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Opinion & Analysis

PGA Tour: 10 things to watch for in 2013

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Come-from-behind victories. Sunday meltdowns. Thrilling major championships. Dominance. An indescribable Ryder Cup.

To many golf fans, 2012 brought a whole new level of excitement to the game. The unpredictability and element of surprise hopefully also attracted new fans to the sport. Either way, everyone who followed professional golf this year had something draw them in.

The 2013 season is on the horizon, teeing off Jan. 4 in Kapalua, and there are tons of storylines heading into the new year. Predicting outcomes for the season ahead is near impossible, but it’s always fun to speculate on a broader range. So, what should we look forward to in 2013 in professional golf? The topics are wide and the lists are long, but here are 10 things to watch for in the upcoming year.

Structural Shake Up

In 2013, the PGA Tour will embark upon its newest schedule set-up which, in effect, alters the Tour’s structure as a whole. The 2013 season will conclude with the final event of the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedExCup , the Tour Championship in Atlanta on Sept. 22. Then, three weeks later, the 2014 season will begin with the Frys.com Open, the first of the Fall Series events.

Of course, the scheduling change to the Tour also leads to changes for the Web.com Tour and Qualifying School. The Web.com Tour will now be the primary feeder for the PGA Tour, while Q-School will send its top finishers on to the Web.com Tour.

Fifty PGA Tour cards will be awarded to Web.com Tour players: 25 based on the final money list and a final 25 cards based on cumulative earnings from four Finals events. The Web.com’s Finals events will coincide with the FedExCup, with the exception of the last event, which will take place the week after the Tour Championship.

The newly formed PGA Tour Canada Tour, as well as the PGA Tour Latinoamerica Tour, will add additional playing avenues to the equation for professional golfers. The top-5 finishers on both tours gain direct access to the Web.com Tour. Also, Nos. 6 through 10 on the PGA Tour Canada will be exempt into the finals of the Web.com Tour Q-School.

Throwing the Anchor

In late November, the USGA and R&A proposed a rule change to prohibit anchoring the club during the stroke that will likely be approved this spring and go into effect in 2016. With the announcement, a range of storylines surround this topic for the upcoming year. At what point will players make the switch? Will fans support players who decide to continue anchoring? Will the PGA Tour move quickly and make a local rule, eliminating the three-year gap before the rule is changed. Will new techniques develop for putting woes?

Webb Simpson has openly admitted practicing at home with a regular putter and will put it in play when he’s comfortable. Adam Scott has already been seen without his typical flat stick. Keegan Bradley plans to keep his anchored stroke in play and has the option to do so despite already getting flack from a fan at the World Challenge.

Meanwhile, equipment makers such as Odyssey are already marketing forearm-anchored putters, giving belly-length putters a second wind.

McIlroy’s Move

As World No. 1 Rory McIlroy departs Titleist for Nike in 2013, his ability to adapt and grow comfortable with his new clubs will be closely watched. Some people downplay the move, saying equipment is similar nowadays. Others, such as Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods, suggest that the change could put a lot on the line and take a lengthy amount of time to get comfortable with.

Whether it is an easy or hard transition for McIlroy, we’ll most likely see his first competitive round with the swooshes in his bag at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship, Jan. 17-20. From there, he’ll have lofty-as-ever expectations to live up to, after taking 2012’s PGA Tour Player of the Year honors.

Major Slump

Another majorless year has come and gone for Tiger Woods. And while Woods went oh-fer in 2012, he had his chances at getting closer to Jack Nicklaus’ all-time mark of 18 major championships.

Woods was tied for the 36-hole lead at both the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, and sat in third place through 36 holes at the British Open. However, a weekend scoring average of 72.83 in those three majors knocked Tiger from contention in each event. His best major finish was a tie for third at Royal Lytham & St. Annes where he still sat four shots back of champion Ernie Els.

In 2013, Woods’ best chances at majors will come early. April’s Masters present a great opportunity for Woods due to his historic prowess at Augusta National, but he hasn’t won a Green Jacket since 2005. He has never played Marion Golf Club, the 2013 U.S. Open venue, and doesn’t exactly have fond memories at this year’s British Open and PGA Championship venues. He plummeted out of contention after a third-round 81 at the 2002 British Open at Muirfield and never shot lower than 72 at Oak Hill in 2003’s PGA Championship.

Brandt Snedeker vs. FedEx Cup Curse

Ironically, each of the first five winners of the FedEx Cup have failed to return to the Tour Championship the following year. In 2013, Brandt Snedeker will look to snap that streak and be one of the 30 players who take on Atlanta’s East Lake Country Club for the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus.

It seemed as if Bill Haas would end the trend in 2012, but Haas shot a final-round 78 in the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick. Haas finished 45th in the 70-man field and dropped to 32nd in the FedEx Cup points standings. Haas was positioned to move on, but he bogeyed four of the last five holes, leaving him outside the 30-man Tour Championship field.

If Snedeker wants another shot at the bonus, he’ll have to finish in the top 125 of the points list, then successfully advance on different courses than he did this year. The Barclays moves back to Liberty National in Jersey City, N.J., opening the four-event series. The Deutsche Bank Championship remains at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass., as the second event, while the third leg is the BMW Championship at Conway Farms in Lake Forest, Ill.

President’s Cup

Jack Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village will be in the spotlight on two occasions during the upcoming year, as the course will host the 2013 Presidents Cup in addition to its yearly Memorial tournament. Fred Couples and Nick Price will captain their respective teams in the 10th playing of the Presidents Cup, which takes place Oct. 1-6. It will be Couples’ third-straight U.S. captaincy, while Price is getting his first attempt with the International squad.

The U.S. has dominated the cup, winning seven of the nine previous meetings. The International’s sole victory came in 1998 by a 20.5 to 11.5 margin, while the squads tied in 2003. The Presidents Cup may not ignite passion in ways the Ryder Cup does, but it has gained momentum through the years as an exciting and entertaining event.

It is fitting that the event will take place at Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village, given the history behind both the man and the course. Nicklaus has captained the U.S. Presidents Cup team on four occasions (1998, 2003, 2005, 2007) and Muirfield Village has hosted the Memorial Tournament annually since 1976. The venue will become the first club in the world to host the Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup (1987) and Solheim Cup (1998).

Talented Teens

Teens took the golf world’s spotlight on several occasions in 2012, especially at the U.S. Open at Olympic Club. Fourteen-year-old Andy Zhang first made news as he became the youngest to compete in the USGA event. Then, 17-year-old Beau Hossler stole the show the first three days, even holding a brief solo lead Friday afternoon at 2-under-par. Unfortunately, a final-round 76 dropped Hossler from contention and the claim of low amateur. That distinction went to 19-year-old Jordan Spieth, who played the weekend in 1-under-par (69-70) and turned professional Dec. 14.

On the ladies’ side, 15-year-old Lydia Ko became the youngest to ever win an LPGA Tour event, claiming the CN Canadian Women’s Open by three shots over Inbee Park. Ko erased Lexi Thompson’s youngest age record — Thompson was 16 when she won the 2011 at the Navistar LPGA Classic in Alabama.

We already know of one teen who will surely be in the golf news in 2013: Guang Tianlang of China. The 14-year-old won the Asia-Pacific Championship this fall to qualify for the Masters. With the youthful talent pool of golf, chances are good that many more teens will make golf headlines in the year ahead.

Furyk’s Bounce Back

Jim Furyk arguably endured a career’s worth of heartache in one season alone. The U.S. Open, WGC-Bridgestone and Ryder Cup certainly left the deepest gashes, while close calls at Transitions, Tour Championship and the McGladrey Classic were added to his list of “what ifs.”

Furyk still has years of PGA Tour experience to use as motivation and can look no further than the 2009 season for similarities. That season, Furyk had five top-five finishes before jumping back into the winner’s circle in 2010.

Rookie Impact

PGA Tour rookies have performed quite well over the past two years. In 2011, rookies claimed seven victories including major championships from Charl Schwartzel (Masters) and Keegan Bradley (PGA Championship). Four rookies — John Huh, Jonas Blixt, Charlie Beljan and Ted Potter, Jr. – earned victories on the PGA Tour in 2012.

The 2013 class, made up of Web.com money leaders and graduates of Q-School, features a variety of heralded players. Luke Guthrie, Russell Henley, Ben Kohles, Morgan Hoffmann, Scott Langley and Patrick Reed, to name a few, have gained attention in the professional realms already and look to excel during their first year on Tour. There are also many experienced European Tour players such as Nicolas Colsaerts, Ross Fisher and Martin Kaymer who will each take up PGA Tour membership for the first time next year.

Golf on the Global Stage

Golf’s worldwide popularity has been on an upward trend over the last decade or so, and we are now seeing the effects of it being a global sport. More and more young, elite players are beginning to display their talents on the world stage and one could expect that to continue with golf being part of the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

The PGA Tour’s support for the global game will step up a notch during the latter part of 2013, as three of the first six events for the 2013-14 season will take place outside the United States. Most notably, the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and the WGC-HSBC Champions in China will both be official Tour events for the first time. While each of those events have drawn the biggest names, entrants are also qualifiers from the Asian Tour or hold other special distinctions.

Additionally, the success of young talents will continue to push the game to new heights. It seems as if Ryo Ishikawa has been in the spotlight for years and years, yet he’s still just 21 years old. With other young players such as Andy Zhang, Lydia Ko and Guang Tianlang being successful on the world stage, we can only expect more to come in the future.

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

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GolfWRX fan turned GolfWRX contributor. Sports fan, golf enthusiast. Looking to provide a variety of content to GolfWRX.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is golf actually a team sport?

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Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at edmyersgolf.com.

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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Opinion & Analysis

What is “feel” in putting… and how do you get it?

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You’re playing a course for the first time, so you arrive an hour early to warm-up. You make your way toward the practice green and you see a sign at the first tee that reads, “GREEN SPEED TODAY 11.”  That brings up two issues:

  1. How did they arrive at that number?
  2. How is that information valuable to me?

How did they arrive at that number?

They used what’s known as a stimpmeter — a device that’s used to measure the speed of a green. With a stimpmeter, the green’s surface is tested by rolling a ball down the 30-inch ramp that is tilted downward at a 20-degree angle. The number of feet the ball rolls after leaving the ramp is an indication of the green’s speed. The green-speed test is conducted on a flat surface. A total of three balls are rolled in three different directions. The three balls must then finish within eight inches of each other for the test to be valid.

For example, if the ball is rolled down the ramp and were to stop at 8 feet, the green would be running at an “8.” Were the ball to roll down the ramp and stop at 12 feet, the green would be running at a “12.”

Stimpmeter history

The stimpmeter was invented by Edward S. Stimpson, Sr., a Massachusetts State Amateur Champion and former Harvard Golf Team Captain. After attending the 1935 U.S. Open at Oakmont, he saw the need for a universal testing device after watching Gene Sarazen, who was at the top of his game, putt a ball off the green. He was of the opinion that the greens were unreasonably fast, but he had no way to prove it — thus the motivation for creating the invention.

The device is now used by superintendents to make sure all of their greens are rolling close to the same speed. This ensures that golfers are not guessing from one putt to another if a green is fast or slow based on the way it is maintained. The device is also used by tournament officials who want to make sure that green speed is not too severe.

Do Stimp readings matter for my game?

Not very much. That piece of abstract knowledge is of little value until you can translate it into your own personal feel for the speed of the putt. There is a method that will allow you to turn green speed into a legitimate feel, however, and you don’t even need a stimpmeter or a stimp reading to do it. I call it “Setting Your Own Stimpmeter.”

Before we get to how to do it, the first step is to determine if the putting green is the same speed as the greens on the course. The best source of information in this regard are the professionals working in the golf shop. They will be happy to share this information with you. You only need to ask. Assuming that the speed of the putting green is close to the speed of the greens on the course, you are ready to begin setting your own stimpmeter. This is done by inputting data into your neuromuscular system by rolling putts and visually observing the outcome.

Contrary to what most golfers believe, a golfer’s feel for distance is based in the eyes — not in the hands, which only records tactile information. It’s just like basketball. On the court, you look at the distance to the hoop and respond accordingly. While you would feel the ball in your hands, it doesn’t play a role in determining the proper distance to the hoop. Based on what you saw with your eyes, you would access the data that had been previously inputted through shooting practice.

Setting your own Stimpmeter

  1. Start by finding a location on the putting green that is flat and roughly 15 feet away from the fringe.
  2. Using five balls, start rolling putts one at a time toward the fringe. The objective is to roll them just hard enough for them to finish against the edge.
  3. You may be short of the fringe or long, but it is important that you do not judge the outcome— just observe, because the feel for distance is visually based.
  4. You should not try and judge the feel of the putt with your hands or any other part of your body. You can only process information in one sensory system at a time — that should be the eyes.
  5. You should continue to roll balls until you’ve reach the point that most of them are consistently finishing against the fringe. Once you can do that, you have successfully set you stimpmeter.

The key to the entire process is allowing yourself to make a subconscious connection between what your eyes have observed and the associated outcome. You must then trust what you have learned at a sub-conscious level. A conscious attempt to produce a given outcome will short-circuit the system. When it comes to judging speed, you must be prepared to surrender your conscious mind to your sub-conscious mind, which is infinitely wiser and more capable of calculating speed. Want proof? Work through the steps I’ve outlined below. .

  1. After having loaded the data as described in the exercise above, pace off a 25-foot putt.
  2. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole as you would normally using your conscious mind to control the outcome.
  3. Mark the location of the five balls with a tee pushing them down until they are level with the surface of the green.
  4. Allow your eyes to work slowly from the ball to the hole while clearing your conscious mind of any thought.
  5. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole allowing your subconscious mind to control the outcome.
  6. Compare the proximity of the five putts that you just hit to those marked with a tee. What do you observe?

Did you have trouble clearing your mind of any conscious thought? Assuming that your conscious mind intruded at any point, the outcome would be negatively affected. You should then repeat the exercise but this time, emptying your mind of any thought. You will have mastered the technique when you are able to quiet your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to take over.

This technique will improve your proximity to the hole on longer putts. And you know what that means? Fewer three-putts!

Editor’s Note: Rod Lindenberg has authored a book entitled “The Three-Putt Solution”  that is now available through Amazon. 

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Podcasts

TG2: What is this new Callaway iron? A deep investigation…

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Photos of a new Callaway iron popped up in the GolfWRX Forums, and equipment expert Brian Knudson and Editor Andrew Tursky discuss what exactly the new iron could be; new Apex pros, new Legacy irons, or maybe even a new X Forged? Also, the guys discuss Phil’s U.S. Open antics and apology, DJ’s driver shaft change, new Srixon drivers and utility irons, and a new Raw iron offering from Wilson. Enjoy the golf equipment packed show!

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

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