USGA Pulls Zevo and Others Back from the Brink
USGA Amends its Stance on Clubhead Size
Im looking forward to a good nights sleep for the first time in weeks, said Michael Hoffee, president of Zevo Golf, within minutes of hearing the news Thursday afternoon. Zevos Compressor driver, which it plans to release at the PGA Merchandise Show, Jan. 24-27 in Orlando, Fla., has a head that displaces 410 cc.
That head would have run afoul of a regulation the USGA proposed Dec. 19, when the golf equipment industry was at its most quiet. Citing language from Appendix II(1)(a) of the Rules of Golf that requires club design to adhere generally to the traditional and customary form and make, the USGA surprised even the most wired-in industry observers by proposing that clubhead size be limited to 385 cc, and that the total length of the club be capped at 47 inches. (The Jan. 10 amendment does not change the length proposal.)
Even though the regulations were only proposed, many in the industry howled in protest. They saw the strictures as arbitrary and found the timing of the announcement suspect. The USGA offered a two-month comment period, but most manufacturers claimed they were too busy between Dec. 19 and Feb. 19 preparing for the PGA Show to adequately study the matter and comment. Zevo claimed to have lost a mass of orders that would have made it profitable.
The Jan. 10 modification pointed to the feedback the USGA had received as the reason for the change. Not only will 460 cc offer plenty of design headroom for most companies, said the USGA, but another 10 cc will be allowed as a margin for manufacturing or measuring error. The number is not arbitrary, but was chosen because the USGA has already approved some clubs that big, said Dick Rugge, USGA senior technical director. (Even if there had been no modification, previously approved clubs presumably would have been grandfathered in had the proposed regulation been adopted.)
Word from inside the USGA is that reaction ran the gamut from the aforementioned howling to calmer suggestions. But at least two companies, Zevo and Acushnet, sent letters with ultimatums and deadlines: Modify 385 or well sue. (Acushnets Cobra Golf has a 427 cc driver on the way.) The USGA says it was the totality of the response, not the threats, that led to the change.
The process shows that the USGA listens, Rugge said Jan. 11. Were not an organization that closes our ears or our minds.
That endorsement of the process pervades the USGA front office.
There are so many golf manufacturers in the universe now that if you try speaking [informally about regulation] to just a few, you run a real risk [of antitrust lawsuits], said David Fay, the USGAs executive director.
At Zevo headquarters in Temecula, Calif., Hoffee is glad to be back to business as usual. He believes hell recover all the orders lost because of retailer fear over the Dec. 19 proposal. But the experience left scars.
[The Dec. 19 announcement] did cost us, in a sort of less tangible way, by interrupting our business at a crucial launch time, Hoffee said Jan. 11. Instead of paying attention to product issues, we were busy meeting with counsel and preparing a response.
The USGA hopes the Jan. 10 modification will put the proposed club regulation issue to rest. Almost lost in all the club-related hoopla is the other Dec. 19 announcement, the one in which the USGA agreed that its proposed golf ball testing procedure, called optimization, in which the ball is launched from a machine under ideal launch conditions, wasnt the way to go. In response to manufacturer comment (and sometimes outrage), the USGA will incorporate a set of standards called Actual Launch Conditions into the process, including testing by a machine that hits the ball with a golf club.
The lack of kudos for that position may have to do with the fundamental fact that most manufacturers dont want the Overall Distance Standard for golf balls to change from its 1976 level. They say the USGA hasnt demonstrated a need.
But the USGA is unconcerned about the lack of praise.
Perhaps because of our role as a quasi-regulatory body, it goes with the territory, Fay said. People arent going to stand up and salute us.
Hoffees takeaway lesson is that manufacturers should work as a committee with the USGA, with longer lead times for proposals.
In this way, the USGA will have some forward-seeing information in evaluating rules and we as manufacturers can avoid repeating this type of exigency, Hoffee said.
Providing it could be done without antitrust problems ' who knows? Perhaps conflict will yield future concord. Or at least no need for calls from the governor.
Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake
Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.
While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.
“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.
Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.<
DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi
Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.
“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”
Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).
“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.”
Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.
Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace).
“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”
Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi
What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.
Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.
McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.
He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.
McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65).
Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds.
“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”
Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder
Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.
Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.
Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:
Filling in tomorrow for Corey Pavin that WD today @cbgolfchallenge I do things like this a lot to help events and asking for sponsors exemptions here but didn't get any help.— Ken Duke (@DukePGA) January 18, 2018
Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.
Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.