It Looks to Be the End of an Era for 1-Irons
There was only one other 1-iron in the store - a Callaway Big Bertha in a clearance bag.
Gates didn't even know it was there.
'It's just not existent anymore. It just isn't happening,' said Gates, who has been in business for 21 years. 'Call it what you want. It's a dying breed.'
The 1-iron, perhaps the most fascinating club in the bag, has been on its way out for years as players opted for fairway metals to more easily get the ball in the air. Then came the hybrids, a cross between fairway metals and long irons, that are replacing even the 2-iron and 3-iron in some bags.
But the death of the 1-iron might be traced to two weeks ago in the MCI Heritage at Hilton Head.
Joey Sindelar took his trusty 1-iron out of the bag for the first time in 15 years.
'I'm a very stodgy, slow-to-move, dumber-than-a-rock kind of guy. I stay in my cave. I'm very slow to change clubs,' Sindelar said. 'But this had to happen.'
Sindelar attributed the inevitable to two factors - the hybrid clubs, which are more versatile, more forgiving and still produce like long irons; and golf balls designed to spin less so players with a high launch angle can get more distance.
'That's the spin I need for my 1-iron,' he said.
The 1-iron is often referred to as a butter knife, although even some butter knives are more forgiving. It often requires the perfect blend of speed and power, which most players don't have or don't want to risk trying.
That made the 1-iron the source of some of the most famous lines in golf.
'Actually, the only time I ever took out a 1-iron was to kill a tarantula,' wrote Jim Murray, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Los Angeles Times. 'I took a 7 to do that.'
Lee Trevino once suggested holding a 1-iron when lightning was in the area.
'Even God can't hit a 1-iron,' he joked.
But the club was responsible for some of the greatest shots in golf, starting with Ben Hogan hitting a 1-iron into the 18th green at Merion to win the 1950 U.S. Open. That remains one of the most famous of all golf photographs.
And then there's Jack Nicklaus.
'I would say that probably the best shots that I've played in golf, and the ones I remember the most, have been 1-iron shots,' Nicklaus said.
Baltusrol, 1967 U.S. Open:@ Nicklaus needed a birdie on the 18th hole to tie the U.S. Open scoring record held by Hogan, but he had 238 yards for his third shot - uphill, all carry, into the wind. He hammered his 1-iron to about 20 feet and made the putt to finish at 272.
Pebble Beach, 1972 U.S. Open:@ In what many consider his most memorable shot, Nicklaus hit a 1-iron into the wind on the par-3 17th. The ball hit the flagstick and settled 6 inches away for birdie to clinch his third U.S. Open.
Augusta National, 1975 Masters:@ With a 1-iron that Nicklaus said was better than the shots at Baltusrol and Pebble Beach, he desperately needed a birdie to keep pace with Tom Weiskopf. He had 246 yards and went straight at the flag, so flush that he thought it might fly into the cup for double eagle. It stopped 15 feet away.
'A lot of people had trouble getting the 1-iron in the air,' Nicklaus said. 'I don't think it has anything to do with a sweet spot. I think it's basically a technique of power and speed to be able to hit the ball up in the air.'
Asked if the club was now extinct, Nicklaus replied, 'Evidently, it must be by today's standards.'
'Part of the game of golf is being able to hit high shots, low shots, so forth and so on,' he added. 'If you've got golf clubs that do it for you, you don't have to do it.'
Enter the hybrids.
Taylor Made was among the first equipment companies to develop a hybrid, which it called the 'Rescue.' Other companies eventually followed, and now there's even a hybrid made by the Ben Hogan Co.
Gates, meantime, has started selling some sets of irons with the hybrids replacing the 3- and 4-irons.
And here's more proof that the 1-iron is becoming a relic: Even Ping stopped pushing it.
With its perimeter weighting and cavity-back irons, Ping was among the first manufacturers that shot down the myth about how difficult it was to hit a 1-iron.
'We used to have a lot of single orders for those because they were easy to hit relative to what was out there,' said Pete Samuel at Ping. 'They were a mini-category, the predecessor to the hybrid in a way. Obviously, it's not a big part of our iron offering any more.'
Some players will use the 1-iron if conditions warrant, such as at the British Open or on a blustery course where the ball might roll forever and it helps to keep the ball under the wind.
Sindelar's 1-iron was a Tommy Armour 845, which he called 'revolutionary' when he got it in the early '90s.
'I believe that 1-iron has to be the greatest ever made,' Sindelar said.
Sindelar, like several players who kept a 1-iron in the bag, used it primarily off the tee. And while he didn't knock down any flags at Pebble Beach, or pose over perfection at Merion, it came in handy when he won the Wachovia Championship last year. He smoked his 1-iron down the middle of the 18th fairway twice in the final round, once in regulation and once in the playoff.
What caused him to finally give it up was the BellSouth Classic, when he was paired with Jonathan Byrd and played on the tight, damp fairways of the TPC at Sugarloaf.
'It hit me like a ton of bricks,' Sindelar said. 'He's on these tight, wet fairways hitting 9-wood or 7-wood, these magnificent 230-250 yard shots, high and soft. I'm standing there watching. I've a got a similar shot, a little farther back, and I'm looking at my caddie saying, 'I couldn't do that.''
Sindelar missed the cut at the MCI. He says his hybrid that replaced the 1-iron 'failed miserably,' but he's going to keep trying. It will take him a while to get used to what looks like a bulky iron - either that or a fairway metal on a crash diet - but said the advantage of such a versatile club is too much to ignore.
For now, anyway.
'My 1-iron is not gone yet,' he said. 'But it has to be gone. It has to.'
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys
After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.
There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.
It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.
It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.
“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.
In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.
Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”
Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.
“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”
Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.
Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.
If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.
For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.
Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.
Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.
While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.
When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?
Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.
After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.
The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.
That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.
The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.
While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.
Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.
Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.
“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”
The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?
Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'
John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.
That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.
Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.
Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid
Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.
Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.
Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.
World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.
Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.
Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain
The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.
Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.
"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."
Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.
Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.
Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.