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.
Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back
SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.
Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.
Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim.
Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.
Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.
“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.
In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010.
Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday
SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.
“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”
So was Woods.
DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.
“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”
Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.
“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.
“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”
Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.
“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.
“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”
Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time.
With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey
SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.
The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.
Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.
It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.
“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”
Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.
According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.
“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”
Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.
And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.
As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.
He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.
“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”
If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.
Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.
“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”
Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.
Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.
“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.
Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.