Wednesday, September 19, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 Tour Championship

The Tour Championship will be played this week at East Lake.


East Lake plays to over 7,300 yards at a par-70 with an index of 76.2 and a slope of 144.

It was originally designed by Donald Ross and then re-designed by Rees Jones. The area around East Lake was one of the most dangerous areas in the country and was once given the nickname lil’ Nam (as in Little Vietnam).

When I lived in Atlanta, a neighbor of mine told the story of getting onto East Lake with his boss back in the 80’s and while they were playing a man jumped the fence…robbed them at gun point and then hopped the fence again and disappeared.

Anyway, the neighborhood has completely changed and embraced the event. However, I’m not the biggest fan of the actual course. From talking to players, they seem to like it but I tend to think that they are just happy to be there because it means they are in the Tour Championship and they are exempt from almost every event and are exempt from every major next season.

Jokingly, I wonder if part of the prize for making it to the Tour Championship was to not have to play in Pro-Ams for the next season if that would put extra pressure on players during the season.

Anyway, this is a Red Zone course and a bomber’s course. Wide open and very long. The par-3’s are brutal. They did the smart thing by changing up the nine’s so that the 18th hole is no longer a par-3 (and a worthless par-3 to boot).

But, it’s also a course that stresses short game around the green. Typical of Donald Ross designs.

Projected Winning Score: -12


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Rory McIlroy +900
Justin Rose +900
Justin Thomas +1,200


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Hideki Matsuyama +2,000
Tommy Fleetwood +2,500
Kevin Na +7,000







3JACK

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 BMW Championship

The final leg of the FedEx playoffs is at Aronomink Golf Club, just outside of Philadelphia.



Aronomink was built in 1896 and designed by Donald Ross, my personal favorite golf course architect. Ross’ designs often featured golfers using every club in their bag with crowned and elevated greens that put an emphasis on precise iron play and capable skill around the greens.

The main issue with Ross’ designs is that he had not adequately prepared for the distance gains stemming from new technology and many of his courses were severely diminished or became obsolete. In 2003, Donald Ross expert Ron Prichard headed up the renovation of Aronomink that recaptured Ross’ design concepts.

In 2017, Gil Hanse led further renovations at Aronomink. For myself, the jury is still out on Hanse as an architect. As difficult as the green surrounds that Ross would design, Hanse has carried a reputation of being ridiculous in these features. However, there are plenty of respectable golfers that give Hanse high praise.



The lengthening of Aronomink means that the key approach shots should be a little longer and that will likely mean more missed greens and thus short game performance should matter more. I have the last critical hole on the course, based on the AT&T National Championships held at Aronomink in 2010 and 2011 as the 15th hole.


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Dustin Johnson +900
Justin Rose +1,200
Brooks Koepka +1,400
Tiger Woods +2,000
Rory McIlroy +2,000
Tony Finau +2,000
Jordan Spieth +2,200
Hideki Matsuyama +2,500



3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Patrick Cantlay +3,500
Phil Mickelson +4,000






3JACK

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 Dell Technologies Championship

The second stage of the FedEx playoffs at TPC Boston this week:


TPC Boston was originally designed by Arnold Palmer in 2003 and then re-designed by Gil Hanse and Brad Faxon in 2007. It plays to a par-71 at 7,216 yards with a 77.6 index.

I’m not very familiar with Hanse’s designs. He designed the recently opened Streamsong Black which I have yet to play. He also re-designed The Blue Monster at Doral. I’m a big fan of Arnold Palmer’s designs and really think that Bay Hill is a vastly underappreciated design particularly as I started to study the course from an analytics standpoint. But, Mr. Palmer wasn’t a big fan of creating a torture chamber and would lean towards making the course too easy versus too difficult. Hanse and Faxon may have been brought in to toughen up the course a bit.

From what I’ve been told from people that have played Hanse designs is that the green contours are super challenging. But given the performance at TPC Boston the past few years it appears that the course isn’t overly difficult and is more Palmer biased than Hanse designed.

Most of this course will revolve around driving and mid-length approach shots. The par-5, 18th hole is the final Critical Hole on the course.

Projected Winning Score: -15


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Justin Thomas +1,000
Brooks Koepka +1,200
Jordan Spieth +2,000
Tony Finau +2,800
Patrick Cantlay +3,300
Bryson DeChambeau +3,300
Henrik Stenson +3,300


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Billy Horschel +4,500
Kyle Stanley +8,000
Byeong Hun An +12,500






3JACK

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 Northern Trust Championship

The first leg of the FedEx playoffs takes place at Ridgewood Country Club for the Northern Trust Championship. Ridgewood CC was built in 1929 by one of the legendary designers, AW Tillinghast. It was listed in the Register of Historic Places in 2015 and re-designed by Gil Hanse in 1995.



I often go between my favorite designers being either Donald Ross or Tillinghast. Both stressed a good variety of holes and getting the golfer to use every club in the bag in a round of golf. My experience with Hanse is limited, but from what I’ve seen he stresses golfers with tricky green complexes.

In the past Ridgewood has served as a course that favors all-around play with a stress on driving, mid iron play and shots around the green. They’ve made some additional renovations, so it will be interesting on how the course turns out.

Ridgewood is also where Byron Nelson cut his teeth as a professional. PGATour.com had a nice writeup on Mr. Nelson’s time at Ridgewood that can be found here: Byron Nelson at Ridgewood

Projected Winning Score: -15


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Justin Thomas +1,200
Justin Rose +1,600
Francesco Molinari +2,200
Tommy Fleetwood +2,800
Patrick Cantlay +4,000


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Rafael Cabrera Bello +8,000
Ryan Moore +10,000
Kevin Streelman +12,500
Ryan Armour +15,000
Keegan Bradley +15,000





3JACK


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 PGA Championship

The 100th PGA Championship occurs tomorrow at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis.


What many people do not realize is that the PGA Championship was originally a match play format before moving to stroke play in 1958. 

There's always the contention that the PGA Championship isn't really a 'major' from small factions of people.  I get the idea as it lacks some identity.  With the Masters you have the 1 course played each year and you have those Augusta greens.  The US Open was about the brutal rough and the British Open is about the links design and in particular, the wind.  But with the PGA you really lack that identifiable trait.  That's why I propose that they make this a global event with the tournament being held at a different course in the world each year.

This year the venue is Bellerive Country Club.  It plays to 7,547 yards at a par-71 that is 530 feet above sea level.  It's a Robert Trent Jones design.  I grew up playing a lot of RT Jones designs as he graduated from Cornell University and got his start in the Central New York area.

Jones' calling card is somewhat wide fairways and very long holes.  You can gain some strokes off the tee, particularly if you're long and somewhat straight off the tee.  But most of the strokes will be lost/gained from the Red Zone in Jones' designs.

Here were the '94 top finishers:

1st - Nick Price
t-2nd - John Cook, Nick Faldo, Jim Gallagher, Jr. and Gene Sauers
6th - Jeff Maggert

Peter Jacobsen, a very underrated ballstriker, won the 2004 US Senior Open there as well.

Nick Price was one of the best drivers of the ball on Tour since 1980.  In fact, when I wrote about the players that accomplished the feat of being 1 standard deviation above the mean in both driving distance and driving accuracy in the same year since 1980 (2011 Pro Golf Synopsis) Price was one of the few players to have done it in two different seasons (so did Nicklaus, Lietzke and Duval).

But, Price was also a superb Red Zone player.  John Cook's data follows the same suit, but Faldo and Maggert were more excellent Red Zone players than great drivers of the ball.  Combine that with Jacobsen's victory, I would look out for quality drivers and Red Zone players of the ball. 

The players are believing that this is a low scoring course, but you never know when the tournament flags go up.  What would concern me is that the top finishers in '94 were mostly very accurate off the tee.  That likely means firm and fast fairways.  However, St. Louis has had a lot of rain recently.

3JACK'S FAVORITES

Dustin Johnson +800
Rory McIlroy + 1,200
Justin Thomas +1,400
Brooks Koepka + 1,800
Justin Rose +2,000
Jon Rahm +2,500
Tommy Fleetwood +2,500



3JACK'S DARK HORSE PICKS

Francesco Molinari +3,000
Gary Woodland +10,000
Kiradech Aphibarnrat +20,000






3JACK

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 WGC - Bridgestone

The Tour comes to Firestone Country Club for the last time for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.



The original tournament at Firestone was the NEC World Series of Golf which was originally a 4-man event, taking each of the 4 major championship winners to play in the event. Eventually in 1999 it turned into a WGC event.

The south course was originally designed by Bert Way in 1929 and then re-designed in 1960 by Robert Trent Jones. Jones was once the premier designer, particularly for major championship courses, on Tour. Having grown up playing numerous RT Jones designs (he was a graduate of nearby Cornell University) his courses are very long and fairly wide open. But, he does stress quality driving…it just tends to be more distance biased than accuracy biased.

To my knowledge, Firestone – South is the only RT Jones design left on Tour. Most of the current Tour courses have more dogleg that have sharper bends to them. If the rough is short and the conditions are soft, it generally gives an enormous advantage to the long hitters. If the rough is long and the course is firm, it favors short, but accurate hitters off the tee. With RT Jones designs, it should favor longer hitters, year after year.

Watch out for some big drives here as last year Rory McIlroy was hitting speed rams and routinely pumping 370+ yard drives. But, this should mostly come down to longer approach shot plays and who can make some mid-length putts.

PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -13

3JACK’S FAVORITES

Dustin Johnson +700
Rory McIlroy +1,000
Justin Rose +1,200
Jordan Spieth +2,000
Jon Rahm +2,000


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Henrik Stenson +4,000
Patrick Cantlay +6,600
Bryson DeChambeau +6,600
Kyle Stanley +12,500
Gary Woodland +20,000





Rich

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

What To Look For: RBC Canadian Open

The third oldest tournament on the PGA Tour, The Canadian Open, comes this week from Glen Abbey Golf Club just outside of Toronto:


Glen Abbey is the most common course played for the Canadian Open. It was designed in 1976 by Jack Nicklaus. Ironically, this is one of the few pro events that Nicklaus never won.

This is a critical event on Tour for many players because the field is somewhat weak since the British Open was the week before. This will allow for some players with less FedEx points to possibly make a large leap in the FedEx standings before the playoffs.

Overall, the course is not that well liked by the players. Most of the strokes will be gained/lost off the tee and on mid-iron approach shots. The par-5’s are critical as well, but they are more about the drive than the 2nd shot.

The par-5 18th is the final critical hole on the course.

3JACK’S FAVORITES

Dustin Johnson +650
Brooks Koepka +1,100
Tony Finau +1,600
Tommy Fleetwood +1,600
Charley Hoffman +2,500


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Gary Woodland +4,000
Byeong Hun An +5,000
Sam Ryder +8,000
Hunter Mahan +12,500
Conrad Shindler +15,000




3JACK

Friday, July 13, 2018

Making Par vs. Saving Par and Pre-Shot Routine with George Gankas

Here's a video that I really liked from George Gankas on his new YouTube channel.  You can find his new YouTube channel at this link:

George Gankas YouTube Channel



In my lesson with GG back in April we discussed some statistical analytics in golf and a little bit of strategy. But, he didn't need much help as most of the stuff I have seen him discuss is on the same wavelength with what the data tends to show.

What I like about this video is the pre-shot routine analysis. Recently the European Tour did some analysis on pre-shot routines and the consistency and time it takes and its impact on performance.



My only issue with the RSM study is that the sample size (20 players over 8 rounds) is questionable at best. But, I do believe that with a more sufficient sample size the main conclusion would be the same.

I also like GG's solution for separating swing thoughts from your round of golf in order to get the golfer to 'play golf instead of playing golf swing.' 

I'm a firm believer in utilizing slow motion practice. Not only because it works well at ingraining mechanical movements in your swing. But, I have found that when I'm really in tune with slow motion practice I can get out on the course and play without using swing thoughts. In fact, it's almost like a weird out-of-body experience where I can stand behind the ball, visualize the shot and visualize myself hitting the shot before I actually hit the shot. Golf becomes automatic from there.

The issue is that if you're working on new mechanics and want to play it will take time to get to that level with slow motion practice. So, I really like GG's instruction of making the first practice swing with your swing thought and then 'turn that thought into a feel' on your 2nd practice swing.

***

Having said that, to me it's not really a 'feel' as much as my braining SENSING how my body needs to move to hit the shot I want to hit.

I remember years ago reading an article and they asked Fred Couples on how he hits a draw on purpose (at that time he played a fade). Couples' response was that he simply visualized the ball drawing in his pre-shot routine and then he simply got up there and hit the ball and it would draw. I used to think that Fred was full of shit and that there had to be some type of actual swing thoughts and step-by-step instruction to do so. But about 20 years later I started to realize that Couples was telling the truth and he was simply sensing what his body had to do in order to produce a draw.

I relate this sensing to watching musicians play a song that they are not quite familiar with.  My sister was an accomplished violinist and occasionally would hear a popular song on the radio and play it with her violin.  She didn't need sheet music or think about what actual notes to play or how he was holding the violin, etc.  Instead, she could hear the music and her brain could sense that if she made a certain movement it would produce the sound she wanted.

***

The concept of making par vs. saving par also reminds me a lot of what Jim Furyk once said in a Golf Channel Playing Lesson.  Furyk hit a poor drive on a hole and the host asked him what was going thru his mind.  Furyk's reply was there was no reason to get upset and instead he imagined that he was playing from the tee box from that location and it was a par-4 from there.  His goal was to hopefully make a faux 'birdie' (actually a par), but he didn't want to make anything more than a faux par (actual bogey).

In GG's case, saving the actual par was not overly difficult because he did have some semblance of a shot at the green and he didn't have a long ways to go.  But, the concept should stay the same.  Losing your cool on the golf course is understandable and even to a degree, acceptable.  But if it works against you being able to properly focus then it will be a detriment to your score.

One of the main concepts to come away from all of this is that data analytics and psychology in golf are often intertwined.  They operate in a vacuum in golf far less often than people think.  Things like confidence, etc. often produce 'good numbers' for golfers, but playing the odds correctly can often produce a healthy golfer from a psychological standpoint.  And we can use data analytics to measure how things like pre-shot routines can impact performance and then use neurological and psychological experts to give detail as to what occurred to produce those observed results.





3JACK

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Do Slower Greens Favor Better Putting?

I received this question from a Twitter follower:



It's a bit difficult to decipher Fowler's point as the phrase 'good putting' is not defined by him. My guess is that he believes that the more skilled putters (we'll say that 'more skilled' are the players that finish near the top in Strokes Gained - Putting) tend to out-putt the rest of the field on slower greens.

In that case, it depends on a few factors.

If you were to take the same course and change the stimps, typically the faster stimps favor better putting. The better putters on Tour tend to gain more of an advantage on putts that break more and going from a 9 stimp to a 13 stimp on the same course will mean the putts will have more break.

But, there are a lot of other factors to be considered.



Faster greens, be it for Tour pros or amateurs, tend to have a higher make % from inside 20-feet. Faster greens tend to be smoother and thus the make % increases. There’s probably something to be said for having to hit a putt softer and taking a shorter stroke as well. But faster greens also tend to have a higher 3-putt percentage. It’s close to being all or nothing, either make the putt or end up with a longer following putt and increasing your probability of 3-putting.

Having said that, the slower greens, particularly on Tour, tend to be on courses designed prior to 1980 with little or no renovations to the greens. Architects from that era makes greens nearly half the size of modern design greens. Thus, 3-putt probabilities are more likely to be lower due to the likelihood of having a much shorter first putt on average. These architects also favored more undulated green contours and thus the greens could not sustain fast stimps.



In a case like Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines, both courses with very low make percentages that the best putters tend to gain the biggest advantage on the greens…they have slow greens, but with some of the most undulated green contours on Tour.

But, if those greens were to play at a faster stimp they would inevitably give good putters a stronger advantage. Thus, it’s really about the size of the break which is a combination of stimp and % of slope. Slow flat greens will not favor good putters more than fast flat greens much less fast, undulated greens.

From my examination of Tour players and their performance on types of breaking putts, almost everybody on Tour can putt well on straight putts or near straight, but uphill putts. What separates the best putters on Tour from the rest is that they can make a higher and near equal percentage of left-to-right versus left-to-right breaking putts. The rest of the Tour is filled with putters that do not putt nearly as well at both types of breaking putts.

Noticing that the best putters on Tour tend to putt both types of breaking putts better and don’t have a bias between the two is like noticing that NBA players tend to be tall.




3JACK

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 Greenbrier Classic

The Tour returns to the Alleghany mountains for 8th annual Greenbrier Classic at The Old White TPC course:


The Old White TPC course was built in 1910 by Charles B. Macdonald.  It currently plays to nearly 7,300 yards as a par-70.  It's also still one of the most respected courses on Tour.  It features a lot of square and rectangular shaped greens and the finishing hole is a 177 yard par-3.

The last critical hole on the course is the 616 yard par-5 17th hole.  Despite it being 616 yards, it's quite reachable in two shots.  Here's a look at the cumulative 2nd shots tht either found the green or close to it last year:


It just requires 2 quality strikes and the big thing is finding the fairway off the tee. 

Other than that, The Old White TPC is a long iron and wedge course and often times the winner here is a surprising player that has been striking the irons well all year long, but has failed to get the payoff:

PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -15


3JACK'S FAVORITES

Brian Harman +2,500
Charles Howell III +2,800
Jimmy Walker +3,300
Bill Haas +5,000


3JACK'S DARK HORSE PICKS

Keegan Bradley +5,500
Kevin Chappell +6,600
Nick Watney +8,000
JJ Spaun +10,000
Alex Cejka +15,000
Tom Hoge +20,000





3JACK

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 Quicken Loans National

The Quicken Loans National was established in 2007 as the AT&T National, known as ‘Tiger’s Event.’ It has been held in the DC to Philadelphia area with Congressional being the main course it has been held at. While the range from DC to Philadelphia may seem like an expansive area to cover, it’s only about a 2.5 hour drive from the two cities.

Congressional has soured on the event in recent years as it takes time for the course to recover from the event and there’s limited time each year to play at Congressional. That leads the Tour coming back to TPC Avenal…now TPC at Avenal Farm in Bethesda, Maryland:


I don’t know a lot about TPC at Avenal Farm other than it was one of the courses they used to have on the early versions of PGA Tour golf video games. But, I’ll let Wikipedia give the background on the course:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TPC_Potomac_at_Avenel_Farm

Originally opened thirty-two years ago in 1986, the course was roundly criticized for poor design in its early years. It was also plagued by years of flooding and drainage problems and by various turfgrass issues which affected the greens and often produced less than satisfactory tournament conditions. As a result, many top professionals stayed away, and the Kemper/Booz Allen tournament became unofficially relegated to "B" event status. 

In the summer of 2005, Dewberry and Davis land surveying crews were regularly seen taking measurements across the facility, sparking rumors that the long criticized course would finally be reconfigured. Confirmation came in 2007, when a $32 million golf course and clubhouse renovation commenced in an effort to bring back a tournament to the Washington D.C. area. The renovation covered the entire course, which has been reshaped into a new 7,139-yard (6,528 m) course at par 70 with Rock Run Creek being expanded and cleaned up. 

The controversial sixth hole (conceived as a weak copy of the 13th at Augusta National) was changed to a straightaway long par-four with the green now short and left of the creek. The par-3 ninth (famously maligned by Greg Norman, who suggested the original be "blown up with dynamite") was rebuilt with a new green up on a hill near the old practice green. The old 10th and 11th holes have been combined into the new tenth, a long par-five playing around the restored creek feature. The old 12th is now the 11th, with the old par-five 13th (another popular target of player angst) eliminated and replaced by a new, uphill par-three 12th and a short, par-four 13th. 

In addition to the golf course, the project also included a new practice facility and short game area, and clubhouse renovations. In November 2015, the 7th and 16th greens were renovated to flatten contours and provide additional hole locations in anticipation of hosting the Quicken Loans National in 2017. Additionally, small improvements were made to a number of holes, including creating bent grass chipping and collection areas around the 3rd, 4th, and 18th greens, widening the 5th and 6th fairways, and flattening the front portion of the 13th green to create additional hole locations. Finally, the on-deck putting green was quadrupled in size from 1,500 square feet (140 m2) to over 6,000 sq ft (560 m2).

Last year TPC at Avenal Farm greatly favored players that were good at avoiding bogeys. Usually avoiding bogeys on Tour requires quality driving, long approach play, short game around the green and putting from 3-6 feet. The last critical hole on the course is the Par-4 16th hole which plays to 415 yards.

What I saw out of the 16th last year is that it was very difficult getting up-and-down when a player missed the green in regulation:


Players that missed short of the green or in the short right bunker only got up-and-down about 30% of the time. It sort of fits the characteristic of a ‘Critical Hole’ as the green is fairly shallow, but it’s not a super long hole and the up-and-down percentages are low. Since it’s not a long hole, plenty of players can find the GIR. But given that it’s a shallow green with low scramble conversion %, lots of players can easily make a bogey.

PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -7


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Tiger Woods +1,200
Kyle Stanley +2,000
Charles Howell III +2,500
JB Holmes +2,500
Byeong Hun An +3,300


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Kevin Streelman +5,000
Si Woo Kim +5,000
Adam Hadwin +6,600
Martin Laird +7,500
Alex Cejka +15,000




3JACK

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 Travelers Championship

The PGA Tour comes back to Hartford for the 66th Travelers Championship:


TPC River Highlands was created in 1928 and was designed by Robert Ross and Maurice Kearney and was originally called Middletown Golf Club. Later, it changed its name to Edgewood Country Club in 1934. The course went thru a re-design by Pete Dye in 1984 as was renamed TPC of Connecticut. It then went thru further renovations from Bobby Weed (one of my personal favorites) along with Howard Twitty and Roger Maltbie and changed its name to TPC River Highlands.

The course is well received by the players. Perhaps due to the much needed break from the US Open. However, I do not find it surprising as a lot of the Pete Dye courses I’ve played that were later tweaked and renovated tend to be very good. Dye has a lot of good ideas, but tends to go overboard…particularly with blind tee shots where it’s difficult to get a feel for the line.

TPC River Highlands is pretty straight forward. It’s a course for good drivers that leans towards power off the tee and then is about mid-length iron shots. Get those two areas of the game down and you’ll likely get into the top-20 even with poor putting.

The big hole that the telecast will focus on is the par-4 15th hole that only plays to 296 yards. And it is a ‘critical hole’ at Hartford. However, it’s not exactly my favorite type of reachable par-4 design as it’s pretty straightforward in that any player should go for the green.

Here’s the data of tee shots from #15 last year. It appears there were only 7 layups, each resulting in par.



The last critical hole is the devious 17th hole where water comes into play on the tee shot and the approach. This should be the hole that gets a lot of attention because it is what separates the contenders versus the rest of the field




Projected Winning Score: -15


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Justin Thomas +1,200
Paul Casey +2,000
Bryson DeChambeau +2,500
Emiliano Grillo +4,000


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Kyle Stanley +6,000
Chez Reavie +6,600
Keegan Bradley +6,600
Brendan Steele +6,600
Kevin Streelman +10,000
Pat Perez +10,000




3JACK

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 US Open

The 127 year old Shinnecock Hills Golf Club will host the US Open this week.


The Hamptons in Long Island is the home to gazillionaires and in the summer time the crowds and traffic in Manhattan dissipate (by Manhattan standards), particularly on Fridays, as the movers and shakers look to spend their time in the Hamptons.

It’s one of the big things I noticed when I moved to the south coming from Upstate New York…summers are much more fun in the Northeast. After getting killed by the snow and crappy weather for most of the year, come summertime people from the Northeast are ready to make the most of it. That means plenty of vacation time to be used and plenty of time to party and do the outdoors stuff while the good weather lasts.

The Hamptons provides that environment. And because you’re on Long Island, the traffic is unbearable and you’re going to hear about the bad traffic on the telecast, The Golf Channel, etc.

Shinnecock was originally designed as a 12-hole course by Willie Davis in 1891. Three years later, Willie Dunn added 6 more holes. It was then re-designed again in the 1937 to make the course 6,700 yards long. Currently, it is playing to ‘only’ 7,445 yards. That’s ‘only’ to US Open standards. However, it’s a par-70 and if the winds pick up, it can be quite treacherous.

Currently, Shinnecock ranks #6 in top golf courses in the world by GOLF Magazine. The general consensus from natives is that they prefer National Golf Links (ranked #7) over Shinnecock.

The US Open is difficult to predict because the field is so vast. The other issue is that you don’t know what the USGA is going to do with the design. For instance, Erin Hills was so wide open that it massively favored the long hitter. When Rory McIlroy won at Congressional, you would have thought that this was just another Tour stop than a US Open course. Chambers Bay was a disaster conditioning wise. Merion made drastic changes (and I think was probably the best design for a US Open course in a long time). They also completely revamped Pinehurst #2 when Kaymer won it.

So, it becomes very difficult to judge what a course will do, even if you have past history at it. My guess is that Shinnecock will stay the same based on past history. There’s talk about the course being wide open and providing the long hitters with a tremendous advantage. But, I don’t see the people at Shinnecock kowtowing to anybody. The US Open could always use Shinnecock, but Shinnecock doesn’t need the US Open. And thus, I see Shinnecock making little in the way of changes to appease the USGA. You’re just not going to see the disaster you saw at Chambers Bay happen at Shinnecock. And my guess is that the people of Shinnecock have too much pride in the club to let it get steamrolled by the field like what happened at Erin Hills and Congressional.

Looking at the history of Shinnecock, the real premium appears to be short game play and iron play. Here’s a look at the top finishers in 2004:

1st – R. Goosen
2nd – P. Mickelson
3rd – J. Maggert
t-4th – S. Maruyama
t-4th – M. Weir
6th – F. Funk
t-7th – R. Allenby
t-7th – S. Flesch
t-9th – S. Ames
t-9th – C. Dimarco
t-9th – E. Els
t-9th – J. Haas

Out of those 12 players listed, the only poor short game performers were Maggert, Allenby and Ames. And those three were all fabulous iron players in their primes. Then we go back to 1995 when Corey Pavin won. Pavin is one of the greatest short game performers of all time. That Open was filled with more great iron players at the top like Greg Norman, Tom Lehman and Bill Glasson. But, Norman was a pretty sound short game performer.

Then we hit 1986 when Raymond Floyd, another one of the all time great short game players wins followed by Chip Beck (excellent iron player and short game), Lanny Wadkins (all-time great iron player and good short game), Hal Sutton (excellent iron player), Lee Trevino (legendary iron player and short game performer).

Projected Winning Score: -3


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Dustin Johnson +800
Justin Rose +1,400
Justin Thomas +1,400
Jordan Spieth +1,800
Rickie Fowler +1,800



3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Branden Grace +3,300
Paul Casey +5,000
Marc Leishman +6,000
Louis Oosthuizen +6,000
Cameron Smith +15,000





3JACK

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 FedEx St. Jude Classic

The Tour heads to one of my favorite Tour stops for the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis:


TPC Southwind is widely considered one of the best designs on Tour by the players and embraces a great charity in the St. Jude’s Hospitals. The event and the course do not quite get the recognition of other events and courses as the field is often weaker due to the US Open being on the following week.

But, it’s a fantastic design by Ron Prichard who was known for doing renovations of courses from my favorite architect, Donald Ross.

The course plays to 7,244 yards at a par-70. The final critical hole is the 453 yard par-4 18th hole.

The drive on 18 shows why it’s a hole with such great deviation in scores:


That red dot way up in the fairway is Brooks Koepka.

However, this is really an approach shot course and players that win here tend to be good from longer approach shots and some shorter approach shots due to some of the short par-4’s and par-5’s that may not be reachable with a mediocre drive. There’s always the possibility that a player like a Koepka can drive it well and overpower the course and leave themselves with shorter approaches and take advantage of the field anyway. This course generally favors the top players more, but that’s because the field usually presents itself with weaker players due to the US Open. But in the end, there’s a lot of different types of players that can win at Memphis.

PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -14


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Dustin Johnson +700
Brooks Koepka +900
Henrik Stenson +1,400
Phil Mickelson +1,400
Tony Finau +2,500
Daniel Berger +2,800


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Joaquin Niemann +3,300
Luke List +4,000
Chris Kirk +8,000
Matt Jones +10,000



3JACK

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 Memorial Tournament

This week the Tour will be at Muirfield Village for Jack’s tournament, The Memorial Tournament in central Ohio.


This marks the 42nd Memorial Tournament, all played at Muirfield Village. Muirfield Village was designed by Mr. Nicklaus and is one of the more well respected golf course designs on Tour.

The design focuses on approach shots and short game shots. Driving is not a very big factor here as the fairways are pretty wide when driver is needed. Typically the field average hit fairway percentage is around 70-75%. One can use the Bubba Watson method where he hits it so long to those open fairways that he gets left with short approach shots while the rest of the field is hitting logner approach shots. But, in general there’s going to be some critical greens that will be missed and players that cannot make difficult up-and-downs will likely be taken out of contention.

The 18th hole is also the final critical hole of the event.

PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -13

3JACK’S FAVORITES

Justin Rose +1,400
Justin Thomas +1,400
Jordan Spieth +1,600
Tiger Woods +1,800
Henrik Stenson +2,800


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Hideki Matsuyama +3,300
Louis Oosthuizen +7,500
Bill Haas +12,500
Jamie Lovemark +12,500
Bud Cauley +17,500




3JACK

Thursday, May 24, 2018

New GolfWRX Column: An Early Look at the Potential US Ryder Cup Team



With the Masters and the Players Championship complete, I wanted to examine the statistics of the current leaders in Ryder Cup Points for the U.S. Team. Over the history of the Ryder Cup, the U.S. Team has relied on pairings that were friends and practice-round companions instead of pairing players that were more compatible from a statistical standpoint. This has led to disappointing performances from the U.S. Team and top players such as Jim Furyk performing poorly at the Ryder Cup, as he is ill-suited for the Fourball format.

After a disastrous 2014 Ryder Cup where the U.S. Team lost by a score of 16.5-11.5, the U.S. decided to use a more statistical approach to Ryder Cup play. According to my calculations, the 2016 U.S. Team’s pairings were the closest to optimal that the U.S. Team has compiled in the last seven Ryder Cups. And not surprisingly, the U.S. Team won 17-11 over the Europeans.

Since there are several months to go before the Ryder Cup, I won’t get too much into potential pairings in this article. Instead, I will focus more on the current games of top-12 players in U.S. Ryder Cup Points Standings and how that translates to Ryder Cup performance.

Read More atGolfWRX: An Early Look at the Potential US Ryder Cup Team





3JACK

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 Ft. Worth Invitational

The Tour is at Colonial this week for the 72nd Ft. Worth Invitational:


This season the tournament does not have a lead sponsor which was putting the tournament's future in doubt.  However, next season it will be sponsored by Charles Schwab.

The tournament also has the unique Champion's Choice Tradition where last year's champion is allowed to select two, young and up and coming players to participate in the event that they are typically not qualified to play in.

The event is known as Ben Hogan's tournament as Hogan was a long time member at Colonial.  The course itself fits along the lines of Hogan's game with difficult tee shots that require ultimate precision and a lot of difficult approach shots.

Colonial was designed in 1936 by John Bredemus and Perry Maxwell.  The course was created by Marvin Leonard who was obsessed with having smooth rolling, bentgrass greens in Texas.  Redstick Country Club in Vero Beach tried to get bentgrass greens but it was nearly impossible for them to maintain.  Ft. Worth is probably a little more reasonable as the humidity in Florida doesn't jive well with bentgrass.  But in reality, today's bermuda grass strains roll pretty much as well as bentgrass greens.

The difference with bentgrass is that it does not take a lot of resources and does not require perfect weather to get excellent putting complexes.  Growing up on bentgrass greens, you would be surprised how many rinky-dink clubs with a small crew working on the greens can produce world class putting greens.  In fact, the best greens I've ever putted on were at small Wellsville Country Club in Wellsville, NY. 

Bermuda requires a lot of resources and time to sustain the greens.  In Florida, the bigger courses have a distinct advantage in their greens upkeep during the spring.  But, come summer that advantage minute as everybody is struggling to keep up their greens and some courses just happen to get a break with the weather conditions over others.

Where I tell golfers that are used to playing on bentgrass and are going to bermuda to get used to is the rough.  Particularly around the greens.  Last year when I went back home to play on bentgrass for the first time in nearly 15 years...I was shocked by how much softer I had to hit the ball from the bentgrass rough. 

The other big difference is bermuda greens need to be replaced every 12-15 years. They just don't hold up well after that.

Here's my thoughts on different bermuda green strains:

TifEagle - my preferred choice.  Extremely durable and can still run very smooth with a lot of foot traffic.  However, best to keep the stimps under 11 and struggles to maintain on 'sunken' green complexes.

UltraDwarf - works better at faster stimps than TifEagle, but needs constant maintenance and doesn't handle traffic nearly as well.

Championship Bermuda - When well kept, the best greens of the bunch and closest to bentgrass.  Usually takes approach shots well and it can be difficult to find the pitch mark.  Can easily run to 13 stimp.  But, it's very expensive and required a lot of care and doesn't work that great with heavy foot traffic.

Miniverde - excellent strain that tends to look a little more grainy, but still rolls quite smooth.  Plays more in between TifEagle and Championship Bermuda.

Anyway, most of the pros on Tour like Colonial.  Those that avoid playing here tend to do so because the course doesn't fit their game instead of avoiding it because they don't like the design.  This is very much a course about driving accuracy and long approach shots.  The 18th hole is the final critical hole on the course.


Projected Winning Score: -12


3JACK'S FAVORITES

Jordan Spieth +900
Jon Rahm +1,400
Justin Rose +1,800
Xander Schauffele +4,000


3JACK'S DARK HORSE PICKS

Beau Hossler +5,500
Brian Harman +6,600
Chris Kirk +6,600
Chez Reavie +8,000
Andrew Landry +10,000
Kevin Streelman +10,000





3JACK

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 The PLAYERS Championship

The 45th PLAYERS Championship comes this week with the biggest purse of any event on Tour.


Sawgrass is Pete Dye's most famous design due to the famous 17th hole which led to a deluge of island green designs across the world.  But what often gets overlooked is how difficult Sawgrass is and how it counters wreckless bombers out of the event.

Every year, I get complaints from readers because the top of the leaderboard during the tournament lacks starpower and I'm asked why that is.

First, all of the 10 par-4's at Sawgrass are doglegs and many of them feature blind or semi-blind tee shots.  Secondly, there is an even split of 5 dogleg rights and 5 dogleg lefts.  So, it's more of a course about accuracy off the tee and in particular being able to hit tee shots at different directional angles.

Sawgrass is also the one course that may favor long hitters when it is dry and short hitters when it is soft (usually it's the opposite).  Jason Day's 2016 victory showed that as he was able to effectively lay up off the tee and then hold the greens by hitting sky-rocket approach shots.  I'm not sure what the conditions of Sawgrass are like, but it's been pretty windy the past month and thus I'm guessing it's going to play a little firm.

Usually, the 18th hole is the final critical hole on the course.  In recent years, the 17th has been a critical holes as the top contenders have really played 17 well in the past few years (think of Rickie Fowler in 2015).

Projected Winning Score: -13


3JACK'S FAVORITES

Justin Thomas +1,400
Jordan Spieth +1,400
Justin Rose +2,800
Henrik Stenson +2,800


3JACK DARK HORSE PICKS

Bryson DeChambeau +4,000
Daniel Berger +10,000
Rafael Cabrera Bello +10,000
Brian Harman +12,500
Russell Knox +15,000
Byeong Hun An +15,000




3JACK

Monday, May 7, 2018

PGA Tour Averages with the Driver on GEARS

Interesting video from Michael Neff from GEARS on what PGA Tour Averages he is seeing with the driver:






3JACK

Friday, May 4, 2018

Going Over the Lesson with GG

I've had a few readers ask me to go more into detail of what George Gankas and I worked on in our lesson.  Unfortunately, on the day I left to come back home (4/24/18), I caught a fever and then over the weekend I was so sick that I spent about 95% of my weekend either in my bed or couch.  This past week I've been able to work on what GG and I went over and I feel like progress has been made.  I hope to get a video of my swing this Sunday to show the progress.  But, here's what GG and I worked on.

Posture

GG teaches a posture that is closer to standing upright than it is to being bent over.  GG wants the shoulders to be 'rolled over' (ala Nicklaus).  Good checkpoints are to have the armpits over the balls of the feet and the tush line over (or very close to it) the heels of the feet.  IIRC, he wants the angle of the player's back at about 150 degrees.

This picture is a lousy angle, but I did have the armpits over the balls of the feet.  However, the tush line was too far away from the heels of the feet.


The black line shows more where approximately the tush line should be.  It feels very different as it feels like I'm trying to stand up as vertical as I can while still addressing the ball.  It requires you to suck the butt in. 

The idea of this posture is to make it easier for the golfer to rotate the pelvis.  In order to rotate the pelvis in the downswing the golfer needs more of an anterior pelvic tilt type of move. 


That is easier to accomplish if the pelvis is more neutral in the backswing to begin with.  GG also feels that the posture helps with the overall balance in the golf swing.  My old posture made it too easy to get the pressure towards my toes which helps stall the pivot. 

Lastly, I think the GG posture helps a bit with hand path depth in the backswing.  With my old posture, the torso is so bent over that the hand path is likely to get more vertical in the backswing and not very deep.  That shallower hand path in the backswing means less time to rotate in the downswing as well as being more likely to early extend if I try to make an 'inside loop' action with my hands in the downswing. 

Ball Position


GG also wanted me to move the ball position a little more forward, pretty much in line with the left ear.  The orange line shows my ball position and the blue line shows where GG wants the ball position.

The big issue I was having with is low point control.  My AoA with a 6-iron is abuot -1.3 degrees and sometimes it gets shallower than that.  With the driver my AoA is at +5 to +6 degrees.  The big issue with my AoA stems from my body tilts in the downswing and not getting enough pressure towards my left foot prior to p5.  GG felt that part of that may be due to the ball positon being too far back and thus my focus gets more towards getting too much tilt so I can deliver the club to the ball.

It's an interesting question...did I move my ball position back to compensate for my over-tilting or did I over-tilt in the downswing to compensate for having my ball position too far back?


Backswing

GG noticed that I do not 'create a ball' in the backswing with my right hip.

Here's an example with Hogan (who over-did it a little)


The space at the top of the swing GG prefers to be about the size of a golf ball.

Here's my swing


The reason for creating this space is, more or less, to keep the low point forward while we rotate.  GG did give the option to move off the ball with the lower body and to counter that with some upper body tilt.  However, that felt too foreign to me and we worked on 'creating a ball' with my right hip.  I found this pretty easy to do since I was not that far off to begin with and the new posture helped with the process.

Downswing

Here are the tilts of my swing at impact.


With the spine over-tilting and the head hanging back, that shallows out the AoA and adds some dynamic loft.  This causes some real issues with controlling the low point.


It's a bit difficult to see, but my left leg has pretty much straightened at this point.  What you cannot see is I am pushing off the inside of my left foot and pushing myself away from the target.  The pelvis rotates a bit, but then I push off the inside of my left foot, causing my left leg to straighten too early and causing my Center of Mass to move away from the target.  Thus causing me to stall my pivot and over-tilt my spine and shoulders.

Instead, GG wants me to get more flex in my left knee in transition.  But, it's not for cosmetic purposes, the flexion in my left knee is done to use the ground more effectively.  And the key part is to get the pressure more from the outside edge of my left foot instead of the inside edge of my left foot.

I have found that it's much more difficult to straighten the left leg too early in the downswing if the pressure is on the outside edge of my left foot, particularly by P5.

There are a few key checkpoints GG has in the downswing.

P5


At P5, the pelvis should be square to the target line and the left hip should be lower than the right hip.  I did a pretty good job of it with this swing.


P6


At P6, the pelvis should be roughly 25 degrees open with the hips level.  In the picture of p6 above, my left hip is higher than my right hip, thus causing the pelvis to stall and not get to ~25 degrees open to the baseline.

You can see the left knee go from flexion to straightening.  The pressure in the left foot is towards the inside of the elft foot instead of more towards the outside of the left foot.  This difference in where the pressure is in the foot allows me to easily extend the left leg and tilt back and away from the target too much.

Here's a couple of stills of Dustin Johnson.


Now, DJ is hitting a driver.  Thus, his left knee will straighten earlier than if he was hitting a 9-iron.  Even still, look at how much more left knee flexion he has at p6 and how in both p5 and p6, you can see how he has more of the pressure towards the outside edge of his left foot.

Another checkpoint is to make this downswing move without 'backing up' the right hip.


Hogan is more of an exaggeration of the move.  But, notice how he creates space with his right hip at p4 (compared to p1).  And then at about p5.5 his right hip is still on the red line that I drew at p4.  For me, because I over-tilt, my right hip has the tendency to 'back up' behind where the red line would be.

This feels very weird to do this because I'm so used to pushing off the inward portion of my left foot and pushing myself away from the target.

This feels more 'stack and tilt', but the best way to make this comfortable and execute the move is to make sure I get more of the pressure on the outside of left foot prior to p5. 

I have found that I am trying to keep my left knee 'low' and continuing to externally rotate the left leg thru impact.  With my old way, the pressure gets on the inside of my left foot, the left knee 'gets high' and the left femur more internally rotates thru impact. 

Here's a rundown:






3JACK

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 Wells Fargo Championship

The 15th Wells Fargo Championship comes this week to the PGA Tour, right before The PLAYERS Championship at Sawgrass.



The Quail Hollow Club was founded in 1959 and originally designed by George Cobb. I’m vaguely familiar with Cobb’s work outside of the Bryan Park Golf Course in Greensboro, Clemson University Course, and Myrtlewood and Surf Club in Myrtle Beach. What I remember was these courses were solid tracks with some ‘potato-chip’ shaped green complexes. I’ve never been to Quail Hollow, but that is the general sentiment with regards to that course as well.

From a statistical standpoint, when the make percentages on the greens are lower it typically favors the better ballstrikers. Often times lower make percentages have smaller deviations in their make percentage and thus good putters that are weaker ballstrikers have difficulty differentiating themselves. Unless this is a course like Pebble Beach where some players have a good feel for those low make percentage greens and course knowledge goes a long way at Pebble.

So, expect a lot of strokes to be gained/lost with the longer clubs and the par-5’s will be very important. And the 18th hole is the final Critical Hole on the golf course.

Projected Winning Score: -14


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Rory McIlroy +700
Justin Thomas +1,000
Paul Casey +2,500
Tony Finau +3,500
Louis Oosthuizen +3,500


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Bryson DeChambeau +5,000
Brian Harman +6,600
Daniel Berger +6,600
Xander Schauffele +8,000
Charles Howell III +10,000




3JACK

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Week That Was: SoCal Trip Review

I flew to Los Angeles on Wednesday, April 18th, for a week of golf fitting, a golf presentation, lesson, and other golf fun.

The flight to LAX was a straight-shot from Orlando and we actually got to LAX in 5 hours, but had to cycle around in the air for a little while as there was so much air traffic congestion.  I always prefer the window and I like how Delta has screen monitors that will show you a map of where you are currently flying over.

Like this look at Juarez.  Cue the ominous Sicario music:

A post shared by Richie Hunt (@progolfsynopsis) on


I didn't reach my hotel until midnight (3:00 AM EST). I planned a visit to Fujikura HQ to get on their ENSO machine and had to leave by 8:30 AM.  I was greeted by the lovely traffic on the I-405.  I also rented a Camaro convertible which had no USB charger for my phone and I struggled to figure out how to get the controls to work.

The trip to Fujikura (down in Vista) took a little longer than expected.  I was greeted by Marshall Thompson, Fitting and Tour Rep for Fujikura.  I had shipped my clubs to Fujikura via ShipSticks and Marshall took a look at the clubs and had put together shafts for me that he thought I may like with the adapter sleeves for my Callaway Rogue Sub Zero driver.  He did the same with my hybrids.  My 3-wood is a Callaway Rogue Sub-Zero, but it is glued on.  And of course the iron shafts (Accra) are glued on as well.  But, he did have the Taylor Made P790 7-iron head and put a Fujikura Pro 115 iron shaft in there.

But first, Marshall showed me an awesome tour of the facility.  Explaining so much of the equipment they use to make their shafts and their ability to customize shafts for their customers.  One of the things I always remark about Fujikura is how different the shaft feels when you grab it by the fingertips.  It just feels like a sturdy, top of the line shaft that won't break and Fujikura has testing machines that test against it and all of their shafts have a lifetime warranty against breakage (no, not snapping them over your knee).  And all of their machines are state-of-the-art with their EI profile machine being a big highlight.  Here's a video with VP of Engineering, Alex Dee...giving a behind the scenes look:




I would check out Fujikura's YouTube Channel as well for other videos.  I was surprised by some facets of how they make their graphite shafts and learned a lot of things about graphite that I didn't know before.  I am convinced that it's just a matter of time before graphite shafts become the majority of shafts used by Tour players.  The only thing that hurts graphite in irons is that they can be too light and for the average consumer the price is higher than steel.  But I am confident that performance can improve with graphite in iron shafts, even for Tour pros.  And being able to not take such a toll on a golfer's elbows, wrists and shoulders is a great benefit.

After that we got on the ENSO machine.  The ENSO machine has been discussed here on the blog for a while:




ENSO uses 3D motion capture by placing the motion capture 'balls' on the shaft and the head of the club.  It can measure a myriad of different facets of what the golfer, shaft and club head are doing throughout the swing.

For instance, it can measure your hand speed throughout the swing.  They have found that almost all golfers reach peak hand speed on the downswing when their trail elbow connects to their body.


From there, the hands always slow down.  So, you could have a player with 60 mph hand speed at that point (picture above) and it could slow down to 25 mph club speed at impact.  There is no 'right way' or 'wrong way.'  But, that affects how the shaft reacts and that can affect the club head properties (path, AoA, face angle, etc).

There's a lot more variables, but what ENSO does is it takes all of those variables it measures and then it allows Fujikura to better determine what type of shaft is needed as well if it needs ancillary measures taken like it being tipped, soft-stepped, etc.

First up, I tried the new Fujikura Pro 115 iron shafts.  While the Accra Tour 100i's are a nice shaft, they are a little light for me and that causes some issues.  I could only MOI match my P790's to 2,670 MOI with the Accra shafts because the shafts are so light.  And as Fujikura explained (and it confirmed for me something I've thought for years), putting too much weight in the head can be a very bad idea.

And with the clubs being so light with the Accra shafts, there is some loss of awareness of the club and that can lead to high, slight pulls with a little draw.  With the Fujikura Pro 115's I was hitting them 5-7 yards further despite them being 1/4" shorter than my Accra's.  But the biggie was I was piping them right at the target and they flew a touch lower (which could be used in my case).

After that we looked at my driver which had a Project X HZRDUS (X-Stiff) shaft.  I really don't like that shaft.  It doesn't feel good and I could be striping the ball all day with a little draw and take, what I feel, is my best swing of the day and hit a cut.  We then saw that the Fujikura Speeder Evolution IV was a better fit for me.

While I liked my Fujikura Motore Speeder hybrid 8.8 shafts, they have a tendency to leave shots to the right.  And that was cured with the switch to a Fujikura Atmos Hybrid blue 8x shaft that I also hit further.

In fact, here's what I was finally fit for:


I would recommend this fitting with Fujikura with my utmost regard.  If you really want to get the very best information for fitting for a shaft, this is the way to do it.  And Fujikura has so many models with different profiles and so many different customized options...whether it be customization for shaft performance or customization for aesthetics...you really cannot beat what Fujikura has to offer.

Afterward, Marshall took me out with Jeremy Butler (Director of Sales) and John Hovis (Tour Manager) to Shadowridge Country Club in Vista.  Shadowridge is a private club and it's a very old school design which I greatly prefer.  You don't see many of those designs in Florida since they are always building around water, protected areas and trying to make a golf community.  I really think one of the advantages of California golf is that the land is quite good to design a course as long as you don't try to get to cute with it.  And Shadowridge was just fantastic all around despite me playing lousy there.  A 5+ hour plane flight and getting caught in LA traffic will do that to a golfer.  I cannot thank Fujikura enough for having me and they just reconfirmed my belief they are the Rolls Royce of shaft manufacturers.

***

Friday's plans were to take a 2 hour lesson with George Gankas.  It was supposed to be about a 1 hour 15 minute trip to see GG in Westlake Village coming from where I was staying in Hermosa Beach.  That took about 1 hour 45 minutes.

From watching the videos, I got the impression that the golf club where GG teaches was a goat track.  But, from the outward appearance it looked like a well kept public course.

The lesson with GG went great.  There were a lot of things about what he teaches that I thought I knew and I had sorta right...but was missing some key parts.  Then there were other concepts of GG's that I didn't know at all.  And I think that's what made the in-person lesson worth it.

For instance, I thought I had the posture correct because my armpits were over the balls of my feet.  But, what GG pointed out was my butt was still sticking too far out and I needed the butt in line with my heels as well.  That new posture felt weird, but GG gave some pointers on how to execute it and I started to get the posture down pretty quick.

We also worked on my ball position as GG felt I had the ball position too far back.  Something I've never been told before by any instructor.  And GG explained why he wanted me to move it up a little.  In all, I think the ball position being too far back helped explain why I did other things in my swing that were not as 'efficient' as I would like them to be.

We also worked on the backswing as I moved off to the right a little.  GG talks about this in his video where he wants to create a 'golf ball' of distance from the right hip at the top of the swing.  In the lesson, he explained that you did not HAVE to have that golf ball of distance as there were other effective ways to do it and we had to figure out what was the best way for me (we found that creating a 'golf ball' gap was best for me).

We then worked on the transition and downswing portions.  A lot of this revolved around my knees needing to get more flexion.  It was more knees and femurs based than hips for me.  But GG had two key checkpoints for me to look for:

At P5, the left hip should be lower than the right hip, but the pelvis should be square to the target line.

At P6, the hips should be level, but the pelvis should be roughly 25* open to the target

Finally we discussed how I was going to work on these things in order to implement them and ingrain them into my swing

From there, I had to drive back to Hermosa Beach which was supposed to take about 1 hour 15 minutes, but took me 2 hours.  Then I had a typical 2 hour drive to Murietta that took 3 hours.  By the time I got back to Hermosa for the night...I had spent roughly EIGHT hours on the road.

In Murietta, I was at Bear Creek giving a presentation on the analytics of the game hosted by golf instructor Tyler Miller.  Golf instructor Keith Morgan was there as well.  We went over the analytics of the game as well as the strategy and some of the psychology that goes into it.

I'm a very strong believer that psychology and analytics in golf go hand-in-hand.  Many golfers think that golfers with good performance metrics or that play the odds correctly do it because they are in a good mental state.  But, I believe it can often swing the other way...the golfer that may be in a poor mental state that 'plays the odds correctly' gives themselves a better chance to start to get themselves in a good mental state.

Most good players I come across tend to be too conservative off the tee by laying-up too often.  There's always that fear of the penalty of a bad shot and the idea that the golfer needs to be able to control bad shots and when they occur.  But in reality, bad shots are basically out of our control.

We know that if you're 1 dimple off or 1 degree off, that can be the difference between a good shot and a bad shot.  Since we are not robots, it's impossible to determine when a bad shot is going to occur as well as stopping bad shots altogether.

What we do have control over is our focus and our strategy.  And if you continue to play for your average swing and you do it with good focus...that's all you can really do for now.  If you hit bad shots that day...then it wasn't your day and you need to work on your ballstriking on the range so you can improve your results off your average swing.

But overly conservative strategies just mean a slow death instead of a quick death. And it never ceases to amaze me how many golfers get duped by the slow killer and cannot understand why they can't take their game to the next level.

Tyler brought me around to see the course and it is quite excellent.  They played the 1985 Skins Game at Bear Creek:



As far as Nicklaus designs go, it reminds me a bit of Muirfield Village.  Pretty generous driving areas for the most part.  But devilish approach shots and getting up and down can be done...but, it's a chore.  Plenty of awesome views to be seen along with the SoCal weather make for a great destination.


***

Saturday I went up to play Rustic Canyon with GolfWRX member ShutSteepStuck who told me his game was in 'shambles' beforehand.


Rustic Canyon is a Gil Hanse design and it's usually the preferred, affordable public golf in the LA area.  This is the first Hanse design I played and I really liked it mainly because Hanse made it a reasonable track to play despite how firm it is.

A lot of these types of American Links style courses tend to have too many blind shots (which I think are the death of good course design) and too much trouble that you don't know if it will come into play or not.

One of the things I found interesting about Rustic Canyon was the green surrounds were basically cut at almost the same length as the greens.  So those that really chop down on their chips and pitches would have a problem.  Given that I was coming off a lesson and some unfamiliar shafts in some important clubs, I played fairly well.


***

Sunday I got onto Hillcrest Country Club as the guest of Jeremy Shapiro and Spencer Torgan.  Hillcrest is another old school design that is right across the street from the FOX movie studios.

Hillcrest was in fantastic condition.  It's only about 6,500 yards, but it's pretty tight.  It wasn't ridiculously tight which is what old school designers would usually do. In other words, if you hit the driver well you'll be rewarded handsomely.  If you don't, you're SOL.

Hillcrest will be going thru a re-design/renovation soon.  There is some dislike for holes #3, #10 and #17.  I agree that #10 is a junk hole where you just hit 4-iron off the tee and then flip a SW in.  #3 is a little better.  I actually like #17, but with #3 and #10 it takes away from the uniqueness of #17.

Having said that...it was a really fun and awesome experience.  I have an affection for old Los Angeles history and since I love golf I enjoy reading about the historic golf courses, stories and figures in LA.  Here's a great Wikipedia entry on Hillcrest CC:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillcrest_Country_Club_(Los_Angeles)


***

Originally I was going to play Torrey Pines on Monday.  However, after way too much driving I wasn't interested in taking another 3+ hour drive to San Diego.  Also, Torrey's greens were aerified 2 weeks ago.

I was going to get on Pelican Hill, but surprisingly the tee times were filled up on Monday.

That left me with going to El Dorado in Long Beach.  This is a muni course and they play the Long Beach Open and I see a few golf vloggers like BeBetterGolf playing there and I wanted to see what it was about.



Muni's are weird as it seems to depend on the state they are located in when it comes to the quality of muni courses.  For instance, New York State has a lot of great muni courses.  Most of them are built as part of a state park.

OTOH, Florida isn't the best place for muni courses. 

El Dorado was solid.  It's pretty short (6,500 yards from the back tees).  The front nine took 2.5 hours and then I played #10 and #11 and I quit as it was getting cold.  But, it's a solid track for the money.


FINAL THOUGHTS

When I bought my new car last summer, I was thinking about getting a Camaro.  I'm glad I didn't.  The rental was small, uncomfortable and didn't have that much pickup.  Much better off getting a sedan next time.

Where Florida weather is crazy when it comes to precipitation as it can be sunny out in one fairway and 3 fairways over it can be a downpour...California weather is really wacky when it comes to temperature.  You can drive 5 miles inland and spot a 15 degree temperature change.  Because I wasn't cognizant of that...I had the fun time of trying to checkout of my hotel, ship my clubs thru ShipSticks, check into the airport...all with a fever on Tuesday.

I needed to spread out my driving a little more.  The 8 hours of driving on Friday really tired me out for the rest of the vacation.

May would be a better time to come to LA than April because of the temperatures.

I'm not sure how I feel about a street named Isis Avenue.

In-N-Out Burger was solid, but not unworldly as I was led to believe.

LA remains my favorite city for food.  So much great competition and so many options to choose from.  I could really go there for the views and the food alone.

Can't wait to get my new Fujikura shafts!







3JACK

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 Texas Valero Open

The Tour comes to San Antonio for the Texas Valero Open which dates back to 1922.


The Texas Valero Open is held at the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio which plays at 1,100 feet above sea level. Combine that with the gusty winds in the area, this can lead to some monster drives on some tailwind tee shots.

That wind also reeks havoc on the players. The 3rd hole routinely has one of the largest deviations in score for any par-3 on Tour. It’s a very shallow green where the players have to hit over water and if the tailwind is blowing hard enough, it can be impossible to get the ball to stop. It plays 213 yards from the back tees, but often times the tournament officials move the tees up to roughly 150-160 yards because the hole can play so impossible that it will greatly slow up the pace of play.



The course is a Pete Dye design which comes up this time of year with Harbour Town last week, TPC San Antonio this week, then TPC Louisiana the following week and TPC Sawgrass coming up 2 weeks after that.

I’ve played some Pete Dye links style course (yes, this isn’t a ‘true links’ because it doesn’t have the ocean nearby). Most notably Kiawah Island and The Dye Course at PGA Village. They are not exactly fun to play, particularly when the wind is howling. It can be nearly impossible to hit the ball to the fairway and I carry it about 275 yards on average. And then you can hit some very good drives on tough driving holes and end up with a goofy lie in the middle of the fairway.

Most players don’t like those features either and that makes for a weaker field.

This course is mostly about long and short approaches. Typically the top finishers drive it well here, too. But, there’s some luck involved due to the wind gusts.

PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -12


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Luke List +2,200
Kevin Chappell +2,800
Adam Scott +3,000
Billy Horschel +3,000
Chesson Hadley +3,500


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Zach Johnson +4,000
Keegan Bradley +5,000
Kevin Streelman +5,000
Ryan Palmer +5,000
Andrew Landry +15,000







3JACK

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 RBC Heritage Classic

The Tour comes back to Hilton Head for the 49th RBC Heritage Classic.


Harbour Town Golf Links was built in 1967 designed by Pete Dye with the help of Jack Nicklaus. Many people don’t realize that Nicklaus’ architecture mentor was Pete Dye.

The course plays to 7,099 yards at a par-71. It features very narrow fairways with some hazards, but dense trees lining the fairways as well as some oddly shaped greens. Harbour Town ranks as one of Dye’s best designs and is almost universally beloved by golfers of any handicap.

Personally, I’m undecided by Dye. I’ve played many of his designs that I thought were exceptional (Harbour Town, Old Marsh and Kiawah), many of them that I thought stunk (Pound Ridge) and many of them I found to be middle of the road (Dye Preserve and TPC Louisiana).

Dye’s courses often have very basic holes that were made due to him making the big splash with a few feature holes. That doesn’t quite bother me as in all likelihood, not every hole is going to be a home run and he can create a nice ebb and flow to the weaker designs compared to the feature holes. I tend to have a bigger issue with the blind tee shots to narrow landing areas where there is hazards on both sides and long of the landing zone. I think it’s very important to be extremely judicial with blind tee shots in golf and Mr. Dye certainly doesn’t share that opinion.

But, he designed a great one here and the players love it as well. The only issue is that it’s so tight that the bombers tend to stay away from it and it also comes right after Masters week, so the field isn’t the strongest one.

Most of the shots lost or gained will come from mid-approach shots and watch out for greenside bunker play as well if it gets windy and players struggle to find the GIR.

Projected Winning Score: -12


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Paul Casey +1,200
Matt Kuchar +1,600
Webb Simpson +2,500
Cameron Smith +2,800
Tyrrell Hatton +3,300


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Emiliano Grillo +4,000
Jason Dufner +6,000
Si Woo Kim +8,000
Charl Schwartzel +9,000
Davis Love III +40,000




3JACK

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Berckman's Place at Augusta with Fried Eggs Golf

Before I get to the awesome video from Randy Smith from Fried Eggs Golf, I did have a couple of columns that I posted this week with regards to the Masters.

First up is my annual Players Who Can Win the Masters on GolfWRX:

The 24 Players That Can Win the Masters

Next up is my article for PGATour.com on Tiger's performance this year and how it stacks up against Tiger's performance from 2005-2009 as well as how well his top competitors performed in 2005-2009 vs. the top players in the world today.

Can Tiger Woods Win the Masters?

Here's the video from Fried Eggs Golf.  Just an incredible experience to hear about.









3JACK

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Width in the DOWNSWING by Chris Ryan

I liked this video by Chris Ryan and it has helped me quite a bit recently, including shooting a 65 (-7 under) at Victoria Hills this past Saturday.



When most people discuss 'width' in the golf swing, they inevitably discuss it with regards to the backswing.

Part of what has helped me recently is this video from Athletic Motion Golf:


It's not that I was consciously trying to make my downswing narrower.  But, I wasn't aware of what was happening (right arm was folding and causing the right shoulder to go into Internal Rotation instead of the preferred External Rotation).

Now I work on the left hip rotation, chest rotation while *feeling* like I'm straightening my right arm in transition...all before I get to P5.


By the time I get to P5...between the rotation of the lower body and chest and the straightening of my right arm, the right shoulder will go into external rotation with the left wrist going into flexion.  If I am able to do that by P5, I'm in good position to hit a nice shot.  If I'm late then bad things can happen.







3JACK