Archive: October 2008

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October 30, 2008

Ask the Top 100: Are hybrids good for everyone?

Posted at 3:33 PM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

Our Top 100 Teachers are here to save your next round. E-mail to cure what's hurting your scores with advice from the very best teachers in the game. Please include your name and hometown. Or post your question in the comments section below.

Do you have a video of your faulty swing? Upload the video from your digital camera to a service like YouTube and send us the link. We'll send it off to a Top 100 Teacher for help ASAP.

I have a 3- and a 4-hybrid and simply have not figured out to hit this club from a good fairway lie.  Can you help me?
Keith H., Ogden, Utah   

Hey Mr. H,
A hybrid is just that -– a combination of an iron and a wood. But not all hybrids are the same. Some are more like irons with flat faces while others have some bulge and roll on the face. Some have fade built in, while others have a bias for the draw. The length of the shaft is shorter than a wood but longer [by a half-inch to one-inch] than a long iron.

A hybrid gives you a higher trajectory and more distance on your long shots. And they are easier to hit out of bad lies. But they aren't for everyone and I don't want you to be coerced into using them just because they get rave reviews

Here's why they aren’t for everyone. Some golfers have iron swings and some wood swings -- some golfers swear by their 3-iron and some swear at it. If you have trouble hitting your hybrids you have three choices: 1.) Make sure you have the "iron" hybrid to match your iron swing type (ask a clubfitter). 2.) Change your swing so you can hit the "wood" hybrid; 3.) Go back to a muscle-back 3- and 4-iron rather then change your swing.

I'd try options one and three before I take on the horrors of option two.

Dear T.J.,
Last week I was on the first tee and I didn't have a glove in my bag. I'm a big Freddie Couples fan so I decided to play without one, like Freddie does. I thought I got a better feel of the club. So why do people wear a golf glove? Is this some sort of FootJoy conspiracy?
Eric K., Sacramento, Calif.

A glove is suppose to do two things 1.) Increase the stability of your grip and 2.) Increase the revenue of an optional accessory.

The most important thing to remember is that "feel is real," so if you feel better without a glove, don’t wear one.

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

October 28, 2008

My heroes have always been Cowboys

Posted at 3:43 PM by Shawn Humphries

Man, am I glad the Cowboys beat the Bucs on Sunday. Because outside of Texas Stadium, I'm not sure there's anywhere more Cowboy-crazy than where I work: The Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, Texas. When we lose, everybody at the club looks like someone shot their dog.

The Cowboys Golf Club is the only NFL-themed golf club in the country, and we're just a 15-minute drive from the Cowboys' practice facility. In the clubhouse we have Super Bowl trophy replicas for every Cowboys championship (five and counting, Redskins fans!) as well as helmets, jerseys and other memorabilia. My favorite is a photo of Moose Johnson walking alone down the tunnel after a tough game, his head down and his uniform dirty. He’s a football player, sure, but he’s also a man who's just finished a hard day's work and is heading home -- something any rancher or farmer can relate to. A challenging public-access course, the Cowboys Club is also a great place to play golf. On Sundays when the Cowboys are at home, we host shotgun tournaments in the morning and then bus our guys to the game afterward. The best days are late-afternoon games when you can play in the morning, then get over to the stadium with time to tailgate before the game.

One of my good friends is Coach Bill Parcells and when he was the Cowboys' coach he really promoted golf. He talked often about the game and how the lessons of golf relate to football. Parcells would say how the most important thing in golf and in football isn't your great shots or big plays, it's being able to minimize your mistakes so they don't become disastrous.

He'd also often say, "Don't confuse routine with commitment." That's the best training and coaching advice I've ever received. So many people just go through their routine and look like they are committed. They'll say, "Hey I'm working on it, coach, doing what it takes." But the best of the best are committed and never need to say a word, their actions show it.

Our new coach Wade Phillips isn't as much of a golfer, but we still have a lot of coaches who play as well of some of the players, including Terry Glenn, Jason Witten, Terence Newman, and of course Tony Romo, who tried to qualify for the U.S. Open. We don't see them during the season much, of course. Coaching and playing football is a seven-day-a-week job during the season. Maybe during the bye-week we'll spot an assistant coach sneaking away from the film room to play 18, but in the offseason, they're always out here.

Continue reading "My heroes have always been Cowboys" »

October 22, 2008

Ask the Top 100: Why do so many golf tips contradict each other?

Posted at 2:41 PM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

Our Top 100 Teachers are here to save your next round. E-mail to cure what's hurting your scores with advice from the very best teachers in the game. Please include your name and hometown. Or post your question in the comments section below.

Do you have a video of your faulty swing? Upload the video from your digital camera to a service like YouTube and send us the link. We'll send it off to a Top 100 Teacher for help ASAP.

I'm new golfer and I am totally confused by all the contradicting advice I get. For example, at different times I've been told to start my downswing by 1.) Kicking in my right knee, or 2.) Pulling down with my left arm while transferring my weight to my left side, or 3.) Turning my left hip as fast as I can. Can all of these be right? If so, which should I choose? Thanks for your help.
Bob B., Tahoe, Calif.

You left out at least 11 other really good tips that would give you a grand total of -- hmmmm, wait a minute, where's my abacus? -- 14 swing tips. Don't worry, you have plenty of time since your downswing lasts a full half a second. 

Since you're new to the game, you need to find a Top 100 Teacher nearest you (check here) to ensure a lifetime of good golf. Your teacher will give you a blueprint for your swing so you'll know exactly what you should be focusing on. Then you can save your tips for the racetrack.

In the meantime, I'll say this: Tips only work if they happen to fit in with the rest of your swing mechanics. They are like trying on someone else's shoes -- unless you wear exactly the same size as the owner, they won't fit.

Swing keys on the other hand are personalized. These keys come from the blueprint of your swing; they are the pieces that you have to knit together to form the whole. A good swing key is an integral part of your whole swing which you have chosen to focus on during your swing. One round, your swing key might focus on your hip turn, another round you may focus on your grip or keeping your spine angle.

Word to the wise guys: You need to use a swing key that is familiar. The worst thing you can do is use a new, unrehearsed swing key during a round. An unfamiliar thought activates a response to manipulate the club and that will end in a lunge or a lurch. But when your brain finds a key that has been rehearsed, it allows your swing to continue uninterrupted.

Many top players have one, maximum two thoughts that relate to their swing. These are termed swing keys in that they are thoughts that give you access to your complete swing, just like a key opens the door to where the valuables are kept.

Good luck with your search and keep me posted!

I watch Sergio on TV and they always talk about his lag move at the top of his backswing, where he drops his hands into the slot. How do drop my hands into the slot to deliver the club on an inside-out swing path without losing the coil that I've created in my backswing?
Ben H., Leominster, Mass.

Hi Ben
I'm going to tell you a story about a frog, but I don't want you to get jumpy. (Ouch!) For a long time nobody could figure out how a frog -- with such small leg muscles -- could jump so far. Turns out, the reason is something called the stretch/shorten cycle: Kermit stretches his muscles first just before he contracts them.

The same dynamic is at work when you start your downswing from the top with a turn of the hips. Your hip move causes the muscles in your upper torso to stretch, building up energy in the same way a frog crouches before he leaps.

Watch the great swings of players like Ben Hogan and Sergio Garcia and you'll see them move their hips forward and left before they even finish their backswing. This is why Sergio -- who would never get work as a bouncer like Vijay Singh did -- can still driver it farther. The differential caused by the hips going forward and left while the shoulders/arms go back can increase the amount of power in your swing by 40 to 60 percent.

The Trapping Sequence

Starting forward and around with your hips before you finish your backswing also traps the club in the slot so your key power sequence (that is, your lag) is maintained. Here's how it works: 1.) On the way back to the ball the hips trap or lead the shoulders, 2.) The shoulders lead the hands, and 3.) The hands lead the clubhead. All you have to do is rotate and this sequence will occur naturally.

So don't try to do anything except get left a little earlier then you're used to -- you should feel an increase in your stretch at the top, then just keep everything that's moving in sync.

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

October 15, 2008

Ask the Top 100: Why do I screw up under pressure?

Posted at 3:56 PM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

Our Top 100 Teachers are here to save your next round. E-mail to cure what's hurting your scores with advice from the very best teachers in the game. Please include your name and hometown. Or post your question in the comments section below.

Do you have a video of your faulty swing? Upload the video from your digital camera to a service like YouTube and send us the link. We'll send it off to a Top 100 Teacher for help ASAP.

At times I fail to get trajectory with my driver and irons.  The shots seem like a stinger instead of what they should be.  What am I doing wrong?
A. J., Topeka, Kan.

Dear A.J.,

I'm going to bet that the only part of your how-low-can-you-go shot repertoire that rates the term "stinger" is the feeling in your hands caused by the shaft shimmers when you hit the middle of the ball-ouch! Tiger hits the STINGER-let's call yours the "stinker," a shot we've all hit.

Your problem is that you're making the club "shorter" at impact than it was at address by changing your spine angle during the downswing -- not on every shot but as you say "at times" which is what Murphy's Law is all about. Here is an ode to ML found scratched on the wall of an ancient tomb under the third green at St. Andrews: 

"I muff a shot but I don't care -
So it comes to rest pin high
Unless of course it matters most
And then it's ball bye-bye."

Shorting the Deal Under Pressure

When it really counts, you straighten your spine toward the sky, your club goes short and in a bad investment of energy, you hit the middle of the ball -- enter The Stinker.

From Stinker to Thinker

To rid yourself of the Stinker concentrate on one and only one thought on every swing: Maintain your spine angle. Whatever spine tilt you have at address, make it the hub of your rotation and keep whatever spine tilt you start with until the ball is gone.

When I make a conscious effort to stay behind the ball until impact I usually tense-up and make a bad swing with generally bad results. Is there help for an old duffer of 79?
Phil, via email

Hey Old Duffer,

Overball_300 Good to hear from you. They say golf is a game of a lifetime because it takes a lifetime to learn -- and then some. At almost 80 you're still trying to improve your swing, and I salute your persistence. Instead of staying behind the ball, I'd rather have you over the ball at impact, meaning that your swing center, a point about halfway down your sternum, points at the ball as you hit it. Then let your head rotate so you're looking over the ball instead of under it as it leaves.

Use this tip and you'll be shooting your age and even better. 

By the way, Phil, don't you hate it when you hear someone say "he's 80 years young?" Golf announcers use it all the time and each guy thinks we've never heard it before. They ought to rig a boxing glove that springs out of the monitor and punches the announces every time he says "he's …. years young." Pow! Right in the kisser. I'd never miss a PGA Tour event on TV again.

And how about, "He's not playing like an old Tom Watson but the Tom Watson of old?" I think somebody first said that about Old Tom Morris during a 12-hole tournament at Royal Bedrock during the first Ice Age.

Man, if I'm this grumpy now, just wait until I turn 80.

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

The secret to making pure contact every time

Posted at 3:31 PM by Jason Carbone

Have you ever been told that your left arm bends too much? Have you ever been told to keep it straight? Do you notice that you take really inconsistent divots (some that are really deep and sometimes none at all)? If this sounds like you, I have a concept that will really help.

When you watch PGA Tour stars, you’ll notice they all keep their left arm pretty straight during their takeaway and downswing. There are two reasons for this: 1.) Their bodies are flexible enough and trained to coil properly, and 2.) More importantly, their RIGHT arm works correctly. In truth, your left arm must be very soft and free of tension in the backswing if you are going to get any speed and release in the forward swing. But if your left arm needs to be relaxed, how can it still keep its width? Answer: When the right hand pushes the grip away from your shoulder at the top of the swing, your left arm will look straight, and still be relaxed.

L_position_woods Picture your arm as it swings away from the ball. It starts with a slight bend at address and then folds into an "L" position (like the old image of a waiter holding a tray of food) by the top of your backswing. See this picture of Tiger at the top [right]. If your right arm can create an "L" at the top like Tiger, rather than a "V", you will have plenty of width and the result will be a straighter left arm. Keep in mind that your left arm should be long, but most Tour players do not have it perfectly straight. A rigid arm is never the goal.

Remember, your right arm controls your width, not your left. Once you train your right arm to work correctly, your left will followed perfectly. When you learn how to get in this position every time, you’ll start hitting the ball better than ever before.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Jason Carbone teaches at the Jim McLean Golf School in Litchfield Park, Ariz.

October 09, 2008

The least-expensive slice-fix aid ever

Posted at 2:16 PM by Glenn Deck

Many golfers believe their first move in the downswing should be a body turn.  It may look that way when you watch Tour pros at normal speed.  But watch those players in slow motion. You'll see a lateral movement of the body in the downswing that happens a fraction before the turn: a sideways brace of the left leg.  This left-side brace "buys you time" to allow your arms to drop the club in the slot before you start your turn. 

The clubhead travels in three dimensions in the downswing: down, out and forward.  If you turn too soon your body invades the space where your arms should be. The club then goes out first, making its movement out, down and in.

Your teaching pro calls it over-the-top or outside-in.  You know it as a slice.

The Fix

I get my favorite image from my favorite breakfast: Cheerios. Place a single Cheerio down the target line, 2 inches in front of the ball and parallel to the outside edge of the ball.  In your downswing make sure you hit the ball, and then the Cheerio, to ensure you are hitting down and out.  If you struggle doing this, it's time to hit some half-swings (hands hip-high in your backswing ). Start the downswing by bracing your left foot. Then slot the club so that the shaft is aiming toward the ball or target line.  Focus on the clubhead hitting the ball and Cheerio.  When your divots are straight and the Cheerio is gone, you are on the right path to success.

The Feel

To start the downswing, your body should bump left while your arms drop. You should feel like you are "backing into the target" with your body, giving your arms a lane to drop those precious few feet. Then you can turn, as hard as you want.

Ask the Top 100: Pre-shot routine will lead to consistency

Posted at 1:06 PM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

Our Top 100 Teachers are here to save your next round. E-mail to cure what's hurting your scores with advice from the very best teachers in the game. Please include your name and hometown. Or post your question in the comments section below.

Do you have a video of your faulty swing? Upload the video from your digital camera to a service like YouTube and send us the link. We'll send it off to a Top 100 Teacher for help ASAP.

Dear T.J.
I am constantly shooting a good round, between one-over and one-under par, only to mess up one or two holes with a double or stupid bogey in the middle of my round. How do I stay consistent through the entire round?

Robert M., via email

Dear R.M.:
A few years ago, someone timed Tiger's putting routine and found that it took the same amount of time, within .08 of a second, each time. His father, Earl, said that "when he gets over the ball and starts his procedure, watch him after he sets his putter. He checks his alignment. He adjusts his feet. He takes one look, another look and then strokes the ball." I timed his full swing in several tournaments, and unless the shot required extra analysis, Tiger didn't vary.

So what's the takeaway? If you're consistent in your preparation, you'll be consistent in your execution.

Over the years I've been asked the consistency question by so many students that I decided to write a book about it (The 30 Second Swing). It took me 166 pages just to get warmed up, but for blogging purposes, I think I can name that consistency tune in four paragraphs.

Pre-shot Routine or Ritual?
Asktj_preshot_400 Good players have a routine that doesn't vary. The step-by-step pre-shot process should actually be more than a routine. It should be a ritual, which is more powerful then a routine because it focuses your attention and gives you the focus of a snake charmer for the 30 seconds it takes to hit a golf shot. Your pre-shot ritual is a golfing amulet that protects you at every turn.

The sequence and composition of the ritual should not vary, and this sameness gives the brain solace even in the most stressful situations. Hazards, wind, the pressure of a downhill three-footer for the match, a simple chip or a drive to a wide open fairway -- it doesn't matter because all the shots are run through the same process as equals. No shot is given more importance.

A pre-shot ritual is powerful because it gives you control over half of the golf-shot equation. You can't control the outcome, but exact repetition at address is empowering. No matter how bad the shot, the grieving period ends at the start of the next pre-shot ritual.  In practical terms, this means you play one shot at a time and stay in the present. The past is gone and the future hasn't arrived. All you have to work on is the next action in the sequence. All you have to work on is the present.

Here I have detailed a pre-shot ritual that will help you get started.

I start off the first few holes doing reasonably well and then seem to lose my rhythm. I think I am all arms, which throws my timing off and does funny things to the club face. What can I do?

Desperate (Dick K.), via email

Dear Desperate,

No wonder you're desperate -- you're letting the linkages run the assembly, and that's a rhythm-ruiner.  

To get your lost rhythm back, use this two-club sync-a-rama. It's an oldie but a goodie that I recommended about two years ago in Golf Magazine, and I'm sticking with it. It works because it overloads your arms so that they can't do their own thing. Instead of being initiators, they become simply connectors.

Take your normal address position, but hold an 8-iron in your left hand and a 7-iron in your right.  Sole the 8-iron directly behind the ball as you usually do, and sole the 7 about four inches behind it. The clubheads should be lined up like two planes waiting to take off.

Next, swing both clubs slowly back and through, noting that if you slow down or speed up one side independently of the other, the two clubs will collide. Your reward, if you keep everything moving correctly, is that the shafts never touch.  After a few practice swings, actually hit some balls with the leading left hand, but only try for about 30 yards.

During your swing, take care to make a good upper-body turn with only a slight bend in your front elbow. If you use your core to move the club instead of your arms, your swing will be collision free. When you want to swing faster, simply speed up your core rotation.

(Photo: Rob Tringali)

October 07, 2008

Want to stop slicing? Be Federer not Tiger

Posted at 11:03 AM by Tom Patri

Golf is a hard game to learn. If it wasn't, I'd be out of a job. But even though the game is hard, some people make it harder by treating the golf swing as an entirely new motion. Instead, amateurs would find the game easier if they realized that the motions they make in other spots have applications for the golf swing.

Take a player with a nasty slice. The problem is that he's keeping the clubface open through impact. However, if he plays tennis, then he already knows the motion he needs to close the clubface through impact, he's just not used to doing it with a golf club. What I do is place a tennis racquet in his hand and ask him to hit a forehand with topspin and I take a video of it. When we watch the video, he sees that he swung the racquet open-to-closed. Then I show him his golf swing, where he doesn't rotate the clubface closed. It's a very effective way to illustrate this key swing move.

Then I have my student get in his golf position with a tennis racquet and make that same topspin-forehand swing. After a few of those, he switches to a golf club. Then finally we tee up a ball. First hit: You guessed it, snap hook. For many of my students, this is the first time they've really hooked the ball. After hitting more hooks (this move takes awhile to "own"), I see students finally hitting their first true draw. It feels more powerful, too, since before they only had a glancing blow and now they are experiencing compression for the first time.

October 02, 2008

How to turn your baseball swing into a golf swing

Posted at 4:31 PM by Tom Patri

October is one of my favorite months. You get the leaves changing colors, crisp fall days and, best of all, playoff baseball. Even though my New York Yankees aren't in the playoffs this year (for just the first time in 13 years, thank you very much), I still love October baseball.

If you're a baseball fan and still remember what it's like to swing the bat, you can actually improve your golf swing. It's a drill I do with my students all the time to teach them how to unwind their hips and increase their lag.

The first thing I have a baseball-loving student do is swing his golf club like a baseball bat and take a video of him doing this. If he's an over-the-topper with the usual slice, he'll see in the video how in his baseball swing he unwinds his hips and creates lag perfectly. "All you need to do is transition from a vertical spine (baseball) to an inclined spine (golf posture)," I'll say and I can usually see the light go on. Then I ask him to bend slightly from the waist and make more baseball swings with his golf club, until he's in his golf posture and swinging with the lag and hip movement he needs to get longer and more accuarate.

Try it yourself on the range. The transition is pretty amazing.

Top 100 Teacher Tom Patri is director of instruction at Friar's Head Golf Club in Baiting Hollow, N.Y.

October 01, 2008

Why Kim Chokes Down On Every Club

Posted at 11:06 AM by T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D.

Do you have a question or video of your faulty swing? Upload the video from your digital camera to a service like YouTube and send us the link. We'll send it off to a Top 100 Teacher for help ASAP.

It appears from watching Anthony Kim that he chokes down on all of his shots, but he doesn’t lose any distance and maintains great accuracy.

I always thought that choking down on the club reduced the distance — at least that is what I was always told.  After watching A.K. during the Ryder Cup matches, I went to the range and choked down, and I was astonished.  All of my distances were not only the same as with a full grip, but each shot was crisp, neither fat nor thin.

What gives? Your help in diagnosing A.K.’s method will be very helpful.
Mel L., via e-mail

Dear Mel-odious:
You sing a happy tune when it comes to choking. Let's find out why. There are two parts to the answer: the psychology and the physics of the choke down -- a very grand theme.

First the Psychology
When the metal-headed driver first came out years ago, scientists set the Iron Byron at 100 mph and hit balls with both wood and metal heads. They went the same distance. But when the pros hit the metal drivers, the ball went farther. Where did the tests go wrong? 

Machines aren't influenced by results -- humans are. It didn't take long for golfers hitting a metal head to figure out that it went straighter. And so, having confidence that their tee shots wouldn't leave the planet, golfers swung harder. Bam! The science wasn't wrong; it just wasn't relevant.

In the same way, choking down has not limited Kim's distance. From an early age, he had to choke down on his clubs because he was short, but he still played aggressively. It didn't take long for Kim to figure out that he could still hit it a mile if he employed an explosive swing to match his explosive personality.

Now for The Physics
The other reason why Kim (and you) can shorten up successfully is that the club is under control. That means you'll hit the ball more squarely, which produces a very efficient transfer of energy. Remember, long drives and accurate irons require center contact. An in-control club helps you achieve it.

Here's a drill that I recommended in SI last week on this very subject. To see if choking down will generate more solid contact for you, put tape on the face of your club. Hit 10 shots and check the contact pattern. Choke down an inch and hit another 10 shots. Finally, choke down two inches and hit another 10 shots. Compare the patterns to find out which grip resulted in the most shots on the center of the clubface. Be careful, though: Choking down can make you over-swing at first.

If you decide to shorten up, have your grips built up so they're a uniform diameter. Most grips taper, which can cause feel issues as you choke down.

To all of our golfing Websters -- an Invitation
If you try this, report back to me. Better yet, send me video of your choked-down swing and your regular one, and we'll scope out the differences.

Most of my peers call me a decent golfer with a boatload of potential. I'm a hockey player who can hit the ball very far, but I battle a terrible hook. Sometimes it's consistent, but other times I will be hitting it straight and I'll hit a bad snap hook out of nowhere. It gets so bad I can hook wedges, 8-irons, you name it. I've been playing for a long time and I'm about an 8 handicap, but these hooks just kill my score. I've weakened my grip considerably and checked my alignment. I need help. Thank you.
Steve, via email

Dear Boatload,
In this day and age everybody is talking about spin. But while they're taking ball spin, I'm talking shaft spin. If you want to put a cork on that snapper, stop spinning the shaft.

For consistency, the shaft should not turn (spin) on its own axis as you coil and uncoil because that drastically opens or, in your case, closes the face. The best, most repeating golf swings have little spinning of the shaft. You can have a "quiet shaft" by moving your chest, arms and club as a unit, with silent hands -- wrists that cock up and down but do not roll. When you "unitize" you swing motion, your hands retain their position relative to the rest of your body throughout the swing. That gives you a repeatable clubface at impact.

Your Drill
Teedrill_300 To monitor how much your shaft spins, take your stance and place a tee between the thumb and index finger of your top hand so it points to the sky.

Stop your swing at each of the following points, and make sure:

1.  At address, the tee is pointing at the sky.

2.  At the end of your takeaway, when your club is parallel to the ground, the tee is pointing at the sky.

3.  Halfway into your downswing, when the club is parallel to the ground, it points at the sky again.

4.  At impact, the tee is back to where it started, pointing at the sky.

5.  After impact where your shaft is parallel with the ground, the tee is ... "Alex, I'll take 'Objects that are still looking at the sky' for $1000."

Click here to see photos of this drill in action.

If the tee is in the right position at all of these points, then the shaft is moving but not spinning, and your clubface is more likely to be in the correct position at impact.

(Photo: Rob Tringali)


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