Nike Addresses Sumo2 Problems
The unauthorized manufacturing variance, as Nike called it, resulted in driver faces that had a coefficient of restitution higher than that allowed by the rules. The variance may result in a distance increase of perhaps a yard or two, Nike said.
Only the Sumo2 , known to many as Nikes square-head driver, was affected, Nike said. The company emphasized that no driver being used by a professional or college player has failed to conform to the rules; those clubs are tested at Nikes tour headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.
Nike discovered the problem in late February, said Bob Wood, president of Nike Golf, and the company immediately set about correcting the manufacturing problem. The U.S. Golf Association alerted Nike to the possibility that some of its Sumo2 driver heads might have failed the so-called Characteristic Time test, in which a pendulum drops a metal ball onto a clubface and measures the time during which the ball is in contact with the face. The limit under the Rules of Golf is 257 microseconds.
A competitor told the USGA that some Nike drivers might be non-compliant, Wood said. But he declined to name the competitor.
Nike believes a manufacturing mistake or variance at an overseas foundry (which it would not name) led to the problem, which Nike says affects a very small number of clubs. The foundry does work for as many as 20 club companies, Wood said, but he would not say whether that foundry also serves the company who told the USGA about the problems with the Nike drivers.
Nike has instituted an exchange program to accept Sumo2 drivers from consumers who want to return them for a new one. The driver they get back will bear a small circle stamp on the sole to show that it conforms with the Rules of Golf. Details of the program can be found on Nikes golf website, www.nikegolf.com. There will also be a program to handle inventory now in stores.
Also, Nike plans to begin 100 percent product inspection at its overseas manufacturing facility and at its Memphis distribution center.
Nike is starting these programs voluntarily, Wood said, and not because of any USGA mandate.
They cant mandate what we do, Wood said during the conference call. We are choosing out own path on this, and it so happens we choose to do what they would wish. Wood added that he hopes Nikes actions will become an industry standard when other such issues arise, and that he hopes other companies products will be inspected.
Dick Rugge, senior technical director for the USGA, quoted in a Nike press release, said, The USGA always places the golfer as its number one priority. We appreciate Nike Golfs cooperation in this process and its plan for exchanging product.
The program doesnt apply to regular Sumo drivers and Sasquatch drivers, both of which conform to the rules, Nike says. The Sumo2 driver used by PGA TOUR player and Nike staffer K.J. Choi to win the 2006 Chrysler Championship last fall was also conforming, Nike said.
Wood acknowledged that such hiccups can cause image problems in golfs highly competitive equipment market, but was quick to differentiate Nikes situation from that of other club manufacturers who have run afoul of the rules. Nikes variance was completely unintentional, Wood said, unlike Callaway Golf, whose ERC II driver was briefly marketed as a higher-COR alternative for golfers outside the jurisdiction of the USGA. The proactive solutions Nike plans to offer for consumers, retail partners and in its manufacturing process are the bigger story, Nike executives said.
[These programs], in our estimation, are the essence of putting the customers first,' said Cindy Davis, U.S. general manager for Nike Golf. And our customers are the people who use our clubs and who sell them at retail.
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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
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.