A benign and bright Royal Lytham was offered up to the players for the traditional third round moving day. Little wind and receptive greens gave the impression the course would be there for the taking. However by close of play only 16 players managed to better par, with Zach Johnson’s 66 being low round of the day. The majority of pins were tucked on the front corners, hanging over deep bunkers or on top of shelves. This made it near on impossible to get close and we saw a lot of birdie putting from 30-40 feet. For those who tried to attack, it was a case of a step forward and two back. This was illustrated by Luke Donald who got off to a solid start by birding the 3rd but then gave it back on the 6th with a double bogey, caused by an over aggressive shot selection. Even the birdie munching, big hitting, American duo of Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson could only manage a pair of 68’s with their haul of 5 and 6 birdies respectively.
Most of the leading few groups played steadily, trying to tiptoe around the 280 bunkers that lay in wait for an errant shot. The only main casualty was overnight leader Brandt Snedeker, who lost the lead early in his round. He looked hurried, fidgety and nervous. His swing took on a gyroscopic effect, getting faster with every revolution. This was in direct contrast to Aussie Adam Scott, who’s languid gait and flowing rhythm made Ernie Els look like Lee Evans in chinos. He put on an awesome display of long, straight hitting, a testament to his natural combination of power and control.
I was very impressed with young Thorbjorn Olesen, who’s swing looked very solid under the pressure of playing with his idol and the biggest draw in golf, Tiger Woods. As for the man himself, Tiger looked very frustrated on the greens. He didn’t have a feel for the speed all day and most of his putts he left online and in the jaws. His conservative game plan on the par 5’s netted him a one under total which compared to Adam Scott’s 4 under total was the difference between the two. Tiger’s iron for safety strategy might be “over par” proof around Lytham, but is it aggressive enough to win. I think he will need to hit driver on the par 5’s tomorrow to have a chance to win.
A couple of players snuck in under the radar until nearly the close of play. Gmac put in another solid third day performance in a major with a superb 67. A string of late birdies, ensured his spot in the final group for the second major in succession. Finally, don’t count out the Big Easy. Although Ernie is 6 off the lead held by Adam Scott, he only has 5 players ahead of him. A round in the 60’s tomorrow might be enough to get the job done if the wind picks up.
This year’s US Open is being staged at the exclusive Olympic Club in San Francisco, California. It’s a tight, tree lined test with undulating fairways, fierce greens and lots of dog legs. The topography of the course layout snakes up and around one big hill, making all the fairways pitched. This causes the ball to bounce away from the centre, spitting them into the rough and the trees. A pitch out from the rough would be the players preferred option compared to the alternative.
Trying to escape from a cluster of 70 foot high Cypress trees is like trying to hit a shot through a prison cell.
The trees are a big feature of the course with some 40,000 of them lining every hole and greedily collecting less than perfect shots. This puts a premium not just on straight hitting but also the ability to shape the ball so it bounces into the camber of the fairway. It really is a shot makers’ course where players like, Donald, Furyk and Rose will excel. Long hitting and power is of little value around a course like this due to the many dog legs and fast rolling fairways - also you can’t bomb and gauge from 70 foot cypress trees.
Rumour has it that the USGA want to avenge Rory’s 16 under demolition of Congressional last year and return the winning total to a more respectable even par. This means a brutal examination lies in wait for the 156 players when they arrive on Monday. This year’s tournament will be classic US Open carnage, more war of attrition than a birdie fest. If they get the warm, dry weather they are expecting, a repeat of Lee Janzen’s even par 280 total in 1998 seems realistic.
The USGA are renowned for their creative Thursday and Friday pairings and they haven’t disappointed this year.
The worlds’ top three players will be in action together for the first two days; Donald, McIlroy and Westwood.
It will be fascinating to watch how these players with such contrasting styles and strengths take on the challenge of the Olympic Club. There is also the low key pairing of Woods, Mickleson and Bubba! Can’t wait to see the action and more importantly the mental anguish unfold.
Watching Kevin Na’s struggles on the weekend at the Players Championship illustrates the vital importance a clearly defined Pre-Shot Routine plays in competitive golf. Watching all those waggles, gyrations and practice swings was hard to watch. He stated in his interview after the third round that he did not feel comfortable over the ball and couldn’t “pull the trigger” until he felt ready. I think it was his approach and lack of strategy that contributed to his inevitable downfall on Sunday.
Every player feels uncomfortable and awkward in their set-up from time to time and Kevin is no different. However, what other players have that Kevin didn’t was a mechanism to dissipate this tension and doubt. This mechanism is commonly referred to by Sports Psychologists as the commitment line. This invisible line is normally drawn about 2-3 feet behind the ball looking directly down the target line. Its job is to divide the Pre-Shot Routine into 2 distinct phases; information gathering and shot rehearsal
During phase 1 the player is gathering vital information required to make informative decisions before selecting the shot at hand. This includes things like; wind direction and strength, how the ball is lying, slope and topography, target identification, distance to target, hazards and trouble spots, club selection and finally and most importantly seeing the shot. This phase is executed outside the commitment line and is not time bound. A player can even execute this phase while they are waiting for their turn to play.
“Crossing the commitment line and getting ready to go”. Once phase 1 is completed it’s time to cross the commitment line and begin the all-important phase 2.
Phase 2 involves building a reliable pattern of rehearsal to execute the shot selected from phase 1. This rehearsal pattern should be consistent and contain the same factors each and every time. An example of this pattern would be; visualising the shot trajectory as you step into the ball, aligning your body and your clubface to the target or intermediate target, initiating a trigger (waggle, press of club, shimmy of hips), and then letting go. An important note to remember is that this phase is executed within the commitment line. It is also time sensitive and must be performed within a few seconds each time. It’s not the amount of time that’s important; players phase 2 patterns can be anywhere from 10 to 25 seconds. What is important is the time frame is consistant each time.
This is the area of the preshot routine Kevin Na struggled with. He didn’t have a clearly defined phase 2 strategy and definitely did not commit to it. If you cannot commit to a routine, you can’t commit to the shot. He was playing in a conscious state of awareness which is where self doubt and anxiety live.
Ernie Els often tells the story that David Leadbetter recorded a number of shots during his last round of the 1997 US Open in which he won. The phase 2 section of his preshot routine varied by less than a second each time. Now that’s a routine!
Most of the golf tours around the world give players 40 seconds to hit a shot once they address the ball. Considering the average swing takes 2.5 seconds, that’s plenty of time to build a reliable phase 2 pattern without feeling rushed. So build a preshot routine that is compatible to you, use the commitment line to break it into 2 segments and stick to it. And finally remember, once you initiate your trigger the golf shot is out of your hands. Learn to commit to this too.
As the European Tour co-sanctioned China Open kicked off last Thursday, the focus was not on some of the world’s best. Instead the media’s gaze and public fascination was on 13 year old Chinese schoolboy Guan Tian-Lang. At just 13 years and 173 days old, Guan made history by becoming the youngest ever player to tee it up in a European Tour event. He fired modest rounds of 77, 79 for a 12 over par total, missing the cut by 14 shots. I’m sure it was a good buzz for the lad to play with grown- ups who can drive themself to the course and even shave once in a while. But really what is the point of thrusting the media’s attention on a 13 year old school boy who is clearly not ready to compete at this level. He looked very uncomfortable out there on the first day, clocking up dropped shots everywhere before gaining some composure on the back nine. China is desperate to develop an ‘Eastern’ version of Rory McIlory, but perhaps pinning hopes on a 13 year old is a bit premature. It’s hard not to draw parallels with other child protégés, such as Michelle Wie and Ty Tryon. Wie was a bright young female talent who was thrust into the spotlight far too early by an unscrupulous father. Her cringe worthy appearances on the men’s US Tour was akin to watching a dancing bear at the Moscow Circus. To this day she has only won 2 professional tournaments, the most noteworthy being the US Canadian Open in 2010. In 2001, Ty Tryon was the youngest ever player to gain a full US Tour card at the age of just 17. He was seen as the next big thing and golf companies stampeded to sign him to massive endorsement contracts. However he has failed to keep his card ever since and is still searching for his first professional title. When the travelling road show, that is the European Tour, moves on to the next stop and new stories are written, what will become of Master Tian-Lang. Will we ever hear from him again or will the weight of expectation and unrealistic hype stifle yet another promising young talent’s development.
Now the golf season is here many of you will be thinking about replacing your old faithfulls with some of the newer models now available. It seems that whenever we sit down to watch golf these days we are bombarded with ads for the latest and greatest in golf equipment. They all promise ‘300 yard’ drives, ‘17 yards’ further and extreme forgiveness but then have a disclaimer at the bottom of the ad stating that “individual results may differ, based on ability”. Talk about a false promise!
So what’s important when selecting golf equipment? Well, getting a professional fitting is the answer. The professional will take you through and select all the important components involved in club design. What are they you might ask? Well I’m going to keep this blog light, but here are the important factors. Firstly, you have to make sure the length of the club is right for your height, wrist to floor distance and swing shape. The grip has to be the right thickness for your hand size and finger length and comfortable to you when holding the club The shaft of the club must be the correct weight and have the correct flex (bend) to idealy match your tempo, strength, release type and ball flight The clubhead design is also an important factor, it has to be forgiving enough for you to hit the ball consistent distances. However it must also look right over the ball (aethetically pleasing) and feel right upon contact. In my experience this is very much player dependant and as long as your hitting them solid it’s upto you what you choose. The most important factor I believe is lie angle. This is the angle of the hosel realtive to the ground. It must be precisely measured statically (height, wrist to floor distance) and then matched (dynamically) to your club delivery pattern and shot shape. Once you have these elements of the clubfitting completed it should then come down to set make up, ie. 5-PW plus 3-4 hybrids or 3-SW iron etc. Only then do you focus on price. Most golfers have a budget in mind when purchasing new equipment which is fine. Clubfitting does not affect price of equipment, once you have your specifications you can then select the number of clubs or club model to fit your budget.
Most of the golf indusrty have this process backwards. They focus on price and marketing and leave the important details, like actually ‘customising’ the clubs to suit the customer out of the equation. Wouldn’t this disclaimer be a better one “individaul results will be significantly higher at the end of the fitting process than the start, otherwise no sale will be completed and you can keep your current clubs” That’s a proper customer promise and is the approach I and many independant clubfitters adopt.
If you are interested in getting a clubfitting or for any further details and queries I would be more than happy to help. Just send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more info on our services click here: http://www.golf-revolution.co.uk/clubfitting.php
The course itself has been well documented, many journalists have commented on the scale and undulating topography of the course. So I thought I would give you all an insiders’ view of Augusta National. As you take the walk up Magnolia Lane the first thing you notice is the famous manicured garden bed and founders circle made famous by TV. Just behind the garden sitting proudly in the corner is the beautiful but understated colonial style clubhouse. It doesn’t look big but sweeps well down to the right which you don’t see at home. If you time it just right you might see Gary Player or Jack Nicklaus chatting cordially to some of the green coated members. The main entrance is a wash of state troopers, security detail and service staff. To say it’s an Aladdin’s cave into a secret world of living golf history would be no understatement. The smoke billows from the chimney above the grill room where the smell charred Georgian beef scents the air. Wandering around just this entrance creates a sensory overload that you can hardly take in. Meandering to the right you walk past the Champions car park which is a sea of gleaming silver Mercedes. Further down the road is the tournament headquarters and players car park. The frantic whirling of golf carts ferrying players and caddies to the practice area is distracting to your focus. The practice area is on an epic scale, not content with just putting greens and short game zones, they have also designed a new driving range. This is complete with 4 target greens, and two tree lined fairways 400 yards long. Both of these practice holes would probably rank in Golf Digests top 20 courses in Ireland if there were 18 of them. When making your way past the general admission area and up to the first tee you spot the famous big oak tree. Located opposite the clubhouse patio area and adjacent to the first tee, this is Augusta National’s ‘meeting’ place. A melting pot of media, members, celebrities, corporates and players mingle under the shade of this grand 150 year old oak. If you wanted to know what America’s powerful elite are up to for Easter, come by and say hello.
6 Interesting Facts about Augusta
- The Green Jacket - Since 1949, a green jacket is given to the tournament champion. The winner keeps the jacket for one year and presents it to the winner of The Masters the following year.
- Most Wins - Jack Nicklaus has won The Masters Tournament six times - the most of any player. Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer have both taken four Masters titles.
- Oldest and Youngest Winners - Tiger Woods became the youngest Masters winner at the age of 21 in 1997. Jack Nicklaus was the oldest winner with his 1986 win at the age of 46 years old
- Most appearances - Gary Player has made 52 Masters appearances. To put this number in perspective, that accounts for around 75% of all Masters Tournaments.
- Amen Corner - Holes 11, 12 and 13 were named “Amen Corner” by Herbert Warren Wind in an April 21, 1958 Sports Illustrated article about Arnold Palmer’s first Masters victory. It came from a jazz record, “Shouting at Amen Corner.”
After following Rory around Augusta from start to finish on Thursday it’s safe to say Arnold Palmer’s understudy as the new “king” of golf is ready for his curtain call. Shouts of “Com’on Rory, Go Rory, We love you Rory” were dispatched by thousands of fans as he swaggered purposefully to the first tee. Cheers and roars reverberated around the swaying pines of Augusta National as he hit his first tee shot well right of the narrow fairway. By the time he picked up his tee and sauntered down the fairway a swathe of people followed. Like watching a haze of summer swallows suddenly change direction and formation. The reception he generated was only matched by that of all American hero, Phil Mickleson, the perennial crowd favourite.
Why is McIlory embraced so dearly by the US fans? From watching him up close he displays a swashbuckling, bouncy, jaunt which is purposeful but not arrogant. He also interacts with the fans, whether it’s a tip of the cap or an acknowledging glance or smile. Like Phil, he is often nonchalant, sheepish even, when watching the exploits of his talent. It’s like his body language is saying “It not me, it’s the man pulling my strings”. This was evident on the 10th hole when an errant tee shot finished behind a bush in the right rough. As he stalked around looking for a way out of jail, the look in his eyes was one of calmness rather than panic. Like he was relishing the challenge the course was presenting. A miraculous cut shot which bent around the trees and curved onto the edge of the green ensued. This produced yet another sigh of amazement from the adoring crowd.
The common touch which has been instilled in him by his parents definitely helps build rapport. So does the aura which seeps from his pours, often reserved for certain gifted players, like Palmer, Norman, Mickelson and Woods. One factor which is obvious but sometimes overlooked is just how frighteningly good the kid is. The sound of his strike is so distinguishing it makes other players and coaches stop in their tracks to admire. His new Wozniaki inspired physique has also made him a very powerful hitter. Playing with two big guns, Cabrera and Bubba Watson, McIlroy matched them blow for blow. The main difference being he displayed more poise and balance while doing it which comes from better conditioning.
So as the weekend unfolds and today’s final round drama will capture the imagination of the golfing world once again. It is fair to say they will all have at least one eye on their new emerging hero, regardless of his position on the leaderboard.
There are two types of practice that are mutually exclusive and serve completely different purposes. It is important to recognise each type, understand what purpose they serve and prescribe a training regime to suit each one. They are “blocked” practice and “random” practice.
Blocked practice occurs when the training scenario stays constant, such as hitting a 7 iron the same distance and to the same target every shot. The purpose of this training regime is to feel and isolate minute differences between each swing. Ideal when working on a swing/technique change. This training allows you to adapt and change a movement pattern by running the same motor program through your brain each repetiton.
Think of it like designing a software program and running it through the same operating system time and time again to check for various bugs. The more times you run the program the cleaner the software will become.
During this training regime an active target is actually harmful as it distracts you from any kinesthetic feel your body is sending back to your brain. You will often notice that during a lesson I will “switch off” the target so students can get a deeper feel of any changes to their golf movement pattern.
Swing drills, movement rehearsals, training aids and an in depth review of the motion are all important processes you can use during this form of training. It is the quality of the movement that is the goal, not the shots proximity to the target.
Random practice on the other hand is a completely different training protocol and should be conducted as such. During this practice you are constantly adding new variables and changing your environment. Much like you do when playing a round of golf, you are never faced with the same scenario twice. This means that your brain is having to run a different motor program on each shot. This retrieval of programs is not an automatic brain response, much like your memory, it must be trained.
If you wonder why you can’t take your range swing to the course, it’s because you have not incorporated enough random practice to your training regime.
There are many training scenarios you can try. Throw 10 balls randomly around the green and then trying to get up and down each time, keeping score! When you go to the range save the last 30 balls of your session and play the front 9 holes of your course in order. Remember if you don’t hit a good shot your must not hit a “mulligan” you must still hit the next in sequence - Learn consequence!
The best form of random practice is quite simply playing golf on the course with 1 ball. You will be faced with a new scenario on every shot making your brain work really hard to retrieve the information needed to hit the shot.
This will make your shot scenario library really large. How do you know how far a ball will fly with your 7 iron out of the rough, or from an uphill lie or from a fairway bunker? Experience yes, but your brain being able to retrieve this shot program is the correct answer. On course playing lessons can help with understanding different scenarios but it is then upto you the player to be able to “recall” the shot again in the future.
Identify what you are trying to achieve during practice and select the right type of practice in the right context. Your results will become much better. For technique change and adaption use the “blocked” practice phase. Once your swing feels comfortable and you are hitting it well in practice transfer over to the ”random” phase and get out on the golf course.