Remember this photo of Tiger Woods, Jason Dufner and Phil Mickelson at The Presidents Cup?
The iconic image from PGA TOUR staff photographer Chris Condon is up for a People's Choice Award in the Photo District News' "The Shot Sports Photography Contest."
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By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, TOUR Academies
The Presidents Cup was a thrill a minute if you’re a fan of birdies and offensive golf. It was like watching Broncos-Cowboys or LSU-Georgia, as the International and U.S. teams traded birdie for birdie and great shot for great shot.
There was the International squad’s Hideki Matsuyama sticking his approach within inches of the cup on the 18th hole Thursday, earning his team a half-point; the Americans’ Zach Johnson holing out for eagle from 115 yards late Saturday to clinch his foursomes match; Canada’s Graham DeLaet holing out not once, but twice, on the 18th hole Sunday, the second time from a greenside bunker to win his singles match 1-up over Jordan Spieth. And then there was the king of thrills, Phil Mickelson, preceeding DeLaet’s initial hole out with a miraculous intentional hook shot around a tree to 10 feet. From 180 yards and a sidehill lie! That set up teammate Keegan Bradley’s birdie putt, which allowed the U.S. to claim a critical half-point in a foursomes match suspended from Saturday.
From where Mickelson was standing on the fairway, the pin was directly in line with and behind the tree; therefore, in order for him to get the ball anywhere close to the flagstick, he had to start the ball well left of the tree and bend it back toward the green. Just how did he get the ball to hook so much? First, he had to make sure the ball would start on a line left of the tree. Second, he had to get the path of the clubhead moving even farther to the left of the tree -- thus, effectively closing the clubface relative to the path of the swing, and creating a massive amount of hook and curvature.
The problem most amateurs have with properly executing the intentional hook is that they don’t aim the clubface far enough to the left or right (for a right-handed golfer) of the object that they’re trying to curve the ball around. They aim the face at their target (usually, the flagstick) and move their stance to the left or right, thinking this will be enough to stay clear of the object. But it’s important to realize that the clubface is roughly 80 percent responsible for the ball’s initial starting direction, and if you aim the face at the obstacle you’re trying to avoid (i.e., a tree), you’re more likely going to hit that obstacle.
The intentional hook is a very useful shot to have in your arsenal. To execute it properly, follow these two simple set-up adjustments (for a right-handed golfer) and make your normal swing. The set-up tweaks should steer you clear of trouble and generate the hookspin you need to get the ball to the target.
Step 1: Aim the clubface
Assuming the obstacle you’re trying to maneuver the ball around is a tree, aim the clubface far enough to the right so that it’s looking right of the tree. This helps to establish a starting direction that is clear of the tree.
Step 2: Set your body
Rotate your stance line so that your feet, knees, hips and shoulders are aimed even farther right of where your clubface is looking. This will encourage a swing direction, or path, that is far enough from the inside (i.e., to the right) to get the ball to curve back toward the target.
Better players, like Phil, will assume a stance that’s more parallel, or square, to the face angle, and then move their swing direction even further to the right to produce a hook. I recommend that most amateurs rotate their stance line more to the right of the face angle--in a closed position -- to encourage a more in-to-out path. The more you get the path working to the right of the clubface, the more curvature you’re likely to generate.
If you’re still having trouble generating enough hookspin, position the ball one ball farther back in your stance, which encourages a swing direction that’s more from the inside. You can also strengthen your grip by rotating your hands more to the right on the handle. This helps you to rotate the face more down through impact, creating right-to-left spin.
Travis Fulton is Director of Instruction for all TOURAcademy locations nationwide. For more game-improvement tips from the TOURAcademy instructors, on-the-spot club recommendations and 3D previews of each hole you play, download the TOURCaddie PRO app at www.pgatourcaddie.com.
Two years from now in Incheon City, Korea, the U.S. team will attempt to extend its domination over the International Team in The Presidents Cup.
They will have to do so without Fred Couples, who after captaining the U.S. to its last three Presidents Cup wins, has decided not to pursure a fourth win.
That means the U.S. will need a new captain. Who will it be?
PGATOUR.COM's Mike McAllister offers up some predictions in this story. Leave a comment below and tell us who you think will be the next U.S. Presidents Cup captain.
By Dr. Gregg Steinberg, Special to PGATOUR.COM
The Presidents Cup this year had many exciting, yet soggy, days of play. On Saturday, many players went around Muirfield Village Golf Club in 34 holes in very wet conditions. Such days can wear out players, both physically and mentally.
To be fresh physically, you must be in top shape. This takes a steady diet of working out, with weights and cardio training.
The same principle goes for the mental game, particularly your concentration. You must develop a stead diet of focus to stay fresh throughout a round of golf.
To accomplish this, think of concentration as a reservoir of mental energy. To perform at your best, you must let your concentration flow when you are hitting your shot. However, if the flood gates are wide open and you focus intensely for an entire round (or longer as we saw at The Presidents Cup), the reservoir may be emptied too soon. To conserve these mental resources, the floodgates must be opened at the most appropriate times.
Also, think of your concentration level like a wave that builds and then crescendos at the right moments. You must peak in your focus in order for you to play your best golf in tough conditions. In order to acquire both of these concentration principles, golfers need to implement an effective concentration routine. Here are my recommendations to accomplish this:
1. Have your concentration routine be composed of three main levels. To enter each level, imagine a dial that releases the flow of concentration from your reservoir. As the dial is turned up, the concentration flow increases and the golfer becomes more focused.
2. Developed different self-statements to crank the dial up.
3. The first level is when you are just enjoying the walk to your ball. The dial is set at a "1." You can have a saying here such as, "have fun."
4. At the second level, the dial needs to be cranked up to a “5”, and the concentration begins to flow more rapidly. Here, you are about 10 feet from the ball and begin to start thinking of your shot, such as the wind, distance, etc. You can have a saying like, “let’s go” to crank up the dial.
5. The third level is when you start your routine. Here the dial needs to be set at a “10” and the concentration is flowing at full capacity. Here you should have saying such as, “it’s show time” at the start of your routine.
6. After the shot, return the dial back to a “1” and enjoy your walk to the ball, unspoiled without any negative or analytical thoughts.
If you get mentally burnt out during or after a round, try this concentration routine. You will see that it keeps your play and mind fresh for the entire round.
Dr. Gregg Steinberg is the author of the best selling golf psychology book, MentalRules for Golf. He is a regular guest every Tuesday on “Talk of the Tour” heard on the Sirius/XM PGA TOUR radio. Dr. Gregg is a tenured professor of sports psychology and has been the mental game coach for many PGA TOUR players. You can see more about him at www.drgreggsteinberg.com, and you can e-mail him at email@example.com for any comments or questions about your mental game.
The Presidents Cup can be a hectic week, especially for a 20-year-old rookie making his first start on such a big stage. Jordan Spieth was likely to have moments of confusion at Muirfield Village and one was captured on camera. Got a caption for the image above? Leave it in our comments section below and, as always, please keep it clean.
Editor's note: Ernie Els is writing a blog for PGATOUR.COM this year, and this is his most recent installment. For more information on the World Golf Hall of Famer, visiit www.ernieels.com.
Coming into this year’s Presidents Cup, on the back of four straight defeats in this thing, everyone on the International team was obviously really up for it. Monday was actually the first time we’d all got together in one room, but the team spirit was amazing right from the start.
We knew it was always going to be tough – with a very strong American team, a home course and home crowd advantage – but we put our heart and souls into it. We had a lot of fight in us the whole week and it was a pleasure and a privilege for me to be on the team with these guys.
Obviously this year there was an extra little bit of pride for me personally in having on our team a couple of former members of the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation – Louis, Branden and also Charl who often used to travel with our Foundation golf team. I remember them very well as kids, then as good amateurs and now here we were as professionals playing together on The Presidents Cup. It was quite wonderful, really.
Anyway, all the guys were pretty loose in the practice days and everyone was enjoying it. I suppose guys like myself, Scotty, Angel and also Jason being a member here, all of us having played this course so many times we were like the tour guides. We gave our input, where to hit it and how to play some of the par-3s and so forth. But the guys had their own game plans – they’re all fine players in their own right and at the end of day they were going to have to hit the shots.
There’s no need for me to go into the ins and outs of every day, nor the ups and downs of all the matches. However, summing up I will say that in all my eight appearances in this competition, the level of play this year and the number of birdies made on both teams was outstanding, probably the best we’ve seen.
For me, playing with Brendon was great. Obviously Nick was in a difficult situation with his Captain’s Picks, because someone is going to be disappointed. I supported Brendon because of his play and the way he hits the golf ball; he hits a power-cut so he’s got the perfect game for Muirfield Village. That was my theory. We also played together in the FedExCup and we thought we could be good together. We both hit the ball well all week and actually Brendon was awesome out there. He played beautifully and we had a lot of fun.
Coming into the singles matches, we knew that winning would be a very tall order, but we all made a huge effort and we gave it our best shot. We needed a miracle really, but the deficit was just too great. The final score was 18½ - 15½. Mine was a fun match against Steve Stricker – as it happened, more fun for me than it was for Steve – but it was a great game nonetheless.
Reflecting on the four days’ play there were a couple instances where, maybe through a lack of experience, we just let some matches get away from us. But we weren’t far away and these young guys know what it's all about now. They showed some class, some great golf and plenty of fight.
I guess from an International perspective there are some changes that we’d like to see for the future of this competition. Our team doesn’t have the depth that the American team has, so perhaps something more like the Ryder Cup where we play less matches on the first couple of days would be an option, but this is not the time for those discussions. All credit to the Americans, they played exceptionally well. Their level of play was really up there from the get-go and they made a lot of birdies. It seemed like they were able to seize the momentum in most of the sessions and we were always trying to fight ourselves back into it.
Okay, that’s it for now. This is a week off for me now and it’ll be good to relax, because The Presidents Cup is a tough week mentally and physically, especially with the kind of weather we had last week.
Then next weekend we’ll head over to Vegas for the Grand Finale of this year’s Els for Autism Golf Challenge. That’s always a great couple of days.
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
DUBLIN, Ohio -- Isn’t it strange how just a couple years ago, American golf took a hit as being too self-centered to win at team competition? The theory was, U.S. players dominated Singles play but could never jell in the Four-ball and Foursome matches because Americans only cared about their personal records.
The individual name of players was stitched on the back of the U.S. hats while Team Europe or International Team was on the back of the hats from the opposition.
There was just no unity on the American team.
Well in The Presidents Cup and last year’s Ryder Cup, the U.S. team won the team competition while losing the singles play.
I don’t have an answer other than the vagaries of the game. Should U.S. golf fans be concerned with close losses in Singles competition the last two years? I would suggest the sample size is too small to draw any conclusions but it is a certainty, the development of the game in Asia will produce quality players and increased competition for American golfers.
That news should not depress U.S. golf fans. They should revel in the better competition; which will result in more intriguing tournaments.
Injured: Tiger Woods looked injured as he left the golf course Saturday night and appeared in pain during Sunday’s matches. He constantly stretched his back and grimaced after impact. Woods said the back spasms he experienced last month had flared again and anticipated rest, plus therapy, would provide relief.
Dufnering: Fred Couples had no problem singling out his best player. He said Jason Dufner was hitting it “crazy good” and claiming he, personally, had never hit it as well as the PGA champion this week. Dufner took all the drama out of his match with a 4 and 3 win against Brendon de Jonge. He hit 48 of 61 greens this week and 39 of 46 fairways.
Impressive: There were other players with better records but nobody impressed me more than Hideki Matsuyama. He was the only player for either team that had never seen Muirfield Village before this week and he played like a veteran. Matsuyama possesses enormous physical talent with a very deliberate tempo in both his swing and putting stroke. He’s just 21 years old, but I can see Hideki becoming the first player from Japan to win a major championship in the future. Among the other players that are new to international team competition who impressed were Graham DeLaet and de Jonge. I’m not referring to any tournament stats here, just my own observations. I would expect PGA TOUR victories in their futures.
Format: I figured the depth of the U.S. Team was worth about a point per day and that’s just about how the final total played out. Officials from the International Team will probably once again ask the format be reconsidered. With every player on each team competing three of the four days, it rewards the depth of the U.S. Team. The present format of the Presidents Cup identifies the best team, but the Ryder Cup format could make for closer competition.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.
Hunter and Kandi Mahan's new daughter, Zoe Olivia, shared in the U.S. team's victory on Sunday at Muirfield Village. (Credit: @HunterMahan)
Mahan was one of the few Americans to win his Singles match on Sunday. He dispatched Hideki Matsuyama 3 and 2.