Working on My Game: Inside the Ropes – Sept. 2009
A little over two weeks ago, the CBS broadcast season ended for me. I enjoy my work at CBS immensely, but I’ve really been looking forward to spending more time working on my game. Now I have that chance, for the first time in over 15 years. I’m evaluating where my game is, looking for areas I need the most improvement.
I traveled to Scranton, PA for the NE Pennsylvania Classic (Nationwide Tour). I knew that I would be rusty; I hadn’t practiced much nor played in several weeks. Sometimes that can be good, as it was for me in Athens, GA after the Masters this year. I recognized then that filming the Sybervision/Impact Zone Golf Training System had a very positive impact on my game. Not only did I shoot my lowest score ever on my home course at Quail Lodge the very day we finished the shooting (29 on the front nine), but watching the film actually improved my swing and its consistency. It became very clear what I wanted to achieve with my swing, as I continue working on my game.
As Steve Devore (CEO of Sybervision) has been very busy with the edits and I’ve been watching his cuts and making comments, I saw another opportunity to put the Sybervision magic to work for me. I was optimistic as I entered the tournament. I had a clear picture of my swing. However, my short game really failed me in the first 16 holes, I was 4 over par. I birdied the final two holes to post a respectable 72 in the opening round. The next day I fought the rain and soggy and cool conditions. I was 2 over early in the round again and then fought back to an even-par 70, missing the cut by two shots.
Performance is always the result of what you put into it. So now it was time to break it down. Two very apparent things came out of the long game evaluation:
- My ball flight was too low, making it difficult to control the roll of the ball on firm fast greens and also making it difficult to flight the ball off wet fairway conditions.
- I hit some pulled left irons shots, especially when trying to hit my plus 5 shot (hard swing).
After the weekend, my wife and I flew to California. My first day I had a short visit with Katherine Marren (Northern California Teacher of the Year and an Impact Zone Master Instructor). She was watching me hit a few balls. I shared with her my observation from the previous tournament. Katherine made an observation about my slightly shut clubface at the top, slightly more shut than it had been in the past. “What if you rotated the club more on the backswing”, she said? “Wouldn’t that elevate your ball flight?” Rotating the clubface on the backswing is something I had worked on in previous times in my career. Applying the Impact Zone, I know that making any such changes must be done without any decrease in impact dynamics. At first, making the change resulted in a decrease of lag, a more rearward swing bottom, and some pretty erratic shots, though a higher trajectory. Applying the principals in the Impact Zone, especially increasing downswing lag and proper use of the workhorse, I was hitting some very solid shots with a higher trajectory. My wedge distance shortened by almost 10 yards, but the distance gap picked up by the time I hit the 6 iron. All shots were considerably higher and the left shots disappeared with the hard swings. I particularly have noticed a better flight with my three wood off the ground and when hitting the draw with the driver. With today’s low spinning golf balls, a higher launch angle is important for maximum distance and to hold firm greens. With the approaching year and the new groove regulation, a higher trajectory becomes even more important.
After several days of practice, I traveled to Latrobe, PA for Arnold Palmer’s 80th birthday celebration. I’m blessed to be considered one of Arnold’s friends. He had invited me earlier in the year to play golf with him at his home club at Bay Hill. That remains one of the highlights of my life. Nobody in golf has treated golf fans better than Arnold Palmer. He’s total class and a real inspiration.
The celebration culminated with a PNC outing, 18 holes at his home club in Latrobe, Laurel Valley. Before the round, Peter Jacobsen hosted a clinic with Arnold in attendance. Because of the number of touring pros in attendance, Peter selected two Wake Forest alumni and past recipients of the Arnold Palmer Golf Scholarship to give a swing tip. Jay Haas was first. “The #1 problem I see in golf is that most people don’t take the divot in the right place. Their swing bottoms are too far behind the 3 to 5 inches in front that it needs to be.” Funny that it was the exact swing tip I had given the previous year at the PNC outing with Jay Haas present. I can’t think of a better compliment of the Impact Zone.
I had the pleasure of playing with Arnold’s two sisters. One can certainly see the family resemblance in both of them. Playing Laurel Valley (I love the course) gave me a golden opportunity to put into practice the new changes. Several shots during the day caught my attention, almost as if to say, “Did I really just do that?” On the second hole, I hit an 111-yard fairway bunker shot to a back hole placement. The shot came off perfectly with a little ¾-pitching wedge. The shot was higher than usual (trajectory comes down with reduced swing speed) and it had lots of spin (v groove too!) on it. The shot came close to going in, and then spun back 12 feet from the cup.
On the 11th hole, the par 5, I was in good shape off the tee and going for the green in two from 243 yards. Unfortunately, I had a very tall oak tree 100 yards or so in front of me that I needed to hit over with a 15-yard draw or hook. A high draw has been my most difficult shot lately, but not this time. I hit the most beautiful high 5 wood with a big draw. I surprised myself with the trajectory cleared the tall oak tree by a good 10 feet. And I didn’t have to change my set up to hit that shot. Usually, I would have to stand farther from the ball and/or get the ball more forward in my stance. Not anymore.
Moving forward, I will continue working on my game. I’ll be practicing hard to make the changes solid for competition. I will next compete in Boise next week, can’t wait!