Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What's Up With Pro Golfers Giving the Finger(s) on the Green?

A few years back I was chatting with a teaching professional who was interested in writing a golf instructional book. Those books are a dime a dozen, I reminded him, and unless you have some kind of great hook for one, it's unlikely yet another instructional book will make any money. Oh, I have a hook, he said: green reading.

Green reading? Yes, the teaching pro replied: think about it - green reading is one of the most important facets of golf, yet it's never really taught. New golfers are just expected to pick it up as they go. Oh, they might hear very broad advice about methods of visualizing break, but nothing really specific, nothing really in-depth.

I did think about it. And I had to admit, that was a good hook.

Unfortunately for my friend, he never got around to writing a book explaining in-depth how to read greens. And somebody else beat him to it - probably, let's be honest, with a much better system anyway. What system? The one that has professional golfers doing this on the pro tours:

That's Lydia Ko and Adam Scott "giving the finger" to the break, using the AimPoint Express green reading system.

Some background on AimPoint: It originated about half a decade ago when a fella named Mark Sweeney invented a software program that read the break on putting greens and then showed you the proper putting path - the path the ball would follow to the hole if the golfer hit it at the proper speed. AimPoint first came to prominence on Golf Channel broadcasts when the network started using it to show viewers the break any given golfer was facing on a putt. It was certainly very whiz-bang in the those early days when AimPoint's projected putting line was shown on screen overlaid on a green, and then a golfer's putt perfectly tracked that line right into the hole.

But Sweeney soon realized something: The insights about putting and break and reading greens that went into AimPoint could also turn the system into a great tool to teach green reading.

The original AimPoint Green Reading system was adopted by some pros, such as Stacy Lewis. But only after AimPoint Express was introduced - a simpler version - did adoption by tour pros really take off. Here's a news report about AimPoint's adoption by the pros that provides some insight into the system, and why golfers are holding up fingers on the green:

How does AimPoint Express work? One thing AimPoint does is to teach a golfer to read greens first and primarily with one's feet rather than one's eyes. That is, stand behind your ball or ballmarker facing the hole and feel the slope of the green. Next, assign a number value to what you feel - 0 for no slope (a flat green) up to 7 for a very sloping putt. The numbers from 0 to 7 represent degrees of the slope of a green, a 1-degree slope, a 5-degree slope, and so on. (According to Sweeney, golfers almost never encounter putts breaking across slopes of more than 7-degrees.)

Once you have a number, pick out the line you want to start your putt on, assuming you'll be able to put the proper pace on the putter (proper speed is the speed that will send your ball 1.5 feet past the cup if you miss). Then hold up a finger or fingers in front of you - the number of fingers corresponding to the number from 0 to 7 that represents the amount of slope. When Adam Scott holds up one finger, it's because he feels a slope of 1 degree; when Lydia Ko holds up three fingers, she has rated the slope of the green a 3.

What Sweeney discovered - happy coincidence - is that the width of our fingers corresponds very closely to the line you'll have to putt to accommodate the break for the slope you've felt. That is, when Scott holds up one finger, he is going to start his putt on a line that appears to him one finger's width off the flagstick.

And that's the basics of AimPoint Express. Obviously that bare bones description isn't enough for you to run out and start making great reads all the time. But that's the gist of the Express version of AimPoint, and that's why you see so many pro golfers now holding up fingers on the green.

Go to YouTube and you'll find many videos about AimPoint Express. But if you want the full package, if you want to learn the full system, its ins and outs, and get the full benefit, you'll want to check out the DVD:

Friday, March 27, 2015

84-Year-Old Woman Uses Face-On Putting Style to Win Car on 'Price Is Right'

You know how the game called Hole In One works on The Price Is Right, right? You sink a putt, you win the big prize.

Today on the game show, and 84-year-old woman named Margaret sank a putt (actually her second try) and won herself a $16,000 car. But it's more the way she sank the putt that caught my eye:

Yep, that's right, dear ol' Margaret went face-on for her putt attempts. Face-on putting is actually picking up some adherents around the golf world these days. Gary McCord is probably the best-known, and McCord swears by face-on. His buddy Peter Kostis - who learned face-on from Sam Snead back in the day (it was usually called sidesaddle back then) is also a fan.

And 84-year-old Margaret is definitely a fan.

Related: Paula Creamer on 'The Price is Right'

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Watch: Phil Mickelson's Clubhead Flies Off on Sand Shot

Well, that's something you don't see every day - especially on an iron shot. The head of Phil Mickelson's club just flew right off. Mickelson was playing a sand shot during the first round of the 2015 Texas Open. His club didn't even hit a bunker lip or anything. It struck the sand and the ball - and the clubhead - went flying.

Watch:

That look on Phil's face! Apparently Golf Channel also picked up some audio, aired later, of Mickelson muttering, "What the heck?"

I feel your pain, Phil. Been there, done that. Except it happened to me with a driver. Brand new driver, too, about 20 years ago. I teed off on a par-5 I was hoping to reach in two; instead, my club broke in two. It snapped at the hosel and the clubhead went flying about 75 yards forward - right into a water hazard. Not a good feeling.

'Permanent' Masters Trophy Goes Up for Auction

Every year at The Masters Tournament the winner is given a trophy - a replica of the Augusta National clubhouse that, around its base, has the names of all the Masters Champions engraved. The trophy the winner gets is a much smaller replica of the permanent Masters trophy that resides inside the Augusta National clubhouse and never leaves the grounds.

So why is Green Jacket Auctions claiming it has the "Permanent" Masters Trophy up for auction right now? Because that's the nickname given to this particular rendition of the trophy, an intermediary size that was commissioned by Augusta National in 2000. This trophy is smaller than the real permanent trophy that is inside the Augusta clubhouse; but it's much bigger than the replicas given to Masters winners. So in collecting circles, it's become known as the "Permanent" Masters Trophy.

So where does this trophy come from? According to Green Jacket Auctions, it was commissioned by Augusta National in 2000 for a golf museum that was being planned for Augusta, Ga. The club gave the trophy to the museum, but attached a rider: if the trophy is ever put up for sale, the club has first option to purchase.

That museum never reached fruition, however, and the trophy was, indeed, offered for sale. But Augusta declined to buy it back. And so the trophy went out into the collecting world. It's been in the collection of an Atlanta businessman for many years, but now it is on the auction block.

The auction house started it with a minimum opening bid of $10,000, and as I write this the bidding is up to $37,978. The reserve price has not yet been met. The auction runs through April 11. You can follow it on the auction page.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Don't Look Now But One of Lydia Ko's Age Records Has Already Fallen

Lydia Ko is still only 17 years old, and she's set a lot of age-related records in golf along her way to superstardom. But, believe it or not, one of Ko's age records has already been broken.

Back in 2011, a 13-year-old Ko became the youngest-ever golfer to play in the Bing Lee NSW Women´s Open. That's a big tournament in Australia for golfers on the ALPG Tour.

But at the 2015 Bing Lee Fujitsu NSW Women´s Open, an even younger golfer is in the field: a 12-year-old. Which makes 12-year-old amateur Belinda Ji the first person to break one of Ko's age-related records in a professional tournament.

Don't get the idea that Ji is the next Ko, though. Although Ji is clearly a very talented golfer for her age, one who might have a bright future ahead in golf, she's farther away from reaching the pro level than Ko was at a similar age. Compare the results: Ji shot her age, in a manner of speaking - she's 12, she shot 12-over par 84 in the first round.

When Ko made her NSW Open debut at 13, she nearly won the tournament. She made it to the final green with the lead, but three-putted and lost by one shot.

Of course, Ko was 13 then, and Ji is only 12 now. Ji began playing golf at age 7. At age 9 she was a 9-handicap. At age 10, Ji won a "scholarship" to a local golf club and entered that club's junior development program. Now, at age 12, she plays off a 3 handicap.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Photo: Otter On the Green at HSBC Women's Champions

Golf and wildlife sometimes mix, and over the years we've seen birds carry off golf balls, as well as visits to (or at least near) the putting green by dogs, cats, alligators, snakes ... even bears. But we've never seen an otter on the green. Until today.

Here's a photo that LPGA golfer Mirim Lee posted on Facebook:

Lee, in charming broken English, wrote, "I saw the otter on golf course :) his so cute. I love it."

The tournament was the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore. A 2014 article in the Singapore newspaper The Straits Times explained that otters were moving into the city:

Wild otters have started breeding in the heart of the city, the first- ever known here to have done so.

Now, experts are worrying about how to best protect them.

Some researchers had considered Singapore's southern coast around Gardens by the Bay too built-up for these threatened native marine mammals that are often found at sea but need a source of fresh water nearby.

But a pair of smooth-coated otters, which first caused a stir in February with their visits to the downtown park, have now raised five pups.

Videos posted on social media over the last month show the family roaming and eating fish along the banks of Marina Reservoir.

They have also been seen inside the Gardens and in its lakes.

... Others have also been spotted at East Coast Park and as far inland as Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.

So-Bad-It's-Good 'Urban Golf' Infomercial Parody

Today's YouTube find is this phony infomercial that dates to 2004. The fella in the video purports to be an expert at Urban Golf, and wants to sell you a set of videos telling you everything you need to know about Urban Golf. Do not call the number, the product doesn't actually exist!

My thought upon first watching this was: Wow, this is bad. My second thought was: This is intentionally bad. It's a parody, after all. It's a parody of golf infomercials, but it's also a parody of Urban Golf and the too-cool-for-school people who do it, believing themselves to be "expressing themselves creatively" or something.

Your mileage may vary, of course, as with all thing humorous (or trying to be humorous). Even if you don't think it's intentionally bad, you'll at least think it's bad, which presents its own kind of comedy.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Did You Know Ernie Els Is a Restaurateur?

Pro golfers owning restaurants is nothing new (we've written before about Graeme McDowell's restaurant, for example). But here's one we didn't know about until recently: Ernie Els owns a nascent chain of restaurants called the Big Easy Winebar & Grill.

The first Big Easy restaurant opened in the South African university town of Stellenbosch inside an 18th-century Cape Dutch building. A second restaurant is now open in Dubai, inside The Els Club Dubai. A third Els restaurant, once again called The Big Easy, is being planned for Malaysia.

Just like the man himself, Els' restaurants are found around the world.

What does Ernie Els serve at The Big Easy Winebar & Grill? "The Big Easy places the utmost importance on serving great food and fantastic wine – all in a relaxed setting. ... dining at The Big Easy showcases the best the region offers with an emphasis is on using the finest, freshest ingredients to produce world-class food."

The menu starts with salads, including a "Rocket & Parmesan Salad." What's rocket? That's what South Africans call arugula. Appetizers include venison carpaccio, Cajun fishcakes, plus prawns, mussels and oysters. Along with The Big Easy Burger, entrees include selections of venison, ostrich, salmon, chicken, prawns, calamari, lamb, linefish and crayfish.

The wine list is extensive, as one would expect in a restaurant owned by a golfer who has his own wine label. The wine list includes Ernie Els and Big Easy wine labels, along with many other choices.

The Dubai location has a menu that includes a few of the same things, but also many different things such as escargot, chicken liver, foie gras, pear and pork chorizo, oxtail risotto and chicken curry. On the side you can order the "Mother of Baked Potato," which is topped with duck confit, crisp pork bacon and Taleggio cheese.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Watch Michelle Wie Strutting on the Runway in Tight Pants

Michelle Wie and Jessica Korda got glammed up to walk the runway at a party before the 2015 HSBC Women's Champions tournament in Singapore, and Korda instagrammed this photo:

They both look beautiful but, Michelle, those are some pretty tight pants you're wearing! Too bad we don't get a view of the backside. Wait! We do! Thanks to the Singapore Times newspaper, which posted this video to YouTube:

Michelle doesn't have the biggest booty, but the booty she has is very nice. Wie hersellf instagrammed a short "behind-the-scenes" clip of all the LPGA golfers who participated getting ready for the runway:

Little #BTS action from today @gopro @thejessicakorda @paulacreamer1 #HSBC #GoProHero4 #Singapore

A video posted by Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) on

Related post: Michelle Wie bikini pics

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Watch Arnold Palmer on 'What's My Line' in 1960

Here's a relic from another time: The game show What's My Line. And not just the show itself, but - as you'll understand from watching the clip - the way that golf was perceived and how much pop culture cred golf had was also a relic.

What I mean by the latter statement: Arnold Palmer, in 1960 when this episode of the game show aired, was by far the most famous golfer on the planet. Arnie's Army had been around for a couple years, he was already a Masters and U.S. Open champion. And yet, he appears in front of a panel of celebrity bon vivants whose job it is to guess his profession, and the only attempt at hiding Palmer's identity is to introduce him as "Mr. X." Golf was so little-seen on television, and so peripheral to mainstream media at that time. that the very famous Palmer could show himself to these four game show panelists without being immediately recognized.

Actually, that's not quite true. One of the panelists does admit later that had Palmer had on a golf cap he might have immediately guessed Palmer's identity.

The panelists, by the way, are Arlene Francis, Martin Gabel, Dorothy Kilgallen and Bennett Cerf, but only two of them get to make guesses before Palmer is identified. Stick around to the end of the clip to hear Palmer's responses to questions about golf from the host.