Category Archives: Golf Tips

How To Make Big Breaking Putts

One of the hardest things for people to understand when faced with big breaking putts is that there are and infinite number of “lines” you can take based on the speed you choose.

Sometimes certain putts require a more delicate approach while others necessitate a more direct route to the hole.

Regardless of the one you choose you must be mindful of both, and all the lines in between, in order to become a great putter under the gun.

Here at Punta Mita you must understand this fact as our Jack Nicklaus greens here tend to have some exaggerated movement to them, especially if you hit it in the incorrect portion of the green.

big breaking putts 1-3As you can see in Photo 1 I have a long putt with a ridge in the middle of the green as well as a sizable slope from left to right.

There is a range of “lines” we can take. One would be the highest line with the least amount of speed and the other would be the lowest possible line with more speed but not so much that it runs way past the hole.

The two balls in Photo 2 represent the highest and lowest possible line that you can take to this particular pin above. So which line is correct?

First you must ask yourself what type of putter you normally are, and what type of green speeds to you tend to play on in general.

If you play fast greens with some slope, you will tend to be more of a “die” putter where you play the ball at the apex and allow the gravity to pull it down to the hole.

If you play slower and flatter greens you will tend to be more of a firm-putter who plays less break and hits the ball harder.

 

The second thing you must consider is what the putt itself is asking you to do and what are the consequences of either speed. Because both can be incorrect choices.

Think of a putt you have that is super fast.

The higher and more break you try to play the faster the ball will come down the slope, leaving you with a longer comeback putt.

Now consider the short putt that has some movement to it; it might be easier to jam it into the back of the hole, taking out the break.

This this is where practice and experience comes in — helping you to make the best choice for your personality, nerves, and overall shot selection.

Sometimes it’s better to hit it harder and other times it’s better to hit it softer.

So, how do you learn how to play either putt? You must fine-tune your feel!

The best drill for fine-tuning your feel is to hit putts as I did above, finding the highest and softest line, as well as the lowest and most firm line you can take without the ball running way past the hole. Now mark these spots on the green with a tee. Your job is to practice the extremes — the high and then the low — to help you “feel” your speed control.

Now hit putts in the middle of these two spots and see if you can find that speed as well. You can spend as much time as you need finding differing lines that you can use.

From there you will have a better chance to imagine what the best line would be for the next big breaking putt you have.

From a mechanical standpoint the only thing you must remember on longer putts is to make sure that you hit the ball solidly and maintain quality impact alignments. I always want to maintain a bent rear wrist post-impact to ensure that I hit the ball with the correct amount of loft (Photo 3). Flip at it and you’ve turned your putter into a chipper — and you will leave the ball short of the hole every time.

If you don’t fine tune your feel or don’t understand the high and low point, you will never have the many options on the greens that the professionals on Tour have.

The key is to use your imagination, your feel, and your speed control to select the best line for the putt at hand. Take your time to fine-tune your feel and you will have no problem getting down in two regardless of where you are on the green.

Tom Stickney, PGA, is Director of Instruction at Punta Mita Resort, Riviera Nayarit, Mexico. Visit him at www.tomstickneygolf.com

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Watch Clubhead And Ball Collide

clubhead and ball vangellow
Deb Vangellow at impact.

We have all heard it. The well-intentioned advice of “keep your head down.” Keeping your head down in a static sense is an unnatural and tense position, so let’s say “watch the clubhead and ball collide” instead.

This is because keeping your head down rigidly restricts the free swinging motion of your body through the ball. You could easily wind up hitting at the ball rather than swinging through it.

Again, strive to “watch the collision” of the clubhead and ball. This thought will help keep your spine angle constant and your focus of attention on the ball. When the weight shifts and the rotation of the body occurs, the right shoulder passing under your chin will help your head come up after impact so that you can follow the flight of the ball, getting to the optimal balanced finish position.

Remember, impact occurs during the swing, not at the end of it. Let the ball get in the way of the swing by watching the collision, not by keeping your head down. We want to look at that great shot after we hit it, not while we are hitting it.

LPGA Master Professional Deb Vangellow teaches at Riverbend Country Club in Houston, Texas. She is the 2012 LPGA National Teacher Of The Year, a US KIDS GOLF Top 50 Master Kids Teacher and a GRAA Top 50 Growth Of The Game Professional

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U.S. Open Favorite? Gotta Be Brooks

It’s the U.S. Open, it’s Pebble Beach, it’s time to poll the Golf Tips Top 25 Instructors on the man they see hoisting the national championship trophy come Sunday evening.

Dale Abraham: ““It’s wide open as Pebble Beach doesn’t favor the long bomber as much as some of the previous U.S. Open set-ups have. Players like Kuchar will have more of a chance, but it comes down to how Tiger, DJ and Koepka play.”

Warren Bottke: ““My pick is: “Brooks Koepka again!”

Alison Curdt: “I think Phil has a good chance. He typically plays well at that course and he’s ready for a win! Just take a look at his calves!”

Wayne Flint: “I feel like Jordan Spieth is rounding into form with his ball striking and we all know what can happen if his putter heats up. Only time will tell.”

Jane Frost: “Koepka…the master of majors.”

Barry Goldstein: “I picked Tiger to win the Masters. I’m gonna pick Tiger again to win to US Open... Why? Because its Pebble Beach, Tiger and the U.S. Open. My favorite course in the world. I just think it’s gonna happen again for Tiger.”

Gail Graham: “My money is in Brooks. Nuff said.” 

Bob Grissett: “I’m going with Tiger — playing well, plays Pebble well, can handle the pressure.” 

John Hughes: “Sentimental pick is Phil to complete the Slam. Previous success says he has a chance. Previous success also shows Snedeker, Tiger, DJ as front runners. Cantlay, Scott, and Stenson as the dark horses.”

Cindy Miller: “Brooks.”

Tom Patri: “It’s a toss-up for me between my gut favorite Tiger, based on experience at Pebble, the positive vibe from past history there and the fact he is he is simply Tiger, and my dark horse Kevin Kisner. Straight ball, decent short game and putter , and gutsy. Gonna be a great Open if the USGA stays in Far Hills, New Jersey.”

Jim Roy: “I like Tiger, Snedeker and Cantley.”

Tom Stickney: “Brooks…and he still won’t be interviewed by the press for some reason.”

Brandon Stooksbury: “I’d like to bet on Tiger but I’m just not feeling it...would be far too ‘poetic.’ As much as I hate to say it, Rory would be awfully hard to bet against given last week’s performance in Canada!”

Deb Vangellow: “Tony Finau. Complete Player: Power and Grace. That is all. Gonna be a great Open!”

Jordan Young: “DJ is under the radar, loves Pebble Beach, he is my pick. Tiger loves Pebble Beach as well, but will finish Top 5. Rory will have tough time matching last week’s success, but will make some noise. Too many great players to win back-to-back events, seems much tougher these days. Brooks is already building a big chip for on his shoulder for this week, or at least the media is … he will most certainly be in the mix!”

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The Father-Son Magic Of Pebble Beach

As the golf world settles in for what promises to be a momentous U.S. Open at what I believe is the event’s greatest venue — Pebble Beach Golf Links — on its 100th birthday, it’s the perfect time to revisit one of my favorite columns ever, which originally appeared in the December 2007 edition of Fairways + Greens magazine. As you’ll see, it’s also an apropos Father’s Day story. I hope all the dads and sons out there find it inspiring. The bottom line: In American golf, there’s no finer bucket list destination than Pebble Beach.

On the brink of perhaps America’s greatest 4-par stand a man and his son. The son is a man, too, has been for a while, but now it’s official. He’s turning 21 in a very different place, mentality and situation than his dad did 26 years before, and here, on the very edge of the West, it all becomes achingly clear that they’re moving through a sunlit moment that will never come their way again. Nor should it. Not like this.

The son swings first, 5-wood in hand, the green 205 yards away, downhill and across a churning ladle-ful of seawater scooped out by God Himself. Standing over his own ball 50 yards closer to the hole and shy of Pacific oblivion by maybe 10 paces, Dad watches his oldest of four kids — the man — as his ball soars over the near cliff, toward its target, with a seeing-eye fade. “Looking good, son!” he yells.

It ends up better than good, stopping about three steps onto the smallish green. “Oh yeah!” the son yelps with a leap, silhouetted against the ocean in a rush of unbelieving ecstasy only a golfer can understand. Dad jumps, too, and feels his hands head heavenward, then come together in a clap of pure pride. “Great shot!” he manages before turning away to let the tears come, if only for a split second.

Cliché or not, it truly doesn’t get any better than this. Not when it’s taken two decades to make this father-son trip happen, the first time they’ve been away from their hometown together, just the two of them, for more than a few hours. Not after divorce and remarriage, school and jobs, the aches and strains and setbacks and triumphs of life — accumulated memories that fleet breathlessly by, yet somehow form a continuum and keep the family intact. Not after all that has preceded this getaway on a day when Dad nears 50 and son rounds the bend toward his senior collegiate circuit.

Not when it all comes together on No. 8 at Pebble Beach, with the clock sliding past 5 o’clock and the marine layer slipping its fingers into the nooks and crannies of Carmel Bay. So the tears come, salty as the sea below. Tears of love for the game, for this fabled place where the game has been played for nearly 90 years … and, above all, for the son, Alex.

Dad looks up, as guys often do to stanch the tears, takes a couple of steps toward his beaming boy and says, “You know, we’ll remember this moment the rest of our lives.”

Alex smiles. “This is awesome.”

It was also a longshot. Pebble gets more than its share of ink, and rightly so. I doubt there’s one avid golfer in America who doesn’t know its layout by heart whether they’ve set foot on its storied flanks or not. So I shined on the standard-issue travel piece angle and appealed to something more visceral, with more soul. I went in knowing full well that the Pebble Beach power brokers had a soft spot for the whole father-son ethos — in fact, they’d put it at the center of a longstanding print and TV ad campaign. It took them a few weeks, but finally they bit on my idea of bringing Alex to the Peninsula for his 21st birthday, and giving the experience the good ol’ editorial blow-by-blow.

So here we were on a gorgeous afternoon in early August, walking in Jack and Tom and Tiger’s footsteps and retracing the path made by countless fathers and sons before us. And it all reached its apogee on No. 8 in a flurry of whoops and laughs and tears. Alex’s epic 5-wood must have inspired me; fighting the raw emotion of watching that shot and his priceless reaction, I stepped up to my own ball, took dead aim with a 7-iron and followed its left-to-right flight directly at the stick stuck at the rear of the “Figure 8” green. This could be pretty decent, I thought. The ball landed just to the left of the pin, took two hops into the rough behind the green and settled in for a certain trip to bogeyland.

Alex and I jumped into our cart sporting dizzy smiles. That feeling of warm disbelief affecting most Pebble pilgrims was settling in for the duration. We rounded No. 8’s lagoon and, taking one look at the abyss he’d just cleared, got all worked up again. “Oh, man! That might be the best shot I’ve ever hit!” he said, or something like it. It’s certainly the best shot I’ve ever seen him hit, and we’ve played our share of rounds together since he was around 11 — not even close to the number I wish we’d played over the years, if not for the general busyness of life and my own regrettable recalcitrance to reach out to those most close to me.

“Yeah, the last time I played here, I tripled this hole,” I said. “But not this time. We’re both in great shape.”

Still, par was a 50-50 proposition. After all, this is a hole where I sat during the breezy third round of the 2000 U.S. Open, watching plenty of guys go down to the pressure and elements. Monty took 7 out of the back bunker. Sergio went wide-right into the sea. Only Fred Couples managed a bird, draining a 15-footer from below the hole. So I was in solid company. I snapped a photo of Alex giving a thumbs-up over his ball, then went to mine and sized it up. The lie wasn’t good; the shot was downhill to a tight pin. But as I stood over the delicate wedge shot, I felt a cool calmness wash over me and pictured it as clearly as I could hear the surf 30 feet below. Alex’s putt had come up short, and I was away. Back went the wedge, through the deep stuff, into the ball … which fluttered out, grabbed the green and took a three-foot left turn into the cup. Birdie.

For the second time in one hole, I raised my arms and let out a whoop. This time, Alex cheered for me, as did Dave and Kyle, the two Canadian guys playing with us, and their laugh-a-minute caddie, Terry. The group on No. 9 tee right behind us — a family of grandpa, son, daughter-in-law and grandkids — must have thought we’d all gone nuts. Perhaps we had.

That’s cool. Playing Pebble can do that to a guy. I coulda cried again right there. This was getting good.

Alex ended up three-putting for a 5, but no matter. We’d just played one of the world’s most famous golf holes in even par, hit as fine a shots as we could manage under the circumstances, cleared that Pacific chasm as if it wasn’t there. And I stood at 1-over par for the front nine going into the brutal ninth. “A double or better and a I break 40,” I said to Alex. “Cool,” he replied.

Big mistake. The golf gods don’t take kindly to such “all I need to do” folly. I took triple, then a double on 10. Alex went 5-5, so overall he beat me by a pop on that storied trio of two-shotters. I was proud of him; it would amount to his best golf of the round. But then again, back on No. 1, as Alex verged on displaying the temper that mirrors my own, I proclaimed that we were there to have fun. “Forget about the score,” I said. “This is all about just being together and enjoying it.”

Yeah, we tallied the damage anyway, but no blowup could match our cigar-smoking, beer-sipping, joke-telling, fresh-air-gulping glee. Even when we both tripled No. 14, which was playing about 600 yards from the middle tees thanks to a stout north breeze, we laughed it off. Determined to finish before dark, we had our giddy good fortune to propel us. Alex hit another fantastic 5-wood at 15, this time converting for par. I made par at 16 and 17, the latter after rattling the stick out of the sand, Nicklaus-style. Then we all assembled on the final tee and stood there transfixed and humbled and silent, as if at an altar — which it most certainly is. Terry snapped our photo, arm in arm in the gloaming, the camera’s flash betraying our broad smiles of pride and undeniable, don’t-let-it-end sadness, while behind us the grand dame of American 5-pars swerved off to the left, toward the lights of the Lodge. That shot is now my laptop’s screensaver, and probably will be for life.

“You know,” Alex said at some point during our round, “A lot of guys I know celebrate their 21st out drinking, getting hammered.” I nodded, having been one of those very guys myself, in 1981, pub crawling through the well-documented party mecca of Chico, Calif., until I finished the festivities getting sewn up in the ER with a split lip and busted schnozz. “How many guys did you take on?” I remember the doctor asking me as I woke up from my self-induced fog. “Nobody,” I slurred. “Just a flight of stairs.”

That, and my own demons.

But Alex had no demons to wrestle on this day, except the occasional slice or cold-top, the normal golf devilry that afflicts us all.  “My buddies wouldn’t believe what I’m doing for my birthday,” he continued. “Not one of them will ever beat this.”

I must say, it was music to my ears, and the song just got sweeter as the day wore on. By nature I’m guardedly optimistic, but everything about this trip was surpassing expectations. Blowing them away, really. And we’d had four months to build them up into a thunderhead of anticipation.

When I sprung the idea on Alex — not just to celebrate his 21st, but to acknowledge his work ethic and high performance in college so far, with degrees in political science and perhaps economics or business in the offing — I gave him his choice: Pebble or Bandon. “Gotta be Pebble,” he said, so I made it happen. And though I’d originally planned a several-day jaunt to include perhaps Spyglass or Spanish Bay or both, we only had a scant 36 hours to live the dream. Alex had to be back to work. So we made the best of it. We did a killer warm-up round at Bayonet — the new nine is spectacular — then made for 17-Mile Drive the next morning. We stopped at Spanish Bay and the Lone Cypress, checked in at the Lodge, enjoyed a leisurely couple hours on the range, lunched at the Gallery Restaurant overlooking Pebble’s first tee, loitered around the shops, knocked around some putts on the practice green … and then it was finally, blessedly Our Turn.

Seventeen holes and five hours later, we forged our way up No. 18 as darkness bore down on us by the second. Alex’s tee shot found its way into Stillwater Cove; I followed him on my second shot, a wicked duck-hook 3-wood around the two trees that split the fairway. Alex knocked his third up the middle, took two more to reach the green and made 7. So did I, out of the deep bunker fronting the green’s left side. We holed out quickly and without fanfare, knowing several groups behind us wanted to finish, too. So we saved the handshaking and hugs for later, though, in a perfect world, I’d have held my son right there where, seven years earlier, I’d watched Jack Nicklaus tearfully hole his final U.S. Open putt. And we’d have stayed there in an unabashed, grateful embrace until they had to drag us off.

Then again, the night was young. Forty minutes removed from our 9 o’clock Tap Room reservation, we loaded our sticks in the car, grabbed our keys from the front desk and checked out our Lodge room just off the first tee and above the putting green — a mini-suite with two indescribably comfortable beds, a fireplace, flat-screen TV, balcony and palatial bathroom. My mind reeled at the possibilities: Maybe Jack stayed here. Arnie. Phil. Who knows?

Aw, hell no. Tonight, the Williams boys ruled, and we made the most of what Pebble Beach Resort had to offer on that cool, glorious Wednesday night. The Tap Room is everything a guys’ post-round hangout should be, and we worked it to the hilt. After regaling a couple of fellow golfers with the sketchy details of our round over drinks at the always three-deep bar, we dug into our meal in noisy splendor.

First came an appetizer of bacon-laden “haystack” potato skins, then steaks as big as my head (an unforgettable Delmonico for me and Filet Mignon for Alex), mashed potatoes, creamed spinach and mac and cheese, all presented with that cut-above Pebble touch that all too often gets overlooked in the presence of that little ol’ golf course just outside the door.

Alex and I shared wine duties, though in a clutch I’ll forever defer to his depth of knowledge and passion for the fruit; after working in a Reno restaurant for the past six years, at 21 he knows more about vintages than I ever will — in fact, I know he could ace the sommelier test tomorrow.

“We’ve gotta try the ’04 Joseph Phelps cab,” he said, so we did a glass each, toasting our good fortune, our shared love for golf and chow and drink and all the unspoken stuff, too. I couldn’t resist ordering a bottle of ’04 Chateauneuf du Pape, Vieux Telegraphe vintage — one that Alex had never tried (after all, this was only his 21st birthday, right?). He approved, then just as quickly upped the ante for our digestif, staying in the same year for a Fonseca tawny port. Capped with fresh coffee and a bit of dark chocolate cake, this wasn’t just a meal. It was the crescendo of an emotional, once-in-a-lifetime father-son symphony, arranged and performed on the best stage in the business.

The coda? Cigars and wine on the putting green, of course. We ran up to our room, grabbed our putters (we’d planned ahead) and lugged our stuffed and happy selves down the stairs and onto the surface where so many immortals have grooved their strokes. We mere mortals puffed and sipped and laughed from hole to hole, knocking our pills around in the dim light of the Pebble midnight. Then to bed, and the rest of our lives.

Looking back on that day and night, I know I’ve set the bar pretty high for Alex’s three younger sisters. I’ve gotta come up with 21st birthdays they’ll never forget, too. I’m game. But this one will always carry a glow of its own, bathing a man and his son in light and joy out there on No. 8, carrying them out of the rough, over the sea and across generations.

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Circling Raven Chock With June Golf Deals

circling raven hole 8
The 8th hole at Circling Raven

Circling Raven Golf Club – the No. 1-rated public course in Idaho and amenity of Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel – offers several June specials that run the gamut from Dad’s Day and merchandise specials, to 36 holes on the Summer Solstice and a TaylorMade Demo Day.

Friday, June 14 – Purchase select merchandise marked with flags in the award-winning golf shop – twice named the No. 1 golf shop nationally in the Resort Category by PGA of America – and save 15-25 percent off. While there, buy a gift card for Father’s Day and receive a free Circling Raven Signature Bag Tag.

Sunday, June 16 – Play Circling Raven with Dad on Father’s Day, two players for $150 (no age restrictions) – a savings of 15 percent on the two rounds – with $6 doubles all day.

Friday, June 21 – Can’t get enough golf? Be sure to play Circling Raven on the year’s longest day, when your first round is the normal rate ($99), your second round is $40 per person, and your same-day third round is free. Plus, get 15 percent off lunch between rounds.

Sunday, June 23 – TaylorMade Demo Day is an ideal time to try the iconic golf company’s equipment. If you spend $500 on TaylorMade equipment, you’ll get two rounds at Circling Raven for the price of one. Spend $1,000 and receive one complimentary round.

In addition to the June specials, Circling Raven is distinctly exceptional year-round. The esteemed golf club is such a great value that it ranked No. 17 in Golf Digest’s bang-for-your-buck list “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses Re-Ranked by Price,” thanks to peak green fees at $99 with GPS mounted cart and unlimited range balls at the 25-acre practice facility.

Owned and operated by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Circling Raven is in the scenic Idaho panhandle approximately 55 minutes from Spokane International Airport (GEG). Measuring 7,189 yards from the rear tees, the 18-hole layout sprawls magnificently through 620 acres of woodlands, wetlands, and Palouse grasses. Its gleaming white sand bunkers are large and strategically placed and its hole variety ingenious.

Other Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel amenities and activities include the full-service Spa Ssakwa’q’n (pronounced Sock-wock-en); 300 hotel rooms; bars, restaurants, lounges, and eateries; cultural immersion options; and more. The casino just completed its $15 million renovation of its gaming floor and Events Center.  Circling Raven has garnered numerous best-in-kind honors since opening, including being rated a Top 100 Resort Course, Best in State, and a Top U.S. Casino Course. Its golf shop has won national and regional awards for its excellence and its variety of products, displays, and performance.

Book your round here. Or consider a stay-and-play package.

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Golf Balance Basics With John Hughes

John Hughes is a PGA Master Professional based in Orlando, Florida, and a Golf Tips Top 25 Instructor. In this video lesson, John talks about golf balance basics — why balance is so important in life, the golf swing and putting stroke, how to achieve good balance in every part of your game, and how a gadget called BodiTrak is invaluable for gauging your weight shift, and your static positions.

“BodiTrak is one of the nice technological advancements out there than can help you understand balance,” Hughes says. “If you don't have access to BodiTrak, you can close your eyes to feel a lot of what we’re going go talk about here.”

The lesson covers:

  • Getting off your toes and into a more level, balanced position at address, both for putts and full swings
  • Why your putting stance should be about 60 percent to the front foot, which allows for more speed and accuracy
  • Why starting your swing from your toes is a bad idea. You need to be in an “act” and not “react” position, with balance more in the instep of your foot
  • Why you should avoid pre-setting your weight forward for the full swing
  • Feeling what centered, 50-50 balance is like by closing your eyes
  • Building ankle stability with a “one-foot-forward” drill

Follow these steps and with practice you will see much better balance over the golf ball and through the putting stroke and golf swing, guaranteed.

Read John’s full lesson from Golf Tips magazine, and to get a personal lesson or see more content visit him at www.johnhughesgolf.com

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How To Play Hole 18 At Pebble Beach

Jason Dufner will almost always play famed hole No. 18 at Pebble Beach in three shots instead of going for the green. For him, risk/reward is not worth it off the tee. He and fellow PGA Championship winner Steve Elkington discuss.

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How To Play Hole 17 At Pebble Beach

In the 2010 US Open, Jason Dufner intentionally hit the ball in the front bunker on the par 3 17th hole at Pebble Beach, scene of so many spectacular Open shots. He and Secret Golf’s Steve Elkington discuss their strategy.

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How To Play Hole 8 At Pebble Beach

During the 2019 U.S. Open, former PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner will most likely hit a flat 7 wood to chase up the hill on the difficult 8th hole at Pebble Beach, which Jack Nicklaus called his favorite Par 4. He and Secret Golf’s Steve Elkington, also a PGA Championship winner, discuss the advantage of hitting up the right side of fairway.

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How To Play Hole 14 At Pebble Beach

The third shot on hole No. 14 at Pebble Beach Golf Links is “the most difficult and precise wedge shot players on the tour will face all year.” Steve Elkington of Secret Golf explains why and discusses his strategy.

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