HIT IT FURTHER WITH RAFA CABRERA-BELLO
GET OUT OF THICK SELECT THE CORRECT SHOT – AND EXECUTE
ROUGH IT EVERY TIME
Pages of tips to lower your scores
BRITAIN’S BIGGEST-SELLING GOLF MAGAZINE
OCTOBER 2012 ISSUE 300 SEPT 6 - OCT 3
TODAY’S GOLFER OCTOBER 2012 (SEPTEMBER 6 - OCTOBER 3)
IS IT CHEATING? We tackle the game’s hot topic: long putters
PING ANSER RANGE
THIS MONTH’S SECTION
012 New irons and wedges from Mizuno 016 Stockley Pines enjoying a renaissance 018 How TG’s pros would revive Westwood
FIRST TEE 2
Every club is handmade 1. Titleist’s designers have made subtle changes from the 910 to 913, including a thinner crown. 2. The 913 weight is flatter and two grams heavier than in the 910 to lower the centre of gravity. 3. The adjustable SureFit Tour hosel allows loft and lie to be independently altered.
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WEAPON OF MAJOR DESTRUCTION
Titleist release 913 driver that helped McIlroy cruise to his second Major crown at Kiawah ➔
FASTER. HIGHER. STRONGER. Not
just the Olympic ideal but the motto of the golf club designer. Improvements are becoming harder to make and at first glance the 913 D2 and D3 don’t look drastically different from the 910 models, but in its first week on Tour in July around 50 per cent of Titleist staff players switched to the new drivers. Rory McIlroy was one of those and quickly sealed his second, and the club’s first, Major title at the US PGA Championship. By the end of 2012, 90 per cent of Titleist’s staffers are expected to have switched – a clear sign of a measurable performance boost.
The key difference, say Titleist, is their newly developed face insert; invisible technology to the naked eye but a development that has a big impact on performance. Thicker in the middle and progressively thinner towards the edges, the insert is designed to give improved ball speeds on off-centre strikes. Hit the ball out the middle of the clubface and you won’t notice much difference – but on mis-hits Titleist insist the 913 models deliver an 11 per cent increase in the maximum ball speed area on the face. Other subtle differences include a thinner crown, a flatter weight design to lower the centre of gravity and slight shape changes.
But one thing that remains from the 910 models is the adjustable SureFit Tour hosel, allowing loft and lie to be independently altered. We’ll be hitting the 913 D2 and D3 drivers in our November issue (on sale October 4) and will bring you news of the 913 fairway woods and hybrids later in the year.
913 D2: 460cc head. Available in RH 7.5º, 8.5º, 9.5º, 10.5º, 12º; LH 8.5º, 9.5º, 10.5º, 12º. 913 D3: 445cc head. Available in RH 7.5º, 8.5º, 9.5º, 10.5º; LH 8.5º, 9.5º, 10.5º. RRP: £344; titleist.co.uk
WE’RE FIRST TO SHOW YOU
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rolonged periods of summer sunshine this year have been almost as rare as Olympic gold for Australia. In fact, April to June this year was the wettest since records began in 1910 and July wasn’t much better. As a result, the UK’s golf courses are greener than ever. So rather than the dry, thin, wispy rough that has little
effect on our lies when we stray off-line during the hotter months, instead we’ve got thick, lush rough grass that present golfers with a genuine hazard – and a genuine problem. Of course, the best way to avoid the danger the rough provides is to avoid it altogether, so we should all be placing even greater premium on accuracy over distance off the tee. But should
this fail, now is the time to make sure you’ve got the technique to handle the poor lies you will find. Base your approach on the fact there are many different lies you can get in the rough that affect the quality of strike you can achieve, and therefore the distance the ball will travel. Adopt James Ridyard’s tips in this feature and bad lies need no longer be a reason for high scores.
TIP ONE A TRAFFIC LIGHT SYSTEM FOR LIES Upon inspection, you should very quickly have an idea as to whether you’ll be able to carry the ball the required distance. Different lies will create differing expectations. A good idea is to adopt a traffic light system depending on the lie you have. A green light means the lie is good or you only have a
short distance to travel, whereas a red light represents a poor lie and a chip-out sideways or a deliberate lay-up on a long approach shot. As you’ll discover later in this feature, it’s not just the depth the ball sits in the grass that affects the quality of strike – so inspect the lie carefully before choosing.
Green lie: Go for it! Perfect or sometimes betterthan-perfect lies. There’s no reason not to go for your shot from here as if it were in the fairway.
Red lie: Chip out! Long or sometimes even mid-length grass may be a red – if the ball is down in the roots or if the grass is growing against you.
Amber lie: Caution A 50/50 scenario where the lie could be good but the grass grows against you. Depends on the distance, hazards and match situation.
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‘IT'S NOT JUST THE DEPTH THE BALL SITS IN THE GRASS THAT AFFECTS THE STRIKE’
TIP TWO HOW TO CONQUER RED & AMBER LIES To extract the ball with a level of control you don’t need to overdo set-up adjustments. The ball doesn’t need to go on the back foot with the hands way forwards. In fact, it becomes quite un-golf-like and the chances of executing a good swing are reduced. So I suggest you make smaller changes, which
Hitting more down This narrows the arc the clubhead travels on and when combined with your ball position and weight forward, promotes a steeper approach.
GET YOUR NOSE IN FRONT
Maintaining this narrow arc in the downswing will produce a steep attack angle essential to avoid getting caught up. Keep your nose ahead of the ball as any weight moving back would negate the steps taken to avoid the grass.
when added together will give you the best chance of achieving a good strike. To increase the descent of the club into the ball and to avoid contact with the grass behind, you need to swing the club on a narrower arc. Adopt the tips below in your backswing to gain a more pure strike.
See-saw motion In the backswing, feel like you're pushing the handle down and moving the clubhead up like a see-saw.
Ball goes back Move the ball two-ball widths back but keep the hands in the same place. This leans the shaft forward more, for a steeper attack.
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SHAFTING THE LONG PUTTER? They’ve been here for 25 years, but with more players using them, and winning Majors, the conscience of golf's authorities has been pricked. What does the future hold for the long putter? WO RD S K I T A L E X A N D ER P I C T U RES H OWA R D B OY L A N; G E T T Y
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LONG PUTTER DEBATE
Trailblazer Bernhard Langer was the first to popularise the long putter in Europe.
nce, they were the preserve of veteran pros who’d missed one short putt too many and required a crutch to prolong their careers into the senior ranks. In those days, long putters seemed an empathetic, harmless bit of assistance to men who had given their life – and their nerve ends – to tournament golf. But then it changed. From being a curiosity on the outskirts of our golfing consciousness, suddenly players fresh out of college golf seemed to be wielding these longhandled weapons of mass destruction. It wasn’t just men such as Adam Scott – whose putting had been consistently costing him the chance to challenge for tournaments and slowly but surely driving him mad – who switched to them (and won). It was young bucks like Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson who pitched up as rookies holding their PGA Tour card in one hand and a long putter in the other. When Ernie Els won the battle of the long handles at Lytham against Scott this July, it meant three of the last four Majors had been won with long putters, following wins by Bradley and Simpson. And Rory McIlroy’s brilliance at Kiawah using a conventional putter has done nothing to calm the growing debate on the long putter’s validity among fans, players and, crucially, administrators. “Personally, I have never liked them,”
A new broom Johnny Miller, and the as-yet unheard-of 45-inch putter in 1980.
admits R&A chief executive Peter Dawson. “That’s just my own opinion, but I have never thought that it’s a fair golf stroke really.” When someone who chooses his words as carefully as Dawson says that, it is fair to suggest the long putter – and the careers of the estimated 20 per cent of tournament pros who wield them – face an uncertain future. Simpson for one is already practising with a short putter, fearing a ban on long ones. We look at all the issues surrounding long putters, starting with its first introduction. The origins The long putter was first used by two-time Major winner Johnny Miller at the 1980 Los Angeles Open. The American used a homemade 45-inch putter that he braced against the inside of his left arm, similar to the style Matt Kuchar uses today. “The belly and the broomstick are definitely superior methods,” says Miller. “When the axis doesn’t move, the shaft angle at impact is always exactly where you started at address, which is a huge thing in putting.” The theory was a slow-burner but it caught on with a handful of other Americans, such as Orville Moody, Tom Lehman and Jim Ferree. In 1986, Ferree was struggling with the yips and says the long putter “saved my golf life”. On the European Tour, the baton was picked up by Bernhard Langer. “The initial push for the long putter came from Langer,” explains Mike Fox, TaylorMade’s global product category
‘I HAVE NEVER LIKED THEM. I’VE NEVER THOUGHT THAT IT’S A FAIR STROKE’ manager for putters. “Bernhard began to struggle with putting and switched to a long putter. Once he started using it and creating awareness around long putters, golfers took notice and manufacturers began adding them to their product lines.” Off the back of this, TaylorMade released the Raylor Long in 1985. Then USGA’s technical director Frank Thomas wanted to ban long putters after Charles Owens used the 52-inch Yip Killer to win twice on the 1986 Senior PGA Tour but the situation became complicated when Moody’s 1989 US Senior Open win thrust long putters into the headlines for the first time. Another factor was this happening against the backdrop of the Ping grooves lawsuit and Thomas later speculated the USGA was afraid Moody would file a lawsuit if it banned the club so soon after his victory. So, the USGA rejected Thomas’ suggested maximum putter length limit of 38 inches and stated long putters conformed to the rules. How it’s taken hold At the first event of the 2011 FedEx Cup, 20 of the PGA Tour’s top 125 players were using broomhandle or belly putters. In each of the previous two years, that number was six. ➔ TODAYSG OLFER .CO.U K ❘ IS SU E 3 0 0
TG EXCLUSIVE TIPS
Four keys to power
Learn from Rafael Cabrera-Bello's advice in order to hit your longest ever drives
WORK ON WIDENING THE ARC
I LIKE TO USE WHAT is
called in technical parlance as a one-piece takeaway. You can see here how there is very little wrist cock in the first move from the ball. I keep my arms relaxed but reasonably straight, so that the butt end of the club is quite some distance from my belt buckle. Like so many aspects of the swing, if you get the basics and the early motions correct, often the rest will follow correctly. If the reverse is true, you are then constantly battling to correct the earlier errors and that leads to inconsistent swings, indifferent ball striking and poor scores. Widen your arc in the first few feet and you start your swing in the correct way. IS SU E 3 0 0 ❘ TODAYSG OLFER .CO.U K
Why a wide arc helps impact: This wide takeaway is important for hitting long drives because the wider the arc the greater the clubhead speed at impact. The greater the clubhead speed, the longer the drives.
COIL AND MOVE
TWO BIG KEYS govern the
top of the backswing. The first is that you need to turn at least 90º with your shoulders. The bigger the turn here, the more you are able to store power in the coil. Try and keep your knees relatively stable and twist your spine. The feet are planted square to the target line and the coil progresses up the body reaching a maximum turn at the top. The other vital element is to shift your weight onto the inside of the right leg, so that you are turned nicely behind the ball. You can see this demonstrated as I hold a club across my chest. Note in the smaller picture how my upper body turns around the spine so that it sets up over my right leg.
The correct way to turn: Look at my position here; I’m not swaying at all, but turning around that central axis. A good way to achieve this is to concentrate on positioning the left shoulder where the right shoulder used to be at address.
‘YOUR WEIGHT MOVES IN A DIAGONAL LINE FROM THE RIGHT HEEL TO THE LEFT TOE’
THINK HEEL TO TOE
THE TRANSITION IS PROBABLY the toughest
part of the swing to get right and you see lots of amateurs lose their way here. Your weight needs to move in a diagonal line from the right heel to the left toe. Imagine the power unleashing from high to the right to a point some three or four yards ahead of you in the ground. Once I complete the backswing I feel as though my hips are driving my weight forward towards the target. In this image above, my weight is mainly on the right heel. The hips and legs have already started the weight shift, but my shoulders are waiting. Notice how the club hasn’t moved that much.
At impact: The weight is on the ball of the left foot and my shoulders and arms have almost caught up with my hips. This is where your core strength counts. The upper half can only react fast enough if you have the strength in your abs.
FLEXIBILITY AND STRENGTH
WE TALK A LOT ABOUT
separation in the golf swing which really just refers to how much your body can be wound like an elastic band. With flexibility comes power, so if you can work your hips without moving the shoulders, then you are almost there. This is the flexibility you need, all that remains is gaining the strength to make sure the ‘elastic band’ is able to react in time. For example, in the downswing, if you don’t have the necessary strength in your abs (see 'At Impact' left), be careful not to let your hips race ahead too soon. Remember this – you load, you stretch then you release. From the top you need to go weight, hips, body in that order.
The release: Learn to stay relaxed enough to release the club properly down the line. I wouldn’t call it a rotation, but the toe of the club will point to the sky. Then you are swinging through to a nice, relaxed finishing position.
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BUYING TESTERS JAMES RIDYARD Age 34 HCP Pro Even pros like James see the benefits of carrying a hybrid ALAN LUNT Age 35 HCP 4 A better player, Alan wants style as well as performance DAVID CONNOR Age 31 HCP 10 Looking for versatility in a hybrid to bridge the distance gap in his bag
IF THE MERE THOUGHT
of standing on the tee of a par 3 on a chilly day with a long iron in your hands leaves you quivering with fear then it’s likely you have already switched to using hybrids. If not, you probably should. There is a multitude of options out there from the leading manufacturers. But to see which would finish top of the class in 2012, TG assembled a four-strong test team to rate the latest hybrids on the market. METHODOLOGY Leading manufacturers supplied us with two loft options (18° and 21° - or as close to this as possible) both in stiff
and regular shaft flexes for each model they wanted to submit for testing. Testers used the shaft flex most suited to their swing characteristics. They were asked to hit as many balls as they felt they needed to on the range – while under the watchful gaze of the very latest Trackman ball flight monitor. They were asked to rate each club out of five in five separate subjective categories. This included looks (based on head size, shape and colour scheme), feel (based on weight of the club in the hands and feel at impact), forgiveness (based on performance on off-centre strikes) and fairway and rough performance (based on the
shape of the head, sole and ball flight). Distance and dispersion statistics (using the 21° loft models) were also recorded with Trackman for each club and a corresponding mark out of five awarded for each. Once all of the results were in, a final star rating was then awarded based on the average of the scores recorded from each tester. As ever, we would recommend using these results only as an aid in your own buying decision. Golf clubs can and will perform differently for different golfers and each player also has their own personal preferences when it comes to looks and feel. We hope it helps.
PETER ATHERTON Age 65 HCP 16 Wants to retire his 3 & 4 irons in favour of easier-to-hit hybrids
RATINGS The higher the mark, the better the performance. The final star rating will give an overall mark for the clubs across all categories.
★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★
Must buy Very Good Good Average Avoid
As with all our annual club tests The Belfry once again proved to be a magnificent venue. The on-site PGA National Fitting Academy is one of the best places in the country to practise and with five state-ofthe-art fitting suites taking in a range of nine different manufacturers there is no better place to get the right clubs for your game. The Belfry run great promotions so you can follow in the footsteps of golfing legends by playing the courses. For more information Wishaw, Sutton Coldfield, B76 9PR visit the website Tel: 01675 470301 or contact The Email: email@example.com Belfry directly via Web: www.thebelfry.com the details left.
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BENROSS QUAD SPEED I £79.99
MD SUPERSTRONG ST2 I £79.99
Testers noted a high ball flight, which is obviously perfect for holding firm greens. The performance stats were also impressive but the shiny white crown and slightly larger head cost the Quad Speed when it came to aesthetics. n benrossgolf.com or 01932 821 200
The face was very shallow while the clubhead also features a fair amount of offset – which the better players weren’t keen on. Peter was a fan though, and not just of the price; he insisted this was really forgiving for his level of play. n mdgolf.co.uk or 02894 460 333
Looks: 2.8 Feel: 2.9 Forgiveness: 3.3 Fairway: 3.6 Rough: 3.1 Distance: 4.0 Dispersion: 4.5 RATING: HHHHH
Looks: 2.9 Feel: 3.0 Forgiveness: 3.6 Fairway: 3.8 Rough: 3.4 Distance: 4.5 Dispersion: 3.0 RATING: HHHHH
SNAKE EYES 695 I £99
DUNLOP NZ9 I £28
JOHN LETTERS T9+ I £99
Our team felt this looked a little odd in terms of head shape but it impressed elsewhere. Both pro James and 10-handicapper David said it felt like a well-made club with very good components – although Alan felt it lacked power. n snakeeyescustom.com or 01480 423 610
Higher handicapper Peter liked the NZ9, commenting particularly on the height and trajectory as well as its performance from rough. Our better players weren’t as keen, although pro James reckoned that it was pretty forgiving. n sportsdirect.com or 0844 871 7775
The smaller clubhead won praise, as did the T9+’s all-round versatility. But it did lack a bit of distance, while pro James noted that the shaft was a good inch shorter than most others. Alan also marked it down on feel. n johnletters.com or 0845 196 0050
Looks: 3.0 Feel: 3.6 Forgiveness: 3.3 Fairway: 3.4 Rough: 3.3 Distance: 4.0 Dispersion: 4.0 RATING: HHHHH
Looks: 3.3 Feel: 3.0 Forgiveness: 3.8 Fairway: 3.6 Rough: 3.5 Distance: 3.5 Dispersion: 4.0 RATING: HHHHH
Looks: 3.8 Feel: 2.8 Forgiveness: 3.1 Fairway: 3.8 Rough: 3.8 Distance: 3.5 Dispersion: 4.0 RATING: HHHHH
PING G20 I £139
CLEVELAND MASHIE I £129
TAYLORMADE RESCUE 11 I £149.99
The unique looks of the G20 didn’t impress while the straight leading edge and offset meant it wasn’t rated highly from the rough. It impressed everywhere else though. Definitely one for the slicers out there to consider very strongly. n ping.com or 01427 619 224
Brilliant performance statistics across the board for our testers. David commented on the powerful feel and towering ball flight but our team rated it down on aesthetics because of the raw crown. Great performer though. n clevelandgolf.com or 01420 541 709
Both pro James and David were impressed thanks to a penetrating ball flight and compact head. Despite the smaller head, James felt the hitting area was large and offered good forgiveness. Alan thought it felt too light. n taylormadegolf.eu or 0800 072 8624
Looks: 2.4 Feel: 3.8 Forgiveness: 4.1 Fairway: 4.3 Rough: 2.9 Distance: 4.5 Dispersion: 4.0 RATING: HHHHH
Looks: 2.8 Feel: 3.6 Forgiveness: 3.8 Fairway: 3.6 Rough: 3.6 Distance: 4.5 Dispersion: 4.5 RATING: HHHHH
Looks: 3.8 Feel: 3.6 Forgiveness: 3.6 Fairway: 4.3 Rough: 3.4 Distance: 4.5 Dispersion: 3.5 RATING: HHHHH
ADAMS IDEA A12 I £149
CALLAWAY RAZR X I £149
ADAMS IDEA A12 OS I £149
Alan loved the sleek looks and powerful face while pro James said it was a great all-rounder and insisted the slot in the crown wasn’t as noticeable. The feel impressed Peter but David said there were more powerful clubs on test. n adamsgolf.com or 0845 196 0050
The only negative comments centred on too much offset – but other than that this impressed across the board. Pro James said it was fast off the face while Peter said he was very comfortable with it in all situations. n callawaygolf.com or 0800 096 4591
A bigger version than the A12 and pro James said this was really noticeable – particularly the slot in the crown. But this performed like a beast and was the longest club on test. Our team felt it was more of a fairway wood than a hybrid. n adamsgolf.com or 0845 196 0050
Looks: 4.1 Feel: 4.1 Forgiveness: 3.8 Fairway: 3.9 Rough: 3.6 Distance: 4.0 Dispersion: 3.5 RATING: HHHHH
Looks: 2.9 Feel: 4.4 Forgiveness: 4.3 Fairway: 3.8 Rough: 3.3 Distance: 4.5 Dispersion: 4.0 RATING: HHHHH
Looks: 3.3 Feel: 3.5 Forgiveness: 4.0 Fairway: 4.0 Rough: 3.8 Distance: 5.0 Dispersion: 4.0 RATING: HHHHH
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TECHNIQUE HALFWAY DOWN
Notice how the right foot has rolled inwards slightly. If it were off the ground significantly at this point we'd know the player had jumped too soon.
USE THE GROUND TO ADD POWER
GOOD FOOTWORK TURNS THE GROUND INTO AN ALLY THAT CAN BE USED TO CREATE EXTRA POWER AND STRIKES OF GREATER PURITY, SAYS JAMES RIDYARD
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The alternative to extending the legs into impact would be to pull the arms apart, leading to the left-elbow chicken-wing look and poor strikes.
A major distinction between the strong player and the high handicapper is their ability to use the ground at the right moment during the downswing. Weaker players have a tendency to push off the ground way too early and can’t keep moving their hips forward, resulting in slices and poor strikes. The great Ben Hogan would hit balls keeping his right foot down as long as possible because he knew early leg action was disruptive. Here is a sequence describing what the legs and feet should be doing in the downswing.
Good leg action causes the hips to turn so the belt buckle faces the target. The finish shows how good this sequence was, as well as the swing‘s power and shot shape.
1. BUILD PRESSURE WITH THE GROUND Halfway down, the left knee moves towards the target, gradually building pressure into the ground, like a high jumper about to spring up. At this point a huge amount of potential energy has been poured into that left foot; this is close to the point at which the golfer will start to push off. 2. LEGS STRAIGHTEN FOR SPEED At impact we are midway between the golfer producing maximum potential energy into the
ground and it all being released. Both legs are beginning to straighten out, increasing the speed at which the clubhead travels by keeping the hips turning enough to support the weight of the arms and club. Without the legs extending the clubhead would be some way underground. 3. FULLY EXTEND IN THE FINISH In the finish, the legs are fully extended and the hips have turned as a result of the leg action – not the other way round. TODAYSG OLFER .CO.U K ❘ IS SU E 3 0 0
PLAYING Balgownie brilliance Royal Aberdeen's class was showcased in the Walker Cup.
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The addition of Trump International has made the Granite City one of Britain's most impressive areas WO R D S K E V I N B R OW N P I C T U R E S H OWA R D B OY L A N
ABERDEEN HAS BEEN HOME
to superb links courses for over a century, but has never enjoyed a longer spell in the limelight than it has in the past year. First, Royal Aberdeen played host to the 2011 Walker Cup matches, when GB&I shocked a much-fancied American side. Then in July this year, the most eagerly-awaited course opening in recent memory happened on the outskirts of the Granite City. Trump International Golf Links was finally revealed to the world by 'The Donald' in the week before The Open and has received generally positive reviews. It might not quite be the "greatest course in the world" yet, but it is already one of the very finest venues in Britain and Ireland. This higher profile for his home city will sit well with proud Aberdonian Paul Lawrie. The revitalised 1999 Open champion looks a safe bet to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup against America at Medinah and nobody knows – or loves golf in Aberdeen better than Lawrie. Indeed, earlier in the year he bought Aspire Golf Centre in Aberdeen (it’s now called the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre) – a far cry from his early days as an aspiring assistant at Banchory GC. During his three-year stint there he spent more time handling a hoover keeping the pro shop spick and span than he did hitting golf balls... From England or Wales, driving to Aberdeen takes a long time – so we opted for the King’s Cross-Aberdeen direct train via East Coast trains. It still takes seven hours but it’s a memorable journey and if you go firstclass seats, you’re regularly fuelled with
complimentary food and drinks. And after crossing the iconic Forth Bridge and cruising past Carnoustie’s mighty links, suddenly you’re chomping at the bit to get onto the course. After pulling into the station on time, we were at Meldrum House – where we were staying and playing – within 20 minutes... leaving us just enough daylight left to get a quick round in on Graeme Webster-designed
‘THIS HIGH PROFILE WILL SIT WELL WITH PROUD ABERDONIAN PAUL LAWRIE’ layout. It claims to be “Scottish parkland golf at its very best”, which is a bold statement but one which Meldrum House delivers on. It is a class act and to play it you need to be either a member or a resident – which means it is routinely in immaculate condition. Make sure you’ve got plenty of balls: Meldrum is rife with water, with probably the most intimidating stretch being the large pond that cuts into the left side of the stroke index 1 par-4 7th. Then at the par-5 11th, the green is guarded by 15 bunkers! With darkness descending it was time for a burger (Aberdeen Angus naturally) which was washed down by a 12-year-old single malt in Meldrum’s atmospheric cavern-style bar. Fed and watered, we retired to the superb courtyard accommodation opposite the main 13th Century building. Royal Aberdeen was our first port of call the following morning, a links ➔ course of rare quality. TODAYSG OLFER .CO.U K ❘ IS SU E 3 0 0
RYDER CUP PREVIEW
o golfer relishes the challenge of head-to-head matchplay more than Ian Poulter. The fearsome competitor has already notched up eight Ryder Cup points, including an unbeaten record in three singles. Add to that his win at the 2010 WGC Accenture Matchplay and the Volvo World Matchplay in 2011 and you have one of the world’s most successful matchplay players. TG spoke exclusively to Poulter ahead of the Ryder Cup to see what we could all learn about this most combative of golfing formats. Making every putt matter is one of my keys to matchplay success.
1. MAKE EVERY PUTT MATTER The biggest advantage to hitting inside your opponent is that every putt you hit matters. If my opponent has hit to 20ft and I’ve hit to 10ft then I know my putt will either be to win or halve the hole. I always try to leave myself a putt to win the hole and that’s why I’m aggressive when attacking greens. 2. LET THE BIG DOG EAT If ever there is an opportunity to get to a green, I’ll go for it. On a short par 4, or somewhere that gives the best chance of
making three, I will be really aggressive in matchplay. You’ve got to take on risks. Cautious golf doesn’t win matchplay ties. You have to hit driver where you can hit driver, you’ve got to take on the short par 4s or leave yourself as short an approach as possible into the longer holes. If you don’t, your opponent will and you don’t want to leave that opportunity open. 3. CONCENTRATE ON YOUR OWN GAME Again, I’ve heard the theory about laying back to hit first into greens in order to put
‘ON A PAR 5, IF I CAN GET UP, I'M GOING FOR IT. CAUTIOUS GOLF DOESN'T WIN’ bringing in an error for him to get off the hook. Take par if you need to take par to win the hole; just keep your man under pressure.
pressure on your opponent but I don’t believe in that either. I don’t think it makes any difference if you are a good enough player to accept that your partner has hit a good shot and then you have to go and hit it inside him. If you are playing well you don’t have to worry about hitting in first or second. I’m concentrating on my game. So no matter if my opponent has hit to 2ft or 20ft I’m still trying to hit it stiff. If my opponent has hit to 10ft that isn’t putting me under any more pressure than I’m already under because I’m still trying to hole the shot. 4. TRY TO HOLE EVERYTHING Every shot I hit to a green in matchplay I try to hole and it is the same with putting. If it is a 2ft putt or a 40ft I am trying to make it, not just get it close. That’s why I will always chip aggressively in matchplay and very rarely leave it short. When they go in they can be a killer for some players if they weren’t expecting you to make it. 5. GIVE NOTHING I’ve heard this idea about giving putts early on in order to pile the pressure on later but it
is absolute nonsense. If you give a two to three-foot putt a player is entitled to put the ball down and hit it as a practice anyway, so it is irrelevant. For everything but a simple tapin you make them putt it every time. 6. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED As much as I’m trying to hole everything I always expect my opponent to do the same. I never want a surprise, so even if it looks as though your opponent is out of the hole, you still have to play aggressively and expect him to hole his next shot. However, there are times when you have to be sensible. Birdies are what win holes but if your opponent has hit it in the water hazard and you know the best he can do is bogey there is no point being overly aggressive and
7. DON’T GIVE THE HOLE AWAY There will be times when you hit a poor shot – you just have to make sure your next one is a good one. If you miss a green then hit your chip close. Or if a poor drive forces you to lay up, make sure you hit your approach inside your opponent so he has to work to win the hole. There is nothing worse than giving a hole to your opponent. 8. KNOW YOUR YARDAGES On a par 5, if I can get to the green I’m going for it. But if I can’t then I’m laying up all day long – and that’s when you need to know your lay-up yardage. There is no point getting 30 yards short of the green when it is a front tucked pin just to get closer to the green. In that situation I’ll play to my percentages and I know my percentages of getting up and down from an ideal yardage as opposed to a tricky 30ft will be better. I’ll do whatever it takes to give me the best chance for birdie. 9. IT’S NEVER OVER If you are five up or five down it is never over. I’ll play aggressively either way, because we’ve seen lots of matches won from what looked like losing positions. Sometimes there is nothing you can do if someone goes birdie, birdie, birdie on you. They might come out firing but continue to play positively and try to win every hole. Stay confident and positive. TODAYSG OLFER .CO.U K ❘ RY DER CU P PR E V I E W
RYDER CUP PREVIEW
Ryder Cup tension means ferocious battles are inevitable. We recall the juiciest of all – as well as less surprising ones WORDS KIT ALEXANDER PICTURES GETT Y IMAGES
Ballesteros versus Azinger
RY DER CU P SPECI A L ❘ TODAYSG OLFER .CO.U K
Sandy v Monty.
reat sport is defined by great rivalries: Coe v Ovett; Ai v Frazier; Borg v McEnroe. Ballesteros v Azinger is the Ryder Cup’s offering – and incorporates everything the classic rivalry should. They were from different backgrounds – Seve from humble beginnings in northern Spain, Azinger from distinguished military stock – and played different games. But they shared a common characteristic; enormous passion and a propensity to speak first and worry about the consequences later. They first crossed swords in the top singles match at The Belfry in 1989 which ended in a 14-14 tie between the sides. ‘Zinger’ beat Seve one-up, after refusing to allow the Spaniard to change what he thought was a damaged ball and driving into the water on the final hole. It cut Seve deep. “A television commentator later said it looked as though Seve had tears in his eyes as he came off the 18th,” said Azinger. “I wouldn’t be surprised. Nobody took Ryder Cup play more seriously. “Later, when the ceremonies were completed, Seve approached me. He extended his arms, put both of his hands on my shoulders and looked directly in my eyes. In an almost apologetic voice, he said, ‘we were very hard on each other today.’ ‘Yep, we sure were,’ I replied. To which Seve smiled and said softly, ‘It’s okay.’” Two years later at Kiawah the pair courted more controversy in the Friday morning foursomes. Tour rules state each player must use the make and type of ball he starts with when hitting off his driving holes. Chip Beck, Azinger’s partner, should have used his 90-compression ball when driving at the long 7th, but they decided they’d have a better chance of reaching the green in two if Beck used Azinger’s 100-compression model.
PGA chief Tim Finchem.
‘SEVE SAID THE AMERICAN TEAM WAS 11 NICE GUYS AND PAUL AZINGER’ It didn’t cross their minds that this was a breach of the rules so they were not concerned that the Spanish pair of Seve and Jose Maria Olazabal saw what was going on. The Americans reached the turn three-up and Ballesteros knew something drastic was needed to turn the match around. Despite knowing that it was too late to claim the hole, he objected to his opponents’ play of the 7th in the hope that the furor would upset Azinger and Beck on the back nine. It worked. The Americans ferociously denied any intention to cheat and their focus slipped. More importantly perhaps, the Spaniards were fuelled by a potent mixture of anger and passion; they won five of the next eight holes and clinched the match 2&1. Afterwards, Azinger described Seve as “the king of gamesmanship”. The Spaniard countered that the American Ryder Cup team was made up of “11 nice guys and Azinger”. But while their rivalry was fierce on the course, the pair remained respectful off it. When the American was diagnosed with cancer in 1993, Seve was one of the first to make contact. “He called the house a couple of times and my parents relayed the message,” Azinger recalled shortly after Ballesteros was diagnosed with cancer in 2008. “That shows you what kind of guy he is. We had an intense rivalry, but you reach beyond that. Rivalries can be healthy, and maybe they cross the line on occasion. But when real life things happen, people reach out to each other.”
FIVE MORE TIMES WHEN THINGS TURNED NASTY 1. Sam Torrance v Tom Lehman Notorious Brookline culminated in the USA team pouring onto the 17th green after Justin Leonard holed a long putt – and before Jose Maria Olazabal could try to make his. European vice-captain Torrance was critical – and of Lehman’s wild celebrations after holing a birdie putt against Lee Westwood on the 13th. “It was disgusting and Tom Lehman calls himself a man of God,” slammed Torrance. “His behaviour was disgusting.” 2. Ian Poulter v Anthony Kim “I was body-checked by a certain member of their team,” Poulter said. “He just decided I wasn’t there and would like to walk through me, as opposed to walking around me. He decided to drop his right shoulder into me. I said, ‘that was awfully nice’. He said, ‘What?’” 3. Colin Montgomerie v Sandy Lyle When Lyle was overlooked and Monty was named as 2010 captain the former was asked if his decision to walk off after 10 holes of the 2008 Open had cost him. He replied by bringing up the incident at the 2005 Indonesian Open when Montgomerie appeared to take an incorrect drop. 4. Darren Clarke v Gleneagles “It’s unbelievable they chose to stage the 2014 Ryder Cup on this course,” Clarke said. “There are unbelievable courses in Scotland. It’s beyond my comprehension.” 5. Tim Finchem v The Ryder Cup Possibly a bit harsh, but the PGA Tour chief has hardly been accommodating in terms of scheduling the Ryder Cup. The FedEx PlayOffs pushed the 2010 matches into October. TODAYSG OLFER .CO.U K ❘ RY DER CU P PR E V I E W