First, The Stadium Course is probably more fun to walk and spectate at than play on. Yes, the layout is beautiful. Yes, the conditions are immaculate. Yes, 16 through 18 provide great theater. But imagine playing on a golf course this tight off the tee with water on 17 of the holes. As soon as I splashed a ball, it would be in my head for the entire round – no fun! I recall playing a very tight golf course after playing a wide open links course. The switch to the tight tee shots was a small shock to my system and I never got comfortable. Multiply that by 100 as the Stadium Course’s aim points looked like the size of a gnat’s rear end.
Second, play your own game. Did you notice that defending champion Rory McIlroy shot 10-over and missed the cut? Only afterwhich, he announced he had attempted to copy Bryson DeChambeau’s swing and it got in his head. Are you kidding me? Rory has done some stupid stuff in his career, but this is tops. And hats off to DeChambeau. This guy is a showman and is starting to garner a well-deserved big time following. Could you believe he contended on this straight knocker’s paradise?
Finally, I’m devoting 50% of my future practice time to putting. I love the way Lee Westwood took a weakness and turned it into a strength. Lee was one of the best ball strikers in the world but had hands of stone on the greens, which arguably prevented him from ever winning a major. Yes, he three putted the 71st hole from a very difficult spot, but he was unbelievably clutch nailing tough par putts time and again when his long game left him.
This was a great tournament, augmented by real fans, finally! Did you enjoy the 2021 Players Championship? What was your favorite part?
I’m just as frustrated as you about the impact the virus is having on golf. But let’s heed the great advice from Stephen Covey in his 7-Habits of Highly Effective People. “Focus on what you can influence (your game preparation), and not your circle of concern (the virus).” Work on your game and do not get consumed with all the bad news circulating. Assuming your course is closed and you have tons of time on your hands, there’s a few Do’s and Don’ts to prepare for a great re-opening. Let’s take a look.
CREATE A PRACTICE STATION
Mine is in my back yard. I have a driving range mat, a bunch of golf balls, and three soccer cones. I set the mat on my patio and the cones at 5, 10, and 15 yards out.
I chip balls with different wedges at each cone trying to hit the cone on the fly. I use a high, medium, and low trajectory chip. This provides hours of fun and is great for rhythm and timing. Don’t have a driving range mat? Try an old piece of carpet. Take care though not to create divots in your back yard. It doesn’t show well for your July 4th barbeque. I also have one of those portable driving nets in the garage that I haven’t taken out for years but am ready if I need full swing contact. Lately, I’ve been hitting magnolia cones with a driver. Makes for a perfect bio-degradable projectile that doesn’t fall apart. Here’s an original how-to video:
I love what Jim at The Grateful Golfer has done in constructing a home hitting station in his garage. His build out was pre-Corona, but works great as well, check it out!
INVENT A GAME
Fortunately, I live close to a school field. Go find one. With school closed, it’s always empty and perfect for an afternoon of practice with a bag shag and a pitching wedge. For that matter, try all your wedges. Last time at mine, I invented a new game. The baseball diamond cages are roughly 150 yards apart. I start at home plate on one end and use one club and one ball, hitting full and partial shots until I can clank a ball off one of the cage poles at the other diamond. Each attempt is a par-4. Improve your lie within six inches in any direction on all shots. Great fun!
GET FIT- CROSS TRAIN
If you have a home gym or free weights, now is the time to start using them. There’s a plethora of workouts you can even do without weights. Here’s a great one from Sirkisfitness that is fast and protects your back. Before COVID, I had been lifting in the gym. Now I lift at home for an hour every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after work. On the weekends, I’ve started playing tennis and taking non-playing walks on the golf course behind my home. The variety of activity is great for fitness and for keeping the mind clear.
In Maryland, our courses are closed for play and practice. In Virginia, they are open. Both states have stay at home directives, but exercise is permitted. I make the short trip to the Old Dominion and have conducted full-game practices under carefully controlled social distancing guidelines. After watching this video from Dr. David Price (New York physician on the front line of treating COVID patients), I have confidence I can protect myself in any social setting, including golf courses and practice facilities. The video is educational and empowering and is definitely worth a watch.
OBSESS WITH COVID COVERAGE
Protect yourself and others with reasonable precautions but don’t devolve into consuming the 24-hour COVID news cycle. Watching the daily death count is bad for your mental outlook and saps your energy. Focus on positive news, work your game fundamentals and fitness. You’ll be in great shape when courses are re-opened.
I’ve begun to see this with several friends who play and some that don’t. They are trying to social distance alone. The isolation is taking it’s toll mentally which is translating into physical difficulties. The mind and body are connected. We need social interaction even in this difficult time. If you can, get out and walk, talk to your neighbors and friends face-to-face while keeping your necessary distance. Have a dialog with front line workers like health care providers and grocery clerks. Tell them how much you appreciate them. I know we need to keep our distance but remember that full isolation can start to feel like solitary confinement. Don’t forget to call on friends and family who are isolating by themselves.
This is Masters week which signifies the traditional start of the golf season. One of my favorite activities is to play golf on Masters Sunday and plunk down for an afternoon of delight with my favorite major. Not happening this Spring. The Masters has been moved to November. No worries, because rather than concerning myself with the schedule, or if the participants are going to be affected by frost or falling leaves, or how closely the tournament will be played in proximity to football, I’ll focus on my game, my health, and my mental outlook. How about you? Hope you find these thoughts are helpful.
It’s been hard to miss if you’ve been watching end-to-end Masters coverage this week. Every interview with Brooks Koepka inevitably zeros in on his “think of nothing” swing strategy. I love it and find the psychological aspects fascinating. Having tried myself, I found it tremendously difficult. Nick Faldo said that he doesn’t believe he can do it. Readers, like Vet4golfing51, claim to be able to do it without issue. Can you do it?
Playing with no swing thoughts implies that you have 100% trust in your swing. Bob Rotella, famous sports psychologist, advocates for the “Train it Trust it” method. In Golf Is Not A Game Of Perfect, he draws on examples of athletes throwing away mechanical thoughts and just thinking of shooting at a targets to free up their bodies for better performance. Makes perfect sense.
If Koepka can truly play and only focus on where to hit the ball, he has a tremendous advantage. The guy certainly has no lack of confidence and is building a track record of success. Maybe there’s an overabundance of some brain chemical that allows him to play that way, or maybe he’s not telling the truth, but the results speak for themselves.
On the occasions I’ve dabbled in the strategy, I’ve either made a conscious effort to just “think target” or have been so frustrated with my game, I threw out all swing thoughts just attempting to relax. The one planned effort lasted 16 holes during a round in Myrtle Beach. The experience was weird, as if I had lost all control of my game but was rather successful. I didn’t feel like I could control my shots but never hit one terribly off line. Then the inevitable swing thought crept in on the 17th hole and I returned to a normal state. Normal state would constitute working with a single swing key, and possessing enough knowledge about your own game to make mid-round adjustments. Jack Nicklaus was a proponent of this approach and certainly has the record to back it up.
How close can you get to playing with zero swing thoughts?
Recently a Golf Digest article came out where Phil Mickelson indicated he might not play in this year’s PLAYERS Championship. Being one of the leaders on the world stage, should he skip a tournament of this stature? It would be disappointing not having him participate but Phil doesn’t feel he’s a “horse on this course” as he sprays the ball a little too much, and even though he’s won here, it doesn’t set up well for him. I say, “skip it.”
Professional golf is unique because players get to choose where and when they compete. You are measured in two categories; total wins and victories in the majors. Phil is 9th all-time with 44 wins and five major titles. The better you are, the more selective you can be. More importantly, he’s in the 20-win club and has earned a lifetime exemption to play whenever he wants.
Other players before him have set the bar on selective participation. Rory McIlroy skipped the Olympics in Rio. Sergio Garcia skipped a recent FedEx playoff event because he was too tired. Several American pros have been known to skip the British Open because of the travel burden. Back in 1987, Greg Norman expressed a vehement displeasure with the 9th green at TPC of Avenel and didn’t play the Kemper Open for several years afterwards.
I will miss Phil’s participation if he elects not to play because I get a perverse pleasure of watching pros struggle with courses they are not suited for. Isn’t it fun watching Rory battle his internal demons at Augusta? Or watching Phil’s never-ending quest for the US Open with his cache of painful second-place finishes? Occasionally, someone breaks through like Sergio at The Masters. He had always underwhelmed at Augusta and had a horrible final round choking reputation. Bam! All gone in a flash. Very cool.
So, if Phil skips The PLAYERS, I’ll be fine. What about you?
Historically, the U.S. Open has been the hardest of the four majors to win. The USGA has setup their venues to require great thinking, punishing rough, and lightning fast greens. It is the ultimate test in golf. The first US Open I recall watching was Jerry Pate’s victory in 1976 at the Atlanta Athletic Club, and every year I’ve looked forward to the penal nature of the competition and how it differs from the weekly birdie-fest on the PGA Tour. The last two years have been a major buzzkill with the ridiculous assault on double-digit under par at Erin Hills and the carnival bounces at Chambers Bay (2016). I’m looking for full redemption this year. Shinnecock Hills has been lengthened by 450 yards, the rough has been grown out, and there’s nary a tree in sight to protect the golfers from the winds that are sure to blow from the Atlantic Ocean and Shinnecock Bay. The course is a national treasure and will not disappoint.
Who’s going to win? Beats me. But since I’m in the recreational handicapping business, let’s give it a go. Picking from this field is a big problem, but a good problem. As in this year’s Masters, the best and deepest pool of championship caliber golfers ever are competing. Of course the U.S. Open field is nearly twice the size of The Masters, making prognostication all that more difficult. Plus, half the Masters field is past champions with no chance. Here, qualifying is the ultimate merit based system.
I’m sensing this will be a ball striking contest. Essentially, who can drive it the best and manage the wind. Rory’s game is suited for links style golf and he’s a great driver of the golf ball. But he choked in round four of The Masters and I don’t think he’s hitting on all eight cylinders. Can’t win the U.S. Open with a four-cylinder engine. Jason Day is in good form and another great driver, but flights it too high. Jordan Spieth is the best major player in the field. Best mind in the game, but not the best driver (not even close). However, Spieth is always contending in every major and will be a factor. I loved the way Rickie Fowler finished at The Masters. Seems like he’s getting over his Sunday foibles, and he will be in the mix here. Of all the awesomely talented players, who’s the best when playing at his best? Dustin Johnson. It looks like he’s gaining that extra gear again and will be in the thick of the battle. Tiger is a lot of folk’s sexy pick, but Shinnecock accentuates his weakness: driving it consistently. Not his week. Nobody believes in Bryson Dechambeau except himself – and now me. As weird as his theories are, they work. This guy is more science than art, but is becoming scary good. Finally, the sneaky good fit for this venue is Tommy Fleetwood. Love his ball flight and familiarity and comfort with links golf.
So who takes it? The All About Golf Kiss Of Death goes to the best player in the world in the toughest tournament: DJ. Spieth is runner up, and Fowler takes third. Enjoy the action and happy early Father’s Day!
It was exactly 5:11 p.m. on Saturday and the heavens opened up on The Masters. Along with the downpour, a fascinating subplot was hatched on how the best pros handle sudden weather changes. Commentator Dottie Pepper, said that you need to just play through it like nothing was happening. Rory McIlroy was on #13 hitting his second shot into the par-5 from a perfect position, and pulled it way left into the azaleas. They switched coverage to Patrick Reed getting dumped on behind the green at #12. He had a straight forward chip, which he blew by the hole and missed the par putt coming back. The weather clearly affected these guys, but what could they have done to handle it better? How about you?
My last round two years ago was in late November at my local muni. It started off sunny and 70 degrees but steadily grew colder and windier through the round. I knew this was in the forecast, but on #18 mother nature freaked out and sleet started pouring down and blowing sideways. I was unprepared and went into total golf shock, and my game collapsed. Earlier in the same season we were playing at Barefoot in Myrtle Beach and remnants of Tropical Storm Bonnie were in the area. In retrospect, I was better prepared and handled that with ease. What is the reason for weather shock, and what can you do?
Shock clearly happens because your mind is on cruise control. Rory had just nutted a perfect tee shot and was playing in an exquisite rhythm. You can see when these guys are rolling that everything about their pre-shot routine is the same, from the way they take off and put on their gloves to the way they check yardage and discuss shots with their caddies. The weather change is a sudden distraction and crushes routines. When Rory yanked that approach way left, he was probably over the ball thinking, “Should I dry my grips? Has my guy got the umbrella ready? I can feel the rain hitting my back.” Reed was getting drenched and you could tell he was thinking about it after he missed his putt. He just wanted to quickly tap in and get dry.
I have found that physically preparing for the condition before it hits is the solution. Get your game and routine actively into the situation. At Barefoot, I knew we were going to get rain, but just didn’t know when. I started the round with my waterproof rain vest on and playing with one rain glove on as well. I had the other rain glove in my pocket. When the deluge came, I just pulled out the other glove and carried on without breaking routine. Now, it pays to have the proper equipment. For example, you don’t want to be playing with a full rain jacket on in 80 degree weather and high humidity just waiting for the storm to hit. That’s why I had the half-sleeve vest and rain gloves in play, but you get the idea.
One other point that Dottie made was critical. You don’t want to be playing or interacting with folks who complain about the weather, especially in adverse conditions. This will ruin your concentration. Sometimes it’s unavoidable but if the sudden change comes, I usually try to keep a bit away from the whiners.
Got any other tips for staying on point when weather hits? Please share and play well!
As of this writing, Tiger Woods is leading the odds at 9:1 to win The Masters. Can the four-time champion and greatest player of our generation take the green jacket? You bet he can. All the big names are competing, everyone is healthy, most are in good form, it should be awesome. Let’s look at Tiger and the rest of the principals to pick a winner.
Tiger. I have loved watching his resurgence and two recent top-5 finishes. His presence at Augusta and good form make for the juiciest pre-tournament hype. He is great for golf and for The Masters. The gleam is back in his eye. You saw it at Honda, Valspar, and Bay Hill. You know the one where he squints, slightly fatigued from his powers of universal concentration. It comes out when he gets in the hunt and he’s so close, but his driving is a bit too suspect and he’s been getting by with those stingers that keep the ball in play. They worked at the earlier venues and are great for the US Open and PLAYERS but you gotta have the big stick at Augusta. Prediction: Top 10.
Phil Mickelson. Awesome February run of top-10 finishes culminating with a win at WGC Mexico. Is this really happening at 47 years old? He’s playing this week in Houston but disregard any results because he’s just staying sharp. Phil always plays Houston before The Masters as a ritual. I’ll play the odds here and say Phil is on the wrong side of 46 to win another major, but he contends. Prediction: Top 10.
Last year’s champion, Sergio Garcia. As soon as I see a guy going to the claw grip, I think “putting problems – no chance at The Masters.” Sergio put that to rest in 2017 and brings all the other claw guys like Phil and Justin Rose into play. I’ve never liked Garcia in this tournament because of his issues on the greens and my gut is telling me there’s a market correction coming. Prediction: No repeat but a top-20 finish.
Dustin Johnson. We were denied a look at the world’s #1 last year because of a butt-busting slide down the stairs in his rental home. He’s here, he’s healthy, but he’s in mediocre form. I was surprised how poorly he played in the Dell Match Play and don’t know why. I’m assuming he can right the ship and get motivated, although you can never read his desire level. Prediction: 3rd place.
Rory McIlroy. Awesome display of power and finesse at Bay Hill. Has he really found it or is it another Rory streak. When he’s on, his birdie binges are incredible to watch. This week, he cools off a bit and plays on the fringes of contention. Prediction: Top 20.
Jordan Spieth. Been in particularly bad form lately but has caught fire through two rounds at Houston. Spieth can grab a minor tweak and leverage that better and faster than anyone. Greatest mind in the game among the young players. When his putter is on, always a threat to win. Prediction: Top 10.
Justin Thomas. Cocky, powerful, streaky, pouty at times. The Masters requires an even keel more than any other tournament. When Phil learned to play with steadiness, he started winning green jackets. Thomas still needs some seasoning. Prediction: Makes the cut but not much else.
Paul Casey. What’s he doing in this list? He’s got a couple recent top-10s in The Masters, plays a nice right-to-left ball flight, is plenty long, has his putting woes straightened out, and has his mind settled. Love the combo and this horse for this course. Prediction: 2nd place.
Justin Rose. Last year’s runner up. He’s hungry, is in top form, contends every week, is ready and will not be denied. He is your 2018 Masters champion.
Before the believers and the doubters (myself included) overreact to what went down at Valspar, let’s take an objective look at the infallible truths about Tiger’s comeback.
Truth #1: The smartest thing he did was fire Sean Foley. Tiger had gone from artist to scientist under Foley’s tutelage and it was just painfully awful watching Tiger twist himself into the proverbial swing pretzel Foley was trying to create. Tiger is now un-coached. See any of that at Honda or Valspar? Nope. Vision, feel, and imagination are back; watch out!
Truth #2: Tiger has changed his swing because of his spinal fusion repair and it’s working. There’s less rotational movement, less torque, a more upright finish, and it’s producing plenty of length. However, Tiger’s weak point is his surgically repaired legs. The foundation has crumbled before on several occasions. Is his lower body strong or a peanut brittle bar ready to snap at any moment?
Truth #3: Tiger is smart, knows how to compete, and wants to win so badly he’ll do anything it takes, including abandoning equipment that he was previously wedded to. Also see Truth #1.
Truth #4: Tiger’s comeback has been brilliant but I still need to see him compete on a course that demands you hit driver consistently. Genesis at Riviera requires superior driving and he struck it poorly. He played brilliantly off the tee at Valspar, frequently controlling distance, direction, and trajectory with long iron stingers, but the way you conquer Augusta is to bomb it on the 4s and 5s and get wedges in from the fairways. Can he win The Masters without consistent performance from the big dog?
I wouldn’t be surprised if he won at Bay Hill this week but The Masters is the 800 pound gorilla in the corner of the room. You, I, and everyone else are thinking the same thing. Can he do it? Well, can he? Thoughts?
We are PUMPED for the 2017 edition of The Masters! It feels like being first in line at Best Buy on Black Friday morning. Soon, the greatest venue in golf will fling open the gates, and we will charge in to witness the world’s best going head-to-head in the most anticipated and revered contest on the planet. So grab a pimento cheese sandwich and let’s go find you a winner.
Selecting major champions is tough business, but The Masters is the easiest of the four because of the reduced field size and the past champions who cannot contend. Most players love this course but there are a few that don’t, and we can quickly rule them out. There is no way you can not embrace Augusta National and win. For some, the course doesn’t suit their game and others can’t overcome the baggage from previous failures. Both factors will play a part in our selection.
Let’s start the addition by subtraction with the world’s best player; Dustin Johnson.
DJ has worked incredibly hard on his short game and putting. He’s now to the point where he’s the most complete competitor from tee to green, and can destroy tournaments. Old DJ couldn’t chip and putt well enough to win a green jacket. New DJ can. But anyone who’s ever fixed something in golf has that bad swing thought or faulty process buried deep in their subconscious. The synapses can fire at the worst of times and this course can trigger. One year he’ll win one, but not quite yet. Looking for a top five, though.
The world’s best ball striker is Rory McIlroy. When his swing is on he can thump it like nobody. Rory is not the world’s best putter, and is far from it. I’m not sure if it’s attitude, mechanics, or innate ability that hold him back. He’s won the other three majors and would dearly love to close out the career grand slam, but you need a deft touch on these greens, and a cool head when you miss. Plus, he still has that final round 80 in 2011 lying dormant.
Phil Mickelson‘s performance in the majors began to slip over the last couple of years. But then, BAM! What a show for the ages he put on at 46 in last year’sOpen Championship. Unfortunately, Henrik Stenson bested him with one of the greatest final rounds ever played in a major. Lefty’s game is suited for Augusta. But come on, he’ll be 47 in two months and nobody since Jack in 1986 has won a major at that age. Sorry, Phil, you aren’t Jack. Should be a good week though, and a top-10 finish.
Briefly: Justin Thomas peaked a little too early this year and needs more seasoning. It’s either vertigo, mental breakdown, illness, or injury. I’m done picking Jason Day in this tournament – watch him win it now. Sergio Garcia doesn’t like the venue and nobody ever won The Masters putting with the modified claw grip (read this Phil!) Adam Scott; no broomstick allowed, no chance. Hideki Matsuyama; too mechanical and the stage is too big (but it’s shrinking). Rickie Fowler is this year’s trendy pick. He certainly has the outfits to look the part, but trendy never wins The Masters, especially for those who can’t hold a lead or hold up well under 4th round pressure. Rickie is more suited to a PGA type venue where he can battle in the first three rounds and come from behind to win. When will PLAYERS Champion Rickie re-appear? 2016 Masters Champion Danny Willett remains on the world’s greatest one and done tour. Can Canadian Adam Hadwin contend? Should be on his honeymoon but is turning his new wife into a golf widow at Augusta. Okay, he gets a pass. Adam probably needs a couple years on the course but this guy has stones. Love his pressure game.
The last man standing is Jordan Spieth, your 2017 Masters champion. Best putter in the field. Best vision in the field, best clutch chipper in the field. Sometimes hits it crooked off the tee but you can get away with that at Augusta. And finally, if anyone can immerse in the process of shot to shot it’s Jordan, and that will help erase the mental foible of the 12th hole from last year. I love his chances. Who’s your choice?
In the many years I’ve been playing golf, I have never looked at the hole while putting, until today. The objective was to test whether my distance control would improve and I could specifically eliminate the short miss on medium and long range lag putts. My pre-round commitment was to try this out on every single putt, regardless of the results. I had read up on the technique before trying, and the theory is that you let your binocular vision kick in while you make your stroke. This will free up your body to perform its best and release any tension associated with mechanical thinking.
I have tinkered with various putting methods and pre-shot routines largely to gain a measure of improved feel, but have always stroked the putt with my eyes over the ball. In today’s round, the change was pronounced right from the start. Playing #1, I had a 20-footer uphill for birdie and rifled it eight feet past the cup – but I made the down hill comeback and could feel that I more easily kept the putt on line by looking at a spot on the cup. It felt like my back swing was shorter and I was accelerating through the putt more than usual. The rest of the round was characterized by excellent distance control with medium and long range straight putts, but I started to falter trying to judge breaking putts. I couldn’t figure out whether to look at the hole and feel the apex of the putt, or focus on the amount of break and pick a target directly to the right or left of the hole. On short putts, I was completely lost and had no feel for pace, especially on putts that required any break. I left the course encouraged because I smacked in a few long ones and felt I just needed to settle on how to play the shorties and the breaking putts.
Some of you may recall that Jordan Spieth (the world’s best putter) won The Masters two years back by looking at the hole on his short putts. He’s since gone back to sighting the ball rather than the hole, but it obviously worked for him. I’m a little perplexed that he used the method only on short putts while I was completely lost.
Most games of skill that involve aiming at a target require you to focus on the target rather than the projectile or body mechanics. Think of a basketball player shooting a free throw. They sight a spot on the rim and just let it go, feeling how much force and arc to supply. I was aiming for that feeling.
I just finished reading Charles Henderson’s Marine Sniper, an excellent book and true story about Carlos Hathcock (world’s greatest combat sniper and competitive marksmen). In it, Hathcock would adjust his rifle scope several clicks to adjust for wind, terrain, and distance, and while the rifle would be realinged, his scope remained sighted on his target. Does this imply that I should adjust my body for the break of the putt but always look at the hole when I make the stroke? Still trying to work through this.
Anyone with experience looking at the hole while they putt? Please share if you do. Thanks!
In Putting Out of Your Mind, Dr. Bob Rotella says that to judge yourself a success on the putting green, you should measure by how often you were mentally prepared when you struck your putts, and not whether the ball went in the hole. He adds that once you’ve struck a putt, everything else is out of your control. Makes sense, and I love this process oriented approach, but let’s face it, most amateurs and probably most professionals are more results oriented than we’d like to admit.
While reading the aforementioned book, I tried out the methods during a round at a local muni. It was if someone else had possession of my body while I was putting. It worked great, but the total process oriented approach was very hard to maintain. For a short period, I even managed to not think about my score during a few rounds, but couldn’t keep it up.
Getting immersed in the process works. It’s a good idea and is worth the effort. So, how do you measure success or failure? Can a 30-handicap player stand on a tee box with a 200 yard carry over water, and hit three straight into the drink, but feel if they put a good swing on each, and think nothing is wrong? That’s a “Tin Cup” moment and should feel wrong because the player failed to know their limitations and move up a set of tees. I try to follow Rotella’s mantra and think one shot at a time, but ultimately golf is a game where we keep score. We win or lose against opponents, or post some number in a stroke play event or round. As a 5-handicap for the last umpteenth years, when I’m not thinking in process mode, I’m measuring myself by score. Typically:
Good day – 74 strokes or below
Average day – 75-77
Substandard – 78 and above
The 30-handicap may look at their round differently:
Good day – broke 100
Average day – broke 110
Substandard – lost all their golf balls
We do measure ourselves largely by score and that’s okay. Recently I overcame this tendency – albeit briefly. I played a round in the dead of February while working on a swing change. I told myself I didn’t care what I shot and I was just going to focus on the swing change. I shot 83 and took like 39 putts, but I left the course very satisfied because I hit 10 greens in regulation and saw good progress with the swing change. I don’t think this model can sustain over time, but it was nice as I was able to treat the round like a NFL team approaches a pre-season game – totally about the process. Ultimately, it will come back to score.
I know Phil has been working on a swing change and is keen to battle test this at Augusta, (more on that coming in our Masters preview), but at the end of the day does that really matter to him? Nope; it’s about winning.
How do you measure success? Process or results, and BE HONEST!
What I absolutely love about this blogging community is my ability to rant and rave and occasionally celebrate successes, because each of you are players and you get it – no explanation required. Trying to tell the lady stocking the fridge at work on Monday morning why I’m pulling my tee shots doesn’t illicit the same intellectual curiosity. So thank you.
I am drawing inspiration for this piece from all the great articles you wrote this weekend, but one in particular from One Bearded Golfer. He penned an excellent column with his Masters Hot Takes, and it got me thinking about my own struggles on Sunday. Yes, golf is incredibly hard, as Dave has capably pointed out. Watching Jordan Spieth implode at Augusta confirmed this, and I was off my game as well, hitting the ball poorly, but more importantly, feeling sluggish and not particularly capable of making an athletic move. While commiserating with my playing partner, he suggested that father time was starting to play a part. What? I am cognizant of the double nickle non-competitive delimiter most players go through on the Champion’s Tour but could this be happening to me? Of course nobody has the speed, flexibility, and agility at 55 than they did at 25, but there was something else at play, and I realized after watching Jordan’s crash that to play really good golf you need to be hitting on all three of your golf engine cylinders (mental, physical, and mechanical). Jordan wasn’t hitting on his mechanical cylinder and I was off on my physical.
As players we tend to obsess about the latest weakness in our games. As a weekend warrior, my practice time is limited and I had been focusing my entire preparation on fixing my short game. Well, it’s fixed (for now) and oddly enough feels like a strength. Problem was I had stopped working out and put on too much weight over the winter. Was it any wonder I didn’t feel comfortable making a good turn? I believe you have to have the right balance of play, practice, mental piece of mind, and physical fitness to be successful, and still nothing is guaranteed. Jordan Spieth demonstrated that on Sunday.
So to Dave at One Bearded Golfer: Thank you for the inspiration to get back at my TPI workouts and start eating right again. Also know that the little one in your life is probably more of a distraction to your golf than you realize. When I had little ones, I had to adjust expectations, rearrange ground rules, etc.
Yes, as Hogan said, “The secret is in the dirt,” so definitely keep after it but enjoy the little distractions along the way and be patient; it will come.
This year’s Masters Friday feels like a Sweet 16 in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The early upsets are out of the way, some egos have been crushed, most of our bracket’s are busted, and a refreshing reset has set in.
Bernhard Langer and Larry Mize are headlining the weekend action! It’s amazing how some of the old timers continually deliver and the favorites disappoint. Is Phil finally hitting the wall? Maybe. As soon as Jack Nicklaus (had Phil) picks you for something, it’s like the kiss of death. 🙂
The first hole travesty that Ernie Els suffered through shouldn’t happen to anyone. Now this has zero comparison value, but I remember playing in a tournament 25 years ago and five-putting on a par-3 hole. I just wanted to climb into a shell and disappear. I cannot imagine how the Big Easy felt on the first hole of the greatest tournament on earth. It was difficult to watch and to his credit, Ernie answered all the questions with honesty and integrity.
My David and Goliath final match-up is history with both Zach Johnson (cut) and Bubba (made it on the number) shooting themselves out of contention. Zach was assessed a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in a hazard on Friday and missed it by those two shots, but was already on the back-nine bogey train and headed for the weekend off.
So how’s this play out? The good news is that we are in for a surreal weekend treat. Forget about the traditional Sunday birdie barrage. Look for a U.S. Open style battle of attrition where even par is a great score and the toughest course conditions in years force the players to grind grind grind. I think this favors all the ex-U.S. Open champions in the field. Obviously Spieth has to be favored. He has the toughest demeanor in the game and the guts around the green. If the wind continues to blow, the good ball strikers like Rory and Dustin Johnson should be right there although neither of them putt as well as Spieth. If Justin Rose can banish any putting demons, he has a shot. Jason Day has a good patient approach and figures to be right there on Sunday, but flights it a little high which could be a problem if the wind is a factor. And finally, despite making a 9 in Thursday’s round on #15, look for Angel Cabrera to hang tough. All he does is win when you don’t think he should. He is definitely a horse for this course and has an Open trophy and a green jacket.
Enjoy the weekend slugfest! How’s your bracket doing?
The Masters isn’t the most difficult major to win but it has become the most coveted because of what it represents. In Michael Bamberger’s Men In Green, he describes Ken Venturi’s inability to get past his defeat in the 1958 Masters, and how it haunted him the rest of his life. It certainly showcases the importance of winning this championship and how it can make or break a player.
The 2016 edition feels like the passing of the torch from the cadre of players in their 40s and 50s (Woods, Singh, Els, Mickelson, Couples), who competed and thrilled us for years, to the younger set that is dominating play today. Of the previous group, only Lefty can be considered competitive enough to have a chance. But at 45, he’s seeing the slow inevitable loss of “the edge”. Everyone who’s ever played the game goes through the process, as the venerable Arnold Palmer has described it.
A tip of the cap goes to The King who will not be hitting his ceremonial Masters tee shot this year because of an unfortunate injury. We wish him a speedy recovery.
Now to the business at hand, let’s break the field into three groups of contenders.
Group 1 (Superstars): Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Adam Scott, and Bubba Watson. The world’s #1 ranking rotates regularly in this circle and sort of confirms the lack of importance of that title. Whomever is hot at the moment is the World #1.
Group 2 (Cagey Veterans): Justin Rose, Louis Oosthuizen, Zach Johnson, and Jim Furyk. All major winners and usually in contention.
Group 3 (BPTNWM: Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, and I’ll lump in Rickie Fowler, since he’s been so close with top five finishes in all the majors. Certainly he has the talent, and now he’s got the expectations.
There are plenty of great players on the periphery like Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Kevin Kistner, and Danny Willett, but the champion will come from one of the first three groups.
Picking major winners is hard so let’s use the process of elimination to arrive at a champion. Getting started, here’s why Rory McIlroy will not win it despite all that talent. Rory has won his four majors but also has that Masters bugaboo since he fired the final round 80 in 2011. Becoming a first time champion at Augusta is hard work as the magnolia baggage piles up. I’m not wild about the timing of his putting change to left hand low. It may be working for him now but I like to see stability with the flatstick heading into a date with these slickmeisters. Adam Scott is striping it too, but I don’t like him for the same reason. Too soon away from the broomstick to handle the mental grind on these greens.
Now we know what the issue with defending champion Jordan Spieth is. He overextended himself with commitments after his stellar year. Seems reasonable, and he appears to be regaining some mojo, but is also struggling with the putter and won’t get all the way back, at least not this week.
Someone with imagination will win The Masters Someone who’s a great putter will win. Someone who can grind will win. Ricky Fowler can make birdies with the best of them but can he grind? He got ground out in Phoenix as a front-runner and that didn’t sit well. To have a chance he needs to come from behind on Sunday. Not likely.
Jason Day fits the bill on the requirements. Before last year’s breakthrough in the PGA, he seemed to always have an untimely injury or bout with vertigo, or illness, or lost a little focus, or something that just prevented him from breaking through. Nobody was closer in the majors, but he finally broke through in 2015, but not at Augusta. He’s the hottest on the planet coming in and I like him for a top-3 but not a jacket.
If golf was played on a 15 hole course and majors were 60 holes not 72, Sergio Garcia would be challenging Jack and Tiger for all time supremacy. Maybe Sergio needs a golf shirt with an XXXXL size collar to have a chance. Sorry Sergio, no chance. I’m also losing faith in Dustin (more talent than anyone) Johnson. Seems he runs with a bit of Sergio fever at crunch time. I’m not picking him in a major until he wins one.
So who’s left? It’s Zach Johnson vs. Bubba Watson. David vs Goliath. Bubba is hitting the ball great and leads the tour in the all important GIR statistic. But unlike normal Bubba, his putting is mediocre and his scrambling is horrible and you’ve gotta have touch and guts around these greens to win.
So your 2016 Masters Champion will be touch and guts Zach Johnson, with Jason Day finishing second and Bubba coming in third. For those of you looking for a dark horse in your Calcutta, Charl Schwartzel is an ex-champion, has had a nice quiet but solid start to his season and will be cheap! Look for him to contend.
The most awesome thing about golf is that it’s the one sport where amateurs can relate to issues their favorite touring pros are suffering from. Despite the difference in skill level, it’s possible, on occasion, to achieve greatness at the same level as the best players in the world. For example, a middle-aged round belly like me has no idea what it’s like to try to hit a 95 mph fast ball 400 feet over a wall. I’ll never know, but I could conceivably birdie the toughest golf hole on a tour track with a couple purely struck shots and a little luck.
So, this past week, I eagerly anticipated the return of Tiger Woods to active competition, and was paying particular attention to Tiger’s chipping since both he and I have been suffering from the chip yips for a protracted period. I’m sure my problems were much worse, but his were more magnified. Either way, I was paying close attention to see how he handled himself under the pressure of a major. I heard all the pre-tournament talk from Tiger about how he, “worked his ass off,” during his long layoff, but the true nugget was when I learned he changed out all his wedges. Ever since I changed my wedges out a couple years ago, I’ve struggled greenside with my chips and pitches using my 58. The bladed low ball has become an unwanted playing partner and the longer it stayed, the more it started to infect my thinking and other parts of my short game.
Fast forward to Masters Thursday and I was at Whispering Pines in Myrtle Beach practicing for my Friday round at Myrtle Beach National. The blade ball had reared it’s ugly head again and I was starting to panic with the prospect of hitting low screamers from tight Bermuda lies. Then I remembered Tiger changing out his wedges and figured what the heck. I started hitting the same shots with my 54 instead of the 58. Bingo! All touch and feel returned, as did the nice little “thump” you get from a purely struck short shot off a tight lie. After a few adjustments for the lower loft, I was making clean contact every time and getting them close. I was thinking the blade ball was being caused by too much bounce on the flange of the 58, but still wasn’t sure.
The next day, during my pre-round warm up, I chipped with the 54 and actually made a couple. Then I went out and shot a tidy little 2-over 74 which was unexpected, but felt natural with the returned boost in confidence. If you don’t think a little confidence in one small area can take your game a long way, you are highly mistaken! I didn’t hit the ball that great, but was relaxed and got it up and down out of some trash can lies.
I used to play these shots with a 56, then moved to the 58 with the new clubs, and now it’s down to a 54. So what’s four degrees of loft here or there? Has this ever happened to you? Please share if you have a similar experience.
Augusta National, like no other venue tests a player’s patience, persistence, and concentration. To win The Masters, players need to contend for 63 holes then charge on the back nine on Sunday. More important than shooting a very low round is avoiding a bad day. A deep dive into the tournament archives reveals that over the last 60 years, avoiding one bad number has been the key to Masters victory.
Jack Nicklaus is arguably the greatest Masters player of all time. From 1959 through 1993, Jack had only three rounds of 77 or worse in 125 played; just incredible consistency. He won with two 74s on the card in 1963 and a 76 in the second round in 1966. But when players card a 77, it’s basically over. In the last 62 years, only Nick Faldo in 1989 has won the tournament after recording a 77 for one of his four rounds. Go back to Sam Snead in 1952, for the next round of 77, to find another champion. So as we don our green jackets and settle into marathon coverage with our pimento cheese sandwiches, know that as soon as your favorite shoots 5-over for the day, he’s cooked. Just ask Greg Norman (1996) how that works.
For 2015, let’s see who can avoid the big number and who’s primed to win it. Get your Calcutta ready.
Group 1:“Masters Champions.” (Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods) Adam Scott has shot three 77s or worse in 48 Masters rounds, but none since 2008. Good recent consistency, ball striking is in excellent form, but his putting is horrible after switching from the broomstick. Might make the cut, but you gotta roll the rock. He will not contend. Defending champion Bubba Watson is in excellent form. Bombs it off the tee, short game is razor sharp, 2/24 at 77 or worse with rounds in 2011 and 2013 respectively, and he’s controlling his emotions. Great value play at 10/1 odds. Three time champion, Phil Mickelson has played 84 Masters rounds and fired only two at 77 or worse; amazing consistency for the proverbial roller coaster rider. But Lefty will hit 45 years old in June and hasn’t been in good form over the past two Masters. Scores are going up with age. Maybe he makes the cut. Tiger Woods; no chance. Just listed as a courtesy.
Group 2:“Other Major Winners.” (Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose) Rory McIlroy brings the Air 3-Iron show to Georgia and is a bit off mentally. Game is suited for Augusta with his high ball flight, but five of 22 Masters rounds are at 77 or worse; with one each in the last five tournaments. Enough talent to finish top-10 in his sleep, but I want to see him get over the psychological dumpster on this track before I ride him. Martin Kaymer has only one 77 out of 20 rounds but has never finished higher than 31st. You need to be a great chipper to win at Augusta. Kaymer is not and is more comfortable putting from off the green. I don’t like the fit. He will make the cut but bide his time waiting to defend at the U.S. Open. Justin Rose has only three bad rounds out of 36 and has never missed a Masters cut. Last five years have all been top-25 finishes. Is moving in the right direction and is more seasoned with pressure since his U.S. Open victory. Will be in the top-10.
Group 3: “First Major?” (Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Ricky Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Jason Day) Matt Kuchar has the best shot in this cast. His short game and putting could be best on tour and the ex-Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket is very comfortable on the grounds. Could be his year but he already feels overdue. Dustin Johnson is playing great but doesn’t have the short game to win here. Sergio Garcia has a long record of futility at Augusta. Six bad rounds out of 54 were mostly early in his career, but he’s got that choke mentality on the back nine on Sunday and that’s where The Masters is won. Ricky Fowler tied for fifth last year and has not missed a cut in his four appearances. With only one bad round in 16, I look for a top-10. Henrik Stenson is the world’s #2 player, but as Judge Smails said in Caddyshack, “Some people just don’t belong.”
Henrik hasn’t belonged at Augusta because the course is in his head. He’s got three rounds in the 80s and five at 77 or worse out of 30. Awesome ball striker but historically poor around the greens, despite some improvement this year. Despite the angst, he’ll rebound and post a top-20. I keep asking myself when Jordan Spieth will win a major. He’s always in contention, but burns a little hot at times and must control his temper in this event. He’s not the straightest ball striker but that won’t hurt him at Augusta. Missing 3-5 foot putts will, and I’m not sure he’s sold on this looking at the hole part time putting method. If he figures it out, could win it. Patrick Reed is not one of the top five players in the world but is in the top 10. Awesome in match play format but has a very short Masters history. Needs more seasoning and will not contend this year. Jason Day was my pick last year and continues to disappoint. Always gets close and seems to make back-to-back bogeys at the wrong time. Flights it high like Rory and is suited for the venue, but struggles to control his distances on short irons. Miss with too many wedges here and you can’t win it. Look for another top-10.
Winner: Bubba Watson to repeat and weep.
Runner Up: Jordan Spieth cools his jets and gets closer than ever
Third: Rory McIlroy keeps all his clubs in the bag, breaks the bad number streak, but no career slam this year
I have never played Augusta National and it’s item number one on my life’s bucket list. Is it on yours? I’ve often figured there are two ways to get on. First, win a tour event and get an automatic invite to The Masters. The road map for this DC-based wacko idea used to be shoot two rounds of 68 in pre-Kemper Open qualifying, then four straight 68s at Congressional Country Club to win the event. Zero chance of that leads to method #2.
Play as the guest of a member. This requires a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon type activity since I don’t know any members personally. One time, I was one degree away back in the mid-1980s when I actually played a round of golf in Sea Island, GA with an Augusta member. That’s as close as I’ve come other than getting a Larry Mize autograph.
Have you ever thought of playing Augusta or actually played it? I’ll bet some college players out there have had the opportunity. How many degrees of separation are you from playing Augusta? Will it ever happen?
The Masters is almost here and the non-major winners will be under the microscope again. Why don’t they win? Why do some players like John Daly win multiple majors when stellar career guys like Steve Stricker don’t? How do guys like Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen (one tour win each) manage to make their only tour victory a major? Of the guys that win, some overcome physical shortcomings, some overcome mental issues, but rarely will someone conquer both. To be successful, they must have three characteristics:
-Belief in self
-Ability to avoid distractions for 72 holes
Of the players that win majors, you’ll always find two of the three on any given week, but the guys who lose have a major deficit in at least one. Of the winners, John Daly is the most fascinating and is the least likely multiple major winner in the history of the game. With the charges of domestic violence, substance abuse, busting up hotel rooms, etc, Daly suffered from the most distractions, but his belief in self and ability to concentrate for the full 72 holes allowed him to prevail in the 1991 PGA and 1995 Open Championship. Vijay Singh overcame poor putting for his entire career, but his commitment to excellence and belief in self were tremendous, and he won three majors. Nick Faldo had just nine tour wins but six were majors. Nick was supreme in all three facets. Tiger Woods also excelled in each but when the distractions started, so did the current train wreck.
Of the primary non-winners with double digit career victories (age/PGA Tour wins) let’s look at why they failed:
Steve Stricker (48/12): Lack of total commitment. Total family man; nothing wrong with that, but 15 tournaments per year was a full schedule. Sometimes didn’t travel to The Open when eligible to play.
Bruce Lietzke (63/13): Lack of total commitment. Would rather be fishing. Very similar to Stricker.
Kenny Perry (54/14): Belief in self. Came close at The Masters but didn’t believe he could win it at the end and choked. Very humble, almost to a fault. No killer attitude and has never believed he was a great player.
Matt Kuchar: Best finish was T-3 at the 2012 Masters. Has the belief in his abilities and is a relentless competitor. Seems to stay in the moment and has an excellent short game. Tough to judge his level of commitment. I’m not wild about his recent swing changes with his closed stance and over the top move. Historically, not a good ball striker in terms of driving length, accuracy, and GIR which is probably what’s held him back. Best chance to break through would be at The Masters. I have him at 50-50 odds to get a major.
Dustin Johnson: Best finish was T-2 at the 2011 Open Championship but best chance to win was at the 2010 PGA (T-5) where he was assessed a two-stroke penalty on the last hole and missed out on a playoff by two strokes. Could have the most physical talent on tour. Obviously distractions were a huge issue in the past. I love the changes in his pre-shot routine, especially with the putter, and they’ve been on display in recent weeks. Still has a weak short game that will hurt in tournaments with fast greens like Augusta and the U.S. Open. Best chance to win is at The Open where his ability to bomb it and the slower greens work in his favor. Too soon to tell if he’s past the mental foibles but looks good in the short term. 70% chance to win a major because he’s young and oozing talent.
Sergio Garcia: Best finish was T-2 at the 1999 and 2008 PGA as well as T-2 at the 2007 and 2014 Open Championship. Clearly the most disappointing of the three. What’s held Sergio back has been issues with commitment, a bad attitude, and poor putting, especially towards the end of tournaments. He’s been so close, but the combination of mental and physical shortcomings has derailed him. With all the second place finishes and late round failures, his major career is slightly reminiscent of Greg Norman’s, except The Shark won his first major at the age of 31 . At 35, Sergio has improved his putting over the last couple of seasons but still struggles with pressure late in rounds. His proclivity to choke will get harder to overcome with age and despite all the close calls, I have him at less than 25% to win a major. Best chance would be at The Open, with the slower greens and home field advantage.
Ricky Fowler and Jordan Spieth are in the next group but are too young to be dinged for not winning. Both have the talent to prevail, but as we have seen recently, will need to overcome a huge obstacle (Mr. Rory McIlroy) to break through.
Do you think anyone has what it takes to break through in 2015? Predictions?
That sound is the deflating golf bubble, as we know it today, and much has been made of the recent decline in the industry. Nobody likes to see 500 PGA professionals get fired at Dicks or five million fewer participants, but we are simply at the end of a massive market boom known as the Tiger Woods Era. While the economic impacts are real and unfortunate, they are not a terrible cause for concern because the underlying market factors are natural.
As in any sport, interest is driven by three entities: Domination, Rivalry, and Disaster, and when they are removed, interest wanes. While Tiger was the face of the sport, all three were in abundant supply. Now that he’s a middle-tier, often-injured shell of himself, the draw is gone and the vacuum hugely noticeable. Tiger still drives TV ratings when he appears, and the mainstream media bend over backwards for a smidgen of real time coverage, but between the injury time, scandal time, and missed cuts, air time is rare. Broadcast of his arrival in a SUV for a PGA practice round was silly/obsessive and reminiscent of another guy driving his SUV down the freeway in 1994.
Try this quick exercise: Think back to the half dozen most riveting golf moments you’ve ever seen on TV. Mine; in no particular order:
Phil crushing Tiger head-to-head by 11 in the final round at Pebble in 2012
Great theater, and there are many more, but each of these directly touches Domination, Rivalry, or Disaster, and that’s what sports fans live for. You had to love the playoff between Jason Day and Victor Dubuisson at the Accenture Match Play earlier this year with Dubuisson’s scrambling from incredible trouble in the desert to continually extend the match. It was truly fascinating, but Tiger wasn’t in the field and TV ratings plummeted. Whether you love him or hate him, Tiger was the major part of golf history for the last 15 years. Now he’s almost gone.
In three years, nobody’s going to remember “Day vs. Dubuisson In The Desert” so what will be the headliner? How will the industry recover? Does it need to recover or just return to the pre-Tiger state? Much is being hoisted on young Rory McIlroy’s shoulders because without him there is no compelling story out there. I wonder how this will play out.
In the meantime, enjoy the abundant starting times, wide open golf courses, and discounted merchandise at Dicks. What do you think will solve for this or does it need solving?
The Masters green prognostication jacket is out of the closet. Ready for a changing of the guard? It’s here and this year’s champion will be a first time major winner.
First, the usual suspects. Tiger’s body is breaking down and he’s withdrawn. Phil’s body appears to be giving him more difficulty than in the past and while he’s overcome some significant arthritic issues, age is becoming a factor. I love watching Phil compete, but he is 43 and will turn 44 in June, and from a major winning standpoint, players hit the wall at 44 (see data from golfmajorchampionships.com below). Phil still has game and usually turns it on at Augusta no matter what type of form he’s showing in the preceding weeks. That being said, of all the majors contested since Willie Park won the first Open Championship in 1860, only eight have been won by a player older than 43, making Jack Nicklaus‘ victory in the 1986 Masters, at age 46 all that more impressive. Look for a top-10 finish for Phil.
Augusta National is the premier horses-for-courses venue and picking the winner is the easiest of all the majors because course familiarity is a huge advantage and some of the entrants are aging past champions who have no chance The contest also boasts the smallest field of all the majors with 97 entrants in 2014. The other majors routinely field more than 150.
I love the newer younger cast of characters because they all have great ability and are dynamite when they get hot, but each has a distinct weakness that prevents dominating performances from week-to-week. Come Sunday evening, the tournament will pit four players head-to-head: Rory McIlroy, Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott, and Jason Day. Let’s take them in reverse order.
Jason Day will win The Masters this year.
He’s been so close with a 3rd in 2013 and a T-2nd in 2011 and it is now his time. Jason hit’s it a long way, knows the course very well, and has finally got his mind right. I loved the way he kept his cool and closed at the WGC Accenture when Victor Dubuisson kept getting up-and-down out of trash cans, dumpsters, and desert cactus against him in the final. Day’s weakness is his ability to control his distances under pressure. He’s adjusted with a repeatable pre-shot routine and doesn’t deviate based on the situation. Alan Shipnuck’s piece at Golf.com on Day is must reading for students of the mental game. Day’s visualization techniques are more in-depth than any I’m aware of. His fascination with Navy Seals training and affinity for hitting the gym are sounding Tiger-esque and I would caution him about taking too extreme an approach. But for this week, as long as his sore thumb holds up, he wins his first major.
Adam Scott and Matt Kuchar will tie for second. Scott is the horse for this course, has Steve Williams on the bag for steadiness and sense of purpose, and has the full compliment of tools. He’s susceptible to getting on bogey runs which are protracted and seem to come at terrible times under pressure. Yes, he pulled through last year in an epic moment for self and country, but his fellow Aussie will edge him out. In the back of Scott’s mind has to be the upcoming ban on anchoring and how he will adjust. Is it starting to affect his current work with the flat stick?
Kuchar plays well at Augusta, knows the course intimately, and has the temperament. He won THE PLAYERS Championship, which is just as hard as a major, and is also ready. Kuchar’s achilles heel is his driving distance. He’s also mediocre in GIR and the fact that he’s so highly rated year after year in scoring average is a testament to his lights out short game and putting. This new closed stance and slightly over the top move is supposedly getting the job done, but doesn’t bode well for the right to left ball flight needed at Augusta and will be just enough to hold him back. Down the line shots at Shell indicate he’s made a slight correction from last week at Valero but still looks too closed to me. Hopefully it helps him.
Rory McIlroy finishes alone in 4th. The Northern Irishman is starting to look like Phil Mickelson from a roller coaster perspective. When hot, there’s nobody better, but when his driving is off, it affects his mindset and his total game suffers. Physically, he’s got the tools to be the best player in the world and is a multiple major winner. He’s still young and it still may happen. Now I need to see a serious run with no final round collapse.
Value picks for your Calcutta. Look for Zach Johnson to make a run. The 2007 champion had a great 2013 season, is hitting fairways and greens in 2014, but has slipped to 68th in total putting.
Nobody wins in his first attempt at Augusta, but I look at these three making their Masters debut to have an impact. Jordan Spieth has the guts and the game to win a major-now. Billy Horschel got real hot this time last year and has the confidence to contend. Harris English has all the physical tools but needs more time under the gun. Missing from the conversation is Jimmy Walker who’s leading the Tour in FedEx points and has three wins under his belt. He kills it of the tee, putts great, but is only 86th in scrambling, which is a must have around Augusta. While he’s shown steady improvement over the last five years, I don’t look for him to make a move in his Masters debut until he gets some experience chipping to these greens.
Masters Sunday is one of my favorite days of the year. Play golf in the morning and settle into exciting final round coverage in the afternoon; I can’t wait. Good luck in your pools!
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