Archive: August 2008

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August 29, 2008

3 keys to post your best round ever

Posted at 11:18 AM by Mike Perpich

Are you ready to shoot a personal best this weekend? Use the these three simple but effective tips and you’ll have no problems at all.

1. Pick Specific Targets
On every tee, focus on a target where you want to hit your next shot, but don’t designate a broad landing area, like the middle or left center of the fairway. Make it very specific—the smaller the target, the better. For example, the first hole at my home course, RiverPines in Alpharetta, Ga., has two huge trees in the background off the right center of the fairway. On the right tree, a branch sticks out, and on that branch there’s a limb that you can see very clearly. I always make that my target and aim at the tip of the branch. You can even try visualizing your ball sitting out in the fairway at the exact distance you want it. Zero in, pick your target, and be very specific as to where you want to aim.

2. Forget The Flagstick
On every approach shot, take the flagstick out of the picture and divide the green into thirds from the front to the back. If the flag is in the back third, pick a club that will allow you to hit the ball to the middle third. Use this simple rule: Flagstick up, ADD a club, flagstick back SUBTRACT a club. Don’t over-think this, just try it and see what happens. This simple rule should help eliminate the problem of taking too much club, or not enough, on your approach shots.

3. Focus on the Present
When you drive into the parking lot at your course and get out of your car, picture in your mind a huge door one inch behind your back. Wherever you go on the course that day that door is going to follow you. You can never look back without seeing the Big Door, so you should focus your thoughts and mind on tasks that lay ahead. This visualization trick helps you keep your mind on what you are about to do—not on what has already happened. Keeping your thought away from the last hole or the last round will help you focus on the shot you are about to hit. No matter what happens during your round, do not open that door!

Give these three simple ideas a try and you just might achieve a personal best this weekend. Good luck!

GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teacher Mike Perpich teaches at RiverPines Golf Club in Alphretta, Ga.

August 28, 2008

Think like an Olympian to repeat your swing

Posted at 4:37 PM by Dom DiJulia

The No. 1 request I get from my students is “I want to be more consistent.” What they mean is that they want their ball to fly the same way every time. I call this “consistent output.”

The first thing I teach my students is that to get “consistent output” they need to give themselves “consistent input,” which is the things they focus on during and before their swing. If you change your swing thoughts frequently, forget them or change the degree to which you are committed to them, your input is inconsistent. With inconsistent input, it is unreasonable to expect that your output will be consistent.

But if you’re like me and watched a lot of the Olympics this month, then I’ve got a great way for you to start building a repeating swing.

At the Olympics, we get a chance to see judged sports such as gymnastics and diving much more than usual. In order to do well in diving, athletes must not only commit to the outcome (for example, complete the two-and-a-half inward dive) they must perform the dive with precise technique. Their focus is then easily guided by their goal. To get a high score, one diver may need to focus on a smooth approach to their jump off the board and another must focus on keeping their feet together.

You should work with a teacher to identify the “feel” or “feels” that will help you hit good shots. You may need to feel your tempo, your balance or focus on the plane of your backswing.

Having selected a specific swing feel or feels for your next round, make the following your goal for the round: I will focus on my feels so well that if golf were a judged sport, I will get perfect 10s in the one or two areas that I am focusing on.

One player’s feels might be “establish good aim, make a smooth takeaway and be balanced in the finish.” The goal for the day will be to average 9.9 on aim, 9.5 on a smooth takeaway and a 9.0 on a balanced finish. Without this judged-sport mentality, most players will hit a shot they don’t like (the ball went left) by the second or third hole, analyze what went wrong and modify the feels they would use for the next shot. This begins the process of inconsistent input and is a major reason why so many players find it difficult to improve. To enjoy consistency in output, you must first commit to consistency in input.

You also need to accept that consistency is not perfection. When you get tempted to throw out your swing feels, just remember that the best players in the world only hit 12 out of 18 greens. They play three holes and only hit two greens. You need to accept that feel in golf is elusive, even for Tiger Woods. So set reasonable goals. If you try to be more consistent than is reasonably possible, you’ll simply magnify your inconsistency.

August 27, 2008

Ask the Top 100: Why do I fall apart on the back nine?

Posted at 2:52 PM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

Hi TJ,
During a round, I always start off the first nine holes playing well, but play the last nine holes rather mediocre. Are there any exercises/drills that I can do to keep up my "swing stamina"?

Michael G., McAllen, Texas

Michael, it sounds like you're listening to the wrong CD.

The flip side of success is "cumulative disreward" (CD). As your round progresses, you make a bunch of good swings but nothing works out, and your best efforts go unrewarded. CD usually strikes around the 14th hole of an otherwise so-so round. It causes those head-shaking, after-round autopsies that start with, "I was playing OK until 14…"

Actually, it wasn't sudden; it was incremental. You were swinging well, and making decent plans, but the rub of the green had it out for you — that’s the nature of the game. You made a great swing on the second hole, but the ball buried in the lip of the bunker thanks to a random gust of wind (disreward No. 1). On the sixth hole, you rolled a seemingly perfect 10-footer that circled the inner edge of the cup before it lipped out — there was no way it could stay out, but it did (disreward No. 2). On the eighth hole, you hit it pure off the tee, but the ball hit a sprinkler head in the middle of the fairway and kicked into the rough (disreward No. 3). By the 14th-hole, the disrewards are stacking up and your brain starts to get the idea that no matter how well you play, it isn't good enough.

So, you decide to make something happen. You attack a pin you should avoid, and, though you hit a solid shot, you come up a few yards short and the ball rolls down the shaved bank and into the greenside water hazard. At this point, a full-blown case of CD kicks in and you stop trying. The statement, "It's not my day" usually accompanies the CDs and if you think it isn't your day, it won’t ever be.

The Rumpelstiltskin Solution

In the Grimms’ fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin, the greedy king orders the beautiful maiden to spin flax into gold. The maiden promises the evil dwarf her first born if he will help her, which he does. The dwarf tells her that he won't hold her to her promise if she can guess his name. She does, and Rumpelstiltskin, furious, destroys himself.

It is the same with Cumulative Disreward. You can combat it by being able to name it (recognize it) each time it appears. If you label each disreward accurately, the insidious process never takes hold of you.

Dear TJ,
Is it best to choose one wedge to "perfect" or will my scores see the most benefit from working with multiple scenarios... the bump-and-run, the lob and maybe chipping?

Eric M., via email

This is a matter of much debate. Here's my take on it. The most accurate way to move a ball from Point A to Point B is to roll it. Sidespin is the enemy of roll, because with sidespin you can never be sure whether the ball is going to run, check up or slow down and then skid.

Thus the most accurate golfing stroke around the greens is one that is as level as possible to the ground. The major cause of inaccurate shot-making occurs when your club swings vertically upward, opening the clubface and imparting sidespin to your ball.

Use the least-lofted club that gets the job done and remember the Hierarchy of Short-Game Shots:

If you can putt it, putt it
If you can't putt it, chip it
If you can't chip it, pitch it
If you can't pitch it, lob it
And if you can't lob it, the hell with it!

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher TJ Tomasi, Ph.D., a Class A PGA professional, teaches at the Nantucket Golf Club in Massachusetts. You can learn more about TJ at www.tjtomasi.com

August 26, 2008

Take Rocco, please!

Posted at 4:26 PM by Eddie Merrins

I don’t envy Paul Azinger. Next Tuesday he has to choose from a lot of worthy players to fill those four captain’s picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. But if I were Azinger, one of those picks would definitely go to Rocco Mediate.

Rocco_300 One of the most important elements of a Ryder Cup team is chemistry. These guys have to spend seven days together, and how they relate to each other is very important. Rocco is so personable and fun that he would really lend himself to that. You want your players to be relaxed, not tense, and Rocco would lighten the team’s mood.

Rocco would also help deflect some of the media spotlight from the other American players. In a major tournament with a hundred-plus players, any guy not named Tiger or Phil can find some refuge from the cameras. But at the Ryder Cup, the scrutiny is inescapable. Everyone is watching your every shot. Rocco’s worked at The Golf Channel, and he knows the media. Azinger will definitely be the team spokesman, but Rocco’s easy-going humor will disarm reporters and give the rest of the team some air to breathe.

Of course, chemistry and media-savvy are nice traits, but the most important criteria for Ryder Cup selection is: Can he play? With Rocco, the answer is a resounding yes.

All great teams have a spark plug, a player who is ready to take charge and be an on-field leader. When I think of great spark plugs in sports, I always think of Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills. For the younger generation, great spark plugs are guys like Tom Brady. They don’t have to be most talented player, just the one willing to stand up and lead. Rocco is that kind of player.

I’m not Rocco’s coach, but I did work with him at Bel-Air Country Club, where I teach, last year. I also saw him briefly at the PGA Championship this year in Michigan. He was in good spirits and his back appeared healthy. I know Rocco’s performance has been just average as of late (he missed the cut at the Barclays and shot a final-round 85 at the PGA Championship), but over the past two years he has really played himself into position to make this Ryder Cup team. In addition to his epic U.S. Open runner-up finish to Tiger Woods, Rocco tied for sixth against a tough field in this year’s Memorial and was second to Vijay Singh at Bay Hill in 2007.

It is his performance at Torrey Pines on the largest stage imaginable in this game that makes me think Rocco would be a great addition to the U.S. team because he showed he can isolate himself from the situation and perform under great pressure.

Another thing to remember is that the Ryder Cup format (better ball, alternate shot and singles) requires different skills than a stroke-play tournament. Match play with a partner is like a marriage. You have to complement each other. Rocco would blend well with any of the players on the team now.

Do I think we can win? That’s a tall order against a tough European team, but I think being the underdog is an advantage for us. One reason we haven’t done well recently is that we expect too much of ourselves. I just keep thinking of 1999, when we rallied on the final day and erased a 4-point lead. That’s what happens when you stop putting pressure on yourself and start playing golf. I hope I see a repeat this year.

(Photo: Robert Beck/SI)

August 25, 2008

Guaranteed! Lower your score by 5 strokes right now

Posted at 5:08 PM by Rod Lidenberg

Would you like to shoot a lower score the next time you play? I don't know a single player who wouldn't emphatically answer "Yes!"

Here's the challenge: Play just one round of golf strictly adhering to my plan and if your handicap is 15 or higher, you will instantly lower your average score by a minimum of five shots. My plan will also work for you if your handicap is below 15 but the results might not be as dramatic.

In general I've found that people attempt to make up for their poor shots by attempting shots that a professional wouldn't even consider. As a result they put themselves into situations that almost ensure a higher score.

The key to lowering your score is to manage the level of risk that you take on every shot. Here are eight simple keys to lower your score right now:

1. When approaching the green with an iron take one more club, especially on par 3s. Typically people overestimate the distance that they can hit the ball and come up short of the green by 10 or even 20 yards.

2. On your approach shots aim for the center of the green regardless of where the hole is located. In most cases you'll never have more than a 20-foot putt, and you'll avoid short-siding yourself or leaving the ball in an adjacent bunker.

3. When you have a putt of more than 15 feet, forget about trying to make it. That’s when you most often run it past the hole and miss the comebacker. Be content with lagging the ball near the hole so that you can be assured of making your next putt. And guess what? From time to time the ball will actually fall in.

4. Don’t try to cut the corner on a dogleg hole. This is a low-percentage play at best and if you make a mistake it can be disastrous. Instead, play a shot to the corner of the dogleg so that you have an unobstructed shot to the green, even if it’s a little longer.

5. You're playing your tee shot on a short par-4 with bunkers on either side of the fairway. You could reach both of the bunkers with your drive if you miss the fairway. Don’t just pull out your driver and hope to thread the ball down the middle of the fairway. The smarter approach is to select a shorter club and take the bunkers out of play. While you will have a longer shot into the green you won't have to negotiate a difficult bunker shot if you make a mistake.

6. At some point you will hit a tee shot into serious trouble on either side of the fairway. The best approach is to pitch the ball back into the middle of the fairway without attempting to advance it forward. We all hate to "take our medicine," but it’s often the smartest play.

7. If you play par 5s with the hope that you can reach the green in two, you’ll often leave yourself with a difficult approach shot of 40 yards or less -- one of the most challenging shots in golf even for a very accomplished player. A better strategy is to play your second shot to a comfortable distance where you can hit a full shot into the green.

8. Leave your lob wedge in the bag when you're approaching the green from the fairway because it is difficult to predict the exact distance that your shot will fly. With the lob wedge, you may make the occasional great shot, but more often than not you'll find yourself well short of the pin. Your sand wedge is a better choice than your lob wedge because it is easier to find the right distance with less loft rather than more. Plus, the sand wedge has more bounce, which will gives you an increased margin of error should you hit it fat.

Try my plan the next time you play and let me know how it goes. If you don’t shoot five strokes lower than your normal score, I’ll refund the cost of this column!

August 21, 2008

Forget The Players, the U.S. Amateur is the true fifth major

Posted at 12:37 PM by Brian Mogg

I played in the 1980 U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst No. 2/CCNC and had one of my career rounds with an even-par 72 on No. 2 in the qualifying event to get into match play. The Bermuda rough there was the toughest and longest I’ve ever seen -- so thick you could lose a ball inches off the putting surface. Combine that with the undulations on the greens, and the U.S. Amateur was as tough as any PGA Tour event or major championship.

This week, the U.S. Amateur returns to Pinehurst, which brings back great memories to me. The USGA does an awesome job of hosting major championships, and I was fortunate to have played in three U.S. Amateurs. Each one was special and unique, and the tournament deserves a much larger stage as we honor the best amateur each year.

Even today with all his accomplishments, Tiger Woods still is acknowledged as a three-time winner of the U.S. Amateur, and Jack Nicklaus counts his two U.S. Amateur wins among his majors. Tiger’s U.S. Amateur wins at TPC Sawgrass, Newport and Pumpkin Ridge were just as memorable and dramatic as any of his professional wins. As you go through the list of past U.S. Amateur champions, names like Mickleson, Verplank, Leonard, Cook, Sutton, O’Meara, Ryan Moore, Stadler, Pate, Sigel, Lanny Wadkins, Kuchar and Quinney jump out as Tour stars who have gone on to great professional careers. Yet all these players are still referred to as past-U.S. Amateur champions and accorded a “major” with that victory. Plus, this tournament is part of the historical fabric of the game; Harvey Ward won it three times and Bobby Jones won it five times (take that, Tiger!).

The U.S. Amateur deserves a higher place in the golf world. Every true golf fan should tune in this weekend to catch a first glimpse of tomorrow’s stars. I would love to see this championship treated like the other four majors. So join me in watching and cheering these young collegiate players striving to become our national champion. You won’t be disappointed.

Brian Mogg is director of instruction at the Brian Mogg Performance Center at Golden Bear Golf Club at Keene's Point, Windermere,  Fla.     

August 20, 2008

Ask the Top 100: How do tiny LPGA stars drive the ball so far?

Posted at 5:09 PM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

Dear TJ,
I am 57 years old with a 14-handicap. I tend to hit my driver either straight or I get into problems with consistent pulls. The ball will fly straight but left of target. I think it is because I get my hips moving too quickly or turning before my body. It really hurts my game and usually causes me to waste a shot just to get the ball back in play. I usually end up with a bogey rather than par because of the bad drive.

Ron C., Houston, Texas 

Hey Hipster,

You’ve targeted the wrong body part—it’s not your hips that are the problem. In fact, your hips should lead the “trapping” sequence to impact: the hips trap the shoulders, the shoulders trap the hands, and the hands trap the clubhead. By trap I mean each part stays ahead of the one behind it until the right side runs over the left wall at impact, then—boom!—the club catches up in a rush of energy and releases across the wall. That’s how those small women on the LPGA Tour hit the ball so far. Some of them look like they fell of a charm bracelet, but their trapping sequence is perfect so they nuke it.

Check out this photo below. Rich Beam didn’t come to this position by slowing his hips down.

Richbeem

Your problem is that you think your hips are too fast so you do exactly the wrong thing: You slow them down, allowing your shoulders and arms to catch up to and then pass your chest. The result is a dead pull. Instead, work on this trapping sequence and you’ll hit the ball hit long and straight. Just don’t expect to be bombing it like LPGA star Jeong Jang right away. She blasts it about 250 yards per drive, and she’s 5 feet tall!

Dear TJ,
I am a decent (11.2 index) and improving golfer, and I enjoy getting out to the range to improve my swing and learn new techniques. One area I struggle with is uneven lies, particularly with the ball above my feet. My home course presents this situations with some frequency and I tend to hit the ball fat and low. What are the setup tips for these shots, and is there any way I can practice them on a flat driving-range mat?


Mike J., Seattle, Wash.

Dear Fat and Low,
Practicing a lie above your feet on a flat mat is tough. If you have some room, you could try teeing the ball on the left-hand side of the mat and standing off it. But follow my setup keys and you can use your regular swing to beat this lie:

When the ball rests above your feet, you're forced to swing flatter and more around your body, causing your shot to fly to the left of target (usually with a right-to-left spin). From this lie, your tendency will be to pull-hook the ball. To offset this, you need to make several adjustments to your setup.

First, lean into the hill and leave your weight there as you swing. Also be sure to keep your weight on the inside of your back foot. The danger here is that as your swing progresses, the momentum of your turn will topple you backward, an error you can prevent if you're well anchored on your back side.

Take one more club and choke down so you can stand closer to the ball. Move the ball back in your stance because you'll reach the bottom of your arc sooner when the ball is above your feet. To account for the tendency to pull this shot, allow your shoulders to close, an alignment that will aim your clubface to the right of the target. With both your shoulders and your clubface aimed to the right, your swing takes an inside path that offsets the tendency for the ball to start left. Once your aimed properly, simply swing the club using a three-quarter arc, allowing your setup to determine your swing path.

Check out the photo below. To stay in control of my balance I set my weight into the slope. Look how much I've choked down on the handle. And I know my hair looks ratty, but the world-class wind discombobulates everything on Nantucket.

Sidehill_tj_3

Please keep sending questions my way, along with any hair products you think I should try.

Best,
TJ

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher TJ Tomasi, Ph.D., a Class A PGA professional, teaches at the Nantucket Golf Club in Massachusetts. You can learn more about TJ at www.tjtomasi.com

TV hypes 'chokers' like Mickelson, Els

Posted at 10:15 AM by Gerald McCullagh

I love the drama of a well-contested tournament. This year’s PGA Championship was no exception, with my hero Padraig Harrington nailing his putt on the last hole to clinch the title over Sergio Garcia. Unfortunately, this championship wasn’t on the radar of the average sports fan because Tiger Woods wasn’t participating. Only Tiger is a proven closer in majors, and without him the sport feels like a competition among also-rans played for a few diehards wasting a summer weekend in front of the television.

Back in the day, television coverage of golf championships was less extensive, but it did a better job conveying the drama of the event. We were able to watch all the players as they worked their way into the clubhouse, not just a chosen few. We had heroes -- players like Sam Snead, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, and Calvin Peete -- who didn’t win with the ease of Tiger, but we loved them anyway because we saw their journeys.

I have watched events this year that didn’t show shots from the leader just because he wasn’t a marquee player. Today, members of the media hype the tournament by predicting victory for the biggest and most marketable stars -- guys like Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els. Those guys repeatedly have failed to close the deal in big tournaments, but nonetheless they are touted as the favorites.

Most of these stars don't know how to win, so they shouldn't be advertised as favorites. When they “choke” down the finish, viewers are left with a bad taste in their mouths because the winner is perceived as a nobody who snuck in the backdoor. Truth is, guys like Kenny Perry have as good a shot week-to-week as Phil and Ernie, and fans wouldn't be disappointed if they weren't constantly being told that the big names were going to win.

Players like Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els should be spending their time learning how to finish. Maybe a little time with Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon, guys who know how to get those final outs, would help. And members of the media need to stop pretending that Mickelson and Els—and many more like them—know how to win.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Gerald McCullagh teaches at the University of Minnesota’s Le Bolstad Golf Club in Falcon Heights, Minn. He also blogs here.

August 18, 2008

Why Michelle Wie has few friends on the LPGA Tour

Posted at 4:25 PM by Anne Cain

Michellewie_081708_2_2 Michelle Wie finished 12th at the Canadian Open this weekend, which wasn’t good enough to earn her an LPGA card for 2009. If she wants to earn the respect of full-time LPGA Tour players, she needs to go through qualifying school this year and stop relying on sponsors' exemptions.

LPGA players view Michelle with mixed reactions. When she first appeared on the scene, many were in awe of her ball-striking and playing ability. She was welcomed with open arms. The LPGA, in fact, modified a rule to allow her to play with more exemptions. But the tide turned when she made multiple attempts to play with the men at PGA Tour events. To some, it felt like she was snubbing the validity and competitive quality of the LPGA Tour. To make things worse, Michelle got on Annika Sorenstam’s bad side when she withdrew from the Ginn tournament last year after almost breaking the 88 rule. (The LPGA's 88 rule stipulates that any non-LPGA player who doesn't break 88 in a round is not allowed to finish the tournament or play in any other tournaments for the rest of the season.) That is when many of the players started feeling resentment.

While most LPGA players respect Michelle’s ability, it is her career decisions that have hurt her reputation, and many players blame her parents. Helen Alfredsson recently said she felt sorry for Michelle and believes that the people managing her (in other words, her parents) have created the problems.

Michelle now claims she is making her own decisions but hasn’t give any clues as to her desires and goals for the future. The LPGA will welcome her only if she goes through the qualifying process and becomes a full-time committed member. Otherwise, she will lose fans and support by the minute.

(Photo: Michelle Wie during the final round of the Canadian Women's Open/AP)

August 15, 2008

Obama has a golf swing I can believe in

Posted at 8:34 AM by Brady Riggs

If he spends time on his game, could Barack Obama become a better golfer than avid-playing presidents George W. Bush or Bill Clinton?

Yes he can!

One of the nice things about golf is that people reveal their personalities during a round. There’s no place to hide your true self on the course, so when I saw this footage of Obama’s golf swing taken during his Hawaiian vacation, I couldn’t resist the urge to play armchair analyst.

Take a look at Obama's swing in the video player below. (Footage from KGMB-9 TV in Hawaii; his swing starts around the one-minute mark.)

First, check out his setup. It looks like a well-trained address position. Obama is square to the target, with good posture and alignment. This is a well-prepared setup, the kind you’d expect from a Harvard Law School graduate. He looks ready to hit a good shot.

His backswing move is very compact and cautious. Obama’s backswing is the opposite of wild: it’s controlled and focused on avoiding mistakes. You can see this trait in his meticulously planned campaign as well.

Coming down he’s pretty good. He’s got his weight moving in the right direction and makes good contact. The funny thing is that even though he aims down the middle, his shots fly to the left. Hmmmmm.

Obama needs to be a little more aggressive through impact and really go for the jugular. That would get rid of his miss left. Should he get more aggressive on the campaign trail? I can’t really say, but if Obama does win, he’ll be our fifth-consecutive president who plays golf. Right now, Obama has the swing of an athletic guy who plays just a few times a year. His swing actually looks like a good right-handed player swinging left-handed. Everything is in the right place, but the result is not all the way there. Lots of potential though.

Obama’s swing reminds me of President Clinton, another left-handed player. Interestingly, of our last five presidents, only George W. Bush is right-handed. Not that Obama has an advantage there. John McCain’s a southpaw, too.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs teaches at Woodley Lakes Golf Club in Van Nuys, Calif.


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