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Whistling Straights is a long but very target oriented course.  Visually it's very similar to Chambers Bay, but it has some key differences.  This PGA Championship course could play 200 or more yards longer than the U.S. Open venue.  There is a bit less elevation.  The greens will be in better shape, softer and roll better.  With a beastly par 3, 17th and par 4, 18th, The closing holes should favor the longer hitter as well the rest of the course.  Driving it long and straight is paramount.  Accuracy with mid to long irons will be crucial.  Chances are that the players that putt the best from mid range will win, since it may be tough to have many close birdie putts if they are hitting long irons into many greens. 

After analyzing stats like total driving, proximity to the hole from certain longer yardages and putting from mid range,  The picks are in.

1st Place:  Dustin Johnson - (he will finally get the monkey off his back while getting redemption for the last time he was here)

2nd Place: Justin Rose - (Justin hits his mid irons very well and the rest of his game is solid)

3rd Place:  Jordan Spieth - (he will come close again, but his lack of  serious lengh may catch up to him)

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Congratulations to Rickie Fowler on a shootout type victory at The Players Championship.  Kevin Kisner and Sergio Garcia did their best to win the famous crystal but were out dueled in the playoff.  Rickie was able to win the prestigious tournament with laser like precision.  The changes that Fowler has made to his golf swing have really paid dividends in the last few majors and now at The Players Championship.  Rickie finished 2nd at both the 2014 US. Open and British Open.  This was sandwiched in between a 5th at The Masters and 3rd at the PGA Championship.  Needless to say, this was a great year.  The biggest difference in his game since before 2014 was his swing.  Rickie started working with Butch Harmon and he has worked him into much better positions throughout his swing.  There are a couple keys that jump out to me. 

1) Halfway through the back-swing, the club head is no longer way outside of his hands.  At this point, the toe of the club is now pointing vertical, straight up to the sky, as apposed to parallel to the ground and closed.

2) Three quarters into the Back swing, Rickie would manipulate the club vertically, more steep than most.  He is more on plane now because he is swinging with less forced manipulation and keeping the club closer to a 45% angle throughout the back-swing.

3) The top of the back-swing is less flat and laid off it he used to be.  He is now more vertical at the top and this prevents him from getting stuck to the inside on the downswing.

Rickie Fowler, previously had a very loopy back-swing.  Now that he has made these adjustments and is much more on plane, his scores are dropping from his increased accuracy.  These changes have helped with both his distance control and especially his consistency.  His swing has less forced manipulations and made it a lot easier to square the club head at impact.  This will mean a major in his near future, that's if you don't already consider The Players Championship one.  I suggest that everyone should make a conscious effort to redirect and manipulate the club less.  This will make for a less "around the world" Charles Barkley, jerky swing and you will look more like Rickie does now.

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Who will be in the winners circle at Magnolia Lane?  It's always difficult to predict golf but when you play the same course every year, you can start to see some trends.  The Masters Tournament is played at Augusta National Golf Club and the only thing more consistent than the pimento sandwiches is the course itself.  The course plays almost exactly the same, year in and out.  This could be the reason why multiple players have won more than once .  The player advantages at Augusta are being long off the tee and being able to work the ball, preferably from right to left.  This is why the lefties have been so strong in this major.  It's a bit easier to hold onto the club through the hitting zone and hit a fade than to hit a draw under pressure.  If you couple this with a lot of the holes going right to left, you have the perfect storm for a lefty that hits it high and likes to fade it.  I still like Bubba Watson and Mickelson, though he has not been playing the greatest of late.  Tiger is back, but with this much time off and i can think of many other courses that I'd rather recover from the chipping yips, so it is tough to pick him to win.  Jason Day has done very well at the majors and Augusta National.  I wouldn't be surprised to see him wearing the green jacket, but don't know if he has been sharp enough as of late to translate it into a win.  I predict the back nine on Sunday will be a close one between Rory and Jordan Speith.  They both like the big stage and I am going to give the the edge to Speith. He finished 2nd last year and has been so sharp lately.  I have been high on him for a while and predict that he will breakthrough this weekend, with his first of many major victories.

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Congratulations to J.B. Holmes on this weeks victory!  He won a three way playoff against Jordan Spieth and Johnson Wagner.  The power hitter was not only long, but very accurate off the tee.  J.B. won the Shell Houston Open by hitting each fairway in the playoff, that put a lot of pressure on his opponents.  He hits it so long that he had very manageable shorter irons into the 18th.  His aggressive line down the left side of the fairway afforded him the ability to be a bit more courageous on his second shots to a pin sitting almost in the water.  The other players hit their second shots into either the bunker, right of the green, or front right portion of the green, avoiding the water at all costs.  Wagner three putted from the front right portion of the green to ultimately give Holmes the championship, but this playoff was won off the tee with exceptional positioning.

I think the biggest stories of the week came from the near misses.  Austin Cook had the week of his life.  He went from playing a mini tour event to Monday qualifying for a PGA Tour event, to making the cut, to being paired with Phil Mickelson, to beating him by five shots on Saturday, to almost winning the event and receiving a two year exemption on tour, while stamping a trip to the Masters.  This would have been the first time someone has accomplished this feat since 1986! He wasn't the only one making the best out of his opportunity.  Kelvin Day also Monday qualified and finished tied for 6th at 11 under par.  Wagner went from shooting 87 last week to finishing tied for second place at -16, on a sponsors exemption.  Then, there's Jordan Spieth, the boy wonder.  Jordan is showing unbelievable consistency with a victory and two second place finishes in the last three tournaments.  He has to be one of the favorites going into the Masters. 

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The future of American golf may be saved by this Texas native.  Jordan has now won 2 PGA Tour Tournaments in his first three years on the tour.  He seems poised to really break out after backing up his Championship at the Valspar with a second place finish at the Valero Texas Open.  Spieth has played great on two of the most demanding golf courses on the PGA Tour.  These rounds were were under high winds at long and narrow tracks.  He has the kind of game that would fit into most of the majors.  I wouldn't be surprised to see a victory there this year and many throughout Jordan's career.  After all, he was in the lead on Sunday at the Masters...at twenty years old!  To have this kind of talent at such a young age is remarkable and reminds me of a few players but one that probably started off hotter than any others.  Tiger Woods came out of the gates taking the PGA Tour by storm with multiple victories as well.  Up to this point in Jordan's playing career, he has all of the signs of potentially winning this debate.  He could most certainly beat Tiger right now.  Tiger can barely get through 9 holes without getting injured.  But, when looking at the numbers closer.  Tiger had 7 victories, 3 seconds, and 27 top tens through his first 63 PGA Tour Tournaments.  While Spieth has 2 victories, 6 seconds and 22 top tens through 66 events.  They are very close but I would have to to give the edge to the young Tiger for his ability to convert more of those potential second place finishes into victories.  It looks like Jordan is growing by leaps and bounds now.  If the trend continues on this same pace as compared to Tiger, Spieth could have a few monstrous next few seasons.  The Shell Houston Open is a good prep for the Masters and I would be surprised if this Longhorn doesn't finish top ten this week.  It also looks like Jordan Spieth will be the American carrying on the torch of United States golf, for many years to come.                                                                                

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