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Opinion & Analysis

The great American hope: LPGA Kia Classic Preview

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By Vince Robitaille

GolfWRX Contributor

If one were to inspect the future of the game, said one would quickly notice that, if the Eastern promises hadn’t been fulfilled already – a rather self-explanatory case could be made that it has been for quite some time, if only, by quickly glancing at the current Rolex World Rankings – they shall be in a fortnight. As a matter of fact, two lone Americans are currently part of the top 10 amateur players and the uproar-inducing duo that shall take the LPGA by storm, come 2014 – date at which Yours Truly expects them to turn professional, that is, of course, if the Reggie Bush-type investigation presently being led by the USGA, doesn’t accelerate the process – namely the Jutanugarn sisters, are amongst the army of Australasians and South Africans individuals who, in all likelihood, shall cement the need for an adjustment of the current Solheim Cup format, no matter how exalting it might have proved itself last summer; I did pull off my best Severiano impressions upon witnessing Pettersen’s monstrous putt on 17th and Hedwall’s comeback halve.  While the power balance will continue to shift towards dawn, the real question is not who will make up the top 25, but who has what it takes to put a halt to the seemingly inevitable transformation of the LPGA into a yearlong chase for the No. 2 spot on the money list. The Kia Classic providing us with the first full field of the season, a quick flyover of its American offerings shall enable us to isolate who might just, keeping up with our previous installation’s gunslinger allegory, have enough bullets to take down sharpshooting Yani Tseng.

While the natural choice, nowadays, seems to point towards Evian Masters winner, 17-year-old Lexi Thompson, Yours Truly would shift his gaze, when it comes to identifying the Great American Hope, towards a Florida-native making her return to action five weeks after literally bursting through the front door, reminding everyone of the tremendous upsides and potential she showcased through her amateur days, in a clutch performance; landing her first professional victory in Melbourne. Ergo, I’d invite you to pay attention to the other blonde bomber this weekend, Jessica Korda.

Taking our proverbial stroll in the desert to wonder and ponder today, the omission of the European up-and-comers, especially when it comes to the person of Caroline Hedwall who so happens to, arguably, be one of the best ball strikers on the LPGA  Tour already as well as our early pick to win the Ricoh British Open, might appear as a fallacy. That being said, this finds itself an outlook on the potential No. 1s amongst the bearers of the Old Glory and, concurrently, on the biggest attraction this weekend as all those deemed “plausible messiahs” of American golf are in the field; Michelle Wie’s days at Stanford coming to an end, as we speak, only adds to this proposition.

Reverting back to this week’s confrontation – one that shall, over the years, define both former Curtis Cup’s teammates’ careers – and, concordantly, to our search for the would-be sheriff of the West, starting with the most mitigated aspect, i.e. their game, seems adequate to us; keeping the intangibles for later.

Even though stroke average is a probant indicative of a golfer’s consistency, it doesn’t land itself well to the evaluation of potential; for instance, while the Stacy Lewises and Morgan Pressels of the golfing world will unswervingly average around 1.5 wins a season throughout their careers, it is fairly obvious that their limitations render them no shot at overtaking Tseng. Athleticism shall then be at the forefront of the prerequisites and, bearing that in mind, the need for a bombing and gauging thoroughbred, preferably with high/high flight characteristics, makes itself felt. In that aspect, setting aside Lincicome and Hurst who’ve had time to, well, plateau, Korda who could be aptly and literally described as a thoroughbred, gets the nod over Thompson. While the cadet of the American duo can still move the ball about a kilometer, the eldest can thump it a country mile and exhibited flashes, both in the Amateur ranks as well as through her breakout party Down Under, of a spectacular long game. It’s that showcase of red-zone prowess that has us grinning at the idea of par-5 and US Open-type par-4 domination. Both teenagers having what we could describe as still immature putters, a slight edge could be given to Thompson when it comes to wedge play and the overall short game.

Moving on to bigger issues, specifically intangibles and marketability, Korda answered numerous questions on February 12, many of which had been left lingering ever since her disappointing performance in the 2010 US Women’s Amateur final; a letdown that saw the Cox Trophy slip through her hands and wind up in the most receptive ones of, then underdog and subsequent back-to-back champion, Danielle Kang. While the expression “disappointing” might seem overly harsh, Korda, up until the ultimate match, had demonstrated a swashbuckling attitude, quite unassumingly brushing away any average effort on her part, only to better knock down additional nails in the respective coffins of her adversaries; such an attitude seemingly vanishing during the last 36 holes to make place for sub-par, in relation to her previous displays, ball striking and an apparently shrunken hole. A shaky first professional campaign in addition to a noticeable grind during the late stages of the Australian Open could have kept the case open, but that was before the clutch Korda of old came out all guns blazing on the 17th to get into a six-way playoff with prominent LPGA figures of which she’d dispose in two holes. Providing the world with the proof that she could pull through under pressure might not corroborate, de facto, the fact that she represents the great American hope, over the heralded Lexi Thompson who has accomplished the same feat last November, but her effervescent personality and ease in front of the camera – see her 11 minutes on the Golf Channel’s Morning Drive, amongst others – will. Predicting that Jessica Korda will rapidly turn into the LPGA’s flagship spokesperson, the sponsors’ darling and the crowd favorite, seems far from ludicrous at this point; predicting that she’s first in line to overtake Yani Tseng has World no.1 … Well, the hunt starts tomorrow in Carlsbad, Calif.

Click here for more discussion in the “LPGA/Ladies Golf Talk” forum.

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2 Comments

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  1. Pingback: Head Start: LPGA LOTTE Championship Preview | Augusta Blog

  2. Tom Zeiders

    Mar 23, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    I tried to read this article twice and gave up. One sentence contains 10 commas and another 9. Uggh, I give up.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

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There is a sense that this is the week where the 2018 PGA Tour season truly gets underway. An iconic golf course playing host to a world class field, which includes none other than Tiger Woods. Last year, Jon Rahm won the event in sparkling fashion, draining a monster eagle putt on the 18th green to take the title by three strokes at 13-under par.

With a top field usually on show here, it’s no surprise that the role of honor list is so impressive. Besides Tiger Woods having won the event a remarkable seven times, the likes of Snedeker (twice), Jason Day and Bubba Watson have all won here in recent years — the only surprise victor in the past seven editions being Scott Stallings in 2014. With this being his first event of 2018, Tiger will grab the headlines no matter what happens, and I think every golf fan will be fascinated to see how the 14-time major winner will perform on a course he dearly loves.

The event is played over two courses on the opening two days, Torrey Pines (South) and Torrey Pines (North) before switching to the South Course for the final two days. The South Course is a real test, measuring more than 7,500 yards and usually with thick rough. The shorter North Course offers up the best opportunity for scoring, which adds pressure to each player’s solo trip here during the week. There is even a difference on the greens, as the South Course uses Poa Annua while the North Course has Bentgrass.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Jon Rahm 8/1
  • Rickie Fowler 12/1
  • Hideki Matsuyama 14/1
  • Justin Rose 16/1
  • Jason Day 18/1
  • Tiger Woods 22/1
  • Marc Leishman 22/1

On such a long golf course such as the South Course here at Torrey Pines, there is no doubt that length off the tee is important. But the ability to find the fairway is equally so. It was a surprise that up until last year Justin Rose (16/1, DK Price $10,600 ) had never displayed his best golf at Torrey Pines, but a T4 in 2017 shows that at long last he may have finally figured out the course.

The usually reliable Rose ranks sixth in this field for Strokes Gained Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds and third in Strokes Gained Total. With limited birdie opportunities available, certainly on the South Course, I expect Par-5 scoring to be crucial this week… and Justin is a player with the ability to eat up Par 5’s. He sits fourth in Strokes Gained on Par 5’s in this field over his last 24 rounds. Performance on Par 4’s in the range of 450-500 yards should also prove vital with both courses containing five holes each in this range. Rose is 15th in Efficiency on holes of this length and sixth in Strokes Gained on all par 4’s in his last 24 rounds.

Rose made an important birdie on his final hole last Friday to make the cut in Abu-Dhabi, and in doing so seemed to shake off some of the rust in his game over the weekend. The current Olympic Champion shot bogey-free rounds of 67 and 69 over the weekend, giving him good momentum for this week. Rose finished ninth in Driving Distance last week and 10th in Driving Accuracy. If he can replicate that sort of form with the driver, then he should be able to give himself an excellent chance come Sunday afternoon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is an event which Tony Finau (35/1, DK Price $8,700 ) seemingly loves. In three appearances, he’s improved each time with finishes of  T24, T18 and most recently T4. His reliable Tee to Green game is a key factor behind his joy at Torrey Pines. Finau ranks 11th in this field in Strokes Gained Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds and ninth in Strokes Gained Approach. On the important 450-500 yard Par-4 range, he sits 13th in Efficiency over the same period. The long hitter also excels on the Par 5’s. In his last 24 rounds, he ranks third in this field for Strokes Gained on Par 5’s. As usual with Finau, the question mark surrounds his putting. But he seems to be a little more comfortable on the greens at Torrey Pines, where he has gained strokes over the field on the greens in all three previous visits here.

If you’re looking for reliability in your DraftKings lineups this week, then it’s hard to look past Charles Howell III (45/1, DK Price $8,300 ). In his last five trips to Torrey Pines, the Augusta native has finishes of T9-T37-T5-T16-T2 with a career Strokes Gained Total of +39 here. DraftKings players using Charles this week will also be glad to know that he has never missed the cut at this event in 15 visits. He scores very well on the key statistics for the week, suggesting another high finish may be in the offing.

Howell III is fourth in this field over his last 24 rounds on Par 4’s between 450-500 yards, while he’s 19th in Strokes Gained on Par 5’s in this same period. He is also trending upward in 2018, finishing T32 at the Sony Open and T20 at CareerBuilder last week. It would hardly be a shock to see Charles post his best finish of 2018 at a site he loves, and if he is ever to win again it would probably be less surprising to see him do it at Torrey Pines than anywhere else.

In terms of value down the board, J.J. Spaun (90/1, DK Price $7,500) jumped out right away at being a little undervalued this week. It seems like Torrey Pines is a good fit for the California native. Last year he finished an impressive T9 on his debut. It also seems like Spaun is hitting the ball better than ever at the moment. Over his last 24 rounds, he ranks ninth in Strokes Gained Tee to Green, seventh in Ball Striking, fourth in Approaching the Green and seventh in Strokes Gained Total — excellent statistics that he will be eager to see manifest into positive results soon. Spaun is sixth in Par 4’s ranging between 450-500 yards over his last 24 rounds and is also very competent on Par 5’s, where he sits 21st over the same period. At a price of $7,500there seems to be good value in adding Spaun to your DraftKings line up this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Justin Rose 16/1, DK Price $10,600
  • Tony Finau 35/1, DK Price $8,700
  • Charles Howell III 45/1, DK Price $8,300
  • J.J. Spaun 90/1, DK Price $7,500
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Opinion & Analysis

More Distance Off the Tee (Part 1 of 3): Upper Body Training

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If you read my previous story, Tour Pro’s Revealed: 3 Tests to See How You Stack Up, you are well aware of the fact that improving your upper body power is one of three sure ways to increase your distance off the tee. If you have not, I strongly suggest you check it out to gain some context about what is to follow and what is critical for your golf game.

Through our testing and the testing done of many of the industry leaders in golf performance, we have found that the ability of golfers to generate “push power” from their upper body is critical to maximize efficiency and speed in the swing. The way that you can test your power is simple. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Keeping your back on the chair, chest pass with both hands a 6-pound medicine ball as far as you can. When you compare this to your vertical jump as described in More Distance Off the Tee (Part 2 of 3): Lower Body Training Plan, the number in feet you threw the ball should be relatively close to your jump in inches.

If you threw the ball and it went 5 feet, you have an upper body power problem. If you threw the ball 25 feet and jumped only 14 inches, your upper body is not the problem — you probably need to focus on your lower body. It’s not rocket science once you understand what you are looking for. What can be challenging is knowing how to improve your power once you identify a problem. That is where the rest of this article comes in. What I am going to outline below are three of the most common upper body power exercises that we use with our amateur, senior and professional golfers.

The key with any power training exercise is to make sure you are as rested as possible between sets so that you can be as explosive as possible for the repetitions. Try not to do more than 6 repetitions in a set to assure that each one is as fast and explosive as possible.

Med Ball Chest Pass on Wall

This is one of the most basic exercises there is for developing upper body push power. Make sure your feet are about shoulder-width apart and don’t be afraid to use your legs to help maximize the punishment you deliver to against the wall!

Med Ball Wall Ball

Watching the video, you may be scratching you head and wondering why this is in the upper body power article when clearly the athlete is using his legs. The reason is that in the golf swing, power starts with the legs.

Med Ball Sky Chest Throws

This one is simple. Laying on your back, all you need to do is push the ball up as high as you can, catch it on the way down and the explode it back up into the air as high as you can. If you incorporate this exercise into your routine even once a week, you will see huge gains in your ability to swing faster if this was a problem area for you.

That being said, power creation requires not only speed but also strength development. It is also important that you have a solid strength program to increase your ability to generate more force. While this is beyond the scope of this article, finding yourself a solid golf fitness expert will help you create your ideal program.

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Podcasts

GolfWRX Forum Member dpb5031 talks about the TaylorMade Twist Face Experience

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Forum member dpb5031 (aka Dewey) joins TG2 to talk about his Twist Face Experience at The Kingdom. Recently, him and 6 other GolfWRX Members went to TaylorMade HQ to get fit for new M3 and M4 drivers. Does Twist Face work? Dewey provides his answer.

Listen to the podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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