Archive for June, 2011

June 30, 2011

My Aha! Moment

I am happy to report that I had an absolute Aha moment last night at the driving range.  It was one of those moments that resembles the first time you flushed a shot or made your first par.  I was completely enamored and engulfed in hitting shot after shot.  I stayed at the range hitting shots until well after 10pm just because I couldn’t get enough of seeing the ball fly straight at the flag from pretty much all distances.  The same goes for the driver.  Nothing is more fun than absolutely crushing a drive straight down the fairway.  I couldn’t get enough and am still excited about the progress.  My next round can’t come quick enough.

The progress comes from one simple change to my take away that has let me swing much more freely on both the backswing and the down swing.  This latest “tweak” comes after reading the article about Adam Scott’s swing on Golf.com.  Scott talked about how he was working with his coach to try to keep the club head outside his hands on his take away to try to get him in a good position at the top of the swing and allow him to return the club to a good position down through impact.  Scott said he was doing this to remedy his old miss of a big hook.  Well, that is what I tend to hit so I gave it a shot.

It was amazing how big of a difference this made in my swing immediately.  I wasn’t thinking about where the club head was at the top of the back swing because I knew if my take away was good it would take care of itself.  This also allowed me to have a much more fluid swing down through the ball.  I wasn’t worried about snap hooking a ball way left because I knew I was attacking the ball on plane and with a square club face.  If anything, I missed a few shots slightly to the right.  The common result was a bomb down the middle with a 3 to 5 yard draw.  Absolutely perfect and the best part was that it felt natural.  I didn’t feel constricted one bit.

The trick now is to take this progress to the course, but I feel more confident about hitting my summer goals now than I have all year.  I feel like I just got a second wind and am ready to start making serious progress.  Recently I have not been able to practice a lot and have only been playing about 1 to 2 times a week.  It was becoming very easy to get down on my game and my goals with so little practice.  Last night’s range session gave me a huge jolt to get my act together and start playing more.  Like I said before, my next round can’t come soon enough.  Maybe tomorrow AM before work for a quick 9!

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June 28, 2011

Commitment to a 3/4 Swing

A while back I wrote about how I was going to try to choke down and try to hit 3/4 shots with one more club than normal to try to see if I could gain some added control on my iron shots.  What I found was that the choke down and 3/4 shot doesn’t always apply out on the course and is a bit to single-minded of a strategy for a full round of golf.

What I have found is that telling myself, “I am going to hit a 3/4 shot” really doesn’t shorten up my back swing drastically.  It does shorten up my back swing but not to the point I am losing a ton of distance.  Just by telling myself to try to hit a 3/4 shot my back swing has become more compact and I have seen straighter shots.  I am not laying the club off or coming over the top in the back swing as much which has let me get the club into a much better position at contact.

Am I actually hitting a 3/4 shot?  Probably not, but by telling myself I am I subconsciously take a slightly shorter backswing.  As simple as this sounds it has taken me a long time to realize it and actually put it into practice.  Most of the time my mind tells me to smash the ball and swing quicker to get a decent amount of club head speed.  Obviously, that hasn’t been working for me so I have committed to taking a new approach.  I have seen much cleaner contact as well as straighter shots.  It is by no means a quick fix to all the problems of my game, but it has helped and I am going to continue to use it as a strategy out on the course.

June 27, 2011

Will the Real American Golfers Please Stand Up?

This topic has been brewing for quite some time around the Golf media and I have a feeling that it is about to take center stage even further than it already has.  Of course we have all read about how dominate the Europeans have been this year.  International players are currently sitting in the top 4 spots in the world golf rankings and taking up 7 out of the top ten spots.

With Tiger out and Rory storming his way to his first Major Championship the golf scene has a strange feel to it in terms of who will win every week.  I have read a few articles proclaiming Europe as the dominating force in golf and that there aren’t a ton of American golfers ready to challenge the Euros.  I have to say that I disagree.  Yes, the Euros are playing better right now, but I would argue that the variability week by week on the tour has given players who have rarely or never won on Tour a new-found hope that they CAN win.  If you think Rickie Fowler wasn’t watching Rory at the U.S. Open saying “that could be me” then you are crazy.

The lack of a dominating player has given everyone hope that winning is possible.  Before it was Tiger vs everyone.  Now it is every man for themselves and players are proving that they can win out on Tour and in Majors without being a huge star like Woods.  I guarantee you that the young crop of U.S. players are licking their chops at a chance to compete against the star-studded Euros on tour and in majors.

One player, Nick Watney, finally stepped up and said he is sick of hearing that the Euros are better than the Americans, but did note that the only way to back it up is by winning and that they have been doing that more often than the American players.  I honestly think that the fire is going to be lit under a lot of unexpected players on Tour and not just the Americans.  Golf has become somewhat normal again.  For the past decade Tiger has dominated in a way we have never been seen before.  The lack of that dominating force is going to open the door for a lot of players to grab the spotlight, a few big wins and a lot of money.

As much as the Euros are dominating at the moment I suspect that the likes of Bubba, Mahan, Fowler, Kuchar and a few younger players who have serious game will make a push later in this season or next season to balance the world of golf a bit more.  There are a few seriously talented players who came up from the nationwide tour who haven’t made a splash yet this year.  Don’t forget about guys like Gainey, Knost and Lovemark.  They all have the ability to make a move into the serious American contenders at some point.  Either way Golf is exciting again.

June 23, 2011

Chamblee Gets It…Plain and Simple

The Rory media bomb continues to dominate the headlines of the golf world and for good reason.  I think it is great that he is getting recognition for his amazing performance, but if I could tell the golf world one thing I would say, “be careful to tag him as the next great hope to beat Jack’s record.”  Does he have the potential?  Of course he does, but why not let him win his next major or his next 6 for that matter before that discussion is in any way relevant or realistic.

Throughout all of the coverage of Rory’s big win last week the media has been quick to say Rory is the new Tiger and Rory will break Jack’s record and Rory’s swing is perfect!  They got one thing right in all of this.  His swing is perfect and more importantly his swing is perfect for Rory.  His swing really is amazing.  It is athletic, aggressive and precise.  As I say this, I know where this is going.  When Tiger came on the scene everyone started to try to swing like Tiger.  It is great to try to emulate great players and pick up good habits from them, but does Tiger’s swing really fit you as a player?  I will bet it doesn’t.

The point I am getting at is that the coverage of Rory’s swing has missed one thing and Brandel Chamblee got it exactly right in his recent article on Golf.com.  You should check it out HERE.  Chamblee is 100% right that Rory’s swing is so perfect because it is built on fundamentals and not constructed by trying to be overly technical.  The point Chamblee is making is that your swing can be as unique as you want it to be as long as your fundamentals are solid.  Look at Jim Furyk’s swing.  It looks funky in full motion, but his stance, posture, balance, grip/grip pressure are all fundamentally solid.  And guess what?  He is a major champion.

It is refreshing to see a member of the Golf media take a step back from the rest of the media buzz and pull out a story that has serious value.  Was Rory’s win amazing?  Yes it was.  Will he be the next Tiger Woods?  Who knows?  But as a golfer myself I don’t want to hear instructors tell me to swing like Tiger or like Rory.  I want to hear tangible feedback about how to build a golf swing that works for me.  Essentially this is what Rory and Tiger both did when they were younger.  Obviously they both cultivated their swings into works of art, but the take away from Chamblee’s piece, for me, was to understand the fundamentals of the golf swing and stick to them.  The rest of the swing will hash itself out.  Rory doesn’t have a perfect swing because he has calculated his spine angle and shaft angle to the nth degree on countless launch monitors.  No, he has a perfect swing because he has perfect fundamentals.

Like I said before, Chamblee gets it…Plain and Simple!

June 22, 2011

Rick Reilly Back Pedals Into Rory’s Corner

At the beginning of the U.S. Open Rick Reilly put out a video on ESPN.com talking about how the throne of golf is currently vacant and the only person suited to take the throne back is Tiger Woods himself.  I commented on this video that it was disappointing that more people aren’t embracing the young players in the game.  It seemed like everyone just liked Tiger and not Golf in general.

This week Reilly came out with another video.  You can watch Rick Reilly’s video HERE.  I suggest you take a look at it because Reilly has very quickly changed his tune from the game needs Tiger to Rory is a refreshing change from Tiger.  Wow, that was a quick turn around.  All Reilly could write about prior to the U.S. Open was how much the game needs Tiger and how no one will be the next Tiger and blah blah blah.  All it took was Rory’s U.S. Open win for Reilly to say he is ready to give the keys to the game of Golf over to Rory.

First off, the keys to Golf are not his to give away and I guarantee you we will all have to hear a piece from Reilly in the near future about Rory not quite being Tiger.  I will put my foot down right here and right now and say that if Rory doesn’t win the next Major Reilly will be back on the Tiger train.  Guaranteed.

In his first piece he talked about how it was too soon for Rory to take the throne.  In his second piece he was comparing him to Palmer, Nicklaus, Trevino, Snead, Hogan, Norman, etc.  Pump the brakes Rick.  The kid is good and yes he won an amazing U.S. Open this past week, but does that mean he is in the same category as those guys?  No, it doesn’t.  Will he be there one day?  Possibly.  Why not just give credit where credit is due and write a piece about how great of a championship it was like the later part of his piece and leave out the shock statements and comparisons?  Would that be too hard?  I don’t think so and would welcome the change in attitude and coverage of Golf as much as I am enjoying all the recognition Rory is getting for his U.S. Open win.

June 21, 2011

Balance, Balance, Balance and no a Bracelet isn’t the Answer

A while back when I was first getting serious about golf Tiger Woods was still writing for Golf Digest and he wrote an article about balance that I dug up and still find incredibly valuable.  I was inspired to dig this article up after watching the Champion’s Tour Learning Center last night on the Golf Channel.  Curtis Strange talked about how he thinks about his weight distribution during his swing and although it was a different approach to the same result it reminded me of the article.

Tiger’s article is a great read and you can check it out HERE.  Curtis Strange was making a point in his learning piece about how amateurs tend to sway their weight through the swing to the outside of their feet.  I thought back to my recent rounds and practice sessions and he was right, most of my weight was on the outside of my feet throughout the back swing and the down swing.  After hearing his tip to try to keep the weight on the inside of your feet I went back and read Tiger’s article about staying grounded for good iron play.  Although the two examples take slightly different approaches they are pointing to the same problem for most amateurs, including myself.

It boils down to the point that I need to keep my feet a bit more grounded in order to produce more consistent shots.  This makes total sense to me looking back on my recent rounds and the fact that I have been fighting a two-way miss and have never felt very steady throughout my swing.  I am going to the range tonight and my only two swing thoughts are going to be steady feet (with weight on the inside) and release the club.  I am sure I will have more on this tomorrow after I get out and actually hit some balls.

June 20, 2011

Changing of the Guard, Will American Golfers get left behind?

I spent some time today reading all of the wrap us from the U.S. Open.  It is overwhelming how many comparisons came out between Rory and Tiger.  I can’t say that I disagree with all of them, but I don’t want to brand him the “new” Tiger after one major win.  I think he will win plenty more and be around for quite some time, but you never know.  Golf is a funny game.

Even more surprising, to me, was the amount of people finally accepting the fact that the new younger crop of players are getting really really good.  Jason Day hit his ball everywhere but the fairway on Sunday and managed to take home a solo second place.  I feel confident saying that Day will figure out his driver and put together a heck of a career.  He is talented beyond belief and he doesn’t get frazzled.  No matter where he was on the course he was focused on his next shot.  It was very impressive.  It actually reminded me a lot of watching Phil play.  His tee shots can get wayward, but you know he has some magic in his game that will get him to the green and in the hole safely.

The reason this surprised me so much was because outside of Rory, Chappel and Day there weren’t a ton of young guns playing that great at the Open.  Let me re-phrase that; besides Chappel there weren’t any young American players playing well in the open.  Davis Love III tied for 11th for crying out loud.  Dustin Johnson was the only notable young American player on anywhere near the leader board and he finished T23 along with Gary Woodland and Bill Haas.  Webb Simpson finished T14, but I don’t think we can consider him our next great hope for American golf.

Where was Mahan, Fowler, Bubba, Kim and Watney?  Bubba was the only one to make the cut and he finished at +9 for the tournament.  The rest of the contenders in the Open were older veteran American players and Europeans.  Other that Rory and Day can we really sit back yet and say the younger players have taken over?  I don’t think we can just yet, but Rory’s win certainly makes me feel confident that we will be able to say that with unwavering confidence very soon.

June 17, 2011

Rory or Bust!

I am officially on the Rory band wagon for the US open.  Part of me feels bad saying that because I feel inclined to root for an American player in the US Open, but I honestly think it is Rory’s time.  I picked Kuchar earlier this week as my fantasy pick and he played well today to put himself in the mix, but I can’t imagine Rory giving another one away.  Especially since he has played so well.  He looks like the best player in the world right now.

I know everyone is expecting Rory to blow up over the weekend and give this tournament away, but I don’t see how that is possible again.  If it happens again it will be one of the most heartbreaking stories in recent golf history.  If he does win would it signify a new anti Tiger era?  Would this finally be the time that the young guns start taking over?  I don’t know why I feel so confident about this but I really think Rory will bring this one home in Tiger like fashion and the younger era of the PGA Tour will officially begin.

I can’t tell if I want this to happen more for people to start talking about other players besides Tiger or because I want Rory to redeem himself for his Augusta melt down.  I think it is more that I want to see him redeem himself.  How cool would that be if he came back in the very next major and got the job done?  I don’t know what else to say except Go Rory!

June 16, 2011

What’s a bigger story, Rory winning or Rory losing?

I keep going back and forth on what is the bigger story of this US open. Is it Rory winning or Rory blowing another major. The odds have to be against him to lose his lead over the next three rounds. Honestly, I would love to see him bring home a major and validate all of his talent.

Prior to the open the storyline consisted of “would Phil finally win one” and “would Watney, Johnson or McIlroy validate their past screw ups with a win?”. Well Rory put himself right back in the spotlight. I’m rooting for him but I think the golf media would rather see him lose his lead rather than hold on to it and become a serious name in the game.

The golf media has largely written off the young talent in the game because they don’t think Tigers shoes will ever be filled. I will say right now that the majority of golf analysts will side on the side of Rory blowing his lead rather than keeping it just because they miss Tiger. They miss the days of writing about how amazing he was. I for one am rooting for Rory to bring it home and officially usher in the new generation of golf post Tiger.

June 15, 2011

Van Sickle and Haney Miss Tiger Too Much

I knocked Rick Reilly yesterday for his single-minded view towards golf and Tiger, but it looks like Gary Van Sickle is following suit today.  Van Sickle published an article on golf.com where he sat down with Hank Haney to discuss the U.S. Open and Tiger’s practice habits.  Sounds interesting right?  Well Mr. Van Sickle made it through all of two questions about the upcoming U.S. Open before diving into the Tiger discussion.

Is Tiger not playing in the U.S. Open really a bigger story than the U.S. Open itself.  Take a second and think about that.  The U.S. Open is our national championship.  It is one of the most historic golf tournaments of all time.  Has it really taken a back seat because one player is not in the field?  How is this possible?

In his first two responses Haney says:

…you can make a case that anyone inside the top 75 has a chance to win the Open…When I was helping Tiger for six years and we went to the majors, we really thought there were 10 or 12 players who had a good shot. Now it’s 75 players who have a good shot. The number is huge and that’s a big difference for golf.” – Hank Haney

This is exactly what I have been trying to say all along.  Every week there is a feeling that anyone can win any golf tournament.  People need to snap out of their Tiger-phobia phase and understand that the parity in golf is incredible right now.  Has no one noticed that the European’s are kicking the American’s butts in world rankings?  How about that for a story?  Who in American golf will step up and defend our nation’s national championship?  The answer is not Tiger Woods.  I hate to break it to you, but he is not in the field and hasn’t played very well in over a year (minus the Masters).

The problem with Haney’s comment above is how he follow it up.  He goes on to say:

Well, it’s nice to develop other players and other names. If you’re not going to have a dominant player, the next best thing is having more stars, if you will, and more recognizable names. In the long run, sports with a dominant superstar or two who can compete against each other usually flourish the most. We may get there but right now, we’re in a place where we’re waiting to see who they’re going to be.” – Hank Haney

Hold on for a second.  Doesn’t this guy teach golf for a living?  Doesn’t he have multiple golf academy’s around the world?  Doesn’t he have his name on every teaching aid known to man?  This is supposed to be an ambassador for the game, someone who has spent his life teaching people that they can play the game and excel in the game of golf.  Now he is saying that it is nice to develop new names but the sport is better off when only a few players are dominating it?  I feel like I am taking crazy pills reading this stuff.

How about this for a response Hank, “I think the growth of the game in Tiger’s absence is amazing for the young talent emerging in the game of golf.  Obviously we all miss Tiger playing the great golf that we are used to seeing him play, but right now is an exciting time for the game.  Every week we have the opportunity to watch a new potential star emerge with a landmark win.”  I am not an expert of the golf swing, but even I know that is a much better response than what he said.

It makes me sick hearing everyone throw in the towel on golf because Tiger is hurt.  It isn’t the reality of the situation and I feel like a lot of genuine fans have been marred by their experiences growing up with Tiger.  Times change and maybe it is time for a few perspectives to change as well.