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What to Watch at the Ryder Cup

2016 Ryder Cup - What to Watch

The Ryder Cup, the biennial men’s golf competition between teams from Europe and United States, is named after English businessman Samuel Ryder.  Founded in 1927, the event takes place in alternating venues between the United States and Europe.  This year the event will be held at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, 2016.

Both teams consist of 12 players each, which have qualified or have been selected by their captains – Davis Love III (Team USA Captain) and Darren Clarke (Team Europe Captain).  For years the competition included players from the United States, Great Britain and Ireland, but a change in the team format in 1979 included continental European golfers.  The American team dominated the event for many years, but since 1979 the European team won ten times while the US Team won seven times.  The European team currently holds the Ryder Cup – after winning the past three consecutive events in 2010, 2012 and 2014.    

The matches take place over three days and include a series of different formats as follows:

Day 1 (Friday, Sept. 30):

•  There are 4 foursome (alternate shot) matches in the morning and 4 four-ball (better ball) matches in the afternoon.   Each match is worth one point and if the match ends in a tie, each team earns half a point. 

•  A total of eight players from each team participate in the morning and afternoon sessions. (Four players from each team “sit out” for the session – with the line-up determined by the Captain and Assistant Captains.)

Day 2 (Saturday, Oct. 1):

•  4 foursome (alternate shot) matches in the morning and 4 four-ball (better ball) matches in the afternoon.  Each match is worth one point and if the match ends in a tie, each team earns half a point.

•  A total of eight players from each team participate in the morning and afternoon sessions. (Four players from each team “sit out” for the session – with the line-up determined by the Captain and Assistant Captains.)

Day 3 (Sunday, Oct. 2):

•  The final day consists of 12 singles matches, where all 12 players from each team participate.  Each match is worth one point and if the match ends in a tie, each team earns half a point.

There are a total of 28 points available over three days in the Ryder Cup.  A team total of 14½ points is required for the Team USA to win the Ryder Cup and 14 points are required for the European Team to retain the Ryder Cup. 

The Captains pair players together based on complimentary strength of game (for example: one player consistent from the tee and one player with a sharp short game) or pair players together who have a history of playing well together from past match play events.  Some Captains will pair a rookie team member with a seasoned veteran to help calm the nerves. The line-ups are announced right before the matches so that creates additional suspense and discussion.

Golf Channel and NBC are providing nearly 27 hours of live event coverage from Minnesota as follows: (Note:  times listed are Eastern Daylight Time)

Friday, Sept. 30 – Day One           8:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. EDT (GOLF)
Saturday, Oct. 1 – Day Two          8:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. EDT (GOLF)
                                                      9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. EDT (NBC)

Sunday, Oct. 2 – Final Round     12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. EDT (NBC)

 

How to Break 80

Breaking 80The past two weeks we’ve talked about how a sharp short game can help you break 100 and practicing your 100-yard shot and in can help you break 90.  So if you score regularly in 80s, what can you do with your golf game to help you break 80? 

Chances are you are chasing that single-digit handicap goal and would like to break 80 on a regular basis.  You have practiced and perfected your short game and hit greens in regulation (all tips to break 100 and 90).  Now it’s time to dial in all your clubs – including your driver – so you are consistent and give yourself scoring chances.

The first thing to do is to know how far you hit and carry distance for each club.  You can easily accomplish this through a club fitting or lesson from a PGA or LPGA Professional who can help you determine how far the ball goes with each club.  Many club fitters and golf professional use Trackman, a launch monitor device that measures trajectory and distance.  If that’s not available, use a GPS or laser range finder to determine your distances.  If you find two clubs go the same distance, ask your club fitter or Professional to test the loft to make sure they aren’t the same – this can sometimes happen when the clubs are made – so make sure each club is a different loft.  As we discussed last week, generally the loft difference between your irons should be 4° which will give you 10 yards of difference between clubs. 

Also have your driver checked to make sure it’s best suited for your swing.  Many people use higher lofts on drivers (10° to 12°) to maximize the loft and roll to get additional distance.  While most people taking golf lessons always want more distance, it’s better to be accurate from the tee to keep your ball in play and avoid trouble.  That allows you to have a swing for your approach shot rather than trying to get yourself back into play from an adjacent fairway or rough.

Knowing your iron distances and controlling your driver will help you play smarter and manage the course better, which equals lower scores, hopefully in the 70s.

How to Break 90

How to Break the 90 Golf Barrier

Are you stuck in the 90s?  Meaning you consistently break 100 but can’t seem to get into the 80’s.  Last week we talked about focusing on practicing the short game – so chances are you are good at chipping, pitching and putting but can’t seem to crack the 90 barrier. 

Just as in committing to practice your short game, the same holds true for trying to score in the 80s on a regular basis.  You need to commit time to practicing – which may include a series of lessons with a PGA or LPGA Professional who will assist you in accomplishing your goals. 

An easy way to determine what part of your game needs work is to simply keep track of the number of greens you hit in regulation.  Chances are you hit less than half the greens in regulation, which causes you to take an extra shot around the green – thus turning your par into bogey or your bogey into a double bogey.  

The best way to overcome missing greens is to figure out your 100-yard club and practice enough to really be consistent with that club.  The general rule of thumb is each club should have four degrees of loft difference which equates to 10 yards.  So if your 7-iron is your 100-yard club, you should hit your 8-iron 90 yards and a 9-iron 80 yards, etc.  (The loft of the 7 iron should be about 34°, the 8 iron 37° and the 9 iron 41° so each four degrees of loft equals 10 yards).  Also get a feel for your distance with a pitching wedge, sand wedge and lob wedge (depending on how many wedges you carry).  Then as you get closer to the green, determine which clubs travel 30 to 50-yards if you use a half-swing. 

Feeling comfortable with your mid to short irons will help you reach greens in regulation and cut down on multiple approach shots from missing the green.  Many golfers miss the green because they don’t take enough club, so by practicing from 100-yards and in, you will know which club to use to hit more greens and be on your way to posting some scores in the 80s.   

 

What is your Milestone Golf Goal?

Have you Broken 100Many golfers have a stretch goal of breaking a specific score for golf – maybe that’s breaking 100, 90 or 80.  Over the next three weeks, we’ll explore hints to help you break your milestone score goal. 

As we have discussed in the past, the best way to lower your score is to sharpen and own your short game.  Take time to carve out practice time to focus on your short game.  Perhaps that’s taking your wedge or putter and really practicing – not just hitting a few balls and hitting some lag putts – but spending 30 to 60-minutes practicing your short game.  Get a bucket of balls and practice the fundamentals of a good chip or pitch shot.  Doing this repetitive motion will help you develop a smooth, consistent chip or pitch shot.  This easily transitions to the golf course as you will have increased confidence when faced with this shot.

The same holds true with your putter.  If you struggle to break 100 on a regular basis, chances are you have more than 36 putts per round (meaning that nasty three-putt enters your game more than you’d like.)  Since the majority of your shots are around the green, take time to really practice and work on that part of your game.  Many of us have played with a golfer who doesn’t hit a long ball from the tee, but they still make par or bogey because they have a sharp short game and don’t take extra shots on or around the green.

Keep track of your putts on your scorecard when you play.  Assuming you will two-putt every hole, only write down the one-putts and three-putts.  Try to have fewer than 36 putts per round.

Make sure you are reviewing the basics of a good putting stroke when practicing.  Your eyes should be right over the ball and your stroke should be a smooth back and through motion, creating a consistent stroke.  My favorite putting drill is to practice making 10 putts from one putter length away (usually your putter is 33” to 36” inches long) so this is an easy three foot distance putt to practice.  If you miss a putt, you have to start over until you can make seven, eight, nine or ten putts in a row.  Once you do that you move to two putter lengths (or roughly six feet away) and try to make another seven, eight, nine or ten putts in a row from that distance.  If you miss a putt, go back to the three foot putt until you hole consecutive putts from that range, before moving back to the six foot range.  You will be amazed at how much confidence you have in making a three-foot putt after practicing this drill.

If your goal is to two-putt every green, you now have the confidence to stroke your first putt within a three foot circle of the hole, knowing you can make that three foot putt.  Of course, the goal with chipping or pitching is to hit that ball within that same three foot circle, to set yourself up for some one-putt greens. 

Practicing your short game with solid chips and putts will have you on your way to breaking 100. 

Match Play Strategies

Match Play StrategiesMost golfers are used to playing stroke play – where you play your own ball and count your strokes.  An alternative format is Match Play – where you are playing head-to-head with another golfer, rather than playing stroke play against an entire field.  While both formats require the same skills, Match Play offers a unique type of strategy since the Rules are slightly different from stroke play.

The most common differences are the ability to concede putts thereby allowing your opponent to not have to hole out every putt.  Other unique Rules in stoke play have a one or two stroke penalty whereas Match Play the penalty is loss of hole (since the format of play that is scored in a hole-by-hole competition.)

The following are some strategies you may elect to use when playing Match Play against an opponent or you and a partner may use if playing a team Match Play event:

Be first on the tee – the obvious reason of playing first from the tee means you have the honor for having won the previous hole.  Secondly, by playing first, you set the tone for the hole and have a slight advantage – if you hit a booming tee shot, your opponent will feel the pressure to “keep up.”

Get off to a fast start – set the tone for the match by trying to play well right away at the first hole.  If you are successful and win multiple holes early in the match, you may close out your opponent early and not have to play all 18 holes. 

Play your game by maintaining your usual pace of play.  If you like to play quickly, don’t let a slower player bother you and get you out of your comfort zone.  If the opposite is true and you are playing with someone much faster than you like to play, go with your normal routine so you don’t feel rushed (but still be cognizant of keeping pace.)

Play smart and play to your strengths.  During an important match is not the time to try to carry the 40-yard water hazard from 200 yards away.  Know your shot strengths and always think ahead – play the shot to layup short of the hazard, hit the next shot on the green and think two-putts for par or bogey.  If your opponent hits in the water, you now have an advantage by playing smart and knowing the strengths of your game. 

Watch your opponent.  If she changes her pre-shot routine, chances are she is feeling some pressure.  Since match play involves mental toughness, watch for any changes that allow you to have an advantage.

Utilize your partner.  If you are playing in a team event with a partner, take advantage of each other.  If one of you has a bad hole, pick up the ball and move to the next hole.  You may help each other read putts and talk about your strategy.  It may help you feel calmer by having a partner to talk with rather than having very little conversation with an opponent.   

Be cautious conceding putts – one nice element of the match play format is the ability to concede putts.  As a player, go into your match planning to hole every putt.  With that mindset, you will be pleased when your opponent offers a conceded putt.  Be careful when giving your opponent a conceded putt.  If you continually give putts (especially early in the round), the opponent may expect that you will continue to concede putts.  A great strategy is to give a few putts early in the round, then make the opponent hole all putts as the round continues.  A missed putt could make a difference in the outcome of the match so keep that in mind when conceding putts.

By knowing some simple match play strategies and trying them during your next match, you may be able to win your match. 

Common Match Play Terms

Common Match Play Terms for the EWGA CupIn a few weeks, the eight EWGA Cup Regional Qualifiers will take place at six venues nationwide in the month of September.  Four teams from each Regional Qualifier will advance to the EWGA Cup Finals at the Westin Mission Hills Resort on November 11-12 in Rancho Mirage, California.  As you are getting ready for the Regional Qualifiers, here are some important Match Play Rules to remember as you prepare for competition.

Match Play:  Match Play is a format of play that is scored in a hole-by-hole competition.  The side that holes its ball in fewer strokes than its opponent wins that particular hole.  In a handicap competition, the side with the lowest net score wins the hole.

Winning:  The side that wins the most holes, wins the match.  When a side has won more holes than there are holes remaining, the match has been won.  Therefore a match can be won before all 18 holes have been played.  For example, if you win the first 10 holes, you’ve won the match because there are only 8 holes left to play.

In The EWGA Cup, each winning match is awarded 1 point toward the team total and halved matches are awarded ½ a point.

Format:  Team event comprised of 18 holes of Four-Ball on Day 1 and 18 holes of Singles on Day 2.  100% Handicaps will be used to determine the number of strokes a player gives or receives for a match.

Match Play Terms:   

Status of a Match:  The status of a match is expressed relationally.  Match play scoring does not indicate the number of holes won by a player, but rather how many more holes than his opponent a golfer has won.

Scores:  "Up" indicates that a side is winning by a number of holes and "down" indicates that a side is losing by a number of holes.

If the final score is “1-up” it means the match went the full 18 holes with the winner finishing with one more hole won that the opponent.

If the score is 3 and 2, it means the winner was determined before reaching the 18th hole.  It means the winner was three holes ahead with two holes to play (so the match ended on hole #16).

If the score is “2-up” it means the match went dormie with one hole to play – the leader was 1-up with one hole to play and the leader of the match won the 18 hole to end “2-up.”

If the score is “4 and 2” it means the winner took the match dormie with 3 holes to play, (3 up with 3 holes to play) then won the next hole for a final score of 4 and 2. 

Halved Hole:  A halved hole occurs when opponents score the same on a specific hole.  The opponents are said to have "halved" the hole and the status of the match remains the same.

Dormie:  A match is said to be dormie when a side has won as many holes as the number of holes remaining to be played, i.e. 3 up with 3 to play. The worst the leading team can do at this point is tie (by losing all the remaining holes).

All Square:   A scoring term that indicates a match that is tied.

Conceded Putts:   In match play, conceded putts are allowed.  Your opponent may concede a putt at any time, whether it’s close to the hole or not.  Conceded putts should only be offered, not requested.

Fellow-Competitor vs. Opponent:  When playing in stroke play, the people in your group are your “fellow-competitors” while in match play, the golfer you are playing against is your “opponent.”

Loss of Hole:  Many penalties in stroke play are two stroke penalties, however, in match play the penalty is usually loss of hole.

Next week we’ll look at some Rules specific to Match Play and some strategies.

Women's Golf Returns to the Olympics

Golf returns to the OlympicsBack in 2009, the International Olympic Committee voted to re-introduce golf as an Olympic sport back into 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympic games.  The 2016 Summer Olympics are being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the first time in 116 years for the women and 112 years for the men.

A total of 60 players from 41 nations qualified for the men’s and women’s events based on International Golf Federation rankings.  While some male players who qualified elected not to attend and compete, many female players are excited to participate to help generate more interest in women’s golf.  Team USA for the women will be represented by Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller with most of the Top 10 World Ranking females also participating, including #1 Lydia Ko, #2 Brooke Henderson and #3 Inbee Park.

The women will compete Wednesday, August 17 through Saturday, August 20.  Follow coverage on Golf Channel at 6:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday through Friday and at 6 a.m. EDT on Saturday. 

The event takes place at the Olympic Golf Course at the Reserva de Marapendi in the Barra da Tijuca zone, designed by golf course designer Gil Hanse, with assistance from World Golf Hall of Famer Amy Alcott.  The format will be a 72-hole individual stroke play competition.  Since it’s an individual rather than a team competition, in the event of a tie for first, second or third place, there will be a play-off to determine the gold, silver and bronze medal winner.

The men played last week and the gold, silver and bronze medals went to Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar.  Team USA was represented on the men’s side by bronze medal winner Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed.  Other notables in the field included Sergio Garcia and 2016 Masters Champion Danny Willett.    

The course will become a public facility after the games and the hope is it will be used to welcome new golfers to the game in Brazil and grow the game in South America. 

Good luck to Team USA – bring home some medals!