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Wunder: The Ryder Cup Awards

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What good is a team competition if you can’t identify the individuals who provided the greatest contributions to the cause?

I was very proud to be a golf fan this weekend and I am confident that the game is in better shape than it was a week ago. The festivities at Medinah were like taking in the Star Wars trilogy over a long weekend. There were heroes, villains, ups, downs, comedy, drama and so much else to satisfy our pallets. It was epic.

Sure the U.S. Team lost but we have not fielded a “team” like we did in 2012 in more than a decade. What I mean is although I’m certain the team unity has been there in past years, it was never as visible as it was at Medinah. We had a ball club out there this weekend — each man was fulfilling a duty in the best way he knew how. In the end, the score (which should have ended in a tie, but that’s another story) concluded with yet another European victory. But this time, I, as an American golf fan, was not left scratching my head wondering why. It was a three-day competition where a great horse came from the middle of the pack to beat another great horse. It’s actually very liberating to not have to point the finger at someone. All I have are accolades to give.

So without further ado, here are the winners:

TEAM EUROPE

Rookie of the week: Nicolas Colsaerts

A complete and utter no brainer. Not only was he the only rookie on the European side, he announced his Ryder Cup debut on Friday afternoon with seven birdies and an eagle against Tiger and Stricker. He seemed completely unphased by the pressure. He did, however, finish the week 1-3, but a year from now we won’t remember anything but his performance on Friday.

Comeback player: Sergio Garcia

The Spaniard lost his first two matches of the week. But from Saturday afternoon foursomes to the his singles victory over Jim Furyk, Sergio pulled out the two wins that in my opinion broke the Americans back. Like his mentor Seve Ballesteros, Garcia won without his best stuff just by treating each hole as its own unique match. It was inspiring to watch and further strengthened my feeling that Sergio is always an asset in these matches. He possesses that Ryder Cup X-Factor that our top American veterans don’t have.

MVP: Martin Kaymer

I’ll probably take a beating for this one for not acknowledging Ian Poulter, but let me say this — Kaymer made the second most pressure-packed putt in Ryder Cup history. He not only redeemed his countryman Bernhard Langer — he redeemed himself. Despite the many questions about the state his game, he put his head down and drilled a putt to win the Ryder Cup. Nothing he will ever do personally in the game will trump that. As the great Ty Webb said, “Don’t worry about this one, you miss it, we lose.” Enough said.

Honorable Mention: Jose Marie Olazabal

If you study the footage and watch Olie throughout these matches, his reaction was stoic. He was a brick wall and that energy, even in times of defeat, gives players a sense of security. He never looked panicked or even really affected by what was happening. Like a great field general he waited until the final outcome was revealed to express his emotion. It was brilliant. To have that confidence when you aren’t the one hitting the shots is impressive. If the outcome was different he would have taken a beating in the press, unfairly in my opinion.

TEAM USA

Rookie of the week: Keegan Bradley

Let’s identify what really happened for U.S. Golf this week — an American became a Ryder Cup team leader. With the smiles, fist pumps, bear hugs, passion and everything else, Keegan Bradley represented exactly what we want to see from our U.S. players. Granted, he lost on Sunday and squandered opportunities to become a golf immortal, but the fireworks he provided were awe inspiring. For the first time in a while, an American Ryder Cup player matched the energy of the crowd. Bradley allowed me to forget about the overall loss and appreciate the fact that we have an American that will energize us for years to come.

Comeback player: Phil Mickelson (via Keegan Bradley)

Phil was golf fan No. 1 this week. His play was up and down, but his enthusiasm and mentorship of Bradley was more than we could ask for. He took full advantage of his time with Bradley and rode the young stallion to a 3-0 team record. I agree he probably could have played on Saturday afternoon but his intentions were in the spirit of what was best for the team, a quality that gets looked over quite a bit with him. Phil has taken responsibility for the fact that his legacy on Tour is far more than victories in majors, it’s his ability to pass on his wisdom and enthusiasm to the younger guys that will carry it on. These young stars look to him to lead and he delivers. As a fan I thank him for that. It’s far more important to me than his record in these matches.

MVP: Dustin Johnson

DJ redeemed himself this week. After going 1-3 in Wales, he came back strong with a 3-0 record and holed a putt at the 17th hole on Saturday that at the time seemed to have the U.S. team on its way to victory. Although DJ isn’t the most emotional player, it was nice to see his reaction on No. 17. He had struggled all day and that putt forgave all previous sins. On Sunday his five-birdie victory over Nicolas Colsaerts provided the last bit of comfort U.S. fans would experience.

We kind of all won this week. It seemed like the Cup this year was three matches in one. Like great cinema we were privileged to watch great golf played with heart and a love of country. I hope this fire continues and I can’t wait until I get those goosebumps again. Like a pure golf shot off the center of the face, it’s those that keep us coming back for more.

Thanks boys. See you at Gleneagles in 2014.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

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Johnny Wunder is the Director of Original Content, Instagram Manager and Host of “The Gear Dive” Podcast for GolfWRX.com. He was born in Seattle, Wash., and grew up playing at Rainier G&CC. John is also a partner with The Traveling Picture Show Company having most recently produced JOSIE with Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner. In 1997 Johnny had the rare opportunity of being a clubhouse attendant for the Anaheim Angels. He now resides in Toronto, On with his wife and two sons. @johnny_wunder on IG

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In this episode of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with his good buddy Bryan LaRoche. They chat on life and do a deep dive into the drivers of 2020.

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

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The Wedge Guy: The 5 indisputable rules of bunker play

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I received a particularly interesting question this week from Art S., who said he has read all the tips about how to hit different sand shots, from different sand conditions, but it would be helpful to know why. Specifically, here’s what Art had to say:

“I recently found myself in a few sand traps in multiple lies and multiple degrees of wetness. I tried remembering all of the “rules” of how to stand, how much to open my club, how much weight to shift forward or back, etc. based on the Golf Channel but was hoping that you might be able to do a blog on the ‘why’ of sand play so that we can understand it rather than memorizing what to do. Is there any way you can discuss what the club is doing and why you open the club, open your stance, what you’re aiming for when you open up, and any other tips?”

Well, Art, you asked a very good question, so let’s try to cover the basics of sand play–the “geometry and physics” at work in the bunkers–and see if we can make all of this more clear for you.

First of all, I think bunkers are among the toughest of places to find your ball. We see the tour players hit these spectacular bunker shots every week, but realize that they are playing courses where the bunkers are maintained to PGA Tour standards, so they are pretty much the same every hole and every week. This helps the players to produce the “product” the tour is trying to deliver–excitement. Of course, those guys also practice bunker play every day.

All of us, on the other hand, play courses where the bunkers are different from one another. This one is a little firmer, that one a little softer. So, let me see if I can shed a little light on the “whys and wherefores” of bunker play.

The sand wedge has a sole with a downward/backward angle built into it – we call that bounce. It’s sole (no pun intended) function is to provide a measure of “rejection” force or lift when the club makes contact with the sand. The more bounce that is built into the sole of the wedge, the more this rejection force is applied. And when we open the face of the wedge, we increase the effective bounce so that this force is increased as well.

The most basic thing you have to assess when you step into a bunker is the firmness of the sand. It stands to reason that the firmer the texture, the more it will reject the digging effect of the wedge. That “rejection quotient” also determines the most desirable swing path for the shot at hand. Firmer sand will reject the club more, so you can hit the shot with a slightly more descending clubhead path. Conversely, softer or fluffier sand will provide less rejection force, so you need to hit the shot with a shallower clubhead path so that you don’t dig a trench.

So, with these basic principles at work, it makes sense to remember these “Five Indisputable Rules of Bunker Play”

  1. Firmer sand will provide more rejection force – open the club less and play the ball back a little to steepen the bottom of the clubhead path.
  2. Softer sand will provide less rejection force – open the club more and play the ball slighter further forward in your stance to create a flatter clubhead path through the impact zone.
  3. The ball will come out on a path roughly halfway between the alignment of your body and the direction the face is pointing – the more you open the face, the further left your body should be aligned.
  4. On downslope or upslope lies, try to set your body at right angles to the lie, so that your swing path can be as close to parallel with the ground as possible, so this geometry can still work. Remember that downhill slopes reduce the loft of the club and uphill slopes increase the loft.
  5. Most recreational golfers are going to hit better shots from the rough than the bunkers, so play away from them when possible (unless bunker play is your strength).

So, there you go, Art. I hope this gives you the basics you were seeking.

As always, I invite all of you to send in your questions to be considered for a future article. It can be about anything related to golf equipment or playing the game–just send it in. You can’t win if you don’t ask!

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Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Task to target

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