Identified Flying Objects

By Brian HewittNovember 10, 2004, 5:00 pm
The official 2004 PGA Tour season has concluded and the annual mountain of statistics are all set in stone. It is impossible to ignore the ones that inform us on driving distance.
Fact: All seven of the longest drivers from 2003 averaged less off the tee in 2004.
Fact: Only three players from the driving distance top 10 in 2003--Hank Kuehne, John Daly and Mike Heinen--made it back to the top 10 in 2004.
Fact: Only four of the top 20 longest drivers in 2003--Tiger Woods, Davis Love II, Heinen and Harrison Frazar--actually increased their average distance in 2004.
Remember now, this was the year the PGA Tour instituted a driver testing program aimed at discouraging the use of non-conforming clubs. At least one well-known Tour swing coach has informed me that there is a cause and effect here. The inference, he is suggesting, is that the presence of driver testing, deterred cheaters.
All of which, says the USGAs Dick Rugge, is a bit of a leap and a bit harsh.
What can we infer from the longest driver stats? says Rugge, the USGAs Senior Technical Director, We can probably infer that some of the longer driving Tour players have learned that they get better results when they throttle back a little. Phil Mickelson is the poster boy for this--especially early in the year. His early success with a more controlled game may have inspired others to follow suit.
It is not unusual for the list of top 10 or 20 longest drivers to substantially change from year to year. One of the reasons is that driving distance alone does not equate with success on Tour. Some of the longest dont keep their Tour cards very long. Four of this years 10 longest drivers didnt keep their card.
It is not surprising that few players in the top 20 didnt show much increase. There was very little increase across the board this year.
And as to driver testing as a deterrent, Rugge was even more specific. It is very unlikely that the decreases shown by the top 10 distance guys resulted from driver testing. Two reasons: First, highly unlikely that any of these guys--much less all seven--were using non-conforming clubs. No evidence to suggest that. Second, the amount of distance decrease shown by many of them could not be accounted for by a change to a lower spring effect driver. While it is possible that a driver being used by a Tour player in the past may have been inadvertently slightly over the limit, any such driver would have added feet, not yards, to their distance.
I believe there were two or three clubs found on Tour all year--prior to play commencing--that actually exceeded the spring effect. And that was by an amount that would have added a few feet to a perfectly struck drive.
So there you have it: Numbers from the Tour. Suspicion from a swing guru. And abnegation from the USGAs voice of authority on the matter.
In the end, I suppose it all comes down to whether or nor you believe in conspiracy theories or not. But there are no UFOs in professional golf. Players must be able to identify their golf ball when they arrive at it.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Getty Images

Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.