Thursday, August 28

Sean Foley, Tiger and Today's Golf Coaches

MOST OF US DON'T KNOW SEAN FOLEY, but I suppose it's easy to have opinions about him because he worked with Tiger Woods. And we've all had our fill of Tiger since the mid 1990s. There are a lot of Tiger experts.

I still don't understand why Tiger did such an extensive swing overhaul with Foley. I figure it had a lot to do with building something that would protect the knee. Tiger's line about getting better was, and is, tiresome. You don't get better at his age, especially after what he achieved from 2000 to 2008. No one has had a run like that.

Still, I don't think Foley is the bad guy, or to blame, for Tiger's decline. There have been many factors. As others have pointed out, Foley has some other thoroughbreds in the coaching stable. To name two, The Barclays winner Hunter Mahan and 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose. Those fellas have fine golf swings.

I like this snippet from Foley in a 2011 Golf Digest "My Shot."
THE IDEA that any teacher is so great, his method so perfect, that a player is suddenly going to never miss a shot, is crazy. I don't even think a terrific swing is the main goal. The great coaches--Vince Lombardi, John Wooden, Phil Jackson--are not remembered for how they drew up Xs and Os. Their players never talk about those things. What they remember are the good values they instilled, the strong work ethic and the productive approaches to life. My role to my guys, first and foremost, is to be part of their support system, to act out the things I believe in, and be there for them. That's every bit as important as what I do for their golf swings.
I think Foley is right on.

So, it makes me wonder about all the swing talk, the mechanics and such. It often seems to me that Tiger and other players get so focused on technical issues that they forget they're playing a game, swinging a club, walking a course. At a younger age, they just hit it, found it, hit it again. They swung the club with feel and athleticism. They played golf, not golf swing.

These golf and swing coaches ... aren't many of them enabling this nonsense? Foley included?

That's the way it often looks to me.

Wednesday, August 27

Stephen Ames Inducted Into Canadian Hall of Fame

Stephen Ames
STEPHEN AMES, A FOUR-TIME WINNER on the PGA Tour, was inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame on Tuesday, reported the Champions Tour. Ames is the 74th member.

"It's hitting home a little bit now for me. It is a real honor," Ames said at the Shaw Charity Classic, an event Ames helped start.

"It's the highlight of my career right now, an added trophy to the career that I've had, which is wonderful. At this stage right now, it's something to relish."

Ames is a citizen of Canada and Trinidad and Tobago, where he was born. He still has family there. Ames's grandmother was a golf champion of the twin island country.

"The Canadian Golf Hall of Fame seeks to recognize excellence as golfers, contributors and supporters of the game," said Ian Clarke of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame Selection Committee. "Stephen Ames has excelled on the biggest stage in our sport and it is fitting that he will be recognized for his respective accomplishments."

Ames turned 50 in April but has continued to play events on the PGA Tour, without much recent success. His four tour titles included the 2006 Players Championship, an impressive six-shot victory over runner-up Retief Goosen.

Tuesday, August 26

Dufner Is Done

JASON DUFNER IS OUT FOR THE REST of the FedEx Cup Playoffs after his withdrawal from the Deutsche Bank Championship, reported on Monday. Don't expect to see Dufner on the U.S. Ryder Cup team either. Tom Watson will announce his three captain's picks on September 2.

Jason Dufner is hurting. (Allison)
The 2013 PGA champion has been hampered by bulging disks in his neck. He received an epidural in order to play at Valhalla in the PGA Championship, but only completed 10 holes. The Auburn product was No. 74 in the FedEx Cup rankings.

"I'll play golf again when I'm healthy," Dufner said after withdrawing from the PGA Championship.

"That could be at The Barclays, that could be next year, that could be 2016. I refuse to be out here and not be healthy and not give myself a chance to be competitive."

It's looking like next year at the earliest.

Paul Casey and Graeme McDowell also dropped out of the second leg of the playoffs. McDowell became a father. "Happiest moment of my life hands down," he tweeted.

There are currently 94 players in the Deutsche Bank field. Seventy will advance to the BMW Championship at Cherry Hills in Englewood, Colorado, a Denver suburb.

Monday, August 25

Full Statement on Tiger Woods-Sean Foley Split

A coaching change for Tiger Woods. (Keith Allison)

TIGER WOODS ANNOUNCED TODAY AT TIGERWOODS.COM that he and swing coach Sean Foley have ended their professional relationship that began in 2010.

"I'd like to thank Sean for his help as my coach and for his friendship," Woods said.

"Sean is one of the outstanding coaches in golf today, and I know he will continue to be successful with the players working with him. With my next tournament not until my World Challenge event at Isleworth in Orlando, this is the right time to end our professional relationship."

"My time spent with Tiger is one of the highlights of my career so far, and I am appreciative of the many experiences we shared together," Foley said.

"It was a lifelong ambition of mine to teach the best player of all time in our sport. I am both grateful for the things we had the opportunity to learn from one another, as well as the enduring friendship we have built. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him."

"Presently, I do not have a coach, and there is no timetable for hiring one," Woods said.

Friday, August 22

Jimmy Walker: 'The Sun Will Kill You'

THE FEDEX CUP PLAYOFFS, WHICH BEGAN on Thursday with The Barclays in Paramus, New Jersey, are critical for PGA Tour players looking to solidify their playing status, collect sizable checks, or be considered for one of Tom Watson's captain's picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. But as Jimmy Walker knows, their importance can be suddenly diminished with a recurrence of skin cancer.

Walker, 35, is ranked second in the standings behind Rory McIlroy. He recently spent time at home recovering from minor surgery rather than getting ready for the playoffs.

The New York Times' Zach Schonbrun wrote about Walker's other on-course challenge:
Walker has a new mission, though. It is about protection and awareness, and for a fair-skinned Oklahoman with a family history of skin cancer, those elements are essential. 
“I watched what Aron Price went through, and he had melanoma, and that was bad, really, really, scary bad,” Walker said after his even-par round. “He had that removed and he’s doing great, but we’ve all got to be diligent about what we wear. The sun will kill you.” 
Price, an Australian golfer, developed the disease in different spots on his shoulder in 2011. Likewise, Walker said, he had a spot on his lip removed in 2004. That served as a reality check, and he said he thought he had been conscientious about wearing skin protection since then. 
Apparently it was not enough. During the Bridgestone Invitational this month, a biopsy on a nodule just below his left eye returned positive for basal cell carcinoma, requiring minor surgery Aug. 11.
Walker said it's a genetics thing.

His sunscreen mantra? Reapply, reapply, reapply.

Thursday, August 21

A Fun Email From Amazon

Dear Readers,

The below email from Amazon landed in my inbox a week ago.

I'm really looking forward to the Ryder Cup. I'm also really looking forward to telling you more about my new Ryder Cup book that focuses on 1969, Jack Nicklaus, Tony Jacklin and more.

Stay tuned.

All the best,

Having trouble viewing this email? Click here to see this recommendation 
Coming Soon from Neil Sagebiel for
Draw in the Dunes: The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish That Shocked the World

Improve your recommendations
Draw in the Dunes: The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish That Shocked the World 
Neil Sagebiel 
Release date: September 9, 2014
Kindle Edition$11.04 


 Learn more 
You've bought books from this author before, and you won't want to miss this new release.

Wednesday, August 20

Enter PGA's 'MyCaptainsPicks' Contest for Chance to Win Ryder Cup Trip

By PGA of America

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – To bring fans closer to the action in anticipation of the 40th playing of the Ryder Cup, the PGA of America is hosting a live event (Tuesday, Sept. 2, at 7 p.m.) where United States Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson will reveal his Captain’s Picks for the final three members of the 12-man team.

This decision will be the subject of great discussion over the next three weeks, and fans can join in the fun by entering the interactive “MyCaptainsPicks” contest with Captain Watson.

A first-of-its-kind social media engagement program, #mycaptainspicks simply asks sports fans to choose the three players they think Watson will pick to complete his 12-player team. Fans 18 and over can make their predictions on through Sept. 2. Visit to also see picks from celebrities, as they share their passion for golf.

Fan entries with all three picks exactly matching Watson’s selections will be entered into a drawing for the grand prize of a once-in-a-lifetime trip for two to the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Scotland including:

  • Two 2014 Ryder Cup tickets for the climate-controlled Harris Pavilion (Sept. 23-28) 
  • Complimentary roundtrip airfare for two to Scotland
  • Five nights of accommodations at the Hilton Glasgow
  • A limited-edition United States Ryder Cup Team shirt
  • A round of golf at a premier golf course in Scotland
  • A new set of golf clubs from Adams Golf
  • A $50 per-person, per-day Ryder Cup food and beverage credit

Nine automatic berths on the U.S. Ryder Cup Team were secured following the conclusion of the 96th PGA Championship.

The Americans clinching a spot on the team that will compete against Europe in the 40th Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Perthshire, Scotland are: Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson, two-time Masters Champion Bubba Watson, 2003 U.S. Open Champion Jim Furyk, 2007 Masters Champion Zach Johnson, and PGA Tour stars Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed.

“I'm delighted with the nine players who have made the team,” said Watson.

“I believe that each player has the ability to play great golf and compete at the highest level in the Ryder Cup. The selection of the three Captain’s picks for the 40th Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Scotland is my focus the next few weeks. MyCaptainsPicks is a fun opportunity for fans to engage with the Ryder Cup in a style that’s unprecedented. I hope the winners have a great trip to the Ryder Cup!”

Fans may vote multiple times through Sept. 2 at 12 a.m. ET, but only their last entry will count towards the sweepstakes. The winner will be selected in a random drawing on Sept. 3.

The 40th Ryder Cup between the United States and Europe will be held at Gleneagles on the Jack Nicklaus designed-Centenary Course in Perthshire, Scotland, Sept. 26-28, 2014. NBC and Golf Channel will combine to broadcast the event live in its entirety in the United States for the first time ever from European soil.

Tuesday, August 19

Mark Broadie: Mastermind of Strokes Gained Revolution

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

MARK BROADIE HAS WRITTEN A GOLF instructional book that won’t help you hit longer drives, improve your short game, or keep you from hitting truly awful shots. However, his new book, EVERY SHOT COUNTS: Using the Revolutionary Strokes Gained Approach to Improve Your Golf Performance and Strategy will change the way you play your game, and how you judge a player on the PGA Tour.

Mark Broadie is a college professor. Not only is he an academic, but he teaches courses in the Columbia Business School such as Derivatives, Security Pricing: Models and Computation. Yes, I know, geek classes.

Still, Mark doesn’t look like a geek. Meeting him in his campus office, he appears like a guy who is ready to slip out a back door to play a quick nine holes. Mark, by the way, plays to a 4 and has won both his club championship, and the senior championship, at his home course, Pelham Country Club in Westchester, New York, site of the 1923 PGA Championship when Gene Sarazen beat Walter Hagen.

What he has done, as a player and a professor, is to combine his scholarly research and his love of golf, to elevate golf statistics to a much higher and useful level.

He created Golfmetrics, a software application that captures and keeps golf shot data that quantifies the differences in shot patterns between players of different skill levels. Today, he is helping PGA Tour pros and amateurs alike dramatically improve their scores by studying how they play the game and learning what part of their game needs improvement, and why.

Mark Broadie’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed. He has been selected as a member of the USGA’s handicap research team, writes a monthly column for Golf Magazine, and blogs every Monday morning on about that week’s tournament, breaking down and assessing the PGA Tour’s Shot Link data that the tour collected by laser technology on every shot hit at the just-concluded tournament. And when he isn’t doing that, he’s advising tour pros’ coaches on their player’s shortcomings, based on the statistics he has harvested and evaluated.

Building a Golf Shot Database

What Mark Broadie has done for golf can be best explained by comparing it to the book (and movie) Moneyball written by financial guru Michael Lewis. Moneyball is about how the Oakland A’s built a winning baseball team using a sophisticated approach towards scouting and analyzing players. In other words, applying Wall Street tactics to the world of professional sports.

Mark Broadie
Mark, however, was seeking answers to help his own game, and the game all golfers play, when he began his research in 2001. He wanted to know what is the best way to play a shot? How does a player know when to go for the green or lay up? He wanted to know the answers to the endless decisions a player has to make in a round.

As Mark writes in his book, “I wanted to dissect the game to better understand golfers’ strategies and performance. A mountain of detailed golf shot data, I knew, would allow me to analyze different strategies and performance outcomes, to gain new insights on how best to play the game.”

With his academic background, and the knowledge he possessed from being a low handicap player, he began his research by using his computer program called Golfmetrics to collect, store, and analyze golf data. Using his home golf course, Pelham Country Club, as his research site, he enlisted friends and fellow members to collect data on their games. Players were asked to place an X in a page yardage book, containing an image of the hole, indicating where their ball landed. After the round, the data was entered into a computer.

In a few years, Mark had a Golfmetrics database that contained more than 100,000 shots from 200-plus golfers ranging in age from eight to 70-plus years. The golfers were LPGA Tour pros, club pros, college golfers and male and female amateur golfers with scores ranging from the 60s to the 140s. With this data, he writes, “I could start analyzing and studying golf performance, and trends started becoming apparent.”

“A Cave Filled With Treasure”

While most of his data was from amateurs, Mark knew he needed information about professional golfers to compare the play of amateurs and that of the pros. As he writes in EVERY SHOT COUNTS, “Unbeknownst to me, at the same time I was creating Golfmetrics, the PGA Tour was developing its own shot-level data collection system, called ShotLink.”

Between 2003 and 2012, the ShotLink database gathered information on more than 10 million shots. In a forward-looking undertaking the the PGA Tour wanted to update their scoring system as a way to improve fan experience at tournaments, and provide better information for the media.

“For a researcher like me,” says Mark, “having access to this data is like exploring a cave filled with treasure.”

With the data provided by the PGA Tour’s ShotLink system, he is collecting information on how golf is being played on the tour and that will allow the PGA Tour and the USGA to answer questions about golf performance and golf strategy which, as Mark writes, “couldn’t be answered a few years ago.”

The statistical answers Mark found when studying the data from his Golfmetrics and ShotLink, he presents in his book, EVERY SHOT COUNTS. They can help everyone’s game. Here are a few examples:

  • It is the long game that makes the biggest difference in scores between pros and amateurs.
  • Long hitters not only hit the ball farther, they have more consistent swings, so they’re more likely to play their next shot from the fairway.
  • Shots from 100 yards or less account for only 60 to 65 percent of all shots.
  • Eliminate putts from three and a half feet or less, and the figure drops to 41 to 47 percent.
  • Practicing putting and chipping provides the most benefit to anyone’s game.
  • Consistency improves a golf round more than any other factor. While the numbers tell the story (and the score) of everyone’s round, Mark also knows that players need to assess the unique circumstances of each shot, from the lie, to the wind, to the pin’s location.

“Numbers aren’t a substitute for the drama of the game,” Mark sums up, “but they can enhance the fan experience.”

Henry Cotton, who won three British Opens between 1934 and 1948, said famously, “Every shot counts.”

Mark Broadie has taken that to heart. At Pelham Country Club where he’s been club champ, he can play. At Columbia University Graduate School of Business where he teaches, he can count.

Now his new book EVERY SHOT COUNTS proves he can handle them both, like a pro.

John Coyne is a bestselling author whose latest golf novel is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.