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
Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions
The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”
For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.
There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.
“It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”
But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.
Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”
“I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”
Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.
“No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”
It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.
Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”
The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”
You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.
How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?
“The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.
Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.
The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.
Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.
Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.
“If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”
It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.
Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.
The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.
Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week
Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.
That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.
Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.
From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.
Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.
She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.
She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.
“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”
Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.
With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.
The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.
She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.
The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.
One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge
Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.
Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.
Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:
Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.
Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.
Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.
Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.
David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.
DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.
The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.
''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''
In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.
''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''
The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.
''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.