The Local Knowlege

Three Golf Digest editors show improvement, feeding speculation they're not working hard enough

Editor's Note: Three Golf Digest editors are chronicling their golf season, with the free Golf Digest Handicap tool charting their progress along the way. You can see previous installments of the series here.

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Keely Levins (above)

Golf Digest Handicap: 4.1 (down from 6.0)

My Goal: To get rid of some extraneous moving parts in my swing, placing the focus on efficiency. Start making up shots around the green (instead of losing them). And finally, qualify for the U.S. Women's Amateur.

What’s working: My swing feels shorter. I’ve stepped away from the ball, which makes it harder for me to start the takeaway with my hips. That move opened me up too much, and created too much room for my arms to turn, allowing them to get past parallel at the top (OK, sometimes WAY past parallel). I like where my short game is going. I have three drills for chipping and putting that I rotate through. The result: I’m feeling more confident around the greens. (I actually have a decent idea of where the ball is going when I have a wedge in my hands!)

What still needs work: I played in that U.S. Am qualifier. Unfortunately my front nine was not good. Quick swings, missed greens, unforced errors. If I took what I shot on the back nine and doubled it, I would have qualified. But alas, that isn’t how it works. So now the goal becomes figuring how to put a full round together. And that’s going to come from more time at the range, getting a better handle on my distances, and keeping my swing speed in check -- no matter how excited I get.

Sam Weinman (below, video)

Golf Digest Handicap: 14.2 (down from 16.7)

My goal: The plan was to either get down to a single-digit handicap by the end of the summer -- or at least get close enough where saying my goal out loud would not be met with laughter.

Related: The 100-Day War: Our Editors Are Making Progress?

What's working: I used to think of my right elbow chicken wing as an aesthetic flaw that was otherwise inconsequential. What I've learned is that by tucking my elbow into my side, I'm able to turn and swing without fear of a hook. The result has been much more consistent ball-striking, and regular scores in the 80s.


What still needs work: I still feel like I'm working too hard for pars and bogeys, which is a function of me not hitting enough greens. Though my ball-striking has certainly been crisper, I'm still a little loose with my irons, which I suspect is an alignment issue. It certainly would help if I was a little longer off the tee. Right now I'm decidedly average.

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Steve Hennessey (above)

Golf Digest Handicap: 18.5 (down from 25.3)

My goal: I entered this summer a 25-handicapper, with a goal of shooting in the low 90s consistently. I’ve never made “goals” to improve my game, so this was a new concept to me. I made an effort to eliminate double and triple bogeys from my scores, which I’ve accomplished so far this summer. This challenge finally forced me to focus on fixing my inconsistencies.

What’s working: My golf swing has resembled more of a baseball swing since I picked up golf my senior year of high school. My backswing was infamously short the last seven years. I would make a practice swing with great extension back and through the ball, but once I made a real swing, it looked completely different. In my head I was making a full swing, but I barely was bringing the club above my shoulders.

Great advice from Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher Mike Adams and Golf Digest’s own Jeff Patterson gave me great swing thoughts: Feel like my right hand was bringing the club up to the top. (Before, my left hand was controlling the club.) Also, I’m finally making a full turn behind the ball, focusing on turning my right pocket away from the target. It’s worked so far. I’ve really come on strong -- I’ve gone from a 25.6 to a 18.5 in less than two months. And I shot my career-low score -- an 86 at beautiful Seaview Resort’s Bay course, where the LPGA ShopRite Classic is held (photo, above) -- two weeks ago. Let’s just say I’m not as disappointed with my game as I was on May 30th.

What still needs work: Put a 5- or 7-iron in my hands, and it’s a guessing game. Adding a 6-hybrid, however, has been a money decision. If every approach shot was 170 yards, I’d be making pars left and right. So long irons and not having a fairway wood are still leaving gaps in my game, which I could fill to shave some more strokes off my game.

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Celebrity

Oregon star QB Marcus Mariota is taking only golf and yoga next semester

By Keely Levins

Marcus Mariota may be one of the top prospects for the 2015 NFL Draft, but the senior quarterback at the University of Oregon and I actually have more in common than you'd think: he's taking two classes this fall to complete his degree. If you take my thesis out of the equation, I took two classes during a semester of my senior year, too. We're basically twins!  Only Mariota's two classes are Golf and Yoga. Yep, Golf and Yoga. That's it.

I was pretty impressed with Mariota's class choices, so I looked up Oregon's course catalog to see what a semester of golf looks like. First of all, the course catalog for the Physical Education department is huge.

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(Photo: Getty Images)

There are five different Golf offerings Mariota could be taking: Golf I, Golf II, Golf III, Golf Swing Exercise, or Men's Golf. Assuming he's a beginner and taking Golf I, his semester will look like this: "Introduction to the game. The majority of class time is at the driving range learning swing techniques for distance, pitching, chipping and putting, rules, etiquette, and golf vocabulary. Includes 4 free rounds of play during the term. Students must provide their own transportation." Four free rounds of play?! Unreal. That's basically saying  your homework is to go and play golf. For free. At least four times. 

But then I started thinking, what if Mariota isn't a beginner? What if he's trying to hone his game this semester? Golf Swing Exercise is a course where you learn to "Improve your golf swing in the off season via swing specific exercises." This class seems like a logical choice for an elite athlete. I don't think the Heisman Trophy hopeful would have trouble with any exercises. 

Regardless of which Golf class Mariota is taking this upcoming semester, we're sure his teammates are glad he'll have plenty of time to commit to football.


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News & Tours

You probably didn't notice . . . Golf's latest long-driving sensation is a 23-year-old Canadian

By Alex Myers

Meet Taylor Pendrith. The 23-year-old Canadian is 6-foot-1, 205 pounds and he can hit a golf ball farther than you can. A LOT farther.

Pendrith made his PGA Tour debut at last week's Canadian Open and finished T-43 to grab low amateur honors. The recent Kent State graduate garnered attention for an opening 65, but he turned more heads for how he attacked Royal Montreal GC.

Related: Jim Furyk is really, REALLY good at finishing runner-up

On Thursday, Pendrith posted the four longest drives of anyone in the field. He wound up with seven of the longest 30 drives for the week, and finished second overall in driving distance to Patrick Rodgers. When counting all drives and not just the two holes per day that are officially measured at PGA Tour events, Pendrith was first with an average of 306.9 yards.

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If those numbers seem relatively low, that's because hitting driver at the tight track wasn't always the best plan of action. But Pendrith managed to poke a 365-yard drive on the eighth hole in the first round and hit 16 drives of at least 330 yards over four days.

Before being a two-time Mid-American Conference Golfer of the Year while at Kent State, Pendrith won the Canadian Junior Long Drive Championship with a 349-yard clout and had his ball speed measured at 190 mph (The average for a PGA Tour pro in 2013 was 167). The Ontario native's biggest win to date was a five-shot rout at the 2013 Porter Cup.

Pendrith plans on turning pro in the fall after the circuit of big amateur tournaments conclude. When he does, his prodigious power should make him a crowd favorite -- even when he's not playing in his home country.

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News & Tours

Why is Tiger Woods always among the betting favorites, even when he's not the actual favorite?

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

A lot of people really love Tiger Woods. They love him more than other tour pros, and at times, they seem to love him more than their own money.

In my item in the new digital edition of Golf World, I enlisted the help of Steve Bamford, a PGA Tour betting expert who runs the website GolfBettingSystem.co.uk, to help answer a question that tends to pop up around the majors: Why is Tiger Woods always one of the betting favorites, even when he's not playing very well?

Despite his poor play so far this season, Tiger, at 15-1, is second only to Rory McIlroy in terms of having the best odds to win next week's PGA Championship. He hovered around the same odds for last month's British Open (don't have to tell you he didn't win that one) and the U.S. Open at Pinehurst -- an event he seemed to have no chance of even playing in after his March 31 back surgery. Why is that the case?

The answer has to do with incentives. Bookmakers do factor in things like recent form when they set odds, but mostly they're just trying to set prices that will entice people into placing a bet.

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The general public tends to bet off its basic knowledge, so people who know Tiger won a lot in the past will typically bet on him no matter what. Meanwhile, a guy like Jimmy Walker may be putting together a much better season, but casual golf fans aren't as familiar with Walker as they are with Woods. To get more bets flowing in on a guy like Walker, bookmakers need to grab people's attention with the prospect of a bigger payoff. That's why Walker is 50-1 to win the PGA Championship despite already winning three times this season, and Tiger is 15-1. Betting experts, like Bamford, make their living by finding value amidst all this sound and noise.

"Tiger Woods still has an aura about him for many, many [bettors]," Bamford said. "Tiger in his pomp was a bully . . . that aura still exists today, and that has a direct effect on bookmakers who will always cover themselves pricewise on Tiger because he is still a hugely popular figure with the betting public."

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News & Tours

Jim Furyk is really, REALLY good at finishing runner-up

By Alex Myers

You'd think moving ahead of one of your most successful contemporaries (Vijay Singh) and within one of two others who happen to be all-time greats on any list (Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson) would be cause for celebration. But for Jim Furyk, it's just another reminder of what could've been.

Furyk finished runner-up at the Canadian Open by a shot to Tim Clark on Sunday for the 28th second-place finish of his great -- probably Hall of Fame -- career on the PGA Tour. However, his 16 wins pale in comparison to the 155 combined victories by those three giants of this era.

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No one is saying Furyk is as good as those other three guys, although he seems to be when it comes to finishing second. But 28 runner-ups and just 16 wins? Something doesn't add up.

Related: Why Jim Furyk (and Jordan Spieth) should have more PGA Tour wins

This season, although a success overall, has to be particularly painful for the 44-year-old Furyk. Three runner-ups since May (plus a solo fourth at the British Open) have Furyk up to No. 8 in the Official World Golf Ranking -- the highest he's been since the start of the 2011 season. The difference is that then Furyk was coming off a three-win season in 2010 that ended with him winning the FedEx Cup and PGA Tour Player of the Year honors.

Furyk has continued to pile up high finishes, but he hasn't won since the 2010 Tour Championship. In nearly four years, he's added six runner-ups and three third-place finishes, and that doesn't even count the 2012 U.S. Open, in which he had the lead before bogeying two of the final three holes at Olympic Club to finish T-4. Even a 59 in the second round of last year's BMW Championship wasn't enough to put Furyk over the top.

At the Canadian Open, Furyk had a three-shot lead through 54 holes, but Clark's final-round 65 clipped him by four. According to Adam Sarson, Furyk now has a dismal 37-percent success rate with 54-hole leads (9 of 24). Comparing him again to Woods (89 percent), Mickelson (67) and Singh (64) in that category isn't pretty.

The funny thing about that stat is that if you take out Furyk's current streak of seven straight failures, you could argue he was once pretty good at closing out tournaments, with a 9-of-17 record between 1994-2010.

Related: Check out this week's Golf World

But it's easy to say Furyk should have more career wins. In fact, after Furyk's runner-up at the Players two months ago, we argued he should have anywhere between 20 and 24 tour titles based on how many times he's finished in the top three. His 27-percent win rate in those situations isn't awful (Luke Donald's 17 percent is, for instance), but it's below average and well below the marks of Woods (61), Mickelson (44) and Singh (44). The numbers say that even bad "finishers" will win if they put themselves in position to do so enough times.

Of course, finishing second these days on the PGA Tour has its perks. Furyk made $615,600 for his latest close call to push his 2014 on-course earnings to more than $4 million. But at this point in his career, he's much more concerned about trophies than his bank account.

"I'm definitely disappointed not to get over the hump," Furyk said Sunday. "It's been a long time since I've won, and it stings to finish second again."

Again. For the 28th time. Hang in there, Jim, it's bound to happen. No one should be this good at coming in second.

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News & Tours

The golf ball that Rory McIlroy threw into the crowd at the British Open is for sale

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

You know that ball? The one Rory McIlroy threw into the 72nd hole crowd seconds after winning the British Open -- what ever happened to it?

Well, it was caught by Leeds, England resident Lee Horner, who kept it for a few days before Green Jacket Auctions -- the same company that sold a set of Ben Hogan's clubs from 1953 earlier this year -- tracked him down and acquired the ball for an undisclosed sum. Green Jacket Auctions documented Rory's custom Nike RZN Black "Rors" ball and then quickly put it up for auction.

Bidding started last Wednesday and is slated to end Aug. 9. By the start of the day on Monday, 13 bids had been lodged on the site, the highest standing at $2,852.

"Memorabilia like this is usually lost forever," Ryan Carey, one of the co-founders of the site, said, "so we're very excited that we quickly tracked down the guy who caught it."

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Gear & Equipment

Winner's Bag: What Tim Clark used to win the RBC Canadian Open

By E. Michael Johnson

loop-tim-clark-celebration-290.jpgThere was something apropos about the pictures of Tim Clark fist-pumping in celebration Sunday at Royal Montreal G.C. In his other hand was the club that the new winner of the RBC Canadian Open has become most associated with: an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball Long putter.

Clark has used a long putter since his days playing college golf at N.C. State in the 1990s. The South African was among the more vocal players arguing to keep the USGA and R&A from outlawing the anchored stroke when the governing bodies proposed the rule change in 2012. The 38-year-old uses the long putter out of what he says is necessity; a congenital problem with his arms prevents him from supinating his wrists and causes discomfort while using a short putter.

With the anchoring ban having been approved and set to be implemented in January 2016, several players who use belly or long putters have begun to experiment with other shorter models. Clark, however, is among a dozen or so players who remain anchoring holdouts.

Here are the rest of the clubs and ball Clark played in picking up his second PGA Tour title.

Ball: Titleist Pro V1
Driver: Titleist 913D3 (Accra M4 55), 9.5 degrees
4-wood: Titleist 913Fd, 18 degrees
5-wood: Callaway Steelhead Plus, 18 degrees
Hybrid:
TaylorMade Rescue FW Dual, 19 degrees
Irons (4-9): Titleist CB; (PW): Titleist Vokey SM4
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM4 (56 degrees); Titleist Vokey SM5 (60 degrees0
Putter: Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball Long

Photo: Getty Images

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How He Hit That

How He Hit That: Tim Clark's precision short irons

By Matthew Rudy

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Tim Clark is never going to overpower a golf course. 

In fact, he's next to last out of all the players measured for driving distance on the PGA Tour in 2014, at just under 270 yards per tee shot. 

So if Clark is going to contend, he has to make the most of of his opportunities when he has short irons in his hand. He did that in Montreal, finishing with five birdies on the back nine Sunday to steal the RBC Canadian Open from Jim Furyk by a shot. 

The 12th hole, a 570-yard par-5, was a two-shot hole for a lot of players in the field. Clark hit his tee shot 260 yards, then laid up to 91 yards. From there, he hit his sand wedge to five feet to set up the birdie that would pull him within two shots of Furyk. 

"Tim Clark knows there's a premium on hitting very accurate short iron shots for him," says 2012 New York Metropolitan PGA Section Teacher of the Year Michael Jacobs. "He hits more downward with his wedges than any of his other clubs, and you can see by his setup that he understands this downward strike will skew the path of his club to the right of his initial aim. He sets up well left of the target."

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Jacobs uses GEARS three-dimensional imaging software to show exactly what Clark--and any amateur who comes to his X Golf School at Rock Hill Country Club on Long Island--does with his body during the swing. 

"His initial aim and downswing control the path of the clubhead, but the unwinding of Tim's body during the downswing keeps him from prematurely closing the clubface and spoiling the shot with a miss to the left," says Jacobs. "He actually starts shifting towards his left foot late in the backswing, and then uses the ground to help open his hips and shoulders well ahead of the strike." 

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The result? Clark is third on tour in greens hit from 75 to 100 yards, at just under 92 percent, and his average proximity from the hole on those shots is 14 feet.  

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Gear & Equipment

Nike's Lunar Adapt shoes will have women wanting to wear them off the course

By Keely Levins

Nike has added the athletic, spikeless Lunar Adapt to its women’s golf shoe line. The two-tone, waffle-pattern bottom is designed to keep your feet close to the ground to help maintain traction. The emphasis is on comfort and the idea that golfers like the flexibility of wearing their shoes on and off the course.

loop-nike-lunar-adapt-518.jpgThe shoe, which features lightweight cushioning on the inside midsole to absorb shock during your swing, comes in three color combos: pure platinum/hyper pink-cool gray (left), light ash/hyper grape-ivory and fuchsia force/light ash-medium ash.

The Lunar Adapt is available now at retail for $100.

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Golf & Business

What they said, what they meant: Royal & Ancient voting-statement edition

By Geoff Shackelford

loop-royal-and-ancient-clubhouse-518.jpgThe Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews issued a statement late Friday afternoon, in tribute to its infamous, late Friday acknowledgement of making design changes to the Old Course in 2012. This time, the issue was the vote on admitting members to the club, which is legally separated from the R&A, governors of golf's rules outside of North America.

Here was the statement:

"A postal ballot among members of the Club on a motion to admit women as members will be conducted prior to the announcement of the result on 18 September 2014. This replaces the vote that was previously scheduled to take place at the Club's Business Meeting on that day. By taking this decision all members can take part in this historic vote."

Our finely tuned What They Said What They Meant algorithm can handle anything, including the most tightly worded statements:

"A ballot is to be sent by mail because many of members of the Club still do not use email. The motion to admit women as members, a portion of the population we still rather unbelievably do not allow in our club. The vote will be announced on Sept. 18, 2014. Not coincidentally, that is the day Scotland votes on its independence, ensuring this embarrassing situation is tucked deep into the Empire's newspapers the next day. This postal ballot replaces the potentially disastrous vote that was previously scheduled to take place at the Club's Business Meeting on Sept. 18 and which might have only been attended by those still hoping for a big, all-things 19th century comeback. By taking this decision to all members, including those preferring the 20th century and even the handful who have faith in this new 21st century, all members can take part in this embarrassingly historic vote."

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July 28, 2014

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