Friday, December 22

Matchplay Secrets: Jim Gallagher Jr.

Today’s final matchplay installment features Jim Gallagher Jr. whose one Ryder Cup appearance was at The Belfry in 1993. In his only career singles match, Gallagher went head to head with European great Seve Ballesteros.

Memorable matchplay victory:
Gallagher stunned Ballesteros with a 3 and 2 victory in Ryder Cup singles. "I was nervous, no question, but there was more pressure on him than me, while I was probably twice as motivated to try to beat such a great player." The U.S. retained the Cup by a slim 15-13 margin.

Notable quote:
"If you show too much of a weakness, a good opponent is going to eat that up and destroy you."

Gallagher's matchplay pointers:
• You can beat anybody on any given day, even Tiger Woods
• I'm better if I play smart but aggressive
• Try to get off to a quick start and get up early -- it takes the pressure off
• Body language is huge -- if a guy does something different in his routine, you know he's nervous
• If an opponent won't look you in the eyes, you might have him
• If an opponent is staring you down, be careful -- he's not scared

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: BBC Golf)

Thursday, December 21

Matchplay Secrets: Gary Player

Today’s matchplay installment features Gary Player, one of the top matchplay competitors of the modern era. Player is a five-time World Match Play champion and two-time President Cup's captain.

Although the South African beat Jack Nicklaus 6 and 4 and 5 and 4 in World Match Play, he said "my most significant match was against Tony Lema, no question."

Memorable matchplay victory:
Player came back from seven down after 19 holes to defeat Tony Lema at the first extra hole in the World Match Play semi-finals in 1965.

Said Player: "There was a dentist from Australia walking behind us on the 5th and I heard him say: 'Let's go and watch somebody else, this match is over.' I said to him: 'Sir, this match is not over yet.' He wrote to me 15 years later saying, 'I'll never forget that.'"

Notable quote:
"My opponents knew I was a bull terrier and I was never going to give up. The only time I have doubts is when I shake hands and I've lost."

Player's matchplay pointers:
• Have patience but also be aggressive
• Body language is hugely important -- let your opponent know you're going to be trying whether you're up or down
• Stay cool
• Be immune to gamesmanship
• Never give up

Tomorrow: Jim Gallagher (beat Seve Ballesteros in Ryder Cup singles as rookie)

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: BBC Golf)

Wednesday, December 20

Matchplay Secrets: Sandy Lyle

Today’s matchplay installment features Sandy Lyle, who played on the European Ryder Cup Team from 1979-1987 and appeared in five World Match Play finals.

Memorable matchplay victory:
Lyle came back from six down after 18 to defeat Nick Faldo 2 and 1 in the first round of the World Match Play in 1982. (Lyle won the event in 1988, again beating Faldo.)

“I couldn’t see a way back because he (Faldo) was one of the big names and playing well, but it turned out he was vulnerable. It just shows that even a player like Faldo can lose their momentum and get into a kamikaze dive, and once that happens it’s difficult to pull out.”

Lyle’s matchplay pointers:
• Go out nice and steady and do not take too many risks early on to save losing holes to par
• Assess your opponent to see if he’s nervous or not playing quite as well, and adjust strategy accordingly
• Get a few up and be on your way -- but don’t let cracks develop
• If you get three or four down, stick at it and look ahead to holes where you can use your strengths

Down six holes after 18, Lyle used the lunchtime break to change putters and ultimately change the momentum in his 1982 World Match Play victory over Faldo.

Still to come:
Thursday: Gary Player (five-time World Match Play Champion)
Friday: Jim Gallagher (beat Seve Ballesteros in Ryder Cup singles as rookie)

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: BBC Golf)

Tuesday, December 19

Matchplay Secrets: Peter Alliss

This week the Armchair Golf Blog features a series on matchplay. Today, golf commentator Peter Alliss reveals the approach that helped him beat a golf legend.

Memorable matchplay victory:
Alliss defeated Arnold Palmer in Ryder Cup singles in 1963. Two years earlier Alliss halved his Ryder Cup singles match with Palmer. Few went head to head with Arnie in his prime without losing.

"Beating Palmer was terrific. I was so frightened. He was in a much better state than me at the time because he was driving well but I was very conscious he wasn't going to beat me and I didn't collapse. I kept the ball in play and he made mistakes."

Alliss' matchplay pointers:
• Always play the man, not the course
• Find the fairway, hit the green -- don't be too ambitious
• Try never to lose holes to par, especially par 3s
• If you're down, keep going -- don't crash, bang, wallop and fire away and make more mistakes
• Keep your car on the track
• Don't give up and don't do stupid things

Still to come:
Wednesday: Sandy Lyle (rallied from six down to defeat Nick Faldo)
Thursday: Gary Player (five-time World Match Play Champion)
Friday: Jim Gallagher (beat Seve Ballesteros in Ryder Cup singles as rookie)

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: BBC Golf)

Sunday, December 17

This Week: Matchplay Secrets of Tour Pros

I ran across some interesting material on matchplay at BBC Golf. It spotlighted several players and their approach, including their greatest matchplay successes.

Matchplay, of course, is where the lowest score on each hole wins. It's all about winning holes and tactics definitely matter. As amateurs, most of us have had a taste of matchplay, going mano a mano with an opponent.

But what's it like for the big boys? Are they nervous? Do they use gamesmanship? What's their strategy?

Following is the lineup:

Tuesday: Peter Alliss (unbeaten against Arnold Palmer in Ryder Cup)
Wednesday: Sandy Lyle (rallied from six down to defeat Nick Faldo)
Thursday: Gary Player (five-time World Match Play Champion)
Friday: Jim Gallagher (beat Seve Ballesteros in Ryder Cup singles as rookie)

Tee it up here tomorrow.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, December 15

Your Musings on Golf Clubs: How a Ping Hater Became a Ping Lover

This week Armchair Golf Blog readers weigh in on golf clubs. Following is Howard's story:

"I owned and had played a set of graphite shafted component irons that my father (a clubmaker) had put together for me to my own custom specifications. While my driving was fine, I noticed that my iron play was holding me back from scoring well; my shots just were not accurate enough. I determined to seek and test other irons to see if they would make a difference."

Consulting Golf Club Test Results

"I began to research products. One of my main sources was the well done Golf Magazine club tests. I highly recommend that you reference these test results (available on their Web site). You can narrow down your search by looking for the characteristics you seek in your new clubs. You can save a LOT of time starting with these test results."

Participating at Demo Days

"I then went to the 'demo days' for each of the manufacturers I was interested in and hit as many different sets of each manufacturers' clubs as I could. I believe that trying clubs before you purchase them is vital.

"Hitting shots changed my entire perception of which club I thought I wanted. The clubs that pleased my eye most (and that I would have purchased without actually hitting shots) turned out to hit weak pop ups. I also thought I wanted graphite shafts (my prior set of irons had graphite shafts) for the performance and smoother feel. But hitting both graphite and steel shafts proved to me that steel shafted irons have a much tighter dispersion. When I hit shots with steel shafted irons, you could put a bushel basket over them. With graphite shafts, it would have taken a large tarpaulin to cover them. Significant and surprising difference."

Ping I5s Are Automatic

"Finally, my swing and physical dimensions require custom tailoring of irons (2 degrees flat lie and plus 1 inch length and mid-size grips). For every manufacturer except Ping, this presented problems. Customizing their irons is routine for Ping.

"In the end, I bought Ping I5s. The G5s and S58s worked fine but the I5s had just the right mix of distance, eye appeal and workability to suit me. I matched them with three Ping Tour wedges. I just received them and will play with them for the first time next week. Thus far on the practice range, I cannot say enough good things about the Ping I5s. They are 'automatic.'

"My advice is to go straight to a Ping demo day. If you like any of the Ping s, your search is over. Order them and enjoy them."


"For no good reason, I was formerly a 'Ping' hater. When the Eye 2 Ping products first came out years and years ago, I couldn't afford them and was jealous of poorly skilled golfers who could buy a better golf game. Now that I, too, can afford Ping irons, I am no longer jealous! Count me among the Ping believers."

Special thanks to Howard, Luke Swilor, Anonymous and Lancer for their input for this week's series on golf clubs.

To everyone else, thanks for reading and feel free to share your experiences in the comments section or by emailing me at

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, December 14

Your Musings on Golf Clubs: Advice from Tour Hopeful Luke Swilor

This week Armchair Golf Blog readers weigh in on golf clubs. Today's thoughts come from Luke Swilor, a former All-American at University of Utah and currently a mini-tour pro who is chasing his dream to play on the PGA Tour.

Luke's advice for beginners:

"It depends on how much you want to spend. The name brand clubs ARE much better than knock-offs, but as a beginner you don't really need an expensive set to learn with. You probably wouldn't notice a whole lot of difference. Once you get hooked you'll want to get a better set, but a lot of used sets will do for now.

"Used name brand clubs would be a good place to start. For your irons, you probably want 'cavity backs' or some other oversize variation. Blades are less forgiving."

Luke's advice for yours truly:

"Sounds like you have some idea what you're looking for. Hit some sets. You'll be able to tell right off if you like the look and feel of a club. Fitting really will help, as long as the person fitting you is competent.

"Other than that, most of the clubs these days are very good. I think the name brands are better than any type of knock-off. Titleist always makes good sets."

Tomorrow: How a Ping hater became a Ping lover

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, December 13

Your Musings on Golf Clubs: Personalized Club Fittings

This week Armchair Golf Blog readers weigh in on golf clubs. This from "Anonymous":

"Go to two or three personalized club fittings and get a variety of opinions. Yes, they're trying to sell you clubs, but you're in the market! Anyway, a club fitting can tell you the most important things you should be looking for in a new set of irons.

"First, pay attention to the lie angle of the clubheads. I'm tall myself, with short arms, so my lie angle has turned out to be about three degrees upright from standard, which can vary slightly between manufacturers. I found out (through three fittings) that my standard clubs were too flat, leading me to catch the toe in the ground rather than the whole leading edge of the face.

"Next you need to find out what shafts you should use. This is part metrics (for the tall player, likely an inch longer than standard) and part swing speed. The faster your swing, the stiffer shafts you need to maintain control of the clubhead path. Again, this is something you need from a professional fitting, where they can actually measure how fast you swing the club.

"Finally, make sure you get grips that actually fit the size of your hands. Too thick will block your hands; too thin and you lose control in the grip.

"It doesn't really matter what brand you go with, as long as it fits your unique body type."

Still to come ...

Thursday: Tour hopeful Luke Swilor's expert advice
Friday: How a Ping hater became a Ping lover

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, December 12

Your Musings on Golf Clubs: 'Lancer' Quotes Lee Trevino

This week Armchair Golf Blog readers weigh in on golf clubs. This from "Lancer":

"Lee Trevino once said that sometimes it's the Indian and not the arrow. In other words, it's you and not the clubs, contrary to what the club makers would have you believe. That said, I would look closely at Calloway because I believe they've done more to change the game over the past 15 years than any other club maker."

Still to come ...

Wednesday: "Anonymous" on personalized club fittings
Thursday: Tour hopeful Luke Swilor's expert advice
Friday: How a Ping hater became a Ping lover

The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, December 10

This Week: Your Musings on Golf Clubs

Recently I posted about my golf clubs situation and how I'm going to start searching for a new set. I may take up to a year -- I'm in no hurry and I have no idea what I might get.

Anyway, I asked for your input and got some good, thoughtful responses that I will share with you this week:

Tuesday: "Lancer" quotes Lee Trevino
Wednesday: "Anonymous" on personalized club fittings
Thursday: Tour hopeful Luke Swilor's expert advice
Friday: How a Ping hater became a Ping lover

Come on back.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, December 5

Did the USGA Sell Out?

The USGA has inked a sponsorship deal with its first-ever corporate partner, credit card titan American Express.

Will the organization that zealously guards the integrity of the game and lays down strict renumeration rules for amateurs become the American Express USGA or get slap happy with the American Express logo? Not according to the USGA press release and story I read at

Tiger Woods is apparently in favor of the deal.

"It's a tremendous opportunity," Tiger was quoted as saying. "This is two enormous brands coming together to help golf."

Officials said fans likely won't notice "the partnership" while viewing USGA events. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, December 4

Bad Ernie, Bad Sergio

Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia threw golf clubs at the Sun City Challenge over the weekend. Both were fined the Sunshine Tour maximum of 1,000 rand for the offense. That's $138.

"Both players handed over the cash immediately," reported Reuters, "which will be donated to the South African Golf Development Board."

I threw my golf clubs in the basement for the winter. My fine was 0 rand, which converts to $0.

The Armchair Golfer