Phil Mickelson’s quest to end US Open nightmare is on its last legs

Phil Mickelson will turn 49 Sunday, the day of the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

What are the chances that he’ll be standing on the first tee at Pebble on the final round with a chance to win on that day?

Regardless of his age, because of who he is, how he embraces the big moments, how motivated he remains and what he’s done, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he is in the mix to win the U.S. Open on Sunday.

If he is in the hunt, this is what Mickelson will face: Completing the career Grand Slam as a winner of all four major championships.

It’s a feat that’s been accomplished by only five players in the history of the game — Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and most recently Tiger Woods.

Since Mickelson won the 2013 British Open at Muirfield, this week will mark his sixth attempt at completing the Slam.

Mickelson has finished runner-up a record six times in the U.S. Open, the most recent his second-place finish in 2013 at Merion.

A U.S. Open is something Mickelson desperately wants to win for a couple of reasons. The Slam, of course. But it always has been his most coveted major championship title, even before he won his first major, the Masters in 2004.

His realistic window of opportunity, of course, is closing before his eyes.

What if it never happens after all of those close calls?

“No matter what, he’s going to be one of the greatest players that’s ever played this game,’’ Tiger Woods said. “How he’s viewed and whether he wins the career Grand Slam or not, I still think he’s one of the best players to ever pick up a golf club.

“There’s only five guys that have done it, so that’s the hard part,’’ Woods went on. “It’s just one of those fickle things. You’ve had some of the greatest champions of all time that have been missing one leg of the Grand Slam [Arnold Palmer, for example, never won a PGA Championship].

“So, for a person [Mickelson] who we all know hasn’t driven the ball as straight as he would probably like, he’s had six seconds in the U.S. Open. That’s incredible to be there that many times. He’s figured out a way to play well in the U.S. Open. It just happens to be one of those things where he hasn’t won, but he’s been there. And wouldn’t surprise me if he’s there again.’’

There is some mojo going for Mickelson, too, at Pebble Beach, where he won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. He’s won the AT&T four times and the last time the U.S. Open was played at Pebble, he finished tied for fourth in 2010.

Overall, this will be Mickelson’s 27th U.S. Open in a professional career that has included 44 victories and five major championships.

“There’s not much I could do right now that would do anything to redefine my career, but there’s one thing I could do, and that would be to win a U.S. Open,” Mickelson said. “So if I were to do that, it would change the way I view my career because there are only, what, five guys that have ever won all the majors. And you have to look at those guys differently.”

“The difficulty is not the age,’’ he said. “The difficulty is that when you’re in your 20s you feel like you have multiple chances’. And when you’re turning 49, you’re like ‘I’ve got two more chances, this year and maybe [in 2020 at] Winged Foot [where he finished runner-up in 2006] and that’s about it. With that being the only one in the four that I haven’t won, and what it would offer me and how I look at my career, I put more pressure on it. That’s the difficult thing.

“It would be pretty special to be part of the elite players that have won all four. To me that’s the sign of a complete game. It would redefine my career.’’

“I don’t think about [the Grand Slam] a lot,’’ he insisted, but added, “I do think about what I have to do to win a U.S. Open. And it’s getting increasingly difficult.’’

Paul Azinger, the former player who is now an analyst for NBC, wonders whether Mickelson’s burning desire to finally win a U.S. Open will increase the degree of difficulty. But he, too, believes this week is set up well for Mickelson.

“Of course he wants it too much,’’ Azinger said. “[But] he’s going to a place that he knows like the back of his hand. There’s not a better scenario for Phil Mickelson to get a U.S. Open. Expectations will by sky high … off the charts. He’s already trying to deflect — saying his winning there [in February] has no bearing whatsoever [on the U.S. Open]. He’s an artist at redirecting pressure. The redirect is a great gift.

“But I can’t tell Phil how to think; he can’t teach me how to think,’’ Azinger went on. “He knows how to think. Phil is disciplined enough and he knows what he’s doing. Phil has proven he can play in the elements and he knows the greens. You’ve got to know how the ball is going to bounce and react on those poa annua grass. A lot of guys are going to misjudge that first hop. But Phil won’t. He’s been there for most of his life.’’

Mickelson’s grandfather, Al Santos, was one of the first caddies at Pebble Beach. Mickelson said his grandfather carried a 1900 silver dollar in his pocket while he worked, and passed it down to Mickelson, who uses it as a ball marker whenever he plays there.

“What an American dream,’’ CBS golf commentator Jim Nantz said. “Instead of what his grandfather was making, 25 cents a bag, now he’s going to close out the career Grand Slam on the sacred sod of Pebble Beach, what a story that would be. The story is too good and his record is too good there for me to overlook it.”

Said Azinger: “I think six seconds should equal one win. I’d lobby for that.’’

Of course, golf doesn’t work that way.

“I have such great memories here,” Mickelson said. “I would love to add to it.”

SOURCE:  NYPost

 

Graeme McDowell’s career is back in gear — at just the right time

When Graeme McDowell surprised the golf world by winning the 2010 U.S. Open, he was a twentysomething swinging bachelor just beginning his ascent into a world-class player. Now the Ryder Cup star returns to another Open at Pebble on the cusp of turning 40, married with two kids and a stepdaughter, a partner in a thriving business (Nona Blue, an Orlando tavern) and having just brawled his way out of the longest slump of his career. “It’s definitely been the fastest and craziest ten years of my life,” McDowell said recently in his lilting Northern Irish brogue. “What a ride it’s been. And I’m not ready for it to be over just yet.”

McDowell’s breakthrough at Pebble Beach actually began two weeks before the Open, when he went 64-63 on the weekend to win in Wales, his fifth victory on the European Tour. He spent the ensuing three or four days “celebrating with the boys” at his home base in Lake Nona, Fla. McDowell’s game was so sharp and his confidence so palpable that Ricky Elliott, a pal who now caddies for Brooks Koepka, was all set to plunk down $500 for G-Mac to win the U.S. Open at 66-1 odds.

“I said, ‘Listen, I’m feeling good, but I’m probably not going to win,’” McDowell recalls with a chuckle. “‘Just to be safe, place the bet each way to cover your a–.’”

Pebble turned out to be the perfect venue for McDowell’s efficient game, built as it is on precise iron play and deadly putting. After a second-round 68, he held a two-stroke lead. That night he strolled into Brophy’s Tavern in Carmel, which McDowell calls “the unofficial caddie headquarters of the U.S. Open.” Billy Foster, who was then looping for Lee Westwood, broke out into song: Queen’s “We Are The Champions.” That tune played in McDowell’s head throughout the fraught final rounds.

The Sunday leaderboard was spectacular, with Tiger, Phil, Ernie and Dustin all factoring in the drama. But only McDowell refused to crack. He became the first European winner of our national championship since Tony Jacklin in 1970, and that night wound up, inexorably, in a boozy celebration at Brophy’s. “When I got behind the bar and started spraying people with the soda gun,” says McDowell, “I think that’s when my friends started saying, ‘Okay, let’s get this guy back to the hotel.’”

McDowell made another run at the 2012 U.S. Open, narrowly missing a birdie putt on the 72nd hole to fall one stroke short, and he kept piling up wins, rising as high as fourth in the World Ranking. Along the way he hired the former Kristin Stape to decorate his house in Lake Nona, and then wound up marrying her, in late 2013. A daughter and a son soon followed. “Fatherhood is the greatest thing in the world,” he says, “but it was certainly an adjustment. Golf very quickly was no longer the most important thing in my life.”

Pebble Beach turned out to be the perfect venue for McDowell’s game: precise iron play and deadly putting.

Add in swing and equipment changes, and by early 2019 McDowell was on the outside looking in, with tenuous Tour status and without a spot in the field at the upcoming Open Championship in his hometown of Portrush. All this was the backdrop to the explosion of goodwill that followed his PGA Tour win in the Dominican Republic in March 2019, McDowell’s first worldwide victory since 2015. “It was relief more than anything,” he says. “I was like a flame flickering. I was feeling my mortality. I was becoming aware that all of this could go away very quickly. So to finally win again, a giant burden has been lifted.”

Just like that, McDowell’s expectations are very different for Pebble Beach (champs are exempt into the ensuing ten U.S. Opens) and Royal Portrush (where he has a golden opportunity to play his way into the field at this week’s Canadian Open). Is it time to run out and start placing bets again?

“Well, let’s not get carried away,” McDowell says. “But I was never going to be satisfied returning to Pebble as a ceremonial golfer. It’s not the legacy, it’s not the impact I want to have in this game. I know I have one more big run in me. I have a vision of getting back to the top of the game one more time. How cool would it be if Pebble Beach is once again the launching pad?”

SOURCE:  Golf.com

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In cool, wet conditions, Bethpage Black will play tough, long for PGA Championship

When it was announced that the PGA Championship was moving from August to May, some pundits and fans balked at the idea of holding a major championship in the Northeast or upper Midwest because of days like Monday at Bethpage State Park.

After about an inch of rain fell on the Black Course on Sunday, scattered showers and chilly temperatures persisted as a Nor’easter developed off the coast of southern New England, bringing showers and a chilly eastern wind that kept temperatures in the high 40s.

It could have been worse: the same system is expected to bring several inches of snow to higher elevations of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine on Monday.

Bethpage Black’s scorecard yardage is 7,459 yards, but in conditions like Monday’s, it played even longer.

“Hole seven is playing as a par 4 and we played from where the 520 tee is. I hit a really good drive and I still had 255 to 260 yards to the center of the green,” said Billy Horschel, who is currently ranked No. 43 on the Official World Golf Ranking. “And that distance doesn’t even account for the wind and the cold weather, so that shot was probably playing 280 or 290.”

Horschel added that he typically hits his 7-iron 180 yards, but on the second hole on Monday morning, he hit one that only went 150.

The official tournament forecast calls for the rain to subside early Tuesday morning, with clouds and warmer conditions expected on Wednesday. There is a 30 percent chance of rain on Thursday morning, but temperatures are expected to rise into the mid- and high 60s on Saturday and Sunday.

The 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens were contested here on wet golf courses, and it looks like the first PGA Championship that Bethpage Black will host is also going to be played on a soft, long course.

SOURCE: USAtoday

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5 Fundamentals To Better Golf

Some golfers hate practicing, but one thing I’ve learned is that the range — not the golf course — is where your swing gets better. You might be able to make small adjustments mid-round and play OK, but any real improvements come from practice. Let’s say you’ve got at least 30 minutes once a week to work on your full swing. If you do, try these five fundamentals listed below that have helped me improve. Devote five minutes on each, and then use the final five minutes to mash it all together and swing away. It won’t take long before you see the value in this type of practice. And then when you play, you can focus on targets and scoring—you know, the fun stuff. —With Ron Kaspriske


1.) BEFORE YOU SWING
DON’T PULL THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOU GET THIS RIGHT

I never work on the range without alignment sticks, but assuming you don’t have any, you can use anything with a straight line to make sure your clubface, feet, hips and shoulders are aligned to hit your target. A golf shaft, a towel, even the edge of a range mat can help. I call it neutral alignment. You can’t see my back foot or shoulder in this picture (below), because I’m lined up correctly. If you can’t get this right, the best swing in the world won’t get the ball on the green. The other thing to pay attention to at address is comfort. I know that sounds weird, but you should feel tension-free at address—and athletic. That means you feel relaxed, balanced and ready for action.


2.) GOING BACK
STAY CONNECTED AS YOU START YOUR SWING

The one swing thought I always have is to stay connected. I know that can mean a lot of things, but for me it’s using my shoulders more to take the club back and not letting my hands get too far ahead of my body rotation. The club, hands, arms and body should be turning together (below). They call it a one-piece takeaway. If you don’t stay connected, it can create a world of wrong in your downswing. A good way to keep your hands from taking over the backswing is to delay your wrist hinge until the shaft is about parallel to the ground like it is in this photo.


3.) AT THE TOP
TAKE THE INSIDE APPROACH

Make sure you have enough room to swing the club down into the ball from inside the target line (below). If you feel like your body is blocking your club from doing that, you didn’t complete your backswing. Make a full turn with your upper body going back. Don’t just take the club back with your arms.


4.) STARTING DOWN
LET YOUR HIPS LEAD THE WAY

You really can’t think about anything substantial in the downswing. It’s too quick. All you can do is get it started correctly and then let whatever happens happen.

So the final thing to think about is letting your hip rotation begin the action. You can see that my left hip has moved away from the ball and my right hip has moved toward it. Some people focus on one side of the hip rotation versus the other. Whatever works for you. The only thing I would add is that I bump my left hip just a hair toward the target before the rotation. This clears more room for the club to swing down from the inside.


5.) THE STRIKE EXTEND THE RIGHT ARM

When I’m hitting it my best, the ball is flying pretty straight. As the club is traveling through the impact zone, I’ll sometimes work on extending my right arm and keeping it extended at my target during the follow-through. It’s a good tip for accuracy. Remember that hip bump I mentioned in Fundamental No. 4? It also helps keep my upper body behind the ball through impact like you see here (below). Assuming you shift your weight into your left leg with a hip bump, staying back provides power and a higher trajectory to your shots. And just like these others, it’s a real simple fundamental to practice.

SOURCE:  Golfdigest

The State Of Golf For 2019 — An Industry Roundtable

With the golf season getting into full swing in just about all parts of the country, it’s the perfect time to delve into the state of the $84 billion golf industry.

May 1 also just happens to be National Golf Day, a day when hundreds of golf industry leaders visit Washington D.C. to meet with members of Congress and celebrate the economic, charitable, environmental, health and societal benefits of one of the nation’s top participation sports.

Even the most casual golf fan surely sensed the excitement generated by the recent Masters Tournament, where Tiger Woods won his first major title in almost 11 years, a victory that transcended sports and became mainstream news. But what is the overall state of the game?

The National Golf Foundation recently released its 2019 Golf Industry Report, an annual research report that consolidates key data points to help assess golf’s health and vitality. More than one-third (36%) of the U.S. population – over 107 million people in total – played, watched or read about golf last year. Traditional participation has stabilized in recent years, with a healthy 24 million on-course golfers, and there are now almost as many who play increasingly popular off-course forms of the game (from Topgolf and Drive Shack to indoor simulators).

In conjunction with National Golf Day, five of golf’s leaders participated in an industry roundtable to share their thoughts about the current state of the game, its continued evolution, as well as the wealth of benefits that it provides for participants of all ages. Taking time to weigh in were:

  • Mike Davis – USGA CEO
  • Greg McLaughlin – World Golf Foundation CEO and President of The First Tee
  • Jay Monahan – PGA TOUR Commissioner
  • Suzy Whaley – PGA of America President
  • Mike Whan – LPGA Commissioner

In your opinion, what is the ‘State of the golf industry’?

Davis: As a whole, it’s strong. You can feel that at any one of the USGA’s 14 national championships and internationally in particular where we’re seeing the game grow at an encouraging rate. Golfers are extremely passionate about their sport which means they’re emotionally invested – and we wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s inspiring to know that so many share such a deep love for the game as we do at the USGA. That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t challenges we need to overcome for the game to be successful long-term. Particularly, we need to help golf courses identify and proactively address issues common in the game such as rising operational costs, the time it takes to play the game and improving the golfer experience at green-grass facilities. It’s also imperative that we continue to invest in research to make golf courses more sustainable both financially and environmentally, and we need to think of more ways to make golf accessible for all.

Golf has been around for more than 600 years and its evolution is ongoing. As the world changes at a rapid pace it’s up to us to make sure that the game maintains that pace. We’re all in this together, united by our love for the game.

McLaughlin: I’m optimistic about the state of the game and excited about how the face of golf is changing. About 20 years ago, one in 12 U.S. juniors were ethnically diverse; today, that number is one in four. Also, two decades ago, one in six U.S. juniors were girls and today it is one in three. The game is evolving and beginning to look more like America looks.

Perceptions about golf are changing too. It’s moving away from the long-held view that it’s a game for only a certain status of our society, and people are perceiving it now as a game for all. We have the facts to back this up: 76% of the golf facilities in the U.S. are open to the public, 80% of the people who play golf in the U.S. do so primarily on facilities open to the public and the average cost of an 18-hole round is $35.

There are several goals that the World Golf Foundation, through its WE ARE GOLF initiative, is working towards achieving and we are doing this by bringing groups together from within the industry to focus on areas such as diversity and inclusion, outreach to millennials and encouraging more women and juniors to participate in the game.

Monahan: I’m very optimistic on where golf is and where it is headed. From a PGA TOUR perspective, we have had a tremendously strong year beyond compelling competition, from increases in fan engagement across all platforms, to our business successes, to the record $190 million generated for charity as we draw closer to $3 billion in all-time giving.

We’ve continued to have success in signing long-term sponsorship agreements, and likewise when an international powerhouse like Discovery enters a multi-billion partnership with the TOUR that includes establishing GOLFTV as a global OTT service, it reflects not only on the strength and future of the TOUR, but our sport as a whole. In addition to GOLFTV, we continue to expand viewing options for fans through other partnerships, including our new relationships with NBC Sports Gold and Amazon to house PGA TOUR LIVE in the U.S. We also see tremendous opportunity to further engage existing and new fans as regulated sports betting becomes a reality.

From an industry-wide viewpoint, there continues to be strong collaboration between organizations on a variety of fronts, particularly in regard to growing interest and participation in the game and furthering the positive impact it has on lives through charitable impact and character development. WE ARE GOLF continues to be a strong unifying force in communicating all the positives of that golf provides, from economic impact to the lasting benefits that programs like The First Tee have on young people who are introduced to the game.

Whaley: I am excited about the future of the golf industry! Golf is an $84 billion economic engine that drives nearly 2 million jobs and contributes more to charity than any other major sports industry. While we face many of the same challenges that every sector of the economy—and every major brand does at a time when consumers have so many choices on how to spend their recreational time and discretionary income—there are many reasons for optimism.

This starts with the fact that our participation numbers are up in key categories—beginners, avid golfers and those who experience the game at off-course options. A record-tying 2.6 million golfers played for the first time in 2018 – matching the all-time high set in 2017, which was the fourth consecutive year that number increased.

These new golfers are more diverse and younger than the overall golf population: 31% are women, 26% are non-Caucasian. There could be more new golfers on the way: 47.4 million say they are “somewhat” or “very” interested in trying golf, an increase of 6%.  The number of women playing golf has grown approximately 7% over the past six years. Of note, 36% of junior golfers are girls, as compared to 23% of all golfers.

Total on-course participation increased to 24.2 million golfers last year. When factoring in off-course participation options, such as Topgolf, total participation climbed to 33.5 million in 2018, up 4% from 32.1 million in 2017.

Combine all of that with Tiger Woods’ historic victory at the Masters, which is driving incredible interest in the PGA Championship’s move to May as the Next Major, and the opportunity we have now is impressive.  This new cadence of majors will only heighten the focus on the programs, services and accomplishments of our nearly 29,000 PGA Professionals and the entire golf industry.

Whan: I know that many people in our industry focus only on rounds played or on the specific number of active golfers each year, but one thing is clear to me – more and more people are watching, caring and becoming engaged in the sport than ever before. In the United States and around the world, we’ve seen consistent increases in TV viewership, hours of coverage and the number of fans that attend tournaments. Around the globe, I’ve witnessed first-hand how the sport has received heightened interest from countries, media and fans who were driven by golf’s return to the Olympic Games in 2016.

It’s also exciting to see the spread of the female game at grassroots level with girls under the age of 18 representing the fastest growing sector in the U.S. golf population since 2010. Here at the LPGA, the number of girls taking part in the LPGA*USGA Girls Golf program has soared from 4,500 per year in 2010 to 80,000 in 2018, a 1,700% growth in participation.

Considering today’s evolving media landscape, how has your organization’s communication with golf fans changed over time? What lies ahead?

Davis: The rapid expansion of digital communication affords us the ability to speak directly to golf fans in a way that wasn’t possible years ago. Golf is uniquely positioned to elicit passionate interest from a wide range of people, and it’s up to us to innovate ways to reach that diverse fanbase in different ways. This year, we are launching an OTT platform, to provide live and on-demand content that shares the entire depth of our USGA Golf Museum’s extensive historic video library, and championship moments.

Earlier this year, in March, we used Facebook Live to live-stream both our fifth Golf Innovation Symposium in Japan and our USGA Annual Meeting. We invested in our own USGA studio at our headquarters so we can produce live discussions on YouTube and Twitter on matters of importance to the game, such as education of golf’s new Rules, and other on-demand programming. And, this year, we’ll also begin a new podcast series to help share our wealth of knowledge in innovation, history, technology and more. Whether it’s through comprehensive visual or editorial storytelling on our digital platforms, we’re proud to serve as a chief facilitator of the game’s greatest stories.

The evolution of digital communication has also opened a two-way dialogue where we’re able to directly interact with fans on issues that are most important to them. We believe we’re at our best when we have the interest and input of golfers from every skill level in mind. Having that all-encompassing perspective is part of what makes the USGA a special organization.

Given what we’ve seen over just the last 5-10 years, I think it’s safe to say that the ways in which we communicate with golf fans will continue to evolve at a rapid pace. We, as well as our peers, will need to continue to be nimble for the benefit of golf fans everywhere.

McLaughlin: Examining the state of the game today in 2019, there are positive signs that a whole new generation is getting excited about the sport, both from a fan and a participation perspective. People are watching exciting professional golfers and are wanting to try the sport. The industry communicates to this group in countless ways, always looking to reach them where they are most comfortable finding their news, therefore we put a heavy focus on sharing industry highlights through our social media channels.

Fan engagement in the game is at an all-time high, due, in part, to the myriad of vehicles in which fans may interact with the sport.

This outreach is showing results. There are more than 24 million “traditional” golfers in the United States, and another 15 million have said they are very interested in playing, which is an all-time high. Last year, 2.6 million people tried golf for the first time. Off-course participation continues to grow at a rapid pace with another 23 million experiencing the game at off-course venues.

Total golf participation in the U.S.

Total golf participation in the U.S.

NATIONAL GOLF FOUNDATION

Monahan: The landscape obviously is ever-changing with the prevalence of social media, growth of digital platforms and seemingly constant introduction of new innovations. For instance, PGA TOUR LIVE, an OTT platform that did not exist in 2015, will distribute more than 900 hours of live PGA TOUR golf in 2019 as well as ancillary programming. In turn, these have become integral avenues for the PGA TOUR and our players to communicate with fans; and the increase in engagement has been dramatic, even within the last year.

In fact, our first new major brand campaign in 20 years that was introduced last year, Live Under Par, invites fans to engage with the TOUR and share their experiences and love for the game via social channels. It’s already proven to be very successful in helping to broaden our fan base by driving double-digit content consumption growth across both core and non-core fan segments. Additionally, we’ve actively worked with our players, providing custom content, to help increase their own social channel content and engagements.

As for the future, we will continue to prioritize a Fans First mentality, but I’m not going to try to speculate on what the next big thing might be – who could have predicted all the changes and innovations we’ve seen over the past decade? Whatever it is, though, we need to be agile enough as an organization to take full advantage.

Whaley: Technology is making a tremendous impact on the golf industry, and social media has been a game changer. The ability to communicate with golfers and fans is instantaneous and impactful.

Delivering better coaching resources to the consumer through technology, including the type of experience today’s consumer is looking for, is in our best interest. This approach gives us the best chance to develop players who will play golf for the rest of their lives.

Today’s consumer understands the value of working with a highly trained PGA Professional, but they want more than the traditional approach. They also want to engage with us via technology, scheduling apps and video. It’s about engaging the consumer, at the right age, during the right time in their golf development.

Whan: With people placing so much focus on social media in today’s world, this has become our main avenue to communicate with our fans. Whether via LPGA Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, we have a two-way dialogue with our fans while ensuring they are kept up-to-date with all the latest news from the LPGA as a whole and the LPGA Tour specifically. We also engage with our fans through some of our other platforms, such as the LPGA Women’s Network and the LPGA Amateur Golf Association.

At the LPGA, we know fans follow our players first, and the overall Tour second. Over five years ago, we started adding the players’ Twitter handles to our caddie bibs. We want fans to follow our players, understand their journey and learn their unique and inspiring stories. While others have asked us, ‘Why don’t you put the LPGA’s Twitter handle on all bibs?’, we feel our players are the stars and not the Tour. We know that if fans follow our athletes, they eventually tune into the LPGA telecasts.

In recognition of the 12th annual National Golf Day, what would you say golf’s societal benefits that some Congressional leaders might not be aware of?

Davis: In recent years, our industry has emphasized the economic benefits of golf at the national and local levels. When we consider jobs, revenue for local economies, charitable contributions and the like, we appreciate that golf’s impact is both substantive and significant. Yet there are also intangible benefits of golf that may be as important as, or even more important than, the economic benefits.

If you look to the origins of golf, it has, from a very early point, been woven into the fabric of communities around the world. That carries both emotional and health benefits that you’re hard pressed to find in other activities. Moreover, golf embodies critical human values and elevates important role models that are critical for sustainable communities and healthy societies. By spreading the spirit of golf and making it more accessible to people of all ages and demographics, we can help bring communities together under a shared love of the game.

The environmental benefits of golf courses are also an important component of what makes the game beneficial to our communities. Currently, we are working with the World Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, the University of Minnesota and Stanford University on groundbreaking research to quantify the natural capital of a golf facility. For instance, golf courses are green spaces that help communities with stormwater runoff, infiltration, provide natural habitats for wildlife and crucial pollinators, re-introduce native plant materials, and control urban heat islands that otherwise might exist if a golf course were converted to a housing or business development. These are all important services that a golf course provides to its local community that have meaningful economic value.

McLaughlin: The industry comes together annually in our nation’s capital to share the benefit our sport has on American society. National Golf Day gives us the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the game’s interests, but also to make lawmakers aware of these benefits:

  • The game’s economic impact, which was $84.1 billion in 2016
  • Golf generates $3.9 billion annually for charity
  • Health and wellness benefits of the sport
  • The accessibility of the game, which is evidenced by the fact that 76% of golf courses are open to the public and the average cost of a round of golf is just $35
  • And, the environmental benefits that golf courses provide as green spaces, wildlife habitats and as filters for runoff

All of these combined make a pretty compelling case for golf’s importance to society and sharing these facts with Congress is an importance aspect of National Golf Day.

In recognition of the 12th annual National Golf Day, what would you say golf’s societal benefits that some Congressional leaders might not be aware of?

Davis: In recent years, our industry has emphasized the economic benefits of golf at the national and local levels. When we consider jobs, revenue for local economies, charitable contributions and the like, we appreciate that golf’s impact is both substantive and significant. Yet there are also intangible benefits of golf that may be as important as, or even more important than, the economic benefits.

If you look to the origins of golf, it has, from a very early point, been woven into the fabric of communities around the world. That carries both emotional and health benefits that you’re hard pressed to find in other activities. Moreover, golf embodies critical human values and elevates important role models that are critical for sustainable communities and healthy societies. By spreading the spirit of golf and making it more accessible to people of all ages and demographics, we can help bring communities together under a shared love of the game.

The environmental benefits of golf courses are also an important component of what makes the game beneficial to our communities. Currently, we are working with the World Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, the University of Minnesota and Stanford University on groundbreaking research to quantify the natural capital of a golf facility. For instance, golf courses are green spaces that help communities with stormwater runoff, infiltration, provide natural habitats for wildlife and crucial pollinators, re-introduce native plant materials, and control urban heat islands that otherwise might exist if a golf course were converted to a housing or business development. These are all important services that a golf course provides to its local community that have meaningful economic value.

McLaughlin: The industry comes together annually in our nation’s capital to share the benefit our sport has on American society. National Golf Day gives us the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the game’s interests, but also to make lawmakers aware of these benefits:

  • The game’s economic impact, which was $84.1 billion in 2016
  • Golf generates $3.9 billion annually for charity
  • Health and wellness benefits of the sport
  • The accessibility of the game, which is evidenced by the fact that 76% of golf courses are open to the public and the average cost of a round of golf is just $35
  • And, the environmental benefits that golf courses provide as green spaces, wildlife habitats and as filters for runoff

All of these combined make a pretty compelling case for golf’s importance to society and sharing these facts with Congress is an importance aspect of National Golf Day.

Whan: There are more than two million jobs impacted by the game and its diverse benefits to our economy and our society. It’s often forgotten that the people working on the courses are the backbone of our sport. We live in a fast-paced, high-energy and high-stress world. A casual round of golf or a family visit to a professional tournament can provide the mind and the soul with a little bit of good. Moreover, all those visits by fans are likely driving increased dollars into local charities.

The contributor of this industry roundtable is also the Editorial Director for the National Golf Foundation.

SOURCE:  Forbes

5 quick tips to conquering the downhill chip

Usually the area around a green is level with or lower than the putting surface. But sometimes you’ll find your ball on a mound near the green, leaving you with a downhill chip. Sure, it was a lucky break that the hill kept your ball within chipping distance. But now what? This atypical lie presents a challenge for a lot of golfers, because it drastically reduces the chance of popping the ball up and landing it softly on the green—especially if you have a tendency to try to help the ball in the air with a scooping, wristy action. You need to make some adjustments to pull off this shot.

“Keep your knee flex if you want to pop the ball up.”

First, you can’t afford to make contact with the ground behind the ball, or you’ll blade it across the green. So play the ball slightly back of center in your stance. Another thing that will help you make ball-first contact is to lean the handle a little toward the green, so your hands are closer to the flag than the clubhead. I also recommend gripping down on the club—your most lofted wedge—for more control.

Next, the way you swing is important, too. Maintain flex in your knees throughout the swing (above). Remember to keep the shaft leaning forward through impact and abbreviate the follow-through. A time-honored swing thought for this shot is to swing down the slope with the clubhead.

All of this might seem like a lot to remember, so boil it down like this: Ball back, hands ahead, and swing down the slope. Do that, and you’ll get just enough loft on the ball to stop it near the hole. — with Ron Kaspriske

ANALOG INSTRUCTION IN A DIGITAL WORLD

Science has its strongest presence ever in golf instruction. Though I believe it’s important for teachers to take advantage of technology and use it to make golfers better, students shouldn’t have to feel overwhelmed by all this new data. That was the inspiration for my video series for Golf Digest Schools called “The David Leadbetter Essentials.” This six-part series breaks down the components of an efficient swing into easy-to-understand instructions. You won’t need a high-speed camera, launch monitor or degree in biomechanics to consistently hit good shots. Just follow my advice, and you’ll be on your way to better golf.

SOURCE:  Golfdigest

This might go against your instinct when you’re in a bunker with a high lip, but the last thing you want to do is try to help the ball over the lip. When you try to force it up and over, it almost always comes out lower and slams into the face. Instead, do what I do.
First, try this drill. The biggest difference between hitting out of a normal bunker and one with a high lip is the amount of sand you need to take. To get the ball up quickly, your club should strike a lot more sand, and this drill will help teach you how much. Draw a circle in the bunker about four inches in diameter around your ball. Now get in your address position, playing the ball off your front foot. Before swinging, pick the ball up so all that’s left is the circle. We’ll get back to that, but first, two more things about address: Dig your feet in so you have a solid base, and open the face of your wedge before gripping the club. I know opening the face can freak out some amateurs, but don’t be scared. In a bunker, your wedge is designed to work when it’s open like this. In fact, you should keep the face open throughout the shot.
“DON’T BE SHY: TAKE PLENTY OF SAND TO GET OVER A HIGH LIP.”
Now here’s a key thought: When you swing, think about putting your hands into your left pocket as you come through. You can see me swinging toward my left pocket here. This forces the club to exit low, left and open, and cutting across the ball like this helps get it up quickly.
Back to the goal of the drill. I want you to make the circle disappear. To do that, you’re going to have to hit the sand a few inches behind where the ball would be, and swing through it with some effort. That’s the feeling you want moving through the sand in a high-lip situation. Practice the circle drill with my swing thought of getting into that left pocket, and you’ll make this shot a lot easier than it looks. — with Keely Levins
Stacy Lewis is a 12-time winner on the LPGA Tour, including two majors.
SOURCE:  Golfdigest

Poor weight transfer (and how we develop swing flaws)

I recall an old joke about a guy who was lost on a country backroad. He spots a local resident and asks for directions to a certain town. The local responds: “You can’t get there from here.”

Whenever I hear that joke, I think about weight transfer in the golf swing. Yeah, a remote connection, I’m sure, but it works for purposes of today’s story. The analogy is this: A student recently swung to the top of the backswing and asked me how to “transfer his weight to the left foot” (he was right handed). I replied, “you can’t get there from here.”

The reason most players do not properly transfer their weight or “turn through,” is simply because they are not in a position to do so. They literally must move away from the target and head for the trail side.

Here are a few examples of why.

Over the top

As the downswing begins, if the arms and club go out, not down, effectively the player is not swinging at the golf ball. If she keeps going from there, she will not hit the ball, or barely top it at best. This player is swinging at something in front of the ball, or outside of it. Shoulders spin open early, arms/hands go out but stay UP, and now the club head will very likely get to the golf ball LATE. But, and here’s the catch, anyone who plays often attempts to correct this swing bottom problem by reversing course!  The body senses the poor sequence and tries the right the ship by quickly backing up. Or casting. So, we get an out-to-in swing direction but a shallow attack angle! What I refer to a “left field from the right foot.’

When you see the flaw from this perspective, it becomes perfectly obvious why. Because, if the player kept going without a mid stream correction, they might top every shot, mo in an effort to get the ball airborne, the player lowers the rear side, raises the front side and swings UP from the outside. So you do bottom out nearer the ball, but you’ve introduced a HOST of other issues. I’m not saying this is a conscious effort in the less than two seconds it takes to swing the club, I’m saying that it develops unconsciously over time. And the more one plays, the more they “perfect” this sequence. In my experience, this is how most, if not all, swing faults begin. Correcting a fault with another fault. It is truly ingenious, really!

Steep Transition

If the swing gets to the top and does begin down inside, unlike above where it begins down outside the line, or over the plane, but the club starts down on a very steep incline, it is headed for a crash;  keep going from there, and you’re likely to stick it straight into the ground or, at the least, hit it straight off the toe. Again, over time, the player senses this, and develops a motion of “backing up; reversing the upper body to flatten the golf club and get it onto a reasonable incline to strike the ball. I see this day in and day out. The inevitable question is: “Why can’t I get through the shot”? Because…you had to reverse the upper body to avoid an even greater disaster..

These are just two examples involving improper weight transfer. But if we see other swing flaws in this light, I think it explains a lot. For example, “raising the handle,” or “standing the club up,” lower body extension (“humping”), holding on through impact, casting, sending hand path far away from the body (disconnection), all these can can almost always be attributed to something that preceded those flaws. That is, they are rarely the root cause, they are the REACTION to another position or motion. They are “save” attempts.

Here’s another way of describing it: Many, in fact most, steep swings result in a shallow attack angle.  Many open club faces at the top of the swing actually hook the ball, many closed faces at the top of the swing hit slices or at least high blocks, and so on. How do I know this? I have stood right next to golfers for almost 40 years and observed it up close and personal on the lesson tee.

If you are serious about long term improvement, real effective change in your game, you will need to work on the fundamentals that will put you in a position from which you do not have torecover, or execute a “fit in” move to survive. Get a good high-definition, slow-motion look at your swing, get your Trackman or Flightscope feedback and take a close look, in terms of what I’m referring to here. It will be eye-opening to say the least.

I would agree that one CAN learn to live with some save moves and achieve a certain level of success, albeit less consistent in my opinion. In fact, when most people hit balls, that is what they are practicing. As always, it’s your call.  Enjoy the journey.

SOURCE:  Golfwrx

Augusta National beefs up No. 5, creates another classic Masters gauntlet

Where’s Herbert Warren Wind when you need him?

It was the Homer of golf writers who in 1958 wrote about the action “down in the Amen Corner where Rae’s Creek intersects the 13th fairway near the tee, then parallels the front end of the green on the short 12th and finally swirls alongside the 11th green.” And just like that, almost off-handedly, this sequence of holes was gifted the last thing it needed to gain renown — a catchy, evocative name. Amen Corner was born.

There is another corner of the course opposite that far reach of Augusta National that is in line for a good nicknaming. Something suggestive of mayhem and exasperation.

It will never happen, mind you, for several reasons. For one, Mr. Wind and his elegant ilk are no longer with us. I certainly can’t come up with anything eternal. For another, holes No. 4-5-6 fall far too early to be a part of the Sunday Masters crescendo. So much happens on that back nine that all else gets kind of washed over.

That’s too bad because, with the recent lengthening of the par-4 5th hole — heretofore the most overlooked hole on the property — this corner just may be the most trying stretch of holes in all the green sausage grinder that is Augusta National.

With the money to reshape the land to any whim, the lords of the Masters decided this year to add another 40 yards to an already toothy fifth. And if that doesn’t suit them, one day they will just buy up a stretch of I-20 and put a tee box in the median.

The result is a now 495-yard par 4 that has grabbed the players’ attention before the first competitive shot is struck.

“Between there and 11, I may even consider No. 5 a more difficult hole now,” Jordan Spieth said. “I would have said 11 is the toughest hole on the course prior to the new No. 5.”

“I’m struggling a little bit right now on how to play the hole, so I’ll have to figure that out over the next couple days.” That’s Jordan Spieth speaking, the guy who rolls out of bed and finishes top-five in this tournament.

Having already let out the par-3 4th hole — to where it can play 240 yards to a roller-coaster green – the guardians of par have created quite a little gauntlet here with the lengthening of No. 5. Throw in the par-3 sixth, with a green that practically requires an escalator to get from one level to the next, and these people have almost succeeded in turning golf into actual, honest work.

Phil Mickelson throws the 450-yard par-4 seventh hole into the mix, too. “I think 4-5-6-7 is a very difficult four‑hole stretch and making a little bit harder I think is a good thing,” he said. “I always like making hard holes harder and I think guys that are playing well will be able to make par (on No. 5) and pick up a quarter or half a stroke on the field that are not able to make par. Ultimately, that’s a good thing.”

During last year’s Masters, Nos. 4-5-6 played as the second-, sixth- and eighth-hardest holes. In contrast, Amen Corner presented both the most difficult (the 505-yard par-4 11th) and least difficult (the 510-yard par-5 13th). No. 12, the famed par 3 over Rae’s Creek was right in the middle, the ninth hardest. So, which stretch is really more deserving a prayerful nickname?

In the redesign of No. 5, they also moved back the complex of large, deep fairway bunkers on the left side, and created a stiffer penalty for finding them.

“I think they are unplayable to get the ball to the green,” Tiger Woods said. “You have to be very lucky and get a situation that you might be able to get to the front edge of the green. But you need to stay out of those bunkers.”

Even a good and true drive leaves no bargain.

“I hit a good drive (Monday), and the course was playing really soft and a bit long. And I hit 5‑iron in,” Tommy Fleetwood said. “A good drive last year – if you could be aggressive with the driver – you might have a wedge or 9‑iron to that middle part of the green. It wasn’t a difficult shot.”

In summarizing the change to No. 5 — a hole due entirely new respect now — two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw was succinct, simply calling it “a monster.”

While the knights of the keyboard may fail to come up with a catchy name for this other critical corner of Augusta National, players undoubtedly will come up with a few of their own. They will not be flowery, or even fit for general consumption.