Archive for April, 2011

April 29, 2011

Running My Game Into Submission

Running has had an extremely positive impact on my golf game recently.  I don’t even think it is running specifically to be honest.  It is the fact that running has helped me with my focus and that has directly related to improvement in my golf game.  I actually hate running.  Not much about it is fun.  It is boring, not very easy and takes a toll on your body if you do it too often.

I would much rather do 50 other workouts than run, but the fact that I dislike it so much has helped me work on my focus in a way I never thought about until recently.  If you think about it the focus it takes to finish a run you really don’t want to do is very similar to the focus you need to hit good shots in pressure situations on the golf course.  When I used to go for runs all I could think about was how much longer I had to keep going to hit my time or distance mark/goal.  It was all negative thoughts basically.  “I’m tired”, “This sucks”, “I can’t wait to be done”.  It was zero percent enjoyable.

Recently, I have shifted my focus to easier more positive thoughts.  I try to think about my breathing and keeping it consistent or my stride length as I am running.  It takes my mind off of how much further I have to go, etc.  This is the same focus I have been trying to implement in my golf game.  I have been trying to focus on things like picking good targets, being aggressive on “scary” shots and rolling putts with a smooth stroke.  These points of focus are taking the place of the old goals of, no double bogeys, no shots OB and Break 40.  If I focus on the positive goals the performance based goals will follow.

As much as I really don’t enjoy running, it has really helped me train myself to focus on process based goals or things I can actually control instead of letting negative thoughts affect my performance.  Plus, I feel better now that I am running consistently and have lost some weight.  My golf game looks better when I employ this type of focus and I have running to thank for it.  Doesn’t mean I like it anymore than I used to, but it deserves some credit.

April 28, 2011

Playing a New Golf Ball

A few months ago I decided I was going to buy a box of all the golf balls on the “Hot List” in the under $40 range and try them out.  My intent was to write a review about each one after playing a few rounds with them.  The problem is, I really like the first ball I bought.  I have lost all interest in trying out any of the other balls right now.  That doesn’t mean I won’t change my mind and pick up a few of the other brands later in the summer, but right now I am more than happy with the ball I picked.  I am not going to pretend I understand all of the science behind all of the new golf balls and why I like the ball I do.  I like it because it feels good to me and I am playing better golf.  My misses are not as drastic and I feel confident standing over putts that I will get the speed right.

The ball I landed on is the Bridgestone e6.  At first I wasn’t that excited about it because Bridgestone isn’t as flashy as Nike or Titelist, but the ball is great.  Apparently, the ball is supposed to promote a straighter ball flight and for the most part it does.  Yes, I still miss shots right and left, but they misses aren’t quite as bad.  I am by no means bombing this ball off the tee ten or twenty yards further than my old ball either.  It is very modest when it comes to distance, but it does have something going on with reducing side spin off the driver and irons.  I don’t put enough spin on the ball with my irons and wedges to really take advantage of the upper echelon of golf balls anyways so this ball performs just fine on chip shots and wedge shots around the green.

It is also quite durable.  Only one ball has had it’s cover chipped so far and that could have been from hitting a tree or some other object out on the course (that tends to happen with my game).  Like I said earlier, it isn’t as glamourous or flashy as some of the other balls out right now, but I would recommend giving it a shot.  They are relatively cheap and you might be pleasantly surprised by the performance.

April 27, 2011

Luuuuuke and World #1 Musical Chairs

Nothing to really disect here.  Luke Donald is playing out of his mind this year and is my pick to win this upcoming weekend at the Zurich Classic.  You could see it in Luke’s demeanor last weekend that he knew he gave the Heritage away.  He put himself in bad spots in the playoff and still forced it to go three holes.

I think Donald’s accuracy and momentum will carry over into this weekend and he will be up near the top of the leader board again.  Plus, it will add to the drama of who is #1 in the world even more.  Does anyone really care who #1 is if it changes hands so often?  I think it is clear that there is no clear #1 right now.  Donald has a chance to change that if he keeps playing so well, but that still wouldn’t convince me he is a clear #1 the way Tiger did for so long.

Westwood, Kaymer and Donald are great players, but can I say with confidence that they are the clear choice for best in the world?  No I can’t, and I don’t think most people can either.  I think the musical chairs that has been going on with the world #1 just highlights the fact that Tiger was an absurd anomaly with how aggressively he dominated this game for so long.  A bunch of great names have held the world #1 title, but since its inception it hasn’t had a long term resident like Tiger.  It is a fluid title, but I think it is fitting for golf to constantly be evaluating who is #1 based on recent play.

Bottom line is that I am picking Luke for the win this weekend (back to back pick) and to take over the world #1 title from Westwood.  Expect more and more Luuuuuuuuke calls!

April 26, 2011

Is Golf Gear Getting Too Relaxed?

Golf clothing has always been the butt of many jokes.  Every generation has had their fashion forward players and equally their boring mundane players.  Even today we have a mix of guys like Ian Poulter, John Daly, and Rickie Fowler.  They all have a very distinct look that you can’t miss.  At times it seems over the top (I guess not so much Bubba), but these types of players have always existed in the game of golf.

On the flip side golf has always had players who never turn heads with their clothing.  Cue Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker and Kenny Perry.  I wonder how many pairs of Khakis these guys collectively own.  They are all good players in their own right and you don’t have to be a walking fashion statement, but I do think there are a few guys on tour right now who have created a personal “golf” image without being incredibly bold and obnoxious with their clothing.

Take a look at Bubba Watson, Nick Watney and Chris Kirk.  All of these guys wear Travis Mathew gear and I really like the look.  It is clean, simple and different from the normal golf logo shirt that we see time and time again on the course and in the golf shop.  This makes me wonder if this is going to be a trend we will see moving forward.  Rory McIlroy is wearing more unique polos from Oakley as well.

There are still a lot of guys out on tour that just wear the logo polo and don’t push the envelope and that is fine, but how will this affect the average weekend golfer?  I have still yet to see anyone out on a golf course wearing Puma gear or representing a tie and cardigan like Ryan Moore, but I have seen more clothing from Travis Mathew, Oakley and flat brimmed hats that are much more casual.

Arnold Palmer is set to re-design his clothing line and I think we are going to see a look that represents his style from the past in a new modern way.  What is that going to look like?  Not sure, but I am willing to bet it will be popular among golfers who are looking to get away from the logo polos of most major brands.  Even Under Armour is making golf shirts that are much more flashy and out there as opposed to their old X on the front and solid colors.

I, for one, like the change and just bought my first two Travis Mathew polos this past week.  I am looking forward to wearing them out this summer to escape the usual hum drum boring logo polos I am used to.  I doubt golf will ever have an X-games edge to it fashion wise, but it feels like the fashion is becoming more mainstream and I dare say casual at times.  Freddy wearing those Ecco sneakers at Augusta was game changing in terms of what shoes were acceptable for respectable golfers.  I like the less stuffy look and think it will only progress, but who knows…this game holds more of it’s original traditions than any other I can think of.

April 25, 2011

This Game is Mental

I want to write a quick post as a follow-up to my last post about how the nature of the goals I had set for myself had adversely effected my game.  I went back out yesterday with re-adjusted goals just to see how it would affect my score, my enjoyment of the round and my swing thoughts.

Well, the jury is out and setting positive and attainable goals is an absolute MUST for me.  It made all the difference in the world.  Instead of setting goals that were centered on negative outcomes, I set the following positive goals.

1. Pick good targets

2. Commit to every shot

3. Hit smooth putts

4. Be aggressive on chip shots

Did I shoot my best score ever with these goals?  No, but I played much better than my previous round where I was focused on (no three putts, no double bogeys…etc).  I didn’t have as many negative swing thoughts standing over each shot.  It was easier to allow myself to just focus on my target and let the swing happen this way.  I wasn’t consumed by thoughts like, “if I miss this green I will probably bogey the hole and not break 40 today.”  Those thoughts were non-existent when I was focusing on my targets.  I also hit more greens and scored much better.

I think the next step with this is to really employ positive goals on my short game and putting.  My putting has been good this season thus far, but not great.  My short game is really holding me back and I need to make a concentrated effort to improve in that area.  I think a good step will be to pick out very specific targets on chip shots around the green and to visualize the shot I want to hit before I hit it.  I tend to visualize tee shots and approach shots well, but don’t really do it around the greens.  I think this is a huge mistake and I plan on employing it much more on my short game.  Getting better around the greens is going to be the key to me breaking 80 for the first time this summer and I have to start making that a point of focus in my practice and playing.

The game isn’t there quite yet, but the progress has been moving forward!  Long way to go, but I am headed in the right direction.

April 23, 2011

My Round was Doomed from the Start

I went out early this morning to play a quick 9 and take advantage of the warming Chicago weather.  All the progress I made the past three weeks absolutely vanished.  Nothing felt right.  I didn’t feel comfortable over any of my shots except for my putts.  I missed the majority of my shots to the right when my natural miss is to the left.  Pretty much nothing felt good on the course today and I actually think I know why.

Recently I have been trying to focus on my comfort level going into each shot.  I wrote a post a bit ago about how my only two swing thoughts were standing closer to the ball and bringing the club back in between my two extremes (too steep and too shallow) on the backswing.  It helped me relax and hit much better shots.

This morning, however, I wrote down 6 goals for my round today and I think this was a HUGE mistake for me.  I wrote down:

1. No three putts

2. No two chips

3. No shots OB

4. No Double Bogeys

5. Break 40

6. Commit to every shot

The only goal on that list that I think was positive was the last one.  I found myself thinking about how each shot would effect my goals I had written down.  I wasn’t focused on the shot as I was hitting it, rather I was focusing on avoiding the negative outcome as it pertained to my goals.  My mind was swimming with scenarios before, during and after each shot.  It was not enjoyable and my shots suffered dramatically.

After having the afternoon to reflect on my play this morning I feel confident saying that writing down those goals was a mistake.  I think the premise behind writing down goals is a must for players who want to truly get better, but I went about it the wrong way.  All of my goals, except the last one, has a negative connotation behind it.  They all refer to a negative that I was trying to avoid instead of a positive I was trying to achieve.  I think my goals were spot on, bu I would word them differently next time.  Here is how I would write these exact same goals for my next time out:

1. Hit smooth putts and focus on proper speed

2. Be aggressive on chip shots

3. Pick good targets on every shot

4. (Would remove this altogether)

5. (Would remove this as well)

6. Commit to every shot

I would remove the goal of no double bogeys and break 40 because if I am able to execute on all of the other goals those will inevitably fall into place.  I could feel myself letting the negative thoughts enter into my head and my game this morning.  On every tee shot I was thinking “No shots OB” instead of pick a good target, set up properly and commit to my shot.  It makes so much sense not to let the negative thoughts come in, but I still let it happen and I know it will be a struggle for me going forward.

I think a new goal for my season aspirations should probably be to commit to using positive goals and fighting out the negative thoughts as much as possible.  Hopefully I can get out tomorrow and rectify my awful performance today with some good solid swings and some even better swing thoughts.

April 21, 2011

Make Eye Contact With Your Golf Ball

As I continue to work towards my goal of reaching a single digit handicap, I have been a sponge for all things golf knowledge.   I read golf books, watch videos and listen to pretty much any tip anyone is willing to give me.  Everyone has his or her own idea of how to hit the ball better.  It seems like there are millions of methods and gimmicks out there that ensure better struck golf shots, but we all know that most are garbage or only work for that individual and not all generic golfers.  If there was truly a full proof golf tip out there we would all be scratch golfers.

I have been working primarily on my putting and chipping recently, which are areas that have plagued my scores for the past two seasons.  After struggling for my first few rounds I started to only focus on one thing.  KEEP MY EYE ON THE BALL.  It is amazing how simple this one tip is and how often I forget to do it.  I am always so concerned with where the ball is going to end up that I pull my head up on putts and chips.  This tends to lead to fat or thinned chips and pushed or pulled putts

I find it fascinating how difficult it is to keep my eye on the ball on these shorter shots.  I don’t have as much of an issue with this when hitting irons or driving the ball.  I think it stems from an in depth past of poorly hit shots.  It is clear that when I step up to those “scary” shots I am anticipating another bad shot instead of focusing on the proper way to hit the shot.  By forcing myself to focus on nothing but the golf ball I have seen tremendous improvement in my shots around the green.  I have a much better sense of where the ball is hitting the club on putts and chips because I am actually watching the ball and taking in that information instead of just swinging and hoping.

Watching the ball is the first thing you learn in pretty much any sport and yet I find myself having to force myself to focus on it.  It is sad but true.  It makes a world of difference when you trust you swing and focus on that small impact zone when the club hits the ball instead of all the negative thoughts that can creep into your head.  Shots are crisper, cleaner and far more accurate.  Mentally, it has been a relief to fall back on this as a key to hitting better shots.  I now know that if I just focus on the ball my worst shots will be far better than they used to be.  It all boils down to confidence and this one simple focus point has made all the difference for me personally.

Try it out and get back to the basics!

April 20, 2011

Donald Sinks Harbour Town

I am coming off a pretty dismal fantasy showing at the Masters where I picked Bubba Watson to win the green jacket and the Texas Valero Open where I had Geoff Ogilvy bringing it all home.  This week I am going against my normal routine of picking a winner simply because I don’t want to over think it.

Harbour Town is one of the toughest courses on tour in terms of Greens in Regulation hit.  That tells me this weeks winner will be a superb iron player who has stellar scrambling stats and a hot putter.  A few good iron players come to mind, but this week I am going with a lot of other people’s favorite to win, Luke Donald.

You can’t deny that Donald has had a great season thus far.  He played well at the Masters and absolutely dominated the Match Play in Arizona.  He is one of the best iron players on tour, if not the best and his putting stats are lights out this year.  I have a good feeling about a few other guys this week, but I really think Donald will have another strong week and is a safe pick.  My fantasy record thus far hasn’t been all that impressive so hopefully a safe pick is what I need to turn my record around.

April 18, 2011

Why Do Writers Hate Golfers?

Normally, I love all things golf.  I like reading about golf, I like watching golf and I like playing golf.  Recently, I no longer enjoy reading about golf.  I feel like every time I start reading a golf story the only thing that people want to talk about is how poorly Tiger is doing.  Has the golf media always been this cynical or do we as the public just love to see golfers do poorly?   I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure there were a few golf tournaments played this weekend and some players who played well and actually won.  Maybe that is worth talking about, especially since one of those winners was 17 years old.  It seems like the golf media only wants to embrace Tiger (good or bad) and not the plethora of young talent budding before our eyes these days.

Maybe I am just making a sweeping generalization here, but the lead story (main photo) on golf.com today is STILL about Kevin Na’s 16 and not about Matteo Manassero winning his second European Tour event or Brendan Steele winning his first PGA Tour event.  How are those stories not more important than Kevin Na’s 16?  I get the fact that we don’t normally see that high of a score from a professional, but it isn’t front-page news to me.  The New York Times would disagree with me on this point.

It just seems wrong to me that the Golf world would rather talk about a high score or Tiger’s struggles than young new talent excelling and coming into their own.  A few people say we will never see another player like Tiger Woods, but guess what?  Manassero might just be that player and no one seems to care.  Shouldn’t the golf community be more excited about great young players taking the game over instead of Tiger’s return to dominance?

Ok, I agree that watching Tiger play and win is exciting and great for the game of golf, but it isn’t the only reason I like golf.  Golf was a popular sport before Tiger came along and it will stick around long after he is gone.  It is inevitable that new stars will come up in the ranks in every sport.  I don’t understand why more people don’t see this as exciting and good for the game.  We should be embracing this change and not desperately hanging on to the past where Tiger won every tournament he entered.

I know the discussion about Tiger’s comeback won’t go away, but to be blunt I don’t care if he comes back or not.  I think golf is full of young stars right now and I love the game for what it is not for who is playing it.  Watching Tiger make a charge at the Masters was fun, but Charl Schwartzel’s closing birdie run was down right amazing.  Guess what people talked about more?  You got it, Tiger.  That, to me, is wrong.  I don’t care who wins each golf tournament as long as they earned it with their play.  I for one am excited for the future of the game in the post Tiger era.  Even if this isn’t the end of the Tiger Era just yet, it will come one day and people will have to accept that.  Eventually, there will be new stars for the media to latch on to and obsess over when they play poorly.  I’m sure they can’t wait!

April 14, 2011

Valero Texas Open

So, earlier today I realized I didn’t put through my fantasy pick for this weeks tournament so I tweeted my picks just so it would be out there.  My main pick this week was Geoff Ogilvy and my sleeper pick was Brandt Snedeker.  Funny enough they are both sitting pretty at (-3) ant T8.

My pick last week didn’t pan out quite as planned with Bubba Watson, but I have a good feeling about Ogilvy and Snedeker this week.  Ogilvy has played well this year when he has had the opportunity to play.  Snedeker has had a great start to his year with a 3 top tens and 4 top twenty fives.  He is one of the best putters on tour and I am surprised he has only won once on tour.

It is hard to get super excited about the tournament right after the masters, but I really think this week’s field is very strong.  I think it will be a great tournament and I am looking forward to finally getting a decent finish for my fantasy points hopefully.