Road Noise from THE PLAYERS
This week, Casey reports recent business and equipment news from THE PLAYERS Championship being played in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
Matrix Composite Shafts / Byron Eder, PGA TOUR Representative
It takes approximately eight days to make a Matrix shaft. This is because of all the special materials we use like Zylon and Boron which are used inside the shaft. These are more expensive materials and the manufacturing process is more expensive as well. When Charles Howell III won at Riviera he was using Matrix shafts. Last week at Wachovia, Ernie Els used Matrix on Thursday and Friday but switched back to his other shaft for the weekend. But this week at THE PLAYERS, Ernie is back to using Matrix shafts. Also at THE PLAYERS this week, Rory Sabbatini is using a Matrix shaft in his 3-wood. And the very hot Ken Duke is using Matrix in his 3-wood and hybrid. We built Ken a driver with the Matrix shaft but it was raining so hard before the tournament started he didnt get a chance to hit it.
Odyssey Putters / Jon Laws, PGA TOUR Representative
I spent a lot of time with the guys really just watching what was going on and there were also a couple of builds happening. Eric Axley moved in to the exact putter that Phil Mickelson is using. I built a back-up putter for Rory Sabbatini and this putter is also the exact putter that Phil is using except it is a right-handed version. This is the XG / #9 model putter. Weve been doing some great work with this guy and obviously he is as hot as a pistol right now. Jim Furyk wanted his putter lightened a little bit. We built Charles Howell III a back-up of his Black Series putter but we did it in a nickel plated finish because when it rains the raw finish can have some issues. The nickel plated version is identical in feel but it is going to be a little more durable in wet conditions. I spent some time following up with Ernie Els. As a relatively new work in process for us, we continue to validate where hes at with his new TriHot #3 and the insert technology. Lets see; what else this week? I did a little work with Steve Stricker and we built a couple of putters for Bo Van Pelt. Numbers wise this week we were almost double our closest competitor in PING and we were only eight putters away from Cameron; all in all, a pretty good week for us.
Callaway Golf / Barry Lyda, PGA TOUR Representative
Phil Mickelson came in and had a little bit of a stiffer shaft put in his hybrid so he wouldnt hook it quite as much. He went with a Diamana White Board, 73 grams in the X flex. It is considerably stiffer in the tip and very stable through impact. You know, really, it was a pretty dead week for us. Because of the storm early in the week guys stayed on the course when they could finally get out there. I cant think of any golf ball changes; guys stayed in their same golf ball. Guys seemed to be more focusing on learning the changes in the golf course rather than making changes to their equipment. Lets seeRich Beem hung out in the trailer some but we really only re-gripped his clubs; didnt make any changes per se.
Cleveland Golf / Rob Waters, PGA TOUR Representative
David Branshaw put the HiBORE XL Tour driver in play. Vijay put a 22-degree SteelHead in play which is like a 7-wood. He wanted a club he could really launch the ball high with because of the firmness of the greens this week. Steve Flesh moved back in to the HiBORE XL driver. Richard S. Johnson put a set of CG4 irons in playtrying to get the ball a little higher in the air than with his blades because of the greens this week. Steve Lowery did the same thing; put a set of cavity back irons in play in place of his blades so he could get a higher launchthose were the CG4 irons he put in play. And of course Steve shot 66 without a bogey on Fridaypretty good out at TPCand its only his second week back after his wrist problems. As far as players commenting on the course, they were telling me the greens were much firmer than in the past and chipping areas were as tight as they have ever seen. Even if you drive it in the fairway they were saying that holding the greens with approach shots was very difficult so birdies were going to be tough out there.
Titleist / Steve Mata, PGA TOUR Representative
We did a lot of high-lofted wedge work this week. Guys going to 60-plus degree Spin Milled wedges so they could stop the ball on these firm greens. But Ill tell you, the real story for us this week was how little work we did for our guys. They were more interested in trying to get to know the golf course than in making equipment changes. Especially around the greens. I guess we built a couple of 5-woods for a couple of the guys so they could launch the ball high in to these par-5 greens. The tour vans were located so far away from where the players practice that they didnt really take the time like they usually do to come and visit the vans. And the guys seemed so focused on short game considerations that we didnt really do a lot of club building. Because of the severe winds on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, you didnt have a lot guys actually playing out there. Guys were more inclined to walk around the course and take a close look at the new green complexes. Because the wind was so strong, practicing in that wind when it most likely wouldnt be there during tournament play didnt make much sense. Three of my players actually just walked the course with a wedge and putter; didnt even take their clubs out there. That was a first for meseeing that happen.
SeeMore Putters / Jim Grundberg, Managing Partner
I think Zach Johnsons win at The Masters is certainly helping us with other guys out here on TOUR. Stuart Appleby, Joe Ogilvie, Bob Estes and Shigeki Maruyama switched in to the putter this week. We actually had seven putters in play this week. And holy smokes, thats great for us. Thats probably the most weve had in play in the last six or seven yearspretty close to the high-water mark from the Payne Stewart era when he was playing the putter. So the profile that another major championship brings to our putter is clearly significant. And lets face itour putter is different. Its a uniquely different kind of a putter. It is a choice that guys make to try something completely different than what they have been putting with. Its not like just going to another flavor of the same basic putter. The SeeMore putter is a different animal entirely. So it is pretty darn gratifying when guys put our putter in play. It means they are continuing to validate that the Rifle Scope technology works. Thats the really exciting thing. I think the other big thing for us right now on TOUR is that we have added the CNC milled models to the line. Guys can get more of the weight and feel they are used to in other milled putters but now they can get it in our SeeMore putters. That has helped us considerably in getting the putter in to players hands. One extremely high profile player ' I dont think I should mention his name because he is under contract to play another putter ' came up to me unsolicited and asked to try one of the putters. He ended up putting with it for about 45 minutesI think he hit close to 200 putts with it. He didnt put it in play but I would be surprised if he didnt try the putter again on the practice green at the next tournament he plays. That was certainly a first for mea player of that calibernot the kind of player you just walk up to and start talking to. Hes at the level that you dont approach him and he doesnt make the habit of talking to too many people. But he came up to me and asked to try one of the putters. That was pretty cool. So, I think there is a growing awareness that is happening. Players are talking to one another about the putter.
Srixon / Dean Teykl, PGA TOUR Representative
Tim Clarke has put the new 506 Tour Grind irons in play. Its more of a tour style cavity back with a higher center of gravity. He had been playing a Japanese model iron, the 404. But the 506 has more of a blade type sole - a little narrower sole ' and more or a TOUR type cavity. John Rollins has the same irons in play, the 506 Tour Grind irons. And Brian Bateman has also gone with these irons. In fact, Brian has made a lot of changes. Hes gone from a 6.5 Rifle Flighted shaft to a 7.6 with half an inch over in length. And lets seewhat else? Well, Jim Furyk, he has been working on getting his clubs more upright. He felt like he was having to work too hard to get the ball to start down his line. So over the last three weeks weve moved everything about
2-degrees more upright. And the reports I have had from him so far is that is easier to keep the ball on the line he wants to start it off on.
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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
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
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
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.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
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.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
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.