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>In Defense of the Playoffs

>Other than the age old questions like “Is Tiger better than Jack?” or “Which course would you most like to play?”, few topics have inspired as much discussion as the formatting intricacies of the PGA Tour Playoffs, the FedEx Cup.

I have to say I’m loving what’s going on right now, and what’s been happening leading up to this week. The Cinderella Kid, Heath Slocum, barely squeezing in and then winning The Barkleys. Mr. Consistency, Steve Stricker, holding off an elite leaderboard to win the Kraut Bank. The Johnny Walker Blue of Golf, Tiger Woods, dominating the field at the Beemer.

Watching the numbers turn from red to green has been every bit as exciting as the watch for who gets to retain their tour cards in the Fall Series. But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s Mrs. Golfer In Kilt, who is NOT a golfer and NOT a sports fan, getting into how they got here and watching with keen interest to see if a putt is going to fall to allow a golfer to “Live to play another day”.

Watching Snedeker yip his way out of the Tour Championship was as painful and enthralling as any train wreck. Luke Donald and Jerry Kelly made pressure putts on the 72:nd hole to grab the last two spots in Atlanta.

I’m very excited about this weekend, especially after a story this morning that speculated into the possibility of a double playoff on Sunday. They could have a playoff for the tourament, and if the chips fall correctly they could have a playoff for the FedEx Cup itself, if two or more players land at the exact same point total. Sudden death for ten million dollars? WOW !!

I’m really not going to get into the details about how the playoffs should be formatted. I think they should keep it the same way for a while, to get a true feel for the format, and to establish a baseline.

All I know is that I’m a huge fan of this year’s iteration, and I can’t wait for the games to begin.

>Good swing to study – Alvaro Quiros

>The stories about Alvaro Quiros are legendary, and although the young Spaniard has already captured three tournaments it’s all about how far he hits the golf ball. He was the longest driver on the European Tour in 2006, 2007, and 2008, and he’s on track to do it again this year with a titanic 315 yard average.

But if you think his swing is some freakish concoction of power moves designed purely for distance you couldn’t be more wrong. He’s tall (6’3″) and athletic, and he gains his power from a very fundamentally correct golf swing, the kind of swing we all could benefit from studying.
Golf.com has put together a swing sequence on their website, and here are a few of the highlights:
  • His setup looks a lot like Jack, with a straight back and lots of room for his arms.
  • Full shoulder turn but very little hip turn.
  • Beautiful lines where the club is an extension of his arms (shot 5 of 10 and 7 of 10).
  • Smooth hip release.
  • Belt buckle leading the swing (are you watching, Faldo?)
Note to self: Gimmicks don’t generate power. A proper swing and consistent contact generates power.

>Golf clothing for all climates

>There’s no shortage of good looking and functional golf clothing on the market, but for most part it’s very homogenous looking, and oftentimes quite pricey. I’ve started going in a different direction, and that is the general outdoors companies that cater to hikers, campers, skiers, etc. I have found that these companies offer good looking and high quality clothing for considerably less than most golf wear.

For the record I have two distinct factors that play into my clothing selections: 1) I live in Dallas, TX, where it’s very hot for a very long time every summer. 2) I’m 6ft7 tall.

Eddie Bauer sold a fantastic breathable zippered polo shirt last summer. I bought one, and liked it so much I bought four more in different colors. They were only $30 a piece, and they’re very lightweight and comfortable even in very hot weather. It’s what I’m wearing in the OU – Texas picture a few blogs back.

I have several pairs of shorts from Columbia, and they’re all good. I’m particularly fond of their Titanium fabric, which is very lightweight and strong. I think the people at Columbia are closet golfers. Their commercials are all about climbing Pike’s Peak, skiing the Vasa Race, or hiking the Appalachian Trail all the way to the Buenos Aires trailhead. Not a golf ball in sight in any of their catalogs. But in all their shorts there’s a small hidden pocket inside the front pocket, which just happens to conveniently fit a golf ball in it. Coincidence? I think NOT.

For headwear I also have sizemic challenges, as I carry around a size 8 noggin. REI is my source for all sorts of headgear, from bucket hats to wicking ballcaps to visors with sweatbands.

While it doesn’t apply much in Dallas, all these companies also make comfortable and breathable clothing that’s intended to allow you to keep moving around even in considerably cooler temperatures.

If I could only get Keen to start making golf shoes I’d be all set.

Either way it’s good to know when you have to go on a 50 yard hike into the rough to look for your ball that at least you have the right gear on.

>Tiger stat of the week

>I’ve been on the “Tiger is the best ever” bandwagon for several months now, and this fire had more fuel added to it this weekend.

Tiger won number 71 this weekend, leaving the field in his proverbial dust. He’s now two wins away from catching Jack for second place on the all time win list.

(Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jeff Haynes)
They flashed a stastistic on the screen last Sunday that was pretty significant. Tiger won his 71:st tournament when he was 33 years old. Both Jack and Sam Snead were 42 when they won their 71:st.
That means Tiger is nine years ahead of their pace when it comes to wins. NINE years.
I think Tiger is focusing too much on winning majors. Even when you’re the best player in the world, which he clearly is, a LOT of things have to happen just the right way for you to win one of these four tournament. A quick look at the four winners will reveal just how random it can be. I think Yen is the only major winner with another win this year. Tiger’s won more tournaments than the four of them combined.

>Red River White Ball Shootout

>I and the three guys I most regularly play with call ourselves The Bushwood Boys (for obvious reasons. If it’s not obvious to you, don’t read on. You won’t like my sense of humor). As we only play every couple of months we usually pick a theme for the outing, such as “Football”, “The Masters” or “American Lager”.

We played last weekend, and as it was the opening of the college football season we decided to have that be our theme. We quickly figured out that two of us are Oklahoma fans, and two are Texas fans, and it was very quickly game ON with the trashtalking.

That’s Chris and I in the Crimson, and Doug and John in the burnt orange. The game of the day was best-ball skins.
THE WAGER
We don’t like to play for money, so we had to come up with something a little more creative but still something that will spur us on. We decided that the losing team will have to wear the winning team’s apparel the next time we play. If you know anything about the OU – Texas rivalry, you will know that this is a BIG deal.
THE COURSE
We played the Lakes course at Firewheel in Garland, TX. It is a tricky layout with lots of chances to lose balls. We’ve all played there before, and the course was in very good shape.
THE ROUND
While the Lacey Longhorns played very consistently, the Spackler Sooners started out a bit more up and down, but in this format that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We drew first blood on the third with a birdie, a few more skins on five, and after nine holes OU were up by nine.
Driving to the 10:th tee Chris and I agreed that we had to win the next skin soon, to determine the match, or the pressure would mount exponentially with every hole. After a couple of tied holes we are able to wrap up the contest on the 12:th hole. We get a couple more on the 14:th, and now our goal is to keep a clean sheet.
We start talking out loud about this prospect on the 16:th tee, and all of a sudden the contest gets more heated. We all concentrate very hard on the last couple of holes, but neither of us is able to gain an advantage. Two well played pars split 18, and the final score is 14-0.
We in red obviously think this score will be repeated in October.
THE LINE OF THE DAY
We’ve just made a mess of the 14 hole, and we’re having to wait to hit our next tee shots. As the sound of empty beer cans and ball sleeves lands loudly in the trashcan Chris says “I don’t know why we’re not playing better”. Obviously, you had to be there.
THE AFTERMATH
Of course, then OU goes and loses to BYU in the first game of the season, and our ability to rub it in goes out the window.

>State of my game

>I started this golf season back in March, as soon as I was cleared to start swinging after my back surgery. I wanted to take the game more seriously, because I know it’s a lot more enjoyable when you play it well. I had a few goals in mind, some of which were general in nature, and some of which were quite specific.

With the exception of a period in which I was travelling a lot and work was getting in the way I’ve been able to practice just about every other day, alternating putting, short game, and buckets.

The graph came out of Golf Digest, and I think Mashie submitted it to the site several months ago. I found it very interesting to compare my goals to how different handicap levels perform in the various categories.

Since it’s now been six months, I thought it might be time to take a look at these goals and see where I’m at:
“HIT THE FAIRWAY MORE OFTEN THAN NOT”
There’s just something beautiful about a well hit drive bounding down the fairway. Most of the time I’m happy just to know where my ball IS after I hit it. I bought a new driver in the spring and I have been spending a lot of time working on it. In some of my recent rounds I’ve hit 9/14 and 10/14 fairways, so I feel like this is coming around.
By the way, I count the first cut of rough as fairway. On some of the courses I play you’ll get a better lie from there than the fairway anyway.
“HIT THE GREEN MORE OFTEN THAN NOT (WHEN HAVING A CLEAR SHOT FROM 150 IN, OR FROM A TEE BOX)”
My short irons have always been my strong suite, and they still are. I hit my 8-iron from about 155, and I’ve been striking the ball very well in this range and in. On a recent round I hit 10 out of 15 in this category. Two of the misses were only a few yards off the green, and two misses were good shots with the wrong club, so I really only had one poor shot out of 15 opportunities.
On a recent visit to TopGolf I hit 18 out of 20 greens in a range from 50 yards to 160 yards.
“GET UP AND DOWN MORE OFTEN THAN NOT (FROM A REASONABLE LIE CLOSE TO THE GREEN)”
As I look at the chart above it’s clear that this goal is quite advanced, and it has also turned out to be my biggest challenge. I’m getting better, and I think I will continue getting better as my putting improves, but I still have a long ways to go.
“NO MORE THAN TWO THREE-PUTTS PER 18 HOLES, AND NO MORE THAN 36 PUTTS OVERALL”
Another weak area, mostly due to my poor long putting. I think I’ve made some breakthroughs, and look forward to trying them on the course again. In my last round I had two three-putts and 32 overall, which was by far my best putting all year. Before this round my lowest putt-count was 37, and I had never had less than four three-putts.
“SCORE BETTER THAN BOGEY GOLF ON AVERAGE”
My last four rounds have all been just a few strokes above bogey golf, on different courses. I’m quite consistent, and I think I’m very close to meeting this goal. I think a lot of my challenges here are mental, as I start thinking about my score with several holes to go, and I’ve had several instances of poor play towards the end.
HANDICAP
I did not have a specific handicap goal, because I didn’t know how the calculations worked here in the States. Right now my TGS handicap is about 20, and in my buddy’s handicap engine I’m a 15. I’ve set myself a goal to be a single-digit handicap player by the end of next season.
OVERALL
I’m just having a blast getting better. Playing golf under any circumstances is wonderful, but when you’re hitting it well it’s quite divine. I love going to the range, whether it’s hitting drives or putting or pitching, and that will definitely help me stick with it.