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Look at old videos of the best swings of yesteryear, and you’ll likely see the golfer’s lead knee move toward the ball during the backswing. At the same time, the lead leg’s foot would roll inward and the heel would come off the ground. For the most part, it’s become a thing of the past. With more emphasis now on fitness and strength and swinging the club from a solid base, the best players really stabilize their lead knee (left for right-handers). They use it as an anchor to wind against as they load into their trail side. Even for amateur golfers of limited physical ability, consistency and power immediately improve when that knee is relatively still during the backswing.
My associate J.J. Rivet, one of the world’s leading biomechanists, says his testing has shown that the lead knee of a modern tour player moves toward the ball no more than 8 degrees. In many cases it barely shifts. Amateurs, however, let the knee move as much as 35 degrees during the backswing. You can’t coil properly with a power bleed like that.
A drill to train better stabilization of this knee is to make one- handed rehearsal backswings while preventing the knee from moving with your other hand (above). You should feel pressure in the toes of your lead leg and the heel of your trail leg as you reach the top of the swing. It’s perfectly acceptable for the lead heel to raise as long as the knee moves slightly toward the target, not inward. —WITH RON KASPRISKE
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Between Phil Mickelson hitting a ball in motion, Joel Dahmen calling out the motivation of Sung Kang and Tiger Woods’ non-double hit at the Hero World Challenge, 2018 was a banner year for rules controversies. Surely, with the new, simplified Rules of Golf, 2019 had no chance at providing as much rules drama as the season prior. No chance.
Not only did 2019 live up to the hype, it may have outdone 2018 in the rules-issue department. During the fall PGA Tour season alone, it felt like there was at least one controversy per week, each one featuring more penalty strokes than the last. Here are the most unusual rules incidents from another ridiculous season of run-ins with the law, in chronological order.
In golf, tireless tinkerers are known as ‘range rats.’ But even rats have social norms. Which brings us to this week’s etiquette rundown: nine rules of thumb for the driving range.
1. Mind Your Divots
You’re here to practice, not to rototill the turf. Don’t tear up every patch of grass at your disposal. Keep your divots in a vertical line, without digging too deep in a single spot. The maintenance crew will thank you. So will any golfer who comes next.
2. Watch your Angles
While firing at different targets is fair game, this is not a free-for-all. In the interest of sanity — and everyone’s safety — avoid cross-country shots. If you’re stationed at a stall on the left side range, don’t take aim at a green on the far right. Ditto for the other way around.
3. The Bucket List
Don’t tip the bucket over unless you plan to hit every single shot. Only take the balls you need and leave the rest in the bucket for the next golfer, rather than scattering them all about.
4. Don’t Hog the Stall
Are you a masochist, bent on banging balls until your hands blister? Suit yourself. But also situate yourself in a tucked-away spot at the far end of the range, rather than in a prime location. Even then, if the range is packed, it’s not your right to go full Vijay. Finish your bucket then step aside and let another golfer take a turn.
5. Tame that Tune
We get it. You like yacht rock. Not everyone does. So if you insist on hitting to the rhythmic strains of‘Hotel California’, do it through your earbuds and spare the rest of us your outdated taste.
6. Stay in Inside the Ropes
Those boundaries are there for a reason: the turf beyond needs time to recover. What it doesn’t need is to take a pounding from someone who thinks he’s more important than everyone else.
7. Don’t Pelt the Range-Picker
We get it. It’s tempting, taking aim at the driver in the mesh-enclosed range-picker. But what may seem to you like harmless target practice is disrespectful of the very people who are trying to serve you. If juvenile shooting is what you’re after, try downloading video game.
8. Give Wide Berth
This should go without saying but we’ll say it anyway: getting hit with a golf club hurts. So don’t take chances. When you’re walking behind other golfers, give them ample leeway. Twice as much as you think you need.
9. Minimize the Questions and the Commentary
If you’re looking for a lesson, book a lesson. Don’t pester your fellow rangers for tips. Exchanging simple pleasantries is okay, but this is not a place for prolonged chatter. Same goes for the monologues. No one needs to hear your moaning or groaning, and no cares that you caught that last shot fat.
We all know the huge names, but what about some off-the-radar folks who could shine next year.
It’s obvious that Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm and Tiger Woods are five of the best golfers on the planet. Anyone who casually follows the game or engages in the sport can tell you that much. But what about when you step outside the star and superstar realm and get a little past the most obvious contenders in this sport?
What do you find at No. 50 in the world or No. 100 or even past that? With 2020 quickly approaching and another calendar year of golf on deck, I thought it would be fun to throw 20 names at you to watch in 2020. These are in no particular order in terms of ranking, but they’re 20 guys who have a chance to take a leap (or two leaps) into stardom in professional (or amateur) golf at the start of the new decade.
Let’s jump in.
1. Matthew Wolff: Probably the most famous of this group, and he already has a win. It might be unfair to include him on a list of folks you need to know more about because I don’t know how much you already know about him. But his intangibles are off the charts and probably more impressive than anyone else on here. I could not be more in.
2. Xinjun Xhang: Blew away the competition in the Korn Ferry Tour regular season this year. He’s already earned significantly more money in the fall than he did in his entire previous season on the PGA Tour combined.
3. Ben An: This is all you need to know about Ben An and his game.
Most golf beginners would begin their journey with a mid-iron or wedge, but An was the opposite as he started with one of the hardest clubs – the 1-iron. “I liked the 1-iron, that was the first club I used,” An said. “I remember it was a club with an old-school green colored grip. It just felt fun for me. I still remember it although I was very young then.” [PGA Tour]
4. Tom Lewis: The former stud amateur came over and won the Korn Ferry Tour Championship by five after his highest-ever finish at a major championship (T11 at The Open). Currently No. 53 in the world, which is his highest ranking ever.
5. Abraham Ancer: Stole the show at the Presidents Cup, but the reality is that he was playing quality golf long before that. Starred for a while at the 2019 Players Championship, finished second at The Northern Trust and top 10 in his last PGA Tour events of the fall.
6. Joaquin Niemann: Just turned 21 and has almost matched his age with his tee-to-green ranking on the PGA Tour. Certified stud.
7. Sungjae Im: The real breakout star of the Presidents Cup. Im might be a superstar, and he has the kind of game that’s going to go on and on and on and on. All the way up to 34th in the world, and I could see him in the top 20 this time next year.
8. Scottie Scheffler: There’s a little Spieth in there in terms of the amateur career and walking in the same footsteps. He doesn’t get the same shine Spieth ever did though, but he’s going to have a good, long career.
9. Corey Conners: The best ball-striker you’ve never heard of. He was ninth (!!) from tee to green last season.
10. Bernd Wiesberger: Did you know that Bernd Wiseberger is ranked ahead of Rickie Fowler in the Official World Golf Rankings? I bet you did not know this factual information.
11. Jazz Janewattananond: Introduced himself at the PGA Championship this spring, and likely played himself into the Masters by rising into the top 50 in the OWGR by Dec. 31. He’s currently No. 45 with two weeks to go (the top 50 on Dec. 31 get in).
12. Collin Morikawa: Elite iron player. I don’t know that he has the juice to hang with Wolff and Hovland long-term, but I’m extremely excited to watch him try and play his way into that.
13. Erik Van Rooyen: Come for the joggers, stay for one of the 50 best in the world.
14. Harry Higgs: Won on the Korn Ferry Tour last season and finished second at the Bermuda Championship this fall. He made $540,000 in the fall and is getting close to earning his 2021 card.
15. Robert Macintyre: Finished sixth (!) at The Open at Royal Portrush and had four other top-10 finishes to close out 2019. Still just 23 years old.
16. Takumi Kanaya: The No. 1 amateur in the world and the No. 222 player in the world overall. It’s not often you see that combination, but the 21-year-old is winning legit pro events and nearly even took the Australian Open a few weeks ago.
17. Viktor Hovland: Vegas shouldn’t even offer odds on him winning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. Would be like letting Kyler Murray be a rookie next year.
18. Cole Hammer: Another Texas stud. Took down Wolff in the match-play portion of the NCAAs earlier in 2019 and is currently the No. 2 amateur in the world. Right amount of swag, tons of game and a great pedigree. Here for it.
19. Victor Perez: He’s won an official event in each of the last four calendar years. His fall was outstanding as he took the Dunhill Links and then nearly won in China (WGC event) and Turkey (European Tour Rolex Series event). Might be a Ryder Cup threat.
20. Justin Harding: He was the “one of these things is not like the other ones” golfer in the top 15 at Augusta in April. Last year was the first time in his career that he’s played all four of the majors in a calendar year, and he made the cut at three of the four including that impressive T12 at the Masters.
Any time a year comes to its conclusion it offers the opportunity to reflect on what occurred over the preceding 12 months. As it relates to the golf equipment scene on the professional tours, 2019 had no shortage of newsworthy stories. Hot drivers and the methods used to test them continued to be a controversial topic, specifically at the Open Championship where there was a visible split between some tour players and the governing bodies over the protocols used. Spicy drivers, however, were only a fraction of the equipment news. Players breaking clubs, losing clubs, using too many golf balls or not having enough of them caused confusion and consternation among those involved. And then there were the numerous equipment escapades of the “Golf Scientist,” Bryson DeChambeau. With that, here’s a look at our top golf equipment stories of 2019.
Driver testing at the Open Championship
Driver testing is a behind-the-scenes process that is usually a non-event. That changed when a handful of the 30 players who had their clubs tested prior to the Open Championship at Royal Portrush in July saw some fail the test. Among those players was Xander Schauffele, who went public with his displeasure at the process. Schauffele’s beef that it was selective and needed more discretion was legitimate, but the testing brought to light the fact that some drivers being used on tour that were originally “legal” were unintentionally becoming nonconforming over time due to usage. Soon thereafter the PGA Tour implemented mandatory driver testing at several events, with a few drivers caught speeding at the Safeway Open. To what extent there is an issue remains to be seen, but it’s a story to follow in 2020.
Bryson DeChambeau’s many changes
You can’t have a list of top equipment stories without Bryson DeChambeau. Normally known for having all his irons the length of a 7-iron, DeChambeau became more focused on other aspects of his equipment in 2019. At the WGC-Mexico Championship, DeChambeau changed to Bridgestone’s Tour B XS ball and waxed on about the effect of atmospheric conditions on a golf ball. Prior to the Masters, he changed all the shafts in his irons and wedges. Later in the year, at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, he put graphite shafts in all 14 clubs, which is believed to be a first for a PGA Tour player. Finally, at the Hero World Challenge, DeChambeau put into play a 4.8-degree driver. And what about the One Length irons? They hardly got a mention with everything else going on.
Eddie Pepperell running out of golf balls
OK, we’ve all been there. Out on the course enduring a rough patch and worrying about running out of ammo. Heck, Tiger Woods nearly did it at the 2000 U.S. Open. Unfortunately for Eddie Pepperell, the worst fears actually came true during the third round of the Turkish Airlines Open in November. In rapid fashion, Pepperell launched balls into a pond until his bag was empty, and he was ultimately disqualified. Said playing companion Martin Kaymer, “Eddie hit his shots to the green, then came over to tell us he had run out of balls. He did not ask if he could borrow one [allowable if the same model]. It did not look like he wanted to play. He did not putt with his putter on the third hole; he putted with a wedge. So there was a lot happening. I have never seen anything like that before. I only watched it on television, in ‘Tin Cup.’ This is the first time I have seen it live.” Us, too.
RELATED: The 21 (yes, 21!) most painful rules incidents of 2019
Russell Henley runs afoul of the one-ball rule
While Pepperell was DQ’d for not having enough golf balls, Russell Henley got an eight-stroke penalty for using too many. After the second round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic in October, Henley dug into his bag to get a few balls to sign and hand out to fans. In doing so, he noticed he had accidentally used a ball other than a Titleist Pro V1x during his round—a no-no under the PGA Tour’s one-ball rule that requires a player use the same make and model of ball throughout a round. Henley went to a rules official and explained he had used the different ball for four holes. The penalty: two strokes for each hole, turning his 69 into a 77 and a missed cut.
Steve Stricker’s venerable sticks, unusual endorsement deal
Steve Stricker went back in time—in golf equipment terms, way back in time—in putting his old Titleist 755 Forged irons, a set that debuted in 2006, in the bag at the Memorial. Stricker used the clubs a few weeks later to win the U.S. Senior Open, saying, “I’ve been trying to find some clubs and equipment that I like, and so I went back to an old set that feels really good. That’s part of it, too, I think. I’m swinging at it a little bit more confidently, feeling good with what I have in my hand.” Stricker’s putter is a golf artifact as well, an Odyssey White Hot 2 he first played at the 2006 Shell Houston Open. Two days after winning the Senior Open, Stricker signed one of the most unusual endorsement deals in golf with Odyssey. The pact called for no signage on his hat, bag or anywhere for that matter. Just that he continue to use a putter nearly 15 years old, which is right up his alley.
Harold Varner busted for assembling his driver on course
Harold Varner’s Players Championship got off to a rough start when, prior to his opening round, his driver cracked on the practice range. As such, Varner started his round with 13 clubs and intended to have another driver brought out to him, allowable under the rules. But Varner wanted to use the same shaft that was in his gamer. This too is allowable so long as the assembly of the club takes place off the course. That’s where things went wrong. After leaving the shaft back at the tee, hoping to have his agent pick it up and assemble the club before bringing it out to him, a walking scorer took the shaft out to Varner on the course. When the driver head was brought out, too, the club was assembled on the course in violation of the rule, costing Varner a two-shot penalty.
RELATED: Golf World’s Newsmakers of the Year for 2019
Tommy Fleetwod’s eBay bargain putter
Like most golfers going through a rough stretch on the greens, Tommy Fleetwood was ready for a putter change at the Omega European Masters in September. The new putter, however, turned out to be an old putter that his caddie, Ian Finnis, purchased off eBay for £90 ($109) in January. It was a birthday gift for Fleetwood, who used a similar model growing up. Fleetwood put the Odyssey DFX 2-Ball Blade in play and needed just 21 putts in the opening round. He continued to play well the rest of the week, finishing T-8 to earn the equivalent of £45,674—a pretty good return on Finnis’ original investment.
Patrick Reed snapping wedge over his knee at the U.S. Open
Varner’s broken driver was an accident. Patrick Reed’s demolition of a wedge at the U.S. Open was intentional for all the world to see. On the final hole of his second round at Pebble Beach, Reed hit a pitch shot long from behind the green then flubbed his next shot. That’s when Reed went full Bo Jackson (or Henrik Stenson) and snapped the shaft of the wedge over his knee. Reed somehow went on to get the next shot close enough to make the putt for double bogey and make the cut, but he needed a new wedge for the weekend.
Lost clubs of LPGA Tour players
It was a rough year for the transport of clubs used by LPGA Tour players. In February, en route to the Honda LPGA in Thailand, a number of players including Paula Creamer, Sandra Gal, Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Brittany Lincicome had their sticks fail to get to their destination on a Cathay Pacific flight. In March, In-Kyung Kim learned her missing clubs were actually up for sale on eBay after supposedly being lost on an American Airlines flight. In July, Ryann O’Toole’s clubs failed to make it to France for the Evian Championship. When pleading her case to a British Airways agent, the agent ignorantly asked, “Can’t you just use a rental set?” And in September, two Solheim Cup players, Angel Yin and Shadoff (tough year for her) had airlines lose their fully-loaded travel bags. Luckily all the players were eventually reunited with their clubs.
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In the aftermath of the U.S. Presidents Cup victory on Sunday, a reporter asked Tiger Woods — with tongue firmly planted in cheek — if he would mind going over his 2020 schedule through the Masters.
After a moment of consternation, Woods broke into a wide grin, dropped a good-natured riff and moved on. Of course, he was never going to divulge what he’s doing next week, let alone in the coming months. But it was worth a shot.
And so is trying to figure out where he will play next, how many tournaments his schedule will entail and where he will visit.
Coming off a Masters victory for his 15th major title, his Zozo Championship win for his 82nd PGA Tour victory to tie Sam Snead’s record and a successful year-end run at the Hero World Challenge and the Presidents Cup, expectations might be even higher than they were to begin 2019. Woods will end the year ranked seventh in the world.
And given the way Woods has looked since August knee surgery, there is considerable reason for optimism.
Before delving into some educated guesses as to where Woods will play in 2020, there are some obvious predictions.
With that, here is what appears likely for 2020, with a few thoughts on tournaments that have been kicked around as well.
This seems an extreme reach, but we mention it because Woods is eligible and there are some compelling reasons to play. Small fields are his friend, as are no-cut events. And given that it’s only two weeks away and his game is in form, you could see him going to Hawai’i and winning. But of course, the fact that the tournament is in two weeks and right after a hectic stretch, and with the holidays mixed in, makes it a long shot. Woods most recently played the event in 2005.
This makes sense as the place to begin the new year. Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines and on several occasions has made this his launching point. It also gives him five weeks to decompress and build back up.
Woods has already committed to the Los Angeles event that is run by his foundation, and it’s now one that has similar status to the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Memorial. Woods tied for 15th in 2009 despite numerous delays and cold weather.
The only thing standing in the way is if Woods decides he’d rather play his hometown Honda Classic the following week. Don’t look for him to play three in a row at any point. But Mexico offers several advantages. The WGC short field and automatic ranking points are key. And he tied for 10th in 2019 despite a poor week of putting.
Even if Woods skips Mexico, playing Honda would mean three consecutive tournaments, with the Arnold Palmer and the Players Championship to follow. Woods skipped the event he’s won eight times due to a neck strain in 2019. Unless he is determined to mirror his 2019 schedule, it’s difficult to see him skipping this tournament.
The new schedule unveiled in 2019 meant a move of the Players to March and Woods skipping two tournaments he played in 2018, the Honda Classic and the Valspar Championship. If healthy, he’s not missing the Players.
Woods made it to the quarterfinals last year after a memorable match-play victory over Rory McIlroy. The WGC format and automatic ranking points seemingly make this Texas event a slam dunk, as it is two weeks prior to the Masters, a time when he likes to play.
Woods is looking at giving himself six starts before the Masters, one more than in 2019. He would play twice in consecutive weeks but just once in the three weeks leading up to the tournament, with time to make a visit to Augusta National.
We got this one wrong last year, as did many others who figured Woods would want a start between major championships. The emotional toll from the Masters victory kept him at home rather than in North Carolina, but the lack of preparation for the PGA Championship resulted in a missed cut.
Woods won the 2005 WGC-American Express Championship at Harding Park and went 5-0 in the 2009 Presidents Cup there. He’ll be hoping for some warmer temperatures in San Francisco than he had at Bethpage in 2019, when he missed the cut at the PGA.
No reason to skip Jack Nicklaus’ tournament in Ohio. In one of just six post-Masters starts through the FedEx Cup playoffs, the tie for ninth in 2019 was his best.
New York’s Winged Foot is the site of Woods’ first cut in a major as a pro, in 2006. It was his first event following the death of his father, Earl, approximately a month earlier.
Woods skipped this Tennessee tournament in 2019 when it was played the week following The Open. He is more likely to play it this time, to give himself a start between the U.S. Open and The Open. Possible glitch: if he makes the Olympic field.
In Woods’ only appearance at Royal St. George’s, in 2003, he had a lost ball on the first hole, ended up making a triple-bogey 7 and finished two shots back of winner Ben Curtis in England.
Woods continues to say that he would love to play in the Olympics. To do so, he will need to be ranked among the top four Americans not outside the top 15 as of the June 22 cutoff. At seventh in the world, he is currently the fourth American, behind Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson. It’s hard to see the first two going anywhere. So Woods is effectively fighting for two spots with Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau. With two major championships, the Players and two WGCs prior to the cutoff, there is a lot that can happen.
The first of three playoff events shifts to TPC Boston, and the only reason for Woods to skip it is if he needs a break after the Olympics and doesn’t want to play three in a row in the playoffs.
The tournament moves to Olympia Fields, where Woods tied for 20th at the 2003 U.S. Open in his only time playing the Illinois venue.
After missing this event in 2019 after winning it a year earlier, you have to figure it is a priority for Woods to make it back to Atlanta.
If you include the Zozo Championship he won in October, that is 18 official PGA Tour events. That doesn’t include the Olympics, and if Woods makes it to Tokyo, expect there to be some juggling to bring the total down by an event or two. All of this, of course, is subject to health and fitness.
As for the fall of 2020, after the PGA Tour season has concluded, there is the potential for the Ryder Cup (Woods is currently fourth in the U.S. standings with a very limited number of events counting), a possible title defense in Japan, with some sort of made-for-TV event added in again, and the Hero World Challenge.
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