Much Ado About Something

By Brian HewittJuly 2, 2003, 4:00 pm
Chris Smith paused, sighed and announced that what he was about to say might not make a lot of sense. Then he proceeded to say something that made a lot of sense.
'I think,' he said while standing next to a crowded putting green at Cog Hill No. 4, site of this week's 100th Western Open, 'that this is much ado about a very important situation.'
Smith, a long hitter and winner of the 2002 Buick Classic, said he has talked to Tiger Woods about the subject of what certain people call 'hot drivers.' And, he said, 'If it were up to me, I'd go back to persimmon. I'd go back 15 years where there was no spring effect whatsoever.'
If you were at Cog Hill Tuesday, you couldn't ignore the subject of advances in technology that are, in most cases, causing golf balls to go farther and farther. Longtime Chicago area amateur legend Joel Hirsch stood on the driving range and watched young Australian James McLean power balls over the barn at the far end of the landing area. Into the wind.
'That has to be a carry of 325 or 340 yards,' Hirsch said, shaking his head.
Hours earlier the PGA Tour had conducted a press conference in which it confirmed that the testing of driver faces will begin by next year. Commissioner Tim Finchem said the tour was seeking to 'damper down the rumor mill a little bit.' The testing has been devised to ensure that driver faces don't exceed the prescribed limit of .830 for coefficient of restitution.
Defending champion Jerry Kelly guaranteed 'there is not one single player that knowingly is using any equipment that is non-conforming.'
But both Smith and Ty Tryon, to name two, said there almost certainly were players on tour unknowingly using hot clubs. This is why the tour is finally stepping in.
At the moment, they have two problems:
First, there is the enforcement of the testing and the testing mechanism, AKA the 'pendulum tester.' The tour would prefer the testing to be voluntary. Smith and Woods, to name two, disagrees. 'I think you should test every single club before it's ever hit on the range,' Smith said. He even suggested that the tour hire three or four employees whose sole job is to test the clubs.
Don't hold your breath. Smith, a realist, isn't holding his. But, he said, 'if you're going to test, test.'
Second, at least one prominent equipment company isn't happy with the pendulum tester that the USGA has developed and the tour has endorsed (to the extent that it will be ready and efficacious by Jan. 1.) This company has communicated its reservations on the pendulum tester to the tour and the R&A and the USGA. The company's objections center around the need for what it calls a more definitive and repeatable method of testing. More specifically, the company says the accelerometer specified by the USGA and R&A is not yet reliable.
Let's review the bidding here:
  • The tour is clearly on the right track here. Too many people have taken Woods' recent remarks and interpreted them to mean too many players are trying to get away with playing illegal clubs. That's very bad PR.
  • The last thing the respectable equipment companies want is to have one of their players test out with a driver that violates the coefficient of restitution standard.
  • Nobody, not even Woods, is accusing anybody of cheating on purpose.
    But the important principals are miles apart on the testing mechanism and the manner and frequency in which the testing needs to take place. This is why the tour has given itself until Jan. 1. The hope is that all parties involved will be in agreement by then.
    Said Finchem: 'We want to take the mystery out of it.' And he is precisely correct on this. The problem is it appears, at the moment, to be easier said than done.
    Or as Smith put it: 'I don't think you can bring technology to a halt.'
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    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

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.