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Fantasy Preview: 2018 Genesis Open

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The final stop of the West Coast Swing takes us to the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club, a historic and challenging golf course that measures more than 7,300 yards with thick rough. It should come as no surprise that long hitters such as Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson have excelled here recently; Riviera is a ball strikers paradise that demands length off the tee and excellent long iron play for success.

Seven of the 11 Par 4’s measure more than 450 yards, while the two Par 5’s on the back 9 can only be reached by the longer hitters. The driveable Par-4 10th hole should offer up lots of entertainment, with both eagles and double bogeys (or worse) very much in play. Last year, Dustin Johnson finally broke his duck at Riviera, running away with victory. He posted 17-under par to win by 5 strokes over Scott Brown and Thomas Pieters.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Dustin Johnson 5/1
  • Rory Mcilroy 12/1
  • Jordan Spieth 12/1
  • Justin Thomas 18/1
  • Phil Mickelson 22/1
  • Paul Casey 25/1
  • Tommy Fleetwood 28/1

Boasting an impressive field, it may come as a bit of a surprise to see Dustin Johnson (5/1, DK Price $11,900) this much shorter in price than the likes of Rory Mcilroy, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas this week. Ordinarily I would agree, but this week has a different feel to it. As far as courses go, Riviera is tailor made for Dustin. The only surprise when it comes to the World No. 1 is that he has only managed to claim victory here once so far in his career. In the last four editions of this event, he has finished 2nd, T2, 4th and 1st.

“It’s such a good golf course and there’s really not much trouble,” Johnson said. “It’s just a golf course where you have to hit good shots. You’ve got to control your golf ball, you’ve got to hit it in the right spots. The first time I ever came here as a rookie on tour, I just loved this and I felt like it was a place that really suited my game.”

While the other big names have struggled in recent weeks, particularly on the greens, Johnson’s only issue is that he’ll feel he should have won all three of his official PGA Tour events so far this season instead of only one. Johnson leads the field in Strokes Gained Off the Tee and Ball Striking over his past 12 rounds, and he also leads the field in proximity to the hole from the important 175-200 yard range over his past 24 rounds. He’s 2nd in this field for Strokes Gained on Par 5’s over his last 24 rounds, and he has the lowest scoring average on the PGA Tour this season (68.716).

Simply put, the best player in the world is going to a course that suits his game better than any other. Over the last five editions of this event, Johnson has a positive Strokes Gained Total of over 52 strokes. That’s 17 strokes more than K.J. Choi, who is in second place on the list. The potential is there for Dustin to dominate this event for the foreseeable future.

Last week’s missed opportunity at Pebble Beach may only serve as more motivation for Johnson, too. He bounced back after throwing away the WGC-HSBC Championship at the back end of last year by lapping the field at his opening event of 2018, the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That could be a good omen for the South Carolina native. Having now established himself as the best player in the world, the defending champion deserves to be the prohibitive favorite this week.

Should you be brave enough to oppose Dustin and the other market leaders, you’ll be rewarded with bigger prices than usual for players down the board. Charley Hoffman (100/1, DK Price $ 7,400) stands out at a three-figure price, although after withdrawing last week with a back injury he comes with a buyer-beware warning. But we’ve already seen the unpredictability of back injuries this year — Jason Day pulled out of the Wednesday Pro-Am at Torrey Pines before going on to win the event in Monday playoff. You should take the risk this week with the value in Hoffman’s price.

Hoffman is 28th in Strokes Gained Off the Tee and 24th in Strokes Gained Approaching the Green over his past 12 rounds. While these aren’t spectacular statistics, they are solid numbers considering that good execution in both areas will be much needed in order to achieve this week. Charley is also 6th in Proximity to the hole over his last 12 rounds and 17th in Strokes Gained on Par 5’s over the same period. All parts of his game are seemingly very solid before an event that demands consistency.

The Californian didn’t have a great record at Riviera before last year, with only one previous Top-20 finish. But last year he finished T4, and he did so despite being the only player in the Top-20 to lose strokes on the tricky poa annua greens. With the confidence of returning to a place where he exhibited excellent ball striking last year, the quotes of 100/1 look a little too big for Hoffman — should you be willing to take the risk on his back holding up.

And speaking of bad backs, Tiger Woods (45/1) is in the field this week. It’s just his second official start on the PGA Tour in 2018. In his first start, Tiger carded rounds of 72-71-70-72 to finish T23 at The Farmers Insurance Open. Woods, a 79-time PGA Tour winner, has never won at Riviera.

Recommended Plays

  • Dustin Johnson 5/1, DK Price $11,900
  • Charley Hoffman 100/1 DK Price $7,400
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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag

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Opinion & Analysis

Golf swing videos: What you absolutely need to know

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Let’s start with a game. Below are 5 different swing videos. I want you to study them and decide which of them is the best swing. Take your time, this is important…

Please, write your answer down. Which one was it?

Now, I am going to tell you a little secret; they are all the exact same swing filmed simultaneously from 5 various positions. JM1 is on the hand line but higher, JM2 is on the hand line but lower, JM3 is on the foot line, JM4 is on the hand line and JM5 is on the target line. Same swing, very different results!

So, what did we learn? Camera angle has an enormous impact on the way the swing looks.

“If you really want to see what is going on with video, it is crucial to have the camera in the right position,” said Bishops Gate Director of Instruction and Top 100 teacher Kevin Smeltz. “As you can see, if it is off just a little it makes a significant difference.”

According to PGA Tour Coach Dan Carraher: “Proper camera angles are extremely important, but almost more important is consistent camera angles. If you’re going to compare swings they need to be shot from the same camera angles to make sure you’re not trying to fix something that isn’t really a problem. Set the camera up at the same height and distance from the target line and player every time. The more exact the better.”

For high school players who are sending golf swing videos to college coaches, the content of the swing video is also very important. You have 5-15 seconds to impress the coach, so make sure you showcase the most impressive part of your game. For example, if you bomb it, show some drivers and make sure the frame is tight to demonstrate your speed/athleticism. Likewise, if you have a great swing but not a whole lot of power, start the video with a 5 or 6 iron swing to showcase your move. Either way, show coaches your strengths, and make sure to intrigue them!

Now that you have something that represents your skills, you need to consider how to format it so coaches are most likely to open it. I would recommend uploading the swings to YouTube and including a link in the email; a link allows the coach to simply click to see the video, rather than having to mess with opening any specific program or unknown file.

When formatting the email, always lead with your best information. For example, if you want a high-end academic school and have 1550 on the SAT lead with that. Likewise, if you have a powerful swing, lead with the YouTube link.

Although these tips do not guarantee responses, they will increase your odds!

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Jason Day’s shoulder: More concerning than it seems?

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If you watched The Players Championship last weekend, you probably saw Jason Day tweak his shoulder on the 16th hole on Sunday. He addressed the injury in his post-round press conference and it caught my attention. Check out this video of the press conference to hear the entire clip.

A few things about what he said stuck out to me:

  • “Every now and then it happens where my shoulder feels like it pops out, but it’s like more of a sting”
  • Feeling a “pop” and “sting” in his lead (left) shoulder
  • Pain is usually during the transition from the top of the backswing to the downswing
  • He’s been doing shoulder exercises to “stay loose”

Just by watching Jason Day’s swing, it seems pretty evident that he is a hypermobile athlete. This simply means that his joints tend to be naturally looser, enabling him to achieve the tremendous positions he does in his swing. This can become problematic, however, when hypermobility becomes instability. Instability of the shoulder can lead to recurrent and frequent subluxations and/or dislocations of the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint.

Shoulder Injuries in Golfers

Photo Credit: Arrow PT

Shoulder injuries account for 8-18 percent of all golf-related injuries. The most common shoulder injuries to the lead shoulder are posterior instability and acromioclavicual (AC) joint injury. Both of these injuries tend to be painful at the top of the backswing when the lead arm is in near-maximal horizontal adduction (reaching across your body). This position creates a compressive force through the AC Joint, which may cause pain.

Maximal horizontal adduction also places stress on the posterior capsule of the shoulder. During the transition from the top of the backswing to the downswing, the hips and trunk begin to rotate towards the target. In elite golfers, the arms tend to lag behind, creating a tremendous amount of torque. This can lead to something termed the “adduction stretch” in the swing when the arm bone contacts the rib cage and the humeral head exerts a posterior force. Repeated over thousands of times, this can lead to posterior instability of the shoulder (especially in a naturally hypermobile person).

 

Notice that Day’s hips have fired towards the target, but his shoulders are lagging behind. This is a move that creates tremendous torque and clubhead speed but also stresses the shoulder joint and capsule.

Golfers with posterior instability may suffer from posterior subluxations. A subluxation is when the shoulder slides out of the joint and immediately slides back in. This is different from a dislocation, where the joint remains separated until it is physically put back into place.

Photo Credit: Back And Body Clinic

Symptoms of a subluxation include:

  • A feeling of the shoulder moving out and in of the joint
  • A feeling of looseness in the shoulder
  • Pain, weakness, or numbness of the arm

Should Jason Day Be Concerned?

I’m not here to diagnose Jason Day with any medical condition. I have not evaluated his shoulder, and I do not have enough information to make any kind of an informed diagnosis. But, if it barks like a dog…

Is Day’s shoulder injury something that could negatively impact him in the foreseeable future? I would argue yes. If he does indeed have posterior instability of his lead shoulder with recurrent subluxations during his golf swing, this may be a problem that nags him for a while to come.

Conservative treatment for posterior instability typically features physical therapy focusing on improving rotator strength and stability. The rotator cuff can help stabilize the shoulder during the golf swing and prevent excessive motion of the humeral head within the socket when it is functioning properly. Medical research shows that conservative treatment of posterior instability is often successful, but not for every person. One study reports only 25 percent that golfers with posterior instability were able to return to golf after undergoing physical therapy. This study is old and has a few issues, but still, this is a pretty low percentage.

Surgical treatment of posterior instability is an option. The surgery includes tightening the capsule to prevent further subluxations. One of the major drawbacks of this surgery is that it may be tough to get full cross-body range of motion back after the capsule is tightened. This can make it difficult for golfers to get back to their old swing style after surgery.

Surgical repair of the capsule showing the tightening of the capsule.

 

Overall, shoulder injuries, particularly to the lead shoulder, can be problematic for golfers of all ability levels. I sincerely hope that Jason Day is able to overcome his shoulder pain and continue to play at his current level.

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Opinion & Analysis

Starting from Scratch (Episode 1): GolfWRX Editor switches to lefty

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As a right-handed Division I (Rutgers University) golfer, I underwent spine surgery at 20-years old, which effected the lower right portion of my back. Eight years later, I’m a trending-up-2-handicap who deals with back spasms after nearly every round of golf or practice session, and a lingering left wrist injury — neither of which are very good for a right-handed golfer. Extremely frustrated with golf and my body, I’m officially announcing my retirement as a right-handed golfer. BUT, I’m not retiring from the sport I love.

Going forward, I will be switching to playing golf as a left-hander. The left-handed swing puts significantly less pressure on the lower right side of my back and my left wrist. Therefore, I’ll be able to continue playing golf by switching sides, and get back the passion to practice and improve.

The problem? I’ve never played golf lefty and I’m not ambidextrous. I write, throw, bat, swing, play pool, play darts, everything as a righty. For 28 years, I’ve played golf righty.

As your fearless GolfWRX Editor, I’ll be documenting the entire process through written articles, photos, podcast updates, video and social media posts (@tg2wrx on Instagram). I’ll explain what it’s like to start the game as a beginning golfer, and the process I take to improve. I’ll document lessons, club fittings, performance assessments, rounds of golf, and practice sessions on my quest. Hopefully, I’ll be writing the blueprint for how to go from a terrible golfer to a nineties shooter. Hopefully.

My goal is to break 100 (on a regulation golf course from the “white” tees) before Labor Day. My co-host on Two Guys Talking Golf has bet against me for a publicly undisclosed sum, and I’ve also been taking many side bets, as well. My mission for the summer is to prove everyone wrong.

Watch Episode 1 of the series to see my first swings as a lefty.

Starting from Scratch: Episode 1

 

Week 1 and 2 highlights

  • Whiffed once while attempting to hit a 6-iron. I’m just happy it only happened once.
  • Went to a big box store to buy used golf clubs. Wow, buying equipment as a lefty is just as difficult as left-handers have been telling righties their entire lives. I bought a 64-degree SureOut wedge — I need the most forgiveness I can get
  • Purchased the rest of my set online for less than $500! We will be posting a “What’s in the bag” video in the coming weeks. Spoiler alert: I got some VERY forgiving stuff.
  • Watched a video from Shawn Clement — who is scratch as both a lefty and a righty — saying right-hand dominant golfers playing lefty should feel the club pulling with their right arm. It feels like a backhand stroke in tennis, and I’m thinking this will be a good swing thought moving forward
  • Grinded at the short game area almost every night until the rest of my clubs came in. Short game is feeling really good. Just working on hitting down on the golf ball and making consistent contact near the center of the face.
  • One night after work, I went to the short game area at my local course, and realized no one was playing. Although I didn’t feel ready to take my game to the course, I decided to play 9 holes. And I shot… 50!! (Par 35; 2,810 yards.) Very encouraging.
  • Check out @tg2wrx for a ridiculous flop shot I hit over the trees during my first round as a lefty
  • Shot 44 on a mini golf course putting lefty… yikes. Gotta reduce those three putts.

Thoughts from a left-hander

Overall, the most work is going to be getting mid-to-long irons in the air, and reducing slices/top/shanks off the tee. If I can simply get the ball in the air and hit it somewhere around the center of the face, I believe I can plot my way around a golf course to break 100. Bunker play is a huge concern still, so I’ll want to avoid bunkers at all costs. Other than that, I need to practice more. More range balls, more chip shots, more pitch shots and more putts. I need to continue getting comfortable hitting golf balls from the “wrong” side.

Tune in next time to see my WITB and how I’m faring as a south paw.

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