QA Helping the Good Get Better

By Frank ThomasFebruary 21, 2007, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from The Golf Channel's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 
Frank,
I believe that the PGA Merchandise Show is becoming nothing more than a high handicapper's convention, and the better golfer (10 handicap and on down) is being left behind. All you hear is about how the weight is being shifted lower and to the rear of the club face (I know the market is higher handicappers since they make up more of the consumer market). Can you give me a preview of some innovations for the single digit handicappers in the coming year - especially in regards to irons?
 
One other question:
I currently play the Nike Forged Blade irons (2-PW), and even though you'll disagree with me, I know theyve helped my game and made me much more accurate. However, I'm considering a move to the Callaway X-Tour irons (2-PW). I hit these irons higher and much farther - I'm at least a club longer in this set. One thing I've noticed with cavity back irons (game improvement sets especially) is that though the ball is easier to get in the air, you can't work the ball as easily and yardage control is nowhere near as pin-point as with blades. I am worried that though the X-Tour irons are of a forged construction, the added distance will affect my yardage control. I am a 5 handicap, and this technology phenomenon has interested me for some time. Can you provide me with some insight?
--Eric

 
Eric,
The PGA Show is meant to be where manufacturers exhibit their new lines for the year and take orders. This year was my 38th show, and yes, it has changed quite a bit. The clothing lines have taken over, and I believe the show is good for them.
 
Because manufacturers are now introducing new models up to three times during the year, the show is not as enlightening as it used to be from an equipment point of view. Also, the larger retail outlets are starting to dominate in retail sales. It is inevitable that those outlets will concentrate on the higher handicapper, as he/she makes up a major part of the golfing population. Only 6% of male golfers have a handicap of 5 or less.
 
When it comes to innovations in irons for you, things havent changed much, so dont look for any magic. The Nike blades you have will behave a little differently compared to the X-Tour youre thinking about because they are inch shorter and the loft is two degrees more. For example, the Nike 6-iron has 33 degrees of loft and is 37.25 long; the Callaway X-Tour 6-iron has 31 degrees of loft (the X-20 Tour is even stronger, with 30 degrees of loft) and 37.5 inches long. This could explain the difference in the distance you are experiencing. The center of gravity is also a little lower for the X-Tour clubs. Because of the higher MOI for the X-Tour, you may find, as you say, a little more difficulty in working the ball than with the Nike blade. Most of the really good golfers select blades for this reason, and also because their performance ceiling is limited by game improvement clubs. These forgiving clubs make some bad shots feel reasonably good, so they wont provide the feedback when you miss it. This tends to make the golfer complacent and reduce the incentive to improve. For most of us this is OK, but for the very best being precise is essential.
 
As a low handicapper you will not benefit as much as a high handicapper from using some of the latest square headed drivers which are designed to be forgiving for off-centered impacts of some significance. Test these for yourself to determine if they have a place in your bag. For more on square drivers please visit my latest newsletter by clicking here.
 
Hope this has reinforced your intuitive and sound beliefs.
--Frank
 
Aloha Frank,
When Im at the range hitting balls -- especially with my driver -- I notice the ball seems to have a slight fade. But when Im on the course, my game ball (3-piece) has a draw. Can you tell me why this happens? I dont feel like I change my swing from range to course. Because of the different flights between balls I mostly work on tempo and contact while on the range.
Any info would be great.
Mahalo,
Ed

 
Aloha Ed,
There is no good reason for this to happen. Check your set up and/or the prevailing wind direction on the range. You might also try working on your tempo on the course and see if this does anything to solve the problem.
 
To make sure the ball is not the determining factor, I suggest that you play a round with range balls. First tell the pro -- and anybody else who might shoot you for using range balls on the course -- that youre conducting an experiment. Warn your golfing buddies about what youre going to do. If youre still hitting a draw on the course, you know its not the ball. Personally, I think my handicap is about five strokes better on the range. It may be those racing stripes on the ball. Let me know what happens.
--Frank
 
Hi Frank,
I really enjoy your segment on your game night. I have a complicated problem that I hope you may be able help me to dissect and analyze.
 
Two winters ago I fell on my left wrist and it was diagnosed as re-aggravating a break that occurred some years ago. I can still move it in all directions, but not as much as my right hand. Prior to that, I was playing to an 8 handicap.
 
Around that time, I got an equipment and swing analysis as well as couple of lessons. The instructor determined that my grips should have a little larger diameter and my lie angle should be adjusted upward, since I was hitting the ground with the toe of the club.
 
Shortly after getting my clubs adjusted, I developed a case of the shanks. Out of around 100 balls I hit in one practice session, I shanked about 35 of them. Naturally, I was going out of my mind. What did that instructor do to my game? I compensated and corrected the problem by flipping the wrist a little quicker though the impact zone, and while the shank still showed up here and there, I pretty much got used to the equipment or wrist position I had. Two years later, though, things are still not quite right, and Im searching for the cause.
 
I put back my old size grips on all my clubs and returned the lie angle of the irons, even though I'm still hitting it off the toe of the club. I did this to get back to square one. I knew from past experience I shouldnt change more than one variable in my equipment at a time, but decided to try the changes anyway. Im still recovering.
 
What happened? Could the wrist injury cause my clubhead to hit with the toe first because of the range of motion limitation? I don't seem to have a big problem with pushing the ball right, though it does go that way more than before; my previous ball flight was more of a slight draw to straight.
 
Please help,
Mike

 
Mike,
There is no way that I am going to even think about solving your shanking problem. Even typing this S word is bad for my psyche. I can say that theres no reason the equipment changes or injury should cause you to sh sh you know, that bad shot. Beyond that, I can probably help you with the grip size issue and the lie angle.
 
Because of your injury, you now have a new swing, and that means you need to do some recalibrating. Grip size first: make sure you feel comfortable when gripping the club. If it feels too big then it probably is. A thicker grip will reduce the wrist rotation slightly as youve surmised, and it will leave the face a little open at impact. Once you have selected a grip size that feels good to you, check the ball flight; if its to your liking then youre in business. If its off line, then check the lie angle using a lie board. If the scuff mark is in the center of the sole then the lie is correct. You can, however, influence the flight by changing the lie to be more upright for a more right to left flight and vice versa for the left to right flight. Once this has been done, then get a good teaching pro to look at your swing if the S word still happens too often.
Hope this helps
 
Click to purchase the Frog PutterFrank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to Helping Golfers. Frank is Chief Technical Advisor to The Golf Channel and Golf Digest. He served as Technical Director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN System and introduced the Stimpmeter to the world of golf. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
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Lopez fires flawless 63 for lead in Arkansas

By Associated PressJune 23, 2018, 12:41 am

ROGERS, Ark. – Since its first year on the LPGA Tour in 2007, the crowds at the NW Arkansas Championship have belonged to Stacy Lewis.

Another former University of Arkansas star staked her claim as the hometown favorite Friday when Gaby Lopez shot a career-low 8-under 63 to take the first-round lead at Pinnacle Country Club.

Like Lewis, the two-time winner of the tournament, Lopez starred as a three-time All-American for the Razorbacks before joining the LPGA Tour in 2016. Despite flashes of potential, Lopez had yet to join Lewis among the ranks of the world's best - missing the cut in her last two tournaments and entering this week ranked 136th in the world.

For a day, at least, the Mexican standout felt right at home atop the leaderboard in her adopted home state.

''I feel like home,'' Lopez said. ''I feel so, so comfortable out here, because I feel that everyone and every single person out here is just rooting for us.''


Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


Moriya Jutanugarn was a stroke back along with Minjee Lee, Catriona Matthew, Nasa Hataoka, Lizette Salas, Mirim Lee and Aditi Ashok. Six others finished at 6 under on a day when only 26 of the 144 players finished over par, thanks to some mid-week rain that softened the greens and calm skies throughout the day.

Jutanugarn finished second at the tournament last year and is trying to win for the second time on the LPGA Tour this year. Her younger sister, Ariya, is already a two-time winner this year and shot an opening-round 66.

Lewis, the former world No. 1 who won the event in 2007 in 2014, finished with a 66. She's expecting her first child in early November

Defending champion So Yeon Ryu, coming off a victory Sunday in Michigan, shot a 67.

Friday was Lopez's long-awaited day to standout, though, much to the delight of the pro-Arkansas crowd.

After missing the cut her last two times out, Lopez took some time off and returned home to Mexico City to rest her mind and work on her game. The work paid off with two straight birdies to open her round and a 6-under 30 on her front nine.

Lopez needed only 25 putts and finished two shots off the course record of 61, and she overcame a poor drive on the par-5 18th to finish with a par and keep her place at the top of the leaderboard. Her previous low score was a 64 last year, and she matched her career best by finishing at 8 under.

''(Rest) is a key that no one really truly understands until you're out here,'' Lopez said. ''... Sometimes resting is actually the part you've got to work on.''

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Harman rides hot putter to Travelers lead

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:28 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – There are plenty of big names gathered for the Travelers Championship, and through two rounds they’re all chasing Brian Harman.

Harman opened with a 6-under 64, then carded a 66 during Friday’s morning wave to become the only player to finish the first two rounds in double digits under par. The southpaw is currently riding a hot putter, leading the field in strokes gained: putting while rolling in 12 birdies and an eagle through his first 36 holes.

“Putted great today,” said Harman, who ranks 22nd on Tour this season in putting. “Got out of position a couple of times, but I was able to get myself good looks at it. I started hitting the ball really well coming down the stretch and made a few birdies.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Harman, 31, has won twice on the PGA Tour, most recently at last year’s Wells Fargo Championship. While he doesn’t have a win this year, he started his season in the fall by reeling off five straight finishes of T-8 or better to quickly install himself as one of the leaders in the season-long points race.

Now topping a leaderboard that includes the likes of Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy, he realizes that he’ll have his work cut out for him if he’s going to leave Connecticut with trophy No. 3.

“The putter has been really good so far, but I’ve been in position a lot. I’ve had a lot of good looks at it,” Harman said. “I’m just able to put a little pressure on the course right now, which is nice.”

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10-second rule costs Zach Johnson a stroke

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:06 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – Zach Johnson heads into the weekend one shot back at the Travelers Championship, but he was a matter of seconds away from being tied for the lead.

Johnson had an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 3 at TPC River Highlands, his 12th hole of the day, but left the ball hanging on the lip. As Johnson walked up to tap the ball in, it oscillated on the edge and eventually fell in without being hit.

Was it a birdie, or a par?

According to the Rules of Golf, and much to Johnson’s chagrin, the answer was a par. Players are afforded “reasonable” time to walk to the hole, and after that they are allowed to wait for 10 seconds to see if the ball drops of its own accord. After that, it either becomes holed by a player’s stroke, or falls in and leads to a one-shot penalty, resulting in the same score as if the player had hit it.

According to Mark Russell, PGA Tour vice president of rules and competitions, Johnson’s wait time until the ball fell in was between 16 and 18 seconds.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“Once he putts the ball, he’s got a reasonable amount of time to reach the hole,” Russell said. “Then once he reaches the hole, he’s got 10 seconds. After 10 seconds, the ball is deemed to be at rest.”

Johnson tried to emphasize the fact that the ball was oscillating as he stood over it, and even asked rules officials if marking his ball on the edge of the hole would have yielded a “bonus 10 seconds.” But after signing for a 2-under 68 that brought him within a shot of leader Brian Harman, the veteran took the ruling in stride.

“The 10-second rule has always been there. Vague to some degree,” Johnson said. “The bottom line is I went to tap it in after 10 seconds and the ball was moving. At that point, even if the ball is moving, it’s deemed to be at rest because it’s on the lip. Don’t ask me why, but that’s just the way it is.”

While Johnson brushed off any thoughts of the golf gods conspiring against him on the lip, he was beaming with pride about an unconventional par he made on No. 17 en route to a bogey-free round. Johnson sailed his tee shot well right into the water, but after consulting his options he decided to drop on the far side of the hazard near the 16th tee box.

His subsequent approach from 234 yards rolled to within 8 feet, and he calmly drained the putt for an unexpected save.

“I got a great lie. Just opened up a 4-hybrid, and it started over the grandstands and drew in there,” Johnson said. “That’s as good of an up-and-down as I’ve witnessed, or performed.”

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Travelers becoming marquee event for star players

By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 11:29 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Get lost in the throngs following the defending champ, or caught up amongst the crowds chasing the back-to-back U.S. Open winner, and it’s easy to forget where this tournament was a little more than a decade ago.

The Travelers Championship was without a sponsor, without a worthwhile field, without a consistent date and on the verge of being jettisoned to the PGA Tour Champions schedule. The glory days of the old Greater Hartford Open had come and gone, and the PGA Tour’s ever-increasing machine appeared poised to leave little old Cromwell in its wake.

The civic pride is booming in this neck of the woods. Main Street is lined with one small business after the next, and this time of year there are signs and posters popping up on every corner congratulating a member of the most recent graduating class at Cromwell High School, which sits less than two miles from the first tee at TPC River Highlands.

Having made it through a harrowing time in the event’s history, the local residents now have plenty of reason to take pride.

The Tour’s best have found this little New England hamlet, where tournament officials roll out the red carpet in every direction. They embrace the opportunity to decompress after the mind-numbing gauntlet the USGA set out for them last week, and they relish a return to a course where well-struck shots, more often than not, lead to birdies.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Ten years ago, this tournament was also held the week after the U.S. Open. Stewart Cink won, and for his efforts he received a paltry 36 world ranking points. But thanks to a recent influx of star-power, this week’s winner will pocket 58 points – the same amount Rory McIlroy won at Bay Hill, and two more than Justin Rose got at Colonial. Now at the halfway point, the leaderboard backs up the hefty allocation.

While Brian Harman leads at 10 under, the chase pack is strong enough to strike fear in the heart of even the most seasoned veteran: McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson, they of the combined eight major titles, all sit within three shots of the lead. Former world No. 1 Jason Day is one shot further back, and reigning Player of the Year Justin Thomas will start the third round inside the top 20.

Paul Casey and Bryson DeChambeau, both likely participants at the Ryder Cup this fall, are right there as well at 8 under. Casey lost a playoff here to Watson in 2015 and has come back every year since, witnessing first-hand the tournament’s growth in scope.

“It speaks volumes for what Travelers have done and how they treat everybody, and the work that Andy Bessette and his team put in to fly around the country and speak highly of this event,” Casey said. “And do things which matter, to continue to improve the event, not just for players but for spectators.”

Part of the increased field strength can be attributed to the Tour’s recent rule change, requiring players who play fewer than 25 events in a season to add a new event they haven’t played in the last four years. Another portion can be attributed to the short commute from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands, a three-hour drive and even shorter across the Long Island Sound – an added bonus the event will lose two of the next three years with West Coast U.S. Opens.

But there’s no denying the widespread appeal of an event named the Tour’s tournament of the year, players’ choice and most fan-friendly in 2017. While Spieth’s return to defend his title was assumed, both Day and McIlroy are back for another crack this year after liking what they saw.

“Anyone that I talked to could only say good things about the tournament about the golf course, how the guys are treated here, how the fans come out, and how the community always gets behind this event,” McIlroy said. “Obviously I witnessed that for the first time last year, and I really enjoyed it.”

After starting the week with all four reigning major champs and five of the top 10 players in the latest world rankings, only Masters champ Patrick Reed got sent packing following rounds of 72-67. The remaining top-flight contingent will all hit the ground running in search of more low scores Saturday, with Spieth (-4) still retaining a glimmer of hope to keep his title defense chances alive, perhaps with a 63 like he fired in the opening round.

The Tour’s schedule represents a zero-sum game. Outside of the majors and WGCs that essentially become must-play events for the game’s best, the rest of the legs of the weekly circus become victim of a 12-month version of tug-of-war. Some players like to play in the spring; others load up in the fall. Many play the week before majors, while a select group block off the week after for some R&R far away from a golf course.

But in an environment where one tournament’s ebbs can create flows for another, the Travelers has continued a steady climb up the Tour’s hierarchy. Once in jeopardy of relegation, it has found its footing and appears in the process of turning several of the Tour’s one-name stars into regular participants.

Rory. Jordan. Bubba. JT.

It’s been a long battle for tournament officials, but the proof is in the pudding. And this weekend, the reward for the people of Cromwell – population 14,000 – looks to be a star-studded show.

“All the events are incredible,” Thomas said. “But this is kind of one of those underrated ones that I think until people come and play, do they realize how great it is.”