PGA Show Long on Innovation

By Adam BarrJanuary 31, 2005, 5:00 pm
I was at the Demo Day that precedes the PGA Merchandise Show when a little boy, perhaps five, turned to say something to his Dad, but kept moving forward, as little boys will often do.
 
Whoa, Hogan; watch out! Dad said, making sure the tyke didnt smash into my knees as I came the other way. I smiled and patted the young fellow on the head and moved on.
 
It took me three steps to wonder where his brother Sarazen had got to.
 
The father-son tandem had vanished into the crowd before I thought to ask if the man had really named his kid after Ben Hogan (or a favorite forging from his youth). I doubt I would have been so impertinent anyway.
 
But supposing the boys name has a golf connection ' well, this industry has never lacked for enthusiasm.
 
It has never been hard up for innovation either. No matter what business conditions the golf industry has enjoyed or endured, there has always been a healthy collection of product stories to consider. Of course, the PGA Merchandise Show remains one of the primary showcases for new gear.
 
One story for 2005 is by now familiar: thin-wall titanium casting allows designers to move weight more efficiently than ever before, so big-headed drivers have risen to prominence. Many drivers are about as big as they can be under the Rules of Golf, but theyre no longer anomalies. Where only a few companies approached 460 cc last year, most manufacturers either have or will soon have maxed-out heads soon.
 
It has to help that the two best men players in the world, Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods, have moved to big sticks. (Singh plays a Cleveland Launcher 460 Comp; Woods recently added a Nike Ignite 460 to his bag after playing the 410 size for a long time.) And when Tiger says his heel hits are good for another eight yards or so, it means a golf design hurdle has been jumped.
 
Other stories werent new, but have entered their second chapter. Hybrid clubs are everywhere (including the bags of many pros), and the variety is almost overwhelming. They all do pretty much the same thing ' lift the ball more easily on long shots and help deal with rough ' but the design choices are now numerous. Optics ' the shape you see when you set the club behind the ball ' have become more varied, and shaft options are starting to appear. The day is approaching when you will be able to choose to make your hybrids swing more like your driver, or closer to your irons. It may take awhile to get the hang of fitting these clubs, but most players agree that the benefits are worth it when a 185-yard shot zings off the clubface, far and sure.
 
The golf ball end of the show wasnt buzz-free, but more attention seemed to be paid to clubs. Still, Callaways HX Hot got some love as the latest incarnation of big, powerful rubber core inside an impossibly thin, responsive cover. Bridgestones B330 met with interest, and U.S. Kids Golf even had a ball that is geared to childrens swing speeds. And perhaps we glimpsed the future when Frank Thomas showed us a ball with a hollow core. In short, golf ball innovation carries on, all in the atmosphere of anticipation for the next ball in Titleists Pro V family, which is due out this spring.
 
Besides the new gear, the other big issue at every show is: How will the industry do this year? If the show floor doesnt crowd up immediately on the first day instead of after lunch, nervous looks abound. But I never worry about this anymore, and neither do experienced industry heads.
 
The fact is, the health of the golf industry is about as subjective as a golf swing, or the old which-club (ball, bag, shoe, etc.)-is-better question. Too much is beyond human control. There are products aplenty in all price strata to attract attention from winter-weary northerners or Sunbelt-savvy swingers ' but so much depends on the weather in the spring, TV ratings, whether The Apprentice pulls good numbers, you name it. The real health regimen the industry needs to get serious about is player retention ' keeping those who start ' and to be fair, national momentum on that issue is picking up, thanks to Golf 20/20 and other initiatives.
 
And if it works, well stop overhearing another conversation at PGA Shows: The one about how this is a market share business, and a tough one at that.
 
Email your thoughts to Adam Barr
Getty Images

What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

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

Getty Images

Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

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.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

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.

Getty Images

Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

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.