The Final Round of the Season
You find similar scenes all over northern courses where daylight savings time means the end of golf season.
Or does it?
There are three ways to approach the end of golf season:
1) Move to Florida or Southern California where golf season never ends. Hawaii is never a bad option either.
2) Make it a year-round game no matter how cold it gets.
3) When you know you are teeing it up for the last time for several months, just have fun and not try to knock the handicap down another stroke. As a matter of fact, most clubs in northern climates dont even register scores after Labor Day because of weather conditions.
Kris Gooding is a teaching professional at the Country Club of Maryland, which stays open all year, even though it can get quite chilly during the winter months. He said a lot of clubs work with the golfers to ensure that members arent overwhelmed at the thought of getting in that final under-par round before the course becomes unplayable.
We see a lot of the members with a certain amount of anxiety as daylight savings time rolls around, but we try to help. We shorten the course and the scores get better. And we dont count scores against the handicap, so it relieves a lot of tension.
In Minnesota, Chuck Klecatsky is a PGA golf professional at the Craguns Legacy Courses about two hours north of Minneapolis, one of the top-rated resorts in the nation. He said that golfers might want to go low at the end of the playing season, but it should be expected in the north.
In Minnesota, the scores go up at the end because the weather gets worse, Klecatsky said. We try to make it easy, but they shouldnt get anxious. Just concentrate on the year, but more importantly, think about ways to improve during the winter even if it is just indoors or simulators. The golf season never has to end.
For some, the golf season never does end. Its easy to play year-round in Florida. But Matt Mitchell, a PGA teaching professional at The Downs Golf practice facility, a state of the art practice site in the Tampa Bay area, believes that the golf season never has to end.
To play year-round, even in the north, you need a year-round stretching program, so golf never has to end even if you are surrounded by snow, Mitchell said. Everyone I teach says they want to hit the ball like Tiger Woods. I look at them straight in the eye and say, You cant. Its all about your upper body and making a good turnthings to think about during the winter months. Think flexibility and turn.
The Tampa area is filled with snowbirds from up north who flitter between the cold climates and Florida after daylight savings time hits. Mitchell said a lot of golfers come to him with concerns about playing that last round before going north where golf is unplayable. But he contends that there is nothing to worry about; golfers could still play in the basement not matter how bad the blizzard.
Mitchell recommends an easy practice lesson that only takes a quick trip to the Home Depot. All you need is a plastic pipe to place behind the forearms and back, and practice stretching by turning the hips for about 15 minutes a day. Repeat the maneuver while sitting.
You can do the whole thing in 15 minutes a day, Mitchell said. It involves your back and hips, the two most important aspects to the golf swing, and you can do it anywhere.
He also advocates buying a cheap driver, or even a shaft, and adding surgical tubing to the shaft to practice swinging on the correct plane as fast as possible, though controlled. A whistling noise indicates a proper and effective swing.
If you live in a northern climate such as Minnesota, you dont want to go back to where you were six months ago once the courses are unplayable, Mitchell said. It takes 15 minutes a day.
Gooding concurs with the idea of improving your golf game even if you live in an area where the season is limited.
I joined a gym last year and worked on endurance and ecliptics, Gooding said. I worked on my back, core, legs and shoulders. I wasnt going for muscle, but it improved my game so much during the winter. I was hitting it farther once we got back out on a regular basis.
Klecatsky believes that the most obvious choice for indoor practice is to work on putting. Buying a simple putting strip can make a difference. As any golfer knows, if you hit the greens in regulation, putting is half the game. And although golf simulators are prominent throughout most of the northern states, putting strips are available everywhere. If its true that you drive for show and putt for dough, it isnt a bad idea to invest a few bucks in a putting strip.
As for the simulators, Klecatsky notes that newer technology has dramatically improved the realism they now provide, compared to those of a decade ago.
The last shot of the year doesnt have to be the last shot of the year. If you live in Minnesota or Alaska, the golf season never has to end. There are plenty of ways to keep the season alive and, hey, you dont have to worry about long lines at the tee boxes, and you are usually a lot closer to the 19th hole than when you are out on the course.
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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.
Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.
''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''
The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.
Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.
Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.
''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''
Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.
Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.
First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.
Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round
CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.
Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.
Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.
“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”
Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.
“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”
Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win
CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.
Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.
“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”
Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.
“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”
Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.
Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey
CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.
This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.
Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.
Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.
“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”
Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.
“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”