Getting Back to Basics

By Jim FlickJanuary 21, 2002, 5:00 pm
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Our golf swings are always evolving ' sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Usually problems occur when we attempt to overcontrol the golf club or overpower the golf ball.
 
In attempting to correct these problems, our minds often become cluttered with so many thoughts that we lose sight of whats important in the golf swing. We end up making it more complex than it actually is. We need to return to the domino effect ' making one adjustment that makes the most good things happen.
 
First, we must have clearly in our minds a philosophy which identifies (1) what we want to do with the golf club, and (2) our approach to playing the game. I believe that the simple approach is the most direct and yields the best opportunities for good results and improvement.
 
A simple philosophy. In an attempt to make the ball go to the target, it is the swinging of the instrument and arms that turns the shoulders and shifts the weight on both sides of the arc (i.e., the backswing and the downswing). That is, we should feel how to use the head of the golf club and build our sensitivity around it during the swing, rather than consciously turning our shoulders and shifting our weight.

Grip and grip pressure. The way the fingers and hands are placed on the club is important obviously because its the only place the body comes in contact with the club. Although the grip is not the same for everybody because of the way the hands and arms hang, there are common denominators.
 
With the left hand (for a right-handed player), the grip-end of the golf club should be laid underneath the pad at the base of the hand and run diagonally into the second joint of the index finger, and then the fingers simply close around the club. The thumb should lie to the right side of the shaft (at approximately the 2 oclock position) so that when the arms are swinging and rotating on the backswing, the club rests on the left thumb at the top of the backswing.
 
With the right hand, the club should lie in the middle joint of the middle two fingers and both Vs should be pointing between the chin and the right shoulder. Exactly where depends upon the type of ball flight that were trying to create or eliminate (turn more towards the shoulder for a right-to-left draw).
 
Correct grip pressure is critical. We want our fingers secure but our arms relaxed so that all the joints can work in response to the weight in the head of the golf club.
 
Finding your correct grip pressure is easy. Standing tall, grip the club normally and hold it out perpendicular to the ground. You can hardly feel the clubhead. Now drop it to horizontal. Feel how heavy the clubhead is at this position and then how tight your arms and fingers have become. Now raise the shaft to a 45-degree angle, close your eyes and relax your arms until you feel the weight in the clubhead. See how light it is in your hands? You should have this same constant grip pressure throughout the swing.
 
That will help you feel the weight of the clubhead ' which is critical in creating the squaring of the clubface through impact ' and it will allow the hands and wrists to react correctly to that weight and create the release of the clubhead at the right time in the arc (impact area).

Setup. A correct posture allows room for the arms to hang and swing freely from (not with) the shoulders. To create the best posture, we would ask people to stand tall with their chins up and shoulders back (feel as if your shoulder blades are nearly touching). Tilt the spine to the right slightly, which drops the right hip under (at a lower level than the left hip). Bend from the hips, keeping the legs straight (that puts the weight on the balls of the feet).
 
Unlock the knees so the arms can hang and swing freely. The tilt of the spine varies as to the lie of the ball and as to how you are trying to use the golf club. Tilt to the right more (for right-handers) for a sweeping blow with a fairway wood or driver ' less tilt for irons.
 
Aim. The only thing aimed at the target is the clubhead, and because we are standing left of the target, our body lines (shoulders, hips, knees, etc) will be parallel-left, not converging at the target.

Picture a set of railroad tracks. Facing the tracks, the rail farthest away represents the path to the target, and the near rail represents the lines of the body which are left and parallel to the target line. The two rails dont converge - they actually look as if they get wider at the target.
 
During the practice sessions, put clubs or old shafts on the ground to establish correct aiming habits. Dont forget to use the eyes to track down the target line in front of the ball after establishing an intermediate target to work with a few yards in front of your ball.

Swinging the club. The swinging back of the clubhead with the hands and arms turns the shoulders until the left shoulder gets over the right knee (with your longer clubs). That gets people behind the ball, which is critical to a consistently successful golf swing.
 
Begin the downswing with the arms swinging down from the inside (within an inch or two of your pants pocket). That will improve balance, consistency and sequence of movement ' keeping the body from outracing the club ' something most people have a tendency to do.
 
There are different transitions for some people, but most golfers shouldnt be trying to clear their hips and drive their legs. The hips dont begin to turn until the swinging of the arms pulls them through naturally.
 
The feet and legs are used as support, not as a power tool. Stay turned with your chest and shoulders, but swing the arms back into a normal top-of-the-backswing and then swing the clubhead through, hitting the ball. Use the front-loader drill to give you the feeling. Address the ball and then swing your arms forward into a finished position. Stay turned, but swing the arms back into a normal backswing and then swing through, hitting the ball.
 
Were constantly using trial and error in putting our golf game together, but in general, youll play better with rhythm and feel rather than trying to get into static positions.
 
When I taught PGA Tour pro Andrew Magee, he often made the comment that he played a lot better when he focused on his forward swing and not his backswing. Thats so true. He doesnt play well just because he puts the club into a certain position at the top of the backswing. Andrew plays well because he relies on feel and tempo as he swings the club through.
 
In summary, as you apply these keys, keep these thoughts in mind. Attitude will determine ones final performance level a lot more than athletic talent, so stay positive and enjoy the learning process. And our sensitivity for the use of the golf club and for the game will be more critical to our success than our knowledge about the game.
 
Catch Golf Channel Troubleshooter Jim Flick on Academy Live ' Friday, Jan. 25, at 6:30 p.m. ET.
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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. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.