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Opinion & Analysis

Tiger v. Phil is more likely than ever at Oak Hill

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The 95th installment of the PGA Championship carries a number of intriguing story lines into Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, NY.

Will another “best without a major” candidate rid himself of the proverbial monkey like Adam Scott and Justin Rose did in 2013? Can Rory McIlroy rid himself of the criticisms, get his first win in a Nike hat and defend his PGA Championship crown? Will Shaun Micheel beat all odds and win again at Oak Hill?

Fascinating, yes, but let’s be realistic. What golf fans really want to talk about is Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Golf’s heavyweight contenders are both in top form for this year’s final major. The race for player of year has come down to Tiger and Phil, unless Adam Scott or Justin Rose can muster a second major championship victory.

Woods is coming off a rout at Firestone Country Club, where he won by seven shots against a stacked World Golf Championship field, set up by a 61 in Round 2. His five wins this year, however, come without a major.

Mickelson has three worldwide wins in 2013, including two wins across the pond in Scotland. His final-round 66 at the British Open at Muirfield proved historic, earning him a trophy that many golf fans thought he would never win — the Claret Jug.

phil

Since 2004, Tiger has won six major championships, while Phil has tallied five. The rivalry golf fans always wished for is coming to fruition, and it isn’t as one-sided as it was earlier in Tiger’s career.

When asked about his rivals, Tiger acknowledged on Monday that he’s always butted heads with Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Mickelson. On Mickelson specifically, he said, “When we have battled, it’s been in some big events, and we’ve shot some pretty good numbers together.”

With the top players seemingly converging on each other heading into the year’s final major, it’s a rivalry that’s becoming more like Palmer vs. Nicklaus by the day.

“In the last five or six years, I’ve had some pretty good success head-to-head and I feel like he brings out the best golf in me,” Mickelson said. “He’s a great motivator for me. He’s helped me work hard. He’s helped me put forth the effort to try to compete at the highest level year-in and year-out and I’ve loved competing against him.”

Mickelson said, when asked about whether he grows tired of being pitted against Tiger, “The goal is for me to play my best when he is playing his best.”

His words verbalize the thoughts of all golf fans, since Tiger said “hello world” in 1997. Golf fans want the world’s best, playing their best, to battle on golf’s biggest stages.

Tiger provided some further insight into the duel, or lack thereof:

“We’ve known each other since — started probably more in ’97 when I made the Ryder Cup team then. We’ve battled and we’ve gone head-to-head quite a few times. Not as much as people might think.”

They gave us a taste of it at Muirfield, with both of them in the hunt on the back nine on Sunday. Mickelson, however, with four birdies on the closing holes, removed the drama from the event by blowing out the field by three shots and beating Tiger by five.

stricker and woods

Tiger’s work with Sean Foley and the putting tips he continues to receive from Steve Stricker have his game as sharp as ever. Mickelson’s smarter approach off the tee has him in play consistently, and he’s been nothing short of magical on the greens in the last month.

Fire and ice are set to clash on the grounds at Oak Hill, and it’s something golf fans are desperately hoping for. Except this time around, unlike in years past, it’s more likely than ever.

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He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Gib

    Aug 11, 2013 at 1:02 am

    Well that was a total waste of space, time, and breath on a meaningless article, huh?

  2. Chris

    Aug 8, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    Ooh yeah, bomb and gouge but can’t make a putt. That’s the type if golf I love to watch… Yawn!

  3. J

    Aug 7, 2013 at 7:12 am

    Bubba and Dustin….

    Really.

  4. Frank

    Aug 6, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    I think the speculation of Tiger vs Phil is greater than Tiger vs Phil. Tiger likes to get the lead early and play to par in the final round, holding onto the lead to win. Phil now plays the conservative, anti-hero, smart game. Both players know what score they will need to post on the final day to win and they will play to that number. No gamesmanship, intimidation or extra pressure.

    Tiger isn’t going to stick the pin on the shot following Phil’s shot because he knows he can’t afford a bogey. Phil isn’t going to play the low percentage because he knows it won’t give him the number he needs.

    Give me Bubba and Dustin Johnson in the final round pairing. That’s fun golf.

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Opinion & Analysis

The differences between good and bad club fitters—and they’re not what you think

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Club fitting is still a highly debated topic, with many golfers continuing to believe they’re just not good enough to be fit. That couldn’t be further from the truth, but it’s a topic for another day.

Once you have decided to invest in your game and equipment, however, the next step is figuring out where to get fit, and working with a fitter.  You see, unlike professionals in other industries, club fitting “certification” is still a little like the wild west. While there are certification courses and lesson modules from OEMs on how to fit their specific equipment, from company to company, there is still some slight variance in philosophy.

Then there are agnostic fitting facilities that work with a curated equipment matrix from a number of manufacturers. Some have multiple locations all over the country and others might only have a few smaller centralized locations in a particular city. In some cases, you might even be able to find single-person operations.

So how do you separate the good from the bad? This is the million-dollar question for golfers looking to get fit. Unless you have experience going through a fitting before or have a base knowledge about fitting, it can feel like an intimidating process. This guide is built to help you ask the right questions and pay attention to the right things to make sure you are getting the most out of your fitting.

The signs of a great fitter

  • Launch monitor experience: Having some type of launch monitor certification isn’t a requirement but being able to properly understand the interpret parameters is! A good fitter should be able to explain the parameters they are using to help get the right clubs and understand how to tweak specs to help you get optimized. The exact labeling may vary depending on the type of launch monitor but they all mostly provide the same information….Here is an example of what a fitter should be looking for in an iron fitting: “The most important parameter in an iron fitting” 
  • Communication skills: Being able to explain why and how changes are being made is a telltale sign your fitter is knowledgeable—it should feel like you are learning something along the way. Remember, communication is a two-way street so also being a good listener is another sign your working with a good fitter.
  • Transparency: This involves things like talking about price, budgets, any brand preferences from the start. This prevents getting handed something out of your price range and wasting swings during your fit.
  • A focus on better: Whether it be hitting it further and straighter with your driver or hitting more greens, the fitting should be goal-orientated. This means looking at all kinds of variables to make sure what you are getting is actually better than your current clubs. Having a driver you hit 10 yards farther isn’t helpful if you don’t know where it’s going….A great fitter that knows their stuff should quickly be able to narrow down potential options to 4-5 and then work towards optimizing from there.
  • Honesty and respect: These are so obvious, I shouldn’t even have to put it on the list. I want to see these traits from anybody in a sales position when working with customers that are looking to them for knowledge and information…If you as the golfer is only seeing marginal gains from a new product or an upgrade option, you should be told that and given the proper information to make an informed decision. The great fitters, and I’ve worked with a lot of them, will be quick to tell a golfer, “I don’t think we’re going to beat (X) club today, maybe we should look at another part of your bag where you struggle.” This kind of interaction builds trust and in the end results in happy golfers and respected fitters.

The signs of a bad fitter

  • Pushing an agenda: This can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Whether it be a particular affinity towards certain brands of clubs or even shafts. If you talk to players that have all been to the same fitter and their swings and skill levels vary yet the clubs or brands of shafts they end up with (from a brand agnostic facility) seem to be eerily similar it might be time to ask questions.
  • Poor communications: As you are going through the fitting process and warming up you should feel like you’re being interviewed as a way to collect data and help solve problems in your game. This process helps create a baseline of information for your fitter. If you are not experiencing that, or your fitter isn’t explaining or answering your questions directly, then there is a serious communication problem, or it could show lack of knowledge depth when it comes to their ability.
  • Lack of transparency: If you feel like you’re not getting answers to straightforward questions or a fitter tells you “not to worry about it” then that is a big no-no from me.
    Side note: It is my opinion that golfers should pay for fittings, and in a way consider it a knowledge-gathering session. Of course, the end goal for the golfer is to find newer better fitting clubs, and for the fitter to sell you them (let’s be real here), but you should never feel the information is not being shared openly.
  • Pressure sales tactics: It exists in every industry, I get it, but if you pay for your fitting you are paying for information, use it to your advantage. You shouldn’t feel pressured to buy, and it’s always OK to seek out a knowledgeable second opinion (knowledgeable being a very key word in that sentence!).  If you are getting the hard sell or any combination of the traits above, there is a good chance you’re not working with the right fitter for you.

Final thoughts

Great fitters with great reputations and proper knowledge have long lists, even waiting lists, of golfers waiting to see them. The biggest sign of a great fitter is a long list of repeat customers.

Golf is a game that can be played for an entire lifetime, and just like with teachers and swing coaches, the good ones are in it for the long haul to help you play better and build a rapport—not just sell you the latest and greatest (although we all like new toys—myself included) because they can make a few bucks.

Trust your gut, and ask questions!

 

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Podcasts

TG2: TaylorMade P7MB & P7MC Review | Oban CT-115 & CT-125 Steel Shafts

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Took the new TaylorMade P-7MB and P-7MC irons out on the course and the range. The new P-7MB and P-7MC are really solid forged irons for the skilled iron players. Great soft feel on both, MB flies really low, and the MC is more mid/low launch. Oban’s CT 115 & 125 steel shafts are some of the most consistent out there. Stout but smooth feel with no harsh vibration at impact.

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

The Wedge Guy: Improve your transition for better wedge play

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In my opinion, one of the most misunderstood areas of the golf swing is the transition from backswing to downswing, but I don’t read much on this in the golf publications. So, here’s my take on the subject.

Whether it’s a short putt, chip or pitch, half wedge, full iron or driver swing, there is a point where the club’s motion in the backswing has to come to a complete stop–even if for just a nano-second–and reverse direction into the forward swing. What makes this even more difficult is that it is not just the club that is stopping and reversing direction, but on all but putts, the entire body from the feet up through the body core, shoulders, arms and hands.

In my observation, most golfers have a transition that is much too quick and jerky, as they are apparently in a hurry to generate clubhead speed into the downswing and through impact. But, just as you (hopefully) begin your backswing with a slow take-away from the ball, a proper start to the downswing is also a slower move, starting from this complete stop and building to maximum clubhead speed just past impact. If you will work on your transition, your ball striking and distance will improve, as will your accuracy on your short shots and putts. Let’s start there.

In your wedge play, your primary objective is to apply just the exact amount of force to propel the ball the desired distance. In order to do that, it makes sense to move the club slower, as that allows more precision. I like to think of the pendulum on a grandfather clock as a great guide to tempo and transition. As the weight goes back and forth, it comes to a complete stop at each end, and achieves maximum speed at the exact bottom of the arc. If you put that picture in your head when you chip and putt, you will develop a tempo that encourages a smooth transition at the end of the backswing.

The idea is to achieve a gradual acceleration from the end of the backswing to the point of impact, but for most golfers, this type of swing is likely much slower than yours is currently. I encourage you to not be in a hurry to force this acceleration, as that causes a quick jab with the hands, because the shoulder rotation and slight body rotation cannot move that quickly from its end-of-backswing rotation.

Here’s a drill to help you picture this kind of swing pace. Drawing on that grandfather clock visual, hold your wedge at the very end of the grip with two fingers, and get it moving like the clock pendulum–back and through. Watch the tempo and transition for a few moments, and then try to mimic that with your short or half swing tempo. No faster, no slower. You can even change how far you pull the club up to start this motion to see what happens to the pendulum tempo on longer swings.

An even better exercise is to have a friend hold a club in this manner right in front of you while you are practicing your chipping or pitching swing and try to “shadow” that motion with your swings. You will likely find that your transition is much too fast and jerky to give you the results you are after.

If you will practice this, I can practically guarantee your short-range transition will become really solid and repeatable. From there, it’s just a matter of extending the length of the swing to mid-range pitches, full short irons, mid-irons, fairway woods, and driver–all while feeling for that gradual transition that makes for great timing, sequencing, and tempo.

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