Cobra Missing PGA Show But Still Producing
COBRA STRIKES: As part of the Acushnet Co. golf empire, which includes Titleist and FootJoy, Cobra Golf wont be at the PGA Merchandise Show Jan. 23-26 in Orlando. Acushnet opted out of the show this year, planning to direct its marketing dollars elsewhere.
But its full speed ahead with product introductions nonetheless. Titleist has a new driver on tour, and the next generation of NXT golf balls is due soon.
Cobra is ready with new irons and an addition to its driver line. The new SS-i irons, an enhancement to the SS models, feature a urethane insert on the back of the clubhead to suck up some of the vibration big-cavity, thin-faced irons can produce. The sole is the same skid design that was on the original SS line; its meant to reduce mishits by getting through the turf better.
The SS-i irons will ship on Feb. 1. Suggested retail prices per eight-club set will be $559 for mens clubs with steel shafts and $684 for mens, senior and womens clubs with graphite shafts.
Cobra claims to be the fastest growing iron brand in the business. Citing figures from industry metrics leader Golf Datatech, Cobra says it has a combined on-course/off-course golf shop market share of 6.8 percent, up from 3 percent last year. The on-course share has doubled from 5.9 percent to 11.9 percent over the last 12 months, Cobra says, which vaulted it from the No. 10 best-selling iron on-course to No. 3, behind Callaway Golf and sister brand Titleist.
The new driver in the SS line will be the 380, an intermediate head size to join the existing 350 and 427 models. The titanium head offers an outsize sweet spot, Cobra says, and a new welding process allows the benefits of a higher coefficient of restitution to be spread over more of the clubface.
The new driver also ships Feb. 1. Suggested retail price will be $369; a 350 cc Tour model will be available for the same price.
TMaG EMPTIES THE LOADING DOCK: TaylorMade-adidas Golf will be at the PGA Show, but it pulled the trigger already on four new products, just to whet golfer appetites.
The rac LT iron, the lower-trajectory model of the companys rac (relative amplitude coefficient) family, has a back-rim insert called the Tuned Performance Cartridge. It helps distribute weight to the perimeter of the club, TMaG says. The club joins the OS model, introduced last month, in the rac line. Suggested retail: $900 with steel shafts, $1,100 with graphite.
The rac MB is a muscleback model for players who like a blade look and want to work the ball. The clubheads are coin-forged, a process that involves precise compression into shape after the usual forging strikes. Suggested retail is $1,120 per set with Flighted Rifle steel shafts.
The V-Steel fairway woods feature a V-shaped sole to cut down on turf resistance. The clubface is made the same way as the TMaG R500 driver, which spreads out the high-C.O.R. area of the face, TMaG says. Suggested retail: $240 per club with steel shafts; $300 with graphite.
And finally, the rac Fe2O3 wedge is for players who prefer the unchromed, meant-to-rust kind of clubhead in their wedges. Special precision-milled Dual Draft grooves impart more backspin, TMaG says. Many lofts and bounces will be available at $140 per club.
MORE NIKE SIGNINGS: In pursuit of its plan to broaden tour usage of its new TA2 golf ball, Nike has signed three more players this week: Stephen Ames, Rory Sabbatini and PGA Tour rookie Jason Gore will tee up the new ball.
TOUR, GOLF WAREHOUSE IN DEAL: Leaders in the golf Internet business are emerging now that the segment is maturing. The Golf Warehouse will run the PGA Tours online shop at PGATOUR.com under a new private-label arrangement that will offer 20,000 apparel, equipment and accessory items. TGW will also handle catalog sales for the Tour.
The Tour considers this a relaunch of the retail section of its site, which attracts about a million visitors a month. TGW, based in Wichita, Kan., is in its fifth year of operations.
CLOSING THOUGHT FOR GOLF BALL SHOPPERS: Remember compression?
Thomas vs. Rose could be Ryder Cup highlight
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – For those still digesting the end of 2017 – the European Tour did, after all, just wrap up its season in Dubai on Sunday – consider that the PGA Tour is already nearly one-fifth of the way into a new edition.
The Tour has already crowned eight champions as the game banks into the winter break, and there are some interesting trends that have emerged from the fall.
Dueling Justins: While Justin Thomas picked up where he left off last season, winning the inaugural CJ Cup in October just three weeks after claiming the FedExCup and wrapping up Player of the Year honors; Justin Rose seems poised to challenge for next year’s low Justin honors.
The Englishman hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since August and won back-to-back starts (WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open) before closing his year with a tie for fourth place in Dubai.
Note to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk: Justin v. Justin next September in Paris could be fun.
Youth served. Just in case anyone was thinking the pendulum might be swinging back in the direction of experience over youthful exuberance – 41-year-old Pat Perez did put the veterans on the board this season with his victory at the CIMB Classic – Patrick Cantlay solidified his spot as genuine phenom.
Following an injury-plagued start to his career, Cantlay got back on track this year, needing just a dozen starts to qualify for the Tour Championship. He went next level earlier this month with his playoff victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
They say these trends come and go in professional golf, but as the average age of winners continues to trend lower and lower it’s safe to say 25 is the new 35 on Tour.
A feel for it. For all the science that has become such a big part of the game – from TrackMan analysis to ShotLink statistics – it was refreshing to hear that Patton Kizzire’s breakthrough victory at the OHL Classic came down to a hunch.
With the tournament on the line and Rickie Fowler poised just a stroke back, Kizzire’s tee shot at the 72nd hole came to rest in an awkward spot that forced him to stand close to his approach shot to keep his feet out of the sand. His 8-iron approach shot sailed to 25 feet and he two-putted for par.
And how far did he have for that pivotal approach?
“I have no idea,” he laughed.
Fall facelift. Although the moving parts of the 2018-19 schedule appear to be still in flux, how the changes will impact the fall schedule is coming into focus.
The Tour’s goal is to end the season on Labor Day, which means the fall portion of the schedule will begin a month earlier than it does now. While many see that as a chance for the circuit to embrace a true offseason, it’s becoming increasingly clear that won’t be the case.
The more likely scenario is an earlier finish followed by a possible team competition, either the Ryder or Presidents cup, before the Tour kicks off a new season in mid-September, which means events currently played before the Tour Championship will slide to the fall schedule.
“So if you slide it back, somebody has to jump ahead. The mechanics of it,” said Davis Love III, host of the RSM Classic and a member of the Tour’s policy board. “I’m still going to go complain and beg for my day, but I also understand when they say, this is your date, make it work, then we'll make it work.”
While 2019 promises to bring plenty of change to the Tour, know that the wraparound season and fall golf are here to stay.
Product protection. Speaking of the fall schedule and the likely plan to expand the post-Tour Championship landscape, officials should also use the platform to embrace some protections for these events.
Consider that the RSM Classic featured the third-strongest field last week according to the Official World Golf Ranking, behind the season-ending tournament in Dubai on the European Tour and the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour.
The winner in Dubai received 50 World Ranking points, a marquee event that has historically been deeper than that week’s Tour stop, while the Dunlop Phoenix winner, Brooks Koepka, won 32 points. Austin Cook collected 30 points for his victory at Sea Island Resort.
All told, the Japan event had four players in the field from the top 50 in the world, including world No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama; while the highest-ranked player at the RSM Classic was Matt Kuchar at 15th and there were seven players from the top 50 at Sea Island Resort.
Under Tour rules, Koepka, as well as any other Tour members who competed either in Japan or Dubai, had to be granted conflicting-event releases by the circuit.
Although keeping players from participating in tournaments overseas is not an option, it may be time for the circuit to reconsider the conflicting-event policy if the result is a scenario like last week that relegates a Tour event to third on the international dance card.
After Further Review: Whan deserves major credit
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On Mike Whan's really, really good idea ...
If LPGA commissioner Mike Whan hasn’t earned a gold star yet for creating the Race to the CME Globe four years ago, he deserves one now. The race’s finish at the CME Group Tour Championship has become a spectacular fireworks show. Stacy Lewis said it best on Saturday. She said the pressure the top players feel at CME is the “worst” those players feel all year, and by that she meant the “most intense,” the kind that makes for the best weeks.
You can argue there’s more pressure on the top women at the CME than there is in a major. The Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring, the Rolex world No. 1 ranking and the money-winning title all seem to come down to this final week, when there’s also the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot up for grabs. You have to think the weight of all that might have had something to do with Lexi Thompson missing that 2-footer at Sunday’s end. She came away with the Vare Trophy and $1 million jackpot as nice consolation prizes. We all came away thrilled by Ariya Jutanugarn’s birdie-birdie finish amid the gut-wrenching drama. - Randall Mell
On Austin Cook's improbable winner's journey ...
Despite becoming a Monday qualifying sensation on the PGA Tour in 2015, Austin Cook still had to head to Web.com Tour Q-School that winter. There he collapsed over his final four holes to blow a chance at full status, and one year later the cancellation of the Web.com Tour Championship because of Hurricane Matthew left him $425 short of a PGA Tour card.
But Cook put to rest all of his recent near-misses with four days of nearly flawless golf at Sea Island. Now he’s headed to Augusta National in April and exempt through 2020, afforded ample time to look back at how tough breaks in the past helped to shape his unique journey to the winner’s circle. - Will Gray
On what Cook's win says about PGA Tour depth ...
Players talk regularly about the depth of talent on the PGA Tour, claiming that anyone in a particular field can come away with a trophy on any given week.
To prove the point, Austin Cook, No. 306 in the Official World Golf Ranking, rolled over the field at the RSM Classic with rounds of 66-62-66-67 for a four-stroke victory. Before Sunday at Sea Island Resort, Cook’s only triumph in a professional event was at a mini-tour winter series tournament. That payday was $5,000.
His victory at the RSM Classic was worth considerably more and proved, yet again, the depth of the modern game. - Rex Hoggard
Snedeker feels close to 100 percent after RSM week
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Even if the result – a tie for 29th place – wasn't exactly what Brandt Snedeker is accustomed to, given his journey back from injury he’ll consider his final regular-season start of 2017 a success.
Snedeker had been sidelined with a sternum injury since June and overhauled his swing with the help of his coach John Tillery in an attempt to alleviate future injury. Needless to say, his expectations at the RSM Classic were low.
After starting the week with back-to-back rounds of 67 to move into contention, Snedeker wasn’t as sharp on the weekend, but he was still pleased with his week.
“It was great to see how my swing held up and the golf course toughen up today and the changes we made. Inevitably you kind of revert back to what’s comfortable and natural,” he said. “But now my body feels good. I was shocked. I thought I’d be close to 75 percent this week and felt closer to 100 [percent]. Hopefully it continues to stay that way.”
Snedeker said he has a busy schedule planned for early next season on the West Coast and also plans to play next month’s QBE Shootout.
“Every time I’ve come back from injury I’ve been kind of like, well I’m close but not quite there,” said Snedeker, who added that he was pain-free for the entire week. “This is the first time I’ve come back and been like it’s there.”
Cook hopes RSM win starts a ROY campaign
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook cruised to his first PGA Tour victory on Sunday at the RSM Classic, a nearly flawless performance that included just two bogeys for the week and a 21-under total.
Earlier in the week, Cook’s caddie Kip Henley said Cook was playing the most effortless golf he’d ever witnessed. But as is so often the case, it can be tough to tell what is really going on inside a player's mind.
“A lot of stuff going on, especially up here,” Cook laughed pointing at his head. “A little tenseness. This week my ball-striking was great, and for the most part my putting was great as well. All around my game was just incredible this week.”
Following a bogey at the second hole on Sunday that cut his lead to two shots, the rookie responded with a birdie at the seventh hole and added three more over his final four holes to beat J.J. Spaun by four strokes.
It was a timely victory for a player who has set rather lofty goals for himself.
“My goal coming into the year was to win Rookie of the Year and I’ve gotten off to a good start. Now my goal is to make a long deep run into the FedExCup playoffs,” he said.
Cook became the second consecutive rookie winner of the RSM Classic following Mac Hughes’ victory last year.