Open Recap and This Week’s Picks
Hometown hero and course record holder (as a 16 year old) Rory McIlroy made things interesting on Friday but missed the cut by 1 stroke. Former Open champs Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington also missed the cut. The other hometown favorite, Graeme McDowell made the cut, and played will on Saturday with a 68, but was out of the tournament early with a final round 77. Tiger stiffly and painfully shot his worst-ever opening round score in a major with a 78 that placed him behind the 8-ball early. Well great, now all of our storyline hopefuls were pretty much done before they started. Not so fast. Enter another Irishman who has played pretty well in the majors the last few years; Enter Shane Lowry. Lowry won the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009, and held a 4-stroke lead after 3 rounds at the 2016 US Open at Oakmont, which he lost to Dustin Johnson. He opened the week with back-to-back 67’s, and then scorched the field on Saturday with a 63. As the weather got worst, Shane Lowry seemed to get better. He flighted his ball perfectly all week and anticipated every bounce the ball would take with great perfection. Which is a perfect segway into this week’s tip: Have a trustworthy club or go-to swing when you’re feeling the pressure.
A few things tend to happen to a player when they start to feel nerves or pressure, especially during a tournament round. From a seasoned tour pro to a novice amateur, well all feel the heat when playing a round that means something. Whether it’s the 72nd hole of a major or the 12th hole of your league championship. If it means something to you then it matters. And when this happens we try just a little harder. That’s just natural. We tend to grip the club a little tighter, our backswing gets long and fast, and we try and make the perfect swing instead of executing the perfect shot. But perfection isn’t needed here. That’s just extra pressure that will only make things worse. If you have all of a sudden hit some poor shots consecutively and feel out of sorts, nip it in the butt fast before it turns into a few bad holes in a row and you’re treading water.
Club selection is key. Get your number and if that number calls for an 8 iron, grab your 7. When you’re not feeling confident the worst thing you can do is try to get every yard out of a club. This leads to over-swinging and bad timing. Besides, look back on your most recent rounds and tell me how many times you came up short versus how many times you overshot a green. Choke down about half an inch so you have good control of the club, and rehearse some smooth ¾ swings. We are looking for great ball contact here and a quality shot. Take the club back low and slow and stay down and through on your downswing, maintaining your spine angle. The key here is to feel a well struck ball and to see a well struck ball in flight. A few shots like that should get you back on track and calm your nerves, proving to yourself: “Hey, I can play this game and I’ve got nothing to be worried about.”
I was a month early on my Shane Lowry pick as I chose him to win the U.S. Open at Pebble. But I did pick the winner of the opposite field event on the PGA Tour last week, the Barbasol Championship. I picked Jim Herman to win his second PGA Tour event in my former home of Lexington, KY, and he did just that. Here are my 3 picks for the WGC FedEx St. Jude, the former WGC Bridgestone that was played at Firestone CC in Akron, Ohio; near my hometown and where I call home once again.
Sleeper – Patrick Reed Is it really a sleeper when you pick a major winner? It’s been awhile since Reed has won but he has had a steady year and he’s coming off a top 10 finish at the Open. Good golf course for him this week.
Should Contend – Dustin Johnson Had a walk-off eagle hole-out from the fairway of the 72nd hole last year. Good vibes and always plays well in WGC events.
Winner – Tony Finau Coming off a 3rd place finish at the Open. And how many times can he knock on the door before it finally opens? I say kick that door down in Memphis.
Enjoy the game and each other,
Written by Seth Zipay, Head Golf Professional
Published by Craig Walton