2016 US Open Recap

By Tyler Olson

                  It was going so well. So. Well. The 2016 US Open was going to be one for the books. The 624th ranked golfer in the world, Andrew Landry, was leading for half the tournament. Some of the best to never win majors, including fan favorites Dustin Johnson, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia were in contention on the final day. Oakmont was in great condition and despite the rain it proved to be a tough but fair test for the best golfers in the world. The back nine on Sunday began with as much tension, fanfare, and great golf as would be expected from the final round of a major. The cauliflower greens and concrete fairways that marred the 2015 Open in Chambers Bay were fading into the past like a distant memory. Then it happened. The USGA managed to foul up again and send the US Open down the rabbit hole of controversy.

On the fifth hole, Dustin Johnson was about to address his ball when it rolled backwards just a fraction of an inch. He did the right thing and called over the official to alert him of the problem. Because it was clear that Dustin had neither touched his ball nor caused it to move when he soled his putter beside it, the official instructed Dustin to play the ball from the new spot and that he would not incur a penalty. However, on the twelfth tee, an official approached him and informed him that after video review, he may be penalized for the ball moving back on the fifth. Not that he would incur the penalty, but that he might. Everyone’s first reaction was confusion. How could there even be a thought of a penalty if the video evidence was so clear? The greens were stimping off the charts as is usual for a US Open and the ball was resting on a severe slope, so clearly it was just a side effect of course conditions. The same exact thing happened earlier in the day to Frenchman Romain Wattell, except he had actually addressed the ball before it moved. Johnson’s putter was still about a half an inch off the ground, yet the USGA penalized him and not Wattell. Then, when it was quite clear the USGA rules heads intended to penalize Johnson regardless, but left the decision up in the air through the entire back nine, the confusion turned to outrage.

Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, and even Ernie Els tweeted in outrage that the USGA was cluttering not only Dustin’s head, but those of all his competitors with ambiguity as to what the score of the leader actually was heading into the most important part of the tournament. If you’re making the Big Easy himself incensed, you are doing something seriously wrong. Here’s just a sample of the anger from DJ’s fellow players:

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                  If I get a text from my friends that they want to go to a restaurant that I don’t like for dinner in the middle of a round, that’s enough to send me into a tailspin of shanks and duck-hooks, so I can’t imagine the nerves Dustin Johnson and the rest of the field were feeling after being told that the ruling wouldn’t be handed down until after the round. Webb Simpson said it best with his tweet on the matter, “Telling a golfer mid-round(!) about a potential one shot penalty would cost most about 4 shots in anxiety. Not for @DJohsnonPGA. Huge congrats.”

Luckily for the USGA and the rest of us, Johnson was totally unflappable and managed to finish the round four shots ahead of the field. Even though the USGA did end up enforcing the not-a-penalty penalty on him, it wasn’t enough to affect the outcome of the tournament. Thank God. Just imagine the firestorm that would be going on today if that penalty had forced a playoff that DJ ended up losing. The legitimacy of the US Open as a major could have been permanently harmed.

That being said, the US Open, the USGA, and the game of golf itself did not escape Sunday unscathed. This was the second consecutive US Open marred by the actions and aptitude of the USGA in putting on the tournament, but was luckily saved by great play down the stretch. Just read last year’s US Open Recap in case you’ve already forgotten. Next year’s Open and several after that will have to go off without a hitch to avoid compounding of these mistakes.

The real victim here was golf itself. The USGA has made it its mission to “Grow the Game” and inspire more and more people to pick up a club. The six million commercials during the tournament talking about how golf is “everyone’s game” made that very clear. However, nobody is going to wake up the day after watching that rules fiasco and think, “Man, I really wanna play golf now. It seems like such a fun thing to do!” Sunday did nothing but reinforce the misconception that golf is an impenetrable sport run by old rich dudes in ugly blazers and official dress shirts. Not exactly the kind of thing that’s very popular in the twenty-first century.

Luckily, while some clubs and leading organizations may still be struggling to make it past the year 1950, they are not “golf”. Golf is made up of all the pros, journalists that cover the pros, charity organizations, clubs, courses, and amateur golfers in the world. Where the USGA and others are failing, we can pick up the slack. Pros like McIlroy, Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, and even some of the older guys like Phil go on TV every week and show the everyone how fun golf really is by having a blast when they play it. Their presence on social media along with others like the Bryan Bros, Jamie Sadlowski, and Paige Spiranac brings the game to the younger generation. Courses can reach out to their communities and grow the game on a local level. Even individuals can advocate for golf just by bringing a friend out to the driving range for the first time. It’s our game, and it’s our job to preserve it.

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Every Way to Play in the US Open

By Tyler Olson

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 2.55.41 PM

                  The US Open is this week, and while Carl from Caddyshack was daydreaming about playing in the Masters, most of us also have the same dream about playing in the US Open. So, how would one go about making that dream a reality and securing one of the 156 spots available in the tournament each year? Well, this is how:

The primary way the field is determined is through full exemptions from all qualifying. The USGA wants as strong a field as possible so they make sure to set up a system through which the best players in the world are automatically in the field. After all, if Jordan Spieth caught the flu the day before local qualifying and missed out on the US Open in favor of some anonymous club pro from Topeka, that would be a significant blow to the prestige of the tournament. Therefore, for the 2016 edition of the US Open, the USGA has fifteen exemption categories that ensure strength of field.

1) Winners of the U.S. Open Championship the last 10 years.

2) Winner and runner-up of the 2015 U.S. Amateur Championship (must still be an amateur).

3) Winner of the 2015 Amateur Championship conducted by The R&A (must still be an amateur).

4) Winner of the 2015 Mark H. McCormack Medal (must still be an amateur).

5) Winners of the Masters Tournament the last five years.

6) Winners of The Open Championship conducted by The R&A the last five years.

7) Winners of the PGA of America Championship the last five years.

8) Winners of the Players Championship the last three years.

9) Winner of the 2016 European Tour BMW PGA Championship.

10) Winner of the 2015 U.S. Senior Open Championship.

11) From the 2015 U.S. Open Championship, the 10 lowest scores and anyone tying for 10th place.

12) Those players qualifying for the season-ending 2015 Tour Championship.

13) From the Official World Golf Rankings, the top 60 point leaders and ties as of May 23, 2016. Players must select a qualifying site at the time of entry.

14) From the Official World Golf Rankings, the top 60 point leaders and ties as of June 13, 2016. Players must select a qualifying site at the time of entry.

15) Special exemptions as selected by the USGA.

These exemptions round out the majority of the field, and, if you manage to fit in one of these categories, then you don’t need to read the second half of this article. However, if you are like most golfers on earth, then you need to find another way into our national championship. Luckily, there is one.

As Tin Cup said, the US Open is the most democratic of all golf tournaments. Not only is it played in America, the land of the free and home to one of the most democratic governments on earth, but the US Open is just that- open. Anybody, amateur or professional, with a 1.4 handicap index or lower, can enter to play through the qualifying process.

The first stage is 18-hole local qualifying. Each year, around 9000-10,000 players enter one of the 111 local qualifying tournaments, with the number of spots in sectional qualifiers being awarded based on field size at each venue. Those who make it through locals or are exempt from local qualifying receive one of the 600-800 spots in sectionals each year. While a full list of exemptions from 2016 local qualifying is nearly impossible to find, most of the exemptions on that list include amateurs who won or finished runner up in major tournaments, those who played well in previous US Opens but did not gain full exemption to the current year’s tournament, and top money winners from various professional tours. There are twelve sites for sectional qualifiers. Ten are in the US, one is in England, and the last is located in Japan. The number of spots available in the US Open to sectional qualifiers varies each year with the number of golfers who end up meeting one of the full exemptions to the tournament. Last year there were only 22 of 156 spots available, whereas this year, fifty-five of the 156 spots are open to those who perform the best at sectionals. That sheer volume of qualifiers this year could make for an intriguing tournament with the possibility of a no-name being in it on the final day with the likes of Dustin Johnson or Jason Day.

And there you have it: The blueprint for how to play in the US Open and have your shot to beat the best pros in the world. Now all that’s left to do is get practicing for a spot next year. See you at Erin Hills!

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Ken Duke: Perennial Underdog, Success Story, True American Hero

Tyler Olson

                  Yeah, Jason Day won the Players’ Championship. Big deal. He and the rest of the golf media talked this year’s Players’ up as the thing that might put him over the hump to be in the Golf Hall of Fame, as if he is never going to win again. Day has won 7 of his last 17 starts, and I may not have the best grade in my statistics class, but that’s a pretty good percentage. He is going to win many more times in his career and probably several times again this year. In the end, this tournament will be merely a footnote in a long line of Jason Day successes.

The real story this week is the potbellied middle-aged man who tied for third and was tied for second after the third round: Ken Duke. Duke is a long time journeyman within professional golf, but that’s only part of the story. As a seventh grader, Duke was diagnosed with scoliosis and had major curvature in his back. Just months after having corrective surgery that brought his spine back within normal range, Duke won medalist honors in his school’s district tournament while wearing a back brace.

Courtesy of KenDuke.com

Courtesy of KenDuke.com

He played division two college golf, then turned professional in 1994. In his over 20-year career, Duke has just a handful of wins to his name, his only on the PGA Tour coming at the 2013 Travelers Championship. Despite his winding road of a pro career and his current ranking at 495 in the world (subject to change significantly after this week), Duke has amassed over $10 Million worth of prize money in his career.

This year was just another exercise in Ken Duke overcoming adversity. After a freak fall last September, he needed surgery to put a plate in his broken wrist. Coming off that injury, Duke’s play this PGA Tour season has been anything but impressive. He missed five cuts in nine starts. Despite all of that, he came into this year’s Players’ Championship guns ablazin’ and carded a 65 on moving day, eight strokes lower than Jason Day’s third round score. Duke credited his scoring to the dry conditions on the course that many other players complained about, saying that is helped him make up for his comparative lack of distance against the rest of the field.

At 47, Ken Duke is old enough to be the father of many of the Tour’s young guns, but he keeps chugging along, playing golf for a living and incrementally raking in the bank as he bounces between professional tours. Oh, and also he gives back significantly to organizations like the Scoliosis Research Society to help others with his same condition overcome the difficulties that he’s defeated and then some. Ken Duke is an adversity-overcoming perseverance machine. Ken Duke is a classy guy who looks out for others even long after he made it in life. Ken Duke is what golf is all about.

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Happy Birthday, John Daly

By Tyler Olson

“It really wasn’t that bad of a drive. Then I tried to hit two three-woods over the water and then bailed out left. Shanked a seven-iron from there. Got up and down for a 12. It was a good 12.”- John Daly

                  A loud bang is heard in the background. Heads turn to the source of the sound. Bright orange and red flames emanate from the ground while a thick plume of smoke rises above them. Was it a gunshot? A bomb? Nobody can tell.

Finally, the cigarette smoke begins to waft away and the true cause of the commotion becomes clear. It was just John Daly, clad in his fire-laden Loudmouth pants, launching a drive into the yonder.

Yes, that’s right, it’s John Daly’s birthday, so it’s time to appreciate the heck out of the big guy. The multitalented long-ball hitter, country singer, partier, and trend setter is turning the big five-oh.

Daly has always walked to the beat of his own drum, and, while the level of play on tour nowadays is now doubt largely due to all the Tiger Woods disciples growing up, we probably owe a lot of the contemporary culture in our new-school PGA circuit to Daly. With his colorful dress and absurd backswing, he was Bubba Watson before Bubba Watson was Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler before Rickie Fowler was out of elementary school.

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                  His swing and the colors are just part of Daly, however. His unabashed tobacco consumption, raucous partying, awesome country songs, and no (cares) given attitude turned him into a folk hero of rebellion for golfers and non-golfers alike. I mean, the guy went on live radio and called his employer’ policies, “a big joke,”. That, and everything else he does, takes some cojones that the rest of us just don’t have, so we’ll have to live vicariously through him.

Make sure on this national holiday that you take the time to appreciate the man who’s always Hit it Hard.

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Rain and Wind Golf: How to Turn the Elements to your Advantage

Tyler Olson

                  Golf is hard, and playing golf in imperfect conditions makes it even harder. Nothing complicates a simple 150 yard shot into the green like a little 20mph crosswind. Nothing makes you more unsure of a straightforward tee shot than worrying if your driver may slip out of your hands because the grip is soaking wet. However, like anything else in golf, playing in the elements is mostly mental. If you are prepared and have the right mindset, bad weather during a tournament or just a simple match with friends can be a huge advantage to you.

The first step is preparation. During bad weather, don’t stay home and watch tv or read a book or whatever else it is that you do with your free time; go out to the course and practice. Learn how much certain wind speeds and directions will carry shots from each club. If you have a headwind on the driving range that day, practice hitting knockdown shots. If you have a tailwind, find out how much club you need to take off in order to hit to certain distances that you could normally only reach with longer sticks. Sometimes, you’ll have to just hit it under the wind. While I was never able to master the knockdown, an easier way to replicate that low flight path is to simply choke down to the bottom of the grip. You’ll lose some distance (generally about one club), but this allows you to keep the ball low without changing too much about your setup or swing.

One of the best golfers I know, who played for two different division one schools, mastered rain golf. Whenever it started drizzling, he would head out to the practice range and run through all of his clubs. He developed a system to keep all of his grips, his towel, and everything else dry so he could hit each shot confidently. His dad (my coach) told me about one specific AJGA event where he was contending and it started raining midway through the final round. He told his dad, “I’ve got this thing now.” He won.

Even with all that preparation, there is really no substitute for just going out and walking eighteen holes in bad weather. You’ll be able to see how all your shots react and file that away for the next time you play a similar one. Just be ready to book it back to the clubhouse in the event of lightning. Don’t mess with that stuff.

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Once you’re prepared to play in the elements, then the second step is easy. You need to go out the day of the tournament with confidence. Your inner monologue should play out something like this:

“Overcast with 15mph steady winds and a 60% chance of rain? #$@% yeah. All these jabronis are going to be complaining about the weather all day while I shoot my handicap or better. I love the wind!”

Does that seem a little cocky? Maybe, but you earned the right to be cocky because you’re the best around at playing in bad conditions.

Another good mental trick to use is thinking about how much fun it’s going to be shaping all those shots to account for the elements rather than just hitting the ball from point A to point B. It really is pretty cool to plan how to make the ball go where you want it to go using nothing but brainpower and maybe a halfhearted toss of some grass. The weather also provides a convenient scapegoat for your bad shots. Channel your inner. “Water on the clubface, bro. I got no chance.” Bubba Watson was endlessly mocked for that quote several other outbursts directed at either his caddy or inanimate objects that clearly had to effect on the result of his shot. Despite the fun we have with the two-time Masters champ, he’s actually on to something. The blame game helps you maintain confidence in your swing for the next time. If you miss the green due to a wind gust of questionable existence, clearly, once the outside forces that conspired against you on that shot have passed, you’ll be just fine. Always take credit for the good shots and pass the buck on the bad ones.

Golf, like life, is about making the best out of any circumstances thrown at you. In bad weather circumstances on the links, it’s not too hard to just be the best out of everyone else. All it takes is a little preparation and the right mindset.

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Masters 2016 Autopsy

By Tyler Olson

                  Wow. The Masters never fails to produce drama, but the 2016 edition seemed to blow away any expectations we might’ve had. Now that it’s over, we can engage in a great American tradition and look at some of the larger stories from our Monday morning quarterback chair.

Spieth’s Meltdown

Just like last year, Jordan Spieth went in to the back nine on Masters Sunday with the kind of commanding lead that lends itself to boring golf. Then he proceeded to make it not so boring by going bogey-bogey-quadruple bogey on 10, 11, and 12. His 7 on the par-three 12th came after he dunked his tee shot then his third after the drop into the drink. He fell from -7 to -1 and suddenly found himself trailing Danny Willett by a daunting margin with just a few holes left.

He wasn’t done yet, though. Birdies on thirteen and fifteen brought him to two strokes back of Willett, who was now in the clubhouse. On sixteen, Spieth stuck one to within ten feet, but missed the putt. A bogey on seventeen ended his hopes of making the comeback and handed the Green Jacket to Danny Willett.

As usual, though, Spieth handled everything with absolute class, including the ceremony afterwards. There, he completed his metaphorically handing the Green to Danny Willett by literally putting a Green Jacket on Danny Willett. Despite the internet taking joy in his misfortune with crying-Jordan memes abound, Jordan Spieth once again proved he is the embodiment of a professional.

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Danny Willett has an Awesome Life

                  He’s a new father, Masters champion, $1.8 million dollars richer, and probably just played his way into the Olympics. Yeah, I would say ‘ol Danny is riding pretty high after this last week. We’re gonna see him on the top of leaderboards in Europe and America alike for a long time. Even after Spieth fell on his face ahead of him on Sunday, Willett still needed to close. Someone who’s never been on that stage in a major before could easily have tripped up, but he didn’t shrink from the moment.

WTH, DJ?

Dustin Johnson made a late run and had a chance to force Willett into a playoff with birdies on 17 and 18. He doubled 17, mainly because his short game and putter failed him yet again in the biggest moments. It seems he is becoming a Sergio Garcia: an uber-talented ball striker whose mental game prevents him from ever closing in a major.

Tom Watson

After playing in his final Open Championship last year, Watson played in his final Masters this year. Walking up eighteen on Friday, the mutual love and respect between Watson, the patrons, and the rest of the golfers was evident. Despite his advanced age in this last rodeo, Watson’s game has barely lost any of its edge. The course nowadays is just too long for him to compete on. Even so, in the process of missing the cut, Watson managed to tie Zach Johnson’s score and beat Fowler and Dufner. The old man still has it.

I’ve Lived a Langer Life than You

Worst pun ever, but very fitting, considering that Bernhard Langer, at 58, was tied for third heading into Sunday at the Masters. The two people above him- 22 year-old Jordan Spieth and 24 year-old Smylie Kaufman- had a combined age of just forty-six. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be for our boy, Bernhard, but hats off to the old guys this week for putting on an impressive showing.

They are Human

                  Between Ernie Els’ six or seven or whatever-number-it-was putt, Spieth sending two straight shots water-bound (the second with a shockingly hack-like chunk), or Rory’s unspectacular 77 when he should’ve been in prime position to take advantage of Spieth’s slips on Saturday, this year’s Masters humanized our usually unflappable golf superheroes. Was it the wind? The cold? Or was the universe just upset that the same freaking dude led after seven consecutive rounds in the most competitive golf tournament on earth? I suppose we’ll never know. However, the best take away from this Masters for us regular folk is that if even the pros make these mistakes, we can’t be too hard on ourselves for the occasional wayward drive or a three-putt here or there.

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Eight Things to do While Watching the Masters

By Tyler Olson

1) Bring some non-golfer friends over to watch

The Masters is the best week in golf. The pageantry and tradition, the beauty of the course, and the insane talent of all the players in the field make it the perfect opportunity to expand the game. Have a Masters watch party at your house and invite some of your friends who may not be too interested in the game. If you’re a bad cook or can’t exactly entertain at your place, then no worries. Head over to the nearest sports bar, order some nachos, wings, and age-appropriate beverages, then take in the tournament on one of the twenty-zillion TV’s most of those places have. Even if your friends aren’t golf nuts like you after watching the Masters, then at the very least it will be a good time.

2) Practice your putting

If you have a carpeted surface and a table leg, then you can stand there in front of the TV and practice your straight three-footers for hours. It might not be the most exciting thing to do, but the monotony will no doubt be broken up by what’s happening on the TV. Doing this also solves the age-old conundrum of whether to play golf or watch golf: ¿Por qué no los dos? If anything, you may be a better putter by time you get back to the course next week.

3) Eat a pimento cheese sandwich

The pimento cheese sandwich is a staple of the concession stands at Augusta National. The delicious blend of cheddar, mayo, pimento peppers, and other yummy stuff spread across a couple slabs of white bread is enough to get your mouth watering just thinking about it. You can buy some at your local grocery store, or, for the truly ambitious, you can try to make some pimento spread from scratch from the recipe here. Unfortunately, whatever you do, it will probably cost more than the bargain $1.50 charged at the tournament.

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4) Do golf exercises with the GOGI Swing Pro app

We see Rory, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, and others getting fully involved in hardcore workout programs. While you may not be trying to get as buff as these guys, being fit can always help your game. The GOGI Swing Pro app has dozens of strength and flexibility exercises, most of which you can do while in front of the TV, watching the Masters.

5) Download the Masters App

Except for those lucky enough to be retired, most of us will have to be in school or work on Thursday and Friday. Never fear, because Augusta National, Inc. came in clutch with the official Masters Tournament app. You will get a live simulcast of the network broadcast, live streams from the par three contest, a channel for Amen Corner, holes 15 and 16, and a live scoreboard for the whole darn thing. This app gives you all the tools you need to not miss a second of the action. Except for the ability to make it look like you’re working while you’re clearly focused on the golf. That’s on you.

6) Injure yourself or get sick

From personal experience, the week of a major tournament is the perfect time to be laid up on the couch. I had my wisdom teeth taken out on the Thursday of the 2014 US Open and for the next four days I seldom left my spot on the couch as I watched Martin Kaymer absolutely tear up Pinehurst #2. This past December, I had surgery to repair damage to my shoulder. There wasn’t any PGA Tour stop that weekend and I was bored out of my skull. So, if you plan on breaking a bone or catching the flu anytime soon, now is the time to do it.

7) Annoy your friends with Bubbamojis

Whether you love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Bubba Watson is a funny guy. If you don’t appreciate the absurd comedy of the Golf Boys videos, then I want to have you submit a DNA test so we can make sure that you’re human and not part of the robot overlords coming here to take over the planet. Mr. Watson’s latest antics include the release of an app similar to the ever-so-popular emoji app. Now, you can respond to texts from your crush with a Bubba Watson caricature winking and sticking out his tongue. What a time to be alive. I, for one, will be expressing every single emotion that the Masters elicits from me exclusively through Bubbamojis all weekend.

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8) Scroll Twitter and Facebook

There’s all kinds of great golf comedy and analysis out there on social media. From in depth articles to snarky 50-character hot takes, you can simply ride the waves of golf-cyberspace all day and not get bored. Following @PGATOUR @TheMasters on Twitter should be a good start. Get engaged and join the robust online golf community. Plus, we interns here at GOGI really appreciate when you like and retweet our stuff. So would ya do that? Pretty please?

What will you be doing whilst watching this year’s tournament? We will be sharing our favorites and maybe adding yours to the list! Send us yours on Twitter (@mygogi) or Facebook!

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The Merits of “Grip it and Rip it”

By Tyler Olson

                  “There’s only one other acceptable theory about how to hit a golf ball… Grip it and rip it.”- Roy McAvoy

“Grip it and rip it.” It’s a novel idea and something we golfers like to throw around all the time, yet nobody ever actually does it. Golf is such a complex game that we think there’s no way some catchphrase can be the end-all-be-all to our ball-striking woes. At least for us mere mortals. Maybe freaks of nature like Bubba Watson and John Daly or fictional characters like Tin Cup can get away with it, but not us. So we never try. Well, I have tried “grit it and rip it” in earnest and I’m here to tell you that it works. Let my story be an example to all you frustrated hacks who think the only way to master the game is by memorizing countless swing thoughts and trying to cram them into a one-second stroke. You don’t need to. It really is that simple.

…..

                  In early May of last year, I was playing the best golf of my life. Every element of my game from my driver to my putter was clicking and seemingly only getting better each day. In order to improve my previously non-existent flexibility and increase my distance, I had also been lifting for a year (Olympic lifts can do wonders for your golf game). Therein was my downfall.

I was going for a PR in push press, and like an idiot I was doing it from the rack rather than on the platform. For those of you not familiar with meathead lingo, you can do push press from a rack, where the bar is already at your shoulders where the push press lift starts, or on the platform, where you first have to do a clean (a lift in which you basically throw the bar from the ground to your shoulders) in order to get to the starting position for push press. The advantage to push pressing on the platform is that if you mess up, you can simply drop the bar down to the ground and step out of the way. This greatly reduces the risk of injury compared to using the rack. Because I was lazy and wanted to bypass the clean, I chose the rack.

I had three spotters; one behind, one to the left, and one to the right. I approached the bar, picked it up, stepped back, and gave it my best heave to thrust the 175 pounds above my head. I almost got it, but just before I could lock it out gravity took over and the bar came falling back down towards earth.  The spotters swooped in to help out. The guy behind me put his hands on my elbows to steady me. The spotter on my right grabbed the end of the bar to reduce the impact of it on my shoulders. The guy on my left, however, missed the bar. It landed with some force on my shoulder. If it had stayed where it landed, I could’ve simply walked the bar back to the rack, reloaded, and tried again. Unfortunately, it didn’t. When the spotter on my right, unaware that the bar had not been secured by his counterpart on the other side, started walking towards the rack, the bar rolled backwards on my left side, pinning my arm nearly behind my head. Every ounce of the 175 pounds was now forcing my shoulder into the most unnatural and painful position you could imagine. Then I heard a pop.

Eventually, the spotter on my left grabbed the bar and helped return it from whence it came. Once it was back on the rack and I was finally free of the weight, I heard another pop; my shoulder returning to its socket after it had been dislocated.

To make a long story short, I tore my labrum in the process and was going to be unable to play golf until after I had surgery then did a six-month rehab process. That was unacceptable to me, as our school’s fall golf season started in just four. My other option was to go through extensive physical therapy and hope I’d be functional enough come August to swing a club. I chose the latter and to put off surgery until after the season.

After spending most of my May, June, and August in a sterile PT office while all my friends were out doing summer-ey things, I was able to take full swings by our first match. Well, kind of. After just a couple holes, the endurance in my hobbled shoulder gave out and every shot longer than a chip from the fringe hurt like hell. To compensate, I didn’t hit any range balls at all and gave up taking practice swings all together.

At first, I hated it. As a pretty cerebral guy, I always wanted to make sure I had a couple good strokes in to get the feel for the shot before I stepped up to the ball, so it felt like I was going into every shot blind. After a couple ugly scores in the mid 40’s (in Maryland high school matches are nine holes) and a couple matches where I managed to put up a respectable 37 and 39 thanks to impressive putting performances of 11 and 13 putts each, I resigned myself to the fact that my scores would come and go with my short game. I stopped worrying about my ball striking. I stopped thinking about draws, cuts, wind direction, and everything else. I went with the grip it and rip it approach on every shot.

That’s when things changed. While I still had a few matches where my shoulder just wasn’t feeling it that day and it impacted my ability to even get the ball off the ground, when I could move my shoulder as I liked and wasn’t in severe pain from the first tee, my ball striking improved. It wasn’t as good as when I had a fully functioning anatomy, but compared to when I clouded my head with so many extraneous thoughts, I was hitting a significant number of fairways and greens.

The best example of the success of this approach was our final match. The first hole was a 330-yard par four with OB right and bunkers scattered everywhere if you missed the fairway. I grabbed my driver out of the bag, set my sights in the general direction of the green, and thrashed at the ball. It carried about 290, hit the downslope of one of the sand traps, and bounded all the way to the green. I missed the eagle putt but tapped in for birdie. The third was a par three over the water with a front left hole location that was clearly a sucker pin. I aimed right at it, guessed what club I should hit (the entire season my iron distances fluctuated constantly with the strength of my shoulder on any given day) and let her go. I stuck it to five feet and made the putt. I proceeded with that approach the entire round and it worked just as well (except for one hole where I caught a flier and sent it into a lake that was beyond the green). I tapped in on the eighteenth for my fifth 37 of the season- I never could get to even par.

All in all, I finished the year with my second consecutive All-County first team nomination, the first ever county championship for our school, and a cool 40.1 scoring average (the 53 I threw in there probably didn’t help the cause). I stopped taking practice swings out of necessity and took on the grip-it-and-rip-it mentality out of frustration, but now I can’t imagine playing any other way.

Golf a complex game if you let it be, but it’s possible to beat the system. As long as you have a semi-fundamentally sound swing, any swing thoughts can be a detriment. Taking practice swings just slows down the group and ticks off your playing partners. If you’re looking for a change of pace in your game, both literally and figuratively, maybe it’s time to really give “Grip it and Rip it” a try.

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The Case Against Sudden Death Playoffs

By Tyler Olson

                  All Sunday, the leaders jockey on the top of the leader board. Somebody makes a couple birdies down the stretch on the back nine to put some space between them and the field. Then he stumbles. A double shrinks his lead to just a single stroke and the person in second birdies the eighteenth to force a playoff.

Sounds awesome, right? I would sit on my couch all day and watch the heck out of that. But what if, in the sudden death playoff, the first guy hits his tee shot out of bounds? Then the other guy could have a two-putt from three feet for the win. *yawn* We kind of saw this this past weekend at the Valspar when Haas ended up in the sand and made bogey, handing Schwartzel an easy win. (Not to diminish what he did in regulation to get to that playoff, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.)

This is a problem with all sudden death playoff formats. One second or one tiny mistake can end the contest instantly. NFL’s overtime rules used to let the team that won the coin toss get a couple first downs, set up, make a field goal, and leave with the win. Now the other team gets a possession if the first one makes a field goal, but the game is still ended with a touchdown. It’s better, but still not perfect. Most other sports besides golf and football don’t have sudden death. And for good reason. It sucks.

Hockey and soccer incorporate a mixture of sudden death and shootouts in order to settle games tied at the end of regulation. It’s in this format that we truly understand the inferiority of sudden death. Unless you’re cheering for one side or the other, a neutral observer will root for the overtime period to remain scoreless and bring on the exciting part; the shootout.

Baseball extra innings give a team that might be scored on initially a chance to come back in the bottom half of the inning either extend or win the game. Tennis forces a player in a tiebreak at the end of a set to win by two. College football gives each team a possession until one team’s possession ends with more points than the other’s. Basketball’s several minute overtime period lets each team have the chance to score several times, ensuring that one mistake will not lose the game if a team can come back from it afterwards. All of these are both fairer and more intriguing than a sudden death golf playoff when one player hits a shot that automatically screws them out of any chance.

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This basketball model is probably the fairest kind of overtime/playoff format out there, and is what golf playoffs should be modeled after. While the old fashioned eighteen-hole Monday playoff might be a bit much, the playoff model in the British Open is closest to the basketball format. The four-hole aggregate playoff lets players make a mistake or two and still have a chance to win. While the theatrics weren’t on full display in the playoff this year, go watch it and say that it wasn’t totally fair. Even after a couple mistakes, Oosthuizen had one last chance to win it on the eighteenth but just couldn’t do it. The best player that day won.

Golf tournaments are seventy-two holes for a reason. We value mental and physical endurance as much as the simple ability to execute shots. Placing the fate of an entire tournament on one hole or one mistake is against the spirit of our tournaments in the first place.

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The Hardest Shots in Golf

The Hardest Shots in Golf

By Tyler Olson

The pros attempt and very often succeed at making some the hardest shots you could ever dream of. Bubba Watson’s miraculous hook in the 2012 Masters or Rory on the 72nd hole of the 2014 Honda Classic are testaments to just how talented those guys are. However, by devilish design of a course or just sheer bad luck, we amateur golfers face some pretty tough (if not as spectacular) shots just about every time we play. Unlike the pros, though, we usually fail to execute them.

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Par Three into an Island Green

                  If you’re lucky enough to play at a course with an island green, you know that you’re not actually lucky at all. You’re cursed. On a normal hole, it may be alright to miss a little long, left, short, or right in order to make sure you don’t dump it into a bunker or short-side yourself and bring double-bogey into play. However, on an island green, you either hit the green in regulation or you’re probably making five or more.

For the players (like me) who rely on chipping and putting to make up for pitiful ball striking, you’re screwed. Even if you stripe the ball, that added pressure from the consequences of missing the green may be just enough to throw you off and send your ball into the drink. The lake around the seventeenth hole at TPC Sawgrass collects about 20,000 balls per year. It even gives the pros fits (except for Rickie Fowler).

Short Sided Pitch

                  I’m willing to bet that you could count on one hand the number of times you’ve gotten up and down from fifteen to thirty yards away with just a couple yards of green to work with. Okay Phil Mickelson, if you’re reading this (lol probably not), I’ll make an exception for you. For the rest of us, there may be no more confounding shot than the short sided pitch.

Do you try to loft the ball high in the air so it will land soft and stay within makeable range of the hole? Not unless you want to risk blading it halfway to kingdom come. Do you hit down on the ball with a sand wedge and try to get some zip on it to stop it close? Maybe, but if you land it too short you’ll end up back at the square one with the ball sitting at your feet. Do you play a bump and run through the rough and let it slow the ball down so that once it reaches the green it simply trickles to the pin? Yeah bro I bet you practice that shot all the time, let’s see how it works out for you. There is no good option here. Ever. Just certain failure.

Downhill Breaking Three Footer

                  There’s nothing like a putt with more break than length give you all kinds of jitters. It just feels unnatural. From these, a three putt is almost more likely than a one putt, because if you miss (which you probably will) gravity will give you a longer comebacker than the original. Nobody is immune, not even Rory McIlroy. Honestly, my worst fear is having one of these nasty little buggers to win a tournament. Between the difficulty of judging both the line and the speed, and my tendency to miss short putts down the stretch in tournaments, I miss that ten times out of ten.

Thick Rough with a Long Iron

                  Making crisp contact with a four or five iron in the fairway is hard enough. Usually I just end up catching it fat and leaving the ball thirty yards short of my intended target. Trying to get ahold of one in the thick stuff is just a no-go. Too much can go wrong. Hit just a tiny bit behind and you end up with so much grass between the ball and your clubface, it just bounds lazily down the fairway for a hundred yards or so. Top the ball slightly and it takes one modest hop then is reclaimed by the rough after traveling no more the than twenty yards. Even if you manage to get clean contact, half the time the grass will grab ahold of the hosel and you’ll end up with a thirty-yard hook. In the world of low percentage shots, hitting a long iron out of thick rough just may take the cake.

What are your most hated shots? Did we get it right, or is there another, nastier shot that we failed to mention? Comment here, tweet us (@mygogi), comment on our Instagram (@my_gogi), or join the conversation on our Facebook (Game of Golf Institute)!

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