Uncertain Future for Futura at Least Outside US
BANNED IN BRITAIN: And anywhere else where the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews administers the Rules of Golf, which is to say everywhere but the United States and Mexico: Thats the word on the Titleist Futura putter, designed by flatstick guru Scotty Cameron. The putters space-age looks have drawn TV cameras to the prototype, which is in the bags of several tour players, including Phil Mickelson.
The putter contravenes the traditional and customary language of Appendix II(1)(a) of the Rules, the R&A said. Claire Bates, head of the R&As Implement & Ball Committee, said the club is not plain in shape, referring to the requirement in Appendix II(4)(a) that clubs be so designed.
The Futura will remain legal in the U.S. Golf Associations jurisdiction. Authorities there confirmed that the putter has already been submitted and approved as conforming.
The club is not yet available to consumers.
TOP-FLITE CLUB BRAND REENERGIZES: With all the hoopla over its Ben Hogan premium club brand, Spalding Sports Worldwide hasnt been spending as much PR time on its Top-Flite line. Thats about to change with the introduction of the latest line of Top-Flite Tour irons. The Titan steel clubs feature very thin faces, which of course allows for more weight around the perimeter of the club, where its needed for forgiveness, Spalding says. To reinforce the face, designers placed rib supports behind the face where the score lines fall, which Spalding says increases stability.
The clubs, available now, offer a Spalding option to customers who may have suffered sticker shock when pricing the Hogan brand. The new Top-Flites will cost about $350 at retail for a standard set. Custom options are available.
The new clubs are still considered part of the premium segment, though. Spalding plans a separate introduction of value line, recreational clubs in 2003.
NIKE SCORES ENGINEER: Golf ball and club engineers and designers are hot properties in this industry. How hot? Well, more than one manufacturer has refused to let me put any of its research and development people on camera, for fear competitors will raid the talent pool.
So if you see bodyguards following Hideyuki Rock Ishii around, dont be surprised. Ishii, a 13-year veteran of Bridgestone Sports, which owns the Precept brand and has a design and manufacturing alliance with Nike, will now work as a Nike employee. Hell be product development director for golf balls, with the express job of making Nikes weapons for the planned big offensive in the war to grab golf ball market share.
For the last four years, he was Bridgestones golf ball liaison with Nike. Nike claims that Rock and his team have a dozen new products ready to load in the heavy artillery that will be aimed at Titleist and others.
Dont think for a second, though, that Titleist has forsaken its Bring it on stance. The market leaders golf ball research chief, Bill Morgan, was seen at the Disney event last month walking around with blank boxes and clandestinely testing prototypes with players such as Scott Hoch. And for some reason, a burly man stepped right in my way when I approached. (Just kidding, folks.)
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.
Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.
"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"
The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.
"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.
When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.
The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.
The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.