Fourth Quarter Starts With New Product Blitz
Nike. The head of Golfer No. 1s new driver is 25 percent larger than anything he has played before, say Nike sources. The face is made of a new material that will help Tiger work the ball the way he wants to. Nike isnt divulging any more about the club yet. It will be available in the spring.
You will recall that Woods made quite the marketing hoopla ' and increased sales of antacids among some Nike Golf execs ' when he put aside his former Nike driver earlier this season and took up his old Titleist again. Woods never spoke in detail about the change, but the sense from the time of the change, at least within Nike, is that the benching was temporary, and that Nike club developers should take the change as a challenge to surpass themselves.
Woods has spoken often about his general theory of driving the golf ball, which seems to be a refinement of the Grip-Rip School. In the clinic in Atlantas Piedmont Park that preceded this weeks American Express WGC tournament, Woods discussed the need to compete with long-hitting players coming out of the elite college ranks. But he also noted that even the biggest hitters eventually feel the need to throttle it back, as he put it, to keep the ball in play and not destroy good rounds with bad tee balls.
That is, a hot clubface is only as good as the shortness of the grass on which the ball lands. Sounds like Grip-Rip has become the Grip-Rip-Fairway-to-the-Green-is-a-Shorter-Trip School.
Wilson. The veteran label from Chicago has a whole slew of new gear, led by its latest entry in the big-headed driver market. And I do mean big. The Deep Red II Maxx (not a typo; its two xs) is the third driver in the Deep Red family, Wilsons best-selling clubs ever. And if head size has anything to do with brains, this driver is off to Harvard. The 450 cc head is the biggest Wilson has ever made, and it features low-and-back weighting to fine-tune the high launch characteristics many players now want. The DRIIMaxx also features a low-torque version of the companys standby Fat Shaft, Wilson says.
Suggested retail: $449; shipping to begin October 15.
Callaway. The ERC Fusion driver, which we showed you in prototype form on Golf Central this summer, has been introduced officially and will be ready to ship in December. The club features a cup-face technology titanium face bonded to a lightweight graphite composite body. (Callaway fans will recognize this as the next generation of the technology the company first tried with the C4, which did not do as well in the marketplace as Callaway would have liked.)
Callaway is high on the light graphite body, but the focus is that face, which Callaway says is the key to the clubs explosive performance. It has that wraparound construction onto the sides of the head ' hence the cup idea ' that became popular with the original ERC II drivers. Internal weighting accounts for a full quarter of the clubheads mass, and Callaway says it has placed the weight to best influence ball flight.
Suggested retail: $625. And yes, a high-COR version will be marketed outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Golf Association, which limits clubface springiness.
Also from Callaway: A new HX Tour golf ball, meant to be the flagship of the companys ball line. The three-piece ball will feature a very thin cover ' 25 thousandths of an inch ' and a proprietary chemical additive in the core to increase ball velocity. Callaway promises a fast and soft ball worthy of pro aspirations; indeed, Annika Sorenstam, James Oh and Jim Thorpe have already won with it.
Suggested retail: $50 per dozen. The ball will be available in January.
Ping. A larger version of Pings latest driver is available. The new Si3 380 has a 380cc head, 40cc more than the original, which will continue to be available as well. The bigger head is designed to give confidence and forgiveness to players who prefer that kind of big, meaty mass behind the ball. The 340 will appeal to golfers who want a slightly more workable head, says Ping chairman and CEO John Solheim. But some pros have headed to the larger version: Chris DiMarco and Miguel Angel Jimenez have had Top 10 finishes since switching to the Si3 380. The fully forged and very thin clubface, first seen in the Si3 340, is the clubs signature feature, Ping says.
Suggested retail: $465.
Golf Pride. The venerable power in the hands-on portion of the game, a division of Eaton Corp., has unveiled its 2004 line of golf grips. The GL model is genuine leather one-piece slip-on in a classic shade of green, available in mens sizes and for putters. Its Golf Prides first leather grip ever.
The V-55 is an update of the classic V-50 model on the occasion of the companys 55th anniversary in 2004. The high-traction Tour velvet feel grip comes in regular rubber and corded models.
The Whisper E series is a thinner, synthetic leather model designed for golfers who want a very soft feel, Golf Pride says. Mens and womens sizes are available. Whisper Blends combine rubber performance with synthetic leather comfort; these come in mens, womens and putter sizes.
Look for the new grips in the fourth quarter. Also, Golf Pride will supply grips for the increasingly popular C-Thru Grip line, the clear grips that can encase logos of everything you can think of, from teams to companies to your kids picture. As part of the agreement, struck in August, Golf Pride got exclusive rights to market C-Thru clear grips and labeled products.
Winn. Continuing its crusade toward new materials in grips, Winn has developed a new polymer for its V17 AVS grip that is tacky in all weathers, the company says. The grip also boasts a new seaming system that is virtually invisible, Winn says. Three sizes and two firmness options will be available. The new grip will be ready for 2004.
Barr Golf Pharmacology. A new drug will be available for those who feel compelled to display their anemic swings on television
Email your thoughts to Adam Barr
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.
Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta
Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.
The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.
It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.
"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."
Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.
Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.
"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."