Golf Reverses Hot Driver Plan
The modified policy means Americans cannot use the thin-faced drivers in club tournaments or to post a score for their handicap index.
The plan that was to take effect Jan. 1 would have allowed average U.S. players to use the hot drivers until 2008. The decision Tuesday does not affect players in the rest of the world, who already were told they can use the drivers until then.
While Tuesday's change was meant to avoid confusion, the new policy by the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club could lead to chaos in the equipment market, already geared up to sell the new drivers.
A large display window at the New York Golf Center in Manhattan was devoted entirely to an exhibit of Taylor Made's R500 series of thin-faced drivers.
'I just lost a customer because of the ruling,'' salesman Frank Cole said. 'I had been telling people, 'Buy the Taylor Made now. Get used to it. And in January, when you're comfortable with it, it will be legal.' Now I'm going to have guys coming in, bringing their clubs back for a refund. The next week is going to be a nightmare.''
The change also brought an angry response from Callaway Golf, the first U.S. company to promote drivers that make the ball spring off the club more quickly.
'We're not going to be able to sell our best technology to golfers that I know will help them enjoy the game,'' Callaway CEO Ron Drapeau said. 'That's sad for the 25 million golfers in the United States under this jurisdiction.''
Taylor Made declined comment until it could talk to its retailers.
The R&A makes the rules of golf for everywhere in the world except the United States and Mexico, which fall under the jurisdiction of the USGA.
The two rules makers had different equipment standards for drivers. The USGA set a limit of 0.83 coefficient of restitution (how quickly the ball springs from the clubface), while the R&A did not impose any limits.
That meant players could use the thin-faced drivers at the British Open or World Golf Championships held overseas, but not on the PGA Tour or the three American majors.
A compromise proposed in May would have allowed recreational players to use drivers with a COR of 0.86 for a five-year period, starting next year. Beginning in 2008, the worldwide limit would revert to 0.83.
It did not affect touring pros. The organizations recommended that 'highly skilled players'' use drivers that did not exceed 0.83.
Why the turnabout?
USGA officials said two months of feedback ' customary when they propose rules changes ' indicated the compromise was confusing to players and manufacturers. Drivers would be illegal until Jan. 1, legal for five years, then illegal again.
R&A secretary Peter Dawson said several Japanese companies complained about the quick implementation of the new limit (0.86), since they previously had no limits.
'The R&A didn't like the 0.86 (limit), and we didn't like 0.86 in the first place. We only agreed to it as a step toward getting a compromise,'' USGA executive director David Fay said. 'When the R&A said to forget about 0.86, we said there was no need for us to have it.''
In the meantime, stores like the New York Golf Center are stuck with the drivers, which sell for $500-$700 each.
'We're real upset,'' store president Jay Shin said. 'A couple of months ago, the USGA said it was going to change the rule, and we sent out 10,000 e-mails to our customers announcing a promotion with Callaway.''
He told customers they could use the ERC II and the Taylor Made R500 in club competitions starting in January, and Shin ordered 1,000 drivers from the companies.
'In the last two months, since the USGA's original ruling, we sold 400 to 500 of them,'' he said. 'Now, if a customer comes back and says, 'I don't want to use an illegal driver,' what am I going to do?''
Fay was hardly sympathetic toward companies that already had geared up for the proposed policy change in January.
'They knew it was a proposal and not final,'' he said. 'If they marketed clubs based on the proposal of May 9, then they jumped the gun.''
Drapeau said Callaway has sold 300,000 ERC II drivers, more than 100,000 of those in the United States. He said anyone who bought an ERC II through a recent promotion would be allowed to exchange it for any other Callaway driver.
The R&A has said it doesn't believe thin-faced drivers alone are a threat to the game, and Dawson said he only agreed to a limit in 2008 for the sake of compromise.
'We never thought much of COR questions. I don't suppose it matters where the limit falls,'' he said. 'But uniformity is clearly very important. Golf deserves one set of rules.''
Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas
Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.
McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.
Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?
Memo to the golf gods:
If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?
Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?
It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.
With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.
It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.
We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.
We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.
Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.
Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line. Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.
We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors.
In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.
While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.
Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.
Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.
Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.
While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.
Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.
So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?
McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever
With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.
The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.
Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.
"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."
McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.
But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.
"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."
What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire
Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.
Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft
Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft
Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft
Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x