Bubba Watson
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Bubba Watson's ability to drive the ball great distances overshadows his excellent short-game skills.

Bubba Watson is a master of the driver -- he's averaging over 300 yards from the tee this season -- and yet he only reaches 70 percent of his greens in regulation. That's barely inside the top 100 -- but at the same time, he's in the top 10 in strokes gained.

Why? Because Watson's short game is underrated. And improving your short game could save you strokes in the long run.

TOP TIPS: Developing feel in your short game 

That's the opinion of Kathy Gildersleeve-Jensen, 2014 PGA Teacher of the Year and director of teaching and coaching at Indian Canyon Golf Course in Spokane, Wash. Gildersleeve-Jensen specializes in the short game -- she has an e-book called "How to Play Golf ... Inside 50 Yards" on Amazon.com -- and offers this advice.

"It is the one area that we all can improve on, and with practice, become quite good at," Gildersleeve-Jensen said. "Not all of us can hit it far but a good short game is achievable for players of all skill levels and ages."

Gildersleeve-Jensen said there are two key concepts to understand about where your club should be at impact. The secrets to good chipping are correct point of entry and square impact. 

Leading edge of the clubface

"The leading edge should pinch very close between the golf ball and the blades of grass that the ball sits upon. Knowing where your 'point of entry' is is vastly important. The point of entry is a repeated area as to where the club's leading edge touches the grass or lie of the ground.

"Everyone is different, so knowing their own personal point of entry is crucial. Check out where that is, then check out where your body weight is distributed. Most likely your high percentage impact body weight is located near your point of entry.

"If you lean your weight back, your point of entry has a tendency to hit behind the ball (chunky and hard to finish, then we compensate and manipulate which is not consistent). If your weight is leaning more towards the target, then it is easier to pinch the ball and follow through.

"To obtain the leading edge to pinch, there is a slight forward press with the hands at impact. Time and time again, I see a collapse or the hands stop and the clubface keeps going, which allows for chunk shots or shots that quit."

Squareness of clubface at impact

"Squareness of clubface at impact is for direction. It doesn't really matter how you do it, but it needs to be square -- somehow, some way -- when the clubface meets the golf ball. Some players are more technical than others to obtain this objective."

"Here's a pre-shot routine idea. Lean slightly towards your target with your body weight. Start with a slightly forward press of the hands but keep the clubface square to the line of target. This may require a little flex in the wrist area and not so rigid. Understanding where your point of entry to the golf ball is and the ground will determine your own personal ball placement at address."

IMPROVE YOUR GAME: Find a PGA Professional near you

Gildersleeve-Jensen offers two drills to help you practice your chipping skills -- and lower your score. You don't even have to be on the range to work on these.

1. Without a golf club, take a few balls in your hand and physically toss them close to your target. How far of a backswing did you take? How far of a follow through did you make? How long did you hold your finish? Where was your weight when you finished the toss, and were you balanced at the end?

Did you notice the exact moment when you actually let go of the ball or was your attention on the target? Self-analysis creates awareness. It also helps maintain a more natural motion than a robotic one. You'll find that the backswing tends to be shorter than the follow through.

2. Turn the golf club upside down in your hands and hold onto the shaft near the club head end. Now, point the grip end at an area where you want the ball to land and release, not at the target. Having an awareness of an exact aiming point makes the finish more important than the actual hit.

 

 

 

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Improve your chipping consistency with these useful tips and drills
February 2, 2015 - 6:09pm
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John D'Amico
Physical therapist John D'Amico has a volunteer demonstrate the correct position for a hip stretch.

For most older golfers, doing a few knee bends and shoulder swings on the first tee is about the extent of their warm-up routine. And that's fine for the short term.

But John D'Amico, a Naples, Fla.-based physical therapist believes in order to keep playing long after retirement, senior golfers need to work harder to maintain what strength, stamina and power you have left -- because after a certain age, it's almost impossible to make great gains in physical fitness.

If you don't have it by then, D'Amico said, you won't be able to regain it.

SENIOR GOLFERS: Three modifications you can make to your game

"Fitness for life after 50 isn't about making great gains," said D'Amico, who owns Golf Fitness Edge and presented his findings as part of the PGA Merchandise Show last month. "In the long run, it's about slowing down loss. It's kind of like building a retirement account for your body that you can draw from.

"This is really important after age 70, because we lose the ability to produce greater amounts of power and strength -- two things that are critical to the golf game."

So how do you maintain your physical fitness later in life? D'Amico said there are five simple exercises anyone can do at home -- without expensive equipment -- that will go a long way to helping your flexibility, balance, strength and power.

In order, they are:

  1. Seated Thoracic Posture Restoration
  2. Breathing Mechanics Restoration
  3. Single Knee to Chest Hip Stretch
  4. Hip Hinge Goblet Squat
  5. Standing Cross Body Crawl Pattern

Don't let the names fool you into thinking these exercises are complicated, D'Amico said. On the contrary, they mimic movements you learned to do early in your life. 

Here's a description of each exercise, with illustrations.

Seated Thoracic Posture Restoration

1. Sit tall in a high-back dining room chair
2. Place a small bath towel rolled length ways at the level of the bottom of your shoulder blade
3. Gently push your mid back into the towel without pain for two minutes
4. Move the towel up your shoulder blades, holding each for two minutes gently without pain. The last towel position will be at the top of the shoulder blade
5. Perform this exercise 1-2 times a day
6. Watch TV or on converse with someone across the room to promote proper posture. Do not read, use phone, tablet or computer while doing this exercise, as this will negatively influence your posture

TIPS FROM THE TIPS: Don't be afraid to Tee It Forward

Breathing Mechanics Restoration

1. While sitting or standing straight in an upright torso posture, hands on lower ribs
2. Place hands on outside of lower ribs
3. Relax your body and take a normal breath
4. Feel your hands push away from your body as you breathe in
5. Feel your hands pull in as you breathe out
6. Five repetitions, five times per day

Single Knee to Chest Hip Stretch

1. Resting on a firm surface or bed (pillow optional) gently brace your stomach
2. Use a bed sheet to pull your thigh towards (not to!) your chest. Do not move past a point that the pelvis begins to rock on the low back. You may notice this as the point your straight leg begins to lift up
3. The total limit of this exercise is 120 degrees. This point may take months to attain
4. Perform for 90 seconds to two minutes each leg, one to two times per day
5. Perform gently without any pain

Hip Hinge Goblet Squat

1. Stand tall
2. Activate (gently brace) your stomach muscles
3. Arms Across your chest with 5-pound dumbbell or two-liter soda bottles in double-bagged plastic grocery bags at your chest
4. Maintain your head, spine and pelvic posture, as if you had a board nailed from the back of your head to your tailbone
5. Push your tailbone back and down as you begin to hinge hips, knees and ankles simultaneously Maintain the bottom of the dumbbell or seltzer bottle against your body throughout the exercise
6. Depth of squat is controlled by your ability to maintain your head, spine and pelvic posture
7. When learning this exercise it is best to perform five reps, four times per day
8. After learning this exercise and as a warm up for golf perform sets sets of 10 repetitions

Standing Cross Body Crawl Pattern

1. Standing with hands at shoulder level, lift one hand and the opposite foot six inches.
2. Return to original position
3. Repeat with other hand and foot
4. If balance is an issue you may stand at countertop and if necessary keep one hand at a time on counter
5. Perform this exercise 20 repetitions, five times per day
6. Try to perform this exercise rhythmically, and maintain your balance for safety

 

The result of doing these exercises should improve all the things that control the physical part of your golf game, D'Amico said.

"In developing a better body and better mind, we can develop a better body-swing connection," he added.

Five key exercises for senior golfers
February 2, 2015 - 4:43pm
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Brandt Snedeker
USA Today Images
Brandt Snedeker won at Torrey Pines in 2012 and finished runner-up in 2010 and 2013.

Torrey Pines may fall under the jurisdiction of the San Diego Parks and Rec Department, but this isn't your typical muni.

At 7,628 yards, the South course is the longest course on the regular PGA Tour schedule. Credit Rees Jones, who in 2001 redesigned Torrey Pines to prepare the course to host the 2008 U.S. Open. The Farmers Insurance Open may just be part of the western winter swing, but nobody in this weekend's field will consider it a breather. 

FARMERS INSURANCE OPEN: Thursday's tee times

A check of the previous winners bears out that contention: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Billy Casper and Tom Watson were all victorious at Torrey Pines. Phil Mickelson has three wins. Tiger Woods has seven.

There are amazing coastline views from some of the holes, but the golfer who loses any concentration while checking out the view will find that reflected on his scorecard. Scott Stallings birdied four holes on the back nine -- including the 18th -- in the final round last year to win by a stroke.

With that, here are five players to watch this week.

5. Dustin Johnson
2014 Farmers Insurance Open: Did not play
Reason to watch: Since taking a six-month leave of absence from the PGA Tour after the RBC Canadian Open in July, Johnson has a new son, a new life coach and a new attitude. Living closer to father-in-law Wayne Gretzky couldn't have hurt, either. The NHL's all-time leading scorer knows a little bit about putting the biscuit in the basket, and according to a story on SI.com, Johnson recently shot a course-record 61 at Sherwood Country Club.

AROUND THE WORLD: Brooks Koepka's long road leads to success

Is he ready for the return to tournament golf? If Tiger Woods at TPC Scottdale last weekend is any indication, Johnson could be rusty. But the fact that the eight-time winner wants to get his comeback under way, that's a good first step in the right direction.

4. Pat Perez
2014 Farmers Insurance Open: Tied for second
Reason to watch: Perez's only PGA Tour victory came at the 2009 Bob Hope Classic, but that's not really indicative of his potential. And, as you'll hear constantly throughout this weekend, he went to Torrey Pines High School, worked at the golf course range -- and beat Tiger Woods in the Junior Worlds at Torrey Pines his senior year. It's possible Perez has more rounds of golf there than anyone else in the field. It's time for him to use that local knowledge to his advantage.

Plus, how can you not like a guy who can pull off a prank like this?

3. Phil Mickelson
2014 Farmers Insurance Open: Withdrew with injury
Reason to watch: Just like last week at Phoenix, Lefty is a multiple winner of this event (1993, 2000, 2001). Mickelson's return to his ASU roots didn't go so well, as he missed the cut after rounds of 69-76 at TPC Scottsdale. So instead of hanging around for the Super Bowl, Phil headed back to his hometown.

"I will maybe get even a little extra practice round in or two over at Torrey and get ready," Mickelson said. "See if I can get my short game sharp."

If Mickelson finds that elusive short game -- ask Tiger Woods about that -- he could be a factor come Sunday.

2. Brandt Snedeker
2014 Farmers Insurance Open: Missed cut
Reason to watch: Sneds had an uncharacteristically lousy 2014, going winless for the first time in three seasons and finishing 86th in the FedExCup standings, just two years after winning it all. Perhaps injuries -- cracked ribs, muscle tightness, a left knee injured in a Segway accident -- caught up with him.

But he's off to a good, if not great, start to 2015. He posted three consecutive top-10 finishes in the final three events of the fall schedule. And he knows how to contend at Torrey Pines. In addition to his 2012 victory, he finished tied for second in 2010 and 2013.

1. Hideki Matsuyama
2014 Farmers Insurance Open: Tied for 16th
Reason to watch: Matsuyama's putter failed him at the worst possible time Sunday at TPC Scottsdale, dooming him to a runner-up finish behind Brooks Koepka, despite shooting 63-67 on the weekend. That included this amazing hole out for eagle on the first hole Sunday -- from a sand-filled divot, no less.

He has five top-25 finishes in seven starts already this season, and the win at The Memorial last year proved he can compete on the PGA Tour -- not that top-10 finishes in the U.S. Open and Open Championship hadn't already cemented his status as Japan's best young rising talent. In fact, the San Diego Union-Tribune pretty much had it pegged back in 2013

And he won't turn 23 until the end of the month.

Here's how T.J. Auclair's five to watch fared at the Waste Management Phoenix Open:

5. Gary Woodland -- Missed cut
4. Rickie Fowler -- T46
3. Jordan Spieth-- T7
2. Bubba Watson -- T2
1. Phil Mickelson -- Missed cut

 

5 to watch at Torrey Pines
Jason Dufner at the Super Bowl
Jason Dufner via Twitter
Jason Dufner had a bird's eye view of Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday.
After the Waste Management Phoenix Open ended on Sunday, the men and women who play tournament golf for a living had nothing else to do – so they watched a football game.
 
Well, sort of. The pro tour players were as interested in the Super Bowl as everyone else – several of them even made it to the big game. Here's how they reacted to the action between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, starting with that longtime football fan Luke Donald and followed closely by Patriots fanatic Keegan Bradley:
 
 
 
You won't be surprised that Jason Dufner was taking in the game. He and Donald even got into a little discussion:
 
 
 
 
Boys, boys. Let's all behave and enjoy the game.
 
 
 
 
 
 
A late entry into the Donald-Dufner discussion from former Senior PGA Champion Roger Chapman:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The game came down to the final few minutes:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
And let's end this little exercise where we started it, with Luke Donald, who obviously agrees with pretty much everyone else who watched the final minute or two unfold in disbelief:
 
 
 
Pro tour players react to Super Bowl on social media
Hideki Matsuyama
Hideki Matsuyama celebrates Sunday after his eagle on the first hole at TPC Scottsdale.

Talk about making the best of a bad situation.

Hideki Matsuyama's tee shot on the first hole Sunday at TPC Scottsdale landed in a sand-filled divot. That's one of the worst breaks possible, because you need to make a perfect strike on the ball or it could go anywhere.

So what did Matsuyama do? Exactly that, as this video proves:

Matsuyama turned a terrible situation into an incredible eagle hole out -- and kicked off his round in the best way possible.

 

 

Matsuyama holes out for eagle from a sand-filled divot
February 1, 2015 - 12:42pm
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Mountain Lake ice golf
John Best/Lehigh Valley Live
A group of hardy golfers take to the ice at Mountain Lake, New Jersey, for their annual tournament on Super Bowl weekend.

Forget sitting on comfy sofas around the living room, loading up on snacks and watching the action from Glendale, Ariz. These intrepid golfers have their own Super Bowl to play -- on their own "frozen tundra."

According to a story written by John Best on lehighvalleylive.com, a group of Hackettstown, N.J., High School alums get together every year to create a golf course on frozen Mountain Lake, and then host a golf tournament on Super Bowl Sunday. They've been doing it since 2003.

Depending on the conditions, Best writes "... holes can be several hundred yards from the tees and they place small flags in the holes so they can easily locate them. After the initial drive, they use clubs to hit off the ice and finish with putters just as they would in regular golf."

Surprisingly, it's not as easy as you might think, mainly because of temperature, friction and because "long shots land with a thud -- making small impact craters in the ice -- which lessens the distance it rolls."

This year's tournament was moved up one day because of a forecast of snow on Sunday, and was played on a six-hole course that ranges from 50 to 100 yards in length. Just in case putters were ineffective, the event's organizers provided hockey sticks.

Check out the entire story and additional photos here.

We've seen other stories written by ice golf tournaments, but this is the first one we've seen connected to Super Bowl weekend.

The Super Bowl of ice golf?