Bouncing Into a Better Short Game

By Adam BarrMarch 15, 2008, 4:00 pm

PINEHURST, N.C. 'It was a perfect Sandhills day, sunny and breezy. We were on the upper portion of Pinehurst No. 8. The fourth hole swings dramatically to the left over the crest of a ridge. Three of us watched in the fairway with our hands on our hips as the fourth, a good player, set up for his approach. He fired. The ball rocketed toward the green.
Thats not a bounce. Thats a bound, one said.
Its rolling, said another.
Still rolling, said the third.
Off the back, said the first.
The hitter said nothing. If I had had any wrinkled shirts with me, I would have held them by his ears to catch the steam coming out.
He didnt hit a bad shot. The greens were just plain crusty. Drought in the southeast and wind on this day had made them about as receptive as a magnet turned the wrong way. The course was in fine shape, but the greens were hard. Our friend had been Pinehursted.
All of which turned our thoughts to our short games. Clearly, they were going to be needed more than usual today.
We should all think about our short games more ' so the instructional sages tell us, and experience has proven it. Success at the long game is so much fun that most of us all but ignore the 100-yards-and-in shots that can give us a much healthier total game.
But enough preaching. Lets discuss your wedges.
Carry one, two, three or more, but carry the wedges that will do the most for you. Think about it: when most recreational players hit, say, a 3-wood, theyre looking for one kind of shot ' long and straight. But when they hit a wedge, it may be a little 20-yard flip, a 90-yard full-sky soft-lander, a 35-foot runner that hits early, skips twice and rolls to the flag, or any number of other creations. Wedges have to be versatile.

Loft, of course, plays into this. I like to have uniform gaps between my three wedges: 48 degrees for the pitch, 52 for the mid, 56 for the sand. Im also freaky about leading edges. I like a little bow, but not too much. A little bit makes me feel, when I look down, as if the edge will get under the ball just right. I cant look at a straight leading edge. I just get this feeling that its going to slice a bunch of turf and never make good contact.
Thats just my preference and swing profile. Yours will be different, and it pays to get with your PGA pro and find the leading edge that works for you. But even that is not the most important wedge component, to my mind. The crucial element is bounce.
Bounce, as you gearheads already know, is the amount by which the trailing edge of the wedge head drops below the leading edge. Its expressed in degrees, the distance from straight back across the sole down to the real bottom of the wedge head making the angle. Hold your wedge at eye level and look from toe to heel; youll see it.
Bounce shoves debris out of the way, be it turf, sand, pine needles, mud, whatever. That means bounce has a great deal to do with the quality of the contact you will make. Its a helpful feature, an integral part of the design that takes the place of welded-on flanges in the original Gene Sarazen sand wedge experiments of 70 years ago.
Also, bounce is variable. If your wedge of choice doesnt have enough for the shot at hand, you can just open the face a bit. Or a lot. This brings in the heel of the club and more of the back of the clubhead, changing the angle of attack and effectively adding bounce.
My sand wedge, that 56-degree workhorse, has 12 degrees of bounce. How much you choose once again depends on what you work out with your pro. Opened just a little, mine works great in the grainy, often wet sand I encounter in Florida. Opened more, it hot-knifes through more sugary sand when I travel. Straight on or minimally open, my 56 also gets me through gnarly Bermudagrass rough and calms my nerves in Kikuyu.
But hardpan and tight lies? Hm. Thats another thing entirely. So my 52-degree gap wedge has just 8 degrees of bounce and gets under the ball well in such situations. My pitching wedge has even less. And I can reduce the effect of the bounce on any of these wedges by setting the ball back in my stance. Experimentation ' known in its less-fun incarnation as practice ' reveals dozens of ways to use these highly adaptable clubs.
And for those ready to take it to the next step, you can have your wedges ground to order. Tour pros do this all the time, shaving away some of the heel to allow them to flatten the back of the wedge against the turf for a flop shot. The designed-in bounce on the heel, once ground away, wont catch in the grass on the way through.

Of course, this is a highly specialized shot, but it can be learned. So can dozens of other neat executions, with the help of your PGA pro. He or she can also advise you on the grind you might needperhaps the well-known C grind, in which the area to be carefully shave off describes the letter C around the trailing edge and heel and toe.
Be very wary of trying this yourself. Expertise at the grinding wheel is rare and doesnt come easily. And once you ruin a favorite wedge head, well ' remember that Pink Panther movie in which the inept Inspector Clouseau destroys a piano, and the hapless victim says, But that was a priceless Steinway!? Clouseaus rejoinder: Not anymore.
But an expert grinder ' theres one in every town, usually at the most popular golf retailers ' can make works of art. Some tour pros who grew up tinkering with their equipment actually grind their own wedges in the tour vans, figuring they can do it more easily than tell someone all the nuances of what they have in mind. Sergio Garcia has been seen grinding ' at Northern Trust, he worked on a whole set of irons shaping the so-called par area, the elegant sweep of steel from hosel to clubface. At Disney one October I walked into the TaylorMade van to find Retief Goosen with the gloves on, calmly coaxing half a millimeter off the heel of his sand wedge.
Get your wedges to where youll love them. Experiment with them until you feel ultra-comfortable over the shots that inevitably arise on hard-green days. And then, do the only sensible thing:
Order a set of backup heads for when you wear out the first ones.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.