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There is no Masters this week, but had it been played at Augusta National, Tiger Woods says he would have been there in good health and ready to go.

Woods, who has not competed since Feb. 16 at the Genesis Invitational and missed at least two tournaments he would have normally played, told endorser GolfTV that he has been using the time away due to the coronavirus pandemic to his advantage.

“Night and day. I feel a lot better than I did then,” said Woods, who skipped the WGC-Mexico Championship and the Players Championship after complaining of back stiffness. “I’ve been able to turn a negative into a positive and been able to train a lot and get my body to where I think it should be at. I’ve been able to play some golf. Fortunately, Medalist Golf Club is still open here — virtually every course to the south of us is closed — but we remain open, so it’s been nice to go out there and hit some golf balls a little bit.

“You need to get some fresh air and do something. Obviously we have our social distancing; you can’t touch rakes or touch the flags. One person per cart, but at least the members and their kids are able to play a little bit, get out there and do something active. Some want to walk the dog, some want to roam the golf course, just doing some daily activity to get some exercise and give you peace of mind.”

Woods, 44, has played just twice in 2020, finishing in a tie for ninth at the Farmers Insurance Open in January and then 68th — last among those who made the cut — at the Genesis Invitational.

It was there where he disclosed back problems that led him to skip the following week’s tournament in Mexico. There had been little information about his health in the interim.

“The hardest part that we always talk about ourselves, as professional golfers, is that it’s weird practicing with no end goal to get ready for,” Woods said in the interview. “Hypothetically, it could be this, it could be that. It changes from day to day. There seems to be something new, something different, and that’s one of the more difficult parts about it.

“You’ve seen players out there walking their dogs, some run the golf course, just doing some kind of daily activity gives them exercise and some peace of mind. Especially for the guys who were playing quite a bit and then have been shut down, they were gearing up, and I was talking to JT [Justin Thomas] about this the other day and I felt energetic, I felt really alive and wired and kind of irritable and I didn’t know what was going on.

“And I realized it was Sunday morning. I was supposed to be flying out to an event to hand out trophies to all the award winners. And my body, subconsciously I knew I was supposed to be getting ready to leave and start playing the Masters. [I thought] it’s not that; you’re not playing this week.”

Woods would have been on hand Sunday for the Drive, Chip & Putt event that has since been canceled. The Masters has been rescheduled for Nov. 12-15, and if it takes place, Woods would host the Champions Dinner on Nov. 10

In a photo he posted to social media Tuesday, Woods showed that he had replicated a Champions Dinner at home with his family while wearing the green jacket. He used the same menu he had predetermined for the former champions.

“I had exactly the same,” he said. “We had steak and chicken pieces, sushi and sashimi. We had cupcakes and milkshakes for dessert. So it was exactly what I was going to serve. As I said, Masters dinner quarantine-style with my family. We had a lot of fun, and eventually it got a little bit interesting at the end, a little ugly, where icing was flowing across people’s hair and face.”

As for not getting to defend his Masters title this week, Woods said: “This is not the way that I would’ve wanted to keep the jacket for a longer period of time. I wanted to get out there and compete for it and earn it again, like I did in ’02 [when he became just the third player to win back-to-back Masters]. But it’s not a normal circumstance, it’s not a normal world. It’s a very fluid environment, and it’s very different for all of us. Fortunately, we potentially could have a Masters in November and play it then. I guess I’ll be defending then, and hopefully that all comes about.”

On Monday, the various golf organizations announced the outline of a potential revamped schedule if government and health authorities approve a return to public activities. It has the PGA Championship in early August, the U.S. Open in September, the Ryder Cup a week later and the Masters in November.

The PGA Tour has not announced when it hopes to return to weekly events, but the Charles Schwab Cup in late May is still on the schedule, although there is considerable talk that the tour will wait until at least mid-June to attempt a return.

“I’m going to sit down with my team and figure out what is the best practice way, what is the best practice schedule, what are the tournaments that I need to play to be ready,” Woods said. “How much should I play; how much should I rest? All the things that are kind of up in the air.

“Again, we don’t exactly know when we’ll be playing these events. This environment, this world we’re living in right now is changing daily, sometimes even hourly.”

Asked for any words of wisdom during this time, Woods leaned on advice from his father.

“I go back to what my dad used to say, and that it’s true that he got through a lot of tough times, don’t look at it day by day,” Woods said. “He used to say, ‘Take it one meal to the next.’ So you go at it until the next meal, and then you figure it out, go out and get it until the next meal. When times are slow like when days feel like months or even years, you just try and break it up into pieces when you can accomplish things.

“Unfortunately for myself, I’ve been through episodes like this in my career with my back where seconds seem like months. You have to slow things down and do things at a different pace. Look at things with a different lens, from a different perspective, where you can accomplish goals, and I think at this point in time going from meal to meal has worked. I don’t know long this is going to work, how long we’re going to be in this pandemic, but for us it’s been these mini-goals that’s allowed us to keep going forward, and next thing you know it’s nighttime and it’s time for bed.”

SOURCE: ESPN.COM

Avoid this common mistake to create more power

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

SOURCE:  GolfDigest.com

Qualifying for the U.S. Olympic golf team: How to do it and Tiger’s chances

The men’s Olympic golf tournament is still six months away, but Americans, including Tiger Woods, trying to grab one of the four spots available in the 60-player field are already in an intense battle to get to Tokyo, where the competition begins on July 30 at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

Here are some key facts and dates as they relate to making the 2020 Olympic tournament:

How many players will the U.S. send?

Up to four. The top 15 players in the Official World Golf Ranking will be eligible, with a limit of four players per country. There are currently nine Americans ranked among the top 15, so clearly a highly rated U.S. player who is capable of winning Olympic gold will not be competing.

How is the rest of the field determined?

Strictly based on the OWGR as of June 22, which is after the U.S. Open. Any country can have up to four players if they are among the top 15 in the world, with no more than two per country if they are ranked lower than 15th. Because of this, players well down in the world rankings will qualify. For example, as it stands now, the 60th player in the field would be Fabian Gomez of Argentina, who is ranked 242nd in the world.

What is the qualification period?

Because the OWGR operates on a two-year cycle, the qualification period began July 1, 2018 — the last day of the Quicken Loans National on the PGA Tour. All points earned at events from that point through the 2022 U.S. Open comprise the world ranking on a given day and the list from which the field will be determined. That is why the OWGR today does not mirror the projected ranking as of June 22: Any points a player earned prior to July 1, 2018, will not count toward Olympic qualification, but those points are still part of the two-year cycle now. That is the rolling nature of the OWGR. For example, Woods has depreciated points for his second-place finish at the 2018 Valspar Championship and tie for fifth at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational. They will no longer be part of his record after the dates of those events pass in 2020.

How does qualifying differ from the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup?

For United States players, the world rankings are not a determining factor for either competition. Players earn points based on money earned for the Ryder Cup and based on FedEx Cup points for the Presidents Cup. European Ryder Cup players have a points list that factors in money earned on the European Tour, as well as a world list based on the world ranking points earned during the qualification period.

If the Olympics were today, who would be playing for the United States?

No. 1 Brooks Koepka, No. 4 Justin Thomas, No. 5 Dustin Johnson and No. 6 Tiger Woods. But the rankings are volatile and there are numerous players in position to earn a spot. Patrick Cantlay is seventh in the world. Xander Schauffele is ninth. Webb Simpson is 11th and Patrick Reed is 12th. Gary Woodland, Tony Finau, Bryson DeChambeau and Matt Kuchar — who earned Olympic bronze in Rio in 2016 — are all ranked in the top 20.

Nobody has locked down a spot because there are so many events still to be played with big world ranking points being offered: the WGC-Mexico Championship, the Players Championship, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship, the Masters, the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open.

Tournaments such as the Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Memorial will also have loaded fields offering more points.

So what are Tiger’s chances?

Good, but he is far from a lock. The good news for Woods is that he is not in danger of losing points by playing events. That can happen to players who compete often. The OWGR formula is based on average points, which is computed by taking the total number of points earned and divided by events played. But the minimum divisor used is 40 events played over two years, a number Woods will not come close to achieving. Anything over 40 is the number used to divide, so the average number can decrease if an appropriate number of points are not earned.

Here’s the bottom line for Tiger: He’s in position, but with so many big events, he will need to produce. A victory somewhere would go a long way toward qualifying, but so would several top-5 finishes. And he is looking at playing events with strong fields, so high finishes would help even more. His tie for ninth on Sunday at the Farmers Insurance Open earned him 6.75 world ranking points, but he probably needs to average about 15 points per event to be assured of an Olympic spot. And the points drop off drastically after the top 10.

Woods can be expected to play between eight and 10 more tournaments prior to the cutoff.

An educated guess has these as the possibilities: Genesis Invitational, WGC-Mexico Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational, Players Championship, WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, the Masters, Wells Fargo Championship, PGA Championship, Memorial, U.S. Open.

Last year, Woods skipped the Arnold Palmer and Wells Fargo, so it’s possible he plays just eight more times prior to the Olympic cutoff.

SOURCE:  ESPN.com

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How you can change your golf grip without even realizing it

Editor’s Note: Baden Schaff has been a PGA teaching professional for 17 years and is the co-founder of Skillest, a digital platform that connects golf students with golf coaches across the world for online lessons. To learn more about Skillest and to book a lesson of your own with Baden or with Andreas Kali.

The grip causes eternal fascination for golfers. It’s often the first thing I get asked during a lesson. Why is it that the aspect of the swing that creates the most intrigue has nothing to do with the swing itself?

The commonly rolled out line is “because it’s the only part of the body that is connected to the club”. This might well be true, but I think it’s more likely because it’s the only part of the golf swing you can see without videoing it. Your grip is staring you in the face every time you look down at that ball. But why, then, do students still have so much trouble getting it right?

Because they try and fix it in isolation.

Whenever I see a tip regarding the grip it is always a close up of how the two hands are sitting on the club, cut off above the wrists. But what if there is something else at play? What if your grip was influenced by more than just the way your hands are holding the club. Well, there is and it’s got everything to do with your body posture and the way your arms hang at setup. Trying to get your grip right without getting your set up right will drive you mad.

Let’s look at two of the best players in the world. Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau. Dustin has an incredibly strong grip and subsequently shuts the club on the takeaway. Bryson on the other hand is the opposite. He has an incredibly weak grip, particularly evident in the left hand, and has a much more neutral face during the golf swing.

Now are these two grips diametrically opposed because they just hold it differently? No, it’s also because DJ generally starts with the body more over the ball and an almost straight down arm hang. This creates more “radial deviation” and gives the left wrist an exaggerated “extension” or cupping. This is what makes it look so strong.

Bryson is the exact opposite. He plays golf with a more upright posture and has much higher hands, almost like the heel of his club is off the ground. This is why Bryson has his clubs lie angles so upright. This setup creates ulnar deviation and less extension in the left wrist and gives it a look of being incredibly weak. It’s not so much the way their hands sit on the club as much as their posture and their arm hang. This is why you can get your grip looking perfect when you hold the club up in front of you but looks completely wrong when the club is down at address.

Grips cannot be fixed in isolation, they are part of a much broader picture.

A great way to test this for yourself is by taking your usual set up. Then, if you want to see your grip weaken without moving your hands on the club, stand slightly closer to the ball, raise your hands so that it feels like the heel of the club is off the ground, just like Bryson.

If you want to see your grip strengthen, push your hands towards the ground and watch the toe of the club come off the ground. You will notice that your left wrist will cup or extend more making it look stronger. When it is set like DJ you will notice that you can see three of four knuckles while setting up like Bryson will show you only one or two knuckles.

Personally, I prefer Bryson’s style, but let’s not detract from the larger point: Your grip can be changed and influenced without ever moving the hands on the club, because it’s affected by your body position. Like always, any change to your swing must be made with a broader context in mind. Nothing ever works independently. Your challenge is finding a coach that understands cause and effect well enough to work with your motion as a whole.

SOURCE:  Golf.com

Use these 3 new-school tips to save strokes with science

Golf’s best and brightest minds gathered at Pinehurst Resort for the GOLF Top 100 Teachers summit last fall. A distinguished collection of speakers shared new ideas and research with the nearly 200 coaches in attendance. Here’s what stood out:

1. Golden Scoring Rules
Scott Fawcett, whose innovative DECADE game management system and built-in mathematics helps golfers play smarter and shoot lower scores, highlighted Tiger Woods’ Five Golden Scoring Rules, which speak to the same principles as the DECADE system:

1.) No sixes on par 5s
2.) No double-bogeys
3.) No 3-putts
4.) No bogeys with a 9-iron or less
5.) No blown easy par saves.

Rules to live — and score — by.

2. Cautious Putting
GOLF columnist and Columbia University statistician Mark Broadie presented interesting evidence that can help players fine-tune how hard, or soft, they strike putts. Broadie found that pros, on average, leave four-foot putts about two and a half feet past the hole in the event of a miss. Better putters leave comebackers even farther past. When it comes to 10-footers, pros leave their putts short only 7 percent of the time. For 90s shooters, it’s almost double that.

3. The Putting Stroke Isn’t a Pendulum
Newly minted GOLF Top 100 Teacher David Orr, alongside co-presenter and True Spec Golf VP of Customer Experience Tim Briand, talked through the art and science of putter fitting, myth-busting along the way. At center stage was the notion that the putting stroke can’t be a pendulum, as it’s often described. “There’s no such thing as a straight-back, straight-through stroke,” says Orr. “Because the putter is set at an angle at address, it has to move up and inside, especially as the stroke gets longer.” In other words, don’t force it.

SOURCE:  Golf.com

The 21 (yes, 21!) most painful rules incidents of 2019

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.

Wrong!

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.

SOURCE:  GolfDigest