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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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.
Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.
“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”
After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).
Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129.
The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.