Archive: September 2008

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September 29, 2008

Look to McMahon and Trump to fix the Big Flop in the Middle

Posted at 4:49 PM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

Sometime around 4:30 during the last round of the third Fed Ex Cup playoff event (there are four), the announcer said: "If Garcia sinks this putt, Vijay Singh wins the $10 million Fed Ex Cup." I thought I had misheard. How can this be? What about the last tournament in the series?

Vince McMahon is someone who knows what he's doing when it comes to hype. He's the showman who built wrestling into a major league spectator sport, and even though he failed when it came to his football league, he got one thing right -- what he called the "Big Game at the End." The two best teams in the league played for all the glory in a deciding encounter -- at the end. It was hardly a revolutionary concept.

It's just like the Super Bowl, the World Series, the NBA Finals -- all major league professional sports are set up so [1] the excitement for the fans peaks at the end of the season, [2] the sponsors get maximum exposure for their buck and [3] the TV network that bought the rights makes some cash because both the drama and the ratings are high.

All major sports but the PGA Tour, that is. It's hard to believe that the commish Tim Finchem and his crew didn't catch a design flaw that violated "the Big Game at the End" rule.  Unless he was "Wie-d," Vijay Singh won the cup before the first tee shot of the last leg was even hit. Why design a structure where the last tournament has even a chance to be irrelevant? Sure it paid $10 million to the winner, but it wouldn't have mattered if they gave away a small town in New Jersey. It's like stirring your drink with your nose -- a nice trick, but why?

The Tour could also take a cue from The Donald. Trump has it right in his million-dollar ADT tournament for the LPGA. You take the top 30 scores after three days, and those players advance to the final day, where all scores are wiped away and everyone starts equal. It has some pump to it, and most importantly, it eliminates the possibility of someone winning before the tournament is over.

It's the simple stuff that generates interest. Trump knows the value of a crescendo, whether it's someone being fired or someone winning a million bucks.

Finchem, the accountant, apparently doesn't. Unless you were a golf diehard, why would you watch a four-tournament package with a format so complicated that it could be sold on Wall Street as part of another toxic security package ready for public consumption?

Tims' Whim needs to be more like Trump's Pump. It's pretty basic: The key to fixing the FedEx Cup is to make the Tour Championship the Big Tournament at the End.

September 26, 2008

Lee Trevino's go-to approach shot

Posted at 3:49 PM by Donald Crawley

I don’t often get star struck. That said, I was pretty excited when I saw Lee Trevino on the driving range this week.Trevino_445x600

After four back surgeries and 45 years of competitive golf, Lee can still stripe it. He was at my home facility—the Boulders Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.—for a corporate outing and the taping of a Golf Channel skills-challenge. I had just finished giving a lesson to two lady resort guests who were new to the game, and Lee arrived after lunch to warm up for the skills show. I went from grass roots to the pinnacle!

Lee called me over to have me watch him hit a few. I told him how I watched him win two British Opens in my native land when I was a boy. He responded by showing me how to hit it low through the wind, a must-have shot on the British links—and in his native Texas. Lee could hit it high, too: fade, draw, basically anything and everything. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he could make it stop in midair.

When I asked Lee about his go-to pressure shot, he replied, "I just aim it at the left edge of the green, move the ball back and turn through as hard as I can.” He added that when he does that now, everything in his body hurts!

On camera, Lee shared some different ways to play a greenside-bunker shot, among many other pearls of wisdom. He was accompanied by the raw young talents from a completely different generation or two.

There was Bubba Watson, the monster-hitting southpaw who like Trevino is self-taught. Bubba is also funny. Aaron Baddeley showed up at the end of the day to see his pal Bubba. Badds is one of my favorites and will be seen in the winner’s circle for many years. The gorgeous ladies as counterparts for the skills challenge were “Miss Pink,” Paula Creamer, and long-hitter Suzann Pettersen.

Get out and watch any Tour players whenever you can, but don't just watch their drives (except for Bubba -- it is ridiculous how far he can launch it). Pay attention to their creativity from 100 yards and in.

What a treat to meet Lee. Some days I do feel like I have the best job in the world.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Donald Crawley is director of instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy in Scottsdale, Ariz.

(Photo: Grant Halverson/WireImage.com)

September 24, 2008

Ask the Top 100: TJ + YouTube = No More Slices!

Posted at 4:55 PM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

Dear TJ,

I began playing golf three months ago and I am still trying to iron out my swing. Here is a link to my youtube swing. I look forward to your comments.
Silas P., Via email

Silas,
Three things struck me when I viewed your swing. 1. If we made a documentary on it, we’d call it Titleists in the Mist -- where did you film it, at the foot of Mount St. Helens? -- very beautiful. 2. You must have bought the all-day bushel-basket deal -- be careful about hitting so many balls off a mat; most mats are bad for your joints. 3. It's hard to believe you've only been playing three months –- your swing is very sound -- kudos to you!

As always I’ll give you just one thing to work on. So here’s a problem you can fix right away. Pause your video at impact and you'll notice one glaring feature: your impact position looks just like your address. It shouldn’t. There are two major requirements in golf: direction and distance. Your direction is good (if you like straight) but with your size and strength, you should be hitting it farther. How? Keep your hips rotating through impact. You should look like our model David Toms -- check out how much his left hip has turned through the ball.

Toms_400

Here's a drill that will help you feel the correct position. Set up with your, uh, posterior touching the chair [see photo of me below]. As you approach impact make sure that you rotate your front hip enough to not only touch the chair but actually move it back a few inches. At first your accuracy may suffer, but as soon as you learn to time it, you’ll hit it straight and farther than ever. And when you get tired you'll have the best (or at least the nearest) seat at the show.

Tj_chair_400

Yo TJ,

My No. 1 problem is swinging way too hard to begin my downswing -- and by too hard, I mean enough to impale a phone book. It causes fat shots, pulls, hooks, slices and toppers and even some forearm soreness. What’s the best way to control this or start my downswing with correct tempo? When I watch pros swing and see how their club-to-wrist angle gets tighter as they approach the ball I say, "Why can't I do that?"
Christian B. Los Angeles

Ah, but you can do that CB, when you hit a phone book. Unfortunately hitting a ball is another story. You have two choices: Find a "phone book tournament" or stop trying to manipulate the club. I'd suggest the latter.

Here's the reason you must stop trying to make the club go "somewhere." Any pressure or force you apply to a rotating object [like your clubhead] encourages the object to leave the orbit in the direction of the force applied -- it's called tangential acceleration and it’s the reason you fly out of the cart if the driver suddenly swerves. Drop that 25-cent term as you recount the horror of the moment at the 19th hole, “So there I was, a victim of tangential acceleration...," and the crowd will murmur in admiration.

The Fix
As you start down from the top you turn on the force and TA kicks in causing you to uncock that angle you see the pros holding until just before impact. 

Now here's what makes golf so cool -- the people who play it the best have learned that it’s mostly counter-intuitive. Remember that Seinfield episode where George does the opposite of his every instinct and becomes successful? Golf is exactly the same. Whatever you think you should be doing, do the opposite. So here's the Big Concept: The golf swing is something to nothing -- during the backswing you do "something" like cock your wrists and turn your core but during the downswing, you do "nothing" -- just the opposite of what you think you should be doing.

Here's a drill for you: About halfway into your downswing let the club fly out of your hands -- if you done nothing the club should hit the dirt behind you along your toe line -- if you over-manipulate the club from the top, your club will land near the target line. Warning: Try this only when you’re alone at home so you won’t hurt anybody, or get caught looking stupid.

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

American pride is back, thanks to Azinger

Posted at 9:58 AM by Jim Suttie, Ph.D.

Americans 16 1/2
Europeans 11 1/2

That's a pretty good start for renewed and refreshed Ryder Cup play. The American team has its pride back, and I give much of the credit to my friend Paul Azinger. I first met Paul when I coached him at Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Fla., and I can tell you that it takes someone like Paul to create team chemistry. Three moves made the difference: 1. He had the courage to ask the PGA for four picks instead of two; 2. He had the insight to play poker with the media by continually saying Team USA was the underdog.; and 3. He created the inspiration by telling the crowd that they were his 13th man.

Nobody knows the power of a great attitude better than Paul Azinger. He beat cancer so how hard could beating a great European golf team really be? If you want to take the measure of this man, think about him in downtown Louisville at the Thursday night pep rally leading the cheers in front of 15,000 screaming fans. Then think about Paul riding with Payne Stewart's son during the final round on Sunday. What a great gesture on his part.

Yes, the captain doesn’t hit any shots for their team, and the American players are the ones who won this Ryder Cup. But you can’t put a finger on the importance of the right coach. In 2008, Paul Azinger was the right coach for this team loaded with rookies. He inspired them and gave them the confidence that they needed, while at the same time, he kept them loose enough to bring out their true talents. All the players agreed that Paul was a great captain. As a spectator, it was fun to see somebody who I had watched grow up take the sport to the highest level. It would be great to see more events like the Ryder Cup, where the crowd can be more of a factor.

When looking for a coach in 2010, the PGA should look at some of the great character qualities that Paul displayed in this Ryder Cup. You know, Paul got it wrong when he said the crowd was the team’s 13th man. He was the 13th man. Good job, Paul! He still calls me coach, and if I taught him anything it was to be his own man and to always believe in himself.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Jim Suttie, Ph.D., is director of instruction at the Jim Suttie Golf Academy at Twineagles in Naples, Fla.

September 23, 2008

Let’s hope ‘Lords of Augusta’ watched the Ryder Cup

Posted at 3:48 PM by Brian Mogg

The passion of the Ryder Cup brought out the best golf we've seen in a long time. I hope the members of Augusta National were watching all those birdies being made at Valhalla. Birdies bring cheers and roars and that has been missing lately at the Masters.

The excitement of this year’s Ryder Cup used to be on display every spring at the Masters as the best players in the world matched each other birdie for birdie. With Augusta National toughened up, the Masters has been more of a grind for the players and the fans. I hope this gripping Ryder Cup convinces Augusta National to not be so stingy with scoring holes next spring.

The game became younger this past weekend too. Anthony Kim is a star and made Sergio look "old." Hunter Mahan played like a veteran, and J.B. Holmes was awesome. These American kids outplayed and brought more passion to the event than the Europeans (although Oliver Wilson has a bright future).

Holmes and Mahan were captain’s picks and I don’t think you can give enough credit to U.S. captain Paul Azinger. He simply outcoached Faldo. Paul had a better plan for Singles than Nick; we only needed 5.5 points to win so Paul stacked his best players early with solid picks in the middle. This left the Euros with some of their most inexperienced players going up against a hot player in Boo Weekley and fan-favorite Holmes. Two of the hottest Europeans were Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter; they needed to be off early and get their points to stop any U.S. momentum. Nick was overly optimistic in the quality of his team and the U.S. Team just had too many good players playing well and feeding off the gallery. Zinger was great at resting players as well as going with the hot players and riding them, like he did with Justin Leonard

Two years seems a long way off to wait for more excitement but it looks evident that golfers like Kim, Weekley, Holmes and Mahan will be on many future teams.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Brian Mogg is director of instruction at the Brian Mogg Performance Center at Golden Bear Golf Club at Keene's Point, Windermere, Fla.

September 21, 2008

Tide may be turning for Team USA

Posted at 7:49 PM by Brady Riggs

I can understand why Nick Faldo wore those big sunglasses on Sunday -- the future does look bright for Team USA.

The key to the Americans' first Ryder Cup win since 1999 was the new guys. This was a different U.S. Team. Missing in action were longtime American Ryder Cup players like Davis Love III, Fred Couples, Brad Faxon, Scott Verplank and David Toms -- the old-guard guys, who for whatever reason couldn't get in done in previous Cups. The U.S. won this weekend at Valhalla because of the guys with little or no Ryder Cup experience: Hunter Mahan, Boo Weekley, Kenny Perry and, especially, Anthony Kim and J.B. Holmes.

Kim and Holmes are the best examples of the sea change that's happened on the American side. They are proven winners who played together as amateurs on the winning U.S. side in the 2005 Walker Cup. We watched a true changing of the guard, and now we've got a bunch of guys who can handle the pressure of this event. By contrast, the U.S. players on this team who lived through the bad old days were average at best. Phil Mickelson couldn't even beat Justin Rose on Sunday.

On the other side, the European team's DNA has been completely altered with the absence of Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke and Jose Maria Olazabal. [Olazabal was at Valhalla as an assistant.] And, Europe's big dogs, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, didn't get it done. I won't put Padraig Harrington in this group because he's never been a Ryder Cup standout, but Europe needed big wins from Garcia and Westwood, and they didn't get them. By contrast, Ian Poulter made me reconsider his ridiculous-sounding claim that he and Tiger Woods are the two best players in the world. Poulter was a monster and probably the best player this week on either side.

Speaking of Tiger, I expect he'll be stoked to play with Holmes, Kim and Mahan in Wales in 2010. The idea that not having Tiger was good for the U.S. is ridiculous. We won because of who was there, not who wasn't. You always want the best player in the world on your team. Our problem is that we never found the right partner for him. Based on what I saw this week, I think Mahan-Tiger would be a great team. No doubt Tiger will assume his usual defining role when he comes back to the U.S. team, but he'll like the new players and the new winning attitude around him.

September 20, 2008

Ryder Cup format is perfect match for Azinger

Posted at 2:08 PM by Jim Suttie, Ph.D.

Sep20_azinger1_456x600 I had a good feeling about the Americans going into this year's Ryder Cup, mainly because of the man who's leading them. I coached U.S. captain Paul Azinger in college, and I can tell you that he is a match-play genius. You saw that genius at work yesterday with his pairings: Mickelson and Kim, Campbell and Cink, and especially Mahan and Leonard. He knows who will play well together. I've known this about Paul ever since he won a pair of shoes almost 30 years ago. Let me tell you that story.

Paul came to my golf team at Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Fla., from Sarasota. Paul has always been a very competitive person and is definitely a winner, but when I had him in college, he was just another player. His scores always seemed to be about 75 or 76. At the time, he was about the No. 10 man on our team.

But I knew he had a competitive streak, so I organized a match-play tournament. I offered a pair of shoes to the winner. Guess who won? Yes, that's right, Paul won the tournament (and those shoes). I think that's one of the moments when he started to gain confidence in himself and become the great player he is.

Paul's personality allows him to relate to all kinds of people. He can read people, their needs, their desires and their personalities. Players are very comfortable around him, something that is clear in the way the U.S. team is playing this year. They are cohesive and they have
personality. A great team needs chemistry, and Paul has definitely brought this team together.

Jim Suttie, Ph.D., is director of instruction at the Jim Suttie Golf Academy at Twineagles in Naples, Fla.

(Photo: Kohjiro Kinno/SI)

September 17, 2008

The Americans can't win because they can't putt

Posted at 4:50 PM by Glenn Deck

I often get asked why the Americans can’t win the Ryder Cup anymore. The simple truth is that the U.S. team is not getting outplayed from tee to green, they just have failed to make the putts that you need in order to win. The old saying is still true: you drive for show but you putt for dough. Putting is a game within a game, and this is where the U.S. Ryder Cup team has lost its matches.

The Ryder Cup is a pressure cooker and the dials are turned all the way up when you are behind. Putting in this environment is like shooting two free throws at the end of a basketball game. If you’re down by two with eight seconds left in the game the pressure is enormous. But if your team is up by two with eight seconds to go, you need to make the shots, but the pressure is different. Most players don’t tense up as much in this second situation, and they have much better feel of the basketball when they shoot it.

When the U.S. Ryder Cup team gets behind, the players often start trying too hard, which produces tension, tightening and loss of touch of feel. This tension is going to show up the most in putting. Cranking a drive 280 yards in play under pressure is a lot easier than making an 8-foot breaking putt that requires touch, feel and trust in your intuition.

The U.S. Team made putts left and right at Brookline on the final day, and the result was the biggest come-from-behind victory in Ryder Cup history. If our guys can start having some fun on the greens and make some putts like the Europeans have the last few times, this could be a great Ryder Cup to watch. If you truly want to see how well a pro can handle the pressure, just watch how they roll the ball when the heat is on. Two of the greatest putters I have watched under pressure are Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods; maybe that’s why they have so many majors.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Glenn Deck is director of instruction at the Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Coast, Calif.

Azinger vs. Faldo: Who’s the better captain?

Posted at 3:35 PM by Brian Mogg

If the Ryder Cup were decided by which team has the better captain, this week’s throwdown would be no contest: Azinger gets the big edge. The Europeans have more strength on their team, but Nick kept to himself so much on Tour that I don’t know if Team Europe will play its hardest for him like they have in the past for Tony Jacklin, Bernard Gallacher, Ian Woosnam, etc.   

Azinger is really one of the guys, and he’s also one of the most competitive people I've ever met. He will motivate his team and blend the right amount of leadership with getting the best pairings possible. When it’s all said and done, Zinger may be the reason the Americans come out with a victory on Sunday afternoon.

Other thoughts on this Ryder Cup…

* The potential heroes for the U.S. side are Steve Striker and Hunter Mahan. Hunter can get it going and make lots of birdies, while Steve can be deadly with his short-iron play. For the Europeans, look out for Graeme McDowell and Paul Casey. Graeme is not well known in the United States, but he was an outstanding collegiate player at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Casey has been around many leaderboards in the majors and is a very solid player. What makes the Ryder Cup so much fun is that heroes are born here. At the right time, one shot can make the difference and win the Cup.

* Tiger's injury obviously hurts the U.S. Team because he is without question the best player in the game. However, Tiger might have been a safety net for the Americans in past years. Now each guy will have to look in the mirror and step up his own game to make up for Tiger’s absence. Also, American players have a chance to feel like they are the “star," not having to play in Tiger’s shadow. It’s possible that they will come out with more passion and firepower than ever before. I was disappointed Tiger said he would not be showing up at Valhalla to fire up his teammates because I think he would be a great motivator.

* Six rookies is a lot, but fielding so many Ryder Cup newbies might work to the Americans’ advantage because none of the six have experienced losing or gotten accustomed to what’s become our biennial drubbing.

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

Ask the Top 100: TJ Tomasi watches your swing!

Posted at 3:16 PM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

Dear TJ,


I posted video of my swing on YouTube like you suggested. Can you help me figure out what’s wrong? My usual miss is left.
Thanks, Glen Z., Ontario, Canada

Hey GZ,

Thanks for sending in your swing video. You do a lot of things correctly, but there is one fatal error and it is tough to see without video because it takes place near impact when a bunch of other things are going on.

Your problem could be called “A Tale of Two Weight Shifts,” and Chuck Dickens would describe it thus: “Glen’s swing was in the best of times when his weight shifted to his front side at the start of his backswing, and it was in the worst of times when he shifted his weight back to the right just before impact.”

Watch the video again and you can see what I mean: You load up on your right side during your backswing, then you shift your weight to your left side to start the downswing -- OK so far -- but then you rebound back onto your right side causing your arms to wrap around your torso, resulting in a pull or a pull hook. Now you won’t hit too many of those before you start holding off your release by cutting back on your forearm rotation, creating the Colonel Sanders Formation, aka the chicken wing. Unfortunately, in response to the forces applied to your arms when you try to stop the flip, your left wrist buckles and sends the ball left not every time but at the "worst of times."

The problem is that your reverse weight shift violates one of the non-negotiables of golf, that is, whatever else you do, you must be on your front side through impact.

But don’t worry, GZ, it’s EZ to fix this. Here’s how.

Brad_bryant_3 1. You must allow your right knee/hip to release to the target much earlier than you think. Practice this in front of a mirror in slow motion until you look like Champions Tour standout Brad Bryant [photo, right]. You’re better looking than Brad, of course, but you know what I mean.

When it’s time to hit balls use the Gary Player step-over drill. In this drill, you step over your left foot with the right side through impact. Do it gently but actually end up with your right foot closer to the target than your left. Put the ball on a tee while your practice this.

Compare your position in the video with Brad’s and you'll see the hang-back that ruins your swing. Note how Bryant's swing center [a point about 1/3 of the way down his sternum] is directly over the ball. Note also how his right knee is under his swing center.

Used correctly, video is to the teacher what the MRI is to your physician. Teachers who don't use the technology are stealing.

Work on this for a couple of weeks and then send me another video. We'll take Step No. 2 at that point.

(To send TJ your swing, upload a video to YouTube and e-mail us the link)


Dear TJ,
When I strike my short and medium irons well, I can't seem to take a strong divot like I see other accomplished and pro players do. (I guess Tiger Woods is one of the extreme divot-carving players!) How can I have a better descending blow and better ball compression upon impact? I can tell that I brush the surface of the turf and sometimes hit 1/4 inch fat or at the bottom of the ball, but I never create a glorious divot from a good ball-compression stroke!

Roy H., via email

Dear RH,

Here's a two-fer on divots: 1. You don't try to get the club under the ball -- but you do hit the back of the ball, and 2. You don't hit down on the ball -- but you do hit "forward" on it.

Remember, your golf swing will never be any better than your concept of what a good golf swing is, and the concept of trying to slide the clubhead under the ball to make a divot produces fat shots. By contrast, the concept of trying to hit "down" on the ball to take the grass can produce just the opposite, that is, a swing so steep you can't brush the grass.

To become a "glorious divoteer” your hands must be leading the clubhead through impact. Begin the training process by thinking about your right hand on a short shot of about 20 yards. In order to hit the ball with the clubhead lagging, your right hand must be bent back just a tad at impact. Hit these short shots until you make crisp contact with the ball first and then the grass. Notice that you can only keep your right hand bent back if you:

1. Power the shot with body rotation rather than just with your hands and arms.
2. Keep your spine from flopping around.
3. Keep your left wrist flat at impact. (The back of your left wrist and the back of your left forearm should form a straight line.)

The bottom line is that if you work on these short shots you will find your own best way to accomplish the desired result. Working this way you will improve your impact alignments not only for short shots but for longer ones as well.

As my mother use to say: "Son, there are no short cuts to glorious divots. Now, go clean your room." 

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


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