The basics of the US Open at Pebble Beach

This tournament isn’t the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

After years of buildup, it’s finally U.S. Open week on the Monterey Peninsula. If you haven’t been following along to know what the tournament is all about, we’ve got you covered.

The United States Open Championship, or the U.S. Open for short, is golf’s national championship, which takes place annually in June. While the tournament appears on the PGA Tour calendar, it’s conducted by the United States Golf Association.

The upcoming U.S. Open and the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am have much in common but they also have many differences.

“Overall, it’s just a bigger event,” said David Stivers, president of Pebble Beach Co. and general chairman of the U.S. Open, about the upcoming tournament.

According to Stivers, the Pebble Beach Golf Links greens will be faster and firmer, the fairways will be narrower and the rough is going to be a lot higher than during the AT&T Pro-Am. The tournament is notorious for incredibly difficult conditions and course setups, no matter where it’s played.

“It’s going to be a typical U.S. Open,” Tiger Woods said June 1 during a news conference at the Memorial Tournament in Ohio. “It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be difficult. And we know that going in.”

Woods, who won his fifth Masters Tournament in April, will play Pebble Beach Golf Links competitively for the first time since he finished tied for 15th in the 2012 AT&T Pro-Am.

The Richard MacDonald U.S. Open Monument Bronze Sculpture 2000 on display near the driving range at the Pebble Beach Golf Links. It had previously been displayed at Peter Hay Golf Course, which has since been transformed in Fan Central. (Vern Fisher – Monterey Herald) 

As one of golf’s four major championships, the U.S. Open brings in many golfers who traditionally skip the AT&T Pro-Am as the sports world focuses its eyes on the prestigious event. The tournament will play host to the top golfers in the world including Brooks Koepka, winner of the past two U.S. Opens and the past two PGA Championships, and 2016 U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson.

Phil Mickelson, who won his record-tying fifth AT&T Pro-Am title in February, will return to the Peninsula in search of his first U.S. Open title. Mickelson won his first major title in 2004 when he edged Ernie Els for the Masters title. He repeated the feat in 2006 and 2010, while earning his first PGA Championship in 2005. Mickelson won the British Open in 2013, leaving the U.S. Open as the only major championship left for him to complete a career grand slam.

While the top golfers in the world will be on the course, don’t expect to see Bill Murray’s buffoonery or Larry the Cable Guy’s antics at Pebble Beach this week. As opposed to the AT&T Pro-Am, which includes celebrities, athletes from other sports and even the occasional musical performance, the U.S. Open is strictly golf.

Ticket prices and availability outside the U.S. Open Championship merchandise tent in Pebble Beach was open for business to the public on Thursday. (Vern Fisher – Monterey Herald) 

The USGA encourages fans to seek autographs during the U.S. Open, but it is prohibited from the time a player is en route to their first tee until the completion of the player’s round.

In contrast to the AT&T Pro-Am, the U.S. Open doesn’t feature multiple events like the Chevron Shoot-Out or the 3M Celebrity Challenge in the days before the official start on Thursday. Fans will be able to watch practice rounds Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before the first round tees off Thursday. According to the USGA, players electing to play a full practice round generally begin between 6:45 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Gates open at 6 a.m. Monday through Sunday. For the first and second rounds, play is scheduled to begin at 6:45 a.m. from both the first and 10th tees. According to the USGA, the first starting time for the third and fourth rounds depends on the number of players who make the cut at the conclusion of the second round (the 60 lowest scorers and anyone tying for 60th place). Generally, the first group begins play from the first tee between 8-9 a.m.

The U.S. Open differs from the AT&T Pro-Am in that the cut takes place after the second round like most PGA Tour events rather than the third round.

The 119th U.S. Open will be the sixth held at Pebble Beach Golf Links, with previous ones held in 1972, 1982, 1992, 2000 and 2010. In 2000, the USGA celebrated the 100th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. This year is a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Pebble Beach. The tournament will return to the course in 2027.

The U.S. Open will be played on one golf course, Pebble Beach Golf Links, as opposed to the AT&T Pro-Am that takes place at Pebble Beach as well as Spyglass Hill Golf Course and the Monterey Peninsula Country Club Shore Course.

As fans walk into the championship grounds they will see Fan Central. The area will feature games, booths, photo opportunities and the 37,000-square-foot Main Merchandise Pavilion.

Out near the course, fans will have a chance to take a photo with the U.S. Open trophy.

With more fans and more corporate hospitality, the championship grounds will be covered with far more structures than during the AT&T Pro-Am.

“We’ve built sort of a mini-city in our little town of Pebble Beach,” Stivers said.

When: Practice rounds, Monday-Wednesday. Tournament play, Thursday-Sunday

Where: Pebble Beach Golf Links

Tickets: (Sold-out Saturday, Sunday)

TV SCHEDULE

Fox SportsThursday-Friday: 4:30-7:30 p.m.Saturday: 9 a.m.-7 p.m.Sunday: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

FS1Thursday-Friday: 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

LIVE STREAMING

Fox SportsThursday-Friday 9:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.Saturday: 9 a.m.-7 p.m.Sunday: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

USOpen.comThursday-Friday: 7 a.m.-6:30 p.m.Saturday: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.Sunday: 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

SOURCE:  MercuryNews

 

Brooks Koepka, coming off 15-day break, has no concerns heading into Canadian Open

Brooks Koepka didn’t touch a golf club for 15 days after he successfully defended his title in the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black on Long Island.

Yet he isn’t the least bit worried about the state of his game in his return to the PGA Tour this week at the RBC Canadian Open.

“It was nice to kind of recharge mentally and kind of try to soak it in a little bit,” Koepka said of his break from the game after winning his fourth major championship in his last eight starts. “I’ll be fine. I’ve taken longer breaks before and come out and played well. I’m not too concerned with it.”

Why should he be?

He has won the past two editions of the U.S. Open and the past two playings of the PGA Championship. In his last three starts, he finished in a tie for second in the Masters, was fourth in the AT&T Byron Nelson and held off Dustin Johnson by two shots to win the Wanamaker Trophy again.

And he’s the No. 1 player in the world.

Whatever his blueprint is, it’s working. Thus, he showed up at Hamilton Golf & Country Club in Hamilton, Ontario, on Tuesday and hit balls for the first time since he left Long Island. Wednesday he played nine holes in the pro-am.

Seemed pretty good,” Koepka said of his form.

So, too, has been the formula he has followed to peak for the majors. He played the week before winning each of his four major championships. It’s a week he uses to build on his rhythm and sharpen his putting stroke.

“It’s a good golf course. It’s definitely going to be a good test,” said Koepka, 29, who is seeking his seventh PGA Tour title. “You’ve got to hit the fairways, and these greens are quite slopey. So you’ve really got to control your spin. I think it’s actually a perfect setup for next week.”

Ahh, yes, next week. That would be the playing of the 119th U.S. Open, where Koepka will try to become the second player to three-peat in the tournament.

“Yeah, that name has come up in the last year,” Koepka said when he was asked if he had heard of Willie Anderson, the Scot who won the U.S. Open in 1901 and then became the only player to win three in a row starting in 1903.

“I know what I’m chasing,” Koepka said. “But it’s just another golf tournament. You can put some outside pressure on. It’s a major championship. I’ll be up for it, I know that. I enjoy a tough test of golf, and that’s what you’re going to get at a U.S. Open. You know that going in. I enjoy it. It’s fun. It’s fun to me to get on those big stages and try to win a golf tournament.

“I know that the odds are against me to win it. There’s a lot of people that can win that golf tournament. You just need to go out and take care of business, and if you don’t, hey, I gave it my all.”

SOURCE:  USAToday

PGA Championship 2019: The toughest holes at Bethpage Black, ranked!

Bethpage Black is no stranger to big-time golf. It hosted the U.S. Open in both 2002 and 2009, and it’s also twice staged the Barclays Championship during the FedEx Playoffs. Soon New York’s most beloved muni will again take center stage as a first-time venue for the PGA Championship.

Stretched to more than 7,400 yards, Bethpage Black is known to feature 18 tough holes. At the ’02 Open, one player broke par for 72 holes (Tiger Woods), and in ’09 just five finished in red numbers. So which of these 18 brutes is the biggest beast of them all? Below is how we’d size them up, and as a guide, we’ll use how they ranked from 1 (most difficult) to 18 (least difficult) at the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens.

18. No. 14: Par 3, 161 yards

2002 U.S. Open Rank: 18 (2.903 scoring average)
2009 U.S. Open Rank: 17 (2.975 scoring average)

The tee box here is about 15 feet above the green, and the little par 3 checks in as one of just two holes to play under par in both U.S. Opens. So, almost by default it ranks as Bethpage’s easiest heading into this PGA.

17. No. 4: Par 5, 517 yards

2002 U.S. Open Rank: 16 (5.011)
2009 U.S. Open Rank: 18 (4.740)

Bethpage’s most gettable par 5 is a fun, strategic hole where big hitters will have the option to go for the green in two, and short hitters or errant tee shots have a variety of spots to lay up.

16. No. 13: Par 5, 608 yards

2002 U.S. Open Rank: 17 (4.941)
2009 U.S. Open Rank: 16 (4.986)

En route to another heartbreaking runner-up finish, Phil Mickelson made eagle here in the final round in ’09 to tie Lucas Glover for the lead. Expect more fireworks here this year – and look for that Mickelson highlight on the CBS broadcast a time or two.

15. No. 2: Par 4, 389 yards

2002 U.S. Open Rank: 13 (4.204)
2009 U.S. Open Rank: 15 (4.065)

One of the few birdie holes, pros at past majors hit wedges into the green and will likely do the same at the PGA.

14. No. 6: Par 4, 408 yards

2002 U.S. Open Rank: 14 (4.202)
2009 U.S. Open Rank: 14 (4.088)

This hole is gettable but the putting surface is surrounded by bunkers, so no running it up. This is also the last time you’ll see the word “gettable” on this list.

13. No. 9: Par 4, 460 yards

2002 U.S. Open Rank: 15 (4.086)
2009 U.S. Open Rank: 12 (4.109)

Another long, brutal par 4 with a bunker just left of the fairway. Two bunkers also guard the green. It’s like a quick jab before No. 10 (see below) lands an uppercut.

12. No. 1: Par 4, 430 yards

2002 U.S. Open Rank: 9 (4.259 scoring avg.)
2009 U.S. Open Rank: 13 (4.100 scoring avg.)

The opening hole is famous for the warning sign stuck on the fence just behind the tee box. There were 99 bogeys, doubles and others here in ’09 against 63 birdies.

11. No. 18: Par 4, 411 yards

2002 U.S. Open Rank: 11 (4.220)
2009 U.S. Open Rank: 11 (4.123)

Fairway bunkers are everywhere on both sides and the green is pitched back-to-front. But because of its relatively short length, 18 actually presents a chance for a closing birdie – as long as a player hits the fairway off the tee.

10. No. 3: Par 3, 230 yards

2002 U.S. Open Rank: 12 (3.211)
2009 U.S. Open Rank: 6 (3.181)

Players need to fly a massive front bunker, but going too long is also trouble, as anything off the back runs down a hill. It was the toughest par 3 at the 2009 Open.

9. No. 8: Par 3, 210 yards

2002 U.S. Open Rank: 8 (3.334)
2009 U.S. Open Rank: 10 (3.123)

The tee is more than 40 feet above the green, so it’s a great hole for television.

8. No. 17: Par 3, 207 yards

2002 U.S. Open Rank: 10 (3.224)
2009 U.S. Open Rank: 9 (3.137)

In past majors, this hole was flanked by grandstands that further accent the natural, hilly amphitheater behind the green. Fans crank it up, and in terms of noise, excitement and overall atmosphere, this hole vaguely resembles 16th at TPC Scottsdale. (Imagine how it’ll be at the 2024 Ryder Cup!) It’s going to be a blast at the PGA, and will likely be the most exciting spot on the course.

7. No. 11: Par 4, 435 yards

2002 U.S. Open Rank: 7 (4.376)
2009 U.S. Open Rank: 8 (4.146)

This hole shares fairway bunkers with No. 10, and the landing zone bottlenecks. Two bunkers guard the front of the green, so the second shot is key.

6. No. 16: Par 4, 490 yards

2002 U.S. Open Rank: 6 (4.411)
2009 U.S. Open Rank: 7 (4.162)

This is where Sergio Garcia made an obscene gesture at a group of hecklers in 2002. Will New Yorkers continue to dog Sergio at the PGA?

5. No. 7: Par 4, 524 yards

2002 U.S. Open Rank: 4 (4.479)
2009 U.S. Open Rank: 4 (4.355)

This one is a par 5 for the paying public, but it’s a par-4 when hosting majors. Anyone who drives it into the left fairway bunker may have to chop out and play it as a par 6.

4. No. 5: Par 4, 478 yards

2002 U.S. Open Rank: 5 (4.422)
2009 U.S. Open Rank: 3 (4.390)

The tee box is elevated from the fairway, but the green here is about 20 feet above the short grass. It looks like a dogleg from the tee box but actually plays straight. A cool, optical illusion.

3. No. 10: Par 4, 502 yards

2002 U.S. Open Rank: 3 (4.499)
2009 U.S. Open Rank: 5 (4.350)

Seven bunkers flank the fairway landing zone, and there’s a valley between the fairway and putting surface. The green also features more undulations than most Bethpage surfaces. There will be some big numbers here – in ’09 there were 147 over-par scores and just 24 birdies.

2. No. 12: Par 4, 515 yards

2002 U.S. Open Rank: 2 (4.523)
2009 U.S. Open Rank: 2 (4.431)

Many players will likely try to bite off some of the left-dogleg on his this long par 4 … hopefully while avoiding the fairway bunker perched on the corner. The second shot is mostly blind. This hole gave up just 20 birdies in ’09.

1. No. 15: Par 4, 457 yards

2002 U.S. Open Rank: 1 (4.600)
2009 U.S. Open Rank: 1 (4.470)

It was the toughest hole on the course in each of Bethpage’s U.S. Opens, and there’s no reason it won’t defend the belt this time around. Expect a fair number of layups from players who miss the fairway with their drives. This uphill trek to the green is so steep, locals reportedly sled down it in wintertime. In ’09 it yielded just 17 birdies and 180 over-par scores. Sounds brutal.

In fact, it sounds like Bethpage.

SOURCE:  golf

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Five steps to copy Tiger Woods’s swing technique

As last season proved, a healthy Tiger is a scary Tiger. While his technique is ever-evolving, it’s always worth studying, to say nothing of copying. Check out the keys to his swing below.
Muscle Matters
There’s no denying it—Tiger’s arms are still jacked! And they’re not for looks. Woods understands that at the highest levels, golf is a power game that taxes every muscle. Tiger continues his legacy as the original Tour gym rat, and if his arms are any indication, he has zero plans to let the youngsters on the Tour outwork him.
High Flyer
You can tell from his finish below that Tiger has launched a higher-than-normal approach. He’s extending his lower spine up and toward the target. It’s a great move for any swing— if your back can take it. Looks like Tiger’s finally can.
Back in Business 
Players with bad backs rarely swing to a full finish, let alone a high one like this. As with his knees, Tiger’s back looks ready for prime-time— the slight lean back or subtle “reverse C” is impossible to achieve when the back is in distress.
Bottom Gear
Is there really something to “glute activation” after all? You bet. There’s no better way to produce serious clubhead speed than by firing your glutes and squeezing your thighs together through impact. The combo causes your body to decelerate at just the right moment, allowing the club to pick up speed and whip through.
nee Brace 
Tiger’s healed left knee below can once again handle the torque created by his swing. His left foot is nearly flat on the ground, even this deep into his followthrough, providing the stability he’s been missing for years. If your knees aren’t as healthy as Tiger’s, set up with your feet flared, or allow more weight to roll to the outside of your spikes.
SOURCE:  GOLF

Masters 2019: The eight most underrated shots at Augusta National

Bob Jones once said of Augusta National, “We want to make bogeys easy if frankly sought, pars readily obtainable by standard good play, and birdies—except on par 5s—dearly bought.” And over the years Masters fans, both in person and via television have come to recognize some of the more obvious places where that holds true. The tee shot at the par-3 12th or anywhere on the No. 11 through No. 13 stretch known as Amen Corner, for that matter. The second shot on the par-5 15th is another visible example. However speaking with more than 15 past champions for the hole-by-hole course tour section of the Masters Journal—including multiple champions Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gary Player, Nick Faldo—has led to an appreciation for the more subtle but no less demanding shots one needs to pay close attention to if they’re to play well at Augusta National. Here are eight shots players face that might not capture our eye immediately, but surely command players’ attention.

The second shot on the par-5 second hole
Whether going for the green in two or playing for position short of the putting surface, what many think of as simply another fairway wood or long iron play is actually a precision play. The plan for how to approach this shot completely depends on where the pin is located. If the pin is back left, the second shot must be to the middle or right. In fact, well right of the green is never bad because the pitch shot is uphill. Conversely, missing left leaves a downhill shot that is tough to stop. Most Masters competitors will tell you the sand is a better place to be than left or long. As for going for it in two blows, that’s an awfully tough shot as it is off a downhill lie and you’re trying to hit it high and soft. That’s difficult for even the most skilled players. The par 5s at Augusta National are more about where you place the ball on your second shot than anything else and perhaps there is no better example than No. 2.

Second shot on the par-4 third hole
The shortest par 4 on the golf course at 350 yards also presents one of the approach shots Masters participants fear most. Although a mere pitch of only some 50 yards for those hitting driver off the tee, the elevated green (only some 35 feet in depth on the left side) can turn what appears to be a very simple situation to a trying one in short order. The shot, although short, must be exact. Come up the slightest bit short and the ball will embarrassingly roll back almost to where it was struck from. Take too much caution not to do that and the ball might end up over the green, leaving a nervy chip. Rarely has such a short shot provided so much consternation for players.

The putt from the top right of the green on the par-3 fourth hole
Usually hitting the green on the 240-yard, par-3 fourth hole would be a satisfying play. However, if the pin is located on the front left and the tee shot is equal or past the hole on the right, an argument can be made that the player is facing one of the most difficult putts on the entire golf course. From there the slope is falling away from you with a fairly big swing to the left and the odds of a two-putt drop dramatically. Tiger Woods had a chip shot from the right-hand side of the green in the final round of 2002 and said it might have been easier than Retief Goosen’s putt from the top right. Woods made par and Goosen made bogey, so apparently so.

The tee shot on the par-4 fifth hole
Although the tee shot on this hole in prior years wasn’t a gimme, it wasn’t exactly a cause for angst, either, as players had the ability to carry the fairway bunkers on the left or comfortably play out to the right side with a 3-wood. That’s changed in 2019 as the tee has been moved back some 40 yards and to the right, making it play straighter. The bunkers also have been moved (although, in true Augusta National fashion they look the same as ever to the eye), now requiring a 310-yard-plus carry to clear them. With that being a non-starter for most players, the choice is to lay up short of them, leaving an uphill approach of some 200 yards or try to thread it in the fairway to the right of the bunkers with a driver. Regardless, what once was benign has now become beastly.

Tee shot on the par-3 sixth hole
Three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo once called Augusta National, “the most nerve-wracking course in the world.” A microcosm of that is the tee shot on the par-3 sixth, particularly when the pin is located on the back right shelf. In that instance, the generous-sized green shrinks significantly in usable size. “I’ve always regarded the tee shot here to the back right-hand pin as my barometer for the week,” Faldo told the Masters Journal in 2006. “During practice rounds I aim for that spot and if I keep putting it up there, then it means my iron game is accurate. To fly a ball from 180 yards down a hill in a breeze to an area about the size of two dining room tables, well, you know your game is spot on.”

Second shot on the par-4 14th
The 14th has the distinction of being the only hole at Augusta National without a bunker. It doesn’t need one. While it lacks the glamour of the water holes on the second nine, 14 is a good, solid par 4 and one reason is the approach to a green that took some imagination to design. Although there are some pin positions that are accessible, there are others where the margin for error is slight. The green has a large swale in front and shoots off in several directions. That’s why approach shots—even ones struck just a few feet off line—can roll away from the hole some 30 or 40 feet or more.

The lay-up shot on the par-5 15th
We know, we know. We don’t want to be talking about no stinking lay-up on one of the most exciting holes on the golf course. But the saying about a man knowing his limitations comes to mind here. Masters competitors often face two decisions here. Whether to go for it in two is one. When golfers decide the prudent play is to lay up short of the water, then it’s where to lay up. Although most everyday players view a lay-up shot as simply slapping it down the fairway short of the penalty area, the pros know a lay-up shot is like a shot in billiards where the current shot is played to best set up the next. At 15, almost without exception, it’s about 80 to 90 yards from the pin and on the left side of the fairway. That, players say, leaves a flatter lie than on the right-hand side and offers a better opportunity to spin the ball off the flatter lie.

Putt from left side of the green on the par-4 17th
With all the dramatic looks on Augusta National’s second nine, the 17th hole appears to be a bit nondescript, especially since the Eisenhower Tree came down in an ice storm in 2014. The green, however, requires a player’s full attention as it is a deceiving putting surface that rolls off in several directions, with the slopes seemingly never bringing the ball towards the hole, but rather work it away from it. Raymond Floyd fell victim to the hole in 1990, when he appeared to have the Masters won. Holding a one-shot lead playing the 17th, Floyd got a little careless with his approach and it trickled to the left side of the green, with the pin on the opposite side. Now having to putt up and over the ridge, Floyd misjudged the speed and three-putted, eventually losing to Nick Faldo in a playoff.

Gary Player once said of Augusta National that “every shot is within a fraction of disaster. That’s what makes it so great.” The above shots would appear to further solidify Player’s claim.

SOURCE:  Golfdigest

How to handle a downhill lie and hit the green

If you play a lot of hilly courses, you’re already familiar with uneven lies, including those of the downhill variety. This tricky position—in which your leading foot is below your back foot at address—can be very challenging, especially from short fairway grass. To ensure solid contact and a pin-seeking approach shot from a downhill lie, you’ll need to make the following three basic setup changes.
SET SHOULDERS PARALLEL
Your normal iron setup won’t work for this lie—the clubhead will bottom out too soon and you’ll make contact with the ground behind the ball. Instead, hold your club across your shoulders and tilt your spine toward the target until the shaft matches the slope of the hill. Once your shoulders are parallel to the slope, move on to step 2.
Learn how to conquer any downhill lie.
MOVE YOUR WEIGHT TO YOUR DOWNHILL FOOT
It’s critical to make ball-first contact from this lie, so play the ball in the middle of your stance (or at least slightly farther back than normal) and shift about 75 percent of your weight to your front, or downhill, foot. This will encourage your body to move in the direction of the slope, rather than hang back.
TRACE THE SLOPE
Last, extend your arms through impact so that the clubhead travels as low to the slope as possible. By swinging on the same plane as the hill, you’ll ensure ball-first contact and a smooth, full finish— and maybe even a birdie opportunity.
SOURCE:  Golf.com

Akshay Bhatia, 17, full of swagger and set for PGA Tour debut at Valspar

At the Walker Cup practice session in December, U.S. captain Nathaniel Crosby left junior golfer Akshay Bhatia with one final piece of advice ahead of the Jones Cup Invitational in late January.

“He said, ‘You better be in the final group on Sunday so I don’t have to chase you around,’ ” Bhatia recalled.

Bhatia, 17, did better than that. He defeated Georgia sophomore Davis Thompson on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff at Ocean Forest Golf Club on St. Simons Island, Ga., after the final round was canceled due to rain.

“I’m just sorry he ended up driving five hours to watch me play one hole,” Bhatia said of Crosby’s trip.

The victory at one of amateur golf’s most prestigious invitationals should shoot Bhatia, Golfweek’s No. 1-ranked junior and the reigning AJGA player of the year, even higher on Crosby’s “watch list” for the Walker Cup, which will be played Sept. 7-8 at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

“Oh my gosh, it would be a dream come true,” Bhatia of Wake Forest, N.C., said of a chance to represent the 10-man U.S. side. “You just don’t get that opportunity too many times. Just to be part of the practice session was unreal.”

But Bhatia was even more overcome by the fact that joining a prestigious list of Jones Cup champions – including Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas and Beau Hossler – also earned him a berth in the PGA Tour’s RSM Classic this fall.

“I’ve worked so hard, and that’s one of my dreams to play a PGA Tour event while still in high school,” Bhatia said.

Bhatia won’t have to wait much longer to fulfill his dream of playing in a PGA Tour event. Bhatia tells Golfweek he has accepted a sponsorship exemption into the Valspar Championship on March 21-24 at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Fla.

Bhatia has played in Thursday and Monday PGA Tour Qualifiers, further confirmation that he intends to skip college and turn professional in January when he turns 18.

“It’s made me stronger mentally,” Bhatia said of trying to earn one of four available spots at qualifying. “Once I get through one, I think I’ll make a bunch more. I’m just lacking experience.”

He showed he’s more than capable of holding his own against the game’s top amateurs. Beating a field consisting of top collegians at the Jones Cup in his first start back after nursing a back injury suffered in late November during the AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions helps validate Bhatia’s decision to forgo college.

As much as Bhatia would like to make the Walker Cup team – and he plans to play the European and British Amateurs this summer in preparation for links golf – he sees it merely as a stop along his journey to making the PGA Tour. He has tunnel vision, his eyes locked in on a pro golf career.

George Gankas, one of his team of instructors, described Bhatia as mature beyond his years and noted a surge in his confidence and self-belief. Gankas recounted a telling conversation he had with Bhatia at the U.S. Amateur in August.

“He said, ‘I guess I have to start acting like ‘The Man’ because I’m pretty much ‘The Man’ among the juniors,’ ” Gankas said. “Since that point, his walk is different, the way he talks is different and the way he carries himself is different. It’s not in a cocky way; he’s just a more confident player.

“He’ll win a tournament and ask, ‘What needs to be better?’ How many kids his age do that? He’s trying to figure a way to get better to win by more.”

Bhatia, who crushed the field at the AJGA’s Polo Golf Junior Classic by 10 strokes in June, has a home putting studio and a TrackMan, and practices at TPC Wakefield playing two-ball, best-ball and from the front tees to ingrain shooting low scores and two-ball, worst ball and dropping a ball behind trouble (such as a patch of trees) from a par-3 distance away and trying to make no worse than par as games to improve his scrambling skills. He is a lanky lefty weighing only 129 pounds, but he has the flexibility of Gumby.

“Every time I put him on my Instagram everyone goes, ‘Eat a cheeseburger, dude!’” Gankas said. “He says he’s trying to get fat, but he can’t do it.”

Bhatia may be thin as a rail, but pound-for-pound he’s maximizing his swing speed, averaging 119 mph, and recently sent Gankas a video where he hit 124.8 mph.

“I couldn’t even believe it,” said Bhatia, who credits the gain in velocity to his workouts and is striving for his swing speed and weight to equal the same figure.

As for his upcoming PGA Tour debut, he already arranged to play a practice round with Spaniard Jon Rahm and has his sights set on meeting Australian Jason Day, another of his heroes. And Bhatia’s not shy about how he might do. When asked if he thought he could win, he said, “I don’t see why not. As long as I can treat it like it’s just another event. It’s all about mindset, really.”

SOURCE:  Golfweek

STRATEGY FOR DOGLEGS

About to turn a corner? First, give that dogleg some thought

You say you can drive it 300 yards, but the last time you did it the hole was downhill, downwind and the ball caromed off the cartpath. You say you shoot in the low 80s, but you haven’t carded an 85 or better without two mulligans and a few generous gimme putts in about four years. When the question about what tees to play is asked, you’re already walking back to the blues or blacks. See where this is going? When it comes to this game, many golfers aren’t exactly honest about their current abilities—especially when assessing their next shot.

A common mental block is how best to play a dogleg hole with real trouble on either side of the fairway, says instructor Sean Foley.

“The ball tails off to the right for most of the golfers I see, so does it make any sense for them to stand on the tee box of a dogleg-left hole and try to curve their drive in that direction? No, but a lot of times they still try,” says Foley, a Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher. “What they should be doing is thinking of how to play the hole to the best of their abilities. In many cases, that means taking a shorter club, one that doesn’t peel off to the right as much, and just getting something out in the fairway.

“The reality is, sometimes the best you can do is give yourself a chance at a one-putt par. You have to accept that your game isn’t designed for certain holes, so your planning should change from How do I get home in regulation? to How do I avoid making double bogey?

That’s good advice, says sport psychologist Bob Rotella. Too often a visually intimidating hole, one that looks like it necessitates a specific type of drive, can cause golfers to divert from their strengths. Bad move.

“Mentally, you’ve got to stick with your game. Don’t let the shape of a hole solely dictate your strategy,” he says. “I wouldn’t try to hit a shot I didn’t know or usually play. If a driver doesn’t fit the hole, hit a 3-wood. If a 3-wood doesn’t fit, hit a hybrid, and so on. Do whatever it takes to put the ball in play. But be clear and commit to whatever shot you decide.”

If you can’t curve the ball to match the hole’s shape, another option is to use driver, but play for the “best miss,” says Hall of Fame golfer Tom Watson. If you analyze a hole carefully, that miss should be evident.

“When curving the ball away from the dogleg, the fairway becomes a smaller target,” Watson says. “The golfer must then think about where it’s best to miss the fairway, and this involves a lot of criteria such as length of the rough, where the flagstick is located, etc. For example, shortening the hole by missing in the interior rough sometimes can be a good option when planning your tee shot, but not on Pine Valley’s par-4 sixth, the hole you see here.”

If you’re skilled enough to be able to shape your tee shot with the dogleg, then consider how much of it you want to take on, Watson says. An accurate distance measurement to the part of the fairway you want to hit is key, but so is that whole thing about being honest with yourself.

“Knowing how far you have to carry the ball to clear a dogleg’s interior rough or interior bunker is not usually thought about by most golfers, but it’s critical,” Watson says. “That being said, most golfers don’t know how far they carry the ball with a driver, which is important in deciding the line to take when cutting the corner on a dogleg.”

That’s why it’s best to be generous with your target line, Foley says.

“If it’s a 200-yard carry and your best drives carry about 210 yards, you probably want to take a less risky route,” Foley says. “Better to be farther back in the fairway than trying to recover from being too aggressive with your line. The penalty for not making it on a dogleg is usually pretty severe.”

SOURCE:  Golfdigest

Golf: PGA Tour drives idea of setting its own rules into rough

(Reuters) – PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan ruled out his organization creating its own rules on Wednesday, saying he is happy to leave that task to golf’s two global governing bodies.

The rules of golf have been in the spotlight after new ones were introduced for 2019, with the biggest update in 50 years leading some players to being openly critical of and in some cases hostile towards certain tournament rulings.

World number four Justin Thomas described the new rules as “terrible”, while journeyman Andrew Landry called them “garbage” and called for the PGA Tour to create its own.

Monahan, who recently reminded players that the tour had been heavily involved in the rewriting of the rules, on Wednesday strongly defended the “fantastic” U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient governing bodies.

“We have always played by their rules and we’ll continue to play by their rules,” he said in Florida on the eve of the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

“We were fully supportive of the new rules because we were a participant in creating them.

“(When) you roll out 50 new changes there are going to be some things that work well and some that create debate. Lost in some of the discussion is all the things that are working really well.”

The change that appears to have caused most ire has been one that does not allow caddies to stand behind a player and help line up a shot.

This has led to a couple of two-stroke penalties, and also one situation in which a player had a penalty rescinded after officials acknowledged the new rule was causing confusion.

The wording was then tweaked in an effort to make it clearer.

Another bone of contention is that golfers must now drop the ball from knee height, rather than from shoulder height as previously.

Rickie Fowler was the first to fall foul of this when he took a penalty drop from shoulder height at the WGC-Mexico Championship and was penalized one stroke.

SOURCE:  Reuters

Finish Your Swing Left of the Target

Proper Set-Up And Alignment Leads To ‘Full Circle’ Swing

We have all heard it. When getting information about aim and alignment, we often hear to “finish your swing facing your target.” Don’t do it — you will likely hit a shot that will not end up on line. You need to finish your swing facing LEFT of the target.

Look at all the Tour pros out there, they are clearly facing well left of their target at the finish, and that goes all the way back to proper set-up and address. Here’s how to put it all together:

AIM AND ALIGNMENT

First, place your hands on the grip, keeping the clubface square.

Then, aim the square clubface to the target on the line you established from behind the ball. The leading edge of your golf club will be at a right angle to the target line.

Next, align your body (checking feet, thighs, hips, and shoulders) parallel and left of the target line, addressing the golf ball.

If you feel as if you are really left of your target, you will be aligned correctly. Do not align your body to the target…aim your club at the target and align your body left of the target! (For left-handers — right of the target)

Last, with confidence, trust your aim and alignment and make your best effort to create the shot. Even if you do not hit it perfectly, it will likely be on line, heading towards the intended target—a great miss!

COMPLETE YOUR SWING

This is accurate information: Left is “Right” (correct) at address. However, finishing with your belt buckle facing the target line is stopping short of the full completion of the swing circle.

When you finish a good golf swing, your belt buckle will actually be facing LEFT of your target if you have completed the swing circle. The ball will track towards the target on the line you established in your pre-shot routine, but your body will not finish facing the target. If it does, it could result in a shot that leaks to the right of the intended target. Think in terms of the two lines at address that might help you understand this critical piece of information relating to the completion of your golf swing motion. Imagine that the target line is the “ball target” and the parallel line you have lined up your body on is the “body target.” The two lines are parallel at address and remain so during the swing motion, but it is just the golf ball that (hopefully) ends up on the “ball target” line you established. Ideally, you will end up in a balanced finish position, facing the “body target” line you set at address, clearly left of the ball target line. The swing circle motion has been completed, allowing both the operator and the equipment to hit a shot “on line” to the target! Understanding this very thing has been instrumental for improved aim, alignment, and result with my students. See if this perception change alters the directional reality of your golf shots. As my students and I often say about these actions that improve your motion and game, “If you can, you MUST!” LPGA Master Professional/PGA Honorary Director Deb Vangellow  SOURCE:  Golftipsmag