PGA at Southern Hills.  The key for Woods in the majors is getting out to a fast start because he doesn’t play well and never wins from behind.  When Tiger is on, he can dominate like nobody else, but his dominating weeks have been ill-timed in 2013 and he’s placing too much pressure on himself to win a major for the sake of his legacy.  In effect, he can’t get out of his own way in the big ones.  Does anyone think Tiger looks like he’s having fun competing in a major for the last five years?  Despite his recent prowess, I don’t like him to win here.

Adam Scott was totally at peace with himself and took The MastersJustin Rose won the war of attrition at The U.S. Open, and Phil Mickelson charged from behind to capture the claret jug at Muirfield.  The only story missing from the majors is the wire-to-wire winner and it will happen here for Brandt Snedeker who is super hot since finishing 17th at The U.S. Open and has fully recovered from his mid-season rib injury.  SnedekerI liked his steady if not unspectacular win at RBC two weeks ago and do not think he has peaked too soon.

Phil Mickelson has figured out that you can leave driver in the bag for the majors and still contend.  It’s eliminated many costly mistakes off the tee, but it’s too soon for Lefty, who is still in a fog after winning The British Open, or from looking at his tax bill from his winnings.  Other contenders:  Lee Westwood is an interesting play and I was pleasantly surprised at his performance in the British Open.  He seemed to have righted the ship with a new mental approach on the greens and was rolling it quite well, but his ball striking deserted him at the critical juncture.  Don’t you hate it when that happens?  Lee needs this tournament almost as bad as Tiger.  Outwardly, he doesn’t seem to put nearly as much pressure on himself, but inwardly, it must be a crushing grind.  I think he comes close AGAIN.  Angel

You won’t find my dark horse on anyone’s odds board, but I’m loving Angel Cabrera‘s moxie when it comes to big tournament play.  The guy is lose and seems to play great with house money.  Watch him and enjoy!

Who do you like in this one?

How Do You Get Past a Mental Blocker Hole?

We’ve all experienced this at some point.  You’re on the course and come to the hole that’s always problematic.  No matter how well or poorly you’re playing, the hole just cannot be solved and leads to the inevitable big number or the start of a poor run.  You’ve never played it well and can’t get it out of your head, and the distraction affects your preparation and subsequent play.  What do you do?

Mine is the par-3 16th at Rattlewood and it happened again last weekend.  The hole is a typically benign 160-yard play with bunkers guarding front right and left.  Golf courses are full of these mediocre par-3s and there’s no reason a reasonably struck short to mid-iron to the center of the green shouldn’t get the job done, but I can never recall making par or better here.  So I stepped to the tee and pulled a six.  Right away I felt uncomfortable at address.  Perhaps I was misaligned or wasn’t in a good athletic posture, but it didn’t feel right.  I probably should have reset but didn’t and pulled the trigger on a big push slice.  The ball was heading OB but cracked off a tree and caromed into the right greenside bunker.  I felt fortunate for the break but very uneasy standing over the long bunker shot from wet sand with the thought of the tee shot still in my mind.  You guessed it, I skulled the bunker shot low and right and hit my playing partner in the foot.  The ricochet actually prevented my ball from going into the tall fescue behind the green and left me behind a large mound but with plenty of green to work with.  After the obligatory round of apologies, I managed to pitch to three feet and hole the bogey putt.

After muttering a few non-printables, I exited the green but felt strangely good about myself for making a nice pitch on the third and saving bogey, where a triple or quad was definitely in play.  I finished up par – birdie and the lousy 16th didn’t seem to factor in.

So how do you extricate these demon holes?   What strategies have you used?  I’m thinking next time to pull a three or four-iron and bunt a little controlled knockdown run-up between the bunkers.  Basically, anything to change my thought process and remove all negative thoughts from previous blunders.  All suggestions are welcome, please share!