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.
 
Hmmm.
 
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
Getty Images

What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

Getty Images

Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

Getty Images

Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.