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Driving with Dustin: Three long-ball secrets from the game’s greatest driver

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Dustin Johnson is on the cover of this month’s new-look GOLF Magazine! Read more on the updated look here.

This is the first in a three-part instruction series, “Drive, Pure, Roll,” in which GOLF sits down with Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, and Jason Day as they share their insights. They’re all-world talents in going big off the box, pummeling greens and getting that little white ball in the hole. Here’s how they do it.

DRIVE with DUSTIN JOHNSON

Over twelve pro seasons, Dustin Johnson has evolved from unbridled long-bomber into the PGA Tour’s most consistent performer. He’ll tell you: He’s put in the work, developing his flexibility and strength off the course to improve the stability in his swing when he’s on it. It’s no coincidence that his driving game has matured, too.

The result is a calculated bomb-and-gouge method that marries power and control (he’s placed first or second in strokes gained off the tee six times over his last eight healthy seasons), making his biggest weapon the envy of the game—and maybe the most lethal in history. As he’s dialed in his wedges and putter, it’s no surprise that Johnson, now 34, has ascended to the top of the world rankings and that he has won more times—19—than anyone not named Tiger Woods over this span.

Dustin Johnson graces the cover of the relaunched GOLF Magazine.

When you see Dustin Johnson hit driver in person, you know. Long, straight and piercing, with a baby fade. Even among some of the game’s best drivers of the ball, he—all six-foot-four inches of him—stands out. At a recent long-drive competition among TaylorMade Golf ’s cadre of all-star staffers—Tiger Woods, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day among them— it was DJ who turned up the juice on the winning blast: a high screamer that carried—carried!—343 yards in the air. Dustin can hit 122 mph on the swing-speed meter. He’s elite. But as he’ll tell you, the yards pile up only when you catch the ball on the sweet spot of your driver. Strike quality is key. And for Johnson, what happens at impact is mostly determined by what’s happening at address.

Want to drive it better? Here’s what Dustin Johnson wants you to know.

1. COPY MY LAUNCH-PAD SETUP

“When I see anyone hitting driver, the first thing I look at is their setup. A lot of weekend players don’t drive it well because of their address fundamentals. It sounds simple, but if something feels off, reset your setup. Make sure everything is lined up—your feet, then your hips, then your shoulders. You can do it step by step, just like that. And how you align should sync up with the shot you’re trying to hit. I tend to favor a cut, so when I’m aligning my feet, hips and shoulders, I’m making sure they’re aiming slightly left of center. “But here’s the important part: Take a slightly wider stance, feet just outside your shoulders, with the ball off your front foot. When you do that, you should feel your shoulders tilt slightly back—right below left. It’s hard to fall off balance from here.”

“You don’t have to swing hard. I swing it fast, sure, but how often do you see me finish off-balance?”

2. LESS IS MORE

“Use the connection between your feet and the tee box to your advantage. Your wide stance will help you keep your balance, even with a faster swing. Keep in mind that you don’t have to swing hard. I swing it fast, sure, but how often do you see me finish off balance? My swing speed comes from a lot of work—in the gym, from stretching and from technique. That means that on most of my drives I’m going about 85 percent, maybe 90 if I really go after it. If I ever swung 100 percent, I’d have no chance at connecting.”

3. STICK TO YOUR SWING

“The way most recreational players are going to add distance is by making solid contact. Catching the ball in the center of the clubface is the main key to maxing out your yardage. Stay consistent! Take the same approach to any drive you hit. If you need to adjust the shot you’re hitting—say, if you want to hit a bigger cut—don’t change or manipulate your swing. Just change your setup. That way, you don’t have to mess with how you’re pulling it back or bringing it down. That’s the key to consistency, and how I do it in each and every round I play.”

Dustin Johnson has morphed from unbridled long-bomber into one of the best drivers in the game.

JON RAHM ON D.J.’s DRIVER

“I go 100 percent all the time. Rory and Jason, too. Then there’s Dustin, at 80 percent, flying drives just as far or farther than ours. DJ doesn’t have an extra gear. He has extra gears. Those extra 30 yards he can carry it past me… it’s crazy.”

JASON DAY ON DJ’S DRIVER

“I wish I had what DJ has. We held a long drive competition and he was hitting it 340- plus in the air. That’s insane! He’s a genetic freak. He’s tall, long-limbed and extremely athletic. The weird thing? He’s incredibly straight for how long he is. It’s unfair.”

It doesn’t take Dustin Johnson long to dial in a driver.

THE GEAR THAT MAKES IT HAPPEN

Brian Bazzel, TaylorMade’s V.P. of product creation, on DJ’s TaylorMade M5 Driver:

“Dustin can form an opinion on a driver very quickly and intuitively. What does it look like when he sets it down? What does it feel like? He’s such a good driver that it’s one or two shots before he knows if it’s dialed in. “I’ve worked with DJ a lot in tuning his gear. He has always gravitated toward adjustable-hosel drivers: M1, M3 and, now, TaylorMade’s new M5.

“During his first look at the M5 back in October, again, he hit one or two shots. The ball spin was a little low, so we moved the weights back. All of a sudden he’s got 12.5 degrees of launch, a ton of ball speed—183, 184 miles per hour—and flying it 330. And he’s doing it consistently. It wasn’t 100 percent ready, but Dustin tried to sneak that M5 in his pocket on the way out that day.”

Driving with Dustin: Three long-ball secrets from the game's greatest driver was originally posted at https://www.golf.com/instruction/2019/01/15/drive-dustin-johnson-swing-tips-2/ by Dylan Dethier

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PHOTOS: What's in the bag at the Genesis Open

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PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — If the Genesis Open was a movie, it’d be a blockbuster filled with A-list talent. Tiger Woods leads a loaded field that includes, among others, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson. With most of the big names in professional golf at Riviera Country Club, GOLF.com equipment editor Jonathan Wall is on site providing a running equipment gallery of what players are using, as well as any new gear that surfaces on Tour this week.

Keep checking this story over the next few days as additional photos are added.

Monday 

PHOTOS: What's in the bag at the Genesis Open was originally posted at https://www.golf.com/gear/pros-bags/2019/02/12/photos-pros-bag-genesis-open-2019/ by Jonathan Wall

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Golf’s New Rules: Few Players Know Them, Fewer Understand Them – The New York Times

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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am never fails to rattle Darius Rucker’s nerves. This year though, Rucker, the three-time Grammy Award winning musician, had more to fret about than hitting a spectator or getting in the way of his pro partner, Kenny Perry.

“Now you’re scared that somebody’s going to come call a rules violation on you with something that you don’t know about anything,” Rucker said before the tournament began last week.

The pros are just as worried. The United States Golf Association and the R&A revised the sport’s rule book to simplify the game and speed up the pace of play. But so far the changes, which took effect at the start of 2019, have been harder to follow than a game of Simon Says.

In the few weeks since the modifications took effect, players have repeatedly sought guidance from the nearest rules official, their caddies or pieces of paper tucked inside their golf bags, undermining for now, at least, the stated intention of making things simpler and faster.

And it’s adding an extra bit of hesitancy to the pros’ trip through the course. During a rain-sodden second round at Pebble Beach on Friday, Hunter Mahan was forced to consult a tournament-issued rules sheet before touching his ball. “We thought we knew what the rule was,” Mahan said, “but there’s no clarity, so having an official or actually having it written down is the only true clarification.”

One of the new rules lowered the height from which players make a drop: it is now from the knees, rather than the shoulders, a change that the former men’s world No. 1 Adam Scott described as awkward. Whenever he bends over or squats with the ball, he can’t help but imagine rules officials assigned to monitor potential rules violations squinting at their screens, scrutinizing his release down to the inch.

“They’ve just written more gray areas into the game that were not necessary,” said Scott, who won’t make a drop without asking his caddie or a nearby official if he has the height right.

Even those enforcing the rules have been confused about how to interpret them. During the second round of the Phoenix Open earlier this month, Denny McCarthy was assessed a two-stroke penalty under Rule 10.2b(4), a new regulation that prohibits caddies from standing behind players as they line up for their shots.

ImageA rules official closely observed as Bryson DeChambeau lined up a putt during the Sony Open in Hawaii last week.CreditKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

While McCarthy took a few practice swings, his caddie stood behind him. McCarthy stepped away before hitting the shot, and when he came back to the ball and set his stance, his caddie was standing off to the side. The next day, the PGA Tour announced that it had rescinded the penalty after reviewing McCarthy’s actions, and his score of 67 became a 65.

Somewhat lost in the turbulence created by the alignment rule in the men’s game is the fact that the change was seen as directed at the L.P.G.A., where caddies lining up players had been more common. Brittany Lincicome, an eight-time L.P.G.A. tour winner and two-time major champion, said she was glad “it wasn’t one of us” who became the rule’s first victim.

After the caddie-alignment episode with McCarthy, and several similar situations involving other players, the U.S.G.A. and the R&A issued a clarification: If players reset their stances after their caddies have surveyed a shot, there is no penalty.

“Going in, we knew there were certain things that were going to come up that you’d say, ‘We’re not sure we contemplated this or the intention was never to have this outcome,’” Mike Davis, the chief executive of the U.S.G.A. told the Global Golf Post. He added, “All in all, in terms of how they’re being perceive around the globe, it’s very positive.”

That wasn’t the case for Rickie Fowler, who took dead aim at the caddie-alignment rule during the Phoenix Open. “You’re talking about growing the game and making things play faster and whatnot,” he said, “but that’s not growing the game.”

Adding to Fowler’s exasperation was a run-in with one of the rule book’s unchanged regulations on the Sunday of the tournament. He took a two-stroke penalty for hitting a shot into the water, then absorbed another one-stroke penalty after his ball rolled back into the hazard several seconds after he walked toward the green to survey his chip.

After carding a triple bogey, Fowler, in a show of gallows humor, petitioned the rules official, Slugger White, for a rules modification.

Fowler hung on to win, but Tony Finau, who watched the round unfold on television after missing the cut, saw the gravity in Fowler’s joking.

“As I watched that transpire, I couldn’t help but think, ‘This is not what the integrity of the game is about,’” Finau said. “He didn’t do anything for that ball to move.”

One player’s mishap is another’s teachable moment. An L.P.G.A. rules official disseminated the video of Fowler playing the hole, noting that he could have avoided the second penalty by making his first two drops, then using a tee to mark the spot where he intended to place the ball. After surveying his shot, he could have then replaced the tee with his ball before taking his shot.

Image

Rickie Fowler criticized the updated caddie-alignment rule during the Phoenix Open last month, saying it wouldn’t help with “growing the game.”CreditMichael Reaves/Getty Images

Breaking up the sequence of drop-drop-place like that was illuminating to Lincicome: “I didn’t even know that was a thing,” she said.

Another new wrinkle on the course this year is using the flagstick as a backboard on putts; to speed up play, golfers can leave the pin in no matter where they are on the course, including the green. Anticipating the outcome, Bryson DeChambeau said last year, “The U.S.G.A.’s going to have to go back on that one, like, ‘No! We made the hole bigger!’”

It sure has seemed that way to Scott, who ranked 165th on tour in 2018 in strokes-gained putting. Putting with the flagstick in the hole, he is ranked No. 26. “To be honest,” Scott said, “it almost changes the whole aim of the game. It’s to hit the pin, not hole the putt.”

He added, “It takes speed out of your head so much. It even takes some reading of the green out.”

DeChambeau has a point. The game’s governing bodies might be eager to simplify the rules, but their intent was never to make the game easier.

And, in the end, have they really simplified anything?

When Scott looks at the remaining layers of rules as well as the lingering and newfound confusion, he, like Fowler, wonders how it is growing the game. Imagine picking up an unfamiliar board game, he said, and opening the box to find 84 pages of rules. Would you bother playing it?

Now picture the same game, with only five or six rules to learn to start out. Which version would you find more appealing?

“Let’s have all the rules on the back of the scorecard for people to get into the game of golf,” Scott said, adding, “And then as you get playing more you can maybe learn some finer points of this very complex game.”

Though Jay Monahan, the P.G.A. commissioner, said last week that he felt proud of how quickly and nimbly the alignment rule confusion was addressed, Scott disagreed.

“We haven’t had a lot of changes in golf in the history of the game , and we’ve had a lot recently — rules changing weekly in some cases — and it’s crazy,” Scott said.

He added, “I think we’re becoming the laughingstock.”

Golf’s New Rules: Few Players Know Them, Fewer Understand Them - The New York Times was originally posted at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/12/sports/golf-new-rules.html by

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Kuchar's Caddie Controversy

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February 12, 2019

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Kuchar's Caddie Controversy was originally posted at https://www.golf.com/golf_video/kuchars-caddie-controversy/ by

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