McIlroy`s flight from first to worst on Master`s Sunday

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Rory McIlroy on Masters Sunday

Rory McIlroy on Masters Sunday

In the 75 years that there has been a Masters, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that had more drama and excitement among such a large group of players as this past one. Charl Schwartzel’s four straight birdies to finish was astounding, but don’t forget the chip in for birdie on the first hole or the hole-out for eagle on the third. The young man played some incredible golf and is a deserving champion.

 

As I watched in amazement at all the different storylines, I realized I had a large number of possibilities to write about for this week’s “A Lesson Learned.” Tiger Woods’ aggressive play made up a seven stroke deficit in eight holes. His inability to convert a few short putts on the back nine cost him a chance to win a fifth green jacket. The Australian contingent of Ogilvy, Day and Scott showed incredible poise and looked like one of them would take the green jacket down under for awhile. There was also a time when I was sure K.J. Choi would win with his almost robotic-like consistency. And of course, Charl Schwartzel’s four-birdie close will be written about ad nauseum for years to come. But in some ways, the story of the week may have been the three-day dominance of Rory McIlroy and the gut-wrenching back nine he endured on Sunday. And those putts. Everyone remembers his drive on No. 10, but those putts on Nos. 11 and 12 are what doomed his chances.

I noticed early that Rory seemed to be walking a little quicker than normal. That’s a sign of tension. It showed early with a bogey at the first. But he did a good job, albeit with a few early struggles, of righting the ship and stood on the 10th tee still one shot ahead of the rest of the field. And then, one pulled drive later, a shot from by the cabins to the left of the tenth hole and a pitch that hit a tree near the green that came back to him, the young man had a triple bogey and was two shots behind.

But then he missed a short birdie putt on eleven and an even shorter par putt on the same hole. He then missed more short putts as he four-putted for double bogey on the 12th. Hearts across the golf world were breaking for him. It was maddening. It was gut wrenching. And to many golf instructors, it was understandable. We’ve all seen it before. We’ll see it again.

I heard the commentators talking about how all day, he seemed to be pulling his putts. That is what happens when you get tense.

When better players feel tense, they know it and often try, subconsciously, to make adjustments. When you feel like you’re too quick, you will slow your hands down, almost decelerate them, to get back what you think is your proper, natural rhythm. And you’re tense because you remember missing a short one earlier. That’s when even the shortest putts seem like hieroglyphics.

When you feel your body and nerves getting tense, you need to give yourself a deep breath and get back to the basics. This means regulate your breathing, exhale and be sure you go through your pre-shot routine. Most importantly, accept that anything that has happened on the last hole or last shot is not indicative of what will happen to you on your next shot. The best players in the world hit poor shots, miss short putts, stub easy chips. You will too. It happens. When your body tenses up, it may increase the likelihood of it. You’ve got to get back to basics. But if and when a bad shot or bad break happens, you have to accept it and move forward. Don’t let one bad hole turn into two or three. Don’t let one bad swing mess up your rhythm for the next five swings.

As for young Rory McIlroy, his fundamentals and balance are so solid, I am confident he will be back in contention at major championships soon. Probably very soon. He needs to use this experience to learn how to handle his emotions and learn to rely on his routines and selective memories when he gets back into that same position.

And for all of you who will be playing in a club championship, your weekend Nassau or just trying to beat your personal best: whenever you feel the pressure starting to build, remember that it effects every player of every level. Take a breath, go through your routine and perform confidently, regardless of what happened in the past. Your best golf shot should always be the next one!

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“A Quick Nine” for both Facebook Fans and PGA fans

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Quick-Nine-640_0It seems this week’s question for our, “A Quick Nine,” feature was such a hit with our dedicated PGA.com Facebook fans, that we had to make a little adjustment.

Trimming the best answers we got down to just nine isn’t possible with all the great responses we received to the question: Do you employ any superstitions in your golf game?

Plus, I’m feeling generous. You see, up here in the Northeast, the weather is finally taking a turn for the better and slowly but surely, golf courses are beginning to open for the 2011 season. Because of that, here’s, “A Quick 18,” to help scratch the itch of the 18 holes I’m dying to play!

Let’s see what you offered up (and, by the way, many of you have issues — we love it!):

1. “My lucky 1881 large US Penny. I use it as a ball marker because it reminds me of my goal to play “18″ holes in “81″ strokes.” — Walt Shuler

2. “Before I tee off, I’ll slap my driver out of my bag and catch it in mid air. If I don’t do that, I shank it left or right. But a perfect catch results in a drive.” — Justin Jj Collums

3. “I carry and use my late father’s St. Andrews divot repair tool, and carry a Canadian “Loon” as a ball marker.” — Glenn Forsyth

4. “I hit a bucket prior to the round and ALWAYS tee up the last ball and walk away without hitting it. It all started because I wanted a way to recognize all the fallen heroes that fought and died for my freedom and will never hit another ball, to remind myself that it’s OK to walk away from the game, and finally that it’s not the last shot that matters but the next one. TOTALLY improved my mental game.” — Brian Duffee

5. “I always carry the broken shaft from the first driver I used when I first started playing. The head is on my fireplace mantle in rec room.” — GeorgeDebbie P. DeCota

6. “I mark my golf balls with the initials of whatever girlfriend I have at that time. It reassures me that no matter what I shoot, I’m getting a kiss at the end of the round.” — Justin Mattheis

7. “I pencil my desired score before I tee off. I feel if I have a target and keep thinking about it, I will acheive it. Also keeps my ambitions in check.” — Upen Sachdev

8. “I always fix at least one extra ball mark on each green — I figure if I am good to the greens they will be good to me and maybe I’ll sink a few more putts — so far so good.” — John Davis

9. “If I hit my first ball in the woods, I call it a day!” — Carlos Avila

10. “Never wash your ball on a ‘water hazard’ hole.” — Larry W Lindstrom

11. “I always approach the tee box from behind the markers, never walk through the front of them.” — David White

12. “If I play well in a round, I won’t wash my ped socks and will wear the same unwashed pair for the next round.” — Ric Pomeroy

13. “Never say, “good putt,” until the ball drops in the hole.” — John Keefer

14. “I never use a ball I made a double with on the next hole. It’s either back in the back or out for a swim.” — Holden Crago

15. “Delete my number off her phone.” — Alan Kielan

16. “Little nod to the Gods… and then Grip it n Rip it!!! Just on the first tee.” — Gina Clark-Linna

17. “Lucky ball mark from my commanding general from when i was in Bosnia 11 years ago… BIG RED ONE… HOORAH!!!!” — Jeremy Mathews

18. “I always make five 3-footers in a row on the practice green before I play. If I don’t or I forget, I tend to have a bad putting day.” — Kevin Blue

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How Round 3 went for Mark Wiebe

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Mark Wiebe

Mark Wiebe

DAVE SENKO: Mark, another 65 today. Right now you are 12 under and two back starting tomorrow. Maybe just give us a quick synopsis of your day and we will get your 6 birdies and bogey.

MARK WIEBE: Seven birdies, but who’s counting? Well, the weather is fantastic. That helps a lot. The golf course is in good shape. The greens are poa annua. I grew up on poa annua greens, and they get a little bit bumpy in the afternoons. The putting is tough. So far, I have been able to figure it out and get lucky here and there. Nice crowds, good golf. I’m playing nice.

DAVE SENKO: Birdies, start at No. 1, shot sequence.

MARK WIEBE: Yes, let me see. I hit a wedge from about 120 or so yards on 1 to probably about, I’m going to guess, about 15 feet ish. Probably my best putt of the day to tell you the truth. It rolled real nice. It’s a great way to get started and get under par. So it was a good beginning.

The next birdie was 7, was a little revenge. I doubled that hole yesterday. I was 7 under coming into that hole. That was my 16th hole, and made a double, a sloppy double bogey and birdied 8 yesterday.

So today it was on my mind, believe me. I hit a nice drive, and I hit a lob wedge from 90 yards. And I got a good hop up onto the green and I had about, I’m going to say about, a four- or five-foot downhill left to right one that you just breathe on and real happy when I made that. That’s a treacherous green on this golf course. If you have been out there, you know what I’m talking about. It’s brutal.

Then I had a very pleasant surprise on No. 8. I probably had one of my best shots today. I hit a 4 iron, a nice high draw, thought it was going to be really good, went all the way off the green. I was putting, just on the fringe. That putt had to be 35, 40 feet, right in that range, with about six feet of break.

So, obviously, I was thinking about getting it close and tapping in for par and it went in. Awesome surprise. But you never know, right?

(No.) 11, I hit a driver off the tee and hit a lob wedge from about 61 yards. It’s pretty funny, my caddy and I joked about that because when I hit it, I hit it perfect and I heard someone go, ‘Get down, get down,’ and I looked at him and I said, ‘Oh, no, that’s going to be good.’ It was about three feet, I guess. Exactly pin high.

Bogey (No.) 12 from middle of the fairway. Got a little lazy with a pitching wedge and hit the tree on the right, and it went behind the trees on the left. So it went all the way across the fairway.

A bad break but a bad shot. The ball could have just dropped down, and I could have maybe got it up and down.

It was kind of a bad break, I guess. But I made a great two putt for a bogey there.

(No.) 14 was great. I hit a great drive there, just an awesome drive. That hole is tough. Actually, our whole group hit sensational drives there.

I hit a pitching wedge from 115 to about ten feet. You know what? I kind of had a great vibe on that putt. It was straight, a little bit uphill. It was one of the easier ones, I guess I had today, and made that.

The next hole, par 5, I hit a real nice drive there, and hit a 3 iron in, and didn’t hit it very well, to tell you the truth, but on the front fringe and had to putt up the hill, and that putt was probably 45, 50 feet and putted that up to probably four feet there and had a tricky little right to left putt and made that for birdie.

(No.) 18, I had a 3 wood in the left bunker. I was not going to go right. I’ve played here a few times. When the pin is front right, you can’t go right really, although Brad Bryant did it, and made birdie. He is better at pitching I guess.

I hit it in the left bunker. I didn’t have a super hard bunker shot, but had a real nice shot to probably 5 or 6 feet, I guess, and made that to cap my day.

DAVE SENKO: So on 18 again, your shot sequence again was?

MARK WIEBE: 3 wood in the left bunker, which was good. The pin was on the right. I used the hill and hit my bunker shot out to about five or six feet.

DAVE SENKO: Questions?

Q. You were in this room a year ago, you were under the weather, you weren’t feeling well, you are back here now playing well. Is this a course you come to looking to win? Is this one of your favorite tracks out here?

MARK WIEBE: It’s a great tournament. You never know when you go into a tournament. You never know. You think maybe you’re ready. But to tell you the truth, I’ve had great tournaments when I don’t think I’ve been close to ready and in places I never thought I would play well.

I love playing on the West Coast. I grew up in Escondido. We don’t get to play west very much. So it’s really nice to come west. I had family that came in. Some friends came in. The sun is shining, the weather is great.

Q. You mentioned growing up on courses with poa annua. Are you referring to Torrey?

MARK WIEBE: I never really played Torrey other than just a couple of tournaments. And then Andy Williams. You are not old enough to know what that is. It’s the San Diego tournament. Palma Valley was poa annua. There was a lot of courses. I played Junior Golf for six or seven years as a kid. A lot of the courses were either bent or poa annua. That was it.

Bermuda, we picked that. Now we play golf on it when we go to Florida. I know the greens. I don’t mean that in a way that I know I’m going to make everything. I just know that they’re tough.

So you have a mindset many could go into a golf course like this. This is an old traditional style golf course with the greens perched up, and they are poa annua, and they are firm, and they are just tough.

I think we all come in with a mindset. These greens, you got to pay attention. Just don’t have simple putts very often.

I had one today on the 14th hole. That was my only putt today that I really felt comfortable on. I think I can make the rest of them. You are trying to figure out how to die it and let it roll out. You are busy concentrating. I’m ready for a cocktail, actually, just about now.

Q. What family was here today? How do you feel about going up against Nick Price tomorrow?

MARK WIEBE: Well, to answer that question first, Nick is a great guy and a great player, and has been for as long as I’ve been around. He is a great player. I’m excited to play with him. I have no idea what’s in store for us tomorrow. I’m going to do my best and hopefully I can catch him. Whatever. I’m just happy to be in this position. And I am going to enjoy playing with Nick. I played with Nick in Naples the last day and birdied everything coming in. I finished second or third in the tournament. I’m excited to play with Nick.

Family came in, my son came in yesterday, and my wife is here first of all. She came in Tuesday. My son was here yesterday. And then my oldest daughter flew in this morning from Tulsa. My youngest daughter goes to Loyola Marymount as a freshman, and she came in yesterday after her class, so she was here last night.

Then I have friends that came in from Denver and some friends that live around here that came in. I can tell you, Naples, or in Florida usually, I usually don’t have friends and family there because I’m from this side. So I don’t know many people out in Florida.

Q. What are their names?

MARK WIEBE: My kids — wife’s name is Cathy with a C — Taylor, Collier and Gunner was here yesterday. He is getting ready for his tournament. He goes to the University of San Diego. They plays Monday and Tuesday, which we are going right down to after this tomorrow.

Q. Are you still working with him a lot, a little bit?

MARK WIEBE: Yes. Until we can find somebody that can help him. He is my teacher so I have to keep him close. He helps me. He watched me yesterday. We went right to the range. I did not want to hit balls yesterday. And he made me hit balls. He said you need to get your hand up and quit taking so much time on a couple of these putts, is my advice from Gunner yesterday.

Q. Did you use that today?

MARK WIEBE: Yes, I tried to keep my pace consistent. Again, the greens are tough. It’s hard. You don’t want to take too long. We were in position, so I felt good about that. You still don’t want to take too long on the greens. I have a tendency to do that anyway, and when we get on these, they really firmed up.

I got here, and I played in the Pro Am Monday. I played nine holes and the practice round Tuesday. I played in the Pro Am Wednesday, the Pro Am Thursday, so I tried to study, I guess, so to speak. Try not to take too long, but there is just some of the putts you have, you just have to pay attention.

Q. Mark, how many times have you played this course over your life?

MARK WIEBE: Well, I’ve never played any junior tournaments here. I never played any amateur tournaments here. So the first time was 2008, when I turned 50 at the end of 2007. My first trip up here was in 2008 and love it. It’s great.

DAVE SENKO: Thank you.

MARK WIEBE: Thank you, guys.

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Austrian and Portugal set early lead in inaugural Guijarat Kensville Challenge

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FlorianPraegant

Florian Praegant

Austrian Florian Praegant and Portugal’s Ricardo Santos set the clubhouse target on three under par in the early stages of the inaugural Gujarat Kensville Challenge.

Both players posted four birdies and a solitary bogey on the opening day of the €200,000 event, which marks not only the start of the 2011 Challenge Tour season but also the Tour’s first visit to India.

Despite temperatures peaking at 30 degrees at the Jeev Milka Singh-designed Kensville Golf Club in Ahmedabad, in the state of Gujarat, Santos remained cool to hit 16 greens in regulation in his round of 69.

Santos’ first gain came at the fourth hole, where he hit a nine iron to four feet and rolled in the putt. That birdie was soon cancelled out by his only blemish of the day at the next hole, where he three-putted from long range.
But the 28 year old made amends after the turn, running up successive birdies on the 12th and 13th holes courtesy of putts from three and ten feet respectively.

Another birdie on the 16th hole, where he pitched his seven iron to ten feet, saw Santos come home in 33 to join Praegant in a share of the lead.

He said: “My driving was the key to my round today – I was excellent off the tee, which took a lot of pressure off my irons. My putting was also decent – I had 32 putts, which wasn’t bad going because the greens here are obviously very hard with the sun.

“The course is in good condition, especially considering the fact that it’s only three years old. It’s a tough course, but I enjoyed playing it. Having made a good start, hopefully I can now keep it going over the next three days.”

Like Santos, Praegant also took advantage of the shorter back nine to join the Portuguese player at the top of the leaderboard.

After turning in one over par the Austrian must have feared the worst, but he stormed back with birdies at the tenth, 12th, 14th and 15th holes to surge through the field.

He said: “The course is in great shape, except maybe for one or two of the greens, which are a touch firm. It’s a tough course with lots of out of bounds, so you have to keep it straight, especially off the tee. Luckily I managed to keep the ball in play all day.

“I played some good golf today, and didn’t really miss any of the birdie chances I created. I want to take it round by round and not put too much pressure on myself, but it’s always important to get off to a good start and I’m glad I’ve managed to do that.”

Experienced Swede Klass Eriksson, five times a winner on the Challenge Tour, is one shot back on two under par after compiling four birdies and one bogey in his round of 70.

He was joined on that mark by fellow Scandinavians Mads Vibe-Hastruup and Espen Kofstad, who after starting on the tenth hole reached the turn in four under par but undid some of his good work with a double bogey at the first hole.

Of the early morning starters, the only other players to finish under par were Eriksson’s compatriot Bjorn Akesson and Scotland’s Ross Bain, who both signed for rounds of 71.

Of the home contingent, it was Gaganjeet Bhullar who was making the most headway, notching four birdies and a solitary bogey in his opening 12 holes to race into a share of the lead with six holes of his round still left to play.

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David Frost pulls off magnificent ending to Mauritius Commercial Bank Open

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DavidFrostwins

David Frost wins

David Frost conjured a magnificent eagle three on the 18th hole to force the Mauritius Commercial Bank Open into a play-off where the South African defeated England’s Roger Chapman at the second extra hole.

After a thrilling final round that had seen Chapman overhaul a four shot deficit and take a two shot lead down the final hole, Frost saved his best till last with a brilliant drive followed by a sublime three iron to 15 feet that he rolled home for eagle and a final round score of three under par 69.

With Chapman making a par five on the last to sign for a seven under 65, it meant both men finished locked together on 13 under for the tournament, and forced them back to the 18th tee to slug it out in a sudden-death format.

Two perfect drives were followed by two approaches that found the fringes of the green – Chapman was pin high to the right and Frost just off the back of the putting surfaces. Two fine chips to four feet were then followed by solid putts to force the play-off back to the 18th tee once again.

Chapman then hit his only bad shot of what had been an inspired final round, tugging his drive into the deep left rough. The Englishman was fortunate to get a free drop from a nearby wall but his luck was instantly snatched away as his second shot struck a tree and stayed in the rough, forcing him to play out of the heavy stuff left-handed.

After watching Chapman’s drive find trouble, Frost elected a three wood off the tee, from where he laid up to 50 yards short of the green. Chapman then hit a fine rescue towards the target but ran out of green and found the sand. His opponent made no mistake with his third shot, leaving it 15 feet short and when Chapman couldn’t hole his bunker shot Frost took his two putts to secure the title.

“It was a great final round and a great victory for me because when I was standing on the 18th tee two shots back I didn’t think I had any chance,” admitted Frost who picks up €42,000 for picking up the Mauritius Commercial Bank Trophy and moves to fifth on the 2011 Senior Tour Order of Merit.

“Roger had made a great birdie putt on 17 so I didn’t give myself much hope. Then I saw him take three wood and thought he was playing for a par so I had one chance to make eagle.

“Thankfully I hit a good drive and a great three iron to set-up a makeable putt which I finally made after missing so many great chances throughout the day. I’m delighted to have won here – it is another great experience in my life that I will never forget. I have been very privileged to play and win all over the world and this is another chapter for me.”

For Chapman, his defeat brought a bitter end to what has been a truly emotive week. The Englishman lost his lifelong friend, mentor and coach, George Will, last Monday and his performance was certainly inspired by the memory of one of golf’s great men.

Given those circumstances, a play-off defeat was certainly a cruel end to a day in which the classy Englishman had performed with the kind courage, determination and skill that would have made Will not only a satisfied coach, but, more importantly, a proud friend.

“I wanted to do it for George but it wasn’t meant to be,” said Chapman after the play-off. “I was very emotional out there today – in fact I have been emotional all week – and I didn’t put a foot wrong during regulation play. But you have to take your hat off to David, he made that eagle on the last when he absolutely had to and then I made the mistake in the play-off so you have to say the best man won.”

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Flurry of birdies puts Wolstenholme into lead at the Mauritius Commercial Bank Open

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GaryWolstenholme

Gary Wolstenholme

Gary Wolstenholme produced a mesmerising finish of four birdies on the spin to charge into a one stroke lead over David Merriman and Sam Torrance at the Mauritius Commercial Bank Open.

The Englishman, who is fast becoming a dominant force on the European Senior Tour having won once and registered two third place finishes in just eight appearances since joining the Tour, birdied home from the 15th hole of the demanding Legends Course at the stunning Constance Belle Mare Plage Resort to establish a one stroke advantage over Merriman and Torrance after round one.

“I am really pleased with that,” said Wolstenholme.”I actually felt that the round was getting away from me because I had made such a strong start and then got a little careless in the middle of the round. But just as I was thinking that I managed to refocus and finished with four birdies in a row which is a very good return considering the difficulty of this golf course.”

Wolstenholme turned professional earlier this year after a decorated amateur career during which he became England’s most capped player and he has taken to the professional game with aplomb.

“I am really looking forward to this new season, it is a very exciting time for me and my career. I look at the schedule for next year and then also hear of where we could be potentially playing and it is just a great opportunity for myself and the rest of the Senior Tour guys to play golf in some fantastic destinations.

“I am playing well but I don’t really set my expectations too high in respect of the year ahead – I am not really a goal-setter, I just hope to stay fit and well and try to enjoy this new adventure that I am on. If I do that then I am sure I can get a few good results along the way.”

Merriman will have pleased his growing fanbase on Facebook with a strong start to the week with five birdies and just the one dropped shot.

He said: “I missed a few short birdie putts early in the round and was starting to think that it was going to be one of those days and all of a sudden I started holing a few and picked up a few shots and I was off and running.

“It was satisfying to make the putts because I have been putting pretty well recently and have managed to get myself into that place where you believe that you can hole every putt you look at. You don’t get that too often when you are playing golf so to have that little extra layer of confidence really gives you an edge.”

Merriman drew inspiration from an article he read on the plane on his flight over to the honeymoon island of Mauritius.

“I coach myself which is great when things are going well but you do get moments when you can lose a few things in the swing and you just have to hit the range and pump the range balls until you find something.

“I actually took a little bit of inspiration from an article I was reading on the plane over here. It was a Tom Watson interview and there was a quote that really stuck in my mind. He said: ‘Sometimes you just have to stay on the range ‘till you find it…’ That really struck a chord with me and you just have to look at Tom’s swing to know that he still puts the work in – no matter who you are you still have to work at it if you want to compete.”
Torrance is also right in the hunt after a four under par 68, picking up four shots in his last five holes.

“The finish was very satisfying – to make those birdies coming home was a nice way to finish the round because I really played beautifully today,” said the Scot.

“I have been playing well for the last few tournaments now, and the game has been getting better and better over the last couple of months so it is definitely on the way back.

“Mauritius is a beautiful place and I always enjoy coming here. It might be a bit hot for golf at some points – it was extremely humid today – but you just have to look around to see the natural beauty of the place.”

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U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell capped off his greatest year

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Graeme McDowell wins Chevron

U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell capped off his greatest year with two clutch putts that gave him the greatest comeback ever against Tiger Woods.

McDowell holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole to force a playoff Sunday in the Chevron World Challenge, then made another birdie putt from a little longer away to deny Woods a victory in his final tournament of the year.

“It’s the stuff of dreams — 2010 has been the stuff of dreams,” McDowell said.

Woods, despite losing a four-shot lead, was poised to end a turbulent year with a victory in his final event. Tied for the lead playing the 18th hole at Sherwood Country Club, he stuffed an 8-iron inside 3 feet for a sure birdie. It was vintage Woods, the kind of magic he has he delivered so often in his career.

But it wasn’t the same old outcome.

McDowell, with his own reputation as a tough closer, stayed in the game on the 17th by taking a penalty drop on the 18th tee and escaping with bogey. Then after Woods’ great shot, McDowell answered with an all-or-nothing birdie putt.

In the playoff on the same hole, McDowell coaxed in another birdie putt from about 25 feet. Woods had about 15 feet to extend the playoff, but it missed just right of the cup.

“Probably two of the great putts I’ve made,” McDowell said.

It was the first time Woods has ever lost a tournament when leading by at least three shots going into the final round. And it was the first time Woods has lost an event and felt good about himself.

“It was a great week, even though I didn’t win,” Woods said. “I’m proud of the way I played today, even though I lost.”

Indeed, it was the first time Woods like the No. 1 player of old. He opened with three rounds in the 60s, the first time since the PGA Championship last year that he led after the first three rounds.

But he three-putted twice for bogey early in his round, lost the lead with a double bogey on the par-5 13th, then rallied to give himself a chance to win when McDowell paid for a few bad shots.

Ultimately, it was great theater. And for the first time all year, it included Woods.

“He will be back to winning tournaments very soon,” McDowell said.

McDowell closed with a 69, while Woods shot a 73 to match him at 16-under 272. They were four shots clear of Paul Casey, who had had a 69 to finish alone in third.

McDowell showed why he is considered such a tough closer, despite letting Woods back into the game late.

He had a one-shot lead — courtesy of Woods chopping his way to double bogey on the par-5 13th — when McDowell pulled his tee shot on the par-3 17th into grass so deep that he took a penalty drop onto the 18th tee. But he dropped only one shot when Woods missed his birdie putt and McDowell pitched over a tree to about 7 feet and made the bogey putt.

Then, Woods had a big advantage again — but not for long.

“We had a good battle out there,” Woods said.

Woods was shaky early on with the putter to quickly lose his four-shot cushion, but he didn’t fall out of the lead until the 13th.

He took his hand off the club on a poor tee shot that went into the left rough, forcing him to lay up. Then came another poor swing, again letting the club fall from his hands, as his wedge sailed over the green. He chipped through the green, chipped back 6 feet long and missed the putt to make double bogey.

McDowell reached the green in two for a birdie, which was a massive three-shot swing.

It was the first time Woods trailed in the tournament since the 13th hole of the opening round, a stretch of 54 holes.

McDowell needed only four holes to put some tension into this final round, with plenty of help from the host.

Woods three-putted for bogey from about 25 feet on the opening hole. Two holes later, he ran his birdie putt about 3 feet beyond the cup and three-putted again for bogey. McDowell closed within one shot with a 4-foot birdie on the fourth, and that’s the way it stayed for the next eight holes.

Woods probably should have lost the lead earlier.

He holed a tough, downhill putt from 8 feet for par on the sixth to stay one ahead. And on the par-3 eighth, after a flop shop from deep rough sailed 15 feet onto the fringe, Woods again made a key par putt to keep the lead.

Woods was grinding to keep his game together, which was not unusual considering it had been one year and 20 days since he last played in the final round of a tournament with the lead. He never got it back, thanks to the clutch putting from McDowell.

A year ago, McDowell was a last-minute alternate to this tournament when Woods’ personal life began to collapse. He finished second and earned enough Official World Golf Ranking points that he eventually got into the U.S. Open, which he won at Pebble Beach.

At a party Saturday night, McDowell asked tournament director Greg McLaughlin if he could at least try to win the tournament. Woods and a four-shot lead used to be a given. Upon seeing McLaughlin after winning, McDowell apologized.

It may have ruined a good story for Woods. It capped a dream season for McDowell, who won $1.2 million and moved up to No. 7 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

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When was the last time dropping a ball market cost you $400,000, just ask Ian Poulter at Dubai World Championship

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ian-poulter-caddie-dubai

Whoever knew dropping a golf ball could cost a player $400,000?

That’s just what happened to Englishman Ian Poulter on Sunday when he went to replace his ball on his marker and dropped it from a few inches above the ground, falling victim to one of golf’s more arcane rules.

The blunder cost Poulter a shot and helped Swede Robert Karlsson win $1.25 million at the Dubai World Championship, the final event of the European Tour season.

Poulter’s second prize is impressive nonetheless at $833,000.

Poulter and Karlsson were locked in a playoff on the 18th hole of the Dubai Earth course after four rounds in the desert where both finished at 14 under. The first playoff hole was tied and on the second playoff hole — again on the 18th — Poulter left himself with a massive 40-foot putt while Karlsson’s chip to the green landed within 4 feet of the pin.

But as the English golfer marked his ball, it slipped from his grasp and fell on the marker, which jumped in the air and turned over.

Poulter let the match referee know immediately.

“Ian Poulter called me over just after he had marked the ball on the 18th and told me he had dropped his ball onto the ball marker which caused the ball marker to move, it just flipped over,” chief match referee Andy McFee said. “This incurred a one stroke penalty.”

So instead of trying to force another playoff hole, Poulter realized his putt was for a 5. Poulter shrugged, putted and missed, while Karlsson holed his short putt. The gallery of a couple of thousand spectators was unaware of the drama.

Rule 20-1/15 is the one that impacted Poulter.

“Any accidental movement of the ball marker which occurs before or after the specific act of marking, including as a result of dropping the ball, regardless of the height from which it was dropped … results in the player incurring a one stroke penalty,” McFee said in a statement.

Karlsson said after the tournament ended that Poulter had told him of the ruling before they finished the second playoff hole, but he had not been sure the ruling would stand. Regardless, Karlsson’s putt was much shorter.

“These things happen in golf. It’s not the way you want to win,” the 41-year-old Swede said. “The rules are there for a reason but some of them can be tough.”

Poulter’s friend and rival Rory McIlroy was quick to see the funny side, even if Poulter’s mistake cost him more than $400,000.

He tweeted: “Poults may not have won the Dubai world championship, but he could be in with a shout for tiddlywinks world championship.”

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Ian Poulter will take a two-stroke lead over Graeme McDowell into the final round of the Ho Kong Open

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Ian Poulter

Ian Poulter will take a two-stroke lead over Graeme McDowell into the final round of the Ho Kong Open after shooting a six-under par 64 on Saturday.

The Englishman followed up his second-round 60 by sinking long birdie putts on the final two holes of the third round to stay ahead of McDowell, after the U.S. Open champion surged into contention with a 63.

Poulter has a 19-under total of 191, with fellow Englishman Simon Dyson three shots back in third place. Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and American Anthony Kang were another shot back in a tie for fourth.

“With Graeme pressing and Simon pressing, you know, I wanted to make sure that I went into tomorrow with a little lead, so it was huge,” Poulter said of his strong finish.

Poulter started with a birdie on the second and then eagled the 551-yard par-5 third in his third straight round without a bogey.

However, it was McDowell who had arguably the shot of the day, when he drove the green at the 10th, which was shortened for the third round to 287 yards, before draining a long putt. That began an impressive back nine that brought consecutive birdies at the 13th, 14th and 15th.

McIlroy was runner-up here the last two years and looks set for another high finish — although Poulter was hoping for a two-man race with McDowell for the title.

“It’s going to be good fun,” Poulter said. “We had lunch earlier in the week, actually, Tuesday it was, and we were having a little bit of banter in the pub, and I told Graeme I was going to win this week. And then Rory walked in and they had a bit of banter between those two, because Graeme had just gone a place in front of Rory in the world rankings. … As long as Graeme’s clear of the other guys and I’m clear of everyone else, then you can get into kind of a match play situation.”

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Visually Jim Furyk’s swing may not be great, but more than effective when it comes to wins

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Jim Furyk

Jim Furyk is just like so many of us from the standpoint he makes a perfect practice swing and then when he goes to hit it, his actual swing looks nothing like his practice swing. Fortunately for Furyk, his actual swing with the ball is pretty darn efficient too.
Celebration

At the TOUR Academies, we don’t use Jim Furyk’s backswing as an example of an effective use of the swing plane and body motion very often; however, when Jim changes direction on the downswing and through impact he is as good a candidate as any of them.

What makes Furyk so effective with his swing is how he looks at impact. At the end of the day, the only thing that really counts in the golf swing is how your return to impact. This is of course is where all the information is transferred to the golf ball and tells it where to go.

In theory, could Jim Furyk simplify his swing in how he uses the swing plane? Yes, however, it’s his ability to repeat his golf swing and get into a good impact condition that really sets him apart.

When learning to get into a good impact position like Jim Furyk, there are three big components you must control. These components are the clubface, club shaft and clubhead.

Let me begin with the clubface because controlling the clubface in the golf swing is extremely important as the clubface will primarily determine starting direction and curve. The clubface to a large degree is controlled by the grip; the stronger the grip, the more the clubface will close where the weaker the grip, the more clubface will open.

In addition to the grip, the clubface is controlled through the use of the left hand (for a right handed golfer). The main purpose of the left hand in the golf swing is to align the clubface at impact. Assuming a good grip if the left hand arrives at impact in turned position where the knuckles are facing the sky — the clubface will be open. Conversely, if the left hand is in a rolled position where the knuckles are facing down to the ground — the clubface will be closed. Ideally, the back of the left hand should be relatively facing the target at impact to produce a square clubface.

The next component of concern is the club shaft. The key to the club shaft is it must return to impact leaning forward. In fact, this could be the only thing that all PGA TOUR players do the same in the golf swing. Show me a TOUR player that’s not returning the club shaft forward at impact in the full swing and I will show you a TOUR player that is not making any money. I can’t express enough the importance of learning to return the club shaft forward as this is a real fundamental towards solid ball striking.

If the club shaft is forward at impact then the clubhead is accelerating and moving down. This is defined as clubhead lag as a result of the clubhead trailing the hands through impact. With clubhead lag a player can hit every club in their bag, from consistent iron play to great wood play just like Jim Furyk.

To accomplish a club shaft that leans forward at impact and clubhead lag, your trail wrist must be bent. For a right-handed golfer, if your right hand is bent back at the wrist then you have created an angle between the right forearm and the club shaft. This angle is defined as hinging the wrist and should be created during the backswing. The key, once hinged is to hold on to this angle as long as possible during the downswing resulting in a forward-leaning club shaft at impact. If you lose this angle, then the club shaft will return leaning away from the target resulting in a clubhead that is ascending and beginning to slow down. This is one of the most common errors in the golf swing for the amateur player and can lead to very inconsistent contact.

So, as you can see, the hands are extremely important to controlling these big three components. The left hand controls the clubface and the right hand controls the club shaft and clubhead. One of my favorite sayings in golf instruction comes from an old instructor/scientist Homer Kelley. Homer introduced the idea of “Educated Hands” where if the hands were not educated, then more information would just simply be more confusion.

When you’re working to improve your impact zone, don’t be afraid to start with small swings. At the TOUR Academies, Day 1 of golf school is all about educating your hands with smaller motions. We do a lot of small impact zone swing where a student learns to control the clubface, club shaft and clubhead just like the best players in the world. Once this solid impact condition is established, then it’s a lot easier to make the swing bigger and still achieve this same repeatable impact.

Just Because

Well it is hard to believe that Year 3 of the blog is in the books. Once again this year, I have really enjoyed providing insight each week to what the best players are doing. I hope these tips have helped your game and have lead to lower scores.

It has been an exciting and interesting 2010 for the game of golf. From the off the course episodes concerning the world’s No. 1 player Tiger Woods to Jim Furyk — who very quietly won three times including the very lucrative FedExCup. With Woods on the sidelines much of the year, we saw the youth take a giant step forward led by Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and so many others. The PGA TOUR is strong and is filled with great players of all ages from all over the world.

So as we roll into the Ryder Cup and the Fall Series, I say thank you again for reading my blog this year and I will see you in January after Kapalua for Year No. 4.

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