Fit to be Tried
There are too many smart and monied equipment companies in golf not to level the playing field when it comes to the limitations imposed by golfs governing bodies. Already we are approaching those limits, across the board, in moment of inertia, coefficient of restitution and clubhead size.
The golf ball and the golf club shaft still offer something of a new frontier. But eventually all the best club makers will have arrived in the same chapter, if not on the same page.
And when that inevitable relative parity arrives, it is my opinion that the technological battleground in equipment will be in dynamic fitting.
All of which is why I arrived at the PGA of Americas Learning Center IN Port St. Lucie, Fl. Thursday to get a look at one companys current state of the art TECHNOLOGY. And its why I asked an expert, Gene Powell about my theory.
What weve done for the touring pros for years is going to become more commonplace for the amateurs, he told me.
Powell is the Manager of Operations & Technology and a PGA Certified Instructor at the Learning Center. And he patiently put me through my paces at his facility on something called the Motion Analysis Technology by TaylorMade (MATT).
TaylorMade is in the forefront of making dynamic fitting available and affordable to the general public. The goal, Powell said, is to match the ability of players to perform with the ability of the equipment to perform.
Its simple, really. In theory, there is a set of golf clubs that perfectly fits Tiger Woods. And somewhere there is a set of golf clubs that perfectly fits Joe Duff, 16 handicap.
Joe Duff still has to swing the club. And Joe Duff will swing the club better if he works on his flexibility in the gym and his game on the range. But Joe Duff will never succeed with Tigers optimum set and vice versa.
Which brings us back to MATT. Using multiple high-speed cameras MATT gathers and distills important swing information. The result is an animated three-dimensional computer image of your swing from every conceivable angle. The result is also a data-driven personal club recommendation.
It takes about an hour. And the charge is $50 for a driver fitting and $50 for an iron fitting. TaylorMade currently has more than a dozen MATT performance labs scattered across the globe from Dubai to Japan to Portland, Oregon.
For a higher price, people like Gene Powell will also combine a fitting with a golf lesson. Video equipment enables the teacher, in this instance, to compare the students swing and positions with the swings and positions of the best players in the world. MATTs teaching companion is called the Motion Reality Golf System.
This ability to over-lay and compare, with exact measurements, allows the charting of movement changes, says Rick Martino, the Director of Golf Instruction at the Learning Center. In addition to the science, the system is user friendly and the students have fun watching their motions.
I can attest to that. Swinging a club, hooked wirelessly into the video equipment, I was especially interested at the end of the hitting session to view the computer data and images on a screen and discuss the results with Powell. I learned, among other things, that my ball speed is that of an avid golfer. And that MATT recommends for me a light shaft weight in a custom shaft and a tip flex of medium stiff.
The computer also recommended steel shafts in the irons. But when I told Powell that I had been using graphite shafts for more than 10 years, he didnt try to talk me out of that notion. Powell was open to discussion because he knew I knew more about my game than he did. And I liked that openness. But I wasnt there to hear myself talk and his points usually made more sense than mine. When in doubt, the computer broke the tie.
At the end of 90 minutes of testing and listening my brain had absorbed about all it could handle for one day. Powell, I think, could sense the glazed look. No problem. On my way out the door he handed my a printout of all the data of my swings (the lab is indoors) and a CD with images complete with the ability to stop any of the charted swings at any point in the swing.
The next step will be to demo the fitted clubs and report back to this website with the results. I have previously been tested at the PING facility in Phoenix and am fully aware that Titleist, Cleveland, Callaway, Nike, to name a few, and several independent brick and mortar golf studios have the ability to make magic similar to the kind MATT produces.
David Leadbetter, like Martino, one worlds most widely-recognized teachers, wrote this recently in the March issue of Golf Digest: We use a variety of state-of-the-art, swing analysis devices, including sensors that are placed on the body and the club to record energy transfer.
But the point of this report is a larger one and it is this: R&D in club fitting is, in my opinion, the next big thing in the golf equipment industry. The R&A and the USGA control the actual implements with which we strike golf balls. But they will never, and should never, place any limitations on the science of optimization that is club fitting.
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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup
In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.
Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.
Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.
“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”
McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.
“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
September can’t get here quick enough.
Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.
There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.
In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.
“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “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.”
The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”
Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.
Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.
The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.
The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.
“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.
Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.
After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.
It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.
Tweet of the week:
Welp I didn’t get hit by a ballistic missile today so that’s a plus! #imalive— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonFW) January 14, 2018
It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”
The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.
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.”