Road Noise from Byron Nelson
This week, Casey reports recent business and equipment news from the EDS Byron Nelson Championship being played in Irving, Texas.
PING / Matt Rollins, PGA TOUR Representative
For Ryan Moore, we made a i-Wedge with a special grind on it. We took a lot of heel out so he has a really easy time opening it up on a tight lie. He loved the standard i-Wedge in the bunker but he had a tougher time on a tight lie in the fairway. So the relief in the heel will help him a lot.
Kyle Reifers is going to put a new driver in his bag this week. He has been playing the G-5 with a Aldila NV 75 gram X flex shaft. And I believe he is going to put the Rapture in play this weeka Rapture 9-degree with a Grafalloy Tour X shaft to kind of flatten his ball flight out and take a little spin off the ball.
And, Hunter Mahan recently changed driver shafts. He uses a Rapture 9-degree head and is now using a prototype shaft that our guys at PING designed in-house and UST is making for us. Since he made that switch he has moved to second on the PGA TOUR in Total Driving. So, this has been pretty big for Hunter and for PING.
Cleveland Golf / Rob Waters, PGA TOUR Representative
Steve Flesh has tried a couple different drivers this week and has decided to switch over from the 460 Comp to the HiBORE XL. Hes playing it in a 9.5-degree loft with a Matrix OZIK Xcon-6 shaft. These shafts cost $600 dollars apiece and it takes them eight days to make one shaft. So, its a completely new driver for Steve.
Nickent Golf / Josh Trivett, Director of Tour Operations
Our new 4DX driver is absolutely off the charts. I have never had so much interest in a club so quickly on TOUR as this driver. This driver is hands down the talk on the Nationwide Tour right now. I cant even begin to tell you how many guys have told me this is the best combination of looks, feel, sound and performance out of a driver they have ever hit. My biggest problem is I havent had many pieces for guys to try. I only had eight heads out there this week and they were gone in a flash. It is not an easy driver to make. The tolerances are very tight; thin walls and a very light crown. And actually, weve only had .350 hosel diameter heads in play that are shimmed so these drivers will be even better once we have .335 hosel product out here. The new prototype Graphite Design ' the 2419 tour only shaft theyve got ' everybody seems to be falling in love with this shaft and it responds really well in our new head. I think when we get rolling with product here in the next few weeks youre going to see a lot of these new 4DX drivers in play.
Odyssey Putters / Jon Laws, PGA TOUR Representative
The most compelling story for us was the storm that ripped through here on Tuesday. Torrential rains, tornadoes touching down in Plano, TXhail coming downit really broke loose here. It was quite an adventure, let me tell you. We got boxed in to our tour trailer and the rain was literally coming down sideways and wind was blowing like crazy. We were in the trailer really, really hoping the storm was going to blow over. It was interesting to say the least. As far as player activity, things are going extremely well for us right not. Players I worked with when it wasnt raining: Eric Axley with a TriHot #2 left-handed. John Cook with an XG7 after seeing some good things happening with Tommy Armour and Fred Funk and Pat Perez playing so well. Nathan Green coming back to a TriHot #3. Gavin Coles playing the TriHot #3. Just a lot of exciting things going on for Odyssey right now. With the greens being in tough shape this weekI mean, there are about four guys on the practice putting green right now and there are 40 guys hitting balls on the range. So, that will give you some idea of the condition of the greens. As a result we have added loft to quite a few of the putters; guys bumping up anywhere from a degree to a full degree in an effort to get the ball rolling better out of a depression on the green. So, its going to be an interesting game of patience rather than confident aggression this week at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship.
Mizuno / Jeff Cook
Well, guys arent too happy with the TPC greens, I can tell you that. I guess the Cottonwood greens are OK, but theyre having a tough time with the fairways there. So, between that and all the rain, guys are a little bit on edge this week. We have our full staff playing this week and to tell you the truth, we did not have to do any equipment work that I can think of. Guys came in here happy with their gear and it stayed a very light work week for us. We changed grips for one guy and thats about it. I mean, our guys are pretty low maintenance anyway, but this week in particular, we really didnt have to do much. Luke Donald was happy with his set up, J.J. Henry I didnt do anything for, Jeff Sluman was good to go, Billy Andradewe did flatten his putter by two degreesBrian Gay was set. Kris Cox was here this week and he was happy. I cant think of one club we built for one guy. And Tuesdays rain kind of killed it anyway. Then with the Wednesday pro-am, not much happens then anyway. So, all and all, a very quiet week for us at the Nelson.
Callaway Golf / Barry Lyda, PGA TOUR Representative
We did a bunch of work with Rich Beem and Craig Kanada fitting them in to new sets of irons. Rich had a new set of custom grind X-Forged irons. Ronnie McGraw from over in our Hogan plant in Fort Worth did the grind work and he brought them over for Beemer so we did some fitting with him. And the grind work is beautiful to look at. Rich was in the trailer raving about it to us so thats always nice to hear. Ronnie does a great job with that for us. Craig Kanada swapped out an old set of X-Tour irons for a new setso, the same model irons but a brand new set. Lets see, what else did we do? Oh, yeah, also with Craig Kanada we got him in to a new FT-5 driver with a little bit more loft so his spin numbers are looking really good now. You know, a lot of the week for us was regular maintenance workchecking lofts and lies, grips, that kind of stuff. I think we did maintenance work for Charles Howell, Brandt Jobe, Marco Dawson, Rich Barcelobecause when there is a big storm like we had on Tuesday the guys see that as an opportunity to come in to the trailer and get stuff checked out. So, I certainly would say it wasnt one of the busiest weeks weve ever had. I mean, honestly, guys are pretty happy right now. Our product line is so strong this yearguys are happy with the drivers, happy with the irons, happy with wedges and putters and ballswere in very good shape with our tour staff at present.
TaylorMade-adidas Golf / Keith Sbarbaro, PGA TOUR Representative
I think the biggest thing for us on TOUR right now is our Burner fairway wood that was released out here a few weeks ago. We are absolutely blowing through those heads. And whats most interesting to me about this is that this 3-wood head was not designed with the TOUR in mind. It was designed as more of a game improvement 3-wood. Its got a little bit bigger of head than most of the guys are used to playing but they are taking to this head like crazy. Guys who in the past have been very reluctant to change out of their existing 3-woods are not hesitating at all in switching to this new fairway wood. And that really is pretty unusual. Weve got a lot of guys making the move: Sergio, Retief Goosen, Tim Heron, John Daly, Sean OHair, David Toms, Tim Petrovic, Shaun Micheel, Tim Clark, Vance Veazeya bunch of guys. So, for a 3-wood that we didnt even think we would be using out on TOUR, to have all these guys switching to it, thats pretty cool. There are probably twelve guys in this new head and its only been on TOUR for four events. Kind of like how well the Burner driver has been received out here. So maybe there is some carryover from that. But, its been fun to see this new 3-wood get such a good reception.
Nike Golf / Rob Burbick, PGA TOUR Representative
Our main change work this week was with K.J. Choi. He likes to experiment. He is very open minded to new equipment and I think he really enjoys trying different thingsseeing what different clubs feel like to him. He has extremely deft touch in his hands and he can feel even the slightest difference between different types of equipment and different specs that we do for him. K.J. has several sets of irons that he likes to test and re-shaft from time to time. He actually spent a little bit of time at our office in Fort Worth and a little time in our TOUR trailer this week. As his gamers this week he is playing a set of our Slingshot Tour irons and I think he is doing that with an eye towards getting ready for the U.S. Open. Because the Slingshot Tour irons have a deeper center of gravity than some other irons, I think K.J. is looking to be able to launch these irons a little higher and maybe use them at Oakmont where its going to be very hard to stop the ball on the greens. This particular set of irons this week has Matrix Studio graphite shafts in them and they will also tend to launch the ball a little higher. I would say K.J. is just about the most open minded player I have met in terms of trying new technologies. Dont forget, he was the first of our players to put the new Sumo driver in play and he won right out of the gate with it. So, I think he just really likes to try new stuff. You know, he hits everything so solid and so good I think there is a real enjoyment he gets out of seeing what different equipment feels like.
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G-Mac has Ryder Cup on mind with Genesis in grasp
LOS ANGELES – Graeme McDowell is four years removed from his last start in a Ryder Cup and golf is more than seven months away from this year’s matches, but then it’s never too early to start daydreaming.
Following a third-round 70 that left him tied for third place and just two strokes off the lead at the Genesis Open, McDowell was asked if the matches are on his mind.
“I feel like I've got a lot of things to do between now and getting on that team,” he said. “Standing here right now it's probably not a realistic goal, but if I continue to play the way I'm playing for the next few months, it may start to become a realistic goal.”
McDowell began his week at Riviera Country Club fresh off four consecutive missed cuts and has drifted to 219th in the Official World Golf Ranking. But his play this week has been encouraging and the Northern Irishman has always relished the opportunity to play for Europe.
“Deep down I know I'm good enough, but I've got to show, I've got to put some results on the board, I've got to take care of my business,” he said. “The greatest experience of my career bar none, and I would love to play another couple Ryder Cup matches before it's all said and done.”
McDowell does have a potential advantage this year having won the French Open twice at Le Golf National, site of this year’s matches.
Bubba on McGrady block: 'Just trying not to get hurt'
LOS ANGELES – A detour to the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game didn’t keep Bubba Watson from leading this week’s Genesis Open, although an on-court brush with Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady nearly derailed his chances for a third tournament win.
Watson enters the final round at Riviera with a one-shot lead over Patrick Cantlay after firing a 6-under 65 in the third round. The day before, the southpaw left the course around lunch time and headed across town to participate in the All-Star festivities, where during the celebrity game he tried to score 1-on-1 over McGrady.
Watson’s move into the lane went about as well as you’d expect given their five-inch height disparity, with McGrady easily blocking the ball into the stands. According to Watson, he had only one thought as McGrady came barreling towards him across the lane.
“When I saw him, all I saw was, ‘This is my moment to get hurt,’” Watson said. “This big tank is about to hit me, and I was like, ‘Just knock it into the stands. Just don’t touch me.’ So it worked out, he didn’t touch me so it was good.”
Watson’s attempt went against his wife Angie’s advice to avoid the paint area, but it provided a fun moment for a player used to carving up fairways and greens – not to mention the guy who played 15 seasons in the NBA.
“Well, he’s got like just under 800 blocks for his career, so I gave him one more, you know?” Watson said. “It was just, it was a blast. I wanted to see how good he was, see if he could miss it. He hasn’t played in a while.”
Watson took some heat on Twitter from his PGA Tour peers for the rejection, but few were still laughing as he rocketed up the leaderboard Saturday with five birdies and an eagle. Now he has a chance to win this event for the third time since 2014 – even if he doesn’t plan to go toe-to-toe with McGrady again anytime soon.
“Some guys wanted to try to win MVP, so I was trying to pass it and let them have their fun and their moment,” Watson said. “I was just trying not to get hurt.”
Spieth on third-round 69: 'Putter saved me'
LOS ANGELES – Jordan Spieth has spent the last few weeks talking about his putting for all the wrong reasons.
Two weeks ago when he missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open he lost 3.76 shots to the field in strokes-gained putting, and last week he wasn’t much better.
It looked like more of the same at the Genesis Open when he lost about a half stroke to the field on Day 1 with 29 putts, but since then his fortunes on the greens have gotten progressively better.
“I thought each day last week I progressed,” said Spieth, who needed just 24 putts on Friday and moved into a tie for 20th after taking 26 putts on Day 3.
Spieth said he started to feel things turn around at Pebble Beach after working with his swing coach Cameron McCormick and Steve Stricker, who has become something of a putting sounding board for players on Tour.
“I got set up really nice. I got really comfortable on the greens even though they were very difficult to putt last week and this week,” said Spieth, who rolled in a birdie putt of 14 feet at No. 12 and a par putt of 35 feet at No. 14. “Any putt, I either made it or I left it just short today. It was one of those days that with the way I struck the ball, it was an off day, but that putter saved me and allowed me to shoot the lowest score so far this week.”
Spieth’s third-round 69 is his best of the week and moved him to within seven strokes of the lead, which is held by Bubba Watson.
Bouncing back: Watson seeks a third Riviera win
LOS ANGELES – Yeah, but can Tracy McGrady smoke a 7-iron from 203 yards to kick-in range for eagle on Riviera Country Club’s opening hole?
The way Bubba Watson’s mind drifts there’s no telling if, as he began his day at the Genesis Open, he revisited his play from Friday night at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. If he did, it would have been an apropos conclusion after McGrady sent his weak floater into the cheap seats midway through the second quarter.
Either way, Watson made it clear playtime was over on Saturday. The eagle at the opening par 4 ½ sent Watson on his way to a third-round 65 and the outright lead at the Left Coast event that’s starting to feel like a second home for the lefthander.
In 11 starts at Riviera, Watson already has two victories. A third on Sunday could get folks talking about renaming the layout Bubba’s Alley. Or not.
What is certain is that Watson has emerged from a funk that sent him tumbling outside the top 100 in the world ranking and he’s done it in quintessential Bubba style.
If Friday’s detour to the celebrity game received worldwide attention it was only a snapshot of Watson’s Tinseltown itinerary. He taped a segment for Jay Leno’s Garage show, visited with Ellen DeGeneres and watched a taping of The Big Bang Theory. You know, L.A. stuff.
Oh, and he’s curved and carved his way around Riviera with signature abandon.
“You've got to hit shots from every different angle, you've got to move it right to left and left to right, so it's just fun,” said Watson, who also led by one stroke when he won here in 2016, his last victory on the PGA Tour. “Then the greens are the equalizer so it makes me look like I putt as good as the other guys.”
He “hammered” a 7-iron from 203 yards at the first to 1 ½ feet for his opening eagle, chipped in at the sixth to begin a run of four birdies in five holes and played the three par 5s in 3 under to move into a familiar spot after enduring his worst season on Tour in 2017 when he failed to advance past the second playoff event.
That he’s turned the tide in Los Angeles is as predictable as it is peculiar. Despite Watson’s record at the Genesis Open, Riviera wouldn’t seem to be the tonic for all that ails Bubba.
Ask a player - any player will do - the keys to playing Riviera and the answers range wildly from it being a bomber’s course to the need for ball-striking precision. But the word that comes up with regularity is "patience."
“Patience and pretty much just not being stupid, to be honest,” Justin Thomas said when asked the key to his third-round 67 that left him tied for eighth place. “Just stop trying to hit at pins with 5-irons and 6-irons, and when I hit in the rough, realize just try to make a par. When I get in places, when I'm out of position, realize that sometimes even bogey is what I need to make.”
While that thought dovetails with conventional wisdom, Watson’s not exactly known for his patience.
“Oh, for sure I do. Haven't you seen me in the last 12 years?” Watson laughed when asked if he had patience on the course. “The tougher the golf course, the more focus I have. The tougher the shot, I've been able to focus better. When I get my mind on something, I can focus and do pretty well at the game of golf.”
While Bubba drifts between artist and antagonist with ease, both on and off the golf course, his primary challenge on Sunday is the picture of thoughtful composure.
Patrick Cantlay, who returned to the Tour last season after struggling with back issues for years, began the third round with a share of the lead but quickly faded on the front nine. He rallied on the closing loop with birdies at Nos. 10, 11 and 18, where he capped his day with a 54-footer that assured him a spot in Sunday’s final threesome. Although he’s just 25 and playing his first full season on Tour, Cantlay’s approach to the game is patently different from Watson’s.
“I feel like if I can just engage and not worry about where I am on a particular hole or what's going on and I just engage and stay present in whatever I'm doing at that particular time, it all turns out better than what you would expect,” explained Cantlay, who attended nearby UCLA and played dozens of practice rounds at Riviera. “Making sure you stay present and having that confidence in yourself that if you just click in and focus, it all will be good and that's kind of the head space I'm in.”
It will be a clash of wildly contrasting styles on Sunday – Watson, who admitted he “(doesn’t) focus very well,” and Cantlay, whose approach to the mental side of the game borders on the clinical.
One player relishes the challenge of hyper-focus, the other is Bubba, but that’s not to say Watson is void of patience, only that he needs to be properly motivated.
“Like last night when Tracy McGrady was coming at me, I was focused on not getting hurt and I didn't, so it worked out,” Watson smiled.
And besides, T-Mac can’t bomb it like Bubba.