Not Flip-Flop But Flop-Flip

By Adam BarrApril 25, 2008, 4:00 pm
Like it or not, its election season. That means the term flip-flop will regain currency in news broadcasts and coffee counter conversation, emerging from the mouths of paid pundits and armchair analysts like so much poisonous gas. .
But Im all about turning negatives into positives. Lets start by focusing on something infinitely more important than the election ' golf ' and switching up the order. Instead of the flip-flop, lets discuss the Flop-Flip.
The Flop-Flip is what you do from short yardage to get the ball close to the hole, set up birdie or par, and amaze your friends out of their ill-conceived Nassau bets. Employ a confident flop shot to flip your ball in tight, and Lincolns will be pushing their way out of competitive wallets in an effort to get close to you. .
The flop shot, made famous by Phil Mickelson but available in the arsenals of a great many players, can be achieved two ways: equipment or technique. All you have to add is practice; this isnt one you can fake. And what better way to adjust the balance of your practice the way the experts always say you should? Less long game, more short game.
Equipment is a good bet. By now were all familiar with the 60-degree wedge, whose sheer loft allows you to make a standard, back-and-through swing while literally letting the club do the work. You can even go as high as 64 degrees from some manufacturers, but you can also achieve a creditable high, soft-landing butterfly with a 58 or even a 56.
Just a few considerations when shopping and test-driving: check the back. If youre flopping from tighter lies, you dont want a big flange or too much muscle to get in the way and bounce the leading edge up into the equator of the ball for a dreaded skull job. Thats why a lot of players carry a nice, bouncy sand wedge (say, 12 degrees of bounce) and a low-bounce with 58 or 60 degrees of loft.
But if you go the technique route, youll essentially be hitting a sand shot from turf. So youll want to open the face of the wedge as you do for a sand shot. The idea is to strike the ball and the ground under it in such a way that the leading edge goes under, while the increased loft of the open face flings the ball high so that it lands like the proverbial sore-footed butterfly. Here, a non-bulging back is crucial. Some players have a favorite wedge from which they will grind the back down a bit (or more likely, have it done by experts in such things so as not to overdo it and ruin the head). Or you can buy a low-bounce model and be done with it. The grinders also may want to have the heel shaved down a bit so it wont accidentally catch the turf and turn the clubhead inward, squirreling the shot away in directions unknown.
The key to this more advanced shot is to get a wedge whose back you can confidently flatten to the turf. Then, keeping the handle in front of the ball but not deflected too far downward, you can make that sand-shot swing along the line made by your feet, which are in an open stance to the target line. Up goes the ball, soft is the landing.
I say this not as some expert, but as a lucky student. On a Whats In The Bag? shoot some years ago, Vijay Singh and I were demonstrating wedge properties. Between takes, I hit a few pitches while the cameraman loaded a new tape. Watching in restrained horror, Vijay said, I cant let you leave here without trying to help you.
He did. Flattening the back of a wedge to the ground and getting the handle ahead enough to point to a spot beneath my belt buckle, he got me to make a confident, pretty big swingand the ball did as instructed. .
You got it now, bro, he said. Now just practice it to get your distance control down.
That may have been the most important part of the brief lesson. Whether you decide to go square-swing-and-high-loft or open-faced-cut-shot, the flop requires serious feel. Hit a lot of them. Pick a practice area that lets you take big swings, as you must do to get these things to go 20 yards or more. At first it will feel like youre swinging for 95 yards, and youll skull a few. Choose an area with a safe landing area.
Once you can flop, though, youll gain a lot of confidence, and it will spill over into other parts of your game. And thats better than a political promise, election year or not.
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McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, four shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.