TaylorMade Celebrates 25 Years with New r7 Driver
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.)
The 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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Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball
Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.
In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.
"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’
Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.
“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.
“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’
Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.
The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving
Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.
The major championships I'm certainly proud of, but Barbara, the kids and my grandkids are the best things to ever happen to me. From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving! pic.twitter.com/wkma1Q9LlK— Jack Nicklaus (@jacknicklaus) November 23, 2017
GC Tiger Tracker:
Mixing Thanksgiving and waiting for a week from today. pic.twitter.com/u9m9WxQNYx— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) November 23, 2017
Happy thanksgiving to everyone! Hope you have a wonderful day with family and friends. #Thankful— Steve Stricker (@stevestricker) November 23, 2017
Was reading about Thanksgiving. Originally they ate waterfowl, venison, ham, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, and squash. Seems a bit tastier than Turkey!— Frank Nobilo (@FrankNobiloGC) November 23, 2017
Literally food for thought.
Tyrone Van Aswegen:
Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017
Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.
Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan
Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.
Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.
Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:
“Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”
Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.
“When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”
Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.
“Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”
Best Greg story: coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes “Yep, caddied for her, her, her and her” Legend— Matthew Galloway (@matthewgalloway) November 23, 2017
In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.
“Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”
Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.
“The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”
The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time Tour caddie, Greg Sheridan. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP pic.twitter.com/QKy0YdK249— LPGA (@LPGA) November 22, 2017
Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.
“Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.
Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:
Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:
Sad to hear the passning of Greg Sheridan. This photo brings back many memories. Always respected his caddy skills and devotion to womens golf. @natalie_gulbis @LPGA #RIPGreg pic.twitter.com/lHU3Ixz9Vk— Annika Sorenstam (@ANNIKA59) November 23, 2017
LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:
Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:
Professional caddies are often overlooked and underrated. But they're just as often the unsung MVP of a player's success. We just lost a great one. RIP Greg Sheridan. He was the 1st to welcome me to my LPGA assignment years ago. He will be missed eternally.— Jerry Foltz (@JerryFoltzGC) November 22, 2017
Rest with the Angels now, Greg Sheridan. ❤️— Christina Kim (@TheChristinaKim) November 22, 2017
LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:
RIP Greg Sheridan. One of the most successful and great caddies of World Golf, period.— Shaun Clews (@shaunclews1973) November 22, 2017
LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:
Sad to here that long time tour caddy Greg Sheridan has passed away! RIP Greg, you will be missed. — Jonny Scott (@stixy76) November 22, 2017
LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:
The world is a sadder place today without our buddy Greg Sheridan, a caddy and a friend for lifetimes...Godspeed buddy— Kevin Casas (@TheKevinCasas) November 23, 2017
LPGA pro Jennie Lee:
So sad to hear the news of long time LPGA caddie Greg Sheridan. I️ remember sitting next to him on the plane from Walmart to the US Open one year and he gave me the best words of wisdom on player/caddie chemistry. He will be missed greatly. Thinking of you @natalie_gulbis ❤️— Jennie Lee (@JennieLeeGolf) November 23, 2017