Kelly Works Tech Side for Win
Practice range. Riviera. The Wednesday afternoon before the 2008 Northern Trust Open. A grown man is swinging a golf club, talking to a laptop computer on a folding chair. Swinging. Adjusting. Talking again.
From a distance, you couldn't hear anything but the man, Jerry Kelly, addressing the hardware in the most earnest tones. Once you got closer, though, it all became clear.
Kelly was taking a lesson.
The teacher was Jim Schuman, men's golf coach for Kelly's beloved Wisconsin Badgers, and also Jerry's brother-in-law. (Think about it: Do you take advice from your brother-in-law?) Schuman's head appeared on the screen, watching intently through the Internet camera. Swing. Talk. Correction. More work. All from 1,900 miles away.
Kelly laughed when I asked him about it.
'Can't find anyone here who will work with me,' he kidded. But the episode said more about the usually cheerful Kelly's work ethic than about his fun side.
Bottom line is, Kelly has worked for his three PGA Tour victories. And he has never stopped, even through a seven-year wait for this last one at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Kelly, who is a favorite among golf journalists for his dry wit and willingness to discuss all things hockey, can often be found on the range, working with or without laptop, comfortable in his relative obscurity. Stars downrange may tow around a dozen notebook scribblers and photographers, the modern emblems of sports success. Kelly looks up, toes another ball into place with an iron, and keeps working.
Rarely does he grind so hard, though, that he won't tell you what he's up to. The answers are often memorable.
'Im a poster boy for spin,' he once told me, looking ruefully at the head of his driver. 'This should help keep me from spinning my tee ball too much.' He teed up another ball and stroked it with the club, which at that time was the first incarnation of Cleveland Golf's HiBore driver. (Kelly has been a Cleveland stalwart for nearly a dozen years.) The ball sailed upward in a powerful arc.
'Looks pretty good to me,' I said.
'Well, yknow, its OK,' he said. 'But did you see how it was beginning to balloon, sorta?'
'Um. I guess so.'
That kind of perfectionism led Kelly to a reputation for occasional hot-headedness when things went awry on the golf course. But in recent years, he seems more in control, more willing to plow through adversity.
Kelly today is a modern guy, taking laptop lessons and looking at swing video on his iPod. But he is also substantially old school, always willing to put in the work with the support staff in the Cleveland tech trailer. And the day after his win in the Big Easy, the tech guys, already in Charlotte for the Quail Hollow event, were all smiles.
'I've been at this for four years, but some of us have been with Jerry for seven years, since his last win,' said Michael Jolly, one of the Cleveland tour techs. 'We know how much work went into getting him back here. It was a day-to-day, week-to-week process.'
There was a lot of experimenting and changing. Kelly even plucked a Cleveland putter from a Nevada Bob's and put it in his bag. He dutifully worked new irons and other clubs into his bag when Cleveland updated its line. And last week came the final piece of the puzzle.
'The shaft he had [in his driver], he had a couple complaints about it,' Jolly said. 'He wanted it to do some things better. What he felt in his hands wasn't what he wanted. And he was looking for a ball flight that would let him go at it without going left.'
Aha. The famous death move to the left. It's not uncommon. For example, Vijay Singh has it too, and has also conquered it. In Kelly's case, it took some experimenting with shafts. The hard work paid off last week, just before the New Orleans event began, when Kelly settled on a Miyazaki graphite model. The new shaft is stiff flex, 72 grams, low torque ' but without that 'board-y' hand feedback that so many anti-twist shafts seem to have. It was a perfect feel-player solution.
'Jerry's very easy-going to work with, but he knows what he wants to feel,' Jolly said. 'He can't always quantify it, so there's a translation process. But he knows definitely what he's looking for.'
It helped the translation process that Cleveland is now owned by SRI Sports of Japan, the same company that owns equipment company Srixon. The Miyazaki shaft is an SRI project. With an extremely low-lofted driver ' 7.5 degrees ' and an inch trimmed off the tip, Kelly's driver started singing to his hands.
And the satisfying feel at impact led to some good stats ' Kelly hit nearly 80 percent of his greens-in-regulation for the week. And that led to an even better feel in his hands
A trophy. Not bad for a guy who talks to computers.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.