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.
Email your thoughts to Casey Bierer
McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54
Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.
McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.
McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.
McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, four shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.
Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.
“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”
Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.
Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.
''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''
First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.
''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''
David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.
The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''
The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros
Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.
Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.
I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.
One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.
So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?
You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?
Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?
I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.
This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.
Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:
Once we give 'em a lesson, we are faced with:— Trackman Maestro (@TrackmanMaestro) January 16, 2018
A. Will they do what we asked them to do
B. Can they do what we asked them to do
C. Will they put in the practice time
D. The fact that golf is a hard game
We face multiple barriers as golf instructors.
On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.
The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:
“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”
Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.
Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.
Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.
Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field
Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.
Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.
In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.
Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.
After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth.
Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.