Well put a nine-iron through the window, look who’s coming back to play golf. If you ascribe to the Horses for Courses theory, this is the right move for the seven-time Firestone winner. Despite his historical dominance, Tiger finished 78th out of 80 in last year’s Bridgestone and hit the ball just terribly. Can we expect an improved performance next week? Let’s compare his situation from a year ago. Last year he had played every 2-3 weeks leading up to Bridgestone with appearances at Memorial, U.S. Open, AT&T, and British Open. Now, Tiger is newly divorced (albeit 12 months further removed from the scandal), has fired his long-time caddy, has rehabbed a recent injury to leg and Achilles, has a new mechanical-minded genius (Sean Foley) counseling him on his game, and hasn’t played in 11 weeks since withdrawing at The Players Championship. The fact is Tiger is now a middle of the road pro with a ton of mental and physical baggage. The champion we once new is gone forever.
What is the point of adding golf to the Olympic Games? I know this decision was made in 2009 for the 2016 games, but does anyone really think this will add any interest outside of what is already been generated on a global scale? I’m sure the feel good set views this as bringing the game to those who can’t afford it or live in repressed areas where the opportunities don’t exist. So as soon as Olympic golf takes the world by storm, we’ll start seeing youngsters in Jamaica and Republic of Chad participating by the thousands in newly constructed learning centers and tearing up their local mini tours and competing against the world’s best for spots on the PGA Tour.
This is really about letting the stars on the PGA and European Tours march around the opening ceremony waving their country’s flag and adding the title of Olympic Athlete to their resume. The addition of professionals has permanently altered the landscape of the Olympics and not for the better. I took great pride in the U.S. basketball and hockey teams trying to beat the “career” Olympians that the Russians continually fielded, but with the introduction of the U.S. Dream Team in 1992, the lure of the amateur competition eroded. The world’s best professional golfers already compete every year on multiple occasions so adding Olympic golf will do nothing but over saturate the existing market.
Obviously this is a done deal, so somebody please tell me how the Olympic golf tournament will work. How many entrants do you allocate to each country; four, six, unlimited? Do you have qualifying with pros and amateurs like the U.S. Open and British Open? If you insist upon participation from all countries you knowingly take spots away from the best players in the world, or do you let the top 80-100 professionals in the world ranking compete? Would this be the 5th major? The 2016 Olympics are set for August 5-21, right when the PGA is normally scheduled – do you move the PGA? And what if Tiger Woods can’t qualify, God forbid. Do you deny him the mantle of Olympic Athlete?
Been reading Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin and I’m beginning to understand the importance of setting specific goals and executing on deliberate practice to achieve excellence in my golf. For the last 20-25 years I’ve maintained a 5-handicap and have been resigned to the fact that I can’t improve based on time limitations. Essentially, I play once every two weeks and practice once or twice a week, spending the majority of my time on short game. Is it possible to get to a three or two handicap, or maybe even scratch with this level of commitment? I think so because what has held me back has been inconsistent ball striking and I believe I finally understand the source of the problem.
In an earlier post I had found a swing fault where I kept taking the club too far inside on my backswing. I now understand this to be the cause of my inconsistency. I remember seeing a drill by Michael Breed on The Golf Channel and tried it with instant success back on June 12. My next round I hit the ball poorly and subsequently filmed my swing which showed I had reverted to my old fault. Since then I’ve hit balls on five separate occasions and played one round, all with the same excellent ball striking. The consistency is incredible and before every practice session I feel excited with anticipation, like a kid on Christmas morning.
I am a big advocate of short game practice and have worked hard over the last couple of years and while my scrambling has improved my handicap has not. For the last four years I’ve been averaging 8 GIR which is a clear indicator of poor ball striking and I suspect most single digit handicappers hit at least half their greens. The good news is that this swing fix has been easy to implement and doesn’t require much range work. Today I validated with about 25 swings with my PW, Driver, and 7-iron and striped it again. If I can average 12 GIR with this simple adjustment, could I expect to drop two shots per round? That’s the plan to get me to a 3 handicap by the end of the season. If I keep working/improving on short game at the current rate, I’m thinking scratch is possible in two years. Gotta reach for the stars and maybe I’ll get my head in the clouds before too long.
Did Tiger fire Stevie or did Stevie quit? Williams has been riding the Adam Scott horse for the last few tournaments under the assumption that he was on loan to Adam but the Kiwi and Aussie seem to get along great and Scott is playing well. Don’t think Tiger’s problems have anything to do with Williams and maybe he was thinking change for the sake of change. Maybe the request to work for Scott in the U.S. Open looked like a disloyal move on Williams’ part. In the Tiger camp, the latest change to swing coach Sean Foley hasn’t worked out, with Tiger now a total mechanical head case. New caddy going to fix that? No way. We’ll see who lines up next to join the circus but first Stevie goes on the money making circuit. Can’t wait to buy the tell-all book!
Update, August 7, 2011: Wow!. Can you believe Stevie’s post-round comments after Adam Scott’s victory in the WGC Bridgestone? It’s as if Scott didn’t even win the tournament and the whole world revolves around Stevie. While discussing his affinity for finishing first in everything he does, Williams said, “This is the greatest week of my life.” Pretty strong statement for a guy who’d been on the bag for 13 major wins with Tiger not to mention a huge finger in the eye of his former boss. Little bitter there Stevie?
Just booked a trip over Labor Day weekend to play Pinehurst #2 along with rounds on #4 and #8 – can’t wait! #2 is on my bucket list, and as with any golf vacation I will try to peak my game for the effort. When I travel annually to Myrtle Beach, I’m pretty familiar with what types of greens I’ll be putting and what type of short shots will be required but I’ve never been to Pinehurst and am looking for advice and or playing tips for any of the courses so please send your comments!
Of course, detailed course reviews and an evaluation of the entire Pinehurst travel operation are coming so stay tuned!
Two weeks ago I came home from the course incredibly frustrated with my inability to hit the ball. I had been working hard on a change to keep my backswing on plane and was disappointed with the lack of progress under game conditions. Hitting big pulls with every club in the bag created a mental grind and was putting too much pressure on my short game. My daughter took this video snippet of my swing in the backyard and BANG! On went the light bulb. What do you see that might cause a big pull?
My take: My stance is too narrow and my right toe is angled out which creates an unstable base for me to coil against. I’ve got a little too much weight on my left side at address and my club is still coming too far inside on the backswing. As I complete my shoulder turn, I continue to raise the club with my hands, which causes me to lose control at the top and finally, I slide my weight forward instead of turning and hitting against a firm left side. Presto, I’ve got my big pull, not to mention a slew of other potential problems.
The fix: It’s never a good idea to fix too many things at once but I saw this as an opportunity to do most of the corrective work before I swung the club (in my setup) and only employ a single in-swing thought. So I widened my stance, squared up my right toe, and shaded my weight to the right at address. My only swing thought was to take the club back outside the line and after my shoulder turn had finished stop the backswing. Essentially, I felt like I was taking the club back way outside with a 3/4 swing but felt fully coiled and in a strong controlled position.
Validation: I tested my theory in an adjacent field with about 15 balls and a pitching wedge and my shots were flying strong and straight. The following Saturday I practiced short game and before I was finished hit a few 7-irons and drivers with the same positive feedback. The next day I played 18 after warming up very well and hit 13 greens and shot even par. Today (Wednesday) I was back in the field at lunch with my pitching wedge and continued to enjoy the excellent contact. What’s next? Well we all know that in golf momentum is fleeting but I can’t wait to play again. Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait another 10 days. I’ll try to stay sharp with some practice and will post an update after my next round. So send me links to any swing videos of you and let’s get to work!
The move by the LPGA Tour in 2013 to add the Evian Masters as a fifth major doesn’t make sense. You can’t attach major status to a tournament just by adding prize money and calling it a major. It’s clear they’re trying to generate interest in a product that’s suffering from a dearth of star power. Last week’s Ladies U.S. Open was pretty much of a snoozer with a very unglamorous leader board. The PGA Tour’s highest purse is paid for the Player’s Championship ($9,500,000) and it is still not regarded as a major, and try as some might to elevate, it will never gain major status, and it shouldn’t. Too many majors water down the value of the current set.
The Solheim Cup is arguably the most compelling women’s event with the match play format generating genuine interest and passion. Rather than add a fifth major with a largely unrecognizable field, the LPGA should consider an additional match play event pitting the United States against players outside of Europe, similar to the President’s Cup for the men. The television audience would identify with all the best American players and get introduced to the growing number of talented Asian stars.
Once again, John Daly provided the entertainment during Round two with his front nine scorecard reading: par, eagle, par, nonuple bogey. Yes, John fired a 13 on the par-4, 4th hole and I find his ability to post double digit scores with somewhat frequent regularity quite amusing. 13 is rough but but still doesn’t stack up against his Tin Cup moment at BayHill where 18 was the magic number.
Keep an eye on Steve Marino over the weekend. I root for Steve as he’s a D.C. area native but get frustrated with his final round meltdowns. He’s currently in second place, two off the lead and looking good. Steve is ranked 30th, 26th, and 9th in scoring average for rounds 1-3 respectively and then drops to 143rd in round 4 which is inexplicable. For some reason the guy cannot finish and he’s never won on either the PGA or Nationwide Tours. Good luck this weekend Steve, we’ll be watching and rooting!
So out I went on Sunday of the July 4th holiday weekend at 9:30 a.m. to my local muni with thoughts of spending a couple hours working on my game. To my delight, I arrived at an empty short game area and began my putting drills only to find the beginner chipping clinic coming my way after five minutes. So I situated myself at the far end of the green hoping to steer as clear as possible, but soon 12-15 students were zinging low screamers all over the place. So I finished up there and headed down to the range and setup at a station adjacent to the husband and wife team that had just finished taking a lesson. Of course the wife was hitting it slightly better than the husband who’s increasing frustration was apparent. Halfway through my session, the young boyfriend/girlfriend combo set up shop in the two stalls behind me with the boyfriend providing the girlfriend “expert” golf instruction. While they were technically out of my peripheral vision, girlfriend hit a couple toe doinks straight over the protective wall and into my hitting station which effectively ended my practice.
When distracted on the course, you can simply stop / start whatever you are doing but it’s much tougher to manage during practice. For some, practice time is social time where folks get caught up with friends before a round, or find time for a spontaneous contest to see who can hit the tractor picking balls or see who can hit driver over the net at the end of the range.
If you’re serious about improvement, you need to concentrate without distractions and isolate yourself during practice. So short of being identified as anti-social, you’re better off practicing early or very late in the day, when you can do your serious work. Today, I was reminded of that the hard way.
Recently, a friend loaned me a Big Bertha FT3 driver. When hit well, this club delivers 20-30 yards over my Taylor Made R7. How enticing to play from areas of the course not previously visited! Next time out, I found myself hitting this weapon on shots that normally called for placement and adopting a go-for-broke mentality with all my clubs. At the end of the day, I had jerked my swing completely out of my comfort zone and littered my card with bogeys and doubles. Next time to the driving range, I still was preoccupied with length and found myself hitting driver to the point of exhaustion.
The lesson here is that it’s difficult to play to a different personality. Normally, my approach is reserved and calculating, and I’m very careful about picking my spots to be aggressive. In short, I’m not wedded to length and while I did bust a couple very long ones, I need to resist the temptation to always pull driver and remember to get the ball in play.
Looking forward to my round on the 4th of July and yes, I’ll still be playing the FT3 but will be armed with an attack plan that balances risk with reward and allows me to play to my personality. Update coming after the round. -Wish me luck!
I’m in the walking camp and truly believe one’s game is enhanced to the tune of three strokes better per round by walking. On foot you get into a rhythm, get a better feel for the course, can judge the effects of wind and terrain, and can play without delay. Compare to the worst case cart scenario: You are the driver, riding with a player that sprays the ball, who doesn’t play from the same tee box as you, and the course is wet and enforcing “Cart path only.” There’s nothing worse than walking all the way across the fairway to hunt for lost balls or grabbing a bag full of clubs because you can’t measure yardage or visualize the correct shot parked on the cart path. Everything is so much easier when you can just walk to your ball.
There are circumstances where you should be playing out of a cart. On my recent trip to Myrtle Beach, golfing at The Legends would be nearly impossible for a walker. The 54-hole complex and driving range is the size of a small airport and motorized transportation is a must. We were blessed with good weather and could ride the carts in the fairways, which helped to speed play and allowed us to conserve energy for playing 36 holes in the summer heat.
Finally, a word of caution: If you’re going to walk, make sure you’re physically up for the test. Pulling or carrying your bag over four miles in summer heat is not trivial. My back and legs used to get tired after 14 or 15 holes so I dedicated myself to an off-season workout regimen that included aerobic conditioning as well as core strengthening exercises.
Whoa, not so fast, Karen McKevitt. She’s a politician in Northern Ireland, and coined the phrase to describe Rory McIlroy fresh off his U.S. Open triumph. While McIlroy’s performance was stellar and dominating, a run of majors similar to to Tiger’s isn’t in the cards. The competition is too tough and young guns like Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, and Luke Donald are too hungry. Resurgent old timers like Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia are showing good form and are also primed for runs now that Tiger is off the scene. So congrats on a great tournament but don’t get a big head and get ready to feel the heat at Royal St. Georges!
I’ve been to a lot of professional golf tournaments but this was my first major and what an eye opener. The place was packed because of the delayed start (2nd round finish in the morning) and 3rd round play didn’t put any golfers on the back nine until after noon and all the fans went with them early.
Some differences with regular tour events: It was difficult to see where players stood, since every scoreboard was manually operated. Regular PGA Tour events are replete with automated scoreboards showing real time updates. Also, the size of the massive tent city erected to support the event was impressive and made the regular tour events pale in comparison. One pleasant surprise was the food and drink concessions. Prices seemed reasonable and the staff from the Prom company manning the refreshment stations were fast, courteous, helpful, and above all, competent. Lines moved very quickly.
Despite the packed conditions in the morning, we managed to find some excellent viewing spots with our favorite being on the hill to the right of #7 tee, where you can simultaneously take in the play on #6 green and the 7th hole. Also caught Bubba Watson throwing a club in frustration after backing a wedge approach off #9 green. Despite his disappointment, the crowd was showing the love to Bubba, as he was decked out in camouflage slacks to show support for the troops.
The golf course appeared to be playing softer than normal due to the overnight rains and several in the field took advantage with scores in the 60s. We spent a good hour on the hill behind #10 green watching a usually tough par-3 hole play very benign with most players attacking the flag for close birdie attempts and routine pars. Fan favorite Phil Mickelson was not as fortunate and chopped his way to a 77, going seven-over on the back nine alone. Maybe next year Phil.
Finally, as of Saturday night this one looks like it’s in the bag for Rory McIlroy as he enjoys an 8-shot lead going into Sunday. I think the time is now for him to exercise those demons and put the final round 80 at Augusta out of his mind. We’ll see tomorrow!
Ever wonder why your game seems in the zone on some days and you can’t hit the broad side of a barn the next? Playing to our potential every time out would be wonderful, but as human beings is profoundly difficult. From the number one player in the world down to the weekend 35-handicapper, we all fight the battle to elevate our consistency. Here’s how to improve yours.
First, consider the old axiom that says, “If you can’t putt, you can’t score but if you can’t drive it, you can’t play.” I’ve found this to be true to the extent that my most satisfying rounds are when my ball striking is on. As a 5-handicap, a round in the low 70s is good and I’d rather shoot 72 and hit 15 greens with a bunch of two-putts than shoot 72 with 8 greens and have to scramble all day. Good ball striking allows you to relax your mind and puts less pressure on your short game. To give yourself the best chance of having a good ball striking day, adopt this thought: “Hit the shot you know you can hit, not the one you should be able to hit.” I learned this from Dr. Bob Rotella, and found that the quicker the player can figure out that good scoring is driven by confidence and is not necessarily related to massaging one’s ego, the faster they will enjoy sustained consistency. Yes, this is about managing the Driver, and admittedly is difficult because most players love to bomb long drives, but I’ve found that on days where I warm up and struggle with my driver, it’s best to leave it in the bag for the whole round and tee off with a club I know I can put in the fairway. When I first implemented this strategy, I noticed my scores improved most on my bad ball striking days because I wasn’t trying to swing for the fences, or go after the sucker pins, or try the miraculous recoveries. The importance of getting the ball in play is paramount to playing with confidence and nothing will crush your ball striking confidence faster than hitting a driver into trouble on the first couple of tee shots. To affirm, take a quick mental inventory of your last bad round and I’ll bet that most of your trouble began with wayward drives.
Second, take care to not over analyze your swing while on the course. Too many players tie themselves in knots trying to manipulate and contort their bodies with countless swing mechanics. This only builds tension and is counter-productive. Use one swing thought at a time and it should be as free from mechanics as possible. Anything to promote rhythm or good tempo is best. A thought like, “Target – Tempo” is perfect. When I’m playing my best, I notice course management thoughts are in the front of my mind rather than my swing.
Finally, practice your full game the day before you play and make sure you dedicate plenty of time simulating game conditions. Nothing prepares your mind and body better than making an easy transition from practice to play.
It’s happened to every one of us, so how do you get an emergency warm-up in a rush situation? Two keys to focus on: prepare your body to make an athletic move and get a feel for how the course will play. You’ll need to divide your prep time into two five-minute halves.
First half: grab a club and hold it by both ends out in front of you. Do 10 full squats, getting as low as you can, and raise the club as high over your head with each squat, returning it to its starting position as you raise up. This will loosen the shoulders, hips, knees, and get your heart pumping. Next, while still holding both ends of the club in front of you, tilt slightly from the waist and turn your upper body 90 degrees to the right and left without moving your legs. The resistance of your lower body will provide an excellent rotational stretch. Do 15 in each direction.
Second half: spend the time hitting low running chips on the practice green; the longer the chip the better. This will offer the opportunity to take your full swing grip, make a small golf swing, get the ball rolling to judge green speed, and focus on a target. All the things required to be successful on the course. Finish up by hitting six straight three-foot putts into a hole to build confidence and put you in a “make it” frame of mind.
Ready to go, hit ’em straight!
Top picks from my golf library:
Best swing instruction: Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons by Ben Hogan
Best on the mental game: Putting Out of Your Mind by Dr. Bob Rotella
Best story: Final Rounds by James Dobson
Best professional insights: Tales from Q School by John Feinstein
Good old fashioned common sense: Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book by Harvey Penick
Heritage Club, on Pawleys Island, SC, is one of my favorite layouts in Myrtle Beach. Two things make Heritage unique; a bevy of Live Oak trees draped with Spanish moss that line the entrance to the club and frame several outstanding holes, and huge undulating Bermuda greens that provide a daunting challenge to your short game. This course is challenging and you MUST place your approach shots on the same level as the pins. Missing the greens on the proper level is an easier play than playing from the wrong tier of the putting surface. 40 and 50 foot putts are not uncommon and will create havoc with your confidence and put big numbers on your scorecard. You’ll need length off the tee, accuracy on approaches, and a deft short game to score at Heritage. The course is an awesome test.
Value (4.0 out of 5.0).
Playing on The Legends rotation package, Heritage provides very good value considering the overall layout, scenic beauty and quality of course conditioning. To get top billing, they need to include range balls in the cost, don’t charge an extra $2.00 to turn on the Logitec distance finder in each cart, and stock the range with some quality balls. I bought a bag of 40, with nearly all the dimples wiped off. Get them for $5 in the pro shop or the range shuttle driver will sell you a bag in route. A classy course like Heritage doesn’t need to nickel and dime their customers.
Facilities (3.5 out of 5.0)
The property is not that large but a shuttle is required to go everywhere. To the range, back to the clubhouse, to the parking lot after the round. The putting green is located adjacent to the range and not withing walking distance of the clubhouse, which is a bit awkward (also requires a shuttle.) The attendant manning the cart staging area reminded us not to drive our clubs to our car after the round because of some insurance concern, which I found interesting since the other Legends courses mentioned no such restriction.
From the front and rear, the clubhouse is drop dead gorgeous and is reminiscent of the antebellum mansion that might have existed on the property in yesteryear. Between our morning and afternoon round, we dined in the clubhouse and while the standard American fare was quite tasty, we found the service a bit on the slow side.
Customer Experience (4.0 out of 5.0)
Despite all the pre and post round shuttling, we found all the staff very friendly and accommodating. The pace of play was excellent for both morning and afternoon rounds, and the course a delight to play. Bring your patience, nerve, and your A-game because from start to finish, Heritage is a fun stern test of every club in the bag. I’d consider this a must play for anyone making the trip to Pawleys Island.
Overall Rating (4.0 out of 5.0)
Just when you thought the guy was rounding into form he pulls this out of the bag. After driving it 336 yards on the par – 5 third hole, he tried three times to hook a ball around a tree and carry a lake on a 216 yard approach. Dumb! I remember my last double digit hole; a 10 on a par – 5 at my local muni a couple of years ago. That was full of dumb decisions and Sergio made the same mistake. You simply cannot compound an initial error and need to know when to back off and take your medicine. A professional tournament is rarely won on a single hole but can easily be lost on one. Let’s see how this affects his attitude and performance in round 2.
So hobbling around in a walking boot apparently isn’t good preparation for a major. This guy needs to be thinking about participation and making cuts before contemplating more major victories. Tiger – Phase 1 is over and done. Images of Tiger tooling around in a mini-cart like Casey Martin now come to mind and may come to fruition once the network suits figure out how much money they’re losing without Woods to anchor their telecasts.
Oyster Bay, in Sunset Beach, NC is the northern most track affiliated with The Legends courses managed by Arnold Palmer Golf Management. My group played here on a recent trip in early June. Located close to the ocean, the course boasts a variety of holes that weave their way around scenic lakes and marshes and are buffeted by the stiff ocean breezes. Notable holes begin with #14, a downhill par 5 with a large tree to negotiate in the middle of the fairway, which is followed by a risk-reward carry to the green over water. This is followed by #15, a beautiful short par 3 surrounded by water that challenges the player’s ability to keep a ball down under the prevailing sea breeze. #16 is a long par 4 that plays downwind and is bordered by water on the right and in front of the green. Set just inside the ocean, these three holes, along with the par 5 fifth hole (pictured above), provide a standout variety of challenges for the nature loving golf enthusiast. Course conditioning is less than spectacular, with several brown patches intruding on some greens as well as a good number of burned out tee boxes and worn spots in the fairways, but the scenic views and variety of holes make this a very fun course to play.
Value (4.0 out of 5.0)
Greens fees run $79 dollars during June and July and include cart but range balls are extra. Our group was playing on the package offered by The Legends which included breakfast, lunch, two drinks, and golf, which was a great deal. If you are a playing conditions purist, Oyster Bay’s value is middle of the road at best. Our group felt like we easily got our money’s worth and enjoyed a second 18 in the afternoon at a $30 replay rate which was discounted, as the course honored our 9-hole price replay card from our scheduling snafu at Heathlands earlier in the week. We viewed Oyster Bay very favorably and would rate it a top value except for the slightly scrappy conditions.
Facilities (3.5 out of 5.0)
The clubhouse structure was a bit dated and the grill was on the smallish side and offered a limited variety of food choices, especially on the breakfast buffet and just a few ready made sandwiches and hot dogs for lunch. The pro shop seemed nicely stocked for its size. Oyster Bay has a medium size grass driving range with balls costing $5 for a bag. There’s a good size practice putting green where chipping is allowed since there’s no separate short game area. Most holes on the course are surrounded by houses albeit very beautiful properties, but there is little privacy during play.
Customer Experience (3.0 out of 5.0)
The course had double teed groups from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. and we began our morning on the 10th tee accompanied by a very friendly and informative starter/marshal. We played our first nine quickly and our marshal visited us a couple times on the course to inform us that our pace was good and on one occasion brought a player in our group some fresh ice and cold towels to relieve a painful shoulder injury that had flared. We appreciated the assistance but when we turned the pace slowed to a crawl with three and four groups playing each hole and we never saw our marshal again. Ultimately our second nine took three hours to play which taxed everyone’s patience. A few of us decided to replay and went out again shortly after 2:00 p.m. and breezed around 18 holes without waiting on a single shot which picked up our spirits and provided a very enjoyable afternoon. If you are interested in 18 holes on the weekend during the summer, try to reserve between 1:30 and 2:00 p.m. for the best pace of play. The final verdict: If you want a beautiful layout and don’t mind playing on less than stellar conditions, Oyster Bay is a good choice.