TaylorMade Celebrates 25 Years with New r7 Driver

By Adam BarrMay 15, 2004, 4:00 pm
SAN DIEGO -- After a brief but poignant look back ' and a huge party ' TaylorMade-adidas Golf launched its next quarter century with an innovative driver that is already generating the loudest buzz in the equipment industry this year.
The head of the new r7 Quad driver features four ports that contain screw-driven weights made of either titanium or a tungsten/steel alloy. And while this is not the first driver with screw-in weight ports, it is the first mass-market driver with such tunable features designed to be used by consumers. Indeed, a small tool kit comes with the $600 club, as well as a fitting guide. (The tour version, which includes extra weights in the tool kit, will retail for a suggested $1,000. Both clubs will be in stores by June 15.)
TaylorMade r7 Quad driverThe tool kit, with its torque wrench and array of jewel-like threaded weights, ups the Neato Factor and should remove any doubt that golf clubs are sports answer to the eternal fascination of a brimming toolbox. The fitting guide is a wheel-on-wheel circle of plastic designed to hang on a golf bag. It shows six weight configurations that affect the flight of the golf ball, both laterally and vertically.
The r7, whose head design is a 400 cc extrapolation of what TaylorMade learned with its r300 and r500 series, had already been released in Asia and had leaked through various U.S. media outlets before its May 12 unveiling here. (My colleague Matt Adams showed it off on Golf Centrals Northwestern Mutual Financial Network Business Report on May 5, and PGA Tour player Steve Flesch discussed it with Frank Nobilo on that nights Sprint Pre Game.) Still, TaylorMade did a creditable job of keeping most of the details secret until the formal introduction. More important, the company kept a tight lid on the development process, which stretched back over nine years of R&D flowcharts.
So there was plenty of anticipation and drama remaining when Mark King, TaylorMades President and CEO, addressed 2,000 employees and guests at the San Diego Convention Center last Wednesday night.
Before opening an enormous party with a disco band (TaylorMade was founded in 1979, after all) King spoke for nearly half an hour of the legacy of company founder Gary Adams. It was Adams who gathered a bunch of trusted friends in McHenry, Ill. in 1979 to promote his idea of a perimeter-weighted wood made of stainless steel. Those early believers, including industry pioneer Eddie Langert and sales genius Gordy Severson, as well as advertising executive Sal Lupo, took an idea that was almost universally derided and carried it to the pro tours. By 1981, Rod Streck had won the Houston Open with it. In 1982, Jim Simons used it to win the Crosby Pebble Beach tournament before a national television audience. TaylorMade sales went from $2 million per year to $12 million.
That was Step One along the road to Adams dream of building the worlds No.1 golf company. Twenty-five years later, amid fireworks, Hollywood-style special effects and thundering music, the r7 appeared as the latest step in that quest. Although TaylorMade today is not the largest golf company in terms of sales (it had $802 million in revenues in 2003, while Titleist, FootJoy and Cobra owner Acushnet had $1.2 billion and Callaway had $814 million), TaylorMade remains a power in the premium segment and has often been a force to be reckoned with.
King, who worked as a kid in Langerts golf shop in Green Bay, Wis. and then joined him at TaylorMade right out of college, sees the r7 as a revolution on the level of Adams first accomplishments.
The r7 Quad was conceived and created by the brightest minds in the golf industry, King said, and were confident that it will help golfers realize their potential in terms of distance and accuracy off the tee.
Walking along the range at Del Mar National Golf Club Thursday, murmurs of quiet assent and fascination backed up Kings confidence. Better players watched TaylorMade staffers Dicky Pride and Dave Stockton, Sr. rearrange the weight plugs to engineer draws, fades, low balls, high balls and combinations into their repeating swings, then hopped into hitting bays to do so themselves. Lesser players wrenched, screwed, re-screwed and hit, converting stubborn fade tendencies to straight balls and healthy draws. One Golf Magazine Top 100 teacher set the club as fade-y as possible, had a player hit it, then reset it for a draw, all to give the player the biofeedback necessary to teach a good rollover motion in the forearms.
The threaded weight plugs that come standard with the $600 model include two of tungsten/steel at 10 grams each and two of titanium at two grams each. They allow nearly a full ounce to be manipulated. The ports are visible and dramatic, but as with the MAC Powersphere, the driver with the eye-catching dome in the sole, the technology cant be seen from the playing position.
TaylorMade admits it has a big education job looming. Both retailers and consumers must be trained and made comfortable with the concept, the tool kit, and the idea of adjustability. Company materials are quick to point out that no port should ever be left unoccupied. Doing so would violate the Rules of Golf, which require clubheads to be plain in shape. The rules specifically note holes in a clubhead as a violation. Also, players are to be reminded that Rule 4-2a disallows adjustment of the club during a stipulated round.
TaylorMade seems to welcome the challenge, and for the moment is having fun watching the r7 get noticed. There was much talk about a picture circulating on the Internet, in which Lee Westwood was seen during a practice (not stipulated) round with a wrench in one hand, an r7 in the other, and a weight between his lips as a carpenter might hold a nail at the ready, looking intently at his work and fine-tuning.
As a business tactic, TaylorMades choice represents one of those moves of epic magnitude, no matter which way it turns out. And here I mean epic not in a judgmental, good-or-bad way, but in that sense that connotes a business turning point. Callaway, seen by most as TaylorMades chief competitor, has committed its lead-product resources to multi-material, titanium-and-composite constructions, of which the ERC Fusion is the prime example. That club has raised eyebrows and fairways-hit numbers on the pro tours and in Saturday-morning foursomes, and of course, TaylorMade hopes to do the same thing. A 10-week media and marketing blitz, covering the crucial period between the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, is an important weapon in TaylorMades tactical r7 arsenal.
It remains to be seen whose approach will prevail, or whether they can even coexist. But by going another way, TaylorMade has been true to Gary Adams vision when he founded the company.
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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.

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Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Web.com Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.