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Walker Cup Five named by USGA

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The United States Golf Association gave precious little notice that it planned to reveal half of its Walker Cup side for 2013 on Wednesday.

The media was alerted less than two weeks ago that John “Spider” Miller — the 1996 and 1999 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion — would be named to succeed two-time captain Jim Holtgrieve in 2015. Miller will captain the team at Royal Lytham (and again, one presumes, at Los Angeles country club in 2017.) No mention was made of the impending revelation of the first five members of Team USA 2013. And then, on Wednesday of U.S. Amateur Public Links/British Open week, the podium went live and the Walker Cup was the topic.

The Walker Cup, first contested in 1922, pits ten-man sides from GBI (Great Britain and Ireland) and the USA. The trophy is named for George Herbert Walker, ancestor of two U.S. Presidents and president of the USGA when the match was initiated. The biennial event will be contested at the National Golf Links of America in September, the 43rd playing of the match.

Never before have two teams so dominated division one college golf in the U.S. It was expected that Alabama and Cal-Berkeley would square off in the match-play final, until Illinois pulled off the upset of the top-ranked Bears in the semifinals (they lost to the Crimson Tide in the championship). Two players each from the Tide and the Bears were named to the USA Walker Cup team. Justin Thomas and Cory Whitsett will represent Alabama, while Max Homa and Michael Kim will carry the colors of California into battle. This quartet will be joined by Patrick Rodgers of Stanford, perhaps the hottest amateur golfer on the planet.

Michael Kim electrified the galleries at Merion golf club in Pennsylvania during the U.S. Open in June. Kim spent some time on the leaderboard before finishing as low amateur, tied for 17th overall. Patrick Rodgers competed in the John Deere Classic in July on the PGA Tour, where he made his first cut in a professional event. He shot in the 60s both weekend days and finish tied for 15th overall.

Cory Whitsett won the Northeast Amateur in Rhode Island in June, after completing his junior year. Whitsett stood out in match play (the format used in the Walker Cup) with three wins at the NCAA championships and a 3-0-1 record at the 2013 Palmer Cup, also a team match-play event.

Justin Thomas has not won an individual amateur event since the 2012 Jones Cup, but he did represent the USA at the 2012 World Amateur Team championship and did reach the semifinals of last year’s US Amateur championship.

Left off the team thus far are Bobby Wyatt of the University of Alabama and Michael Weaver of Cal-Berkeley. Both are in the thick of the race for one of the final three spots designated for the under-25 set. In January, the USGA announced that a minimum of two spots would be reserved for mid-amateurs, players over the age of 25. During the last two Walker Cup matches, Nathan Smith has carried the torch for the older generation, as did Trip Kuehne and George Zahringer before him. The USGA suggested that the presence of wizened competitors matters as much as a win, yet failed to name either selection this week.

Smith is expected to be named to the team in August, given his success in previous competitions and his stature as the only four-time USGA Mid-Amateur champion. Since another slot is up for grabs, many over-25 competitors have registered for events like the Northeast, the Sunnehanna and the Porter Cup, hoping to catch the eyes of Captain Holtgrieve and the selection committee.

The USGA typically names its U.S. Amateur champions to the team, so the remainder of the team is not expected to be named until that tournament concludes in mid-August. The winners of the upcoming Porter Cup and Western Amateur will certainly make a case for their own candidacies.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: The best drill in golf (throwing the club)

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If you are struggling with weight shift, clearing your hips, or have issues freeing up your golf swing, then what you want to do is start chucking that golf club. No joke! In this podcast, we will explain how to properly throw the golf club from a safe area and the results will be absolutely transformational.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

Ways to Win: A New No. 1 – How Justin Thomas overcame a poor putting performance

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In the final tuneup before the PGA Championship in San Francisco, many of the world’s best teed it up at Memphis’ TPC Southwind in the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational. The final day showcased a stacked leaderboard and plenty of volatility, but in the end, it was Justin Thomas who came from four back to win for the third time this year. This was a quick bounceback after a letdown at The Memorial just a few weeks ago. Winning on the PGA Tour certainly takes stellar play and, typically, a little luck like Thomas’ pulled drive on 15 that skirted off a cart path, over a bridge and into prime position for a late birdie. Had that tee ball found the hazard instead, this article would likely be about Brooks Koepka and his late charge.

Golf is a game of misses and taking advantage of good breaks. That is not to take away from JT’s week of stellar ball striking. He finished the week first in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and second in Strokes Gained Approach. That’s no surprise for the new number one in the world. What is surprising is how poorly Thomas putted throughout the week. It is extremely rare for a PGA Tour winner to lose strokes to the field with the putter, but that is exactly what Thomas did.

In Ways to Win, it is rare that we highlight Short Game as a differentiating factor for winners. That is typically because to excel in the short game, one has to miss quite a few greens. When you miss greens, it’s hard to score. However, Justin Thomas was able to consistently get himself out of difficult situations, minimize damage, and turn bogeys into pars throughout his four rounds.

If you want to be an elite player, you can’t do it with your short game alone. It sure comes in handy on those off days, though. Just how good was Thomas’ short game? He finished fourth for the week in Strokes Gained Around the Green and got up and down inside 75 yards more than 80 percent of the time (including several clutch up and downs late on Sunday). His touch was particularly crucial, given that his putter wasn’t really cooperating.

Again, it is very rare for a PGA Tour winner to lose strokes with the flatstick. Typically the winner is the best putter out of the best ball strikers, but not so this week. Thomas only three-putted twice for the week. However, he lost strokes to the field from three out of nine distance buckets that we analyzed using V1 Game’s putting breakdown.

In four other buckets, he was almost “net zero” in strokes gained with the putter. He only gained strokes with the putter from inside six feet. Making short putts is certainly a big key to golfing success. That is why short misses are highlighted in V1 Game’s post-round analysis: missing short putts is a quick way to compound errors. Thomas is not an elite putter by any means, but he is typically solid in the clutch.

V1 Game makes it easy to keep track of personal bests and track progress in a tournament. Any stat that the PGA Tour gives can be recreated with V1 Game. Here are some quick stats for Thomas’ week using V1 Game’s Personal Bests feature:

Total Score: 267
Best Round: 65
Worst Round: 70
Longest Drive: 347 yds
Longest Holeout: 28 ft
Most consecutive holes without a bogey: 24
Scrambling Streak: 9 in a row
Holes without a 3 putt: 20
Most birdies in a round: 6

Thomas certainly played well when it mattered, resisting the urge to look at a scoreboard throughout the final round and focusing on the job at hand. His patience paid off with his 13th victory in a young career. Short game play is a fantastic equalizer and a great tool for any golfer’s bag. However, Thomas really separates himself with ball striking.

The best way to improve your short game is to miss fewer greens, like JT. For most amateurs, short game practice should focus on eliminating mistakes, such as “two-chips” when you do miss the green. Once you can consistently get on the green and have a putt to get up and down, focus should shift to the long game. Tee to Green play is where the game’s best separate themselves from the weekend warriors.

V1 Game can help you with each of these items.

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On Spec

On Spec: Talking Kirkland wedge, LPGA Tour, and teased irons from TaylorMade & Mizuno

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In this episode of On Spec, host Ryan talks about the recently discovered Kirkland Signature wedges on the USGA Conforming list, as well as what recently spotted TaylorMade and Mizuno irons may have in store
Also with the LPGA Tour back in action, Ryan also discussed why it is a good idea to check out how LPGA players gap their bags compared to players on the PGA Tour.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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