The Local Knowlege


How He Hit That: Sang-Moon Bae's pressure-proof deep-grass chip

Sang-Moon Bae had already won once on the PGA Tour -- at the 2013 HP Byron Nelson Championship -- but you wouldn't have known it by the results leading up to the 2014-15 season opener at the Open. 

The 28-year-old South Korean hadn't recorded a top-10 finish since the Nelson triumph, and his time out of the spotlight showed early on the back nine Sunday. Bae bogeyed the 11th, 13th and 14th holes with three-putts as he saw four of the six-stroke advantage he had built disappear with Steven Bowditch safely in the clubhouse after shooting a closing 67.

But on the par-5 16th, Bae made a clutch up-and-down from deep greenside grass to save par, preserve his lead and, ultimately, pave the way to his second tour victory. "Under pressure, you'll see a lot of players struggle with that shot from deep grass to a relatively close pin, even on tour," says top Georgia teacher Brandon Stooksbury, who is the director of instruction at Idle Hour Club in Macon. "It takes some speed on the clubhead to make it through the deeper grass, and the player is afraid to make that big of a swing under the circumstances."

But with the right club and setup -- a 56-degree wedge with 8 to 12 degrees of bounce, played open with the ball in the middle of the stance -- you can reduce the risk that comes from swinging with more speed. "The two things that are important to pulling off the shot are using the bounce on the bottom of the club effectively and coming in at a steep angle of attack," Stooksbury says. "You want to think of the swing shape as a V. Hinge your wrists quickly on the backswing until the club gets to parallel with the ground, then deliver the club quickly and sharply to the back of the ball. If you come in too shallow or slow, the clubhead will get caught in the grass."

With the clubface open, more clubhead speed will produce more height without a lot of extra distance -- another safety buffer that should help you swing more freely. "Look how big Bae's backswing was compared to the follow-through," Stooksbury says. "The grass absorbed all the energy from the swing. He also had some room to let the shot roll out. If it had been a tighter pin, he could have made an even bigger swing and hit a higher shot. You just have to trust the loft of the club."
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How He Hit That: Billy Horschel's turf-digging chunk at the Deutsche Bank

All misses count the same, but the strokes Billy Horschel lost on the 18th hole Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship probably don't feel that way right now. 


Horschel was in the middle of the fairway, 198 yards away from reaching the par 5 in two. He trailed Chris Kirk by a shot, but was playing a hole he had birdied the previous three times he played it. 

Instead of setting himself up for the win -- or at least a spot in a playoff -- Horschel made what he called his worst swing of the week at TPC Boston, chunking his 6-iron so badly that it not only didn't carry the hazard in front of the green, it barely made it into the marsh. After dropping, pitching on and missing his putt, he signed for a 69 and a three-way tie for second with Russell Henley and Geoff Ogilvy. 

"A chunk isn't uncommon when pressure is at its highest," says Jorge Parada, a head instructor at the Tour Academy at TPC Sawgrass. "Your body is physically reacting to the pressure -- your pupils dilate, your muscles constrict and your breathing gets shallow. Your body moves slower, and your rhythm isn't the same. It's easy for a motion as complex as a golf swing to get thrown off."

The secret to avoiding a heavy shot like Horschel's is the one Tiger Woods has used to win so many tournaments -- familiarity. "The only way to handle pressure is to put yourself in those positions as often as possible," says Parada, who works with Jonas Blixt, David Lingmerth and Anna Nordqvist among other tour players. "During your practice time, give yourself scenarios where you need to execute a shot to win something important. Go through your entire routine and focus on slowing your breathing and keeping a normal rhythm. Hit the shot and grade yourself on the result."

To amp up the pressure training, do a vigorous set of wind sprints or jumping jacks just before you hit the shot. Give yourself 45 seconds to go through your routine, modulate your breathing and make your swing. "At first, you'll be shocked at how hard it is to even hit a five-foot putt with your heart rate up and adrenaline pumping," says Parada. "But the more you practice it and work on slowing down your breathing, you'll feel your muscles relax and your heart rate slow down. That's a great tool to have when you need it over an important shot."

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PGA Tour

Ryo Ishikawa has the best putting green etiquette of anyone ever

Two days before the first round of the Deutsche Bank, I and two of Golf Digest's finest hopped in the car, put on our best techno playlist, and went to Norton to check out the scene at TPC Boston. 

I get to see a lot of very cool stuff when I go to events -- like Bubba's driver and Adam Scott's face -- and what I spotted Ryo Ishikawa doing on the practice green at the second FedEx Cup playoff event now ranks high on that list as well. 

ryo towel putting.jpg
(Photo: Keely Levins. Apologies for the flagrant porta potty in the background. I was too distracted by Ryo's stylish pants to notice it while I was snapping the photo.) 

He was doing some putting drills, tees strategically placed to help keep the clubface square, while standing on a towel. I couldn't think of any benefits to his technique explained by that last part, so we went up to his caddie and asked the reason for the towel. His response: Ryo likes standing on the towel because he doesn't want to damage the greens. 

When you stand in one place on a green for a while, your spikes leave substantial marks that can be annoying for the next person trying to putt at that hole, and cringe-worthy for greenkeepers everywhere. 

The effect to the green isn't catastrophic, but the fact that Ryo is aware of it and cares enough to make a little extra effort during his practice session to avoid it shows a level of selflessness that you don't always see from professional athletes. Literally no one would ever make a comment about a player leaving spike marks after doing drills on a practice green. But Ryo leaving the green without having made marks deserves a nod of appreciation. Well done, Ryo.  
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Gear & Equipment

Winner's Bag: What Rory McIlroy used to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

By E. Michael Johnson

loop-rory-winnersbag-bridgestone-518.jpgAs was the case during his British Open triumph last month, Rory McIlroy won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational thanks in large part to his Nike VRS Covert 2.0 driver. The new World No. 1 led the field in driving distance at Firestone CC (334.8 yards) and finished 12th in accuracy (60.71 percent fairways hit).

There were only minor differences in McIlroy's club lineup in his encore victory in Akron, Ohio. Instead of the Nike MM proto 2-iron he carried at Hoylake, McIlroy had a VRS Covert 5-wood (19 degrees). He also took out his VR Pro Blade 3-iron in favor of a third VR Forged wedge, adding the 52 degree to the 54 and 59 degree models he previously carried.

Here is McIlroy's bag in its entirety at Firestone.

Ball: Nike RZN Black

Driver: Nike VRS Covert 2.0 Tour (Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 70X), 8.5 degrees
3-wood: Nike VRS Covert, 15 degrees
5-wood: Nike VRS Covert, 19 degrees
Irons (4-9):
Nike VR Pro Blade; (PW): Nike VR Forged
Wedges: Nike VR Forged (52, 54, 59 degrees)
Putter: Nike Method 006

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News & Tours

Column: The PGA Tour's pretend drug policy

By Matthew Rudy

When I wrote the first national story about the steroids-in-golf issue for Golf Digest back in 2007, I was struck most by two pieces of information that came out of the reporting. 

It was fascinating to learn how easy it would be for a player to find and use a $40 cream that would give him (or her) 10 percent more clubhead speed and do it with virtually no long-term health risk. 

And it was illuminating to hear Dr. Charles Yesalis, the Penn State professor who literally wrote the book on steroids, lay out the pragmatist's guide to building an anti-doping policy. 

"You'd want to keep control of the testing, so that if a star tested positive, you could cover it up and deal with it internally,"Yesalis said. "You want to pick specific drugs that apply to your sport. There are loopholes, but what we're talking about is the perception, not the actual ethics or morals of what is happening."

The PGA Tour must have been taking good notes, because what Yesalis described is exactly what has happened over the last six years.  

It took less than a day for Dustin Johnson's announcement that he was taking a leave from tour golf to work on personal problems to be followed by reports that the PGA Tour actually suspended Johnson for six months for his third failed drug test -- once for marijuana in 2009 and twice for cocaine, in 2012 and 2014. Johnson was reportedly suspended before, for the failed 2012 test, but maintained publicly than he missed time for a back injury (the tour has refuted the published reports by maintaining Johnson has not been suspended). 

The timing of the reports about an official suspension only matters because the PGA Tour doesn't disclose player conduct violations or suspensions. Johnson could be the only player who failed a test since 2009, or he could be one of 100 who did. The tour is content to stand by its statement that it forbids the use of (certain) performance enhancing and recreational drugs, and that it will punish players that violate the rules. 

Commissioner Tim Finchem told me in 2007 that he believed in golf's culture of integrity and rule-following, and that "the notion that a player would cheat in this sport is an anathema to the athletes."

If that's really true, the tour's policy should be complete transparency in its drug program. If cheating (or recreational drug use) is so rare, the occasional player who is announced to have been suspended would only serve as more of a reminder about how dedicated the tour is at preserving fair play and protecting the health of its members. 

If you're following Vijay Singh's legal dispute against the tour over his suspension for admitting he tried deer-antler spray -- a substance for which the tour doesn't even test -- for its performance-enhancing benefits, it's easy to see why the tour is fighting so hard to keep from having to reveal what players have tested positive for a banned substance and what the punishments have been for those violations. 

The term "punishment" can be pretty elastic when everything happens in secret. 

How would it look if a journeyman like Doug Barron got suspended for a year for elevated testosterone and a star player received a different punishment for the same violation? Or if one player got fined for a positive test, while another got some secret time off or received no punishment at all? 

It would mean the tour's primary concern is a player's marketing value, not enforcing basic fairness. 

Say it isn't so. 

Nobody believes Finchem and the tour will adopt Olympic-level openness about anti-doping. In a couple of years, we'll see if it matters. PGA Tour players will go to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics -- where they'll get the same random drug tests as the swimmers and track stars, and be held to standards that make the tour's drug policy look like a junior high science project.

If the winner loses his gold medal because he used testosterone cream or smoked a joint, I'll bet we hear about it. And I bet they won't give it back if he promises not to do it again.  

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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
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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Gear & Equipment

Winner's Bag: What Angel Cabrera used to win The Greenbrier Classic

By E. Michael Johnson

loop-angel-cabrera-ping-driver-greenbrier-518.jpgAngel Cabrera had a couple of equipment highlights during his win at The Greenbrier Classic:

* Cabrera used a Ping S55 7-iron when he jarred his approach from 175 yards on the par-4 13th hole to help stretch his lead.

* The two-time major winner also was one of eight Ping staff players to use the company’s G30 driver, a club the company debuted just this week. Cabrera was 11th in driving distance at 307.1 yards and was fourth in driving accuracy, hitting 82.14 percent of his fairways.

Here's a look at the rest of the bag of the Argentine:

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Driver: Ping G30 (Aldila Rogue 80X), 9 degrees

3-wood: Ping G30, 13.5 degrees

Irons (2): Ping i25; (3-PW): Ping S55

Ping Anser (54 degrees); Ping Tour Gorge TS (60 degrees)

Putter: Ping Scottsdale TR Anser 2B

Photos: Getty Images

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Haney: Tiger comeback not as simple as just hitting balls

By Matthew Rudy

Tiger Woods warned everyone that he'd be rusty for his first tentative steps back into competitive golf at the Quicken Loans National last week. He only started hitting full shots again over U.S. Open weekend, two and a half months after March 31 back surgery.

After two weeks of practice, Woods shot rounds of 74-75 and missed the cut by four shots. How close is he to getting back to full speed? 

Not very close, says Hank Haney, who helped Woods come back from two separate knee surgeries in 2008. 

"I know people were excited to hear that he was back hitting balls, but hitting balls isn't the same as practicing," says Haney, who worked with Woods from 2003 to 2010. "You have to get your swing going and your endurance back first. You don't just walk out there and start pounding balls for four hours. It's not that easy."

After Woods' reconstructive knee surgery in 2008, Haney worked out a four-week plan to get Woods from zero to competitive shape. It incorporated doctors' advice about how fast and often Woods could swing at a given stage of recovery. 

"The doctor said he could start out making 50 wedge swings a day. I calculated how fast a wedge swing would be, and then we worked on all of his clubs swinging at that speed," says Haney. "In the second week, he could hit maybe 100 shots at 7-iron speed, so we did the same thing. Week 3 he was up to 4-iron speed, so he could hit 250-yard shots with his driver. It was only after the fourth week, when he could swing at driver speed but with a limit to the number of shots, that he could really have a 'normal' practice session." 

And what was a normal practice session for off-season Tiger, circa 2005?

"He'd get up in the morning and do a full workout, and then practice from nine in the morning to about six at night, with 45 minutes for lunch," says Haney. "Four hours of hitting balls and four hours of playing. Every day." 

Related: Tiger Woods Injury Slideshow

Age, injuries, kids and money all make it unlikely Woods is grinding as hard at practice as he did when he was 30.  

"A lot of athletes continue to have a lot of drive. I mean, you can't question Peyton Manning's drive," says Haney. "But I saw Tiger's drive diminish as early as 2006. That's speculation and observation, but you can't deny that he doesn't practice as much. It could be because of his kids. It could be because of injuries. It doesn't matter what the because is. It's reality. The question is what happens now."

Woods hasn't said if he'll play again before the British Open July 17-20. He isn't in the field at the Greenbrier this week, which leaves the John Deere and the Scottish Open the week before Liverpool.

"He's basically practiced one week out of the last six months," says Haney. "Tony Romo had the same surgery in December, and he told me that Tiger would come back much quicker than anybody thought because his core was so strong. But Tiger said last week that his swing wasn't explosive yet because he hadn't been able to do some of his weightlifting program. That means he still has some restrictions."

Even the notion that Woods was able to practice chipping and putting extensively during the rehab process is an open question.

"There's a lot we don't know," Haney says. "With the back, how many putts can you hit? How many chips can you stand over?"   

If Haney made Woods' schedule, he would have booked him for a few late-season appearance-fee events to ease back into competition, with the goal of being battle ready for the 2015 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. "That would have been a good plan, but his plan is to go play these majors and see what happens," says Haney. "Can he catch lightning in a bottle somewhere? Sure. Liverpool and Valhalla are two courses he's won on, and I'm sure he's looking forward to getting back to them. But is it realistic to expect him to be the player he was this summer, whatever that means? I think it'll be tough."  

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Gear & Equipment

PGA Tour pros testing new Ping prototype driver at The Greenbrier

By Mike Stachura

For more than a decade, observers have known what to expect from Ping drivers: A consistent, oversized shape that emphasizes forgiveness on off-center hits, all with a relatively traditional look. But starting with the alignment stripes on this year's i25 driver, Ping is expanding its horizons.

That trend continued this week as the company unveiled its G30 driver on the PGA Tour. Like the i25, the G30, which according to the USGA's list of conforming drivers includes the word "turbulators" on the top of the club, employs what appears to be a crown technology. Generally, a turbulator is a means of improving the air flow around an object like an airplane wing or car. Clearly visible are a series of ridges on the crown of the G30. 


The G30's crown ridges have the look of airfoil turbulators and could play some role in improving the club's aerodynamic efficiency during the swing. In fact, Ping engineers led by Dr. Erik Henrikson, head of fitting science, are presenting a paper at the 2014 Conference of the International Sports Engineering Association this month in England. The title, "Experimental investigation of golf driver club head drag reduction through the use of aerodynamic features on the driver crown," may say something about what the G30's crown ridges might be trying to do. The presentation is listed here in the Programme Schedule for the conference.

Several players began testing the G30 on Monday at The Greenbrier Classic, including Mark Wilson, Derek Ernst, Jason Gore and David Lingmerth. Angel Cabrera already put both a G30 driver and 3-wood in his bag, and Bubba Watson, who has been testing the driver since mid-May, also is expected to put the club in play this week in West Virginia. 


More details on G30 and its technology are expected to be available later this week.

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News & Tours

Justin Rose wins, but Congressional prevails in Quicken Loans National

By John Strege

It is called the Blue Course, presumably in a nod to the color of the language it evokes from a vexed PGA Tour constituency. The word of the day there Sunday was “#$&@?$%$!”

Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., occasionally hosts the U.S. Open, suggesting its tournament course is not likely to warrant a Miss Congeniality award. But that’s the U.S. Open. Why was it showcasing its ugly side in a tournament now known as the Quicken Loans National?

Rose Water.jpg
(Getty Images photo)

It almost proved too thorny even for a Rose. Justin Rose survived a 72nd-hole bogey to win the tournament, beating Shawn Stefani on the first hole of a playoff.

“It’s definitely a test,” Rose said Saturday.

What, a calculus test?

Patrick Reed was among those who failed it. Reed took a two-stroke lead into the final round and was threatening to have the last laugh on those who ridiculed him for having declared himself a top-five player in the world. “He has self belief,” Nick Faldo said diplomatically, “the best 15th club in the bag.” Disbelief surely joined his repertoire in the final round, when he imploded spectacularly, shooting a 77 that included three double bogeys and a few impolitic words.

Freddie Jacobson, meanwhile, momentarily misplaced his composure and gouged a chunk of turf from the rough (see video below). He was running hot, despite donning plus-twos that he said were “a little bit cooler in this heat.”

At least Congressional delivered an appropriate winner on a course on which “a U.S. Open broke out,” CBS’ Peter Kostis said. Rose is a U.S. Open champion, who has developed a habit of winning on renowned tracks: Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion and now Congressional.

“I think Congressional got its reputation back after the U.S. Open, for sure,” Rose said, referring to Rory McIlroy’s Open win there in 2011, when he played 72 holes in 16 under par. Rose and Stefani each finished at four under par, two of only 10 players to better par in the tournament.

“I was excited to play this golf course this week,” Rose said. “I really enjoy this type of golf and this kind of test. And it tested all of us.”

Even the tournament host, Tiger Woods, who missed the cut in his return to competitive golf though apparently avoided injury. That in itself was an achievement with rough so thick that “if we played it every week you’d see more wrist injuries,” defending champion Bill Haas said.

Only six of the 75 players broke par in the final round and only two scored in the 60s, but everyone, ultimately, was a victim of Congressional mettle.

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